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Mental health updates & living effectively + sustainably

Why must I use fancy words in my title? Well… #nerdlife

Effectively (adv): In such a manner as to achieve a desired result

Sustainably (adv): In a way that can be maintained at a certain rate or level

* source

I’m a huge proponent of waking up and feeling excited about life. Aren’t we all? Lately it’s been a lot of waking up content, going to the gym, and then heading to school. Fine and dandy, except when it’s not fine and dandy. I need to be capable of excelling in my day to day life without it being draining or daunting. I need to be effective. I don’t feel these two things right now. I want to reach my goals (we all do), but not destroy myself in the process of doing so. I’ve nearly destroyed myself before, a few times, and I’m not open or accepting to that experience ever again. Sure, I might be served a “shit sandwich” as Mark Manson likes to call it, but it’ll be my own preference and therefore I’ll roll with the punches. I want to be able to sustain my lifestyle, actions, inactions, and values.

Recently I’ve been pretty stressed regarding the future. Okay, I’m still pretty stressed, tbh. BUT, I’m becoming more accepting of the whole process, trusting my instinct (which changes… like daily), and letting things just ebb and flow. I’m a junior in college studying neuroscience and nutrition. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and that is entirely OK. I always had my mind set on something in healthcare, and I still hope to work within that field in some capacity or another. Ever since I was last in treatment for my eating disorder I’ve had my sights set on medicine (prior to that, for the bulk of my existence it was physical therapy). I’m not going to say I want to be doctor because I hope to help people. I mean, yes, that’s true, but it’s so so so much deeper than that. I want to teach people to take care of themselves before it’s too late, or before they get sick, so prevention. I want to help people love themselves. I want to show people that you can be in pain for years, decades, and still come back from that. I want to be the person who can answer the same questions I once had myself. I’m also insanely interested in the brain, microbiome, biomechanics, and the immune system. Oh and I think reading research papers is fun, almost as fun as histology. So essentially I’m a wee little nerd with a plethora of interests. Yep, nailed it.

I thought pursing medicine would be my thing, my niche. Maybe it will be, that I’m not sure of, but I want to broaden my horizons with new ideas. Perhaps becoming a physician isn’t the only way to do all of the previously mentioned goals I hold for myself. I sometimes wish I could just buckle down and say “ok, I’m going to be a doctor”. Close curtain. End of story. I can’t say that because I’m not sure. I know I’m capable of it but I’m not sure it’s the path to reach my goals, personally and professionally. I am working to expand my scope and explore different directions which are more in line with my life and other interests.

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I recently was listening to a YouTube interview with Dr. Allison Brager where she said “plan your career around your lifestyle not your lifestyle around your career”. This REALLY hit home. It struck a chord which hasn’t been struck in quite sometime. The job description of physician jives with my goals. However, the lifestyle of a physician does not come close to the life I hope to have 15-20 years from now. If there is anything I’ve learned from my past, it’s that not living true to myself doesn’t work. Destroying myself while trying to please myself won’t cut it. There’s always another road, another option, another direction for growth. Perhaps letting go of the one single idea I’ve held for years and replacing it with others is the best move I can make. It drives me absolutely crazy that I know I am capable of practicing medicine, but that the lifestyle and schooling process isn’t for me. I’m letting that go, because holding onto that feeling isn’t helpful. I have to remember what I want, not just career wise, but life wise. Ultimately, it comes down to trusting myself.

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I haven’t been really active on social media lately, which has been a positive thing. I’ve used the space to create a better sense of awareness of my goals versus being stuck in the image I’ve held for myself out of comfort. I’ve been spending my free time hiking, running, journaling, lifting, with friends, and reading. I feel like I’m “re-finding myself”. This may sound crazy but I think the last time I was in treatment, while it was extremely beneficial in terms of staying on the path of recovery, I lost a bit of who I am. I lost touch with the free-living, easy going, open, never quitting, curious, passionate side of Sarah. I still had the same interests but the way I approached life was safer.

I learned how to protect myself from relapsing, which in part translated to protecting myself from the world. I’ve been too comfortable, which has lead to extreme discomfort in my life. I’m not saying I have a bad life, I don’t by any means. I’m extremely grateful for all that I have, and the opportunities I’ve been given. But with all the positives I’m not content with what I’m doing. For too long now I’ve been doing what I feel I “should” be doing. While some “shoulds” is essential for getting though college and into graduate school, abandoning many dreams in the process should NOT be part of the equation. This safe avenue has lately been seeminly another way to not live in a way which is allowing me to thrive. I feel out of touch with myself. I’m doing great by the standards of society, acing my classes, working three jobs, sleeping 5-6 hours a night, working out most days, having volunteer positions, but honestly it feels off. I’m excelling in my academics, but they aren’t helping me to find myself. I’m not happy with what I’ve been doing academically and that is beginning to take a major toll on my mental health, between the time commitment and financial investment. Additionally, I feel as though I’m not pursing my real goals.

Stop taking pride in your ability to destroy yourself.” – Michelle K.

I believe personal experiences change people. For me, I’ve definitely learned a boatload about myself throughout the past four years with the past six months likely being the most notable. I’ve been hiking a lot since July. More than in my 23 years all together. It’s been and is an amazing experience. It is teaching me so much more about myself, my values, and my goals that I could ever imagine. I’ve never discussed much of my past on this blog besides that I’ve competed in jumprope and adventure races and am in recovery from a decade long eating disorder. That’s about it. Growing up my family camped a lot – tent, camper, cabin, you name it. We did a lot of outdoor activities – hiking, kayaking, general exploring. I loved it. I participated in softball, soccer, cross-country, jump-rope for sports. Other things I enjoyed were outdoor trips organized by my home town recreation department. We would go on weekend long trips once or twice a month, from snowboarding, camping, bike riding, horseback riding, farm maintenance, to hiking. I loved being outdoors. It was freedom.

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I’m a neuroscience major. It’s cool, yes, but not my passion. When transferring from community college to my current four-year university I decided on neuroscience versus kinesiology or nutrition because 1. I wanted to be a doctor and felt this major would be the best preparation, and 2. I was still in the treatment of my ED and was very interested in the neurobiology of psychopathologies. I don’t find myself learning what I want to be learning. I have enjoyed some of my classes thus far, they are “cool”, but I’m not gaining skills that I foresee myself utilizing much in the future if that makes sense. I’m excelling in my coursework, however I think I’m able to succeed not because I love the course material, but because I’m a disciplined and focused student. While not easy, they aren’t a real challenge either.

I’m tired of being comfortable. I’m tired of the safety net I’ve created. I’m sick of being anxious, depressed, irritable, and angry. I miss feeling amazing and like I could take on the world because I was living true to my own world. I want to explore my dreams again, because by doing so they could be more than dreams one day. I miss just going with the flow, accepting things, and seeing what comes from life. I hate being comfortable… there’s no growth, no newness, no change. It’s this stange viscious cycle.

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For a while I was feeling really stuck and still am to a degree. Althought by spending more time with friends and outdoors I feel better overall. I’m rekindling my relationship with myself, and while I have miles to go the progress at this point feels true to Sarah, not true to what society finds normal. I’m working to make note of the things which make me truly happy long-term, not superficially. I want to understand why I find myself more anxious in certain situations and have the strength to let go of them if need be. One main thing I learned in treatment was to let go. While I may have become too safe in my general approach to life, letting go is a skill which will likely come in handy. My goal at this moment is working to get back to my roots, and living in a way which feels both effective, supportive, and sustainable for me.

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

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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)

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Pursue YOU

Hi all! Gosh it felt good to finally get something up last week after being on a complete hiatus this semester.

New tunes: tune in while you read. See what I did there? Winking smile

I know I usually (read: always) end my posts with quotes, but today I’m starting with one because it totally ties into all the stuff I’m about to lay on the table.

“NOTHING KILLS YOU LIKE YOUR MIND.”

Well, that’s bold and abrupt. But so f**king spot on. I saw a quote somewhere recently (probably Instagram, lets be honest) and it said: my brain has too many tabs open. THIS. I try to do all the possible things full speed and get myself into so much trouble. Anything and everything that I’m remotely interested in I will try to make something of it. This is both a fun and destructive way to live. I’m terrible at saying “NO” because I think I’m super woman. I’m definitely getting better but I’m stubborn and try to be two-three people on a regular basis. It’s a work in progress. I know I need to cut myself some slack because I’ve cut a bunch of extra baggage from my life in the past year which didn’t belong anymore and this shows progress which I’m happy to recognize.

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When Kombucha bottle words always nail it

I can’t help but feel lately that I’m going after the wrong goals. What? Wrong goals? I *should* say things that are beneficial but not entirely my calling. I found this list of 100 questions to ask yourself on Mind Body Green and wanted to share a few + my answers here.

What lessons am I learning right now? I am learning to honor my body – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually even more. I am learning that although I feel like I should have my life figured out it’s not necessary or typical. I’m 22 not 42, even then, things change, life changes directions. What is stable one day might not be a week later. Life is dynamic and fluid not static.

What expectations am I willing to release? I need to release the expectation that when I make a plan of attack it will go my way… always. This isn’t possible. LIFE happens. Like I said above, it’s fluid. Life ebbs and flows, ups and downs. I like to have a plan and that is ok. However, I need to be ok with it changing. Goals evolve.

In what ways can I be kinder to myself? I need to let go of expecting myself to be able to do it all because this is the thing which is undoubtedly driving me off of the deep end. It’s been all or nothing in each part of my life since I can remember, always saying yes, always going full-in or not going in at all. I need to learn to be ok with the unknown and in-between.

What in my life am I forcing? being a full-fledged science person. This is confusing, complicated, and messy. I’m going to try and explain: I love science. I love learning about new findings, research, medical approaches, holistic medicine. Reading articles on epigenetics or the newest finding on how x chemical affects x hormone is REALLY FUN for me. Listening to podcasts on autoimmunity, the microbiome, or synthesis of vitamins. This stuff utterly excites me. I love the learning and findings but am not so thrilled with being the finder. Does that make sense?!? I like interpreting and understanding. I want to be able to apply this to my career and future life. I don’t want to be the “finder” per say, rather a healer, guide, interpreter.

Where have I been playing it safe? in the gym. I want to compete again. Rather, I want to pursue what lights me on fire more than anything else in the world (yep, even more than reading microbiome articles). I’ll get into this more next time but there will be some changes around here, kids. Expect that. Smile

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“Find a way to block out all the noise around you, create a tunnel and dig.”

You know what you are capable of. Trust that.