For a while now there's been this running joke amongst my friends that well... I'm kinda frickin dumb. I mean really, how long did it take me to realize that this doesn't fit in that outlet, and it won't make the lamp come on? Sigh. It was early. I was sleepy.
Yea, this happened. I sent this to them this morning, in fact, to remind myself that maybe I still have some work to do ;-)
So it's pretty surprising that I'm actually not dumb. I have a flippin' Master's degree, a published thesis on Native American history and literary culture, and I'm writing a damn book on roughly 200 years of Civil Rights history. So why am I always doing... well, such stupid sh**?
This post is about some of the things I've learned recently, mostly about how things that happen in your life change the way your body functions, and how my whole health/fitness/intelligence/being a normal person train followed a pretty winding, zig-zagged track before I hopped off board.
Getting Sick -- How it Started
Like I said in my previous post.... I got sick. Really sick. And I've learned a lot in the last few months because I have finally taken the time to listen to my doctor and read those lab results (seriously, who does that? DO IT!) and study my health/medical issues -- I'm talking the most intense studying you've ever engaged yourself in.
My doctor handed over everything I needed. He told me to study it, and to tell myself that this is the most difficult and serious course I've ever taken in my life. He said my future depended on it. Ummmm, yea I'm listening now, Doc.
So I did something I usually only do for other people -- I invested in myself. Now there's an idea.
It's not a big secret that I was unhappy with the changes taking place with my body. We live in a world that measures success by what things "look" like, and no matter what we try to believe to the contrary, what we look like matters. It mattered to me. I wouldn't have minded gaining a little, I guess, as long as I was happy. But I was not happy. I was everything but. I was unhappy. I was miserable. I was going through some shit.... some really tough, heavy shit. I was sad. I was scared. I was not okay. So ya know, I did what anyone would do. I woke up and got help.
I'm lying, and I hope you caught my sarcasm. That's very literally the LAST thing I was willing to do, and it's obviously the last thing that I tried. But, now that I've done it, here are some things I've learned.
(I'll talk about all of them eventually and exactly what happened, but for now, just the basics):
1. Your hormones control everything in your body -- how you feel, what you think, how you look -- EV-E-RY-THING!
They help you to function like a normal human being. But sometimes things happen that make your body stop producing them. Physical and mental trauma will easily do that to you. Or any kind of prolonged illness or intense stress, or other medications, and a ton of other stuff.
Sooooooooo your hormones are minding their business, just hormone-ing along, and insert .... (something that makes them stop hormone-ing along and makes them faaaa-reak the hell out)
Yea, that's about accurate. So your whole life changes, because when your body doesn't make enough of them, it can make you do some weird things liiiiiiike.........
A.) showing up at work missing very important articles of clothing -- yea that was fun
B.) driving aimlessly around a town you've lived in your ENTIRE LIFE because you're so confused that you can't recognize anything around you. (True story... that's a whole 'nother mess for a whole 'nother day)
Seriously, if you go through any serious trauma or an intense event/illness that throws your hormones into crisis, it will MESS. YOU. UP.
Bad News: They can totally wreck things up fitness wise, they really take a toll on your body, and they can mess with your head
Good News: When you find the problem, they are completely fixable, praise the good Lord above! It can help you go from this, to this!
2. What you look like does matter
And I'm not just going all 21st century image-is-everything on you here. What you look like does matter, and it matters a lot, because while sometimes your body image changes temporarily for normal reasons (you stopped/started exercising, you're drinking more, you're not sleeping enough, blah blah blah).... it may also be changing for more important reasons. So for me, I had to figure out that the physical changes on the outside of my body were telling a more serious story about something that was going terribly wrong inside my body.
I needed to listen to that. So now I pay attention to my body. What I look like matters.
Good News: When it's bad enough, it gets your attention, and you can fix it! Or your Doc can
3. Your lifestyle makes all the difference in the world. Period. 'nough said
Yes, I know how to count calories so I know that you can eat breadcrumbs for breakfast and raisins for lunch and then proceed to consume a friggin keg of Michelob Ultra for dinner, and voila! You're within your calorie goal! Success! No.
I've done the calorie counting, and trust me, I've averaged in my share of beer or whiskey no matter how many meals I had to cut out because let's be honest, I needed some help coping with life. And we all may have occasions wherein we go off the map and party, and that's different for everyone.
But when you find out that something is wrong with your body, your worldview changes, and your whole life kind of starts to revolve around it. Mine certainly did, so for me, I'm not thinking so much about calories as I am about the fact that I would like to be here on planet earth for a very long time. I plan to have much happier times ahead of me than the ones I have behind me, and I want to be at my best to enjoy every second of them. I want to be out there, enjoying life with my people. I want more moments like this...
And less nights like this...
Bad News: Everything you eat, drink, or do does something to your body, either good or bad. And the fun stuff is usually pretty bad for you
Good News: You are in charge of that and hell, with all the terrible, scary, unpredictable crap that can happen to you in this life, it's nice to be in charge! Seriously, though, you learn to crave what's good for you -- especially if your life depends on it
4. SLEEP matters.
Anytime I am really stressed, or sick, or I'm just dealing with too much, I can't sleep. So I've spent the better part of 8 years NOT sleeping. It happens to all of us. No matter how much we know it's bad for us, when we are afraid and stressed, we don't sleep right. And when we don't sleep right, the body goes into crisis mode and releases hormones that do some really weird things to your mind, and they make weight loss nearly impossible. In fact, they tell your body that you need to GAIN weight -- crisis mode style.
I could probably dedicate this entire blog to the insane side effects of sleep deprivation, but we'll save that for later. The point is, if you are stressed or sick, your sleep usually suffers -- and then you get more stressed and more sick because skimping on sleep reeks very real and very physical havoc on the body. Catch 52. It'll kill ya. It makes you look really damn old too. That ain't good. And it makes you do dumb sh**!
Bad News: Not sleeping, or not sleeping enough, is probably one of the most destructive things you can do to your body and it will really mess you up -- also, it catches up with you later and there really is no such thing as "catching up on sleep," so once you've "lost" it, it's gone
Good News: There are things you can do to make sure you get enough sleep and the right kind of sleep. Do them!
5. Being happy is good for you
Seriously... being happy releases good hormones, relaxes your body, helps you to sleep at night, AND promotes weight loss. No wonder happy people are smiling.
But if you're going through a long period of stress and anxiety and fear and illness, well... good luck "getting happy." Apparently, though, there really are ways to control this. But they require some effort and sometimes, some physical exertion. Working out releases endorphins, tells your body that you're happy, reduces stress, and reverses the aging process. It's worth it. DO IT!
It ain't always easy, and I get that! I like my space (like a lot... like "leave me alone! I like my friggin space!") and I don't always love talking about my problems, so when I am going through my "junk," I have a tendency to isolate. I did a lot of that in the last 8 years. It didn't end well.
So I'm learning... I'm talking about the things that happened to me all those years ago. I'm making sense out of life in my own way. I'm reconnecting with people I shut out. I'm working out. I'm improving. I'm learning to laugh again. I'm getting happy.
Bad News: Hard times are stressful, and stress mentally and chemically changes your whole body, making it nearly impossible to be happy
Good News: Stress is controlled by your lifestyle and hormones, and you actually can change it -- you can get happy
I wish I had known this a long time ago. But I get it now. It's time to get on track. My future depends on it. So it's time to get healthy. It's time to be happy. It's time to bounce back. I got this.