I have a favorite park where I enjoy my daily walks. Each day as I make my way around the paths, I make sure I head up the very steep hill in the center of the park. At the top of this hill are a few more walking and running paths that I explored many years ago as a younger and fitter person. I have not been up that hill in quite some time.
Over the past few decades, I have genuinely struggled with being healthy. There are many reasons why, but the most prominent is that I did not prioritize myself. Not only did I not prioritize myself, but I let society tell my story, rather than tell it myself.
I have spent the majority of my life on a diet. There were many reasons for that, one of which is that I never felt like I was good enough. I never felt stylish, nor did I feel as though I was part of any particular crowd. Sadly, this is incredibly common for young girls and women. We devalue ourselves and due to this, often never live up to our full potential.
Most women will simply push through rather than make the changes that they know they should make. A high percentage of women find themselves unsatisfied with their lives upon reaching middle age. I am one of those women.
I have never been one to quit. I am far too stubborn to simply walk away from any battle. I was a shy, quiet child, often hiding behind my mother’s legs. Both of my parents were community leaders, my father running his own business and rising to the highest of positions in the Boy Scouts of America as an adult leader. He was responsible for helping quite a few young people find their futures, simply by giving them the tools they needed to move forward. My mother was PTA president for many years, as well as president of our local museum guild. My maternal grandmother was also a woman ahead of her time, graduating from high school in 1929 and receiving a full scholarship to attend college, an event that was rare in those days. My paternal grandmother went to work at age 13 and helped her family survive after her father’s untimely death and need to do the same with her own family when her husband passed away suddenly.
I lived amongst these incredibly strong leaders, yet I never felt that I was special or important. I felt I was lacking. I was never thin enough for myself. I was never pretty enough, I always looked in the mirror and found something wrong. I had one award in a house full of family with many surrounding me all over the walls. My brothers are both Eagle Scouts, therefore they had proof of all of their hard work to show, as it deserved to be.
I was the oldest granddaughter on one side of the family and the youngest on the other. I felt young and awkward around my older cousins, each more beautiful than the next. I was fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with my younger cousins, but as we got older, I did not feel I fit in with them. My life was very different. I did not have as much money as they did, therefore did not have the same lifestyle.
Whenever I felt this way, I took the easy way out. I just pulled away.
I think I would have stayed quiet forever, had it not been for my son. My oldest son is on the autism spectrum. I found myself in a world of acronyms, specialists, therapists, and a huge list of regulations that left my head spinning.
I had to fight or be left behind. The Mama bear in me woke up and has not stopped to rest in almost 3 decades. The only solace I ever found was in the other mama bears I met along the way. They are my forever tribe. Even if we disagree on something, we will never desert each other, We will battle together. Our gang is strong.
Life got tough, as well as stressful. I have other children and they have always lived as special needs siblings which came with its own set of issues. when we are no longer here, they will be responsible for their brother. This is a lot to live with when you are a young person trying to plan your own life.
At times, I did not know how to stop fighting, to sit back on advocating. I am blessed that I did indeed have friends who let me know when I needed to relax. One friend, in particular, did not shut me out when I crossed the line. He stated that I had to fight so much that I no longer recognized when I did not have to. This stayed with me and helped me grow. This friend is now facing major challenges in his life, and I will not desert him, as he did not when he could have.
As my challenges grew and started to wear me out, I did not see myself disappearing. Since I had never thought much of myself, I did not know how to fix this.
I began to rapidly gain weight, which was odd since I had never lived as a woman who was not on a diet. I was forever skipping carbs and saying no to desserts. I had a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and was afraid to take the medications because I felt they would make me gain even more weight. My doctor suggested I go gluten-free. This way I would cut a lot of foods that were inflammatory. I took on this challenge and began to walk as much as I could, even doing” walk at home “videos when I could not go outside.
I lost some weight in the beginning, but then began to gain again. I was incredibly sad and bewildered. My doctor now suggested I find a nutritionist.
This is where my story truly began. I am 76 pounds down from the day I started working with my nutritionist and my wellness coach. Not only have a lost this weight, but I recognized why I lost myself and which direction to head next.
So, as I climb this hill, which I can now do without breathing heavily and stopping every few feet, I think about what to do with the rest of my life. I am proud of the wonderful adult children that I have raised. I look forward to watching them develop their own destinies. I am grateful that despite all the challenges we have faced, I am still walking the path of this life alongside my husband and partner for over 3 decades.
I am proud of myself for finally knowing that I am beautiful, intelligent, resilient, and brave.
Please watch for my E-book “Wearing the Red Shirt” ( currently in production) to learn more about my health and wellness journey