I’ve spent a lot of time on Instagram sharing my personal thoughts on mental illness, eating disorders, and happiness but haven’t ventured much to my blog. I assume people would rather read a long-ish photo caption than an entire blog, and most of what I want to say fits within Instagram’s constraints (though I’ve had many posts in which I had to edit stuff out because I extrapolated too long).
If you’re new to this blog, welcome — I don’t write in it too often, but because of that my posts hold more meaning than they used to. I am an LDS Korean-American adoptee, married (with three furbabies), with OCD, depression, anxiety, and binge eating disorder.
I’m a real riot.
After a very difficult 2015 (mentally speaking — a lot of great stuff happened, so I can’t say the entire year was a bust because it wasn’t) and start to 2016, I decided one day I needed to make some life changes. I was already seeing a psychologist, I was on new medication, and I was working on mindful eating (which is much harder than it sounds and thusly very difficult to maintain), but the lows I experienced were still so low. I forgot to take my Vitamin D (I still do — I’m going to put the bottle in the bathroom with my other medications right now. Give me a second.), I’d wake up with extreme anxiety and difficulty breathing, my irritability could go from 0 to 60 in a second. And although I found some answers in a rather fascinating article/study on the correlation between mental illness and high altitude living, I wasn’t willing to throw in the towel and say, “Well, this is just how it’s going to be while I reside in Utah.” I couldn’t possibly.
I’m going to touch on a few things as quickly as I can to avoid turning this post into a tirade. I know that some people will read this and understand or support my thoughts and others will read it and become defensive because ultimately they’re reading about their own lives and they don’t want to admit it. And, as I’ve experienced as an educated, certified professional makeup artist — life experience, education, knowledge simply don’t matter to some people. The information you have to share does not apply to them, it can’t possibly be correct, they want it to be wrong. But I’m going to say this: as an adult woman who’s suffered from an eating disorder for at least 14 years, I have just come to KNOW certain truths. Feeling guilty when you eat is one of the most mentally damaging things you can do to yourself. Recently, it was Easter, which meant candy and large meals for a lot of people, which then meant concern over how much we all ate. And not to sound callous, but I legitimately do not care how many Cadbury mini eggs you’ve consumed since they hit stores. Eat them, love them, enjoy the fact that they’re here because they’re going to disappear for another 10 months, and then don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t EVER guilt yourself post-eating, no matter what you’ve eaten, how much of it, etc. Mindful eating means you’re listening to your body and its cues — “How full am I now? Do I feel satisfied?” — and it leaves out the self-deprecating hatred of, “I’ve failed. I messed up. My diet is over. I can’t ever succeed. Might as well give up now.” You eat for health, both physical and mental, which means if you want a cookie, you should eat the cookie. Mentally, you’ll feel better, and by allowing yourself to enjoy it, you won’t binge later. And trust me, I know all about bingeing. Being more mindful often leads to making better choices in the long run, so be mindful rather than guilt-ridden. (I just ate an entire box of Annie’s organic mac & cheese singlehandedly. No regrets.)
So one Friday a couple weeks back, I got home from the chiropractor and told my husband we were going to the gym to exercise. It was the one big factor missing from my life because no one likes working out, it’s germy, it makes you sweat, it requires you to interact with other sweaty, germy people. (And I know I could technically work out at home, but that’s like taking an online course. It’s going to be sorely neglected.) We hated every second of it, and then we did it the next day. And then we did it that Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and finally Saturday. And then we woke up the following Monday (aka yesterday) and did it again.
Sometime late last week, I started to notice that my workouts were growing in their intensity, without my even really thinking about it or meaning to. It made me feel better, mentally and physically, and I wanted to experience more of that natural high. And then Monday, aka yesterday, I hit my epiphany: I wanted to go back, despite already working out in the morning. (I didn’t because it genuinely was not reasonable to spend much of my time in the gym rather than home with my family, and I’m not training for anything. I didn’t feel guilt not going back because that’s not the point.) I finally realized and understood how much exercise is for your mental health as much as physical.
Well, this was huge for me. I’d spent so much of my life working out begrudgingly because I was doing all the things I THOUGHT I should at the gym that I forgot to make it enjoyable. This time is different: I almost never run (and if I do, it’s for very brief spurts at a time), I take breaks during the classes and don’t care if other people see it because sometimes I genuinely can’t do what the teacher is asking and injury isn’t on the menu, and I spend a lot more time in the weight room actually knowing what I’m doing and why because my husband has educated me on it. This doesn’t meant that some mornings I don’t wake up and think, “But bed is so much better” or “I don’t really have time for this,” because I absolutely do, but I do it anyhow. I’ve yet to regret the decision.
So. I sleep better (sort of — insomnia can only be cured by so many things, but an effective workout does make me pretty tired), I eat better (this is two part — I don’t rationalize that I can eat everything in sight because I’m working out, but I also eat ice cream and candy and don’t feel bad about it, partially because I know that gymming it up every day counteracts much of it), I feel better.
I guess what it boils down to is that I’m not exercising to lose weight. I’m exercising to have a healthier mind. And that’s a lot more motivating than anything else.