So I’ve been on a bit of a journey for a while now. I’m not sure what to call this journey but I know it has consisted of lots of self sabotage, body shaming/body obsessiveness and a roller coaster of emotions.
I have always been fascinated by how my body responds to different stimulus whether it be exercise, diet or environment.
I started very early with a pattern of self harm as a child because of abuse. My main go to was biting myself for the longest time. As I grew up I switched to another form of self harm that was definitely more accepted but it served the same purpose. I began exercising to the point of self harm but it didn’t begin that way.
It was a slow progression from the track field in middle school to the CrossFit competition floor as an adult. I would become to addicted to the “runner’s high” in every form and punish myself for things I’d eaten by killing myself in the gym.
As I slowly began to heal from my past, no longer being abused by others but still abusing myself, I became body obsessed. I loved the way my body transformed depending on what I did or didn’t put into it. Nutrition was not the goal at this time. Vanity was queen and I dropped to my knees for her every time.
I would restrict myself from stuff I really enjoyed because I HAD to look a certain way or I was convinced no one would love/like me. I’ve done so many different diets and fads just to lose one more pound. The scale was my master and it laughed at me all the time.
When I started training with CrossFit back in 2014 I wanted to be the best at it all. The strongest, fastest and the most gymnastically skilled. I was humbled very quickly. I was average at best to begin with but I would not stop trying. I learned through CrossFit that if I didn’t eat better and actually feed myself real food I was never going to compete at the level I wanted. So I went off the deep end with that way of eating too. I didn’t know how to not to go full throttle. It was all or nothing.
I put on lots of muscle and looked better than ever but inside I was falling apart. I want to stop here and acknowledge that it was not CrossFit at all that was the problem, that’s obvious now because I still train with CrossFit but now I do it at a level I can handle physically and mentally. I love CrossFit, the community and the workouts.
Ok, back to the point. I was falling apart mentally and physically as I was encountering so much outside stress that was causing inner turmoil. My back started to get worse (I have arthritis, severe stenosis, and degenerative disc disease). I had a shoulder injury I couldn’t get to heal and because of this I had to stop competing in CrossFit. It was at this time I began my downward spiral into a deep and dark depression. I felt useless to my gym family and that translated across my whole identity at the time.
I lost lots of my muscle mass and therefore I lost what I had come to believe was my beauty and the only reason anyone would give me the time of day. You have to understand, as a sexual abuse survivor I had been groomed to believe my looks were the only redeeming factor to a relationship. The way some treated me validated this plenty of times and it became engrained in me.
I then began helping my biological mother battle breast cancer and that took a toll on my mental health as well. Within a year I would learn this battle would be the one I lost. This battle of degrading myself because of my physical appearance and the constant mental challenge of caring for someone you have to acknowledge never cared for you was one that nearly put me in my grave.
About nine months ago I finally had to say enough. I walked away from my mother even though she was in the midst of radiation for her cancer. I had stopped obsessing over how many times I went to the gym that week. I stopped making myself eat foods that didn’t make me feel joy when I ate them. I stopped telling myself that I needed anyone to validate me. I wanted to finally discover what it felt like to make myself open to the thought that I didn’t have to have a certain number show up on the scale to feel happy. I didn’t have to restrict a certain food because it had caused me to gain a few pounds. I didn’t have to hurt myself just to stop feeling the pain of others hurting me any more. I could be happy. I WANTED to be happy!
It was the beginning of what is now my journey. So far I have discovered my happy doesn’t look like I imagined. My happy has bigger hips and thighs, my happy enjoys a glass of wine on occasion and if my happy thinks that wine should have a piece or two of dark chocolate with it, then so be it. My happy doesn’t have to go to every social event it’s invited to and it’s okay if my happy wants to sit on the couch and watch an hour of TV instead of meeting someone else’s expectation. My happy never steps on the scale, NEVER. My happy gets seven hours of sleep no matter what and if my happy has to skip the gym in order to get that precious sleep, my happy does so without guilt.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a journey that needs to be stopped and evaluated daily. I still struggle daily with being in front of a mirror and not seeing the muscles that were once so well defined. I struggle with my cloths fitting differently. I struggle with my husband telling me I’m beautiful even though I know I look different than I did a year ago. I have to stop daily and sometimes hourly to remind myself that if I don’t like something I can change it at anytime but now I make myself evaluate WHY I want to change it. If the reason is not because it will make me happier, then I look at it much deeper.
This journey has changed more than myself. I am a different wife. I need my husband more because I can acknowledge that a hug from him or him helping me with something is what I need to make me happy rather than telling myself that “touch is bad” and “don’t rely on him because he won’t always be there for you”. I can trust him more and that makes me love him more. I am a different mother. I am getting better about not projecting my fears onto my children. I can trust that it makes me happy to see them happy and I now look for ways to accomplish their happiness rather than constantly thinking of how what they want to do could hurt them like I’ve been hurt. I am a different friend. I am honest about my life with others now. I no longer need to make everyone believe I am okay if I am not. I am real and I don’t hide behind my smile. My happy makes it easier to fully engage and be honest when I just can’t. I am a different athlete. I go to the gym when it makes sense. I no longer make myself go to the gym, I go when I know it will make me happy. When I get there I am honest with myself about what I can do that day. If I go to lift the bar and my body tells me no, I back off. I drop the weight and I don’t sulk about it. I give my best and I enjoy the process. I make sure I walk out of those doors feeling better than I did walking in, not beating myself up. I celebrate others in the gym more too. I am working on no longer looking enviously at other’s weight on the bar or even how their body looks. They are on their own journey and if it’s what makes them happy, I will celebrate with them.
This journey will be a long one I’m sure. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not even sure what to call it but I am excited to see how it morphs. All I know is, I want to be happy and I want to be healthy. I will pursue these things and continue to learn to love myself, my family and my friends better.