School updates & tales from the (previously) injured

Hey friends! Happy Saturday!

This post could really be titled: “school updates, going with your gut, and things I’ve learned from being an athlete and working my a*s off to get into remission from an ED”. But, I figured that might be slightly too lengthy and aggressive 😉

This week has definitely been a game face, come at me bro, kind of week. School has been a tough one this semester – not because I don’t enjoy learning but because being in a classroom is extremely draining for me. Furthermore, mentally and emotionally I was checked out the first month of classes, which took its toll. I made a good mental shift last weekend and am working my behind off to get on track. I’m beyond thankful for understanding profs but am also wanting to talk about what helped me make this shift from stuck in a locked cage without a key → come at me bro. Before I get into this post, which will discuss the mental component involved with school currently, let’s talk hiking (duh)!

I took Tuesday as an escape day for a small hike. Full write up to come but here’s a snap:

Mt. Pierce – 2/27/18

What did I do last weekend?! Shockingly enough, I didn’t climb a mountain. I wasn’t feeling it and knew I would be going Tuesday so decided to opt for some much needed R&R. I used to seriously suck at rest days and recovering my body from the large amount of physical taxing I put it through. Ever since being injured back in April I’ve grown to be much better. I still have my days and weeks where I push the throttle a tad too much, but this whole thing is a process. People don’t wake up one day and have this stellar capability for self-care.

Let’s talk about rest. Not just rest, but recovery as a whole – rest, mindset, giving oneself space and time. As a weightlifter/hiker/exerciser/ex-distance(wannabe still) runner/bike-rider/previously competitive jump-roper who likes to climb walls and fly down mountains on a snowboard occasionally… my body gets put through the damn ringer. I’ve had more stress fractures than one would like to admit. Two were likely a combination of factors both inside and outside of my control. The others were most definitely a mix of not sleeping enough, being way to high-strung and stressed (hello, cortisol), weird periods, not fueling/re-fueling adequately, and ramping up too quick or just full out over-reaching and over-training for my circumstances.

Growing up as a competitive athlete, for me, is a catch 22. I wouldn’t trade it for the damn world (or all of the mountains being in my backyard) but it’s a mindset that can make or break me. My competitive nature has the potential to drive me into the ground, quickly too. I mean heck, when my April fibula stress fracture happened – while not a quickly developed injury, the pain came out of nowhere, within 1/10th mile of a run I felt it, and ran 2 miles blasting music because I was determined to get through it. That’s what I call driving myself down. Conversely, I can pull myself out quickly when that mental light switch changes position. With having anxiety since early childhood, a decade long eating disorder, other mental health things, various injuries, physical complications from the ED – jumping down the deep and dark rabbit hole is always a potential. It always will be a potential; the degree of likelihood will just be varied. But, kind of like the the growing up as a competitive athlete is a catch 22, so is all of this. You grow through what you grow through and with this experience those words fit the bill.

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With each subsequent injury I’ve worked to cultivate my skillset around taking care of myself – both physically and mentally/emotionally. Nobody is taught, per say, how to take care of themselves. Sure, basic human needs are taught, but really getting to know yourself and both understand and honor your unique human needs – this is learned through trial and error, falling down on your face, and internal chaos. My most recent injury taught me a lot about not only what is important to me but also how far I’ve come despite how I sometimes feel about myself. What do I mean by this? I (like many others) frequently get trapped in the cycle of negative self-talk/catastrophizing/irrational thoughts and find myself feeling like I’m never going to get over this and will just remain running on the invisible hamster wheel. That said, even with these feelings rearing their ugly heads to an increased degree with the injury, I allowed myself to keep going forward. There were some backwards steps here and there so I guess it was much more like a cha-cha but THAT.IS.OK.

“Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Each injury with the exception of my first was either during or “post” ED. I’ve talked before about how no matter how much I try to separate these two entities – athletic endeavors and ED – it’s nearly impossible after a certain period of time. I was an athlete way before the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns, and through it all, not to be uber cliche, but channeling that mindset has saved my life more than once.

We are not static beings. Struggles do not remain separate from one another. Life is messy, brains are messy, and we fully bring to the table everything we’ve ever been through into every situation we’re presented with. The anxiety, panic attacks, meltdowns, ED, misophonia, it’s all meshed together into what I call my personal shit sandwich. And, for those wondering, I would not trade my sandwich for an easier one. Not now, not ever. I’m used to managing this one and that makes it safe. Not comfortable, rather extremely uncomfortable, but safe. It’s familiar. New battles are new, but the feelings are similar enough to be relatable to past struggles and therefore able to be worked through at the right time and with enough balls, or nerve, or both.

“Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight…” ― Cheryl Strayed

It’s strange; snapping myself from the rabbit hole to motivated AF to get myself on track in the blink of an eye or snap of fingers. I was talking to a few close friends about this and I think it has something to do with both competing from a young age and also working my way through the ups and downs and out of mental health happenings. It doesn’t make it any less weird to me, but it makes more sense. When I’m in a dark place the only thing capable of bringing me out of this is myself. Similarly, when I’m in a good place, it’s me that keeps me there. Depending on what I’m doing in my life and how I feel about that/how it makes me feel about myself essentially determines everything. It’s keeping the stoke high first and foremost.

I like to think of this process from rabbit hole –> crawling (ok, running) out like I do hiking, lifting, jumprope, and running. I go to a deep place in some workouts, I tell myself to create a tunnel and dig. I used to allow things to happen to me, and one day I decided that wasn’t going to be the case anymore. While this process definitely wasn’t an overnight thing, nor am I perfect at it, it seemed to just appear out of the abyss. By ‘used to’, I mean for the bulk of my existence before I made the decision to put myself into treatment at age 19. This sticks out to me as the most pivotal moment in becoming who I am today. It was putting on my big girl pants, and saying fu*k you to my own BS. It was beginning to work through things instead of using behaviors as a means to get through life and numb it all out. It was the catalyst to really feeling things, and let me tell you, there were a LOT of feels. Most importantly it was the beginning of a beautiful yet messy relationship with my being, leading me to feel more solid behind my decision making process currently; that is to say, I trust myself.

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So, bringing this all full circle, I want to talk about school and what I’m learning this semester. As I mentioned the first month of school has been a crap shoot. I’ve attended maybe 1/5th to 1/4th of my classes, and as of last Friday had completed almost no work. As of yesterday, so a week later, I’ve caught up to nearly 70% (guesstimate) of where the class is at. What happened? That mental shift, using my competitive nature.

Last Friday I had a meeting with a prof which after about a good half hour of crying led to meeting with this prof and my advisor. I went into the first meeting expecting to discuss how I was starting to get some work done but this is not what ended up being discussed which is what led to the latter. With my advisor we discussed things from 1. concerns about current academics, 2. my mental health, 3. my reaction to things (e.g anxiety), and 4. a solution. It was proposed to take a leave of absence, and while unable to fully defend myself in the moment I knew this was the “wrong” choice.

In that moment I felt bombarded, attacked, being told what was best for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy faculty at my college are willing to go out of their way to talk things out, but that doesn’t change how I feel and what I know I’m capable of. I think this meeting was the final spark needed to fully ignite the trigger and switch the my mind switch from “off” to “on”. Zero to 100 in under a day and so far it’s sticking. I’ve experienced this before, 0 to 100 in mindset, and for me, this is how I function and is something I’m learning to work with, kind of like a superpower. During the period of 0, it’s exhausting. It’s frustrating especially in school because I’m not “that” student. But the 100, which makes up the bulk of my existence, I feel good, primed, ready to go.

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Fast forward to the end of this week and I’m feeling really good about getting through the semester. I’m at the point with college where I’m ready to throw up deuces and never step foot in a classroom as a student again. I LOVE teaching, learning, and being involved, but the environment is too stimulating and therefore toxic… Which in theory sounds like a considerable reason to take the time off but I have a feeling I would only become less tolerant/more sensitized with doing so. I’ve established and accepted that a traditional college experience is not my jam, and rather prefer solitude and pursuing my interests actively versus sitting in a classroom. Well, there is also the miso thing. All of this said, I have five classes remaining which includes the current semester. I’m proud of myself for getting through my time at the college I’ve been at since transferring in Spring 2015 from community college. Since day one it’s been a rough road, but through the ups and downs I’ve learned numerous life lessons, connected with some wonderful humans, and developed various awarenesses about my being that will ultimately serve me moving forward.

At this point I’m continuing. I’m continuing because as much as I want to just give the peace sign and say F*CK this, I’m committed to finish what I started. I had a really good conversation yesterday with someone at school who has known me for years. We talked about the mindset I’ve discussed in this post and that ultimately I know, deep down, what I can and can’t handle. I’m not looking at this situation as a negative, but rather something to grow through and use as practice in managing my being. I’m utilizing my athletic nature and ability to tap that mindset.

It’s keeping that competitive side of me wrangled in for good and ready for action. It’s supporting myself to the best of my ability which includes going with my gut, casually winging it, and full-heartedly trusting myself when I say “I’ve got this”.

“Being human means having doubts and yet still continuing on your path.” ― Paul Coelho

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Semester beginnings & ramblings

Hi all!

Whelp, it’s been a hot minute.

My last post was a rather deep one. By that I mean it was deep AF.

I took school break off from blogging because I needed it. While I had every intention of posting, I also knew it wasn’t the right time. I even started a few; they remain hanging around in my draft folder. I like blogging because I genuinely enjoy it. Writing makes my soul happy. When writing a post doesn’t lead to fulfillment I know it’s not the right time. I knew that for a little while my being needed me to process and live more than it needed to write. For me, writing is the like the ocean. It ebbs and flows. I’ll always love it, but sometimes I feel closer to it than others. And, that’s ok.

That will inevitably be the theme of this post; it’s ok. Everything will be ok.

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Mt. Tecumseh – Jan. 2018

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Pano from Tecumseh – Jan 2018 (Mt. Washington is snowy peak in WAY distance on left)

First let’s get into what this current semester looks like… I’m focusing much less on academics and much more on research and working. This is obviously meticulously planned and calculated. The classes I’m taking are ASL 2, Introduction to the Deaf World, and Psychology of Child Development. I’ve joined a research lab and will be focusing on concussion and head injury. I’m also working a few nights a week as the manager at my work.

Great? Yeah, kind of.

I’m opting to take Deaf World pass/fail, not because I can’t get an A but because I don’t NEED to, because taking the stress and pressure off will likely prove useful. This isn’t a course for my major or minor (therefore aloud to be P/F), and I feel like I’ll ultimately take more away from the course if I’m not in my head about my grade. It’s not always what we are capable of doing, but what is best for our being – mentally, emotionally, ect.

Second “non-traditional” approach being taken this semester is that my child development course is being done in an “online fashion” even though it’s a face-to-face class. Let me explain this one… So I’ve previously discussed (briefly) about having over-stimulation responses to certain sounds, and that this over-stimulation typically presents itself in the form of a flight-or-fight response. Years later, I have a much more comprehensive understanding of the components of this issue – termed misophonia (miso). My primary trigger sound is typing, which as a college student in 2018 is nearly impossible to escape. Second, third, fourth, ect. (aka the bigger triggers/more difficult ones to work with) include chewing (auditory and visual – so seeing people chew or hearing it provokes the same response), sniffling (please let me know if you know of any locations on earth where people never come down with colds), that nervous/bored habit that when someone is sitting cross-legged and their top leg moves around OR when someone is continuously moving their foot/feet when sitting (obviously visual issue). I could talk much more about this but that isn’t the purpose of this current post. This is just to get into why I’m doing the bulk of my work for this course online and by-myself versus sitting in lecture… because I ultimately have to come and go so much or fully leave that I’m missing a lot of content and it’s 1. distracting for others and 2. emotionally/mentally draining for me. While I do have accommodations (grateful), I’ve also learned and accepted that sometimes being honest about all of this with professors is much more useful on both sides than playing it off as “I need to come and go and test separately”. Like, honestly, we are all human. Talk to people. Let them know what is going on. Be honest. Feel your feels. Do what you need to be successful short and long-term.

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My last course, ASL 2… for starters I dig sign. I was absolutely petrified when I changed from neuroscience to psychology because it meant I would need to take a year of a language. My anal side felt like this was a bad idea… My GPA was/is amazing which I’m proud of and didn’t want to jeopardize that. I always thought learning a language wasn’t my “thing”, after all I took Spanish 2 twice in high school and still walked out with maybe a C?! I’m happy that 1. It went much better than anticipated and 2. I love it. That all being said, due to current higher anxiety levels which in turn make the miso more heightened, for me, it’s been an interesting semester thus far. Physically being in class is draining and I do think there is more to this than simply I’m currently more sensitive.

So, that was a hefty load to drop.

What am I doing outside of class, research, work? Well, I’m using my week day time wisely as much as possible and taking some escapes as needed. Note: always needed.

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Yay, snow!

This week I took Tuesday to go snowboarding in the morning and then went rock climbing at night. Days like this help bring me back down from my over-stimulated school self. I’m becoming painfully aware that I not only find profound bliss but also that I consistently need these things in my life. Going hiking on the weekend and then just lifting during the week with a run and bike here and there is great and all but it’s not enough for me to feel sustained. I’m not saying I don’t love those things, but there is something to be said about the magic felt when being outside and/or pushing both my physical and mental body – hiking, snowboarding, climbing, long exhausting runs. While lifting and very high-intensity workouts do help, being in a gym is stimulating and I find that the benefit really ends up only neutralizing the hit I take with being there. That said, how I feel and function physically is greatly improved by these things which makes them worth it.

It would be very easy for me to slip far down right now, with the uncertainties of school (both current and looking at graduate school), heightened mental health happenings, and feeling out of my element sometimes unable to escape. I’m trying to not put a ton of emphasis on negatives that arise, and rather take them for what they are and move forward. It is what it is and at the end of the day how I handle things matters. Conversely, the positives, the escape days, weekend hikes, being with people who feel like home… well this is where the emphasis is going. All of it. Because it matters so much, it needs to be there, and to sum it up with minimal word usage – the more I can stay absolutely stoked on life, the better my chances.

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Mt. Eisenhower summit – Dec 2017

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Casually plotting world domination.

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View from Mt. Jackson – Jan 2018

The thing is you have to fight the whole time. You can’t stop. Otherwise you just end up somewhere, bobbing in the middle of a life you never wanted.” ― Alexander Maksik

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

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

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

Do more of what makes you FEEL good

 

Hi all! It’s been a super hot minute since I’ve posted on the blog but that’s ok. It’s Friday. Yippee. It’s also the end of week SIX of Fall semester, nuts. Thus far I’m really digging being back in classes. Never actually thought I’d say that considering how rough the entire past academic year was. Insert eye roll emoji here. This directly ties into the title of this post, do more of what makes you feel good. Seems simple, right? Common sense? Of course. Do I follow this advice? for the longest time, nope. I attribute this semester going well to the fact that I’ve been doing more things which speak to me and letting go of the things which stress me. Easier said than done, but the outcome so far has been well worth the struggles along the way.

I’ve always been a people pleaser. I genuinely want and enjoy helping others but there is a boundary (at least for me) that needs to be set here. I can’t go out of my way on a consistent basis without taking care of myself because that leads to burnout mentally and physically. Not only a people pleaser but if someone is upset with me, has a difference of opinion, doesn’t like the way I handle X/Y/Z, then I would take it out on myself and myself only. I never actually realized how much this was hurting me on an emotional level until I’ve been working on the way I go about my day to day and filling my life with more activities that truly benefit my wellbeing. I hate saying “no”. It’s so hard for me because I feel like I’m letting someone down and will ruminate on that feeling of not pleasing said person for hours, days, weeks. It’s absurd. Seriously, not ok in any way. Having this kind of mentality isn’t healthy, beneficial, or even sane for that matter.

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I think I’ve shifted away from this mentality easier recently because I’ve been doing more things which I enjoy and therefore feel better in general. I’m less anxious. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a general baseline anxiety and there are days when I’m convinced I’ve gone off the deep end. But, the bad days are further apart now in comparison to the past probably ten years of my life. I will take that and run with it. I no longer throw a complete tantrum like every other day over little things that won’t matter twenty minutes later. I’ve been staying in my classes and coping better with the stresses of school for the most part. Like I said, I still have my moments for sure but after all progress is a process. I know my anxiety is deeply rooted into my being, and breaking free from it is going to be a long and daunting haul. Rewarding, worth it, and beneficial to my health… YES absolutely. But emotionally a roller coaster also. I also believe that over time dealing with my anxiety I’ve become a bit more resilient in managing it, so to say, I’ve become accustomed to it. More adapted.

I keep mentioning that I’m spending more time doing things which are enjoyable to me. The biggest one here is hiking without a doubt. Additionally, just spending more time with friends and enhancing my social life has also been very helpful! I’m what I like to call an outgoing introvert. I need my space. I need “Sarah time” to recharge, sleep, focus, breathe, and chill. But for a while I had too much me time, and that wasn’t good either. I notice that if I’m alone too much I tend to ruminate more, which I would say is probably common for a lot of people. I was stuck in this place of not really wanting to be social because I was afraid or anxious about not having enough time to myself when in reality I had too much time to myself. Catch 22 I guess.

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Back in July I went on my first hike of this season and the bliss I found from this hike was something completely inexplainable. A week later I met with a friend from high school for another hike. A few weeks after the same friend (she’s fabulous) and I went again. One thing that has been super cool is the social aspect I’m getting out of this hobby/passion also. Between reconnecting with a high school friend to actually meeting a social media friend for the first time (and we’ve now gone on two hikes together) is amazing and I’m so grateful for these friendships.

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It’s been a consistent pattern of hiking every weekend to every other weekend since July. I don’t think this is stopping anytime soon. A total of 16 New Hampshire 4000-footers since July. Most of these hikes take up an entire day: leave at 7am, begin hike by 9:30am, hike lasts anywhere until 2pm-6pm, get home between 5pm-8pm. Day done, legs tired, belly full of protein bars and turkey sandwiches and I’m happy. I think about nothing else for a whole day. The driving is usually spent talking and jamming to good music while drinking copious amounts of coffee to prepare ourselves. The hike itself is pure bliss, being in nature and focusing on hiking (read: not tripping over myself every .9 seconds). I feel so good. Not to mention, the views are phenomenal.

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South Twin mountain.

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Zealand mountain.

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Garfield mountain trail. GUYS look at this. Seriously. How can you not be completely at ease after a day spent walking along this trail?!

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Casually standing on top of the entire world. E.g Mt. Zealand lookout spot. Straight up cheesin’ so hard. Endorphin rush to the max!

I’m going with these good feels. I can firmly say I feel more confident in myself and my abilities than I have in years. It’s a good place to be mentally. I still have work to do, but I think I’ve found something that will help me get it done. For me hiking is the best meditation, and meditation is where I calm myself, let go of all the negative feels, and realize that everything will actually be ok despite thinking the world may collapse under me some days.

Tonight a friend is staying over (also hasn’t happened in years because I’m absurdly uptight) and then tomorrow we are… guess what… HIKING. Trip report to come! Also to come – what I’m taking for classes, fitness updates, new job(s), ect…

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir (clearly my end of the post quote had to be this one… so fitting! Winking smile)