You Are Your Best Self Now. Embrace It.
In January of this year, I had to come to terms with a difficult truth. You can push as hard as you want as a mom, as a career-driven woman, as a friend, a wife, a daughter, and still, no matter how much your mind is committed to running at 100-miles-per-minute, eventually your body will break down.
Let me tell you; health and wellness is a hard topic for me to discuss openly. For years I have operated under the belief that if I just pushed my body more and tried harder, or worked out longer, the skinny-mini I wanted to be would emerge, and my overall ‘wellness’ would manifest itself. And maybe, for some of you, this has been the case and part of the fabric that makes you, you. For me, pushing myself to the limit, physically and mentally, for more than six years has had another outcome.
I am writing this post in the hopes that it helps someone (anyone) find peace with their current state of being, and find the path forward that is right for your life. But first, let me paint a picture for you.
I’ve been working since I was thirteen years old--yes, at the young age of thirteen I started a babysitting business with my bestie. We had business cards and all! And, I’ve been focused on working out to stay healthy since I was about fifteen. When I say working, I mean that every weekend, without fail, while I was in high school I worked. Whether it was babysitting or running the cashier at the local diner, in the tiny little town of Idyllwild where I grew up, I was working. You see, my family was loving and supportive, but we lived paycheck to paycheck. And after my parents were divorced, I realized that the only way I was going to get new clothes or have enough money to do the things my ‘cool friends’ were doing was if I worked. So I did. Even to the detriment of grades in school--but 16-year-olds are somewhat short-sighted.
Then I graduated and moved to Laguna Beach with my sister who was a whole sixteen-years-old at the time. Why? We wanted to live somewhere beautiful, and get out of our small and confining town--and we did it! Are you starting to see a theme here? Everything I have set my mind to, I have done. It’s a theme in my life. I can honestly look back and say that the only things I haven’t achieved are the things I just didn’t ‘WANT’ enough. But there’s a big BUT here (no pun intended), I have achieved every goal except the one that has to do with my health and physical wellness.
Health and wellness is the one area I have consistently struggled with since I was 23. What happened at 23? I was diagnosed with medium-grade melanoma. Yes, melanoma; cancer that can be secretly killing you, and all because of on one little mole on your shoulder. I was told at the time that I was an anomaly rare and young case, a case to be studied and learned from by other cancer doctors. Just what every 23-year-old wants to hear. But, thank you Lord for my mother who saw the odd mole and made me go into the dermatologist. Thank you to my husband and mother-in-law who supported me through a really dark moment. But ultimately, I survived it! I was a survivor at 23. All it cost me was half the skin on my shoulder and some painful procedures. The unfortunate reality was that I didn’t feel like a survivor. I felt alone and damaged.
It was the first of many health storylines in my life that would unfold. And the first time I tried ‘pushing through the pain’ as a solution. But that solution over time just didn’t work. Eventually, I embraced my big-ass scar and started telling people who asked: “what happened to your shoulder” in horror, that I had gotten into a knife fight with cancer and I won! It was done. I was healthy and could move on.
Then came my emergency c-section with my daughter and subsequent hernias with my son’s birth. The hernia repair surgery didn’t even get me down, I got back up and worked out five-days-a-week while launching a content marketing business and raising two young children.
Then last year, the system broke down. Within a span of six months, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue--literally, my system was so exhausted that it was shutting down, and severe herniation of a disk in my lower back with tears in two other disks.
It was like a punch to the gut. “Why”, I asked myself, “after everything I had done to get my body to a place of sustained health was this happening?” I’ll tell ya ladies and gents, if you’ve ever been in a deep dark depression, you know that it’s incredibly hard to see the silver lining while sitting in the bottom of that black hole. And I wallowed in it for months, festered over the state of my body, lashed out at my husband and kiddos. Then, in the depths of my despair, I realized something incredible. I have been, for years, putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong goals.
My body has been trying to tell me for a long time that being a workout junkie, half marathon runner, and hard-core outdoor enthusiast is not working for me, but I kept pushing. To the point where I have literally broken my body.
It was so simple and shocking. I actually laughed out loud in the airport where I was writing and waiting to head home from a business trip and see my beautiful kiddos. That brought on some stares. And I realized that I didn’t even know why I was pushing myself so hard. For some pre-disposed street cred? Absolutely! Because of the pressure, women get placed on them, to stay fit? For sure! Because I was afraid of what it would mean if I stopped? Without a doubt.
But, I’m done. And I hope you are with me. If you love running marathons, and your body loves it too, I support you. But if you have been trying for years, like me, to live up to a physical standard that is impossible for your body to meet, please stop. For the love of God, please find balance. Don’t make the mistakes I have made and push yourself to the point of breaking.
Does pausing and regrouping from the madness mean I am going to give up, become a couch potato, and go gorge on doughnuts for the rest of my life? Absolutely not! It has been a long hard road for me to find health and wellness, and I’m not an expert. It’s a daily process of surrendering to what ‘is’, but I’m discovering that the balance comes from combining a healthy diet with low-impact exercise. Instead of pushing harder when I’m burnt out, taking a break to write or meditate. So please don’t take this post as an excuse to abuse your body in some other way. Finding balance is for me the key to long-term mental and physical health. I am just learning this now, fancy that! 20 years after I first stepped out for a run. And, I have to tell you, it’s wonderful.
So stop it already. I am here to share with you that it’s okay to stop and take a break. It’s okay to reformat your perspective and put the emphasis somewhere else.
In fact, when I truly released the goal of being the fittest mom in the room, I started to realize that I’m actually pretty cool without that identity mixed in. I’m a successful writer, a good friend, I have been an entrepreneur and I give back to the community through my involvement with nonprofits. I’m a mom, an artist, an entrepreneur, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. I also love to hike, and paddle-board and take long, long walks with my kids! I am all these things and I am enough. But most importantly, so are you!!