Advocacy

The last few years I have been on a path of self-reflection and discovery. Many hours in therapy, in silent contemplation, in writing, in conversing with family, friends and co-workers. One of the things I have grappled with is my health – over the years I truly let myself go and often cancelled doctor and dentist appointments over and over. Case in point: after focusing on overall mental and physical well being all week at work I decided it was time to finally make my 3 month follow up diabetes wellness appointment with my doctor. I keep cancelling it because I say I am busy but really it is because I don’t want to do the blood test because I am afraid my sugar levels are too high. So I keep “losing” the bloodwork requisition forms. But yesterday I decided it was time and called. The receptionist and I had a good laugh over how many times I have been given the blood work form. She informed me they could email it directly to the lab. Great, one problem solved. So then we moved on to making an appointment and she said “Oh, you just saw him on May 2!”.  Which made me pause – was it possible I have been so overwhelmed I don’t remember? Then she gasped and said “NO! that was May 2017!!”.  I have a number of health issues and take about 11 different types of medications and I haven’t been to the doctor in a year. That is not good . . .

I have also been trying to eat better. I am not on a diet, I am just making changes to what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat.  But I was struggling with staying motivated. See I am okay with the fact that I am overweight (morbidly obese according to medical people). I have no problem with my body. But medically I need to lose the weight. There are things about myself that I like more than others but I don’t actively look in the mirror or step on the scale and then berate myself. If I want a piece of cake I have one and I don’t feel guilty. I struggled with why I overeat – is it that I am punishing myself? Am I using food as an emotional crutch? Due to past abuse did I at some point decide to try to make myself unappealing to potential abusers? I examined all of these hypothesis alone and in therapy. I didn’t come away with anything. I was no closer to understanding my relationship with food than when I started. The only thing that was different was that I decided I would make food choices purposefully and not just as a reflex (e.g. oh it’s lunch, there is a McDonald’s, let’s eat).

Then along came this week. Mental Health Awareness week 2018. Two co-workers and I spear headed a week full of activities, speakers and give aways to not only increase awareness of people’s everyday struggles with mental health but to focus on the power of positivity and taking positive steps to protect your physical and mental health. On Monday I spoke on the Power of Positivity and shared part of my son’s mental health story as well as part of my story – but the focus was on what I have done to ensure I don’t end up back in the hospital. On Tuesday we had Jen Oliver of FitMama come and speak to us. She was an amazing speaker – so passionate and knowledgeable about what does and does not motivate people to lose weight. Much like our theme of Mental Health matters, she taught us so much. From her website:

“Feeling guilt, shame and regret around food choices will increase the stress hormones in the body and in fact lead to less chance of weight loss and a cascade of other things you are unlikely to want. Intuitive eating, or “listening to your body” is important and also knowing where the choices or cravings or desires are coming from. Are they coming from “shoulds” and “have to’s” or are they coming from love and connection and a desire to nourish?”  – Jen Oliver

As she talked it hit me

I MATTER

That has been my obstacle. I learned early on, for many reasons, that I did not matter. It is seared into my core psyche. I have lived my life serving others at the sake of my own well being. I have ignored my physical, mental and emotional well being. It shows in both big and small ways. For example, because I didn’t matter I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. I was 17 years into my marriage before I finally realized I didn’t like what my husband always wanted on the pizza. When I first told him he thought I had kept the information from him for 17 years. It seems like a silly irrelevant example but it just goes to show you I wasn’t even connected to myself enough to have registered my likes and dislikes. I have spent the last 5 years or so trying to figure out what I like – what is my favourite ice cream? What movies do I like?

So back to the food. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted because I DIDN’T MATTER! Going even deeper – I didn’t even WANT the food. It just presented itself and I took it. It was something to do. Why put in any thought as to whether I actually want the food on offer because what I want doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. I have never mattered.

But I do.

May 11, 2018

Finding What Matters

The last few years I have been on a path of self-reflection and discovery. Many hours in therapy, in silent contemplation, in writing, in conversing with family, friends and co-workers. One of the things I have grappled with is my health – over the years I truly let myself go and often cancelled doctor and dentist appointments over and over. Case in point: after focusing on overall mental and physical well being all week at work I decided it was time to finally make my 3 month follow up diabetes wellness appointment with my doctor. I keep cancelling it because I say I am busy but really it is because I don’t want to do the blood test because I […]
April 2, 2018

An Awareness Day

When I look at my son, when I watch him when he doesn’t know I am watching I see friendly kind thoughtful sensitive inquisitive smart outgoing creative talkative agile For all these reasons and so many more Take the time to get to know my son, who will always be my boy even though he is a man. Do yourself a favour and speak to him a while . . . it will change your life like it has mine. The fact that he has Autism, Bipolar Disorder or an Intellectual Disability does not define him. Diagnosis do not define him – these qualities listed here and many more – those help define him. Take the time to get to know my son for […]
September 3, 2017

Impossible Things

Imagine you have a job that requires you to do increasingly harder tasks each day that you go there. Let’s say you are working a desk job but every day you are expected to do 50 sit ups. You haven’t done a sit up in years and you have a bad back from a previous injury. But everyone is required to do it so you give it a try and you maybe get in 2 or 3 before you give up. Your boss critiques your performance and gives you a Level 1 – the worst level there is. He also decides that because you can’t do sit ups you probably can’t do a lot of other activities the job entails. […]
August 4, 2017

A broken ankle and a broken system

Just recently my oldest son was injured playing soccer and required hospitalization. He injured himself playing on the Special Stars team for individuals with Autism. I only tell you this as it plays a key part in the story. Otherwise it wouldn’t matter what type of league it was. But for this story it does matter. When the ambulance attendants came (after almost 2 hours – totally a different story) they asked about medications and medical conditions. I told them all his medications and that he has Autism, Intellectual disability and Bipolar disorder. He has more but these seemed key to the circumstances. Even as I said Intellectual disability I felt guilty – I hate the term, it used to […]
May 22, 2017

Becoming a Self Advocate

Months ago my youngest, Jeremy, read a book called Beyond Ok by Susan Schenk. It resonated with him and he was eager to discuss with his tutor about his own learning and what works best for him. We had been trying for years to explain learning disabilities and how they affect him. We tried to determine what strategies would work best for him but he remained silent and reluctant to discuss it. We were at a loss. Then along came the book and he just opened up. I read it too and we had some good discussions about it. He was doing a book talk on her book so he reached out to Susan on Facebook and she was kind […]
May 9, 2017

Mental Health Awareness 2017 – Part 2

So I left off with Adam and I becoming a couple.  He came into my life at just the right time. I had a new found love and respect for myself and I believe that is what drew him to me (plus my flirting wearing a low cut sweater might have helped a little). We were engaged after four months of being together though we didn’t actually get married until two years later in 1995. Shortly after we got married we started to try for a family. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) so becoming pregnant is not easy. We eventually got in to a fertility specialist and even had an emergency round of InVitro fertilization (IVF) before we decided […]