Climbing the Mountains of Mental Health and Discovering Your True Identity With Katie Koniakowsky

Oh man, you guys are in for a treat today. I’ve been looking forward to this blog post for awhile and the reason why is, I had the chance to interview my beautiful friend Katie Koniakowsky last week and just know you will find wisdom and inspiration in her words.

Katie and I met on Instagram in 2018 and later that year, we had the chance to meet in person when I was visiting California. She took me to one of her favorite places, Flower Hill Promenade, where we bonded over our love for health and wellness, as well as our experiences with disordered eating and poor mental health. Of course, we had to get a photos to capture the moment.

Katie is one of the most genuine, loving people I know. Originally from Carlsbad, California, she now lives in Oceanside, California, only a few minutes from her hometown. She manages a naturopathic medicine clinic there, helping others get to the root of their health issues, while supporting their bodies with natural God-given remedies that allow for true, lasting healing.

She said, “I find my job extremely valuable because I get to participate in people’s healing and care.”

Katie also works as a health coach and is a soon-to-be meditation coach!In her free time, you can find her enjoying a beautiful sunset walk, reading, writing, or doing yoga. However, the activity to bring her the most joy is surfing. Depending on the weather, swell, and her schedule, she goes a few times a week. If you don’t know what swell means in surfing, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either. Here’s what I found on Google:

Swell is energy that has been transferred into the sea by wind. The longer and stronger the wind blows (like a hurricane) the more energy that is transferred and so larger the swell. This energy then propagates from where it is created out into the ocean, much like ripples in a pond.

I hope that if I ever make it back to California (which I’m sure I will), Katie and I can go surfing. I’m not kidding when I say her Instagram is a reflection of all the best ocean sunsets. With only a few scrolls down her feed, you will feel more at ease and comforted by her authenticity and calm presence.

However, I’m sure when Katie reads this she will remember back to the days when attaining a sense of calm seemed impossible. When I asked her about the disordered behaviors she faced with her food and body in the past, she explained how restricting what she ate in high school was a coping mechanism to deal with the stressors in her life, and with what she now knows as anxiety.

For her, food restriction soon led to body dysmorphia, more commonly know as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In short, someone with body dysmorphia isn’t able to accurately see the shape, size, and appearance of their body. What they see in the mirror doesn’t match reality and it’s common for someone struggling with this phenomenon to spend hours in front of the mirror body checking. I related to Katie when she reflected on her experiences with this:

I would look in the mirror and see the fattest, ugliest girl. I didn’t even recognize myself. The voices in my mind during this time were disgusting and ruthless. I remember being convinced I would never break free from this prison. I remember thinking, “You will deal with this for the rest of your life.” Luckily, this wasn’t true… along with all the other lies my mind told me during this time.

It’s common, while in the throes of disordered ways of thinking and living, to believe the lie you will never see a better day. I remember asking myself during my eating disorder, How am I ever supposed to enjoy life when I’m consumed by food and body thoughts 24/7? It was like the only time I’d find peace and quiet was at the end of the day, after I had crossed every “T” and dotted every “I” my eating disorder demanded of me.

Only after I had restricted my food intake and ate “perfectly” for the day.

Only after I had ran to compensate for the food I did eat.

Only after I had lost another pound.

Then I’d go to bed, wake up, and the race would start all over.

The good news of Katie’s story, my story, and the story of anyone else up against mental turmoil from an eating disorder or something similar is, there is always a better version of the story to be told; there is always a brighter and more hopeful life waiting to be lived.

For Katie, her healing journey started when she discovered the science behind nutrition. She expressed:

I became fascinated with how what we put in our bodies affects our health, and I realized what I had been doing to my body with my eating habits. Essentially, I realized the implications of my lifestyle and the potential affect it could have on my future self. I think God gave me this enlightened perspective to help dig me out of the pit I was in, mentally. From there, I began eating healthy as a practice of respecting my body and my life. What or how I ate was no longer just about me, it was about my future and my family, and my future children.

Like any journey, there were bumps in the road. Similar to restriction providing a way of escape from what she was dealing with mentally, eating healthy also became a coping mechanism for Katie because she became fixated on the nutritional content of food. Here’s how she described her way of coping and process moving past it:

I was walking a fine line between being healthy and orthorexia. After realizing this, I started to become more aware of my thoughts, my motivations and my anxiety. Awareness was a huge part of my journey. I would become aware of my behavior and my thoughts, saying to myself, You haven’t eaten in 10 hours… is it because you’re not hungry or because you’re stressed and wanting to control something to feel safe? I couldn’t ignore my own reasoning and I couldn’t hide from myself anymore.

It’s important to check in with yourself in the ways Katie has learned to. Take a minute to stop what you are doing and become aware of your heart beat. Is it slow or fast? Listen to your breath. Are you fully exhaling, or are your breaths shallow? Ask yourself, What do I need right now?

One of the favorite acronyms my therapist introduced me to is HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Although this is something me and my partner use when deciding whether or not we should be having serious conversations, it’s also a good rule of thumb for checking in with yourself and becoming aware of the present need you have before turning to an unhealthy coping device for comfort.

Awareness and maturity were two big things to help Katie continue moving forward. After facing crippling anxiety in her early to mid twenties, she could no longer use food to cope because she was at last understanding of the sneaky and disordered tactics to take over before. She said:

I had to address my anxiety head on, which led me even further along in the discovery of self love and learning how to embody my own divinity and value. This has taken years to cultivate. It’s taken a lot of acknowledging and refuting the lies I realized my mind had been telling me for a long time. It’s taken so much PRACTICE of believing who I truly am.

The practices that have been most transformational in Katie’s life are affirmations, meditations, mantras, and yoga. Self recovering from my eating disorder I can vouch for these activities as helpful—not harmful—outlets to give your energy to. In fact, I’m such a big believer of affirmations, I put together 5 of my favorites to read over yourself daily. Get them for free here.

Yoga too, has helped me tune into my body’s needs while appreciating it for everything it is—not everything it isn’t. And I promise these plugs aren’t intentional, but I just wrote an article on the healing benefits of yoga when it comes to trauma, specifically PTSD, and I’d be doing you guys a disservice if I didn’t share it. Find it here.

I loved when Katie said, “Yoga has helped by body finally feel like home.” I couldn’t agree more.

“Who or what has been most influential in your health journey?” I asked her.

My faith has definitely given me the foundation I needed to climb the mountains I’ve faced. My naturopathic doctor, who I started seeing when I was 22 has helped me SO much by giving me “permission” to treat my body with respect and care. My therapists have helped me escape the prisons in my mind and find my true self again. I am truly a testament to the fact that healing sometimes takes a village, and we need to ask for help when we are no longer able to handle life on our own.

How are you?

No really, how are you?

Are you able to handle life on your own right now?

If not, who can you turn to and ask for help from?

Katie says the single most important aspect of loving yourself is, “Believing you are worth it; your value, your dignity, and your right to be happy and healthy.” Take her advice and invest in yourself if you’re not okay because you are worth it, and I’ll continue to believe it for you until you believe it for yourself.

When we realize and believe in our true identity, our criticisms of our earthly bodies begin to fade.

Katie Koniakowsky

Katie’s favorite time of the day is morning, when she sets aside as least an hour of time for herself to wake up and get ready for the the day ahead. She described it as peaceful and being an early riser, I know exactly what she is talking about. My mornings are foundational to a good day.

If you want to see more of Katie, you can find her on Instagram (KatieKoniakowsky) or Tik Tok (@katekoni) where she shares again, beautiful sunset pictures, as well as her thoughts on healing, self-love, and intuition.

I hope you guys found this post helpful. It’s my goal to share the insight and story of another eating disorder/mental health warrior the second week of every month because I know my story won’t speak to everyone, and I think it’s important to highlight more voices than just mine because I do believe the best way we can learn is from the stories of others. There truly is so much strength in numbers.

Please share this post with anyone who might need to hear Katie’s story. I’d also love to hear any thoughts this brought up for you in the comments. I’m praying a blessed day over everyone who reads this today.

Love & light,

Carly

2 thoughts on “Climbing the Mountains of Mental Health and Discovering Your True Identity With Katie Koniakowsky

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