Therapy Thursday

Today’s Happy Note: Herbert: Herbert George is my big, soft yellow stuffed duck that I got for Easter when I was 14 or 15. I fell in love with him at the store; I don’t know why.  He is just special to me and makes me very calm.  He has been to Michigan, New York, California, Canada, and Paris.

Marathon Training: I got over my weird running anxiety that I’ve had for the whole week!  Well, it took me about 45 minutes of running to get into it, but once I got into the zone, it was all good.  I think I just needed to take the speedwork pressure off myself.  I did 8.5 miles in about 90 minutes.

Last night I ended up doing 35 minutes of strength and gymnastics moves (like back walkovers and such — I was a gymnast until I was almost 14).

Today was an intense day – and not in the normally intense way, either.  It wasn’t about me opening up about something that has been locked inside me for a while, although I did tell her that I think I am starting to love USB, which might just be the most terrifying feeling I’ve ever felt.  The intensity and fieriness came from what was happening between L and me.  I meant for today to be about my body and my weight and my anxieties surrounding the dissonance between the shape of my body and my lifestyle and blah blah blah but sometimes, therapy just goes in a whole other direction entirely than what you had planned.  And when that happens, I accept it, and go with it – usually my random thoughts end up turning into deeper musings and then we have a lovely, revealing dialogue.  I think that a big part of my journey through therapy had been about recognizing that sometimes things want to go in a different direction than what I had planned, and that accepting this (rather than fighting it) might be a little bit fun and adventuresome.  I like to be adventuresome.

So I began today by talking about pillows.  I told her that I love the four main pillows she has on the couch (which I always rearrange to my liking when I come in – is that weird?) but that she has these two little ones that just don’t fit in.  One of them matches the coverings on the couch but doesn’t logically fit anywhere (it’s a small couch) and the other one has no actual pillow fluff content and clashes with everything else.  It was obvious that it was there for some sort of sentimental purpose, which L readily confessed.  I wasn’t mean about my pillow-criticism at all; I was pointing it out unintentionally at first just because it was something I wanted to say, but then I realized how much my frantic pillow rearranging (and the degree to which I get upset about their mismatched-ness) is a reflection of anxiety.  I tend to go through anxiety phases every few weeks or few months.  They are periods, lasting from a few hours to a few days, and usually not much longer, where I feel very anxious, tense, nervous, and uptight.  I am easily rattled and shaken.  Last night, I dropped my water bottle as I was getting into the elevator.  There were a few people already in the elevator who had obviously seen me.  I felt humiliated – like I couldn’t be in the elevator for another second longer.  The feeling went away relatively quickly, thankfully, but it’s an illustrative example.  I guess I would say that I go through brief periods of heightened self-consciousness.

During these moments, I find that controlling my external environment – for example, the pillows on L’s couch – can be a huge source of comfort and relief.  I am famous for rearranging scrabble or rummikub tiles such that they are all perfectly straight.  I hate when books on a shelf are not properly arranged.  There are a few big sources of anxiety in my life right now, and as I talked through all this with L, I noticed more and more where the anxiety is coming from and where I reroute it.  This might sound pointless, but it is actually very useful and calming for me to be able to sort through the tensions in my life in a quiet, non-judgmental, comforting environment with someone who cares about me deeply.  Big sources of anxiety: body image issues, LSAT, and USB.  USB isn’t making me anxious in a negative way at all; it’s just that the intensity of my feelings for him (and the fact that I have never felt these things before) is scary and wonderful and confusing all at the same time.  The word ‘love’ entered my head for the first time this week.  I’ll leave it at that.

A lot of today was about what therapy means.  That probably sounds vague, and if you have never been in an intense therapeutic relationship, I don’t know that I can explain it to you.  But there is a lot that goes on in the relationship between therapist and client – far more than you would ever think.  There is a lot of complicated material and tensions and meaningful things in what happens between the two of us.  We spent the rest of the hour talking about this.  In an email L sent me a few days ago, she expressed that many people in this world – herself included – would be sad if I were to leave it.  I don’t know what exactly her wording was, but it was the simplest, most powerful expression of caring that I have ever felt from her.  I told her this today.  Then we got into this whole thing about why she cares about me.  I know that many people don’t want to know anything about how their therapist feels or his or life, but as someone who has struggled tremendously with a pretty solidly formed identity based around non-lovability, it is very important for me to hear how and why she might care about me, as my therapist.  Wow, that was a long sentence.  So we went back and forth on that for a while, her telling me the ways in which she cares about me and why, and explaining that she can care about people in different ways (I hadn’t thought about this before).  This might sounds really self-centered, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s actually true: I think she might direct slightly more caring-energy to me than some other patients.  In other words, I think she just plain old likes me a lot and feels close with me in certain (appropriate) ways.  She said one of the biggest reasons for the intense mutual caring we have for one another is simple: that I’m genuine.  And this is true.  I have been looking for that word for a while, actually.  I am intensely genuine both in my life and in therapy.  In her words, if I don’t want to fucking talk about something, I don’t.

We spent a long while after that talking about me revealing things versus her revealing things.  It’s a fascinating subject, for me.  Both because I am curious and I like to know things about her (I also think it’s useful in many cases, which I’ll get to in a minute) and because the idea behind therapy – this relationship where one person is sort of the caretaker and receptacle and the other has the entire burden of identity – is of genuine interest to me.  L has told me in the past that some patients really ask very little of her, or nothing.  Some people just talk.  Some people don’t know that she has two sons or anything about her basic life facts, let alone what she is thinking.  For me, it’s important to know both of these things.  It helps me contextualize her.  Otherwise, she is just an empty figure sitting a few feet away from me.  My guess would be that I probably know more about her than 90% of other patients.  Mostly just because I ask.  Only once has she not wanted to talk about something.

Today, something happened that has never ever happened before.  I was trying to think about love and relationships – I have a rough idea of how this has worked in her life.  I probed a little deeper, intentionally but gently.  I can’t stand the idea of never taking care of her, in a weird way.  I sometimes genuinely just want to listen to her.  If other people don’t want that in a therapy relationship, fine.  But that’s not me.  I obviously won’t talk about what it is that I asked her or what her response were because that is her business.  But she cried.  She cried. I pointed out that she had never cried in front of me before and she said that she has cried in front of a patient very, very few times.

I wanted to hold her.  I think I did provide some verbal comfort.  It was a fascinating, humanizing experience for me.  It was both heart-wrenching and touching. The saddest thing was when she first started to cry and I realized that she was going to cry and she said “you’re going to make me cry now.”  It was like suddenly a shade had parted between us and our relationship was in color and I understood something very tender and painful in her life.  And this made me connect with her in a different, deeper way than I have before.  A good way, for me, although I certainly don’t enjoy seeing her in pain.  I wanted to make her pain go away.  My heart ached for her.

I don’t think that it was a waste of my energy or time to feel so intensely towards her, because in a way, that caring was redirected back at me.  Listening to the outline of her experience (she obviously doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as I do), the pain and reality of it was so stark; it made me realize that sometimes my own experiences are exactly like this and I need to be kinder to myself.

So in sum: L cried in front of me, for the first time ever (and not because she was emotionally moved by something I said – it was entirely about her) today and it was immensely moving and helpful for me.

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Grete’s Great Gallop/Mental Health Update

Today’s Happy Note: The sunshine on my skin in the afternoon.

Mental Health Note: I have been struggling a bit lately, I must admit.  I don’t necessarily feel sadder than usual — in fact, I feel more in control of my depression than I have since, well, before I was depressed (which was long, long ago — like middle school long ago).  It’s the body image stuff.  It’s miserable.  It’s painful.  It makes me want to die, in certain ways. I feel like I’m being taken back to a dark place in my life — say 2-4 years ago — where my body was never good enough.  Every single day was spent hating myself, because of my body.  Everyday.  I thought of so many ways to say “I hate you” that it isn’t even funny.  It wouldn’t even make a bad comedy routine.  It’s too sad.

So this moment finds me facing difficulties with my body and my weight, and, as a consequence, my mental well being.  The most frustrating thing about this anxiety and weight gain and hatred and queasiness — whatever you want to call it — is the fact that I know better than this. I know not to do this.  Not to work myself up into this state.

I guess that admitting how much I am struggling is a good first step.  Better than outright saying “alright, I’m a failure, I’ll just give up and let it all get worse.”

Also, I surprised myself and opened up to USB about it.  That was a big step for me, I think.  A really big step that I’m proud of.  And L, as always, has been there for me.  I think I sent her an email late last night and she responded today, a Saturday, with a long comforting response.  I guess I haven’t talked a lot about therapy/L lately, as things have become more and more private, I guess.  It’s a really beautiful feeling to know that someone is there for you 24/7, no matter what, when, where, why.  She’s there.  And I need her, very much, at this moment in my life.

Grete’s Great Gallop Race Report!

This morning was my third official half-marathon! Unlike my first two (read my recap of the NYC half here), I was not going into this one with the goal of running fast or PRing.  I had two goals:

1. Get into a “race mentality” — early wake-up, race breakfast, getting ready to run fast.

2. Run slightly under Marathon Goal Pace.

That’s it.  Plain and simple.  And I satisfied those two goals, which means that I am happy with the experience.

A few notes:

~I probably should have slept for more than 4.5 hours last night.  USB is such a wonderful, wonderful distraction though…I’ll be sure to get 8-10 hours of sleep before the marathon.

~I went out at a solid 10:00 pace and worked my way down to a 9:00 (overall average pace was 9:36).  This is good.  I would like to replicate this slower-to-faster strategy on marathon day (although probably being a bit slower overall).

~I think GU Shot Blox are my favorite mid-run fuel.  I had to take a clif mojo bar today which wasn’t ideal.  I also need to figure out my ideal method of carrying fuel or water.

~It’s time to get new shoes!

~If I can run a half marathon in 2:05:50 at the end of a 57-mile week, with relative ease, I most definitely can run a marathon, while tapered and well-rested and properly-fueled, under my goal pace of 4:30!

So today was an experiment of sorts.  A happy, succesful experiment.  I’m pleased.

Oh, and USB took me to get a foot massage afterwards.  I can’t really explain what I feel for him.  But just know that it’s a lot.  I feel a lot.

Tell me about your weekends thus far?!?!  Any races? Long runs?  Non-running related exciting happenings?

What do you do when you feel like you’re in a mental health rut — like you’re slipping and you want to be able to get a better hold of things but you don’t know how?

Goodnight friends!

It’s All Mental (And Physical!)

Today’s Happy Note: Sunbutter.  I know that sunflower seed butter is made from a kind of a modified sunflower seed and has some added sugar and oils.  But I. Don’t. Care.  It is my new favorite nut butter and I am in love.  Nut butter heaven.  If that is a real place, I am so going there.

Marathon Training: Yesterday was a day off running.  I did about 15 minutes of yoga then lifted my beloved weights for 45 minutes. I really do love weight-lifting.  It’s oddly relaxing.  Anyone with me on this?

Today was a speed workout day.  It may officially have been the longest speed workout of my life:

2 mile warm-up

4 x (2 mile @ Tempo pace, 1/2 mile easy)

2 mile cool-down

It ended up being a whopping 14 miles! That’s longer than my long run on Sunday.  It was a really good workout — I felt strong and fast, but not too fast; I think I paced myself pretty well.  I definitely needed a succesful workout, mentally.  I was super anxious to get started and have been feeling a bit down about running lately.  This brought my spirits back up! I estimated the distance for the fast portions using the street numberings on lamp posts in CP (a well-kept but amazing secret — the first two numbers on any lamp post correspond to the street cumber you are at, and there are 20 blocks to a mile).

An awesome mid-week workout, although 14 miles is kind of a time-suck.

All-Around Health

I want to talk a little bit about the intersections between mental and physical health today.  I think that it’s easy to become too focused on the physical aspect of health: mainstream media frequently portrays a narrow, singular conception of health which is framed largely around the exclusion of non-physical elements.  For example, you see advertisements at drug stores with people working out at a gym and eating salads and taking supplements.  Or there are segments on news shows telling us “how to get healthy” by doing this new exercise or eating this new superfood. One of the reasons I think that Caitlin’s book, Operation Beautiful, is wonderful (and has been so successful) is because it addresses a legitimate need for emotional health information and empowerment, both amongst individuals who already consider themselves to be relatively healthy(e.g., bloggers) and amongst those who don’t know where to start, physically or emotionally. I try to deal with things holistically, although I am not always successful.  But the fun part is the journey, not perfection.

In the last two years, I have had a physical health crisis and a mental health crisis.  My experiences with each were very different, but both were powerfully formative for my conception of myself — I learned so much about my unique strengths and talents from each.  I began to understand my way of seeing the world; where I fit into things.  I think these crises helped me to figure out love — how to love myself and others.  I am not saying that you need to have a crisis in order to take care of yourself though!  There are simple things that we can all do, everyday, to make our lives the best they can be.  After all, I think that’s what health is about: living our happiest, most vibrant lives.

If my years in college have taught me anything, thus far, it is that I need to take the time to be healthy.  Taking time for myself has saved my life.

Before talking about the spaces between emotional and bodily health, I want to share some research/articles on the matter.  Some of these are more scientific than others, but I think that they all involve a good overview on the relationship or specific facets of the relationship.

How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

Psychoendoneuroimmunology — relationship between stress and mental coping skills and somatic illness

Meditation Can Boost The Immune System

Exercise As an Antidepressant

Finding Thinner Peace II — eating right for our mind and body

Exercise, Mental Health, and Mental Ability

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health — great roundup of articles

Improving Emotional Health — a more general but still useful overview of emotional wellbeing and its intersections with physical indicators

Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health — this has almost nothing to do with bodily health, but is a comprehensive overview of mental health (including disorders)

Most of these articles focus on the relationship between mental health and exercise.  I think this is certainly important, but it would be shallow to consider it the only significant aspect of the way our emotional and bodily health intersect.

For me, physical health means a constellation of things: regular exercise/movement (running, yoga, and weights), a good diet full of lots of plants, protein, and healthy fats, regular communication with my doctors, management of my clotting problem and my hormonal/endocrine disorders, and generally taking care of my body — proper rest, attention to appearance, stretching, etc.

Mental health also means a variety of things, for me: managing my depression/anxiety/mood, actively seeking happiness and contentment, healthy social relationships and connections, a sense of calm/inner peace/spirituality, and a general awareness of my place in the world.

By no means do I think that people conceive of physical and mental health in the same ways.  Even a more generic inquiry into “health” would yield vastly different responses from similar individuals.  My point here is to notice and acknowledge what being physically and emotionally healthy means, for me, and to think about how these definitions relate and overlap and inform one another.

There is a certain calmness that washes over me on occasion.  It happens when I feel best about my body and content with my life.  It represents my ultimate healthy state. In it I feel alert, safe, and well.  I notice what my body is thinking and wanting and what my mind is thinking and wanting.  Sometimes these things are different, and that’s okay.  I accept myself for where I am at in that moment.  I am exquisitely attentive yet also tuned out from the rest of the world.  My body has moved sufficiently and been well-fed, and my intellect has been active and my emotions have been even-keeled.  This is, I suppose, my ideal intersection point.

Of course, this is not my everyday reality.  No one who knows me well would ever think to describe me as a calm or collected person.  I can be hysterical or just plain crazy.  On a regular basis.

My thought patterns have a huge effect on how I feel, physically.  When I notice that I am harshly judging myself and hating my body, I tense up — I can feel the pit of my stomach clenching and my shoulders hovering up by my ears.  Or, for another example, when I hear from my doctor that my INR is too low (for the third time in two weeks, as was the case today), I start panicking.  My thoughts race, I can’t do school work, I am suddenly unhappy.

I wish I had a graph or something scientific whereby I could chart the precise overlap of my mental and physical health over a given period of time.  For now, vague descriptions like this will have to do.  All I know, in conclusion, is that there is a connection between my body and mind beyond my spinal cord: yes, my spine runs into my brain stem which opens up into the cerebrum.  But something more is happening here.  I have a sudden change in mood after a quick, sweaty run.  I feel different sensations in my chest and lungs and stomach when I have more fulfilling interactions with those around me.

I think the conclusion is that I don’t know precisely what is going on.  Rather, I am attuned to the patterns and the existence of the connection.  And I think that the details of this connection are probably different for different people.

And that’s okay.

How do mental and physical health intersect for you?  Or you more appreciative of one over the other?  How do you balance the varied roles that they play in your life?  What would you change, if you could?

Therapy Thursday

Today’s Happy Note: Owls.  Something about fall just makes me think of owls.  I doubt there are any in NYC.  They are such beautiful, intriguing creatures.  I wish, right now, that I could be in a cool, wet forest, camping out, watching owls fly overhead.  That would be nice.

Sometimes I love New York and sometimes I desperately want to leave.  It’s a strange mecca, really.  I have fallen in love with the city over and over and over again and I am not sure I will ever be able to leave — the sounds and lights and people and neighborhoods.  The buildings.  The way the architecture seems to merge with the humans flawlessly.  But there is a small part of me that is a small-town girl.  Or even a rural girl.  I love meadows, streams, forests, mountains; scrambling over rocks in National Parks, kayaking down long windy rivers, climbing big old willow trees in a huge backyard, rambling endlessly on dirt roads surrounded by corn fields.  And owls, of course! I like all that.  I just want to have that and New York.  And it scares me, because I don’t think that it’s possible.

Are you a country girl?  City girl?  Wilderness girl?  Suburban girl? Or boy.  I might have some male readers, I suppose.

For the first time in a long time today I did nothing, really, exercise-wise.  And it felt damn good. I walked around campus all day, of course, and did about 10 minutes of yoga to stretch out a bit.  I have been really exhausted lately. This tends to happen when I am stressed/making a life transition.  I think it may also be tied to whatever is happening with my body, hormonally or otherwise.  Sick Caronae=Tired Caronae.

I don’t think I was being lazy by not running or working out today.  I genuinely listened to my body, which is harder to do than it sounds.  I love running, but I also think that it tends to make me a little bit out of touch with my body.  I can never figure out my hunger cues when I am running a lot.  So no run today.  I am still running five days a week, with some yoga and strength training thrown in there.  I think that is perfectly acceptable for now. 🙂  NYC Marathon, here I come!

I have a confession: I have a vision of myself breaking up with running, one day.  Not necessarily soon, but it is something I have known will happen for a while now.  Maybe in a few years.  After a few more marathons and ultras. Maybe even sooner than that, or maybe later.  Maybe after I have babies.  Maybe I’ll stop for several years and then come back to it.  I have amazing natural endurance — in fact, I would argue that that is my only real physical talent — but I also have arthritis, sciatica, weak joints, a problem in my sacrum, and frequent generalized muscular/skeletal/nerve pain.  Right now running is working for me, but barely. I love when Heather talks about this because I relate so well.

Anyways.  Just some rambling.

Therapy Thursday

First: do you know how long I have waited to have my appointment with L be on Thursdays just so that I could write “Therapy Thursday”?  I love alliteration.  I am such a geek.

Second: This post is a little bit emotional, a little bit heavy and difficult and painful.  I won’t be afraid if you don’t want to read it.  Sometimes when I am sad, reading about someone else’s sadness only makes it worse — if you’re like that, I highly recommend skipping. 🙂

Last night’s blog post was in the back of my mind for the whole session.  I didn’t talk explicitly about it, but talked about those issues — weight, body image, health, self-hatred, self-esteem, the essence of me. It is sort of strange, but I feel like the whole last year with L (it’s officially been a year, this week) has been leading up to this point, where I feel comfortable sharing the deepest, darkest secrets I have about myself, all of which have to do with the body.  I do have other deep, dark secrets, but I think I have mostly already shared those things with her.  The body is the hardest thing, because it is entirely real.  It is not a ghost or a memory or a scar.  It is not something that happened to me when I was six or an ephemeral feeling.  It is not something that goes unspoken, like love or growth or opening myself up.  It sits right in front of me.  It is me.  Always.

It’s strange, I suppose, because it (the body — my body) is so obvious and cerebral, but also so subtle and hidden and emotional.  There are some moments when I feel like my relationship with my own body is incredibly straightforward — like there are signs plastered across my stomach or words scrawled on my arms.  But most times, I don’t even understand the relationship.  I get confused — I eat when I am not hungry or don’t eat when I am hungry. I tell myself I am lovely and I have dark, reflective, mysterious eyes.  I tell myself that my stomach and hips and thighs are so big that I should take a carving knife to them.  I have not tried this, but it has been a horrible fantasy of mine for many years.

Tonight, for example.  I almost didn’t eat dinner.  I wanted a piece of pizza or a half of a giant burrito, with chicken.  But I didn’t have any of those things.  I had a salad, which ended up being really good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.   It was the lower calorie version of what I wanted.  I almost didn’t eat at all. I did not listen. Or I did listen, but it was to the mean part of me that has “you are fat and horrible and unworthy” on an endless repeat cycle in my head.

I can’t outline exactly how long I have had this struggle.  Let’s say six years.  Six years into this and I still hate myself so much?  I still struggle to eat a meal sometimes.  Or to stop eating sometimes.  Obviously, the intensity of these feelings has been triggered by recent events.  I have never handled stresses well — I feel things so deeply that it hurts every part of my being.  When something is upsetting, every tiny crack in my body will be upset.

Today, with L, was about all of this.  I am not really sure how to characterize her responses, both verbal and non-verbal.  I can definitely say that they were comforting.  She was comforting.  At one point, I felt like she was looking at me like a mother — that shook me, more than anything else.  It made me realize just how much she cares about me, and how much I care about her.  Strange things happen in a psychotherapy relationship.  I wish I could say that I wasn’t too attached, that it was completely clinical.  But that is not the case — I’m long past that point, and there is no turning back, for good or for bad.  She continually reminds me that there is something wonderful and engaging and warm about me that has nothing to do with my body. I just don’t know what that is exactly, yet.

L and I agreed that we don’t know where the hatred comes from, and that I feel better on days when it is not there.  I can’t tell you how many windows and mirrors and bottles I find my reflection in.  More than should be allowed. Sometimes I wish the world could be devoid of these things.  I want to scream at the makers of bus shelters, “don’t you know there are girls walking by who want more than anything not to see themselves; don’t you know that this one moment — this reflection in the glass — is the most horrible moment of their lives, and it happens a thousand times a day; don’t you know?”

Hurt is human.  L reminds me of this, a lot.  It makes me feel less alien.  We all have our demons.  I happen to have more than many people, and  I also think I feel them more.  But everyone has them.  There are so many things we don’t know about the people we walk by on the street, or even the people we work with or have class with.

The agony surrounding my body and my physical self is not helpful: the hours every day I spend hating myself actually do not make me happier. In fact, they suck away my time and my energy.  What a revelation!  L was telling me how, when I finally accept myself exactly as I am, the agony will go away.  And I know she is right.  I think that maybe it might be in the process of going away — this process started a year and a half ago, in February of 2009, when I left school (don’t worry, I came back).  It’s painful.  It’s not like I can just say “okay agony and hatred — be gone, I’m done with you!”  It helps to say that, sometimes (like in yesterday’s post), but it doesn’t necessarily make it true.  I guess I don’t understand why the process can’t be faster.

Sometimes when I write about therapy, afterwards, it sounds like L wasn’t there or involved at all.  That is not the case, ever.  She is very involved — she probably talks at least 30% of the time, which I like.  It’s such a wonderful combination of helping me see things differently, listening, and sharing her own experiences. Sometimes I can’t remember what it is that she said.  Usually I just know that it made sense and made me feel better.  I guess that my own narrative kind of takes up most of the space in my head, which is okay, as long as I’m being honest with myself.  There are, of course, stories that we tell ourselves, which are not always accurate reflections of reality.

For example, I tell myself that I am basically unlovable.  But I know this not to be true.  My friends and family love me, I can feel it and hear it and sense it.  And on another level, romantically, USB is attracted to me.  He wants to be with me. For someone who hardly wants to be with herself most of the time, this is a large does of cognitive dissonance. I like USB so much that it hurts, and I think he likes me back similarly.  So I can’t be completely unlovable, completely horrible.  USB is making me so happy that I cry about it, sometimes.  Slow, big, quiet tears.

I think things have been a bit heavy on the blog lately.  With reason, of course, seeing as this is me and this is how I am feeling — I began the blog on the premise of honesty regarding my mental/emotional and physical health.  I try to keep things real in both areas.  But with that said, I also don’t mean to overwhelm you with all these darker things at once.

I promise a lighter, cheerier post tomorrow!  Involving delicious foods. 🙂

Thanks for staying with me here; this is simultaneously a very exciting and happy and scary and dark moment in my life.

Therapy Thoughts: Body Hatred

Today’s Happy Note: Had a wonderful little “me” day.  I did what I wanted — lifted weights, tried some new recipes,  had an amazing, teary, breakthrough therapy sesh, baked, napped, and read.  I took care of me in a way that I haven’t done in a while.

Marathon Training: I made it through 8 hilly miles yesterday.  My legs felt very tight for some reason, and no amount of stretching breaks seemed to help.  Meh.  At least it got done.  The general arc of my training plan is the same from week to week:

Sunday: long run

Monday: rest (weights/cross train/yoga)

Tuesday: speed work

Wednesday: short, easy run with 100 meter strides (3-5 miles)

Thursday: medium long run with hills

Friday: rest (weights/cross train/yoga)

Saturday: short, easy run (4-6 miles)

Pretty straightforward, no?  It has been working for me quite well, minus the nagging pain in the back left hip.  I have been making sure to rest and stretch.  I suppose I could ice as well (the guys at one of the delis near me have been giving me small bags of ice that fit in my freezer for a dollar!!!!!).  In the next one or two weeks, I plan on adding a sixth day of running in, probably on Fridays, just 3-6 easy miles.  I will hit 41 miles this week, and would like to inch up to 50-55 over the next month, until mid-October when I “peak”, then taper.  I have done a great job of increasing mileage slowly — I started around 25.  I just think it is going to be very hard to get to 50-55 miles per week on 5 days of running.  As long as the hip isn’t bothering me too much, I think I will take it up to six.

Thoughts?  Anyone trained on six days a week before?  What has been your peak mileage, if you’re a runner?

I know I have hit 55 before, maybe even 58-60.   I am definitely capable of it.  I went ahead and took the rest day today.  I lifted weights for an hour or so, which felt great.

I came home and had my first-ever blended hot cereal creation a la Katie!

Okay, so I freely admit that it does not look like the most appetizing thing you have ever seen.  But holy amazing. This was easily the best way I have ever eaten my breakfast grains! I made a big batch of quinoa last night.  This morning I used about 1.5 servings — I simply dumped it in the blender, added about another 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup water, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder.  Then I blended and tossed in a sprinkle of xantham gum.  When it was thoroughly blended, I poured it into a bowl and heated, then topped with sunbutter.

I thought I loved grains before.  I think I might be in love with them now.  This just took it to the next level.  Hello creaminess, volume, and gloriousness.  You must try this, if you are a breakfast grain eater (and who isn’t???).

Thank you Chocolate-Covered Katie! You’re my whole-grain hero.

Other food endeavors today involved Angela’s salt-kissed chunky PB chocolate chip cookies.  I didn’t end up kissing them with salt though, as I am not a huge salt fan.  I also subbed AB for the PB and used an egg instead of the canola oil, which worked fine.  I didn’t mean to de-veganize it, but I had no canola oil and thought EVOO would taste weird.

The verdict?  I loved them!  These cookies managed to do something few cookies can do: they tasted healthy and earthy and not overly-sweet, but were also indulgent and satisfying. Cookie perfection, pretty much.

Bonus: they’re super easy — those two bowls contained all the ingredients (minus the chocolate chips).  I’m pretty sure a 12 year old boy could do this.

The dough was really fun to shape into balls.  I added about a billion extra chocolate chips. 🙂

I enjoyed one warm and fresh with vanilla almond milk.  This was one of the best Cookie Friday’s ever!

Lots of delicious food today — my mind and body feel nourished!

Onto heavier things…(FYI: this post is heavily focused on weight and body image — if these things are upsetting to you or not helpful in your recovery, please please please skip this section).

Therapy Thoughts

Today was a wonderful, amazing, painful breakthrough day.  It hurt very, very much.  It might have been the most pain I have ever felt during the moment of therapy, but afterwards, I felt like this giant burden was gone from me. Like a little bird had carried it away, across a mountain, never to return again.  Today was sort of like a raging river, with no bridge across it: I had to go through it to get to the other side.  There was no alternate route, no detour.  The river was big and scary and it hurt.  I felt like I was going to drown.  But L was there with me.  It was sort of like I knew I couldn’t drown with her there, but I came as close to drowning as one can — I could feel the water welling up against all the sides of me.

That was dramatic.  But today was a dramatic day, obviously.  One that I need very much to write about and share with you all.

Today was the day that I finally completely and totally opened up to L (and myself, in a way) about my body-hatred and my struggles with my weight and my eating.  I have always been open with you guys, but never to this extent.  In fact, there are some things about this journey that I have not and probably will not tell you all.   Forgive me.  The body is the most personal space.

The anguish I feel over my weight (which is approximately 10-15 pounds above what I would ideally like it to be right now, and a few pounds above the uppermost limit of the “healthy” BMI) is greater than any other anguish I feel (0r have felt) in my life.  There is nothing that makes me want to die as much as the shape and size of my body does.

I feel tremendous guilt over this; it’s ridiculous.  I am an educated, smart, creative, lovely young person with many many talents and all I can think about is my body, sometimes.  For God’s sake, I study human rights: I know all about the real horrors that are happening in this world (genocide, gang rape, starvation) and my weight is not one of them.

As I spoke with L — sobbed to her is more accurate, actually — she was simultaneously gentle and compassionate and firm and serious.  It was a miraculous combination.  Somehow, in some way, her responses made it clear to me the ways in which I am judging myself.  And it isn’t very nice.  I would never, ever even think these things about another person.  So why is it that my 15 extra pounds incapacitate me?  Why do I feel morally reprehesnible and irresponsible and disgusting?

Well, of course, I don’t know exactly why I have come to feel this way — why this is the only way I have understood my body, since early adolescence.  Maybe it is related to the face that I am not (and never will be) naturally thin.  That is simply not the way I am built.  I have spent the last five years trying to change that.  Recovering from the pulmonary embolism has showed me that life isn’t fair.  My body isn’t fair.  I eat well.  Sometimes I overeat.  But I can run ultramarathons.  I can run 50 miles a week and lift weights and do yoga.  I love vegetables.  So why me?  I think “why me” is the wrong question and “when can I start loving myself regardless of the shape of my body” is the right question.

I have never actually been suicidal, but I have wanted to die.  Because of my body.  What is this world coming to that someone as talented and smart as I am wants to die because of the way she looks?  More importantly, what is happening in my world that makes me want to die because of my looks?

Between the now-uncontrolled PCOS (I can not take hormones now or ever again because of the PE), the sudden ending of the birth control pills, the stress, the physical recovery, and a few other things, my body is out of whack right now.  There are, quite simply, things beyond my control.  As I was sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth,. holding my face in my hands, so distraught that I couldn’t speak — I realized, clearly and distinctly, that I have to change the way I think about my body.  Certainly there are moments when I like myself, physically.  But there are many more moments where I despise my thighs or my breasts or my neck or the space just above my elbow.

And these moments are only hurting me more.  Now that I say it out loud, it sounds obvious.  But hating myself only sucks out more energy and makes me feel worse.  These 15 pounds do not represent my life.  I am so much more than 15 fucking pounds.

FYI: I am NOT suicidal, by any means, at this moment.  If you think you need help, please get help — you deserve to live. I have a list of resources on my Mental Health page, here. Although I am NOT a health professional, you are always welcome to email me as well.

Letting Love In

Today’s Happy Note: There are so many happy things in my life right now, it’s hard to choose!  I’m going to go with the fact that I feel very, very connected to many people in my life at this moment.  Strong human connections=pure happiness.

Marathon Training: Speed Work Tuesday yesterday!  I won’t lie, a good speed work session makes me feel amazing, but sometimes it is really hard to get out the door for one.  I finally figured out why there are so many “Goal Pace” miles in my training plan: my marathon goal pace is approximately ten minutes per mile, which is basically what my general pace is.  Duh.  Silly Caronae.  A marathon — at least for me — is not a fast race.  If I were training for a 10k, so many “goal pace” miles would be impossible.  But for a marathon, it’s just fine.  All this is to say that my speed workout yesterday involved:

2 miles GP (goal pace) miles warm-up

2 x 2 miles tempo pace (approximately 9 minute miles) — I worked HARD here and it felt great; did an easy half-mile between the two sets.

2.5 miles GP

Total: 9 miles

Today I did a total of 4 miles with 6×100 meter strides sprinkled in through the last mile.  I also did a 45 minute strength class at the gym.  I have been getting a little bit bored with my regular weight-lifting routine lately and this was fun.  It was nice to switch things up.  I loved the tricep exercises we did.

Therapy Thoughts

Sorry for flaking out again yesterday.  I was out all too late for a weeknight.  This whole having fun thing is nerve-wracking and thrilling at the same time.  I kind of like it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about people and the way we interact and relate and love one another.  I think that opening up to other people — learning and listening and loving and losing — has become the most important thing in my life right now.  Friends, family, loves. Ultimately, running will not save me.  Having a perfect body or a perfect relationship with food or an ideal body weight won’t save me.  People save me — I save me, other people save me.  Not that I even need saving, really. When I say ‘saving’, I mean becoming a better me.  Learning how I work.  Learning how I love.  I have so many special people in my life.  Two caring, wonderful parents.  A beautiful sister.  A handful of close, fun friends.  A very special therapist.  Lovely, insightful coworkers. Cousins, acquaintances, smart classmates.

It scares me a little bit that I retreat inward when things become difficult for me.  I want to reach out with my arms and my heart to those who care about me — I want to reach out with all the edges of my face and say “I love you” to everyone important to me.  I may not quite be there yet, but I am figuring out how I work with others.  The most important thing has been to figure out me.  It’s something that I have known all along — something that has always been inside me.  I know that when I am anxious I bite my nails; that February is the hardest month of the year for me; that I have really flexible knees and hips; that when I love someone I will love them with every angle of my body.  I will let them into spaces that I didn’t know existed —  I will feel them inching along my crooked chest and I’ll smile a little.  I’m coming to accept the way my mouth doesn’t like to sit quite parallel with my chin.  And even more, I am coming to accept the fact that others accept this fact.  Indeed, maybe this makes my face a little more unique.  Maybe it makes me mysterious and readable all at the same time.

It’s been a year that I have seen L, almost. I am trying very hard not to exalt her, but she has pretty much been nothing short of heroic: she has taught me that not only can I save myself, but that I can let other humans slide into my life and curl up there.  I can let others settle into my life and stay a while.  Or maybe even forever.  I have a gratitude for L that I have had for few others in my twenty years.  I don’t know how she does it, to be honest. But the last 12 months have shown me how beautifully capable I am of connecting with another person.  It’s such a simple act, really, but also difficult, at times.  Coming to love myself has helped the most.  As I am about to start my senior year of college, I’m looking back at where I was one year ago, two years; three years.  I have been lost, wild, isolated, crazy, sad, confused.  But most of all, I have been growing. I have begun to let people burrow deeper into my life.

Yesterday I asked L why I deserve to be loved and cared for and thought of.  She responded by saying that, by virtue of being human, I deserve love. We all do.  Every single being on this earth is equally deserving of love, affection, warmth, and connection.  It is a simple but powerful answer.  Sometimes I catch myself out of the corner of my eye — I see my cheek in a furniture store window; I feel suddenly exposed and unmasked.  Usually, I am not sure what to think.  Most often I say something about how hideous that cheek is, how un-centered and pockmarked and off-color it is.  I am not sure that I will ever entirely leave this way of seeing myself behind.  But I am clear about one thing: I want to be loved more than anything else in the world, and, hideous cheek or not, other people want to love me.  Not in a greedy, silly, childish way.  But deeply and clearly and smoothly.  This kind of love can come from all sorts of places.  I can name maybe 8 or 10 people right now for whom I feel this.

But there is also another kind of love as well.  It’s all this but also more intimate.  When I started seeing L, about this time last year (beginning of September), I felt very alone.  Alone is not a happy place to be.  I believe that much of my unhappiness has come from this loneliness.  I can’t even describe how thrilling it is to hear a friend’s voice on the phone or to hug someone after not seeing him or her for three months.   That’s happiness.  A year ago I did not believe it was possible to carve a small crack in my being and let another person in.  I could not fathom the crack, even from a distance.

Well, there’s a crack now.  A small one.  But it’s there.  It may not get any bigger with this particular connection, this person.  But I have reached a turning-point because I now understand the possibility of the crack.

I met a beautiful, sweet man two weeks ago in the park.  He sort of fell into my lap.  I feel vulnerable and nervous. Alternately pretty/unique and bizarre/disproportionate.  I have been doing a lot of rethinking of my body.

I like him a lot. I feel like I don’t deserve this.  Then I feel mad at myself for feeling like I don’t deserve it.  Silly, really.  The thing is, so far, he is making me very, very happy.  When he touches my arm or my shoulder or my chin, I am so very proud of myself for letting this happen.  I am being brave and open and exposed in new ways.

What do people mean?  What is it to let someone into your life?  How do you know who to let in?  How do you know they won’t break your heart?

The answer is that you don’t know precisely who to let in and how and whether or not they will hurt you.  But it will be right and beautiful and soft.

I want to go back to my 17 year old self and hold her and rock her in my arms and let her know that she will love and be loved.  It will not be easy but it will be happy.

I don’t know how long this particular connection will last; dating and relationships are scary things.  I think I have gone on dates with two other boys this year; both fizzled out.  I hardly consider making out in a club romantic.  So I am not writing this to say that I have met a man and my life is different and perfect and everything has been fixed.  Not at all.  What I’m saying is that I understand the crevice — the opening in me where others might step in and offer me their love.

Okay.  That was a little bit intense.  But my feelings are intense right now.  I’m processing and sorting and figuring it all out.  I’m pretty sure I’ll always be figuring it all out, even when I’m 101.  The point here is that this last year has been monumental for me.  I understand myself better.  I understand how important my friends and family are.  And I can see the possibility of romantic love.

Thoughts?  How have you let love into your life lately?  What does it feel like, for you?

I promise I will be less intense and serious tomorrow.  🙂  Love and people and connections=happy Caronae.  Happy mental self, happy physical self, happy Caronae.

BoysEatingTherapyWorkouts

Today’s Happy Note: Flirting with a British guy at the grocery store…

Boys

I don’t know if my Happy Note has ever involved a boy.  But male specimens have been flying around in my life like crazy lately!  I don’t know where they’re coming from.  Well, I do: the library, the gym, the specialty market.  I suppose they have always been there.  But now I’m noticing them.  And they’re noticing me.  And this is all so strange and new and, well, a little bit wonderful, for me.  It’s sort of a little self-confidence feedback loop: as I have become more and more confident in my abilities, my personality, and my body, I think other people notice that confidence. Feeling loved and sought out then reinforces the confidence, etc., etc.

I will NEVER base my self-worth off of men.  I am my own woman, my own beauty, my own happiness.  But having others involved in my life is a beautiful, fulfilling thing.  Relationships — of all varieties — are a component of happiness and self-fulfillment.

I am not sure if all this flirtation (interaction? fun?) means anything or will lead to anything.  But I honestly regret not introducing myself to the man at the store.  He truly seemed wonderful, and it couldn’t have hurt to say my name.  I rarely get that sensation in my gut like “I should have done something differently.”  I did this evening.  But I can’t go back and talk to him now, can I?  I’m pretty sure he’s gone by now. 🙂

Eating

I definitely was emotionally snacking this evening.  I sort of got onto a weird eating schedule today and ended up being hungry at 10:00.  Once I have one snack in the evening, I can never have just one.  Does anyone else have this issue?  I am still in the process of observing my eating habits, emotions, rhythms, and associations. I am not getting angry at myself at this point.  More and more, I am beginning to realize that I deserve the best: I deserve to feel happy in my mind and body and to treat myself with love and care and kindness and respect.  I know this sounds all soft and new age-y, but it is what I am thinking about a lot lately.  In the past few months, I have felt like I have actually begun thinking about and repairing my relationship with food.  The funny thing is that I’m probably at my highest weight ever right now.

A big realization in this process has been that hunger is not a character flaw. Food is not the enemy.  Wanting to eat does not indicate some horrific problem in my body or in my heart.  I haven’t had a chance to talk about this with L much, but do plan to soon.  We have talked ever so slightly about my body image and general eating concerns, but that just isn’t an area we have explored yet.  I am anxious to do so.  Our weekly hour-long sessions never seem long enough!

I think this is a good segue into some vague therapy thoughts…

Therapy

As I said last week, my relationship with L and my thoughts about the process of therapy are changing.  This is okay.  Thanks for all your sweet thoughts on this — I was a little nervous that people wouldn’t want to read if I changed the content of my therapy posts.  But I need to do what I am comfortable with and what is right for my mental health at the moment.  I still struggle with depression and anxiety, daily.

So I am not entirely sure of the direction my therapy posts will go on at the moment.  I still write detailed thoughts in my journal.  I might share all or some of those thoughts on the blog, or some days, none.  I might just talk about the process, or something tangential, or simply verbalize some questions.

All I know is that my relationship with L has undergone a subtle but powerful, sudden shift over the summer.  It is now painfully intimate.  Lovely, raw, tender, delicate.  Different.

It’s funny how sometimes my biggest revelations in therapy aren’t necessarily related directly to what we talk about. Sometimes the breakthroughs come from connecting things in new ways, or from writing about it afterwards.  This week we talked a lot about stressors and money and the little things that tend to build up and make me crazy.  Not in a structured way at all — our sessions are terribly unstructured, and I like it that way.  I like that she never says things like “tell me a list of things that stress you out, and how those things make you feel.”  It is so much more organic than that.  That’s part of the beauty of it.  It is simply, on one level, a deep conversation between two people — an open wound.

The revelation this week was that I am capable of relating to and empathizing with people. And, therefore, I am capable of growing and sustaining satisfying friendships, relationships, etc.  I need not judge others — or myself — on their feelings.  I can be calm and gentle with others.  I can open up to them (even if it takes some time).  This ties back to what I said about food earlier; I deserve love, caring, affection.  From myself and those around me.  In fact, I deserve it so much that I can (and should) be an active participant in the development of relationships in my life.  In the last year, as I have come to understand myself better,  I have also begun understanding others.  And the ways in which we relate.

Sometimes, my relationships with other people hurt.  And other times they are very, very soothing and right.

I loved how our dialog went back and forth this week.  I love learning new things about L; it is important for me in terms of my ability to open up to her.  She told me a lot about her career trajectory, especially in her 20s, yesterday.  This was helpful to me both in terms of figuring out how the next few years of my own life might look and in terms of understanding and relating to her better.  She got married when she was 22 and divorced at 40.  I can’t imagine being married so young.  I almost didn’t believe her.  I don’t think that uncovering bits and pieces of her life is unproductive to my therapy at all.  Many psychotherapists and mental health professionals thing it is.  But I don’t.  It might be hard for her to sustain several of these intimate relationships, but, first of all, I know that not every patient is as interested in knowing her and, secondly, I get so much more out of it when I have this verbal, emotional dance with her.

Random but important thoughts.  That’s all for this week, I think.

Workouts

Yesterday I did four miles easy, with 5×100 meter strides thrown in, and 45 minutes full body strength training.  Today I did seven miles with hills.  Marathon training=hungry Caronae.  I will admit, I have a lot of anxiety about losing weight while training.  I might need to come up with some more specific goals and plans.  We shall see.

Goodnight friends!  Have I ever mentioned how wonderful you all are?  Seriously, every comment warms my heart.  Blogging has led me to such wonderful friends.  Even if you just stop by to read for a few minutes, I know you’re there, and it makes me feel so happy and connected.

Happy Friday!

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