Monday, 25 September 2017

I accidentally went to a weight class and now I lift weights. And other stories from my summer.

My summer mental health journey

It's been a weird few months, but it's been a few months I haven't managed to capture on the blog. Whether because my priorities shifted or my writing motivated faltered, I just haven't been sharing my mental health journey over the past four months. And I want to share it, because it's been a transformative summer and I'm so proud.

So to sum it all up, here's what I did this summer:

Did weights for the first time and now I'm addicted
I bit the bullet and bought membership to my local gym over the summer - the fear of wearing a bikini on my holidays spurred me on to finally commit to regular exercise. I started attending one of the free classes in the gym. It was called the 'Burn and tone' class. There was no description other than the name, so I presumed this would be some sort of Zumba-esque cardio + squats. Nope. I turn up and everyone is bringing weight, kettlebells and steps over to their floor space. Trying to act normal, I just copied everyone else.

And so began my first experience with weights. While I felt physically sick and struggled to walk home at the end of the class, I didn't give up. I started attending the gym just to do weights by myself.

I'd love to tell you that I lost weight and my body confidence improved. It didn't quite happen like that. My weight has stayed pretty much the same (muscle weighs more than fat, so there's solace in that). But I did start to feel better about myself. I love the sense of strength and control I had while leg pressing 120kg. I felt strong and capable and empowered.

I learned that weights are not just for male bodybuilders (even though they are intimidating when you're in the gym). And weights also work wonders for your mental health. I'm okay with my body, there's work to do, but I'm proud of my progress so far.

Due to a move I had to give up my gym membership and find a new one, so I haven't been weightlifting in almost a month now. But I've no intention of stopping, just pausing until I find somewhere else to work my muscles!

Tried to eat healthy
Attending the gym has also been accompanied by trying to eat healthy. I must admit though, I am a firm believer in not dieting and never restricting yourself to treats. But at least my main meals are pretty healthy, right?
I've been eating a lot of salads as well as cooking new meals like turkey rashers, courgette pasta, and an egg fried stir fry. I felt like Nigella Lawson, but in her early days where she was still prone to a mini disaster or two, and without the finger-licking baking.

However, my eating habits are starting to fall out of sync again (I'm blaming my break from the gym for this). While I still eat well for lunch and dinner, I keep going for 10pm toast or cereal or chocolate. It's like I know I've done well during the rest of day, so I'm allowed to keep snacking come bedtime.

Promised to delete my blog 34 times
I've been writing on this blog for over four years now, and for the past four months, I couldn't decide what was the best thing to do for my mental health. Should I give up? I'd have more free time, and less stress about numbers and views. Should I give it my all again? Fully commit and post every few days? Or should I carry on halfheartedly?

I'll be honest with you all, writing about your own mental health publicly is hard. I've deleted my blog's Facebook page for this very reason. And my motivation for writing has been waning. There are so many mental health bloggers out there now, and they're so much better than me. They write well, write often, and know how to promote their blogs and build a huge following. That last bit is the part I struggle with the most. Engagement.

Since I stopped blogging often and promoting as much on social media, my engagement has fallen a huge amount. Less and less people are visiting my site, sharing my posts and giving me their feedback.
All summer I criticised myself for failing. Why wasn't I writing like everyone else? Why wasn't I joining Twitter chats or talking about my meds online?  Working two jobs, I don't have time to take beautiful staged photos accompanying every post. Schedules and planners just sound like pressure to me.

It's been an internal struggle for some time now, but I've finally accepted that I'm different. I'm never going to be doing brand collaborations or winning awards for my writing. But I need this space for myself. For my own mental health. For my good and bad days. I've finally renewed my blog domain to keep it going for at least another year.

I went on holidays and the world didn't collapse
I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. There's not a day goes by where I don't feel a bigger responsibility than I can handle. Whether it's in work, at home, with my friends or family, I just feel responsible for everything that goes wrong. I always feel like my whole world would collapse if I ever took a break.

However, I did go on holiday for 10 whole days, the longest holiday I've ever had. My boyfriend and I went to Lisbon, leaving my two jobs and responsibilities behind.

Yes, there were many times throughout the break where I felt extremely guilty for being away. I felt horrible for leaving my work colleagues behind with my shifts and my tasks to cover. I struggled with the ball of guilt in the bottom of my stomach.

But I've also never enjoyed a break more. I needed that respite from responsibility. I came back chilled and relaxed and with my work/life balance in perspective (I'd very much been getting this balance wrong). My world didn't collapse without me. I came back and everything was how it should be. I'm allowed to take a holiday, who knew?

Until next time,

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