How My Health Crisis Became an Identity Crisis

How My Health Crisis Became an Identity Crisis

My blog has been sitting here collecting dust because I don’t know who I am anymore.

Let me explain.

Just over two years ago, when I decided to try Whole30 to lose the weight I gained on antidepressants, I had no idea what I was in store for. Making positive, conscious choices about food had a major ripple effect, and I started making positive, conscious choices about my life. They snowballed, and today, I am a completely different person than I was in 2014.

Here are just a handful of things that are different:

Dinner in 2014: frozen pizza, takeout, or pasta.
Dinner today: I cook 98% of my own food, and grow a ton of it in my garden.

Medications in 2014: Lamictal, Lexapro, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Xanax.
Medications today: Zero. But if you need a turmeric hookup, I’m your girl.

Thoughts about natural health in 2014: WTF is gluten? Seems like a huge marketing scam. So obnoxious.
Thoughts about natural health today: Obsessed.

A good night in 2014: Going out to eat and drinking a bottle of wine on the couch
A good night today: Cooking dinner at home and sipping LaCroix in the backyard.

Money consciousness in 2014: Eh, put it on the credit card.
Money consciousness today: I’m a budgeting freak and I have a goal to pay off all of our consumer debt by the end of this year.

Mindset in 2014: I am a victim of my terrible childhood and all of the shitty things that continually happen to me.
Mindset today: I am the only one who has the power to make my life awesome, and I’m hell-bent on doing so, even when it is hard. I am not a prisoner of my past.

I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the picture.

If this seems self-righteous, whatever — I am proud of all the incredibly hard work I’ve done. If I seem like a major control-freak who never has any fun, it’s actually the opposite. I have more freedom, more fun, and way more satisfaction now that my choices are deliberate.

But with this massive amount of growth, I’ve experienced massive growing pains:

  • I am no longer fulfilled by my day job, but I’m not 100% sure of my next steps
  • Many people in my life don’t get me anymore, and this makes me feel alone
  • My environment doesn’t always support my values, and I often feel incredibly out of place
  • I feel like I lead a double life: I have a nasty habit of hiding many parts of my “new” self to avoid ridicule (especially in “real life”)

Even with my healthier, more positive mindset, this day-to-day dissonance wears on me and makes me question myself. I am, most definitely, in “The Space Between Stories,” which Charles Eisenstein and Lissa Rankin write about beautifully:

“Many of us are in this space between stories right now, when you feel lost, ungrounded, dislocated, as if your roots have been pulled up and you’re not quite sure where to land. Everything you thought you knew — about yourself and the world — is now in question.”

I’ll admit it: There are some days when I look in the mirror, reflect on all my progress, and think, “Who the hell am I? How did all of this happen so fast? Why does change feel so difficult? What am I supposed to do now?”

My positive mindset is something that I have to actively cultivate and work on every single day, because it does not come naturally to me. To clarify, this is much different than the bottom-of-the-barrel depression and anxiety I used to experience. This is old-fashioned, existential noise — the bullshit that we all deal with, whether we’ve had “official” mental health diagnoses or not.

Like most people, I’ve spent the majority of my life believing the thoughts I started feeding myself as a kid: You are not good enough. People have bad intentions. Everyone always leaves. The world is not safe. Every day I untangle them and rewrite them, bit by bit.

These days, I feel more excited (and more confused) about my life than I ever have.

I have made tremendous progress, but stepping into what I feel is the true, unfiltered version of myself has been scary. And exhilarating. It’s taken all of my lady balls.

Here is the explanation for all of my recent silence: Lately, I’ve been falling into an old pattern — when I feel uncertain and I’m processing things, I get very, very quiet. Hence my pretty-much-ignored blog and social pages.

While we’re on that note — social media, and the Internet in general, has a way of exacerbating all of these issues for me. The image-crafting. The perfectly curated feeds of pretty plates and bright workout pants and green smoothies. Memes about hustling. Memes about not hustling. Highlight reels. Vacations. Tiny glimpses into peoples’ lives that probably represent 1/50th of their reality. And yet that’s all we see, so it feels like the full picture.

Wow, your life is so perfect. Must be nice to have everything figured out.

Note: My posts are highlight reels, too. In no way do I think I’m immune to any of this; I just think it’s something that people should talk about more, so that we don’t feel like losers for not being sponsored by REI to go on perpetual adventures all over the world (though, if that’s what you’re doing, high five. I’m only snarky ‘cause I’m jealous, duh).

Even though I know deep down that you never get the full picture on social media, my wormy little brain likes to convince me otherwise, leading to thoughts like this:

  • Your life is unsexy and boring. You sit in a cubicle all day. You don’t have anything worth sharing.
  • You shouldn’t work on a blog or a brand or try to help people until you’re absolutely sure of the direction you want to go in.
  • How can you position yourself as a go-to resource for nutrition and mental health when you still struggle with sadness and self-doubt?

I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the picture.

Recently, within the last week or so, I’ve snapped out of this nasty funk and I have a new fire. I attribute a lot of it to the Post-Recovery Coaching work I am doing with Sarah Ramsden (if this post resonates with you, go check out her site, stat). I attribute some of it to the simple passage of time. I also attribute it to a renewed commitment to work on mindset every single day, and right now, that means listening to this audio book and this audio book over and over again during my commute.

But back to my silence. I’ve realized that my oldest, nastiest, gnarliest pattern is silencing my truth so that I won’t:

  • be seen, ridiculed, or rejected
  • make other people uncomfortable
  • have to deal with the uncertainty of change

I do this in tiny ways and huge ways, all the time:

  • I try not to make a fuss when I’m ordering at restaurants so that I don’t embarrass other people
  • I sometimes go to church with my family, even though I am not religious, because I don’t want them to be uncomfortable
  • I constantly feel the need to justify and explain my choices
  • I keep my thoughts to myself (which is sometimes smart, but more often detrimental)
  • I don’t publish blog ideas that I have in my head

And you know what?


Elizabeth Gilbert Quote
This quote is here as a reminder for myself, but maybe you will like it, too. Credit to my friend @happybodyfood for this post on Instagram, which kicked me in the ass a couple weeks ago. And of course to Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote it.

And on that note …

  • Maybe the answer to all the fakeness is just putting myself out there and not being fake
  • Maybe the way to gain clarity about who I am and what I want is to just figure it out as I go, messy as it may be
  • Maybe the fact that I’m still struggling makes me more relatable than someone who “has it all figured out”
  • Maybe the way to see more of what I want in the world is to BE more of what I want in the world

I don’t know exactly what direction I’m going in, but I’m tired of standing still.

The deeper I dive into nutrition and root-cause resolution, the more I realize it isn’t always about the food (and a lot of times, it’s not about the food at all). The title of the book that forever changed my life, It Starts with Food, is beginning to make sense in ways it never has.

I will always be devoted to quality, ethically sourced, nutrient-dense food. I will always be a nutrition nerd. I don’t think optimal health — mental or physical — is possible without optimal nutrition. That’s not changing.

But lately, my brain is going to different places, and considering more perspectives: the power of mindset, limiting negative beliefs, the mind-body connection, serendipity, spirituality, intuition, etc. The onion is peeling back, folks. If it makes you cry, please do yourself a favor and Unfollow Friday me. No hard feelings.

From now on, you can expect to hear a lot more from me. I don’t know exactly what direction this website — or my future — will take, but it’s not just going to sit here, dammit. I’m not going to sit here, either.

Thanks for sticking around. I love all of you.

25 Responses to How My Health Crisis Became an Identity Crisis

  1. There are no accidents. The Universe is always at work. Going thru so many of the same things right now and then this fucking brilliant, amazing, eye-opening, profound post! Wow wow wow!!!!

  2. You have to idea how much this resonates with me. Social media is a major source of self doubt and agony for me on a regular basis, when it’s supposed to be about sharing with friends and keeping connections. So happy to have reconnected with you via Instagram and so happy to know I’ll be hearing more of your story. I miss you!

    • I’m so happy you randomly stumbled across me one day! Social media is a nasty, double-edged sword. On the one hand, I’ve met some really cool, inspiring people and I’m able to share my message with other people who get it. On the other, well, it’s a death trap for comparison.

      I read some of your awesome blog today, and it sounds like we’re both on the same page regarding career uncertainty. I totally get THAT, too! Let’s just keep following our little hearts and see what happens. Miss you, too. Wish we could go buy produce together or hang out at the botanic garden!

  3. I’m so proud of your commitment to yourself Holly. SO proud. Your honesty will be an inspiration to many, no matter the direction you take. It’s an honour to be your coach and see you take responsibility for your growth!

  4. Oh my GAWWWWWWD do I ever relate to all of the above! Growth and change is hella scary and frustrating and weird, but finally feeling aligned and in tune with yourself is the best reward there is 🙂 You’re doing awesome!!

    P.S. David’ Bowie’s “Changes” is on the radio as I write this. How’s that for a sign?!

  5. Holly you are inspiring me right now! Great way to just get out there…congrats on you restarting and developing yourself and your future!

  6. Holly! I only just found your blog today 9-21-2016) and I LOVE it! The way you write and share your thoughts resonates well with me. I feel almost like I’m “talking” with a kindred spirit. Thank you for sharing!
    Our journeys are different with some similarities.
    I found your blog after googling (because that’s a verb now…) ” what we eat and depression” ….it was there amidst others.
    I have been feeling unmotivated, tired, and now achy and have a sweet 4 month old to care for …adopted and a dream come true for me at the young age of 40. 😉 and I want very much to change my habits to be stronger physically and mentally for her and for myself. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you had a very hard beginning, and I’m proud of you for owning your “now”. I need to own my “now” too.

    • Hi Brennan,

      Thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. Congrats on the new baby girl — that’s so amazing and special. I know it’s very common for the stress of new motherhood to cause these sorts of issues (even if she is not your biological daughter). What’s great is that you’ve already found your WHY — it’s her! Now, when you are working on creating healthier habits, you can always have her smiling sweetly at you in the back of your mind. Best of luck to you, and I know you can do anything you set your mind to.


  7. I just found your blog and it inspired me to start Whole30. I love this post because it shows that nothing is a miracle, fix everything thing. It is very real and I appreciate you sharing that. Fingers crossed for the next 20 days. 🙂

    • Hi Mallory,

      Thank you! I am wishing you all the best with Whole30! It’s a fantastic program. And yes, I do like to keep it real around here. 🙂

  8. I found your blog through Empowered Sustenance. Thank you for your beautiful posts! Discovering Paleo has been a big part of the healing shifts I’ve also experienced in the last few years, and it’s very helpful to read what you’ve shared. I would also like to share these two audiobooks that I listen to on my commute 🙂 Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth,” which you might enjoy, too. Best wishes to you, and thank you again for your posts.

  9. Hell yes! Freaking love this! I am finally getting around to poking around your blog after I discovered you from Empowered Sustanence – I kind of did this all backwards, i.e. consultation first, then reading your blog, lol.

    This situation sounds a lot like mine – I have even neglected the majority of my relationships because I’m surround by people who “revere their own religion/opinions while condemning others’.” (is that how you put it?) I’m not a fake person but I’d rather not initiate conflict by statement my opposing opinion which will be attacked (no matter how respectful I am about THEIR opinion). This has left me in relative isolation, realizing I need to make new friends that hold similar beliefs. I’m happy for you and this post has helped me realize that I want/need to do something similar. Tou are an amazing spirit and inspiration!

      • Good to hear from you, Nicole! I’m happy this post resonated with you. Thanks for your kind words. Whether it’s crappy food or crappy people, there’s nothing wrong with pressing the “BYE FELICIA” button, or at the very least, keeping your distance until the next obligatory holiday rolls around.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story and your new life with us
    You are blessed!

    I would like to know who helped you tapered from antidepressants?

    Thank you

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