Prioritize your needs

Hi all! As promised I’m back with a post between the spring semester ending and summer classes beginning. I literally cannot believe another semester is done. It feels like just yesterday I was frantically deciding whether to change my major from Neuroscience –> psychology or outdoor education and last minute sneaking my way into classes.

The decision was made and I’m good with it. While I’m extremely interested in a outdoor education, having a solid background in outdoor adventure groups and communities growing up it’s something that I’m really passionate about. On the other hand, it isn’t something that I felt like I wanted to major in “enough” to put myself in a position of taking that many more classes. The way I see it is, if that is the direction my life is meant to go it will happen regardless and psychology is also a great background to have for the field of outdoor ed/adventure therapy.

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Throwback to Mt. Isolation (september 16′). 12 miles, 5k vert gain. One of my favorites thus far. The suck was real but so was learning to love the process.

One year left, one year left. I keep telling myself this on repeat and it helps. It’s not that I’m “bad” at school. I’m for the bulk of my college career a straight A student minus the period I attempted balancing school + work + treatment. Rather, it doesn’t feel right. I enjoy learning, I love it and feed off of it. Increasing my knowledge base and understanding of both the material I’m studying and the world in general makes me feel grounded. However, sitting in a class full of other students with numerous stimuli and distractions doesn’t jive well with my brain. I can rarely focus and while that was okay the past two semesters, I’ve been apprehensive about the upcoming school year. So I’m doing something about that and choosing to be proactive and supportive of my needs rather than just being in la-la land and pretending I’m a perfectly productive student in the classroom.

. Four FULLY ONLINE summer classes. There is the money honey. I honestly dig online classes, I feel that I’m able to grasp the material equally as well if not better than in-class lecture format because I’m not wasting time sitting in classes unfocused and angsty only to go home to teach myself everything I supposedly just learned in class. I feel very uneasy in classes/on campus which fascinates me because it’s only been like this throughout my time at my current university. It could be the school (size), it could be that my mental health is in a different place now than before and I tend to actually feel my feelings, not feeling like I fit in AT ALL, a combination, or none of the above.

Life is said to be this balancing act – a see-saw if you will. I agree with this, there are good days and bad days, days of growth where you thrive and break down walls, then there are days when the going gets tough and honestly I think the best way to manage these days is being able to take care of yourself. Life isn’t giving in or giving up. It’s not hiding from the world or holding yourself back. It’s owning up to yourself, being present, and showing up in the world.

As I mentioned in a couple posts back when discussing the process of overcoming an injury, “count your rainbows not your thunderstorms.” – Alyssa Knight

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In addition to this, I think it’s being capable of accepting and honoring where you are at now, which may be an entirely different place than a month ago, a year ago, or two months in the future. As human beings we constantly are growing, evolving, and increasing our depth of understanding – having the mental flexibility to allow this and accept/be okay with it is HUGELY IMPORTANT.

I am not where I though I would be at 23, almost 24 years old and that is okay. There is no universal law saying that I need to be doing X or have accomplished Y by the time I’m 24. These are my own self-imposed guidelines/goals/expectations. They are the feelings that strip enjoyment out of life. The feelings of being a failure because I decided that I don’t want what I once thought I did, or wondering why I’m unable to roll with the punches the way society expects me too.

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I’m not abnormal. Heck, what even is normal?! I’m working with who I am to develop the best version of me.

There are days where I have to take a step back from everything and just try to enjoy the little things. Focusing on small stuff helps keep the big stuff more manageable. In the past year I’ve come a ways in terms of being able to recognize when I need to do this instead of keeping pushing through which inevitably leads to either becoming burnt out and/or increased anxiety/panic attacks.

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Enjoying the little things – favorite space in my bedroom – lilacs, star dish with sea shells and tea bag quotes, a few pictures, my globe (in the back), and a card a dear friend gave me.

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Close up. Oh hey Panda 🙂

SO what have I been up to in my week off from school? A whole lot of nothing. I’ve worked pretty minimally, enjoyed the sunshine and warm temps, spent time with friends, and given myself space to prepare for the hefty load of classes in my near future (tomorrow!).

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Sports psychology/mindset reading

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I biked and she ran 🙂

I think that while I still deal with anxiety on a regular basis I’m much more accepting of it and I understand it better than I ever have. Taking time to just be and really pursue the things which light my soul on fire have been absolutely essential to my mental health. That and forcing myself to do things which while sometimes uncomfortable are only going to help me grow. I believe that there is a difference between doing things which are uncomfortable but promote growth versus things which are just not good for our personal needs (e.g online vs. in-class courses). I believe understanding where to draw the line for yourself and prioritizing this is the base of the pyramid in terms of self-care.

Prioritizing is knowing what you stand for. What are your goals? What makes you tick? What are you willing to put up with, sacrifice, leave behind, etc. etc. Learn to maximize everything that will help get you to your end goal. Look at the end goal and determine what needs to happen to get from now –> then. Focus on that stuff.

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clotuds, everything.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

A few of my favorite things – May edition

Hi guys! What’s up? I hope this post title made you think of this:

I literally can’t believe it’s already the middle of May. Like, oh hey hello when did that happen?!

Good news #1 is that it’s going to be in the 70’s next week (squee!). We had a handful of 70-90 degree days here in NH back in April and boy was that a teaser. I live for the summer weather. Both because I can do the whole #nopantsarethebestpants thing daily (those of you who know me in “real life” know I would kill to wear shorts daily year long) but also I feel so much better physically when it’s warmer.

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Exhibit A. For the record, I do have shorts on.

Good news #2 is that I’m done classes and just have two final exams on Monday until the spring semester can be checked off the list. YASSSSSS.

Mixed feels news #1 I have a total of six. SIX. 6 days off from school. I’m taking four classes over the summer. Cognitive psychology, child development, abnormal psychology, and sports & performance psychology (beyond stoked for this one!).

No bad news. Yippee.

Onto some of my favorite things. 1, 2, 3, lets go!

Pacifica

I’ve always been a fan of the Pacifica roller-ball perfume (particularly lilac) and am seriously digging their other products.

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BB cream. Base coat. Mascara.

All possible turmeric things

Like c’mon Sarah, take a chill pill before you turn orange. I’ve actually done that before… turn orange… there was a period in my life where I ate too many sweet potatoes. I still ride a fine line between pale and orange but seem to be succeeding at not rocking the fake tan look as of late. Winning.

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Told you, I’m a BIG fan.

Oil pulling

I used to be quite into this but fell off the bandwagon. Recently I’ve rekindled my love for swishing coconut oil around my mouth most mornings. Check out this mini guide if you want to see what all the hype is about.

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Beet chips

Specifically dehydrated beets. That’s it. Trader Joe’s has them – “just beets“. They are pure gold… if you like beets that is. Otherwise, they likely taste like the ground. A friend of mine who doesn’t like beets tried them and couldn’t finish the bite haha.

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On top of Mt. Moosilauke, noshin’ on a beet chip 😉

Meditation

My brain is a fan. I’ve mainly been using the Calm app.

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Creative juice

I like to put a small dot on my wrist or temples, or in my diffuser. You can also check out my nails… I’ve been on quite the kick of doing three fingers one color and two fingers another. Variety is the spice of life?

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That’s the list I’m coming up with. So far I’m digging this month – summer is around the corner, I’m getting closer to being able to hike and deadlift again, and there are some new things on the horizon job wise!

I’ll be back with another post sometime next week between Spring semester ending and summer starting 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying, ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” – Ram Dass

Life lately + a workout + molasses smoothies?!

Hi friends! It’s been a bit… Let’s chat.

I’ve been on the injured bandwagon since the beginning of April… the 5th to be specific. In my last post I told you guys it’s a sprain of my left ankle – ATFL and peroneal tendon inflammation . Shortly after this post I went back to the doctors again as things weren’t necessarily getting worse but there was also zero improvement… insert x-ray number 2 which came back normal, and an MRI which showed a stress fracture in the distal fibula (lateral malleolus). When the injury initially happened I kept saying it wasn’t a stress fracture, it didn’t feel right, it hurt “too much”, it felt like the peroneal tendon was ON TOP OF the distal fibula and I blamed the tendons/ligaments (so soft tissue) rather than bone. I mean after all I’ve had stress fractures before and I know what they feel like/how they present themselves. I also am MUCH healthier now and my body shouldn’t be in a position to develop one. However when it swelled a week after the initial injury and the bone hurt to palpitate I knew something was amiss.

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I know my hips are off kilter as I have hip dysplasia in my left hip. Yep it happens in humans and not just dogs. I swear 96.4% of the time people find out I have this they say “doesn’t that happen a lot to dogs?”… My biomechanics are off because of this, asymmetrical hamstring and hip flexor strength/movement patterns, compensations, ect. I have found a way to work with this in terms of lifting and hiking but running is an entirely different ballgame. Every single stress fracture I’ve dealt with is from running (e.g mechanical/use due to lack of shock absorption), or a combination of running and other activities (e.g volume/overuse).

My PT (whom I have seen for every single injury mind you) essentially told me that my foot/ankle mechanics are not designed for running. Especially road running, which I hate but the trails have been very snowy until now. My dorsiflexion is crap, things are tight, I have a bunch of scar tissue, my natural gait pattern is supination (aka I try to walk on the outside of my foot…placing stress on the lateral ankle), ect.

I’m accepting that this is going to be a work in progress. While I ultimately want to get back into distance racing, my current goal is to finish the NH 4000 footers in a year, so by July 20th. I’ve thought long and hard multiple times about this goal since this injury and if I have to push the date back it will NOT be the end of the world. To be honest, if I hadn’t already healed five stress fractures, have a good overall awareness of my body, and built a solid mental health base I’m not sure how I would be handling this. I’m still irritated, anxious, and annoyed, but I’m accepting the process better than I ever have with an injury before. It’s been a lot of letting go of my natural need for control, allowing myself the space to think things through, and not blaming myself too harshly.

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“Count your rainbows not your thunderstorms.” – Alyssa Knight

So… the workouts. How does one train with a lower extremity stress fracture that can’t take extra weight? Well, I went from 6 days a week 1-2 workouts a day to 4-5 days and one workout. I’m being smarter, taking more rest (something that will inevitably stay even upon fully healing this injury), and working with what I CAN do versus overthinking what I can’t do. It has been a mix of upper body, core strength and stabilization, mobility, lower body which is safe (e.g lateral band work, monster walks, hamstring curls, gentle biking/spin bike, GHD back extensions). I’m making it work. I’m sharing yesterday’s workout with you guys, and note this bench rep scheme is not my normal style of high weight/low rep. I’ve been enjoying changing things up here and there to create a different stimulus, have some fun, and see what my body can do. It’s kind of HE** at 110 total reps and something I may do once every other month… if you give it a whirl please let me know what you think!

1. Bench press: 20.18.16.14.12.10.8.6.4.2 reps. Start at a weight and increase by 5 lbs. each set. Plan it so that the 2 rep is a weight you could usually 4-5 rep because after 108 reps things feel a tad different…

2. Weighted dips 3×6

3a. Dips 3×12

     3b. Hanging leg raise 3×20

4a. Pull ups 4 sets max effort

     4b. L-sit on rings 4×15 seconds

5a. Push ups 4×15

     5b. V ups 4×15

6. Cable press 3×10

7. Tricep push-down 3×10

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In other news I created a new favorite post workout smoothie concoction! It’s like peanut butter banana meets a cookie full of cinnamon and molasses goodness. The flavor profile is broad and it’s classified (to me) as a strange but good combination for sure.

What you need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (or almond/dairy, whatever you prefer)
  • 1 cup water (you could do less, I just like the volume!)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used Pescience peanut butter cookie flavor)
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses (can do more/less, depends how much you like molasses!)
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. powdered peanut butter
  • Hemp hearts
  • Ice

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Directions:

  1. Add everything except molasses, ice, and toppings to blender and blend until smooth
  2. Add molasses and QUICKLY blend as it will try to stick like cement all over the blender
  3. Add as much ice as desired for goal thickness
  4. Top it if you feel like it (I used hemp hearts!)
  5. Drink up, buttercup

Well, if this wasn’t the most all over the map post that I’ve ever put up on the blog than I’m not sure what is.

“Time will pass anyway, you can either spend it creating the life you want or spend it living the life you don’t want. The choice is yours.”

Keeping it together when life hands you lemons

Hi friends! Happy Thursday 🙂

It’s been an interesting week here. First off we were blessed with some summer like temperatures in NH, which I personally dig. In other news, I’m out on the running bandwagon for a bit as a I try to manage an injury. After seeing the doc I’ll be taking some time from running and going back to PT for a bit mainly for maintenance. What started as pain in my right arch and ball of foot has (after several painful runs later… never said I was the brightest bulb) turned into a sprained left ankle/peroneal tendon and ATFL inflammation in addition to the right foot. Oddly, the left ankle is worse. While my arch is rather sore while running (read: I find myself trying to run in a supinated position), the ankle hurts to walk/ I’m limping down flights of stairs/ it’s cracking and popping like rice crispies throughout the day. Needless to say, I’m a ball of sunshine at the moment (insert all of the possible sarcasm).

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It was more like 80 degrees but our outdoor thermometer is in the sunshine! Clearly excited.

 

It’s weird though. I’m not thrilled – who would be? Running and hiking are the two things which take me away, help me find a sense of hope, remind me of who I really am, and allow me to gather/accept/understand my thoughts. They are two things which will always be such a huge component of my life. I’m bummed that I can’t run at the moment, I mean I could, and like I mentioned above there have been several painful ones, but healing > running. Last week I decided to run a few miles on the treadmill (mainly to make sure I avoided frost heaves/pot holes) and the entire thing, 100% of it, was done in pain). Why you ask? This is the leftover of my past struggles with exercise addiction and compulsive needs for working out. The difference now is that it’s 90% because I love it and am so insanely batshit passionate, whereas before it was 90% part of my eating disorder. Now it’s the glue which holds my brain together. I didn’t enjoy that run at all (I usually LOVE my running time), but rather I knew I would feel better from a mental clarity perspective after. This left me feeling 1. proud of running, 2. guilty for running in pain, 3.questioning my motives and wanting to take a closer look at my current training/mental health/goals.

In 2007 I stress fractured by sacrum from running (because I have hip dyaplasia this is actually rather “easy” for me to pull off).

In 2010 that same injury happened again.

2012 I ran multiple hours of a race with a KNOWN tibial stress fracture… post race I also had one developed another stress fracture in my talus likely due to improper mechanics.

These are just prime examples of some solid overuse injuries to date. While I can look back now and joke about “breaking my butt”, it also is something I take and try to keep learning from, especially as I delve back into the running field. After the last week of finding myself dealing with undoubtedly overuse/under-recovery nags I wanted to really feel my feels around all of this to both understand where I’m at and what my ultimate goals are/what actions will get me there.

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I still have the compulsive need for fitness but it feels different. I no longer completely ignore pain and push through. I’ll ignore it, immediately want to process it, and work with it. Progress is a process my friends. I think for me, being able to recognize that I need to accept taking some time to change things up, re-evaluate what I was doing which led to some under-recovery (not sleeping enough, mainly), and just accepting is HUGE.

I have things outside of running and hiking which I enjoy, like weightlifting, which allows me flexibility to change my routine up on a whim when needed and still allows me to feel like I’m progressing forward towards my athletic related goals. Sure, lifting doesn’t = running/hiking, but IT IS SOMETHING. I love it and to be completely honest taking some time to focus on strength, muscle gain, and healing nagging little pesky injuries for a bit is likely not a bad thing. While I’m in so much better shape both physically and mentally now than even before in my life I still deep down know there is progress to be made and that there are still some major concerns and risk at play as I continue to look at getting back into racing competitively. I mean, outside of the given concerns – injury, ect. Like I said I have hip dyaplasia. It is 100% recommended that I don’t run much. I also have low bone density still after having my period back for three years, getting adequate food and calcium/D/Mg+/K, and partaking in weight bearing activities. My goals are risky and not recommended.

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The other… safer love. Really though, sleeping during cleans works wonders 😉

It’s a risk I am willing to take but it’s a risk I want to feel very in control of. By this I mean, I want to ensure that I keep as healthy as possible throughout this journey. I know I’ll have hiccups, bad days, nags, possible injury, and times where I question WHY. I’m actual extremely grateful for having a minor little injury pop up now so early into training because 1. it’s humbling, and mainly 2. it’s forcing me to deeply evaluate and re-evaluate my shit (training, sleep, stretching, food, risks/benefits, goals, ect.).

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Well, I haven’t run since Thursday. This is progress from a mental health perspective. During this period of “shit, I can’t run!”, I’m extremely thankful for the fact that I can lift. For the most part lifting has been unaffected by the unfortunate twist of fate upon my lower body. I’ve even made up some “cardio” workouts via strength movements along with hopping back on my bike!

Monday conditioning workout:

  • FIVE ROUNDS: 6 power cleans, 15 air squats
  • FOUR ROUNDS: 10 tire flip, 20 sit ups
  • Toes to bar practice
  • 100 kettlebell swings
  • GHD 4×10 superset of sit ups and back extension

Thursday conditioning workout:

  • FOUR ROUNDS: 5 pull ups, 10 KB swings, 15 parallel bar dips, 20 cal on ski erg
  • 50-40-30-20-10 reps of: ball slams, sit ups
  • FOUR ROUNDS of “abs of H.E double hockey sticks”: 10 v ups, 10 tucks, 10 supermans, 60 second plank… seems simple… gets real spicy real quick
  • 15 min on the spin bike at a very moderate casual pace (I watched a vlog…)

I didn’t decide to take/pass the exam for the NASM trainer cert. for nothing…. I can program around injuries/hiccups/annoying nags as needed. I’m not saying I always do that, but I’m capable to do so. In a conversation with a good friend this morning I mentioned how thankful I am to 1. be so passionate about lifting, 2. understand how to program for myself, and 3. know when to call it and evaluate. I’ve learned A LOT about my body in the past few years and it’s nice to understand how it works optimally and know when I can push limits and when I absolutely need to just dial it back. I believe there are times when we can push our limits and it leads to growth and further progress. Actually, I think it’s essential to push limits to grow. On the other hand, there are times when limit pushing isn’t going to lead to growth but rather the opposite. Knowing the difference between these takes time and a lot of patience.

My body is sending me messages lately and it’s time for me to get back to 100% by giving myself the time I need to work the nags out. I want to provide myself the opportunity to reach my true potential and not miss what I’m really capable of because I just keep pushing. I am telling myself on repeat right now that I am young and have so much ahead of me and really there is no way to know what is possible. I’m trying to keep expectations out of the mix and just see where training and being in love with what I’m doing takes me. I don’t want to put limits or a ceiling on myself by not listening to the needs of my body. Time for prehab and rehab for lack of better terms.

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What prehab/rehab looks like: foam-roller, lax ball, mobility stick, and a wee bit of pinot 

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs

A workout & recent faves

Hi friends! It’s hump day again. Enough said.

Wednesdays are like my Friday in a way… let me explain. I have class Monday and Wedneday, and then work Wednesday and Friday but my Friday jobs are super relaxed and I typically do my homework so it’s not stressful by any means. As for the weekend, I’ll be doing a long run and hopefully a hike. Besides fitness, I’ll be studying for a stats exam which is Monday at 8am.

Have I mentioned how simple this semester is? I cannot remember, I’m in two classes (psych stats and research methods), both of which were pre-requisites for the classes I took last semester (behavior neuroscicnce and psychopharm)… which I aced, and I’ve taken a general stats class before… so yeah my feelings are 1. hating that my college is making me take these for my degree and spending over $4800 on them, and 2. loving that I can sit in class and plan hikes and blog posts versus take notes. Mixed feels. Best part of saying how easy school is and that I only pay half attention? A prof reads this blog… HI! 🙂

After the back to back deep and raw posts last week (which by the way I posted twice and then again today, hello gold start thank you very much), I wanted to post on a much lighter note. I’ll be sharing a fun workout and then some recent favorites with you guys!

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The workout

FOUR ROUNDS:

  • 250m row
  • 15 deadlifts (I used 125#, which is approx. 60% of my max haha. Goal for this workout: select a weight you can get through 15 reps of unbroken the first two rounds, and then just cross your fingers. Meant to be quick and snappy. But, FORM FORM FORM. Puhlease).
  • 20 kettlebell swings (unbroken)
  • 25 double unders (50 singles)

Rest 5 minutes (or go pee and chug aminos…. I mean I def don’t do that 😉 ) and then 12 MINUTE AMRAP:

  • 10 box jumps
  • 10 chin ups
  • 10 squat thrusts

This was a random mix I came up with while eating breakfast before heading off to the gym. I honestly usually am a last-minute decision type of person WHEN it comes to HIIT/metabolic workouts. I decide based on how I feel that day. Am I sore from lifting and running? Are there any nagging aches/pains? Do I feel great? I wake up and just take a step back before starting my day to simply analyze my body and understand what it needs.

It’s that simple. A self-scan, asking myself what I want to do but also if there is anything I want to work on.

Onto the next topic… recent favorites… because who doesn’t enjoy reading a post about fitness and random things that other people are digging? Insert sarcasm.

Combinations of two favorite things

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Blood orange + kombucha = YAS

Mountain pictures

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Incognito

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Find Waldo

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Twinning, per usual

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Human icicle

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View from a lookout on Mt. Pierce

Potatoes…. purple ones

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Mainly I dig the color

Tea bag quotes

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“Appreciate yourself and honor your soul”

Anything with oats… except oatmeal 😉

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Things which help the self-care bandwagon… and feel good after weeks full of lifting and solid mileage via mountain climbing and pavement miles (can the ten billion feet of snow melt now please?!). Ignore the size of the second picture, wanted to make sure y’all could read the small text!

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Lush 93,000 miles shower jelly. Literally AHHH-mazing.

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Love love love… my fave is “there is no right way to do anything”

Last but not least, a last minute share: find what speaks to you. It’s out there. “It’s what we learn… it’s what we discover that counts.” – TED talk Zoe Romano

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.” ― Walt Whitman

Four years post treatment

Hi friends! First, happy Monday. When it’s Monday you need to remember one thing and one thing only:

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Go get em’ tiger.

I said my last post was long. Well…. if that was long, this one is a novel. Ugh what’s up with the deep posts as of late? Well, for starters I find them extremely therapeutic to write, and secondly… they’re important. When I was beginning my journey to recovery I found a lot of hope and inspiration through blogs, articles, and stories of other who had “made it to the other side”, those who found a place where there life wasn’t consumed by their eating disorder. This post isn’t necessarily a “life after an ED” post, it’s more of a summation of my thoughts around treatment, recovery, and struggling from my current perspective after finishing an IOP program four years ago. Time flies.

*Disclaimer: if you’re currently struggling or have struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating, please read at your discretion and with caution. This is a motivational, positive outlook ending post BUT there are many triggering words and topics embedded within my writing of this post.*

I have mentioned time and time again on this blog that I’ve struggled, and I’ve even delved into the nitty gritty to some degree. One thing I haven’t really done is discuss the present. I mean, sure I am solid in my recovery and my overall mental and physical health is in a good place, but WHERE ARE MY THOUGHTS. When you’re 23 and dealt with an ED for over a decade, things don’t just disappear. Some days I wish they would, other days I’m appreciative for my experience because it grounds me and makes me more aware of my surroundings, feelings, and the world. Catch 22. Four years later and I’m here to talk about it on a very deep, personal, and raw level.

Recovery: the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

That’s the best definition I could find that meshes with my personal opinion. The action = the process. Regaining = learning and acceptance. Control of something lost = discovering your individual purpose, needs, goals, feelings, desires, and intentions

“Grow through what you go through.”

It’s weird because the journey has been long and challenging, full of road blocks. It’s a journey I wouldn’t wish upon anyone but yet it’s one I’m grateful for. While I have days I only wish I could say I never struggled the truth of the matter is that I did and sometimes I still do. The thing about ED’s and many many other mental illnesses is once you experience the darkness, the darkness is always there to some degree. When recovered it’s much less, feelings fade, things seem better, but the darkness lingers deep down. Most days I am good, solid, SARAH is in control. A few here and there I find myself reliving the past, experiencing deja-vu over the feelings I had when my being was under control of my ED, being provoked by old triggers, or thinking that it wasn’t ever really that bad. It happens. It’s normal. This is a prime example of why I refer to recovery as a process, an effort which takes time, and never will I refer to it as an “end-point”. It’s continual.

“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”

The process… I remember the process either vividly or vaguely and there isn’t much of an in-between. It’s black and white yet the entire thing seems like a shade of grey. I’ll explain… Example: I remember about two weeks into IOP treatment, we were having a group dinner (you brought your own dinner, so that always felt semi-safe), but one of the requirements that day was to have whatever dessert they wanted you to have. That night it was ice cream and I remember feeling so completely out of control. Out of control over freaking ICE CREAM. I remember getting up and leaving the group table. I went to the bathroom (which you needed a key for in case you were going to throw up) and just crying because I didn’t know how I got from the place of an innocent ten year old to a nineteen year old who couldn’t down ice cream to prove she was “fine”… That’s the insanity of an ED. You feel out of control in one situation and suddenly you feel out of control in every situation. However, on the other side, the ED voice keeps telling you that you’re in control. What happens though when you’re in a treatment setting which tells you that the ED voice is lying and that you’re not in control when still half of your mind thinks that you’re fine, not in need of help.

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Other examples of vivid memory, I remember the first time I skipped lunch in seventh grade, the countless nights of running in place in my bedroom for hours, weighing spinach and taking some out if it wasn’t the “right amount of grams”, having my dad drive me to the gym before work so that I could burn off the breakfast I never ate, taking too many laxatives and staying awake all night in a house to myself both sickeningly proud and also terrified that I was going to experience some medical complication, and so many memories of instances where I was capable of flawlessly pulling off lying to those I love and respect about the reality of my struggles. I was living in my own personal hell, which was created by my mind.

The scary part is how vague it is as a whole. I remember certain things with great detail but as a whole (even with discussing some of the memories) I find myself telling myself that it wasn’t that bad, I had some rough points here and there but I never was really harming myself. I don’t remember any of my relapses that well beyond what initially triggered them. However when given the context I can pinpoint an exact feeling. I was actually going through pictures on my phone last week and found a food picture which I remember to be my “first” breakfast “meal” of my most recent and final relapse back in friggen 2012. FIVE YEARS LATER I see a picture of what I called a meal and can without a second thought say that was the first thing I ate during that period of relapse. That is sick. Really any picture from that time I can tell you what was going through my mind in the utmost detail. The context puts everything back into place like it was yesterday. Without that image or deja-vu style feelings though it’s like my brain is trying to remove itself as far as possible from the countless memories of self-destruction.

I remember before I entered my most recent round of treatment feeling so hopeless. I had always thought the struggle would eventually just go away despite never having put my one-hundred percent effort into moving through the struggle and out of the darkness which I felt like I was drowning in. I had convinced myself that if I saw a therapist and nutritionist that things would inevitably over time get better. I had periods in which I was taking better care of myself, and to 16-18 year old Sarah, this felt like progress. BUT, mentally I was beyond numb. After going through another relapse and subsequently the IOP treatment I choose so that I could still go to school and work (not really recommended, btw), I can firmly say it changed my life. It wasn’t the program itself, it was the mindset going into it. I WANTED to get better. I WANTED to heal. I WANTED to feel things, and work through my problems, and stop needing the numbness to get through life. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and I was beyond terrified to start but it was worth it, for me. I remember telling myself during the hour drive before my first day to just suck it up and go because it would either a. be worth it, or b. I could just continue my own destruction. I cannot tell you how many black and white decisions I made throughout this process, and that has been part of the healing process too.

Most of my recovery happened after I finished treatment, however I think that being in an intensive program gave me the skill set I needed to be resilient. It helped me realized everything I needed to “figure out” was already inside and that I “just needed to listen and be extremely honest to myself”. Sounds cliche but it’s true. And I’ll be honest, this is still a work in progress and likely always will be. I accept that.

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet. This space allows you to integrate all that has happened for you, everything you’ve experienced, and what you desire to create. This is the place where resilience, possibility and opportunity are born.”– Nancy Levin

No matter how much I look back, try to relive the intensity of this experience I always find myself feeling removed from the experience to some degree. The times when I find myself closest to feeling the way I felt within this struggle are either 1. re-reading journal entries or looking at my binder from IOP, 2. looking at pictures, or 3. doing things which used to be “behaviors” yet are no longer maladaptive in nature (running, discussing triggering topics such as weight, ect.). Occasionally I’ll find myself apprehensive about experiencing things which used to be triggering. This especially holds true for me when my overall stress level is heightened. I think that increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed –> me wanting to avoid potentially triggering situations out of fear that I won’t be able to handle it (even knowing I can now) and sometimes out of fear that I’ll want my ED “back”. It has been five years since I relapsed and four since I finished my last session of treatment and I still on occasion experience this apprehension, mainly as a protective mechanism, but still. I’m trying to convey how it’s NORMAL to still have strong feelings and that this process is a long journey which may never seem to go away… that also doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Working on yourself is never something to be considered a failure.

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The binder. Reading some of the stuff within this 1″ of plastic can feel both very intense and like it never really happened and is all an illusion.

I’ve always been a perfectionist. I want to check things off my list and not look back. I like to multi-task, be effective and productive, and keep growing. Recovery is not quick. Re-finding and defining yourself and your purpose is not an easy or simple task… it takes time to heal and a lot of hard work along with self-acceptance and openness to understand why the ED was part of your journey and what your needs are to get past this obstacle. For the first few weeks of treatment I felt like a failure, both to my recovery but also to my ED. I wasn’t at the elusive place of recovery yet (and I mean… it had been at least two or three weeks… what gives? (all the sarcasm)), yet my ED was screaming loud and clear that I was out of control when in reality I was actually gaining control. If I were to pinpoint the hardest parts of the journey to healing the would be 1. The initial choice that YOU want to get better for YOU and the newness of taking care of yourself/shutting down the voice in your head, and 2. Continuting the journey once your “healthy” by the standards of society. My mental health took a BIG hit and downfall about two years after finishing treatment and just recently I feel like I’m making some good solid headway on digging myself out of that. It’s taken me so long to come to a place where I understand my emotions and feelings. Conveying them to others isn’t always an easy task but it’s nice to understand the root of them myself. For the longest time I couldn’t explain the pain, I didn’t know why I hurt the way I did or how to rationalize it. When this happens it’s about keeping going… you have to just keep going. As a good friend once told me, “don’t quit can’t fail”. I love, love, love this. If you never quit on the pursuit dedicated to yourself, you will never fail. Hello positive psychology.

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Throughout my time in the program, I found myself becoming more and more aware of what things were triggering to me and what actually supported me. One of those supportive things is fitness… Sports have always been a part of my life… okay not always… but since age four. I never had a bad relationship with my body due to my involvement in athletic endeavors until I had a bad relationship with my body and with food which grew to be involved with my athletic life. Whoever said ED’s affect each and every part of your life – I’ve found this to be true. Mine effected everything and nothing will ever be the same as before. That doesnt mean to drop everything and avoid all things you used to (and still do!) enjoy out of fear. My love for sports was morphed into an exercise “addiction” intertwined with ED for a period of years. Throughout the last few years I’ve come to a place where I can say firmly that my deep passion for all things fitness is more positive than negative, and honestly, I’ll take that and run with it – pun intended. Anything positive > anything negative. It’s an unreal, intense, occasionally magical level of passion.

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Intense passion and a solid amount of good vibes.

DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL RECOVERY JOURNEY. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS DIFFERENT. WHAT WORKED AND WORKS FOR ME MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR OTHERS. WHAT WORKED FOR OTHERS MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR ME. SERIOUSLY.

Another major takeaway from the program is the friendships I gained from treatment. These amazing human beings witness you in your most vulnerable state and continue to accept you for who you are not who you are with your ED. They understand the complexity, the reasons you’re absolutely terrified to get better. They can comprehend and relate with you when you tell them about why your afraid to eat, the need for meticulous behaviors, fear of social situations, or why you avoid the things which trigger you to use behaviors. Speaking of behaviors, the people you meet and the treatment team themselves don’t judge the behaviors. They don’t support them, but they don’t call them “ridiculous” or “irrational”… while in reality the behaviors intertwined within an ED are ridiculous and irrational, that DOESN’T NEED TO BE POINTED OUT. Trust me… well aware.

I am so grateful for the people that were involved in this period of my life when I entered treatment and stuck with me throughout and after because no matter what I was experiencing they were able to look at me as a person and not me plus my ED. When I started IOP I did it because I had reached a point where I accepted not being able to do things on my own. I had many prior attempts, some which “failed” miserably and others which seemed to work… things were better… but them BAM out of nowhere I had crazy urges to go back and lacked the coping skills, deep understanding, and mainly I lacked the support crew that I needed to get past this pathological mindset which had been in partial control for half of my life. I did it because I knew something better was out there. Now I know that I’m worth the something better that is out there and I’m finding those better things pop up quite regularly.

Ultimately, it’s gradual, recovery. It’s slow and you may find yourself in this shade of grey between what is true for the present, what hopes you have for the future, and what used to be. I experienced this ‘shade of grey’ on and off for a while. I no longer hated myself, nor was I completely mad and going off the deep end, but I also wasn’t “better”. I would still hear all the internal chitter chatter daily, but I wasn’t nearly as inclined to listen or rather follow through. I don’t think you ever fully come back, not all the way at least. It’s your history, which in the end makes up a portion of who you are.

Circling back to the definition that I added in at the start of this post, the term recovery is technically used to define “regaining of something lost”. It’s so much more than that. It’s learning what makes you tick, what your needs are, what is important to you. It’s accepting your weaknesses, knowing WE ALL have them. It’s developing the capacity to take negative energy and reform it into something that while it may not always serve you… it doesn’t completely destroy you either.

“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” — Earnest Hemingway 

xo, S

Break walls and find yourself

Hi friends! Happy hump day Wednesday 😉 It’s been a hot minute since my last post where I talked about my coping skills and what I find works for me to dial things into perspective. Vaguely mentioned in that post was how crucial it is to find coping skills which work for YOUR goals and support YOUR purpose. I wanted to delve much deeper into that purpose in today’s post and have an open discussion about what I’ve been up to. To preface this entire post: it’s on the deep and long side (how I like things). I started crying two or three times while writing and just went with it (note: I did read it through after to make sure it makes sense!). I honestly find that when I read others blogs which are very raw from an emotional standpoint I take so much away, so hoping this post is a takeaway for at least one person.

First off, here is a song to listen to while your read:

I added a quote to my last post, “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” ― Neil Gaiman… THIS speaks so much to me. It always will I think. At 23 I’ve been though a lot, and I’m not trying to say that most 23 year old’s haven’t, ect.. just speaking in my personal experience. The quote itself makes me think of chaos, internal chaos more specifically. I have so many thoughts, feelings, internal dialogues and at times being able to fully grasp that is a considerable task. The “secrets” of my past, apprehension of my future, and then everything about where I’m currently at in my life. Oddly, I’ve found more mental clarity and peace recently than I have in years. In the midst of chaos I’m finding a sincere sense of calmness and things make more sense than they have in my entire life.

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Moosilauke summit

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Lonesome Lake

Rewind five years and I was doing a lot of endurance and adventure events. I loved it and felt so alive. The hindering variable is that I was still so deeply involved with my eating disorder and after sustaining some considerable injuries (two lower body stress fractures simultaneously), I relapsed. I had found my passion but it wasn’t my time. I had mental work to do. I knew the general direction I wanted to head, my vision was vague, but I had an idea of what I ideally wanted for my life. There were so many goals, goals which felt entirely surreal in such a mentally and physically low place but I just trusted the process and continued step by step to grow and one day achieve the things which seemed like dreams and only dreams. My mindset was rather positive, I had goals, dreams, aspirations.

About two years ago I am much better mentally and physically fairly healthy. Progress is a process, right? This was an awkward stage for me in my recovery and in discovering who I am and what I want to be doing. I felt physically so much healthier than I ever had (because oh wait apparently fueling your body is useful…) but very disconnected to myself mentally and emotionally. This is when I stated my current college journey and although I am a good student it didn’t feel right. The only place where I felt “at home” was the gym which was confusing because when it treatment I was told time and time again that I needed to “be careful” because putting that much emphasis on the gym and fitness is dangerous. Look, I get it, honestly, it is dangerous if not in the right mindset and at this time I wasn’t. It could have ended differently but instead I kept using fitness as a means to process my discomfort with school and keep myself out of my eating disorder (not ideal and not recommended but it worked for me and I think it only worked because I was EXTREMELY aware of my feelings at this time point and knew that going back to old habits would inevitably kill me). While I did feel disconnected to the world I felt connected to myself and expressing that wasn’t something I was capable of doing during this time which felt uncomfortable and nerve wracking. I kept going, three steps forward, four back, two forward, one back type of deal. Everyone has rough patches and this was mine.

Looking back, between two years ago and now, the thing which I have found to be the most beneficial for growth is exploring more. Exploring the deeper meaning of my thoughts, spending time outside, adventuring, cultivating stronger relationships, and making an effort to trust that now is my time to pursue my passions which made me feel so alive and still continue to do so. Letting go has been a form of hanging on. Exploring has been a process to develop a greater understanding of my deepest self, it helps teach me who I am, how I react, and what my basic needs are.

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Kinsman Pond

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Hi, Blaire!!!!!

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Where’s Waldo? Walking though Narnia to summit Moosilauke 🙂

To the present… I am so aware of my feelings that sometimes it hurts me and I have to take a giant step back and look at the entire picture. I get caught up, hiccups happen, things aren’t perfect in a traditional sense but they honestly feel so perfect. Through the use of many many coping skills, adventures, and a considerable amount of thought processing, I’m at a point where I can say I feel like I am where I am meant to be. I understand my feelings, am able to express them for the most part. I’m not saying my anxiety has disappeared, I never have thoughts of old behaviors, and I’m happy all the time… nope, nope, and nope. The difference is that I accept it all, take it for what it is, try to understand the underlying meaning of what I’m experiencing, and then work from there. My life is probably the most upside down from most peoples perspective (read: I’m all over the map), but I feel more grounded and in control than ever.

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Cardigan summit on a misty and foggy Monday

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Block out all the noise around you and inside of you. Create a tunnel and dig.

“Stop taking pride in your ability to destroy yourself.” – Michelle K

I’m not going to lie, I used to do this. I never admitted it but I found an intense sense of pride and accomplishment for destroying myself – physically, mentally, emotionally. It didn’t matter. Abuse to myself felt good. It felt calming. I felt like I was in so much control when in reality that was the complete opposite. I still haven’t come up with a way to vocalize what was going through my mind during this time other than that I was in pain, confused, unsure, scared, and felt like taking all of this out on myself would solve everything because after all I was the problem and therefore self-destruction was the answer.

A couple year ago my biggest internal struggle was a product of the fact that I still felt like I needed to change who I was in order to get though my demons. I felt like I needed to lose a part of who I was (the fitness enthusiast, adventure seeker, adrenaline junkie) to get to the illusive place of full-recovery and ultimate self-acceptance. Maybe that’s the case for some, and that’s cool. This IS NOT the case of me. All of that was a part of me prior to dealing with the negatives. Sure everything is intertwined and involved and I have to be careful with how I approach certain things but my need for fitness and adrenaline highs aren’t the cause – ultimately I have found them to be the solution. My work lies in being vulnerable, raw, and open to both myself and those I’m close with. I find that this helps me keep in tune with myself and when I’m actively doing this I feel the best and the happiest.

My path might seem off kilter and different. I’m not lost. I’m finding myself. I’m finding my soul. Each adventure helps me find my soul and that isn’t something I’m giving up anytime soon. I’m mastering my internal chaos, I used to think running from it was the answer, but now I find the answer is channeling it into energy to drive me forwards and grow.

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Osceola summit

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger, Strike the bell and bide the danger, Or wonder, till it drives you mad, What would have followed if you had.” ― C.S. Lewis