Transformation pictures are all the rage on social media with people losing hundreds of pounds and turning their beer bellies into six packs. It seems like everyone is streaming their core workouts or finding unique places to show off their Yoga skills.
My choice to have a healthy lifestyle isn’t rooted in the desire to look like that Instagram model, although I take pride in my body. It keeps me safe. Not only from diabetes or high blood pressure but from myself.
There was a time not long ago when my morning boosts were either illegal or highly frowned upon. My dreams and aspirations became shadows, I hated my significant other and shied away from my friends. The only thing I was good at was being mom to my seven-year-old. He never saw my scars and I was never under the influence around him, but considering that I split custody with his dad and he went to school, there was plenty of time for my vices.
This culminated outside a Canadian hotel window in October of 2018 where I was staying during what had become the worst ‘vacation’ of my life. Standing there in below freezing temperatures, my chilly tears crawled to the corners of my lips and filled my mouth with salty despair. I looked down at the roof below, ready to jump.
The only thing that saved me was a song that turned on outside my hotel door like a boombox under the window of the lead actress in an 80’s teen drama. It was ‘Breaking the Habit’ by Linkin Park.
I fell back inside the room, a heap on the floor, and cried until the Sandman pitied me.
The next day on my flight home, I took a toll of my life: How could I be miserable enough that I had been ready to end it? In that same year, I’d gotten married, taken a humanitarian trip to Haiti, met one of my favorite actors and traveled to several countries.
I made a pact with myself that I was going to give it my all for one year. If I still felt that same isolation, desolation and pain after that, I gave myself permission to jump.
I had no idea where to start. I’d seen the counselors, taken the medications, journaled, and read as much Wayne Dyer as my brain could handle. The shadows still prevailed. I went home and drank a bottle of wine, feeling trapped in a body that I had no control over.
Like many people, I had a gym membership that got as much use as a tacky sweater from great-aunt Edna and a playlist of core workouts that I never watched. I hadn’t done Yoga for years outside of the random class a friend would give me a pass to, water rarely touched my lips and vegetables were on the menu maybe twice a week. That salad sure did look good on my Instagram feed, though!
I reached out to a former instructor (and childhood hero turned friend), Diamond Dallas Page. “Throw in some of that Namaste crap if you feel like you need to, but you did this to yourself. It is on you to undo it. Own it. Change it.” I watched him as a wrestler with my dad growing up. With my dad having passed in 2005, this was as close as I could get to fatherly advice.
I took three challenges because, well, I’ve always been a ‘go big or go home’ type of gal. Also, I was desperate. My first was a 30 day Yoga challenge, the second, a 30 day ab workout challenge, and the third, a 30 day meal challenge where 85% of what I ate had to be vegetables or fruits and nothing could have added sugar or sodium.
The first week resulted in many panic attacks (something that had become frequent) and a handful of asparagus stalks being thrown at the wall. As time passed, I could feel the shadows slowly recoiling, which gave me the will-power to start making other lifestyle changes to push me as high as possible on my own happiness spectrum. The darkness emerged from time to time, but the intensity was far more bearable.
In case you haven’t done the math, that year has passed. Not only do I now have established cardio routines, ab workouts and much cleaner eating habits, but I am currently in the process of being decertified as having a SMI (Serious Mental Illness) because I no longer exhibit the necessary criteria for the diagnosis. These are the very medical professionals that told me that I could never heal myself without medications. I proved them wrong.
I guess you could say that I broke the habit.