I was on a roll…
In last weeks blog I wrote about how I used exercise to work through depression and anxiety after an abusive and traumatic relationship. Hitting the gym, moving my body and lifting some weights helped me to get my rage out, feel my own power and re-connect to my body. By the time I left for college (which was super scary for me after what I had been through) I felt pretty proud of my body and hopeful that the change of scenery was just what I needed.
Change is HARD!
As the first semester of college got rolling, I realized this transition was going to be much harder than I expected. Because of the traumatic experiences I had had throughout the two years prior, I had so much paranoia about people, so little trust… not only in myself but in the people around me…all those new people! The feeling of fear and discomfort grew the longer I was there and I began to lean more and more into unhealthy coping skills. I found it difficult to take care of myself the way I had been at home because the healthy food I had been eating (provided by my mom) was not in the dining hall and the gym on campus seemed threatening and intimidating to me.
Things fall apart
So I stopped working out and stopped eating well…and I began to lean more and more into unhealthy ‘coping skills’ like alcohol and experimenting with drugs. I was looking to numb out of the way I felt, the discomfort and fear I felt at every party, in every class and frankly in most social situations. This is going to sound crazy, but I remember on one occasion, literally hiding under my blankets in my bed while a ‘get to know your neighbor’ party was going on outside my dorm for the freshman. I couldn’t bare to be around all of these new people and I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t handle it and just wanted to disappear. I was so anxious I curled up in a ball with tears streaming down my face, pulled a blanket over my head and wished I could disappear. This was NOT my rock bottom….
I think we’ll all have lots of ‘rock bottoms’ in our lives, moments when things are so clearly out of control that we feel propelled to take drastic measures to create some kind of change. This instance included a 1.85 GPA, academic probations (obviously!), an extra 15lbs, an unhealthy BMI (I’m 5 feet tall on a good day so 15lbs is a lot for me!), a closet full of cloths that didn’t fit anymore and serious feeling of disappointment in myself. If I kept this up I was going to fail out of college, destroy my health and go deeper down the anxiety and depression rabbit hole.
Time for change…
I returned home for winter break and I remember sitting on the coach with my mom, crying and telling her how unhappy I was with myself. Telling her I didn’t feel good in any way, that I couldn’t keep going on like this. We talked about plans to make sure I had healthy vegetarian food available, to join a gym in town out of the college where I might feel more comfortable and made arrangements for me to start to see a therapist.
Part of my resolve to get my shit together was driven by a belief that was forming with in me. I believed that if I somehow managed to get out of the scary and unhealthy situation I had been in with an abusive psychopath, than I better appreciate my new lease on life and make something of it. I connected to this idea that I had been giving a gift, an opportunity to make a good life, and I had better take it. This was the beginning of a spiritual journey for me too, because I was starting to feel that someone or something greater than me had plans for me…and it was not a plan for me to drink and eat myself into a comma while being afraid of the world.
A return to school and to myself
When I got back to school after the winter break, the first thing I did was write on a post-it note ‘3.0 and 15lbs’, that was to remind me of my goal of getting a 3.0 GPA and to lose those 15lbs by the end of the semester. I looked at this note several times a day…and although I certainly engaged in the unhealthy lifestyle of college at times, I began to lean back into exercise and healthy eating.
The more I did this, the more I began to feel like myself again. I started to feel proud of myself and my dedication to walk down to Main Street from campus to hit the gym, even when it was cold and dark. I felt confident in my ability to make better nutrition choices and remembered how much better I felt when I was taking care of myself this way. By the end of the semester I had lost 16lbs and got a 3.5 GPA. It was quite possibly the first time I had ever seen myself as someone who could accomplish big things when I put my mind to it. It gave me a new perspective of who I was, I started to see myself as smart and capable.
Grateful for the struggle
We all have our own definition of what rock bottom is and the reality is, its up to us to decide what it’s going to be and how we are going to respond to it. I am grateful for this rock bottom, it was like the pull back of a bow and arrow, I needed to be pulled in one direction in order to shot forward, further than I had ever been before. Life has pulled me back several times since then and I try my best to maintain a commitment to use these setbacks and dark moments in life, as opportunities for growth and forward momentum.