Tuning In: When the Body Says ENOUGH!

I have been diagnosed with Epilepsy for twelve years. (for those of you who don’t know, Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes you to have seizures). When I was a kid, I was pretty much the poster child of someone who lived with well-controlled seizures. My seizures only occurred about twice a year, and even then they were in my sleep and the worst that would happen is that I would wake up with a bloody tongue. I never felt affected by this medical condition; I just felt like I was an ordinary kid who took medication twice a day to help control these mysterious seizures that only presented themselves on a rare occasion. My neurologist (a doctor who deals with epilepsy and other brain disorder conditions) was in awe. I was going to be graduating from high school soon and I was heading off across the country to start university. She seemed to think this was a big deal! At the time I just kind of shrugged my shoulders. Wasn’t everyone expected to graduate high school and go to university? I mean, my parents never said that I had to go to university, but it was something that I wanted, and I didn’t know why it was such a big deal.

Fresh blackberries, what a delicious treat!

Adjusting to university life was a bit of a struggle, as I tried to balance the stress of work and becoming more independent. The seizures still occurred from time to time, but I was never really in serious danger, as they usually always occurred while I was in bed or in my room. Well, except for the time that I did a face plant because I had a seizure while running. Other than that, the ride was pretty smooth.

January of 2012 is when things got out of control. I had a couple of minor seizures, but as the months kept coming more seizures came too. It got to the point where I feared going to school in the event that I would have a seizure and smack my face on the floor. Even worse than the physical harm to my body was the shame and embarrassment I had about the seizures. If you have ever witnessed a seizure, you will know that they look a little bizarre. I started to become very worried, and ultimately became very depressed. At the time I wouldn’t have told you that my anxiety was up the wazoo and I was so far in the depression hole that I couldn’t find a ladder. I was pretty much unaware of both. Even then, I am good at putting on a good face when I have to. I didn’t want to burden anyone. Plus, I figured that I was just a tired out student. I mean, no one wants to get out of bed on a Monday morning, and sometimes it’s sometimes hard to focus in lectures. Also, students are busy, right? We don’t always have time to eat properly, or at all, which is what happened to me as I found myself less hungry for food, and less hungry for the things that used to bring me joy.

Cold day at the beach. My own photography.

I was pretty much in extreme denial. I just saw depression as something that happened to other people. Oh boy, was I wrong. The interesting thing about depression and epilepsy is that they work together in a happy little cycle. The more seizures I had, the more depressed I became, and the continued depression would cause more seizures. I was afraid to go anywhere on my own, even to meet a friend for coffee nearby. The seizures were so unpredictable that they happened at unexpected times, which left me little to no time to get to a safe place.

This left me feeling trapped in my apartment. I hated to make plans with my friends in case I had to bail at the last moment, or I was afraid of having a seizure while I was out. I started to yearn for the days where I could leave my apartment by myself and just go for a walk without any worries. It sounds so trivial, but when I was unable to go anywhere by myself without extreme anxiety, it seemed like a distant life that was no longer mine.

Slowly and painfully, things started to get better. The seizures started to calm down a bit, and the depression started to ease off. I still remember to this day how liberated I felt when I was finally feeling well enough to meet my friend for brunch. I walked along in the beautiful sunshine, smile plastered on my face, ipod blasting in my ears. It was amazing. I was finally back in my element! I was me again! I was out into the world, no longer cooped up in my little apartment.

This experience taught me a very valuable lesson. Never take anything for granted. Even though being able to meet up with people and enjoy time with friends sounds so trivial, it is essential for ones well-being. I can’t be alone all the time and I need my friends to help maintain the richness of my life.
Also, I’ve learned that, despite this year, I have it pretty good. Other people who live with epilepsy are unable to work, go to school, or are behind in their schooling. Some people even need to wear head protection all the time to protect them if they fall. Four years later, and I finally see why my neurologist was in awe of my accomplishments.

If there’s anything that i believe in, it’s that I believe that everything happens for a reason. (To a certain extent at least). I think this experience has taught me that I need to live in the moment, which I am working on. This is a key component of mindfulness, which is the idea that you are fully engaged in the moment that you are in, and every moment is ‘now’. I find it hard to be in the ‘now’, but part of me believes that the universe was trying to teach me a lesson when all of this was happening. I can’t skip over parts of my life. I have to live them, no matter what is happening. Additionally, many of these past few months have been very low-key for me, just to improve my health, so I have learned to find meaning in this ‘non-doing’. This means finding meaning in what I’m doing, even if it appears to be non-productive.

This story might have been a little heavy, but things are improving and I feel like my old self again.

I find that telling this story to people is like ripping off a bandaid. The more I do it, the easier it becomes, and the easier it is to move on and gather strength, regardless of the situation. xox

After making it to the lookout on a hike!

For more information about epilepsy, visit http://www.epilepsy.com.
For more information on Mindfulness, check out the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.

Turning up the Volume on Body Image and Self Esteem

I never really knew who to talk to about my body image issues. It seemed like the issue was everywhere, but since no one talked about it I felt all alone. Was I the only one who hated the size of my thighs, wished that my stomach would become a bit flatter, and my hips a little less pronounced? Every time I tried to talk about it with someone, it became the catalyst for the commonly known “fat talk” which engaged other people (generally women) in lamenting about their bodies. It was interesting, too, because even the people that I was sure had no issues with their bodies, found perfection in mine and faults in their own. Take for example, Rachel. She’s 5’11 with not an extra pound of fat on her body to be found. I saw her body as sleek, and her legs were perfect for wearing shorts and she didn’t have to worry about extra jiggle from her thighs. Her breasts might have been on the smaller side, but it balanced out her overall thin frame. When I lamented to her, she told me how she wished her body was more like mine. “You are perfectly proportioned!” She would tell me. I was kind of thrown off the first time she said that. Me? Just your average looking girl is perfectly proportioned? I took it for what it was worth, but it was strange because I never saw it that way. 

Now I guess some people might say I have no right to complain about the way I look: I am 5’5” weighing in around 137 lbs. I carry my weight in my hips and thighs, so I would be what they would call “pear shaped”. Like Rachel said, I am pretty equally proportioned, and I am fairly fit because I enjoy working out. Even then, sometimes I feel like people think I am searching for compliments when I tell them about how I feel unhappy with my body. That’s never a good feeling.

About 3 years ago I got into my first serious and long term relationship with a guy. Let’s call him Bobby. Anyways I generally told Bobby everything, but at that time my body image issues were at an all time low. I remember lying on my side in my bed and I would feel how deep the curve was from my waist to my hip. I would cry to him, saying I wish I was skinnier, and how I felt like clothes didn’t look good on me. He was always trying to get me to wear jeans, but I outright refused and just told him that I wasn’t a “jeans kind of person”. The real truth was that I was mortified of wearing any colour on my lower half that wasn’t black. So I spent about two years only wearing lululemon pants, dresses, and leggings. Looking back on it, it seems kinda silly, but I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to try something that could potentially expose my flaws. I didn’t care how sexy I could look in jeans. It just wasn’t safe.

Anyways, back to the story: Bobby was reassuring and told me that all of this nonsense was in my head. I mean, it was to a certain extent. I was a little bit less fit back then, and my body had more curves. (Curves are totally awesome, by the way, but at that point in my life I rejected them as being even remotely sexy or attractive. Maybe if I’d had a broader sense of what beautiful was back then, I wouldn’t have been so far in the body image gutter). But anyways, even though he was supportive, it came to the point where I needed him to tell me that I was good looking and pretty. My own approval wasn’t good enough. If someone were to ask me what I would do differently, I would definitely not recommend depending on someone else for my own positive body image.
Why you ask? It places your own self-worth on someone else’s approval. Your own opinion isn’t good enough. Also, your boyfriend (or girlfriend maybe) starts to notice these little “imperfections”, such as those tiny little stretch marks on your hips that aren’t actually very noticeable, how your thighs jiggle a little bit when you run, and how your legs aren’t straight as an arrow. Or perhaps, they only saw these “flaws” as parts of you that they were completely attracted to, but then after all the lamenting and complaining, they begin to second guess themselves.

Over the years, however, I have learned to base my self-worth on something more than my body weight and shape. Am I cured of having body image issues you ask? Hell no. Do I still feel self-conscious about the size of my thighs? Well, duh. Do I wish I had a six pack of abs? Who doesn’t! The point is though, that I’ve learned to see what my body is capable of DOING, instead of how it looks while doing it. I am proud to say that I have successfully completed two 5k races, I go to the gym at least 4-5 times a week, and I am conscious of the foods that I put in my body.

I’ve also learned that some guys love women who have a little bit of curve to their body! Fuck me, why didn’t anyone tell me sooner? Maybe because curvy women aren’t really portrayed in magazines and tv shows. I just kind of assumed that my body type was undesirable because it was unrepresented in magazines, on television and in movies. Thankfully I found Women’s Studies during my academic career, and learned that that being bombarded by images of certain body types can really do a number to one’s self-esteem. And the other thing I learned? I wasn’t alone! There is an entire society of people who are unhappy with their bodies! I wish I’d gotten the memo.

At this point, I am tired of trying to be something that I am not. I am tired of dwelling of my so-called flaws. I want to be strong and a positive role model for others, in teaching them that they can be happy with themselves, no matter what their size. I want to talk to young girls, as well as my female friends, and have them know that I support them. I still feel a bit uncomfortable talking about these issues, because its something that I avoid as much as possible. But there’s a good quote that says, you really begin to live when you start living out of your comfort zone. Well, I’m going to try and keep moving out of my comfort zone, and continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I never want to feel like I wasted years not appreciating what my body can do for me, and I’m not going to let issues with my body image stop me.  xox

LIFE AT FULL VOLUME

Welcome to my Brand Spankin’ New Blog!! I can’t wait to get started and share thoughts and new ideas.

You’re probably wondering, why Life at Full Volume? I want to look at many different aspects of life, and to the best of my ability. This blogging thing is new to me, so let’s see where it takes me! xox