Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Grief and Loss, Pandemic Prose, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Prozac in the Time Of Pandemic

Dear Reader:

I woke today to find, with a quick look at my social media feed, that it’s Mental Health Awareness Week . How appropriate, I thought as I swallowed one 20mg Prozac with my morning coffee. That’s not the first time I started my day with a little help, but it’s the first time in nearly a year.

I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with Prozac for twenty years. I filled my first prescription a month after learning of my younger brother‘s terminal cancer diagnosis. At the time, I didn’t have the luxury of pondering the merits of antidepressants. It was necessary.

I was a stay at home mom with a four year old daughter. I had to function reasonably well so that I could take care of my girl. Children can really help to clarify things in life. Decisions become easy.

I did express concern and ask my doctor about how I’d get off the medication when the time came. But, it’s the type of question that you ask even though you know there isn’t a good answer. My brother was given three months to live. He lived for a year. I needed both counseling and pharmaceutical help during that year and in the year that followed.

I don’t remember when I made the initial decision to stop taking the meds, but l remember other moments through the years when I either resumed use or discontinued use. Life goes on and there are challenges along the way. I have consistently believed that I should take the meds only if I need them. I experiment.  If life seems stable, I try to live without Prozac. Sometimes it works.

I have learned that, for me, a regular schedule of very intense activity can affect me positively both physically and mentally. During the time that I lived in Carmel and worked with Jonathan at Zone Fitness, I was able to remain drug-free.

Upon my arrival in Sacramento, I slipped into depression and had to resume my meds. In November, we celebrated one year in our new home. I was beginning to make friends with my new city and I felt better. I had established a new fitness program. My daughter was set to graduate in December with a job in…wait…can you believe it…Sacramento. Life was good.

That brings me to three days ago when I started to cry a lot. The week had brought a few minor interpersonal irritations, news of the death of one of my daughter’s favorite teachers and an injury to my right leg. Plus, there’s this pandemic! Maybe, I was feeling exactly as I should?

I paused and pulled out the old familiar tool box.

  1. Am I reluctant to leave the house?
  2. Has my personal grooming ritual fallen off?
  3. Am I schlepping around in sweats and napping often?
  4. Am I retreating from social life?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

The threat of COVID-19 has changed so many things including the criteria for determining if I need medication. But, I didn’t need to take a deep dive to find my answer. I knew the answer at a gut level. And, I am blessed to live with a man who has known me since I was 16 years old. I had only to ask the question: do I seem off?

I am a woman who has everything: a loving spouse, a wonderful daughter, and a beautiful home. I also have a mental illness. I am depressed.

In the past when I’ve written about this topic, people have commented: “Oh, how brave of you!” I’m still not sure how to respond when I hear that. I can, of course, see that the comment is meant to be a compliment. But, it makes me sad, nonetheless. Why I wonder is mental health still a taboo subject? If I said I was suffering from high blood pressure (I’m not), you might say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” But, I don’t think you’d call me brave for revealing it.

I don’t think I’m “brave.” But, the fact that there are people who do, keeps me coming back to the subject. I feel compelled to share my story if it helps anyone. Today, I decided that I need to take care of myself. Adding Prozac back into my daily routine is one way to do that.

Best,

Michele

Pandemic Prose, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Banana Bread in the Time of Pandemic

 

warm banana bread

 

Dear Reader:

Indeed, it is quite difficult to be anxious or sad or anything but satisfied while enjoying a piece of banana bread, dotted with melting chocolate chips, warm from the oven and prepared by one’s lovely daughter. Mmmmmmm….sweet… for the moment.

The truth is: I am blessed. My pantry is full. I’m locked down with my husband and only “child.” I’ve got three long haired miniature dachshunds, wonderfully caring and supportive neighbors and a beautiful garden, courtesy my husband. I have every reason to be grateful. And, I am.

And, yet one can juggle many emotions. Blessed, yet stressed.

We have now lost 64,000 people in less than two months. Nearly 2,500 people die every day. The last time I remember viewing death tolls on a daily basis, I was a young teenager and we were involved in a needless conflict in Vietnam. I recall one of my heroes, Walter Cronkite, coming into my family room five nights a week with the grim numbers, pictures and stories.

Now, I can not help but express shock every time I look at the ever increasing numbers. We’ve lost more people in six weeks than the Vietnam War took in 19 years. Those numbers sometimes make sleep difficult. One night I dreamt that Gavin Newsom was not the Governor of California, but instead the President of the United States. Dreams dashed, at 2:30 in the morning, I found myself ordering toilet paper, bleach and a bit of chocolate from Walmart. I try to avoid the temptation to view the latest news on CNN or the New York Times in the dark of night, but most times I can not stay away. There is no good news, it seems.

I am one of the lucky ones.

And, yet, I worry. My 90 year old mother in law called yesterday to say she felt unwell. She was experiencing some of the symptoms of Covid 19. She is residing at a retirement community two and a half hours from my home. (Why mention that? Doesn’t matter. We can’t be there.) The on-site nurse visited her in her apartment and told her that they could not transport her to get a test. She’d have to drive herself or travel by ambulance. The trip was only a mile down the road and so she drove and took a test and was told she’d get the results in a week. The reality is that there is no medical intervention with this disease until you can’t breathe.

From my front porch where I go for a change of scenery, I watch neighbors and passers by. During the early days of the stay at home order, we were all so diligent. But the introverts are now having trouble consistently maintaining six feet in distance. These are the people who are the most fun at parties. We all know them. Some are young and seemingly healthy, others are in high risk groups. I look away.

It is one thing for me to worry, but a far worse thing for me to know that my daughter is worrying. And, of course, she is. I love to chant at her, “you’re trapped with us,” in my sing-songy way. She was two weeks into her first post-college job and just beginning to search for an apartment when the pandemic hit.

She’s been working on a group project with a co-worker in a similar situation. He’s living in his family home after transferring from another city. He’s trapped, too, but his parents are “even more elderly” I’m told. When they aren’t talking work, they’ve shared concerns about the day they’ll return to the office. They are both worried they’ll expose those they love to the virus.

There are so many who are suffering so much now. And, this weighs heavily on me. I’m a doer and so I search for ways to help. And, of course, there are always small things one can do even from one’s home. These are the acts that help me to cope.

And the good moments. There are still so many to enjoy. As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’ve  actively managed my mental health and well-being in the 20 years since I slipped into depression as a result of my brother’s cancer diagnosis. I am currently drug-free. But as my doctor says, “you’re ahead of the game…you’ve got a drug that you know works for you.” My friend, Prozac. I know it’s there. And, I’m confident I’ll know if I need to turn to it again. I’ll do that without hesitation. Just one more thing to thank the brilliant scientific minds for.

But, in the meantime, I’m reminding myself of the wisdom gained from a special counselor who over several years of weekly visits gave me wise advice to turn to in so many situations.

I can imagine her sitting across the room from me now.

“I really have no reason to feel sad when I am in such a good place compared with so many others,” I’d begin.

“It’s a pandemic, the first in our lifetimes. I’d say your feelings …anxiety, worry, concern, sadness…sound reasonable. And, so you must…”

Make friends with the feelings,” we’d say together.

“And give yourself permission to let in the joy, wonder and beauty that life offers…still.”

She was such a wise woman. Gone but still helping me live my best life. I refer to her as one of my “angels,” the people who have lived in my world for a time and made it better forever.

And so, I’ll begin another day at home appreciating my life and allowing my feelings to  come and go. I’ll get by in the same way I always do…with the love of family and a little help from my friends, sweetened by my daughter’s presence, and of course, her banana bread.

Hugs,

Michele

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Pandemic Prose, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

An Unforgettable Birthday

Dear Reader:

For weeks my friends admonished me in strong tones that I simply must do something for my birthday this year.

“It’s a milestone birthday,” they reminded me. “You need a party!”

I enjoy gatherings with bubbly and cake and music. But, for some reason, I held back. It wasn’t because of the dread of turning 60! I have a rather unique way of dealing with the decades. It has puzzled my daughter for years.

“You are the only person I know who rounds UP your age!”

It’s true. It started when I was 28; I’d tell people that I was 30. And, so 38 became 40, 48 became 50 and well, I’ve been saying that I’m 60 for two years now. I’m not sure why I’ve done this. Maybe I felt it would help me adjust to the swift moving decades or protect my fragile ego. (My ego’s not that fragile, though!) In any case, I was prepared to celebrate another birthday, but I could never have guessed how I’d be celebrating it.

Like the rest of the world, we’ve been instructed to stay home to control the spread of coronavirus. But, as you can see, I left my house…safely! My neighbors all joined me for a toast, from our respective front yards, at 5:30 p.m.

I was in by 6 p.m. filling my glass with Cal Poly student made Pinot Noir to pair with my cheese pizza. And, we did have cake…three tiny cakes! I won’t forget this birthday. And, for a good long while, I’ll remember to be grateful for the simple things. Here’s to health, family and friends!

May you all remain well,

Michele

Creativity, Flowers, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Voice…

IMG_2192

Dear Reader:

Last you heard I’d found my voice. Well, easy come easy go! I’ve been down with a cold the past week. It’s been doubly hard because I was mentally prepared to charge into 2020.

Last year was a difficult one as we moved from Carmel California to Sacramento. Everything changed. I slipped into depression and gained ten pounds. I’m feeling stronger and ready to chase the attainable yet challenging goals I’ve set for myself.

But, I’m currently practicing patience. Life is like that. At 59 years old, I’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned. The year is young. It’s only beginning and I hope to flower, in time, with proper care.

All the best,

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older, Quotations

You’ve Got to Have Friends!

It’s the friends you can call up at 4am that matter.”

-Marlene Dietrich

 

Dear Reader:

I’ve been very quiet lately and the friends who know me best have guessed why. Nearly four months ago, my husband and I moved from Carmel to Sacramento and I still haven’t quite caught my breath. Despite the fact that I love my new home and neighbors, I’ve felt overwhelmed, disoriented and sad. So, I’ve retreated …which is my way. It’s particularly easy to do that in the darkness of winter.

I haven’t wanted to share my unhappiness with others because it seems incredibly unwarranted. But, I began reaching out to my friends this week and they’ve reminded me of some basic truths.

Change, even positive change, is difficult.

My lovely friend waited until she was 50 years old for the right man to appear and she married him less than a year ago. Now she’s adjusting to her new home, role and life. She’s lost her desire to create and, as she put it, entered a period of “hibernation.” She wrote: “No doubt you and I will move through this season ( it’s just a season, after all) and blossom with new insights and greater creativity …in time.”

Your problems may not be BIG problems, but you’re entitled to them!

One of my friends lost her home several months ago. Just as wildfires were gobbling up California, her home was destroyed when a chemical fire spontaneously combusted in her garage. She was on vacation and got the news while she floated on a boat beside her husband. She’s negotiating with the insurance company who insists the value of her lost home is $80,000 less than the construction company does.

I felt guilty complaining that the carpet we had installed the week before we moved in was going to have to be ripped out and replaced due to an incredibly poor install. And yet, all she had to offer was compassion. “How frustrating!” she said after agreeing that moving was a major upset.

Each stage of life offers rewards and challenges.

One of my dearest friends is feeling the loneliness that comes from having grown children and a husband with a demanding career. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known and so it pains me greatly to hear her express doubt about her purpose. I wonder silently if it isn’t enough that she is such a generous person.

And finally, we’ve all got problems! Friends are there to remind us that we’re not alone.

May you all be blessed with friends as good as mine!

xo,

Michele

 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Pancakes, Christmas Lights and Rudolph to the Rescue!

Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out! That’s my handsome husband on the right.

Dear Reader:

I woke up with the “moving blues” today. I was not alone. My husband passed me in the kitchen transferring items from one spot to another and then back again and asked how I was doing. I think he knew.

“Moving is a drag!” I responded. “And, you?”

“I was thinking the same thing. Let’s go out!”

I’ve got to say banana blackberry pancakes can do a lot to improve one’s disposition! They fueled us throughout the day until we needed another diversion. It wasn’t hard to find one; we simply stepped out our front door and walked the neighborhood.

We live in an old part of the city that’s known for decking the halls big time! People walk our block, drive our block and rent carriages to trot down our block to see the lights. We’ve managed to decorate a bit and we’re gathering ideas to step up our game next year.

When we returned home with cold noses and ears, I was happy to see that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was just showing on t.v. My husband kindly agreed to indulge me as I sang along to my favorite childhood Christmas show.

Moving is still a drag and I still haven’t found the perfect organizational system for my new pantry. But, I’m reminded of the simple truth: All work and no play make Michele a very dull girl! Here’s to pancakes, lights, fantasy and the companionship of a lovely man!

What are you doing to balance your life during this busy season, dear reader?

Michele

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Dead Bugs!

IMG_9808
Me engaged in a dead bug hollow hold with RBG to give me strength

Dear Reader:

Let me just warn you! Be afraid; be very afraid of the “dead bug!” Never heard of it? It’s an anti-extension core stability exercise. When you perform it, you look like a bug lying on its back, legs in the air, dead. This explains its strange name. But, believe me, you’re not feeling dead; if you’re doing it correctly, you’re feeling pain!

Sit-ups and crunches were once the preferred way to get tighter abs and a slimmer waistline. But, today exercises like dead bugs and planks are growing in popularity, because they call on your muscles to work together without placing any strain on your lower back. They’re easy to perform, too. You simply assume a position (the correct one) and then hold it and hold it and hold it while time seems to stand still!

My time…my bug time is 20 seconds! My plank record stands at two minutes. Yes! You read that correctly! We’re talking seconds and minutes. Does not sound impressive, right?! Here are my impressive numbers:

  • 230 pounds on the leg press
  • 70-90 pounds (depending on life’s circumstances) on the mid-row
  • 60 pounds on the lat pull-down
  • 125 pounds using the hex bar for deadlifts

Let me just say, I’m strong! And, getting smarter, too. After nearly a year of personal training, I’ve learned that when my trainer throws down a yoga mat and asks me to drop to the floor, it’s going to be tough! “Simple” moves that require you to engage your entire body, toes to fingertips, are much scarier than any weight machine or any bug, dead or alive!

Give it a go using my personal trainer, Jonathan’s notes:

“The dead bug is one of those movements where it’s up to the lifter to make it difficult. You can go through the motion without engaging the core very much, or it can be one of the most challenging anti-extension drills in your library. So make sure you’re staying tight throughout the movement, and do not let the spine hyperextend or the pelvis anteriorly rotate.  A neutral spine and pelvis is preferred by a lot of professionals, but I’ve found that, for most of my clients, a flattened lumbar spine is most beneficial.  Hollow holds and dead bugs can help you appreciate what it  really means to own full body tension that can be used during challenging lifts like deadlifts and sqauts.”

I could add that all of it helps prepare one for moving day! First, I vote on the 6th. Then, I move on the 7th! Give me strength!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Marriage is Beautiful

alone2

Dear Reader:

What do you see when you look at this piece from the talented blogger at as much cake as you want? Are you happy for the couple on the street and sad for the one at the table? It’s all about perspective.

As a young woman, I would have looked at that man and woman sitting a million miles apart at the same table and thought: no way, never going to happen to me. I probably would have concluded that if it got that bad, I’d leave.

But, I’m not young any longer. I’ve been married for thirty-four years and I think the drawing perfectly illustrates the reality of long-term marriage. In my mind’s eye, the two couples could very well be one in the same captured at different moments in time.

The man and woman at the table may be poised to forgive one another. Maybe something quite unexpected will happen that will clarify both the beauty and fragility of life. Perhaps they will be drawn closer together in grief or joy. Or maybe the idea of a life without the other will suddenly become too difficult to imagine. Of course, it’s possible they’ll be separated soon, but it’s just as likely that the lovebirds on the street won’t stay together.

It’s hard to know about these two couples, but I do know that my husband and I have looked like both of them through the years. We’ve been close and we’ve been distant. We’ve appreciated each other and we’ve taken each other for granted. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s the tough times that can serve to really cement the union.
  • If you choose wisely in the first place (as I did), marriage is worth the effort.
  • Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and marriage is never perfect.

Hugs,

Michele

Inspirational Women, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

The Women of Zone Fitness; Meet Lynn

 

Lynn Lupetti
This is what 80 years old can look like!

 

Dear Reader:

Lynn doesn’t like it when I tell her that she inspires me. But, it simply must be said. I want to be like Lynn when I grow up! She’s opinionated, talented and strong. She supports other women who endeavor to be their best while offering a master class in how to age gracefully.

I like to think I’m following in her footsteps, as she began training with Jonathan at about the same age as I did. She’s now 80 years old and living life to its fullest.

“I pay Jon instead of doctors,” she says with a smile.

Three days a week she works out alongside men and women of all ages. All younger than her. Somewhat irrelevant in Lynn’s case. She cheers me on as I sweat and sing aloud on the arc. And, reads along as I chronicle my existence on the page, referring to me as Zone’s “wordsmith.”When I took a few days off from my cardio schedule, for a couple of weeks in a row, I had a note on my Facebook page from Lynn. Seems she misses me when I’m not there!

She’s the woman who tells other women, “You’re looking good!”

When she’s not in the gym, Lynn can be found in her home studio. She’s an accomplished artist whose work, depending on the subject matter, captures my heart or my imagination or both.

The works of Lynn Lupetti

I believe it’s a perfectly natural thing for people of all ages to look for role models. I did not have a close relationship with my mother and, consciously or unconsciously, I’ve always looked to fill my life with older women that I’d like to emulate. It’s nice to be reminded, through another’s example, that life is a gift and it should be treated as such.

Cheers to my friend, Lynn! Cheers to strong women of all ages.

Michele

 

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Inspirational Women, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

I’m Strong, Too!

Girl Flex

Dear Reader:

Since beginning my Journey to Strong last November, I’ve had so many women tell me that I’m an “inspiration.” I have certainly appreciated the support, but I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace the idea that I’ve inspired others to become fitter or stronger.

But, my friend Kristin’s daughter, Julia, gave me an amazing gift that I will forever treasure. She tapped me on the shoulder, halfway through dinner last night, and whispered in my ear.

“I saw you lifting weights on Instagram. I’m strong, too!”

I was filled with emotion. Sometimes it takes a child to remind us that:

  • we don’t need to be anything more than who we are to inspire others
  • it’s important to share the small and large victories present in everyday life
  • social media can be a force for good
  • AND, our daughters are watching!

Dear readers, venture out and do what you do best…and then share it!

Michele