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Sunday, 10 January 2021

Choose Your Hard.

 Although my alcohol blog post that I just posted was from March 2020, its fitting it was posted now as I am currently doing Dry January. 

"But didnt you decide to give up alcohol until you were healed inside?!"

Ya, i drank in the last 8 months of pandemic chaos. I don't have it all figured out yet, especially about where alcohol fits in my life. But it was definitely more mindful drinking. And I'm proud of myself for not falling back into the really bad patterns - with everything going on in the world, it would have been so easy to do.

Were there some days I had more than necessary?

Yup.

And at the time I beat myself up and was not very kind to myself. But looking back, overall I think I did good...considering. 

But, I know I can do better.

So in 2021 I plan on building on my progress from 2020. It may not have been perfect progress - but there was definitely progress. And I think I need to acknowledge that - even if it wasn't huge. I know for myself it's so very easy to focus on what I could have/should have done instead. But I'm trying something new - I'm going to try to build myself up, instead of tearing myself down (this is actually very difficult for me - I'm my own worst critic). It's also so much easier to do hard things if you have accountability partners, and/or people doing it with you. So I have 3 people in my life who are doing dry January with me!

Isolating myself the last 8 months (longer actually) made things tougher than they needed to be. My 3 accountability partners are a connection. Maybe it's easier to start with connections that are mutually beneficial. We are supporting each other - it's not one way. So there's no guilt or fear of judgement since we are all trying to reach the same goal. And we all find parts of not drinking tough. 

Along with dry January, although cliche, I am determined to get back in shape. In order to be successful, I'm doing it in baby steps. And I'm putting a lot of thought into what has and hasn't worked in the past so I can set myself up for success. 

For example, by focusing on dry january as a part of getting back into shape instead of  as a punishment, it helps me to stay focused and motivated. It lessens the feeling of being deprived because I'm doing it to reach a goal that I will physically see and emotionally feel. It's been 10 days and I'm not finding it too hard so far to not have a beer.

As for getting in shape, I have many options. But aside from walking the dog and some hikes, I've been pretty sedentary. 

I've missed sweating. 

Well ok, maybe not the sweating part itself, but the way I feel after I've moved my body to the sweating point. I know starting will be tough and it won't feel so good (hence putting it off for sooooo long...). But once I push through the beginning, it gets better. A LOT better. Mentally, emotionally and of course physically. When I feel strong, I feel invincible...

I have not felt invincible in a long time.

Looking at pictures and seeing the weight I've gained is hard. Looking at pictures in the past (ironically through cancer treatment and after) when I was fit is harder knowing the work ahead of me. But as the saying goes, you need to chose your hard.

So I'm choosing running. 

Yes you read that right: running. 

Everyone who knows me knows I loathe to run. Well, running for "no reason" anyways...I played soccer most of my life and loved it. But I see running in soccer as with a point - ie trying to kick the ball into the net. Running for the sake of running is not really my idea of fun. I always laugh when I see a meme that says "if you see me running you'd better run too cause it means I'm being chased" - that's me to a tee. I've never been able to run on a treadmill and I watch people who use it to train in amazement! Just like the people who do marathons or the people who just run because they like it

However I will admit it's a good way to sweat in a shorter amount of time than lets say, cycling. When Phil and I go cycling, we are out for a few hours. Being lower on motivation to get started, shorter is definitely better! With the gyms being closed, and us being short on equipment, working out at home is also more challenging. I am currently looking at a few apps that i am going to try, but I didn't want to put off getting my body moving till I had it all sorted. Hence how I came to my decision to start off by running. No equipment needed, no schedules, and you can do it anywhere.

I have the app I used when I started to run while going through chemo. I always felt fabulous after - which says a lot. So I'm putting aside my dislike for my greater good lol. It's a couch to 5k type app called 'Get Running' that's very simple and walks you through each run (and it's free!).

The other reason I've chosen running is that I know I'll hate whatever I start with at the start...so if after I start to get in shape I ditch running, and stick to HIIT type workouts and cycling, it's no loss since I don't like to run anyways. As opposed to starting with riding on my bike trainer, and not enjoying it because it's harder at the beginning. Riding outside is so therapeutic so I don't want to be put off indoors.

And the other thing is that I find running hard. Its challenging and daunting to me. So when I finish a run, I am pumped and proud of myself. Which is helping with the whole "building myself up" mindset shift I'm aiming for.

10 days into 2021 and so far so good...




Friday, 1 January 2021

New Year, Same Me - I’m just going to love her better than ever! - Unknown

Jan 1, 2021

Leave it to me to take a leap with both feet and bare my soul less than a week before the world goes into full shutdown for a pandemic...

In March 2020 I wrote and published 2 blogs, and the third one (before this post) I wrote but didn't publish...next morning I got rear ended, ending up with a mild concussion and by the time I could look at a computer without turning green, we were in full lockdown. To be honest, how could I share my story of struggle when now the whole world was turned upside down? There was enough suffering to go around without adding my own to the mix.

At first for us not too much changed. It was like a cocoon being in lockdown - those first few weeks we enjoyed the slower pace of life. We even had a schedule for the kids and a points system for earning things like screen time or junk food (pinterest Mom anyone? Closest I've come ha)

But as anyone knows, 8 months is a long time to live apart. It seemed like on social media that people were doing ok. But I wasn't. The stuff that started me writing my blog again was still there - except now I had the perfect reason to pull away and to disconnect from friends. To hide the pain. We were all in this together, but I was sinking before Covid and I didn’t feel worthy to share that with anyone - after all everybody now had their own corona burdens.

But something amazing happened on New Years Eve. A few people told me they were struggling too - with some of the very same things I was struggling with! I think talking to each other may have been the first time we said anything to anyone (it was hard to do for me!) - and I could have cried with relief that these same people I pulled away from, still love me. That it's not just me - and whether their struggles started with Covid or it exacerbated them doesn't matter. We connected again, and it flipped a switch deep inside.

So today I woke up, and did another hard thing - I took our dog for a run! (I HATE running and have done very little for a LONG time exercise-wise) And I felt happy to sweat...and that I didn't drop dead ha. 

I did another hard thing today posting my previous blog on alcohol. 

The first day of a new year is a good day for hard things I guess 😉

“After all, alcohol is the only drug on earth you have to justify not taking.” ― Annie Grace, This Naked Mind

March 12, 2020

So…Alcohol.

Anyone who knows me, has known me, or has partied with me knows…I am a party girl. I can be a social butterfly. I like my booze. I like to get wild, get loud and have a good time.

However, I don’t drink every day. It doesn’t interfere with work. I don’t have a physical reaction when I don’t drink. I’ve never had my stomach pumped. And maybe that’s why I didn’t think it was an issue for so long. I had this preconceived idea that it had to be ‘extreme’ in order to be an issue in my life.

This part is hard – I didn’t think about what my kids were seeing. I didn’t think about Phil. What’s a few drinks on a Friday and Saturday night right? Society says that’s what you do to relax. You OWE it to yourself to have that nice cold beer after a long week where you worked hard.

Well, those few drinks started to become (alarmingly) many. It wasn’t 2 beers…its was 5. Or 7. Red Flag.

My tolerance went way up. When Phil would mention “do you really need another one?”. I’d get annoyed…mad even. Another red flag. We’d go camping. What goes together better than camping and drinking by the fire all day long, all weekend long? We’d actually run out of beer and have to go buy more. BIG red flag.

But I ignored that. The idea of no booze – terrifying. How will I relax? How will I have fun? Unconsciously, how could I avoid the pain bubbling under the surface if I couldn’t take the edge off?

I tried a couple of times to do 30 days no alcohol. I think I lasted 3 weeks each time. I could do no booze – but apparently only for a fixed amount of time. Then I’d pat myself on the back, assured that I ‘don’t have a problem’, and get right back to where I was before.

Booze has been part of my life since I was a teen. I can’t say if it was an issue in this same way before the last few years. Before my whole life was turned upside down with every cut of that knife to remove the cancer…then prevent cancer…then rebuild what cancer took from me. When I went through treatment I slid into a badass mindset and wholly embraced it. I tackled everything head on. I thought I did that equally for all the parts – chemo, rads and surgery. Maybe I ran out of steam. Maybe the non permanent parts were easier to tackle – hair grows back, radiated skin heals, cancer treatment ends. Cause I don’t think I tackled surgery in the same way. Any of the 3 surgeries.

Breasts do not grow back. Having them cut off is not an expected part of life. You don’t grow up thinking “one day when I have to have my breasts removed…”. I won’t lie – there was a novelty of having no breasts. It was kind of liberating. For a while. Then the novelty wore off. No prob though - I was having reconstruction right? That would fix everything! A boob job no less – who doesn’t think that’s a great thing? Except reconstruction is not a boob job. You don’t get nipples like you were born with with reconstruction. Those are gone forever. You can get tattoos, surgical creation of the nipple in looks only. You can get implants or cut off part of your body to stitch to your chest. But it is NOT the same thing as the breasts you knew and loved. My plastic surgeon once said “God makes breasts. I am not God. I make a reasonable facsimile of breasts. Under clothes, no one will ever know.” (Naked, it’s a different thing. At least for me. Maybe that’s where the image in the mirror first started to get distorted for me.)

And you know what? What they can do now for patients who get mastectomies is AMAZING. I am so so so very grateful to my plastic surgeon. Maybe that’s what makes it so hard. I’m so very grateful, and so very heartbroken all at the same time. I guess its not such a stretch that when I’d be happy and have a buzz from drinking, things didn’t quite seem so bad or matter so much. It’s easy to gloss over the sad feelings, while amplifying the good ones. But it’s not sustainable. Obviously or I wouldn’t be here!

So, how did I get past the 3 week limit of cutting out booze?

Well, as usual I did a lot of reading. AA didn’t seem like a good idea to me – I was already drowning in negative labels – it didn’t make sense for me to add another one ( and I am in no way knocking AA – I just didn’t feel like it was a good fit for me). Just pure willpower wasn’t going to work either – it never seemed to last past the 3 weeks right?

While researching, I came across a book called The 30 Day Alcohol Experiment, by Annie Grace. It seemed to speak right to me. The idea is to try 30 days without booze – but to look at it as an experiment about what life could be like - without booze. And she has a chapter a day for you to read. And she agrees about will power – her argument is will power is finite. Basically you only have so much. So you start using it to not drink a beer. But you are also using it to not eat that pizza. Oh and we need it to go to the gym that we don’t feel like going to. At some point, it’s going to run out. You only have so much, and the more you use it for, the less stronger it will be. That totally made sense to me. She does stress that this book should not be used in place of medical facilities for people who need to detox – if you are having physical detox reactions, you need help from doctors who can help you safely. What I love about her book is it’s not all or nothing. People who use her tools aren’t just people who cut it out completely. People use her book to reset and just reduce how much they drink. Or to become more mindful drinkers.

Anyways, her book was a huge help. I was esp. motivated this time too since I was committed to Phil and myself to figure things out before they got really bad.

So if you have tried some stuff, or haven’t found anything that has helped you, and you want to reduce (or eliminate) how much you drink, check out her book. They even have it at the library so you can try it without committing if you decide you hate it! She’s got a podcast too (This Naked Mind), if you wanna go that route and check out what she’s about first.

It wasn’t just the book though that helped. I also got some fakies. Non alcoholic beer (ya i know - but they actually aren't that bad). That was a HUGE help too. My favorite actually is Heineken or Coors (although I also like O'douls amber). I saw some Toolshed non alcoholic beers too at Sobeys but I haven’t tried those yet... We have also started to drink virgin Mules – Ginger beer (like ginger ale but spicier – spiciest one is at Super Store) and lime juice. SO good! Phil saying he wasn’t going to drink beer around me or have it in the house was important to. Days when it was harder cause I really, really felt like a beer were made easier by it not being in the fridge.

I have to say – I feel really good. In some ways it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I like not having hangovers. I like getting up early and tackling the day with a clear head. I’ll talk about Rachel Hollis and her #Made For More group in another post, but she challenges women with “what if you didn’t break your promise to yourself this time”. So promising myself to stay away from booze till I healed, and actually holding up that end of the promises has made me feel like I can do hard things for myself. And that its just as important to do it for myself than anyone else (maybe more). It has allowed me to feel the pain come to the surface. That’s been uncomfortable. But I’m trying to sit with that uncomfortable feeling and be curious about it, instead of pushing it down cause its uncomfortable. Kinda like dipping a toe in the water before you jump in. Sitting with it without the comfort of beer (but without actively addressing it) has been prepping me for when I go talk to someone and it gets very uncomfortable.

We did go for dinner at a pub a few nights ago and we each had a beer. It was one beer, and a bit of a test, and I was so happy that in my mind I passed. I didn’t crave a second one. I didn’t down my beer before the food got there (I actually savored it and tried to be aware of drinking it instead of mindlessly drinking it) It was just so freaking nice to have a beer with my husband like a normal couple. I don’t plan on having another for a while, but I’m glad we did have one that night cause I think I needed to see if staying away from it for over a month prior had changed anything. I’m not ready to be drinking. Maybe I’ll decide to give it up for good. I don’t know – I'm not ready to make that decision right now. I need to work on the broken stuff inside before I even decide if it still has a place in my life. Otherwise it will likely just become a crutch again to help me not deal with the hard stuff.

And I have to deal with the hard stuff.

Monday, 9 March 2020

"...Tiptoe if you must, but take the step..." - Naeem Callaway

Well, I made the call.

And I either need to put my big girl panties on and suck it up. Or give myself some grace.

Maybe both.

Because I did not want to make that call. I've been avoiding it for oh...5 weeks or so (plus or minus a few years...). I couldn't even bring myself to actually call, but there was a messenger type chat option to book appointments so I took that route. Just asking me the general info and using the words "what can we help you with" and I could feel my back getting up. As I typed the words including  "self esteem", "body image", "breast cancer" I was cringing. (I'm cringing again now retyping it) I didn't mention it's been almost 6 years since I was diagnosed. Or that its been over 3 since my last surgery.

I asked if they have anyone who specializes in cancer survivors, which was a suggestion from a friend that reached out yesterday. They don't. The counselors are all general. Ug.

She finally typed back: so you are looking to talk to someone about self esteem and body image/breast cancer?

It felt ridiculous to be saying I need to talk to someone about my self esteem. Or breast cancer (like I haven't had so many conversations about that).

So I added "I've binge drank some to avoid dealing with this".

And as I looked at all those words sitting in the chat box, I wondered if my being was really reduced to those few words. I felt ashamed. I felt stupid. I felt overwhelmed. It was so much more complicated than those stupid words. It took everything in me not to type "nevermind" and close the chat box.

I wanted to cry.

Some part of me thought I'd probably feel better after making an appointment with a psychologist. 

But I didn't.

Yesterday after I posted my blog, I felt better. Just like a teeny, tiny weight was lifted off my shoulders. That regardless of of how bad of a friend I've been, how many times I've flaked and alienated myself, I still find myself surrounded by friends who forgive me and care. It was another step forward.

But after booking the appointment, I felt emotional. Like the box I've been trying so hard to keep closed opened ever so slightly. 

I didn't like it. 

It's one thing to say you're gonna do the hard things. It's another thing entirely to actually do them. 

And booking that appointment was so much harder than I thought it would be....

...But I booked it.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

"Only in my pain did I find my will. Only in my chaos did I learn to be still. Only in my fear did I find my might. Only in my darkness did I see my light." - T.M.T

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Do you see a sparkle in your eye? The wonderful curve of your hip? The power in your strong legs? The optimism, passion and joy radiating through your smile? Maybe even a shy sexiness you may not admit to anyone else out loud?

I used to see those things when I looked in the mirror.

When I went through cancer treatment, I added "warrior" to the list of what I saw in the mirror.

Somewhere along the way though, the image reflecting back at me started to become distorted.

The sparkle in my eye was dulled by the pain inside. The curve of my hip started to look too big. Those legs looked flabby and gross. That smile only seemed to highlight the plain, fat face looking back at me, and radiated only doubt and shame. And that shy sexiness was slowly replaced with self loathing.

It got hard to look in the mirror.

For someone who talks (and loves to talk) as much as I do, going to see someone to sort through my head space has never been an issue. Not so this time. I felt alone.

I have a huge, loyal friend circle. A wonderful, supportive hubby and equally supportive family. Two amazing kids. A good job. Beat the cancer odds.

What could I possibly be upset about?

So I pulled back. I binge drank. I smiled on the outside.

But I was dying on the inside.

Just over a month ago, Phil (my hubby) sat me down, and we had the first real heart to heart in while. He was concerned about the binge drinking (that was getting worse) but he knew something was very wrong inside. Maybe it was the way he approached it. Maybe I had hit my limit. Maybe it was the love and concern I saw in his eyes. But I finally opened up, and he held me while I cried the pain I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to hide.

We decided no more booze until my head was screwed back on straight. He agreed to not drink beer (cause honestly wine and hard stuff are not my jam) or have it in the house to support my decision to clear my head and let me sit with my pain and not try to numb it.

It's been over a month since that decision, and I'm feeling a lot better. I still haven't brought myself to pick up the phone and make an appointment to go talk to someone. Professionally.

Me, not wanting to talk?? This is NOT normal for me... (but I'll write a blog and put a spotlight on my darkest fears and insecurities for the world to see?? ya I know, I know, doesn't make rational sense but I've never really been a super logical person ha ha)

When I was writing this blog through my cancer treatment, it really helped me to process some of the really hard parts. I'm not sure if I stopped writing cause it got too hard, or if it got too hard so I stopped writing.

But here I am.

The insecure, dark part of me is terrified of putting this out there incase it's really only me and no one else can relate and everyone will just judge and laugh at me for being so dumb. Confirming my worst fears.

My logical side urged me to put this out there because I am definitely not the only person who can relate, is feeling this way, or has felt this way at some point. I discovered how therapeutic writing is for me. So I'm going with my instincts, and on International Women's Day, deciding to share my story as I do the hard things, and walk through my fire. 

A wise woman named Martha Krejci  said this weekend (at an amazing event I attended) that the fires we talk through in life (big challenges) become our Bat Signal to others with whom it resonates with. She also believes its our DUTY when we come out on the other side of the fire, to reach back in and pull the next person out.

So here I go, taking a (SCARY!) step into my fire and sending out my bat signal in doing so.

Maybe you're in a similar fire, and we can walk through it together.

I'm terrified. But I'm ready.

Today's the day I re-write the negative stories I've been telling myself into a story that empowers, excited and uplifts me every time I look in the mirror.

My Inner Ninja is waking back up.