Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Fear of "Being Found Out"

"One of our greatest fears is the fear of being found out. It's why we spend so much time posturing and pretending to be someone we're not. We spend so much time trying to cover the mistakes of our past that we truly don't even know who we are anymore. While we fear being found out, we simultaneously long to be fully known and fully loved. But here's the problem: you can only be loved to the extent that you are known." -Pete Wilson

Isn't that a great quote? My biggest fears aren't tangible. While I had rather not have a snake or a mouse cross my path, I'm not "scared" of them. Heights, deep water, darkness, zombies, vampires, big foot... ....meh. I can do with or without. What I am afraid of is people "finding out" what I dub "the real me." My binge habits, the messiness and the clutter in my house that pair themselves with one of my binges. Or the fact that sometimes when I'm really depressed and lazy I just slide my porch door open and let Ziggy "go" out there instead of giving him the attention and the exercise he deserves with a walk.

Andy Stanley says that the "reason we fear the consequences of confession is because we've yet to realize the consequences of concealment."

I am fearful of someone walking in my house and seeing my dishes piled up or the clutter all over the place. I'm normally a VERY neat and organized person... unless I've gone on a binger. I have not dealt with the "consequences of concealment" because I just simply don't let people in my house during these times. I am able to hide it. I conceal it. Therefore, I am afraid of what will happen if I confess these habits to someone. What will they think? Will I become nasty to them? Will they treat me like I deserve to be on an episode of hoarders or something?

If we are hiding our bad habits from the people who love us, we are not letting them love the whole us. Their love stops at that point where we close the door on them. For me, the love and support of my friends and family is my biggest support system. How can I expect them to do their job as cheerleaders if they don't see the whole picture? I'm not saying that you should leave your house in a rat-infested wreck just to "admit" it to someone, but confessing that you are hiding things is the first step towards letting someone in to a part of you that has been quarantined and cut off for a very long time. Do you eat while your spouse is sleeping? Do you sneak off and get fast food when someone thinks you're running errands? Do you eat the leftovers off of your family's plates while you're cleaning up? Do you stash candy away for future cravings?

Stop hiding. Face your fears head on and let them go away.

Here's an example of a fear I overcame: I don't know why, but all of a sudden in college I started getting extremely nervous when I had to stand in front of the class and give presentations and speeches (hard to believe, I know).  I had spoken and performed in front of people my entire life and I loved being on center stage! I've played my cello in front of hundreds of people hundreds of times and loved each time. I remember the day that fear got the best of me--- it was in my first marketing class. I don't remember what the speech was, but I was soooo nervous. I shook, my voice was shaky, I stumbled over my words... I was a hot mess. I could not for the life of me figure out why I was so nervous. Since I knew that I was going to be entering a career where I had to present myself in front of a lot of people, I wasn't having it. For the rest of college I volunteered to be the speaker for every group project, I spoke at my sorority meetings, I did anything I could do to help me overcome this fear that just came out of no where. It was very scary the first several times after that marketing speech. I was afraid the night before, the morning of, and during. Even afterwards I was still rattled. But I kept doing it until that fear was gone. I was STILL SPEAKING while I was afraid. I grasped fear and fought it. Now I give a presentation every single day at work and I love it!

I could not have overcome my fear of speaking in public had I not thrown myself in the ring and fought it. I would still be scared to this day.

Think about something you are afraid of. What have you done to fight that fear? The fear that's associated with our food addiction, binge eating disorder, unhealthy habits, etc... is the only thing keeping us from overcoming. If we are afraid of what lies on the other side, why in the world would we want to cross the bridge that takes us there? Who knows what waits for us! But isn't it better to try crossing the bridge and taking a look, than to stand there wondering for the rest of our lives? Think about how much time you've already wasted wondering how much better your life might be if you finally lost the weight you've been carrying around for 10 years? I mean, if you absolutely hated being thinner and healthier, you could always just go back to your fatter and more miserable self, right?

I am afraid of what I will do when I give up my habits. If I never binge again, what will I look forward to? I enjoy sitting my ass on my couch watching tv with a big bowl of cheesy pasta by myself.
Wait a minute, that sounds horrible when I say that out loud. "Sitting on my ass watching tv with a big bowl of cheesy pasta...by myself." Ugh. If someone gave me 3 choices of how I could spend my afternoon and that was one of them I would laugh.
Point being: How can I be afraid of losing something that I don't even really  want to be doing in the first place?

Isn't losing weight just one big session of overcoming fears? Trying new food, doing new exercises, eating less, eating more, drinking less, drinking more water, finding accountability...These are all things that seem scary at first. But just like my fear of speaking- I am willing to face the fear of losing weight head on. I'm tired of wondering how wonderful my life could be if I finally crossed the bridge. No more hiding behind my fear.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Obsession with being Compulsive

I have to get pretty beaten down before I let something affect me. So it's no surprise to me that "compulsive" is used to describe my overeating. When I set my mind to do something I become totally OBSESSED with it. I go above and beyond in every aspect possible. I will push and shove until I reach my goals. When I get to the point that my efforts become futile and external circumstances hinder me from reaching my perceived end result, it isn't pretty for anyone involved. I will push a barrel of bricks uphill for as long as I can. It will take something major happening for me to let it go. I have to be devastated repeatedly before I will give up. It is exhausting. While I am in said uphill battle, I totally forget that I have obsessive compulsive disorder, which is extremely dangerous. From work, to personal relations, to losing weight... It is nearly impossible for me to function like a normal human being. I want everything to be perfect, no glitches, no mistakes. And when my mental, physical, and emotional efforts prove useless, that barrel of bricks comes crashing down on everything and everyone involved in my efforts. Once I reach this point, it is nearly impossible for me to try again. I have seen it happen too many times. I become complacent and all the passion and energy I invested in it is either gone for good or transferred to my next obsession.

 Long time ago my mother told me about the first time she knew I had OCD: I was a toddler. She was in grad school (for a Ph.D. in therapy, by the way) and I was in one of her professor's offices. While no one was looking, I apparently re-organized all of her professor's books by color. I put all the reds together on the bookshelf, the greens, the blues, etc... It only got worse as I got older. I still have to have everything in my house in perfect order. I share a desk at work with multiple people and it absolutely drives me mad!

 I keep fighting with my compulsive behaviors with my losing weight efforts. It seems like I am so close, then BOOM! Brick wall. If I was HALF as obsessed with exercising as I was with wondering where my next meal is going to come from, I would be in a much better place.

I found this excerpt in a notepad I had laying around:

"I have just felt so horrible and fat and gross all day. I feel like my throat is gonna get swallowed up by my double chin. Disgusting. I keep wondering how I would feel had I NOT binged last night."

I don't know when I wrote this, or what I binged on the night before. What I DO know is that the after effects of a binge are the same. It doesn't matter if I ate an entire pizza before bed, or got drunk and ate Taco Bell at 3am... I feel horrible and crappy the next day. 

"Much as we hate to admit it, an honest review of our behavior as compulsive overeaters shows clearly that in spite of the strongest resolve to stop overeating, we continue. Night after night we go to bed gorged and disgusted; we get up the next morning full of undigested food and fresh determination to maintain control; and before the day is over, we have done it again. No amount of willpower can pull us out of the quicksand." --Elisabeth L., "Twelve Steps for Overeaters."

Step One of "Overeaters Anonymous" explains in detail why willpower is not enough. "We admitted we were powerless over food- that our lives had become unmanageable." What does this step mean for you? For me it means that I am controlled by an obsession with food. I will find myself in the drive through or at the grocery store without a solid memory of making a conscious decision to be there. It means that some piece of food is in my mouth before I even had time to think before I eat. 

Eventually this loss of power over food will make you hit rock bottom. My rock bottom has happened several times, but I always manage to get back on my feet again, only to slowly but surely sink back to the lowest of the lows. Remember: fat is a SYMPTOM of our illness. Fat is not the reason we're sick. I know I repeat this in every blog, but food addicts are no different that alcoholics or meth heads. The symptoms of addiction are not the problem. Our illness is the problem. My symptoms? Obesity, bad skin, indigestion, heart problems, PCOS, high blood pressure, depression, unstable emotions, extreme anxiety, sleep apnea, and general bitchiness. I'm like a ticking time bomb for a life-threatening disease. 

I love Elisabeth L.'s description on how recovery begins: "Recovery begins when we admit defeat and declare bankruptcy." What a concept: Declare 'bankruptcy' to begin recovering. Wipe everything out and start all over. Never you mind all of the things in your past that haven't worked. This is a new solution to the problem. Let the barrel of bricks go; start a new battle. 

I have made remarkable steps in my food addiction recovery. Really my main problem now is binging when I get home from work. That has always been my main problem, but I have learned to manage a lot of my other bad habits. I am so unhappy with my work schedule (the schedule, not the job itself), that I get all in a tizzy at work because some random something leads me to get depressed and angry and anxious every night. I work Mon-Fri until 10:30 at night. The worst schedule known to man. I feel like I am so deprived of so many great things I could be doing with my life. I see my friends out at dinner, at wine club, book club, evening bike rides, at a concert, etc... and I get so down! I have a high stress job, so the first thing I want to do when I get off is... eat! binge! drown my sorrows in something crunchy, cheesy, and salty. I do it so that all of the other emotions of the evening will disappear. Then I move on to new emotions: guilt, regret, and shame. Which makes things worse. 

Even though I feel like I have pinpointed an exact reason for one of my compulsive overeating behaviors, that circumstance is impossible to change. My hours will not change unless I get a new job. So since this is not something I am willing to do, I am learning what can be changed inside when external conditions cannot be changed. 

Guilt, regret, shame: the 3 emotions I like to call the "maskoteers." They stick together and they're tough as hell. They're basically all the same word, but with slight variations, Shame tends to mean that you know you did something wrong. Guilt means you don't feel great about a decision because someone probably got the shaft. (That person is usually you when it comes to your food addiction). Regret is the worst of them all. Regret takes your past and throws it in front of you every chance it can so that you never move on. These emotions mask what is really going on and they hinder your ability to recover. They are coming straight from that "dealer" inside your head. Your dealer wants to keep you down. Who makes good decisions when they're riddled with negative emotions? I know I don't. If I'm feeling shameful and regretful, I am not going to get off my couch. But if I'm feeling proud and happy, I am motivated to get up and move forward with the next healthy decision that is waiting for me.

My pastor (Pete Wilson) has a great saying: "Your past is not your past if it's still impacting your present. If you don't learn to transform the pain, you'll just transfer it." He also says that our past will determine how we respond to similar situations in the future. I interpret this to mean that if regret, shame, and guilt are still attached to your past, it will be nearly impossible to change how you react in the future. The maskoteers have got to go. Throw them out the window. They are toxic. Replace your memories, trick your dealer... tell yourself that you are truly grateful and pleased that you made mistakes in the past. You've been there done that so that your future can only get better! 

When I wake up feeling determined that TODAY will be the day that my journey continues towards the light and not the dark, I make a plan. I get excited about the plan and I feel great. But then the MINUTE by plan gets interrupted, I spiral downwards. My obsessiveness and compulsiveness start doing their thing and I lose all control. Then I start to feel: shameful, guilty, and regretful that I am not following my plan. Which makes my dealer happy, and the next thing I know, I am going to visit him on the corner of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. 

I honestly don't think that there is a "cure" for compulsive overeating, but I think that setting rules, allowing slips, and reminding myself that it's okay to stray a little will help me stop obsessing over every little thing I do wrong and focus on what I am doing right! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Food Addiction: The Science

This post comes with much hesitation and trepidation, but I am compelled to share the science behind food addiction with you. I hope you find it as amazing as I do. 
The first day of the "Food Addiction Recovery" workshop I attended at Hilton Head Health was dedicated to the research and the truth of food addiction. It was very hard to sit through, but it was enlightening to know the truth. Although I have paraphrased quite a bit, the majority of this post comes from the information I learned at the workshop.

I am a food addict. And it is real. No matter how many times I have written it and said it the past few months, I don't think I REALLY believed it until I saw the scientific evidence. So buckle your seat belts and embrace yourself for a mind-blowing scientific experience.

Yeah, Science!

2013 marked a year of groundbreaking food addiction science and it is now one of the fastest growing research studies in the U.S. Despite all that, you still can't get "officially diagnosed" as a food addict.
Obesity HAS, however, been defined as a brain disorder based on how food affects the brain. And like most diseases- if not managed or treated, it will eventually kill you.

Let's start with just defining addiction in general.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as:

A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Let's break this definition down a little bit.

Progressive: Addiction does not happen overnight. An alcoholic does not get drunk once and then immediately meets all the aforementioned criteria of an addict. But over time, they slowly but surely live up to the definition. A food addict might start with overeating by one slice of pizza. Then two, then three, then eventually binging on a whole pizza by themselves. The progressiveness of food addiction is the reason why we gain more after dieting.
Reward: What have you lost because of your food addiction? For me, I have cut time with loved ones short so that I could binge. The reward overpowered my ability to just "be present." As long as I am seeking a reward in the form of food, I am not fully present in whatever situation I'm in.
Relapse and Remission: "Coming clean" then going back to addiction. Hello: yo-yo dieting!

Some questions to ask yourself when it comes to accepting a food addiction are: How does your life revolve around food? How much money do you spend on food?

So now that we are pretty sure we have a food addiction based on that definition, how could it possibly be diagnosed?

Yale Food Addiction Scale is one tool.

Read the DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria:

Now, read the column on the right- they are observations from self-identified food addicts:

It seems pretty clear to me that uh... hell yeah! Food addiction is an addiction, just like any other.  (remember, I am not certified in medicine, psychology, or anything as related to this subject) Some psychologists argue that certain people are born with an "addictive personality" and that it is only a matter of time before they develop an addiction to a substance. There are many theories as to what actually "causes" a food addiction. Genetics, emotional stress and dysfunction with processing emotions, family history of addiction, neurotransmitter imbalance, nutritional deficiency, toxic food environment, food allergies and intolerance, metabolic disturbances, hormonal imbalance, compromised digestions, etc... If you want to really dig deep and get to the bottom of your addiction, talk to a psychologist or doctor. Personally, I feel that I am pre-disposed to addiction based on my family's history. I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which goes hand in hand with Addiction.

Alright, so we've defined addiction in general, and we've diagnosed our addiction to food- what's next? Here comes the complicated part.

Take at look at these brain scans from Dr. Peeke's Website and see if you can tell which one's different:

The normal brain has some red stuff in it- what is that?
 THAT, my friends is a glorious neurotransmitter called Dopamine.
Dopamine is produced in the part of the brain that is associated with reward. It drives our behavior and is associated with survival. For addicts, it's the spike of dopamine that interests us, but unfortunately, that spike comes in the anticipation of eating, as opposed to the actual eating itself. We are rewarded before the food even reaches our mouths!! The reward of eating is blunted because our brain has been flooded with dopamine as we think about eating. The same thing happens in a cocaine user and an alcoholic. Non-addicts have the opposite effect. In this picture, the normal brain is having a dopamine spike during eating, whereas there is no red stuff in the obese brain during eating.

Addicts are constantly chasing a high of some sort because the reward is never there during the substance use. The actual consumption does not match the anticipation. Dopamine has to bond with a receptor. The addict's brain is so flooded during the anticipation, it can't attach to the act of eating because it got so overwhelmed beforehand. So this is what people mean when they say they are "numb" during binges. You aren't truly able to eat with your senses fully intact. Your brain is already worn out. In other words, a non-food addict actually enjoys eating more than a food addict. It's not actually the eating that we love so much, it's the thought of eating that keeps us chasing the high. but since our brains are hijacked by dopamine, we never feel satisfied, hence the constantly reaching for more.

Whew. That's a lot to take in, isn't it? I don't know about you, but learning that my brain looks the same as a cocaine user is not pleasant. In fact, it's effin' depressing. The good news is that it doesn't always have to be that way. Through mindful eating practices and overcoming addiction, we can learn to appreciate food as we're meant to: nourishment.

The way I look at food addiction now is that I have shifted the way I look at my weight problem, so now the solution has changed. It's not about eating better and exercising more (that's a no-brainer). It's about learning to control the addiction and managing it.

I have spent a lot of time blaming everything under the sun except for myself. There are some scientific findings that confirm food can be addictive i.e. sugar, but addiction cannot be completely blamed on that. BTW, did you know that sugar is addictive at a primitive level? No sweet foods found in nature are dangerous, so our primal minds tell us that sweet foods are safe. I would bet money that candy companies are aware of this :) Studies have shown that sugar stimulates the brain's reward centers through dopamine, just like other addictive drugs.

How do you overcome food addiction? 

First, you have to remove shame.
Shame is an emotion your addiction wants you to feel. Your "dealer" will do everything it can to keep the addiction going.I consider my dealer as that little voice in my head that constantly overpowers my will and leads me to binge. The dealer gives me 1,000 reasons as to why it's ok to overeat and overindulge.

Next you have to find what makes you aware of your addiction. For me, I ordered a pizza after accepting that I was a food addict and I did not enjoy it at all. That awareness helped me say no the next time my dealer started offering me some "drugs."

Say no to the foods that you KNOW are designed to keep you addicted: sugar products and highly palatable foods engineered by the food industry to go down easily (fast food and junk food).

"There's a biological basis for why it's so hard for millions of Americans to resist food. We are all wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment. For some of us, it could be alcohol; it could be illegal drugs; it could be gambling, sex, or tobacco. For many of us, though, one of the most salient stimuli in our environment is food. And how do you make food even more salient? Fat, sugar, and salt." Former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, MD

Join a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous. Seek counseling. Ask a friend to be your confidant.

Come up with "Food Rules" that you just HAVE to stick to forever and ever. Right now I have two rules that I will follow for the rest of my life. I hope to eventually add more, but for now I am struggling enough to stick to just these:

1) I don't eat pizza. (I've been pizza-free for 8 weeks now)
2) I don't eat what I can't eat in front of others. (in other words, I don't binge. I have not stuck to this one quite as strictly)

The obvious one: Just say no.

Withdrawal will happen. 

And it sucks. And it will bring on lots of not-so-fun emotions. But remember that they are just that: emotions. You are not defined by them and it's just your addiction talking anyways. They'll go away eventually. When I decided to give up pizza for good I experienced a large amount of grief. And anxiety and depression, and sadness. As I was writing the words "I don't eat pizza" for the first time, I started crying. I know this may seem silly to some of you, but giving up something that I attached myself to for so many years as a way of coping was unfathomable. It's not just about the pizza itself, it's about the act of binging. Binging has blanketed me. It has held me as I deal with my problems. The intense fear that is brought on by giving this comfort up is hard to handle. But it is do-able. People overcome addictions every day.

Do Your Research.

Completely submerge yourself into the subject of food addiction. The only thing that seems to really be working for me right now is the constant reminder that I am, in fact, addicted to food. Read about it, Google it, write about it.
Some of my recommendations:
"The Hunger Fix" by Dr. Peeke
"Eat to Live" by Dr. Fuhrman
The Food Addiction Institute: http://foodaddictioninstitute.org/scientific-research/
Overeaters Anonymous: http://www.oa.org/

Will it go away?

This is just my opinion here, but I say no. I am on board with the scientists and psychologists who believe that there are two types of people: those born with addictive genes, and those who are not. I say this because I have some friends with addictions and some without. The ones without simply cannot fathom how someone cannot utilize self-control. The addicts get it. I know people with all kinds of addictions: food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, cigarettes, etc... I also know people who have become sober. I know for a fact that they are not "cured" just because they no longer overeat, smoke, or drink. The addiction struggle never goes away. Managing it gets easier, but the urges will always be there. Lisette, the woman who led the Food Addiction Recovery workshop at H3 labels herself as a "recovering food addict." She has kept her weight off for 7 years (and she looks amazing, btw), but she says she still has the same "monkey chatter" in her head whenever a food craving comes on. But because she has given herself tools and resources to manage her addiction, she is able to fight it.

This won't be the last of the food addiction posts. Please share your story with me, as well as any research you find! The more I learn about the subject, the more I'm motivated to "conquer" it!

What is True Hunger?

I recently read Dr. Fuhrman's phenomenal book "Eat to Live." As you probably guessed, the concept is about "Eating to live" as opposed to "Living to eat." For food addicts like myself, living to eat is something we know all too well. I live for the next time I can shovel something down my throat. I look forward to binging. I get excited about eating. But these emotions are not because I'm TRULY hungry. I psych myself into thinking I'm hungry, despite the fact that I just ate 2 hours previously. Dr. Fuhrman defines true hunger as in the throat, NOT the stomach. Here is an excerpt from his website:

I get headaches and I get grouchy as hell if I go too long in between meals. But I have learned that it's because I am neglecting my addiction and NOT my need for food. I've been tested for hypoglocemia, but I came out "clean!" So, it is official that those headaches and bitchiness are not true hunger symptoms.When I was feeling really weird on my trip last weekend I tried eating something because food has always made my headaches go away. I've always associated headaches with hunger. But food did not make me feel any better this time. For years I have paired headaches with hunger, so my mind thinks they are interchangeable. Headache = need to eat. Go too long without eating = headache. Just like someone who is giving up caffeine or cigarettes: the only way to get rid of the headache is to either cure your addiction, or give in to your addiction.

 I explored the thought of "throat hunger" and I wondered if I had ever actually experienced it. I could only think of ONE time in my ENTIRE life where I felt hunger in my throat-- I was in high school. I was a cheerleader and I was obsessed with my looks. Even though I was not fat by any means, I always felt like I was huge because I was bigger than all the other cheerleaders. At 5'8" with muscles, I felt like I looked like an amazon in comparison to the 4'9" size twos. I was feeling really down one day, so I decided to give Anorexia a shot. I didn't eat anything all day. After school let out I had tennis lessons at the country club- I remember pulling up and feeling nauseous. I went straight to the bathroom and dry heaved. There were some chocolate mints in a bowl and I devoured them all. As you can imagine, anorexia was never anything I had a problem with again. I remember thinking how weird it seemed to me that I would feel nauseous if my stomach was empty. How can you throw up if there's nothing in there? That memory stays with me because I have never felt like that since then. 

Our bodies are so much smarter than we give them credit for. Listen to them.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Letting Go

I think terminology plays a big role in weight-changing efforts. I try to use positive words that will encourage me to keep going. Instead if saying "I can't eat French fries," try saying: "steamed veggies are a better choice." Instead of: "I have to cut fried foods out of my diet," say: "I am going to choose healthier options."

 I've let go of 6 pounds, an inch and a half off my arm, and 4 off my waist! I like saying "let go" or "gotten rid of" because "losing" weight or inches implies they have been misplaced and could return again :) 

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Last Nerve

I officially hate airplanes.
No, I am not scared of flying, or of heights, or of the chance of spotting a "sign" hidden in a crop circle that will cause a white girl with greasy black hair to emerge from my television and kill my family -- I love that part. I just hate everything else about them. 
The delays, the steadily declining customer service, the seats that are just too damn small, the inconsistency of the length of the seat belts (will I need an extender this time or will I be saved the embarrassment?), the medical emergency where I think I'm dying...

You read that right. 
I had a medical emergency this week as I was flying back from L.A.
War Eagle, btw- I was there for the National Championship game.  I wish I could blame the emergency on the heartbreaking loss of my Auburn Tigers, but I had sympoms leading up to the game that I chose to ignore. Like an idiot. 

At the end of last week I had some really weird feelings in my chest and left arm and a racing heartbeat, even when I was just sitting still. I'm a pretty anxious person anyways, so I figured it was just nerves of paying the bills and the trip out to Cali, so I chose to ignore it.

Come Saturday night, the first night of the trip, I woke up to a scary moment: I felt like I was falling off the bed and both of my arms were cold and asleep. I wasn't falling off the bed. I was completely still.Again, I ignored it, went back to sleep, and partied on in L.A. the next day.

Sunday and Monday: dizziness, racing heart, chest pain, tingling limbs. Ignored. 
Helloooo Beverly Hills! Well color me happy! There's a sofa in here for two! (sorry, I had to)

Tuesday: I'm feeling extremely weird and I tell myself that I am going to Vanderbilt's ER the minute I land in Nashville. I was praying that I would just make it back home. On the plane from L.A. to Seattle my left arm went completely numb and my chest felt like it was exploding. My heart was racing 90 to nothing, and my blood pressure skyrocketed to hypertension emergency level. My face went numb, I felt like firecrackers were going off in my eyeballs, my thighs were cold, and other random parts of my body were falling asleep. 
 The flight attendant had to page out for "medical personnel on board" and we had to do a special landing so I could get on an ambulance. The most embarrassing time of my life. My mom was freaking out that it was signs of diabetes, which in turn got me worried. I started freaking out that I had contracted diabetes and that it was too late- my arm was going to have to be cut off, along with all the other parts of my body that were numb. She told the flight attendant to get me some orange juice, but as I was semi-out of it, I somehow knew that all I needed was water. I refused the OJ. Once we landed, the flight attendant had to page out that there was an ambulance meeting us and that everyone needed to stay put until I got off the plane. 
I have never felt so bad about myself in my entire life. My mother is worried to death that I am entering a diabetic coma-- I felt so guilty, and still do, for putting her through that. The look on her face as I was in the ambulance absolutely broke my heart.

Our bodies are so brilliant. I knew that this episode had nothing to do with my glucose level. I don't know how, but I just did. I knew it was heart/blood pressure related. I could feel it. I thought I was having a stroke or a heart attack. 
Once we get in the ambulance they checked my blood pressure (which had scooted down to a nice "low" of 152/108 by that time), my glucose, tested the circulation of the blood in my left arm (the numb one), and a bunch of other tests to see what was going on. Luckily they did not see any signs of a stroke or heart attack, or blood clots, or anything that required an immediate trip to the emergency room. The left arm numbness is still a mystery, but one of the medics felt as if it could have been from nerve damage. They suggested I get some rest and see my regular doctor as soon as I could. The blood pressure was the main concern- it had to come down or I could suffer from some very serious organ damage should it get that high again.

We still had to fly from Seattle to Atlanta, then from there to Nashville. I was worried to death about the long flight, but there was nothing we could do. Since the polar bear vortex of death had all of America delayed and jammed up, we had several hours to decompress before the flight from SeaTac to ATL. But the minute we got in the air my left arm fell asleep. I took lots of deep breaths, and drank gallons of cold water. I kept my blood pressure down through silently meditating and praying. 
My left arm was asleep for the entire 4 hour flight.
P.S. those medics in Seattle were the sexiest men I've ever seen. 

Wednesday: I saw my doctor. I've lost 6 pounds since the last time I saw her! Blood pressure was 142/106. A little better, but alarming enough that she prescribed me blood pressure medicine. Then came the: "A person in their 20s has no business being on blood pressure medicine lecture." They did an immediate EKG and scheduled me for a cardio stress test and an echo. They also took my blood to examine for a bunch of other stuff. Doc thinks that I have a pinched nerve in my neck that caused the arm numbness, which led me to freak out, which skyrocketed my blood pressure, and being in a plane didn't help. Since both she and the medic believe that the arm numbness is coming from some sort of nerve damage, I feel slightly less paranoid that I have some serious underlying condition. Nonetheless, she is worried about my heart, my high blood pressure, and wants to make absolutely sure that there aren't any blocked arteries, or weird heart diseases causing the tingling, dizziness, racing heart beat, and all-around funkiness. 

Friday: I go in for the cardio stress test and the echo. Blood results came back normal all-around. Whew! Stress test consisted of weird breathing exercises through torture-chamber looking equipment, and riding on a stationary bike. The echo was basically an ultrasound for my heart. It was awkward and weird, and I hated it. Both results should come back at the beginning of the week. I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse several years ago after overdosing on diet pills as a college cheerleader, so I'm scared that led to more serious heart problems as I gained weight. But hey, I've got all weekend to obsess and worry about what the results will be, so why get into all that tonight? ;)

It's so frustrating for me right now because I've lost 50 pounds, but yet these symptoms are just now showing up. I am currently prescribed to FOUR medications to treat the symptoms of my obesity: blood pressure, anxiety, and PCOS. Being overweight is slowly but surely killing me. Once I lose weight, these symptoms will go away and I will no longer have to be on medicine! As far as the frustration goes, I had to remind myself that symptoms of any disease or addiction are patient. A meth head doesn't lose all their teeth after getting high one time. An alcoholic doesn't have liver damage after getting drunk one time. An obese person doesn't develop high blood pressure and sleep apnea after binging for the first time. The symptoms slowly build up and if not managed, they will develop into diseases that will kill you.

Lately I have been showing out like crazy- drinking too much, not exercising like I should, binging, and eating portions big enough for a megalodon. These habits have been increasing my blood pressure and causing me anxiety because I know better. I honestly feel like this pinched nerve in my neck/arm, or whatever, was a sign that I have got to get better. If I had not felt my arm go numb, I would have had no idea that my blood pressure in that plane was at an emergency level that needed medical attention. The plane increased my blood pressure, and having the left side of my body go numb was my body's way of saying: 
HEY! You're literally getting on your heart's last nerve. 

And you will die. 

If the whole plane debacle had not have happened, I sure as hell would not have gone to the doctor; ergo... my scary high blood pressure would have gone unnoticed for who knows how long.

I don't think that we are given many chances in this life, and we have to be aware of the signs in front of us. Never again will I ignore what my body is trying to tell me. If we had not landed when we had, my hypertension emergency level blood pressure would have caused permanent organ damage.I could have died. Until I know what is going on with my heart right now, I am also thinking grateful thoughts that this happened, or I would not have gotten my heart checked out. 

If you think you might have high blood pressure, I suggest going to a pharmacy and checking it (most have free machines). Here is the American Heart Association's website- a great resource for learning about blood pressure. Understanding Blood Pressure