Archive for July, 2013


When will I feel better?

Paulo Coelho once said 

“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

It’s hard to remember a time I wasn’t terrified, a time I wasn’t worried about every little thing, a time when even something minor couldn’t send me into a tailspin. I just think it’s in my nature. I’ve always been naturally nervous, anxious, frightened that at any moment I could fall off the edge. Fortunately, only a few people have had to witness me in my lowest moments when I have been imprisoned in the darkness of my mind, I have lost the key for a time and it seems there may be no way out. I am no stranger to feeling sad for days on end and not being sure quite why or crying an endless pool of tears and feeling convinced they might never stop. I’m used to being overcome by a sense of panic or dread when one tiny, but oh so important (at least to me) thing feels out of place or a plan goes awry. 

I’m sure one of the reasons I can write so freely about these feelings right now is because, at least for the time being, I am not in that place. However, what is crazy about being me, or at least someone like me, that dark place is never too far away. And as if there wasn’t enough to fear, I also feel quite scared that right around the corner one of those times is waiting to creep up on me and again I will be caught feeling worthless, hopeless, like I’m drowning and can’t come up for air. 

All throughout my life, I was always afraid to tell people about how I was feeling. I thought they might think I was insane, or be worried I wasn’t safe, or think I was looking for pity and attention. Being a counselor in training, it seems silly that I would buy into the stigma associated with “mental illness,” but alas in the midst of my toughest times, all my training seems to go out the window. 

There is one thing though that turns things around for me time and time again: it’s the power of presence. When someone hears me and looks at me and tells me it is normal to be sad sometimes, that I’m not crazy for hurting, that I am loved and though there is no way to know how long the pain will last, it won’t last forever, that’s when I can see the sadness, the anxiety for what it is… a season, a spell, a storm to be weathered with others rather than needlessly alone. 

Funny thing is, in times when have I shared my experience with those willing to offer me presence, I was able to offer some presence of my own. As I have opened up about my story, others have chimed in with their similar stories or breathed deep sighs of relief in finally realizing they are not alone. Slowly, I have learned you can be strong while sad, intelligent while anxious, and capable and competent while overwhelmed. 

Life ebbs and flows. There are good days and bad days. I am now at peace with the reality that I have many days to come that seem so good that the bad is all forgotten and many bad days to come that are so bad that it feels as though a good day may never come again. I know who to call when I am feeling down and out (my beloved biological sister, my precious Lord, and nonbiological brothers and sisters who understand my battle) and I know what to avoid (loud/crowded spaces, people who don’t keep their plans, and small talk). I’m thrilled that no matter what stage or state I am in, I will always be able to offer the gift of presence to comrades and clients alike. 

I think Paulo had it right; we do need to learn to live with anxiety/storms. I’m just glad that the next time I see those dark clouds closing in, I don’t feel the need to fight them on my own anymore.

Cupcakes

When I was in California last month, my sister introduced me to “My Fitness Pal,” a new app for my phone. I resisted purchasing the app while visiting my sister despite her encouragement because I didn’t want its initial use to be skewed by my poor diet while on vacation. The minute I got home, however, “My Fitness Pal” was up and running. Though I’m only three weeks in, I love that little thing. No matter where I am, I can document what I am eating or exercise that I’ve done and it’s fun for me, like some bizarre sort of game. As much as I am enjoying my newly discovered toy, I feel the need to be very careful.

Weight has always been a tricky topic for me. Unfortunately (though probably not all that uncommon), my life has been filled with people very dear to me that have struggled with issues of eating. Though some went out of their way not to eat as they obsessed over every crumb entering their mouths and others ate everything in sight, all had an impact on me and how I saw food and myself. In fact, there was a time in my life when it seemed like food was the most common way in which those around me went about regulating their pain. During that time, I thought the healthiest thing to do was to think about or talk about my weight or patterns of eating as little as possible. Expressing either contentment or discontentment with my size seemed dangerous, unkind, and unfair to those around me, so I kept how confident or dreadful I was feeling to myself.

Once I entered my mid-twenties, my metabolism slowed down just as everyone had promised and I began to realize that it was time to wrestle with issues of food and weight on a more personal level and not just as they pertained to those around me. With genetics out of my favor and terrified of “being fat,” I went out of my way to make changes that would positively affect my appearance and my health. Just as I had hoped, the changes I made worked! Unfortunately, they weren’t always easy to keep up with. Being an RD makes it very difficult to keep a strict exercise schedule or diet. Add going to school part-time and living in a city where food is often more of an art form than a form of sustenance and it gets even tougher. Throw someone who really LOVES her cupcakes and often lacks self-control into that situation and the odds get worse (as my fluctuating weight indicates). It’s a constant battle between my brain, my heart, and my stomach, and though I would love to win the battle, I just want to make sure I am fighting it for the right reasons.

So what is a twenty-something supposed to do? Do I eat what I want because I want to feast on the beauty of life, never holding back, taking in each moment, and enjoying each experience? Look how I want because the construct of “beauty” is a joke and gorgeous and wonderful people come in all shapes and sizes? But what about the values of restraint and perseverance that can come from maintaining a healthy lifestyle? And then there is the belief that my body is a temple to be loved and cared for… It seems the slower my metabolism gets, the faster my mind swims with all the choices and possibilities.

What I have learned is this… For the rest of my life, people I love will probably have issues with weight and food, (pardon the expression as I don’t perceive anyone dear to me as an animal) but “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The best I can do is use honesty, kindness, and concern to offer the love and support these friends and family members need. While I can point them to resources or keep them close to my heart and in my prayers, I can’t heal them and I certainly can’t control them. As much as this crushes me, I am slowly releasing my grip and letting it go. And another thing, I don’t have to feel guilty when it comes to the topic of food or weight. I shouldn’t feel bad about feeling good about the way my legs look in a certain outfit any more than I should feel bad about enjoying a slice of cheesecake or pizza every once in a while. The key is moderation. Fixating on how good/bad I look or how much/little I ate will only lead to trouble in every case and scenario.

I think the important thing is some seasons I’ll be thicker and others I’ll be thinner, some days I’ll eat more and others less, but no matter how I look or what I eat I must remember a few concepts… 1) If I don’t like how I tackled food and exercise today, it is never too late to handle them differently tomorrow. 2) It’s ok to have adult conversations about weight with those you trust. Actually, it’s better than ok! It keeps you grounded, focused, and accountable to healthy mindsets and lifestyle choices. 3) Your value, beauty, joy, and experience cannot be boiled down to what your food diary, workout schedule “My Fitness Pal,” or waistline say about you. And well, I suppose if they can, then it just might be time to put some effort and energy into aspects of your life that even Jillian Michaels can’t fix.