Love Lost and Weight Gained

My hypnotherapist suggested for future sessions to find a photo of me at a time when I was happy with my weight. For me, that would be around 2001-2002, so I started looking through photos to find one that I could post on my bathroom mirror. The problem with this time frame is that most about that part of my life I would rather forget. Going through those photos made me very emotional, but at the same time I am glad I brought those memories forth.

Obligatory Sears posed photo. My ex had a matching outfit.

Most of my life I was underweight. I believe I was around 80 pounds in high school. It wasn’t that I wanted to be that skinny. I had a high metabolism and could basically eat anything I wanted. My parents were like sticks, too. I was teased about it, but I was also teased about my first and last names, so it wasn’t too big of a deal to me.

The only time it did bother me was when I went to Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills. I was constantly harassed about my weight, and kept being asked, “Do you like yourself? Are you anorexic? Do you want to throw up?” I felt like I was part of the Spanish Inquisition. I thought, “If I had great self esteem when I came in, I’m certainly feeling pretty ugly right now.” When I came to get my thyroid test results, I was told they were normal. However, the receptionist looked me up and down and told me I should eat some ice cream every night.

One of the main symptoms of my anxiety is nausea, so junior high through 2000, I didn’t eat much. If I went out to eat, I would be the nibbler. People would ask me if I didn’t like my food. I would have to have the “It’s not the chef, it’s me” conversation with the waiter. Sometimes I would have to leave the restaurant early because I would have a panic attack. I would just tell people I didn’t feel well. That was the easiest way to put it.

Once I started taking Effexor, things started looking up. As I’ve said in an earlier post, I started taking chances in my life. However, that does not mean that I made all the right decisions.

On Valentine’s Day in 2000, I came out to my car to find that someone had left me a rose and a balloon but no note. I had an idea of who left me these gifts, but I still asked my neighbor’s son if he had seen anyone. When I got to work, there was another rose, another balloon, and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal on my desk. A lot of people knew that I was a WP fan at the time, but I already knew who left these tokens of affection. It made me uneasy, especially since this person didn’t leave any hint as to who he was.

He finally came clean and asked me out. I said I wasn’t interested in being anything other than friends. Truth be told, I was interested in someone else. Plus I felt E’s behavior was a bit stalker-like and it made me nervous.

But E kept fighting back. He would bring me flowers; he would ask me to lunch. When I finally relented, he asked me while we were eating, “Would you rather kiss a dog’s ass than me?” I didn’t know how to answer. I told my dad about the conversation, and his answer was, “What kind of dog?”

I guess I’m a sucker for determination, because I gave E a chance. But the whole time I felt it was wrong. When he called me drunk saying that he wouldn’t bother me anymore, I shouldn’t have called back. But I was mad, and I was also worried about E having alcohol poisoning. He initially answered the phone, but passed out halfway through. I called the police, and the information, of course, was played on the police scanner in the newsroom. Everyone knew my business. It was embarrassing.

Yet I let E back in again. It was as though since I felt a new lease on life, I could take on this challenge. E had been in an emotionally abusive relationship before, and anything could set him off. If I made one peep about breaking up, or that I needed space, he went ballistic. He would threaten suicide and ask me to hit him because he said he deserved it. He was broken. And for some reason I wanted to try to fix him.

So he came with me to Austin. E didn’t have a job, but luckily I did, so we were able to find a nice apartment. For a while it was nice, and the natural recourse was to get married. We ended up having a ceremony in Dallas, so that my grandmother would be able to attend.

After the ceremony. E's face has been blurred to my satisfaction.

Since E and I had settled into a nice routine, I was enjoying life more and more, including the food that went with it. Both of us were picky eaters, so it was mostly carbohydrates for me. That, along with me getting older, slowed down my metabolism and I started gaining weight. I thought it was also because I was happy and in love.

There were some bumps in the road. E had to have his thyroid removed because it was the size of Texas. Once it was removed and the doctor was trying to even out his hormones, E gained weight. He was a gymnast when he was younger and a cheerleader in high school, so he was very conscious about what he looked like. E became very depressed and started working out…all the time.

I decided to try to get healthy with him, especially since our apartment complex had a gym. The first time I went he worked me on the elliptical machine so much that I threw up when I got home. At the time I was proud of myself, but I didn’t keep up the routine. E did and got in shape. And sometime during this transformation, he lost interest in me.

It’s not all E’s fault. I didn’t really take good care of myself. I found myself thinking that E should love me for who I was, with all I did for him, that hygiene and weight shouldn’t matter. Instead, I found out it mattered very much, and it included a shouting match with E calling me “fat” and “a slob.” It went downhill from there.

By the time E asked for a divorce, which he once swore he would never do, I was in shambles. We had switched self-esteem places from the beginning of the relationship. I was the one pleading with E to stay. Even though I knew in the back of my mind that this was the right thing for both of us, I was afraid to be alone again.

I lost a few pounds after the marriage ended, but have since gained them all back, plus a few more. I know part of it is because I am very comfortable now with the way my life is going, but I also know part of it is because I don’t know how to eat right and I’m not exercising. Both, I’ve been told, can help my mood and my anxiety levels.

I’ve stopped and started many times, but so far nothing has stuck. So now I’m going to try weight release with the hypnotherapist. I have found a photo, one where E does not have to be cut out.

The last time I talked with E I found out that he had remarried and had children. I found out from his stepfather a year later that E’s mother had died. I am grateful that J told me because E’s mother was a wonderful woman who I think of often. I knew that she had Lupus and was in pain most of the time, but she always had a positive outlook on life.

I think of E from time to time, and wonder if he ever thinks of me. It’s not that I want to see him again, but I feel our time together was important and something I’ll never forget.

Now I just need to remember “me.”

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The Best Things in Life

I made three cakes today.

Notice I didn’t say, “I baked three cakes today.” Because, honestly, the kitchen would probably be on fire right now.

I’m actually talking about yarn cakes. After I learned how to knit, I became fascinated by the process. Not just from casting on to binding off, but taking a skein of yarn…

Lots of pretty skeins at The Knitting Nest!

and turning it into a cake.

A yummy cake, indeed!

Then spinning came into play and the process started with dyeing, spinning, plying, washing, thwacking, drying, and knotting into a skein.

Our first few skeins hanging to dry after a good thwacking.

I haven’t made a cake in a while. I had forgotten how fun it is to watch the yarn swift whirl around and hear the click on the handle on the ball winder. It’s actually a bit of a soothing sound.

And since I’ve started going to the hypnotist, I’m now taking in the sights, sounds, and other senses of the world and enjoying more each day.

My homework this week is to list 10 accomplishments in my life. I think learning to knit, and especially appreciating the process, is one of them.

 

You Are Getting Very Sheepy

I made a knit/hypnosis joke. Heh. I’d better back it up with a photo of a recently finished project. My first baby vest (made for a coworker).

Baby vest with turtle buttons

A month ago I went to my first hypnotherapy appointment. I basically contacted the hypnotist out of desperation. I had a lot going on in my life at the time, my antidepressant wasn’t working well, and I was having several panic attacks.

The day came and I didn’t want to go. It wasn’t just that I was afraid of the unknown, it was also raining cats and dogs. For people who are not from Texas, there are many drivers here who forget how to operate their vehicles when the first drop of water hits the road. I left 45 minutes early and arrived 30 minutes late. Thankfully I took an anti-anxiety pill before I left the house, because the traffic was in gridlock the whole way.

I had called P to let her know I was running late, and she let me know that the client before had to cancel because it had taken him 45 minutes to go about five feet. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her that I wanted to go ahead with the appointment. I was close by, albeit going at a snail’s pace, and it was going to take more than an hour to get back home. Plus, I was going to be mad at myself for not going.

Once I got there, my nerves came to the surface again. I knew that hypnosis didn’t involve any invasive medical procedures, but still not knowing what exactly to expect made me nauseated.

P talked with me for about an hour before the actual hypnosis began. She explained what happens with our conscious and subconscious minds, how hypnosis works, and we talked about what issues I wanted to work on.

Before I went to the appointment, I filled out some paperwork. I had to answer questions that showed whether I was more of an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic person. The way I answered the questions, the results showed that I was more of a visual person. But P pointed out that the activities I engaged in (knitting and spinning) and the way I described my ideal place (the beach; with the sand between my toes and the sound of the waves crashing) made me more of a kinesthetic person. She encouraged me to get back to kinesthetic activities: knitting, spinning, writing, etc.

I actually got excited about P’s suggestions. It was like I was waiting for permission to do fun things. Do other people do that? Put things off until someone tells you it’s OK to do something worthwhile?

But I digress. By the time the actual hypnosis started, I was at ease. And had hope. What she explained to me (although I can’t remember much at the moment) made so much sense. Why hadn’t I realized this before? What was it that she said that clicked? Is it just because I’ve had enough? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s because I wanted to believe that hypnosis would work.

So I made sure that I paid attention to P’s every word. She told me that the best thing to do was to repeat in my mind what she said to me. And I did. I tried my best to repeat every word. My legs felt weighted down. I focused on her voice. I was directed to visualize my ideal place. I oscillated between the beach, which I had described to P before, and a wide open field, with grass as green as emeralds and soft beneath my feet. And mountains in the background. I was actually picturing a location from LOST, where Hurley had set up a golf course.

I’ve always been awestruck by that location. And so that’s what came into my mind. But when I looked down at the ground, I also saw a picnic blanket with a wonderful variety of food…and Lee. And that’s when I knew that I was in my utopia. My partner was there, I was at peace, and when I opened my eyes again, I felt better.

I was given homework, affirmations to repeat, and breathing exercises to work on. I set up another appointment to meet in two weeks.

On the way home, the waterworks started. I know this is cliché, but it really was like a dam had broken. All these emotions that I had been bottling up, about all aspects of my life, I couldn’t hold back anymore. It didn’t start immediately. I had turned on the iPod on the way home and out of more than 2,600 songs, Alanis Morrissette came on.

The song is called “Uninvited,” and to me it’s powerful. I’ve loved the song since the first time I heard it, but this time it made me feel angry.

Like anyone would be
I am flattered by your fascination with me
Like any hot-blooded woman
I have simply wanted an object to crave

But you, you’re not allowed
You’re uninvited
An unfortunate slight

Must be strangely exciting
To watch the stoic squirm
Must be somewhat heartening
To watch shepherd meet shepherd

But you, you’re not allowed
You’re uninvited
An unfortunate slight

Like any uncharted territory
I must seem greatly intriguing
You speak of my love like
You have experienced love like mine before

But this is not allowed
You’re uninvited
An unfortunate slight

I don’t think you unworthy
I need a moment to deliberate…

This time I felt like the “Uninvited” was anxiety, and I wanted to yell the chorus to the sky. I didn’t want to let anxiety into my life anymore. The tears streamed down my cheeks as I played the song over and over. It made me upset, but I also felt power for the first time in a long while.

I hope that feeling stays.

Therapists I Have Known

I am a stubborn person. I like to try to figure out things on my own. But when I started having panic attacks, I was too overwhelmed to be stubborn. I was having trouble in school, so my parents decided that I needed to see a counselor. I don’t remember his name, but he and I would take walks around the school and talk about various subjects, including my parents breaking up. I liked him because he didn’t hit me with “How does that make you feel?” or “Tell me about your mother.” We just talked.

When my mom and I moved back to Houston from upstate New York, we ended up back in our old house. It helped to have a support network right off the bat, but that didn’t ease my anxiety. Agoraphobia already had a tight hold on me.

Outside of the school counselor which I mentioned in an earlier post, I saw a therapist once a week. His name is Dr. Patrick, and he was a very kind man. I saw him from the time I was in junior high until I graduated high school. The only time I talked to him about my anxiety was right before my graduation ceremony. I told him that I didn’t want to go, that I was nervous about being there in the auditorium with all those people and I wouldn’t be able to leave until the end of the ceremony, that my grandmother and grandfather would be there and I didn’t want to disappoint them.

He didn’t understand.

He asked me, “What is there to be nervous about?”

And I couldn’t answer. Because I couldn’t put my feelings into words. I didn’t know why I was nervous. All I knew is that I didn’t want to go to my own graduation. I didn’t feel excitement about celebrating my achievement. I just felt…dread.

I ended up going to graduation, but under duress. I had thought about trying to escape. Taking the keys and sneaking out of the house and leaving a note. I actually ended up locking myself in the bathroom and arguing with my mother before I finally gave in. I don’t remember much of the ceremony, and there’s a lot I regret about that day. I regret most that it was the last time I saw Grandmommie alive. She died during my first semester of college.

I saw Dr. Patrick one more time when I came home from college for a weekend. I pretended like everything was OK, but I ended up leaving the appointment halfway through, saying I wasn’t feeling well. Agoraphobia was becoming so prominent for me that even the hour-and-a-half drive between Houston and Huntsville made me sick to my stomach. I believe that after that visit, I didn’t come back to Houston for many years.

I went to a few counselors on campus. We mostly talked about classes and relationships, but when I tried to talk about panic attacks, I hit a wall. One of the therapists kept trying to get me to talk about my past with my father every session, thinking that he was the one reason I felt scared to do anything. The more times she brought up the subject, the angrier I got. I stopped seeing her because I felt like we were going in circles.

When my dad came for graduation weekend (I did not attend the ceremony. Instead, I picked up both of my bachelor’s degrees from the registrar office.), he gave me From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett. After reading her book, I finally knew what was happening to me, but as much as the book enlightened me, I didn’t know how to put her teachings to use. Bassett talked about her program, Attacking Anxiety, so my parents ordered it for me and I tried it.

I wish I could say it worked for me. In ways it did, because I found that when I tested my boundaries I would feel on top of the world for about 20 minutes and then I would crash into sobs. It was at that time that I went to a doctor and found out that I needed antidepressants. I had wonky brain chemistry.

Once I found a medicine that set me on an even keel, I felt like the world had opened up for me. Two weeks later, I drove to Dallas for the first time. I had my first (albeit short, but wonderful) relationship in several years. I was happy.

I had lived in Huntsville, TX, for ten years. I grew to love that city. To this day, I have fond memories of living there and I still have friends there who I keep in touch with. But I realized that I needed to move on. Huntsville had become my safe place, and I was feeling the pull to leave.

So I moved to Austin. By that time I had met E, then my boyfriend, and he moved with me. At the time I was grateful that he came with me. To move to a new city by myself seemed like too much for my anxiety, but to have someone to be excited about the move and to help keep my emotions in check.

After my divorce, when I felt like the world had turned upside down, I went to see psychiatrists. I first went to a psychiatrist who fell asleep during one of our sessions while I was talking. The second psychiatrist told me she was leaving her practice after a couple sessions. I finally found a psychiatrist who I clicked with and have been going to since.

I searched for cognitive therapists and thought I found one. He had great ideas, he was very nice, but there was one thing I couldn’t get over: he kept adjusting himself. I saw him twice but that’s all I could take.

I am now trying something new: hypnotherapy. I have gone to two sessions, and for the first time in a long time I have hope. I look forward to writing about what is going on.

But that will be another story for another day.

 

 

He Likes Me! He Really Likes Me!

There are some people in your life that know when you need a little pick-me-up, even when you don’t know it. I had just had a meeting with my manager, whose last day will be the end of this week, and I was a little down. I checked my phone to see if anyone had called, and was greeted with the photo below.

As soon as I saw this, my grin spread from ear to ear.

What a sweet surprise!

My husband Lee, who I’ve been with for more than six years, sent me this precious note. He is a wonderful person who appreciates me in a way that I did not know was possible.

I used to think that being in a relationship would be too much work. I would say that if I ever got married, my husband and I would live in separate houses so that we could be together when we wanted. And then, when things got too much for me and I needed space to myself, I could go back to my house.

Of course, that never happened. I found out I could cohabitate just fine in my first marriage, but when that relationship crumbled, the apartment seemed to close in on me. By that time, my anxiety and depression invaded my life again and pulled me down into the abyss. It took me a while to climb back up, but I did it.

Once I was back living on my own, I decided to join MySpace to reconnect with friends and build a strong base around me. Every so often I would dwell about the divorce, and I even wrote a blog entry about it. I talked about how I was like a duck; on the surface I looked calm, but my legs were going a mile a minute underneath the water.

A few days later, I got an email.

March 16, 2005

just a random word of encouragement from a stranger.

hang in there. it gets better.

what I did to get my mind together was find something I’d always wanted to do but never had the time for … and channeled all of my energy into that whenever I thought about that “missing person” in my life.

now I can play bass. thanks, ex!

the cool part is when you realize you’re doing it because you love it, not because it’s a distraction. when you reach that point it’s amazing.

or get an assortment of krispy kremes, some coffee (black as midnight on a mooooonless night) and load up the twin peaks box set.

works for me when I get overwhelmed.

I thought it was a nice note and so I decided to write back to thank him. I didn’t expect him to write back, which he did. I also didn’t expect for one email exchange to blossom into a friendship, which it did. He never pressured me into anything else until I was ready.

Our first photo together

I had so many “what ifs” in my head. What if we’re not compatible? What if he finds out he can’t live with some of my querks? What if I have a panic attack on the way to his house and have to go back home and he’s disappointed? What if we decide to live together and then break up? What if my heart gets broken again?

But it turns out, just like anticipatory anxiety, things turned out not as bad as I feared. In fact, Lee has been the calm in my storm. And I have found that I can be calm for him, too, which I didn’t think was possible.

Not every day is a piece of cake, but having Lee as my friend and husband is the sweetest thing in the world.

Getting married in our backyard on New Year's Eve, 2008

Sleepytime Gal

Sunday was a waste. I slept on and off until 6:30 p.m. Granted we were up until about 2 a.m. the night before celebrating Lee’s

Hiding from the World

birthday, but that doesn’t mean yesterday had to slip away from me.

I blame it on the Ambien.

Before Ambien, if I slept all day, I could blame it on my depression. I was too listless to get out of bed. Too sad to show my face to anyone. I would just hide my head under the covers until the feelings passed.

It reminds me of a paper I wrote in college freshman English. What kind of animal would I want to be and why? I wrote that I wanted to be a turtle. I wouldn’t have to travel far from my house (in fact, I wouldn’t have to leave at all), and if I got scared I could retreat into my shell.

And that’s what I would do. People would ask me at work what I did on the weekends, and I would say, “I just relaxed.” I didn’t tell anyone that I stayed in bed all day because I couldn’t face reality.

In 2000, I started taking Effexor, an antidepressant that initially worked for me, then seemed to be not enough when I was going through my divorce in 2002-2003. I went to a psychiatrist, who added Lexapro to the mix. And while THAT worked in the beginning, it caused some problems later on when I started to feel better.

Taking Effexor in itself has had many ups and downs for me. I have to take it with food, and if I don’t I face dire consequences. When I first started on this medication, I had to learn that the hard way. Which made me panic even more, so much so that I thought I was going to have to visit the ER. If I forget to take a pill, I face dire consequences as well. The next day, I am too sick to get out of bed. Nausea, shaking, depression, anxiety. Those are only some of the symptoms. I don’t even want to think of what missing more than one day would be like.

I don’t like Effexor. Upping the dosage when I am having a hard time gives me acid reflux and headaches. Lowering the dosage makes me weepy. But it is the only medication that I have found so far that has worked for me. And I have tried a lot of different drugs.

Peace, not Drugs

So far, I’ve tried Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, and Pristiq. That’s not counting the anti-anxiety drugs that I am on or have taken in the past: Clozenapam, Xanax, and now Ambien.

I went from taking no medications to having a pill box so I wouldn’t forget the several pills I needed each day. It still bothers me that I need medication to even out my brain chemistry, calm my nerves, and now to catch some zzzzz’s.

I didn’t start taking Ambien until I tried switching from Effexor to Cymbalta. You’ve seen the commercials for Cymbalta. The people can’t do anything in the beginning. By the end of the commercial, they are enjoying life and their family, friends, and even pets are so appreciative.

That’s not what happened to me. Even though my psychiatrist gave me a great plan to wean off the Effexor and ramp up the Cymbalta so that I wouldn’t suffer withdrawals, I crashed. I was so depressed every day that tears leaked at the most mundane moments. And to top it all off, I started to have insomnia. I thought the best move was to take something to help me sleep, which would help my mood, instead of just going back to Effexor. Silly girl.

That was about five years ago. I am now back on Effexor at the dosage that I know I have to stay at, no matter what is going on around me, yet I can’t get to sleep without Ambien. In fact, I now am dependent on some Clozenapam as well as Ambien to get to sleep.

And yet I’m still a light sleeper. One noise can wake me up during the night, and I may have to go to another room to go to sleep.

But that’s beside the point. I’m an Ambien addict. I know I am. I’ve tried to wean myself off of it, and the withdrawals are horrible. Yet I know I need to get off of it. And I also need sleep. But not as much as I got on Sunday. It’s a vicious circle. And I’m dizzy.

Why I Knit (and Spin)

My first socks

There’s a reason that this blog is called “On Pins and Needles.” Not only does it refer to my anxiety and panic attacks, but the title also refers to the activities that keep me calm: knitting and spinning.

I started knitting because I wanted to learn a new hobby. I loved to read and listen to music and to work all kinds of puzzles (Hello PennyPress!), but I was yearning to do something more creative. And at the time, Stitch n’ Bitch was becoming all the rage. Luckily I met someone who loved to knit and taught me how in the break room at work. I didn’t realize that I would come to love knitting not only because of the beautiful yarns and patterns, but also because it was therapeutic . . . in ways I never imagined.

One of the most vivid memories is when I went to an outdoor concert with Lee and his sister and brother-in-law. I was excited because I had never seen Ween before, but nervous because we were away from home in a venue I had never been before and there were going to be a lot of people there. I brought knitting with me to work on while we waited for the show to start.

The show was packed. At first I was fine and was having a great time, but then I started feeling anxious. I didn’t want to ask Lee to leave the concert because he was having a great time, but at the same time I felt trapped. I felt nauseous and my heart was pounding. I was dizzy and had a hard time catching my breath. I told Lee I was going to stand away from the crowd for a bit to get some air.

I found a place by the entrance gate and sat down. Then I pulled the project from my bag and started to knit. There were some curious onlookers, and even one woman who took my picture, but all I cared about was following the pattern. Knit the knits; purl the purls. The methodical winding of yarn around needles and pulling it through over and over. My restless thoughts started to settle. I was able to breathe. My panic attack had passed.

And later on, I had something to show for it: my first pair of socks.

Kromski Sonata

Kromski Sonata

Knitting isn’t a miraculous cure for my anxiety, but it definitely helps calm my nerves now and then.

Spinning I picked up much later. At first I found it very frustrating, but I was told that there would come a time when I would just GET it. And I did.

So now I can sit at my wheel and just watch the fibers pull from my fingers and twist into yarn. It’s mesmerizing, really. And Lee has gotten into the dyeing process, so it’s fun to see how his colors intertwine.

I am truly grateful that I have been introduced to two activities that not only divert my mind from negative and anxious thoughts, but that also create amazingly beautiful things.

 

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