(This post was written yesterday afternoon.)
My last blog post was almost three months ago. When I started this blog, I used it as a tool for self-reflection as I worked to lose weight, and as a means of sharing my experiences along this journey. So much has changed since my first blog post; lately, I've been thinking a lot about this blog's place and purpose in my life.
Blogging about blogging. Yeah. That's happening.
Originally. this blog was intended to help me stay accountable with my weight loss and exercising. It also provided me with a way to track my accomplishments, which have included losing a whack of weight. But now? I don't know. I took three months away from the blog.
Since Trudy was born, my blog posts have mostly been about her. Losing weight and exercise have not been the sole focus of my life now for quite some time. Recently, I've used this blog as a way to update friends and family on our new little family's life. But I came to a point where the blog was no longer feeling like it was helping make me feel connected. It started feeling really one-sided and lonely. It did not facilitate much, if any, interaction. I thought that by sharing photos and experiences via this blog that I would be left feeling more connected with everyone I care about, most of whom are thousands of miles from Miami. (Note: This is not a commentary on any of you beloved readers. This is merely my thoughts about blogging functioning as a means of interaction. Perhaps I could work harder to make the blog more interactive? Ask questions? Is this the point of the blog? Or was I/am I perhaps seeking a kind of interaction that my style of blogging simply cannot provide?)
My recent blogging experiences have felt like nothing but unnecessary work. After blogging, I was left feeling the exact opposite. I realized, following my post in early September, that blogging had become a chore. Without any big announcement, I stepped away. No one really noticed. I freed myself of any feelings that I had to post.
I've read some of the blog postings from the last year and see them as blogging for blogging's sake. They also reflect a lot of inaccurate, selective representations of a chapter of my life that has been incredibly challenging. Since Trudy was born, this blog has been a reminder of how different things are from how life was when I weighed 150 pounds... when I was exercising twice a day and eating a ridiculously low amount of calories. Truth be told? I've longed for those days, especially in the last year. I long for the freedom to focus on optimal health. I long for the simplicity and the feeling of accomplishment that came with totally transforming my life. But maybe, even then, blogging was not a good thing. Did it call too much attention to food and exercising? Sometimes I wonder if, while serving as a helpful tool for reflection, it also contributed to what was (when I was at my lowest weight) an unhealthy obsession with tracking my food intake and exercising.
My blog represented a success story with a lovely story arc. Girl gets super fat. Girl loses 110 pounds. End of story, right? But then girl has baby and everything changes. How does girl reconcile everything, in light of this? Giving birth to Trudy left me face-to-face with a unwelcome guest--memories of a former fat self that I thought I'd left behind. I had hoped I was done with fat Jill. She was lost. She was miserable. I'd hoped that she could only ever be located in my rear-view mirror, found only on the "pages" of this blog.
I love Trudy, don't get me wrong. She is the best thing in my life (tied with Bryn, of course.) But I think it's time for me to get real--if I'm gong to blog, it needs to be truthful. So, yeah, I suffered from the baby blues for a few weeks after having Trudy, as a lot of Mom's do. But my baby blues developed into full-fledged depression. I think this happened in "large part" because of the my weight gain. And when the baby and baby-related weight didn't just melt off in a matter of minutes, I fell deeper and deeper into a dark, hopeless place.
And now I'm crying at Starbucks.
I am not at all ashamed to say I was depressed. Many things have led to this less-than-perfect storm. On top of the challenges of bringing a baby into this world, I was doing it with very little support or family nearby. (Note: This is not at all, in any way a comment about Bryn. He has been the best Dad and partner I could have ever asked for on this journey. But we are, by virtue of our situation living here in Miami, quite isolated.) I fought to breastfeed Trudy; it took me several AWFUL weeks to get it figured out. Then, the darn baby wouldn't take a bottle. I've done EVERY feeding (yes, we are still going!) since the tiny human came into this world. I've been more-or-less attached to her for fifteen months, leaving me (by choice, yes, I know) with little time to get away. I gained 42 pounds with the pregnancy. I was left feeling hopeless and fat, with little opportunity to address the situation in the way I wanted to (quickly... lots of exercise... restricted eating.) I also had the whole pressure of the dissertation looming overhead. I felt overwhelmed and constantly anxious. I felt unable to write, to focus which only made everything worse. I never knew when I would get a chance to work since Trudy's schedule was so unreliable.
And the blog. Oh yes, this blog. It served as a constant reminder of what I saw as me being a huge failure. I had "let myself go." I hadn't bounced back to my super-sporty ideal self within three minutes of giving birth. I was a mess. My negative, critical self-talk only made things worse. I tried to make things seem like they were amazing and happy via this blog... but they weren't.
Right around Trudy turning a year old--around the same time I stopped blogging--I started feeling able to make some really positive changes. I felt rested and Trudy's schedule was a bit more reliable. I finally felt like I had the energy to focus on losing weight and exercising again. I made a plan to work on my dissertation EVERY DAY, no matter what. And I started seeing someone -- a psychologist. I started talking about what I was going through and gave myself permission to stop judging and hating myself.
Just as all of the negative things combined to make me totally miserable, all of these positive changes brought me out of a dark, terrible funk.
At the beginning of September:
- I started tracking my food intake and set a daily caloric intake limit. I allowed myself some flexibility but stayed diligent about 80% of the time.
- I started exercising. I went to the gym as much as I could and started running again.
- I started getting up nearly EVERY DAY at 5am to work on my dissertation.
- I started talking to Bryn about my feelings and asking for help when I needed it.
- I started crafting. Art therapy, seriously. It may sound crazy, but I started little projects that helped my mind calm when I was feeling overwhelmed and left me with small accomplishments that I could share with others.
Let me tell you what all of these little changes have done for me. Small changes which I have maintained now for almost three months:
- I've lost nearly 30 pounds. Together with the 12 pounds I dropped in the first few months after Trudy was born (including delivering her little 7-pound self), I am down right near 165 pounds, where I was before I got pregnant! I still would like to lose a bit more, but I'm giving myself time and space to let this happen. I've been working towards eating and living such that I do not suffer every day. It takes longer to reach my goals but I'm doing it in a more sustainable way.
- I've kept exercising, though an upper-back injury (muscle strain, nothing structural) has taken me out of the gym. I've been doing physio for a bit and am feeling about 90% "back" to normal. I still run whenever I can, usually at least once a week. I also walk 3 to 5 miles each and every day. When I don't know what to do with Trudy or feel like I'm overwhelmed, I walk. It works for me!
- I have completed a FULL DRAFT (oh god, really crying now) of my dissertation. 7 chapters, 52,601 words. Still lots to do, but I'm excited to be moving forward.
- I feel good. I feel hopeful. I don't cry as much as I have in the past few months. I am looking forward to the future. I enjoy Bryn. I enjoy Trudy. I am starting to enjoy life.
And, gosh darn it, I'm really proud of myself. I need to pause and take this opportunity to say that I've worked really hard to get where I am. I am working on not being too hard on myself. I need to celebrate these victories. I am in a good place right now, and I feel confident that I am heading towards a GREAT place. Beautiful family. PhD in hand VERY SOON, I hope. Job, maybe? In the future? Strong body, strong mind. HEALTHY. Happy.
You know, looking back on all of this, I've learned a lot. It's okay not to be happy. It's hard not to be happy, but it's okay. Part of what made my struggle with this extended postpartum depression was that I was constantly feeling like there was something wrong me because, no, Taylor Swift, I couldn't just shake it off. It was something more that required me to talk steps to help myself. Having Trudy and dealing with everything that happened as a result of this life transition has made me stronger and wiser. My body is different as a result of childbirth. And my mind is also different. This whole process has changed me and continues to change me in ways that I never could have anticipated.
Ups and downs. Happy and not-so-happy. This is the way things will go. Weight will be gained, weight will be lost. NOW IS NOT FOREVER -- this is a powerful mantra that I recently adopted. It reminds me to treasure those sometimes fleeting, happy moments and gives me perspective when the bad stuff happens ("this too shall pass.") The best thing I can do for myself, and model for my beloved Trudy, is be flexible to deal with life's unpredictability. I think the postpartum depression hit me hard because I was dealing with more change than I could handle. I felt I'd lost my body and my mind. I was far from "home." I felt unable to do any of the things I needed to or wanted by virtue of the overwhelming amount of work that Trudy required at the beginning of her life/my life as a Mom.
So, what's the verdict with the blog? From now on, I'm only going to blog when I want to. I'm not going to blog when it feels obligatory or like a chore. I'm going to use the blog as a way to reflect and share, but I'm not going to expect it to serve as a way to connect with people. When I miss my loved ones, I'm going to call them or write to them. The blog, really, is for me, and about me. If it facilitates interaction, that's awesome. If my musings and reflections are of interest and benefit to someone else, even awesome-r.
Speaking of obligatory blogging, I should note that I do not have the energy nor interest this year to devote to Gym Christmas. Maybe next year? We'll see. I am so thankful to those of you who asked about it, and encourage you to formulate your own challenges this time of year, should you feel so inspired.
Some updates from the last few months.
Trudy continues to grow! She is not quite walking but we anticipate she'll take her first steps very soon. She is scooting and stands by herself every now and then!
As I mentioned earlier, Trudy's into a nice schedule these days, though I'm worried she may drop her morning nap in the next little while. She's been sleeping like a champ at night (12 hours solid most nights) and two naps in the day (usually 1.5 hours each), which means I've been able to get lots of work done most days.
Trudy is starting to talk more and more. Here she is at 13 months (mid-September):
We had a great Hallowe'en. Trudy went as a "gog" -- her favourite word and animal.
We went on a trip in early November to Milwaukee, WI for Bryn's annual theory nerd gathering. Trudy had a great chance to hang out with some of her favourite theory babies!
Trudy's been starting to play well by herself. She also likes to talk to herself.Check out this video from right around 14 months (mid-November):
We just got back from a trip up to New Smyrna Beach for Thanksgiving with some wonderfully generous and loving friends. On the way back to Miami, we stopped in on some friends in Altamonte Springs and met their new two-month old son! Another theory baby!
Like I said, Trudy's getting close to walking!
Check out this video from just a few days ago:
In school-related news, I've had two papers accepted to a conference in Tampa in February 2015. One is a paper taken from my dissertation and the other is a joint paper on applications of cognition research to music education.
Bryn and I also both had entries published in a SAGE encyclopedia, which arrived in the mail just last week. He did four shorter entries while I did one big one (2500 words) on community music:
I've also started volunteering once a week in a local school's music magnet program. I help out in the classroom with whatever the teacher may need!
So what's next? Well, after a few months with relatively little traveling, Trudy and I are off on a big adventure on Wednesday. We are flying to Victoria, BC. 13 hours (including 3 flights) each way. Sadly, Bryn has to stay behind and work. We'll be gone for a week.
As part of my self-imposed art therapy, I've done a whack of Christmas crafting. I'll try to share some of my creations in a future post.
And to close things out, a sneak-peek at Trudy's Christmas shoot: