Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Final Post

I still don't really know what to say, but by god, I want that COMPLETE stamp. I'll just wing it and see what happens. I've spent the last couple days trying to adjust to the idea that I can eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want without thinking about it. That adjustment isn't coming and perhaps may never come. I've been hyper-conscious of every food or drink choice. Is this the right thing for my body? How is this going to make me feel? I've been allowing myself yummy indulgences, though. I ate out TWICE yesterday. OMG! Cuban for lunch. A strange sort of Mexican for dinner. For lunch, I ate half a cuban sandwich and instead of fries ordered the mixed veggies. The cuban was the greasiest, fattiest, salty thing I could possibly choose, and it was good, very good. I think the salt bloated me to twice my size though. Hey, at least I went veggies instead of french fries. And, for dinner, 2 tempeh tacos, whipped sweet potatoes and watermelon. I ate a leftover taco for breakfast. Both meals out were tasty. I enjoyed them. It is nice to say yes to friends, but then I went to the grocery store this afternoon and bought a basket full of organic veggies and fruits. So, as the next few weeks progress, I expect to find that balance of enjoying indulgences with friends and eating well at home.

I miss jumping rope. I've made myself take the last two days off from workouts. I rode my bike, though! Can't stop that! I think I'll start back with the rope tomorrow morning. I feel stiff when I wake up and need to pump that blood through the muscles early, work out all the kinks. Really, in the end, I enjoy working out. I even, but just a little, miss floor jumps. OMG!!! Did I say that???

Ok, ok, how about some pictures?! I know you want some. As far as stats, I can say I started out at 103.8 lbs and finished at 96.2 lbs. I probably lost over 10 lbs of fat but gained some of those lbs back in muscle. Really, your guess is as good as mine. I don't have all those fancy fat/muscle percentage numbers. Let's suffice it to say, I'm a teeny, weeny human being that can kick your ass. ;-)

Here's a gratuitous muscle shot.

And, just to give some perspective on how many inches I lost. The shorts I'm showing off in the picture below fit quite snugly before PCP. In fact, I'd say they were so tight I couldn't wear them out in public. I was too self-conscious about how they squeezed my ass. Fine around a boyfriend, not fine around a bunch of random people. I wore them the other day to a swimming pool. Got out of the swimming pool cold. Put them on. They fell off. I had to borrow a belt to keep them up.

I've made some great progress physically and mentally. I have two physical markers, my 1 pull-up! Strength, baby! And, the other day, I successfully balanced in crow pose. Not as long as I would like to hold the pose, but it's a start. Practice, practice, practice. I really, really want to pull myself into a headstand, but I'll start slow and work up. I need more flexibility! I've never been all that flexible, but I definitely became more flexible while working PCP. I hope with ballet and other future physical projects that I can continue increasing my flexibility, which will help tremendously with some of those advanced yoga poses.

Mentally, well, I was thinking today about how to express this progress. I thought of two things. Before I went to Belize, I was talking with a friend. In a good-natured way, he was complaining about how he was going to a house-warming party on Friday, where he'd get wasted, then a birthday party on Saturday, where he'd get wasted, and basically, just moaning about the fact that he'd be getting flat out party drunk all weekend. I said, you know, you don't HAVE to get so plastered. He said, yes, I do, Jenny, it's a group effort. Which made me stop and think, yes, yes, you're right, it IS a group effort. My decision to stop drinking before PCP and to continue that (excepting a few indulgences) through PCP was not necessarily ALL because I was becoming an emotional alcoholic but because I was becoming a social alcoholic. I just couldn't say no. Bear with me, this might be a bit convoluted. I really don't think I'm an emotional eater or drinker. I think I'm an emotional socialite. Eating and drinking, as we've discovered, are super social events. When I'm down, I bury myself in my friends. "You, friends, make me feel better! Make me feel loved!" So, I eat and I drink to contribute to the group effort and hope that it will make everyone love me. I want so badly for everyone to just love me.

I remember being in middle school, those awkward horrible in between years. When I was in 6th grade, I wanted more than anything to fit in with a certain group. I bought Duckheads (remember those shorts?) in all kinds of colors and these crazy colorful belts to wear with them. These were what the "in" crowd was wearing at the time. I just didn't fit, and my clothes weren't making them want to be my friend. At some point in 8th grade, I completely rebelled. I started wearing black, purple, blue, green nail polish. I bought black and white striped tights that I wore under cut off jeans with my Cure t-shirt that I got from some boy that was only in the school for a few weeks. I just changed completely. I kinda freaked out some people in the process. I was still making A's, so my parents just let it be. I guess it was my way of rebelling against my own inner need for love. The people that were my good friends, stayed my good friends, and the people I wasn't close to just drifted away and it was ok. In the end, despite my need for love, I am fiercely (fiercely!!) independent. I asserted my independence.

I parallel this to my decision to do this program. It's not quite the same, in that my friends now, are my friends. They are the people I love and I fit with them, but that doesn't mean that I can't assert my independence and go against the grain a bit. And, it's not to show them that I can be independent. It's to show ME. It's to regain my confidence in and love for myself, which is ultimately what both of these instances were all about in the first place. It's just a little hard to see that when starting out. It's only later that reflection allows for a deeper understanding of one's actions.

So, there you go. My journey. I'd like to close with some thank you's. First, let me thank Brett, who inspired me to actually take on the challenge of PCP. He's always been a down-to-earth, intelligent dude. I trusted his judgment, and rightly so! Thanks, Brett!!

I'd also like to thank all my various friends from all over the world that had nothing to do with PCP but were still there cheering me on. A special thanks to Kari Mac, who I believe read every single on of my damn blog posts; Michael VP Lemones, who was an extra vocal Facebook cheerleader; and Mexico Liz, the very first Gainesville friend to give me props for taking on such a hardcore project. And, seriously, all of you that I rarely see or talk to but who still commented on my spammy Facebook blog posts, you all rock! I love you!!!

I'd like to thank the entire PCP community for their support. Wow! So many amazing people from all over the world. :) Team Running Rats, y'all were amazing role models. I hope Team SEXAAAY lived up to your level of peakiness. Also, thank you to a couple KFBers who commented on my posts when I needed the most support, Shivani and Emily. I loved reading your blogs!

Patrick and Chen. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Chen, I don't know you, probably will never meet you, but because of you, I ate raw carrots and red peppers for breakfast this morning. You have NO IDEA how outside of my normal breakfast schema those items lie! Patrick, well, dude, do I really need to say it? You're \\ //! In my neck of the woods, that translates into fucking awesome. That is the highest compliment of thanks that I can give you.

And, last but not least, my team, Team SEXAAAY. Words can't describe how important you've been to me. Y'all are double dog \\ //!!! I just made that up, but I think it expresses my thoughts well. We are all so different, yet found the commonalities to support and love each other through an intense learning process. We all made it, alive and better than well. I'm so proud of us, and so proud to be a part of your team. Much love!!

Ok, with that, I sign off. It's been great, but it's time to let go and move on to other adventures. Live life, PCP lovies! You are always with me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 90 - Can I celebrate yet?

Ok, ok, maybe I did a little pre-post PCP celebrating last night. 2 glasses of red wine, 1 shot of Patron, 2 beers, LOTS of dancing and 4 hours of sleep later, I got up, drank my coffee and did my final workout. Well, not final for life, but final official workout. I was a little hungover, but after getting the blood flowing, I feel not great but good. I don't feel guilty about my early celebration. 'Twas a relief to let go of control for just a little while. 90 days is a long time to exert so much discipline over one's self, falling into some chaos was exactly what my soul needed. Reminds me of this concept:

Panarchy. The idea was originally used to describe ecosystems and their multiple stable states. A system utilizes its resources and builds up its potential energy and connectedness, then some event occurs that causes the system to release energy and decline in its potential. The system then undergoes a sort of reorganization and either returns to its original stable state or, depending on the intensity of the chaos event, the system may reorganize into a new, different stable state. The concept has been applied to all sorts of systems at this point, not just ecosystems. I think it aptly describes what we all just went through....we reached some point in our lives where we brought PCP in to break us down, reorganize us and put us into a new stable state. Naturally, there will be smaller cycles within the big one and one small event won't necessarily cause us to lose the new PCP state. Point is, I've (we've) spent 3 months reorganizing, exploiting our physical and mental resources to build up into a highly connected person with loads of potential energy...naturally the body and mind are calling for a little release at this point as we reintegrate back into non-training mode and apply PCP to normal, everyday life.

And, even though I allowed myself to indulge in the booze, I still kept the food portion of the diet. While everyone was chowing down on late night pizza, I ate an apple banana and a hard-boiled egg. Honestly, it was pretty good. I wasn't craving the pizza, but it was late and I wanted food. Planning ahead and bringing my snack with me was genius!

I enjoyed my last workout. The most improvement seems to be in my back, shoulders and abs. Oh, and jump rope! Wow! I gotta be honest. We've been told to take a few days off, but I really just don't see how I'm going to take the jump rope out of my morning routine. It's ingrained now. Get up, brew & drink a cup of coffee, eat a piece of raisin toast, jump. Then, go about my day. No problem taking some time from the strength training, but the jump rope? Really? I don't know.

Well, final post will come in a few days. I'm not even close to knowing what I want to write in it, so I'll take a few days of reflection and then come back with my parting thoughts and pictures. Okay, off to the springs for some more celebration (the sober, sparkling water type)!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 89 - I am humbled.

P.S. First plank, 90 seconds. So much pain, hard to focus on clock. I did an extra plank because I felt like such a weakling through the first 4, not that it mattered. It was probably only 15 seconds long by that point.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 88 - Magic Gloves

I love my gloves. For some reason, they focus me. I keep them on for my entire workout even if they aren't necessary. My body responds to them. Ok, gloves on, time to work. Though, to be honest, I felt like I had a weak workout today. I don't really know why, but it's like my pain tolerance was lowered. Meh, some days are better than others. Tomorrow, it's on!

Elena, as far as our planks competition goes, I spent my first plank trying to figure out which position maximized the pain for me. The one leg thing was effective, but I felt like ab pain was most horrendous with my arm base spread wide apart. We shouldn't count our competition until tomorrow. I'll spread my shoulders far apart and keep time.

Now, let's talk about my visit to the gym. At UF, I pay student fees out of my own pocket each semester. Student fees go towards various funds on campus, part of which is student recreation. Hence, I pay for a gym whether I use it or not. Of course, it's a gym at a greatly reduced fee, and they do have tons of classes and activities and very nice facilities for all kinds of sports. I can't really complain. I decided to visit the newly renovated SW Recreation Center for my gym assignment.

Over the past 6 years, I've spent a lot of time in this gym. I've taken classes, used the cardio and the weight room. I'm comfortable there. The last time I visited was in the spring, and the facilities were undergoing major renovations. This week was my first visit since the unveiling. Somehow, I was lucky (or unlucky depending on your viewpoint) enough to pick a time and day when they were doing a sort of open house sports extravaganza. I was overwhelmed to say the least. Thousands of 18-21 year olds running around the rec. center. It was a complete and total madhouse.

My first observation. They were giving out free Domino's pizza and frozen yogurt, so as people left the gym, they effectively cancelled out any work they'd done by stuffing their faces with greasy, grimy cheese pizza. I love pizza, but Domino's is just a waste of pizza to me. I've always disliked it. I wouldn't eat it free even before PCP. The frozen yogurt, ok, but I'm sure it wasn't low fat yogurt. I'm thinking handing out fruit and cups of greek/low fat yogurt would send a better message. I'm sure the students would HATE it, but they'd take it because it's FREE FOOD.

Second observation. The machines were out of control. All new. Lots of them. I tried out a treadmill, but I couldn't get the damn thing to go. It was touch screen, asked me for all these stats even though I pressed quick start. Then, it wanted me to choose various viewing options or something and the treadmill never started. I gave up. It was too distracting, like a big video game. At this point, I felt old, but not in a bad way. Just the kind of, I'd rather be out on a trail, smelling the fresh air and hopping over armadillos type old. Most of the other cardio machines were equipped with personal TVs and whatnot. Not my style.

The weight room was the same as always. Lots of young, beautiful undergrads flaunting their perfect bodies. It's a meat market in there. I've always been able to go in in my ratty workout clothes, old faded gym shorts, tie-dye shirt with holes in it, and tune all of it out. Honestly though, I never felt like I got an effective workout from the machines, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing. Just randomly using a machine with no training schedule. This was one of my many reasons for signing up for PCP. What? You'll show me effective strength training that I can do in the solitude and comfort of my own home. I'm in! I was just tired of the gym.

The one thing I may take advantage of are the classes. I still want to keep up with yoga, and though I'd prefer to take classes through the studio that I tried this summer, it's expensive. The rec center offers a variety of different style classes, and they're already paid for. I might see if I can find a class or two a week that fits me and my schedule. I'd like to free up the cash to try out some beginning ballet, just to get a base in dance. My aerial dance class is mostly just for fun, but later in the month, the main dance studio here in Gainesville starts its adult classes. I spoke with a guy this week who was super nice and enthusiastic about me coming and giving it a try. He said, "if you have no dance experience, it'll be hard work but rewarding if you stick with it." I liked him.

Well, guys, 2 more workouts and PCP is officially over. A friend of mine asked me last night, "Are you happy or sad to see it end?" My answer, "Both."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 86 - Super What?!

Wow. I won't spoil what super sets are for those behind us, but the first and last parts of today's workouts were the ULTIMATE torture.

Okay, I'm not trying to brag here (well, maybe a little...), but abs are torturous because I just can't seem to make them give out on me. I mean, of course, they give out, but not like pull-ups and chest dips. I fail at those in a flash. But, abs lasts FOREVER. Okay, okay, I know this isn't a bad thing. I should be happy with myself, but dude, I got shit to do! So, Elena, I'm sorry, I got you on the planks. Plank #1, 3:25. After that, I stopped looking at the watch. I'm gunning for 5 minutes next time round. Not sure if that's possible but I sure will try!

I made it to the gym yesterday, and my oh my, did it make me feel old. I sorta realized that I cannot handle all the insane sensory stimulation that the generation behind me seems to crave. The visit was overwhelming to say the least! I'll write a full post on it soon.

I just wanted to check back in and let you guys know I hadn't melted into a pool of tears or something. Thanks for all the love, and also, thanks to all the Facebook people who sent love, too. To be honest, I'm amazed by the response, and as one of my friends replied on FB, telling your story is a great way to let it go and move onto other stories.

UPDATE: I just sheepishly realized that I can MODIFY the planks to make the HARDER. Duh! Still gunning for 5 minutes....

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Low Point

"It may be when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey."

--Wendell Berry

October 31, 2009. My lowest point thus far. When I saw pictures of me tagged on Facebook from that night, I actually thought to myself, "Something HAS to change." I haven't untagged those pictures. I let them sit right there. It's not that I was doing anything embarrassing; it's how I look. Look at me. Drunk, disheveled, blotchy, puffy, downright unhealthy. I don't remember getting into this car. I barely remember these pictures being taken, just sort of a tickle of a memory. I said and did things that were potentially damaging to friendships. Luckily for me, I have amazing, understanding friends that forgive me my transgressions.

In my defense (and this doesn't make my actions right, just a little more understandable), I found my first and favorite cat, Tessa, dead on the side of the road that morning. A complete shock. I'd left to go out of town for the night and a friend accidently let her out when he came to collect something from my house. He didn't even know. She had a tendency to wait by the road for me to come home. I kept her in the house when I was away for this reason. I'm sure that she was waiting for me to come home that night when someone driving too fast or drunk hit her. It was devastating to me. It'd been a rough day, understandably I'd look a little rough.

But, I looked too rough, and it wasn't long after this picture that I found myself one morning, on my floor, crying and crying and crying, for no particular reason. I woke up with this horrible sense of dread; I hated myself; I hated my life; I was lost, so I cried. I finally acknowledged that I was depressed, and on advice from a friend, I called the Mental Health Center here at UF and made an appointment with a therapist. Now, I have to back up and tell you the real story behind my depression. I loved my cat and losing her was hardcore painful, but that's not what sent me into a downward spiral.

In March of 2009, I got pregnant. Not necessarily on purpose, but not completely by accident either. On my 30th birthday, I went off birth control. I wanted to know my cycle without the pill. I'd been on it for 14 years, and if I got pregnant, so be it. 6 months later, bam! Pregnant. Also, not long after I found out I was pregnant, I received another rejection letter from a granting agency. The reviews indicated that my proposal was good, but not good enough. I could make changes and resubmit, but turn around time was 2 weeks, tops. It's weird, though, being pregnant gave me a new focus, a purpose. I was happy, excited, ready to turn that proposal around and make it fundable. The father and his family were also super stoked about the pregnancy. Things were really looking good.

Then, I started to spot, which isn't all that worrying. Many women spot during pregnancy. I was told to take it easy and monitor the situation. The night I started spotting, I had this dream. My paternal grandmother, who'd died a couple years prior, came to me. She was like a second mother to me. A couple weeks before this dream, my actual mother had told me that my grandma said I would never have children. I think she meant that I had other priorities in my life besides children, but that has stuck with me ever since. Anyway, to continue, I told my grandmother, "See, I WILL have children." She just sort of looked at me hollow-eyed and didn't say anything. She doesn't usually talk in the dreams I have about her. The dream ended with me on some random toilet miscarrying the baby. It was horrific. A horrible nightmare. I emailed a friend the next day freaking out. He calmed me as best he could.

Not long after the spotting, I started to have pain on my right side. An uncomfortable gassy feeling that turned into a more acute pain that would come and go and I started to bleed red blood. At this point, I flipped the fuck out. My midwives set up an appointment with their back-up doctor to get an ultrasound. In the meantime, I searched the web for information on bleeding during pregnancy and miscarriages and whatnot. I became convinced that I had a tubal pregnancy. This is really super rare, but based on my pain and what was happening with my body, I went ahead and self-diagnosed. I spent the next couple weeks praying that I was wrong.

The next three weeks were probably the worst three weeks of my life. I sat on my toilet at work watching gobs of blood exit my body. I sat on my toilet at home and watched tissue from my womb drop into the water. I was convinced that I was flushing my baby down the toilet. It's silly cause even if I was was, at this point, it was maybe the size of a bean. I went to the doctor, he told me there wasn't much left in my uterus, he didn't see a fetus and wanted me to get a DNC. We scheduled an emergency room DNC. I was put into a twilight sleep, and when I woke up, the first thing I said to the doctor was, "I think it's a tubal pregnancy." And, he said, "So do I."

Of course, I think y'all figured out that from here the torture didn't stop. You know, it's funny, up until the point I had the DNC, I kept hoping that the doctor would see something in my uterus, like he'd tell me there it is, it's your baby. After the DNC, I knew that was it. No baby, but the baby hormones didn't decrease, they increased. The doc finally identified a developing mass in my right fallopian tube. I was admitted into the hospital and administered a drug to abort the pregnancy. It kills the developmental tissue, an extremely painful process. You can feel the tissue dying in your body. The pain was so bad one day at work that I just closed the door to my office and lay on the floor for a half hour until it subsided. Ibuprofen didn't work, and besides, I wanted to be a part of this pain. I wanted to feel this death.

In the meantime, the father had dropped off the face of the earth. No explanation. He just stopped taking my phone calls. I was later to find out that he was so devastated at the loss of the pregnancy that he couldn't talk to me. He didn't know what to say or how to handle his emotions. He was nasty to his family and spent most of his time hiding in the bush. He handled the situation badly. He left me alone to deal with it. Thank God for my family and friends! They were there for me every step of the way.

After I received the shot, I went in to have blood drawn every few days until my pregnancy hormone levels dropped below a certain point. It took a few weeks, but finally, by July, the nightmare was over. Of course, by this time, I'd missed the deadline to resubmit my proposal. I'd, also, been forced to give up an exploratory research trip to Costa Rica. I'd stopped caring about my degree anyway. I'd had a purpose in life, even if briefly, and it'd been yanked out from under me. Getting my PhD no longer seemed all that important to me, and without direction or purpose, I started spiraling into my depression. Oddly, I never talked with my therapist about the pregnancy. I guess I just wasn't ready. I only saw him a few times, but it was enough. I just needed to admit to myself that I was depressed and start taking steps, even small ones, to remedy the situation.

It's only been in the last few weeks that these issues have started to resurface. At some random moment, when I'm in a great mood, the memory will come back to me and bring tears to my eyes. I don't dwell on it. I just acknowledge that it's painful and that I'm still grieving the loss. I'm not sure when I'll be completely over it. Maybe not till I actually have a healthy pregnancy. Not only was it difficult to let go of that purpose that had so magically entered my life, but I now didn't trust my own body. I'd never even considered that I wouldn't have a healthy pregnancy, and for the first experience to be so traumatizing, well, pregnancy is a scary thing for me now. It still holds a kind of wonderment and beauty, but it's been forever tainted. If I ever do get pregnant again, I will be haunted by the fear that my body could abort the pregnancy at anytime or that it could be another tubal pregnancy.

Ok, now, I'll tie this back to PCP and my reasons for taking on this challenge. This project marks an important transition period where I let go of that old self and grow into a new, more empowered and focused self. I'm still the same Jenny, but it's time for me to grow up, to start taking responsibility for my life and my actions, to make a contribution to this world. Part of that growing up is learning how to treat my body with love, kindness and respect. A healthy body produces a healthy mind which in turn can deal with life challenges in a healthy way. I was dealing with my grief and sadness by latching on to people, looking to them to validate me, drinking too much, smoking too much and basically numbing myself from the emotional pain. I was looking for something outside to make it better, when really I only needed to work on the inside. That's why PCP is much more than a physical project for me; it's allowed me to really take time and focus intensely on myself and what I want my for my life.

And, with those reflections, I leave you with something uplifting. This is especially dedicated to TEAM SEXAAAY as we enter our last week of workouts on PCP. Don't puss out now! Let's make it happen!

Day 84 - Feeling better

Aw man, thanks for all the positive vibes guys. I actually got a lot of good feedback from Facebook, too. And, believe it or not, I didn't have to cook dinner for myself last night. Some friends invited me over for fish sandwiches. Yay! I cooked a little to prepare myself for today, but it was a nice break and nice to spend some time with friends. Ask and you shall receive. :)

I kinda wanted to prepare you guys for a pretty heavy post I'm planning on putting out there tonight or tomorrow. I've been waffling on whether I should write this post or not, but the issues in it have been resurfacing over the last few weeks in positive ways. Almost like the last throes of the grieving process. I want to put it out there because I want people who are thinking about doing this project to know that it isn't just about your physical body, this can be a very emotionally healing project, too. I think in some ways it connects back to the empowerment theme I wrote on way back in month 1 and also ties into my original reasoning for taking on the PCP. In general, I feel like most people forget that body and mind are connected, inseparable. Of course, it would be natural that as I clear out the spiderwebs from my body, the same will happen to my mind. This wouldn't be possible without our tight, nurturing PCP community, though. I know we've been told that diet is the biggest chunk of this project, but I disagree. I think community and connections are the core of it, or maybe we could think of them as like an umbrella sheltering the diet and exercise components. Yeah, I like that, an umbrella.

So, prepare yourselves, people! I'm going to do my best to make you cry, real tears! ;-) Man, I've really built this up, huh?