Anxiety. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Funny teeth. Prematurely grey hair. Overweight. Swears too much. This is me. I’m in a constant battle with myself, my hormones and my brain to stay somewhat close to functional. Some days I win. Some days I quite dramatically don’t.
Friendly. Great with people. Contagious smile. Happily married to my Hero. Can do a killer winged-out eyeliner. Athlete. Good at my job. Obsessed with the Amazing Race. Emotionally fulfilled by my career. Amazing fur babies. This is also me. I work hard. I play hard. And my life is fucking awesome.
Call this my truth. My crusade. It’s also my therapy. And you, invisible readers, are my therapists. Keeping an open dialogue and being able to talk about all the beautiful, horrible, messy, happy things that make us human is so, so important, and that’s why I’ve decided to make Leg 9 of my personal Amazing Race Canada (#MYTAR17) an emotional challenge, not a physical one. This challenge is just as tough, of not tougher than the Obstacle Course Races and Escape Rooms I’ve thrown myself into on this year of pushing boundries and testing my limits. It’s about admitting where I fail and reveling in where I succeed and realizing that all of it combined makes me who I am.
I’ve had a really tough past couple of weeks. I’m crying as I type this. It’s not a bad cry per se, it’s just pent up emotions rolling out, cathartic and uninhibited. Here’s a bit of the backstory: I’ve always been the fat kid. Even now that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, there is nothing about me that’s small. I’ve talked about my battle with my weight here before, and this is something I share with probably 90% of the population regardless of their “actual size”. Most of it is down to how you perceive yourself. After moving to Montreal in July, I was just a little out of sorts physically. Emotionally, this was an excellent move and I am so freaking in love with being here, but I let my workout regime slip a little bit and I probably wasn’t eating the best, as I was just so busy. Come August, I had found a gym I love and gotten back onto the wagon and was starting to get my groove back. And then I noticed my weight increasing.
This is where the anxiety comes into the mix. My brain is hard wired to go from 0 to 100000 in a millisecond, and it made the jump into hysperspace. What was I doing wrong? What was I doing to myself? How is this happening with regular workouts and 2 major obstacle course races? Friends and family repeatedly tell me “it’s not that you’re gaining weight, you’re gaining muscle, and that weighs more than fat”. But honestly I still have a hard time buying this line. It feels like a cop out. Plus, if I’m gaining muscle why am I not loosing fat at the same time? This is all not computing and it just results in me constantly scrutinizing and berating myself. So I started carefully meal prepping and working with a personal trainer once a week, along with my regular Zumba and spin classes, as well as weight training and toning sessions. There is nothing better than the feeling or being able to increase the weight you can lift or realize that what was practically impossible three weeks ago is now manageable. I love this. In my brain I’ve always defined myself as an “athlete”, and now I’m finally training like one. I see my waist and my thighs decrease in size.
And you know what happened? My weight went up even more.
I’m bigger now than I’ve been in the past 10 years. Anxiety sends me into panic mode. Desperation sets in. Acne pops up. If I’m doing everything right, why is the opposite result happening? I’m not comfortable in my skin and it feels like my body is working against me. Suddenly everything I see in the mirror is wrong. Things that have never bothered me before are horrible My teeth, with their very untraditional large gaps, are gross and not white enough. My very gray hair (thanks genetics. I started going gray at 9. Yep, you read that right. Imagine being the fat girl with gray hair in Grade 6) that I have always dyed red was suddenly not red enough and had too many roots. None of my clothes, even before I put them on, are “right”. I want to hide my body when I’m not at the gym and push it harder than ever before when I’m there. And all of this behavior is unhealthy.
My Husband, who knows my brain better than I do sometimes, gave me one of his patented “calm down” talks (where he doesn’t actually use the words “calm” or “down”, because he’s learned the hard way that nothing can make me go nuclear faster than being told to “calm down”). He just calmly puts everything back in perspective. Sure, I’m chubby and not fashion industry traditionally beautiful. But so fucking what? That doesn’t make me any less beautiful. And he loves the way I look every day, regardless of weight or hair style or if I put on my eyeliner that morning. But more importantly he loves the person I am inside and out. And I love him with everything I have, and I would even if he hadn’t said that. I have so much good in my life, from my husband to my friends, family, pets, job, location… My life allows me to follow my passions and unabashedly focus on things that bring me joy. I don’t have to struggle to pay bills, to eat, to know I deserve love, to get love… so many people around the world strive to achieve half of what I take for granted.
Then I was watching Dancing with the Stars and Sasha Pieterse mentioned she had gained an unexplained amount of weight that led to her doctors diagnosing her with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). A light bulb went off in my brain. Have been struggling with ovarian cysts and super irregular periods since my teens, and was actually diagnosed with PCOS about 4 years ago. At the time the doctor that diagnosed it said to not worry about it, that it was common, so I didn’t give it any thought. Nothing was prescribed, no plan of action was recommended to deal with it, just go home and keep living your life. But after hearing about it on DWTS, I started doing some research and discovered that unexplained weight gain, resistance to weight loss, insulin resistance and anxiety were just some of the symptoms amongst many others. Basically, my hormones are just way out of whack and it’s throwing me off. It was time to go to the doctor again.
Enter my new doctor, a new perspective in a new province who looked at me incredulously when I told her what the original doctor had said. Turns out there are lots of both medical and lifestyle changes that can both regulate the hormones, balance your system, and if nothing else, feel a bit better about yourself. Now I have a strategy and assistance to tackle this head on. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a part of my brain that wants this to lead to sudden, stunning weight loss. I have some pretty sweet muscles under there, and I want my outsides to look as badass as I feel on the inside. But I also realize that if I don’t loose one pound, but I get my brain and my emotions balanced, it will be 100% a success. I’m strong, capable, and focused, and just knowing that I’m taking steps in the right direction and have a plan of attack already makes me feel better. Optimistic. Emotionally lighter.
Pit stop: Keep on racing leg. This is a race against and with myself that I will always be running. I’m going to be sliding up and down the rankings on a minute by minute basis, and that’s ok. I’m going to have my feet on the mat over and over again only to have it pulled out from under me. I’m a beautiful mess, a disasterous masterpiece. This is #MYTARForever.
Eliminiated: No one. This is a race with no winner, no loser and no competition except yourself. Everyone deserves to be racing, and everyone deserves to enjoy the journey.