On Sunday, a jar full of messages was given to me from my team and I know organized by an amazing teammate and friend. I cried with each message but I still did not see what they see. I lost sight of this girl, and it has always been very hard for me to look beyond my weaknesses.
I grew up feeling inferior, worthless, that my weight was the root of all my problems in life, being bounced diet to diet since 11 years of age, and thinking to make my life easier that I had to make people happy by doing what they wanted instead of my own dreams. I spent 24 years living like this until I set the most difficult boundary and break up of my life and began to slowly learn who I was and what I wanted — and that it was okay to do that.
At 29, after counseling to build the blocks of a stronger, no longer co-dependent me, I was ready to address the physical issue. In August 2013, a pre diabetic scare jumpstarted my first steps to tackle the physical and emotional weight I had been carrying for way too long. For the first quarter of my life, I thought it was my fault when each fad diet didn’t work, or if we had to spend more money on plus clothing. I was, whether intentionally or unintentionally, treated as an embarrassment whenever we went clothes shopping or had a special event to attend. I thought the fighting in my home was my fault. If I could only lose that weight that someone, who is supposed to love you regardless, so wanted me to lose then our family problems would be solved. A mixture of this daily struggle between us was partially for my health, but as I grew older, it was also apparent it was more about the image of the thin pretty daughter she wanted her to have. This manipulation ruled my childhood until the first years of my life. Arguments about weight, clothes, haircuts, sports, friends, hobbies, future career… could only be ended if I conceded to let her control the outcome or the process of how it happened.
I was never a wild child so though I know these are arguments many kids have with their parents, it’s hard to explain unless you lived it. I was counting calories at 12. I was told I couldn’t buy designer Tommy Hilfiger clothing because I lacked control to eat healthy and exercise at 13. I was financially supporting my parents since I started babysitting because “a family helps each other”. And yet the more I aimed to please my parents, the more wrong I seemed to do or it never was good enough. If I attempted to challenge the image of the daughter she had planned for me, I was unthankful, and the reason my parents were arguing so much- because I stressed them out. The best way to describe how this parent-child relationship was unhealthy is that my first thought whenever I had a new idea or a new dream was not of how much it excited me or how much I wanted it, nor a belief that it could happen. But I’d always first question myself if it would make her happy, doubt it would be encouraged, and I learned to stop asking in order to reduce our arguments. It’s a very heavy thing to do to live your life trying to impress someone who will never be happy with letting go and encouraging you to be different and to take risks and go for your dreams. When I did accomplish something that seemed to make her proud, it always felt more of a celebration of what she had done to raise me then the work I put into it.
I have never been this open before and it’s very difficult for me to write about this. For me, it’s not about blame or hurting someone. But it’s my story and I am learning it’s okay to share it, even if some may not agree with it. That is okay. That is their story.
Why do I choose tonight to write this? I have no idea. But a moment tonight had me realize that by keeping quiet, that story could become my life again if I don’t admit that it is still something I carry with me always. Part 1 of my story came with a huge loss in my life but it also was necessary. Why is this relevant now? I realized tonight why these past 2 months have gone beyond accepting the injury and the journey of healing and recovery. This injury has brought back my story that I’ve kept buried. As Thomas King says “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are”. This is my story. I aim to not impress or please anyone but to unbury what I keep inside.
I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want to hurt my family. But if I don’t begin to let ALL my story be told, I’ll never fully become the woman I want to be, and become again the depressed girl I’ve so strongly spent fighting to teach her to go for her dreams without needing approval of others. If I don’t pull the roots and lay it all out there for myself, my hidden story will always entangle itself in the new me and have a chance to take over again. If I want to come back after this injury 110% a better mental athlete I need to admit to why I struggle to trust myself to be able to do certain challenges and to confront why those fears are there. If I don’t, there’s a chance this injury could just become another story I shove deep down when over and as it tangles with my childhood story, I’ll never be able to see myself as the person everyone else sees. Each day I deny to voice the story of where I came from, I am allowing for that girl’s weaknesses of self doubt and self sacrifice to continue to control my NOW.
There is a reason for my journey that began at age 29 and both the good and the bad moments of my childhood part played a role to my moments of today. It is why I struggled (struggle?) with weight, taking on too much, not letting others help me, and easily becoming discouraged. The outside doesn’t always show it, but it is rooted deep inside me with the story only few of you know.
This hip injury had me becoming that girl of 12 again. Wondering if I did something to deserve this. That I guess I really wasn’t meant to run. That I’m going to gain back all this weight that took 4.5 years of damn hard work and no fad diets but passion, dedication and perseverance to do.
Bits and pieces of the messages I received in that jar (hope my team doesn’t mind me sharing but it’s my jar! Haha):
- Dedicating and giving
- Remember that girl who gave up? Neither does anyone else…
- Positive and dedicated…it’s truly inspiring to watch you chase your dreams
- Shine on little diamond
- Caring, dedicated, determined, and has a big heart
- …most determined and perseverant people I know…you never hesitate to think of others before yourself…
- Role model
- Strong, dedicated chick
- You’ve got this. We are all behind you 100%.
- Tough lioness
- I’ll never understand how such a huge heart fits in such a tiny body
- You are developing strength for tomorrow
- Your willingness to put others before yourself is what makes you amazing. But this time take the time for you.
- Every time you find yourself knocked down, always remember to get yourself back up. Every setback is a lesson to help you grow and you have proven time and time again you can overcome everything that is presented before you.
- And still laughing at this one: like planning trips with Jess as she takes the stress off of all the planning.
I read all of these notes in my jar once, twice, three times with tears streaming down my face. How is it that the hardest thing we do in life is believing in ourselves? What was evident the most was that all of these messages had similarities in their words. It is obvious with such common messages that these messages weren’t just written to make me happy. But to remind me of what I don’t often allow to see in myself and of myself. I didn’t really let that happen when I read and re-read these messages.
… until tonight. Somehow it took two dogs, Ginny (my lab) and Shadow (one of my best friend’s dog in dogsitting), to open my heart and my eyes to remember what I worked so hard starting at age 24 to change in my life. It took four years after that where finally was learning to be true to myself and that it’s okay to separate yourself from a cycle that doesn’t change. After the mental work, I was able to begin my journey of my lifestyle change. This time it wasn’t just about losing weight, counting calories, or finding the quickest way to do it. It wasn’t about doing it to gain the approval of someone I never could. Somehow with many careful steps, and yes so many setbacks, I had managed to find a smile I didn’t think I’d ever have in my life. A smile of someone finally living her life for herself, choosing what she wants in life and learning to not apologize if my dreams for myself didn’t match the expectations of another.
Tonight, I climbed into bed with a handful of meds, a heavy heart, a headache, eyes full of tears, and physically and mentally exhausted. And one dog curled up at my feet and another in my arms.
After 5 minutes of just sitting in bed overwhelmed by the simple and unconditional love surrounding me, I began to smile. And even if you can’t see it, you can feel it. And I know that smile. It’s the one that took 29-30 years to find. It’s one that used to come so easily to me these past 4.5 years. It’s one I kept finding over and over again as I dealt with physical and emotional blows, especially this past year. Even I miss seeing this smile on my face and before the moment passed I had to take a couple selfies so I have something to remind me this moment. My face is blown up from steroids, my face is scattered with acne, and I’m in pjs… I don’t care. It’s been too long since I’ve felt this smile. Lately all my smiles have felt forced and taken so much effort that I am not going to let anything miss an opportunity to lose this smile again. I know that now when I struggle to smile as this journey unfolds, I will be able to refer back to these photos tonight and it will all it come back again. The pain is still there but through it, I feel something even stronger. I feel beautiful, alive, and worthy again tonight. I feel what I’m told others see. I feel that woman that I decided to I wanted to be at age 24 and again at age 29.
It’s amazing what a team and two dogs can do that I didn’t think I’d feel ever again. I feel “so worth it” with these two curled up beside me re-reading for the fourth time the messages written for me. But this time I believe it and I feel it come back in me. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to hurt, or cry, or struggle during this journey of healing. But it does mean I’m going to fight each and every day to not let what I worked so hard for to slowly fizzle out.
It took just one moment, that is still making me smile ear to ear, for these two brown eyed, furry, four legged, non blood related dog “sisters” to finally let me see and accept what they saw – that I was beautiful, strong, and worthy of their love.
So I’m not going to let this moment be forgotten. I’m not going to let the struggle be the only focus of my day. Even if it’s a day like today, I’m going to take one moment, no matter how hard it is, and write one positive word or one phrase about myself that day with whatever I was dealing with, and add it to the jar. Even if it’s a message someone else sent to me. I’m going to take the bucket my team began to fill for me, and keep adding to it until I am allowed to carry this jar myself on my first workout back (whenever that is) and at the end of that workout, I will run (or walk depending on my recovery at the time) one kilometre with it to celebrate the end of this journey and a beginning of the next one.
I will be the one in control of this journey and the next, working each day to make myself happy as the sun sets and waking up each morning saying “What do I want to do today?” As Yancy Culp said “What big rock are YOU going to move today?” Not what rock I think my teammates or trainer want me to move, or Brad (spouse), or friends. My rock has to be what I want or it’s that much harder to move it. I’m still learning how to not be a person pleaser, but as a compassionate and reliable friend, that goes for what she wants in life.
I’ve also realized tonight that the difference of the girl who lived on a thin thread of a life lived for someone else and who I am today? Is the people I’m surrounded by that don’t allow me to live that life by modelling it for me with their own lives. I choose to be with family and friends who may tell me a dream is crazy but they never tell me not to go for it, and are always there when I do. And even if are right and don’t want my dream for themselves, instead of being told “I told you that was stupid” or “you shouldn’t do that”, they ask you what you want to do next to make that dream possible, even it comes along with advice of “take it slow” or “you don’t have to do it tomorow”. And what’s more is they give you everything (physical, moral, sometimes even financial support) they can to help you achieve it.
I’ve dug in deep, let it out, and this is my story. Now, as Thomas King said: “Take it. It’s yours. Do with it what you will. But don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.”
I am so worth it. You are so worth it.
And if you still can’t see it, come spend a day with my dog, or adopt one of your own. For whatever reason, a dog is able to see the person you are, and they have a way to make you believe it too.