When Fears Whisper in your Ear

Hands up if you know what it is like to feel fear? That visceral, consuming, blood gone from your extremities, hyperventilating kind of fear that leaves you wanting to run – but you can’t run because there is no where to go to escape it.

Well that happened to me on Saturday afternoon. My plastic surgery in September 2019 was filled with problems. (Read back in my blog for info) Well my baby sister had her Tummy tuck last week – and we had just picked my mother up from the airport for a visit – the first time since pre covid times, when the phone rang.

Mum went outside to take the call as we were preparing for my sons 19th birthday party, and it was quite rowdy in the kitchen. When mum walked back into the room I knew that something was wrong and she told me what had happened and that my sister was not okay. I felt that fear – I had spoken with my baby sis right before her surgery and told her not to go towards the light – I guess I was trying to use humour as a coping mechanism to mask my concerns BUT I also had a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anyway as mum was talking to me I tuned out, it felt like she was speaking to me in slow motion and I felt everything about my experience come flooding back.

Hours later my sis was out of surgery again and they had found the source of her bleeding but she remains weakened and will have a longer recovery ahead now. Aaaaaaaand I am meant to have surgery myself in 31 days – and I’m just not sure how I feel about it!

The letter

I wrote myself a letter before my surgery. I didn’t expect that I would ever share it here but I am doing so in the hope that it may help someone to decide to take the chance and have the surgery. I never wanted to let myself forget why I have made the choices I have made. When I found this last night I ugly cried. So on Thankful Thursday I can’t even begin to explain how thankful I am for the life I have now 💞

June 16th 2018

Dear Tash,

I hope that you never forget the reason that you are about to have weight loss surgery. I know that you are absolutely terrified right now. Knowing you, you won’t forget tonight, but just in case your brain shrinks along with your body – I don’t want you to forget! You are sitting awkwardly at the dining table writing yourself this missive. You know you would usually sit in bed and do this but you can’t right now because there are two kids asleep in your room and you don’t want anyone to hear you crying. You are bawling because of all of the lost years that you can never get back. Your precious girl has moved out and you can’t get back the years with her but you still have a chance to be the mother that you always wanted to be to your boys. Tash please don’t just remember being afraid, remember why you are doing this. Be driven to become the healthiest version of you that you can possibly be. Remember that in amongst all of the fear you feel right now, it’s really fucking hard to reach the table!! Your belly is pressed hard up against it and your little T-Rex arms can hardly reach. You don’t want to live your life like this!

You know that you have to do this. Even though it terrifies you in every single way. You want so much more from life than what you have had. You don’t want to struggle to tie your own shoes or wipe your own arse! You want to be the mum that can run and play with your kids. You want to be able to go on adventures with them. You don’t ever want to hear another kid tease them because you are the “fat mum” ever again. You want a better job, you know you can do more but right now people only see your size. You want to be a better wife and have a better relationship with Steve. You want to be able to give yourself to him totally without always holding back because you feel frightened that one day he will decide that he can’t deal with your self loathing and your binge eating anymore.

But then there are the things that you want just for yourself. You want to be able to wear something that isn’t black. You want to wear pretty dresses and clothes that make you smile. You want to be able to stand to sit at the hair dresser rather than hating your reflection so much that you never go. You want to walk into a cafe and not worry about if the chairs are strong enough to accomodate you. You want to walk into country road and buy straight off the rack. You want to feel healthy and not like you are eating yourself into an early grave. Don’t give up. You want to sing again, you want to dance again. Keep going. Please don’t stop because you were made for more than what you have had up until now. This is all I can do for you. I can give you this chance and it is up to you what you do with it. Please write some wonderful chapters.

Pixie

The last few days have been hard! Who knew that cutting my hair short would trigger so many emotions!! Well I suspected it may but here is what I have been going thru personally. This year has been transformative for me. The heart episode in March was another wake up call!! I am making room in my life for me to become what I want to be. Does that sound kind of crazy? I think it does BUT I have worn a lot of labels in my life. I wore them because they were given to me by others and I just accepted that. As I have lost weight and my life has changed, I have started to examine those labels and the things that go along with them.

I always knew exactly who I was on the inside but I was frightened to be that person. I was scared of not being accepted, so it was easier to just wear the labels I was given by others because if I was never truly me, if I never let anyone see me as I really am, then I would never be hurt.

I remember a few years ago I was told that only vain people wore as much make up as I was wearing on that day and I shouldn’t be trying to draw attention to myself. I was MORTIFIED, I wasn’t trying to draw attention – I was trying to face the day and not feel so ugly. It was a waste of money to get my hair done ….. that money could be better spent on being generous to others. It is frivolous to have more than one pair of jeans because you can only wear one pair at a time. I should just stick to black because it covered a multitude of sins and there was a lot to cover … and on and on and on it goes. Peeling back the layers on my personal transformation has been soul searching and tough!

The most challenging thing recently was my hair. I grew up with certain ideals around hair – and getting it cut short was not one of them. I always wanted to chop it all off but I had some ideals that needed to die before I was ready to wear it how it is now!! When I had my hair cut a number of men commented on it and hinted that men like long hair …. bish please … if you love it that much then you grow it!! And here is the thing – I now do what I want for me because it’s what I want to do. Where I am concerned times have changed – I dress to please myself, I wear what I love, I do my make up how I love it and I have my hair how I want it to be. I will not be transformed into the image someone else has of what I should be. I love my husband but I am not becoming his dream anything – I am becoming the best me that I can be.

For the first time in my life I have realised that it is okay for me to show who I have always been!! I’m a little bit sweary, I love my coffee, the greatest loves in my life are my family, I will be relentlessly authentic and I’m not sorry for that because it’s who I am. I am a jeans loving, converse wearing, little miss doo gooder, with short hair and a big heart!

Here are a few things that I have learned along the way from my plump self down to my slim self.

  1. It is my responsibility. No matter what, no matter the situation or why I feel compelled to want to eat … what I put into my mouth is on me.
  2. No one else can do this for me.
  3. Loving and cheering for myself and seeing the value in myself is ESSENTIAL for my health – both physical and mental!
  4. I am worth it.
  5. I am loveable at any size and so are you
  6. Never ever let something that someone else said about you define you! You have the final say x

The Cost

Let’s talk for a minute about the Cost of Bariatric Surgery. Many of us pay quite a sum just to have our surgery in the first place. But the costs that are ongoing are something that we don’t really talk about a lot. That’s not to say that WLS isn’t one of the best descisions I have ever made because it is!! But these are things I didn’t think of beforehand. Some of the things that I have replaced because of weight loss surgery include the following.

  1. My mattress – I was in pain from lying in my “big me” sized mattress hole.
  2. All my shoes – I am now 2 sizes smaller
  3. All of my underwear 4 times over as I found out the hard way one can’t wear undies that are too big and not risk them falling off in public – yep it really happened 🤦🏻‍♀️
  4. My car seat – this is a weird one and I upgraded my car because it needed an upgrade anyway BUT the drivers seat was broken because of my bum and my weight.
  5. My lounge suite because I broke it 😔
  6. My dining chair – I am going to have to replace the set but am making do for now.
  7. My entire wardrobe because going from a size 24/26 to a size 4/6 means that nothing from bigger me fits me anymore.
  8. My supplements and vitamins ongoing but for me the cost of my weekly food and vitamins and supplements is still less than what I used to spend per week on my food (I ate a lot).
  9. Skin removal surgery – this shot of me there with the excess skin is current. That is after my radical tummy tuck – obviously I require revision surgery because my surgeon thought that a radical tummy tuck would be enough but it wasn’t. When you have as much excess skin as me it is unpredictable how it will respond.
  10. New glasses coz the old ones fall off my face 😳
This is me now

As for the plastics, I don’t disclose how much my surgery cost, but the following is a rough guide per area of the body and what you might expect to pay (after private health insurance and Medicare covers the hospital costs and a small payment to the surgeon and the gas doctor) THESE ARE AUSTRALIAN PRICES
$1k-$7k is considered low cost.
$7k-$11k is mid range.
$12k and over is high range.
That is the gap payment as plastic surgeons will charge you a gap fee even if skin removal is deemed medically necessary. The gaps vary from surgeon to surgeon. My recommendation is ONLY USE a PLASTIC SURGEON. If you have private health insurance are in NSW or don’t mind traveling, google ‘The Access Program’ if you want a lower cost option.

Would I do it again? Heck yes! Over and over!! I have a life now and I am so grateful for it.

Me yesterday and me a lifetime ago
My dangly skin before I had it chopped off

ET and I are mates 😉

Where you from, you sexy thang!

Or perhaps I should call this – How Tasha got her groove back? 🤣 In any case I am finding me again. It’s been a long time coming but I am starting to feel at home in my own skin – possibly for the first time in my adult life.

I feel blessed and grateful 🙌🏻💞 Oh and blonder hair is brewing!

Photo Roulette

If you have never played this little gem of a game, you are missing out. We now have a change to the Covid-19 restrictions that we are living with and we are allowed to have 5 people visit our homes. Last night we played this with two close friends – the game is essentially this “guess whose camera roll a picture comes from” and you have a limited time to make your choice. Would you do it? Expose your camera roll to the rest of the room? My camera roll is full of my kids, my family, myself in various stages of transformation, my dog and work related photos. As we were sitting there playing, a photo popped up that I didn’t recognise at all but it was a picture of a large person and photos like that are regularly sent to me by folks asking for advice, so I assumed it was my picture, as did everyone else playing. When that round finished, everyone had that picture wrong – it was from Steve’s phone and it was me! I was totally shaken. How is it possible to not recognise myself??

I sat looking at that picture and it really got to me. If I had known all of the things would happen over the next three years I would have so wanted to find a way to pause or stop time. I would have chosen different outcomes for my family but I wouldn’t have chosen a different outcome for myself. Can you see it in my eyes? The absolute anxiety at being in front of people, feeling horrible about myself and wishing that I didn’t take up so much space in the world? I can see it, it is written all over my face.

This was me – Three years ago to the day. It was two years ago that I had weight loss surgery. That night WAS my defining moment. Not so much because of the double diplomas, but because of the decision I made. I hated how I felt that night. It should have been a celebration but instead I wanted to run and hide. It was the very next day that we increased our health insurance to cover weight loss surgery. I made a life altering decision that night, as I looked out on the hundreds of people assembled, that I never wanted to feel like that again.

I had worked sooooooo hard to stand there, full time mother, working full time, studying as best as I could and fighting through some really crippling anxiety to complete my double diploma. However on the night that I should have felt like I could celebrate my achievements, all I felt was self conscious. My graduation gown wasn’t big enough. It was the largest size that they had. I remember my total embarrassment as tears burned in my eyes. While the gown wouldn’t fit, my humiliation was all encompassing and it wrapped itself around me, cloaking me in feelings of shame and inferiority. I was so conflicted that night. So proud of myself on the one hand and so embarrassed and ashamed in the other. I decided while I was standing in that fitting room, surrounded by strangers, that I NEVER wanted to feel like that again.

Those feelings were the tipping point, the shove that I needed to make the decision to have weight loss surgery.

This is the photo I didn’t recognise

Me Yesterday

Finding the GOLDEN

I feel like I spent years and years of my life going around with a blindfold tied firmly around my head. I put it on myself and I kept it there willingly mind you. I allowed myself to wallow in my own self loathing. I was totally convinced that life for me, was to a large extent, as good as it was going to get. That I had, because of my many short comings and failings, been overlooked and in my mind I deserved it. My sense of self loathing began as a little girl. I remember the day that it started and the trigger has haunted me for years. I remember what I was wearing that day and I remember coming home and throwing my favourite dress in the bin. It would be years and years and years before I told anyone what had happened but by then it was too late. I had brought into a destructive lie that would go on to shape so much of my thinking around who I was.

I remember not understanding so many things and wondering what was wrong with me and why I was different to other kids. My happiness and the care free feeling of childhood died that day. Within a few short years I would embark on a pathway that would lead towards an eating disorder and a few years after that it led to alcohol abuse and drugs. All the while my loving family continued to love and pray for me while many a sanctimonious relative looked down their judgemental noses at me, my choices and my life.

They swore that their kids would never end up as mucked up as I was (just quietly, how did that work out for you?) My mum was encouraged to kick me out of home to make me come to my sense. Honestly would have probably been easier on them some days! But my gosh, the love of my mother is a force. It can be felt across states, it still wraps around me now just like it did back then and there was no way that she would let me go. No way that my Dad would let me go either! Thankfully my Mum and Dad both flipped off the naysayers and refused to put me out of their home. However, all it took was one little blonde haired girl with ringlets and a disposition as sweet and pure as sunshine itself to do me in. I didn’t want her to be hurt or disappointed in me so I did my best to sort my shit out. I am my mother’s daughter, I love my family passionately and even if I didn’t love me at that time, I loved my little sister with all of my heart. I didn’t want my little brother to find me passed out in my own vomit anymore and I didn’t want to wake up and not remember what or who I had done. It sounds as bad as it was – It is probably worse than that actually. There were moments of sobriety but they were few and far between.

I really was just a messed up kid trying my very best to cope with some truly shitty things that we just don’t like to talk about and I still don’t like to talk about. The first guy I ever really loved copped the worst of me – the vile mood swings, the temper, the destructive self loathing and the hormones – oh my god – lets not forget those! Add into that an eating disorder, and a terrible need to feel like I had some kind of control over my life. I often cringe inwardly when I think back to the mess that I was in those years. Of course I was good at putting on faces and did a brilliant job of that most of the time but at that point in my life I wasn’t able to admit to the brokenness or even see it as that.

My personal train wreck continued on a really private level for a long, long time. I battled with the shame of my very public break down and as a result, I battled with feeling less than worthy. I struggled with self loathing and battled an eating disorder well into my 30ies. However, so many incredible, milestone moments have taken place on the very tricky path I have walked and those moments have shaped the turns that my story would take. There is no one in life that I love more than my children. When I became a mother for the first time everything changed. I wanted to be the best I could possibly be for this incredible little person that I got to love. I still have the same want and it motivates my choices each day. I did not get it right all the time or even most of the time. I have buckets of regrets and have cried rivers of tears over my short comings and failures. I have also learned that there is little point in living life filled with regret. I hope that my failings have caused me to grow and made me into a better, more authentic and kinder person – finding the good, or the golden in myself is a lesson in self discovery.

6th of May 2020 🌟🌟Warning GRAPHIC SURGICAL PIC🌟🌟

We are approaching the 2 year mark! On the 18th of June, it will be 2 years since I had RNY – Gastric Bypass. It has been a strange time. The changing, the growing, the turning into a different version of me. Dealing with the demons in my past and letting go of things and people that I didn’t want to let go of. In short – life is very different. But different, I am learning, can be a gift – it all depends how you look at it. The wonderful thing about choice is that we get the chance to move ourselves from where we are and position ourselves to have every possible chance to make life long changes.

2 years ago, wow, there is absolutely no way that I imagined that I would be where I am at right now. Getting to be an Australian size 4-6 was NEVER ever part of my plan. I had thought that it would be wonderful to be perhaps a size 12-14 if possible. I have enjoyed so many wonderful and unexpected blessings along the way to being a healthier me. Over the last 7 months I have noticed marked changes. Those who know me best can attest to this also. I have tried to put my finger on what triggered it. I have tried to work and reason it out, mostly without success – until I was chatting with one of a hand full of people that I consider to be part of my inner circle. That circle has 6 people in it. They are the people that I trust unquestioningly and that I know, like I know that I know that I know, love me, without judgement and that I talk to nearly on a daily basis. Here is what has come from our talk.

I realised that I have not allowed myself to process AT ALL, the fact that I was on deaths door when I had my plastic surgery last year. I had a radical tummy tuck with mons lift and muscle repair and a breast lift, reduction and fat grafting. Now I know that we can’t dwell on things because that isn’t healthy, but I am damaged by what happened to me and not dealing with that trauma isn’t healthy either. I need to talk about it so here goes.

I guess I knew it, like……… I knew that I was very very sick. But in truth I didn’t want to admit how close I came to not being here anymore. I didn’t want to have to think about any of it!!! I tried to avoid it, however I can now see that it has changed me in the most profound ways. When I was lying in the ICU, surrounded by doctors trying to get lines in to me and keep my oxygen levels from dipping any lower than they already were, they were asking me “Who should we call for you, do you understand what is happening, you are very very calm, are you sure you understand what is happening”. I am scary calm under pressure. When I was young this was NOT the case. But years change people and I don’t get loud or dramatic now. I go stone cold ….. but this wasn’t that – I was awake to what was happening!

In that moment did I understand what was going on? Yes of course I did. I was fully informed of my risks prior to my surgery. I knew that the massive blood vessels that used to feed my fat had not shrunk and that I had an increased risk of bleeding because of it. I knew that I had internal bleeding. I knew that they had to stabilise me before they moved me to the icu and I knew that the nurse looking after me stayed well past the end of her shift to hold my hand until they moved me. She had caught my head the second time I fainted and when I woke, lying in a crumpled mess of blood and my own urine she was still holding me. (Fun fact, when you pass out, if you need to pee …. well you just do.)She also carefully cut my blood and pee soaked night gown off me – it was too far gone to be kept. She reassured me that she would stay with me until ICU had me and she did. So I knew from those things that it wasn’t good. I have had a lot of surgery, been in hospitals a lot and I knew this was not a “usual” thing. Nurses are incredible people, they see that type of stuff on a daily basis and remain caring and thorough in their care. But she was going far beyond normal.

Pec muscles with skin hanging under it
After surgery with fat transfer – 7 months later all of the fat is gone, my body has eaten it all!!!

After the ICU stint and additional surgery was over, I eventually came back to the ward days later and found that my story had preceded me. One of the nurses that had been responsible for my care on the day it all happened, came, found me, hugged me and told me she was so glad that I was alright. I remembered her on sight and called her by name. She said “oh you remember!” I said “Yes, the doctor told me to focus on your faces and not let myself float off!” So that is what I did. There was a long period of time where they couldn’t get my blood pressure to read or find a pulse. That was not great. This was during the time when they were trying to stabilise me. I kept wanting to shut my eyes and sleep but they told me it wouldn’t be sleep if I did that so I had to stay awake.

Those pin cushion times

I knew what that meant. I fought to not let myself float off and tried so very hard to stay with them. Loud shoutings of my name brought me round time and time again. Multiple failures to locate veins because my body didn’t want to cooperate didn’t even bother me, I was being jabbed with needles and I didn’t care. I was fading away and I knew I was. In that moment I made some decisions. I did decide that if I woke up after the emergency surgery I needed to stop the internal bleeding, I was not going to live my life afraid of what people would think of me anymore. I wasn’t going to wear any type of face to please others and that I was going to be kind and assume the best of people no matter what.

So did I understand what was happening? Yes, I absolutely knew and I told the very lovely doctor that yes I understood, and as she held my hand she made no promises – which I appreciated! I loved the fact that she didn’t say to me “oh don’t even worry, you will be fine!” Because I was bleeding out on the inside and I wasn’t fine! I like real and value it when people don’t bullshit me.

An early look at how much excess skin I still had after my tummy tuck – it is worse now. My boobs are empty again and don’t have that amount of fullness as my body has consumed the fat that the doctor put into them when he did the reduction and lift.

No one of my contacts that the intensivist called were answering – it was 1 am so naturally people were asleep, but they were anxious to let someone know that I was not okay. In that moment my mind was drawn to the person that I knew would not answer me and as tears rolled down my face and my heart broke a little bit more than it had before, I knew who would answer me, I called my Dad. When I was a kid and was hit by a car he knew something was the matter and was frantically trying to get info before anyone knew what had happened. The phone rang once and he answered with “hello baby are you okay!” The intensivist was holding the phone to my ear as I said “no Dad I’m not, please keep calling Steve, try to wake someone up. They are taking me back to theatre, I love you Dad I have to go” and with that I ended the call. The doctor finally managed to get my Aramis to answer and he spoke to the doctor and went and got his dad. Steve ran into the ICU as I was being wheeled through the doors to go to theatre. Do they call families in to the hospital at 1:00 am very often? Well I already know the answer to that. They don’t. They had told me that I may be kept sedated – it would depend how things went. I don’t really remember waking up but I know it was hours later and I know that Steve was there all night waiting for me. Then he had to go, after sitting up all night waiting for news of me, to get the boys and drive them to Melbourne to the airport to catch their flights.

When I saw Steve’s face at around 11am that day the look of exhaustion and concern was so evident to me. He had arrived back from the airport to sit beside my bed in the ICU. I just wanted to cry for him. I know what it is like to sit in one of those rooms watching machines and listening for alarms that were going off very frequently. No family nearby to help him and carrying the weight of everything on his shoulders. Thankfully my Dad made provisions to take time off work and flew from the Gold Coast to Geelong to be with Steve and I. Our boys were being loved on by family in QLD and I got to rest, heal and think about all of the ways I would rewrite my story. I was going to really live! No more bench sitting! And most of all, how I would stop pulling my punches. So in that spirit let me tell you that the skin removal and tummy tuck surgery has changed my life and it was worth it BUT it was really fricken hard and many tears were shed over the process of my recovery! I didn’t know I could cry so much or that I would emerge from this so changed.

I am excited for the next chapter of my story. I am looking forward to how the rest of 2020 will unfold. Let’s face it – the first part has been less than ideal but I am getting ready for a comeback story! I am dreaming of days with family and friends, living with intention and purpose, being kinder and more open, taking less and giving more. Xx