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Let's Get Real, Shall We?

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Well, it seems I have your attention right now. And, because of that, there are some thoughts I'd like to share with all of you that are deeply personal...things I have not shared with even my closest SparkFriends up until now. I hope you don't mind if we go a little deeper and a little darker today, but I promise we'll come out in the light.

The reason I want to do this is because there is such a momentum with my blogs right now and, I suppose, with my life in general. I fear that you will think that I am doing all of this on sheer willpower. And that you will become discouraged if you can't seem to muster the willpower to make lasting changes in your own health. I want you to know that this burst of energy that I've been seeing is not based on willpower (more explanation in a bit). I'm beyond thrilled that I can encourage and motivate so many of you, but I've been hearing murmurings from discouraged friends. And I have taken them to heart.

The most touching was from a dear friend from high school. She wrote:

"I'm inspired by your dedication to your new, healthy lifestyle. I'm jealous that I'm struggling to get there myself. I'm happy that you're accomplishing such amazing things and loving your life! I'm angry that I'm struggling to get there myself. I'm delighted that you look and feel amazing! I'm disappointed that I'm struggling to get there myself. Oh, did I mention that I'm struggling?

I wish I could find out what is wrong in my head. I still can't stop making poor choices when it comes to food and I really struggle physically to complete any kind of workout. I'm extremely angry at myself for letting my health get to this point and I'm frustrated that I keep bouncing back and forth between healthy and non-healthy choices.

I just want to tell you that I truly admire you for continually making healthy choices and I pray that I will get there someday, that I will have the strength to overcome my food addiction, that I will have the strength to stop pitying myself."

Oh, honey...I see you! And I so relate to what you are saying. I want to share my darkest moments...those times that have led me to this point. And, it truly is a journey. And guess what? This might be where you are right now...and you have only good things to look forward to in your health journey, my friend.

Let me start by admitting that I grew up in a family of addiction. My parents (and all subsequent step-parents) were all drug addicts. In addition, my mother was bi-polar and I grew up as the oldest of 5. As children, we saw horrific things that no child should see, at the hands of domestic abuse. We were never physically abused, but we were most certainly emotionally and verbally abused. But, I had to hold it together because I was the protector. Frankly, I'm shocked that I never developed an addiction to any substance like marijuana or tobacco or alcohol. I firmly believe the hand of God has been on my life since I was a child.

However, this does not mean I haven't struggled with addiction. I have been addicted to more benign things: Coca-Cola, fast food, Facebook. Looking at this list almost makes me laugh...except that any kind of addiction results in too much time spent on that thing...and it damages relationships. And that is not funny.

That being said, I do honestly feel that my genetic propensity toward addiction is partly why I have seen success in my diet and exercise program this time. I suppose I have, if you will, traded addictions. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade! Health is not a terrible addiction to have.

Still, this is why I am SO focused on listening to my body. Because, if it gets out of hand, it could lead to injuries, obsession, eating disorders. I'm not naive enough to think that I'm immune to the possibility of these things. But I'm being smart about all of it...and paying attention and staying alert. The moment it becomes an unhealthy obsession is the moment I will need to take a step back and re-evaluate some things.

I've talked about my roller skating accident a bit - usually from a positive standpoint (thank God I can walk, etc.) But I haven't really shared the defining moments from that experience...that really do fuel what I'm doing today. In fact, I haven't shared this with anyone.

When the accident occurred, I was in a crowded roller rink with plenty of little kids watching. My sister and I were doing great...she was teaching me some T-stops in the middle of the rink. It can only be described as a freak accident. In less than a second, I was on the floor, holding my shattered elbow bone so it wouldn't come out of my skin and unable to move because my wrist and ankle were also broken. The time spent waiting for the ambulance felt like an hour. I knew that every kid in that place was watching in horror...and their moms were thinking, "My kid will NEVER go roller skating again!" I tried not to scream because I didn't want to scare them, but it's a lot of pain for a person to bear at once.

Luckily, I have had 3 kids naturally. I'll tell you what...pregnancy breathing is a lifesaver and really got me through that wait for the ambulance. The other thing that got me through was my sister's voice. She just kept talking to me and I didn't let her stop. Her voice carried me through that entire night. I refused to open my eyes, because I didn't want to see the damage...for fear I'd go hysterical. So, my eyes were shut for hours. (I hope that I can be that voice that carries some of you through your darkness.)

Still, I was thinking, "It's just a broken arm. I'll go back to work on Monday and I'll be embarrassed but it'll heal and I'll still try out for derby in July." Cut to the emergency room, where it felt like we had to wait FOREVER to see an orthopedic surgeon. X-rays, a million nurses, lights and voices. sister's voice through every moment. I remember I had finally calmed down (probably drugs) and gotten the pain under control. I was OK. Then, the nurse came out and said, "Leah, I need to talk to you. You need to know that this is bad. Real bad. Your recovery will be long. You will need a lot of help when you get home." You guys, I knew at that point that I had 5 broken bones, but I just hadn't thought about what that meant. As she was talking, I completely lost it. I mourned the fact that I wouldn't be going back to work for weeks (turned into 3 months) and that I would be a huge burden on my family and friends. I hate to be a burden.

Surgery was successful. Recovery in the hospital...well, it was so rough. Ok, maybe I lied a bit earlier about no drug addictions. If I could get an IV of Dilaudid for use at anytime, I would be ALL over that. That stuff was FANTASTIC. And, man, I sure did need it. Most of the time, I had friends and family there to keep me company. But at night, people went home. I don't know why I woke up every single night at 4am. Like clockwork. But I did.

And one night...I woke up...and wasn't prepared for this thought to hit me: "Your roller derby career is over before it even began." This was a huge moment for me. I had been hardcore training and working out for 3 months prior - 6 days a week - and had lost 15 lbs. I WANTED this. When I realized that there wasn't any hope for it, my soul mourned its loss. I really was hysterical. ALL that work...all those 5am workouts...all that pain...for what? Nothing. I was SO upset, I was sobbing to the point of hyperventilating and my body was shaking. The nurse ran in and I tried to explain but I couldn't. All I could do was cry. She thought I was in pain physically, but I wasn't. It was a deep soul pain. Thank God for her...she brought a warmed blanket and it really helped to calm me. And I drifted off to sleep.

I've already shared in a previous blog about the recovery physically. It was long and difficult. But emotionally, I shut down. I slipped into my normal depression (thanks for passing that on, Ma) and I distinctly remember telling myself one day, "I will never be able to do anything fun again. I will never be able to play a sport. Forget skiing. I can't run. I can barely walk. I can't even do softball. There is nothing I can do physically anymore. For the rest of my life."

Look...I know it's hard sometimes to see successes all over SparkPeople. While they are motivating and so encouraging, they can also feel like a knife just stabbing you in the heart. But, if you are feeling that way right now, I'm here to tell you...we have ALL been there. You aren't alone. And you CAN push through it. Personally, I needed some help in the form of medication. There is no shame in really helped me and got me to a point where I was positive enough to be able to think, "You know...maybe I could walk a bit."

You're not alone. You can do this. You REALLY can. Just don't give up. Just keep going. Please keep going.

I watched a video blog this morning and literally got the chills because this guy (one of my favorites on SparkPeople) was talking to exactly this issue of feeling discouraged. I know it's 8 minutes long, but you guys...if you are discouraged, I promise this will encourage you. You really should check it out.

All that to say...I'm not doing this from willpower alone. I'm doing this from a place of pain, where I endured quite a lot of emotional turmoil and gained some strength from going through the dark places. Your struggles can and will be used to fuel your future successes.

When I cross that finish line tomorrow, it will be a victory in the face of my accident. It will signify that I am no longer defined by my past or my limitations.

I know we hear this a lot, but it's the truth...if I can do this, so can you. And we can do this together.
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