Friday, April 3, 2015

THAT is the woman I see in the mirror...

I was the bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding two weeks ago. I told the photographer, also a friend of mine, that I would happily be in any photo as long as I never have to see them.

And then yesterday happened.

The photos were uploaded to Facebook. I have been off and on again close to tears since seeing them.

I see myself in the photos, and that is not the woman I see in the mirror each morning.  The photo with this post... THAT is the woman I see in the morning. She's fluffy, but she's adorable and has a bit of pizzazz in her step.

I’m pretty real with myself about my body image. I know I am overweight, I have struggled with this my entire life… and I know it takes the world’s opinion about my level of attractiveness and kicks it in the shins. However, the photos made me feel like the ugliest and most unwanted person on the face of the earth (and it wasn’t the photographer, she did a great job on the wedding photos).

The last time I saw the clock before going to sleep, it was about 2am. I woke up multiple times during the night and come 7am, I got up with no alarm because I had nightmares about the photos all night and didn’t want to return to them. I arrived to work at 8:40am.  To most, this is a fairly normal arrival time.  For me… well, it was significantly early for my I’m-not-a-morning-person 10am-6pm schedule.

My anxiety triggers are generally anything to do with motor vehicles, and large groups of people/social situations.  Apparently, so is my body image.  I try to be strong and tough about it, but it is getting more difficult to cope with. 

I work hard to eat healthy. Heck, I eat healthier than most of my thinner friends. Seriously. Not fair? Yeah, I know. Exercise is something I need to work harder to include in my life; I know this. I have heard often that with weight loss, it’s like 80% diet and 20% exercise – so you’d think I’d be able to tackle this better.

Case in point, I am going to start a new chapter of becoming well again.

I’m tired of everything, and changes need to be made.  I’m especially tired of the last few years of being treated like a guinea pig/lab rat by various medical providers. Between the aftermath and effects of being hit by that drunk driver almost 10 years ago, my weight, and multiple misdiagnoses regarding what’s going on in my brain (currently we're down to temporal lobe seizure activity, anxiety, and possible PTSD)… I’ve been medicated off and on with several variations of poison for the last 5 years.  I’ve been put on Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), Lamotrigine (Lamictal), Tegretol (Carbamazepine), and the most recent round was Celexa (citalopram) – and it destroyed me.  I gotta tell you, the Lamotrigine and Celexa were the worst. Oh. My. Heck.

My next neurology appointment is in June, with an MRI scheduled during May.  I’m going to call my neurologist next week and tell him I don’t want to be put on any other medication until I see him again. Until then, I will be doing a cleanse and exploring some natural/homeopathic options for the anxiety, which will include working to get my weight down. I can’t control what happens on the roads, or how I react to social situations, but my weight… that’s something I can (with great effort) control. Right? Right???

Wish me luck, send over some prayers, and everything will be OK.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Healer's Art - A Burden Made Light

On September 25th, 2005 a man in Maryland got in his car after drinking and changed my life forever.

My last memory before waking up with my car crushed like a soda-pop can ready for recycling was of a sign I passed a mile before I was hit. I still remember nothing other than the sound of screetching tires; a sound that is the background music for my nightmares. Investigators deduced from tire marks on the road and my impecable driving record, that my little 1993 4-door Suzuki Swift was stopped at a red light and the man hit me going 65-75 miles per hour with no attempt to slow down; the screetching tires I heard were MY tires.

My right leg is deformed from an unusually large femoral artery hematoma that did not reabsorb as predicted, which turned into a mass of scar tissue nobody really wants to operate on.

I know what it feels like to hit something with such forward force that one's sternum breaks, and the agony of waiting an entire year for the ability to finally breathe, laugh, cough, and sneeze without literally wanting to die.

This is why airbags were invented. Sadly my car didn't have them.

The force of my body bouncing back off the steering wheel broke my seat. I woke up laying down.

The sternum break alone partially disabled me from the waist up for multiple months. I had to buy paper plates and other disposable dishes and utensils because I physically couldn't lift a dish, wash it, and put it in the dish drainer. I can't even describe the torture of basic hygiene tasks; I once sat in my old clawfoot tub for well over an hour bawling because I couldn't figure out how to get up without using my arms.

I bawled through plenty of other embarassing tasks as well.

My stubbornly independent self was compelled to be humble because I was dependent on the kindness of others for many things. Lee, a homeless man in the neighborhood, helped me with my laundry each week at the Laundromat in exchange for pocket change and the opportunity to be indoors with me while we waited for the clothes to get done.

I was fired for the first (and only) time from my job.

I walked about 20 blocks round-trip twice a week through downtown Baltimore's infamous North Avenue, the (or one of the) largest drug-trafficking areas in the nation in order to get to physical therapy because most of the bus drivers refused to serve me due to my white skin.

Yes, that really happened.

I was diagnosed and on medication for 6 months (felt like an eternity) for Bipolar II.  In December 2012 my psychiatrist ordered an EEG on a hunch and discovered I was misdiagnosed.

Turns out I have temporal lobe seizures (primarily caused by traumatic brain injuries) which manifest themselves with emotional/behavioral symptoms often identical to those who suffer from Bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc.

Fortunately the blackouts/unexplained lapses of time I kept experiencing tipped the psychiatrist off that something else was actually going on.

Unfortunately I may never be able to eat grapefruit again (it messes with the seizure meds I'm on).

Even 8+ years later, that one man's poor choice to drink and drive haunts my every waking moment. I have no doubt that it always will.

Do I forgive the man who did this?

Of course. We all make mistakes and poor choices, and we are expected by God to forgive all our trespasses; seventy times seven, and again. I can't argue with that. I also cannot honestly report that forgiveness happened overnight. It was a very slow and emotionally draining process. To my dismay, the proverbial weight of this burden was not made lighter despite the sincerity of my forgiveness years ago.

And then today happened.

One conversation with the right person can be life changing.

You know that light, almost-fluttery, somewhere between excitement and nervousness, breathless feeling you get in the borders of your heart right before tears of joy appear?

Yes, thaaaat feeling.

That is what it feels like; to be relieved of the last chunk of a burden you've been hefting around for exactly 8 years and 6 months to the day.

Joy; this is what true joy must feel like.

I leave you to ponder the message from "Lord, I Would Follow Thee", hymn 220 from the Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; my lullaby of March 25, 2014:

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee— 

Lord, I would follow thee. 

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another? 

Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper— 

Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother—

Lord, I would follow thee.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Them there are fightin' words! Or not?

Yes, I really DID send the message below to someone trying to scam me on Craigslist (I am selling an old car). I am not always sugar and spice and all that is nice.... then again, I think I was civil enough... It's your call, what do you think?

Michael, or is it actually Marcus? I am sorry, I have a good sense that your intentions are not sincere. There are a lot of scammers out there who promise money orders, certified checks, etc. There are so many ways of screwing people over these days, and unfortunately for you, I am not one of the ignorant people you can prey on. The fact that your communications have come from 2 different email sources, with 2 different names associated with them shows that you are rather terrible at covering your tracks. Likewise, for a supposed marine, your grammer could use a lot of improvement.

It is my sincerest wish that you realize scamming folks is wrong, and continue forward with a new lease on an honest life from here on out.

Best regards,
Joanna

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Medicine Cabinet Mantra

Once upon a time (2005) while living in Maryland as a young single adult, I wrote down something my LDS Institute of Religion teacher said in class on a small piece of paper. This little message somehow made it through multiple moves in Maryland, a cross-country move back to my home state of Alaska in 2007, and multiple moves here in Alaska.  I never remember packing it, let alone packing it somewhere safe (it is a little smaller than a post-it note). Yet... it always shows up within the first few minutes of unpacking, bringing me a smile and a glimmer of hope.  I have been at my current residence for over 2 years now (yes, my nomadic self is in shock too) and have drawn daily strength from what I now officially deem as "My Medicine Cabinet Mantra".  Consider this a shout-out to all the amazing LDS Institute of Religion teachers of my past, present, and future. Thank you all!

"God may not always answer your prayers when you want Him to... but He will always be on-time" -Tracy Kirkham, Suitland (Maryland) Institute Teacher, 5/23/2005