Check On Your Strong Friend

“Check on your strong friend”

The phrase that went viral a few weeks ago after we lost some pretty amazing people. The phrase that highlights that people who seem put together on the outside, may actually be breaking and screaming in the inside. The phrase that is trying to break the stigma of asking for help and the stigma of showing weakness, especially in times of crisis.

I am the strong friend. I’m there to listen to my friend complain about co-workers or how a work meeting went really bad. I’m there when my friend is going through a mental health crisis with her brother and I check in to make sure she and he are okay, even if she isn’t talking about it. I FaceTime my friend from New York City who cries about her ex-boyfriend from 6 years ago. I give my friend motivation to hit an athletic goal and encourage her to sign up for a race, even though she has a track record of not showing up. I offer suggestions to my friend who hates her job and mentally help her stick it out. I’m there to plan a weekend getaway when we feel like we’re itching for a change of scenery and need to get out of the city. I’m there for my friend who needs to decompress, get sushi for dinner and sit outside in my courtyard in the warm weathered evenings.

I’m reliable, accountable and I’m the strong friend. I provide. I always have.

I also have a lot of my own problems. It can become exhausting to be the strong friend when I’m not taking care of myself, but helping others before I help me. I feel taken advantage of, my needs are ignored and I no longer hold my friends to the same level of trust and accountability.

“You can’t pour yourself from an empty cup”

In the beginning of June, I drew a boundary. I put self-compassion and self-care first. I felt burned out. I still do. But, I’m filling up my cup, slowly.

My boundary has caused a lot of tension. I have only been looking at it from my point of view but, my friends likely feel as if I have abandoned them.

I am the strong friend. Probably because I’ve been through so much therapy, by the transitive property, I am a therapist to them. I’m the strong friend because I’ve been shaped to be the strong friend through my experiences. I’ve endured a lot of pain, I’ve struggled with more than people my age do, I’ve carried an immense amount of shame, I’ve felt belittled and degraded, I’ve been exposed to trauma and I’ve truly neglected my own personal, physical, emotional and mental needs. But it’s made me strong and it’s given me an enormous amount of compassion. My journey has made me the reliable friend, the one who is there and shows up.

I’m the strong friend.

Check in on your strong friends. Always. Check in on yourself. Always. If no one is checking in on you, remind yourself that you are enough and find what fills your cup so you can feel strong again.

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When the Wave of Life Burns You Out

This week hasn’t been my week. I was away on Cape Cod for the weekend and came back to an apartment with cat throw up on my bed, my baskets of clothes knocked onto the floor, some more food thrown up on the floor, the stench of all of these things, an empty fridge along with my soaked suitcases and grocery bags that needed unpacking.
I was happy to be home and happy to be in my apartment with my cats. I was ready for the week, until I realized on Monday that I wasn’t.
Monday morning, I couldn’t wake up. I usually swim in the morning before work and after work. I couldn’t make it to either. I gave myself the day off of swimming. The mess of my apartment completely made my brain into a corn maze that I couldn’t make sense of.
Tuesday morning, I dragged myself to the pool, feeling unmotivated and then feeling guilty for feeling unmotivated. I had no self-compassion, I wanted to push myself to keep showing up and giving my best. I have a big 5k open water ocean race next Saturday that I should be excited for. I’ve worked so hard and I’m in the final stretch, where’s my enthusiasm for what I’ve been working towards?? I felt this wasn’t my best effort and why couldn’t I push past it? In that moment, it was. I couldn’t give anymore, so I let my Tuesday afternoon swim be much shorter than planned.
I did not want to admit that I feel burned out.I know I am. This isn’t self-care. This is self-sabotage. I’m in a cycle of doing things that make me feel exhausted and then I’m looking for a life raft but I end up with someone drowning me even more. It’s nothing I haven’t done before and I know this feeling is temporary. It’s hard, nevertheless.
On days or weeks like this, sometimes I have to turn notifications for text messages off. I have turned off my email notifications about a month ago and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I am in control of when I want to read my emails, they don’t control me.
I have to take a step back from my hectic schedule and put me first. Me as myself, a person with needs. I have to put myself as an athlete, as an employee, as a friend and as a daughter on the back burner. And that’s okay.
I have a daily quote next to my desk on a 365 calendar and today’s quote was SO relate able.
It says,
“When you’re drowning you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.’ You just scream.” – John Lennon
That’s how I feel right now. I’m screaming. I think back to when the post “Check in on your strong friend” was going viral a few weeks ago and I think of how people portray me as the strong friend and deservingly so. I am the strong friend but right now, I have to be strong enough to say no and take care of me, especially since no one, except my father, checks in on me.
I have to take care of myself and right now, swimming is not taking care of me and that’s okay.
Self-care for me this week is sleeping in, having self-compassion for doing less than I usually do, taking leisurely walks home from the office instead of frantically biking through rush hour traffic, laying in my bed with my cats and being surrounded by things that motivate me, cutting my magazines to make happy collages, going to therapy, and reminding myself that this feeling of being burned out is going to end.
I’m going to make it through. I will be okay. I am strong and no feeling lasts forever.

 

What A Great Weekend

This weekend was really great.

I’m going to say I went on a little “Lithium Holiday” so I went about a week without it and my anxious, irritability and stress levels were very high as the week was ending and even throughout the weekend.

My dad, as much as I love him, I have this relationship with him where I feel his anxiety and his stress so at times, it became too much. But regardless, I had an amazing weekend.

Saturday morning we left Boston at 6am for Cape Cod so I could swim in the ocean. Something, I’m doing for a competition in July and something I don’t really enjoy doing. I prefer pools, they have walls, lines on the bottom, a system of how people move throughout the lane. Open water is a completely different game.

But, we met this amazing group of people who come out every weekend and swim together about 2 miles on Saturday and Sunday and then have breakfast at a nearby market. They invited me into their group and my dad and I ended up going to the Cape again on Sunday.

Today, during my swim, for the first time in years, I felt so strong. I felt like I connected with my body again. I wasn’t swimming to wish calories or what I ate last night away. I was swimming with the power and strength that I had built these last few weeks and months. I haven’t felt proud of what I could physically do in a long time. After stress fractures, struggles with competing while hungover, etc. I didn’t remember how it felt.

I’m on this high. I want to go back to the Cape every weekend (luckily, I got an open invite to stay and swim with them whenever I am able to!) and I’m ready to commit myself back to this sport. It gave me so much joy in so many different ways that I see it again and I want it back in my life.

After the Cape open water swim, my dad and I went to this Boston Oyster “farm-to-table” learn to shuck an oyster where I met more swimmers! It was so crazy. It was like the most serendipitous moment.

I’m at this point where I feel like my friends aren’t supporting me, my health, my goals, my overall well-being and I feel like right now, there’s this sign from the universe that I have these new people who can bring better into my life and I can also bring better into my life.

I had all these annoying mood symptoms throughout the weekend but I faked it til I made it and, I am happy.

And Happy Father’s day to all the dads out there!!! What would we be without you!

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Pride Month

I’m a big SoulCycle girl and it’s pride month so naturally I attend “Pride Rides”. Rides that are taught usually by LGBTQ instructors, tonights was two girls who are dating and it was adorable, and they play music about being free, being yourself, embracing others, etc. I always text my dad after and tell him how great the rides were because they are. Pride Rides are my favorite.

Pride is a touchy subject because I have a transgender brother. My brother, who was my sister when I was born, and I were never really close. We were very different. We liked different things, we had different personalities, we reacted differently, we gravitated towards different parents. It was like we weren’t even blood related. I was ultimately raised as an only child with my parents divorce.

And then my sister became my brother when I was 20 years old and it was tough. No one really told me what was happening with his transition. I wasn’t a part of it. My brother was living in Vermont finishing college and I was in school at Michigan. I went into college with a sister around all of my friends with families of 4 or 5, who voted Republican and went to church every Sunday. They openly did not believe in gay rights. I lived in a broken home, essentially, with a sister who I didn’t speak to and she was becoming who she always should’ve been, my brother. When it came to family, I was the black sheep amongst my friend group.

I 100% support trans rights. I read this book, one of my final classes, sociology of deviance, and it was called “The Last Time I Wore I Dress”. It was about a female who was emotionally tortured about her transition. I was in the middle of my first bipolar episode but, I bawled my eyes out the entire time I read that book. I may have read it more than once and I even gave it to my brother. I emailed my professor after the class was over and told her how I had a transgendered sibling and how much her class helped me.

I didn’t, and still haven’t told many people about my brother transitioning because in my friend group, they feel so close minded. Especially when I was dealing with my undiagnosed bipolar that I couldn’t make myself even more vulnerable.

But today, my brother and I are still nearly estranged. We send each other Christmas presents, birthday presents, the occasional annual text. But we don’t have a relationship. I don’t know if he has a job. I don’t know if he still lives with my mother. I don’t know if his cat is alive. I don’t know what he does with his time.

But for some reason, when I go into SoulCycle and I go into a Pride Ride, I feel closer to him. I sent him a picture of the studio today with the rainbow SoulCycle letters and the balloons that say “All Souls Welcome” and I said, “SoulCycle has Pride Rides and I’ve been to every single one because they’re my favorite.” At this point, I don’t know what to say. So much time has gone by that we haven’t connected and I don’t even know how to start.

But I support him and I hope he knows that.

 

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Yesterday was Hard

Yesterday was hard.

I swam 6000 meters, something I haven’t done in a long time.

I biked to get my blood drawn for my lithium levels, something I dread.

I tried to organize my overwhelmingly large closet of an apartment. It brings back old memories of my anorexia when I see XXS and 00 I can no longer fit into.

I was watching other people’s lives on social media. People who were celebrating National rose day. Almost every single post had alcohol in it.

I was tired. I was hungry and I was anxious. It was hard. I felt like drinking. Actually, all I wanted to do was drink.

I didn’t. I decided I would go shopping and instead of buying alcohol, maybe I’d buy clothes that make me feel good about my body instead of spending that money on booze.

I had dinner with a friend who encourages my sobriety and we had club sodas and iced teas, talking about little things and big things.

I walked home from dinner secretly hoping someone would invite me to go out and I would say yes and commit to not drinking. But given my state, thank you God, no one did. I would’ve ended up drinking.

I went home and went to bed.

I’m so happy I didn’t drink. I’m so happy I stuck to it. It may have resulted in me drinking la croix out of a Starbucks cup around the city. It resulted in me buying more black shirts and the same shades of eyeshadow I already have.

But I didn’t undo the hard work I put in the pool yesterday. I nourished my body with healthy food and not toxic liquids. I slept and it was good sleep. I woke up and I felt ready for today. I didn’t wake up with anxiety, shame, regret.

Yesterday was so hard. But I’m so proud of myself. I did it. I’ll do it again.

The Double Edged Sword of Friendship

I had a tough month of May. I did a lot of drinking, spending, destroying myself, the whole 9 yards.

The previous month of April, I had spent most of it sober, mindful and productive.

It all broke the second weekend in May, when my friends (who know and knew that I was trying to stay sober) pressured me into drinking. I was getting so irritated that they were so pushy about drinking. We went out to dinner and they were like, “just have one” or “you know you’re going to drink”. And next thing I knew, I was 2 bottles of rosé deep, in an uber, lying to my father and going to a club. It didn’t stop there, that was just the beginning. I spent more days going out than staying in during the month of May. I drank 15 days out of 31 days to be exact. And I only broke my dry streak about 10 days in. It makes me cringe to think about.

This past weekend, my dad told my friend he was worried about me and my drinking, specifically. The irony is that this friend is the one who I drink with the most, spend the most time with and she is the worst influence on me. She is one of my best friends, though.

She doesn’t know about my bipolar. She doesn’t know about my eating disorder. She doesn’t know about my alcohol problems. She just thinks I’m an “extreme person”. I can’t tell her the truth because I know her well enough to know she will not understand and she will judge me. It will change our friendship.

It is true, I am an extreme person. But it’s to a destructive point. It’s to a point where I am harming myself long term. I am smarter than this.

I don’t know how to draw the line. It’s hard to end being best friends with people who are bad influences. I’m trying to create distance and boundaries. But, I think at the end of the day, if people don’t understand and they can’t support you, you can’t have them in your life. I want to follow this, so badly.

This is my life. I will live through the consequences. I will deal with my mental health issues. I will be the one who struggles and who loses. My friends who pressure me, they won’t be the ones who struggle with the things I have to.

A friend who encourages my healthy life told me, after I told him how upset I was that my friends were pressuring me into drinking that my friends want me to drink because it’s fun for them to see me drunk, I put on a show and it’s entertaining. Ultimately, I harm myself, my health, my well-being, my relationships and so much more just to give a few hazy moments of entertaining we’ll all forget.

Another friend told me how worried she was when she saw on my social media how much I was drinking. It’s coincidental because I did think about her every time I posted. I felt guilt because I know if she was with me, she’d slap that glass onto the ground and let it shatter.

I’m still learning. I’m always learning. I listened to a podcast today and it said how getting older is great because you grow this collaborative group of friends. For me, it seems to fluctuate. I learn who is there for me and who can help me become better and who will lead the way to my self-destruction.

 

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