Archive for the ‘Obesity’ Category


Collage of several of Gray's muscle pictures, ...

I’m an injury-prone idiot sometimes, but I didn’t suspect that I would be a “weekend warrior”–you know, one of those middle-aged, overweight, out-of-shape guys who decide they can still play [fill-in-the blank; e.g., basketball] like they did in college or high school and end up cloaked in ice packs.

Nope. Athletic activities are dangerous. I tried to get her high awesomeness, Dr. Stephanie the PT, to agree with my theory that I used to try to peddle to myself–that only people who are athletic get really hurt. She laughed. Not the first time (although I prefer laughter to contempt–doesn’t everyone?).

Turns out either extreme ends up messing up their bodies. A confirmed couch potato like me can end up as bad off as the MVP. But where we really get in trouble can be sneaky bad habits.

So I’m typing this with two ice packs on my back and a gutful of NSAIDs because my back is spasming like crazy. I don’t do the sports thing, but I’ve been fairly regular with my workouts. Dr. S has changed jobs, so I’m a little behind on my tune-ups, but still, I didn’t fall or do any other of the klutzy things I’m noted for (I do have several bruises from the sideboard jumping out at me, the little bitch).

What did I do? I had a marathon play-with-the-food-processor day. After several hours had passed, I was pausing and leaning over the counter, spasming from the lower part of my left shoulder to my waist.

My husband diagnosed it; I know he’s right because I felt better when I did what he suggested. I’d been hunching over the counter, not supporting my back with my abdominal muscles. As soon as I sucked in the belly, things came back into alignment. It helped (along with doing my stretches and PT), but now my right shoulder is not happy with me. No carrying of the purse, no lifting of the arm. Even typing isn’t exactly favored by the tweaking muscle group.

So, kids, remember: you can get hurt with bad biomechanics any time, any place, anywhere. If you are engaged in repetitive motion, take a second and think about what muscles you’re using–is it the kind of motion that you may end up hurting yourself from. If so, figure out how to do it right.

In the case of the kitchen counter marathon, you’ve got to keep your weight centered over your legs or you’re going to start pulling your pelvic girdle and back out of alignment. As soon as one thing goes out-of-whack, the rest will follow.

The body is meant for symmetry and balance, and it will work toward resuming that state if you mess with it. Hunching over anything, even a counter or sink or stovetop, is not an activity you should be doing. Suck in the gut, and lean forward using the joints you were given for that: your hips.

I’m off to strengthen those bloody hip flexors and core abdominals and see if I can convince my shoulder to shut up. I bet you can do better than I and identify the bad body movement before your muscles, joints, and ligaments start giving you a talking to.

 

P.S. If any readers are  military brats (or know them), please take a few minutes to fill out this anonymous survey (or send it to your friends): http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XKNQ9XV Thanks! jgm


It’s like this.

This is the Tune Belt I use. Love it, but read the post for the warning!

Quick version: I’m an idiot.1

Longer version: I was in Tampa visiting my mother and went to her condo’s well appointed workout room, including industrial strength treadmills. No one there but me. View out the window of the pool and a very pretty tree2. I’ve got my Tune Belt on my arm, my earbuds in and my exercise mix playing with the volume turned up to the point just before it inflicts pain.

Now my treadmill in my home is nice, but it wouldn’t stand up to constant running and has a very laid back traction surface, one that doesn’t seem to be all that interested in doing its job. It also is a little narrower than the bad boy I was using that oh-so-fateful day. So if I do stupid stuff on my home treadmill, I usually brush some portion of the side of my body against the arms and can correct.

This kind of rasp. One for horse hooves.

This monster treadmill I was using was great — like getting to drive an old car with far more cylinders than you’re used to. “This is bad ass,” I thought, perhaps not consciously, but I was pretty pleased with myself. I’d been consistent with my exercise routine during this entire visit. And now I’m working out in what would be my fantasy home gym, all by myself.

What I didn’t take note of was that the embrace of this bad boy was several inches wider than the one I had at home, and the tread on the sucker looked like a rasp. If treadmills had bouncers, this treadmill would have its arms crossed outside the trendiest treadmill bar in town.

And then the fateful moment occurred: “ABC” came up on my mix.3

Maybe it’s because the Jackson Five’s tune hit the top of the charts in 1970. I was nine. When we got back to the states4, one of the last cartoons I gave up was the Jackson 5ive5, and it was the theme song.  For those of you who didn’t know Michael Jackson was born a poor black child, here is a video from back in the day, purportedly from the Ed Sullivan Show:

Whatever the deal is, I cannot seem to keep from dancing (badly) whenever that song comes on. It goes from audio processing in the brain straight to the movement center without consulting the part of my brain that says, “Whoa, fella, slow down.” So I started dancing within the wide arms of the treadmill and caught some part of my foot on the non-moving portion of the dance floor, sending me to my knees.

Mostly my left knee. The bad one. It’s probably a good thing I had on my yoga pants; even so, I ended up scraped by the bite the treadmill’s surface gave me, holding me down a few seconds while I processed what had happened and how the hell to get my knee detached from rotating blades6.

It didn’t bother me all that much at first; I iced it and by the next day had a big C-shaped bruise circling my knee. Bruise? No big. But when I went to see Stephanie, queen of the physical therapists, she said it was a lot looser than it had been and that I may have sprained my ACL. It’s not gotten much better since I saw her a couple of weeks ago and I’m guessing she’s going to tell me to get it evaluated by the doc when I see her next week.

I’ve been through a scaled down grief cycle and am back at acceptance. Every setback makes you want to throw up your hands and say “Why bother?” But not doing it means there’s no chance; you can’t win if you don’t play. So after enough of a pity party, and a couple of workouts I cried through, I’m back on the upswing, even though icing my knee is the order of the day and I’m going to have to rebuild it.

Too bad you can’t order bionic parts off Amazon.

1. If you’re familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, think a zero for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
2. Think it was an oak, but my knowledge of Gulf Coast Florida’s flora is limited.
3. Just finding it on YouTube has me dancing at the keyboard.
4. I’m a military brat. Our family lived in Japan at that time.
5. It was cancelled about the same time I gave up Saturday Morning Cartoons. Yes, boys and girls, there was a day when cartoons were restricted to just after school and Saturday mornings.
6. Shocked by the exaggeration? I’m from Texas;  hyperbole is practically mandatory.
 
 

 


Crystal Mayhue, a 35-year-old massage therapist and SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mom), balancing her part-time business with raising two young sons and  hanging out with her husband as well as CrossFitting, contacted me about her CrossFit experience. I loved what she had to say, and want to pass it along to you.  Crystal, you now have the floor (or screen…whatever):

From Crystal’s Pinterest board

I started CrossFit recently and I am so addicted. I refer to myself as “Chunky Girl Works Out.”

I started referring to myself as “chunky” after my first pregnancy. I’d developed a serious B12 deficiency which triggered a case of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) of epic proportions. The baby came and the RLS never went away. Baby number two was also a fan of B12. Lets just say RLS is here to stay.

As a result, I am constantly sleep-deprived which has resulted in weight gain. I would never have called myself an athelete, but I spent years weight training and doing cardio. As long as I kept an eye on what I ate and made sure I was physically active, my curvaceous body was kept in check. The minute the RLS hit and sleep was something I could not accomplish, the curves turned to “CHUNK”! I even have a Pinterest board (http://pinterest.com/massagemomma/chunky-girl-works-out) named for it.

I waited two years to get into CrossFit for many reasons. I found out about CrossFit by way of Facebook, of course. I had reconnected to an old high school friend and she was always talking about going to “CrossFit.” I asked her about it.

I have what I lovingly refer to as “Exercise A.D.D”. I get bored so easily. I find running boring so I started doing mud runs like the Warrior Dash and the Merrell Down & Dirty. I got bored weight training on my own so I started taking BodyPump.

So, when my friend tried her best to explain the beast that is CrossFit, I was very intrigued. I turned to Google to find out more. Thirty minutes into my research I knew that sooner or later I was going to start CrossFit! The idea that it was mix of cardio and weight training and could happen indoor or outdoor and then you throw in kettle bells and a garage type atmosphere … I was in Exercise A.D.D heaven!!

One of the reasons for delaying my first CrossFit experience was “Super Fit Girls + Super Ripped Guys= WTF stares at Chunky Girl Works Out.” I had the itch to try it so bad I even had thoughts of setting up a backyard CrossFit.

I turned to my dear friend Google and his girlfriend Pinterest to see what it would take to create a “box” in my own backyard. I found I could do it on the cheap. But, honestly, I still didn’t totally grasp the whole of what CrossFit was and felt like I needed more instruction. And, quite frankly, I run a house and family and I am constantly in charge and making decisions. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do and how to do it so I don’t have to think about it. I know, sounds lazy. But I’m a Mom, a wife, and I have a part-time Massage Therapy business. I don’t want to have to come up with my own workouts. I want someone to tell me what to do for once.

I have two boys. Very. Busy. Boys! My oldest will be seven in November and is in the first grade. My youngest is four and now attends all day PreK at the same elementary school as my oldest. I was overwhelmed at what the heck I was going to do all day. The idea that my baby was going to start school totally knocked me down. I knew that I was going to have to find something to do that would excite me or I was going down for the count.

We are a “traditional” family, I guess you could say. My husband works and I, for the most part, stay at home with my kiddos. The idea that I was no longer going to have my little buddy to take care of all day still brings me to tears. So, I set my sights on CrossFit. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see if it was as awesome as I had made it out in my mind to be.

So, I found a CrossFit box and signed up.

Finding a CrossFit box in my area wasn’t easy. When I first looked into CrossFit, there was nothing close to me. One day, I happened to be talking to a nurse in my doctors office  and she mentioned she did CrossFit. She raved about her box. She said the coaches were awesome and the members were like family and that she was in the best shape of her life. So, I went to the official CrossFit website and looked it up. Two CF boxes had opened in a somewhat close proximity to my home.  I only visited one of them. My nurse was so passionate in talking about her CF box, CrossFit of Locust Grove (Georgia), that I never doubted that it was the one for me. When I met the owner, Todd Springer, I was impressed with how he continually talked about CFLG being a family.

I started on a Monday morning. There were about twelve people in the class. There were men and women ranging in age from early twenties to late forties in a spectrum of fitness levels.

The first day I almost puked because I knew these people were going to die when they saw Chunky Butt walk in. But, you know. I have never met people more eager to help and guide and cheer a person on. I have belonged to many gyms…Gold’s, local athletic clubs, YMCA…. never have I ever had people so willing to help me catch on and want me to succeed.

The first person to speak to me, other than Todd the owner/coach, was a very fit, thirty-something woman. During each part of the WOD she made sure I knew where the equipment was, showed me what to do, and gave me encouragement. I was shocked. I tell you, I spent hours at my local Y before anyone ever even spoke a word to me. But, during a WOD that consisted of way too many push ups and box jumps, I had people that I had only laid eyes on that day telling me not to stop, to push through and that I could indeed finish the last round.

Since that first day I have attended morning, afternoon and evening classes. Each person I come in contact has been as helpful as the first. We have a Facebook group for members. People are always posting about getting together to go to events, or telling another member how great they did during the day’s WOD or just posting life stuff. They are family. We are family.

I have been apart of CrossFit of Locust Grove for two months. And, when my Dad was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, the outpouring of understanding and compassion from my CrossFit family rivaled that of my church family. Sometimes when you are mad at the world and feel like you have no control over anything—you just need to drag a tire across pavement, do a hundred burpees and seventy-five squat jumps and then hear someone tell you just how beastly you are because you finished.

CrossFitters, for the most part, really seem to have a passion for athleticism and really want for others to feel the same euphoria they do when finished with a WOD.  But, believe me, I know the fear of walking into a crowd of super fits….YIKES!!…..but I strongly urge everyone that is curious about CrossFit to visit their local box. The outpouring of support and  camaraderie that you get being apart of a CrossFit family far out weighs the nervousness you feel when walking into your first CrossFit class.

You can contact Crystal Mayhue by email at massage_momma (at) att (dot) net.


Peanut Butter Cookie Batch

Peanut Butter Cookie Batch (Photo credit: Greatist): I can’t stand peanut butter, but maybe some of you crave it.

I love Greatist. I encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and weight loss to subscribe to them. No, I have no financial or personal interest in them, so feel free to take it or leave it with my blessing and no effect on my pocketbook:

  1. How to foam roll like a pro
  2. Can you be too sore to work out?
  3. 10 interval training mobile apps to download right now
  4. News: Talk to yourself to stay motivated
  5. Schedule your day to reduce stress
  6. Give in to cravings to avoid binges
  7. Ultimate guide to good posture at work
  8. Develop a routine to improve sleep
  9. Why do I eat when I’m not hungry?
  10. How to handle criticism like a pro

There seems to be a “routines” theme in my list. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something. I’m not even touching the word “pro,” given that I’m a woman old enough to remember that as a euphemism.


The first time I saw Stephanie for physical therapy, around six years ago, she told me there was “no time off from good biomechanics.” At the time, I was seeing her for a sacroiliac joint (SI joint) problem, and at some point I picked up my purse off the floor by bending at the hips. She stopped me and said something to the effect of “What are you doing?” and made me pick it up correctly, with the admonition “There’s no time off from good biomechanics.”

Clearly, I haven’t forgotten it. Just as clearly, I don’t necessarily heed the warning.

It’s easy to think about form and injury prevention when you’re in a workout; after all, that’s what you’re concentrating on. During the rest of the day, though, it’s easy to get distracted and do things that can end up injuring you. And sometimes it’s really frickin’ stupid things, like “watch where you’re going.” (Not so much biomechanics there, but the failure to look may end up in some funky movements.) And when you’re injury-prone, older and/or obese, you are more vulnerable than other springier, younger or lighter people.

Yep, there’s a reason I’m bringing this up.

My husband and I went to see “The Fifth Element” on the big screen last night. We’ve periodically been annoyed that we missed it when it was released, as it’s a favorite. Alamo Drafthouse, also a favorite, was showing it. The particular location has a big flight of stairs as well as escalators. I opted for the stairs, and was quite pleased with myself for getting up them without being winded or leg-dead.

When did I get hurt? In the dark-ish movie theater when we were trying to figure out where to sit. I stepped down without looking and jammed/twisted my knee because the step wasn’t where I thought it was. Ergo bad biomechanics.

So I’m now icing my knee after my workout (which was modified to keep from aggravating the injury) and seeing Stephanie in the morning. And guess what she’ll probably say? Yep, see title of post.


This last week I had a rather unexpected setback. I had a “minor” oral surgery procedure that managed to knock me on my butt for at least three days straight (advertised as “you’ll be up and going the day after”). I visited my wonderful physical therapist, Dr. Stephanie Thurmond, and after talking to her, and reading some blogs and comments from other folks in my position, I started thinking about CrossFit for “nonathletes” generally and what’s important for those of us who

  • are overweight to morbidly obese,
  • are over 50,
  • are congenitally awkward and remember PE as a torture chamber filled with humiliation,
  • have accumulated injuries that need accommodation,
  • are illness- or injury-prone,
  • have hormone issues (HRT, perimenopausal). and/or
  • have illnesses that make them hypersensitive to stimuli (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, allergies and asthma, as examples).

I’ve discussed much of this in other posts, but I felt the need to sum up.

1. Get past the slogans and hype.

“Forging Elite Fitness,”  CrossFit’s official slogan, intimidates the hell out of most non-elite nonathletes. And lots of affiliates (aka boxes) like to up the ante. One I saw recently was “Blood is replaceable, Sweat is Expected and Tears are optional.”  At this point it made me laugh, but a couple of years ago I would have seen it as a “nonathletes need not apply” sign. Although my husband was really into it, and is level-headed about pretty much everything, I still saw it as a testosterone-marketed competitive activity.

And it may have been, at least in the beginning. But the CrossFit powers-that-be quickly saw that even if you’ve got motivated folks, not all of them are athletes, or, if they are, they’re specialized enough that they burn out in a CrossFit workout, which is generally designed to improve your ability to function in the real world. You read variations on it all the time: “Our specialty is not specializing.” So even competitive athletes had to have parts of their WODs (workout of the day) scaled.

So it seemed that as CrossFit expanded and evolved, many CrossFit coaches saw the benefit of making the program more inclusive, involving the elderly and kids. I mean, as long as you’re having to adjust WODs on a custom basis, why not do it for anyone?

2. Ask questions. Lots of them.

Membership in a CrossFit affiliate isn’t cheap, nor is hiring a CrossFit coach.  Boxes are cropping up everywhere (at least in my neck of the woods), so you may have some choices. Or you can consider working out at home, but you need someone who knows what they’re doing to watch how you’re doing things or you can easily end up worse rather than better.

First, look at staff bios if they’re available; I prefer being able to read them online. Most CrossFit boxes have at least a semblance of a web page. Ideally, you’d find a coach who has a lot of experience or special interest in working with people with whatever limitations you have, and, cherry on top, has professional training in biomechanics (like a physical therapist). Kelly Starrett is a well known CrossFit instructor who is also a physical therapist and he has tons of good information. But even his website can make you think it wouldn’t be a good fit, as he works with “elite athletes” and uses the term “athlete” to describe who his website is for. But I emailed the site, asking for clarification. I received the following response:

These mobilization are for everyone and everyone is an athlete!

Not my mindset, but cool, now I know that if I were in the San Francisco area, I’d definitely look at going there. And the response was from another physical therapist apparently working with Starrett.

But not every CrossFit box is going to have that attitude or that depth of experience. However, CrossFit central is very big on working with nonathletes, even if some individual coaches aren’t:

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

A bit stuffy, but the bottom line is that CrossFit is designed to improve anyone’s overall fitness. And affiliates and coaches who are members of CrossFit have access to materials to help them scale IF the coach is interested in working it out. Your job is to figure out which coach is going to be not just willing to work with your limitations, but who has an active interest in doing so.

So take the time to talk to the coaches before making a decision. Listen carefully to their responses. Tell them your particular concerns and ask them how they’ll be able to scale down or adapt the program for you.

3. Make consistency your first priority

Most injuries occur when people try to do too much too soon. Whatever your limitations, be willing to start slow and concentrate on being steady at it. When I started, I was really consistent for five months before a knee problem got in the way, and I let myself be sidelined for at least an equal amount of time. This last setback felt almost as bad, but I did what little I could within 3 days of my recovery. I’m bouncing back far more quickly than I have in the past.

And I have discovered that if I miss more than around 3 days in a row, I will start deteriorating in a much broader sense than being able to do fewer reps or less weight. Whichever illness has decided to start picking on me, migraines or fibro or seasonal allergies, it will get worse as well, and then my sleep is affected because I’m in pain or hacking, and things begin to snowball. If I suck it up and do what I can without injuring myself, which may be far less than what I was doing before whatever obstacle got in my way.

4. Listen to your body, and tell your coach what it’s saying

If your body is hurting, you need to evaluate it. I’ve written earlier posts about when to pay attention to pain and when to ignore it. Short version: If it’s sharp and new, stop and figure out whether you can continue or if you need to stop. Achey pains and cramps are generally not going to be things you’ll need to quit for.

But your coach cannot help you if you don’t communicate. I’m bad at this; I hate sounding like a whiner, particularly when other people are doing the same thing easily. But your primary goal should be getting yourself fit. That’s the whole reason you’re putting yourself through this stuff and why you came to CrossFit to begin with, so swallow your pride and tell your coach your problem. Sometimes it’s just a slight form problem that’s causing the pain.

For example, I started feeling a weird pain in my left knee (which is the bad one) while on the rower. It was on the outside of my knee, which was new. Turned out that I was opening my legs to give my gut extra room so I could get a longer push, which was putting torque on my knee. As soon as I corrected that, the problem went away. You will learn to troubleshoot some of the problems yourself, but often you need someone else to watch to see the form flaw.

5. Scale, scale, scale; form, form, form. Did I mention you should scale?

One of the aspects of a CrossFit workout is intensity: You need to push yourself. But that doesn’t mean overdoing it. What you are capable of doing is, to some extent, subjective. And it will vary from day-to-day. If you’ve tweaked a muscle, scale back anything that is the problem. Find ways to deal with whatever areas give you problems. Rule of thumb is that you should find the first round relatively easy and begin to start having difficulty (needing to take more stops, for example) around the third set. If you start getting sloppy with your form, you are increasing the chances of getting injured. On the other hand, if it’s just a lot of effort, but you can keep the form, then you’re on target.

This is what you’ve looked for in your coach: Someone who is willing to be creative to find solutions to your weaknesses. Use that creativity to scale appropriately. Concentrate on getting the form right and the rest will take care of itself.

6. Expect set-backs

Life happens, and things will get in the way of being as consistent as you’d like to be. Illnesses, vacations, injuries, surgeries, drugs: Any of these may cause a period when you can’t work out. It happens. Don’t flagellate yourself. Do what you can as soon as you can. This is the same principle as in weight loss. There’s a great post from LiveStrong’s The Born Reality that applies; here’s a taste:

Having worked with clients for more than 10 years, most people suffer from an extreme inability to fail on a small scale. When they screw-up, that’s it for them–they have screwed up permanently, and so they keep going.

Conventional wisdom tells us that if you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging–that’s the logical thing to do. However, when it comes to nutrition, we aren’t logical or conventionally wise. When clients have a dietary faux pas, their impulse, paradoxically, is to make it worse; after they eat the brownie, they think, “Well, I’ve ruined today. I may as well just eat whatever I want and then be good tomorrow.”

That would be bad enough by itself; however, for many people, they carry the failure over to the next day, and the day after, and finally, “I’ll be good tomorrow” becomes “I’ll start again on Monday.”

The Monday Mindset

Historically, Monday is the busiest day at gyms. (In my facility, attendance is 30% higher than any other day of the week, and that is not unique.) A decade of looking at clients’ food logs makes it clear that Monday is also the day with the highest level of dietary compliance.

Which is ironic, considering this: In my view, Monday is the most dangerous day of the week. Not Monday, but the idea of Monday–a fresh start, always available, never more than a week away.

7. Remember that you are only competing with yourself

CrossFit encourages competition and working in a group. In a well-run CrossFit box, the other people working with you should be supportive, and the coaches should create a supportive environment. Of course, we live in a flawed world with flawed people. There may be someone who makes you uncomfortable or is smug about how much “better” s/he is at whatever WOD. Don’t worry about them, and don’t let the jerks get you down. Most affiliates keep records of your times, reps, etc., and will make a big deal when you achieve a personal best.

It is a big deal. Pat yourself on the back and keep going!


Even though the human brain averages a mere 445 square inches, the mind contained within it encompasses an immeasurable amount of space. You can time travel to the past or future, explore parallel realities (all the “what ifs” we regularly contemplate) and imagine the future. But this mind space is full of black holes.

When you’re full of energy and motion, hurtling through your days by physical and emotional momentum, you can avoid the pull of those black holes (for the most part). But when you hit the skids, whether emotionally or physically, you can find yourself pulled into the gravitational well of those lurking black holes.

Let me give you an example. I’m currently lowering dosages of various drugs that help prevent migraines (aka prophylactics) because of their side effects. As the most recent neurologist I’ve visited (still trying to find a successor to Dr. Nett, headache specialist and doctor par excellence) explained, there are the three basic groups of go-to drugs for migraine prevention.

  1. Calcium channel blockers, which are commonly prescribed as  for high blood pressure
  2. Antidepressants, also prescribed for depression (yes, I’m stating the obvious), perimenopausal symptoms, ADHD, OCD
  3. Anticonvulsants, primarily developed for epilepsy and other seizure disorders

All of these interact with the way your brain reads, transmits and builds neurotransmitters, the chemical components that are the equivalent to computer commands. So, as these drugs are going out of my body, I hit all kinds of funky withdrawal effects. (By the way, when it’s a prescription drug, docs tend not to like the term “withdrawal” because of its association with street drugs, but it pretty much amounts to the same thing. The pc term is “discontinuation effects.”) The discontinuation effects can be reoccurences of whatever the drug was supposed to prevent as well as any side effects potentials that were risks of taking the drug to begin with.

The best everyday analogy I can draw is the effect the hormones can have on you. Everyone knows about the nice hand that PMS can deal you.

So after being chronically ill, fairly isolated, and fighting the damn withdrawal symptoms, which have ranged from a day visiting the world of Alzheimer’s (really, I sounded like my grandfather did in the early stages of the disease, asking the same questions several times within an hour), I’ve been emotionally hydroplaning, which feels like this:

So I start drifting into some really old black holes that lurk in various corners of my mind space.

A basic one that keeps grabbing me is the “invisible woman” black hole. This one, like all black holes, is based on something I believe about myself, true or false. Ed Smith, E.Ed., has a ministry based on t he idea that most of our problems stem from lies we believe about ourselves. He says, essentially, that if you were Satan, why bother messing with someone’s head their whole life when you can just plant a few good lies in childhood, a gift that keeps on giving.

Whether you buy into the religious aspect of the theory is irrelevant to whether the underlying premise holds true. I think there’s merit to the principle. As a child, you believe the world revolves around you, and, thus, your actions affect all of your environment, a condition known as “magical thinking.” (Of course, some people never develop past this way of thinking.)

Some of these ideas become embedded into your thought-process to the point you are not aware of them. Cognitive therapy is based, at least in part, that if you identify and articulate these ideas, you can begin to recognize and change your patterns of thought. Meditation and prayer can also help you self-identify the lies you believe about yourself. Once identified, you can use reframing or self-talk to try to recondition yourself. Theophostic Ministries advocates going back to your first memory of believing the lie about yourself, and praying to recognize the truth of the matter (more accurately, asking Jesus to show you the true perspective).

However you get there, the truth is what will set you free. However, for it to do so, you need to begin integrating and internalizing the truth. Sometimes that is as simple as telling yourself the truth every time the lie begins to affect you.

So, for me, a precocious only child who didn’t understand the social rules of my peer group, I experienced a world in which other children didn’t get me, and therefore pretty much ignored me, and adults would be kind and tolerant, but (understandably) only interested in talking to a child for a short period.  In my childhood’s mostly adult-centered world, I felt seen and not heard (although my dad called me “Yak-Yak the Monkey,” so obviously I was making noise). Despite the fact that now I’m a very large woman, with, sadly, a very loud but not pretty voice (my entire family has mastered a “turn the volume down” gesture) which learned the trick of making statements sound authoritative, when I’m down, I feel invisible.

The consequence of sliding into the gravitational field of that particular black hole is that I begin to feel like nothing I do or say has any significance or meaning. As the gravitational pull becomes stronger, it sucks out motivation.

How do you escape that pull? Maybe you can do it yourself by identifying the kind of black hole you’re falling into. Often you need help, though. I’m a very fortunate woman. Regardless of the pain and weirdnesses of my discontinuation, I have caring family to pull me out of the gravitational field by telling me how I’m wrong (and giving me help when I can’t make myself ask for it), and helping me reframe the situation so that I can stay motivated.

Moral of the story: When you start feeling sucked into your own black hole, send out an SOS to those who love and support you. It’ll keep you on the path to overcoming whatever obstacles you need to overcome to reach your goals, be they fitness, diet, health, addictions, or fill-in-the-blank-here. And never rule out the possibility of seeking out a health care professional (including mental health care folks).