Ain’t no Dr. Feelgood

Hippocratic Oath – the famous and widely known Oath of Greek Medical Texts. Each new Physician was required to swear upon a number of healing Gods that he/she would uphold numerous professional & ethical standards. As the centuries have passed, this sacred Oath has been re-written to suit the needs of different cultures and the changing times. Although it is no longer a standard of practice in modern medical schools, some still have adopted a more modern version of the Oath that is more relevant to the 21st Century.

“First, do no harm.” Is a well know phrase that is commonly attributed to it; although it is explicitly missing from the newer versions. I do not believe that the intentions of Hippocrates was to have Physicians enter into a practice as intimate and integral as providing potential life altering advice and/or recommendations – without the expressed agreement to “do no harm”. Common sense says that regardless of whether the words are spoken out loud, in a graduation ceremony or an unspoken expectation – it is exactly what we expect. Often it is not what we receive; whether intentional or unintentional.

Don’t get me wrong, my doctor uses treatments to help the sick according to her own ability and judgement, never with intent to do wrong or injure. She helps the sick, she councils the unwell and she administers medications and advise as she deems necessary for what ails you. Quite truthfully, my doctor has been an integral part of the journey I am taking towards recovery from my Mental Health issues. Never once has she, made assumptions, jumped to conclusions or belittled me with judgement. She is the first to admit that she is navigating uncharted waters, Eating Disorders are more an after thought in medical training, therefore we learn as we go together. I can not express enough gratitude or caring for the woman with whom I have come to rely on for the medical side of this roller coaster ride. The same can be said of my Psychiatrist; she has an alphabet soup of letters, and titles after her name on the door – none of which are protector; but that is the title that has the most relevance in our relationship. My immediate care team is why I continue to trudge on, with reluctance, animosity and sometimes down right defiance; but they accept that from me as they have just enough hope to make me believe there is an after to where I am now.

Such compassionate and supportive roles, are not always filled by those tasked at assisting the populace facing Mental Illnesses. I have been witness to the tears and defeat that overwhelm the mind and body of members of my Eating Disorder Community. I have held hearts, hands and spoke the words of reassurance to my sweet Soul Sisters & Brothers; as they have left an appointment with the drowning emotions of failure, discouragement, and the label they’ve given themselves of a down right F^&* Up.

There are no mysteries as to the impact that mental illness, in my case, specifically an Eating Disorder, can have on us; from the occasional dizzy spell to death – we know. We feel the weight of disappointment of our spouses, as we continue to engage in behaviours; spending hundreds on food only to purge it all away and being too “fat” or “unattractive” to engage or enjoy intimacy. We live with a veil of guilt surrounding us for the impact that our absence, lack of engagement and behaviours may have on our children. We know. Knowing isn’t an effective treatment option. Knowing cigarettes cause Cancer does not deter smokers from engaging in a butt as the urge hits; nor has it prevented the government from selling them. Yet the judgement is undeniable… the expectations are unquestionable…we know the consequences therefore our actions are characterized as unacceptable.

The key to Health is connection, community and love. As we enter an office to bare our burdened souls – come to us with compassion and not judgement. It is not necessary to explain the outcome of our actions week after week. Stating facts and figures, statistics and aftermath. In the history of Guilt, never has it been a motivator. A stern warning of where we are headed… does not stop the trajectory of our path. For me I found this road less travelled through the withholding of love, praise and acknowledgement from my parents. Unintentionally, they pointed me towards this spot. And it is the place I have build my life around. My parents loved me, and gave me more than they ever received from their own parents – there is a degree of accountability that can be placed on them but responsibility does not equal blame.

Walking into the intimate and safe environment of your Physician, whether it be medical or mental – is to be placed in a space of opportunity. A room to air your actions, fears and truths. It is your Physician’s responsibility to “do no harm” – this includes the harm that comes with the type of council that leaves the heart more sure of our unworthiness, and the judgement that confirms our most abusive conversations in our head. Reciting our flaws and downfalls breeds the perfect place for our disorders to thrive.

We are all just doing the best that we can. Us with our desires to understand our illnesses, to make sense of our chaos and to accept the pace with which our recovery comes to us. And the Medical Staff with their ongoing treatment in a world of the unknown, undiscovered and unexplainable.

Let’s agree

I will be your patient – and you will be patient with me.

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2018 Intention Word

RESPONSIBILITY: being accountable for things that are within my control.

It is a intention I have the ability to hold myself accountable to. I have been and continue to be in a habitual cycle of active behaviours and symptoms. Although varying day to day, the degree of my Eating Disorder is present enough to require regular medical & psychological monitoring. So, although I may not be in the best position to make qualifying choices or changes that will favour my recovery, setting an intention to be responsible, to acknowledge my actions and having that depth of awareness , can bring me closer to where the answers lie.

Finding even that small slice of realization, that symptoms, behaviours and disordered thoughts are perhaps not in my control but ARE my responsibility. It opens a door permitting peace and hope to seep into my unconscious.

Mental illness is a delicate balancing act of feeling blame and knowing you aren’t to blame. And so when thinking of taking responsibility – it is transformed in my mind into internal accusations and disapproval. My inability to socialize as I would like, to perform to the best of my ability in my career, to earn a “Best Mom” coffee mug, and to contribute equally in my marriage are directly linked to my Mental Illnesses. It is not a myth or fabrication – but a fact.

And the fact is – I am bonded to myself in sickness and in health; for richer or poorer; for better or for worse. I am my own keeper.

Blame & Responsibility are not equivalent; one does not only exist with the other. There is no fault in me; in my diagnosis, my behaviours or my falls while trying. I am responsible to work with my diagnosis to learn to control it as part of me – not the whole of me. I am responsible for my behaviours – as well as I am for the consequences. I am responsible for all the trips, falls, temper tantrums, and belly flops – but guess who also gets the accolades for getting back up – that’s me too.

“Remember, the moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life, is the moment you claim the power to change anything in your life.” Hal Elrond

Staking my Claim

Let them Eat Cake

Some things are life changing years before they change your life. Tonight my husband celebrated 21 years Clean. That decision was the first step towards the man I married…. here is the message I had for him at his meeting ❤️

As I have seen you navigate your way though fatherhood, our relationship, your career and recovery, I have often asked myself….. is there anything that you can not handle? I know that you have travelled from a place of brokenness, have been knocked down, experienced defeat and felt pain that you should not have had to endure. But the moment you stopped running, stopped hiding and decided you wanted to feel better… you went to a meeting. And when you decided you wanted to recover… you worked the steps. The past became your history, and your healing became your present. And you were given the opportunity of a future. You were able to challenge the way that you thought about yourself and push forward. Learning that being clean is not something that you will ever own, it is rented. And you dedicated yourself to paying your dues one day at a time. And the days have became months and years….

You understand the value of your story, and the importance of sharing your experiences with other people. Your story has been an integral part of your healing and I have seen you give hope and inspiration to others. You have placed yourself here in these rooms, surrounded by people that need to hear your past, and see the gifts recovery can bestow on those that keep coming back.

No matter what you face, you always have the strength and determination to get through. You have become flexible, and learned to bend to the will needed to recover, and you do not take for granted the fragile work that continues to be required of you. Outcomes are not always the picture that you had in mind, but they are always something that you can work with to get through.

This year above all others, I have been blessed by the choices you made 21 years ago and each day since, to put yourself and your recovery ahead of all else. This year, I became your wife, step-mother to your children, a grandmother, and a member of your family. I am able to share the man you are with my Daughter, and have been gifted a lifetime of love, companionship, truth and hope with you.

When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people the permission to acknowledge their own story. And it was through your journey that I have been able to begin my own work. Although my journey is down a different road, the paths that you have taken to get you to where you are have given you the ability to feel empathy, compassion, and offer patience. All traits that are necessary to create the love and life we have together. We may not always understand but, you know that it is not about understanding that which has no direction, but about the ability to stand by as the other figures it out.

As I said, I wondered…. is there anything that you can’t handle? Thankfully as these days have passed you by, there has not been. Moving forward ,I want to remind you that whatever comes your way, you do not have to handle it alone. I will forever stand by your side and slay the shadows, as you protect me from mine. Our children, Mark, Sara and Caitlyn will be here to learn from the steps that you make, your Grandchildren Kain and Ava, will be given the gift of a man who has the ability to love them unconditionally. And you will continue to wear your recovery proudly, acknowledging all that you have overcome because you are an example of determination and dedication.

We celebrate you, but we also celebrate everyone else in these rooms. Those who are on day one, coming back, working towards a year or numerous years. Each one of us is doing the best we can one day at a time.

If you can’t beat fear….. just do it scared.

Doctors Note Required

8 years ago this April 1st, my father was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most aggressive form of cancer that begins within the brain, Stage 4 Brain Cancer. Treatment options included surgery, medication, radiation and chemotherapy – all of which he pursued in the hopes of prolonging his life expectancy which was estimated from diagnosis to death as UP TO 14 months. We all expected more than the 74 days he got.

Our family, my Mother and my Brothers, rallied around him, and through the ordeal we were able to establish a connection and bond with one another that we would not have developed without this trauma bringing us together. I took time away from work to be by his side, and to support my Mother’s loss of her lifetime companion, lover, friend and husband. I spent countless hours by his bedside, soaking in all of the man that my father was that I never knew. He told me of falling in love with my Mother, how he felt becoming a father, his greatest regret and life events that helped to make him who he was.

Brain Cancer is an ugly way to end a life as impactful as his was to so many people. He was an example of before and after. All the days leading up to April 1st, 2010, he was respected among the veterans he volunteered for; he was appreciated by his friends, colleagues & family; admired by his children and beloved by his wife. Like a light switch, cancer took over and he became childlike, emotional, gullible, and unaware. He accepted the treatment options available, moved from one hospital to the next – each day falling deeper into the clutches of his fate.

I vividly remember during one of my visits to him, the fire alarm unexpectedly went off. He panicked, was overcome with fear almost to the point of terror. I hugged him in attempts to offer him solace and security, and he whispered in a shaky voice…. “why can’t I just die, I want to die.” The bruise that was left on my heart that day, will never go away. My father, my hero, the first man to love me, was begging for the pain, discomfort and hurt to stop. 23 days later…. he was given the peace that he had been coveting. He left us. We are all a little better for knowing him, and we are all a little lost without him.

There was never a time during his illness that I questioned his behaviours, his symptoms or his complaints. He was living in his body and knew better than anyone the chaos and turmoil that it was going through. When he cried for no reason, or was overjoyed to get double pudding with his dinner – I didn’t question the path he was on; knowing his illness was beyond his control. I did not take his illness personally or feel that he was acting in a way that was disregarding the wants and needs of the people in his life.

He had cancer. His friends reached out, expressed concern, felt shock, and likely had thoughts of their own mortality and potential risks of Cancer. The world around a cancer diagnosis is sympathetic, compassionate, hopeful, and charitable. The cloud that surrounds the disease is never labelled as selfish, self-centred, manageable, or over exaggerated.

This bring us to my own diagnosis – Bulimia Nervosa – Severe; Anxiety Disorder; Depression. In my own life, I am surrounded by people who don’t understand my mental illness, but do not allow that to overshadow their hopes and concern for my well being. They don’t know why I do the things I do, or feel the way I feel – but they stand by me regardless of how I get to where my illness and recovery take me.

Like my father, my illness is in my head… in my brain. Yet the emotions that are projected at us for our diagnosis are vastly different. My Eating Disorder is mean, controlling, manipulative and abusive. I am so wrapped up in my own world, where I am unloveable, worthless and useless; my mind does not have room to regard the feelings or problems of others. Most days, I am barely able to consider and look after my own basic needs, to be responsible or considerate of someone else is a battle I can not win. I can not explain the hurt and pain that takes me spiralling downward into behaviours that are outside of my control, and emotions that overwhelm me with despair.

As the world we live in counsels, why don’t you just portion your foods, meal prep, work out, have self-compassion, just eat something, stop eating so much, get over yourself, stop, think of others, try harder, calm down, etc. An eating disorder is an opportunity for the concerned members of our family and friends to share their nutritional knowledge and therapeutic advice. It is a mental illness, that can not be cured by good intentions and strong recommendations; no matter the depth of love that the foundation of such support comes from.

Our loved ones are concerned, frustrated, discouraged and scared. All valid and all real. As our illness take over and maintain control, the labels we have put upon ourselves are soon mixed among the labels of others. Weak, Selfish, Obsessed, Hopeless, Unreliable or Unpredictable. We are often looked upon as seeking attention, making a choice, in a phase, not looking like we have an eating disorder.

I am not weak – I fight a battle everyday that so many have lost their lives to. I am not selfish – I have to put myself first and foremost; so that I can become healthy and capable of being an active participant in my life and yours. I am not obsessed – I am dominated by an illness that requires treatment that works for some and not for others. I am not hopeless – I have as many opportunities and options as anyone else, everyday, but my decision making is determined by my feelings of self worth. I am not unreliable – I am anxious and afraid, there are times that I am paralyzed inside my own mind and unable to follow through on obligations, commitments or responsibilities. And, I am not unpredictable – this illness will continue to rule me and my life for as long as it takes for it to enter remission, that is predictable in all ways.

I have all the attention I want and 100 X more, choice is not in my vocabulary at this stage in my treatment. I am just as ready as everyone else for this “phase” to be over – at 47, I’d welcome the menopausal stage if it meant I could exit this Eating Disorder phase. And no, I am not stereotypical poster image of someone with an eating disorder. Of the stereotype – teenaged, white, anorexic, privileged and beautiful but….. I only meet the criteria of being Caucasian.

This is real, as real as a brain tumour, as real as my father’s brain cancer. It has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. I beg of you, stop trying to fit our illnesses, diagnosis and behaviours into easier to understand boxes and listen to what we are saying. We all live with our own dragons, as well as our own heroes. It is on US to rescue ourselves from ourselves. It is on YOU to see me as I am – not as I see myself.

Real illnesses do not begin and end with MS, Cancer, Diabetes or Alzheimer’s. If you are among the millions who suffer with mental illnesses – there is nothing MORE REAL than the daily struggle, stigma, pain and desperation of Anxiety, PTSD, Depression or Bi-Polar Disorder.

I wish “putting in an effort”; “not being sick anymore”; or “changing my frame of mind” worked for Cancer as well as it does for Mental Illnesses…… wait…. it does.

The Uncomfortable In-Between

The lights continue to sparkle and shimmer on the freshly fallen snow. The tree is barren, gone are the pretty wrapped parcels, all the gifts and toys have been put away. There are still 3, half eaten boxes of chocolates, a tray or two of home baked cookies, the remnants of Christmas dinner all waiting for the continued glutinous pursuit of holiday feasting. College Football & Junior Hockey monopolizes every channel – only interrupted by Jenny Craig, Beach Body and SlimFast. It’s that uncomfortable in-between week post Christmas, pre New Years.

It is 7 days of clean up, organizing, reflecting and planning. It is not the most wonderful time of the year. Today is December 27th, its a day with no real place among the festivities, it is only the 24 hours in front of us. No stockings to hang by the chimney with care, no gift exchange, and no 50% off Christmas cards. Its just one of the days that fill time until the New Year’s Eve countdown. Its day 2 of the dismantling of the Holidays; and a 96 hour window to lay down the foundation to making this year, “your year”.

Perhaps it is just me, but the last few days have been an exhausting attempt at fitting in, getting though, and overcoming, and now I am in store for the consequences of my coping skills. And just so we are all on the same page here – Butter Tarts are not a recommended coping skill, and chocolates and shortbread are equally disappointing. December has been an advent calendar of Eating Disorder opportunities, and I am smack in the midst of the aftermath of the decisions I made. It has all been fun and games until I am sitting in the realization that I’ve worked my way to the top of my own Naughty list.

In the final week of December, the glow of the holidays, the magic and splendour of the people, events, and parties that we have have been basking in, is rapidly replaced by the crumpled piles of gift wrap and memories of another Christmas gone by. As the hours tick away, and the year comes to an end, we reflect on the days and months behind us. The resolutions made the same time last year, unfulfilled and unfinished; the challenges were supposed to make us stronger – since they didn’t kill us. It’s time to put pen to paper and create the list of deficiencies you need to put effort into change, smoke the last cigarette, take a before picture, have a Quinoa Buddha Bowl, make a budget – Be accountable this time.

Meh, count me out!! I have enough going on in the area of “101 Ways to be a Better You”. No regret or dismay for me as I reminisce on the 365 24/7. This week long “what now”… I will ready myself to open my heart and prepare to embrace – or at least acknowledge what is to come. These hours would be better spent deciding what it is that I already love. I have wanted to change me, be better, achieve something for as long as I can remember. It takes up all the time, energy and thought that could be used to focus on the wonder that is already within me.

In this place…. the in between, I will catch a snowflake on my tongue, stir my hot chocolate with a candy cane, binge watch all seasons of a Netflix Original, and I will kiss the man I love. The in between will transform into moments in time that I can pack into my heart. I will have more moments of guilt and disappointment over the seasonal indulgences than the average person. But I will be damned if I will spend the last days of 2017 planning next year’s regret.

Eat the Red Ones Last

Remember when you were a kid and you got a box of Smarties?? Of course you remember, that was one of the best days of your life. But there was a certain responsibility bestowed upon you, its not like you could just pour them out and pop handfuls into your mouth. Hell no, mixing the dreaded yellow or brown Smarties with the coveted red or purple…. unconscionable. No this was a process of elimination. Step one – pour the box out (NOTE: be sure to be in a place where no one else is around to steal any; as siblings know no boundaries.) Step two – begin the process of categorizing each Smartie by colour, red, purple, pink and so on. Step three – once all Smarties have successful been divided into colour coded piles, the final step can be undertaken…..eating. Not so fast, we all have different ways to work though our piles, no judgement here, but it is almost a necessity to rid yourself of the yellow and brown first, just so those are done and not interfering with the other more delicious options. And obviously it is a requirement that you MUST eat the red ones last, it is an actual instruction from the Nestle company. And so now that you have created the perfect environment for your Smartie experience….. dig in.

You are probably wondering how I can relate a box of Smarties to any real life or made up experience… but I can. Essentially it works out like this; I have all these negative and destructive thoughts piling up in my head – visualize that MY box is FULL of brown smarties. And all the people around me throughout the day are giving me a rainbow of colours to add, motivated to allow me to produce multiple piles in various colours. BUT, for me I can only see those brown Smarties, judging and shaming me. I take yellow, orange, purple and green candies that have been gifted to me by my friends, family, acquaintances, etc. and bury them among the one pile I have already established – the colours become hidden and I am able to convince myself that in fact, they are all brown. There is no division of colours in my box, it is simply a manipulated way to look at the rainbow. I look at the pile and am able to mold and shape the information and data so much so that it helps me to create and maintain the reality of what my own thoughts are. As in the orange Smartie is buried beneath, so I do not see it, it disappears and blends into the pile. Should I be brave enough to believe that there is more than meets the eye, I quickly refute the perceived evidence. They are all just varying shades of brown, almond, tan, tumbleweed, and raw sienna.

A pink Smartie can represent a comment, a compliment or a gratitude. A purple Smartie could represent an emotion, a desire or dream; and a red Smartie – well that could be a wish that I could believe in long enough to see it though.

When I am brave enough to venture out into the world, and sip a coffee & catch up with an old friend….. the “you look good” falls on deaf ears and the colours of the conversation are easily blended; the blushes of pink become unrecognizable . I am left with the undeniable feelings of insecurity, discomfort, and loneliness. You look good, is the polite conversation starter to which my mind recreates the intent to fit my emotions. Pink becomes Chestnut, indiscernible in the pile.

A purple Smartie can be the comforting emotions that warm you when having a movie night with your significant other – hot buttered popcorn, PJ’s, liquorice, orange soda, and a warm blanket to cuddle underneath. It could be, but its a conversation in my mind surrounded by negative self talk, bargaining, negotiating and failure. It’s never just the lavender purple Smartie…… it’s calorie counts, deep breathes, regret and doubt. It’s Sienna among the brown.

The much sought after RED Smartie – my box is always void of these. For the dreams and wishes that I have, the ones that have managed to stick around and play over and over in my mind – are ruled, controlled and governed by my ever present Mental Illness. My wish is to live in another body, to feel differently about how to achieve that body and to reach that goal in a timely way that allows me to then; be “good enough” to put energy into other areas of my life. If I want to be honest, well not MY honest but reality honest….. what I want is to live among the brown Smarties and put energy into convincing myself and others that they are a Rainbow. The fire engine red is transformed to that of burnt umber.

It is a lonely place for your heart , in a colourful prism world, existing deep in your mono chromatic pile. Lonely, in the mind of the one whom is the carrier of all you are, yet the one who isolates you from all that is there to help you to survive to the rhythm of the world around you.

So, when you eat your Smarties. Eat that candy coated chocolate, knowing that under every colourful shell, lies a white candy coating. A blank slate devoid of judgement, guilt or preconceived expectations. There are 8 colours of Smarties in your box, and 7 of those are not brown. We all need a splash of colour…..a rainbow of possibilities.

A New Beginning Never Ends

New Year’s Eve is shroud in traditions and rituals. From the Countdown and ball drop in Time Square, followed by the clinking of champagne glasses, kisses and a chorus of Auld Lang Syne in North America. To the burning of Scarecrows in Ecuador, in the name of good fortune; or the assurance of a year of good luck should you be able to stuff 12 grapes in your mouth at midnight while in Spain; and in certain South American countries, the colour of your underwear can determine your fate for the year ahead, red for love; gold for wealth and white for peace.

Universally, there is a long standing tradition. Started over 4000 years ago, by the Babylonians, the “New Year’s Resolution”. The forerunners of these first resolutions were the promises made to the Gods to pay off debts and to the commitment to return items that had been borrowed to their rightful owners. It was believed that the community members would be blessed with favour from the Gods, good fortune throughout the year, if these promises were kept. With the passing of the years, one calendar year at a time, the nature of our resolutions have developed into the unavoidable “commitments” to transition into the new year, resolving to do better, be better, change and improve.

Being resolute in the desire to be more financial responsible and the neighbourly behaviour of returning borrow items surely brought about more good luck, fortune and respect than the many Resolutions that will be uttered this New Years Eve. On December 31st, 2017 the air will be filled with promises, commitments and utterances of “I will be more healthy”, “I am going to make this MY year to live life to the fullest” and an endless list of other deficiencies that require the coveted role among our midnight declarations.

Such broad statements with no true commitment or accountability, it should come as no surprise that many of these statements do not hold water much past the end of January. What exactly does being more healthy look like? The Dictionary defines “Health” as: the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigour; soundness of body and mind; freedom of disease and ailment. And “more” is defined as; in greater quantity, additional or further. So the statement means to further improve, in greater quantities the overall general condition of your body and/or mind.

There is no doubt what the message is that we are expected to digest – with the 315% increase in gym memberships each January, health is measured by the numbers within the walls of the fitness centre. How many reps?? How much weight?? Start weight vs current weight. It is an overwhelming pressure to create health through the manipulation and changes that can be made in fitness levels, weight loss or muscle gains. Health as defined by the Diet / Fitness industry is a reflection of the number of dollars of revenue it collects each year with the most popular resolution worldwide.

What about making this year the year to live your life to the fullest? Is there a more ineffective cliche? What kind of power does January 1st really have? Does it have the ability to create enough inspiration to encourage the depressed to feel more content, to motivate the unmotivated to get up off their backside or just be grateful for what you already have? If you need a list of ways to get yourself together to make this resolution a success, there are lists upon lists on google that include 101 ways to live your life to the fullest. Essentially this resolution is a sure fire way to ensure that you feel guilt and shame at all that you are not, all that you do not have and your inability to feel content and grateful for what you have created in your own life.

To boil it all down, no matter how long we have been following the tradition, resolutions are clearly not the most effective way to bring about a new year with positivity or hope. In fact, I see it as a way to reinforce the year long self talk that you have not met even your own expectations. A bold acknowledgement to the world that you recognize your obligation to change yourself, your behaviour, your appearance, from bad or unacceptable to good and pleasing. Can we all just agree, that on most days we learn something new, engage in a way we could have done something differently, have the desire to be in the optimal health of the moment, find balance in our surroundings or environment and can accept that we have our own desires to be true to our own path of progress.

There is one thing that the new year truly represents and that is 365 days full of things that have never been. Trust the magic of new things with the dawning of the day, not the drop of the disco ball, announced by Dick Clark as the clock hits midnight.

My resolution for 2018….

To Start my year off with an empty slate, that I can fill with all the things that happen throughout the year; all the awesome moments, the new acquaintances, the old friends, the adventures, challenges, and disappointments.

Dear Past,

Thank you for all the lessons

Dear Future,

I am ready.

2018 will be………revealed….. day by day.

Happy New Year.

So this is Christmas…..

TRIGGER WARNING

Discussion regarding Food related topics and emotions

This is the most beautiful time of year. The air is crisp with frost and the ground is covered in the dancing shimmer of snow; steam from hot mugs of tea warm our hands; and we transform into that Basic Canadian Girl in our oversized scarves, Ugg boots and various layers of wraps and shawls. Skis are taken out of storage, waxed and made ready for the fresh powder and Canada Post is working overtime to ensure Santa receives all his letters in time for the BIG night. The trees are trimmed, the stockings are hung, and we are cozied up in our Flannel PJ’s watching Rudolph lead the sleigh through the worst storm of the Century.

What a lovely season, a time to wrap up the days and months of the last year with our gratitude for one another, our appreciation for all that we have, and with plans, wishes and resolutions to bring us forward into the year that awaits.

But wait… there is more than just the warm feelings of peace and hope that surrounds us. It is weeks of Dinner Dates, Dances, Cocktail Parties, Dinner Parties, Office Parties, Open Houses, Secret Santas and Cookie Exchanges. A whole calendar page of festivities. In the last week alone, I have had 4 Holiday related events…. one as anxiety provoking as the next. As much beauty and closeness that can be felt this time of year – for those of us struggling though mental illnesses, for me an Eating Disorder, Anxiety and Depression; candy canes and sugar plums are a powerful fuel to the mental fire.

From the rich buttery shortbread melting on my tongue, to the Pot of Gold, Turtles and Butter Tarts… there is no shortage of temptation, torment or obsession to keep the wheels of my ED mind in constant motion. Each party is centred around an island of goodies to tempt the appetite and to provoke the disordered mind. Our senses on full alert; the sight of trays piled high with rich Christmas cookies, bars and squares; platter of meats and cheeses, crackers and olives; and the endless availability of holiday spirits – a virtual feast for the eyes and one indulgence after another for the palate. The rooms are filled with sounds of laughter, enjoyment and accolades for the host/ess on the deliciousness of their spread. The air in the room pungent with the aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread and mulled wine. And within the collective is felt the warm touch of companionship, belonging and acceptance. Everyone having themselves a Merry Little Christmas.

I sit among the Egg Nog toasts and Michael Buble Ballads, and I can tell you; there is no judgement as unkind or intense as the Smartie eyes of a Gingerbread man taunting you with self doubt, fear and rejection. He has no qualms about questioning your “RIGHT” to a cookie, your worthiness to indulge or to remind you of the consequences of giving in to your weaknesses.

The same table that serves up kindness, love and enticing treats to others, is the table that offers up the buffet of anxiety, pressure, stress and self loathing to me. I can not partake in the festive mood, for my mind is circling around at top speed – in every effort available to avoid the steaming hot coco, the small talk conversations, and the strong desire to hide in the coat room. There is a conflicting battle between the desire to stand up to the Eating Disorder, and all of it’s behaviours and the total control it takes over your mood, your life and your choices.

There is no all inclusive survival guide for the holidays – but if I can learn any lessons at the holidays, it is those from a Christmas Tree.

1. Twinkle – but don’t worry about being the brightest.

2. Share your Gifts – for someone somewhere is looking for your presence

3. Bring joy to others – it is infectious

4. Stand Proud – for you are dazzling

5. Surround yourself with those that Light you up

Mental Illnesses are a challenge, a struggle – even on the good days. Insert the expectations of Socializing, Gift Exchanges, Family Obligations and the fanfare of Turkey with Stuffing….. it can be staggering. Christmas and the entire season is about celebration. It is magic and love, giving and being. It’s music and laughter.

As the saying goes…. if I can believe in Santa Claus for 10 years, I think I can believe in myself long enough to make it through a night or two of Christmas Carols & Mistletoe kisses. I may not make it through the season unscathed BUT I’m also not going to be the first name on the naughty list. And so as I close my eyes on Christmas Eve, I shall hang my stocking by the chimney with care, with hopes that I wake to all that is calm and all that is bright.

Merry Christmas to All

And to all a Good Night

Nesting Within

The Russian Nesting Dolls are one of the best know and most popular of all Russian souvenirs. “Matryoshka”, the Russian word for these iconic wooden dolls, was derived from the Latin root “mater”, which means Mother. The set is essentially a doll inside a doll, inside another doll and so on. Each is made to look almost identical to the one before it, in an ever decreasing size. Although they are considered to be a symbol of Motherhood and fertility – I can not help but see a connection to the many layers a person can have within; the shells we surround ourselves in from childhood on to adulthood. And in order to uncover the cracks, chips and fractures of the younger or smaller dolls inside, we need to open our adult selves to reach those little ones that are buried.

I very much feel like the outer most doll; who is crafted in the image of a woman of a sturdy and portly figure. Although, I believe traditionally this image is meant to relay the message that the woman is strong and healthy, the leader of a big family unit. What it portrays to me in my own image, is someone with many hidden layers; trapped beneath years of self destruction, weight gain, and emotional bruises. The larger the outer layer, the deeper the little girl within can be obscured, and the further away she is from the secrets the smaller dolls carry. Instead of the message the little girl holds tightly onto, I am able to focus attention and commitment to changing, revamping and adjusting the outside.

I resent the outside, but continue to add to the layers, in a confusing attempt to deny the cracks on the smallest most vulnerable girls inside. For as much resentment that I have, it is a safer and more familiar place to hide, literally in plain sight, rather than consider the cowardice that I feel towards revealing the inner layers. To hate the top layer is to see what is wrong in my reflection, how I want to change the portly appearance…. and to discredit the emotions that are below the surface. But getting too close to making the changes, is to reveal that the outside is merely another shell. Getting too close, is to open my awareness to the truth that these shells are not layers of experience and exposure, but seemingly impenetrable enclosures where whispers of how I became cry out to be heard.

Rumi – The one that truly loves you will set you free.

And so I shall, layer by layer.

Familiar Territory 

It’s been a year. 365 days since rolling my luggage down the long corridor that was to lead me to salvation from myself.

I was filled with emotions and doubt. Yet it was fear, trepidation and anxiety that made their way to the surface. What lay ahead was weeks of expectations, suppositions and possibilities. I was entering a new and hopeful environment, where the key to the mystery that had placed my life into the overpowering embrace of an Eating Disorder and all that came with it, could be found. This was the answer, the icing on the cake (pardon the food related pun). I was secured behind the locked doors of an Inpatient Eating Disorder Program, that was to take me from the brink, back to the solid ground of normalcy and stability. It was my chance to get well, and get back to life. 57 days later, the door closed on this phase of my “treatment” and I was thrust back to the place to which I came.

I did not find solid ground, recovery or even meet a small degree of the expectations that I had when I began that day. Many of my expectations were rooted in misconceptions. It is a rare case to be placed in treatment as a first time client and exit with a new found outlook on self compassion, body image and overall well being. BUT if it was to happen to anyone, it surely would be me. I was there to have medical professionals tell me where my faults lie, how to get past them and get on with it. They would give me a plan, offer me direction and I would give them a best selling Recovery Story. Whom in their presence, would say the right things, quote healing affirmations and absorb their advice and summations as a pathway to peace. Turns out….. it doesn’t work that way. There has to be more substance to your words. It needed to be a solo act, not the ventriloquist act I was preforming.

Attempting to uncover a lifetime of hurt, fears and trauma among a diverse group of individuals attempting to do the same, has its own unique narrative. Eight people, living day in and day out; among the inconsistency of policies / procedures, the egos and personality’s of staff and the driving desire to make it through each moment unseen and unheard. It is a melting pot for our insecurities; a place to find commonality and understanding, which can be a double edged sword; and a place to bring light to that which we fight to keep in the dark.

Discoveries and progress can be made within the confines of the program… but 45 years of believing the world is flat does not change, no matter how many times I agree that it is round. For all the while the words escape my mouth I continue to practice my belief that our world is in actual fact, flat. Nod your head, agree, tell them what they need to hear, and then repeat it as often as you can, so that someday, you will believe it too. Play the game you didn’t know you were playing, enough to make it to the end, wherever that may be. Problem was, they didn’t believe me, they saw right though the veil of acceptance that I was hiding behind.

As I sit here now, with all the meal support groups, appointments, and therapy sessions from that time, months behind me, I have a difficult time identifying any changes or progress. The reflection in the mirror is still a woman that I do not know, I do not like and I do not want to be. For all of the good that can be identified in me….. it is just not adequate to tip the scale in favour of me being “enough”. I continue to determine my worth and measure my ability to be loved by the size of my clothes, the number on the scale, the food I do or don’t eat, and my inability to “get better”.  I am the judge and jury in each and every choice, decision or action I take.

It is true, I am not where I was, but at times, it is difficult to see any changes beyond the passing of time, the change of seasons and  progress of those around me. Another year has come and gone, that I am lost in a space of fear, denial, anxiety and tears. So, what have I learned.

Most days the answer I have for that is nothing, because thus far, my Eating Disorder has been the most prominent teacher in my life. But I can say, that I do know this; I am not a tree, I am not rooted in this disorder – even though it feels rooted in me. Even when I am at my weakest moments, I have only bent and never broken. Moving forward means I keep growing. And more importantly there are some things that you can only learn in a storm – so believe this too shall pass into a life that is equal to more than mere survival.