How The Gym Saved Me.

Fitness is one of today’s most popular trends. It seems almost everyone is becoming a fitness model or online trainer on Instagram. Everyone has a different motivation for going to the gym. A lot of people want to lose weight. Some want to compete in body building competitions. Others want their “revenge body.” Many people just want to live a healthier lifestyle.

Me? I fell into the fitness trend a bit differently.

The gym is my escape.

Without putting too much of my personal business out there, let’s just say the past couple of years have been filled with a few hardships, things that left me feeling very broken, sad, and alone. Battling with anxiety and fear were constant, and having absolutely zero confidence in myself.

For me, my motivation to work out isn’t going down a pant size or looking “hot.” I am not putting down anyone whose motivation is to look better. But for me, I use the gym as a place where I can channel my pain, and make something good come out of it. I use it as a place to prove to myself what I am capable of.

I wanted to write this post for anyone who might be struggling with depression, anxiety, self-confidence, and fear. If you don’t see a way out, if you can’t imagine the day you escape from these emotions, try the gym.

Literally – lift. Weights. For me, running works too. When I run, I run with my thoughts. I think about the things that are bothering me in my life, and I imagine overcoming them. This is what pushes me to finish, to not give up when I’m tired, and to run as fast as I can.

I could cite scientific evidence that proves how exercising improves mental health, but I thought sharing my personal story of how the gym is helping me overcome those feelings would be more powerful.

Some people might say the gym is just a distraction, and that it doesn’t solve your problems. I’m here to tell you, those people are wrong. What the gym will give you, is empowerment. And confidence. And these two things, are what you need to overcome your problems in life. The same way you prove to yourself you can get stronger physically through lifting weights, you can also prove to yourself you can get stronger mentally.

Through the process of going, you will build from nothing. Parallel the process of going to the gym to your life. At first, you are weak and not able to finish a simple workout. You look around and see weights and machines, but have no idea how to use them or what to do. It feels so challenging, to the point it is discouraging. You look around, and see people much stronger and in better shape than you. The whole experience getting started is overwhelming. This might be how you feel in life. You feel weak emotionally, and depressed. You struggle to get through each day. You feel lost, and don’t know where to turn. You feel like nothing is improving, and some days you just want to give up. You look around, and see happy people smiling and laughing, and wonder how they are so happy.

It is in this moment, where you turn to yourself. When you are tired of feeling sad, you stop making excuses and you stop letting your emotions defeat you. Nobody is going to pull you out from under them, but yourself. When it comes to the gym, it is up to you to show up each day, it is up to you to learn patience, and trust the process. It is about staying committed, and pushing yourself. Even if you slip up a few times, you don’t give up for good. Over time (if you are consistent), you become much stronger, and much faster. The same is true in life. It is ok to feel sad and depressed. It is ok to have anxiety and fear. But eventually, you need to gain control over these emotions, and make the decision that you are going to fight back.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t run a mile, or can only bench the bar. What matters is you start, and you keep going. Prove to yourself that you can start weak, but finish strong. You will have this same confidence in your life. Confront what’s troubling you. Defeat the negative emotions, don’t let them defeat you. Going to the gym, getting stronger, getting faster, is empowering. It will empower you to never give up, to never back down, and to never let your emotions keep you down for too long.

Why You Should Figure It Out On Your Own Before You Ask Someone Else For Help

I recently moved into a new apartment. I was so excited to start decorating, except…I didn’t know how to hang things on the walls or assemble the furniture/decor I purchased from IKEA. I have a home office, but didn’t know how to set up my wireless printer. Normally, I would just ask someone much handier than me to hang the pictures up, assemble the furniture, or hook up my printer. But this time around, I wanted to figure things out on my own. And it was really rewarding.

While most of my big furniture (couch w/ sectional, tv stand, bar stools, bed frame, office desk/shelves, night stand, etc.) was already assembled from when I lived at my previous apartment, there were lots of new things I wanted to add to my new apartment. In my living room, there was a lot of empty wall space and I wanted to put three mirrors up on the wall behind my couch to add depth to the room. I went to Target and found a set of three mirrors! I was so excited I found exactly what I was looking for. I brought the mirrors home, and they sat in the bag for several days. I am single, so I don’t have a boyfriend who can hang stuff up for me. My father works, and when he gets off he usually goes to the farm. My brother plays baseball in South Carolina, so he wasn’t available to help me either. I was thinking of who I could call to come hang the mirrors up, but then I said to myself, “I can figure it out.”

So what did I do? Google! I looked up the tools I would need. A stud finder, level, pencil, nails, hammer, and a drill. I got the tools, and I went to work. I followed the instructions step by step for how to properly hang something on the wall, ensuring it is level and secure and evenly spaced. Although this seemingly simple task took me about 45 minutes to complete, whereas a handy person could have done it in probably 10-15 minutes, I was proud of myself for accomplishing it. Sure, I could have taken the easy way out and gotten someone else to do it. But what would I have learned? Nothing.

The key is patience! Don’t get frustrated. Well-written instructions will take you from beginning to end, all you have to do is take it one step at a time. Look at it as a mini personal challenge. Push yourself to figure things out, because when you do, it’s a powerful feeling. Even something as small as hanging up a picture can give you a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. You did it all on your own and nobody helped you.

After I hung the mirrors up, I suddenly felt confident to take on more tasks. I assembled several light fixtures from IKEA and I also set up my wireless printer to both of my computers, and got it to work! Like I said before, maybe these tasks took me longer than it would have taken someone else. But I learned something, and that felt good. More importantly, I showed myself I am capable of doing things on my own. I already have a list of more things I want to learn how to do, including how to change a flat tire.

So what is the point of this whole blog post? Next time you find yourself in a situation when you don’t know how to do something, it’s ok to ask for help, but try to figure it out on your own first! If you are required to ask someone else to do something for you, watch & learn! Take notes! Don’t just let them do it for you without learning how to do it yourself. It sounds crazy, but accomplishing a simple task on your own has the power to make you feel like you can accomplish anything you set out to do. Try it.

Why “Why don’t you just leave him already?” is a bad question.

until it happens to you

Do you have a friend who is in a bad relationship? Does she call you crying and tell you the same story every other week? He hit her. He cheated on her. He called her names. He lied to her. You say, “Why don’t you just leave him already?”

The question sounds logical. I mean, why would anyone subject themselves to being hit, cheated on, lied to, or talked down to? Especially when it happens over and over again and isn’t just a one-time thing. Leaving him would resolve the issue, right?

My question to you is, do you think your friend wants to be abused? Don’t you think if it were that easy, to just leave, she would have done it by now?

The truth is: it’s not that simple. Even though your friend is miserable, depressed, and probably suffers from high-levels of stress, fear, and anxiety, she stays in the abusive relationship. Let me explain a few reasons why, that might make you think twice before the next time you judge your friend who is dating a piece of crap (pardon the language).

  1. Abusers isolate you from your family, friends, and coworkers. Abusers prey on vulnerable people. If their next victim is surrounded by loving friends and family, the abuser must break down that protective shield so that they can take full advantage of their victim without being hindered. Family and friends will not get in their way. The second abusers feel threatened by a family member, a friend, or a coworker of their victim, their strategy is to plant negative thoughts about those people in your friend’s head. Before you can even warn your friend, her abuser has already planted several thoughts in her brain. Examples include, “Your family doesn’t love you like I do,” “Your friend is jealous of you and you do so much more for her than she does for you,” “Your boss is way too critical of you, I would give you so much more credit.” The abuser turns your friend against everyone, even her own family.
  2. Abusers are expert manipulators. Your friend is brainwashed. Her abuser has repetitively manipulated her psychologically. Her abuser has repeated statements and lies that over-time manifest in your friend’s brain to be the truth. She cannot distinguish love vs. abuse. An example of how an abuser would manipulate a situation could be: He punches your friend in the face because she went out with some friends the night before. After he punches her, he immediately apologizes and says, “I’m so sorry honey. I have never loved a person this much before, and I cannot deal with the emotions of loving a person so deeply. I am going crazy over you, because I love you so much and I just wish we spent more time together.” As a result, your friend believes her abuser hit her out of love. She does not see it as abuse.
  3. Abuse is a cycle of euphoria and destruction. Trust me. If your friend was abused 24/7, she would have left her abuser by now. Something I bet you didn’t know, is that victims PRAY their abuser would be a bad person all of the time, because this would make it way easier to walk away. The part that makes it extremely difficult to leave an abuser, is they often do out-of-the-ordinary things for you to show you they “care.” What’s sad is, these acts of kindness aren’t genuine, they are used to control your friend and keep her trapped in the abuser’s evil spell. The constant cycle between abuse/violence and happy moments create a state of confusion for your friend. Victim’s often have a battle back and forth in their brain after a traumatic event with their abuser. They are confused because, “He must not have meant to hit me, right? Because he loves me so much. He took off a whole week of work to take care of me while I was sick. Just last week he surprised me with roses and jewelry. He wouldn’t do that for just anyone.” Chances are, your friend’s abuser has gone above and beyond to do nice things for her. She probably struggles with leaving, because all the extremely nice things he’s done make it hard to hate him.
  4. Your friend has no self-worth outside of the relationship. Going back to abusers being expert manipulators, one of their manipulative tactics is to destroy your friend’s identity and self-esteem outside of the relationship. They will say things like: “You’re not special,” “I am the only person who sees your beauty and all the things that make you unique,” or “Nobody sees how special you are. I am the only one that appreciates you.” Over time, your friend subconsciously starts believing that her abuser is the only person who values her (ironic, because in reality he is the one who is destroying her). This type of mental abuse will cause your friend to look for signs to seek out whether there is truth behind all the things the abuser has said. She takes things very personally. If other men, her supervisor at work, or complete strangers don’t validate her often, the thought of “my boyfriend really must be the only one who sees the value in me” grows even deeper inside her brain. She stops loving herself, and she stops believing that anyone other than her abuser loves her.
  5. Abusers are skilled at shifting the blame. When confronted for their wrongdoing, abusers have an excuse or an explanation for everything, typically where they are the victim in a situation. Most likely she is dating a narcissist and narcissists never admit any wrongdoing and instead shift the blame onto others and make themselves out to be the victim. Example scenario: your friend’s abuser cheats on her. He tells your friend, “I did not intend to cheat. It’s just that, since you are so busy with work and rarely make time for me, I was feeling really lonely and unappreciated, so I acted on those emotions. It won’t happen again, as long as we spend more time together.” Your friend now blames herself for his actions and thinks it is her fault for being a “workaholic.” She puts pressure on herself to spend more time with him, to avoid him cheating on her again. How can she be mad at him and leave him for cheating, when it was her fault?

These are only 5 reasons why your friend might not have left her abusive boyfriend yet. There could be other reasons. Abuse comes in many forms. Despite how simple it seems to just walk away, knowing that there is often deep-rooted psychological manipulation involved, can help you to pose a different question to your friend if you want to help her get out of the situation.