Love Does Not Automatically Equal Pain

Today I was on a hike with a friend and she said something to me that made me stop, think, and really evaluate what she said. She told me if you open your heart to love, you inevitably will experience pain. I never put that together. I didn’t think about when you open your vulnerabilities to other people, that they will make you experience pain. To be honest, I’m not sure if I still fully agree with the statement. I’m under the impression, and my core value is that people are inherently good, not evil. The fact that we have free will and the opportunity to make our own decisions can lead to painful things. But, does opening your heart to love automatically mean you’re going to feel pain and hurt?

Perhaps it does. Perhaps there’s a point in the relationship where you fully trust the other individual and you share some of your darkest secrets that your family never knows. That then gives the other person, whom you love, leverage over you or blackmail. Would you at that time be worried about that? Because you have entrusted the person you love so much with that detail? OR, should you assume that since you did open your heart, you’re not going to share those details because you know it will come back to you in some way, shape, matter, or form.

This is very black and white thinking. Arguing if you allow yourself to open your heart and fall in love, you open your heart to experience pain. But, does the opposite truly mean you wont experience pain? If you do not open your heart up for love, that does not necessarily mean you are fully equipped and shielded from pain and suffering.

This makes my brain take a large tangent off to getting “tested” for Alzheimer’s, which I believe is inconclusive testing. You can get tested to see if you carry a specific gene of Alzheimer’s, and if you have the gene, you will get Alzheimer’s in your lifetime. If you don’t carry the gene, that doesn’t mean you won’t get Alzheimer’s. In fact, my Mom did not carry the gene which she prided herself on. I sympathize with my Mom. If I had children, I would be so happy to know my poor DNA was passed down to them. Maybe poor is the wrong word, but I believe you understand what I’m saying.

When I was in the hospital at Regions, they asked me to take a long 500 question scantron test. The doctor told me that test came back “inconclusive” as well. So where do we find the answers? Where can we go to get the truth? How do we know what we are doing is the right thing?

To circle back, I am not sure if I fully accept the ascertain that opening your heart to love will inevitably mean you’re going to open your heart to pain. I think pain and suffering is a fact of life. No matter if you choose to open your heart or not, you will experience pain. You may experience more or a different type of pain if you do open your heart to love, however that is a personal decision each person can make.

Is the pain worth the joy? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Do the highs outweigh the lows? Is this venn diagram worth it?

To close, I do not believe love automatically means pain. I think love opens the door to experience joy, but it also opens another door to experience a different type of sorrow. I know each and everyone one of us deserves to experience joy. It is your job to grab onto the gifts that you have been given and use them for the better collective.

Love & Light,

Annie

2020; a Year of Mourning

Many people think of grief as something you go through when someone you know dies. While this concept has validity, grief encompasses so much more than a loss of life. I define grief as a point in time where something significantly changes, and you view it as a divide. What once was, and now the present.

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a year of mourning for all of us. The pandemic certainly brought a divide, along with ambiguous grief. The feeling of uncertainty is quite unsettling. We may be fearful of our health, our jobs, our social health, our friends, our loved small businesses closing, certain industries being strained, etc. Closing, re-opening, “dialing back”, are all phrases we are too familiar with, along with the phrase “unprecedented time”. This season of life we are in is ever changing our and evolving. “New normal” is a phrase that has stigma as well. I heard opinions say they reject the idea this is the new normal and are waiting for things to go back to what once was. The reality is, we may never go back to what once was. It is on us to accept the time it is as now, and try to move forward each day. Whether it is day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought a divide, the tragedy of George Floyd has certainly brought a season of mourning.

To tie it up into a pretty bow, we had our most significant election yet.

2020 has brought a season of significant changes that will be documented in history books. That has been something I’ve been pondering recently, how 2020 will be transcribed and taught to future generations. What as a society are we learning from this?

I think the biggest thing I’m learning is how to cope with grief. I’d like to admit that I’m an expert on grief as it relates to my own personal life. I have lost many loved ones, and have had a significant amount of large life changes, specific to 2020. I rented my condo and moved to Raleigh, I lost my aunt to a tragic heart attack (and was unable to attend her funeral due to the pandemic), I quit my full time job, I chose to dissolve my long term relationship, I moved back home to Minnesota, I got a job as a server as soon as I got home, and now with the shutdown I am not employed there currently.

2020 has been a year. For everyone, not just me. I think we all can relate to the struggle 2020 has brought to all of us. The uncertainty, the mourning and loss, the pain. We are all in it, we all feel it.

So what can we do about it? This is a time where we need to unify and come together, instead of pointing fingers. If we take a step back, we may realize we are not so different after all. We are all human, we make mistakes, we have emotions, and everything you may be feeling about 2020, has validity.

I wish I could say at the stroke of midnight on December 31st all our problems would be taken care of. Since we know that isn’t the case, here are some of my personal tips for coping with grief that work for me.

  • Have real, meaningful conversations with trusted individuals about your feelings. Make sure you trust this individual to validate your emotions and truly listen to you, rather than jumping to conclusions trying to “fix” a problem.
  • Set boundaries with others. Grief can drain you, so energy conservation is vital. A simple “that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I don’t have the (time, space, capacity, etc.) to discuss that right now” works well.
  • Take care of yourself. Seek movement each day. Don’t get hung up on setting extremes where you must be on a strict diet or training regime. Your energy may be low and setting too strict or high of plans could set you up for failure, and may result in low self esteem.
  • Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. At meal times breathe slowly, practice gratitude, and chew each bite thoroughly.
  • Seek an activity that ignites your sense of “play”. This is hard due to circumstances now, but play can be found in coloring or doing something creative, reading a fun book, playing a game with a family member or friend, getting creative in the kitchen, doing a project, etc. Find something you enjoy doing, and relish in that feeling.
  • Ground yourself. This means practice being present in the moment. Breath work is great for this. If yoga is feels good, try that. A friend recently suggested a really great way to implement a new habit of grounding yourself if it isn’t something your used to. He asserted a way to make a new habit stick, is to apply it to one that’s already there. For example, ground yourself while brushing your teeth. Focus directly on teeth brushing, or maybe listen to a specific song you enjoy, or try repeating positive affirmations in your head. The act is do something intentional each day that reminds you that you are here, and the time is now.

I hope you find value in my tips, and am very grateful that you have read my post. Feel free to leave a comment on any tips that you’ve tried that works well for you. I know I will use all the advice I can get considering the year I’ve had!

Love, light, warmth, and positive vibes,

Annie

P.S. Looking for some accountability, a trusted health professional, and a cheerleader for your health and fitness goals? Schedule a FREE discovery call that works for your time and schedule using the button on my services page!

Mental Health Update

Hi my dear friends. It’s been a while.

Yes, a while meaning the last blog post I wrote was day before my mother passed. My mother passed on July 20th, 2019. It has taken me this long to go through a season of mourning.

This season was probably one of the most tumultuous times that I have ever endured. I have recently been tuning into Brene Brown’s Ted Talks, specifically her talks about the Power of Vulnerability. So if you’re with me, check-in, lock up, and get ready for one of my most powerful, authentic, vulnerable posts yet.

Something you can always expect from my writing is that I will always be 110% unapologetically me. I write from my heart and soul. I use writing as a form of coping. You may be wondering why it has taken me this long to get back to posting on my site, or why I described this season of mourning the way that I have. The answer is revolved around my personal mental health. Upon my mother passing, I slowly slid down the treacherous path of depression. Grief is difficult to deal with, and when you add depressive symptoms to that as well, things get 10x harder. Layer in the season of winter in Minnesota, where the days get shorter, and less sunlight is available. Another thing I deal with is seasonal affective disorder otherwise known as SAD. (Fitting acronym, right?) As my season of mourning continued through the fall, I was finding it extremely difficult to give myself compassion to feel what I felt. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to snap out of my grief, my depression, and just let it go. My depression came in forms of withdrawing from friends and activities. I stopped doing the things I found joy in. That is why I describe depression as a treacherous slope. Personally, once my depressive symptoms hit, it is a slippery slope. I found little joy in doing things that I used to love doing, therefore, I stopped doing them. I had this dark cloud over my head, and at times, it was difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. I stopped working out, I stopped nourishing my body with the food it deserves, I stopped reaching out to family and loved ones. It was truly the hardest season of grief and mourning I have ever endured.

I often thought, “why is this so difficult?” I knew this was coming. My mother battled a horrible, wretched disease for at least 8 known years. Her days of pain and suffering are no more, and she has been set free. So why was it so difficult for me to get over my grief and depression?! I have dealt with significant loss in my immediate family before. I thought since I dealt with my oldest brother’s passing, the grief for my Mom would be a walk in the park. Boy, I was wrong.

If you know me, you likely know my role in my mother’s life for the last years that she lived. I was her legal guardian, and power of attorney. I played this large role in her life, one I like to call a caretaker. I often felt like I was not just a caretaker, but also a peacemaker between my family. Depending on the day, there would be intricacies of who is on speaking terms to whom, and I would have to carefully craft my communication in order for it to be well received. When my mother passed, I not only am grieving her, but I am also grieving this large role I played in her life. I took this role for granted, and often was annoyed that I was placed in this role. Looking back, it gave me a sense of purpose and pride. When this sense of purpose was stripped from me, I was left barren, confused, and alone.

You may be wondering how I am writing you today and what brought me here. Very reluctantly, I knew things had to change. I had to “fake it until I make it”. (Even though I truly hate that saying, what if I don’t want to fake it? Now what are you going to tell me to do?? I digress…) What I ended up doing was a little soul searching, and tried to remember the things that brought me joy in the past. I ended up joining a women’s volleyball league, I started exercising more, I started meal prepping again. I ended up hiring a nutrition coach, because believe me, I am the first to admit I need help and know the value in a coach and someone that cheers you on. I started therapy, and that has brought so much value and growth to me. It made me process my feelings in a productive and healthy manner. It has given me tools to succeed and helped me realize my patterns and habits. Truth be told, I have perfectionist qualities. Identifying as a perfectionist was a hard pill for me to swallow. I have a very hard time admitting that I have “something wrong with me”.

A reality that is even more difficult for me to accept, is something that I have dealt with my entire life, and just this past week, decided to accept that it is real and a part of me. I am living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I never wanted to admit this in the past. Previously when I sought therapy, a counselor suggested I had this disorder, and her mere suggestion literally threw me into a full blown panic attack. I have only ever had 3 panic attacks in my life, but I can replay those tapes and feelings as if it was yesterday. My ego did not want to admit I do have something wrong with me. I felt like if I admit this, I am assuming defeat. This rolls back to my perfectionist tendencies. I don’t want to admit that I am not perfect. I do need to admit that this is a real disorder that is affecting my life. This disorder makes me feel on edge, and stressed out all the time. So much so, the stress is affecting my sleeping habits. In fact, I am writing this right now at 1:32am. I have been waking up in the middle of the night due to elevated levels of cortisol (stress hormone). This is typical for someone who has the symptoms of chronic stress. Yesterday, I discovered the emotional reality that my disorder is responsible for the chronic stress I undergo.

DEEP BREATH

That is something I am really practicing to help cope with GAD. Breathwork, meditation, and relaxation. I have the hardest time trying to relax. I often feel like I am wound up so tight, if you say something to me that I could perceive with malintentions, it can push me over the edge and I can be sent down a spiral of negative self talk.

I have my cousin to thank for telling me to, “lower my ‘give a f*ck’ level”. When she first told me this concept I was thought to myself, “but how?!” I cared so greatly about what other people think of me. I wanted to appear perfect on the outside. Slowly but surely, I am certainly trying to lower this level and take a deep breath.

During this time of healing, growth, and self compassion, I have decided to not take on any clients and make my own health a priority. I want to come back better than ever, so I can serve clients that are going through similiar mental health struggles with empathy and compassion.

That’s all for now, thank you for taking the time to read through this in it’s entirety.

Love, light, and in gratitude,

Annie

Doggie Stress isn’t so Different from Human Stress

Good Morning,

Today I want to share how my morning started off with being overwhelmed. I slept in a little bit longer as I stayed up a little bit later. Julean was up before me as he is on a time crunch for work. I got my things together ready to go to the gym, and took Benji outside. Then I noticed while I was outside, I left my keys and my phone inside the condo. I go to the front entry way, call my phone several times hoping Julean would pick up. After he didn’t, I scrolled to see if I could find a neighbor to let me in. Luckily, I was able to have someone let me in.

When I got back in, I asked if he heard my phone, and he got defensive and said no. I brushed it off at that point. Then, I notice a canvas print of us on a vacation was no longer hanging up. I automatically assumed he walked in with Benji annoyed and brushed the picture off the wall and didn’t care enough to pick it back up and re-hang it.

As I was meditating this morning at the gym, it made me reflect on the private dog training session we had with Benji last week. The dog trainer talked about how Benji is an anxious puppy, since it appears he was injured by one of his litter mates. (He has a tucked ear). Therefore, he always assumes other dogs are dangerous until proven otherwise, and gets very anxious around them.

The dog trainer explained something to me called “trigger stacking”. This concept is where Benji would go on a walk, and see one dog, and cortisol would be released. When he sees the next dog, he will have an even more anxious response since the cortisol did not have enough time to process through his body. The cortisol is stacked on top of the previous stress response with each dog he sees on a walk. This was eye opening to me as a few weeks ago we took Benji to the CHS’ Dog Day at the Saints Baseball game. I thought it would be a good idea to take Benji rollerblading prior to the event to “burn off some energy”. However, this was the opposite of the right thing to do for Benji. Rollerblading released cortisol as he saw other dogs on the path. Benji was at a heightened state of stress when he brought him to the game.

Full circle back to how I was overwhelmed this morning. Perhaps we as humans aren’t quite so different from our animal friends. My stress started as I slept in a little bit later than normal. This wasn’t a huge stressor since I welcomed the extra hour of sleep. I soon became annoyed because Benji didn’t eat his dinner last night and it was still on the floor. I try to brush it off and realize he probably really needs to go to the bathroom and that’s why he’s not eating. Being at my own heightened state of stress, I did not have the rationale to remember to grab my condo keys. Then, more stress is released as I realized I forgot, and Julean doesn’t answer my phone. Take it one step further as I notice a valued print is on the floor, my rational thinking it completely out the door at this point (no pun intended originally, but kind of punny!), and I make the assumption that it was Julean’s carelessness.

Then, I notice the 3M hook the canvas was hanging on is no longer on the wall. It was neither of our fault’s.

I’m currently working through Headspace’s series called, “Letting Go of Stress” and today’s guided meditation was exactly what I needed to hear and to reflect. I was definitely overwhelmed by stress this morning and it affected the way that I reacted. I have to constantly remind myself I need to respond to stressful situations instead of reacting. I’m interested and excited to keep going through Headspace’s series and see how I can grow my skill of responded to stress, letting go of stress, and not being overwhelmed by it.

We’re not so different from our animal friends, are we? Please share your thoughts! Have you ever experienced trigger stacking?

In gratitude,

Annie

No Beginners Allowed

I sit here in absolute awe of the beautiful mountains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It makes me take a step back, take a deep breath, and be filled with what nature provides. I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to travel and snowboard here at Mount Bohemia.

It truly is a different place up here. Their tagline is “no beginners allowed”. It is extreme back country where they do not groom any of their runs and you can ride in very fresh powder. For scale, I took a photo with snowboard next to it.

Friday night, we drove even further to the tip of the UP to Copper Harbor. We hiked about 2 miles, in snowboard boots, to have a wonderful view and out first ride of the weekend. There’s something to say for hiking that hard and far, getting up to the top and knowing you’ve made it. You have earned your ride down. As some would say, “You earn your turns”.

It was my first time riding in about two years, and I can’t really put into words the feeling that engulfed me as I laced up my snowboard boots and strapped into my board. I felt home.

An oversight of mine was not trying on my gear before riding. As I put on my snowboard pants, there was no way I could wear them without a belt. It made me take another step back and realize how far I have come on my fitness journey.

It was my first snowboard trip without drinking. To be completely honest, I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything by not drinking. I participated in fun events, like a limbo contest that I was very close to winning. Too bad my height is against me in limbo! Another fun event I participated in was the “Man Carries Woman” event, which is apparently super popular in Finland. My friend Kristen empowered me to participate, but participate in the sense that I would carry someone else.

Here’s a video of me trying out the typically carry of this event with my friend Jennifer:

After realizing I can complete the event, we did compete, and took 3rd place. Here’s another highlight video, and shows my cabin buddies Kristin (banana) and Brandi (Hawaiian tourist) attempting to compete piggy back style.

This was so much fun, and made me think I could maybe compete in a strong(wo)man competition someday.

I am so lucky to have such supportive and kind friends that push me to my full potential. What was even more motivating, was how understanding they were of my competition prep. They saw me pull out my Tupperware and ate lean protein, guac and rice. They commended me for doing what I was doing when I was out to eat with them, and eating my prepared food.

It was very motivating putting on a swimsuit for the hot tub and feel proud of the body I have earned.

A weekend was well spent. Mount Bohemia is such a great time and I am grateful and fortunate for my time spent up here with such amazing people.

Love and Light,

Annie