Things Got Worse

I spent the rest of my twenties gaining weight. But that’s not all I did. Midway through that decade I decided to quit work and go to school full time.  I had always had an interest in human behavior, but was also a bit stubborn and did not really want to follow my uncle (industrial psychology) and father’s (clinical psychology) footsteps. However, after taking my first psychology class (Social Psychology), I found that I loved my studies and decided to major in psychology. Of course a bachelor’s degree in psychology does not get you much and I soon found myself committing to a long period of school – a Ph.D.

College was interesting and fun. But it was also stressful. My husband was deployed much of the time (Navy) and I had a school-aged daughter. I somehow managed to juggle college, serving as publicist for the Psychology Club and Psi Chi (psychology honor society), Daisy Girl Scout Co-Leader, Mortar Board (honor society), serving as Ombudsman for my husband’s ship, mother, and wife.  Needless to say, there was no time left for my physical well-being. My Ulcerative Colitis stayed aggravated much of this time. Despite all of this, I graduated in 1990 with my Bachelor of Arts – psychology from San Diego State University. And, I was accepted to attend the clinical psychology graduate program at Auburn University.

In June of 1990, we loaded up the truck and moved to Auburn, Alabama. If you think that wasn’t a culture shock…! I actually had a panic attack my first night there. I had images of all sorts of craziness based on things I had read and heard. Surprisingly, I came to love both the town and Auburn University (those who know me well know that I actually have a personalized license plate declaring my loyalty to Auburn).  After dropping us off in June 1990, my husband had to fly back to San Diego. His ship was due to deploy. They deployed and ended up a part of the first battle group to participate in Desert Shield. So here I was, a new graduate student with all of the uncertainty and insecurity that this new role brings, alone with our daughter in a new state, and my husband was in a war zone. Stress was constant.

I was having a lot of headaches (stress) and found that running and Excedrin were the best medicine. I was starting to get into shape; however the headaches were increasing and so was my use of Excedrin. I was taking 3 or 4 at a time (NOT RECOMMENDED) and started to notice pain in my left shoulder. As I look back, I also had periods of dizziness that I ignored. I went to the student health center and they treated my shoulder as an injury giving me an ultrasound treatment and some Ibuprofen. (Those of you with any medical sense may already see where this is going) Around this same time, my husband had just returned to Alabama to live with us and we were beginning to look for a house to purchase. I can only imagine that this added to my stress.

One weekend morning around the middle of the spring quarter (1991), my mother and grandmother were visiting and we were preparing to go house hunting. I already knew that my Ulcerative Colitis was active. What I didn’t know was that I had a bleeding ulcer. I began throwing up blood and by the time the ambulance arrived, I was starting to go into shock. I recall parts of the next few days, but only brief periods of time. I know that the doctor said I needed 4 units of blood to replace that which I had lost and I spent some time in ICU. I recall that when I did finally return to school, every step felt so difficult. I was so weak. Needless to say, I did not return to running and I gained weight. It was during this decade that I reached my heaviest…235 pounds on a 5’5”/5’4” frame. By 1996/7, I had a full collection of tent dresses in a variety of colors. My uniform was a tent dress and flat shoes. I also wore big-framed glasses that hid my face. Everyone liked me – except me. I despised myself.

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