I should have written this post days ago, but I haven’t known where to begin. Being vulnerable is hard, I think for everyone. But I’m on a journey to be the best me I can be. So here I am, opening up to friends and a world of strangers on the internet.
I turned 38 this weekend, and while it isn’t exactly a milestone birthday, it felt pretty momentous to me. I’ve officially been an adult for 20 years. Most days, I don’t feel very adulty, but that’s a topic for a different day, I suppose. Today, I want to talk about health. Mental, physical, and spiritual. I want to talk about illness and shame and societal expectations. Because at some point or another, I’ve been a slave to all of these things, to the idea that perfection determines worth. And even though I long ago realized that I have value, regardless of whether or not I’m perfect, those old insecurities still crop up when we least expect them, don’t they?
So, I decided that this year is going to be the Year of Me. A year of health and happiness that will hopefully lead to a lifetime of it.
My areas of focus are
- My mental health
- My physical health
- My spiritual health
I’ll start with the easy stuff first: mental health. I have OCD. Not like when people say “Oh, I’m a little OCD about that,” or when people joke about liking their books alphabetized so they must have OCD. I have the kind of OCD that leaves a three-year-old unable to color because the crayons are broken and out of order and they HAVE TO BE ORGANIZED BEFORE ANY COLORING CAN TAKE PLACE! The kind of OCD that keeps a fourteen-year-old up all night worrying in circles about whether any of her friends actually like her or if they’re all just being nice. The kind of OCD that sends a new mother around the house checking and rechecking and re-rechecking to make sure that the appliances are all unplugged before she can go to bed because if she doesn’t it will start a house fire and EVERYONE WILL DIE AND IT WILL BE ALL HER FAULT! It’s genetic and pervasive, and I will have it for my entire life.
But I don’t have to let it run my life. I’ve been working with a wonderful therapist for a few years now, and we’ve made great strides in improving my mental health together, but I’m resolving to push myself, to get outside of my comfort zone more, to do the things that scare me and trigger my OCD-based flight or fight response. This year, I will expand my bubble of safety until it bursts and I am able to feel the fear, greet it with love and acceptance, and then send it packing so that I can live my best life with joy.
I’m claiming my headspace.
Onward to physical health!
I have Celiac Disease. For those who don’t know, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten that causes the body to attack itself. I was sick for many, many years before I found out, and as a result, was malnourished for much of my childhood and the first ten or so years of my adult life.
Due to the malabsorption and malnutrition, my body protected itself by going into what’s informally referred to as “Starvation Mode,” meaning, my metabolism slowed down—way down—and I packed on the weight—a lot of it. Despite averaging 1500–1700 calories eaten most days. While the extra weight isn’t ideal, my body adapted to keep me alive during a very lengthy period of malnutrition. And, it nourished two pregnancies and gave birth to two healthy babies, during the height of my illness.
I am proud of my body (see pictures as proof).
What I’m not proud of is the way society treats people who don’t meet stereotypical beauty standards. I’m too big to be considered “beautiful.” Another woman might be too skinny, too tall, too short, too human. If I had a dollar for every time throughout my life I’ve heard, “You have such a pretty face,” or “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight,” or my personal favorite, “You could stand to skip a meal or two.” (because that’s exactly what my starving body needed, right?) I would be a rich woman.
It’s no secret that I am “built for winter,” as one of my favorite coworkers once said about himself—because even men feel the weight of beauty standards. But that doesn’t mean I have to hate myself or hide in shame. Or skip meals.
So, this year, I’m resolving to reward my body for all of its hard work keeping me alive. I’m going to feed it healthy, nourishing foods and give it lots of physical activity. My goal is to make my body the strongest and healthiest it’s ever been. I started working with a fantastic trainer about a month ago, and I wish I had started sooner. But after bad experiences trying to work with personal trainers in the past, I was hesitant. I first heard about my new trainer about a year or so ago (what is time anymore?) and he came highly recommended by a close family member, but my fear kept me from taking the leap.
Y’all… this man is 25 and in great shape and kicks my butt every time we work out, but he has never once made me feel like I’m not measuring up. He doesn’t judge me; he just meets me where I’m at and encourages me to do what I can, never pushing me to go too far but always pushing me to my limits. And bonus: working out improves your mood/mental health.
In the interest of really getting my health in order, I gave myself a birthday gift: converting the garage into a home gym. Because OCD and pandemics don’t mix well, and joining an actual gym just isn’t where my mental health is at right now. Plus, if the gym is only a step outside my kitchen door, I can’t make excuses not to get there. I want to work out daily.
I’m claiming my health space.
We’ll close with Spiritual Health. I believe in a higher power. What I call God, you might call Spirit, or the Universe, or something entirely different, but I, myself, believe specifically in God (and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). I don’t commune with my higher power nearly as much as I should. Once upon a time, I journaled daily, read my bible, studied devotions, and started every day with a prayer of gratitude. While I still do this from time to time, I miss it more often than I manage it. Just like exercise is important to both physical and mental health, practicing faith is important for both spiritual and mental health. So, the final goal for my Year of Me is to practice my faith, commune with God, and write in my gratitude journal daily.
I’m claiming my heart space.
I’m on a mission to be the best me I can be, this year and each year after. But whatever I am, I will continuously remind myself that I don’t need to be perfect. I’m Perfect Enough just the way I am.
Are you interested in joining me on my journey? Connect with me on social media so we can cheer each other on!