Every time I feel inspired to come back to this blog and write about whatever is relevant in my life, I’m always amazed at how long it’s been since I’ve written. I handle my journaling a similar way: I’ll be INTO IT and writing every day and then before I know it, it’s been three weeks since I’ve picked up a pen. For some reason, I struggle with follow through. Whatever, it’s personal, I’ll figure it out eventually. I didn’t come here today to talk about my poor writing habits.
I came here to reflect upon my life and my new path to self discovery. Those of you who are close to me may know already that I’ve been making changes in my life recently. Important ones, healthy ones. But before I dive into what these changes are, I want to first start with the most important thing: the “why”. Why did I decide to make change in the first place?
As you can tell with some of my previous blog posts, I was really going through a “health and fitness journey”. Or trying to, anyway. I was trying my best, so I’m not using this time to try to talk bad on myself for not doing enough or anything. But I do want to talk about why I started that journey. I promise, this all ties together.
I believe it was September of 2020 when I decided to take a leap into the world of fitness and really try to shed some fat and change my life for the better. I joined an eight week Autumn challenge through a company called 1stPhorm, where I learned a lot about macro nutrients, macro timing, and developed really good exercise habits. Through this challenge I was seeing some pretty consistent results, and I was so proud of myself. I was crushing protein intake goals and burning crazy calories in the gym and getting 10,000 steps a day, I was Killing It. My friends and family cheered me on, I felt confident and secure in myself for the first time in a while, life was good! I even finally signed up for personal training, something I’ve been wanting to do for YEARS. I am blessed to be working with the best trainer (check her out at Stefaniemariefit.com) who is supportive not just with my fitness journey but with my mental health journey as well. I still attend these sessions and look forward to them each time, even if I am a little nervous about the strength training part (lol).
For a few months of this combination of personal training, app based workouts, meal prepping and protein consuming I felt on top of the world. But slowly I noticed something changing inside myself. It was like a grey, rolling storm cloud becoming visible on the horizon. It surged and darkened and I knew it was coming, so I ran from it. I threw myself into fitness and health research and exercise and athletic gear. I focused all my energy outside of work on meal planning and lifting and trying to get in movement. It lasted a while longer, but eventually I just couldn’t outrun that cloud anymore.
My sky became dark, and I felt lost and exhausted.
Since being diagnosed with anxiety a few years back, I’ve gone through similar situations as this quite a few times. And yet, each time it feels new. New and somehow more terrifying than the last time (or have I just forgotten the sharp edge of the terror, the memory lost to time?). This dark cloud came over me and I became the worst version of me. I lost my motivation and dedication. My exercises began to feel like chores, and I started to overthink the effect of heavy weights on my body. I started to think about my heart too much, and my hypochondria kicked in and I really began to spiral. I worried about EVERYTHING. And with time I felt myself getting worse, and also began to notice the effect it was having on those closest to me. When I realized I was bringing others down with me, the guilt became too much. I was consumed with the fear of death and dying and, uncontrolled, it started to eat away at me so much that I felt nothing. I no longer felt satisfaction in daily activities that used to bring me joy. And it was in this dark pit of emotions that I realized it was time to finally Do Something. I just didn’t know what.
I could do what I always do: I could throw myself into a hobby and try to block out the noise, succeeding temporarily before slipping back into the throes of my anxiety. Or, I could really dig deep inside myself to try and find the root of these emotions. The last time my anxiety was this bad, I had to make some serious life changes to find my happiness again. So obviously there is something that, with reflection, I should be able to pinpoint most of this emotionally worry on.
I picked journaling back up and I would write every day things I was grateful for and things I could do to make me feel better about my life. At first it was filled with your typical things: I’m thankful for my dog, my family and friends, my boyfriend, my house, my job. To feel better I can clean the kitchen, take a bath, practice self care, go for a walk, exercise, etc. Through this journaling I realized without facing my fear directly, I wouldn’t really be able to make myself truly feel better. Yes, I’m grateful for everything I have and yes, I could do those chores to ease some of the stress. But neither of those options had anything to do with fixing the ultimate problem: that I am terrified to die.
Yup. You read that right. You did catch earlier when I mentioned I’m a hypochondriac, yea? I spend so much of my mental energy fretting about medical symptoms I may or may not have, what they may or may not mean, and basically trying to figure out what I’m going to die of at any given moment that I had completely forgotten how to actually let myself live. Even when I was actively doing something with friends or family I would have those nagging thoughts in the back of my mind telling me “you’re going to have a heart attack” or “that headache? definitely an aneurysm about to burst”. I couldn’t silence the thoughts, and they were driving me crazy. Now, this is kind of a big problem and not one that I will be able to handle on my own. Don’t worry, I have started the process of seeking out a new therapist (mine from a few years back is not covered on my new insurance, which is devastating to me). In the meantime, I realized there was one path I haven’t yet tread that could help with my existential woes: the path of finding my spirituality.
No, I’m not talking religion per se. I am, much to I’m sure some of your dismay, talking about that hippie-light-incense-do-yoga-and-meditate kind of spirituality. The kind where you light the palo santo wood and cleanse your surroundings and try to connect to this greater sense of self and being. I believe that by coming to know myself and be one with myself, maybe then I can find some control over my anxiety and fear.
I began my journey just a few weeks ago by trying to pick up a regular yoga practice. I would practice once every couple of days, hating every minute of it. Then, I discovered this 14 day challenge I could try from a couple who call themselves Boho Beautiful. I signed up and got started, and suddenly I was practicing yoga AND meditation every single day. The first few days were tough, but one time I noticed that I was looking forward to my practice. And then a day or two later, I was able to truly sink into a meditation. And then about 10 days in, I found myself no longer thinking about the possibility of death. For the first time in months, I was able to just enjoy living.
For someone who struggles so much with controlling anxious thoughts, this has been game changing for me. I feel like I am able to put my best self forward for my friends and family. I am able to spend quality time without fretting or fear, I am able to bring light and love into my interactions instead of darkness and sadness. The mental clarity I’ve been able to discover through the beginning of this journey is astounding. I feel inspired to just exist, with no goal or need for reasoning. It’s truly everything I needed.
I’m just at the beginning. While still practicing yoga and meditation every day, I’m working on developing some other mindful habits as well. I’m working on getting rid of things that no longer serve me, on curbing my spending and the impulse to feed into American commercialism (fancy talk for trying to cut my shopping addiction), and on slowly transitioning into a more plant based diet (following a bit of an 80/20 rule). I’m only three days into that last bit, but I can tell you I am feeling so energized and healthy. I’m very excited about this new journey and highly encourage anyone else who may be feeling similarly to give this yoga and meditation thing a try.
Maybe all of this is just another hobby that I’m throwing myself into until I spiral again. But it can’t hurt to try, right?