If you've followed my blog, you may be familiar with my struggles with (still) undiagnosed illness, with diagnosed anxiety and (if you follow me on Facebook) my weight loss and journey to health. What I've learned these last twelve months is surprising, both regarding how I view my own health, and how this journey has impacted my creativity and productivity.
I'm about to get real with you. I wont fill this post with photos and quotes, I wont attempt to inspire or empower. I just want to talk to you about this process, and what it's meant to me. I want to share with you how it's been difficult, mentally all-encompassing, that it has impacted my creativity on real and tangible levels, both in positive and negative ways.
So let's get right to it, shall we?
Last September I had enough. I was watching a close friend succumb to illness. I myself was plagued with problems, and inundated with doctors and medical bills. The tests were numerous, tiresome and ultimately unhelpful. I was ready to take my life back. I began by changing my diet. I removed all grains, ate fresh whenever possible, avoided high carb ingredients and focused on clean, lean protein and green vegetables. It was a good change and not nearly as difficult to adjust to as anticipated. I fell into an easy routine with my meals and quickly saw real results. These initial results, the ticking down of the numbers on the scale, were invigorating and motivational and pushed me onward. In these twelve months, as a direct result of these changes, I've managed to lose 100lbs and end the use of medication to maintain my blood pressure.
Yay! Right? This is good. This is what you hope to experience. These are the stories that spur people towards committing real change themselves, and that's a truly positive thing. But the impact this process has had on my creativity and productivity has been, to say the least, odd and unexpected.
Initially, I was motivated entirely and dedicated not only towards improving my health, but expanding my own creative skill set and self-expression. I started to journal after a long hiatus which has, to this day, helped in innumerable ways and is the one change I encourage others to embrace, if no other change is ever made. And this energy, positivity and momentum carried me through the first quarter of 2016. I was on a roll!
And then I hit a wall. My weight loss slowed considerably, I was still plagued by fatigue and body aches. My body was changing. I weighed less, yes, but was less pleased with the results than anticipated, as my 40 year old body refused to adjust to the loss the way a 20 year old body would have. And meals became an obsession. I was spending more time thinking about what I'm eating, what I should be eating, what I will eat, than I spent doing anything else.... even creating. Summer marked a difficult transition for me, especially as I began to recognize changes in the ways others approached me or treated me. While my self-confidence grew the previous months, I also began to notice a shadow in my thoughts.
And still I created. Or tried to. Some days, forced myself to. These were the most difficult days... when I found myself so wrapped up in my journey to health that I forgot a very fundamental part of staying healthy.... my art. I somehow forgot how empowering it is to create, how healing to the soul. While I struggled to heal my body... and I was healing it.... I was neglecting my soul.
This is the message I want to share with you today. That the journey to health is a gigantic undertaking, and it requires all of the resources at your disposal. I was so focused on only one path to wellness that I failed to notice how the neglect of other paths was actually sabotaging my journey! The saying "We are our own worst enemy" is true, and it was only a recent realization that made me understand the damage I was doing to my progress.
I was so focused on the rigidity of my new life, that I forgot to enjoy the freedom of art. In fact, tried to force the rigidity of meal plans and weigh-ins into my art. An if you're an artist, you know how fervently creativity will rebel against a regime!
And now, as I enter the (most beloved) fall season, I feel renewed. This realization has filled me with new purpose and new energy when I thought I'd been left bare of it. I have an amazing opportunity to teach overseas this September, and my fingers just itch... they itch to create. My heart itches to create and teach and share. I can't wait for the days to come!
If you are on a similar journey, or plan to begin one, I encourage you to embrace all your resources. To remember that art is as much a healer to body and soul as a good diet or exercise or fresh air. That, when results aren't what you expect, disappointing at times even, there is still a fire burning and in it....perfect wellness.
I hope you all stay well.
8/31/2016 06:55:03 am
Nicole, thank you for sharing your insight and experience. You are an awesomely talented and courageous woman! Sharing our true heart is a gift, to give and to receive.
8/31/2016 11:02:02 pm
Thank you for taking the time to read! I really appreciate your comment.
8/31/2016 11:02:37 pm
Thank you! I still have a ways to go, but I'm getting there and as determined as ever!
8/31/2016 08:53:59 am
Your insight into your journey and your willingness to share it is truly inspiring!! A lump formed in my throat as I read your blog - I can really relate to your struggles as I have some of the same ones. Congratulations on the positive changes you've made in your life - both physical and mental! Keep moving forward!!
8/31/2016 11:03:18 pm
I always find it cathartic to share these stories, and read similar ones by others. There's a sort of healing in the sharing of them, don't you think?
8/31/2016 07:23:33 pm
Congratulations on your path to better health and thank you for sharing your thoughts on it. I can quite relate to your experience. Thumbs up!
8/31/2016 11:04:00 pm
Thank you! I'll be on this journey for life, so I figured it was enough a part of me now to share.
9/1/2016 01:02:23 am
Thank you for this Nicole. When I read your blog the first thing I thought of was; "Since Nicole has done this I can too". I have health issues that can certainly be helped with some weight loss. I have been feeling in a slump because I have pain in my left wrist and thumb and can't wire wrap...so instead of taking this time to try something else or start a weight loss plan I've been sitting around watching old movies. So thank you for the nudge... Enjoy your trip and your classes.
9/1/2016 03:44:32 pm
I'm glad it helped in some small way. And that's really all we can do, is just try to muscle through it, and invigorate our spirit by trying new things and inviting excitement into our lives!
Kate Young Tegtmeier
9/1/2016 01:35:53 am
I do understand a large part of your battle. I've lost a great of weight several times, but each time felt disappointed because I heard so many promises that I was going to feel better. Now at age 60, how can a large weight loss and better eating not make a difference - I will have to wait and see and continue to believe it will happen. Something has happened to my creativity as well and I feel a little out of sorts about losing my mojo. But hoping it will return or I'll immerse myself in learning all I can about spinning to clear out the cobwebs. I do appreciate how much you with us and I have found great hope in watching your blog.
9/1/2016 03:46:16 pm
It was definitely discouraging for me to work so hard and not feel as good as all the stories out there promised. I had to learn to separate the results of my weight loss from health issues that were totally outside of that spectrum, and when I put it into that perspective, I DID start to notice that I had more energy and didn't run out of breath walking up the stairs, and I'll hold on to those little victories for dear life! lol
9/1/2016 06:50:57 am
Firstly, well done, just fantastic that you took back some control over your own body and your life too, the results are amazing. I read with heart felt pride in you, it is not easy at all, and the words you write are so real and honest..damn it, it is hard.
9/1/2016 03:48:12 pm
Congrats to you on your new weight loss and your renewed energy for creative passions! Hearing others share their stories with me, as you have, is very positive and encouraging for me as well. I think it's so wonderful to have a community where we can all lean on each other and boost each other up!
9/1/2016 09:43:44 am
You are so inspiring Nicole Hanna! Thank you so much for sharing this journey too. And thank you for your art and sharing so freely with the world. After 20 yrs of wirework consisting mostly of bead chain making and earrings, YOU reinvigorated my wire dreams. I had never seen anything in that style that I liked, but yours is different and so complex and beautiful. Thank you. You showed me a new path.
9/1/2016 03:49:01 pm
I'm so happy to hear that you've found your passion sparked! That alone makes any journey I'm on more than worth it!
9/1/2016 10:29:35 am
I am living your experience! I eliminated all grains, dairy and sugar from my diet and found inflammation in my joints significantly reduced. But when we reach a goal that we have focused on for so long, our mind tells us "The End" and that is the end of weight loss. Our mind controls our life. I found some new inspiration learning chain maille - it gives me the control I crave and the ability to learn and continue to create. We are all just different cells of one soul, ya think?
9/1/2016 03:50:01 pm
That's a beautiful way to phrase it, and I totally agree! I'm trying to think of things as always the same journey moving forward, just different forks in the road each time.
Kate Young Tegtmeier
9/1/2016 05:40:09 pm
Having a gain fog moment, so I forgot who said this. If you want to see the stuff f the universe, simply look in a mirror. For everything we see, touch, breathe and believe in is but merely stardust.
9/1/2016 10:36:22 am
9/1/2016 03:50:38 pm
Thank you for the lovely comment! I'll be looking up "Gift of the Sea" for sure!
9/2/2016 09:04:27 am
Elizabeth - Thanks for the book rec. I just downloaded the audiobook from the library. I finished "The Art of Racing in the Rain" a few days ago and wept at the ending. Not what I expected. Absolutely beautiful. A wonderful, wonderful book.
9/3/2016 02:23:45 am
Thank you for sharing this. I came across the blog today, and it has a message I really needed to hear!
9/4/2016 02:01:27 am
Thank you all for your inspiring words and kindness. Each of us travel our own path and by sharing can enhance and lighten the journey of another. Thank you Nicole for starting this conversation.
9/4/2016 11:06:36 pm
The best part about reaching a certain (ahem) age, is that you know tomorrow is a new day and you'll feel differently. Better, worse, but different. And, probably, with a wiser understanding about what is going on in that complex head. All it takes is the courage to act on what you know you need to do, and it will get better. The flow will return, if you let it.
9/6/2016 02:54:47 am
What a gal! I am proud with you to take back your happy world. Something does happen to us women at 40. Fortunately for you and us, you share. Sharing is priceless and healing as well and I want to thank you keeping that beautiful soul healthy. It shines and we feel it and your loving heart!!🌹 💐 🌸 💮 Blessings in all you do! Gr
10/5/2016 09:49:34 pm
Nicole, I use to stress over way to many things in life, now I am grateful just to wake up or at least I think I am that is still in debate. I give you so much credit for all that you have accomplished and will accomplish never say never. Never set your goal higher than what your going to reach because you will not reach it. Never say oh heck I will do it next week because it may not wait until then. I know all to well, you see I learned that last year when I died on June 29th, 2016 while being operated on. I just did not know I did, my husband did not know I did either. Until later when he was told to come say goodbye to me because I would make it thru the night. But, I did and I have fought everyday for myself for him. I remember every word that man whispered in my ear, they told me I opened my eyes. I do not remember. So If I can fight, you can fight, If I can win, you can win, If I can learn to re-walk, you can learn to run,
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