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… 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.


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.

In over my Head

As I have said many times before, my Psychiatrist is a God Send; but I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes, I DO wish that God would send her somewhere else. This week was one that I would have happily sent her packing. It was a difficult; dare I say, devastating session. For all the love and support that she pours into our relationship – I left that room feeling hopeless, defeated and beaten. Of course, the intention of the conversations that we had were further attempts at getting me to a real place of awareness, yet the result has been a deepening of my retreat and another layer added to my already suffocating cocoon.

The theory that it gets harder before it gets better – certainly is playing itself out in my journey, although the “better” part does continue to elude me. Every part of this Canadian Girl, wanted to get lost in the 50 pack of Timbits on the Skytrain home after our shared 60 minutes; yet my Eating Disorder labelled me as unworthy of that, that punishment just would not suffice… instead I was to drift into another type of chaos – the chaos of my mind; the dark and lonely “dungeon” where I can lock away the little girl that has been there since the beginning of my story. And so I secured us both in my room and filled it with shame, embarrassment, hopelessness and resignation – where I could shut down, shut out, and fill my soul with unrelenting disappointment and fear. Shroud in exhaustion, I folded in on myself.

And so I am now alone in the deep end of the pool, with limited options – sink or swim. Of course sinking is not a REAL option; it is one I automatically want to scoff at and disregard – I am a fighter, a warrior. Giving up is not an option. I can do this, I got this! Sink….? Come on now, this isn’t really an option, how could I just….. I am not so weak as to choose to give up? So…. I swim? The breast stroke? Back stroke – I stopped taking swimming lessons long ago. I don’t have the strength or know how for this, there must be another way. What’s meant to be will always find a way; everything will work out for the best. Why does the “best” only appear as the choices that feel miles outside of my grasp.

Perhaps my choice is to be transparent. I can’t swim; yet sinking is impending failure. Treading water has been a way to keep things in that familiar place. Maybe to the outside world it appears as though what I am doing is in fact a slower way to drown; but it is the only way that I know how. I need swimming lessons – I need life preservers – life savers and I need to see that these are there to help; instead of envisioning them as the cement blocks that appear as a way to my demise. I can not grab hold of something that I have spent a lifetime distrusting.

I am left in the dark. To continue on MY way, keep believing in the dream of the life I have longed for. A life filled with love, happiness, worth and success. Yet, to take another path, the direction offered by another, is asking me to blindly close my eyes, dive into my fear and let what may, happen as it will. I am paralyzed by fear; yet running in the opposite direction.

I have come so accustomed to being tossed by the waves, and disappearing into the surf, being pulled under by the strength of the current.

Don’t stop the encouragement…..not to merely tread water in the ocean but to believe in the shoreline past the horizon. Remind me that I can remember how to swim.

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.

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…..


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.

Fake it until you Make it

This seems to be a popular affirmation or piece of advice. The belief behind it is that if you constantly repeat a behaviour, even though it may be mechanical or without a real desire to incorporate it, eventually it will become a habit that is deeply-rooted in who you are and how you behave.

I am an example of the power of this statement. And it was in fact, a coping skill recommended to me by my Eating Disorder case worker last week. I can honestly say……. I have faked it…. and that took me to a kaleidoscope of colourful versions and dark storms of what it looked like to “MAKE IT”.

I faked the “I don’t give a shit” attitude all though my teen years, as I used my negative behaviours to attract attention from my parents. From drinking the vodka in my Dad’s home bar, to staying out WAY past curfew and causing undo worry and stress to my parents, to being an all around asshole. I faked that I didn’t care about how these actions affected others…… and I made it to a place where I was given extra attention; all be it to deal with the shit storm of chaos I was creating. I faked that I wasn’t heartbroken and ashamed…… The only thing that I “made” during this time was a fool of myself – perhaps faking it was not the answer but being authentic was.

When I met “B”, I found a place where I experienced a balanced piece of mind that was more than I had been able to feel on my own. I spent the better part of 10 years fabricating a world that I could live in; a world that was just a little less lonely and scary than the place I would be on my own. Our own insecurities, doubt and fears found a breeding ground – with just enough hope mixed in to make us believe that our journey together was as good as we could hope to get. We settled into a comfortable denial. We faked it – and beneath it, simmered the constant unpleasantness of our fraudulent union. He’s my daughters father, and we have both proven to be better parents than we ever were partners to each other. I didn’t want to fake it, and I could no longer accept his false truth. That chapter of my life needed to close so that I could start on the next. So with much respect and admiration for the Father he is to my daughter, I accept the dysfunction and lies we told each other; as they were coming from a genuine place of hope; and a strong desire to belong.

The chapter that followed was set in a safer environment for me to let go, push limits and challenge the beliefs I was carrying forward from the years before. The things I had been missing were no longer the same – so it looked different. No longer was I made to believe that my desirability rested solely on my size; no longer was I led to believe that I was the only reason for the unrest in the home…. and no longer were my faults and flaws the focus of the attention afforded on me. Little did I know, I was attempting to piece together a new jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces of old. I found myself in another long term relationship; void of affection, without fulfillment and lacking in intimacy. It was as if one of the main characters had changed…. but the plot was still the same. Another man that gave all that he knew, to a woman that was denying that all he had would be enough to comfort her soul. Instead accepting it was all I deserved. I faked it with him for too long – I faked it with ME for too long. He is certainly deserving of the kind of companionship that makes him feel loved, appreciated and worthy. None of which I believe I was able to authentically give him – as it was void in my own being.

What followed, was me stepping forward into a entirely different book; gone from the fiction of all that I believed into a more realistic “based on a true story” type apologue. The thing about this next story is this – it has all the windows of the past ready to be opened, yet so far none of the courage to open the blinds. It is the hope of this Author that as I carry on – I will be able to turn towards an autobiography – of real experiences, emotions and genuine truth.

The coping behaviours that I used in the past were no longer effective, they had left far more damage, and scarred a path along the way, so saying good bye to them was a blessing. But as these “skills” fell to the wayside, and were buried behind days and weeks, it gave opening and opportunity for awareness to bubble to the surface. Containing it became a task as difficult as holding a balloon underwater – for with awareness came the comprehension of the depth of the struggle and the strong desire to keep it concealed.

The sequel to the first 45 years of my life, is the most difficult to write. Perhaps because there is so much struggle to re-write the argument, and conflict to continue the pretence of “making it”.

Through all the words, chapters and stories I have dictated in my life, there is none as difficult to record as the ones that I find myself writing today. I am in the safest place that I have ever been. I have a home in the heart of a man that has seen the preview of who I am; and still sits down every day to write himself into my story. He is the Hero, the Prince and the Knight in Shining Armour – and gives me a glimpse of the Fairy Tale. I have a family that embraces the woman I have become despite the difficult choices and decisions they watched me make. I have grown a network of friends, a small inner circle, that allow for my kindness and thoughtfulness be who I am, and not the Mental Illness and disorders that govern my life. Today, I have the most to lose. At last, I have put myself into a role that I was meant to play. It is likely the most compassionate and loving thing that I have given myself. I am not faking it….. and that means that making it is going to look a lot different than I expected.

I have lived so much of my life inside of my head; and that is not the most peaceful of places. I am going to choose to write the remainder of my day, which I hope will stretch into the future, by not accepting fraudulent behaviours from myself or others; for if I surround myself with truth… that will surely be how I will finally be able to MAKE IT to a place I want to be.

Falling Leaves from Autumn Trees

The weather in Vancouver has been spectacular this last week in October. Blue skies, sunshine, crisp mornings followed by warm afternoons reminiscent of summer. It is invigorating to walk throughout my neighbourhood and observe the signs of change in full effect. The flowers have all but wilted and browned, the gardens have been harvested and the sidewalks are littered with the leaves of the deciduous trees. It is a colourful reflection of the seasons past, and a glimpse into the cold and sparse winter ahead. It is a show of how beautiful it can be to let things go.

I watch the leaves fall above me, and hear the rustling of those already fallen under my feet, and I begin to feel a deep internal connection. I can feel the warm breath of the ghost of change in the air, and it is a beautiful moment of realization that all of these trees are losing their leaves, the flowers are losing their fragrance, and the gardens have found sleep…. and not one of them is worried, not one is struggling against it.

Through the strong winds, the heavy rains and the heat of summer, the leaves hold on, thrive and flourish…. yet they know when it is time to let go and to surrender to the change. It is as if the tree knows, that for it to once again experience the brilliance of spring, it must shed the past; pause; and take the time needed to gather strength for what is ahead. For the thousands of leaves that lie in piles and strewn over paths and lawns; there are still those that have yet to believe in the power of the transition. As the days turn to months, and the season rolls into Winter; so much of the foliage has been discarded; but there are some that remain, clinging to the branches so they may be brought forward into the coming year. Only to fall in Spring when they can be reassured, they will be replaced by a stronger version.

And so, I wonder to myself…could I be a tree, who is at a stage in life that I am starting to feel the winds of autumn, but unlike that tree, am reluctant, or down right resistant to allowing any of the leaves to fall. I have built a lifetime of foliage, each leaf representing a moment, a memory, a failure, challenge or victory. I have created it so that it is lush and full – enough so that I can no longer identity the unique and individual aspects and traits of each leaf… but have created a cluster, where the beauty of the many is marred by the brown edges of one.

Two years ago, another fall day, a leaf fell. It was a big one, the one that acknowledged that I have an Eating Disorder. It seems so long ago. Since then a few others have fallen, here and there, some without care others with painstaking resistance. That’s progress; so I am told …. but I am still lost in the forest and only see my tree, not the progress of change that surrounds me. I do not want others to see those that have fallen, it is like a display of my need to be something different, my feelings of being incomplete and vulnerable. I point to the tree as it stands, hoping the empty spaces where my truths once were, are still easily disguised among those that remaining.

I have lost myself, for I have become a tree from the seed that I didn’t plant. I have grown in all the places that should not have been nurtured; took all the sunlight and energy away from the growth of my own beauty and trust. I have yet to discover where it came from, I just used it to create roots that are strong enough to weather the storms within. From little seeds – grow mighty trees.

The trees know about the winter. About the change. About the falling. About the loss. And they grow anyway. What’s your excuse? – Erin Van Vuren

No excuse…. just one unyeilding leaf at a time.

What are you Afraid of ?

Coulrophobia – a specific fear of clowns

Mortuusequusphobia – the fear of ketchup 

Acrophobia – an extreme fear of heights

Xanthophobia – fear of anything yellow

Fear, apprehension, dread, terror, panic, trepidation…. no matter the synonym you attach to it, fear is distressing. The impending emotions of danger, evil or pain, whether real or imagined, the perceived threat is real. Threatened or apprehensive about ketchup seems a little off the grid….. but I am someone that loves a good fry slathered in the delicious red sauce (when the eating disorder allows), so I have a biased opinion in the area of ketchup.

Being so close to Halloween and the time of year when fear, fright and shock are present all around us, it seems an appropriate time to consider the fears that keep me chained to my eating disorder, that hold me prisoner from recovery and play the lead role in my life as I know it. Its not the ghosts, witches, goblins or warlocks that cause my heart to race in my chest, or induce the sweaty hands – Years of Scooby Doo and Ghostbuster remakes prepared me for that.

There is nothing so fearful to me, as dressing on my salad, lunch invitations, social engagements, comments about my appearance, judgement, expectations, grocery stores, peanut butter….. I will stop there as the list is longer than the energy needed to read it. I have literally cried in public because my salad was served with the dressing ON it, instead of on the side. I have spent an endless amount of time wandering the aisles of a grocery store, debating purchases, to the point of emotionally wounding myself for the thought of even considering the purchase of a box of crackers.  

Under every move, behaviour, action or thought lies the powerful, unyielding judgment…..which is my best defence against the fears that I feel – imagined or otherwise. There is no period at the end of what I choose to do, it is a domino effect. The normalcy of enjoying popcorn at a movie is overpowered by the fear of what it means. It means I want it – and it is “bad”; it means I may eat it – and that is unacceptable; it means once I have it, there will be no end to the whirlwind of thoughts that will follow; guilt, shame, panic……FEAR. 

What am I afraid of? My answer to that is based in my disorder; for as much as I know it is fear, I do not label it as such. It is control, motivation, and disciplined behaviour. It saves me from the disappointment on the scale, from the discomfort in my skin, the body shaming I inflict. It keeps me in my proper place… it keeps me on track………………… it keeps me from being unloveable, it gets me a step closer to being worthy.  

I am afraid…. I am worried that I am not enough. I am afraid that I don’t know what it will look like to BE enough. I am fearful that the degree of love and acceptance that I already have, will somehow be whisked away, should I allow myself to “slip”, give in or allow myself the things that I may want. 

Perhaps my greatest fear may be the water…… for I am afraid to rock the boat. Maybe, to overcome the fear, I need to see that I was not meant to be in the boat after all.  

Coping through Creativity

From deep breathing, to meditating or distracting.  When in the midst of a bout of anxiety or trigger, there are an abundance of skills and coping tools available to “get you through it”.  What works for one, is not always effective for another.  Meditation is a highly recommended method of centering oneself – yet I have been able to reap any of the benefits; as I find it is a quiet space for my mind to overthink & reconfirm all of the dizzying thoughts my mental illnesses have pre-planted.  At the end of it, I am calmer and more convinced in my disorder; thus this is not my go to coping skill.

Majority of the more commonly recommended methods of coping, are just not effective in the purpose I attempt to use them for. But I have found an outlet.  So, at any given time, you can find me curled up on the couch, warm in my flannel PJs, lukewarm tea in hand, surrounded by an unreasonable amount of yarn, needles, looms and hooks.  That’s right, my coping skill is to transform myself into a someone’s grandma, passing the time weaving together socks, slipper, hats, scarves and xmas stockings.

Creating and being creative is not only a distraction for me, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment.  It makes me smile everytime I see my husbands feet propped up on the coffee table wearing a pair of the slippers that I made.  It is like seeing a moment in time that I did not allow the Eating Disorder to be the winner; like I made it, if not in the big picture, but at least for a brush stoke.

The knit one, pearl two takes me out of the space that wants to claim me, into a place that has a purpose.  I am so thankful that I have found this outlet that allows for me to find still waters in my tsunami.  BUT, yes there is a but, I have gotten rather good at it and am able to pump out a few projects a day.  Now I only have so many feet, hands and heads to cover up in my warm creations and so I am currently stock piling…….. and that is why I’ve decided that a random act of kindness can be a gift of not only giving but opening up and creating an awareness in others.

And so I have included  the following TAG on my knitted treasured – which I will donate the local Christmas event for our Downtown Homeless, leave in public places and give away to advocates that deserve recognition:

 Woven within are my hopes….. I hope to find peace in my body; to have control over my behaviours and actions; and to uncover the extraordinary gifts that I have to offer.  

As I journey forward on this continuing adventure of transformation, self exploration and recovery; I do not strive to find perfection in myself nor expect it in my creations. But seek peaceful moments that the authentic ME, may find a way to cope with my chaos.

I have a mental illness; I have an eating disorder; I have an anxiety disorder; I have depression and I am not alone.

This is a gift of my journey to recovery; from me to you.  By accepting this gift you acknowledge your willingness to support mental health issues and have blessed my journey with your desire to be, know and do more.

Follow me on Instagram at weight_of_gravity

If the world is cold, make it your business to make it a warmer place.

Life is a Fitted Sheet

How to fold a fitted sheet

There are thousands of tutorial pins and videos online that are designed to educate people on the skills and how to’s of folding a fitted sheet; thousands of people have figured this out in such a way that they are able to teach others how to achieve the perfect folds and conquer one of laundry’s biggest challenges.

My life feels much like a pile of laundry fresh from the dryer – overloaded with fitted sheets, taunting me and crying out for perfection. Sounds like a strange and unusual comparison to make, but the similarities are undeniable. For as many times as I watch, read and attempt to learn…. that sheet just ends up in a crumbled pile shoved into the linen closet; as do my actions, behaviours and emotions after all the treatment, support and therapy.

True, the sheet does still end up in the right place, and could be loosely described as folded. And yes, I do continue to pursue treatment, but it overall feels like my attempts are unsuccessful. Watching, listening, talking, agreeing, but once the door of the therapist office hit my ass on the way out…. I am immediately thrown back into the linen closet without a clue how to fold that sheet.

I can see the error in my ways, the mistakes that I make – even as I make them at times, but it does not prevent or deter me from pursuing what I see as the ultimate solution to my unhappiness. We can talk for hours, for weeks on end about how everything I do is an attempt to gain love, respect, admiration and acceptance. We can dig deep into the past to talk about the role situations and circumstances played in shaping my story. All this talking and learning and eye opening conversation does not adjust my meal plan, decrease my anxiety at the thought of eating take out, or make me want to stop the treadmill after 20 minutes.

Some of the scars that have been left on my heart I have been able to see, even though the emotions that come with them are blurred with ambivalence. The connection between the two; the scars and the emotions, is bridged by an invisible system of avoidance, denial, coping and disordered behaviours. The connection is ying yang – one adds life to the other. But through my eyes, it is a division of black and white and not in conjunction with the other; they are each separate.

To overcome, change and rewrite the system that I have spent almost 1/2 a century creating, it is vital to begin to see the possibilities that I work so diligently to bury beneath the commotion of my Mental Health issues. It is imperative to acknowledge the connection – to acknowledge it is the only starting point to making a step forward.

I am not where I want to be but… but not where I was. The sheets are still a crumbled mess, BUT I am sorting my life out one load at a time.

Only a Day Away

Yesterday, not just the yesterday that happened 24 hours ago, but all of them; I spent much of my time contemplating and justifying my choices, behaviours and actions while simultaneously plotting my compensating recovery behaviours to come in the days ahead.

It is OK to wear PJs all day – because tomorrow, well tomorrow it was going to be gym clothes and sports bras. It made sense to eat a tub of hummus and a family sized bag of popcorn – because tomorrow, I was going to have apples, snap peas and carrots; and the draw of leftovers was NOT going to tarnish my fate. Yesterday, I was a version of myself that could only improve with the dawning of a new day. SO, throw caution (replace that with common sense) to the wind, and allow the restraints and restrictions to be lifted, one.. last …. time before the sun rises and plans, good intentions and desires take back control.

As I place my head on the pillow to say good night to the day, I am flooded with the familiar feelings of disappointment, regret and guilt; I silently say “ Let it go, don’t dwell on what you can not change or what you should have done…. tomorrow is a new day, another chance. Tomorrow…. be strong.” I close my eyes and replay those words through my mind – words that I never listen to, have yet to believe in, and struggle to say.

They say that there is no statute of limitations on reinventing yourself, starting over, or resurrect your being. And that is the promise that is hidden within the rays of the morning sun – because without fail, no matter the circumstances or chaos around it… whether you show up to see it, or remain cocooned within… the day begins and all around different versions of what is to come unfolds.

There is something missing in the plans, intentions and hopes I make. I get so caught up in the chaos of one last time, and the deep breaths that take me to a pause in the actions, long enough to remember that tomorrow, tomorrow I will do more, do better, get it back in control. The familiar emotions have worn a path so deep, that there is no room for a feeling of peace, calm or even just the middle ground of “OK”. It is the only road in the forest that I allow my journey to take me. Yet… I do feel that something is missing, the need to be free to feel something different.

I need to grieve. To feel the emptiness, guilt and sadness of all the yesterday’s that I spent weaving my way though the exhaustion of engaging, the blindness of avoiding and the denial that I was / am not in control of this. I need to grieve the moments that happened and not live in the moments that I create to avoid the reality of where I am, who I am and what it all means

Go through that whole process of grieving, so that at the end of day, I am not merely one day away from making a change, making a difference or making my way to another version of who I can be; but I am in the middle of the journey that is always in motion, in the moment, living in the now.

So let me open the way for the grief of what if’s; should have’s and next time, for tomorrow could be the someday that I have been waiting for.

Thankful, Giving, Gratitude

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. It is with a heavy heart, overwhelmed at the turmoil, chaos and senseless acts against one another, that we are transitioning from the season of sun, to the season of change and transformation. There is always something to be grateful for, someone to thank and a blessing to be had, it is where you look for it that gives it the weight and meaning needed to ease the bruises you feel inside.
To be grateful is to show an appreciation of kindness, and so for me that is to acknowledge the people that take the time to remain constant and present on the journey, and people or their actions that make an impression that I can carry forward with hope and positivity.
Amongst the devastation felt around the world, as the result of a lone gunman taking the lives of so many, and shattering the lives of thousands, a community was formed, a solidarity was felt and hope in a hopeless situation created. Strangers put themselves into harms way to protect each other, hearts and lives became forever intertwined. Many will not see the saviours of their lives again, but the sense of gratefulness, gratitude and relief always be a presence in how their lives continue to unfold.

Even I, who is thousands of miles, millions of people and essentially a world away, have a warmth in my soul that feels grateful for those that gave so freely of themselves, to come together in a show of kinship and kindness.

I have a world inside me, that is ruled and directed by mental illness. It is MY own world, where the chaos and turmoil are as senseless and destructive as any external source could be. But among the rubble of my mind, there is a security team of “heroes” that are there to protect my heart and ME from my own victimization.
My spark barely flickers without these people in my life; but it is without question or expectation that they continuously ensure there is fuel enough on my fire to keep the light from extinguishing.
Gratitude does not need to be measured – a smile at a stranger can change the whole trajectory of their life; just as being rushed away from an onslaught of gunfire. Do not dismiss or undermine the value of a moment that changes you.
The list of people, moments and experiences that have shaped my life is as long as the time I’ve lived. From the guiding hands of my parents, the protection of my brothers, the unconditional love of my daughter, the unwavering faith and patience of my husband, and the true connection of the friends I have made, I am forever grateful, thankful and hopeful.
And so what am I thankful for?? You… and you and you. Whether I know you or don’t, I am grateful for the space you take up in our world, the lives you touch, the acts of kindness you unknowingly spread and the love you share.
In the war against the Chaos, bring love, kindness and compassion as your weapon. It wins every time although often in mysterious ways.

A Self Diagnosis… first of many

Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram are billboards overflowing with life’s dramas, affirmations, quizzes and information you never knew you needed to know.  But recently I came across a post that identified unusual words and their meanings.  And I gotta tell you, it was like reading a checklist, a multi-layered diagnosis if you will.

Although none are fatal; there are enough of them for me to create a blog mini-series for you.   So here we go with the first of many.  Please note… these blogs are not completed in any specific order of severity or intensity.  I am likely equally affect by each. As you will discover as we continue on.

NODUS TOLLENS – the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?  An Policeman, Actress, Dancer, Pilot….. and then the plot twisted around 6th grade when the reality of puberty set in; focus was shifted to more life impacting issues such as: Does Josh like me? Or when will I get to start wearing a regular bra.   You know real life issues.   Turns out Josh is a total douche and maybe it isn’t a training bra, but it’s no reason to celebrate a “A” cup. Still, there is hope for maybe a Security Guard Supervisor position OR and Extra in a Nicole Kidman movie, stepping stones to bigger things.  Don’t they say life is a journey & not a destination??

Living does not stop as road blocks occur, challenges pop up or circumstances change.  These are all reasons why we have a society that allows us instant gratification from most situations…..if you are unhappy in your relationship, there is a solution for that; kids unruly and sassy, yup we have a pill or two for that;  tired from a long day of work and shuttling kids around to this practice and that class we have a Drive thru for that.

It has come to a point where plans are more like ideas… or I’d Like…. and the story is a collection of rescue missions convoluted into an undetectable plot that has us shaking our heads in disbelieve and confusion.

Am I alone? Do you know or see the trajectory of your life? Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years?? And who exactly decided that we needed to know.  I am a planner in every since of the word – my husband even calls me “Ms. Organized”. Isn’t the real plot of life to live it?  To be present in it, without shame or judgement.

I don’t know for sure when the plot twist became more of the reality than the actual story, but somewhere along the way, it has stopped making sense.  This is where it is often said or suggested that getting back to normal or the “old me” is the direction to go.  But I have to admit, I don’t remember a person that I have been that I have a desire to return to.  

So, it may not make sence, and suppose that is ok, suppose the lack of sense is exactly what continues to propel me forward, instead of the familiarity and expectations of a well planned out plot.  Perhaps having “Nodus Tollens” is in fact a blessing, a motivator and a label of hope.  

My eating disorder does not make sense, it blocks paths, invades the journey and in that there is truth.  The realization that the plot of my life does not make sense – is perhaps one of the higgest realizations in writing my own story, and not following along to the expected ending.  

Hang on the ride has no known destination, and this my friends is why it is about the journey.