“You weren’t that big to start with”/”You took the easy way out”/and just plain “Hard work.”

Nearly 5 months out from surgery as of August 8th, and I’m writing an update a little early because I’m having a rest-and-write day.
Some people say to avoid Bariatric Surgery forums, but others recommend them for support. I generally find them supportive, and I find the photos people show of their progress to be inspiring.
But lately, there’s this vibe on the forums where people who have a hundred or more pounds to lose are coming across as demanding justification for having the surgery from those who had less than a 100 pounds to lose. It’s almost like, “What are you doing in this group? You weren’t that big to start with.”

Prior to my surgery, I told a few trusted colleagues that I was having gastric sleeve, and after I had the surgery, I was open with those I trusted about what I’d had done. I do not consider it a shameful thing, so why keep it a secret? The downside to being open about something like gastric sleeve surgery, however, is becoming an object of discussion: “We were talking about you and we don’t think you were that big to start with…”–which is like a veiled way of saying, “Why did you have surgery? You didn’t need it.”

Here’s the thing: I needed to lose 75 pounds to get to a healthy weight. I’m not there yet: I still have about 12 pounds to go, but I also don’t know where my body will stop. 75 pounds was a number I chose because that would get me back to where I was when I lost 100 pounds, long ago. I may not lose another pound. I’m okay with that. It won’t change the way I’m keepin’ on keepin’ on.

I’m only 5’3″ tall, and I have a small bone structure, so carrying extra weight, even though it was not hundreds of pounds, affected me adversely.  The weight I am right now is one of my “set point” weights that I often settled at in the past.

When I regained 75 of a 100 pound weight loss from the early 2000s, sleep apnea returned, and that is what qualified me for surgery because it is a  “co-morbidity,” meaning that in addition to having the disease of obesity, which can cause early death, I had another disease present in my body that could also cause death. My surgeon approved me; the psychologist approved me; the fitness people approved me; the insurance company approved me. I jumped through hoops for 4 months. I spent thousands of dollars because I have a ridiculously high deductible. I underwent an endoscopy. I had 12 vials of blood drawn in one sitting to check various things in my blood. I took time off from work to go to nutritionist appointments, which ended up costing me because I “ran out of days off” and I got docked.

As I stated in the post, “When I Made Up My Mind,” which is the home page for this site, the moment I decided to pursue this surgery was when I was walking through the airport and I realized I was waddling because it hurt so much to walk. Now: I know that part of the reason I had that pain was that I have a partially torn tendon where it attaches to my hip bone, but I’ve been told by the orthopedic doctor and the physical therapist that losing weight has helped this condition not be as painful.

I’ve gotten to where I’m not limping any more and I’m doing physical therapy for the torn tendon. (That’s part of my rest-and-write day now; I spent last week helping my daughter move from one house to another, and I was not quite as careful as I was supposed to be in going up and down stairs, which is the worst thing I can do with the problems I’m having. So, it’s ice & rest & physical therapy for a few days…and possibly another cortisone shot…)

Having sleeve surgery also has given me an extra tool for managing the eating disorder I have. I track everything I eat to check my protein and fluid intake–and keeping a food log like I do helps me with my ED. I work out 6 of 7 days a week on a recumbent bike because it helps loosen up my hips and I walk with less pain. And, yes, the exercise helps weight loss and toning, too.

BUT: One side effect of rapid weight loss is skin that just sort of…drapes. Given the just-right position, a glance in the mirror is an exercise in choosing the mindset to have about this. It’s either, “Oh, my god, parts of me are flat, parts of me look like I’m filled with cottage cheese, and….that part appears to be risen bread dough that was just punched down….” OR “Hm. Yep, that’s my body. Now, what is it that I need to do today?”

Here’s what I’ve decided about the parts of my body that make me uncomfortable to look at: it’s karma. Here’s why: over the years, if I noticed, for example, some woman in a sleeveless shirt and the skin hanging off her triceps brought to mind bat wings, I was judgy about them. My judgment was this, in my head: “Yuck. Oh, my god, I’m so glad my arms don’t look like that.” (I suppose I preferred my seat-cushion-like upper arms to be filled with Vanilla Oreos and Cookies and Cream ice cream…)

ALSO, as long as I’m revealing what a terrible person I am… you know the actress who plays Claire on House of Cards? I was always judgy about her neck–like, her neck looks like she’s had a tracheotomy…. well, guess what, guys? My neck doesn’t have extra skin hanging off it; instead, every tendon is visible and I have the crater at the base of my neck like she does. (Now if you see me all you’ll focus on is that crater, right? LOL LOL LOL).

I’m no longer a church going person, but I can still throw Scripture at the wall and see if it sticks: “You reap what you sow.”  I totally consider the stuff on my body that is cringe-worthy to be karmaic justice.

There are surgeries available to remove excess skin, after a person is about 18 months out from their bariatric surgery. However, I will not be one of those people. The nausea, vomiting, failures of my I.V. that necessitated 2 more I.V.s than I should have had, and general unpleasantries I went through because I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, all kept me in the hospital an extra day. I will not be having surgery again unless I am dying. Plus, I’m fortunate in that I did not have more than 100 pounds to lose, so I don’t have the amount of extra skin that others have. I hope those who want the surgery can have it done. But I’m not going to pursue that.

I go back to work next week; school is starting again, and I am aware that I have a drastic change to my outer appearance. I expect comments and questions about how I lost as much weight as I’ve lost, how much I’ve lost, etc., and I don’t mind curiosity–to a point. But I’m not going to tell people all the stuff I wrote above in terms of what feels like justifying my decision to have 85% of my stomach removed and commit myself to lifestyle changes that are permanent, as well as following rules so that I don’t regain lost weight.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a line from an author friend of mine who lost a lot of weight and when I asked her how she did it, she said, “Hard work.”
This is hard work. Weight loss is hard work, no matter how it happens. I’m not just sitting around doing nothing while weight falls off. I’m doing what I need to do to stay healthy while it’s happening and to make it happen, and I’m choosing behaviors that are in sync with weight loss. There are people who have this surgery and end up in the hospital because they are dehydrated, or they don’t eat enough protein and/or they don’t take their vitamins and become malnourished. The first few times I went to my bariatric surgeon after the procedure, the first question I was asked was, “Have you had to go to the E.R.?”

I suppose there are people who choose to do as little as possible and sabotage themselves by gaming the system, testing the boundaries of what is recommended in order to make best use of the “tool” of a smaller stomach. In the first orientation meeting I went to, there was a woman who was literally WEEPING because she would have to give up Dr. Pepper. At that time, I thought, “Woman, no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to have this surgery, so if that’s something you don’t think you can change, don’t do it to yourself.”

The skinny banana-sized stomach left after surgery is not a panacea. It’s a tool, and tools can be misused. If I want to drink chocolate-peanut butter milkshakes all day, I could, but I won’t feel good, and I’ll gain weight, my hip pain will increase, I’ll be sleeping with a CPAP mask on again, and I guess I’ll be naked because I’ve been giving my too-big clothes to Goodwill and women’s shelters as I’ve gotten smaller.

I don’t know if my friend (who said “hard work” was the way she lost weight) had surgery or not, and it does not matter. What does matter, in as much as it comes across as patronizing, is the statement/belief that bariatric surgery is the easy way out. If you really think about it, that’s a shitty thing to say. It’s making assumptions that the person saying it is utterly unqualified to make, and it also implies that because the person is overweight, they are “less than.” Or that they should continue struggling against something that has not worked for them on their own.

Sometimes people cannot wait to share horror stories about people who did not do well following the procedure–which is also another thing that pops up on the forums–or I get tales of people who went back to their old eating patterns and regained weight.
What, exactly, are people who have not had problems with the surgery supposed to say to those, other than, “I’m so sorry”? What is the motivation for telling people about that?

I made a choice that affects me for the rest of my life. It is hard work to make the “tool” of a smaller stomach work.  Plus–and this is one of those times when a curse can be a blessing– I am obsessive-compulsive, I crave order and patterns of “being” since I had no order or established routines when I was a child, and I’m a teacher. I’m a rule-follower. I’m also stubborn as shit when I make up my mind. Once that switch flips and I choose to stay aware of what I’m doing instead of going on auto-pilot like I did when I relapsed, I’m where I need to be to reach my goals–and that’s any goal I set for myself, from following sleeve rules to writing a book.

Here’s some examples of how I live my life differently now– and this is not a list of “woe is me” at all; rather, it is evidence that this is not the “easy way out.” It is a choice to make changes and follow “rules”:

1. I take vitamins and supplements twice a day to keep from being malnourished.
2. Along with everything I eat, I also track my fluid consumption- I have to have at least 64 oz. of water/liquids a day.
3. I track my protein consumption- I have to have at least 60-80 grams of protein a day.
4. I eat no more than 1/2 cup of food at a time, and I always eat protein first then see if I have room for other food. (But after I’ve met my protein intake, I do eat stuff like salad, cooked vegetables, & fruit, too, between meals, etc.) I also have learned to wait while eating so that my food has a chance to go down before adding more.
5. I plan out what I am going to eat in advance–this was something I did when I lost weight before. And I don’t mean that I figure out everything I’m going to eat from moment to moment; I cook ahead and plan so that I am assured I have food available that is what I can eat. I put it in small containers so that it is already in the amount I can eat, too. I eat between 900-1000 calories a day.
6. I am religious about exercise in the way I was when I lost weight before. It makes me feel better, I write while I’m on the recumbent bike, and I love feeling my muscles.

So: I’m taking my vitamins, tracking what I eat, eating less, providing myself with healthy options, and exercising more, which is the “formula” for weight loss. How is what I do the “easy way out”? It’s not. It’s hard work.

4 month update! Questions? Comments? Concerns? Quandaries?

Hey-o, I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m doing great. I’ll warn y’all now: this post is chatty as can be, so if you’re not in a chatty mood, move on by.

I had my 2nd post-op follow up this past week, and the surgeon was very pleased with my progress. I’ve lost almost 60 pounds from my highest weight, I’m working out 6 days a week, and the hip pain I had before is better in that my left hip no longer hurts. My right hip still does, but I found out it’s not weight-related.  When I fell in a restaurant in May 2017, it was a really violent blow to what the physical therapist scientifically (LOL) called “the butt bone.” NOT my tailbone, but the bottom edge of my pelvis.
My husband stayed on my butt (no pun intended) about getting an MRI to find out what’s wrong, and the MRI showed that I have a partially torn tendon (gluteus minimus) where it connects to the hip bone (trochantor), and bursitis, which is inflammation of the cushion between the bones (I think…).
I just started physical therapy this last week, and– this is an indication of my seriousness about getting my life back to where I’m not dealing with this pain any more– I am going for a cortisone shot on Tuesday. I am a complete wuss about stuff like this, but I am reasoning that since I hurt like a M-F when I walk too long, I can’t lay on my right side without pain, and I also can’t use stairs, kneel, or squat (the last 2 mean I can’t work in my garden, which pisses me off), it’s stupid to allow my fear to keep me from getting a treatment that could allow me to have my full life. I mean, seriously, y’all: I get 21 Botox shots in my head every 12 weeks for my migraines, and I fought the doctor for a year, avoiding getting the shots, because of my fear. Are the shots pleasant? NO. But they’re not as bad as one would think, and within a couple of weeks, the Botox sets in and I’m able to have a normal life, where before I was very limited by chronic pain. (That’s part of the reason I fell into relapse, turning to my drug of choice: food, to soothe myself.) So if Botox shots help so much AND if I’m tough enough to handle those shots, I can certainly handle ONE shot in my hip.
After I get the shot and it does its thing, it’s possible that the inflammation will go down and NOT come back. At any rate, I’ll be able to make progress to weight-bearing exercises, which will strengthen my hip muscles– and I am determined to make great progress before I have to go back to work! Since I do a recumbent bike 45 minutes 6 days a week at varying resistances, I have more strength in my right leg than the physical therapist expected.
I’m going to be flying out of state soon, and I’m hoping after I get the shot, it will mean I am not lurching like Quasimodo as I trek to my gate. So weird: that’s how this whole adventure started: when my hips hurt so badly and I couldn’t walk without basically waddling that I got to my gate and immediately called Methodist Weight Loss Institute in Dallas. (That’s the bariatric surgery program they have at Methodist Hospital.)

October 2017

On the very first post I made, I included a photo of myself at a book festival event. Here’s one where I was signing books & cards for students.

This surgery has been the best decision for me to manage not just my weight, but my eating disorder issues, as well. I have adjusted very well to the restrictions and taking vitamins and other meds.

June 2018, with my daughter who inspired me to have this surgery because of her success.

I already take meds 3 times a day anyway, so I didn’t have to learn a new habit. I have not had the urge to binge, and when I was in full blown relapse, I was having food issues nearly every day (again.) Do I have little blips go through my mind sometimes? Yes. But I don’t act on them and I don’t feel “electrified” with the compulsion to eat. I’m happy.

If you are considering having this surgery, just know that it requires rule-following and for you to have a mental outlook that sees the sleeve as a tool, not as a way to feel left out of what others are eating, and not as a way to eat a bunch of crap and get away with it.  I could eat nearly anything I want at this point, but I choose to stick to protein and produce. So many of the foods that are on the “avoid” list are also my binge foods, so it doesn’t hurt my feelings to not eat them, especially since when it comes to stuff like cookies, ice cream, bread, etc., NO AMOUNT COULD EVER BE ENOUGH. When I eat that stuff, I’m thinking about where I can get more, before I’m even finished chewing the first mouthful.

I am feeling so much better, y’all, and it’s not about appearance for me. It’s not even about being able to wear clothes I used to be able to wear before I gained weight. I just feel FREE of the urge to stuff myself until I can’t move.

I don’t know how much more weight I’ll lose. I am getting around 1,000 calories a day now, so I guess my body will stop losing weight when it’s reached a natural set point. My goal when I started out is about 15 pounds from where I am now, but I’m not worrying about it. I have a big box of clothes the next size down that I need to switch out with the stuff that’s too big now, and then another set below that. All these are clothes I used to be able to wear before I relapsed over a period of several years. Another good thing: I haven’t had to buy one stitch of clothing. When I end up with clothes that are too big, I’ve been bagging them up and taking them to Goodwill.

If you are contemplating this surgery yourself, I want to warn you that there will be people who discourage you from having it done or who had it done and regained the weight (it IS possible–completely as possible–to regain weight as it would be if you did not have a stomach the size of a skinny banana and unable to hold more than 4 oz. of food at a time. There’s plenty of stuff to eat that would fit in there. Milkshakes, anyone? Hmm?) You will also read things about marriage/divorce and some of the unpleasant side-effects of the surgery, i.e. loose skin from losing so fast, etc. I am a member of some private Facebook support groups for people who have had this surgery.
Some of the concerns/kvetching I see posted there include the following. (Please don’t take me as being judgy about these. I’m going to write (in parentheses) what I would do to make sure my needs are met in these circumstances, because that’s a way I take care of myself. I think this is from my childhood, but not having my needs met–or the perception of same–is a trigger for me in the realm eating disorder and anxiety disorder.)
The following is inspired by info I’ve read on forums I follow:

1. “I went to [insert special event here] and couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating, and I cried.” (I’d bring something I know I can eat in the event that all there is in the way of “special event” food is lard sandwiches and sticks of butter or something equally unfriendly to my goals. Again: I COULD eat just about anything if I wanted to, but I did not have 85% of my stomach removed and experience everything I went through to get to the surgery, PLUS the yicky experience I had with the anesthesia, to throw it all away. I’ve been healthier before and I fell into relapse. I do NOT want to be in that place again.)

2. “My husband said [insert ugly thing here about the person’s appearance before AND/OR after weight loss.]” (Well, first of all, my comment on things like that is, “Invite him to go f–k himself as the earliest possibility.” I don’t know if I’m just lucky or what, but my husband has loved me at my highest and lowest weight, and he does not make comments on the way my body looks no matter what I weigh. He’ll tell me I look nice and all that, but he doesn’t verbally dissect my body to note the changes in it. The ONLY time he’s said anything about me needing to lose weight was when I developed sleep apnea again and he said, “If you ever lose weight again, I’ll bet the sleep apnea will go away.” And he was right, it did. But I didn’t do this just because he made that comment.)

3. “I can’t survive on the liquid diet.” (Yes, you can. Plus, following the rules on the liquid diet prior to surgery means your liver is shrunk up to make the surgery easy to perform. My liver was so tiny that the doctor only had to do 3 incisions instead of 4-5. Chicken broth (I added pepper to mine), vegetable broth, beef broth, sugar free popsicles, protein shakes (including ready made like Premier brand and ones you make yourself, like Muscle Milk…there’s lots of ways to cope. And pee. You will have to pee like crazy.)

4. “I can’t survive on the soft diet.” (Yes, you can. Plus, the reason for the soft diet for the first 4-6 weeks after the surgery is because 85% of your stomach was removed, and they stapled the sleeve along the edge. Do you seriously want to “cheat” on this part and risk blowing out part of your new tiny tummy? PLUS, I still eat a lot of soft foods now because I find them easier to go down.)

5. “I heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce after one of the spouses has this surgery.” (Well, I’ve heard that 50% of all marriages end in divorce regardless of whether one spouse has bariatric surgery. I’ve read posts from spouses who feel so much better about themselves after they lose weight that they choose to dump the partner who acts like the one I reference in item 2. I’ve also read posts about people who divorce because the partner is so insecure that he or she assumes that since their spouse lost weight, that means they are going to cheat. Another common thread is that the husband/family did not want the woman to get the surgery so he/they is/are punishing her now for getting it by providing her no support or assistance when she’s tuckered out from having major surgery…. like I said, I must be really lucky, because none of those issues are present in my marriage/family. ALSO, I think the above issues for these people were probably there in some way before weight loss happened. I would NOT allow these fears to keep me from getting healthy.)

6. Another one: “My spouse, “X”, does not like my body because I have loose skin.” (Hm. Reminds me of this Dr. Phil episode. The woman had a male friend and they wanted to take their relationship to the next level but he couldn’t stand to see her body in a swimsuit (or, I’m assuming, without the swimsuit.)  This is all kinda weird to me–that they were like this–and the lady wanted to have surgery to remove the extra skin because THEN this guy– who, honestly, was NOT anything to write home about–would love her. He was going to loan her the money for the surgery, but he wasn’t sure if his “investment” would “pay off.”
How freaky is that, y’all? I told my husband this morning that if certain parts of my body get any lower, I’ll be able to tuck them into my waistband, mmkay? I’m not thrilled about the situation where I have loose skin or “flat” body parts, but rapid weight loss causes that, and it’s not like we don’t know that ahead of time. Within 18 months, anything that’s gonna tighten up will do it… and things that won’t tighten, I suppose, can always be rolled up. (HA ha ha.) ALSO, there’s a lot of talk about skin-tightening cream on the forums I follow. I  kind of doubt that any skin-tightening cream will work, but I’m sure the loose skin will be nice and moisturized.)
Here’s what I’ve learned about plastic surgery after bariatric surgery, based on what I’ve heard from other people who have pursued having loose skin removed:  insurance won’t pay for it unless the extra skin is also a medical issue, like it has rashes or it gets in the way of being able to do basic self-care. AND, here’s what I’ve learned about myself: there is no friggin’ way I’m going through surgery again unless I’m dying. Besides that, even if I had tens of thousands of dollars to have some doctor cut and tighten, I can think of better ways to spend the money. I’m not judging anyone else who has it done–and there are some people who medically need it in order to be healthy, but it’s not for me.
OH and by the way? Paul, the guy on the Dr. Phil show, said that Dawn’s stomach looks like a pork rind. I would have to do it, y’all: I would HAVE to invite him to f–k off at his earliest opportunity. What a douchecanoe.)

7.  “You mean I can’t drink [insert name of soda here] any more? I hate my life!” (I saw a former teaching partner yesterday and told her that I no longer drink Diet Coke. She was surprised, because I was a Diet Coke addict. I used to bring my own case (it’d last me a week) and kept it in my classroom fridge. I started the day with a Diet Coke and was rarely without one all day long. I had begun to lose my taste for it over the past year or so, but when I knew that this was something I had to give up, I did it. December 23, 2017, was the date of my last Diet Coke. It is not lost on me that I sound like someone who gave up drinking or drugs on a certain day. I was heavily addicted to caffeine.
Anyway: YES you can give up soft drinks. Compare your love for that soda to your future as a healthier person. I order water with a slice of lemon when I go out; I drink a lot of Crystal Light, although some of them are too acidic and bother my stomach, and I’m experimenting with that. Crystal Light Peach Mango Green Tea is one I can handle. Plus, I drink a ton of water. I could also drink decaf tea if I wanted. Caffeine is also a no-no because of stomach irritation.


The program I went through, Methodist Weight Loss Institute, did a great job of prepping me for what to expect, and meeting with the nutritionist for 4 months prior to surgery helped me because I was accountable in terms of a weigh in– couldn’t gain an ounce!, and in setting goals for what I would work on. I think the key is accountability, which is why I have this website. I thought about deleting it since I rarely write on it, but I want to keep it up because it provides me with accountability, whether or not anyone but me reads it.


Questions? Comments? Concerns? Quandaries? Hmm? (That’s what I ask my students after I explain something.)
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. They are moderated and you will not see it appear until I approve it, but ask away if you want.

On being human, “being bad about,” and being a person who can cope without binge eating

So I came home from work feeling just really anxious and wired and down–all at once. My day ended badly and I know part of my anxiety has to do with that–even though I already talked to my principal about it–fronted myself out and apologized. And I know it’s not a huge deal and it’ll be okay. (So, you are wondering what happened, right? Well, I lost my patience, thus proving I’m human…although I have a hard time allowing myself to BE human in circumstances like that.)

And I keep thinking about something a therapist told me a LONG time ago–LONG before I worked with the therapist who helped me get through recovery–this was another guy, and he pointed out that every time I started a sentence, I said, “I’m bad about (x, y, z)… I’m bad about…” and he said I must have been indoctrinated with the message that I’m bad, and I needed to stop saying that about myself. He also pointed out that somewhere, sometime, somebody taught me that if I make a mistake, I have to feel REEEEEAAAAAAALLLLLLY awful about it and not give myself a chance to move on.

And I was remembering that on the way home, and since I got home, and it’s on my mind now, because, as noted, even though the mistake I made isn’t a catastrophe, it’s in my mind and just staying there. Matt, the therapist who helped me get through recovery when I stuck with therapy and walked through Hell, had another approach to this unforgiving, go-nowhere thinking of mine: he’d slap his desk or kick the underside of it to startle me–he called it “mental floss”–to break the pattern of thinking I was “spinning” in. All of this is to say, as much therapy as I had, one would think that I’d be better at letting things slide off my back.

The reason I’m even sharing the above stuff with you is that after I got home and I was able to relax just a little–while still feeling anxious and fearful–I realized that I was being overwhelmed with the kinds of feelings that, when I was in eating disorder relapse, sent me running for sweets and breads–the drugs of choice for me, back in the day. And back-in-the-day was NOT all that long ago. I was in relapse as late as early fall 2017.

I was telling my eldest daughter (who had gastric sleeve done 2 years ago and is like my go-to-person for information and support) about this, and she said, “Feeling all the feelings suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.”

I agree. It does.

So what am I doing with this? Well, I realized I needed to write it out, which is what I’m doing here. I also realized I hadn’t logged my food & water & exercise on my Baritastic app–I’m usually pretty religious about doing it–I definitely make sure I post it all daily, to be accountable, sure, but also to make sure I’m hitting my protein and water intake requirements. So I did that. After I ate dinner, I got a shower & retired to the bedroom where I could have as much quiet as I want, AND have the added bonus of not having to fight a large dog (or 3) for space on the furniture in the living room. I made my grocery list for after work tomorrow, and I’m about to get back to novel writing.

I think that recognizing the emotions and giving myself permission to be human are positive moves, as well as recognizing that the depressed “wired” feeling was something that, when I was still in relapse, would have been dispatched immediately by eating unhealthy stuff–then feeling like shit about myself for doing that– then feeling bad about THAT. Ya know, the whole “I’m bad about…” stuff. Oh-oh, let’s not forget that even hours later–maybe even the next day?–I would wake with the belief that I reaaaaaaally effed up the day before, and it would also influence how I SEE myself in the mirror.
What is it Jack Nicholson says in As Good as It Gets?

Photo by Marc Sendra martorell on Unsplash

On a positive note, I received a message from a former student who read my book, Courage in Patience, and told me that she felt so much comfort from it because she was sexually abused as a child, and she only recently told another person about it. AND, today I had the opportunity to advocate for one of my students who is pretty emotionally fragile, and I did so in order to protect her. I have to point these things out to myself to remind myself that even if I lose my patience with a kid who is not being careful with his words or actions, I still did something good today. And that would be true even if I had come home and eaten my feelings.
I’m grateful for awareness and the gift of being able to recognize growth and that I don’t have to binge eat in order to cope with my feelings.

 

Update: nearly 2 months out from surgery

Hey, ho. I’ve considered deleting this website since I feel like I’m just living my life now, no longer in the high anxiety place of hoping and wondering if my insurance will clear me for the surgery. I’ve adjusted to this new life. I really don’t even think about the weight coming off. I like the “tool” I have–the sleeve–it helps a lot. I still have an eating disordered brain and I’ve been aware of its dysfunction long enough to know that it’s something that will never go away. I still have automatic thoughts of pigging out when I feel stressed, but I’m not acting on them.

I’m sad to report that my daily migraines have returned in spite of taking Gabapentin and having Botox shots. I keep hoping the Botox will “kick in,” because last time I had it done, I was practically headache free within a couple of weeks. I had my Botox treatment around March 19 and I am still getting headaches. I’m working out in spite of getting them and just taking my rescue meds daily. Still quite disappointing. I really liked being headache free for a while.

The other day a coworker told me that I wasn’t that big to begin with. It’s a common thing I’ve heard since I began this, even though I had sleep apnea (I don’t anymore!) and the hip pain I have was worse than it is now. AND, my BMI is no longer in the “obese” category. Now I suppose I’ve gone down to “fluffy.” My clothes are looser in places.

I’m glad I don’t feel like a different person with respect to being obsessed with what I look like or the scale. I weigh every few weeks instead of daily because I refuse to have a metal device that reports my gravitational pull on the earth as the determining factor of what I think of myself today. Or tomorrow.

A lot of people think that when they lose weight, their entire life will be different. Having been through a major weight loss before, I already know that being lighter doesn’t make everything perfect. That’s why it’s not a good idea to live one’s entire life thinking “…and when I get thin, ________, __________, and _________ will be perfect.”

Because it won’t.

The book I co-wrote that nudged me toward exiting relapse AND ch-ch-ch-changes goin’ on here…

How co-writing my latest book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, nudged me toward overcoming eating disorder relapse
Every significant change in my life since the early 2000s has been documented in published form through characters: I wrote Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience,  and Truth in Patiencea teen girl’s story of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse, as I went through the same journey. I was able to be much more understanding and empathetic to the main character, Ashley Nicole Asher, than I was to myself at the time. Stepping outside of myself to see the process through her eyes allowed me to let go of a lot of shame.

After finishing therapy–I lost a great deal of weight while in recovery–I subsequently regained a chunk of that weight because I listened to The Biggest Liar–which is that voice in my head that insists I can eat like other people do, AND that food is the ticket to feeling emotionally better when I experience sadness or anger–so I wrote Big Fat Disaster. It’s the story of a girl who is Odd Girl Out in her family. Mom & sisters are Barbie look-alikes and Colby has her dad’s former UT linebacker body type as well as the Binge Eating Disorder he suffers from. They bond through baking cakes, making icing, and eating a lot, and in large part because of that, when her family splits up, cake icing is her go-to drug. She eats to soothe herself as her life is crumbling around her. I sought to tell what it’s REALLY LIKE to be in that mind-space of feeling electrically charged to numb out with food–it’s an impulse that is hard to describe, but I tried–while at the same time, she runs her hands over her stomach at night and prays that some miracle will occur and she’ll wake up and they’ll be gone. I know very much what that’s like as well. I have an advanced degree is self-loathing.

The spark for that story came from me being in a place of practically “popping” awake one day–as if I’d been in this years-long daze–and having the realization of, “Oh, shit, I’m fat again,” and those self-hating thoughts that I’d suffered with my entire life and done battle with in therapy and seemed to have conquered–were back with the same tsunami-force waves of shame that they’d had back in the dark days before therapy. And I realized that I had to question that–really challenge that–because I AM different than I was before I got well. I am fundamentally DIFFERENT, and I fought like hell to learn to love myself, so WHY IN THE HELL WAS IT OKAY FOR ME TO HATE MYSELF AGAIN, JUST BECAUSE I REGAINED SOME WEIGHT?
And I decided that it WASN’T okay to do that. I sought to explore that by writing Big Fat Disaster (the title is in reference to the main character, Colby, overhearing her mom telling her sister, “Colby’s a big fat disaster, eating everything in sight…”)
Spoiler alert: writing the book did not make me buckle down and deal with my shit. Not really. I was roller-coastery about it until this past fall when, as I wrote in When I Made Up My Mind, on the home page of this site, I found myself waddling through the airport, my hips grinding with every step and the realization that the reason bigger people waddle is from pain. That’s when I settled into my gate area, popped open my laptop, and googled “bariatric surgeons” associated with the hospital where my daughter is a nurse.
I’ve never looked back.

But before that momentous day last fall, I co-wrote a book for victims of PTSD (and the people who love them and those in the mental health professions), called Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt.
My co-author is Matt E. Jaremko, and he is also the person who led me through recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse and my eating disorder, as well as a litany of other issues.  The impact he had on my life is immeasurable. He taught me that behavior comes before feelings, and that I need to question my thinking, i.e. separate facts from crap. The thing is, I had allowed myself to become complacent. I was at the mercy of The Biggest Liar.

Many years after I completed therapy, Matt and I decided to write a book that would give insight into the recovery process from the therapist’s point of view through the character of Dr. Matt, who is also in my Patience books and Big Fat Disaster, and through the patients’ points of view, through the members of a therapy group who are all scarred by PTSD and seeking to rebuild their lives. Ashley from The Patience Books (AKA my alter-ego) is in the book, too, aged up to 19 and about to go off to college.

Colby from Big Fat Disaster is not in the book, but an adult named Felicia is, and it was in writing her story that I felt myself moving toward once again taking on The Biggest Liar instead of allowing it to keep running my life. The most consistent trait throughout my battle with an eating disorder is that how I feel about myself–and how I look to myself (I have body dysmorphia, too: it’s just another of my charming features) from my first thought as I rose out of bed in the morning–is how I ate the day before influences what The Biggest Liar says to me.  (Note: lest you think I hear this as an actual voice: NO I DO NOT. “The Biggest Liar” is a metaphor for eating-disordered-thinking. Glad we got that out of the way.)
So: will they be self-hating thoughts or will I kinda like myself today? This past October, when I seriously pursued eating disorder recovery from my long-ass relapse, I automatically had those thoughts and I had to remind myself that I didn’t binge the day before, so can it, TBL. 
I am grateful to tell you that when I speak of this morning ritual of will-she-or-won’t-she-hate-herself-this-morning that it is mostly “in remission” at this point.

I’m telling you all this because I am committed to be honest, and, given what I’ve always heard from other people in reaction to the books I write, I am NOT alone in this kind of disordered thinking. And even though I wrote a book (Big Fat Disaster) intended to pull myself out of that shit, and in many ways I did, some stuff is/was just so fucking automatic that it takes/took daily challenging it to make it stop. And, changing the behavior (by not bingeing) that kept triggering the shameful thoughts was part of the way The Biggest Liar calmed the eff down and was less of my morning greeting. True story, though, y’all: I dreamed, and STILL dream sometimes, of eating massive quantities of sweets, and I wake up with those self-hating bullshit thoughts again, and I have to, once again, question my thinking and challenge its veracity.

Anyway, in Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, Felicia is 34 years old, and she experienced sexual trauma throughout her formative years. She began eating to soothe herself and became trapped in that cycle. When she begins to address the trauma she suffered, she decides she wants to also address the binge-shame-binge-shame cycle she’s stuck in. I know so well what it’s like to be stuck in that place that, even though I felt self-conscious sometimes about pulling back the curtain on an actual binge cycle, I committed to doing it so that others can know they are not alone, AND that there is HOPE. When Matt and I wrote the therapy sessions between Felicia and Dr. Matt, I was influenced by the therapy Felicia was getting, and it nudged me toward the same book Dr. Matt recommends to Felicia, Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating by Leora Fulvio.

Writing Felicia’s responses to Dr. Matt’s gentle guidance–her shame that if she told him everything, he would judge her; her absolute fear that this person she had come to trust with her secrets of being sexually abused would find what she was telling him about the way she eats in secret to be a bridge too far, and her fear that he’d stop being a reliable person for her; her doubt, her fear that this would be just another diet, and diets make her binge (like they make me binge), and so on–made me think about the fact that I KNOW there is power in changing my behavior–I’d done it before–I knew I could get to the place again where behavior, not feelings, were running the show. Did you notice how many times “fear” is mentioned in my description of Felicia’s feelings? Fear is a mind-fuck, y’all. It just is.

Even though not everyone who has PTSD has an eating disorder like Felicia has (and not everyone with an eating disorder has PTSD), when I wrote the Prologue for Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, I was thinking both of how I felt before my first appointment with real-life-Matt, and it is how I think Felicia would have felt, too. If you want to read it, check it out here.  You can find out more about the book here: check out the drop-down menu under “About This Book.”

I always learn so much when I write the truth through characters. And, as I always tell people when they ask where I get my ideas, “If I ever get totally healthy, I won’t have anything to write about…” (ha ha attempt at humor ha ha.)

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Tomorrow, my surgery is a month old. In keeping with my approach to talking about this stuff, I’m not going to discuss specific weight or “poundage”–because, in keeping with the way it’s always been since infinity, the struggles I’ve had throughout my life with “The Biggest Liar” are not about the number on the scale. It’s about behavior. And this new phase of my journey is no different. For example, some new behaviors are:

Learning a different way of taking daily medications, being mindful of taking calcium/vitamin D supplements 3 times a day and multi-vitamins 2 times a day. I have to take the calcium and multivitamins (which include iron) at least 2 hours apart so that they are absorbed correctly. And, the multivitamins have to be taken with food. I also take a B12 supplement daily that melts on my tongue. It’s hardest to take all the meds I have to take in the morning, including this one medication I have to mix into 1/4 cup of applesauce. I’ve learned the order to take the meds and how to best get them down so I am not nauseated and/or get really, really hot. When I first started taking them, I had to get up super early for work so that I could lay back down for a while because I felt so yicky. But I was just taking them in the wrong order; too much was hitting my empty stomach. I also changed one of my anti-depressants (Welbutrin) from taking extended release to a non-extended release form, and when I stopped taking the ext-release, the nausea & getting hot subsided a lot. I knew I was supposed to change from Ext-Release, but my prescribing doctor told me I could try them to see if they are a problem, since that type of medication is supposed to dissolve in the small intestine, not the stomach.

Another change in behavior is paying attention to making sure I take in at least 64 ounces of liquid each day, and I’m not drinking with meals or 30 minutes before/after meals. Confession: I’m better at not-drinking-after-meals than not drinking before.

I quit caffeine and Diet Coke right before Christmas, so I’m not missing that, but avoiding caffeine like picking up an iced tea when I’m out is a new thing. I just take a Yeti with Crystal Light in it everywhere I go, and I drink it throughout the day at work.

I’ve finally gotten better at eating–and I know that sounds weird, given that The Biggest Liar is a huge fan of out-of-control eating (LOL), but (on the recommendation of my daughter, a successful gastric sleeve patient), I bought some baby spoons for eating, and that helped me take smaller bites. I’m also learning to recognize when my body is telling me to wait before taking another bite–the discomfort when I eat too fast is sooooo unpleasant. Envisioning the food going down helps, too. I can feel now as the food proceeds into the sleeve.

I measure out everything I eat to make sure I’m able to track it efficiently, as well as be able to make sure my eyes are not bigger than my stomach. That was an issue at first; I thought I could make the same size protein shakes I was making before surgery, but I can’t.

I use this app called Baritastic to track everything, including exercise. I can download reports for when I go to the doctor or I’m just curious as to how I’m doing. It breaks down by meal and by day the nutrition I’m getting.

It took me about three weeks to get “regular” about exercise again–and I’ll admit, it’s a challenge right now. I tire easily and it’s very challenging to go as fast as I did before, even though I’m doing the same workout I have for a long time: 45 minutes on my recumbent bike, with varying resistances set by a program. I’m supposed to go at least 11 mph nearly all the time, and most of the time I’m pushing to get to 10 mph. When resistance goes up to 13–the highest this program goes–it’s hard for me to get past 9 mph. My daughter reminds me that I had major abdominal surgery and general anesthesia, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s because my average daily calorie intake at this point is about 800 calories a day. The program I went through does not set a daily calorie goal; they just emphasize 60-80 grams of protein a day (at least) and 64 oz of fluid a day. I’m still in the soft food stage: my stomach is still healing. From what I read on various forums and from doing a little research, it’s normal to not be able to consume much at this point.

I consciously am not putting “progress” pictures on here. There is a pic of me at my heaviest (this go-round, that is), on the “When I Made Up My Mind” page, but you won’t find images of me in a leotard taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror. I’m just not doing it. Not criticizing people who do, but I’m not one to do that. I kind of think it’s from having my body scrutinized and stared at so much when I was growing up. I have no interest in making my body’s appearance the focus of this website. Besides, I’m actually a pretty shy person, but nobody believes me when I say that. My focus is more on getting really healthy and achieving simple things, like hopefully getting to a point my hips no longer grind when I walk or hurt when I sleep on my side. Daily exercise really helps loosen ’em up-that’s for sure.

Oh, hey, one more thing–and this is exciting! I’ve lost enough weight that I no longer have sleep apnea! I put my CPAP machine in the closet today. I’ve stopped snoring and I also don’t stop breathing in my sleep anymore. Whoohoo! Very happy about this sign of progress and getting healthy.

And one no-so-great-thing…but I’m not freaking out, because I know it’s normal and expected and it’ll stop–but my hair is falling out faster than normal. It’s apparently from the shock to the system including hormones and calorie reduction and the surgery and anesthesia, etc. But, seriously, y’all: my bathroom counter looks like Cousin It from The Addams Family shook his head like a model doing a photo shoot. My hair is a few inches below my shoulders. My hairstylist told me I wouldn’t need to get it cut short when this inevitable falling-out happens: it’ll come back. It just may take 6 months. This hair loss thing usually starts at the 3-4 month mark post-surgery, but it can also start at the 1 month mark. At least my hair’s not coming out in chunks or anything…

That’s the latest & greatest, y’all. I began writing these posts just for myself, but I know people are reading this: I can see traffic on this site through my analytics program. So, welcome. I hope that, if you’re on the same journey I am, you have awesome support and people who have your back. I read stories on some Facebook groups I’m in where people are going through this change without the support of their family and friends, and I feel both sorry for them and angry on their behalf. I’m blessed beyond measure to have a rock-solid support system. They were with me on my journey through recovery from CSA, and they, in addition to my friends, are with me now.
You are welcome here.

Three weeks out from surgery: update

Tomorrow marks 3 weeks since my surgery. I’m doing great overall: getting in enough protein & fluids each day. I’m still learning how to eat with my tiny stomach–I find out real quick if I’m eating too fast, because it feels like I can’t breathe in deeply. I also have to be really careful about what I eat–to eat protein first, then produce–because once I start getting full, even one bite over can cause unpleasantness Something that’s been helpful that I learned on a bariatric surgery support group is to think of the opening to the stomach as being a funnel, so when there’s too much to go in at once, it gets backed up. I am working at waiting like 3-4 minutes between bites so that it has time to go down before the next one. I’m also getting my morning medication routine down, figuring out the order to take the meds & vitamins so I don’t get nauseated. That was a significant issue until this week.

Otherwise, my energy is coming back. Last week was our first week back from Spring Break and my surgery was two weeks old at the end of the week–and it was rough. I came home every night and pretty much collapsed. But I was able to clean my whole house in one day last Saturday, and I didn’t have to take many breaks.

Body-shape wise, XL clothes are getting too big for me. People are starting to notice the change in my face & neck, which are becoming kind of gaunt (but not in a bad way.) I can see other changes too. I only weigh about once a week, but I’ve lost a total of 31 pounds now–that’s about 11 pounds post surgery, and 20 before I had it. I was kind of startled to look down and see how bony my wrists are. They were like that when I was much smaller before, and they’re back to being really small.

I have Friday off for Good Friday, and I’m going to start exercising again. I’ve been holding off so I could have enough energy for school, plus I just had my every-12-weeks-Botox-for-Migraines-treatment yesterday, so if I give it a couple of days to kick in, I should be able to work out without an exertion migraine.

I’m still committed to NOT having surgery this summer, even though the stuff I was going to have fixed could still use it. Nope: no surgery for me! I’m going to go see my daughter in Ohio after I get out for the summer, and then I’m taking my other 2 daughters to the beach at Galveston.

I haven’t had any binge-issues or wanting to binge, even when I’ve felt stressful. I’m feeling good! Even though the hospitalization was rough, and I still swear I’ll not willfully endure anesthesia’s aftereffects again–I am really pleased with the way this “tool”–my sleeve–is working.

Later, ya’ll!

What a difference a week makes!!!

This is a celebratory post. I am celebrating blessings and putting some major gratitude into the Universe:

I am home. A week ago today at about this time, I was laying in a hospital bed with my left arm atop a pillow being worked on by a nurse to find a deep vein because my first 2 I.V.s failed. My daughter was on my right, and I was focused on not looking anywhere to the left because just the idea of all that deep needle stuff was more than I could handle. My husband was in the corner of the room, playing (I’m guessing Solitaire or Flow), because he is awesome and kept me company all day. Most of all, I wanted to go HOME. I had to prove I could drink enough fluid and keep it down.

Here, a week later, I’m doing great at getting enough fluid and I’m super-close to getting enough protein grams every day.

A week ago, walking the hall to the nurse’s station and trying super-hard to make two loops around it was exhausting. Today, I rode my recumbent bike for 30 minutes, and I’m not completely wiped out. I’ve been able to do housework and some shopping and driving since Wednesday when I had my post-op checkup, where I was deemed to be doing well.

I feel so much better. All my surgical glue has fallen off–I have 4 incisions–3 on my abdomen & 1 in my belly button–so those itch a lot less now.

I’m over my bladder infection, YAY, and I’ve made myself rest a lot this week, too, so I feel good about being able to go back to school on Monday.

I’m dropping weight but I’m not obsessing over it. My abdomen is still pretty puffy and swollen, but I can tell I’m losing weight from the top down.

I’ve managed to take all my vitamins the past couple of days. Still working on getting all the calcium in, but I think I will be able to do it today. My doctor started me on a medication that prevents the formation of gallstones, since that’s a common thing that happens when rapid weight loss occurs. It has something to do with dissolving cholesterol in the bile ducts. I’m also taking a medication that prevents the formation of ulcers. Both of these are meds I’ll take for a limited time.

So, overall, much improvement since last week. I’m amazed at how the human body bounces back.

Soooo much better now. So. Much.

Just dropping in to update: I am doing so much better. The nausea is mostly gone and I am able to take in more liquid at one time than before. I’m still tired physically, even though my mind is telling me to get stuff done, i.e. light housecleaning, laundry, bedding…gardening…BUT I’M NOT DOING IT.  I’ve worked up to walking 2-3 times up and down my driveway at a time and I am taking naps a couple times a day. I’m about to head to lay down for a nap after I write this.

I didn’t note in my last post something really good: I never experienced much pain as far as the surgery itself. Even the gas pains are not awful. Unrelated to the surgery,
I did end up FOR SURE having a UTI, and taking a chopped up antibiotic pill is not the twice a day highlight of my life, but I’m so blessed that there is an antibiotic I can take that doesn’t make me sick or try to kill me by making my throat swell shut. It doesn’t even make me feel queasy. I’m so lucky to have a primary care doc who was willing to call me back on a Sunday & knows me & my allergies well. It’s really hard for me to trust doctors who don’t know me or take me seriously when I tell them how much stuff I’m allergic to. (Thanks, Dr. Mahmoud…)

By the end of the weekend, I’d like to try on some of my clothes to see if I can start boxing any stuff up that’s too big. I’ve lost about 8 pounds in the last several days. From the start of my journey in October 2017, I have now lost around 25 pounds…I think.

I have purposely never posted my exact weight on this site, because this whole thing is not about the weight. It is, as far as, carrying less excess weight will make me healthier, but it isn’t, as far as, it is not about a specific number and reaching a certain number or size is not my measure of success. I can see nothing positive coming from putting a bunch of before & after pics or numbers out into the universe. The scale made me crazy for so many years; it influenced how I felt about myself as a person, and it is not a healthy thing for me to get hung up on.

For now, the hardest thing for me is making myself be mindful of not overdoing/lifting heavy stuff and damaging my healing body.
So, I’m feeling a lot more sunshiney than I did last time I wrote. The hospitalization was yicky for the most part but it’s over and I’m home and able to function just fine. Knowing that I am NOT going to have another surgery in a few months OR in the foreseeable future is SO FREEING.

I go to the dr for my follow up tomorrow. I am pretty sure I will be driving myself, which is allowed as long as I’m not on narcotics.

The Easy Part is Over

DISCLAIMER: My post-op experience is unlikely to be your experience, with respect to the complications I’ve been dealing with. I am saying this because I see so many people go on bariatric support group forums and tell horror stories about their surgery. It doesn’t do anyone any good who is coming to the page looking for support to read a bunch of scary shit, right? But this is not a support forum. It’s my private(?? LOL) diary of what started my journey from being so heavy and having such hip pain that I was waddling through the airport–to now. So I’m cautioning you now: stop reading if you don’t want to read about what was a fairly awful experience for me. (Of course I also have nothing to compare it to, so….)


When rule-following is a bad idea…
Two days before my gastric sleeve surgery last week (on Thurs. 3/8, my birthday), my husband and I were discussing the perception that some people believe that gastric sleeve is the easy way to lose weight.
Having been hospitalized about 36 hours longer than I was supposed to be, allow me to divest the “You’re taking the lazy way out” folks of their belief. Or not. I don’t really care, and here’s why: I’m so relieved to no longer be throwing up that the complete sigh of relief you imagine you hear is actually every cell in my body relaxing.

I’m a rule-follower. I’m a teacher in my day-job. I’m an over-achiever, and let me tell you, it’s a double-edged sword, my friends.
The post-surgical instructions are to work up to 64 oz of liquid per day. In the hospital, the goal is 2-4 ounces every hour/1 oz every 15 minutes. So, Thursday night when I was good and awake, I started trying to comply with this requirement. That triggered intermittent vomiting for the next 30 hours. I had a severe reaction to the anesthesia. My doctor told me that I was one of a handful of patients she has who go through what I experienced. I cycled through 3 different anti-nausea medications; when I threw up even though I was on one medication, the nurse put another one into my I.V.: Zofran, Reglan, and Phenergan. The Phenergan made me fall asleep, but I never slept for longer than 90 minutes at a time. The most relaxed I got at the hospital yesterday was a nap from 3:00-5:00, but I was still constantly aware of my arm hurting.
Oh, and spppppppeeeeeeeeaaaaaking of I.V., because of my completely crappy veins, I had to have 3 different I.V.s put in, the last one being done by an ICU nurse friend of my daughter’s. Even though I wasn’t in ICU, I was fortunate enough to be on a floor where an ICU nurse (and person with a connection to us) was “floating.” She used a sonogram to find a suitable vein, and I won’t go into more explanation of what happened after that, because thinking about the process makes me queasy.
Almost forgot about this: at one point, a nurse crushed medications, had me dump them on my tongue, and try to wash them down with liquid Gabapentin. Any guesses as to what happened next, y’all? Hmmm? Any at all?


Surprise!
I didn’t realize how hard it would be to “get in” enough fluids. I’ve been such an all-star on every. Single. Requirement. Leading up to this procedure, and I haven’t found it all that hard to comply, because I had this goal in mind: to get to March 8 and have my surgery. It’s like at this point, an announcer should come in and exclaim, “But, wait! There’s more!”

The #1 reason patients end up being readmitted following surgery is dehydration. This was something that made my doctor keep me over an extra day. At one point, I was told to leave a 15 minute gap between tiny sips of fluids. Therefore, I thought that even when my nausea began to fade away, I was still supposed to be taking in only 1/4 of the required liquid per hour. Credit me being drugged when the doctor spoke to me Friday night, but I didn’t pick up on the fact that that was a temporary amount to go for. My daughter told me about it when she came back to the hospital. When I was able, I began taking in a one ounce cup (30 ml) per 15 minutes, as regularly as I could. I also got my ass out of bed as often as possible and walked the halls. I had already been more than willing to walk, but wanting to go home was a major incentive for me.  I was feeling so crappy as I dragged the hallway, looped the nurse’s station a couple times, and headed back to my room, that my give-a-damn was broken when it came to whether or not my underwear was visible. Did. Not. Care. One. Bit. It was hard to re-tie my hospital gown because of my fucked up wrists/arms from the IV and/or pain from having had the IV go wrong, and worrying

This pic is not mine- it belongs to the Doubletree Hotel site, but it is indicative of how stunning Dallas at night is.

about people getting a glimpse of my colorful Granny Panties didn’t matter to me. Besides, at 3:45 in the morning, the main folks I ran into were nurses, one whom was kind enough to offer to help tighten up the back of my gown. AND, I will pause to add here that I wish I’d had my phone with me to take a picture of the Dallas Skyline at night from 8 floors up, because it was magical-looking. So beautiful. The hospital I was at was in this perfect position that showed off this beautiful white bridge called the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

The main drinkable fluid they gave me in the hospital was called Isopure, but I also had clear broth. You know those little medicine cups that come with liquid medications like cough syrup? Those are currently my best friend. And if I go too fast “sipping,” I become nauseated. I’m also taking Gas-X. The surgery is done through laparoscopy, so the abdominal wall is distended from the stomach. (MUST BRAG–because, hey, let’s be positive, shall we?–I followed the presurgical directions so well that my liver shrunk up a lot and I “saved myself 2 incisions” because the doctor did not have to use the tool (the name escapes me) to retract my liver to get it out of her way…(I’ll bet it’s called a retractor, but what do I know?)

I was finally released last night around 6 P.M., and we arrived home just before 9:00. I always love being home more than anywhere else in the world, but it was especially wonderful last night…until I went to the bathroom and there was blood. I called my surgeon and she was baffled as to how that happened, since I was not catheterized, and the test strip I did last night was negative but a new one was positive this morning. I was sooooo dismayed, because I honestly do not think I can cope with being stuck with needles any more than I have been in the past few days. Just. Can’t. Luckily, I was able to confer with my primary care doc via phone this morning; he called in an antibiotic, but between that phone call and the soonest I can take it–this evening–the blood has stopped,

I was SO GRATEFUL to have my daughter Kristen with me. She even assisted her friend in putting in a new I.V. I love that she is so knowledgeable and such an advocate for others.

as has the shooting pain. So I think it was a side effect of dehydration and blood thinner shots I got daily in my stomach. Oh, and here’s a brave new world problem: the tablet is huge and had to be cut into smaller pieces. I am going to hold off on starting it. My nurse daughter suggested that I do that, and I’m all for it. Plus, one of the few antibiotics I can take is Cipro, which annihilates germs. It’s the go-to drug for people who were exposed to Anthrax, and it is soooo hard on the system.

Lovely, lovely flowers sent to me from my daughter and daughter-in-law in North Carolina. Such a treat to come home to, as well.

So, I woke this morning, burning up (sweating heavily) & weepy, as well as catastrophyzing my situation, and I remembered, “Hey! I have not had my HRT or my antidepressants since Wednesday!”–so I started back on those. Plus, I am able to rationalize enough to know that since Thursday morning, I was in a high stress state. I could not relax because the I.V.s hurt nearly all the time. Even the one started by the ICU nurse began hurting. As I type this, my left wrist and forearm are still very sore from having catheters in them. I’m lucky enough to have my husband home with me today and he has been taking care of everything we need. He hung out with me all day at the hospital yesterday, too; he brought his iPad so I could watch TV that does not suck, because most of the channel choices at the hospital were bleh. I’ve been able to rest.


So now what?
First of all, the advice I have heard from a lot of people, including my fellow English teacher who had the sleeve surgery 4 years ago, is that the first 3 months, I will be convinced that this is the worst thing I have ever done in my entire life. Another teaching colleague whose husband had the surgery said that after the 4th day, he began feeling better and able to meet his liquid requirement. Once that’s going better, this whole endeavor is supposed to suck a lot less than it currently does.
My eldest daughter–her weight loss inspired me to go for this– has also assured me that this fresh hell of attempting to get enough liquids in will not last forever. At this point, it seems my entire being is focused on consuming liquids in tiny amounts, resetting my timer for every 15 minutes, and trying to consume more when the timer goes off. I’m working on a 3 oz tub of sugar free Jello for the past hour, and it’s only half gone.

This was me before the pre-op stuff started. I was freshly changed out of my clothes and thinking this was going to go smoothly, or at least having no idea of how badly it would go…

Second, I know that every single day, this is going to get easier. My newly-made stomach is quite swollen, and the swelling has to go down in order for me to be able to take in more liquid more quickly. I have to believe that if I keep doing what I’m supposed to do, it’ll all work out, but also remind myself that trying to jump in with both feet from the start is what made me have to stay in the hospital a day and a half longer. I’m supposed to start my multivitamins up again as well as my B12 supplement, but I’m not rushing it.

Third, I am working at walking to the end of my driveway and back to my house–supposed to walk to get rid of gas pains and to prevent blood clots, as well as continuing to use this instrument of torture: Incentive Spirometer. It involves breathing in deeply and trying to keep this little piece jumping up and down between 2 arrows. It’s supposed to prevent pneumonia. In the hospital, using it kept triggering my gag reflex and set off dry heaves. I’m trying to use it as often as I remember now that I’m home. Supposed to do it every hour… [insert look that says “Oh, for sure I am…trying…”] But I really hate it because it puts air into my stomach which is no bueno.
Fourth, guess what: I’m off Gabapentin completely and my migraines have not returned. I have no intention of going back on it unless absolutely necessary. I can tell you this much: if I DO go back on it, I will be swallowing the little capsules, NOT opening it up on my TONGUE.


Oh, one more thing?
I thought I had it figured out: I had made up my mind to have some pelvic repairs done this summer. But after this? Oh, hellllllll, no. My situation is going to have to be a helluva lot more than “optional/elective” before I ever consent to have surgical anesthesia again. NO. NO. NO. You can say this will fade, but just you watch. There is no way it’ll happen again unless I will absolutely die without it.
I have always had some nausea following surgery, but in the past, it has been prevented to the point that I do not feel traumatized from it. But this was the worst possible scenario, anesthesia reaction-wise. I did not expect it in any way, shape, or form. I had the patch behind my ear that people wear for seasickness, and it didn’t matter. I had powerful anti-nausea meds overlapping with each other, and it didn’t matter. NOPE.
On that note? I’m going to trek down my driveway and back…


I promise…
Next you hear from me here, I will be positive and hopeful again. Today is just not that kind of day. It’s not easy any more. Nobody said it would be, and things that “count” never are, but I committed myself to honesty here, so that’s what ya got.


I just can’t leave it like that…so here’s a gem for you that my daughter overheard while in the surgery waiting room:

“Remember when he put his adult diaper in my toilet? Golly that thing was stopped up! Had to go buy a snake to get that shit out of there!”


Note to self:

 

These be days of dreaming of eating, feeling “Meh,” and ironclad will. Other than that, things are great.

Eating my dreams. Or my dreams are eating. Whatever.
So, last night, I dreamed about eating. I don’t know what I ate in my dream & it doesn’t really matter because it involved chewing.
The other day, my daughter (and source of hope and inspiration that having sleeve surgery is going to help the pain in my hips and feet) asked me, “Do you miss chewing yet?” That was, mmmm, 5 days in to the liquid pre-op diet, and I said, “Not really.”

The arrival of the Meh.
The arrival of the weekend (READ: lack of structure, which is always a dangerous place for me to be when it comes to food and not feeling 100%) and “keto flu” (A.K.A. the “carb flu”) I now have a different answer to her question: “HELL, YES, I MISS CHEWING.”  Here’s a note on the purpose of the pre-op liquid diet, which is supposedly the worst of the entire experience–and that includes having 85% of one’s stomach removed. I just had a thought: I forgot I can have thinned out Cream of Wheat! And it made me go, “YESSSSS!”
Whoa.
Cream. Of. Wheat. Makes. Me. Happy…And that’s knowing that I have hated that stuff since I was a child.

Aside from dizziness, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth, I would add the side effect of, “I don’t give a shit.” As in, unlike my usual energetic drive to complete all the items on my “to-do” list, I have to give myself a real pep talk to, um, “Give a shit.” I did a lot of my weekend chores in the evening this past week (it helped break my pattern of coming home and dealing with food, since I’m on protein shakes, broth, and yogurt…) which helped a lot since the changes my body is going through really hit me hard this weekend, but I would be mostly content to sit in a chair and do nothing but watch TV the rest of today. I’ve even watched 2 movies this weekend–from start to finish–which is unheard of for me, because I have a hard time sitting still that long, and I will probably watch another. My washing machine just did its little “bleep dee dee doo” song it does to tell me the load is ready for the dryer. Even though I was dumb enough to start another load knowing I don’t want to fold it, I did, so now I get to have an internal conflict about dealing with it.
This is real, by the way. Check out these physical manifestations, from this website:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Confusion
  • Muscle soreness
  • Difficulty falling asleep

I will tell you now that I have no problem falling asleep… anyway. I’m not bitching here, in case you are one of the people who read my posts and want to deem me a whiner for getting to this point and complaining. I’m just telling ya what’s up–this blog is about the journey from “When I Made Up My Mind”–that fateful day last October when I realized I was waddling through the airport because my hips hurt so badly from carrying so much extra weight–to this point: it’s March 4, and my surgery is March 8, which is also my 52nd birthday.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I keep forgetting tomorrow…
Tomorrow, March 5, I am leaving work mid-day, going to the bank to get a money order to pay the surgeon the ungodly amount of money that my (sucky) teaching job insurance, Aetna, requires that I pay IN ADDITION TO my deductible. I wrote about that in the blog where I referred to myself as an ass for not either realizing it or knowing it. Finding out nearly a month ago that I had to come up with the money has aged me significantly. Anyway, I’m leaving work early, going to the bank to get the money order (the surgeon’s requirement as opposed to a check, and who can blame her?), then heading to the hospital to pay the surgeon & report to Outpatient Services for bloodwork, an EKG, and a chest xray. Then there’s other errands I have to run, too, related to making my & Daniel’s lives as easy as possible the next two weeks so that I am not having to ask him to run here & there. Lucky for me, I’ve been through my mind melting before–for a totally different reason, not because my body chemistry is freaking out–so I have lots of coping mechanisms for it. My biggest is LIST making, and I’m talking item by item, in the order I need to do it. And printing stuff out like the Outpatient Services info page in the event I have a brain fart when I reach the hospital…

Plans for THE DAY, “The Day,” of course, being Thursday, March 8…
Originally, my arrival time was defined as 5:15 A.M., but it’s been shifted to 7:15 A.M. I think Daniel is going to go with me rather than me staying over at my daughter’s the night before. Staying at home will help decrease my stress, I think. My surgery time is 10:15 A.M.

Nerves
I’m getting a little nervous.

Plain Post
I would love to add pics and videos and other pretties to this post; however, and say it with me, people: “I don’t give a shit.”

Oh, yeah: the Ironclad Will part.
It’s the ONLY thing I’ve got going for me at this point.