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Music, Mood, + Your Monday Wind Down Playlist

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Music, Mood, + Your Monday Wind Down Playlist

By Kristy Carson @kcarsonfit

Music has always been an integral part of my life, probably more so than what would be considered normal.

I attribute it to dancing since the age of three; that early on it became more to me than just melodies and lyrics or background noise. For me, dancing creates a special relationship with music where I feel every emotion, every lyric, every beat throughout my entire body.

Growing up my school books were always littered with song lyrics written out over and over on scrap pieces of paper, my agenda, my binders, and eventually in my phones notes app (oh how times have evolved). When there was something special about a song that I heard, I would hold onto it and it would stick with me. There are still lines today that bring me back to an exact place and time to where I felt something so special from it.

To me, music is a little like magic in that way.

Over the years my love for music made me really want to pursue it for a career. Opening my own record label was a big goal of mine, but of course I was young and lived in a small city and it didn't seem realistic. Starting a music blog helped give me an outlet for that passion but eventually life gets busy and different dreams are formed.

Fortunately, at this point in my life music still plays a large roll in my job; just under different circumstances.

Instructing in fitness and choosing music for classes is probably pretty standard for most. You pick the genres you like and put on playlists in shuffle. That is certainly how I started, but it has grown into something I probably now spend way too much time on.

Being able to perfectly craft a playlist so that the timing is all lined up and it ebbs and flows with the movements and duration of a class is something truly special. I love being able to express myself through music and sharing what fires up my soul to other people through my classes.

Although my tastes may differ vastly from other people, that is okay. We all are such different people and will find joy in such a range of things.

To me, what I've found over the years is the songs that seem to impact me the most are the ones that really make me feel something.

That can be a country ballad, an EDM banger, or a bone chilling singer-songwriter track - but it's the way they make me feel that sticks to my bones and fills me up the most.

I have put together two playlists for the Move To Heal family.

The first is a Sleepy Times playlist; I say this loosely as it's more of a chill vibe playlist that I would listen to over a cup of coffee on a quiet Sunday morning. These songs are some of my absolute favourites and I hope you find even ONE that sparks your heart like they have mine.

The second is a Happy Times playlist. That doesn't mean workout, or that they're even all happy and upbeat songs, but more so a jumbled combination of some of my all-time favourites in life, mixed with some of my current obsessions that I can't seem to turn off.

Music in my opinion can change your life.

Sometimes that song you didn’t even know you needed to hear comes on. The words make complete sense to you in the moment or the melodies fuel your soul in such a powerful way. It is always evolving and limitless in what can be created. I feel honoured to get to share some of my favourites here with you and that you enjoy some of them as well.

Kristy


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Meet Alexandra. This is her Story.

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Meet Alexandra. This is her Story.

I am no stranger to hospital stays, and doctor’s appointments.

I am no stranger to the health and wellness world.

I am no stranger to the fitness industry, and I am no stranger to myself.

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It’s called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, and I also have Ulcerative Colitis. You can look up these diseases for yourself if you’re unfamiliar with them, but I don’t believe that their definitions are important. For I am not my illness and I will never let myself be defined by it. I remember my doctor telling me that I’d be different from the other kids because of the traumatic experience I had been through with my disease. He said I’d be “tougher than the rest.” I didn’t want to be tougher. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be just like the rest of them.

    Over the course of the next 10 years, I would learn many different things. Things about the world, things about myself, and I would fight back daily thoughts and worries about the possibility of getting sick again. Luckily, the medication I was prescribed worked well for me. I am now in remission, and have been able to live a relatively normal life, despite having to go for checkups every 6 months, have a scope once a year, and get regular blood tests.

    In the summer and fall of 2017, I believed I was unstoppable.

I worked extremely hard on my body and outer appearance. I was working full time at a health café, serving up green smoothies and avocado toasts. After work, I’d walk 40 minutes uphill to the spin studio that I was training to become an instructor at. I’d take a class, and then walk 40 minutes back home, but not before stopping at Goodlife where I’d lift weights for 30 minutes. It would be almost 9 p.m. by this point, and sometimes I’d pick up a few sushi rolls and sip back miso soup before bed, or sometimes I’d just go straight to sleep, eating nothing at all. I lived this way for nearly 3 months, and then I found out that the spin studio had cut me. I was told I wasn’t working hard enough.  This would be my first experience with working so hard at something and having it not work out.

I was absolutely devastated.

Here I was, nearly killing myself, judging my body so horrifically every single day, taking progress photos, working on a playlist for my future classes, and aggressively pushing myself to stay “on beat” with every song I would spin to.

But it wasn’t enough. And so I was let go.

And on November 27, 6:30 a.m., I was leaving for work; I had my hand on the door knob of my front door when I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. I felt hot, achy and clammy. I went back to my room feeling dizzy as I lay down in my bed. I thought I was just coming down with a very sudden flu--I had no idea what was to come.

I slept that whole morning, and lay on the couch for the rest of the day. Things got increasingly worse; I started sweating profusely. I’d fall asleep and wake up, my clothes soaked through; my face red and hot. And then after every heat wave, within an hour I’d be shivering. My teeth chattered so badly, and I could feel the heat escaping from my head. I’d cover my entire body with every blanket in my apartment, but nothing was warm enough. I somehow managed to get myself to a walk-in clinic where I was told that I had the flu. The doctor said, “You’ll be better in a few days.” He took a look at my throat, said it was swollen, he took my temperature: 104 degrees Celsius. But somehow, he told me that it’d be best if I went home and rested. I couldn’t even walk out of that clinic.

It was a Friday night now, I had been sick for a full week with no sign of improvement.

My sister and her boyfriend were planning on driving to my parent’s place in Kitchener, so I tagged along because I couldn’t take care of myself anymore. I was white as ghost, I hadn’t eaten in a week, and I could barely drink water. My fever was still sickeningly high and my throat hurt so badly it felt like knives were, cutting through my entire body apart each time I swallowed. My nose plugged up with thick mucus and I could no longer breathe through it. The whites of my eyes had blood in them. My eyelids were puffy and purple; it looked like I had been punched in the face. I’ll never forget the absolute horror in my sister’s eyes when she saw me for the first time that night.

    In Kitchener I went to see my family doctor who guessed I had a very bad case of pneumonia. She sent me for x-rays, which proved her guess to be correct. I was put on antibiotics, and sent home. Another week passed, my fever was still high, my course of antibiotics was done, and I only felt sicker. My mom took me to the emergency room and this is where I was diagnosed with mono, as well as having a severe case of pneumonia. The mono explained the throat pain, and why the medication wasn’t working, unfortunately there’s no pill that can cure mono. I was sent home again, given another round of antibiotics for the pneumonia, and was told to rest. My family doctor requested that I had my blood drawn daily to keep track of my white blood cell count, which had dropped so low, it wasn’t at a measurable number anymore.

    It was now December. And on one morning, my family doctor called my mom and said that I needed to get more blood tests done. I was in the TV room, listening to their conversation, and I broke down in tears because at that point I knew I could no longer get off the couch. I felt sicker than I have ever felt in my entire life; there are no words to describe the heaviness that I felt in my body. I knew I needed to get to the emergency room immediately, and the only option for me to get there was to call 911. I thought I would die that very day.

    When the ambulance arrived, and I was lying on the stretcher inside the truck, the only thing running through my mind was that I must be incredibly ill.

So ill, that my life was most likely going to end in the next hour.

I couldn’t breathe at that point. I was given a yellow mask because everyone was worried that I was “contagious,” however this horrific mask only made breathing 10 times harder. I was breathing through my mouth, which became so dry, my lips cracked and bled. But I couldn’t drink water because swallowing was even more painful than breathing. My whole body felt like it was attacking me, and I didn’t know why.

    I was admitted to the hospital that day, and for the rest of December. Over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I lay in a hospital bed. No one understood why my fever wasn’t dropping. I was rushed to test after test, after test, they even checked my heart and brain. I had so many blood tests done that my veins in my left arm blew out and the doctor had to insert a thin tube through my jugular. I was given three blood transfusions. I don’t remember having those done. Actually, there are a lot of lost memories.

There are weeks where I have absolutely no memory from.

And that still haunts me.

    Eventually, doctors clued in and discovered that not only did I have pneumonia, and mono, I also had an incredibly severe case of sinusitis. And on December 28th 2017, I had my first sinus surgery. I remember being rolled down to the operating room, all these doctors around me. I kept hearing one man say, “You’re doing so great!” I have no memory after that, and those next couple weeks are completely black to me. I only remember having strange visions, hearing strange sounds, seeing strange things, and hallucinating a lot. I was put on Fentanyl, an insanely strong opioid used to treat severe pain. It is 80 to 500 times stronger than Morphine and starts working within five minutes of administration.

    All I really remember is waking up in a new place. And not only was I in a new place, but there was also a large tube down my throat, preventing me from being able to talk, or move without feeling like I was being suffocated or chocking. My parents were next to me. I was told that it was January 7th 2018. Then I learned that not only was I waking up in a new year, I was also waking up in a new city. I had been taken by ambulance after my second surgery failed and transferred to Toronto, where I had my third surgery on my sinuses.

    Everything is blurry, and as time goes on, my memory from this ordeal becomes worse and worse. I’m relying on information that my parents give me, and what my doctors have told me, but I wish I could remember for myself. I wish I could remember how I felt during those weeks where everything is black. What kind of thoughts were going through my mind when I was alone? Was I scared?

    After the third surgery, my fever went down, and then disappeared completely. It never came back. I stayed in the ICU for just over 2 weeks and was intubated for 12 days. I cannot begin to explain the feeling of lying in a hospital bed, fully conscious but unable to move. I had no way of communication to my parents or my doctors with the tube in my throat. I’d try to write things down but I couldn’t spell, and as I was writing I knew none of my sentences made sense. That was probably one of the most horrifying realizations I’ve ever had. I thought to myself, “I’d rather die than have this tube in my throat.”

    There is so much that happened in that ICU. So many feelings and so many dark, lonely nights listening to the patients around me cry and moan in pain. So many days spent staring at the clock watching the time tick by. So many x-rays and CT scans. There are no words.

    One night, I remember accepting death. I prayed, and I prayed to God, “Please let this end.” I just wanted it to be over. I could no longer remember what feeling good felt like, and I was in so much discomfort that I didn’t want to put in any more energy to get better. I just wanted it to end.

    Eventually, the tube was removed and I was able to leave the hospital. I was told that I was functioning “just below base level.” This is when my road to recovery began. I had to take a wheelchair out of the hospital because I was unable to walk on my own after laying in a bed for so long. I remember looking in the mirror for the first time and was in complete shock at the state of my body. My bones stuck out in every direction and I was completely emaciated. I had lost just over 35 lbs in two months.

    I spent the next 3 months recovering at my parent’s house in Kitchener and came back to my apartment sometime during the end of March. I spent of these months coughing at every moment of the day. I couldn’t lie down and I couldn’t sit up right. Every position I got into was painful. Walking up stairs was a disaster, bathing was impossible, breathing, eating–every single day was a waking hell.

    Doctors aren’t too sure how exactly I got sick with 3 intense illnesses all at the same time. It is believed that it was caused from the immune suppressors I had been taking for the past 10 years for my PSC. That may be the doctor’s beliefs, but I believe that I manifested my entire experience. No one just “gets sick.” There are reasons, and the reasons are very important.

    Before getting sick, I was a self-absorbed, workout obsessed, selfish, and immature girl who was living a huge lie. I preached all this stuff about self-love but I hated the person I was. I couldn’t think properly, was too hard on myself, couldn’t make a decision to save my life, and honestly, I just took everything way too seriously.

I once believed that I deserved my pain, for overworking my body and not resting.

Well, I no longer believe this. Yes, I did treat my body very poorly this past fall, and there are many things I would do differently now. But I only know this because of my experience. I whole heartedly believe that it was necessary for me to get sick and I will be forever grateful. I am grateful for getting sick at an early age with a chronic illness because I think that experience greatly prepared me for this one. Although completely different illnesses, I experienced many of the same symptoms, endured many of the same medical tests, and felt many of the same emotions.

    No, it’s not over. I am still very much in recovery.  I still see a doctor multiple times a month for checkups. My body is not as strong as it once was, but would you like to know something special?

My spirit is brighter than it has ever been in my entire life.

I am so proud of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, and how brave and purely resilient I have become. I have been through something that has shown me how wonderful life is. I have learned so many important lessons; I can’t even begin to write about them, for there are far too many. But I can tell you that my favourite realization may be this one: My body is not a machine, it is a temple, and it is home. And I will never, ever disrespect it again.

        And you, whoever you are that is reading this, I’d like to give you one big hug. If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic illness, or are going through a recovery process, I believe that both you and I are going to be okay. We are not our diseases. We are not numbers on a medical report, or any sort of statistic. We have been given an opportunity that most people don’t get. We have a second chance to live a better life. And for that, I think we’re incredibly lucky.

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Meet Azra. This is her Story

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Meet Azra. This is her Story

 Home.

What is it - really? Rather than a physical place, it’s a feeling for most of us.

It’s that random scent you come across at the age of 30 that brings you back to your mom hanging up laundry on a clothesline.

For the majority of people home is a large puzzle made up of our values, instilled beliefs, memories and other things that cocoon our worldly identity.

Home, then, is home base. The sphere that influences all of our decisions, the friends we make, jobs we take on, partners we choose and so on. It’s the well that we drink from that determines our character.

But home for a Bosnian refugee? An immigrant child? It’s also a puzzle but one that’s missing some pieces - so you never get the see the full picture. Your entire life you end up searching for these lost links to get a sense of what home at its full realization is.

There is a burning question in your heart that nothing seems to answer, I know.

Today, I’m here to tell you it’s a futile exercise to go into the past seeking those answers.

I was born in Bosnia, moved to Germany at the brink of the Bosnian War and eventually came to Canada with my parents and brother. My mom and dad went from owning nothing but two suitcases to making their version of the Canadian Dream come true. As a child I never felt that we were lacking anything. If anything, my parents overcompensated to give us the things they never had themselves. They did the best they could with the level of awareness they had.

The rub, though, is that nothing materialistic heals wounds that non-materialistic things caused. No material thing can reverse the repercussions of the diaspora of your people.

My love for writing has always been an innate part of my nature. From the age of 6, I would write out details of my days and reflect on the relationships around me. Over the years, I’ve accumulated half a dozen journals before eventually taking my stories and poetry online. These days, I write about the transition into motherhood I’ve lived through the past 3 years.

But as time went on, my mindset has changed - and alongside it, so has my writing. And simultaneously, whether I was aware of it or not, my idea of that word, home, has transformed, as well.

Something about motherhood gave me a different perspective on it all. I recognized very quickly, I wasn’t alone in my feelings, whether it came to those that longed for my home land or those that mourned my life (and freedom) before kids. And I began understanding that my desire for something unfulfilled could only be dealt with in the present moment - not digging for it in the graveyard of the past.

I used to find solace in getting my emotions out on paper and creating fictions that I would weave anecdotal pieces into. But as good as it would feel at the time, the hurt never truly went away and would inevitably re-surface again. I recognized that my best writing came to me at my darkest moments - and I began to feel chained to the pieces, in a way someone becomes enamoured with their captivator over a period of time. The writer’s version of Stockholm syndrome. I would use my hurt as energy to create beautiful pieces and purge that burden in my chest but every time I re-read my work, I’d be transported to the exact instance that begot that piece initially. And like I said before, usually it wasn’t inspired by something chipper.

 

 The other day someone said to me - storytelling is a good thing, as long as you can separate your ego from your story. As long as your story serves a greater purpose. I took it to mean that as long as you’re writing about the past, and taking inspiration from the past, that you will wallow in that world and be unable to progress. You’ll be unable to heal and evolve to a state of inner peace. It was the first time I thought about my writing from this point of view - and surely, this piece I’m writing right now for you would’ve looked completely different if I had written it before that conversation.

I knew the identity I was creating for myself for so long was bound into my writing. Yet, it didn’t do me justice. Home, I’ve realized since, is where you feel the most yourself - without the influence of others or memories. It isn’t the place you are when you feel you need to appease others or the place you have a massive amount of guilt or sadness in. Home is being on your most authentic path, and the core of your nature aligned with that path is only exposed to you when you peel off the veils you’ve hidden behind for so long. The facade most of us operate under to keep in line with societal standards and familial tradition. Home is ahead of us.

I’m still very much a writer, a poet. A storyteller. I’m still in the deep trenches of matrescence, as well - that evolution that all women go through once becoming mothers. What has changed, for me, however, is that I’ve recognized words can be used for more than just reflection. Once you have insight and willingness to truly heal, your focus should be on the road ahead of you, starting with your present moment. It’s the only thing we really have and everything is possible in it.

My name is Azra and I do write to heal - but instead of using the scars of my past as feed for my stories anymore, I’m inspired by a higher vibration. I now plant seeds into my plots that are encased in the energy I’ve always wanted to feel. The things that were apparent at my own genesis, before memories and life warped my vision and created hurt, and the only things that will remain with my spirit once this physical world is over.

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Meet Catarina. This is her Story.

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Meet Catarina. This is her Story.

I’m not quite sure when it started. All I can say is, the harshest symptoms hit me like a truck and quick.

 

January 2015, my boyfriend and I had headed to a Nike outlet to go shopping for gym clothes. That’s when I noticed my lower abdomen was starting to poke out a bit more than it usually ever did. Fortunately for me (or so I thought) at the end of December 2014, I had gotten a gym membership because I decided it was time to start lifting weights and gain some muscle mass.

 

At the time, I was 88 pounds. Not by choice because God knows I was one of the girls people hated because I could eat anything and not gain a single pound. Myself personally? I hated it. I wanted to not be such a stick. I wanted muscle and I wanted to be strong. I wanted people to stop telling me I’m anorexic. I just wanted to be healthy so people would stop bothering me all the time.

 

For a couple of months, my lower abdomen slowly kept growing in size, but just the lower section. It was frustrating. I was eating better than I had ever eaten in my entire life and working out more than I ever had in my entire life. I wasn’t going crazy at the gym, but I was being healthy. What the hell could my body possibly not be accepting my new lifestyle for?

 

School, work, boyfriend = never home. I was never home. I was always studying, working or with my boyfriend who lived in the same city as our school, 25 minutes away. Until July 2015, I had worked where I lived but I got a new job that month so I had to commute 35-40 minutes to my new job.

 

That was also the same month I started noticing I was beginning to get irritated all the time. I was beyond stressed, exhausted and wanting to sleep. I truly believed it was me being drained from commuting, studying, going to school and keeping up with my relationship all while barely being home that was causing the heightened irritation. But little did I know it would get worse. Much worse.

 

By October 2015, I had had enough so I decided to start seeing a naturopath. My gut was so much bigger. I was gaining weight. Nothing was working. I had hives constantly, I was sweating all the time and my headaches would never go. I was just over it and exhausted. I needed answers. I needed someone who could help guide me in healing my body because I thought it was just a stress thing.

 

But again – nothing was working.

 

Fast forward to February 2016. I had started a food sensitivity diet based on the foods that my blood test flagged as ‘red’, meaning they were not good for me. This diet consisted of eating basically nothing because my body barely enjoyed anything and everything I ate for 3 months was whole food.

I gained 30 pounds in 3 months. 

 

From January 2015 until May 2015, I had gained a total of 67 pounds. Eating well, exercising, meditating and focusing on de-stressing and nothing was reversing my symptoms.

 

My naturopath concluded that she thought I had PCOS and wanted me on a ton of herbs and tinctures. At that point, I knew if nothing natural was helping me, then whatever was hurting me was beyond focusing on “natural remedies” and I needed the help of an expert. The only thing my family doctor could tell me was “eat better and exercise”. My mom having just had surgery thyroid cancer was not going to stand for that. She forced him to send me to a specialist. Bless her heart, honestly, because that’s exactly what I needed.

 

By the end of June 2016, I had met my endocrinologist and at this point, I had gained so much weight around my stomach area and face, that it wasn’t hard for him to be able to guess what I had by meeting me initially. I had what is known as a “moon face”, super red cheeks, a lot of extra facial hair, fat gain around my stomach and a buffalo hump. My arms and legs were normally sized compared to my mid-section.

 

The night before I had my appointment with him, I did a bunch of research on PCOS and came upon something called “Cushing’s disease” that was either caused by a pituitary or adrenal tumour. I literally chuckled because I was like, “nahhhhh”. No way I had a brain tumour. Funny how my mind went straight to the pituitary tumour and not the adrenal. I didn’t even care.

 

Within 2-3 minutes of meeting me, he asks, “have you ever considered that you have Cushing’s disease?” The second he finished his question, I knew in my gut that’s what I had. I knew that it was pituitary. I had had an inkling in the back of my mind since I had read briefly about Cushing’s, that it was exactly what I had.

 

To put it simply (because Cushing’s is a very difficult disease to explain and understand), Cushing’s is a disease caused by either a pituitary or adrenal tumour causing excess secretion of cortisol in the pituitary gland. This wreaks havoc on the endocrine system. Think of the endocrine system as a message system passing a baton off to the next department that needs to do their part: since the pituitary gland is one of the main control systems of the endocrine system, if one hormone is sending the wrong message to the next hormone it’s passing the baton to to keep our system functioning, then the rest of the hormones begin to not do their jobs properly. That’s when the body starts to get out of control.

 

The next 2 months were tests and an MRI, confirming that I had a 4mm tumour on my pituitary gland. I cried tears of joy having had a diagnosis. I had an answer as to why I lost all my muscle. An answer as to why I was gaining so much body weight in 1 section. An answer to why nothing was helping me. An answer as to why I lost my period, was sweating so much for no reason, forgetting things, unable to concentrate, unable to keep my cool. I had an answer as to why I injured myself doing a light back workout and couldn’t recover. 

I had an answer.

 

I kept getting worse and worse and by surgery morning on January 27th, 2017, I was 188 pound.

In less than 2 years, I had gained 100 pounds.

The most physical symptom that caused people to not recognize me. People who saw me on a weekly basis didn’t recognize me one week to the other. That is how bad Cushing’s disease changes you physically. The part people notice the most.

 

My muscle atrophy was incredibly terrible. I had no strength to keep myself up that I even struggled to get out of the tub one day, causing me to slip on my left side and bruise all the way up my side and on my upper arm. It took 3 months to heal. I would sweat in -30-degree Celsius weather and be able to be outside in a tank top.

 

I couldn’t remember things.

My mom told me I kept starting conversations and going silent. I had no idea I was talking. My mom would say, “hello? Are you going to finish your conversation?” and I remember a few times this happening where I’d reply, “finish what conversation?”.

 

My testosterone levels were through the roof.

I had no estrogen. Because of the testosterone, I had so much hair on the sides of my face and on my chin and neck. My skin was dry and brittle and incredibly thinned out. I had deep, dark purple and red stretch marks all along my arms, calves, thighs and hips.

 

My stomach was so rock solid that getting out of bed was a nightmare. My feet, knees, elbows, and hands ached. They throbbed, actually. Writing was a chore. Typing on my computer was a chore. Sitting was a chore. Standing was a chore.

 

I could barely breathe properly.

It was difficult. I was also so big at this point that I was waddling. January 27th, 2017 couldn’t have come faster enough. It’s also gone by quickly being in recovery.

 

A lot of people believe that Cushing’s recovery is linear, but that is absolutely the furthest from the truth. You feel worse before you get better and although your quality of life does improve compared to when Cushing’s was full-blown, you are never the same health-wise ever again. Ever.

 

Recovery from Cushing’s is also different for everyone. Some people’s surgeries are a success while others aren’t. Some people need cortisol steroid replacement the rest of their lives, some are off of it in 1.5-2 years and some are off in 2 months. Some people have minimal chronic issues the rest of their lives and some have chronic health issues that keep them from living their lives the rest of their lives. No one can predict what each recovery will be like. Doctors are still trying to understand this hell of a disease and what damage it leaves us with.

Today, I am 17 going on 18 months post-operation on July 27th. I got a little weird before I got better, then I got better but am worsening again. I have dizzy spells, extreme nausea, vomiting at times, body weakness, and exhaustion. I also get chronic headaches that turn into migraines sometimes that turn into nausea.

 

One day, I can be perfectly fine and the next day, I’m sick for 2 weeks or 2 months straight.

There is no predicting how I’ll be each day which makes it really hard to have a life. It’s hard to make commitments because we have no idea how we’ll feel. It’s scary, the unknown. Especially when you’re so young like me and have barely had time to achieve your goals.

 

But that can be a story for another time.

 

All in all, I’ve learned during this disease that your attitude really makes or breaks your experiences. I could’ve chosen to be a bitter young woman and treat everyone horribly for what has happened to me, or I could’ve chosen to use my voice, spread awareness, help others and focus on the good around me.

 

I chose the latter.

 

Was it simple? No. Has it gotten easier? No.

My anxiety and depression consume me. It’s worse than it was with the disease before tumour removal and I thought it had reached its peak back then. But life is too short to focus on the bad parts solely. You need to appreciate the beauty in the smallest of things.

 

If you’re going through your own troubles right now, it’s hard but really try to focus on even the smallest of things that bring you any type of joy.

That was key in my coping during illness and coping post-surgery and until this day. I promise, it’s something you’ll never regret.

 

Photos below are Before, Morning of Surgery, and After

(1yr, 4 mo Post-op)

 

 

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal.

I repeat.

By Bec Isaacs

When I think about my life, I see so many chapters. Chapters of love, of loss, of pain, of joy, of trauma, of heartache and heartbreak. Chapters of insecurity and doubt, pride and passion, strength and weakness. Chapters of being somewhere in between all of these things. But all of these chapters have made me who I am today, and all of these chapters have helped me appreciate that person. The thing is, there has always been one common thread in each of these chapters. A thread that has helped me deal with life. A thread that has helped me heal. A thread that at certain times, was the only thing keeping me alive.

This thread transformed my life, and continues to support me today. It has taught me about strength, patience, failure, discipline, acceptance, vulnerability, and joy. It has been the key player in minimizing chronic pain in my body, which has contributed to the happy and healthy life I live today.

This thread, is movement.

This is my story.

I was a mover my whole life. When I was younger I was a dancer, a gymnast, a skier, snowboarder, soccer player and some would have said, a free spirit. I was the kid who was running around and climbing trees in the forest every time I had the chance. I even had reoccurring dreams that I could fly (I still have these dreams today). Basically, I was always moving.

In 2007 I got pretty sick. I spent two years in and out of pain and depression. I was low in energy. I spent more time with my toilet than with my friends. My weeks consisted of headaches, migraines and emotional episodes. I was bloated, malnourished, and my energy had flatlined. I was on a soccer scholarship at university and was struggling to perform. I was struggling to even get out of bed. Soccer wasn’t the only thing that suffered, I was having trouble in school and couldn’t engage properly in personal relationships. I wasn’t myself. I was so under-nourished I felt paralysed.  It got to a point where I could hardly walk or see...speech was difficult, and every muscle and bone in my body was aching as if it was about to explode. After some tests, observation and re-hydration, the doctors told me I had celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is much more commonly known today, and relatively easy to mange with dietary techniques.

While all of this was happening I was also dealing with daily headaches. In fact, I didn’t know what it felt like spend a whole day headache free. The headaches became migraines 2-3 times per week, and I had excessive pain in my jaw. This pain was part of my life consistently for seven years and onward. A some point throughout those seven years I was diagnosed with TMJD, an umbrella term for pain and discomfort in the muscles responsible for moving the jaw, and the muscles that connect the jaw to the skull. It was torture.

Needless to say, I was in pain. I was laughing less, my eyes were dull and lifeless, and although I was doing my best to enjoy life despite the physical distress I was experiencing in my body, the headaches made it impossible to participate in the world.

During this time I went through an ass-kicking of a break up. It kicked my ass so hard that I felt like I never learned how to breathe, and that I would never breathe again. But deep down I knew I would breathe again. In fact, I knew I was still breathing... even though it felt really really hard. Whatever this feeling was, I wanted to beat it. I wanted to heal.

And then the yoga happened.

I had been to some yoga classes before, but it was mostly for exercise. So when I decided to get back on the mat, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or why. But I got on the mat, and moved my body based on what I interpreted from the teachers instructions, and something felt different. I was starting to understand the practice a little more and my body felt so at ease after every class that I kept going back for more. The movement also reminded me of my days as a dancer, which made me feel joyful.

After the break up I made a commitment to myself that every time I felt anger or pain, or resentment.. I would go to yoga. I also promised myself every time I wanted to text my ex, I would go to yoga instead. Let’s just say I went to yoga... a lot.

After some serious time on the mat, life decided to kick my ass again. My aunt who I was very close with was losing her battle to cancer. My father’s memory was starting to fail him, and my headaches and migraines were becoming increasingly debilitating. With everything that was going on, I knew I needed to move home. When my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis became official, there was no question that it was the right thing to do.

I packed up, moved home. And my days looked a little something like this.

Wake up. Go to yoga. Go to the hospital for the afternoon to be by my aunts side. Go to work. Go to party and make questionable decisions. Go to sleep. Repeat.

The questionable decisions started to overtake the yoga. I was losing my practice and myself. I was sad, angry and heartbroken. I was in physical and emotional pain and I was losing the two most important people in my life. I just couldn’t seem to find my own two feet.

I remember this chapter so clearly. My aunt passed away, I was trying to hold onto my dad while trying to hold my mother together in her state of denial and emotional collapse, and my life that was spinning out of control. I made some horrible decisions. I wasn’t taking care of my body or my heart. I lost my passion, my pride and I wasn’t getting on my mat. It was clear I had lost my way.

I remember driving around the city one day, my eyes full of tears, thinking “how could all of this possibly be happening? ... and then saying to myself “you don’t even have it that bad!” This was the conversation in my head for a while...it went back and forth, back and forth. I stopped paying attention to what I was doing so I pulled over and parked the car. Wiped my tears and looked out the window. I had parked right in front of the yoga studio. It was clear what I needed to do.

It was that very moment that I decided to shift my victim mentality from “why is this happening to me” to “this is happening, so get your shit together and figure out how are you going to deal with it”. I had lost my aunt, I was losing my dad, my mom was falling apart... I didn’t want to lose myself too. I knew I needed to move my body.

I gave away the only pack of cigarettes I ever owned... I had it stashed in my drawer from one of the nights I had one too many drinks. I decided to stop having one too many drinks. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, renewed my yoga membership despite the cost, and committed to loving myself so I could start helping my family (which was the whole reason I moved home in the first place). I knew in order to help them, I needed to stop hurting myself first.

Things started to shift. I started taking my yoga more seriously. There were days where nothing made sense... except for yoga. So I went back to the mat and moved, every single day, over and over again. Before every practice I would say mentally to myself “ I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal”.

I was getting stronger. I was becoming more patient. I was clearer and more motivated. My headaches and jaw pain were still prevalent but I was more able to manage the pain because of the benefits of my consistent yoga practice. I would move, and things would just feel better.

Now lets fast forward to 2015. I had been through the ringer with specialists and doctors back in Canada to try and figure out how to manage my headaches and jaw pain, nothing was working. What I really wanted to do was see the world. So I left home, traveled through Asia for a while and then spent a year in Australia. I was still practicing yoga, but not in a consistent way. But in June of 2015 a friend of mine set me up with the Byron Yoga Centre, where I lived for 3 months. I woke up every day, and moved my body. I was spending anywhere from 4-6 hours a day on my mat. I was under the guidance of some incredibly experienced teachers, and I was starting to understand that the physical part of the practice was simply the gateway into something much bigger. Something shifted, and I began practicing CONSCIOUSLY. For the first time in my practice I was fully aware of my movements and my breath. I was slowing down and tuning into my body. I was listening. I was moving enough that I could be still. It was like I was dancing the pain out of my body, one posture, transition, and breath at a time.

I ventured back to Canada and realized that I had been headache free for a period of time without realizing it. The pain in my jaw had subsided, and my eyes started to shine. I felt lighter, and stronger at the same time. Since then I have been back and forth between Canada and Australia, and have had a consistent daily practice of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation. I move my body every single day, in a conscious, loving and nourishing way. Some days I push, some days I pull back, but I move, every day.

Here’s the thing... my yoga practice hasn’t healed my pain completely and it doesn’t promise me a pain free life. It hasn’t brought my aunt back, or reversed my father’s Alzheimer’s disease. It also hasn’t erased all of the poor decisions I’ve made in my life or the heartbreaks I have experienced. What my yoga practice has done is taught me how to breathe. It’s taught me that although I will never be able to control what happens around me, I can control what happens within me, which means I can control how I respond to life when it is challenging AF. The physical benefits of the practice have given me enough space from my pain to get to know myself as a human being, instead of as the shell of the human being that I was. It also helps me appreciate the days I am pain free even more, while doing my best to honour the days I am not.

Although there have been many factors to my healing, the consistent thread that I keep coming back to is movement, and for me that is yoga. Conscious movement has literally saved me from a life pain. It is my therapy, my best friend, and my lifeline. It is the biggest and brightest tool I have which has lead me to a life of inspiration, pleasure, joy, and purpose.

Today, I am a certified yoga teacher, spending a lot of my time studying and exploring functional movement patterns so I can teach others how to move functionally and consciously in their own unique bodies. I directly recognize the power of this process through my own experiences, and I hope that my story will inspire others to do the same.

 

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Jumping into Your Fire

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Jumping into Your Fire

 

I don't know about you- but I spend a lot of time wondering if I am 'too much' for people.

It's not like I walk around broadcasting my story, but if you have met me and spent a little bit of time with me, you probably do know a bit of my personal history- and it's not easy to digest. In fact, there are only a tiny handful of people that actually know everything cover to cover- even though I stand confident in who I am and what I'm about, I do hold back on sharing because I don't want to overwhelm people with what has happened to me- And it is also quite vulnerable for me to share as well.

Here's the thing that I have come to accept. I will be too much for some people. My story will be too much for some people. And that is not about me- that is about them. People who cannot handle their own emotional vulnerability and pain are not going to be able to tolerate anyone else's. Period. 

Realizing this has freed me in so many ways. I have held back on digging deep in my own life because of this fear of being too much. But I have come to realize over and over again that it is not my job to manage other peoples emotions. It is my job to manage my own. That's it.

Recognizing this, in turn led me to a choice that I make on a daily basis, over and over again: 
Do I want to avoid the fire or do I want to jump in and face It? And by fire I mean Pain. Heartache. Challenge. Hurt. Loss. Grief. Obstacles. The Like.

I avoided for many years. But the thing about avoidance is that it breeds stagnancy. It's so comfy being stagnate, in a way. But that's the question you need to begin to ask yourself:

Do I want to live a stagnate life? Do I want to be comfortable?

I finally got to this place where I realized that I don't. I want to live in uncomfortability. I want to be pushed. I want to feel my hurt and feel it deep and learn how to claw my way through it because this is what builds strength. This is what builds character. This is how we grow. This is where we find our feet. Because the only way out is through. And let me tell you. It hurts like HELL. I was telling someone a few months ago that I live in as much hurt as I do joy. This is true. My life is fucking painful. But through facing my intense pain I have also found joy so deep- a joy I have never quite known before.

Because I continually face my deepest fears and challenges I have also grown quite fond of myself. I have learned how to become my biggest cheerleader. I have learned to lean in to self-love. I have also learned how to continually shift my perspective- the hurt is there but can I focus on the joy instead? How?

So I want to turn the tables around to you today:

Where are you holding back in your life?

What feelings or situations are you avoiding to stay comfortable?

Try taking a leap. Try jumping in. You are supported- Trust in who you are- if something painful happened to you, you have already survived the worst because You are still standing. You are still here. You got this- Keep Moving Forward. 

Jump into your fire today. Keep fighting your fight.

 

xx.

 

 

 

 

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Fuck Panic Attacks

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Fuck Panic Attacks

 

A lot of my posts are filled with positivity, light and love because that is how I choose to live my life. I'll never apologize for that.

However, amidst positivity, light and love I also believe in experiencing the full range of human emotion. I believe in being angry, in throwing crap when you want to, in putting boxing gloves on and going hard as a motherfucker, in crying, in raging, in saying shit and fuck, and in having complete and utter breakdowns. I want my life to be beautiful, open, and honest and allowing myself to feel my feelings and let it out is part of it.

I've also been reflecting on how important it is to continuously find your voice and use it; to be honest with yourself and the people around you. To surround yourself with people that bring out your best qualities. To lean in to those supports and stand in what you believe. To find those parts of yourself that need nourishment, and to love them hard.

So I'm using my voice today to shine a light on something that I'm sure a lot of people struggle with, but never talk about: 

Three hours ago I had an enormous panic attack

I have panic attacks resulting from something called Complex PTSD. If you don't know what it is, Google it

If you do know what it is, Thank you for educating yourself

If you have it- you're a complete badass, lets talk.


I've worked hard enough on myself to the point that I don't meet all the symptoms for CPTSD anymore- but I do (often) still have panic attacks. Quick background on the panic attacks I have- they are completely debilitating. I have them because I experienced violating, horrific, coercive things at the hands of multiple people I trusted, in private and public places I thought were safe across a span of 20 years.

You wanna know what happens when that happens?

Emotional and Physical Fuckery.


When trauma happens across a span that wide, as means of survival the person will sometimes naturally learn to disassociate- this is what happened with me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing- Disassociation can be immensely adaptive for a period of time because it allows that person to endure the unthinkable and unimaginable (which I did).
But-it can also pave the way for panic attacks (and a lot of other wondrous things) later on in life.
The nature of trauma and its effect on the body is so intricately layered that I won't begin to get into it right now, but- for a quick example:

Under extreme stress/trauma the hippocampus in the brain can fail to process what is happening as an integrative whole.
As a result, the sensory elements of this experience are left unintegrated and are therefore prone to return during flashbacks when some sensory elements of the trauma are activated.

So- for example- just say someone sexually assaulted you over and over again for twenty years in a damp parking garage that smelled like gasoline.
Ten years later if you walk through a parking garage or smell gasoline that could send your body into a panic attack even when you're safe and nothing is happening because those sensory elements are re-activated

Are you still with me?

Anyways. If you have panic attacks, you know what I'm talking about.
If you don't- Be thankful because no amount of swear words stacked together will even begin to cover how much they suck.

So in the aftermath of this panic attack, I want to say that I am pissed off.
I'm pissed off because today- right now- it feels like I am so different than everyone else.

Scratch that- I actually feel different than everyone else all the time. True story.

I feel like I'm living in a bubble, and even though I can see people and interact with them I can never truly connect with them or let them in. It's a very painful, heartbreaking feeling that is hard to put into words. And let me say that this is a feeling I have- its not necessarily my reality. It just feels this way sometimes. But this is a thought my brain goes back to often. Knowing the stats on trauma survivors, I know that I am not alone in feeling this way.

However, at the same time I am determined to not live my life in this bubble. How can I view things differently? How can I push back. How can I keep fighting? I get knocked down every day and I always choose to get back up and I'll never stop doing it because I'm stubborn. 

So in lieu of this I want to say to you: Instead of continuing to wish that you weren't different- trauma or not (because we all have our shit)-what if you embraced it?

You are who you are and the difficult experiences you have gone through have given you a lot of pain.

But I truly think that surviving that pain and learning how to rise above it is what turns people into extraordinary humans.

The things I have gone through have been excruciating- but living through them and learning how to speak to them and navigate them has been life changing and empowering on a cellular level.
For example, I don't live my life on the surface anymore. My painful experiences have given me an immense amount of depth.
My scope of empathy and understanding is so much larger than the average persons.
Because I have seen and felt immense pain I also now have the space to experience an otherworldly type of Joy (which I actually have). What I have endured has given me an inner fight that can't be taught or learned- which I am so, so thankful for.

The list goes on. And on the hard days I have to write this list out to remind myself.

This is how I choose to embrace my different.

I want to encourage you to do the same.

Let me tell you that I whole-heartedly believe that your Pain is your Power. What we survive, shapes us.

Step into that. 

Step into it and keep moving forward.

 

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

I am a woman. And one thing I know for sure, we women have a special war we wage against ourselves. Body image, self love, acceptance. The struggle is real and society wants a lot from us. For as long as I can remember, I have been my worst critic and downright enemy. 

Going through your 20s is turbulent, beautiful, and fucking crazy. I discovered yoga in University. It was an emotional time when I first stepped on my mat, and I was ignoring my pain. I think that was the first time I really noticed my breath, or how I moved. I started listening to my body... slowly... and then, suddenly.... sending her little love notes. I couldn't believe how much of a difference a one hour practice had on my mood and mindset. I was kinder, happier, more grounded.

I never want to give the impression that taking a yoga class will solve your life problems and make you like Gandhi ..I still struggle with giving myself the same loving I give to others. But, it helps...oh how it helps! When I am feeling off, I strap on my running shoes or unroll my mat, and suddenly things feel a little better.

Movement is the medicine I know my body and soul need, and ultimately it connects me to myself.

When I move now, I love to recognize the way my body shows up for me DAILY...even when I chastise her for not fitting into a certain pair of jeans.

I am running...thank you legs for taking me places

I am downward dogging....thank you arms for holding space

I am stretching...thank you breath for always being there

 

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Eating for Energy: Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl

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Eating for Energy: Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl

For todays post, I've paired up with Alyssa, founder of The Running Kitchen! Alyssa and I both agree that our lives began to shift when we began to pay attention to what we were eating, and how we were choosing to fuel our bodies.

Below she shares a little bit of her story, and what she likes to eat when she needs a pick-me-up:

I’ve dealt with weight issues my entire life. I’d feel upset after eating too much, and then I’d feel even worse when I stepped on the scale or looked at myself in the mirror. So after years of struggling, and practically starving myself to maintain what I thought was a healthy weight, I finally decided to make healthy eating and staying active a priority.

Even though I eat (mostly) healthy and regularly workout, there are times when my mood still feels completely off. Between balancing my career in advertising as a copywriter, starting The Running Kitchen and finding time to meal prep and workout – I’m often exhausted and completely stressed. That doesn’t even factor in spending time with friends or family. I wanted to find a natural way to easily help boost my mood, and give me a bit more energy. That’s why I decided to give Maca a try.


Maca is considered a herbal adaptogen. That means it can change the balance of your hormones, adapt to stress and help balance anxiety. I find that it has a nutty flavour, making it perfect to add to smoothies and other treats. Since it’s rich in magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, and B12, it’s also a natural energy booster.  


Maca has actually been around for thousands of years. It’s pretty interesting that warriors consumed maca in ancient times to boost stamina before going into battle. So you can imagine how beneficial it could be if you’re training for a race and need to increase your endurance, or just looking for some extra energy to prevent an afternoon slump.


I’ve created this nutritious and energy-boosting Raspberry Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl full of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and of course maca. It’s perfect to help re-fuel post workout, first thing in the morning, or just as a snack. I hope you enjoy it!


*It’s recommended to take smaller amounts of maca when you first start using it, so around ½ tsp. is a great way to start.

Raspberry Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl
INGREDIENTS
- 1/2 Cup milk (I use homemade cashew coconut milk) 
- ½ Cup frozen cauliflower
- Handful frozen avocado
- 1/2 Frozen banana
- 1/2 Cup frozen raspberries
-  1Scoop vanilla protein (I use Genuine Health vegan fermented protein) 
- ½- 1 Tsp. Maca
- 1 Spoonful almond butter
Suggested toppings
- Granola
- Chia seeds
- Coconut flakes
- Fresh raspberries
- Hemp seeds

INSTRUCTIONS
Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend for 2 minutes or until fully smooth and creamy. Add your favourite toppings and enjoy! 

smoothie bowl.JPG

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Serotonin Smoothie *

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Serotonin Smoothie *

One of my favourite ways to incorporate protein into my diet is in a SMOOTHIE! And just like Camille talked about in her article on Protein and Serotonin (posted May 15th), incorporating protein into your breakfast can be pivotal in terms of how you feel on a day to day basis.

One of my favourite smoothie recipes was concocted by my friend Mel at our local run club. It has the perfect amount of antioxidants (hemp seeds), protein (bee pollen), and electrolytes (coconut water).

One of the biggest changes I've made in my life over the past few years has been paying attention to my diet. I began to notice a connection between food and mood. Ie I noticed a boost and felt more uplifted when my diet contained more whole, nourishing foods and less sugar and caffeine.

This blog post just scratches the surface but the FUEL TO HEAL section of this site will be a continual dialogue on how what we eat relates to how we feel.

The smoothie recipe is listed below. Happy fueling :)

 

Super Serotonin Smoothie:

1.5 cups spinach

1 banana

half an English cucumber

1 peeled lime

5 basil leaves

2 Tbs bee pollen

pinch of Himalayan sea salt

1 cup coconut water

1/2 cup coconut milk

GARNISH: toasted coconut flakes// hemp seed with cacao// bee pollen

 

Photo cred: @acqtastemag

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