Scars to Your Beautiful

I will never grace the cover of a fashion magazine, nor will I ever be a cover girl. I couldn’t even be a hand model. My body seems to be in a perpetual state of wounds and bruises and scars. There are the little reminders of the summer I had chicken pox. The scars on the inside of my upper lip remind me of a toboggan accident. There is the large scar on my elbow from stitches when I was young enough to not remember. A faint scar on my right wrist goes back to a scratch from a swing set. There are stretch marks from bearing children. A mysterious triangle of a scar at the base of a finger that has been there for as long as I can remember. These scars are memories of a sort, even if I have no recollection of the event. They are part of the history of my body.

Bruises come and go. Sometimes I know where they came from, while at other times I have no recollection of having done anything to merit the mark. At this moment, I have small bruises on each biceps. One is from the flap of a box at work, but I’m not sure where the other came from. There is a yellow-tinged discolouration the size of my fist lingering around one ankle from bumping an iron chair leg against my own leg more than a week ago. A small scrape of skin on the opposite shin, most likely also a workplace casualty. Lifting weights has put calluses on my hands and resulted in many of my bruises and scrapes. I don’t mind them, because they are reminders that I am using my body.

As I sat in the tub this morning, feeling like the effort to bathe was too much and not worth it, I noticed all my bruises and scars and considered the invisible scars and bruises that no one else sees. It is the internal wounds that have the deepest impact. Even when the wounds are not so fresh, even when the wounds have seemingly healed and scarred over, even still the pain can be felt when a pointing finger pokes into just the right spot. And it does not even matter if the cause of the wound is truth or fiction…the pain feels the same.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our body would simply send some more platelets to clot our emotional wounds? Sadly it doesn’t work that way. Perhaps everyone reacts and responds in uniquely personal ways. I cannot speak for anyone else, only myself, and I feel numb, unmotivated, one minute irritable and one minute fine. I have no problem going to work. I have no problem going to my training sessions. I have been able to go to the grocery store or to an appointment or to the library, but mostly I have no motivation to go anywhere or do anything. I did a single load of laundry yesterday. I read half of a book yesterday and finished the other half today. I made dinner last night and will force myself to make dinner tonight. I forced myself to shave my legs this morning. But really, my weekend is drawing to an end and I’ve accomplished so very little except to wear a hole on the living room floor where I spend most of my time. My head feels as if it is filled with static, sort of a headache but more like background noise that you can’t quite block out. This sort of “headache” was a constant presence several years ago when I was originally diagnosed as mildly depressed. <sigh>

I’d gladly take the physical bruises over the internal ones. The physical bruises heal fast and then they’re gone and forgotten. Physical scars might remain, but they hold no pain once they’ve healed.

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Dazed & Confused

It’s been a long week. As much as is possible, while still going to work and the gym, I have been playing the role of a hermit. I am numb, confused, and hurting. There is so much that cannot be said about the situation, and I honestly don’t even understand what has happened. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I feel as if I have lost a friendship.

I have cried an ocean of tears. Food has lost appeal and flavour. I’ve had one completely sleepless night, followed by nights with sufficient hours of sleep but far from restful. On a couple of occasions, I have been literally trembling as nervous adrenaline has coursed through my veins…adrenaline born out of the fear of confrontation and rejection. My smile feels artificial. Laughter only skims the surface. How is it that a heart can be both heavy and shattered at the same time?

I’ve been going through the motions and not even doing those too well. Going to work has been mostly a distraction. I may be an introvert, but I am quite capable of giving good customer service with a smile, even when I’m raining on the inside. But sooner or later I will need to pick myself up from the floor, do some housework, plan some healthy meals, wipe away the tears that seem to be perpetually ready to spill, and feel the sunshine rather than focusing on the gloomy skies overhead. Depression is messy. My struggles with depression have always been mild to moderate, yet every downward spiral leaves me feeling as if I’m scrabbling up a rocky mountain. It is exhausting, and I am left bloodied, bruised, and worn. My confidence takes a massive hit, and I retreat within myself. This is where I feel safe, or at least safer. This is where I feel ugly and unlovable and unworthy. Somehow it always feels appropriate.

 

A Theme to Build a Dream On

I haven’t exactly been living out my theme for 2017 these past few months. Instead of feeling and being ‘Powerfully Beautiful’, I fear I have been more weak, pathetic, and ugly. It shouldn’t be this way, but pain tends to have that effect and such has been my life since the end of January. I haven’t always handled the pain, the frustration, or my limitations well. Although I tend to try to put on a good face in public, sometimes the mask slips. My emotions have risen and fallen like a roller-coaster, but the dips felt steeper and longer than the upwards climbs.

In the downward spirals, I struggle with mild depression. Taking care of myself becomes a chore, and I’m more likely to do the bare minimum of self-care. Although I will always make the time and effort to spend time with my good friends, I definitely ‘turtle’ more when my mood is low. I will do my job serving the public with a smile on my face. I will go to the gym. I will go to my chiropractic appointments. But I have to drag myself out the door for just about anything else. I haven’t been to church for several weeks, because I cannot sit without pain and kneeling for the duration of a sermon is not my idea of fun or comfort. My attempts to plan a week’s worth of meals have sputtered, because it requires too much effort. That and my interest in food and eating well has fallen with my mood. When I am down, I procrastinate more. I take less interest in what’s going on around me, except for grumbling at idiot drivers. All these signs and symptoms are probably quite typical of mild depression or someone suffering with pain. It is understandable, but it not a pretty thing to behold. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel very strong.

This week is different. I was cautiously optimistic on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Yesterday, I carried that optimism carefully into the gym with me, and I left the gym excited with hope flying high as a kite. Today, I am feeling the DOMS in my quads from yesterday’s squats, and I couldn’t be happier about that kind of pain. The back still isn’t pain-free, but the back has stayed consistently better all week. Yesterday I finally felt as if I had reached the turning point. Of course, I’m not 100% yet. I still don’t know when I will be, but I actually feel and believe that the worst is behind me now. Feeling and believing this is making the engines of motivation and drive rev.

And I feel the change in my attitude towards myself. Self-care becomes more important. I’m singing out loud in the car again, and not just grumbling at idiot drivers. I actually skimmed through the local newspaper yesterday before tossing it in the recycling bin. I wrote a card to a friend. I made a decent dinner tonight. I prepped my lunch for tomorrow. But I still grumbled internally when my husband got up and spoke to me super early this morning before I went to work. I will always prefer silence until I get to work when I start work early in the morning. He thought he was being funny by saying, “Don’t worry! I’m not going to say good morning to you.” So, I didn’t think it was funny, but that’s my non-morning person mode rather than my depressed mode.

The first third of the year might have been a fail in terms of living my theme, but there is still plenty of time left to get it right.

Connection

There must be something in the air today, because I have been feeling rather unexpectedly emotional. It began as I sat at the end of the bar while on my break this morning, when I was approached by three customers within a few minutes of each other. Sincere and warm greetings along with conversation that skimmed just below the surface. Connections. As I sat there eating my lunch, the warmth of the connections that I am making here made me think about the differences between my current and former jobs. Tears threatened. Happy tears that I choked back lest I look foolish or upset about something not there.

Since I worked an early shift this morning and I have a closing shift tomorrow, I stopped back at work this afternoon for my second cup of coffee and had a couple more encounters with regular customers, even though I wasn’t behind the counter. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my new job?

I guess know that I feel things deeply. I think I always have, but there were quite a few years where my ability to feel and care and connect were crippled by depression, insecurities, and emotional wounds. Three years ago the thought of changing jobs would never have seemed possible. While I was capable of being amiable, internally I was reluctant to get involved, to open up, to care too much about others or even myself. I was a different person then, but I am not that person anymore. I am so glad to feel again, to care again, even if deeply. I may not always jump into connection with two feet, but I no longer desire to shy away from it.

Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, an introvert cannot become a permanent extrovert. This is who I am. I am an introvert, but I take great joy in using my gifts and strengths in ways that compliment my personality and nature. I am enjoying the opportunity to be a part of my customers daily routine, and I am thrilled that I am being accepted as part of that routine, and welcomed like a part of a family.

So much has happened in my life over the past three years. I have been changed in some pretty radical ways and couldn’t be happier about it. I almost wouldn’t recognize the me of three years ago, and I suspect not many would. I’ve been on an amazing journey, and I’m far from reaching my final destination.

 

A Bear in Winter

I have been considering this post all day, and I’m still no closer to knowing what to say or where exactly I want to go with it. As an introvert, keeping my thoughts and feelings bottled up is not only preferable, it is the norm. Ironically, as a blogger, I share more of my thoughts and feelings with the world than I ever would in verbal conversation with anyone outside of a very small circle of friends. and yet, there will always be a line that I am reluctant to cross even in my blog. Some thoughts, some feelings are just too intense, too personal, too dark to share.

Part of the problem is that I don’t like to appear weak, incompetent or incapable of anything, and so I’d rather just adjust my mask and pretend that everything is A-Okay in my world. Even when it’s not.

That sounds doom and gloomish, doesn’t it! Things aren’t quite so bad as that really, but my mood is most definitely low these past few days. I’m fine and then I’m not. I’m happy and then I want to cry. I want to sleep for days on end, but I’m not sleeping well. Either I am not hungry at all or I am stuffing my face with all sorts of garbage. Grumpy. Moody. White noise headaches. I hate the thought that I am slipping into depression, and I am scrabbling at the slippery slopes trying to fight my way back to the surface.

I will be okay, I know. This, whatever it is, is mild. It is a bump on the road. A storm cloud in the sky. While there are likely several factors causing this low mood, I believe that there is some relief in sight. Some stressors have recently been removed or reduced, and I have been talking with my coach about needing a physical challenge. There is more to the low mood than that, of course, but I know that I will be fine. It just really sucks to be feeling the way I feel and to be so sluggish and unmotivated when at home. At work or at the gym…I’m fine. I will be fine, but, in the meantime, I just want to hibernate like a bear for the winter.

Getting Back into the Groove

Every day has me feeling a little bit better, although I am still not 100%. The headache has settled to a simmer, so close to being non-existent and yet not quite, but I will take this over the full-blown headaches of last week. The neck still feels off, but it doesn’t actively hurt except at extreme ranges of motion. The past three days have been very good, which is such a relief. Of course, nobody likes to be hurt and in pain, but I think the injury played with my inner thoughts more deeply than the physical pain. It was frustrating and depressing. With these good days all in a row, I am feeling lighter, less stressed and ready to begin focusing on the upcoming Provincials. As such I was really looking forward to training this afternoon, knowing that deadlifts would be on the agenda, because some days they are my favourite. I also thought that the change in my mood would result in a better training session.

1a. deadlifts

95 x 8 sumo and I whacked my knees really good in the midst of this set. The skin is more or less intact, but I just might end up with some bruises. C’est la vie!

135 x 6 sumo, x 6 conventional

165 x 6 sumo, x 6 conventional with straps from here on

195 x 5 + 1 sumo because Michael miscounted my reps. Have to say that resetting for that final rep made the rep so much tougher!

195 x 6 conventional

The deadlifts weren’t too bad today, I think. They were definitely better than last week when I was in headache hell and fighting depression. For the most part, I think I remembered to push with my legs, although Michael may have needed to remind me of that at first.

1b. floor press, my typical competition grip

47 x 10, 67 x 6, 87 x 6, 97 x 6, 102 x 6, 102 x 6

These felt great today.

2a. block pulls, with straps

195 x 3 sumo, x 3 conventional

225 x 2 + 4 with belt conventional

Conventional block pulls suck, and they are messing with my head. I got the first two reps, lost mental focus, stalled out. Took a short rest, put on the belt and finished the set.

225 x 5 sumo

225 x 2 + 1 conventional

See what I mean? Conventional block pulls=mental block! Although in this set, Michael stopped me after the second rep to correct my elbow position by turning the elbows in towards my body to really tighten the lats. That makes a lot of sense and possibly explains why I have always struggled to feel like my lats were wholly engaging as I’d set up for my deadlifts. But, resetting to finish my set was easier said that done! The change in elbow position felt better, but I just wasn’t mentally there to do more reps.

225 x 5 sumo

Sumo block pulls are so much easier, and I worked at keeping those elbows tucked in. I think that definitely helps keep my lats tight.

225 x 5 sumo

2b. bent over barbell row, deadlift specific

95 x 12, 105 x 12, 110 x 9, 110 x 10

I expected these to feel tough. Either I am getting better at them or I wasn’t doing them properly! Ha! Although Michael was keeping an eye on me, so I’m sure he would have corrected me if I wasn’t doing them how he wanted. I’ll take getting stronger. My self-confidence could use the boost right now.

A Long Way

Last night I went out for coffee with my friend. I suppose it had been a little more than a month since the last time we were together, so it was good to sit, relax, sip our beverages of choice, and just catch up.

At one point, my friend was relating one of her stories (she is a most excellent story-teller) about an interaction that she had with another woman during a study on friendships. They had been asked to share about one of their friends, and my friend shared about me. What she was relaying to me last night was a mere recap, so I don’t know what words she actually said about me…although it would be interesting to know. The basic gist of it was that she was proud of me for making changes in my life and being healthy inside and out.

For once I didn’t mind the tears that came to my eyes, because my contacts were feeling in need of some moisture! But seriously, those words were like a warm hug!

Four years ago, I was at the beginning of this journey: depressed, overweight, inactive, bitter, isolated, wounded and hurting. I had finally reached the point where I could accept that I was not in a good place and was ready to make some changes. Those changes didn’t happen overnight, and there were plenty of ups and downs along the way. I have not yet arrived at the magical destination, but, to quote a cigarette ad, “I’ve come a long way, baby!”

There are different types of change. I whole-heartedly embrace change when it comes to re-arranging the living room furniture, my Facebook profile photo, and the order of songs on my playlists. I feel constrained by our current living room furniture, because I cannot re-arrange it. I have been stuck with the same living room layout for the past few years, and I am internally chafing against that restriction. But other changes are not so much fun.

It’s not so easy to make changes to a lifetime of unhealthy habits. I know refined, processed foods are not the best for me, but I still like the way a lot of them taste. Even after several months of making better choices, I still feel the pull of an ice-cold Diet Coke, Kraft Singles grilled cheese on white bread, scalloped potatoes from a box, potato chips, and a Quarter Pounder with Cheese! The pull is not as powerful as it used to be, and I am determined enough to make better choices more often than not.

When life is busy, being active often feels like just another chore, and finding time to fit it into a busy day is a challenge that is easily lost. Four years ago I considered myself a fair weather type of outdoors person, which was rather silly when I think about it now because I was seldom physically active outside in any weather! When I started running, I discovered that I actually enjoyed running in all kinds of weather. I soon found myself embracing winter instead of hating it. But those weren’t instantly easy changes to make either! It is hard to remain committed to a run when the temperature is -15 Celsius. Motivation for an early morning run wavers when the alarm goes off and your body isn’t finished sleeping yet. After being run off your feet at work all day, the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is go for a run.

I could never have imagined that I would have a personal trainer, that I would enjoy lifting weights, that I would enter a power-lifting competition, that I would register to run a marathon! Four years ago, if someone had told me that this is where I would be today, I would have laughed myself silly. I was ready to make changes, but I simply didn’t have the vision to foresee that much change. How could I have!

I didn’t get this far on my own. I have amazing people in my life. In big ways and small, those people have helped me get from there to here, and I have no doubt that those same people will help me get from here to the next place.