Casey’s journey to wellness continues, with her thoughts on her initial assessment captured below. If you missed the initial post about Casey introducing her and this series, please click here to read more.
Leading into my initial assessment…
I had so many thoughts of where to even begin. I would think of something I wanted to address during my initial assessment, which would lead me down a bunny trail, which would lead to another, and another, and … you get the point. I have not been feeling “good” for a long time, but what was eye opening to me was that this feeling of not being at my best has been going on a lot longer than I wanted to admit to myself.
I started to realize I have been at odds with how I physically feel since I was 13 years old (I’ll let you figure out the math on that, but it’s a long time). I think most people can relate to having symptoms, searching and hoping for more, and then giving up on that hope after being dismissed by those who are supposed to help. It is difficult to be your own advocate when you feel like no one is taking you seriously and knowing that you are just a name on a patient chart that was glanced at for less than a minute.
The more time goes on, the less fight you have, and the less hope you have to fuel you. You begin to feel silly for even pursuing “more” when from the outside everything seems “fine.” Feelings of shame come in, and you begin to settle into feeling less than you should and before you realize, the bad becomes your new normal and over the years the bar has been lowered to an unrecognizable low. Change in this way is sneaky because it happens gradually until you wake up one day and don’t even know how you got to this point.
I finally woke up and smacked my head against the pavement only last year. I was stressed, in survival mode, burnt out, not present with myself, numb, disconnected, and to be honest, purposefully in denial. I no longer recognized myself and could not remember the last time that I did. I had developed unhealthy coping mechanisms and had allowed my choices and lifestyle to become a crutch.
I had eliminated accountability with others and also with myself. Even accountability with things as simple as refusing to look in mirrors or at photographs of myself so that I could remain in the false safety of denial, had fully taken over my life. I reached a point where I could no longer hide and I decided to plant a small seed of hope within myself, the simple statement/seed of “you deserve better.”
Flash forward to a year later, I had started to implement change in life in the ways that I could control. This began with a gentle confrontation of accepting where I was currently and slowly coming to the surface of reality. This was really hard. When you no longer recognize who you are, meeting yourself in the present moment brings feelings of shock, shame, confusion, disappointment, and overwhelm. I knew that I would have to do things gradually and meet myself with grace. That little seed I had planted, a small whisper to myself, “you deserve better,” to keep coming back to that whenever I want to give up. I needed to have peace with where I was currently at (even if it was not yet where I wanted to be).
One of the first things I did to confront the current version of myself was get rid of my “skinny mirror.” If you have never experienced a skinny mirror, let me explain. There are mirrors out there that with some sort of mystical power they make you look thinner than you are. There may be science to this but in my mind, it is “magic.” This particular magic for me came in the form of a $15 mirror bought at Target when I first moved into my college dorm. I discovered this mirror made me look thinner than other mirrors and I was hooked. Over the years I became obsessed with this mirror.
I began to do the majority of my shopping online so that I could only see what clothes looked like in the “skinny mirror.” I started avoiding all other full body mirrors because they would contradict what I wanted to see in the “skinny mirror.” Every new apartment move I made, the “skinny mirror” was handled like my most prized possession (and to be clear, it was). I would make jokes that the “skinny mirror” was responsible for my self esteem (it was). But really the joke was on me because all these little choices led me down a path of denial and ultimately self hatred, because when I would see evidence contradicting the perfectly curated version of myself that I would let myself see, it felt devastating. How could I let myself go like this? How long has this actually been my reality? How can I even move forward? These thoughts would send me into a spiral and ruminate in my mind.
So I bought a new mirror. From the outside it looked like I was finally upgrading from the dinky over the door cheap Target mirror to something that actually aesthetically went with my home. But on the inside this was one of the bravest things I have ever done for myself. I completely eliminated the comfort zone – confronted my present and accepted. By accept I mean that I could not move forward until I fully saw where I currently was. No more illusions, no more denying, no more “magic.” I got rid of the “skinny mirror” a month before my initial assessment. I tell you this because this was the final step in preparing myself for the journey of no longer accepting less and stepping out into the unknown of what was next.
The days leading up to my initial assessment were ones of reflection, trying to piece together when everything started to “go wrong,” asking questions “when did I last feel my best,” “what am I hoping for,” “what are my goals?” I answered my health history questionnaire (if you have not been a client with Companion Health yet, all individuals fill this out prior to their first appointment) with as much honesty as I could muster. I may or may not have put my greatest fear being that I would become “a crunchy granola health person.” I went into my initial assessment with the promise to myself of being vulnerable and transparent. Wanting to share any and all important information no matter how uncomfortable I felt.
I am thrilled that I can say that my assessment was anything but uncomfortable. There were moments that were out of my comfort zone, the hardest moment being weighing myself on the scale (something that I have not done in years). When I admitted this, I was met with kindness and warmth. There was no judgment or questioning, and I felt comfortable to say what hadn’t been said out loud, especially in a medical setting. It was obvious to me that I was being seen as a whole person and was being met with empathy and genuine care. This was different from any other experience I have had in a medical setting.
I felt that I had the space and time to ask things that I have always wanted to ask. There were no dumb questions, and to those questions, there were genuine answers and explanations. I felt included in the plan. That there was a medical/professional purpose to the plan moving forward, but also that my thoughts, feelings, and concerns were being taken into consideration.
I am a visual learner and even having a drawing of the hierarchy of physical needs being drawn out for me was enlightening. Anya met me where I was and made sure I understood what the next steps were and the “why.” The “why” is important to me. I was not being asked to blindly follow and not question. I felt supported in becoming an advocate for myself and understanding why things had to happen in a particular order and how it was all connected for my ultimate goals.
After leaving this hour-and-a-half assessment, I feel cautiously optimistic about the future. This feels like the deep breath in before a dive. I know I will have to make sacrifices and adjustments in my lifestyle, but I feel like I not only understand the “why,” but I can align myself with that purpose. I am anxious about hard days to come, the days when I will have to make choices and put in more effort than I have been, but I know I will be doing this with support.
The next steps have been kindly and clearly laid out for me, one of those being a GI Map. I understand and respect the pursuit of data, to base future decisions off of and to be used to contribute towards my ultimate goals. I am being set up with a health coach to help implement lifestyle changes and to offer further support along my journey. I felt included in the decision of who Anya felt would be the best fit for me, and assured that I could go to Anya at any time should I have any concerns about the health coaching process. To be considered and still have control/say is important to me, and throughout my experience I felt just that.
This is my choice, my journey, and I will be supported on multiple levels throughout.
Feelings this week: Anxious about doing the GI Map, nervous about those results. The beginning feeling of hope.
Favorite moment from experience: The fact that Anya laughed when she read that I don’t want this experience to turn me into a crunchy granola person.
Something I am currently loving: That I know that I will not be doing this alone or without support. That everyone has a good sense of humor about everything.
This is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any practice of medicine or professional health care services of any type. The use of information on this blog is at the user’s own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, for diagnosis, or for treatment. Please seek the care of your health care professionals for any questions or concerns.