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....
Posted by Stephanie Smith at Tuesday, April 03, 2012