I posted a rather last minute blurb on my instagram last night (below) in light of it being World Mental Health day, and today I’m here to talk about all of this a little bit more.
From my instagram:
If there is a single message I can get across it is that YOU MATTER. As simple and complex as that is, you matter. And, I believe in you.
My own story and experience has taught me a lot about how we need to treat ourselves as human beings in order to have stable mental health. Constantly talking down to yourself, judging your every move, doubting your path – this isn’t positive for your well-being. It’s minimizing. It’s destructive.
I’m recovered/in recovery from an eating disorder. I’ve dealt with massive amounts of anxiety. I’ve had days where I questioned if going forward was actually worth it. I’ve starved myself. I’ve purged. I’ve exercised 7 days a week multiple times a day. I’ve cut. I’ve drank too much. I’ve taken laxatives to get rid of food. I AM NOT PERFECT. And, you know what, I don’t want to be. Trying to be perfect could have killed me and it also led me to be extremely unhappy with myself and unsatisfied with my life. So screw that notion.
Throughout the last few years I have grown in ways I never imagined. I let go of many expectations I set for myself around 1. What I needed to accomplish by when, 2. What I needed to look like, 3. What path of trajectory my life took, 4. What my fitness and nutrition needed to look like day in and day out, etc. The “should do this” and “have to do that” statements controlled my life. I was practically a zombie following my own set of rules which would eventually lead to my own destruction.
IT WILL BE OK. You can survive this.
LIFE IS HARD. And you know what, that’s ok. It’s more than ok. It makes it fun. Have fun with it. Enjoy the shit out of it. Stay stoked. Find your happy. Keep your internal fire alive. Don’t destroy yourself out of fear, feelings of inadequacy, dislike of yourself. Rather be who you are – there is only one of you and that’s super f*cking cool.
YOU ARE WORTH IT. ALL OF IT. ALWAYS
“Relax wild one. It’s not your job to be everything everyone needs, and you don’t have to be impressive to be loved. Stop trying so hard. Just show up … and be real with the world. That is enough.” ― Brooke Hampton
Beyond what I said in my post, there is more that I want to put into words and convey to the world (or at least the handful of humans that stumble across my corner of the web).
It’s ok to not be ok. Heck, it’s practically part of life at one point or another. There isn’t something wrong with you because you are struggling. It doesn’t make you less worthy, less determined, less driven, less adequate. It makes you human. Humans have struggles. And, sure, maybe your current issue isn’t the same as your neighbors but that’s also more than ok. We are unique as individuals and therefore are unique in what we go through.
Don’t look down on yourself because you feel like you are walking in circles, unable to “get it together”, or even have a good day. Just have a day. Keep it simple. Don’t make it so complicated. The complication of trying to have a “good” day, or be “happy” will make it harder not easier. Just have a day. Get through the day. Understand that your struggle is completely validated and that you are validated and that your existence is entirely worth it.
Know that while it might be 1 step forward, 1 step back, 2 steps forward, ect. it might be 10 forward, 3 back or vice versa. Your progress doesn’t have a guidebook. Don’t define YOUR progress based on any pre-thought notions about how it should look. The word should… well it should stop existing. And, because that’s unlikely to happen, please do yourself a favor and stop using it. No matter the context it’s degrading. Example: “I should sleep more”. OK, yeah, this might be true. Why not just “I need to sleep more”. Or, “sleeping more would make me feel better”. The should isn’t needed, it takes away your power. Stop doing that to yourself. You are better than the “should have’s”.
I can’t give the answers because you have to find them on your own (because what is good for me might not be for you). What I can tell you is that working on your mental health is not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you weak. It actually makes you REALLY STRONG. I never in a million years would have guessed I would be where I am today. I can tell you that in my life I have actually felt the lowest when I was doing the best by the standards of society and of doctors offices. Mental health isn’t always visible to the naked eye. Own your struggle. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t fear that you can’t get help because you seem fine. If you are not ok, that is as good of reason as any to get help.
Mental health is SO MUCH MORE than being happy. It’s knowing that you don’t need to always feel good. It’s understanding how you react to things and being able to manage the ups and the downs while also taking care of your needs as a person. It’s showing up in life for everything that is important to you and also serves you in positive ways. It’s letting go of the things which are harmful for your well-being and not beating yourself up over this. It’s having bad days and going with the ebb and flow of life. It’s relapsing and picking yourself up off the ground. It’s reaching out to people because you need a hand. It’s being honest with yourself, trusting yourself, respecting yourself.
Grab a coffee (or tea), sit down, and get ready to read and look at pretty pictures of mountains. This is a long one.
Ugh, guys, I have so many feels right now. Well, not specifically RIGHT.THIS.EXACT.MOMENT, but lately.
Why, you might ask? So many exciting and new things going on in this so called game of life and I’m just uber digging it. And, I feel weird to say I’m uber digging the life game, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve said that and meant it. In fact, it feels so weird that I’ve purposefully been quite absent on all forms of social media and even in real life recently because my brain has needed some major space for processing and not having a meltdown over sheer excitement/being stoked.
You see, I have this tendency to get super uppity and happy about things and then almost wear myself out on the idea and find myself running into a brick wall, losing interest and becoming, well, kind of in the dumps from an emotional perspective. Blaming that I’m a Gemini? Maybe. Blaming that I’m simply a feeler of all things and that I need to really feel and process things but rarely give myself the light of day for the ladder? More likely (but being a Gem’ prob isn’t super helpful. Kidding, kind of.).
Anyways. I’ve given myself space to just feel things. Space to take a step back and remember why I am going after all that I’m pursuing. Why it’s even important to me as a human in the first place. I’m allowing myself space to think, process, and fall back in love with my dreams, goals, and most importantly – my life. I feel that by letting go of the “shoulds” I had previously set for myself regarding school, a career, and even just how my life looked on the outside has proven beneficial in me feeling much more grounded and even productive. I’m half winging it and half going with what I know deep down to be my path? And, honestly, it has actually been a really neat (and semi terrifying) process.
What have I been up to during my intentional hiatus? I finished the NH 48 4000 footers (more on this below!), I got into a dual-degree program and am now simultaneously an undergrad (psych) and grad (nutritional sci) student, I’ve accepted a position for independent contract work to take over a bootcamp program hosted through a local CrossFit, this blog is no longer .wordpress.com but rather .com (YASSSSSS), and oh – I’ve been taking care of myself and honoring my unique quirky needs physically/mentally/emotionally and it’s been rather rad.
“She remembered who she was and the game changed” – Lalah Delia
Let’s talk mountains, before I get all emotionally sappy on you.
Hands down my favorite hike to date. Isolation is my second love.
Our (Amanda (Pan) and I) approach was to out and back from Zealand Rd. making the trip 19.8 miles and 4,850 ft. elevation gain. Yippee.
We started off from Zealand Rd. at the Zealand Trail trailhead. The first 2.5 mile chunk of this hike is pancake flat (okay, there are rocks and roots, I admit). This brings you up to the Zealand Falls hut which we made a quick pit stop at to pee and take off a layer as the morning was a nippy one and took a bit to get warmed up! From here, we continued up to the first summit of the day – Zealand Mountain. Zealand has a special place in my heart as this was my first 4k back after my injury (I’ll delve into this more). At this point I felt really good, looking forward to tackling the many miles ahead and happy to be frolicking in the middle of nowhere with Pan.
Between Zealand and Guyot went by rather quick and let me tell you the views from Guyot had me giddy for what was to come. I was also mildly excited for the champagne Pan brought along to celebrate my finish on Bondcliff (the final peak for the day), and getting the epic Bondcliff clif shot. We continued, onward, upward, and a solid amount of downward. The third peak was West Bond. West Bond isn’t on the out and back hike per se, but is a small (0.5 mi) spur trail off of the trail between Guyot and Mt. Bond. OKAY, West Bond is probably my favorite of the Bond trio because it’s 1. GORGEOUS, and 2. off the beaten path unlike the others and therefore gives off a much more secluded wilderness vibe.
After a snack and photo op we headed back to the main trail and continued our walk to Mt. Bond. It was at this moment of sumitting that I made the slightly awkward to Pan (and extremely awkward on my blog) statement that I was 98.5% sure mother nature just blessed me with that monthly present (TMI? Sorry not sorry… My website 😉 ). I had feels it was coming, and after having been blessed with it on Owls’ head (the second longest 4K hike, I pretty much knew I was in for it on the Bonds). We quickly left the Bond summit and headed to Bondcliff via a detour in the middle of the woods to, ya know, deal with feminine things and jazz. THANKFULLY nobody else was super close by at this point. Hands down honest, I wasn’t even mad or annoyed about it. Like, yeah, it’s a hassle but after losing my cycle for three years due to complications from my eating disorder, getting it on my last 4K hike almost seemed like it was meant to happen, kind of like a sign that I am “doing things right” for myself, my body, and my life.
Once at Bondcliff we broke out (popped) the champagne and had a series of photo-ops and random “ahhhhhhh” moments of finishing the list. The whole thing was surreal and kind of felt like a dream but also so real. I think part of me felt I would never finish. And, I think finishing was the ultimate icing on the cake for proving to myself that I can in-fact accomplish challenging aspirations. Admittedly, we hung around at Bondcliff longer than anticipated and once finally moving and grooving again we decided to book it as we wanted to be back to the hut and therefore onto the flatter miles by dark. Besides a few stops to pee, layer swap, and take way too many pictures of endless mountains, we made good time back and were at the hut just after sunset. I do enjoy hiking in the dark, it’s such a different ballgame and really allows you to experience the outside world. All in all the Bonds were a mix of everything and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
This hike has surely been a long time coming after dealing with a stress fractured fibula in April 2017. That was my first stress fracture since 2012 and a big smack in the face. I didn’t see it coming, at all. In hindsight, I was running too frequently for my body and therefore going beyond my body’s ability to adapt and recover from the breakdown I was putting it through. Healing this injury took more mentally than it did physically as I had at this point completed 27/48 4K’s and was legit head over heels for hiking. I felt extremely uncomfortable, unsure of how to manage the mass of internal dialogue, and anxious to get back to hiking. Having dealt with similar injuries prior and not fully healing them or myself I knew that I needed to actually FULLY heal before getting back to hiking to ensure I could continue this newfound love of mine for years/decades/the rest of my life.
I didn’t “plan” to talk about that injury in this post, but it kind of flowed in. And, to be honest, it’s the first injury I didn’t subsequently relapse after and I think that’s actually a big f*cking deal and it’s something to be talked about. I think it shows 1. how much I’ve grown into myself, 2. how much I truly LOVE hiking and outdoor adventuring, and 3. how #2 aided in the development of #1.
Throughout my journey of hiking the 4000 footers from July 2016-September 2018:
I have stress fractured a fibula and healed it. Changed my college major. Applied to and have started graduate school (noting that for a hot minute I was convinced I needed to stop school because my mental health plummeted last Spring SUBSTANTIALLY). Accepted a position that scares the shiiiiiit out of me, but that I’m tackling because it’s so incredibly the right move for ME. Reduced the amount of time I spend inside the gym lifting and increased the amount I spend outside hiking, biking, running. Took up new hobbies such as indoor rock climbing (outdoor soon?!) and trail/gravel biking. Developed a better relationship with my being around body-image, self-awareness, my internal voice, and just how I approach things.
It changes you, hiking 48 mountains. Not so secretly, I’ve repeated so many that I’m now at 87 NH 4K summits!!!!!!! I randomly counted the other day and was half floored. It’s not even that many, in the grand scheme, but looking back to the girl that was extremely lost, confused, unsure if she could actually seriously make it in the world before this journey – those 87 summits mean something. They mean a lot of somethings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from perfect. But, I found something that has not once made me feel like I need to be perfect, or have my life together, or never make a mistake. I have found something that is equally healing and challenging. Hiking has pushed me in ways I have never been pushed and allowed me to cultivate skills that I’m not sure I would have otherwise ever learned. It has brought amazing people into my life who I’m beyond grateful to call friends, provided me a gateway to grow in other domains of my life, and allowed me space to think and feel and process. Two years and two months after the start of this journey, I can firmly state that hiking is absolutely my jam.
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” – Rumi
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