Have hope, chase joy, embrace life – recovery is possible.

Posts tagged ‘progress’

If You Had Told Me Life Could Be This Overwhelming Beautiful, I Never Would Have Believed You.

To the -oh-so-lovely M.
[my mermaid โ€“ the dietitian who swam beside me during my first year of treatment],

You saw me through my first year of treatment, holding my hand as i took those first shaky steps towards recovery. You helped me to consider that my worth was greater than any number on a scale – that i deserved to recover. While it took me much longer to truly believe this, you helped to sow this seed of value in my soul – one which i would continue to nurture over the next two years, into the beautiful, flourishing blossom of self-worth that rests in my heart today ๐Ÿ™‚

[From the ‘thankyou’ gift i made for M., when we finished our work together.]

To the brilliant M.C.
[the psychologist who gave me the space to discover โ€˜meโ€™],

You were the first person to provide me with a space that was truly my own. At first I didnโ€™t know how to fill it โ€“ it took me quite a while before I learnt how to โ€œjust say whatever comes to mindโ€. When we first began our meetings together, I filled them with the expectations & offerings of others, but as time went on, I realised that this was not a space for the ideas of others โ€“ it was a space for me to discover my own. And it was in these meetings, that I began to discover myself โ€“ one beautiful, hidden piece at a time ๐Ÿ™‚

Thankyou for being consistent.
Thankyou for being reliable.
Thankyou for being here when I needed you to be, & thankyou for the times when you werenโ€™t.
Thankyou for your silence, even though it made me uncomfortable.
Thankyou for your words.
Thankyou for the pushes when I needed them, & for supporting me when I needed to stay still.
Thankyou for helping me to feel safe again.
Thankyou for teaching me that crying is actually okay.
Thankyou for your lack of criticism, but thankyou also, for not always agreeing with me.
Thankyou for your reassurance.
Thankyou for giving me this space, & the time to learn how best to use it.
Most of all, thankyou for helping me to feel worthy of filling it.

[A bag i sewed as a ‘thankyou’ gift for C.T.
Yep – those are my feet!]

To the beautiful C.T.
[the dietitian who helped me explore an exciting lifeinfullcolour during my 2nd & 3rd years in treatment],

You taught me about so much more than food & eating. In teaching me to trust my body, you taught me to trust in myself. In encouraging โ€˜experimentsโ€™, you helped me to replace my fear with curiosity โ€“ & that curiosity has led me to discover beauty & wonder in every place I look. You helped me discover the things I value โ€“ you helped me to discover MY value.

Thankyou for your encouragement.
Thankyou for your smile ๐Ÿ™‚
Thankyou for your patience โ€“ especially in the face of my many shoulder shrugs & โ€œI donโ€™t knowโ€s.
Thankyou for your flexibility โ€“ for allowing me to work with you, in a way that worked for me.
Thankyou for your humour.
Thankyou for sharing you enthusiasm for nutrition with me – & for helping me to uncover my own shared passion.
Thankyou for your metaphors, analogies, & crazy hand-waving.
Thankyou for recognising, that the smallest of steps can sometimes be the hardest to take.
Thankyou for celebrating those steps with me ๐Ÿ™‚

[Every cloud has a silver lining…]

M.C. & i had already said our goodbyes back in December after he moved on from his work at the ED service, but i had still been keeping appointments with C.T. C.T & i met again this past Tuesday, & although we had been working together for a couple of years now, there was something very different about this particular meeting…. This time our appointment was not for my ‘treatment’ – this time, we were celebrating ๐Ÿ™‚

Three years after entering treatment for an eating disorder, i was ready to move on. And so, on Tuesday, the 8th March, 2011, after a beautiful celebration, i walked out of C.T.’s office, & through the door of the big cream building that was now so familiar. I walked out of that building for the last time as a client of the Eating Disorders Service & into the sunlight, ready to embrace the next exciting chapter of this beautiful lifeinfullcolour ๐Ÿ™‚


[C.T. & i celebrated my recovery with my favourite raw, vegan chocolate cake ๐Ÿ™‚
We even wore party hats ;)]

To those who have not experienced the devastation of an eating disorder (whether directly, or indirectly), there is little i can say to convey just how heart-wrenchingly painful, & overwhelmingly exhausting the journey to recovery can be. So many times i feared that i would never recover, or in moments of relative stability, found myself thinking that ‘this is as good as it gets’. But as overwhelmingly challenging as this journey has been, it has been equally beautiful. And you know what? My life becomes richer & more beautiful every day ๐Ÿ™‚

I often refer to my recovery as a journey of self-discovery. I have learnt so much about myself โ€“ my likes, my dislikes, my strengths, my passions, my dreamsโ€ฆ Iโ€™ve just begun to uncover my potential, & it is far greater than I could ever have imagined. I am vulnerable, yet strong, & more resilient than I know. I am beautiful, passionate, intelligent, creative, magnificent! And I have a courage that roars like an open fire in my heart.

For so many years of my life, I truly & deeply hated who I was, & I didnโ€™t think that could ever change. But you know what? I really do love the person I see now – a magnificent, complex being, full of surprising beauty – & I canโ€™t wait to spend the rest of my life getting to know her better ๐Ÿ™‚

I feel such immense gratitude to be here now at this point in my life, & for every beautiful, scary, & painful moment that has led me to it. Sometimes I feel as though my heart might burst with all of the hope & joy & love it holds nowadays. I am grateful to have had these 3 years to heal, & to begin this incredible journey of self discovery, & I am especially grateful for having had access to the treatment I needed to save my life. I feel truly blessed to have been able to work with such an incredible team of people, & i am deeply grateful to everyone who has helped support me on this journey – i would not be here without you.


We made it through the darkness to the light
Oh how we fought, but still we won the fight
Oh, yes, we stand together
Sia, ‘The Fight’

With much love, & gratitude,

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I Don’t Have An Eating Disorder

“I don’t have an eating disorder.”

I have uttered those words so many times in the past 4 years.

“I am not sick. I am not thin. I don’t need treatment. These is nothing wrong with me. I am fine, fine, fine, fine, FINE.”

Even after multiple hospital admissions due to complications from my disorder, even after starting treatment, i was still in denial for a very long time.

“I don’t have an eating disorder. I just have “food issues.””

In fact, it was not until my second year of treatment that i was able to admit to having an eating disorder. It was not until then that i could say those words & not feel like a fraud.

My thoughts last year, had been to finish up with treatment in December, just before the holiday break. Therapy had been going incredibly well & i had made a lot of progress, & my psychologist was also about to resign. My ED behaviours were under control, & any lapses were only momentary. My life was not lived according to the rules devised by my disorder, & i felt ready to pursue the next chapter of my life & my recovery on my own. Things came up however, & i felt rather overwhelmed – my biggest, & really my only lingering trigger for ED behaviours – & although i had stopped seeing my psychologist, i continued my connection with my dietitian.

Yesterday i met with my her for the first time this year – it had been 5 weeks since we’d last met. Those 5 weeks had been challenging for me in many ways, but not overwhelming. I had managed to navigate my way over, under, around, & through any challenges that had popped up, & i had resisted any urges to return to my disordered behaviours. I had enjoyed blogging here over the holiday break, & it had helped to keep me afloat during those challenging moments. It was not an easy time, but i got through it – the wonderful story of my life these days! ๐Ÿ™‚

When we met yesterday, keeping in mind my progress, & my thoughts on finishing treatment, my dietitian asked me what i would like from our sessions – what did i need? Where to from here? It was a simple question for me to answer, & a joyous answer to give ๐Ÿ™‚

“It might sound funny, because i guess i have known this for a long time, but it hasn’t really hit me until now… But i really do know what i am doing with food now. I know what foods make me feel energised & strong. I know which foods don’t. I know how much i need to eat to feel good, & how frequently. I know what it’s like to feel hungry, &ย  satiated, & i can respond to those cues – the way i eat now is determined by how i feel, rather than a set of ridiculous rules.ย  And i found myself thinking, “What else is there? I don’t think there is anything else.””

She agreed wholeheartedly with me, & with that we decided to meet once more, in a month, & if all is well to say our goodbyes ๐Ÿ™‚

I have come to realise over this holiday break (& again, it sounds somewhat strange, even to me, that this realisation is only just “hitting me” now), that i don’t have an eating disorder. I am well & truly in recovery from an eating disorder.

I am no longer afraid of food. In fact, cooking & eating food is one of the greatest joys in my life! Most people i know would not hesitate to call me a “real foodie!” – a claim that is undeniably true yet equally shocking, for those who know of my past. In fact, it is true, that i have now discovered a freedom around food, that many of my friends & family are yet to acquire for themselves. Most of the time, i am able to eat very intuitively, eating what i want, when i want it, & trusting my body to balance everything out – i eat for enjoyment as well as nourishment. I love cooking & sharing food with others, & i love trying new foods. I. Love. To. Eat. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am also incredibly accepting of my body now. Sure i have days where i look at myself in the mirror, & my eyes zone in on my thighs or my tummy, & i find myself thinking “My thighs are so fat. My tummy is so bulgy. I would look so much better if i lost a little weight”. Sure i have days where i feel utterly miserable based on whether or not i can fit comfortably into my jeans. But these thoughts & feelings now rarely dictate my behaviour – they don’t dictate how much i eat, how much i exercise, or whether or not i can leave the house. They don’t dictate my worth as a human being, as a friend, as a sister, as a daughter… I am lovely, & i am loved, & those things do not change in relation to my jeans size ๐Ÿ™‚ It is now much easier for me to resist the urges to manipulate & reduce my body’s shape & size, because i know that those things have no bearing on who i am as a person – i know that what i look like does not make me any more or any less of a remarkable human being, & my self worth is no longer tied up in my appearance & my ability to manipulate it.

After 3 years of treatment, i am now able to say “i don’t have an eating disorder”. I can say those words & know deep within myself, that these are no longer words of denial. They are not a denial of my current state of health, nor are they though a denial of my past. I don’t have an eating disorder, but i did suffer greatly with one in the past. There are still some lingering symptoms & signs – the way restriction still pops into my head as an option when i’m feeling overwhelmed, the lingering digestive issues that my body & i are still working on healing, the struggle i have to moderate my level of activity…. But i do not have an eating disorder. Today, no words have ever felt truer than “I am in recovery.” ๐Ÿ™‚

(Images via: We โ™ฅ it.)

Protection From Fear, Through Shame

I have an appointment with a psychologist in the morning, at the ED clinic where i have been attending outpatient treatment since my diagnosis. I have met this lady just once before in the week before Christmas, not long after my former treating psychologist resigned. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but i survived it. I felt my fear, & it did not kill me.

Thinking about my appointment tomorrow, i am again filled with fear – although i didn’t realise that at first. At first i just felt fat. And i am feeling fatter & fatter as time wears on – my thighs suddenly seem much larger, & i am acutely aware in a way i was not previously, of the way they brush together as i walk. My clothes feel tighter, & the thought of picking out something to wear tomorrow that will “fit” me, causes them to squeeze tighter around my body – You don’t have anything to wear. Nothing fits you. Your fat is bulging out everywhere – you can feel it. See it? You can’t go out looking like that. You can’t go out with your fat bulging out everywhere. Disgusting…. neg’s voice (not overly abusive, but niggling) encourages an urge to check my body – to size it up in the mirror & make sure nothing has changed. I resist. I resist for two reasons; 1) I know that if i look in the mirror, i will only see what neg wants me to see, & 2) He’s lying – & i can recognise that without the aid of a mirror.

neg used to win these battles with me time & time again. Mornings were HELL. My ex-partner G. would agree, that getting me to leave the house was painfully difficult. neg had so many rules for me – You cannot leave the house without having a shower. You must shampoo your hair twice, then condition it once. You are only allowed to use this one brand of shampoo & conditioner…. There were many, many others. Picking out an outfit was the most traumatic part of the morning – i would try on dozens of combinations of clothing, checking each one in the mirror as i went, trying to find something “acceptable”. Your stomach is way to flabby to wear that top. Those pants make your thighs look huge. You can’t wear a sleeveless top – look how fat your arms are! Disgusting! After what could sometimes take hours, i would often end up in tears, resigned to the idea that i couldn’t possibly expose the world to my hideous body, & should stay at home instead. If i did make it out of the house, it was usually in black skinny jeans & a baggy black hoodie, hoping i wouldn’t draw any attention to myself.

As time went on, & i progressed in treatment (most notably once i had re-nourished my brain), neg’s voice became softer & less threatening – more of a niggle than the violent & foul-mouthed abuse i had become so terrified of at the height of my illness. It was then that i began to notice a pattern to neg’s abuse – while there was almost always that niggling voice in the back of my mind, there were other times when his “anger” flared up again, & it was back to the screaming criticisms & torment of the past. These days, i found, were usually days on which i had a therapy or dietetics appointment scheduled. neg’s abuse on those days saw me cancel a lot of my treatment appointments.

There was one day though, when i decided to push through the torment – i followed neg’s rules around my ‘leaving the house’ routine, but when he said that i had absolutely nothing even close to acceptable to wear, & that i couldn’t possibly go out looking the way i did, i went out anyway. And that’s when the real trouble started. During my 40 minute trip to the ED clinic, neg hurled abuse at me – You are repulsive! Look at you – you’re disgusting! How DARE you go out looking like that?! But his abuse wasn’t only related to my appearance – You aren’t even sick – you’re just wasting their time. There are so many sick people out there, & you are just taking up their space. You are so selfish! They hate you there you know…

I had always known that if i “disobeyed” neg’s orders, i would face a cruel backlash – that’s why i followed his rules for so long – but for some reason, that once day, i found it rather interesting to observe how this “backlash” was playing out. First he criticised my appearance & told me i should stay home. Then, when i left home anyway, he criticised my appearance again in the hopes of getting me to turn back. When i again failed to react in the way i was “supposed” to, he left appearance & shame aside, & focused on guilt instead, hoping he could convince me that i was undeserving of treatment, & cancel my appointment. I realised that this really was his goal in every case that morning – for me to not attend my appointment. And this left me curious – what was it about going to therapy that day that scared him so much?

Tonight i am asking myself that same question – what is it about attending this appointment tomorrow that has me so scared? Why has neg’s voice reappeared to protect me? Even to me that sounds somewhat strange – this idea that neg is protecting me – considering the violent & foul-mouthed abuse he can hurl in my direction, but that is exactly what he is trying to do right now – he is trying to protect me from my fear, through shame. Trying to make me feel so bad about myself, that i won’t want to leave the house, & will therefore avoid whatever threat awaits me in my psychologist’s office.

Thinking back to the day when i first asked myself that question – what is it that is scaring neg (me) so much? – i remember sitting with my fear in the waiting room. I remember sitting with it in my therapy session. I sat with it, & i felt it – & it was horrible. But when i think back to that day, there is something i remember more than my fear, & that is the freedom i felt after leaving that appointment. But it was not the leaving the gave that me that relief, it was the fact that i had been there. I had talked about some scary stuff, & i had felt uncomfortable while i did so, but they were things that needed to be said, & once they had been, they were gone, & i was free to go about my day in peace. neg was quiet for the rest of the afternoon – in fact i didn’t hear a peep. The threat was gone, not through avoidance, but through confrontation.

I know that getting to tomorrow’s appointment will be hard – i know that it will very likely be a “fat” day, & i know that i will face some of that internal torment & abuse from neg. But i also know, that i can face my fear & feel it – i CAN feel that fear AND go to my appointment. And i also know that, as with everything, this fear shall pass.

How can you confront your fear today?

Something To Celebrate

With 2010 about to draw to a close, i find myself reflecting on another incredible year in recovery.

This year i:

  • Found freedom & joy in intuitive eating
  • Embraced vulnerability
  • Cried,
    laughed,
    & loved a whole lot
  • Found peace through forgiveness, & let go of past hurts
  • Found hope
  • Travelled halfway across the world to meet my beautiful friends A. & L.
    – an incredible adventure, filled with rule-breaking growth & insight
  • Learnt how to appreciate the little things
  • Skipped,
    danced,
    & sang – a lot
  • Broke some more rules
  • Said “i really do love myself” for the first time in my life – AND i meant it
  • Learnt how to bake vegan cupcakes (& baked A LOT of them)
  • Gave, but received so much more
  • Chased joy,
    embraced life,
    & saw the beauty in everything (even if it took a while)
  • Met some of the most beautiful, magnificent, & all-round amazing people in the world
  • And, for the first year since i was diagnosed in 2007, i have not had any hospital admissions due to my eating disorder
    – i am freaking AWESOME! ๐Ÿ˜€

But, while it has taken a lot of my own courage, strength, & determination to achieve these things, it was not without a whole lot of support & encouragement from my beautiful friends, family, treatment team, & even the strangers who touched my life this year. To all of those beautiful, incredible, amazing people who have shared yourselves & your lives with me this year – thankyou so very much. What an honour to have such amazing people in my life!

And so, with just 4 hours until the new year is upon us here in Australia, i wish you all a wonderful 2011. May it be a blessed year for you all, filled with peace, & love, & joy, & excitement, & laughter, & dreams, & dancing, & discovery, & health. *catches breath*
And remember – have hope & chase joy, because recovery IS possible! ๐Ÿ™‚

What have YOU achieved this year? (I guarantee it’s a whole lot more than you think ;))

(Images via: We โ™ฅ it.)

New Year’s Resolutions

Giving up on giving up

Why is it that New Year’s Resolutions are so often about giving something up? Giving up smoking, giving up food, losing weight, etc. By “resolving” to give something up, we are setting ourselves up to feel deprived, & feelings of deprivation rarely do anything to enhance our mood. In fact, our desire for satisfaction is so strong, that any feelings of deprivation we may have are likely to see us rush right back into the comforting arms of what we have “given up”. We want to feel satisfied, & why shouldn’t we?

Now, i’m not saying that you should keep smoking, or continue to engage in behaviours that are otherwise damaging to your health or well-being – if you are keen to make positive changes in your life, then by all means, go for it! But perhaps it would be helpful to think of thee changes in a different way – rather than “giving up” something, what if we were to gain something instead?

What if, instead of “giving up” smoking, your resolution was to increase your cardiovascular health? To breathe more freely & deeply? To save money? What if, instead of losing weight, your resolution was to develop a deeper connection to your body? To nourish yourself? To find a fun new way to move your body? What if your New Year’s resolution was about increasing your positive experiences, rather than trying to eliminate others?

All or nothing – or something else?

“Resolution” sounds so final – so all or nothing. It sounds so rigid – so inflexible. While setting goals is great for giving us a sense of purpose & direction, “resolving” to do something doesn’t leave much room for error or adjustment. When we set ourselves up to feel deprived, we make it difficult for ourselves to maintain any changes we make. So what happens then, if we have resolved to maintain this “deprivation”? How do we feel if for some reason we were not able to maintain those changes?

Most people i know who make New Year’s resolutions, feel guilty if they were unable to maintain the changes they had resolved so adamantly to adhere to. Even if it was through no fault of their own, they blame themselves – they blame their lack of “willpower”, their “lack” of organisation, or any other of their perceived “lackings” or “inabilities”. They approached their resolutions with an all or nothing attitude, & did not allow themselves the patience & flexibility they needed to really grow & develop, or to learn new skills. There was no contingency plan, & no space for wrong turns.

A resolution to recover

I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but on December 31st, 2007, i made a resolution for the upcoming year. I was sharing my evening with friends, & when one of them insisted we write down a resolution, i felt obliged to join in. I had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, & was awaiting treatment at a specialist eating disorders service.ย  My resolution that year (although i can’t remember it’s exact wording), was to “give up” my eating disorder – to stay out hospital (which was, at that time, a regular occurrence), leave my ED behaviours behind, & find happiness & health. I know, right? Talk about setting myself up!

The resolution i made (while well-intentioned), went against every piece of advice i have given here. First of all, i set myself up for some major deprivation – i was completely entrenched in my disorder, reliant on it in so many ways, & stuck in a pattern of behaviour that had just as much to do with physiology as it did with psychology. I was in no real position to “give that up” yet.

Recovery from an eating disorder is a very long process, but my resolution seemed to ignore that fact, & insist instead, that i could recover by the end of the following year. It left me no room for the backward & forward steps of the recovery dance. It left me no room to test out new skills & techniques. No room to seek medical help if i needed it. It didn’t really leave much room for anything other than “success”. Needless to say, i did not keep my resolution that year. Within weeks i was back in hospital again to be stabilised, & i continued to have multiple emergency room admissions throughout the year. I was not able to “give up” my eating disorder behaviours, & health & happiness continued to elude me.

Despite how it sounds, i did make some incredible progress in that first year of treatment. It was a year of progress, not perfection – the beginning of my journey to recovery, with steps taken bite by bite. These changes could have been the result of a more powerful resolution – a resolution that focused on that idea of progress, rather than absolute perfection. And it is this idea – progress, not perfection – that now helps to guide me through my goal-setting.

A change of wording can make all the difference

Since that December back in 2007, i have not made any new resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise. I have, however, set myself some goals. To me, goals are much more flexible than a resolution. While a resolution is by definition fixed & unwavering, goals can be adjusted, or changed completely. A goal, is something you would live to have, or do, or be – it is something to strive for. But if you decide one day, that you no longer want to have that thing, or that you want to do something different, a goal provides you with the flexibility to change paths.

My goals for next year?

  • Above all, to be gentle with myself
    Which for me, means to continue developing my self-compassion, to acknowledge that i am still learning & growing, & to be forgiving of myself. It also means learning more about setting & maintaining boundaries, & practising saying no (or yes!).
  • To continue the practice of intuitive eating
    To continue the practice of connecting with my body & it’s needs, & providing it with nourishment in a way that is life-giving & enjoyable
  • To continue experimenting with different ways of moving my body
    Perhaps i will try yoga this year,or take a dance class. Perhaps i will spend more time hiking, or kayaking. Or perhaps i will discover something completely different!
  • To continue to find new ways of learning, & exercise my mind
    I have planned to go back to university, to exploreย  a different way of learning, & to engage my mind in learning more about a variety of different subjects. The idea of exercising my mind in new ways is very exciting! ๐Ÿ™‚
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can give back to my community
    I really love volunteering with Vinnies Youth, but it would be nice to explore some other ways to spread the love ๐Ÿ™‚
  • To continue exploring ways in which i can be involved in the discussion around eating disorders & their treatment
    Including continuing my support & increasing my involvement with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration & The Butterfly Foundation here in Australia, as well as increasing & maintaining connections to others who are passionate about these issues.

For all of my use of words such as “exploring”, or “practising”, it may seem to some that my goals are rather wishy-washy, or that they would be easy to “back out of”. While i am a huge believer in the power of positive affirmations & a “can do” attitude (which i hope to post about soon), i find, with the flexibility i have offered myself, i am much more likely to achieve these things, as i have given myself no rights or wrongs – no absolutes. These goals help create a sense of curiosity & exploration around the coming year, & allow for growth & development in whichever direction it may take.

Hope for the future

What do you think of New Year’s resolutions?
Have you ever made one? Will you make one for the coming year?

What are your goals for 2011?
Will they be flexible & forgiving? Will they allow you the space you need to change your mind, take a detour, or find a new path?
Will they focus on progress, not perfection?