health

[AUDIO BLOG] Tough Love

Posted in audio, health on September 7th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on [AUDIO BLOG] Tough Love

[ Listen to this post. ↗ ]

Today I want to talk to you about self-acceptance and self-loathing. Now, I’m not an expert by any means, and I can only relate my personal experience as an able-bodied person. But this is still something I think will ring true for a lot of people — and you may find helpful. I understand that everyone has their own mental and physical capabilities. I dug myself out from a very dark place, and I want to share how I did it with you. I believe the crucial combination of self-acceptance, truthful self-awareness — on your own or with a therapist — and regularly, purposefully pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is the key to unlocking your potential. Speak gently, but practice tough love.

My mother started reading storybooks to me almost as soon as I was born, so I basically taught myself to read and write before I even started school. Great, right? Well kind of. My parents’ expectations were so high for me that I was often severely punished for falling short of them, in many ways that my younger two siblings never were. Verbal debasement, screaming, and harsh “whippings” taught me to fear my parents’ judgement, silence my opinions, and that love is something you have to earn — like a trophy. Be smarter, be more talented, be thinner, be prettier. Whoa now, honey, we expect only the best from you, but don’t think too highly of yourself either! That’s not healthy attachment, and the older I got, those learned attitudes began to influence my budding adult relationships. At one point, I spent months of my freshmen year of high school grounded for getting Cs in a geometry class. Instead of figuring out the reason I was getting bad grades and addressing that, I was isolated from the few friends I had, and withdrew into my dark internal world even further. Later I figured out on my own that one reason I was struggling in class and having trouble concentrating, was because at the time I needed glasses. But a childhood of incidents like that, and the damage was done.

Most of my life, I have lived with an undercurrent of self-loathing and never feeling good enough. I was always the weird kid — neither popular or bullied, existing in a category no one really knew how to deal with. Sometimes picked on, but mostly avoided. It’s that weird girl. She draws stuff. In sixth grade, mini proto-Jin was already hustling to sell my hand-drawn bookmarks to my classmates. Growing up, my primary source of self-loathing was my body. My whole family struggled with food, weight, and emotional eating. Self-hating fat parents frequently reminding their self-hating fat daughter that she is, in fact, fat. My lack of self-esteem caused me to hurt other people by staying in friendships and relationships that weren’t right for me, some actively harmful, because I was afraid of being alone and doing the HARD WORK on myself to build empathy and forge true connections with other people. The failure of bad relationships caused me to hate myself even MORE, until I eventually ate my way to almost 180lbs and imminent health problems because eating was how I learned to cope with negative emotions. I ate because I felt bad, and I felt worse because I ate. It is a vicious, self-defeating, and self-destructive cycle, true of alcohol, drugs, food, and other vices. I also wasted years of my young life binge watching television, playing video games like Minecraft, and basically doing everything I could to avoid my buried feelings and reality.

It was not until I stripped away all the layers of self-loathing and started to accept and love myself, including my flaws and mistakes, that the rest of my life started to improve. You can’t build a house on a rotten foundation.

In recent times we have started to see a lot on the Internet about self-care. Self-care is important, but it isn’t all comfort foods, bubble baths, and Netflix. Self-care has to come from a place of self-love, and sometimes that self-love needs to be TOUGH LOVE. I want to encourage you to challenge yourself. If, like me, you struggle with something as simple as keeping your apartment clean, make a resolve to clean five minutes a day. Then ten. Then fifteen. The thing you want to build here is momentum! Write it on your calendar. Slap a smiley-face sticker on there! Put it in a form that enables you to visually see your progress, and motivates you to not break the pattern. Allow yourself to take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small. Over time, those tiny accomplishments add up to the ability to do bigger things. The important part is being proud of what you’ve done, but always pushing yourself a little more. Small changes — adding up — are how we change our world.

Love your body. Big, small, tall, short, tight, lumpy, it’s yours. And it’s the only one you’ve got. Loving your body also means TOUGH LOVE. Find exercise you enjoy, whether that’s biking, running, lifting weights, swimming, or even just dancing in your chair if that’s all you can do. Get yourself moving! It’s good for your body, your heart, your brain, and your soul. Again, momentum is key here. Those first steps on the walking trail or into the gym, are the hardest. Celebrate your milestones and let them propel you forward.

I’m not asking you to become a goal-fueled obsessive like I am — I know my brain was broken in a weird way that allows me to hyperfocus on things. But I am asking you to start loving yourself, and to let go of the distractions and negativity and self-loathing that may be holding you back from growth. Live your best life. Accept yourself as a flawed human, as are we all, then commit to becoming the best version of yourself you can be. Find your passions and cultivate the things that grow your confidence and your self-esteem. Do not just consume, create something! Life is too short to waste away in the dark places. Seek professional help if needed, and move at the pace that is right for you. Just — for fuck’s sake — move. Do things because they are hard.

In short, I am asking you to stop fuckin’ around.

My weight loss transformation!

Posted in health on August 23rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on My weight loss transformation!

My ex-mother-in-law, at my request, provided me with some photos recently. During the period where I went “offline” from about 2008 through 2014, I did not allow anyone but her to photograph me for family functions. It occurred to me that it is one thing to talk about accomplishments, but until now I had not provided any hard evidence. So, here it is! The “before” pictures are from approximately 2012 to 2013 — not quite at my heaviest. I would eventually weigh in at 178-179lbs and only 5’2″ tall. My knees hurt. My feet hurt.

Weight Loss Transformation

I struggled with my weight nearly all of my life, but it became a great problem as my depression worsened. Cooking and eating were the only two activities that really brought me any pleasure. Towards the end of 2014, when I finally acknowledged how unhappy I was, I barely recognized myself anymore. Not wanting to throw away my health and continue on living like that, I started eating 1200/cal and exercising an hour on my home elliptical machine almost every day. By May of 2015 and my preliminary trip to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, I had lost 50lbs. I stayed between 130-135lbs until the beginning of 2018.

Weight Loss Transformation

At the beginning of this year, I started a ketogenic diet, eating very low-carb, with emphasis on quality proteins and vegetables. Using that method, I lost the remaining 20lbs and knocked-out one “bucket list” goal of wearing two jumpsuits that had not fit me since 2003. Since reaching my goal and starting to lift weights, I have reincorporated some complex carbs into my diet. I don’t binge eat anymore, and when I do find myself feeling compelled to eat for emotional reasons, I stop and try to address the real problem instead.

Weight Loss Transformation

That’s it! Now I am on to my gym-venture and the next step in my evolution. I am pushing my limits mentally, physically, creatively, in every way I can. Who knows where it will take me next? I am looking forward to finding out!

shoo shoo gains goblins

Posted in health on August 15th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on shoo shoo gains goblins

So this happened.

About 70lbs lost, and now it's time to gain some of it back in strength! This is only my second workout. My atrophied, wet-noodle artist's arms and legs can't handle much yet. I can't squat more than the bar, and can't get very low. But hey, ya gotta start somewhere. 🏋️‍♀️ Excited to make a comparison video after a few months of hard work! Thanks again whoever it was that gifted me the gloves years and years ago. 💌 . Going on 39 years old! Never too late!!! . . . . . #jinwicked #gym #gymmotivation #gyms #gymfit #gymrat #gymrats #gymlifestyle #gymtime💪 #gymday #gymgirl #gymgirls #squat #squats #squatrack #squatting #squatgirl #squatgirls #fitness #fitnesslife #fitnessmotivation #fitnessgirl #fitnessgoals #health #exercise #weights #lift #lifting #girlswholift #womenwholift

A post shared by Jin Wicked (@jin_wicked) on

And yes, I am aware I am not doing it correctly, but there is not much weight there, and since then I have been practicing at home to improve my form. My answer to everything is now squats. At the gym, or my body weight at home. Bad mood? Squats. Can’t sleep? Squats. Want to eat a carton of ice cream? Squats. Need a break from drawing? Squats. If life wants to throw me shade, then at least my ass can look glorious as I walk away with two middle fingers in the air. So far, I am loving it, and I cannot wait to see what my body looks and feels like after six and twelve months of going to the gym religiously. This is what I have been searching for and failed to find with my multiple attempts in the past to get into shape. Right environment, right help, right spirit. I am learning from a very generous and experienced friend, since I cannot afford a personal trainer. Monitoring and tweaking my diet is next. Eat all the eggs!

Lately I have been reading about the nuances between helping, supporting, and enabling — both on the receiving and giving ends — for various reasons. Breaking free from my co-dependent relationships and enablers was a huge step in my personal journey and finding my autonomy. I ran across this chart, and had to give myself a little pat on the back. Since moving up from Texas, I have changed from a neurotic, living embodiment of the right-hand column, to quite comfortably and wholly on the left. This happened through intense self-examination, my new personal experiences, and as odd as it sounds, reading lots of advice solicited for other peoples’ real-life relationship scenarios. Turns out that other people’s disasters can be quite enlightening when it comes to what is, and isn’t, appropriate or tolerable. So I figured out how to navigate personal relationships and resolve conflicts in a constructive way, unlike the examples set by my parents or how I was largely treated growing up.

Healthy Relationships

Having a spine is pretty great. You know what else you need a spine for?

That’s right. Doing squats.

Three Years

Posted in general, health on July 23rd, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Three Years

Three years.

Almost three years ago, I packed up my entire life, and moved to Minnesota. I chose to sacrifice never having to work a “day job” again, financial security, food and housing security, medical security, the American Dream middle-class lifestyle, and almost everything else I knew. I chose to sacrifice these things because, after years of depression and accomplishing nothing, I woke up one morning and no longer recognized myself in the mirror. I had to act.

Three years later, I have lost almost 70lbs and am finally happy with my body. I have a healthier relationship with food, having mostly eliminated emotional, procrastination, and boredom-fueled eating. I eat more vegetables, little junk food, and sweets very sparingly. I do not consume alcohol, and I try to drink at least 1L of plain water per day. I stay active, and I enjoy exercise. I am in the process of starting to weight train, because maintaining muscle mass and keeping bones strong is one of the few proven methods to delay the effects of aging. And I want to be active, healthy, productive, and strong for as long as possible, so I can accomplish all of the things that I wish to do.

Three years later, I have learned so much about myself. I have sorted out the things I enjoy for myself from the things I participated in or pretended to like to fit in with others. I loathe television, and have very little interest in movies, and most passive media. I have rediscovered the pleasures of reading. I feel like a giant sponge, ready to absorb all the information and new experiences that I can. I am getting outdoors and experiencing nature regularly. Watching and learning about sports! I am educating myself about the history of comics and the comic book industry. Art, comics, dance, music, photography, cooking, writing, podcasts, videos, fashion — I have so many outlets to be creative in whatever way suits me in any given moment. Not enough time in this life.

Three years later, I am confident, and secure. I recognize the patterns of my old relationships, and where my failings and shortcomings have existed, in an objective and self-accepting way. I do my best to break the cycle when I feel myself retreating into damaging behaviours or coping mechanisms. My eyes are open to my weaknesses, and what I still need to work on, but I am also healthy enough to see where my issues end, and other people’s begin. I will not allow other people to define me. I do not need to blame or beat myself up for everything. I know how my life experiences have affected me and how to avoid the pitfalls and traps I have fallen into previously.

Three years later, I have learned how much I live for the hustle. Embrace the struggle. I thrive on challenge, and if I do not have challenge, I need to find it. The struggle is character. The struggle is growth. I do not like being too comfortable. Comfort is stagnation is death. Comfortable is an adjective best applied to beds and chairs, and not much else. If I have a problem, solve it. If I can’t do something, figure out how. If it’s not good enough, try harder next time. Practice mindfulness in the moment, but push my limits going forward. I like feeling a little hungry. I like feeling a little sore. I like feeling a little raw. I like feeling alive. If it doesn’t add to my quality of life significantly, if it doesn’t further my dream, if it’s holding me back, if it’s dragging me down, if it’s not helping me grow as a person — I probably don’t want it.

I watched my mom die of cancer at 59. I was her daytime care-giver for the last few months of her life. Only my father and her doctors knew her decline and slow death more intimately than I did. The agony, the madness, and the suffering as she slowly wasted away. I looked into her eyes as she pleaded with me for her life, days before the end, in the hospital, begging to go back home; terrified, her twisted and emaciated body barely able to sustain life. I looked into her eyes — and I saw myself. Growing up, she would sometimes wistfully tell me how much she loved to draw as a little girl. She gave it up as she got older, she said. I don’t know how much, or if, she regretted that.

My father killed himself a few years after my mother’s death. He never really learned to live without my mother, never sought out any kind of counseling or professional help, and allowed his relationship with a woman younger than me to ruin what remained of his life. My belief is the combination of financial devastation and grief is what ultimately led him to suicide. He was an honest, good, and hard-working, but angry and repressed man. Some of my earliest memories are of being chased and screamed at by him, a huge hulking mass of red face and muscles, towering over this three- or four-year-old girl. Being held down, being whipped across my bare back and legs with a large leather belt. I learned to please. I learned to hide myself. I learned to fear.

Thirty-eight years to find my anger. Thirty-eight years to find my spine.

Three years to find myself. Three years to learn my own strength.

I have made so many sacrifices for this.

No regrets.

Normal

Posted in health on November 20th, 2017 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Normal

Updates! Life continues its gradual but consistent improvement. For the first time I feel, I think, what one would consider “normal” in a mental sense. And I know that “normal” is mostly illusory. Recently I discovered the relationship between my long-standing anxiety issues and creative thinking. My pea brain is almost constantly leaping from idea to idea, conclusion to conclusion, and making — to outside observers — sometimes random connections. While that makes for interesting, multi-layered symbolism in my creative output, it is not so helpful when dealing with other humans. While my brain has not stopped running constant models of everything like a computer plotting out moves on a chess board, I have developed the ability to tune it out and react only to real-life stimuli. The practical result of this has been much more stable mood and healthier boundaries. Other people’s moods do not affect my own nearly so much, and I am better able to focus. I am also much better at recognizing when another person is trying to manipulate me, emotionally or otherwise, and then refuse to take the bait or be lead into confrontations. Though I am tired from pushing myself on so many fronts, my anxiety and stress levels are almost non-existent. I would be hesitant indeed to describe myself as having an anxiety disorder any more. I feel, realistically, pretty good about myself.

This has also helped me be more objective about both my own mistakes, and things that have been done to me. I am coming to terms with how my child-hood and teenage years shaped my early relationships, and what changes need(ed) to be made to finally make meaningful and lasting connections. This is to be explored in my unofficially-launched new project, Queen of Assholes, a biography about how everyone is basically terrible, and my personal journey to healing and redemption. That will include depictions of both emotional and physical abuse, though nothing overly graphic. I want to illustrate both how the abuse is viewed through the eyes of the person being abused, and the subsequent ways in which it affected my life. If this causes even one person to reconsider before striking or screaming at their children, it will be a net win for me. Eventually, as my career progresses, I would like to tie this into more general advocacy for adoption/fostering children, and against child abuse.

An old friend and colleague of mine recently attempted to kill himself. Though his reasons had nothing to do with me, it did force me to acknowledge that I have neglected our friendship, and that I have not been available for him like I should have. We are hanging out on a regular basis now, and he is keeping me updated about the details of his recovery. This combined with my father’s suicide last year have that issue also prominently on my radar — in particular men’s mental health, because of the ways that society still stigmatizes men who embrace their emotions or show too much vulnerability as weak.

It requires courage and strength to engage in a sincere self-examination and self-criticism — not self-flagellation and self-loathing, mind — and admit that something needs to change, and that you may need help. There is absolutely no shame in doing what is needed for you to live a healthy, fulfilling life. That may come in the form of counseling, therapy, medication, spirituality, writing, or something else entirely. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Recognize your self-destructive and self-defeating habits. Feed your mind affirming thoughts the same way that you feed your body the right nutrition. It is possible to get better, if you are willing to do the work. There are truly circumstances beyond our control in life, of course, but so much of our suffering is self-inflicted and self-perpetuated. Why make a hard life even harder by hurting yourself?

Once in a while, I glance over at my ex-husband’s Facebook page. Watching the person he has become in my absence has only driven home how different we are, and how little we had in common. That is only an indictment of myself for pursuing someone who was not a well-fitted match for me, to avoid being alone and confronting my damage to grow up. Though to be honest, I am not certain that I am a well-fitted match for anyone. A workaholic who is happiest in near-silence or with the low crackle of an AM radio, I have minimal interest in the television and movies that everyone else seems to live for. Not a value judgement — I would rather be creating or reading, myself. I prefer a simple life and have been shedding most of my inessential belongings and objects I have no sentimental attachment to. I missed making music and I am picking it up again — mandolin and violin — along with the French I took in high school. I would like to get back to the gym regularly once the holidays are over. Most of the time I would like to do my work in solitude. My ex-husband complained about the long hours I spent sequestered in my office. Thus far Stephen has been accepting of my unusual needs, but I worry about potential feelings of abandonment or resentment over time. We do have a strong emotional bond and are a fine example of two people growing together instead of apart.

I have created an audio version of this — my blog, where I publicly dissect my most intimate thoughts and inner-mechanics of my head — and where, over the last three years, I have DIY-therapy’ed myself into a functional, relatively healthy human being. I guess the definition of “normal” can only be stretched so far. Time to return to the pages of my comic books.