The Gift of Being Bipolar

For those of you who don’t know me or who haven’t worked with me before, I am not shy in admitting that I have bipolar disorder. When I was first diagnosed, at the age of 35, I was shocked, scared and upset. I didn’t want to ‘be bipolar’. Bipolar people were very mentally ill and I did not identify as mentally ill. I wasn’t having that.

Well, pretty quickly, I learned that medication made my life easier and more manageable. Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy groups – both in a mental hospital (Out Patient) and with a DBT specialist in private practice – I learned about mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. The skills in DBT, which was created by Marcia Linehan in the 80s to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which she was diagnosed with and studied extensively, helped me improve my life and my well-being.

Over the years, I’ve accepted my diagnosis. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, at times, I ride the middling highs (I’m hypomanic) and, more often than not, the lowest of the lows. As I recently told a friend, “To be bipolar is to feel real joy and deep sorrow. It is the fulness of human experience.”

When I am in my ‘mania’ phase, I am extremely creative, confident and happy. However, I do not always relish these periods because I am looking for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. When I go into a deep bipolar depression, I call it THE BLACK because it feels like I’m stuck in black, sticky goo, unable to move or feel anything but emotional pain. I have gone into the black more times than I care to admit – or count, but I have always come out of it with some deeper insights into my personality and myself.

However, that does not make it any easier. Last year, when I was titrating off of Effexor, a medication I had been on for more than 20 years (previous to my bipolar diagnosis, I was dx’ed with major depressive disorder). Each time I went down 37.5 mg, I went into THE BLACK. A few times I didn’t think I’d make it out alive. I really was in a bad way.

Now that I am off the medication, which can sometimes exacerbate mood fluctuations, I feel much better. My outlook is better and my overall disposition is more even. I am not cured by any means. I still need to take my medications daily and practice some extreme self-care. My psychiatrist and my therapist as well as my life coach have been instrumental in teaching me the importance of self-care.

I try to teach that to my clients. You are the only you you have and you should take care of yourself. You should want to. Sometimes, I didn’t. It’s not like that anymore. I feel more capable, competent and sure of myself not just because of the medication but because of my study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – the restructuring/reframing of negative self-talk/beliefs – and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), as previously mentioned.

I also find working with my clients to be extremely therapeutic. They help me see things about myself that I wouldn’t realize otherwise. They teach me ways to problem-solve. I love the work I do as a mental health coach and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Would you like to work with me? I have slots available for the New Year. Please reach out to me directly at dcgoodson@gmail.com for more information or a 60-minute free consultation.

Cha-Cha-Changes

Making behavior modifications and habit-based change doesn’t have to be difficult. My motto is ‘small changes make big impacts.’ I know of which I speak. More than four years ago, I weighed over 400 lbs. I am now about half that weight – and still losing. I was not an exerciser at this time although I had once been a dancer and a bit on the athletic side. I had become super sedentary. Walking from the couch to the fridge was about all the exercise I would get.

Then, in December 2016, I tore my meniscus. It was extremely painful and, after going to two orthopedic surgeons, I was devastated that, due to my weight (and BMI, which was 68% at the time – a staggering number I know), I was not a good candidate for surgery to fix my torn knee cap. I was determined to get in good shape.

That January, although I am not much of a New Year’s Resolutions type of gal, I began to ride my recumbent bike. I did it for five minutes at a time, twice a week. That was all I could manage at first. The sweat dripped off me like I had run the Boston Marathon and my breathing was so heavy I thought I’d have a heart attack – or faint. I kept at it. Now it’s December of 2021 and this morning, for example, I did 15 miles in 80 minutes on the bike (I’ve had to replace the one I used back then because, as my husband put it, I “wore it out.”) I am now exercising seven days a week and no less than 10 miles a day. It’s like breathing. If I miss a day, I really miss it.

This is from a girl who was once prescribed a bariatric walker.

I’m not saying this to make you feel bad or have you compare yourself to me, but I want you to know that change, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is possible. All you have to do is want to change. It’s like that song from the Christmas special, “Santa Clause Is Coming to Town.” You just ‘put one foot in front of the other’ and change will occur.

Let’s start making our first steps towards change today. Reach out to me. I am here and happy to help.

Badass Book Reviews – The 10 X Rule

Grant Cardone is a badass. He may even be a bit of a hard ass. However, he totally gets things done. His goal is to be known to all seven billion people on this planet. Grant works hard to make that goal a reality every day. He does not believe in going soft. He goes at everything with a 150% effort. Otherwise, to him, it’s not worth it. He doesn’t believe in giving up or giving in.

Grant is a kick ass man. He came from nothing and has created a major real estate empire for himself. He has trainings and a TV show and a whole bunch of projects going on. He loves to stay busy. He’s also married to a beautiful woman and has some great children. He loves his family and gets up earlier in the morning to be with them and to exercise.

He figures that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing excellently. He over-promises and over-delivers. I love that. I do that myself. His way of going at things was a little difficult for me as a life coach, but I think that, as a badass, it’s right up my alley.

If you want to make $3 million, why not dream of making $30 million or $300 million? He really believes in pushing for the stars. He made me think of things I hadn’t dreamt of before. My life coach, Andy Onstead, suggested I read this book. I wasn’t sure, but I really got a lot of good information out of it.

I totally suggest that you read it if you have goals you want to achieve. Grant will help you reach for the stars and improve your outlook. It’s all about outlook. If you have a crappy outlook, you will get crap back. If you have a great outlook, you’ll get greatness back. I teach that to my clients. It’s all about your perspective.

What do you want to achieve? Achieve, believe and conceive. You can do anything.

Read the 10X Rule at Amazon.com today:

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Heavyweight Yoga – A Really Enjoyable Experience

AbbyLentz_YogaPose_300dpiAbby Lentz is a powerhouse. She’s 70 and a true pioneer. She got into yoga before it was fashionable and has seen it transform. She has helped transform the concept of yoga herself. She’s made it more accessible to people of size, which I will always be.

What is Heavyweight Yoga?

Her program, Heavyweight Yoga, takes basic hatha yoga poses and modifies them for the plus-sized person. It makes it easier for us to do yoga. Yoga is fantastic. It has so many health benefits. It’s like a meditation in action. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did.

But I did.

Abby Lentz

I met Abby for coffee on Thursday, June 28th. She was fun, funny and very sweet. She honestly shared her vision for Heavyweight Yoga. She has YouTube videos and DVDs on her website so those of you who don’t live in Austin like I do can benefit from her wisdom.

Her lust for life makes her seem so much younger than her 70 years and I bet that teaching yoga is part of that for her. She came to yoga at a time of transformation in her life and rebuilt herself and her career. She’s just an amazing woman.

Heartfelt Yoga Studio

When I went to her house, yes her studio is in her home, I was blown away by how cozy everything was. The first lesson is free, which is amazing. I can’t believe I went so quickly, but I just felt I had to do it. I wanted to come and see what it was about so I braved rush-hour traffic in Austin, which is considerable, to get to her studio by 5:45 pm for her Thursday class.

I was greeted like an old friend and brought into her studio. It was lit up with the late afternoon sunshine and white curtains that brought the room to life. I notice cute little tchotchkes throughout the session. My classmates were wonderful and welcoming. I was nervous. I had only taken aqua yoga before and afraid I couldn’t keep up. Everyone reassured me that it would be fine, no one more so than Abby herself.

The Class Itself

When class began, I was drawn in immediately. I could do this. I actually did better than I thought I would. Abby complimented me after class as we met in her kitchen to drink tea and have snacks. Everything about the class was just warm and welcoming. I felt so good afterwards that I signed up for four more classes. It was relaxing, fun and challenging at the same time. Amazing!

Food Funerals – Should You Have Them or Not?

Food Funerals – I love this topic. My bariatric surgeon’s nutritionist hates it, but I’m not a big fan of him. He loves Quinoa and Kale and has never had a weight problem in his life. Basically, food funerals were my way to say good-bye to foods that I wouldn’t really need in my new bariatric life. They were sort of my ‘last meals’. I prepped for a while before my surgery. I worked with my own nutritional counselor, therapist, psychiatrist and life coach.

I knew what was going to happen post-surgery in part because I had the lap band before. Certain foods were just not going to work in the bariatric lifestyle. I decided to bid farewell to things like pizza and lasagna and tres leches cake. You can decide which foods you need to say good-bye to. I made it into a mini-ceremony.

I found them very effective. They gave me closure on the fact that I couldn’t or wouldn’t eat those foods again. I know that why the bariatric surgeon’s nutritionist didn’t like them. I get it. However, I was emotionally attached to food. This was my way of de-taching emotionally from it. I will tell you the truth – I have had pizza and lasagna since surgery. I just eat gluten-free pizza and lasagna is more of a noodleless kind. I still get the flavor, but it’s not entirely the same.

Frankly, a food funeral is a good way to prepare yourself for life after surgery. It will help you be less emotional about food. Food is fuel. We need to stop having a relationship with it and learn how to live with it as part of our lives, but not the most important part of our lives. By saying farewell to it and sending it off on its way, I made my peace with food and prepared myself for life post-surgery.

I think it has helped me be more successful as a result. Should you have food funerals? That’s up to you. I can’t make that decision for you nor would I. If you think it makes sense, do it. If you don’t, no one will fault you for it.

What is fat mind? Why you need to be aware of it?

Fat mind is something all bariatric patients need to be aware of. It’s basically thinking like a fat person. Your former self had a certain mindset when it came to food. That mindset may not be the best mindset to help you succeed as a WLS patient. You may want to eat things that are not healthy for you. You may want to eat at times you are not hungry. You may want to eat more than your body can comfortably hold.

Fat mind is a way of thinking and being that keeps you stuck in the old you and the old habits. It’s difficult to counterract it, but not impossible. The first thing to do is to be aware that those thoughts are there. You can overcome them. It’s difficult, but it can be done.

Awareness is turning your attention to something. In order to be aware of fat mind, you need to understand when you’re starting to think that way. It could be when you see a trigger food like candy or a cookie. Maybe those items don’t need to be in your home anymore. It’s not going to harm your family to eat those items away from you. You can and should make your home a safe and healthy environment for you. You’ve got to take care of yourself and knowing what you can and cannot tolerate is important.

Some people can have the items around them and it doesn’t bother them. That’s fine for them. You are the only you in the world. Get to know yourself post-surgery. You will find that you are a bit different than you were pre-surgery. It’s okay. Don’t be alarmed. Weight loss surgery is life-changing. You will find out that things shift. Attitudes shift. Needs shift. It’s alright.

Relax and let it happen. Watch it unfold and you will see that your life is going to get so much better. As for fat mind, the only way to beat it is to recognize it. You need to know when it rears its ugly head so you can say no to it. You are stronger than fat mind. I guarantee you that you are.

 

What a support group is and isn’t?

Last night, I had a difficult experience. I went to a so-called support group. The vibe was very negative. There was a ‘presentation’ in a classroom. It felt like a lecture hall more than a support group. The moderators and leader were very rude and all-knowing. When a poor woman mentioned she was having cake cravings, they jumped down her throat.

This made me realize what I don’t want in a support group.

  • Judgement
  • Food policing
  • Negativity
  • Presentations without sharing

We also didn’t get a chance to introduce ourselves. Sure, we wore name tags, but the room was so big I really didn’t ‘see’ people’s names.

Here’s what I think a suppoort group should be. It should be light-hearted and discussion forward. People should be encouraged to share their journeys. You can have an ‘expert’ in the room, but that ‘expert’ should listen more than they speak. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

People in the support group should have time to introduce themselves and build camraderie. People should be allowed to talk about the problems and pitfalls they find themselves in and get supportive, kind answers from the group. No one should be shamed or made to feel bad. That should be a ground rule and one that the group agrees on.

A support group is not a dictatorship. It is richer for having people’s experiences shared. It is helpful to hear from members at different levels of the bariatric journey or whatever journey they’re on. I want to bring people together, not tear them apart.

I want to build people up and give them the tools they need to succeed. Maybe someone could have told this woman that it’s okay to crave foods. You can choose to give in to the craving or not. It’s up to you. Yes, there may be consequences (i.e., dumping) to the action, but those are consequences you should understand and be aware of. They’re not meant to scare of hinder you.

You have to live your life as a bariatric patient and sometimes that life includes cake. I wish I had said something in the support group to help that woman, but I felt like it would’ve fallen on deaf ears. This morning, I’m still thinking about her and hope she is okay.

I also hope that she has enough self-respect not to go back to that so-called ‘support group.’ For more information on my support group offerings, please visit my Facebook page.

I am offering an online group and one in Austin at Genuine Joe’s Coffee shop. They are six weeks in duration and I ask you to commit to all six weeks. It’s not that much time and I do believe you will get something out of it. I will also ask you for your feedback and participation. I want it to be your support group, not mine. I’m just there to facilitate.

I hope you sign up and I hope to see you either online or at Genuine Joe’s in August. If these work out, I will be offering them more often. I wish you love, light and support today on your journey, wherever you are. If you want cake, eat some, but enjoy the hell out of it. Make it worth your while.

What kinds of professionals are available to me?

As a bariatric patient, you may already be sick of the doctor and nutritionist visits. I’m not going to tell you that I like them at all. However, I know I need to see my professionals to be successful as a WLS patient. In many cases, bariatric patients are left too much to their own devices and don’t make the necessary behavioral changes needed to remain successful, long-term. Did you know that you can still gain back the weight even though you’ve had a large portion of your stomach removed?

Many of us do. It’s far too common. That’s why I am going to strongly suggest that you get professional help during this process. You need to get your mind in gear as well as your body or you won’t succeed long-term.

There are different professionals I work with and I suggest you consider working with at least one of them yourself. They are:

  • psychiatrist
  • therapist
  • nutitional counselor
  • and life coach.

Psychiatrist 

My psychiatrist is a great man. He’s gentle, kind and compassionate. He’s one of a kind. I searched years for him and hope he doesn’t retire anytime soon. I’ve made him promise. His name is J. Bernard Cordoba, MD. He’s in the Austin, TX area and is well worth the money. He does not take health insurance, but he provides me with support and structure. I am not only a bariatric patient, but I am bipolar. In the year since I’ve had my surgery, I have had a deep depression and some manic episodes as well as a period of rapid cycling we both didn’t understand. We’ve adjusted medications – I’ve come down a bit on my antidepressant and slightly increased my mood stabilizer. Dr. Cordoba has saved my life and my marriage as a result.

Therapist

Because I am bipolar, I have been working with a therapist for years. Laura McDowell-Salcedo is my therapist. She has been for over seven years and she will be for as long as she remains in practice. We’ve been through a lot together. She has helped me realize that I did need the gastric sleeve and was there for me during the depression and manic episodes. She would open up her schedule to let me come twice a week when I needed it. I’m sorry to say that I did need it sometimes. She has taught me to stop with the negative talk. I feel much better as a person since I’ve lost weight although I need to come to terms with the new body. That’s next up on our list. Success.

Nutritional Counselor

Alexa Sparkman is a registered dietician, but she’s not a food pyramid robot. She thinks of food differently and has taught me to as well. She runs support groups called “Overcoming Mind Hunger.” I plan to offer support groups for my clients as well. They will deal specifically with emotional eating, a problem I feel plagues many bariatric patients. Truthfully, Alexa has helped me navigate my new eating plan. My body is very sensitive to foods. I am currently a gluten-free vegan. She helps me get as much nutrition as I can with my limitations. I did not expect to never be able to eat animal protein or drink milk again, but that happened as a result of the surgery. If I did not have a professional like Alexa in my corner, I could have become severely malnourished.

Life Coach

I hold a special place in my heat for life coaches because I am one. I can work with emotional overeaters, bariatric patients and their loved ones to help support them through the process. It is a process. You don’t just have the surgery and it’s all over. I also have a life coach who helped me decide to have the surgery. I year and a half ago, I was dead set against it. I still have moments where I wish I could undo it. Clay Blacker keeps me grounded. He keeps me in the moment and reminds me of my successes, not just my weight loss.

I am a different person today because I got professional help. Food is not my problem anymore. I don’t think of it as my friend or cohort. I don’t really think about it. I just eat it when I’m hungry. I’d love to see you have a non-relationship with food. The mind can overcome so much. Let me help you do it because they helped me. Call me today at 512-484-7634. I’m here for you.

What are the effects of extreme weight loss on the body?

Many bariatric patients lose weight rapidly, especially during the post-operative progression diet. The truth is that the body is not meant to lose weight so rapidly. It can cause some serious side effects. We will look at some of those side effects and how you can work to derail them in your own weight loss efforts.

Personally, I’ve had to deal with some of the negative, as well as the positive, effects of extreme weight loss. The positive include the fact that I don’t need knee surgery. My pain levels are lower because I’m not so obese. I’ve been able to reduce my thyroid medication because my TSH is now within normal range. I also got rid of blood pressure meds. I was borderline hypertensive before the surgery and I am now in the normal range all the time.

I did not lose hair as a result of my extreme weight loss. Some people report that problem and I will go into it in more detail in another post. However, I have noticed some issues that I’d like to address:

  • loose skin,
  • muscle loss,
  • fatigue,
  • vitamin deficiencies,
  • and gall stones.

Loose Skin

I’ve lost over 130 lbs in about a year. I have tons of loose skin. It’s a bit uncomfortable and causes issues. I feel unattractive and am more uncomfortable in a swimsuit this year than I was last year. I have bat wings, loose skin on my hips and thighs and a bit of a skin shelf hanging over where my stomach used to be. I feel if I lost weight slower, I could’ve reduced some of this problem. I will need skin surgery when all is said and done. I’m not sure insurance will cover it.

Muscle loss

I go to a nutritional counselor every couple of months. She does body monitoring which tells me what my BMI is and my lean muscle mass is for example. My BMI has gone down, but so too has my lean muscle mass. I’ve lost muscle as well as fat. This is not the ideal situation. I’m trying to rectify it by working out more, but I don’t know how successful I will be.

Fatigue

The body goes through some stress when you lose weight quickly. I have struggled with the feeling of being tired all the time. I also have Fibromyalgia so I can’t blame it all on the extreme weight loss. I do notice it’s worse since I had the surgery. Some days I feel like I could sleep the whole day away. I just don’t give into it.

Vitamin Deficiencies

I get my blood drawn every three months. I will move to every six months after my next surgeon appointment, which is coming up next week. During that time, I have seen my numbers drop significantly. I am now deficieint in Vitamin D, which is very common for women. I take a D3 supplement suggested by my surgeon’s office. I do this every day along with the other vitamins and supplements I have to take as a result of the surgery.  I have friends who have had near-life-threatening symptoms from lack of Thiamine (B1) and other vitamin problems. Take your vitamins and supplements. Please. You need them.

Gall Stones

This one is relatively new and I may need gall bladder surgery as a result. Extreme weight loss can cause gall stones. It did for me. My gall bladder was fine a year ago. Some surgeons remove the gall bladder as a matter of course when they do the sleeve or bypass since it’s so common. Kinda scary. I know the gall bladder surgery is not a big deal and will give me loads of relief, but I’m sort of annoyed that I need more surgery because of weight loss surgery.

So, there you have it – some of the effects of extreme weight loss on the body. I hope your body handles the extreme weight loss of bariatric surgery better than mine has. I’ve been working with my nutritionist to eat more and lose less quickly. I am fine taking my time getting to goal. At some point, I think you should slow it down too, but that’s up to you.

 

 

 

 

Keep CALM with the CALM Plan

calm

The CALM plan is something I learned during the course of my support group workings with Alexa Sparkman. Alexa is a nutrtitionist in the Austin, TX area. She has a wonderful program called “Overcoming Mind Hunger.” You can visit her website at http://www.sparkmannutrition.com if you are interested in learning more about it.

In her support groups, which I have taken multiple times, Alexa talks about the CALM plan for handling cravings.  There are four steps or actions to take with the CALM Plan. They are:

  • Connect to consciousness – This is where your previous training comes in. Connecting to consciousness means that you are present in your mind and you know what’s going on. You are aware that you are having a craving.
  • Alleviate anxiety – As an aware individual, you understand that you are having some difficulty overcoming this craving. You are able to regulate your emotional mind and get back into a calmer place. You can do this. You can overcome your craving.
  • Logical liabilities. These are the lies you tell yourself to make it okay to emotionally overeat. For example, “I had a rough day, so I deserve that ice cream sundae.” As you go through the process, you will figure out what your logical liabilities are. Access them and let them have free reign. Tell them you know what they’re trying to do and they will go away.
  • Mobilize and move on. Your craving, by this time, has probably passed. You can now go back to your life, craving free. Cravings don’t last and we don’t have to give into them just because we have them. You have a choice.

The important thing for you to remember is that the CALM plan takes time to work. It is not a tool you can put in your toolbox overnight. Like anything worth having, it requires skill and practice. I cannow use the CALM plan when I have a craving. I know it will pass, usually in less than 5 minutes. I used to be scared of cravings. I am not anymore.

You can use the CALM plan. It will work. I promise. I will be offering my own support groups. They are six weeks long and free to the public. They begin the first full week in August (we skip Labor Day week) and then finish up around the 15th. I will have more information here and at my Facebook site.

I hope I can provide help for people the same way Alexa did for me. Good luck and keep ‘CALM.’