woman vs. exercise

via MeTV

TW: some disordered eating/body image talk

Hi! I hate working out.

Well, that’s not totally true. Once I actually get myself going, I don’t mind it. Sometimes I even enjoy myself a little through all the panting and wheezing and sore legs. And when it’s over, I always feel good. I used to think exercise endorphins were #fakenews until I actually completed, like, four days in a row of a Jillian Michaels workout video. Turns out I just have to be a little less lazy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So beyond the whole laziness thing — (which I’m inclined to think may be hormonal but I also know myself well enough to recognize when I’m bullshitting) — I’ve also never used exercise in the context of doing a good thing for myself, even though I know I do *feel* good after. It’s only ever been a channel for the body image issues I’ve had for 15+ years.

I was a chubby kid, always one of the biggest girls in my dance class, was ridiculed for my size by classmates and some family members. This was mostly due to my complete lack of physical ability and how much I loved to eat garlic bread and instant mashed potatoes when somebody was mean to me at school or I felt socially awkward. So, you know, every day. My grandma always told me I was just big-boned, but even 9-year-old Erin knew what that was code for.

My weight fluctuated a ton throughout high school from depression and some disordered eating habits that started to emerge. Then I lost about 30 pounds over six years, starting at the end of my freshman year of college. Last summer, when I met my boyfriend, I was the thinnest I’d ever been. I used to fool myself into thinking I’d lost all the weight the healthy way because I did it slowly. Nevermind that I obsessively counted every calorie I consumed, punished myself mentally or physically when I indulged, and even purged sometimes.

Eventually, I started working out every day because I knew it was the only way I could get even thinner and stay that way, and I didn’t want to be dieting forever — I love food way too much for that. People had started telling me how great I looked, and I was getting more attention from men than I’d ever gotten before. I thought that if I “let myself go” in any way, all of that would stop.

One day earlier this year, I looked in the mirror and saw baby abs peeking out from my high-waisted leggings. I’d never felt so good about my body in my life. I was getting toned and stronger and I could even run for a while without getting too winded.

Then I turned to the side and saw my stomach protruding and realized that I would never be the type of thin that I wanted myself to be. I would always have skinny legs and narrow hips, a flat butt and a belly, broad shoulders and fleshy arms. Short of plastic surgery, I wouldn’t ever have the body type I wanted to have. But I kept exercising because I didn’t want to go back to how I looked before.

This was sometime in March or April. For the next several months, I worked out sporadically, but usually only to offset a food binge or when I’ve noticed I’ve gained a pound or two. And then November hit, along with a new round of seasonal depression. My fucked-up body image and fitness habits were no match for my complete inability to get out of bed in the mornings.

To try to get myself moving a bit, I did a few days of yoga and really liked it. Then I thought about getting a gym membership for classes, realized I wasn’t doing my Downward Dogs correctly, and had a full anxiety attack about a yoga teacher correcting my form and commenting on how inflexible I am in front of a class full of perfectly agile and toned white women. Thankfully, Joe calmed me down, but I don’t think yoga classes will ever be a thing I can handle. Our current plan is to get gym memberships when the January sign-up deals start and try to work out together when we can. I’ve tried to get myself up and moving this week, but it hasn’t worked.

So here’s my question, both to myself and to anyone who may relate to what I’ve just written: How do I motivate myself to work out in a body-positive, healthy way? How do I rewire my brain to see it as a form of self-care, a way to be nice to myself, when I’ve only ever used it as a punishment or to change the way I look? How do I accept my body as it is through all of this?

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my subpar Sun Salutations in the privacy of my own home.

it’s hard even when you’re lucky

Happy Monday! Last week kinda sucked.

It was mostly because of the world being shit and my anxiety, and also my anxiety being worse because of the world being shit. But the leaves were really pretty and I saw reminders all over the city that love and good people still exist, even if the bad ones are screeching at us from every angle right now. Also, goddamn I love fall. All weather should be fall weather.

I cried in therapy for the first time in at least a couple of months, I think. It happened as I told my therapist how I spent six hours Tuesday paralyzed on my couch worrying about the midterm elections but also worrying about every other thing in my life, which tends to be how anxiety happens for me. It just hadn’t been that severe in a while, which scared me big time. All of this was also mixed in with a good old fashioned depressive spell I’d been in for a couple weeks. Wooooo! Love when my mental illnesses get together and throw a party.

My therapist is awesome because she’s a social worker, so she gives me worksheets and anxiety management strategies but we also talk about politics and social justice and the steps I’m taking to eventually get my master’s degree in social work (which is at least, like, 5 years in the future). This time we mostly talked coping strategies though cause, as I said, I was not great last week.

She told me to write down the things we talked about me doing this week to keep the bad brain juju at bay. They are:

  • make a list of fun activities to do in the mornings before work, and schedule them the night before (I already try to do this but I slack off when I’m depressed)
  • wake up with Joe at 7 a.m. (lol kill me) so I can enjoy the morning and nap before work if needed (this was his suggestion and it’s a really good one! He’s the sweetest and I love him a lot. Mornings are my favorite but never get to experience them fully because I work nights and it bums me out.)
  • take drop-in yoga classes (only if I can drag a friend along cause group classes scare me and I can never relax :/)
  • keep journaling (doing that now. yay!)
  • start up the daily gratitude practice again (a thing I really enjoyed that I stopped for no good reason)

Sometimes I get really frustrated that I have to do things like this to make my brain hate itself a little less. I hate that I have to do so much every day just to feel a little bit normal, and that sometimes it doesn’t even work. What the fuck?!

I’m super duper thankful to have good health insurance and a good therapist and people who love and support me, but goddamn it gets tiring sometimes. And then I feel guilty for being frustrated because I know I have it easier than so many people who have seriously physically debilitating chronic illnesses.

But then I stop and remind myself that my chronic illnesses are debilitating physically, because Jesus, I just sat on my couch rocking back and forth for six hours with my heart racing the entire time because I was so anxious. But it’s not the same, right? It doesn’t feel like it should be the same thing. I dunno. That’s still something I struggle with a lot — how to think about my mental health in the overall context of chronic illness and disability.

I know chronic mental illness is a serious thing, so I don’t want to discredit my own problems, and I’d never do that to anyone else. But also, I can walk and talk and see and hear and exercise and eat most things without getting sick. I can get up most days and do what I need to do, even if my brain is yelling at me the whole time. I’m one of the lucky ones. I think I just get sad knowing that even when you’re lucky, it’s still so hard.

The whole point of me starting this blog in the first place was to document the things that fuel me and keep me mostly sane, so I’m aware that it’s not exactly productive to think this way. But life would be way too boring if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes, I guess.

Anyway, I’m gonna finish The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina before I call it a night. Here’s a picture of my own familiar from back before the leaves changed. She was almost certainly angry that I wasn’t inside feeding her at that very instant.

This is Chloe. She’s cute and mean and I love her.

P.S. Joe and I went to the Lord of the Rings festival at a local indie movie theater on Friday and watched all four hours of the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring. It reminded me how much I love and identify with Hobbits and also of this eerily apropos-for-our-society bit of dialogue:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”