Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Building and Improving My Mental Health

These past couple of months I have been working to find my new normal with training and life in general.

For me the most difficult part has been not being able to train like I was and stopping my cutting process mid cut so suddenly.  I have said before that bodybuilding is just as tough mentally as it is physically.  When you watch your body transform into the lean, muscular physique required for stage it is incredible and yes you feel pretty damn good.  Stage lean is not something that is maintainable or healthy but all the hard work to get there sure makes you appreciate it so much.

Reversing back to a normal body state usually takes time.  Watching your body lose the leanness and adding back on that needed body fat can be such a mind fuck!  No matter how long I do this sport or how many competitions I do it doesn't seem to get any easier.

In the past couple of months I have put back on the weight I lost while cutting and the body fat has come back as well.  The first three weeks when I couldn't workout at all I didn't track my food much.  As a bodybuilder I knew that not tracking and eating like I was would cause me to gain back the weight and bodyfat faster but that is the road I chose.

As the body fat came back I have to admit that I was thrilled to get my butt back along with some fuller boobs.  For me personally my boobs and my butt are what I tend to lose first and to see them fuller again does make me feel good.  I'm a bit thicker around the middle, my clothes are fitting a bit tighter and I miss the definition in my arms.

These things may sound a bit silly but when you find yourself feeling happy and confident in your own skin it's hard to lose some of that, and I have lost some of that.  The good part is that I can acknowledge it and I know what to do to get back my happy and confidence within myself.  You can hear praise from other people, even those you love and adore so much but it comes down to how you feel about yourself.

These next few weeks I will be refocusing on my goals, adding in some cardio and trying to add some more intensity to my workouts.  The hard part is not truly knowing my limits right now.  My left leg is still giving me some issues and I am truly grateful that is only my left leg I am having problems with!

Through all of this I had started to notice that I just wasn't feeling like myself.  I felt almost like I was walking around in a "fog".  It would take real thought to get myself to focus on things, my exhaustion was horrible and I just didn't feel at all like "me".  

I have been on antianxiety and antidepression medication for a very long time.  These medications certainly helped me through many hardships in life but something has felt different.  When I was in the hospital my meds got a bit messed up so I wasn't on them for over a week and I felt pretty good.  Once I started them up again I went into this strange fog.

After talking with my doctor we decided that it would be a good idea for me to stop taking the medication and see how I do.  My life has changed drastically, I still have so many stressors like everyone else but life overall has changed.  Through so much hard work over the past year with therapy and finding what works for me my mindset has changed from a negative one to a very positive one.  I am surrounded by like minded people with positive spirits who provide so much love and support.  What a difference it makes in life when you find your positivity and find the courage to remove the negatives from your life. 

As each day passes no longer taking the medication I was on life has become so much clearer.  I no longer feel like I am in a fog and actually feel like I have better control over my emotions.  It was a scary step to make such a big change but I can see clearly that I needed it.

Now back to the business of building some more muscle mass before competing next year.  I have found that my left leg can handle machine weight lifting pretty well, it's the barbell work it doesn't like anymore, dang it!!!  At least I hit my 300lb deadlift before Transverse Myelitis, that was just meant to be.

My next appointment with my neurologist is in May and I am more than ready for it.  The improvements over these last couple of months have been awesome and I realize my left leg may be in this "sleepy" state forever.  But I can still walk, I can still lift and I can even play sand volleyball, life is good and I am so damn grateful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Sometimes Life Changes In An Instant

Over the past year I have had so many life changes that seemed to happen so suddenly and most of the time I honestly have not done well with controlling how I respond.  It is the most difficult changes that I have allowed myself to lose control over how I respond.

I have also spent the past year in therapy, finding my balance with self help and self love through mediation, amazing books, sage cleanses, tarot readings and crystals.  It has helped me find my happy place with myself, my true love for myself.  But I still falter like any other human being.  So many changes have been challenging and at times have felt like mountains far too massive for me to climb over and yet I find myself on the other side.  I find myself more confident, more joyful for crying my eyes out and finding my way to release things that no longer serve me.  

Not long ago I made the difficult decision to change coaches.  When I started this journey for my prep I told myself that I would be true to myself and not allow myself to be in any situation that caused me to feel off in any way, especially emotionally.  The mental side of this sport is just as important as the physical side.  I had to come to terms with my true feelings and that was damn hard to do.  Knowing I had the support of an incredible coach who sponsored me before for my last competition helped me make the decision I knew needed to be made.  I am now a GPS Coaching athlete with Chris Goodman.  A coach I have worked with before who knows me well and was happy to take me back under her wing.

I will forever be learning better ways to control how I respond because there are some situations that I have no control over at all.  It can be incredibly frustrating when life decides to throw a massive boulder on your current path.  Ironically almost one year ago I made the decision to stop cutting for a competition to focus on my health.  I find myself in that exact situation once again.

On Thursday, February 4th, I found myself feeling quite off.  I attempted a workout and when I went to trap bar deadlift 205#, a pull I could usually do 10 reps of easily, but I couldn't pick it up.  I could barely do six reps of 135# and I knew something was wrong.  As the day went on I had the most severe body aches and my temperature climbed to just over 102°.  The next day I had COVID-19 rapid test done and the results were negative, I thought it was the flu and decided to wait it out.  By the time Sunday came my temperature hit 103.4° and my newest symptom was that my glutes and pelvis became numb.  I literally could not feel my butt cheeks and when I went to the bathroom I could not feel myself having a bowel movement.

So I decided to go to a walk in clinic where they tested me for the flu, strep, respiratory panel and another COVID-19 test.  The COVID-19 test somehow never was reported but all the other tests came back negative.  I was super frustrated and had no idea what the heck was going on.  That night I woke up multiple times in pools of sweat and hoped that meant the fever was breaking.

Through all of this thankfully Bella had no symptoms and she was isolating in her room while I was isolating in mine.  She was so incredibly helpful and so were my family and friends.  Bringing us anything we needed and hanging it on our door.

When I got up Monday I was sad to see my temperature was still high.  At this point I was debating going to the ER.  That night my left leg went numb and I knew I couldn't keep waiting this out.  A very special person that has come into my life took me to the ER at 10pm and stayed with me the entire time, I was grateful for that, thank you Dustin you are an angel.  Having that unconditional support with me when I couldn't have that due to COVID last year for my blood transfusions and hysterectomy, it just made such a difference.

The St. Luke's ER is incredible, they had me in a room immediately and got started on trying to figure this out.  They did a full blood panel, another COVID-19 test and decided on a full spinal MRI due to the numbing issue I was having in lower extremities.  I don't do well with MRI's as I am extremely claustrophobic but they were able to give me something to help me relax and I had a two hour experience that was awful.  My temperature was 102.8° and my entire body was in so much pain.  Thankfully I did sleep through some of it but man the last 45 minutes were rough.

When I got back to the ER room I was worse off than before just from being overheated and feeling dehydrated.  I got some good meds at this point that helped me truly relax and feel a bit better.  The doctor came in with my results and he was surprised.  My T6-T7 in my spine had major inflammation which favored transverse myelitis.  The doctor was honest that he didn't know anything about the condition because it is so rare.  He knew I needed to be admitted immediately and to see a neurologist.  I must admit in our initial conversation he led me to believe it was something that would take away my ability to continue bodybuilding and I was heartbroken.  Having Dustin there to literally hold my hand as I cried hearing all of this was something I didn't realize I would need that night and I am forever grateful I had that.

They got me transferred to a room in the hospital and all settled.  It was 3:30am and visiting hours were over so I found myself alone.  The doctor who came to speak to me was incredible.  He had done research after finding out what I had before he came to speak with me.  When he told me I would certainly continue bodybuilding and get that pro card I just needed to adjust my timeline, I cried again.  He talked with me for a while and continued to reassure me that this was something I just needed to recover from, have a plan for that recovery and slowly get back to where I was before all of this.

According to the Mayo Clinic viral, bacterial and fungal infections affecting the spinal cord may cause transverse myelitis.  In most cases, the inflammatory disorder appears after recovery from the infection.

The frustrating part is still not knowing what virus I have had that caused this.  Never could I have imaged something like this happening.  I have never been so sick in my entire life and then to have this disease due to that virus, well it just blows my mind.  I allowed myself tears, I allowed myself anger at once again stepping away from a major goal that I am determined to achieve, for now.

My care plan has consisted of high doses of steroid via IV along with antibiotics.  On Wednesday the neurologist I was seeing ordered a brain MRI to rule out MS, which I was happy to do just to get that off the list of possibilities.  The MRI went just fine and thankfully everything was clear, I do not have MS!!!  Thursday a different neurologist was on call, Dr. Peterson.  He was the neurologist I initially thought I was going to see and I just adore him.  We discussed my case at length and he advised doing a spinal tap and I agreed.  

On Friday afternoon I had my spinal tap, I was scared at first but he made me so relaxed and talked me through every step.  The worst part was honestly the numbing shot he gave me that felt like a bee sting, the actual procedure wasn't bad at all.  There was was infection in the spinal fluid though but again we know I do not have MS or any other disease thankfully!  Dr. Peterson was hoping I would have more progress with the steroid though so he decided to add in IVIg therapy.  This therapy is used to help people with weakened immune systems to fight off infections.  IVIg gives you antibodies that your body is not making on its own so you can fight infections.

Saturday, February 13th I could finally feel my right glute, progress!  I had hoped to go home Sunday but they needed to keep me through Monday to finish the IVIg treatments.  Sunday was Valentine's Day, what an interesting way to spend it but it is one I will certainly never forget.  Monday we had my plan all set up, Dr. Peterson was having me go home and I would continue my IV treatments there for 14 days.  I was honest with him that mentally I was getting to my breaking point, I needed to go home and be in my own space with Bella and Hurley.  He completely agreed and I am grateful to say I was discharged yesterday and am finally resting at home.

They put in a PICC line which is a long, thin tube that's inserted through a vein in your arm and passed through to the larger veins near your heart.  Now we all know my body is stubborn so of course the procedure wasn't simple.  They first went with my right arm, gave me shots of lidocaine and began.  Apparently I have quite a few nerve bundles around my veins in my right bicep and every time she hit one it would send an electrical shock through my arm.  At one point my POTS kicked in and I was on the verge of fainting.  They stopped the procedure and decided to try my left arm.  It took two minutes and the PICC line was in, so much better!  

I do IV treatments every eight hours which I administer myself through the PICC line and will do this for 14 days.  I lost six pounds while I was in the hospital and my body feels very weak.  Thankfully I am mobile but it's strange with my left leg feeling constantly asleep.  They have no idea how long my recovery will be it could be weeks to months.  Each day I will be excited at any progress like finally feeling at least my right glute.

As with most things in life I have no idea why this happened to me.  I strongly believe in the power of the Universe and I am not questioning but rather I know my timeline needed adjusted for some reason.

I am truly grateful for the entire staff at St Luke's, again my experience there was nothing but incredible.  The nurses, doctors, specialists, techs and more have all been so kind and caring.  We have laughed at some moments, an attempt to put an IV in my right arm, which is the one I had blood transfusions in, and it couldn't go through my skin but rather bent the damn needle!  I can't thank them all enough for all of their care and kindness.

You better believe I will be back to doing what I love and lifting heavy shit, ok probably a bit lighter shit to start but you know what I mean, when I can!  This has been yet another bump in the road of my journey but I am going to crush my goal and hit that stage more ready than ever before!

Thank you to my family, my sweet Bella has been amazing through all of this taking care of things at home with some help and loving on the animals.  My parents who have been here when they can be and are constantly checking in along with my beautiful YaYa's, my siblings and so many amazing friends.  Thank you to Dustin, a truly special, one of a kind man who surprises me every day with his support and encouragement, doing anything and everything he can to put a smile on my face and remind me of the strong woman that I am.  The Universe has provided me with the most fierce tribe and I love each and every one of you with all of me!

My situation could have been even worse, I am grateful to be able to heal and fully recover.  I got this and my comeback will be epic, I believe in myself and know that I can get through anything.