Highest Potential

Hi. I want to talk about bodies. Wait. That probably doesn’t sound so good…

Let me try again.

I want to talk about my body.

I am a former distance runner who ran 35 miles a week when I got pregnant with my first baby. I even ran a half marathon during that pregnancy. I was a beast. I was strong. I felt awesome.

Unfortunately, as a result of pregnancy and delivery, I had symphysis pubic dysfunction, diastasis recti, as well as pretty extensive damage to my pelvic floor after my son was born. It wasn’t until Silas was almost two years old that I finally received a diagnosis for my pelvic floor problems. By then the dysfunction was so bad that I could not fully empty my bladder and was constantly carrying around about 100cc of urine (They can measure that. Weird right?)

When I got pregnant again, everything got worse.

Two rounds and three years of pelvic physical therapy later and I am doing a lot better, though I may never be “normal” again.

Cut to about a month ago, I’ve been hinting at some physical problems, but haven’t yet wanted to discuss things until I had a diagnosis and could better wrap my head around things. Thankfully, it isn’t anything serious, but it is chronic. About a month ago I was diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatism after months of fatigue, joint pain and a million doc visits (which are incredibly hard for me thanks to Health OCD). The pain is part of what sent me into an episode. It’s part of why I got so bad that I ended up in a Behavioral Health hospital. Not because I experienced the pain and symptoms, but because I was not equipped to manage my mental health alongside them. Things are different now. Part of what I learned in the partial hospitalization program that I attended is how to understand the way my brain deals with health issues, and how to normalize the anxiety that often accompanies health concerns. I’m going to be talking a lot more about this in the coming weeks, as I’m excited and inspired by the way my brain is habituating to some of the positive mental health practices that I have learned.

So, the last month has been a bit of a relief, because walking around with all these symptoms and not knowing the why was more than a little unnerving. I started a nerve blocking medication which has helped tremendously in managing the pain and also the fatigue because I am finally getting restful sleep again! I’m learning about Palindromic Rheumatism, but only from my doctor because I’m still not allowed to Google health stuff and probably never will again, which is fine by me. I’ve learned (again) how important restorative sleep is to my mental well-being and have enjoyed thoroughly the radiant feeling that returns when my body is getting the rest that it needs. I’ve learned that if I over-indulge, I will not only have a wicked, I’m-not-in-my-twenties-anymore hangover, but I will also probably have a rheumatic flare! Even more reason to enjoy my craft beer in moderation. 🙂

Yesterday, I pulled some Affirmators and Soul’s Journey cards to serve as prompts for journaling and had an enormous ah-ha moment.

I have a shit relationship with my body.

I have resented it. I have told my husband that it is “broken.” My language around my body and its functioning is always negative. As a result, I FEEL bad about my body. I feel afraid about my health. I am riding around in this thing all day, scared of every twinge and twitch.

What would happen if I began to treat my body with the love, gratitude, and compassion that it deserves? What if I stopped being disappointed that it isn’t the way it used to be and instead helped it discover its NEW potential?

Today, I start working with a personal trainer. We will be doing mostly strength training with an additional two days of cardio per week. She knows about all my physical “nuances”, and she is undaunted. She is excited to help me find my new strong. She believes in this Me, not the distance runner version.

I may never be a distance runner again. That doesn’t mean that I peaked and now it’s downhill from here. It means that my highest potential has shifted to somewhere else, to some other point on the map. It’s about recognizing that my highest potential is just as fluid as my capabilities and strengths and as such, I am always equipped to find and meet it.

I don’t care about being skinny. This new endeavor isn’t about looks. It is about changing the relationship I have with my body (starting with the way I think and talk about it). It is about feeling strong and vital again. Most of all, this is about showing my body that I believe in it. It’s about reverence for what we have been through together, this beautiful body and I.

It’s about saying thank you.

It’s about self-love.

 

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Words of Wisdom

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I have been working on several posts lately, but rather than publish one of those; I have been called to share the following with you all. In the program that I completed earlier this year, part of our graduation was to share our “Words of Wisdom” with people still in the program. Below are the words that I shared, and while they are not my best writing, they are some of the most raw and vulnerable.  I hope that they might help those of you who are struggling or affirm those of you in recovery.

I want to start by saying thank you, from the deepest part of my soul, to my case manager, Kristen and the entire staff here for your help along these last several weeks. March 10th I was non-functioning, thinking about suicide and checking in upstairs because I recognized how bad things were. Just a little over a month later, I’m getting ice cream with my family and planting in my garden. I owe that 180-degree transformation to you, Kristen. Without your perfect combination of compassion and challenge, I would not be here. Thank you.

I know some of you, though many of you I did not have the pleasure of getting to know, and so hearing “advice” from a stranger might seem a little odd. By way of introduction, I’ll say that the last six weeks or so have been some of the hardest of my life. And you’ll just have to trust me when I say that that is saying something. I am no stranger to hardship. So, with my journey in mind, I have just a few thoughts to share, which I hope will help you as you continue to walk this path to better mental health.

The first is this – As is so often said around here, Stop Shoulding All Over The Place. I have struggled profoundly with this. I should be happier, I should not feel so afraid, I should enjoy things more, I should feel a certain way, I should wake up at a certain time, on and on and on. “Shoulds” are a net that you weave around yourself, and I am getting better at recognizing when I am entangling myself. Release yourself from the expectations of your should statements.

The next thing I’d like for you to consider is that we are all here for the same reason, though the paths we walk may look different. That said, the reason that we are here isn’t perhaps what you think it is. It isn’t because we want to get better. Obviously, that’s part of it, but at the root of wanting to get better is believing that you can. Even more important, it’s believing that you are worth getting better. Even on your darkest days, even when you feel terrible, even when your battle with anxiety has you filled to the brim with guilt, shame, disappointment, and doubt; somewhere deep inside you, buried in the very foundation of your Self, is the belief that you are worth getting better. Otherwise, you would not be here.  I want to affirm that which you may so often deny or question – You are worth getting better.

Knowing that you are worth getting better is important, but it isn’t everything.  There’s another piece to this. You see, I think we carry with us a bag, let’s pretend for now that it’s a garbage bag. One of those thick ones with the fake scent, meant to mask the horrid smell of waste so that your fish bones smell like lilacs. I think we go through life and we collect things to put in that bag. Personally, I have collected the abandonment of a parent, divorce, sexual assault, betrayal, postpartum mental illness, the death of my daughter, grief, pain, self-doubt and fear. Most of all, I have collected fear. Burdened, I have carried around this bag for many years, collecting the most putrid of my life experiences, and stuffing them inside, hoping the artificial fragrance will make them seem less awful. Less powerful.

However, something I have learned during my time here is the importance of this bag. You see, it doesn’t have to be a garbage bag, and it certainly doesn’t have to be scented. We hear the term “baggage”, and we think of it as something negative. But we are the sum of our life experiences. More accurately, we are the sum of how we REACT to our life experiences. We are the sum of how and what we collect.

Monday is my 32nd birthday, and I have decided it is high time to trade in my garbage bag for one of those clear tote bags. A really big one. I’m going to need it to be big, because I’m going to be putting in more than just my garbage, moving forward. I’m going to need to reach back 32 years, because there are a lot of things in my life, past and present, that I want to carry around with me. My supportive husband, my hilarious and kind children, my work as a writer and storyteller. My parents. Hiking. My garden. My dog. My community work with mothers. I have realized that my life is so much bigger than the bag of garbage experiences and fears that I have been carrying around. And I want to show it off, most especially to myself. It doesn’t mean that the negative experiences won’t be there, too. It doesn’t mean that the fear will be gone. But they’ll keep company with the joy and love and gratitude that round out who I truly am.

The last six weeks of my life were some of the hardest because that garbage bag, simultaneously stinking and nauseatingly fragranced, had finally begun to weigh me down. I began to believe that my worth was defined by these things which I carried around with me, and I was not carrying the right things.

So, if there is one bit of advice that I can share with you as I leave, it is this – We are no more or no less worthy than we choose to believe that we are. Your life will be defined by the things that you choose to carry with you and the way in which you carry them. If you lug around only the parts of your story which are rotten and painful, they will stink up the place and take over. However, if you fill your vessel with the breadth of your life’s experience, the good and the not so good, I think you will find that you are so much more than you ever knew yourself to be.

Having baggage isn’t the problem. The problem is carrying the wrong stuff.

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Ode To The Thomas Train I Stepped On Last Night

pexels-photo-85599Of all the things we anthropomorphize, you might be most iconic.
Of all the toys I step on nightly, your injuries, most chronic.

Lacquered in a shade of blue, matched perfectly to the sky,
You seem to jump out, underfoot, for grown-ups passing by.

Why can’t it be a cuddly toy, or blankie in my path?
Instead, I trip on only you. Have I incurred your wrath?

I begin to think it’s all a plot, schemed up on skeevy Sodor.
I’ve always felt Sir Topham Hatt gives off malicious odor.

First, they slandered Lego; quite destroyed their reputation.
Those bricks can’t catch a break from all the painful condemnation.

But Legos are not the enemy, you must trust me when I say,
These attacks upon your soles create confusion and delay.

While you coral those colored bricks, to keep from nightly tripping,
They steam their way into your path to begin their fretful nipping.

Because, if parents, far and wide, were incapable of walking,
Those wily locomotives could expand their steamy flocking.

They’d leave Sodor upon Bulstrode, his hull the shade of rubies.
Bulstrode is a grumpy barge, for all you Thomas newbies.

Braving sea and storms, they’d come ashore, and build tracks from here to there.
No foot would find it safe to walk, any time or anywhere.

And so my little wooden friend, your face as grey as smoke,
While you delight my little boy, I know what your grin cloaks.

Your evil is not welcome here, and I beseech your name!
RETURN, and take that Percy with you,
Back to Sodor, from whence you came.

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