Solo Mt.Tom – 2/9/20 & being a safe space for yourself

Hey pals!

Two solo hikes in one week. Two Winter 4000 footer solo hikes in one week. Who am I becoming? I’m not quite sure, but I dig it. I really really deeply dig it.

Pierce was a wonderful solo day this past Wednesday, and I think that hike set the tone for this one. Like I talked about in the Pierce blog post, it’s all the process.

Yesterday was MAGIC. Epic. Stunning. Narnia-land.

It was also gratifying, freeing, and comforting.

I woke up unsure if I was even going to hike. I knew of a few friends hiking various mountains, none of that felt right. I’ve been angsty the past few days. Lie. The past few weeks. It’s just been a little more in my conscious awareness the past few days. Knowing this, I knew yesterday needed to feel good on a soul level.

It did.

Ultimately I decided I would drive to Crawford Notch to hike something in the Tom/Field/Willey Range. Tom ended up being the decision, and while my ego wanted to go tag Field, I didn’t. Quite frankly, I’m tired of doing things purely out of ego. It’s self-deprecating and when I do things out of ego it gives the vibe to my being that the internal soul self is less important.

OVER IT.

I think ego is arguably the hardest component of personal growth to tackle.

It’s so intertwined. To everything. And it’s easy to live based off ego in the Freudian sense (can you tell I have a degree in Psychology/neuroscience 😉 ) without even recognizing it. There’s a lot of unraveling to be done when getting to the core of why we do what we do – like peeling an onion.

Mt Tom summit

So, Mt. Tom hike from Crawford Notch: a lovely 5.8 mile frolic through the woods using the Avalon trail, A-Z trail, and Tom spur trail.

I LOVE the Tom Spur, it begins as dense trees and slowly opens up as you near the summit. While A-Z trail for about the half mile before you get to the junction with Tom Spur is consistently moderate, the Tom Spur is a lovely section of relatively easy trail.

I met some wonderful folks along the Spur, one who is also in the NH Women’s Hiking Group on Facebook, and two others who referenced themselves as “seniors”, ha! It was great to have conversations with all of them. This is one aspect of solo hiking I love – conversations with other hikers. When hiking with friends I rarely spark conversation with other hikers outside of the usual “hi”, “hello”, “happy hiking”, but when solo it can range from meeting new hiking pals to learning about what got someone into hiking, it’s so fascinating.

The other parts of this hike were, for the most part, me myself and I. Alike the recap of Pierce last week, this is another nontraditional hike recap.

Tom Spur Trail

When I first began solo hiking two years(ish) ago, I didn’t really enjoy it. There was some fear of the normal things one might be afraid of when being alone in the woods, but mostly I didn’t feel comfortable alone. I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint the discomfort at this time.

Being alone, in solitude – it’s a lot. You are all by yourself, in nature, with your body and mind. As a highly introspective and aware human being, this is overwhelming.

It was overwhelming because I didn’t feel safe in my body and mind. I still needed some level of detachment.

Avalon Trail

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so introspective, self-aware. Some of this is an innate tendency. I was a highly aware kid. Journaling and writing were practices I naturally adopted around age 12-13. Part of it is having experienced a near decade long battle with anorexia and working my way out of that. And part of it is what comes with doing personal growth work. But it can be lonely, isolating, painful. The more you understand yourself, it can, for a period, feel like nothing makes sense. This is an interim.

It’s understanding your own values, belief systems, intuition, and being able to honestly and gracefully call oneself out.

It’s not running from the dark that will come up.

This work – I wouldn’t go back and undo any of it. Because it really is the answer of why I’m able to actually help people. Because I’m doing the work, and I’m able to give space for people doing the work, and actually understand that it’s a long haul process.

This doesn’t make it easier.

Tom summit

I’m often asked if I’m afraid solo hiking. My answer has always been no – partly because I don’t feel like hearing peoples concern if I say “yes” and partly because even with some degree of fear it has still overall felt safer than general “front-country” life. My answer may soon shift to no because there really isn’t anything to fear if you trust your judgement and let go of ego/”shoulds”/”have to’s”/are aware of weather and surroundings.

I was grabbed by someone at work a few weeks ago. A male, 60’s-ish. I work in retail. THIS IS NOT OK. This is also reality. This happens. This contributes to the lack of feeling unsafe, from a different angle.

As someone who has been through a lot of darkness I still was taken back by this. And, honestly, I shouldn’t have an inkling of “oh well it is what it is and I can handle it”. It just isn’t ok. I’m tired of normalizing.

This shines a bright light onto why I am becoming more into solo time in the woods. I need time with my brain and body. I NEED them to be online with each other. I need to feel safe in my brain and body, because they are both mine and nobody can take that from me.

My fave Spur trail

Yesterday I found myself incredibly curious. Curious of what I would see around each corner. Curious of if I’d see any wildlife. Curious of how many mountains I’d end up summiting. Curious what would come up in my brain.

Solo hiking is incredibly healing when I stay curious and feel safe in my brain and body.

I’m learning that the level of detachment I used to still need, I don’t need it anymore. Rather, there is more of a craving towards more attachment and understanding. Less running from the feelings, and more embracing and thanking of them for being there.

The fight/freeze response I would often historically experience, it’s becoming very rare these days. It’s still here, in my physical body and mind, but avoiding it isn’t the answer. I felt it at work that day, and each shift for probably a week after. Our bodies know. Allowing this side of my being to feel safe is the answer.

Running from it only exacerbates it. No matter how good at running you are. It will catch up.

Oh hello Mt. Washington

The clouds are always moving, branches and pine needles rustling in the wind –

but you don’t notice until you stop to watch.

I didn’t notice I didn’t feel safe in my body and mind until I felt it. And, I FELT IT.

Likewise, I didn’t notice I felt safe until I stopped and watched the clouds. This is literal – I stopped on the A-Z trail headed back to my car and watched the clouds for close to probably five minutes.

In awe, content, happy, and SAFE.

There is a sense of becoming a home for myself.

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” – Bethany Hamilton

The decade of planting seeds

Hey folks!

Happy New Year to all of you 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful day and for those of you who stayed up until midnight NYE, that your sleep is now back on track. I mean it’s now Friyay, so I really hope it is. I did not stay up, and was asleep by 10pm. This said, my sleep has been rather erratic lately between working nights and a rather abrupt bout of evening anxiety I’ve been dealing with as of the past few weeks.

I’ve been writing A LOT lately, most of it’s private in one of my many notebooks. Most of it has also been free writing, where I just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. I usually find myself with a semi-topic by about 30-60 seconds of pen to paper time. On the other hand, I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying prompt or question initiated writing.

One of the recent question prompts I answered for myself contained the following questions:

  1. What has this been the decade of?
  2. What were the biggest teachers and teachings?
  3. If you could tell your 2009/2010 self anything, what would it be?
  4. What is the theme of the next decade?

These questions sparked my interest as they were about a greater span of time than only a year. I think pausing and looking back at a decade can really provide solid insight into our path, interests, patterns, and synchronicities .

While this post won’t get into all four of those questions, let’s focus on #1. “What has this been the decade of?”

Planting seeds.

It took me answering this question to come up with that two word combination that hits the nail on the head at such a deep core level.

My full answer (directly from journal number 3,029,584):

“Coming home to myself and realizing plus understanding that I am my only and my truest home. Allowing all of my self-ingredients to sync together all by actually allowing them to do so – because my ego never had, nor will it ever have the power to make that happen. The ego is control, and controlling things isn’t the key. There is no forcing, only flowing. It’s been the decade of beginning to dissect the deep and dark parts of myself and providing them light and appreciation. Listening to my intuition, spidey sense, and beginning to realize its true capacity to guide me to that internal North – the space where I feel safe and whole. Learning that my sixth sense really is a sixth sense. Practicing vulnerability and being an open book so-to-speak, and allowing this to motivate and support me to continue on my process. Risk taking and giving permission to not follow along with the ordinary box, and just letting whatever feelings come up with this challenging of societal norms.

It’s been the decade of planting many roots, exploring, following ideas.

Many life events have occurred which bring full-circle numerous things and create intersections in parts of my life I never would have thought of having ever intersected. This too, another learning: all parts are connected, no matter how disconnected they may seem.

  • Graduated high school and college, the first with a less than stellar GPA, and the latter Summa Cum Laude
  • Obtained personal training certification
  • Started two websites, this here blog and sarahlacourse.com
  • Began hiking
  • Finished NH 4000 footer list
  • First solo hike
  • Started a business
  • Worked in a neuroscience lab at UNH
  • Started a masters program and stopped after a semester to pursue starting my own business instead
  • Published a peer-reviewed manuscript on the Psychoneuroendocrine Factors in Menstrual Dysfunction Among Athletes
  • Lost and regained my period after losing it for over 3 years
  • Developed and taught four undergraduate level lectures (and an undergrad)
  • Moved out of/packed up childhood home and relocated up North
  • Relapsed, was in treatment, and also hit the 5 (and 6.5) year mark on remission
  • Am living along for the first time ever
  • Got my license
  • Ran a spartan race, ultramarathon, and a few ruck events
  • Dealt with three stress fractures, was diagnosed with osteopenia, and have learned how to navigate and heal to the best of my human ability

It’s been the decade of destroying myself and finding myself, a paradoxical yet beautiful and magical combination.

It’s been the decade that I chose myself, for myself. Where I learned I am worth it, all of it, and I have a story to share.

It’s been the decade of becoming friends with my darkness, because it kept me alive. And beginning to understand that my primary fear is feeling too much, rather that not enough.

It’s been the decade that displayed an internal compass that I know I have to follow, am following, and will never not follow again.”

What is the next decade the decade of? Cultivating the seeds and enjoying the process.

“Be like the single blade of grass. For she too, has been trampled on, mowed down, and hit with such bitterly cold stretches that she had to shut down to survive. Yet still she stands upright with dignity, knowing that she endures, and still she dances with the wind.” ― Sandra Kring

You save yourself (part 1)

Hey all! Happy Sunday (eve)!

I hope your weekend went well! Overall it’s been rather uneventful here… we were in the line of storm Harper but received only about 5″ of snow and then it sleeted for hours but the power stayed on and everything is cleaned up – grateful for this.

*I’m going to throw a disclaimer on this post because it does contain potentially triggering content for those in recovery/dealing with/recovered from an eating disorder/other mental illness. This post is a positive focused view of my personal experience, but could be difficult for some, so please read with your own well-being in mind ♥ *

I came across a quote the other day that got me to thinking, and I couldn’t help but write a post on all of these feels.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ― Carl Gustav Jung

THIS.

THIS.

THIS.

I have been having a lot of internal dialogue lately, about my remission and recovery process, my current life, and the goals I have for myself both in the present and moving forward.

For anybody that is new to my blog, welcome! Thank you for stopping by. I very much appreciate your “click” to my neck of the woods internet.

I’m going to be blunt and factually oriented for a hot second:

I began to develop anorexia nervosa at age 11. I stopped competing nationally in jump-rope at age 12. These two were most definitely intertwined. Middle school and high school were a series of ups and downs – I was “stable”, “unstable”, and a mix of the two in an almost cyclical pattern. I graduated high school, took a year off to explore the realm of adventure racing – something that made me feel alive and stoked about life rather than stoked about my destruction. I started community college in May 2012, relapsed in October 2012 following three simultaneous stress fractures, entered another form of treatment which I finished in May 2013, transferred from community college to the university I’m at now in January 2015, began hiking in July 2016, experienced the first injury I didn’t subsequently relapse after in April 2017, changed my major, finished some major hiking “list” in September 2018 (huge deal as I have an uber fear of commitment), and am currently about to wrap up my degree and am pursing a career in which I help people 1. overcome the fear/shame/guilt, 2. realize their own potential to be their best self, and 3. support them on this journey.

So, HEY, I’m Sarah (insert waving emoji here)

I experienced shame, guilt, fear, uncertainty, and discomfort in who I was as a person starting around age 9/10. These are common feelings for the pre-teen/teen years. For me, these feelings led to a habitual path of self destruction. I felt like I had power when I destroyed myself. After all, I controlled this. The degree to which I annihilated my own being was entirely up to myself. This lasted through, well, today. And it will continue to last because we are all in control of how much we a. destroy ourselves, or b. take care of ourselves.

I used to feel a sense of power by taking myself out.

I thought I was winning. Doing it right. All the balls were in my court.

Today – that neurological connection is still there, but it’s deep down (or far back) in my brain. It rarely comes to the surface in my day to day life. And, when it does, it often goes away as quick as it came because it no longer serves me.

What made a difference? How did I flip-flop from option a to option b? I recognized that destroying myself was not helpful and SLOWLY began the process of less maladaptive behaviors and more healing practices. I accepted and acknowledged fully that I wanted to do everything in my power to not resort to these coping mechanisms which fueled my life, actions, behaviors, thoughts for a decade. Most importantly, I gave myself permission to mess up. Unconditional permission and acceptance.

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I’ll never be a 100% person. Maybe you are, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re like me, that’s okay too. I don’t “do” cold turkey. It F’s me up. I feel even more shame and greater senses of failure. I always end up thinking about the thing that I’m trying to not think about which then makes me think about it more and I end up finding myself waist deep in a relapse, on an 38 day stretch of exercise with no day off, or bobbing in the middle of whatever other maladaptive coping mechanism I’m trying to avoid at all costs. Cold turkey takes me out hard.

I’m a 5 step forward, 1 back, 2, forward, 3 back, 4 forward type of person. This works for me. It’s not only how I approach my mental health, it’s how I’ve learned to approach life.

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It has taken me approximately 5 years to understand/acknowledge/accept this. And for what it’s worth – I needed it to take 5 years, or at least not just a year… because it now feels natural. Practice makes “perfect” my friends.

I remember I constantly either felt like a failure in treatment or that I was absolutely killing it. The latter was when I was using my ED behaviors, but being oh so incredibly manipulative that nobody actually knew. Or, at least I felt like this, I’m sure they knew or had inklings at a minimum. The failure part was harder to swallow. For the bulk of my existence, even when my life was a “shit sandwich”, I was high functioning. So, going into treatment, somehow magically on my own terms, and then feeling like I sucked royally at at – well this was a new form of torture.

In hindsight, I didn’t suck at it. I also hate that I felt it normal to assign adjectives associated with my ability to be “good” or “bad” in treatment and recovery for so long. If I was a 100% person, then yes, by definition, I “sucked” (please note all possible sarcasm here folks). But for me, for my personality type, for what has historically worked for my being – I kept on keeping on. I had my bad days, my slips, my moments of being ready to throw up the peace sign and say “I’m done, never coming back, and going to live my life with a raging ED”. But, despite all this, I went back. I cried (a lot). I yelled (even more). I got angry (very often).

I remember feeling guilty for my actions and shameful for my anger, almost that something was wrong with me. I told myself daily to just keep going, keep pushing, keep challenging myself, and to focus on recovery and living the “recovering life”. What I never realized that the story I was telling myself on repeat was harmful to both my recovery process and also my overall well-being. What we resist persists. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and for this scenario it couldn’t hold more truth. I resisted the changes that were necessary. I felt like if I lived in a way which matched what people who are in recovery looks like, that I would eventually find myself recovered. Because apparently my mind had this pre-determined “image” of what I would/should be like as the former anorexic/exercise addicted now recovered Sarah?

BULL FUCKING SHIT.

My intention entering treatment was to get to a place where I could feel happy, myself, and live the life I always dreamed of. I began with the belief that if I simply did what I was told, then I would get better. It’s so much more than this. And, I didn’t realize this until about three years ago.

It’s the process. It’s the story we tell ourselves. It’s our choices – both on a macro and micro level. It’s how we think and feel about how we think and feel. It’s whether or not we can forgive and accept our own being. It’s whether or not your trust yourself, and I mean REALLY TRUST YOURSELF (aka your soul).

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Maybe you can’t go a day without the internal dialogue or picking on yourself to your peers. But, do you recognize this? Maybe you still weigh your food in recovery. How does this affect you? Is it negative or is it beneficial (not for secretly maintaining your ED but for your health/eating enough because your hunger cues are screwed up in the short term)? Maybe you workout. Is it to burn calories or to be the strongest version and physically support yourself ? Maybe you have to wiggle your way our of certain obligations. Is it because you “can’t” do it or because you are protecting yourself?

You see, the scenarios are there. The stories are endless. The intention is what matters.

Most things in life can be faked, at least to a degree.

I did it.

I faked the “recovered” thing for a while. From about fall of 2013 through summer 2016 I pulled off the “I’m good, have my slips, but I’m good”.

YES, I was good by the books. My BMI (don’t get me started) was “healthy”. I got my period back during this time frame. I didn’t work out excessively. I was doing well in school and maintaining a job, social life, and seeing a therapist. I was good right?

NO.

In my now 25 years of life I can firmly say my mental health was the worst it’s ever been from Fall 2013 to Summer 2016.

So, this is part one. To be continued. Sorry not sorry kiddos but this post is long and I want you lovely humans out there reading it to think on it, take it in, absorb and ponder. Be with your thoughts. Perhaps this resonates with you, makes you think of a friend/family member, or you totally don’t connect with me on this stuff – whatever the case – be a sponge to whatever in here you can take away.

I’ll post part 2 next by weekend, it’s in the the works but I want to “give it my all”, aka I want to be as real and as present as I can.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story.” — Cheryl Strayed

XO, S