Thursday, May 10, 2018

Absolute Chaos

Generally I like to keep my blog posts and the things I share positive, up-beat, encouraging.  If I can't be positive, I'm at least more factual and sorta leave most emotion out of it...nowadays anyway.  I don't generally add too many details and try to keep our lives pretty private.  But this last week has been nothing but chaos, and I need to reach out and also vent!  So here come the facts, details, and emotions right along with them.  For the sake of this post, and the respect and privacy of my husband and his girls, I will not be discussing their business, which is also a big part of the chaos.... I will only post about mine and my boys'.

The school year is coming to an end and the kids are about burnt out on school work for the year.  They're getting restless and ready to have a nice, long summer break.  So it's only expected that some behavior issues will come up in these last couple weeks of school.  They have every other year, and they get dealt with accordingly.

Andy is doing well and there has been no issue with his behavior besides the typical teenage attitude and wanting to pretend rules don't apply to him.  But he keeps to himself for the most-part, isn't an overly-social kid, and is happy to read his books or watch YouTube.

Cory has been doing okay, pretty quiet and also keeps to himself.  Very into a few select mobile games, and YouTube, as well. He doesn't really like to get up and do much of anything, so that is definitely something we need to work on.  Even if it's just a walk around the block once a day!

Evan had been doing much better - though he has suffered from lifelong bouts of rage and uncontrolled anger.  He was finally on some meds that were helping and seeing a therapist regularly.  The therapist had been reporting to me that he had been engaging and doing well for the first time.  His grades haven't been great, but his behavior has been acceptable at school, so that was definitely and improvement from last year.  He's had a couple moderate tantrums in the last couple months, but Sunday night he went all-out rage...

Cory and Evan share a room.  And about an hour after they went to bed, I was outside with Jarrod and we both heard them screaming at each other.  I came running into the house to find that Evan was just tapping and annoying Cory.  Nothing worth raging or screaming over for sure.  But I explained twice to them both that since they share a room, they need to be able to have respect for one another, and not make noises that annoy each other, especially at bedtime.  Evan continued tapping.  I told him if he wanted to continue to be disrespectful, I would take away his electronics privileges for a week.  He didn't stop, just continued while glaring at me.  So I said ok, 1 week.  He screamed obscenities at me (also VERY off limits to speak to anyone that way, but especially parents).  I said ok, 2 weeks.  He screamed worse obscenities.  We went back and forth until I got up to 2 months, all the while I was staying calm (miraculously).  He then, rather than screaming, kicked his pedestal fan into the TV he and Cory shared.  I said really Evan, you're going to break another fan and the TV?  So he got up out of bed and bashed the TV with the fan on purpose until there was a hole in the TV screen entirely.  Then I called the police to come calm Evan, or possibly take him to the ER for psych treatment.  Then.... he threw a piece of the broken fan at me.

**Let me take a moment here to say in all the years he's been having these extreme tantrums where he breaks things and throws things around, he's never intentionally hit me with anything but a pillow.  Ever.  He's jumped up and down on fans, his belongings, he's thrown things through walls, punched and kicked through walls, broken doors and door frames, torn up papers and cardboard, and much more.  But he's never gotten physically violent with me.**

So, this time, he threw the heavy base part of this fan directly at my head.  I deflected it.  Then I grabbed ahold of him to restrain him because I could tell he wasn't done attempting to hurt me or break things.  I wrapped my arms around from behind him so as to hold his arms down and keep him from breaking anything else or hurt me or Cory.  He used his right hand to reach over his left shoulder and try to grab my throat.  That didn't work.  So he tried biting the arm that was around the right side of his chest.  That didn't work.  So he tried faking suffocation, which I didn't believe for a second because I'm not that heavy anymore.  When I told him I didn't believe him he crawled away with me still wrapped around him, and tried head-butting me by throwing his head back violently.  I tucked my head into the back of his left shoulder, so that didn't work either.  But all this while, he was inching closer and closer to the fan pieces, and I knew there was a heavy metal pole in the middle of it all.  It was all I had in me to keep him back from that, and when I thought I might lose grip, I screamed for Jarrod who was entirely unaware of what was going on.  He had been outside putting out the bonfire we had been enjoying previous to this incident.  He came running in just as Evan grabbed my phone and threw it against the wall, and it bounced.  Jarrod told me the officer was there, and let him in.  I was able to release my grip on Evan, and the police office talked him down.

I was shook.  Never in my life have I been in a physical altercation with ANYONE, let alone my own 13-year old son.  Never have I ever had someone try to physically harm me.  I was emotionally hurt, confused, scared for his future now that he'd done that to me, and conflicted.

After a few minutes the police officer came around the corner into the room I had gone into and told me Evan was calm and that he was going to leave now.  I corrected him by saying Evan was absolutely not allowed to stay in our home anymore.  That this was not the first time he had an extreme meltdown, and with the added physical violence, I no longer trusted him.  The police officer tried to pooh-pooh my story and reduced it quite a lot, telling me he only handled criminal concerns and he didn't consider this to be breaking the law!!  After more pushing, the officer agreed to escort Evan to the local ER for psych placement.

Once I met them at the ER, the doctors and nurses dealt with Evan on their own, not allowing me to go back and be with him, which I was very okay with.  I really didn't want to be around him at that point, and was very close to pressing charges and sending him away.  But I hesitated.  I cried about hs life being ruined, and decided rather than see that he's thrown into a juvenile detention center, I wanted him to get help.  He's usually such a loving, caring, intelligent, active and awesome kid.  He's a totally different person when he's in a rage.  So I firmly stated I wanted him to have a psych placement.  He stayed in that ER from Sunday night at 10:30 pm until Wednesday afternoon at 4:00pm waiting for a bed to open up at a psychiatric facility for adolescents.  He was in a tiny room with a gurney and a medical tray for an end-table.  A window in the door, and nothing else.  Over the days I took him a couple books, a blanket from home, and sat and watched a little Netflix with him.  But he was mostly alone.

As of yesterday he was admitted to a psych unit nearly 3 hours drive away from home.  I met him there once they said they would transfer him, and got all the admission paperwork filled out, only to find out their policy is to "evaluate and stabilize."  Meaning he will be inpatient for 3-5 days and then sent right back home.  I was very upset by that news.  Not only is it a very long drive, and he's very far from home, but he won't be there long enough for them to even see any range of emotion or mood swings from him.  It would likely take weeks or a couple months for him to have a full-on rage like that around new people.  So they will never see what I see.  And in turn, he will never be treated accordingly because for some reason the professionals don't like to believe me, though I am always very straight-forward with the facts.

Evan in the ER waiting for psych placement.  He was in pretty good spirits once his rage passed.
So far, I have gotten a call this morning saying they are discontinuing all his meds and giving him entirely different ones.  They are giving him medications specifically for mood issues and anger.  I know what they are, and exactly what they treat, but I'm not going to share those details.  But I will say I've been suggesting this type of treatment for about 4 years (and he's been having rage issues since he was 4 years old), and I feel it's about time someone caught on!  He will come home sometime next week and I'm very curious to see what kind of improvement these medications will make with him.

This is his second admit to inpatient psych care, the first of which was last August.  If this comes up again, I will be looking into long-term care.  In fact I'm already working on lining it up for when we need it.

The chaos doesn't end with kid stuff.

Jarrod and I are also less than a week away from driving to Oklahoma for his vasectomy reversal.  So we have that trip and his recovery to look forward to.  He seems to think he will be able to work shortly after, and I'm begging him to take at least 3 days so he doesn't damage the work the surgeon will be doing.  I'll be stepping up my hours if I can, so I can try to make up for the time he is taking off.  I just want it to go smoothly so we can become pregnant naturally.

Like I said, there are things with his girls going on too that are quite emotionally taxing.  But I won't go into that.  It's just all mixed in with Evan's issues, our travels, and my health issues as well....

Back in September I had a breast reduction.  It was a pretty drastic reduction and some of the risks included losing sensation, losing nipples, infections, and fat necrosis.  All incisions healed well, and I've liked the lack of pain in my back and shoulders due to the reduction in weight on my chest.  However a couple months ago I complained to my surgeon about a lump in the upper part of my right breast.  Its a hard lump and it was a little painful.  He examined it and said it was likely breast tissue that hadn't settled into place yet, and to give it some more time.  I accepted that answer and moved on. 

A couple weeks ago I was dealing with a second tonsil abscess/cellulitis (not sure which or maybe both?), and was on strong antibiotics for 20 days.  (That's a whole story in itself too, we're looking at a possible tonsillectomy if it recurs again). During that time, the lump in my breast reduced quite a bit and was all but gone.  I was happy about that side effect and didn't give it much more thought.  But once my antibiotics were gone, a few days passed and the lump came back.  But it didn't just stop with coming back, it came back times about 10.  It is much larger now, deep, very painful, and causing redness on the skin where it hurts.  I went back to my surgeon about it and he put me on stronger antibiotics and told me if it didn't get better, or if it got worse, to call him and we would do an ultrasound to see what's going on in there.  This was on Monday... today is Thursday and it is certainly worse.  I called and told him and he just said continue the antibiotics for now, take Ibuprofen which I was already doing, and use a heating pad a couple times per day.  I really hope that helps, because this very strong antibiotic is kicking my ass!  My whole body is sore and I'm so lethargic.  This lump is scare and quite frankly I'm afraid it's fat necrosis - which would mean another surgery.  I'm so tired of surgeries, and their recovery times.  I just want to be healthy and live my life!!!

And the icing on the cake - next month my mom and I have planned a vacation.  I will be gone with her for about a week.  I'm concerned about my breast needing surgery or some other drastic treatment by then - will I be healed or able to enjoy the beach?  Concerned about Evan's behavior and what sort of supervision I can find for him while Jarrod works, because he certainly shouldn't be left unattended at this point in time.  Concerned about finances even though I think we're okay there, worried anyway about taking time off work... and just not sure if I can make it an actual vacation where I'm not worried about everything that's going on back at home when there's nothing I can do to help.  Plus I don't like the idea of being away from my entire family that long. 

*Deep breath*  l don't know...  Life is crazy right now.  I'd love if things could just calm down, fall into place, I could get healthy, Jarrod recovers well, Evan can get the help he needs and function the way he needs to, the girls could also be in a place of happiness and serenity, and the vacation can just go off as planned.

Thankfully, I have some good support for help with "babysitting," good conversation, and advice with my best friend Amber, and with my mom.  And even though everything is so upside down and chaotic, I couldn't imagine a better husband to stand beside through it all.  We make a pretty damn good team, he and I.  I don't know where I'd be without him.

Friday, April 20, 2018

I'm Here, and I'm Thankful

Pretty much my whole life I've wanted to get out of my hometown.  But that's normal, right?  As a kid/teen you think you're going to grow up and spread your wings, leave the nest, and make a life for yourself elsewhere.  "Anywhere but here!" That has been my mindset for as long as I can remember.  My mom moved us to this town when I was 5, and we were poor.  We lived in a terrible apartment complex, full of other low-income families.  I don't know why, but for some reason I always felt like I was above the people I lived amongst.  Not to be offensive to anyone, but I truly did have more potential than the majority of them.  I'm more intelligent, capable.  But my station in life, the lifestyle I was surrounded by, had an effect on my motivation.  My drive for better.  Growing up in poverty, surrounded by addicts and losers definitely doesn't help anyone reach their potential.  Well... it didn't help ME, anyway.  We lived in those apartments for over 7 years.  My best friend from that period of time has since struggled with addictions her whole life.  Some of my other friends from then have been in trouble with the law, in and out of jail, and have lost their kids, even lost their lives.  I'm telling you, it was a bad way to live.  I don't know how I turned out differently, but I am so very thankful I did. 

Me and my best childhood friend
When I was 12, my mom got married and we moved to a much smaller town where our house was out in the country.  I hated it.  We had gotten out of my hometown, but in my opinion it was worse.  I had no friends, and the community was so small, and our life had been so poor up until that point, that there was no way I was going to fit in or be accepted by anyone in my age group.  Over time, I found a couple other outcasts to hang out with, but overall, those were probly some of the worst years of my youth. 

When I was 16, there was some stuff going on at home I was not okay with, and I moved in with my dad in a bigger town, closer to Des Moines.  Immediately I was happier.  I found a crowd immediately.  I had friends, things to do, opportunities, and teachers who recognized my potential rather than just my differences.  I was able to set my own path.  I could have done anything.  But I didn't.  After high school I wanted to take a year off, then pursue art college.  But during that year off, I fell back into the state from the environment in which I had been raised.  No motivation.  I hopped from dead-end job to dead-end job.  I had a couple failed relationships.  My friends fell away into their own lives.  And I stagnated. 

I ended up going back to my mom's at age 20, and back to my hometown at 21.  And I've been here ever since, with several more attempts at leaving.  I got married to the wrong man.  I had babies.  He and I tried to move to North Carolina, just to get set up and basically robbed by the landlord we had agreed to rent from.  I had to have my mom send me money so we could make it back home.  I tried not only once, but twice to live near my newly-found biological father in Arkansas.  But he was worse news than the place where I grew up.  Drug addicted and abusive to his family.  So right back home. 

I got a divorce.  I lost friends and even a boyfriend to accidents and health issues.  I had a few small, short-lived jobs.  I had several failed relationships, including a second failed marriage.  Thankfully, I never fell into any addictions, but after all that I had been through I had severe social anxiety, clinical depression, I was unhealthy and overweight, and had such a low self-esteem and self-worth that I considered suicide often.  I felt like my kids would be better off without my influence.  I couldn't keep a job due to my mental issues.  I was poor and on welfare.  I had fallen into the hole I never should have fallen into.  I was better than that.  I'm more intelligent than that.

Then, though for the wrong reasons, I was inspired to change.  I started seeing a therapist often.  I started telling her all of my fears and anxieties, all of my negative thoughts and self-worth issues.  She helped me change my self-talk into more positive things.  She helped me realize that though some of my fears were rational, they were improbable and that I needed to focus on more positive things in my life.  I got a very small, part-time kennel cleaning job on weekends at a vet clinic, working alone (no co-workers).  That job, over time, turned into working with the Veterinarian on Saturdays only, which then turned into a little more and a little more.  Until finally though gradual comfort with my environment and intense therapy, I was able to keep a full-time job.  That boosted my self-esteem, which enabled me to start a healthier lifestyle and lose weight.  And everything has been uphill from there.

Weight Loss SUCCESS!
A couple of years ago, my ex and I were able to take the kids on a family vacation to Florida for our first trip to see the ocean.  I absolutely fell in LOVE, from the bottom of my soul, with the ocean.  And since then I have been on a path to get there.  Back into the mindset of "getting out of here."  It's true, I still don't like this town that I've been living in all these years.  One might argue that the things I don't like in this town will be in any town.  That is partially true.  However, all the negative memories I have here, such as the apartments where I grew up, the people I've lost, the bad memories from failed relationships and friendships, the heartache and anxiety.... it's all still here for me.  I've been elsewhere, if even for brief periods of time, where I didn't have those things in my shadow all the time.  So I know it can be better for me elsewhere.

Pensacola, Florida - our trip to the ocean
But....

If I had left all of the times I'd had the opportunity, if I'd gone to North Carolina and stayed, or Arkansas and stayed, or Florida and stayed.  Or even if I'd just stayed closer to Des Moines.... I wouldn't have what I have now.

Today, I am married to the man of my dreams.  Today, I have 3 amazing sons, and 3 amazing step-daughters, who I love very much.  And we are planning to have more babies soon!  Today, I am working full-time (more or less) and helping to support this family.  My husband and I together have financial stability.  Today, my health is great, my weight is stable, I no longer need therapy, and I'm certainly not suicidal.  Sure, I have my bad days where I still struggle with the fact that I'm still in this damn town.  But honestly, when it comes right down to the bottom of it all, I am thankful that I am still here.  If I hadn't stayed here, I would have nothing that I have today.  And maybe someday, once the kids are grown, my husband and I can move somewhere else together.  Because I'd never want to go anywhere without him.  But as much as I have hated this town, it IS my home.  It has taken me over 30 years to accept that, but there it is.  Newton, Iowa is my home.  It is the home to my mom, my family, and my currently very happy life.  And for that, finally, I am grateful.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Health & Weight Struggles

As a child and growing up, I was always a normal weight, if not slightly under-weight.  I could eat more than I needed, and my metabolism was as such that I burned off all the calories.  I played outside, and was a normal, active child.  Even into my teens my weight maintained a healthy level.  I was weight/height proportionate and healthy.

Me at age 16
Once I got out of my teens and turned 20, I started gaining a little.  It was most likely from graduating high school and living a less active life.  I still worked full-time most of the time, but I didn't have P.E. to keep me active anymore, and I didn't do much if I wasn't at work.

Me at age 20, with my sister and my mom's dog, Worf.
It wasn't until I was 21 and got pregnant with my first child, Andy, that I really started gaining weight.  I gained over 50 pounds with that pregnancy, and was very sedentary during and after having Andy.  I decided to stay home with him during his first years, and become a shut-in.  I didn't leave the house much, didn't do much.  I got up to 285 pounds (and I'm 5'8").  That was in 2002.

Me and Andy, shortly after his birth
Then I got pregnant with my second child, Evan.  That pregnancy was hard on me most likely because I already had a hard time getting around due to my weight.  But once he was born in 2004, I dropped a bunch of weight fairly quickly and got down into the 220s.

Me with baby Evan and Andy
Then, within just 3 months, I was pregnant again with my third, Cory.  I gained all the weight back with that pregnancy, and there it stayed.  I got my tubes tied when I had Cory in 2005.  I planned on taking my body back and trying to get back to being who I was before I became a reclusive stay-at-home mom.  That proved to be a very hard and long journey.... since by that point I'd been a shut-in so long that I had severe social anxiety, clinical depression, and a host of other self-esteem related issues.

Me and my 3 boys
I struggled, wanting to take weight back off for many years.  I tried very brief crash diets, where I'd go without one thing or another for a while.  I'd go without soda for a week or a month.  Or I'd cut out red meat.  Nothing ever worked.  And it seemed every time I tried to make something work, I'd actually end up gaining a couple pounds.  It was very discouraging, so most of the time I was in "I give up" mode and just ate and drank whatever I wanted.  I saw how big I had gotten in the mirror off and on, but most of the time I didn't really acknowledge how bad it was.  I had a LOT of body pains.  My back, my shoulders, my hips, and just my muscles overall.  I hovered around in the 260s for a while, and finally when I couldn't take the pain of life anymore, I saw a doctor about it.  

My doctor tried suggesting a few things for a while, and everytime I came back to see her, I'd tell her how unsuccessful I'd been.  Looking back I'm not really sure what I thought I was doing to help.  My doctor told me she'd love for me to see a nutritionist, but my health insurance wouldn't cover it and it was NOT cheap.  And as I was still struggling with severe anxiety so I was unable to work much, if at all.

Finally after a couple of years of this, my doctor had a work-around suggestion for me.  She said if I went to a specialist for bariatric weight loss surgery, the program would include counseling from a nutritionist and if successful, I wouldn't have to actually go through with the surgery.  So that is what I did.  

In January of 2016 I began seeing Stef Noun at Surgical Associates in Grinnell, IA.  At my initial consultation appointment I was 270 pounds.  She got me started down the track to have a gastric sleeve surgery.  She gave me very clear instructions on what foods to eat, and what to strictly limit or avoid.  She told me how to moderate what I did have, and how to drastically increase my water consumption.  She set me up with a psychologist and a surgeon for consultations with them as well.  And I was required to keep monthly appointments and go through their entire program.  At first, I didn't want to actually go through with the surgery.  I thought I could do it myself.  But after a couple months of slow weight loss, I started to be more willing to follow the program on the track to surgery.

Me in 2013 - in the middle of my worst weight struggles
By July 2016, only 6 months after starting my weight loss journey with Stef and the Surgical Associates team, by following their very clear instructions on how to nourish my body, I had lost over 40 pounds and disqualified myself from bariatric surgery.  I was so proud of myself!!

In the 230s range!
Not long after that I went through a breakup that turned into a divorce, and I plateaued.  I got down to about 225 and really didn't lose any more.  But since I had so much loose skin from the quick weight loss, my weight loss team submitted my case for skin removal surgery and I was approved by insurance.  I had a Panniculectomy (the removal of the hanging skin around the waist line) on March 23, 2017.  That surgery alone took approximately 10 pounds off of me just in skin and excess fat.  Once recovered, I was between 210-215 pounds.

Before weight loss - after weight loss and Panniculectomy
In the above photo I was still recovering from surgery so I was wearing my big, baggy clothes still.  The surgery really made a drastic difference.  However, as I healed, I became less and less satisfied with my results.  My bellybutton was off-center, and my belly in general was very asymmetrical, and I wanted it fixed.

I maintained my 210-215 lbs weight for months.  By autumn I was submitted and approved for breast reduction surgery.  I was denied for the Panniculectomy revision so I ended up being stubborn about wanting the fix and paying for that extra part of the surgery out-of-pocket.  That surgery took place on September 1, 2017.

Right around 205 lbs, after my Panniculectomy revision and breast reduction, November 2017
Since that surgery, I have been quite happy with my physical appearance, physical health and comfort, and self-image.  In fact in that last picture, above, I was VERY happy with how far I'd come and my surgical results.  I had maintained pretty well up until the last couple of months, too.  But nothing seems to be permanent with me.  And that's why this post's title sites struggles.  

As of today I weigh 220 pounds.  That is a 20 pound gain from my very lowest weight this past October.  Jarrod and I together have fallen into a very bad pattern of habits surrounding food, and though I'm seeing the results of those poor choices, and I know I need to change, I find that I am severely lacking the willpower to make the change back to the healthy habits that got me this far.  I know I can do it!  That is how I lost so much weight to begin with.  And with the poor habits my body has adjusted to over the last couple months, if I was to just buckle down and eat the way I did in 2016, I know I would lose this 20 pounds (and probly more) rather quickly.  I could easily be down to my desired goal of 185 in 4-6 months.  My problem is, I'm not doing it alone anymore.  I can change my own habits, but I will be exposed to those of Jarrod's several times per day, and my kids' constantly.  Jarrod isn't struggling the way I am, in fact he's still losing.  So he doesn't necessarily need to change.  Its all ME.  

So what I need to do: separate myself emotionally from the food.  I need to refocus on nourishing my body for fuel and function rather than focusing on what tastes good in the moment.  I need to dial down my portions again, even if I am eating in a social situation.  I need to get out of this mindset of "if I don't eat this now, it will be gone later and I won't get any."  With so many people in the house its hard to save anything for later.  But I know that overeating is not going to help me, and I can always buy more if whatever it is I'm wanting is gone.

I CANNOT gain any more of my weight back.  After how far I've come, after the surgeries and recovery time I've put into this, to gain back now would be such a shameful thing for me.  Not to mention how horribly it would crumble my self-esteem.  

So as of today:
  • I will reduce my portion a very considerable amount - like maybe by 1/2.
  • I will not eat Pizza Hut food from work.
  • I will focus more on protein and vegetables and more strictly limit carbs.
  • I will drink a minimum of 80 oz of water per day.
  • I will not eat after 8pm.
  • I will begin again using MyFitnessPal and restricting my calories to 1250 calories per day until I get down to my goal of 185 lbs... At which point I will just track my diet and activity until I know where the balance is to maintain.
  • And ideally I'd like to work out more.  At this point I'm going to have to start at square one again and start going on walks and work up to more.  But ANY more activity than I do now will help, and I know that.
I've been talking about my backslide in some of my Facebook posts and my private journal quite a lot lately, saying I'm going to get back on track and change.  But my weight today being 220 was a huge slap in the face.  I can't go down this road when I know what it takes to stay healthy.  There are no excuses.  

Not to mention, I'm hoping to have another baby soon since I had a tubal ligation reversal this month.  So I need to learn balance in health so I can be as healthy as possible during my pregnancy and take the baby weight back off after my pregnancy as well.  There's no time like the present!