Back on the Job, after 4 Years of Disability


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  310 comments   :  33,540 Views

By Beth Donovan, ~INDYGIRL

I still remember my very last night of work before I went on total disability. It was much like the seemingly endless sea of nights before, except this time I knew in my heart I couldn’t go back. Sitting at my desk hurt so much because of my degenerating spine. My discs were herniated, my nerve bundles were pinched, and I had four hernias, suffered from fibromyalgia, and could barely walk, let alone drive. It was hard to concentrate on my work, because all I could think about was the pain. At the time, I weighed 460 pounds and barely fit behind the steering wheel of my car, which pushed on my hernias as I drove home in tears.

In September, after four years, I went back to work for the same company, now 139 pounds thinner. (That's my latest photo!) I still have many of the same issues, but they are easier to deal with because of my weight loss and medical assistance. It wasn’t an easy decision or an easy road to get here.

It took one hearing for the judge to find me disabled, and all of the official doctors only found more wrong with me than my doctors had found originally. I felt every visit to the doctor was an adventure in “Welcome to your new life! You now have _____ and it will never improve, but it will get worse over time.” Every doctor I saw urged me to have weight loss surgery, but I didn’t want it. I told them that I felt sick enough already and if anything else were to go wrong, I didn’t know if I could handle it.

I agreed to attend a few weight loss surgery meetings at the local hospital, where I became certain that weight loss surgery was not the cure for me. It is stomach surgery, not brain surgery. I am an emotional eater. The other emotional eaters there, who were post surgery, were no better off and complaining of being hungry after eating and having the same difficulties I was having. It became clear, that even after surgery, a diet had to be strictly followed, even more strictly than I had ever followed one before. A person could still want to eat after they were full and a person could still choose to eat the wrong foods and gain their weight back. Since I was already in the boat of needing to diet and cope with my emotions, I decided I would do it without the surgery. Doctors refused to treat my degenerative spine, my herniated discs, and perform other needed surgeries because of my weight. Apparently the only surgery they would do is weight loss surgery. Even then, they wanted to question whether I had the discipline to endure the plan.

I had to be willing to help myself to get out of my then bedridden state and reclaim my life. I wasn’t sure I had what it took, to tell you the truth. I have been dieting since I was a child, and I have never lost this kind of weight before. I’ve gone to many weight loss clinics and through many programs, bought all the latest books, taken the prescriptions, and still no long-term success or massive weight loss. My husband was sure I couldn’t do it and was very angry with me that I would not have the weight loss surgery, that he was sure would save my life.

I needed a plan I could do from home, since I could barely get out of bed. I turned to my computer and found SparkPeople. Usually a fitness plan would start out with me jumping in with both feet and all ablaze for thinness until one failure. Then I would lie on the proverbial floor berating myself and telling myself that I knew I couldn’t do it. This time started out differently though. I started by changing one thing with a SparkStreak. Then I changed one more in about a month when the first felt natural. I kept doing this until both the weight was falling off and my life was changing.

I started to dream again.

I had hope again after reading the book “The Spark” by Chris Downie. I realized that I had been selling myself too short and was capable of so much more. Then and there I decided that one day soon, I would go back to work part time. Eventually my goal is to have a full time career in customer service again. I love working with people on the phone. I’ve now made it back to part time work with my company. They wanted me back. The rest is just a matter of time and keeping my dreams alive.

It was scary deciding to go back to work. Could I do it? What about the pain? What if I can’t walk? What if I fall? Well, I did fall, my second day on the job. I couldn’t feel my legs and went down in the parking lot alone. I crawled between the cars and managed to hoist myself up using a car and my cane. Then I went inside and asked for a first aid kit and went on with my shift. I was in a lot of pain; I ended up going to the doctor with soft tissue damage. It actually is going to require a fourth visit and a specialist, because of the extent of my injuries. The point is two of my worse case scenarios happened and I dealt with them: I fell. The heavy duty pain came. I still worked my shift. This job was an achievement, a trophy for me and nothing would take that away.

If you have a dream, think of ways to make it happen. Take the baby steps needed to get there. It may take years, but it is very worth while. Baby steps give you time to stop and smell the roses along the way and adjust to the new life you are building. It isn’t easy creating a new life for yourself, so be kind to yourself like you would a good friend. Dream big, step small, and keep going.

What dreams have you achieved since losing weight and improving your health?

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  • 310
    Well done congratulations ! - 3/21/2017   12:15:16 AM
  • 309
    Well done congratulations ! - 3/21/2017   12:15:16 AM
  • 308
    I loved your story, Beth, your persistence and smart thinking is amazing. Congrats to your weight loss success and to getting back to work. - 2/17/2017   1:19:30 PM
  • 307
    Beth, I didn't realize that you were back to work. Congratulations. - 12/13/2016   4:50:52 PM
  • 306
    I started my walk of shame at 360 pds with a hospital stay for internal bleeding. I had undetected bleeding ulcers and I was in icu because I was basically almost dead. My doctor didn't even want to be nice to me. I was a mess because of emotional stress and constant pain. I was so embarrassed because of my obesity. Everyone there was thin and I was morbidly obese. I wished I had died. I received lectures from everyone who came into my room. About health and eating and my heart carrying all that weight. I have afib now because of it and a small stroke, that meant I no longer could walk without the help of walls and handles and people. No one knows the pain of being obese and the physical pain that goes with it. But I started a streak, thanks to Chris Downie and I am on a plateau right now as far as losing more pounds. But my exercise streak goes on and I won't break it! Thank you for writing this blog, sometimes I mentally give up. - 5/20/2016   9:32:13 PM
  • 305
    What an amazing inspiration you are. You look gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel like there is hope! - 4/26/2016   8:29:01 PM
  • 304
    Thank you for sharing. My doctors and family have been encouraging me to have weight loss surgery. I basically feel the s - 10/4/2015   5:29:01 AM
  • 303
    Beth, you are such an inspiration. I remember your first blogs, showing how your exercise began with a hand pedal. Unbelievable.
    You're an amazing person. I love your perserverance - 3/13/2015   12:39:04 PM
  • MELLO63
    Wow... you've been through quite a lot; I wish you good health in the New Year! - 1/10/2015   12:26:00 AM
    Well done, as a new member with 150lbs to lose and years of hospitals, operations and long recovery periods you really are inspiring me to go for it.I aim to make it at least a 50 lb reduction by Christmas,and look forward to trying the exercises. Thankyou - 6/23/2013   6:43:02 AM
  • ELYSE2012
    You are an inspiration. I look forward to reading you. Every time I see your smiling picture, I click and read you. Your honesty in telling us about your struggles and the obstacles you have overcome to get where you are today reaches out to us.
    Keep it up - 3/10/2013   7:33:48 AM
    Awesome! Love reading about your progress! Keep up the good work! - 10/2/2012   9:54:37 PM
  • 298
    Are you getting tired of hearing what an amazing story you have? I hope not! Good for you for never giving up!!! AWESOME!!! - 5/12/2012   6:36:03 AM
  • 297
    Congratulations!!!! Great job! - 3/30/2012   11:29:50 AM
  • 296
    Very dealt with the down side of going back to work. You can only go up from here. Way to go! - 3/23/2012   5:37:07 PM
    Thank you for sharing its great so glad you told your story especially around the weight loss surgery, you ar not alone, Thank you for sharing - 3/18/2012   4:12:02 AM
  • 294
    WOW-What a wonderful story!!! You ROCK!! - 3/16/2012   11:25:29 PM
  • 293
    Thanks Beth for sharing your story. You are a wonderful example of making it work, and positive messages to yourself. Congrats on all you are achieving. You will get there...
    M - 3/16/2012   1:23:33 PM
  • 292
    Beth, I so agree with you about weight loss surgery. I also considered it at one time, attended meetings, started the Mayo Clinic program for weight loss surgery when it became very clear to me weight loss surgery was not going to "cure" my binge eating. I spoke with an endocrinologist and asked her if it was really possible to lose 100 pounds with life style changes. She assured me it would be difficult, but certainly possible. I started that very day with making better food choices, NOT being on a diet, slowly getting back into exercise. Even though it has taken a long time, I've lost 50.5 lbs., my pre-diabetes blood sugar is under control and my fitness level amazes me at times. Very important to me, I've started to dream again and I'm working towards summiting Mt. Rainier (14,449 ft.) in Washington State. I'm out to prove to myself and every other fat girl who thought she couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn’t try and stopped dreaming about what is possible. Fat girls can climb mountains! Thank-you so much for your blogs; I read them often and I'm always inspired. - 2/4/2012   6:56:09 PM
  • 291
    I have to admit that much as I think you are an amazing woman, I do not agree with you. Weight loss surgery is only a tool to be used as any other tool. I haven't had it nor do I think I will ever do so but I have friends and relatives who have and the ones who used it as a tool did well with it while the ones who thought of it as another diet did not and it did not work well. It is like buying a treadmill to use as a clothes rack. - 1/24/2012   8:42:17 AM
  • 290
    Thanks so much for posting this. Very inspiring! - 1/23/2012   4:19:33 PM
  • TEE1142
    thank you for sharing your amazing story! You are glowing in your photo I hope I can glow someday. I wish you all the luck in life and your job. Thanks again. - 1/23/2012   1:35:07 PM
    You have been an inspiration to me since day one of my seriously starting SparkPeople. I remember thinking to myself "There's no way I can ever lose 92 pounds, that's impossible, why bother to try?" and then, maybe a week or so later, you posted a blog after losing an amazing 150 pounds, and I happened to come across it. Your story was such an inspiration to me, it brought tears to my eyes, because I knew that this was possible and that I could do it. I've still had ups and downs and fallen off the wagon a time or two, but I'm still here and I am so glad to see that you are still doing so incredibly well and are still serving as an inspiration to so many others. Thank you! - 1/23/2012   11:44:50 AM
  • 287
    Wow. How hard and how thrilling. I am so excited for you. You amaze me and inspire me. Thanks for sharing. - 12/7/2011   11:03:26 AM
  • 286
    Beth - Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your personal story with all of us - you are a true inspiration, so strong and wise! You are the true model of perserverance.
    - 11/19/2011   10:26:14 AM
  • 285
    You are such an inspiration. So proud of you... keep going! - 11/11/2011   8:44:46 AM
    You are such an inspiration! Way to go! - 10/30/2011   1:29:51 PM
    Feeling so motivated right now, thank you. - 10/24/2011   1:08:35 AM
  • 282
    I have a long haul in front of me to get to goal. Thanks for inspiration. - 10/21/2011   11:51:14 PM
  • 281
    I've been training for the Trick or Treat Trot 5k, and have been seeing a lot of improvements with my stamina and endurance! - 10/21/2011   10:16:33 PM
  • 280
    Wow. Not for the first time, I gotta say you're fabulously amazing.. or amazingly fabulous. or both. What strength!! Congratulations! I'll be wishing you all the best... and also contemplating what you've written about, "Baby steps give you time to stop and smell the roses along the way and adjust to the new life you are building." Thanks so so much!
    K:) - 10/21/2011   1:25:36 PM
  • 279
    I agree with you; having stomach stapling or band surgery is treating the wrong area; with me, the problem is between my ears. Congrats on going back to work; there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with working. Thanks for your blog. - 10/21/2011   12:03:17 PM
    I love your point of view on weight loss surgery, I feel the same way about it. If you have your stomach operated on, it doesn't fix your mind and emotions. I was asked twice to have the surgery and refused it. I was also told that I would never lose 25 lb but after losing 187 in 2007, I was so empowered. You have amazing willpower, congrats on getting that job back! - 10/21/2011   10:30:19 AM
  • 277
    What an inspiration! While I may not have as much weight to lose I'm sure I have as much baggage to lose. Recently my health has taken a downward turn and I've considered disability. I really enjoy working though and can't image being trapped at home because of pain. I pray that I can take a paige from Beth's book and make my life better too. - 10/15/2011   2:33:16 PM
  • 276
    I have been following your progress and when I saw the title on todays blog all I could say was "WOW !!!!" I send you many hugs and am looking forward to watching as you continue wiht your journey toward optimum health. xxoo - 10/14/2011   2:10:11 PM
  • 275
    Way to go.... we are moved... - 10/13/2011   8:25:53 AM
  • 274
    Congrats on getting back to work! A good blog to keep for future reference! You go girl! - 10/12/2011   10:22:17 AM
    You are awesome Beth well done in your acheivement you have guts You are so Inspiring Carol - 10/9/2011   1:21:01 PM
  • 272
    Every time I read one of your blogs it just confirms what a strong woman you are. I thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I wish you only the best in your job and your continued success in this amazing journey. - 10/8/2011   6:14:08 PM
  • 271
    You are so beautiful. Do you know that?
    love ya,
    mama - 9/25/2011   12:00:42 AM
  • 270
    You go girl! Congratulation!
    Keep up the good work and God bless you for being such an inspiration to all of us. - 9/17/2011   1:57:56 PM
  • 269
    Wow, Beth! I can't tell you how excited I am for you that you have made it back to work! That is absolutely wonderful, one of the most exciting things that could happen. That is just fantastic! (((hugs))) - 9/16/2011   10:17:31 PM
    awsome!!!! WHat else can I say. You are amazing - 9/16/2011   2:45:27 PM
  • 267
    Wow!!! - 9/7/2011   1:47:36 PM
  • 266
    Thank God there is hope. I see it on the horizon. - 9/6/2011   6:07:53 PM
    Love your blog. Keep the good work up. I am going to make you one of my friends. - 8/28/2011   6:56:27 PM
  • 264
    Amazing story! Congratulations to you! You are truly and encouragement! Thank you for sharing! - 8/27/2011   9:26:23 AM
  • EVESFROG2001
    It was a pleasure reading your story. Very inspirational. - 8/20/2011   8:08:16 AM
  • HS1056
    Great Blog! Very inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing with us! Congrats on all your hard work! ~ Holly ~
    - 8/7/2011   9:15:13 PM
  • 261
    I just saw your blog now.......what a beautiful and wonderful woman you are! Congrats on how far you've made it. I was only a little over 300 and I was complaining and here you had it so much worse. Your self-discipline and dedication is such a motivation and I'm so happy to see your updated pic and see how great you look! Thank you so much for sharing!
    - 8/5/2011   4:39:27 PM

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