A lot of people watch my health and fitness journey. I get many positive comments, which means a lot to me. But I also receive some negative messages. I’ve been told that I must hate myself, to want to change my life and my body. I’ve been laughed at and made fun of.
Here's the thing. I work out more than most. I know this. But I work out because I love myself. In 2008, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I spent much of my life before my diagnosis hating myself. I didn’t understand why I was different from everyone else. People seemed genuinely happy a lot of the time. I wondered what that was like. My diagnosis was a blessing. Things started to make sense. I started medication and therapy. Everything started to change for the positive.
Much of my life, I was active. I played competitive soccer and never had to think about fitness or nutrition. I was fortunate and this continued well into my undergrad years. But once I started my Masters program, I became very sedentary. My life got more stressful. My depression steadily got worse. I was doing everything I could to keep mentally healthy – everything except exercising. I made every excuse in the book, but my favorite was that I didn’t have enough time.
After grad school, I moved to a town in Nova Scotia and started a job in my profession, physiotherapy. During that time, I got into a relationship. My partner was mentally and emotionally abusive. It took me a long time to understand that’s what it was, abuse. He would force me to work out. He told me I needed to lose 10 lbs. My depression got progressively worse. The thing is, I lost the 10 lbs. People told me all the time how great I looked. But it wasn’t enough for my abuser. He didn’t treat me any better. And I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I’d never been more miserable.
In April 2015, I admitted myself to the hospital. I was no longer able to take care of myself and my depression was so bad I could barely get out of bed most days. I spent a week in the hospital. When I was released, I broke up with my abuser and changed cities. I returned to therapy, switched my medications, and rebuilt my self-esteem from the ground up. But I stopped exercising. I had had such a bad experience because of my abuser that I wanted nothing to do with it. I knew that it could help with my depression, but I couldn’t bring myself to try. Not yet.
Cut to December 2016 and I finally was ready to make a change. I started a fitness and nutrition program. It was hard at first, but I was committed to giving it a fair shot. It got easier over time and then I actually looked forward to my workouts. I felt empowered. I felt confident. I was getting stronger, physically and mentally. It has helped with my depression, ten-fold.
It bothers me when people tell me that I must hate myself because of my exercising. The first time someone said it to me, I was upset for days. I’ve learned to let it go now. I don’t workout for anyone else. I workout for me. I love myself and I am finally accepting that love.
I’m grateful for the journey that brought me here. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’m proud of the woman I’ve become, because I’ve fought to become her.