I share this story not to garner sympathy, but to perhaps inspire you to break out of a rut you've found yourself in and remind you you're not alone.
As most would assume, my first full Ironman was a challenging experience, but what surprised me most is that the challenge was far more emotional than physical. You can read all about it here if you are so inclined. I had poured 9 months of my life into training for this race and when it was nearly canceled, I found myself questioning whether it was worth it at all.
As I began to re-peak in my training and re-taper, I recognized how much of a hermit this social butterfly had become. Despite my outgoing personality, I have always been very comfortable with my alone time. I had always been a classic ambivert, chronically balanced on the Meyers-Briggs between Introversion and Extroversion... But for the first time I can remember in my whole life, I felt genuinely lonely. This fostered a sadness within me that I don't recall ever experiencing before. Once the "Post Ironman Blues" kicked in, these feelings intensified. I knew I had to do something to break out of this rut. So I planned a party to gather all the people I missed during training... those I had lost touch with... those I claimed not to have time for... I thought this was the solution; gather the troops and reignite my social life! I set up a facebook event and invited 100 hand-picked guests... people I missed or people I had raced or trained with, people I wanted to eject back into my life. And when the evening finally came, guess how many people turned out!
Yup! You got it, a big old goose egg. And what had felt like a rut before now felt like a canyon.
Even my patients seemed to be noticing it and trying to boost my mood. They started bringing me small gifts and thank you cards, heartfelt notes... one even looked at me with sympathy one day and said I looked like I needed a hug. Though I loved them for their wonderful intentions and it warmed me to the core to see how much they wanted their doc to be happy, I felt sad and frustrated that my feelings were becoming so large and unmanageable that I seemed unable to contain them at work. Despite my silence, the emptiness I felt was palpable. I felt guilty that I was burdening them with this energy and, instead of being a rock of support for them, they felt the need (perhaps unconsciously) to take care of me. And what started to confuse me even more about the loneliness is that it seemed to be there even in a crowd.
I noticed a pattern of emotional eating kicking in that I had not struggled with in years and I noticed myself chasing a relationship that I knew was completely wrong for me. I knew something needed to change, but I wasn't sure how... so I prayed, I journaled, I meditated, I met with my fellow NET practitioners for some work, and one day it occurred to me that if I was feeding myself without satisfaction, seeking fulfillment in vain, perhaps I needed to take a good hard look at what I was truly craving.
I had heard mention of "The Primary Foods" and did a quick google search. That seemed like a great
The Primary foods are not something you eat; they are the basic things that nourish our being: Spirituality, Career, Relationships, and Physical Activity. Since I was already training for another Ironman at the time, I knew my physical activity needed no further additions. I love what I do and patients were getting great results so I saw no need to work on my career at this time. But my connection with God and myself had fallen by the wayside. Really, most of my connections had fallen by the wayside. I looked around my life and saw such amazing people everywhere, sprouts of wonderful relationships. Some had even blossomed into beautifully intimate connections at one point. But I had failed to nurture those connections and give them the attention they needed and it was time to change that.
First, I reconnected with myself. I set up daily routines and worked on honoring my promises to myself to get enough sleep, eat nourishing food, and meditate. I practiced forgiving myself. And listening to myself. There were lots of conversations with my inner child, rediscovering what brings me true joy based on how I spent my free time in my youth. I asked myself what I *really* wanted to feel truly nourished...
And I started making a list.
I thought to myself, "Who brings something positive to my life?" And despite not having seen some of them in years, I started reaching out to these people. I started becoming a conscious creator of my social life. I decided to start becoming more selective about who I spent my time with and which events I attended. I recognized that my busy-ness had been a barrier to allowing myself to be vulnerable and really deepening those relationships. So instead of waiting for invitations to come to me, I started reaching out to the people I had lost touch with.
I started playing cards with my parents regularly, I started going to game nights with my brother and his family, I started meeting friends for lunch or dinner... And I started sharing with them that I missed them and wanted them in my life. I apologized for not making space for them in my life. And they were honored to know that I valued them so much.
It has been almost a year since I had this epiphany, and, even though it hasn't been perfect, I can say that my life feels richer for it.
And that loneliness? It wasn't so much about being with others as it was about being present for myself. I felt abandoned because I had abandoned myself. There were so many little ways I was chronically letting myself down, ignoring my needs, and failing to check in with what I truly wanted to manifest in my life. I filled my life with busy-ness, but never delved deep to discover what would truly satisfy me. Instead, I just ate a cupcake. Or 6.
This past year may have been filled with beautiful souls, but being present with that still, small voice within is what allowed me to truly cherish their company. I am certain that there is still a lot to learn, but I wanted to share this because I know that some of you are experiencing the same emptiness that I was wrestling with, and I want you to know that you can change that. Seek how you have abandoned yourself and make amends with the child within. Ask yourself what you would change in your world if you thought life could be better, and ask yourself how you can create it! I look forward to hearing about your success!