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This is not a post to brag or boast, in fact it is quite the opposite. It is a confession of sorts...

Running history

I began running in 2011. I was a  stay at home mom with a 3.5 year old and a 6 month old that began to crave my early evening runs on our gravel road a few nights a week, it was my “me” time.  Some of you know my story and know that the next 4 years of my life included running, teaching fitness classes and triathlon as well as a weight in the "normal" BMI range for the first time in my entire life! In 2015, I bit the bullet and signed up for my first full marathon. Unfortunately, my Crohn's disease reared its ugly head with a vengeance and I was hospitalized only a month before the marathon and decided it was best to sit it out. I ended up requiring surgery later that year to remove a section of my small intestine. I had something to prove, though, so when sign up for the marathon came around again I think I may have been the first runner to submit my registration. I ran Grandma’s Marathon in June of 2016, then I quit. Like literally quit on myself.

I blamed it on working full time. I blamed it on being a busy mom. I blamed it on pretty much everything but myself.  I signed up for runs, started training and quit. I had a brief glimmer last winter of what was to be a relay race only to have Covid strike and I half-heartedly got my miles in mostly walking.

2020 Panic

Fast forward to the fall of 2020 in the middle of a panic stricken state due to the pandemic, I finally took control. When I started running I ran for my weight loss, my physical health, but also my mental health as a stay at home mom. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner (like in the beginning of Covid)? In November I started ALL over at the very beginning, day 1 couch 2 5 K program I had done in 2011, same gravel roads, same structure but thanks to advancements in technology I was no longer carrying a flip phone and a stop watch with ink on my arm to tell me when to run and when to walk.

I was pretty silent about this adventure. My family knew, I did a couple of Instagram stories while running and I eventually told one of my biggest cheerleaders via text that I felt like “I” was back.

In addition to starting couch 2 5k I hired a coach. Do I know how to eat right? Yep! Do I know how to plan workouts? Yep! Did I stick to my plans over the last 4 years? Nope! Time and time again I would quit on myself only to feel worse and ashamed that I was failing myself, my family and community that I had previously led on their wellness journeys. So I did the only thing left to do, I started over from THE VERY BEGINNING! Day 1 taking care of my mental health, Day 1 couch 2 5k, Day 1 having my amazing sister-in-law as a coach guide me with a fitness and nutrition plan that I could LIVE with and one that didn’t require hours of working out!

Starting over

I started over. Completely started over doing all of the things that I know work to make me a better ME! I have journaled at night everyday since November 1st, not missed a planned workout since then, and tonight I did my final run of the Couch 2 5 K program, with the fastest mile I have run since my “restart”! I stayed committed in a way that I haven’t in many years. All but two of those runs have been outdoors which has meant layers, wind, darkness and sometimes rain/sleet.

Like I said this is not meant as a boast or brag! It is a reminder that sometimes, sometimes you just have to go back to where you started to find your way again. Even if you are hanging your head a little when you start again I guarantee you by the end your head will be held high and you will be so proud of your accomplishment (whatever it is) wellness, financial, writing, any commitment.

If you made it to the end, thanks for reading and I hope this sparked some of you to take a deep, long breath and start again!

Good luck in your adventures, I would love to be your cheerleader! Give me a shout and tell me what your "starting over" looks like!

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I am about to speak the truth or "spill the tea" as my youngest would say. My kids keep me up to speed on all of the latest “tweener” jargon.  This “tea” isn’t going to be fun to talk about, but it is time.  If you are reading this blog post, thank you.  If you are reading this and think about feeling sorry for me, don’t.  Instead, reach out to someone and do a random act of kindness, you LITERALLY never know how that random act could change that person’s day.  If you are reading this and think, what a joke.  She posts pictures of working on the farm, apple trips with her family, and all of the fun.  When I see her she is happy and smiling, etc.  Please know, I am blessed.  I have a supportive, hard-working husband.  I have two wonderful daughters. I have a great family and the best friends a girl could ever want.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have times I struggle. It also doesn’t mean there aren’t others just like me that struggle quietly. 

So, with all of that being said, here comes the “tea” or “T”  or “truth”. Today, October 10, 2020 is World Mental Health Day.  Yes, I am someone that has to work real hard on my mental health, especially since March, when my little safe world became real crazy.  I am going to talk about how Covid-19 has impacted me. My story. From my lens, not from a political lens, not from a medical background lens, but from the lens of what this virus has done to me. From the lens of someone with a chronic disease for which I take immunosuppressants, from the lens of someone that is admitting that my BMI is in the obese category, and from the lens of someone that has experienced some health “ish” that has left a lasting mark that some may call PTSD.

I will also admit that March through August wasn’t awful for me.  As I have described to others when you have a farm with animals being born in spring, your farm is primarily a small grain/hay operation, school is closed, my work as a special education consultant was virtual until schools officially ended in June, county fair happened with several restrictions, we were able to be with our friends and family outdoors, etc. life was pretty darn good.  I was in my safe space. Then it was time for school to start.  Requirements in education were changing literally by the day. Would masks be required, would schools be hybrid or face to face, should we be worried about this virus spreading quickly through the kids, etc. The uncertainty that I had kind of been able to hide from was starting to literally smack me in the face and I couldn’t hide anymore. Every time I had a scratch in my throat or a sniffle or my own children complained of something, my arms and legs would go numb and my mind would immediately begin reeling with the worst case scenario.  My heart would race, I would sweat, and the thoughts would literally not stop.  Ironically, all similar symptoms to the stupid virus, which doesn’t really help a mind that is already spinning out of control. If you aren’t someone that is super close to me you are probably reading this and shocked as hell, yes, I am someone that can hide/hold all of this together until my kids are usually in bed.  Then all hell breaks loose, which leads to interrupted or no sleep, which only worsens the cycle. My amazing husband, that knows me well, quickly recognized what was going on and prodded me to admit it was time to talk to someone.  This could have been a result of the Amazon packages arriving daily that included more masks, a finger pulse oximeter, and extra batteries for our thermometer. But I think the reality is he could see I was really struggling. (What? Don’t y’all have a machine to check your blood oxygen? Told you that anxiety messes with your mind!) 🙂

Fast forward through early September which included some of the days as I mentioned above, but they were getting fewer and far between until COVID began hitting me more personally. A co-workers father in hospice due to Covid-19, a local nursing home being greatly impacted, my best friend's husband hospitalized due to the virus, another friend's co-worker on a ventilator. I literally could not escape the fear that was consuming me.  I get it “Faith over fear”, “pray”, “we can’t live afraid”, “living like this is going to lower your immune system”, “just stop the thoughts.”  I say those things to myself, I have others say those things to me, and I literally ride the roller coaster of being tired of being afraid but also wanting to never leave our little slice of heaven so that I don’t have to fear it. I deleted most news outlets from my social media and even limited my use of Facebook to keep it out of my face.

Well, this week, I couldn’t hide my true feelings or thoughts anymore.  They came spilling out to some co-workers during a meeting and then became crippling when I discovered I was a close contact with a covid positive case last week. Yes, as I am typing this, I am currently quarantined and feeling fine (regardless of every sniffle or sneeze that my mind tries to convince me is “it”.)  I have about 5 more days of quarantine and already had a negative test so truly I think I am probably fine, but that doesn’t change my fear or the stories that run through my head.  During that interaction with co-workers this week I realized that through all of this crap of 2020 I have avoided all of the things I KNOW are good for my mental health: writing, self-care on my days off of work, and talking about this crap because I was ashamed.  Guess what?  There is no reason to be ashamed, I know with 100% truth there are other people living with anxiety, people that play the worst case scenario in their head about being hospitalized in isolation (hello, lived it), people that have experienced worse case scenarios, and people that are ashamed to admit it. 

I am here to say, it is ok to admit it.  Do not feel ashamed. There is relief and power in naming it and “Doing it afraid”.  Relief and power in reaching out to friends and family for help and relief and power in seeking help from medical doctors and therapists. 

You may be reading this and think, “She is crazy, I am not going to live my life in fear.” That is an absolute ok opinion to have. Maybe you are someone that has said, “Just stay home if you are afraid.” Sure, I get saying that, but that doesn’t pay the mortgage, farm payments, or help our mental health at all. Maybe, just maybe you are someone that hasn’t looked death in the face and wondered if you should be saying good-bye to your family from a hospital bed, maybe you don’t have underlying health conditions, and maybe you do.  Everyone has the right to feel the way they do.  I guess what I am hoping if you have stuck around to read all of this is that you realize mental health is real. It impacts real families, your neighbors, your children, your best friends.  Mental health causes REAL physical health issues, that you will probably never understand unless you experience them for yourself. Mental health needs to be talked about and cared for just as physical health does because it impacts real life human beings every single day whether there is a pandemic occurring or not. 

To wrap this long post up on World Mental Health Day, please know that someone like me doesn't want to have people tip toe around them either.  Invite your friends with anxiety places, they can choose to go or not.  Encourage them to take care of themselves! Ask them to go for a walk. Shoot them a text, drop them a card, or just be present with them. Remember those random acts of kindness I mentioned 5 minutes ago in the first paragraph?  They can change someone’s entire day!

From the gravel and (sometimes windy) road,

Jen

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