Get Healthy Challenge 2014

Ah, Sunday. This most conflicting day of the week. It’s the day before you have to go back to school as a child or to work as an adult. It’s the day where plans for the week ahead are forged – but also the day where you sleep in with your sweetie and have a nice, leisurely breakfast or brunch. Steaming waffles, a nice strong cup of coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and maybe a newspaper or other weekly item to peruse at length.

For me, it’s one of the few days that I can spend some quality time with my husband. It’s also a day where I sit down to make a lot of lists – for the week, the month, and just general bullet points on my endless list of things to do, ever.

The first item on today’s agenda is my desire to participate in a fellow blogger’s Get Healthy Challenge 2014. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to work, but one thing I do know is that it couldn’t be more apropos for the things that I desperately really, truly want and need to get done this year. I was especially drawn to her contemplation about the mind/body connection – in so far as “getting healthy” isn’t just about losing weight but also about tending to your emotional well-being. As I’m rather flailing in both areas, this challenge is just what I need to keep me focused on the big picture by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable bite-sized tasks.

In the past, I’ve been rather…ineffective at enforcing my own New Year’s Resolutions. I actually happened across an old list from something like 20 years ago just last month – and it was both laughable and shocking that I still, unbelievably, want to get many of the same things done. The ubiquitous “get healthy/lose weight” is an obvious one – that’s pretty much been the headliner for, oh I don’t know, 25 years (sad, I know). Coming up behind it is the whole carpe diem, goosfraba deal – meaning my perennial desire to dissolve my negative feelings and accept myself and those around me with more grace and calm (you know, without resorting to a super-size helping of narcotics).

I decided to write my updates – to see how the week has treated me – and weekly goals on Sundays instead of Fridays: what challenges I faced, overcame (hopefully there won’t be too much drama as the result of the inevitable setting of lofty goals until I actually figure out what I can, realistically, tackle and accomplish inside of a week), and what’s on the table for the next week.

So as I am preparing to launch myself into a goal-driven challenge to help me keep my eye on the proverbial ball (instead of, you know, constantly freaking out about the mountain of things I should do but am too petrified, worried, anxious and cranky to deal with), I received a message from a cantankerous family member with whom I have not spoken in some time. Said person has caused a great deal of heartache in our lives and was therefore expedited to the emotional version of Siberia – because, honestly, as I’m approaching 40 in the next couple of years, I really have less and less desire to deal with emotional vampires and people who constantly act like your heart is their own personal trampoline. I’m still smarting from the tone and wording – clearly designed to aggravate and guilt me into a response, which I have decided is not only beneath me but not worth the time and effort to compose.

Of course there’s a little “secret” behind this – a confession that pains me to make but that, in light of preparing for this challenge, I know I have to own. The truth is that I hate conflict of any kind. I hate arguing. I hate the mere fact of not getting along with someone. I’m the product of many unpleasant experiences that involved being yelled at, beaten, chastised, humiliated and otherwise being generally treated like the square peg that wouldn’t fit in the round hole. The overall message was that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, to be loved without some major “renovation” and caveats. Needless to mention, I’m still trying to rise above things that happened a long time ago – and even just admitting them in the first place makes me want to run away and hide under a rock while meekly pleading to be informed of if and when the storm has passed.

Because of all those experiences, I always tried to be nice to everyone. I tried so, so hard to be pleasing, to be “good” – whatever such a subjective term can ever mean. And I fell for promises and assurances over and over. I trembled and walked over metaphoric eggshells for years and years – always tacitly trying to maintain the frail balance for whatever period of time was granted until there was another blow-out. Each time the tears came, hot and salty, I swore to myself that it was the last time: the last time I would try, the last time I would believe, the last time I would let someone else treat me like I wasn’t good enough.

But reading the experiences by so many others in the last few months, I’ve realized two things. First, Eleanor Roosevelt was right: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – and that consent has just expired, been revoked and will not be renewed. Second, I am done with trying to please and appeased people who do nothing of the sort for me. I won’t bore you to tears with the tedium that has been almost my entire life – with family members who treated me like garbage, or who were nice just long enough to get what they wanted and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on me. I AM DONE. I’m not going to placate someone else insecurities that they chose to abuse on me. I’m not going to be conned into trying to maintain relationships where I’m the one always trying to be nice, trying to do the right thing, trying to help and put myself out there for people who – clearly – by their words and actions have long since demonstrated just how little they truly care about us. And while I know that this will be an uphill battle for me, that I will struggle with conflicting emotions, that sadness and regret will wash over me periodically, I know that it’s time I actively work to overcome this lifelong struggle.

So, without further ado, here are my Get Healthy Challenge 2014 goals for this coming week:

  1. No tv during the weekdays (and only 1 hour per weekend day).
  2. Make the phone calls and appointments I’ve been dreading for months.
  3. No caffeine on weekdays other than in herbal tea (meaning no coffee, chocolate etc).
  4. Deal with emotional turmoil and/or adversity through creativity (writing/journaling) and diversion (chores, bubble bath, walk the pups)
  5. Do some type of physical activity each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
  6. Try or do something new.
  7. Take my supplements every day.

I decided to pick 7 items to correspond with 7 days in a week – not because I plan to do those things only on one day (some obviously apply to the whole week) but because I wasn’t sure how many goals to pick…and this seemed like a befitting number. I think #3 is going to be the hardest because, omg, I love my coffee. Did I say love? I meant I’m mildly obsessed with it. I mean…just opening a bag or can of the current favorite and deeply inhaling the scents wafting up…it’s like nirvana for me. It’s the thing that I relate to relaxation the most – the one thing that makes me feel like I can get through a tough spot. But I also know that (a) I’m consuming way too much caffeine (which is especially ironic given that I absolutely never have or do drink sodas); (b) I might as well ween myself off it before we even find a new RE because, eventually, when (yes, my instinct wasn’t to write if for a change!!) I get pregnant, I’m not going to be able to guzzle the stuff at the current rate anyway.

In line with the whole challenge idea, DH and I also agreed to make time to have lunch together once a week. It the past year, it’s been more like once a quarter – partly due to his hectic schedule but also in consideration of the added expense of eating out. We used to love going out for dinner – the dressing up, the ambiance, maybe a cocktail if it was appropriate. But in recent years we’ve all but become social recluses, as we both recoil from anything that could open us up to questions about our continued childlessness – not to mention the inevitable heartache of thinking we’ll have a nice, quiet and romantic dinner – only to be surrounded by families. (Sidebar: I can so, totally relate to this blogger’s post about almost crying in the grocery store – because I’ve had those moments in virtually every. single. public. location. It’s unbelievable and shocking – even when it’s happened more than once – how gut-wrenchingly painful some of these moments can be; and how hard you have to fight the tears. I’ve had moments where I tasted bile in my mouth and seriously thought I would actually, no kidding, vomit in a public venue. NOT something I would like to experience, e-v-e-r, if I can avoid it.)

Of course this brings me to an issue that I keep meaning to address and that I keep, ahem, failing to deal with in a – shall we say – “mature” way: I am way, way too stressed out. I mean, I have anxiety in the capacity of a medical condition. I’ve taken anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants at various points in the last few years – until I decided that I didn’t want to live a life where I had to rely on medication for anything that wasn’t immediately life threatening. Of course the truth is that, at this point, my ticker is decidedly unhappy with me – and the heart palpitations have become disturbingly frequent, so that when I lie in bed at night, I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep just because my heart is pounding like a jackhammer, thundering in my ears to such an extent that I’m tempted to yell “keep the damn noise down!”. 

It goes without saying that I know what’s to blame. I know I need to get out more. I know I need to stop worrying about things that I can’t do a darn thing about. I know I need to think less and act more – which may sound like a bad idea, if you weren’t someone like me who has a propensity  slight tendency to overthink, like, everything. If you’ve ever seen the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, you’ll probably know what I mean: lying in bed, staring holes into the ceiling and making lists. Only – I completely disagree that this is something particular to the working mom. I think it’s specific to a type of person – someone who (a) worries too much and (b) isn’t that good at prioritizing actionable items on their to-do list. In other words, I know that I need to work very hard to overcome my tendency to worry rather than tackle.

Rather than worrying about the nastygram I received and the fear of whatever may be lurking behind it, I’m going to write it off. I’m not interested in maintaining the relationship’s status quo; and since I know for a fact that trying to have a frank, honest conversation with this person is simply not possible, there is just no avenue to address or redress the issues between us. Which means that, as hard as it is for me and as frustrating as I find it to be in this situation – I have more pressings things commanding my attention and I simply WILL NOT waste my brain power on this, anymore.

Toodeloo! 🙂

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In The Trenches

For the past week, I’ve been fighting a head cold that has been leaving me feeling really awful – depleted of both physical energy and mental acuity. Nothing I tried would make it better: not chicken soup, not orange juice, not Benadryl or the rest of the medicine cabinet. It’s a miracle that any one of my desperate concoctions didn’t kill me – because, honestly, if I’d thought arsenic or rat poison would’ve made me feel better, I probably would’ve tried it.

The upside of feeling really crappy physically is that it took my mind off a lot of the mental anguish for a while – at least to some extent. AF with her perfect timing chimed in to make it all a big mess of aches and pains – a nice preview of old age, if I ever make it that far. And while I’m still trying desperately not to freak out about how my period has suddenly taken a dramatic change since my single Clomid cycle in early summer – going from its usual 7-8 days to 4, which I would normally find a great cause for celebration, were it not that I’m one of those hapless women dealt the dastardly card of DOR (diminished ovarian reserve) – all of these things coinciding together made me feel sick as a dog.

But! Great excuse to lounge on the couch and watch crappy tv – which is really all that Netflix has to offer (I won’t even elaborate on that, since anyone who also has a Netflix subscription will undoubtedly have noticed all the bizarre crap on there that NO ONE in their right mind would give a fig about, never mind want to watch).

Mostly, though, I pretty much just schlepped myself between the couch and the bed, possible moaning like an octogenarian as I shuffled between resting places with a variously stuffed up and dripping nose, my head feeling like an over-sized, overripe watermelon begging to take first prize at a county fair. I slept A LOT. I hurt even more. I wanted chocolate, but there wasn’t any at home – and I was in no condition to leave the house, and DH has been working way too much for me to ask him to make a detour on his way home. He would have, if I had asked him – but, c’mon. I’m not that self-indulgent. I figured if I was THAT desperate, I could always eat the baking chocolate. (FYI: I didn’t. I’ve tried that before – and it basically tastes like what I imagine licking an ashtray would taste like.)

Tonight, I finally got a chance to catch up on some reading – and came across a post on someone else’s blog about friendship. Or, rather, the ending of it.

It’s a pretty raw subject for me. In the past few years, DH and I have lost almost everyone in our lives to either death, estrangement or some version of IF-related “amnesia” – which is what happens when people learn of your predicament and suddenly lose your phone number, address, and/or other identifying characteristics. To say that we’re operating without a support system would be a huge understatement because we basically don’t have one anymore.

In the past few months, as I’ve read more stories from others – I’ve been shocked to see that the amount of people whose experiences mirror ours largely outweigh the stories of people who have warm, caring and supportive friends & family. In most cases, people try to be open about their struggle – and find themselves suddenly bumped off the invite list, excluded from parties or other social events.

Some stories I’ve read have been much, much worse than what we’ve been through. I won’t repeat them here to respect the privacy of others, but let’s just say that there have been times where I’ve cried for someone else that I haven’t even met – and times where reading what someone else had been put through at the hands of a family member made ME want to slap the crap out of the person in question.

But those are the extremes. Far more common, it seems, are the friendships that fray at the edges as the friend struggling with IF continues to do so over an extended period of time. It seems that – as I’ve experienced first-hand with grief – people expect there to be a time-limit on how much they’re expected to give or invest on a particular “problem”. As though your struggle is a sort of community service – and after X amount of hours spent listening and/or discussing the topic, it’s dealt with and moved “off the docket”. NEXT!

Of course it’s not like that for us – for those who continue to struggle through the first, second, third pregnancies of friends, family members, coworkers. Years go by, and we are like waylaid passengers on a platform, watching as the trains pull into the station, people getting on and off, trains pulling away again…but we remain the same, rooted in place, unable to move forward.

I imagine that dealing with infertility is somewhat similar to a street urchin from the days of yore peeking in through the windows of a fancy restaurant or butcher’s shop – tantalized by the smells of rich foods…so close within reach, and yet still denied access to it. I think it’s quite the same for us – surrounded by women who are pregnant, who have babies, multiple children, and it’s all right there in front of us, taunting us, mocking us – from the pages of magazines, tv commercials, the back of a catalog. Everywhere you look, companies are turning to The Mother and Child images to sell us on everything from band-aids to pencils, shoes to breakfast items.

So what do you do, when you struggle with infertility? You keep your chin up, you smile, you trudge on. You’re a warrior! You’re a woman of the 21st century – you’ve got this! You confide in your friends, help them plan their baby showers, ooh and aah over their baby pictures, attend kids birthday parties, sign up dutifully as the doting aunt, godmother, best friend in attendance etc.

But time doesn’t stand still for you – it goes by. Slowly, at first, it seems. I’ve got plenty of time, there’s no rush, you tell yourself. Little by little, your friends start dropping off – they now have new “mommy” friends, and they now go on play dates with their mommy friends and all their kids. They’d invite you, they say, but they don’t want you to feel weird, awkward, left out. You smile, say thank you for considering your feelings. Soon, they stop trying to make excuses – they just stop calling. And you stop calling too – because you know you feel it too: you’ve reached the end of the road. There are no sad good-byes here. There is no acknowledgment of the hurt, the pain, the sorrow of the one left behind without a baby of her own – because how could there be? It would require everyone else to stop thinking about themselves, to interrupt the happiness in their lives to allow the sadness in your life to affect them in any way, shape or form.

This is the part where you find yourself feeling as though you unwittingly contracted a highly contagious disease, or like you just stepped into a dog turd and walked all over someone’s antique Persian rug with it: you’ve become persona non grata.

Not all relationships are like that though. Some people you meet later in life – when they already have children. It wasn’t so weird, you told yourself, because it’s not like you were going to have to worry about which one of you would get pregnant first. But then there’s a surprise or unplanned pregnancy – and you’re devastated. Or one of you moves away, and has an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

Friendships are hard to maintain, under the best of circumstances. When we’re young, we’re thrown together with others all the time – it’s easy to make friends, even if you’re not the most popular, the prettiest, the smartest: there’s still someone out there for you. Whether it’s in school, church, at camp, after-school activities, in college…you’re constantly around tons of people. How could you not make friends? But as we get older, move, get jobs, move again, get married, move yet again etc…you lose contact with people. Sure, some people think they have lots of friends. See how many of those friends they’ll still be in touch with after 6 months if they got rid of their FB and/or Twitter accounts.

The trials of infertility are many – but the first casualty is the belief that your “friendships” will last forever. For a lucky few, they will have friends and family who will be there for them for as long as it takes. They will go to appointments with them, be a shoulder to cry on, hug them when they’re in despair, take them out when they don’t want to face the world.

But for most of us, it becomes like a war that’s fought in the trenches – and you find out who your REAL friends are.