Goodbye to the Fruit Stand

I only have time for a short post today, but I couldn’t let the day pass without marking its significance in some way.

Today is a big day. Today marks the end of an era, the end of my last ties to the era of ED. Today is my last day at the “Fruit Stand.”

About two and a half years ago, I left New York City. I quit theatre. I purposely missed a Missed Connection. I got a job at a gym and let ED rock me to sleep at night. I planned to compete in a figure competition, and I lived a life in counted calories and panic attacks.

And then I got a job.

A job that was only supposed to hold me over while I tried to heal from ED. But the job I got became so much more. And it opened the doors to recovery in ways I never could have imagined.

I got a job at one of the best companies in the world, albeit a retail job in a store at the mall in my hometown. It was the same store that sold me my very first computer in the 10th grade, the “Super Sexy Mac.” It was a small, busy, crazy, store that became my home.

And the moment I found that home–and the people who became my family–was the moment that I saw a glimmer of a life without ED.

My first year at the Fruit Stand was full of victories and defeats. I learned how to learn on the fly and deal with ambiguity. I went from a first time retail employee to a Mentor (facilitating new hire & ongoing training and building a strong team of trainers to support the store and the market) to an Expert (in the top 25% of sales in the market). I made some incredible friends and started getting excited to leave the house again. I stayed out all night listening to punk bands play covers of the Spice Girls or singing karaoke with my coworkers. I moved into a beautiful little house. I stopped bodybuilding and started eating vegan. Things were not perfect, but, for a time,things were good.

Yes, I lost friends. Yes, I struggled to keep my work/life balance. Yes, I injured my ankle. Yes, I let veganism become a code-word for ED.

But from every dark cloud there comes the clichéd silver lining, and I have the Fruit Stand, in part, to thank for it.

When I visited my mom in California, I happened to visit all of the Fruit Stands in the area. Most were large and busy, and most of the employees with whom I spoke had only a few moments for a smile and a nod and a “welcome!” since they were in the middle of a major product launch.

But when I visited the Fruit Stand nearest to my mother’s house,the smallest Fruit Stand in the company, one of the managers invited me into the back of house, where I spent nearly twenty minutes with the employees who were on break or working on projects. I will never forget that moment–one of the employees showed me a video of the morning of the product launch; one of the employees talked to me about her experience with new hire training; one of the employees said, “You should come and work here.”

And I did.

I moved to California, away from my first home and into a second.

No, my job wasn’t perfect. No, life wasn’t aways sunshine and rainbows. No, I didn’t ultimately decide that retail was the perfect career for me.

But the skills that I gained, the friends that I made, the experiences and the growth that I’ve had…for all of that and more, I will be eternally grateful.

I am grateful for these last two years. I am grateful for every customer who shared his story with me. I am grateful for the managers who came to work loving their jobs every day. I am grateful for the too-small back of house and the chance to develop my business acumen and management skills while dodging merchandise and squeezing around boxes. I am grateful for the Mentor team and the Business team and the Expert team for teaching me to teach myself to grow. I’m even grateful for the weeks I spent learning how to do customer service over the phone (and for the advice my grandmother gave me: at the end of the day, you get to hang up, but the person on the other line still has to live with himself). I am grateful for the set backs, the frustration, and the stress. I am grateful for being pushed past my limits on a daily basis. I am grateful for every single person who influenced my life (in ways both good and bad), because they have helped me get to the place where I am today.

I am grateful for the Fruit Stand.

But now it’s time to move on.

Next time you see me, I’ll be a corporate copywriter, reporting to the VP of Marketing at an incredible start up in San Francisco.

Today is a hello and a goodbye, and I’m ready to turn one ending into a brand new, bright beginning.

– K.

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A Sunday Health Update…and a BIG Announcement!

Gosh, it feels weird to blog again!

 

It’s not as though I haven’t been writing…I just haven’t been writing anything for myself. I suppose it’s both a blessing and a curse to have so many exciting freelance projects up in the air all at once.

 

Before I finish my calories in/calories out series, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experience in the last few weeks in dealing with rehab, stress, sickness, and change, since it’s part of my story, and, well, why not?

 

REHAB

 

So, as many of you who know me in the real world know by now, I’ve been back at the retail store for a week and a half. I’m only working part time hours because of my ankle, but in those part time hours, I only get one break and spend the rest of the time in shoes and on my feet. I’ve done surprisingly well, although there have been moments (read: hours) during which I’ve done semi-barefoot.

 

Kick Ass Take Names and Flowers

A very thoughtful “Happy First Day At Work” gift from a very thoughtful someone….

The funny thing is, there’s nothing structurally wrong with my ankle anymore, but for the fact that it’s weak as hell and has severely limited functional range of motion. The pain persists in two forms: the same dull ache that drove me to the operating room in the first place, and acute electric shocks resulting from even the slightest touch to the skin (a condition called allodynia, where pain occurs from an otherwise non-painful stimulus.)

 

It’s the allodynia that makes me feel a little insane…for example, I’m performing in Les Mis in a few short weeks, and we performed “One Day More” at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday night. Due to some parking issues (because that’s so unlike California, right?), I and the woman with whom I’d car pooled, had only five minutes to make it from the parking garage on the other side of the complex, through the massive, packed, standing-room-only crowd, and to the tree. I had no problem ducking, weaving, and speed walking (when it was possible) through the crowd, but the fact that I was wearing boots that touched the side of my leg while I stood to sing made me want to cry.

 

Les Miserables Rehearsal Boys on the Barricade Children's Musical Theater

Rehearsing the barricades

My physical therapist is getting aggressive with the treatment, since I won’t be able to see him after November 30th. (Details on why in a moment.) He’s been trying to help me desensitize the area…we started by just lightly brushing it with a tissue, but by the end of my last session, he had some scary, silver, ridged tool out and was basically digging it into my scar for a good 10 minutes. Apparently the fascia is ridiculously tight, and that may be causing some of the pulling on the scar, which causes the nerve pain. I sat there and took it, but there may or may not have been tears.

 

All that to say: we’re not there yet, but we’ll get there. I just have to be more aggressive with my own treatment. I even kept my shoes on through my whole shift on Friday…(Although I’ve been paying for it with random shooting pains in my foot and ankle all weekend…)

 

SICKNESS & STRESS

Besides the physical stress, I’ve been dealing with the kind of emotional and work-related stress that I haven’t seen since I went on disability over five months ago. (Hard to believe it’s been that long…)

 

I have been incredibly fortunate to take on several freelance writing projects–from public relations, to marketing, to social media and brand management, to copywriting/editing an ebook. I’ve even written a 120-question reading and writing drill for a test prep company. (I now have a new-found respect for the good people who write the SAT. If you think it’s easy to write those boring reading comprehension passages, I can assure you, from firsthand experience, it most assuredly is not. It’s a seriously intense undertaking.)

 

Unfortunately, however, I haven’t just been sitting at my adorable little neighborhood Starbucks and lounging about all day while writing, as I had been able to do while blogging all summer. Not only am I back at work for four hours each day, but I’m also in rehearsal for four hours each night and six hours on the weekends. Moreover, I’ve actually been more social than usual (and more about that in a later post as well).

 

Frida the Chihuahua with her foot on my computer, forcing me to take a break

Frida says, “Take a break, Mom. Let’s go for a walk!”

In other words: my sleep has been a little limited. Most days, I’m up by six or six-thirty, at Starbucks to write by seven-thirty, at work by nine-fifteen, and in physical therapy or back at Starbucks until rehearsal at six. I get out at ten, and then if I go out afterward, I’m usually up until one, before I repeat the process again. It’s a little stressful, both mentally and physically, to say the least. Especially since I’m used to going to bed by eight, and not having anywhere important to go or anything important to do.

 

Between the lack of sleep and the stress of writing deadlines, my poor little immune system has been compromised. And so, after five months of perfect health, I went back to work in the petri dish retail store and immediately got sick.

 

I’ve been congested and coughing all week, so that hasn’t helped my ability to function much. I’ve avoided the gym, because I know that I just need to rest my body instead of adding another extra stress, but that does add a little bit of mental stress (once a chronic exercise addict, always a chronic exercise addict–I’m still learning how to handle the cravings to work out…). I just want to get better, but I know that it’s going to be difficult until I can cut some of the extra stress out of my life.

 

But that being said, I’m kind of grateful for having gotten sick. I know that sounds crazy, but let me explain:

 

Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodward and Resting Dog

Frida knows how to handle an addiction to perfection: Get more rest!

I have always just allowed stress to happen. I’ve always said “yes” when asked to do a project. I’ve always taken on immense guilt for saying “no” to friends who want to go out when I’m exhausted. I’ve always overextended myself, because I hate to be bored, because I hate to feel unproductive, because I hate to feel like I’m missing something.

 

And this was, in some ways, very instructive for me. I got the chance to see how much I could handle before my body and my brain just had to tell me “no.” This awful sinus thing is my reminder that I can’t be Super Woman. It’s my reminder that wanting to do everything and being able to do everything are two entirely different things.

 

While I’m continuing to freelance, I’m only working on one (and a half) project(s) right now. While I’m continuing to work at the retail store, I’m only doing so part time, and not stressing about my job while I’m home (a first for me!). While I’m continuing to do the musical, I think this will be my last one for a while. I’ve made my peace, and I’m ready to have some down time.

 

CHANGE

 

But that being said…I do have a big announcement. A very, very big announcement. A very, very big, life-changing announcement:

 

I’ve put in my two weeks notice at the retail store.

 

I have gotten a job at a startup in San Francisco. It’s my dream job: In-house Journalist/Copywriter/Copy Editor. I’m in charge of all of the written content and reporting to the VP of Marketing.

 

My life is about to change in so many ways. And now I’m going to be better prepared to handle it. Because I know my limitations, and I know my strengths. I’m scared to death, but I’m excited as hell.

 

This is definitely a good week for giving thanks–because I have so much to be thankful for.

 

So…here goes nothing…

 

Happy Sunday, y’all.

 

– K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Promised Land

It's time to take a risk, sweetheart; city skyline at night; quote

 

So, it’s not really nutrition or fitness related, but I thought I’d share the news, since it’s definitely more than a tiny baby step:

I’m going to Israel.

Why? Well, here’s the thing: I am Jewish by birth, the granddaughter or Holocaust survivors on one side, niece to an incredible rabbi on the other, a cultural Jew whose religious education stopped after Shabbat during pre-K at the JCC.

I still can’t say I’m a religious person, but I am working on reconnecting with my culture and my spirituality.

I’m also turning 26 next month.

What does that have to do with anything? One word: birthright.

If you are born Jewish and have not been to Israel, you’re actually entitled to a 10 day trip to Israel before the end of your 27th year. I’ve never been to Israel and my 27th year starts on Black Friday.*

I had never considered actually going on birthright, but something struck me this past summer. I want so badly to feel a connection to something, to learn about a piece of myself and my history. To maybe find something I didn’t know was lost.

So I filled out the application and put down the deposit…and now I’m going to Israel.

It won’t be until January, so I still have to make it through the musical and the holiday season, but my trip will be the light at the end of the holiday-season-in-retail tunnel.

I’m nervous–10 days with strangers, in a country on the other side of the world, where no one knows that I am fighting my one-day-at-a-time battle with ED, where there will be no excuses for squandering my time due to social anxiety.

At the same time, I’m really excited for the challenge and the experience.

Man, this is gonna be surreal.

– K.

 

*You can tell I work in retail, huh?

New Challenges

Despite the heat of the dog days, August ushered in a much more tolerable end to an intolerable summer. Although my ankle was still sore, my relationship with my body was still impaired, and I had not yet gotten a promotion, the stars started to align for healing in all of these areas. Or so it seemed, anyway.

In August I was asked to co-facilitate my first new hire training seminar. I had, in the past, been invited to mentor new hires, but I had never been able to directly influence their learning (and their induction to the kool-aid culture) as I would facilitating. It was a huge honor–made grander by the fact that I was asked to facilitate by my mentor. If he had the confidence in me to handle such a huge responsibility, then I knew I could muster the confidence in myself. I was beside myself with excitement, especially because I really do love that company, and I was getting paid to spend three days doing nothing but sharing that love with others. It was pretty much a win-win.

The seminar itself was a smashing success. No, I wasn’t perfect–and yes, I still had a lot to learn as a facilitator. However: what I did learn–about facilitation, about myself, about learning styles, and the like–was hugely important to me, and I was happy to use my mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

My torn sports bra was an unsettling reminder that I was still heavier than I wanted to be.

I was ready to grow. I needed to grow. The summer had been, if anything, a chance for me to start seeing how the seeds of ED had been sown among the seeds of my success, and I was ready to start pulling the weeds. Or so I thought, anyway.

At the seminar, my mentor (who knew I was a fan of yoga*) suggested that I try a 30-day challenge at our Bikram yoga center. For the uninitiated, Bikram yoga is a style of Hatha yoga as created by Bikram Choudhury.  Unlike your typical gym yoga class, which might rotate sequences of postures, all Bikram classes consist of the same 26 postures performed for the same amount of time every single class. Also unlike your typical gym yoga class, Bikram yoga is performed in 105 degree heat, with 40% humidity. It’s a little nutty, sure, but it’s an amazing experience if you can convince yourself to just stay in the room through your first class.

A 30-day challenge consists of 30 days of consistent practice. That means doing one yoga class every single day (although some studios make allowances for, you know, reality, and let you do doubles to make up the classes). I knew that it would be a little bit difficult to fit in 30 consistent days of yoga with my crazy retail schedule, but I decided to give it a try.

30-Day Challenge Sign Up

I also decided that it was time to make a change in my diet. I was still consuming my mostly-protein-powder calorie-restricted pseudo-figure-competitor diet, and I, to put it eloquently, felt like crap. I figured that yoga might help some of my physiological issues, but I wanted to feel better inside and out. That meant drastically changing my diet.

One of the MT’s good friends (who had become one of my favorite people left on earth) worked at Whole Foods and had blogged as she did the Engine 2 Diet. Engine 2 was created by a vegan firefighter (who converted his entire unit to plant-based living), and it advocates a 100% plant-based diet. After I read Engine 2 and did some research, I stumbled upon Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, which takes the plant-based living to the extreme: raw, vegan, and lots of juice.

Green Juice

So, because I can’t ever do anything halfway, I bought a juicer, threw away my whey protein powder, and invested in hemp, kale, and broccoli.

A few days after I began my vegan-and-yogi experiment, I got my promotion.

Everything seemed to be falling into place. Or so I believed, anyway.

– K.

*I’m going to do a separate post dedicated specifically to my romance with Bikram yoga, which is why I haven’t really written about it yet.

Where ED Wasn’t

The new year brought even bigger changes.

It started like this:

Even after months of working side-by-side with literally more than one hundred other employees in a fast-paced high-volume retail box, I would occasionally encounter employees whom I had never seen or interacted with. Somehow, between the increase in sales attachments and the averted tech support crises, there were people who just slipped past me unnoticed.

And then one day, I found myself in the tech support area of the back of house, begging one of our technicians to help me figure out a complex customer issue–when I noticed a technician who I had never actually spoken to. We were both waiting for our respective customer issues to be resolved, so we struck up a conversation. It came out that he was in a band, and that his band would be performing that weekend, and that I should come and check it out.

My throat closed up. I nodded a hurried, “sure,” knowing that the only thing I was sure of  was that I wasn’t going.

The following weekend, some of the employees who had been hired just a month or two after me invited me to go bowling. It was a Saturday night, and I didn’t exactly have an excuse not to go (because “I have to stay in and eat my Casein, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon Pudding” is not an excuse that most people would understand or accept). I also had another open invite to hear the technician’s band play.

Here was a multi-layered dilemma: First and foremost, ED didn’t want me to go. I would be missing a meal and potentially staying out late enough to make me miss my morning gym session. Second, I would have to go out and interact with multiple people outside of work. This was like going from talking about spiders to holding a tarantula without any of the intermediate steps.

My therapist was therefore astonished when I told her how much fun I had going bowling with my friends and then staying out until sunrise at the technician’s gig.

Something had shifted inside of me. I started going out nearly every night (after I had eaten my casein pudding, of course). I stopped hanging out with my work/gym buddy. I started having a drink or two at the band’s gigs. I pulled all-nighters and missed gym sessions. I made up for my alcoholic indiscretions* by trying to eat less, although I found myself craving sugar all the time (and since my managers would put out an economy-sized bag of LifeSavers mints at the start of each shift, I found myself reaching my hand in once or twice an hour).

At an *actual* restaurant with my cousin and sister

Hanging out with the musician-technician (henceforth MT for brevity’s sake) brought me into contact with an entirely new group of people and a range of experiences that opened up a side of me that I never believed I could possibly share.**

For several hours each day, I was free of the Monster in the Mirror: I traveled from my windowless, mirror-less retail box to the dimly-lit, mirror-less dive bars where the musician-technician played, and I was too busy having a good time to look for ED.

But he came back full-force when I actually managed to make it into the gym: My progress had, obviously, begun to stall, what with my new sleeping and eating habits. I was frustrated by my loss of strength, and so I decided that I would make up for it by lifting heavier and heavier each time I made it into the gym. (Obviously, the personal trainer inside of me was pissed that I’d ignore common sense and good gym practices, but ED didn’t give a damn about what common sense had to say at this point.)

Things finally came to a head–or, rather, a slipped disc–when I tried to Romanian deadlift about 10 lbs higher than my previous 70-80% 1RM.***

I could barely walk the next day, but I went to work anyway. And then stayed up all night with the MT and his friends. The following day can only be described as one spent in a fair amount of agony.

I knew what this meant, and the thought hurt more than my injury: I was going to have to give up the gym until I healed.

And though I wasn’t looking in the mirror when I had the thought, I knew ED was smiling, because he knew that this was his way back in.

-K.

*I didn’t have more than one or two drinks pretty much ever, and I never actually got drunk. These were “indiscretions” because they were empty calories–even a vodka and soda still comprised 100 non-nutritious calories.

**No, I didn’t do any drugs, but thanks for your concern. 🙂

**1RM stands for “one rep max,” as in the maximum amount of weight you can lift once if you are going all-out, balls-to-the-wall. You shouldn’t be able to do a second rep after that lift, hence the singularity. It’s suggested that,when you strength train, you lift about 70-80% of that maximum for multiple reps. In this particular injury’s case, I was lifting closer to my 1RM than I should have for many more reps than I should have with worse form than I should have.

Retail Therapy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Stefani Ruper’s post on Paleo for Women about doing away with our mirrors in order to promote a better self-image. I think it’s such an empowering idea (if not a little difficult)…can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have to answer to our own judgments? Ever since I read that post, I’ve had Sesame Street’s “Monster in the Mirror” Song stuck in my head. I find it kind of fitting, though, when thinking about my ED. 

“Saw a monster in the mirror when I woke up today
A monster in my mirror but I did not run away
I did not shed a tear or hide beneath my bed
Though the monster looked at me and this is what he said:

…’Do not wubba me or I will wubba you.'”

In the song, Grover wakes up and has to face a scary looking monster in his mirror–a monster who, he realizes, is actually him. And he has to learn how to sing along with the monster or else the monster will “wubba” him–sort of like how I learned how to deal with my ED. Because the stronger ED became, the scarier he was–and the harder it was to summon the strength to look at my reflection. I had to learn how to stop looking–or find a way to sing along without letting the Monster “wubba” me. And for me, that song was Retail.

“…If your mirror has a monster in it, do not shout
This kind of situation does not call for freaking out
And do nothing that you would not like to see him do
‘Cause that monster in the mirror he just might be you…”

I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t being forced into inpatient treatment now that I had found myself an effective form of retail therapy. Instead of being force-fed bagels and weight gain shakes, I supplemented my high-protein, bikini competition diet with a steady stream of metaphorical Kool-Aid.

And it’s no wonder that the Kool-Aid worked wonders: for the last several months, I had been entirely alone with my own thoughts and constantly confronted with ED, the Monster in the Mirror. Once I had a job at the mall, I was stuck for 9-plus hours in a windowless box, confronted with an endless stream of other people who had problems to solve and needs to be met. And my meal breaks were programmed into my day (each small snack eaten on a 15 or on a 30-minute or hour-long lunch), so I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t have time to eat. For the first time in a long time, I was focusing my attention outward–and like garlic to vampires, other people helped me ward off the Monster in the Mirror.

Moreover, I finally had “friends.” No, I still went home directly after my shift and panicked if I had to go out after dark, but I at least had an incredible, dynamic, amazing cast of characters to look forward to seeing each time I worked. No, I never called any of them or offered to sit with them in the food court, but I felt accepted and loved, if only for a few hours a day.

My therapist urged me to get to know these people better. She saw a breakthrough coming–and so did I. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: resist it at all costs.

With the holidays approaching, my managers started approving massive overtime, so I was working constantly. I was still a part-timer and not receiving benefits, but I needed the money, so any offer my managers made for extra hours I gladly accepted (so long as those hours did not overlap with a feeding time for which I hadn’t packed and planned).

During this time, I also started taking my fitness to a different level. I was doing serious squats and deadlifts, and turning heads at the gym with my strange-looking plyometric routines (remember, this was before box gyms started buying into the whole “functional fitness” thing and stocking their new, open, functional areas with bouncy medicine balls, battle ropes, and speed ladders). I cut way down on my cardio (mainly because I just didn’t have time, now that I had to get to work after my workout), and started picking up heavier and heavier weights.

I even ventured into the gym with one of the guys from work–my first real friend in this new life I was living. I gave him some tips on training, and we spotted each other at the squat rack. I even spent time post-workout with him–talking about nothing in particular and worrying about the future. It was liberating.

My food, however, was still a major issue.

Because I had so much less time to cook (and because working a retail schedule meant unpredictable hours, all of which spent away from a source of healthy, non-mall food), I started to rely more and more heavily on egg whites and protein powders. In fact, my entire diet became based on combinations of egg whites and protein powders. I learned ways to mix in oatmeal, apples, berries, cottage cheese, peanut or almond butter and massive quantities of stevia, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in order to provide enough variety for six meals per day.* Sure, I still had my boiled chicken and dry turkey breasts with defrosted stir-fry vegetables, but those taste sensations didn’t stop me from craving my protein-powder-and-baby-food puddings. Yes, I ate baby food. I was hitting nutritional rock bottom.

My body started giving out on me during my workouts, and I was showing up at work with an impinged shoulder or a pulled hamstring.

I pushed through these “minor” injuries, and continued working out. Since the store wasn’t open all night and my shifts couldn’t last forever, working out was all I had to keep the Monster in the Mirror at bay.

ED couldn’t follow me to work, but he damn sure tried.

-K.

*I think some of these recipes are actually better than the crap that I actually shoved down my throat, but here’s an idea of things people actually do instead of eating real food : “20 Delicious Protein Powder Recipes That Are Not Shakes“+

+”Delicious” is disputable, although I suppose it’s a subjective thing; anything is probably delicious when you haven’t eaten anything but plain chicken for six months. And if you add enough fake sugar, well, then anything is possible.

Fitness Models Don’t Drink Kool-Aid

It’s difficult to adequately describe the absolute physiological and mental agony of anxiety if you’ve never experienced an attack; however, suffice it to say that I suffered from the throat-closing, chest-crushing, dizzy/nauseous symptoms* from the moment I got the email inviting me to interview for my retail job to the moment I met the store leader.

I was fortunate to, for whatever reason, completely circumvent the entire hiring process and just meet with the store leader at the mall directly. (Normally, the company makes you go through several rounds of group interviews over several days at a hiring event.) I spoke with her for about half an hour, and, rather than invite me back to meet with a second manager another day, she pulled a manager and had me interview with him right then and there. Two days later, I came back to meet with the head of our market, and by the following day had an invitation to come in and fill out my paperwork.

I was both delighted and devastated.

Here I was, technological know-nothing with no sales experience and an eating disorder keeping me prisoner in my own house. How was I going to function as a high-volume sales rep–and, more importantly, how was I going to continue my eating habits while working retail hours?** (Not to mention the fact that I had gone from 21-year-old high school teaching rock star to 23-year-old part-time retail employee who had completely failed to live up to her prep school’s Ivy League expectations.)

I wanted to die.

The good news (?) was, if I continued on my “health” trajectory, I was going to.

Sure, I could do pull ups, but it looked like my arms were going to break while I did them.

A visit to the physician brought me some disturbing news: I was 112 lbs and severly underweight. I had dropped below 15% body fat (somewhere around 12%), and was testing positive for osteopenia, bradycardia, and secondary amenorrhea. That meant I was at risk and on track for osteoporosis, heart failure, and an early menopause. In other words, I had turned myself into an old woman. Death couldn’t be that far away.

I’ll admit that scared me.

Unfulfilled threats of suicide are one thing, but complete and impending physical failure are quite another.

Shredded abs…and not enough body fat for healthy reproductive function.

I didn’t know what to do, so I did the only thing I could: go to work.

And work, my friends, is what saved me.

On the morning that I left for the first of my three days of corporate employee training, I told my mom to kill me if I came home having drunk the “Kool-Aid.” She didn’t kill me, but I drank that metaphorical Kool-Aid with the fervor of a three-year-old on a sugar binge. There was something absolutely compelling–a sense of purpose and a company culture of openness and forward-motion, perhaps–that made me feel almost high every time I clocked in.

It turns out, I was very good at retail. And being good at something was fun. Although I was still freaked out about downing my whey-protein-cottage-cheese-and-spinach shakes on time, the very act of working at my new job calmed some of the anxiety. I felt needed. I felt useful. I felt okay for the first time in months.

And though I had the opportunity to train to become a staff personal trainer at the gym where I still worked three days per week, I quit. I wanted to commit to my new Kool-Aid job and work my way toward a full time position as quickly as I could. I never wanted to leave.***

-K.

*These are the same symptoms that led my pediatrician to misdiagnose me with asthma in the 6th grade. I’ll touch on the issue with anxiety in another post, I’m sure.

**I tweeted about my concerns (as whimsically Millennial as that sounds), and I was answered by one of the fitness models and pro figure competitors who I followed. Apparently she had done the retail/fitness thing, and had lived to tell the tale. While her answer wasn’t a complete panacea, it certainly did a little to alleviate my immediate concerns. I mean, if she could do it, then why couldn’t I?

*** On the days I worked, I hated sitting at home and waiting to put on my uniform, so I’d leave early and wait outside of the store until I could go in. In fact, I used to show up at the mall on my days off just so I could say, “hi,” and make sure that the store was still functioning without me. After a few months of this, one of my managers actually yelled at me to go home when I showed up unscheduled on a Saturday.