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Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Tag Archives: mental health

No one is immune.

There are some things we just don’t grow out of, no matter how much we want to or how hard we try.

For some, it may be hard to look in the mirror and see the person standing in front of them instead of the person they used to be. For others, it may be how they think about their environment or how they respond to it. These may be things that we work on piece-by-piece by never fully let go.

I’m sure you’re noticing a pattern by now with how I talk with my clients and try to talk to myself. So I have no issues saying again, this is something I talk to my clients about often because this is also something I tell myself.

Behavior change is hard. I’ve talked about that before. You need to be ready for it. That being said, once you’ve felt good about making changes and you’ve practiced them, it can STILL be hard. Our behavior is a result of many things, it’s more than we “know”.

There’s two conversations going on in my head and I apologize if they get a bit jumbled, but they intertwine.

The first is reminding you that I was diagnosed with PTSD after college and just after I started losing weight. Around the time I was diagnosed with PTSD, I was also diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and anxiety. At the time I didn’t understand that multiple disorders could be diagnosed. Now, I know that it’s called concurrent disorders and it’s more common than we think.

I took medical leave almost two years ago because of my PTSD, and while I had been diagnosed four years before, I had never struggled with flashbacks, anxiety attacks and disassociation as intensely as I did when I started medical leave.

During college, food was a source of comfort for me like it is for many. It was part of socializing, it was part of coping, it was everything.

I know now that the behaviors I had that led to my weight gain were also related to my mental health. Honestly, as a college student, that wasn’t something I had considered before.

Seven months after college, I started to lose weight because I felt like I couldn’t control anything around me and this was something I knew was about my behavior. After I started losing weight, I had struggled with my eating in spurts around times of high stress, sometimes for a few days at a time, but never for longer than that. I never thought of this as more than stress-eating.

It was weird when my therapist at the time said I had binge-eating disorder. Our sessions revolved around growing up in an abusive household and how it impacted me in the present day. We talked about my relationships and the life I was creating for myself and making connections with previous experience and behavior to current experiences and behaviors. It was weird when a second therapist also agreed that I had an eating-disorder.

When I’m in good headspace, I don’t struggle with eating or decision-making or sticking to whatever “plan” I have at the time – that goes for sleep schedule, workouts, as well as eating – all aspects.

The second is telling you that I do feel good about where I’m at with everything. It’s been a weird year schedule wise, but I feel like I’ve gotten a good handle on adjusting priorities and creating a lifestyle that works for the current time.

Some of the feelings I’m going to talk about came to a surprise to me because I’m not 100% sure where they came from.

I’m also sure some things I will say may sound like they’re contradictory.

Let’s start at the beginning-ish.

In the beginning, when there were dinosaurs and I felt like change and progress were going to take forever – portion control meant eating smaller portions than what I had been, i.e. putting less on my plate and therefore in my mouth. This meaning was easy to follow because my daily diet was out-of-control and it wasn’t hard to just decrease my portions.

Eventually portion control meant making the decision to either follow the specific serving size on a package or to have a portion of that size, i.e. sometimes I have one serving, sometimes I have two, sometimes I have half a serving, etc. This was more structured and specific to my goals.

When I was competing, the above concept of portion control was a bit more meticulous. While I still chose to have one or two servings, I was more precise with my measurements.

So, I repeat – when I’m in good headspace – adherence isn’t hard for me. I’m deadline driven. I thrive in a goal-oriented environment. In isolation, the weight loss portion of my journey wasn’t hard because I had no issues sticking to smaller portions and moderating my food or working out – it was everything else in my environment that made it hard.

Today, even though I’m focusing on developing my strength and body re-composition, I’m allowing some flexibility with my eating, which means it might not be so perfect. Real life isn’t perfect. For me, I need to be flexible – I want to be flexible, otherwise, I think we find ourselves upset in every situation that we believe we have no say in or is out of our control.

I don’t have off-limit foods. I truly try to be flexible within macro-counting. I don’t eat foods I don’t like. I also try to change up my meals and be creative because you can’t live your life on a meal plan. When I’m not tracking everything, I have an 70/30 or 60/40 rule – track most things, but work on making good choices.

When JP and I go out to eat, I always get something I won’t cook for myself at home – like fish. I just can’t cook it the way they do at the restaurant. I’ll also get something slightly ridiculous like a burger with every topping on it because it’s not something I would do regularly anyway.

When we get dessert to bring home from local bakeries, my thought process is usually these will be here tomorrow and the next day and the next, so picking up the number we want is enough for now. We usually pick up two (depending on the size) and we split them. I pick one and JP will pick one. We don’t usually bring home more than we’re going to eat that day.

However, sometimes, when I’m trying to decide about something we don’t have often, I do struggle to finalize my choice. I may change my choice three or four times. I may say it out loud and talk to JP about it. Sometimes I go back to my first choice because there’s a reason I said it first, even if I don’t know it.

This is struggle I found myself in Sunday morning when we went to get bagels.

We always have bread in the house. Bread isn’t special. We make sandwiches a few times a week with whole grain bread and it’s satisfying enough – fiber, vitamins, all the things a grain should provide.

We always have English muffins in the house too. We probably eat them twice a week and since we don’t buy burger buns, sometimes we use plain English muffins in place of those. If you’re making a face at that, you don’t know the magic of a toasted English muffin and how it holds your burger patty and toppings in place!

We don’t keep bagels in the house. I’m not really sure why, but it’s probably because the size of the English muffin is enough to satisfy the craving and provide fullness without being too full. Sometimes a bagel can be too much.

There’s a bagel place by JP’s parent’s house called Gunther Tootie’s. The name always makes me giggle and their bagels fill me up for hours. I usually get a breakfast sandwich and that accounts for breakfast and a snack because it really is that filling for me.

I like to plan what I’m getting when I go out, but at 29, I also know what I like to eat. I know that I don’t like poppy seed bagels, but I do like lemon poppy seed muffins. I know that I like the idea of everything bagels, but I don’t like the mess they create so I never get them. Maybe I’m a pain in the ass, but I’ve talked to pickier eaters.

The conversation I usually have with myself and even with JP when he’s deciding is – sweet or savory? What am I trying to satisfy because let’s face it – this is about taste. From there I’ll ask what stands out that sounds good and what will keep you satisfied. I do ask myself about satisfaction in relation to fullness because I don’t like to be hungry after I’ve eaten a meal that I believe should’ve kept me full. I also ask about satisfaction in relation to taste because 1. I should like the taste 2. Food is also about experience. Everything has its place: fuel, experience, nutrients.

Yesterday morning I knew I wanted a bagel, obviously. I figured I would probably get a bagel sandwich, but I couldn’t decide between sweet and savory. My first choice was a bagel with salmon because we NEVER buy salmon. I then went down the rabbit hole of should I get this, or should I get a bacon, egg and cheese, maybe I should get a chocolate chip bagel and honey walnut cream cheese.

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In my head, I probably went through five or six choices and then said to JP, “I think I’m going to get salmon on a rainbow bagel, and I’d like to bring home two bagels for us to have for breakfast this week.”

He looked at me and said “yeah, we could do that.”

So, I ordered a rainbow bagel with salmon, regular cream cheese, red onion and tomato to eat right then and a chocolate chip bagel and an onion bagel for later this week. They’re already planned for breakfast on Tuesday.

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This was the compromise for the battle in my head.

I know it’s one that many others face too.

Here’s what I know about this battle.

  1. I know that the bagels aren’t going anywhere, at least from what I know about this business – they aren’t going anywhere. And if they were, there’s other places that bagels can be obtained. I also know that it doesn’t matter that I know that. This kind of thinking is associated with disordered eating behavior and eating disorders – and yes, these are different, but connected concepts.
  2. I know that it’s ok to not have a perfect plan or to change your mind and therefore alter the plan. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to be in the mood for, but this was more than not being able to decide what I thought would taste good. This was a moment I felt that I wasn’t in control of my relationship with food.

We have many relationships. We have relationships with people around us. We have relationships with ourselves. We also have relationships with food. Our relationships impact our decision-making process in both positive and negative ways. They create our environment.

These are two of the most important questions I ask clients – who or what is in your environment and what are these relationships like?

These are also questions I ask and reevaluate in my own journey.

Who or what is in my environment and what is the impact they are having on me.

Right now, so many exciting things are happening, and I never thought I would get here. It’s overwhelming. It’s a good overwhelming, but with the excitement comes fear and doubt of something new. I don’t always feel it, but sometimes it creeps in.  Sometimes it puts pressure on the other relationships I have.

For me acknowledging the feeling in general is a good step. Talking about how it’s impacting other aspects of my life is another.

My relationship with food isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it used to be, it’s a work-in-progress.

Trusting myself is going to be an ongoing project and that’s okay.

Great relationships take work and time. I’m not in a rush.

 

❤ Cristina

*If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder or disordered behavior patterns, please seek proper professional assistance. The National Eating Disorders Association has a helpline that’s open 24-hours a day. If you don’t think your behavior warrants that call, consider reaching out to a therapist in your area who can assist your specific needs.

 

 

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We’re shifting. I’ve been running on movie quotes this year and JP and I have been watching A LOT of movies. The spring was tough and there were more date night’s in,s o we revisited some of our favorites and found some new ones. Some inspired me and struck something that made me want to write.

But I’ve been working on writing more in a different way. Not just blogging or the workbook, but journaling and writing just to write. My friend Kara started a writing group for about a dozen of us using a writing challenge that prompts us daily. The prompts may be quotes, it may be a photo, but regardless you’re encouraged to write what comes to mind that day.

There have been some where I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of my head on paper and others that frustrated me and left me pondering for most of the day.

This was Day 8.

day 8 bravery

Bravery.

My first thought was self-demeaning.

I am not brave.

I then thought of all the times that I’ve been told I’m brave.

I reached out to Kara and said in not as many words, this post was something I wanted to expand on outside of the group. I asked her to co-write a blog post with our view points of bravery.

As you read through our perspectives, I want you to ask yourself what brave means to you now. Has it ever changed it’s meaning? Do you think it can continue to evolve for you?

I also want you to consider its Google definition – you know, when you search Google like this: def:bravery.

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Here’s Kara’s point-of-view.

Moments of bravery go unnoticed every day, while moments of pride and vanity are heralded as heroism.  Because bravery means something different to each individual, because we all have our own fears – both acknowledged and hidden – bravery takes many forms.

The definition of bravery that resonates the most with me is from Merriam-Webster’s latest edition, “Having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty”.

Is it brave to commit yourself to defending your country? 

Absolutely.

Is it brave to put your life in danger to save the life of another?

Most definitely.

It’s also brave to get out of bed in the morning when every part of you hurts, and you just don’t think you can do it.

It’s brave to try something new that takes you out of your comfort zone, knowing failure is the likely outcome.

It’s brave to find the lesson in the failure and try again, over and over.

It’s brave to speak up and share your truth when you know your perspective is different.

It is brave to form your own path, often walking away from what is comfortable, expected, and accepted.

In the last year, I have been called brave more than perhaps any other time in my life.  Due to a series of localized tragedies that the CDC has deemed a “suicide contagion,” I decided to share my story.

I spoke to my high school classes, and eventually to the entire student body, about being a survivor of multiple suicide attempts.

I have always been open about my experiences with mental illness, both in person and on social media.  Hiding who I am and how I am struggling is something that I decided long ago that I would not do. Pretending that they don’t affect me every minute of every day isn’t helping anyone.

During moments of openness about mental illness, I have often been told how brave I am to share my struggles. To me, this isn’t brave. This is just being who I am and not being ashamed.

I share my experiences because I hope to find connection with others, along with understanding. I do not want pity, but I do want others who may be fighting their own battles silently to know that they are not alone.

Ironically, the moments in my life when I have felt the most brave probably wouldn’t be what most consider brave actions. It was the moment that I stepped away from a relationship that on the surface looked perfect, but underneath was damaging.  Or the first time that I put myself first, rather than fulfilling my lifelong role as a people pleaser. It was finding genuine happiness for a friend at her baby shower, days after I had miscarried. It was willingly putting myself into a situation that I knew would induce panic, because I know it’s part of the process of healing.

Each of these moments were terrifying and overwhelming for me. In every instance, I convinced myself that catastrophic repercussions and failure were imminent. However, these moments of self-doubt ultimately became moments of self-discovery.

The grandiose and the quiet moments of bravery should be equally celebrated and appreciated.  Growth, both individual and societal, can only come from moments of bravery.


Here’s Cristina’s point-of-view.

I hate the word brave.

I know we all have our own definition, but I feel like people confused bravery with doing the right thing or doing what it takes to be successful or doing what is necessary to live your life fully.
I’ve been brave for putting on heels and a bikini.
I’ve been brave for talking about my PTSD.
I’ve been brave for calling out online bullies.
I’ve been brave for telling people about my bad days.
I’ve been brave for wearing stripes.
I’ve been brave for having skin removal surgery.
I’ve been brave wearing “that color” or “that style”.
Why are these things brave?

I think that many people view behaviors that they wouldn’t exemplify as brave. They wouldn’t wear stripes or talk about mental health – so it must be brave. For me, I know it has nothing to do with things I wouldn’t do.

I think it has to do with things that leave me in awe.

I saw brave in my older sister who stepped between me and mom when I was in third grade. It was the first time my mom hit me, and it was the first time I realized that if my big sister was around I would be safe.

I saw brave when a friend told me she went back to therapy. She’s capable of problem-solving and she’s capable of making connections and then making a plan, but I also believe that this assistance will guide her to peak greatness. I believe that she will be able to grow more fully and asking for help and putting trust in someone else is brave.

I saw brave when a client told me she was leaving her corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom and teach her sons herself. This was a powerful declaration of “I can” from this client and my heart clapped and cheered for her because while I knew she was terrified inside, she was still taking this step.

I have felt brave when getting out of the shower on days I thought I couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes I stay in the shower longer because I’m thinking and when I’ve come to my conclusion I’ll feel ready to step and out go into the world. But on days when it’s bad, getting in to begin with is a project and the feeling of readiness to take on the world (as it feels) seems like a burden.

I have felt brave when I trust myself to be capable in the gym, as a coach, as a partner. I have more doubt than I want to admit, but writing it out makes me face it and makes me think about where it comes from.

I feel brave when being myself. Growing up, if I was bullied my dad always asked what I did wrong or what I did to draw the bully’s attention. It was never about the wrongness in their behavior but identifying that there must be something wrong with mine. I am not wrong and it took a long time to see that and to feel that.

When I was a kid, I think I just wanted to be happy. As an adult there has never been a point in my life where I have thought, I want to martyr for the cause.

I don’t want to be brave.

I just want people to look at me and see normal people can do extraordinary things when they work hard. That normal people change the world. That we can live our lives to the fullest without labels of our accomplishments.

❤ Cristina and Kara


Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is… nothing!

Po: Huh?

Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.

Po: Wait, wait… it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?

Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.

[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it]

Po: There is no secret ingredient…

Capability.

Imposture syndrome.

Being enough.

These are things I’ve talked about a lot before, but as the semester winds down, these words and phrases keep creeping in. I know there are a lot of other students getting ready to graduate – all different ages that are feeling this way. I know there are people out there looking to change jobs that also feel this way.

New is scary, but new is necessary.

I started looking for jobs in February and started applying at the beginning of March, but this past week as I’ve been looking through descriptions, reading through organizational missions and sending applications and emails into cyberspace, I find myself questioning myself all over again.

While I have no issues blogging or talking on Facebook live, it’s a different ballgame writing cover letters and interviewing.

I fear that I’m not doing enough.

I fear that what I am capable of isn’t enough.

I fear that I’m in a gray area with my professional experience as a manager, a fundraiser, a strategic planner and my education. I am qualified for many jobs I’m looking at, but that doesn’t make cross-referencing my experience with descriptions less nerve-racking.

Can other job seekers raise their hands?

It’s when these phrases get into my head that I get worked up and frustrated. It’s here when I have to force myself to step back and think of everything that has happened the past decade – fieldwork, jobs, volunteering and conference presentations… relationships, scholarships created, programs designed and implemented and then evaluated. There’s a lot and I forget it all the time.

Undergrad seems so far away, my master’s seems like yesterday and I’m excited to be here, but I’m in awe of how I arrived here and how fast.

There’s no magic pill or special directions to follow.We create opportunities each day. We do what we can with what we have.

We are the magic. We just need to believe it. If we believe then others will too.

So for the next few weeks, along side my physical health goals, I’m planning time to sit down and journal at the end of the week to reflect on everything that I’ve accomplished and how I feel about progress.

I ask my clients to reflect about the good and the bad and everything in between, but I need to take my own advice and get it down on paper. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the feeling of incapability, but I’m working on it.

Acknowledging it and talking it out helps even if it’s just with myself. I have a few pages left in my journal before I need to find a new one so I might as well fill those pages before starting a new part of my life.

Then the hunt for a fresh journal will start.

So for today, I’m doing what I can with what I have with the time given. Things will fall into place when the timing is right.

❤ Cristina

 

 

 

 

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In 2016, I asked my friend Alicia to write about what it was like to be a college kid trying to be fit, and trying to figure out what health meant for her. She wrote three posts.

Her first post in her own series talked about her past and how she got to where she was. She discussed her own eating disorder, but that she didn’t even recognize the behavior as a problem. She mentions that even though she had been diagnosed, recovery had been brushed off by professionals and it was left up to her and her parents to determine the next steps without guidance.

Her second post talked about preparing for her junior year. Getting ready for the semester and how she was planning for it. She made some suggestions for others based on what worked for her.

In her third post, Alicia talked about mental health and school work and the transition of her boyfriend moving out of the state to head to graduate school while she was still in her undergraduate career. She talked about how even though she planned for the semester, she still found herself making new plans.

She says she’s not a great writer, but when we talk all I can think of is how her perspective is important, even when the conversation is all over the place. During a recent conversation I asked her to think about writing again. She’s a senior now and almost done with school. In the past year, the meaning of health has changed for her. Her thoughts about her career after school have changed. The way she talks about herself has changed.

Below is her fourth post.


I’m a busy person.

I am one of those people who cannot sit still, I have to keep myself busy, whether it is homework, lifting, cooking or working. I grew up in a family of workers. My mom works two jobs and my dad owns a business and works three part-time jobs.  I currently work three jobs and am a full-time undergraduate student. As you can see, I often barely have time to breathe. My mindset typically as a student is to do homework, go to work, get a workout in and strive to do the best that I can do.

When it comes time for a break from school, it is hard for me to deal with it. I do pick up more hours at my jobs, but I often come home and feel like I’m not being productive because I don’t have school work to do.

With having a month off of school for winter break, I found myself actually bored (I was shocked myself).  Realizing that I had so much time to do whatever I wanted was honestly very hard for me to grasp. I am a planner. I like to plan my days because it helps me not to feel rushed throughout the day especially if it is busy.  When I looked at my days and saw that I only had to work a 5 hour shift and nothing else, it was shocking. I never have time to myself, I don’t give myself even 10 minutes sometimes to sit down and reflect on the day, even though that is something that I like to do.

Shifting my mindset to not being busy is often very hard for me. I don’t go out much, I am very introverted, and that is one of the reasons that I work and stay busy with school work. While I was on my winter break I would  stay home typically with my dog #DogMomLife. I was able to give myself time to go to the gym because I had more than an hour. I didn’t have to worry about having to rush through a workout.

I had a week to myself where I worked a very little amount of hours and got to spend time with my boyfriend who was in from Connecticut.  For once, we got to enjoy time together and again, not feel rushed. There were days we got to spend the whole day together, not everyday because my work schedule, but it was still more than we’re used to.

Classes have just started and the realization that this is my last semester of my undergraduate career has finally set in and I’m having to shift my mindset again.

My mindset goes back to school comes first. I have to get back to being busy, to planning my days out in my planner, and trying not to be overwhelmed.  However, this semester – by planning my days out, I’ll make sure that I have at least a half hour to myself where I can go to the gym or just meditate.

Having a different mindset is not a bad thing, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Changing mindset to fit your current life can spark your motivation, push you forward and help you reassess the direction you want to take.

 


I know I’m not alone in feeling that some days I’m just keeping my head above water. I’ve said it before, and I’m gonna say it now too, every day is what you make of it. If you have an outlook that it’s going to be a good day the chances are a lot higher that that’s going to be true. The same goes for negative thoughts going into a new day as well. I make lists to keep me organized and to give me some sense of control. I’m the kind of person that needs to see things being checked off as they happen. I’m not unique in this way, they call those people Type A.

I keep a handwritten calendar and a digital calendar just so I always have a place to write things down at all times. My handwritten calendar is at home and sits on my desk or in bed with me while I do homework or client check-ins. I keep a notebook on me at all times so I can jot down ideas as they come and go, mostly for stress relief, but sometimes just to write something that I’m thinking about. I blog because writing helps get everything out of my head and onto a screen so that I can reread it and make sure that I’m able to make some sense of it.

But through my lists, calendars and words sometimes it’s seems like I’m just going through the motions. Sometimes I feel like there’s a current pushing against me and pulling me down. And sometimes it’s in my head. I tell my clients it’s about stepping back and saying “no one is making you do all of these things. These are things that you want for yourself, for the long term, to better your opportunities.” And sometimes I remind them that it’s it’s OK to sink to the bottom and look around before bobbing right back up to the top.

Today I’m reminding myself of this. I just need to make sure that I get a big gulp of air just in case I sink down again.
Two weeks ago I was given my work schedule and I was booked for full-time hours. I wasn’t hired to be full-time, that’s not part of the plan. I’m going to school full-time and I’m coaching at what I consider to be a full-time caseload.  Working a retail job full-time was never part of the plan. I pointed this out to my manager and he told me that he felt bad because he knew I wasn’t making a lot. I told him I never approached him about getting more hours so he should’ve never assumed that this would’ve been OK – he needs to ask me before adding this many hours to my plate. I told him that I would try to handle it because I didn’t want to put him in a position since the schedule was already made, but the sinking feeling has been happening on and off. For those who don’t work retail – part-time is about 20 to 30 hours, but I was supposed to be scheduled for about 25-27; full-time is 30 to 40. The past two weeks I’ve been booked for 36ish hours, not including breaks.

I’ve got a lot going on, I like it that way, but after being on leave for so long it’s an adjustment being this busy again. I’ve been steadily chipping away at my lists and making sure I can check things off, but as each day passes and to-dos are completed, more are added to the list. Because I recognize that I was going to become overwhelmed, I decided to not take on 12 clients this month. I had a few clients tell me that they wanted to take charge and go on their own, something that I definitely encourage. It’s an opportunity for them to take with they’ve learned and apply it on their own terms, but there’s also allowed me to downsize slightly. For me this meant instead of 12 I took on eight individuals. That’s a manageable number, some of them are reoccurring and some of them are new, which means they’re on different check-in schedules.

Today started as an amazing day and I’m going to try to finish it that way, but right now as I’m writing this I’m frustrated. I’m stalled in one of my papers, and struggling to get the words out. The other paper I have no issue with and the outline itself is about the length of the paper supposed to be. But – I have a few chapters of reading I need to get done too and discussions. Just because there’s a paper to write doesn’t mean that the rest of the work is paused.

I was supposed to have therapy today, but since we went to an every other week schedule, he took me out completely. I need to send him an email to reschedule, but I also need to look at my calendar and see when I have time. Sadly I fear that I won’t have time for at least two weeks because of class and my outside-of-the-house job. I had some things I wanted to talk to him about – classes and work, personal things like prep and JP. I talk to JP and I talk to friends, but being in therapy is different.

I just wanted the break from everything. I love the gym because it gives me a place to release energy, but that doesn’t mean I have the chance to get thoughts out of my head – that’s what therapy and writing are for.

Right now, I don’t want to go to work because when I finish posting this I’m going to be highlighting through journal articles for my paper, which has had to evolve into something more broad due to lack of accessible research. I can think of all the other things I need and want to get done. I’m working on dividing my list: things that NEED to get done and things I WANT to get done. Ultimately, I WANT to get the dishes cleaned and out of the sink, but that can wait until tomorrow. I’m sure some of you could argue that I didn’t NEED to go to the gym, but ultimately – I did, that’s part of the plan. I did cut off two exercises for timing and went as hard as I could with what was on the agenda.

So the plan for the rest of the day is to at least pretend to breathe, make a cup of tea, knock out at least another paragraph of my paper, set a timer to work on client work and head off to work for the night. I’m bringing a text book to work tonight to read at least a chapter and check that off the list.

I have two more shifts this week and I have Friday off from my out-of-the-house job, which will give me time for writing my papers and client work. If I can just make it through this week, I will be gold.

On a positive note, even with this frustration I don’t feel anywhere near as stressed as I did months ago. That’s still something.

❤ Cristina


This week my manager and I were talking about my weightloss journey. He’s bulking and I’m cutting again. There’s also another employee who’s cutting for figure. We work at a supplement store so I assumed it would be common practice for the employees to be this way.

I showed him a transformation photo. Actually, I showed him this one.

He looked at it and then looked away. Then he asked to look at it again. He said it didn’t look like me, and I agree. I think there’s features that you can see of my current face in my old face. But it’s not me anymore. I’ve talked a lot about the mental growth that you can’t see in the photos that we all share. I’ve talked about the struggles that you can’t see either.

For me, this whole journey was about re-gaining confidence and pushing myself to new limits. Not only telling myself I can accomplish great things, but then actually following through. It was about proving myself wrong because more importantly this is for me and no one else. Taking risks and  learning a lot of new things along the way. I’ve told you this before. This isn’t anything new. This is what the journey is about.

But I guess something that we’ve never really talked about is happiness. We’ve talked about how goals evolve and how methods need to be flexible to support new and evolving goals, but what about happiness. What does happiness look like at different stages?

My manager kind of asked about this. He said you’re smiling in the photo, didn’t you know you were that big. Had this been someone online, I would’ve been pissed because that’s such an odd thing to say. But since there was some context to our conversation, I just explained – it was the Senior Ball during Senior Week in college and it was a lot of fun, I was still happy as a heavier person. As a fat person I was still happy. Size doesn’t dictate true happiness.

This I believe wholeheartedly.

Today I pull happiness from a latte or a homemade cookie from the farmer’s market. I pull happiness from a cup of tea waiting for me at the end of a long day. I find enjoyment from hearing that a client believes their week was successful even if there were a few bumps in the road – they are learning to not be so hard on themselves.

Before, I remember being excited for a nice day to be outside with friends on campus drinking a beer. Not wanting to miss a moment and being pissed when I was stuck in biology lab on a Tuesday night because night class sounded like a good idea at the time. I didn’t want to be left out. I found happiness in all experience – good and those to never be re-visited.

When people tell us that we’re fat or were fat or are getting fat, they’re not telling us something we don’t already know. I knew I was getting heavy, but I chose to not care. As my waist grew so did my defensive humor, and now as a more fit person my comebacks are fast and I’m considered witty. Go figure that was used to deflect before. When I started losing weight, I started for find happiness in places I never thought I would like the gym or trying a new recipe modification.

Clearly, I have always loved food and I am a self proclaimed foodie, but I had never been this creative in the kitchen before. Now, I’ve set boundaries. Not everything should be healthy, some things are best when the stick of butter stays or you sneak in extra peanut butter. Happiness is when JP will try some random creation and actually enjoys it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be sad sometimes. Go ahead and cry if that’s going to help. Scream if you need to, but try to not break your cell phone – nothing is worth a cracked screen.

We all experience sadness differently. Don’t think just because someone shows you highlights online that they are never sad. Some are just better at hiding it. I think frustration can fall into that as well. I still get sad or angry or frustrated when I don’t do something well that I know I’m capable of doing. Again, I don’t think size dictates how you feel about anything – you don’t lose your emotions when you lose weight. You may gain some perspective, but I don’t think you completely change your emotional thought process.

I look back on photos and try remembering what was happening when it was captured. Some smiles are genuine and others are cheesy, some have terrible angles because that’s how I thought I could make myself look thinner. No, Cristina, that’s not how that works at all. You just look like you have a broken neck – oh well, lesson learned. Also, duck face, not cute. Try again. I never thought about if I was unhappy. Of course I had times of sadness and times I didn’t like my size, but I don’t think I would’ve ever allowed that to consume everything I had. I had a lot of sadness and anger and frustration this fall and that was exhausting. Kitchen floor and all, but comparing my old life to this one including the fall – nothing can compare. I am the fittest I’ve ever been and something still triggered me.

I believe I’m the happiness I have been in a while and that’s exciting and scary because I love this feeling and I don’t want it to go away. I also know that means I’m going to have to work at keeping it. Finding happiness in the perfect cup of coffee and reminding myself that a 5-hour class on a Monday night is going to be worth it when I hold that degree. Look forward to each day at work because I truly love what I’m doing. It’s not just a job, it’s the hallway to greater opportunity.

I’m lucky that while some shitty things have happened, I have also had some opportunities line right up.

Today, look for happiness in places you don’t always seek it from. Maybe it’s five minutes of quiet until you realize the kids trashed the living room. Or maybe it’s not cooking the yolk all the way through – I hate when that happens. I hope you can wear a smile on your face because happiness looks great on everyone, at every size.

❤ Cristina

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You Are Enough.

That’s what this series has been called. It started with feeling in between. Feeling that I was in between going through the motions and picking myself up off the ground.

Dragging myself out of bed and crying on the kitchen floor.

blacking out. flashing back. struggling to be present. be mindful.

In the past seven and half weeks I’ve watched a lot of Disney, colored a lot of mermaids, eaten a lot of cookies, drank or drunk…hmm… consumed a lot of almond milk lattes. Tried a few burgers, walked around a lot, lifted more than I ever thought I could and working towards enough.

It’s more than just saying you are enough. I mean of course you are. But enough of or for what? If we eliminate the external validation, which partially caused the start of this mess, then you only need to be enough for you. But where is your bar? How high did you set it? Why is there so much prove to just yourself? When did the bar get that high?

I’ve been working on leveling the playing field. Bringing my own bar just a tad bit lower and working on building up to reach it without standing on my tip-toes. Does this mean I’m not capable? Did I say that is the better question? No, I’m capable, but when you set yourself up for failure it doesn’t matter if your WonderWoman, you’re going to burn out.

The expectations I set for myself professionally and personally were higher than the ones that others placed upon me. I know I can do great things when challenged and the bar before was too low. I was able to jump over it and that wasn’t the game I wanted to play. But it was more than the bar not being where I believed it belonged. It was the external forces that kept pushing the bar up and down and not allowing me to keep it steady.

The build up that became the trigger. I know, we’ll get to that later, maybe no today, but later. I promise.

The past few weeks I have found structure again through implementing PH3 from Layne Norton that bodybuild.com offers. I’ve modified a few things such as eliminating blood flow restricted sets because I would rather take them out than do them wrong. Even with the elimination of some of these sets, I have added volume to my total and I can feel and see change occurring. Structure makes me feel secure and looking back to September I was losing that security. It’s not that I lost the drive or motivation, inside I still had it, but when mental illness is another factor it doesn’t necessarily matter how much drive and motivation you have. Sometimes your knocked on the shower floor struggling to wash your hair. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I’m not ashamed to say that there were days that getting out of bed was the first step and getting the shower was a win, but getting out of the shower was triumphant.

Incorporating this lifting program took the task out my hands and provided me with something to follow while I focused energy on other things. It’s something I found challenging, something I found interesting. I can’t wait to get back to designing my own programming, but for the past 7ish weeks utilizing this program allowed me to take a slight backseat while I took the reigns on my nutrition and mental well-being.

I’ve figure out the appropriate ratios of macro-nutrients to maintain and sustain myself. It took a lot of playing, but I’ve figure out where my body likes to be and what that means for living life as well as what that means for when I do jump back into the pool and prepare to compete again. Understanding your body’s chemistry is powerful. This is something I’ve been working on with some of my clients – how are you feeling during the day, how are you feeling after eating specific foods, are you hitting your macros or nutritional goals? Health is more than the scale and in some cases more than measurements. It’s a feeling. It’s being able to step back and say “I feel good overall”. Acknowledging that the decisions you make can have an impact on your whole body like joint pain or bloating or fatigue.  As important as being a “healthy”body fat percentage is, these things I believe are just as important. If you can feel good, that’s half the battle.

As I’ve figured out my nutritional goals for this phase of my journey, I’ve been able to take more control of my feelings and look at myself most mornings and say “I like what I see, I like how I look just living life and lifting all the things.” No, I’m not in a bulking phase – I’m not 100% comfortable with that kind of eating and gaining right now. I’m in a slightly higher maintenance, but since I’ve minimized cardio, the total of calories in and calories out is pushing me into a very slight caloric surplus most days. Also, #cupcakes. I want to try all the cookies and cupcakes.

I’ve found purpose again. I’ve said this a bunch of times before. I never thought I would want to coach. I never thought I would be good at it. But, as more people have asked for help, I’ve reflected on what I’m capable of helping with. I know some people don’t understand health or life or goal coaching and that’s fine, but it helps people people realize their potential. This kind of coaching helps them create a plan or strategy for the week, breaking it down to be manageable – taking their whole life into consideration, not just the goals.

That’s what makes someone successful right? Checking off the tasks on the to list, no matter how small. No matter if the goal is to monitor body feelings or go to the gym three times this week where it fits, checking those tasks off makes you feel like you’re building onto something to reach something bigger.

I’ve been baking and writing and figuring out if I can truly eat enough cookies in the week while maintaining my measurements #thelimitdoesnotexist

More importantly, I think this series is coming to a close. I’ve been enough this whole time, I knew it in my heart – somewhere, but it was something I needed to determine for myself. Because my head and heart don’t always talk to each other. It was something I needed to measure in white chocolate cranberry cookies and almond milk lattes. I need to connect the lines and color in the mermaids to make the ocean look less intimidating. I needed to see if I could pick up the heavier bar and move it around without a lot of support to guide me.

I am enough every day. Even when I don’t believe it. Even when those around me don’t make me feel it.

So, please don’t stop dreaming. Please don’t stop reaching.Please don’t ever think you can’t. Please don’t ever think you aren’t worthy. You are all that and more. You are more than enough.

❤ Cristina

 


I’ve talked about Alicia before. She’s younger than me. She’s a junior in college and I’m 27. Without social media our paths would have never crossed. Without peanut butter we would’ve never started talking. Without talking we would’ve never seen past the social media posts and learned that we are more alike than we could’ve ever imagined. At the beginning of the summer, Alicia was struggling with mental health and I suggested she use resources on her college campus. I had used these resources as a student and at my last job, I knew students who had also used them. After many conversations and her sharing her experience, I bit the bullet myself and went back to therapy in July as well.

We push each other in positive ways and this semester Alicia has had to be an advocate for herself, especially when she was being pushed to the aside when seeking help for her anxiety. Her story isn’t very unique, but it’s a perspective that people brush aside.

Her story dabbles in her own blogging series I’ve let her write here and the It’s Your Turn Series. I think it fits both perfectly. So her post makes the IYT Series a perfect dozen, just cupcakes and doughnuts and sugar cookies.


Being a student and trying to juggling life  is not easy, being a student is not easy in general. These past couple of weeks have honestly been the most difficult time I’ve ever had in my school career, between the mental breakdowns, anxiety attacks and all of the stress of the school work. Actually, I might be able to say that this has been the most difficult semester that I have had while in college. It’s at that point in the semester where there is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving and every professor is trying to get all of the last tests, quizzes and assignments in before the week break.  After Thanksgiving there is only one week left of the semester.  Obviously there has been a lot of stuff going on in my life in general, my boyfriend moved out of state, I moved out of my parents house, officially decided on a major (even though I am still doubting it), applied for internships,  and picked up another job – as you can see life has been crazy.

As I have said in previous posts in this series, I suffer from severe anxiety, trying to juggle life and school is not easy, but my anxiety skyrockets during school. The moment I get to school I feel anxious and as classes go on it begins to hit its peak. I can’t even count the amount of times that I came home and had a mental breakdown because of all of the homework and studying I had to for the following day. Even the slightest bit of work makes me anxious because I want everything done right and I want to do well. Tests make me anxious, I can honestly say that I have not gotten above an 80% on a test yet this semester. When I go into a test I blank, when I say I blank on everything I studied i mean sometimes I just sit there and stare at the test for a while before it actually comes to me.  During tests I suffer from the physical symptoms of anxiety too, I mainly get the chest and muscle pains/ cramps, there are times I get muscle twitches or eye twitches too.

This is what I’ve been working on this semester to help me balance my mental health and school work as well as life in general because we know that gets in the way too.

  • Being brave and seeking help, if you find yourself struggling with anxiety or depression or some type of mental illness don’t be afraid to get help.  Most schools have a well-being center with free counseling, take advantage of it, it will help in the long run.

I started seeing a counselor on campus this year and while they are busy, they want to help. Recently, I followed my counselor to her own private practice off campus so I have access to more flexible hours. This is helpful for my situation since I not only go to school full-time, but I work part-time off campus at a retail job.

  • Learning to take study breaks, if you find yourself studying for hours at a time take a break, you can’t just sit there and study all day, you do need to take a break, go for a run or go to the gym or even just sit outside for a few minutes. Anything will help you just need to give yourself a moment to relax.

This is something that I’ve truly had to come terms with. Sometimes, studying for extended periods of time makes me question or doubt my knowledge of the course. Taking a break to walk across campus or get a cup of coffee has allowed me to clear my head and come back with new perspective.

  • Deciding to cut down on caffeine, trust me, I know I am a college student and most college student survive on coffee, but if you become anxious sometimes caffeine makes it worse. I am not saying to cut out caffeine completely just cut back

I still get my latte every now and then, but I’ve noticed that for me at least, cutting back has given me a clear head and taken away some of the jitters. It’s not a perfect science, but I’ve been drinking more tea (decaf) and water to fill in the void that was once a higher coffee consumption.

Finding balance between mental health and school work is not always easy. Not all people understand it either. It’s important to find balance because without it you, might not succeed in school. If you are a college student, tuition is expensive and you don’t want to waste that money or time to not be successful. GPA does not always matter, sometimes you need a break from school work, especially if you’ve been studying for days. I actually have a professor who allows you to take “mental days off” if needed.  Mentally you need a break, taking on too much at once may not actually be effective in the long run and may hurt you. Talk to your faculty about this, they understand more than you know. Don’t be ashamed to get help, you have to understand that it will get better, but remember that you have to do something to make it better. Going to therapy is one of the greatest things I have done, trust me at first I was a little on the edge about going, but it ended up working out very well and I really enjoy going. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and know that you are not the only one who is going through this, there are plenty of other people who are going through the same thing.


This is my friend Ahmad. He pretty much started this series. What I mean is it was his words that set something off in me that made me think about the larger problem at hand. Yes, I am working through my own anxiety, my own PTSD, and I have no issue talking about it. But, there’s a but. But what about those who don’t share their stories. They don’t have an outlet to do so. They don’t think someone will listen or understand or care. What about the others out there who are also suffering silently. Maybe they need a place for their voice. He doesn’t realize that he sparked that in me, but he did. I wanted his story too though. So Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, an Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He speaks and writes about Mental Health, Wellness, Support, and Social Justice. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on instagram and Facebook .


Ableism – are the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.

Within our ableist society the definition of wellness is the absence of physical or mental disability. In that case, according to ableism, I have never been well. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Wellness is defined as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So why do we continue to believe the first definition far more than the official?
The simple answer is that the world is not defined according to the WHO; it’s defined in the very fabrics of society, from the moment we’re born until the day we die, and even beyond. Ableism, like many other forms of oppression, is one of the foundations of our society.
I have suffered from mental illness since I was two, even before I was supposed to be cognitively conscious. It started with social anxiety and general anxiety, years later body dysmorphic disorder would reshape my image, major depression and a dissociative disorder took years out of my life, and finally PTSD redefined what a college experience should be like.
Throughout it all I have felt alone, invisible in a world moving too fast for me at times, and too slow in others. At times I have shut down, for years at a time, while other times I was able to function in slow motion, every breath seemingly my last, and I was able to graduate from an engineering school, co-found a non-profit, start my own site, write almost a dozen novels and so much more. Because of that, because of the diversity of my illnesses no one believed that anything was wrong until I was 20 years old. At 20, I spoke to my second grade teacher, and for the first time my pain was validated, my illness was validated, and I was validated. I was no longer the illness, the illness was a part of me yes, but I was not my illnesses.
Since then I have learned to take back control of my life. I do so through sharing my story, raising awareness about mental health, writing and blogging, taking time off, and just as importantly, exercising and focusing on my diet. Most assume the last is about self image, but the reality is that it’s far deeper than that. My body dysmorphia does not allow me to see what I truly look like, and no six pack can change that, but eating right and exercising gives me the energy I need to function, to sleep, and to monitor my illnesses like you would with diabetes or any other physical illness. It’s a matter of control, in a life where we have very little.
Today, I have productive days, I have mental health days, and I have days where I do not function. For me mental health days are days I take willingly, they are a time to reflect and rejuvenate so that I may have productive days. The days where I do not function are the ones beyond my control, and I barely exist, or exist far too much during them. The relationship between the mental health days and the non-functioning days is inverse, the more I have of one, the less I have the other. So in times of severe stress my mental health days will be far more than in less stressful times.
There’s a lot that goes into my wellness, some days it seems that it’s too much, but wellness is not a one time deal, wellness is a way of life. And believe it or not, I happen to like my way of life.

There have been quite a few who have reached out to share their stories and how mental health has impacted them, their families and what they believe to be their ability to be a mother. We know that events trigger us to develop these disorders we’ve been talking about in this series, but I don’t think we truly realize how the symptoms really crossover and not only confuse us, but our therapists and doctors. It’s possible that a diagnoses is completely wrong or is missing a piece – maybe it’s two or three disorders like mine with post traumatic stress disorder AND anxiety AND binge eating disorder. As you grow up and the brain becomes more evolved and there are more experiences, things can change.

Meet Courtney, she’s a stay-at-home mom of two and has been diagnosed with different disorders at different times in her life, but all have similarities.

I’ve always been a worrier – it could be from the years of living in a home with domestic abuse. I’d watch my Dad filled with rage and my mom would sheepishly try not to detonate the ticking time bombs of his own shattered childhood. I’ve spent my life never feeling good enough, and less than. My saving grace would be meeting my husband when I was 17, and in a whirlwind by the next year having our daughter.

My life changed and all my emotional burdens were now tucked away and my life’s goal was to do right by this little baby girl.  It wouldn’t be until she was 2 that I would realize something was off. In my eyes everyone was out to get her, I knew for sure that something bad was going to happen – these thoughts filled my mind and the pictures they paint could bring me to tears.

See as a young teen I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), then attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), then I stopped taking all those medications because the side effects either had me feeling like a zombie or so filled with energy I could not sit still. I sat in the doctors office naming off a laundry list of horrific things I knew would happen and that’s the first time in my life I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, for which I was put on medication,  was examined by a psychiatrist and finally the horrible images started to become less and less.  I was on this medication for five years up until the time we decided it was time to try for one more baby.

My doctor told me to immediately stop my medication and honestly, it almost felt freeing. Don’t get me wrong, I spent my pregnancy an anxious mess, but the thought of being medication free made me happy.

Flash forward to after giving birth.

Being a failure at breastfeeding my awkward body and staying at home, I started to feel hopeless.  I let this fester until one day when my son was about six months old, I told my husband it would be better for my daughter and son to be raised by someone else. I could never do them justice and they deserved better, he deserved better. I remember that weekend my Mom came and took the kids so I’d have a “break” and a break is what I had.

That was the weekend I thought about killing myself. Just typing that gives me a nauseous feeling because in those moments I’d felt outside myself watching somebody that wasn’t actually me. Still, two months passed and I would put on my super woman cape in crowds. In a crowd of one, just with my thoughts, I’d be this self-loathing bitch.

Christmas time came and on Christmas Day, my Mom had gotten me a couple bracelets I felt were too expensive for my stay-at-home lifestyle. In that moment I asked her to take them back – I didn’t deserve them , I didn’t deserve anything.  I let it get so bad before I was diagnosed with postpartum-depression and the anxiety I’ve always carried since childhood. I’ll never get those months back where I was in a fog, but if I can help someone else then it doesn’t seem as bad.

After that Christmas I started to take my mental health as seriously as I was my physical health. I started back on medication and visiting a psychiatrist weekly (for about three months). I still struggle EVERYDAY, but the two little people that I would never stop fighting for, need me, the healthy ,physically and mentally me. They deserve that and I am worth that. Some days are hard because I didn’t ask for this disease. I struggle with a lot still, but no where near as bad as a year ago. Postpartum-depression and anxiety changed the person I once was. I’ll have triggers from my childhood that can still put me in a depressed funk, but now I can say ” hey I’m anxious” or “hey, I feel like I suck at life” – being able to talk about it has made a big difference.  I plan to start seeing my psychiatrist again with the holiday season approaching.