How One Word Can Change Everything In Your World

Cancer. I’ve read the word. I’ve heard the stories. In fact, my father died of liver cancer August 14, 2005, heck, I’ve even diagnosed myself a few times during my late night Google searches. But I never thought I’d have to actually ever experience the pain that, that word has caused me and so many other people. I never thought I’d have to feel the intense heartbreak for a long, long, time. Still, mourning my best friend, who died 2 years ago, I was not prepared to be face to face with something so painful so soon.

All I could do is crumble to the floor after I locked the bathroom door of the hospital. My insides ached all over. I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk. I’d commit suicide. That would be my plan, I decided, hoping to cease the debilitating pain. Or at least so I could get out to the car.

Anger surged through me, yet I felt lifeless. If the tears didn’t slide down my cheeks, I wouldn’t have known they were actually mine. I felt foreign to this body that knew not how to move from the current state of paralysis I was in.

My mother still recovering from the anesthesia, was half listening as the doctor who did her endoscopic biopsy, pulled up a chair to discuss what he found. I knew it was bad news. I knew because he had just been talking to another patient two beds over, divided by curtains, while standing.

I didn’t want to cry in front of my mother when he announced that, she did in fact, have a 4cm malignant tumor on her pancreas. He had just pierced my heart with his words.

“She has pancreatic cancer” I had been researching it all over the internet, consumed by it, since the week before she went to the emergency room with jaundice.

She had an ultrasound on Friday, a CT scan on Monday, and the biopsy exactly one week after the ER visit.

Throughout all my research, I found nothing but horrible news. Poor survival rates, “#2 silent killer” is what one website referred to it as. And even though the doctor told me not to go based on everything I’ve read online because it’s all outdated information anyway, I couldn’t believe him, and how could I? I thought it only made logical sense, and how could it not? I just couldn’t believe that every single thing I read online was inaccurate.

I have spent every single day since, googling different keywords, hoping, desperately seeking some glimmer of hope. I just couldn’t live without my mom. I just couldn’t.

When I wasn’t googling information about pancreatic cancer, I was googling painless ways to commit suicide. I was not going to live without my mother. I felt like everyone kept leaving me. Sure, it sounds selfish, but I never am anything but positive around my mother. I didn’t want to be a beacon of pain when she was still in positive spirits. And whether she cried when I wasn’t around, I do not know. But I did know that I wanted to be the one to control when I die.

She’s been referred to an oncologist, and the doctor who did her biopsy, told her that she is a good candidate for the Whipple procedure. He would make the recommendation and then we’ll go from there;  it’s all a waiting game at this point.

My heart is broken. My heart is irreparable. I feel guilty that she’s the one going through this. I want to give her my pancreas, my everything; I don’t want her to suffer. She retired three years ago, and she is so full of energy and life, and I’ve done nothing but NOT live my life. I’ve done nothing, but allow depression to consume me, anxiety to fill me with fear and panic, that I stopped living. And yet, here she is, diagnosed with cancer. I cannot live without my mom. I just can’t.

How can this be true? How can something like this just change your life forever-in an instant?

Four months ago, in late March, she started complaining of abdominal pain. Her doctor suggested probiotics. They didn’t work. She begged them for a CT scan, but the insurance wouldn’t cover it. Instead, they referred her to a digestive disease specialist, but they couldn’t get her in until August 3-one day after her biopsy. It took her to develop jaundice and her bloodwork to show elevated bilirubin levels for them to take action. I am angry. Each day, after that ER visit, symptoms developed rapidly-every new day brought on a new symptom. It was so scary to see the whites of her eyes and her skin so yellow.  There was no way I could be in denial. I tried to be positive and tell myself it was a benign tumor or maybe even a cyst, but that quickly waned when the information from the many google searches vividly flashed over and over in my mind.

Along with the biopsy, they also inserted a bile stent to decrease/eliminate her symptoms. Her skin, no longer yellow, she’s no longer itchy, and her stomach pain has ceased. But none of that changes what the reality is and I just want to be near her all day, all the time.

I’m scared. I’m broken. This can’t be happening. I keep taking deep breaths because the pain is that deep in my lungs. I’ve been coping with Xanax, sleep, anxiety, Xanax, more sleep.

The other day, I picked up some low fat, low fiber foods at the grocery store for her, and I just wish I could cook all of her meals for her. It scares me that her and my stepfather’s daily routine will not change. Since my stepfather was declared permanently disabled for spinal stenosis (he’s also had multiple surgeries and is still not completely free of pain), they are used to going out to lunch daily-she usually used to just eat a small meal-but even now, my stepfather wants to carry on with their daily routine of going out to eat. She asks for no butter, no oil, but is that really enough?

I have so much fear and worry, and absolutely no control…I can’t think of anything other than this.

My thoughts waver back and forth, like a radio station playing a sad song and then another station playing an upbeat song-never in sync no matter how hard I try to just keep the positive, hopeful thoughts on replay, but they just quickly transform into radioactive sparks and shocks that leave me googling things I shouldn’t be.

My thoughts are cancerous cells that spread throughout my mind and body, and the more I try to divert my negative thoughts, the more vivid and abrupt the negativity becomes.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering What I Tried So Hard to Forget

I don't even know where to begin. What do you do when you don't know where to begin? Do you just keep going, walking a straight line, or walking in circles? I have visited this blog over and over again. Like a circle. I have somehow lost my way to find that straight line, or maybe I just realized life is not a straight line and I just got tired of following it.

Perhaps I just grew weary of climbing.

I have logged in. Logged out. Pretended it no longer existed…

I didn't want to remember, what I used to be; how far the current of the river had taken me away from where I left off. My footprints had succumbed to the thousand other footprints that still had the eagerness to go forward; to not stand still; to explore.

I forgot which way I was going. Or perhaps, I made myself forget.

It was too hard to come back to. Too hard to just exist. I know none of this makes any sense. It didn't, and still doesn't to me. I wrote so many times, but I didn't want to share. I didn't want this to be a diary. What started out as a fitness journey, collapsed at the death of my best friend.

It's been two years. I've been through every emotion, and found myself at the bottom too many times. I was pretty certain that I was ready to die. I was done with life. I had done all I had to; experienced everything I wanted, and saw no point in living any longer.

There was no point in going to the gym. No point in getting dressed or putting makeup on.No point in leaving the house. I was done. Officially done.

I was ready for the tide to take me in its icy arms and cradle me forever.

People left me alone, as I wanted them to, I didn't care. I didn't want anyone. And when I did talk to someone, it was usually a family member, and they didn't understand, nor did I care to ever make them understand.

What was going on with me, "Was 'just nonsense'… Was, as they say, 'all in my head".

"Why can't you just get out and do things."Why can't you just…

Why can't you just...

Why can't you just…

The screams echoes inside of me, and just confirmed that I…

I was done. I did not care. Why do I need to go anywhere? I did not care. I lived my life. I was done. But I knew that they, or no one who hasn't ever experienced it, would only ridicule me and judge me. So I decided it was best to just limit my contact with them, and when I did talk to them, I made sure to never discuss what was going on with me.

I didn't want to commit suicide. I didn't want to leave my kids without a mother. I did not want to take my own life; I was just ready to die.

It doesn't make any sense. I know that. But, nothing made sense to me, and I can't say I ever cared.

My mind didn't go beyond the footprints that were buried on that path, in the same spot.  No longer were the etches of the life that I once had lived recognizable. Everything I once knew or dreamed of, traveled on without me, clinging to others' footprints, seeping into the crevices of another sole, and then dragged until the remnants; what was left, had fallen into the once well paved path.

A lot can happens in a year, 'they' say.

It's been 2 years, I believe, since I even had the urge to write something, anything…

So much has changed. Rightfully so. Life, in general, changes you.

Moments change you, and some of those moments, change A LOT, as they rob you of your identity, your soul, spirit, energy and your footprints.

I often imagine, selfishly, that the ocean is cradling me and I'm at peace, relaxed and full of life.

And then, I unravel from its arms as it crashes to shore…

I wipe my tears. My eyes widen, my heart thumps harder…spread out before me is an entire canvas to sink my feet into; to carve new footprints. And as I hear the water's sweet sound washing away behind me, I place one foot in the sand, and then the other, carefully allowing the cold, damp sand between my toes, wrapping them like a gift.

And I can't help but notice that each footprint is deeper then the last.

 

 

 

 

 

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….

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?

Is Fear Suffocating You?

Be okay with who you are and what you see in the mirror. Your imperfections are only seen by you and no one else…

You’re pushed up against the wall. The grip around your neck is getting tighter and tighter. You want to move your arms, your legs, something, anything to remind you that you’re alive; that you got this. You got this.

You’re trying to make yourself fit a mold that doesn’t belong to you; doesn’t exist into your realm of desire; a vision you have falsely envisioned. Created. It’s a fallacy; you feel drugged, poisoned, toxic. How do you stop the suffering? Simple. Stop thinking of it as suffering. It’s a chance for you to start over; to share your experience and witness determination and your will to succeed. You will make it because you ache; something is missing and you won’t be able to let go so easily this time. You’re alive. You got this.

Why are you allowing FEAR to establish control? What has it done to you to become so powerful? What happened to you? What happened that has made you so willing to praise FEAR and hand over your entire being so that you can continue to worship it. Every night you lay awake, does it come to you? Does it reveal the face it hides behind the mask it wears to control you? And you are under its spell….

Laugh in its face. Don’t be afraid to embrace fear as part of the process. You’re alive. Fear doesn’t have to be.

Remember, You got this.

 When you make a mental transformation, you also make a physical transformation. And slowly, you grow, right in front of your eyes. Right in front of the mirror.

Your physical transformation will challenge you mentally and vice versa. It’ll call on fear to come and “rescue you” but you’ll remember that piercing pain that gripped your neck and you’ll remember that, you’re alive. You got this.

When you make the decision to let go of fear, it’ll still haunt you. It’ll tempt you and plead with you daily to come back; to serve once again. Remind yourself that it’s a process; the transformation you make mentally is an ongoing process, there is no finalization, no dotted line to sign, it’s constantly evolving, overcoming, processing, capturing, it’s telling you and reminding you that you’re alive. It’s telling you that you got this….

Mentally AND Physically.

You got this.

The Truth About Binging (My Perspective)

Binging. Many experience it. Many wait until they’re all alone before they binge. Some do it out in the open. You just can’t stop eating. And eating. And eating. And even though you’re out of control, you actually feel very much in control. 

Food is a social experience; it is at the center of social gatherings, relationships and communication.

Many have suggested binging comes after following a restricted diet for so long; denying or looking at food as “unhealthy” and No I can’t eat that or that or that….

But I don’t think that’s the entire story. I believe that because we already have an established relationship with food, when we “go on a diet” it can feel like a loss and we experience grief.

And I believe once our relationship with food is questioned or altered, it becomes one of the major battles to confront.  It impairs us mentally and emotionally.

Why?

Because food is more than just food. It’s our way to connect and forge relationships with others. It’s our way to prevent feeling like a social pariah.

And a lot of memories and experiences culminate around food. Food can bring back a memory of a loved one who has passed on, and can make us feel more connected to them.

It’s a way for us to carry our relationship with us well after they are gone.

I remember, every Sunday, my father and stepmother would take that day off from work and we’d drive an hour or so away for a fun afternoon of jet-skiing and a picnic. I yearn for those days of eating together at an old rustic picnic table, flies swarming our food, my father cracking jokes, and my family and I just laughing and spending time together before hopping back on the jet-skis.

I remember my grandmother’s delicious hamburgers every Thursday afternoon. Even when I grew older, I could always visit grandma and she’d insist on making me a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and something to eat. We would sit in the kitchen, and I would talk her ear off for hours.

Moments like those made me feel connected. When you “diet” you essentially are denying yourself a relationship and disconnecting yourself from that relationship. And I wouldn’t change anything.

If only I could have those moments back.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I broke down and cried when I tried to make a recipe of hers and it all just fell apart.

A diet, while often necessary to achieve a desired result along with exercise, is not just a restriction of food to aid in weight loss, it’s not just a caloric deficit, or cutting out carbohydrates, fats, or gluten even, it’s a break up; a detachment from memories, old and new, past and present with family, friends, laughter, and comfort.

A diet becomes a grieving process; it’s not sustainable long term because you feel isolated from friends and family, so more than likely, for the sake of reestablishing those familiar feelings and memories, you binge to find those emotions again; to try to reconnect and feel somewhat kind of “normal” again.

Binging doesn’t have to be an option. It’s a hard habit to break. I know, I’ve been there. Over and over again.

But I also know that no matter how challenging it is, it’s also not impossible. I can still create new memories that still align me with my goals, while not giving up my memories entirely with flexible dieting.

Flexible dieting is an alternative to the old standard “diet”, it’s not the solution, but it’s a much better approach from a psychological point of view.  With flexible dieting you aren’t restricting yourself from any particular food groups and therefore, allowing yourself to have more freedom and control.

With “clean eating”, the idea behind it is to eliminate processed foods, eliminate sugar, eat small meals throughout the day, and you limit or don’t allow yourself to have “junk food”.

The idea behind Flexible dieting is to get you to count macros such as carbs, proteins, and fat. It focuses on getting a nutrient based diet from whole foods, but allows you to treat everyday if you want. It makes  “dieting ” a little bit more sane, however, it’s equally as challenging from the standpoint that you still have to make sacrifices. It’s still a diet, you’re still committing the act of restricting yourself, so it still fucks with you mentally because the mind will always want what it cannot have.

Keep in mind, this approach has its challenges as well. For example, it’s impossible to not develop or hone your OCD tendencies with either approach. Counting calories, macros, weighing food, it’s impossible to NOT develop a more direct, focused relationship with food; to be more cognizant of what you would like to eat vs what you’re actually able to “fit within your macros” for the day.

But the overall objective is to develop a positive relationship with food as well as with your body.

(Because of course, micromanaging your meals when you suffer from an extremely low body image is only going to make it that more mentally destructive and damaging.)

As I said, I’m a “recovering” binge eater, so I have recently started following a macro counting approach (Again) to combat my binging and to provide more structure and accountability. The benefits of a more structured plan, after taken into account past experiences definitely outweighs the risks; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Trying to control my body from a healthy, physical aspect, is extremely challenging and takes just as many years if not more to undo the relationship that we previously had with food while we were growing up. But I realized, binging isn’t acceptable either. Not in this society. You’re either an addict or your not. And it’s a slippery slope that anyone can stumble onto if not careful. The relationship that we have with our physical being doesn’t always align with our mental being. Binging is only going to be self destructive and following a structured approach has more potential to guide you away from the beaten path.

While you may discover some OCD behaviors, structure is sometimes what is necessary to establish so that we don’t become a menace to ourselves in the long run.

I’d also like to note that I have an extremely addictive personality, and come from a family that has suffered from addictions as well (I’ve been there at a point in my life as well) so I need some kind of “rehab” if you will….

I need structure and accountability or else I’m going to just keep binging; I’m going to keep self- destructing. I want to keep my memories, but I also want to achieve my fitness goals as well.

And I aim to achieve that by striving to establish a positive relationship with food.

Admittedly, the feelings I have of beginning a macro counting “lifestyle” again, makes me crave things that I can’t have. So you see, there is some degree of restrictiveness there. Once I hit my macros, I’m done for the night. No more food. Regardless if my stomach is growling and my mind is trying to convince me to just have a midnight snack, or an afternoon snack. But I still have my sanity. I still have my memories. I still feel connected.

I feel cranky because I’m hungry and I can’t just eat. I want to binge, I want to raid the kitchen, but I’m staying strong and telling myself this is only temporary. It’s like a detox anyone with a drug addiction or really any type of addiction goes through.

See, the training part is the easy part. You clap yourself on the back when you are able to increase your strength, run a bit faster, your mind is there. Your mind is there cheering you on and your focused ready to tackle the weight, the run; you’re driven, you’re focused, but as soon as your mind drifts over to thinking about food and, “how many macros do I have left,” it wants to fail and shut you down. It wants to tell you to just eat, it wants to make you feel weak and vulnerable. And you’ll realize you can’t stop thinking about food. You’ll eat one meal and then anxiously await your next meal.
But in the gym, when your lifting weights, your mind is ready to take on a challenge because there are no limitations , the goal is to become stronger, faster, the goal is to do MORE….NOT LESS.

But then again, it’s possible to overdo it in the gym, and I know that there are times when I should lighten the load and/or take a rest, but I don’t want to because I just want to keep pushing.

The mind is constantly playing devil’s advocate.

If you can remember that, you will succeed.

And never do something that is going to bring you down. Find a way to fight back while still allowing you the opportunity to achieve your goals while maintaining a positive relationship with food and your body.

In memory of my grandmother and father….

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Just One More Piece To My Puzzle

So here it is, I’m at a hockey game, eating my chicken breast thinking about pancakes, AND of course scrolling through Instagram, when obviously an image catches my eye.

I click on it.

I read the caption.

And just like that… I learned how to pose for a figure competition.

I mean I haven’t competed in forever because I was struggling; I was fighting demons and shit; trying to just “find the road back to fitness”, you can read about that here but once you get the blood pumping, it kind of never really stops running through your veins.

Literally and metaphorically speaking.

So like I said, (and excuse me I’m excited about this and my adrenaline is pumping from the amount of carbs I’ve had about two hours ago or I’m just water drunk. Either way I’m pretty fucking hyper) there I was, stuck in an Instagram trance, going through the umpteenth photo of someone posing half naked (I did say I was on Instagram hehe), when suddenly I was stuck on this photo of a figure competitor in the shape of a perfect V. Symmetrical, beautiful lines, definition, but that taper (as in V taper) though….

yea that’s what she said..

I’ve heard about the “V taper” when I was in the process of competition prep, and I knew what it was, but I never really “got it”…I mean, I may have been developing it physically, but mentally, um, yeah, null and void.

No connections made. Whatsoever.

I just never really understood why in the hell I had to stand up on stage and pose that way. Obviously, as you can see from my first figure competition in 2012:

Proud I made it that/this far though

Proud I made it that/this far though

(you could also check out more about my first competition here

But right then, her picture, her caption in that one photo undid all of that. Those few words; stinging my eyes, stimulating my thoughts, and the blood in my veins were burning with adrenaline.

I sat there, like a black puck in the center of the ice, being slapped with a hockey stick into the goal. That was me. And that’s how I felt.

I finally connected the dots. I connected another piece to my puzzle. I finally understood.

No matter how much I practiced those poses, I just felt awkward, shy and uncomfortable. No matter how much I twisted, bended, turned, I couldn’t get it right. Simply put, I was like a newborn calf encountering ice for the first time. Yeah, envision that.

And that just turned into yet another addition to my constant mind fuck during competition prep…

The whole, “I can’t even pose, why the fuck am I doing this” or “I can’t pose, I’m not good enough…at well, anything”
Or the, “someone is already doing this, why bother anymore…”

You know….How even just one thought can seem like complete and utter despair? Been there?

If only I was just told:

“For front, back, and side pose, focus on creating that “V taper” with your body; to show off the lines of your well sculpted physique.”

Or basically, “create the best fucking “V” you can.” More simply put: Contort your body into the shape of a V…like you’re at a wedding and the chorus from “YMCA” from “The Village People” comes on. Ok maybe not EXACTLY like that.

But seriously, you should check out this beautiful figure competitor who just made a difference in my life.

Because it’s always the little things that you don’t think are going to mean a whole lot when you simply hit “post” or “share”. All of the thoughts, experiences and memories are just pieces to one huge, amazing puzzle that you get to seize and grab hold of to make it complete one day.

And please don’t NOT visit her Instagram page because you don’t compete… if you listen to her 2 year transformation story on her Youtube channel, I’m certain you’ll take something away from it.

Instagram: @fit_tiff

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.