Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Six years ago, my goal was to be where I am today.

Six years ago, I was at a low point. I was stuck in an eating disorder that, both actively and passively, had plagued me for nearly ten years. Six years ago, I entered treatment for the first time. I wasn't sure who I wanted to be or what I wanted to be at first, but I started a pattern, lasting for several years, of encountering these young, beautiful, successful women who I "wanted to be." It wasn't an obsession, or jealousy, or even actually wishing that I could be them, but rather, they became my role models. I wasn't sure how to verbalize my goals, but I wanted to be like Lauren. I wanted to be like Alyssa. I wanted to be like Andrea. They were all in their 20s when I met them. I was in my 20s too. They were all successful in the mental health field - which I wanted to be. They all gave off an air of confidence, intelligence, and compassion, that I wanted to give off as well. How could I become them? I googled them - or I tried. Mental health professionals are quite good at keeping their lives secret! I talked to them. I listened to their music, shopped at their stores, whatever I could, to be "like" them, short of straightening my hair and dyeing it blonde (it couldn't have just been a coincidence that they were all blonde, could it?!).

I knew I wanted to be a therapist before I met Lauren, Alyssa, and Andrea. I had only ever met therapists who were awkward old women, though. Lauren, Alyssa, and Andrea were far from that. They were therapists, counselors, students of mental health professions. They were intuitive - they knew what to say, how to relate. They knew when to share information about themselves and when to hold back. They seemed perfect - though I knew, intellectually, that they couldn't be, that they were human.

I wanted them to like me, I wanted them to believe in me. Because, they, of all people, knew what it would take to get there.

And, they would all tell me, it would take TIME.

And time it took. Cycling through treatment centers and hospitals, taking medical leaves, having legitimate panic attacks over writing final papers, babysitting more than one would expect a woman with an advanced degree, and spending more time and money on therapy than I had ever imagined. And, to be honest, lots of time inbetween where I'm not sure what I was doing. Running marathons. Making friends. Dating. Shopping. Cooking. Traveling. Crying. Laughing. Whispering. Yelling. Living.

Then one day, I came upon a section of the CEDC website that said that those alumna with 1+ years behavior free were invited to contact the program directors about being a recovery speaker. I thought it would be cool. I thought I had a pretty good story to tell. I thought I'd overcome a lot and could inspire others.

I never thought I would inspire myself.

I had forgotten about Alyssa entirely, to be honest, but when I saw her, I remembered how she was one of the three major role models throughout the past several years.

I spoke to her for a couple of minutes and I had a realization.

She's still a great person, a great clinician, a successful person worth looking up to. And I no longer NEED to look up to her. To my knowledge, we are ON THE SAME PLANE (and Alyssa, if you are reading this, I hope this doesn't make you think of that as demeaning). We are both young professionals working in the mental health field, both treating people with eating disorders and other issues, both really quite successful for people our age, and both talented and passionate about what we do. I certainly look OVER to her and think, wow, what a great contemporary, but I no longer think that I have to climb this mountain to get to where she is.

Because I already climbed it.

And, I realized that I didn't need the blonde, straight hair, thankfully, because I do not think I would have been able to successfully pull that one off.

(I'm not done growing - I'm just beginning)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soul Cycle Intention Series: RESPONSIBILITY

Today was a different kind of Nina/Soul Cycle class for me today - we were in Tribeca instead of Scarsdale, and I had Laura with me (my amazing nutritionist of 4 years who introduced me to Soul Cycle some 120 classes ago!), in addition to Maddie (who I not only referred to Laura, but who I brought to Soul Cycle for her first time today). So I was anxious to see what Laura thought of Nina, anxious to see how Maddie liked the class, and anxious to feel the energy of the Tribeca studio.

I wouldn't say that the class was very different than Nina's Scarsdale class, but I had new and different thoughts going through my mind.

What are you riding for? Motivation. Motivation. Motivation. That's what kept going through my head. I need motivation to do more, to do my laundry, to get my licensure, to run, to spin, to date, to live life. But then I got to thinking, am I really that unmotivated? No, that's not the case at all. I'm working 50 hours a week, between Soul Cycle and babysitting, and still managing to get laundry done, squeeze in workouts, and sleep at least six hours a night. I left class, thinking about my intention of finding motivation, and instead I had a realization.

Maybe it's not about motivation.

It seems to me that it's about responsibility.

Not blaming things on external factors. That's not to say I should internalize everything because some things are beyond my control, but really taking a good look at the situation. Am I late because of traffic, or because I am not allowing enough time to get through traffic? Am I unlicensed because the licensing process is long and annoying, or because I am procrastinating the long and drawn out process? Am I anxious because I have an anxiety disorder, or is it because I consume too much caffeine and keep forgetting to pick up my prescription?

It's not about self-blame, it's about realizing that I can take ownership over these things in my life and get them done. Get licensed, find a social work job (and hopefully remain a part-time part of the Soul Family at Scarsdale!), be on time, get enough sleep, make enough money, do my laundry, work out, have fun, and feel good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Soul Cycle Intentions - Honesty (What is in your way?)

So it's been a while, but here I am. Still blogging about my Soul Cycle intentions. Nina still never fails to inspire me and get the wheels of the bike in my brain turning, but today, my experience was different. I thought about things I really never thought about before.

"Honesty." She said it in a list of other words - and to be honest, I don't even remember what the other words were. Strength? Self-confidence? Something along those lines. But honesty set off sirens in my mind.

I'm a nice person. I'm a good person. I'm generally an honest person. But there have been quite a few things lately that I haven't been entirely honest about. So it got me thinking about why I have not been honest. I have been dishonest because I want people to like me, to approve of me and approve of my life choices. I don't want people to be upset with me or look down on me.

Would these people actually feel this way if they knew the truth? Probably not. I've been dishonest with others mostly because I am judging myself harshly.

So what is in my way? My behaviors of judging myself harshly, and of being dishonest.

Dishonesty changed my life a long time ago. At least, I credit it with doing so. I was very overweight as a child, and went to a school where my ethnicity was the minority. I ended up becoming friends with a couple of girls who were part of the "popular" group. I remember feeling so good getting to play with them at recess, even if I only spent time with a couple of them outside of school. I stretched the truth on a few occasions, because I wanted the girls to like me more. Eventually, they called me out on my lies and stopped talking to me. Even now, about seventeen years later, we are not facebook friends (and many people who I've never spoken to in my life are my facebook friends), I avoid them in public, and I say to others, "I don't like them." I had a rough time with friends in middle school (and, I guess, who doesn't?) and really a rough time in general. I sometimes can't help but wonder how my life would be different if I had been honest then.

In struggling with anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, and self-injury, lies and deception were part of what allowed me to survive. I did not believe that I could survive without my "vices" and I had to hide those behaviors from others. Lying, deception, and dishonesty kept me from completely losing my mind. Dishonesty became my best friend.

I pride myself on my recovery. I have achieved a level of health and stability that I never thought was possible. I proudly call myself "recovered." Yet something that was a big part of my disordered existence is still part of my day to day life. Dishonesty may be all I have left of my eating disorder.

I am not dishonest on a regular basis by any means, but it still comes up from time to time, more than I would like it to, over things that are really pretty trivial. Based on self-judgment. Based on the fact that it's all I knew for so long. It may be the road block between who I am and who I want to be. It's time to work on being honest with myself and with others.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"your body is a wonderland"

Sure, the song referenced in the title may be about foreplay but it also holds another meaning. See, so often we are focused on the SIZE of our body, and its shortcomings, that we fail to recognize the amazing things our bodies can do.

I can run a marathon, I can do a Soul Cycle triple, I can soothe babies, I can beat my fastest time for a mile, I can stand on my feet for 8 hours a day on a retail floor, I can do a great headstand, and that doesn't even include the amazing things that my MIND can do. My body also sends signals to my mind, telling it what I am hungry for, what it needs, what it wants. It tells my mind when it's had enough exercise and when it needs me to kick it up a notch.

I'm thinking of a certain friend of mine who swears that she will be okay once she loses ten pounds, who swears that her eating disorder won't kill her, who sees herself as a number on the scale and on the label of her clothes. She can't even see who she is in the mirror because her perception is so skewed by these numbers. I wish she was my only friend with this problem but it's far from it.

If you are reading this today, I challenge you to think of all the amazing things your body can do, and if you can't think of any, I challenge you to try something new (maybe a Soul Cycle class, if you haven't gotten there yet!) and realize that you have plenty to be amazed about. You have plenty to love. Simply because you're alive.

I don't usually write lecturey inspirationy posts but that's what I was feeling tonight. I hope it was less of a lecture and more inspirational but at least I hope it made you think. My body will likely never fit my ideal of size perfection (unless one day I can change that ideal) but what it is capable of is absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Soul Cycle Intention Series Post 2: Confidence

So lately, I have been searching for confidence. Most people either know one side of me or the other. The confident side, or the not-so-confident side.

 Recently, I have been most confident in my physical abilities. Since running the marathon, I have started to believe that there isn't much that I CAN'T do - with proper training. Maybe I can't be the fastest, but I can DO IT. I've come to believe that there's no distance I can't handle, no weights I can't work up to, no resistance I can't keep the pace at. Never in my earlier years would I have thought that at 26, my most confidence in myself would lie in my physical abilities. I'm proud of myself and the way I developed that confidence. I wish that I could say I had that much confidence in other areas of my life. So, when I set an intention for "confidence," I try to channel it to a few different places.

 1. Love, marriage, future: I just ended a short "relationship" with a great guy who it just wasn't going to work out with. When we were dating, I was finally starting to become confident in myself that I HAD found someone who would reciprocate feelings towards me, who I could make a future with and have a family with. So it kind of really burned when I found out that it wasn't going to work out. I started to doubt that I could have a future with any guy - that anyone would ever love me for me. Most people like me for my personality but are not attracted to my body. This guy, he even appreciated my body, but said that we were missing that spark. I couldn't help but wonder, because I felt a spark coming from him - was I LACKING a spark? Will no one ever feel that connection to me? I know that's not true - in fact, quite a few guys recently have felt "chemistry" with me that I did not feel back. Seeing clearly and putting all the facts together before panicking, "I will be alone forever!" will help me to achieve the confidence I am searching for.

 2. Body: Even before my eating disorder, I was not confident in my body. I remember as early as age two wishing I could be smaller, thinner, more compact. Over the years, I have come to embrace certain things about my body. My height - I love being petite. My boobs - okay, they're kind of perfect. My hands - I think they're so pretty. I've found clothes that I look good in, and I finally wear sizes that are normal-to-small. There are parts of my body that I am not so comfortable with, and I tend to feel like people are looking at my body and judging me. I have a date coming up with a guy who works out a lot. I work out a lot too, so it sounds great. However, he commented that due to all the working out I do, I must be a stick. I'm quite the opposite of a stick...I'm more built like a curvy little topiary. And I told him this. We haven't gone out yet (am I going to kick myself for blogging about a guy who I haven't officially met?!) but I'm a little nervous that he's expecting this skinny thing and that he won't be interested in me when he sees what I look like. I need to focus on taking the confidence I have about my strength and physical abilities, and project that onto my feelings about my body. After all, it's all connected!

 3. Fear of Rejection: It's not so much a fear of rejection as it is an obsession with rejection. I become convinced that I am going to be rejected - by guys, by jobs, by friends, whatever. I just tell myself that I won't get the job, that he doesn't like me, that she doesn't want to be friends anymore, because I feel like the let-down will be easier to take if I am braced for it and already believe that it's not going to be good.

So, yeah. This girl who appears confident on the outside in many situations, is actually really in need of a confidence booster. Thankfully, Soul Cycle, therapy, running, and life experience are helping me to build confidence. Setting an intention for confidence at Soul Cycle helps me to remember that it is something that I need to work towards - and that it is something within my reach. I can be confident. I have made such huge strides in my life in the past few years and I can continue to make strides if I set goals and intentions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Who are you riding for? What are you riding for? - My Soul Blog Series #1

When someone asks why I run, the answer is easy. I run for ME. Me, me, me. Running is selfish for me - I need it to be a normal, happy, sane, stable person. Running is an unquestionable part of me. I don't think - I just run. Soul Cycle is a different story. It goes deeper. It's not just about survival. It's what helps me to THRIVE. It makes me really really think.One thing that all of my favorite instructors have in common (true that *most* but not ALL instructors at Soul Cycle have this in common, yeah) is that they not only ask us to set an intention but remind us to think about that intention. I was thinking a few weeks ago that every time I go to Soul Cycle, I would write a blog post about my intention. Then I realized that my intentions are pretty similar. I'm going to do a post series ABOUT my intentions that I have been riding for lately.Usually, it's a "WHAT are you riding for?" but today, it was a WHO for me.Today, I was riding for A friend. Recently, I was at the saddest funeral I had ever been to. My friend took her own life last week. She was honestly one of the strongest people I had ever met, and had been through so much. I could list it all but even that, I'm sure, is just scratching the surface. She got to a place that was so dark that she saw no way out. And I've been there. Multiple times. I was finally able to pull myself out, and give my life a 180, and truly don't believe I'll ever be there again. I love life now - I love my life and I love myself, but I remember clearly what it was like to be on the other end. To hide in the bathroom at work crying, to spend nights restlessly tossing and turning unable to turn my brain off, to think about ways to end everything, to hate my body and hurt it in so many ways, to remember and relive trauma, and to panic over every little thing because life was just out of my control.Somehow I developed the strength during those times. I found that running, total body conditioning, and spinning made me feel better than restricting, purging, and cutting. I learned how to talk about my problems, learned to trust people, and learned how to relate to people. I am NOT that person who I used to be. Sometimes I really don't know why God gave me what I needed to get out of it, and didn't give her what she needed, but I am so thankful that I was able to find my internal strength - and find those external joys.So today, I was riding not just for her but for my friends - and the people who I don't know - who are where I used to be and are struggling to get out of it. For those who are fighting tooth and nail, and for those who are exhausted and ready to give up. For those who have started to see the light and aren't sure how to get there, and for those who don't believe that the light exists. For her and all the other people who just couldn't bear the pain and no longer have the opportunity to turn their lives around the way I did.I was riding for my friend. I was riding for hope. I was riding because I CAN.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Exactly Is So Amazing About Soul Cycle?

I had to think about whether to post this on my running blog or on my wellness-oriented blog and it definitely seems to fit more with the wellness, as much as Soul Cycle is a part of my running/training routine!

So this isn't a review of Soul Cycle, because I am a loyal Soul Cycle rider, and I would give it rave reviews, five stars all the way across the board. But instead, this is about what draws ME to Soul Cycle...

I enter exercise classes with a different mindset than most other exercisers. I am not there to lose weight. I am there to feel good. I spent years of my life chasing after the elusive perfect weight, and only found myself in a deeper hole. After battling anorexia and bulimia, I finally began to reintegrate exercise into my life a couple of years ago. I started with yoga, because I enjoyed yoga while I was in treatment. Then I experienced a sudden weight gain and I knew I had to work some cardio into my routine. That was when I first tried a spin class. Not a Soul Cycle class though. After a month or so with no weight change, I was thinking, "screw it."

Then, my dietitian recommended Soul Cycle. I live half an hour from the nearest Soul Cycle studio, if there's no traffic. However, when I set foot into that studio in Scarsdale in November 2010, it was different than any workout I had ever done. We weren't being told to burn calories, we were being told to set an intention. It wasn't about losing weight, fitting into those jeans, or being entitled to eat ice cream later. It was about doing good for ourselves and for someone else. About centering ourselves. About those principles of yoga that I just could not grasp in a yoga class. Somehow, I was able to take in the "zen" component while doing intense cardio that I just couldn't let in during yoga.

Certainly, every instructor at Soul Cycle is different, and there have been some that I have liked more than others. My favorites have been Gabrielle in Scarsdale, Louise on the UWS, and Christine on the UES. What I like best about these instructors is the way they make it a workout that's about more than just working out. It's about making yourself better from the inside out, and challenging yourself. It's about smiling, laughing, dancing, and realizing that there are more important things in life than your jeans size. My favorite instructors, and really all of Soul Cycle, help you to find a sense of purpose on the bike and off the bike. A sense of purpose greater than a diet.

Really, a good Soul Cycle class to me feels like a good therapy session. And while some people may argue that Soul Cycle is expensive, I have to say that it's cheaper than a therapy session! I'm guilty of being a poor, unemployed grad student (soon to be unemployed grad!) going to therapy in addition to going to Soul Cycle, but I've been through a lot of shit in my life and I deserve it! Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy. Soul Cycle is an essential part of what gets me there and keeps me there.

I only do 1-2 Soul Cycle classes a week. The majority of my fitness regimen is running. Training for marathons and half marathons. But I look forward to my classes every week and my weight has leveled back off to where it should be, if only because I have been so happy with all of my flowing endorphins that I haven't been WORRYING about it, and supposedly when we stop worrying about our weight, that's when it goes where it needs to be.

Soul Cycle kept me sane when I couldn't run following an injury in the NYC marathon. It's a great reward when I know I have to do something that day or week that I just don't want to do. And I have my favorite teachers, who I don't get to take often, whose classes feel like holiday celebrations to me.

So what exactly is so amazing about Soul Cycle? Everything...