Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Operation Upside Down: Months 9 and 10

I had hoped to be reporting major gains after my disappointing update two months ago.  However, over the last two months, I have had more of the same.  Sick.  Tired.  Lazy.  I did find out I was slightly anemic last month, so that (with some other low numbers) were probably contributing to my exhaustion.  I was also sick for over two weeks straight.  I increased my vitamins, am back on my protein shakes, and have already noticed a huge difference in how I feel.  I am back to getting up at 5:30 AM for mini-workouts, am walking more, stretching at night and am ready to get back to Twirly Girls full time.  I have been marching around my house in my new seven inch heels so I can get more comfortable walking in them (which ends up being a workout).  I am not fully back to my flexibility training but feel like I am almost ready to get back to that as well.  My knee doesn't necessarily hurt anymore but I have a general tightening of my hips and knee, which is making me nervous.  I just can't sit on my knees or squat down for long periods of time.  I don't want to lose mobility but I don't want to injure myself.  There has to be a middle ground.

That being said, I still feel strong.  I kept up with my yoga practice, and I feel like that is always my saving grace.  I also feel like it's time for a change.  I had been feeling lost for the last few months because I wasn't really sure the purpose of my need to get upside down.  Just to say I did it?  Was I going to get good enough to drop it into a routine?  I really still don't know.  But what I do know is that I have been away from flowy dance classes too long and I feel like I'm losing my ability to free dance.  So, I was excited to find out that Janet was going to start teaching a movement class on Wednesdays.  Beginning this week, I will use lyra to get strong and pole movement to learn how to flow.  I am really excited about my new schedule!

Despite being light on classes (again), I still have a few highlights from the past two months.  You can see those below:

I also joined Wildcat Parlour, LLC for the Empowerment Through Movement day in March.  I took Jen's class, then taught the Closer routine.  I was nervous because my knee still hurt a a bit, so I was stiff and unable to spend a lot of time on my knees, but I otherwise did pretty well.  You can read about that and see videos at the link below:


Spinning Pole with Ellen:

Heels with Ellen:

So, here's hoping next month, I will have a better update for everyone!  Cheers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Do Not Dim Your Light For Anyone

I'm weird.  I know I'm weird.  I generally like that I'm weird.  But I'm weird.  I'm pretty loud and obnoxious.  I often make inappropriate comments and gestures that shouldn't be witnessed by children.  I feel like I'm too much for this world sometimes.  I'm always over-analyzing why I'm like this.  Grew up in a large family where you have to be loud to be heard?  Insecure so I'm covering it up by being bigger than I really need to be?  Attention whore who is trying to be cooler than I really am?  I don't know.  I'm sure there's an official diagnosis for it.  But it often leads to anxiety and depression because I know I don't always fit in even though I kind of want the cool kids to play with me.  But trying not to be weird just leads to more awkwardness, which makes me...weird.  I've never really felt like I fit in.  Square peg.  Round hole.  The world doesn't generally reward you for that. 

I remember being in a relationship years ago and I was telling a fantastical story, probably using my hands and making giant gestures, and my boyfriend at the time looked at me and said, "you are just SO loud."  Uh yeah.  Have you met me?  He also didn't like that I was fat.  But, again, have you met me?  Every time he would comment on the personality traits that I definitely had when we met, I felt the sparkle leave me a little.  When I got out of that relationship, I decided I would never dim my light for anyone again.  This isn't just about love relationships.  It is about family and friendships.  The people you attract into your life should love and appreciate you for who you are. 

So I am reminding myself, and you, that you should never dim your light for anyone else.  Sure, sometimes we have to consider our audience and censor ourselves a bit.  But, for the most part, be you. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Anemia in the Gastric Bypass World

I don't even know where to start with this one.  I guess we start with today and then I'll work my way backwards.

I'm anemic.  My ferritin is extremely low.  The "healthy" range is 22 to 250.  Mine is 7.  (I am low in several other areas as well, but am going to save everyone the gritty details.)  I have been overly exhausted lately (for probably close to six months), but it was easy to blame getting older and continuing to be too busy (hey, I calmed down for like two months, then suddenly my life ramped back up).  I had my 14th surgery anniversary on March 17, so it was time to do blood labs.  I wondered if possibly I was low in iron.  My nurse practitioner emailed me to say, "hey, you're right, you're anemic, take some iron!"  Ellen explained it's not that simple.  The numbers I am low in do indicate anemia but apparently it can be a deficiency of iron (which most people associate anemia with) or with folate, a B vitamin.  

I am sure I did a blog on this years ago, but I can't find it right now.  I'm probably just too tired and frustrated to look for it.  

I am bummed because I feel like my vitamin levels have been pretty good since I started working with Ellen in 2014.  I take a lot of expensive supplements.  I did struggle with some liver issues a couple of years ago, but those seem to have resolved.  I let some vitamins go, thinking I was eating better and I would get my nutrition from food.  I think this is a reminder that I have surgically altered my body and I literally can't get all of my vitamins out of the food because part of my intestine has been bypassed.  

I also have to admit that when I heard "anemia" can also refer to a B vitamin deficiency, I was taken back to when my doctor told me that B vitamin deficiencies can be related to alcohol consumption.  It is no secret that I have been drinking a lot more lately.  I am definitely drinking less now than I was last year, but I do enjoy going out for a drink (or five).  I guess I would have to categorize myself as a binge drinker.  I don't need to drink every day.  Or even every week.  But if I do happen to go out, I am more likely to drink to excess and act stupid (I mean, fun stupid, for the most part).    

I just worry.  I feel like everything is connected and I don't want to start circling the drain.  My body jumped up about 6-7 pounds about two months ago for no good reason.  None of my old tricks are taking the weight off.  I have stabilized so I am not stressing about it too much.  Potentially, it was a reaction to letting a couple of my supplements go while trying to save money.  I did recently have a break-through on my psoriasis and I cured a flare-up without medication.  However, I have had what feels like a cold for almost two weeks, and now I'm wondering if it is allergies.  I stopped having to take daily allergy pills after I went gluten-free last year.  I am not militant about gluten.  I choose not to eat it but I don't stress if I get a bite in here or there.  In fact, I kind of feel like having small bites on rare occasions will help me not get super sick rather than if I cut it completely and it accidentally gets into my system.  (I do pay a price for eating it.  My wrists and fingers get super sore if I have more than a bite.)  Also, I can admit I've been eating candy at work lately, so sugar is sneaking back in.  

I mean, even with these issues, mentally I feel great!  My depression and anxiety are under control (so the sugar intake isn't anywhere close to my previous levels).  And, although I am fairly tired, I otherwise feel good physically.  I am doing yoga three to four days per week.  I have been more spotty on lyra and pole (at night, I am ready to rest, not go to class).  I hang out with my family and play hard with toddlers at least once a week.  I try to walk around more at work.  (And once I get this exhaustion under control, I will return to my early morning mini workout at home.)  I am in a good place.  

So, I am going to increase my vitamins for the next two months to see if I can get my levels back up.  This is just another reminder that I am, first and foremost, a gastric bypass patient.  I need to put my supplements and vitamins first, food second.  I know I often lament the fact that I don't get to be a "regular" person who just gets to eat normally and not think about food and vitamins every day.  I'm not that person.  I made that choice 14 years ago and the best thing I can do is own that decision and move forward.

If I don't get my levels up, I will have to go to my doctor for weekly iron infusions for five weeks.  I am trying to avoid that.  I do remember being told that anemia after gastric bypass is very common, and that I would most likely never be able to donate blood again.  But I am hoping I can get my numbers up to acceptable levels, and get my energy back.  I'm tired of being tired.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Curing" Psoriasis

I am one year into being gluten-free for the purpose of healing my psoriasis.  My last Stelara (immuno-suppressant) shot was in July 2017.  My skin stayed fairly clear, even through the stress of my complete melt down last August.  That's pretty good.  No.  That's fucking amazing! 

Autoimmune diseases are a funny thing.  They are these mystery diseases where no one really knows why your body is doing what it's doing.  The over-simplified explanation of psoriasis:  On the inside, your immune system is over-active and basically starts attacking you.  On the outside, skin cells in certain areas replenish every three days instead of every 30 causing ugly plaques/dry skin.  Stress is usually the trigger for a flare up. 

I made it into 2018 before my skin started showing signs of a flare up (over six months medication-free).  I can't really put my finger on a trigger.  Perhaps more gluten sneaking into my diet for the holidays.  Maybe some stress.  Who knows.  Regardless, it was a minor flare up.  I treated it occasionally with a topical medication and it stayed fairly mild, although it didn't go away.  I started being more careful with my diet, but I still had some patches. 

Then, I remembered the blog I wrote about psoriasis and its metaphysical explanation.  When I Googled it again recently, I just looked at the general theme (and not the specifics I mentioned in my blog).  Fear.  But fear of what?  What did I fear when I was a kid?  My parents splitting up -- sure.  But we had differing opinions on when my psoriasis started.  My parents insisted it was when I was anywhere from 10-12 years old, and I thought I was closer to five years old.  Then about three weeks ago, I found a journal entry from when I was 11 or 12 years old.  I mentioned how I had suffered from psoriasis for seven years.  Boom.  I WAS five years old when I was diagnosed.  I still remember sitting in the doctor's office and he asked me if I ever picked at the plaques.  I admitted I did.  He laughed and said I shouldn't be so honest. 

So what happened to trigger psoriasis when I was four or five years old?  My first memory as a child: 

I was in my neighbor’s backyard catching ladybugs (now a symbol of joy and peace for me) and, as I turned to leave (I remember reaching for the door knob), a visiting dog attacked me from behind.  He sunk his teeth into the back of my head, dragging me around the yard, and trying to shake me to break my neck.  A little girl in the yard with me apparently kicked the dog until he let go and I walked screaming through the house, then the neighbor’s front yard toward our shared fence.  I remember walking into our yard, bleeding, and I saw my mom run towards me, then fall to her knees.  I’ve always thought I was around three years old.  I asked my mom three weeks ago what she remembered.  She confirmed falling to her knees.  She couldn't remember if she was six months pregnant with my brother (which would have made it sometime in December) or if it was when my brother was six months old (which would have been around August or September).  I don’t remember her having a belly, and I remember the shirt I was wearing.  It was a short sleeved 70’s style striped shirt.  I wasn’t wearing a jacket.  So I am leaning toward the August/September time frame.  Also, I have a vague recollection of the stitches in my head coming out around my birthday, which is August 31.  So that means I would have been closer to four years old.  And that means the psoriasis presented itself within a year.  I have never been afraid of dogs, but apparently I bottled that fear up inside anyway.  But that’s my first life memory.  Being bitten by a dog and my mom running toward me and falling to her knees.  And that bottled up fear potentially triggered an autoimmune disease, which I have battled for nearly 40 years. 
Psoriasis sucks.  I realize its really just an inconvenience and slightly embarrassing.  Ugly skin (explaining to people they won't catch it).  Can be a pain when you're a pole dancer because you can't use your regular lotions.  Realistically, it is pointing at some inflammation on the inside, but of all the immune system issues to have, it's a pretty benign one.  But I still hate it. 
About a month ago, I listened to a podcast about EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping (HERE is the site I like best).  What is that? 
"EFT is a form of psychological acupressure that uses a gentle tapping technique instead of needles to stimulate traditional Chinese acupuncture points. The tapping on the designated points on the face and body is combined with verbalizing the identified problem followed by a general affirmation phrase." 
So I wrote a tapping script -- a long one.  Acknowledging, then releasing my fears, as well as many other issues.  Guess what?  My psoriasis cleared in a week.  It is the first time I have healed a flare up without medication in my entire life.  No, that is not an exaggeration.  Although I am certain being gluten-free has helped keep my skin clearer for much longer than it ever has before, this was the first time I actually HEALED myself.  (Another benefit to going gluten-free and healing my gut issues:  I haven't taken a single allergy pill in a year.)
I'm pretty stoked about it, and its just another reminder of how powerful our minds and bodies are, if we will just get out of their way. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Empowerment Through Movement

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining the ladies of Wildcat Parlour, LLC for their second annual Empowerment Through Movement, which offered an entire day of pole and flexibility workshops.

Although I was still recovering from my knee injury, I took Jen's heels workshop, then I taught the Closer routine.  My knee totally survived, and I really enjoyed both classes.

In addition to owning Wildcat, Jen teaches lyra at Twirly Girls.  She's good people and I'm happy she's part of my tribe.  Thank you to Jen for including me this year.  I look forward to celebrating movement with the Wildcat crowd again next year!

Check out our videos below.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Flexibility with the Valentino Brothers: Two Month Update

Week 1

So, in early January, I wrote about how I was going to get flexible with the Valentino Brothers.  And for a full month, I was on it.  I was following the videos three to four days per week.  I was feeling pretty good about it.  I wasn't feeling necessarily more flexible in the moves I was doing with the DVDs, but I did feel more flexible in my yoga classes.  It doesn't make sense to me, but that's how it felt. 

Anyway, the first weekend in February, I was screwing around after doing one of the DVDs, taking photos and probably holding poses a little too long.  I then went to Twirly Girls, where I danced alone for about an hour, then taught a two and a half hour party.  At the end of the party, the girls asked me to dance for them.  It was during that dance that I suddenly knew my knee was not okay.  My knee was swollen and the kneecap kept feeling like it was popping off.  I hobbled around for a couple of weeks, icing and heating, and trying to be careful.  I was skipping pole and lyra classes (see that update HERE), but carefully doing some yoga.  My knee would be "almost better," and then something would set me back.  For example, I was probably at about 95% better, and my Monday yoga instructor told everyone to squat down, and I did so without thinking.  I was immediately set back a week in recovery from that.  I was scheduled to teach at Jen's studio, Wildcat Parlour, last weekend, and I was just trying to keep my knee well enough to make it through that workshop.  Well, I not only survived that workshop (as well as taking her heels workshop beforehand), but feel like my knee is still about 95% healed.  I can't squat all the way down with weight on my knee but I can almost put weight on it if I'm sitting on my knees and start pushing myself back towards child's pose.  So, I'm getting there.  I had put a note in my calendar for today that I would go see Tobe if I wasn't better, and I think I am going to be able to avoid a visit for now. 
Month 2

Last night, after about five weeks off, I tried one of the flexibility DVDs.  I wasn't able to do all of the moves, and I was extremely careful about the ones I did do, but I made it through.  I also did a video to get screen shots.  Obviously, there is no huge difference in my before and after photos from the last two months. 

So, here are some photos (and the two long videos of my ramblings, which is where I'm taking my screen shots from).  Hopefully in another month or two, I'll have something more exciting to report. 

First week:

Last night:

Week 1

Month 2
Week 1

Month 2 (don't mind my creepy face)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Operation Upside Down: Months 7 and 8

I haven't posted an update in awhile.  If you want to read my last upside down update, you can find it HERE.  Where do I start?  I guess here, with the excuses and whining.  I spent most of January sick and February with a knee injury.  Also, I am just exhausted, and it's freezing cold (well, California cold, which is cold to a Californian), so making a 25 mile drive for an 8 PM class requires a special kind of motivation that I just don't have right now.  I'm tired and frustrated, so I missed many classes in the last two months.

I enjoy Janet's Bottoms Up class because I like and trust her.  I know I won't completely squish her when she tips me backwards.  But the 8 PM start time means I don't get home until after 10 PM on a work night.  I enjoy Jen's lyra class, but the 6:30 PM start time means I need to leave straight from work and pray that the traffic gods are on my side.  It stresses me out.  Plus lyra hurts 100 times more than pole.  And I feel like since I've turned 40, I ache a lot more than I used to.  My hands hurt for two days after lyra.  Currently, I'm rocking a bruise across my hips from a forward fold.  I barely did a forward fold.  I'm not trying to be a circus performer.  So what I've determined is that I really go to lyra to see my friends and laugh.

This knee injury has been plaguing me for a month now.  I believe what happened is that I hyper-extended it while doing the flexibility DVDs (you can read the first post on that HERE), then went to Twirly Girls to dance for an hour, and teach a two-and-a-half hour party.  By the end of that night, I knew I wasn't okay.  I've been limping along by icing and heating, taking cinnamon, using arnica and being extremely careful in yoga (I have to do some kind of movement).  I haven't done the flexibility DVD in a month.  I feel like the worst of the pain and swelling passed within a week or so.  But one little wrong step or tweak puts me back in it.  I am 95% better, but that 5% keeps me down.  I can't climb the pole because it hits my knee in just the right (or wrong) spot.  I can't hang from my knees in the lyra.  I can't sit on my knees for any reason.  I tried to just simply squat down on Monday and that actually put my recovery back at least another week.  In fact, as I write this, I should be in class, but I am aching so much (let's blame the rain), that I don't want to chance hurting myself any further.  I am supposed to teach a workshop in ten days so I am just trying to keep myself at this level until I get through that.  Then I can fall apart.  In fact, it is probably time to get myself to the doctor, but I know they're going to tell me to stop doing what I'm doing and I don't want to be told that.

All this being said, I don't feel like I've lost any strength.  On the nights I have been able to get to class, I do get upside down.  I haven't improved, but I haven't moved backwards.  I can kind of get my knees driven upward, but Janet still has to tip me backwards.  I also wonder if part of my problem is that I need a new goal.  If the goal was simply to get myself upside down, I've done that.  My goal never said: get upside down alone or gracefully or whatever.  I also wonder what's the point?  Just to say I do it?  I don't see myself getting comfortable enough with it to suddenly start throwing it into routines.  So, if I just simply wanted to be strong enough to throw my ass upside down, I did that.  I am in the process of figuring out what I want out of pole.  Is it to be strong?  I haven't been taking any flow or dance classes, so I feel like I've lost a lot of that fluidity.  I think I have a lot to figure out in the next month or so.  I only have this one body and I don't want to be lazy but I also don't want to push myself into injuries that could be avoided if I just listened to my body.  I mean, I can't even squat down to 90 degrees.  I don't want to lose mobility, and I feel like that's happening at an alarming rate.

So the whining is done.  Here are some videos from the last two months.

Performing for Robert and Twirl for a Cause:

The day of the knee injury:


This is where I am pretty sure I hyper-extended my knee.  I was doing the flexibility DVD and trying to take photos to show progress over the previous month.  Someone on Facebook talked about yoga being the portal to hell and then a friend photoshopped this.  So, it's kinda true.  But the photo makes me laugh so I am sharing it here with you.

Made it back to class last week, although I was pretty limited on what I could do.

So, there you go.  I really don't know what the future holds for my "pole career."  I am trying to be kinder and gentler with myself in 2018.  Judge myself less.  Love myself more.  And I don't know that pushing myself through injuries is honoring that.  I guess I have a lot to decide, with no real deadline forcing me to make a decision.  I will certainly let you all know what is coming next!