Important Life Lessons From A 26 Year Old…

I’m here to share a story…

This post is less of any actual tips & tricks to surviving your twenties, and more of an in-depth and real look at the inside of my head. On the outside, you don’t see what a basket case someone could be, and in this case- it’s me. I have a friend, who prompted me to write this, when I was there for her one late night as we spilled our anxieties to each other, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that “my story” could probably be a book. I’ve shared part of my weight loss journey, been open about anxiety, and talked about my life’s relationships but we haven’t taken as deep as a dive as people need to know. Today, in this post right here, is the one you need to read because you’re not alone. Buckle up, because you’re about to read a deep, deep, and probably 1,300 words too many, account of my life and trying to survive my 20’s. 

When I was 18 years old, I graduated high school. I knew that I was going to community college in the fall. My best friends were a group of girls who were a year ahead of me, and who just finished their first year of college. We promised we’d all be best friends for the rest of our lives. We all worked part time at the Y, and somehow made it through almost an entire summer of coordinated shifts so that we could hang out four nights a week and adventure. At 18 years old, I was content and confident that at 260 pounds I was one of the “big girls” in our group, but lived with a “what you see is what you get” mentality. Summer ended, all of my friends went away to school, and I stayed local.

At 19 years old, in January a newer co-worked prompted me to join her in the gym. Again, I was 19 years old, 260 pounds, confident in who I was, and my friendships were changing. I really respected her, so I followed along one day upstairs, lasted about 12 minutes and decided I’d never go back. I went back. I kept going back.

Throughout 19, I shifted to a new group of friends. My angel who brought me upstairs to the gym, a single mom, another coworker and I became inseparable. We spent most of my 20th year of life together, and we were very close.

During all of this time, my anxiety didn’t exist. My savings account grew, college was easy, I was thriving at life in general. I was at about 60 pounds lost at this point, I was doing great and starting to love the shrinking body I was in. I approached 21, and a friend from my original co-worker group of best friends came back into my life. She invited me to see a private performance of Big Time Rush, and in all honesty, it was the way to my heart. We rekindled our friendship, as another was fizzling out, and I went into 21 thriving. My two best friends and I did everything together. Work outs, lunch dates, trips to Target, sitting in the Y parking lot at 11pm eating ice cream cones and listening to sad music wondering why the guys we liked didn’t like us back… There were more friendships and jobs added in during that time, but none of it was really important. I was so happy the summer of being 20 turning into 21, I just lived my life to the fullest.

Days after turning 21, I met Dylan. I also went to North Dakota during that time as well, to visit a childhood friend and get really drunk on a RV at a UND football game. Those two are connected. As Dylan would constantly reach to talk to me, I’d constantly turn away and tell him about boys at UND, boys who I liked more than Dylan, and was just a generally really terrible person to him. My weight loss continued, and I was finding confidence in my smaller body. Still, my bank account grew and my schooling continued. There was no anxiety during this time.

January 2013, I started spending time with Dylan. I liked him, he wore me down, and the more he fought for me, the more I realized he was my person. I was so calm and collected and I just rode the psychological roller coaster into our relationship. Still, thriving in the bank and on the scale and in school. I turned 22 this year, and had a 20 year old boyfriend. My anxiety slowly made its way out, from the little box in the back of my brain, to the side of my head. It would whisper in my ear “Do you see that? Dylan doesn’t like when you go to bars without him, he’s going to leave you” and I’d convince myself how wrong I was to hang out at TGI freaking Friday’s because maybe my boyfriend would be jealous. Dylan wouldn’t tell me not to go out, but he’d be a bit jealous about me having the freedom to do so, and my anxiety let me know.

In 2014, I was in my best shape physically. I was officially at that 100 pound mark of weight lost. I had a boyfriend whom I loved, who was about to turn 21, and could totally join me at any bar! My anxiety couldn’t hold that over me, and my boyfriend wouldn’t need to be jealous! Then, food happened. Right when I thought my anxiety was going to take a lap, it decided to make me afraid of food. I’d eat a handful of Cheez-its and my brain would scream “THATS 140 CALORIES AND YOU’RE GOING TO GET FAAAAAAAT!” The body I was finally feeling confident in, became a jail. I was afraid of food, I saw it as just a number, I wasn’t happy unless I worked out for hours, and I stopped being confident in who I was. But at least my boyfriend could go to the bars with me right? At this point of my life, I was approaching 23, my savings account was still growing, I was at the top of my college class GPA-wise, and my anxiety was starting to really exist. At the end of 2014, every single female wanted to date my boyfriend, for sure. Or at least, that’s what my anxiety said. It didn’t matter that he was faithful to me. My head didn’t care about that, because skinnier girls, prettier girls, single girls would want him now. I knew it.

Thanks anxiety for making me afraid of other women and of my own body.

In 2015, I was 23ish and Dylan and I started talking about his dreams. Mainly, if Dylan was to travel for work, would I consider going with? Not. Even. A. Question. OF COURSE NOT. I am the human version of a hot dish, and belong in Duluth where my O’s and A’s and Minnesotan accent can fly free. Well, that’s what my anxiety said anyway. My voice mustered up a yes, which was enough for Dylan to decide to put a ring on it less than two months later. A ring lead to a job, and the job was not in Minnesota. So, we packed up the vehicle and went to Nebraska.

I was 23 when I moved. I was unemployed. I was pretty fit. I was finishing school. I was going on a new adventure.

Anxiety moved with us.

“You’re unemployed. take it out on your fiance”. So we’d fight. “You’re fighting. Eat something to comfort you” So I’d eat. “You’re gaining weight, fight with your fiance about being bigger than other girls” So we’d fight. “You’re POOR, FIND A JOB” So I’d look, and then it would start a fight.

At this point, my anxiety decided to take up 600 square feet, out of our 800 square foot apartment. My fiance didn’t like me, and had pretty much detached from us. Every single day I would cry about either my weight, my finances, or my lack of relationship. We thought it was just Lincoln. We thought we were just trapped. Dylan didn’t love his job, so he wanted to move to Des Moines. I was down. It was the end of 2015, and we packed up a UHaul again, and moved.

My anxiety told me that it was not going to be a fresh start. It was going to be the same drama. My heart said to give it a shot, and I gave it all of the shots I had. The fresh start lasted all of five minutes, and the fighting ramped up again. I was partially unemployed, and would spend 8-10 hours a day laying in our bedroom, under covers, crying. My anxiety had convinced me that there were other women that Dylan wanted. My anxiety told me it was never going to get better. My anxiety said I deserved to be overweight, deserved to have a disconnected fiance, deserved to struggle financially, and that the only thing I had going for me was that I was in my last semester at school.

It’s 2016 at this point, and I am at rock bottom. My anxiety has created the worst acid reflux, brought out the worst panic attacks, fueled thousands of “let’s just break ups”, and a whole bunch of internet comparisons. I cried more than I didn’t, I thought that I wasn’t going to get married, my relationship was the worst it was ever going to be, and there was a world rocking, ground breaking bunch of bullshit that really forced us to decide what we were doing in each other’s lives, because this wasn’t working anymore. Can’t say my anxiety didn’t warn me.

Summer of 2016 was when all of this took place, which included two trips to the hospital, because my anxiety got so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. Twice. 

In the fall I turned 25. In November Dylan planned a staycation at a Hyatt downtown and a trip to a steak house. He held my hand, he tried it all, but my anxiety told me I shouldn’t be there. My anxiety told me it wasn’t happening. I was poor, I was heavier than I’d ever been before, and I wasn’t going to be able to stay in love. I remember asking Dylan to kiss me over and over, standing by the couch in that hotel room, just praying that my head could get past the way I felt from my anxiety. I felt like I needed a Disney Princess moment, where he’d kiss me and break the spell, but this was real life and not a fairy tale.

That was rock bottom. It was the worst I had ever felt in my life. We could have gotten a marriage license that week, but instead I spent most of it crying at my desk at work because my heart didn’t know what the hell was going on in my head. I was afraid of my thoughts, because they were constantly convincing my that every single aspect of my life was being lived wrong. I remember in early December, I told Dylan that he needed to help heal me. For the first time, he stood there and took partial ownership for my anxiety. We talked all the way back to his jealousy for me being 21 when he was 19, we talked how my jealousy stemmed from that, how moving in together was a rush for the both of us, and handled terribly as well. We talked about hitting rock bottom, and if we really thought we could fix it. We talked about the threats of ending the relationship in anger, and fears of anxiety in a marriage. We really had to go month by month, talk through our entire relationship, my heart, my confidence, my body issues and fears of food, our finances, and we had to recognize that we not where we needed to be.

January of 2017 we got married.

Plot twist. You’d think after hitting rock bottom, that you’d want a clean slate. You’d want to build with someone who didn’t put any *metaphorical* bruises on your relationship. You’d want to start over. Nope. I wanted to fix a whole bunch of injuries that were covered by bandaids and I wanted to do some serious surgery. In 2017 as far as relationships go, it was the best year of our lives.

Stress, confidence, and my weight on the other hand- jumped off a cliff. I worked at a job that I loved. When your boss becomes your best friend, going to work every day isn’t really stressful. Things about the job though, were. I wasn’t making enough money, for one. Constantly being constrained financially, and getting paid for 40 hours while working 50+ was not okay. (Do not EVER settle for this) Having certain people constantly drain you, was also absolutely terrible. It sucks that without fail, I had built in every single day to be criticized for doing something wrong, even when it wasn’t my fault- it was. After six months of being blamed for doing my absolute best, I checked out. That was about a year into the job, so June 2017. The summer, being the busy season at work, only compounded the stress, which compounded the weight, which compounded the anxiety, and in about September, I was at a point where I was all the way done. 

My relationship was finally fine, my world was not. When we moved in November, the weight of the world was taken off my shoulders, and 75% of my anxiety disappeared. If you are going to a job that drains you, daily, for 8-10 hours a day, leave. I ended 2017 overall in a pretty good place, but there’s still some issues that live in my head.

Anxiety is constantly telling me that I am not enough. I’m not good enough at my job, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not wealthy enough, I’m not a good enough wife, I don’t have enough skills, I don’t do enough for myself, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not good enough on the internet, my relationship with Jesus isn’t enough and I don’t fit the “enough” part of the world.

Anxiety plays a major role in what I see in the mirror, because it’s not who you see on the outside. Anxiety constantly tells me that I can spend hours on these blogs or my Instagram, but I’m not good enough at being a blogger. Anxiety says “someone else always has more”, urging me to give up. Anxiety tells me that I should compare my love store, thick thighs, dogs, finances and weight loss routine to someone else on the internet. Someone else is always better, and I’m never going to be enough. 

Anxiety made me afraid of going to bars at 21, because my 19 year old boyfriend would leave. It made me afraid to move out of my state, fail out of school, fight with my boyfriend, eat Cheez-its, get engaged, move four times in two years, lose weight, gain weight, start blogging, work with companies, demand what I deserve at my job, get married, buy a dog, watch my bank account drain, buy a second dog, sell a car, cry, fight for what I needed, and be who I knew I could be.

Anxiety made me afraid to be okay with having anxiety, because you can’t see it. Anxiety came in, when I didn’t need it to, but it came in right when it knew it would be successful. I talk about my story because I say things like “losing weight is hard” “our engagement wasn’t easy” “I felt drained in Des Moines” or a combination of such, and no one really knows that anxiety ruled. my. brain. for almost five years, and completely turned my life upside down.

This is just who I am. Today, I feel more at home in Indianapolis than I have since living in Minnesota. Today, I take control of my weight loss failures, because I am a human. Today, I recognize that I’m short to anger and it gets taken out on my husband and dogs- but if I can recognize it, I can change it. Today, I know that anxiety is a part of me, but it is not me. I am not anxiety, but I am living with it. You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone. This. is. our. story.

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