When I originally started writing about health issues it was mostly centered around how to convey to people who hadn’t experienced what they were like and how people who were dealing with them could make their lives a little easier. As I have gotten better my mindset has changed and my writing is changing to reflect that, I’m doing my best to keep the memory of my darkest days, to draw a happy truce between allowing illness to define me and allowing it to refine me.
Today I thought it would be good to explore my current mindset. I am obsessed. I used to be obsessed with being ill, the reality of my situation filled my every waking minute. This obsession faded into a period that I like to think of as me keeping my head down. I was ill, but had improved enough that my existence was not miserable. I could remain this way, reasonably happily, forever…as long as I did not go backwards. Now I am obsessed with getting better.
Even at my healthiest, when I could easily fit 14 trips to the gym into a week, along with MMA classes, long distance cycling and any other physical activity that was happening within my social circle, I wasn’t this obsessed. What my gym rat life and healthy eating initially did for me when I got ill was give me a strong platform for survival. I don’t know many people who could afford to lose 100 pounds and still be alive, or deal with the substantial levels of physical pain and discomfort that I was in.
What it gives me now is the drive and determination to be better tomorrow that I am today. It gives me the type of mindset where the smallest incremental improvement is a reason to work harder rather than celebrate success. Everything I do now is designed to get my life back. I wake up and go to the bed at the exact same times every day. I eat my meals at the exact same times everyday. Those meals are always filled with lean meats, fruits, vegetables and good carb sources to help rebuild my broken body. And it IS rebuilding, it remembers being big and strong and it wants to be that way again.
I exercise everyday, 5 days a week going outside despite the protesting of my agoraphobia and walking with purpose. I either walk to set a new record for distance and time or I walk calmly, working solely on developing comfort and calmness while outside. One follows the other, the hard work of the day before justifying itself with the calming relaxation of the following day. The lighter walks work out the cramped muscles of the higher effort days, my body is still not used to being asked to work in any way.
2 days a week I do mobility, flexibility and strength building work. I divide between upper and lower body days because I simply do not have the energy or strength to do them all in one session. Soon, that will change. 1 day a week I go for a drive with my Dad, a vital mental exercise where I surrender control and he is in charge, driving to random destinations as we chat about anything at all. Each week we add a few minutes to the journey. The end goal is to drive to my family home and back, about an hour round trip. Once that is achieved we will set a new goal and work towards it.
Each success is met with momentary celebration then instant dismissal. This is not because I do not value what my efforts are bringing me, it is just that I cannot stop myself from instantly focusing on the next step. I fall asleep at night focusing on the next day, thinking about how I will feel when I wake up, willing myself to feel positive and strong, energetic and driven. I look at each night spent sleeping, each meal cooked and eaten, each step taken and each exercise completed as one more strong stone in the foundation of my future.
It might sound vicious but I have removed overly negative people from my life at this time, especially those who are negative from habit rather than from an actual cause. I read stories, articles and blog posts from people who have dealt with their own hardships, I allow their efforts and successes to inspire me while also keeping me grounded. I have had a rough time of it but other people have had it much worse. I have survived what would have killed other people but other people have survived what would have killed me. Perspective is important.
A year ago I could not have imagined I would feel like I do now, a year from now I hope it will be a struggle to imagine that I could ever have felt like I do today. If you are dealing with mental health issues, or even physical ones, or like me a combination of both then allow me to tempt you with an interesting future. I cannot tell you how it will happen, how you will arrive at the point yourself, but there WILL come a day where obsession presents itself to you. It will tempt you with a future where you are strong and capable. Embrace it, work hard everyday and you will improve, grow healthier and get stronger.