Category Archives: inner voice
A few weeks ago, a friend and former client of mine, Kate, emailed me about an event her aunt was doing to raise awareness for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). She thought I might be interested in her aunt’s story, and once she told me a little more, I definitely was. You see, Lil Battle Long and her long-time friend Nicky both decided years ago to take the diet drug fen-phen (when it was new and hot and legal). Little did they know the kinds of complications it would cause down the line. Both of them, later in life, were diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH). Unfortunately, Lil lost her best friend Nicky two years ago to the illness, but she decided she would not take this loss lying down. She is swimming the dangerous Mississippi River on September 4th to raise funds and awareness for PH, and to remember Nicky in a powerful way. I had the chance to talk to Lil via email about her event, and here’s what she had to say:
HG: You’re holding an event to raise awareness and funds for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). First things first, what exactly is PH and what causes it?
LBL: Pulmonary Hypertension is the constricting and narrowing of the blood vessels around your lungs. This makes it really hard for blood to get in the lungs to collect oxygen, making the right heart work overtime, enlarging it, and eventually leading to heart failure. It is a rare, incurable, life-threatening disease. Anyone can have it; men, women, children, any ethnic background, any age. People who have it normally don’t look sick, just like people with high blood pressure. It causes chronic fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness and makes even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. The chronic fatigue hit me first. I was contracting building my house and I blamed it on that.
HG: What caused it in your case and in Nicky’s?
LBL: Four friends got together one Saturday afternoon and had lunch in 1992. In the course of conversation, we started talking about our weight and how they had come out with this new drug, fen-phen. I’ve buried two of those friends and one is now on oxygen 24/7. Mine was probably caused by fen-phen, but I also inherited leaking valves. My father had a leaking mitral and tricuspid valve. I have a leaking mitral, tricuspid, and just recently found out my aortic valve is leaking too. One more to go!!! Therefore the fen-phen lawyer has dropped my case because we’ll never know whether it was inherited or self induced.
HG: How did you get the idea to swim the Mississippi River instead of hosting some other fundraising event?
LBL: I’m very limited on what type of exercise I can do. I had a horrible accident several years ago that badly injured my left ankle and it never healed right. Then in February of this year I found out I had to have total knee replacement surgery on my right knee, probably due to the way I walked because of my ankle. During my recovery, my blood pressure dropped drastically and I had to have two blood transfusions. By February, I had already been in training eight months! I had to start over.
But to answer your questions, after losing my father and my best friend within months of each other (I was holding each one’s hand when they died) I was feeling terrible myself. I contracted Lyme disease and went undiagnosed for years. By the time I found out what was wrong (72 claims later) my brain had swelled so badly, I had blood coming out of my ears and Bells Palsy. A doctor in Mobile, AL, diagnosed me and got me in remission. I also had Lyme induced fibromyalgia, so I hurt all other. I sat in a chair and gained 100 pounds and went into congestive heart failure. It was time to see a cardiologist. She did an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization and diagnosed me with Pulmonary Hypertension.
Then one night, two years after her death, I dreamed about Nicky for the first time. As dreams go, it was weird. She was jumping up and down on a pogo stick, repeatedly saying, “Do something, do something, do something”. I literally woke up the next morning and told my husband I was going to build a pool. I did and went on a diet and lost 21 pounds in the first month (Mostly fluid). I have now lost 52 pounds.
I installed a Badu jet in my pool and the first time I tried to swim, I lasted three pitiful minutes. Now I swim sixty minutes, non-stop. I was swimming with my best friend one day and just popped up out of the water and said I was going to swim across the Mississippi River in honor of Nicky. Nicky and I both were event planners and always trying to out do each other, so I thought this would be the best way to honor her memory. Something huge!!! I did host another benefit, the gala. We had a live and silent auction, cash bar, great band, great food, and raised $41,844.00
HG: I’m a swimmer myself, so I thought it was great that you chose swimming for your fundraiser since so many people have done bike rides, runs, and walks for their causes. How did you and are you preparing for the big swim?
LBL: For eleven months, I read everything I could get my hands on about long distance swimming. I dieted, but found out I was dieting the wrong way. I got my hands on a book by Nancy Clark called, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and started following it to the letter. I have built a lot of muscle mass but I’m still losing weight slowly. I was always good at the breast stroke, so that was my chosen stroke. I wore goggles, nose clip, breast stroke snorkel and breast stroke fins. Then, after my trial run, I wrote this:
Swimming the Mighty Mississippi River
It broke my goggles; it tore my snorkel away from my mouth. My nose clip nearly drowned me because I couldn’t get enough air. In other words everything I thought had prepared me for over a year was useless. My heart was pounding I guess as hard a heart can pound. I swam in circles for fifteen minutes from being so disoriented I didn’t know up from down. That current is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
When I finally figured out what all I was doing wrong, I grabbed the boat (I was swimming with no life jacket or tether) and had to rethink everything I had learned.
First of all, you CANNOT keep your head under water and swim the river, thus the disorientation. Second, you have to spend money on a very good pair of goggles. You cannot do completely without them because my left eye where my goggles broke is almost swollen shut with sand! Third, keep your eyes on the prize, the other side! Fourth, if you ever get a little over halfway across, the current starts to help you instead of hinder you. It will begin to push toward the other side. And, most of all, fifth, stay calm! It’s hard to breathe when your heart in beating 90 miles an hour!
When I figured all of this out, I finally started getting somewhere. If I hadn’t spent that time going in circles, I probably could have made it three fourths across a very swollen river.
Next time I’ll be calmer. It didn’t help any that right before I went in the water the Cap’m and a media guest saw a four foot alligator! I really did NOT want to hear that.
When I got to the middle, I paused to look around. I absolutely could not believe that I was in the middle of that great river of ours. It gave me hope and I felt Nicky all around me. I was completely awestruck.
So now, at the eleventh hour, I am learning an entirely new technique! I have new flutter kick fins that have given me blisters on all my toes and hurt my stainless steel knee. I’m having to learn a new way of breathing, which is MOST important! It’s like starting all over again and I have only 15 days to learn it!
HG: Other than the health benefits, have you noticed any changes in yourself since committing to swim the Mighty Mississippi? That’s quite a feat!
LBL: I’ve learned when people in the past have called me hard headed, it was really true. I’ve learned that determination will get you anywhere you want to be. I’ve learned who my friends are. I’ve learned a LOT about family.
HG: How did you come up with the very catchy and clever title, ‘The Long Battle for Nicky’?
LBL: My name is Elizabeth Battle Long. I just used a play on words. After all, it is my gift to Nicky.
HG: It seems like the fundraising is going pretty well! Have you gotten a lot of support from the community and local media?
LBL: Oh my Lord!!! I live in a VERY rural area. The nearest “town” is 32 miles away, but The Delta is like no other place on earth. They take care of their own. People came from every community within 100 miles in support of this. I’ve been on TV four times. I even did a PSA. I’ve lost count of all the articles that have been written in newspapers and magazines. It’s been incredible!!! We beat the NATIONAL record for most money raised for PHA at one benefit. My original goal was $50,000 a year ago and I thought, yeah, right. But we are only $8000 away and we still haven’t had the event yet, where we’re selling t-shirts and catfish plates, while a gospel choir fills the air with music!
HG: Besides Nicky, who has been your biggest inspiration for the event? Who’s given you the most support?
LBL: The two other people sitting at the lunch table that day; Robert Chapman, who died in June of this year and Linda Oxley who is on oxygen 24/7. All of the heroes that painfully make their way to the PH meetings to see if there is any new hope for them have been a great inspiration. As for support, my Daddy Long (father in law), who is 92 years old, my sweet husband that I was only married to a year when I became ill, my friends who never doubted I would pull this off and my best friend, Alice, who was swimming with me the day I popped up in the pool and said I was going to swim the river. She never hesitated. She said,”OK, when and where?” I like that about her. I usually get asked if I’m crazy or wanting to commit suicide.
HG: Obviously your swim is in honor of Nicky, and is being held in order to inform more people about PH, but is there any other message you would like your event to convey?
LBL: I would like everyone who has a best friend to hug them on the 11th. However you can, be it by computer, telephone, or Western Union! I promise you, you never know when they won’t be there. And you’ll never understand how badly you will miss them unless you’ve been there.
HG: Can you recommend any resources for those diagnosed with PH and their families?
LBL: Yes, the best of the best, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. When I found out I had PH and decided to do an event, I Googled, just to see if there was such a thing. They gave me support in every way. They will answer any question you have about PH. They are yet cheering me on. They also helped me get sponsorship and sent me materials to put out at the gala.
HG: Anything else you’d like to tell us about the event or about your cause?
LBL: Just that although this has been a VERY publicized fundraiser, it is VERY personal for me. After losing both my father and best friend within months of each other I went through a terrible depression. My father meant the world to me and all of a sudden I didn’t have my best friend to talk to about it. This swim started because I was mad at Nicky for leaving me. I was there for her when she was sick, but she isn’t here for me. This swim is to say goodbye and to let her know it’s all right and I’m all right to move on.
HG: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about this, Lil! Best of luck in your swim, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!
Lil added this after answering my questions: Just found out ten minutes ago that a film crew from California is coming to do a documentary on my swim! It will also be a PSA on national television!
Are you or is someone you know suffering from PH? Had you ever heard of PH before now? To donate to Lil’s cause and support her in this incredible feat, head on over to http://www.firstgiving.com/lillong.
So I’ve posted a couple times already about how I’m not a foodie, and on multiple occasions I’ve let you in on the not-so-secret secret that I still have body image/food issues. Then a few weeks ago, I posted myconfessions as a personal trainer. And I’m going to post a few more here today. But unlike the confessions of my Catholic school days, I’m not going to ask for forgiveness or justify myself. And I am most certainly not going to do penance for them.
These are a few of the things I’ve realized I need to own up to — things about myself that I need to lay out there because they are who I am and what I do, and, well, sorry I’m not sorry about them. So what inspired this sudden show of bravado, you ask? What made me decide to own up to all things Heather without feeling the need to explain myself? Well my good real-life friend (we go wayyyy back, which is what I’m going to say when she becomes a ridic famous author) and blog buddy, Rachel, started the ‘Own It’ challenge, encouraging other bloggers to come out and state what they’re about, no apologies necessary. Hmm, I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that I am constantly apologizing for that I really shouldn’t be.
In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my happiness factor has gone up exponentially since I stopped asking for permission so much. And I actually remember having a conversation about this with Rachel on one of our many Starbucks dates back home in Michigan. Last year, I told people that I was quitting my salaried desk job to become a trainer. This year, Rachel told people she was up and moving to Texas. We didn’t ask if these actions were OK, and we didn’t give a laundry list of reasons for why we were doing them. And because people in general are so used to everyone (especially young women) asking if what they’re doing is right, this confused them. You mean you don’t care what I think? Nope, or at least not enough to change my mind. I’m forging on either way. Anyway, inspired by that conversation and by her post on it, here are some more confessions that don’t bother my conscience one bit. My opening declaration:
Since I’m a trainer, let’s start with something fitness related. I hate running in the summer. HATE. I do not like it at all. Running in 90 degrees with 80% humidity just so I can tell people I’m a real runner? No thanks. I’ve been one, and maybe someday I’ll be one again, but not right now. I like to breathe and not feel like I’m wading through the soup that is a Midwest summer. If I run at all during the months of June, July, and August, it is at the gym or at night, and I do it because I know how many calories it burns, or sometimes because I need a change. But you know what I would rather do for hours at a time in the summer? Bike or swim or dance or anything besides run.
Here’s another one: I am not a morning person. Props to all of you that are, but I get pissed off when people make it seem like you are a lazy, slothful person if your internal alarm clock doesn’t have you springing out of bed at 6am. Stop acting so damn self-righteous about it. I get just as much accomplished as you do, but I just do it later in the day. Give me a project to work on at 8pm and I’m way more inspired than I would be at 8am. I like my workouts later in the day too. I’m programmed this way, and I’m owning it.
For as much as I talk about loving the skin you’re in, I’m with Rachel on the fact that I would still like to lose weight, even if I do think I’m beautiful right now. And as much as I talk about how unhealthy I was when I was at my skinniest (not having a period is usually a bad sign, folks), I sometimes still look at pictures and remember how much control I had and how good it felt to slide that XS or S on without a snag. I will own that I feel that way, and I will also own that I still have some work to do, mentally and physically.
I also own that when fat talk starts with my girlfriends, I shut down. I do not respond, or I get quite curt, all of my response being two words or less — if that. I mostly do it because nothing about that conversation is healthy for any party involved. We don’t need to perpetuate the cycle of caring more about our jeans size than our actual mental wellbeing. But another part of it is that for the first time in my life, I’m not one of the skinny friends. And that sounds catty, I know, but I know I didn’t fish for compliments even when I was the skinny friend. It also hurts my feelings when my size-4 friends comment on how they need to ‘get rid of this flab’ because they are just ‘soooo disgusting.’ Gee thanks. By the way, thanks for being a bitch and not thinking about anyone else’s feelings before you opened your mouth.
I also jump up on my feminist and body image champion soap boxes pretty quickly, much to the chagrin of any males in my life. Sorry I’m not sorry.
I did a total 180 as far as careers go and quit my secure corporate job to become a trainer (with an unstable hourly wage) and a freelancer, and I put myself in a lot of debt doing so. I also freaked my parents out and made them wonder why they paid for a bachelors degree in English and Women’s Studies (take a guess at how many times I heard, ‘So what are you going to do with that degree?’) from a good school for their eldest daughter. I switched jobs again about a year into my gym job because it was so sales focused, and I refused to force people to buy training when they could hardly make their rent. Sometimes I worried that I had made the wrong decision going into training. But now I don’t regret it because I found a better fit that reminded me why I love what I do, and I love the freedom I have working at two smaller studios who really want the best for the clients. I stumbled along the way, and I still don’t know what I’ll ultimately end up doing, but at 25, I don’t need to yet.
Even though I’m a trainer, I do not live at the gym. And I won’t tell my clients that they have to either. I won’t tell them they aren’t allowed to drink, because I do it, too (give me whiskey or beer, and I’m ready to go!). I refuse to be a complete hypocrite with my clients, and I’m usually honest with them about how much I’m working out at any given time. Also, lately, some of my workouts have taken a backseat to seeing friends or a boy. But I’m good with this, because for a long time, it was the other way around. I still work out, but I don’t let it take it over my life. I like this, and I own this.
So now it’s your turn — what are you owning, what have you owned, and what are you going to start owning that maybe you were afraid to before?
So I know we usually hear those words around January 1st, but this is a different kind of ‘new year’ for me.
I’m turning 25.
Yeah, I know.
I can no longer claim to be in my early 20s, and I’ve officially hit my mid-20s. I can’t blame my age as much when I do ridiculous things, and I’m expected to be a little more responsible. On Sunday I will have officially been on Earth for a quarter of a century.
But I’m actually kind of excited about it. I know there aren’t many new perks to turning 25 (I can now rent a car. That’s something, right?) like there were when I hit 18 and 21, but I feel that up until this point I’ve sort of been teetering on the edge of adulthood, waiting for that certain something to tip me over. And although it’s just a date, I feel that June 20th is going to shove me out of feeling like such a kid. And that’s a very good thing.
That’s not to say that I won’t still be a complete goofball — afterall, that’s part of who I am. But I think that, to me, 25 will leave me feeling a little more sure of myself. A little less hesitant to take life by the horns. A little better prepared to run with whatever life throws at me. I’m no sage just yet, but I do feel that I’ve learned a lot –about myself and life in general — in the past year.
I quit my nice secure office job to try my hand at a completely new career path that I knew I would be much more passionate about. From this I learned that doing what you love can be hard, but if it makes you happy, it’s more than worth it. I started actually dating again, and I remembered what it was to open myself up, leaving myself vulnerable to heartbreak. I discovered I’m a lot more fragile than I ever knew, but also more resilient than I had imagined I could be. I made a lot of decisions on my own this year, and instead of asking people if I should do something, I told them. This meant dealing with the consequences alone as well, but I slept better knowing my choices were solely mine. Overall, with the many changes I’ve gone through in the past year, I found out I still have enough glue to patch myself back up when I start to crack. And that I have so much to be thankful for and happy about, no matter that I’m not exactly where I want to be in life just yet.
So what about this ‘new year, new me’ business? Well, I’ve changed so much in the past year, that I think it’s worth trying to continue with the education and evolution of Heather. I’ve got a lot I want to do this year, so there are things I’m going work on with me:
Be gentler with myself.
Sometimes I berate myself and tell myself that I haven’t done enough. But the thing is, I usually do try my hardest. And when I don’t I need to go a little easier on myself. If I wouldn’t speak to a good friend a certain way, then I shouldn’t speak to or treat myself that way.
Be more realistic with myself.
This means being honest with myself at all times. And if I haven’t done enough and I know it, then I need to admit that too. I know this sounds like the opposite of the previous statement, but I can apply the friend philosophy to this one as well. If my friend is being ridiculous and making excuses for herself, it’s my job to tactfully snap her out of it. So it’s all about finding balance. Being nice, but also not letting myself get away with silly things.
This actually goes with both of the above statements. I need to remind myself that I am capable of a whole lot. So I need to give myself pep talks here and there, being kinder to myself and building up my own confidence. I also need to be realistic when I think I can’t do something. When I’m being honest, I realize I’ve been through things a lot more difficult than things I’m doubting myself on. The scary talks, the job risks, the potential of falling on my face. I’ve already done them all and survived. I can do whatever I put my mind to because I’ve probably done it before.
Love myself for who I am right now.
Not for what I was in college or who I want to be by next year. But for every quirk, flaw, strength, and bit of potential I have this very second. I have to love me. For me. Right. Now.
Have any of you reached milestone ages recently? Are you approaching one? How did it or does it make you feel? Anyone else turning the big 2-5 soon?!
Happy Birthday to me!
And by that I mean the one you’re with allll the time – YOU!
Can I just take a quick second to mention how much this cover pisses me off? First of all, I am a huge Jen Aniston fan, and I feel like she has been painted as this lonely, crazy, desperate woman ever since she and Brad Pitt split. And even though People is apparently trying to make her look good with this article, it only feeds into this whole Brad, Angelina, Jen triangle gossip. And it makes Jen look pathetic, plain and simple.
And just a few things about the cover’s tag line: “Five Years After Brad”
a) Why are we commemorating this? Was Brad a natural disaster? A national tragedy? Any important moment in history at all? Not in my book. Yes, they were Hollywood’s ‘It’ couple, and no, I really do not like Angelina, but really? It was a divorce caused by an affair. It happens. It’s sad, of course, but it does happen. To regular people every single day. I realize they’re in the spotlight, but come ON. It’s time to get over it. In fact, it was time to get over it about four years ago.
b) Why isn’t it, “Five Years After Jen?” Because Brad seems to have it all together with his family? Because he left her? So what? Her career has been doing pretty well, and it’s not like she’s been sitting at home every day and night. She’s shown out and about with different people all the time, so I think she might be doing OK. Having that one person in her life doesn’t make her unfulfilled, and I really wish the media would stop suggesting that. Also, have you SEEN Brad Pitt lately? He’s looking slightly homeless, and apparently “sources close to” him are saying that his odor is getting slightly offensive. Soo, I think she’s got it together enough to shower at the very least.
c) I love how tabloids (whatevs, People, you are SO a tabloid) make it seem like every time a woman steps out looking better than before that it’s a breakup revenge. What if she just wants to feel good about herself? There’s a novel idea.
I realize that had nothing to do with health or fitness or any sort of tuning into your body, but it just had to be said. And you know what? Maybe she looks so fabulous these days because she stopped being so concerned with listening to all the static from other people, and just started turning the dial to Jen FM. How about we put THAT on the cover?
I’ve found that the only solution to this problem is something I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again: Learn how to say ‘no.’ Just one word, two little letters, but for some reason, it’s really, really hard for a lot of us – especially women – to say it, even when we truly want to. This idea should be put into practice all year round honestly, but we’ll take baby steps and start with the holidays. So here’s an idea: stop considering every other person on the planet’s feelings and start considering what you actually need to do to keep your sanity this winter.
If you’ve been invited to your eighth cookie-decorating party of the season hosted by your third cousin once removed, and you just totally need to go running instead or you’ll strangle the first kid who reaches across you for the vanilla frosting, then say no. If you’re asked to partake in yet another Secret Santa or Dirty Christmas exchange, and you are totally tapped out and buying even a tiny gift will make you and your wallet scream, just say no. If your coworkers ask you to go out for holiday happy hour (again), and you haven’t even been able to enjoy your Christmas tree or just sit and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa at home yet, then say no. No matter what anyone says, taking time out for you during the holidays is not selfish. It’s essential.
So here’s the challenge: In what’s left of your holiday season (hey, we all have New Year’s coming up), just say no to one thing you actually don’t want to do. Maybe you do want to hit up that cookie party – go ahead and bring your award-winning sugar cookies. But if you feel like you’d rather spend booze calories and bar time on a mug full of chocolate and marshmallows while taking in the A Christmas Story marathon (leg lamps, frozen tongues, and Red Ryder air rifles for 24 hours straight on TBS starting tomorrow!), then tell the office pals you’ll see them on Monday. The world will not stop turning if you miss one holiday gathering this year. I promise. So go, enjoy the holiday season, and report back on how good it felt to say no!