I wanted to start a blog because for a little more than a decade of my life I was profoundly and deeply depressed. But I am not anymore.
It’s difficult for me to remember much detail from about the age of 15 to about the age of 27 because it feels like I didn’t make any of those decisions. It feels like I didn’t inhabit my body. It feels like I didn’t have any control over my mind. When everything hurts, when it feels like the world is against you, when you’re filled with self-loathing, when you wake up each morning a little disappointed you didn’t die in your sleep, yet every day during those years you do wake up and you do things and achieve things and live what seems to constitute a life–how do you explain that?
I’d like to use this blog as a way to tell my story. Today I can say that I am practicing self-love and self-compassion every single day. It was kind of a stop-and-go process for a few years, and for most of it, I didn’t even realize what I was trying to do: save myself. Literally. When I turned 31, the process became more concerted, more conscious, more deliberate. I decided that the way I was living was not living.
I can pinpoint a few obvious mile markers in my journey to wellness, but this blog will also serve as a way for me to publish some of the less apparent steps that got me where I am today. One obvious mile marker–the first time I made a decision that was truly healthy, from a place of recognition that my body is fragile and impermanent–was when I quite smoking in June 2010. Smoking had stopped making me feel better, and at the age of 24, I became aware of myself as a mortal being. If I didn’t take care of my body on this particular level, I knew I was being shortsighted. It was the first step to coming out of the fog of my early twenties when I thought the best way to deal with my feelings was to numb them.
I had a boyfriend while I was a teacher. It was the first relationship I’d been in since graduating high school that was not emotionally abusive. In fact, we never fought. We agreed about almost everything. I’m not sure how that happened (maybe I was too depressed to be decisive) or why he was so patient with me, but he was. Because of the confidence he instilled in me, I sought cognitive behavioral therapy and decided to follow my longtime dream of applying to graduate school.
In 2012, I started a masters degree in English in DC. I quit my job as a high school English teacher, having realized I wasn’t emotionally built for that profession. I still was too fragile; I took everything personally, I wanted perfection, and I wanted to sleep for 20 hours a day. I received my acceptance to the masters program as a sign from the universe that I was worth it, that I was smart, that I had some kind of future. This was when I was still defining my self-worth by my achievements, but that’s a post for another day. It at least got me in gear to start over.
I met my best friend and most kindred soul in that hellish, difficult program and we bonded together like glue. She was, and still is, a fierce, unapologetic force, and I took note. In 2013, I decided, after a breakup with my boyfriend of three and a half years, to start running. The breakup was peaceful, mostly sad, because there was no real reason, just that we were moving in different directions and had disengaged. Th relationship had stopped being a priority. We broke up in May, and I knew that I needed to do something that summer to feel okay. I needed to feel powerful. I wanted to shed the 25 or so pounds I had put on in my mid-20s, and I had heard running was good for emotional health beyond the physical, so I started.
At first, I was incredibly slow and it hurt everywhere and my lungs burned. But each time it got easier and after awhile, it felt like I was running off an old self, an old life, old feelings, old pain. I also started doing these 30-minute cardio/strength training videos by Jillian Michaels in my bedroom with an exercise mat, some dumbbells, and a resistance cable, and by August, I had lost 25 pounds and was wearing size 2 after having been a size 8. It wasn’t a numbers game, though. I had the profound realization that I felt amazing. Not because of the way I looked in the mirror or how good I felt in my clothes, but because I just felt good. My mindset around exercise completely changed at this point, and exercise became a priority for me. It was fun. It made me feel energetic and alive. It became part of my identity.
I’m going to wrap up the post here because the next steps in the wellness journey are a little more complicated, but I wanted this inaugural post to give a basic idea of the beginning. I know I raised quite a few points, which hopefully I can dive into in more detail later, like abusive relationships, external approval sources, perfectionism, and so much more. Stay tuned!