About Natalie @ While I Breathe

Closing in on 30 and branching out on rediscovering who I am... Pittsburgh through and through... lover of all things food, sports, nature and I will melt in the presence of a Great Dane...

A day without women

Today will be an interesting day – to see how people, celebrate, recognize or demonize International Women’s Day – including the movement of “a day without women”.  It’s 8:40 am and I’ve already seen the entire spectrum hit social media.  Women and men celebrating motivating women in their lives and women as a whole.  I’ve also seen a tweet saying a man would celebrate a day without women by hanging up on them, not yielding to them in crosswalks etc. Yes – seriously.

The argument over who and who cannot be a feminist will rear its ugly head and when Trump tweaks about respecting all the roles of women – I’ll admit I’m one of the ones who probably irrationally gets pissed at the word role.  My role – is to be an amazing person, not to be defined as anything else.

I will not boycott smiling today, and I admittedly forgot to wear red.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t stand with my fellow women who have been role models to me – showing be that I am capable of literally anything.

From my former boss who isn’t afraid to live life a little different and stand on her own two feet, my mom who has battled a lifetime of mental health difficulties and at 66 has come into her own, my 101 year old grandmother who is partially deaf and blind but insists on living on her own still, my friends – (excuse my while I write their “roles”) business owners, mothers, management executives, mentors, adventurers… and the one man who I think crafted me into the woman I am – my dad, who encouraged me to play little league with the boys through my teenage years, who wanted me to go to West Point (until a knee injury crushed his dreams), who told me I didn’t need anyone else to define who I was.

Just like the old saying goes – a good woman stands behind a good man…. but good men can also stand behind amazing women in some sense or form…

So today – I’ll be thankful for my role models and support systems and for those who told me I could break the glass ceiling some day, I’ll think twice before saying anything degrading about another woman, I’ll respect what I’ve accomplished and I’ll pass it along to my own mentees. Today I’ll be aware.

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No words

Odd title for a blog post wouldn’t you say?  But I legitimately could not put into words how these last few weeks have felt, the awakening I feel like I’ve started to undergo.  I still sit here wondering how to put any of this all into words.

I started walking on September 13th and it’s been a slow recovery – almost a month already and I still have days where I don’t want to move, but in reality I haven’t stopped moving since getting back on my feet.  Spending 6+ weeks reliant on others, not being able to walk and having the scare of a blood clot – taught me, for the first time in my life, what patience really is.  I learned to quell my anxiety and to be confident in who I was.

I’ve gained weight during the injury which sucks – no other way to say it, but you know what, I’ll get that taken care of when I’m fully back into my work out habits and until then, I still feel ok about me and I can be unhappy with certain parts of my body without actually disliking who I am.

I was lucky enough to represent Pitt during homecoming week at alumni events, to meet people I wouldn’t think I’d get a chance to.  I’m part of an amazing group putting on a wonderful conference next week, I’m officially mentoring graduate and undergraduate students and I feel like I can finally own who I am.

Today, Matthew Mayfield released his new album Recoil.  The album is deep, at times dark, and yet in so many ways full of hope and honesty.  I cried as I listed to some of the tracks, because I’ve always advocated that music is one of the most healing things to exist and that certainly doesn’t change with this album. It’s salt in the wounds followed up with a sip of bourbon that hugs your heart on the way down.

On Monday, I will see three women who spent 15 years working with my father.  One of who was the person who, unbeknownst to her at the time, told me that my father had died.  And looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  I cry just thinking about it – so I fully plan to be a disaster when I see them but I can’t begin to imagine how healing this will be.  I have not seen or spoken with them in almost 14 years, since my dad died.  As time goes on and I feel like the memories of him fade and fall further away, I feel blessed to be able to have an opportunity to spend time with people that saw him day in and day out for years.

Life is good.  And there’s nothing wrong with saying that a good life has it’s obstacles and sometimes makes you doubt yourself, but really, life is good.  I can’t really deny that anymore.  Instead it’s time to embrace it.

Life

Life can be complicated… ugly, beautiful, slow, fast, unknown…

Before having surgery last month I was so so so proud of myself for getting to a good place mentally and emotionally… I had dealt with the injury for 4 months already… I had gotten my finances on track… I was feeling good about myself…

Then I had surgery… week one and two were ok… then I started to realize how much weight I gained… then people started to go back to their lives (can’t blame them) and I found my days working from home extremely lonely… I realized how much energy it took to get up for a glass of water… and then I got the blood clot… and I had to change meds all around… and who knows how much of this spiral is due to that alone..

I’m afraid I’ll never walk right again or never be allowed to run again… I’m afraid I won’t be able to get the weight back off again… and I’m terrified because I never thought I’d feel this low ever again… And anytime I try to explain it to people they say well it’s only 12 more days, or it could be worse… And I just want to scream because at this point there are no words in my vocabulary to explain how I feel… and the thought of talking to someone about it gives me anxiety because I feel so STUPID that I let this happen…

I haven’t slept well in weeks, I feel completely trapped in my house and on my couch for that matter… I’ve completely lost my appetite and I feel like I’m constantly pushing off a pending migraine…

I don’t want to be like this but I have absolutely no idea in the world where to start to fix it… All I honestly want is my Dad… I would give the world to have him here right now…

The change in the tide

4 months ago I was broken… Life had gotten the better of me and grief had become my every day…

4 months ago I hit the lowest of my lows… and I faced them and admitted them…

4 months ago I realized that life will never stop because you’re out of control…

The low stayed low for a while… Around Christmas I just got mad… mad that I let myself crumble the way I did and that I had lost who I was…

Shortly after writing my last blog post I decided to fill my house up with some life again… I adopted a senior dog from a rescue… She’s been a saving grace… Gave me a routine again, helped me see my own self worth again… She sleeps in bed next to me… even burrows under the  covers occasionally…

I truly stopped caring that I was single, realizing that I just needed to learn how to love myself again after everything that had happened…

I opened myself up the the wonderous possibilities that life has in all ways… and I said, if something great comes along just say yes to it… What came along was finding me again..

I’ve begun to heal my relationship with food… I’ll never be 100% ok with all of that but I’m getting there… I get a sound breakfast in my system in the morning… I pack enough snacks and small munchies to make sure if I get hungry during the day at work I have something to eat… and I try to get a decent dinner in before too late at night…

I’ve now lost 65 lbs total… My goal is to lose another 15 by July 4th.  Totally doable in my opinion but I don’t obsess over it… It’s become an observation I’m embedded in.  I track my weight to see what foods impact me and how and I don’t get bent out of shape if I see a number bounce occasionally…

And I can do things I never thought I could… like hike a damn mountain…

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When the New Year came around… I was with a friend who is just a wonderful person… and I realize that I have good people around me now… and I entered the new year with no expectations… I want to be happy, healthy and peaceful… Content… Anything more than that is a bonus… I survived 2015… I’m going to be just fine…

Time to be honest with myself

Yesterday I posted to all the social medias that I had hit 50 lbs lost…. I hit that number 2 1/2 years ago too… then I gained 20-25 lbs back… and now it’s off again…. not in the right way though… and today I was down over another lb…

My life has turned into the biggest cluster I can’t even begin to put it into words… When I turned 30 in January sitting on the beach in Tortola I was so confident that this was going to be my year… I was going to own this… I knew I had a promotion coming, I thought that my personal, professional, emotional lives were all coming together and that it finally was making sense…

And then I started getting hit with the curve balls… I had a tough time with the anniversary of my dad’s death for some reason and it’s just been down hill from there… Minnie died… unexpectedly and suddenly… I had no time to grieve, just went through the motions… My relationship fell apart and I checked out, on vacation none the less… my promotion didn’t turn out like I had expected and all of the sudden I was unsure of the career I had been building towards for the last few years… Then the summer of the migraine set in… 2 months… pretty much non stop… a day where I’d be ok and then 3-4 where I just would want to go home and sleep… I continue to have some lingering health things that have me wondering if I need to be tested for some other things… another story for another day…

So I got tested for food sensitivities because it had to be something… and what I greatly feared was true… gluten, dairy, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes… all had to be cut… and then the reality of my addiction reared it’s ugly head…

For my entire life I’ve coped with food… you don’t get to 280lbs because you just like to eat… When my parent’s marriage fell apart I ate, when I was assaulted in HS I ate and ate and ate and when college kicked my ass I ate and when relationship after relationship failed I ate…

Now… Every food I binged on… Every food I over ate on the regular was what was making me neurologically ill… At first I was like it’s ok, I can do this… I found some great meals and rolled with it… and then stress settled in… my brain took over… and when at night all I wanted was a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or a cheese burger, I would shut down… instead of finding something to sub out I’d eat nothing… some days lunch is a banana and dinner is a glass of wine…

Mentally I’m completely broken… My blood pressure is out of control – ironic since one of my migraine preventative meds is a beta blocker because my blood pressure is actually LOW usually and so a side effect of the beta blocker is that it helps the migraines… I don’t sleep… I’m an emotional wreck… I force myself to go out and do things because I don’t want to admit that my depression is as severe as it is… Put on the face – don’t let people know you feel like you’re going to shatter inside…

I’m hearing “well if you weren’t so negative you could turn yourself around… and you have to look at things positively” and oh god I want to believe me I want to… I pray every night when I’m laying in bed wide awake… I remind myself that all of this will make sense that all of this is meant for a bigger reason… I am willing to accept medication… I have tried every holistic approach I can think of… and yet I feel like one giant disgusting sink hole sucking the life out of myself… and the next day I wake up and I go through the motions until I can go home and break down again…

I have amazing friends who continue to stand by me and yet I can’t help but feel so beyond alone every time I walk into my house… which is empty and hollow these days… I feel like I’ve lost my soul… to work so hard to overcome so much… to be in such a great place and now to feel like you have forgot how to cope with reality… I don’t want to put all of this out there… no one wants to make themselves vulnerable like that… but sometimes  you have to force yourself to be honest with yourself… I’m so disappointed in myself and ultimately what I’ve become this year… I feel like a fraud… this isn’t what 30 was supposed to be…

When you have no words

When I wrote the post Saturday night – my letter to Minnie I struggled to find words for everything I wanted to say.  To be honest I don’t remember much about Saturday other than the 4am phone call, being at the ER and a lot of other just blury things, phone calls from friends and family, packing for my conference, fitful naps…

All week the support has been amazing. Friends family coworkers all reaching out to see if things are ok… All, quite surprising to me, so aware of what Minnie meant to me… And sensitive to the void left in my life…

I’m so touched and so greatful for it all, so blessed that the love that surrounded Minnie was so incredibly expansive and that she touched so many lives… That in her short life she was able to impact so many and teach us so much… 

I will now have to relearn how to live my life… No more schedule based on medications or when she has to be out or adapting to an unexpected seizure… It’s going to be a hard transition… I’m going home today to an empty house… I’m not ready… But I’ve got to face the music… Life happens and with life comes loss… I was so blessed to have spent six years loving and being loved by Minnie and nothing can ever take that away…

  
  

A letter to Minnie

  

Six years ago I let Bob talk me into looking at adopting a Great Dane.  When I went on the adoption page and saw your photo, all stretched out on a couch with a bunch of toys in your mouth I said “her – I want her”. A few weeks later he showed up with you in the back car and my life would never be the same. 

I was convinced we’d change your name but when you climbed into the recliner – all 100 lbs of you we knew Minnie would stick.  Later that year when Bob and I decided we would split up I had a tough decision to make and I’ll never regret it for a minute.  I said you can take anything in the house.  I’m keeping Minnie and the TV.  And we slept on a futon mattress on the floor for a week but I had you and that was what mattered.

   

 

I’m sorry that I chose to have someone in our lives who didn’t love you like you deserved but I hope during those couple of years I loved you enough to make up for it.  And once again I never regret making him leave after you had your first seizure and he said he wish you wouldn’t have made it.  I’m sorry it took me so long to see it.

I’m so glad you had a chance to be loved by so many people, Melissa, Valerie, Bayley, Emily, Rob, Jody… The list goes on… I’m glad you had a grandma that spoiled you silly and a great grandma that called me today so sad that she didn’t get to say goodbye… I’m happy in the end that you had a Dad there that loved you more than you can imagine… That would have done anything for you… That was there with you to say goodbye…  

   

  

And you were a great sister to the brother you let sit on your face  

You were so smart, and a bit of a trouble maker… Bananas, really? Spatulas? I mean you chewed through a child lock once… When you wanted something there was no stopping you…

   

  

You taught me what it was like to love unconditionally again… You saved my life more than once… I would say I have to keep going Minnie needs me…  

You frustrated me at times but ultimately you taught me patience… You were there when I came through the door every day and every moment I got to spend with you was a blessing… Life will not be the same… I plan to bury your ashes outside under the bleeding heart plant that you never failed to roll over at some point each summer… And we’ll it’s a bleeding heart flower it doesn’t get much more fitting than that… You are and always will be my angel… Love you baby girl