Sunday, February 23, 2014

Less stuff, fewer loans challenge 1.5 months in

Back in January I decided that all of the "surprise" money that showed up should (if possible), go towards paying off our remaining loans and then building our emergency fund. Here's how we've done so far.

Emergency fund
goal: end of year
Kitchen Loan (1.99%)
due in Oct 2014 
Student Loan (2.65%)
goal: July 2015
Starting balance: $0
Goal: $20,000
As of 2/19/14: $0

$0 saved so far

0% filled
$0 $20,000

Starting balance 1/1: $10,000.00
Balance on 2/20/14: $5,376.99

$4623.01 paid so far

46.2% paid off
$0 $10,000

Starting balance 1/1: $8,127.00
Balance on 1/14/14: $7862.99

$624.01 paid so far

I only started keeping track of payments on Jan 10th. But since January 10th we've paid off $3842.73 worth of our loans! My goal was to put $3,000 a month to this task. Only 1 month and 10 days have passed and we've well passed the $3,000 mark. We're doing well. Our Kitchen Loan has $5,376.99 left. At our current rate we should have this paid off in two months. 

Unfortunately something that may put a snag in our ability to pay this debt off in two months is the fact that said kitchen is getting finished next week. We're temporarily holding on to extra money so that we're sure we have enough to finish the job. But after that I also should be getting a promotion at work and that should make up for any extra money that has to go to the kitchen. 

Afterwards we'll be focusing on the emergency fund. We'll do this by putting $1000 from my biweekly paycheck directly into that account. We'll start this on May 9th. That way there are 20 pay periods left in the year. Then we can apply all of our 'surprise' money to my student loan, and whatever is left of the kitchen loan if anything. 

My student loan has become less of a priority. The stock market is likely to do well in the next year and I would still prefer to invest some of my money. I may extend my goal of paying off the student loan until July 2015 and make a separate stock trading account where I put any of my personal 'surprise' money and then invest it. That will keep me from spending it.  I've gotten very good at investing and have figured out how to prevent most losses. I'm pretty sure that I can manage a return decently above the 2.65% in interest that my loan charges me.

That's the plan! What are your thoughts? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why working out at a military gym has been key to my eating disorder recovery

In recent years I felt that going to the gym was a chore. I felt like I never had time for it.  I always had too much to pick up at home, too many errand to runs. Now that I've accomplished most of the decluttering, organizing, and found some balance in my life I feel like I have the time to go to the gym. It's been an unusual experience.

I used to hate my time at the gym because I would push myself incredibly hard, particularly when I was at the depths of my time as an exercise bulimic. I hated feeling like my body was on display. I hated the fact that the women competed with the women, the men competed with the men, and the men hit on the women. When I went to a women's gym it was even worse, because suddenly all I was doing was comparing my own body to others' (possibly also eating-disordered) bodies. Generally making myself miserable.

But this time I've been fortunate to have one huge change in my workout routine that's made the experience much easier on my eating disorder: I go to a military gym. I've never been a member of the armed services but my company works closely with them so we are allowed to use the local military base's facilities. Typically I'm the only woman in the room. But this doesn't bother me. Here's why.
  • None of the men oogle. Ever. Why? Because they have no idea whether or not I could be their commanding officer. 
  • The women don't try to prove that they have better bodies than you. When I see women they're often in fantastic shape but they're never condescending about it. Why? Because they also don't know if I outrank them. Fat shaming someone at this gym literally could cost someone their commission if they did it to the wrong person. So no one does.
  • The guy on the upright bike next to me had his legs blown off by an IED in Afghanistan. It's impossible to go to this gym and not work out around Wounded Warriors who probably have some serious body image issues themselves. They're still there, giving it their best, staying healthy but not using exercise to punish themselves for what went wrong in their lives. I have no reason to complain about my body. Mine may not be perfect but fortunately it still has all its parts and I am damned lucky for that.
  • Fitness is many of these people's job but it's not mine. Depending what you do in the military part of your job description may be to stay in fantastic shape. Those people are duty-bound to spend hours each day working to ensure that their bodies are in particular condition. I'm not training for combat. My physical fitness doesn't have to save my life. If I can't bench press my body weight (when I was in high school, I could, believe it or not), or be toned and muscular all over, it's nothing I need to be ashamed of.
  • They have a dress code and they take it seriously. No bare midriffs. No cleavage. Keep your shirt on. Cover up your tush. If you want to show it off, go do it somewhere else. What you can do is what matters here, not how you look. Not to mention that a sexual harassment court martial is no one's idea of fun.
  • Respect, respect, respect. Just because I can barely do hamstring curls with a five pound weight doesn't mean I'm looked at like I'm weak. Everyone is willing to help out when I have questions about the weight machines. Everyone seems to consider people where they are because you never do know where someone came from. Maybe the guy who can only bench press an empty bar does that because he got badly hurt in Afghanistan. It's not his fault. The point is that we're all there trying to improve ourselves in a healthy way.
This gym's environment is a HUGE help to my self-esteem. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week is no longer an exercise in emotional self-harm. I couldn't be more grateful to our armed services for allowing me to use their facilities and return to a normal life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Well, that explains things

The condo may be decluttered, but my psychiatric life is still very, very messy. Back in November I quit Cymbalta after gaining 20 pounds on the med in four months. My psychiatrist didn't seem to care, so I fired my psychiatrist and got a new one, who I saw for the second time today. I have a new diagnosis. Apparently I'm bipolar.

Specifically, I'm bipolar type II.  Unlike what you commonly know of as bipolar disorder (aka bipolar type I), bipolar II doesn't have the full-blown manic episodes. I instead have what's called "hypomania," where I'll have a day or two where I'll be extremely happy, impulsive, chatty, be super social, and go on spending sprees. For days, weeks, or months between these hypomanic episodes, I'm either 'normal' or down in the dumps.

Tuesday the 4th was my hypomanic day. I got of work early to run some errands downtown so I was super excited. I celebrated this 'freedom' by going shopping at Macy's and dropping $250 on stuff I never planned to buy -- a new pair of boots, eyeliner, and running pants. I went to my doctor's appointment afterwards and just couldn't shut up when I was talking to the tech. I mean, sure, talking about medical stuff is exciting to me as a medical librarian, but I didn't give this guy room to breathe. I came home and just kept talking about what an exciting, wonderful day I had, and literally could not stop talking. I didn't want to go to sleep at my usual time that night, I wanted to stay up. And the next day, I crashed hard. I was depressed, couldn't concentrate, and I binged for the first time in a month.

It all makes sense now.  It also explains why the antidepressants never really seemed to do a good job. Apparently ADs don't really work for people with bipolar disorders.

The next step in the process is to start on a mood-stabilizing, rapid-acting "anti-psychotic" medication: Abilify. If this works we'll gradually taper me on to something that has less chance of weight gain, possibly Latuda. The 20 pounds I gained on Cymbalta that still haven't come off are not helping my body image in recovery. This doc is willing to listen and wants to make sure that I don't put on any extra weight from the meds.  As soon as anything seems fishy, she wants me to call her and we'll find another med. Phew.

I think for some people a bipolar diagnosis can be a traumatic experience. But I'm glad now because I know what's going on with me. We can now treat it with appropriate medications. Hopefully this will also help calm the shopping sprees. I look back now and realize that I don't buy stuff when I'm depressed, I buy stuff when I'm really happy. Now that I know that the "really really happy" is a hypomanic episode I can see it for what it is and understand why it's important not to act on those desires. The food binges that happen when I'm severely depressed will hopefully also become less problematic.

I'm not expecting meds to fix everything, but I'm looking forward to a more mellow life experience, and getting back to being me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I fulfilled my dream. Now what?

What were your goals in life as a young adult? Mine were pretty much focused on escaping the life I grew up living. I wanted to
1. Have a neat and organized house without a lot of stuff
2. Have a happy, respectful marriage where I felt safe
3. Work at a certain Really Big Library doing things I enjoyed
4. Have enough money to do most of the things I wanted without feeling too restrictive
5. Stop caring so mcuh about my weight
6. Have some respect for myself.
And in many ways, all of those goals (except #2 and 3) were things I set out to do when I started this blog a few years back. And as my posts got fewer and farther between, I started to ask why. Well, it's because I've actually achieved those goals. My home is tidier than ever. I feel very settled in my marriage and I'm keeping my parents' very destructive marriage as far away from me as possible. I got a great job at said Really Big Library (quite literally, my dream job). Even though I'm still paying off a few very inexpensive loans, we'll easily be out from under them in 6-8 months and I'm expecting a promotion at work in the next two months. I can look in the mirror now without hating myself. I know I'm capable enough.
Great! Go me!
Sure, there's some room for improvment in all of the areas I mentioned. But I no longer feel pressure to be perfect. I'm okay with the fact that the condo won't be perfectly neat all the time. I don't think I will ever re-train myself to put my clothes in the hamper at night. They're always going to be on the floor of the bathroom in the morning and will find their way into the hamper before I'm off to work. Every single day.  But there's no longer so much stuff lying around that I'm afraid of breaking my ankle trying to walk across my room. I'll never like what I see in the mirror, but it doesn't make me feel miserable any more. I know I'm capable, even if I'm not perfect. Even Jillian Michaels says that perfect is boring, and I believe that. I'm happy where I am. Yikes!
I suppose I'm having my mid-life crisis. I have a lot of free time now and a lot more psychological time than I've ever had before. It's a completely new thing for me not to have a goal to work towards. I don't feel like I'm perpetually reaching for a goal that's out of my reach anymore.
Now what do I do? Now what do I blog about?