Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Over the course of a little over a year (April 2006 - June 2007) I worked with Chad to buy our first home and spent six months of hard labor fixing up the place, my dad died suddenly and very unexpectedly at the young-ish age of 58 and my dad's dad died at the ripe old age of 94. To say that it was a rough year makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It was beyond rough.

Before my dad died, I was already feeling mentally, physically, spiritually and financially drained from our house purchase and work. I was exhausted in every sense. After my dad died, I spent a few months alternately on auto-pilot while still working and finishing house projects, and alternately crying on the couch in front of television shows from my childhood -- semi-paralyzed with grief, shock and more exhaustion.

Sometime in late February 2007, I decided to force myself to get a grip on my health. I needed to start taking better care of myself. Think about the safety presentation that the airline attendants give prior to take-off. They all say that should the cabin lose air-pressure, the oxygen masks will fall and that you must put on your own mask before assisting those around you. Metaphorically speaking, I was neglecting my own oxygen mask. I had to remind myself that I'm not much good to anyone else if I'm passed out.

I started exercising regularly again. I started cooking again and eating a much healthier diet. I once heard some self-proclaimed expert on exercise and depression say that "you can't exercise regularly and feel depressed. It just doesn't work." That blanket statement fails to describe every case of depression or ennui, but exercise definitely worked for me.

I also went to a therapist for the first time in my life. I think that by the time I finally got myself in to see the therapist, I was on the mend as far as grieving for my dad went. I saw the therapist four times. Each time, this person just told me how "great" I was doing. I decided if I was doing so "great" then I didn't need to keep paying this person to listen to me re-hash what made me sad months before. Talk therapy wasn't for me, but I think visiting counselors, therapists and psychologists is "great" if they are helping you.

I got a big, scary-looking mole removed from my back. The biopsy proved that it was not cancerous, but knowing it wasn't a danger relieved that worried voice in my head every time I saw it in the mirror, and quieted Chad who kept telling me that the mole was growing and looking different. I have a scar from the procedure in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades. It's a good thing I'm pretty flexible from practicing hatha yoga or I wouldn't be able to reach that scar to apply Mederma to it twice a day. If your doctor writes a prescription for Vicodin, fill that prescription. I decided I was tough and didn't need such a strong pain-killer. I decided I would just rest and take some extra-strength Tylenol. I sobbed with pain about three days after the minor surgery. I shoulda had that Vicodin!

I went to the dentist after two years of not going. I didn't like my old dentist, who tried to upsell me on every procedure, then acted visibly annoyed when I rebuffed his sales advances. He was like a used-car salesman. I don't need that drama from someone sticking sharp things into my mouth. I love my new dentist. I go to Austin Dental Spa. It really is spa-like. While the dental assistant cleans your teeth and does the initial exam, you get a warm lavender filled pillow under your neck and around your collarbones, then a massage therapist rubs your hands and arms. Aaaaaahhhhh.... I did get the lecture about flossing more, but no upsell!

I finally used all of my accumulated spa gift certificates for many massages. Every massage therapist commented on the severe knots in my neck and shoulders. They also commented on all the bruises I had. One massage therapist asked if she needed to have a word with my husband. (I swear that Chad has never caused any of those bruises!) I was bruising so easily and so badly because I was exhausted and stressed. All of the various massage therapists told me to start taking vitamin C with bioflavonoids and a B complex vitamin. The vitamins are helping, though I only take one of each everyday instead of the two to four of each that the labels advise.

I found a regular massage therapist who does deep muscle work. I know that my crazy network of knots might frustrate other massage practitioners, but Hillary sees them as a challenge. I won't lie, deep muscle massages hurt. Over time though, I've noticed improvement in my neck and shoulders. I have days when I'm aware that they are NOT hurting! That's progress. Regular massages have reduced the incidence of tension headaches for me too. If you can afford to get massages (from a reputable, licensed professional) do it.

I started getting my face sand-blasted once a month. The nice/technical name for the sand-blasting is microdermabrasion. With all the stress I went through, my normally peaches and cream complexion was looking bruised and curdled. I compare the microdermabrasion treatment to exfoliation on steroids. The aesthetician uses a little wand to blow mini-crystals over your skin and then vacuum the crystals and dead skin with pollutants off of your face. I like these treatments, but hate the upsell that comes with them. Behind my protective goggles, I can hear the aesthetcians roll their eyes as they launch into the latest sales pitch for the clinic. They hawk laser hair removal (which in my experience is very painful, expensive and only slightly reduces the amount of hair), photofacials, cellulite-reduction treatments and all manner of lotions and potions. Shhhhh, hush-up and finish the sand-blast already.

Finally, in my need to self-medicate, for self-care and for self-improvement, I started this blog. Initially, the purpose of the blog was to show pictures of the progress that Chad and I made on this old house. I needed to prove to my family that we weren't crazy for buying a fixer-upper. The blog has evolved into an outlet for me to reflect, report and just write. I don't remember a lot of what happened while I was mourning my dad's passing. The blog reminds me that happy things were going on during that time, even if I was sleep-walking through those moments.

In summary, if you ever feel the need to self-medicate, I endorse a healthy diet, regular exercise, a good daily vitamin with C and B-complex, regular dental checkups from a dentist instead of a salesperson, regular massages and to fill that pain-killer prescription after any medical procedure! I'm on the fence about the microdermabrasions.