My childhood, teen years and beyond consisted of a constant desire to increase my serotonin levels. Of course at the time, that’s not what I was thinking. I was just desperate to feel something. Desperate to relinquish the numbness I felt in my body, to stop the chaos that encircled my brain. I continued to use food as a punishment or reward, but not eating was no longer working for me. I was tired, I was cold. It’s literally no fun. Again, thinking back, I was not consciously thinking. Ok, I have got to think of what I can do to absolutely wreak havoc on my body. Hmmm, as I drum my fingers on the table, what could I do that would make me feel better but probably cause permanent damage and cause me to lose time with my friends and family. This next adventure should prohibit adequate sleep and cause mental paralysis if I couldn’t do it. I know, exercise! and, not just exercise, exercise all the time. I would read the magazines and buy the books and take the classes and teach the classes and buy the machines. Whoop, whoop! 🙌
The fabulous benefit of this addiction is I could be skinny, then everyone would love me. Then maybe I would love myself. This was so easy to hide wide out in the open. “Wow” everyone would say, “You are so dedicated”. “I just don’t know how you do it?” “You are amazing.” I would hear. When I started this fabulous undertaking, I could easily slide by with 4 hours of workouts. Teach four 30-minute classes and then throw in an hour workout. You know, because, I really needed to burn more calories. I could spend so much time just trying to stop because I would be convinced that I might have done one extra leg lift on one side verses the other, so then I would have to flip and do one more. How could I walk around in public with one leg bigger/smaller than the other? This would continue on and on. Usually, If I said to myself, ok if you do one more of anything, you will get fat. That always stopped me in my tracks. A sure-fire way to get me to halt.
One of my fondest memories and when I say fond, I mean sad and ridiculous, was running up and down the stairs on Easter morning. I was going to eat candy that day. Did I forget to mention, I also discovered sugar gave me a high like no other. Anyway, I had to prepare to negate the calories coming in with what was going out. There would be no relaxing today! My constant over exercising had caused my body to be in constant pain. A term called OTS (Overtraining Syndrome) led to more depression, loss of period, fatigue, muscle pain. I was so tired; I fell asleep driving. Luckily, I woke up to a car horn blaring as it headed straight at me. All of my muscles constantly ached. There was no active recovery like yoga or stretching or mediation. All of that was for people that clearly did not have to burn calories. People that had an extra hour laying around to add something nonconsequential to their routine. It would take me until my 40’s to realize that yoga was a good substitution for a workout. What?? I assumed a cure for not feeling good was of course more exercise. Made perfect sense to me.
This nonsense continued when I was pregnant. I wasn’t just concerned I would gain weight and not lose it after the baby. I was terrified. How would I live with myself? Absolutely no one would think I am amazing. They would think I am normal and then what? Crap, I’d rather die. I would constantly discuss this with my mom. What happens if I can’t lose the weight? But what happens if I can’t? But, what if I can’t. She would calmly try to convince me over and over and over, you will be fine. You will lose the weight. Well, at least I wasn’t obsessive or anything.
I taught aerobics up until my eldest’s birth and was walking on the treadmill during contractions. Six weeks after my oldest was born, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Queue the applause. Of course, it didn’t matter that I cried most days and nights from post-partum depression and was near psychosis from lack of sleep. Exercise was the cure for what ailed me. It would raise my serotonin I thought. I cried and beat myself up over the fact she couldn’t nurse. My husband and Mom begged me to bottle feed and just go to sleep. None of it really phased me. I could fit in my clothes. Apparently, super important. I think I may have said that before. Somehow, I succumbed to Mono and had trouble holding Kendall because of fatigue. Besides the lack of energy, chronic fatigue and sickness, I was very excited, this could lead to a potential big weight loss. Back in those days, I could eat pretty much what I wanted, which was a lot of nutritious food and A LOT OF SUGAR. I’d have highs and lows like the Rocky Mountains or the Blue Ridge? I don’t know, whichever ones go really high and then really low. I was never diagnosed with hypoglycemia but had all the symptoms. If I only ate carbs in the morning and then didn’t eat exactly 3 hours later, I’d start to sweat and shake, sometimes my vision would go. I’d have to sit down from weakness. One time, this occurred while I was teaching a class. Not embarrassing at all. Of course, it only took me about 20 years to finally come to terms with the fact that I have to eat a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates. You know because this happening about 3,000 times had not convinced me enough that there was an issue. 😂😢
I continued this behavior well into my forties. I started to lighten up in my black and white thinking. I was slowly giving myself permission to live life and do things that actually might not burn the most calories. I read an article about why someone would have chronic pain in all of their muscles and found it could be due to exercising too much with no rest. I don’t know why I was finally listening to my body. It had been screaming to me for years. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe it came with age. I started to realize that no one cares if you exercise a lot. Do it because you want to and when you want to. I took a season off of exercise. Unheard of. I actually made time to read a book, and not an audio book. I sat outside in the summer. I had NEVER done that before. Summers were for working out in the morning and then working in the yard all day and then collapsing at night. Part of this exercise break was forced because I started to get injured a lot. I would work in the yard for a couple of hours and be in tears from shoulder and upper back pain. This intense pain flares up any time I do something involving my shoulders.
I also discovered yoga. Well, I always did yoga, but as an add on. If I finished whatever “Real” workout I had to do, then I could be rewarded with yoga. Now I use it as the workout. Say what? I was also forced to take it easy due to my latest injury. I was sure that doing a marathon would make me happy. It would be THE thing that would finally cause me ultimate happiness. Well, not only have I learned it’s not any THING that will make you happy, it is the actual living that will, but I also learned, the answer, for me at least, is not running. I ran with no issue for about 4 weeks. I did everything they say. Start slow, build up your miles. Then I injured my hip. I recovered from that and then I hurt my foot. It is now a year later, and my foot is just now starting to mend. A year of shots and therapy and hot and cold and massage and laser. It’s been LONG!
The running or as I now call it the “not running plan” sparked a change in me. It made me search for an answer to happiness. It’s not in something. It is in LIVING. Now I’m sure you have heard that before. Go live your life and enjoy each day and blah blah blah. Well, it’s just not that easy. I was depressed and anxious. I felt like my life had no purpose which is especially annoying when you have wonderful children, a great husband, a beautiful house and a great job. Wow, yes, I had it rough. Of course, I was depressed. LOL. Now, if I can’t workout, what the hell will I do? I think they have a legal limit on how much Prozac a person can take before they call the authorities. At one of the running events, I saw a friend who had started a life coaching business. I met with her a few times. I started enacting new habits in my life. Journaling, bible study, and meditation became a daily routine. I worked hard on a mission statement for my life. I studied how to make my life better. I
read “listened” to self-improvement books. I listened to positive podcasts. We continued our plan of becoming debt free.
Of course, I would love to tell you that I am cured of all negativity and then I would have to say, “I’m a liar” but I am closer every day. I actually thought yesterday. You know what Samantha? You could live your life like no one is really watching. You could do things because they bring you joy and not because they would look good to someone else. Stop comparing yourself to other people, NO ONE CARES, slow down and focus on the journey.