Intuitive Eating Didn’t Work (Completely) for Me – Battling Emotional (etc.) Eating

Last year, I went on this whole intuitive eating bit.  I read books and listened to podcasts, I did parts of a workbook, I wholly wanted to incorporate this into my life.  And to be clear before I continue, I still believe diets don’t work nor do I feel weight or BMI should be a measurement of your worth or health.  You are GORGEOUS and AMAZING no matter what that stupid scale says.  We have to quit judging each other whether we are fat, thin, tall, short, black, white, brown, red, male, female, neutral or trans gender, sexual orientation, rich, poor, average, whatever.  Just stop it.  Just fucking stop judging.  If you’re a kind person and you can deal with my nasty sense of humor, chances are we’ll be friends.  Or I’ll at least tolerate you with returned kindness.

Also, I still believe intuitive eating should be part of my life, eating when I’m hungry and really thinking about what I want to eat.  However, I gained 30 lbs over the course of this new intuitive eating.  Why?  Because my body craves shit.  It craves sweets and junk and frankly, I’m still have not completely conquered my tendency to eat when I’m upset, stressed, bored or its evening.  For some reason, evenings are the worst for me.  And my body isn’t craving celery, it’s screaming SUGAR!!!!! FAT!!!!!! SALT!!!!!!  I read in a book that your gut biome, if it’s out of whack can cause these kind of cravings.  Regardless of the reason, I have a lot working against me (though probiotics, fermented food and yogurt tend to make me sick).  It could be that and/or it could be past abuses, trauma, coping mechanisms, etc.

I really don’t know why my body doesn’t say ‘apple’ which would be good for me but rather ‘milk chocolate covered caramels’.  I’m not making this shit up, if my body (and/or mind-emotions-psyche-gut biome) had its way, I’d eat nothing but sugar day in and day out.  Which makes me feel awful.  This summer, 9/28/2018 to be exact, I was road riding on my country roads.  It wasn’t particularly hot or windy, actually the conditions were pretty nice for cycling.   Except I was struggling and frustrated, even on a flat section of my route.  When I got home, sweaty and exhausted, I dug out the scale hidden away in my garage where I had put it so I wouldn’t use it, and weighed myself.  I had gained over thirty pounds.  It doesn’t take a physics genius to figure out that the heavier and larger you are, the harder it is to propel your fat ass around with two wheels, a chain and crank.  I had literally added a bag of kitty litter to myself.  Strapped on a bag and just took off again.  Of course I was struggling!

So I took the scale back up to my bathroom and stuck it in the closet.  Again, I use this as a marker as my weight can jump up 5 lbs just from a heavy work out.  Using my phone, I took multiple full-length ‘before’ pictures of my body and emailed them to myself to keep as reference.  I dug out the tape measure, opened my long standing Excel spreadsheet with measurements clear back to 2004, and started a new section.  Then I recorded my current measurements.  I’ve found even if my weight doesn’t move, my measurements can drop significantly.   If you want a less potentially triggering way to track your progress, skip all that I’m doing and pay attention to how your clothes fit.  Do what works for you.

I started to sort of watch what I ate.  Though late November, 11/28/2018, to be exact (what is with the 28th of the month and epiphanies lately?), I found myself pissed off about how I ate the night prior.  Actually, I’d been building up to this point.  My life is pretty good except for the stress and crap at my job and this stupid overeating.  I will be 50 in February of 2020.  I do not want to be struggling with the same crap for the next decades of my life.  I want to be fit and healthy.  Not necessarily thin but I want to conquer my tendency to choose crappy foods and stuff crap in my hole when I’m feeling anything but completely serene.  I want to overcome this coping mechanisms so I whipped out my cell phone and reinstalled the app, My Plate, and started back in my food journal.

I’ll admit, food journaling tends to piss me off.  I SHOULD know how to eat.  I know what’s healthy (for the most part) and what’s not.  But I also love to lie to myself and conveniently ‘forget’ I ate a big old candy bar after lunch because I had been slammed with meetings and people asking me a bunch of questions that they already know the answer to at work that day.  I also know though that food journaling works for me.  As much as it’s annoying, it forces me to be accountable to me.  They say oh find someone to be accountable to, a friend or loved one.  This may work for some people but I would totally eat more in rebellion.  Maybe it’s the Irish in me.  Screw you friend that cares, I’m going to eat this family sized candy bar just to show you!  Show them what?  I have no idea.  But basically it comes back to our five-year old selves – ‘You’re not the boss of me!’.  Except it’s self-destructive.

The hardest person for me to be accountable to is me.  I’m going to kick my own ass all over the place more than any other person on the planet.  I am my toughest audience, friend and well, sometimes, enemy.  Plus, food journaling helps me get back into healthy eating.  As much as I hate to admit it, when I eat more fruits and veggies and less crap, I feel amazing.  I am being rewarded for taking care of my body, but my rebellious stubborn side still wants to punish myself for whatever dysfunction that still lives on inside me.  Taking care of myself whether it’s food, exercise, sleep, rest or disconnecting, is the way I overcome this tendency to disregard my needs.  Putting my needs first is sticking it to the man.  Whatever the ‘man’ from my past really is.  I’ve read 100’s of self-help books, journaled until my hand hurts, been in 100’s of therapy sessions and still old habits hold on.

Overcoming my emotional (etc) overeating is my goal for this next year and beyond.  While they preach you just have to accept yourself as heavy if this is where you end up when you utilize intuitive eating, I don’t want to keep struggling the rest of my life with carrying basically the equivalent of a thin, petite woman on my frame.  I’ve named her Agatha (no clue why) and imagine her as this old crabby lady trying to slow me down.  I’m carrying her piggy back and she keeps kicking me in the fat rolls with her sensible SAS shoes, the chunky heels leaving bruises while berating me for this and that with a harsh, nasally voice.  I really want to get Agatha the F off my back.  And her weight off my body, my joints and free myself.  Each time I choose healthy, each time I exercise (I bought a basic exercise bike for my living room cuz I know I will use it over a gym membership) and each time I chose to care for myself, more and more of Agatha starts disappearing.  It’s as if she slowly turning to dust, particles being swept up into the breeze and leaving me just a little more lighter.

Granted, I have an active imagination but I find this to be great motivation.  The food journal app, the scale and the measuring tape are all tools in this journey.  They aren’t something I need to rebel again (though I still catch myself).  Will I one day be able to truly intuitive eat?  I don’t know.  Maybe I will need to use a food journal the rest of my life.  Except maybe I go down to 2-3 days a week to keep me honest or if I’m having a bad day where I know I will revert to bad habits, I can use it to keep Agatha from returning, kicking my sides like I’m her pudgy horse she’s got to ride to a bridge tournament except she’s late and she hates being late.

I haven’t eliminated any foods from my diet though I did switch up to dark chocolate from milk chocolate.  I tend to binge on milk where the dark I don’t.  These are the changes, I am making.  Dark has more antioxidants so it’s good for me and I still get to really enjoy  chocolate, just not in huge quantities which are not so good for my body.  I’ve eliminated sugar from my hot and iced tea.  I still use half and half in my hot tea but I haven’t increased the amount to make up for the sugar.  Weird thing is, the cream tastes sweet to me now.  My iced tea, I put in an herbal fruit flavor bag with my regular family sized decaf ice tea bags.  Sometimes I cut up oranges or lemons or whatever to put in my iced tea so I enjoy it more.  I really don’t want the sugar back into it.

Another change I made several months back is cutting caffeine out of my life.  Going into menopause, your body suddenly gets super sensitive to everything (as if you weren’t being punished enough with mood swings and hot flashes).  I gave all my caffeinated tea except for some oolong to my youngest daughter.  I don’t recommend starting this during the work week though.  The first day I went decaf, I was at work and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I didn’t even drink that much caffeine to be honest.  A few cups of tea a day.   If I missed my morning tea, I would get irritable and would most likely garner a migraine.  It had started to feel like a chain around my neck.  I HAD to have caffeine.

You know what though?  After a few weeks of limiting caffeine (I’m not a Nazi about it, if I get a little caffeine here and there it’s ok), but my migraines disappeared.  Oolong tea had helped that previously but probably because it’s so caffeinated.  The other thing I struggled with was if I skipped a meal or didn’t eat ‘enough’, I’d get a migraine.  Now, I don’t drive my husband nuts when we are traveling or doing something that he has to keep me on a consistent eating schedule or I’d get a migraine.  That was annoying for both of us.  Whatever sensitivity I had regarding meal timing and migraines, went out the window which helps me eat only when hungry a key component in intuitive eating that I truly agree with.

Taking care of myself has been paying off with better overall health, I’m down roughly 18 lbs and 10.25 inches overall.  I just feel better in general.  Giving up caffeine has been an added bonus and each day, I try to find new or better ways to eat, sleep, exercise and take care of myself.  Small changes can add up to huge results in the end.  Not that I don’t still struggle with my emotional eating.  But at least now, using the food journal app, I catch myself when I’m doing it where I would completely ignore this before.  When I catch myself, I have to do the hard work of figuring out what is really the problem.  THen when I determine the issue, I must determine how to address it.  What can I do to help myself feel better?  Soothe myself with something besides food.  It’s frustrating after all these years I still haven’t conquered this but I’m  back at it.

The bottom line – do what works for you.  That’s what it all comes down to in the end.  Experts, well-meaning friends, diet gurus, etc. all want to tell us how to ‘fix’ ourselves but it’s never just so simple as oh, I need to educate myself.  We know an orange is better than a Snickers bar.  We have to dig deeper than just eating 1800 calories a day.  We have to figure out why we are using food to comfort ourselves, etc.  We all have our own reasons.  Women who were sexually assaulted have a high probability of being obese which is really the shit since we have been through enough already.  But we wear our ‘fat suit’ as protection or it seems like protection.  Whatever the reason, don’t get angry at yourself.  Be kind to yourself as you would your best friend or child.  Say, it’s okay you do this but let’s find a better way to cope so we don’t feel worse later.  You deserve this kindness.

Love yourself, take care of yourself and know that right now, no matter what you weigh, you’re amazing and deserve love and respect.  I love you all and I’m right there with you.  xoxoxox

 

 

 

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The End is Near

The end is near,

Closing up another year.

A new beginning?

or a false promise?

Each day is what matters,

A new beginning is the dawn,

Awake and here is your newchance.

So, don’t be stupid,

Get out there and dance.

The Depression Cure- 6 Week Check-In

If you have ever or do suffer from depression, you know what havoc this complete bitch can do to your life and your happiness. Six weeks ago, I found this TED talk by Dr. Stephen Ilardi and it has CHANGED my life (https://youtu.be/drv3BP0Fdi8). If Dr. Ilardi had a fan club, I would join, he is my hero. Yes, my hero is a profession at the University of Kansas. Thank you, Dr. Ilardi, from the bottom of my heart. I’m totally going to write him a fan letter when I finish this blog post.

After watching his TED talk, I researched some of the six steps he outlines in his book, The Depression Cure. The one I started doing that very day was taking Omega 3’s as he suggests in his book, but I messed up and was only taking half the recommended dose. I’m sensitive to medications due to being hypothyroid, so it was probably just as well. In late August, I had taken two online depression test which both came back ‘moderate depression’. Disclaimer – Use these tests only for a marker and not as an actual diagnosis. The one I put weight on is the “Psychology Today” depression test because there are 120 questions meaning it’s more in depth and is put out there by a reputable magazine. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/health/depression-test. If you take the test and score within a certain range, they will suggest you see your doctor. Please do so, especially if it’s serious.

But anyway, the first two of the six steps I put into place was taking Omega 3’s daily (accidentally 1/2 dose) and at least 30 minutes of vigorous cardio (brisk walking/jog – for me) three times a week. When I took the one test at http://www.psycom.net on 8/31/2018, it showed me at moderate depression. The Psychology Today test I took that day showed me the same results. Ever since I was actually diagnosed with depression at age 35, I’ve used these marker tests to just gauge if I needed to see my doctor and/or therapist. In all honesty, looking back, I’ve struggled with depression from childhood until just recently. That’s around forty years of my life.

A few weeks after starting the two steps of Dr. Ilardi’s book, my depression for the Psycom.net test dropped to minimal depression. It had never been that low. ‘Mild depression’ had been the lowest. Same with the Psychology Today test. I retook that test as well and for the first time ever, it came up with a score of “12” in a scale of 0-100. The higher the score, the more you rated on the depression scale. The words “You show absolutely no signs of depression” underneath my 11/25/2018 score shocked me.

Now six weeks in, I’ve added another one of Dr. Ilardi’s steps where you stop your tendency to ruminate about things in your life, especially negative ones. I’m still working on this because it really is a bad habit especially of those who have been struggling with depression for a long time. You catch yourself doing it and distract yourself or tell yourself to stop, focusing your attention on something positive. It’s that proverbial snowball turning into an avalanche kind of things. Starts small but takes on a life of its own.

The other step I added is light exposure especially in winter. Though I have yet to order the light box he recommends, but I’ve been wearing my sunglasses less right now during these bleaker Ohio winter months. I wouldn’t recommend this mid-day in summer, but right now sunlight is at a premium. And it seems to boost my mood as well. We spend so much time indoors but our eyes/body/brains need some sun. He explains it in his book.

So today I took the Psychology Today depression test again. I scored a 12 on 11/25 and today, 12/22, the day after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, I scored a 3! These steps are working! I’m not even full into them or even taking the full dose of Omega’s 3’s yet and the difference is staggering. I can’t wait to write Dr. Ilardi and tell him. Along with a string of ‘thank you, thank you, thank you, bless you’. I feel like a different person.

Okay I’m going to take the smaller quiz from Psycom.net and see what it says. Hold on I’ll be right back…. NO DEPRESSION!

The first time ever it said that. Even back in 11/25 it came up ‘minimal depression’. Amazing. I was skeptical about The Depression Cure and I receive no money or benefit for recommending this book or to view the TED talk at least. I just want people suffering from this shitty, time-stealing mental illness to at least explore the steps outlined in the book. Fish oil isn’t hugely expensive and I buy huge bottles of it at Sam’s for less than $20. I don’t even eat fish or like the taste but I don’t get the burps, etc. from it. I really thing the Omega-3’s has been the key component in my recovery. The other steps have also helped but Dr. Ilardi explains in scientific terms why we have too many Omega 6’s in our diets and not enough Omega 3’s.

If I knew this back when I was a teenager or young adult, how my life might have been different. Depression has robbed me of motivation, confidence, happiness, and time. So much time. I’ve been beating myself up about not following my dreams. Earlier this year, I gave up on writing a fiction novel after not hearing back from the first and only publisher I sent it to. I self-published it and didn’t even promote my book. Now, I’m totally rewriting it, using a different format and really working at. Crafting. The story and making sure every sentence is my best. Before I was just worried about getting the word count where I wanted it and just getting done.

That’s what depression does, it steals the joy out of your life. It robs you of enjoyment when you do the things you love. It puts you in a grey cloud bubble where you stalk around the house feeling put upon, sad, despondent and worthless. Then you turn around and beat yourself up for being that way. But it’s a chemical imbalance of some sort. It’s physiological and not just psychological. I’m not a doctor but it’s explained more in the book.

Please check out this book. I’m cautious to say I’m ‘cured’ because I’m always a little skeptical but right at this moment, I’m for the first time in many, many years, actually decades, not depressed and life is so much better. I feel like a new person. My life feels like a new life and nothing really has changed. I’ve already put 20k words down in my novel rewrite but most importantly, I’m enjoying writing again. I’ve even rewritten half of the first chapter. Tomorrow I’m going to sit down and edit the third and fourth chapters.

The crazy thing is when I would try to edit before when I was depressed, I would get upset at myself, think I completely suck and give up for awhile. Now, I see where something might not flow very well or I wrote a crappy paragraph but instead of giving up, I just fix it and go on. I don’t berate myself and tell myself ‘You’re a miserable writer, you suck.” I just fix it. I don’t quit, I don’t even want to quit. That’s such a strange feeling. But again, it makes me a little sad thinking of all I’ve lost out on in my life because of depression.

I’m even excited for the new year. I’m excited for today and tomorrow. I’m actually excited about things again, anything. I’ve been living in this dull grey existence for so long. I attributed it to middle age. Been there done that, nothing is thrilling or exciting anymore. Again, here is where depression was robbing me of my enjoyment of life. Yes, I’ve experienced a lot in my life but there is so much more out there I haven’t. A few months ago, I had 0 desire to explore or find new things. Today, I can’t wait to find new adventures. Night and day. Crazy isn’t it?

Well, I have already gone on enough about this new change in my life. I truly am going to write Dr. Ilardi a letter, some fan mail. Thank you for dedicating your time and energy into this research! And if you’re suffering from depression, check out this book and of course if you are in a doctor or therapist’s care, please talk to them before making any changes. If you decide to try The Depression Cure‘s six steps, I’d love to hear from you on your results. I pray they are as dramatic and positive as mine.

Xoxoxox – so much love to my fellow depression sufferers…

Laura

Winter Dream

Winter Dream

By

Laura M Heffner

December 10, 2018

The snow and cold hushed nature,

The sun brightened her with a sparkling crown,

Trails were magical and empty,

Barely a soul to be found.

The air, sharp and sweet,

The only sound, made by my own feet,

Winter spun her magic,

In which I feel free

No worries, no troubles, no demands,

A moment in which,

It is only me…

Adventure Hike – John Bryan State Park/Clifton Gorge Loop

Hike Length: Approximately 5 miles

Hike Difficulty: Moderate – rocks, hills, not level surface, can be muddy. Easy – For fit and seasoned hikers. Caution – There are hazardous cliffs in both parks, so be careful and watch the kiddos. People have fallen to their deaths esp in snowy/icy conditions

Facilities: Multiple pit toilets in John Bryan, nature center (check website for when open), rustic campground in John Bryan, mountain bike trails, day lodge

Note: Pets are allowed in John Bryan but not Clifton Gorge so to do this loop, you can’t take pets but there is plenty of hiking in John Bryan to enjoy with your doggo(s).

Websites: http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/johnbryan

http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/cliftongorge

Late November, we got some warm weather for our part of Ohio and ventured out to John Bryan State Park which is located which is east of Dayton near the eclectic town of Yellow Springs. Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve is situated as JB’s east neighbor. We did an approximately 5-mile loop starting at western parking lot at the point marked U on their trail maps. Drive into the park and pass the park office. At the fork, turn left and the very first drive on the right, take this into a wooded parking area.

In roughly the south east corner, there is a trailhead leading down to the North Rim Trail. Turn left (there is a small section that leads down to the stagecoach trail that is the actual start of the North Rim Trail but you will need to walk up or down to the trail start as there is not parking at the start, but it is a short walk. The trail winds through honeysuckle and trees. Along the way there are several wooden deck overlooks that in the winter, you can see down below. As you go along, you will notice along the cliff edges that there are metal hooks which people use for climbing and rappelling in the John Bryan section of the hike.

North Rim Trail

The trail meanders up and down the rolling land including several bridge crossings. We found some of the bridges to have some give and therefore went one person at a time just to be cautious.

Crossing a bridge on North Rim trail

Eventually, you cross into Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve with a warning regarding the hazardous cliffs. As mentioned above, watch your kids, don’t be stupid and fall to your death. Be particularly careful with snow and icy conditions. Again no pets are allowed in the Gorge though I’ve seen people ignore this rule. There are several spurs off to your right that head to the trail below but stay on this trail until you come to a wooden fence on your right that leads to a clearing with a porta-potty and the nature center.

At this point you can continue on the trail passing the wooden steps leading down all the way to trails end which is a parking area on the west side of the small town of Clifton. Clifton Mill situated in the center of town is famous for it’s holiday light display (fee charged) as well as a restaurant and gift shop all year around (https://cliftonmill.com/). But for this loop, head down the steep wooden steps to the Little Miami River. Note: the lower portion of this loop is a bit more challenging so if you need less challenging, simply turn around and return to your vehicle.

Little Miami River

When you reach the trail, you are now on the John L Rich Trail. At this point if there has been rain you will find a lot of muddy areas. The trail winds around the trees, cliffs, rocks and boulders. Again you will find wooden deck overlooks as well. In the spring, this lower trail is a wonderful place to find wildflowers. Soon you will come to a small waterfall which there is more steps leading up to several small overlook decks weaving around the boulders.

There are plenty of cliffs and even some small cave areas to explore. This is our favorite part of the loop even though it can be the most challenging. The river will run into rapids at times and you feel as if you’ve been transported into another world. This is usually cooler than the upper trail in the summer.

When you exit Clifton Gorge, there will be a bridge over the Little Miami on your right and then a trail back up on your right, this is a rocky and steep climb. You can go back up here and rejoin the North Rim Trail or keep going straight along the river. This trail is now the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Trail and will end at the road. There is a metal gate but if you look to the right, there will be a trail scrambling back up the slope that will take you back to the parking lot and add a little more length to the loop.

Due to the muddy conditions, we went up the rocky incline at the bridge and back onto the North Rim Trail and retraced our steps back to the car.

Some considerations, the trails will be very busy in the summer and especially on the weekends. I prefer to hike during winter and early spring (not when it is icy) to avoid people. There are a lot of trail runners who use these trails so don’t be surprised if someone runs up behind you. This is always a gorgeous hike when the fall colors are at peak. John Bryan is one of my favorite state parks with plenty of picnic tables, some playground areas, excellent and well maintained mountain bike trails which are good for beginners, the campground is open year around and there is a day lodge you can rent.

A few of my favorite places around the area:

Yellow Springs: http://www.yellowspringsohio.org/

Young’s Jersey Dairy (can be very busy): https://youngsdairy.com/

Till the next hike, get out there!

Living in Joy After Abuse

Recently, I’ve realized I’ve been living my life according to some ideas I have stuck in my brain. These ideas have formed over the forty-eight years of my life for different reasons such as how I was brought up, my peers, constant media blasts, social norms, religion, so on and so forth. Truly, it’s hard to sort out what I really want in life through the many layers of ‘Shoulds”.

You need to go to college and pick a career that earns a lot of money.

Money is most important.

You need to not be outspoken or different. Follow the rules (social norms).

You’re a woman, you can’t do that.

Keep your mouth shut. Keep out of sight.

That’s a nice dream, but it won’t make enough money. You won’t be able to support yourself.

Are you crazy?

Why are you so shy? Why don’t you speak up in class? Are you stupid?

Go to church every. Sunday. Live a pious life (as the speaker does not)

Women are weaker, inferior to men.

Don’t associate with black people or people of color.

You’re a failure. Don’t do better than me. Don’t do anything that makes me uncomfortable. Don’t color outside the lines…

You get the idea. I have had so many expectations and rules (that aren’t truly rules) throw at me throughout my life, that I am just now unwinding all those messages to find my true self. All that I listed above has been said to me in some manner or another, usually out of love and misguided direction though some of what has been said to me is so that I don’t “do better” than the person giving me that message. People are threatened by you, especially when you don’t fit into a neat little box.

I’ve always been kind of the odd duck. I’m quiet and introverted; therefore, I’m either assumed to be socially awkward or shy or stuck up. I’m none of those things. I have never seen race as an indication of people’s worth or unworth. People are just people. I don’t believe one religion is ‘right’ and the rest are wrong. “God” to me, takes many forms and going to church every Sunday doesn’t make you a good person. I find “God” in nature, in people and in many places.

I don’t believe you have to be rich to be happy. I think having enough money to pay your bills and a bit extra is the sweet spot. I don’t believe you have to be what the general public deems as ‘successful’ such as being a doctor, lawyer, etc. Sometimes the people we look up to are the ones hiding the most. I don’t believe that “God” is wrathful, I believe “God” is love and therefore doesn’t give 2 shits about your sexual orientation, gender, color, if you tithe 10%, if your butt is in a church pew on Sunday, so on and so forth. I do believe “God” wants us to show each other love and kindness. I also believe that “God” wants us to find joy in our lives, not be cowering in the corner because we sinned. God wants us to feel his love not feel guilty all the time.

Over the years, I’ve tried different volunteering activities and each time, I found myself not sticking to them. I felt bad about myself, guilty. These people need my help, am I a selfish person? Then recently, I signed up to be a Lunch Buddy through Big Brothers Big Sisters for a 5th grade girl in my school district. Every other week (or more – she likes me to come weekly), I have lunch with her at her school, just listening and talking. to her while she eats her lunch. To be honest, I think I get more out of i t than she does, it brings me such joy. This made me realize that no, I wasn’t a bad or selfish person, I just hadn’t found my right opportunity. I was telling myself, everyone works with kids, I should work with the elderly or abused women, so on and so forth. For whatever reason, I was too stubborn to allow myself to do what I really wanted because I had some ideal in my head that I shouldn’t work with kids.

Where did this come from? Who knows. But that’s how I’ve treated myself throughout my life. Ignoring what brings me joy because maybe I don’t feel I deserve it or happiness. Growing up in a dysfunctional family situation, you rarely feel that you are important. The narcissistic nature of someone who is an addict or alcoholic takes over everyone’s lives and as a kid and adolescent I was lost in the shuffle. My needs were not important, I was overshadowed by my father’s issues. I’ve been essentially punishing myself all these years because of essentially what I was taught indirectly. And frankly that’s bullshit and I’m angry about it.

I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and therapy to get over my past and the fallout into my adult life. The last thing that I am struggling with is anger. I am calling bullshit on every single person who ever excused my father’s behavior because he was “sick”. Sure he tried rehab a few times but he just bullshitted his way through it and came home to do the same things usually worse. My childhood, my adolescence even though my parents divorced when I was 13 was a flat out abusive mess because of his f’ing sickness. Bullshit to each time someone excused his behavior – you were enabling him to not be responsible for himself. I understand it’s a sickness and people can’t help it but it doesn’t excuse the shitty treatment of your children. We didn’t deserve it.

Bullshit to the lack of domestic abuse laws that allowed my father to hit and beat my mother because they were married. If they had not been married back then, he would have been arrested. Again, this was overlooked and my mother was told basically that you are stuck, until she finally had enough and left. She would have left years before, saving us all a bunch of heartache if it had not been for those preaching religious shit about sanctity of marriage. Really? God wants a husband to hit his wife and kids? I don’t care if he was sick or drunk, none of us deserved it. No one deserves it today. The damage from this treatment is long reaching. I’m mid-life and still struggling to just allow myself joy. This is ridiculous.

Being addicted or having a mental illness is tough. It’s a big struggle, but please don’t forget about the persons, the loved ones in the addict’s path. Don’t let the addiction overshadow the victims. In my father’s case, he was never going to get better. I wonder though, if people had stopped enabling him, feeling sorry for him, and hadn’t expected him to take responsibility for his actions. Would the result had been different? What if he went to jail for beating my mother the first time it happened? What if she left the first time she wanted to, gotten support instead of shamed and pressured because they were married? My parents would have divorced when I was very young if she walked away when it started to happen or at least separated until he straightened up his shit. If he couldn’t straighten himself up, then none of us had to live in that hell. She could have still helped him get to rehab and such, but kept herself and us out of the firing line.

I’m not saying stop caring about the person but they have to take responsibility for themselves. They won’t get better until they decide that is truly what they want. It doesn’t matter how much begging and pleading you do with them, it really has to be up to them. But this is their responsibility especially when they are an adult. It is further complicated though by mental illness as in my father’s case. There is little resources to dealing with an adult with a debilitating mental illness. When my father was in nursing care, he was this wonderful pleasant person but outside of constant care, he reverted back to how he was. Dealing with these issues are very complex and I know it isn’t simple. But as victims of the disease, we can remove ourselves and take care of ourselves even though it’s hell watching someone you love self-destruct.

So now, I’m learning what truly brings me joy. In order for me to finish healing over my past, this is a key element. Letting go of the “shoulds” and finding joy every single day. Allowing myself to be happy because I deserve that as does everyone else. We don’t have to sacrifice our joy in life. I need to stop trying to live up to old expectations that never made sense to start with. To stand up for myself when my boundaries are crossed. Granted we all have to do things in life that we don’t enjoy to survive but outside of that, we are free to find our joys. We deserve love and good things no matter our past.

Go find your joy!

Hiking Charleston Falls Preserve – Miami County, Ohio

Miami County Park District rocks!  There are sixteen properties/trails under their jurisdiction with my favorite being Charleston Falls Preserve.  When I first started coming to this park in the late 1990’s, it did not get the visitors that it does today so I try to visit it on less popular times like weekdays.  The park is over 216 acres with close to 4 miles of trails that wind up and down through prairie and forest.  Of course there is the 37 foot waterfall but also a small cave, wildflowers, plenty of benches, a gazebo, overlook platform, a pond, wildlife and well maintained facilities.  There are also many programs held in the park as well (see Miami County Parks for information/schedules).

Location:  2535 Ross Road, Tipp City, OH 45371

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset   Pets are allowed!  (please clean up after your pet)  Do not pick or remove natural items.  

Facilities: Flush toilet restrooms, water fountain, picnic tables, trash receptacles, well-marked trails with map kiosks along the trails, benches, mostly gravel trails with the exception of the prairie area – wide mowed trails.

Overview:  A winding paved driveway leads to the parking area(s).  There is a paved area with several handicapped spots.  To the west is a larger gravel overflow parking area.  On the summer weekends, the overflow parking can almost fill up due to the popularity of this park.  The restrooms are open all year around (heated in the winter) which is a big positive for me as I have to drive almost an hour to reach this park.  They recently put several new picnic tables near the parking area.  Another picnic area requires walking into the woods and to the south.

The waterfall is a fairly easy less than a 1/2 mile walk along a wide gravel path through the woods.  For the most part it’s flat, but there is some gentle rolls.  This makes is great for people with young kids and people with physical limitations as they can see the falls without a long strenuous hike.  This is also the most popular direction for most of the people to walk.  once you walk into the woods, take a left at the fork in the path.  There is an informational kiosk as you walk into the woods and they always post on a sawhorse/sign what time the park closes that day.  There is also a bag dispensary for pet waste if you forget to bring one that usually is stocked.  To the right, you go back to the picnic area or the prairie area with the Golden Hexagon (gazebo).

Essentially all the trails form a loop that go through places like the Thorny Badlands and Redbud Valley.  But for this blog post, I’m going to use my preferred direction.  Once I enter the woods, I take the left of the fork.  Not long, there will be a spur going off to the left that is more narrow.  There is a map kiosk there, so I take a left.  If you stay on the main trail (right of map kiosk), it takes you directly to the falls.  The preserve has several pretty steep hills and I have found going clockwise on the loop is easier on my knees than counter-clockwise.  At 0.30 miles, the trail splits after you climb a short hill (there is a bench conveniently located toward the top).  If you go to the right, the path takes you to Cedar Pond and a prairie area.  To the left, you wind through the Locust Grove until the trail meets back up.

Locust Grove gets less foot traffic as the Cedar Pond is a popular spot.  There are steps down to the pond as well as a partial boardwalk.  You can walk all the way around the small pond but the earthen trail can be muddy after rains.   There are several benches situated above the pond which are nice to sit.  The pond is fill of fish, cat tails and water spiders.  In the summer, tiny yellow flowers bloom in the water by the boardwalk area.  I like to take Locust Grove trail in the heat of the summer as it’s heavily shaded.

Both of these trails converge together into one trail again as you go downhill and back into the woods.  The trail is more steep here as it runs down to the creek.  A wooden bridge goes over the stream but if you go to the left of the bridge, you can wander down to the water.  There are several rocks or concrete steps to allow you to cross the water if the stream isn’t high.  This is one of the most picturesque areas of the park in my opinion.  Once you cross the stream, the trail goes off to the right winding along the stream.

In another almost third of a mile, there is a another fork with a map kiosk.  If you go straight, this takes you through the Thorny Badlands (up a hill) to the Observation Tower.  Don’t expect some great view from the tower as it’s mostly grown up across the tower.  To the right, through the Redbud Valley, if you have hit at the right time in the spring, the many redbuds will color the valley in pink.  There are bits of boardwalk here that leads up to a steep hill that will eventually come up to the area above the falls.  I usually do the Thorny Badlands.  As you come up the first hill from the map kiosk/trail split, you can see the observation tower but also another trail that goes off to the left.  To the left is a 0.25 mile spur that runs through the woods and back up to the trail behind the tower.  I like this trail because of the large trees and the tendency for less traffic.

Soon after the trails rejoin east of the tower, the trail winds through a pine forest that smells wonderful.  The trail goes down across the stream and a wooden bridge and up a steep hill.  At the top of the hill is another thoughtfully placed bench.  You can go either left or right here.  I normally go right and wind along the edge of the cliff above the waterfall.  You get glimpses of the waterfall after a bit.  This trail also joins the trail that goes below the falls and past the small limestone cave.  I normally skip that part and keep along the ridge until you cross the creek that feeds the waterfall on a wooden bridge.  As the trail winds around toward the south, a wooden fenced area marks the upper overlook to Charleston Falls.

In the summer, wild red columbine blooms at the edge of the cliff on the other side of the fence.  An old, stately American Sycamore tree stands sentry at the bottom of the falls.  As you look below, you will see a boardwalk and observation deck at the bottom of the falls.  This can be accessed shortly after you walk on from the falls by following the wooden steps down.  Note:  Spring is usually the best time to see the falls running especially after the snow melt.  In the summer/fall unless there is a lot of rain, the falls can just be a trickle of water though still pretty.  In the winter, sometimes the falls freezes into huge icicle like formations.  This is a wonderful park for winter hiking as well.

At this point if you go to the south or to the left when you turn around from viewing the waterfall, the trail leads out into the prairie area to the Golden Hexagon.  There is a trail that goes completely around the area in a square and another trail that runs right through the middle to the gazebo.  The park thoughtfully put in a ramp as well as steps to the gazebo so it’s more easily accessed.  The trail throughout this prairie area is mostly just mowed grass.  The prairie area is full of wildflowers throughout the blooming season.  To the left, you follow the gravel trail through the woods and back to the parking area.

In conclusion, if you don’t like crowds try to go on a weekday morning.  There are many wildflowers and birds within the park as well as small critters like squirrels and chipmunks.  The Falls is a popular dog walking spot as well.  Many trail runners like the park as well as there is a wide variety of terrain in just under four miles.  Every season has something to offer.  When it’s snowy and icy, you do need to be careful in certain areas.  They offer many programs for kids and adults alike.  I’ve taken an inexpensive Nature Journaling/Sketching class there which sparked my love of sketching with charcoals.  This is one of my favorite parks in Ohio and I visit it often.  The parks department does a stellar job of keeping it maintained and clean.   They deserve our thanks.

If you haven’t visited this park yet, put it on your list as you won’t be disappointed.  Though I’ve been here hundreds of times over the years, I mix up my experience by hiking in different directions or different trails.  I never fail to see something new and beautiful.  Until next hike…