Moving Feels

The reality of our impending move is setting in hard.

I don’t know that I am ready for this next phase, and I have all of the emotions and feelings.

I am excited for the possibilities this new chapter will bring.

I am afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar.

I am happy for the opportunity to travel more.

I am worried about losing the friendships I’ve made.

I am curious about the culture (and food) we will learn so much about.

I am nervous about the possibility of repeating our last move.

I am apprehensive about S being on the plane for so long.

I am scared to relive the homesickness and loneliness I felt throughout our last move. I am scared of driving people away because of my insecurity in our friendship. I am scared of ruining D’s time abroad, again. I am scared of missing out on things happening at home. I am scared of feeling worthless, helpless, stuck. I am scared of the feeling of not having a purpose. I am scared of relapse with eating, with self-harm, with OCD thoughts and habits. I am scared.

I am anxious.

The past few weeks have been riddled with anxiety. Nights are hard. Sometimes I can’t sleep. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep. Days are okay – alone time is hard. An okay morning can quickly snowball into an anxious afternoon if I think about moving for too long. It hits me out of nowhere – I can’t breathe, and the next thing I know I’m sitting on the floor, crying. I feel pathetic. I don’t understand why I can’t handle this. I’ve been there before, I know what to expect, and yet it’s still just as hard as last time.

It doesn’t make it any easier that we still don’t have exact information regarding the move. I knew to expect this, so I’m not sure why I am surprised. But, I want answers. I want to know where exactly we are moving. I want to know when. I want to know exact lengths of time. I’ll have some of these questions answered, eventually. But most will remain unanswered sources of anxiety.

I know the success of this move is mostly dictated by my attitude about it. I will make or break my success throughout this chapter. That’s a scary thought, especially since I know negativity will most likely break it, and I’m feeling pretty fucking negative right now.

For now, I will focus on breathing, being open and honest, and trying to create a positive outlook on this incredible opportunity we’ve been given.

“Negativity is cannibalistic. The more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it grows.” – Bobby Darnell

“So, you didn’t always eat like this?”

“So, you didn’t always eat like this?”

I’ve reflected on this question many times since it was asked last week.

A year ago, this question would have set me on edge, left me feeling fat and unhappy. Now, this question made my day.

I spent last week eating, drinking, and having an amazing vacation with a friend in Mexico. I spent most of my time in a bikini, and I never once had an urge to use an ED behavior. I ate when I was hungry, drank when I wanted to, and was able to walk around without hating myself.

That’s not to say there weren’t some negative ED thoughts creeping in. I had to work hard to not compare myself, I didn’t necessarily feel confident in the bikini, and I left knowing there are still parts of my body that I want to “fix.” But, it was a success in the sense that I was able to let those thoughts stay just thoughts and not control everything I did.

I had fun. I got to spend quality time with a new friend, getting to know each other and making memories. I chose happiness.

I know that I worked damn hard to get to this point. I put in the effort and tears and uncomfortableness. And honestly, I am still working hard – it is still a battle I have to guard myself for, even though the fighting is easier and way less frequent.

After some recovery wins, followed by a few days of trying to decide what diet I want to start in order to “fix” the parts that made me uncomfortable in said bikini, I let my guard down and watched both “To the Bone” and “Feed.”

I had seen the trigger warnings, the reviews, the negative backlash that “To the Bone” had received, and alternately, the praise that “Feed” received.

“To the Bone” was just as expected – a rather underwhelming account of a “typical” ED experience. Yes, it was triggering. No, it wasn’t very realistic – at least not in the sense of the struggles I’ve witnessed and watched others go through at the hands of the disease.

Definitely wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone not significantly far along in recovery.

“Feed” was different. Written by Troian Bellisario (PLL is a guilty pleasure of mine), “Feed” is a dark movie depicting an ED from a slightly different angle. Sure, once again, you have the “typical” ED movie background, but if you look past the white, valedictorian who experiences a trauma that sends her spiraling out of control, you get a true sense of what it means to “hear” ED.

That got me.

I’m hesitant to admit that it took me at least half of the movie before I realized **spoiler** Matt’s ghost (Tom Felton) was indeed ED. It’s all woven together very carefully. Olivia (Troian Bellisario) believes that Matt shows back up to help her through life, when in actuality Matt is her ED voice, controlling her every move.

The power Matt/ED has over her was all too familiar – the constant nagging, pitting the world against her, telling her she doesn’t need the food, telling her that without him, she would be nothing, telling her she’s not sick – these are all very real ideas that ED can drill into a brain. It was intense to be on the outside looking in.

Overall, I thought “Feed” was an incredibly powerful movie that more accurately displayed the mental side of ED.

After watching these two movies, I feel a little emotionally raw. Like seeing pictures of someone who was once a good friend enjoying spending time with someone else. I find myself missing the comfort of ED, especially in this uncertain transition period for D and I.

So, I am continuing to reflect on the question – “You didn’t always eat like this?” That question means the world to me – way more than my friend will probably ever know. It shows me how far I’ve come. It shows me my strength and courage. It prevents me from wanting to go back. It holds me steady. It proves that there is hope for growth and change.

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

Here We Go Again

I feel it creeping in again.

The feelings of anxiety, of sadness bordering on depression, of not being in control.

I haven’t felt hungry in days, which makes it really difficult to want to eat.

I am lonely, and it’s day 1 of summer break.

How did I get here…again? How did I not see this coming?

About 2 months ago, D came home with some pretty big news. He was on a project that would eventually send us on a move sometime in 2018, but his boss offered him a new gig – we move in August-September time frame.

I was a very integral part of this decision, and I do feel like it is probably the right choice to go ahead and go through with the move. However, it’s frustrating that the second a place starts feeling like “home,” we up and move again. It’s comforting to know that we will return to this location, eventually, but I also know that life continues to happen and things will change while we are gone.

We also don’t know where we are going yet. We have three possible locations, one more likely than the others, and all three on different continents. Want to know what makes an already stressful situation more stressful…not knowing what continent you will live on in 3 months.

As anxious, stressed, and nervous as I am about the entire situation, I also feel incredibly selfish for feeling this way. I know I should be excited. I know should be looking forward to this new chapter of this amazing life that D, S, and I get to experience. But in reality, I just want to curl up on the couch and pretend it’s not happening…again.

I am scared of living in another country where I probably won’t work, probably won’t have friends, and probably will sit home alone all day. I am scared of living another year relying on weekend trips and visitors to make me happy. I am scared of another opportunity to significantly regress in my recovery. I am scared of losing friends (shoutout to C and A and B and everyone else who continues to put up with these concerns even when they are unwarranted). I am scared of being homesick, depression, and putting D through the hell he experienced last move.

Friday was my last day of school. I had a very difficult year – I truly don’t believe teaching is for me. But even so, I miss my kids, I miss my coworkers, and I miss having a purpose. I don’t know what I want to do in life right now, which makes me even more anxious.

Finally, this weekend was incredible. D and I met C, P, A, and J in NYC for a fun Memorial Day weekend. I miss all of them so much, so any time we get together makes me so happy. I also got the chance to meet up with B (which was absolutely fantastic, exactly what I hoped it would be, and I can’t wait to meet again). But, after spending such quality time with my closest friends, I am definitely having some post-trip blues.

All of this has snowballed into a big ball of anxiousness, sadness, and loneliness. I know I need to be productive and go to the store. I know I need to eat. I know I need to do the next right thing. But, I don’t want to. And this is how I know I’m falling back into that hole. I can feel the downward spiral and I haven’t reached the point of wanting to catch myself and climb out.

I also don’t want to open up about it. I mentioned it slightly to C, A, and B over the weekend. I even acknowledged that he was right when D called me on some old anxious habits (twisting my hair over and over again). But, I’m not ready to admit that I am struggling…again. I’m not ready to admit that after almost a year of relatively okay recovery with only slight bumps here and there, that I feel shaky and weak in my recovery right now. I’m not ready to reach out for support and disappoint everyone who has helped me reach this point. I’m not ready to feel ashamed.

So for now, I will sit and listen to “She Used To Be Mine” on repeat. Thank you Sara Bareilles.

“She’s imperfect, but she tries

She is good, but she lies

She is hard on herself

She is broken and won’t ask for help

She is messy, but she’s kind

She is lonely most of the time

She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie

She is gone, but she used to be mine.”

Process or Place?

Is Recovery a Process or a Place?

This is a question I continue to struggle with. I don’t know the answer.

At times, I believe recovery is a place – a place of freedom, hope, and positivity. I get so busy enjoying life that I forget that worrying about food or weight was once commonplace. I meal prep to save time during the week instead of to meticulously count calories. I workout because I like feeling strong and fit. I am happy, I am free.

And then, I let my guard down.

It happens quickly – a glance in the mirror that leaves me lingering a little too long, an old picture on Timehop – and I’m heading back to that dark place.

Clothes don’t feel like they fit right. My stomach isn’t flat enough. How am I here again?

It’s these times I guess recovery is a process.

Although I don’t know that there will ever be a point where recovery is only a place, I am thankful that I am currently in a place of recovery far more often than not. I never thought I would make it to this point.

I’ve shared this before, but when thinking about the process of recovery, this has helped me so much!

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,

my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

– Portia Nelson

Regret

Regret – a 6 letter word that plagues me every day.

After 14 months of hating my life abroad, I have finally reached a place of happiness 3 months before we leave.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for having reached this point. But looking back, I have so much regret over how I wasted our time here.

I’ve started venturing into the city once or twice a week, and each time I’m there, I think about how differently our life could have been if only we had made some different decisions a year ago.

I wish we would have lived in Amsterdam. This one wasn’t solely our fault, but had I been in a different mindset, maybe we would have pushed harder to find housing within the city. Living in Amsterdam would have provided more opportunities to work and meet people – both of which could have fostered happiness a bit sooner. But, I didn’t want to meet people. I didn’t want to put myself out there and try to find work. I wanted to isolate myself and count down the days until I moved “home.” That’s not okay.

I wish we would have traveled more. We traveled a good bit, but we could have traveled so much more if I wouldn’t have set so many limitations on our traveling. Traveling made me anxious because it wasn’t routine. Food was different, I couldn’t workout like normal, and I was scared of gaining weight. That coupled with worries over boarding S (the pups) meant travel was limited to MAYBE once a month. Looking back, none of those are good enough reasons to avoid traveling.

I wish we would have been more social. Since D’s coworker (N) has been visiting more, we have went out more, and it has been so much fun. It makes me wonder how different our life here might have been if we would have said yes to more invites in the beginning.

I say “we” in all of these, but ultimately it was I who held us back. D was up for living in Amsterdam, he wanted to travel more, and he would have been more social (both here and in Fairfax) had I been in a better mindset. I think one of my biggest regrets is that I not only ruined this assignment for myself, but also for him.

As our time here slowly dwindles down, I am trying to make the most of every day. We have multiple trips planned. I am saying yes to anything we are invited to, while also trying to invite people to things myself. I am going into the city more and trying to soak it all in before we move. I even tried to convince D that we should move into the city for the next 2.5 months, but he wasn’t in favor of that idea. I also tried to see if we could get our assignment extended, but right now nobody (D, his boss, etc) really trusts that I won’t fall apart again in 3 months.

So, as much as I try to make the most of every day, I do live with so much regret for our time here. Realistically, I know that I couldn’t help most of what I was experiencing. I didn’t choose to struggle with ED or depression or OCD or anxiety. But, I did allow myself to continuously slip further and further away from recovery, without really trying to push forward. Once again, I allowed ED to tarnish an amazing opportunity, while I turned a blind eye and let it happen. There are parts of our life here that I don’t even clearly remember because I was so wrapped up in my downward spiral – none of this is okay with me.

Although I have many regrets over our time here, I also am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. I am grateful for the place I am in now – a place where I can choose to go to dinner and drinks with friends without anxiety; a place where I can choose to not work out because I am sore or I just don’t want to; a place where I can plan a trip with a new friend and know I will enjoy that trip without worrying about food; a place where I can eat lunch in Vondelpark by myself; a place where I can trust that my best friends will always “be there” and love me, no matter where we live; a place where I am happy. Each day, I still have to choose recovery, but that choice is a little easier now because I WANT recovery.

I have found happiness and I never want to let it go.

“We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future, as if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and wildest hopes. But one thing is certain when it finally reveals itself. The future is never the way we imagined it.” – Grey’s Anatomy

Learning and Growing

I’ve slacked on my blogging goal for 2016.

My other goals are going well, so I’m being lenient with myself about this one!

The past few weeks have been more of the same – going through the motions, biding time until we move home. I am to the point where I know it’s so close, but like a kid anxiously pushing through the last two months before summer break, I am finding it hard to be patient. I am taking life one day at a time, trying to enjoy the last little bits of the life we carved out for ourselves here.

That being said, when D came home two weeks ago with news that one of his co-workers I knew in the states would be visiting soon, I was super excited! I have only hung out with said co-worker a handful of times, I don’t know her very well, but it’s funny that the thought of a familiar face can be comforting when you are missing home.

I think I bugged D every day to make sure he finalized plans – I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all! 🙂

On Saturday, we met his co-worker to show her around a city we live close to. It was such a fun day! We met up with her around 1, and I assumed we would spend a couple of hours, be home by 4-5, workout, and eat dinner. After a day’s worth of touring the city, we ended up at our favorite bar and stayed until well past 7 talking and enjoying each other’s company. Like I said, it was nice to see a familiar face!

Although I had a great time, it was in my reflection of the time that I realized just how special this day was in terms of recovery.

Before we moved, I had plenty of opportunities to hang out with D’s co-workers – not just this one, but many others – but I chose not to. Not because I didn’t like them, but because the thought of spending time with people I didn’t really know well scared me. These people weren’t by best friends who knew my nuances, habits, and routines. They didn’t know that eating dinner after 7 made me anxious. They didn’t know that simply eating dinner in front of them would make me anxious. They didn’t know that half of the time during a conversation, I had no idea what to say or do or think, that I was anxious and sweaty and wanted to cry.

At that point in my life, I wasn’t at a place where I could be comfortable spending time with people outside of my little circle. I had just recently invited my people into my comfort zone – I was just over that stage with the people I trusted – I wasn’t ready to step outside of my comfort zone and brave the world of time spent and conversations had with acquaintances.

But, as proven by Saturday (and a few other times before), I am ready for that now. I was able to have conversations with this person – not just responding to questions, but also starting conversations of my own. I talked to her when D was at the table, and when he was away. I felt comfortable being myself and I could feel that comfort zone behind me – I wasn’t inside of it anymore. It wasn’t holding me back.

I also enjoyed a meal, a snack, and a beer with D and his co-worker. I ordered what I wanted to order, and I ate as much as I wanted to eat. At one point, I did look over to her plate to see how much I had eaten in comparison. But, after I realized what I was doing, I consciously made myself stop. I know how much fuel my body needs, and I know how to eat accordingly. I don’t have to compare my food intake to anyone else’s. That was huge. As we were walking around the city, I spotted a stand for a delicious sweet treat that I wanted her to try – I split one with D, too. At our favorite bar, I had one beer, with no desire to have another, so I didn’t. Usually, when in an uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone situation, I would drink to feel comfortable, but I didn’t need to. I was able to relax and enjoy conversation and company without help.

Finally, as the night came to a close and we headed home, I began to panic a little about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner until after 8:30. A year ago, that, coupled with the fact that I missed a workout, would have sent me over the edge. Not this time. I had a conversation with C about how it was just one day, and in the grand scheme of things, had zero impact. I ate dinner and went to bed.

The past 14 months have been hard. Yes, I have had an amazing opportunity to travel Europe, live in another country, meet so many people, learn so many things. But, there were times when I hated my life. I was depressed, I let food control me, OCD has been tough, and I’m leaving here with more scars (mentally and physically) than I came with. Ultimately though, I have learned so much about myself and I have grown more than I ever imagined possible. Being here forced me to take sole responsibility for my recovery and for my life. It made me hold myself accountable. It showed me just how supportive an amazing group of “home team players” could be.

14 months ago, I would never have experienced Saturday the way it played out. I would have been anxious, quiet, and reserved. I would have eaten too little and probably drank a little too much. I would have told D we needed to leave at a specific time to be sure I worked out and ate dinner before 7. I wouldn’t have had fun, nor would I have been very much fun.

I needed Saturday. Yes, I needed a familiar face and familiar conversation. But, I also needed the opportunity to see just how far I’ve come.

I am proud. I am thankful. I am happy.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”– English Proverb

Three Minutes Can Save A Life

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

The theme for this year – Three Minutes Can Save A Life – is ultimately, a tool to promote quick and easy eating disorder screening as an effort for early intervention.

I can’t even begin to express how important this is.

Even though prevalence continues to grow, knowledge, awareness, and research lags way behind other illnesses. Eating disorders are stigmatized and considered taboo subjects, all the while, kids as young as elementary school age are feeling the pressure of being thin.

Eating disorders are not illness to feel shameful about. They don’t necessitate hiding and lying and pretending everything is okay. Yet, this is how they are viewed. This is how we live with them.

3 weeks ago, I got a new tattoo symbolizing my journey through recovery. I’ve been really into elephants for a while as my own symbol of recovery, so an elephant became the inspiration for the tattoo. So many people have asked, why an elephant? It’s hard to explain, especially without going into a lot of personal detail, but I will try now. A few years ago, during a time where I was feeling really bad about myself and my body image, I saw a picture of an elephant and was in awe of how beautiful it was. I don’t live in a hole – I’ve seen elephants before – but, this was the first time I really stopped and recognized how magnificent these animals are. In my head, I had always thought of elephants as fat, big, large, etc. All words that I viewed negatively. That day, I realized that something I once saw as fat, I now saw as beautiful. I realized that how I viewed these animals changed, and that their size was no longer something negative – it was what made them unique. I began to think about myself in the same way. No, I am not the size of an elephant, but time and again I had labeled myself as fat, big, large. I realized that, in time, I could come to see myself differently, too. That is why I elephants are meaningful to me. That is why I wanted an elephant tattoo.

I researched elephant tattoos online, and found that I really liked outlines of elephants with henna designs inside. I knew I wanted to customize the tattoo, and decided to include the NEDA symbol and a semicolon within the henna designs. I emailed my thoughts to the tattoo artist who did my last tattoo, and she created the perfect tattoo!

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I am in love with my tattoo! It is everything I wanted and more! It is my ultimate commitment to recovery, to avoiding relapse, and to loving myself, always.

As I began to think about how I wanted to address this week, I started to think about my own journey. The last decade of my life, with all of its twists and turns, has ultimately shaped who I am today, and allowed me to come this place I own as “recovery.”

Throughout my journey, I constantly looked for validation that what I was experiencing was actually an eating disorder. I would twist my symptoms until they seemed like harmless routines meant to keep me healthy. I would tell myself that if nobody confronted me about my eating disorder, it must not actually be an eating disorder – I was fine. I wonder how differently things would have been if there were people spreading awareness as much as there is today. Would things have turned out differently if I had taken 3 minutes to complete a screening? If my parents had been informed? If teachers knew warning signs?

That is the kind of change this week is all about. Spreading awareness to parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, and everyone else. Letting sufferers know that they are not alone. Providing a screening tool for people to make sure they have a healthy mindset in regards to food, exercise, and body image.

If you asked me 2 years ago what recovery looked like, I would have said I wasn’t sure it existed. Now, I know that I was wrong. Recovery is a daily choice. Recovery is being triggered and spending a whole day allowing that trigger to consume you, but then stepping back and realizing what happened before sliding into relapse. Recovery is choosing a rest day when your body needs it. Recovery is that moment of clarity in the midst of a relapse. Recovery is being with a friend, enjoying a food you normally wouldn’t eat. Recovery is coming up for a breath of fresh air. Recovery is how we survive. Recovery is messy. Recovery is hard. But, recovery is possible.

However, the first step towards recovery is knowing there is something to recover from.

Three Minutes Can Save A Life.

http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/NEDA

Just Show Up

For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with Glennon Doyle Melton. A few months ago, I went down a long rabbit hole of TED Talk YouTube videos and happened to stumble across hers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHHPNMIK-fY 

Since then, I’ve explored her website/blog, followed her on Instagram, and ordered her book (it’s next in my lineup of books I need to read). She’s just so damn inspirational – her story, her journey, her authenticity – it’s incredible.

Not only does her journey give hope to the messy people of the world (I consider myself a very messy person), but she is a living example that you really can come out of the other side of whatever situation you may be facing. Her story gives so many the “permission” to be vulnerable, to own up to the imperfections in life, and to admit that recovery (from any and everything) is an ongoing process.

Two important phrases that have stuck with me through reading Glennon’s blog are:

  1. Do The Next Right Thing
  2. Just Show Up

The first – Do The Next Right Thing – is one I’ve been using for a while in my own recovery. I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it has been crucial throughout my journey. I have found that for most people, taking recovery life day by day feels impossible. Many times, even hour by hour can seem out of reach. But, if you can focus on doing the next right thing, life becomes a little less complicated.

Let me explain. Throughout recovery, whenever I “slipped up,” I immediately labeled that day as a failure. If I skipped lunch, the day was shot, might as well skip dinner too. And while I’m at it, I should probably run a couple extra miles. And why not weigh myself? Then the next day, I could get back on track…until I slipped up again. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of. I wasn’t giving myself any room to improve “bad” days or any room to be human and make a mistake on “good” days.

Insert “Do The Next Right Thing.” All of the sudden, it didn’t matter if I skipped lunch. The day wasn’t ruined because I had the power to recognize my slip up as a mistake and do the next right thing. The next right thing could have been reaching out for support, canceling my workout, or eating a snack. Whatever it was, it was positive and put me back on the right track.

By choosing to do the next right thing, I didn’t have to feel guilty or overwhelmed or shameful. I could stay in the moment and be proud of myself for making a positive and healthy decision. And, if a day is comprised of a bunch of next right things, it gives a lot less time for wrong things.

The second – Just Show Up – is a new one for me. This is one I wish I had heard early on in recovery! There are probably many ways to interpret “Just Show Up,” but for me it’s all about letting go of fear and perfection and putting myself out there.

In college, I was a part of an on campus ED recovery group. Not only was I TERRIFIED that my friends might find out, I was also in a constant battle with myself over if I actually NEEDED to be a part of this group or not. I saw everyone in the group as “sicker” than myself. They were skinnier, they ate less, they exercised more. Was this true? I honestly have no idea. But at the time, it’s what I perceived.

I spent each week worrying about going to this group. Would I pass anyone I knew on the way? What would I say? Could I get by with not saying anything? Then, I spent each group meeting worrying about what I would say next or what I already said or most importantly, trying to keep my stomach from growling by drinking tons of water. Needless to say, I was not mentally present very often.

Looking back, things could have been so much different if I would have JUST SHOWN UP. Yes, I was there physically, but I needed to show up mentally. I needed to be aware of what was going on around me, aware of what others were saying, and less aware of perfecting what I was going to say. I needed to just be there, in the moment, taking part in something that could have had an even bigger impact on my life than it did (thankfully, I did make a great friend through this group).

I see this constantly play out in my life. From dinner dates with friends to conversations with coworkers or students – how many times have I been so overwhelmed with anxiety and NOT shown up? How could these moments be different if I decided to JUST SHOW UP?

This is something I plan to really work on in my life. I don’t want to miss opportunities because I am anxious and worried it might not work out. I want to be someone who SHOWS UP no matter what.

For now, that means calling a volunteer organization that I’ve been trying to reach by email because phone conversations cause a lot of anxiety.

It also means putting myself out there for an outdoor fitness boot camp business that I want to start when we move back to Virginia.

Both of these are way out of my comfort zone. And both require me to JUST SHOW UP!

I realize now that doing the next right thing and just showing up go hand in hand. The thing you show up for might just be your next right thing. So, be brave. Be strong. Believe in yourself. Do your next right thing and just show up!

Also, a big thanks to Glennon Doyle Melton for being the amazing human being that she is. 🙂

“Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Momastery.com  

Day by Day. Hour by Hour. Minute by Minute.

This week has been interesting.

To start, D had a meeting with his boss on Monday. I had big hopes for this meeting. Big, misguided hopes. Hopes that were quickly shattered when D didn’t bring home any new information regarding when we could possibly move home.

This meeting set the tone for the week. A tone of frustration and disappointment, while trying to remember D is not to blame and shouldn’t be the target of anger.

I spent Monday on the couch, with Netflix and tears.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a little better. I refocused myself. As disappointed as I was, I felt okay after a long conversation with D. I was in a better mindset and I set about my week, finding as many tasks, chores, and distractions as possible to keep me busy. I blogged, I studied for two upcoming tests, I did some trip planning, I went for walks with S, I read, and finally, I got really desperate and cleaned the house.

I felt happy(ish), I felt like I was doing something (even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing), I felt okay body-image wise, I felt okay anxiety wise.

Thursday was just okay. I could feel the anxiety rising, but I continued to distract and refocus that energy. There were times I struggled, but overall, it was a success.

Then today. I knew when I couldn’t sleep last night that today would prove to be a little more difficult. It started at 8:30 when S woke me up to go out. Usually, I get up when she wakes me up and we start our day – routine has been key to most “good” days. But this morning, instead of starting my day, I decided to crawl back under the blankets and sleep the day away…never a good idea.

When I woke back up at 9:45, I felt even more shitty. The negative self-talk started right away – “you won’t walk as many miles today because you woke up later,” “your abs aren’t going to be as visible because you woke up later,” “maybe you shouldn’t eat as much breakfast because you woke up later.” It went on and on and on.

And, because I woke up in this mindset, the exact things I thought played out. My morning was a little worse than most mornings, but I set myself up for that.

Morning faded into afternoon, and it wasn’t until C text me that I was able to snap out of this downward spiral. Sometimes texting her is like talking things through with myself. I write the text (okay, more like novel) for her, but as I’m typing it, I’m realizing things about myself and the situation that I couldn’t see before. Maybe it’s having someone outside of my head’s input, or maybe it’s taking a second and really evaluating how I feel, or maybe it’s a little of everything, I’m not sure, but it helps.

So, as I’m texting her, I realize a couple of things.

First, I may be biased, but I have the strongest, bravest, most supportive best friend. In just the two years (it feels like so much longer) I’ve known her, there have been ups, downs, twists, and turns and she takes them all in stride. She’s a rockstar. I’m not sure how I “did life” before meeting her and I’m glad that now I don’t have to do life without her. Sappiness aside – she puts up with me and loves all the weird, awkward, unlovable parts, and I’m pretty damn grateful.

Second, I’ve put myself into another hole while living here. I don’t think it was intentional, but I realize now that I did it to myself. Granted, there were things that were out of my control that helped me pick up a shovel and dig a little deeper, but I was the one who initially jumped in and started digging. Every time I refused to meet people, the hole got deeper. Every time I chose to engage the negative thoughts about living here, the hole got deeper. Every time something out of my control happened while living here (not being able to work, frustrations with living abroad, no English-speaking volunteer opportunities, etc), the hole got deeper. But, knowing that I am the one who initially started digging that hole, and voluntarily jumped in helps me take responsibility for my unhappiness here. And taking responsibility for my unhappiness helps me to do the opposite – take responsibility for my happiness here. I’m working on ways to do just that!

Finally, I’ve started to see that all of the negative, unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, etc. are symptoms of something bigger – anxiety. It’s taken a long time for me to come to that realization. I’ve always seen my ED and body image issues, depression, anxiety, and more recently, any thoughts about self-harm as separate, individual things. But, they aren’t. When I feel anxious and I can’t breathe, that’s when I think, “I really need to skip lunch today,” or “I’ve gained weight,” or “cutting would make me feel better.” All of the behaviors, thoughts, etc. are all just negative coping skills that make me feel “better” when I’m anxious. Now that I have that information, it’s a lot easier to choose the opposite.

It’s going to take time to fully be on track with choosing only healthy coping skills – this is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute journey. But, eating when I want to restrict is a lot less guilt free when I remind myself that the whole reason I didn’t want to eat was because I was anxious.

Today has been hard. That wake-up call text from C wasn’t until 1pm (long-distance/time difference problems) – I had already skipped my normal 10:30 snack and lunch. But, I have the power to do the next right thing, and if that means lunch will be at 2:45 today, then so be it.

This is my journey. A journey to health, happiness, and positive coping skills when I am anxious. I will keep fighting, I will keep learning, I will keep pushing forward.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

September: Month of Crossfit and Paleo

It has been a whirlwind of a summer (hence why I have been completely MIA). 7 visitors, 4 countries (including multiple trips to some countries), and 4 months later, we said goodbye to our last visitor yesterday (until my dad visits in November).

To say the past four months were “fun” would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to hang out with my cousin G and explore Amsterdam a bit more, travel to Paris with C and make memories that will last a lifetime, visit London, Dublin, and Paris with my sisters, explore London a bit more with A and J (as well as spend a day in Brussels), and finally show my grandma around both Paris and London. See a theme here? Everyone wanted to visit Paris and/or London! Both fine by me!

Although we had an amazing summer, D and I were both feeling a little “off” with our food choices and our workouts. With traveling so much, it’s difficult to always choose the healthiest option when eating (who wants to pass up Parisian food?) and even more difficult to stay on a specific workout routine. It was definitely easier some weeks than others – C and I enjoyed many fun workouts together and I can’t wait to continue that when I move back! But, overall, we felt like we could use a little refresher in both the exercise and nutrition realm.

And thus was born D’s idea of a month of Crossfit WODs and Paleo meals.

If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you will know that lifting is a HUGE part of my life. I love creating our workouts, lifting heavy, and pushing myself to new PR’s. Lifting also happens to play a huge role in my recovery. So, the idea of switching up our normal routine from heavy, strictly lifting workouts to more functional based Crossfit workouts scared me a bit. Honestly, I didn’t really understand Crossfit. D and I had been to a box before, but the workouts always felt a little thrown together, off the cuff, go do 40 deadlifts and call it a day type workouts. But, I committed to this and I was determined to learn as much as I could so that I could give it my best. I have learned so much!

After a lot of research, I created our workout schedule for the entire month. 3 days on, 1 day off. We start each 3 day cycle focusing on 1 modality (metabolic conditioning, gymnastics/body weight, or weightlifting/powerlifting) during our WOD, then increase to 2 on day 2, and finally 3 on day 3. Each day starts with a warm-up (in our case it’s usually a run with our pup who is full of energy and needs the exercise), then we move on to a specific skill (this is where my personal training/love of heavy lifting plays a role – these are usually pyramids of a core lift such as bench, squat, or deadlift, OR some bicep/tricep work), and finally we finish with the WOD and stretching.

The other part of this month’s changes was our diets. We generally eat very healthy/clean. Lots of fruits and veggies, high protein, low sugar, etc. But, we decided to go all in and give paleo a try. Full disclosure – I refused to give up my protein pancakes for breakfast, so we aren’t doing this 100%, but we are doing our best. I’ve really enjoyed trying many new paleo recipes and making sure we are eating nutritionally sound foods.

So, I say all of that to preface this:

9 Things I’ve Learned From A Month of Crossfit and Paleo

1 – It’s okay to not be “all or nothing.”

This has been huge in both our workouts and our diets. I enjoy doing the heavy lifts, so I still include them occasionally, alongside our WOD. But, this has mainly played out with nutrition. I’ve learned that we can still be committed to eating paleo AND I can still enjoy my protein pancake. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We’ve had quinoa or brown rice with some of our meals, we’ve had some non-paleo foods when we are out and there is nothing else to eat, and that’s okay. After this month, we are taking a trip to Italy, and then taking a trip home to the states 2 weeks later. I’m sure we will eat whatever we want to on either trip, paleo or not. We want to do the best we can at eating whole and nutritious foods, but we also are going to keep a percentage available to just live. This is where we will fully rely on the 80/20 rule with paleo. 80% of the time we will try to eat foods that align with paleo, while the other 20% we will eat foods that wouldn’t necessarily fall into the paleo category. This helps alleviate that “all or nothing” mentality that I sometimes fall into. 🙂

2 – I’m hungry ALL of the time (and that’s okay).

I don’t know what happened, but I think something between switching up my workout routines and eating habits changed my metabolism. Going from restricting to eating while lifting was a huge change for me – I ate so much more than I thought possible, and it was what my body needed. And that amount has jumped up again. Sometimes I get a little freaked out that eating more will cause weight gain, but I try to just focus on eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full, and knowing that my body knows what it is doing, while sometimes my brain (ED) might not.

3 – Rest days are important.

Before we started including Crossfit type workouts in our routine, I HATED rest days. I felt lazy, I felt like they were pointless, and I didn’t want to include them. But, now I see why they are so necessary. After 3 days on of running, lifting/accessory work, and a WOD, my body NEEDS a rest day. And rest days are just that – I don’t do anything (except my normal walks with the pup). So, appreciate your rest days – your body needs time to recover!

4 – So is stretching.

Something I hated even more than rest days – stretching. And I never did it. I am a certified personal trainer, I include stretching in ALL of the plans I write, but I refused to actually do it myself. After almost a month of struggling through overhead squats, snatches, and cleans due to lack of flexibility, I clearly see why stretching is VERY important, and I am starting to incorporate it after every workout.

5 – I can stick to a specific way of eating and NOT feel like I’m restricting.

This has been HUGE for me! Going into this month, I was concerned that removing certain foods might push on that restricting trigger and lead to more and more foods being cut out. But, I am happy to say that it hasn’t! I credit a large part of that to the 80/20 rule and staying away from the “all or nothing” thinking.

It was a little difficult in the beginning. I don’t think that I realized that my appetite might change and I may need to give my body more fuel. But, once I started relying on hunger cues, and not focusing on how much I was eating, but eating when my body said to, it became a lot easier to not feel like I was restricting. Which, leads me to my next point.

6 – Listen to your body.

This has always been one I struggled with, and I’m sure it will almost always be something I struggle with. But, it has gotten easier, with time. My body knows what it needs. It knows when it needs rest. It knows when it needs fuel. It knows when it needs sleep. On the other hand, sometimes my brain (ED) doesn’t care what my body needs – it only cares about what it wants. So, in those moments, it’s become very important to step back, separate the two, and choose to listen to my body over my brain. I’m still learning and every day is a chance to practice and choose my body and in turn, recovery.

7 – Functional lifts are just as important as main lift PR’s.

Another difficult one for me to grasp. I have always been focused on numbers. And lifting was no different – I wanted higher numbers, I wanted to be the best. So, to step back and not give those numbers power for a little while has been a little scary. I am worried that I will lose some of my strength gains. But, I also have seen improvements in so many areas. It’s awesome to PR bench press, but I also want to be able to do a snatch, and at this point, I don’t care what that PR weight is! After this month, I am looking forward to returning to the world of heavy lifting and maxing, but I am also excited to combine the best of both worlds and continue to include functional lifts alongside the big PR lifts!

8 – I am scared of handstands.

I don’t know when this happened. As a child, I loved to do cartwheels, handstands, etc. But, after trying to do handstand pushups, I realized that handstands actually terrify me and I need to find a substitute exercise (or get over my fear…).

9 – I am strong, but I will always have room to grow.

This one encompasses all aspects of my life, from physical to mental. I have shown myself my strength, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. But, I always have room to grow and push myself to new and better things!

Crossfit has kicked my ass. Going from a plateau in my normal lifting routine to a Crossfit workout everyday has been a tremendous change. I am always sore after a workout. I look forward to pushing myself in new ways. Changing my diet (even though it wasn’t a huge change) has also been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to incorporate and combine everything that I’ve learned through this past month in with my “normal” routines starting in October.

To end, I want to share Greg Glassman’s Crossfit in 100 words – this isn’t a diet, this isn’t about being skinny or looking a certain way…this is about training for life.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” ~Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder and CEO