Tag Archives: Courage

RecoverED.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, so buckle down: it’s gonna be a long one. It’s funny how the things you need SO MUCH at certain times in your life suddenly aren’t as central anymore. At one time, this blog was an important recovery tool for me. It gave me a safe place to learn to use my voice, to admit to people the things I thought were to shameful to share, and a chance to figure out and define my beliefs about the world, apart from the influence of the eating disorder.

I don’t need it anymore.

For more than a year and a half, I have been “in recovery”. I’ve had a few lapses (or more than a few, but who’s counting?), and have sometimes been dragged kicking and screaming away from my eating disorder, but the general trajectory has been towards recovery. And, after a year and a half “in recovery”, I can now tell you honestly that I am RECOVERED.

I often wondered how I would know that I was recovered, or if it would really happen. Most of the time, I believed I would live in a half-recovered world, holding onto a few restrictions and a few rules, but be mostly okay. You know what? That’s BULLSHIT. ANY eating disorder is too much eating disorder. Full recovery is possible, and you have to fight your ass off until you get there.

This January, I realized it was the 17 year anniversary of my eating disorder. I decided I wasn’t going to let it get to 18. 18 year olds are considered adults. I was NOT going to have an adult eating disorder.

I started challenging. I ate foods I never thought I’d eat again if I couldn’t throw them up or exercise compulsively til every last calorie was used up. I cried and choked and gagged at first, but I kept doing it until the scary foods no longer triggered an emotional response. I thought I’d end up overdoing it on the forbidden foods, once I let myself have them, but once they’re not forbidden anymore, I can have a normal relationship with them. Sometimes I want one thing for snack, sometimes I want another. For those of you wondering, eating those foods did NOTHING to change my body, either. All of my pants still fit comfortably, and my bicep is looking more ripped than ever 😉

I started challenging the emotional stuff, too. I had given away some of my stories, but I was still holding back on a few. They were all variations on a theme . . . if I told one, I’d told them all, right? Wrong. Once they stopped festering inside me, and I learned that people wouldn’t think any differently of me if they knew them, they stopped invading my thoughts. Now, they sort of float in and float out again. Sometimes they make me upset for a moment, but it isn’t all-consuming anymore. I’ve learned to sit with whatever comes up, and still be okay. It didn’t happen right away, but the more I let go, the more the thoughts and memories and flashbacks let go of me.

And, because we know recovery isn’t all about food, or the body, or even our backstories, I’ve started challenging life. Now that I’ve separated enough from the ED voice, I know when something challenging is good scary, or bad scary. If it good scares me, I do it. If I don’t want to do it, I do it.  If it makes me uncomfortable, I do it. If it makes me look foolish, I do it. I spent far too many years not living life, so now I’m going to travel, and play, and do headstands (safely – still getting the bones back), and jump in puddles, and eat things I’ve never eaten before, and postpone studying to hang out with a friend, and wear a bathing suit, and do yoga on a mountain top and . . . well, I’m going to do it all.

So how do I know I’m recovered? It’s not like all of my past suddenly went away. It’s still a part of who I am. I can just live with it now, and not have to fight it all the time. Good things happen, bad things happen, days get rough, but I’m still okay. I can walk down the street and think to myself, “I’m happy” – without any backlash, or thoughts of undeservedness, and without needing a reason why I’m happy. There are still things I don’t like about my body, but I can live with it, and I’m not going to make it do something it doesn’t want to do. It has earned a rest. I think this quote sums it up the best:

Peace

 

Being “in recovery” doesn’t always feel good. It really kind of sucks. “In recovery” is all about hard work, and learning new ways of life, and challenging everything. “Recovered” is still hard work, but it feels SO much better, because you’re stronger now. Nobody recovers because they’re strong. The act of recovering makes a person strong. Someday, you’ll be strong enough to know you’re okay, and that the fight was worth it. It is. It’s so much better on the other side, my friends. I can’t wait to see you all there.

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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

Litany Against Fear

I saw this Zen Pencils comic, and thought it was worth sharing. What fears do you need to face?

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December 23, 2012 · 2:58 PM

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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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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Get Out And Stay Out

Get Out And Stay Out, from the musical 9 to 5

This was my “Get out of my head, ED” song during my recovery. This is not my bootleg, nor do I condone bootlegging, but I thought you should see the whole video. SJB is pretty stellar, and you should see her whole performance. 

Have you ever seen the movie, “Sleeping With The Enemy?” Julia Roberts plays a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. She fakes her own death to escape her husband, but he figures it out and tracks her down. *SPOILER ALERT* She kills him.

But what do you do when the abusive relationship is in your own head? It’s not just the eating disorder voice. That one I can recognize and separate myself from, but there is another voice. It’s been with me from my earliest memories, at 2 or 3, standing, staring in the mirror, telling me I’m fat and ugly, that I hate myself, and tearing chunks out of my thighs. That voice uses my own voice. I don’t know where it begins and I end, or if it is, in fact, me.

I was horrified this week in school learning about the extent of the irreversible damage starvation can do to your body. It made me realize: I wasn’t waging a war with my body, I was waging a war with myself. I don’t want to destroy my body, I’ve been trying to destroy myself, to kill off the part of me that is so unworthy and unlovable. I don’t know what part that is anymore.

But how am I supposed to leave my abusive relationship? If I run, it comes with me. If I hide, it’s right there beside me. I feel like it’s come down to the final showdown. I can’t live my life with this battle in my head anymore, but I feel like if I try to run, it’ll kill me anyhow. It’s “kill or be killed”, but it’s me either way.

It’s like being trapped in a burning building. Do you try to jump out the window and take your chances or give up and let yourself burn? I’ve got to find the courage to jump. I’m scared of what will be waiting for me. I’m afraid of what will happen if I catch up with myself. This is it: the big battle. This is where it started, and where it has to end.

Wish me luck.

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The Sadder But Wiser Girl

I’m exhausted. I know, I know. That seems to be the human condition these days: everyone is tired. But honestly, I haven’t felt this bad physically since the depths of my eating disorder. I’m worn out, dizzy, weepy, and a flight of stairs can do me in. My naturopath says this is normal, as everything in my body and mind is shifting, and the only remedy is rest.

Rest. Totally got it. Work a 9 hour shift, sit on my ass for the rest of the night. Go to yoga, do a bridge instead of full wheel. Go to ballet, do single pirouettes instead of triples and mark the jumps.

Apparently, that’s not resting. I don’t know how to rest. Even now, as I recline on my couch, I’m doing research, cleaning, and blogging. I’m constantly terrified of what my mind will do if I let it be. I can deal with it in controlled doses, but if I gave it free run of the place, who knows what it will come up with? I prefer my brain safely battery-caged. And if I don’t exercise . . . well, there’s no telling what my body would do. It’s a process.

Interesting things have been happening emotionally, too. It’s funny how out-of-control exhaustion makes me feel. Historically, I have tried to control my emotions through silence or cover them with a mask of anger. If you’re silent, nobody knows you’re feeling anything. If you’re angry, people leave you alone. But if you’re sad . . . people can sense weakness and exploit it. It’s a dangerous thing.

Yesterday, in group, I decided to try to express myself without using anger to cover it. My usual response to everything: “This is BULLSHIT! This doesn’t actually work for real people. I’m SO DONE!”. Not so productive, but it’s my way of saying “I disagree, I don’t understand, I’m feeling hopeless” without sobbing. Yesterday, I tried the latter. And sobbed. And sobbed. I don’t remember the last time I cried that hard. It kind of sucked. But you know what? Don’t tell WGT, but I actually feel somewhat better. When I don’t let it out, I ruminate and just get angrier until I explode. When I explode, I feel like an asshole, and hate myself even more.

So now I’m living with sadness. I’m really sad. I have a lot of years of unexpressed emotions to work through, and it’s not going to be an easy or fun process, but on the other side of fear is freedom. Gotta hope.

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