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“The jiggling I’d felt in my head when it hit the ground had most certainly been more than a little whiplash.” Little did I know the impact that fall would have on my brain, nor the long-term, life-altering effect on my life. Two years later and I’m venturing into a new chapter, a new way of living and being.

No pain no gain, right?

Until recently I felt my future was pretty stilted and my ability to pursue my dreams or plans had gone out the window. My functioning brain, my drive, my positive outlook on life seemed a distant memory. Oh yah, the memory was sloppy too.

I started toying with the idea of running in a half (or quarter) marathon after I’d attended the Cypress Hills High Hopes Challenge last August. They were raising funds for BFF and as the ED of our Foundation, I wanted to represent, to share what our organization does and show appreciation for their commitment and donation. Now I shake my head. How silly for me to expose myself to something that would draw me into a whole new world, something I said I’d never do. Run.

The two-year mark of my concussion was looming after that visit to Cypress Hills and I knew something desperately needed to change. After experiencing depression (which is almost standard following a concussion), significant weight gain due to inactivity and lack of desire to take care of myself physically or mentally, the downward spiral had to stop. My neuro-rehab had considerably lifted the fog in my brain, but I still felt so sluggish. All I wanted to do was sleep. My doctor told me I was borderline for hypothyroidism and that she wasn’t going to put me on medication…yet.

Enough already.

As someone who is known for taking responsibility for my actions and not deflecting or blaming others, it was time to face myself and create change. In order for renewal and spark to show up in my life, I knew I’d have to go big or stop complaining while I stayed stuck. Will Smith’s recent viral Instagram video about fault vs responsibility sums up where I’m at with myself. It’s actually nobody’s fault that it was icy when I fell, but how I live going forward is definitely up to me.

Taking responsibility is taking your power back. ~Will Smith

If it’s going to be it’s up to me.

The past two months I’ve vacillated between, “What was I thinking?” to “I can’t wait to feel better!” So now that I’ve got some time behind me, where am I at with my efforts in getting healthy and preparing for a 5K?

The Good | finding joy

I finally have a grip on my eating. I joined four others for a week of clean eating, and I almost nailed it! Eliminating sugar, wheat and dairy is no easy task but I’ve done it before and I’m doing it again. With the exception of a wee bit of coconut sugar in my coffee, I’m very satisfied with my improvement in food choices. It sounds so weird to write this, given that eating healthy used to be my norm. The side benefit is that my kids are eating healthier too, and they’re liking it!

Sure I’ve shed a bit of weight and I can tell (I’m not weighing myself, remember), but it’s the clear head and no naps required that are my main wins. So. Happy. I’m noticing a glimmer of confidence returning.

I’ve noticed an improvement in my emotions and mental processes too. We all know what we put in our mouths affects our well being, but it’s a whole different matter to take charge and ensure we do something about it!

I stumbled upon Dr. Susan David’s work this week and I love her message! I haven’t bought her book yet, Emotional Agility, but I will be. In her Ted Talk, three comments got my attention:

  1. I was praised for being strong. One of my triggers is being told how strong I am. Sometimes I’d really rather not have to be, but in retrospect, I’ve become grateful for that strength.
  2. Courage is fear…walking. Wow. I relate to that on so many levels. I have lived courageously, I’ve survived and I continue to walk with courage.
  3. Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. The juxtaposition of my love of life and the pain I’ve experienced is wrapped up in that sentence.

The Bad | what’s not working

I’m still not active enough. I’m becoming more accountable to certain people and I’ve signed up for a jiu-jitsu class. I have a long-standing shoulder injury I’m dealing with so won’t be tackling anyone anytime soon, but the reality is, the movements and stretches can be modified to suit my physical ability. No excuses.

In the days leading up to the Olympics, I came across the story of Mark McMorris, a Canadian snowboarder who almost lost his life last March. He was still named to the Olympic team as long as he was fully recovered in time. He more than met the challenge and I was so moved by his story. He is now my inspiration as I continue on my own journey. It is truly worth the 45 minutes of your life to marvel at his recovery and to gain inspiration from. I’ll be watching him closely as he competes!

The Ugly | what I’m fighting

The mental beating: I’m not doing enough, I’m never going to be ready for the run in August, once again my grandiose venture is just too, well, grandiose. It’s my mental capacity that’s been my biggest challenge, but it’s also been where I’m finding my greatest growth right now.

  • I’m processing grief – the great losses I’ve experienced since my concussion, that only I know.
  • I’m recognizing where my negative self-talk has blocked me and I’m finally getting somewhere with changing it.
  • Some days my emotions drive me around a bend. I’ve been told once or twice that I’m “too emotional”. I’ve come a long way, and the above Ted Talk along with her workbook and quizzes have been eye opening and helpful.

The Takeaway

No pain no gain includes the mental, emotional and physical aspects of what I’m working towards. The same way building muscles can hurt, so does building mental and emotional strength. Step by step, not giving up, falling down and getting up. No matter your skill level or your age, the determining factor is your willingness to take responsibility for yourself.

As Jeff Haden talks about in this Inc.com article, it won’t be fun in the moment… but it will make you a lot happier over the long-term.

Next update I will make myself more accountable by sharing my plan/process to get to August’s run. I better get on that!

Now that Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, all the talk is around whether people are still making resolutions or not. The general consensus is that they set us up for defeat and that very few people are successful at maintaining their resolution.

I’m glad I started this #BF4ME challenge in November because I’m one of those people who could care less about resolutions, I just want to change and grow year round. It does, however, give each of us an opportunity to reflect on what went well last year, what didn’t, and what we can choose to do differently in 2018.

I for one, was happy to say buh-bye to 2017, let me tell you! I did wake up on January 1st, however, with firm resolve. It was a knowing deep down that this year would be different.


re·solve

rəˈzälv/
verb
1.
settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter)
“the firm aims to resolve problems within 30 days”
synonyms: settle, sort out, solve, find a solution to, fix, straighten out, deal with, put right, put to rights, rectify
2.
decide firmly on a course of action
“she resolved to call Dana as soon as she got home”
synonyms: determine, decide, make up one’s mind, make a decision | “Bob resolved not to wait any longer”

Resolve doesn’t have a date attached to it, nor does it require creating a habit of some sort.

My paraphrase to the dictionary definition is to make a firm decision to solve a problem. My way of dealing with my health was to make a firm decision to enter a marathon, announce it publicly, and use it to inspire others to not only get active but to find ways to take control of their own journeys and destinies. It comes back to the recognition that bad things have happened, but how I move forward is completely in my control – my attitudes, my actions, my thought processes, and how I want to “be and do” in this world.

Saying that I have had some serious epiphanies in the past couple of weeks and have made some strides towards change:

  1. I am an enabler. I had to choose my own mental health over that of another, and it was gut-wrenching to verbalize my boundaries, knowing they would be met with anger, and it wasn’t even my kids! I also had to recognize that others’ choices are not my responsibility. While I know this in my head, I would just rather look after things (or people) because it’s much easier that way.
  2. If I’m not okay, the influence on my kids and those I care about will be negatively impacted. It’s quite preferable that we look after ourselves, considering that none of us can pour from an empty cup. This has smacked me in the face repeatedly over the holidays, so much so that I have told my teenagers that I’m on a staycation for the next two weeks. What that looks like is them taking care of themselves while I take care of me. So hard to do, and it’s going to be very challenging to follow through on it.
  3. I know that I know this is the year my health takes precedence, and that I am actually going to make sure of it. Between ensuring my brain gets what it needs, to finding sleep solutions, to setting emotionally healthy boundaries, to food choices, to .. ugh .. running to prepare for a 5K marathon, to reflecting on my spirituality, it all matters. Every bit that makes up me is part of my #BF4ME challenge this year, and I know I’m going to win!

So there’s my resolve. Now to how things have been progressing.

The Good | finding joy

  1. I decided not to weigh myself over the next months while preparing for the High Altitude Challenge in August, but rather measure my progress with size change, muscle tone and my ability to actually run. It was a mental boost the second I chose this path.
  2. Kombucha! I’ve discovered that drinking 2.5 ounces before coffee or breakfast has improved my gut health immensely, as well as the acid reflux that has been tormenting me.
  3. Christmas with my parents. I’ve never had my family members in my home at Christmas and I’m more than grateful for the memories.
  4. A wedding. My kids and I were invited to share a special day with friends, a wedding that was planned in a week! It was beautiful and pretty perfect.
  5. I attended a meditation workshop presented by one of our BFF volunteers. My head knows the value of deep breathing, my discipline (or lack thereof), however, has not followed suit. If you’re not sure what meditation actually is or how it works, this Meditation to Embrace Difficulty & Open Your Heart to 2018 is an easy to follow, helpful introduction.
  6. I fully enjoyed the season and didn’t worry about much, outside of the crappy night my kids had with their dad. [read more here]
  7. The Simply Fit Board I received for Christmas is pretty great [unbiased review]. I could never have guessed something so “simple” could work so well. It will be the key to my winter activity, and I actually enjoy using it.
  8. I’ve implemented boundaries and self-care priorities, and I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. A friend of mine suggested that maybe dealing with some of that emotional weight may influence my physical health. I think she may be right!

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ~Sigmund Freud

The Bad | stuff that didn’t go well

I ate too much. It was a deep freeze in Calgary, and we mostly hibernated which equals to no gains towards increased activity. The Simply Fit Board is helping with that.

The Ugly

Addressing the choices I’ve made or am making to inhibit healthy living – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and financially – has been eye-opening but certainly no fun. One step, one day at a time. The ugly has been the internal struggle, the tears and the feeling of being alone (even though I know that’s so not true!).

When you’re trying to retrain your brain, being kind to yourself is paramount. This article on Forbes.com about changing negative thoughts was helpful for me.

As happy as I am that 2017 is behind me, I’m just as happy to see what unfolds in 2018!

Resources

Join the #BF4ME (Breaking Free 4 Me) Community on Facebook

6 Life Lessons Learned From Running

21 Ways to Help Yourself Heal | #9 is my challenge to myself this week! I’ve never successfully accomplished that one.

Vulnerability seems to have been one of my strengths throughout my life. This video is so powerful, bears watching again and again, and will provide insight on why it’s so important:

The Good (Finding Joy)

1. My daughter wrote a blog about anxiety and tips on how to deal with it. It was a proud mama, joy-filled moment for me.

2. Our BFF meet-up on Wednesday reminded me of why I chose to take this journey publicly. Those humans who show up and allow vulnerability to be present in a room full of unknowns, are truly magnificent souls. Those conversations fill me up and bring me great joy. Watching people leave looking like a weight has been lifted, simply as a result of meaningful conversation, is nothing short of magical.

3. My week ended with a group of ladies who work together, and although I no longer put in hours there, I am graciously invited to their team events. Christmas dinner, laughter, saying tender goodbyes to a staff member who is a pillar of the company but is moving on…and a gift for each of us that holds rich meaning.

As I continue to look for and be mindful of joy in my life, I’m finding it! Grateful.

Okay, mushiness dealt with, I had a couple of journey wins too. As a result of writing down my food intake, it is in my face that my choices suck. I used to eat so healthy, and surprise, surprise, I felt good then! So, as I’ve committed to making small changes, I started to add in a quinoa salad with my nachos and cheese, choosing to make a much smaller plate of salty goodness. I said I’d cut out eating at night, which I’ve done really well with. With age comes that dreaded metabolism slow down, so I can’t eat the portions I did even 10 years ago and get away with it. I’ve always known that, just didn’t want to face it!

Every time I walk up or down stairs without having to lean against the wall, I could do a happy dance! The simple act of putting on my boots or shoes without leaning on a wall? Priceless! Progress.

My mind has shifted. I have a knowing, a confidence that I didn’t have when I began three weeks ago, that I’m going to do this. I’ve taught my kids that we become what we focus on. It’s not just b.s., it’s scientific fact. As I write, I’m getting a glimpse of how re-jigging my own focus is beginning to turn the sails. Slow but sure, I’m on my way.

The Bad (Stuff that didn’t go so well)

My activity levels are definitely still in the tank. The “fun” part is that I’m not content staying there. I did walk, but any attempts to push the use of my shoulder were met with too much pain. That will eventually get resolved, so in the meantime I will continue with walking.

The Ugly

I didn’t realize how afraid of falling I am. As much as I was hoping to walk outside, I think I may need to find an inside track to use.

I can hardly look in the mirror and see me. All I see are my stomach rolls, my back fat and the grey, thinning roots sprouting on top of my head. While that may sound a bit pathetic, it’s raw and real. For someone who was a size two before kids, it’s not always easy to just accept the changes in my body, even though they’re all teenagers now. Keep in mind that I worked for a modelling agency for three years (part time) and used to host/produce a tv program. Vanity ran deep and I fell prey to the societal norms and expectations of what “pretty” is/was. My body and my looks got attention. The turkey neck I now see wasn’t part of the plan.

I’m looking forward to staying put for Christmas this year and having family at my house for the first time. Ever. I’m already finding joy before the week’s even started!

What are some wins you can share? Or the bad, or the ugly. It all matters, and it’s all part of the journey.

Well, Week 1 is already done! How did it go for you? This is how it went for me…

The Good

The individual emails and Facebook posts and support are the best part of this whole adventure! People who don’t want to share publicly are sharing with me privately, and I received this last night: “Just know that you’ve helped at least one person by sharing.” My whole heart and goal achieved in one sentence! Well…except for that little thing called a 5km run!

I’m counting four out of seven days of sit-ups a win!

The Bad

I’m not good at keeping track of my personal well being, because what I don’t give attention to means it’s not really real, right? My commitment was to keep track of my eating, and it was quite eye opening! Ugh. I am now very aware of where my habits have fallen apart. I used to eat quite healthy, so to see in writing what my choices are now, actually startled me. My two most prominent choices? Cheese. Tortilla chips. I also did not consume nearly as much water as I thought I did.

The Ugly

Week 1 ended with a brunch event that rattled my emotions in a way I didn’t anticipate. Beautiful human beings with hearts of love, sharing their goodness with others. I didn’t know most of the people, so I instead of digging in and meeting everyone (my past behaviour), I retreated and watched from the sidelines. Before I got to my Jeep when I left, the tears were pouring down my cheeks. I was a wreck. What was a celebration triggered pain for me. Watching the family, the relationship dynamics, the engagement in the food prep – it was in my face, demonstrating what I don’t have.

What many don’t know is (and boy is this vulnerable, sharing it all for me), that I so desire to have a partner that enjoys sharing and serving together in a home environment, such as I was in yesterday. It triggered loneliness and reminded me of loss in my life. Rarely do I ever feel this way, but it hit me hard. It was a reminder of that saying,

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Maybe not every moment of every day, but we all go through our stuff’!

Week 2

I will:

  • Continue to track my food/beverage intake and eliminate bed time eating, except popcorn on Friday night :).
  • Continue sit-ups: 20/day this week.
  • Walk: minimum of three walks, whether outdoor or doing a mall walk if it’s too cold. No excuses. I actually had a friend offer to make those our phone call connection times, if it means it will help me get it done.
  • Begin to journal again, daily, free form. All that means is I’ll journal my thoughts as they come out, no editing or thinking too much. You in to try it? It could be three minutes or thirty, again it’s about actually doing it, not doing it perfectly. A friend gave me The 5-Minute Journal a year or so ago. I started it, but it quickly fell by the wayside. I will explore that as a begin-again possibility.

You can:

  • Join our closed Facebook group to share your good, bad, ugly moments. It’s a safe space, not shareable publicly.
  • Track your food. Check out the App Store on your phone if you are a techie-tracker-type. There are free or paid versions, keep it inexpensive if you’ve never done it before. If you are more of a
    paper tracker, you can search online for templates that suit your needs. The key? Don’t make it difficult for yourself! If you have an empty notebook or journal, use it. I ordered an erasable version that fits in my agenda, because that’s what works for me. I’ll take a photo of it each week for the benefit of this journey, but I also like that I can wipe away last week and start fresh! I need a finer pen though.
  • Set a small step goal for yourself and let us know you’ve done it! Solicit someone who can be your go-to for support and encouragement.