Day 50: Pros and Cons

Untreated anxiety can get to feel like a Groundhog Day situation. It seems that I’m constantly just waking up back at step one. Things change, but not enough to make a difference. I am still overweight, in debt up to my eyeballs, stuck in the same shoebox apartment, struggling with my relationship, lacking anything even barely resembling a social life, and thousands of miles away from my closest friends.

I wish I had someone to help me (read: do this for me, like a parent, or a mental health advocate). I keep searching for a psychiatrist in my area that will take my health insurance, but the website is full of outdated information. I called the customer help line in the middle of a panic attack at work last week, and though the customer rep was very kind as I freaked out in her general direction, she still couldn’t do more than provide me with a list of names that I’d need to call, one by one, and ask if they were taking new patients. Reality informs me that I might only need to make two or three calls, but since making phone calls is one of my biggest triggers (right up there with using Facebook), I feel paralyzed. I am going to do it this week, though, come hell or high water. I can’t stay in this loop much longer. It’s no good for anyone.

Today I went to the coffee shop to drink a decaf tea and do some writing, but my brain refuses to stay in one spot. I can’t concentrate for more than a minute or so, and nothing that I previously thought I wanted to do today is getting done. I had hoped to apply to a few editing jobs, but as soon as I started looking at the jobs boards, I realized I’d need an updated resume. Once that occurred to me, I instantly got sucked into feeling pointless and unqualified, a whirlpool that spit me right back out at the “It’s because you’re fat and old” line of reasoning. So much fun.

On the upside (depending on how you see it) I’ve picked up three extra shifts a week at another hotel. This puts me at 70 hours a week, between the two jobs. I’m scared that the physicality of it will age me, as well as encourage terrible eating habits and weight gain. Technically, I should have plenty of time to sleep, but I’m really bad at sleeping. I can’t count on my body to fall into a rhythm when it comes to relaxation. There’s a very good chance that I’ll be sleep deprived. I’m already dreading the wrinkles and bags, and the level of anxiety I’ll experience once sugar and caffeine enter the mix. I will have to be vigilant in having prepared healthy food with me 24 hours a day.

However, I’ve done the math, and if I work my butt off, this gives me enough extra income to pay off the major credit cards in a year. I’ve closed all of my cards except for one (the one with the airline miles), and I’m keeping a very close eye on my credit score via a few sources. I’ve gone over my credit reports, and feel like I have a handle on what my personal pile of debts looks like. I feel confident that if I can be very, very good, spend little to no money on anything extra, move into the cheaper apartment that my friend just told me about, and basically put off all joy for the next year, I will be able to live on less money, plus repair my score enough to apply for an apartment if and when I decide to move to a new city.

To make this all work, I need for everything to be on a schedule. Meal prep times and amounts. Sleep times and amounts. Work times and amounts. Bills due. Cat supplies due. Groceries due. Social life allowance (Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday early evening). I can write during my overnight work shifts – plenty of time there. I wonder if I can somehow afford to schedule in just one professional mani/pedi a month? It’s probably too extravagant, but I always feel so much more professional with nice nails.

Of course, none of this takes into account that the Camino is calling again, with a fierceness I didn’t experience the first time. I’m tamping it down a bit by writing about the last time I walked, and keeping in touch with my Camino friends as they go on their new adventures. A few of them are meeting up on the Camino Frances this year in October, and I’ve been invited to go. I tell myself that I can go next year. By then I will have gotten a raise, or maybe even a promotion. Perhaps I’ll only have the luxury of being able to afford to only work one job. Or maybe I will have successfully started treating my anxiety, and have found a way through the time loop. By this time next year, who knows where life will have led me?

Day 44: Reeling It In (Again)

I’ve been adrift, and am now attempting to regain some sense of control. My emotions (and diet) have been all over the place lately. No bingeing, which is great, but also no structure, which is not so great.

The biggest problem I’m facing right now is that I’m working two jobs in an attempt to be able to save up to move to a new apartment (provided I can find one in my limited price range, which would frankly be a miracle). I’m also trying to work more in order to pay down my credit cards, in what seems like a futile effort to fix my credit. This is probably a backwards arrangement, as one needs decent credit to get approved for a lease on an apartment. But we do what we can. Between the constant worry and the overwhelming exhaustion from working between 50 and 70 hours a week, I’m just hitting a wall. This all affects my current food habits (though not exercise – I’ve been really good about fitting in four or five gym sessions each week). Nevertheless, I’m feeling unmoored.

When I started this blog, I said that I’d be attempting to get mental help. I still haven’t, and while practicing mindfulness has been helping me curb my impulse to feed myself to death, it’s also been helping me understand when and how often and (sometimes, at least) what I’m anxious about. It doesn’t help me fix the anxiety, just see it a little more clearly. And folks, what I’m seeing is that I’m able to hide my feelings somewhat, but they color every single interaction I have in the course of a day. I’m a wreck. It’s making me suspicious and weird, overly sensitive to everyone’s mood, and critical of myself at all turns.

The anxiety can be good sometimes. It means that I’m often three steps ahead, fixing problems before people dreamed they’d occurred. But it also means that sometimes I know a problem is going to happen, and I fixate on it for days, paralyzed, until all I can do is watch it happen, then stare at the mess that’s left in the aftermath. Like, I could have prevented the issue, but I got so obsessed with it that I had no power to take any of the necessary steps. Sometimes I know it’s happening, other times I don’t. So now I’m wondering if I’m sabotaging my own life on purpose or not? How am I pushing people away with my mental issues?

One way that I’ve sabotaged myself in the past is to chronically overspend on food, alcohol, and things that I consider luxuries (but let’s face it, things that most people consider necessities now – things like new underwear when everything you own has holes in it, or toilet paper that you buy from the store, instead of stealing it from various bars, or tampons that aren’t stolen from your gym). I have culled almost every unnecessary item from my budget now. No more laundromat – everything gets hand washed from here on out. No more forgetting lunch and picking up something at the store. I eat free food at work, and I get $30 a week for other groceries. If I want to have a beer after work, it comes out of the grocery fund, which means that I can either have a beer right now, or dinner tomorrow. It’s fine, either way, but when tomorrow-me isn’t eating, she knows she can blame it on yesterday-me. Internet isn’t necessary, but it’s going to stay, since it could come in handy for freelance editing work, were I to be able to find any. I still have Spotify Premium, too, because I just can’t face the thought of no new music. Sorry, that’s a crazy expense that just has to stay. But I cancelled Amazon Prime, and I don’t pay for Netflix, I get books for free at the lending library, and I don’t buy makeup or beauty supplies or clothes. Basically, I don’t have any fun anymore, unless it’s fun that can be had for free (which does happen – for instance, a client recently gave me two free tickets to see NKOTB, Boyz II Men, and Paula Abdul).

This isn’t where I thought I’d be at 35 (being broke and/or seeing NKOTB in concert), but I’m telling myself that it’s for a good cause. If I am diligent, I will eventually be free. Once the credit cards are paid down a little, and my credit rating is up out of the dark orange, I can start saving for something wonderful, like a new pair of work shoes, or maybe a 90-minute deep tissue massage and seaweed wrap (hey, a girl can dream!). What I really want is to go out to Joshua Tree for my 36th birthday, but I don’t know if that’s something I can realistically bank on right now. I suppose I should be aiming for something a little more attainable, like mental health, and, you know, the weight loss I was hoping for when I started this damn blog.

This current stress load and all-over-the-place diet have combined to make sure that I haven’t lost any weight in a month, despite regularly working out. I’m not where I was when I started, so that’s something to be glad of, but I also haven’t dropped at all. I just keep sitting at that 190 lb. point that has traditionally been the tough spot for me. I just haven’t been as careful with monitoring my nutrition as I will no doubt need to be to make any headway. Also, with hurting my hip a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t run at all, and that was my favorite cardio. Oh well.

All I can do now is plan to do better tomorrow. For now, that starts with getting a good night’s sleep.

Day 35: Picking Up Shifts

In case you’re new to reading this blog, or just missed this little detail, I work in hospitality. I’m currently employed by two hotels – one large and efficient and owned by an international entity, and one tiny, independent boutique hotel. I switched career paths a couple of years ago, after losing my mind and hiking the Camino Frances (not that I went on a long walk because I was crazy, but rather because I thought it would be a good way to help cure the crazy, which, in a way, it did).

When I left, I knew that something had to change about my current path as an Internet marketer, since simply logging on to Facebook would often start me down a path to a panic attack. When I got back, after a month and a half of sleeping in a new town each night, I realized that one of my favorite aspects of the journey had been how kind our hosts were at every albergue (hostel). I was taken care of so thoroughly at every stop, and though I am naturally not that demanding of a person, I saw many hospitaleros (hosts) go above and beyond in caring for their pilgrim guests, from seeing to medical needs to just making sure that we had a nice, warm meal in our bellies at the end of a tough day. I enjoy loving people like this, and I enjoy being loved like this, and I thought that it would be particularly rewarding to get paid to be good to others. Of course, I was right. Some days are difficult, but most days, I really love my job(s). I wish that I got paid enough to only have one of them, but that will come, if I can just hold on a little longer.

Anyway, the problem with picking up shifts at the smaller hotel when I’m not working at the bigger hotel is that my bigger hotel job is a traditional, 8-hour shift during the day. I come in around 8am, and leave around 5pm, depending on workload. In order to fit additional shifts into my life, this means that the only time I can work at the little hotel is the front desk overnight shift – 11pm to 7am – or on weekends, as I’m doing right now (7am to 3pm). If you do the math, you’ll see why this is exhausting. My entire life is work, work out, and sleep. I’ve got my life mapped out enough to get a decent amount of sleep, but I’m standing at the front desk for 8 hours, and this is draining. I have a schedule to keep me working out and active while I’m doing the overnight shift, and also a schedule to help me make sure that every single dollar goes to where I need it – paying my rent, saving up for a deposit on a new apartment, buying better work clothes, and paying off debt. Eventually, if I really work my butt off, I’ll have paid down my debts enough that I can consider also saving for my next Camino. Hopefully I won’t be so worn out that I’ll be considering another career change, lol.

This is all going to be worth it in the end, and I have to keep that in mind. My front desk shifts are generally very easy. I don’t have to do very much besides make sure that the hotel doesn’t burn down, and set up breakfast before I leave. If I am very careful to take care of my health (eat, exercise, sleep) so I don’t get run-down, this 70-hour workweek won’t have to be a thing I keep up forever. I’ll get a raise at my day job in November, and I can also start looking to move on to another position with a higher pay grade. But it’s important for me to remember that I am not superhuman. I can’t do everything. I must stick to a very strict budget now, so that later I don’t have to work this hard any more.

My other big fear, besides physical burn-out, is that I will get too busy to meal prep, and will start eating crappy food and spending too much money on meals outside of the house. I already ate a bagel and a couple of cups of coffee with sugar this morning, which is basically poison (delicious, delicious poison). But I’m also wearing jeans, and the chub rub is REAL, y’all. It’s enough to make me reconsider my initial impulse to grab a second bagel out of boredom. It’s tough being a working stiff. But it’ll be OK.

Day 31: Cutting Back

I’m having some good stuff happen re: energy levels, so want to document it here. On Sunday morning, I officially started to cut back on my coffee consumption. I’d been drinking A LOT – at least 48 oz. of coffee (black, no sugar) every day, but sometimes closer to 72 oz. I just sipped it all day long. So that was possibly adding to my weird energy levels and anxiety, where I was always tired all day but didn’t sleep well at night, either. From now on, I’m going to keep cutting back until I’m drinking maybe a typical 12 oz. coffee mug’s worth of black coffee first thing, end of story. As of today, I had a 16 oz. iced coffee this morning, then drank water the rest of the day.

I’ve also gotten more sleep than usual the last two nights – over 8 hours, both nights! I’m about to put my computer away and try for a third night in a row. Tomorrow I need to go to work an hour early, so I can try to get at least 6 hours of sleep immediately after work, then roll into my second job feeling somewhat rested. We’ll see what happens. I have a feeling I won’t sleep, and the whole next 24 hours will be crazy. But it might work out, who knows? Lol.

As for food, I’ve been eating very basic meals. For the past three nights, I’ve eaten plain old roasted chicken for dinner (not because of any diet rules, just because I’ve been dead tired and the roast chicken was just sitting there in the fridge already). Tonight I added in a baked sweet potato to really spice up my life. This weekend I need to remember to cook up a batch of greens so I’ll have veggies on hand when I get home from the gym. I’ve been getting GNC smoothies for the past two days at lunch. I can’t really afford that kind of splurge, but they’ve also been helping with the energy level. They’ve got this smoothie called the Lovers’ Lane, which has arginine in it. The supplement is touted as having sexual health benefits for women, since it increases blood flow, but I have been getting it because it perks me up and gives me enough energy to get through the rest of my day. Plus, peach smoothies are delicious!

Tomorrow I’m really hoping that I am back in the 180’s. I’m really tired of this weird plateau at the 190 – 192 mark. I knew it was going to happen, as it’s historically always the case that I get stuck at 190 and give up. But I feel like I’m doing a great job of just sticking in there. When it came time to leave work today, it was late, and I typically would have talked myself out of going if this were a couple of months ago. But today I had a little conversation in my head about how good it was going to feel to at least get in a little bitty workout, and I believed myself almost immediately. It wasn’t nearly the same struggle that it used to be.

I play the same mind trick they use all the time in Bikram class. Bikram teachers say that you just have to stay on the mat. Doesn’t matter if you do any of the poses, just don’t leave the room. Just being on the mat gets you all of the benefits. Even if you don’t believe it at first, the longer you work at telling it to yourself, the easier it is to understand that it’s true. I just have to go to the gym. Just make the effort, walk in the door, change into my gym clothes. After that, whatever I choose to do is just fine. The battle has already been won. Some days I’m genuinely too tired to do much but a little bit of weight machine work and gentle stretching. But that’s OK – it’s still more than I would have done at home on the couch. Other days, I surprise myself and end up really pushing it on the elliptical, or attending a class and getting super sweaty 🙂

Anyway, I just need to have faith that eventually I will wake up and my new plateau will be 180. Won’t that be awesome? I’ll probably still be bitching about it, so you guys need to remind me when the time comes that I just need to stick it out, and I’ll get past that plateau soon enough, too.

Today’s Weight: 190.2 Lbs.

Today’s Exercise: 15,056 steps (including 35 minutes on the elliptical), and an 8Fit workout.

Day 30: Employee of the Month

It was a really long day at work today – 11 hours. I didn’t end up going to the gym, since I was so tired after wrapping everything up at the office.

But the day started nicely; I was given an award at work this morning for being Associate of the Month. There’s one every month, so it’s not like it’s an amazing honor, but I was still surprised and pleased. I got a nice little wooden plaque, and my name is up on the office wall now. We were at our typical morning meeting, and the manager spoke well of me, dwelling for a bit on a duty that I do daily that isn’t typical of someone in my position. Every morning I charge advance deposits on certain reservations. I suppose many people would find it a dull task, but I like the reliability and routine. Since it’s one of my favorite tasks, it felt nice to have the boss pointing out that doing it helped the team.

The rest of the day was OK, with some ups and downs, but mostly it felt pretty level. We had two very large groups that checked in this morning, so most of my day was spent making sure that everything was in place to welcome the groups in without a hitch. There were some hairy moments, but everyone got in, so my job is done until tomorrow.

I was tired all day long, even though I got enough sleep last night (finally). I drank a little bit of coffee, but nowhere near as much as I typically do. I’m going to keep trying to cut back, to hopefully get my energy levels balanced, so I can get enough sleep at night, and not have to depend on so many cups of coffee every day to survive.

Today’s Weight: 192.2 Lbs.

Today’s Exercise: 10k steps

Day 29: Framed in Film

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A few years ago, a professional photographer friend of mine, Dave Rodrigue, took my picture. Actually, he took many pictures, but you get what I mean. He does these beautiful black and white portraits of people wearing their own faces and clothing, being themselves for the camera. Nothing fancy, just whatever the person wants to wear (or not wear), and whatever expressions happen to flit across their faces during the shoot. Some of his models have done tasteful nude shots, others are shot in their homes, wearing house-dresses and staring out the window – he’s interested in catching sincerity in his lens. It’s pretty cool.

Mostly what I remember from my shoot is being superbly uncomfortable in the outfits I had chosen to wear. He took a professional portrait for me to use on LinkedIn, and my lipstick felt too bright. My jeans were brand new, and they fit well, but made me feel like a stuffed sausage. I’d brought along a set of very modest retro lingerie that covered more than my bathing suit, and the fabric felt like something you’d use to sew a backpack. The only outfit that really made me happy was an outfit I still wear today – a giant t-shirt and a soft pair of jean leggings. In those old pictures, I can now see the internal struggle that was going on. My softness was part of me, yet I insisted on fighting against it, insisting on constraining myself with these strict barriers of elastic and cheap satin. There was this sense that I was expanding, and it wasn’t going to stop. It was like I was using clothing as sand bags, trying to prevent the flow of my body.

A few days ago, Dave asked me if I’d like to pose for him again soon. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it, pros and cons. I’m about 30 pounds heavier now than I was, and I know from his series that he loves to use the same models and explore as they age and change. I want to say that I’ve been aging with grace, and perhaps I have, I don’t know. I know I have more lumps and bumps and wrinkles than I did then. But more important than my weight is my sense of self.

Back then, posing for Dave’s camera, I was given full permission to be myself. He made it clear to me that I was allowed to dress, pose, and act exactly how I’d like, and he was not to be taken into consideration. My comfort and freedom of expression were paramount. This concept was so far out of the norm for me in male/female relationships that it took me years to even understand how far removed I felt from the idea of being able to just be me, and not worry about how the man in the room perceived me. I’m still just barely able to understand how groundbreaking this moment was.

The problem of my sense of profound discomfort with my exposure during the shoot was not a problem of “showing too much skin.” At the time, I thought my sole problem was weight, and a general unhappiness with my body because I just wasn’t trying hard enough. In one small way, that was true. As a woman, I was used to feeling ugly and at the mercy of others on a daily basis. This meant that the shoot was a strange juxtaposition of feeling like I always felt, but being given permission to strip away all of the things that made me feel that way, should I so choose. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my photographer friend was returning my dignity to me by being more feminist than I was at the time. He had more appreciation for my complexity and comfort than I did!

The media tells us that it’s magazines and movies and other women that make women feel bad about their looks, and if everyone says so, who am I to argue? However, in my own reality, I felt the most pressure from my partners. Up until the shoot (and even afterwards) I spent my adult years only buying clothing that my lovers expressed an interest in, whether we’re talking form-fitting retro dresses, or lacy underthings, or thigh high stockings with a seam up the back. Hair, nails, and makeup must always be taken care of. God forbid you let your pubes grow out, or go too long without waxing your mustache.

I spent SO MUCH MONEY on services meant to turn me into the perfect woman, and it was never enough. I was never going to be a sex symbol. I was going to keep getting hairy, and chipping my nail polish, and getting that particular butt itch feeling that comes from sitting too long in lace underwear and having your fat ooze out through the tiny holes in the floral pattern. And honestly, many women get a kick out of taking all of these measures, pushing themselves to extremes to grasp at the fleeting concept of beauty. But for me, it wasn’t my thing. I do love mani/pedis and facials and massages, and there are comfort reasons to consider when looking into waxing the stray strands off of every conceivable surface…but I never wanted to be a magazine woman. The real me is more “let’s climb a mountain” than “let’s go to barre fitness.” Props to the dancers out there, and much love to gals who wear lace and heels and have the perfect dress for every occasion – but that’s not who I want to be when I grow up.

So I’m realizing that somewhere along the way, I lost my own personal style because I was too concerned with having men like me. I remember that once, back in college, a boyfriend was upset with me for not wearing sexy lingerie. I carefully explained that one little lacy outfit (even a cheap one) could cost around a quarter of my rent payment, and I wasn’t inclined to waste my money. He eventually offered to take me shopping and buy whatever we agreed on, but the things he liked were so ugly and – to me – demeaning that I didn’t take him up on his offer (in fact, we broke up not long after).

Another boyfriend loved for me to wear thigh highs and pinup girl style, and though it pleased me to dress up and go out on dates, I was never comfortable. When I did try to inject some items that made me feel sexy, it resulted in complaints that I wasn’t really trying. (My most upsetting example: a long, devastatingly sexy, curve-hugging satin nightgown, straight out of a film noir, casually referred to as something an old lady would wear.) Eventually I did stop trying completely. I exclusively wore pajamas in the house for the last few years we dated – Anna and the 24/7 stretchy pants. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was protesting having to stop being myself to be a girl that he could tolerate having around (not a girl he adored, not a girl that was beautiful in any light, just someone he’d be too lazy to kick out of bed in the morning), but that’s what was really going on.

So here I am, 30 lbs. heavier and a half-decade smarter, wondering if I have the courage to sit for Dave’s camera again. What have I learned about myself? Am I strong enough to make choices for my body that are truly based only on my own desires, and not rooted in my need to please everyone else? Time will tell.

Today’s Weight: 191 Lbs. (Mind: blown.)

Today’s Exercise: 16,858 steps (including 30 minutes on the elliptical), 8fit workout, foam rolling, weight machine stuff for arms, short ab routine.

Day 28: The Path

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I’ve had a difficult week, and have been avoiding writing here out of exhaustion and a sense of irritation with myself. I’ve been going to the gym regularly, but my diet hasn’t been that great. I was gaining weight at the beginning of the week (before the diet went off the rails), so I’m sure I’m back up to my starting point by now. I haven’t binged, but I have eaten more than I should on a few occasions, and have eaten things that I know don’t agree with me or my idea of health (chips, chocolate, soda, you get the picture). I have been getting more and more disgusted with myself by the day, but today I have to remind myself that everything is OK, there is no perfect path to my destination. I make the road by walking it, so it’s my job to keep putting one foot in front of the other, at my own speed, in my own way. I forgive myself. Everything’s OK.

This coming week, I’m going to start working a couple of overnight shifts at my old job, to help speed up the process of paying off my debts. Things are admittedly more difficult for me when I have more money, because I feel compelled to spend it all on food. But I have taken precautions by setting up savings buckets within my savings account for some of the things that I want to accomplish – mostly to have enough money for a deposit on a new apartment, and to save for my current rent while putting as much money as possible into my credit card bills. It occurs to me that I should also start a beauty/wellness savings bucket, to be able to take care of myself when I want to – for massages, mani/pedis, that kind of thing.

Even though I’ll be working 24 hours more each week (sigh), I am looking forward to it in an odd way. The more rigorous my work schedule, the more I will be required to pin down all aspects of my personal schedule. I am better at sticking to a plan when every single part is mapped out. It’s definitely not as fun as going with the flow, but it gives me less room to screw up and eat like a wild thing. I’m also looking forward to working out on the job, since I’m essentially working the graveyard shift and will have little to no interaction. I’m just there to make sure that the hotel stays in one piece overnight, and no one’s going to mind if I do some late night yoga or try to get in a majority of my Fitbit steps by walking laps around the hotel grounds (as long as I’m quiet and don’t wake the guests). If I am diligent and frugal, I can pay off the smallest of my credit cards within a month, which will improve my credit, and also open up my finances enough for me to increase saving up for the new apartment.

Today’s Weight: Too scared to check. I’ll look tomorrow.

Today’s Exercise: 13,000+ steps, 8Fit workout, 5 minutes on a really weird interactive exercise bike, self-guided ab routine.

Today’s Interactions: This morning I met up with a friend from college and his wife, and we talked for nearly an hour. Had a short phone chat with a friend from California, briefly texted with a long-lost bestie who lives in Croatia, and then had lunch with the boyfriend at our favorite little cafe, where I remembered the waiter’s name (!!!). Tonight I chatted with my across-the-street neighbor, then met up with my friend from down the block, and we took her dog for a walk and chatted with everyone we passed. I might be chubby, but I’m not chubby AND antisocial 🙂