And So It Begins!

Yesterday started out so awful, I wasn’t sure the weekend would recover. I missed my first flight and had to scramble to change my ticket so I could make it up here for the retreat. It worked out, but by the time I landed in Canada I was stressed, exhausted, starving (airlines aren’t very gluten free friendly) and in desperate tears. Thankfully, my retreat roommate and ride pulled up just as I was leaving the airport, and we stopped at Starbucks for Pumpkin Spice lattes and some snacks to tide us over for the drive up to the resort.

This resort “Private Guest House” is amazing. It’s three floors, the living room has glass garage style doors that open up to the huge deck. We did restorative yoga last night under the stars on the deck, after which we had dessert and I promptly crashed. 

This morning, we woke up to coffee brewing and a nice wake-up yoga class, then breakfast (BACON!) and now free time for a few hours. I noticed a few things, though, and I know if I don’t write about them, I’ll lose them. I’ve already lost a few.

Last night, toward the end of the restorative yoga class, I noticed that with every exhalation, my brain/head felt very full, uncomfortably so. I had had a headache since I woke up, but this was a very strange discomfort. It didn’t matter what position I was in. I don’t know what that signifies or not, but I want to remember that discomfort because it was fascinating.

This morning, in hatha yoga class, we were told to NOT go as deep as possible into poses, to back off a little and find comfort. I noticed several times that it was difficult for me to back off. I learned a few things to note about the shape of poses, and got some better work in because of it – that was awesome. Especially the part about tipping the pelvis into the ground during cobra pose.

The point of this retreat is to embrace the principles of Health At Every Size. I don’t much about that philosophy yet, but I’m learning, and I know logically that it is a very good thing. I bought the book, and I’m working on embracing the emotional aspect of it as well. 

Everyone has been very accommodating for my food allergies as well, and I am so grateful that we can be here, where people are accepting of each other and excited to have fun and really enjoy the food and the yoga and the companionship. I think later, we might indulge in some mini golf or swimming, and it all sounds really amazing. 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some unplugged free time to go enjoy…

Nerves and Anticipation

Tomorrow – or, more precisely, in about 7 hours – I am leaving my home for the weekend. I’m flying to Canada, where I will spend 48 hours or so at a retreat. This retreat is not only going to be seriously amazing, but it might help me with some of the negative emotions I’ve been struggling with lately about my own body image and unhealthiness.

I am blinking back tears as I write this post. I have found myself in tears several times since I found out I was going. I’m not spending a dime to get myself there (except for maybe breakfast in the airport in the morning) because someone out there loves me so much she decided to send me. This person is insanely awesome in her own right, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully express the gratitude I feel for her.

My tears tonight are a combination of nerves and anticipation. I really feel good about going, but I am scared. I have always been afraid of meeting new people and “not living up to their expectations” as though they have expectations of me. This returns to my self judgmental nature, of course, and I worry that I’ll do something to embarrass myself or cause people to either take too much notice of me. In my head, if someone takes too much notice of me that means they will make fun of me. Generally, my self deprecating humor is there in order to make fun of myself before others have the chance. Go figure. I am an in-person introvert (I’ll bare my soul in writing, but that’s about it) and I’m pretty grateful that there won’t be too many people at the retreat so I can likely find some alone time.

My tears are also of relief. I have been busting my ass for weeks at work, trying to accomplish a project before this Saturday’s deadline. The project sort of fell into my lap, and no one wanted to take it from that place, so I wrangled the people together and did it. Not only did we finish the project before I left for the day, but the tying up of loose ends won’t take hardly any effort tomorrow. I am so relieved that I can go on this mini-vacation without that worry over my head…

I am feeling pretty disjointed and rambly as I wait for dinner to be ready and then head to bed for a few hours’ sleep. I don’t know whether my exhaustion is going to kick in hard and I’ll pass out until I’m woken, or if it will turn into the old Disneyland commercial where no one can sleep. My plan is to bring my laptop and blog, but not spend too much time goofing off online because it will be good to unplug for a weekend. Hopefully, this retreat leads to some really awesome positive stuff for me!

Judgmental Much?

I am a horribly judgmental person. It’s awful, really. And I don’t know whether it’s better or worse that my judgment is usually directed inward. Probably neither.

In yoga class tonight, I was so grateful to have a teacher back that has been gone for about a month due to scheduling conflicts. I love all the teachers’ styles at the studio, but what I really love the most is having the variety throughout my week. It’s nice to have her back. Despite that, though, I found myself silently cursing my failing body throughout the entire class. The. Entire. Class. Every new pose, I found something to judge negatively about myself. Every time we brought one leg between our hands and I had to waddle my way into it, I was ashamed of myself. Every time I couldn’t hold a pose because my body refused, I wanted to run away and hide my face. I thought more than once about an amazing retreat I’m attending this weekend thanks to the generosity of an amazing person, and I wondered whether I was making a mistake in going.

Now, let me give you some background so you can see how ridiculous I’m being right now:

This yoga retreat I’m going to? It’s not your typical yoga retreat. It’s a Body Positivity yoga retreat. Where, to be perfectly blunt and probably overly critical of myself, FAT PEOPLE CAN GO DO YOGA. Yes, I said it. It’s yoga and a pep talk all rolled into one seriously awesome retreat on the shores of a gorgeous lake in Canada. And here I am in yoga class, thinking I’m too fat to go to the retreat. The retreat that I wouldn’t be able to afford on my own for at least a few years, but am able to go to because someone loves me and is proud of what I’m doing to get healthy. The retreat I got a new passport for. The retreat where people are going to be like me. Not [slender, perfect, beautiful, insert an adjective that is the opposite of how I’d describe myself here] people that I compare myself to. People who have the same issues with their belly getting in the way of a good twist. People who might have the same issue with having to choose whether to keep both hips on the floor for a seated pose, or to lift one hip up to allow the foot to reach the floor. And I’m freaked out about going because I have judged myself so harshly today that I think even this wonderful retreat is going to be too hard for me.

I have said before that this journey isn’t going to be all epiphanies and wonder. This is one of those days where I’m stuck. I know logically that I’m being ridiculous, but I can’t stop seeing every flaw of my body and curse it for betraying me, curse it for being so weak and flabby and gross and why the hell would anyone ever want to see me naked? Oh yeah, my head’s pulling out all the stops tonight, and we have forgone the pity party for a particularly self flagellating brain loathing party. Fun, huh?

Righteous Headaches

My head hurts. That’s about the only thing I can think of right now. I can’t focus on work, which is a huge problem considering it’s crunch time for a huge project we’re working on that goes live this weekend. I can’t focus on the kids. I can’t even focus on the book I’m reading. All because my head feels like… well, how does my head feel?

My forehead feels like it’s crawling with electrical current that’s shrinking it, peeling it away from my skull. My sinuses feel like they’re congested, but they’re clear as day. My ears, which always have buzzing in them, have an entire nest of angry bees who also happen to be fluorescent lamps. The back of my skull feels like it’s crushing onto my spine like Silo 1 has chosen to blow the charges on me. (Bonus points if you get that reference – if not, I think you can still figure out the gist of what I’m saying.) The bees and their fluorescent lighting are working with the tightening of my forehead (and my forebrain) to launch an attack on my eyeballs.

I have been texting my best friend constantly. She has been gluten free for some time now, but still remembers the withdrawals. “Is dizziness normal? Is this headache normal? Can I shoot my face off without ill effects later?” Apparently the answers vary to those three questions. My blood sugar is likely dipping from not constantly stuffing my face with wheat based carbohydrates. The headache is normal. And for some STUPID reason, neither shooting nor peeling my face off is considered a reasonable solution to these symptoms. I don’t see how this is realistic at all. Face peeling should absolutely be an acceptable response.

I have yoga tonight. I am hoping against hope that it helps me survive how I’m feeling right now. I’ll be sure to snack throughout the afternoon so that I don’t pass out standing up from a forward fold, but beyond that I can make absolutely no guarantees. I know I need the relaxation and the reminder to destress after this week, but I’m scared of what is happening to me.

I hope it doesn’t last forever.

Free Times Two

I went Gluten Free yesterday. The plan is for this experiment to last a month at minimum. If it succeeds, and I notice a difference both in how I feel and how I look, I will stay that way.

I have been struggling with my weight for many years, but only since I found yoga have I realized just how much of a struggle it is. I have been watching calories and cutting WAY down on overprocessed food, going to yoga at least twice a week, and tossing in the occasional home workout as well, but I’m gaining weight. Not only am I gaining weight, but I’m gaining inches. I have developed the infamous muffin top, even in my work clothes. I can’t afford to go buy more work clothes, especially when I have car repairs I need to pay for, so I am dealing with the crunching up of my abdomen.

The allergist wouldn’t do a blood test for food allergies since an elimination diet would give me “all you really care about knowing”. I wish he was right, but I can say with some certainty that milk – more specifically, whey – makes me sick. For days. It’s very hard to avoid milk, but I have been limiting my intake of it since I was small. Cheese is my downfall – thankfully the harder the cheese, the less whey in it. Gluten is a potentially new culprit, but because many people whose opinions I trust can rattle off my symptoms from a thousand miles away like they’re standing right in front of me, I’m going to give this a shot.

I know GF isn’t necessarily “healthier” because other carbs and grains often move in. I am giving it a shot, though, and if I end up with more energy and less full-body inflammation, then great!

Cake Day at work today SUCKED, though. Just sayin’. And by the time we ate dinner after 9 PM because I was trying to make GF meatballs and pay attention to how I was doing it, I was in tears. I was tired, hungry, upset because I was presuming myself a failure, and I just wanted to eat. Those stupid meatballs kept refusing to reach 170 degrees! Finally we ate, and within minutes the kids and I had gone to bed. I hope my husband has better luck in the coming days.

Now – for the good news. I got another free private session yesterday when no one else showed up for yoga class. We talked for a little bit about my aches and pains (and the kids, and how our kids all had to change schools this year because our old one closed) and then she launched me into a crazy core-building, leg-busting, hip-opening, back-stretching sweaty workout. WOWZA. I felt like a newborn giraffe walking the block downtown to join my husband and kids afterwards. My de-whacked left SI joint may have re-whacked itself, though, and for that I’m so insanely grateful and excited…

One of the poses we did was a legs-up-the-wall modified pigeon. Holy cowpies, that actually burned a little on my left side. I had to reduce the depth of that stretch over time, but it was worth the stretch. Warriors are still difficult for me as well, but we did a few and I learned that not only can I do them (even though they’re difficult) but I can sometimes quiet my head in them from telling me to stop because it hurts too much. Of course it hurts. My quadriceps are jelly from years of the rest of me overcompensating for the pain in my knees. Forcing them to work isn’t going to be the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But in the last few classes, it’s become easier to hold the pose correctly. Other poses are coming to me more correctly too. Even if I’m not losing weight, I’m gaining flexibility. With my SI joint not hurting as bad, I’m hoping my left side will come back to the same flexibility as my right. And I think, I hope, I pray I’m also gaining strength.

There are really no words for how lucky I feel that I had the opportunity on my first gluten free day to have a private session in yoga too. She always seems to know when I’m starting to judge myself or get angry and frustrated with myself for not being “perfect”. I don’t know how – maybe there are tells or something. Either way, I think the Universe was trying to give me a little boost and help me accept myself a little more readily. Thanks, Universe. I needed that.

Ouch!

I hurt myself last night in class. My fault completely, of course. I tried to challenge myself, and myself won. Luckily it’s a common injury for me, my SI joint and lower back de-whacked. By which, of course, I mean they got out of whack. I immediately took care to finish out the class carefully and without further injury. I did a good job, and I think finishing allowed me to stretch it out somewhat. I took some powdered magnesium when I got home and laid flat on the floor. All of those things are combining to help me be able to move today, but I wish I had time to go to the chiropractor!!

Sometimes, this attempt at getting back in shape is extra frustrating. My body is prone to a few different sets of injuries. I wish I could say that when I am fit and healthy again, I don’t have to worry anymore, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I wrecked my knees quite impressively when I was in the best shape of my adult life. The Army gets to send me a disability check every month because of it. My hips are another story. No one messed those up for me – I was born with them. They have an annoying angle to them, so my legs do this thing where I’m not really knock-kneed but if my feet are pointing straight forward, my knees are either touching or pointing mostly at each other. The end result is that my body doesn’t have very good building blocks to stack on. The people I have come to call my me-team all help in different ways to strengthen and repair, but my body fights back. Lately, it has been fighting back with abnormal amounts of whole-body swelling. I would say it’s fat, but I really don’t think it is. It’s like full scale inflammation. As a result, I’ve called the allergist to self refer for some testing, and with luck we’ll start to determine some of my problems.

Even with all the pain, though, I am feeling some serious gratitude. In a long-held seated forward fold yesterday, a few words were said about finding gratitude, for even one tiny thing. I immediately started crying from the wave of gratitude that hit me. Yoga. The opportunity to see and feel progress. The attitude of the teachers at the studio. Starting when I did, which has allowed me to do yoga in the park on Saturday mornings while the weather is still good. The inner strength and relief from myself.  The reminders to just… breathe.

When I’m at yoga, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I take that with me, sometimes for a few hours and sometimes for even longer. I am a better person because of yoga. Who knows where this journey will take me? All I know is that it’s the right path to be on. Namaste!

Alive

I am so alive. And it has occurred to me that for more than 20 years, that has not necessarily been the case. I used to live my life in a more or less constant state of anxiety that manifested as self hatred and depression. For a multitude of reasons, that constant state of anxiety foiled a variety of therapies and attempts at finding self love.

Yoga is giving me new life. What used to be a cycle of [being suicidal, trying to recover from being suicidal, and working up to/dreading the next episode of suicidal thoughts and preparation] has been broken and I have sincere and fervent hope that it stays that way. 

I have had more peace in the last two months than I have in the last two dozen years. I have had more gratitude, more patience, more faith in myself, and more faith in the universe. I have had more LIFE. 

Today’s practice was one of gratitude. The teacher worked my butt off, and I managed to get sweat in my eyes – but I laughed instead of getting angry or frustrated. My feet started to really truly hurt – so I just kept them flat and I didn’t worry about anyone else in class judging me for it. My belly, which has been actually GROWING lately in a way that actually worries me a bit, prevented me from hugging my knees for a really good stretch – so I widened my feet a bit and let my belly through so I could get the good stretch instead of trying to force my belly through my spine. I accepted my modifications instead of rejecting myself because of them. And I am so grateful for that ability today.

Life isn’t always great. I did NOT handle some criticism yesterday well. At. All. I have been burning the candle at more ends than it has lately, and the combination threatened the all-too-familiar nervous breakdown yesterday afternoon. Failure at holding it off seemed imminent, until I took a few moments to stop and just breathe deep cleansing breaths. In the space of a few hours, I had recovered most of my sanity and managed to finish out my day at work with only mild persistent anxiety instead of the debilitating kind. The scary kind that would have had me in tears, threatening to cut all my hair off and carving deep scratches in my forearms with sharp fingernails. 

Today, after yoga and reflecting on the successes of the last 36 hours, I have determined that I am awesome. I am not perfect by any means, and I have a VERY long journey ahead of me (seriously, this is one of those rare epiphany moments that I need to journal so I can remember them) but I AM awesome. And at least RIGHT NOW, I believe that I am awesome too. Believing is TOTALLY different than seeing.

It’s a new feeling for me, and it’s one of the best feelings EVER.