The Path to Happiness Isn’t Where I Expected It To Be -Mitch

 

Oh, hey there. It’s been a while. I’ve been out of sorts. I had a couple more medication changes that fucked me up quite a bit in the past several months, and I kind of hit a wall in my career, personal development, and my relationship, and I certainly didn’t give myself time to grieve the loss of my dog properly. I was exhausted, depressed, and totally unmotivated. I gave zero shits for way too long, and now I’m trying to find my path back to the person I want to be; the best version of myself. I’ve found, though, that I spent way too much time and energy trying to make myself want things that were no longer what was best for me. I was trying so hard to convince myself that my goals should be the same as they were in the past that I didn’t take time to evaluate if those were still things I wanted. I went down a rabbit hole only to finally realize that if I’d achieved those goals, I wouldn’t be happy anyway. I needed to acknowledge that goals change as we do, because it’s tough to let go of things, and that’s totally OK.

It’s hard for me to blog here when I’m not feeling myself, honestly. Our mission is to help women live their best lives, and I was certainly not living mine. Nowhere close. I guess I was practicing self care, if self care looks like eating cookie dough out of a tub. (I mean, I think it CAN look like that, once in a great while, but let’s be honest. Doing it fairly regularly isn’t self care. It’s self harm.) Who the hell was I to help guide anyone else? I was a hot mess. What I guess I really lost sight of, though, is that I’m a woman, and if we’re trying to help women live their best lives, why was I uncomfortable starting with myself? I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people out there going through the same things I am, or who could learn from my journey.

Part of it is that it’s really hard to be totally raw and honest online. The Pinterest/Instagram/Blogosphere corner of the internet is full of people with photoshopped and glossed over lives. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to put their best foot forward, especially in a cruel world full of strangers who sometimes want to make themselves feel better by taking other people down. I find that women, especially, fall into this pattern of behavior. When you’re miserable and things aren’t going your way, it’s a hell of a lot easier to lash out and judge other people than to turn the mirror on ourselves. I know I’ve been guilty of that toxic practice. The nickname Mitch the Bitch didn’t come from thin air. I wear the label “Bitch” proudly when I use my skills to stand up for myself and for people and ideals I love. I’m not so proud if I use it to personally attack people. It doesn’t make me better, it doesn’t make them better, and it doesn’t make the world a better place.

It’s equally as bad when I use my elevated skills of verbal decimation on myself, whether I say it out loud, or I say it inside my head. I’m always up for a good self deprecating joke, honestly, and that will probably never change, but I need to be a lot kinder to myself when I stumble. I need to be a lot more honest with myself, as well. A character trait I’m not terribly fond of is my all or nothing, zero to sixty in ten seconds personality. It’s great to ramp myself up and throw myself into something I care about or to reach towards a goal, but it’s a train wreck when I don’t allow myself room for moderation or failure.

Be real; who else does this? We say, “I stayed on my diet for three days then I ate some fries, so I’ll start again Monday,” or, “I really wanted to start blogging again, and I wrote a couple I’m pretty happy with, but then I ran out of time and motivation and now I look stupid because who the hell wants to follow me?”

The answer to failure shouldn’t be, “Fuck it!” if it’s something you really want. If it’s something that you think will make you really happy, start again today. Commit again right now, and if you stumble, start again right away. Don’t give up, but forgive yourself if you don’t succeed and follow the path that you thought would lead you to your goal. My goal is pretty simple. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be the best version of myself and I want to help other women do the same. For me, that’s going to require nothing but pure honesty, self love and acceptance, and accountability. I’m going to be honest with myself and right here on this blog. I’m going to love myself to identify self destructive behavior, take some time to analyze why I did it, and find a better way to reach my goals when I start again. I’ve found that what we sometimes think will make us happy isn’t really what we originally think it is. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the minutia of what we are trying to do that we don’t take time along the way to reevaluate and make sure that the place we’re going is still the destination we want to reach.

whitesnake
I can’t say “here I go again” without a Whitesnake reference. My hair band loving heart won’t let me do it.

So here I go again, but not on my own. I have AK and my family, and other amazing, strong friends and mentors to love me and guide me, and maybe I have you. You have me if you need me. Reach out. I don’t care who you are, or where you are in your process. You don’t have to be spiritually awakened, because I know I’m not there yet. You don’t have to know exactly what you want or how the hell to get there, but if you’re reaching for something and you’re not content, hit me up. I’m actually a lot better at advice for other people than I am for myself. Even if I can’t help, I will almost always say something ridiculous and make you laugh and see things from a different perspective.

When we started this blog, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do here, of what my role should be, and really, what I thought I wanted and what I thought would make me happy. Some of that is still right, and some of that has changed, but I promise, it’s OK to figure it out as you go along. Don’t stay committed to things that don’t serve you. Seriously, knock it off. If you made a goal to run a marathon but you keep injuring yourself, that might not be the right goal for you. There are other ways to get fit and strong. I’m not saying to divorce your husband or quit your job right now, especially if you love them and see a way forward and a future with them that could be fulfilling. I am saying that the way forward might look different than you thought it would, and you need to be open to that.

I have a lot more to say. I want to talk about spirituality and the divine feminine, and  I started this blog to talk about gratitude. I’m going to write about both soon, but this is what came out right now and I’m not second guessing it. This needed to come out for a reason, so here it is. You’ll see the good, the bad, the ugly, and the utterly ridiculous here, so strap in for the ride.

Love, light, forgiveness, and an appropriate amount of cookie dough,

-Selfish Mitch

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Work Sick

I have a few chronic illnesses. I have Lupus, RA, and degenerative disc disease. Due to a few failed back surgeries, I have been diagnosed with “failed back syndrome.” I also have ADHD, and most of these diagnoses happened prior to my 40th birthday. In fact, I spent #39 in post op from the spinal fusion surgery that ultimately failed to fuse, leaving me in more pain than before. The surgeon said that if he went in to try to fix it or remove the hardware, or to try to fuse it again, I’d have a 50% chance of some pain relief and a 50% chance that it would get worse or stay the same. I sure don’t like those odds. I later had a spinal fusion surgery, but that, too, failed to work. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, at first, I considered filing for disability, as a couple of doctors recommended. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around simply giving up at such a young age. I know that people younger than me have had to file for disability, and their reasons are sound. I’m not judging anyone for that choice, but I just KNEW it wasn’t for me.

I’ve always worked really hard and had big goals. I started babysitting at eight. That sounds ridiculous in today’s world, but I guess in small town Montana in 1983, when people knew my teacher parents (and the parents of the kids) were less than a mile away at all times, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I lied about my age on a job application to get a job waitressing at the age of 14. I worked 1 or 2 jobs at a time while going to college full time, which might be the reason I never finished a degree. I have about 170 credits that don’t form a degree, though, so that’s something. (ADHD was real in the 90s, even if we didn’t really know what it was or how to treat it, especially in adults.)

When I started in real estate in 2005, I knew I’d found IT. My career path, what I was supposed to do. It was all so clear. I’d start as a buyer’s agent on a team at Keller Williams to learn all I could. From there, I’d try to move up to the listing agent on a team, and then go out on my own, and then I’d build my own team. The path laid in front of me was so clear, that about a year into my career, I had my team name and logo designed in my head, and I was certain that nothing could stop me. Hahaha. Doesn’t life always have other plans?

First, the market crashed, and it crashed HARD. Luckily, I’d been recruited over to another, larger team that allowed agents to handle buyers and sellers, and continuously found ways to be successful, even with the median price of homes dropping about $200,000 over a couple of years. However, there was stress all around at that time in my life. My husband’s job changed, making him unhappy. It seemed like we were working harder and harder and making less money. I think just about everyone felt that way during that time, but as a married couple who both worked on commission, it was a BAD TIME.

I started feeling terrible. I have had issues with my shoulders ever since I worked my ass off in restaurants and bars, but this was all over my body. The exhaustion was horrible. The foggy mind and the unpredictable symptoms made working a serious hell on earth. It made LIVING a serious hell on earth. All along, I looked fine. That’s what everyone told me. My weight ballooned due to medications for what they diagnosed as fibromyalgia, and from the emotional eating I reverted to when I had no other way to cope with what was happening to me. I’d never learned healthy coping skills. It was food or booze for me, and at that time, I turned to both.

In 2012, my husband got a great job out of state and we moved. I didn’t work for a while and I focused on my health. I worked out as much as I could, ate well, and got my weight down from 230 something to 184, and I felt better.  Still, mystery symptoms reared their head. Finally, finally, I got a diagnosis. It’s autoimmune disease. It’s here forever, but it can be managed. My doctor gave me an antidepressant for pain, even though I was not depressed at the time. Turns out, my brain processes antidepressants as depressants. I was sunk into depression, anxiety, and misery like I’d never felt, but was assured that it was the result of a scary diagnosis and the realization my life would never be the same. I tried working part time from 2012-2015 but, honestly, that depression and the wacky medications made it nearly impossible. Steroids, low does chemo, biologics, etc. I felt like a chemical shitstorm and felt worse. We moved back to Arizona, which greatly helped my joint pain, but I was still depressed, and still taking Effexor. If I missed a dose by about 3 hours, Effexor withdrawal happened. It was like nothing I’d ever felt. It’s like you have electric shocks from your brains to your limbs. Still, I didn’t connect my depresseion with Effexor until I had what was basically a manic breakdown and started researching.

happy

 

I weaned myself off of it, so a lot of the cloud of misery disappeared, but it left my life in chaos anyway. I was back up to over 240 lbs at that point, and in a great deal of pain still. What in the hell was I going to do? Plus, I needed to contribute to my family, and as someone who has ALWAYS worked, except for a dismal failure of a stint as a housewife when my husband and I got together, and I needed the mental stimulation.

Then came the back surgeries and the recoveries, and an office job that I really liked, but was constantly taking time off from for doctor’s appointments and pain. It really didn’t pay enough to make a huge difference in our finances either. So. What now?

 

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

Love and Health

-Mitch

Selfish Mitch of the House of Disparity, First of Her Name

“Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”

As I was watching Game of Thrones when it (finally) returned to my TV screen this summer, I was thinking how cool it woulddragon be to have a bunch of titles and someone to walk in front of me to introduce me like the badass I am, like Dany. If I could somehow get her costume budget too, that would be aces.

But as the thought lingered and finally took hold, I realized that I have a LOT of titles. Most women do, if you think of it. I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of one human and two dogs, a friend, a Realtor, a fashion lover, a selfie aficionado, an inappropriate joke teller, a person with several chronic illnesses, and an online health and fitness coach.

OK, hold up. If you don’t know me, those last two probably struck you as odd. Chronic illness patient and fitness coach? Yep. Stick with me here.

In 2008, I started feeling terrible. I was exhausted, I had major stress, I had severe pain in several areas of my body. I was super stressed out and had no idea how to manage it. I’d recently married my current husband, who was SUCH an upgrade from the last one, made a great career move to the real estate company I work at today, my son was thriving, and I had great friends. Luckily, a sweet benefit of my marriage was health insurance, so I started using it to go see doctors to find out what the fuck was happening with my body. I had so many tests done, and nothing was conclusive. I felt like I just continued to deteriorate, and I was certain the doctors didn’t believe me; that they thought this was all in my head. Finally, I had a doctor diagnose me with fibromyalgia, which I’ve come to discover is often just a long word for, “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you, but we do believe something is up.” I even got a referral to a Rheumatologist who said, “OK, your bloodwork is low positive for autoimmune disease, but you don’t check enough boxes to be diagnosed with one of them, so we need to wait and see what symptoms develop, and here’s some pills called Lyrica so I hope that works.”

If you’re a doctor who happens to be reading this, DO NOT TELL A PERSON SHE’S GOING TO GET ONE OF 16 TERRIBLE FUCKING DISEASES AND SEND HER TO WEB MD. Also? All of them sound terrible, because they all can be.

So, here I was, just 33 years old with a 9 year old kid, in pain, exhausted, miserable, with what looked like a pretty shitty life sentence. I went back to my old standby, emotional eating. When you combine emotional eating with a drug like Lyrica and a less than ideal genetic predisposition to gaining weight, it’s a perfect recipe for gaining 25 pounds in three weeks. Super. The doctor who prescribed the pills kind of shrugged when I told him they added to the size of my ass and didn’t help any of my pain, but told me to keep taking them and try to lose the weight. He said, “Eat less and move more.” I stopped taking Lyrica, because the side effects were worse than the problem they were supposed to treat. I’m glad I did, since recent research shows that it can kill new brain synapses.

Desperate, I started seeing other doctors. At one point, I saw a chiropractor who is also a naturopath. He’s amazing and put me on a 30 day elimination diet and ran a bunch of tests to see which foods were inflammatory and caused leaky gut syndrome, which he knew irritated every autoimmune and thyroid disorder, plus some other diseases as well. It was HARD. I was a vegetarian at the time, working diligently towards becoming a vegan, having done my own research on food as medicine. Plus, I’ve never liked meat. Dr Kan’s diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, and meat, mostly red meat, preferably organ meat, and lots and lots of supplements. I made a deal that I’d add seafood into my diet, but not meat. He wasn’t happy with me, probably because he knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for the long term. He was right. I did the diet, and his testing showed that I was VERY sensitive to gluten and should avoid it at all costs, and I should limit dairy and soy. Great. I’m a pizza and beer girl at heart, but I stuck to it for a while. Eventually, I’d let myself slip. It didn’t take long for a slip to become an avalanche, and I was able to sort of rationalize it to myself. None of the other doctors told me what to eat! Maybe this guy is a quack. (Spoiler alert: he is not.)

Years went by, and I was diagnosed with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease. The medications I was on for Lupus and RA, particularly, were nasty. I gained 40 lbs in 6 months on Prednisone. I mean, it’s pretty cool that it kept me alive, but being 80 lbs overweight, as I was at that point, wasn’t great for my joints or my back. All of my doctors said I should lose weight, but nobody recommended a nutritionist, natural or otherwise. I was talked into a spinal fusion surgery that failed and caused more pain than I was in to start with. Then they recommended a spinal cord stimulator that also didn’t help and caused more problems. I’d been on and off of so many medications that my side effects had side effects. Try running a career and a life with all of that going on. It. Sucks. It’s honestly not possible. I even gave up on vegetarianism because it clearly wasn’t working either.

In December of 2016 I had a surgery to revise the spinal cord stimulator. It didn’t “fix” me, but it took my pain levels back to where I was at the time of the failed fusion. I now have the diagnosis of “failed back syndrome.” For several months, a friend of a friend of mine who was an online coach had asking me to join a challenge group. I’m not even sure why I stayed Facebook friends with this tall, thin, pretty, positive human. Honestly, with where I was mentally and physically, the workouts she posted sometimes made me sad that I’d never be able to get fit like that. I turned her down politely many times, but she started promoting a free Whole 30 group beginning in January of 2017. I remembered that Dr. Kan’s elimination diet did, in fact work for me, even though I talked myself out of believing it. This group Katie was running was free. It was just the diet, no burpees or cross jacks. I could do that, right? I had to try.

The first two weeks of eating veggies, lean meats, fruits and nuts were hell. My body did NOT enjoy all that detoxing. Once I got through the hell though, I was pretty amazed and how GOOD I felt. The book said that people with autoimmune issues could take longer to get the full benefit, because of leaky gut syndrome, which IS A THING, so I stayed on it for an additional 60 days. I’d lost over 20 lbs at that point. I was at a stage in my life that I’d hit rock bottom so low with my terrible relationship with food and with myself that I was open and ready for change. Katie had believed in me that I could do this Whole 30, so when she told me that I could buy a 30 Day Challenge Pack from her and join her accountability group full time, staying on track with my eating and doing the low impact exercise routines at home, I chose to believe her. Money back guarantee and all, right? I would be stupid not to try. I started with a country line dancing program for 45 days or so. I’m super uncoordinated but I started getting hooked on those endorphins and how great I felt when I avoided my inflammation trigger foods and took care of my body.

To date, I’ve lost over 60 lbs this year. I became a coach in early summer because I KNOW there are women out there right now who are in a similar mental/or physical health decline. They’re where I was last year. It’s an ugly, lonely, and horrible place, and if I have a way to help someone help themselves out of it, I will. I’ve stumbled a bit emotionally and physically after a Lupus flare knocked me on my ass in September. I’d been busy as hell at work and had some pretty severe stress, which lead to a lack of sleep and me giving myself excuses that I didn’t have time to meal prep, so I started eating more sugar and splurging on gluten too often. It resulted in the Lupus flare. Amazing how it all happened almost like clockwork.

I will tell you that I am PISSED still. I’m so angry that I had to experience almost a decade of straight hell because the traditional doctors and specialists I trusted gave me pills to deal with everything. Obviously I was desperate for ANY kind of relief, so I took them. I took the steroids, the low dose chemo, the pain pills, the $2600a month biologic shots that insurance covered until they didn’t and the antidepressants (even though I wasn’t depressed and nobody bothered to check to see what kind of havoc they could wreak on my brain, that apparently had an underlying chronic illness of its own that came raging on in full force because antidepressants are a trigger). I went through HELL for so long, and it almost cost me everything I care about, and not one of those doctors said, “Hey, why don’t you try eating whole foods, and whole foods only. Eat lean meat that’s grilled or baked, and nothing out of a deep fryer. No processed shit, no grains, no sugar. Just food that grows out of the earth except for grains and legumes. Give that a shot for like a month or so, and then add back in those other foods we all like so much one at a time and see how you feel.

Why don’t they do that? It’s fucking magical when you find the right foods to fill your body and learn which ones make you miserable. Do they not know? One would think that spending 13 years or so in post-secondary training and schooling would somehow cover it. Either the way medical schools, teaching hospitals or clinics, or however specialists like rheumatologists are trained are sorely lacking on information and evidence on how the common American diet keeps us fat, sick and nearly dead, or they’re giant fans of the kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies when they give me drugs that destroy my life. Fun stuff, America. If you’ve never had to see a specialist on a long term basis, consider yourself lucky and take what I’m saying as information from someone who has been through it. I’ve sat for two hours in a waiting room in a great deal of pain while I watch the pharma girls bring in catered lunches for the staff, balancing bags of gluten and fat (lots of bagels in the mornings, Applebees and other garbage in the afternoon) on their stiletto heels that look great with the pencil skirts on their 25 year old perfectly healthy bodies. It happens everywhere.

SO this is why I coach. This is why I care. This is why everything I do seems really incongruent.  Someone has to do it, and why not me?

Gentle Hugs, Selfish Mitch

Oh, Yeah!

Leaping Before I Look

koolaidman

The Kool-Aid man busting through that wall is great imagery for how I handle things in my life. If I decide I’d like to do something, I don’t carefully research, gather all of my facts, write long pro/cons lists, consult with my family, friends (even if what I’m doing will affect them in some way), check with a professional mentor, or pray to any higher power. I acknowledge that my strategy isn’t always well advised, but it’s the way I get things done. I leap, then I look. I bust through the wall without considering everything that could possibly be on the other side of it; without really putting thought into if that wall will need repair and how I’m going to get it done.

That’s what I did when AK came to me with the idea of this blog. She had been meditating, doing yoga, doing a lot of reading and research on her path, and doing a lot of free form journaling. Since we’re super close friends and talk all of the time, she realized that parts of what she wanted to incorporate into her life were things I was already doing, like prioritizing self care, working on a healthy mind/body connection, and helping other women do the same. She thought combining our ideas and strategies would be really powerful, since we are going the same direction but taking different routes. It made a lot of sense to me, especially because self care and happiness looks different to every single person. What makes me feel whole, happy, and centered can be vastly different from what works for others. While AK was reading other blogs, free writing, and meditating on what she wanted to contribute, I thought up a name, modified it to make it work with what was available and who we are, set up the site, and knew that my content would flow pretty organically from there. If it doesn’t, I’ll work it out. For me, practice makes perfect. I put things into the world, often impulsively, and they come back to me how they’re supposed to. Sometimes they come back in the form of   wonderful things, and sometimes they come back as a disappointment and/or a lesson.

Let’s see what comes of this. I have three posts in the hopper today, because my brain has decided to be super active and focused, and I’m going to take advantage of that.

-Love, Selfish Mitch