COMING CLEAN: The Signs to Slow Down

I haven’t been a very good blogger. I’m admitting it, and apologizing, both to you and myself. I’m re-committing to regular blogging this fall, and I have a lot to share. Over the two years I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned a lot about myself, some of which I’ve shared and some that I’ve withheld. But… Read more »

I haven’t been a very good blogger. I’m admitting it, and apologizing, both to you and myself. I’m re-committing to regular blogging this fall, and I have a lot to share. Over the two years I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned a lot about myself, some of which I’ve shared and some that I’ve withheld. But I’m promising to be more open and share more often, starting with the most important lesson I’ve struggled to grasp in adulthood.

That lesson being: I can’t do it all. Those men and women who seem to master everything? Good for them! I don’t know how, or even if that’s real. But I’m pretty sure that, at some point, our bodies and/or our world finds a way to tell us to slow down, pace ourselves, and limit our responsibilities. It’s about quality, not quantity, right?

Maybe you’ve felt the warning signs of overscheduling before: you feel a wave of hesitation when the boss asks you take on another project. Or you lose the keys or forget to return a library book or pay a bill — all signs, I take, as my lost sanity because my mind is swimming with projects and deadlines and chores and tasks to complete. I’m rushing and I’m running late, not even close to the role I wish to play of superwoman. I know I’m not alone in this feeling — we feel influenced by American society or the past or next generations or the media’s role in suggesting successful people sleep little and accomplish it all.

biz
Our female cat, Biz.

Over the years, I have become more sensitive to the warning flags. The times when people say they’ve “hit a wall” are (slightly) more obvious to me now. Sometimes I’ve ignored them, usually with steep consequences: In September 2008, I was feeling frazzled. I was working long hours, my house was a mess, and I had a sneaking suspicion that my kitty, Biz, was very sick. She had lost a lot of weight, and was drinking excess amounts of water — the latter leading me to think she had developed diabetes at age 5, which was confirmed after a visit to the vet. As I was driving Biz home from her appointment, we got into an accident and I totaled my car and broke my wrist. Now, I know it’s called “accident” for a reason, but I couldn’t help but think that this was a clear sign that I need to slow down. So I did. For awhile.

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Our wedding day, September 2006, at 140 pounds.

During my senior year of college, I lost the 36 pounds I had put on during my freshman year, but after I got married in 2006, I had already started to put the weight back on — and then some. After the 2008 accident, I gained the most weight, and by the time a challenged publishing industry forced a round of layoffs at my company in February 2009, I was out of work and exhausted and weighed 208 pounds.

Losing that job was hard because I loved my coworkers so, but the timing was right for me. I needed to take care of myself, but instead I simply kept my focus on work. I started up a copyediting and proofreading LLC, naming it Mixed Bag Media for my skills set (and partially as a play on my mixed race), and got to work. I acquired clients, and in total, contributed to eight different magazines, sometimes working for four publications at one time.

Then, in September 2009, Kyle and I decided the timing was right to have a baby. I stopped the birth control pill, having been a regular user for 12 years, and assumed I would be pregnant within a few months. When I missed my period in November, I took a pregnancy test, which came out negative. And when I didn’t get my period again in December and January, I figured something was wrong.

minnehaha
November 2009, at 208 lbs.

I went to see my nurse practitioner, who suggested I take a progesterone-only pill to force a period. It worked, but then another 90 days went by without menstruation. When she offered to prescribe the pill again and refer me to an Ob/GYN, I considered it. At the time, I had just started working at Experience Life, and I pondered the bigger picture. Had my weight gain caused this amenorrhea? I was just finishing a three-year term of antidepressants my then-doctor prescribed after an anxiety attack — did the drugs mess with my natural balance? What about all those years of eating processed foods and takeout and trans fats — was my toxic burden too high? My intuitive side was speaking loudly, telling me that my body wasn’t healthy enough for a baby. There were bigger health issues that I had long ignored. I know I could’ve continued with pills and hormones to force my body to correct itself, but I feared that if I missed the chance to remedy my poor health, I could have also put any pregnancy that may have occurred in jeopardy.

So I started researching local doctors and holistic practitioners. I met with an acupuncturist twice a week, visited with a clinical nutritionist and a functional-medicine specialist, a naturopathic doctor, an integrative MD, and a chiropractor.

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At my heaviest weight, 221 lbs., February 2011.

I underwent a bevy of tests, and the results were troubling: among the concerns were adrenal fatigue, a pattern of Metabolic Syndrome, or pre-diabetes, and extremely low levels of vitamin D (my number was 16.3; optimal ranges of nanograms per milliliter are 50 to 70, and inadequate levels have been linked to cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and even the common cold and influenza — no surprise, then, that I suffered a bad cold nearly every month). I also had high CRP levels, at 9.13, indicating chronic inflammation, which makes it difficult to lose weight and puts my cardiovascular system at risk. I was low on iron and magnesium, dehydrated, and had high white-blood-cell counts, indicating an infection, which was later found to be caused by both a bacterial infection and a parasite called Entamoeba. I wasn’t just overweight and missing my periods, I was on a treacherous path to severe health complications. My stress levels were still elevated, I had put on more weight, hitting a high of 221, and I felt overwhelmed by all the work I needed to do to get better. When the team at Experience Lifeasked me to come aboard full-time, I shut down my LLC and shifted my focus to the world of health, learning all I could for the magazine as well as for myself.

florida
Me on a Florida beach, March 2011.

As scary as my findings were, they also served as an important push to help me readjust my priorities. I changed my diet dramatically, started working out with a personal trainer, joined a workout group, and have been actively managing my stress — ever aware of my struggles with work-life balance.

In AA, they say that recovery happens when someone hits rock bottom. Perhaps this culmination of health problems was my rock bottom. But gosh, there are so many moments, say, when I’m at Boot Camp in round six of the eighth bout of the circuit, pushing through a (semi) atomic push-up, that I wished I would’ve listen to those signs earlier and made a change. That I wouldn’t have let myself get so out of shape. That I would’ve eaten more salads instead of French fries. I didn’t listen to those signs, and I didn’t correct my path, but I’m on the right road now. And I’ll always do my best to heed those warnings in the future.

 

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