Who knew life could be this normal? This is not normal in a bad or boring way, no, quite the opposite; normal in an amazing, satisfying, happy and fulfilling way. A life I thought I did not deserve has found me. Love, joy, laughter, family, friends, even just a daily routine… life is good, very good. Some might argue that everyone (well almost everyone) deserves some basic happiness. Maybe this is true. Life is neither always fair, nor are we capable of understanding why things happen or don’t happen the way we might like them to. Given the aforementioned, I will neither question nor attempt to understand how or why my life is good – it just is, and I am very grateful for it.
Romance has put a few pounds back on – yes… I haven’t been careful enough. A lot of eating out and a lot of simply enjoying myself. I know how to take it off and my intentions are to do so. My journey however has taught me personal joy apart from the weight I carry, or the size clothing I wear.
I have embraced my role as a survivor and a voice for sexually abused women, but I am no longer a loud lone voice. Thirty years later I have an army of women and men behind me. I am not fighting the battle on my own. I am standing with thousands of others who now hear me, whose voices resound with strength and power. I have passed the torch to those with the power and strength I can no longer afford to offer.
For me happiness is not about settling or acceptance. It is about savoring joy, passion, feeling content and connected. The “pursuit” of happiness now seems somewhat futile. I feel happiness comes when you are meant to have it simply because you now understand it, and can appropriately appreciate it.
So once again I embark on weight loss and fitness training. I am very happy, but I am aware that sustaining a healthy BMI and staying in shape will enable me to remain happy, and physically and emotionally strong for a long long time.
I am embarrassed to say I have put on about 15+ pounds and I haven’t been exercising with any regularity. Back on the bandwagon for me. But like my tattoo reminds me each and every day – PERSEVERE. The 15 will drop off and I will regain my physical strength again. I love my family, my partner, my friends, my home, San Diego, my job, my garden, my writing, etc., but I must love me more and put my health, and ultimately long term happiness first. I know how great I feel when I am healthy and satisfied with my appearance. I am healthy and satisfied with my appearance, but I feel it slipping and it scares me after everything I went through to get where I am.
With the support and love of everyone around me I will get back to the best me I can be.
I spent quite a few years of my life in an emotionally abusive relationship, and I let it happen. I was weak, needy, and had so little self-esteem and self-worth that I let the relationship consume, define and ultimately destroy me. Ending a relationship comes with learning, growth and pain. Something inside me snapped, and brought me to a point where I finally realized it was time to take “me” back. I took a good hard look at who I had become and I hated myself. Hate is a strong word, and no one should reach the point where they simply hate everything about who they are, but that is where I had found myself. It is one thing to learn to love yourself, but erasing self-hatred is much much harder.
This relationship, like all relationships had its ups and downs. One thing is certain though, the ups were short-lived and the downs kept increasing in number, duration and intensity. This is when I began to put on all the weight. I gained roughly 110+ pounds over the course of four years. Protection I suppose from the pain, and from the hideous individual I believed I was. Being told I was a horrible parent, a whore, lazy, a terrible employee and on and on. Being bipolar, I spiraled out of control through severe episodes of depression and mania that paralyzed and hospitalized me.
Two hundred eighty-six, the number that for whatever inconceivable reason, changed my life. I don’t know why that number did it, but it did. The 28 part of the number 286 has had a very lengthy history for me and may be that is why the 280’s were my wake-up call. I do not know. But it certainly was my turning point. It was at that moment on the scale with that number glaring at me that I vowed to lose the weight, get in shape and be healthy, physically and emotionally. First for me, and then hopefully in an attempt to mend or end the relationship. At this point in time I did not know one way or another if it was worth saving.
So while I embarked on my journey I was told that I was doing so for selfish reasons, not for our relationship, but because I liked the compliments. Still living in self-hate and doubt, I kept asking myself “Am I being selfish?” I was so deep into the belittlement I had no idea my ego was so shot it couldn’t even recognize the stupidity of this. Somehow I plugged on every day. Somewhere deep inside that 286 pound body I knew being healthy physically, mentally and emotionally was the right answer, selfish or not.
I needed someone to push me out the door on the mornings I did not want to go to the gym, or get up and exercise. But I didn’t have that particular kind of support. I was occasionally given compliments on how well I was doing but I had to rely on myself to get er’ done. This was one of the best gifts I received from this relationship – self-reliance and perseverance. I highly recommend it.
One day I was at the gym on an elliptical machine and staring at me, (as it had been for months now) was there branding. It was right there on the wall in front of me for months, and I had barely noticed it. The word PERSEVERE. It was another ah-ha moment. I had to persevere, there was no choice – hence my most recent tattoo. I took pictures of the scale as I dropped the weight as motivation. Unfortunately, I was too humiliated to take one the day I saw 286. But I certainly have photos to prove where I started.
After I dropped below the 200 mark I decided to throw myself a party – no one else was going to do it. Friends and family came to help me celebrate. I had both healthy and non-healthy food choices out for my guests, and we sang karaoke and everyone had a blast. I was going to have another one when I reached my goal weight. I thought maybe when I reached that goal one might get thrown for me instead of by me, but when I reached my goal that party never happened.
At the gym there was a coach who helped me learn the proper machines to use and the proper form to get the most out of my resistance training. I set a goal weight of 145. She told me that it was probably unrealistic because I was not only losing weight but gaining muscle so I should look at 150-155 as my target. I was fine with that. After nine months I had gone from a 3X down to a size 6 and lost 140 pounds. I looked good and I felt good. I was eating healthy, adopted a gluten free lifestyle after hearing that doing so could eliminate IBS (this worked wonders for me).
I have managed to keep all the weight off, for almost a year now and know in my heart I will never go back there again.
After both trying to rebuild the very broken relationship I realized I was doing us both a disservice by remaining in it. Some people have babies thinking that will “fix” the problems in their relationship. After all our years together I thought “getting engaged” would be our “fix”. Once it happened I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. There was still too much broken, too much I was afraid would never mend or heal, and boy was I right. The interpersonal relationship is over, and so is my piss poor relationship with myself. Slowly I am building my self-esteem, taking back my life, bettering my relationships with my children, and growing stronger and healthier each day.
This has been one of the most difficult journeys I have ever embarked on, but the growth alone has been it worth it. “Learning to love yourself – is the greatest love of all.” Thank you Whitney.
It’s fairly well documented that us left brained creative type tend toward bipolar disorder more than the general population. I was diagnosed 15 years ago with bipolar disorder, adult ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder. I am fairly certain this all went undiagnosed for many years prior. It has not been easy being me, but most of the time I wouldn’t change it for anything. Having a bipolar brain is complicated and frustrating but can also be enthralling and invigorating for the individuals and for all those who love them.
I certainly have had my extreme manias and depressions. I’ve gone through the typical thinking that my medication has now made me better so I no longer need it. I’ve stabilized and destabilized. I’ve rapid cycled and stayed down for months on end. All of my experiences albeit difficult have helped me grow and make me who I am. Primarily the deep understanding that this trip here on earth needs to be the best I can make it – which means for me being happy, healthy, loving and being loved. Those things are essential to my being. Physical health has helped my mental health, and has motivated me to stay on my medication. I must admit however that even medicated I still cycle – not at the extremes, but certainly definitive ups and downs. Rebirthing my creative being has helped me stay grounded and happy which also stabilizes my mood.
My behavior changes can be very subtle or very noticeable. I try very hard to let those who know me best know when I feel a change coming on – and I can feel it. I am willing to answer people’s questions about bipolar disorder, but my perspective is mine alone and although I may share some experiences with other individuals, everybody feels things differently.
Possibly my bipolar disorder helped me lose the weight because I was able to exercise at a heightened level and stay super focused on my food – a 10 month mania of sorts. But I have to take some credit for all the work I did to get where I am; it wasn’t entirely my misfiring brain!
I can describe mania for you, and deep depression, but it still comes nowhere close to actually experiencing it. I hope the articles in this section of the blog will help someone – anyone; someone who is bipolar, suffering from anxiety or someone who is loving someone who is.
I think it takes a strong person to ignore the opinions of others, especially when you are young. Body shaming needs to stop – some people are just not built to be Twiggy. Kids do not need to be bullied to the point of suicide because they don’t fit today’s mold of “beautiful” – I am sure these teens are all beautiful inside and out. Being overweight is not ugly, some people can’t help their size due to medical issues and those people need to focus on being healthy. Others are overweight for a variety of reasons: emotional eating is obviously at the top of the list. This is hard to overcome but I hope to help those of you in this position realize that there are other things to make you happy and being healthy will help with being happy.
At this point in my life (because I know what makes me happy and how to pursue that) I really don’t care what others may or may not say about me, the way I dress, the way I do or do not wear make-up, etc. I suppose that is why I posted my before pictures and had it put up on national television without thinking twice.
After all this weight loss I have quite a bit of excess skin hanging around (particularly around my abdomen). I can’t afford the surgery to remove it – and although I would do it if I could afford it, I’m okay with it being there and when I want to hide it for some reason or another (i.e. an audition, a date night, etc.) that’s why I own spanks. I’m so okay with it, here is a pic:
People are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Its part of what makes us unique. And what matters is that you are confident and comfortable in your body but most of all are HEALTHY and HAPPY.
It’s not about being “skinny” or about wearing certain clothes (although a new wardrobe is a really nice benefit), its about feeling good and taking care of yourself for you and your family. Don’t let your goal to be as skinny or thin as so-and-so – set your goal to be the best you you can be. Take into account your height, your bone structure, whether or not you have had children, etc. Be realistic and strive to be your best self. After children your abdominal muscles are the most difficult to return to pre-pregnancy. And those of you who know me, know I have 5 children all of whom I am very proud of, and all of whom took a toll on my body. I nursed them all and my boobs look a lot like my abdomen (another surgery I have no money for)! I wouldn’t let anyone cut on my face, but I know a flat belly and some larger boobs would make me feel even better. I am happy now and those things do not determine my happiness I just think they may enhance it – LOL!
I NEVER thought I would be a size 6. Even though I weighed less pre-pregnancy than I do now, I was an 8. I’m sure the fashion industry has changed the sizes a bit to make us all feel better about ourselves, but my dress size does not define me. I never set a goal to be a 6. I set a realistic weight goal and when I achieved it was going to be satisfied with whatever “size” I was. I will admit it is nice not having to shop in stores tailored to larger women because the stylish things have still not completely caught up with the average woman (unless you have a small fortune to spend). I no longer ONLY wear black but it is still one of may favorite go to-s, it’s a hard habit to break and I guess I really enjoy wearing black as well – it goes with everything. And for me ORANGE is NOT the new BLACK (although the show is great – from what I have seen of it). Orange, like yellow makes this pale chick look a bit jaundice.
I can wear heals again – which is a double-edged sword. I don’t’ really like to wear them, but they do complete a nice outfit and according to my future wife they are very sexy (even though I tower over her in them). I don’t wear them often as they are not great for your feet, but with the musical theatre dancing I have had to wear character shoes quite a bit. Still uncoordinated and falling over, but the shoes don’t really make much of a difference with that tendency.
About make-up: I don’t wear it everyday. I likely never will. Probably because growing up I heard things from my mother that I interpreted negatively whether or not they truly were meant that way. Every time I wore make-up I was told the same thing: “You look so beautiful when you wear make-up!” or “You look so nice you should wear make-up more often.” I internalized this to mean basically I was ugly unless I had make-up on. Well I’ve over come that sort of. I wear make-up now if I think it’s going to make me feel good that day, or if I need to for an audition or performance. I know someone who hasn’t even let her husband see her without a full face of make-up and they have been married for close to 10 years. I personally think that is a bit extreme, but to each his own… again do what makes YOU happy for YOU – not for others. If she is applying make-up every morning because it makes her feel good about herself, then why not? Here is a pic of me without make-up, and one with. I like both!
A bit about exercise. First I want to tell you – although I’ve done a ton of it over the last year and a half or so I STILL HATE IT. When I am done the endorphins are released, I am in a great mood and feeling wonderful – that is the ONLY saving grace. It’s a shame sex doesn’t burn as many calories because at least you are having fun during, and get all the same post activity benefits!
Since all the rehearsing and then the performances of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Rockwall Community Playhouse my schedule changed dramatically, and I could not make it to the gym, nor did I have any energy left to do so. But, during the show I did a lot of dancing which used different muscles – muscles I had forgotten I had. I pushed myself even though I am not much of a dancer and pretty much an uncoordinated klutz. I loved it, and now I think I want to take dance lessons again (I did it as a kid.). Maybe it will help me be a bit less of an uncoordinated klutz?? Now I just need to get our choreographer to start an adult class at the studio where she teaches. Moving to music seems to make moving easier… hence my enjoyment of Richard Simmons as well.
The key is to find something you enjoy to do when it comes to moving and that when done with some intensity will burn a decent amount of calories if you are trying to drop the pounds. I don’t really enjoy the gym but know I probably need to go back to stay healthy – it’s not all about weight, but about staying fit as well. Aerobic/cardio movement is very important for your heart and burning calories, but so is strength and resistance training because building muscle helps you burn more calories. Staying fit gives you more energy in general and keeps you healthier. I firmly believe it boosts both your metabolism (duh!) AND your immune system. I was not sick once while I stayed working out routinely.
Another key is… IF you are going to join a gym, join one that is VERY close to home. If you have to travel more than 10 minutes to get to your gym, it’s not likely that you will go with any regularity. I am very lucky, as we live basically around the corner from an LA Fitness. Having to pass by it every day also helps pour on the guilt of not getting back there – you pay for it… go. Growing up Jewish, let me tell you… guilt works.
Some people will tell you to not eat before working out and others will tell you to have something in your stomach. Honestly, I am not sure which answer is best, I think it’s a personal choice. I prefer working out on an empty stomach as there is less chance of feeling sick during or afterwards. This choice forced me to work out in the morning before starting my day – and I am NOT a morning person. But, after having forced myself into this routine, mornings have become a bit easier for me now.
Let me share with you the supplements I take on a daily basis which I also think help quite a bit.
Biotin (cause my hair and nails are very thin)
A women’s multivitamin
Calcium + Vitamin D (for bone density)
Echinacea & Goldenseal (for my immune system)
Probiotics (for digestion)
If you are prone to urinary tract infections I would add a cranberry supplement, and be sure to eat yogurt routinely or add a live culture supplement as well.
I think it always all comes back to staying happy – which makes it easier to stay healthy. Finding yourself… finding joy in a variety of things, doing them consistently and always giving 110%. I know that is not practical for most people on a daily basis, but it’s something to strive for. I’m auditioning for another production… this time a comedy at Rover Dramawerks in Plano, TX. Even the name of the play is funny: Four Weddings and an Elvis. There won’t be any dancing, but again it will bring me the joy necessary to continue moving forward as a healthy and happy human being. I’d ask that you wish me luck, or say “Break a leg!” but given my history that would be something I might actually do.