Tag Archives: Awareness

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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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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But Do You Really Know Them?

The last thing I want to do right now is write this blog. It has been one of the hardest weeks of my life, and I just want to curl up under my favorite blanket and disappear. But, WordPress has a feature where you can see the search terms that bring people to your blog. This week, my top search terms included, “quotes on girls r not everything”, “fucked up canadian quotes”, and most alarmingly of all, “thinspo 2012”, and “thinspo of beauty”. If there is a chance that the people searching for these things actually stop to read something I’ve written, and maybe find hope instead of self-destruction, I can’t, in good conscience, retreat when society needs us all to advance.

So here goes. It’s the last day of NEDA Awareness week. For those of you just joining us, this year’s theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. And while I can assure you that everyone, indeed, does know “somebody”, whether they know it or not, I heard something this week that made me wonder just how well anyone knows anyone.

Yoga teacher extraordinaire, again, read us this poem by a Canadian writer named Oriah.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

I don’t know if I can even answer all these questions about myself, let alone anyone else. The first questions we ask people are, “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?”, “Where did you go to school?”, “Baby, what’s your sign?” Some of the people I hold nearest and dearest to me are out of work, or never went to school. Neither fact takes anything away from them as a person. Some of the best lessons I’ve learned have been outside a classroom, and I learned more about myself last year being alone and out of work than I ever did at any job.

Imagine what we’d learn if we asked the questions that mattered. Imagine if we introduced people with details like, “This is John. He has a passion for the moments between ‘sleep’ and ‘awake’, where he can be anything he wants to be.” John is infinitely more interesting in that context than if I introduced him as John, the chartered accountant. I’d want to know the passionate John.

I’m Kelly. I made a choice today to stare fear in the face and expose myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. Who are you?

Source: tumblr.com via Kelly on Pinterest

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Let’s Put the Responsibility Where It Belongs

Let's Put the Responsibility Where It Belongs

I saw this and thought you all might enjoy reading it. Maybe these tips will find their way to where they are needed most.

1 Comment

March 1, 2012 · 12:07 PM

Everybody Knows Somebody

Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, everyone! I suppose it’s a strange thing to wish people a “happy” one of, but hopefully awareness will lead to eradication (Wow, that’s a fancy word for how tired I am right now. Maybe I’ll switch it to something epic like “Total Annihilation” or something. Maybe not.) which will lead to happiness for all! A girl’s gotta have a dream. (N.B. It’s Awareness Week in Canada. NEDA’s official week isn’t until the end of the month)

Last year, NEDA‘s theme for the week was, “It’s Time to Talk About It”. I may have been late to the party on that one (I was singing and dancing on tour last Awareness Week, trying desperately to hide the fact that I was out of control in a relapse), but I think I successfully participated by the end of the year. Y’all have borne witness: now you can’t shut me up!

This year, the theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. Well, y’all know me, at least peripherally. (Wow. Another fancy one. Maybe the key to my smarts is in being sleepy . . . I’m gonna pretend it’s from wearing heels all day. Heels make every girl look . . . smarter). But have you ever stopped to think about how many people you might know who are suffering in silence?

Anorexics are generally pretty easy to spot. As WGT puts it, “You’re LITERALLY wearing your pain”. Same goes for binge eating disorder. It’s the ones in the middle that are hardest to recognize. I’ve spent a lot of time in that wasteland of disordered eating. I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder until the weight became an issue. But it’s SO not about the weight.

When behaviors around food get out of control in any way, it’s a problem. Most people don’t recognize eating disorders like orthorexia or exercise addiction because fucked up food and exercise habits have become a societal norm. (Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating, and exercise addiction is, well, an addiction to exercise. Duh.) It doesn’t sound like a problem to most people, but when a person becomes so obsessed that they can’t function in real life, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat at a restaurant because you don’t know how the food was prepared, it’s a problem. When you cancel plans with friends because you can’t miss a work out, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat a piece of your own wedding cake because it’s not an “acceptable food,” that’s a problem.  When you’re sick or injured and work out anyhow, that’s a problem. And eating disorders are a slippery slope. A “normal” diet can quickly become a dangerous practice.

So keep an eye out. Just because someone doesn’t “look sick” doesn’t mean they’re fine. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see cancer or depression or alcoholism with my naked eye, but I’d never tell someone they weren’t sick because I couldn’t see it. And people with eating disorders are really good at hiding it. It’s amazing how crafty a sick mind can be.

So be aware, spread the word and, as always, be kind to those around you. They may not wear their pain literally, but some of the deepest scars are the ones you can’t see.

 

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