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"Live life in such a way that every day when your feet hit the floor the devil says 'OH SHIT SHE'S UP!'"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"The rest of the story..."

There was a lot that I left out in my last post. A lot that I wasn't ready to share. If you want to hear (er, I mean read), here is 'the rest of the story...'

What I didn't share was that I let the stress overwhelm and consume me to the point where I had to be put on medical leave. The intention was to reset, regulate, whatever you want to call it - fix my body - de-stress.  I discovered much about myself in those two months.

A fair amount of the beginning of the medical leave was to physically heal from my most recent health-related incident. It took longer than I thought. One day, I felt completely different physically, I knew that was a good sign. I was no longer ladened with worry that the pain would flare up, I could venture away from home. (I'm telling you - I was in bad shape.) I knew then that once the physical began to heal, the mental, spiritual and emotional were not far behind. I had to find a way, find a path to move forward. See, the problem had become that I was dealing with stress on what I now think was a superficial or upper level. I could handle the stress on the surface, but all that did (I now know) was push the bad stress lower into my body. And thus my physical health issues.

The most difficult part of all of this? I had to admit that I did this to myself. No one, nothing else did. It was hard to admit. Admit that I hadn't been taking care of myself. I hadn't been honest with myself. I hadn't wanted to look in the mirror. And I mean look in the mirror. I thought my running was my way to stress release and relief. It did help - I don't deny that. Probably more than I'm giving credit. If anything it probably prevented this whole mess from happening sooner.

Admitting to oneself that you aren't doing a very good job of taking care of yourself is tough. It takes humility, strength, courage and grace to be able to do it. At least it did for me. I fear failure. Period. This, in my mind, was failure. It hurt. It sucked. It was upsetting. I had to truly power through the easy road of self-pity. (Okay, truth be told, I did allow a day or so to wallow in self-pity. No more.) I had to face what had happened. Stress controlled my life.

I would like to say it was liberating. Probably it was, but it was more of a 'just how in the hell did I get here' kind of moment instead. Then the question came, 'just what are you going to do about it?' I reached out to a dear friend asking about meditation options and methods. I knew I had to get inside my body and mind to find the truth. I was certain there were going to be parts that I didn't really want to hear, but more importantly I believed that it would strengthen what I did have. I needed to seek solace within my own head, mind, spirit and soul before I could figure out how to manage the stress I faced in my job.

The answer surprised me. Shocked me actually. I fully expected to teach myself how to deal with stress and be better that way. No. That was not the answer. The answer was to tell myself the truth: I hated my job. The hate was the source of my stress. I hated so much about it, that I could think of nothing else. I failed to ask myself what would make me happy, satisfied, feel like a success. It wasn't this job. I had to be realistic though. No job, no life situation is without stress. It's the amount that you allow or the way in which you control it is the key. Stress can be good, it can even be healthy. It can make us grow. When it doesn't make us grow, that is when it is detrimental and it controls us.

So now what? I hate my job. Okay. Now what? Again, I thought my task at hand was to learn to manage what I had. I needed to start being truthful with myself. What job would make me happy? I have been a dancer from the day I could walk. I had very little formal training, but it is me and is my passion - always. Much to the dismay of some of my dancer professors in college, I did not pursue it. I was too afraid that of the chance that I would grow to hate the one thing in this world that makes me happy. (this could be an entire blog subject in itself.) I got a business degree instead. I'm nearly 40 and being a dancer is out of the question. Music is the other extension of me. I am passionate about music. Almost always have it playing in some form or fashion. What could I do with music? Not a whole lot. And finally writing. Should I quit to be a writer? It didn't feel like the correct option.

Then I looked deeper. Where in my current job did I always feel satisfied and successful? IT. Systems work. I needed to make a change. Whoa. Now what? I now have some plans and will pursue this new path. It is less about the process and more about the realization. I had to realize that I didn't like my job. More importantly was that what I want to do or knew I could do was out there. I simply had to be truthful - look in the mirror and tell myself this is how it is going to be.

The result? I have peace. Clarity. An inner sense of purpose. And the clincher, if I am happy, this job will provide me with the opportunity to attend concerts, take dance classes, buy books, etc. Therefore, I'm not giving up the passion of dance, music and writing. No. I'm transcending it.

It took 7 of the 8 weeks to arrive at all of this. I am proud and pleased. Did I accomplish all that I thought I would during the 2 months? No. Normally I would beat myself up over it. However, the same friend who helped guide me towards meditation, said something that I have repeated continuously. "Start small and be kind to yourself." It's mostly habit to beat myself up. It serves no purpose and doesn't benefit anyone, especially me. "Start small and be kind to yourself." Wow. It makes perfect sense to me.

There are other 'habits' that I had to address as well. Fear and doubt. It's habit for me to let those control my life. But again, what purpose does that serve other than to drain oneself, one's soul, one's spirit. Do I have fight against the urge? Absolutely. Through all of this, I have found the strength and courage to fight against fear, doubt and self-degradation.

I have no idea if anyone is still reading by this point. (I know, I can easily begin to pontificate and become lengthy in my musings.) Remember C.H.E.R.U.B. from my last post? I have gone through a lot and all of it - is of my own making. But when I apply C.H.E.R.U.B. to my life, it's okay. It's all good. It works.

If you are still reading, I implore you, look at your stress management. How deep are you going? How truthful are you being? How much could you gain? How much could you lose? Believe in yourself. You have the strength to discover all of this and come out okay on the other side. I started back to work. It was a bit emotional to admit all this over and over. I must have looked significantly bad before I left because numerous people, people that I saw every day would pause, look at me and say "you look healthy Heather." You know what? I am. I am the healthiest I have ever been. It's not been an easy path and goodness knows it won't be for you. But it is worth it. You are worth it.

Take care. Till next time...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Remember Me?

Let's just head this off at the pass. Last year. 2012. My New Year's Resolution? Run. Write. Dream. Be. Well it didn't exactly work out the way I planned. And frankly I'm making no efforts to even proclaim I will write each week this year. But perhaps...

2012. What a year. Not exactly a stellar year for me. Let's just say I have (literally) at least 3 inches of paperwork at home that involves doctor's visits, x-rays, MRIs, prescriptions, you name it. I was not healthy. While in okay health. I was not healthy. Not physically and definitely not mentally. [disclaimer. If you don't know or don't want to know that I struggle with depression, now you do and now is your chance to escape. I'll even give you a 3 paragraph return to get out if you wish.]

Well here you are. Still with me. Anyway. If you didn't know, I'm sure it is a surprise. What? Heather who is always laughing and bubbly? No way. She doesn't have depression. Well I do. And I work everyday to be healthy. My depression is driven by my anxiety. If you've been around me 20 minutes or 20 years, you know. I can get extremely anxious. 

I don't really want to rehash all my health issues in 2012. Let's just say that almost every health issue was stress-related. I let it eat me and consume me. Even though I thought I was managing it. Clearly I was not. I needed a new start. A new chance. A new focus. I was granted that opportunity.

As some of you know, New Year's is my favorite holiday. The chance to create a new habit, remove an old habit, embrace the world in a different way. I rang in the New Year, keeping my up my 20+ year tradition. Ever since I was a senior in high school, I promised myself to celebrate New Year's in a different place every year. I've only failed twice. Not too bad for that stint. 
Now, on to 2013.

On January 1, 2013, I developed my New Year's Resolution. I call it C.H.E.R.U.B. (I know everyone thinks fat baby angels right away, but bear with me - I'm not a fat angels kind of girl.)
C.H.E.R.U.B. is an acronym. 

C - Connect. Connect to my body to discover what is broken (emotion, mental, etc.)
H - Heal. Heal what is broken. 
E - Energize. Staying positive during healing process. 
R - Reposition. Change what needs changed. Keep what needs to stay. 
U - Unique. I am a unique being. I must honor that, respect that and embrace that.
B - Believe. Believe in me - I have purpose. 

How am I doing? Well thank you, since you asked, I'm doing great! I found ways to meditate. I started Hot Yoga. As if sweating isn't cleansing enough, the hot yoga has helped me clean out the non-physical junk that I've let build up inside me. At the risk of sounding weird (I know who doesn't think I'm weird already) I had a very pivotal moment during hot yoga. We had a specific breathing exercise we were doing, called Breath of Fire. One day, in my mind's eye, I saw me exhaling a whole bunch of junk out of my system. Layers of darkness and buildup. It was exciting and frightening all in the same moment. Exciting because - wow, look at everything I'm getting rid of. And frightening because - wow, look at everything I'm getting rid of. With my eyes continuing to remain closed, I could see some stuff try to scurry back in, hide and stay inside. Over the past few weeks, I truly feel like I continue to hunt down that crap and expel it from my body.  

So why publish all this? Because I believe that perhaps someone reading this may be letting stress eat them alive as well. I'm here to encourage and support you in your efforts to get healthy. Mental issues are often overlooked or frowned upon - 'just snap out of it' - you know if I could 'just' I would've 'justed' a long time ago. The above is for me to keep me accountable. But perhaps you can take from it and apply it to your own life, your own well-being. Make 2013 a healthy year!

Till next time..  (hopefully not 5 months from now...)

Sunday, August 12, 2012


"I'm standing at the edge of another precipice of life..."

A line from Paula Cole's song Pearl. By chance it came up on my iPod the other day. By chance I desperately needed to hear it.

"I will look for strength within
I will be a better woman
Hang in there baby, I'm the grain of sand
Becoming a pearl."

You see what I thought was stress management - well it clearly wasn't. How do I know? Well the indicator came straight to me through the form of shingles. Yes, shingles. The illness that 'old people' get. The one that I swore would never happen a) because I already had chicken pox and b) well, I'm handling life in the best possible way.

Wrong. And very Wrong.

When I stop to think about it, I can see the flaws in my belief system. Thinking that running was handling that work at stress and that I had my work load properly prioritized to avoid extraneous stress.  Ha. Such a fool. And that's truly how I feel. Foolish.

Of course I felt all the myriad of other emotions too. Anger, guilt, resentment, frustration, confusion as to how this happened, etc. etc. etc. I allowed myself one day of feeling sorry for myself. The day that the doctor diagnosed me. That was it.

I am extremely lucky. It was a small breakout and I've responded very well to the medication. But. But there are two risk factors that frankly scared the shit out of me. 1) My chance for recurrence is markedly higher now. 2) There is a remote (albeit extremely remote) that I would have pain for the rest of my life. Again the latter seems unlikely in that my outbreak is minimal. But still. I can't ignore that - what if #1 happens, would #2 be more likely then?

The doctor and I discussed at length the chance of recurrence. Silly me thought it was like chicken pox - one and done. Au contraire. I am at risk for multiple outbreaks over the course of my life now. She explained that if I am trending toward that then I would be a candidate for the vaccine. I told her "well I guess my goal is to not have to call you up asking for that vaccine." She said, "that sounds like a perfectly good goal to me."

And thus now I'm here - at a precipice. My life has to change. Drastically. Immediately. Permanently. I attribute this outbreak to about 97.5% being work-related. As strange as it sounds, I don't want to quit Starbucks. I truly believe it is where I am meant to be - at least for the foreseeable future. But what I do for them, now that is what needs to change. I need to eliminate a very difficult portion of my workload. Difficult in that it continuously and constantly creates unnecessary work, extreme frustration and an overall sense of failure.

I am actively working on a plan with my manager. He and I will collaborate to address this particular area and move ahead into a healthier and more productive work environment. I do admit I have not exactly been the best at communicating needs or asking for help (gasp!) - not one of my strong points. Dammit, I can do it myself (ah yes, a familiar and favorite line of Ms. Heather Lee Cleary.)

Perhaps you are asking (or have been all along) just why would she publish something so personal and sort of embarrassing? I learned some time ago that it is best to share uncomfortable situations either to give someone else solace or possibly to prevent someone else from going down that same road.

I consider this a warning sign. It could have been far worse, right? I would normally say that it is a chance for me to right the course, but think about it. That course sent me into the doctor's office. This necessitates a change of direction. Perhaps not quite a 180 degree change, but a change nonetheless. I admit that from time to time I still shake my head and wonder how this could have happened. The 'how' doesn't matter - at all. It is the 'what' that is critical. What am I going to do? What am I going to change? What will no longer be part of my life? What will now be a part of my life?

Stay tuned... and for goodness sake, please make sure you evaluate your own method of stress management. I'm not and never will be the poster child for proper stress management. But I can be that beacon for you to change your direction as well.

I started with a Paula Cole song quote. I think it appropriate to end with one too.

From Me.
"I am walking on the bridge
I am over the water and I'm scared as hell.
But I know there's something better.
Yes, I know there's something better.
Yes I know. Yes I know. Yes I know."