I’ve been running full speed ahead for many months now since August. It’s been relentless and at times even when I’ve withdrawn into my own world, I’m still chasing after a train that’s already leaving the station. It seems that I’ve just not gotten enough of rest or rather a peace of mind. I’ve been experiencing increased anxiety, tired nights where I can’t sleep and then I can and I can’t seem to wake up. It’s like my body has decided all of this doesn’t matter but my brain keeps saying, “No. Damn it. It does.” over and over and over again.
So it was already a challenging time with my ongoing leadership training and all that it encompasses, work I was taking on to pay for it, squeezing in exercise, writing for The Cambelles and on top of that just living out my personal life and really being there for friends if they needed me (and I swear I’m struggling with this still) and going ahead with my much coveted (and rather expensive Japan trip). It was all busy, but I was still dealing with it and just pushing on.
Things started spiralling a little out of control when I got myself a fever at the beginning of November and instead of the usual few days I take to recover, I had a recurrent fever and then a terrible cough that lasted a whole of two weeks. I felt so frustrated and helpless. I was also conflicted and beat up. I was chasing down a fitness goal (and I still am) of 6% fat loss from 30% and I was totally not moving downwards and even if I did it was so insignificant and temporary that I felt so angry with myself. What wasn’t I doing right? All the working out and persevering and even the smaller meals I was having and yet no results? And worse was not being able to workout when I was sick. It just sent me down to a darker place but I still saw the light.
Then there was my dwindling account balance as I worked on getting all my jobs completed and in some cases, the jobs taking longer than I expected. There would be payment but it just wasn’t coming in yet. I have never in my life taken such a big leap of faith in my ability to earn such a large sum of money to fund not just my personal training course (which amounted to about five grand in total – an amount I would never in my “past life” have spent if I could help it) but also Japan (a few more thousand). I have NEVER spent this much money ever in my entire life. It’s a new experience and it’s really an internal fight with my brain and my heart. I know I don’t regret any of it. If given a chance I would still do the course all over again and take on the Japan trip. What I gained in this past few months just by putting myself in such a different experience from the usual – it’s a rollercoaster but one where I know its been so much more amazing than I expected. So yes, I have to say, I don’t regret it, honestly. But I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy when I see such a low balance in my account.
The main thing I’ve noticed myself feeling and thinking is that when I see that amount of money left (and it is really not much) it is as if I’m not doing “something right”. I have so much judgement about myself and how I handled my life and my money and I kept it to myself because I didn’t want any judgement from anyone. I didn’t want people to tell me I made the wrong decisions when it came to going for the training full steam ahead, knowing well I would be stretched to get the money for it. I didn’t want people to poo-poo my choices and say that I was foolish to have gone ahead to travel. I just didn’t want to be told I was not responsible and that I am doing this all wrong. I kept it to myself. I didn’t even want to talk about it with my boyfriend because I really didn’t want and need to hear the things I was most afraid of hearing from someone who is so close to me. The thought alone of people knowing the extent of my despair and situation was enough to keep a dark storm cloud over my head. I didn’t want to be a fraud who told everyone it was possible and here I am still struggling with having this be okay.
The truth was and is, I chose this because it was what I really wanted and there was just so much I benefited and am benefiting from this period of training and travel. The truth is that I’m coming to terms with being okay with this: Being okay with doing what I want for a goal that I alone decide for myself and totally accepting that no money doesn’t mean no wisdom, no responsibility or no common sense.
The breaking point was just a few days ago. I was on a challenge for three days and on a super strict low calorie diet. It is not something I would normally agree to but I committed to it because I knew I needed to see if I could do something different to get the result I wanted. Into Day 2, I was moody, I was overwhelmed and tired and it delivered me no results. It was also on that same day that I started paying my bills and that low balance just showed up again and I’ve been ignoring it for so long, but it felt like a button was pushed and I was reminded again. The low calorie mood swings did not help. I was still going strong at this point, just a little worried. Then came the final straw that broke this camel’s back. After a really wonderful dinner with my sister, out of my own carelessness, I dropped my phone.
The phone drop was one of many drops, but this time it was different. I cannot remember how many times I have let my iPhone 5S hit the ground. In normal circumstances, I’m not really a crazy phone person so I don’t mind the scratches, the dents and the physical imperfections. It is just a phone. This time, it hit the ground and there was the sound of glass cracking. I picked it up and saw a spider web go right across the screen of my iPhone and then it was just stunned silence.
I got back in the car and stared at my phone, I ran my fingers over the cracked glass and felt little bits of glass dust my finger. I started breathing heavily and before I knew it I was tearing. A while later I was sobbing to myself quietly as my boyfriend drove us home. It was past eleven. He made a few comments about how it wasn’t that bad, but I just continued sobbing. I believe he must have been worried shitless and then the situation escalated when he pressed that button, “Why did you have to go for the course, it is all because of that training! Didn’t I tell you not to go to every part of the training at a go?” Then I just let it all go. The weight of like the past few months escaped from me in the form of tears and wailing. For an hour, I cried like as if I had died and was witnessing my own funeral. I was just filled with so much sadness, helplessness, frustration. “I can’t afford to have the glass broken.” was all I could muster in between salty tears. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live WITH a damaged iPhone screen. It was the thought that I couldn’t afford to pay for it now that really broke me. It was like that screen signified the widening crack in my security wall. It was a small little hairline crack and now it was a full blown fissure widening with each moment I swept my emotions under my own carpet of “put on” nonchalance.
I started to stress eat even though I had already beared with the low calorie diet for almost two days and I was just a day away from saying, “Yes! I did it 100%!” I was so distraught I allowed myself to let it happen. My hand travelled across the dining table and I ate (even though I couldn’t taste) a small tub of crackers till there was but a few pieces of the keropok left. I instantly felt so much grief instead of feeling better. I felt worse even though I knew during the time I was stuffing my face that I WOULD indeed feel worse for it but I just had to. I just had to. I told myself I HAD TO. It was so much frustration, so much anger, so much of everything. I screwed it up and I weighed myself knowing fully well I had screwed up and the measurement reflected an increase yet again in fat percentage even after almost two days of suffering, bad mood and hunger. I set myself up to fail and fail I did just so I could prove to myself that I screwed up big time.
My sister messaged me and she felt bad about what had happened. I told her I was okay. I didn’t dare to share how I really felt because I was so worried that I would put the weight of my own worries on her. I knew she didn’t need this when things were going well for her. I just wanted to be big sister: trusted, reliable, no need for help – I’m falling short of wanting to be perfect at this rate. She offered to pay a portion for the repair but I declined even as I felt the nagging, grinding frustration of the situation claw at my inner self.
It wasn’t about the money. It really wasn’t. It wasn’t about the damage. It was about me. It was about how I couldn’t deal with not being good enough, of not having more so I could spend it, of not having more so I wouldn’t need to fret over a stupid cracked iPhone screen. The fact is, when I had “more” money (within the safe zone so that I could feel like I was doing “good”), I could forget that I had all these doubts and harsh judgements about myself. Now that I didn’t have the cash, I had to look at me and all of my insecurities. That I am worried and had no relief because I was still beating myself up for not being good enough.
With all these feelings and with all my defenses down (physically tired, mentally weakened, emotionally exhausted, all walls were brought down) I thought to myself who could I share my struggle with and my mind came up blank for a long time. Actually it wasn’t that I blanked out. I admit. I had the names, the faces popping into my consciousness, but each time it popped up, like a bubble I burst it and said, “No I couldn’t.” I cried and cried. It really wasn’t that I had no good friends, but I had too much to risk to share what I was going through. I was scared and was merely instinctively protecting myself when my mind blanked out. I had everyone to tell, but I had everyone to lose or at least that was how I thought in that emotional state. What was I so afraid to lose? It was these two things:
Respect from others I cared about.
The image of myself as a strong independent woman.
Even in my sadness, I was so concerned about how others would look at me. Something I never recognized and realized was something so important to me. I never thought I was so desperate to be respected, to be acknowledged, and to be accepted.
Eventually I did break out a little of the breakdown and I shared a little snippet with my besties and they rushed to understand me though I could barely articulate these issues I faced. They messaged me privately, offering their own brand of sweet comfort, empathy and reassurance. And then one of them, my good brother, texted me this:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
It gave him comfort in times of distress and while my first reaction was a slight knee-jerk reaction to go, “God? Really?” Intellectually I could understand. Emotionally I was blocking it out. But after I read it over and over, I cried a little less and I was surprised that my friend, the last person I’d ever imagine believing in God, was here comforting me with a verse from the Bible.
The amazing thing is it does fit. It does make sense. It is the perfect verse to have been shared in breakdown. For so long, I’ve automatically rejected help. I didn’t want to open up. I wanted to be lone wolf. I wanted to be my own Solo Wandergirl. I kept saying it over and over – I’ll ask for support, I do it when I have to. But every time I needed it, I pushed it away and ignored it. I said, “No it’s not big a deal enough.” or “I don’t know what kind of help and support I need.” I trusted only in myself and no one else to be able to support me. I thought I was smart enough to deal with it myself. I needed to be.
Then what happened was I bottled it all up till I could hold it in no longer and then I broke down just like two nights ago and then it was confusing and I just burst. Instead of leaving the lid of the glass jar open and sharing about the small things, talking it out, I chose to keep filling it and filling it with what looked like harmless, colourless gas and then screwing on the bottle lid so tight and saying, “Don’t touch the bottle!” when someone suggested I open the lid. (I literally did that and told my boyfriend don’t ask me questions about my money when he was probing about it for my well being.) It was so full that at the slightest heat, everything came out and not in a mellow little hiss but in a giant explosion.
This is not the first time this has happened. It happened when I was a kid. It happened when I was a teenager. It happened a year ago and it has happened again.
Even though I pushed him away, my boyfriend insisted he support me. He told me not to worry and he would repair it for me. I was uncomfortable, but then I agreed. My best friends showered me with concern THROUGHOUT the week, not just immediately after the breakdown and I was just so touched by it.
Far from staying broken, the breakdown allowed me to reconnect, to accept and to move on. While it would have been better if it hadn’t been on such a scale, it was good that it had happened. When my boyfriend passed a comment, “I think it should have happened and it’s good that you had this breakdown.” I completely agreed.
And do you know what’s funny? I was back to tracking my calories but not the strict diet I was on for that two trying days and at the end of that stretch of four days I weighed myself. It seemed that I just had my first brush with real success that I could taste and really say this result is mine. I was finally maintaining my weight loss and had lost around 2% of fat when it had barely gone below 29% since I started on my fitness goal.
Was it the stress that was causing the lack of progress? Highly possible though I can’t scientifically prove it with such limited data and so many variables. But hey, the moment I released all that negative emotions completely, it was like progress was possible again and progress indeed happened.
In the spirit of progress, of sharing, of loving and hoping you’ll read this and learn something yourself, I wrote this. I didn’t write it for sympathy or for it to be a pity party victim story. I wrote this to tell you and to remind me that it is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to doubt. It is okay to ask for support and get it. I’ll always deal with this instinctive need to be perfect, but with each “episode” I know better how to deal with it – it is as SIMPLE and as DIFFICULT as admitting, “I don’t have all the answers.” and just accepting that.
This post is dedicated to Clara, TY, Siu Lun, Belle, Hemma, The F Man, Wow Wild 8, my lovely senior Darren Ho, and LP127. Thank you for being there and reminding me of what matters at the end of the day.