My Journey from Discovery to Acceptance to Change
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Hope Through Authenticity

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It Matters ... It Shouldn't Matter!

Several weeks ago, I joined Orange Theory Fitness (OTF). It’s a pretty hardcore workout that pushes you to earn “splat points” or to be in the “orange zone”.  Now, I’m fit and doing the workout is tough but doable.  Yet, I cannot get those damn splat points. 

I know I shouldn’t do it, but I look around at other people’s statistics and see EVERYONE getting more of those points than me.  And I’m dying … I’m working … I’m barely breathing!  I’ve changed the location of the heart rate monitor.  I’ve talked to the front desk.  Today, I got one point …. Everyone else received 10+. 

So, as I have the last several sessions, I spent ten minutes in my car crying like a baby.  Crying so hard that I could not drive home.  I’m a 52-year old woman crying over splat points.  I felt ridiculous doing it and I feel ridiculous admitting it. 

As promised, one of the points of this blog is to show you what an emotional mind “looks” like … here we go:

My Rational Mind

My rational mind (and my husband) is telling me the following:

  1. You are working out so hard, the points don’t matter – it’s a great workout
  2. This is a workout you could not have done 18 months ago – be proud
  3. Really, it doesn’t matter – the point is to get exercise and to bump it up – you’re bumping it up – be satisfied
  4. It’s not about what other people are doing – it’s about what you are doing
  5. And, look around you, you are more fit than so many of the people in that class – it has to be something with the way the monitor works and not you

I try to grab hold onto any of those but my emotional mind is in a frenzy, rejecting everything the rational mind chooses to offer.

My Emotional Mind

My emotional mind is telling me the following (and, picture this like the Tasmanian devil on a roller coaster – the thoughts spin, crash, climb, spin, crash, climb – and that devil is laughing his maniacal laugh!):

  1. There must be something wrong with you – there IS something wrong with you – even if there is nothing wrong with the way you exercise, the way it upsets you means you ARE crazy
  2. You must not be working out as hard as others or you would be getting those points
  3. The people at the front desk aren’t helping you because they don’t like you
  4. You still overeat – you don’t deserve to earn these points
  5. If you really wanted those points, you would work even harder – you give up – you always give up
  6. You embarrass your husband when you get so upset – that’s why you don’t have friends – people think you need to get it under control
  7. You’ll never be what you want to be – in anything – so just give in and give up
  8. Life is fair …. It’s just NOT FAIR TO YOU because there IS something wrong with you
  9. You are a crybaby

Reread those nine things – faster, louder!  I may not have gotten my heart rate up enough to get those points, but it’s rising as I listen to my emotional mind.

Who Wins

That’s the question of the day.  Do I keep going?  I get great physical exercise but the mental turmoil is rough.  And, it’s not getting any better.  No matter what kind of pep talk I give myself when I arrive, by the 35-minute mark (after I’ve compared all the other participants great results), I’m a basket case – choking back the tears until the class ends.  The rational mind just isn’t strong enough to pull me back.

I know my therapist would want me to take this as an opportunity to “sit with” difficult emotions.  She would want me to be mindful of what’s happening in my body and then she’d want me to try to find the story I’m telling myself.  Or, to put it another way, she’d want me to understand what purpose this fear is serving me.  UGH!

But, if I continue to struggle, I’m afraid that I will ultimately just give up – and not just Orange Theory but all exercise.  I’m kind of an all or nothing person – especially when I’m in emotional turmoil.  Exercise is one area in my life that works well and I’m afraid to risk it.

It’s two hours since the class ended – I’ve had a nice breakfast, showered, walked the dog and yet I’m writing this in tears.  Desperate to just go lay down and hide.  All because of a 55-minute exercise class.  Is the class worth it?  Is it beneficial or detrimental?

What should I do?

For Today

One thing I’ve learned over the years of emotional struggle is not to make any decision when my emotional mind is running amok.  So, tomorrow (or later today if I feel more balanced), I’ll process this more. 

I’ll add to this blog and share tomorrow.  (BTW:  I have another class tomorrow morning at 7am – no matter what, I’ll take that class and use it for more information).

Making a Wise Decision

Before you read the following, make a judgment on what YOU would do and make a judgment on what you think I should do.  Take a few minutes to think through the why’s of your choice.  If you’ll take the time to do this, you’ll get more out of my analysis.

What is a Wise Decision?

What’s wise for you is not necessarily what’s wise for me.  And, what decision – exactly – am I making?  I’ve found that when I’m upset about something, I get wrapped up in making decisions that are broader than the problem of the moment.  For example, as I began to process all of this, I caught myself making decisions about all exercise and then that branched into time management issues.  Pulling back, I need to define the problem concretely and keep coming back to that.

The problem:  Considering that I’m struggling to get splat points and that is causing me to doubt and criticize myself, should I continue this particular exercise at this time in my life?

Did you notice how I brought the problem into focus?  I’m considering a certain exercise only (not my entire workout program) and I’m not keeping or eliminating any options for the rest of my life.  (Trying to eliminate ‘always’ and ‘never’ from my vocabulary.)

Using A Pros/Cons Approach

In DBT, we are taught how to use a pros & cons chart.  Here is what I came up with:

Tolerating The Class

Pros

  • It is excellent exercise
  • I do feel proud of myself after I get past the emotional pain
  • I can reduce my personal trainer visits and maybe save some $
  • It’s never the same – therefore interesting
  • Maybe I could make some friends
  • It is motivating to try to keep up

Cons

  • Having to suffer through that emotional crap – the fight I have to wage to get back to ‘normal’
  • The class is exhausting and that exhaustion lasts quite a while
  • As I improve my cardio, I have to just keep increasing the intensity (and, yes, I recognize that’s a pro and a con, but right now it feels like only a con)

Dropping the Class

Pros

  • No longer having to sit in that emotional muck
  • Not having to exercise at a certain time (flexibility)
  • Not comparing myself to others (yes, I know I should stop doing that but that is not the focus of this analysis)
  • It’s not a cheap class

Cons

  • I’ll likely kick myself for a long time for giving up – same negative track as above with a different focus
  • I still need to find a way to increase my cardio workout – whatever I come up with may be just as hard
  • I also kinda forced my husband to sign up – it’d be pretty tacky for me to bail!

Based on my pros and cons analysis, what would you do?  I decided not to decide yet.  I’m giving it a few more weeks (until we leave for vacation).  That deadline takes some of the pressure off – I can suffer anything for 3 weeks, right?  And, in 3 weeks, I may feel better or find some other solution.

These extra weeks will allow me a chance to talk to my therapist and bring it up in my group therapy sessions. Getting perspectives from people who struggle like I do will likely provide me some ideas I hadn’t yet considered. 

Had I not taken the time to 1) write this blog, 2) complete a pros/cons analysis, 3) wait it out a bit, then I would have made an impulse decision to quit.

Unexpected Help

Asking for help is hard (and, I think, even harder for emotionally minded people).  I did try to ask the front desk to help me understand what was happening and what adjustments I needed to make.  But, I burst into tears and the poor guy at the front desk became a deer in headlights (the poor guy is maybe 22 – he had no idea how to handle a 52-year-old basket case – kind of funny if you think about J ).

I told my husband my problem – actually, he’d seen it when he went to class with me and saw me start to lose it.  He ended up calling the fitness center when they weren’t busy with classes.  He explained the problem (including my mental health challenges) and together they looked at my settings.  Then, he went with me to the next day’s session where we met with the manager and she monitored me during a class.  We made some adjustments and I ended up with a reasonable 15 splat points.

What some of you are thinking is that I should have been able to do that myself.  That maybe I depended too much on being rescued by my husband.  Maybe you’re right.  But, if I can accept that sometimes, with some situations, my emotional mind is an asset and other times it’s not, then I should also be able to accept the using someone else’s rational mind is a good skill.  (Sometimes, my ridiculously rational husband depends on my emotional mind too).

Keep an eye on my FB – I’ll post my OTF results!  And, if you want to bump up your exercise, find a center – it’s quite a workout!

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    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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