Day one #powerrehab: power < rehab

I tried to put on a backpack.


Yes, yes, I know.  I KNOW.

That was not smart.  But we could almost see a stupid move like that coming, couldn’t we?  Even with all of my fear-nots and promises of gentleness, there was bound to be something ridiculous and beyond the bounds of reason thrown in early on.

So, yes.  I tried to put on a back pack yesterday morning and it hurt so bad.  Scared me bad.  Froze me and turned me silent bad.

I stood there for a moment, the electric current running white hot from the incision in my back down to my ice cold foot until my brain turned back on and I dropped the pack onto the floor.  All the power in my rehab, crushed on day one.

I scrambled to find another solution but the babysitter was here, the sand was pouring rapidly through the hourglass, and I  couldn’t risk losing #powerrehab and my sanity saving kid-free time.  I loaded my bag into the car and drove the half mile to the coffee shop, defeated.  I sat in my sunny window seat, notebooks spread out in front of me, but I couldn’t focus.

I was agitated, angry, sad.  I tried to write, tried to paint, tried to talk to my best friend and decide if I should use an empty stroller to push my bag to the coffee shop, beginning my career as the neighborhood eccentric a few years earlier than I had originally planned.

I pulled out my exquisitely planned #powerrehab training log, and fondled the sparkling golden stars.    I may need to discuss this with my psychiatrist at our med check tomorrow, but the Rocky IV soundtrack began to swell in my head, and I marched my half drunk decaf Americano to the bus tub, loaded up my eighty thousand pounds of gear and marched out the door.

I parked two houses down from my house so my kids wouldn’t see me, left all my stuff in the car, and gingerly, but triumphantly, marched myself to the damn coffee shop and back, like a CHAMPION.   GOLD STAR FOR ME.


Life rules.

I scribbled down a list of life rules early Saturday morning.  They came out of nowhere, before I even had coffee, which means they can’t possibly have come from me, so they have to be good.

1.  Do not get drunk. 

This isn’t exclusive to alcohol, though that’s pretty sound advice based on my goals of mood stability, weight management, and, you know, a decent career in motherhood.  I think it’s safe to say that, far more frequently than Costco’s cheapest pinot noir, I allow myself to get drunk on Amazon Prime or a meal consisting solely of almond butter and a spoon. Sometimes I get drunk on my own self righteousness with a nap time nosedive into a celebrity news site.  And if that’s not enough, I sip from the Facebook flask throughout the day just to take the edge off.  And there’s nothing quite like the high I get from knowing, without a doubt, that I am right and my husband is absolutely wrong, and I have just let him know it in the very clearest, most razor sharp terms, from which he cannot possibly escape.  Yeah, I should not do that.

2.  Read smart things. 

I need to read beautiful, well researched, thoughtful, well intentioned work.  Except in cases of mood emergencies, I should avoid gif-riddled lists and click bait.  I will read books with dust jackets.  I will read uncomfortable bible translations and commentaries I think are too hard.  I will read the books on my shelf that have sat unread for years, failing to be absorbed by osmosis.

3.  Write everyday. 

I do this.  GOLD STAR FOR ME.  I have no idea what kind of creature I would be if I did not follow this rule and I have no desire to find out.

4.  Expose yourself to art. 

“We become what we behold.” — Marshall McLuhan.  I would like to become beautiful and complicated, provocative and wise, playful, insightful, dangerous, generous.  The more I expose myself to these things, the more I will have to give to my children, my husband, my friends, and the world.  The more I expose myself to these things, the more my brain changes from the dark, twisty place it tends to be when left to it’s own devices, to the bright, open place I want to live.  I should revise rule number one.  Get drunk on art!

5.  Do the plans. 

YES.  Again, Mr. Picasso, “What one does is what counts and not what one has the intention of doing.”  I am so good at making the plans.  I have exquisite plans.  The battles between my internal Prophet and Administrator are truly epic.  My vision is constantly outstripping my clipboard’s capacity.  BUT, when I do the work, one exquisitely planned clip board at a time, there is fulfillment.  And isn’t that a beautiful word!?

As I number 5 it into #powerrehab this week, these are the things I’m thinking about.  With Easter and long, bright days ahead, it feels oh so timely to have such a short, sweet list to guide me.  Way to go, Giver of Good Rules!  Way to go brain!  Way to go taker of medicine!

Intention of doing.

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.

Get back to work.

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.


Clear as day.

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.

In the green.

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.Image