Monday, August 3

August 3, 2009 - Lessons Learned from A Reunion

To my new blog readers: This blog started as a way to hold myself accountable for getting healthy. About 16 months ago, I decided that at 37 there was no reason that I could not walk 13.1 miles in the Indianapolis Mini Marathon. At that point, I sought the help of professionals and turned over all decision making to their expertise. (Okay, not all decision making, but MOST of the time I do what they say). Since that time, I have lost 73 pounds (officially on the scale at the weight loss clinic). I also have learned a lot about myself and have improved both physically and mentally. For those that have not known me or been in touch with me consistently over the past 10 years you would probably not see it, but most of my close friends mention the drastic changes weekly.

This blog documents the hilarious and not-so-hilarious episodes in my pursuit of creating permanent changes for a healthy lifestyle. I have avid blog readers that tell me that they enjoy reading it because it is nice to see that someone else goes through the same struggles. For me, it is therapeutic and documents my successes and trials. Besides, Dr. Pita asks about it all the time, so I need to keep updating it (big grin).


The reason I am posting early this week is because I promised to do a post about the Wolf Park on Wednesday. I also wanted to post what I learned about myself from attending an all classes High School Reunion.
The Setup

The father of a friend of my sister (got that?) always wanted to have 50 year reunion for the High School that we all attended. Unfortunately, God decided to take him home early and his dream was not realized before he died. His son decided to take on the task and created an army of volunteers to create the first all-high school reunion. Personally, I will speak for the class of ’88 and say it was a huge success.

What does this have to do with me becoming and staying healthy?


The Start of Not Being Healthy…The Setup

The last couple of years of High School were somewhat out of the norm for a High School Junior/Senior. I was not sleeping, barely eating, and getting sick many days before I headed to school. I also now know that the “spaced out” feelings I was having at the time were anxiety attacks. My mother finally had to take me to the doctor to determine what to do. There were many theories at the time of what the problem could be, but at the time there was only one solution-Xanax. Now, I must be perfectly honest, I thought the Xanax made me feel dull so some days I just did not take it.

There was nothing happening at school for me to act in the manner I described. I liked school and was doing well. As much as my mother THOUGHT there was something going on there was not. Looking back the only problem I ever had in school was a bit of social anxiety brought on by “girl politics”, the undying need to please others, and a little bit of paranoia (brought on by the fact I never thought I was doing ANYTHING right). Most of these are normal things for any high school student. However, as Dr. Pita now tells me I have physiology that sometimes takes things past the norm. He sometimes tells me this is the curse of being a rapid thinker. This can be controlled if I stop and “just be” (a lesson I am still learning).

The Solution I Found…That Worked for Awhile

After high school, I attended a college where most of the students were from larger and more equipped high schools. It was a difficult transition the first couple of years. The classes were harder than I had ever had and the social pressures were enormous.

College has the perfect antidote for social anxiety-alcohol. Through drinking large amounts of alcohol with my friends I was able to attend social activities and alone time with the chosen guy for the week/month (grin). I was able to not worry what people were thinking, in essence turn my brain off from Thursday evening to Monday morning.

The Change in Solutions...When Real Life Hits

After college I was one of those that knew that the party was over. I had to work. Life worked well for awhile, but the old anxiety, unstoppable thoughts, and crushing sadness returned. I was an adult now, I went to the doctor myself.

Well, I went to the doctor, but I did not do what he said. I tried several doctors and apparently could not accept what they had to say. I would do what they said for awhile, but nothing ever stuck more than a month. You see, I found my new cure…FOOD.

Now, as those of you in Bloggerland that have this same problem know, food is a great anxiety/depression/relaxation treatment. If you are at a social event, you can keep from speaking to people by eating or drinking alcohol. Alcohol was still my preferred choice at a social event if it was available. If it wasn’t going to be available, sometimes I just did not go. I would think or even say I was going, but couldn’t quite make it.

Food can also stop you from thinking. Eating mindlessly for some reason gives you time to rest your mind. My other cure was sleep and lots of it. If the pressures of life got to be too much and I was resisting the urge to eat, I would just sleep. Sleep is the Great Escape.

I think during this time, in one year I gained close to 75 pounds. Additional years added additional pounds.

It is important to mention, I did seek help and in my mind I did try, but things got progressively worse. I was avoiding social events. I was in pain most days. Sometimes, I needed to take a week off of work because I needed a timeout from life. When I took those days off, I slept.

Don’t get me wrong. Good things did happen. I did well in my career. Primarily, my spinning thoughts were encouraged by my employers. I have great ideas and can implement them quickly. I was paid to be the way I was. No one cared or knew that my health was at risk-including me.

The Day I Woke Up

I would love to tell you that ONE thing led me to start the change in habits. However, I think that anyone around my age knows what probably started it all. The number 40 is fast approaching and I realized what I was doing was not working. Past posts in this blog document the past 16 months of this process. The important thing in all of this is that I said; “I do not have the answer. Listen to the professionals.”

The Reunion – The Day I Learned I Am on the Right Track

I was excited to attend the reunion. My sister stated it best in her blog as to why. You see, I genuinely like and care about my classmates. Many of my classmates I have known since that first day of school in First Grade. To me, they are cousins that I do not get to see that much.

Personally, I could care less what they do for a living, if they have been in jail, if they have gained weight, or if they are crazy. They are, in a way, family. I care about knowing who they are as a person not defined by their job or the mistakes they may have made.

However, I was apprehensive. This was only the second big (more than 10 people) social event that I have attended since not having a “cure” for my social anxiety. In fact, the week before I told my sister I was sitting with her class. I was starting to get that nervous. I could not pinpoint a reason why other than the fact that I have not seen most of the people that I attended high school with since the day I graduated.

At our previous single-class reunions there was alcohol, which provided me the perfect opportunity to self medicate. I did not have that this time since it was at the High School we attended. No Audrey, they do not serve alcohol at PUBLIC school events only PRIVATE school events (grin).

I did have one advantage that most people did not know that night. I was no longer concerned about my weight. I think the reason why is because I have lost so much weight that I wasn’t NEAR as heavy as I was 16 months ago when the changes started. For that, I am appropriately proud. I also pragmatically knew we all would have changes and that no one would care. A classmate said it best that night; “Heck, we all are 50 pounds heavier! I just want to see my classmates!”

When I arrived I was immediately accosted (grin) by a couple classmates that graduated with me. At that point, some of the anxiety slipped away. You know why? I was genuinely happy to see them both. They both are extremely nice people that I would want nothing but the best for out of life.

Unfortunately, at an event that large I wasn’t quite accepting of being “blocked in” with no escape route, but I managed. I also started developing a twinge of anxiety that built through the night. Primarily, I think it was “learned behavior” as they say in dog training. I did not know how not to be anxious in a crowd. My mind was spinning with such things as; “Did I dress appropriately? Do they really want to speak to me? Do I look okay? Don’t say something stupid.”
Looking back, I wish I would have been a little less anxious so I could have approached more people in other graduating classes, but I did talk to those that I spent most of my time with in school. I wish I could have spent more time alone with all individuals to hear more about their lives, but with so many people in attendance that could not be expected. Everyone had people to see.

In speaking to folks I heard stories of successes, failures, losses, and gains. I heard stories from their lives. You see, we are now quickly approaching 40. I believe that at the 5, 10, and in some cases even the 15 year reunion, the stories were more about what individuals had accomplished or planned to accomplish. In some cases, girls want to know if you married better than them and guys want to know if you make more money than them, but once you get closer to 40 people really want to know how you are. Are you happy? If you aren’t, how can I help? In other words, we have finally grown up. We have all had similar life experiences. We also all have that one common thread that binds us---similar childhoods.

This blog is about my quest for a healthier lifestyle so let me continue on to discuss the big thing that happened for me that night.

When it came time to eat. I did not gather a lot of food to keep me busy the rest of the night. I grabbed the same amount of food I normally eat. I had one piece of chicken and some green beans. You see, I am still eating every 3 hours to keep myself fueled properly. Good for me!

Even though I am convinced there was some alcohol floating around I did not ask for any, that too would have calmed me and probably made me a bit more social, but I was going to try this sober so I can do it next time even better.

Later, I was standing in the middle of the gym, after our class picture was taken. I was in a bit of a snit about what to do next. “Who should I talk to? What should I do? I look like an idiot standing here in the middle of the gym by myself.” Then…all the sudden…I stopped and breathed…I somehow stopped my brain from spinning. I quit worrying about everyone. I quit thinking I had to do something next.


It is important to mention that it did not last long, but I DID IT. I stopped the thoughts from consuming me. From that point on, I was more focused on speaking to as many people as I could before the event was over - I did it. I was able to control one of my demons for the night. Next time, it will be even easier.

As my avid blog readers know, I have come a long way. I will have to remain vigil due to my funky brain chemistry, but that night at the reunion I truly learned I am on the right track. I managed to have fun and enjoy the moment. In fact, a new daily goal is to make sure to stop and enjoy as many moments a day as possible.

A final note to my fellow graduates of SWHS that had the opportunity to attend, but did not for similar reasons. I hope that you find that you are not the only one that has the same apprehensions, and we see you next time!

Til Wednesday,

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