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:
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.
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.
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.
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