Have Some Damn Respect… for Yourself

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Think about how you talk to yourself on a daily basis. I don’t mean having full on conversations out loud while you’re alone. If that’s going on, some extra assistance may be needed. I mean what do you think of yourself day to day? Say you make a mistake while putting together a new piece of furniture. How do you respond? Are you the angry type who puts themselves down for a small mistake? Do the words, “stupid, dumb, idiot, or moron”, slip out of your mouth? Or are you the type who can brush things off and realize that something like a mistake has no bearing on you as a human being. “I must have missed a step. Oh well.” If you sound more like the first example, it may be time to make some changes.

I have lived most of my life as the type of person who speaks to themselves in a negative way. I never quite realized how damaging that could be for somebody until I studied mental health in college. My struggles with self-esteem and self-consciousness seem to make more sense. Eventually, those names you call yourself become your identity. That becomes how you view yourself and how you believe others view you as well. For some like myself, it can be easier to see this behavior in others actions than in your own.

Positive self-talk is one of the most important lessons I learned through my bachelor’s program. Once I became aware of “I” and “me” phrases, I realized how often I was calling myself negative things. Be aware of your self-talk. You will be surprised at what you begin to notice about yourself. If those negative phrases start to arise, know that you can catch yourself and stop it in its tracks. It’s not an easy task to change the way you’ve done things for a long time, but it’s worth the struggle.

Treating yourself with respect makes a lot of other things easier. Going about your life knowing that you are worth something makes all the difference in the world. Opportunities arise and things don’t seem so bad when you have a brighter outlook on life. Take it slow. These things don’t happen overnight. But it all starts with you.

Don’t forget about you.

Gaining Weight Over Quarantine

Shell of Myself

I’ve broken down physically the last couple of years, or at least it feels that way. I blame myself nearly every day. It didn’t happen over night, but it was like I could not feel it happening. All the pressures of Covid, working from home, finding a new career path, graduate school, financial issues, and other things seem to have piled up on me like an avalanche.

I reached the worst shape of my life in 2020/21. Not the type of landmark I’m proud of hitting. I let myself down. With constant body image issues and perpetually sitting between chubby and in-shape, I have always struggled in this area, but I have never allowed myself to breach the 200 pound mark. In the past, when 200 pounds was nearing, I was able to hold myself accountable, work hard, and get back on track. I have lost 20+ pounds multiple times in my life. Not saying it’s a good thing that I have gained and lost weight, but I am letting you know I have the power to do so. This time around, there was no stopping me.

For context, I’m not a tall guy. I am approximately five feet, eight inches (I may be rounding up a little but don’t tell anyone…). In the two years prior to my weight gain, I was in, what felt like, great shape. While I was around 190 pounds, I had packed on a noticeable amount of muscle from two years of consistent lifting. Sports have always been a part of my life. So, while I struggled to be completely lean, I was always athletic and extra weight even benefited me in some sports.

Change in Routine

When the world shut down in 2020, I saw my habits changing negatively. I said, “Screw it. I’m just going to be here with my family for a few weeks, let me east some pizza rolls and pop tarts. Once things get back to normal, I’ll get back in my routine.” Well, as we all know, weeks turned into months of isolation and anxiety. After the first month or so, I began to take up biking. I knew I couldn’t stay at home and eat all day. “Who knows when this is going to end anymore?”. I took a step in a positive direction. Not to brag, but after a couple of months I was able to ride a 16 mile trail on a consistent basis three to four times a week. I was enjoying it. It was my saving grace from the horrible news. I could pop in my airpods and go on a trip.

Anxious Eating

As the pandemic continued to progress, so did my anxiety. After a daily dose of infection rates and watching government officials sob as they announce the death toll, it begins to weigh on a human being. Around mid June ’20, my physical symptoms of anxiety began. The breathlessness, sharp chest pains, and nasal inflammation began to take their toll. I could no longer take my long bike rides. I could barely make it a mile! Everything fell off all of a sudden (you can hear more about that experience by reading my post “Where is my Mind…”). I began using food as a distractor late at night. I could barely sleep because of my breathing. Feeling like you can barely take in air is one of the most terrifying experiences. Imagine that feeling consistently for six months. My thinking became, “Let me eat so my mind can be numbed by my feeling of fullness to get a minute of sleep.” It can be easy to get on a roll and not realize the negative effect it is causing one’s body.

By January ’21, I saw my weight balloon to a whopping 225 pounds! By far the heaviest of my life. After a hospital visit and learning that my physical symptoms were all caused by mental struggles, I could finally move forward. The beginning of my journey to get back in shape was a difficult time. My body ached any time I attempted to exercise. My back would be sore and sharp pain wound run down my knees to my shins and ankles. This was/is a new test for me. I realized just how much my body had deteriorated.

Far From Over

This is by no means a success story. At this point, I am yet to have any substantial weight loss, but I have gained a good deal of muscle back. I have been able to work hard in spurts, but have not been able to stay consistent. I no longer ache or struggle to get through work outs. Whenever I feel like I should be progressing quicker, I remind myself how long it took to get here and that it is not easy. I have learned that it is important to take the little improvements as big steps forward because it’s easy to get down on yourself. I tried to get my previous physical self back in one felt swoop. That is not possible. It is overwhelming to jump back in like that. So, now that mental health is under control, I have decided to focus my attention more so on diet than anything else at the moment. One step at a time. Sorry if I rambled. I felt like it was time I let these thoughts out.

Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience. Either during the pandemic or at any other point, too. If you’re in the same position, know that you can do it. It won’t be easy, but I believe in you.

Talk to you later.

Where is my Mind…

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Man. I’m sure everyone else is just as tired of hearing about the pandemic as I am but I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. Maybe someone had the same experience and it gives them comfort in knowing my struggles. I know that helps me.

This pandemic has hit me hard. I moved out of my childhood home in August 2020 and I learned how poor my mental health could be when left in solitude with nothing more than my thoughts and the occasional distraction. I found out how angry, how depressed, and how anxious I could be. Our minds truly try to deceive us, at times. For a good year and a half, I could barely breathe. “Covid must have ravaged my lungs”, I thought. With my nasal passages closed tight and struggling to fill my lungs with oxygen, I believed it was a matter of time before I suffocated and my time on this earth was up. Although my supportive girlfriend was by my side, I couldn’t help but feel alone. That’s what being in your head all day is like. Around many but still all alone. I was experiencing anxiety attacks on, what felt like, a near everyday basis. Eating to quiet the thoughts and ease the anxiety only put a pause on the struggles and ,as a result, I became the unhealthiest version of myself that I had ever been. In January 2021, while in the midst of my nightly 2 am eating session to help me forget about my thoughts of inadequacy and breathlessness, I finally thought my time was up. This was not a panic attack I had ever felt before. “This is it. My lungs are giving out. It’s over.” I woke up my girlfriend from her sleep and asked her to take me to the hospital. After x-rays and bloodwork that spanned four to five hours and the anticipation of horrible news throughout that entire time, it was revealed to me by the doctor that my lungs were COMPLETELY and UTTERLY……fine. As was my bloodwork. I couldn’t believe it. Everything was in my mind. “How could you do this to me? How could I do this to me?” “Is there anyone else who has been feeling like this or am I still all alone!?” “This is anxiety? How do some people function with this s**t?” With the news that I was fine I could finally work to improve. And that’s where I’m at right now: Working to improve. I can’t help but feel that my mind betrayed me and I betrayed my body these last couple of years. If you’re in the same boat just know that all we can do now is work to improve.

Things are getting better. Maybe writing helps me. Maybe that’s why I finally got the cajones to start this blog. After the tremendous mental struggle I have had recently, I realize that struggles will always be present in life, but without having your head right, they become that much harder to tackle. Trouble with finances and trouble finding the “right career” are not as big of a deal as we make them out to be. If your mental health is right, good things will follow as long as you’re trying. Focus on you. Do what makes you happy. Don’t stop, no matter how often your mind tells you to do so. Show it who runs the show. It’s easy to give up. Trying is much more difficult. Challenge yourself. It’s more fun anyway.

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