Start Living, Not Existing
This is a long one, friends; but it is important. So I implore you to get through it.
A couple weeks ago, I encountered one of the worstweeks I've had in years - I mean objectively bad. There were death threats, there was rejection, there were health scares and woes, there were heavy decisions to be made, there were hormones goingawry, there was physical pain. It was a literal shit show, and I'm getting a little panicky just thinking back on it.
I was experiencing high levels of stress, and even had a mild anxiety attack at one point; and the whole time I was waiting for my breaking point to come... but something miraculous happened - like an airplane hitting a small patch of turbulence, I sort of glided smoothly out of that rough patch of air and into smoother skies, feeling a little worse for wear, but generally pretty good.
This has never happened to me before. So I took some time to reflect on what I do differently now, than in my previous life - before I started my journey back to health. Here is what I came up with:
- As much as possible, I let myself feel whatever emotion was bubbling up - I feel it, I experience, I let it out, then I process it. Old Heather would stuff those down, creating a nice build up for a future hurricane.
- I did not resort to self-destructive behaviours to cope with (or forget!) the stress or feelings I was experiencing. In the past this may have been drinking heavily, or engaging in risky behaviour, or spending $1000 on socks off the internet.
- As much as possible, I kept commitments to do things that make me feel good about myself - going to the gym, keeping social plans with friends, and maintaining contact with family. In the past, I would avoid these things and hunker down at home, hermit style, waiting for the depression to take over.
- Lastly, but certainly not least of all, I did not shame myself or feel guilty for crying or showing emotion; or having a panic attack, or eating a bag of chips for dinner one night. I didn't feel great about any of these things; but I introspectively (and I suppose retrospectively) knew this was what my body and mind needed in order for me to process what was happening and get through it.
This is what progress looks like for me. I may not look like an athletic model on the cover of Sports Illustrated, wearing the latest in stylish bikinis, and I may not be instagramming some dramatic #TransformationTuesday photo; but I have my life back. Being able to handle a week like that one, and come out the other side still feeling happy and still so glad to be alive is so very foreign to me that it took a couple weeks to even reflect on and process.
How does this tie into my blog about the gym and body positivity? Well, I think my experience that I've shared here shows that working on your mind, and how you think about yourself - how you treat yourself, can truly impact how you process the stressors that arise in every day life. I have become stronger and more confident, which makes me happier about being me, no matter my size.
Feeling positive and stronger and more confident in turn helps motivate me to do more things that are good for me - like hitting the gym, or going for a walk (instead of a drink) when I am stressed. All these things are tied together as part of a holistic whole, and each small success in any area reinforces your own belief that you are worthy, that you are strong, that you are beautiful.
I realize now, I am finally back to living, not just existing. All these trials and tribulations, and reflecting on how I deal with them has had a huge part in getting me there.
Thank you for reading all the way through! I'd love to hear about some of your experiences with dealing with bad days/weeks/months and how you got through in the comments.