mental health

25 things I learned before turning 25

I wanted to have this posted PRIOR to me turning 25 however, that just didn’t occur.

Below are 25 things I have learned during this first quarter of my life; read through and share your thoughts are additional things you have learned in the comments section!

Liquid calories aren’t going to derail your health

I always used to think “I’m not losing weight because I put creamer in my coffee”. That’s not a thing. Despite articles online labeled “Why Your Coffee is Making You Fat” and “How to Lose 10 Pounds Just By Giving Up Coffee”, the fact of the matter is that your coffee probably has very little to do with your overall health (of course there are always exceptions). Having a Cold Foam Cold Brew a couple of times a week is not going to immediately put you in a category of dangerous health; Komboucha has calories and no one writes articles about it being bad for you. Being MINDFUL of the coffee you drink is more beneficial than just assuming all coffee drinks are bad.

Go for quality over quantity for friendships

I have two friends from high school that I still hang out with (not that I had a TON of friends in high school as it was but still) and I’m not out to add to that group necessarily. You don’t need to be the person who has so many commitments they don’t have time to put in the work to really engage in and grow those friendships; be the one that has a handful of incredible friendships, and give those your utmost attention.

Girl friendships are important

I have always had insane social anxiety, especially around girls my age however, as I have grown, I have noticed that is has become increasingly important to have strong female friendships. I consider every single bridesmaid from my wedding someone I can count on, and someone that means the world to me. Instead of running from female friendships because I was uncomfortable, I worked at the ones I had.. Besides, what guy is going to watch Grey’s Anatomy with you or go on day-long shopping sprees while you complain about something JUST to complain??

Relationships take work

I’m not talking about having to put so much effort into getting along with someone that you EXHAUST yourself; I’m talking about putting in the effort to spend quality time together and go on adventures with just you and your significant other – and no, sitting in two separate rooms watching two different television shows doesn’t count, even though you are both technically “home” together. Sometimes you cancel plans to drive them to the airport, and sometimes they take a PTO day just to reconnect – you get out of a relationship what you are willing to put into it.

Secrets are brutal

It’s a lot less taxing to share too much than to not share a thing. If you are struggling, you won’t always get by on the notion that you can fix things yourself – tell someone when you are having a rough time, no matter how silly it may sound in your head. “Hey, I want to take some pills right now” – that doesn’t make you sound crazy, it makes you sound like someone who knows enough to reach out and seek assistance to keep them from falling back down the rabbit hole.

Macros aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be

I’m not saying “don’t track your macros”, I’m saying that you need to do what works for you. If tracking your macros helps you stay healthy and keeps you from going into a mental tailspin, do it. However, I’m here to say that if an app tells you that you need 205 carbs a day and 54 fat, having 210 carbs and only getting in 45 fat is not going to immediately derail your entire life. There is a time and a place for counting macros, and it’s not always going to be in recovery.

Food is not going to hurt you

Unless you have a clinically diagnosed severe issue with gluten, it’s not going to hurt you. Going dairy free is not some magical diet hack. And opting for “calorie-free” options are NOT going to be as great for your digestion as you may be lead to believe. That’s it.

Victories feel better when you work for them

I bought my very first car all on my own late last year and let me tell you, it felt GREAT. My bank account probably didn’t feel the same at first, but knowing that I put in the work and saved money and made smart decisions to get to that position and was ABLE to make such a purchase all on my own felt great – relying on your parents for every little thing as you get older isn’t going to teach you much, nor is a new car going to feel as great if someone else is buying it for you. (And I mean new to YOU, not necessarily BRAND new)

You don’t need to drink just because everyone else is

If you want to go out to a bar with friends and they want to drink, great. Don’t let anyone pressure you into drinking or doing things that you personally don’t feel adds any value to your life. Some people like to go out and drink, some people don’t. It’s that simple, and you don’t owe it to anyone to drink just so they don’t have to drink alone – that’s their problem, not your’s.

Experience will teach you more than a classroom will

I didn’t go to college right away like everyone else around me and, when I finally did go, I worked full-time and took classes at a community college. To this day, I believe I learned most of what I know going to work everyday and interacting with those around me than I ever did in a classroom. I will also never understand the role a science requirement plays in an Employment Law degree program.

Travel.

It doesn’t sound like much, and it probably sounds EXPENSIVE, but so is going out to the bar or club every weekend and drinking. Save up and treat yourself to a trip to Chicago or Disney World or anywhere else that you have never been before. Make last-minute flight decisions, and bring along people you love. Go on new adventures and try new foods and deal with your fear of flying later.

If someone positively impacts your life, tell them.

Someone inspired you to try something new? Tell them. Someone inspired you to go back to school? Tell them. Someone inspired you to order steak instead of chicken at Chipotle? TELL THEM. People like to know when they have made an impact.

If someone NEGATIVELY impacts your life, deal with it

Whether it be confronting them or realizing your life needs some rearrangements and they no longer fit, deal with those negative emotions. It’s going to take a larger toll on your walking around with that weight on your shoulders than it would be to deal with the situation and move forward.

Go after what you want, don’t wait for it to come to you

I beat out Bachelor-level candidates for an internship when I was 20 years old and had yet to graduate with my Associate’s degree. I didn’t NOT apply because I didn’t have a piece of paper signed by a stranger telling the world I had the ability to do the job well – I applied because I believed in the company and the position and the knowledge that I could do really well. And I did – not all big opportunities are going to find you, sometimes they need to be found.

People are not staring at you in the gym or on the beach

Everyone is so worried about their own damn selves to focus on how much you can bench press or what you look like in a swimsuit. Truth is, they are probably no more comfortable in their swimsuit than you are, and they might just be wondering how THEY look in theirs. It’s hot out, put on your swimsuit and have a good time; stress leaves weird tan lines.

Credit cards are the devil

Yes, everyone should have one credit card for simple reasons (building credit, emergencies, etc.) but if you can’t pay off the balance every month, it will come back every 30 days to haunt you. As much as it hurts at first, work with the money on your paycheck, not that magical gift card feeling of a Visa and you will be much better off.

Dress for yourself

No guy is going to see you on the street and think “DAMN she looks flawless in the new BCBG High-Low Jacquard Dress” (trust me). Dress for how YOU feel and how YOU think you look; after all, you’re the person you spend the most time with so yes, your opinion counts.

Cookie dough is not going to make you sick

I mean, it might but, believe it or not, the “salmonella” everyone always warned you about comes from the flour, not the eggs. So do you because #yolo and eat the damn cookie dough.

School is expensive, put in the work

If you’ve ever failed a college course, you know the difference between struggling in high school. When you fail a college course, you are out $1,200.00 and no, they don’t refund that because you’re “sorry” for not trying harder. College is expensive, so put in the work and make it worth your while. Same as with relationships, you will get out of college what you put into it.

Take the path that makes sense for YOU

You don’t need to go to a 4-year university because everyone else does. You don’t need a date to prom, or to buy a brand new house. The path that works for you is the one that was made for you – living in a split-level that was built in 1980 and toting a community college degree doesn’t make you homeless and dumb. Case in point: one of my “community college” professors also taught at a private institute so #smart

You can’t please everyone

Again, YOU are the person you spend the most time with. Focus on making yourself proud and everything else will fall into place or out of your life – the first is meant to be and the latter never stood a chance.

Let. Shit. Go.

Yes, you probably should have been voted “best hair” but guess what, no one will remember or CARE about that 72 hours from the moment it’s released. And no, you didn’t make every green light and was late to work twice this week but it’s in the past and you can’t change the past. Let it go and move forward with positivity.

You don’t need a lot of THINGS to be happy

I have friends that go shopping for new things every other day and let me tell you, they still aren’t that happy. Yes, those $160.00 sandals are cute but I was able to make my car payment on time and still have money left over to fill the gas tank so really #winnerwinnerchickendinner

Water is your best friend

When you’re sick, when you’re healthy, when you’re tired, when you’re cold, water is going to be your greatest asset. This may seem like a “filler” of things I have learned but trust me, nothing feels worse than being dehydrated in the middle of the day and not having the energy to go to gym because you need more water (also not drinking enough water makes your pee stink so….)

And finally….

Help your friends move

Don’t make a stink about it, don’t complain about how it’s taking away from your day and you could be doing such and such instead. Just be a good friend, help them move, and accept payment in the form of pizza.

 

mental health

You’re not a failure.

Solidifying strong mental health is not something that happens overnight, even though it seems like some people were born with the stability of a concrete building.

For me, my biggest milestone to date was realizing that it’s OKAY to reach back out for help when you need it. I spent so much time and so many speaking sessions proclaiming my happiness and how incredible it was to be able to say I have been out of treatment for 6.5 years (will be 7 on October 24th!).

But through all of that preaching, I didn’t realize things had started to get bad again.

I didn’t notice that I couldn’t hold conversations as well, or that I didn’t go out of my way to hang out with people, or that I sat a lot more often at work (I have a standing desk that I usually work at all day because of my low back).

I didn’t notice my mood continuously changing 20 times a day, my workouts getting weaker or my demeanor getting ever so slightly less “pizzazzy” (that’s a word now, it’s been decided).

But my brother-in-law noticed.

And when he brought it up to my husband, my first action was to shut him out and complain about his lack of knowledge and ability to mind his own business.

But the next day, I found myself researching various websites to purchase pills from.

I found myself digging through cupboards for old pills that may have been left over from SOMETHING, I didn’t know what.

I stopped midway through my Google search as it hit me; this wasn’t normal.

My brother in law wasn’t out to get me, he was out to save me.

And I didn’t notice the backslide because it didn’t have anything to do with food.

Food was what I went to treatment for; and my eating habits are fine (#cookiedoughfordinner).

And when I eventually had a mental breakdown on the phone with my husband and then again with my mom, I had to shut out my ego and take control.

That next morning, I emailed the therapist I had worked with while I was in treatment.

The last time I spoke to her was in 2013, and I always saw “recovery” as “never having to meet with her again”.

But that’s wrong.

Recovery is having the strength and knowledge to recognize when you need some extra assistance.

It didn’t make me a “failure” as I so treacherously cried to my husband that it did; it made me strong.

So yes, I have decided to go back to therapy.

And there’s nothing wrong with me (well, except all of these mental issues obviously =)), sometimes you just need some extra assistance regulating your emotions and working through the tough shit.

Noticing a problem and coming up with a solution doesn’t make you a failure; it makes you a f****n warrior.

 

mental health

Riding out recovery

You don’t know; it’s so hard

When the world knows your face; and no one knows your heart

Those are lyrics in a song I wrote when I was 13.

I was at the beginning of my problems, and had already begun shutting people out.

I’ve always been an advocate of “don’t even try that, it’s addictive“.

But I’ve also been there when the pain is so dark and brutal that you become desperate for something, ANYTHING, to take it away.

Something to make the voices in your head stop screaming from the rooftops everything that is wrong with you.

A pain so indescribable, not physical, and unbearable, that you are willing to cling to something so taboo and nonsensical to make it stop.

Something like pills.

Or alcohol.

Or drugs.

And if you’ve been there, then you know.

And if you’ve never been there, then you have no right to judge.

No one takes drugs or a pill or a drink thinking it will become addictive.

And if they do, they don’t care.

Pain that feels like a thousand needles pressing on your presence in this world, and you don’t care if the pressure pushes you out.

Once you get sober and go without the crutch, once you find healthy coping skills, there becomes a lot riding on you staying sober.

Riding out an injury because the doctor can’t prescribe you something stronger.

Sitting on your hands to keep from reaching for the knife drawer.

Driving around in circles begging your car not to turn in to the liquor store parking lot.

And sometimes it’s the joy and happiness that you don’t want to lose by retreating to old habits.

Sometimes it’s fear. Fear of letting those around you down (again); fear of losing the progress you’ve made; fear of starting over.

And it’s a daily struggle.

Mental illness is widely talked about in a way that makes people believe they solved the riddle in how it works.

But that’s just it.

There isn’t a riddle for solving mental illness.

It’s scary and unpredictable, and affects everyone differently.

And if you yourself have suffered, then I present you will all of my applause for getting healthy and successfully managing yourself.

But if you are struggling, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that there is help available to you.

A step away from the pain, and in the right direction.

A step that will take away the struggle and replace it with freedom.

After all, isn’t that what we’ve all been searching for?

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

mental health

The honeymoon phase

The first time I told my story, it was full of  honeymoon anecdotes and comparisons of my new life being visions of Oreo’s with an adequate amount of filling and dogs that never barked when you tried to pet them.

But that wasn’t real.

It was a real-life story painted over with social media gloss – I was still too raw to speak about what recovery was really like.

And in a word, it was brutal.

The moment you step out of treatment for the first time, you feel like the end of a Fast and Furious movie where everyone is walking away in slow motion like a hero away from raging fire and burning demons.

But here’s the truth – no one walks away from a burning scene in slow-motion; you wouldn’t get out alive that way.

You get away as fast as you can, and figure everything else out later.

I had spent so much time over the previous summer fighting with my own mind until it started to realign with reality, and I didn’t want to think that I wasn’t “fixed“; that my condition hadn’t been “cured“.

But mental illnesses aren’t “cured”, mental illness is managed.

And at first, my recovered life outside of treatment WAS a honeymoon; nothing was off-limits and everything was possible; until I found myself trying to do school work at a Starbucks, unable to drink my calorie-filled drink (steamed soy milk with vanilla, it was before my coffee days….)

I stared at the cup for what felt like forever, willing it not to hurt me. I grabbed my phone and spoke with someone I had been in treatment with, and I called my mom. 40 minutes later, I managed to finish my beverage, but the thought that something so simple could suddenly be so scary made me wonder if all that time spent fighting ED was worth it.

Was it worth it if it meant I was still going to endure rough days and difficult meals?

Uhm….yes.

Your most difficult days in recovery are still going to outrank your best days ill. Just because the bright color of Skittles is suddenly blinding, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to override those thoughts and enjoy them.

Just because a hamburger resembles anything BUT a salad doesn’t mean you won’t finish it and be glad that you did.

Whatever you need to get through a meal: viewing the food as fuel for a workout, viewing it as an experiment (“let me eat this meal once and just see what happens) or prefacing the moment with everyone around you so they know to keep the conversation light and OFF the casserole, do it.

You can’t “recover” wrong; rough days, struggled meals, relapses and all.

You’ve still survived, and that was the point from the beginning.

So congratulations, you’re still incredible, despite the dark times.

You’re still a warrior.

mental health

Self love takes time

When I decided I wanted to be thinner, I wanted to be thinner right away.

When I recovered and decided I wanted to be strong and have incredible muscles, I wanted those muscles to appear overnight.

With a black and white mindset comes the need to change instantly.

We always want to be something we aren’t, or have something we don’t.

And we want it to happen yesterday.

Every day, I just want to love myself.

Right away.

I didn’t want to put in the work; I just wanted to “be thin” and have all of my problems disappear.

Because that’s rational.

And I didn’t want to put in the work for gaining muscle (AKA eating in a calorie surplus) – I just wanted to BE stronger.

Also rational.

As easy as it is to say “you can’t change the situation, but you can change your mindset”, that doesn’t happen with a thought – you have to be willing to put in the work.

Self love isn’t instantaneous.

It’s looking at yourself in the mirror every day until you start to appreciate what God gave you.

It’s eating when you’re not sure you’re hungry because you know your body needs it, until you can intuitively make that decision.

It’s going to the gym when you don’t feel “muscular enough” because that’s how you GET THERE.

And it’s getting out of bed every day deciding that you’re going to FIGHT for acceptance of yourself and your body; that you’re going to wrestle with and conquer those voices telling you it’s impossible.

You don’t just decide to recover and love yourself; you have to wake up and make that decision over and over every. single. day.

But pretty soon, you will look in the mirror without wondering why you were the only person in the world given fat cells (you weren’t – fat acts as a layer of support to protect your vital organs; it serves a purpose).

You won’t stare at the clock, wondering if it’s too early to eat, or if you should wait until lunch because “intermittent fasting” has become some strange thing people are obsessing over (gross)

And you will go to the gym when you want to, and stay home when you don’t; because either option is okay, and neither is incorrect, or makes you any less worthy.

It’s easy to find things you want to change about yourself; we never go out comparing positives to others (“wow that person is just as kind as I am”).

Why not?

Because it’s easier to go out and say “she’s prettier than I am” or “he has more muscle definition that I do” because 1 – it’s all relative and 2 – just because someone is pretty or has great muscle definition doesn’t mean you DON’T.

More than one person can be beautiful.

Even more – everyone can be beautiful.

And everyone is.

We just need to drill that into our mind, and know that it’s okay to let go of thoughts that do not make you strong, and of people that do not make you want to recover.

It’s okay to love yourself; it’s a worthwhile investment of your time.

mental health

it’s okay to take, though

“Be encouraging”

“Show them it’s possible”

“You’re too strong to fall off the wagon”

“Give them something to believe in”

It’s important (and at times therapeutic) to use your story to inspire others; I thrive on sharing the high points with those still suffering so they understand that their life won’t always be comprised of lows.

But you can’t pour positivity with an empty cup; and even the givers of inspiration need to refill.

It’s OKAY to be the person in need of inspiration.

It’s OKAY to be the one pulling positivity and courage out of a friend to borrow for awhile.

And it’s OKAY to take strength from someone after giving it away for so long.

The first time I spoke in front of the public at a Recovery Night in St. Paul, someone told me that I inspired them; from that point on, I never wanted to lose that feeling.

And the first day I woke up to a rough day, I tried to ignore it.

I didn’t want to preach that recovery was possible when I didn’t feel 100% satisfied with my own.

But lying about progress to inspire people isn’t beneficial, and it’s okay to be genuine with those around you and open about the ugly parts.

Relapsing doesn’t make you any less inspirational, and having a rough day doesn’t immediately revoke your recovery card.

Being authentic and real and raw with people doesn’t hinder your ability to inspire any more than hiding your struggles and pretending recovery is one giant honeymoon.

And it’s okay to be a giver that takes every once in awhile.

It’s not like a giver can be a giver without a taker anyway, right?

 

 

mental health

Relapse

I relapsed in December 2014.

Wait, let me back up.

I relapsed from September 2014 – December 2014.

In early September 2014, I got thrown off of my four-wheeler and was prescribed Hydrocodone to help the pain.

I didn’t tell that doctor that I was QUEEN of finding ways to help the pain.

I stared at the paper in her hand, practically salivating at the thought of having a legal prescription in my hand again.

Pushing aside progress to make room for the comfort of feeling number was much too easy.

I would wake up, workout (a strict NO from the doctor couldn’t stop me), come home, take a Hydro, and settle into an unsettling comfort until bedtime.

When a week was up, and my back slowly started to feel better, I left that out during my check-up.

No really, it was still hurting.

For the next three months, I used the hydrocodone to make myself believe I didn’t need to do well at my job, and that I wasn’t deserving of moving out with my now-husband.

He bought a house; I drove home from work to lay in his bed until he got home so I could tell him I wasn’t ready.

I told him I needed a more permanent job.

In reality, I wasn’t ready to give up my demons; I was relishing in the sunshine of a rebound.

I got talked to by my boss multiple times, even threatening termination if I couldn’t get my shit together.

I didn’t think I had a problem; they were my pills.

But it’s still an addiction; even if it’s your name on the bottle.

Then one night in December, I went out with friends.

I took a hydro, met a friend for dinner, then took another when we left for the party.

Then came the alcohol.

I loved it; I was falling in love all over again, just not with a person.

But I forgot how hard it hits.

And the second time around was twice as brutal.

When I woke up the next morning on someone’s couch I sat up, stared straight ahead, and tried to focus on SOMETHING.

Something that would remind me what happened the night before.

Something that would eventually play back the actions that would almost cost me my relationship.

I drove home, drenched in sheer terror for what I had done.

When did it get so bad again?

What about the progress I had made?

What about my boyfriend, and my job, and the fact that I was finally almost done with college?

When did it all become so un-important?

When I got home, I threw the remaining pills down the toilet (which I don’t actually think you’re supposed to do but that’s not really the point of this story now is it?)

And when the truth came out to my boyfriend months down the road, I had to tell him that I relapsed.

And that I swore it wouldn’t happen again.

And that he didn’t have to believe me.

But by some miracle of God, he stuck with me, and I will forever be undeserving and grateful for him and his support with my recovery; the eating disorder, the pills, anxiety, all of it.

The greatest negative aftermath from the relapse was my back (lower left side); it never healed properly.

My entire left side isn’t as strong as my right; I get flare-ups in my PSOAS and piriformis almost monthly, and I have terrible grip in my left hand.

Because I didn’t calm the fuck down and take a break when the doctor suggested.

I was too busy staring at the prescription, willing the pills to love me as much as I loved them.

I haven’t relapsed with pills since then.

And when I went to the doctor for a check-up to see if anything new was discovered, they prescribed me a non-addictive pain medication, which just isn’t as fun (kidding, not funny).

We spend so much time praising recovery that it almost seems inapt to even talk about relapse.

But it happens.

Recovery isn’t a fucking dreamsicle of a life where you’re magically fixed and nothing terrible ever happens again.

It’s brutal and rough and aggressive and requires more work than just letting yourself be ill.

It’s a decision you make once, and then have to continue making every. single. day.

But it’s beautiful and surreal and allows for so much happiness and freedom.

Secrets are the epitome of addiction.

Loneliness is the paragon of relapse.

Keep those around you who understand that they won’t understand, but go out of their way to be there for you at any moment in time.

The ones that don’t need you to say anything to know when it’s been a rough day.

And if you recovered once, and are dealing with an urge or relapse, know that you are so much stronger than your demons.

And that if you cave, you can always get back to where you were.

That’s the beauty of recovery; it’s always an option.