The Biggest Demon

For years now, with anxiety and depression by my side, I have been fighting for my life, laying in bed or sitting on the couch; hiding from the world.

From August 3, to today, with cancer by my mother’s side, she is fighting for her life while being infused with the most aggressive chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer. A fight that left her exhausted, weak, and vulnerable; yet, I could always sense the strength that would emanate from her whole being.

This was the biggest demon that one could ever experience; it is something that will stare you right in the face and mock us all. Her strength gave me strength. But only when I was with her.

Once we saw the surgeon, the chemo was scheduled. This was it. It was going to be what will be remembered as the start of peeling away the mask to reveal its true face; the truth of what was trying to hide and hurt us all.

And the truth shall set you free.

She was scheduled for four rounds of chemo. Each treatment would last five hours and were on Wednesdays. Each time I went with her, and each time, I felt like everything was going to be okay. Sitting with her; just “being” with her I felt like I in control somehow. Once home, a nurse would come over and hook a “chemo ball” to her port, and she would have chemo until Friday around 2pm.

Those days, while she was home, were the days where anxiety would come to comfort me. It would keep me awake all night, mind racing, fear, pain, and then finally, running out of my home to drive around until the early morning.  I’d wake up in sheer panic and I would need to flee. Fight or flight. My automatic response was always: flight.

When she was resting at home with my stepfather, and I couldn’t be next to her, my control diminished. I knew she had to rest as much as possible, and I would wait, but I lived and breathed her cancer each and every single day I had to wait. I have, however, made a vow to myself to never show any signs of weakness around her.

The amount of time that it took to recover from the chemo treatment extended with each one.

I was losing my mind.

“God has a reason for this, you have to have faith”

Anxiety and Panic laugh…faith cannot be controlled. Somehow chaos seems to feel more controllable. Somehow.

Somehow, going from waking up in the middle of the night in a state of panic to driving around from 2 am -7 am relieved me from my reality.

Somehow, staying awake and not going to sleep, relieved me from my reality.

Somehow, I am comfortable only when I’m uncomfortable.

And when I could talk to her and she is feeling good,  I am comfortable in my reality.

The fourth and last chemo treatment was October 4-my mom and stepfather 26th wedding anniversary. It was also at that time, that my mom had blood work to determine if she had a cancer gene.

Her father (my grandfather) had 3 brothers, and 4 sisters. Upon discovering that two of his brother’s had intestinal cancer, one brother had pancreatic cancer, and one sister had breast cancer, and my mother’s first cousin also had pancreatic cancer, all who passed away around the same age as my mother, it was determined it would be a good idea to go ahead with the test. The doctor explained that if she had it, that meant that it gave my sister and I a 50% chance in getting it, but we could have access to preventative care. The insurance company just approved it last week, and we were told that it could take 2-3 weeks to get the results. My sister doesn’t want to know. In fact, part of me doesn’t either.

Also, at her fourth chemo treatment, we were told that her cancer marker (CA-19) went from 53 to 19, which was a good sign, but just one factor.

October 27, was her CT scan. The doctor said the CT scan showed that the cancer did not spread and the tumor went from 2.9 cm to 2.4 cm. He would go ahead with the Whipple procedure.

It is scheduled for Nov. 28. He informed us that if, at the beginning of the surgery, if he found that the cancer did actually spread, he would forego the surgery, but that’s only a 9% chance of that being the case.

That means she’ll have more time to recover from chemo until the surgery date.

These past couple weeks, since she has a break from chemo, I️ don’t feel so out of control because it’s just like it was before the diagnosis.

The surgeon did say that she might have to have chemo, however, a less aggressive form, about 4-6 weeks post surgery. That is not what my mom or any of us wanted to hear, but her response as it always has been throughout this was, “Well, I got to do what I got to do” followed with “I guess”. Revealing, again, her strength, but with a small fragmented piece of the mental and emotional pain that this has brought upon her.

She made me feel better when she said those words. It was like a filtered bedtime story to help me drift off to sleep with a pleasant dream.

She will beat this.

She will.

She will prevail. We all will.

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

Perfection Is Quite Ugly

I am sorry, but as a personal trainer, I cannot and will not guarantee that you’ll have an hourglass figure. I can’t promise you that you will have a “coke bottle body” or you won’t lose your breasts once you lose weight. And I’m also not going to lie and tell you that losing weight by “any means necessary” is not going to potentially cause you to have sagging, loose skin, and/or various health problems. I’m not going to advocate for fast weight loss or a quick diet to get you to your “goal weight”.  I don’t believe in a goal weight. We are all different, and your goal weight is when you feel the most energy; when you feel alive inside and out, when your skin is glowing and you’re happy and content.

 The only goals that I believe in are the small steps that provide you with the tools to improve your health and your life. If the side effect of that happens to be fitting into clothes that you never were able to before, then that is a bonus.  

 I am, however, going to keep my promise that you can gain strength, balance, flexibility; and overall the ability to depend on yourself, so when your children are all grown up and move to another state to start their own lives, you won’t feel so alone; you will not ever feel defeated or like giving up. You will have independence, confidence, and a boost in your self esteem as well as pride and love within yourself.

 I will also tell you that it’s the way a person twists their torso at the right angle, in the right lighting, and sometimes with just the right app, that they look “perfect”;  you look at them and see an illusion of  “a perfect body”, “perfect boobs”, “perfect butt,” “perfect abs, hips, legs” etc.

 I’m not going to allow you to believe that cellulite is going to completely vanish overnight. I cannot make those guarantees or promises. I will not lie. What I can and will promise you is through hard work and dedication, and of course sheer determination, you will and can achieve what someone else may call “their perfect body” But you will never be happy. You will probably still ridicule that reflection looking back at you.  

 Did you also know that it’s the way a person flexes in the mirror right before they snap a picture under the right lighting that makes their abs or muscle tone more defined and sculpted?  Sure, it also depends on proper nutrition and exercising, but it’s also genetics, lighting, and quite possibly the latest and coolest app. That may make them look oh so perfect. Or close to it.

 I know, because I am guilty of all of that. I am not yet vulnerable enough to put myself out there in a raw unedited image of myself. I am not comfortable with the cellulite that covers the back of my legs and makes me wince whenever I see a woman posing in a scantily clad bikini with absolutely no cellulite whatsoever. But I do my best, and I am proud of what I have accomplished through changing my eating habits and exercising. No one can ever take that away from me.  

 Perfection is unrealistic, yet so many of us spend so much time damaging and distorting our bodies and ourselves to try and alter our physical appearance, when all it’s really doing is causing us to suffer in silence as we allow it to destroy ourselves emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.

 All in all, perfection is quite ugly.

Please Don’t Lose that Butt

Once upon a time I just wanted to tone. I joined a gym, ate only 1300 calories, did a ton of cardio, group fitness classes once or twice a week or the treadmill for 45 mins to an hour and felt good about it. I felt energized, motivated, and I felt skinny. But I was too skinny. I was in a size 0 but I still had “problem areas” so I “trained” harder, “dieted harder” I still ate 1300 calories, but I controlled very strictly where those calories were coming from…even more than before. But I just couldn’t get rid of those “problem areas” I hired a trainer who prescribed less calories, more cardio and at that point, I was burnt out, tired of people asking me if I was sick, and sick of people telling me that I was “too skinny” I was hurt. After all, I put a lot of hard work and dedication into my body. Blood, sweat and tears mind you. I counted every single calorie, logged in every mile I ran, every step I took, and I still had “problem areas’ I was just skinny. I merely lost weight and toned my bones. I lifted weights too, but I wasn’t doing anything right. It was all wrong.

 I dropped the trainers, took a few steps back and invested the time and effort into finding out what the hell I was doing wrong. It was right in my face. While it wasn’t a quick fix and it was going to take some time and more work and dedication, I was finally on the right track. The reason why I still had these problem areas, was simply because I wasn’t allowing muscle growth to occur, which just left my body to hold onto fat in my “problem areas” The solution? I needed to lift weights to build muscle necessary to give my body the shape to “correct” those problem areas.

 So how about you?

Do you ever find yourself in the gym on the treadmill or elliptical when your eyes start to wander towards the weight room? You avoid it like the plague because you don’t know where to start and heck you fear where you may end up; like on some crazy machine turned inside out or flipped upside down…

 Or maybe you’ve seen muscles on women and don’t think it’s attractive. Maybe you don’t want to look exactly like that but you know you want to do something differently; you need a change because the same old boring routine on the treadmill at your gym isn’t cutting the fat, it’s only making everything face south. And maybe you don’t want to do a group fitness class because you’re not coordinated enough, or are afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Or maybe you even suffer from social anxiety…

 And then there’s always the fact that you’ve been doing the group fitness classes and still aren’t seeing results, but you keep going because it’s fun and besides, any exercise is better than none. Not to mention, you don’t necessarily want to look like a bodybuilder either. So… what’s the “in-between”?

 You want to tone.  The words slipped from your tongue, rolled out in red carpet fashion, you utter the infamous phrase, “I just want to tone up”  Cheers come from the crowd, your name is called, you feel powerful; like a bull master, ready for whatever; ready for the ultimate win. Congratulations.

 Well guess what?

1. You can’t tone up what you don’t have AND

2. You can’t tone fat. No really, you absolutely cannot tone fat.

3. And I guess you can tone your bones? I did. I guess.  

 As Sir Mix A lot sings in the song, “Baby Got Back”, “…You can do side bends and sit ups but please don’t lose that butt” he may not of known it, but it’s because doing only body weight exercises, doing excessive cardio routines, or hamster wheel training without really ever challenging yourself will only make you lose more of what you already have, so “if you ain’t got it to begin with, you really ain’t gonna have it after all is said and done.” Same shape of body but smaller. So, ladies, if you want to tone, you’re going to have to be a beast in the gym. That’s right, get your ass into the weight room and pick up something heavy; push yourself, challenge yourself, go for intensity not long classes or long workouts that burn any or all muscle that you may have to begin with.

 When you workout in a class, you’re most likely not eating enough to fuel your workouts AND the rest of your day. Most people either eat too much that’s lacking in nutritional value, or eat too little, again leading to a nutritional deficiency. And then you just start doing these long classes or just spending hours at the gym.  

 It’s quite possible that you could be either one of these two people:

 (A) You want to lose weight so you skimp on calories, thereby skipping meals, eating like a bird, and therefore, you’re not getting enough nutrients to fuel your body properly. You also do excessive amounts of cardio or a couple long group fitness classes a week to complement your impeccable eating habits, and burn off the little muscle that your body does have, which makes it impossible to lose fat, maintain or increase strength, and continue to perform daily activities at the same or higher level.  

 (B)  You do lots of cardio, eating like crap in between, not getting enough nutrients to fuel your body properly, continue to perform daily activities at the same or higher level, or maintain or increase strength, and ultimately stay the same weight because while you may have enough stimulation for muscle growth, you don’t have enough nutrients to sustain or build muscle.

 To stay lean and “tone” you have to have muscle. You have to eat and train for the body you want, not just a smaller body of what you already are carrying around.

A smaller body doesn’t automatically equate to being stronger or healthier either.

I’m not toning. I’m shaping, redefining; re-creating.

 And it’s still a progress people. Trust me, once you see the results, you will become addicted.  

So become an addict with me.

Become addicted.

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Think Outside the Mirror

I have to be honest here. I have to look back and tell you all the truth. I haven’t been feeling like fitness anything lately. I’ve been feeling depressed, sad, and discouraged. The main reason is because I struggle to become independent and free from anxiety medication and I feel like the glimpse of hope I’ve had left me floundering. You see, I thought I had it all figured out, I was going to try to get into a program designed to help me deal with the number one fear that has taken over my life little by little. I was so excited to think that I could be free from taking Xanax. Free from the withdrawals, free from the struggle of having to fight every night against taking them. Unfortunately though, the program wasn’t accepting anyone else. It was at that moment I felt hopeless; a flood of fear and helplessness flooded over me…

Was I going to be on this medication forever? Was I really trying to be free from it completely? Yes and No. I want to regain control. I  don’t want to feel like I  have to rely on it.

Yes, since I got into exercise and nutrition, I have found an outlet; a way to cope with it, a passion; if you will, to help me heal; help me feel better. Physically and emotionally. However, I still have panic attacks. Why? Because I’m not perfect. There are some days I don’t want to eat healthy; days where I want to live in the moment with the rest of the population, days where I want to give in to the loud obnoxious flashbacks that I have of me when I was still in my twenties having fun, living life carelessly and without all this dedication and medication.  In lieu of that, I find myself pushing the limits to see how far all of that hard work at the gym as well as  the time that I take to focus on nutrition could resist the copious amounts of not so healthy food.

Some days I don’t want to work out either. I want to curl into a ball and cry my heart and soul out until I become numb.  I am mad.  I am mad because my doctor wrote me a prescription two years ago and assured me that it would be temporary. I am mad because I feel like I gave in too quickly. And now? Now I’m still taking it and I can’t seem to find a way to escape it without withdrawals. And I worry, I worry that I’m going to be lying awake one night and I’m going to need more that just the normal maximum dosage because after awhile your brain gets lazy.  Over time, the Xanax is doing all the work and soon you need more to get that relaxed feeling or to suppress what I will refer to as withdrawals. 

I love fitness. I love nutrition. But I don’t love Xanax. I don’t love medication. I want to be free. I want to live without pain and tension and stress. The truth is, the reason I’ve been away for so long, is because I was beginning to doubt the power of nutrition and exercise. I mean, here I am eating all of the right things, exercising, but when that’s all over, I still feel afraid. I still feel dependent. I feel like I’m being stifled from living my life and sharing my passion due to the medication that I feel has imprisoned me in my own mind; my own skin.

Exercise and diet is only a counterpart towards healing any ailment or disease; once you give into medicine, you have to learn to deal with the side effects. You have to learn to cope with them and they can make you more miserable, depressed and bring a sense of helplessness.

Sitting across from a doctor who is providing  you with a checklist over and over again of things that you could do to manage anxiety or any other ailment you may suffer from, makes you want to yell at the doctor and tell them that they have no idea what they are talking about. You doubt them because you have tried all of those things, and nothing seems to work. But then they’ll probably just write you another prescription….

You find yourself hovering over the computer all hours of the day; all hours of the night. Why? Because you have a huge vacancy; a huge question mark.

problems

 Like I said, I even started to question nutrition and exercise.  I asked myself if it was really all just a bunch of bullshit? But sitting here, with time to think, fully carb loaded, muscles still sore from my daily workouts and the tension that inflames my body,  I was given a brief moment to open my eyes and reveal a little bit of clarity. Even I still felt a tad shaken. But I could truly understand that yes, yes, diet and exercise are beneficial.  It is just the side effects of the medication that I am at war with. I am at war with medicine and doctors who don’t believe in anything but treating you with medicine.

I recently discovered the oath a doctor has to swear to, and it is to do everything you can to help the person without putting them at further risk for disease….I suffer from panic attacks, I had my first one in 2009 and didn’t get into fitness and nutrition until I was well under way to being treated with Xanax. Sure, no one put a gun to my head, and I did seek out additional services to learn how to cope,  but Xanax is a powerful drug.  I’d have a panic attack and I would try to do all the breathing techniques, the relaxation techniques,  but it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing it right; I just couldn’t find a way to relax completely.  

I was once told that I need to think of it as taking medication for diabetes. Without it, I’d be “unhealthy.” But all I heard was the doctor telling me that I needed to succumb to this mental war that was going on inside my head and shut it up with medication.  

Eventually, I told my doctor that  I didn’t want to take it anymore, so she had me wean off of it as slowly as possible. However, regardless of the fact that  I was on such a small dosage to begin with (1.5 mg max per day), the withdrawals were still way too intense, and by the end of the night, I felt like I could have unzipped my own skin and took off.  I seriously felt like a real life character in a movie who was a heroin addict. More defeat. More hope was lost. I started to think what was the point of me being so hardcore into fitness and nutrition, if I am a prisoner in my own mind and body?  

So that’s the truth, now here’s reality:  

Balance isn’t just about how to find a way to make fitness and nutrition fit into your life, it’s about finding inner peace within yourself; psychologically you can’t be at odds with yourself or your physical self will still suffer. I’ve had to take a step back, just a small step, and realize that I need to get right with my psychological self so that I can be continue to reach for the unknown.  

I’ve had to realize that regardless of how much you sweat physically, or how many healthy choices you make, you cant disregard the inner self. You can be physically fit, but if you’re not mentally/psychologically fit, then you haven’t become any closer to the happiness that you deserve.  And that’s just it. I feel like I allowed myself to surrender to medical science and let it slowly stifle my inner self; my soul, my mind. I was only focused on the outside; thinking that’s what made me strong and in control, but I  continued to ignore the other counterpart that was a crucial element to this process of healing. I ignored the pain in my eyes because I only felt the ache in my heart, the ache in my lungs, and the soreness of a worked muscle.  I forgot that your outside appearance doesn’t always reveal the true self; your authentic self. And the night I wrote this, and the tear scratched out the ink on the paper that I had originally wrote this on, I sensed a glimpse of clarity.

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I believed that I had to become more aware and respect that my mind needs to be trained just like I trained my body. They were one unit, working as a whole, and  I had to learn to sweat emotionally not just physically.  After all, I know that I can’t beat myself up for giving into medicine, I was in a desperate moment and thought that medication was the best, but for now, I have been doing a lot of research about the correlation between anxiety/moods/energy levels and nutrition. As a result, I have been focusing on eliminating grains from my diet (which I will discuss in a later blog post).  

And just in case you’re wondering…

I am trying really, really hard to stave off the withdrawals from the xanax, and I look forward to one day being able to say that I am free from the side effects, free to really just reap the benefits of what I have come to believe in over the past few years; and that of course are my two sidekicks, nutrition and exercise. And I also vow to never, ever doubt the power of nutrition and exercise. Ever again.

And I will continue to look for ways to achieve balance within myself. Mind, body, and soul. 

I will always remember that there is always room for change; if you think you’re doing everything you can to fight, you’re not. Change something. 

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Goodnight xoxo

  

Beast Mode. Power:On

My last couple workouts have been officially labeled as “panic attack” workouts. They go a little something like this:

 I workout, moving from exercise to exercise with very little rest in between, my heart starts to pound, and I feel as though I’m about to throw up. I’m working hard, and I’m not going to back off. I continue. My muscles are being trained to failure, I say to myself,

“one more rep” fighting with the bully inside of me trying to get me to back down. My blood is pumping, I feel it through my veins, I’m sucking in oxygen, maximizing all of my energy into pushing out one last rep. I keep pushing, waiting for the climax; the rush of simple euphoria. I feel every bit of oxygen crash and erupt with every rep; my body pushes harder and harder. I let go. I am finished. Sweat thickens and beads; it starts to brush past my eyebrows, misses my eye and continues on down my cheek and rolls off my chin. I continue. Next set. I don’t stop. Heat emerges within my muscles, fire erupts, my body pushes; my mind pushes back. It tells me to stop; it wants me to stop. But I can’t. I have to get to the point where my mind lets go; I have to keep pushing. I have to let my mind know my body can do all the work; I have to let my body take over. With every rep, I feel the muscle contract. It feels good. It feels powerful and controlled. Yet, somehow I begin to panic.

 My heart beat has become louder;  like it’s going to burst. “I’m fine.” I try to reassure myself, but I can’t take my mind off of the cold, clammy feeling that has suddenly numbed my skin.  Again.  “I’m fine,”  I pick up the weight and lift. My mind shifts as I start to turn my focus on the lift of the exercise.  I complete the set and put the weight down. I look at the clock and wait for the next set to begin. Again. It happens. The blood in my veins start to feel like slivers of ice; frozen.

 “Oh my God, Oh my God, something is wrong with me” I dread what comes next.

“Everything is blurry. Why is everything blurry. Is it my contacts? Would if it’s that medication. I remember reading the side effects. Shit. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, my throat feels like it’s locked …I can’t swallow…I can’t breathe…Shit. Would if something is seriously wrong with me?!!

  Panic mode.

 I pull back. No. Beast mode.

 I have one last set to do. One more set. I can handle it. Focus. Breathe. I can do this, I’m not losing it. Not this time.

 I wrap my hands around the cold iron dumbbell and I feel a sudden surge; like an electric shock. Confident; fearless; I let the weight dig into my muscles and just like that. I am standing there, weight in my hands; barely over my head; controlled, calculated. I am ready. I see a person that resembles me in the mirror. I look away. That can’t be me, quickly, my mind relapses. I power the weight above my head. Damn it. That is me.

That is me.

How to Find Balance and Still be a Bad Ass. Sweat Included.

Being a bad ass is someone who doesn’t necessarily have their shit together, but can find a balance that works for them. What works for me may not work for you. I like a little sweat in my morning coffee, or I should probably say afternoon coffee. I love to go to the gym and “throw some weights around” just because I can. Also, because I’m a girl and I like it when I can walk over to a squat rack and squat the same weight as a man. Shhhh…I probably shouldn’t admit that it’s a teenager in most cases, but hey nonetheless, I’m getting it done. Cardio? I hate it. But I do it because without it; I lack balance.

Sometimes, I even feel invincible in the gym. I feel, well, simply put, like a bad ass. And I’m dripping in sweat. Oh, and I don’t care what in the hell I look like either.

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When you set out to lose weight, it’s either for aesthetic reasons, or you do it because you want to feel better; feel healthier. Most conversations about losing weight have to do with “skinny”. People know they just want to get skinny. I often was told, “I was lucky to be so skinny” there are even websites, hashtags that cater to “skinny” people. In a person’s mind, it’s simple, to be skinny is to be healthy and to carry a bit more weight is to be unhealthy.  That’s not coming from me. That’s coming from what I have read, overheard, and learned over time.

Come on, healthy doesn’t always mean having to be skinny. Being healthy should be more about moderation than appearance. It should mean finding a balance; never overindulging or depriving yourself of what life has to offer.

Once you find a balance, it won’t matter what size you are; you will find comfort that you are giving all of your effort and living life to its fullest.

You are extremely capable of pushing your body to its maximum and even beyond; you just need to gain control of your mind. However, it’s important for you to find what your balance is, and set out to achieve that.

No other person can define your balance.

You will find people out there who are extremely motivated, or you may be sitting here reading this and finding the compulsion to raise your hand slightly and shout eagerly, “That’s me! that’s me!” but it can be unhealthy for anyone to push as far as their mind would allow them to go. That is, if you are not ready.  Be honest with yourself here;  I am. Have you ever seen someone with your height and body frame, and found yourself trying to pinch yourself in an effort to wake up from that horrible “suit” that you feel that you are “wearing”? You tell yourself that you want to look like that? And you will. You can. Just know that it takes time, patience, and besides, I’m a firm believer in the whole “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” and yes,  even if it is tanned, looks good with the lights on, and sets your heart racing. You just really don’t know the fight they had to go through, to get to that point, simply because we don’t always get to see the battle wounds.

It’s pretty unrealistic to push yourself too far, too fast,  just to squeeze yourself into someone else’s ideal “picture frame.” You’re unique. After all, you’re you. Hey, I was told that 2 days ago by a very special friend of mine. She said, “Megan, you’re unique, you are one of a kind, and you have to know that there’s a special place for you in this world.” And I believed her. But if you’re not ready, if you don’t allow yourself to warm up, too fast, too soon, turns a burning flame into well, smoke. As the body needs to warm up before you engage in exercise, the mind also has to go through a warm up. It’s not a life or death situation to “be skinny” it is, however, a life or death situation to “be healthy”.

Don’t throw yourself onto a bed of hot coals just because the fire went out.  Start out with the goal to engage in something that encourages healthy behavior and build from that. Don’t go from eating 2500 per day calories to eating 1000 calories per day. That is just going from one extreme to another. That is just your mind challenging you, mocking you, and antagonizing you. Don’t let it. Find a balance to gain control over your own mind.

I strive to find balance every single day. Literally…

Because I suffer from panic and anxiety, in order to control that aspect of my life, I have latched onto the desire to achieve a particular level of being fit and lean. Ripped. Shredded. I strive to be that. I go through periods where I eat a lot to gain muscle and then I burn the fat. It’s a process and it takes time. I also have a lot of control when it comes to my diet simply because it provides me with a balance. As I feel out of control because of the anxiety and panic, I make up for it by sticking to a healthy diet and exercise. It makes me happy. It makes me feel bad ass. But more importantly, above all, it provides me with a sense of balance. Me. No one else. Just me.

I don’t care if my chicken is cold. I don’t have a breakfast, lunch or dinner. I have meals. When someone asks me, what are you eating for dinner. I look at them with a blank stare. Dinner? That seems so long ago. Ancient. Like the term dinner has lost it’s meaning. Yes. Among all of the frozen prepackaged foods in every grocery store across the world.

No I eat. I eat ALL DAY LONG. It’s not ideal for everyone. It works for me. Right now anyway. Does that mean if Suzy doesn’t follow the same schedule, that if she is the one who is asking me about dinner, that she won’t see results? Not at all. Not at all.

I eat cold chicken for breakfast, and I find it amusing when I break out my little sandwich bag of chicken at a wedding, a birthday party, or over dinner with a friend. I find it weird that I crave cottage cheese and oatmeal with a touch of almond butter. I often feel like a drug addict who is trying to hide their addiction, but need a fix and they will make it happen. Yeah. So for me though.  If it’s time to eat; I’m going to make it happen.

Besides, we were born this way anyway. We ate every 2-3 hours when we were babies. Even if you have kids, you know. You know that when a baby is hungry, you better feed that baby. I don’t care if it’s less than 2-3 hours, if the baby is hungry, baby eats; they need that food to grow. So don’t piss the baby off. So yes, I’m like a baby in a way, and I may even cry a little too.
Just being honest.

I do have to check myself every once in awhile and remind myself, that it’s not that serious; I’m not going to break if I eat out with my family. I’m going to be okay if I don’t go to the gym one day. If I skip a workout, my muscles that I’ve worked hard to build aren’t going to disappear over night, or if I log onto Facebook and there’s a set of steel abs across my newsfeed, I didn’t just lose the ultimate opportunity to get a set of those abs because I skipped a workout. I don’t and won’t look like that in one day, regardless if I go to the gym or not. It’s still going to take time. I often get joked with about how many photos I take, oh it’s so funny, but let me tell you, despite what you heard in the past about how the camera makes you look ten pounds heavier, the camera lens is like a trained and skilled eye; it can see a whole hell of a lot more than the naked eye can or is willing to see. So I measure my progress through the photo lens of my Iphone. Nothing special. No top notch photo lens. Lighting makes a difference too. It gives new meaning to “shed some light on the situation” Seriously.

So take it day by day, step by step. Don’t rush into it. Accept the challenge, embrace the journey. It takes time and patience.

Oh and a whole lot of fight with willpower when it comes down to it. You can read about my post as regards to the fight with willpower here: http://wp.me/p3cYS3-1nA  But, before you go, realize  that if you want it; go get it. But only if it’s healthy and done with balance.

And take lots of pictures along the way to document your BAD ASS.

Boston Marathon: We Will Keep On Running

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In a world where we are surrounded by tragedy, inspiration emerges; hope and perseverance are tightly woven together, and anger motivates us to come together as a nation to try to repair what is constantly being torn and shattered.

When tragedy strikes, rather than stand frozen in a state of despair, we move like soldiers; willing to suit up and move to the front of the battle line.

I sit aghast over the tragic events that occurred in Boston yesterday, but while the tragedy directly happened in Boston, it had a deafening and profound impact on our faith, hope, and strength as a nation. Through all of it, as we grasp hands and cling to one another tightly through an unsecure network of technology; the Internet, we are forced into this dismal oblivion where the feeling to escape is between bleak and murky, yet surreal, yet a cold, bone chilling necessity.

There are families; victims; marathon runners, suffering battle wounds; scars that cut deeply into our nation. I want to drive there, press rewind, feel their strength and give them some of my own; I wonder; I wonder if I could be that brave; that strong. My heart cries with each beat. I am happy to be alive. One. Two. Three. My heart. I can feel it. Beating like a drum, marching to the front of the battle line; I am ready. I feel instinctively angry. Fearful. Saddened….

An array of courage summons me. Maybe it’s the sound of the feet racing against the pavement, taking the runners through each mile. Maybe it’s the confusion on their faces, but the feet that never stopped running. Or when the runners heard the sound and began to run, not towards the finish line, but towards the tragedy, towards the unknown; when it turned into people running to find, help and/or embrace loved ones, strangers, rather than people running for a time; for accolades.

I look down and see my legs; my feet, and they evoke images of people I’ve never met, runners I’ve never met, their faces strickened with fear and panic grasping at their wounds or shaking in immense shock for the absence of what was. I want to run there. It seems too senseless to drive. I sit quietly for a moment, and wonder if I could. I mean, run, from Upstate New York, 266 miles.  I close my eyes and imagine running freely among trees, blue skies, rain, and thunder. Roads tainted with holes, cracks, and dirt. Running against the unknown; running to finish their race, their purpose. I open my eyes and I’m aware of the innocence I feel from being so far from where it actually happened, and then I wonder if they realize that their purpose has not changed; it has only shifted slightly.

I mourn for the 8 year old boy, his family, and the spectators who gathered to show support for those who participated. They are all victims, regardless of miles, or purpose, we are, without a doubt, all victims.

In another, tragic, desperate attempt to quiet us all; to make us live in fear and abandon one another, we come together and unite, and I can say, at least, that I am humbled.