Be Your Own Cheerleader

You have to show up every day for YOU.

Because the thing is, you can only fill everyone else’s cup for so long until yours runs dry.

My whole life I stayed busy, playing every sport and joining every club. In high school I was a cheerleader, both at school and competitively, same with soccer, co-editor of the yearbook, an officer on student council, and in about 10 clubs. Literally.

In college I essentially took all those extra-curricular hours and channeled them into my journalism career. I started working at The Kansan as a freshman and worked my way up to digital managing editor my senior year, taking 15 hours of class and working 30+ hours a week. Somehow managing to find time to party far too much in between there, too.

You see? Busy was my game.

Then my back injury slowed me down. (I had two herniated discs and wrote about it a while back, you can read it here). My mental health was in a poor state and I was finally coming to terms with the fact I couldn’t out-busy my struggles anymore. I had to face what was going on inside before I could ever truly move forward.

My healing process hasn’t been linear, either. Back surgery helped, but my pain was still there and it was just so hard to get back on track. I’d been an athlete my whole life, how was I supposed to get back to the gym after being off for 5 years?

I started going to therapy about a month after my surgery and that is where my healing and self-awareness and acceptance journey really began.

After a few years of working on my mental health and pretty much neglecting my physical health, I was diagnosed with a skin disease called hidradenitis suppurativa, or HS for short. It resides within the autoimmune/auto-inflammatory disease family and has no cure. The only FDA-approved medicine is a weekly immunosuppressant injection, and even then the success rate is only 50%.

Needless to say, my world. was. rocked.

I decided enough was enough. I’d been working on my mental health for years, it’s time I put my physical health as a priority, too. Enter hours upon hours of self research and learning all there is to know about autoimmune diseases and holistic ways of healing.

The biggest contender and most common answer? Diet.

Following a whole foods diet, focused on eating anti-inflammatory foods, healing the gut. That is what all the other people with HS said helped put them in remission.

So, I embarked on my AIP, or auto-immune protocol, journey and started to eliminate all the unhealthy things from my life, literally and figuratively.

No gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, no sugar. No artificial ingredients in my skin care.

You know what that leaves you with? Meat and vegetables and slowly but surely purging just about everything you already own. I was reading labels like it was my profession and learning so much.

It was overwhelming at times, discouraging at times, frustrating. I felt left out. I felt deprived. I would freeze up when it was my time to order at restaurants because I felt like I couldn’t safely order anything. That’s where the mindset came back into play.

Gratitude is a beautiful thing and practicing it has helped me heal in more ways than I can express in this singular blog. I remember struggling for months, wanting to give up, thinking my disease was never going away. Until one night at the gym, I realized I’d been on the elliptical for 54 minutes without stopping.

Sister, say what!?? That is crazy talk!

I started crying. Right then and there, because in that moment I realized, “This is exactly what I was praying for every night before my back surgery. All I wanted was to feel alive again. To move my body and enjoy it. To feel strong.”

And boy do I feel as alive and strong as EVER, y’all! My progress isn’t linear because thats just it, it never is. Life is all about the ebbs and flows and exchanges of energy. I needed to get knocked down, to realize all the power I had within me, to come out even stronger.

I’m powerful.

I’m a warrior.

I will overcome.

I am a force to be reckoned with.

For too many years, I’d been filling up everyone else’s cup. Cheering them on throughout their battles, helping them get over their latest struggle. You called? I answered and picked you up with a snack and an ear ready to listen.

I’m still that friend. But now, I’m that friend for me, too.

I listen to my needs and sit with my feelings. I let myself feel valid and process whatever I’m going through. Then? I tell myself to get up, get dressed, and face that bad boy head on.

Because I’m unstoppable.

I’ve overcome so much in my life and I’m only 27 years old. For too many years, I stayed busy to avoid my feelings. I stayed busy to avoid what was going on inside my head. I listened and helped people with their problems to avoid my own.

It’s super fun giving out advice until it’s time you took your own, right?

This past year has been nothing short of incredible. I’ve lost 80+ pounds, gained control of my bad habits and have incorporated newer, healthier, more sustainable ones. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t think was possible, especially in only a year’s time.

My biggest success thus far? Learning to be my own cheerleader.

Pumping myself up when I need it, convincing myself that the scrambled egg and avocado is better for me than the honey butter chicken biscuit, no matter how bad I think I want it. And then celebrating those choices that lead to even better choices.

Building upon these healthy habits to feel better, it’s an amazing journey. A lot of the time, I still can’t believe I’ve made it this far. There were so many days I wanted to give up, sometimes I still struggle with, “Is the work worth it?”

But that’s just it, of COURSE it’s worth it! You deserve happiness, you deserve joy, you deserve health and success. Yes, you do!

And I do, too.

xoxo,

HB

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