Health · Uncategorized

I want to be there….

Many of my close friends and family know the last four weeks I’ve been on a transforming life journey. Here I am, almost 30, finally seeing my life come together. I finally have a job I love, friends I can trust and rely on, full familial support, a healthy son and husband, and I am working towards complete financial security also. It has taken me a long time to get here, but here I am. The only thing missing has been my health. I take, on average, 5-7 different medications, daily. I am tired, all the time. I sleep, all the time. Despite my sunny disposition and ‘you can do it’ attitude, my body has been failing me for years, especially the last few months. The worst feeling in the world is for your brain to say, ‘let’s go do this,’ and your body to say, ‘hell no, go back to sleep.’ It creates a depression and begins to negatively impact every aspect of your world.

During the night of April 7th, I finally decided, with the support of a friend, enough is enough. I hit my rock bottom so to say. My health is declining, my waist size inclining, my mood inconsistent and my energy unreliable. Every part of what is inside of me is being forced to the background by pain and no one can explain ‘why.’ I’ve been to a rhuematologist, a neurologist, my primary care, and optomologist, spent thousands of dollars for answers, taken every pill they’ve handed me, and still, I’m no better than I started. So I started looking at how I live, day to day.

My life is relatively sedentary. I work in a call center. My son and husband are both gamers and relatively ‘indoor’ type people. I’m not exercising and I’m not eating right. Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” I started re-thinking the way I had been eating and living and decided a change needed to happen and I had to start somewhere. I signed up for my first 5k to benefit a cause near and dear to my heart, Autism. I ran that 5k after having not run a race in over 2 years, and having not ran at all in over a year. I ran on very little sleep and poor nutrition. I ran on sheer determination and will, and the absolute belief I will beat whatever is holding my body back.

After finishing that 5k, I signed up for another, then another, and today I completed my third 5k.

Exercise is great and important, but diet is vital. So I started doing research. I came across several documentaries on NetFlix about where our food comes from and alternate eating patterns. I watched Joe Cross on Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and decided then, I am going to incorporate more vegetables in my diet. I went out after work and bought a juicer and have started every day the last 6 days with a glass of Mean Green. After watching Vegucated, I’ve cut meat out of my diet. I can still see how the animals are being slaughtered and feel the damage done to our environment by their manufacturing and I want no part of it. The abuse that happens to not only the animals, but the humans who work in those factories is appalling. It’s not the life I want. I’ve lived the way mainstream society says is correct and I take 7 medications to prove it. After all, the medical field doesn’t want healthy people, they can’t make any money off them. One news anchor said, ‘they want the person who is alive, sort of, with one or more chronic diseases,’ because, that is where they make their money.

I’ve ate all the foods I’ve been told to eat for so long and never gotten better, so now I’m trying a different way. I’m choosing to bypass meat so I am not contributing to the destruction of our planet and the inhumane treatment of animals. I’m not saying I’ll never eat meat again, if I can find a local farmer who treats their animals humanely and slaughters them in a way that doesn’t lead to me eating all the stress hormones they released before they met their fate, then I may consider meat again. My eyes have been opened. I am changing my life because I want to be there for my son. I want to see him grow up and grow older. I want to see what adulthood has in store for him. If his autism prevents him from living alone, I want to be healthy enough to be a support and not a burden. I don’t want it to take 8 full grown men to carry my casket because I let my weight go so badly. I don’t want to hurt anymore. I don’t want to give all my money to doctors anymore. I don’t want to label my lifestyle as something I’m ‘trying to do’ or ‘trying to be,’ I’m not saying that I will be 100% Vegan, but I sure as heck will be closer to Vegan than not. Yes, this change has happened suddenly, and I’m all in. Most importantly, I don’t judge you for not living this way. These are my choices and these are my ‘why’s.’ I am more than willing to share what I’ve learned and support you in the decisions you’ve made. I do ask you respect this choice and understand how important it is to me, even if it is not to you. At the end of the day, I’m doing what I feel is best for me and my body, because in 30 years, when Trenton gets to wherever he’s going or becomes whatever he wants to be, I want to be there.

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Uncategorized

Living in a Bubble

I am not naive. I have lived my share of horror stories, but overall my life has been blessed. I do not know what if is like to not know where I will sleep at night or when I will eat again. I have been blessed to always feel loved, wanted, and important, even if only to one person. Yet, tonight, I feel my heart breaking, shattering really, for the millions who have no one telling them their life doesn’t have to be defined by their past. They have choices on how their future will turn out. Do you know that? Do you know how precious and important and loved you are? It may not always feel like it, but I promise you are. You are special because you are human and God designed you to make a difference. You. Yes. You.

One of my colleagues lost her husband recently to a senseless act of violence. Children lost their father. Parents lost their child. Aunts and uncles lost their nephew. Friends lost their best friend. The world lost a man potentially capable of changing the entire world, and yet only a handful will claim they were impacted. Our town should have been shaken, the entire Knoxville area should stand united to say ‘no more,’ but instead, we are thankful it didn’t happen to us and life goes on. Tomorrow, the same thing could happen again. How many lives have to be lost before we reach out to the lives around us and say, “your life matters. Drama doesn’t matter. Hate should be let go. Anger should find forgiveness. Things don’t matter. But you, you are important, you matter.

One of the ladies at the funeral hit the nail on the head tonight, she said “we’re doing it to ourselves. We are killing each other, for what? To get our nails done, have some shoes, or some weave. That has to stop. We have the future in these kids, and we’re killing them.” Truer words were never spoken. 

I’m sure with that statement you’ve figured out my colleague and her husband were black. I only say this, because I am white and I know for some, there is a stigma about blacks and whites, but you know, not one time tonight while I was on the ‘East Side’ did I feel anything different than human. I went with a few girls to Krogers to pick up balloons for a release and I picked up trash in the parking lot, God used me by sending a man who asked us to pray for him in the store and I wrapped my arms around the man and prayed for him. I’m still praying for Curtis. I pray God frees him of his demons and blesses his life. I pray he finds the peace he so desperately wanted. I am so thankful, my heart doesn’t carry the ability to see color, race, economic background, sexual orientation, or religion. God has given me a devine peace and ability to trust his plan and reach out to those who are hurting. What doesn’t make sense though, is why don’t we all have that? 

We have to get out of our bubble. Step out of your home and look around. See the pain in the eyes of others and show them love and compassion. You never know if one, random, small, seemingly meaningless act of kindness is going to give another person the strength to cry out to the Lord and face another day in this world. With so much hate and anger and violence in our society, why don’t we put our hearts in a bubble and protect them. We weren’t designed to hate. We were created to love on another. Eve was given to Adam to be his partner and to love him. They were the first, and that was their purpose.

My heart is heavy for my friend and her family. Even more so, my heart is heavy for our children. The world they live in has become so cruel, and it has to stop. We have the power to stop it, with all my heart I believe that. Will you join me? Will you love someone else today? Will you reach out to another human and tell them they’re important and their life matters? Will you face the bullies and tell them to stand down? Will you… stop living in a bubble?

Professional Journey · Uncategorized

The Squeaky Wheel…

We’ve all heard the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease…” We understand it’s meaning as “the person who complains the loudest gets their way.” What we fail to see, is the wheel is incapable of getting it’s own grease. The wheel is incapable of getting up a little earlier, filling out a job application, researching it’s rights, interpreting it’s rights, fighting for it’s rights, or becoming more than just a wheel. The wheel is not an acceptable comparison to a human, it’s an inanimate object with no feelings, no ability to evolve, no ability to be anything more than just a wheel. So why do we justify our human complaints with this phrase?

I consistently hear people say, “I hate my job.” My question is “why are you still doing that job?” Why do we not believe we have a choice? How did we get that job? We applied for it, right? We went to an interview, right? If we did it once, couldn’t we do it again? McDonalds is always hiring, and based on the service I’ve received lately, they could use some good help. If we hate our job, the only thing keeping us in it is our choice. People say, “I hate this country,” but just as others have gained citizenship here, we can gain citizenship elsewhere. Even better than just leaving, we could think of solutions to the problems and vote for people who want to create the change we think we need. We could even go a step further than that, and become one of those people who create change. Educate ourselves and stand up for our beliefs. If we want change, it’s all about our choices.

Funny thing, the choice word. We don’t realize every action we’re making is a choice. We wake up late, it was a choice. We feel like crap, it’s a choice. Believe it or not, every choice we make has a consequence. Whether or not it will be positive starts with the choice we make.

The funny thing about  people and choices is that sometimes we have to choose between two things we don’t ‘want.’ This seems to be the most common problem and the more realistic conflict. We hate our job, but we don’t want to go back to college and learn a new skill, so we stay in the job we hate. We don’t like our car, but we don’t want to put aside other things we like to spend money on to buy another one. At what point will what we don’t like become more important than what we want? Why is our ‘happiness’ less important than our ‘wants?’ Isn’t the most important thing we can want to be happy, healthy, and empowered by our lives?

Here’s my proposal. Look at your life, all the things you hate about it. Not just the minor inconveniences, but the things you dread. What is the worst thing that could happen if you chose to change one of them? If you hate your job, start putting out applications for another job. If you hate your car, start a savings account for a new one. If you hate a business you deal with, stop dealing with them. If you hate our weight, start working out. Just pick one thing and change your choices. If you can’t change your choices, change your perspective. Focus on your ‘why.’ Why did you apply for our job to begin with? Is it serving its purpose? Can we change our perceptions so we are perpetuating a positive change and not adding to the discontentment? Can we see past our own thoughts and feelings to realize that 100 other people are doing the same job, the best they possibly can, and our negativity is making their job harder? I’m not saying put on rose colored glasses and convince ourselves everything is sunshine and rainbows, but find one piece of our day we would normally dread and put a positive spin on it until we can change our choice. Are we capable of more, or are we too selfish to see past our own feelings and thoughts?

Think about this…

If we hate our job, at least we have one.

If we hate family get-together’s, at least we have family caring if we show up or not.

If we hate our car, at least we have a car to drive.

If we hate our body, at least we are alive.

If we hate our insurance, at least we have coverage.

If we hate our government, at least we have a say in it.

Are we capable of seeing these pieces of life with even a small level of gratitude? Or will we choose to remain incapable of changing and advancing, like the squeaky wheel?

Uncategorized

I Might Not See You… for real.

About two years ago, I was given an incredible opportunity to serve as a subject matter expert with a class of new hires at my job. During that class, I found myself in immeasurable pain, every day. I was eating boxes of Goody’s powder like candy and still hurting. Finally, one day, driving down the interstate, I decided enough was enough. By then, even sitting and driving was painful. I kept thinking to myself, ‘you’re not even 30 yet! This is ridiculous! Get to a doctor and figure this out!’ My neck, back, and shoulders would hurt so bad the pain would radiate to the front of my face and cause a pounding migraine. I would become so nauseous and dizzy I couldn’t focus on anything.

I went to a massage place first, thinking maybe I just needed a good massage. It was wonderful while the massage was happening, but an hour later, I was back in pain. My headaches became so regular and out of control I finally made an appointment with my PCP. He told me it was probably PMS. Take some Ibuprofen, drink more water, exercise a little more regularly, eat a little better, and it would all be better. I fired him two weeks later and met Dr. Reigel.

Dr. Reigel is amazing to me because he’s kind of a jerk. He doesn’t really like giving medications and he listens to me. He doesn’t treat me like I’m losing it. I call him a jerk, because he’s a straight shot and slightly abrasive. My husband thought he was being mean to me, but he was telling me things I already knew, but didn’t want to admit, and demanding I fix it because he sure as hell wasn’t giving me another pill. We started physical therapy, it didn’t help. We tried chiropractic, no luck. We tried massage, no improvement. He recommended a nutritionist and some major lifestyle changes, and that’s where we are now.

I currently take several medications and it’s getting out of control. I feel like I’m taking one to treat side effects caused by another to treat an underlying issue that no one can identify. What’s worse, is in the last year, I’ve had major episcleritis/iritis flares on 9 different occasions, which is not normal. These flares, occurring so consistently, is indicative of an autoimmune disorder, but after $900 in bloodwork, all we have is ‘borderline this or that’ results. So while we don’t know what’s wrong or why it’s happening, we do know the steroid eye drops I take to make it better will eventually cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and could eventually take my sight. I could lose my vision. I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a grand daughter, a call center supervisor, a runner, and a truck driver in the Army Reserve. I need my sight! I would rather lose a limb than lose my sight or vision. Take my sense of smell. That would be better. We tried a few oral medications, but methotrexate made me so sick, I am terrified of the rheumatologist and I don’t want to go back. Everything he gave me made me progressively worse, and then I was treating side effects with more pills, I just don’t want it anymore. I’m almost 30. That means I’m NOT 30 yet. This is unacceptable!

So this morning, I watched Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead, and it sparked some research. There have been a lot of studies proving that our nutrition has a lot to do with our health problems. I am a perfect example of doing it all wrong, but believing I’m right. I work in a Call Center, but I’m pretty active. I run all over the center all day long. I don’t eat big, fast food lunches, I normally go to subway and eat something I’ve been told is ‘relatively healthy.’ I don’t drink soda. I drink very little tea. I treat myself to Starbucks maybe once very 1-2 weeks. Yet, I still hurt. When I come home, I have no energy. No stamina. I give so much at work by the end of my work day, I have nothing left. My son begs me to play, but I hurt. When I get migraines, I get dizzy, weak, nauseous, and the only answer is to sleep them off. I sleep 10-20 hours at a time at least once a week. When I do this, I don’t wake up refreshed, I wake up exhausted. I wake up in pain. I wake up with a headache. I wake up sad because I’m missing time with my son and my family. My brain says ‘go,’ my body says, ‘hell no.’ So now, I’m treating the pain, depression, anxiety, an inability to focus labeled adult ADHD, migraines, iritis flares, and iron deficiency. There’s a pill for each one, some have more than one.

I’m taking control of my life and my future. I’m not going to go 100% vegan because I like meat. I am going to try to find a way to fit healthier eating in my busy lifestyle. If I can’t, then I’m going to find a way to fit my life into my health, even if that means dramatic changes. My absolutes are God, my health, my family, my job, and then everything else, in that order and going forward, my time will be where my priorities are. I will improve my health. I will take control of my body. I am going to incorporate juice because I do not care much for green vegetables, so if this is a way I can get them without feeling like I’m eating grass, then I’m in. I want to cut out as much processed food as possible and see if it improves any other areas of my life. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll go back to eating what I was before. I have to do it for at least 3 months for it to have a real impact, so I’m going to give it 90 days.

My first week starts tomorrow… it’s the ‘pre-fast’ week. I’ll be making small changes every day in preparation of the actual 10 day fast. Then, for 10 days, all I will consume is water and juice. I have several different juice recipes and a vegan protein supplement that has no additives so I can keep my protein levels at a healthy range. I’ll check in with my doctor at the end to see what changes happened. As of today, I weigh 200lbs. I’ve actually lost 8 pounds in the last three weeks doing weight watchers, which is great, but weight watchers doesn’t change my nutritional intake, it just limits it. Then, I’m eating ‘more’ processed foods trying to stay under my point value. It’s a cycle, and it must be broken. If I don’t, it’s going to come to a point where I might not see you… for real.

Family · Uncategorized

Autism Speaks… and screams.

My beautiful son, Trenton, is an incredible kid. He has blonde hair and blue eyes and he’s nearly five feet tall and weighs over one hundred pounds. He wears a size 14 husky pant and extra large t shirt, and size 5.5 to 6 shoe, depending on the manufacturer. He is so smart, when he wants to, he reads books that most seven year old children wouldn’t even pick up, and he adds numbers in his head like a little human calculator. He has an amazing sense of humor and an imagination that will take you wherever you want to go in the world. He is high energy, and on good days, he could motivate a Tony Robbins seminar better than Tony. He is a creative problem solver and is constantly curious about the world around him. In addition to all of these amazing characteristics of Trenton, he has a secret superpower… Autism.

I call it a ‘secret’ superpower, because until you spend time with him, you don’t notice his sensory ticks. You don’t see how terrified he genuinely is of anything going outside of his normal routine. His tantrums seem like fits of entitled rage, perpetuated by his father and I spoiling him. You don’t see his confusion about why people feel differently than he does, or why they don’t want to be tickled right now. You don’t see that he only slept about three hours because he convinced himself a ghost was in his room and no one could convince him otherwise. What you see, is everything I mentioned first, and your assumption is, he’s ‘normal,’ so when he responds in an ‘abnormal,’ way, you don’t know how to react.

I’m not upset with you, I understand how you feel. My husband and I had the same confusion. Except, unlike you, we couldn’t just leave the store or restaurant or doctors office and ignore his fit. We couldn’t trade him for a calmer child. We couldn’t convince him to love what we love, either. Our hearts were broken when he would tell us he hated us, or bite me, or hit me, or pull my hair because he felt trapped in his car seat and was trying to literally claw his way out. We were fortunate. We had a pediatrician who saw the signs early and directed us to TEIS. We were even more fortunate the TEIS coordinators they put us with loved their job, loved Trenton, and through their love, loved us too. They reminded us that we weren’t horrible parents and encouraged our decisions. They provided resources to us and made sure we knew our rights. I spent hours on google researching ADA, sensory disorders, and speech delay. We went to counselors and behavioral specialists, we spent thousands of dollars searching for answers that weren’t autism. We fought it until last summer, when it stared us in the face. He wasn’t growing out of this, this is who he is. For two weeks, neither me nor my husband could say, “I have a child with autism.” So how in the world could I expect a stranger to understand?

Oh wait. You have google too. You don’t live under a rock. Autism Speaks. It’s everywhere. The little puzzle pieces. The mantra, ‘Different, not Less.’ But, you expect Autism to look like a non verbal child, who waves his or her hands uncontrollably, or clearly isn’t ‘normal.’ This is where those assumptions are wrong. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are different ‘level’s’ of Autism, and every case looks different. It’s sort of like depression. Really bad depression could look like suicide, sadness could look like nothing to people who don’t know the person. So, I’m still not upset with you for not knowing, but I kindly ask, if you ever go into the public, please educate yourself or at least, don’t judge what you don’t know.

I digressed, I apologize. Back to Trenton.

He’s amazing. As amazing as he is, he has some struggles. For one, he has no empathy. None. At all. Doesn’t even try. For my husband and I, it’s the hardest part of his personality for us to work with. To give an example, when I was a child, one of my favorite things to do with my dad was go to a restaurant and pick someone sitting alone, and buy their lunch. I tried this once with Trenton and he genuinely did not understand why I would do such a thing. He was offended! He thought I was assuming that person couldn’t afford their meal, or I was spending money on them I could spend on him. We were looking for items to donate to Gatlinburg after the wildfires, and he didn’t understand why people couldn’t buy their own stuff. He asked me, ‘why would they even want my old stuff?’ As difficult and appalling as these questions are sometimes, my husband and I respond with love. We take our time to explain things a little more and ask him to really put himself in the shoes of the person we are helping. Sometimes, we have to create the situation for him, guide him through his thoughts and feelings, and then he will understand, although he will never feel the satisfaction that comes from giving to another. He will do it because we’ve told him it’s right and nice, but he won’t ever do it because it makes him ‘feel’ good.

He is sensory driven. 110% sensory driven. If he’s overstimulated, he panics. He has to escape by any means necessary. Scream, cry, kick, fight, bite, punch, bang his head into the floor, bite himself, it doesn’t matter as long as it gets him out of whatever situation has him overstimulated. If he’s under-stimulated, he gets aggressive, argumentative, he bangs his head into the wall, he bites himself or he flees. If he catches himself going to one extreme or another before it happens, he will isolate himself and hide. He has a heavy blanket at home that he likes, and at school he hides in laundry baskets in the classroom. His school is amazing at working with him. In public, it’s this behavior that is the hardest. We are working with him to learn more appropriate responses, to identify what he’s feeling and how he is feeling and develop other methods of coping. This is difficult with Trenton, because he is rational and logical, feelings are neither.

Jon and I have struggled with managing his Autism. We’ve had to grieve the life we planned for him to accept how it will be different because of his Autism. We’ve also had to allow ourselves to believe that he could potentially still have the life we wanted for him, if we work hard enough. We’ve also accepted that his life can be better than we ever imagined as long as he’s happy with where he goes and what he does. His choices for himself may be completely the opposite of what we would have chosen for him. We have faced the guilt of our choices. We fought medicine for a long time, so the first week he was on medication, when his teacher sent us a letter saying what a wonderful week Trenton had, we cried, believing we failed him. We fought the diagnosis for a long time, so when someone finally explained Trenton’s ticks, showed me the DSM5, and suddenly Jon and I both saw Trenton and understood him, we cried with guilt. Unless you adopt, you just don’t plan for a special needs child. They’re incredible and they challenge you. I, personally, battled the guilt that *I* was responsible for Trenton’s struggles because I did something wrong during pregnancy. I know now that I didn’t, but it didn’t make that feeling feel any less.

What makes all of this bearable is our unconditional love for Trenton. We prayed for a baby and he was the one God chose for us. When he hugs us, everything is worth it. When he says, ‘mommy, don’t say bad words, we are a family who loves each other so we don’t say bad words,’ it feels like maybe we’re doing something right. He teaches us about ourselves, every single day. He sees the world from a different perspective, which makes us better people. We love him, we believe in him, we support him, and we are thankful for him. Ultimately, he is healthy and we still have him. We are incredibly blessed.

If you are a parent with a child who has Autism, I encourage you to research your rights. Reach out for help. Network with other parents. Know you’re not alone. Don’t assume negative intent from strangers, truth is a lot of them just really don’t understand. If you’re a stranger and you’re witnessing a situation with a child you don’t understand, don’t assume negative intent. Educate yourself. Encourage that parent. I recommend doing this at a distance, as for some Autistic children, a stranger who tries to approach them during a meltdown can be even scarier than whatever set off the tantrum. Remember, that sometimes Autism Speaks… other times, it screams.

Uncategorized

Perspective and Emotional Response

I find myself being more of a deep thinker the older I get. Most of my insights come hours after something happens, sometimes days. I tend to react first, reflect later. Knowing this, I’ve been trying to work on my quick responses and approach things from a ‘why’ perspective more so than a ‘this is how it is’ perspective. Training at work this week drove the point home a little more for me, I had several insights and breakthroughs.

The first being that I’ve been seeking permission to be what I already am. I am a hyper person. When I’m at my best, I go ten thousand miles an hour around everyone around me. I’m up early. I’m productive. I conquer stress like it was nothing more than a speed bump. My management team knew this when they hired me. When they asked me what I could bring to the team, I told them, ‘Energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. In my current role, I am the team cheerleader, I think our supervisor team needs a cheerleader. I think that person that believes nothing is impossible empowers everyone else, and that’s me.’ What I’ve actually done, however, is tried to become that mature, responsible, heavily focused, unstoppable, and somewhat unapproachable leader that I am not. I have buried myself in my work, trying to find answers to questions that just, don’t have answers. In a way, it’s made me a little crazy.

The next being that I am deeply afraid of being abandoned. I know the history of this fear and I have  battled it my entire life. This fear leads me to pushing people away before they can push me away. This one, I don’t know how to fix, but I’m working on it.

The last, that I will discuss here, is that I am enough. I am good enough. I am strong enough. I am vulnerable enough. My vulnerability doesn’t make me weaker, it makes me stronger. It’s the part of me that allows me to see the emotions of others and help them through hard times. It’s that sense that allows me to instinctively reach out to someone when they’re hurting and can’t express it verbally. It gives me the insight to read body language and pick up on the things no one wants to say. It’s a pretty powerful ability actually, and one  not many have.

I share all of this because I believe deep down, in one way or another, we’re all fighting the same battle. It’s so easy to forget who you are by trying to become someone you’re not. What I’ve decided I have to do, is trust that I am where I am meant to be. My beliefs tell me that God has put me here for a reason, but you could call it fate, or the universe, or whatever makes you happy. All I ask is that you accept it. Allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to make decisions and trust  that failure will teach you and open other doors. We are human, which means, we are not perfect. The idea that we have to be perfect is why we are failing as a society. It forces us to suppress our passions and dreams to fit into a box that we didn’t belong in to begin with. We have to stop. I have to stop.