I quit pushing the rock uphill

Ok, so it’s not a rock in the picture, but the gear analogy for a mechanical engineer is a good one. And on top of that, I didn’t notice until today that this little figure I had representing my career is actually pushing that gear uphill.

I’ve been pushing for over ten years now.
Pushing to get ahead.
Pushing to work as much and as hard as I could.
Pushing to be the best.
Pushing to impress others.
Pushing to educate on new technology.
Pushing to have a seat at the table.
Pushing to be promoted.
Pushing to be heard.
Pushing to be respected.
Pushing to make things better. 


But I’m tired.
And I’m sick.
And all the incessant striving has burnt me out.
It shouldn’t be this hard.

I took a step back recently and began to evaluate where I was and why I was feeling so uninspired, so detached and so very unhappy. Here’s what I found:

I lost my sense of purpose
You see, I’d driven for years to get the bigger project, the higher title, the raise, and even the corner office. And I achieved it all. But none of that made me any happier. None of it gave me a sense of fulfilment or purpose. I thought I wanted the stuff – I thought that was the end-game. As it turns out, for me, all the stuff had no bearing on my sense of happiness, pride and worth. I had to be very honest with myself and admit that what I was doing in my 9-to-5 was not bringing any good into this world, and that my true purpose is helping to bring health, happiness and inspiration to the lives of others.

I was fighting battles I’d never win
I took a personality test the other day to discover that I am a Reformer – someone on a mission to improve the world by overcoming adversity. Well, enter Kattie – the young female race car aerodynamicist in the most male-dominated industry you could find (automotive engineering). I naively believed I could bring about change by being good at what I do, fighting for what is right, and helping other women in the industry. I went against many a manager at many points in time during my career, because I only ever do what I believe to be right. But I was fighting to be heard and recognized and supported in an industry that is simply not ready for it. I have no control over other people’s opinions of me, and yet, deep down, I was hoping that if I did a really good job, maybe things would become more inclusive for the women who toughed it out.

I suppressed my intuition
I knew that things didn’t feel right, and yet I kept heading down the very same path. I have a built-in warning system (unfortunately) that alerts me to things being wrong through physical illness. I know when I am out of alignment with my own personal values and beliefs. I get very ill. And I’ve been very ill, on-and-off, for over three years. It’s time to take that more seriously, and make bigger changes in order to look after myself.

I ignored my entrepreneurial DNA
I only realized this when an HR notice was sent out about changes to our personal emergency leave policy. Something so seemingly innocuous had me up in arms. But it wasn’t the actual policy or the change to the same that was chaffing at my subconscious, it was my resistance to being told how and when to live my life. The older I get, the more I know myself, and the greater my ability is to dictate my own preferred working conditions, schedule and personal needs. I could no longer be handcuffed to a desk in a specific location from 8:30am to 5:00pm every weekday.

I didn’t come to this decision easily. It took months of contemplation, of soul searching, of long conversations with my fiancé. But I did it. I handed in my notice, and as of Tuesday, I am no longer a full-time engineer.

Instead I’m following my heart, my curiosities, and where I believe my greater purpose is. I discovered it when I began working at barre3, and I’m expanding on that by also becoming a personal trainer. It’ll be a big transition for me, but one I am excited about. I will be working with other women to inspire them to be their happiest and healthiest selfs every single day.

I am going from working with all men to working with all women.
From a desk job to being on my feet all day.
From a set 9-5 schedule to my own schedule.
From a steady pay cheque to variable income.
From the status quo to the unconventional.

The big change happens this week.
Pushing the rock uphill will come to an end.
Saying goodbye will be hard.
But moving on is necessary.

Existence (in parentheses)

I came across an interesting trend in the email chains that I am normally a part of. The salutation is often: “Gentlemen (and lady)” at best, and “Gents” at worst. I’m parenthesized when I’m not completely overlooked. Keep I mind I’m not an assistant, junior engineer or trainee. I’m a Lead Engineer with very specialized training. I run a group and am an integral part of the team.

I’m also fairly nerdy and this is the definition of parentheses:

“a word, clause, or sentence inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage that is grammatically complete without it.”

I’m put into the conversation as an afterthought, in a group that is complete without my presence. Interesting…

Though I’ve often been told that I am far too sensitive about these sorts of things, I wonder if people realize the implications of their own limited beliefs. They project their sexism, entitlement and lack of inclusivity into everything they do, every piece of communication, every interaction.

These are otherwise kind and polite professionals, who are friendly and collaborative. But when you are confronted with years of emails and a barrage of being left out due to gender, it’s no wonder to this day I still feel like I just don’t fit in. I could never place my finger on it, and believe me, I dawned every mask I could find in order to play masquerade in the futile hope that that would make me feel more included. But this year I have been intentional about being myself, removing the tough girl facade and just being comfortable in my own skin, no matter the environment.

And so, I am no longer comfortable living in parentheses. I am my own thought. Not an afterthought. I am worthy of my own place in this world. And I am going to take up as much space as I can. Outside of parentheses.

Mask off.
All me.
Let’s do this.

Three year anniversary

I realized today that the anniversary is just about here for when I got quite ill and never fully recovered for long enough to call it remission. I’m still fighting the disease with medication and rest, days off work and actively looking within for how I can engineer my own lifestyle to minimize stress.

I came across the anniversary, because I’ve been filing away old emails at work, and I found the ones three years ago when I had to cancel my trip to Indianapolis because I was too ill to travel after a slew of tests at the hospital to determine what was going on. Intuitively I knew what was going on – I’d done the same thing in my third year of undergrad. I was overstressed, overcommitted and pushing way too hard when I really needed some time and space away from work and school.

I did it again when I moved to England to complete my two Masters degrees. I was homesick, worried about every grade and fitting into a foreign country, all the while not knowing why I wasn’t getting any better. It was awful. I was never healthy while I lived overseas and I kept it hidden from all my classmates. I’d get up early so that I could spend time being in excruciating pain while my stomach settled just enough for me to then get to class for 9am.

This current flare started three years ago when I started back at school for my PhD, all the while undertaking the most challenging project at work to date. Interesting – all three triggered by stress from school and/or work. Luckily I recognized that academia is not the place for me (albeit after I spent two years pursuing the PhD and dealing with a very dysfunctional supervisor and department). And yet, my symptoms have persisted.

I’ve just kept eliminating things that are making me sick – school, pulling back the hours at work, getting more sleep, cancelling any plans that are not necessary. I’m still sick though. I hate being on this medication. It makes me feel bad and my face and body are “puffier” than usual. It’s so vain but it really bothers me. I just want to be me – look like me, feel like me, be able to have energy and execute on all the things that matter to me.

I can’t believe it’s been three years that I’ve been on-and-off sick. That is far too long, and for sure the longest flare that I have had. This time I am trying to be compassionate to myself. Trying to understand that as I ween off the medication it’s going to take longer. Trying to be kind to myself, knowing that things will get better. Trying to just focus on myself and not what others say and think when I am constantly away from work, constantly cancelling plans, and constantly having to put myself first.

But in the end, I am my toughest critic.
And the only way out of this is through radical self compassion. I need to make changes that actually support my health for the long term. I need to drop my unrealistic expectations of myself, and just get well.

I wanted to write this to explain to you that no one has their shit together; certainly not all the time. We all have struggles and challenges. I may get up early most mornings and teach fitness, and cook my own food every weekend. But inside I am not well. I am fighting my own battle that no one else can see. And I am so scared about having to make changes in order to finally support myself and my health.

If you find yourself in a situation like mine I hope that you will find the courage to be radically self compassionate. I hope that you will know you are not alone, even if some people make you feel that you are. And most of all I hope that you know you are worthy of health and happiness, and that you must do all you can to foster and protect it for yourself.

Took a bootcamp class today, didn’t die…

Keep in mind, I am the barre instructor – the one who loves low impact workouts and steady athletic postures, set to music. I love love love my barre3 workouts, and creating them, sharing them with clients and pairing them to music.

But I do also love strength training, and typically just can’t find the time to do it. So, today I put on my big girl pants and got my butt to a strength-based circuit training workout that a friend of mine highly recommended. Conveniently it’s also in Leslieville, where the new barre3 studio is opening tomorrow, so it’s somewhere I could frequent.

I had no idea what to expect, which maybe is a good thing, because if I really knew I might have said – Running, uh, no thank you. But that was part of the warm up, along with lunges, planks and high knees. It did the trick, and luckily the running of the track was only in the warmup and once in the middle of the hour workout. The workout consisted of multiple stations where there were different exercises set up – strength and cardio based to really keep you guessing. I went through 15 different stations twice.

Things moved quickly, and I kind of loved that because it didn’t give my brain time to tell me to quit. When someone is already telling you there’s only 15 seconds left, you think, well that’s not long, I can do THAT. Very clever – short yet intense intervals with tons of variety. You can do anything for 40 seconds.

While the workout was physically quite challenging, and I’m sure I will be sore tomorrow, there was a pivotal moment at exactly the halfway mark that made me dig in a little deeper. In our second run around the track, I started to slow down a bit and head into more of a jog. A woman caught up to me, and stayed beside me for the second half of the lap, encouraging me the whole way back – you got this, almost there girl, come on we can do it, nice work. I hadn’t met this woman at all before class and yet she took time from her workout to keep me motivated and pushing until the end.

There was constant high-fiving between stations, smiles, encouragement and a sense that we were all in this together. I’ve not experienced that level of uplifting behaviour in a class that size (45 people!) and it’s a true testament to the community that was built by this team of trainers.

Thank you kickass woman at Resilience Fitness this morning for carrying me through, sending me light, love and positivity when mine was failing, and showing me how much community really matters.

How I’m learning to fail

Today was a roller coaster of emotions. I had a rocky night, health-wise, which typically puts me into a fear-based mindset, which I’m sure didn’t help with everything else today.

I woke up to an email that told me I was not certified yet at barre3, and instead had some feedback to review and to try again. My mentor is this extremely positive and encouraging woman who wrote the email in literally the kindest, most constructive way possible. But I’ll be honest, I was gutted.

For those of you that know me, you’ll know that I have always had some very ridiculous standards, and strove to always be “the best” at everything that I undertook. I’ve always had perfectionist tendencies, and so failing at something is incredibly difficult for me. It’s as if it indicates that I’m less worthy as a person if I don’t at first succeed.

Ha, most people would bring up the old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” But here’s what my memory brings up. My mom telling my little brother at the go kart track that, “No, you will not do YOUR best, you will do THE best.” He was about 10 years old, and literally had zero aptitude for racing. He just wanted to have fun and be with his family on the weekends. And although this was brought up time and time again in my family as a joke in the future, that’s what was ingrained in our brains from a young age. Perfection or nothing. Productivity or waste. Success or an utter disappointment to your family.

I’m lucky to now have my own small family, and when I called Adam to tell him that I didn’t get certified this morning, his reaction was, “this is good for you. You need to not always be perfect at everything. You will still get it, you just have to try again. Think of how far you’ve come in the last year. You never would have done this a year ago, and now look at you, putting yourself out there and going for it.”

I had the day off today and went to the barre3 studio to take a class for myself, and to workshop through the things that I need to improve. It was the perfect way to “get back on the horse.” Rather than stewing and worrying over what I did poorly, I got corrections and suggestions on how to be even better. I practiced it with my mentor, and I’m going to practice these things for the rest of the week. Then I am teaching again this weekend and next week, and hoping to incorporate all these points to try again to be certified.

And I will try and try and try until I get it. Because I may not be a natural at this fitness instructor game, but it’s something I am meant to do. It’s something I love to do. And it is something that brings me closer to doing more good in the world.

I am learning to learn with a beginner’s mind. Learning to have more grace. Learning that failure is not definite or permanent or any indication of my own self worth. It’s temporary, like everything in this universe. It is all impermanent. And we would do well to learn to roll with the punches.

So here we go. Going with the flow. Trying again. With grace, humility and everything I’ve got. Because that’s all that matters – doing MY best, not THE best.

I’ve always had to be fine.

There was no one coming to save me.

Where did all this come from, you ask?
Well, I started reading Gabby Berstein’s new book The Judgement Detox, and woah, it’s brought a new awareness to the judgements I make on a daily basis, and more importantly than that, what’s behind those judgements.

I caught myself just now judging someone else, and rather than berate myself for doing so, I paused and looked deeper at why I was doing that. As Gabby so eloquently puts it, “a judgement is a disowned part of your own shadow.”

What about the judgement I was making was really me just projecting a part of myself that I have disowned? A deep question, for sure.

But here’s the hard truth. The story I’ve always told myself.
I have to be always be fine.
I have to continue to carry on, going about my day as usual.
No matter what is actually brewing beneath the exterior.
No one is coming to save me.

Now while that last part may be true and even somewhat empowering, I’ve always been incredibly jealous of people who have that knight in shining armour that “saves” them. Buys the house for them, supports them financially, allows them to find their peace and calling in their own time, affords them the luxury of not having to work, etc.

The reason I’m craving that peace, a saviour, some semblance of being protected is because since the time that I was 18 and left for university, I’ve not had a break longer than two-three weeks where I could simply disconnect, shut down, stop working altogether and really reset. I’m no spring chicken, so that’s a long time to go without any break to pause and recuperate (13 years, if you were curious).

That is what I’m looking for now, desperately seeking it out – a break. Even if there is no superhero in this story to save me, I just want everything to pause so I can catch my breath, reflect on where I am, and be more intentional about where I’m going.

I’ve never been good with money. Never planned well, never asked for what I was worth, never set aside enough for a break like the one I’m craving. Always thought I just had to keep working…

My parents used to joke that the only way they’d earn a significant amount of money was in divorce and remarriage to someone rich. They believed they could not be their own saviours, and that someone else would need to be that for them, particularly financially.

Talk about a fucked up belief system.
One I need to recover from.

Because I do want to be my own saviour.
But I also want to be my own advocate.
And sometimes the heroine needs to rest.
Sometimes the fiercest thing we can do for ourselves is choose rest over action.
Is to actually plan in silence, and within our own minds, so as not to let others lead us astray.
Is to choose rest and self care over adding more to our calendars.

What if the heroine was actually more than fine?
What if she took the time to follow her heart, and her’s alone?
What if she learned to thrive, rather than simply survive?
What if she could plan her adventure, rather than letting it happen to her?

I no longer want to just be fine.
I want to create and dream and build and serve and thrive.
I don’t need a saviour, I just need to heal myself and dawn my warrior’s clothing, in order to fight my own battles, building my own life, because only I know what’s best for me, and I will be my own saviour.

A little reflection on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Anyone recognize that line from a beloved children’s book?
That’s how I feel about the year that has just been put to bed. Typically, I’m not a huge fan of new year’s resolutions or marking a year’s closing by the calendar, but this year, well my god, this year I am happy to say goodbye to 2017. For us, it was a shitstorm of epic proportions.

I won’t go into the exact details for why that is because that’s entirely too personal, but through all the turmoil I did learn a few things. And so rather than let all that sadness, frustration and misery pass me by unanalyzed, I’ll share with you what I learned from it all, and what my greatest wish for 2018 is, not just for me, but for everyone around me, and to each of you reading this.

Lesson One:
Never underestimate the power of your environment.

We all do the hard work every day to think positively, block out the haters, and make the most of what we have to do on our ever-growing to-do lists. But no matter how hard you try, you cannot always control the place where you work, where you live or even sometimes the city / country you live in. I thought that by focusing inward, meditating, journaling and finding quiet it would eliminate all the negative energy in my environment. It doesn’t. Not entirely, and the energy spent on trying to be the light, the positivity, the better person can drain you. You have to know when it’s in your control, or when you need to leave a toxic environment. Your health (physical, mental and emotional) is worth more than trying to put lipstick on a pig. If it’s a giant mess and you cannot fix it, leave. You need to be in an environment that sparks joy, creativity, allows focus and yet also relieves stress. If you’ve given it all you can, move on to greener pastures.

Lesson Two:
The only opinion worthy of your consideration is your own. Period.

I’ve been caught in a spiral where I make a ton of progress, and I’m clear on what I need to do, and then I let someone else’s opinion change my mind. It doesn’t really matter who that person is, but just know that they are not you and do not know what is important to you. They may have great intentions, and at the time they may have been honest and in full support of you, but the truth of the matter is, they have their own priorities that are not your own. So to listen to their version of the truth is an exercise in futility. While you may make THEM happy in the short term, providing some peace for all, in the long term you will have let down yourself. So rather than do anything that is guided by another flawed human being, only listen to yourself.

Lesson Three:
Listen to your gut.

When something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. You know when you are weirded out by someone or a situation? That’s your gut telling you to stay away. We are very intuitive beings, if we choose to listen to what our own hearts and bodies tell us. I made a lot of decisions this year on autopilot, and I overlooked my intuition entirely, resulting in a lot of heartache when I finally clued in and righted things. Above and beyond that, there’s a very real reason that my gut is chronically inflamed right now. My body is literally shutting down, breaking itself down to tell me that something in my life is incredibly out of whack. And rather than listen when it was a small whisper of a flare, I continued on my path to self-destruction until I was in one of my worst flares to date (still battling it, in fact). Now I have no choice but to listen, or risk losing even more of my precious health. So, please, listen when it’s just a nagging whisper, and don’t let it become a full on attack of your being. Listen to what your body tells you, and make changes to find health. Because it is your number one resource.

And so, my wish for 2018, for you and for me, is that we all learn to tune out the noise around us a little more, get quiet and listen to our intuition every day, and chase the light with all the fierceness of your heart. No matter the obstacles, no matter the fear, no matter the judgement. Chase what makes you happy, chase what lights you up, chase what feels RIGHT. Because you were meant to live a life full of wonder, happiness, health and magic. Chase it, and live out all your heart’s desires, my friend.

Documenting the barre3 process

It’s been five days since the end of my last full work week and I’m finally starting to relax. I feel more myself. I feel more willing and able to laugh, joke and let down my hair. I’m finally feeling ready to blog again, and for a good reason. This is something I’ve been wanting to share for a while – my journey through the training process at barre3.

Now before I begin, I want to add some context. I was texting with one of my new colleagues at barre3, and she described the company and her job there as the embodiment of “job love.” It was the first time she’d felt that and she keeps the job, not because it pays all the bills, but because she can’t see herself NOT being there and experiencing bliss in a job each week. This really struck me. And it cuts to the core of what I’m after too – job love.

I’ve been spending the last few years trying different things and researching a ton, looking for the right way to get into the fitness industry. I know it’s something I enjoy immensely, and I know that it’s a way I can do something that spreads health and happiness to others. When I stumbled upon barre3 and their recruiting session, I wasn’t sure whether I would measure up, or what the path would entail, but I knew I was going to try my hardest to be a part of it.

After the recruiting session I was asked to come back in for another small audition, learning two pieces of choreography so that I could demonstrate some level of musicality and the work ethic to memorize it all. In retrospect, the two minutes of choreography that I had to memorize was nothing compared to the hour that I now have, but at the time it was new and scary and seemed like such a bit deal. It was pretty intimidating – they film it so that it can be sent back to head office in Portland and they decide if you go on to further training.

Two days later I found out from our lead instructor that I’d made it through and I’d be officially starting training! Woohoo! I was so excited. And so, for a month we met on Saturday afternoons to learn the choreography from the class we would be teaching. I had the extreme good fortune to train with two amazing women who I can now call my friends. We slowly progressed to be able to teach the class to one another at these weekend sessions. After this we had the scary task of teaching to our friends and family three times before our intensive training. It was terrifying to put on the mike, get up in front of people and teach. Like ripping off a bandaid – we had to do it, and it wasn’t the prettiest, but it wasn’t tooooooo bad either.

We then headed to Washington, DC in order to take part in the three-day intensive at a barre3 studio with a master trainer. You see, the studio in Toronto is the only one in Canada, so we had to go to the States to do the formal training necessary. It was a pretty great experience, to be able to meet all these other instructors-in-training. And our master trainer was lovely, but holy hell, she was intense! She definitely got the best out of us, and pushed us for three days. We not only learned about the exercise science, and the company ethos, but we also learned voice training, how to speak with confidence and clarity, and how to move around and interact with people. It was all-encompassing, and so much information. I was humbled every day, because no matter how good you think you’ve got things, there is always something to improve, to take to the next level.

The best part of this three-day intensive though was making two new friends, and solidifying our bond as we went through this weekend together. If it weren’t for those two women, who made me laugh, supported me, and welcomed me, it wouldn’t have been the same. They calmed me down when I started to freak out about some of the corrections I received during the class. They got me to smile, relax and finally let go before I taught my section during the training, and I had a blast with it. They made me feel at home in a faraway city. And I’m so incredibly grateful to have these two (my barre buddies) in my life.

We are now back home, and teaching free classes for the community in order to get our certification, once our lead instructor thinks we are ready. Same process – our classes have to be signed off by our studio and the corporate office, so we teach until we are there, and hopefully then we’ll get our certification and become real instructors! We are getting so close.

Through all the nerves and fear and learning and travel and taking stage and failing and getting better there has been one constant. Unwavering support. From my barre buddies. From our lead instructor. From the studio owner. From the current instructors. From the wonderful women at the front desk. From the clients at the studio. Never before have I met a group of women so dedicated to lifting one another up, so dedicated to promoting positivity and confidence.

I have never felt as though I belonged.
Not at school. Not growing up. Not in my day job.

But here, at barre3, and not yet even an official instructor, I belong.
And that is pure job love.

Inspire

This word has been coming up over and over again for me lately; most recently and most significantly throughout this weekend when I was in Washington, DC training to become a barre3 fitness instructor. I had completely forgotten about this beautiful tea cup I’d bought a few weeks ago, until today when I thought again about that word.

Only ten minutes ago I was reading a section of “Tribe of Mentors” by Tim Ferriss, and Terry Crews was quoted as saying:

“Life is not a young man’s game. It is an inspired person’s game.”

He was speaking about letting go of competition and outworking people, and simply embracing your innate creativity, which allows you to work hard because you are inspired to, not because you have to.

I love this. I feel this when I am writing blog posts that spark something inside of me. I feel this when I am learning and training to become a barre3 fitness instructor. I feel this when I am simply moving and being active. I feel this when I am speaking to others about nutrition, health and happiness. I feel this way when I am teaching almost any subject.

These are the things that I need to carve out more time for. I want this to be a core desired feeling. Inspired.

We had to teach each other in our training this weekend, and I was paired up with this firecracker of a woman who I thought was so motivational. She told me that she could hold a squat or plank as long as I was there speaking to her. She said that I had this inspirational quality about me, and that I would make an excellent personal trainer, as well as fitness instructor.

This took me aback, because she’s the actor, the outgoing spirit, the brave individual in the room. But it meant a lot to hear that from her. And another one of my friends wanted me to know yesterday how inspiring I was posting my fitness journey on Instagram, and letting everyone see how I am becoming an instructor. Then again, in Tim Ferriss’s book, my heart caught when I read that line about being inspired.

The word inspire is going to be my mantra for 2018.

If something I am doing no longer inspires myself or others, I will find a way to eliminate it from my life. And more importantly, if something inspires me and those around me, I will do everything in my power to make that a larger part of my life.

I spent my 20s following the path laid out for me by mediocre minds, who although pure in their intentions to give me a safe and surefire trajectory to their lacklustre lifestyle, have also led me astray from the things that cultivate my creativity. I’ve spent a long time on that path, going about things the way anyone on autopilot would. I’m learning to forgive my past naive self, and leverage her pain to radically deviate from the beaten path.

Now, into my 30s, it’s time to make some bold choices, carve out my own ideal version of life inspired, and follow the path that is led by my heart and my heart alone.

Self Compassion

This is going to start off sounding a lot like Carrie Bradshaw, so you’ve been warned…

Tonight my little puppy Ella has an upset stomach, and I was fussing over her, giving her cuddles, and telling her it’d be ok, and I couldn’t help but wonder, why the hell couldn’t I treat myself with this much compassion and kindness?

It is so easy for me to dote all over someone else who is in pain, and yet, I’ve been suffering with a flare for months now, so incredibly unwell and not making any progress, only able to access self-loathing and disappointment.

I’m so frustrated with the fact that I can’t get better that I’ve turned against myself, rather than supporting myself. I’m actually working against what it is I’m seeking. How could I possibly get better and heal myself while continuously tearing myself down?

I’m suddenly reminded of a time many years ago when I was first diagnosed with a disease, which is a shocking experience, to say the least. I remember repeating that word over and over again – “disease, disease”. How could I have a disease? I’m only 20 years old. How strange and terrible and disconcerting. How the heck would I get better? Would I ever get better? Wait, there’s no cure? Doctors don’t fully understand the causes of autoimmune diseases? Then how the hell am I going to understand this and manage it, and live my life?

It was the summer after my third year of undergrad, which is the most gruelling year of mechanical engineering. I’d been stressed, working my ass off, and I’d suddenly had the emergence of all these symptoms. After numerous tests, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and began coming to terms with this new thing called an autoimmune disease. It was scary. I felt so alone. And while I was at home with my family, after about two weeks, the sentiments quickly turned from those of support and sympathy to those of frustration and anger.

My parent’s answer to how I should deal with this news of a lifelong diagnosis?
Suck it up, buttercup.
You’ve had two weeks to come to terms with it, now shut up, do the research to get better, and get on with it. We are done listening to your complaints and worries and concerns.

I felt completely alone. I’m lucky I had close friends from university and before, though they weren’t close geographically, I talked to them and had some support. But on the day-to-day I was alone, depressed and turned that negativity toward myself. It was clearly my own fault that I’d gotten sick – the stress I put on myself, the food I was eating, the lifestyle I was living. Like I’ve been told, it’s all on me. Shut up and deal with it. So I did. Didn’t speak a word of it to many people at all. So terrified of what they’d say to me if they found out. I can’t show weakness. I can’t be flawed.

And now, looking at how I’m faulting myself for my recent flare, and how I can’t find remission, I wonder what the hell I’m still doing with the thought patterns of self-loathing of ten years ago?

I wonder how easily and quickly I’d find better health if I was simply a little kinder to myself, a little more compassionate and understanding, and a little less judgemental. No more tearing myself down. No more blaming myself for a disease my genes activated. No more sucking it up and shutting up.

Time to be kind to myself.
Just like I would be to the people and puppies I love most.
Now that’s a radical thought.