Yesterday at work, one of our summer interns said to me, "Nicole, I saw your blog and I loved it!" and instead of accepting the compliment for what it was, I rambled on about how I don't update content as often as I'd like to and felt reeeeaaaally guilty for not posting more regularly. The truth is, writing is therapeutic for me and I love that my stories might be, in the smallest way, relatable to what you're going through. But, writing is hard. It takes time and commitment, like any other habit and more vitally, it takes vulnerability.
As many of you know, several years ago I struggled pretty aggressively with overtraining and underfeeding. As is often the case, after a few years of disordered eating my body started to break down. After my first stress fracture I was forced to change my eating and exercise habits to be more health-giving. My only coping mechanisms - running and calorie control - were, in a way, taken away from me.
Flash forward half a decade and I've made a 180. I eat for fuel, not for fashion. I train for strength, not for skinny. And I use more helpful (and healthier) coping mechanisms to deal with my grief and the random shit life sometimes showers down on us. My life changed so much that I committed my career to helping other people - just like you and me - create healthier relationships with food and fitness. I couldn't be more confident that my past experiences make me a better coach and allow me to have more compassion for those who are struggling and I wouldn't change that for the world.
And while I still had my struggletown moments (because let's face it, who doesn't?), I felt like I pretty much had things figured out. What on earth did I have to be blue about?
Segue to the part of my life when I lost the one thing that was most important to me, my little brother. I experienced deep, soul-churning sadness, denial, anger, depression and all those other little characters depicted in Inside Out. The worst part of it all? He was gone and I had absolutely no healthy coping mechanisms to help me deal with the feelings that he left behind. I was certainly tempted to retreat back to my safety net of obsessive control and restriction, but that hadn't worked for me before, so why would it work for me this time? With the help of my then-boyfriend I stayed the course and continued taking care of myself (although it wasn't easy) - mentally and physically, because, even though it didn't feel like it, I was worth it.
Flash forward years of therapy and figuring out how to live with loss and learning how to take care of myself even when I just felt like feeling sorry for myself and I was doing ok. At least that's what everyone kept telling me. Saying that I was handling the situation with such grace (if only they could see how I handle it when no ones watching) and that I continued to be their inspiration for health and wellness (even when some days I didn't feel 'well' at all). Everyone kept talking about how much I had given when the only things I could feel were what had been taken away.
I married that man of my dreams and to this day he continues to pull me out of the dark spaces and lift me up into the light. I still go to therapy (because grief is never truly gone, you just start learning the language a little better) and I'm still learning how to truly take care of myself.
Today, today I'm twenty-eight. I've been learning to live life without a sibling and best friend for two years. I've been learning to live life without obsessive control and disordered eating for about five years. But I'm sorry to say that I haven't yet arrived. This is a lifelong journey my friends. There will be bumps and bruises, slip ups and slaps in the face. Take for example, my most recent stress fracture.
A year ago today I injured myself at the gym. No big deal, I thought, it happens. My goal was to get better before our wedding in September. When that didn't happen I took an even more conservative approach and started going to PT. After months of corrective exercises, modified workouts and still no relief of the excruciating pain, I got an MRI that revealed I had additional stress fractures, this time, in my spine. Talk about a reality check.
My life is now committed to health. Physical and mental. I spend each day working to build healthy habits that will allow me to live the life I want to live and be the person I want to be, all while learning to love the person I am today and where I am in that journey...only to find out that some consequences come late and suck can still happen amidst the sunshine.
Is this injury a result of my current lifestyle? No, most likely not. Did I do permanent damage to by body by, at one time, valuing calories above my self worth? Yes, most likely. Is that a really hard consequence to accept when I worked (and continue to work) really hard at shedding that old skin? Yes, absolutely yes.
So here I am friends. Broken, in more ways than one and still committed, each day, to learning how to love my body more and accepting myself, and my life, for who I am and what it is. Because, we're all human. And we all need permission to BE human. Say what you need to say, do what you need to do, be who you need to be. But please, please take care of yourself and those around you. Because this body is the only one you will get and your mind is a beautiful gift to be treasured.
It's time that you were seen, appreciated and acknowledge for who you are - wherever you are at this particular moment in life. Show up authentically. Show up with your needs and desires. Show up with your wants and dislikes. Show up and be who you are, broken and unbroken.
Because life isn't above the arrival, but the journey that takes us there.