The dreaded swimsuit

Since I’d gained weight, I don’t dress according to the weather. I dress to hide my body, to dissimulate the fat, to cover the shame.

Therefore, in the middle of summer, when the sun is high and temperature are rising, you’ll find me in full-length pants with three layers of clothes on top.

Am I crazy to do that? Perhaps. Sadistic? Maybe. Sweaty?

You bet I am.

I’ve been so used to this way of living – being physically uncomfortable as soon as I wasn’t in a room blasting the AC – that I somehow convinced myself that the discomfort was worth it.

But in the past few weeks, something changed in me. I don’t exactly know how it happened, but it all became clear when I was at a friend’s house, three weeks ago.

She and I had planned to spend a day with her 2 years old son and my nephew. Not the kind of day where you spend hours in the house, but rather a day where you enjoy summertime by eating corn on the cob and swimming.


An activity I’d successfully avoided in the past 2 or 3 years… Needless to say, I got nervous just thinking about it. But I knew I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to enjoy my day with these people. I just didn’t know if I was willing to sacrifice my well-being again.

So I was left with 2 choices: either do what I did the last time I was invited at my friend’s house – aka watch everyone have fun as I sit at the edge of the pool, pants rolled up, legs barely in the water – or actually enjoy the day and not let my complexes get the better of me. With that thought in mind, I decided to bring my swimsuit. But boy oh boy, did it bring out my anxiety.

I got anxious the night before when I tried it on and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I was anxious from the minute I put it into my bag to the moment I get it out of it. I was anxious that morning when I was in my friend’s bathroom and had to get undressed. I was realllllly anxious when I had to walk from the bathroom to the pool, trying to somehow hide my thighs and legs with my beach towel. But then… Then I got into the pool and it was gone. GONE!

My anxiety had finally given way to happiness.

I had so much fun swimming with the boys, jumping from the diving board and splashing my legs around. And you know what? I spent most of the afternoon in my swimsuit, in and out of the pool, not caring about what I looked like. It felt good. No, no. Scratch that.

It felt great.

I even told my friend about how relieved I felt and how proud of myself I was. I honestly think that it was a huge step that I took that day. And today, as the cold weather starts to settle in and as my usual getup of pants and sweaters slowly becomes the season’s norm again, here I am, already thinking of next summer.

And let me tell you… When the heat wave will come knocking on our doors in 2020, my dreaded swimsuit will be no more.

The weight of guilt

“You’re not here for me anymore.”

“You’ve changed.”

“Why are you there for them but not for me?”

Self-care, when you’re on the brink of depression, is no joke. Especially if you’re a people-pleaser.

At the end of 2016, I was trying so hard to keep my head above water. I was in total denial of my emotions, to say the least, and was trying as hard as I could to keep my facade of a generous and helpful woman, always there for others.

But it was not an easy task.

I was so angry. Angry at the world, angry at people, angry at myself… And I was sad. I remember crying at night and not even knowing why I was crying that much. Months went by and I knew, deep down, that I was dangerously rubbing shoulder with my old friend, depression. Yet, there I was, still trying to comfort and find solutions for others because I thought their problems were so much bigger and important than mine were.

So I found myself in a place where I would try to solve issues that should’ve been discussed with therapists. Problems that I was not equipped to deal with. Behaviors that I didn’t know how to handle. And despite all of my good will, this was way over my head. I had to admit that I tried to bite off more than I could chew.

This is when my own therapist suggested that I distance myself with others for the sake of my health. That I focus on me instead of them for a change. And I tried…

But when you feel like you’ve been in an ocean for so long with someone who’s struggling to swim, it’s not easy to let go of their hand and then watch them from a distance, hoping that they don’t drown. Especially if they cry and scream your name once you’re out of their sight.

The first months were the worst. My unconvincing attempts to let go made me feel guilty and selfish. Memories of my best friend accusing me of letting her down during my first depression were constantly on my mind. I didn’t want to push people away. I didn’t want them to hate me. I just wanted to take care of myself and not spiral back into a second depression.

People started to notice. And they didn’t understand why I was doing it. They questioned my behavior, tried to make me change back into my old self, reminded me of how nice I was before and how I wasn’t as available anymore…

That made me feel even more guilty and selfish. I didn’t know what to do, how to act, how to process my overwhelming emotions… And that’s when the official diagnostic came: depression.


It was like a sign from my body to stop and see that I, too, needed to be cared of.

But I didn’t know how. So I ate my guilt, my sadness and my anger away. If I wasn’t able to make people understand that me distancing myself had nothing to do with them but all to do with me, then I was going to show them. So I’ve put on a physical barrier. A barrier of fat – filled with candies, chips and sorrows – was now surrounding me, protecting me from the world.

Did it work? It kind of did, but I’m not entirely sure.

One thing was clear: at that point, they could see that I was unwell and that I didn’t have the ability to help them like before. It was a fact – there was a diagnostic attached to it. Of course, it was all done unconsciously. But looking back, I know that this is what happened.

So… Did they drown? No. And I’m really grateful that they didn’t. But did the comments stopped? Nope, they didn’t. Guilt trips happened a lot back then and are still happening sometimes nowadays. A comment here, a comment there… It’s surprising how people quickly take something for granted and then kick and scream once they lose what they thought was theirs forever.

Were they allowed to be upset about my changed behavior? Of course. But was it okay to try and guilt me into thinking I was egotistical? No. I have the right to change. And I shouldn’t force myself to be a certain way in order to please others.

Yes, if you’re a people-pleaser, you want to be loved. You want to be needed. (And let me tell you, I rarely felt more needed than during that period of my life.) But when do you know you’ve reached your limit? When do you have to admit to yourself that you can’t be the savior you thought you needed to be in order to be loved? When can you start taking care of yourself a little more and not feel selfish for doing it? For me, it was when I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t “Stephanie, the generous girl who’s always there for her friends and family”.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out…

The road to recovery and self-love isn’t an easy one. It’s fraught with difficulties, mixed feelings and people who don’t always understand what you’re doing.

But I still think that this road is more pleasant than the one to depression, so this is the one I will try to stay on.

My happy misery

I met an EMDR therapist for the first time last Friday.

I decided to go see her a couple of weeks after someone told me that I was stuck in a mindset where failure was comfortable and where success was too scary to ever wanting to change… After being told that I was afraid of happiness and that being happy meant that there was too big a risk to lose said happiness since it’s happened too often in the past.

Makes you think, huh? You bet it does.

But it’s true. I’m scared sh*tless about the future and the unknown. I was so tired of being heartbroken, betrayed and belittled that somehow, somewhere, in the past 10 years, I decided that I would now play it safe. I thought… “Why try to be skinny if thinness brings shame and unwanted behaviors?” “Why try to be a writer if it equals struggles, denigration and rejections?” “Why go back to being vulnerable if it means being open to heartaches?”

It didn’t make sense to me. So I built a shield around my head and my heart. From that day on I, consciously and unconsciously, did everything in my power to stay in a life I didn’t like. I felt unhappy when I thought about it, but at least I wasn’t getting hurt like before. Crazy, right? Believe me, I tried to be happy in that fortress. I tried to change myself to the point where I would somehow be content with what I had. And I did have moments of happiness throughout the years. I even had moments of hope. I tried new things. I tried to get out of my situation…

Oftentimes, when I thought I had enough, when I thought I was ready to get out of that prison of mine, I try to get out. I attempted to eat healthier, bought business courses and self-improvement books, tried to motivate myself to get back to a life that I loved. Of course, I never succeeded. Or at least not for long. I always got back to my old habits. And after each attempt, I felt incompetent and inadequate, bringing my self-esteem to new lows every time.

But what I didn’t know then was that the battle was already lost. Deep down, I didn’t want to succeed. I wanted to stay in my comfort zone, which was failure. Because failure was safe.

What I’m realizing today is that what I thought was an inability to succeed, was actually me protecting myself from success.

I didn’t fail myself. On the contrary! I did everything I could to never broke that promise that I made with my subconscious YEARS ago. Good job, Steph! *Clap clap, round of applause* I deserve all the praise. Because if I was able to maintain that mindset for all of these years without really knowing it, I can’t imagine what will happen now that I know I’m strong enough to achieve anything I set my mind to.

I go back to see the therapist tomorrow. Will EMDR change my life? I can’t say right now. But will putting new lenses on (by telling my whole self that life is all about choices and what we want it to be) make a difference?

I sure hope it will.

Sweat and tears

I did it! I went to my yoga class.

In fact, I went to three yoga classes since my last post. Isn’t it great?

Let’s do a happy dance to celebrate.

I’m pretty proud of myself. I woke up early on my day off, drove 35 minutes to get to the studio, got there, got dressed up and stayed there the whole time. But boy oh boy was it a challenge. Both physically and mentally.

I honestly thought that the first class would be like the first one I did back in 2016. Wow was I wrong. I put on about 20 pounds since then and let me tell you, those – plus all the others – were not happy to be there.

To be fair, I wasn’t a master yogi in 2016 either. But at least I could do half a pose and pretend like I wasn’t suffering through the whole thing. But now?

The only pose I managed to do entirely was the savasana.

It wasn’t good and it made me upset. There were times where I wanted to cry, and times where I reprimanded myself for not being able to do what I was able to do not so long ago. I was having a whole discussion with myself, while being frustrated with my incapability to perform as I thought I would, which made the whole thing worse. I was going from: “you can do this/do your best” to “stupid ?!%*@#?* pose/leg/arm – how come I can’t do it anymore?!”.

Plus, I was sweating profusely – way more than what I remembered. I was sweating so much I felt like a snowman in the middle of July. Was it because of the weight gain? Was it because the class is given at a temperature that makes you feel like you’re a piece of bread grilling in a toaster? Or was it because I was dressed like the equivalent of a bear trying to go unnoticed in a room full of Sphynx cats? I guess it’s because of all of that. But since I’m nowhere near ready to show my legs in public, I continued to sweat in my full-length cotton pants and supposedly breathable bra and tank top.

So, for an hour and a half, I sweated, I swore internally and then I sweated some more.

Make you want to try bikram yoga now, huh?

Nah, but seriously, this whole process made me realize how much I put pressure on myself. Pressure to perform, pressure to be perfect and to be exactly where I used to be, instead of accepting where I am now and progress from there.

Sure, I knew this tendency of mine, but it’s in these occasions that it really shows itself more clearly to me. And I need to let go. I need to learn how to breathe and just be in these moments, instead of seeing them as a competition with myself. So I guess these yoga classes will not only allow me to work on my body but on my soul too – which is great.

Now, let’s do a savasana. We earned it.

Getting in shape

I want to get back to yoga.

I really do.

Yet, here I am… Not yoga-ing.

I can’t say why… I have a mat, the clothes for it and even a membership to a bikram center. But I never go.

Even though I think I want to go.

What happened, you may ask? Let me give you a bit of a back story.

I started doing bikram yoga in January of 2016. But in April of the same year, I fell ill, stopped going and asked the center for a suspension. In June 2018, I felt better and thought I was ready to go back so I asked for my subscription to be renewed. Weeks got by, then months, then… Yeah, you guessed it. A year later, I still haven’t set foot in that place.

In all honesty, I’m wondering if I chose bikram for the right reasons and, mostly, if it’s why I can’t seem to find the will to go back to a class. If I remember correctly, in the beginning of 2016, I had hit a new high weight-wise. I had tried the paleo lifestyle in 2015 and it had helped with some of my health issues, but I wasn’t able to maintain it long term because I felt deprived, mostly while traveling or during social events. After I caved and let my cravings get the better of me, I inevitably gained some pounds back and was feeling worse than before. Come January 2016, where I decided to try the Whole 30 program – which is even stricter than paleo. Weird, I know. But that’s the thing, I was feeling great. Like never before. Sure, I was eating the same thing over and over again – which got real boring, real fast – but my digestive system felt wonderful, I had less bloating, lost weight rather quickly and didn’t have any food cravings. It was during that month that I decided to join a bikram center, after having talked about it with a colleague who had a lot of experience with this type of yoga and who loved it.

It was challenging, but I persevered since I was pretty convinced that it was the combination of the diet and yoga that made me feel that great. For 6 weeks straight, I was feeling good physically, but mentally, things were getting harder and harder. The world around me was slowly collapsing, stress was adding up, I tried and tried to stay strong for others but at some point, I started to recognize all too well the symptoms of depression. I didn’t want to be depressed again (I’d fought so hard to beat the first one, years before), so I tried my best to act like everything was fine. But was it enough? No.

Of course not.

Sometimes, your body forces you to see things you try so hard to hide.

So, instead of going to yoga class, I stayed in bed. Instead of eating fruits and veggies, I ate potato chips and cookies. I gained weight, lost my motivation and guilt me into thinking I didn’t have the willpower it took to feel well and continue what was going so well for me, not that long before.

But it’s over now. I feel better. I’m in a place where I’m trying to retrain my brain into understanding that a new lifestyle isn’t necessarily a punishment. That we can still enjoy things while living differently than before. I’m taking small steps – sometimes way smaller than I would like – and often take steps back, but I try.

See, I started to eat better about a month ago and I’m putting less pressure on myself this time around. I see how my body feels and I adjust. I think it’s going well, for the most parts.

So, this is where yoga comes in. It would make sense to go back to classes at this moment of my life. In fact, it’s probably the perfect moment to go back. I have the time for it and I already spent the money. I just have to convince myself that no one will care that I gained weight or that I haven’t been there in a while. The first one would be the hardest. I know it. Because once I go over my fear of going back, I’m pretty sure that the apprehension will disappear.

There’s a class tomorrow. Let’s cross our fingers that I go.

Life’s jitters

It’s funny how fear work. One day you’re full of ideas, you’re dreaming about experiencing different things, you crave a new life… The next day, you start making excuses, you think you’re protecting yourself from the unknown; you even try to convince yourself of how bad these ideas were in the first place. But the thing is… It’s probably fear slowly creeping in.

I know fear.

Fear has been one of my best friends in the past 10 years or so. It accompanied me every day of every week, always by my side, never too far from my mind.

By choosing fear instead of action, I thought I was protecting myself from all the potential pain that could come my way. I built the highest walls around me and focused even more on others so that I could forget about my own needs and desires. It became a habit of mine.

But now, looking back at my behavior, I’m starting to realize that not making the things I really wanted to do or not trying new experiences because I was too afraid, was way more hurtful than actually doing those things. At that time, I thought I was becoming more independent and stronger, when in fact, I was becoming more and more isolated; trying harder and harder to fit into a mold I pertinently knew wasn’t meant for me.

Honestly, for most of my life, I felt like a square trying to fit in a society of circles. I just felt different. Like I wasn’t meant for the day to day life that most people wanted to get. And in the past years, I tried… I really tried to transform myself into a circle. But all I managed to do is become a squircle. An unhappy squircle, might I add.

So, these days, I’m trying to break up with fear, but it’s not an easy task. Fear is clingy, you know? It kind of depends on me to live, so it wants to stay close. That’s why I’m taking it slow. It’s not like it arrived in my life all at once, so I won’t try to get rid of it too quickly. I’ll try to show it how more confident I’m becoming; how I don’t let it rule my life anymore. And I guess, soon enough, it will understand that it’s no longer needed here.

It’s time for fear to give way to happiness.

I must confess

I lied.

Okay. Not LIED, lied.

But I did not tell you the entire truth about starting this blog… See, I previously said that I was ready to play, that I was all in; but the fact is: I’m scared sh*tless.

I’m scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be incompetent, boring or forgettable. Scared to be me and to be rejected for that exact same reason…

In all honesty, it would be easy to only show you the good side of me. A lot of people already do it, don’t they? Plus, I’ve done it before. I had a blog. A – relatively – popular one. A blog where I was myself, but not too much. One where I sometimes allowed myself to be upset, but not too often – and certainly not in a way that would get me a lot of unwanted attention.

And I was really appreciated for it. I didn’t stir sh*t, I didn’t complain all the time, I didn’t give time to haters… And it was fine. I liked having a blog that was drama-free. But deep down, I knew that I needed to sacrifice some parts of myself in order to seem positive and happy 98% of the time.

I didn’t show my competitive side. I don’t remember mentioning once what I disliked. I don’t think I allowed myself to share my opinion on subjects that I would clearly have discuss in my day to day life.

My followers didn’t even know my age! I was so scared to not fit in, to be too old to belong with this group of women, to not be worthy of their love and attention, that I refrained myself to tell the whole truth. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I was lying; I was just choosing carefully which truths would be known and which ones would stay hidden.

And believe me, I know a lot about hiding. Not in a pleasant “let’s play a game of hide and seek!” kind of way, but more in a tormented “I’ve been hurt so much in the past that I don’t trust anyone anymore and will find all the things I can use to hide myself from others” way.

Fun, eh?

So, yeah. I’m scared. But I want you to get to know the real me. The multifaceted Stephanie. Are you okay with that?

Oh, and by the way… I’m 36 years old.

Taking the plunge

Summer in Canada don’t last long. You wait an eternity for spring to settle in, then boom: warnings of heat wave are everywhere. But before you know it, it’s fall again and the cool weather is back for another 6 months…

As a kid, I didn’t mind mother nature’s mood swings. My sisters and I were outside most of the summer anyway, enjoying every last bit of sun. Plus, we loved to swim. It didn’t matter if the water temperature was 65° or 85°, we were in the pool for hours at a time. We would jump right into it and we knew that if the water was cold at the beginning, our bodies would adapt and we would be fine after a while.

One thing I remember from those summers is watching my parents come into the pool with us. My dad would sometimes go all-in, all at once, but my mom… It was like watching a delicate choreography come into action. She would sit on the deck, take some water into her hand and splash it onto her, one body part at a time. First, an arm. “Ohhh, it’s so cold!” Then, the other arm, followed by the front and the back of her neck, and so on. We would often encourage her to jump right in – to try and ease the process – but most of the time, she would refuse and stick with her habit. After a while, she would finally go down the steps and ready to play in the pool with us. Of course, this little ceremony was usually followed by a “it isn’t so cold after all” from her, which we all agreed to.

As an adult, I spend way less time in pools. But when I do…. Yeah. You guessed it: I do exactly like my mom used to! I feel like I’m unable to jump right in. I need to ease into it, go slow, get used to the temperature of the water. It’s like I’m afraid to go all in and realize, too late, that I had made a mistake.

But this is it. This is the problem. For years now, I’ve been too scared to take the plunge. I take so much time getting ready and mentally prepared that I end up wasting precious minutes/hours/weeks – even months (!!) before actually do the thing.

I can’t anymore.

That’s why I decided to dive right into this blog project. I might get cold for a moment, but I will adapt. And let me tell you: I’m ready to play.