survivor

Conquering Inner Demons


We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.  ~Roderick Thorp, Rainbow Drive

Made it the whole way, still a happy couple...minus the restless legs ūüėČ

This weekend I headed off on a road trip to Tennessee with my boyfriend, which left me with a lot of time to think… and some seriously restless legs.¬† His plan was for me to drive down with him to provide company (and alleviate some of the mileage) and then fly back in order to make it back to work on Monday.¬† Adam’s parent’s were going to meet us at his sister’s house in order to drop off the family boat so Adam could haul it back home.¬† He had been planning the trip for months and had even specifically picked out his new vehicle with towing the boat in mind.¬† It was a big deal to him, and I wanted to be there to support him- especially when he specifically asked for me to come with him.

That being said, I was absolutely dreading it.¬† I hate long car rides (my definition of a long car ride is anything longer than 45 minutes),¬†driving in general,¬†and even more: the idea of driving someone else’s car, which in this case¬†happened to be ¬†twice the size of mine.¬† In fact, if his truck were any larger, I would need a ladder (or perhaps a gentle boost) to get in.¬† Further adding to my apprehension, Adam is incredibly quite at baseline and becomes increasingly silent in the car.¬† The prospect of spending 18+ hrs in a car with a person who doesn’t speak did not exactly appeal to me.

My motivation 1) it was obviously important to him or he wouldn’t have offered to buy a plane ticket back so I could go and still make it back in time for work 2) I hadn’t met his sister or her family and was looking forward to seeing his parents again 3) I already had the time off from work and figured that spending silent time together in a truck for 3 days was better than not seeing him at all.

Knowing how much I was dreading going made me feel extremely guilty; because, in all honesty, I wanted to be enthusiastic.¬† However, the fact that Adam had recently discussed picking up and moving to Philly and buying a house together had sent me reeling.¬† It triggered my anxiety in a big way.¬† In my head, I had started criticizing every aspect of our relationship- resulting in a laundry list of reasons why I wasn’t currently happy.¬† That, in turn, made me feel guilty for not being happy and for (in my mind) making Adam unhappy.¬† At the top of my list was feeling like we lacked communication, followed by feeling unimportant, unappreciated, and finally, that we weren’t on the same team.

Adam will openly admit that he is unsure of how to function in a relationship, and when it comes to me needing help, would prefer assigned tasks.¬† He is more than willing to do whatever needs attending, but I get frustrated at having to ask when it is so blatantly obvious to me when the dishes need to be washed, the laundry needs to be done, or the floors need to be vacuumed.¬† I get even more aggravated over things like the closet door always being left open with the laundry on the floor instead of in the hamper, the clutter of things dropped through out the house, the dresser drawers left open with clothes hanging out, and the dishes that can’t seem to find their way to the sink.¬† It’s the sort of picking-up-after-him on a daily basis that makes me feel most of the things above. Most of all, though, I feel guilty for getting irritated in the first place (even if I don’t act on it or say anything).¬† After all, it is his home too, and I want him to feel welcome.

Furthermore, I also feel guilty that I want someone who is naturally and self-sufficient to open up about things that bother him, let me know when he won’t be home, or tell me what’s going on in his life. I feel guilty that I may be impossible to please, that I respond to feeling injured and shut out by shutting down myself, and that when a kind, genuine man who loves me wants me to move with him to another state rather than be away from me I respond by pushing him away.

And the guilt is not just limited to my relationship.¬† I feel guilty for not being able to do more for my parents, and for getting annoyed at work when I am overwhelmed or feel that I am being dumped on (even when I don’t express my frustration, and even more if I do).¬† I feel guilty for not being a better parent to my dogs, even though they’d be considered spoiled by most standards.¬† I feel guilty whenever I eat something unhealthy (frequently) or miss a day of working out.¬† I felt guilty for thinking negative things about other people, even when they probably deserve it.¬† I feel guilty for not being happier, more even keel, more fun, or self accepting.¬† That’s right, I even criticize myself for being critical of myself- and of others; and three days in a car offers a lot of time to reflect about all of it.¬† (One reason I run is it’s a break from picking myself apart; although, occasionally, on particularly tough days it creeps in there as well.¬† Generally, running gives me a sense of accomplishment and helps clear my head.)

While anticipating a copious amount of further downtime on my journey home, I stepped into the airport bookshop and looked for something inspiring to read.¬† Plane rides are one of the few times I grant myself the luxury of leisure reading, and recently I had enjoyed The Perfect Mile and Born to Run.¬† I was hoping to find another book related to running; instead, I was drawn to a cover titled The Happiness Project and found the author was struggling with many of my own frustrations.¬† It reminded me that feelings of self-criticism and guilt seem to be more common among women than we may be willing to recognize or admit.¬† Perhaps we all could make a better effort to give ourselves and those around us more credit.¬† For example, I am very quick to pick up on anything Adam or I are not doing well, but rarely acknowledge the¬† instances when either of us does something thoughtful or exceptional.¬† Again, running forces me to acknowledge at least some small accomplishments, and it’s something we can both enjoy together.

I always used to be someone who strived to be more happy and grateful.¬† However, going through years of abuse left me at a point where I was just surviving, and barely surviving at times.¬† My journey back to thriving has been exactly that- a journey, complete with detours and setbacks.¬† As you’ve been reading, I still have days or even moments within days when my insecurities get the better of me, and I self sabotage and pick myself apart the way my abuser used to.¬† However, at the end of the day, I can honestly say I am not only working toward becoming more like that person again, but making progress at it.¬† Afterall, even a small step in the right direction is still growth.

In the meantime, I will continue to work on accepting that it’s not only okay, but normal¬† not to be perfect, to question myself and my sanity when life is difficult, to feel overwhelmed at times, and to get irritated occasionally.¬† I will also work on acknowledging that what I lack in other areas, I make up for in sheer determination.

The only difference between those who achieve their dreams and don’t is the unconquerable will to block out their inner critic and go far it without reservation.

As difficult as it was to share this personal information and open myself to criticism, I have a feeling that I am not alone is harboring these self criticisms and insecurities.  Please comment and share your own experiences, or if you prefer email me at runningthriver@gmail.com

Cannoli Pie…Breakfast of Champions

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.‚ÄĚ

William Barclay

My newest inspirational running shirt ūüôā

I have putting off my weekly long run for the past two weeks, so this morning I knew it was time to bite the bullet , get my butt in gear, and up my mileage.  The recent heat wave has taken a toll on my motivation to work out, especially with the sporadic use of air conditioning at my local gym.  With the plan of a three-day road trip to Tennessee looming, it was now or never; and putting it off would only make for an incredibly stir crazy car ride. 

I’m the type of person who goes through what could best be described as withdrawal¬†symptoms when I don’t get in a good work out too many days in¬†a row.¬† For this reason, I was dreading¬† the¬†idea of being cooped up in a car for days on end with little opportunity to even get out and stretch.¬†¬†I was hoping that¬†a long run would” get the wiggles out” and make the drive more bearable.¬†

Initially, I¬†wanted to get in 10¬†miles, which is the furthest mileage I’ve achieved to date.¬†¬† However, given the involuntary three-day¬†hiatus ahead of me, I figured “what the hell, may as well push it to the and try for 12 or more.”¬† With no functional GPS device at hand, I¬†decided I would try to run at least¬†two and a half hours and hope it was more¬†than 10 miles.¬† I woke up with the determination necessary to accomplish¬†the task, but, admittedly, significantly less enthusiasm.¬† As much as I LOVE¬†running, I have to confess that the¬†idea of doing it for anything more than an hour feels a lot like work and more than¬†two hours brings on an all out sensation of dread.¬† In order to prepare myself for the long, arduous task ahead I opened the fridge and scoured for something that would not induce vomiting in the¬†sweltering heat.¬†

I have tried countless pre-running meals from cereal¬†to yogurt, to protein shakes, to fruit, and even salad.¬† Generally. I find the result the same.¬† Within 30 minutes of starting a run, my stomach is growling and my focus goes to mush.¬† That is unless I am running with my boyfriend, Adam, in which¬†case, I’m already starving by the time we set out due to the additional¬†amount of time required for him to get ready. (He runs on California time…I could afford to be¬†more like him)¬† So all that being said, I reached for the cannoli¬†pie.¬† Yes, cannoli pie…breakfast of champions!¬† I rationalized it as follows:¬† it was loaded with calories, and there were carbs, dairy, ¬†and even chocolate.¬† How could it be a bad choice?¬† Besides didn’t I deserve it for all the hard work and torture I was about to embark on?¬† I mean I practically already earned it, right?¬† I had a piece with¬†a glass of water and headed out the door.

I ran to my favorite park and stuck mainly on the trails.¬† Surprisingly, the cannoli¬†cake stayed¬†down.¬† In fact, I felt pretty good, and remarkably made it through over two and half hours of running without so much as a rumble in my stomach.¬†¬†I think I may have found my pre-long distance run meal (just kidding…sort of)¬†¬†I was also pretty¬†pleased to find all my training was paying off as,¬†even in the heat, the run felt significantly¬†easier than my previous¬†10 mile run. So, I am now halfway to my goal of running a marathon, and I owe it to the cannoli pie.¬†

When I got back home I had salad and humus for lunch, partly out of guilt for my indulgent breakfast.  Then a few hours later when my stomach was growling again, I went back and had another piece of cannoli pie and savored every bite.

It all started with a pair of shoes…

Marylin Monroe once said ‚Äúgive a woman the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world‚ÄĚ.

Vibram running shoes

My "ugly" shoes have grown on me. Now they are always close by. ūüôā

My boyfriend had been on my case for several weeks that I needed to switch over to vibram running shoes.¬† I wasn’t paying him much attention.¬† I knew my limitations.¬† From the time I started high school, I had a multitude of orthopedists explain to me exactly why I wasn’t built to run and shouldn’t do it.¬† They told me that my bone alignment was wrong, my arches were flat, my IT bands were too tight, I needed orthotics and knee replacements.¬† One particularly delightful fellow (and by delightful I mean arrogant and dismissive) even explained that women, in general, are not built for running.¬† He thought I should not only stop, but also avoid stairs and knee bends greater than 30 degrees.¬† I have patellar subluxation (a fancy way of saying my kneecaps pop out-of-place when I move), so running for me was always associated with pain.¬† However, the thought of not running was pretty much on par with not breathing in my mind.¬† I tried physical therapy, ice, the whirlpool,¬† medication, tape, stabilizing shoes, and cross training before, I ultimately learned to tune it out and run through it.¬† However, I was still limited in my mileage.

All that being said, how could a 6’2″ naturally athletic marathon runner possibly think that eliminating the support in a shoe would help me- the orthopedic disaster?¬† It sounded insane, but I had nothing to lose.¬† He was so confident that I would love them, that he even bought me my first pair.¬† I teased him at the time that he was just afraid of looking ridiculous by himself. ¬† Nonetheless, I was now the owner of an ugly pair of toe shoes with a date set to test them out.

The day we planned our inaugural run I had done a particularly hard work out at the gym and didn’t expect much.¬† We headed to a¬† flat, gravel trail and started jogging at a slow place.¬† We were two miles into our run before I felt any pain in my knees, which was remarkable for me.¬† By three miles, my calves and ankle muscles were SCREAMING.¬† I was hurting in places I had never hurt before. We did another mile and called it a day.¬† The following day at work I passed out.¬† Yup, out cold- like dreaming and then rudely awakened to a room full of people staring…¬†¬† Maybe I overdid it a little.¬† My calves were like jello for days, making walking difficult and stairs near impossible.¬† It was amazing none the less.¬† I had accomplished something I wasn’t supposed to do in shoes with absolutely no support.

Overcoming the physical barriers was only part of the sense of triumph.¬† As a survivor of domestic abuse, I had suffered from crippling anxiety and nightmares for well over a year.¬† Just waking up in the morning was enough to provoke a¬† sense of the world closing in around me . ¬† I was miserable, exhausted, and completely drained both physically and emotionally.¬† I never reached the point where I wanted to die, but I certainly wanted to disappear on multiple occasions when facing another day seemed like too tremendous an effort to stomach.¬† I saw counselors, therapists, and even a psychiatrist who all reassured me that I was experiencing a “completely normal reaction to a traumatic experience”.¬† It certainly didn’t feel normal, or even remotely acceptable.¬† I was prescribed medications to help me sleep; but the first one made me completely sedated and irritable.¬† The second one caused me to outright hallucinate (which made nightmares seem not so bad in comparison).¬† By the time an antipsychotic called seroquel was suggested I threw in the towel and fired the shrink.

That was when I found Susan Omilian (creator of the My Avenging Angel Workshops) and decided to attend one of her 2 part sessions.¬† I desperately wanted to feel “normal” again and move on with my life.¬† I knew there was a happier and more carefree person inside, but didn’t know how to let her out.¬† Like she has with so many other women, Susan allowed me to get in touch with the part of myself that wasn’t “damaged”.¬† She helped me rediscover what I am passionate about and establish short and long-term goals for myself.¬† She and the other women in the group also made me realize that I was not alone, and it was the first time since my world turned upside down that someone told me I was going to be okay and I actually believed it.

So in a sense, that 4 miles was more meaningful to me than any other distance I had ever achieved.¬† I was redefining myself and my limits, and I didn’t stop.¬†¬† I registered for my first 10 K with my boyfriend.¬† It was last-minute and a distance I hadn’t run or even been able to run in years.¬† However, it happened to be a trail race at one of my favorite cross-country venues from high school; and I (in a viewing myself as the center of the universe sort of way) took at as a positive sign.¬† During the run, I was convinced that if I did manage to finish it would be well behind everyone else;¬† yet, that was not the case at all.¬† I not only finished, but also managed to finish ahead of one other runner. ¬† It was a slow pace, but I was moving and moving pain free at that.¬† Plus, it was a great experience to realize that most of the people I was running with were struggling as much as I was.¬† Luckily, that race was part of a 4 race series and I was hooked.¬† I did the second and third 10K and then decided it was time to set my sights on something higher.¬† The final race offered a 15K option, so I signed up and kicked up my training.¬† Then I registered for a Tough Mudder in NorCal with my boyfriend and the Diva Half marathon in Long Island.¬† I was excited at the opportunity to combine two things I loved: running and helping other people.¬† I started a bottle and can drive to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, then I approached Susan Omilian about using the Diva Half Marathon as a way to raise money and awareness for other victims of domestic violence.

Currently my plan to use all my future half and full marathons to raise money for CT-ALIVE (the CT Alliance for Victims of Violence and the Families).  I would encourage other runners to find a cause to run for as well.  It is a great way to give back and an opportunity to make the whole experience richer.

So, that pretty much brings us up to present date!¬† If you hadn’t figured it out yet, my purpose for this blog is to encourage other people, especially women, to get out there and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive. ¬†¬† I love running because I feel like it’s the only time I get to be alone and selfish and not feel guilty for it.¬† It’s my quiet time. Plus, it’s hard to waste energy being anxious when you are using every ounce to push up a tough hill.

I think many people discount themselves thinking they can’t run, and that women specifically short change themselves instead of realizing what tremendous inner strength they possess.¬† Distance running is a women’s sport- especially ultra running- because women are built to endure better than men.¬† They are the glue that holds their families together.¬† They deliver babies. Running a few miles is no big deal compared to that!

That is why I am here to tell you to get out and run because  if I can do it, you can too!

The Man I Married

 The man I love supports my dreams.

The man I married made me feel guilty for having them.

 

The man I love thinks of me often.

The man I married thought only of himself.

 

The man I love has hobbies we can share.

The man I married drank for sport.

 

 The man I love is on my team.

The man I married forsook me.

 

The man I love has everything going for him.

The man I married squandered his potential.

 

 The man I love never speaks a negative word.

The man I married never said anything positive.

 

The man I love is proud of me.

The man I married was threatened by me.

 

The man I love has my heart.

The man I married has an empty house.

To Be a Woman

To Be a Woman

 

 

How great it is to celebrate being a woman!

 

Strong, courageous, and powerful

 

No creature is more mysterious,

 

No man more capable.

 

She is resourceful and determined,

 

A steadfast, caring friend

 

And loyal confidant.

 

A nurturer, teacher, and enforcer,

 

She balances many hats,

 

And transitions between them with grace and ease.

 

Is there really any nobler thing to be?

I Cried

 

I cried

At the thought of all the women

Who know what I’ve been through

And those who continue to live it.

I cried

At the notion that so many men

Could commit such heinous acts

Toward women they were supposed to love

And promised to protect.

I cried

At the idea of women

Being stripped of their identities

And made to feel worthless

Beaten, bruised, and worse…

I wept

Because their pain is mine.

I know the ache in the depths of their souls.

Angels

Angels

When God gave man free will,

She knew the world would be filled

With heartache and suffering.

So she sent us angels to help ease the pain.

To carry us when our wills are weak

And our minds and bodies are weary.

Not only angels from the heavens,

But those here on earth

Who find their way into our lives and hearts.

When we happen to need them most

They pick us up, wipe our tears,

And remind us who we are and where we are going.

So it is at our toughest moments

That we come to realize how truly blessed we are,

And that even the darkest clouds have a bright silver lining.

Why Me?

Some people ask ‚ÄúWhy me?‚ÄĚ

I say ‚ÄúWhy not me?‚ÄĚ

Why shouldn’t I achieve my dreams?

What is holding me back, really?

If other people can achieve success and happiness,

Why not me?

I am capable of creating opportunities.

I am resourceful and committed.

I am no less deserving or able bodied.

Why not me?

What do I have to lose other than fear?