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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Kaila always writes so eloquently, and this is a big piece I’m working on right now. Connection is hard in any context. One of my favorite Kaila quotes: “Other people can’t validate your existence, but they can enrich it”

In My Skinny Genes

Before I talk anymore about the calorie myth, I just want to take a brief second to talk about a recovery–and life tool–that has become really important in my life recently.

In fact, I think it might be the single most important tool I’ve discovered–more so than nutrition, fitness, and even therapy or program.

Connection.

ED (or disordered thinking in general) grows strongest when we disconnect from other people. ED loves to sit in your head and wait for the quiet moments to start playing the negative self-talk record on repeat. ED knows that the longer you obsess about your own self and body, the less you’ll be open to letting anyone else in–and then ED has you all to himself.

I have always been the quiet kid who preferred to isolate. I used to get sick to get out of going to sleepover parties with my girlfriends in elementary…

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A Little More on Saturday . . .

Hello BlogFriends,

Thank you all for your support and kindness leading up to Saturday’s big event. My speech is written, and I’m not freaking out TOO much. Not sure I can get through it without crying, but I don’t know if that’s so overwhelmingly important. The important thing is getting the word out about Sheena’s Place, and representing those who are fighting against eating disorders the way I’d want to be represented.

Today at work I had a woman “come out” to me about her history with an eating disorder after reading the poster for the event. I think by making noise about it, we’re making it okay for people to make noise about their own stories. Be anything but quiet, yes?

So that’s my little rant for today. I’ll appreciate any good vibes you want to send my way on Saturday. If you can make it out, please do. Here are the links to register, to donate to my cause – at $448, just $52 away from my goal (let me know if you’ve donated, and I’ll get you a tax receipt), and to check out our newest feature, the SILENT AUCTION! You don’t have to be at the event to bid; it’s all happening online.

Thank you again for being my support system. There are some of you who I’ve never even met in real life, yet who mean so much to me. It’s all about building a community. We’re stronger together than alone.

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The Music And The Mirror

I should be doing school work. Just thought I should get that out of the way. This balance of school plus work plus event prep plus yoga plus sanity . . . well, it’s teetering. I’ve got a lot of health stuff to figure out, too. Holding onto the light at the end of the tunnel . . .

Anyhow, even with all of this going on, it feels like something is missing. I’m sure a lot of things are missing, but there’s one thing I’ve been able to pin down.

I’ve never been good at expressing my emotions, and I’m still not very good at it. I’m currently battling with my brain over many things, but this week’s focus is dissociation. I’ve recently realized that I spend most of my life “not really there”. It’s easier that way, it keeps me detached, and feeling safe. It also keeps me disconnected from the rest of the world, which leads to a lot of loneliness. Trying to break that pattern is really hard. It’s exhausting trying to “stay in”, and my brain goes places I don’t want it to. It’s also picked up a new trick or two to keep me away. Sneaky bastard.

But in terms of expression, the only way I’ve ever been able to come close is through music. Dancing is a great expressive outlet, but I’m too focused on technique to fully let go. Singing, I can pretend to be someone else, and using someone else’s words, tell the world my darkest secrets. I miss it. I haven’t really sung for about 18 months now, since “retiring” from musical theatre.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself singing when I close the store (it’s the only place I have where nobody can hear me). While my deteriorating vocal technique stresses me out, the ability to belt at the top of my lungs feels amazing. I’m not a sobber, I’m not a yeller. I’m not good at attaching sound to emotion, but in singing, I do what I can’t do anywhere else.

Sometimes I wish I lived in a musical. Therapy would be so much easier if I could answer  “. . . and how do you feel about that” with a song. It’ll tell you more than my words ever will.

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Ground Yourself

Hello, friends!

Apologies again for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been a little on the busy side. In addition to school and work and life and recovery, I signed onto the board of a new not-for-profit organization that I really believe in. If you’ll indulge a little company promotion, I’ll tell you a little bit more about it now.

Yoga Unite was founded by Chantal Wade, a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and all-round lovely human being. She wanted to find a way to use yoga to promote awareness and change, and bridge gaps she saw in various communities in Toronto. Yoga Unite uses yoga-based events (think karma yoga to the max) to raise funds and awareness for various charities. It’s all about creating a sense of community, support, and hope.

I went to the first event this summer, which raised funds for AIDS Community Toronto, and was so touched by the amazing feeling of, well, community. Everyone was practicing yoga together to make the world a better place. Afterwards, I asked Chantal, “Have you thought of doing an event for eating disorders?” (I had opened up to her last year about my struggles after a particularly emotionally rough yoga class).

A few months later, she messaged me. The next event was going to be raising funds for Sheena’s Place, an eating disorder support centre in Toronto. Did I want to speak at the event?

Okay. So I talk about a lot of things here that are pretty personal. But this is a pretty anonymous blog. I’ve never spoken publicly, as myself, about anything related to my own struggles in life. Even in support groups, I tend to speak more in generalities (“cryptic”, they call me). This would be a chance to get REALLY personal and REALLY public and REALLY uncomfortable. I accepted.

So now the event is looming, in less than 3 weeks. I’ve written a draft of my speech, but will probably make many changes before the event. I’m really nervous, but really excited about it as well.

So here’s where you come in. I need 3 things from you, my loyal readers:

  1. Emotional support. Send me many good vibes on November 3rd. Given my new “I actually have emotions” emotional state, I’ll probably be a bit of a weepy mess.
  2. Your presence. If you’re in the Toronto area, and can even just lie on a yoga mat, come on down and register for the event. There is a yoga class taught by 4 of Toronto’s top yoga teachers, an art show, a silent auction, refreshments, and massages after the class. Plus, you’ll get to hear me speak (and watch me cry).
  3. Your financial support. We’re raising money for Sheena’s Place, a place that was very important in my recovery. It’s the only centre in Toronto that offers free support for everyone affected by eating disorders. Last year, I raised $2645 for the Toronto NEDA Walk. This year, I’ve set a more modest goal of $500. I’m at $150 so far, and even $5 can do a lot. If you would like to donate, please follow this link. Make sure you let me know about your donation so I can keep track of my total, AND so I can devote a yoga class to sending you positive energy. I hope to be sending good vibes for the next year . . .

Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope to see you all there. For those of you who can’t attend, I’ll post a copy of my speech here after the event. Namaste.

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The Turkey and The Stuffing

Yep. It’s a song title. From the lovely Susan Egan‘s Winter Tracks. Because in the US of A, Thanksgiving happens in the winter. Well, almost. It usually snows though. Unless you live in a warmer state. Sometimes it falls on my birthday . . .

Anyhow.

This weekend marks Canadian Thanksgiving. I was going to write a post bitching about holidays, but then I realized I’d already done that last year. Last year, I also wrote what I was thankful for. That list still applies, but it’s a nice time to look back and be thankful for all the things that have changed.

  1. My job. In one week, it will mark a year since I started working at the health food store. At the time, it was just a way to pay the bills and get out of the house a couple of days a week. Little did I know it would lead me to discovering my new career path.
  2. School. New friends, a new career to pursue, and new knowledge. I’ve always liked school, and it kind of feels like coming home. I didn’t realize it, but my brain had been aching for a workout. Intellectual fulfilment is important to me, and now I know it.
  3. Career prospects. After leaving acting, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I remember last summer, hanging out with some lovely friends reading tarot cards (yep, tarot cards), I asked what I should do with my life. They essentially told me that I should let go of rigidity and stop searching for something to fulfil me, that the answer would come from finding myself and figuring out my passion. It did.
  4. A chance to give back.  For those of you who don’t know me personally (because those who do know me have DEFINITELY heard about it by now), I was just honored with the opportunity to join the board of directors for a charity I very much believe in. I’ll be telling you all more about it in an upcoming post.
  5. The tough stuff. This year, I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s been really hard. Part of me wishes I could go back to not knowing. But everything I’ve learned has taught me something, and (hopefully) will be an important tool in making recovery stick this time. “The more you know . . . ” right?
  6. People. It’s been hard learning to let people in, and I’m still not very good at it, but I think it’s worth it . . . I think . . . I hope. But I think people and relationships are what it’s all about, yes? I mean, people can hurt us more than anything else, so doesn’t it make sense that they can heal us more than anything else?

Here’s one of my favorite people. He makes me smile and reminds me why life is good. Ladies and gentlemen, once again, my godson Liam:

He knows how to rock the sandy look, yes?

Happy Thanksgiving to all, regardless of where you call home. What are you thankful for today?

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Body Shaming At Any Size

Hey there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve ranted.

This video has been circulating around the internet lately, and I was incredibly proud and in awe of this brave woman. She is an example of strength and dignity that we all can learn from.

Body shaming is disgusting, and one of the worst forms of bullying out there. Everyone has been a victim of it, I’m sure. Whether it’s for your shape, size, hair, skin, race, whatever, it exists.

I have been the victim of body shaming on more than one occasion. Even when I weighed less than I do now, I had people in my life who would consistently put me down for being “fat”.  Who would point out my every flaw, or just give me “tips” to disguise the parts of my body that were socially unacceptable. It hurts, especially when it comes from those who are closest to you.

There’s one other type of body shaming that I’ve been a victim of that nobody talks about, or maybe it’s just that nobody cares.

Have you ever called anyone a skinny bitch? (I have.)

Skinny girls are torn apart all the time. It seems everyone thinks that because skinny=socially acceptable, “thin-bashing” is okay. Skinny people have it all, right?

Let’s play a brain game. Imagine you overhear the following:

Oh my god, how much weight have you gained? You look disgusting. Seriously. You need to stop eating. I mean it. You look like you’re all steriod-puffy from cancer treatment. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see that you look like one of those obese people you see on the news?

Horrifying, yes? Now imagine this:

Oh my god, how much weight have you lost? You look disgusting. Seriously. Just eat a fucking sandwich. I mean it. You look like a cancer patient after a million rounds of chemo. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see you look like a holocaust survivor?

I’ve heard all of these things from people trying to be “helpful”. I’ve heard it from friends, acquaintances, teachers, strangers . . . nobody seems to think twice when it comes to being underweight as opposed to overweight.

Yes, I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. But people don’t realize that obesity can be just as much a symptom of an eating disorder as emaciation.  Why is one acceptable to comment on, but not the other?

Remember:

The girl who can eat anything and never gain a pound might be throwing up everything she eats.

The girl with the hot body who seems so disciplined going to the gym might just feel like a hamster trapped on a wheel. She can’t step off the treadmill to save her life.

The emaciated girl who is obviously anorexic may be fighting for her life, and doesn’t need you to remind her of how bad she looks.

I was out to dinner with a friend earlier this year. She was working so hard to fight anorexia on her own, and was out for maybe her 2nd meal in public at a restaurant. She had ordered her meal, and on her way back from the bathroom, some drunken jerk yelled, “Go back to the concentration camp!” This absolutely destroyed her, and she could only pick at the meal she had so bravely ordered.

You never know when an ill-timed, even well-intentioned comment can throw a complete wrench in someone’s day. Please just think before you speak. And to the asshole guy from the video who is worrying about the example she is setting for children, just remember that your children are watching you more carefully than they are anyone on tv. Would you really rather raise your children to be assholes than overweight? As far as I can see, the assholes are much more dangerous to society.

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