Finding my fight

Where do you find inspiration? Sometimes we have a story we want to share but just don’t have an idea how to bring up. It feels awkward or uncomfortable. The only thing to do is blurt it out with no introduction. This is one of those stories.

When I was a junior in highschool, life was awful. I don’t know why. I really feel like I woke up one day stuck in a giant, black sucking hole. No single event started this spiral so it was really hard fixing an issue that had no cause. This went on for months and it was getting to the point where I was going to graduate, go to college, and make some really crappy decisions. I was in one of those critical moments where my life was going to be altered and I could end up being a person I wasn’t supposed to be in a place far from where I was supposed to go. I was a hot mess of anorexia, bulimia, major depression, and contemplating suicide. Life was not going to get better. I was sad and alone with very little hope. I knew my parents were having a rough time watching this and they were also unsure what to do. I had no interest in going to counseling and really didn’t think anything would change me at that point. My parents were at a total loss but they knew I loved the outdoors and needed a challenge, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. For years I had read Backpacker and Outside magazine (yeah, my love for life in hiking boots started early) and had seen ads for different schools that taught enthusiasts how to climb, backpack, camp, and be guided into wild parts of the world. While I had casually mentioned this to my parents, there had never really seemed like a good time sign up for one of these schools. Until now. Enter Colorado Outward Bound School in Leadville, Colorado. While this wasn’t a place for troubled teens, there was no way one could spend a month in the wilderness camping and climbing, completely isolated from the world, and not experience some type of change.

This girl from Kansas suddenly found herself on the side of a 12,000 foot ridge in the middle of the Rockies, struggling under the weight of a 60 pound pack, gasping for air and energy, and wondering if being airlifted home was an option. Having spent months earlier wrecking my body with eating disorders, I really wasn’t the picture of fitness. Every day was a miserable, exhausting process of hiking and climbing for hours, unable to breathe, and trailing so far behind the group that one of the instructors would get stuck hiking with me so I wouldn’t get separated from everyone else. I couldn’t wait for lunch when I could inhale some cheese and crackers and then lay down and nap while everyone else enjoyed the scenery. My body was pissed. I was pissed. I hated feeling this weak. Finally one day, I think the instructors got tired of drawing straws of who would get to hike with me and so they put me up front to lead the group up the side of a mountain. Up to this point, the group had been lead by two guys, one a quarterback and the other a soccer player. They could go all day and not break a sweat. I could hear the silent groans of the group knowing we wouldn’t get any distance covered since I was in the lead. As I made my way up front, my chest was pounding. I could feel this surge of energy and suddenly I wanted to prove to myself and the group I could do this. Within seconds, dirt and rock was tumbling all around me as I carved a path out for the group. My legs and breathing settled into a rhythm and my eyes were locked on the top of the ridge. I could hear the group behind me making shocked comments wondering where I had been hiding this whole time. Pretty soon they were asking me to slow down. I waited until I heard the football and soccer player ask again before deciding to slow my pace. When we took a break on the ridge, everyone joked around that if we needed to get somewhere fast during the rest of the trip, they would just stick me up front. I knew there was a huge smile on my face but what others couldn’t see was all the screaming and jumping up and down that was going on inside of me. I was back and ready to fight. Our month-long trip was capped off by a 13 mile run up the 13,736 foot mountain, aptly named Mount Champion. I had never run before so the fact that I did a double challenge like this absolutely blew my mind. I came home a stronger, happier person who was ready to tackle the future.

Back in Kansas, the giant black hole that had engulfed my life was suddenly reduced to a grey rain puddle. It’s funny how when you’re happy, blue sky’s are everywhere. I was more confident having returned from Outward Bound and was suddenly making new friends and becoming more outgoing. The mental battles were still there but now I had a better support group. I loved how strong I had become living in the mountains hauling my possessions around so I wasn’t about to lose my muscle or my endurance. I started eating again and taught myself to take pride in being strong and building muscle instead of finding pleasure in how I could make size 0 pants bag from me. This was going to be a process that would take years to overcome and I needed to start learning. My interest in fitness and wellness started when I was about 6 years old at Christmas when I got my first pair of sand-filled weights, sweatband, and workout cassette. When I decided to become an exercise science major and get my license as a personal trainer, things just felt natural, like this was the path I was supposed to take all along.

I’ve gone back to Leadville many time since Outward Bound to camp, hike, and climb. One mountain, Elbert, has always eluded me. We were supposed to climb it during Outward Bound but had to change plans last-minute. Elbert is one of the tallest 14ers in the lower 48 states and on my summer adventure this year, I wanted to make it happen. This was my way of remembering where I have been and what I’ve done since my life changed in those mountains. I am very proud to say here are the views from the top….

My inspiration of mountain climbing might seem cheesy at first but it makes me think of everything that I went through in highschool and college. It was years of hard work making my body strong again, finding happiness, and conquering mental demons. Learning how to climb and finishing Outward Bound is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done physically. Beating my battle with depression, eating disorders, low confidence is the hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally. Staring at a jagged, sharp, towering slab of grey rock, sometimes so high up it’s hidden in the clouds, makes me think of how I’ve conquered my impossible. Whenever I’m at a point where I want to quit or I am wondering if it’s worth the work and misery, I think of the mountain tops I’ve sat on, and the absolute euphoric peace of knowing I made the right choice to keep fighting.

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Learning to keep it together

 

Got anything stressful going on now? Do you handle it well or do you find yourself spiraling out of control? I’m getting ready to start a really stressful year and have decided to set some goals to better manage some potential pitfalls.

In my last post, I mentioned I was on the world’s shortest break. Well it ended today. I’m back in class, only this semester I’m actually in a classroom instead of just doing online work. This semester is the beginning of a super hectic life until December 2013 when I graduate as a nurse practitioner. Grad school has been okay to this point. Lots of papers and busy work but nothing super taxing. I have my weeks here and there but when I reflect on the semester, it’s not too bad. However, today it hit me that life is going to radically change. Starting next year, in addition to working 3 12-hour overnight shifts, I’ll be doing 25-35 hours a week in a clinic during the day for my practical experience. In essence, it will feel like I’m working 6 days a week. Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode where everyone is yelling “serenity now!” Whoops, might have just dated myself. Anyways, I feel like running around yelling that. I know, I know. Please don’t pass me some cheese with my whine or starting playing the violin. There are some truly amazing people out there juggling 3 jobs, kids, long commutes, dying family members, etc. My life is cake in comparison.

After class today I had a bit of a pity party for myself and laid on the floor watching 2 hours of Sex in the City reruns until I felt I had accepted the situation. I realized I needed to take a new look at this semester and year. Part of my stress is related to how I’ve handled it in the past. Stress eating, weight gain, constant fatigue which leads into some mild depression, isolation from friends and family because I feel like I always need to be studying or catching up on sleep, and the overall run down feeling and appearance. Sounds like fun huh? The thing is, I know I’m not the only person who handle’s stress this way. I remember working with countless clients when I was a personal trainer who were all dealing with stress eating, fatigue, depression, etc. Mmmmmm, it’s time to have a delicious sandwich made of my own words.

So, my goals are:

  • Make my pooch happy and take her on more walks. Why study 5 hours in a row? That’s the beauty of having a dog; they make you way more active. I am going to take advantage of that and make sure I’m taking frequent breaks and walking her. She’s happy, I’m happy, my body is happy. I’m also going to make sure my workout equipment is out in my living room so it’s super easy (and no excuse) for me to lean over, pick the weight up, and do a mini-break lift session.
  • Learn to use a scale again. The beauty/downside of being a nurse is you’re always in scrubs (mmmm, baggy). Between that and then throwing on stretchy workout pants when I’m home, I could easily put on 5 pounds before I slip into my jeans. Hello muffin top, where did you come from? I know there are many opinions about weighing yourself daily. I’ve had many conversations with clients about this. In the past, I’ve gone by how my clothes fit since everything is pretty tailored. However, I really want to keep my stress eating in check. Using a scale more often during the week will help me realize when weight is creeping on instead of having to stress more after I’ve realized I’ve gained 10 pounds. I don’t want to sound like I’m fixated on my weight but the first time I was in nursing school, 15 pounds found their way onto my body waaaayyyy to fast and it took me most of that year to get it off.
  • Find a good balance of work, school, family, friends, and personal time. I am so guilty of getting wrapped up in work/school/sleep and ignore all the people who mean so much to me. They are the ones who help me relax so why the heck do I not make time for social hour? At the same time, I also need a little personal time here and there where I can just enjoy the silence and peace. You know, do important girl stuff like look at my pores and wax my eyebrows.
  • Continue to take care of my spirituality. Why is it we get all spiritual when life is circling the toilet but as soon as blue sky’s break out, we’re back to relying on ourselves? I want to make sure I’m always trying to find peace daily and spend some time in prayer and reflection. Maybe throw in some deep yoga breathing too 🙂
  • Keep up my eating habits. I usually don’t struggle with eating junk. I truly love fresh foods and simple meals of salad, chicken, roasted veggies, etc. However, with winter coming and when I get stressed, I tend to want more heavy meals (mmmm homemade mac and cheese). I get into this mindset that “oh, I’ve had a really hard day, I can totally have ice cream straight out of the carton.” I need to redo my reward system and stop thinking that because my day was hard, I can have extras of everything. Hey 15 extra pounds, it’s been a long time. Don’t worry, I’m not denying myself either. I’ve got some amazing chocolate squares that always seem to satisfy me after 1-2 pieces. I also love frozen whipped bananas with chocolate sauce or good Greek yogurt with fruit preserves. Mmmmmm.

Whew. Feeling better already. By the way, I found my version of “Serenity Now.”  It’s a picture from the Grand Tetons. Maybe I’ll spent 5 minutes a day dreaming of floating down this river……

What are healthy ways you handle stress?