I’ve never attended a twelve-step meeting, but I’m familiar with the one day at a time concept. I have often used it, or variations (one semester at a time, one month at a time…you get the idea) to deal with difficult or stressful events. I got through law school 16 weeks at a time. I told myself that I could do anything for 16 weeks, and having resolved to do so, I finished on schedule.
I started making some big changes in my life in March. There was no plan. I was afraid that I was going to die. I had a couple of scary medical events. I was hypertensive, morbidly obese, and full of excuses. With a thyroid disorder, a busted up leg, severe arthritis, COPD and likely close to type II diabetes, I was a mess and convinced that my sedentary lifestyle and obesity were beyond my control.
One day in February I was in a meeting in my conference room and the room began to get black around the edges while a ringing in my ears got louder and louder. I didn’t pass out. The event passed and I lived in far that it might repeat itself. Soon thereafter, I was walking through the grocery store with my husband when I broke into a cold sweat. I could feel my heart beating, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to crawl into bed and see if I lived until morning.
This pattern repeated itself a few times over the course of a few weeks. I did not seek medical attention because I was convinced that my physician would scold me about my weight. I had a gym membership that had been unused for at least 9 months. Several times I got dressed for the gym only to have a panic attack on the way there and scream at my husband until he drove me back home. I was convinced people would stare. I was convinced people would laugh. I was convinced that people would find me disgusting – and tell me so.
One day, I hit rock bottom. My health was scaring me. I was short-tempered, my family was bewildered, and I was depressed. I went to the doctor. He added a prescription for an anti-depressant to my list of meds and told me I needed to lose weight. I said I would (like I had each time I saw him over the many years before), and scheduled my follow up visit.
The next day, I decided it was time to “get busy living, or get busy dying.” I dusted off the treadmill (we won’t talk about the thickness of the dust layer) and took a step. I don’t remember how long it took me, but I walked a mile that first day. I went back the next day and tried jogging a little bit. I was thrilled when I was able to “sprint” 2.5 mph for 30 seconds. Day after day, I went back to the treadmill, and was amazed at the difference those 20, 30 or 40 minutes made in my attitude.
I began to share those little successes with my facebook friends. I found a iPhone app that tracked my runs. My feet starting hurting, and I asked my facebook friends to help me pick out a pair of running shoes. I received scores of comments and suggestions from runners and walkers who are scattered all over the country. Boosted by their well wishes, and filled with a sense that this time would be different, I entered a running store and plunked down $120 for my first pair of running shoes. On that day I posted a photo of my new kicks and decided “I am a runner.”
Having found the confidence to walk into a store for athletes without being met with scorn or laughter, I resolved to try the gym again. Armed with my new shoes, I made it through the door and through a circuit without anyone laughing, pointing, or (to my knowledge) posting a picture of my backside to their flickr account.
I have a hugely supportive circle of family and friends. They have “liked” and commented on my runs (which makes my phone cheer), they have put up with me posting photos of myself in spandex, shining with sweat and holding up a medal. I began posting for accountability’s sake, and along the way I have received many messages telling me to keep posting because I have inspired my friends to make changes in their own lives.
As I share my story, those friends keep telling me to write a book. I love the idea, but didn’t know where to begin. I finally know where the book is coming from. I am a survivor. I am a fighter. I am a listener. I am changing my life one day at a time, one step at a time, and one mile at a time.
My name is Betty. This is my story. It’s still being played out. I want to help you become the person you were meant to be. I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can tell you how I’m going about it, and perhaps you will find inspiration to do the same.
Every story has to have a beginning. You may see parts of mine in flashback, but for now, we’ll start here: “Once upon a time there was an unhappy woman who was scared of life. She was sick, and tired, and didn’t know where to turn. This is the story of how she took her life back.”