Sunday, June 16, 2019

Guest Blog: Eva..."Girl Power!"

A woman who needs no introduction, my wife, Eva:


In my last crisis I was turning 49 and had begun to reflect on the last decade of my life.  I had changed so much in the last five years that I was really starting to lose sight of a bunch of things.   And it made me a little sad, of course, the things left behind,  but the chance to further refine what I want and what defines me was a scary but exciting opportunity I could not pass up. 

 I’ve discovered a few things about Eva that are interesting. 

Most of the hobbies I picked up over the course of my life were just to see if they interested me enough to keep for a while.   I’ve dropped many of them because they were too easy.   I need a challenge...almost can’t live without trying to do something better, or faster, or with more efficiency.   This is actually an issue, something I have been to therapy for, and actively control with medication.   It manifests as anxiety for me.   I’ve thought long and hard about how to best describe this to you. Unless you have a fairly serious anxiety issue, it is very difficult to grasp the full scope.  Please don’t think I’m being condescending in any way shape or form...I’m referring to the kind of serious that has seen hundreds of hours of therapy to learn techniques to try and quiet my brain, multiple medications that need to be taken permanently, many grounding techniques, and so on and on and on. 
I have an absolute inability to be in silence (poor Ken didn’t get much sleep when I snored AND needed a TV on while I was sleeping. (I always need one on when I'm awake.) Nowadays I take an iPad to bed, turned bright side down if Ken is trying to sleep, and use an earphone in one ear. The multiple medications that I must take for the rest of my life are to make sure I can concentrate on one thing, just one thing, and stop worrying.   Oh, to be able to silence the whirling what-if’s, the replaying conversations, emails, phone calls in my head over and over for years sometimes, the escape plans...

Escape plans? Let me explain a bit. It is often referred to proudly around the house as a scram kit. When I was younger I was in a situation that was a bit tricky, and it sparked a survival instinct that I took to its logical (if you are manically anxiety inclined) conclusion in that I became somewhat of an expert on survival situations.   Like knowing how to start a fire using ice, water or even a chocolate bar and pop can (honest - look it up). I studied the British search and rescue SAS handbooks long before they were available locally, imported from a friend in Bermuda who had access to the books as he was the closest person I could get to ship them to me.   This was back in the Stone Age, really well before the internet and overnight shipping.

I advised on a couple of teams putting together earthquake kits while living in Vancouver.  

It took a nervous breakdown, medication, a great deal of therapy and a hand ax in my basement before I could let go of some of the escape plans in my head.  Some of them.

Put it this way: If the world decides to go to shit, and you can keep up, find me. [Ken intrudes: FIND HER. You want this woman next to you in any kind of crisis. Trust me.] 

Do you see what I mean about serious anxiety issues?  Even with everything I've done to quiet it, I still have anxiety.  A lot.  Please don’t feel sorry for me, I have learned to deal and be productive.  I take nothing away from people who cannot cope with life outside their house.  It is only the very anxiety that drives me that will not let me stay at home.   I want to, so very much.   I am outraged at the very real illness I have and the number of times I have imagined discrimination against me, the number of times the discrimination was VERY real. It  has been heart rending.  

I come to a hard block when it comes to describing the bad in my life.   I quit smoking, had to for myself, because of the bariatric surgery.  It took seeing my father, slowly dying of cancer,  begging the nurse or my mother to kill him.   He understood if they couldn’t, he said, just give the gun to me - it’s ok - I’ll do it.  To see this strong, strong man in tears, and the look on his face with the need for someone, anyone to just please help him... Being in a backwater community hospital that couldn’t sedate him well enough to make his pain stop was possibly the worst moment in my life.   I am forever grateful that it didn’t take long after that moment before he left. In leaving, he left ME strong enough to take the steps following that have changed my life in so many ways. 
I’m starting to think the people  like me, the bad cases - the ones who need bariatric surgery to survive--need to try their hardest to realize (and still not be prepared for) the true meaning of this life changing event.   I am a whole new, different person.   And still almost a stranger.

The bad:  I guess you could say there are some things.
  • Chronic nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to eat certain foods...and every once in a while a previously "safe" food will turn traitor on me
  • Dumping syndrome, a condition provoking yet more nausea and dizziness*
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernias
  • Body aches
  • Feeling utterly exhausted, as if you have the flu
  • Feeling cold
  • Dry skin
  • Hair thinning and hair loss
  • Eroding jaw and sudden tooth decay (my teeth were previously perfect) 
  • Mood changes
  • Permanent change in your anatomy
  • Restricted dietary choice for the rest of your life
And so on and so on.  

  ***Dumping syndrome comes from eating foods high in sugar, calories and fat and causes discomfort, 20-30 minutes of nausea, and possibly vomiting, diarrhea, and overall weakness each time.  For me, it usually involves sleeping for close to an hour as well.   I take medications to control my stomach acid, because I not only am susceptible to ulcers, but that chronic nausea part?   Try debilitating and constant.   That feeling that you are just about ready to head to the bathroom and make not so sweet love with the goddess of porcelain ?  This is me 24/7 when I do not take medication twice a day to completely render my stomach deadened. 

Ah, anyway… So there is lots and lots of extra skin when you lose a crap ton of weight.  By the way, I’m still losing almost 6 years later.  I’ve lost a little over 180 pounds so far, and my body seems determined to keep taking me down.   But lots of skin.  Skin that is very fragile, and is now starting to tear in areas where I have a lot of extra.   Those side effects listed above? There really aren't many others I can get that I don't already have. There are hygiene issues.   I have, with obvious cleaning exceptions,  not been without a bra or underwear on all day and all night, every day and  every night for more than five years.  It’s unsightly at the best of times, but can actually hurt if it is twisted the wrong way.   It’s a nightmare to shave, but is a necessity because...moisture.  Enough said.    Oh, except maybe to add night sweats because menopause is a bitch.

Humiliation.  I will not go into detail, but take a look at how much you weigh, and how much skin you have.  Take all your skin and double it to hang on your body.   People are not nice, and that is also enough said.

Something else to think about after the surgery, is that there are things that are permanent.   There are consequences to the size I was.   I do have a slight regret on the fact that I do not know my official top weight.   I was reminiscing with my doctor's nurse over how I would not let anyone weigh me for years. I only relented on this after I had been on a pre-surgery diet for about ten weeks.   The number started with a four, and my eyes closed before I could see it all.   Oh God.
After crash dieting for two and a half months where my doctor and Rosie were reassuring me I was making progress and it still started with a four!

Back to consequences.    My knees are buggered.   Big time.   I’ve got enough to complain about with those alone.   Went in for another look at them to see if it’s time to start discussing with a doctor about the replacements.  Not quite yet.   Even though my knees feel better than they ever have, there is no regrowing bone that was ground to dust through sheer force, there is no making a baker's cyst go away, and there is no way to fix the new fun thing it's doing… my tendons are so very unhappy with how much they are being stressed and are starting to revert to a sort of boney sort of thing.   Wait, there is a better way of saying that fucking awesome piece of news…. The tendons and ligaments around my knees are  so tired of being pounded for so many years that they are calcifying.   They hurt.
My hands, after so many years of typing, are letting my tendons fall off (fall off!!) the knuckle. This causes a great deal of pain and ALSO has long term  consequences.

This is why I don’t like to dwell on the negatives, even though it seems like I just did.   I don’t want to take away from anyone else's  pain and issues. And whenever my head hurts too much, or I cry from another bad anxiety day, or my knees make me cry, I think of the people who have it worse.  The nights I wake up with my muscles cramping, SEIZING, because only through my own research do I discover that calcium is a HUGE issue and should be taken in special ways the whole rest of your life… why should I know this?  I don’t know, but I haven’t been taking calcium at all for almost six years.   That explains some of the those cramps, the teeth breaking and falling out. 

Blah, blah, - believe it or not, there is more.   But I’d like to move on now.  

One of the things that I decided to try myself this last six months is to tackle some home improvement renovations.  The house was beyond desperate to have some things. Through various circumstances it worked out that I did about 80% of the renovations we have undertaken at this point.  I started taking pictures as I felt the growing sensation of pride, comfort, and confidence, and the relief -- see above -- that THIS could be something it would take a long time to master and grow bored with.  It seems I've inherited some talent from both my Mom and Dad...both of them are talented as hell and I'm but a pale imitation, but still.

I started calling them the girl power projects.

Remember the time Ken tried to burn down the kitchen?  We cleaned, sure (kinda, half assed), but never really did anything else, and had not refreshed anything for far too long.
Really too expensive for us to have this professionally done, but we aren’t moving - I could do the work and we could live with any consequences, I reasoned.

So I started.   And puttered, and then got serious, and in the end I gave the kitchen a pretty decent makeover.   And then I tackled the bathroom.   I’ve got more plans going, ambition out the wazoo, and the beginnings of the request for a present for my 50th birthday.

My life plans include moving to the family farm when I get to retire (hopefully while Mom is still there for a while) and my goal for retirement is to feed my families.   I would like to be a hobby farmer again.   Our nieces will inherit this from us.

I am tired and a little disturbed at what passes for nutritional food these days.  Moderation, of course - I love me my (two bites of) pizza, but even now how many people know what it is to grow food in the ground, how to do it, or even know what real chicken or pork tastes like?

Another girl power project done up at the farm.  Three grown women and a fantastic future woman.  Protecting baby chickens.   Laying a hundred feet of fence in the rain, cold, scraped, bruised, laughing like hell over one of my closer friends being overly concerned with my poor pinched boobies.   The infant mortality  rate on a farm is pretty high, so every little bit helps, and the foxes figured out right quick that we had baby chicks again.

Right, the farm - To this end I have also developed a pretty serious gardening passion.   I’ve learned to grow plants through trial and error and find again I have a bit of a talent, and the interest will keep me active for some time.   

My 50th birthday is coming.   It’s one that will hold another career change, and two things.  You’ve heard briefly about the growing passion for working tools and wood, you will hear of the career change when the time is right.  I’ve told Ken that I might enjoy having a bit of a party for my birthday.   I’m too much of a control freak to let it be a surprise, and would prefer a few things but I want to celebrate with my friends the very many things I have to be grateful for and proud of.  How I want to see YOU at the start of this new phase, to tell YOU how much YOU have meant to me in the past, and how much I want to see YOU in the future.

For the first time I am asking for a birthday present in I don’t remember how long.   Because I believe this is worth celebrating.   I’ve asked for a cordless tool set, just one of those mid job  ones with 5 or 6 tools.  I would not have to borrow tools to take on some of the things my mind is seeing in this house right now or in the future.

The other thing that I’ve decided on is to get a tattoo I have been praying of being worthy of for over 20 years.   It is a long story, and perhaps another blog altogether  but through my young adulthood I learned of many religious ideologies and studied a lot of things before deciding on something that kind of stumps most people when it come to my personal religious belief. You ready for this?

I believe that what YOU believe is true.   I believe that there is a god for those who believe in Him. Call him what you want, they're all there, gods and goddesses, the universe, Satan, Diana, Hecate, Buddha, or simply nothing.  Nothing.  If you believe it, I think it exists for you.

One thing grabbed my attention early on, and it was the Goddess Durga.   She was made by powerful gods who gave the best, strongest parts of themselves to form her, and in the legends she defeats a god considered unbeatable by immortals and mortals alike.
When I first met her, she made it difficult to claim her as a protector.   I needed protecting from so very many things.  I heard her. She said: "It is when you have defeated most of them, and you can rest against me for protection that you can claim my protection.  You will know it is time."

I told people through the years that Durga was my masterpiece tattoo, the one that would go on me when I was ready to be protected.  When I was finally strong enough to stand with her and have her be as proud to be on me as I am to show the world how she saved me, and continues to show me that I am worth saving.   It happened out of the blue the other day, the sudden knowledge that she wanted to be with me all the time, and where she would go.   I considered discarding the feeling, but it was confirmed for me less than 15 minutes later when I was confronted with another sign.   Okay, I said - You are right, I am ready and I am gong to be proud to design and wear her.   Oh, and because I need to be the kind of shit disturber I am, there really is only one spot left on me that can take a tattoo of that significance.  That magnificence.   If you laugh at the 50 year old who gets the daring first tattoo over midlife'll truly cross the street when you see me coming with a partial sleeve.   I’ve wanted one most of my life.   I’ve earned one.

That's my other present.  I’m having it custom drawn by a gentleman I’ve seen in the only shop that has earned repeat business from me.   He is about the only person I can see bringing her to life.  Pictures of the renovations are here, the tattoo is yet to come. .   This is one of those pieces of art that takes time to create, to put on, to heal and to come together.     And to pay for, LOL.    Let Ken know if you want to contribute to either of those mid life celebrations.  

The kitchen, before: 

..and after:

The bathroom, before:

and after:

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