Changing Tides

I’m standing in a dark room with sweat pouring off my face, slightly breathless, endorphins coursing around my body. In the window next to me I catch my reflection; hair falling over my eyes, dumbbells raised, a focused expression that says, “I’m fucking doing this”. I’m in a room with two other people: the trainer, and a young woman who’s taking this High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class along with me. I feel in control, strong, confident, and like I belong. I’ve been doing this class for about a year and I’ve never been fitter or in better shape. I’m running the Sheffield half-marathon in April 2017 and it doesn’t scare me at all. I know I’ll be fit enough to do it.

I am a different person to who I once was. I have changed irrevocably.

I wanted to write this to prove that it’s possible to force your life into reverse, change direction and become completely renewed. I know it’s possible, because I’ve done it.

I wanted to highlight one instance that would stand as a good comparator to the above scene, to show how different things used to be for me. But when I sat and thought about it, there wasn’t one single occasion that sprang to mind but instead a feeling, a sense of shame – and it’s this that equates to the polar opposite of how I felt in the gym this morning.

It is a slow, creeping cloak of fear that envelops me. It originates in the pit of my stomach, and it spreads up into my heart and all through my limbs. I can feel it in my eyes; it renders me incapable of looking directly at anyone. It’s as though I am walking in a quagmire and my legs are leaden, heavy with dread. I don’t want to leave the house. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want there to be another day. My head hangs heavy with shame. I feel unworthy. I think everyone hates me. I hate me. I have a secret – I turn into a monster when I drink alcohol. There’s a person hiding inside me, a bad person who does terrible things, and I can’t stop her escaping when I’m drunk. And I can’t seem to stop getting drunk. Even though I try.

Days will pass and the fear will dissipate slightly but the self-hatred never leaves me. It festers deep inside and it keeps me in my place, somewhere dark where the ceiling is low and the walls are closing in; a place for people who are undeserving, a place where people never grow.

When I was younger, I thought people who were heavily into fitness were a bit vacuous, with brains in their biceps. But nowadays, I am so convinced that being fit and healthy physically means that we are mentally well too. It’s not just the act of pumping iron or running that boosts our emotional wellbeing: it’s engaging with people who don’t get out of their heads every day, who value their bodies; it’s the knowledge that you are strong and capable of conquering challenges; it’s living, day after day, without ever getting drunk; it’s the memories of that person you became when drunk fading into the distant recesses of the mind; it’s replacing fear with hope; it’s learning to like yourself again through the process of development and personal growth; it is the removal of toxins from the body.

Now that I prioritise my mental and physical wellness, I feel alive every day. I like myself. I maintain eye contact with other people when I’m speaking with them. I never think I am undeserving or less than anyone else.

At 41, I like myself. Genuinely, six years ago, I never would have believed I’d ever have been able to utter those words and mean them. But liking yourself is something we all deserve to feel. And it isn’t out of anyone’s reach. roc1

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Soberistas’ Four Weeks of Wellbeing – Me Time Moments

It’s the last week of the Soberistas Four Weeks of Wellbeing and over the next seven days we will be focusing on Me Time Moments. Life can be chaotic, stressful and challenging and many of us are put upon on a daily basis leaving barely any time to spend on being kind to ourselves. However, ignoring our own needs long-term is almost guaranteed to leave us feeling even more frazzled.

It’s not particularly important, but my toenails are seriously neglected at present. Every time I am presented with a free five minutes there is always something more pressing to be taken care of than attending to my feet (i.e. baby’s nappy changing, food preparing, clothes ironing, book writing, emails answering, plants watering, tax disc ordering, recycling taking out, dog walking, helping with homework – I think you get the picture). So here I am in desperate need of a pedicure with windswept hair and wearing mud-splattered jeans (dog walk), ignoring all of it so that I can get my work done while the baby is at nursery.

My friend calls herself, not high-maintenance woman, but NO-maintenance woman, and I think I too have fallen into this category. Many moons ago before I launched Soberistas and had another baby, I seemed to have bucket-loads of spare time. I would go to the gym, not only for a run on the treadmill but to have a sauna AND a manicure/facial/bikini wax. These days it’s all I can manage to drag the dog around the dark streets for an early morning half-hour run, both of us half-asleep and me looking like I haven’t slept properly for weeks (oh that’s right, I haven’t!).

My-Little-Buffalo-Be-Kind-To-Yourself2

Anyway the point of this is not so I can have a good old moan (although I must say it has helped a little!), but to highlight that it is all too easy to forget about looking after ourselves. And when we neglect to include Me Time Moments in our lives, the everyday stresses and strains can mount up and tip us over the edge. An obvious concern for some when this happens is that the bottle of wine they’ve done so well in forgetting all about can suddenly appear attractive once again as a quick fix, mental obliteration tool.

Well, this is my message to all you Istas out there to say let’s jointly decide to look after ourselves a bit more – to have a couple of hours in the gym alone, or to get our hair done, or just to curl up on the settee with a glossy mag and our favourite CD on, just to be KIND to ourselves. The benefits of doing something apparently trivial can be huge.

And on that note, I’m off to paint my toe nails.