Stirring Up

What a week I’ve had… and it’s only Tuesday.

I have felt insanely anxious and on edge since the middle of last week, and I think it started with having to cancel on a friend and I’s walk on Thursday. I had completely forgotten that I was leaving work early for a DMV appointment and that I wouldn’t be able to walk with her at 5pm. Even now, I’m staring at the big red X on my planner across it and feeling that familiar pang of guilt.

I took on the troubles of a dear friend as if they were mine that same night. Then I forgot to call someone about an opportunity for writing. I skipped my workout on Friday, I forgot to listen to a podcast over the weekend, and I binged on cereal on Sunday.

My anxiety comes out as guilt (this is a new revelation for me). I blame myself for ev-er-y-thing. You can imagine how this last week has felt for me. Only now, my therapist has pointed it out. The glass has shattered, and now I see it.

Yesterday, I was overwhelming myself:

  • I pushed a walk with a friend to the weekend to give myself space and then she responded that she would be out of town for the weekend. Immediately, I felt guilty and rude for assuming she’d be free.
  • I left work at 5:02pm and felt guilty for leaving so quickly every day.
  • I realized that a friend and I haven’t talked for four months (since before quarantine) and felt guilty that I hadn’t reached out again (even though the last text was a question from me that she didn’t respond to).
  • I sent an email to the woman I was going to have that call with about writing and she never responded, so I felt guilty and stupid for forgetting to call last Friday.
  • I felt guilty that I asked my brother to do all the dishes when I knew about half of them were mine, but I had been feeling overwhelmed at the time.
  • I felt guilty and sick because of all the cereal I had eaten the day before.
  • I felt guilty that I was already imagining finishing the bag of pasta that I had made (which easily had three servings in it).
  • I berated myself for not apologizing to someone when I know I had nothing to apologize for.

On and on.

So I worked out yesterday, hard. Then I sat in the hot tub at the gym with my husband. I went home and ate the whole bag of pasta (because imagining myself doing it made me do it, I’m sure). I felt anxious and guilty so I took a hot bath, read a self-help book – and then tossed and turned in bed until almost 12:30am.

I finally sat up and told my husband that I was anxious. That all this stuff was getting stirred up and I didn’t know what to do. He asked what he could do and I realized that the dumbest thing was bothering me… my watch.

My Fitbit Versa 2 is a dream, I swear. I love it for my workouts, for my heartrate, for my steps… the problem was that it was at 20% battery. Meaning it had enough charge to last the next day, but it was close enough to dying that I kept thinking about it dying on me. The band was wrapped around my wrist and bothering me, but I knew I should wear it to track my sleep. I told my husband all of this, and he went and got the watch charger from the living room and put it by my bedside. I took the watch off and fell asleep in five minutes.

I found the best stock photo site, y’all. I have not been photogenic this week, so this is what you get. Lol

I can tell I have a long way to go. This stuff is so ingrained in me, and all this change is stirring it up, bringing all that gunk that’s been sitting at the bottom of my tank to the surface. Let’s hope I can siphon it out.

Do you guys experience this? That things get worse before they get better? Let me know in the comments here or on Instagram so I don’t feel so crazy!

Creativity and Anxiety

High School Journals, starting June 22, 2009.

Say hello to my sanity from High School. These journals are filled with tears, with ripped pages, with pen and pencil, with history, with frustrations, with pretending, with texts, with passed notes… and so much more.

My first journal started when I was about to be a freshman. I had gone on a mission trip to Montana and was in a small town writing about the stars and how they made me feel small. I wrote about how home didn’t feel real when I was out there, and while I knew there was drama going on, I didn’t have to be apart of it there. I wanted to stay there forever and escape it all and I wrote and wrote about that.

Then about an hour later, a friend had some drama about a boy that we both liked and I had to write about that. Then the rest of the mission trip (and hence the journal for that week) was filled with petty B.S. – focus on boys and girl drama. A game of hot seat. Seating in the car rides. Just goofy stuff.

Then I got home and *ish* hit the fan. Family drama and fights that happened while I was gone. In the aftermath of 2008, my step-dad had lost his job. We were evicted around a week later and lived with a family from our church for three months. When those three months had finished, we moved in with another family from our church, a foster mom and her adopted kids – running the total number of people in her house to 12. I turned 15 while we were in that house.

It’s hard to talk about that time because there were some fun days, and it wasn’t all terrible. It’s also hard to talk about without feeling ungrateful or feeling like I’m airing dirty laundry. The screaming fighting of our family (and families), the tears, the constant fear, the anger I still harbor… it’s all almost too fresh to talk about. I dreaded going home. I hated being around the people in that house. I hid in the closet more than once. The one month where I self-harmed was in my most desperate time of living there.

On top of the fear, the lack of security, feeling the need to be strong for my parents, and so on – I was 14, going on 15. I had enough struggles just figuring out my place. Figuring out how to be a friend, how to like boys. I had some of the most serious family struggles among my friends, who had no idea how to talk to me about them. So I ignored them with my friends. I focused on whatever boy I liked at the time or the drama that my friends were having with the “other side” of the youth group. I know at times I came off boy-crazy or obsessed (sorry about that, by the way!), but it was my coping mechanism. I pretended. It was the only way I knew how to survive.

What got me through the hardest year of my life and the hardest years of growing up were these journals. For perspective, 3 and 1/2 of the 8 composition notebooks I used as journals I made in high school, covered that one year.

More than once I would cover pages in scribbles, incoherent rambling, or screams.

When I went to college, I started seeing the on-campus therapist. I originally went because I had learned some new information about my dad who had passed when I was 10. The new information had messed with the image I had of him so much that I felt like I was re-grieving, bursting into tears at the oddest moments for example, and I needed someone to process with. However, the experience, of course, became much more than just about my father.

We talked about growing up and the loneliness I had. We talked about the insecurity of my age in high school and the need to hide the problems I was having. Sometimes I would tell her things that would make her eyes go wide. She would marvel and say a comment like, “I’m impressed you are who you are today.” Eventually, I mentioned the journals. She dug in, and asked how many, how often.

Everything seemed to click for her. “Those journals might have saved your life,” she said. Then she told me the importance of a safe space where you feel you can be yourself, even if no one reads it. Even if you are completely vulnerable and it’s embarrassing to read later, the honesty can be so cathartic. What was hidden and unknown and unclear… is now on paper and can be judged to be serious or not immediately.

A friend of mine has been super encouraging through the last month of starting this blog and the Instagram. She sent me a message today reminding me that being as raw and real as I am is important because people need to know they aren’t alone. Even if it comes off like you’re looking for sympathy or if it’s a little **too** real sometimes, it’s important.

Both she and a reader/commenter on a previous post agree: writing is good for us. you can diminish the fear of the thing. You can see an old thought pattern and change it. If you publicly blog, you get the feedback, the reminder that you’re not alone. Just knowing there is someone out there who might be reading what you’re writing can be comforting by itself.

A writing/drawing space in my house, with a sneak-peek kitty in the hallway.

And if writing isn’t your thing? That’s okay. There are so many other ways to be real, to release emotions in a positive way. Something I did in college was doodle – I would cover full pages with doodles and really try to find the right symbol or shape to express an emotion. I then covered the pencil in sharpie as a focus technique. I would make sharp lines to express anger or passion, and swirls for confusion. Curling shapes took the place of thinking and pondering. I took peace in knowing the pages meant nothing to anyone else.

Most here are from January 2015.

I also sometimes use crafting as a way to simply ignore the world. The world fades away during a DIY. You spend too much time considering how a thing looks or what to do next to ponder and sink. Sometimes all we need is a distraction.

Whatever you choose to do to cope with the world around us, make it a healthy habit. Scribbling can be a healthy habit. Crafting can be. Painting… building a house. Drawing. All of these are habits that let you feel like something is being created. Something is coming into form. Don’t let your life waste away while you cope with the problems around you.

Feels a bit hypocritical, coming from the girl who ate two bowls of cereal after a stressful day at work this week. I have not learned this lesson. But I am trying to take my own advice.

Love y’all. Hope this finds you well. Thanks for reading.

For some new recipes, check out this new page!

Not Every Day is the Same

Sometimes… I am KILLING it. Two weeks ago, I had my Thursday 5k, I ate about 1350 calories – some of it in the delicious pasta recipe I had seen. I didn’t go back for seconds, and I crocheted and watched This is Us instead of late-night snacking.

Delicious Pasta Recipe I got from @conditionedbykaty on Instagram.

Some days, I do great – even on the weekend. I do everything I am supposed to – I work out! I go to bed at a good time! I even clean! …And there have been a lot of days where this doesn’t happen. I wake up late, I grab a sugary granola bar for a snack, I dump some creamer in my coffee, I make a peanut butter cheesecake and have a second piece.

I made an Insta post this week with the caption: “Anxiety, you don’t go away overnight – but I am trying to pack your bags.” I don’t know how to go about making everything better all at once, and it drives me crazy. I’m still trying to climb that mountain in one, single, Superman-esque bound.

My therapist says I do not forgive myself easily, and I see it. I tend to always find a way to put the blame on myself, no matter what the circumstance was. I should have tried harder, I should have gritted my teeth – it is within me to make the change or to fix the relationship… even when I know that not everything can be controlled or fixed with such determination.

In fact, just today, I realized (in a session with the glorious Michelle of course) that a lot of my fear stems from this idea that when I fail or mess up, it causes people to leave. I fear that those who love me or care about me are pretending or that I tricked them somehow – so the idea of messing up? That’s terrifying. Messing up breaks the spell I put on them, or is the straw that makes someone not care enough to pretend to like me. I think somewhere along the line I decided that I was only beneficial/loveable to people if I did my very best.

One of my professors in college used to sit me down and say “Jessica is enough,” and the words never sunk in. I thought “Well, I am not enough if I don’t do what is right, if I don’t do the right things to keep people around.” These thoughts are hard to get rid of, because in some ways, they are true. We have to be good people, we should be helpful, but worth doesn’t come from our actions.

I struggled this past week with getting the nerve to write another post because I was afraid I would come off like a hypocrite who was trying to teach the world to be better when I had nothing together. I also didn’t want an emotional post that gave no one any benefit. Here’s my concession for both: I don’t have anything together. I am fighting all of the time against my anxiety and my fears. I am constantly reminding myself of reality. Here is what I am doing to get through the valleys and the days I don’t do what I am supposed to do… and maybe it helps someone else.

Grounding

I am learning to ground myself – not to my room, but to the environment and reality around me. It reminds me of a book (that I am afraid to spoil the ending of) where the main character, after trauma unfolds in her life over and over again, learns to be okay by reciting every good thing she had ever seen someone do.

I am married to a husband who loves me and chose me. I am working at a company that chose me to work for them. I have friends who choose to hang out with me and talk to me about their lives. I remind myself of these things over and over again. This keeps me from sinking into my mind with uncontrollable thoughts of not deserving the things I have, or this weird impostor syndrome I seem to have developed.

Concessions

I cannot fix all of me at once. This I must remember. I have so many anxiety-ridden habits and poor health habits.

I love to eat, as referenced in my Emotional Eating post. I bite my nails and the inside of my mouth. I pick at scabs. A lot of my favorite hobbies involve sitting still. I love carbs, and I love late night eating… and every time I feel like I am cracking the whip on one bad habit, the others swing to the forefront again.

I have to focus on one thing at a time and let the others lay where they lay for the moment. If I have to get a manicure to cover my nails, that’s okay. If I have some pasta dishes more often than not, but I am not binging at 11pm anymore, that’s okay. If the only workout I do for the day is a short walk, that is okay.

It may be possible as well that we can re-frame those days where we’re not as productive, and even do them on purpose. A friend of mine, Jess, describes these days as “Expand Days.” These days are for when you need to refresh or reset. The point is to allow your mind to expand to new ideas, avenues of thought or ways of doing things. You achieve it by just chilling out and “being,” not actively doing anything but enjoying the present moment. Having “Expand Days” or even just good-old rest days on purpose may help me feel like I am not slipping up, but being intentional.

Personal Progress

In 7th grade, I dreaded gym class. I was your average gym student – not the slowest or the fastest – but mannnn I hated it. I heard we were going to have the 20-minute run in the Spring and I would have sworn to you that my stomach turned to lead. The day of came and the gym teacher said a phrase that sounded like heaven: “Even if you granny-shuffle the whole thing, I will be happy and you’ll still pass.”

You best believe I did just above a granny-shuffle. And I even found a way to pass the time as we ran around the football track: I pretended I was on the field and dodging other players. I found out what the minimum was, and because I am that kind of person, made sure I did better than at least that. I knew I couldn’t be the best, but as soon as I found out I didn’t have to, I felt so much better.

I am not your skinny Instagram fitgirl and blogger. I am focusing on small successes and personal progress. I am becoming more full with smaller meals. I am making better choices on dinners. I am feeling better in my clothes, even if the scale hasn’t changed much yet. Personal Bests are all I can get right now, and it still feels pretty good.

Personal Progress

Thanks for reading y’all. Let me know what solutions you use for ignoring that voice in your head. What do you do when your progress doesn’t feel like it’s enough?

Follow me on Instagram! @allroadsleadtoyum

And…. Go!

This is where the fun begins.

This week was the start of what I am calling my new beginning. See, I have a tendency to avoid these hard-line statements in favor of qualifiers. I love “for now” and “we’ll see” and “I’m hoping,” because these give me an out. When I mess up, I have license to throw the whole idea away… but this time I won’t let myself do it. I am saying, right here, right now, that this is the beginning of a Jessica that cares about her well-being. As comfortable as sad and anxious and chunky can be (and we can talk about the comfort of staying where we are later), I need to step out of that, and learn that “Yum,” isn’t just what I am used to. “Yum” can be found wherever we are.

New Mexico – October 2016

Why do this? Why a blog and an Instagram?

  • Accountability! The more people I have on my team, watching my posts, reading my words, the more liable I am to stay on track! (The Stick)
  • Fun! I love writing, and I enjoy making content. Everyone enjoys that sweet, sweet validation of likes and comments, but just the creation process makes me feel worth-while. (The Carrot)

I hope that as I create content and post that you, you reading this, will be one of my helpers. I need a community around me. The fewer people I tell, the more likely I am to quit. The more people I have to help me… well, many hands make light work. So thank you in advance for helping me in the changes I am making.

So now for another big question: “But why though? What needs changing so bad?” This is the hard part, the honesty. Here, I am hoping that as I become honest, you’ll feel the real urgency of the change that needs wrought.

  • The most obvious and easiest thing to change; my outward appearance. This includes both losing weight and getting in shape. “But Jessica, you look great!” Nah, I don’t need that! What I need is to have a healthy BMI, be able to go up the stairs without panting, and darn if I wouldn’t love to look slammin’ in a bikini. These outward changes are worth making, but your point does lead me to my next change.
  • I need to change the way I see myself. I am your everyday girl, and I feel just as insecure about my body, about my opinions, about myself as any other girl (Not to say that guys can’t feel insecure, but stay with me). Isn’t it… exhausting? It’s bad enough to have the rest of the world question your authority, your education, your abilities, your appearance, your motives without doing it to your-darn-self. I am ready to leave that behind, and learn to trust myself.
  • It’s time to stop embracing my anxiety as a part of me. I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and my therapist is constantly giving me tips and books to help me control/understand it. What do I normally do with these wonderful resources? IGNORE THEM. It is so much more comfortable to sit in my worries and sift through them over and over again – to let the current of the whirlpool take me down to the bottom again – than it is to fight against it. Fighting your own nature…. #feelsbadman

Each of these has its own subtopics and side-rants that I can get into as I address each. There’s no fix-all for this stuff, and there’s no guarantees. There isn’t a manual and no one-size-fits-all.

That’s where the name of this blog comes from: “All Roads Lead to Yum” means that we can find happiness where we are. That ice cream and avocado toast are both acceptable. That size 2 or size 10 are okay. That anxiety doesn’t go away overnight, but that we can take a road, take one step at a time and make choices that lead down the road to… well, I’m calling it “Yum,” because there is no perfect this side of heaven. There’s progress, but no perfection.

So here we go. Let’s get started. Take my advice with a grain of salt, since really I am giving the advice to me – but hear me out – and comment and like so I can know where your head is at. Thanks for reading, guys and let’s dive in. Step…. one.

Grand Cayman Islands – June 2019