CATHY THE CORTISOL CONTAINER PART TWO

My journey of stress & weight issues – Part 2 of 2

Where we left off…

I maintained this level of stress for almost 20 years! Yet, you’d never know it because I presented a facade of get it done and keep smiling. The stress/cortisol combo opened the door, and poor food choices, a lack of physical activity (overwhelm is a companion that keeps you from being any kind of energetic) and general malaise brought me to a breaking point.

The breaking point was a long time coming and manifested so severely that I had to be off for 4 months to regain enough health so my body could handle the surgery!

Being overwhelmed and dealing with clinical depression are ‘invisible’ issues – anyone on the outside looking in could have easily presumed I was a scatter brain, a dreamer, undisciplined and just a terrible housekeeper! If any or all of that sounds familiar, then I hope you can take comfort in knowing YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

On the surface, I was a devoted Mom, always worked to support my family and volunteered hundreds of hours at Manordale Public – Council Chair, ran the Breakfast program for four years, helped with the lunch program, helped out at book fairs and in my children’s classes. At Greenbank Middle School, I was Council Chair for 2 years and Grad Dance Chair for 5 years!

As well, I was in college for three years full-time (2004-2007) and earned a place on the Dean’s List in first year, finished my second year working at home while I nursed my son back to health after Austin was hit by a car on 8 March 2006.

My scholastic achievements included being a finalist for provincial and national awards. I even played a role in a local non-profit winning a National award for my copywriting of their campaign – which they used for 5 years! And created a tag line for a corporation who used my words for 5 years, too.

Who wouldn’t figure I was some kind of SUPER WOMAN?! Therein lies the rub… I put so much energy into everybody and everything I did NOT take care of me, so, I was pretty overloaded.

There was a particular Friday night I remember coming home, stepping inside my house, closing the door and physically sliding down the door, bursting into tears. Rebecca & Austin were freaked out, so promptly flew into action (as best a 12 year old and 10 year old can) to make me a cup of my favourite herbal tea and run me a bath after they both hugged me so tight and fought their own tears.

It was not the school work that broke me, it was being unwelcome by my classmates to be part of the groups for assignments. I was 40 years old; most of them were late teens or early 20s. We were among about 50 students selected from the 800 or so applicants – so, not an easy program to get into or from which to graduate.

On the surface, I acted like it was fine, but it hurt me deeply, every time. This changed dramatically over the subsequent two years of school and many of my classmates are following me on this journey with words of encouragement and support! That means a great deal to me!

Austin’s miracle was the MOTHER OF ALL WAKE-UP CALLS as related to PRIORITIES!! Seeing him in CHEO EMERGENCY, beautiful face smashed and he was unable to speak because of the mouth trauma – I almost fainted when I saw him, but I didn’t. Fearing your child could die is the mother of all motivators to get you across the room. From a nightmare to a miracle in days – no surgery, no broken bones, no internal injuries, home in four days and fully healed in 6 months. A humbling gift for which I am grateful. Every. Single. Day.

So, you can imagine how overwhelmed I was; and the weight crept up on me slowly – 60 pounds over 30 years is pretty subtle – 2 pounds a year is barely noticeable. I thought I had tons of energy, WRONG! I had tons of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through my veins.

It is easy to think you’re a super human when you don’t get sick, you accomplish goals and have two kids who are the light and joy of your life! WRONG!

My body was in fight-or-flight mode constantly; burning me out but I ignored the signs and powered through. That came to screeching halt on 28 August 2009 when my beloved Mom died. Her passing knocked me flat, but not for long. I was in the early stages of launching my business, with which Mom had helped in the months before she passed away. So, to honour her, I kept going and spent the next 2 years working tirelessly to launch my dream!

The dream came true on 3 August 2011, WOW MOM Homemade…To Go! – a catering business with a retail location that served breakfast and lunch (to go) plus catering dinners, parties, baby showers, weddings and funerals… EVERYTHING!!! It was a family business, my kids & I, plus a few friends who helped out on occasion. WOW MOM even catered for the NHL!

Unfortunately, years of ignoring my grief and stress; of powering through meant that only 8 months later, I had to close the doors and walk away.

My body was so out of whack, that surgery was needed to remove almost two pounds of fibroids from my abdomen. This became the FINAL wake-up call for me. My children were terrified that I’d die; that my body was going to just give up after all this time.

Four months off to regain my health, four days in hospital then 8 weeks of formal recovery was a journey of healing in many ways. Having given up my dream, I needed to find work. However, I needed to get my act together, so I made changes, SMALL CHANGES, more water, walking every day, quiet time every day, no matter what. And KEY TO THIS was DITCHING THE GUILT at my self-care!

ALL THIS TO SAY – the weight I carry is like a shield that I no longer need. It is part of my armour that I have worn so the world could not hurt me or my children; I wore it as a WARRIOR WOMAN to keep the dragons at bay.

There are so many sources of information as relates to self-care, weight-loss, stress management, staying healthy, getting fit – it is boggling.

I follow a few simple principles that I believe will enable me to become CATHY WHITNEY 2.0 and sustain what I achieve beyond this journey!

1. DRINK water, add lemon, fizz it up, doesn’t matter – keep water at hand throughout your day.

2. MOVE MOVE MOVE – we sit too much with technology and life – the good thing about knocking back copious amounts of water is you need to get up to go to the washroom. Park further from the office or stores – a burst of movement is a good little bit of exercise. Obviously, bona fide workouts are wonderfully beneficial, but JUST GET STARTED and then build on that!

3. GET ENOUGH SLEEP – don’t burn yourself out; let stuff go, delegate or eliminate.

4. DON’T EAT CRAP – healthy food is not always cheapest, but you can invest in maintaining your health now or invest in regaining it later. If you wish to indulge, do so, but MODERATION IS KEY!

5. TELL THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS/VOICES to be quiet! Overwhelm loves to have the captive audience of YOU in a quiet moment. If it starts, tell it to stop and change your mind set.

Now, I’m off for some lemon water and a walk!

Stay tuned.
Cathy!