Let’s talk about stress baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the chaos and mass destruction that can be!
Stress – what a fickle beast. An unwanted wave of tension that stakes claim over our entire being if we let it. But what’s the big deal? Our bodies were built to endure stress as a survival method right? As with all things in life, our bodies can only handle stress in limited quantities, like when we’re being chased by a bear or waiting in line for sold out Justin Beiber tickets.
It’s only when this tension builds to a point of chronic daily disruption that things go awry, the scary part is most of us don’t even know we’re stressed until it’s too late. Stress is a silent killer if left unnoticed, and I encourage each of you reading this to evaluate your stress levels. If you’re unsure of what this might feel like do some reading. It took me over three years to realize I was living in a hyper-stressed state.
Brace yourselves, things are about to get slightly personal.
In Jan 2014 I lost my period. In all honesty I didn’t think much of it and I felt fine. After months of ignoring it, I went to a doctor. One doctor led to five, all of them trying to give me a magic pill to jump start the red sea of life. “Nahh man I want to know why I lost this, not put a bandaid on the problem.” I hopped from doctor to doctor trying to get an answer. All the while the underlying stress was building.
After all these doctors, zero answers, and a change in position at work (that I never really wanted) my stress levels were so high that I was having physical reactions. Rashes on my skin, inflammation, anxiety, food intolerance’s, all of which I thought were solely related to what I was eating. To an extent this was true, but in hindsight I now know it was stress that started it. I then went to see a naturopath hoping his naturalistic mindset would align with mine, but when he prescribed me a “seed rotation” (where he had me eating specific seeds to follow the moon) I pulled the plug.
I confess I followed his moon dance ritual for two weeks before calling it quits. I believe in the pulls of the moon, and the universe, but this was where I drew the line. He also told me to start eating animal products and run less. I was desperate to know what was going on, so I obliged. Then shit really hit the fan. The mental stress of eating a way I didn’t feel right about sent me into a spiral that resulted in a year and half long eating disorder, something I’ve only recently gained a grasp on.
I don’t feel any shame about this, it’s life and it opened my eyes to some destructive thoughts and behaviors.
The final straw this past October after seeing both a GI doctor and a Rheumatologist (putting my doctor tally at seven) was the diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder – one year and a handful of months after obsessing about what was wrong with me. I went from healthy and vibrant, to mentally and physically broken. Despite the wild ride I know this was a valuable time in my life. Without these moments of darkness we cannot truly know the light. Each dark path looks different for all, and this just happened to be mine.
Truth be told, if I follow this complex line all the way back to the beginning it tells me a story. A story of a girl that was letting small things get to her. The stress of running, the stress of being a perfectionist, the stress of “what am I going to do with my life,” the stress of an educational path I didn’t truly want, and ultimately the residual stress of a tumultuous relationship. The universe has a powerful way of slapping us in the face until we get it. Keep playing a broken record time and time again and you’ll get the same annoying loop, but change the record for a new one and you’ll hear a new song.
Change your path and you’ll get a new result.
It’s my three year anniversary of losing my period, and I’m back where I started. I’m back in a state of calm, and trusting that my body will balance itself out with a little help from me. (I had two normal slaps from aunt flo last year, one in September and one in December. So..things are happening.) The outside voices only caused more chaos in my body. Do I think that this kind of hormonal imbalance is normal? No. What I do think is that our bodies are amazing and will tell us when something is wrong. For me, stress has caused a whole heap of trouble and it’s time I focus on fixing this, my way. No magic pills.
Disclaimer: I’ve had many, MANY tests run to ensure I’m not dying or void of any vital nutrients. My body is 100% healthy on paper, which made this all the more of a mystery, and all the more obvious that my body was trying to tell me something. I also tried it their way – I gained the weight, I ate the meat, I quit the running, but still no resolution. It wasn’t my diet or my running, but rather my attitude towards them and life in general. #stresslife.
Along with adding more stress relieving activities to my life (yoga, walking, sitting in a coffee shop typing on my compute as I am now, making meals in the kitchen) the most important activities are the ones I need to remove. I’ve decided it’s time for me to stop running. Not completely, and not forever, but until I no longer dread the idea of it. A few posts ago I declared I was going to be training for my seventh half marathon. This was yet another attempt for me to get on track with exercise when in reality I don’t enjoy running anymore (unless it’s under 4 miles.) A 5k is still an accomplishment, it’s taken me years to accept this.
There are so many other activities I would rather do, and I let running dictate my life for a long time, to the point of skipping out on these other activities because I “had to run.” Eventually I skipped out on exercise all together because I let my mind takeover. When you no longer want to do something and feel as though you have to do it, eventually everything will crumble. I’m so proud of my running accomplishments, and a solid 2-3 mile run still brings me joy, but anything more causes more stress than relief.
Exercise is supposed to be an outlet for stress, not a cause.
Self sabotage and overthinking what I’m doing with my life has been a struggle of mine for years. Self acceptance and confidence is my biggest point of focus right now. Confidence in my choices, and in how I present myself. I preach about doing what you love, yet haven’t followed my own advice. I’ve had a lot of revelations the past year, and plan to make some solid changes this year. Finishing college is my main focus, and once that’s done I’ll do whatever I want. I live a minimalist life already and I don’t need a lot to get by.
Surrounding myself with people that support my choices in life, lift me up, and encourage me to be myself are key. I will come in contact with people that try to make me feel like less than them because of what I do for work, or how I choose to spend my time, but the beauty of being happy with your life is that these people don’t affect you. The truth is these people are the ones that are suffering on the inside.
The stress in my life helped catalyze a very negative mind space for longer than I would like to admit. This led to a poor attitude, of which I’m not proud, but I’m also not ashamed. I suppose you could say in this time I went full blown human, faults and all. If my attitude and negative head space could have taken on a physical persona I would say it looked an awful lot like Charlize Theron in the movie “Monster.” Not cute.
I’m not one for new years resolutions, and I didn’t want this post to be like one, but this has been on my mind and on my heart for months. Having these thoughts is one thing, but allowing yourself to submit to them is harder than it seems sometimes. It’s taken me a while to form my thoughts into coherent words, and the words can’t hold a flame to the magnitude of how I feel on the inside. This is a brief view into my world and putting fingers to keyboard means I’ve found my way out of the murky waters and am ready to talk about it.
I am thankful for the clarity, and living my truth is my resolution. My resolution for life.
I’m still experiencing umbrella symptoms that accompany an autoimmune disorder. The top offenders for me are chronic fatigue, inflammation, painfully dry eyes, an overall feeling of “unwell” (some days), and I struggle eating grains, sugars and drinking coffee in certain amounts. I have to be diligent with the intake of some of my favorite foods (as we all should.) My focus is putting these symptoms into remission and I’m already heaps and bounds better than I was in October. Baby steps will help me find my way back to where I was. I’m thankful my condition isn’t nearly as severe as others, but an eyeopener nonetheless.
If you’ve stuck with me through this post I commend you. It’s been a doozie to write and I’ve breached the 2050 word mark. It took me many months and even more drafts to finally hit publish, not because I was embarrassed, shameful, or worried what others thought, but simply because I didn’t quite have the right formation of thoughts. Sharing my thoughts is a therapeutic purge for me, and emphasizes my progress in life. The best part of this entire journey is that the solution can be simple, it just took a change in perspective, and some time for me to realize it.
I want to end this post by challenging you to take a look at your life. Are you living your truth? Do you do things based on how others think and feel, or are you unapologetically living in a way that makes you happy? These are hard questions to answer and even harder to ask ourselves. We only get one shot on this earth and too many of us make it to the end of life with a bucket of regret. I want my bucket to be filled with joy, adventures, and more importantly with pride. Pride in anything that I do (except things that are immoral or illegal of course), regardless of how I am perceived.
There’s so much more I want to say, but I’ll end it here. I’ve written a handful of similar posts this last year, but I plan for this to be the last “ah-ha moment” post for quite some time. Gaining control of my thoughts means more adventure and upbeat posts to come. Control your thoughts, control your life. Happy 2017 to all of us that have made it this far, new year resolutions aside it’s time to start living your truth. What are you waiting for?
How do you manage stress? I ask that you honor my thoughts and opinions should you choose to share your own. My approach and views may be different from yours when it comes to what is and is not healthy, but that’s what makes us each unique. 🙂 Thanks for reading. ❤