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This article was originally published in the Huffington Post on November 15th, 2017.
There is a special kind of vulnerable that you feel when you’ve just screamed and kicked your way through a shot in the butt like a toddler at the ripe ol’ age of 31.
It was February 19th, 2017 and an ER doctor returned to the room with my x-rays and flipped them around to me.
I knew what he was seeing in those black and white films.
He was looking at a body that was what these days high schoolers are calling *stressed AF.*
I had been attempting to ignore emotional and physical pain for quite some time, and my body had buckled under the weight of it all.
The doctor looked me straight in the eye and told me I needed to make an appointment with a chiropractor right away, and I knew this was the scary yet needed start to getting my life back on a healthy track.
The next morning, I basically crawled into Active Chiropractic, an office that had rave reviews on google, and the sweet staff paired me with a kind soul named Dr. Jenni.
We sat in the consultation room and I couldn’t even look Dr. Jenni in the face. I was in a high degree of pain, and I was so scared of what moving forward and getting better would mean.
I knew there would be more pain involved, as well as commitment.
She took me back to her treatment room and by nothing short of a miracle got me up and walking (slowly) again. As she tucked me into a blanket on an ice bed, she told me that she was going to help get me strong again.
And I believed her.
That afternoon, I took a much needed next step. I texted my therapist letting her know I was ready to stop hiding and I was returning to therapy.
* * * * * * *
The next few months were not easy, lest I fool you that relief came easily.
There was one morning when as I hashed out the last 2 years of events with my therapist, she told me about her new puppies.
Her dog had just had a whole litter of little cuties and she showed me a video of all the puppies, eyes still closed, struggling over each other trying to get milk from their mom. They all kept falling down and seemed unable to latch on.
She said that her first instinct was to want to pick each one up and to hold them while they nursed.
‘But that’s not how they get strong,’ she said. ‘They get stronger through the struggle, each and every day.’
* * * * * * *
As summer came to an end, I made the mistake of bringing up the idea of joining a gym to Dr. Jenni.
I told her I didn’t want to, but that I knew I needed to in order to move forward with getting physically strong and fit.
I knew I needed a reason to commit, so I challenged Dr. Jenni to a handstand contest.
(It is now that I should probably pause and tell you why this is so outlandish. My beloved chiropractor is actually an Olympic Weight Lifter and I’m convinced her body is 99.9% muscle. The girl can turn upside down and walk on her hands almost as well as she can walk on her feet.)
She literally lol’d at my challenge and agreed.
And there I had it.
As a childhood gymnast who had never once in my life lost a handstand contest, this was the spark I needed.
I had 6 weeks to train. So I did what anyone who is looking to casually ease back into fitness does. I joined my local Crossfit gym.
Even though I struggled to lift even an empty barbell the first day, I was so overwhelmed with the graciousness and support offered by the coaches and fellow gym members.
After class, they’d help me practice my handstand drills and their encouragement got me through the huge piece of humble pie I was eating.
Jenni was right there too.
Cheering me on and reminding me that each day I was getting stronger.
Slowly but surely (and about 40 Epsom salt baths later), for the first time in 20 years I felt like I was back in the game.
The morning of our competition arrived and I nonchalantly stretched my wrists in my cute outfit I had picked out the night before while Jenni lifted hundreds of pounds of weights for two hours in preparation for a regional competition that she had that weekend.
Now let me just skip ahead to what you probably already know.
At the end of the day, Jenni beat me. And I always knew she would.
We left it all out on the competition floor, trying so hard to hang on to every last second that we fell flat on our backs.
Technically, I think it was determined by our judge that I won one of the rounds, but I must admit that I used some questionable techniques.
However, it was never about the outcome of the competition. It was about learning to show up and do the hard work. Committing to a way forward. And really living my life again.
These days I’m learning that life’s not about winning, it’s about living.
And you’re not really living when you’re hiding.
If you are hiding from the hard things in life, I want you to know that you’re stronger than you think.
I invite you to do the work. Every step forward builds momentum. Show up for your life. Fight for what you need.
And if you’re telling yourself that you’re not strong enough to move forward, you’re telling yourself an incorrect story. Let’s ditch that excuse together, sister.
* * * * * * *
As I looked back at the pictures and video after our competition, I bent over laughing with my hands on my stomach and I felt muscles pushing back at me.
I excitedly said ‘Jenni, I have abs now!’
Jenni’s response? ‘They were there all along.’