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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Been Quite A Year.... Again!

Last year at this time I was writing about my year in review.  I couldn't believe everything that had happened in 2013 and how much self discovery I had found my way through. Honestly, I still can't believe it.  Of course, I did it all with a lot of help.

So, as I begin to look back on 2014, it's absolutely crazy to me that another year has gone by.  I never thought anything could top 2013.  And, to be honest, I don't think anything will compare to what I achieved and accomplished last year.  This year has been incredible in other ways.  But, it's amazing how much better life has gotten and how 2014 has been an even better year than I thought was possible.

It's definitely been a year about finding balance, looking for different things to work towards and just, in general, figuring myself out even more.  It took me a long time to figure out that I couldn't have my life revolve around a number on the scale.  In fact, I got to a point where I had to put the scale in the closet.  I was allowing that number to control my life.  While it's healthy to know my weight, I don't need to be checking it several times a day.  Even now, I only get the scale out every couple of weeks.  Sounds strange but this was a huge step for me.

Once I did that I was sitting around like, okay, now what?  For so long my life has revolved around my weight and all the emotional and physical struggles that come with a lifelong struggle with weight.  So, now I had to find something else to focus on.

Even though I don't really enjoy running, I decided doing some different races, setting goals and having different times to beat would be something I could work towards.  But, where to start?  Yeah, I can run here and there.  But for more than a mile at a time?  Yeah, not really my strong suit.  But, as I kept working, I realized that every small step I took was a step towards achieving another goal.  And, for me, achieving goals that were not weight loss related was a huge step in the right direction.  I did a 5k (ran the whole thing) two 10k's (where I only walked a little and ran the first 3 miles without stopping) and a 4 mile race (which I ran without stopping).  Each time I accomplished something, I found another piece of that confidence I have been searching for for so many years.  

See, unfortunately, confidence isn't something we are all born with.  Well, maybe we are but, for some, it's more difficult to find.  That would be me.  I have always struggled with believing in myself.  So, finding other things to celebrate and focus on other than weight were huge milestones for me.  I love that I wake up with a smile on my face almost every day.  Just two years ago, I never could have imagined that would happen.   

Figuring myself out has been and continues to be a long process.  But, it really is crazy to look back on these last 23 months and see just how much my life has changed for the better.  I have finally figured out how to put myself first without giving up the things that are important to me.  Balance is a struggle for me.  But, I do believe that each day I get a little better at it.  

It's difficult to sum up 2014 but, if I have to, I can just say that it's been a year of growth, change and even more self-discovery.  And, although this process can be difficult at times, every step is necessary. 

I'm so excited to see what 2015 has in store for me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated

Ever since I started writing it, I've used this blog to express myself because it really is the best way for me to share my thoughts, feelings, etc.  So, while I'm sure many people will have various opinions on what I am about to write, just know that it is my perspective on what is often a sensitive issue.  Given some recent events, it is something that I've thought about more over the last few days than I have in a long time. 

Bullying.  Unfortunately we hear about it all the time.  Too many kids are victims of all sorts of bullying.  And the definition of bullying has become so broad with increased availability of social media.  I'm only 34 years old.  According to some of my students, I'm not old.  Although there are times I feel that way.  That being said, it's astounding to me what kids today have to deal with on a regular basis.  I am thankful every day I grew up before social media existed.  Kids have 24/7 access to anyone.  Including people they want to taunt, tease or bully.  Home used to be a safe place for kids who were having a difficult time at school.  Unfortunately, that's often not the case anymore.  Don't get me wrong, most kids still feel safe at home, with their family, parents, etc.  But, they can no longer fully escape from the trials they go through on a daily basis unless they completely unplug from the world.  And, if you know any pre-teen or teenager, you know there is about a one in a million chance of that ever happening.  

I probably have a very different point of view on this because I've been on both sides of the equation.  I was bullied throughout middle school and high school.  It wasn't overt.  I never felt physically threatened.  But, emotionally, I was down on myself every day.  I never felt I could trust anyone.  The way people spoke to me and about me (when they knew I could hear them) was more hurtful than I could ever put into words.  To this day it affects me.  There were things posted in my locker from time to time that were extremely hurtful and untrue.  I kept it all to myself.  I don't know why.  Maybe because I was embarrassed.  Or because I didn't think anyone could do anything to stop it.  But, mostly, it was probably because I didn't want to know what would happen if I told on the people bullying me.  If I even knew who they were, which, sometimes I wasn't 100% sure.  While I so wished someone would see how much I was hurting, I wasn't willing to reach out for help.  I had plenty of adults that I trusted at school, but, deep down, I really think I was embarrassed.

As a guidance counselor for the last 11 years, I can see the other side of this issue.  I HATE hearing about kids being bullied.  I want to fix it for them.  But, I also can't help them if I don't know about it.  I am not a mind reader, although I wish I were at times.  Unfortunately, kids today will do exactly what I did 20 years ago - they'll keep it to themselves.  Being bullied is embarrassing.  It damages your self-esteem in ways I don't think everyone understands. 

My best advice is this - teach your children to love and respect one another and model that for them.  Even though I was bullied, it never entered my mind to react in a mean and spiteful way.  I wasn't raised that way.  Since the day I came into this world, my parents have demonstrated how to have love and respect for everyone you meet.  They raised me, my brother and my sister that way and I couldn't be more thankful for that.  It's not in my nature to be outright mean to others.  And I firmly believe that is because of the way I was raised.   If your child is being bullied, report it.  Immediately.   Don't be afraid.  As long as you treat people with respect, I honestly believe you (and your child) will be treated with respect with regards to your specific situation. Treat others as you would want to be treated. You know your child best.  If something doesn't seem right, don't be afraid to question it.  I know I got so mad at my parents when they would question me about lots of things.  Looking back now... it's because they cared.  And because they could see something was wrong. 

As I stated above, as a kid who was bullied, I kept it to myself.  To an extent, I shared some of it with my family but they never knew how bad I felt about it or myself.  I kept all of that inside.  And I never shared it with anyone at school.  Unfortunately, I think that is still the case with most kids today.  It's embarrassing to admit you are being bullied.  You don't want to draw attention to it.   But. that's exactly what needs to happen to begin to resolve any situation with regards to kids having a difficult time.

You might be thinking, why write about this now?  Well, because it is always a relevant topic.  But, also, because it is something that has affected me throughout my life.  I believe it was a huge part of the beginning of my depression (which I believe started back in my teenage years).  Thankfully, I didn't have access to the things kids see these days through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the internet and all the other resources out there. 

I think the bottom line is this - 

And, as I once heard at a school assembly - 

"People will never know how far a little kindness can go"    - Rachel Joy Scott

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Food?

I'm sure I've written about this before but it's something that resonates with me often.  I still struggle with my addiction to food.  Every day.  Just like anything else, an addiction to food can be very detrimental.  It can cause many problems, mental and physical.  

So, have you ever wondered why people eat as much as they do even when they probably aren't hungry... or why people eat a gallon of ice cream when they've had a bad day....or even why a scoop of peanut butter can make a piece of dark chocolate taste that much better when someone who strives to keep sweets out of her house has had a bad day?  It's about control.  Sometimes, the only thing we have control over in our lives is what we eat.  And, so, many people (including myself), use it as therapy.  

You would think, as adults, we have control over many parts of our lives, right?  Well, in some respects, yes.  I mean, we have control over whether or not we go to work, how much effort we put into our job on a daily basis, what our demeanor is like around others, etc.  But, if you've ever been at a point where you don't feel that way, you'll take control any way you can get it.  Often times, that need for control comes from something you may not understand.  For me, that was my depression.  

As a mental health professional, I thought I understood mental illness better than most people.  In retrospect, yeah, I probably do have a better understanding than many people.  However, it is so easy to miss those signs in yourself.  Or ignore them.  After all, I wasn't injuring myself in anyway, right?  Wrong.  Even though it wasn't visible, I was killing myself on the inside.  Food made me feel better.  For a few minutes.  It made me feel like I had control over something in my life.  Then I would get down on myself for giving in to eating crap.  A lot of crap.  And then I would look in the mirror.  All I could see was someone who was so unhealthy, I got to a point where I didn't see the point in trying to overcome what I had done to myself.  I figured I would just live the rest of my life in the body I had created on my own.  And be miserable.

Imagine my surprise when, once I was willing to admit that I was depressed, how different the idea of control became.  Take control over how I feel on a daily basis.  Do what the doctor says.  Use the resources that have always been right in front of me (namely, my family) as well as the new ones that were presented to me.  Understand that it takes time.  I didn't get to where I was physically, emotionally, mentally overnight.  I'm not going to figure all this out overnight.  But, each step I take, gives me just a little bit more of that control that I have longed to have in my life.  

So, where did all of these thoughts come from?  Well, I went in for a physical with my doctor today for the first time in over ten years.  Don't ask me why it took me so long.  Probably because I wasn't ready to face the music for so long.  He told me I was boring.  Which I took as a compliment.   A doctor is probably the only person you want to tell you that you're boring.  And, when he asked me how my brain was, I understood exactly what he was asking and could honestly say, it's great.  I'm happy.  I smile.  I laugh.  I have rough moments and days.  But, thankfully, they are few and far between.  He said, "isn't it amazing how exercise makes you feel?".  And, to sum up my answer in one word, yes.  Stress relief.  Accomplishments.  Physical, Mental and Emotional fitness.  Crazy what taking just a little time for myself every day can do on so many levels.  

And, as I've gone through all of this, I believe it has made me more keenly aware of what the kids I work with are going through.  See, if I look back on it, I'm sure I was depressed as a teenager.  People who knew me then can probably attest to that.  And, 20 years ago, depression wasn't something that was talked about for teenagers.  It's hard for me to remember ever being truly happy before the last two years.  I could put on a front of happiness but, deep down, I think I always knew I wasn't whole.  I write this,  not to make people feel sorry for me because that is the last thing I want.  I've had enough of that in my life.  I just want people to have a better understanding of what people who struggle with depression go through.  It isn't something we can control or just "snap out of" when we want to.  I've learned how to control mine.  And live with it.  I work every day to not make food my comfort drug.   Finding my purpose in life is my goal.  I know I grow a little each day and I am so unbelievable grateful for that in more ways than I could ever say.   

If you struggle, find a healthy way to take control.  If you know someone who is struggling, don't give up on them.  Often when they push you away the most is when they need you the most.  

It's never too late for a new beginning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Find the Good

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.

You might be thinking, what on earth is this girl thinking?  How is there opportunity during a difficult time?  Well, I guess maybe you have to do some soul searching to really figure this out.  I know I did.  And, when I go through difficult times, I have to really look inside myself to figure out what about this situation I'm in is going to make me a better person. 

I have had my fair share of difficult experiences.  No need to dwell on them.  But, I will say, they are the foundation on which I built a large part of my life prior to January 2013.  And that's not a good place to be.  Trust me.  When I dwell on the negative, my life becomes negative.  It's crazy to look back and see just how negative life used to be for me.  I couldn't see it.  A big part of me probably didn't want to see it because that would mean I would have to face a lot of things about myself and life that I wasn't ready to look at in an honest way.

So, when I finally decided that I had to figure out how to deal with A LOT of "stuff", I took the chance to see what opportunities I could find. Well, not right away.  I was in such a fog a couple of years ago.  All the emotion that came pouring out of me when my mom took the time to confront me about a lot of things.  I was exhausted.  Mentally and physically.  But, when I started to formulate a bit of a plan, I could see the opportunities I might have.  Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I like to have a plan.  When I know what's going to happen, I can function so much better.  Although I have become much more easygoing, I can honestly say this is a way I keep control of life.  Even in a small way.  

However, the way I see it, a little control is a good thing.  I know what works for me.  And how I can maintain a healthy balance in my life.  It has taken me so long to get to this point.  And I know I still have so much more growing and "figuring out life" to go through.  But, I'm having fun.  How many people are lucky enough to say that?

My opportunities through all of the difficulties I have worked my way through have been plentiful.  And they still pop up when I least expect them.  I'm not sure I can limit it to 3, but, if I were to list the top ones, they would be:

1.  Friendship.  In more ways than I could have ever imagined.  I have been so blessed to meet some amazing people over the last 2 years, some of which have become very good friends of mine.  And they each have brought and continue to bring various blessings to my life.
2. Health - More than just weight loss, I feel healthy for the first time in a long time.  I can run around, I like to be active and my stress level is minimal most days because I use working out as my stress relief.  So much healthier than eating a bunch of chocolate!
3. Happiness - When you've lived the majority of your life not feeling genuinely happy, to experience it is just an unbelievable feeling.  I walk around with a genuine smile on my face.  And, most days, I can see the happiness in my own eyes.  When I see pictures of myself from a few years ago, I can't believe the sadness in my eyes that I never knew was there.  I'll never go back there.  Because now that I've experienced being happy, I can't imagine living life any other way.

Once you find good things in your life, the rest will start to fall into place.  I still have things going on but I am finding that, with each step I take, life gets a little happier and there's a little less weight on my shoulders.

Find the Good.  It's all around you.  Find it, showcase it, and you'll start believing in it.

I did.  And I do.