Stress, Happiness, Family, Home and Work: Rambling Does a Soul Good.

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This last year has been turbulent.  There were so many ups and downs (it seemed like more downs than anything to be honest) and to be completely honest, I was burning out and pretty damn near miserable.  The worst part is?  I didn’t realize how miserable I was, despite it tearing apart my life.

When you’re not happy, it truly does impact all aspects of your life.  A big part of my issue was work itself, and after I started burning out, I no longer wanted to be a part of it.  I felt helpless, taken advantage of, and angry.  Little did I know, I was taking all of that home with me.  My relationship with my boyfriend suffered, I was working 60+ hours a week, and was so crabby during what little free time I had, I threw most of it on him.  My daughter felt the brunt of it as well, I snapped on her for simple things more times than I’d like to admit.  Of course, working so many hours, made me feel like I missed out on her life (which I did, and I regret wholeheartedly), which made me resentful, which made me angry… and the cycle continued.

The stress from work, and my by that point, unhappy home life impacted my health.  In 2013, I had no hospitalizations.  In 2014 through now?  What, 3?  4?  With several ER trips in between?  It’s been ridiculous.  Crohns isn’t caused by stress, but it most definitely is impacted by it.  So, on top of everything at work, and at home… add in hospital trips.  When you add in hospitals, you have to remember to subtract pay and add stress at work from missing work.  Take all of that and re-route it back into the unhappy job, which leads back into the unhappy home.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

Towards the end of the year, I realized that work was my main issue, and was getting the impression that I was bringing it home and affecting my family.  I made a goal to make it through Christmas.  I had talked about it with Ryan, and once Christmas was past, I would make a decision and decide whether I would leave or stay.

Oddly enough the timing of that final conversation coincided with a demotion.  For whatever reason, my management decided instead of making changes I had been asking for, that it would be better to put me back into the customer service pool and bring back an old coworker as the new supervisor.  I jumped on it.  Sure, I was a bit angry, not at the demotion itself, but at the lack of help I had received, the lack of support I was given and the lack of training (which is improving markedly since then, might I add) for my position.  However, I knew I wasn’t right for the position yet, and at that point, I didn’t want it anymore.

Once I was firmly back in my customer service position, I vowed to leave work at work and to bring the happiness from home there.  I had never been good at separating work and home, never.  Not even when I first started working at 15 years old.  This time I was determined.  That was the first step.  Within a few weeks I was getting comments from family, friends and coworkers that I seemed markedly happier.  Little fights with the boyfriend seemed to happen less and less.  I started to sleep better at night and I realized that it was because once 5pm came along, I *refused* to be aggravated about work, I *refused* to be angry.  If I did manage to bring home those feelings, I did something immediately to put it out of my mind.

Since then, as the weeks pass, I realize what a mess I was.  I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t eating well, and I was perpetually grumpy.  My Crohns Disease started to flare again around Christmas, and I have been back in the hospital twice since then (one was just an overnight, the other almost a week).  The downtime while being sick really pushed home the changes I needed to make.  I have been doing great leaving work at work, and enjoying my home life.  My stress levels were markedly lower once I started focusing on how much I enjoyed doing silly little activities with my daughter, once I started working on my hobbies again.  I started to tweak my diet and cut out some of the fattier foods I eat and try to cut down on coffee.  I quit smoking again (wish me luck) even… that’s the newest, I haven’t had a cigarette since Saturday.

Needless to say, I’ve noticed a huge difference in myself.  I’m enjoying my life a lot more now, and I finally feel like I have my priorities straight.  It took a long time for me to realize that my family and my health come first, no matter what.  No more going to work sick, no more sending my daughter to school with a cold, no more rushing back after hospital stays.  No more bringing home work and no more stressing about it after the day is done.  The benefit also crosses back into the office.  I feel happier heading into work (or at least the dread of a new day isn’t there anymore) and I take my lunch breaks and work on something I’d like to.  When you feel better, you tend to have a higher quality of work.  I  also make it a point to enjoy cooking (like I used to) and my family is benefiting from home cooked meals again.  I’ve even done my best to bring as much music and art as possible back into my home, which is one thing I noticed fell out of my life this last year.

So while I still have quite a bit going on with my health (new doctor, new medications, and new symptoms – a blog post for another time), I’m enjoying myself, my home and my job a lot more these days.  I wish I would have listened to my friends and family earlier, maybe I would’ve caught on to how miserable I really was.  However, you can’t change the past, you can only create the future, and more importantly, make sure you enjoy the present moment.  Here’s to hoping for a better year, a healthier life, and more happiness through out it all.

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Vanity, Disease and Pushing Through.

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No matter how hard I try, vanity breaks through each barrier I build. 

People with Crohns Disease, or other “invisible diseases” may not always look sick.  Sometimes we do, but sometimes we look “normal”.  Normal to other people anyways, I know I look pretty healthy to the outside world.  People who have known me for years might be able to see a difference, but to strangers?  To acquaintances?  Normal.  

To myself?  Even when I’ve been preparing for the effects of the disease, of the medications, eventually when I look in the mirror I’m shocked.  Over the past 7 years, I’ve been through 18 sizes and then back again.  Since my weight has fluctuated so much, I’ve also changed my style several times to accentuate what I did like about my body.  I’ve changed my hair, I’ve changed my clothes, I’ve changed everything… all in the quest to feel comfortable in my skin.  Regardless of what I do, how much I get my head in order, that moment still comes.  That moment where I look in the mirror and think “What. The. Fuck.” and have to fight the tears.  

Without fail, when I’m super sick, when I’m flaring, I tell myself that I won’t care about the effects of my medications, of prednisone, of 6mp, as long as I start to feel better.  I shake my fist at the social brainwashing and promise that I’ll love my body regardless of how it looks.  I tell myself that I won’t care as long as I’m not living in the bathroom or in too much pain to go to the park.  

Each and every time, with out fail, no matter how hard I shake my fist, I fail.  

Back in May I was hospitalized when my Crohns spread to a new part of my intestines.  I thought it was just another obstruction, when I learned that despite my infusions that my disease spread… I was devastated.  I had been so close to “remission” for more than a year.  I had a taste of normalcy.  Usually I refuse Prednisone at any cost, I hate the side effects, physical and otherwise.  However, knowing that my disease had kept on trucking through my innards, I said fuck it.  Prednisone it was.  Every Crohnie knows, prednisone will give you a hell of a fighting chance to get out of the hospital.  

Fast forward 3 months.  No more hospital for me but I still feel like crap.  Now I feel like crap and loathe what my body has done.  I’ve gained 30 lbs (which is about right for me on prednisone), I have “moon face”,  I have excessive body hair, I have thinning hair ( I think that’s more from the high levels of 6mp I’m on than Prednisone ) and the latest development?  I have a bald spot.  Yes.  I’m 28 years old and have thinning hair and a bald spot.  Granted, the bald spot is the size of a quarter, and trust me when I say that you wouldn’t notice it unless I pointed it out.  The point is is that *I* know it’s there.  Just like all the other changes my body has gone through in 3 months.  

I know I don’t look bad, I know I look alright, but I don’t look how I want to look.  My neighbor’s grandma thought my weight gain was because I was pregnant (hahahahahaha), my friends love my short hair.  I got lots of compliments on the new summer style.  My boyfriend isn’t even remotely phased… in fact, I think he’s enjoying a couple of areas that have accumulated some of the extra weight.  (insert eyeroll here) 

I don’t see a little extra weight… I see where the weight is sitting.  I see puffy arms, ankles and a new belly.  I see fat cheeks. I don’t see an awesome new hairstyle, I see thin hair and a bald spot… oh wait!  There’s the hair… on my face and my arms.  I definitely have a new appreciation for Nair.  I don’t see a new summer style, I see hiding behind my clothing.  I see loathing and tears.  I see the love lost for my body.  

Ugh.  That actually burns my brains to type out that I’m not happy with my body.  I don’t like admitting that.  I know that it’s temporary.  I know it is, I’ve gone through this cycle more times than I’d like to remember.  I know that just as soon as I get used to this slightly heavier body, my weight will stop dropping.  I know that my hair will come back, I know that the extra hair will go away.  I know my body will change… again.  

I don’t know.  I guess this time around I’m having a particularly hard time with the changes my body is driving through.  I know it’ll get better, or at least change again, but it’s tough.  I’ve decided to treat myself a bit these next couple of weeks.  Instead of my usual bout of refusing to acknowledge that my body has changed, even temporarily, I’m going to just embrace it. Maybe pick up a few new clothes, new shoes (yes, my feet have swollen a bit) and tomorrow I’m going to go get my haircut by a friend, something a little shorter to hide the spot and thinning.  I think that maybe instead of ignoring my body changing, I’m going to accept it, even if I don’t like it.  

Regardless, writing this all down, admitting it to the internet and my friends has made me feel a little bit better.  Being honest with people and letting my fingers do the talking has helped.  I’m having a hard time, I’m feeling like crap, and I am self conscious.  I’m not happy with how I’ve ended up looking, and that’s okay, and I’m telling people instead of hiding it.