In Like a Lion

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Missing the soothing waters of the Gulf!

So February absolutely flew by! Between a quick trip to Montreal as part of Sean’s Christmas gift, and my BFF vacation to Mexico, it’s hard to believe that March is already in full swing. I have to admit, I missed having specific goals in February like I did in January. Being busy is good, but the OCD in me loves rules, guidelines, and deadlines!

Coming back from Mexico, I was hit with the infamous stomach bug that travelers often face when heading South to resorts. So I went back on the IR and couldn’t exercise immediately following my return to Canada. This was at first hard to accept because there were so many times on vacation where I’d look at photos of myself in a bikini and be disgusted at what I saw. I hated my stomach. In some pictures it would look OK, but in others all I saw was fat. I was so embarrassed of myself. I thought I had no business in a bikini.

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One of many photos of myself that left me feeling horrible about my body. In hindsight, I realize how foolish I am to judge so harshly.

Whenever I get sick I struggle so much with being “forced” to do things differently. I like to do things on my terms. So when an illness keeps me from running, biking, or eating what I want, it makes me upset. I get down on myself. I start to think I’m going to lose all of the strength I’ve built up. I wonder how many people I will let down. I think about how it means I’ll be awful at the Ride to Conquer Cancer. One morning when I sat on the couch bawling, and saying all of these things to Sean he asked me “why do you keep piling on?! Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Honestly, I don’t know. Anxiety just catches me sometimes and gets on top of me. When I am sick, it’s harder to fight it. It makes it easy to think I will never get healthy again. Then the little voice creeps in and says “what if this is actually some form of cancer? Or other terminal illness?” I become less inclined to challenge my thought cycles. This is why I need to stick to therapy and continue to  get back in the habit of recognizing my destructive thought patterns, so when my defenses are down I can still stand as tall as I possibly can. I can’t let being sick absolutely tear down all of my self-esteem and confidence. Being sick is a reality of life, so I can’t let every stomach ache turn into an immediate death sentence. So right here, right now, I am vowing to DESTROY the month of March!

March Goals: 

  • Try at least one new recipe a week from my new cookbook!
  • Get better at getting up early! (I want to get up earlier during the week to focus more on better breakfasts and possibly even sneaking in some early running)
  • LISTEN to my body! Don’t be afraid to SLOW DOWN (It won’t undo ALL of my hard work)
  • Journal more! (I’ve fallen behind and need to get better at my mood journal and challenging my upsetting thoughts)
  • Get my bike tuned up! (I went to the Toronto Bike Show and am feeling inspired to train hard for the Ride to Conquer Cancer! It’s also made me realize that Spring is nearly here, which means getting outside more!)

I am hoping that having some goals and ideas in mind will help keep me motivated, and continue to force me to focus on other challenges other than just getting in shape. I am also really working to try and shift my thinking in terms of finding “happiness” and “satisfaction”. I need to keep asking myself questions like “Why do I think I look bad in a bathing suit?” “What dictates my feelings about myself?” “Would my life truly be “better” if I thought I “looked better” in a bathing suit?” And so on… so far I’ve started reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” which isn’t a book about being disconnected and uncaring, it’s actually about challenging “positive thinking” and making a case for the beauty of suffering, and carefully selecting WHAT to give a f*ck about. So far I am really enjoying it, and am really using it to constructively think about HOW I value things and why!

To tie this all together – going back to my bathing suit photos. I’ve already started asking myself “Would the vacation have been ANY different if I had looked ‘better’?” The answer is, of course, no! I had an absolute blast in Mexico, and how I looked in a bathing suit, workout gear, shorts, WHATEVER, had no bearing on that. The follow-up question is also one my therapist would likely ask me – if I am so unhappy with how I look; how do I know that my “goal” image would actually satisfy me? If I weighed 10lbs less, would I actually be happier? Would I then say “that’s enough” or would I instead turn my focus to something else to criticize. I think we all know it would be the latter – I’d just continue to find something else to pick on, instead of looking at what I need to appreciate.

And this will be my overall task for March – while I strive to keep improving, I can’t lose sight of what gives my life value and satisfaction now despite whether or not I achieve some of my other goals.

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated through these last final wintery weeks?

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Yeah – It’s a Resolution Post. Sorry.

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New Year, New Me! Let the memes begin! As Christmas wound down, we began to see all those memes either proclaiming inspirational quotes about the year to come – or jokes about how quickly you’ll break your resolution. To me, the idea of resolution is a double edged sword. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, your health, or just expanding your horizons. However, the downside being you either set yourself up for failure, or just don’t apply yourself and wind up making the same promises next year – and possibly, start a cycle of guilt year over year.

I try not to make resolutions. I try to pick up new hobbies, make goals, or eat healthier all year. But there is something cathartic about starting over along with the year; especially after the overindulgence that is the holiday season. The winter months can be devastating for a lot of people, myself included at times. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and can have a very drastic impact on people’s lives. (If you suspect someone you care about suffers from this, I highly recommend reaching out. Take them for coffee, a walk through a path, or out skating on an outdoor rink. Outside activities are often best, as our bodies need the extra Vitamin D to help regulate our moods. Take advantage of the limited sun we get here in Canada during the winter). Resolutions are in some way meant to help ease our trudge through January, February, and March. They get us through the dark times, so we can relax, kick back, and enjoy the warmer weather, proud of ourselves for “being good” all winter.

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So while I would love to sit here and ramble about the psychology of resolutions and weigh their pros and cons, quite frankly, I think it would be hypocritical to sit here and denounce them, when I myself have a plan for January. But – in my defence, the key word here is “plan”. It’s not a resolution for the entire year, but rather, some specific goals I have for the month of January. Maybe I’ll try to start new goals each month; or most likely, I’ll just aim to do a little better all the time. Either way, rather than trying to sit here and say “NEW ME!”, I’m trying to think of it as “Me just less lazy”.

Goal #1 – “Somewhat” Sober January

Going completely alcohol-free is, admittedly, difficult for me. Not in a “OMG I NEED MY BOOZE” type of way, but more in a realistic way. I firmly believe in not depriving yourself, and so the idea of being out for dinner and not having a glass of wine, or trying a new beer just doesn’t seem fair on myself. What I am promising myself is to do the following as a comprise: 1) No drinking at home. 2) If I am out or we are hosting guests, observe a strict 1 drink limit.

The reason I want to do this is three-fold. I wanted to refresh my body after having a lot of alcohol over the holiday season. The second reason is I am curious to see how much weight I can lose within a month if I really cut back on alcohol, especially beer. The third reason will be explained later.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

I am pretty good at working out at least 4 times a week, but I’d love to try and do a month where I workout at least 5 times a week. For a lot of people this is an easier goal to manage – twice on the weekends, and just three times during the week. One disadvantage I have is that I get up early on weekdays, and I have no appetite for getting up earlier to work out. Also, because I tend to workout at night more often, I like giving my body a full 24 hours rest. Combine that with a busy social life at night, and I sometimes have weeks where it’s tough to get 4 workouts in. But maybe I need to ditch that “excuse” and drag myself out of bed at 5am instead of 6am to squeeze in a run, quick HIIT session, or even just riding the indoor bike. Again, this is highly motivated by curiosity to see if the combination of dropping booze, and ramping up the exercise is enough to kickstart even more weight loss. It also ties into Goal #4….

Goal #3 – Practice More Mindfulness Exercises

This is something I have really begun to neglect over the past year or so, and it’s starting to show. My negative thoughts run away, and sometimes I have a hard time calming myself down. Once a week I’d like to try a new exercise, and see how it works for me, and then try to practice it a few more times. By the end of month, that means I’ll have five new exercises in my toolbox for fixing my anxiety.

It also means if I am setting aside time to do these exercises, it’s less time on social media, idling flipping by photos and memes. I can then spend the time to do more journal writing, and relax more.

Goal #4 – Stop taking Anti-Depressants

January 2017 will mark two years since beginning Pristiq. I feel I am ready to come off the drugs and attempt to deal with my anxiety through therapy, mindfulness, and other at-home exercises. This goal scares me the most. I am so worried about the side effects of withdrawal, and how my body is going to behave. This is also one of the primary motivators behind avoiding alcohol as much as possible. I figure my body will be going through enough changes without me adding alcohol to the mix. Same with the exercise – I am hoping the positive effects of working out will help balance the chemicals in my brain.

But I am really unsure if I will even go for Goal #4. My fear of coming off these drugs is just that real. All I know is prepare for more blog articles if I do start to come off the drugs, as I am likely going to be needing a lot of support, reassurance, and have A LOT on my mind.

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Keep Me Honest

Okay, so I am lame and am going to use a #hashtag to track any social media posts I make about my attempt to have a ridiculously healthy and productive January. So, follow my #JanGoals! Also look for my equally “basic” Instagram posts to match the blog.

As of right now, I plan to blog a lot during January. Not only is Bell Let’s Talk coming up on January 25th, but I plan to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable for completing, or attempting these goals. I want to document my ups and downs with all of them. I am hoping that by doing this, I will motivate myself to keep improving, and maybe we can start a conversation where we support each other through the twists and turns of starting new habits, or breaking old ones.

So look, love them or hate them, you can’t argue against trying to better yourself through a resolution. I guess the thing I want myself, and others, to remember is – it’s not about changing me entirely. I don’t need to start from scratch. I am good person, who tries hard, and attempts to do my best. It’s more so that there’s smaller things I can do better, to make a larger impact on my life.

And PS – for the record, I didn’t start this until January 2nd, so don’t go too mad at yourself if you’ve already “broken” your resolution.

Stay tuned a little later for a recap of my first week attempting my goals!

Running Away

Taken last week from my bike ride along Polson Pier and Cherry Beach
Taken last week from my bike ride along Polson Pier and Cherry Beach

In 2009 I became fed up with working out indoors. I moved to the waterfront here in Toronto and I was enticed by the idea of running outside. But I had never been a runner. I didn’t do cross country in school. I remember walking for a large portion of my high school 1500m fitness test. But working out for me was always my chance to relax. Yes, I find it incredibly relaxing to work up a sweat. It’s also a huge part of my recovery process with my anxiety. If I don’t burn off that energy working out, my mind will pick up the slack and start working in overdrive. In fact, my first panic attack after I had started therapy in 2013 was brought on from being sick and cooped up in the house. And oddly enough, one of my symptoms of my anxiety is the desperate urge to move my legs. Sometimes when I am lying down in bed I have to kick my legs violently against my mattress to try and shake that feeling. So for me, going to the gym was a way to combat that. But I was getting incredibly bored of my apartment building’s gym. I am an outdoors girl at heart. Nature is the way I connect spiritually to the universe. So I needed something else.

That’s how running entered into my life and became a game changer. I’ve always tried to stay active but in 2009 I found myself getting to a weight I was really unhappy with. I hated my body. It only fed into my insecurities and made my attitude about myself worse. So one day I sat down and drew up some monthly goals for myself, and started a workout journal. I went downtown and raided a few stores for running gear. I bought a bad-ass pair of shoes. It was April and the air still had that edge from the winter but I forced myself to stick with it. Slowly but surely I found my pace. It was exhilarating being outside and exploring the waterfront, even in the cold. I found myself completely forgetting about my day to day stress. I’d lace up and focus on the beauty all around me. The sunsets, the ducks, the houseboats, dogs, flowers, birds, you name it, I ran past it. I watched ducklings grow up. I saw flowers bloom. I ran past the seasons.

About a year passed and slowly I started dropping pounds. I started to tone up. I changed my eating habits and started to really focus on eating a varied diet. I started to love being in my own skin. I then decided to sign up for my very first race. Training was a word that had never entered into my vocabulary before. Training?! Isn’t that for people who run marathons?! But there I was setting up a 5km race plan. I worked hard. I logged it all in my workout journal. I tracked the inches I lost, and the kilometers I was running each week. I went into my first race, the 2010 Scotiabank Waterfront 5km a bit disheartened. I had set a lofty goal of 30 minutes, but went in thinking I’d be lucky to finish in about 45 minutes. I was a nervous wreck leading up to the race and on race day. I am a competitive person, and I am very hard on myself. I want people to look at my time and be impressed. I want to be impressed. In the end I finished in 35:44 and I was on top of the world. The runner’s high is a real thing and it brought out motivation in me I didn’t know existed. I became hooked on running and racing.

Running for me has always been about three things: staying active, getting outside, and setting aside time to de-stress. The last point is the key one. If I didn’t run, I’d be a miserable person. I would hate myself. My anxiety would be rampant. I would not have the confidence I have today. Running has made me a stronger person in more ways than just the physical. It’s a chance to clear my head and drift off into my imagination, or just enjoy the music. It’s that time of the day where no one can reach me, there’s nowhere I need to be, and nothing else I need to worry about. I just need to put one foot in front of the other.

After I completed my first half-marathon this past October I found myself burned out from running. Training for the half marathon turned running from a love to a chore. I didn’t look forward to lacing up my shoes anymore. That’s when my parents stepped in and re-ignited another love – my love of cycling. It’s once again tapped into the wanderer in me. I love exploring the new paths, and seeing more sides to the east side of Toronto. Now that urge is back. Where once I’d get the itch to run, now I actually look forward to looking ridiculous in my helmet.

For those of us with mental illness we need these escapes. You’re trying to silence your mind and fight the demons the best way you know how. I am lucky. I found my escape in running and the outdoors. It’s now as much a part of my therapy as my anti-depressants, and just as important. Especially suffering from health anxiety, staying active is the best way to keep proving to myself that I am alive and well. I often go into races fearing death. In the lead up to my half marathon there was a strong part of me that believed my heart would give out on the course and I’d die. I’ve felt this way before 10km races as well. I always think to myself “what if I am one of those people you read about?”. But each time I cross that finish line it is my triumph over my anxiety. That’s me saying “I DID IT!” Finishing the half marathon was a huge kick in my anxiety’s pants. It’s hard to believe my heart will give out on a 10km course when it survived a 21km course. Each medal is a symbol of a moment where I defeated my demons. They are accomplishments that no one can take away from me. That sense of pride is powerful.

I encourage everyone with mental illness to find their pride. Whatever it is. You might hate running. But maybe you kick ass at knitting. And those moments when you’re on your own with your needles are the times when you get to say NO to your anxiety. My races give me the runner’s high, but when I’ve had a terrible day at work sometimes the only thing that will cheer me up is heading outside and getting sweaty. I find so much peace in watching the sun go down. In the winter, I love running by the Christmas lights and seeing snow fall around me. You need to find that. If anything, those moments when you’re busy focusing on something you love they are moments where you aren’t letting your anxiety cloud your mind. If you’re supporting someone in their battle, hopefully this allows you to understand why your loved one is always going out for a walk, or heading to the gym to hit a punching bag, or taking art lessons. Whatever it is, they are probably just trying to find their way.

I know that if I didn’t have my running shoes, or now my bike, I’d be completely lost.

As always, you can find me on Twitter @TeslaMay

30 Years, 30 Roads


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Yesterday I turned 30. Usually for “big” birthdays I have some sort of crisis. When I turned 20 I was upset at the end of the teen years, and that was I “officially” growing up. It was time to be an adult. Now at 30, I find myself less upset, and less emotional about it all. I’ve been joking about how awful it is to be done my 20’s, but as the celebrations went on I found  myself at peace more than anything. My 20’s were a wild ride. I went through some real hard times – unemployment, debt, loss, and heartbreak. But I also experienced some incredible highs. And right now, I am happy.

When I was younger I had a few concrete goals I wanted to achieve before I turned 30. I wanted to have had my kids, and to have completely paid off my student loan. Neither of those things have been happened. In fact, many of the things I expected to have achieved by 30 haven’t been. I am not married. I don’t own my own house. I still don’t drive. I have zero pets. I live in a basement. However I am not worrying about this. But the funny thing is that part of my anxiety is tied to the fact that some of these things haven’t happened yet.

I do worry that when I do eventually get married that I will receive the horrible news that I have terminal cancer. Or that if I do finally start to try to have kids I will be told I waited too long and that I can’t conceive. It’s all down to the fear that one day my happiness will be ripped away from me. That I took too long and didn’t do things properly. That I will be stuck in the ground while everyone around me gets to keep on going. I don’t like the idea of missing out on things, I never have. As a baby I never napped because I wanted to be around everyone all day! So the idea that perhaps I’ve screwed things up and won’t achieve these goals usually gives me horrible bouts of anxiety. But not this week. This week I have felt nothing but happiness and love. This week I was reminded why it’s so important to live in the moment and cherish the people you are with now. You can’t fear the future when you are enjoying today.

But back to those life goals. Whose life really does turn out exactly like they expected? For us anxiety sufferers this can be hard to accept. We picture the future, worry about that future, fear that future, and obsess about it. Turning 30 has taught me that it’s OK to be in a different spot than you hoped you’d be. Just because you picture things one way, doesn’t mean you won’t be happy if they turn out completely differently than you expected. You have to find appreciation for the good in your life right now.

Yes, I still have my student loan. But it’s nearly done. It will be paid off by the time I toast the beginnings of 2016 and that still ain’t half bad. No, I am not married. (And no, this isn’t a massive hint to Sean!) But I am in a great relationship right now, and excited to see what the future holds! No, I don’t have kids. But I am not ready for them yet, so no regrets there. No pets? I need a break from them. It was awful losing my last guinea pig in the Fall and, I hate to say it, but it’s been nice not having to worry about a pet sitter all the time. No, my life isn’t exactly where I thought it would be. But that doesn’t take anything away from the things I have achieved, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I have had. I am still incredibly proud, and happy.

And this is where I hear that tiny little voice, deep down inside of me say “what goes up must come down”. It’s times when I am most happy I can often find myself battling my thoughts the most as I try to quell fears. And that is the saddest thing about anxiety. It robs your happiness from you. So I am trying. I am really trying to hold onto this happiness. Because anxiety doesn’t deserve to steal my thirties from me. I deserve my thirties! Keeping that little voice at bay is my mission. Bad things will happen in my life. Bad things will happen this year. But my life will go on, and I will face these challenges with strength and support. I will stumble, maybe I will even fall. But you don’t get to thirty without a few scrapes. I have to continue to learn to accept those moments as just part of my unexpected journey. My life is in a great place, time for me to lace up and embrace it.

Thank you for reading as always. Please follow me on Twitter if you want more ramblings: @TeslaMay