Day trip

Sometimes you just need to get away from your home and your city for a day and surround yourself in a new environment to recharge. This past weekend was one of those weekends for me. I needed a change of scenery for a day and so I hit the road to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday to see my friend Jen at the Arnold Classic. I left home around 5:30am because I knew once I hit Indiana I’d be in the eastern time zone and wanted to make sure I got there in time to see Jen at her signing. The drive to Columbus was super peaceful with the open road, music, and getting to see the sunrise was just what I needed.

I got to the Arnold Classic with no problems at all. I figured there would be a line to see Jen, so the booth she was at was the first stop I made. the line wrapped around the booth, which made me so happy to see so many out to see her. As the line moved she looked over at one point and saw me and came over to give me a hug. Some people in line were looking around and Jen said she’s known me for a long time now. Once I made it to my turn to actually see her, she and I had a good talk and then again after her signing was over we talked more. She really made me think about things that have been holding me back from making progress and I shed some tears.

Sunday morning I woke up at 4am and that’s when everything she talked to me about really started to set in about what’s holding back my progress. I thought it was just a couple of things, but then I had an even bigger revelation later in the day. It was one of those holy shit moments where I realized that there have been some things I’ve been suppressing. I’m grateful for the talk and homework Jen gave me.

Sunday was a good day too. After getting some stuff down on paper, I took a nap since I was up so early processing stuff. Later in the day my friend Bri and I went to see The Greatest Show Man. It was such a good movie and I’m glad I went.

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Self discovery

In a way I feel like this blog is turning into a self discovery blog along with sharing my story of being a caregiver to my father. This is a huge deal for me because I feel like my identity for the past seven years has been that of a caregiver. Putting my dad first, taking him to the ER when needed, doctor appointments, helping him with IV medication at home if needed, bandage changes for wounds. The list goes on.

Today is day 20 of a 40 day challenge I am doing. I’ve posted about it before and it’s called #ShapeGoal40. There’s an amazing private Facebook group for women who are encouraging women, getting real about their struggles, and what their goals are. My goals haven’t changed since I posted them in the last blog and I will post the link to that one at the end of this post.

Tonight’s check in with Jen Widerstrom was just what I needed. My goals didn’t advance a whole lot this week until yesterday and today. The last week has been rough with having the upper respiratory thing that’s going around, dealing with a migraine on Friday, being called an orphan by someone, and attending my first grief class after the passing of my dad. I just didn’t really have the energy or drive to be motivated to move a whole lot, but I didn’t sacrifice my healthy eating and getting my water intake in. Yesterday I was still feeling blah and didn’t want to do anything, but I made myself get up and do Jen’s week three workout for the first time and I was amazed how much better I felt mentally after doing the workout. I pushed myself more today with the workout again and as the reps decreased, I made it a point to increase the weight, even if that meant taking a pause in between reps. I was proud of myself for pushing through and getting it done. I’m getting back on track this week and hitting the gym on the days I promised myself I would.

Another part of tonight’s check in was what do we look for in an accountability partner and what you need in your support system. What I’m looking for in an accountability partner is someone who will go to the gym with me and who will challenge me while I’m there. I also want someone who can help make sure I’m staying on track with my eating and water intake. So far I’ve been doing well with this on my own, but you never know when one bad day can start you back down the rabbit hole of bad habits. As far as me being an accountability partner to someone else, I think that I’m good at being a cheerleader for others. I had to be my dad’s cheerleader when he broke through a milestone in his health, like when he quit smoking after more than 30 years. I’m good at celebrating successes. In this process I’ve also learned that I need to celebrate my own successes as well, which can be hard, but I’m slowly learning that celebrating the small things will help when I reach a milestone goal.

As promised, here’s the link to my original blog post about #ShapeGoal40: https://lifeofacaregiver87.com/2017/12/30/shapegoal40/

 

The toll being a caregiver takes

When you are thrown into the world of being a caregiver, you never imagine the toll it can take on your own body. It’s like all of your senses are heightened and you are always ready to jump up incase the person you are taking care of needs something. This is how my life was over the last six and a half years.

When I really started to have to put my dad and his needs above mine happened around the same time that I was in a bad work situation. The department I had been working in and loved most of the time, started to take a toll on me. I was being talked to about things that weren’t at all related to me doing my job and hitting all of my job related performance stats. It was during this time that I visited my family doctor and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder from work related stress. I know this evolved into my anxiety being just as bad because of everything my dad was going through as well. I was out on medication that at first I thought was working, but when I realized it wasn’t, I went back to my doctor and I was put on something different that has helped. In total I’m on two anxiety medications, one daily and one as needed.

When I first started this journey as a caregiver I was pretty healthy. I was slightly overweight for my height around 160. There were times this would be higher and lower depending on how active I was while also trying to take care of all of my dad’s needs. Over the course of time that I was his caregiver, I began to let myself go even more. I really put myself at the bottom of the list and made sure he was always taken care of. By the time my dad passed on 11/29/17 I had hit a number on the scale I never wanted to see. I was, and still am currently over 200 pounds. Over the course of the last almost year I had put on almost 35 pounds.

It isn’t just about the physical weight I put on, but also the emotional weight too. Being a caregiver feels like you are carrying around an incredibly heavy backpack all of the time. Your body is always in this alert mode and your stress levels are so high. When I wasn’t home with my dad to know he was okay it was even worse. I was always so drained, but still managed to keep going at the same time. Even when my dad was in the hospital, depending on the situation and knowing he was in the best possible place he could be if something happened, I was still so stressed.

I could really see the toll this took on me by looking at pictures before truly becoming a caregiver to after. My smile in pictures didn’t look as genuine, I looked run down and tired. And because of all of the stress I started to get gray hair in my mid twenties. It’s so crazy the way stress can affect a body in so many different ways.

This Wednesday will mark six weeks since my dad passed. There are still times that I can’t sleep at night, like tonight, or should I say this morning. I’ve been up since about 3am. My cats Socks and Shadow are still trying to adjust and Socks is having a harder time. I know I’m still adjusting too, but I feel like I’m so much better adjusted than I was after losing my mom. I credit a large part of that to the fact that my dad and I had many conversations about end of life and his wishes. I’ve gotten myself back to a normal routine for the most part and in part of trying to take better care of myself I get up in the morning to make breakfast and lunch so I’m not tempted to stop at a drive thru or order out. I’ve been cooking more dinners and I’m getting back to the gym. I still miss my dad terribly and I know that I always will, however, it’s nice to also be getting my life back.

A huge chunk of my twenties was spent with dealing with the sudden loss of my mom at 23 and then my dad’s declining health. Getting to live my life for myself again is liberating. I’m looking forward to seeing where this year takes me. It feels like I have a world of possibilities now that I didn’t have before. Don’t get me wrong, I would do everything all over again with taking care of my dad. There’s no question about that, but for the first time in my life I’m truly on my own and I’m excited for the adventures that lie ahead. The two photos below are how I’m looking at this year. A week in and I’m still excited about all of the things to come. There are new incentives at work for making extra money, I’m doing the ShapeGoal40 with Shape and Jen Widerstrom, I’m planning my friend (sister from another mister) Katie’s baby shower, I’m going roller skating with Bri Tuesday nights, I’m planning on doing the Shape Half Marathon even if I have to power walk the whole thing, I’ll be going on Jen’s 2018 retreat, and am going to try to make it to Shape’s Body Shop this summer. This is the year I regain myself and my happiness.

#ShapeGoal40

I mentioned in a post I made a few days ago that I’m joining Shape Magazine and Jen Widerstrom doing their 40 day challenge. Being a caregiver so long I really didn’t take care of myself the way I should have. I ate like crap, gave into temptation sitting next to the person at work who is always bringing donuts, cookies, and candy in. As hard as these last four and a half weeks have been without my dad, I realize that this is a time in life where I get to rediscover who I am. I don’t have to constantly worry about my dad throughout the day or not get enough rest because he needs help with something in the middle of the night. Don’t get me wrong, I wish he were still here because he was the best dad I could ever have ever wanted, but I knew in the back of my head that I was putting my health on the back burner to make sure he was okay.

The timing of this challenge has been fantastic. Today is day five and since it started I’ve been cooking meals instead of eating out. I’ve been making chicken dishes, healthy sandwiches, eating salads, fruits, and going out of my comfort zone by trying new things like couscous. It’s amazing how in just five days I feel like I have more energy and that my body is functioning better because I am putting good stuff into it. I’ve also significantly cut back on soda, except for a sip or two to get medication down. When I was six I choked on a life saver and my mom had to do the Heimlich on me, so getting pills down has always been an issue for me, and the carbonation seems to help that. If you know of something else for me to try, let me know!

With the ShapeGoal40, there is a fantastic group of amazing people who are all supportive of each other from all over the world and many of us have posted our goals so we can all help each other stay accountable. I want to post that here on my blog as well, so that I make sure I am not only accountable for myself, but for anyone who may be doing this challenge who reads this, can also keep me accountable.

For the first time in almost seven years, I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I love my dad dearly, but now that he’s gone and truly seeing the toll it took on me that I couldn’t see, but everyone else could has been a huge eye opener. 2018 is going to be focusing on me and rediscovering myself and my joy. As I look back in 2017, I don’t know how I managed to do all that I did for my dad. There were times that I was pretty much at rock bottom, but was able to put up this façade to make it seem like everything was fine. I’m ready to conquer 2018. I’ve got big goals and plans for some of the most special people in my life. I really couldn’t have made it through this last year without Justin, Katie, Bri, Gina, Kelly, Jen and so many more.

Here I come 2018 and here are my goals below!

shapegoal40