It's a rainy Sunday morning and I'm home alone. The dog is snoring happily by my side, a warm mug of coffee nestles in my hand as my eyes trace the rain drops down the window and my mind is blissfully quiet. My partner is on his way home from a weekend away. I've missed him; his steady, quiet presence. I'm happy, in that moment, I have peace.
It isn't always like this for me. Let's wind the clocks back just 5 years. Now, let me tell you how my days back then started….
My brain rattles awake by the brutal buzzing of the alarm, eyelids as heavy as lead. For a moment, I'm numb. Then, reality slaps me around the face and my chest constricts and my pulse quickens. I have to get up, drag my fat ass to do a job I hate. I walk past the mirror which is draped in scarves and clothes, not because I'm too lazy to put them away - that's where they live. To hide the reality of my body from my eyes.
Showered, dressed and 3 fags down I reach for my fourth cup of coffee and think about leaving the house. It's 7am. I haven't heard from him, again. He just doesn't care, I'm just not enough. I hate myself. Just some of the thoughts racing through my chaotic head - the nicer ones, frankly. I'm going to be late….
The 40 minute 8 mile long commute to work provides more of opportunity to listen to the constant narrative in my head. The thoughts becoming progressively more self destructive. Catastrophic thinking in full flow. Staring at others in their cars chastising their children or smiling at their other halves and am left wishing away my life for theirs.
Putting out cigarette number 8, I pull into work; anxiety's fist clamped around my heart and steel myself for the day ahead. Just another 24 hours, that's all you've got to survive.
This was my life for a very long time. Well, life is not the word. Existence is probably more accurate. 17 years. That's how long I existed like this. Why? Yeah, great fucking question! How? Yeah, even better.
Why? Because I didn't even realise that life could be any different. How? Same reason. I was in an incredibly dysfunctional relationship which slowly but very surely stripped away every ounce of my self worth. I filled the gaps with things that made me feel better. Food. Alcohol. Cigarettes. I worked my ass off only to have it handed to me. Fuck you life.
I was depressed, not that I identified it as that name then. I was anxious. I was unrecognisable to myself. And I knew I had to make a change, I just didn't know how. My weight was at an all time high. My alcohol intake the same. All of which just made my predicament worse. Every morning I'd wake and the cycle repeated. MAKE IT STOP!!!! Who the fuck am I?!
The morning everything changed was my 36th birthday. Here I was, fat, hating myself, childless and in a loveless relationship. A huge, wonderful family I haven't seen in years because I'm too ashamed of what my life has become to go to any kind of family occasion. Isolated. OK, enough. ENOUGH! I actually screamed it out loud. Life HAS to be more than this. 'No, it's all you deserve…' FUCK OFF inner voice! You've had your day. I was trembling, but there was something new…unidentifiable. Wait. Is that excitement?!?!?!
That was the day my life changed - completely. The start of a journey to where I am today. A good place, largely. I wrote a list, in order of priority, of the things I wanted to change. They were:
- My relationship, with him and self
- My weight
- My job
I'm not saying these were the right order of importance - but don't judge me. It's what worked for me.
I ended 17 years with a man who wasn't actually very nice to me. There was no great dramatic display. There was no heated exchange and, 'oh baby please don't go'. I told him I didn't love him, packed up his shit and said goodbye. That’s it. It was done. I felt free. I felt terrified. I felt amazing.
I went back to the gym. What? I've always had a membership, it was just used to fund their Christmas parties rather than my fitness! This time I wanted to get healthy. So I asked a personal trainer to help me. They wrote me a programme to follow. They helped me understand how to eat to support my goals and most of all, they helped me to fall in love with the gym and what it stood for, for me.
I was made redundant. WOOOOOOOOP!
This is a blog, not a novel. If it were the latter I'd wax lyrical about the ups and downs. But of course there were highs and lows! That's life. The point is, I had a healthy way of processing these- I went and picked up heavy shit in the gym.
Slowly my inner voice became a little less toxic. The dark, crippling times when I had devastating thoughts were becoming few and far between. I actually smiled at people as I walked about. Most importantly, these smiles were real! They weren't coming from the actress who created the illusion of having her shit together. This girl, she actually HAS her shit together.
I became lean, strong, resilient, confident and self assured. Don't be naïve and think that old ghosts have gone! They haven't, they just don't have power over me now. Now I say boo, and crack on!
I met the love of my life. It's true ya know. You absolutely have to love yourself before you accept the love of another.
I became a coach. A personal trainer. Best. Job. EVER.
This took time. In fact, I would say I'm still a work in progress to be honest. I still have bad days. The point is I'm much more resilient to be able to deal with the bad days now, and not disappear back down the rabbit hole! I can say when I'm having a bad day and not worry that my world will blow up in my face. I am OK, on most days. And on the days I'm not - it's OK not to be OK.
The gym saved my life. Well, OK - I did that. But the gym was my accomplice. Sounds dramatic doesn't it? But it's true. It's a HUGE part of why I chose to be a personal trainer. I wanted to help others engage in positive change. It didn't change my life, I did that. But it did give me the strength to carry the weight of my world on my shoulders.
Writing this has been one of the toughest things I've done in a long time. Both because it takes me back to those dark times, but also because it's sharing a very raw and real view of me to the world. So why do it?
I do it so anyone out there thinking they can't do it knows it's possible. You aren't on your own. You aren't stuck. You are beautiful. You are flawed. You are possible. Take one small step forward today. My hand is outreached ready to give you a steadying start. You got this.
There are many ways I work with people to engage them in positive change for themselves, not just training them in a gym. If you want to talk about ways in which I may add value to your life, please don't hesitate to get in touch.