Personal Growth

By Dori Hackleman

It’s 3 a.m. and I’m sitting in my recliner, holding my newborn, trying to get her back to sleep, and I think to myself, “I’m such a failure.”

I reflect back on my life and all I can think about are the things I said I would accomplish and haven’t. Sure, this is PPD and sleep depravation talking, but to some extent, it’s true. I feel so lonely and isolated, not many people have reached out to me to see how I’m doing, and I’m wondering if I even deserve for anyone to check on me.

I. Am. Drowning.

I needed to do something, to change something and, of course, I just look at externals to fix the problem because inside of myself is just too much to handle at the moment. 

It’s 2017 and I decided that this year would be my year. I was finally going to get my shit together in the physical area. I read a book called “The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday, and it said I needed to start to embracing stoicism. For those who don’t know, “stoicism” is a Roman philosophy which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. The title of the book is inspired by a quote from “Meditations,” a series of essays by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He says, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” In other words, obstacles are the very drivers of our success and how we respond to said obstacles defines our lives. 

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I realized stoicism was exactly what I needed in my life, and I needed to start changing my mindset immediately! So I start trying to change things around for myself, I start to go to the gym again, eating better, I try and cut back on drinking, and I actually did it! I fell under 200 pounds for the first time in YEARS, and I was riding that high. Everything was going as planned and maybe, just maybe, we could start growing our family.

Skip forward and it’s the beginning of 2018, and I’ve just gone through a miscarriage. I wrote more in depth about that experience in this October 2018 Julie article. I am feeling like my body has betrayed me, and I need to figure this out. Maybe it was the extreme diet that I had just tried for the billionth time in a sorry ass attempt to lose this fucking weight, finally. Again, external forces that need to be fixed, not myself. Most of that year was spent in so much self doubt, self pity, shitty relationships that I broke off, but most importantly, crippling depression. I ate and drank my feelings more than ever because this is a delayed depression. I was drowning again. I tried so many times to climb out of that dark hole, but it kept swallowing me up and it was added to even more by the fact that I felt like a terrible mother to the amazing kiddo that I already had. I tried to get myself out of it and I would have my good weeks and then I would have my really bad months. I tried turning to photography to help me heal, but that turned against me as well. I took a break from November until the end of the year, hoping that I could fix it. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 3.19.39 PMIt’s March 2019 and I say, “Enough is enough.” I NEED to change, I need to do something because I am tired of this stupid cycle. I can’t keep doing this to myself and something’s gotta give. I go back to the gym again, try and get back on the right track again with eating and I’m doing ok. Depression still comes in and out, but not nearly as bad as last year. My husband has his first CrossFit competition the next month. Of course I go to support him because CrossFit has been such a great thing that he became part of a year ago. He had tried to convince me to go and I kept saying that it wasn’t my thing. Going to the competition changed my life! It was amazing and the women in it were amazing and I decided right then and there that I was no longer going to be that woman who said, “Man, I wish I could be as strong as they are.” I wanted to be: “I will start working towards being as strong as they are!” I finally joined CrossFit at the end of May, and I am so stoked! I have my physical goals going well, now it’s time for the mental and emotional part. 

People had always told me that I am so genuine and sweet, but I honestly never saw what they saw. I was merely a shell of the person I wanted to be and to actually be that person that people saw seemed impossible. Given my failed friendships, how do I know that these people would really like me for me? Who was I? Personal growth is fucking hard, so why would I want to do that? I went back to that stoicism book, and I read it again. Maybe I missed something and needed a refresher anyways. I finally realized that I didn’t have the proper tools to even know where to begin by trying to find my best self.  Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 3.23.37 PM.pngThat’s when I found a local Facebook group called Empowerment Group that changed everything for me. Empowerment Group is led by two women, Olivia Lotven and Mica Dalton, and they offer a public group for women to lift each other up and they also offer paid, private services for one-on-one support. I love how their mission is to help women like me and give us tools to help cope with everyday struggles in life. This was exactly the kind of support I needed in my life, and I knew these women would help me be the best me. I decided to be completely transparent with them because I felt safe for once in my life with other women, and if I wasn’t going to be honest with them then how the hell can I be honest with myself? So I put everything on the table. Every. Single. Thing. And guess what? They didn’t judge me. They understood me. I wanted to cry. You don’t realize how important it is to have women in your corner that understand you until it finally happens. I highly recommend Empowerment Group if you’re feeling alone and need fellow women you can talk to and trust. 

So I was honest with myself for the first time, I mean full on honest, looking at all the situations and failed friendships and where I went wrong in them. It’s easy to look at failed relationships and point fingers at the other person and say things like, “Well I acted out this way because they made me feel ____.” It takes a lot of guts to look at it and ask yourself, “Why did I feel the need to do that/say that?” I quieted the chaos that was constantly inside of me about why things ended the way they did with some people and, in that chaos, I was able to pull out my faults, confront them, accept them, and move on. This goes alongside my last article that I wrote about unplugging from social media. It is a must sometimes because having social media can feed the chaos even more than needed. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 3.22.09 PM.pngI had to apply the same honesty to food and the reasons why I feel the need to eat and drink my emotions. This started when I was about seven-years-old and went through my trauma and ever since then, I have felt the need to eat with every emotion I was feeling. But after many years, I realized that I was doing more damage to myself, physically and emotionally than I was helping. So I started building tools to try and cope with all those underlying issues and I found so much peace in dealing with that. I started to feel better, my depression comes and goes a little bit still, but it’s definitely much better. I feel more clear-minded. I have learned to deal with emotions that used to fuel my depression. Isolation, stress, and anxiety no longer run my life, and I feel such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I have a consistent workout routine, I eat so much better, I have cut back drinking significantly and, most importantly, I am not making up excuses for the reasons why I have the friends that I do and keeping toxic friendships in my life. I love myself unconditionally through thick and thin. I had a vision for who I wanted to be only six months ago, and I finally feel like I am making strides towards that and can actually see goals that I can accomplish ahead of me and that are attainable. Through embracing stoicism when times are hard and building an amazing support group around me, I am living my best life. 

It is today and I am finally living up to the potential that I knew I had, and I no longer apologize for who I am because I know exactly who that is. I hope and encourage you to find your true self. If you are struggling, envision who you want to be and start taking steps towards that. It’s a long journey, but one that is so worth it!

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