What recovery feels like

Hi all!

Before I even get into the depth of this post I’m adding two disclaimers… one for myself and one for many of you whom may be reading this.

  1. This is one of the more vulnerable yet freeing blog posts I’ve written. It’s also likely the longest.
  2. If you currently are struggling with, are in recovery from, or feel at risk for an eating disorder please read this post at your own discretion.

No introductory paragraph needed, this post is a long one as is. Let’s go…

A few weeks ago a close friend asked me something I’ve not yet been asked – “what does recovery feel like?”

An on the spot question that I didn’t feel prepared to answer. Crap. I wasn’t taught this in therapy or treatment. I was given tools to work with myself rather than against myself in my journey to become “whole again”, whatever the heck that means. I wasn’t told how to respond to what this all feels like…

My response: well, uhm… challenging, freeing, comfort-zone breaking, and well, really really terrifying.

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Let’s talk.

Recovery is messy. But, on the other hand so is actively living with a raging eating disorder. And, for those of you reading this despite the disclaimer who may think “but my ED is under control, not raging”, this applies to you too.

Before I can even begin to discuss what recovery feels like, which will take up the bulk of this post, I must briefly discuss what living with an ED feels like. Rather, what did this feel like to me, because everyone’s experience is unique. I’ve written about this before, even posting a journal entry which I’m going to take an excerpt from…

The manifestations inside of my brain are a complete madness. The voice which leads me to follow down the path of habitual maladaptive and self-destructive behaviors. It’s a complete psychosis. All I’m trying to do is prove myself to the voice inside of my head. It’s pathetic.

Living with an ED is hell. It’s having two voices inside of your head, one which is you and wants to see you follow your path, your soul, and fulfill your dreams. This voice is who YOU are, it’s the one which you will hopefully become friends with in recovery. The other voice is “ED”, it’s the devil. It’s the voice which tells you the despite your hardest effort you will never be good enough. No matter how “sick” you get it’s not enough (but, remember, it’s your loved ones that are saying you’re sick… ED says you’re stronger than the rest, that you’re better, that they’re all wrong). Sickness can be felt as strength in an ED. Sickness being following the commands of the voice inside of your head that is trying to kill you but also the voice that is followed because it makes you feel put together although in reality you’re crumbling apart by the second.

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In the same post, from the same journal entry (just go read the post, it’ll make much more sense), I get into some of what recovery feels like… especially the being triggered part.

Recovery is messy, but relapse is deadly. In recovery the voice partly subsides. It’s weaker. Your now not completely starving. Memories begin to feel more like imaginations, almost as if the eating disorder doesn’t actually exist and you haven’t played around on the fine line of life and death for the past however many years. But you have to remember that’s a lie and you did. Then you question yourself. Was I really in that deep. Did I actually do that to my body, my soul, my life. I know it happened but it feels so surreal. Almost as if it’s someone else’s story that I heard before. My mind doesn’t want to remember the past. The pain. The struggle. It wants to make it better.

Then you remember. What’s worse than remembering the truth is that your mind begins to feel the same way as when your head was in the toilet or as when you could count with your fingers what you consumed last week. It’s sick. But it wasn’t that bad, right?

My recovery has been going since 2012. It’s had some pot holes and some speed bumps. I would be lying if I said recovery is easy, simple, free of hiccups. I think the bumps are what have made it, at least for me, “work”. I think the plethora of hiccups have made me stronger, one by one, in fighting the ED voice in my head.

I wrote a few months ago about having had a stress fracture earlier this year. This was my first major injury (the type that kind of makes you press the pause button) since treatment. I was nervous. I felt like part of my identity was being taken from me. I told myself to just go with it. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Cliche but it helped. I won’t say I felt entirely in control throughout the whole healing process, that’d be a full-on lie… BUT, I trusted my ability. I trusted all that I’ve been through in the process of recovery and that I could get past a slightly larger speed-bump. I was honest with loved ones about what I was feeling. I jumped on the fu*king do this bandwagon and went with it.

Arguably the most useful skill I’m cultivating is to ebb and flow.

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Writing about recovery is equally as hard as writing about what living with an ED is like. In one way I think it’s more challenging because everyone experiences recovery differently, and that’s what makes it last, it’s individualized. That said, ED’s come in all forms and affect people differently. I don’t want anyone to take my journey as an instruction manual. That can go both ways, I don’t want me writing about my darkest moments to become a goal to get sicker or deeper into the illness. Conversely, I don’t want anyone to follow my recovery path step by step because it worked (is working) for me. Moreover, out of all of my friends with similar struggles, all of our ED’s and all of our recovery processes are quite different.

Begin-again

It’s not sunshine and rainbows. I think most know it’s not. While sometimes the image of being recovered may seem like this magical place where the demons are gone and you’re no longer sick… I’ve yet to come across someone where this holds true. I won’t say it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying the process is much more raw and you have to get your hands dirty. It’s a process. Recovery, or as I prefer to call it, remission, is a continual journey of triumphs, road bumps, setbacks, painstaking realizations, a whole lot of crying and accepting. It’s wanting to throw in the towel, and maybe that does happen. Maybe somewhere in the process it’s too much for that moment and a slip up happens or a relapse happens. That doesn’t make it any less real. It doesn’t make it a failed attempt. It doesn’t make you weak.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy

Getting past the darkest moments is what made me stronger. They are what made me believe in my ability to keep going, even when I don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or feel like my remission is an inconvenience to my life (and yes, that’s present tense… because  it’s often a lifelong journey). Trust me when I say I can count the number of times I’ve been pissed off that I’m in recovery, mainly in the beginning stages. I used to feel guilty for having to put my mental health first. I felt ashamed to need to make sure that I was having my personal needs met because that meant I would (hopefully) take care of myself. Still from time to time I feel this way, like when I say no to helping out at work because I have a plan for a hike that day and I know that hiking is the most amazing thing I’ve found for my mental health. I’m better at knowing my needs now, understanding what is within my capacity and what is absolutely going to lead to a meltdown. Just because I “know myself more” doesn’t mean I don’t still feel guilty about it no matter how much I’m told I shouldn’t.

I wanted (and tried) to throw in the towel at-least a half dozen times but something kept me going. I had the slips, the near falls, the desire to just be like “I’m over it” or “I’m better at managing an ED than dealing with the insanities of remission”. I literally felt like I was losing my mind, that everything I worked for was slipping away. In reality it was the opposite. Everything I worked for was everything my ED wanted me to work for. It needed to slip away. I needed to let it go for the sake of healing. I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. NO. I needed to get comfortable with being really uncomfortable. NO. I needed (and have) accept being uncomfortable with being really uncomfortable.

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Undoubtedly the most uncomfortable I’ve been in this process is dealing with the mental discomfort associated with the physical discomfort. Let me clarify in a rather abrupt manner… Gaining weight because I medically needed to → ED telling me I’m a pathetic piece of shit; dealing with the 5-6 month pregnant look of bloat because my body didn’t understand how to properly digest food for about the first YEAR of recovery AFTER regaining weight → everyday wanting to crawl out of my skin and feeling like I was; having a tooth break because you “floss too much” → well maybe something caught up to me; having blood work come back abnormal → equally terrifying (healthy voice) and amazing (ED voice…. the “you’re finally sick”); being 24 with osteopenia that you’ve had since 17 → still processing this one; being 24 and spending upwards of 2-3 hours a day in the bathroom because my GI is still not fully comprehending what eating to fuel my body means → I sometimes study in the restroom because #aintnobodygottimeforthat.

Coping with the physical aspects which arise is challenging especially considering I’m working my way through a mental illness and my coping mechanisms are kind are what got me into this lovely mess (sarcasm). I think that sarcasm and sass helped me cope. They were two of the things I was good at that weren’t necessarily maladaptive. Sure, lessening or making jokes of my tendency to annihilate myself isn’t super positive, but it sure beats crying for an hour, in my mind that is. It worked for me and that’s what I care about. It helped me ignore a lot of the noise going on between my ears which would otherwise destroy me.

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When I entered my last treatment (IOP) I was well into weight restoration. I was working out, not excessively but I was working out. I had previously taken months off during my relapse, I’m the person who hates working out when I’m in the throws of a relapse… will discuss hold tight… I was told to stop going to the gym, running, ect. To let myself heal – mentally and physically. After some solid counterarguments I did what I was being asked told. I hated every second of it. I wanted the release, the passion, the excitement. I wanted something I felt good at because I felt pretty bad at the whole “getting better” thing. This was a major turning point for me because up until this point, if I was at a stable weight and food intake (and no I don’t mean “healthy”), I would exercise. In my mind I felt like it was safe and totally okay for me to continue working out in the program I was in. NOPE. Taking time off to really separate things and work on my health without the addition of external stressors was key. In hindsight, I agree completely.

On why I wouldn’t work out when I relapsed in 2011 – exercise and sports were a part of my life prior to the development of my ED, and I like to keep them as separate as possible. While yes throughout the years they have become intertwined, but as I like to make a counterpoint of, everything in my life has become intertwined because my ED started at 11, my last relapse was at 18, and I’m now 24. For me, fitness is a positive thing. I LOVE IT. I, as in me, as in Sarah. The ED voice tries to rear it’s head in and overdo it but it’s me that enjoys it. It’s taken years to disentangle this mess. I’ve learned, rather felt, that when it’s the ED voice in control of over 50% I workout because I feel like I need to, not because I necessarily want to. If life gets in the way I lose it, crumble, I can’t manage NOT working out because at this point it’s a compensatory behavior. When I’m in a good place, I want to be there, I take more days off and accept the “shit happens” better. The mindset difference still blows my mind, night and day.

Throughout the past few years I’ve worked tirelessly to reach a point where I cherish off days, and instead of making off days into active recovery days, I now just take OFF days. I’ve embraced changing my workout plan up when it’s needed, deciding on a whim to head out for a ride on the bike versus lifting if it’s what my brain needs for positive mental health. As much as I despise the saying about balance being key, balance is key when it comes to my lifting, biking, running, hiking, yoga-ing. There’s a line, I respect the line. Not saying I don’t ever cross it, I am human, but I acknowledge it’s existence.

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During my time in IOP I was working, taking a full class load, and then going to my group 4 nights and 1 weekend day. It was a lot. I find myself sometimes thinking that I don’t know how I did it but then I think that’s why it worked for me. I didn’t try to solely focus on getting better, my life didn’t revolve around just that. It was the major focal point, but I was also a student and employee. I learned how to work getting better into my daily life versus being given skills and then thrown back into my life. I’m grateful that I was at a point in my illness where this was an option. IT WAS NOT fully supported but I did it. I’m not being like wahoo yay me, but we’re all different. Some people need the recovery process to be a bit less hectic, and some, like me, find the hecticness is almost healing. However, now, I choose to live a slightly less hectic but very supportive of my needs lifestyle because it’s good for me.

This taught me a large lesson in choosing what to add and subtract from my plate. One of the most valuable life lessons I’ve taken away is that while I might be entirely capable of doing something, that doesn’t mean I always have to do it. Just because we as humans have this interesting ability to shove things down and keep pressing forward to get everything done, doesn’t mean we need to do this. What if something needs to be removed from the daily routine? It doesn’t make you any less worthy. It doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. Maybe it just means it’s not best for your well-being. Routines ebb and flow, busyness comes and goes. Just because we had a hectic routine for a few months or years doesn’t mean it need be maintained for life. Breaks are allowed. Your worth is not defined by your capacity to drive yourself into the ground.

You have innate value because you’re alive.

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I think that while when I was in treatment and the beginning stages of recovery, the time when I absolutely feared the bumps, the hard-times, the triggers – that these are actually the things which made me resilient. I’m not perfect, nor do I wish to be. Trying to be perfect almost killed me, so I’m actually rather against that notion. This entire process is learning to understand yourself. As simple and as complex as that is. We are all built on a foundation of sunshine and thunderstorms, positives and negatives. We all have our own personal shit sandwich. WORK WITH IT. Don’t work against yourself by fighting with the summation of things which comprise your foundation, your story, as a human.

A lot of the work is done by yourself. Sure there may be loved ones in your life, or a therapist, who can help you by supporting you on your path. Ultimately though, it’s you for you. It was me for me. I am the one still making sure that my mental health needs are met because I know what happens when they aren’t. I’m still watching out for that. Nobody else knows how you’re feeling, even if you tell them. Our understanding of the world is entirely up to us. Our ability to flow with life is entirely up to us. It’s hard. The continuum from sick to well is a long one and it’s different for everyone. Some of the times when I felt the sickest were when I looked the “healthiest”. Mental health doesn’t always show up in a physical capacity. We are the only ones who realize the depth of the demons inside of our heads and are the only ones who can choose and keep choosing to fight the fight.

The ED voice, it’s almost as if it’d hardwired into my mind at this point. It’s still there, it’s less frequent and has much less power, but it’s there deep down in some form or another more than I’d like to admit. A major focus area for me has been working to stop the habitual pathway of thoughts in my mind. Right now I’m going with the flow, I’m doing what feels right to the voice in my head which supports me and helps me grow as a human being instead of the one which wants to send me back down the rabbit hole. Not all days are of the positive type where I end the day thinking “I can do this, I’ve got this”. There are plenty of times still, 4 years later, where I want to just be over it. I accept that while I’m past the major hurdles, my remission is still the most important thing in my life because it’s the closest thing I have to feeling like I’m being the “best” version of myself. It’s what makes me, well, me. I’m enjoying not being in control over everything and you can sure as hell bet I’m going to continue winging it.

“You must want to spend the rest of your life with yourself first.” – Rupi Kaur

XO, S

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Wrapping up the semester

Hi all! I feel like I’ve been just posting at random. This semester has been a loaded one and I’m going to get into this a bit.

First off, pictures from what I did on Thanksgiving… Hiking in the Presidential range with a very dear friend.

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Oh hey there

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Decisions decisions…

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True friends are the ones who fulfill our souls

YES, I spent my holiday in the mountains. YES, it was amazing and I’m beyond grateful to have re-united with this gem of a human. NO, I wouldn’t trade this day for the world. And YES, I’m hiking every holiday for now on because I believe holidays should be spent celebrating what we are thankful/grateful for, appreciative of, blessed to be a part of.

Deep belly laughs, mountains, hand-warmers in my pants, friends, sunshine, and frozen sandwiches = the perfect day.

This break has been much needed. This current fall semester is a full plate and while I’m legitimately loving it, it remains taxing. I think having re-charge time is essential, for everyone. I realized I haven’t really talked about the semester much yet, and it’s ALMOST DONE. What am I up to this semester? Well, I’m taking four classes, two of which are independent studies and one of them is fulfilling my capstone (think senior project?).

  1. Independent study/TA for psychobiology
  2. Independent study/TA for sports nutrition
  3. Sign language 1
  4. General education course

My schedule however is great, I have classes M/W/F and have T/R to meet with students, grade a bit, work on my classes, work, let my brain chill. I’m very fulfilled. I’ve been teaching some and have subsequently fallen in love. I’ve realized that I’m “doing it right”, life that is… my path. I’m doing what I am meant to be doing, for me.

I’m happy. I am on a path which I feel 100% good about… Not 99.9%, 100%.

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But… really

Never would I have thought in a million years I would be happier with my education as a psychology major and nutrition minor than as a neuroscience major. Never would I have thought that “casually” pursing a career as a therapist would be my path. It was always doctor or physical therapist. Well, maybe the story changes. Maybe I realize that I am so extremely passionate about mental health and than I want to work with people from a different angle. Regardless of career specifics (e.g MD, DPT, ect…) I’ve always wanted to work with female athletes dealing with RED-S, female athlete triad, anxiety, ED’s, over-training, stress management, ect. SO, just maybe, instead of being a doctor, I can work with these individuals in a different capacity, as a therapist. A novel approach (insert sarcasm). I understand from a first-hand perspective how key having a support system is, and how essential a therapist who “gets you” is.

On the other side, solidified by this semester, I totally dig teaching. It’s fun. I like the process of preparing to give a lecture, lecturing, and *hoping* to receive questions (you know, the ones that you know the answer…). I’m thankful I’ve been given the opportunity to teach in both of my independent studies and that each lecture has gone well and shown me that teaching is something I’m not only interested in but enjoy doing.b73bef1adf3f8167dd580f8f09485639

So, what’s the plan? Well, for one I’m going to keep casually winging it as I like to call it because it seems to be working wonders. For seconds, my eyes are on a PhD in clinical psychology. I’m not saying this is 100% what I’m going to do. I’m terrible at commitments, hence why winging it has worked so well. But, for me, this feels right. And for the few close individuals I’ve taken time to discuss this with, their feedback has been all of the positive and uber supportive type.

I feel like there is so so so much more to talk about… because there is. I’m not going to bombard the blog with a 20 page life update and will rather keep this short and sweet (not long and spicy?). Things on my mind for the next few posts: what recovery feels like, why I like casually winging it, and what the heck am I doing (e.g do I still lift or just climb mountains).

“All good things approach their goal crookedly.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

XO, S

Yes, I’m alive and kicking

HI GUYS!

Holy crud.

I haven’t posted since May.

It’s been over three months.

I’m here. Alive. Kicking. The stress fracture is healed and I’m healing/working through the soft tissue crud that comes along with overuse. It’s been a long summer. I worked and took multiple classes – sports and performance psychology, cognitive psychology, and abnormal psychology (this one actually is still going, finishes September 1st!), in addition to the usual frolicking up mountains and casually lifting weights. Fall classes start today and I have a unique semester ahead (I’ll get into this). Overall, it was a good summer. I had a TON of realizations, experienced a lot of feels and definitely grew as a person (depth, comfort zone, aka the tough stuff).

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View from North Twin

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View from South Twin

Okay, so let’s delve a bit deeper, shall we?

The stress fracture. It’s healed. It was a long couple of months, taking time off from running/hiking/kickboxing/lower body lifting (except non weight bearing… e.g leg ext, hamstring curls, GHD, monster walks – which btw, NEVER EVER get easier), and partaking in usual physical therapy, massages, stretching, and RESTING. But, I’m happy that it was just a stress fracture and I only had to take a couple of months off. In the big picture, this isn’t the end of the freaking universe. I lived despite thinking I was going to spontaneously combust out of lack of endorphins and anxiousness. I learned that I can take time to heal and that this is 100% entirely acceptable and even welcomed by my body. I learned that just because I am injured and “out” for a bit doesn’t mean I will never be back. It doesn’t mean I can’t continue to fuel my body. It doesn’t mean I will become un-fit or un-healthy. All the injury actually meant – it was a wake up call.

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I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. This could be because I’ve done enough questionable stuff in my life that I need a solid explanation for (running head on into a tree I was just sitting against (it was night time mind you), having a stress fracture and relapsing and then having another one and relapsing again (2008/2012), spontaneously signing up for an ultramarathon in 2011 and falling in love with the sport/community, changing majors to then change back again, quitting a job to then go back because they are actually super awesome/flexible with school, ect.). We learn from what we go through. We GROW through what we go through. Anyways, I’m going off on a tangent… Everything happens for a reason. I got injured for a reason. It took a lot to process this one and it took even more to not fall back entirely into my eating disorder because this is the first injury in my life (since ED) that I haven’t severely struggled with ED behaviors because of the uncertainty and unshakable sense of fear with being injured. My ED is a coping mechanism, a shitty and maladaptive one, but a coping mechanism nonetheless. Exercise is also a coping mechanism, a better one, but still inextricably meshed with the ED. This is why, in the past, I’ve flip-flopped back and forth. Exercise, injury, relapse, repeat.

However…

This time was different.

What changed?

Simply put, I’m more removed from my ED (in terms of years out of treatment), I have better coping mechanisms, closer relationships/a different social life, and I am more self-aware/confident in my abilities and trusting my judgement even when my judgement tells me to ask for help/to reach out to my closest homies. I also attribute some of the business with summer classes and keeping myself busy to be helpful in the healing process.

I will do an entire post detailing this process (might vlog?! we will see). Ultimately though, this time was different because my circumstances were different, my outlook was different, and my introspective abilities are stronger. Additionally, I think that now at 24 versus 15-20 years old, I have entirely different experience with the world. Don’t get me wrong, I had those nasty thoughts rearing their heads and they were loud as loud can be. I stumbled a bit a couple weeks into the injury, specifically once I learned it was a stress fracture and not “just” a sprain. But I’m learning how to take care of myself rather than destroy myself. I decided that my long-term health is more important than my short-term ability to feel in control (not to make it sound like an easy choice… it isn’t… it’s incredibly difficult and takes YEARS to accept). Heck I still haven’t fully accepted it but the majority is in favor of wellbeing.

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Presidential Range

Until I blog… vlog. Until I discuss details, I’ll be keeping myself busy with school. SO what constitutes a “unique semester”? Well, my course-load is a follows: online general education course (environmental change), ASL 1, capstone (senior project) which is TA/independent study for psychobiology, and then TA/independent study for sports nutrition (working towards nutrition minor). I’m honestly pumped. While I am petrified of learning a language, it will be a good change of pace, interesting, a helpful skillset, and eye-opening.

This was a longer update than I had anticipated so I’m going to close the curtains on this post. I also want to go eat lunch before heading back to campus for the TA positions 😉

“Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It’s your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality — not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience right now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure.” Roy T. Bennett

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

What are my coping skills?

Hey all! Happy Monday 🙂 What the what… I’m back here on the blog again… so soon. Also, who in creation says “happy MONDAY”?!? I’ve been posting more lately and it feels right. Does that make sense? Doing what I love and what makes me smile – writing and sharing!

What am I here to talk about today? Coping mechanisms and skills for your mental health toolbox. OK, so, I came across a quote the other day which inspired me to sit down and journal about what I define to be my purpose and goals. I’ve been extremely on edge lately and dealing with way more anxiety than “normal” for me. Knowing this, I knew that I NEEDED to take some time to myself and just write, process, and understand my feels. In doing this, I decided to define what my coping skills are or what could be a genuine coping mechanism for me and my life. Coping skills are a necessity, and in my opinion, the more in-tune we are with our needs and what things are supportive of our needs the easier reaching goals becomes. It’s never a bad thing to utilize skills and cultivate habits which support our goals and fall in line with what we feel is our purpose on this planet.

I am such a quote person it’s slightly ridiculous, not a bad thing, merely an observation. Anyways, “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

Like I said, define my purpose. Before getting into specifics, I just wanted to share some hiking panoramics which I love to look back at and reminiscence between hikes. THIS is a huge coping skill for me.

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All of that said, let’s jump into the primary topic of this post… coping skills. The categories to define various coping skills are some that I learned while in treatment, and honestly, I think they’re gold.

Based on the five senses, what are things that soothe you?

  • Sound: birds chirping, rain, thunder, the ocean, bells,  music
  • Smell: pine, coffee, mint, smoke from a campfire, lavender, fall leaves, cinnamon
  • Taste: berry, mint, coffee, cinnamon, vanilla
  • Touch: comfy clothing, hugs, hot showers, sauna (heat), soft blankets/being under multiple covers in bed, walking barefoot
  • Sight: sunshine, rain, the forest, waterfalls, mountains, blue skies, the ocean, wildlife

What can you do to reconnect with yourself physically?

  • Run OUTSIDE
  • Yoga
  • Go for a walk
  • Hike

What can you do to reconnect with yourself mentally?

  • Meditate (guided or unguided)
  • Journal
  • Write a blog post
  • Listen to a calming music playlist

What will you do if you need an out?

  • Remove myself calmly from a situation
  • Text a friend to call me/call a friend
  • Accept that saying NO is acceptable

What can you do to distract yourself and/or remove yourself from anxiety (I filled in this question with anxiety to get more specific)?

  • Meet up with a friend
  • Work on homework
  • Plan a workout
  • Read a book
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Take a nap
  • Take a hot shower
  • Hold a frozen orange (cool and useful technique learned in my program… keep an orange in the freezer and if you feel a panic attack coming on just sit down and hold said orange, your focus will move from negative and very robust emotions to the fact that your holding a freezing cold non-melting object… if this isn’t enough you can resort to filling a bowl with ice water and sticking your head in… YEP, I have done this (twice), and YEP it does the trick). I do think processing the feelings which led you to needing to utilize this skill in the first place though after the fact is important.

What will you do if you feel stuck?

  • Attempt to decipher my feelings
  • Talk with a close friend
  • Read old blog posts and journals to try to help regain a sense of self and light a fire under my ass
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Best friends make the world go round

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Replace and anxiety for depression and #nailedit (also nails it for depression also, of course!)

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Had to share this… Left class one day and just sat outside for ~ 15 mintues because I needed a moment (a lot of moments). Decided to snapchat a friend instead of getting lost inside of my head. #puttingskillstowork

What are some of YOUR coping skills? We’re all different.

Any quotes that speak to you lately?

Thanks for reading 🙂 xo, S

That fitness thing: pt. 2

Hey kids! Happy Saturday 🙂 I’m currently writing this post at work… so there’s that. Perks of working the front desk at a gym I suppose, being paid to blog and do homework – just finished up my stats homework prior to deciding to write a post!

In my last post I told you guys that I’m changing things up in terms of fitness and goals around competing (more specifically, what I hope to compete in again). I’ve moved from a solid strength and lifting focus blended with some endurance work to really structuring my workouts to become the best endurance athlete that me and my body can be. I’ll be getting into more detail about what exactly I’m doing at the end of this post (so scroll down if you literally just want to see how I workout… but that’s only half the fun).

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Elevation profile of 2012 ultra… THIS = my jam. This stuff makes me giddy.

Quote from my last post to lay the format for this current one: “You can push until you can’t push anymore, but if the energy which drives the engine is negative, anxious, depressed, over-worked, stressed, and unsure deep down then the engine will only produce so much force before something breaks down. Our greatest goals cannot be forced.” This sums up my feelings about getting back into running and focusing on that aspect of my life versus pursing anything else especially at if it’s going to be from a competitive angle.

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Casual

I know for me, lifting helps my running tremendously – the answer lies in the capacity in which I’m lifting (e.g quantity vs. quality and then taking intensity into consideration). Running now compared to running in 2011/12 feels light years different – I feel SO MUCH stronger endurance wise, my engine is bigger. This is likely twofold: 1. increased capacity due to being just stronger in general from lifting, and 2. prioritizing self-care.

I’ve found that there are a set few characteristics from previous programs I’ve followed (which were strength based) that I’ll still implement. I like the set up that I’ve been using for legit forever of 5 weeks “on” and 1 week “off”, off meaning deload. I’m going to keep using this with lifting. It works super well for my body in that I feel like I’m staying healthy, not over-doing it, and able to then rest and repeat on the gain train. The only difference between now and past is my goals with having weightlifting be part of my weekly routine: then it was gaining as much strength as possible, now it’s maintaining, stabilizing, and increasing muscle endurance. Additionally, I’ve shifted from lifting four days a week (deadlift day, bench day, leg and accessory day, press day) to three days (see below). Frankly, I DO NOT NEED to lift four days a week if my focus isn’t there. Also, the more frequency the more risk for over-taxing and that just isn’t worth the risk. As mileage increases with running I will likely move to two days per week as/when needed!

Definitely going to be a trail and error so to speak for a little bit as I get back into the endurance world. That’s ok, it will be a real-life research experiment on my own physical capacity. I kind of dig it.

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Smiles for miles

Ok, enough with the novel… can you tell I like to really delve into things and explain them? 😉 Onto what I do inside and outside of the gym!

Monday:

  • lift (lower body) capped at 60 minutes
  • cross training endurance in the form of cardio kickboxing #yassss

Tuesday:

  • run – 45-60 minutes

Wednesday:

  • rest day

Thursday:

  • lift (split – upper and lower body) capped at 120 minutes
  • run – 30-45 minutes

Friday:

  • HIIT/cross train (usually come up with a workout on my own – I LOVE programming metabolic conditioning workouts… Or I’ll find a metcon on crossfit website that isn’t super taxing but which gets my HR elevated and blood flowing for a bit). Working different energy systems and challenging myself in ways other than longer cardio workouts!

Saturday:

  • hike or snowboard or easy recovery run

Sunday:

  • lift (upper) capped at 60 minutes
  • run – 45-60 minutes

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Right now my mileage is on the lower side, I’m getting my body used to running consistently again and using a slow and steady approach to this. I find that if I go completely gung-ho my body has a bit of a hissy-fit and ain’t nobody got time for that. Not like I signed up for a 50 mile ultra in five weeks so the slow and steady approach will work just fine. Ideally I’m looking at getting back into racing in May (25k, errrr 15.5 miles) and then July-August for anything of substantial distance. I’m in this for the long run. Endurance stuff speaks to me in a way that lifting doesn’t. It’s my zone.

“Don’t let a day go by without asking who you are…each time you let a new ingredient to enter your awareness.” – Deepak Chopra

Cultivating your power

Hi all!

This post could also be titled, “that fitness thing: round two”… If you’ve been a reader for some time now you might remember a post back during the summer titled “that fitness thing”, I talked about my routine at that point and gave insight into what I was doing inside the gym. If you don’t remember or you’re a new reader (hello!) , that’s a-ok because that post is history.

Let me explain.

Lifting is an integral part of my life. I LOVE it. I feel strong, powerful, capable, and in the zone when I’m lifting. It focuses me. It helps me push myself and grow. It’s therapeutic and is a great method for getting some angst and extra energy out. But that’s “it”. For the longest time I tried to convince myself that I wanted to focus on lifting from a competitive angle. That I should be competing because, well, I can lift a good amount for my size. As someone who has been on and off involved in competitive sports since age 5, convincing me or me convincing myself to pursue that isn’t much of a challenge. I’ll accept quite easily.

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I’m on the left although Erika & I were twins at this stage of development… national jump-rope competition circa ~ 2007/08.

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2011 Vermont Spartan Beast

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2012 Peak Ultramarathon

The challenge lies in truly gaining my interest. Sure, I might absolutely be head over heels for something (e.g lifting), but there is a very big difference between loving something and wanting to pursue it competitively. It’s deeper than it may seem too… isn’t everything in life? It’s not just wanting to pursue it competitively, it’s trusting myself. I was an endurance athlete. Why did I all of a sudden begin to pursue a strength sport? I mean, that happens, it’s not uncommon. It seemed legit to me. I was missing something though, while I was lifting lifting and more lifting I was still going to kickboxing, doing metabolic workouts, running – I couldn’t give that up. I didn’t want to give it up. On the other hand, I knew that I wanted so badly to compete again. I felt very confused during this time. Stuck in a place which while it was working for me… it wasn’t really working for me.

The truth of the matter is: I want lifting to be the thing which helps me be a stronger endurance athlete. It’s my therapy. It keeps me grounded, centered, and balanced. As of right now I don’t want to pursue it competitively.

In my last post I talked about why I love running. After a bunch of events in 2011 and 2012 I dealt with a handful of injuries from a combination of over-training, under recovering, and still dealing with a subtle grip of my eating issues. I stopped running cold turkey, relapsed, got stuck mentally, went into treatment, changed colleges, and forgot about running. I left it behind. I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt like it was my past, something that felt and sounded bitter. But the thing is, we tend to go back to what we love. I’m at a point now where I understand and accept that it wasn’t running which left me injured, nor did it lead me to relapse. There were so many other factors involved. It was running while not taking care of myself as either an athlete or a human being. Accepting that has been groundbreaking.

As I mentioned in that post, running feels amazing lately. I swear each time I lace up my shoes and hit the road it gets better. I know that will unlikely happen forever, there will be tough runs, either physically or mentally, but the fact that I’ve consistently felt at my prime is a very big sign that I’m moving in the right direction for me. Nothing feels forced. It’s very natural. It’s almost creepy because up until a couple months ago I hadn’t been running much if at all… for years.

I recently came across a quote. It’s such a simple set of words yet it made everything clear to me. Almost if, upon reading these 9 words the entire world made sense again. That seems crazy, but realizations can be crazy.

“Self care is how you take your power back.”

Oh, hey. That makes sense. Yes, yes, yes. It’s so obvious. Those 9 words staring me right in the face like a deer in the headlights. I keep complaining that I’m not “happy” or “fulfilled”. I’m an anxious ball of energy. My mind races, circles, catastrophizes, and I move forward but not necessarily in the direction I WANT to me moving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I miss competing. I miss my niche. I miss having that one thing that is not only my escape but my passion and drive. What differentiates me saying this a year ago from saying this now is that I realize what was missing: self care.

You can push until you can’t push anymore, but if the energy which drives the engine is negative, anxious, depressed, over-worked, stressed, and unsure deep down then the engine will only produce so much force before something breaks down. Our greatest goals cannot be forced.

If you haven’t picked up on where I’m going with this post yet it’s that I am going back to my roots. I’m going back to pursuing endurance sports, more specifically, running.

“That fitness thing: round 2”… that’ll be my next post..

“your mental health is a priority
your happiness is a priority
your self-care is a priority
your existence is a priority”