A few years ago, I was going through hell. I don’t know how else to explain it, hell seems to be a pretty accurate description. I was a single mom, raising two daughters alone, and my youngest was having some issues that were affecting school. I was in constant meetings with the middle school and trying to get the right help for my daughter. It was one of the worst periods of my life. If you’re a parent, you know how painful it is seeing your child suffering and not knowing how to help. It was devastating. The school treated me like I was a bad mother and my daughter was drowning. After three years of arguing with the school I took them to court and was able to get my daughter the help she needed. I’m proud to say she is currently a bright, hard-working college student. Life is very different today.
But I didn’t come out unscathed from that period. I became severely depressed while we were going through everything. My only concern on a daily basis was waking up my daughter and trying to get her to school. If you haven’t had a child with special needs, you might not think this is a big deal, but it was awful every single day. I had so much stress, and when my depression got bad I stopped doing any physical activity and turned to food for comfort and relief. I put on about 20 pounds and then started having unbelievable back pain. I felt so embarrassed. People would ask me what I did to hurt my back and I didn’t have a good answer. I didn’t have a car accident, I didn’t fall, I just stopped taking care of myself and my body fell apart. That’s how I felt too, like I physically and emotionally had fallen to pieces.
I wrote about this on my About page, how I was such pain for a long time until I found a great physical therapist. What made her great was that in addition to giving me practical physical therapy and exercises that I could incorporate into my workouts, she had had her own experience with physical therapy as a patient. She understood my pain and when I went to appointments with her, I would talk about how I felt so depressed. During the first few sessions, I cried through parts of my appointment. My physical pain was so entrenched with my emotional pain. Three months later I came out of physical therapy in much less pain and almost 20 pounds lighter. I was back into my old workouts, I spent about two hours a day in the gym, 5 days a week. I cleaned up my food, stopped bringing home half-gallons of ice cream and six months later I was down a total of 40 pounds and at my lowest weight.
I was feeling great, so when I saw an ad for an Interior Decorating position I applied and got the job. I thought this was the start of something great. I’d gone to school for marketing but I’d always been interested in Interior Design and I thought this was a chance to try something new. My girls were doing well and I was so excited. Well, the job started out ok, but I had to be on my feet all day and the hours were very long. I was exhausted, I couldn’t get to the gym and I started having terrible pain in my hip and leg. After six months, when I realized how bad it was getting, I had to leave the job. I had bursitis on my hip and I had gained back 10 pounds. I was so frustrated and upset. I thought I was making a good decision and moving on to something I would enjoy. Instead, after a year of a lot of hard work getting my body well, I was in terrible pain again.
It’s been two years since I left that decorating job and I’ve been in pain since. I’ve also gained back some more weight. I can’t work out like I used to, just walking up stairs is very painful. It’s been hard not to feel upset and frustrated. If you’ve ever lost weight, gained it back, and then done it again, you know what I mean. If you’ve ever felt like you worked hard to get somewhere and then felt like you were starting over, I get it. It can make us feel defeated, like whatever work we did was pointless, because, now we have to work harder just to get back to where we once were.
There are people out there who will try to sell you their weight loss or exercise program, promising that this will be the time things stick. That once you find the right plan, you’ll be thin at last and never struggle with your weight or eating again. But life isn’t linear, things don’t usually go on a straight, easy path. Even if your eating is great and you’ve lost 20 pounds, if your workout routine changes because you’re busy at work or taking care of the kids you might gain weight at some point. Even if you seemingly overcome depression, are less stressed or you get your finances together, life happens and at some point you might suffer through another depression, feel overwhelmed, and it’s possible the market will crash and you might lose money. This isn’t doom and gloom. It’s just life.
Last month I started going back to see my physical therapist. It feels a little bit like déjà vu. It’s five years later and I’m working on getting my core stronger again. It hasn’t been easy, but instead of seeing this as starting over and getting frustrated, I have been reminding myself that I’m not starting from scratch. My weight is not as high as it was five years ago, I’m not eating my feelings, my daughter is well, and I know what I need to do to get better. I know the exercises, I know how to eat, and I know who to go to get help and support.
There will be times in your life that will be easier, and ones that will be more difficult. Sometimes you may be more into physical activity, sometimes you might be more into your career, or there may be times when taking care of someone else will be your priority. When we learn to accept that life is constantly changing and are able to more easily adjust and accept change we won’t feel as devastated when something happens that knocks us off course. When we learn to be present in our lives, to focus on what is important to us and have acceptance with ourselves and our bodies then we’ll be better able to roll with the punches and stop seeing setbacks as starting over again.
If you have a setback it doesn’t negate your achievements. You get to keep your experiences and wisdom. If you’ve changed your eating habits or you learned how to enjoy moving your body, those skills stay with you.
Setbacks can feel frustrating, aggravating, and upsetting. When you have one you are allowed to have all of those feelings. But it doesn’t mean you have to start all over. It just means you have to keep going, even if it’s just one small step at a time.
If you’ve had your own experience with feeling like you’ve had to start over, please feel free to share.