Authenticity

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I’ve been working on this post for a while now. Again, my perfectionist comes out to play and I am left with nothing else to do but acknowledge that she is there, say hello and nurture her. This seems to be a bit of a common theme for me lately. I’ve done some soul searching over the last few days and realised that my perfectionist comes out to play when I am fearful, when I don’t feel safe and when I am feeling stressed. I think I have always been aware of this default position of mine, but I haven’t REALLY looked into it in much detail. 

The reason for my procrastination over this post = FEAR. Fear of judgement. Fear of what people will think of me. Fear of people rolling their eyes. Fear of people thinking that I am not a ‘good enough’ role model and voice for recovery. Fear of not being ‘good enough.’ FEAR of NEVER being ENOUGH. Period.

 

I thinking it’s important for me to share these thoughts with you. I was only talking to a dear friend of mine over the weekend about authenticity. This is something that I have worked towards, especially in terms of the work I do with Project HEAL. I have a whole lot to say about authenticity, but I will leave that until the end of this post.

 

With the success of Project HEAL Sydney Australia over the last 12 months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazingly inspiring people. I have also had the opportunity to tell my story, to share my journey with so many people and to be a voice for recovery. Lately, I’ve had this unrelenting feeling of never feeling as though I am enough. This feeling has weaved its way through my soul and rested inside my head and heart. “Hello old friend. I know who you are, and I know why you’re here.”

 

I struggle. Sometimes this old chestnut of never feeling like I am good enough is enough to cripple me and make me weak at the knees, but never in a good way. I start to doubt myself. I start to think that I am not a ‘good enough’ voice for recovery, that my experience with my eating disorder and recovery hadn’t given me enough ‘experience’ (read: I wasn’t ‘sick enough’) to share my journey and inspire others along the long and windy path of recovery. The ‘I can’ts’ and the “I shouldn’ts’ start to surface and I find myself doubting my worth as a person.

 

When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I was ravaged by the thoughts and feelings of never being good enough. Except, in that instance, my eating disorder had be believing that I was not ‘good enough’ at playing by her rules – I was never sick enough, or thin enough…even my diagnosis had me feeling like I had just received the last place award for ‘participation.’ I saw the awards ceremony play out in my mind, “Thank you for coming, and thanks for trying, but here’s a ribbon for your efforts.” As I began to recover, my feelings of not being good enough warped into the idea that I wasn’t good enough at recovery, I wasn’t doing recovery perfectly (I believe I have a post on this a few posts ago), and I wasn’t getting better fast enough. So, what does this tell me? That those feelings, regardless of how they present themselves, will probably be there for a while to come. So, conclusion – it’s any wonder they are surfacing now.

 

In sharing my story with others over the last twelve months, and in founding this chapter of Project HEAL, I have had to leave myself fairly vulnerable. I have exposed parts of my soul to the world that I would have usually shied away from. Sometimes I feel like it’s easier to hide behind a computer screen – I can allow myself to be vulnerable, BUT… “Hello old friend. I know who you are, and I know why you’re here.” FEAR. Fear of judgement. FEAR of never being enough.

 

What have I learned? I’ve learned about authenticity. I’ve learned about showing my imperfect self to the world and I have learned that vulnerability is pretty damn attractive. I am human, and humans are hardwired for struggle and connection. My wounded child gets scared sometimes, and that’s OK. I have feelings, lots of them. Sometimes those feelings are so huge, they’re threatening. Sometimes those feelings are so painful, it’s terrifying. Sometimes those feelings are so joyous, it’s scary.

 

I was not dealt a perfect hand. The cards I was dealt have allowed me to experience this gloriously messy life, but it’s a gloriously, messy life that I love with my whole heart. Sometimes I hurt and sometimes I’m left with the fear of judgement. My default position is to shut down and run away, but I am slowly learning that I don’t have to do that anymore.

 

I do not have to be perfect before I can inspire others, I just need to be myself. Here I am – raw, vulnerable and exposed (I was going to use the term ‘unedited,’ but let’s face it, I’m sending this post to a friend to edit for me before I post it, so that’s not entirely truthful, is it?) My feelings, my thoughts and my struggles make me who I am. I make mistakes, I falter, I fall and I bruise easily. But I also stand tall, I stand strong and I use my voice.

 

I am enough. Just as I am. I am so enough. And so are you. 

 

Dear You 

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I’ve been pondering this post for some time now; typing a little, then deleting, typing a lot and then scrapping the whole thing. I wanted to write something poignant, something inspiring and something meaningful. I realised today, after becoming increasingly frustrated with myself that I need to say hello to my inner perfectionist, allow her to be present, but not allow her to get in the way of me writing this post. Easier said than done, right? 
I spent some time with my inner perfectionist. I asked her why she was here, if she was OK and if there was anything I could do to ease her anxiety. One of my biggest fears is judgement and people thinking that I’m inauthentic. Crazy, right? My biggest insecurity these days is people thinking that I don’t have enough eating disorder ‘experience’ to be doing the work that I’m doing with Project HEAL Sydney Australia. I’m terrified that people will think that I’m not a ‘good enough’ role model and voice for recovery. These core insecurities and beliefs still plague me, but I thank them for being there. 
I think it was important to frame this post with a little about the difficulties I’ve experienced in writing this. It’s all still a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. Every thought, feeling, insecurity and experience has its place in my journey and for that, I’m actually really thankful. 
This couldn’t have been a better lead into my post this evening. I wanted to write an open letter to those people who bullied me in high school, to those people who commented about my weight, to those people who snickered behind my back and to those people who, for whatever reason, made me feel small. This is a different kind of open letter. Instead of expressing my dislike for these people and instead of tearing them to shreds for what they had done in the past, I wish to thank them. I wish to tell them that I forgive them for their behaviour. You might think I’m crazy. You might not agree, but if you’re left wondering, “why on earth would she forgive and say thank you?” read on… 
Dear You, 

Yes, you’re the one who called me Flubber. You’re the one who made cow noises as I walked across the quad. You’re the one who taped a sign to my back during English class. You’re the one who called me fat. You’re the one who told me I needed to lose weight. You’re the one who told me I wasn’t fast enough. You’re the one who told me there was nothing in your store that would fit me. Dear You, you know who you are. 
Dear You, 

I don’t want to make excuses for your behaviour, because, frankly, I don’t agree with it. But, I do want to tell you that I forgive you; I forgive your words and your actions. Dear You, every vessel in my body is compelled to thank you. So, dear you, thank you. 
Dear You, 

Thank you. Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to rise above all the hurt and the pain, thank you for providing me with an opportunity to grow, to find strength when I was weak and thank you for allowing me to hit rock bottom. Dear You, rock bottom became the solid foundation upon which I started to rebuild my life. 
Dear You, 

I’ve experienced the most difficult and gruelling years of my life. An eating disorder, major depression and anxiety took over my life. Dear You, my life fell apart. I thought I was broken; I hated myself and didn’t feel like I deserved to live my life. Dear You, I didn’t want to live at times. Therapy, treatment, medical and dietetic appointments became the norm. Dear You, I’m OK though. 
Dear You, 

Next time you tear somebody to shreds, I want you to think about why? Are you attempting to tear somebody else down in order to build yourself up? Are you insecure about your own body or what’s going on in your own life? Dear You, please stop and think about what sort of an impact your words and actions will have on another person. Dear You, you might be hurting inside too. 
Dear You, 

I forgive you. I open my heart to you. I thank you for your part in my journey. Dear You, thank you for inspiring the strength and fight it took to recover from my eating disorder. Dear You, thank you for this experience, because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am.
Dear You, 

Now I’m working in a job that I adore, now I’m studying in a field I am deeply passionate about and I’m directing a not-for-profit. Dear You, thank you for your part.
Dear You,

I survived. 
It’s a strangely beautiful paradox really, that I am happy to have used those horrible experiences in my life in order to grow. I’m definitely not trying to send the message that bullying is, by any means, OK. Although, holding on to those experiences, for me, was only compounding the hurt and pain that I associated with my eating disorder and depression. Learning to forgive (including forgiving myself) doesn’t condone the behaviours of others, it simply says, “this no longer has any power over me any more.” I am a stronger, more resilient woman and I am slowly learning how to embrace my imperfect self. 
So, Dear You, 

I am imperfect, I am cracked, but I am not broken. 

Dear You, 

I WILL shine.  

 

If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it. 

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately. A lot about food (not in an obsessive, eating disordered sense, but more so in a ‘why does everybody have an opinion over what everybody else is eating’ kind of way) and a lot about how this impacts those of us in recovery. 

We are immersed in a culture where dieting is the norm. It seems as though intuitive eating is blasphemous and heaven forbid if we actually listen to our bodies and trust what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it. The diet culture keeps us chained into a cycle of shame, judgement and a feeling of never being (good, skinny, smart, pretty, beautiful) enough. 

With the age of fad (and let’s face it, often extreme) diets such as Paleo, I Quit Sugar, Atkins etc, the concept of ‘normal’ eating has become quite complex, when really, it shouldn’t be. When people are consistently using words such as good/bad, naughty/healthy, fattening/non-fattening, food becomes categorised and thus evaluated upon these terms. This leaves us wide open to judgements from others and society in general in regards to what we do and do not consume. 

I couldn’t tell you the last time I enjoyed a meal with others and wasn’t subjected to comments and judgements about the food on our plates. 

“That’s probably the worst thing you could eat, so much oil and sugar.”

“Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar are in that cereal.”

“I can’t believe I’ve just eaten that much, and so much bad food. Diet starts tomorrow.” 

“You shouldn’t eat that. It’s very high in calories/sugar/carbohydrates.”

“I have to go and ‘walk off’ what I just ate…” 

When we hear judgements about food, it really makes us question our own diets. When we hear judgements about food, it really makes us question whether we are eating ‘right.’ When we hear judgements about food, it really makes us impressionable to all of the messages we receive on a daily basis. When we hear judgements about food, we are more likely to think that we need to try that new diet, and when that doesn’t work, we try another, and herein lies the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Whatever happened to simply enjoying food for what it is. Food. Fuel. Nutrition. Enjoyable. One can have an opinion about food that doesn’t require a judgement about its nutritional content, whether it’s good or bad or whether you should or shouldn’t be eating it. One can hide food based upon its texture, its taste, its flavour or its temperature. Imagine how dinner time conversations would change. 

Now, many of you already know that I am in recovery from an eating disorder. I’m rather thankful that I am at a place in my recovery where, for the most part, my eating disordered behaviours have mostly disappeared. What I continue to struggle with at times are the thoughts that can drive you crazy. Those thoughts can be triggered by a number of things. For me, it’s those judgements about food that really make my blood boil. 

Now, I don’t mind people having their own opinions. I think the important thing to note here is that everybody is entitled to think whatever they want to. They are also entitled to eat whatever they want, follow whatever fad, teen or diet they like and do any amount of exercise they like. HOWEVER, when you decide to impart your wisdom on others, what message are you sending? When somebody tells me that a cream bun is “the worst possible thing you could eat, it’s so bad for you. It’s full of fat and sugar,” I can’t help but feel as though they are judging me for the choices I make. Also, when somebody tells you, “you should try cutting out carbs, you’ll lose lots of weight,” I can’t help but think that was a polite way of calling me fat. 

In essence, I guess my point here is that we really do need to be more mindful about how we talk about food. More mindful about our choice of language and definitely more mindful of who we share our opinions with. It’s one thing to share your opinion with others in regards to food, but it’s another to be blatantly judgemental and forcibly shove your opinion down another person’s throat (and I bet the opinion doesn’t taste as good as the cream bun). 

In an age where these new diets and crazes are essentially ruling our world like a new found religion, I am vowing to honour my mind and body. For me, food is simply fuel. Food has no moral value. It is what it is. If I feel like eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon, then I will. If I am still hungry, I will eat more. If I am full, then I will stop. I will trust my body to tell me what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat. 

So, for those of you who find yourselves making judgements about food based upon its moral value, I challenge you to think outside of the box. For those of you who “share” your opinions about food with others, I challenge you to stop and think about how what sort of impact this could have. 

I only have one thing to say to the person who told me a cream bun was the worst possible thing I could eat, “if I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it.” 

  

Effortless

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I started conceptualising this blog post last night after an amazing start to the new year. I’ve been curled up in bed most of today with the onset of a migraine. For me, this was definitely a sign that I needed to listen to my body, treat myself with care and just allow myself to be. After an almost cold shower, lots of water, a few pain killers and a lot of sleep, I’m starting to feel human again.

I’ve had the absolute pleasure of catching up with Karen, Nutritionist from Food Body Mind, yesterday. I’m pretty sure we chatted for just over two hours, but it honestly didn’t feel like long at all. To be able to talk without censoring, with no omissions to your story, with no shame, without judgement is so incredibly refreshing. Authenticity is the word that springs to mind. There were no pretences – completely unconditional. It was effortless…

Karen asked me yesterday whether my experiences with an eating disorder have changed me? In some weirdly synchronistic kind of way, I got to thinking about recovery now representing this effortless flow in my life right now, much like the conversation Karen and I had yesterday. So, would I change the last four years if given the chance? No way. The level of self awareness I possess now doesn’t even compare to pre-eating disorder days. I’m a stronger, more resilient woman now. My past does not define me by any means, but it has certainly shaped the woman I am today. I’m a much more relatable person now. I know compassion because I’ve known pain. I’ve learned how to treat myself with the loving kindness that I now believe I deserve. This is probably the most comfortable I have been in my own skin. EVER. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve been through anymore. In fact, I am proud. I’m proud of my strength, my determination, my courage, my ability to rise up after every time I fell and most of all, I’m proud of the fact that I never gave up, even when I wanted to.

These revelations and discoveries haven’t come easy. It’s taken hard work. Blood, sweat and tears. There have been arguments with my friends and family. There have been times where I really did just want to give up. What I realised though is that as I’ve progressed in my recovery, the self acceptance and self compassion is starting to become easier. It’s not completely effortless just yet, but I’m certainly getting there.

I also got to thinking about HOW I recovered. I’ve often been asked that question. I think I’ll leave it to another post though.

So, when you find someone you can share your story with; without omissions and with all the footnotes, cherish that relationship. My recovery is becoming more of an effortless flow. I’m finding that I can take my hands off of the steering wheel and just let life guide me. I trust my mind and body more and I’m in a position where I can safely say that I could never go back to where I was. I’m much more aware of my triggers and stressors now. I intervene with kindness and compassion instead of raging a war in my head. I still work hard each day, but I get up and I consciously make a choice. I choose recovery. I choose a recovered life. And that choice is effortless.

I’m thankful for the amazing men and women I’ve met along my journey. If my story can inspire just one person, to make one person feel less alone in their struggles, then I’m pretty pleased with that.

This is the way life should be lived. Recovered. Authentic. Effortless.

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New Year, New Me

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It’s strange, you know. I’m currently sprawled out on my bed in my underwear and a singlet top, (it’s hot in Sydney!) watching Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. So far this morning I’ve seen the Fat Blaster advertisement at least 6 times, and as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I see status updates of new year’s weight loss resolutions. For me, as I enter the new year, I have no weight loss resolutions. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m perfect, just the way I am. This is a new feeling, a feeling of contentment, a feeling of waking up this morning and saying, “you know what, I kicked arse in 2014, overcame obstacles, created amazing memories, learnt so much about myself and 2015 is just going to be bigger, better and full of possibility.” So, while I’m not sitting here making New Years resolutions to lose weight, or get fit, or to become a gym junkie, (because, let’s face it, been there, done that and still, I wasn’t happy) I am sitting here vowing to be the best possible person I can be. My goals for 2015 include treating my mind, body and spirit with respect, compassion and kindness. I will look after my body. I will rejoice in my successes and learn from my failures. I will continue to grow, to be bold, to stand out, stand up and use my voice. I will be unapologetically me.

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It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…

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I’ve sat on my couch in my pyjamas for most of the day, watching the cricket and dreaming about my plans to head to New York in June. My love for cricket is, I’m sure, passed on from my late father. I am definitely my father’s daughter in that respect. In a way, my lazing on the couch for three days straight, watching the Boxing Day Test Match and perhaps having a cheeky cider or two is my way of saying, “Dad, I love you and I miss you & I’ll have a beer for you at the Sydney Test!” Cricket season is the time of year where I’m thinking about my Dad more – I don’t have many memories of him and the memories I do have are ones I have created from stories other people have told me. It’s only fitting that I have tickets to the cricket here in Sydney either side of what would have been his birthday, and also the anniversary of his passing. Sadness wells in my heart when I think about my dad, and that’s OK, but there is also a deep sense of pride that I know he’s right there with me, in everything I do. I’m most certain that he would have been so proud of my journey over these last few years.

Recovery has definitely given me such a new found freedom, a sense of self worth and a zest to my life that I truly haven’t experienced for a while. Today is also the two year anniversary since I moved out of my childhood home and into the Hippie Hostel (or Crayola House for those in the know!). I was able to enjoy Christmas with the family, complete with the obligatory food coma, without the constraints of my eating disorder. I made Tim Tam and Mint Slice balls for my colleagues and enjoyed them for morning tea. Recovered life is so much more carefree.

Back in June, I founded the Sydney Australia Chapter of Project HEAL. We raise money to support people who cannot afford treatment, we promote positive body image and self esteem and we serve as a testament that a full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. I’ve learned so much about myself during this process. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some amazing people from all over the world, and I love that I can receive messages of thanks from those struggling, saying that what I posted on Instagram that day really helped them. I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of such an amazing organisation and I am so grateful for all that Project HEAL do and stand for.

So, as I sit here, on my couch, reflecting on the year that was, I’ve learned that I should not be ashamed of my story. My story can inspire others. I never have to be ashamed of who I am. I am unapologetically me, and I am more than OK with that. I will never apologise for who I am and I will never change who I am for somebody else’s approval.

I am strong willed and resilient like my mother. I share the love for cricket with my father. I will always vow to be the best person I can be; I won’t put my dreams on hold anymore. Life is too short.

Dad, this post is for you.

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Recovery Is

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When I started to embrace the idea that recovery from my eating disorder was 100% possible, my life changed. It’s like all five of my senses opened up again and suddenly I was seeing the world in magnificent colour again. I could smell spring in the air. I could feel the gentleness and suppleness of my own touch as I started to treat my mind and body with the care I deserved. I could hear the sounds of the birds, the raindrops on the roof and the early morning traffic. And most of all, I could taste the beauty, sweetness and freedom of recovery. It really is such a beautiful, life altering and deeply transformative process.

I learned how to see the subtleties in my struggles, the beauty that came from pain. It wasn’t about trying to force those thoughts and feelings to go away, it was about acknowledging them and treating myself with kindness and compassion. I learned how to nurture and be gentle with myself. Through allowing myself to be vulnerable, through having the courage to show my imperfect self to the world and through learning how to love me for me, I’ve learned that I do not have to apologise for who I am; I am unapologetically ME.

I am often asked whether I would go back and change things if I had the chance. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t change a thing. This experience has allowed me to grow, to discover myself and to find my voice. All the pain and agony has taught me about beauty, kindness, softness and subtlety. The anger, the frustration and the despair has taught me about patience, mindfulness and approaching everything with an open heart. The sadness and the grief has taught me about joy and happiness. I’ve learned how to hold on when I’ve felt like letting go. I know struggle, but I also know strength.

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Vulnerability and Connection

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This morning I decided to take myself off to one of my favourite places and watch the sun rise. I wanted to marvel in the beauty of the earth and really be mindful of every moment. I haven’t been sleeping well and consequently, I haven’t felt all that grounded.

I’ve always been one to feel a deep connection with nature. I especially love the water. And when the water and giant cliff faces are combined, I have found my true bliss. There is a magical spot on top of the surrounding coastal cliffs at Bronte Beach. It’s so amazing in fact that you can be sitting on top of the rocks and dangling your feet over the edge. I know this may seem silly, but it is somewhat of an exhilarating experience, being able to dangle your feet off of the coastline; the ocean seems endless and expansive. No limits, no boundaries, no confinement. Just pure, uninterrupted freedom.

This morning I dangled my feet. I felt the rush of ecstasy but simultaneously, I also felt a deep connection to the earth. I sat for a while with my feet dangling over the edge and just watched the colours of the sky change. Deep indigos with flashes of light, clouds in perfect formation, the deep fiery orange emerges and illuminates the clouds. This moment was magical. It was at that point where I truly let myself surrender to my own body and allowed any forms of tension, anxiety or unsettledness to just melt away. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the earth and how the intricacies of the ever-changing patterns in the sky could flood my entire body with so much joy and contentment.

I felt something deeply transformative in my body this morning. While I was perched high on top of the rocks, I realised that I was craving connection. I had to ponder this a little more for myself, because it wasn’t the connection with others I was craving (I think I’ve been doing reasonably well in that department of late), it was the honest, compassionate and honourable connection with MYSELF that I was craving. So, I moved away from dangling my feet over the edge, with my heart the fiery colour of the sky, ignited by the stillness and beauty of the earth. I stood up, removed my shoes and planted my feet firmly on the ground. The rocks felt smooth beneath my feet. I felt every point on the soles of my feet anchor into the earth; drawing energy up from below me. I was simultaneously drawing my feet down into the earth, whilst drawing the energy upwards into my body. I felt the cool morning breeze on my skin. I could hear the whoosh of the water beneath the cliffs and the waves breaking over the rocks down below. There was a single bird chirping a most blissful tune. It was in that moment, staring out across the horizon, the sun emerging into the sky a little more that I felt it. Stillness. Grounding. Connection.

I focussed on my breath. Breath is something I can always come back to as a quick grounding technique. This morning though, I could feel the air enter my lungs with ease. I could breathe with ease, deep into my belly and the rhythm of my breath became at one with the sounds of the ocean. It was magical. In that moment, it was just me and the world. My mind was still. There were no ‘what ifs’ or ‘shoulds.’ I wasn’t concerned with being ‘enough.’ I just allowed myself to be, exactly as I was. No pretences, no expectations. No comparisons. I was exactly where I needed to be. I felt so alive, so content and so deeply grounded again. I could feel the energy moving through my veins; I didn’t fight it. I didn’t try to run from the feelings of joy or gratitude. I was still. I was accepting and I was undeniably compassionate towards myself.

I spent about two hours wandering around the cliff tops while I watched the sun come up, the colours in the sky change and everything was illuminated. This morning wasn’t just about grounding myself. It was about finding myself again. Connecting back to my truth on a much deeper level. It was allowing myself to be. It was a lesson in having the courage NOT to run away from the joyful, happy moments. This morning was about reaffirming why recovery is so important. The freedom, the choice and the feeling that the whole world is at your feet (quite literally) is actually pretty amazing.

I spent so long believing and reinforcing to myself that I was never ‘enough.’ Be it smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, small enough, strong enough, GOOD enough. My eating disorder was a way in which I tried to rectify these things. And I am sure many of you share similar experiences. You never feel like you are whole, complete or enough just as you are. You lose sight of who you TRULY are because you spend so long chasing the ideals of what you have grown up to believe, of what society has taught you to be. Says who? Who determines what ‘enough’ actually is?

I am slowly learning to let go of the unrealistic expectations I place upon myself. I am starting to realise that my worth is not determined by a number on the scale, or the size of my pants, or a grade I get on an assignment. My worth should not be determined by society’s warped views of beauty and their obsession with thinness. I am healthier now, both physically and emotionally, than I have been over the last couple of years, so I am working on embracing that. I am realising that I am worthy of love and belonging. I am enough. I am strong, I am capable and I am beautiful. It’s tough to say these things about myself, because there are still those niggling thoughts and beliefs that are wanting to prove me wrong, but I am allowing myself to be vulnerable and accepting of myself just as I am, imperfections and all.

This morning was a huge lesson in letting go, surrendering and accepting myself exactly as I am. And of course, just like everything else, this is a process. Healing takes time, but I am willing to allow myself to be broken, because it is the only way I can start to put myself back together again. When I love and accept myself, anything is possible. You cannot go back and make the details pretty, but you can move forward and make the whole beautiful.

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Reprieve

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I was talking with my psychologist this morning about what it is that made me want to recover. This actually got me thinking, and I’ll come to the answer later in this post. But first, I want to talk a little bit about recovery being a CHOICE. Now, this could be slightly controversial, but hear me out.

No one chooses to develop an eating disorder. They are pervasive mental illnesses and never a ‘lifestyle choice’ or a ‘diet gone wrong.’ I do believe however, that recovery is a choice that one has to make for themselves. I believe that recovery is something you choose to commit to; numerous times a day, every day. What I have learned about recovery over the last few years, is that it doesn’t get a day off. There’s a difference between waking up and consciously choosing to fight the raging war in your head every day, and sitting back and allowing yourself to be consumed by it. And you know what, sitting back and allowing yourself to be consumed by it is often easier; sometimes it’s safer, most of the time it’s what your eating disorder WANTS you to do. Yes, it takes strength to live with an eating disorder and the destruction it causes, but it takes courage, determination and a mighty strength to make the choice to give recovery your all.

I look at recovery as a series of choices, and it all starts with the decision to try. In the beginning, it was about waking up in the morning and deciding I was going to give the day my all – CHOICE. Then, it was about deciding to stick to my meal plan for the day – CHOICE. Then, I made the CHOICE to eat breakfast, then morning snack, then lunch, then afternoon snack, then dinner, and finally, supper. Even if all I did was eat mechanically, I was still consciously making those choices at every meal and snack. As my recovery journey progressed, I would make the choice to challenge my eating disorder in other ways, like eating my yoghurt with a big spoon rather than a little spoon – CHOICE. I would also consciously make the CHOICE to get back up each time I fell down. I’m not saying any of this was easy. Not at all. But the ease at which those choices were able to be made without the backlash from my eating disorder certainly became easier over time. The important thing that I needed to realise in this journey too, was that I didn’t have to ‘do’ recovery perfectly. There were days where it was a lot harder than others and I was unable to finish a meal, or I had engaged in ED behaviours following a meal, but I had still made the decision to try in the first place, and THAT is what I needed to hold on to.

There’s power in making the choice to recover; in choosing the reclaim the life that your eating disorder took away. I’ve said before, I am far from completely recovered, and I am still waking up each morning and making the CHOICE to remain in active recovery. What I know though, is that over time this decision will become less of a struggle to make. YOU will be more in control of yourself, YOU will be in charge and your eating disorder will take more of a back seat. I continue to strive for the day that I no longer have to wake up and consciously choose recovery; I strive for the day where recovery chooses me and it’s no longer a choice I need to make, but a lifestyle I lead. I’m well on my way, but there’s still a lot of work to do. We are all worth more than our eating disorders and we are all worthy of a full recovery, but YOU are the only one who can make that decision for yourself. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Thinking about the reasons WHY I wanted to recover often helped me in being able to make those choices on a daily basis. There are the usual reasons why recovery was and will continue to be so important; like regaining friendships, better relationships with my family, more freedom around food, getting back into studying, doing the things I enjoy doing, not feeling so weighed down by negativity, but when I really stripped the question my psychologist asked me back, I came up with this – I want to recover so I know who I am. So I can stand firmly in my truth. I want to recover so I can allow myself to be vulnerable and accepting of my flaws and imperfections. I want to grown and learn and immerse myself into things that I am truly passionate about. I want to recover so I can rebuild my career. I want to recover so I can learn how to love myself. I want to recover so I can feel alive again.

We talked about this in depth a little more and she asked me what had been the constant throughout my recovery journey thus far, what I had really held on to, what had really given me hope. And before I had even had a chance to analyse it or think about it too much, I was talking about my nephews and I could feel my entire face light up. My eldest nephew has been my rock; he has been my everything. He has been here throughout this entire journey with me and filled my life with such unconditional love. We share a special bond; a bond like no other. I can’t really explain it, but he is absolutely in awe of me, and I am absolutely besotted with him. My youngest nephew came into this world just over a year ago now and he has just filled my life with so much love and light. They have been my constants, and I am so thankful. They mean the world to me and I am completely in love with the both of them. They have taught me how to love and be loved in return. They have taught me so much about the importance of play, and letting go. They have shown me what it feels like to be truly carefree. They have shown me love and filled my heart with so much joy. So, in answering my psychologist’s question – I’m not only recovering for myself, I am recovering for my nephews. I want to be the Aunty who tells both of these boys that it is OK to be exactly who you are, because that’s where true love and beauty lies. I want them both to know just how much I love them and I would do absolutely anything for them. They have both showed me how to love, and I will recover so I can continue to shower them with love in return.

Making the choice to recover can open up so many opportunities, some of which are utterly daunting, but others that are completely transformative. What I want to leave you with is a little reminder that limiting our choices to what seems easy or possible actually really disconnects you from what it is you truly want; it disconnects you from who you are. Recovery is worth it, but you also really have to want it.

Recovery

Small Steps

Standard

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. For me, this really epitomises what recovery is all about. Sometimes it’s necessary to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, to try something new and do something different. Yes, it’s absolutely terrifying, and one of the huge constraints of an eating disorder is that control, rigidity and repetition are so important. To move outside of these norms is to disobey your eating disorder. But let me assure you, when you start to try new things, the feelings you experience are truly liberating. You start to reclaim the power that your eating disorder took away from you. You start to move towards your values. You start to become more in tune with your truth. When life isn’t ruled by your eating disorder anymore, your mind, your body and your soul start to align. It is a profound experience; to connect wholeheartedly with who YOU are.

I’ve always said that my recovery journey has been one of self discovery. The more I progress through my journey, the more I learn about myself; each day I discover something about NICOLE that is not defined by eating disorder rules, or depression and anxiety. For so long, I had no idea who I was. I lost myself. For so long I believed that I was never good enough, that nothing I did was right and that I was a failure at everything I attempted. For so long I battled that voice in my head that told me I was worthless, and each and every day, I believed it. Over the last few years though, I’ve come to discover who I am. It hasn’t been an easy process and I’m sure it’s a process that will constantly evolve, but the decision to move outside of my comfort zone was mine alone to make. If I had have waited until I was ‘ready.’ I would still be waiting. Every time I challenged my eating disorder on a behavioural level and every time I challenged those negative beliefs I held about myself, I made small steps towards discovering who I really was. Honestly, it starts with a decision to try.

Three years ago, if you had have asked me who Nicole was, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. If you had to describe me three years ago, the words introverted, shy, quiet, keeps to herself, antisocial and obsessive come to mind. I’d like to tell you a little bit about who Nicole is today. She is fiercely independent and wildly passionate. She loves all things creative and whimsical. She is a little left of centre but wears it well. Nicole thrives off of connection and is deeply in tune with how others feel. She is besotted with her two nephews; they are her shining lights. She loves chocolate, coffee and stationery. She is resilient, capable and shows great strength in overcoming obstacles. Even if Nicole falters or falls, she will ALWAYS get back up again. She has two degrees and is currently studying her Masters degree. Nicole is bright, intelligent and loves to learn. She loves to inspire others. She is a warrior, a fighter, a survivor. She is amazing.

It’s difficult for me to look up at the above paragraph and instantaneously believe everything I have written about myself, but I know what I have written here is true. This is an accurate reflection of who I am, not one ravaged by negativity. And this is what I have learnt while in recovery. These are the things I have learnt about myself when I have made decisions to try; to put myself out there, to show up, be seen and allow myself to be vulnerable. When I have wanted to give up, I’ve fought harder. I’m CHOOSING recovery. Each and every day, and with that choice comes freedom.

This freedom has allowed me to go back to Uni this year and complete my Masters of Education (Primary). Now, it hasn’t been the easiest of semesters. I knew going back to Uni was going to be difficult, especially after not having studied for so long, and especially after a period of being quite unwell. In brief though, even though this semester was fuelled with fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and a belief that I was utterly incapable of being back at Uni, I still pushed through. I didn’t quit. I kept on going even when I thought I couldn’t. Allowing myself to feel the fear and the anxiety instead of pushing it away and trying to ignore it was probably the most helpful thing in moving past it. In all three of my assignments this semester, I have received exemplary 10/10 marks. I never believed this was possible. I guess what I want to reiterate here is the sentence I opened my blog with. My accomplishments at Uni this semester have started with a decision to try. I may have had to make that decision over and over again, but I did it. And I am honestly really proud of myself.

I’ll leave you with a little inspiration for your Wednesday evening and I hope that you can take something away from this blog, even if it’s just a thought to ponder, or hopefulness that you too can go on to achieve great things. I’m definitely not saying any of this is easy, but it will happen, gradually then suddenly. Don’t be afraid to take those first steps; you are stronger than you seem and braver than you think. And you are enough, just as you are.

Here’s another quote from the incredible Brene Brown. This is one I love. It is a gentle reminder that we must not be afraid of our emotions; embracing who we are just as we are is what’s at the heart of authenticity.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough. Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”

Brene Brown -  Authenticity