How My Bike Gave Me Freedom [Part II of II]

I hopped on my seat and looked down the winding path ahead. I slowly found my balance and started pedaling. The pedal assist was on setting two, and it gave me a boost forward right away. I laughed out loud and a big smile appeared across my face.

“This is so fuuuunnnn!” I cried, glancing up and squinting in the bright sky.

“Are you okay? How does it feel?” my boyfriend yelled back turning his head slightly.

“It feels great!” I yell to him. “Wait stop – this is so beautiful! Can we get a picture??”

“Absolutely!” he said with such enthusiasm and pure excitement.

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My first picture of the day. I am wearing my “Mighty” shirt because it just felt right. Underneath the bridge was a fast running creek cutting through rocks. I peered down and felt very subtle splashes of water hit my face. We continued riding through the winding path, up a tiny hill and down again. As I rode, I realized my bike didn’t have a name. This little white beauty of a bike, one that is giving me the freedom to go out and explore nature, enjoy time being active with people who are close to me, and re-instilling some adventure back into my life, surely deserves a name. Penny or Pip?

Pip. Definitely.

I rode through the hills and around a medium sized glassy lake. We stopped and took pictures, soaking up the nature and the God given beautiful day. We explored hidden places. We sat on a log resting on the beach – the only ones there – just enjoying the silence and each other’s company.

We finally made it around the entire lake and found our way back to the car. I plopped down on a rock heavily, but my heart was filled with gratitude and my soul was dancing.

4.5 miles we rode. I cannot believe it. Yes I had pedal assist, but still. With chronic illness, I can barely stand for 5 minutes sometimes.

Pip is more than just a bike. She is my gateway to freedom. My way of feeling alive and a means to exploration and adventure, which for a while now has been lacking in my life.

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We all need to feel liberated. We all need adventure. We all need to feel like we belong and that we are a part of this wonderful world.

Chronic illness friends, I encourage you to think of things that give you a sense of freedom. What awakens your spirit? Whether it is sitting outside in nature, drawing/painting, reading, using your walker to be outside, or having someone push you in your wheelchair as you feel the breeze hit your face and blow back your hair – you need that. You deserve that. You are worthy of that.

We all are. Chronic illness or not.

 

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Natural Hair and Bare Faces

Let’s talk about the fact that society says that women need to either a) enhance their features, or b) change how they look.

Let’s talk about the number of eating disorders present in the United States alone.

Let’s talk about how corrupt our society can actually be.

And let’s talk about what we can do to go against the grain. How can we be authentically ourselves? How do we get to a place where we do not feel this overwhelming pressure to conform to societal standards that, let’s face it, resemble that of perfection?

Let’s talk about natural hair and bare faces.

I’m no body-positive guru that is here to preach about how we all need to love how we look. How we need to feel confident in our skin and in our bodies all of the time, because we are each beautiful in our own unique ways, blah, blah, blah.

I don’t want to say that is a load of crap, but…

As someone who has struggled with a relentless eating disorder for seven years, I know it’s not that simple. Being in recovery for a solid two years, I still struggle, immensely I might add, with body image. I think the key though, is to start off small.

As a child, I always hated my hair. I thought that the only beautiful hair was straight hair, and I did not have that. I was cursed with this awful curly, frizzy mess. I spent countless hours straightening my hair, trying to get it poker straight, flat, and smooth. It has taken me a long time to be able to embrace my natural hair, and now, I truly do! And NOT just because I am lazy! In all seriousness though, I have grown to love my hair, and I have learned and am still learning that beauty takes many forms.

Makeup. Let’s talk about that. There seems to be this unwritten rule that states that women cannot look presentable unless they have on makeup.

Not. True.

Just like any other girl, I do enjoy getting dolled up from time to time, doing my makeup and feeling “put together” if you will. HOWEVER, I feel even better when I come home, and can take it all off – ridding my face of the cakey BB cream, face powder and blush. Taking off my mascara. Letting my pores breathe again. It’s honestly such a good feeling. And why can’t we take this feeling with us when we leave the house? I am getting more and more comfortable going out with my natural hair and makeup-free. I am learning to accept the parts of myself that I once hated. I am starting off small. Embracing my natural hair and skin is no easy feat. But the more comfortable with myself I become and the more I leave the house my natural self, the easier it gets. Loving my hair and skin can be hard, but loving my body can be even harder. I hope that this growing confidence in one area can transfer over to my body as a whole, and who knows, one day it just might. But we need to take small steps, and of course take it one step at a time. We can start by not feeding into these God-awful standards that society has set for women in particular. I know I said I wasn’t the body-positive guru, but I am going to get slightly corny here while telling you the truth at the same time: the body that you have, the features that God blessed you with, is beautiful. You don’t need the hair straighteners, the blow dryers, the makeup, the nail polish. Sure, that stuff is nice sometimes. When it becomes dangerous is when you think you cannot leave the house without it. When your self-worth and self-esteem rides solely on your appearance. Be cautious of this.

Let your hair down. Let your skin breathe.

Your okay.

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You Are Still Loveable

Valentine’s Day…it has never been my favorite holiday. Sure I like it for the chocolate and the little gifts I get (and so appreciate) from my loving parents. And I have to admit, it has always been more fun when I have been in a relationship. But Valentine’s Day does not have to be celebrated only if you are in a relationship with someone. I do want to say that yes, I am currently in a serious relationship that has been so good for me. It is a lot of give and take. Well, quite often I feel like it is a lot of taking on my end, and not enough giving. The reason I feel this way is because I suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses, as well as chronic illnesses. And I get it, everyone has something. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. We all have struggles. But sometimes, I feel like there is A LOT of baggage that comes with me. And my chronic illnesses, well, they are not always easy to deal with. But honestly, the thing that I feel extra guilty about, the thing that has always pushed other people away in the past, is my mental illness. My eating disorder, my severe anxiety, my depression. I mean, who wants to deal with that?

Well, I finally found someone who will go to any length to make me smile, who will try his hardest when I am in an anxiety attack to find words of comfort. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I am so blessed.

But back to my main point: I want you to know that if you suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, or any other mental illness, DO NOT LOSE HOPE when it comes to relationships. I am not the easiest person to be in a relationship with half the time (just to put it plain and simple). But maybe, we are better at it then we think. When you find the right person, that person will love and accept every part of you. And you, in turn, will feel more comfortable being yourself and going to that person when you need a hand, hug, or shoulder to cry on. And sure, your anxiety might be annoying or aggravating at times to that person, because he/she is only human too! But that person will accept you with your disorders or perceived flaws. They will look at the whole you instead of that one part of you. They will not be annoyed by you (maybe by your anxious or depressive thoughts once in a while, but not by you). They will love you unconditionally and do what they can to help you or make you feel better. For the longest time, I thought I was unlovable. I thought I would never be in a solid, healthy relationship, never get married, never find true happiness. Slowly but surely, God and the universe is proving me wrong. We are all deserving of love. We are all deserving of a happy, healthy life. And my advice to all of my friends who spent this Valentine’s Day without a significant other or felt lonely, is to have patience with yourself. Shower yourself with some love because before anything, you need to love yourself. This does not mean that you have to fully love yourself 100% of the time to be in a relationship. That certainly is not the case. Self-love is an ongoing process. Something that we need to work at every day. It may come easier to some than it does to others. For me, it has not been an easy journey. But I am on the journey none the less, and I am learning to love and accept myself more and more each day. You do not NEED a significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day. All you need is you, and of course, family and friends matter and mean everything too! But if you felt lonely this Valentine’s Day, and if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses in particular, I hope you show yourself extra kindness and give yourself grace. Know that everything happens in its perfect timing, and you are loveable, and you are beautiful, and you are special, and you are deserving of good things. And if you don’t have anyone who can tell you that or show you, you are at least hearing it from me. But please, hear it from yourself, too. Happy late Valentine’s Day, friends. And if you didn’t do something nice for yourself, go buy yourself some chocolate :).

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Living Our Best Lives with Illness

Chronic illness. Two words that represent anything but fun and joy. Rather, those two words are the epitome of pain and suffering.

Those with chronic illnesses know that following a diagnosis, and even before one receives a diagnosis, life can be utter hell. People’s once happy, fun-filled, and busy lives gets turned upside down. Sometimes in the blink of an eye, other times it is a slow, gradual process. Both of which are equally as painful and devastating.

But – we, as chronic illness warriors have two choices.

  1. We can wallow in our pain and feel sorry for ourselves.  Or
  2. We can make the most of our situation and find ways in which we can feel a little better and live our lives to the fullest – WITH illness.

Now, I don’t mean for this to sound harsh. Believe me, I am fully aware that there are varying degrees of chronic illness, and some of us are in excruciating pain every day or bedbound. I was once house bound and spent most of my days in bed. It is not fun. It is crushing. You feel as though you are a sack of potatoes not able to do anything or contribute to society. You wonder, what is the point of my life? 

But I am here to tell you that it may not always be that way. In fact, it probably won’t always be that way. Many chronic illnesses wax and wane in severity. Different treatments, medications, IV fluids, homeopathic options, will allow you to eventually find something that works. Even if it helps just a little, there will be some improvements made at some point in your life. Maybe one day you will be able to get out of bed, leave the house, do some form of exercise, engage in physical therapy, or meet friends at a coffee shop.

This past weekend, I took a road trip with my boyfriend. We went to the mountains to go skiing. Last year was the first time I tried skiing at my local ski club in three years. I was only able to do a couple runs, and I was exhausted, but I was so proud and ecstatic with that accomplishment. My trip this past week was a blast. I was at the ski resort for a total of 4 hours. We had to make lots of stops along the hill, and go in to take a break, but I still had the best time and was satisfied with all I was able to do. I pushed my body no doubt, and of course I payed for it later that day and a few days after the fact. But I did it. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. And for the first time in a long time, I felt normal. Even walking around the town with my walker the day after skiing, I felt alive. Sure I had to use a walker and was the only one wandering the town with an assistive device, but because of that device, I was able to do what everyone else was doing.

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What I really want to get at here, is that we can still have fun. We can still enjoy life. We can make the most of this life and practice gratitude for all that we do have. Sometimes, you don’t always have to be grateful it isn’t worse. We are allowed to have bad days. Believe me, I have my fair share of them with chronic and mental illness. But it does help to remind myself of all my blessings, and that somewhere out there, just miles within my little radius, some people have it worse. There is so much suffering in this world. Every one of us struggles. Every one of us suffers. Every one of us experiences some sort of pain. But we don’t have to let our pain define us. Chronic illness friends: do everything in your power to lead the life you deserve. Try different treatments, work your muscles if you can, do things that YOU ENJOY. Take up knitting or crocheting, draw, paint, get out of the house when your feeling up to it, meet a friend, watch your favorite television shows, take a bubble bath, write, connect with others via social media. Live your best life, because it is so possible. We may not be able to do all we once did, but we can live life to our fullest despite our conditions, and with illness.

Getting My Head Out of The Sand

Some of you may know that I have an eating disorder. Or should I say, am in recovery from an eating disorder. Some of you may not have known. Well, now you all do. Cats officially outta the bag!

Now, I liked to think that for the past year or so I haven’t had an eating disorder. I have not really struggled with eating or counting calories. I can’t really exercise anyway so that’s out, and body image, well yes there are issues with that. But won’t there always be?

I have just been going through life taking challenges head on, and not really looking back. Yesterday, however, I was reminded that my eating disorder is still a part of me. That voice, though small, is still there. And when it wants to come back loud and rearing it’s ugly head, I cannot have my head in the sand pretending everything is just fine and that I will never relapse.

 

Let me just be clear about one thing: I do not plan on relapsing back into my eating disorder. Ever. But – I am not a magician, and I am not a psychic. In other words, I can’t do magic and I can’t see into the future. I HAVE an eating disorder. It may not always be active in my life, but that small ED voice is always going to be in the back of my mind. It’s whether or not I choose to listen. But even when/if I choose to listen to my ED, it is not as simple as “oh, there Claire goes choosing to listen to her eating disorder instead of choosing recovery.” No. It is way more complicated and complex than that. Eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are so engrained in me, and in others that suffer, that it’s not always just a matter of choice. These things can sneak up on you, life can sneak up on you. It’s a sickness that’s intent is to destroy and ultimately kill. It’s not so simple.

But, let me get back on track. Yesterday, I was reminded that I do still have an eating disorder. And that I have to be cautious, careful, and mindful of this fact. I was going skiing with my family for the first time this season, which, is a big deal due to my having chronic illnesses. I tried on my snow pants, and sure enough, they didn’t fit. I could not do them up. Immediately I felt ashamed and embarrassed, not to mention anxious over what snow pants I could find that WOULD fit me. Well, I tried my sister’s on and they fit. So those are the ones I wore. But I just could NOT stop thinking about how I couldn’t fit into my snow pants. It put me in this awful mood; I was upset, sad, anxious, and wanting to shed some pounds more than ever.

Well, fast forward. I ended up going skiing. I took five runs and had a great time. That’s when it hit me, and everything fell into perspective again. So…my snow pants didn’t fit me. Maybe, over the last year I have gained a few pounds. Maybe I am not a stick anymore. Maybe, I actually have a woman’s figure. Maybe my chronic illnesses cause weight fluctuations (even those without chronic illnesses experience weight fluctuations). But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER.

There you go, I said it.

It really does not matter. Your size doesn’t matter, your weight doesn’t matter, what does/doesn’t fit you does not really matter. The things in this life that DO matter: family, friends, love, health, happiness. If you are healthy, that is all you can ask for. So, maybe size and weight matters in some circumstances, because it can be linked to health and health issues, on both ends of the spectrum. But overall people, your weight in the grand scheme of things is not the most important thing. And above all, our size should not dictate our self-worth. We should appreciate all of what our bodies can DO, instead of how they look. My body has been through so much over the years between eating disorders and chronic illnesses. It’s time I start taking care of my body instead of punishing it; not seriously restricting my food intake, but eating foods rich in nutrients that will help my body heal. It’s time I start appreciating my body rather than criticizing it. It’s time for you to do the same.

Quote of The Month – January

Hello loves. I hope you all had a good and relaxing weekend. I am enjoying my Sunday by laying low; writing, snuggling in my heated blanket (it has been SO.COLD.), reading my book, and catching up on some Netflix. So – I’m doing something new this year and spicing up each month by writing a quote to live by in my planner for each month of the year. I thought, what a perfect idea to share on my blog, and I am kind of in love with the quote that I chose for January! I was just excited to share this project here and give you all a little something to look forward to at the start of each month. So, here goes…

January’s Quote of The Month:

“Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Mind. Body. Spirit.”

Simple: short, sweet, and to the point, yet holds so much meaning and significance. I was never one for self-care. In fact, whenever therapists or other people would bring up self-care in therapy sessions or treatment centers, I would do the eye roll. Because, well, I just thought self-care was downright stupid, waste of time. Why would I want to waste my time taking a bubble bath? Why would I want to put on scented lotion…on a body that I already despise. Why on earth would I want to do something nice for myself…which is, I think, what all of this boiled down to. Well, after years of being in and out of treatment for an eating disorder, years of suffering, heartache, loss, and unbearable anxiety, I have come on the journey of accepting self-care, and making it something to practice. Self-care does not come easy for me, even to this day. But it’s something that I at least try to incorporate into my life now. Because I finally realize, self-care is NOT stupid. Not by any means. It is a necessity for life. Not only that, but a necessity for my future profession. We cannot be of help to others if we do not take time to care for ourselves.

I chose this quote for January, because I really want to improve in this area of my life this month, and heck, this year. This quote encompasses my main, overarching goal for all my New Years resolutions in one small line. This year, for January, especially while I have a little more time on my hands, I want to really work on personal growth and nurturing; tending to all aspects of myself, including my mind, body and spirit. Self-care truly is a beautiful thing, and the time we spend taking care of our souls is sacred time. I say this because when we take time to care for ourselves, we are growing as people, and growing with God. We are making self-discoveries, and improving upon ourselves. We self-reflect. And all of this is not only good for us (and the people around us, lol) but it is good for our relationship with God. And maybe, you don’t believe in God, maybe you are not sure what you believe, or maybe you just believe in some higher power, something bigger, greater than us. But regardless of your spiritual/religious beliefs, I think we can all be in agreement that self-care is a good thing, even necessary so that we can continue to grow and evolve into better versions of ourselves. And we can only do this by taking time with ourselves, and by taking care of ourselves. In January, I want to be especially mindful of how I can take care of my body, my mind, and my spirit. I want to eat good foods – those rich in nutrients. Foods that give me the energy that I desperately need. I want to do my PT exercises any chance I get. I want to grow stronger. I want to take care of my mind. I want to give myself grace, calm my nerves and anxious soul, and try to live in the moment. I want to grow stronger in my faith, grow in my relationship with God. All of my new years goals I set lead to this overarching resolution of self-care, and I don’t want to forget that this month.

If you were to choose a quote to live by this month, what quote would you choose?

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She Holds The Key

This girl, so quiet

Speaks few words and sits in silence

Yet in her mind, it is loud and clear

Screaming, yet hard to hear

If only she could hush the thoughts

All of the battles she’s ever fought

Some were lost and some were won

She feels as if she could just run

Who is it that holds the key?

Someone who could make her see

She is not small, but standing tall

Not incapable, and will not fall

Like she has in the past

She is blooming, these difficulties will not last

Who is it that holds the key?

To freedom, life, longevity?

It is no one but she.

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