Viewing entries tagged
mental health awareness

Meet Kourtney: On Fear, Stress + Moving Forward

Comment

Meet Kourtney: On Fear, Stress + Moving Forward

By Kourtney Meldrum

@kasualkourt

Stress is normal; an unavoidable part of life- a lot of times it can even be healthy. All this being said, stress can also be unwarranted, it can be dangerous, it can consume our lives, and in many ways, it can harm us.


In September of 2018, my health started to turn. It still unclear to this day what happened, but suddenly I was exhausted beyond belief, I had no appetite, and the migraines I had been plagued with my whole life had been joined by a constant dull head pain that clung to my skull and refused to leave.


My usually packed schedule and active lifestyle was no longer an option. There were days I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours and would have to nap before continuing with my day.

I didn’t feel like myself.


Previously, my life had revolved around adding more things to my plate, always challenging myself, and continually searching for a new goal to conquer. Suddenly, everything I was working on and working towards was put to a halting stop. I physically couldn’t keep up. I was mentally exhausted. I was stressed.


I was stressed because I couldn’t keep up. I was stressed because I was in pain. I was stressed because I was too exhausted to fight through it. I was stressed because I was falling behind. I was stressed because I knew I could never keep up. I was stressed because I felt like a failure.


This was not me. To say no to opportunities, to miss deadlines, to forget to reply to emails, to stop chasing dreams, skip classes, nap instead of going to the gym, to give up.

I felt like, if I wasn’t the person who could do it all and take everything on, then who was I?

I was having an identity crisis with no energy to find my way back, and I was stressing TF out.

The word failure consumed my life. It flashed across my brain like a news headline, and I couldn’t escape it. It defined me, and I wrestled with it. Over and over again I would tell myself that I wasn’t a failure, but deep down I felt like one, and it was a pain I couldn’t let go of.


Since September I had taken on big projects, had stressful school classes, experienced the death of a friend, and felt isolated in a city that months before had felt like home. Stress and anxiety had become uncomfortably comfortable and built themselves a little house to stay. The stressors in my life had been given so much energy that they had grown into nasty beasts that reared their heads in the forms of panic attacks that hit me harder than I’ve ever experienced in my life- on the streetcar, in Ubers, on the sidewalk, in my bed, in coffee shops, in school hallways- I’d hyperventilate and try to count my breaths. Sometimes I’d catch myself being so lost in my streams of thoughts that I would forget to breathe.


When I went to my doctor back home in December, I had been dealing with this pain for over three months there were still no clear answers. One of the suggested reasons for my new head pain was tension headaches. These tension headaches, my doctor recommended, had been brought on by stress.


This hurt. The realization that I had made myself so stressed, that I had become so incredibly sick broke my own heart.


Beyond feeling like a failure for the past four months, I felt I had truly failed myself. I had done this to myself in many ways.


While this does not solve the entire puzzle of me feeling unwell, my constant stress and anxiety put a considerable amount of pressure on my physical health.


Following this conversation with my doctor, I went on a month long vacation with my family to Hawaii. I took the time to recharge. I knew it was vital for my health and wellbeing. I left Calgary on December 17th as the most broken down, worn out, anxiety-filled, stressed out, and exhausted version of myself I have ever been. I took the month to disconnect from my life in Toronto, to spend real and meaningful time with my family, to be outside, to reevaluate my priorities, and in many ways decide what I want from life.


For a majority of people taking a month-long vacation is not an option but I'm grateful that I could. I still came back home with stress, the same problems, and new hurdles, but at least I had had some distance and a fresh perspective.


My priority is my health right now. Both finding answers for my physical health and making sure I’m taking care of my mental health. Everything else comes second to that.


The past sixth months have felt like the worst in many ways, but have also taught me incredibly significant lessons.


My idea of failure and success is distorted. Living my life in a state of being constantly busy is not healthy or sustainable. Sometimes I go for things to prove I can; not because I want them.

Both my pain and my stress are real, and it is okay to feel them.


All of my ‘failures’ built my greatest successes. Being able to recognize my pain and put my health first is the biggest win, even though it meant saying no and letting things go - ‘failing’ in many ways. But I have come to recognize that this isn’t failing: This is learning to win in the ways that matter.


Stress is unavoidable in life. Stress can also kill you. I allowed so much stress and anxiety to fill my life that I made myself incredibly sick.


I will leave you with this.


We live in a culture where being consistently on the go is idealized and where stress, never-stopping, never-sleeping, and working yourself to the limit, is put on a pedestal. It is not a healthy way of life. It is toxic, and it physically and mentally tears you down.


You know your  limits, listen to them.

You know who your support system is, so lean on them.

You know when you don’t feel your best, pick up on those clues and patterns.

Where do you find the light, the love, and the joy in your life?

Follow that.

(Everything else has a way of figuring itself out)




Comment

Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

Comment

Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

Hi All!

It has been awhile since we posted- we have been working hard behind the scenes to make our website a little more functional.

Also- Big news- we are now on YOUTUBE! All of our videos will focus on how to move your body to help your mind (we would LOVE if you could view and hit SUBSCRIBE!)

Todays video is a simple video that focuses on a little grounding + breathwork. It also prompts the question- how are you breathing day to day? Are your breaths fast and shallow or long and deep?

Sometimes just shifting how we breathe can have a huge effect on how we feel anxiety in the body.

Do you have any tips or tricks for navigating your anxiety? We’d love to hear from you!

Comment

Meet Becca: On Having Brain Surgery + Re-Claiming Her Life Back

Comment

Meet Becca: On Having Brain Surgery + Re-Claiming Her Life Back

By Rebecca Lewis @torontoblondie

Photo by @innayas


When I was seventeen, I had brain surgery.


The irony is that these words, brain surgery, are still scary to me. I like to avoid saying them out loud. I think this is because in retrospect they make my experience seem so overwhelming - part of me doesn’t even believe it happened to me. Instead, I prefer to think of my surgery as the experience that gave me my life back, and I hope other people who hear my story think of it this way too. I think of it as something that I had to go through so I could be here now.


Throughout my childhood, I remember having frequent headaches. They were something I became used to and something I learned to cope with. But at the beginning of grade twelve, my headaches got worse. I don’t like to take pain medication unless I’m experiencing a level of pain that is preventing me from getting through my day - that was how bad my headaches became. My pain also became consistently localized, a throbbing that would start right above my left eye and spread to the back of my head.


My headaches would always hit mid-afternoon, so I started to bring a bottle of Advil to school with me. Most days, the Advil didn’t help. I would take it anyway, suck it up and go straight to my room when I got home to try to sleep it off. Do you remember life at seventeen years old? I was worried about getting good grades so I would be accepted into my university of choice, and simultaneously trying to figure out how to get my crush on the football team to notice me. I figured I was stressed out, and that it would get better. I never considered any other possibility.


But my body was giving me so many signs. At this time, as my headaches were getting worse, my pediatrician was running tests on me for a different issue. I was seventeen and still didn’t have my period. My bloodwork showed that my hormone levels were totally out of whack and nowhere near the level they should have been for my age. Crazy enough, this was the only reason I ever went in for an MRI, my headaches weren’t something I originally brought up to my doctor. My MRI came back showing accumulated fluid in my brain.


My doctor told me that the fluid in my brain wasn’t flowing properly, so my third ventricle had become severely enlarged. It was so enlarged that it was pressing on my pituitary gland and preventing it from functioning properly. As I had just learned in my grade twelve biology class, the pituitary gland is the tiny but very powerful little organ at the bottom of our brain that controls our body’s hormone production. All of a sudden, everything made sense - my pituitary gland wasn’t sending out the proper signals to my body, so my body wasn’t producing the necessary hormones. My headaches were most likely caused by the huge build-up of pressure inside my head.  My pediatrician referred me to a Neurosurgeon at Sick Kids Hospital.


This is when everything started to happen very quickly. My Neurosurgeon at Sick Kids needed another MRI to determine exactly what was going on in my head. When he saw the scan, he scheduled my surgery for the very next day. I remember my Neurosurgeon saying he didn’t know how I was getting up every morning, going to school every day and functioning as well as I was. He felt I must have a very high tolerance for pain. I didn’t even really have a chance to process what was happening, but obviously the situation was serious. The plan was to perform a Third Ventriculostomy, which would create a secondary pathway to my spine so the fluid in my brain could drain and remove the pressure from my pituitary gland.


My surgery was a major trial for my family but it was a turning point in my life. Thinking back now, I never considered that there was any chance I would not wake up. Today, ten years and way too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy later, this would be my biggest fear. Mostly, I remember my parents telling me how much they loved me and that when I woke up I would feel so much better. I had no idea how terrified they were, and am so thankful they both put on such a brave face for me.


People say Sick Kids Hospital is the happiest place in the world - they’re not lying. Although I was in recovery, my time there was incredibly happy. I can’t put into words the amount of love and support I felt. When I left Sick Kids, I was a different person. I was ecstatic to no longer be experiencing the daily headaches I had become so accustomed to, but my experience also made me very aware of my health. I became intensely interested in nutrition, I wanted to know as much as I could about what to feed my body to keep it strong and functioning efficiently.

I grew up doing a lot of ballet, but for the first time I started to really understand the benefits of movement and a good sweat. I began to learn to love and appreciate my body for everything it is capable of doing for me, something I still try to remind myself of often.

The way each little cell in our bodies works together to keep us breathing, moving and experiencing is pretty remarkable. As the one single thing that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, shouldn’t we be taking the best possible care of our bodies?


Today, I try my best to eat whole, nourishing foods and I move my body because I can, but also because it keeps me sane. A lot of people comment on my positivity - they tell me they wish they could have my positive perspective on life. I credit so much of my positivity to my life experiences, but I also think life is a whole lot easier to navigate when you do it from a place of gratitude. While I am still dealing with the consequences of my condition, I feel so incredibly grateful for the way it all turned out. It taught me to listen to my body and the signs it is giving me. It helped me accept that my pace in life is not necessarily going to be everyone else’s pace, but that’s okay. It helped me realize that life is messy, and things don’t always go the way we plan, but that the challenges we face always help us grow and gain understanding. And ultimately, it taught me to find beauty in the little things.


Comment

Music, Mood, + Your Monday Wind Down Playlist

1 Comment

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


1 Comment

Meet Kourtney: On Conquering Mountains + Learning to Rest

Comment

Meet Kourtney: On Conquering Mountains + Learning to Rest

BY: Kourtney Meldrum


Early in the Summer of 2016, in the middle of the night, my best friend and I stood at the base of a mountain. It was pitch black, and the only light came from our headlamps. We started the ascent up to the peak; feeling lost in the dark, following a path that often diverged, bears and cougars looming in the back of our minds, we hiked through the dark, and halfway through falling snow. It was an uphill battle (literally). When we wanted to quit, we pushed through. After scrambling up the loose rock the mountain dropped off into a sheer cliff, and the world opened up.


In the very early hours of the morning, I stared at the sun rise and explode into water-colour pastels over the rocky mountains. I wanted to cry. We had made it. We’d pushed through, refused to quit- we made it.

This moment changed my life in so many ways.


At this point in time I was just shy of 19 years old and finishing my first year of university. I had just begun to love fitness as it helped me work through depression and was quickly becoming obsessed with the outdoors. The cumulation of those things is what brought me to the peak of a mountain at 6am, taking in the world in a way I’d never experienced it before.


This experience became a mantra for my life- When you want to quit you keep going. You take one step at a  time, then one more, then one more, until you reach the top. This was proof that I could make it to the top of grandiose mountains; any mental mountain I faced in my life would pale in comparison.

I. Could. Conquer. Mountains.


This became my mindset going forward and is responsible for so many of the great things in my life. I felt empowered to take on more, to accomplish more, to prove myself wrong when I didn’t believe I could do things. I could conquer mountains, I could do anything.


On a trip to Africa with my father, we hiked up a mountain in Mauritius. As I dragged my father up a mountain in the sweltering heat of the early morning, I thought many times that this might actually kill him. I told him we could stop, go back, we didn’t have to finish the hike. As my father took a final step to the top, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more proud. My father turned to me and said, “I am a finisher, not a quitter.” This became another mantra for my life.


I’ve created a mentality that has pushed me forward in life to chase after my goals and dreams with an intense ferocity. I crave to feel challenged and uncomfortable as I searched for growth and accomplishments. I have pushed myself hard because I could, and I knew I could handle it. I never quit, I never rested, because I knew that I could do more.


In the past few months, all of that changed.


Some health issues surrounding the migraines I’ve experienced for over a decade forced me to slow down my life. I’ve been exhausted, in pain, and sick. I’ve been so mad at myself. I’ve felt like a quitter. I’ve felt like a failure.


Most days I don’t feel my best and consequently, am not performing at my best. I’ve said no to opportunities, lessened my responsibilities, and done the bare minimum to get by. I’ve done this because I physically have not been able to live my life the way I was before.


I didn’t even have the option to make a choice to take care of myself; I’ve had to. I’ve been so exhausted for months and in daily pain that I’ve had to learn to rest more and put taking care of myself a priority so that I can perform the tasks I do have to the best of my ability.


It’s hard for me to even put into words how tough this has been for me. Resting is the antithesis to how I’ve lived my life for years. It’s been mentally draining to not push for my best. In many ways, I feel like significant parts of who I am as a person have been stripped from me in this period. If I’m not someone who can conquer mountains, who is a finisher, who doesn’t quit, then who am I?


I’ve had to learn to rest, and I’m still accepting that that is okay.

I’ve been learning that putting myself and my health first is not only okay but essential. I’ve found solace in the community of people who love me and support me. I’ve found a degree of acceptance in sharing where I am, and how I’m feeling.


I am not a failure. I am not a quitter. I am a finisher, and I can conquer mountains. My new mantra has shifted, but it has the same sentiments. As I ground myself by placing my hands on my knees, I say “These legs have carried me up mountains, and they can make it through this day.”


Comment

Meet Mikaila + How Her 6th Concussion Ended Up Changing Her Life

1 Comment

Meet Mikaila + How Her 6th Concussion Ended Up Changing Her Life

In the Summer of 2014, I was given a gift in disguise.


An elbow to the back of the head granted me my 6th concussion; a circumstance which I at first perceived as an obstacle, but quickly realized to be a very powerful miracle.


I was hit by the occipital lobe, so my eyes were unable to focus on a screen or words. I had no access to TV, computers, phones, or written content of any kind. Listening to and processing information - visual or audial - was difficult.


Graduation from University, exercise, normal conversation, and large gatherings were put out of question by doctors. I became well acquainted with my bed… and myself.


I had not realized was that I had been given a rare opportunity to live simply; to get in touch with myself, with no access to outside information.


As a high extrovert completely immersed in the “hustle culture” at the time, introspection was a rarity. I had, in the past, searched externally for much of that which I defined as “happiness” or “success”. I can recall mentally straining for months, feeling such unease as I lay in my bed imagining what I was missing at school, how my athletics would be affected, and similar less than productive thoughts.


I quickly began to realize that what we focus on is the reality which we create.

And therein, the overhaul of my thought processes began,

for what we believe to be true for ourselves is how we experience life.

Albert Einstein once said that the most important decision which humans need to make is whether we live in a fearful or loving Universe, and I agree! Choosing to believe in the good, even if my mind couldn’t quite comprehend it, was a very intentional thought, which after a little bit of forcing (hehe), became a pattern.


The starkest of contrasts took root when I allowed myself to relax into life in this sense, trusting what I was experiencing without any logic, except that I had chosen to believe that there was a loving reason for the concussion. When the strain of attempting to control the circumstance dissolved, I began to notice simple things that I had never taken a moment to noticed before.

The vibrance of the seasons, for example. The purples emerging in the spring, to the lush greenery and warm wind of a summer evening, to the smell of crisp leaves in the air of the fall brought to my attention by the winds of change.


My busy mind previously fragmented by multiple thoughts shifted into a knowing that…


To live “here and now” is to be in tune with miracles present in each moment;


To be in conscious conversation with someone is to FEEL their emotions; to be compassionate;


To experience personal emotions of frustration or anger as an observer, simply knowing that emotions come and go like weather;


To begin to realize that absolutely anything is possible to create when you place your attention there, including recovery from physical injury; and


To begin to cultivate only positive thoughts out of realization that they literally manifest in how you view your world; your reality, and what is possible in your life.


Now, sometimes, I dance around the gym or catch myself with a face sore from smiling, walking through the grocery store simply because I am experiencing it: A life where every moment is perfect.


My definitions of certain words in our culture began to shift:


“Success” shifted from “accomplishment” to “experience”;

“Joy” became “this moment” rather than a state I had to reach;

“Comparison” became uncomprehensible, because no two perceptions or life stories are the same

“Judgement” stopped, because “Compassion” took root in my heart.


As such miracle minded concepts took root in my mind, these thoughts translated into a belief that recovery was very, very possible.


Thought turned into action, and my body slowly, through incremental shifts in training, began to believe itself to be more capable, as well: I have completed University and am beyond blessed to be able to move my body again. (Except for the splits; a skill I am determined to have! Currently sitting at approximately 90 degrees out of the full 180. Heheh!)


Choosing love and positive thoughts are the best medicine. After years of treatment, the greatest shift in physical recovery began once my mind truly and wholeheartedly believed it to be possible!!


When we do our best to choose a loving intention to underlie every thought, word, and action, no circumstance can be perceived as an obstacle. 


Here’s to relaxing into the world, welcoming what comes, focusing on abundance, loving all those in our lives, and believing that we ARE capable of surfing that wave.


:) :) :)

1 Comment

 Meet Jill- The Founder of The Burpee Project

1 Comment

Meet Jill- The Founder of The Burpee Project

Meet Jill. This is her Story

People are always surprised when I tell them I suffer from Panic and anxiety attacks.

The reaction I get is usually the same, “ Really? but you are always so calm and chill.”

So- what does a person with panic and anxiety disorder look like? Hard to know. I think panic is associated with frantic behaviour; so maybe people expect a nervous, jittery person or maybe expect to see a ‘freak out’ of some kind. For me, when I’m having a panic attack it’s actually quite the opposite. I may look calm and chill on the outside, but on the inside it’s nothing but that. My mind is racing and my catastrophic thoughts are consuming me. Its a mix of irrational thoughts and self-loathing for being the way I am.

I hate feeling anxious. It’s the worst possible feeling. It can be embarrassing and scary and the mind is so powerful that it is easy to sometimes feel completely overtaken in that moment. Most often it feels like I can’t breathe and I instantly think I’m going to die right here right now; sometimes my heart rate gets so high as if I’ve just finished a sprint. I have been told the reason for this is the adrenaline in me- the “Fight or Flight” feeling.

I vaguely remember my first panic attack. I was around eight years old; it was a regular day at school when I was hit hard with what I thought was a stomach ache (a feeling I never forgot- and I didn’t know this in that moment, but it was a feeling that would end up returning many more times). When that feeling came over me all I knew was that I needed my Mom and I wanted to get out, escape, go home. It wasn’t until my adult years that I associated that exact feeling with an anxiety attack. What made me feel safe, like most, was to be with my Mom and to be at home. The feelings of not wanting to go to school happened quite often. If I had it my way I would stay home every day (avoidance) but that wasn’t the case.

Throughout my elementary school years there were certain situations I hated being in; situations that gave me that stomach ache, the anxiety. I would panic if I was ever left home alone or if I was at a friends house and we were alone. Mostly the panic happened when I was separated from my Mother. I also had this terrible fear that my parents were going to die. At times I would do anything to stop my Mom from leaving the house. I would block the door, scream and yell and even throw myself at her legs and not let her go (no joke- I would be on the ground holding her legs until she would stay- sometimes even chasing her down the street hoping she would stay home and never leave me.

I couldn’t explain what I was scared of. But I always felt safest when she was nearby.

My mom did a great job dealing with the panic attacks then and she still does a great job dealing with them now. She was familiar with what was happening because she too had suffered from panic and anxiety attacks- not to say I didn’t get my way when I was little and begged her to stay home with me. There were many times I would tag along with her and my Dad, or join her on a power walk with her friends. Her friends learned to accept me being around. (Or if I wasn’t around I was calling every five minutes to see when they were coming home). Over time as my behaviour and reactions to her leaving the house got worse, she started putting her foot down. I wasn’t allowed to be her shadow anymore. I had to face my fears. I’m not saying these feelings went away completely, but as I matured I could put things in perspective. I became a bit more rational, for the most part. Eventually I learned to manage and was ok when my Mom left for a deserving night out.

I can’t remember many situations of panic and anxiety when I was in my teens. For the most part it disappeared. I could stay alone, babysit, go to summer camp. For some reason this time of my life was was not so panic-stricken. I actually became pretty independent as a teen and young adult. I could do things then that I wouldn’t dare do now. I wasn’t fearless, but definitely less inhibited than now. I even moved away from my home in Winnipeg to start a new life in Toronto. I pursued my passion for fitness, and started personal training and teaching fitness classes full time. I married the love of my life and we started a family. This is not to say I didn’t have any panic attacks during those years; they were just fewer and far between.

My panic and anxiety made it’s return with a vengeance as soon as I became a Mother. I have three amazing kids and am so blessed for my wonderful family. In 2003 came Maya, 2004 Charlie and 2006 Tyler. However- three kids under the ages of three can make anyones life hectic and stressful, which in turn can cause anxiety.

For me, it wasn’t the chaos that made me anxious. I loved being immersed in this new busy life.

I think that particularly crazy time in my life kept me distracted and focused on my kids and not on me and my feelings. The odd mild panic attack would creep in here and there, but I never really let it get in my way, until my husband left town for one week and I was staying at home alone with the kids. For most this is not such a scary event, but for me it was terrifying. My fears grew strong and my catastrophic thoughts were out of control. My fear was that I would die and leave my kids without their Mom. The recurring feelings were mostly around bedtime. I would worry that I would die in my sleep and my kids would find me in the morning!

It was a long five nights for me.

My mind and body was in such a state of fluster over those few days. I was relieved and more relaxed when my husband returned, but I developed fear and anxiety about staying alone with the kids. Panic would even set in at the most random places. I avoided taking the kids to a movie alone, or to indoor playgrounds alone. I always felt better if I had someone with me- it was kind of a safety for me.

Each panic attack seemed to be getting worse than the last.

One morning during school drop off I was in such a frenzy. My heart rate felt like it was so high. I could feel it pumping, I was panicking. I remember exactly what I was doing. Checking my pulse, checking my breathing while trying to remain inconspicuous about it. I even went up to a parent at school who is a doctor to see if she thought my heart rate was too high. So embarrassing!!

My nervous thoughts were getting worse and worse, in turn making my feelings elevated. I was scared to go home and be alone.

Instead I drove myself over to my husbands office and sat on the floor behind closed doors hiding from others trying to cope. I wanted to call an ambulance because I thought I was dying and these feelings were stronger than they had ever been and were not going away.

However I didn’t. So why not? Well deep down I knew this was a panic attack and the thought of calling 911 and explaining my symptoms was too embarrassing. Eventually my heart rate came down, I pulled my self together and went home.

I developed a long list of situations (which seemed silly) that I started to dread or avoid. I started to fear I would have an anaphylactic reaction to foods at restaurants (note: I have no allergies). I would feel better knowing if a hospital was near by, or if there would be a Doctor amongst the crowd! On top of all that I became scared to exercise! I have a career in fitness and now I am scared to exercise!!! I hated and dreaded the feeling of my heart rate getting too high, I was always worried it wouldn’t come back down.

This list of fears were exhausting and were disrupting my life.

Those fears and catastrophic thoughts would bring on such strong feelings of anxiety. So much so it became debilitating. This is when I decided to seek help. I tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It definitely gave me the tools to conquer many fears which I still use today, but my panic was still too much. With the support of my Doctor we decided meds were the way to go. This is what changed my life for the better. Aside from the fear that the pills were killing me at first and I was allergic to them (true story called the pharmacist to see if that was a possibility)they gave me a life again.

After going on medication, it felt like such a relief to be back in the world of the living.

I started to enjoy things again. I wasn’t as fearful to go on a run, or to eat at a restaurant. I wasn’t as distraught if I had to stay alone overnight with my kids. Things were just better, I was just better. I was in control again.

I spent a lot of years feeling weak and scared, and during this time I was looking for something to make me stronger; this is the feeling I got when I discovered Crossfit; a fitness program that combines a wide variety of functional movements into a timed or scored workout.

For me, there was no better feeling than proving to myself that I am strong and able. Lifting a barbell and pushing myself to do things I could never have imagined before is such great therapy for me. I feel empowered in every way; mind and body. I truly believe it has been a natural outlet for me. It has given me a focus and has helped me conquer many fears.

You should know that I still get the odd anxiety attack from time to time. There are situations that to this day I am avoiding, but hope to conquer those fears one day soon. I’m not cured, there is no cure. It’s all about learning to cope with what you have. Talking, sharing and not being embarrassed about your struggle can change someones outlook on panic and anxiety disorder.

Jill is the Founder of The Burpee Project- Their mission is to do 25 thousand burpees for Youth Mental Health! JOIN IN Nov 17th Toronto, ON- MSG through our contact form on this site for details!


1 Comment

Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia,  Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

Comment

Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia, Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

Lesson no. 1: never judge a book by its cover.

 

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and am the eldest of three children.  My father is a physician, mother a nurse, brother a 22 year old division 1 hockey player “life of the party”, and sister the full package of beauty and brains at 20.  Then there’s me, Ariella- 25 years old with a mind comparable to a watch that continues to tell time even when the battery dies.  But that’s not all; there is more, so much more.

 

Since before I can remember, I have always felt different.

Not different in the way I looked or acted, but different in the way my mind worked.  Let’s be real – what kid doesn’t feel like an outcast at one point or another?  I convinced myself I was just like everybody else and kept on keeping on with my life because at the end of the day, the mind is an inanimate object that couldn’t be operated on to change it’s makeup.  And physical medicine was all I had known being raised by two parents in the medical field.  

 

As the years passed and I moved through milestone stages in my life, this feeling of being different seemed to become more prevalent on a day to day basis and the struggle became very real.  But-nobody would know, because from the outside, my life was perfect.  I was a goody two-shoes- a sociable, intelligent pretty girl, with a dream wardrobe, a cookie cutter family, and a smile on my face.  Always.

What could possibly be wrong with someone who is always happy and has it all, am I right? 

 

Let’s jump to the part of the story where Ariella is in her third year of high school (sorry for the weird third person interjection – sometimes I like talking about myself as if I’m someone else doing it).  The word “therapist” was one that I began to learn more about and thought maybe I should see one.  Speaking to someone about this weird feeling that wouldn’t go away, but kept getting worse, sounded like a good idea.  

 

At my first session, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, persistent mild depression.  Keep in mind – nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors and there were many things other than my genetic makeup that were affecting my feelings.  Well, okay, I guess that made sense considering staying in my bedroom watching TV was always the better alternative to doing pretty much anything else.  I continued going to therapy as needed and felt little improvement.  It was a bonus to have an unbiased ear to listen to your problems that nobody knows about-

But this did not fix me. 

 

Off to college I went; my first semester was spent in London, England.  That’s when I really began understanding depression because I felt different in more than just my own mind; my physical self was beginning to have a tough time as well.  It was a very long and dragged out slippery slope, but it was only the beginning of what hell I was about to go through.  When I returned from London, I FINALLY had a word for my overall feeling of being different: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

 

My third semester of college was in the fall of 2012.  I was going through the motions of being a college student.  Going to class, doing my homework, partying, breaking rules, and “living it up”.  That is far from what I felt like I was doing though, I felt more down and out than ever before.  I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a private therapist near my school.  Then the straw broke the camel’s back. I lost all sense of myself and felt like more of a black sheep in a world of white sheep than I ever had before.

I had a full on mental breakdown my spring semester of 2013.  

 

The crying spells were endless, my appetite nonexistent, and here comes that S word- Suicide was all I could think about.  I didn’t want to be here anymore.  I found the idea of being somewhere other than in my physical body much more beautiful.  I had no plan and did not want to die, but I just wanted to be gone.  I wanted to be in a place where my mind didn’t make things so fucking complicated for me at every second of every day.  

 

I spent 24 hours in a Psychiatric hospital after insisting on going to the ER.  It led to my decision to take the semester off of school and get my feet back on the ground again.  What the actual fuck was I doing?  Here I am about to embarrass my parents for having a kid with a mental illness.  My friends are going to cut me off because who wants to be friends with a crazy girl?  Everyone is going to think that either I have been living a lie or am lying about what I am going through.  I’ll never be able to live my “normal” life again.

 

Oh to have the brain of someone with GAD … Meanwhile, back on the ranch (in Buffalo, not at school), I began to see a Psychiatrist and spent months testing and disputing different medications because I concluded after being in years of therapy, I needed a bit of extra help.

 And so began my road to recovery, a recovery that is lifelong.

 

That was 5 years ago. I was younger then and new to the mental illness club.  (I hate to call it that, a mental illness.  It’s such a degrading and ugly phrase.  You will often hear me refer to it as being different and mental health issues because in my eyes, it’s just like any other illness, but with a not so nice title.)  Every day brings about new obstacles, but every day I am learning what helps me be able to function.

Writing is my love.  I began writing during my semester off from school about my experience and have been writing ever since.  It’s scary as shit talking about something that is not accepted by most of society, but it’s opened up my eyes to how many people I can help by simply sharing my story.  Being consistent with it is not my strong suit, but getting my body moving serves as an instant mood boost.  Some days getting out of bed is what I consider to be exercise, but on other days I go on long walks, do a SoulCycle class, or a virtual workout.

Exercise has never failed to comfort me.

 

There are so many things I can and want to say about my experience living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, but I can’t give away every detail that I want to include in my (one day) book.  So I will leave you with an easy to read bulleted list for those struggling with their mental health and those who know someone who is.

 

If it’s YOU:

• You are not alone.  I know first hand that more often than not it feels like you are in isolation, but I promise you are not alone.

• You are allowed to talk about it.  People will always hear what they want to hear and refute what they disagree with.  Guess what – this is your life and not for them to decide how you are supposed to live it.

• Not everyone will understand what you go through day in and day out, and some may not even accept it.  Don’t be discouraged by it.

• You are just as much a human as everybody else.  If others are going to treat you differently for opening up, change your surroundings.

 

If it’s a LOVED ONE:

• Don’t take anything personally.  When you are not wanted around, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how your loved one is feeling.

• Don’t tell without being asked.  Suggesting ways to deal with their mental health to loved ones may seem to be in their best interest, but it’s not the case.  Chances are they have tried everything in the book at one point or another, especially if their diagnosis is nothing new.

• Just be there.  When I am not in a good place, sometimes all I need is someone to physically be there, even if it means sitting on the couch with me in silence. 

• Educate yourself.  It’s hard to relate to something you don’t experience first hand, but there are so many resources available for you to learn more about mental ailments. 

 

Being you is the best you can be.

Comment

A Chat with Author Rebecca Ray: "It's Not About Just Feeling Good"

Comment

A Chat with Author Rebecca Ray: "It's Not About Just Feeling Good"

A Chat With the Author:

Rebecca Ray, Author of ‘Be Happy: 35 Habits for Personal Growth and Well-Being’.

 

It’s Not About Just Feeling Good

My first book has a title that I wouldn’t have chosen personally. It’s called Be Happy: 35 Powerful Habits for Personal Growth and Well-Being. It’s those two little words, ‘Be Happy’, that don’t sit well with me (authors don’t always have a say in what publishers consider will help books jump off the shelves and into the hands of readers!)

You see, if happiness is your goal, then the most valuable experiences you can have – the ones that challenge you to grow, the ones that break you and shape you by their significance – will be lost to your efforts to feel good all the time.

I didn’t write this book to help you feel good all the time, and I know that you probably don’t expect to – but I bet you’d like to! Me too, but unfortunately, suffering is an unavoidable part of our human experience. Still, we often assume others feel a whole lot better than we do or have some kind of happiness secret that we don’t have access to.

I wrote this book to help you live fully, richly, and meaningfully. I wrote it to help show you that you are normal for feeling all the feelings! And I wrote it to show you my favourite practices for well-being that I use in my work as a psychologist (and as a human being trying to live well). In four sections, I show you that there are things we can choose, cultivate, practice, and make space for that help us to find more joy in life, heal from our hurts, and reach our potential. I wanted to wrap these up in a format that you could open at any page to take from it what you need when you need it.

But the caveat is that Be Happy is not a book of answers. It’s not a book that promises your life will be transformed by reading it. It’s a book that gets real about life and pain and how we can move through it, heal from it, and grow into the best version of ourselves that we want to be.

 

Making Space for Holding Pain Lightly

Here’s an excerpt from Be Happy on Making Space for Holding Pain Lightly: 

Beyond the instinct to simply survive, the strongest human instinct we possess is to avoid pain. But if we attempt to live a life without any pain at all, then we make no place for processing tough emotions, or for striving to achieve things, or for simply being resilient to the discomfort that occurs as part of the natural flow of existence. If you fight off emotional discomfort, you only end up feeding the pain and encouraging it to overwhelm you. Running from it, denying it, or trying to cover up or smother it is a recipe for prolonging and intensifying the pain.

What if there is another way? What if I told you that you could do pain differently? I’m sure your interest is piqued here, but I can guarantee that the answer probably isn’t what you expect,because it’s counterintuitive to our natural approach to things that hurt us. The bad news is I don’t have any secret method of exorcising your pain for you. The good news is that this technique is powerful and effective and is not a secret, even if it won’t turn your pain off.

The most effective thing you can do in the face of pain is to accept it. I do not mean you have to like your negative emotions, or want them, or enjoy them. Instead, I mean acknowledging and accepting the presence of pain as part of your experience, without judgment or struggle.

At first, it may seem impossible. I mean, who really wants to accept pain? Isn’t that just an invitation for the pain to have full control over you? Well, surprisingly not. Accepting pain is very different from wallowing in pain. While wallowing in pain is about resistance, helplessness, and a sense of being consumed by it, accepting pain is the opposite. It is about making a conscious choice to drop the struggle with the pain and sit with it in the moment, without letting it drive your choices. By accepting pain, we free up our energy to decide what to do next, even if that’s just in the next minute. Acceptance frees us from being bound to the pain. It allows us to move through the pain to process it and reach the other side.

Here’s to living and loving meaningfully and bravely andholding pain with accepting and courageous hands.

Rebecca Ray Bio:

Rebecca is an Author, Speaker, and Clinical Psychologist. Her message centres on the task of living bravely in the truth of our experiences as finders and seekers of inspiration and connection. Rebecca has been a Clinical Psychologist for 15 years, where she specialised in the treatment of Depression, Anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Rebecca’s first book, Be Happy: 35 Powerful Habits for Personal Growth and Well-Being, is available now. She can be found online interacting with her community daily about finding courage and living inspired, expansive lives.


Website:

https://rebeccaray.com.au/


Socials:

Instagram –     @drrebeccaray       

Facebook –     @drrebeccaray   

Twitter –     @drrebeccaray   

Pinterest -     @drrebeccaray


Comment

RxRun Documentary!

Comment

RxRun Documentary!

This past month I had the opportunity to watch RxRun before it was released to the public- it's a documentary that follows the stories of Emily, Tom, and Mackenzie as they take back their lives from mental illness through a running program created by clinician Dan McGann.

This doc is a MUST-SEE. These are real people struggling with real-life things. It's humanizing. I found myself tearing up at multiple points throughout the video because they are so open and honest with where they are at and what they are experiencing but are also willing to fight to make a change + to keep moving forward.

The main focus of the doc is to highlight the positive relationship between running and mental health.

The documentary is now released digitally through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play and was also accepted to the Running Film Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina (this screening will take place in November).

Trailer is below!

Links to watch the full Doc are here:

iTunes

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/rxrun/id1398708634

 

Amazon

http://a.co/7ggBBg3

 

Google Play

https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=6WPKzZgYpB4

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reach out to me or to Bruce Baklarian, the director at @rxrundoc

Comment

Meet Alexandra. This is her Story.

Comment

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.

alex.jpeg
alex2.jpeg

Comment

Meet Catarina. This is her Story.

Comment

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)

 

 

cat.JPG

Comment

Body Balance + Blood Sugar

Comment

Body Balance + Blood Sugar

 

Written by Amber McKenna R.H.N


[This article is not about weight loss, BUT] I am frequently about tips and tricks for weight loss.

I have heard every outrageous claim from, “Wrap yourself in plastic while you sleep” to “High doses of cinnamon” that a certain famous, television Doctor claimed will melt away body fat.

(I consider this to be a few degrees of separation from what Cinnamon will actually do:
Help to balance your blood sugar).

 

Lets talk about Blood Sugar + Mood for a second:


Balancing your blood sugar throughout the day actually WILL help you live a healthier, happier, more mood stable and energy stable life.


When we eat carbohydrates, which break down into sugars or glucose in the body, our pancreas secretes the hormone Insulin in an effort to control that spike in blood glucose, or blood sugar levels.


Insulin carries glucose to our cells to be utilized for energy. Unfortunately, if that glucose isn’t used up for energy immediately, it will be carried into the liver where it’s converted into glycogen which is then stored as fat. If we were ever to be without food, this would be awesome and our body would burn the fat stores for energy — but we see a lot of feast, and not a lot of famine these days.

In order to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance, keep energy stable and to keep metabolic functions optimal, a trifold of macronutrients in a healthy balance at every meal is necessary; Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates provide you with fuel to convert to glucose, Protein helps the body utilize glucose for energy in a slow-release capacity, and Fat helps to slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream and leaves you feeling satiated.

Without this delicate balance things can go a little squirrely; Our blood sugar can spike and crash, we can experience mental fogginess, fatigue, mood swings, and even weight gain.

I recommend maintaining a healthy balance at every meal that includes all three vital macronutrients. For example, fueling the body at the beginning of each day with a protein heavy meal will balance and moderate blood sugar throughout the day.


TRY: A small portion of sugar-free, organic Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and cinnamon
TRY: A spinach smoothie with a TBSP of your favourite natural nut butter.
I also recommend finishing the day with a light protein based snack, which helps moderate blood sugar as you sleep, and will help you to wake up hungry.
TRY: A handful of almonds or a tablespoon of hummus with carrots

I tend to lean towards recommending a balance of a few servings of animal based protein a week (if that’s your thing) with veggie proteins found in beans and legumes.


Go get your balance on!

 

**************************************8

If you have ANY questions at all for Amber, hop over to our CONTACT page and send them our way

Comment

Meet Theresa. This is her Story.

2 Comments

Meet Theresa. This is her Story.

“She’s had enough!”

“Oh my God don’t give her anymore.”

“You look huge in that, go change your clothes.”

“Doesn’t THAT girl have a beautiful figure.”

I can remember from as young as 3 years old, people trying to curb my food intake. I was never small but never fat, larger than the other girls but not enough to be obese. Went through puberty the earliest in my class, had an exaggerated womanly shape by nature at age 10. You might think, wow you’re lucky! But no, just no.

Not when you are told every single day of your life that you are too big. Too wide. Too busty. You eat too much. You don’t dress right. When you are made to feel completely ashamed of your innate, natural appearance by those closest to you, it takes a toll on how you view yourself.

Oh and to top it off I had a horrible case of acne from about 8 years old till present day, and endured intense bullying in middle school. After years of the same daily looks, comments, and attempts to put me on one diet or another, I was deeply, immensely hurt. Sad. Beaten to the core. Wounded. Exhausted.

“They must be right.”

“You are disgusting.”

“If I lose weight then they’ll like me better.”

“If I looked like her I’d be pretty.”

“I am worthless.”

Or so my mind would tell me all day, everyday.

And so I began to sneak food. Eating alone, with no one to tell me no was completely freeing, but also a trap. I would have to hide what I was doing for fear of punishment, sometimes that meant to eat normally in front of others again, despite being completely stuffed, so they wouldn’t know what I had previously done. When I was stressed, I ate. When I was alone, I ate. I see now that food addiction and binge eating is completely wrapped up in a feeling of not being able to be fully myself. Being made to feel shame about who you feel you truly are, the things you want to be and do, you cover it up.

You dull yourself down to match how others view you.

I hid in plain sight with food and weight gain. This goes hand in hand with the depression and anxiety I coped with since my early teen years. I discovered yoga in 2004, and felt immense relief every class. I began to go often, and even volunteered at a studio just to be there more and receive unlimited classes in return. I was able to curb my anxieties, my thoughts and mood felt more balanced, and I was able to cope with stress more effectively. I felt good for the first time maybe ever. I wanted to keep that feeling so badly and share it with others that I went for my Moksha Yoga Teacher Training in October 2010. I taught for just over a year before not even yoga could help me keep a handle on things.

After being active in childhood through sports and later with yoga and fitness, right before marriage, my bingeing started to spiral out of control. After our wedding, I became more depressed and anxious than ever. I changed my work schedule to be able to see my husband more, and ended up with a lot of alone time.

Depressed, on my own, and anxious, I ate and ate and ate.

I was trying to hide something, trying to mask emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. Trying to hide myself. My yoga practice became infrequent as I was soon pregnant and life just bounced all over the place. I became angry, hurt, and resentful that my life was changing so rapidly while it felt like much of my husband’s life, and my friends’ lives remained the same. I gained around 40 pounds in as little as a few months even before my pregnancy. I began to feel desperate to lose weight but once I found out we were expecting our first son, any extreme dieting behaviour I would have engaged in in the past was out of the question.

I am 5’4” tall, and for most of my adult life, my weight hovered around 145 pounds, wearing a dress size 8. Fast forward this dark time with depression and anxiety, plus two kids later, my highest known weight was 235 pounds, dress size 18. I haven’t recognized myself in the mirror for 7 years, and with limited time for self care as a work at home mom, my yoga practice has been almost entirely non existent. I did no formal movement or exercise during this period of time, while my children are so small and so demanding on me.

When my first son was born in 2012, I most certainly had Post Partum Depression and Anxiety.

Breastfeeding was off to a horrific start with him, which marred the beginning of our time together from the start, and only reinforced my negative emotional state. I felt that I couldn’t get my footing as a mother, I had a baby who constantly wanted to be held, and I couldn’t do anything except play with him or suffer through his crying till I gave in. I felt guilty for taking the hour for yoga, let alone a shower on top of that. So I just didn’t do it. I was in such a dark haze that even doing the dishes was an immense task to me. I was stuck between being consumed by motherhood while also my baby was the only thing keeping me going. I wanted to take care of my child and do the best for him, and that meant putting one foot in front of the other. Getting up and pushing through the anxieties instead of giving in.

My second son arrived with much less fear and anxiety. I had grown used to a low mood and anxious thoughts being part of my everyday.

But I was so uncomfortable in my body. I think mostly, I was just tired. Tired of putting myself last. Tired of a lifetime of self loathing. Tired of the comments and tired of listening to others’ opinions of me. I was so done with the shame.

After being knocked down and counted out so many times because of my appearance, I decided to do something radical — I decided to accept myself, and just go from there.

The first step was getting to an exercise class. Pushing through the nearly debilitating anxiety that had tripped me up for almost 7 years. Everyone would judge me as soon as I walked in the room. They would think I was too fat for this class and should just go home. Or they’d somehow know that I have avoided looking myself in the eye for so long because I couldn’t bear to face the truth.

When you step on a scale and know you should weigh 100 pounds less than you do, it’s a tough pill to swallow. If people said I was “too big” when I was a size 8 for most of my adult life, what does that make me now? The weight of it (literally) would send sheer panic throughout my entire body and freeze me in my tracks, preventing any significant change from taking place. I was literally stuck.

I got to that first Zumba class back in the fall because even if I couldn’t really do yoga or many other exercises (it was simply too physically uncomfortable and frustrating with the extra weight) I knew I at least loved to dance. The first few classes I was so awkward but slowly got my groove back, and actually started to feel kinda good. I’d lose myself in music and just be present. The anxiety slowly began to lift, which is nothing short of miraculous. I recently took the plunge at becoming certified to teach Zumba. Even though I’m still very very overweight and not completely ready, I pushed myself to go. I’m thinking I might find something on the other side of that fear, maybe even me again.

I’ve avoided speaking about it directly, worried that those who know me but don’t know the full truth would be hurtful and judgemental. But the truth is, they’re probably already thinking that anyway. I can’t stay silent.

As part of my experiment in radical self acceptance, I began documenting my fitness progress and journey into overcoming food addiction and anxiety on Instagram over on my account @agirlhasnoblog. My hope is that there might be someone out there that my experience and words can comfort or help. Like Cayla, the founder of Move 2 Heal-

I believe we are stronger for sharing our experiences, stories and showing our hurts. I feel the time is here to shed all that no longer serves us.

By speaking openly about it, it kills the secret and likewise strangles that monster that once had supreme control over me. I’m learning to ignore that constant feeling of lesser-than; but instead stand in myself, exactly as I am.

I’m grateful for my experience because I’ve begun to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I have learned that I need to trust my own inner voice more than the voice of any other, no matter what place they have in my life.

I know what’s best for me, I know what moves me, what feeds me, what nourishes me. I’m no longer interested in dulling myself to let others feel brighter.

We are all amazing, unique and beautiful, and to tear someone else down is a sign of your own internal doubts.

I’m not out to compete with other women, I’m only out to compete with myself; To keep the big monsters of my anxiety and depression away by channeling and releasing them through movement.

Daily exercise through Zumba or now also the Tracy Anderson Method has become irreplaceable and a non negotiable. I used to feel so guilty about taking time for myself, but my kids have gotten used to seeing me do the exercises and engaging in more self care. I am most motivated by a desire to model for them what was never shown clearly to me: the power of standing firmly within yourself, and allowing yourself to transform as many times as you need to get there.

2 Comments

I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

21 Comments

I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

 

When I was little, my Mom told me I was what the doctors called "flop-jointed"- which essentially means that I moved like I had no bones. I could easily put my leg behind my head, do the splits, distort my body in whatever way I wanted and I didn’t feel a thing.

I used to move like I had no bones.

Now, Twenty-two years later all I am is bone.

Life can feel so sadistic.

 

Chapter 2

 

I am lying in a heated room in the middle of Montreal, drenched in sweat.

I’ve been here for 22 days. Not 'here' in this room- but here in this training where I am learning how to teach hot yoga.

I know we left off around the time I was sitting in the car, staring at the windshield.
The story may eventually loop back here- it may not.

But for now all you need to know is that the intense pain that was plaguing me in the car is still present . On top of that, I'm starting to become aware of more pain in my body, and how I have learned to live with it; sit inside it. Sometimes the pain is systemic- sometimes it shifts into certain parts of my body. Today it has shifted from my stomach and into my wrists.

This pain is deep and stiff and lingering so bad I can barely wrap my fingers around the yoga block that is strewn on the floor next to my mat.

When I was young and learning how to Rollerblade, I never learned how to brake properly. Instead, I’d hold my hands out in front of me and my wrists would snap back whenever they caught the wall in order for me to fully stop.

Up until now, this is the narrative I have been telling myself as to why I live with pain in my wrists.

Isn’t it funny, the stories we tell ourselves, in order to avoid facing the truth?

The air is foggy and thick and the longer I am lying here the more my mind drifts off and for one full minute I am mentally pulled out of the yoga room and flashback into my old bedroom where I am lying directly on my wrists.

It’s 530am and I can hear her in the kitchen. She is rustling around looking for a spoon- presumably to stir her coffee, which she takes with her every morning she works in the OR.
I am definitely not sleeping.
I’m not even half asleep.
My body is flexed the way one might hold themselves as they prepare to walk down a back alley in the middle of an unknown city.
My jaw is clenched. My right cheek is pushed into the pillow and my eyes are fixed on a streetlamp that is still lit in the dark light of the morning, just beyond our house, just beyond my window, just beyond the blinds.

All of a sudden the clink clink clink of the spoon in the coffee stops, the rustling stops, and I hear that swishing noise paper makes when it lifts off a surface and I know now she is reading the note I have written her, the bomb I am dropping on her, the family tree I am uprooting in this exact moment.

My eyes are fixed on the street lamp and, although the entire weight of my body is on my hands right now I can feel my fingers instinctively curl around the sheets beneath me.

She’s coming.

My friend that is a dancer told me you can always tell how someone is feeling by the weight in their footsteps, and the weight that is drawing nearer to my bedroom door is heavy, thumping, filled with rage.

What little feeling I have left in my arms drains out of my body.

The colour drains out of my skin.

I hear the door fly open.

I pretend to be asleep. Which is funny in hindsight, because the adrenaline rushing through my veins is so strong I wouldn’t be able to close my eyes even if I wanted to.

So maybe a better way of putting it is:

I am immobile and praying she won’t ask questions.

“What the f*ck is this?”.

Her voice is stern, loud, hot water about to boil over.

I can’t see her in my peripheral but I know she is fisting the paper with one hand, holding her coffee spoon in the other, a dark shadow in scrubs standing in the light of the hallway, in the small glowing slivers of streetlamp.

I don’t respond, which pushes her over the edge.

She screams my name and when I remain unresponsive she grabs the corner of my duvet and yanks it completely off my bed exposing my body- rigid, frozen, distorted.

“ANSWER ME”.

She orders me to follow her into the kitchen, she turns to exit the room, she is a dark outline in the doorway just like he was- and for one moment she is Him, and He is here and I am small and clenching the sheets and curled into a ball pretending to sleep while his 6 foot frame engulfs me.

Everyone knows he is here, but no one knows what he's doing except for me.

I am both the witness and the victim.

His arms are long, clenched, immobile, and they are stretched over the top of my head like a bear trap. I feel his breath slink across the back of my neck and into my ear. I crank my head to the right, I cross my arms into an X, I roll onto my wrists to try and keep him out. I search the room for something to land my eyes on so I don't have to look at him.

There is a stationary bike in the corner. It's white and blue. I focus on that.


There are cut-outs in the white wall, they are filled with Grandmas jewelry. It's ornate, elaborate costume jewelry and I imagine myself wearing it. I focus on that.


I climb out of my body, and all of a sudden the next few moments aren't moments, they're polaroid's.


Bike. Jewelry. Him. Window. Door. Darkness.


I focus on that.


He has evil rushing like water underneath his skin. When he touches me my skin crawls and hours later when it's still crawling I question whether his evil has become a part of me.


I easily detach from my body now.


Some nights I just stand in the shower until the hot water runs cold. I stare at the droplets of water running down the white tile. I lose track of time, of feeling, of space. I learn to avoid mirrors because I see the grooves of his face in my jawline and it reminds me I will never fully be free, because blood is thicker than water.


In a small moment of email confrontation he denies everything, his girlfriend speaks up, says he was only acting in love.


"Do you have children?" I type, my blood boiling.


"Allow me to demonstrate on your children, exactly how he was being loving" I reply. There is sarcasm rushing off my tongue, vengeance running through my veins.


I press send. I dry heave into a garbage can.

 

I feel small, I am still. The air is foggy and thick. I have grown used to seeing the shadow of Him exiting the door.
My Moms voice, panicked, angry, prying, calls to me from the kitchen.
I grab my duvet off the floor. I wrap it around me, walk out the door and down the flight of stairs.


I'll probably need therapy for this, I quip

 

I am lying on my yoga mat. The air is foggy and thick.

I take my left hand and use it to bend my right wrist back and forth, back and forth. It's thin; frail. Exactly as I would expect it to be after sleeping on it for 15 years. The pain is pointed, raw, inscribed. I keep bending.

It's slow and methodical at first but then it builds into hysterical flapping because maybe if I bend it enough the stories will release from the fascia, pour out of my bones, I'll be free.

My teacher Dina- her footsteps are soft and kind and she comes over to me as I'm lying in Savasana the way a Mother moves to protect her cub. She places her hand on my knee, I deflate, I begin to cry. Tears spill out of me the way my sweat is pouring off my skin- quickly and without permission. 

This is the first time I have allowed myself to cry. In my entire life.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she mouths.

 



 

21 Comments

Meet Ali. This is her Story

1 Comment

Meet Ali. This is her Story

 

As a kid I remember my emotions feeling so big it seemed they couldn’t physically be contained in the room I was in. To me, they were palpable, and taking up space, big and heavy, they surrounded me.

I guess that I have always been like this- feeling in a big, intense way.

While this certainly has its advantages in the pleasant and joyful contexts, when things swing the other way it’s hard to feel something so deep and so painful; especially when it appears from the outside that the circumstance just doesn’t seem to call for it.

 

As a teen I remember literally, running away from these deep feelings when they became too much. As in, I would actually head out the door in whatever I was wearing and run as far as I could, “away” from the pain I was feeling. Usually, after a few blocks, I couldn’t breathe very well and not being in proper footwear and attire led to extreme discomfort. But for a few minutes, being sweaty and out of breath gave me something else to think about- it released me from whatever pain I was feeling, without actually having to truly confront it and deal with it.

 

This worked for a while here and there until I experienced a period of pain as an undergrad so deep that I could not run away from it. After a particularly bad week of sleeping all day, a friend dragged me to the gym with her where we participated in a kickboxing class. For the first time in weeks I was actually moving my body and getting the blood flowing. It was tough, I didn’t want to do it, but with each shadow jab I felt a little lighter.

By the end of the class I remember feeling good, so good, that I cried on the way back to my dorm room.

I just wanted to feel this good more often, but it seemed so impossible. I remember later that day talking to a friend and saying out loud the words I was never able to say before; “I think I’m depressed”.  She encouraged me to seek help, and thankfully I did.

 

My story does not end there of course. While I had quickly learned that staying active played a key part in getting my life together again as a depressed undergrad, my depression didn’t just go away one day because I decided to work out regularly. In fact, while I continued to remain very active in my early 20s, the next obstacle that was thrown my way was uncontrollable anxiety that felt like it was just handed to me one day, out of the blue.

 

At first, I was not able to fully recognize that something was not quite right. I began making lists for everything, always worried, terrified, that I would forget something. These lists began to control my life in a way that I couldn’t explain. Some days and even some vacations were spent just making sure things were crossed off, instead of actually living in the moment and enjoying each “item”.

 

This sense of overwhelm and desire to complete what I felt I “needed” to was all-consuming at times. At first, it was easy to blame it on my perfectionism and Type A personality. But as this spilled into every other area of my life I realized that these feelings of trying to control everything were not normal. It reached a tipping point when I would drive to my internship every morning with butterflies in my stomach and then sit in my car once parked for a good 15 minutes convincing myself to go inside. There was no real “reason” to feel this way and I could not control it. In a sense, my lists were a way I was able to feel control over my life at this time.

 

I would sweat every time my phone rang, worried that the person calling me was going to tell me a family member had died. I was afraid to get in a car with another driver in fear of getting in an accident.

 

My fear of the unknown and all possible terrible outcomes sent my head in spirals, I had trouble sleeping and would often feel on the verge of a panic attack when I thought about anything beyond my current task at hand or day. Unfortunately, regular physical activity had taken a backseat to graduate school and juggling two part-time jobs. But one day, I felt the overwhelm and lack of control bubble over and was reminded of my childhood feelings- I could not keep them in the room and I just need to get away from everything. I laced up my shoes and headed outside, telling myself that maybe I  would just feel a little bit better if I went for a run.

 

It sucked. I was breathless within 3 minutes and sweating through my shirt. I stopped to walk every few minutes and cursed myself for thinking this was a good idea. However, after a few minutes I realized the feeling of panic had subsided.

I probably only ran about 2km that day, but I returned home with a clearer mind and a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in weeks.

 

A few days later when I started feeling the same way, I laced up my shoes again. I don’t know what came over me, but for some reason I told myself that day that I would train for a 10k race. Over the next few weeks, I started to run regularly when I felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the feeling of getting out there. I fell in love with running the way I fall in love with most things in life- obsessively, completely and all at once.

 

At first, I loved how it humbled me, I had thought I was fairly athletic and in shape, but running seriously kicked my ass . Over time though, it gave me a sense of control as things became slightly easier. When I laced up my shoes, I knew what to expect. I knew when I would tire and where I would turn around and how far I could do. Eventually, I was able to start pushing myself more and more- conving myself to run 100 more meters when my mind was yelling “STOP!”.

For the first time in my life, I realized I could challenge my thoughts and push beyond them, and, that my thoughts were not always right- I COULD run a little bit further if I wanted to.

 

After a few months, I found myself in a place where running gave me space to actually work through things. Instead of trying not to die with each painful breath, I was able to fall in to a rhythm, to run and think and recognize my obsessive thoughts as merely thoughts. I was able to be in that moment while correspondingly work through the unpleasant physical feelings it gave me- and I realized how much that related to my anxiety that I dealt with in my day to day life. It was okay to feel unpleasant things, accept them for what they are (temporary) and keep pushing through them.

 

Running has since become a major part of my life. As soon as I feel myself slipping, I know what I have to do to feel better. That’s not to say it’s easy to just lace up my shoes when I feel my mind take over with negativity and worry. Sometimes it takes everything I have to lace up my shoes and get out the door. It has also helped to have a community to push me and support me and get me out there on the days when I would really rather not. Running has challenged me to push beyond my self-imposed limitations and not let thoughts define me. In running away from myself, I have actually learned to not shy away from myself.

I have learned to come home to my body and my breath and who I am- anxiety and all.

 

While there is no question that professional help and medication can turn a life around, it is the feeling of pounding concrete that has truly changed me.

It is so easy to look at physical activity as a way to look a certain way, but in reality, it has the power to not only change your body but change how you FEEL. Learning the connection between mind and body has been the most pivotal and important lesson I have learned in my life.

 

My depression and anxiety are parts of me that I have learned to live with, and physical activity is an important piece of my toolbox that I often reach for when life just seems to be too much. Running is always there for me, steady as can be. One foot in front of the other. Left foot, right foot, breathe in, breathe out and repeat. It pulls me back to the ground when I need it the most.
 

 

1 Comment

Meet Jenna. This is her Story

4 Comments

Meet Jenna. This is her Story

By Jenna Kress

 

Not cool enough. Not strong enough.  Not fast enough. Not skinny enough. Not talented enough.

The feeling of never being enough or doing good enough.

That is the story of my life.  

I was once a young girl with a creative mind and imagination; I dreamed of being on Broadway, was somewhat shy, and quieter than the rest of my family.  I also spent a lot of time in front of the mirror cutting myself down for being too fat.  I had some talents and hobbies but never really succeeded in one. I really struggled with putting myself out there because of how I felt about myself – fat, ugly, I had bad acne, weak, and what I would call “socially awkward.”   

Me. I'm the biggest thing that has ever held me back.

I do have to give myself credit because after hitting my heaviest weight, I did do something to change it.  I changed my diet and started exercising. I started University, got into a serious relationship, and became physically unrecognizable

I learned that if I work really hard at something, if I’m persistent, and if I really want it, I’ll succeed.  However, there was a lot of struggle during this time as well. I lost a lot of weight.  It became an obsession.  I exercised a lot, skipped meals, rationed my portions, and continued to shrink to a point where I knew people were saying things but never to my face- with the exception of my boyfriend at the time calling me a skeleton; “It’s like having sex with a Skeleton” he would say.  I vividly remember a point that hit me before I started losing a lot of weight – my boyfriend had accidently slipped on a pair of my jeans and then went on to make fun of me for that fact that he could fit into them- So I went from too big to too skinny.  Sadly my ex-boyfriend was more concerned that people thought he was the cause of my low weight, than he was about my health.

I tried bulimia.  I remember shoving my fingers down my throat.  That didn’t work.  I tried the back of my toothbrush.  That also didn’t work.  I remember how my throat felt.  Raw.   

Since bulimia didn’t work, I continued to eat very little, so eventually I ended up with anorexia. One of the scariest things that I vividly remember was weighing myself in my parent’s bathroom and seeing 95 lbs (I am 5’7”)- the scary thing about it is I remember smiling because I was pleased with this outcome.  

My mind was always on food – about when the next allotted time came up that I could eat and how many calories it would cost me.  I suffered from depression and anxiety, which I was taking a prescription for, but this further declined my appetite and gave me terrible tremors.  

I was very skinny but I never felt skinny enough.  

I was never good enough even though I excelled at school and landed a great job after I finished my degree.  I just wasn’t happy.  I began to drink more – often skipping food to offset the extra calories from booze.  

I can’t tell you how exactly how I made the switch to choose a healthier lifestyle, but I’ve made and continue to make a lot of changes to get where I am – I am a heathier body weight now and doing things I never believed I could.  I am very active being an indoor spin (i.e. Ride, cycle) instructor (‘Motivator’) at Wheelhouse Cycle Club.  Being up on the podium as a Motivator – leader – has given another level of purpose and self-worth to my life.  I have confidence on the bike- I can dance, move and be who I want to be.

The adrenaline that I get from these high energy rides keeps my energy and mood up for days.

My rides are intense, fast, dance-y and frickin' hard, but I love it.  I am continually surprised by my own capabilities. Riding and exercising has provided me both physical and mental benefits- but more importantly are the mental benefits I have gained.

On days that I have felt mental pain and fatigue- Riding has helped release that.

I have a better relationship with food because I know without it, I wouldn’t be as strong on the bike and wouldn’t be able to keep up with my active and busy lifestyle (I am also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Makeup Artist).

I have also been able to connect with others and am now part of a positive supportive community.

Leading rides has become part of the biggest thing that helps me love myself more- I love helping and empowering others to be their healthiest and happiest versions of themselves.  

My personal journey includes experiences of struggles and successes. I’ve loved, lost, laughed, and ugly cried probably more than the average person. I still have failures but I continue to learn from them, take risks, get stronger, and happier.  I am thankful for this body and that I can ride, I can run, I can do yoga, I can lift weights heavier than I ever imagined for myself.  And finally, I am getting better at appreciating myself and recognizing that I AM already enough, I’m more than enough.  

If you don’t believe in you, how is anyone  else supposed to?

Be excited about yourself! xo Jenna

4 Comments

How Your Living Space Affects your Mental Health

Comment

How Your Living Space Affects your Mental Health

 Hey everyone - Kiki here! I am the Founder and CEO of Spaces Simplified - a Professional Organizing Service. I jumped at the opportunity to write a post as a guest blogger at my friend Cayla's request. I hope everyone can take something from this post, and do your very best to create and recognize happiness in your lives!

 

Today’s focus: “When people are happy in their homes, it spills out into the rest of their lives”

 

Like anything else there are so many factors that affect our happiness: Our relationships, our careers, our education, our experiences, our goals, our locations and the spaces around us. All of these things shape us, some more than others at different instances due to varied consistencies, but the one I’d like to focus on is the home.

When people are happy in their homes, it spills out into the rest of their lives.

 

Home can mean many different things to different people. For me home is a haven, it’s a place a seek solace in and feel safe in. It’s also a place where I dream and grind out some crazy hard work! You can see where I’m going with this - different spaces allow us to feel different things and accomplish specific goals. I hope that for everyone the ultimate goal is always happiness!

 

Here are 3 ways to keep your home a happy space to be:

 

1. The Hub

 

Everyone (hopefully) has a space like this in their homes. The place where everyone gets together to catch up and chill out. If you feel like your home is lacking one, don’t hesitate to create it. In my experience I’ve found that kitchens are one of the most popular spaces (probably because there are snacks there), or anywhere there’s a snuggly sectional. In regard to fostering happiness, it’s not so much about the physical space as it is what the space represents. It’s a space to connect - a place to reflect. This day in age there are so many moving parts and full schedules. Establish a hub, and allow yourself to spend time there connecting with the people you care about.

 

2. Eliminate Clutter & Chaos

 

Simple fact: If your surroundings are chaotic, your life will feel chaotic.

If you have one or multiple overwhelming areas in your home or work space don’t underestimate how much it will affect you. It can constantly weigh on your shoulders or you could avoid it completely, both of which will directly affect your happiness and even your mental health. It’s been proven (and is fairly obvious) that those who describe their spaces as “cluttered” or “disorganized” or full of “unfinished projects” are more likely to experience feelings of fatigue, overwhelm, hopelessness and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. All of these things can affect your mood, sleep, health, relationships and self-esteem.  Don’t underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with enough organization and order to thrive!

 

3. Exterior Love

 

Curb appeal = First Impressions. As much as I love to focus on the interior of homes, there is something to be said for investing time and energy into the upkeep of the exterior of your home - a simple place to start: landscaping. Keep your greenspaces well kept and tidy. Depending on how green your thumb is, design your lawn and garden spaces to suit how much time you want to spend maintaining it. Add pops of colour with easy to maintain flowers and plants like sunflowers or sweet peas. Feel good about your home every time you come and go! Be proud that it’s yours and enjoy the happiness this brings you.

 

4. Maintain Your Own Independent Space

Having your own domain allows you to have a place to retire to and genuinely unwind. Make it your own, design it according to your style. Allow yourself the luxury of reveling in something that’s just yours!

The spaces we retreat to and from each day are without a doubt one of the biggest contributing factors to our mood, our energy and how we live our lives. My hope is that everyone can surround themselves with a space that energizes them for the day, and allows them the opportunity to unwind and seek solace in at the end of the day.

 

Remember your home and your spaces are what you make them.

 

Aim for happiness.

 

Xx M

Comment

Move to Heal x Bootcamps for Change

Comment

Move to Heal x Bootcamps for Change

This is a little background on how Movement has positively affected me, and why I whole-heartedly believe in organizations like Bootcamps for Change.

Read on :)

I have always been drawn to Movement.

There's a box with all my drawings in it at my Mom’s house from when I was a child. The majority of them are of me, standing on an Olympic podium with medals around my neck.

I loved the feeling of freedom I had when I was moving through the water. I was determined to be an Olympic swimmer. In the water, I felt unstoppable. I also had stamina; I wasn't the fastest swimmer but I could outlast everyone. Over time, the pool became a place where I could let go of my day; I could just be.

I wanted so badly to continue swimming, but we couldn't afford it. I was heartbroken. A few weeks after I stopped swimming, I ran 1500m as a warmup in gym class before we started playing soccer. I felt my body come alive. I remember running up to my gym teacher, breathless, begging her to let me keep racing the clock on the track instead of playing soccer. Every day after that, after the final school bell rang I'd head down to the track and just run laps. Keep in mind- back then, we didn't have cell phones or ipods- it was just me, my breath, the track, my thoughts. It was such a release.


I think I must have been drawn to swimming and running early on because of the chaos that was happening around me when I was a child and teenager. I began to experience severe bouts of depression mixed with high anxiety as I moved into my 20's.

I completed my Yoga Teacher Training in 2010 and it was honestly the first time in my life when I realized that I was in charge of my body; I was in charge of how I could move it, when I wanted to move it, what I could do with it. It was so empowering.

My life up until that point had been so external- I was constantly thinking about other people, looking at their actions and how they were reacting to me because I was always on guard and trying to protect myself. I began to use Movement to help me because it was the only way I knew how to help myself. Through my worst periods of anxiety, I ran. When I was depressed, I walked. When the panic attacks happened, I did yoga.

Fast forward years later- I ended up starting The Move to Heal Project, an organization that focuses on fitness as an additional aid for anything mental health related. It’s also a place where people can share their own stories, where they can learn how to fuel the body properly, and also a place where they can find valuable resources in and around the GTA.

I was in Calgary two years ago opening a restaurant, training an entire service team of people. Sometimes people would fail to complete the tasks we had assigned them (Hang on- this is relevant!)

My boss pulled me aside and said that in these moments we, as trainers, had to ask ourselves 2 things:

Do they know what the task entails? Do they have the tools to complete the task? If I answered No to either of these questions, I had to go back and try a new approach.

I love this, and I think it can completely apply beyond the restaurant industry.

For example: What about the people that want to get physically stronger but don't know how to go about doing it? What about the people that want to run but don't have shoes? What about the people that are curious about nutrition but have no idea how to fuel their body properly?

We are so lucky. We take so many basic things we have access to for granted. Some people don't have that.

I recently connected with two amazing women that are removing barriers in regards to affording organized sports and fitness programming: Katie Heggtveit and Kam Kuzminski of Bootcamps for Change.

I love what Bootcamps for Change is doing because they are driving conversation on things that need to continually be talked about and they are also taking action on the things that need to be changed for youth in Canada.

Katie Heggtveit, the co-founder of BFC, volunteered for 10 years with homeless youth in Canada and abroad. Kam Kuzminski was a guidance counsellor and teacher for at-risk youth for 10 years in Saskatchewan and pursued her Masters in Educational Psychology to fulfill her passion to work with marginalized youth.

Once Katie began to notice there was not enough fitness and nutrition programs in shelters, she joined forces with Kam and together they took action.

Now, BFC strives to provide in-shelter fitness programs for marginalized youth in Canada with the end goal of hiring them as paid employees of Bootcamps for Change under a canfitpro certification scholarship.

I love this because it directly breaks an old cycle and implements a new, impactful one. It provides marginalized youth with the tools they need to succeed. It provides them with the knowledge of how to build new foundations to stand on in order to do so.

HOW AMAZING IS THAT.

The reason I shared a little bit of my story today is because the ability to exercise in a community actually change my life- it had a huge ripple effect on my own mental health and physical health. I don't know that I would be where I am today without it. And the thing is- this should be accessible for EVERYONE! But unfortunately it's not.

Everyone that knows me knows how much I get pumped up talking about the benefits of exercise on Mental Health (I could go on and on here)- and knowing that Katie and Kam are leading this change for youth in poverty and in the shelter system makes me stand up, cheer, and applaud them because it is so, so needed.


WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

Contact Katie Heggtveit and Kam Kuzminski personally:

“Katie Heggtveit”: +647-244-0097

“Kam Kuzminski”: +306-501-1510

info@bootcampsforchange.com

 

Volunteer at their In-Shelter Fitness Programming:

Monday's: 3:30pm

Wednesday's: 3:30pm

Friday's: 1:30pm

 

CHECK OUT THEIR INSTAGRAM: @BootcampsforChange


Or DM me for more details!!





 

Comment