Originally, I planned to update everyone on the outcome of my endocrinology appointment for PCOS several weeks ago, but then the spider bite from hell caused all manner of delays and problems for me. Blogging took a backseat to catching up on the copious amount of backlogged work—an ongoing issue I will address later in the post. Speaking of Fred, after a final draining Tuesday, he looks significantly better and has drastically reduced in size. I think my immune system has officially killed him, so . . . ‘Eff you Fred and the spider you rode in on! Ultimately and perhaps a little paradoxically, I am thankful Fred forced me to ruminate on the results of my appointment. Under pressure, I’m cool as the proverbial cucumber, and when an obstacle arises, my instincts are to dispassionately find the best and quickest solution. In many instances, those are great qualities to have, but being able to compartmentalize emotions is at odds with processing how you really feel. When I first heard I had an auto-immune disorder, I was my typical “Can Do!” self and switched to research mode, selecting the best books from Amazon and developing a plan of action. During the reign of Fred, I couldn’t do anything, and I started to unpack those unhelpful feelings I boxed up and realized I needed major changes if I hoped to get better.
First, to everyone who disliked their endocrinologist, I’m right there with you. She spent fifteen minutes with me while I painstakingly explained my symptoms and how I needed someone to work with me systemically. She countered that she only treats one symptom at a time and for me to pick the most bothersome one. Um, all of them? Furthermore, she is the fourth freakin’ doctor to not run a full freakin’ thyroid panel. (I did not say freakin’ I assure you.) I mean, come on! I wrote down which tests I needed, and she literally told me my thyroid is swollen. Nevertheless, she did test for anti-thyroglobulin (anti-TG). Anti-TG tests how many thyroid antibodies your body is producing, meaning the higher their presence, the more your immune system is actively attacking your thyroid. It’s called Hashimoto’s Disease. Over time, these antibodies can destroy your thyroid leading to hypothyroidism and dependency on synthetic thyroid hormones. Early detection, however, can halt or even reverse existing damage, and fortunately, I am in the early stage where the anti-bodies are still relatively low. Even if you have lower anti-bodies, you can still be highly symptomatic like I am. Moreover, once you develop an auto-immune disorder, you are more likely to develop another one later on. And some are pretty nasty. Other blood work revealed my glucose levels verged on pre-diabetes, my Vitamin D was on the low end of normal, and my triglycerides are so high I was told to watch for symptoms of pancreatitis.
Oh, and did I leave out the fact I was told all this by a nurse, not my doctor. . . over the phone . . . while I was at work. I thought an auto-immune diagnosis at least warranted a follow-up so I could, I don’t know, ask a freakin’ question? Nope. The doc prescribed Metformin and Gemfibrozil for treatment, the latter of which made me horribly, had-to-leave-work-early ill (Note to self: Stop taking new medications on days you work!). I’m supposed return in two months, but I’m thinking of canceling and trying someone else.
The diet changes outlined in both books were progressing well. I cut back on bread products with the ultimate plan of not eating it at all, avoided carb heavy meals, and interjected light physical activity into my routine. Of course, these are not easy changes to make when you are on medications. Fred ‘effed me up. Between the high antibiotics and the hydrocodone for pain, I was alternating between straight up not eating because I was sick from the meds (or the pain) to heading over to Highway 55 and eating a one pound burger with a large cheese fry. There may have been pizza thrown in there too . . . and yes, I am still lactose intolerant. I just didn’t care and pounded lactose pills like candy. I was actually super proud when I went to the doctor’s the first time because I was down five pounds in three weeks. That was the first time I had seen any progress in months. And then there was Fred.
However, while I was immobile on the couch in the early development of Fred, it finally hit me that things were not okay, that I was not okay. I knew something was wrong for years, and I derived a perverse satisfaction in finally identifying it as Hashimoto’s. I began an emotional roller coaster akin to grieving, feeling the hopelessness of yet another obstacle to overcome after a year of struggle. When was I going to catch a break? Once Fred was excruciatingly painfully excised, I realized I am tougher than I realize. I have already lived through two of the worst days I may ever experience. On the day my mom died, I didn’t think I’d be able to get up again, and then I nearly lost my brother. I survived. What’s a little auto-immune disorder or a necrotic spider bite in comparison? If I can survive those two events, I can do anything, and I came out of the experience with a greater resolve to be proactive about my health and stop getting so stressed out about things I can’t control.
My initial plan of attack was simple and effective: exercise each morning before work eventually building up to a solid hour, practice 15 minutes of yoga after work to stretch my leg and foot muscles, eat regular meals and snacks, maintain a normal sleep schedule, and follow the new dietary restrictions. The problem is I work over fifty hours a week every week. I am constantly kept late at the shop or am forced to come in early. As I write this, I am sitting at home. It’s 9:31p.m. (on my second editorial pass here with one more to go), and I have been working since 10:30a.m. I’ve had about two hours of breaks, including lunch, dinner, commuting, and spending time with my dogs. Tomorrow, I have a 10a.m. appointment and 6p.m. appointment. Because I leave for a camping trip for 4th of July, I have orders which must be done by Saturday night. If they aren’t completed by closing time, I’ll work late that night too.
This is my normal, and my normal is not healthy. I barely have time to shop for groceries or take care of personal errands. I spend so much of my time and my energy working that I have nothing left of me for anything else—no energy to exercise, to clean, to read, to brush up on my languages, to socialize, to travel, to experience, to live. I alternate between full throttle productivity at the shop to being incapable of getting off the couch at home. I am that damn tired. Part of this is from the thyroid issues. Being highly symptomatic, I battle my own limitations daily. Nevertheless, much as I would love to blame this entirely on my body, an entity with whom I always feel at war, this struggle also stems from an inability to say “No.” I put my needs behind everyone else’s, even strangers. Fred taught me that stops. Like for realsies.
I love my job, and I love my customers. But I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. I work harder now than I have ever worked in my entire life for a pay in no way commiserate with my time, and it is slowly killing me. My choices are to either shut down the store entirely and move onto other endeavors or find a way to make the store work around my life instead of the other way around. In this age where everyone expects more and more of a business, I realize making changes to ease my health problems can have long reaching ramifications, but I firmly believe we do amazing work. You do not get service like we offer everywhere, and whenever I hear someone say they are blessed to find us, my heart lights up with a satisfying sense of happiness and accomplishment. I received cards and flowers and hugs during Fred, and the outpouring of support was what made me realize I would rather take a chance by restructuring the store than to close it entirely.
During my period of introspection, I realized why I feel so overwhelmed. I work two full-time jobs. One job is the bra fitter who helps each and every one of our clients. The other job is that of the business owner responsible for handling the finances, placing orders, updating our online store with new inventory, posting blogs and content to social media, and so on. My dad has been kind enough to help with some administrative work, but he has his own responsibilities. Not to mention, there is only so much he can do. No one knows our shop like I do. On the fitting end, my aunt is not trained and has other commitments which prevent her from being able to take on extra work. Most of the work falls to me, and we cannot afford to hire anyone. Consequently, I need to manage my time and my energy more effectively, focusing on the tasks which yield the most benefits for the business.
With regard to management-related projects, I am working at a severe deficit. After all, it’s hard to establish a weekly routine when the pile of work that needs doin’ keeps getting larger with nobody but you to do it! I have many essential tasks which need to be completed when I can concentrate without interruptions for a few hours. Consequently, for the month of July, we will be closed Wednesdays for me to catch up on crucial projects like, ya know, counting the inventory for the first time this year, updating our financial books, and filing invoices instead of piling them precariously on top of the actual filing cabinet. After July, Wednesdays will be “by appointment only” indefinitely. I will take up to four appointments which need to be booked by the preceding Saturday. These appointments can only be scheduled in a block format, e.g., everyone will be seen between 2p.m. and 4p.m., to ensure adequate time for me to complete my other work. Since Wednesdays are historically our slowest day of the week, I decided it would be ideal for completing work projects without severely compromising sales.
Routinely, I am asked for last minute early morning or late evening appointments, and I will now take no more than two per week. These must be pre-scheduled a minimum of three business days in advance, and I do not guarantee my availability. Furthermore, all Sunday and Monday appointments will be suspended for July. After July, I will resume taking the occasional appointment with the same caveat regarding my right to decline. Being a single, independent woman rocks, but it also means shit doesn’t get done at my house either. I have boxes from my October move which still haven’t been unpacked, a cedar chest which needs refinishing, a closet to purge, and Guilder to frame for it.
Email is my single biggest time sink, largely because of lengthy consulting questions from out of state customers. I have said before that I started this business to help people, but I have put that desire above both the health of my business and of myself. We are not a charity. We are a business. As such, we need to make money to continue improving our community, and every dollar we make adds to the store’s overall success. In six years, we have quadrupled in size. Imagine where we could be in another six! There’s the old cliche that “time is money,” but cliches often have a ring of truth, no? Because my time is valuable and exceptionally limited, I need to manage it more carefully. As a result, I will no longer offer fit advice or consultations to new non-local clients. Words do not adequately capture how devastatingly difficult this decision was to make, and I wavered constantly. I felt like a bad person, an ungrateful store owner betraying loyal supporters and prospective customers, spitting in the faces of the people coming to me for advice because of the hard work I put into writing the blog and articles. After intense soul searching, I realized I either spend too much money and time working with someone for a profit not reflective of that investment or that it’s not financially viable for me help them. In the latter case, I can’t afford to send people oodles of bras to try on and send back. Online retailers have lower overhead and can absorb that expense, which ultimately means I offer free advice which benefits a competitor. Most frustrating of all is that I repeat myself constantly. I have all these wonderful, comprehensive articles planned to augment our Bra Naked Truth series but I spend so much time answering emails, I never have the opportunity to put keyboard to digital paper.
I really struggled with this decision, but we’ve become so successful locally, that I am failing miserably at handling just our in-store customers and all of the added administrative work. At some point, you have to step away. However, on my Wednesday Project List are those articles. It’s my hope that we’ll have so much great information on the website that you can read it and make better purchasing decisions without my help. I’ll also be including resources for further reading as well as links to places which provide free advice. Believe me, ladies and gents, I want to help you, but I need to help myself right now.
This change should be labeled “bad manners” more than anything else. In-store customers who’ve been here on a busy day around lunch time: Do you see me eat? Nope. Lately, I either skip lunch entirely or eat so late in the day it’s like an early bird dinner. Last Saturday, my lunch time was 4:30p.m. Breakfast was at 9a.m. The Saturday before that? I didn’t eat anything. Given my thyroid and insulin issues, this is not exactly a good thing. Now, I know I can’t just shut down the store and be like: Okay, shoo for 15 minutes so I can eat. Instead, I’m just going to eat my lunch at my counter between working with clients at a set time each day. I need to eat three meals plus two snacks per day, so I apologize in advance if I have to slow the flow of the shop to eat and/or for not sharing with the class. Maintaining consistent insulin levels in my system is key to helping me lose weight and control both disorders.
Sometimes when I post these blogs with store changes, I get an influx of emails from people thinking I am talking about them specifically or that they contributed to the problem. I don’t want any of those emails. This is my fault. I offered too much for too long. It’s been taking a toll since 2014, but I was too hardheaded to acknowledge it in a meaningful way. Until I recover physically, these changes are the only way I can keep the store open, and I am hoping with the added efficiency, our profits can get a boost to enable me to hire a staff member. I already have an amazing lady in mind.
Finally, in closing, please do not feel like I am not supremely grateful for the support y’all have provided me. I mean it. After Fred, I was like: “Screw it. I’m done.” It was everything all of you did for me that reminded me how blessed I am. Your generosity and warmth touched me in ways a normal job never would. I love all of you with all of my heart, and much as the store gets on my nerves, I love it too. So I am doing what I can to keep it open and thriving.