Category Archives: Inspiration

Moving On Up

I’d like to start out by apologizing for my lack of posting. I know I promised a series on “How x Saved Me From My Eating Disorder”, but it somehow fell by the wayside. I spent my holiday trying to maximize my free time, and see friends who were only home for limited stays. Then, I ended up falling into a place of uncertainty about using my voice. I tend to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of girl, and when I found out that my voice had been used for harm instead of good, I chose to shut it down completely. I slowly came to my senses, and found a balance.

Since then, I’ve been working on creating a blog/website for my new holistic nutrition business. (If you’d like the link, please contact me. I don’t necessarily want to link all the personal stuff I’ve posted here to a business I’m trying to keep somewhat professional). That, plus school, plus managing a store full time, plus board-of-directoring, plus therapy, plus trying to maintain some semblance of a yoga practice and social life has left me somewhat burned out.

Today, however, I made a big decision, and I thought it should be shared:

I’m selling my Wii.

If you haven’t been reading, or don’t remember, my Wii is the only scale in my house. I figured it was safer than a “real” scale, since it takes so long to boot up (is that the phrase you tech-savvy kids are using today?) and I couldn’t bother booting up more than once a day (usually). Turns out, there is NO SUCH THING as a safe scale. I was still obsessed, and now I had an on-screen chart showing me a graph of my weight loss, and then weight gain. OH! And did I mention that a little voice tells you, after the number flashes on the screen, “That’s Underweight!” The day when it announced “That’s Normal!” nearly did me in. Standing naked on a Wii balance board, sobbing, while being stared at by a computer animated version of yourself is an experience that I don’t recommend.

So this sale marks the end of another piece of my imprisonment. Just maybe, by unchaining my leg from the scale, my heart will feel a little lighter, and my mind a little freer. Oh! And my wallet a little fatter. And you know what? I think I’m okay with not knowing. I’ll never know til I try.

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Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear, Inspiration

Today

Hello lovely friends. Today was a great day. Yoga Unite‘s fundraiser for Sheena’s Place went off beautifully. There was so much love and support from our community. The event was at Artscape Wychwood Barns, just after their weekly Farmer’s Market. Nearly every farmer/vendor we approached donated fruit, vegetables, baked goods, etc. for us to sell at the event. It was a true expression of community (and I have some local, unpasteurized honey in my cupboard now, as a result). We had massage therapists, a reiki practitioner, and a healing therapist all donate their time post-event. It was really lovely.

On my end, I ended up raising $720 in donations, and had many friends at the event supporting, as well. I had friends from groups, yoga, school, theatre school, acting life, etc. I felt very blessed. Oh, and did I mention it started to snow (very briefly) during the class? It was a scene straight out of White Christmas.

I came close, but didn’t cry. Apparently when you throw a microphone in my hand, my performer instincts still kick in to enough of a degree to keep me under control. I had many people approach me after the event to talk with me about my speech. I heard from people who had struggled with eating disorders, or just struggled with life, who could relate to things I had to say. It’s amazing how much good can come from sharing your story. We spend so much time trying to hide and pretend like everything’s fine, but we don’t realize how much the truth can help other people, let alone ourselves.

So here it is, almost as it appeared at the event today, my speech:

Wow. If you’d told me 18 months ago that I’d be standing in front of a roomful of yogis wearing head to toe spandex, well, I probably would have either laughed at you or had a mild panic attack. Or both.

18 months ago, I was told if I didn’t get help, I probably wouldn’t live out the year. After a 15 year battle with anorexia, I was at my own personal rock bottom, and I had to make the choice: was I going to fight back, or let my eating disorder win? Well, for those of you who don’t share my über-pasty Celtic heritage, the name Kelly means Warrior in Gaelic. That’s right. I’ve got a yoga pose named after me. I decided it was time for this warrior to fight.

For my whole life I’ve struggled with self-worth. Abuse and trauma from a very young age taught me that there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. I needed to be as perfect as possible to keep myself safe. It wasn’t about being thin. I mean, it was, to an extent. If you had asked me in my teenage years why I was starving myself, I would have told you it was because I JUST WANTED TO BE THIN! Now I think I have a better understanding of it.

For me, my eating disorder was about discipline and control. Having experienced so much chaos, I needed rules and restrictions to keep myself in line. It was about depriving myself, believing the eating disordered voice in my head saying “You think you deserve food? Let me remind you of all the reasons why you’re not worth it.” It was also about trying to disappear. To be invisible. To destroy what was inside by attacking my outsides, and at the same time to survive things I didn’t know how to get through any other way. I had a hell of a battle to fight.

If you’ve never tried to get help for an eating disorder in Canada, consider yourself lucky. The waiting lists here are 6 months to 2 years long. Otherwise, you’re stuck paying thousands of dollars a day for treatment. And the sad thing is, the lower your weight drops, the fewer the options available to you. By the time I was seeking help, I was down to one choice. They put me on a waiting list, and I told them I was going to try to recover on my own. They wished me luck, but told me it couldn’t be done. I set out to prove them wrong.

I had gone the hospital route twice before. The philosophy seemed to be “fatten you up and ship you out”. I always relapsed within 6 months. This time I was going to have to get creative and really do the hard work.

I found my way to Sheena’s Place. I had been stalking their website for about 6 years, but had never worked up the courage to go there. Going to my first group, I was afraid I’d be judged, as the barista had marked my Starbucks cup with the word “Skim”. Imagine being so gluttonous as to have milk in your coffee! But I got there, and found a roomful of people who were warm and accepting. These people were so intelligent, and fighting so hard against their own demons. I heard group members say things out loud that I had always figured were too shameful to voice. An eating disorder makes you feel like a freak, like nobody could possibly handle hearing the things going on inside your head. At Sheena’s Place, I wasn’t alone. For that hour and a half, I was surrounded by strong, courageous warriors who were just like me. Some of them are my friends to this day.

I also found a therapist. I had never met anyone before who had both recovered from an eating disorder herself, and seemed to be really recovered and thriving. She absolutely radiates light, and that light symbolizes hope for me. Every week I have sitting across from me an example of what I want my life to be, and proof that it is possible. I decided I wanted to be like that. I want to turn all the pain and suffering into a life that can help make recovery a little easier for someone else.

Recovery isn’t easy, though. This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. I’ve had to face demons that I had buried deep down. I’ve had to go head to head with some of my biggest fears day after day. I’ve cried, I’ve shut down completely, I’ve run the other way, and I’ve just wanted to make the pain stop. But the only way out is through. I may not be all the way through yet, but I’m walking forward, one step at a time.

18 months ago, I couldn’t imagine a life outside of my eating disordered prison, outside the cage of bones I had built. I couldn’t function in normal life. I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without wondering if I’d pass out at the top. I couldn’t touch food with my bare hands. Now, my bones are on the inside, where they belong. I have a job, I go to school, and I hang out with friends. I can not only climb many flights of stairs, but I can survive a sweaty 6 am ashtanga class, and my chaturanga gets stronger every day. I cook now, and am studying to be a holistic nutritionist specializing in eating disorder recovery.

I want to thank you all for coming today to support a cause that means so much to me. Whether you know it or not, every one of you knows someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are the leading killer among mental illnesses, and most people are suffering in silence. We need more treatment options like Sheena’s Place that offer safety, help, and hope for those who are struggling. So thank you. You’re giving hope and a second chance at life to someone who desperately needs it.

I am honoured to spend this day of my second, or maybe my thirty second chance with all of you. Namaste.

So there you have it. Thank you to everyone in the blogisphere for your love and support. Much love to you all.

 

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An Eating Disorder Parable

That’s right. Not a song title. And the use of a word that harkens back to my über-religious past.

I am SO not Jesus, but here goes.

Something happens. Or a lot of somethings happen. She decides that the only thing that will make her life liveable is walking in the desert, as far as she can go.

The sun beats down, but the blistering of her skin mirrors the pain in her heart, so she embraces it and keeps walking.

There is no water, but the burning in her throat distracts her from the thoughts tumbling through her head.

The sand is difficult to walk on, and she is soon tired, but her only option is to walk on, so on she walks.

One day, she reaches what must be the middle of the desert. Her skin is raw, her throat is parched, and she can’t keep walking: she can’t stand anymore.

She sits and weighs her options. If she keeps walking onward, her circumstances won’t change and she will likely die. She will be tormented by her reasons for walking until the end. If she decides to return to civilization, the pain of the desert will end, but she will have to face everything she’s been walking away from.

She realizes that no matter how far she walks, her problems walk right alongside her. She can’t escape them. She decides that it might be worth it, going back. Maybe if she faces her problems head on, she’ll finally be free. If it’s too much, she can always walk back into the desert.

She’s made the choice. Shouldn’t it be over now?

No. She still has a long journey to make. Her footprints in the sand have blown away, so finding her way back is difficult. Sometimes she stops. Sometimes she has to crawl. Sometimes she walks backwards, but it doesn’t help, so she turns around again. It isn’t easy. Along the way, however, she notices things she didn’t notice before when she was stuck in her head. She finds an oasis that offers shade and water. A fellow traveller offers her a canteen so she can carry water with her. The journey back is difficult, but it is made easier when she recognizes and accepts the help offered her.

She returns to civilization to face her problems. Now, she finds, she is a little stronger for her journey. Her skin is a little thicker. Her problems are still large and daunting, but she is better equipped to deal with them. Sometimes she has to take a walk in the desert to survive, but the sunburn and the thirst and the exhaustion are enough to remind her of why she turned around.

One day, she looks out on the desert and realizes she doesn’t need it anymore. She can live in civilization and deal with things that come her way. She is stronger. She is free.

Maybe not today, but someday.

 

 

 

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There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This

(Back to the song titles)

This is going to sound kind of stupid for a while, but bear with me. I hope it will make sense in the end. You know. One of those recovery metaphor things I’m so fond of. Kind of. Blah. Here goes.

As per usual, a little bit of back story is required.

I’ve always REALLY sucked at picking up choreography. Like, really really. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I focused, no matter how much I practised on the side, unless I had a night to sleep on it, I wasn’t going to remember the choreo. Didn’t matter if it was someone else’s moves or my own steps. This was just a fact of my life. It didn’t matter if I was in a somewhat normal state of eating, a somewhat restrictive state of eating, or a full-blown anorexic state of eating: no amount of food would allow me to know the choreography well enough to dance full-out at an audition.

Now, I have a pretty damned decent memory for other things. I can recall conversations from my childhood verbatim. I can remember what I wore on specific dates days, weeks, years ago. I can tell you what grade I got on my geography test when I was 12. In my nerdiest times, I can look at a playbill and tell you:

  1. Who in the cast I’ve seen in other shows
  2. What roles they played in that show, and sometimes
  3. What name they went by before they joined Equity. They call me the Musical Theatre Encyclopaedia. Nerdiest superpower ever.

This freakish memory, however, has never extended to choreography. Frustrating as hell, but that’s my life.

Or . . .

that WAS my life.

This weekend, I decided on the spur of the moment to teach a musical theatre class instead of a tap class. I haven’t danced a step of musical theatre choreography in about 18 months. I had 15 minutes to pick music, choreograph a dance, and be ready to teach. I started scrolling through my iPod (which is, conveniently, filled with showtunes) and began to panic: I don’t think I can do this. I can’t come up with something worth teaching in this little time, and there’s no way I’ll remember it once I do! Maybe I can just teach choreography I already know from a show I’ve done before . . .

I decided to make an effort. I put on a song I know and enjoy, and just started dancing. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I tweaked it, and kept adding on. By the end of the 15 minutes, I had a workable dance. It wouldn’t win a Tony award or anything, but it wasn’t basic “recital” choreography either. I started teaching, waiting for the moment when I’d forget.

I didn’t.

I taught the whole dance, and we danced it together, full out. It ended up being good enough that the studio owner filmed it for promotional use. If it had been an audition, I think I would have booked it.

I’ve been semi-noticing my memory improving in ballet these past few months, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until Saturday. I can remember choreography now.

Cool. Good for you, Kelly. But where’s the metaphor? What’s the point?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post from the blog A Life Unmeasured. She looked at the definition of “recovery”: the regaining of something taken away, or a return to a former condition. Her take on this:

“I want to create my life, not get back what I’ve lost.  I want to be more forgiving of myself, less perfectionistic, more adventurous, less cautious.  In other words, I want to let go of this idea I have that I will be “recovered” when I am like I used to be.  I can’t be that way anymore, unless I choose a life of relapse, which is what I’ve gotten in the past.”

I don’t want to go back to the life that I had before, either. That was the life that I starved to get away from. I’ve spent my entire life trying to destroy what was and put something better in its place. I’ve gone about it the wrong ways, but even now, trying to do it “for real” this time, I never really believed that my life would be anything different than it was before.

This may be a silly, small thing, the memory for dance, but it gives me hope that maybe things will be “better than ever” in other areas of my life, too.

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Yesterday

Yesterday was kind of a big day.

July 11.

7/11. (And y’all know I couldn’t care less about cheap Slurpee day)

Another year marker.

I don’t know what I thought the year would bring. I could have ended up a lot further along, I could have ended up a lot further behind. I think I expected to be a lot further along. But I’ll take what I’ve got.

Yesterday marked one year since I started eating again.

It’s a hard thing to mark for some people. Sometimes it’s a gradual change. For me, I had eaten the exact same things at the exact same times of day for a very long time. I only made changes about every 6 weeks when WGT would wear me down. They were small, inconsequential changes that nowadays I would think nothing about adding or removing from my diet, but back then they were huge. Unfortunately, they still left me in a very dangerous place, and left me losing weight every week.

I was on a waiting list to be assessed to be put on another waiting list to be admitted to an inpatient hospital program. (That’s how it works in Canada when you aren’t insanely wealthy. You wait. Sometimes you die waiting. But apparently our lives are only worth what we can pay for out of pocket. Some of us are worth a lot less than others.) I knew if I didn’t turn it around soon I’d either end up dead or in a hospital eating crap food, just getting fat. I’d done it that way before, and look where it got me.

What if I did it differently this time? What if I did it eating the foods I wanted to eat? Still seeing WGT, with whom I’d already gotten farther than any other therapist? Being able to walk around, see the friends who were still willing to put up with my shit, stay in the apartment I’d be paying rent on anyhow, not have to deal with nurses, and weigh ins, and middle of the night bed checks, and weekly bloodwork . . . What if.

So I jumped in. With the knowledge I could run away again at any time, start restricting, start exercising, start life with an eating disorder all over again, I made the leap. I sat down with WGT (who I’m sure was either shocked or in a state of “I’ll believe it when I see it”) and created a new meal plan. The new meal plan more than doubled the number of calories I’d be taking in in a day. It included foods I’d never eaten before. (Strangely enough, I learned to make quinoa from the man who is now my boss while buying it in the health food store that is now where I work). It was a marked difference, so I marked the day.

It was simultaneously relieving and terrifying. It was both bearable and complete hell. It was so much food, and yet I was SO hungry. My body wanted it, but my stomach was ripping at the seams. (That meal plan was not much more than half of what I eat now, in maintenance)

It was a Monday. That Friday I got a call from the hospital saying they could take me for an assessment the next Tuesday. Long story short, I walked in and did the assessment. They told me I was too sick, that I’d never recover on my own, and they’d put me on the waiting list for inpatient, as my weight was too low for day patient. By the time they called me with a place, my weight was at day patient level, and I politely declined.

I ran away many times. My weight went up and down. When I wasn’t restricting, my weight maintained a steady climb, and I gained the exact same number of pounds every week. I was convinced it would never stop. It did. I’ve been maintaining in pretty much the same 3 lb range since January.

I’m doing it, and I’m doing it my way. Sure, if I had done it in the hospital, I’d have conquered many more of my fear foods by now. They’re not easy to tackle alone. Yesterday, however, to celebrate my one year, a friend and I went out and got veggie burgers. It’s more of a “stigma” fear than an ingredient fear, but a fear nonetheless. You know what? It wasn’t so good. It was made of chick peas, and it was like eating a bun sandwiched between . . . a bun. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never eat a veggie burger again. I’m kind of excited to figure out what kind of veggie burger I like, and maybe make my own.

I may not be over all my food issues, but I have such a different relationship with food. I actually touch it now. I cook it. I talk about it. I’m surrounded by it all day every day. I write a blog about it at work (one of my posts was recently cited in by an online magazine as a reference). I’m going back to school to study it. Food is a part of my life.

So, yesterday may be the marker for a year, it feels like the marker for a new life. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve got a different way of getting there. And I hold onto the hope that it’s better on the other side.

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I Just Wanna Dance

This weekend, in addition to being Canada Day (and Jazz Fest, and some big soccer game, and, I’m told, a Rib Fest), is Toronto Pride. In solidarity, I dedicate this video to all my LGBT friends, and anyone who is struggling for acceptance in a far-too-often far-too-cruel world.

This video was created for some Pride celebration somewhere, in some year, and has made its way around the world, gay bar to gay bar, musical theatre student to musical theatre student, many times over. The song “I Just Wanna Dance” comes from Jerry Springer: The Opera. If you are offended by coarse language, well, I can’t imagine you’d still be reading my blog, but there is some coarse language in the song. If there are young’uns in your house, put on some headphones. There are some good lyrics in there, too.

And just fucking dance.

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Step . . . In Time

Today I bring you a metaphor, a video, a laugh, and an “awwwwww”.

Meet Hamlet. Hamlet is a mini pig. Best name for a pig ever. Hamlet has a goal: to eat his favorite food, oatmeal. Hamlet has an obstacle: fear. Fear of stairs, specifically.

I know, right?

Hamlet’s stair battle reminds me of fighting an eating disorder. He’s decided he wants the food. There are a lot of steps between him and his goal. He takes the first step then changes his mind. He runs away. His desire for the oatmeal wins out. He takes another step. And another. He hangs out on each step a little while, making sure he’s comfortable, working up his courage for the next one. The more steps he takes, the easier it gets. He’s taken many steps and succeeded, so he knows he can take another. Finally, he’s close enough to take that flying leap. Now, normally my misophonia makes me absolutely insane when I hear “mouth noises”, but COME ON! Is there anything better than a mini pig blissfully eating his well-earned oatmeal? Not much.

Except maybe finally enjoying your own oatmeal once you’ve gotten past the fear.

Is this metaphor a bit of a stretch? Maybe. But did the video brighten your day a little? I’d bet my steel cut oats on it.

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