Treacherous

Wow it’s like I am insanely inspired to blog lately…so here I am, coming at you again with some tough topics. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and I need a break from studying–and I only have about seven pages left in my journal and my new one isn’t coming in the mail for about a week. Have to pace myself…

So we’ve talked about depression, anxiety, and the famous 13 Reasons Why. I’ve shared a pretty dark story with you that kind of let you into what goes on in my head sometimes (hey, it got me an A in the best class I’ve ever taken!). But today I’m going to take you down the other little path of mental illness in my life. That’s right, we’re going to talk about eating disorders.

This one might be the hardest for me to talk about because I have always struggled with whether or not I can really consider what I had an eating disorder. On top of that, I still have those lingering Bad Thoughts about my body…every time I look in a mirror. Okay, okay, maybe not every time, but at least ninety percent. That percentage is too damn high! It doesn’t mean I act on those thoughts–sure I have cried in the shower more than once this year and had a mental breakdown or two in my car. It happens and it sucks, but I’m only human.

I gained weight abroad, and ever since I have been back, I have been telling myself that “I have to lose the abroad weight.” Everything still fits me, sure, but now that I’m not perpetually wearing sweaters and I’m on a campus full of beautiful people, I notice the change. So last quarter, I gave myself a gym routine I said I would stick to. It wasn’t aggressive, but I would go a few times a week and take a class. No big deal. Well, I did not follow through with that after around Week 3. I wasn’t mad at myself or anything, I just didn’t have the time. That was okay. I still didn’t love to look at myself in the mirror, but I wouldn’t say I hated it either.

However, this quarter I have been really good about going on a more regular basis. I go a few times a week to hit the elliptical. I even go at six in the morning sometimes. Honestly, who am I?? Kidding, it’s just the best time for my schedule to go. Yes, I am pretty much asleep in the Rec and I nap once I get home and shower, but that’s not the point. The point is that–get this–I actually feel better. I have never been one of those people that feels good after a work out. In fact, I feel pretty shitty. I still don’t feel on top of the world when I leave the gym (the word “potato” comes to mind…), but I have more energy and motivation to actually do things throughout the day.

One of the reasons I wanted to start going more often and regularly was because I would lose all my energy when I would hike with my friends. My endurance and stamina has never been great, and it really showed on a trip to the top of Bishop’s Peak. I am always one of the slowest. That is partly because my knees and ankles kind of suck, but it’s also because I get tired so fast. I’ve gotten a lot better now that I have spent the last few weeks at the Rec.

Bonus: I don’t pant walking around our hilly campus or to my apartment on the third floor (much) anymore!

All of that is fine and dandy. I am not overdoing it or pushing myself too hard, and I still eat whatever I want, when I want (except SloDoCo–I need a maple bar, stat!). I am eating a lot of fruits and veggies, but I also splurge on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Some days you hit the gym, some nights you hit the bars. It’s called balance.

But today when I was working out, I spotted a girl in the weights area. She looked…well, quick frankly, she looked like maybe she was overdoing it (to put it in simple terms). She had slightly sunken eyes and I could see the chords in her neck. And I know people at the gym don’t really look happy, but she didn’t seem to have the life in her that a lot of people do. I know it is not my place to judge or to make assumptions, but I worried about her. And I looked at the miles, the calories, and the minutes on my machine, and I slowed down. I was at a pretty fast pace to get and keep my heart rate up, but seeing her made me cool it for a minute and remind myself that those numbers don’t matter. Yes, running elliptical-ing a mile in less than ten minutes is really exciting for me, but I have to remember that “beating” that personal best might push me past my limits. Maybe I will beat that time, but, like writing in my journal in the next week or so, I have to pace myself.

I have to be conscious of why I am going to the gym. To lose weight? Maybe, but that’s not the overall goal. To build muscle? Possibly. And I have to remind myself that it’s not a requirement of my day. If I’m really not wanting to go work out, then I won’t do it. Yes, I want to keep a routine and stick to it, but it’s not supposed to control me. I think for a little bit this quarter I was letting it take the reigns of my life. Like with depression and anxiety, I had to take a step back and reevaluate. Seeing that girl at the gym made me do that. So this morning, I skipped the gym to sleep in and then study. I might go later today, but I won’t force myself.

Sometimes I think I have all this control over my body and my life, and then I realize that I only think I do. That’s when I stop looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces, I walk right past the scale, I don’t compare myself to every single person that passes me. Instead, I look at the flowers growing literally everywhere in SLO and I jam to the music in my headphones. I can overcome those bad habits.

I was talking to a friend of mine about my new mile time and how exciting that was for a non-runner like me. He said that seeing results like that can be addicting and that was a great feeling. Now, I would in no world put him into any unhealthy habit category–he’s one of those guys who looooves the gym and lifting weights and playing basketball–you know the kind I’m talking about (still love ya, Ben!!). But the word “addicting” didn’t quite sit well with me. Working out and I haven’t had the best relationship because I got addicted to it like I got addicted to the numbness of depression. Again, his words made me take a step back.

I don’t like that I still struggle with this. I feel like I am better than this–I should be, right? Yeah, well, mental illness doesn’t work like that. Sometimes it creeps back into your life and you don’t notice for a while. Recovery doesn’t mean you’re never tempted or you don’t ever slip backwards. Recovery is being conscious of those temptations and overcoming them. It’s been an ongoing battle.

But today is going to be a good day. Great things will happen and I am going to be the best person I can be. My morning pep talk.

Thanks for keeping up with me!

-Ash

PS Literally an eating disorder ad just came up on my Spotify–relevance!! Talk about it, start a conversation, be there.