Burn The Ships

Last weekend we sang a new worship song, Burn The Ships by the duo For King & Country. It’s a powerful song with a deeply personal backstory mixed with this story about a ship of explorers. Here’s what Luke Smallbone said in an interview about the song:

“I read a story about an explorer going to a new land. When he arrived on the shore, he calls everybody off of the ships and said, ‘Hey let’s go explore this land and see what there is to be seen,'” Luke explains. “All the men were terrified of going into the unknown and he realized that even those boats were grimy, stinky and small, they wanted to stay on the boats because it was familiar. The next day he calls them out again and when all the sailors were on land, he gives the command to burn the ships because he said, ‘We’re not going to retreat. We’re going to move forward in our lives.’ 

Over the coming days the song would not leave me and neither did the story. It hit me because I intimately understand the comfort of a fully destructive comfort zone. The sailors knew the ship was “grimy, stinky, and small” but it was far more comfortable to stay in the horror you know than to step into the unknown. It actually reminded me of my closet.

Yes, my closet.

I used to have what I called My Closet of Hope. It had clothes in every possible size. If you needed formal wear I had gowns from a size 16-28. How about an outfit for work? I had you covered from a size 14-32. Casual day wear? My largest inventory from large to 6x!

Why?

I stayed on a roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain. When I lost weight I’d still hold on to my bigger clothes in case I gained again and when I’d gain weight I held on to smaller clothes in the hopes I’d fit them again. After weight loss surgery I decided that I was no longer hanging on to my old clothes. It was harder and far more emotional than I ever dreamed it would be. I kept ONE shirt and ONE pair of pants that I bring when I speak at the hospital.

What does this have to do with the worship song? My Closet of Hope was really a Closet of Fear. Much like the sailors, I feared something new. I’d been overweight for 30 years and it may seem odd but it was scary to even think of being anything else! Holding on to those clothes was almost like giving myself permission to retreat back to the way I’ve always been.

Up to that point I’d been a slave to food because I was using it to cope with my often crippling anxiety. I hid my feelings behind a wall of shame and ate to feel better… yet always felt worse. I was incapable of asking for help and would use humor as a means of deflection. After RNY I unknowingly made the decision to “burn the ships” in my closet. By donating all of my clothing I was propelled into a new way of living with no easy way to retreat. This also meant confronting my feelings, adjusting my coping behaviors, and getting help for my anxiety and food addiction.

That was my ship. Your ship could be removing yourself from a toxic relationship, stepping out in faith at a new opportunity, or leaving anything behind that no longer serves you. It’s never easy to burn a ship, to leave a comfort zone, to try something new. I had to step out in faith, trust God, and fall to my knees before I fall into ice cream.

What’s your ship and are you ready to set it on fire?

Read more of the personal story behind this song and hear the song: Billboard Article – Burn The Ships.

Check The Environment

The other day an Instagram friend posted this quote:

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

I loved this because it resonated in me. But as swiftly as the thoughts came in, life swept them away.

I was going through my Facebook newsfeed a few days later and was quickly reminded of that post. It was from an article in the Paris Review from author CJ Hauser. The essay titled The Crane Wife was an incredible read about how a woman found herself on a crane research trip after breaking off an engagement. Here’s the passage that took me back to that earlier post:

Here is what I learned once I began studying whooping cranes: only a small part of studying them has anything to do with the birds. Instead we counted berries. Counted crabs. Measured water salinity. Stood in the mud. Measured the speed of the wind.

It turns out, if you want to save a species, you don’t spend your time staring at the bird you want to save. You look at the things it relies on to live instead. You ask if there is enough to eat and drink. You ask if there is a safe place to sleep. Is there enough here to survive?

Why did this hit me so hard? Spending the last five years ardently working on myself by dealing with my weight, my food addiction, and my (often crippling) anxiety I discovered a link I never knew I was missing! I’ve been so focused on myself that I haven’t paused – consciously – to consider my environment.

When a person has a weight issue it’s often because there’s an imbalance somewhere. Many will consider that imbalance to ONLY be calories in far exceed calories out. It would be nice if that were true. It’s just one part of a much more complex algorithm! There’s usually an underlying cause that leads to the pure calorie math.

For example, consider the environment in which a person lives. Has food insecurity ever been an issue? A person who was deprived food through poverty or even through a parent’s withholding can be a factor.

I personally know a woman whose mother was terrified she’d grow up to be fat. She was slightly overweight when we were kids and her mother was obsessed with how much she ate, what she could eat and where she could eat. Her mother constantly micromanaged her food. When I saw her ten years after we graduated from high school she had gained a lot of weight. I often wondered if leaving her parents house where she had no one to stop her or manage her food led to her weight gain. Turns out her mother was heavy as a child and was taunted throughout her school years. Her desire to save her daughter from the same treatment was the motivation behind her behavior.

Trauma is another item to consider. Comedian Russell Brand famously said this:

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug. 
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. 
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. 
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.

Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway. 
Molestation is the gateway. 
Neglect is the gateway. 

Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.

And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.

But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.

Communicate. 
Empathize. 
Rehabilitate.

— Russell Brand

When I first saw this, it hit me hard. The weight of that truth sunk into my core. Although he doesn’t specifically mention food, when it’s abused food can be just as dangerous! When I started to take on the challenge of my weight I had to consider the source! What is the root of my eating? It wasn’t only WHAT I was eating (calorie math) but WHY was I eating (complex algorithm)?

I was stagnant in my behaviors for years. I discovered that despite how I felt about myself the greater risk was in changing. It was far easier to stay the same! I willingly chose a life where I was so miserable in my own skin because even though I was unhappy with myself it was far more comfortable to stay in my misery than to attempt to do something and potentially fail… again. I knew my misery and ended up making it my friend. I was the flower that wouldn’t bloom but I didn’t have the strength to consider switching my environment!

Looking back, I see how taking the steps to work on myself contributed to a change in my environment. To be successful in how you live after surgery you have to be able to eat according to a plan. Before surgery I’d often order food or go out to fast food. I’d have a steady supply of ice cream, chocolate, and cookies at my disposal at all times! You can’t do that after surgery. The first environment I changed was my kitchen! I didn’t even realize that’s what happened!

If you’re struggling or lost, have you considered what in your environment is hindering you? Look around and take stock. Then look inside and try to uncover the roots. Having the courage to honestly get to truth of your weight and being willing to challenge the environment around you will lead to success.

Sowing and Reaping

When I look back on my life I see themes based on how I was feeling mentally and emotionally over time. It seems like there are periods of fear, anxiety, and depression but also times of emotional stability, providence, and abundance. I’ve learned to love and appreciate the ebb and flow of my time on earth. I am able to fully know joy because I’ve been fully intimate with fear and pain.

As time went on I learned more, became more open, and learned to ask for help. My fear of doing these things kept me in over my head, doubting myself, and difficult to be around. Self love is a learning curve and self care is too.

Twenty years ago I could best describe my life as flailing. In the ocean of life I wasn’t exactly drowning but more like doggie paddling for a very long time. My arms would get tired, I’d sink for a bit, flail for a while and get back to paddling. I was always one paycheck and 5 minutes ahead destruction.

The critical mistake I made was instead of asking for help, I’d try to maintain the charade that I had everything under control. I absolutely didn’t. When it all came crumbling down I remember a lot of people being surprised. I was only surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

I had a moment to reflect on that time at the Camp Berea Women’s Retreat in Hebron, NH,  this past September. Leaving a workshop I saw a woman I worked with years earlier. She recognized me instantly. We only had a second to talk as we were both on the move. I kept catching glimpses of her the rest of the weekend but I never got a moment with her.

On the final morning of the retreat, we were packing the van getting ready to drive several hours back to Rhode Island and I saw her again. She was with one of her friends also getting ready to leave. There were so many things I wanted to say but didn’t know if I could say them or if I should say them. I turned around to go to the van and it was like God Himself turned me back around. This was my moment and I had something to say.

I went over to say goodbye and then I told her this:

I knew you at the darkest time of my life and you were always so kind to me. I will never forget your kindness, it really was a shining spot when I needed it most.

As the words came from my mouth I was crying and then she was crying. She didn’t realize that she had a positive effect on me. She never knew how sad and overwhelmed I was and just how much I appreciated and needed her encouragement.

It reminded me of a quote that I love (that the internet has been attributed to everyone from ancient Greek scholars to Jar Jar Binks)

The true meaning of life is to plant seeds of trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Reflecting on my walk with Christ I can feel the true weight of that statement. For years I ran from God but in looking back I can see the seeds that people planted along the way. From my Godmother who first showed me the love of Christ to one of my neighbors years ago who never wavered in her faith despite my many questions and general disbelief. I was getting trees planted all around me!

Flash forward ten years later when my daughter asked my husband and me to attend church I didn’t realize that these seeds were going to get Living Water and ultimately led me to my old friend that God placed right in my path at a women’s retreat 20 years and 200 miles from when I saw her last. She, like the others, never knew she planted a seed of kindness and a seed of God’s love. Two decades later she got a moment in the shade.

You may think your words are falling on deaf ears, you may believe that you aren’t affecting change, you may even think you should stop because people aren’t hearing you. Never underestimate the power of planting a seed. You may even be blessed by a moment in the shade!

 

 

Safety Versus Passion

I sat on a panel of entrepreneurs of my high school alma mater a couple of weeks ago as part of their career day. It was nice to be there and see how the school has changed and progressed in the past (nearly) 30 years.

The panelists were all running different businesses from a social impact retail store and luxury handbags to a local performance and coffee shop and a brand new distillery. Everyone had something incredible to bring to the table.

When I speak with students it’s almost like I can see the pressure emanating from their pores! The pressure to do well academically, athletically, socially, and everything in between! We had pressures too but what we didn’t have in the late 80s was information coming at us from every corner of the world nestled in the palm our hands!

Look like this!

Act like that!

This will make you feel better!

I sat on a panel of entrepreneurs of my high school alma mater a couple of weeks ago as part of their career day. It was nice to be there and see how the school has changed and progressed in the past (nearly) 30 years.

The panelists were all running different businesses from a social impact retail store and luxury handbags to a local performance and coffee shop and a brand new distillery. Everyone had something incredible to bring to the table.

When I speak with students it’s almost like I can see the pressure emanating from their pores! The pressure to do well academically, athletically, socially, and everything in between! We had pressures too but what we didn’t have in the late 80s was information coming at us from every corner of the world nestled in the palm our hands!

Look like this!

Act like that!

This will make you feel better!

Everyone is getting that!

Rich Kids of Instagram!

Reality TV!

The pressure from outside is palpable. There’s also the pressure from within.

What does my family expect?

What do my teachers expect?

I need good grades.

So I can get a good GPA.

Then I can get into a good school.

Become a doctor, lawyer, or some other socially appropriate job that signifies wealth, substance, and success.

We continue to do what is expected and so often there is no joy. What happens when you go through all every step of expectation and you aren’t fulfilled? Feels a lot like the world we live in now. Lily Tomlin once said:

Wouldn’t it be great if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be? The world would be full of nurses, firemen, and ballerinas.

Consider her thoughts for a moment. We were all born with passion and somewhere along the way were told in multiple ways to stifle it.

What will you do with an art degree?

Writers and artists are usually broke and homeless… they make money when they die.

You can study ballet forever, do you know how many become prima ballerinas?

Wait! You’re getting a degree in history but you don’t want to teach? What will you do with that? (Full disclosure: I’ve actually said this to someone, whoa, I am so sorry!)

I could continue with this for days. My heart was always in writing and speaking. My socially responsible thought was to do something with a little more stability. Yes, smart to be safe.

But is it?

Imagine this: we begin to cultivate a different model of success with children. Success isn’t necessarily built on test scores and college degrees but on what will drive you every morning with passion and vigor. What if we encouraged tiny artists, theatre kids, and budding musicians to continue, grow, and develop these skills?

As I looked at this group of kids, they were so ready. They wanted to hear everything, learn everything, and know every step we took to get to our current places. At that moment I was so grateful for how the world has progressed. Twenty years ago if you wanted a book published you needed an ironclad idea, a well-written query letter, and an act of God! In a world where Stephen King’s writing was rejected scores of times, it made it all but impossible for common folks – like me – to publish a book. Thanks to advancements in the internet and social media you can transform your idea into a book, you can market and sell that book completely on your own! We live in a time where musicians are routinely getting discovered on reality competitions or YouTube! The world is a much more open place and we have more power to advance our own thoughts, dreams, and art.

Back to the room with the wide-eyed students. They asked a lot of questions, they had a lot of great comments, and as they sat on the very precipice of their future they wanted to know what lesson we wanted to share with them. I offered this:

Discover what you love. Once you find it, nurture it, develop it, and keep working at it. Then find a way to make it pay.

Thank you Chariho High School in Wood River Junction, Rhode Island, for having me on this panel. Not only did it introduce me to several other members of our community who took the ultimate leap of faith and gave their dreams a chance but you also instilled hope and possibility to the attendees. That is a priceless gift!

Who Are You Fighting?

I first walked into East Coast Karate two years ago on a whim when a friend of mine posted they were hosting “Buddy Week” where people can bring a friend to try classes for free. You can read about that experience here: The Karate Adult

Karate – like anything that challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone – had proven to be a place where I experience the most growth physically and mentally. I’m a person who likes to do things right and well. I like the satisfaction that comes with doing something to the best of my ability. I’ve also been known to “not see the forest for the trees.” I can get so mired in details that I fail to notice the big picture. That became abundantly clear a couple of weeks ago.

In karate class, we’re often sent in groups by rank to work with a sensei. A sensei is someone who has achieved a rank of black belt or above and is entrusted with the training of underbelts. On this particular day, we were paired with Sensei Les and we were thrilled. A little backstory on Sensei Les: when I first started in the dojo he was going from his final green belt (green with a black stripe) to his brown belt. His entire belt rank was amazing. I can safely speak for my entire group when I say that we would watch them in absolute awe and wonder if we would EVER look like that.

Before I get to our conversation on the day in question I want to share how Sensei Les challenges us. He’s a man that always does things to full potential. If you’re going to go then GO and GO ALL THE WAY! It’s inspiring. I can get inside my head pretty quickly and I like to mentally go over things before I put any speed or emphasis. I was paired with Sensei Les and we were learning a new drill. I’m trying to work it out – trying to get it perfect (ugh) – and I go to punch Sensei Les. Remember, I’m trying to work out details so I’m not placing any power in that punch. As I “punch” him he just stares at me.

Me: You’re supposed to block…
Sensei Les: You’re supposed to hit!

(apply cold water to burn)

That was the first day I just laid waste to my perfecting BS and just did the drill and it was amazing. I was almost forced out of my head because I was going to do the drill or get drilled. I wouldn’t want to take an errant punch from anyone at our dojo but certainly NOT from Sensei Les. This was a powerful lesson (and epic clapback) that paved the way for our next session with Sensei Les at the helm.

Karate is learned in stages almost like child development. You have to crawl before you walk and certainly before you run. As you improve and progress you learn more advanced ways of doing moves. This is hard for me because I want to know what is RIGHT. RIGHT! What is universally correct. There’s a lot of nuance to karate. (I know, I know.. I’m working on it!)

Sensei Les is taking us through our katas. We start from the beginning and we know the patterns of 11 of them. As second level green belts (green with white stripe) we are at a place where are no longer crawling through karate. Sensei was gifting us with fine tuning our kata with more advanced moves. This is where Sensei Les was when I started karate. Having him teach us is like seeing the light in the tunnel! I want to absorb everything!

Me: Sensei I notice that you move your arm this way yet another Sensei does it slightly differently. Which way is correct?

Sensei Les: They’re both correct.

Me (mentally starting to crumble): Wait, which way is classically correct? Like which is the way that we should learn in our development now?

Sensei Les: Who are you fighting?

In an instant, the light bulb went on and my brain simultaneously snapped! As I was wandering aimlessly through the forest looking for trees I missed the largest and most fundamental part of karate:

Karate is a fighting style!

When we spar in class I fight. I’m actually surprised by how much I like to spar. It’s fast, there’s no time to think, you act and react accordingly or you get hit. Despite knowing this, I was approaching this entire class like a chance encounter with someone in an alley would go like this:

Oh, you’d like to attack me? Hold on… can you stand right there? Give me a second, I just have to perfect my punch placement! All the while my attacker is just letting me get set up. I would never do this in sparring but I was failing to connect the two. We are not learning poses!

When we learn kata we also learn bunkai or the practical applications of kata. I remember in the beginning just thinking that I need to know WHAT I’m doing then I can learn WHY. That logic is fundamentally flawed. Knowing the why improves the what, even at the beginning. Especially at the beginning! Why have I resisted this? Sensei Dave has said it repeatedly. This was the first day I received it.

One question from Sensei Les and my karate has taken a new level of intensity. Every moment is in preparation for an actual fight. In the mirrors, I am my opponent. When I practice I think of the fight and I’m preparing for it.

Ultimately, this works in so many areas of life:

  • If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability
  • When preparing for any battle know who you’re fighting
  • Practice like it’s real because when it’s real you won’t get to practice
  • Move, block, or get hit… the choice is yours.

Domo Arigato, Sensei Les!

The Doctor Is In

I had an opportunity today that was different than any other I’ve had in the past. I was asked to sit on a panel at Rhode Island Hospital with other bariatric patients to answer questions from doctors about obesity and our experiences with medical professionals before, during, and after surgery.

I was so comfortable when I got there. I’ve been very open about my life before surgery and the many changes after so I was expecting another opportunity to share how this process can be lifechanging and beneficial. Then something happened.

The doctors arrived. 

As they entered the auditorium in their scrubs and white coats I started having flashbacks. The flood of memories for every medical professional who treated me poorly or dismissed any issue I could possibly have because I was fat and wouldn’t look any further. Every piece of exasperated advice that left me feeling defeated and alone. Every time nurses would stifle a laugh or talk about me in an adjoining room. Every painful memory came flooding back and I was shocked.

When it was my turn to speak I shared how I was too heavy to be weighed on the scale in the office and the doctor – without looking at me – told me if I wanted to get my weight I could make an appointment at the Providence Post Office and get on the freight scale. No compassion, no understanding, and I felt so low and demoralized. Every single person on the panel had stories about sub-par treatment from medical professionals. It can be alarming to hear what’s been said to people especially when they are seeking help. It was initially overwhelming.

Once I got my feelings in check I realized what an incredible opportunity this is for us and for them. They are here because they are interested in what we have to say and how they could treat people living with obesity with dignity and respect. They asked detailed questions, listened to our stories, and took a genuine interest in treatment from our perspective. I could only imagine the next time they are faced with an obese patient that they will have a better understanding based on this conversation.

I’ve often spoken of Miriam Hospital’s Center for Bariatric Surgery as a haven for information, support, and treatment for people looking for weight loss and management solutions. Today, their commitment to helping their peers – as well as their patients – only confirms what I’ve always known about this program since I walked through the door in 2014, and watched my life transform before my very eyes. When you’re ready for help, they’re ready for you.

For more information about Miriam’s program click here:

Miriam Hospital Center for Bariatric Surgery

The Cruelest Words I’ve Heard

I read a post on a bariatric group a few weeks ago that just stayed with me. She wrote this:

It’s so sad that strangers are so much nicer to me since I lost weight.

This is a fact that many men and women notice after weight loss. People can be truly cruel, especially when someone who is not an ideal body type. I’ve often said that weight is the lowest hanging fruit on the insult tree. The first thing people grab when they want to throw an insult.

You fat (enter insult here)!!!

Don’t think this is limited to just overweight people. Thin people get this too and it’s just as damaging. I used to think calling someone skinny was the ultimate compliment because I wanted to be thin so badly. It’s not an compliment regardless of your intention. It’s a stone that when thrown leaves a mark. You can’t see the mark but trust me, it’s there.

Ultimately, people are much kinder after weight loss. When I first started walking I didn’t want to walk outside because I didn’t want the stares from people on the street or hear insults yelled from cars. This has happened more frequently than you can imagine.

I was eating an ice cream cone at a county fair minding my own business when a man walked up to me and said:

That’s probably part of your problem.

I don’t know what he gained from this. If your mission in life was break me down emotionally by attacking me verbally, then you won, good for you. If you thought this one second insult made in passing somehow got through to me and I would drop my ice cream and join a gym, that’s where you went wrong. You only succeeded in making me feel bad about myself which is the precursor to bingeing. You literally threw a log on the slow burning embers of my fragile self esteem. Congratulations.

Next my mind wandered to a different place. I’ve fought the battle of my weight for over 30 years. Thirty years of not feeling beautiful – and thinking people who said I was beautiful was lying or crazy. This is not a way to live. Then it hit me:

The cruelest words I’ve ever heard are the ones I say to myself daily.

Yes, people definitely treat me better now that I’m smaller, however, that’s an issue that will only be changed when people learn to accept that all body’s are different but all deserve respect. I can’t change other people’s thoughts, opinions, or even their cruelest words. I can control mine.

I don’t believe in diets or resolutions. I believe in creating lifestyle changes that will better my heath and wellbeing. This year I’m working on that nagging voice that gets in the back of my mind and tells me I’m not enough, not ideal, or not worthy. Negative self talk ends today.

The bible verse 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB) is a great reminder:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Notice it reads “your body is a temple.”

It doesn’t say your body is a temple when:

  • You lose weight
  • You gain muscle
  • You cut carbs
  • You fit your high school prom dress
  • You get your body back after childbirth

Your body is a temple – without qualifier! Again, I’m not one for resolutions but I am all about a good, healthy goal. My goal this year is to silence my inner evil critic and remember my body is a temple and should be treated with – and spoken to – with respect.

Who’s with me?

Farewell 2018

Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.

What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.

Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!

God Bless!

Regina

Perfectionism, Food Issues and Karate

I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done. Right. The first time. I like doing things well and I’m obsessed with things like order and placement. From a marketing perspective this can be considered great or even ideal. One thing that really changed my life was when I discovered perfection’s back story. Perfection is really fear, anxiety, and procrastination doing an elaborate dance.

What does that mean? I can’t speak for all people, but I can certainly speak to my own experiences. Looking over my past behaviors – which was essential to weight loss – I discovered that I would often opt to do NOTHING if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY. Inevitably, the task I needed to do would likely take more time to complete but I’d want to do it immediately. If I didn’t have the time to do that, I’d leave it to another day.

Perfection is merely procrastination in a tuxedo.

In our last house I had an office studio where I’d make personalized items. After the holiday season it was usually a wreck. I’d open the door and want to clean it to sheer perfection. Realizing how that was impossible I’d simply shut the door and wait until I had more time. If I did get to the place where I’d actually tackle it, I’d often get so overwhelmed at the enormity of it all and shut down. Greetings Anxiety! I knew you’d show up eventually!

As I began the process for weight loss surgery, I noticed how a lot of this behavior was not only in office clean up but heavily tied to my food behaviors. I would never say, “I’m going to cook dinner tonight.” I would say, “I’m going to cook dinner every night for the rest of my life!” When I failed once at my Lifetime Cooking Goal I’d go right back to ordering out because I failed.

I had to recognize that I was constantly setting myself up for failure! In my office I could’ve planned to break down what needed to be done into smaller, more manageable tasks, set a deadline for completing those tasks, and worked toward completion. With cooking dinner I could’ve endeavored to cook that one night and work up to cooking more often.

I mind-tricked myself out of my own wellness!

My internal need for perfection would often have me procrastinating until I felt that I could accomplish something perfectly. What a realization!

As I applied this model of breaking things down into smaller and more manageable tasks, I realized it was not just in office cleanliness or wellness that I had this issue. Karate brought out a lot of this behavior. I wanted to have black belt skills as a white belt. Yeah, that’s not possible. I’d often go home after class and beat myself up for not learning fast enough or looking as good as my peers. It was challenging physically and even more mentally.

After a while, you realize that you will only get better with dedication and practice. I am not a black belt so I won’t have black belt skills. What I can do is learn and practice. I will not know anything instantly. I will have to break it down, learn it in pieces, and put it together over time.

One of the most valuable pieces to all of this is the realization that doing something – even something unbelievably small – is better than doing nothing at all. Gracefully bow out of the Dance of Perfection and Procrastination and begin.

Progress not perfection.

You Don’t Look Like You Have Anxiety

I’ve heard a particular statement repeatedly since I started blogging and speaking about my anxiety:

You don’t look like you have anxiety.

Humans are “gap fillers.” What are gap fillers? We often get presented with some information and then we have a tendency to fill in the gaps with our own perceptions. It’s not “right” or “wrong” it just seems to be something we do.

Here’s a word that I’ve noticed this with often: Alcoholic.

As soon as you read it, your mind went to a particular place based on your thoughts, feelings, and life experiences. I’ve found that when I say alcoholic, many people envision a man alone in a closet who hasn’t slept in days pouring whiskey on corn flakes at 6am. Actually, an alcoholic is anyone who does not know when or how to stop drinking. They spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol, and they cannot control how much they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at home, work, and financially. (See this article on Medical News Today)

Based on this information, an alcoholic can be anyone! It’s important for people to understand that. It’s so important that The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has changed the term since “alcoholic” has so many preconceived and negative connotations. It’s now called Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. People with AUD will often NOT fit your description of alcoholic – which makes it hard for people who actually have AUD to seek treatment because they don’t believe they are THERE YET. You know, whiskey on cornflakes there.

What does this have to do with anxiety?

We also seem to have a connotation of what anxiety looks like or acts like so when people don’t exhibit those preconceived traits people don’t believe they have anxiety.

There are many different types of anxiety from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Separation Anxiety to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Trichotillomania, and even Hoarding Disorder. What further complicates what anxiety may “look like,” is there are levels of severity in each type of disorder. (See this article from Anxiety.org)

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Panic Disorder and Trichotillomania. For me, anxiety comes with substantial amounts of fear that result in avoidance (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). There were times when the thought of answering my phone would cause panic attacks. Even though rationally, I knew that answering my phone would not physically harm me or that not answering the phone could bring on more negative results depending on what I was avoiding… I would still do it. Then my stress would often lead to panic attacks (Panic Disorder). After a panic attack, I discovered some comfort in plucking out hair from my legs, scalp, or face (Trichotillomania). For years I didn’t know what I was experiencing had names!

My eating was also very closely linked to my anxiety. It was the discovery that I was attempting to manage my anxiety with food. That realization opened the door to treatment and overall wellness. Between treatment and Jesus, I’ve been able to manage my anxiety. Manage – not cure. I can work through my feelings better, but still, things can happen.

Case in point, I sent a text message to a friend that had some disappointing news. This was about a month ago. In the intervening 30 days, she’s been insanely busy. I know she’s been insanely busy. Still, I wondered if my text upset her. Then I asked myself repeatedly if she was mad at me. My rational mind tells me that she’s busy and I absolutely know this to be a fact. By week 3 I’m thinking the worst and replaying every limited scenario in my head. It was now week 4 and I was worried and “filling in the gaps” of our experience with my anxiety.

Yesterday,  I sent her a message apologizing for the disappointing news and wondering if we were okay. She immediately responded with YES, she’s just been busy – something I knew! My anxiety caused a snowball of emotion that only worsened as time went by, thus making me question and wonder about things I already knew to be true. This is just one, less severe type of anxious behavior.

It doesn’t look like anything.