Giving Voice To The Struggle

I’ve started this post more times than I can count. I’ve written and deleted what I would imagine is hundreds of half drafts with hundreds more floating around in my head. How do I find just the right words to say what I want to say? What if it’s not perfect? What if people don’t understand? Is being vulnerable worth it? If it’s not flowery and pretty – but raw and honest – will people even care? What if they think I’m just trying to get attention? Will it even help anyone?

… STOP…

Enough is enough. The thoughts keeping me from sharing are the thoughts that I am trying to share. Sharing is important to me. This little corner of the interwebs is a very important part of my life.  It’s not about the notoriety or attention. For me sharing has always been about making people realize they are not alone. Not only have I wanted to make others realize they weren’t alone, I needed to know that I wasn’t alone either. Over the last two years or so I’ve been eerily quiet here though. I’ve wondered what, if anything, people thought about my silence. That I was just too busy (true), that I hit my weight loss goals and had nothing else to write about (not true), that I didn’t care about sharing any more (not true), that I gained back all the weight I lost and was ashamed to talk about it (it’s complicated)… while there could be many different reasons and excuses for my lack of presence both here and on social media there is ultimately one reason…

I’m struggling. 

Not in the “it’s Monday afternoon and I’m a little tired” struggling. The dig deep, foundation shaking, world view cracking, sleepless night, anxiety filled, broken, exhausted, confused, and trying to figure it all out kind of struggling. That kind of struggling isn’t sexy. It doesn’t sell. There are no three easy steps to create pinable images out of. There’s no finished product. There’s no before and after that will fill you with a flash of inspiration.

There are always three parts to a story. The beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is easy to share. I was here… the end generally brings resolution (unless it’s last night’s season premiere of walking dead but that’s a whole other post). But the middle… the struggle… that is always somehow minimized. Yet it is the meat of the story, where the magic happens. Before and After weight loss pictures don’t tell anything about the middle. As a matter of fact, they ignore it completely. People generally don’t want to hear about the struggle. We don’t go around showing our still open and raw wounds. We may show off our scars, once the rawness and pain has passed. The struggle doesn’t ever get a voice. And because of that living in the struggle is a shameful, dark, and lonely place. That’s so sad when the reality is many of us are living in the struggle. It may not be an earth shattering, sleep taking, life altering struggle… but it’s a struggle none the less.

I’m not going to try to minimize or exaggerate my struggle. It is mine to live with, to work through, to conquer. We each have our own and it affects us all differently. No ones is better or worse, easier or harder. Your struggle isn’t any more or less important or valid than mine. While I’ve had many different types of struggle there is one underlying struggle that seems to connect with and make the others far more difficult to conquer… and that is my struggle with anxiety. It wasn’t until the last several months that I was able to put a name to the thing that has haunted me for so long. I’ve lived with this feeling for about as long as I can remember. This constant buzz (and not the fun kind LOL). This constant feeling that I had to be doing something, doing more, doing better. This suffocating fear of not being perfect. This unquenchable thirst for control over the tiniest things. This overwhelming fear of the unknown. It’s lived with me for a long time. It didn’t manifest itself in the stereotypical ways we see anxiety being portrayed. It festered just under the surface enough to be annoyingly undetectable under normal life circumstances. I managed it well without even knowing it, numbing the pain and discomfort with busyness, productivity, overachievement. I kept that dull ache at bay for a long time. This post really sums it up well –> What it’s like to have ‘High Functioning Anxiety

Over the past year or two life has been anything but normal. In a really healthy way and out of a desire to live our best life Chris and I began to ask hard questions about where we were and what we wanted out of life. You know the typical “It’s the end of your 20’s and you should have life figured out by now” kind of questions. How did we get here? Is this the life we want to live? Are we happy? If we keep doing what we’re doing now what will life look like 10 years from now? While there are a lot of deep and personal answers we discovered both individually and together there was one big decision we made that changed everything. After years of running several of our own businesses and trying to live off the high of the “American Dream” because it was what we were supposed to do… Chris decided to pursue his lifelong passion of working in the medical field. With a bachelors in marketing and some experience as an EMT nearly a decade ago we set ourselves on a journey to make the impossible happen. Less than 2 weeks before the start of the semester he enrolled in school to finish the pre-reqs he would need to get into the program he wanted. In typical Chris and Courtney fashion we dove into the deep end. Him in school and working full time with the marketing company meant I had to step up in a lot of other areas. I believed in him and his passion and ability to make the jump from marketing to nursing and wanted to do anything I could to make it happen. I was capable and driven. The story of how we are where we are today with this is nothing short of a miracle. In the past year I went from helping coach and manage to running the CrossFit completely on my own, he passed his pre-reqs, he was accepted into a very difficult to get into accelerated masters of nursing program, we sold our house, moved into in apartment, P changed schools and started 1st grade… so yea, not just a normal year.

This circumstances made my previously undetected unproblematic anxiety show it’s true ugly face. The truth is I am more than capable of handling everything I’ve been through – anxiety just made it a lot harder than it should have been. I didn’t understand what was happening with me. I was scared. Anxiety that usually manifested itself in a deceivingly productive way became almost crippling. There were days when getting out of bed seemed impossible. I was disconnected, shut down, closed off. I couldn’t catch my breath, literally and figuratively. I knew there was something wrong… but I was a perfectionist, the smart girl who should know how to handle it all. The one who helped not the one who asked for help. I was neck deep in the struggle. I said I was ok, that I could handle it. I always did. I was the strong one, the capable one. Hell, I have a psychology degree surely I should have healthy coping mechanisms for this. But I didn’t. Refusing to acknowledge I was living in the struggle cost me a lot. Not being honest with myself or the people close to me about my struggle caused a lot of pain. Pretending to be ok when I wasn’t nearly killed me. Maybe not in the physical sense. Suicide, while a very real and scary problem that I’m not discounting, is not a struggle of mine. I’d rather live with my pain than inflict it on those around me by taking my life. Living with that pain was suffocating though. I tried to numb that pain in a lot of ways – some more reckless than others. My default pain killer of choice was and will always will be busyness. If I’m not still enough long enough to feel it I can pretend it’s not there. All this self-medicating was wearing on me though. Eventually… in some very painfully vulnerable moments… I was able to admit I was struggling and needed help. And even just being able to tell someone that felt like weight off my shoulders.

I’ve spent a very long time trying to be perfect. I’ve constantly been “on” trying to prove something… to myself, to the world. I was trying so hard to hold it all together because I was so scared of falling apart. Of being less than perfect. Of not being good enough. I was talking to a very close friend of mine about this… About how I kept everything tucked so neatly inside the outline everyone drew for me with their expectations… and that if I ventured outside those lines I was afraid I’d fall apart. The response was exactly what I needed to hear even if I didn’t want to hear it (tough love friends are the best, aren’t they?)

“You can’t be scared to address your shit. Living in fear is no way to live. The truth is you may fall apart when you open it up. But guess what?  The people in your life who love you are going to be here to help put you back together and the reassembled version is going to be so much stronger, more confident and healthier.”

I lived my whole life refusing to give myself permission to not be ok. I held myself to impossible standards. I was… am.. broken. Because we, as humans, are imperfect and broken. I have, with the help of Chris and other very dear people in my life, given myself permission to be broken. And it has been intoxicatingly liberating.

I am still in the struggle. I’m just giving that struggle a voice. I have good days and bad days. I saw my doctor and am taking Anxiety meds. I set up a meeting with a therapist. I am learning how to have healthy coping mechanisms. I don’t have it all figured out. My wounds are still raw and open wounds not impressive scars. I don’t have a perfectly posed after picture to inspire you… all I have is the promise that you are not alone. You are enough.You don’t have to be perfect. Simply existing makes you worthy.

img_0659

It’s ok to give your struggle a voice. To not have it all together. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m here for you and I know each and every one of you have people around you that love you and would love to be there for you too.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Oh hey there.

IMG_6591

It’s been faaaaaar too long. I had a moment this summer when I realized that I was trying to juggle so many different things and doing none of them exceptionally well. I wanted so desperately to be good at everything and ended up feeling like I wasn’t good at anything. And while it was something I loved and worked so hard to build… the blog was something I had to let go of updating regularly. Who knew being a wife and mom, running (and expanding!) several businesses, trying to maintain my own health and fitness, and figuring out life with a kid now in school would be too much for one person to handle… ha. It was important to me to be more present in every day life and most of my responsibilities, like running a CrossFit, weren’t ones I could give up on. So I took a break from posting regularly here. But I’ve missed it! And now that I feel like I have a little bit of a better handle on things I’m excited to try to get back into the groove with posting here.

This blog has grown and changed as I have grown and changed. It has been a place for deep reflections, a training journal for my past races, it had a short stint as an attempted crafting blog, but mostly it has been the way I have documented my weight loss and fitness journey over the past 5 years. The thing is along with realizing I couldn’t do it all I reached a major turning point in my weight loss journey this summer. I reached a point where the number on the scale wasn’t very important. I wasn’t willing to go to more extreme measures just to see that number change. I stopped stressing about it. As I continued to study for my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification I started implementing some of the principles I was learning. I kept up with my regular Crossfit workouts, which range between 1-2 hours a day 5 days a week. I made healthy choices for the most part and enjoyed some indulgences on occasion as well. I’m almost scared to admit it… but I feel like I found peace and balance. I don’t want to say I’m in maintenance mode. I do want to be more lean than I currently am. But I absolutely love my body where it is at as well.

6-love-your-body

It’s weird, though. To be at a place I always dreamed of being. We just got back from a trip to Jamaica (I’ll write more about that in another post) where I spent 4 days in a bikini and not once felt ashamed or self conscious. And when people started posting pictures from the weekend I didn’t cringe or hate any of them. I looked at myself and think “wow, I did this” instead of thinking how I need to eat less or workout more.

This shift in mindset didn’t happen because I lost weight. This shift in my mindset happened because I worked on my mind and soul. By learning to care for my body I learned that there is so much more to being healthy than just eating right and working out. Being completely healthy means taking care of your body, mind, and soul.

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind, drawing on blackboard

Doing things you love, challenging the lies you’ve been told about yourself your whole life, speaking powerful truths in place of those lies, taking time to invest in yourself, discovering your worth, surrounding yourself with people who support and empower you… all these things lead to being completely healthy. And that is what a lot of people miss on this journey. That’s dangerous. If all you do is focus on the physical aspect it is far more likely the changes you see in your body won’t stay around for long. I’d wager to say the changes I’ve seen in my body, especially in the last few months, have been not because I was focusing on the physical changes but because I have been focusing on my mind and soul as well. Realizing (and admitting) that I can’t do it all was a huge step for me. It eliminated the stress I put on myself. Because no one expected me to be able to do it all… except for me. When I started removing stress and unrealistic expectations from my life I became happier and healthier.

bikiniprogress

Same bikini, 5 months apart. I noticed a huge difference! According to the scale I’ve lost 13lbs on the scale, PR’d several lifts, and even got a few pull ups, got toes to bar, and got my rope climbs back. I haven’t changed my eating or workouts significantly. I’ve simply focused on my mental and emotional well being and tried to manage my stress more effectively.

.

It’s been a process, It always is. But you are worth the hard work.

Do you focus on your mental and emotional health or just your physical health?
What can you do today to be healthier in mind, body, and soul?

 

 

Twenty-Eight

Yesterday was a special day… my birthday!

My twenty-eighth birthday to be exact.

Birthdays have always been fun to me. They are another day to celebrate and look back on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. I have a blurred memory of lots of my birthdays growing up… the first one I remember was when I was 4. I remember getting this big brown teddy bear that I actually may still have in the basement… There was one that was a surprise party on Easter Sunday, that may have been my 7th I think. I had my easter dress, bonnet, and gloves on and heard the loud SURPRISE as I walked in the door and promptly collapsed to the floor. My sweet 16 was another little surprise party with my youth group friends. On my 18th birthday my parents surprised me by pulling a “Pimp my Ride” style stunt and completely redoing my 96 Pontiac Sunfire turning into what was lovingly dubbed the Smiley-Mobile. Think bright yellow, flashy lights, and a windsheild decal that said Smiley (which was my nickname back then)

IMG_9263

IMG_9262

Excuse the quality of these pictures… I’m pretty sure they were taken with a disposable camera. And I had to dig them out of an old photo album, like a physical photo album… not one on a hard drive somewhere.

Anyway, that was my pride and joy for awhile. Until she died. RIP Smiley. As I was thinking about all my past birthdays and this one came up I realized that was TEN years ago. Gosh, at 18 I seemed so… young. And yes, I was wearing a tiara made out of silver pipe cleaners…. Oh life. It seemed so simple back then. I remember vividly imagining where I would be in 10 years. Man, was I wrong. And I’m so thankful too. Garth was right when he said Some of God’s Greatest gifts were unanswered prayers.

As I look back on the past 28 years there are so many life lessons and defining moments. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, especially in the last 10 years, is to not to live life solely based on expectations. Not just your own expectations, but that of those around you and society. I am no where I expected to be when I pictured 28. I’m actually in a much better place than I could have ever imagined.

#familyselfie at the circus! #moolahshrine

A post shared by Courtney Norman (@imperfectlycourtney) on

I have a handsome husband and a beautiful daughter.

IMG_9244

I am in the best shape of my life.

IMG_9100

I have the most amazing CrossFit family. I have a wonderfully supportive online community (you guys are awesome!) and I get a new chance to inspire people every single day.

I truly am blessed. Yesterday everyone made me feel so special. I can’t thank you all enough for that.

Here is to another year full of loving fiercely, laughing loudly, and living large.

What’s one of your most memorable birthdays?