Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Day My Body Yelled-- STOP!!!

"Go! Go! GO!!! Why are you stopping??? Keep fighting! Do...SOMETHING!!!"

He had me in a rape position-- face crushed into the hood of a car and legs spread out like a criminal about to get frisked. I knew I was done. The voices inside my head were screaming at me, "MOVE!!!" But my body was trapped, as if entombed in a cocoon, that no matter how hard I tried, the creature inside it was not going to be able to bust out.

The disgust and disappointment I felt was unbearable. Had this been a real scenario, that would've been it for me. The look on my instructor's face disheartened me even more. In his mind he was training a quitter and the worst part of it-- I'm no quitter! This happened around October 2011, and it marked the beginning of a three year journey that would leave me dumbfounded, at times discouraged, depressed, and finally, unable to care for myself, or the people I loved.

If you've read previous posts of this blog, I detail how I found Krav Maga, fell in love with the system, the challenges I went through to lose 50-60 lbs. before finally testing out as a Level 1 Krav Maga Instructor. Unfortunately, I never came to the full realization of teaching a class, because shortly after that my body gave me the big fat finger and said-- ENOUGH!

I haven't written since then, not because I was embarrassed...well who am I kidding? That's part of it...but the mental fog, depression, and chronic fatigue I fell into after that didn't give me the motivation to put thoughts into words and paint my words into pictures that were coherent enough for people to understand.

What I failed to chronicle was the incessant joint pain I felt on a regular basis through this process, despite having lost all that weight. I suppose it was pride that got in the way with that, after all, I fell into the trap that every athlete with the no-quit mindset falls into, which dictates one to take to heart the often called mantras of: "Suck it up PRINCESS...NO PAIN NO GAIN... Put on your big girl panties and KEEP going."

Don't get me wrong, it's a great attitude to have, especially when training, but when it gets to the point that you begin to ignore your body's signals, there is a real danger there that leads to devastating consequences. Those signals came in phases and they started much sooner than when I started training in Krav Maga.

It began with incessant allergies I never had before, but I blamed it on having moved to a different city in the year 2000 from a coastal salty air region to central Texas where all sorts of pollen dominate the air. Then came the unbearable swelling in my hands when I got pregnant with my first child. My first doctor dismissed it as water retention and promised it would go away once the baby was born. Baby came, breast fed and grew, but those hands never stopped swelling.They swelled and ached so severely I couldn't make a fist or close my hands. Depression and weight gain crept up on me and when I started having joint and back problems at 198 lbs. I said enough was enough. I joined Krav Maga because I felt I needed to do something drastic to lose all that weight.

Losing the weight took...FOR...EVER! But I managed to get down to 148 lbs. What dumbfounded me was
Intense bruising from instructor training
that the joint pain never went away, and I thought that at some point, being lighter on my feet would eventually make things better. Everything felt like a struggle, especially when it came to running, which by the way, led me to come to the solid conclusion that the only time running should take place were:

1.  You're running away from a pack of dogs
2. You're hunting buffalo, or getting away from buffalo, but even the Native Americans at some point mastered horse riding for a reason
and...
3. There's a zombie invasion in your city and you need to light a fire up your butt to get away.

My feet burned and my calves locked every time I tried to run, and I started tearing ligaments I thought would've torn when I was at my heaviest. Injuries and bruises took longer to heal and the weight started creeping back. My kidneys would ache from intense workouts and my ears started to ring.Then came the constipation that was simply--just---horrendous. Yes, I'm over-sharing, t.m.i, etc., but if I'm not completely honest and realistic with what happened, I'm never gonna help people who are experiencing similar issues, ergo...can we get over it, deal with it, and move on, please? Let me tell you, that nothing gets me crankier than being backed-up, not just one, but up to three days. Many of the women in my family have this problem, and apparently many women in general seem to have this issue. Nothing made me more green with envy every time my husband had a call to drop the kids off at the pool. My guy is so regular, he could probably do it on command. Grrr!!! Me...I was lucky when the time did come, and then utterly disappointed when it did happen. I don't know about you, but when I go, I'm not in the business of dropping deer pellets, but unfortunately, that was the extent, at times, when it came to going. There were times when I would have a smooth move, and it was as if the heavens had opened up in the sky, the sun was shining, and angels were singing. Yes...it was a glorious day when those moments did come, but they were few and far between.

So, I was working full-time, playing single mom to a rambunctious little one, training about 2 hours every day, eating right, but nothing changed. When I woke in the mornings the swelling on my feet was so intense, I either had to crawl to the bathroom or grab on to the walls for support.

"This shouldn't be that hard," I told myself. After all, there were women at the center where I trained who were in their forties and they made working out look so easy and pain free, all while looking simply amazing. These women didn't sweat, they glistened when they exercised. With three years into this, why... was I- not -GLISTENING? At this point, I should've at least been sparkling sweat. I mustered on, and told myself that it would only be a matter of time, and perhaps more weight loss would make things easier. 

Even my legs bruised easily
Despite not fully healing from a knee injury, I decided to test for instructor (See post). Had it not been for the steroid medication I took for inflammation, I don't think I would've survived the intensity of that test, which puts you under incredible amounts of stress. But little did I know that like most steroids, that same medication taxed my adrenals so severely that when I got back, my body-simply-QUIT.

Bed-ridden for three days, with terrible nights sweats, I was confused as to what was going on . "It's the age," I thought. "It's probably going to take me longer to heal than every one else." Three days turned into a week, and a week turned into a month, a month into a whole summer. Mental fogginess greeted me with a vengeance every day, and I couldn't remember what I did the day before. Everything taxed me; the littlest things would set me off, and the weight kept on coming back. Despite watching what I was eating, it was as if my fat cells were self-replicating through mitosis and having a free-for-all buffet and lounging on my mid-section.  Needless to say, I spent the summer of 2013 performing the most basic and necessary functions just to keep my kid fed and dressed, but I spent most of it in bed. The day my little one found me on the floor outside my bathroom because I felt too weak to walk...no, that's an understatement... too weak to even crawl to my bed... was the day that I knew I needed to find a new doctor and do something about this. I questioned if I was depressed at the time, but I didn't feel there was anything to be depressed about, after all,  I had a beautiful man in my life, who had just proposed, an adoring child, and things should've been moving forward, not backward. I refused to believe that this was all in my head, that the blood tests were normal, that there was nothing wrong with me. I knew myself, how active I was and whatever this was that was sucking the life out of me, needed to get resolved.

My mind and my spirit was screaming for answers and for the first time in my life, I realized I only had so much time left on this earth, and I sure as hell wasn't going to spend it feeling this weak. I've always been a person who was very driven. Any goal I set, I would accomplish. Nothing stopped me. But the summer of 2013 was the summer my body yelled--STOP-- and for the first time in my life, I was being forced-- to listen.

Friday, May 31, 2013

When Heart Wins Over Matter, Part 2

May 16th, 2013, after three years, since the first instructor try-out, the long awaited day of coming to Phase A ( Level 1 instructor certification test) had finally arrived. My knee seemed to be holding up nicely up to this point, but I started medication to keep inflammation down as a precaution. Everything was packed and loaded into our rental van:

Clothing: check
Food: check
Snacks: check
Drinks: check
Gear: check
Kid's Stuffed Bumble bee: check

Kid's Bumble Bee??? My kid gave it to me to help remind me why I was doing this, just in case I had a temporary, last minute epiphany, gained some sanity, and decided to run away during the test. I say SANITY, because anyone would have to be just slightly disturbed or insane to put themselves through this much stress... for...wait for it... FREE! I think the only time I ever did that was when I was in labor, and that was kind of a take it, can't leave it, no refunds, kinda deal!

I NEEDED to do this, not just for myself, but I have another little pair of eyes who is constantly watching what I'm doing. Someone once said to me that kids may not always be listening, but they are always WATCHING! I don't want to be one of those mothers who projects the pressure of success on to her children because somewhere in her life, for whatever reasons, didn't meet or accomplish her dreams. It's important that while I'm telling my child that it's okay to take risks, finish what you start, persevere under difficult times, I too, am walking that talk and making it real to this little person.

Was I nervous on the day of the test? Scared, perhaps? Of course. I wasn't as fit as most of the guys in the room, especially the females, of which there were two others, and I could feel the pressure of not failing stirring inside me. After all, I told Chief Instructor Vein that I wasn't going to fail him either (see Part 1). I HAD to open my big mouth! I couldn't shut up and just take it: "Just get me there," I said, "and I would handle the rest," I recalled.
Brave soul, Josh Vega, took one for the team.
His wife has such a wonderful sense of humor,
she made him this special cup!

So what was it like? Very intense! We started with warm-ups and teaching. I taught headlock from the side and was assigned to teach kick to the groin. I suppose I did a good job, since Josh Vega, one of my partners, related afterwards that he could still feel the kick, not on his groin, but still nagging him all the way up and right behind his eye. Sorry! Ooo, I forgot...there are no sorries in Krav Maga. I take it back Josh! (*whispering aside: who am I kidding, I really am sorry I hit you that hard, and I hope you can still have plenty of children later on- wink*)

The most difficult part of the test, and I think most who have taken it would agree, that it's the drills. You are
placed in a position of disadvantage and have to defend yourself with any of the attacks that come your way. There was one that I felt I was done for, but kept going anyway. We were asked to do a burpie, kick your feet forward in a sitting position right after, and then rise from the ground to execute combatives. After like the tenth one, I was like, "You gotta be freakin' kidding me?!!! I gotta keep going??? I'm gonna pass out right  here on the floor and they're gonna have to carry me away in a stretcher. Oh GOD! I'm not wearing any clean UNDERWEAR! CRAP! Why can't I follow my own advice?!" Yes, mom's actually think of things like that. Well, seeing that I didn't bring an extra clean pair, I forced myself to keep going. Moments went by and other things happened. When working the defenses, if you're the person attacking, you're suppose to not stop until you've been put down to the floor. Do it in a room full of raging testosterone, when the adrenaline is shooting off the ceiling, and it's going to get CRAZY Chaotic! Not only did I get kicked in...ahem...that's right...THAT place--and by the way ladies-- it doesn't matter how much padding you're wearing, that kick will double you over and help you gain a new sense of respect for the pair these poor men have to carry around forever. My partner, of course, felt horrible, but in Krav Maga we have a wonderful word called, SWITCH, and I knew that soon it would be MY TURN to defend, so I didn't hold it against him. But I digress, after getting kicked you-know where, I caught my breath, sucked it up, and kept going before the next set of events. At one point, I crashed down to the floor with an audible THUD. As I was making my way up, another member of my team crashed right into me. I heard my neck go CRACK, braced my hands to turn away from the tackle, and another guy from the opposite end backed up and smashed my finger-- HARD! SERIOUSLY?!!! My chiropractor was going to have a field day with this one.

"What did you do this time?" he'll ask, arms crossed across his chest, I'm sure.
"Umm.." scratching me head, "I got tackled... and... some other dude, smashed my finger?"
"Tsk...tsk!" He'll say, head nodding disapprovingly.
"Oh, shut up and adjust me, I keep you in business!" I'll spew.

With the exception that the medication dehydrated me and cramped my foot so badly I had to stretch it out, I knew that if I stopped, I would lose momentum and eventually give up. Besides, my whole team kept cheering for everyone to keep going, and I couldn't have been prouder to be amongst them, nor could I let them down. I knew what my mind was telling me, but I had to find the heart to pull me through it. I remembered to take it a step at a time, fall back on the technique (thanks for that Charles), and somehow, I was able to keep going. Memories of some of the hardships over the past three years flooded me, and I remembered how much of this test closely resembled my life. I couldn't let it beat me. Giving in now would mean giving up on this journey, and I didn't come this far, learning from the defeat of my injuries and unexpected circumstances to raise a white flag.

There are going to be moments like you feel you just simply can't take or handle any more CRAP! You're tired. You're worn. AND you just-can't-go- any further. That's life, isn't it? We never quite seem prepared for the tragedies of it, and it usually happens when you are at a point of disadvantage or at your lowest. I've been there, still don't think I'm done, but I have to keep moving, even if I'm on my hands and knees, clawing my way up at a turtle's pace-- that's okay--I cannot let LIFE knock me out. It's what I appreciate about Krav Maga so much. You are taught to deal with stress by facing it head on, and aside from wanting to help people, I feel that it has also helped me in more ways than I expected. It's given me a resilience and strength I didn't know I had.

You're probably wondering when this woman is going to stop rambling long enough to tell us if she passed or not...well.. the answer to that is an emphatic YES!!! I did it! I am now an official Krav Maga Level 1 Instructor.

Proud to have been a part of this TEAM! Clowning around before we left.
Left to right: Anthony, Trae, Meghan, Me, Josh, Jason, Ricky







Thursday, May 23, 2013

When Heart Wins Over Matter, Part 1

I'm just a mom. That's all. I look around me and every one in the fitness room is either half my age or twice as fit. Suddenly, a wave of self defeating thoughts hits me like a Tsunami and they begin to drown out the sound of my own fast-paced, beating, heart.

"What am I thinking?!!!" I ask myself. "How in the world am I going to keep up with these people? Just look at those two guys with Arnold-sized arms and svelte bodies.

Suddenly, the fitness instructor starts barking jumping combinations: "JUMP up! Burpees! DOWN! OPEN YOUR LEGS AND BRING YOUR KNEES TO YOUR CHEST WHEN YOU JUMP! Come'on...IT'S-- EASY!!!"

"Umm... sure! for... YOU!!! You weigh like 98 stinkin' pounds!!! I could pick you up, boomerang you across the room, and you'd come right back to me cause you're so light and aerodynamic." Suddenly, my thoughts defer to writing a book about the 101 ways I could do that, but nonetheless, I manage to move my heavy-lead feet off the ground,and I start wincing from what seems like crystals digging into my heels. We are then asked to sprint around the building and a flood of fluid rushes to my calves and my muscles begin to contract in painful waves, making them stiff like concrete, and I begin to slow down. I make it around the building and I'm asked to toss a 65 lb bag over my shoulders. My quads are now-on- FIRE!!!

"Just walk out now and save yourself the embarrassment," says my head.  Another distant voice begins to nag on the opposite ear and whispers something someone once told me, "You could never be an instructor...you don't have the command presence..."

Mad is what I get! A wave of solidarity drowns them out what I'm thinking, and I become resolved. I'm reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King, If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, keep-moving-FORWARD!" I tell myself that even if I'm the last one there, crawling on my hands and knees, I'm gonna finish this, and by the grace of  what appears to be God's power, I do.

This was my second tryout for the Krav Maga instructor apprentice program, and since I didn't make the first cut months before, I was determined to make it this time around. Losing the weight had definitely been a long, drawn out process, and it seemed like I had finally gotten to a place in my life where I was moving forward.

Then I tore my medial tendon on my foot, November 2011, and I was back to where I started. Things compounded with  the
stress of a pending divorce, losing my home, being a single mom, health issues with arthritis-like symptoms, and on came the weight back on, all over again. Getting up in the mornings required a list of prayers and positive thoughts that kept me going: "You're smart, strong, and brave! You can do this...God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers!" I'd repeat this in front of the mirror every day, even if there were times I didn't believe it. Yet, my goal towards becoming an instructor seemed further and further away.

I welcomed January 2013 with a positive attitude, knowing that this would be the year I would go to Phase A, the Level 1, Krav Maga  instructor test. During a sparring session, I tore my MCL on a buck and roll. I was back to where I started, and my confidence level plummeted. After licking my wounds, I resolved myself to HEAL! Even Instructor Temple Vein (see story You Want Me to Kick Him Where?) was concerned. "I'm not concerned about your skill, but I'm afraid you're going to get injured he said! Your partner is going to MAUL you!"

What do you say to that? "Ummm...thanks?" *chuckle*chuckle*wink*wink*

I cycled-- ALOT!  One particular female instructor who I HIGHLY respect and admire took it upon herself to give me a personal daily workout and diet program. The healing process began. Instructor Temple Vein kept expressing his concern about not making it out alive. It's funny, but I think in his way he was trying to tell me he was worried about me...I hope! Aaaah... Can you feel the love?

One day, I had finally had it and said, "Have I EVER disappointed you?! You get me there, and I will do whatever it takes, even take medication to keep me in one piece." That was the end of that discussion.

It didn't matter. I started this, and I was going to finish IT!

(To be continued...see Part 2)