Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Little “a” and Big “A”

Little “a” is my new name for Alzheimer’s.  I came up with that name from my friends that have battled against cancer and they call it Little “c”.  By calling it Little “a”, it takes away its power.  Since my mother was diagnosed I have given Little “a” too much power.  At times I allowed it to make me feel overwhelmed, useless, and helpless.  I allowed Little “a” to bring the darkness upon me.  The darkness is my name for depression.  I have dealt with the darkness before, such as when I was laid off unexpectedly and when my father passed away.  Little “a” momentarily had me thinking there was no way out of the darkness, that all was lost.  Fortunately with the support of my husband I reached out and got the help that I needed.

Part of my early treatment with Little “a” meant joining a Little “a” care giver support group, going to see my therapist (everyone should have a therapist on speed dial), and being placed on a low dosage anti-depressant.  I know there are many in the African-American and faith communities that look down on those that seek mental health treatment – either it’s for weak-minded / truly crazy people or those who do not have strong faith.  I do not prescribe to either of those ways of backward thinking.  As far as I am concerned, mental health is just as important as physical health.  Unfortunately that even though I was on the right path with facing the darkness, I did not fully deal with it.  I was doing just enough to cope and get by.

To keep the darkness from Little “a” off my back I threw myself into my training and racing.  Being physically active is a great way to battle the darkness, but I was not giving myself a lot of downtime to really process how I was feeling and how my life was changing.  Since my race season is pretty much over, I have had the time to really process my feelings and come to some truths.  More importantly, I’m embracing Big “A,” Acceptance. 

I have Accepted the fact that even though I’m a fixer, I cannot fix my mother.  She has Little “a”.  I don’t how far her illness will progress or how long she will be able to live at home.  All I can do is rely on my faith, hope for the best, and do what I can to help her.  I have Accepted that my mother is dependent upon me and our relationship is changing.  At times I’m more of the mother figure, but there are still days when God blesses me by giving me glimpses of my mom pre-Little “a”.  I've Accepted to no longer fight the additional responsibilities that I have to take on, but instead embrace them.  I have the opportunity to pay her back just a little for all she has done and sacrificed for me.  Even though my mother and I are very close, prior to Little “a” she and I lived very separate lives.  We would talk a couple of times per day several days per week, but we saw each other about twice a month.  I would be doing my own thing and she would be doing hers.  This is a special time for us.  I have Accepted that it’s ok to be angry about Little “a,” as long as I’m not angry at my mom.  She didn’t ask for this and she has very little control over it.  All she can do is take her meds and stay mentally active to slow it down.  Lastly, and most importantly, I have Accepted that my situation with my mom could be so much worse!  There are plenty of care givers who would love to change places with me.  My mom doesn’t give me any trouble; she and I work as a team.  She values my guidance and is very appreciative for everything that I do for her.  Yes Little “a” is a spawn from hell, but I’m determined to make the best of this situation.

As always thank you for reading my post, and if you have not done already, please consider click here to make a donation on my Athletes to End Little “a” fundraising page.          

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Operation Ironman – Phase 1

My tri race season has come to an end.  Overall it was successful with several PRs and great memories, but in all honesty I’m burned out, especially mentally.  I raced a LOT this year.  So far I have done 23 races that included road races, triathlons, and open water swims.  Next year I will not be racing as nearly as much.  Don’t get me wrong I love to race, but with the challenges I have had to face coping with my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it was too much.  I only have four triathlons on my schedule for next year (Richmond Tri Club Sprint, Monticelloman Olympic, Rev3 Quassy, and Ironman Mont Tremblant), compared to the eight that I did this year.  I’ll be cutting back on my road races as well.  Now it’s time for me to work on some things during the offseason.

  1. Find a long term companion / caregiver for my mom.  Since my mom was diagnosed I have had a couple of people to help out with my mom.  For one reason or another things have not worked out and I find myself in need of another caregiver.  Since I’m not racing and my training is not as intense, I’m really going to take some time to find someone who will look after my mother for the long term.  As I do my research and interviews, I will take it upon myself to look after my mom during the week.  That does mean four trips down to the country per week, but that’s ok since I know it’s temporary.
  2. Work on my flexibility and functional strength.  I’m as flexible as a pinto bean and my core, hips, and lower back are very weak.  Not a good combination for an endurance athlete.  I’m incorporating functional strength training into my training schedule twice a week and I’m doing yoga once per week.
  3. Drop more weight.  I reached my goal of losing 10 pounds for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, but for Ironman Mont Tremblant I would like to lose between 3 – 5 more pounds.  I’m going to continue to use Weight Watchers online, but I need to clean up my diet a little bit more.  The main culprit is that legal drug called sugar.  I love sweets, especially Lucky Charms cereal.  I have decided not to eat any more Lucky Charms until after Mont Tremblant.  Hopefully when that time comes I won’t crave them anymore and that Lucky Charms leprechaun can get to stepping.   
  4. Read as many books as I can about Ironman and anything that will help me be better prepared for Mont Tremblant.  So far I have read You Are an Iron and Be Iron Fit.  I plan on reading the following books by the beginning of March, if not sooner:  Becoming an Ironman, Going Long, Unlikely Finisher 140.6, Iron Heart, 10 Minute Toughness and Breakout.  There’s one book I have already read, but I plan to read again – I’m Here to Win by pro triathlete Chris McCormack (“Macca”).  A lot of athletes and fans of the sport think Macca is arrogant, but I believe for one to take on any type of endurance sport you have to have a certain level of confidence.  Macca’s level of confidence is just higher than most.  Furthermore, Macca has a great understanding of the mental aspect of the sport.  
  5. Become comfortable with performing basic bike maintenance.  I know the steps to change a bike tire, but I definitely do not feel comfortable in doing it on my own, especially during a race.  I do have the book, Bike Maintenance and Repair for Dummies, so I probably need to add that to my reading list too.  So this fall and winter I will definitely be practicing changing my front and rear tires and getting to know my bike on an intimate level.

I think everything that I have planned for Phase 1 is doable.  I just need to really utilize my time wisely to ensure everything gets done. As I stated in my previous post I applied to be part of the team Athletes to End Alzheimer's with the Alzheimer's Association.  My goal is to raise at least $10,000 raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's research, care and support.  I hope you will click HERE to check-out my fundraising page and donate.  Thanks in advance!  Until next time.