Remember when I took medical leave

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I don’t know how to start this. Part of me wants to be sing-songy because that’s where my heart sits right now, but I’m unsure.

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words – the joke with my friends, and sometimes with you, is that I’m full of words.

I love language.

Words are powerful.

Actions are more meaningful, but when words combine with actions – magic happens. Trust and mindset shifts and love and hope – so many things form when these combine.

I love communication.

I love behavior and observing. Hand gestures, facial expressions, eye-rolls. Our willingness to sit in discomfort to show up.

This post sits differently because it makes me time travel and that feels hard.

It’s been five years since I took my medical leave because of symptoms of my PTSD. Actually, yesterday – it’s been five years as of yesterday.

Five years feels like it’s so long ago, especially with a pandemic that has lasted 19 months. But 5 years isn’t much, however, at 32 it’s just about a sixth of my life, so maybe it is a lot.

If I count the days – it’s been 1,827 days.

And that number is overwhelming.

When I took medical leave, I told you. I didn’t tell you everything because I was still processing, but I told you a lot.

I wanted to share because we don’t talk about mental health enough. And in five years, we STILL don’t discuss it openly. This is wildly harmful, especially as we’re STILL living through a pandemic that has isolated many, throw routines in a blender and killed thousands. While there isn’t definitive data on suicide rates during the COVID pandemic, the CDC reported that at least 40 percent of adults in the US struggled with anxiety, depression, trauma and substance use disorders since the beginning of the pandemic. Symptoms of anxiety and depression had quadrupled in the beginning months.

We need to do better. I digress.

I got a lot of hate for sharing about my mental health status and how I was using (legally and suggested) FMLA. The hate wasn’t imaginary – I had a lot of trolling. I’m sure many of remember comments and how reactionary I was. I was not in a mindset to handle negativity that was pellet my way. And pelleted is a good word here. Not only did I receive direct messages from fake accounts on social media, but emails too.

I was told I was faking it. That I was undeserving. That others had it worse – of course others do, but that doesn’t negate my experiences.

I had a hard time understanding the concept of trolling. I invest myself in people that have meaning to me and maybe it was and is my outlook on life, but actively and intentionally hurting others doesn’t lift me up. It doesn’t change anything for me and it sounds like a waste of fucking time.

Through a significant amount of therapy and self-questioning and acceptance + a little bit of reading, I’m much more wise now with where I invest my energy. I don’t want to shy away from the significantly problematic and malicious comments that are fired off from keyboard warriors – these absolutely need to be called out. Not just about mental health, but racism, sexism and misogyny. When we brush these comments off and make attempts at ignoring, we’re ultimately giving them permission to exist.

I think I need to say it because pivoting will help me and this gives you some context.

I will says as a health coach often, I’m sure you’ve seen me phrase things like this before either here or on Instagram. It allows me to disconnect a bit and think about how I do and try [and how we can be leaders with each other] to show up in society so that these conversations are occurring more often and clearly and with empathy so that lived experiences are always validated.

I took medical leave for 12 weeks in 2016 and that wasn’t the end of healing. I took steps and had milestone.

I left fundraising and went back to school, which reignited me. I started coaching in a goal setting capacity, which I and my clients felt confident about because of my personal and professional experience and education. As I continued my education, coaching evolved. I evolved.

I connected, I volunteered – I still do.

I worked as an office and medical assistant for a chiropractic clinic – actually my chiropractor. She was amazingly supportive of my education and professional growth. She gave me opportunities to improve systems in the office and streamline protocols so we could support patients better. She also cared about me personally and my mental health. This helped me through this transition in my life with school.

I graduated with my associate’s in public health, I had a job on a project team that was collaborating with the Ministry of Health in Liberia on Ebola – and decided global health wasn’t where my heart was. I pivoted again to refocus on coaching.

I continued to grow my coaching skills, I became certified (which may shock you, isn’t necessary in ANY state in the US) as a health coach, then as a fitness nutrition specialist, then a powerlifting coach. I’ve taken continuing education focusing on nutrition among various populations including those with specific chronic conditions like thyroid disease, PCOS and diabetes, how to support religious clients as I’ve worked with many who practice fasting and hold their faith close to them. I’ve had the opportunity to attend nutrition conferences, present on cognitive distortions, support bariatric patients and connect with RD’s who trust me to continue their work.

I’ve also explored creative outlets like poetry that personally influence me and ultimately my coaching and give my clients more tools.

I’ve met clients in person after coaching them virtually.

I’ve allowed myself to drop many labels and explore how I like to eat, how I like to enjoy movement, what boundaries I need for me and how I can support others in creating ones that support them too.

I’ve taken pre-reqs and I’m finally out of my own way and my graduate application will be submitted by the end of this month.

I’ve moved. I’m starting over. I’ve left a relationship. I’ve explored many others. I’ve found a nee one. My heart is happy.

My head is tired. But I’m here and I’m so excited to be.

I’m still healing.

I’m still growing.

I still feel like I fail all the time.

This never stops. The work never stops.

But we get stronger. We learn more about ourselves and we learn radical acceptance.

I’ve learned that despite what the troll under the bridge thinks, I can support others and I do, I am a good coach, I am a good trainer. I have humility to help find answers when I don’t have them.

I not only listen, but I hear you because I know what it’s like to not be heard and how hard that is.

It’s like Ariel – you open your mouth and you think the words are falling off of your tongue, but only air comes out. So you sit and smile.

In five years, I finally feel free.