I have a confession to make: I am *only* human. This may, or may not, come as a shock to you, or perhaps rather you don't particularly care. Regardless, I feel there is a lot I have to get off my chest, and since my go-to form of self-therapy is writing, here goes... Deep inhalation! Over the past four months or so I have broken just about every self-imposed rule and "good", healthy habit I've spent the last few years creating. While the first half of 2016 was spent happily and healthily cruising through a semester of uni and preparing for my exchange, shit (internally) hit the fan once I arrived in Montreal. The exchange itself was not at all the problem (rather it was one big, magical, amazing adventure), but something about removing myself entirely from my support network and comfort zone in Melbourne and jetting off to the other side of the world really brought a lot of stuff to the surface; things, issues, insecurities and the like that I thought I'd dealt with years ago.
During the last few months I have completely relapsed into a sugar "addiction", including eating dessert close to every night and visiting several dessert cafes in Montreal on a very regular basis, knowing full well the detrimental impacts of sugar. I ate sugar, dairy and probably even "insidious" gluten all during this time. I left Canada physically much "fluffier" than when I arrived, despite initially having high hopes that I would magically become a gym bunny in that time. I have pushed the very edge of my capacity to survive on a barely sufficient and broken sleep cycle, which included late-night study cram sessions and post-midnight bedtimes, all while retaining my early wake up times. For me this was nothing short of draining, as someone who values and needs good sleep to function. I spent WAY too much time scrolling through social media, and spent hours comparing myself to the perfect images of people I saw on these sites. I am pretty sure this self-inflicted comparison was at least partly responsible for the large dip in my self-esteem during this time.
My previously ritualistic morning yoga and meditation practice was sporadic at best. And on that note my meditations were largely filled with loud, noisy, distracted, wild, negative and self-despising thoughts. Most of the time it felt as if the five or so years of conscious positive thinking were a bleak and distant past, as my mind and spirit dived to the depths of self-loathing, self-doubt and anxiety. I dwelled on small mistakes as if they were my biggest life regrets. I let self-consciousness about my body consume the vast majority of my mental space, leaving little energy for genuine connections with people or positive, inspiring content creation (apologies to you guys).
I self-diagnosed binge eating disorder during a nutrition lecture. Not exactly a medical diagnosis, and God only knows if I actually have it, but in that moment it felt as years of denial of my disordered relationship with food finally hit home. Becoming aware of these poor habits did not stem the compulsion, but rather made me hyper-aware of the ways in which I use food to self-medicate, whenever I am feeling bored, sad, tired, emotional, or even happy. I also realised the destructive nature of the restrictive-bingeing cycle I've been dipping in and out of for the past two years.
I turned 21 and thought "Wasn't I meant to have my life together by now?!". In the past few months I've felt like the biggest failure, and an even bigger fraud. How could I blog about health and positivity when I was living by none of these good practices? I was terrified that if I revealed even the tiniest bit of weakness people would lose all respect for me. I feared that the "truth" about what I was going through was too ugly to be likeable. For the most part I not only didn't love myself, I didn't even like myself all that much.
The weirdest part about this all is that while internally I was dealing with the biggest shit-storm of emotions and "stuff" that I can remember, I don't feel as though it detracted from my exchange experience in any way at all. My exchange, my time in Montreal and my travels (thus far, I am writing this from my Air BnB in London) have been nothing short of magical and I am honestly so grateful for every single part of my experience.
So, why all the confessions? Why now? I can't really tell you, to be honest. Perhaps something about the new year has spurred me on, made me realise that if I can get it out there then I can start with a clean slate, and there is nothing I love more than the thought of that. Also, I know that vulnerability is important, albeit very, very hard! I am personally drawn to blog posts that are written from a very open, transparent place. I love reading about other people's realities and being able to relate. And it isn't very easy to relate to someone who on paper seems perfect, is it?
In all this muddled mess of the latter part of 2016 there have been some incredible lessons and learnings. I learnt that health, whilst important, does not define me. As a part of investing my time and energy into this blog I have somehow attached part of my identity to it. But I now realise that I am still me whether I am drinking a green smoothie or a chocolate milkshake. I am still me whether I go to bed at 9pm or 2am. I am still me even when I don't do yoga and meditate every single morning.
What's more, I've realised that even when I feel like I've lost all control and good sense, there are always positive things. During this time here are a just few things I did really well:
- I journaled (if you don't have a journal then get one, it is free self-therapy and it is oh-so helpful if you have a monkey mind!)
- I did lots of yoga. Sure, it may not have been as the sun was rising, but I did do lots and it helped as always.
- I exercised. My friend and I started going to the gym together 3-4 times a week and exercise became an integral part of my routine, no matter how tired I was. I am proud of the strength I gained from this good habit.
- I opened up to people. It was hard being away from my normal confidants, but I was reminded that sometimes letting someone see your pain is the quickest route to building a true connection with them, and allowing them to be honest with you.
- I was more spontaneous. Perhaps that spontaneity meant more spontaneous trips to our favourite dessert place in Montreal, but it taught me that sometimes you do have to throw caution to the wind and just live!
- I believed that everything happens for a reason. This really helped me in the moments of greatest despair, because I knew that this was all part of a bigger plan. I knew that I would emerge from this experience stronger and perhaps a little wiser. Who knows if I am even there yet, but I am hopeful that I am on my way!
I am *only* human. I make mistakes. I eat bad food sometimes. I drink alcohol too. I stay up too late. I occasionally hurt the people I love. I say things I regret. I worry about the way I look a lot. I don't like myself sometimes. I don't always live in the present moment. My mind is not as clear as I'd like it to be. My heart is just maybe a tiny bit broken and confused. Sometimes I doubt my reason for existing.
I am *only* human. And never have I felt my human-ness quite as much as I have in the past few months. Maybe that's the whole point. All I can hope, like everyone else out there, is that in all my imperfect humanness I can still find the capacity to love myself. And that maybe others will be able to love me, flaws and all?
Phew! That was all a bit melancholic, reflective and heavy, wasn't it? Wherever you are reading this right now, thanks for indulging me. I hope that somehow you found something helpful in all this. And before I sign off, I need to say a HUGE thank you to all the beautiful souls (friends, family and other awesome people) who have been there for me, in one way or another, during this time. Know that your love, compassion and patience will never go unnoticed by me and that I am always here to return the favour.
From the bottom of my heart I am wishing you the happiest and healthiest 2017 yet. Let's embrace our humanness, together!
Infinite love, Erica x