Tag Archives: Toronto

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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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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A Bit More On Beauty

Today (or yesterday? I’ve lost track of time) I came across an article from the Toronto Star. For all my American followers, that’s like the New York Times of Canada. A young man at a local high school was recently suspended over a letter he wrote to his female classmates on his view of true beauty. There was a “kilt controversy” at his Catholic school earlier in the year, and his letter was originally intended to be a speech delivered on Valentine’s Day, supported by administration, because they believed it would encourage young women away from rolling their kilts to obscene heights.

Unfortunately, he was asked to make revisions, as part of the speech was deemed “judgemental” by faculty. He refused to make the alterations, and instead distributed his speech as a letter. He was suspended for “opposition to authority”. His letter, however, bears reprinting. I think we can all learn something from this 17-year-old boy’s words. The section in bold is what he was asked to revise:

PAUL GOMILLE’S LETTER TO YOUNG WOMEN

Could I please have your attention for a few moments? I guarantee you won’t regret listening to what I have to say. You definitely won’t regret hearing this in your life time, especially from a man of dignity. It’s an idea that I have held close to my heart even before the kilt controversy arose in the media. This message is not meant to address the kilt controversy directly by any means, but rather, this message is a general and all-encompassing statement. It is a message about the qualities that really matter in a woman, and what really makes a woman attractive. Although this speech has some relevance to the way women dress and present themselves nowadays, the message in this speech goes far beyond one’s preferences, or feelings of pressure, as it relates to the way they dress, and it goes far beyond any concept of modernity. It strikes at the very core of humanity itself, in an attempt to make a revelation of truth apparent to all of you, with awe inspiring certainty. If you read this, and receive anything less than a feeling of absolution from it, then I have committed a grave sin, a sin against myself and a sin against all of you.

The people this message concerns are the young women of this school, and of the world. In particular, it concerns the silent ones, the intelligent ones, the ones that don’t talk about people behind their backs, the ones that guys don’t flock to in droves, the ones that don’t dress in revealing clothing, the ones who would love to be in love, and the ones that are continually disappointed in their appearance because the only thing they have to compare themselves to are the women that have been put on pedestals by our society. This message also concerns those of you who may consider yourselves the so called “opposite” to the demographic I just described. The ones who do dress in revealing clothing, and the ones who try to fit in with the crowd.

You don’t need to dress or act a certain way to fit in, to feel attractive, or to BE attractive. You’re all far more attractive than you realize. All of you. But that’s not to say that you should all dress in revealing clothing. No, not at all. Sure, a girl who dresses that way might turn a few heads, and get some compliments. But real attractiveness doesn’t come from wearing the latest fashion, and it doesn’t come from being scantily clad in public, or putting on make-up, or having a pretty face, or a nice body. No. Real attractiveness comes from having a certain dignity. It comes from having class. It comes from being true to yourself, being yourself, and being comfortable in your own skin. This message is for all young women within the sound of my voice and beyond. You’re all beautiful. You all have inner beauty AND outer beauty.

With all the censorship talk in the media of late, I admire anyone with the courage to stand up for what they believe in. Some things in life are worth saying, even at the risk of your own well-being. Staying silent has rarely served me, and has probably dug me into a worse hole than opening up to the things inside. Whether they be words of love, words of concern, or just secrets that feel too shameful to admit, letting them out into the world may be painful, but I believe that honesty will serve me better in the end.

And how amazing is that letter? Words from “a man of dignity” urging women to strive for “real attractiveness . . . from having a certain dignity”. Dignity comes from being able to hold your head up high and speak your mind without shame or fear. Life is too short to regret what you wish you’d said or done. There isn’t always as much time as you think there is. Stand up, speak out, and Be Anything But Quiet!

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