Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Piss and Vinegar




You may have noticed that this blog has been pretty empty the last few weeks...can you hear the echo? I have been struggling to write a post, and then, as soon as I get brave enough to post it, I chicken out and delete the whole thing.  I feel like I can't move on and be completely honest with you in other posts until I post my story of how/why I decided to create a healthy lifestyle.  It's not just my story, but the story of many women. It's so personal and not  many people know all the details, so it's really difficult to know where or how to even start. It is not my intention to make people feel sorry for me in this post. I'm not sorry.  I'm stronger and happier now because of the events life has handed me. I know there are others of you who can relate and may find comfort that you are not the only one. Please bear with me. This is a long story.

I have always considered myself a resilient and self reliant person. I was always able to suck it up, not complain and bounce back. Life wasn't always easy, but I always pushed through and looked on the bright side.  Then the years of 2003-2006 hit our family like a freight train. In 2003 my husband was sent on an 18 month tour to Iraq.  Things were not good there, but again, we both sucked it up and knew we would get through it. He finally came home and we were struggling to adjust to him being home again. Just a few weeks after his arrival home our 3 year old son was diagnosed with cancer. Once again, although life knocked us down , we got back up and took care of our family. We were devastated, but did not dwell on it. We had 2 kids to take care of. We concentrated on our son's care and on keeping life as normal as possible for our 5 year old daughter.  I was so worried about taking care of my family, I never even thought to take care of what was going on inside of me. I had only one goal: get my family thorough this!

Soon things were looking up. Our son finished chemo and was finally done with treatment. We were so excited to just be normal. After an 18 month deployment and treatment for our son, it had been a long time since we did things like dinner at the same table or movie night on the couch. It was such a good feeling to have those simple things back again. That didn't last long.  More change was in store for our family. Although they were good changes, they were big changes that came fast.

Within months of our son finishing treatment, I became pregnant with our 3rd child and my husband got an offer for his dream job on the other side of the country from family and friends. We were once again busy dealing with the move, selling a house, buying a house, getting ready for a new baby, and dealing with the mixed feelings of moving from my family and friends while being thrilled that my husband landed his dream job that would put us back on track financially.  Cancer is not cheap. With all of this going on, I still had not dealt with my own feelings.I kept that big, brave smile on my face and would tell everyone "I'm good" when they asked.  I really thought I was good.

So here we were : new baby,  new state, new house, new life.  We were finally settled in...which gave me time to settle down and think. I was finally processing what we had all been through. My husband had to travel a lot, so I was alone with a newborn and 2 kids a lot and missing my family and friends back in Maryland. I had no family or friends nearby to talk to and I did not want to trouble my husband while he was starting a new job (although he would not have been troubled, that was just my perception).

I was never officially diagnosed, but looking back, I'm sure I had some form of depression. I don't know if it was post-partum, situational from missing my family and friends, or the feelings from deployment and cancer finally catching up to me. I was angry all the time. The only people I was nice to were my kids. I was numb and just going through the motions each day. I argued with my husband every chance I got. If people tried to befriend me, I was pleasant, but I pushed them away. I wouldn't answer the phone or the door and I wouldn't respond to invitations to get together with these awesome women who were trying to welcome me into their circle. I went to play dates so my kids could play, but I avoided getting too close to the other women. I thought that if they got to know me, then they would surely see what a mess my head was and run away screaming...so why bother.  I'm sure they thought I was a negative grump! I cried all of the time.  I didn't want my kids to see me cry, so I would hide in my closet and cry almost daily.

There were some specific moments that made me realize that something was not right with me and that I needed to do something.  Moments where I had thoughts and feelings that a woman who had the amazing life that I currently had should not think or feel. I'm still too ashamed to talk about them publicly, but maybe someday I will.

One of my closest friends, Annie,  had been asking me to start running with her. I had turned her down several times because , well, running HATED me. The feeling was mutual.  

I realized I needed to do something, so I took Annie up on her offer. Although I didn't always feel great while running, I always felt so much better after. I eventually started to add other forms of exercise, dance, yoga, and strength training. I slowly changed the way we ate and I think that has made a huge difference for all of us. Running and exercise gave me a goal. It gave me something that was ALL MINE.I had something I could take control of.  It made me feel like me again. I was HAPPY again! I was stronger and more fit. I was me again instead of the empty shell that used to be me. My family noticed a difference too. They had me back again.  It didn't happen overnight. It took time, but today I am happier than I have ever been.

Please don't think I am saying that exercise will cure depression.Like I said, I was never officially diagnosed, but I had gotten to the point where I hated who I was and couldn't stop crying. I'm simply saying that exercise helped me and it's still helping me today. I still struggle with anxiety and mood swings, but I noticed they mostly happen if I have not worked out in a few days. If I'm starting to feel down, irritable, or anxious I get in a hardcore workout and I feel better...and nicer. Lol.  For years now my husband and I have said that my workouts "knock the piss and vinegar" out of me. It's true.

Wow...that sure was wordy. I have been wanting to share since I started this blog, but was afraid. I couldn't find the right words. If you actually read the whole thing, thank you. I hope that in sharing this, I can help someone. If you would like to share your story, I would love to read it. You could leave it here in comments or you could leave a private message on my FB page .  I answer every comment and message.

Soooo, I'm still afraid to hit "publish" and share this...but here goes....

18 comments:

  1. if there was an applause key, I'd be using it now. I know how difficult it is to put yourself out there for all the world to see, but I just know there are so many woman out there, like me ... who are thanking you for it. proud of who you are and who you are becoming, my sweet friend.

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    1. Thank you Stacy! The feeling is totally mutual!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story! I admire your strength (both mental and physical)!

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  3. You are amazing for sharing this. Thank you for your story :)

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    1. Thank you Michelle...just hoping it reaches others:)

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  4. You are awesome! That is the beginning and end to it. I have only known you through your photos and blogs and FB messages, but I know you are strong and have done so much for your family. We're not meant to be perfect. We're meant to be whole.

    Also like what some poetic guy said, life is not perfect. It never will be. You just have to make the very best of it, and you have to open your heart to what the world can show you; and sometimes it's terrifying, and sometimes it's incredibly beautiful!

    You will be fine! When I come to your area, we will hang out and eat adobo, pansit, and spicy asparagus and lots of ice cream and hang out in the sun :) *Hugs* Take Care Steph ♥

    When you have come to the edge of all light that you know, And are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly ~ Patrick Overton

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    1. You are so sweet. I cannot wait to get together someday and meet IRL. What a beautiful quote! It gives me photo ideas!

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  5. LOVE the "knock the piss and vinegar" out of me.. thats awesome.. my hubs would agree.. I love this post.. just found you and I will be reading more.. its so great to know that there are others out there in the same boat.. although I don't have a husband that travels a lot.. I do have three kids.. a fat arse and a terrible attitude.. oh and a husband that works crazy hours!

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    1. So glad you are here, Jennifer! Your blog is beautiful and you are a great photographer!

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  6. Thanks for sharing! I feel like I am in a rut right now and running would probably help, I was running a lot before I got pregnant. Then I get so sick at the beginning of pregnancy I couldn't do it and never picked it up again. Anyway I am glad you shared maybe it is just the motivation I need :)

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    1. Hope you get back out there...running or whatever it is you need to do for yourself. As moms it is so easy to push our needs to the side. There is nothing wrong with a little "me time" each day. Big hugs.

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  7. Stephanie! All I can say is thank you! Thank you for opening up your heart to the world and sharing you. You never know whose life you will touch because you gave a piece of you. Mine was one of them! Sometimes when you feel like "you are the only one who...", you realize there are others out there that think the same. Keep pressing forward and remember that even in the pitch dark, you have the source to create light, even if its a pin hole. {hugs}

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  8. I'm glad you did write this all down. I'm sure it was cathartic for you but think of how helpful having this post out there in blog land may/can/will help countless other people who are feeling this way. You are brave for getting your family through all of that and even more brave and courageous to pick yourself up and do something different - something that improved your situation. You are a role model for your children. I hope to find that courage within myself some day to change my health/exercise situation. I keep thinking I will. I hope I will. But nothing has spurred me on to Just. Do. It. I will bookmark this post and come back to it for inspiration, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing it. You give me hope.

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  9. This post, like all your others, spoke straight to my heart. Life has been constant ups and downs for me. Running is one of the only things that can help me though my lowest moments. It is also the hardest for me to do, but you always inspire me to keep going. Thank you for opening up and sharing this story!

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  10. Thank you so much for being brave and sharing. I can relate so much to this post - and it gives me hope. I'm on the hate myself end of it. My husband returned 2 years ago from a year long deployment, and I'm dealing with our four kids day to day, thankfully with no serious illnesses or barriers so far - but I don't like who I am. I feel like I'm just muddling through - and I hate the thought of running, but I NEED a change in my life. I need that thing that is mine, and I need to feel good about who I am, too.
    Thank you.

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    1. My heart hurts for you. I know that feeling. I hope you find something that is yours...even if it's not physical activity...maybe it's art, music, gardening. Something that is all yours helps so much. Hang in there. You can write me anytime.

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  11. Wow, it's been a long time since I have read something so honest. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I have had some really tough moments over the past year (baby born, international move, husband getting out of the Army) and have not always dealt with it in the best way (or even dealt with it at all...that will be fun later).

    My husband and I keep talking about getting back in shape, because man...uh, where did my 22-year-old body go? That, and I know I am so much happier when I exercise. Truly, your post has given me a little kick in the butt to get a move on and stop with the woe is me attitude. Thank you.

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