March 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
What one does is what counts and not what one has the intention of doing. — Pablo Picasso
I spent a great deal of time making plans yesterday. After my morning pep talk, I was all fired up about #powerrehab, doing work with my body, sweat bands and whatnot, so naturally I sat down at a table with some notebooks. I spent several hours distracting my children while drawing up half a dozen graphical illustrations of how the next eight weeks of life would support my physical hopes and dreams of being pain free and avoiding assimilation by the Borg.
It was a bright, beautiful spring day and in the amount of time I spent agonizing over how I was going to fit 56 days into the 48 pages of a very particular Field Notes notebook and whether or not it was necessary for me to track down another set of the Texas County Fair editions, and did those take fountain pen ink, or should I order a $25, 4cm stamp in the shape of a human body from Japan, or maybe just hand carve my own, and what’s involved in that, I could’ve walked to Waco and back.
There is nothing wrong with planning. Planning is huge part of what has made me successful at maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss for over a decade and kept me relatively sane without psychiatric medication for 8 years. But sometimes I get so caught up in what it looks like on paper, that I miss the point completely.
On Monday, March 30, I am taking myself to #powerrehab. I’ve built my plan, I’ve mapped it out, I’ve chosen my training log, I’ve tried on my spandex and they still fit because they’re spandex and that’s what they do. I made my plan thinking I was going to get my back healed, I was going to fight another surgery, rebuild my core, and be superhuman again. But as I ran my hands over all the charts and graphs last night before bed, what I saw was a map for my mind.
To take the brisk walks without toddlers to chase, to focus for ten minutes without a four year old asking seventeen questions and smearing paint on at least four surfaces, without a seven year old asking me how to spell “catastrophe”, I need a very structured schedule, I need protected quiet, I need space. These are things that rehabilitate more than a bad back. These are the things that heal a scrambled brain.
So it turns out that #powerrehab is about more than all the discs in my back trying to escape, or the scar tissue on my nerve. It’s about healing all my wounded body parts, from my bipolar, migraine riddled brain, all the way down the to the numb toes on my right foot.
I will be documenting my progress here and on Instagram (@mosesface), but I haven’t decided what that looks like yet. It may or may not be every day, it may or may not involve japanese stamps and fountain pen friendly notebooks. You are welcome to follow along and be very impressed.
March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Now that my brain is getting sorted and all my neurotransmitters are getting the attention they need, I can direct my focus the parts of my body dangling helplessly below my head.
My body and I have a storied past. I spent all those years ignoring it when I thought it didn’t matter, then too many hating it when it separated me from the world, then those wonderful years loving it when it grew babies and got strong. And now we are in a strange place.
I’m not excited about rehab.
I’m not excited about gentle, restorative, “never despair, back care,” old lady exercise.
There. I said it.
I am in complete denial about the fact that I cannot even safely do yoga. I cannot even safely sit on the toilet first thing in the morning without giving serious thought to my posture and alignment.
I keep thinking it is optional. Like it’s etiquette training, walking around with a book balanced on my head. As if I don’t have to be this ladylike. But wait, yes I do, lest I have metal inserted into my spine.
I know I can change my attitude toward this stupid exercise. If it revolved around hill sprints and a squat rack, I would be digging through my notebook stash to create the perfect training log right this red hot second. I would build a perfect training plan, carve out the best part of the day to to implement it, then the write up the best nutrition plan to support it. But because these are slow, painful movements that don’t make me want to blast Eye of the Tiger or involve any type of sweat band, I am not excited.
Deep breath. Imagine my best friend’s eye roll.
I need to do the work.
I need to call it work.
I need to call it training.
I need to put on the spandex and make a training log.
I need to blast Eye of the Tiger and make that shit real because it is just as hard, if not harder, than stepping back into the squat rack.
And call me crazy (which you can because, as we have firmly established, I am), but I believe that I will be back in the rack some day. If I go slow and steady, if I build a steel cage of a core, wear protective gear, and have rock solid form, I can lift again. I will never hit the same numbers, and I will never try, but I can get sweaty in my garage doing old lady exercise. Old ladies can do work.
March 24, 2015 § 3 Comments
There are whole, green leaves on the trees outside my window that were not there yesterday. The grass in the yard has grown overnight, bright and tall.
I feel better. The kind of better that I can own, I can admit. The kind that doesn’t evaporate in the heat of saying it out loud. The kind that reminds me that my clock has moved so differently, and only weeks have passed, not months, and no one has noticed but me. The kind that lets my life forgive me as easily as spring forgives winter, and move on.
March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
I quit meds eight years ago. I did not go cold turkey, run wild and squeal, “Nanny nanny boo boo! Psych meds are a joke!” No, I titrated down with the help of a psychiatrist, a tiny baby in my belly, and a year of stability under my mental health belt.
I spent the years that followed perfecting a formula to replace the lithium I had faithfully swallowed everyday the decade before. Like all great discoveries, I found ketosis by accident. In an attempt to change my weight, I changed my brain. Ketosis worked better than lithium ever had and it lifted the haze I had been swatting at my whole life. Then came exercise, at first just a way to push the babies round and round to sleep, then a way to run straight up hills, then a way to pick my weight up off the ground until I found myself unreasonably calm. And with both came deep, solid sleep, the kind that wakes you up in the morning all by itself, full.
Ketosis was my anti-depressant. Powerlifting was my mood stabilizer. Sleep was my anti-psychotic.
This formula worked so well, I bottled it. I was my own pharmacist, measuring precise doses each day.
So it should be no surprise that when my formula fell apart, when my spine crumbled and I lost exercise, when stress knocked me out of ketosis and head first into cupcakes, when post-surgical narcotics had a paradoxical effect and stole whole weeks of sleep, that my brain would come tumbling down.
The good news is that nothing catastrophic happened outside of my head. I was able to stay out of the hospital with the help of quick doctors, a good husband, lots of babysitters, friends, and an excellent therapist. I didn’t drain the bank account or fly off the roof. My kids got the truly fun parts of mania: fantastic tea parties, Bulild- A – Bear, the Lego store, and all the Muppet movies (except that creepy Treasure Island one. Yikes!) and several amazing babysitters who will stay with us for a season.
And in the end, we are all okay.
This is the brilliance of fighting mental illness out loud, with a crowd. Mine is not a secret battle. This is not a secret blog. I have help beyond fountain pens. My kids have help beyond Sesame Street. My husband has help beyond Bluebell Homemade Vanilla. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, visible and invisible and they are quick to swoop in, despite my comfort level, to intercede. I am not alone, out in the field.
My precise formula may have failed, but this one holds firm. And while these new medicines I’ve swallowed work their chemical magic (and yes, they are working!) I grow increasingly thankful that I have this skilled team fighting for me while I go back to just dealing with a bad back. Just a bad back. Which doesn’t seem as hard a pill to swallow.
March 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
It should read: Bipolar pen lady hurt her back and talks about drugs. She used to be fat. I think she has kids.
It is a true story.
While technically a blog about manic depression and obesity, I do use fountain pens and writing as therapy. This has always been the case, but it wasn’t until I was sidelined by a stupid back injury that I thought to mix them all up.
That injury and the subsequent use of narcotics gave me the space and drug induced bravery to blog again after a season of juggling tiny babies and heavy weights. I may not have been blogging, but I was always writing. I have never, ever, not had a notebook. And I have never, ever not had a very strong opinion about pens. Or most other things, really. But especially pens.
In my absence, WordPress got fancy, added likes and stats and whatnot, so I’ve been able to see that while there’s a good deal of interest in crazy, there is twice the interest in crazy AND fountain pens. Interpret that as you will.
So, if you’re here for a story about being formerly obese and managing manic depression with fountain pens, food, faith, and exercise (and therapy, and medication, and babysitters, and the occasional housekeeper) in the context of homeschooling three small children while recovering from a serious back injury in beautiful downtown Austin, TX, you’ve found the right blog!