Life is challenging. When everything seems to be going great, an obstacle gets thrown in your path and everything gets turned inside out. Sometimes you find yourself stuck in this whirlpool of frustration and disappointment. When you have mental illness, an obstacle may leave you dwelling in your dark hole, feeling like your life has ended. You can’t see around the problem. It becomes huge and overwhelming.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I am dealing with a back problem. I have been working so hard at losing weight and I have come a long way. I can run further than I ever thought I could, my asthma has improved, and for the first time in a long time I went a whole winter without getting sick. I feel stronger than I have ever felt. My self-esteem is better than it has ever been. I have lost a total of twenty-two pounds.

For the longest time I thought exercise was just an annoying chore that was recommended by doctors. I read that it helped with mental illness, but I couldn’t understand how getting hot, sweaty, and breathless can make a person feel better. I wanted to lose weight for a while, but I didn’t have the willpower to keep at it until Denise.

Someone whom I love dearly harped on how I needed to lose weight. When my husband and I visited him, he would make comments on how much I was eating and lecture me about eating healthier. I felt insulted. Like he couldn’t love me for who I am. He meant well, but he went about it the wrong way. He made me feel worse about my weight and exercise.

Denise totally changed my mind about exercise and about weight loss. She helped me look at it in a positive way. With her help, I found many benefits from working out and losing weight. I found more benefits than the physical changes. I found that working out helps you release pent up emotions. Working out the body is also working out the emotions. Denise tells me when we’re running, picture the bush at the end of the road as people cheering you on. I thought of it as people cheering me on to the victory of finishing the run and the victory of reaching recovery.

Before my back injury, my self-esteem changed, coping with my bad days changed, and my viewpoint of exercise changed. I wasn’t just losing weight, I was building a new person from the outside in. I felt great and proud of myself. Then suddenly life threw an obstacle in my path. I had a back injury. My chiropractor said no more working out, but I could still walk.

I fell a little way into that hole again. I began to feel hopeless. I feared I would gain back all the weight I had lost. All this hard work I did ruined by my back. Then the injury got worse and I started physical therapy and pain killers. I have scoliosis and am used to having back problems, but they are usually resolved with a visit to my chiropractor. I knew more was wrong because I wasn’t getting better. Instead I kept getting worse.

Then one of my physical therapists said I may have a bulging disk. I began to magnify everything. She said in most cases it’s resolved by physical therapy, but I’m not most cases. I’m the one who usually has surgery. I’m probably going to be laid up with back surgery. I worked so hard to lose that twenty-two pounds to just end up gaining it all back plus more. Everything I worked for would vanish and I would go back to the fat woman being lectured by someone whom she loved.

I felt hopeless and discouraged, but Denise didn’t give up on me. She told me to keep my chin up and we made plans to walk. Then I watched her deep in thought. It was as if I could see in her head and see her mind work like a clock. I could see the gears going around moving her arms like the hands on the face of a clock. I knew she was coming up with ideas. She asked me questions and then went deep into thought.

Then Saturday she came over to walk. We went for a nice long walk until my back started getting sore. When we returned to my house, she pulled out some rubber bands with hand grips on them. We began to do exercises that would work out my biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. With each workout we did she asked me how my lower back felt. If I felt no pain, we did more reps. She kept trying new exercises until the muscles in my arms were screaming, “Denise stop torturing me.”

After our workout I felt renewed. My self-esteem was back. My mind was screaming, “I’m back! This darn injury of mine didn’t stop me.”

My obstacle no longer seemed huge. It suddenly looked like a small pebble on a smooth path. Life was no longer hopeless. I could still work out despite a probable bulging disk. I could still lose weight and build muscles in other ways. I felt strong and hopeful again. Who knows, maybe by the time by back heals, I’ll be arm wrestling my husband and winning. Maybe he’ll no longer say fleas are biting when I punch his arm.

Thanks to Denise I found a way to work around my obstacle. You can too. Life’s obstacles do not mean it’s the end of the world or that there is no hope for you. It just means you need to find a way to work around it and rise to a new challenge. Don’t give up.

If you don’t have a friend to encourage you, then look for support from deep within yourself or from your support team. Don’t look at your obstacle as a boulder you can’t get around, but as a pebble on a smooth road. A pebble you can walk around so it doesn’t get into your shoe and slow you down. Rise above your obstacle; don’t be defeated by it.

Because I have a friend who cared enough to not give up on me, I am above the hole smiling in the light.

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