Break in Me

I need a break from all the noise, I want to breathe clean air and swim in clean water. I want to sit on the porch of an old cabin and listen to the stillness.  I want to be out where things are simple and every breath is a reminder that there is beauty and magic left in this world. – BROOKE HAMPTON

I took a break.  I didn’t write, I didn’t share, I didn’t _______________ and I didn’t _______________.  I didn’t intentionally stop, it just happened.  I drew a picture, a coloured a mandala, a read a book, crocheted a pair of slippers, or had a nap.  I just didn’t write.  And as I am here now, I am finding it difficult to get the words to appropriately make it onto the page.  They are eluding me, they feel void of the emotion or impact that they had before.

It feels strange this emotion within me, like I am guilty of avoiding the outlet that I created to express the emotions that boiled within me; and then I took that away from myself in a one fell swoop, and now I torn between feeling empty and overflowing.

Through the “break” the noise did not quiet – in fact it was just as loud as it always is; perhaps the message was in a different voice, but nevertheless, it was still the same.  The stillness was interrupted by my restlessness, and the beauty and magic was marred the constant tape in my head that plays the message of my self loathing and self doubt.

The break was not the serene time that Brooke Hampton wrote about – but it did make me realize that although my writing is often about the struggles that I experience, it is also though my writing that I experience my most relief.

 

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Prove It….

“The worst thing that you can do to a person with an invisible illness is make them feel like they need to prove how sick they really are.”
I have been diagnosed with several “invisible” illnesses – from anxiety and depression to an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. On more than one occasion it has fallen on me to “prove” it. Not to the friends and family that see me struggle day in and day out, but to an “Independent Medical Examiner”. A professional that my insurance company refers me to for a second or unbiased opinion on my health and stability. It is not enough that the Psychiatrist that I have been seeing weekly for the last two years, who is accredited in treating patients suffering with my specific illnesses, has clearly stated the intensity and the severity of the illnesses and disorders that I suffer. I suppose that it just doesn’t make sense to take the word of a medical practitioner who is working on my behalf, you know, who is an advocate for me and has had an on-going relationship with me on this path.
For my Insurance company to continue coverage, under my union negotiated Long Term Disability benefits, it is a mandatory requirement for me to subject myself to the scrutiny of a random Psychiatrist, selected by my Insurance provider. Who, within an hour-long appointment, will determine “how sick I am”. An hour-long appointment that will discuss my family history, length and severity of my mental health issues – going back 44 years. My behaviours, treatment, symptoms, side effects and recovery options will be touched on as well. A brief encounter with this doctor is going to be the be all and end all. It will be used to determine if the degree of my suffering, as direct results of my illnesses are in fact, as my own Doctor has determined, a disability that interferes with my daily life, profession, social life, and physical well-being.
This is not the first time that I have been subjected to this kind of interrogation. Requiring me to convince someone from the Medical Community, that I indeed suffer from a debilitating illness. Six months prior to being admitted to an inpatient treatment centre, I was required to attend a consultation with an Insurance selected Psychiatrist. She was to giver her diagnosis and recommendations regarding the nature and degree of my illness. Much like the scheduled appointment that I have in a few weeks, this was a brief appointment to scratch the surface of my over 40 years worth of trauma and chaos –  reporting back findings, conclusions and recommendations. Considering the cost of continued coverage is what the Insurance Company is really concerned with, results come back faster than the wait for the appointment.
Her recommendations were exactly what the insurance company was hoping for. She noted the following, I presented on time, casually but nicely dressed, well kept and open to discuss the situation with her. She prescribed me a low dose of anti-depressants, and recommended melatonin for when I was having difficulty with sleep. She indicated that although I was depressed, and had some “symptoms” of disordered eating, it was not “bad” enough to be considered for any additional treatment, services or support. Her final words on her report were; following the above protocol will remedy the current “episode”; therefore, will no longer be hindered in a work environment.
Her professional opinion was that I was not “sick enough” despite my obsessive, exhausting, controlling and debilitating behaviours. I walked into the appointment as I did all situations, wearing the mask that was my security. The mask that I had worn for years, where I presented well, together and functioning. But the mask was what I wore to hide the whirlwind of guilt, shame, chaos, turmoil and self loathing.
I wasn’t sick. This was a message that my eating disorder liked to play over in my mind. To have it reconfirmed was just what it needed to erupt into full self destruct mode. The message that I was not sick beat so loud, it was the only message that I heard. I was prepared to walk away from all the treatment options. It was decided for me that I was to re-enter the world on the other side of this illness. But I stayed on this side, and I fell…. Hard. I was simultaneously denying my illness and submerging myself so far into it, I was drowning there. Everything was wrapped up in it. There was no life on the other side. I crashed and was starting to burn.
I had to accept the reality that illnesses like mine are not seen for the scary truth that they are. Not everyone can “see” the impact that it has on your life. It isn’t always a bad day, until it is. My crash was going to be fatal if I couldn’t stand up long enough to “prove it”. The Eating Disorder is a liar – and so I had to disbelief it’s tale of not being sick. Though letters, documents, lab reports, and medical findings – all provided to my insurance provider, I was able to stay the execution, so to speak. The team of medical professional that had been working with me for over a year, on a regular basis, were able to prove my disability.
My illness may be invisible, it certainly makes me want to disappear. But inside it takes me over. To explain to someone that has never lived in the body that is your greatest enemy, your most despised nemesis, what you are going through… Is like trying to explain to a blind person what the colour blue tastes like. A random doctor, with whom you have no history, experience or trust attempts to diagnosis hours, days, months and years of mental and physical chaos in a brief encounter, is a complete marginalization of the effects that mental illness has on the life of those affected.
Perhaps you can not see the chills, sweat, shivers, butterflies and upset stomach that anxiety creates. Maybe it isn’t so apparent, the weight of the world on my shoulders, the constant state of shame and guilt, or the exhaustion of depression. Perhaps I hide too well the calorie counting, the internal argument in my mind, the terror in food choices, and the intrusive unrelenting obsessive thoughts, and the binge / purge / restrict behaviours. Could be that you don’t know the physical discomfort that I suffer silently each day. It’s possible that I have been able to blend in enough that no one notices the social anxiety, the discomfort, the self loathing, the body hate, the shame I feel at my own existence. Or, no one even notices that I am missing anymore because I have closed myself behind the security of my own door, to avoid the expectations or judgment of others. And, it’s likely that I’ve done a good job at keeping to myself how venturing out of my comfort zone is distressing, driving can bring me to stress fueled tears, meeting new people is arduous, unfamiliar places make me feel out of place and unsure, and commitments and appointments are exhausting. Sleep is a hit and miss, too much, not enough, but always in a constant state of exhaustion. The illnesses do a good at staying invisible.
Maybe in the hour that this Independent Medical Examiner will see me – he will be able to see all these unseen symptoms of my mental illnesses. Maybe he will be able to unlock the door that has kept all the secrets of my childhood and past unavailable to me. Maybe he will see that my life is being lived in the deep end of the pool. Constantly needing to tread water, just to keep my head from dipping under.
Or….. maybe it will be just like last time, and I have come to the end. Should it be determined that I am no longer sick, than that will be the truth that I will have to adapt to living in. It won’t stop me from living in my black and white world. It will be an impossible task for me to create normalcy and to be productive in a professional environment, while attempting to navigate the emotional and physical upheaval of recovery. I will be required to pick a side. The side will be picked for me and I will need to cross over to it.
I’m scared, and I’m angry. I must prove myself. Someone who is overflowing with self-doubt and has spent years hiding behind a mask is used to convincing everyone that they are “FINE”. I know that I have not reached a point in the last three years of treatment that has brought me close to recovery. But as my own Psychiatrist has told me, I can want something and not do what it actively required to achieve it. Everyone does it . People want to run a marathon. But they come up with reasons why they can’t do it – not fit enough, too old, no time, etc. I want recovery, but my Eating Disorder wants to continue to rule my life.
I guess what I really want, is the opportunity to figure it out. Without the requirements to prove my illness, without the expectations that treatment will automatically mean recovery, and without a count down to when my time is up. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. And I want to be believed. I want the testament of my disability to be substantiated. I don’t want other people to decide how I feel, I want to know it in myself.
“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to. It’s not their journey.” Joubert Botha
You don’t need to understand – but I do need you to believe me.

Till Death do us Part

man s hand in shallow focus and grayscale photography
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com
June 20th, now six months since our Warrior Jane left us. She fought a good fight, yet many times she was on the wrong side of her war. Through years of battle, scars and wounds, she was finally taken, a white flag of surrender. Another victim of the Mental Illness with the highest rate of mortality. It was the inability of her heart to continue on that lead her to the other side, just one of the many deadly side effects of her eating disorder. I know that her body was tired and weak, but I believe that her heart just sustained another break, and it was shattered beyond what she could take.
When news of Jane’s passing made its way through our small eating disorder community, I was devastated. Yet, a small part of me inhaled a sigh of relief that such a pure heart would finally be at rest. That she would no longer be at the short end of the tug of war. I never wanted to lose my friend. I wanted her to find the right path that would lead her to the promised land of “recovery”. Yet, she choose a path that took her to the Ultimate Promised Land.
It is a true fact that eating disorders are ruthless in their pursuit of total control. Over the course of years, months, days and even moments the never ending mental assault works to lead you to the brink. And it is there that the dance to stay on the right side of the line is executed. It is a dance that can only be preformed with ED as your partner. Hope holds strong that a solo dance ends the production and ED can be left behind.
Over the course of my lifetime, my weight has fluctuated from morbidly obese to underweight and every conceivable label in between. At my highest weight, never was a word or comment made to me, no expressions of concern for my health or well-being, and no negative words. At my lowest weight, I was bombarded with compliments on my weight loss. And there was the flip side comments that were less than positive. Like the girl at the gym that said, “I don’t mean to offend you, but you look anorexic.” Not exactly sure how I was to NOT be offended by that. WTF!!! Either way, comments, compliments, insults or not, I was always suffering with an eating disorder. Behind the scenes chaos reined mighty.
Through the roller coaster of weight loss and gain, I have uncomfortably landed in the place that classifies me as overweight. And I can tell you that by my standards it is a completely unacceptable place to be. Anything over my lowest weight is morbidly obese in my mind, but that’s another rant. My size says that I am “relatively” healthy. And to the majority of the world outside of my body, I am just an average girl, living an average life. With the familiar health concerns creeping in, that are to be expected as the calendar turns the pages and I creep nearer to 50.
I don’t live in the same fantasy world as others, where body shape and size are an automatic indication of health and happiness. But, I do live in a delusional fantasy world. In my world, the complications, symptoms, behaviours and side effects that accompany my mental illness are unrelated to the potential for long term mental or physical complications. What I experience regularly, just isn’t enough for me to see myself in the same light that shone on Jane.
Debilitating low energy, poor concentration, anxiety, depression, poor attention, distress and struggle with interpersonal interactions; fear of food, calories, eating, binging on excessive amounts of food; purging through vomiting, exercise, supplements, diet pills and / or diuretics; restricting food and calorie intake; obsessive thought processes involving body, weight, shape, food; negative and obsessive body experiences; regular and consistent periods of anxiety and depression; isolation from peers; poor sleep patterns and habits; low self esteem; difficulty communicating emotions; inability to meet expectations; strong feelings of fear and failure; unrealistic expectations of self and abilities; dependency on opinions of others; constant gastrointestinal issues; irregular heartbeat; low iron; issues with electrolytes and protein levels; instability in weight; cognitive issues; inability to engage fully; exhaustion; difficulty relating to others; struggle to maintain consistent schedule and distress related to commitments, meetings, or appointments, etc.
It’s a laundry list, but it doesn’t change my mind. I am FINE. Regardless of the statistics, the in your face loss of a dear friend, or the blunt conversation with my Doctor. What I am experiencing is within a manageable degree of discomfort, inconvenience, and interference. Yes, it’s true that I miss out on social occasions and outings, some days I want to curl up with the cats all day and I’ve often found myself on the other side of a binge that has left me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.
I have suffered, struggled and battled in the clutches of this; I have used it as a hiding place, a coping tool, a source of punishment and a place to create my own version of victory and success. How the body and mind is affected can be devastating, it tricks and fools. It creates smoke screens. Stories of not me, I’m ok, I just need some rests, this too shall pass. There is no situation, symptom, side effect, behaviour, outcome that has derailed my mind from the safety of I’m FINE.
In treatment we joked that FINE stood for:
F- Fucked
I – Insecure
N – Neurotic
E – Emotional
Never a more accurate anagram to describe the inner workings of my emotions.
But of all that I contend with, with my eating disorder, I do not see the link between me and the morbidity and mortality of eating disorders. I do not see myself as in a place where any of what is happening within me, will compel me to dance across that line with ED as the lead. I am safe, I am fine, I will be ok.
In our last conversation, that was what Jane told me, she was FINE too.

Lessons Learned

20 important lessons you tried to teach me THAT I have finally learned in the right years since you left us….

1. Love is felt & experienced in many ways – never miss a chance to love & be loved.

2. Being broken is a wonderful opportunity to rebuild a stronger foundation.

3. A man who was loved by his Father is a man who will protect & support the women in his life.

4. Learning is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.

5. A Parents success is most felt when reflected in the happiness of our children.

6. Everyone we meet has the ability to impact our lives.

7. Failure is a choice not a destination.

8. If you are true to your heart – those that need to… will understand.

9. You don’t have to convince anyone of anything – you just need to live by your convictions.

10. Your time and energy are precious – only you get to decide how to use it.

11. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

12. Allow others to be who they want to be and wait for them to do the same for you.

13. If in doubt remember – you will know the truth by the way that it feels.

14. Your past was a life lesson NOT a life sentence.

15. A lie does not become the truth, a wrong does not become a right and evil does not become good, just because it is accepted by the majority.

16. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your worth to them.

17. It is the possibility that a dream COULD come true that makes the dream worthwhile.

18. Be an example & you will attract the right people.

19. Every next level in life will require a different version of yourself.

20. Grief is really all about love – having a heart full of love for someone who isn’t here to receive it.

My heart is full and I grieve your absence in the moments that have come & gone since you left us 8 yrs ago.

A Son, Husband and Father and the Man who help shape my heart to be ready for my own life.

XOXO love and hugs Dad

Be Nice

My Psychiatrist has months worth of notes and data, that prove her point – when I am “nicer” to myself, my symptoms and behaviours decrease. I can’t help but believe her, after all she has several degrees and an alphabet soup of letters after her name. Thing is, I can’t seem to clearly identify what that “nice” is. What it looks like, and I certainly have been unable to sustain any of these kinder behaviours long enough to make any significant positive influence. I have claimed that I don’t know how to be nice to myself – to which she has called me a liar; in the most loving and thoughtful way of course. But I wondered, if I am confused about it, perhaps others would have the answer; or at least some that work for them.

I belong to several groups on Facebook, that have a wide audience of people that struggle with food, body image, exercise, mental health, eating disorders, etc. And so I took the question to one of the groups and asked:

What does being nice to yourself look like? I was somewhat surprised by the answers that the group members shared – reading over the posts, I would classify the majority as self-care and things that could be done as part of a healthy routine, not simply as something to do to be “nice” or look after ourselves. The answers have me wondering if there are more people out there than I think, that are just as deprived of their own kindness as I am. For many, being nice to themselves included putting on make-up, getting facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, nap, exercise, getting enough sleep, a bath, meditation, and reading a book. I do enjoy all of these activities – but that is exactly what they are, activities. I love a great set of nails, a deep tissue massage, and a solid night of sleep. But I would not say that I am being mean or unpleasant if I do not do these things for myself. When I need a good pampering and to relax, I walk over to Happy Feet Wellness, and one of the lovely ladies there gives me an a wonderful hour of reflexology. It feels great….. but it’s not something that I conscientiously do as a act of kindness for myself. It is what I do to relieve stress and anxiety in my body. Is it a “nice” experience – of course…. but don’t think its what is meant by being nice to yourself.

There were a few answers, that should be considered, as I do believe that if put into practice, could be what being nice to yourself is. Being gentle with ourselves, asking for a hug, saying “no”, healthy nourishment, less negative self talk, and being forgiving of yourself. It would be so much easier to run a bath and toss in a LUSH bath bomb and be done with it. But yes, the reality is, being nice to yourself is about the emotional work. Doing all the things that are the opposite of what my mind, mental illnesses and eating disorder tell me.

Harsh and abusive is the only way that I have known to treat myself; hugs are for those deserving of support and empathy; saying no is to invite judgement and disappointment from others; nourishing my body is in direct conflict with how I use food as a punishment and weapon against myself; if I was to eliminate the negative self talk, I fear that my mind would grow silent and dark; and to forgive myself would be to admit that I am not the flawed and broken soul that I am – that this is as good as it gets.

Being nicer to myself these days, is as disordered in my mind as all other ways that I treat myself. Last week I was on top of the world – higher than I had been in a long time. I had said good bye to sugar, adios to flour, cut out the snacks, ate three meals a day, and was 100% vegan – for 6 days!!!! Last time I ate 3 meals a day was when I was in the hospital in an in-patient treatment facility for my ED. All of the other little side feelings and behaviours were still present; but my Eating WAS ON POINT!!

Walking into my weekly therapy session, I expressed my issues the past week with some increased anxiety and obsessive thoughts, but was proud to lay out on the table my success with food the past six days. I can describe the rest of that appointment as nothing less than deflating. The question that I left the room with was this – if what I was doing was SO good, why was I so anxious?? What I was doing was called – restricting. I don’t care what it was called – I liked it for 6 days and I felt hope and purpose; enough that I could ignore or suppress the other negative emotions that came along with it.

The lesson learned from that session is, the higher up you go, the further you have to fall. If that was just more of me being unkind and mean to myself – I was going to flip the coin and go the complete opposite direction. That was two weeks ago, and from the moment my feet hit the pavement leaving her office, I have been in a spiral of insane binging and destructive purging.

Conclusion is this – I don’t want to be nice to myself. I don’t deserve to be nice to myself, But, a news flash to that is – it doesn’t matter what I want. Change, redirection and eventual recovery will not be achieved by doing what I want. What I want is for all of the abusive and destructive actions that I take towards myself, to be effective in getting me to my goal – to be “skinny”, “beautiful”, “desired” and “successful”. What is have is a uncontrollable urge to inflict pain and despair on myself and what that creates is the dark, isolated and scary life that I live. It adds the pounds, creates the thick thighs, produces the rolls of belly fat, and confirms the value that I have in this world.

The speeches and scripts that the voices inside have on auto repeat neglect to mention, do not allow me to believe, is that the fact that my self talk, my actions and behaviours are exactly what is creating the circumstances of my life. It is difficult to be nice to myself, when my heart is breaking, and it is what I need to feel.

The truth is, in the end, I have to be my own hero, because everyone else is too busy trying to save themselves from their own circumstances. The difficulty is, that there are no phone booths, for me to change into my superhero cape. I am left wander the world, trying to figure out how to be nice – perhaps the simplest of actions, yet one that eludes me at every turn.

The course of action is to reveal all of the parts of myself that I do not love – so at least I know where to start.

A River Runs Through It

A RIVER CUTS THROUGH

A ROCK, NOT BECAUSE OF

ITS POWER, BUT ITS

PERSISTENCE.

More than 16,000 days ago, the river that is my eating disorder and the beginning of my mental health issues began its cascade over my life…. my rock.

As the days, months and years passed by, it was the continued persistence of the river that wore away at my rock. It was hardly noticeable, little by little a crack became a indentation. Then the overlooked depression became a groove, a furrow and now, as part of the rock itself, it is a the deep cut which the water anxiously works to deepen. The process was complete before it could even be acknowledged that it was happening – but the impact it was leaving could be felt. It was easy to turn from the emotional pain, when the effects could be so readily hidden in plain sight.

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have been working furiously to fill in that cut that has been left by the years of my denial, abuse and self deprecation. Yet all the sand, stones, pebbles, or rocks that I have thus far attempted to fill in the gaps, have slipped easily away. The flow has become more powerful, and it has refused to allow the persistence to cease.

And so I am left with a handful of pebbles and pockets full of sand, with misguided hopes of putting them to work as they are intended to be used. Each grain of sand can be characterized as a tool, or coping skill, and all the pebbles can be identified as pieces of the foundation to my recovery – but they serve little purpose as I carry them around. Except to weigh me down. The water continues to flow and the rock continues to yield to the strength and force of the river.

I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is not my purpose to fill in the cut that has already been made but to use the tools that I have to fill in another area of the river bed, so that the water is forced to flow over the already damaged rock in an entirely different way. Instead of changing the groove – I need to change the water.

That feels profound and potentially life changing. Yet, I imagine the path that I have worn, drowning. Along with the negative, destructive behaviours, all of the “good” that has been created along the way, will also be swept under the current. Life changing as it may be – it is an action that fills me with the fear and chaotic feelings of the unknown.

There is no doubt in my mind that the pebbles and sand that I have available to me today, will not be sufficient to raise the water line in any meaningful way. But, as they say success is just on the other side of fear. I think that it is true that the fear will always be there, in one way or another – but its the degree to which I measure success that needs to be analyzed. I am being weighed down by the tools, tricks, coping skills, and the variety of support groups. I have gotten to the point that my ability to accept more information has simply reached the point to which it overflows and I am unable to retain or utilize it.

I’d like to take a breath, to start to put those pebbles into the river. I think I will find that some will make a difference to the flow, and others will go unnoticed – but it can definitely be said that the weight that they have on me, by carrying them around in my “toolbox”, does nothing more than leave me feeling overwhelmed at the obstacles and expectations ahead of me.

The river will continue to flow, and cut, and leave it’s mark. But as time passes, fears are faced, challenges are met, and change is on the horizon, the flow of my river, my life, and eating disorder will make an impact on the landscape before me.

Chapter One

Happy Anniversary

365 Days have passed since the day we said I Do, since we united with our first kiss as husband and wife, and since we shared the greatest single moment of the love between us with our family and friends.

I rate our wedding day with the most spectacular moments of my life. I vividly remember the butterflies that filled me that morning, knowing that within hours, we would be solidifying the bond that we had long ago made. I was overcome with the joy of finding my home within your life, and equally filled with the cautious fears of what the world had waiting for us. Not only were we creating a marriage between us, but we were embracing each other’s children in this loving union. It was a marriage that extended beyond our hearts and into the hearts of our families.

Our wedding day was beyond what I could have expected, more than the flowers and music, more than the food and the photos. It was the day that our love would be measured as the starting point to our forever. It was a gathering of those that had seen us grow over the course of our lives, from children, to young adults, and well into our adulthood; and it was an opportunity for them to experience how we came together and grew into each other – creating the perfect match to each other’s whole. I am forever grateful to those that joined us, so that we could show them the fairytale is real…. that love can be extraordinary…. and perfect is never achieved but a love like ours makes the journey of imperfection, a journey worthwhile.

Falling in love isn’t just a moment, but a series of moments that are strung together. Every day the love is stronger, deeper, and more committed; should you choose to spend the time nurturing and cultivating yourself and each other. We have spent many days of splendid bliss, holding hands, cuddling, connecting and feeling the emotions that took us to the Alter. We have spent days lost in Netflix series, championship rounds of golf, hockey, football and baseball, surfed Social Media, and the web….. where just the presence of the other was enough to fill the need of feeling our connection. Within us lives an individual that has their own challenges and history, and so there are also days that the struggle is real. My health & wellness continues to be a battle, with little encouraging progress and many challenges that remain ahead. Yet, through it all, you have never wavered in your love and support of my journey. You do not try to understand what it is that I face, and allow me the space to feel safe and hopeful in the process. I love how you are able to take care of me. How even on the days that I fail to be a better version of me; you continue to work on being a better version of you.

There is a traditional known as Kintsugi (Golden Repair); it is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than to disguise it. There are many cracks and breaks within me… so much history – yet you are the gold that has bonded me together. Often I am the only one that still sees the flaws, but you have never wavered in your belief that these simply make me more beautiful. In your eyes, my flaws do not affect the person I am to you, but are parts of what makes me the whole that you love. I know that this makes our marriage stronger because on the days that we struggle, we choose to love each other regardless. You know when I need your love the most and that is when I feel like I least deserve it. There is a real beauty in the union of marriage, we know that we have committed to the right person, because we always figure a way to get through whatever it is that we face……together.

There is a certain something between us that goes deeper, like the familiar groove the river creates in the rock. It is a love that was written long ago; a friendship that was built on the honesty of our lives. We found each other in a time that allowed us to create the adventure that was meant to be for us…. where the beginning seemed to be unsure; but the ending was always destined. Time, distance and obstacles were simply put there for us to evolve from the place we were to the place we could continue to write the happily ever after.

The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.

RUMI

1 year as Husband & Wife

52 Weeks of Love

365 Days of Adventure

8,760 Hours of Laughter

525,60 Minutes of Memories

31,536,000 Seconds Since we said “I DO”

Happy Anniversary

Established May 21, 2017

The Glue The Holds Everything Together

Happy Mother’s Day

Little girls play house, and dress up, they role play getting married and sometimes let Barbie hang out with GI Joe, just so their brothers will play along. Often I could be found with my dolls, pretending to feed them, change their clothes and they would accompany me on my many outings to the backyard or around the neighbourhood. My friends had their own “babies” , and we could be seen pushing our strollers up and down the sidewalks, like a gang of Mini Mommies.

The nurturing side of us was brought out at an early age; and from the time I can remember when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – I always answered, “Mommy”. Even through the eyes of a child; I knew that one of the most important roles in life, was to be a Mother.

I was third in line, but still an important part of making the wife, friend, daughter and sister into a Mother. The last of her children, the only daughter among her off-spring. With those titles, I was a double crowned princess. I was born to be spoiled – or so I assumed…. LOL.

I had visions of motherhood being this incredible job, filled with recognition, joy, fulfillment and love, after all, my Babies at that time were well behaved, quiet, clean and required the little to no attention that I rained upon them. I saw my Mother as being surrounded by all of the moments that she had played out with her own dolls when she was a little girl. My brothers and I believed that we were the light of her life, and that we filled her so full that she didn’t need to look outside of us to find more.

I have no doubt that the love that my mother had for us was unlimited – for all of the bullshit, shenanigans and mischief that we got into; only a mother’s love could withstand it. I know that she was overjoyed to see us take our first steps, pass swimming tests, play our first song on the guitar and ride a bike. But I also know that it was not the moments, emotions or commitment that she had thought when she embarked on this lifetime journey with us.

Each of her children are unique and exceptional in their own ways. And it is through our uniqueness that we brought out the different sides of the woman and mother that she was and was to become.

My oldest brother, has always seemed to me, to be mature beyond his years. He has the rational mind that the other two of us seems to have missed out on. He is dependable, responsible, independent and deep. Growing up, he gave my mother little to worry about – other than the normal worries of a mother and her first born. She hoped that he would find his way, he would find acceptance and joy in the things that he loved. He did good by her, and she did good by him. From my seat sitting back – I see the evolution of the boy to a man. He is a man that my Mother is proud to have been a part of. She lives and breathes in him as the first person that knows her from the inside out. He was the first to hear what her heart beat sounds like – and he keeps close to ensure that it continues to beat strong for all of us. He began what was to be the ground work of her becoming a Mother – and helped her to develop who she would be for the next in line.

The middle child. He is fiercely unique – always has been and I have no doubt, always will be. Although I think at times, his sense of self was misunderstood by his peers and sometimes family and this may have caused some angst. In appearance as he grew, he was twinning his older brother, and my mother often would dress them alike – in the typical proud Mama way. He strained at my Mother’s heart as he grew – finding his way to teenage trouble (of which I would doubly outdo), struggling to fit in where he clearly was meant to stand out. He made choices that she was hard pressed to support, yet stood back and supported anyway. No matter what he choose to do, whether it be run off and join the Army, marry the wrong (VERY WRONG) girl or come to his senses and live a life that put him in the forefront – she was there; worrying, loving and hoping. The years have been kind to their relationship. She still nurtures him when he frequently comes to visit; packing him snacks and goodies to take home, planning birthday parties for his dog or sitting quietly though a movie on Netflix. The peace and silence in their relationship says comfort, love and belonging louder than words could.

Two wonderful, yet different boys blessed her life. She was a Mother, Mom, Mommy, and Mama. The family was close to complete, but my parents longed for a little girl. Perhaps my Mother wanted to see what it would be like to watch herself grow up – though me. Luckily, her last pregnancy brought them the girl that they hoped for. Not so sure that they thought through the whole thing before hand, as I made up the majority of the parental stress and strain that they endured as their children grew.

I was my Father’s daughter, and as much as my Mother loved my father – I am not so sure that she wanted to see his outspoken, loud, strong and somewhat dominant personality booming at her from a 3 year old. Regardless, she took me in her heart and let me live out my victories, challenges, struggles, bad decisions and poor judgement with the acceptance and reserved judgement of a woman that was truly worthy of the title of Mother. I tried her patience, tested her resolve and got on her every last nerve – yet she proudly owned me as her daughter.

I didn’t realize the intensity of her influence in my life, until the moment that my own daughter was placed in my arms after she was brought into this world. I remember, those 24+ years ago, and as I gazed upon the sweet cherub face of the baby I would be a part of, the girl I would watch grow, and the woman that she would become – I was never overjoyed for the woman that my own Mother was.

I am ever grateful to my Mother, for she gave me two brothers that loved, protected, tormented and aggravated me; and they have grown to men that she taught well enough that they are the measure to which I use to determine my own worth from other men. I am thankful to her to choosing a man to be her husband, that made her feel joy, security and balance – because that man would be who I called my Father. AND, I am indebted to her for the mistakes she made, the kind words she spoke, the sacrifices that she made and the challenges that she undertook. It was through her strength and kindness that I learned the real meaning behind the title of Mother – she had an overwhelming impact on the Mother I became, and her legacy will be carried on, though the Mother that my own daughter will become.

Thank you to the woman who allowed me to call her Mom and blessed me with the role of being her daughter.

Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover

I have been writing this blog since last August, sometimes posting multiple times a week. For me it has transformed into a healthy coping mechanism for many of the daily mental challenges and struggles that I face. It allows me to express myself in a raw, safe and thus far anonymous environment. It is an opportunity for others to find security and commonality in my experiences and emotions; and it gives my friends and family members a better chance to see into the depths of my illness.

As the blog posts have evolved and have been exposed to a wider audience though my WordPress Account and Instagram (weight_of_gravity), several people, mostly friends who follow my blog, have encouraged me to venture further into writing. To take a leap and start writing a book – my story of truth, triumph and tragedy.

I can’t deny that I would be thrilled to call myself an author. Is my life story interesting enough for it to find a market out in the wide, wide world??? I certainly have the materials to fill a book. It would be a therapeutic journey for me to revisit that first binge, early experiences with restriction, the body image struggles, exercise addiction and the behaviours, symptoms and situations that have in the place that I am.

But is it a story worth sharing? More importantly, is it a story worth reading?

Like many others diagnosed with Mental Illnesses, I find comfort in hearing, learning and knowing the stories of others that have experienced similar circumstances; and reading the encouragement in the self help books. To hear the victories despite the turmoil is inspiring and offers hope. I am thankful to have read the journey’s others before me have taken; and to share in the steps they took along the way. They overcame, yet acknowledged that the journey is one of a whole lifetime, not a single hill to climb.

I am still at the bottom of the hill – most days overwhelmed and weak at the thought of having to take a step towards it; and so often am left standing in the same spot, with the weeds and grass growing around me. How does the story of being stationary translate to a community seeking comfort from victory?

I guess I am seeking to know, is there a story to tell in a journey that has not yet evolved into the main character being a Heroine?? Perhaps the story is a Trilogy…. with a beginning, middle and an end that has yet to be experienced.

Do I have a story to tell??

Brother’s Love

I was fortunate enough to grow up the little sister to two brothers…. they were little shits that took every opportunity to tease and torment me. They brought out the total shit in me. We fought and argued and tattle tailed on each other. But without a doubt I knew that they had my back when the “cool kids” were NOT so cool to me; and as we’ve grown up, they have stood by my side, not judged my stupid decisions (at least not to my face), they have tolerated me and loved me. I am blessed to have two incredible men in my life that have help me learn how to do treated. Much love for you Phil & Ian. Xoxo

She don’t eat Meat

In 1986, when I was 15 years old, my dear friend (whose name I no longer remember) announced that she was becoming Vegetarian. Without time to think for myself, I jumped on board and thus began our compassionate, ill-educated journey into vegetarianism. She lasted all of 4 months before a 15 minute break at our jobs had her ravenously devouring a McChicken. I, on the other hand have lasted 381 months. For those that are as challenged at math as I am, that is 32 years next month.

I can’t say that I miss or regret my choice, or more like my decision to follow along. I haven’t considered consuming meat for more years than I ever was exposed to it. Quite frankly, I am more turned off by it now than ever – I have taken some time to educate myself on factory farming, the environmental impact and all the other atrocities that occur in the industry (MY opinion of course) and that has further cemented my choice.

Not having regret, does not equal having made the right choice. As a young vegetarian, my diet consisted of a few staples: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Bagels and Peanut Butter, Cheese Pizza, French Fries and Doritos….. all compassionately vegetarian. Needless to say that my empathy for the environment and animals did not focus inward to myself. My vegetarian diet was shockingly missing……. vegetables.

Little changed in the first ten years of this “way of eating” with the exception of adding alcohol into my regular (if not daily) routine. It would be little surprise to any that this lead to the expansion of my waistline, and the decrease of any beneficial nutritional choices. Activity consisted of walking to the local cafe for a hangover breakfast or twerking on the dance floor of the pub next door (BEFORE twerking was even a real dance move).

For most of us, time does allow for some growing up, learning and adapting. In my later twenties, with a baby and an partner that was absent serving in the Military – I did make some adjustments and more adult food choices. Caesar Salad was a regular, along with Veggie Burgers, Fettuccine Alfredo, and I even added veggies to that pizza. The waistline expansion project did not disappoint. I had worked myself up to a size 16; and was consistently using food as comfort, from a negative and absentee relationship; and making myself too big to be seen.

Like a child, tastes change and I eventually evolved from a junk food vegetarian, to a cheese, wine and all things saucy connoisseur. A bottle or two of Merlot, a block of blue cheese, and a array of breads, crackers and vegetables for a Swiss Fondue, was the making of a perfect any night. As my relationship crumbled, food remained the constant pleasure, adventure and comfort that I needed to blind me; it was consistent, reliable and secure.

At my highest weight, I was shopping exclusively at Plus Size Clothing Stores, and literally screaming inside for someone, anyone to stop me long enough to feel the unconditional love of another, instead of the obscure relationship that I had created with food. Yet, no matter how I punished myself, and attempted to push others away with my weight, I remained as unseen then as I did years before. Someone had to start caring, someone had to make a change – and that someone could only be me.

Change I did. Armed with a weight loss / vegan promoting paperback….. I rushed through the pages and this time, made the choice all on my own. Vegetarian was no longer an option – I could only move forward as a Vegan… thus a 5 year journey began.

Looking back, the main reason for the transition WAS weight loss, but again I took time to learn, read and follow the guidance of those that wrote what I wanted to read. It shortly became my version of peace and spirituality. I cut out the cheese, wine, milk chocolate and found apps that made sure I was aware of what all those mysterious, unpronounceable ingredients were in processed foods. It felt empowering, in a life that I truly had no power. I felt cleansed, and in control – it was time to take back my body from the damage of the buffet of crap that I had been eating for the last 25 years. Let the reconstruction begin.

From the vegetarian plate of I can’t meat, fish, chicken, pork…. to the vegan platter of I ALSO can’t eat: milk, eggs, butter, cheese, whey, gelatine, etc. I did not need to learn to love my body with the foods I used to energize it – but instead needed to decrease the options available to me. In the Eating Disordered world…. this would be categorized as restriction. But I was not yet living on that side of reality – I lived in that world but denied it was my address.

Being Vegan did allow me to lose weight, combined with a regular exercise routine, and a disordered mind. I didn’t want to go back to the cheese plates, and wine tastings. I wanted a shot of pre-workout and a handful of cherries. I wanted control and abstinence. I was able to carry on this way for several years. And all around me were the negative, “playful” comments about my eating choices; yet I was showered with accolades for the progress I was making. It was fuel to my fire, and I invited everyone to douse that fire with gasoline.

When you are diagnosed with an eating disorder, almost every way of eating has the potential to become part of your disease. It doesn’t matter if you are following the Standard American Diet, Paleo, Vegan or Raw… there is always a crack for “ED” to find a way into. For all of the peace, serenity, and calm that I felt from excluding animal products from my life; there was an overwhelming intrusion present that allowed for me to label my own unhealthy behaviours as part of my lifestyle.

There are many a healthy, happy and balanced Vegan out there – I was just not one of them. Nor was a I among the vegetarians that were living life in peace. When food was combined with me in any way, plan, or way of eating, I was to find a way to manipulate it enough to make it “work” for my disorder.

Sitting across from my Psychiatrist, 17 months ago, in the in patient treatment centre; she began a conversation with me about how it was not a feasible choice for me to be Vegan. My Eating Disorder had derailed any former positive intentions and had created a stricter, more controlling way to convince me of my inability to eat. In my mind, I was calling Bullshit. BUT it was made clear that in order to receive treatment in the facility, I would not have the option of maintaining a Vegan diet.

This was a devastating blow, and I shed more tears over a little container of yogurt than I care to acknowledge; and I am sure that I was on the verge of choking myself to death the day that I had to eat a piece of cheese. I could not get that down my throat and out of my mouth fast enough. All in the name of recovery I kept telling myself. I even spoke to the facility Spiritual advisor and we were able to come to the agreement that my decision to consume non-vegan foods was solely for the health and recovery of my body – and although I was required to make that choice today, it was not a choice that I was locked into for the rest of time.

I have been out of the treatment centre for 16 months, and have yet to return to the Vegan way of living – and my Eating Disorder is LOVING the additional options that have been opened up to me. Now a binge can consist of a tub of ice cream, cake, cookies, and all of the “vegetarian” foods that were off the menu for 5 years. I think that the extra punishment – one for eating at all and two for eating non-vegan foods is a huge factor.

I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I think if I don’t the array of options available to me would decrease – but that would be considered restrictive behaviour. Yet having the extra options leads to more frequent and severe binges. In the battle between me and ED…. I lose this time.

Uphill Battle

A drawing I did this morning that depicts all of the emotions I regularly experience….. and how they meet up with my Eating Disorder. Only to suck me into a pit of behaviours…. they benefits of recovery buried out of my reach.

Snail Mail….

Recovery requires a lot of work, it’s a full time job you hate, with unexpected overtime, and downtime filled with exhaustion and frustration. It is more than planning snacks, finishing meals and learning to like your body. There is a uncomfortable resistance, amid all of the food, meals and calories. That is where the laundry list of issues that need to be sifted, sorted and exposed lie in wait. There is group therapy, 1:1 therapy, yoga, music therapy, coping 101, body image classes, spiritual groups and some more in-depth work that involves digging through the years of BS, behaviours, and traumas.

Thinking and feeling is involved – two things that I avoid as much as I can get away with. The assignments, homework and learning materials are filled with opportunities to enlighten and educate. Building a popsicle stick coaster is meant to teach us how to relax and distract our minds. Yoga and meditation can transport you from a space of anxiety to another world of calm, and tranquility. Coping skills can range from simply delaying thoughts from becoming actions, doing breath counts or enjoying a self care activity .

All basket weaving and namaste aside; the deep work is no joke. It is often met with resistance, anger and tears. Uncovering childhood trauma, abuse or neglect and being encouraged to bring them to light – it is a process we all try to work around instead of through. The hard stuff… is hard. But it is also supposed to be a avenue to bring us forward in our recovery.

The work has varying themes and purposes; yet some assignments have obvious similarities. A popular assignment, that can be manipulated in several different ways, is the process of writing a letter. I dread the idea of pen, paper, and unresolved issues. I would much rather send a short email or even better text messages. But the professionals claim that these handwritten letters are therapeutic, and even offer valuable insight. I guess they figure they know better, what with their years of education and multiple degrees on the subject.

It is a perfect opportunity to let go, speak your truth and lay it on the line. It could be pages written to your Eating Disorder, explaining the torment, love and hate you feel. A letter to your abuser, blasting “them” for the impact they left on you; a letter to your younger self about how there is in fact NOTHING wrong with you; or a letter to yourself today, looking to what the future holds for you.

I’ve had to write a letter to myself from someone telling me the things that I wish that they had told me. No surprise that I wrote a letter from my father. I also wrote a letter to my Eating Disorder, which was mostly a few pages of passive aggressive ramblings. I am not sure that I would go so far as to say that I found it to be therapeutic – I was a little surprised and sad. The reality staring back at me couldn’t be denied.

This time last year, I was working with an online “Recovery Tribe” group. It offered support, assignments, challenges and a community. I am a great student, who dives into groups and work filled with hope for enlightenment and the expectation of change. I have great journals, filled with the work that I have processed – and once it has hit the paper, it’s given little more thought that what happened to the band members of Duran Duran after the 80’s.

I actually pulled out one of those beautiful journals the other day, and began to skim through it, and you guessed it, I found the assignment that I wrote a letter to myself about what my life was going to be like one year from that date. From May 5th, 2017…. what was life going to be like with the flipping of the calendar pages??

Not only was re-reading this letter to myself sad, it was depressing. Not where I was, but not far enough away to claim I’ve created distance. It was like reading a declaration of good intentions, yet no actions.

My past self, from last year had vision. I saw the challenges and struggles; but mixed in with them was the strides forward, ever closer to the finish line of recovery – and the journey from there to the rest of my life.

This is what I saw…….

It is now May 5th, 2018… 365 days have been put to sleep and I am on a journey that continues to fill me with hope – and challenge me with doubt. But of one thing that I am sure – the woman before you today is not the woman she was – not last year, last month, or even this morning. I am evolving from where I became – by leaps and by baby steps. I make time for myself in my recovery – to honour who I am becoming and to remember where I’ve been. The challenges have seemed insurmountable at times but I face them as they come – and do my best in those moments. I know more about me, my disorder and how to continue the education needed to reach full recovery. I can, at most times, acknowledge guilt, shame and negative feelings and move on from them instead of feeling the need to bury or change them. I have learned to feel empowered in my body. Realizing there is more function and power behind the gym walls. I wear a smile on my face with authenticity behind it – not the need to “look” okay to others. It feels good. It feels good to be in a safer place.

I am not sure how to move forward from the expectations that I had here. Do I look at this as a grand step towards acknowledging the way that I want life to look for me; or do I close my eyes and admit the failures that have outlined the last year.

The hard stuff is hard. Each exercise has a purpose, whether it be to open a door to opportunity or close the door on the experience. I learned from the letters. Learned that what I want and what I feel are valid. I wanted my Dad to tell me that he was proud of me, and so I made that step for him in his letter. I wrote to my eating disorder to express the anger that I feel towards it, how it makes me feel and shuts me down. AND perhaps this letter to myself is not for May 5th, 2018, but for another day. Just for today, I haven’t removed the negative feelings, I haven’t found the power and worth in my own body, or authenticity in my smile. Just for today. Tomorrow is a whole 24 hours away, and as sad as I am that I am not in the place I hoped – I can whisper to myself “try again tomorrow”.

I am not sure that another letter to myself, with this intention, would be helpful. I feel as those it is a manuscript for what I was supposed to achieve but have failed at. I wish that I could be more clear on what I was truly supposed to learn from this work. As the negative side of me wants to usher me to the unachievable goals that I set; to reconfirm that reaching a more balanced life for me is but an illusion

I want!! I want!! I want….

Want, Desire, Demand, Craving, Fancy, Hankering, Yearning, Wish, Longing, Need, Requirement, Hunger.

I do not have a healthy relationship with “wanting”. As a matter of fact, I can say that I categorize wanting as a negative desire for something that I am not deserving of; most especially when it is directed at food, personal choices, desires or hopes. The choice to want something is irrational, and irresponsible. To want, say a Cookie is to admit that I do not want to be thinner, more athletic. It is a loud statement that I don’t care about my weight and goals or health. You may wonder how it is that a Oreo or Chips Ahoy can hold such power and control. I can tell you that the Creamy Milk Chocolate sensation that is Oreo; is a declaration of all the trips, falls, failures and missed opportunities that I have endured in my lifetime. MR. Christie you DO make good cookies…..but there is more than chocolaty goodness baked inside. It is a bite to bite battle between good and evil.

It is true, for most people, a cookie is a cookie, red velvet is a cake and milkshakes are liquid gold. It is a real Potato; Po-ta-to situation. Mr. Christie has never done anything to me, never held me down and forced baked goods into me, didn’t trick me into choosing him over a juicy ripe strawberry. But his mere existence is a taunting reminder of the repercussions of inviting him to the table.

Believe me when I say, I want a cookie. So much so that I will obsess over it, until the thoughts have become down right haunting. Want is wishing, craving, or a desire. It is not meant to be intrusive, controlling, enslaving or extreme. It is in the denial that the simple act of wanting is transformed into a punishment. Should I know, understand or allow myself to feel and act on the emotion of wanting – perhaps I would be able to enjoy that cookie, or cake. I have heard that it is possible to want, to have and to move on……in my world that is as mystical and magical as shooting stars and unicorns.

Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be. Unfortunately, my current situation involves a loud and abusive voice, that repeats the message I am not able to get to where I want to be. My strength is used to drown out the voice, instead of talking back. The negative playback is convincing; and what I want becomes a way to chastise myself. It becomes a series of edible validations of my inability to step into my own.

There are a list of things that I do give myself “permission” to want, but those are things that are more fantasy than reality – and do not actually require me to accept my flaws, shortcomings or skills. But allow me to live in the world of denial that I have created. I want to be popular, I want to be successful, I want to be accepted. There is little opportunity to reach these goals, as the person that I show the world. She is who I think has the best chance of having, not just wanting, but what she receives is cloaked in unauthentically. The version of me that is inside, remains hidden and unsatisfied.

Wanting is in direct conflict with discipline – for discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do, in order to get a result you really want to get. I don’t want for food, my weight or my body image to control my life; but in order to get the results of a trimmer, more active and appealing body, I must relinquish all control to the eating disorder. The trust to reach the goal or achieve the dream is rooted there.

Everything in my life takes a back seat to the conflict between wanting and subsequently denying. The backlash is disastrous. I do not feel that I in any way am deserving of even the simplest things in life; and the bigger more important things I almost work against myself should I have desires to achieve them. If I want and apple; I am plagued with questions and indecision, as I could have had an orange, or a pear…. or better yet nothing at all. My mind is propelled into the abyss, where I want to punish myself for making the choice that I did, an apple over an orange becomes the measure to which I determine my worth. I am learning that the choice is irrelevant; as the emotions that follow are forever the same.

It is easier NOT to want – or more like it is easier to convince myself that I do not want. That is a lie if ever I wrote one. It is not easier – but it does make it easier to put myself into the corner and punish myself, for wanting, for having and for the perceived consequences that choice has in store for me. The journey from wanting to having is racked with shame, guilt, and repeated attempts at denial, and withholding. The all too often giving in – is much worse. I wanted the Oreo, but by the time it hits my lips – it is no longer about wanting a treat but about wanting to punish and penalize myself for allowing the deniable.

In recovery, it is often said, “A thought is just a thought – it does not require an action.” I suppose that in a mind that is not swirling around with a 1000 different versions of the same thought, avoiding, suppressing, denying; a thought can be a fleeting idea. Or it could be transformed into the action. For the disordered, an action taken is a leap from avoidance, to reaction to repercussions. The want for a cookie, becomes an obsessive intrusion circling around in your mind, followed by throwing in the towel, only to be transformed into a complete fallout. The thought is now of regret, shame, guilt and disappointment – and a whole new pattern of action begins.

I know that deep down, I want. I want more than imaginable. Not just one or three of the dismissed forbidden foods, but I want to be comforted when my heart feels heavy, I want to be smiled at across a room, and made to feel beautiful. I want to curl up under the covers for the warmth and comfort they offer. I want a plethora of things. What I want most is to see the glimpse of hope that keeps being promised to me. The hope that is the beginning of what those before me saw on their way to their recovery. I want the hope that from want, to thought, to action…. and allow myself to put a period at the end of it all. I want to move on to the next moment without the shadows of the decisions left behind.

Girl Power(less)

1974, an ill-fitting bikini, soaked from running back & forth through the sprinkler on a humid summer day. A Kodak moment capturing one of the last times that my body was not the driving force, tool of destruction or constant obsession. The joys of playing in the sunshine, trailing behind my brothers, was not over shadowed by the consuming thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, failure, or the good and evil side of my body, weight, or food. I was enjoying the warmth on my skin, and the lightness of my heart. Captured on film, the feelings of comfort and calm suspended in time; a reminder of what once was.

My heart yearns for the little girl immersed in her own acceptance, and self assurance. I want to see beyond the ridiculous bikini and into that mischievous grin, which surely was up to or planning childlike shenanigans. I want to tell her to enjoy the way the water cools her skin, and the sun dries it; to remember the sweet juice of the watermelon running down her chin. And I want to embrace her. As long as I can, because she was the ME that I was meant to follow; she was not supposed to take that leap…. yet she jumped head first, and has been falling ever since.

I really studied this picture from my childhood, absorbed the atmosphere, environment and emotions that it held within. I look at the girl smiling back at me, her innocence was unscarred, and she was oblivious to what was to come. Yet in the blink of an eye, I was able to shatter her world, to begin the destruction of what she was, and start the creation of what she would become.

I don’t want to tell her she is Fat…. although I think that she is. I don’t want to tell her that she is a failure…… but she IS a breath away from defeat. I don’t want to tell her that this is the highest point of who she will be; but that is the truth. I want to keep these things to myself, not because I fear hurting her, or causing her pain, but because in the years that are to follow hereafter, peace and safety will become out of reach. These are her last moments of internal harmony. I didn’t say it out loud, but she heard my whispers, felt my wishes and accepted my dreams. She heard me tell her she was fat, that she was a failure; and she built the foundation of her future on that. She became a little girl trapped in the image of the photo; yet with the visions of my future self. It was a combination that was destined to create a whole different conversation in my head; it led me to the road less travelled – and I became lost in the depth and darkness of the forest.

She is pure of heart, innocent of crimes against herself, and genuine in her intentions. Yet, I am unable to look at her without judgement – without jealousy, contempt, disparagement and regret. As much as I want to feel the freedom that she radiates; even enough to feel the twinge of jealousy, I can not accept that it accompanies the early makings of the chubby belly, round face, thick thighs and double chin. I resent her. I am angry at her. I do not like her. I want to hate her, but the reality of her making those feelings stir within me, make me hate her more, for who am I to have such strong distaste for a girl with nothing but hope and happiness in store for me.

It is not that I don’t want to repeat to her all of the things that I tell myself today – it is that I don’t want to be perceived as the kind of person that unleashes such trauma on her future. Yet, I want to ensure that she is aware of the limitations that she must grow in. Catch 22. I could not look at my child, my grandchild and say the things that reverberate in my mind; as the thoughts are just not there for them. They are the heartbeat that lives outside of me – yet my 4 year old self, is the arrhythmia that threatens my existence; such as it is.

I have no memory of the day that this photo was taken, but can create the story that lives behind it. I am nothing if not a good story teller – as much as I have described the one that smiles back from the lens, it does not return me to any feelings from the day; only brings to light the flaws I see in her. Of one thing I am sure, she is caught up in the moment, being carefree, and cheerful, and fully exposed. This would not come to me now as it appeared then. I hope to at some point find the strength that is packed tightly into her 4 year old self.

Although I can not expose myself, my body, or my skin as bravely as she does; I can expose the truth that is behind the turmoil and hope that as time passes, and the words flow, I will begin to allow her to visit me; so that I can learn from her. The ultimate goal is to be one, with the wisdom and knowledge of a woman who has taken herself to the brink, with the innocence, hope and courage of a child in an ill fitting bikini, writing the end of the story of our two worlds colliding.

Take me Back

April 2015 was MINE….. the month that I got closer to the ME that I’ve always wanted, closer than I have ever been. I bought my jeans in a size 4, I was working my way though a Health Coaching Certification Program, I was a regular and recognized fixture at the local Gym. I was so close to being in the place that I had fought and failed to be in for over 40 years. I was 7 pounds away from a victory dance. Or was it 8…. or 10.

My doctor says that I would never have reached that “ultimate” dance floor. I would have walked out there, in my party dress, and sparkling shoes, and realize that this was not the moment to celebrate. I could accept where I was, but could not allow it to derail me from where I still needed to go. Little did I know that I would not move beyond that point – but would rapidly, with great strides and painful lapses, take the mental and emotion desires of the woman I “became” and enclose her back into the body that I struggled to escape. Bite by bite, through judgement, self loathing and lack of worthiness, the dance floor darkened and I was back at the table alone with my belly full of shame and my plate full of discriminating punishment.

It’s true, I am not where I used to be. It’s also true that I began this journey at 7lbs 6 oz….. I have come a long way since then. Joking aside….. where I am is the scariest place that I have ever been. Through teenage angst, failed relationships, financial failures, and personal disappointments – over the years I was able to bury the regret and shame behind a ballooning body, a blossoming connoisseur of all things wine, and behaviours that were inconsiderate, inappropriate and deceitful. Behind the smile, jokes and up for anything facade, was a victim trapped inside a cavern so deep and dark, there was no light to see beyond what my mind imagined.

I am still in the cavern. Over the last few years it has changed….. sometimes I can see what I hope to be light, but I have not been brave enough to investigate. Back when I was in a body of almost twice the size that I was in 2015, the self abuse was hidden from sight. I organized Wing Wednesday’s, Wine & Cheese Parties, vacations, and Back yard bonfires. I could always be relied on to make the weekend something to look forward to. Through, copious bottles of wine, unlimited supply of fresh baked goodies, and a comfy spot to enjoy them both; the pounds packed on. All in an attempt to see how far I could push my acceptance – what it would take for someone to finally walk away. Through the sugar cookies and fresh bread, would I prove to be too unattractive, unloveable, unworthy, and unwanted. Could I enlighten others, through the shame and guilt I felt I expressed in my body. Could I use my size to ensure distance and abandonment.

My body has become the test lab – to draw people in and push people out. As I achieve the weight loss, muscle gains and size smalls, attention is rained upon me. You look great…. did you lose weight, how did you do it?? As the pounds drop and my body transforms, my personality adjusts to that of a content, focused and determined participant in my life. Not surprisingly, the attention is not in actual fact a confirmation or reflection of the soul that lives inside. Here enters the punishing behaviours. The depression, anxiety, body shaming, body dysmorphia, binging, purging and all the other expressions of destruction. The package is NOT a refection of what is inside.

I am not where I was at 257 lbs…… I am not where I was at 132 lbs. I am right here, in this spot. Feeling the same sense of embarrassment, regret, humiliation, and pain; the number on the scale does not determine or promise adjusted emotions. During a session with my Psychiatrist, she was trying to open my eyes to the fact that no matter the size that I am – relief can not be found there; because it is not about the food, or weight or body. While I clearly see that, as I have played this out a various sizes, but my response to her was – if I am to be miserable and abusive at any size, then my wish is to be that way skinny, thin and trim. One of the saddest autobiographies ever written – but it is based more than on a true story; but on the factual desires of my disordered mind.

If I could have anything today, it would be to crawl back out of this oversized, soft and frumpy body, and back into the trim, athletic body that I abandoned 3 years ago. I am NOT where I was, and that is BECAUSE I am not where I want to be. That place, back then, had more hope. I know that perhaps sounds somewhat delusional – but I did not fixate on losing 45lbs…. or binge on whipped cream. Sometimes the calm and peace of a disorder can be found in stepping out of the familiar behaviour and into one that allows you to focus on something more encouraging. Restricting, over exercising, body checking, are all behaviours that bring me hope. Anything that offers a little hint of hope is the direction that I want to turn, even if it is destruction that I choose to perceive as hope.

I want to go back in time, and show myself where it is that I will end up if I don’t take better care. I know that it is not possible to do that, time is what it is, a passing and fleeting series of moments that can never be again. Perhaps a journey into the the future, as a wake up call to the direction that I am headed if I do not begin the climb out of the cavern I am hidden. A trip to the days behind or the days ahead, is truly not possible. And so I am faced with the 24 hours that lie in front of me, the only time that I am unwilling to face. It is the place that require me to make decisions; often ones that lead to regret and more decisions, which are based on my feelings of failure. The present is anything but….. it is a reminder of where I am, where I am no longer and it foreshadows the road ahead.

It is with a deep and unrelenting desire that I hope to return to the place I once was, and through that journey, I am able to remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes. Should I be unable to change – please make me able to learn.

Eye Witness…

I love cilantro, but for some reason this adoration skipped a generation because my daughter can’t stand it. I am trying to make sense of something that seems so obvious – cilantro is delicious; yet no matter how many times I tell her, she remains steadfast in her distaste of it. Her individual thoughts and beliefs on this, seem like an opinion that needs to be reviewed and revised. And instead of accepting that the two can co-exist; my love, her hate, I find I commit my energy to disproving the opposition. Committed to arguing the validity of MY opinion over hers. Wholeheartedly invested in ensuring that she is able to see the reality; as it is through my eyes – or tastebuds in this case. The possibility that an opinion or emotion other than my own can be proven to be right, without ME having to completely agree or disagree, is a reality I must challenge.

Just like my husband loves me. He treats me as though I am a extension of the life that he wants for himself. Yesterday, as I succumbed to my struggled to stay awake on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, he covered me with a warm and cozy blanket, and the better part of two hours were spent sprawled across the couch. Mind you, he had tuned into a PGA golf tournament, so the expectations to stay awake should have been low. He doesn’t complain when he comes home from work, and I am sitting on the couch creating yet another pair of slippers for no one in particular, and the laundry has been forgotten in the dryer. And even though I see myself though the circus mirror, that adds 50 lbs to the already 40 I have gained back, he is always up to participate in some intimate choreography. He loves me and there are no boundaries, borders, or conditions to the way that he feels it. It comes to him in the most natural and instinctive ways.

There is certainly no love loss between the me I am and the me that I think that I should be. I feel undeserving of love, compassion, empathy or understanding. I live my life on the premise that what I need must be earned, there is no unconditional or unwavering. I meet the standard and must work with all that I am to keep that level of acceptance. I can not welcome the possibility that the judgements and fears that I have about myself – may not be as accurate as I make them out to be. I don’t love me, I would not provide the warmth of a blanket, the understanding of the unfolded laundry, nor do I feel that the intimacy that I share is out of a raw desire for ME – but is merely a primal wanting. I don’t even like me. I find more faults than my mind can work to cover up – and so I end up at the deep end of the pool, drowning in the waters I jump head first into.

It is reality, that I am loved as though the beats in his heart are meant for me. It is in my own heart that I feel the missing and skipping beats. His love is no less powerful to him, even when tainted by the strength in the way that it is received by me. The two emotions are true and real at the same time – but to accept the truth is where I stumble.

I want to show him, explain to him that what he sees is a mirage. I have somehow “tricked” him into seeing parts of me that are illusions, false realities. I want to make him believe that I am not good enough, that I am in fact not the woman worthy of the love he feels. I want him to validate me – I want to hear it out loud from him…. you are FAT, you are lazy, you haven’t lived up to what you presented yourself to be. I need the abuse validated from someone else’s tongue. I can’t comprehend that his version of me is real, or have it survive in the same space as the version that thrives inside me – despite the external forces. I need the injuries to be more visible on the outside – so that I have the affirmation that I feel is required to knock me into a new action plan. A plan that can take me from the pitiful place that I reside, to a hopeful place of change and transformation.

He will not fulfill this need – because he does not look at me through the same window as I do. He sees through clear glass, where as I am stuck behind a one way window. It is like I am asking him, begging him, to participate in the on-going mental and emotion abuse that I endure, at my own hands and mind. As, he sits back, with his own thoughts, emotions, feelings and beliefs; about me; I am unwilling to accept what he sees. He is anything but dishonest, he has built a strong foundation of honesty and truth in his life. But, I can’t help but believe that he is making decisions and choices with less than true facts. As if he has fallen in love with me – yet is completely unaware of the flaws that make me unloveable; and it is my responsibility to present him with the facts as they are. It is my role to ensure that he eventually sees all of the facts, as I know them to be.

He lives with my steadfast attempts to enlighten him on what he has taken on, but he is not alone…. I play out this role in almost all of my relationships, Psychiatrist excluded. There is something in me that feels like it needs to die a few times, before I will be able to live. I have to shine the light on me, because I am truly all that I have, I have to be enough for myself. The only guarantee that I have, is the footsteps and footprints that I make. And I must walk alone to leave my mark and not expect others to see my path.

Of all the things others see in me, and all that I am – I hope it is bravery. It stands alone, but as I wake each morning to face the same demons that haunted and left me exhausted the night before, I can claim bravery. Perhaps the real courageous thing to do, is allow the world around me to have their own views and opinions; and instead of trying to convince each person that dares to know me, that I am the dark and hopeless soul I internally portray – I can catch a glimpse of what they see in me.

Demi…Meaning Lesser, yet SO Much More…

Being in my mid (okay…… to late) forties, I feel comfortable and honest admitting that I have never been a Demi Lovato fan. Mainly because, I was watching the first season of Friends, before she had even begun her appearance on Barney & Friends. And by the time she was soaring to stardom on the Disney channel, Ross and Rachel had navigated poorly through a “break”, Phoebe had triplets, Chandler and Monica were on the road to Happily Ever After, and Joey…. hmmmmm, what did Joey do? I just am not familiar enough with her work, career and history to have a real opinion one way or another. So when I say I am not a fan – it is based on lack of interest not lack of appreciation.

Yesterday, I became an admirer, my appreciation for her sparked an interest that is beyond skin deep, and is equal to a connection by experience. Now, as I have admitted to being in the middle aged era of my life – it should come as no shock to anyone that Dr. Phil is a favourite, not only is he an “emotional compass”, but he knows people…. from Origins Ranch to Dr. Freda. His show is a staple Monday through Friday. This March 20th, 2018 show – he was up close and personal with Demi Lovato. She shared the struggles of her past, her journey to and through sobriety, her desire to offer inspiration and motivation to her fans and followers, and her motivation to increase the awareness of mental health. She talked of mountains that she has climbed, and I watched her in admiration from the bottom.

I am not sure that there was a profound action or statement that she shared that had me sit up and take notice. It was more in her starting place and the work she feels drawn to continue, for herself and for the community around her. From a cocaine addicted, super star, secretly struggling with alcohol, bullying, low self worth, suicidal thoughts and an eating disorder; she unveiled a woman stronger than her vices, and louder than the voices. There were a series of turning points, it was not a straight line from the secret life to a world of peace, recovery and acceptance.

I think that I became drawn to the message, because through my own veil of mental illnesses, I was able to see, ever so briefly, that there is more than one spoke on this wheel. There are several and they all need to be in good repair, and require consistent attention. The wheel does not fix itself, and each part plays a role in the overall function; and although it does have the ability to “work” with cracked spokes, or even some missing, and does have the appearance of a functioning wheel, the truth is that the road it travels on is a lot bumpier and much longer. You still have the ability to propel forward, but with numbing emotions that cry out that this life isn’t yours. Everyone around you is living, and loving, and doing, while you are simply breathing, watching and waiting….. for what?? Doing the same thing over and over, yet the insane expectations remain the same.

She made me think. And for me, that is an accomplishment in itself. To have a flash, or moment that takes me away from 40+ years of conditioned thinking, is like a spark of hope. It also is terrifying, overwhelming and makes me want to retreat back to the safety of my familiar thoughts. But today, I allowed the spark to happen, yes, it fizzled out quickly, but in days gone by, no flint would have produced such a moment. Like she preforms the hit song, the thought passed through my mind – “ You Don’t do it for me Anymore”.

I am not trying to proclaim that I have been awakened from my mental illness by Dr. Phil and Demi Lovato, but I have certainly been encouraged by her success and ability to take control over her life. I remain spellbound by my Eating Disorder – I still want to believe that it is ME that has the power and not that I am powerless over it. I want different results using the same actions – I want to believe that how I choose to behave will ultimately get me to the desired point of acceptance and relief. I want to be surrounded with the comforting thoughts that I might be OK, just the way I am.

I strive to be more, do more and have more – but that doesn’t have to take away from anything that I already have. I guess that her rock bottom looked like a familiar place; not the same shadows, or villains in the story but familiar enough that I felt a brief camaraderie. No matter that I am still at the bottom of the mountain and she at the top. The space in between is still a common struggle.

I’ve followed her on Instagram, and will continue to look upon her, to share in victories that she makes. Victories are achievable in this convoluted, distorted illness. The addict remains, the Eating Disorder is part of my mental health – it is all about learning to live our lives in the ways that support and encourage recovery from our illness; and not in giving into the messages that cycle through our minds with ferocious power. An important key to recovery is in knowing the point that you came from, so that you remember that you do not want to go back. It is not about denying the existence -but living in harmony and strength DESPITE the challenges.

With spark, fires can be ignited. I am inspired and encouraged by you, Demi Lovato, you lit your candle, and are nurturing its flame. Things that you want to last forever can not be rushed. And so I will take my time learning to create a relationship that allows me to live WITH my mental illness and not FOR my mental illnesses.

Six Degree Spiral

Last week I was invited to a milestone celebration. Sitting among the guests, I was hit with the realization that each person in that room had changed their lives, not only for themselves, but with enough impact to affect their friends, and families. Behaviours and choices spiralled out from them and into places they had never touched, never seen. Acceptance and peace was apparent from the chronicles and stories shared in this room, and my thoughts were confirmed, as individuals spoke of the gift our friend was to them and their lives.

He was described as a man that had found his way from the angry recesses of his mind, into a world that helped him to see strength where he previously only saw flaws. I heard of the friendships that had been built over the course of the last 20 years; that were more genuine, deep and valuable than any he had made in his 40 years prior. From a man in the throws of addiction, in a life lost to drugs and chasing a fix; he had transformed into a mentor, friend, sponsor, god father, and valued member of the community. An extraordinary example that if you work the program; the program works.

I was humbled to be within the walls of that room, that held his 20 years of clean time, and inspired by the guest who was celebrating his first 24 hours. Each was there to experience the moments of Just for Today, to embrace the community that they had built. A safe place to be a recovering addict; a safe place to be clean and a safe place to be in recovery.

It was 20 years of counting the minutes, the hours and finally the days. Key Fobs commemorating milestones on the journey transitioned from 30 days, to 60, 90, six months, a year, and ultimately multiple years. More than just a key chain; a validation of the work, sweat and tears. And although the journey requires walking alone, there is an abundance of evidence left by those that walked ahead of you. And, the footprints you leave are clear indications that progress not perfection is possible.

Having relationships with valuable people in my life, that are members of this life changing group, I can not help but see the wide spread affect that their choices have made. An often unexpected spiral of hope, love and inspiration occurs, from the vital starting point in the beginning, to the realization that the most important person in this is YOU.

The spiral starts there, and from that point, the landscape changes. The choices and changes begin to pick up people along the way. And each person that hears the story, shares the success, and feels the outreaching affects of progress, is forever altered.

In my own situation, I would never have found the man that was to become my husband, had he not chose recovery. It was made more manageable and hopeful by the people that came before him. Through the journey, each step that he took, was a step that one more person outside of himself benefited from his commitment. The lessons he learned from his Sponsor, the love he showed to those he would eventually sponsor; would filter out into the world. From one to another, and another. Like a wave crashing to shore, touching each individual grain of sand but only knowing the beach.

From the beginning, there is no end. More and more people become part of it. The spiral becomes the six degrees of separation – the theory that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of no more than six steps. From the Recovered’s six steps and each of their six steps…. the chain of impact is endless.

You are one spiral away from everyone that you know, two degrees from everyone that THEY know, and so on. Finding the right six people is an gift; and to have the starting point as someone who has dedicated their lives to acknowledging their weakness, faults and challenges, yet sees the value in creating a life worth living from the experiences of past, is an blessing.

I am thankful the I am only one degree from so many, encouraged by the connections I have to so many others in this enlightening journey. Surround yourself with hope, light and success – it is contagious. Never stop your spiral from moving; never stop picking up passengers along the way.

Axe vs. Tree

The axe forgets;the tree remembers.

African Proverb

Emotional Abuse is a series of repeated incidents whether intentional or not – that insults, threatens, isolates, degrades, humiliates and/or controls another person. Self Abuse has a much simpler, yet, in my opinion, incomplete definition – reproach of oneself; abuse of one’s body or health. Although, I have been unable to “google” an adequate description of what the interpretation of Emotional Self Abuse is; I think it is fair to say it is a combination….. that includes the insults, threats, isolation, humiliation and control OF ONESELF.

There are no bruises that colour my skin, no cuts or breaks…. no physical proof to alert the world, or even the mirror, that damage has been done. Instead, there are deeply inflicted wounds that stifle my beating heart and scars in my mind that refuse to heal.

I have stripped away all of the layers of my self worth, leaving a raw and fragile canvas with which to design my life. I have been drained of my strength, my desire to dig deep and pull myself out of this poisonous situation. My heart is in turmoil living in a body that wants me to love it, yet constantly attempts to destroy me. I am the victim of my own behaviours, thoughts and actions. I am the abuser who inflicts pain, doubt, and fear. I have been betrayed – I am the one that should offer protection from the one that harms me. The monsters are no longer hiding under the bed, but can be found inside me, hiding in plain sight.

This is not to say that I do not have moments, or even days that I can string together, what begins to appear as progress. But the clock ticks too quickly on these moments, and I unconsciously begin to look for ways to screw it up. Deep down, I believe that it is only a matter of time before I stumble, trip and fall. And so, I would rather fall from a three storey window, than jump from the penthouse balcony.

The abuser is a sneaky, deceitful bully. It creates false stories that it expertly weaves into truths. It has a way of rewriting the negative behaviour, blaming me for causing it, using denial and projection; while appearing concerned. The abuser uses trick mirrors and smoke screens to fabricate the desired effect, which is to keep me believing the lies, and utilizing my despair and silence me into submission. It thrives in the environment within, that has been constructed out of; control, perfectionism, blame, denial, myth-making, guilt, shame and failure. All the while, using the tools of justification, motivation and compassion as the foundation. The smoke does not fade away, the mirrors reveal the “facts”, and I am hypnotized by the waves of emotion that transform me from the abuser to the abused.

I am a product of my decisions, the victim of the daily emotional battles within. The tape in my head makes the assumptions of a co-dependant; if I say no, you will get mad at me; to be loved, I have to fit your idea of lovability; if I could just change, things would improve; or if you are upset, it must be as a result of something that I have done. Behind me stands the abuser, validating and confirming the negative thoughts.

I claim to be the victim, and that is the most recognizable definition. Yet, it was only in the first few times that the abuser in me reared it’s ugly head, that I fell victim. In all the moments, times and instances since, I have been a volunteer. With the concept of boundaries outside of my scope of understanding, the abuser and victim engage in a dance so practiced and rehearsed that the familiarity of the darkness is the only place that I can hide myself FROM myself; and it is the safety of not being seen by others.

In the recesses of my mind is the girl that has been kept under lock and key, wondering how to be loveable, how to be worthy, how to be better. I want to be her hero, to save her and let her know that she is safe with me. But she has become the target of all the abuse, frustration, punishment and hostility. It is HER that holds me back, HER that creates the problems, HER that refuses to behave. She is the reason that she and the abuser must co-exist. It seems impossible…. as I feel like I need to save her from herself….. from me.

I am an abuser, a victim, a volunteer……

I am an abuser, a victim, a volunteer……

I feel drained of my identity; with self doubt beating in my heart. I question my own sanity and my judgement. I am at war with my body and mind; trying to scrub the damaging words off of my skin, while simultaneously writing more. My physical state is transforming to match the mental state that has been shaken to it’s core.

I am a warrior, trapped in the house that cages an abuser, a victim and a volunteer. But, there is nothing more beautiful, more powerful or more compelling than a person whose heart has been repeatedly broken; but still believes in the power to heal.

I believe……

Canadian Weight Loss Grant

We all have experienced the mass marketing efforts of the Fitness, Diet and Nutrition industry each January, as they attempt to cash in on our good intentions and New Years resolutions. The TV, magazines, and advertisements are overflowing with “opportunities” – please note that I use that term loosely and without belief – to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks, develop abs of steel or build long standing, meaningful relationships with fellow Yoga or Power FItness class members. I have come to expect this kind of marketing – preying on my insecurities and false hopes. But this year, 2018, there has been a new player added to the mix – and I have more than concern; I am actually appalled at their appearance on this deceiving and manipulative playing field. In my eyes, they are making Dr. Phil’s book 20/20 and Dr. Oz’s endorsement of Green Tea Extract more of a viable opportunity.

They make no promises that you will have complete satisfaction from a delicious meal replacement shake; they will not hand deliver ready-made meals to your doorstep; taking the guess work out of your food choices; and you aren’t required to be a mathlete, or algebra all star; nor do you need to keep meticulous records, of the numbers that add up to your success (or failure) – no not cholesterol, or blood pressure; but fats, carbohydrates, calories and/or protein.

What I am referring to is this:

Canadian Weight Loss Grant Program

That’s right… now you can get “rewarded for positive results” by the Oral Aesthetics Advocacy Group. The what now?? A research, information and funding organization developed by health practitioners and industry professionals.

This organization has taken it upon themselves to “reward” our community members, by offering grants that defray the costs of approved weight loss programs. The generous creation of this weight loss grant, is founded on the “belief that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese.” SIDE NOTE – according to the NEDIC fact sheet, statistics in Canada for 2015 indicated the mortality rate for eating disorders was as high as 10% within the first 10 years of diagnosis.

Before you rush off to the website to check out the easy and guaranteed acceptance application, be aware that there is a defined criteria required. This Grant is available to overweight men / woman that have expressed a “supreme desire” to lose the excess weight…. that is making them unhealthy. You must know how much weight you want to lose, how long you expect this to take, a weight loss company that will “support” you, the cost of this “support” and when you are prepared to start your new journey.

Keep in mind, this is a program that was created and funded by an Aesthetics Advocacy group AND members of the weight loss community. It is a goal to build a support program that fosters a positive relationship between weight loss companies and health care professionals. And so a Health and Weight Diagnosis form must be completed by a Clinician; verifying your current weight, the amount you can “safely” lose, start and end dates of weight loss journey and of course the financial amount that the grant will be covering in the overall cost of your selected program.

So far this sounds like it isn’t such a bad idea. Receiving a grant, of up to $2500, to cover up to 80% of the cost and you have the ability to choose whom you want to support you. The list of approved providers is substantial…. in person or online services and / or membership fees, from Commercial Weight Loss Companies like Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers. Gyms and Health clubs, such as GoodLife Fitness can receive the grant proceeds to be used towards membership fees, health supplements and personal trainers. If those are not within your capabilities to succeed at your weight loss – how about putting your grant money towards a Medical Weight Loss Clinic, maybe Dr. Bernstein or the Mayo Clinic. And not to be forgotten, registered health care Professionals – would be funded to provide in-person or remote counselling; you can see a Dietitian, Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor who will be there for you as you create a better YOU.

The fact that billions of dollars are spent annually in the Diet Industry, is a loud statement that such a grant will be widely and openly accepted by many. Any funds to help defer the costs of the journey towards health are welcomed funds. My concern is the underlying message that is hidden within the opportunity. It is essentially a group of medical professionals that are backing the mission statements and messages that large “WEIGHT LOSS” corporations are “selling”. It is in fact, offering financial support to the already fat wallets of the Diet Industry Kingpins.

I have learned through my own weight loss/ weight gain / eating disorder journey – that the number on the scale is a reflection of my internal relationship with myself. I have weighed much less than I do today; and that is when the ED screamed so loud that I could not hear anything else; the green tea extract, gym memberships, sports bras, and my “fitspo” family did nothing to absolve me from the tumultuous relationship I have with food; nor did it calm the direction of my disordered thinking. What it did do was create a another unfair playing field. I changed the game, but still refused to play by the rules.

I can not imagine having my own Doctor support the Canadian Weight Loss Grant. It would feel like a betrayal of the work we have done and the commitment that we have made to each other to navigate through my mental & physical health in the most compassionate way possible. My Eating Disorder HAS applied to this grant – $2500 towards its cause is more than a gift. But thus far I have ignored the acceptance emails, and avoided the “where ya been” voicemails. And my intentions are not to reply.

I am anxiously waiting for the, “Hey, You are alright” Grant. And when I am approved for that $2500 dollars; I intend to reward my positive results by NOT defining my life, success, worthiness and loveability by the numbers on the scale, BMI Chart or calorie count.

Crime, Punishment and a Game of Dominos

FINAL work in my 5 part Eating Disorder Awareness Week Series – enjoy

There are some strange and outdated laws still in existence. In British Columbia, Canada, Doctors are forbidden to talk about hockey during surgery; in Illinois it is illegal to eat in a burning building; in Florida, it is illegal to sell your children; Louisiana can sentence you to a year in jail for making false promises; country wide in Canada – the “apology act” states that apologizing to someone after an incident can’t be used in court to establish guilt or liability of the person apologizing.

I have created my own personal judicial system; which has it’s own set of laws, regulations and requirements. And punishment is regularly allocated for my crimes…. no matter how minor or unrealistic the violation(s) may be. In my world, it is a reasonable expectation to apply consequences, concocted in the ying and the yang of the Mentally Disordered mind.

Much of the recent session with my Psychiatrist, was filled with conversations (her talking me panicking), that brought to light the punishment strategy that I use in my day to day life. Sitting across from her, I can see that when I decide to go for a coffee to get out of the house; what I am in fact doing is creating an obstacle to prolong the punishment of my unworthiness by denying myself food. Or, allowing myself to have Subway for lunch, is simply a complete crime against my eating disorder and absolution that I am a failure – disciplinary action is unavoidable; a binge or purge or combination of the two is required; and the punishment does not stop there…..it is just beginning.

Punishment is a penalty that is inflicted for an offence or fault… or even a severe treatment. But what it is for me is the teetering domino, always a threat… imminent; and it is never a single piece that tumbles. This one event is the catalyst, eating, not eating, what I ate, what I didn’t eat, meal plan, coping skill, anxiety or expectations. The first toppling domino to fall back, creates the chain reaction… one by one they fall. The first event is where it can be traced back to, but that one piece has been buried under the pile that came after it.

The first actions of each day, are simply the opening statements for the trial. The beginning of the day consists of setting up the Dominos, representative of my goals, intentions, the what ifs, should’s, and I will; all based on the failure, actions, and punishments that has left shadows from the day behind me. I stand back and am proud of what plans I have made and what’s ahead for me. Motivation seeps into me, I feel confident in the directions that I have laid out. I’ve left no room for error, or side steps – it is a definite path. And so, I step forward…..without fail, the careful and deliberate step has started the mechanical reaction of action to punishment. The Dominos begins to fall and the sentencing has begun. What for a short time was well-laid plans; has been redesigned to confirm my forthcoming failure of epic proportions.

Today, it was punishment for the guilt I feel. I’ve been tired and weak lately, some mental and a lot due to notably low iron/hemoglobin levels; and the combination of anxiety, depression, relationships and eating disordered behaviours. I should have breakfast to start my day….. but is that punishing myself knowing the window of opportunities to overeat has been opened, the domino begins to sway. I want breakfast…. but first, shovel the driveway of the unseasonable snowfall; start the laundry, food prep for family, vacuum, dust, etc…. Each a normal task to be done, but each with a distinct and hostile purpose, for this delay tactic is the punishment for which I have handed down to myself. The retribution is not only the restriction of time available for consumption of any sustenance, but also to ensure that I have lifted the disappointment and shame of feeling incomplete in the role I play in my family; I must earn the approval, love and acceptance in my home, by ensuring others are care for, and not burdened by additional responsibilities. The pieces are running wild; and falling with abandon.

The challenge is to realize that not every choice is a crime; nor deserving of a consequence. And so with each action, piece of evidence or domino; ask myself do I WANT this??? If the answer is yes, then the punishment does not fit the so-called crime. It is not a offence to want something, want to eat when hungry, want to eat something I like, to exercise, to socialize, or to want to be successful. Wanting is not self-serving, narcissistic, or scandalous. It does not warrant punitive measures. It is not a change that is on the horizon; for the actual act of wanting in itself, irregardless of the action taken or not, self victimization is a penalty that continues to be imposed.

I have a journal, more of a little notebook, which I am using to record the self imposed punishments that I penalize myself with throughout the day……. and I guess the “rewards” which would be the opposite action. I don’t know if it is intentional – as in I just don’t want to do it; or if I am unintentionally blurring the lines – in attempts to ignore or confuse what is in fact punishment and I am viewing as potential “motivation” or “control”.

There has to be something said in the fact that I am asking the question more often than I have ever done… do I want this?? I can’t answer that question as honestly as I would like to, nor can I fully believe in my worthiness to feel deserving of “wanting”. It is that tight space between a rock and a hard place. For now, I will wish to want to be able to face my own vulnerability.

Vulnerability is terrifying. The courage that it takes to reveal your heart is one of the most daunting……and yet rewarding experiences in life. It will set you free.

“The Better Man Project”

DIY Obstacles, Hurdles and Barriers

4:5 in my Eating Disorder Awareness Week Series

The definition of self sabotage is clearly defined as behaviour(s) that create problems and interfere with long-standing goals. So from the outside looking in, I could be comfortably labeled as a self saboteur. The perspective from the inside is not quite as straightforward. What is the label for someone that engages in the exact same behaviours, but has the unwavering belief that this is in fact the path to achieving those long elusive goals. Delusional?

I would not put myself into the category of a procrastinator, I more avoid things all together, and don’t bother with the avoid until I can’t put it off any longer. I don’t self medicate with drugs or alcohol (anymore); nor have I crossed the line into self injury. All of which are the most common symptoms and behaviours associated with Self Sabotage. I am sure that there are other more subtle behaviours that I engage in, that a trained professional would easily point to as self imposed barriers. I do not blind myself, I do believe it to be true that I am the thing that prevents me from being successful in my quest to live the live that I really want. Or is it from the life I really deserve.

Regardless of the common or not-so-common behaviours of self sabotage – there are really two factors that play a significant role in the resistance or stuck feeling, that keeps you in the cycle of achieving what you want and blocking yourself in the process. Either you are indecisive about what you want or you are too uncomfortable to make it happen. Now I am not claiming that it is this cut and dry, because it certainly isn’t and rarely is; most especially in the minds or behaviours of someone facing mental health challenges.

I am trying to understanding why it is that I continue to engage in behaviours that are in the direct path of my goals. Unless I have misread what my goals are – I am starting to question whether my goal is to create turmoil, chaos and discontent within myself. Because I can create that in spades. Is this really self-sabotage OR is it yet another facet to the already complicated web that makes up my Eating Disorder?

To engage in a behaviour that is not only a road block, but another obstacle to overcome – comes with a long list of conflicting emotions. It is like playing a solo game of ping pong, with one table, one racket and 10,000 balls. Sure you may hit a ball or two but the number that are coming at you unplayed far outweighs any efforts you make to return a ball to the other side.

One of the things that I strive to achieve, a goal that I believe sets the tone for my entire life, is the unwavering desire to lose weight. It’s no secret; as a matter of fact, it is a well diagnosed symptom of Eating Disorders. Each and every move that I make has the duality of creating a path to the goal and creating a barrier. There is no middle ground. The goal is in bold Black and White!! It comes down to the familiar saying – you are either with me or against me. And in a mind that desires nothing more than to become a more tolerable version of myself; even the tiniest of deviations is a invitation to derail the train. What if….. what if the self sabotage is in the goal itself?

There is a formula that presents in the self sabotage equation – it involves guilt, blame and shame. I carry guilt; therefore I deserve to be punished. I carry blame; therefore I should carry all / everyone’s burdens. I am ashamed; therefore I must hide / suppress myself. These are not the only factors; feelings of being unloveable; broken and imperfect are equally involved. I am unloveable; therefore I must strive for perfection to receive love. I am broken; therefore I must appear to be whole. I am imperfect; therefore I must imitate in order to fit in.

There is no easy way, to get out of your own way; other than to perhaps open your eyes to where it is that you are going. I am aware that my goals are in direct conflict with my overall health and well-being; but that does not stop me from the unrealistic belief that standing in my own way is actually ensuring I do not deviate from the path I have choose to walk. The path is clear and the obstacles that arise are to challenge how fiercely I want to achieve the goals along the way. Or…. or are they there to encourage me to try another route. A little piece of advice that could go a long way in the world of goals and self sabotage is this – never argue with someone who believes their own lies.

Albert Einstein – You have to learn the rules of the game .And then you have to play better than anyone else. Perhaps you also need to learn the name of the game; a well played round of solitaire will not leave as many bruises as a disordered game of dodge ball.

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Need to know Basis – you need to know

Part 3 of 5 – February Eating Disorder Awareness Blog Series

Google search and you will find multiple pages available to guide you through the symptoms, warning signs, what TO say, what NOT to say, and how to cope with a friend, family member, co-worker or acquaintance with a mental illness. Ample resources are available, support groups meet regularly, educated professionals are there to help, the people who are on the second line of our disorders are not alone, but it is from the source that the real education begins.

I am often riddled with guilt at the scars and burden that my Mental Illnesses are inflicting on the ones that I love, the ones that have yet to believe that I am undone. For all the documented information found at the end of a google search, there is nothing to adequately explain the Eating Disorder Voice reverberating in my head, the weight I feel on my chest when depression takes hold, or the sense of unrest and exhaustion that accompanies my frequent anxiety attacks. It is websites void of emotions, information without empathy and words with no face.

So, what should you know? My Husband, my mother, daughter….. my step-daughter, grandchildren, family and friends…..First and foremost, I want to believe and you to believe with me, that Magic can happen when you don’t give up. I need to believe that the Universe will eventually reward my stubborn heart and ambivalent mind with a peace that allows me to live with some semblance of balance and bravery. Just a sliver of a dream this may seem to be – an affirmation to scribe in a journal; but a belief that brings a ray of hope in an otherwise hopeless soul. And where there is hope, all is not yet lost.

I want to go for lunch with you, join you for movie night & popcorn, and overindulge in all the holiday fixings. BUT before the thought goes from my mouth to your ears, I am already planning my retreat, I want to run, to hide.. I want to lose myself into the last crumbs of a bag of Lays Potato Chips; I can do nothing more than punish myself for my fears. My weapons of choice are the exact things which holds me prisoner, food, restriction, binging, purging and isolation. Lunch at Whitespot is akin to a battle scene in Game of Thrones, popcorn is merely a gateway to Liquorice Nibs or Gummie Bears; and a holiday feast is a sure way to plummet into a week long marathon of overeating. Want is code word for disaster. Want welcomes failure. And so, I stay home, isolated with my crumbs, anxious thoughts, and shame. I find myself elbows deep into a family size bag of snacks, convincing myself that there is a reason that such treats do not come in re-sealable bags. Another layer is added to the already well padded & fractured spirit. I hide in the folds of my embarrassment and avoid the normalcy of dinner and a movie, choosing instead to retreat into the abyss of familiar chaos.

I am battling to live the life that every human deserves to live – but it is in the deserving that I lose my way. What that looks like in my world can be vastly different than yours. My Husband gets up and goes to work each day, goes to the gym, runs errands, and then comes home and prepares everything all over again for tomorrow. He longs for retirement, and loves his days off golfing, washing his car and cheering his favourite sports team; but between now and the when, he exists in a fulfilling world of respect, purpose, and enjoyment. He is deserving of this life. I want to be that present, active and whole in my life and yours. There are days, that being present is merely that, my presence; being active means getting dressed and doing a load of laundry from beginning to end; and being whole is accepting love despite feeling incomplete. It is important to know although others can gather the strength and courage to do the menial and repetitive tasks of everyday life without fanfare or celebration – the simplest of expectations, appointments or scheduled events can cause a overwhelming sense of distress, anxiety and chaos in an already challenged mind.

Participating and engaging are only two of the hurdles I attempt to jump over – but we must not leave out the obsession and pre-occupation. Once a thought hits the waves in my brain, I am quite literally dominated by it…..I am going to have an apple at 12pm becomes a obsessive intrusion; what it means is that I can not have an apple at 11; or an orange at noon. I feel backed into the corner of my thoughts and find myself in a fight or flight situation, that rarely ends well. The simple thought evolves from pre-occupation, an engrossment in thought, to a persistent compulsion. From this point forward I am in a battle of wills against my Eating Disorder mind and all reason or common sense. To see, hear, focus or participate in anything other that the on-going thought; is simply another half assed attempt at appearing anchored in a shared moment. To say there is difficulty concentrating is to understate the reality.

Such an assault of the mind, a hi-jacking of all intention, as you can imagine has it’s share of rides on the emotion roller coaster. Mood swings and hypersensitivity are an all too common occurrence. Frequent enough that your personality can get muffled and buried under the egg shells those around you walk on. Every conversation and comment is carefully measured, until frustration bursts the damn and exasperation cannot be contained. Then the love, concern and worry of love ones floods forward in irritability. Each word, sentence, or remark is received with an Eating Disorder mind; or a self critical interruption. Damned if you do…… damned if you don’t. Moods come with the unpredictability of the weather, and the smallest observation can be taken as criticism; no matter the intention behind it.

I remember the girl that engaged with the world, laughed at all the right moments, and was sought out by others for conversation and friendship. She was fun, and full of enough energy to be a part of a active workplace, spend a few hours at the gym, followed by school work and family life – all in the course of one day. She took pride in her appearance, shoes that matched the purse; glossy lipstick and well manicured hair – her goal was perfection; even though deep down she felt that all efforts fell short.. I remember her, and I miss her, that version of me that was in a comfortable denial, that was able to shield my sadness, disorder and confusion……but I didn’t know her. She was a character that had been cast to play the role of ME, and had excelled at it for well over 40 years. She no longer fits into any other role, character or persona – she has been type-cast into a story that she doesn’t know. All of the other characters around her have maintained their part, as they did before – but are perplexed at who this unknown character is that has entered the scene. Gone is the discipline to always pursue the above and beyond, and behaviours that are impulsive or excessively rigid with no rationale to either. She is no longer who she was, but is not yet who she is. Caught in the in between.

It is clear and all that know me are aware, I do not know where I am going. But they may not know that where I have been has not provided me with any directions for the road I am required to travel ahead. I am lost under the person I created, and the person I am trying to figure out. It is a difficult place to be….. I can be found between a rock and a hard place… trying to determine which is the obstacle. I am not writing the future, as I first must decipher the past. It is a multi-volume book, but the up side is that the ending has yet to be written.

Lost in Translation

Continuing the dialogue from my last blog post – “Unapologetic”; part 2 of my 5 part series focusing on the awareness of struggles that face the Eating Disorder Community, is now available . Although Eating Disorder Awareness is only a week long campaign in Canada, February 1 – 7th, 2018, I have expanded my series so that it extends over the month of February. I do not believe that there ever comes a time, that full awareness and comprehension of this savage mental illness happens, for those affected directly, or as a support person or medical professional, but each moment we are offered opportunities of learning and realization, is an opportunity to offer compassion, empathy and support. This is a safe foundation for recovery to be built. Awareness is like a river – it is ever flowing.

In French, it is Trouble de l’alimentation; in German, Essstorung; in Italian, Disordine Alimentare; and in Portuguese, Disorder Alimentar; they all translate to “Eating Disorder”. There are a few more names and labels in the English language that have been assigned as more direct descriptors: Anorexia, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Night Eating Disorder, Purging Disorder, EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). Regardless of the label you assign the disorder or the language that you choose to speak it in; it is all a complex set of variables that will determine how you comprehend communication.

In a society that is encouraged to comment, compliment and point out physical attributes, whether it be the “wow, you’ve lost weight” or “did you quit your diet?” – the number of us that are affected by an ED take these comments and apply them in ways that they were likely not intended. The words are twisted and manipulated to the point that they no longer resemble the original thought – and are made to fit into the dishevelled interpretation that our Mental Illness has created for us.

These “innocent” comments, generally are not laced with malice or ill-will, but intentions and interpretations are not always filtered through the same channels. These compliments and statements are too often veiled behind the guise of care, concern and worry. They are meant to provide validation and pride, a positive reinforcement to those that receive them – but often are deflections of the insecurities and self doubt in others. Little consideration is given to the how or why – only that praise is due for those that do not accept body positivity in the body they are in – but in the body they strive to create. It is the way we are to make ourselves better – yet it is also the way we confirm we are not worthy as we are. Generally there is no ill-will or malice; but some words are used as weapons cloaked in the form of abuse or the desire to undermine.

I have heard a variety of comments on my body, shape, size. I have not been immune…… my ex-husband asked ” when are you going to do something about that gut?”; a fellow gym-goer, who had also lost a significant amount of weight, said “Not to be rude or offend you, but you look anorexic.” And even as I was in the process of weight restoration, a co-worker commented “I just wanted to tell you that you look so much better now, you were too skinny. You didn’t look good.” and “wow, I hardly recognized you, you’ve lost weight.” Although I have not heard something as forward and inappropriate as some…… the mark that is left is essentially the same. Recently a friend from my ED community shared a comment that he had received from a co-worker. After almost a year outside of the work environment, working towards recovery, body acceptance, and recognition…. he was greeted in the lunch room with ” OH, you gained weight…. you are getting fat….. fat fucker.” This was likely punctuated by laughter and elation at a “jab”; that was “in good nature” and “all in fun”. There is no part of these comments that leaves room for misunderstanding; what it does is validate the message we play in our heads; the message that we fight, claw and rebel against in each moment. So whether the message that we are receiving is as crystal clear as calling us a fat fucker, or a caring compliment – praising for our smaller jeans, or single chin – you can be assured that years of compliments, motivational comments and even insults have allowed us to lose the message in translation. A well intended compliment can cut as deep and wound as profoundly as the words meant to harm.

The words that were spoken ten years ago, are still wounds that are healing – and while it is not fair to have expectations that others should filter their words or walk on egg shells; and it may NOT be the intention to insult, hurt, or offend; it may be that you also have also been led to believe that the measure of a person’s worth is through their achievements, appearance and / or ability to change it; there should not be expectations to receive unsolicited opinions or thoughts regarding our appearance from those that are not required to live in our bodies, regardless of the motivation behind it.

The truth is…. I measure my worth in numbers, pounds lost, pounds gained, the scale, how many grams or ounces, or pounds of food I am consuming; and the evaluation of others is simply not welcomed. It may seem naive to have expectations that other people would be in the know of how I would interpret their words, or that it is my responsibility to receive the message as it is intended, not as my history and life experiences leads me to decipher it. It is not about knowing you are with the right people, because you do not need to be careful with your words. It is about being the right person, and listening to what it is that people don’t say.

The world around me is not responsible for how I react, for my happiness, or my hurt. Each situation, event or conversation is built on the history of my life. History dictates that I have not been kind in the words that I use to describe myself, and I have been living in a place that allows for the confirmation of these on going messages. When surrounded with clouds that invite self interpretation; be aware that not everyone speaks the same language. But kindness is a language that all can understand, all will welcome and none will misjudge.

Proverbs 18:21 – Words Kill. Words give Life. They are either poison or fruit.

In my Own Words – Unapologetic

As part of the Eating Disorder Awareness week 2018, Vancouver Coastal Health hosted a Open Mic night at a local business: Cottage Bistro, on January 31st. It was an evening filled with stories of recovery, challenges, victories and positivity shared by family, friends and members of the community. As part of my own recovery journey, I took advantage of the venue as an opportunity to share my own experiences living with an Eating Disorder. I was touched and inspired by the many people that came together to inform, educate and shed light on this deadly Mental Illness, that affects the lives and families of so many. The words that I shared with this audience were heartfelt and raw. It is the first of a 5 Part Series I will be posting over the coming weeks – Hoping my readers here will find comfort & understanding in the following communique.

In my Own Words – Jan 31st, 2018

There are so many things that I want to be able to say, yet I hold my breath and silence my tongue. I want to be able to look at my reflection and say I’m sorry, but I am ashamed to say the words would be void of remorse. To be sorry, would require me to feel regret for my actions, my words – yet the on going conversations in my head continue to lead me down the well worn path; where sorry does not have a place in the outcome I hope to achieve. To be sorry, I would have to be a willing participant in preventing the behaviours that are viewed as negative and damaging to my life, body and goals. To be sorry would require me to admit that I am wrong, and what I am doing is not the most effective way to achieve the goals that forever stay just out of reach. What I CAN say, is this, I am sorry that MY way has not worked, I am sorry that I can’t find trust within myself, I am sorry that I can not see or can not share the visions of what recovery is; and I am sorry time feels like it is standing still as I navigate my way to a place where I can begin to feel….. differently.

In the absence of apology, remorse or regret…. in my own words, this is what it feels like to be on both side of the rope during a continuing battle of tug of war.

The most common word in the English language to pass my lips is BUT. I am in a perpetual state of “but”, with the occasional although, however and on the other hand, thrown in. It is a word more powerful than its simple meaning of “on the contrary”. It is backed by the powerful ability to realign my thinking. I am creative BUT its just amateur stuff I poke around in. I have brown hair BUT there is an annoying streak of grey in it that I hate. Everything has a BUT.

This is a reflection of the black and white world that I live in… shades of grey are for the brave, for those that believe in the rainbow; not for those of us that deny the other colours in the crayon box. There is either success or failure; pride or disappointment; acceptance or judgement. And for each of those rare moments of success, pride and acceptance; there is the loud punctuation of BUT. Celebrate success: BUT how can it be success if it feels so uncomfortable? Be proud; there is no pride at the last bite of a cookie that encourages you to question your own worth. ; Accept you are perfect as you are: that is to ask me to accept me as the less than adequate version of ME that I am – I do not envision the acceptance of that.

I am drowning in ambivalence; yet am surrounded by life preservers. I often stray from the questions of the effects of my Mental Illnesses; getting engulfed in whirlwind of shame / doubt and fear as to WHY I can not, will not, grab those buoys in the water, meant to keep me afloat. It becomes about the Why and not the How. Why do I do what I do and keep doing it; why do I sacrifice the love and life around me to chase the elusive answers that do not make sense. It is in the HOW that I can be saved. Yet it is in the WHY that I have settled into; attempting to make sense where there is none.

It is like knowing the answer but having deep insecurity in the question. The answer is 9….. what is the question? 1+8; 7+2 or 5+4……. my mind and soul feel the deep connection to playing out every possible question to ensure that I have asked the correct one to get to the answer I wish to be true; only to find out that the answer is not 9; has never been 9; and is in fact not even a numerical equation. The question is not as simple as that. It can be best described as this:

If you have 6 socks and I have 9 cats, how many pancakes can a meerkat carry while dancing the polka on a Tuesday?

OBVIOUSLY……Watermelons because Goofy is a dog that drives a car and Pluto is just a regular dog.

Even the smallest of shifts from why to how is to open an entirely unfamiliar perspective. In my world of an Eating Disorder, and I am sure in many other mental illnesses; THE WHY….. is the easiest question to reflect on; because it is asked by the family, friends and support groups that we are surrounded by, as well as the constant tape being played in our own minds. It is the question that when spoken by others, we can interpret as validation and confirmation of our internal feelings. These are questions that we feel resolute in answering. Why can’t you eat, why can’t you stop, why can’t you get better? Why??? I ask myself the same questions day in and day out; and the answer is always the same; I am not strong enough, I am not worthy; I am unloveable; I am undeserving; I am…..I am not. And WHY is the only question I have an answer to; it’s the wrong answer but it’s the only calculation that makes sense, it is the answer that I have used for over 40 years.

The pattern is there, it is undeniable, is as much a part of me as my brown eyes. Yet, I have a handful of people who have begun to step back, and not ask WHY. It is a breath of fresh air and a inhale of fear at the same time; for I feel like I need to continue to convince them that I am NOT enough; but they are standing by my side regardless, and are here with me tonight.

They are welcoming me into their embrace and whispering…. How…. How can I help? To a woman who does not know the answer to how I can help myself – this is the most impactful and kind question I can be asked. It does not assume, judge or question….. it just is. It is an offer of support without an expectation or understanding of where I am or where it may lead.

Perhaps, when I can begin to see and feel more of the HOW’s around me; I will be able to begin to question my own course. I can start to ask; How can I create a different path when I believe the path I am on takes me to my version of the promised land. HOW…. do I see the pattern of habits and behaviours that have been created over years and decades; and accept them for the wandering behind me; and not a mirror reflection of the adventures that may lay ahead. How can I be more open to a way of thinking that does not dwell in the why…. but opens up the opportunities of How’s?

In my own words, I can speak my truth. I am expressing my fears, regret and struggles. I can open my broken heart for those affected by my illness; and those affected by their own. I can take my time to get to where I need to go; for my steps are leading somewhere other than here and that is not a destination, it is all a journey.

Today, I ask WHY more often than HOW; But it is my way of keeping me within my perceived abilities; and black and white keeps me from the variety of possibilities that the grey opens up. I do not know where I am going, where I am, or how I will get there but I DO know that I am on this pilgrimage with people that I can count on ; some are ahead of me climbing the mountains and shouting down that it can be done; some are behind me caught in the whirlwind of why’s and can’t more powerful than my own; and some, some we are walking side by side – yet as individuals. Each step is unique to us; each step is part of the dance. Every side, step, shuffle, is moving us from the point we are to the point we are no longer…… that is what it is to work towards recovery.

Although I relate more to the concept of being in treatment; rather than recovery…. There is one thing that I am certain of: Recovery is not something that I will ever own; it is simply rented and I need to pay my dues every day. I am making small, seemingly insignificant payments all the time, but when the day comes; I will have a foundation solid enough to carry me though each today.

The truth is, You can’t have two days of recovery without first getting through day one.

Here in the After

Here in the after……. I need to speak of the people my Eating Disorder has gifted me with, in the midst of the rubble hope, support, and awareness was made available . In the eye of the mental illness storm; I was given space in my heart to share the journey with some incredibly resilient, strong and underestimated companions.

Reality hit, on November 9th, 2016, when I stood on the opposite side of the door in the St. Paul’s Adult Tertiary Eating Disorder Program. Day one of of 57…. 58……112…..438 and the count continues. I was walking blindly into a locked Mental Health Wing in a Providence Health Hospital. Fear, shame, embarrassment and ambivalence were my guests on this journey; and although those guests continue to follow me around – I’d like to think uninvited – what I found in the bleak institutional environment, was a safe place to call home – within the stories & lives of my co-patients. I was among a community…. I was more me than I knew was possible. It was like we were all different chapters in the same book. I was immediately embraced by this collective, figuratively and literally. There have been others, outside of this group that came later in the story, but have or do play important roles. Please allow me as I share with you the struggles, life and heart of who someone with an Eating Disorder is – when their Eating Disorder is their disorder and not their descriptor.

Jane…. she left us far to soon. I have spoken of her before and will forever remember the feisty, defiant, curious and loving soul that she was. Her heart held so much room in it for everyone she held dear, so much so that she never left room for her own self compassion. She was a lover of GOOD music, hated crafts, her life was lit up by her son, she found solace in God, and she was a stereotypical tea toting Scot. Little in stature – and big in personality. A daughter, a sister, a wife, mother, friend. She was more than her Eating Disorder allowed her to become.

KP…… she has climbed mountains and is shouting from the top that it can be done. A compassionate & pure young woman, her sweet and innocent presence easily hides the old and wise soul that lives within her. I am certain that she is one of the bravest souls that I have ever come across. I have seen her face the fire, tears streaming down her face, raising her sword and ready to battle. I have been inspired by her, found comfort in her words and wisdom, and sought her embrace for reassurance and strength. She is a daughter, sister, friend, Acro-Yoga enthusiast, and a compassionate lover of peace and acceptance. – she can be found stretching and posing with her fellow acro stars, cuddling her silly Kitty or owning her recovery over her evening snack – the reliable bowl of cereal. She makes me proud through her commitment to creating her own version of a beautiful life and her acknowledgement that it isn’t always easy. She is not defined by the limitations her Eating Disorder attempts to place on her development.

SD…..when you meet some people for the first time; you don’t always clique. Her exterior was made up of a strong, no bullshit, I will survive attitude. She was in treatment to get things done; not to paint popsicle sticks; put together puzzles, crochet a dishcloth, or build friendships. Quite honestly, she did not give me a warm, fuzzy, welcoming feeling. I can tell you now, that this woman is my sister. She is my most trusted confidant, voice of reason, she reminds me of my worth and makes me feel calm in the chaos. She has been weighed down with more than one serious mental health diagnosis; yet however weak, sore or defeated she feels she stands back up just as tall as before she fell. I am proud of her; proud for her saying I don’t want to live this way; proud of her for doing the thing that she does not want to do, so she increases her chances of change. The best thing about her is that she has diagnosis’ that are difficult parts of her but she also has wonderful labels, daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, that make her the magical.

BAT……coming to the group as a medical admission, her friendly personality was opened to everyone immediately. She has a unique ability to ease herself into a environment without others feeling intrusion. This was a short stay, but we were all surprised by Christmas cards & gifts from her after she had been discharged. It was in another program that we were really able to connect – and in her I found a woman that has a dark and cloudy past; filled with moments and events that were out of her control; and have shaped and at times haunted her. She had once told me that she has never been able to make connections with women, and so I consider myself among the elite in her life. She is colourful; pink cotton candy; call ‘em as she sees em’ and ever giving. Her heart overflows for her precious Samuel, her generosity is limitless to her daughter and family. She lives her life outside of her comfort zone; and so can often be found mid-way through a Netflix Series in attempts to find down time. Her Eating Disorder has a specific purpose for her – so I am thankful that she makes all the efforts she can to fight back. She has a eating disorder, created by a past – and she has many today’s filled with strife; yet 100% filled with survival.

RL….. If I was to describe RL; it would go like this…. she is slightly above a unicorn, with rainbow wings, covered in glitter, with trails of stars and hearts, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Her heart has carried a heavy burden for many many years, but through it she has scattered joy, happiness and childlike fun to those around her. She has excelled professionally, involved herself in important community and national causes, and been a strong influence on the lives of many. I am actually in awe of her achievements; and finding success despite the struggle. She has given life to a Purple Unicorn, named Sophia, recently become Mommy to adorable Otis, a mini Aussie Labradoodle, she is a proud Auntie, little sister, and a blessing as a friend. She lets her rainbow shine brightly, even though the clouds of her Eating Disorder still scatter the sky.

CW…… some people are burdened with more trauma, pain and negative life experiences than anyone could reasonably cope with, but out of the fire came the strength to create a world of independence, strength and ability. She had been behind the locked doors of a treatment centre before – but she was determined to face “ED” and take back control. She was known by many titles in her life; some were blessings and others were curses; but she wore the titles of Daughter, Mother and Grandmother like a Purple Heart – she was honoured to be those things to the people in her life. I heard stories of her rebuilding washing machines or car engines; and witnessed the wracking tears of grief that over took her. She fights on with what she knows, asking for nothing more than a fair shot at the days ahead. She is a woman who fights on to be an example to her daughters, son and grandchildren. She wants to be here if the dryer ever goes on the fritz – because there is no doubt that she can fix that too. She has been with “ED” for a long time – but knows it’s time for them to go their separate ways.

LH….. although the journey that I took with LH ended the day that she left the inpatient treatment program; she remains a important part of the time that my discovery began. I was drawn to her compassionate, maternal instinct in our group. We connected over our shared diagnosis of Co-Dependancy. I saw her find her voice, speak up for her needs – yet be respectful and mindful of the emotions of others. She is truly and extraordinary woman, who I was hurt did not have interest in maintaining contact with me, but I find joy in the time I had with her and she helped me to realize that the impact made at the right time, is sometimes more important than a future relationship. I watched her gush over the up-coming birth of her first Grandson, re-connect with her husband and share stories of her sons. She is a witty, sweet, dynamic, patient and spiritual soul; that is maneuvering through life with an Eating Disorder.

MA….. yes its a fact, eating disorders are not biased, they hold men in their controlling clutches as well. They know no boundaries when it comes to age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other group you can think of. He is a hard working Tradesman, who has been married for many many years, has adult children and will soon be a Grandfather. He never met a banana or spoon of peanut butter that he could not out run. Exercise was his drive, his “passion”, his outlet. He was faced with the reality that something that he enjoyed was a compulsive symptom of his eating disorder. Through programs and hospitalization, he has found a degree of acceptance in his body, found ways to calm and slow down his thought process and walk into awareness. He is a man with an Eating Disorder and Body Image issues – he is a man with a family, a future and a plan.

EM….. my shared treatment time with EM was brief, but I have remained connected. She has found peace in her new found spirituality – with God being a motivator and support for her as she works through her disorder and addiction. To fight a mental illness is a battle, to fight it with other restrictions or impediments, can be compared to taking a knife to a gun fight. It is an uphill battle. I’ve seen her retreat to the corner, fall back into symptoms, and question her own journey; but I know that today she is waiting to be admitted to a treatment centre, to continue to fight….. and instead of focusing on the repeat treatments, she chooses to leaves with a bigger knife each time. She is an insightful and intelligent young woman, that has been affected by her Eating Disorder in difficult ways, but her prayers continue to be answered so she can make it through.

The statistics in Canada have numbers ranging from 150,000 to 600,000 of individuals diagnosed with an Eating Disorder – I assume that this is those that have sought out help in one form or another and does not include those that suffer in silence. This is not a illness that solely effects young, Caucasian, teens seeking attention – nor does that accurately describe the young Caucasian teens that are affected. It is important to see that we are all individuals who have an eating disorder and in some cases other impediments – we are Mothers, Fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, husbands and wives. We are Health Care Workers; Lawyers; Plumbers, Sales Staff and Servers. We are able to work a job without interference from our disorders or we are on long term disability. The faces of an Eating Disorder and all Mental Illnesses, are as varied as the colours in a jumbo pack of crayons. Beneath every symptom, action and behaviour – we are there. I see you….. when you succeed and when you fall. I share in your victories and your struggles. To each of these individuals – I am eternally grateful for the footprint they have left on my heart; and I want them to know.

You think you have Time

In memory of Jane

Finding a room, a community that you “fit” into, is like being welcomed into an embrace of acceptance; this provides such comfort when struggling with mental illnesses. As you scan the faces, in your mandated support group, and are met with a room full of nodding heads, and mumblings of “me too”, you realize…… I am NOT alone. It is like you have found a voice in a language that they understand, it is validating.

Friendships and relationships built in the rooms where Recovery begins, can be life altering. Like finding a “soul mate”; or kindred spirit on the winding road we find ourselves attempting to navigate. They get you. When you feel like a tornado of a person, a disaster in constant motion, and a cause not worth the effort; they see the way through to YOU, when you yourself are blind to your possibilities. With them, you can reveal your hurt, that you have been concealing secrets in the dark; giving space for them to grow and intensify. These friends, encourage you to expose yourself to the light where truth is found. Within the light, our masks can be removed, our sickness can be rooted out and we are able to entertain the possibility that where we are is not where we are destined to stay.

My heart can not be heard making a noice when it breaks, but these individuals hear it, and know it as the familiar song that is on repeat within themselves.

As much love and companionship that I have felt with the people closely attached to my Treatment, there has always been the reality that not all of us are going to be able to change the channel; to believe in change and to accept the light. Many days I am one of the people that remains in the shadows; and I have to evaluate how my dark corners affect the people around me that are attempting to rid their rooms of darkness. I have not been dishonest about where I am on my journey, but I also vocalize my desire to change more than I actually feel committed to it. The voice of my Eating Disorder is a constant tape running in my head, it is my dictator, my oppressor and my ruler; and so it is not difficult for me to empathize with those that can not even believe in the possibility of light in the world of darkness that they live in.

This deadliest of Mental Illnesses, Eating Disorders, has claimed yet another life. I have lost my dear friend. Jane Tusluk-McCluskey January 7th, 1973 – January 20th, 2018. I met her in a room with promises if not opportunities, of light. She was a a feisty, Scot, with a take no shit attitude. At first glance, she embodied an aura that cried out “spit fire”. My initial reaction would NOT be proved wrong. I have never seen such a HUGE personality inside a compact person. What she lacked in her height, she made up for with her presence. She was determined, and would fight with all her will and strength for what she believed was just and fair. I immediately made room for her in my heart – and there she has stayed.

Her death was not altogether unexpected. Since release from our time together in treatment, over the course of the year, she had been re-admitted to various hospitals and programs, multiple times. Sometimes being medically committed and unable to leave of her own will, and other times for emergency care – literal Do or Die situations. But the reality of her passing, has crushed my unwavering hope for her. Knowing the chaos and turmoil are worlds apart from living in the chaos and turmoil.

I could see the pain and torment that haunted her, and so I prayed for her. It was not enough to veer her from the path she had worn out for herself. My words of encouragement, support and compassion, fell onto a soul that was not in a place to accept the gifts these were meant to be for her. She took the love that everyone intended for her to use as part of the remedy for the hurt that preyed upon her mind, and extended it two-fold to the people in her circle. Her heart only had room to protect others, and she would forgo any space in there for herself.

Jane had written the end of her story long ago, it was a chapter that many of us could foresee, but it was not the biography we even would willingly accept. She put all she could into the fight, she mustered all that she had to stick it out, to attempt to re-write the ending, but was never able to accept or believe in anything other than her perceived destiny. Much of the energy that she expended was in efforts to fight for her own “rights”; and so her saviours she perceived as her tormentors. The acts of help and kindness that were offered (and honestly sometimes forced upon her), were seen as malicious attempts to pressure her into making changes that were well beyond her physical and mental capabilities. It was her against the world.

For all the darkness that she lived in, she was a brilliant light that shone in my own recovery journey. She gave me words of encouragement; from the most memorable of advice, “eat the f&%ing cheese” to “I’m proud of you”. She made me feel childlike joy, her excitement at a origami frog jumping into her cup was beyond hilarious. Her own OCD behaviours, like the constant “my seat”, made me feel calm as I knew she would never take MY seat. She saw me in some of my rawest, most vulnerable states – and accepted the imperfect, confused woman I exposed. She did not back down from what she believed in; not that she always believe in the best for herself – but she was a warrior for her own causes.

Above all else, what I will remember Jane for, is the unconditional and unwavering love she had for her son. More than anything, she wanted to be the mother that he “deserved”. There was no question or doubt about the amount of joy, pride and love she felt for the boy he was, and the young man he was becoming. I want to remember her in all the ways that she wanted most for herself. So even though I loved her for the woman that she was, and the woman that I got to be with her. I will remember the way her eyes light up when she spoke of him, his achievements, the way I could feel the love she had when she spoke of him. Her story was written long ago, but she added a few more chapters before the end. She stayed so she could love him longer, despite the unrest and pain that consumed her.

My heart is heavy with the loss of you, yet overwhelmed with joy at the same time, as I was able to walk and hold your hand for a page or two. Time was short, but that in no way was a reflection of the depth, intensity and compassion that I felt in our time together.

God saw you getting tired,

And a cure was not to be.

So he put His arms around you

And whispered “come to me”

Author – Unknown

Safe and Peaceful travel my Friend….. I will carry you with me as I go.