So Far…

I wish getting a job was a lot easier than it is. I also wish that I had an advanced degree that would make getting a job easier. And, I really wish getting a higher education didn’t make people bleed money. It’s such a shame that education is so expensive. I’d have gotten a Masters a decade ago if higher education wasn’t so expensive.

And, if I had taken care of my mental health.

May is mental health awareness month. It’s no secret that I live with major depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Life is no picnic for me, and part of living with these is the constant, nagging thought “there are actually large communities of people out there in the world who actually have serious issues, so get out of bed and be happy.”

Yes, I think this very regularly. It is a common thought that many people with lifelong depression (may) think. The people I have spoken to with similar mental health concerns can empathize with this train of thought. It has the potential to be detrimental to our healing and self-care, as it minimizes our health.

One thing that I have learned over the course of self-care is that I “can’t heal the world.” Really, I can’t. I am one person in an aquarium full of 6+ billion people. And, the best thing that I can do to help people who I feel have it worse than me is take care of myself to the best of my ability.

When I take care of myself, I feel like a productive part of the community. I believe that my efforts have an effect on the immediate world around me. When I make other people happy and/or create or fix something, other peoples’ lives are easier. When their lives are easier, they can pass that flame on.

Something that I rarely talk about is that I have borderline personality disorder traits. We have a tendency to over-overthink things and see the world in only black and white. Mix this with obsessive compulsive disorder, and life gets real tricky. I am constantly having to remind myself to calm down, take a step back, and think in the grey.

This is why I get fixated on people who have it worse than me. The guilt is something that has been ingrained in my psyche. It’s what I have known for twenty years. My mind can go in a guilty loop for days, until I do something good and I’m shocked that I’m an okay person. It’s an extremely annoying cycle.

So, after 36 years, I’ve had enough. That’s why I started seeing a therapist and got on an anti-depressant. I’ve chosen to stick with both, because both are tools for success. It is important that I take care of myself, so I feel comfortable in my skin. A byproduct of this is that I’m more pleasant to be around and people will enjoy my company more. When I am a pleasure to be around, I feel better about myself. This is a cycle that I can get used to. But, I need to not think of it as a cycle. I just need to go with the flow.

Because not everything is black or white. Most things are grey and grey is a pretty color.

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Letting Go

Yesterday, something happened to me for the first time in my life. It is something that I was slightly expecting, but didn’t want to happen. The law of attraction was working its magic, as much as I hate to admit that.

The last year and a half has been strange. I have learned a lot about myself, and I know that the last 18 months have presented a whole slew of facts and truths that I am only now starting to fully grasp.

In the 20 years of my employment history, I was let go. I was let go from a job that served my life in many ways, both positively and negatively.

Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I’ll bounce back.

But, this is a huge shock to my system, and I don’t quite know how to move forward. Fortunately, I have an incredibly part time job at a yoga studio lined up, so I am not completely at a loss. I also have been sending my resume and Linkedin profile out like mad. I am doing what I can to move forward.

To be completely frank, I’m freaking out. The panic is all internal, which isn’t the most healthy. I need to talk this out with someone. I need to process. A lot of the panic stems from the fact I am seeing a therapist, and that service was covered by the company I worked for. I also had health insurance, which kept my anti-depressant cost at $5 a month. The temporary lack of income is a cause of panic, but the lack health insurance coverage is the aspect that is really freaking me out. This is a vicious cycle. I suffer from constant anxiety, which is lessened by regular talk therapy and anti-depressant therapy. Not being able to afford the two things that help my mental health is detrimental to my mental health. And, here I am, feeling myself getting caught up in the panic fog.

I have ways of getting myself out of this. I know exactly what I need to do. One of them is reminding myself that I am actually employable. I need to use this knowledge and spend some quality time today (well every day) looking at jobs and being ruthless.

Another thing I need to do is get outside and move. This is a free way to ensure that I’m taking care of my body and mind. I can fill my ears with podcasts, whether they are comedy based or news based. This will be a time for me to clear my mind, and either laugh or learn (both, maybe). One of the perks of getting the job at the yoga studio is unlimited yoga is accessible for employees. Another way to take care of myself! As I spend time practicing yoga, I can work towards my goal of doing Yoga Teacher Training, a skill I want to have in my wheelhouse.

Last, I need to ensure I am doing creative things. This could be writing, drawing, coloring, knitting, or taking photographs. I want to knit a whole slew of headbands/ear warmers and set up an Etsy store. This is a way to bring in a few extra dollars.

Today, right now, the best I can do is keep my head up. As soon as I hit publish, I am going to hop over to some job sites and send my resume out.

You, dear readers, can do me a solid. I have a Patreon page that is active. I have a few reward levels, but I don’t expect anyone to splurge on me. I would, however, really appreciate it if anyone can spare a few dollars a month to help me put gas in my car and set up an Etsy storefront. If you can spare $5 a month for two or three months, that would be amazing and I will be eternally grateful!

Today is a new day and the beginning of a new journey. I’m scared. I’m nervous. And, the fire is lit under my ass.

It Takes Time

There has been a quietness to my voice. I haven’t been able to say what I need to say. More than a year has passed; while there have been things I’ve wanted to release, I’ve felt lost and not known where to start.

So, six months ago, I started seeing a therapist again. I started taking an anti-depressant again. Both of these have been incredibly essential tools in helping me find my voice and story again. But, it’s been six months and, only now, I have been able to feel comfortable sharing stories.

The questions I have been asking myself for a long time are so cliche. Where do I start? How do I begin? Is this appropriate? These are cliche, but they are honest. They help me understand who I am, why I am where I am, and how my life has unfolded the way it has. These are questions that are touched on during my weekly therapy sessions. This is how my mind wanders when I go for my long walks. I am constantly evaluating my life and how I feel, which is part of the human condition.

Going forward, I will be writing one post a week. I will be touching on my spiritual and emotional healing process, and how this process correlates with my physical health. I’ll be sharing my story, because we all have stories to tell, and mine might resonate with someone out there in the world.

This is a way for me to be honest with myself, as well as being of service to others. I am not a licensed therapist or medical professional, nor am I person in a spiritual authority role. But, I am a human, and we are all connected somehow.

Be kind to yourselves, and remember that love is good.

 

The Stories We Tell

Each line tells a different story, their histories equally unique and identical. Without them, who would I be? I could tell you who or why or what was the root for every line.

It started soon after I hit my teenage years. I felt I had no ability to voice what I was feeling. Life was scary and confusing (it still is, at times). At that time, I believed I had no way of speaking up. Many of you understand that feeling, and lived that in a deeper way than I.

The first time I did it, there was a momentary internal sigh of relief. The tension in my neck loosened. My forehead no longer wrinkled in confusion. While the weightlessness was fleeting, it was real and exciting.

Over the space of a decade, these moments started off few and far between. In times of internalized crisis, I found solace in this secret time with myself. That momentary rush of endorphins got me through the night. Just like an addict, that chemical reaction in my brain was a quick fix to a deeper problem.

Over the years, the time between each moment grew shorter. Finally, I found myself focusing on seeking relief most of the time. While I was in the throes of it, I was acutely aware of how damaging my behavior was. But, I was addicted. During that time, the only coping mechanism I knew and had was my behavior. At one point, I was able to count 37 fresh marks on my body. That number scared me and the palpable guilt was hard to shake.

It took removing me from the environment I was in and being physically near people who I felt I could give permission to monitor me. Another decade passed. During that time, the desire to seek out temporary moments of bliss melted away. It is rare for me to have that desire, and if I do, I have learned how to cope in healthy ways.

Twenty years of learning how to love myself and finding my voice has left me with scars. Each one happened for different reasons; ultimately, they are all rooted in the same place. At 34, I embrace my scars. They are a part of who I am, and the shame I attached to them no longer exists. With that lack of shame, I’ve found that people no longer ask about them. I used to tell some people I was a highly adventurous child and teenager. I would tell others I couldn’t remember how I got them. And, there were some days I’d simply say “I get that you’re curious, but we’ve never met before and asking me about the scar on my wrist isn’t very polite,” because, really, it isn’t polite to ask a stranger about scars that are clearly self-induced.

So, I am happy to talk about my scars. But, I have to be in control of the conversation. It has to be on my own time and in an environment that lacks judgement and full of compassion.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of self-harm and/or addiction, there is a multitude of resources available. A couple posts back, I listed some sources for mental health help. There are so many more options, including (but definitely not limited to) the following:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Self-Harm
HelpGuide: Self-Harm
Self-Injury Outreach
S.A.F.E Alternatives
Selfharm.co.uk
Harmless
The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury & Recovery

This only skims the plethora of online resources. But, this short list is a great starting point. Remember, we all deserve care and compassion. We deserve to find our voices and speak our truths. Be kind to yourself and share love with others.

Scars

When Time Stops

It’s been sixteen months since I created this blog. I started it with the intention to document my journey with PCOS. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. For the last year or so, I have barely taken care of myself and been focused on plenty of things that didn’t directly heal my heart and mind.

Six months after creating this blog, I decided that I would focus on every aspect of healing myself. Instead of just talking about my experience with PCOS, I decided to branch out and discuss my experience with my relationship with food. Well, that didn’t happen. I let this blog lay in wait, gathering dust.

So, sixteen months after setting up this blog, I’ve made an actual, logical decision. I commit this blog to the discussion of my experience with PCOS, my (physical and emotional) relationship with food, my relationship with exercise, and my take on my own mental health.

I plan on making time each week to write one new post. Who knows? I might even write two! Currently, I am reading a lot of daily meditation books, including ‘Beautiful You: A Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance’ – a book that was waiting around for months to be used. This is a book I highly recommend to anyone working on their self esteem. I’ll be sharing some of the activities or questions that I find most poignant.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained and licensed therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. All of what I discuss is in regards to my own experience, research, and education. When talking about someone else’s research or experiences, I will respectfully and legally cite them. If I misquote someone or cite incorrectly, please let me know and I will correct my error. Don’t sue me, please! Give me a chance to correct any honest mistakes.

Six Months Later…

After reading the very few posts I wrote, I decided that I want to revamp this blog. Instead of it just being about my experience with PCOS, this blog will be about my experience with my overall health.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is just one of many parts that make up who I am. It is the root of a few core issues I experience. Primarily, my reproductive health is affected. My mental health is affected. And, I have to work really hard to lose weight and keep it off. But, PCOS does not define me. I don’t let it. It is just a part of my body that exists.

My main focus is calorie input and output. It is the easiest way to take charge of my health. I have a history of, let’s be honest, disordered eating. During the first couple years of high school, I was restrictive with what I put in my body. I also ran cross country and (long distance) track. I put my body through the ringer those first two years. By the time I was 17, I started eating more and running less, but went through waves of restriction. The moment I went 1,000 miles away to college, I stopped running 5-6 days per week, started drinking heavily, and ate whatever I wanted. The Freshman 15 found me, plus some. That caused major confusion in my body, and myself.

In the last fifteen years, my weight has fluctuated. I have gone through periods of amazing health (bordering on disordered eating & exercise) to periods of complete lack of care for myself (again, disordered eating & lack of exercise).

I scare myself sometimes. There are occasional weeks that I find myself without much of an appetite. I’ll eat a piece of fruit or a salad and feel guilty for doing so. But, then there are weeks were I do the complete opposite. I can’t seem to stop eating. Psychologists have said and will say that this is classic anorexia-like thinking mixed with classic compulsive overeating. I’m the first to say that in those first two years of high school, I had a simple case of ED-NOS bordering on anorexia. The two therapists I have seen since then have agreed. At such a pivotal point in my life developmentally, I know and understand I was not setting my body up for success later in life. Our bodies are so intricate, and when we do more damage than good in our teenage years, it is scary how our adult bodies respond.

Here I am today, opening up about my history. A scary endeavor, but an important one. This is a way for me to heal and to find peace. And, this is one voice in a sea of voices. I’m giving you all my experience. And, I hope my experience touches speaks to someone, anyone. I’m a cheerleader for happiness. I feel that the happier we all are, the stronger our communities can be.

Please, reach out to me if you want. If you stumble across this blog and are feeling lost, do not hesitate to contact me. I’m lost, too. Instead of going at life alone, let us support each other and find joy.

Day Zero: Overwhelmed

Exactly a year ago I ran my first half marathon. It was the first time I had run more than 10 miles in approximately 14 years. After high school, I eschewed running. The thought of doing fartleks and hill sprints and making sure I jogged (at the very minimum) at least five days a week made me sick. Competitive running had been a huge part of my life for six years and the moment I left home for college, I decided to wash my hands of the emotional toll that running had become.

In the last year, I ran a very small amount. I had started the year wanting to train to do a triathlon for the first time. But, “life got in the way” (don’t you love that excuse?). Being a full time student and working part time, I allowed myself to get lazy. I went to the gym once, maybe twice a month. I’d go on the occasional walk around the neighborhood. I’d use the free weights very occasionally while I watched TV. I found myself getting frustrated and depressed more often, at a rate that was much quicker than when I was exercising regularly.

My cat died on July 28th 2014 and I had sunk into a deep depression in the following weeks, finding it really difficult to claw my way out. September arrived and I was feeling completely alone and hating the direction my life found itself in. Being poor and having nothing to do, I scrambled to get to the gym about four or five times the entire month. But, that was it. That was the only exercise I managed to make myself do.

That brings me to this very moment, Day Zero, the day that I have decided that I cannot afford to be sullen, depressed, and as overweight as I am. At 5’3″, I am not allowed to be 180lbs. That’s right. I said it. I am barely 5’3″ and 180lbs. Disgusting, right?

I used my fat to hide from getting painfully unwelcome attention from men I have no interest in, only to find that other men I have no interest in give me even more painfully unwelcome attention. On top of that, I have noticed that “fat girls” seem to attract all sorts of unwelcome “I met you 28 seconds ago, let me tell you everything that is wrong with my life and ask you incessantly to tell me what’s wrong with your life, even when you say no” people, people I had never encountered when I was healthy and taking care of myself.

So, it’s time I take back my life. I will take pride in my physical and mental health. I will be mindful of what I put in my body and when. I will make myself move for an hour a day, even if I’ve been on my feet for eight hours already. I will take time to journal and make sense of why I feel the way I do. I will go back to the clinic run by a graduate school that offers therapy at a price I can actually pay. And, in May 2015, I will run another half marathon. I have eight months to train for it. And, I absolutely need to train for it. I don’t want to just get through the 13.1 miles. I want to feel light when I run. I don’t want to feel like I’m running with three tires around my waist.

I may never get back to my 117lb 26 year old self. Until I can afford actual health insurance, 117lbs is an unreasonable target. By the time the half marathon happens, I’d like to have the scale read 148lbs. And, that is taking into consideration the physical change I will be doing to my body: transferring all of this excess fat into muscle. And, we all know muscle is more dense than fat. So, the scale can read 148lbs. More importantly, I want my body to feel healthy. I want clothes to fit better. I want to be able to look in a mirror and not hate what I see. That simple.

Here is a little preface:
If you didn’t read my about page, I share with you that I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago. The entire span of my menstrual life has been challenging. The only time I have ever had any semblance of a healthy reproductive system was for approximately a year when I was 25. That is often when women find their cycle evening out. Also, I was taking great care of myself then, which played a huge role in my reproductive health. Even then, my cycle was anywhere between 34 and 40 days. Never less than 34 days and never more than 40 days. Fast forward seven years, my cycle ranges anywhere from 25 days to 80 days. You can imagine how frustrating it is. Now imagine having aggressive PMS for an entire month. That happens at least twice a year. My body will get itself ready to have a period, then a month later, it’ll happen. Then three weeks later, I will feel like someone has taken a steel bar to my back and walking becomes the hardest thing to do. All of you Cysters out there understand, I am sure. PCOS comes with a few unfavorable side effects: excessive weight gain that is hard to control, irregular periods and many are extremely painful, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder; if you’ve never heard of it, look it up), and the occasional burst cyst. Sometimes, when those cysts rupture, the woman experiencing that does need to see a doctor, however, in many cases, the only thing we can do is ride out the pain. For me, it is rare for me to get a burst cyst. I know exactly what is happening and that there is really nothing that can be done. I’ve never experienced the sudden pain, fever, or vomiting. In all of my experiences, the pain has aways been intense, yet a constant annoyance for about two or three days. I feel nauseated, but never enough to actually cause vomiting. My body and mind are always exhausted and I have a difficult time walking, and whichever side the cyst is on, the corresponding leg is always more difficult to move. Bending over is usually not an option and sitting down/standing up takes more effort than usual. This is what I know. This is how my body is. And, I know that if I actually take care of myself, my body will repay me kindly.

Here it is. I am back on a healthy path. In six months, my 33rd birthday will be here. I want to enter my 34th year lighter, mentally and physically.

Lots of love and light to everyone reading this. May your days be filled with laughter and joy.