Thoughts from a Pediatric ICU Nurse

 

Got this sweet tat at work from one of my patients. Sometimes, there are the little things that remind me that my job is worth the heart and soul I put into it- that all PICU nurses I know put into their jobs. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t hate my job. It is not terribly sad and depressing; although I have been through times where that has been the case. I love being a nurse- most of the time. I would be lying if I said I loved, or even liked, all the extra jobs that go along with it. No one tells you this stuff in school- that you won’t just be a nurse, but you’ll also often function as a therapist, social worker, babysitter, emotional punching bag, and waitress…emphasis on the waitress.

Every nurse I know appreciates the little things- like this sweet tat. It’s special, because the child that drew it on me is a miracle. The child is a reminder of the little things. Of an entire unit of healthcare professionals working tirelessly around the clock to care for her, and her coming out better. Not necessarily the same, but better, despite every odd.

There is a moment that hits you when you’re taking care of someone’s kid, and the possibility that they die, despite everyone’s best efforts, hits you. Like really hits you. It’s sort of an unspoken rule that as an ICU nurse, you numb that. You turn those feelings off- the attachment, the empathy, the reality- because you have a job to do. And so, we all go about our jobs. Often times, I feel like a robot. There’s a saying: “There’s no crying in the PICU,” and although it’s kind of a joke- it’s not.

Over the years, I have learned to strip away that armor. Carefully and cautiously, and a tiny tiny bit at a time. I sometimes wonder to myself who made that unspoken rule. The unspoken rule that the nurse has to conceal their emotions; that I’m weak if I cry; that I am to be the unshaken rock in the storm. Don’t get me wrong, that absolutely serves a purpose. It is part of my job, and no matter what my emotions are, my priority is always, always patient and family care. That often means being just that- the rock. So we go about our jobs, carefully tucking away the trauma and heartbreak we see.

Handing a mother her dying baby.
Giving the last doses of medication before life support is withdrawn- on someone’s child.
Asking parents which funeral home they prefer.
Standing there as a family is told their child’s condition has a 100% mortality rate, and staying when the doctor walks out.
Having parents ask me in desperation, “What would YOU do if you were me,” which to this day remains the hardest question I have ever been asked.
Holding hands with my co-workers while a chaplain baptizes a child who is going to die.
Bathing a child and doing handprints on them before wrapping the body in a shroud, which is really just a fancy word for body bag.
Taking someone’s sweet, innocent light of their life to the hospital morgue, and leaving them there.
Going home that night, grieving, but unable to even comprehend what the child’s family is feeling. My sadness pales in comparison.
Coming back to work the next day and seeing the empty room of a patient who died the day before.

This work we do- it wounds us. Maybe I am too empathetic, too soft, too sensitive. Maybe my heart isn’t strong enough, because it’s been broken time and time again by these kids. I suck it up- we all do. I am ok- this is my job. This is what I am good at. This is what I know how to do. This is what I have been called to do, and I wouldn’t take a single one of those moments back. No matter how hard they are, it is a privilege to walk along side a child and family during their journey- wether it be through death or through recovery. The tattoo my sweet patient drew on my arm today reminds me of hope. It reminds me that despite all the dark, there is light. It reminds me that there are absolutely miracles; because this child I am laughing and playing with wasn’t supposed to have a chance. It reminds me that although I have seen death and destruction, I have also seen God’s incredible grace and mercy in a way that only a PICU nurse can.

I get to see God every day in my kids. Even on the days that are less than ideal- when doctors are yelling at me, when my patient bites me, & when I get off work 2 hours late because shit hits the fan. The beauty is there- so often only in the little things. Like sassy girls whose favorite color is pink, and weren’t supposed to walk again, getting excited when you paint her nails. Like the teenager who you said goodbye to, who comes back and visits, telling the nurses they are like family to him for saving his life. Like the little girl whose mom sends you an invitation to her birthday party every year- you took care of her baby for nine months, and now she is turning five. Like the family that stops by the unit to leave the nurses chocolate for Christmas, and their kid is glowing with health- a year ago you admitted him when he was grey and almost pulseless. Like the family that hugs you and thanks you, even though you were the one who gave their dying child their last dose of pain medication before life support is removed. It’s not right- but it is beautiful in only a way a nurse can learn to see.

Work family

Epic Reflections

Two Novembers ago, I stepped into a space that changed my life and started on a journey I didn’t ever think I would be on. This is when I started my yoga journey, but it has become about so much more than that. In the New Year, I will be stepping out of that particular yoga space, but not before sharing with you what I have learned there.

I have learned that there is such a thing as sacred space. A space where I could go and drop all else, no matter what was going on in my life. Walking through the doors of the studio always lifted a weight off my shoulders. For the next hour, I didn’t have to do or be or think about anything, except my breath. Sounds crazy but when you suffer from anxiety and have an A.D.D. brain, it’s pretty dang comforting.

The sacred space made sense when nothing else did. When death and suicide struck, I came to my mat with anger and disbelief and tried to leave it in the space. Maybe just a little bit less of the pain would go home with me then.

The morning I discovered loss, I went to practice, grief-stricken, and cried my way through savasana, knowing I was in a safe place.

When abandonment visited, I threw my confusion and hurt onto my mat and into my practice, instead of into my life and at my body.

The times I felt life was hard and overwhelming and senseless, I went to that sacred space to remember to slow down, and be patient.

When I watched dear friends suffer, I wrote their name on a post-it before class, stuck it under my mat, and dedicated my practice to them. Maybe I could send them a little magic from the sacred space.

When I too, was tired of fighting, I got on my mat to remind me why I wanted to stay healthy.

My mat, a little yellow rectangle in a big rectangle room, became the space where I learned to breathe again. Yoga gave me the ability to sit and just be with myself. To drop my judgments, shame, and doubt- and just BE. I only get one me. Through recovery I’ve learned you can’t get away from yourself. On my mat, in that yoga studio studio, is where I finally accepted that. And then I finally began to live.

I learned that on my mat, I could go and meet God and the way I perceived Him to be. I learned that this yoga thing is actually a little piece of heaven, because yoga means union, and when you share this practice from a place of love, it is almost Holy.

“All is coming,” I wrote on my worn, dirty mat a year ago, and truly BELIEVED it.

All is coming.

Self acceptance. Maybe self love. Dreams. Life in color. The unconditional love of God in all the shattered places, if one is brave enough to bring their heart to their mat. Vulnerability.

I learned there are no broken people. That nothing is wrong with me. That nothing is wrong with others, and we all just want to be heard and understood.

The truest version of myself. The most light filled version of myself. The self that I can believe is enough, exactly as I am.

Yoga Teacher Training Wisdom

Remember when I said I was going to write a blog post for every week of Yoga Teacher Training?

Well, I haven’t. I think we are on week 9 or 10…where has time gone?!

Life has been busy. It’s been a huge adjustment for me to have more of a set schedule than I’ve had in years. Training is Tuesday and Thursday nights, so I rarely work during the week. I try to keep a consistent schedule of working Sunday and Monday right now. Yes, that leaves me with waaaay more “free time” than I’m used to. However, this Yoga Teacher Training is a little bit like being in school- but like, FUN school! I have homework and reading and practicing, and although it can be intimidating at times, the work is also very soul-filling. So, I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned over the past several weeks, because this process has been life-changing.

“Your mat is a mirror. How you do yoga is how you do life.”
This comes from one of my favorite teachers, and it may sound a little woo-woo, but it’s been a heck of a truth bomb for me. Yoga has taught me self-awareness. I’ve spent years and years abusing my body. I’ve learned that on my mat, accepting myself has to happen BEFORE change happens. On my mat, I meet myself exactly where I am. I am not broken, there is nothing to be fixed, there is nothing wrong with me. I am present. This helps me be present in my life. No more “fake listening” to people. No more investing in relationships that are toxic. No more saying YES when I should be saying NO. On my mat I listen, find compassion, and am grateful for my physical body. In life, I see these things becoming core beliefs. I don’t wish my body away anymore. And when I’m not caught up in that song and dance, things in life open up.

Yoga is the journey.
I started doing yoga because my treatment team had banned me from running, the gym, and the Bikram yoga practice. It’s not a fluke that I stepped into a studio and fell in love with this practice. My recovery journey was flipped upside down when I started practicing, and it has led me all the way to Yoga Teacher Training. The journey never ends.

Yoga means union.
The message of yoga is that we are one. We are all connected. Be nice to people. Be kind. Everyone has a story. I’ll say it again- BE NICE. BE KIND. If we are one, it’s not all about you. Give credit where credit is due. Lift others up, because it lifts you up too.

Contentment/happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Perfection simply does not exist, but balance does. We are human, and we all have our shit. Your problems are not more important than anyone else’s, and theirs are not more important than yours. What is possible when you are aligned?

Being a yoga teacher is not about ME.
When I teach, I am there for the people in front of me. I am there to hold space for them and give them what they need. I am not there to “get it right”. Teaching yoga allows me to just be.

“You can teach a monkey to call yoga poses.”
You cannot teach a monkey how to connect. You cannot teach a monkey how to share. It’s not just about calling the poses right…teaching yoga is about connecting with my students through breath, compassion, vulnerability, and my personality.

Run towards fear.
Fear has something to teach me. Facing fears allows me to grow. Avoiding fear creates limits.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Baron Baptiste, creator of Baptiste Power Vinyasa style yoga. “This is what the process of yoga does. It wrings you from the inside out. It brings up everything that’s in there- the fears, doubts, frustrations, toxins, strengths, beliefs, potential- and exposes it either to be released or to be used for growth. It challenges physically, emotionally, and spiritually and gives you the opportunity to experience every part of yourself on a whole new level. It all starts in your body, on your mat.”

My tribe and doing what I love!

Be a Stand

I was 12 when I figured out I could throw away my lunches at school so I didn’t have to eat. I was 14 when I figured out I could make myself throw up after eating so I didn’t feel like I had food in my stomach. I was 15 when I told my Bible Study leader what I was doing. Until I was 25, I never again told anyone about my disordered eating and exercise habits. Starving myself and getting “rid” of food by purging or exercising excessively was empowering- as long as I did that, I had some control of what I felt like in my body, and an effective coping mechanism. My Bible Study leader told me that what I was doing wasn’t good, and that she wanted me to call her every evening and tell her that I hadn’t been using those behaviors. I was 15 when I figured out that lying to her over the phone, and occasionally face to face, wasn’t hard.

Not too long ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from my former Bible Study leader. I absentmindedly accepted, and later that day messaged her on Facebook, simply saying “Hi S!” She wrote me back. “Hello sweet friend,” it read. “I think about you all the time. Hope you are doing well…God loves you and so do I!”

A thousand emotions flooded me. Ones from my 15 year old self who had confided in someone she trusted, unsure of what she was looking for. Ones from my 20 year old self, after being caught by a family member throwing up in a restaurant bathroom, wondering why she hadn’t stopped all those years ago when someone told her to. Ones from my 22 year old self as I stopped eating during the day to justify having drinks with friends later, but forget the memories. Ones from my 24 year old self as she ran on greenways for hours and pounded away at the gym, searching for something she would never find. Ones as a 26 year old in rehab, realizing that she had spent over half her life living to die. Ones from my 28 year old self when I wrote her a letter I knew I would never send, telling her I wish things would have been different. That I wish she would have told someone, instead of trusting a hurting, insecure teenage girl to stop going down the dark hole that had ahold of her. That I would have hated her at the time; but looking back now, I would have given anything to have started the recovery process sooner. And even now, as my 30 year old self sits here, part of me paralyzed with fear that I will spend the rest of my life with pieces of myself entrenched in my eating disorder.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. That it’s easy for me to sit here and write that I wish someone had “made” me get help. Whose to say I would have listened? Whose to say it would have made a difference? What would my family have done? And if I didn’t take the path I did, what would my life look like now? I married an amazing man and I love him more than I thought was possible to love someone. I have the best friends anyone could ask for. They are my family. I’m going to be a yoga teacher. I have a great relationship with my parents because of all that we’ve been through.

I say all this because I have a message for you. Maybe you are someone who is struggling- not necessarily with an eating disorder. Depression. Anxiety. Bullying. Suicidal thoughts. Hopelessness. Shame. An addiction. An invisible illness. Maybe you are a family member who knows someone, but is afraid to say something. Maybe you are a friend who is concerned. Maybe you are the actual sufferer.
My message to you is this…please don’t waste any more time.

Be a stand for the person you love; for yourself. We always, always think we have time. Do it now. Be brave now. Say it now. Help them help themselves. In the end, I promise you the only regret you will have is the time you let go by watching someone destroy themselves. An eating disorder has a function- a really good, effective one actually. Depression has a function. Anxiety has a function. An addiction has a function. And suicidal thoughts can become actions. But whatever function a mental illness has, will not serve someone long term. Eventually it will stop working. It will take and take without a person realizing what they have lost.

I hear a lot of people say that they wouldn’t trade their experience with a mental illness (specifically an eating disorder) because it’s made them who they are, and they are proud of that person. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I wish I could smile and say that I love the person I’ve fought to become. That I am grateful for what I’ve gone through because it has led me to where I am now.

But I can’t say that.
It’s shameful to admit.
Because you can’t live in the past. I know I am 100% responsible for the life I create. There is no one to point fingers at, to blame, to look to and say they could have changed me. But I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if at 15, someone would have stood up against the darkness that was swallowing me.

I am endlessly grateful for the people I have in my life now.
Everyday I am in awe of God’s plan.
I am so glad it is better than mine.
I don’t believe that the good things in life diminish the bad things. And the bad things don’t ruin the good things. That’s just life; we are just human, and we are broken; but at the same time broken is beautiful.
And it is human to wonder.
To second guess what my have been.
So give someone that gift. Or give it to yourself.
Love is not just words but actions.
Be a stand.
You don’t ever know what it could mean.

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Connection

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When I first met with the woman who is leading my Yoga Teacher Training (Misti- remember that name, you might hear it a lot), two things she said stuck out to me. “This is more than fancy yoga poses. I could teach a monkey to stand up and call poses, but the real work comes with connecting.”

People ask me “Why is Teacher Training hard?Aren’t you just learning how to teach yoga?” True…but the thing is, you have to start with yourself. It’s more than memorizing a sequence and all the names of the poses and the flow. Sure, it is about that, but not solely.

Yoga is about connecting. Connecting means sharing- my stories, my feelings, my struggles, my celebrations, my fears, and, and exposing myself. It means being PRESENT in my body, and aware of how I feel both physically and emotionally. That is how I will connect with my students.

My eating disorder started when I was a young teenager. I grew up learning how to disconnect myself from my body. I coped with unpleasant emotions with restriction, purging, compulsive over-exercise, dieting, etc. At this point, more of my life has been spent actively in my eating disorder than out of it. That’s a scary confession. It makes me a little ashamed. It feels pretty dang shitty.

When someone walks into a room, they bring their energy with them. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, you might not notice that, but it’s true. People bring a “vibe” with them. It’s why you meet some people and immediately feel their joy. It’s why you meet some people and get a funny feeling- their energy is telling you something. If this is sounding “yoga woo-woo” to you stay with me; I have a point.

When I am in front of people, particularly in a yoga studio, and I am the one they are focused on, I bring a few different types of energy, but the dominating one I PERSONALLY CAN FEEL is disconnection. It makes perfect sense- I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life hating my body. Trying to change it. Trying to shrink myself. Using behaviors to cope with feelings. Going inside myself when things got stressful, sad, or hard. Pair that with the perfectionist part of me that has the need to “do this RIGHT” and hopefully you can imagine my discomfort. Everyone is looking at me. They are watching me. I can’t imagine what they are thinking if I’m already ashamed of myself. UGH. Instead of relaxing, I do what I was taught to do growing up playing competitive sports: TRY HARDER. Suck it up. And then criticize my lack of confidence.

Misti reminds me to come back to my “WHY.” Why I want to teach yoga. I can sit there and give my “WHY” a pretty description, but it comes down to one thing: connection.

I believe God gave me yoga to put me on the path of healing. And through healing, connect. I have a story- we all do. But I wonder- how many of us go through life and never tell our story? If I don’t connect with the people around me, my story stays inside. And what better way to connect with people than through a yoga practice that has changed my life? I believe in it. I believe this practice works. I believe all of our pain and sorrow has a purpose. And so I have to connect- which means I answer the hard questions and say the hard things. Because at the end of the day…being a yoga teacher is not about me. It is about the people I teach. If I can come from a place where I am genuinely in touch with my body and my mind, I believe I can help others. I’m not totally sure what that looks like. But I’m finding out its has to do with a lot of soul-searching, self-compassion, and leaning into the unknown.

Yoga asks, “what is possible?” Yoga is the journey. Yoga means UNION. The message of yoga is “we are one.” Is it making a little more sense now why training isn’t just about learning yoga poses and calling them in front of a room full of people? The self-work is difficult. It looks like holding myself accountable to the group of girls I am with. We are HUMAN. We don’t like to be bombarded with the things that we avoid. But genuine connection and relationships don’t come from things we don’t say. They come from placing out the pieces of ourselves we would rather keep secret…because when we do that, maybe someone can say “Me too.”

My yoga tribe is a stand for me. We keep each other in integrity, and that doesn’t just apply to admitting we did or didn’t do our reading. It means that when we get together, for those 10 hours every week, we are real with each other. Sometimes that means dragging your butt into the studio on fumes. Sometimes it looks like telling Misti that I pretty much hate her, because she’s making me stand up in front of the group for waaaaaay longer than I’m comfortable. My tribe is teaching me to connect. And trust. And that is what’s going to make me a good yoga teacher. When I teach a class, I’ll be able to bring my “WHY” and my story, because I’m learning to to not disconnect myself from it. The story of how God has used this practice to help save my life- and all the junk that goes along with it. There is beauty in the breaking, and I’m all in.

Flip your perspective.

Flip your perspective.

 

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

I’m into week three of Yoga Teacher Training and this shit is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s challenging, fun, uncomfortable, rewarding, scary, and amazing all at the same time. I didn’t have the time to write a post about week two, but I wanted to share a meditation we did with all of you. Meditation is a struggle for me, but during this one, I was almost able to BE STILL the whole time! And, I’ve listened to it about 17 times since then. It’s a long read, but so worth it. I’ve included a link of where you can also listen to the audio version of this meditation. Which you should- because these words are ones we ALL need to hear.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

by Sarah Blondin

I wish someone had told me when I first began my journey into a life of my own that where I needed to begin was sitting on the floor, with my eyes closed. I wish someone had told me that my first step, the first step anyone must take is inward.

I wish someone had told me when I felt I had nothing to offer the world that all I needed to do, was sit down and breathe. That all I needed to do was learn the practice of opening to and discovering the true Self, sitting inside of me, quietly, and that from there the rest would come easier.

I wish someone had told me that my true value and worth would be found not in attaining or gaining but in meeting this Self. That finding my way to her would bring me gold and riches that no worldly things could buy.

I wish someone had told me when I was lost and desperate for direction and support that I was really longing to meet myself. That nothing else would soothe me until I first came to touch my own inner temple of divinity.

I wish someone had told me when I was swimming in a sea of lonely thoughts, and diving into dark pits that I was being called into the dark underbelly for great reason, that I was being called into the very center of myself as to come closer to my root and bottomless source of light.

I wish someone had told me when I began to run, divert, distract, over consume, point fingers, over work, fight, create drama, choose everything other than love, that I was running away from my own magnificence. That I was running from it because I didn’t believe it was something I possessed. Because I didn’t believe in my own ability to give myself all I needed.

I wish someone had told me I was the only one who could give myself what I asked from and wanted from another. That all I would ever want, all I would ever need, all I would ever desire, all I would chase and scour the earth for was waiting deep in the valley of my chest. That, that was where I needed to start. That there in the quiet of myself was where I would find my eternal river of wealth and value and that all I needed to get there was the breath in my chest and the patience and willingness to understand that I was, and will always be, the answer I am searching for.

I wish someone had told me that from going within I would find housed within me was a tremendous light, my truest version of Self, a self free of suffering and story, my own personal guidance system and a wellspring of wealth, wisdom and knowing. That if I committed to going inward I would in fact be guided to my greatest life and most joyful existence.

I wish someone had told me that from going within I would meet the only person who could give me the love I longed for, the only person who could carry me through my darkest nights, the only person who could heal the hurt inside me through unconditional love, the only person who could truly love me and that, that person was my highest self. The self who knew of my greatness, my capacity, my truth, my limitlessness. That there behind all the tremendous noise my mind created, behind all my resistance to the quiet was all I had been looking outside of myself for.

We are stitched together from stardust, we are balls of light. We are limitless beings with all the wisdom we are in need of. It is in us from the moment we are conceived. Somewhere along the line we got distracted from these truths and are working to re-align with them.

Where ever life leads you, whatever you must face, know deep inside the marrow your bones lives your earth. Your home. You cannot ever loose it, it can never leave you. No matter where you run to, no matter what rabbit hole you fall down, you always have you.

I want to take a moment to tell you, you are here in this moment reading this because your highest truth, your soul is always pulling you ever so gently into your own light. I want to tell you no matter where you journey, no matter what the landscape appears to be, you are being held, you are being loved, you are exactly where you need to be.
I want to tell you, you are already enough. That there are no holes to be filled, no cracks to be plastered. You are already enough and everything you need is within you, rising on your breath and on your hearts beat.

http://www.liveawakeproject.com/#!show-reel/c1tmc

The Work Begins

As I made the drive to the studio for my first night of Yoga Teacher Training, this is what was running through my head: “I feel like I’m going to puke. Like, first-day-of-school-puke.”

As I made the drive home from my first night of YTT, this is what was going through my head: “What. Have. I. Done.”

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect back on last week, this is what is going through my head: “God has me exactly where I need to be.”

Twenty weeks of ten hours a week of yoga immersion. That’s not counting the time spent outside the studio practicing, reading assigned books, studying asanas and pieces of the practice, and trying my darnedest to meditate. What have I done?

I have been brave. I have taken a huge leap into a world of uncomfortable, soul-searching, hard work. And my life is going to change because of it.

“What is your default role in life?” Asked our teacher, the first night. The other yogis and I paused and thought. I’m learning that in these moments I have two choices: say the easy thing or say the hard thing. And because MY default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable, I sure as heck want to say what would be easier.

But easier cheapens. It diminishes the experience. It doesn’t allow me to grow. Without growth, there is no change; and without change, my world and I stay the same. There isn’t any passion in settling for a life that never changes- because unchanging equals stuck. For me at least.

“My default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable.” I said.
Ever been through Yoga Teacher Training? If you have, you know what that statement will entail for me the next twenty weeks.
“Running,” another girl said.
“Wounded.”
“Being the victim.”
“Anger.”
“Being OK.”

And so the work begins.

This yoga stuff is about un-learning. It is about committing to find my way AWAY from that default role in life that keeps me stuck. It comforts me, sure. But when I avoid being uncomfortable, I don’t EMBRACE. Not just the “bad” but the “good” too. There is no such thing as selective numbing of your feelings and experiences. You simply cannot numb pain without also numbing joy. We humans like to think we work that way, but we do not.

For me, the work in YTT starts with what seems very, very basic and simple. So much so that it’s hard not to judge myself for it. My work starts with looking in the mirror. The full length mirror that takes up the entire wall of the front of the studio. Looking in the mirror at myself- into my own eyes, at my own body. It makes me uncomfortable to see myself and especially to see my body. My body that has been through SO much, and changed so much the past two years. It’s easy for me to make eye contact with myself in the mirror and degrade myself. “Disgusting. Stupid. A burden. Too loud. Too quiet. Too big. Fake.”

Negative self talk- it’s comfortable. It’s natural; it’s my known. The work comes with looking in my own eyes and just BEING. Being silent. Being still. Being accepting. I am who I am, and my body is at a weight it is happy with. My insides and outsides don’t match, but I can teach them to. I can un-learn the things I’ve told myself for so long.

Embracing. I committed to myself and the group to embrace- the opposite of avoiding. They committed too- to staying, to feeling, to being victorious. It’s going to look different for each of us, but that process is part of what will make us yoga teachers. So when we walk into a room to teach class, we aren’t worrying about what everyone thinks, judging ourselves, distracting ourselves, minimizing ourselves, or running from ourselves. The world needs more genuine. The world needs more honesty. Because those are things that are real. Not our perfectly filtered Instagram lives, our generic “I’m fine,” or our masks.

“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious,” says my favorite Rumi quote.

Yoga Teacher Training. Two-hundred hours. Shit just got real.

The power of a blank canvas.

The power of a blank canvas.

Yoga Teacher Training

If you follow my Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you know I talk about yoga a lot. You might think I’ve joined some weird kind of yoga cult and am now a yoga zombie. I’m not gonna lie, the first class I took where we “OM-ed” in the beginning had me wondering. But as I’ve jumped out of my comfort zone, I find myself wanting to share what yoga has done for me, because it has radically changed my life. In just under two weeks, I will embark on a journey through Yoga Teacher Training for 20+ weeks. It’s going to be a season of learning, structure, change, and busyness for me. I’m sure there will be times where I hate yoga, am stressed and overwhelmed, exhausted, and second-guessing my decision. So, to keep myself grounded in my journey, I’ve set a goal to write a blog post once a week while in training. Once a WEEK. Yikes. Pretty lofty for someone who can’t even remember the last time she wrote a non-food review post. However, one big reason I decided to start this blog and even DO Yoga Teacher Training was so I could share my reflections during this time in my life. Already, I’ve learned a few things in making these decisions to be more vulnerable and honest.

Things won’t always look like you thought they would. I’m not even doing my YTT at the beloved studio that I’ve called my yoga home for almost two years now. I’m grieving this, although it was 100% my decision, and am choosing to be grateful for this unexpected turn of events. It means my yoga teachers have taught me to flourish- to follow my dreams and my heart, rather than stick with the “how it should be’s.”

You have to take care of yourself, and trust life’s timing. I wanted to do YTT last year. I almost got talked into it, but I also got talked out of it. I was mad at the time, but I am SO glad I waited to be healthier before starting something this intense. I frequently struggled with severe hypoglycemia that led to vomiting, near passing out episodes, and foggy thinking. I knew that if I really wanted to do this teacher training thing, I HAD to get serious about taking care of myself- consistently. I gained the weight I had absolutely refused to put on for over a year. It’s been a wonder what those extra pounds have done for me. I would be lying if I said I was even anywhere close to accepting my body of what it is- but I have accepted that I have to take care of it.

It’s OK to trust your gut/heart. I’m an ICU nurse. I want to know how things work, that A causes B, and steps 1-6 will lead me to the right decision. At the end of the day, the only wrong decision I could make about YTT was that I wasn’t going to do it at all. Anxiety about money, my work schedule, energy levels, where to do my training, and who to talk to about it was scary- almost scary enough to make me decide to forget the whole thing altogether and forgo training. But my intuition told me not to. It guided me to exactly the right places and people I needed to, to be brave and take the leap into this adventure.

Stay true to yourself. I started yoga for all the wrong reasons, and was extremely blessed to actually end up finding all the RIGHT reasons to do yoga. I care so much about the people in my life. I am slow to warm but when I love, I love hard and with all of my heart. I am compassionate and have a passion for helping others. If I end up teaching yoga, it’s going to be to the people like me. The ones who feel deeply but won’t admit it, who are tired and burned out of their jobs, who get their feelings hurt by being honest. I’m going to teach the people like me who said yoga was bullshit, because there’s a chance that is all just a mask of a person who needs to find themselves. This could look like teaching in a studio. It could look like teaching in a park. Hell, it could look like teaching my friends yoga in their living room. I’m not going through YTT to quit my day job- I pursuing it in hopes of filling myself up and passing that on to others.

God has a plan. Always. He just does. And it’s going to be far better than what your little, limited, finite human mind could think out. So trust Him. And know that He isn’t going to lead you anywhere He hasn’t already been- because God can use ANYONE.

Thanks for wanting to watch my journey. Some weeks my blog posts might be five sentences; some weeks they might be three pages. I’m excited to see where this takes me. I hope I can help show you that health and healing is possible in unexpected places.

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Thunderbird Real Food Bars Review

A while back, Thunderbird Real Food Bars company was generous enough to send me a variety of their bars to try. So here you finally have it: a review of these bars! It took me quite a while to get through my stash because I’m not going to lie, I was savoring each flavor!

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Let’s talk ingredients. One word: simple. Thunderbird Real Food Bars are made with 100% all natural ingredients, such as nuts, dates, a variety of fruits, seeds, and spices. Spices were my favorite part of those bars. For example, their Cherry Walnut Cinnamon bar was one of my favorites- the hint of cinnamon combined with sweet cherry  balanced out the taste perfectly. It also helps that Thunderbird uses some of my favorite, less commonly seen ingredients for their bars, such as lemon, papaya, pistachios, and turmeric. Thunderbird Real Food Bars are just that- real food. No added grains, protein whey, fats, etc. What you see on the label is what you get, and the nutrition comes simply from a few ingredients. I also appreciated that there’s nothing listed in the ingredients that I could not pronounce!

I loved that these bars were convenient and portable. If you’re like me, often on the go and outdoors, you’ve probably discovered that many popular “protein bars” don’t do well with heat or being roughed around too much. Like being stashed in your car for an emergency snack break. Or being squished under a heavy water bottle in a hiking bag. You get the picture. I’m always snacking, so I took these bars all over the place with me- on kayak trips, hiking, in suitcases on trips, even to work in my scrub pocket. These babies don’t melt or crumble. Winning. It all goes back to what they are made of. You won’t find any fake chocolate chips melting to your wrapper and making your snack time look like that of a toddler. Thunderbird Real Food Bars uses cacao powder and cacao butter instead, giving their Hazelnut Coffee Maca bar a fantastic chocolate mocha flavor without the mess and artificial sweeteners. This bar also had real fair trade coffee beans in it…YUM.

For those of you that are into nutrition labels and categorizing food, Thunderbird Real Food Bars are certified gluten free, vegan, paleo, soy and grain free, and non-GMO. I have to admit, with all those labels I was a bit skeptical of this company, wondering if they were actually making good food, or trying to sell “health food” to people who like to hop onto that clean eating train. After tasting so many flavor bars, I can honestly say that this is GOOD food. Personally, I believe in balance. You can eat all the gluten free paleo no added sugar stuff you want because you think it’s “healthy”, but if it’s not even tasty, why bother? So you can feel better about yourself? Food is food people. If it’s not good, don’t make yourself eat it just because it’s “healthy” or “clean”. But, for those of you that do walk that line, Thunderbird Real Food Bars are delicious and nutritious, even for the pickiest health food junkie.

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Maybe I especially loved these bars because I tend to gravitate towards the fruity flavored bars. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a bar that was “cookie dough”, “double chocolate”, “peanut butter cup”, “vanilla cupcake” flavored. Give me all the fruits! And…BALANCE. Go for a REAL peanut butter cup or cupcake. I promise you the real thing is better than a fake version trying to lure your tastebuds. As far as my top favorite Thunderbird Real Food Bars, they are as follows: Cherry Walnut Cinnamon, Lemon Cashew Apricot, Cashew Fig Carrot, Hazelnut Coffee Maca, Pineapple Mango Papaya, and Almond Apricot Vanilla. Guys, I don’t even LIKE cashews, walnuts, or apricots plain! But mix them with some pure, yummy fruits and seeds and I’m all in.

Can’t find these bars at a store near you? Thunderbird Real Food Bars has a website where you can order them. AND, if you use the code BMR15, you will get 15% off your order until the end of September. Shipping is free on orders over $100. The company also offers a subscription service for bar delivery that gets you a 10% discount on all orders. It’s like subscribing to a magazine to be delivered every month…only this is way better because you can choose to have bars delivered to you doorstep every month, two months, or three months. Winning. I’m hoping to get my hands on more Thunderbird Real Food Bars in the future, and crossing my fingers that stores in my area discover these tasty snacks and start selling them! Questions about Thunderbird? Click on their website here: http://www.thunderbirdbar.com/ or shoot me an email or message on my Facebook page. Also, make sure to follow @thunderbirdbar on Instagram for news and occasional giveaways. Happy snacking!

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My favorite bar and my favorite beast!

Outsides and Insides

Long time no post! I want to take this post to talk about where my mindset has been lately. Recovery wise, the lack of writing has a lot to do with me kind of feeling like I’m at a standstill. I know that’s better than going backwards, but it’s still frustrating. So often I wish I had a timeline for recovery, and assurance that someday this illness will no longer be in my life at all. That is what I struggle with though; the thoughts of “is this as good as it gets?” I try to hold on to the truth and promise that God is the ultimate healer, and apply it to my recovery. In all honesty, I’ve discovered what I call the ugly side of recovery. After the weight has been restored, and I don’t look like the person with food issues anymore. People comment that I’m strong and healthy, and I try to smile. But then comes the shame. The feeling like a fraud. My insides don’t match my outsides, and if you’ve ever lived that way, it’s confusing. I want myself to match. I want to look at that woman in the mirror who flexes her muscles jokingly at her husband saying “suns out guns out” and be proud that I am strong. But, I’m used to having noodle arms, and I don’t anymore and sometimes I really miss that thinness.

People talk about missing your eating disorder. That always sounded weird to me, but in some ways I get it. It makes me feel a little dark and twisted- to miss something that was slowly killing me. But I’m not going to lie, I miss weighing 20+ pounds less and wearing size X jeans. Not because I felt accomplished, but because it felt familiar. Let me be clear, it did NOT feel good. I felt like shit. But I was so used to that. It was my normal. And wether a person’s “normal” is healthy or not, it feels comfortable. I miss feeling more secure because I was “smaller” than all the people I was around. Shallow? Selfish? Maybe. But it’s the ugly truth.

Recovery, in the long term, is like slowly having a rug taken out from under you that you didn’t even realize was there. The rug is my eating disorder. Intensive treatment was different- that rug gets YANKED out from under you FAST. But slowly seeing just how much of my life changes when the eating disorder fades often makes me lay facedown on that dang rug and cling to it for dear life. Change isn’t easy. The realization that so much of my life is still affected by this illness isn’t easy. Sometimes I’ll feel great about where I am, but then I’ll walk into my dietician or therapists office and get hit with the reality that I am still very much disordered in some ways. Not always by my behaviors, but more so with my thought processes. And then I feel the standstill and I’m angry; because My God, I look healthy now and I can go more than a day without exercising and I can eat donuts; so why the hell can’t I just be FREE. And I’ll come to admit to myself that once again, my outsides doesn’t match my insides, and it is SO unfair. I look fine. And most of the time, I am fine. For that I am thankful. But when I do not feel fine, I struggle with wishing my appearance showed that.

Eating disorders don’t make sense. My therapist has told me this approximately 9825 times, but giving myself the grace to accept and understand that is still hard. I’m an ICU nurse, and I want to understand exactly why A causes B, and what can fix it. Recovery and eating disorders aren’t like that though. So, acceptance. Acceptance that my journey is not over, and that it may be far from over. That’s difficult to sit with. Grace. Grace for myself because I am human and I can’t “cure” myself by beating myself up over things. Grace is having hope. Right now I’m sitting on a plane flying to California for vacation with my family. Last time I was on that side of the country, I had just started recovery. It was my secret. I have a lot of good memories from the trip, but one of them was carefully hiding my eating disorder while still trying to not completely throw everything my treatment team was teaching me out the window. Kinda exhausting. Here I am three years later. I have a blog where I put my experiences and struggles out there for absolutely anyone in the world to see. I’m eating a snack right now. I’m not stressing over when I’ll get a workout in today after sitting so much. I see how far I have come, and I hope. I hope for the days when the things that seem impossible now no longer are. Just like the things I never thought could change, actually have.

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