This blog is going to be more personal than my regular entries. I strongly believe that everyone obtains their motivation and drive for fitness from some source: social media, friends, family, a specific event, competitions, etc. Today I’m am going to discuss what made me take health & fitness so seriously.
To be honest, this was my sister’s idea. It is an inexplicably tough topic for me to write about. It was something that my family struggled to discuss for a long time, and thus it almost felt taboo to mention. It still kind of feels that way. Over time I realized that talking about it with those close to me has helped to ease the emotional burden, so maybe it is now time to go a little more public.
My family is chaotic in the best way possible. My parents were high school sweethearts and remain married now while in their early fifties. They are farmers, so there are always various animals around our house (cats, dogs, cows, pigs even… for a minute – that turned out to be not so great a venture). Our family get-together’s are usually spurr of the moment, & we generally fire up the grill, eat, and crack open a cold one. It took a long time for me to notice that something was, for lack of a better word, weird. I would come over for our cook outs, and there would be food in the cabinets that was WAY past expired. There was a lot more food in the back corners that was even further past expired. We laughed and told my mom that she really needed to clean out her cabinets!
Fast-forward to 2012(ish). I was wrapping up my junior year at a university. My boyfriend (now husband – Ace) began to really get into lifting and working out. He had always been a highly active person, and I think he was looking for something to fill the void that sports had left in his life. I saw the changes Ace made, & he inspired me to join him. Ace will always be my very first inspiration to get into the gym, & he will always be my number one supporter. We kept lifting and working out until I noticed some changes in myself as well. I enjoyed it. We enjoyed it.
I kept up with working out and lifting. It was fun. I tried to stay consistent, but I also didn’t hesitate to go out and have a good time each weekend. On weekends I went home, my dad began to express some concerns. My mom would leave to go grocery shopping and get lost. She’d be gone for hours and call my dad in panic. We were worried, of course, but wondered if she wasn’t just stressed or something along those lines. After all, she was only in her late 40s. What the hell else could it be? We were soothed.
Well… to skip the depressing details, things never got better. My mom is now 54 and she suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s; a prognosis that happens to roughly 5% of people who develop this disease total. According to Mayo Clinic, that is roughly 200,000 in 4 million. She is now at the point where she needs help with all everyday tasks. My dad hired the nicest woman to come take care of her during the day because she absolutely cannot be left alone. She takes a shit ton of medication that does absolutely nothing to deter the progression. She had to watch this disease slowly kill her own mother (at a much older age, however), & now my siblings & I have to do the same.
At first, I refused to accept it. My family has never been the hug-touchy-feely kind. We didn’t talk about it. We just did what needed to be done. We recognized that our lives were about to go through a drastic change. My dad became a completely different person – in a good way. My mom trusts no one else more, not even now. I can tell. Just a few weeks ago she came across an old picture of him and said, “he looks so nice.” Yeah.. I cried a bit.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve cried f*cking rivers. The worst part about this is how much you hate telling people because there is nothing for them to say. It isn’t like any other sickness. There is no “I hope she gets better!” That is not even a damn option. The pain, misery, and depression I feel about this is something I would not wish on ANYONE. For a long time, I had no idea how to cope. Hell… I still don’t.
You want to know what has helped me keep my sanity? Going to the gym. I’m not kidding. It has been a total godsend, & not in a “I’m hiding from my problems by throwing myself at the gym with every ounce of my being” way.. Okay maybe a little bit. Either way, it is more along the lines of being stuck in a rut of not being able to get out of bed because you can’t MOVE. The sadness and despair feels like it is crushing you, but you can’t miss your workout kind of way. So I drag my ass out of bed, throw on a hat, and move some weight around.
My mom always worked really, really hard to maintain her body as she got older. Sometimes it wasn’t in the best way (diet pills, etc.), but she put a lot of emphasis on it. I’d like to think that she would be proud of me for devoting myself to something so thoroughly. I’d like to think that she’d enjoy talking to me about the gym and asking me for advice or ideas. Maybe that is totally wrong; I’ll never know, but it is definitely a fantasy I like to entertain.
The reason I wrote this is tri-fold.
1: My sister suggested it. I struggled with accepting it because, as I said before, it has always felt almost inappropriate to discuss with anyone outside of family. However, I’m approaching this as my final step of acceptance. By telling anyone who reads this, I am truly admitting what is happening. I think that talking about it will help me to feel better.
2: I started this blog to inspire & motivate others to live a healthy lifestyle. If you are going through something awful, try turning to the gym. Try putting your health (and sometimes yourself) first. You might be surprised or impressed by the positive impact it can have. They also say that one of the only known ways to *hopefully* prevent or slow down the progression of Alz lies in diet & exercise. I am a firm believer that proper diet & exercise can help to prevent or slow down a lot of health issues.
3: Sometimes life is just freaking terrible. I read a quote on the back of a book recently & I’ve never read something that resonated so strongly. The author Mark Manson wrote, “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are f*cked up and we have to live with it.” My life has been & continues to be all kinds of messed up because of Alzheimer’s. Hiding it, being broken, and refusing to discuss it has done nothing for me. I’ve decided it’s time to live with it, and the gym is helping me to accomplish just that.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more or donate to help end ALZ, please visit the links below.