Anxiety, and the Struggle to Recover from Injury

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2017 was supposed to be “the year”.

The year…

I got in shape
I gained muscle
I improved my stamina on the bike
I conquered my anxiety
I finally felt comfortable again in my own skin

But, of course, life does not listen to your planning. It often does the exact opposite.

The Injury
As I’ve written about before, I suffered an injury this year. And 7 months later, I am still recovering. I injured my ulnar nerve (aka the funny bone nerve) back in June, in both arms. Most significantly in my left arm which is my dominant arm.

How did I do it? I think in my case this is the result of years of poor posture, lack of core strength, and a “slippery” ulnar nerve.  I’ve had smaller issues with this nerve – numbness at night, tightness when doing certain weight exercises, elbow tenderness at work, etc. This all combined to make my arms ripe for this type of strain at some point.  I think the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and staying on my road bike for two days, in a fixed position, expedited the problem. I also suspect that I wasn’t properly fitted on my bike. (I want to be clear: I don’t fault the event itself at all. I think this was purely the result of my physiology and my position on the bike).

I knew when I first injured the arm that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. For the first couple of days I couldn’t hold a pen. I had trouble flexing my hand. I was in a lot of pain. There was numbness. I went to a few massage therapy appointments, which helped a little, but the pain wasn’t going away. I went to the doctor, and was sent to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. He diagnosed me with an entrapped ulnar nerve and gave me a prescription for anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy, and a referral for a nerve function test (to be certain I hadn’t damaged the nerve permanently). I was told it could take about a month for my symptoms to subside, and to lay off cycling until I was pain free.

The First Two Months
I kept waiting for the day when I’d wake up, and the pain would be gone. I took time off from the gym, and dove into physiotherapy. While at first I thought I could get away with just riding a stationary bike, or going for runs – it soon became apparent that even those activities were causing flare ups. I stopped knitting. I had to limit my handwriting, use of my cell phone, reading, and even the way I sit on the couch had to change. Just about everything I did caused pain. It was exhausting and frustrating. It felt like every tool I regularly used to combat my anxiety was taken away from me. It left me feeling very helpless against my mental battles.

This ate away at my confidence, and my mood. I became depressed about not being able to ride my bike, or do more at the gym. I watched my social media feed become filled with people achieving goals throughout the summer, getting fitter, while I worried I was just going to become a lump. I started to monitor my calorie intake so I could do my best to ensure that while I was losing muscle, I wouldn’t gain too much fat. While I tried to stay positive, my anxiety ate away at me.

“How much muscle am I losing right now?”
“I am going to be so slow when I start running again”
“All that hard work, ruined”
“I am never going to get in shape”
“What if this is permanent?”
“What if this is a sign of something more serious like MS?”
“Are people at the gym judging me?”
“Are my friends judging me?”
“What’s going to happen when I try to workout again?”
“What if my heart is losing its conditioning, and it gives out the next time I try to run?”
“What if I can never ride my bike again?”
“What if I can never knit again?”
“Why can’t I even just hold a book?!”
“Why aren’t these drugs helping?”
“Why isn’t it gone yet?”
“I wish I had just fallen off my bike instead”
“If I had broken a bone, it would have healed by now”
“I bet I am doing something wrong, and this is why I don’t feel better”
“All these online articles say I should have recovered within 8 weeks”

Over and over, those thoughts and questions have plagued me. I can’t even sit here and say that today I no longer have these thoughts. At least once a day, most of those questions run through my mind.

Reality vs. Expectation
Over the summer, I slowly had to come to accept my reality. I wasn’t going to be running, and certainly wasn’t going to be biking. I had to back out of a cycling event in September. I stopped training for my 5km race in October. Instead, I started to just take everything one day at a time.

I had ups and downs. There was a point in late July, into August that I thought I was getting better, and had finally turned a corner. I started running again. But then, BANG, all of my symptoms came roaring back, and I was back to incredible pain and discomfort. So I stopped exercising, outside of going for long walks. For most of August, I just walked around my neighbourhood.  This continued into September.

One of the hardest things has been watching others. I’d feel sad when I would have runners pass me by. I felt embarrassed to just be walking. Part of me felt like screaming “I usually run! I’m injured!!” because for some reason I craved the validation of strangers. Same thing at the gym when I’d make an appearance. I felt like others were thinking I was just wasting space by only stretching on the mats, instead of doing weights or squats, or even planks. I felt like people were thinking “why isn’t she doing more??” Even though I know, 99% of people are just focused on their own agenda at the gym, and not what I am doing. I felt like a loser, and a failure.

I had really hoped, when I was first injured, that it would just be a couple weeks and then I’d be back to normal. I never would have thought it would be January, and I’d still be experiencing symptoms. The good news was that my nerve function test came back without any signs of permanent damage. I am literally just waiting for this to go away. I am also working to correct posture, and release the muscle tension around my nerve. I still, though, get very scared that surgery might be inevitable, or that this is just going to be my life from now on.

And through it all, it’s been really difficult finding resources online with how to deal with injuries psychologically. There’s so much out there for what to do physically, but no one really writes about what your brain is going to put you through. Most well-intentioned people just keep telling you over and over to have patience, and that it will get better in time. Patience is hard. Patience is not an action. Physio at least makes me feel like I am actively doing something to help my body get better. But nothing is more frustrating for someone with anxiety than being told to wait.

The anxiety also leads to a lot of self-doubt. I’ve wondered a lot about what I’ve been doing wrong, or how I could have prevented this.  You blame yourself for not being a psychic. If you’re part of a team or group, you feel like you’ve disappointed everyone. I worry about missing out on things. I can’t even think about not riding for TEALPOWER in 2018, but there’s a real good chance I’ll be unable to. I worry about how much muscle mass I’ve lost, and whether I’ll ever be able to put it back on. Over and over, your anxiety just reminds you of the possible ways you’ve failed. And then through it all, you’re physically in pain.

So I know what most of you are thinking – “just keep working and you’ll get there Tesla” and “you’re too hard on yourself!” or how about “Tesla, don’t measure your self worth against others!” I know. I know all of these things. Trust me, I’ve tried not to care about what others may or may not be thinking about me. I’ve tried to love my body as is. I’ve tried to just roll with the punches and wait for the day the pain has subsided enough that I can get back on a bike. And I’ll keep trying to make the “loud voice” in my brain that one that accepts me for who I am at any given point in time, instead of the “loud voice” being in love with the version of myself that ran a half-marathon.

I guess what I wanted people to understand is that, injuries force you to recover in two ways – mentally and physically. And sometimes, I just need to cry about being in pain, and be angry, and resentful. Sometimes I just need to let those emotions out. And sometimes I know I need to be better at reminding myself that even if this is forever, I will find ways to cope, manage, and be happy. Everything needs to be one day a time and less focused on what my world might look like six months from now. If anything being injured has been a good reminder that the best way to live your life is completely and fully in the moment.

If you’re out there, reading this and struggling to overcome an injury or chronic pain, my best advice would just be to keep focusing on what’s right in front of you, and what you can do today. If today you can go for a walk, consider that a success. If tomorrow you can’t, don’t consider that a failure. Remind yourself of the other positive things in your life, beyond whether or not you can bench press today. Have coffee with a friend, watch a funny movie, sit in the sunshine, do anything to make your heart happy. Meditate when you can. Write out your feelings. Go to the doctor and ask for help. Get a second opinion if you have to. Ask for support. And remember it’s OK to cry and be angry. Let it out, don’t hold it in. Let the feelings pass so you can then move on with your day. Keep looking forward, and stop comparing yourself to your “pre-injury” self. Trust me, it will only cause you more pain. Just keep going and remember to forgive yourself. We can do this together.

Thanks for reading as always. I’ll be Tweeting all day about #BellLetsTalk to help raise money for mental health services in Canada. Join n the conversation if you wish. 

If you would like to also read my other Bell Let’s Talk Day posts, they can be found below: 

2017
2016
2015

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12 Days of 2017

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It’s been awhile since I last blogged. Truth be told, it’s not for lack of trying. I have 10 entries sitting in my drafts. The real roadblock to actually finishing something has been my own hesitations. I began to convince myself that everyone was judging me for having this blog, and that it serves no real purpose. But I forgot that at the end of the day, I do this because it helps me. It gives me something to do when I am feeling sad, or anxious. It gives me a task instead of going in circles. If someone reads it, and finds it helpful, that’s a bonus. If someone reads it and thinks I am a loser, or an idiot – well then, so be it!

But I didn’t want to finish the year without looking back, and doing one of my favourite reflection exercises – and that’s picking the 12 days that impacted me in 2017. (And as usual, they’re in no particular order).

June 10, 2017

Day One of the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I trained so hard for this year’s event, and my hard work paid off. My goal had been to ride with the lead TEALPOWER riders for as much of the distance as possible, and I did! I was so scared I’d be the last person to catch up to the group, and would hold everyone back. Instead, I proved to myself that I did work hard enough, and am strong.

The downside… it came at a price. I badly injured my ulnar nerve (aka the funny bone nerve) and have not been on my bike since crossing the finish line in Niagara Falls on June 11th. It’s been months of being in pain and discomfort nearly every day. I also haven’t been able to lift weights and my running has been very limited. In fact my last run was over a month ago. Any time my pain flares up, I have to scale everything back and let my nerves rest.

This has been the source of a lot of anxiety and upset for me since. It’s been so frustrating being unable to do some of the things I love to do, including many of the things I also use to combat my anxiety such as knitting and exercising. I’ve been trying so hard to think positive but all too often it becomes easier to just think I’ll be in pain forever – or worse – that this is a sign of something more serious.

I’ve struggled a lot too with social media. I find it very difficult to see so many of my friends being active, and achieving new goals at the gym. I’ve often felt like a failure for still not being healed. I feel like others are judging me for NOT exercising or getting in better shape. But like all the doctors and physiotherapists have told me – nerve injuries take time and are incredibly stubborn. I just have to keep waiting.

But would I go back and do the Ride all over again? You bet. It’s always a life affirming weekend, that teaches me so much about the power of the human body. Plus, I get to share some laughs and memories with an incredible group of Riders. So cross your fingers I can clip into my pedals again in 2018.

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June 16, 2017

Who doesn’t love a good wedding? My Aunt Serena married her partner Jo, making her an official part of our family! It was just another wonderful night with my family, getting to let loose and celebrate a wonderful partnership. I truly cherish and appreciate these times I get to spend with my family. Because we’re all so busy, and spread out across the Golden Horseshoe, it’s also not often anymore that we get the whole gang together. Like at Christmas, I love being able to get everyone in one place, so once again it reminds me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, loving and open family.

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The one and only Lake Louise

September 29, 2017

Sean & I went to Calgary, and on this day, I saw the Rocky Mountains up close for the first time in my entire life. Any time I spent in the mountains was spent in awe. It was breathtaking, humbling, and overwhelming all at once. When we hiked through Grassi Lakes, I just couldn’t get over the sheer size of the Rockies. Nothing puts your anxiety into perspective quite like realizing how small you are in the world. It was a strange feeling at times, being surrounded by the mountains. But I loved every second of it. It reminded me how much I love adventure, and exploring. It showed me the importance of getting out, and experiencing new areas of this beautiful country I am lucky enough to call home. Being outdoors, always gives me so much peace of mind. It’s the way I reconnect to my spiritual side as well. Seeing so much natural beauty convinces me that there is so much more to this world that we will never understand.

And… I even went several days in a row without any nerve pain! Bonus!

I really hope one day we can go back. Not to mention, we have some incredible friends who live out West, who were kind enough to open their homes to us. I am always happy when I get to see Sean reconnecting with his childhood friends, and spending time with people he cares about.

February 14, 2017 

The start of another BFF vacation! This time I temporarily joined the Myner Household, and became one of 15 members of our Mexico squad! MC’s family were so welcoming to me, and never made me feel like a 5th (or 15th) wheel. I never felt as if I was “crashing” their family party, and not a full member of the team. And as usual, I am very thankful I have such a great BFF, who I get to travel with. Not all friends travel well, and somehow we’ve figured it out! MC and I also both discovered that snorkeling is an excellent therapy for anxiety! It is the perfect way to be mindful! You’re focused on your breathing, swimming AND staring at fish! You don’t have time to be scared! We both agreed all future trips must involve snorkels.

March 9, 2017 

On this night, a group of George Brown Marketing students put together a media panel. My group was discussing the changing state of affairs in sports broadcasting. I was so humbled to be asked to be part of the panel, and also incredibly excited!

One of the things that inspired me to get into sports broadcasting, was some advice I heard during a sports media panel when I was at Ryerson over a decade ago. A female producer was asked if she ever felt that she was treated differently for being a woman in a man’s industry. Her answer was surprising. She said that she actually found that being a female helped her stand out. She wasn’t just another “Mike” or “Andrew” in the newsroom. People noticed when she did good work, and when she showed off her sports expertise. She took the situation, and used it all to her advantage. With those words, I saw the power in re-framing a perceived detriment to a become advantage. I was so thrilled to have the chance to maybe inspire other kids to stick with sports media, and especially my fellow females. It was also fun getting to network with media personalities, and hear what young students think about the current state of media. I really hope I get to do more of these talks in the future.

December 10, 2017 

Toronto FC finally won the MLS Cup, and I was lucky enough to be in the stands for it! After being a fan of this team through so many difficult years, and watching them come SO CLOSE last year, I really didn’t know whether they’d be successful this year. It’s moments like these, too, that also remind me why I work in sports, and love it. I am so lucky to be involved in so much at my job. Sports have given me the chance to meet so many new people, challenge myself, and make new friends. I wouldn’t trade my line of work for any other area of the media business.

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Hadn’t showered in like two days, but it was worth it

May 19, 2017

Years ago, if you had asked me what my Bucket List would contain – somewhere on it I would have had Algonquin Park listed on it. This year, thanks to Sean & his friend Chris, I was finally able to cross that off! We portaged into Lake Louisa via Rock Lake. Carrying all of our supplies was no joke, but so rewarding once we arrived at camp.

I camped a lot as a kid, but it was always car camping. This was my first time where I was off the grid. It was a little scary. I was definitely terrified of a bear attacking us at night, and didn’t sleep well at all. And even though it was May, it was still quite chilly in the Park. I think I wore about 5 layers at all times during the entire weekend. But I’d do it all over again in a second. I love everything about camping. You have the fresh air, the peace & quiet, campfires, hiking, and for the first time in my life I canoed! I really hope we get an opportunity to go back, I miss the beauty of Algonquin so much already.

Also, the best part of the weekend was being completely shut off from social media and our cell phones. With no service, there was no temptation to scroll mindlessly through Instagram or Twitter. Instead, I opened my eyes and absorbed every inch of scenery around me.

Not to mention, camping is another great cure for anxiety. You don’t have time during the day to be scared because you are just too busy! When you camp, everything is an ordeal. Want a cup of tea? Time to find the kettle, collect some water, start a small fire for the burner, wait forever for the water to boil, well you get the idea! There’s always something to be done, and it requires your focus. If I tried to even start worrying about something random while chopping wood, well I probably would have needed to be airlifted out of the park. It’s a great way to remind myself that being mindful and focusing on what’s right in front of me, is the best way to keep my anxiety from taking over.

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Beautiful Algonquin (Lake Louisa)

August 26, 2017 

I can honestly say this was an unremarkable day by most standards. We didn’t do anything fancy. But it was one of the rare nights this summer that Sean & I just got to sit, and relax on our balcony. We enjoyed a warm summer evening, listening to new music, and enjoying the view of the city. To me, it was the perfect way to spend a night together. The summer was such a busy one this year, so I am thankful we got a little downtime together. As I usually find each year, it’s often the little moments that can stand out the most.

March 25, 2017

I know, I know. A little lame to put my own birthday party on this list, but I’m doing it anyways. With my confidence issues, it’s very easy for me to convince myself that I am not worthy of my friends. I can sometimes feel like I am just not good enough for them, and that one day, they’ll all realize this and stop hanging out with me. But on this night, they all reminded me that I am loved, and appreciated by so many different people. And we also discovered that ax throwing is the best way to spend a birthday party!

May 7, 2017/October 22, 2017

This is really a 2-for-1 since both of these dates were road races I completed this year. And both times I went into them with a lot of doubt. For the Goodlife 10km in May, I did not feel ready. I had been focusing on cycling, and didn’t train properly. My original goal had been in under an hour, but I adjusted my expectations. I was embarrassed with myself, and thought I was a failure. I thought that people would see my finish time and think “what a loser, she does all that training and still can’t run 10km in under an hour?” It was the same for the Scotiabank 5km in October. I knew I wouldn’t finish in under 30 minutes, and feared I’d barely get in under 45 minutes. For Scotiabank, it was my nerve injury. I had run only a handful of times before the race.

But with both races, I exceeded my expectations. I have to keep reminding myself that my finish time isn’t always important – and that often setting such high expectations of myself when I am not 100% isn’t going to do my confidence any favours. Instead, I need to remember that I still achieved it, and still attempted it. That’s all I can really ask of myself.

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November 30, 2017

Sadly, like 2016, in 2017 I said goodbye to another grandparent. This time it was my Grandmother on my father’s side. It was a bittersweet day for a number of reasons. I wasn’t terribly close to my Grandmother, but I always knew she was proud of me, and loved me. But she was a bit of a mystery to me. Her and my grandfather moved from Welland to Elmira before I was born, and she remained there even after my grandfather passed away of a heart attack in 1982. It was at her funeral I learned the extent of her “other life”. What broke my heart was just seeing how many people she impacted throughout her life. I was sad for those who loved her dearly, and now had to say goodbye. I was also sad because, as with all deaths, it’s that final realization that you’ll never get that time back with that person. I will now never have the chance to know my grandmother better, and that saddens me. But, I am trying to see this as an excellent reminder not to let me anxiety hold me back, and live life fully.

July 29, 2017 

We actually made a big decision that will impact 2018 more than it did in 2017 – we officially booked our plane tickets to South Africa! We’re heading there in just a few months, with our good friends Peter & Giles. The trip has been in the works for a long time, but to actually put a real date on our departure, was a big moment. We’ll be gone for nearly a month, so it’s definitely the biggest travel undertaking I’ve ever experienced! (Oh… and that night we went on to enjoy a fun BBQ hosted by our friends Alan & Amanda)

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And that’s 2017 in a nutshell! It was another incredible year, and one that truly felt like it went by too fast. I really hope time slows down a little in 2018, so I can stop and enjoy the little moments a little more.

I don’t have many new resolutions for this year, but it’s much of the same as last – stop beating myself up over the things I cannot control, and don’t let my anxiety stop me from experiencing new and memorable things.

Have a great holiday season everyone, and stay tuned for the Top Live Bands of 2017!

When You Can’t Trust Your Body

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This will now be my third Bell Let’s Talk Day posting. The first one, “When My Body Is My Worst Fear” was my honest admission that I have anxiety and have been dealing with some form of mental health issue since my teen years. Last year, I wrote “What Talking Taught Me” as a way to express my gratitude, as well as share lessons learned in my journey to good mental health. One thing is certain – the best decision I have ever made about my own mental wellness is speaking up. Last year with my article, I hoped to show others suffering in silence that things can change.

This year, I wanted to go back and talk about what it’s actually like to suffer from health anxiety in particular, and the way my mind works when it comes to my body. I find what helps most to break the stigma around mental illness is talking through our experiences. Through this, we can find common ground with people, and find common solutions. Supporting each other is key to recovery, and what better way to do that than through understanding.

One of the things I continue to struggle with most is trust. I don’t really know when to believe the “signals” my body is sending me. I’ve spent so many years terrified of every sneeze, ache, twinge, spasm, and headache, that it sometimes is impossible for me to tell the difference between a real symptom and a fake one brought on by my anxiety. How vigilant do you consider yourself of your own aches and pains? Do you know how many times a day you feel a pain in your side? How about a spasm somewhere? Do you regularly check your heart beat? Do you remember the last time you had a headache? Do you know exactly how many times you sneezed this morning? Usually, I know the exact answers to all of these questions. This over-monitoring has led me to be incredibly sensitive about any little thing that happens with my body.

It might seem that being acutely aware of your body is a GOOD thing, but anxiety takes advantage of this. Just Google a phrase like “anxiety causing fake symptoms” and see what comes up. Pages and pages of studies, patient questions, etc, of people dealing with symptoms brought on solely because of anxiety. YES – Your body is actually capable of tricking you into thinking you are truly experiencing something! The flip side is, of course, that when my body produces real symptoms – back pain, sore knee, fever, my brain begins to work in overdrive thinking of the WORST.POSSIBLE.OUTCOMES.

Speaking of Google – fellow health anxiety sufferers please STOP asking the internet to diagnose your symptoms. Take it from me – I have convinced myself I have everything from MS to a brain tumour just based on what some sites tells me. It’s a habit that took years to break, but I am so thankful I have (to an extent…). Also – know when to stop reading an article if it’s going to trigger you. I have lost count of how many stories I’ve read about people dying of cancer that have led me on furious Internet searches looking for what symptoms the person had, how they had it diagnosed, etc. I sometimes now have to force myself to stop reading, so I don’t get caught in the cycle.

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But getting back to trusting in my own body, I want to walk through an example and in this case it’s something I have dealt with since being a teenager – heart palpitations. I still remember the first time I ever had one. I was in the movie theatre, eating nachos with gooey cheese when suddenly I had this bizarre flutter in my chest. It scared the hell out of me. It felt like my heart had stopped beating for a split second and then suddenly kick-started itself. I actually stopped eating my nachos entirely because I was scared THE NACHOS were causing my heart to beat irregularly (because you know… somehow nachos can instantly impact my organs like that). I told my parents about it when I got home, and my mom told me that is what her palpitations felt like. Years later, in 2013, I had them tested. That was when I was in a very hypersensitive state, and I was having a lot of severe anxiety symptoms. My palpitations were increasing in frequency and I was terrified that I was on the verge of a heart attack.

The doctor sent me home with a monitor, and anytime I felt a palpitation I was to hit a button, and the monitor would record the event. I had to wear electrode pads on two places on my chest, and somehow had to disguise all the wires every day because I was so embarrassed that I was walking around hooked up to a machine. The results all eventually came back clear – my palpitations are benign. Both my family doctor and therapist at the time explained to me that palpitations are often caused by stress and anxiety. Even just THINKING about palpitations can trigger them. If I calmed down, they would start to become less and less frequent. Easier said than done when at the time I was spending most of my day paying close attention to my pulse, heart beat, and any sensations that could possibly be a palpitation. Breathing exercises to calm myself down rarely worked because I actually got SCARED as I performed them. I became so focused on what my breathing sounded like, and how hard my heart was pumping that I actually was getting MORE anxious as I tried them.

But your heart is important – quite literally without it, you die. So when it has fooled you in the past, how do you really know when it needs real attention? And then begins the next struggle – deciding when to go to the doctor. It’s a real fine line for people with health anxiety. Some, and this once included myself, go to the doctor for every symptom they feel. But you eventually wear out your welcome and the doctor can begin to tune you out and dismiss your fears. Which of course, only fuels your unrelenting suspicions that something is SERIOUSLY wrong with you. So, I set “standards” for going to the doctor (outside of obvious emergencies, like a possibly broken limb or a high fever).

  • Have my symptoms been going on for more than a week? 
  • Are they getting progressively worse and worse as the days/hours go by?
  • Have I had this before? What did the doctor say then? 
  • Can this be explained by anything I have recently done? 
  • Do I have this symptom even when I am not thinking about it? 

See that last question – how often have you had to ask yourself that? For many of you, the answer is probably never. That’s the luxury of trusting your body. You KNOW it isn’t tricking you, because it’s never done it before. For me – I have to be certain “it’s not just all in my head” before going to the doctor. Because I’m always afraid that when I do go to the doctor, I’ll be dismissed because I can’t actually prove the symptom is real.

And getting dismissed is the hardest part. Because at the end of the day – all of this boils down to a fear of dying. More specifically – dying at the result of something I could have stopped. I always think – well what if this stomach ache is actually the beginning of stomach cancer, and if I catch it now I will survive? Or – what if this headache is actually a stroke and if I don’t get to the hospital in the next hour I will die? And even – if I don’t ask the doctor about my heart TODAY, what if I die in my sleep tonight? As I’ve said over and over, anxiety is a control freak. Anxiety makes you think you need to control EVERYTHING so you can stop worrying about EVERYTHING. By controlling my health, I will control what kills me.

So while I have improved over the years, it is still an ongoing battle with myself about when to raise alarm bells and questions about various symptoms and experiences I have with my body. I wish I knew definitively when my body was lying. I wish there was an app I could open that would say “Just your anxiety. You’re 100% fine today” or “You’ve just got a slight cold. You’re operating at about 75% today”. But until then, I’ll stick to my plans of regular physicals, working on calming my anxiety, and avoiding asking the Internet what my symptoms mean. I also have to work on forgiveness – because if I do get really sick, I have to be able to remind myself that it isn’t my fault. As badly as I want to, I can’t control everything – especially  how I’ll die. And then, I just have to hold onto the hope that things will slowly get better, and I’ll slowly stop being afraid.

Thank you for reading! If you are just reading my blog for the first time – welcome! I hope you will all join me on Twitter today to raise money, and awareness, for Mental Health. Remember to use #BellLetsTalk so Bell will donate money towards initiatives in this country to help those in need. 

 

 

#JanGoals: Week Two Recap

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This week, I feel I stuck to my goals with only one stumbling point. I had 3 glasses of wine on Saturday night! I know- The horror!!! Sean & I hosted some friends over for dinner, and they brought along some really nice red wine for us to have. My original plan for the night was to only have 2 glasses, but in the end I had 3. And I have really mixed emotions about it. On one hand – I didn’t get drunk, so I didn’t wake up with any sort of hangover. I spaced out all of the wine with lots of water & club soda. The impact on my diet will probably not be that bad. (I did have chocolate cake Saturday night, which is theoretically WAY worse for me! But come on, it’s chocolate!!) AND, I did go to a Raptors game on Tuesday night and ignored beer entirely! Usually when I go to a sporting event, I’ll have a beer since they go hand in hand so well. But on Tuesday, I decided to avoid beer and use my “booze allowance” for the week on Saturday night.

However – I feel like in a way I let myself down by having the third glass. I didn’t need it. And this is where I want to touch on the downside of setting goals – the anger you can put on yourself when you don’t live up to your own expectations of yourself. I am trying not to be upset with myself. It could have been different – if I hadn’t told myself to keep it at 2 drinks, maybe I would have had 4 or 5! I’d be spending Sunday with a pounding headache! What I need to tell myself to focus on, is that overall, I’ve stuck to my goals and stayed “somewhat sober”. The point of reducing my alcohol intake isn’t to deprive myself; it’s to re-teach myself moderation after the overindulgence of Christmas. So I just need to relax, forgive myself and remember that a new week is about to begin with new goals.

Staying Motivated

To keep up my enthusiasm for exercising, I decided to ramp up my workout “journalling” and instead of just keeping a day to day log, I’d start a full workout binder. I went to the dollar store and bought some basic supplies: a binder (obviously..), and some dividers. Next I Googled like a maniac until I found some free templates to use to log my workouts. (My favourite being this one). For now I plan to keep the binder simple – weekly logs, goals, and a yearly calendar template to mark off days when I’ve worked out. The goal being it will allow me to keep track like I did last year. From there, I may add in workouts I’ve found online, measurement info, weight loss stats, etc. I don’t plan to keep a written food journal – I can use the MyFitnessPal app for that (since it does all the calorie counting/nutrient info for me).

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Fitness Binder!!

I am also happy to report I stuck to 5 workouts again this week! I also went to my first spin class in months and performed a lot better than I thought I would! I guess when I catch myself feeling disappointed about the alcohol, I also need to remind myself I was a badass this week at the gym and focus on the positive.

Little Things

I’ve been feeling really inspired for Bell Let’s Talk Day – and it all started because I booked an appointment with my family doctor. I wanted to ask some nagging questions I’ve had about some symptoms. Everything, of course, turned out to be fine, explainable and solvable, but it got me thinking about how my health anxiety has impacted my ability to trust my body and the signals it sends me. So stayed tuned for  more on that on January 25th!

Also, I have a confession to make. I think I have become a full blown Starbucks addict. They have introduced almond milk to their menu and I am in love. And I kind of hate myself for this because it’s an extra 70 cents to get it, and their drinks are already SO EXPENSIVE. But OHMYGOD it is so delicious. So that made me really happy this week…. my bank account less happy.

Withdrawing from Pristiq has still been going well. I feel ready to take the next step and start taking it every third day, and see what happens. I feel that perhaps this is when I will start to see more withdrawal symptoms, so I am a little nervous.

The biggest “ah-ha” moment that I have had so far this month is realizing that no matter what happens this month – if I have a couple drinks, eat cake, miss a workout, or have a panic attack, I am still starting ahead of where I was a year ago, and that’s important. It would take a lot of sabotaging myself to end up where I was in January 2016, and that feels good to know. And when I feel down about things, I feel this is what I am going to focus on. The steps may be small, but it’s forward progress nonetheless!

Thanks for following along! How is your month going so far?

If you missed my earlier posts in the #JanGoals series, go here & here!

#JanGoals: Week One Recap

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Sweaty Selfie!

To start off my #JanGoals, one fun thing I did this week was sit down and calculate my “stats” from 2016. Last year, I used a pocket calendar to mark off and track which days I exercised, and wrote down what type of workout I did. It was part of my attempt to get to 3 – 4 workouts a week. In the end, I worked out a total of 197 times last year, roughly; 54% of the year! My best month was July 2016, where I worked out 20 times. My least productive month was December, where I only worked out 12 times. I found this tracking habit really helpful during the year, so I plan to pick up another calendar to use for 2017. It’s a great visual planner to help me look ahead at the week and plan out when to workout and when I can relax and kick back.

Also, it would be nice to improve upon this number in 2017 and go above 200 workouts!

One thing I am a firm believer in when it comes to weight loss is avoiding the scale. It is incredibly misleading. First of all, your weight fluctuates an incredible amount throughout the day – and ladies, it can REALLY fluctuate depending where you are in your cycle. Also, this past year really affirmed how little it actually tells you. With just the scale you have no idea what % fat you are, and what % muscle you are. My weight has remained nearly the same as 2016’s starting weight, but yet I’ve lost about 8% of my body fat. (How do I know my fat %? There’s a fancy scale at the gym I go to that tells you your body fat %, water weight, etc).

So what do I measure my “success” by? Measurements! Once a month I take my measurements. I do it first thing in the morning before I have anything to eat. To me, this is the best way to track your results. It seems fitting to start tracking these January goals by looking back at what I did in 2016. So, for all the world to see, here are my measurements from January 2016 compared to how I am starting in 2017.

January 2016 

  • Weight: 146 lbs
  • Chest: 35.5″
  • Waist (Natural): 31″
  • Waist (Belly Button): 34″
  • Hips: 41
  • Body Fat: **
  • BMI: 25.1 (considered “overweight”)

January 2017: 

  • Weight: 139.5 lbs
  • Chest: 34.5″
  • Waist (Natural): 28″
  • Waist (Belly Button): 33″
  • Hips: 39.5″
  • Body Fat: 33%
  • BMI: 23.9 (considered “normal” but just barely)

** I don’t have my body fat statistic from January 2016 when I first signed up at Goodlife, but I do know that in late November I was at 31% body fat, which was down 4% from when we took that information in September.

I love comparative stats like this, which is funny because I hate math and numbers. But I love progress that can be measured, literally! Which again, is why I hate the scale. I’m including my weight because my hope is that by the end of the month I can prove my point that it’s crap, and that measurements are going to boost your ego way more.

Oh – and another stat I am not a huge fan of – BMI. It just takes into account your weight and height. But it doesn’t take into account how much of your weight is fat vs. muscle – just like a scale. So I take that information with a grain of salt as well.

So how did Week One go?

I signed up for a Spring 10km race! I signed up for the Goodlife Marathon 10km race on May 7th. I used to run the Yonge St 10km, but Canada Running Series have moved that race to June, and it now is too close to the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I’ve debated doing the Spring Run off 8km in April, and may still sign up for that! So I am feeling motivated! (But also very terrified… it’s been two years since running that distance in full, and the perfectionist in me is going to want to be a sub-60 minute time, set a PB and all that jazz…)

I also ordered a new book to help with my anxiety – The Little Pocket Book of Mindfullness which was recommended to me by my therapist before Christmas. I am excited to check it out and try out the exercises! I have also tried to be more diligent with my daily journal, and taking time throughout the day to appreciate small moments.

I started the withdrawal from Pristiq and taking my doctor’s advice to take a pill every other day. I’ve read mixed views online about whether this is the correct way to ween off this drug, but I am going to trust my doctor. So far the symptoms have been minor. I get weird dizzy sensations, but so far nothing major. My mood doesn’t seem to have changed drastically. But we’ll see. It is early in the process.

BUT WHAT ABOUT DA BOOZE?

Total drinks consumed: 1.5

Sean made homemade pizza on Saturday night, and so we split a large bottle of some Trinity Bellwoods beer that we had purchased prior to New Year’s Eve. It was hard to turn down a fancy beer, especially when I knew we wouldn’t be dining out this past weekend. The “.5” portion of the number is from the small portion of coffee & Bailey’s I had at a friend’s brunch, before I decided I didn’t care for Bailey’s in Tim Horton’s coffee…

But this 1.5 is a lot less than what I would have “normally” consumed. I was out and about this week, and between some mid-week plans, and relaxing at home I could have easily had 5 – 6 drinks this week. So even though I still had 1, I’m really happy that I resisted alcohol elsewhere.

I will admit, I officially started going “somewhat sober” on January 2nd – so this doesn’t count what I consumed on January 1st!

I also feel the need to admit I have still been eating crap food in the form of leftover dip, chips, cupcakes, and cookies from the holidays! It hasn’t all been salads and oatmeal.

Now let’s hope Week Two turns out as well as Week One!

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!

12 Days of 2016

As a throwback to last year’s post, I have decided to make this an annual blog posting. 2016 was another year of learning, and growth. While I stumbled a little, and dealt with some old anxiety induced habits, I still feel as though I am on the path to getting better and better.

So, in no particular order, here are 12 days that made an impact on my life in 2016.

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Can you see the tears? I was bawling my eyes out!

12) January 1, 2016

Seems fitting to start at the beginning, no? This was a big day. It marked the official first full day (sun up, to sun down), that Sean and I began the adventure of living together! Yes, we made the awful decision to move during the holidays (I do not recommend it). As stressful as moving already is, for me it was extra stressful because due to my LEEP procedure in late 2015, I was unable to lift anything. Thankfully, we had so many wonderful friends help us out on moving day, New Years Eve, it made the day much smoother!

It’s been a wonderful year of living together. While Sean has had an exceptionally busy year work-wise, that even had him in living in Ottawa for a month, it’s been a seamless transition to cohabiting. Our home is cozy. We both love just sitting on our couches, binging TV shows, and having a glass of wine. The balcony in the summer was the perfect way to unwind on the weekends. I love being home, and I love that Sean is part of my home. I am so happy our relationship continues to thrive, and that even though I seem to constantly break our glassware, he doesn’t seem to mind coming home to me either.

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I took this selfie to celebrate my good news!

11) July 7, 2016

This was a pretty ordinary day by most standards – I started off the day at work, then left early for an appointment. Except this was an important appointment. It was THE appointment where my cervix was given the all-clear!! As documented, I’d had some issues with abnormal cells in 2015, and it culminated in getting a LEEP procedure done. I was really worried that perhaps the treatment hadn’t worked, and that all of the cells weren’t collected. Or worse, that perhaps things had just kept progressing, and that now they would find cancer. But despite my catastrophic thinking – I was given the green light! Officially – I had to wait until the last round of pap smears came back, and the HPV test. But a few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail confirming that my pap was normal, the HPV test was negative, and I was considered officially discharged from the Women’s Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital. It was an incredible relief.

10) April 14, 2016

I learned something important on this day – that few things in life are better than spending a day by the ocean, and then heading out to watch your favourite hockey team host a Playoff game! I’ve been cheering for my beloved Panthers since I was 9. But up until this day I had never been to a game in person. It was everything I had hoped it would be!! While the Panthers lost Game 1 (they’d go on to win Game 2); the experience was unforgettable. I finally was able to meet some longtime internet friends as well, icing on top of the cake. What a great week, and can’t wait to go back again hopefully!!

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9) October 14, 2016

This was a “down” day for me. On the surface – I should have been really excited. It was the night of Boobyball – an incredible fundraising event for breast cancer. But I was dreading it. It was a “themed” event, which meant my OCD/anxiety was convincing me that every piece of clothing that I did own, which loosely fit the event’s jungle theme, wasn’t good enough. I went shopping but found nothing. And so my thought cycle began. I didn’t think I’d fit in. I felt as though I’d be caught out as an impostor, and that I didn’t belong there. I didn’t feel pretty enough to be going. I felt like a loser trying to fit in with the cool kids. I thought long and hard about cancelling. The weather was also terrible. It seemed as though it just wasn’t meant to be. But, I put on my best outfit, got my hair to look just right, and dragged myself out the door.

When I got to Val & John’s place, I realized that Val was feeling the same – and it was oddly comforting to know I wasn’t alone. And in the end – it was a fantastic night. I realized once I got there, that I could fit in, and that none of my fears really mattered. I had a blast. And I am so thankful I didn’t let my anxiety get the best of me. I could have easily stayed home, and fell into a deeper hole. Instead, I went against my thoughts and had so much fun.

8) January 25, 2016

What a powerful evening. TEALPOWER Presents: From Broadway With Love – an evening of song in memory of the incredible Alison Salinas. It wasn’t just a fundraiser, or a celebration of life. It was a lot more than that, and it’s hard to put it all into words. It made you realize the impact one life can leave behind. One person can change the world. It reminded me to live in the moment, to live fully, and to love fully. It was so beautiful to see so many people paying tribute to one person. It also raised an incredible amount of money for cancer research. I am so proud to have volunteered,and play a very very very tiny role in this night. I won’t forget the voices I heard. I will carry this night with me always.

7) May 29, 2016

The annual BFF vacation! This time, MC and I visited Washington DC, and although it was sweltering hot, it was yet another great memory to add to our vault. I am so thankful for the times I get to spend with my BFF, especially just the two of us, and I am so happy we’ve been lucky enough to travel together for the last few years. Our next trip is coming up in February, so get ready Mexico – WE’RE COMING BACK!

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6) January 30, 2016

In a similar vein as above, this one is about friendship. Sarah hosted a bunch of us ladies over to her place for wine, snacks, and good laughs. I think it shows that often the simplest plans can have the best memories. It was a great way to spend a cold, wintery night, and it turned out to be one of the few nights our whole group of girlfriends could all get together. (Or mostly all of us). Friendships like these, and my BFF, are what I am often most thankful for – and what make me happiest in life. I hope in 2017 we get to take more chances like this, and spend more nights laughing, sharing memories, and helping each other out.

5) December 4, 2016 

This one is just pure sentiment. I love Christmas. I actually  have dreams where I have panic attacks because I’ve missed watching my favourite Christmas specials. I love decorating for Christmas and making the house feel EXTRA cozy. So imagine my excitement when Sean and I FINALLY took our tree out of the box. (Yes, we have an artificial tree. The Christmas purist/environmental nut in me died a little when we bought it). To me; this is one of those times when the “little” moments mean the most. Sean & I ended up having a very nice day together. We went skating in the morning, then we watched football and decorated the tree. We even cranked some Christmas tunes. Now, our house is possibly the most adorable apartment in the history of all apartments (but I might be biased). And it’s extra special because it’s the first of hopefully many to come.

4) January 4, 2016 

Moving into a new neighbourhood had one big advantage – there is a Goodlife gym right across the street. I am not usually a “gym” person, but I was determined to get back into shape, and re-teach myself how to use weights. While I still have some goals to achieve, I can honestly sit here and say I am 100000x happier with my body today than I was when I signed up for the gym. I now crush circuit workouts, know how to use the TRX bands, feel confident again with weights, and am quite possibly stronger than I have been in years. I love going to the gym and seeing what new boundary I can push. I also love being at the gym because it gives me a great excuse to unplug from my phone. This Goodlife has terrible reception, so I can’t even be on social media even if I wanted to. So it’s fantastic – I can check out from the noise of social media, work, etc and just focus on working up a great sweat and pumping some energetic tunes. Can I also come out and admit I LOVE spin class? It feels great to be getting my body in shape, and using my energy for good instead of wasting it on anxiety.

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Summer night at BMO Field; oddly enough against Seattle…

3) November 30, 2016 

There were a lot of big sporting moments this year, and in regards to Toronto FC especially, I went back and forth over which day I wanted to include – home opener, this game, or the MLS Cup. In the end, I’ve decided to include the Eastern Final Leg #2 match against the Impact. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at BMO Field. It was electric. Not to mention – they also won in exciting fashion. Even though it was a cold, rainy night – I was working up a sweat and peeling off layers because I was jumping and screaming so much. I can honestly say it was one of the best sports moments I’ve ever witnessed. Sadly, they went on to lose the MLS Cup; and that night too was incredible despite the loss; but I am going to choose to focus on the positive instead! It always feels good to beat the Impact anyways!!! (Sorry Sean…)

2) April 26, 2016

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to loved ones, and we said goodbye to Granny on this day. My mom’s side of the family is very close – we’re a small group, and we look out for each other. What’s also amazing for me is that there are a lot of females on that side of the family, so I’ve always had strong female role models to look up to. Granny was one of them. However, there is always comfort in how families come together in difficult times, and this was no exception. In the end, we put together a celebration she would have been proud of, at her favourite restaurant no less. Her memory will live on in all of us, as we’ll never get tired of telling our favourite Olga stories.

1) June 12, 2016

The Ride To Conquer Cancer – one of the best weekends of my life. June 12th was the day we rode across the finish line in Niagara Falls. It is hard to describe the wave of emotions that comes across you as you complete the Ride. For the first time, I cried as I crossed the line. I thought I would cry at my Half Marathon finish, but I didn’t. But after two grueling days, the sudden surge of pride, accomplishment, happiness, and exhaustion just overcame me. It was powerful. We crossed as a team, and hugged each other. My family was waiting for me – the first time they’d seen me cross a finish line. I was so proud of myself, and my fellow Team Tealpower members. We did an amazing thing to help so many lives, and we did it in memory of a beautiful person. I also did it as a show of support for everyone in my life who has been impacted by cancer – aunts, my grandfather, my mother, friends, co-workers, and even just people I’ve known in passing. It was also amazing for me to push my body like that – and come out strong on the other side. I will never forget that weekend, and always be so thankful I was able to participate. I can’t wait for 2017’s ride!

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My Tealpower teammates and I. This was taken on Day Two

So what’s next? Well, here’s what I hope to achieve and experience in 2017 (not a full list, of course):

-Become a faster knitter (I’d like for it to not take me three months to finish a scarf)

-Finally master push-ups

-Write more often (I actually have a bunch of half-written blog posts that need my attention)

-Run a new race

-Try a new recipe (or two, or three)

-Visit my family as often as possible

-Watch Season 4 of The Wire

What days impacted you this year? What are your hopes for 2017? I don’t believe in resolutions per se, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having new goals for the year. (I just encourage them to be realistic, and also to not be too angry with yourself if you break your “resolution” by January 2nd)

Merry Christmas everyone! Stay tuned for the annual year-end concert rankings!