Thursday, April 06, 2006

Feeling good, looking good? Not quite. More guilt than you can shake a stick at...

Before I dive into Part II of the guilt rant, let me tell you about today. It's a perfect lead-in...

I had an exhausting afternoon. I charged into the office like a trooper this morning and got loads accomplished, but I crashed in the afternoon. My energy was suddenly sapped by a blistering headache (7/10), an angry, aching back and neck. I suddenly felt drained, intellectually-spent, emotionally depleted, and soul-tired. After reading the same paragraph in an article about steam ejectors about 14 times, I gave in and fiddled with my computer-model, moved things around, changed the way things looked, not adding anything meaningful.

So I came home, and instead of doing chores like I'd planned, I crashed on the sofa and watched TV. Which should be call TV: The Downward Spiral.

After watching the news, I was hooked, so I watched the all-new "Superstar Handyman Challenge" on HGTV, and made some pasta. While it cooked, I ate half a bag of York peppermint patties, mostly because I deserved them. Then I ate some organic chocolate almonds David brought me last night. Then I ate the pasta (with tomatoes and olive oil), a couple more peppermints, and some fruit cocktail. I felt sorry for myself, like I deserved some prize for getting through the day. I'd also just consumed about 2000 calories.

Herein lies the problem...headaches take so much from me that the simple task of getting through the day turns into a challenge. There are no resources, after a day of struggling to stay productive at the office, left for anything else. Not for self-discipline anyway.

I used to be a die-hard gym-goer. For years, I've worked out at least 4 days a week, walked to work, watched my diet, never ate seconds, stayed fit and trim, strong and capable. Last summer, exhausted from daily headaches, I ditched the Y and went every 2 weeks instead. For the past several months, I've gone maybe twice.

I've gained about 6lbs since last summer, and about 10lb since two summers ago. Mostly I've lost muscle. If I lived in the Renaissance, I'd now be the ideal form...soft and round and feminine, my body re-capturing its "natural form". How earthy! How organic! At 136lbs, I'm far from unhealty or unattractive, but I used to be fit and trim. And it's plaguing me because I find society's obsession with weight to be maddening. It's time for a backlash! But I must admit, I don't look particularly good soft and round. My dress pants and jeans agree wholeheartedly. I don't want to know what my summer skirts will think.

Sometimes I feel good about this weight, that I'm more real here, that this is the me that results from normal eating and normal exercise. But I feel, by cultural standards, like I've "let myself go". And the reality is, sitting in front of a computer 8h a day isn't exactly hard labour. In the modern age, we need to exercise just to stay level. Women in the old days didn't need to work out. My grandmother milked 40 cows, hung out a load of laundry, and churned butter all before 7am. But times have changed.

And I have changed. All because of headaches.

I quit the gym because I just couldn't be Super Woman anymore. I decided my career was a priority (paying the bills, I mean), so I decided I needed to take it easy in the evenings, focus on ME, focus on relaxation, pacing, self-management.

Over-stimulation is a killer trigger for me, so avoiding the gym and crowds in the evening guaranteed headache-relief. I also have exertion headaches, which meant I often had brutal headaches after working out (or even walking home from work), so quiet evenings allowed time for the day's pain to dissipate, and assured me I would wake up feeling somewhat normal.

But 6 months later, I still have headaches AND I'm out of shape.

So the guilt gets worse. I now hate the idea of the gym (all those people), can't face it at the end of the day. And all the other guilt comes...the fact that I'm not doing my photography, not taking courses like I always did, not pushing myself in new directions, not engaging with friends much, not bothering to dress nicely ("clean and ironed" is the new mantra where "stylish and polished" used to be). I haven't even gone to the mall in 4 months. At least I'm saving of money. But I'm not longer the person I used to be.

And while it seems like it, it isn't about the clothes and body, or doing Cool Things, it's about feeling out of control. I was a person who was busy and productive and interesting, who couldn't wait to do new things. I am now a muscle-free chick who spends her evenings doing sudokus with the cat while my saint of a boyfriend does what needs doing.

I need help.

But I also shouldn't be so hard on myself. I live with something few people understand. It could be worse. And anyway, half the country lives like this and nothing's even wrong with them. But being an overachiever, I feel like this hiatus from my basic character is killing me. I need to figure out a way to take back my life. Or maybe I need to accept this. As my pacing workshop instructor said, "you need to write a new definition of success." Until then, I'm mourning. I'm guilt-ridden.

I'm wearing a sweatshirt to work tomorrow. At least it doesn't have a basket of kittens on the front.

And there are peppermint patties in the freezer that need some attention.


  1. Can I join the guilt club too? It's bad enough we have to deal with CDH, but then we have to heap on the guilt.

    I took a nap today instead of going to the gym. Guilt. Or....I use all my energy at the gym instead of helping hubby go grocery shopping. Guilt. It's a no-win situation!

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