The first half of 2017 - well, March to June - has been rough for me.
It's been the toughest 3 months I've faced in several years. There's about 5 billion reasons why it's been tough. I guess I feel like talking about some of them, but just know that I can't really get across an entire 3 months of thoughts in one post and certain things I keep private so, it's not able to be the full picture. But, lets touch on it:
- I had a tendon injury in my hand last year and waited 10 months on the waiting list to get it seen to. While waiting, I had to stop deadlifting, and couldn't lift anything with my grip strength over about 30kg.
- I also had surgery and was unable to train at all for 6 weeks. When my 6 weeks was up, I was actually on holiday so couldn't begin training anyway, bringing me to a total of 8-9 weeks off completely.
- When I returned from my holiday (which was amazing - I absolutely loved New York) I returned to the gym, and immediately felt weak and unfit (because I was, relatively). Luckily I enjoy the gym these days, so I continued to go 3-4x a week even though I felt like a heffalump.
- My vacation in December was then followed by a vacation in April. 2 vacations for me = lots of delicious eating. Which is great, and I never regret it (eating is one of the main reasons I travel), but it does mean I struggle to get back into good eating habits when I come back home because a few weeks out of routine often throws me and I get really into treatin' maself.
- I had a few friendship issues this year, which required a lot of very adult communication, and a LOT of processing and thinking and trying to control my own emotions. This tooka toll on me, as you'd expect, because I hate feeling bad. More than your average person, I really hate feeling bad. A hangover effect of being depressed 10 years ago means I'm sometimes scared of negative emotions - I fear becoming depressed again, and I fear not being able to cope. Luckily, by virtue of having some of the actual best people on this earth as friends, the issues were able to be communicated through. I'm talking like, heavy, uncomfortable af, communication. But, to be frank, that's what it takes to be truly close friends with me, because I don't leave stones unturned just because it's uncomfortable - I'm all about self-awareness and addressing the elephant in the room. I know if this situation had arisen within another friendship, the outcome could've been much worse, but it's a testament to how strong a friendship can really be that we've been able to communicate through it and reach the other side.
- I had a ton of financial issues. I have had a long-term (5 years+) budget going ever since I started med school. The NZ government decided to stop lending to students at a certain point, which means about a quarter of the people in my class (me included) are having to self-fund our last year/s of medical school to become doctors. We are unpaid, so asking me to find $17,000 a year is a massive ask. I've always worked throughout university, mainly to support the life I want to live (heavily ft. food) but no matter what, no matter how many hours I work to pay for rent/food/transport, there's absolutely no way I can save $17,000 a year on top of that as well. People working full-time can't even save that in a year. This means I've budgeted on using lending to pay the fees. This is non-government lending, aka lending with interest and repayments required. I knew all of this years ago, and budgeted for it. But something changed, again, earlier this year with absolutely no warning and I couldn't have anticipated it - the money I had planned to use became unavailable. I had to start considering leaving med school to work full time, and come back to med school later. I really didn't want to do this, as it felt stupid (why leave for 1 year to just delay graduating when I'm so close). I had a month of hell, wondering if I was going to have to just give up. It felt overwhelming. It got to the point where I'd open an email related to the financial situation and just burst into tears. I ended up getting a heavy weight on my side who sorted the issue with one phone call (here's a lesson - ask for help in your networks when you need it). And just in time too, as I was starting to explore deferring my studies.
- Med school, in general, is a royal mindfuck. Not really for the reasons you'd expect. Sure, the patients are sick and it sucks - but we all signed up for that and expected it. What I don't think we expected, was the politics and the day-to-day reality of learning to be a doctor. Anyone out there who has done a degree with an element of placement/work experience knows how shitty it is sometimes to be the student in a workplace. Well, multiply it by THREE YEARS. Three years of unpaid student placement. Three years of having no actual responsibility (=no actual job satisfaction). Three years of no autonomy. Three years of being a pseudo-version of yourself. Honestly, all I want is actual tasks to own. I know anyone who's been working full-time for a while will instead wish for the responsibility to disappear - so take it as a reminder. Having responsibility gives you task ownership, and that's the very basis for job satisfaction. Remove the responsibility, and kiss goodbye to the actual reason for going to work everyday. When I get really downtrodden with the hoop-jumping that is med school, I forget to be grateful. It's an outrageous privilege to be allowed access to our hospitals, to accompany and treat patients, to be taught by the top specialists in the country. (I mean, I do pay $17k a year to do it.... NO IM KIDDING IM SO GRATEFUL). I get impatient on this huge journey, and find it hard to just enjoy the perks of being a student, and know that the perks of being an actual employee will come later (along with new struggles). Being a post-grad really compounds this - my part-time work is "real work" as opposed to random part time work I don't care about. So I have the satisfaction of my part time "real work" in HR/accounting to juxtapose against my full-time student role and it's so stark. I just want to get stuck in in medicine, I want to be part of public health initiatives, I want to put my existing management and commerce skills to use and help improve our entire system (that's the whole basis of my entry into medicine - regardless of what specialty I do, I want to work in management/policy/public health and work towards systemic changes). Those skills aren't being used in medicine right now at all, because there's no room as a student for that, and it's immensely frustrating. I love getting my hands on a task and applying everything I have, and it feels like it's been an absolute age since I've been able to do that. On the whole, every now and then I have a moment where I realise how much of a privilege it really is, and it helps remind me what's important.
- A few more personal issues (misc)
- Add all of this together: bad food habits from being out of routine, feeling unfit, being stressed to my eyeballs, and I gained a solid 8-9kg in 3 months.
- Initially, I didn't really care. I had bigger fish to fry. In general these days, I look at my body less and ascribe less value to my body. I prioritise my brain, my hobbies, my friends. However, over time, I realised that gaining fat and losing muscle was not going to help my gym motivations when I already felt so unfit. I also know, as someone who use to be obese, any significant backtracking is risky. I accept my weight generally fluctuating in a 2-3kg window (I actually stopped weighing myself last year) and don't mind. But 8-9kg gained is well outside that window, and I decided that, actually, I can't just accept that as my new normal, given my history, and given my fitness goals.
So it's been about a month since I "solved ma problems". I did this with the help of a counselor - I am not shy about seeking help when I struggle. I knew my resiliency was really being tested, I knew all of my coping mechanisms were reaching the end of their tether. I saw her 3 times and she really helped me reach some conclusions, and helped me notice that it was time to stop dwelling on problems and time to take action. Rumination isn't good for anyone. So the friendship issues were worked through, the financial issues were sorted, and I made the decision that this weight gain wasn't going to be permanent.
In that month I've reigned my bad eating habits in (there's still a ways to go). For me, that just means more routine eating during the weekdays. As someone who loves food, it's easy for me to get over-excited and make every meal something exciting and new. In reality, I a) can't afford that and b) don't need that. A few new, exciting meals a week is enough, and there's no reason that good old healthy meals that help me reach my fitness goals can't also be enjoyable, without being excessively calorific. In the gym I've gone back to training 6x a week - cardio intervals, heavy weights, and lighter-weight fast circuits, plus a smattering of walks when the weather permits. Tonight I did a 110kg squat (deathly close to failure tbh but lets skip over that) and 2x110kg deadlifts. My deadlift has suffered the most with my training issues - the good old days of the 145kg deadlift are long gone and I'm not sure any more that that goal is one I plan on reaching again. The main thing is - I'm starting to enjoy it again. I'm pushing myself for fun, rather than out of obligation. I want to see what I can do again.
Anyway, I can't think of much else to say. It's a long overdue, big explanation. I hope I'm on the up and up and I hope the next 3 months look so different to the earlier 3 months that they seem like they're from an entirely different era. I have no doubts I'll have bad days again. Having bad times is what makes us appreciate the good times. Hopefully I've learnt even more coping mechanisms on this round to make me better equipped for the next!
P.S. I was thinking about writing about gym stuff - i.e. what I did when I was starting out, vs more detail about what I do now. I've had a few questions on insta about it and it is a topic I like writing about. But it would be purely for you guys (writing about myself indulges my ego obviously but gym writing doesn't exactly advance my self-development) - so let me know if that's of interest and I'll take some time to throw a post together.