This is not a transformation post. Mental or physical.
This is also not a self-help post which will give you tips on how to get fitter, mentally or physically.
What this post will do is tell you what worked for me, so you might explore some of these options, if at all. My personal intent behind this post is documenting the struggle I’ve been through, so that if someone else is going through the same, I hope they read this and know, it is okay. All those doubts, uncertainties and times when you want to give up, happen to many others and like me, you too shall not give up.
This story begins in 2010. But I will cut the long story short and talk about Dec 2017 – now. I’d been tackling mild depression since a few years which had been better the last couple of years. The depression was unfortunate and could have been avoided except for my misfortune of getting incorrect treatment from a renowned doctor of the city I was in this. Long story short, I was suicidal for two weeks until I met my original doctor and was put on the right medicines. The damage however, was done, and remnants of it still haunt my life.
Over years, I’d been stuck in a vicious circle. Poor mental health led to poor physical health which led to poor mental health. Recently, I broke the cycle. This is what I did. I promise this will sound easy, but is nothing near that. It isn’t. But what is the fun if things are easy, right? I have so many emotions attached to what I did, how I did and why I did, that I am finding it difficult to articulate my thoughts. Bear with me, if the post ends up reading haphazard.
Made efforts for face-to-face meetings
Early last year, I started attending events, meeting people and showing up for meetings which earlier I used to back out of or just not turn up at. I attended an event as a speaker where I ended as a panelist and the moderator did a crappy job in introducing and involving me in the discussion. I should have been embarrassed and wanted to run away from the stage, but I’d stayed put telling myself, this experience will teach me things. And, it did. I was in front of an audience and talking, after years. I used that event to work on my anxiety issues and I came back victorious at a personal level. I also left the event right after my session since nobody there had anything to contribute to my work or life.
A month later, I addressed a gathering of illustrious women in an event for women’s day. I was a different person by now. I loved an audience and I had started looking forward to talking to people. I addressed more gatherings and took many virtual sessions which were shared all over the internet. I did remarkably well, much better than I’d thought I will. Call it an ego boost if you must, but it worked as a confidence boost for me. I now meet people, I go to coffee shops and work there for hours, chatting with their staff at times, I also pick up the phone and call people (for work, leisure calls are still not my thing) to discuss, have work meetings instead of calls, I try to network though it pains to be fake at times, and I say yes to dinner/travel/party plans with people.
Cannot put to words how difficult this was, but I did it. Because, only I could do it. Loved ones look on helplessly, but no amount of good intent can help us do certain things. It has to be done by us! If you are a loved one reading this, try being there for your person. Be helpful, kind, ready with hugs and just don’t judge. Keep saying, it is okay to fail. My husband did all these things and believe me, these helped a lot!
Turned notifications for all social media apps OFF
My livelihood depends on social media so I cannot really quit it. I have to be there, every single day. But, social media comes with its share of negativity which pulls one back. I don’t believe in deactivating and fleeing for a while, why should I? Am I really that weak, oh no I am not. So, I stay. But what I did in mid-2017 was, I deactivated notifications of every app I have on my phone. No reminder of their existence, no ping tempting me to open them and get stuck in the hole. Now, I open the apps when I want to and I get hours of work done in shorter time. This, automatically limited my time on social media. Life was beautiful again.
Started devoting a couple of hours taking care of my body
I talk about being fit and not just thin, but I am aware that I need to lose weight too. Having put on weight equal to your original weight, believe me, crushes your soul. I had been breaking walls, doing things I never imagine I will, going on the best vacations and earning laurels I had only dreamt of – but the reality lay in pictures which were taken while I was accomplishing all these things. Don’t call it vanity, looking as per your potential is not vanity. When you have been thinner and fitter before, that person who looks like a sack of potatoes, hurts the eyes. Plus, the prospect of attracting a million diseases in that fat body. I had been trying to lose weight since a few years now but with depression and anxiety, it was a vicious circle, difficult to get out of.
I had also been addicted to sugar. Cold drinks and chocolates, only. A trigger would happen and I’d reach for these things to pacify myself. No amount of resolutions worked. I knew how much I was harming my body, would even lie worrying at nights, but when Mr Trigger arrived, I’d lose all good sense. Another vicious circle -> want to stay away from sugar – get triggered – reach out for sugar – loathe myself.
On October 26, 2017, I quit all forms of artificial sugar. Instantly. Cold turkey. Gradual reduction etc don’t work for me. Either I can quit or I can not. So I quit. Almost three months later today, I’ve been without artificial sugar for the longest in my adult life. Err, entire life I suppose. The addiction is gone, I am good.
I started walking. I started with 2000 steps a day and have done up to 20000 a day. I started climbing stairs. I’ve climbed more than 700 stairs since then. This is remarkable because I HATE to walk. I would take the lift even to go up by one floor, and even when coming down. Not a lazy person, I just hate walking without any destination. I now spend more than two hours a day walking and/or exercising. I spend time in the kitchen and at the vegetable vendor’s, prepping and taking care of what I eat. I eat everything, and am not on any specific diet. I have developed patience and I am going to be patient about my fitness journey. Anxiety attacks still occur, but my mind is pre-occupied with planning my meals and workouts, to bother a lot about other things. I have also stopped all kinds of travels because travelling disrupts my workout and meal plans. Only for a few months. Let me heal myself first, then I’ll take care of the world!
Maintained a food journal. And also, a mental health journal
We need to understand our own bodies and mind. See what triggers negativity and what acts a positive reactor. I spent days assessing what I am eating and what I am subjecting my mind to. A food journal helps a lot. I have recently discovered that though I LOVE garlic, it doesn’t love me back. If I eat anything with good amount of garlic, even garlic bread, I develop gas which leads to headaches, discomfort, mood swings and if really bad, workout gets affected too! Too big a price for satiating my taste buds, pffft! I am no food or nutrition expert, but the least I can do is take care of what I put inside my mouth and does it agree with my system or not.
I have recently started maintaining a mental health journal. Like, since last week. Art and mental health are a great pair, and it doesn’t matter how good you are in art, the process is healing. Let me be clear that I am not promoting them, but I referred to this post before I began journaling.
Planned my day ahead
What happens with us freelancers is that working from home doesn’t exempt us from working around home, specially when you are married and its your own household. I realised that my laptop was on for 18 hours a day and I was working at the most odd hours. Took me a while to realise this but the moment I did, I created slots for work and for other things. Now, I refuse to take calls or begin working before 10 am. The time before that is for self-care. In afternoon, I take an hour off and in evening, I stop working at 6 pm. Of course, I work sometimes after dinner too, but that is if I want to. No client calls at odd hours and I don’t reply to mails at night. Believe me, life has been peaceful.
Learnt an important life lesson
I have taken pride in being a workaholic. As had my father and as did my husband. And it worked bad for all of us. Husband and I realised it while it was still time and while he pulled a stop to it right away, it took me some time. But the step has been taken and now. I work with all my devotion, but only during my work hours. Working along the clock is foolish and takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Husband and I have both been at the brink of a mental breakdown, at different times, and are lucky to have survived.
We’ve learnt that social life is equally important and that is not the time to discuss work. Mental and physical recreation are important so that we don’t burnout quickly, and instead can gallop far and for long!
Is there anything you’ve done and would like to share? I’d love to know and try, carry out!