It’s incredibly appropriate that I post this today, November 7 – a day celebrated by Mass Effect fans around the globe. Last year, I started working out again on this day, and it was on Nov. 1, 2016 that I took the first steps on my Pathfinder Initiative. It’s been nearly 400 days since I declared my intent to get my shit together and better my life – to find my path, so to speak.
This was me a year ago — “I have completely lost my path in physical, mental, and emotional realms. I am a shadow of who I once was – a result of tumultuous life decisions and one stress-inducing mess after another.”
The darkest of timelines. I have cried and bled. I’ve poured sweat and sacrifice into this Initiative, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. It has been a long year, and I haven’t written every single month as planned. To be honest, I find myself mentally exhausted most days due to the evolving beast that is 2017 and how things are going in the world. But despite falling behind in writing, I have kept to my Initiative and have some pretty fantastic results to share. Thank you for coming along with me on this journey, and for your unfaltering support both online and in person. Thank you for believing in me.
On to the good stuff! For my mission, I broke up the initiative into several parts, each worth 10 points. The objective is to “earn” 10/10 points every month on the path to bettering myself.
Mission Objective: Lose the weight. BE HEALTHY
I never started out with a numeric goal, but I knew I wanted to get back under 200 pounds again, and possibly lose 50 pounds. I was miserable, obese, unhealthy, and completely unhappy. I developed frequent chest pains on top of my daily joint aches and migraines. I can’t believe I’m posting these photos, but I want to be real with all of you about my journey, and that includes admitting how far I have come.
Terrifying, right? I don’t even recognize myself in those photos, and I honestly can’t believe I allowed that person to be in control of my life. No. More.
I am beyond happy to report that as of today, I’m officially down 54 pounds since I started, and I’m finally back at my wedding day weight. I’m down from a generous size 16 to a loose size 12 (I’m *almost* to that 10 again!)
So did I succeed in my mission to lose the weight and be healthy? Absofuckinglutely. Working out with Beachbody (in-home programs available on our iPad) and finding the keto diet in May have been essential. Keto truly changed my life for the better, and it has had a tremendously positive effect on many aspects of my being.
I don’t hate how I feel in my clothes anymore, and other than having absolutely nothing that fits, I’m very happy with my progress. I still have about 5 pounds until my end goal, and then I’m going to let my body do its thing until it figures out a happy maintenance level. I’m giving myself 10/10 points. I earned every single one of them.
Bonus XP: I surpassed my goal by 4 pounds, avoided all Halloween candy, AND managed to log my food almost every day in the last year.
Mission Objective: Clear the mental crap. BE POSITIVE!
Depression and anxiety continue to be a daily struggle. I don’t expect them to ever go away, but I’ve learned over the last year that controlling it requires consistent work. Because I refuse to revisit meds, I have to use alternative methods to fix my mood. I struggle with deep empathy, and my sponge-like persona makes it tough to be around any negativity or despair without imitation. However, I knew two things would help:
1) Losing weight.
2) Finding therapeutic resources.
Meditation was awesome, but it wasn’t something I could keep up with every day. And while I am still open to it, I haven’t found a therapist option within my budget. And so surprisingly, puppy therapy has been quite helpful. I’ve really thrown myself into caring for our three dogs and providing a stable, scheduled home for everyone. We aren’t staying up all night or staying later at the bar. Instead, we’re in our home, cuddling and talking to our pups. It stabilizes my mood, relieves my stress, and helps me with any feelings of sadness. (We truly don’t deserve dogs.)
An important part to note for this though is how essential it is to include your partner. Yes, I suffer from depression, but it’s something entirely different to the spouse who doesn’t understand that struggle the same way. Markus and I have had to learn how to respond to each other during these times, and we’ve realized that we weren’t communicating in healthy ways. As part of my own improvement, I’ve taken a hard look at our marriage, and how we, as partners, can grow stronger together through improved communication. Intentionally working on our marriage (and you really do have to put in the work, guys) has helped us communicate more clearly than ever. We continue to be best friends, business partners, and husband and wife. We fight; we argue (and we’re both stubborn and passionate as ever) – but, we continue to work on US. As a result, he is happy, and I am happy. We are happy, and that has made an unbelievable difference.
I’m giving myself a 7/10 on this one, because there is always room for improvement (and a great therapist.)
Bonus XP: I completed a yoga study more for mental acuity than physical fitness, and it allowed me to finally learn how to quiet my mind and reset. This has been a tremendous gift over the last few months, and something I draw on daily.
Mission Objective: Better thyself, outside and in. BE CONFIDENT!
Confidence has come naturally with weight loss, and the amazing support of my friends. I religiously stick to my Curology skin routine, and my diet has helped my skin along the way. I get compliments on my skin for the first time in my life! Not everyone believes I am 31. There are moments when I feel completely confident and proud. I even used this new-found confidence to finally pull off a night elf for Halloween.
Now, I need to work on procuring clothing that fits my new body, and trying to honor the work I have done, rather than hiding behind the “inner Shamedrea” that has ruled over my self-identity for so many decades.
I’ll give myself an 8/10, because I still feel uncomfortable with compliments and attention, but I’m actively working on it.
Bonus XP: I feel confident enough to go without makeup 1-2 days a week.
Mission Objective: Get things together. BE ORGANIZED!
Well, it’s a year later, and we are still a mess. <laugh> But in January, I started on the adventure that is KonMari. The Japanese art of tidying has been a blessing for our lives, but it’s a process that is so involved. We’ve plowed through three of the five categories, and I’m proud that we are sticking with the areas we’ve completed. Thanks to the process, we’ve organized a lot more of our house, and we were able to get rid of nearly 40 bags of STUFF. Did I mention we aren’t even done yet?
More often than not, I know where things reside, and we even have a “battery command center.” (It’s the little things.) So while my progress has been much slower than I intended, it IS progress, and I still manage to keep a clean kitchen on a daily basis. I’m giving myself 8/10 for this category, because I knock out the dishes every morning, but I need to actively attack more categories.
Bonus XP: I have organized all of our papers into ONE file box. Every. Single. Paper. In. My. House. I am insanely proud of that fact, and that we have maintained that level of organization.
Mission Objective: Exercise your talents. BE CREATIVE!
Over the last year, I haven’t been as creative as I would like. I never finished my Dragon Age parody, and I haven’t created any lasting artwork or props. I’ve mostly thrown myself into my work creating thematic menu items and events for our customers. Because my job requires so much creativity, I find that I am just mentally wiped and want to sit down to play Stardew Valley or Hearthstone.
But, the point of this isn’t to beat myself up. It’s a celebration, right? We pulled off some fantastic events in the last year at work, and I am particularly proud of our Fallout-inspired New Year’s Eve event, and my Mass Effect: Andromeda menu.
Now, as I work on November and December’s themes, I find that I am actually exercising more of my creativity than I realize. So while personal projects are in a slight holding pattern, my right brain is in full flexing mode for the business side of life.
I think this warrants a 9/10, because while I haven’t made long strides personally, I have themed out nearly 50 events in the process.
Bonus XP: I started writing songs in my head again!
Mission Score: 42 / 50
They say there are no coincidences, so I suppose it means something that my final score is the answer to everything in the universe! It is insane to think that a year is finally up, but I cannot believe what I have achieved in that time. I am so thankful to my friend for inspiring this movement, and for all of you who have supported me through hugs, online messages, or simply keeping up with my nutritional needs.
I can say with 100% confidence that the Pathfinder Initiative has saved my life. It’s glaringly obvious when I look back through my entries here. I am so much healthier and happier because of it. It’s also allowed me to prioritize what needs work, and to continue working toward a better existence. So please, if you’re thinking of starting something like this, just do it! It was so hard to get going, and I almost quit in the spring, but I would never take back this year of change. It has been whole-heartedly worth all of the frustration and hard work. Start today. I’m here to help. We can all be Pathfinders together.