Where Have You Been?!

So, funny story…

I’ve been hella MIA.

I wish I had a really cool reason, like I’ve been traveling the world or tucked away in some hidden Air BNB finishing my novel…but I don’t.

The truth is – I lost my mojo, baby. I lost my motivation, my inspiration and my control all in one swoop. I hadn’t written in months. My life swam by me in a blur. I was drowning within myself, and I was painfully aware of it. I would wake up in the morning and within two hours, be ready to sleep again. I was emotionally exhausted all the time, anxious, on edge, introverted. All things that were just…unlike me.

It’s never easy to sit down and look at yourself in the mirror and ask the question, “What is going on with me?” But I had to. I realized that life is far too short to get sucked so far into yourself that you can’t see beyond the door. So I did.

Backstory-time.

I have willingly chosen not to pursue medication for the majority of my adult anxiety/OCD journey. Mainly because I’m terrified of medicine, but also because I wanted to learn practical coping methods for myself first. Turns out, for the most part – I could, and had been, managing my anxiety and OCD on my own.

Until recently.

For whatever reason, unbeknownst to me, my normal tools weren’t working. Meditation, nope. Yoga, negative. Breathing exercises, nada. The list goes on and on with the things I’ve tried. I was falling into habits that I hadn’t done in years. I caught myself picking at my cuticles until they bled, chewing my lip until I could run my tongue along a visible swollen spot. The tipping point was when I realized I couldn’t pull myself out of my room.

I woke up on the morning of the Equality March – something I had been looking forward to for months. I knew. I knew instantly that it was an off day. My fan was so loud I swore it was a helicopter taking off when I woke up. The sun seemed unyieldingly bright behind closed blinds, even though it was a cloudy morning. My heart raced and my hands trembled when I thought about leaving the house. Fear consumed me. It consumed me to the point that I felt like walls were falling in and I couldn’t breathe.

That day – for the first day in nearly twelve years – I let fear trap me in my own home and in my own body.

I missed the march. I missed standing up for something that I have always fought for.

And I said, ‘enough’.

I talked to my doctor about everything, what I was experiencing, feeling and doing to combat all of it. There were blood tests and sleep analysis questions. Finally, the step I never thought I’d be willing to entertain came up – medication. My doctor was patient and listened and knew that I was afraid and she talked me through it.

I thought back to the march. To what I had missed, to what I could miss in the future – and I got the hell on board with it pretty quickly, and I feel confident about my decision.

I say all of that to say this – It’s okay to need, and ask for, help. 

It’s okay to not have it together all the time. It’s okay to not be okay. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or unable to manage, I promise. You don’t have to suffer in silence or try to fight a battle on your own. There are people, sometimes even total strangers, who support you – no matter what your journey may look like. Promise.

One thing I swore in the beginning was that this blog would be a safe space for all of my readers, and I felt like it would be unfair for me to not use it as mine as well.

So that’s where I have been. I’ve been healing and learning and fighting myself and repairing.

I’ve been feeling more inspired and there’s new content, series and funny stories on the way!

Thank you, lovelies. For being a community and a support system I never knew I needed until I had you!

Readers, Meet Anxiety.

I struggle with anxiety and OCD – and not because an online quiz told me. I was diagnosed as a young adult, but have fought this battle for as long as I can remember.

BAM! How’s that for an opener?

I was always super self-conscious about admitting to other people that I dealt with these things because I was afraid of what they would think. That it would make me less of a person and more of a statistic –

“Oh my god, what will they think?”

“Will I still be allowed to do certain things?”

“Does it make me a bad mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend?”

Sometimes those thoughts are still my elephant in the room. For the longest time I hid it all from the world and the people I trusted and loved. Since I had been hurt before by some of those same people who made comments or dismissed how I felt, my confidence was shattered for years.

The words “mental illness” were bullied – so I bundled up my seemingly irrational fears and obsessions and sadness and hid.

It wasn’t until the last five years of my life that I really found my voice. I came out to more people about what I had been dealing and continue to deal with. I am still very guarded with myself. It’s not easy to open up the most vulnerable parts of your mind to others, but I have. I let it be known and I have people I can talk to.

Now, it’s just another path I walk. Sometimes it’s flat pavement and sometimes it’s mountains.

But let me be real – the stigma surrounding mental illness is very real and it’s still out there in so many ways. So I say, not-so-politely, screw the stigma.

Be you. Be brave. It’s okay to talk about it.

I want you, as my readers, to know this about me because these things are part of who I am, and I think it’s important to talk about. It has taken years for me to reach a place where I will put myself out there in all of my messy-glory.

If I think it may help even one person, I’ll continue sharing my stories until my voice goes out.

For me – living with anxiety is like living with this hyper awareness of everything, and OCD is constantly obsessing over how I can keep control of it all.

It’s exhausting. My mind runs so fast sometimes that I can’t keep up.

Panic attacks are a storm that will come out of nowhere. It’s like I become a balloon in a hurricane and I’m tossed back and forth – completely out of control, and all I need is for one thing, one person, one thought to hold onto me so that I can stop.

My mind is never quiet. Sometimes, every nerve ending is overloaded and sounds and lights are more intense than they were just a few hours ago.

Dealing with a mental illness of any kind is a tough business to try and understand – but there are people who do. We exist, and we are here to listen and support.

There are a lot of amazing resources out there that talk about what things look and feel like – but please trust me when I say that they’re different for everyone. EVERYONE. There are common threads, but everyone’s mind is different. The best thing we can do is to support and ask questions.

Ask questions. Ask someone what they need. Ask someone if they feel safe. Just ask.

Don’t judge someone else’s struggle because it doesn’t match what you’ve read about or even what you may have dealt with. We can only ever speak for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak at all.

I feel comfortable talking about my journey now. I’ve learned a lot along the way. For the most part, I have learned my own triggers and how to calm my breathing and my mind so that I can bounce back with minimal damage to my mascara. But there are  still times when my world is spinning so fast I can’t get my feet on the ground and all hell breaks loose.

We are all existing on this beautiful planet together, and the best thing we can do is help each other out and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Fair warning – walking in these shoes can be like running a marathon in a pair of knock-off Jimmy Choo’s. Not that I’ve tried that, because mama don’t run.

Really, I want this post to generate acceptance and understanding for those who go through any of these things.

My hope with this post is that by laying it out there, someone else will see that and give themselves a moment – one singular moment to feel loved and understood. Because you, my lovely, are not alone.

If you, or someone you know is struggling, share this, you never know when it will save a life. Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Hello, Doctor? It’s Me, Ashley.

This Coffee Chat is going to double as both a story and a PSA because I really feel like it’s something that needs to be said. It’s really long, so grab a snack.

I know I’m in good health. My blood pressure is always great. I’ve never struggled with diabetes or high cholesterol – but I’m fat. Call a spade, a spade, ya’ll. I am a curvaceous mama.

It took a long time for me to just accept the fact that I am never going to weigh 130 pounds. I won’t. I never have. And that’s okay. Health shouldn’t be defined solely by weight alone. I made a decision that I needed to love myself and to do that I needed to put my health first rather than try and achieve a number on a scale. If I changed my lifestyle, weight-loss would come with it.

Only it didn’t.

In fact, I have been gaining weight – and not because I’m eating food filled with crap. On the contrary – I eat vegetarian, drink tons of water and work out fairly regularly. Despite that, I was still gaining. Not to mention that there were a multitude of other things going on health wise that just weren’t like me – foggy brain, super fatigued, etc.

So like any good millennial – I WebMDed the hell out of it.

I figured my thyroid was probably out of whack and there was probably some type of vitamin b or d deficiency. I’m not a medical professional, but I’m not an idiot either. I did my research. That, coupled with the fact that the doctor had palpated my thyroid at a previous appointment, made a funny face said, “eh, I think it’s okay right now, we will check it later” so I said, “eh, it’s probably okay” and then did nothing about it, led me to believe this was probably the culprit.

Fast forward to last Tuesday – at my annual physical. The doctor had my previous-palpated-thyroid-notes in the chart that said, “this is a concern to be checked,” so please keep that in mind.

He looks over everything and commented, “You’re in better health than I am…but you know what I’m going to say.”

To which I responded with, “Yea, I’m fat…er than before. Which is actually something I’d like to discuss. I’m really concerned that I’m gaining weight and feeling so tired and foggy. I eat well, work out and still nothing. It’s like I’m walking backwards. I really think something could be going on with my thyroid. You said in April that it felt…pudgy.”

The doctor pondered on this for a split second, barely taking in what I was saying to him.

This, ladies and gentleman, is where I lost my humanity and because a number on a scale. Where I became “less than.”

He turned to me and asked a number of questions about what I ate on a regular basis, how often I worked out – seemingly picking apart my diet and lifestyle.

Only, he couldn’t see an issue with those things; at least not on paper – so he made the comment, “I mean, we will do the thyroid test, but I think you should see a nutritionist. Sometimes even when we think we are doing a good job, we aren’t aware of what we are putting into our bodies.” Since you know, because I’m fat, I must not know how to actually eat well or work out.

That was the first of many slaps in the face. I am very aware of what I put into my body. Hyper-aware even. I’m not going to claim I always eat well – because, tacos and coffee. But for the most part, I eat better than average. I was practically yelling at him to look at the chart where he made the note about a bigger issue, but he wasn’t hearing me or even choosing to listen.

He also told me I should food journal to keep a log of what I put into my body…because again, I must be mindlessly chowing down Oreos all day and not realizing it. I have done food journaling and became so obsessed with a number goal that everything else went out the window. I would starve myself just to hit it. I told him that I didn’t want to do that again.

Now would be a good time to mention that I live with OCD and anxiety. I’ve also struggled with body image issues my entire life. It has only been in the last few years that I started really accepting and loving myself as a whole – mentally and physically.

Once again, I reiterated that something else was going on beyond eating and exercising. I told him it was frustrating.

His response? He told me he could put me on weight loss pills. He made jabs at my mental health like, “Maybe you could use OCD to your advantage to lose some of the weight.” He poked at me and my willingness to get help, as if I wasn’t sitting in front of him begging for it. He said, “Don’t fight getting help from the nutritionist – your way obviously hasn’t been working.”

I felt my self-esteem plummeting. Blame was rising in the back of my throat. Self-doubt crept in, “Am I really that awful? How could I let myself get so disgusting? Why did I think I was pretty? I don’t deserve to feel pretty. Stupid girl. You’re wrong.”

The more he spoke the less I did, until finally, and all at once, I was defeated.

I was fighting tears of rage and disgust, not for him, but for me. I stopped defending myself and let the medical pedigree tell me that I was wrong. I was fat. I was a number that went up by my own hand.

When I left with a referral to a nutritionist and pamphlet on eating habits, I was in tears. I barely made it out of the office before they started. I sat in my car and picked myself apart. I tore apart the image of myself I had worked so hard to rebuild. In minutes it was just…gone.

I tried to eat a banana that afternoon and it felt like sand in my mouth. I sobbed uncontrollably and threw the world’s largest pity party. I had a full on panic attack where I pretended to be Barbara Streisand in Yentl…It was not pretty…but in hindsight…it was funny.

For days I selfishly agonized over my appearance. I hid my body with baggy clothes. I felt myself wanting to control the food I was putting in rather than enjoying the dinner with my family. I didn’t want to leave the house…I let this man with no credentials other than specific knowledge in a specific field, shred my view of who I was, to bits.

During all of that I convinced myself that when my blood work came back it would show that I was, in fact, everything unhealthy the doctor told me I should be, because I was fat.

Only…it didn’t.

All of my labs came back and were great…with the exception of my thyroid and vitamin d levels. I opened the results with one eye open, half asleep and on my phone and shouted, “JUSTICE!” In full-on, Vernon Dursley, Order of the Phoenix, manner. I nearly scared Sean to death. I was healthy, but more importantly – I was right.

I knew going into the doctor’s office that something within my body was off, that something wasn’t right. Yet, I let myself be bullied into thinking that I was wrong – for reasons I knew were false.

Rather than looking at me as an intelligent person who knew my body, the doctor instantly treated me like a fat person who didn’t know how to eat or live a healthy lifestyle and that was the problem.

I was fat-shamed.

But you can bet your sweet-ass that I won’t be again. No thank you.

I started picking up my pieces and putting them back together – where they had been before I let someone else tell me they shouldn’t be there at all.

I slapped on my red lipstick and said “FUCK. IT.” I wore skinny jeans. I pinched my fat rolls, sighed and ate a mango. I believed my husband when he told me I was pretty. I stopped letting someone else tell me that I was wrong, solely because I was fat.

I made a decision while I was reflecting on my mini-mental break down pretending to be Barbara, that I wouldn’t let this happen to anyone else who went to this particular doctor.

I have an appointment later this week to review my treatment plan for my thyroid. I won’t be going to another doctor in the future, either– why? Because this doctor needs to learn. I need to let my voice be heard. I need to heal the wounds that I let him cause. He needs to know the things he said and the way he handled the situation was wrong. He needs to listen.

I say ALL of that to say this – Do not let yourself be bullied by anyone, even if they have a medical degree. No one should be allowed to make you feel less-than. You are all beautiful. You are all worthy. You are all human. Our bodies are our own, and we live in them every day – and when we go to a doctor for help, we should be heard. If you feel like something is wrong do NOT back down until you have your answers.

Be brave and beautiful my lovelies, trust your instincts and listen to your bodies.

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