Monday, July 01, 2013

Come on Back...

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything new.  These days I really find myself coming back to life.  I recently shared my journey with some of my close friends.  One of them asked me if I was actively blogging about this experience.  Another friend asked me the same question a few weeks back.  Their questions certainly struck a chord with me.  In the past, I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging on a regular basis.  However, my own struggles got the best of me over the past several years.  Anyway, I thought that I would recap the main points of my journey and use this as my "come on back" post. 

So, here we go - the most vulnerable post that I think I have shared to date.  However, I do so in the hopes of encouraging someone out there who may be going through a challenge.  I am now at a point where I am working on creating my "happily ever after," and I am comfortable with being somewhat exposed.

My Story
"In life, you must have a test before you can have a testimony." -- Quote from my significant other

Throughout my life, I have worked very hard at learning how to define and accept myself.  During my teenage years, I struggled with self-esteem and self confidence issues, which were all triggered by my weight.  I had a relatively drama-free childhood, was smart, had nice friends, a good head on my shoulders, and I sincerely liked myself as a person.  As I entered into my teenage years, I began to struggle with my weight.  I did not like exercise, and I recognized that I was significantly larger than my friends.  When I entered college, I decided that I would learn how to take care of my body and make better nutrition choices.   Between the ages of 19-26, I was in excellent shape.  I started becoming actively involved in the gym and fitness community in 1998 and discovered that I had a talent and passion as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.  I competed in figure and bodybuilding competitions in my mid/late 20's, and found myself achieving many fitness goals.  However, I also acknowledge that I am a perfectionist, workaholic, OCD-type, and really was stressing my body out to the max always trying to be the best at everything - work, grad school, gym - all in that order.  My life was completely imbalanced.  I lost sight of the truly important things and found myself failing at being a good daughter, sister, friend, and companion to those who loved me and mattered the most.  Anyway, my body finally cried UNCLE at the end of 2006.  I IGNORED the warning signs and noticed my body slowly starting to shut down. 

In January 2007, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 92.  I was in my final semester of graduate school.  In March 2007, my half-sister was killed in a car accident.  She was my second sister to encounter this untimely fate.  I managed to graduate on time in May 2007; my grandfather passed away 1 week after my graduation.  Amidst all of this, I was working 70+ hours/week in a high stress managerial role.  I was under chronic stress, experienced two very intense personal losses, and I never took time to grieve or heal...instead, I just worked more.  Even though I gained 20 pounds in that 2 month period, I thought it would all pass. I was in denial.  I let a full year go by.  I knew that something "wasn't right," but I grew increasingly more afraid to probe into it farther.  Avoidance only prolonged the inevitable.  In August 2008, my body completely shut down after both of my parents fell ill on the same day (they are both fine and in good health now).  I continued gaining weight, started experiencing intense anxiety,  and fell into a deep depression.  I ended up taking an 8-month medical leave from work.  It was during this time that I discovered that I'd actually suffered a breakdown of my adrenal system, hormonal imbalance, and exhaustion.  I bounced from doctor to doctor, practitioner to practitioner...only to be told that my body needed absolute rest and that my condition could take 3-5 years to heal, given that I learn how to manage my stress.

My Test
The past 5 years have been a test of faith, emotional strength, self learning, and resilience. When I returned to work in August 2009, I returned only to find out that my position had been eliminated.  It was a blessing in disguise because I started having panic attacks anticipating a return.  However, my unemployment was much longer than I ever anticipated.  It was the beginning of the economic recession/depression, and I was out of work for 18 months.  So much for that "no stress" thing.  My condition only got worse. I would go through periods of being able to enjoy life, exercise, lose a few pounds (i.e. 5-10), hit a stressful setback, and gain massive amounts of weight in very short time frames.  For instance, I gained 40 pounds in a 2 month period.  I was completely frustrated.  I had no idea how to heal my body or my emotional state.  Enter the downward spiral....anxiety, depression, hormonal imbalances, adrenal exhaustion, chronic stress, extended unemployment (translation - more stress)...YIKES!  There were days when I looked into the mirror, and I simply did not recognize the person staring back at me. I lost my smile and my spark.  I felt completely hopeless and helpless.  I became introverted, isolated, and quiet -- all very unfamiliar to me.  Even as I type this now, I am in shock and very grateful that I was able to weather the storm.

My Testimony
I have continued working towards improving my condition, and the past year has really been truly transformational.  Everything finally came together for me.  My testimony is that you can overcome ANY obstacle as long as you don't give up, and you keep pressing forward.  I have tried MANY different things over the years (some really crazy, out of pure desperation). There are times when I gave up, when I felt like I was never going to regain my energy, strength, or athleticism.  I felt defeated time and time again.  Many, many tears have been shed along the way.  Throughout this journey, I lost my self confidence, I lost my self esteem, and I stopped believing in myself.  I am happy to share that in my most recent check-up this past April, my blood sugar levels FINALLY returned to normal.  Even though I will continue to have to manage the pre-diabetes condition for the rest of my life, I am proof that you can be healed and set free of your ailments.  I was able to rediscover FAITH in MYSELF and turn this thing around! 

I still have a little way to go before I reach my end goal, but I know that it is eminent.  My heart and outlook are once again positive, and I feel like I am finally back to myself.  I feel strong again - mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I never stopped trying.  Trust me there are times when I wanted to (and did) throw in the towel, but I couldn't fathom the long-term repercussions of acceptance.  I had to keep trying to change the situation. 
My Joy
I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends who helped me through these difficult times.  Friends who offered their training & nutrition services, healthcare professionals who tried to help along the way, hands who tried to heal, and many hearts that simply loved.

There is a very happy ending to all of this...which I will post separately in a few days. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope that my story helps someone who needs it today...

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