Pills and a pep talk.

Today is a doctor day.  A day I march boldly into the oddly lit waiting room and arrange the chairs and magazines as a service to all the other psychiatric patients.  I have done this with great love in my heart ever since the day a dear man brought his daughter in, and with such confidence, comfort, and familiarity, reached up to a high shelf to turn on a lamp that had always been switched off.  I over-thanked him, but he seemed to understand the impact of a small change in such an important place.

I will carry my ownership of the space right in to the office, on to the black leather couch, where I will, without wavering, tell my doctor I am discontinuing another medication.  She will push me, but I will not not be moved.

I confess that I am nervous about this one, an anti-anxiety medication, because it is probably helping with irritability and depression, and the withdrawal is known to be brutal, but it is requiring me to sleep 10-12 hours a day and feel like I’ve never had enough (that’s from the moment the baby falls asleep at night, until the minute she insists I get out of bed in the morning, plus her afternoon nap).  AAAAAND it made me eat a cookie sheet full of nachos.  Twice.

Now, I am the first to say, “You are responsible for your own choices,” but I am telling you, this medication has caused more cravings and insatiable hunger than anything I have ever experienced before in my life.  It is worse than pregnancy, worse than mania.  It feels like the urge to binge in emotional eating, but without the emotion. I am constantly white knuckling it through overwhelming distraction and anxiety about FOOD.  As a woman with a history of morbid obesity, a present of need for nutritional therapy for pain and mental health management, and future of required weight control for spinal stability, food is the very last thing I need haunting me.

A medication that consumes all of the time and energy I have to write, exercise, bathe, and engage in conscious solitude, while crowding my waking hours with thoughts of inhaling bricks of cheese and bars of chocolate, spending every ounce of my self-control (which I desperately need to keep my tongue in check while raising three small children) makes me really anxious.  Therefore, I have decided I would no longer like to take it to combat anxiety.

But nachos taste good.

Day nine #powerrehab: Someone needs an attitude adjustment.

My brain does not want to do the plans today, so I bring you this list of yesterday’s victories in place of prose:

The jelly beans did not win.   
I made ketones.

I walked farther than I have since the surgery out of spite for my surgeon.

I made it home before my migraine halo gave way to the screwdriver through the eye stage.

I remembered that there was a drug I am not on.

I did not die.


Day eight #powerrehab: Screws.

I’ve spent so much time pretending to be happy with the body that I’m in.  I think my back injury  is the first time I have ever admitted in real time that I think something is wrong with my body while I am actively trying to change it.  I have no problem talking about my efforts after the fact, once the 160 pounds have been lost, the certifications achieved, the coaching practices opened, and the expert levels thoroughly dominated.  No problem at all then.

But in the meantime, when things are iffy, when experiments are running and I don’t even have a clear hypothesis, when I don’t even like my own hashtag*, I do not like to put myself out there.  Historically, I do not like to talk about weight, unless we’re talking about total weight lost or how much weight I’m lifting.  Those numbers are finished, indisputable, on the books.  They fall in the extremities, on the unusual ends of the spectrum.  We’ve discussed how I feel about that.

For whatever reason, perhaps sheer exhaustion, perhaps post-surgical narcotics induced, uncharacteristic vulnerability, I opened the door to talking about my body as it was broken, the problem of my back before it was solved.  That step led to sharing about my unruly brain, even as it fumed in it’s manic fit.

As hermit, writing here is a much needed connection to like minded (ha!) people and those who love them.  But even so, it is a frightening thing to share a story that has no clear ending, one in which I may end up looking like a fool.

That was quite the prologue to tell you that I saw my surgeon yesterday.  He was brusk, cold and quick.  He pretended to be nice to my children who really should not have been with me for this conversation, so I should give him more credit.  I did not even pretend to be nice to my children.

“We’ve done all we can.  The next step is more surgery.  I go in with screws and an implant, remove all the remaining material and scar tissue and fuse your spine.  If you do not do surgery now, your only choice is to manage the pain until you just can’t stand it anymore.”

Well that sounds familiar, doesn’t it, bipolar friends?

Doesn’t that sound like something in which I have some expertise?

So I said no to screws.  I said no to surgery.  I said yes to the experiment and doing the plans.  I said yes to #powerrehab and however involved it may need to become in order to manage the pain.

That means more roses and less sugar.  It means ketosis and myofascial release (*tears*).  It means staying in the green and telling you about it, regardless of how I feel about that.

*Why? Why did you let me commit to a hashtag, friends!  Now I’m in too deep! I can’t turn back now!

Day two #powerrehab: Mourning.


I have a hard time accepting that I am lame.

I thought I was there.  I really did.  I thought I had wrapped my head around the idea that I have three holes in my spine, that a surgeon stuck a knife in there and stole bone away and that I wouldn’t, in wisdom, be able to stack a steel bar, loaded with metal plates on top of it ever again.

But I haven’t.

Day two of #powerrehab was a mild success.  I took the girls to the playground to meet my one of my best friends and former trainer.  At the end we dragged our screaming and exhausted children around the trail for 15 minutes and talked about the fate of my lifting career and how much I could get for my squat rack.

This type of mourning seems so trivial to most of you reading this blog. It seems irrelevant to bipolar disorder, faith, and motherhood, so I offer this short post from 2012 for some context:

The work of fear.

Fear is always evidence that I am going the right way.  Fear shows up when I am stepping out of the boat, onto the water.  I know it’s just water, I know it should not hold me.

The work of God is this:  to believe in the one he has sent.


I always fear my work.

Some mornings I lay in bed before the sun comes up, fearing my first waking child.  I am afraid of the day that stretches out in front of me, full of conflict, noise, and people touching me constantly.  Everything will get dumped out, crushed, and sticky.  There will be disappointment, heartache, and lots of body fluids.

I fear the phone call at the end of the day, the sound of my husband’s voice, so heavy with fatigue I think it will break the phone.

When I write out my training the night before, I know it will be good when the numbers scare me a little.  How can I possibly put that weight over my head?  That’s insane.

Sitting in front of a blank page, knowing something has to go on it, something from inside me, I am paralyzed by fear.

Sometimes, I just walk away.  I do not pick it up, the kid, the phone, the first glimmer of an idea.  I do not fill my belly with breath and stabilize my spine.  I do not reach my calloused hands around it.  I do not do the work.  I choose to stay afraid.

But when I step up to the bar, yank up my tights, throw my shoulders back, my children are lighter, the weight of my husband’s stress is something I can move, the daily pain of relationships, mistakes, bad planning, and stupid choices is just a set of exercises that challenges every muscle, breaks me down just enough to build me up.

Fear becomes an invitation.

I am invited to feel real weight.  I am invited to carry loads I was convinced I could never bear.

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.