Coping With Pain and Worry

I wrote this staring at this white blank space on wordpress, and I didn’t really worry about editing it….In fact, I couldn’t even come up with a title and I’m going to bed to try to at least fall asleep….

“You look like you lift…” (I heard this in the gym a few times)
Really? Well, I do…
Can you see the pain; the bruises, the deep nest that anxiety and most recently, depression, has burrowed itself into?
You look like you lift
Thank you, because underneath I feel like I have to lift this burden off my body every single day
It feels so heavy, and I’m so tired so battered tethered and worn
Oh you were talking about weights
Weren’t you?
Every day I struggle to lift; to carry the pain that recklessly pulls at my core
As I desperately try to cover up and hide
(I’m) Not willing to unveil the demons that fuse the flames between the angst and desperation that wrestles inside of me
I lift in my sleep
I lift the pain, I lift the emptiness;
The chaos that corrupts my entire being
I lift when I awaken and when I am dreaming
There is no calm there is no storm
It’s all in mind, but then again it’s really not
It’s physical and I keep lifting
I keep fighting
I keep lifting
Internally; externally my body won’t even let me shut down
I fear the worst, I fear the least
I fear FEAR
But the fear is deeper than me
Damn It
It’s a curse
But every day
I lift
Every moment of every second
I lift
And therefore
I become stronger
I become able
I become willing
I can lift more, I can see more, do more, live more
So yes, you say, “you look like you lift”
And physically, emotionally, mentally
Yes I do. I do lift
My body reflects my fight

I give it all I got, I leave all of me behind…

I grasp the iron, contract the muscle, divert the mind

reaching for something that weighs heavier than what’s inside of me; heavier than what’s trying to suffocate me; something that reminds me that I’m still alive; vulnerable, yet in control…

Tonight, I was sitting on the floor with a barbell weighing 275 pounds preparing to do hip thrusts, when I awkwardly made eye contact with a girl who was obviously talking about me to her friend. At that point, I was exhausted, but still wanted to push that amount of weight, but I just couldn’t; my mind unraveled the worst….

She was probably seeing the weakness in my eyes, or that the fight in me was fading…

I did feel broken and detached, and with that barbell hovering over my hips, I just couldn’t seem to make my mental and physical self connect.

I sat there feeling like I was no longer in control.

I decided to at least unload the bar down to 205 and completed a set. 8 reps and I was done. I couldn’t stop sweating, I was burning up, and my heart was pounding hard. After putting the weight back (of course), I was leaving the gym, and the girl who had been watching me, made eye contact with me and quietly said, “Every time you’re in here, you’re always killing it in the gym”…..

That made me smile. That made me feel vulnerable, but only for a little while.

Tomorrow is my doctor’s appointment with the endocrinologist….

Depression: I Can’t “Just Get Over It”…Yet

I remember when I started this blog. I wanted to fill it with everything fitness…and I still do, but I’m really struggling. I haven’t wanted to burden anyone’s eyes with words of sadness or dismay, but everyday for the past couple months has been a struggle, so hoping this will be therapeutic….

I am not where I want to be, nor am I who I want to be…

I haven’t done any cardio for weeks (almost a month), In fact, I haven’t really done much of anything, except fighting some darkness, and trying to find the light that once ignited the fire deep within me. These days, it’s all it takes for me to get out of bed. I’ve had more off days from the gym than I’ve had since I started this journey about 5 years ago. However, when I do get there, I go heavy. .

I go heavy to push all that darkness out of me…

But when a new day begins, I’m plagued by the same demons.

It’s no secret that I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for the same amount of time I started going to the gym. The gym, the weights; the control it gave me, molded my purpose, and made me fight harder than I ever knew was possible. It showed me what I was capable of and chipped away at a lot of fears and buried a lot of doubts I had about myself; about life, my purpose etc…

Fast forward, when my best friend of 16 years, passed away at the end of July, and I suddenly felt alone. I went to Las Vegas a week later for an already paid vacation and I couldn’t shake the invasive thoughts of how, I, too was ready to die.

Honestly, I don’t know how I made it through that week. 

But, Vegas, I guess was a distraction. It felt different. But I felt different. I felt that it wasn’t me who was experiencing the things that surrounded me; I felt like I was just existing, and all these things; the lights, the photo taking, the eating, the laying out in the sun, just happened to be occurring, with each breath I took, every step,and with all of that, I was stuck with an extremely deep and penetrating pain and void…

And it only got worse when we came back from our trip. I was forced to deal with the reality every time I felt pain and went to pick up the phone to call her, and suddenly realized that she wasn’t ever going to be there to answer, and all I had was a voice mail from her, but I wanted so much more. I started eating like shit, my obsession with the gym was waning, and social media just became too painful to log on to.

All of it seemed like a waste of time; a vacant place to unload a false perception of my reality.

And I certainly didn’t want to socialize or interact with anyone else in person. I was being buried and I didn’t want to fix it. For once, I didn’t care to fight, to fix anything, I just wanted to shut down and sleep. I’ve suffered from acne since I was 16 and at this point, the medication that had gave me clear skin and helped my confidence was suddenly ineffective. My face was breaking out like I was 16 all over again. I was embarrassed, I felt ugly, and I was sinking into a further depression, especially when my reflection in the mirror would point out 5 or 6 more pimples to look at. And I couldn’t stop crying over the loss of my friend. I was grieving and feeling desperate…

Finally, I went to my primary doctor for help.

She ordered blood work to test my hormone levels as well as my thyroid and vitamin d levels which all came back normal, but after feeling around my thyroid, she requested that I also have a thyroid ultrasound done. She found a nodule and all I could think was the worst. Of course, I researched what it meant to have a nodule, and grew even more scared and anxious. And where I once was following a more flexible diet, I cut out all dairy, sugar, and processed food, hoping that it would make me healthier. That maybe I did something to my body; I caused this. I did this to myself…

I’ve always struggled with insomnia, but now I would lay awake until 6 or 7 am. Every night is plagued with worrying, crying, panicking, feeling my heart race, my whole body shake and perspire, I want so desperately to just be able to close my eyes and fall asleep that when I finally do, I don’t want to open my eyes to feel the pain.

In the past couple days, I’ve received two phone calls: one confirming that I have a nodule and one to to schedule the appointment with the endocrinologist, and now I just want to sleep even more to forget.

Funny how I sit here and as, I write this, I wonder what happened to me? What happened to that woman who fought so hard for strength and the freedom from the terror of anxiety and panic attacks that make me feel confined, institutionalized within my own mind. Where I once started to stand strong, I have now crashed. I am at my weakest. I am vulnerable; I feel shattered, broken, and stumbling over my own thoughts. Yes, I feel I’m at my weakest point. I’ve allowed the intensity of my emotions and circumstances to grow and wrap snug around my neck much like a venomous snake.

Depression is real. You may not be able to see it, there may not be blood tests to determine that you have depression, there will be people who don’t understand it, who think it’s made up or you’re just doing all of this on purpose, or for attention. There will be people that will tell you to ask for a higher dose of medication, more xanax, more ativan, more of anything that will numb you. But what is forgotten is that not all depression is “fixed” with medication. Going out more, socializing more, or getting out of bed is not something that will “fix” a depressed, anxious person. It’s bigger than that. In fact, it is quite similar to a venomous snake wrapping itself around your entire body and mind. It’s not a phase and it doesn’t matter if you are attractive, rich, drive a nice car, or live in a huge mansion, depression affects everyone. It’s just unfortunate that there are some people who don’t understand it and make ignorant comments that only causes the sufferer more pain.

Trying to rationalize a person’s thoughts or behaviors is not helpful. Making a statement such as, “If you’re going to live this way for the next 30 years, you might as well kill yourself” is not helpful. (Yes, I had someone say this to me) That’s just toxic. (Maybe if people weren’t so callous with their words, people suffering with depression and anxiety wouldn’t hide away and shut down.) Your anger at someone’s depression or anxiety isn’t going to make the person “snap out of it”.

Things that are helpful are:

1.) Letting the person know that although you may not understand, you are there for them when they’re ready.

2.) If the person tells you that they’re not suicidal, don’t keep bringing it up.

3.) It’s okay to worry about the person and only natural to want to help, but don’t take it personal and share your anger. It does not help at all. It only makes the person feel even more hopeless and depressed.

4.) You are not a therapist, or a doctor, leave the treatment plan between the patient and their doctors. What worked for you, may not be what will work for everyone else. Everyone experiences depression for different reasons and sometimes there’s actually a reason.

Any thoughts or suggestions, please leave a comment.

Are You Just Going To Give Up?

We all have the opportunity to just give up. Quit. Just walk away.

Insecurity pools in the pit of our stomach, regret breeds off of our every breath, panic spooks our hearts and fire burns in through our eyes deep within our souls.

We quit. We feel bad. We can’t stop thinking about it. It was at one point a moment; an experience that you gave life to even if you didn’t see it through. You gave it purpose and then just let it go.

Once you give up, you dismiss a piece of yourself and most likely will belittle yourself every single day after that.

Simply put: It will forever change you.

Giving up is easy, especially when you have nothing to lose.

Or so you think…

Because you always forget the most important piece that risks becoming lost: You.

Remember when the vision first sparked in your mind? There had to have been a reason why you started. You felt the passion and drive; the fire burning deep within your heart, each beat racing to create the vision you had woven in your mind some time ago.

If you’re anything like me, you probably pull that steel armor over you and protect yourself from the world when the reality speaks for itself; the pain and threat is buried inside of you.

But you wear that steel well. Your body clings to it naturally. You think that if you don’t take a risk; if you don’t pursue anything, you’ll just stand still for a little while and the feeling will go away, the pain might disappear and you can go back to “normal”.

Because that’s what you believe, isn’t it?

What happens if you are never given the option to quit?

Two facts that I know are true:

  1. When we have the option to quit, failing becomes that much scarier and unspeakable.
  1. When we give up our chance to fail, we give up our chance to grow and move onto something bigger, better and quite possibly happier. (corny but hey, we can either blossom into a flower or transform into a weed)

Which one are you going to choose for today?

What Motivates You?

I often wonder what motivates someone…

What’s their story?

What makes them want to make a change?

When do they reach “rock bottom”?

What prevents them from reaching “rock bottom”?

Things that motivate you constantly change. If it didn’t, wouldn’t our flame just quietly burn out?  and all we would be holding is a bunch of hardened wax.

Unfortunately, frustration, desperation, resentment, hurt are the feelings that we give into a lot more and seek out ways to sabotage ourselves. You find “comfort” in doing things that you’re familiar with; comfortable with, vices that make you numb. (i.e., food, drugs, alcohol, etc) yet only damages you mentally, physically and emotionally when it becomes the only thing that you turn to in search of comfort and escape from reality.

We always go back to what hurts us rather than reassessing our plan and reminding ourselves that we’re training for a long term goal, and we owe it to ourselves to stick it out and push that much harder just to get that much further. Don’t we?

Instead, we continue to remain in a comfortable, familiar time and space that is controlled by fear, self doubt and very little confidence. We resort right back to what our bodies our accustomed to and let our mind control us. Let our problems dictate how numb we want to be.

What if we just used those “negative” feelings as a driving force to make us do better?

What makes some people fight for their life, and other choose to just watch their life pass them by? It’s never a simple answer….

Fighting for your life requires a willingness to face change and for you to allow yourself to become vulnerable to the unknown.

Fighting requires faith and to allow yourself to believe you’re worth enough to go out and find the answers to become better than you were yesterday.

A quick story…

Tonight, while out grocery shopping, I encountered an obese man walking back to his cart with a gigantic jug of vegetable oil. He was breathing heavily, struggling to walk the short distance where his cart was waiting about 5 feet away from him.

I wanted to walk up to him and share a piece of knowledge; a better option to cook with, but the next time I saw him, he was paying for a huge bag of cooked fried chicken at the food kiosk before walking out the door.

Maybe you think I was judging him. I wasn’t. I swear. I felt concerned and I was just observing him trying desperately to figure him out.  I just couldn’t help but wonder what his life was like; what his back-story was. You see, I didn’t just see an obese man, I envisioned someone who cared for him and loved him, having to live without him.

And I wondered what would motivate him?

I’ve been that way for the past week. Observing and asking questions; praying that more people could find the strength or motivation to fight adversity, hardships and obstacles that get in the way of making healthier choices.

These past few days, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. A lot has been going through my mind and it’s followed by a feeling of despair and hopelessness. It’s that feeling you are trying to fight, but your hands are tied and there is a deep sadness felt in my heart so much so that it aches.

And I wish I didn’t care so damn much.

But I do. I want my friend of 17 years to be okay. I want her to experience life the way I do on one of my happiest days. I want her to be able to go out to lunch and talk with me over coffee. I want all of these selfish things that really sound like they have to do with me, not her. Because right now, I’m sure she just wishes that she could feel better once and for all. I’m sure that she just prays that they will find a way to help her heart heal so that it will stop destroying her kidneys and liver.

I wish for that too. But to wish for those out loud would be to acknowledge things have changed and time has passed.

I pray that my stepfather could heal and not have his quality of life disrupted by spinal stenosis. That would mean everything could go back to the way it was before. I’m not naïve. We’re getting older. But I just wish I could be granted a little bit of that innocence that left me the day my father passed away in 2005.

I try to stay focused on my long term goal so that I don’t unravel when life throws curveballs at you one after another. That pain I feel is what keeps me pushing and fighting…

When life opens up into a huge slippery slope, I go to the gym to and just focus on the weight on the bar, and to replace the pain with a different type of struggle.

I want to feel uncomfortable by something that I can actually control and conquer.

Megan Web (2 of 11)

When I train, I feel alive. I feel all of the venom in my veins being lifted from that bar. I feel strong; I feel angry too, but mostly, I feel strong.

I train because it makes me feel disconnected from that ache in my heart.

When I train, I’m not just training for myself. I’m training because someone else can’t. Or someone else won’t.

I train because I feel as I get stronger, they’ll get stronger through me as I’m able to lift the pain and frustration that burdens them.

Why do you train? How has training helped you deal with issues in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Make the Most of the Life You Were Dealt.

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The gym; your workouts, your lifts, your latest cardio session, Mirror your life.

It’s a reflection of how you view yourself.

It’s what you’re willing to allow yourself to give and/or take.

How you overcome and conquer a challenge in life is a lot like determining what you’re going to do when a heavy ass barbell is hovering over your chest during a bench press or weighing you down in a squat position. Are you going to buckle? Probably not. Do you feel like it? Sure. But are you going to? No, you’re going to lift that shit right up off of you, you’re going to push like hell to overcome that weight; to overcome the feeling that is a consequence of defeat.

And that’s exactly the attitude that you need to have with you at every moment, every opportunity in life.

It’s not a matter of just “giving up” it’s a fight for your life. Right now, maybe you don’t think you matter. Maybe life seems fucked up right now and you want to escape. You feel hopeless, worthless and lost. But I tell you, when you’re in that gym with some heavy ass weight trying to call you out, trying to force you down, you fight like hell to win, to conquer it. And you will struggle, you will quiver; waver until you feel badly bruised and beaten.

Your knees will want to buckle.
Your breath will feel stifled.
Your heart will pound in your ears; in your chest.
Your palms will slip.

But that’s your mind. It’s all in your mind. You got this.

I guarantee you that you will make sure you don’t let that weight keep you down. It will be in that moment that you will realize the risk if you just give in.

You’ve been doing it for so long… thinking your life is meaningless and questioning its purpose, but you’ll finally recognize that strength that you’re capable of; how powerful you are. You’ll finally figure out that life has been calling your bluff way too many times; your mind; your depression, your anxiety, your struggles have been weighing you down making you feel physically weak, making you feel dead inside, and you’ll suddenly realize that the weight is on you and the mirror is just there, and you come alive…

You feel alive… the passion, the future, the present it all awakens inside of you. It sparks something furious inside of you that you haven’t felt in a long ass time you feel it and nothing, not anyone can take that away from you.

That power; that feeling, may seem temporary at first but then it’ll become part of you and then it’ll become who you are.

When you feel down or feel like you shouldn’t lift your head off that pillow one more day, allow yourself to feel. Go workout. Reclaim your power. >Allow yourself to feel

Most people feel depressed and question what our purpose is and what is the meaning of life. Nothing challenges you, it’s the same day in and day out, you don’t feel appreciated, you’re missing something, and don’t know what so you feel depressed. Stress alone that is caused from personal and/or professional matters, can make you feel weak and powerless; vulnerable, and can force you into depression.

I know. I’ve been there.

If I can find my way to the gym so can you. For as minimum as even 30 min, you can reap the benefits of exercise. You’ll feel in control.

Don’t compare yourself to others, you don’t know how long it took them to get there, or as I always say, “you don’t know that person’s story” so just keep going. Plan to go to the gym with a purpose. Don’t allow yourself to surrender your power before you even start. Reflect on what you were able to achieve in that session and as you progress you will notice subtle changes in strength, endurance, more confidence, more independence.

Ultimately, you grow. It’s inevitable. It’s what life is about, GROWTH–becoming greater than our obstacles.

It’s all just lightweight, baby.

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice For Your Ideal Body?

You see the toned, sleek bodies glistening with sweat at the gym, and in a selfie posted to Instagram or Facebook you wonder why you can’t look like that….and you ask over and over, “how do I look like that”.

I haven’t written a post in awhile. I guess I have just been trying to find the right words to put all these feelings and thoughts I’ve been having into a somewhat legible post. I started with the above, but then I decided that it’s just not what I want this post to be about. But everytime I try to put it into the right words, I get scared. I get scared that someone will just point out that I’m trying to defend my stance on fitness competitions and will scream “hater” or “she didn’t make it, that’s why she’s saying all of this…” but then I can’t help but feel defensive. Maybe because I made the choice to give other people power by watching their videos and reading their posts on social media sites and allowing them to make me feel like my struggle with a competition prep was merely a matter of being too weak and I couldn’t help. It was getting to me. It was becoming toxic. As a matter of fact, it was beginning to feel like everything that was once discussed between us was being used to help them “seem more real”. And I hate fake people. Ah, there I go again, letting them have power over me….

All in all, it could just be me overanalyzing and being paranoid again. So I’ll leave it alone and try to formulate a somewhat comprehendible blog post….

There seems to be this thought process that contest prep for a fitness competition is a nightmare; you are going to suffer, and it’ll break you down and force you to back down and almost quit, and if you actually do throw in the towel, then you are not strong enough. Breathe Megan, Breathee That is….mentally.

Again, deep breath …

There’s the mentality that if just striving to be fit and healthy, that’s simply not good enough. It’s just not enough if you don’t compete. You must compete to be completely relevant. But a majority of this particular “fitness culture” has become an obsession. (It’s literally can swallow you whole and spit you back out)

We spend time taking selfies that we save on our phone, filter the shit out of them a majority of the time, post them to social media that there becomes a fine line between obsession or just plain vain or desperate for attention.

Or just as easily as “all of the above”.

Then there’s this word, “sacrifice” that keeps being thrown out. What are you willing to sacrifice to get the body you want? I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen the captions along with the posts. I believe in making sacrifices to keep you from falling on your face; to achieving what you need. But when that sacrifice is just that; for what you want rather than what you need, than you have to decide what’s more important; what you want or the sacrifice you have to make, be careful what you choose….

When deciding to endure competition prep, how you fit your cardio in so it doesn’t rob time with your kids, but means you only get 4 hours versus 6 hours of sleep doesn’t really come close to being much of a sacrifice. Once you made the decision to compete, you need to be prepared to sacrifice candid moments with your kids. Yes, because you can’t turn off competition prep ; even when you’re with your kids, you’re still thinking and breathing contest prep; thinking about food, wishing you can have a bite of your kids ice cream cone, or hell just a little more oatmeal, getting anxious about getting your gym time in, your workout in, spending hours upon hours at the gym running on the same cardio machine, complaining about how “hard” contest prep is and making that the sole focus of your posts and videos on social media sites just so you can say your “just being real”.

No. The sacrifice is, trading one disorder for another one in, or just simply adding to it. The sacrifice is, giving up candid moments, living in the moment because you are now on a “schedule” that revolves around your body. And by the way, anyone who says it’s for health, is full of shit.

Oh. And apparently peanut butter. You must sacrifice peanut butter. That’s your ultimate ticket into earning the right to even use the hashtag #fitness. That hashtag alone will generate more attention than Kim Kardashian’s latest wardrobe.

Sacrifices need to be made to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, time with our children, not to achieve this insane belief that if we want whatever is considered an ideal body for this decade or screw it- month, that we need to ask ourselves what we need to sacrifice in order to achieve it. Yea, because that’s important. A ripped set of abs, with a nice ass, always hold much more weight over my sanity, my family, me, my life any day. And I’m sure if I don’t make those sacrifices and I just keep walking into restaurants or cooking up recipes that grandmother’s used to make, making memories with my children by actually being in the here and now rather than a walking space er cardio er fitness competitor cadet, I can seriously start hashtagging “nof—clue”, “eatclean” “iifymgirls” because I’m confused as to what term is acceptable in the current fitness culture that has formed. Or worse the, “do you even lift” or “do you even flexible diet” Seriously. Because lifting and counting macros are much more superior to….look at me, projecting…Damn it…it looks like I take this shit too seriously.

But I did warn you, you could never ever go back. You can never turn it off. There is no fucking switch.

Look, bottom line is,

I love lifting heavy ass shit (weights) and maybe a kid or two if I have to, and no I won’t hesitate to pick my 17 year old daughter up like a baby), finding healthier options, eating healthy, I love fitness, I love spending hours upon hours researching it, but I couldn’t find a balance. Sorry. There was no such thing as balance in my future. I had-like many do- a distorted sense of what balance actually meant.

I mean come on, we post photos and caption them with “my favorite shirt” but with the most awkward pose in an obvious attempt to draw attention on your glutes followed by the hashtag, #squats. And we’ll caption a more provocative one with a deep quote stolen from another author or just some deep thought to say what really is going on (but no one will really outright admit it): I’ll sum it up…as a woman, we hate that we have to constantly struggle to look a certain way, that the ideal image is forever evolving and we will never, can never be happy just being in our own skin regardless of what Dove’s commercial or magazine article has to say. Mirrors and pictures on social media do not lie. We are women. We must compete with one another albeit secretly and at the same time, pretend that we are ecstatic when another woman gets more attention or you think looks better than you…and you actually hate her for it…or just simply hate yourself MORE for not being her. I should know..I’m guilty of that.

We all want to be the inspiration, yet we truly can’t even remember what exactly the real meaning of “inspiration is. We create posts that don’t let in on the pain we feel deep within, we can’t let on that it all sucks and really you just want to be able to go to the gym and remember what is was to just feel proud that you made it to the gym, and you didn’t feel at odds with food or your reflection all the time. That you can just go back to the time where you were able to actually feel yourself, feel a moment aside from what is going to make or break you on this journey to a stage designed to take what’s going on in social media, live and up close.

We pretend to be positive but it shows with all our obsessive posts of plates upon plates of food or a picture showing you taking a bite of something that you may not have thought twice about since you stumbled upon the hashtag #fitness. Subconsciously it’s our attempt to detail our struggle with food or our attempt to remind those who aren’t in the game or are thinking about walking away and hanging up the shoes and competition tan, that this is the norm and it requires a great deal of mental strength. And sadly, our own mental pain is what got us here in the first place and will also be what will walk us off the path completely or just down the wrong way continuously. I should know. I did all that.

We’ll post so much to show how strong we are, when we’re probably falling apart.

We’ll have said, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I give up” s or “what am I doing this for anyway” many times At this point, you don’t even see yourself as anything more than just developed muscles and attaining an aesthetic appearance. Your self worth can become extremely jaded.

It’ll cause anxiety or stress to just go longer than a few hours without tracking our caloric intake, or if we didn’t make it to the gym to get your workout in.

But we’ll have the “Whatever it takes” attitude because we are at least feeling something. I should know. I was that person. Kinda/Sorta still am. And while I hesitantly admit to that, I will not deny the steps I had to climb just to get to that point. Hey, just keepin’ it real (wink wink)

A competition does not define me. I said before that I’m not going to allow anything to define me, but I take that back. My role of being a mother, a wife, and a woman define who I am. We are so determined to achieve this supposed ideal image that some of us overlook the entire picture.

Deciding to compete in a fitness competition has the potential to destroy relationships. Once you start losing friends and break ups begin to follow suit, you start isolating yourself away from them. After all, no one, and I mean no one understands your new life, and everyone just wants to be unhealthy anyway…

All we think about is eating. When are we going to eat next, what are we going to eat. Even when we’re eating, we’re still thinking about the next time we have to eat. It turns into an obsession.

**Side note: I hear girls all the time as they’re putting in hours on the elliptical or treadmill complain and say things like, “I just can’t wait to go back to ‘normal’; I can’t wait to just eat ___” AND that’s all they talk about.

It becomes life. 24/7. Eat, breathe, sleep. You don’t remember anything else. Well, except for #transformationtuesdays or #Throwbackthursdays when we have to demonstrate how clueless, miserable and unhealthy we were “back then” even though we’re holding a beer, a big cheesy ass smile, and some friends…everybody needs friends…sigh..

We will say we’re “taking a break” or we’re in an “off season” because after the show, we’ll struggle even more with our body image. And no matter what, it never fails, when we finally made the conscious effort to not at least prep your meals, we’ll make a mental note that we don’t look so lean, and the lines and definition from all the extra food you choked down have faded, there will always be someone who is prepping for a show and regardless if we know that it’s not possible to stay that way all the time, we can’t help but compare ourselves to her and feel guilty that we no longer look as hard and lean as we once did. And alas, continues our love/hate relationship with food…and the scale.

From personal experience, I know this. And, yes, I know not everyone out there is like me. We’re all different and motivated by different factors, but one thing is for certain, stop right away if you find yourself becoming too obsessive.

It doesn’t make us weak person if you’re miserable doing it. If you set out to do a competition, you should love it. And love/passion and obsession is NOT the same thing.

That was me. And it could be you. Could be…(just saying)

If you have anxiety or panic attacks, this isn’t going to cure you. It’s not going to fix you or reverse an eating disorder. It’s not going to fix you mentally. It just won’t. It’ll give you control, but not power. If you’re looking for help, exercise will help to some extent, but not the obsessive kind. I should know, I tried it. Exercise will release endorphins that’ll give you a boost in mood, but if you exercise too much, it will impact you negatively.

Besides, it’s not so much mental strength, it’s our hormones that screw us up and our body’s way of telling us that something is imbalanced. But we’re supposed to ignore it and just keep going…fight through it. We might just become more mentally fit for it.

Bottom line: Listen to your body before you listen to your mind or some post on social media.

At least try to. I know I am.

Finding The Road Back To Fitness

It seems so long ago. But really, it was just within the past 14 weeks that I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I had an epiphany.

One might say that, I’ve come so far. But really it was just an awakening. Euphoric and I feel like I’m in a much better place. Finally.

Finally I can focus on me. The real me. No more denying who I am. Like I said in my previous post, I will not allow myself to be defined.

And it all started like this…

Before I just did a figure competition because I thought that would make me seem raw and a lot stronger. It would make me seem like I have this anxiety down to a science, that I was the one in control. But that was all just a lie. I thought if I competed, I would be perceived as courageous and demonstrating exemplary strength, unfortunately, behind the scenes, I was breaking. I was crumbling. I was allowing it to define me. Define my self worth. I was becoming obsessed and felt as if I didn’t do it; if I ate one thing that wasn’t on the diet I was a failure. If the scale didn’t read a certain number, I was a failure; that it would just prove that I was weak; that I was what I had felt all along…nothing. I was a failure. At that point, I would allow guilt to binge at my conscience, which by now had somehow turned into my own worst enemy. In turn, I would then sabotage myself by binging and sleeping long hours. Depressed. Anxious. Guilty. Defined. Lost and confused. I couldn’t sort out which one I felt the most and which one I hated the least. I would “check out”. I would lie in bed and imagine myself not here; somewhere else. Somewhere where it would all make sense; where it would all just seem “much easier than this” but that’s just it, I didn’t even have any idea of what “this” actually was. Everyone around me seemed to be doing a fitness competition, and I couldn’t help but feel hatred and resentment. Why couldn’t that be me? Stupid anxiety I would utter all the time. I would shut down and give up. The self- hatred grew so much that I could barely see my own achievements because they never seemed enough. I never seemed good enough.

And over and over again, I set out to put myself in the most uncomfortable place again; in contest prep. It was, at that moment, what I felt I had to do to feel a sense of purpose. But deep down I wasn’t looking at it is an experience, it was becoming my ENTIRE life.

Prepping for a fitness competition only made old wounds reappear, and new ones hastily emerge….

I would go through the prep, struggling, sacrificing, sinking lower and lower, telling myself that if I didn’t do it, I was basically nothing special. But for some reason, as I went through it, the deeper involved I’d get, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I couldn’t possibly imagine going back to not counting macros on a scale; weighing my food, myself and skipping the gym, even for just one workout…the mere thought of any of that scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t be a failure again. I couldn’t just quit. For some reason, the pain and struggle made me feel alive. Not normal, not really living, just alive. And all too real. I was starting to realize that I was trading one disorder for another; I was using all of these obsessive tendencies, these unhealthy behaviors I was adapting to and clinging to, to replace the anxiety that had me feel so out of control at times. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping, it was only nurturing those toxic weeds to grow more furious and wild inside of me until I couldn’t control it anymore, in fact, I didn’t have control at all. Ever.

I forgot how to enjoy and love fitness and health and instead trapped myself in a web of self-hatred, lack of self-worth and didn’t even know where I belonged anymore.

Comparing my life to others; my worth to others, only made the anger and bitterness deepen. I spent so much time trying to conjure up an image of who I thought I could be, and instead of being proud of who I’ve become; how far I’ve come, I lost focus, and I was throwing myself into hot burning coals before the fire even had a chance to ignite.

If someone gave me a compliment, I’d thank them for the compliment, but in my mind I’d rehearse all of the things that they don’t see. Like maybe the cellulite on the back of thighs. Or that tiny little bit of fat that makes you feel self conscious in a pair of short shorts. The list may go on; it’s different for everybody. I know I’m not alone. I even found myself considering breast implants because I didn’t think I was good enough just being me.

I kept trying to walk away, but once it gets a hold of you, it’s extremely difficult to walk away; it latches on and doesn’t let go…

It wasn’t until I realized that it’s no different that any other addictive behavior; you need time to heal and recover. You need time to get your shit together; your mind right, and that requires just as much strength, if not more, to fight the urge to be honest with yourself. To not let anyone or anything get inside your head and weigh you down.

Each time I was beginning competition prep, I was only unleashing a whole new beast; I felt as though if I didn’t compete, I just wasn’t strong enough; or put in the words of a fellow gym-goer, “it was too tough for me to handle.”

But they didn’t know me. Nobody really knows the true me. And how could anyone if I even lost sight of who I was? It wasn’t that it was too tough; it was the fact that my cortisol levels are already chronically elevated most of the time, and all of the dieting and cardio was exacerbating the issue. It went from being obsessive and getting anxiety at the mere thought of having to eat something that was processed to having anxiety about sodium levels, fiber, carbohydrates etc., anxiety about cardio, or just being able to get to the gym. It was all I could think about from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment I closed my eyes. The program I was on was designed so that I would have to weigh myself everyday, and depending on the number, my macros would decrease or increase. To avoid that, I wouldn’t drink or eat anything until it read what if felt it needed to say before sending anything to my coach. I didn’t want him to lower my calories, I could have easily just lied, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself doing that.

I still can’t help but weigh my food still or fixate on the scale.

Like I said, I felt like a failure. And yes, all of the time. Even though I was hitting my macros right in point and doing all the cardio prescribed to me if the scale even fluctuated by an ounce I’d still feel like a failure.  I still felt fat. I felt that I was never going to be good enough. That’s what I thought…constantly.

 I felt so much anxiety going to my mother in laws home five hours away because I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the gym since after all she was having a heart procedure. I had no energy, no life, no memory, anxiety, sleepless nights, I loved food but I also hated food. I hated the thought of not being able to see my abs. I’d pick everything wrong with my body; I even contemplated getting breast implants. I wanted to fit in so badly. But I was not even fitting in with my own family anymore. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I needed to make a decision. I struggled with it. The inner voice told me I was a failure, I wasn’t worth anything… who the hell am I without this? I felt depressed and even suicidal. I thought maybe that was my only way out of this mess.

For the past 4 years, I have severed relationships, missed a lot of awesome moments, and restricted not just my diet but also my life. I have 3 kids, 11, 13, and 17, and if they weren’t my kids they’d probably choose to walk away from me. I was angry, moody and obsessed all the time. I just became so intolerable of everything; and isolated myself as well as neglected anything that might have been important. If it didn’t fit around a way for me to think, talk, or breathe fitness, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t enjoy functions because I didn’t want to be around other people laughing and enjoying themselves without eyeing a plate of food trying to calculate the macros or calories it had before actually eating it. Each time I saw that, I would either feel envious or just felt the need to inform them of the physical change they could undergo if they were just to make “better choices”.

I longed for the days where I could just have control. I missed the passion; the spark I had found in fitness and nutrition. I missed the way it helped me find my way out of the darkness and thrusted me into this new dimension of life…this whole other territory that made me feel alive, more normal than anything I’ve ever encountered. I wanted that back….

This process that I’ve been on has really been quite the experience. Each and every single time. Even the two times I actually managed to make it to the stage. But this time, this time it has been way more than just a physical change. It has forced me to ask questions that I pushed away before. It has forced me to seek answers to those questions and many other questions that I had allowed myself to drown in and play dead. I was forced to seek answers that maybe I wasn’t even really ready for or had even expected to discover. And this time, well, this time I know what I really want. I want to be happy. In my own skin, my own body; I want to be happy. I think back to a time when I was the happiest and the most confident, and it wasn’t how others saw me. It wasn’t about finding myself where I didn’t really want to be. It wasn’t about living someone else’s story line to make me feel important or give me a sense of purpose. I don’t need to compete in fitness competitions to validate me; it’s just not the direction where I want to go. It may seem crazy to some how something that is so capable of strengthening the body can have the exact opposite effect on the mind. It may seem like I’m not “tough enough” because I choose not to compete, but I really don’t need a competition or validation from anyone or anything to undergo a testament of my true self. I’m not just a wanderer, I’m becoming free; free from the walls in which my mind has placed the key.

To some people, competing gives them validation for all the hard work that they put themselves through. And the number of people, whether or not they belong on stage or not, is growing immensely. I only wish more people could realize that it doesn’t take a competition, or even contest prep, to solidify the accomplishment of getting into shape. I wish more people would recognize that fitness can be a lifestyle without all of the sacrifice; without driving yourself into the ground, sacrificing relationships, missing out on events or memories that can never be relived.

Bottom line is this: there’s nothing wrong with competing, but if you’re going to do it, do it for you. Do it because you want to. Not because you want to spend hours on the elliptical dreaming of the day you can, “go back to being normal”. The process is a real mind fuck, and it has somewhat of a permanent residual effect, which requires time to heal and recover, especially to get back to a good place mentally; to unravel all of the obsessive tendencies and unhealthy habits that develop, which are pretty much inevitable. And when you’re not even competing, you’re still competing. You’re still thinking about food; thinking about what that number on the scale really means. Still studying yourself in the mirror, still taking selfies, still pointing out flaws, still getting plastic surgery, still trying to “feel better” or “waiting for normal to happen again”. It can be an unhealthy transition from contest shape to coming to terms that you can’t walk around depleted, on a low calorie deficit, doing massive amounts of cardio. You just can’t. And that’s a real head twister too. Even the slightest amount of water weight can make you feel all twisted inside; make you feel “fat”.

I want to be in control for once, so instead of giving in, or exerting all of my energy to combat the anxiety, I’m going to say that I’m no longer going to even waste my energy on it. It’s not helping towards my goals so why mess with it. I want to enjoy being fit and healthy. I don’t want to place myself in a box where I’m cornered in and have no say. Simply put, I don’t want to be controlled by fitness, I want to control it. For me, that just works best for my anxious mind. That makes me happy. And what’s better than to do it on my own terms?

When I feel anxious, I want to get annoyed and get pissed off. Like what the fuck are you even doing here? When I’m on the treadmill running my heart out, beads of sweat dripping, my heart pounding, and my adrenaline surging and a panic attack happens, I want to take control and ask it, “what the hell, can’t you see I’m running here?” And I want to run harder to keep pushing it away, burning it so that it drips like sweat from my pores. And if I feel like I’m drifting, like I’m losing the fight, I want to be able to say, “ okay fine you win” without feeling defeated. Yes, I want to be able to have those painful thoughts just so I can remember that I’m being tested; each and every time, I’m being tried and tested. And I’m growing. And I want to feel that pain; feel that growth burning in my lungs, burning throughout my veins. Right there on that treadmill, right there with the weights right above my head; I want to feel like I’m growing and fighting back. And for that, I will be thankful.

 Thankful for my arrival to a place where everything around me will feel different; still scary, yet, new and inviting…

True value and worth have both come to mean something entirely different now. As I stated in my last post, I will not allow anything or anyone to define me. And a fitness competition defines me. It controls me and steers me away from what truly matters, family, faith and overall fitness, health and my wellbeing. Those are what is most important to me.

I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll say it again, I’m never going to be fully healed; it’s a battle every single day. Every single time something arises; a new situation, a new journey, I’m always going to be presented with change and uncertainty. I’m always going to have to face this anxiety head on. Yes, even when I’m not looking. This massacre of feelings that keeps me constantly on edge, teaches me something every day. Something new I’ve realized is that I feel anxiety because I long for purpose, or anything really that will allow me to experience fulfillment and value. I need to stop fighting and just ride the wave. The more I resist, the more I doubt myself, the larger the wave becomes. I’m not sinking, but I am almost always close to obscurity from even my own eyes. I need to just take action and quiet that frail and fragile, broken voice from within; to restore and redefine not so much myself, but the importance and purpose of my own life.

And I’m going to do it for me.

 “You are my armor and my sword, my faith and my treasure; everything I’m fighting for.”

-Alice Hoffman

I Cannot Be Defined

I spent the last 4 years in an anxiety-panic driven mind. It’s been hell. Slowly, I’m seeing the light. I’m seeing possibilities. I’m seeking to stretch the limits, push past boundaries from which I’ve enslaved myself in for so long. I’m finding out how to emerge as a more confident and strong woman who has no toes nearing her down. It’s time to swim. And swim hard. No more treading water or fear of sinking. For so long I’ve allowed myself to watch others achieve what I’ve always wanted. I became bitter and resentful but it was my own fault my own entrapment. I hated the world and I hated myself. I looked in the mirror and saw an image. Just an image. Expressionless. Hopeless and fragile. But it was nothing that could actually be broken . I’m fact, to be fixed, it needed to be broken. I needed to feel the damage that had long held me hostage. I needed to break if I wanted to stand tall. If I wanted to be put back together. I didn’t think I could do it. I lived two separate lives. I lived the life where I said don’t allow your anxiety to define you, you are not your anxiety. But then I lived through the guilt, the pain, and sat back and let it suffocate me and take the life out of me and give it to others to have control over. I was angry and felt like dying. I felt like I wasn’t worth anything; I didn’t deserve anything. I was fragile and breakable. I didn’t want to see myself as anything but. I carried around my shackles that were invisible to everyone else but me. I was my own darkness and I made sure to keep my eternal flame from burning too bright. I would always say, “here you win”, and it became something I would say much too often; more than I should have.
I’m not fully healed. But I’m no longer breakable. These feelings of inadequacy will never truly fade, but all I can do is chip away and hope for the day they just completely shatter. So, that’s what I’m doing. Finding myself. Finding out what in the hell I’m so afraid of. Why am I so afraid of it. Searching for a light that isn’t dimmer than me and one day burning brighter than even I can see.
I’ve now just realized that this journey is a redirect away from using the words, anxiety, panic disorder, weak, guilt, and pain; words that I’ve allowed to define me and to consume me. No. I am done. I am a woman who cannot be defined. A woman who is unstoppable and freely taking each breath, each moment and really truly experiencing it all for the first time.

Catch Me If You Can

My heart.

Pounding.

My head.

Crawling with hopelessness.

Rejection.

Fear.

Anxiety….there it is again…grabbing a hold of me; endearing, nurturing, yet so..so…stifling. And I needed to get rid of it.

I laced up my running shoes, tightening them, squeezing the top of my foot. I wanted everything tight. Extremely tight. Because that’s how I felt. My neck ached, my arms and legs wanted to sever themselves from my body and leave me vacant. I took a sip of my water and prepared to run. My mind taunted me. Antagonized me. Laughed at me. And I felt it. Every last whisper. But I was determined. I headed over to the bleachers, and slowly jogged up and down until my legs lit up and lifted me two stairs, three stairs at a time. My heart rate was skyrocketing, beads of sweat stung my eyes, burning them; I squeezed them shut. And I ran. And I ran. I was out of breath, but I kept going. I looked at my watch. Five minutes. That’s it? Discouraged, I took off towards the high school track and broke into a sprint. My heart climbing with very leap and stroke of my foot scratching the surface of the track. I heard voices and laughter. What the fuck. Shit. I didn’t realize the time. School was over. A group of high school boys broke into a slow jog. I almost left, but I needed this; I needed to overcome this anxiety building up inside of me. Approaching them, I felt my legs slowing down, my feet pounding the track; I felt tense.  Them just being there. I started to feel like I didn’t belong. And in a sense, I didn’t. It was right after school; their running time. Their track. Not mine. But I inhaled the fumes from my anxious mind, shut out their locker room humor and darted past them, pumping my legs until I felt like I was on a tarmac ready for take off; sprinting until my legs burned hotter than the sun; hotter than the air in my lungs, and the fire inside of my mind. Suddenly, from the distance, I saw a team of high school girls approaching the track. What the fuck. No. I’m not going to leave. Not now. Not yet anyway. I pushed harder. I jogged and then I ran. Hard. Balls to the wall. I was a jet in flight. A freight train. I passed them. I passed everyone. I wasn’t part of their track team, but I came to beat something; to fight for something. And then my gym boss timer went off. I was done. Done. And I had beat it. Beat the anxiety right out of me. It was over. It was time to go home.

There’s a story in each and everyone of us, you just have to have the will to stay part of it. 

 

 

 

 

Power of Contest Prep

 

To my anxiety-ridden mind:

I know that if I set up something far in advance, I become overwhelmed with you and just unwillingly, sabotage myself ahead of time…

I was doing fine, I set my own diet and followed it, didn’t have cravings, didn’t have the need to constantly go out to eat for greasy food or sugary treats. I was cutting my own weight and doing fine. Once a week, on the weekend, I’d go out to dinner with my husband and that was the extent of it. I felt better, I didn’t have the feeling of being hungry, I was committed and I felt strong. Everyday I woke up with determination and set out to become even better and stronger than the day before; to get that much closer to my goals. Whatever that was. No. I mean it. I didn’t have a goal to drive towards. I was just kind of idling day by day, conflicted and tortured by my own anxiety. I wanted to compete in a figure competition again, but I didn’t want to say “Ok I’m doing it”. Just like that. No, that made me feel too much. Besides, I felt like I was just setting myself up for failure once I spoke about it out loud. If I just kept it quiet and shifted it back into my own head, no one would know, and I wouldn’t feel pressured or anxious. It was my way of maintaining control; or at least I like to think so.

Once I made a commitment, I felt like I lost control and relinquished to some unknown bleak hole that would rupture my very existence; my little bubble that I often contained myself in for fear of treading on anything that might make my mind explode and reel with anxiety; send me into a panic attack because of the secrets I would have to keep so no one would or could judge me or criticize me, or even just sabotage my goal because they didn’t want to see me succeed. Oh but that was me. Right now. All the time. That’s me. So I guess in a way if I don’t speak about my goals, then it’s not really there. But if I take it day by day, than I can better control it all.

The other day, I relinquished control to an online coach for contest prep. Twelve weeks in advance of a figure competition. It started out with a simple email and erupted into a full blown commitment. Right away, I went into panic mode, trying to find a way to make adjustments already; adjustments so that I could maintain some kind of control. But since Saturday, when I submitted the final information and payment, I cannot stop eating. It takes him a couple days to get my custom plan together, so until then I have been thinking of ways to sabotage myself. Apprarently.

I’ve been on a non-stop binge fest. I’m having cravings and urges to go out to eat all the time now. For every meal.

I look in the refrigerator and see food and just want to devour it. I rationalize my behavior; try to soothe my mind. I’ve literally been fighting the urge to just keep bingeing. Part of me says it doesn’t matter, it’s just food, and it’s not going to hinder my goals. But the other part of me reminds me that success doesn’t come from excuses or rationalizations. But, I just want to have control.

Not only that, but I automatically have become consumed with so many antagonizing thoughts and worries that it literally feels like they are taking the very breath from deep within my heart and the lack of oxygen is so undeniably debilitating. I freeze at the thought of being asked to go to lunch with a friend or to go anywhere. And subconsciously, I isolate myself and place limitations in front of me that might otherwise be a challenge or a test of true worth or true strength. Maybe I’m afraid of the answer… I’m almost afraid to question it or to go up against it. It’s fear. I know that. It’s a lack of control. I know that there are options but it doesn’t matter in those moments when I set out to achieve something. It’s like getting in the car and purposely taking the wrong turns or inadvertently making sure that you just keep going in one big circle as long as you know you’ll end up where you started. But I want so much more. I feel it. I mean I can really feel it. It’s like a bleeding wound that burns with even the slightest amount of pressure. It feels like an attack. If you try to cover it up or dress it in bandages, it’ll just seep through or either that it’ll just dissolve the bandage making it as nonexistent as my confidence or self worth. That’s the problem I have very little self worth. I think everyone else deserves much, much more than me, and if I could I’d  be willing to give it all to them. Whether I knew them or not. And then I see these people who didn’t really notice me before or probably more likely I didn’t notice, asking me to do things, go to lunch and I look at them as challenges and obstacles that are trying to block me in my attempt from going any further when even I know deep down inside that’s the biggest lie; the biggest flaw of them all.

When I feel a loss of control; I freeze up. My body won’t move. There’s an external force that cannot be reckoned with. Over and over my mind tries to bludgeon the anxiety from my mind, and to tell you the truth, it works for a little while. Just a little while. And if you understand, then you know that you just have to keep fighting; have to keep yourself guarded, not against the world, but from your own mind. You’d understand that you cannot just walk out on your own skin; your own mind. Your body will scream like it’s beckoning anxiety and pain, but we have to remember that we’re so much larger than that. Than any of it.

We are strong enough to rise and succeed. We’ll always find a way to reach another step; another goal. And I know. I know because I did it. I seem to always find my way to the center of my goal; the center of my fear that is engulfed with the belief that I can overcome anything. And so can you. Because if u don’t do it, someone else is going to. Someone else is going to be living your dream; your life. And that control that we may so desperately cling to and think we have is going to turn into feeling of hopelessness, regret, and instead of living you’re just going to be dying. Your just going to fall into darkness and that will transfer into anger. So don’t let fear stop you; the unknown prevent you from living. And not because we have to; not because you think you don’t need to or that you have to give up control. And not because you don’t consider yourself as worthy or deserving.
Besides, I guess we’re not really controlling much when we are losing and surrendering to our anxieties; our fears and doubts. No, I guess we don’t have control if were being suffocated by fear. Fear controls us. And we need to stop it.

So here I go again. Round three to the stage.