Monday, December 5, 2016

Thank you 2016.

I guess to start I need to apologize for my absence. A lot has happened over the past while and so much has changed. When I began writing this blog, I wanted to expose my eating disorder. I never wanted my presence in triathlon to be mistaken for anything other than what it was; a sick girl who used her love of triathlon to train both her mind and her body. Sometimes she abused this love when life became difficult. However, she felt she could always turn to her sport when she needed an outlet, and used it to explain to others the difficulties presented to individuals overcoming an eating disorder.

Today, I went on a long run. My Garmin battery died, but truthfully I had stopped looking at my pace long before it died. Sunday, at least for the past few weeks, has been my hard run day. But not this week. I could try and explain why I didn’t run above threshold today. Maybe it was the late nights this week? Maybe it was fatigue? Or maybe it was my lack of motivation? Whatever the cause, I listened to my body. And you know what? I don’t regret it. It was an absolute treasure of a run. Filled with little adventures along a path I have run many days prior; but one that never grows old. Afterwards, I was supposed to swim. Well, in truth I meant to swim at 6am. But again for whatever reason, I slept in today. I rescheduled the swim to 11am, and then to 3pm. I can’t say I always have or always will have, the luxury of a flexible schedule. But while I do; I will take full advantage of it. I know there will come a day when I won’t have this flexibility. I know there will be workouts where I will need to swim/bike/run past my limits. I know there will be days when I am exhausted, and will still have to hustle.  But not today. Today, I am taking that step back and re-filling the tank.

Over this past year, I’ve learned to accept the downtime as a necessity. How can I give when I never take? How can I push hard if I’ve exhausted all of my energy? There are many right now who are knee deep in work, knee deep in hard sessions, and knee deep in emotionally draining situations; but I am not one of them. I feel a bit strange, almost a lack of accomplishment if I’m not the one who is working the longest hours, pushing themselves far beyond their manageable limit. This year and this new phase in my training has taught me to accept that it is ok to not be on the verge of breaking all of the time. Pushing yourself to your breaking point is not always commendable, just as holding yourself back is not always commendable. It is the timing of these actions. Periodization is not only something to be desired if you want to work optimally at specific moments; periodization is required.

I guess this blog post is proof of just how effective ED recovery can be if you allow it to be. This journey goes well beyond maintaining a specific weight. I think if I’m being honest, this whole process of losing myself (both figuratively and literally) and finding my way “back to health”, has been more than just getting back to physical health. This journey has been about coming to a field where both peace and acceptance grow wild and forming my own path. The longer I walk this path, the more I begin to realize that this journey will never be just about my physical body. Along this journey, I’ve also come to see that the more fuel I give to the fire that heats my life with passion, love, and acceptance; the less the expectations that society places on me seem to matter. The less attention I give to pleasing others, to moulding myself into what I think others will perceive as “perfection” or “wonderful” or “intelligent”, the more I feel whole. So much of my disorder came from a lack of control. My fears came from traumatic experiences and realizing I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to be. Most of all, this disorder grew out of a lack of acceptance; both of myself and my circumstances. My life may have deviated from the path I though I saw myself walking, but that never meant that I could not walk in another direction.

I read a really great quote the other day from TLC’s: What NOT To Wear host Stacy London. She said, “At 47, I’m finding my trouser pockets are filled with fewer and fewer f**ks”. I feel nothing could be closer to my truth. The less I care about what others believe to be true about my life, the more I am able to live my own life. Nothing has made me happier than to live my life how I see fit. I think so often people feel committed to holding onto labels and roles. External pressures feel so overpowering and we accept these pressures as truth, regardless of whether or not they are our truth. We are in no way obligated to be the same people we were five minutes ago; nor are we obligated to live our lives for other people. I say, give yourself the freedom and the love to grow into the person you desire to be. Giving your time and energy into someone else’s dream is draining, and eventually that drain will empty you completely.

Let me throw out an analogy. You are going to a dinner party, and the host asks you to bring homemade bread. However, you have no flour. Now let’s substitute money for acceptance, the flour as self-love and the bread as being the love you can express to others. To bring positive energy and show love for others, you have to first love yourself. But the only way to even start loving who you are is accepting yourself in the present moment and accepting your past decisions. Acceptance does not mean repetition; it means acceptance. Rejecting our authentic self and playing roles we never desired to play does not foster self-love and it certainly doesn’t foster self-acceptance. Instead, it fosters a false sense of acceptance and burdens us with heavy layers. Layers which we feel must be maintained for fear of exposing our naked and authentic self.

This brings me to me next topic: self-love. Self-deprecating humour is always my go-to humour, especially when I feel uncomfortable or quite simply because I never take myself too seriously. However, I have come to realize that there is a line that divides self-deprecation and self-loathing, and I dare not cross it again.  I view my body like I view my family. I don’t always have to like them, but I will always love them. Always. Similarly, I will always love myself. I have softer edges, less-than-smooth skin, weird fingers and toes and I would love to be better in every discipline I train. I have yet to be the most intelligent person in a room, and I take far too long to understand academic questions. I also talk; a lot, and I really don’t like my voice. I make really weird faces. Speaking of my face, I can’t play poker effectively to save my life. But with all of these self-described “flaws”, I know these things are what I am. I am perfectly imperfect, and that is just how it needs to be. I don’t need to be perfect to deserve a rest or deserve to have fun. I don’t need to be anything other than myself to deserve my own love. As long as I am striving to be compassionate, empathetic and kind; I do not see any other conditions from which self-love should stem. I have yet to find another realization more freeing.

This leads me to my last message. I am finally free. After so much searching, I have found the key to freeing myself from the prison I was in. I have come to realize that there is no key, nor was there ever a key. I could always get up and leave the self-imposed prison, and I will always be free to leave that prison at anytime if I find myself back in that cell. That doesn’t mean that leaving this prison was or ever will be close to easy. In fact, it is really f**king hard. If I’m being honest, I doubt there will ever be another experience more taxing on the mind or the body. I can’t say I don’t struggle some days to free myself of my own chains. However, I am so lucky to have the support that I do. People who remind me to look for the best in others and myself. In heart-wrenching moments, these people remind me to look for the the lessons beneath all of the negative emotions. Pain, anger, and sadness are heavy memories to carry. But hope, happiness, and love; these are light memories. Lessons learned will always be lighter weights to carry through life than the pain which might have originally packaged them.

Thank you, for following along. I’m not advocating that my life or my recovery is how all recovery is, should be or needs to be. I am only shining light upon one story; my story. I hope if you’re struggling, my story has helped you to realize that you are not the only one and you are not alone. This will be my last post; at least for a long while. I don’t know where I’m going to go from here. Perhaps I’ll continue with academia or maybe I will grow further in the sport of triathlon. Perhaps I will stop both or maybe I will come back to this place of writing about life and finding funny gifs. But no matter where I go, I know that I am always growing and that I cannot give to others if I never allow myself to receive. I need to love myself before I begin to love anyone else. From this place of peace and acceptance, happiness and love can grow. So, in a super long-winded way (some things never change), I want to say I wish you peace and love, and remind you that you are never alone. I will still have my Instagram and my Twitter; feel free to follow or reach out if you ever find you are struggling, feeling alone or need someone to talk to.

Before I sign of, please remember:



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ten things they didn't tell me at "Intro-to-triathlon"

Today I thought I'd put an end to my post-ghosting. Although it might not seem like it, (or maybe it does seem like it because of my marginal online presence?) I've been buried under the busy-ness that is my life. However, I thought I'd share this post (albeit for selfish reasons) as it forces me to come face-to-face with my own realizations, solidifying their truth. Maybe you'll relate to some of these thoughts?

This weekend is the Canadian Nationals for Olympic Distance Triathlon. While I was reminiscing on my own experiences and "getting all nostalgic", I realized that this summer marks my fourth summer since I took up  the sport of triathlon. I originally became involved in the triathlon via the "UWO Triathlon Club" in October of 2012. Obviously triathlon was a natural progression... lol. I had never run farther than 7km with a 5km PR of 25 minutes. I never did high school XC or track. Cycling..let's just say I had to re-teach myself how to ride a bike at age 20 and swimming? Unless it was synchro, I really had no technique, which is actually pretty impressive that I could even paddle myself forward. My swim speed you ask? My best 400 time from my synchro days was a 5:45, which for a person who swam 15hours a week..yikes! But I digress.

Holy crow it is now 2016 and so much has changed! I have two thoughts. 1) It's 2016 2) It's 2016?! So where did this time go? The time has flown by, and yet it has been filled with the most outrageous and outrageously awesome experiences.

I have been in the "triathlon-sphere" for half the time I spent training in synchronized swimming (synchro)... and that makes me feel so weird. Why? Well, because in both sports I've come to learn that podiums do not come to those who only work hard. There needs to be a component of luck, raw/natural talent and of course, honest work ethic. Not to say that these facts couldn't be true for myself one day. However, this statement holds true for almost every sport. Anyways, I just need to take my own advice. So, let's jump into this post!

Ten things I'd tell myself on my first day of UWO Triathlon Club practice

1) Work smart, not hard. Sometimes, this will mean not working at all. Rest = rest. Feeling guilty about resting as you are "resting" is not rest. So take the time to give yourself good sleep, mental breaks, and easy days. You'll need them.  Oh, it's also good to note that Fast = "all you can do is suck air" hard. Slow = "snails on a hot day will pass you" slow. And tempo?... Well... Tempo = some weird in between.. but closer to fast... basically it is a hard effort, just not so hard you can't deal with "The Hurt". Oh, you've met "The Hurt"? lol. Get ready for "The Hurt: A Triathlon Beast".

2) Racing is not for the faint of heart. It's really hard. Find your reason for starting to race. This needs to be an intrinsic reason, a reason that remains true even when you lose, even when you suck and even when nobody else believes you should be there at all. When you find that reason, hold onto it. It will get you through many of the sh***y obstacles you will inevitably face.

3) Everyone has opinions. The most important one is yours. There will always be those people who can tell you otherwise. Feel free not to listen to those people. Actually, don't listen to them. They will have their opinions regardless of what you choose to do. You succeed? It's because of their opinion. You fail? It's because you didn't understand their opinion. In short; you do you.

4) On that note of failure? Yeah, you're about to fail, a lot. However, if you don't fail, you'll never grow. You'll never feel that burning anger or the passion to fix what is broken. So go ahead and do all sorts of new things, try new sports and learn new skills. In fact, go find out what you suck at the most and do those things. Challenge yourself. You'll be surprised at how much you will grow.

5) Group riding is a great analogy for interpersonal relationships. Do not believe someone based on what they tell you they do. Instead, place trust in their actions. Furthermore, trust is only gained when you are consistently trustworthy. Communicate with people.. and don't be afraid to let people know they acting kind of sucky. Don't cut people off, it really only makes you look bad. At the end of the day, you can really only control your own actions. Bad things will inevitably happen. It's all about how you respond to what inevitably happens. Oh, and never let a crash keep you from riding. Sometimes you'll need a little TLC, but always get back on the saddle.

6) Trust yourself. If it looks like a snake, slithers like a snake, and sounds like a snake; it probably is a snake; so do not ignore your gut feelings. Trust your instincts. You know when something is truly not working for your body. Work hard through each practice, but listen to your body. Are you just tired, or is that niggle something more serious? You'll be amazed at how often your instincts are actually right (when you are able to remove your emotional attachments to specific outcomes).

7) Coaching; this one is tricky. Choose a coach who works with you, not for you. You also may not want a coach who believes you work for them. Really take the time to get to know your coach. Most likely you will need them to be your coach, your friend, your funny Uncle Fred and your loving Aunt Jane. They'll probably be your sports psychologist, who will know all your performance numbers and ticks.  Oh, and they will also have to be a hard ass..and you won't like them very much when they are.

Most importantly, your coach must be someone you can trust. Compliance with training methods is critical to goal achievement. If you aren't compliant, you and your coach must work together to figure out why that is; and if you're getting blamed for non-compliance, rather than figuring out the true issue, then it probably isn't the best coach-athlete fit. They must have your best interests at heart, even if your goals aren't all sports related. Coaches need to be more than coaches. They can't just hear you, they have to listen and pay attention to what you aren't saying as well; and that's what makes their role so incredibly tough. So give them some slack, because you will both make mistakes. But going back to 6) trust yourself. At the end of the day, nobody knows you better than you.. and your coach should know that.

8) Through this sport, you're going to meet some freaking cool people. Before you do, make sure you shower... or at least clean up a bit. And please, at least try and act natural?

9) "You are you. That's true-er than true. There is no one alive that is you-er than you!"- Dr. Seuss. While he might not have actually been a practicing MD, Dr. Seuss was onto something. Focus on you, because what works for someone else will not always work for you. Your training plan must be unique, to you. This also sort of relates to 7). Pick a coach willing to work with you. Someone who empathizes with you and your frustrations . You need someone who is willing to look at the puzzle pieces with you and find the correct pieces for your specific puzzle. Yes, group training is great. But perhaps not everyone in your group has the same training requirements as you. Furthermore, their goals may be completely different than yours, aimed at a completely different pool of competition! You need to focus on you and your own numbers. It's great to be competitive and it is great to train with others. But keep in mind the goals of your session. If your training partner is way faster than you on a hard day, and you find you're having to really stretch the compromise on time or distance just to keep with them, then maybe that session should be done without said training partner. One more thing. Keep in mind that the excuse of "individual training session goals" can easily become a crutch, a way to get lazy and slack off. It is also an easy way out of truly going after the win.. which leads me to number 10.

10) Believe in yourself. There will always be those people you seek validation from, and they will never give it to you. There will also be people who tell you to lower your expectations, set your big goals lower or inform you that you're a dreamer who is unrealistic.. and perhaps to some degree they are right. It is important to set achievable goals. However those "achievable goals" are en route to a bigger goal. Know your own personal "big" goals inside and out. Don't be afraid to go after them and don't be afraid to fail. Again, see point 2), you'll learn a lot from these failures. Failing is not what will define you. Failing to do things, simply because you are afraid to fail? Now that will define you.

So go out and hop on the triathlon train. You're about to experience some of the greatest highs and crashing lows. But, it will be the best ride you've hopped on in a long time. You my friend, are in for one helluva ride!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Progress, Process..& Bugs

I don't know about you, but I am all about this sunshine weather!! Final exams could not have finished any sooner, but I wouldn't have been upset if they did. Four tough exams, one week filled with sunshine, I was sicker than a sick dog, feeling "the tired", and was a few short steps away from declaring myself a caffeine addict.

Since my last post, I don't really have much to update on, and so "Short and Sweet" is the name of the game today!! Finally, I was able to get out for a good ride with some hill reps. Sure, today wasn't the stellar sunshine we've had this past week, but I was outside and loving my life!

I wouldn't say I've made any huge leaps and bounds when it comes to progressing as an athlete this past little while... truthfully,  don't think I've done much "progressing" (at least time-wise) at all. At least, not when it comes to putting together the progress when it truly counts. PRs that I set long ago have yet to be broken, and consistency seems to be my go-to label. Consistently...the same?

Anyways, enough with pity parties.  I did these hill reps today. For this story (and perhaps my lack of memory during hard efforts to simply look at my watch) I don't know exact times, but I do know the effort! I did the reps.. in the BIG RING. Wahoo!! One thing I made a point of training specifically this winter is my upper threshold, and hitting those "big watts" and being comfortable being uncomfortable. Hitting those watts, time and time again, and then recovering while still working, only to go hard again. To do these reps today and hitting those higher ranges in my big ring was a bit of a confidence booster. Not to say I'm going anywhere fast any time soon; but rather to see some improvement in what seems like an ocean of mediocrity along a beach that never changes. I don't actually remember if I've done this before.. but the fact that I can't remember is probably a sign of a) I've haven't or b) it went so poorly, I gave myself amnesia. The feeling of achieving at least ONE goal, is a good feeling. Nothing to get too excited about, but I wouldn't disregard a good confidence boost either. So, cheers to that folks!

On a lesser note; if anyone follows my twitter account, this was my post from the other day:

iPhone status update: Oatmeal is a great breakfast food. It is less-good at saving phones. I now have a wet phone... with wet oatmeal inside.

I also ate a bug today. So cheers to accidental mid ride protein snacks! (*Note to self: close mouth sooner-rather-than-later during hard reps)

Happy days!


Monday, April 4, 2016

"Checking in" on "Checking out"


The above is what I've managed to write over these past few months. Okay so I've written actual words. Truth be told, I've written 4-5 drafts and they are all just sitting in my Drafts folder. Why haven't I published them? Well, to be honest (let's be real, when have I not been?), I just didn't. Ego plays a big part in it. Shame from feeling like failure at all things triathlon, and life. But life also played a role too. Things have been really busy and new challenges took priority over old habits. Change is a good thing, and I've seen a lot of it. But change is also really terrifying.. and I've felt a lot of that. 

"So Meg, what's the deal? Are you done with triathlon?" No one has actually directly asked me this question, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't something that's crossed my mind this past year. Why not just check out? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind. It's been 4 months...since the last 4 months of not blogging. Definitely need to get everyone up to speed on a few updates, and perhaps hash through a few unresolved thoughts.

I began training with a new coach a few weeks prior to ITU Puerto Rico in the fall. The change was really great, and the new training brought back fun without external pressures looming over me. If I performed poorly in a session, my training partners were really supportive and nothing really came of the negative feelings. The good sessions weren't a focus, but they weren't ignored either. Still, it was pretty clear the past season and lack of a true "off-season" had taken its toll on me. I'm glad I went to race in Puerto Rico, otherwise I would have wondered "what if". But in a gif, ITU Puerto Rico went a lot like this:
...minus the great hair and rain.
Needless to say, I was gutted. I'd spent both money and time on what was a major flop. But alternatively, it was a bit of my own doing. I let myself go into a tough race, completely burnt out and with cracked confidence that had not quite yet healed. I remember calling my Mum and saying something like "..and all I got was this stupid pillowcase and a sunburn!"... end quote. 

Lesson #1: Only start races when you're ready; mentally and physically.

After Puerto Rico, I told my coach I needed down time ASAP. Two weeks of no training, one week of unstructured training and then a slow build back to fitness. The rest of 2015 was pretty relaxed training-wise.

Then.. BAM! 2016.
School got crazy, and so did work. Training volume ramped up. I got my wisdom teeth out over Xmas break, my car died (RIP "Loser Cruiser"). I taught swimming lessons, worked at the store, and came to a few conclusions about my future and where I wanted to go with my education. I didn't race or travel to Florida because of the craziness going on this year.. I am also not a fan of 85% finals. I realized my plate was very, very full. Even before the New Year, I was sub-par when it came to social media (refer to previous blog dates...) and when due dates for sponsorship applications starting rolling through, I just could not commit to the teams to the extent that I needed to. I felt, and still feel, very grateful to all those who have supported me in the past, and I will forever be happy that I was able to represent those brands/teams. However, I couldn't give back as much as I was taking, and that just wasn't fair. To boot, there is so much great talent out there right now! All of whom could really use the support. Why would I try to hold a position that I feel could be held by someone that would truly excel given the opportunity? In a nutshell, that's why I chose to be more under the radar this year. My attention was needed elsewhere, and I couldn't give enough time to each sponsor, so I really had to narrow my focus when it came to sponsorship.  

Lesson #2: Only take on what you can handle. 

A few months have gone by since Xmas Break. School is ridiculous, so thankfully work has wound down a bit these past few weeks. But the "struggle-juggle" of training build up and school is real, and I've had more than enough meltdowns to count on two hands. 

That being said, I saw another another curveball come my way. Well actually, it was more like a curveball came around and smacked me upside the head. My new coach could not longer coach me and I couldn't continue with his training as "distance coaching".  This style of coaching works great for some people, I'm not one of them. I had learned what I needed from a coach and my coach couldn't successfully meet those requirements any longer. The update? At the present moment, I am coach-less. But that doesn't mean I'm without support. I'm in Guelph for crying out loud; The Boulder, CO of Canada!

Lesson #3: Life is scary. Period.

Life can feel a lot like a toaster. You get a bit burned, you think you're making a great decision moving forward, you get burned again, you think you're making a great decision moving forward, you get burned again and you say "Screw it, I'm done with toast. I'm having cereal!"

Okay so maybe it doesn't quite go down like that.... I mean it would be really great if we could just start over, but we can't. We take what comes our way, we process it, and then we move forward. That's the stage I'm at: moving forward. I'm just starting into my final exams and because of all of the curveballs that have come my way, my race schedule is a bit up in the air. I've got the emotional stability of a three year old dealing with both self-imposed and true stress, and I would rather not talk about Around the Bay 5km... but I will. 

It was bad, and I wasn't where I expected or wanted to be time-wise. Everyone has excuses for a bad race. I won't talk about mine, at least not today. I'd rather talk about the positive things going on instead. A lot of people seem to talk about the good things going on or the "moving forward" plans, and very little on the less-than-great details. Me? I don't think I have that set-up when it comes to disclosing details on my life. After reading my previous posts, you'd almost think nothing goes well. So, let's look back on the lessons I have reeeeally stretched my neck out to see from the past few months, and look forward to the positive things happening right now. 

Lesson #1: Only start races when you're ready; mentally and physically.
Lesson #2: Only take on what you can handle. 
Lesson #3: Life is scary. Period.

Apparently, I didn't keep with "Lesson #1" seeing as I started at ATB 5km... but you know what? I was fit, and I did belong there. I just sucked instead. So.. let's just check that lesson as "pending".

Lesson #2 is a bit tricky to define as "learned", perhaps we'll say it is something I've "simply taken note of". This semester I've taken on far too much for it to all be sustainable. However, I took on this heavy load, knowing it would be heavy stress-load and it would be difficult to coordinate many schedules. But I did this, knowing that it would help me out in the coming year. If I want to graduate in the fall, apply to a post-graduate program and hopefully experience substantially less stress in the 2016 Fall/Winter, I've got to make this work.

**A few people have told me I'm an "old soul" or "wise beyond my years"; feel free to call me Yoda. However, that doesn't mean I'm not human and don't have people or things that get under my skin. So, cue my "Taylor-Swift-Age" rant:

 To anyone whose ever told someone "Oh, that situation is not that bad. I've done that before, it was easy! Or my personal favourite "You're so lucky because its just ___, I had to do _____." after you've just been told how difficult something is for someone and how the other person feels like their insides are crying or how the other person is so mentally drained... you kind of suck. A lot.  End rant.**

Look, I get it. We can't all show up for everyone all of the time. It's really hard to show up sometimes. I'm 100% guilty of this too! It is so much easier to suck than it is to be a stand up individual! It can be hard to give sympathy when you are under stress yourself. Let me help you out though; people rarely need sympathy. What they need is empathy; always. It is a hell of a lot harder to engage in empathy than to provide a snarky response; especially when your own life is a whole bunch of crazy. Luckily, I've been super fortunate to have more people who have been able to help me and empathize with me this past while than those providing less-than-helpful responses. Those people willing to help me out, offer support, and basically just be all around stand up people. Those individuals willing to cover work shifts when I've been overwhelmed with school or double-booked, who have helped me get into new training groups, and even those people who just let me give them a call and incoherently try and explain the accumulation of marginal concerns causing major stress in my life. To you I say a really big thank you. 

So what about "Lesson #3: Life is scary. Period."? Sometimes, you get dished a whole pile of poop. You can take it as garbage or you can use it to plant a tree. That tree will grow, most likely into a lemon tree ('cause life thinks its hilarious). You know what you're going to do? Laugh with life as you pick those sh**ty lemons, and use them to make some lemonade.  I like to use triathlon training as an analogy for life as a whole. My training has seen a lot of bumps in the road, and so has my life. But, I've just got to keep moving forward, both with my training and with my life. When I fall off the rails, I pause. I figure out the aches and the pains. I then re-adjust myself and I continue to move forward. 

Last point, this is honestly the only thing I have left to write. I don't know where I belong in this sport, I really don't. There are so many reasons staring me in the face (literally and figuratively), as reasons why I should "just quit". But whenever someone tells me quit, I always say no. I don't even really understand why I say no. I've thought about saying yes to quitting a million times over, but I have never believed it. I've gone through two coaches, I've gotten faster and slower and slower again. I've yet to achieve major goals I've written for myself and I don't know if I ever will. I cry a lot over my failures, and I beat myself up over silly mistakes; and I keep moving forward with this wild life of mine. 


Because I love a challenge, and because the process is a hell of a lot of fun. Process process process. Tell me I can't and I will show you I can. Maybe not today, likely not tomorrow and probably not next week. But I will get the last word, and it will be "success".

Until next time, I suggest you watch this.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The good, the bad & the beautiful

So it's been a while. A part of me wishes I could say this was a race recap, but that's going to have to wait. Today, I feel there are more important topics to talk about.

When you meet an individual who has reached a certain level of success, I don't know about you, but  I oftentimes fan-out.

After meeting this person and asking how they got to where they are, don't you find that the people who came from nothing, the people who struggled, the people who lost themselves and found themselves again; aren't they the most interesting people? Aren't they the people you want to listen to?

Recently, I read this really awesome blog post where the blogger talked about recovery and how we so often glaze over the nitty-gritty details to the much-anticipated happy ending. Maybe I'm alone here or maybe this blogger really wasn't far off the mark. But regardless of whether I'm in a minority or a majority,  I far too often glaze over the difficult chapters. The chapters riddled with struggle, sadness and are quite simply just one hot mess situation after another. Did anyone read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? The WHOLE book? I've got a confession... I skipped chapters 5-8. As for the Twilight Saga? I skipped Jacob's point of view. Anyone ever re-watched your favourite chick flick and found yourself fast forwarding to the cliché ending where "they all lived happily ever after"? I have, often.

Ok, so you get the point. I'm just blabbering on, aiming to achieve what could be a great prologue to this blog post and hopefully an even greater epilogue. But that's not reality. I was reading over my as a whole the other day and I think this summer I got so caught up in trying to be "normal" and "recovered" that I began to hide some of the not-so-good days. This hiding turned to shame, shame turned to more shame and eventually it all became a really great story where the struggling girl finds herself, overcomes adversity and lives happily ever after. The end. But there is a reason this is a great fairytale plot; it doesn't happen this way in real life. My story, and the majority of peoples' stories are not linear regressions when it comes to happiness or "lack of stress" over their lifetime. That is why fairytales are classified as fiction.

Between every beginning and every ending; there are positive and negative chapters. The details and the sections that aren't easy, they are what truly define the ending; be it good or bad. The ending, well if you're reading this post then you aren't there yet. Our story, it's not over. In real life, I bet you Snow White probably burned a few dinners for Prince Charming, and Prince Charming never did fix the broken hinge on the door. Their house probably got messy once they had children; or perhaps they were unable to have children. My point? Their story wasn't over after "happily every ever".  There was more, and it was most certainly not perfect.

As another example: do you learn numbers and then skip to algebra? No. You learn addition and subtraction and a whole lot of other stuff too! Right now, I need to back-track; to reflect on the "whole lot of other stuff". I've found writing for this blog usually begins with me hoping better other peoples' ideas of what it is like to live with sub-par mental health. I try to open discussions regarding not only mental health, but how to be better versions of ourselves; whatever the definition of "better" is. But somewhere between transparency and fear, I've found that as I begin to write, the shame attached to my errors and flaws slowly fade. I become a little bit better.

I actually wrote this the other day; it was what I classify as an ''ED day''. So, here we go. A whole lot of transparency and a whole lot of fear ...

"My ED screams that I'm just writing this blog as a cry for attention. That the only success I could strive for in my short life would be a "desperate attempt" at moving past this pattern of severe self-deprivation followed by self-gratification. This is only to then be followed by severe self-loathing and incredibly harsh critiques, which are then followed by a self-appreciation phase and an attempt at self-love. This is all then followed by self-deprivation and the pattern continues. I don't even understand this pattern. How did I get here? Truthfully, I know exactly the circumstances that led me here, but why do I stay here?

That's the million dollar question. Sort of comparable to the question of "what causes Disease X". If we knew the answer to that question, we could cure an entire clinical population. I've got so many motivational factors that could and should propel me forward, past this point. My roommates are the best people I could ask to live with and are great friends. The friends that I don't live with are funny, kind & understanding when it comes to my complex schedule. I'm far too fortunate to have the loving and supportive family that I do. I've got fantastic support systems in place, I just have to reach out and ask for help. I have food and a comfortable home. I love my jobs and I'm obsessed with my school work. I've got a kitten who makes me smile everyday and I've got an ocean of opportunity in front of me; all I have to do is direct my sails to where I want to go. But instead, I'm stuck in the same place; a place I've been so many times before. It creates feelings of frustration and self-hatred. The kind where it takes everything you've got to not just call it a day and hide under your blankets for what could be for there rest of what feels like such a mediocre life."

So, today I thought I would try to begin unpacking the question "but why do I stay here". Perhaps it will help you pick apart difficult constructs you've made for yourself or at the very least, open your eyes to a situation far from your own.

Let's first rewind. I used to believe everyone had it together but me. Sometimes, I think I still do. Some people more, some people less; but all are more put together than me. I'm constantly trying to remind myself that I am comparing other people's edited novels to my unpublished and unedited piece of work. Put another way, we all are just lost and are wandering around aimlessly until we find the puzzle pieces that form the picture of who we want to be. It just seems everyone else is a lot better at finding their puzzle pieces. But, let's go back further. For a lack of a better term, let's "psychoanalyze" this construct I've acquired and sporadically maintained throughout my life.

During elementary school and even high school, I was always told that I was "different than the other kids", from both my peers and older adults; "..and then there's Meghan" was a common phrase I was told. I never really settled into a single category or "clique", I was always walking off-the-beaten-path. Was this a good thing for me? I don't know. By no means was I alone, but I won't say that I necessarily "fit in" either.

In elementary school, when other kids were telling ignorant and racially-charged jokes, I was not laughing. When my peers were going to "bush bashes" and the classic "Harvestfest",  I was at home playing with my dog or going for a run. I was juggling a soccer ball and playing catch with my Dad. Beginning high school, while other kids were beginning to experiment, I was going to synchronized swim practice and making sure my homework got done. I was sleeping, I was eating, I was living what could be described "the simple life" (although in truth, it wasn't very simple). I remember trying to fit in. I would try to "go to the mall" or attend a school dance, but that just wasn't me.  I wasn't laughing at the sudden uses of homophobic slurs. I just always felt slightly out of place.

With every year, I get a little bit older and I grow more into who I am and define what is important to me. With every passing year I realize that it wasn't that everyone else was more put together than me. But rather, those kids who did attend every messy dance and who did laugh at all the stereotypical jokes, the so called "cool kids", they felt just as out of place. The difference? Perhaps I was just more transparent with my vulnerability... but then again maybe I was actually ''different''. During my final year of high school, I tried on the masks that my some of my peers wore and for a while I really did "fit in". I strayed from my own path and preferring a more commonly travelled one. But this mask didn't really suit me. Before the end of my first university semester, I shed this mask.

These masks that we wear, you can take them off. The more we lift off of our shoulders, the lighter we feel; the free-er we truly are. You can't get off the ground when you are weighted in guilt and shame. You cannot land if you don't know the direction of where you want to go. These masks are what hold the guilt and shame to you. They also skew your guiding compass. Take off those heavy layers. Let the shame and the guilt just float away. Focus on those things that are not a fallacy, focus on what is real for you, and you will find you end up exactly where you needed to go (even if it isn't the destination you had originally banked on).

So, where am I going with this point? As I go through recovery, recovery itself has forced me to take off these cover-ups. I've travelled around (literally and figuratively) and I've found myself in a destination that I would have never imagined for myself. However, I truly believe this is where I needed to land. Unfortunately, there are a few masks that are super-glued onto me, holding me back. To take off those cover-ups will force me to basically shed layers of what feels like myself. This is as close to the million-dollar answer that I can get (and admittedly, want to get) via this blog.

This summer has taught me (even as I write this post) that with every failure and every error that I admit to making, there is always another one that I refuse to be transparent with. Opening up about my ED was huge, but talking about my ED never felt as big of a deal as discussing other problems. Problems that really make me feel uncomfortable, issues that really make me upset. Here isn't a forum where I'm going to discuss those issues (that is where I think internal reflection is far more valuable than full-fledged disclosure), but it got me thinking. Perhaps, as transparent as I am on some issues, I'm not as "open" as others perceive me to be, or as open as I should be in order to achieve optimal mental health. This inability to admit to myself and to discuss difficult problems with other people, keeps me spinning my wheels, just stuck in this place. Perhaps my refusal to allow new people to take the place of other people, the people who were once were my biggest source of support, is what holds me back from fully closing this ED chapter in my life story. In many respects, I'm a turtle. I walk and talk and move, but the minute I get uneasy, I pull back into my shell.
But why is this important? Why am I bothering to talk about this feeling of "not fitting in" and "lacking transparency" and to put it bluntly; "loneliness"? I talk about these issues because they are so prevalent in society. The more connected we are to the digital world, the less we are connected to the person sitting beside us. The more we share our edited lives via social media, the less we share our realities with our neighbours. It's such a juxtaposition; we are so open when it comes to our highlight reel, and yet we try to burn, break and destroy evidence of our blunders. We put up fences in our ''private'' backyards, meanwhile taking staged selfies in those yards for all to see.

To be honest, it is shocking the number of people I know who suffer from mental health issues. What is even more shocking, is the percentage of those people who I knew long before my disorder ever surfaced. When I think about the times that I struggle the most or when I discover my friends are struggling the most, it often is correlated to feelings of loneliness. Loneliness because they are "so messed up", that other people are doing "so much better than they are". I've even heard "Meghan, you have it all figured out. You've gone through this, you've recovered and I'm stuck here". They compare their unfinished and unedited story, to my "published" novel. Meanwhile, I have the exact same perspective towards them!

Even looking at society on a broader scope. Look at the number of school shootings that have happened in the United States this year alone! The increase in Canadian suicide rates in young people is astounding; "Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people of all ages. In 2009, it ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada. Among those aged 15 to 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death, preceded only by accidents (unintentional injuries)." . 

We walk around, telling our beginning and so-called "happily-ever-after" ending; never disclosing the difficult and messy chapters that truly define our story. And to-boot, we believe that we are the only ones who do this! It makes no sense, and surely doesn't support a healthy state-of-mind! What makes us the most interesting is our ability to be vulnerable and disclose our own troubles in situations where we would rather not. In doing so, we open doors. The same doors that we close everyday when we choose to wear our mask and hold onto shame, guilt and feelings of being "less-than".

Discussing the tough parts of life and being comfortable with being uncomfortable when we tell others that not all of our days are filled with "rays of sunshine"; this is what helps those feelings of loneliness, shame, and guilt. When another person says "I can relate", "I've been there too" or even "I don't understand, but I am here to listen to your story without judgement"; it vastly improves your mental health status, because you are unloading an unnecessary burden.

So why aren't we doing more of this?
Funny thing about too much sun; you get burned. 

I know I've written a lot today (a BIG middle chapter). To summarize, I'd like to write a "take home message" that I'm going to work on this upcoming week and I encourage you to work on too:

Take home message: Read those tough chapters. Embrace them and know that nobody writes a final draft as their first draft. I've never heard of a published book that wasn't edited; and even once the book passes the editing stage, there are always chapters in between the two covers that take you from the beginning of the story to the end. Accepting that your book is unedited, and opening up the discussion between unedited stories is key to improving our mental health on a micro-timescale! If you work on being vulnerable consistently, your mental health will improve on a macro-timescale! We don't connect with people when everything is hunky-dory. The connections we make with people are far stronger when we display vulnerability; listening and sharing in each other's struggles.

Are you ready to shed your mask? If not, what's holding you back? Feel free to comment below!