MY JOURNEY TO INNER PEACE & SELF-LOVE - BY FEATURED GUEST BLOGGER BROOKE SWIM
Anxiety and depression have been a struggle of mine from a very young age. When I was four years old, my dad passed away in a plane crash, leaving my mom, older brother, and I. Almost a year later, my mom remarried my stepdad whose previous wife had also recently passed away; like my mom, he too had two kids of his own. Although I was young, my life changed drastically within that year and that was the beginning of my struggle with anxiety.
The transition from high school to college kicked my depression and anxiety into overdrive. Moving out and going from a school with 400 kids (I went to a small private school for 8 years) to a school with 30,000 left me feeling lost, confused, and overwhelmed. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I went to see the university psychologist, who suggested I start exercising regularly to manage my mental and emotional health. I had never really exercised before, besides the sports I participated in when I was younger; but, at this point, I was willing to try anything. So, I began running every day.
I slowly started altering my eating patterns as well. After a few weeks, I got into counting calories and became overly obsessed. I lost 37 pounds in about 3 months. Eventually, I was running for 40-60 minutes and eating around 1000-1200 calories a day. I had lost a lot of weight and people kept telling me that I was getting too thin and unhealthy. I would skip out on pretty much every social event, though, because I was always so worried about what food would be there. What if I get hungry? What if there is only junk food there? What if I lose control and eat everything in sight!? I became pretty withdrawn and very irritable because I was so afraid of messing up my calorie counting game. I was so HUNGRY. For about a year, I had so much anxiety around maintaining my new look.
It wasn't until I was sitting in my dietetics class and we started talking about eating disorders that I realized I met all the criteria for anorexia. I decided I needed to get healthy, which meant slowly increasing my calories and to start lifting. I started lifting with my brother and fell in love! Within a few months, I got my weight up and maintained that weight for about a year.
In May of 2015, right before getting married, my anxiety and depression kicked in full-force again. While I love my husband, Michael, more than I can even express, getting married was still a huge life-changing experience. Again, I lost my sense of self. I started seeing a new psychologist and he diagnosed me with OCD, depression and anxiety. I knew I already struggled with these challenges, but was never officially diagnosed until this time. After only one or two months of therapy, I decided to get on an anti-depressant. I also read as many self-help books as I could get my hands on, started meditating daily, and made sure to continue exercising regularly. In addition, my therapist told me I needed to stop obsessing over calories and trying to be “perfect.” I needed a mental break. I was terrified of the thought of no longer counting calories! I thought I was going to lose all control. And, in a way, I did. I stopped counting calories and started using food as a coping mechanism. During this period, I was still lifting 4-6 times a week. So, even though my eating was imbalanced, I was still training consistently.
After a year and a half of being married, I gained 25 pounds which put me right back at the weight I started with. For my height, this is the healthy, normal weight for me but I struggled with the mindset of it. I hated that I gained 25 pounds. I was in the process of getting certified to become a personal trainer and felt so much pressure to be "perfect" and eat "perfectly.” I saw several fitness social-media accounts and got so frustrated because I wanted to look like them and felt that I was "supposed" to look like them. Most days it was all I could do to even wake up and get out of bed. I had no more energy to exhaust on obsessing over calories and seeking “perfection.” I was severely depressed and anxious all the time! I just wanted to feel normal.
I hired a personal trainer in July of 2016 to further push myself and achieve my fitness goals. This was a turning point for me. Putting the majority of my focus on my fitness goals helped immensely. I had something to work towards and it was something I loved doing. I finally started feeling normal again.
But it was a new normal. I realized that when your life changes, you change with it and you find your new normal. Things won’t ever be as they were and that’s perfectly okay. I was finally living life and enjoying it, rather than just going through the motions.
I still needed to focus on my overall health. A lot of my health and happiness came along after being introduced to Veganism and changing over to a Vegan lifestyle. I have been able to stop taking two of my four medications and am working on getting off of the other two. My goal is to heal my body from the inside-out and be healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically. I have spent a lot of time trying to find what works for me and what makes me feel my best. My fitness journey has been up-and-down and all around. I have overcome an eating disorder and the fear of living life. It took me years to find balance and peace with who I am but I finally feel like I’m on the right path.
To anyone dealing with anxiety and/or depression, know that you’re going to make it. No matter what comes your way, you will find a way through it and you will come out stronger than before! Know that your journey is going to look completely different than anyone else’s and that you shouldn’t compare yourself. You’ll feel normal again, but sometimes it will be a new normal. Life is messy and uncertain and the only thing you can do is take care of yourself, go with the flow and do what makes you happy. Ever since I started exercising back when I first went to college, it has been my therapy. It has been my happy place and frees me from my mind. Despite everything that I went through, I continuously exercised. I always made time for that. Find that thing that you can always go back to and that makes you feel good and alive. Focus on what puts you in a positive mind space. Keep trying. Keep going. Breathe. It will all work out in the end. Everything happens for a reason.
FAVORITE SONGS RIGHT NOW:
- "Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood
- "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey
FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE:
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
If I could positively change the world I would: help everyone create a life of health and happiness.
I am most proud of my ability to: to empathize with others and love others.