Reaching out for help

I haven’t written about this before because it is such a difficult topic, but in light of recent events I think it needs to be said. I actually wrote an email to a podcast on this subject a while back because I was looking to spread the word about reaching out for help if you need it. Funny enough, I was willing to have this personal information read on a public podcast, but I wasn’t yet ready to publish it on my own blog. Things are different now. There have been a number of high visibility suicides that have left the world reeling. It is tremendously sad and we’re all left asking, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. Depression is a formidable foe. You never really know what someone is thinking or feeling, or how much they’re struggling – sometimes until it’s too late. Here is my story as I described it in my email in May.

“At the beginning of the year I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t eat right and I didn’t exercise for a long time. Finally, at the end of January, I called my doctor and told her I was depressed and admitted that I needed help. To her practice’s credit they got me an appointment that same day and I started taking Lexapro immediately. A few weeks later I felt like a new person. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since then, and I have some other subsequent medical issues that I’m dealing with, but I am doing so much better now. After fighting this battle and finally finding myself on the path to recovery I wanted to send this message to your listeners – if any of you are feeling depressed and thinking that you might need help, DO IT! Call your doctor ASAP. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t have to feel this way. You can be happy again. I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling like I was.”

I waited longer than I should have before asking for help. Unfortunately society teaches women that we are supposed to be invulnerable. We must be strong, silent, efficient, and most of all, uncomplaining. I thought I needed to power through the sadness and hopelessness because that’s just what everyone else does. But when I started talking to my friends and colleagues about my difficulties I discovered that almost every one of them has been in the same situation at one point or another. Nearly every woman I know has experienced depression and benefited from medical intervention. But before I started this conversation I had no idea! This is why we need to have an open dialogue about mental health – to normalize it enough that people know that there are readily available resources when they’re fighting depression. So if you are reading this and you’re feeling low and contemplating hurting yourself, please reach out to someone, anyone for help. Also, do not hesitate to call your doctor. You don’t have to feel this way. The world is better with you happy, healthy, and still alive.

Shutting down hate

“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post

I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.

Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslin sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.

Blogging is my self-care

Written on 5/20:
Self-care comes in many forms, both mental and physical. Tonight I sat down and wrote a long webpage post rather than doing numerous other chores that were waiting for me before the end of the weekend. And in the end, hitting publish was better for my soul than having all the little aspects of my life fully in place for Monday morning. It’s gotten very quiet in Seal Beach as midnight approaches and I know I should have gotten into bed a long time ago, but here I am with my laptop still on my lap. It brings me comfort in a way that nothing else can. Finding the words to document my thoughts and feelings is so cathartic, and it just doesn’t happen that often. The constant stresses of life often prevent me from being in the proper head space to write more than a couple of decent sentences at a time. just about every night I sit down in my final hour or so before going to sleep and hope that the words will flow into an eloquent paragraph that I can share with the world. But more often than not I find myself staring at the WordPress interface and not even knowing where to start. My brain and heart are so full, but I lack the skill or the motivation to transcribe anything meaningful. Unless there’s a new sunscreen to review – then I’m in my element! It seems so shallow to expound upon the virtues (or lack of them) of a cream or lotion that protects my annoyingly delicate skin from the ravages of the sun, but that subject has inspired so many posts. On the other hand, when it comes to my innermost workings I regularly can’t get past the blinking cursor in a blank box. That doesn’t stop me from trying though! There are probably some writing exercises that could help me with that, but I feel like I already have enough going on in my life. Currently I am endeavoring to remove all unnecessary stressors from my routine. I am giving myself permission to allow anything that doesn’t absolutely have to get done to fall by the wayside. Life is too short for nonessentials, and happiness is more important than having all my chores done. I’m nearly 40 and finally figuring out my life!

Added on 5/26:
P.S. This is remarkably eloquent considering my Ambien was kicking in when I wrote it!

Day 20 – #metoo (not food related)

I love going to Disneyland with my goddaughter and her family. (If you look in the background of the above photo you’ll see her sitting with her mom on bench of the California Adventure carousel, while her dad and I crowded the foreground of the picture.) I met her mom in a Craigslist forum more than a decade ago and we both just happened to live in the greater Los Angeles area. We even got married on the same day (to other people, with varying degrees of success). Then three or four years ago we all met in person (at Disneyland, of course), and we’ve been close ever since. I love my goddaughter so much that my heart could burst. And knowing how being female means the scales are already stacked against her devastates me.

This week many, many women (and men as well) have been using the hashtag #metoo on social media to bring awareness to the widespread nature of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had some negative experience in this arena. Some worse than others, but we are all affected at some point in our lives. I have been equally saddened by the massive outpouring of stories and awed by the bravery of the victim who shared their ordeals. Everyone needs to read these and think about how their daily interactions might affect others in an unintended way. Unfortunately I also read a shocking number of replies to these posts that either directly or indirectly blamed the victim for getting themselves into a compromising situation. Women are offered suggestions for how to avoid giving men the opportunity to harass us. Really? For example, a friend of mine mentioned how she was walking down the street and a man in a car drove past slowly and leered a her. Everyone would agree that this guy was a creep, right? But the feedback she got advised her to walk either with her husband or a dog in order to keep herself safe in her own neighborhood. No one said, “That guy is disgusting. He needs to leave women alone.” So men can behave that way without any consequence, but women need to avoid being alone to keep it from happening. Is that really what we want to teach our girls? As a single woman without a dog there is absolutely no reason that I should have to change either of those things in order to feel safe. Somehow women are the ones forced to shoulder the burden of avoiding situations where we might be in danger rather than stopping them with the perpetrator. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy into that misogynistic notion.

This is not the world I want my goddaughter to grow up in. Of course I’m realistic and I’ll tell her to be careful and think of her own safety first (that’s just practical), but I’m also going to fight to make things better for her in any way I can. I was definitely affected by all of the women and men who shared their #metoo stories this week, and I hope it opened the eyes of others as well.

P.S. This seems silly after such a diatribe, but here are today’s meals:
Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and breakfast hash (sausage, butternut squash, onion, spinach, and apple)
Snack #1 – Banana
Lunch – Salad with shredded garlic chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, shredded carrots, nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack #2 – Apple with almond butter
Dinner – Grapes (nothing else sounded good after my run)

Thank you, Old Navy

“The other day I realized that some of the new pants I ordered from Old Navy recently (during a 50% off Labor Day sale online) were feeling loose. Not like I’ve lost a full pants size yet, but I might be getting there. Will I be disappointed if all of my brand new pants don’t fit in a month? A little, but I’ll be much happier being smaller and lighter than I’ve been in about a year and a half. And running will be easier too.”
10/2/16 webpage post

“It’s official – my pants are too big. This morning as I was getting dressed for work I slipped on a pair of my favorite pants – olive green skinny jeans from Old Navy. I ordered them just a couple of months ago, about a week after I started my Nutrisystem diet. I was so excited to have started losing weight that I treated myself to some new clothes to celebrate. What I didn’t think about was those new clothes being too big for my shrinking body a few short weeks later. Even though I knew I’d been making great progress, I was still shocked when I buttoned my pants this morning and discovered how loose they are in the waist. Really baggy everywhere but the legs (this runner’s legs are muscular!). Not quite unwearable yet, but they’re getting close.”
11/9/16 webpage post

A couple of weeks ago Old Navy was having a 50% off sale on jeans. Based on the fact that most of the pants from my pre-diet days no longer fit me properly I figured it was the perfect time to restock my wardrobe. It was so satisfying selecting a smaller size when filling up my shopping cart. I’ve lost 17 lbs (and counting) since September and I look damn good. Especially now that I’m a size 4 again. Due to the very timely sale I went a little crazy and bought six new pairs of Rock Star jeans and pants to replace the ones that I can’t wear on a regular basis anymore. About a week later they finally arrived at my door I eagerly tried on every pair. The purchases were mostly a success because I decided to keep five of the six pairs. I’m so excited to have more items of clothing that fit me at my current size rather than pulling the same couple of pairs of jeans out of the drawer day after day. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. Last night I tried on all of my old size 6 pants to decide whether any of them were worth keeping. Due to the less than superior construction of Old Navy garments every one fits a little differently even though the tags all have the same size printed on them. I’m not quite ready to donate all of the old pants yet, especially my beloved corduroys (winter will last a while longer here in LA), so I’m going to try throwing them in the dryer to see if I can shrink them just a little bit. Not that I have any place to store both the old and new pairs, though. I know it’s a first world problem, but I’m really going to miss my favorite purple pants if I have to get rid of them!

Don’t go breaking my heart

Life is hard. That being said, I know that I am incredibly fortunate. I have a wonderful family, I have friends that I can’t live without, and I’m an educated professional with a good job. Plus, on a more personal note, I’m strong, self-sufficient, confident, not unattractive (on my good days), and generally a good person. When describing myself I usually use self-deprecating language, but if I’m honest, most of the time I think I’m pretty awesome. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, but that doesn’t mean that I have everything that I want. It’s human nature to want more out of life and I’m no exception to that rule. Luckily my heart is not as fragile as it used to be. I’ve gotten stronger with every distressing situation that I’ve had to live through. I’ve survived hardships that most people don’t even know about, but they’ve made me who I am today. And in spite of all the tears I’ve shed and all of the hurt I’ve endured, I wouldn’t change anything that brought me to this moment in my life. I have a lot to give and I just need to figure out where the journey is going to take me next.

2016 resolutions revisited

For a lot of people 2016 was a dumpster fire. And that was in addition to the disaster that was the presidential election, which I still haven’t written about, and the heartbreak of losing so many important cultural icons. Aside from those unfortunate events, this year was actually pretty good for me. I am one of the lucky ones. However, when I look back at my 2016 resolutions it doesn’t look quite so positive! I thought I avoided setting myself up for failure by making a small enough number of seemingly achievable resolutions, but it looks like I misjudged. A lot changed for me in 2016 so the grand ideas I had in January weren’t valid later in the year. Fortunately that’s not a bad thing, but it still makes me look like a failure when looking at my list of resolutions.

Resolution #1: Track my running differently
Success! I got my first Garmin GPS watch (a Forerunner 220) for Christmas last year and I started using it to track my running even before 2016 started. And it has been amazing. Being able to see my current distance and time at a glance without pulling my phone out of my pocket is incredibly convenient while training. Also, the Garmin Connect feature stores all of my data so I can look back and see how much progress I’ve made over the last twelve months. (I’ll create a plot of my monthly mileages to share when the year is officially over.) I switched over to my new Forerunner 235 watch with a built-in heart rate monitor a few days ago and I absolutely love it. After only a year I’d be lost without my GPS watch. Here’s to another year of meeting and beating my running goals!

Resolution #2: No more McDonald’s
Failure! I even had McDonald’s for dinner tonight on my way home from the gym. I must admit that these days I have an Egg McMuffin at least once a week, usually after finishing a long run on the weekends. I’m always famished shortly after a long run so I need protein and carbs, and I need them fast. In addition, when my Wednesday night marathon training runs started getting longer I began grabbing McDonald’s for dinner afterwards. In spite of this apparent fiasco I do not feel guilty about being a frequent McDonald’s patron. When it comes to fast food, an Egg McMuffin is one of the best choices I could make. And on an even more positive note I’ve greatly mitigated the unhealthiness of my usual meal by switching from regular soda to diet. So even though on a superficial level it looks like I crashed and burned with respect to this resolution I couldn’t care less. I’m in much better shape at the end of 2016 than I was at the beginning so there’s no use stressing about such a small indulgence!

Resolution #3: Revamp dinners
Failure! The original intention of this resolution was to keep me from eating something outrageously unhealthy for dinner, like handfuls of Cheez-Its straight from the box. Even if I wasn’t having something homemade for my evening meal I wanted to transition to “real food” and away from my destructive habit of heavy snacking. In that sense I suppose I’ve been somewhat successful, but not in the way I planned at the beginning of the year. I owe my weight loss over the last four months to Nutrisystem, but that also means that I’ve been relying on pre-made food for most of my dietary needs. I know I can’t do that forever, though. Next month I’m going to evolve this resolution and add it to my list of goals for 2017 as I start cooking for myself again and working on some additional weight loss (and eventual weight maintenance). The diet struggle continues!

Resolution #4: Train for a marathon
Success! Tomorrow morning is my last training run of 2016, and my last long run (8 miles) before the Walt Disney World Marathon which is just nine days away! Holy cow! Next week I only have three very short runs on my calendar as I close out the taper portion of my training plan, and then I leave for Orlando on Friday. Believe it or not, I haven’t missed a single training run (thank goodness for relatively good health), and I’ve actually overachieved on my required mileage due to the myriad of races I was signed up for this fall. I knew when I started this journey that it wouldn’t be easy, so I am really proud of myself for following through. I can’t believe how strong I feel right now! I don’t expect the marathon next weekend to be easy, but I know I’m prepared and I can’t wait to cross the start line. And then hopefully cross the finish line too!

See my post from earlier this month for details on Resolution #5 (Weight training/cross training) and Resolution #6 (Fit into my old clothes). Luckily for me these were two unexpected successes to close out 2016. Here’s to an even more successful 2017!

An earned medal – Beach Cities Challenge 2016

“So I got my Beach Cities Challenge medal in October, but I must admit that I didn’t really earn it.”
12/20/15 webpage post

On October 9th I got my second Beach Cities Challenge medal, but this time I earned it. In May 2015 I had a co-worker run the OC half marathon for me because I wasn’t healthy enough to run it myself when the race rolled around. So when I picked up my Beach Cities Challenge medal that October I felt like a fraud. To make up for it I vowed to do better in 2016 – and I did! This year I successfully completed the Surf City half marathon, the Orange County half marathon, and the Long Beach half marathon, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ve already written webpage posts about the Surf City half marathon 2016 and the OC half marathon 2016 so I won’t rehash those here. The Long Beach half marathon 2016 was by far the best anyway. By October I had a few things going for me – 1) I’d been training consistently for about 5 months, including over a month of marathon training, 2) I’d lost weight, and 3) I’d already earned a new half marathon PR at the Disneyland half marathon in September. Due to the unusually high temperatures that weekend (similar to the year before) I had no time goal for the Long Beach half, but my running buddy was more ambitious. So we did our best, running as fast as we dared before hitting the most challenging portion of the course. From about mile 6.5 to about mile 9.5 the race follows a walkway on the beach with no shade for protection from the sun, which was high in the sky when we got there. It was not fun, but we survived without slowing down too much. And after that we had to tackle the uphill stretch that led to the finish line. We slowed down a bit there due to the weather and probably some dehydration. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race! I didn’t check my watch until after we were done, but at that point I discovered that I had earned a new PR – 2:34:18! We didn’t quite meet my running buddy’s goal, but we did pretty well in the heat. I was more than satisfied. And along with my half marathon medal I collected 2016 Beach Cities Challenge medal with pride. I had earned it this year! And I already have plans to complete the challenge again next year. Maybe running one of the full marathons even? We’ll see!

P.S. My current half marathon PR is actually 2:27:44 at the Avengers half marathon in November. Marathon training has done wonders for my personal records!

20 miles

Today my marathon training plan reached its zenith when I successfully completed a 20 mile run. I was anxious about it all week since I’d never run that far before, but this morning I pushed all of my worries aside as I got ready to go. My usual running buddies were going with me so I knew I could count on them to keep me from being nervous as we racked up the miles. Since a storm came through Los Angeles on Thursday it was quite chilly this morning when we set out on the San Gabriel River path at 6:45 AM. The temperature was in the upper 30s so I had not just my arm warmers, but a pair of gloves too. These Southern California ladies were cold for the first few miles! I took the gloves off after about 2 miles and tucked them into my belt, but I wore the arm warmers for 6 miles, which is unprecedented. Much to my surprise I felt great during a majority of the run and I know the winter weather contributed to that. I guess the strict training plan that I’ve stuck to for the last fifteen weeks has really paid off! I didn’t even start to feel tired until after the half marathon mark which was a miracle. It did get a lot warmer during the slightly over 4 hours that it took us to finish the 20 miles (my average pace was 12:01 min/mile). I started feeling pretty toasty as I got near the end and the lack of shade on the river path didn’t help either. Luckily I kept the nausea at bay that plagued me as I wrapped up my 18 mile run two weeks ago. Diluting my sports drink and alternating between caffeinated Gu gels and non-caffeinated ones made all the difference. I’m glad I figured these things out before the marathon next month. Is the Walt Disney Marathon really only three weeks away? Holy cow! Looking back at the beginning of my running journey in 2013 I never would have imagined that I’d run 20 miles in preparation for a marathon. But here I am, with a completely successful 20 mile run behind me, and I think I’m just about ready! I’m excited!

It’s official

It’s official – my pants are too big. This morning as I was getting dressed for work I slipped on a pair of my favorite pants – olive green skinny jeans from Old Navy. I ordered them just a couple of months ago, about a week after I started my Nutrisystem diet. I was so excited to have started losing weight that I treated myself to some new clothes to celebrate. What I didn’t think about was those new clothes being too big for my shrinking body a few short weeks later. Even though I knew I’d been making great progress, I was still shocked when I buttoned my pants this morning and discovered how loose they are in the waist. Really baggy everywhere but the legs (this runner’s legs are muscular!). Not quite unwearable yet, but they’re getting close. As of today I’ve lost 13 lbs since Labor Day and I couldn’t be happier. The number on the scale this morning was a bit of a surprise because I ate quite indulgently while I was in Arkansas over the weekend. My cousin is a great cook and we also went to a couple of delicious restaurants. Luckily I didn’t gain any weight while eschewing my diet for a few days. Phew! The above photo is from the Rock N Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on October 30th. Don’t I look great so far? Seeing results makes sticking with my plan so much easier. Looks like I’ll be buying some new pants for my thinner self on Black Friday!

P.S. I started a post regarding the results of yesterday’s election, but it’s not ready yet because I haven’t fully processed my feelings on the subject. Today I’ve alternated between anger and sadness, but I think I’m still basically in shock. I simply cannot comprehend how our country got here. Maybe I’ll be able to put my thoughts into words more eloquently soon.