A month ago today, I was living a very different life. I can pretty much pinpoint exactly what I was doing at this very moment 30 days ago. I guarantee you, I was sitting on the couch, with one leg tucked under the other, slack-jawed, and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (and driving my sister crazy). I had only days left until I was to begin this journey, and all I had really done to prepare was getting my bike and all of my gear together. I was still stuck in a sinkhole of depression, with my mind creating imaginary barriers that prevented me from gaining any motivation to actually go ride my bike. My sister, worried that I was setting myself up for failure, consistently urged me to get off of my ass and go for a bike ride. “Izzy,” she would say, “I just want you to be successful. PLEASE for the love of God, start actually doing something to prepare for this.” And, like the perpetual child that I was (and probably still am), I would roll my eyes, sigh, and basically ignore the shit out of her. I was a pretty huge “see you next Tuesday,” if you know what I mean. It’s not easy for me to admit to what a waste of space I was, and it’s even harder to share it with everyone who will be reading this blog, (so, like, 5 people) but I feel like it’s necessary to cop to it as a way of shedding the old me. This experience has been somewhat of a metamorphosis of mind, body, and spirit, and I have to completely shed my old skin in order to become something, or someone, worthy of it. I’m about to get pretty real here, so brace yourselves for the impact of some pretty major truth bombs.
My childhood was definitely not something that would be written into some major Lifetime movie event. It was completely average. Magnificently average. I had two parents who loved me (still do), and two siblings who were basically my best friends (still are). I had wonderfully magical Christmases, and have always had everything that I could ever want or need. I was always an excellent student, made Honor Roll on a consistent basis, and graduated highschool with honors. I even got my Gold Award as a Girl Scout of 12 years. I was all set up to become a successful and accomplished human being, and a high functioning member of society. But it never happened. Somehow I never became the person (I thought) I was meant to be. I started college as a Vocal Performance major, and dropped out after three weeks. I then proceeded to jump from job to job, boyfriend to boyfriend, and back and forth from Portland and Myrtle Beach where my parents were living at the time. I never felt like I had any traction. It felt impossible to get my life on track. I was in a constant uphill battle with anxiety and depression, and it literally showed on my face from years of trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out your own hair, or eyelashes and eyebrows. Mine is the latter). My bald face is a major insecurity of mine, and has been since I started exhibiting symptoms of the condition at 13. It was a source of ridicule from my peers, and even sometimes adults, who didn’t understand that I had an uncontrollable illness. “Isabelle, why don’t you just stop pulling them out?” They would ask. Genius! What a revelation! The notion had never once crossed my mind! (Queue dramatically sarcastic eyeroll). No, I want to look like a naked molerat. I think I really rock the look.
As the years went on, and I cycled through waves of self-sabotage and…whatever the hell the opposite of “self-sabotage” is, I finally settled at a job with Netflix. I had my own apartment, had ended a toxic relationship, and was finally independent. And it felt great, for the first few months, until my pattern of poor decision making came back to rear its ugly head. Anyone who really knows me knows that I suffered from stomach issues since childhood. Until recent years, when I finally got a competent doctor, I was always diagnosed with IBS, which is basically what they say in place of “I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you. Here’s a lollipop and bill for $500.” Stress always exacerbated the condition, so when I worked at a high stress call center job, I was basically always sick. My doctor sent me home with forms for my work giving me FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act, which basically grants you completely excused time off of work on a monthly basis), and a monthly prescription for oxycodone. I bet you can see where this is going. Giving a chronically depressed, and perpetually self-sabotaging, person a prescription for a controlled substance should be considered gross neglegence. This was the lowest point of my life. Laying on the couch for days on end, not hours, days, taking pain pills, and watching tv shows became my life. I never went to work, and I considered getting off my ass to go to the grocery store to be a productive day. When I would talk on the phone with my sister, I could tell her everything that happened on Ghost Whisperer, but never had anything to say about myself. It got to the point where I was so deep in depression that I would sleep for days, and wake up not knowing the date. And then I’d eat a whole roll of cookie dough in one sitting and proceed to stack on the pounds, and sink further into self loathing.
One morning (or night. They were the same thing at that point) in the midst of another Netflix binge, I caught a glimpse of my reflection on my laptop screen. I looked only half alive. My double chin was resting on my chest, and my eyes were lifeless and glazed over from the hours of TV I had just consumed. This new perspective of myself triggered something in me. I had the sudden and terrifying realization that this was going to be my life forever. I felt completely helpless and hopeless. It felt impossible to change. I had allowed myself to get pulled into the quicksand of stagnancy, and I was willingly surrendering to my misery without so much as a struggle. The reality of knowing that if I didn’t make a change now, I would be stuck like this forever surged over me in a moment of blind panic and haunting clarity. The first thing I did the following day was call up my doctor, and demand that she discontinue my oxycodone prescription. The second thing I did was call my mom. We arranged for me to move back in with her and my dad in Myrtle Beach so I could basically retrain myself to be an adult. It worked, to a degree, but wherever you go, there you are. I made some strides, like saving up money, and applying for college. I had a vision in my mind of who I wanted to be, so I just took small steps everyday to inch my way closer to becoming that person. I got accepted to Portland State, and moved into the dorms the following September. In an attempt to decrease the length of this post, I won’t delve too deep into my college experience. It was definitely a learning experience in every sense of the word. I did really well for the first couple of years, but by year three, I really lost steam. I am probably the most undisciplined person on the planet, (okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but I am pretty damn lazy.) I started using my stomach condition to get out of going to class, or to make up a missed exam. I began losing my sense of integrity and became someone, once again, who I did not like or respect. The cycle of self-sabotage had commenced yet again.
If there is one thing I have learned through my lifetime of poor decisions and lack of self discipline, it is the importance of self parenting. You have to be able to tell yourself no, and more importantly, you have to listen. You need to keep the promises you make to yourself because if you can’t trust yourself, you become someone who is not trustworthy. I became so tired of the ugliness of my character that I decided that this was the time to self parent. This was the time I really needed to come through for myself to end this endless pattern that has prevented me from really living my life. I was acting like an unruly and disobedient child, and what do you do with a child who needs to learn respect for the rules? You send them to bootcamp.
This bike trip was meant to get me in shape for the military, but it has become so much more. I had no idea the struggles I would face, and the spiritual awakening that I would experience. It has already begun reshaping my character, and steering me closer toward the woman I hope to be. A woman who is worthy.