” A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”
This is quite the long story and if you stick around to read the whole thing then you are amazing, thank you so much and I love you.
Im going to dive DEEP into my story, my health and fitness journey, what I went through with my mental health to get to where I am today and why I am so passionate about sharing body positivity, self care, self love, health, fitness, etc on my blog and my social media.
Another thing I want to make clear is that I’m not doing this for attention. The reason I’m sharing this is so you guys get to know me and my story better because this really has shaped me into who I am. The other reason is because I hope my story helps anyone struggling with mental health, with their body, and with their relationship with food. Struggling with mental health is a scary, uncomfortable thing and I don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone.
Growing up, I was always an active kid. I played hockey when I was like 5 to about 12, I was always involved in all of the school sports from volleyball, basketball, track, soccer, soft ball, you name it I probably did it. From the age of 12 to the age of 16 ish I was in competitive gymnastics as well. Gymnastics kicked my ass to say the least. I was doing hardcore workouts 3 days a week plus competing all over Manitoba. So with all of the things I was doing, I had a more muscular build than any of the other girls my age.
Because I was more muscular, I got made fun of for it. The guys in my grade and the grade above me called me “The hulk” (yeah the big green muscular giant from the Marvel movies), and when I walked by them they would say “oh look out the Hulk is coming, don’t make the Hulk angry,” among other things.
Soooooo as you can imagine I became extremely self-concious of my body and the things I wore. I would pretend to not be as strong or as fast in gym class to avoid people making fun of my strength and athleticism. I would look at my body in the mirror every night judging my muscles, wishing I was leaner and skinnier and I would also try and eat less to avoid being more “bulky.” I was trying to do anything to not stand out or draw attention to myself or my body.
I developed an extremely poor mindset around my body and with food at a very young age and I was extremely insecure. No one at this age or any age for that matter, should feel like they need to change in order to make others happy. I was young, so I had 0 knowledge on self-love, proper nutrition or how the body really works. I had no idea what I was doing is considered disordered thinking and eating.
During this time, I remember very vividly, telling myself that the only things I could eat were under 100 calories, and had no fat and I even went to the extent of not eating at all and starving myself so I could lose weight. This was when I was like 14 or 15. My life and thoughts revolved around doing things that would make me skinny and less muscular.
So guess what happened? I ended up quitting gymnastics when was 15 because of my insecurities and I also started dating my first boyfriend so some of my priorities flew out the window. I stopped caring about my weight and my health altogether when I had a boyfriend. I figured since he loved me that means I was beautiful the way I am, I didn’t have to change.
I overheard two guys talking about how I’ve gained weight and that I wasn’t as in shape as I used to be. They called me lazy and slow and I used to be so good at school sports then I just stopped trying and now I wasn’t very athletic.
This broke me to say the least. I remember feeling so devastated and so bad about my self. I felt like I gained 100 pounds as soon as I heard those words. I immediately picked apart every single part of my body in the mirror and told myself I would lose 10-20 pounds.
I started running and working out every chance I got. I started running track again even though it wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. I just wanted to prove everyone else wrong and that I still was in good shape. I did insanity workouts on my lunch hour, I ran or went to the gym after school and cleaned up my diet. I said no to any “junk” foods or treats. I was not kind to myself or to my body.
So now guess what people referred to me as? The fit, healthy gym girl and then I got more attention from guys and got compliments on my body. I thought I was healthy and it was a good thing I only ate “health” foods and exercised all the time. I got compliments on my willpower everytime I said no to dessert or foods I thought would make me fat. My disordered eating was GLORIFIED.
Because of my interest in health (more so being skinny and fit), I developed an interest in nutrition and figured that would be what I should take in University. I mean I’m known as the healthy fitness girl so that is what would make the most sense. I didn’t even give it much thought, I didn’t think about being a dietitian or what one does, I didn’t really know anything about medical nutrition therapy. I also had no clue that you had to do an internship. I just went into nutrition in school because I had an obsession with being skinny.
As you can tell I didn’t really do any research on being a dietitian or the program I was taking I just found out there was a nutrition degree available because at the time I was extremely passionate about health (or what I thought healthy was, it was more a passion of being skinny).
In my second year of University in the Fall my mental health was starting to fucking deteriorate. I was taking a heavy course load, I was still restricting food and working out to be skinny not healthy, my grandpa had to undergo a massive brain surgery and it was a really stressful time on the family. I also went on a trip to Cuba with my boyfriend at the time and his family and it was not a very good experience for me. All the food made me sick, I wanted to go home so bad, I was uncomfortable, miserable and just felt so anxious whenever we left the resort (I didn’t know what I was feeling was anxiety at this time).
All of these things kind of built up throughout the fall and into Winter so by Christmas time I experienced my first anxiety attack and it snowballed into an anxiety disorder. I always struggled with anxiety as a kid but this was NOTHING compared to what I was feeling. This was by far the scariest, darkest and hardest experience I have ever gone through in my life and I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy.
When I developed an anxiety disorder, I had no clue what it was at the time and why I was feeling like this which essentially, made me feel 10 x worse and made me panic. I literally felt like I was going insane, and crazy and that I would NEVER feel normal again or be able to focus on school or anything for that matter. So you could imagine how this made my anxiety even worse and kept fuelling my panic. People would tell me, just relax! Just stop thinking about it! Like yeah if only it were that easy right?? So that was even more frustrating and made me feel crazy because no matter how hard I tried, I could not relax or take my mind off of it for the life of me.
It got so bad that over Christmas that year, my parents had to take me to the hospital because they had no idea how to help me or calm me down and I thought I was dying or having a heart attack, or like I was really going insane. I was crying non-stop, my heart was beating a million times a minute, I was so stressed out my mind felt like it was in knots and everything felt dark and scary. I feared being alone and leaving the house or doing anything really. I was having constant panic attacks and could not focus on anything so my parents didn’t know what else to do except take me into the hospital. I kept everything bottled up and had no idea what was going on with me it was so fucking scary.
From my second year until my 4th and even 5th year of university, it was constant up and downs with my mental health and trying to fix it. Trying to put my thoughts back into place, trying to force my anxious thoughts and feelings away with absolutely every method I could think of. I tried natural herbs and supplements, herbal teas, anxiety courses and workshops, tried replacing my negative anxious thoughts with positive ones, but nothing worked. Or if it did work I felt better and like I conquered my anxiety and I finally beat it, only to fall back into anxious thoughts the next week. I felt trapped and lost and hopeless all the time. My anxiety was ruining my life.
In combination with my anxiety I also experienced ups and downs with Insomnia. Having poor sleep fuelled my anxiety and made me feel more depressed and shitty. I remember one time I could not sleep for 5 days, I was so depressed and hopeless. I have never felt so low in my whole life, and I really thought I was never going to escape these feelings. With insomnia again I tried courses, workshops, herbs, supplements like melatonin, lemon balm, sleepy tea, but all of these things left me feeling groggy and more depressed, and sleepless yet again.
I felt lost and trapped in a continuous cycle of anxiety, depression and insomnia.
I also developed a form of OCD called intrusive thoughts OCD, which I did not even know was a real mental illness until months and months into my struggle with it. I would have thoughts of harming myself, and think they were real, and would fear actually hurting myself. The thoughts really scared me and I thought it meant I was depressed or suicidal, so whenever I had a intrusive thought like that I would have really bad anxiety and obsess over it. I would check and go through aspects of my life that showed I wasn’t depressed or suicidal. I would be like ” Okay, I went to school today, I hung out with friends, I tried going for a walk, I cant be depressed. Why am I thinking this way?” Obsessing, and checking was going through my mind all times of the day. I would be scared to chop vegetables or use anything sharp because I was scared I would lose control and accidentally hurt myself. Or when I was driving down the highway, I would think “what if i just swerved in the middle of the road onto oncoming traffic” And then I would have bad anxiety about having to drive, or cook, etc. It was really confusing for me because I knew I didn’t want to, I wanted to live, be happy, etc., but I kept having these thoughts and I tried to force them out constantly because they terrified me. I figured if I was having these thoughts that they were real, and true to who I was. The more I fought them, the stronger they were, the more anxious and fear I felt. It was a constant, vicious cycle and I thought I was going absolutely insane. I know how crazy this may sound, and you might think I am crazy, but its a real form of OCD. I couldn’t focus on school, my friends, family, or anything that I used to enjoy doing. I have never felt so terrified, and I was terrified of myself, and my mind.
Trying to battle with this, pretend to act normal with family and friends (I did a good job of this) and trying to study and do well with school, was hell. I’ve never experienced something so difficult. I only opened up about all of this to one person and my current boyfriend, because i was embarrassed, and wanted so badly to be normal. I did not want to be dealing with this or be different or crazy. So I kept it in, and was determined to fix it myself, with no therapy or medication or anything else.
After a lot of ups and downs with my mental health, I just hit a breaking point. And I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. I told myself that you are going to be happy and you are not going to keep living in fear and feeling sluggish and down and being unhappy. I took the fact that I am a huge bookworm to my advantage and I started researching everything.
I poured into research about anxiety, insomnia, depression, and buying so many books about it. This was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I also started studying nutrition and the brain a little more and why anxiety and these other mental health disorders happen. I was already passionate about nutrition, but in those times of anxiety episodes and depression, insomnia I wouldn’t take care of myself. I wouldn’t take a mental health day, I wouldn’t exercise or eat healthy. I wanted to stay in bed all day and wait for it to go away. I would literally put my life on hold when I was experiencing these things because I was scared to get up and face them. I would try and shut them out and shut the world out. I learned that in order to heal from anxiety, depression, OCD, insomnia, I needed to act like it wasn’t there. I don’t mean, push it down, but simply allow it to be there, and go on with your life.
For example, when I felt anxious, I would just tell myself, okay thats fine your thinking this, its just a feeling its not going to kill you, and I would just let it go and go about my day. The more I did this my anxious thoughts or feelings just started to fade and feel less important and I would just ignore them whenever they came up.
When I had a bad nights sleep, I learned to accept it and not force anything. When I had an intrusive thought and felt the urge to obsess over it or fix it, I just let it be there and went about my day like I usually would. I learned that the more you force things, try and make things go away, the worse it feels. You cannot control everything, the sooner you accept that, the more peaceful you will feel. I also learned that you can’t stop living your life when these things are happening.
FYI this did NOT happen overnight. REAL change takes a lot of time and I had many relapses where I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. There were days my anxiety would come back full force just when I thought it was gone for good. But I accepted those bad days, I felt all those feelings and knew it would pass.
Through this, I learned that you absolutely have to feel your emotions, you have to look inside yourself, you have to acknowledge the thoughts your having in order to TRULY heal. Healing doesn’t happen by running from the problem or trying to distract yourself.
I continued to educate myself on mental health, OCD, nutrition and working out related to feeling better during those anxious/depressed moments even when I didn’t want too. It’s easy to take care of yourself and be positive and live life when you are feeling good, but the growth happens when you’re not feeling good, and you do those things anyways.
Two books that really opened my eyes and put things into perspective for me in a way that made sense, was the untethered soul by by Michael A. Singer, and also The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. These two books literally changed my life, and allowed me to heal from my anxiety. These books taught me to stop fighting my anxiety or any other struggles, but to accept them, and allow them to be because the more you fight it the stronger it becomes. When you accept it and allow those anxious, depressed feelings to occur, the less power and control they have over you, and the quicker they disappear. Same goes for insomnia, the more you try and control your sleep, try harder to get to sleep or stay asleep, the further away sleep is. You can NOT control what comes and goes, you have to ride the wave out, let it be, and your natural states of calm, peace, happiness and sleep will come to you if you allow it too.
These books also taught me not to take my thoughts so seriously and that thoughts and feelings are not you, there just something your experiencing. Your underneath all of that. So you don’t have to believe all of those anxious thoughts, you just have to observe, accept and let them go. Your thoughts are just thoughts, thats it, they only become scary if you make them scary.
It took alot of time and patience for me to feel whole and healed and for my anxiety to slowly fade on its own. This may not be for everyone, but this is what worked and what made sense to me, and I can honestly say, today I am anxiety free and sleep well. Yes, I do think about those struggles sometimes, and I do still get anxious about stuff like anyone, or have a bad sleep like anyone, but I know how to deal with it now.
This is why I am so passionate about meditation, mindfullness, self-care and taking proper care of yourself. Listen to your body, rest if it needs, allow yourself to eat when your hungry, move in ways that feel good for you and PLEASE stop associating your worth to a number on the scale.
With all of my past struggles with anxiety and mental health, body image issues, I have found healing through taking care of myself, learning about mindfulness and meditation, loving myself and being kinder to my body. Eating well and movment also make me feel good, strong and energized which play a huge part in my mental health. This is why I am so passionate about my blog and sharing about body positivity, self-love, confidence and taking care of yourself.
Accept who they are, accept all of your quirks and struggles because it makes you who you are and makes you stronger. You never grow in a comfort zone, it is when you are uncomfortable and experience those hard situations where you grow and become a stronger person.
Im sharing this story because I want people to reach out to me if they are struggling with the same thing I went through, I want people to hear my journey and know they are not alone, and that there is a way to healing and peace again.
All the best,