Friday 15 December 2017

What you need is not a “ new you” but to embrace “You” in 2018!

Probably you have noticed one of those advertisements with the suggestions that you need a "new you" -New Year, New You!- they say.

How do you feel about this suggestion, does it fill you with excitement ? Or perhaps it gives you feelings mixed with dread and shame. To propose that you need a “new you” suggests that you are not good enough. Since you already feel not good enough about yourself the suggestion that there can be a new you, might sound inviting. 
But hang on, how many times have you tried to get to that “new you”? Take a step back and think about what happened the last time when you've tried to change yourself because you felt bad about yourself....
 If you are similar with most of us, you might had some disastrous result with all that changing business. 

I wonder, if you know why...(?)

This is what I’ve realised when I tried to become the new me. 
 Firstly, I cannot make a positive change out of something that is fuelled by self-hatred and negative self-talk.

When you want to change the most important thing that you need is encouragement, positive support and love. 
If you are blessed with loving people around you,  you may have the right support system, But even if you have all that love and support from the outside but you still have those negative self-talks on your inside, you will find that the only thing that is going to change is the level of your frustration with yourself. 

My second big discovery was, that I actually did not need to become "new"!
 Yes, I needed some change in my life..and I believe I will always have something that needs to be improved.

However, it is not to become the “new me” that would change all those things that needed to be improved in my life. I have habits that need to change and I can do that with one step at the time. And that has nothing to do with me becoming something that I am not. If anything, I need to be me, so that I can take full ownership over my achievements. 

I encourage you to instead of fighting becoming a 'new you', to embrace and accept yourself first! That is crucial for improvement. When you accept all the qualities that you have you will be able to see yourself with compassion and love. Self compassion is an important element of self esteem. Once you believe in yourself which has nothing to do with ability but more so being available to embrace yourself and whatever else is coming with it, then you can take steps in a new direction. And that would change those habits and qualities that you would like to change. 

You will be able to do it for the only reason that matters and that is You! Not because of what other’s think or what comes from society but because of what you want for your own self. And that might be; is to have a happier, fuller and healthier life.

Get excited about those new steps, and pat yourself on your shoulder because you've not just recognised that you need to take new steps and perhaps a different path in your life, but because you are willing and ready to do so!

So, embrace yourself and own who you are and if you want to improve do it, because you want it, and not because you are manipulated into thinking that you are not enough. 
                                             Who You are is good enough!

Sunday 3 December 2017

Full recovery IS possible!


What does being 'recovered' from an eating disorder mean? At this point in time, we do not have a definition for recovery. It has been said that everybody has, or should have, their own idea of what being recovered means to them; therefore, each individual person can set goals based on this. Perhaps you can take a moment and collect your thoughts about what recovery means to you, and check how far you are from that place.

Once you enter the "I am recovered" status, you are out there to be looked at as an example. Unfortunately, this can come with being judged by others, while they are wondering whether you really have recovered. This is something that you cannot avoid, and you will have to learn how to handle. The best thing to keep in mind is that we should not worry about what other people think about our recovery and/or how they see us. Believe it or not, that doesn't matter at the end of the day. But there is one thing that matters, and if it isn’t obvious, that is you! You are recovering for yourself, not for anybody else. I want to challenge you to ask the following questions: "Am I recovered? Am I free?"

If your answer is "no", there is no need to beat yourself up for it. You can recover! 
What would need to happen in order to get there? Whatever it may need to take one thing is sure it needs time, effort and consistency. And most importantly you need to believe that you are worth all that. I was told numerous times that there was no way I would ever recover. Honestly, even myself did not believe in my own recovery. Yes, there was time and even during my recovery that doubt sneaked in and I did not believe that it was possible to be recovered. Now I know, it is part of not just recovery but life itself. Doubt is part of being human, so if you ever doubt in anything even things that once you felt so confident and strong about, well then : welcome to the human race! However, when you put all of the energy that you put into your eating disorder, instead into your recovery then, you can and you will recover.

If your answer is "yes", this is great news! You must be living your life to the fullest; with all the challenges, ups and downs, and joy that life throws at you. I am thrilled for you! 

You might be in an “in between stage’ or rather confused wether you have recovered or not. And as frustrating as it is, it is important to recognise it. 
There is so much idea about recovery but I really want to emphasise on the importance of your own meaning of recovery. That should be the only goal that you want to march towards.

Why? Because that is the ultimate goal if you really want to live and enjoy Your life.

I have been there myself, when I thought I was recovered, and I said that I was recovered; when in truth, I wasn't. Having said that, I know that it was part of my recovery. So, I did not have to feel guilty about my confusion, but I still did. You see, once I declared that I was “free” those who, were still fighting for their own freedom, looked up to me, I became a walking example.
I had to be honest and admit that I was still steps away from that freedom. The realization of that was rather hard because I wanted to be there. I wanted to be recovered, I wanted to help others, and I longed to be an empowering example. 

You might have realized that it may not be that simple to know whether you are recovered or not. I am hard on myself, and I wanted to have the "perfect" recovery. Just as perfectly as I was obeying my eating disorder, with the same perfection, I wanted it out of my life!

Let me share with you what it looked like when I thought I was “recovered” looked like for me:
I ate “healthy food” by the standard that is set by the experts, and I no longer counted calories. I exercised, which consisted of mainly running two or three times a week, and what I considered that to be "normal". But If you would've asked me whether I ate because I ran, or I ran because I ate, the answer would have been the latter. 
Moreover, I had a two-year-old son at that time ( now I have 5 children), so, I must have been recovered, right? Especially, considering the fact that during my anorexic years, I was told that I would never be able to have children. I amazed everybody with how "well" I looked despite of having a baby. Suddenly, I became the "good" example, and the inspiration to all new mothers out there. I was complemented and told that this is how all mothers should look! Did that make me feel good? Well, yes, at first. Eventually, I started to feel uncomfortable. Then, I began to ask myself the question: "Are you really recovered?"

The truth was, that if I didn't have time to do my "recommended" amount of exercise, or eat that "heathy" meal, I was tense, grumpy, and hard to get along with, to say the least. 

I told myself that it was important to have “me time”.  I told myself that I needed to relax and get the tension out of my system. So, I justified the need to run. While that is true, and self-care is incredibly important, The truth is there are different ways to achieve calmness and that doesn't have to be involved with pulling weights and running miles. 
The reality was that I traded my eating disorder for being "super healthy" and a "super woman”/ “super mum”.

 To clear any confusion here, I am not saying that you cannot enjoy sports or working out once you have made your recovery. I just hope that you might have noticed the enjoy part that I think should be included. I believe being “recovered”, especially for me, means that I enjoy whatever activities I do, and I don't freak out if, something comes up and I cannot do them. I eat and you enjoy it, but not whilst thinking that eating is only ok because at some point I will workout. It is okay to eat and enjoy it, even if I cannot walk 5 miles after I ate. I do not need to earn my food. I also don’t label food, so I am neither satisfied neither triggered by what I eat. And it is ok to look "good" (whatever "good" means), just as it is ok to look tired or stressed. It is ok to have a bad hair day, and believe it or not it is ok to have a bad body day. We all have them; there is no human being who feels completely satisfied in their body every single day.

I believe, when you are recovered, you actually enjoy whatever you do and you have developed coping strategies for those not-so-good days. You can accept that just because you are recovered, it doesn't mean that you will never have bad days. You are not going to be immune to hard times, but you can cope with whatever life throws at you.

You no longer need to do timeless workouts to prove your worth, or shop until you drop to make yourself feel better. You don’t need to lock yourself away and hide, or do whatever it is that does not give you lasting peace and satisfaction. You no longer have to be the toughest kid on the block, nor do you have to have everything together 100% of the time.

When you are recovered, you feel free to be who you are! When you are recovered, you can show your feelings, such as anger, sadness, and joy. When you are recovered, you can, and you do, embrace yourself; including your imperfections.

Are you there yet? If not, don't stop until you get there because you are worth it!

Friday 17 March 2017

Who is forcing you to starve?


You may or may not have heard people say: " You chose your eating disorder!"          
 In my previous blogs, I have stated that you do not choose to have an eating disorder, and I am standing firm on that ground.
I do not keep it a secret that I myself have struggled with anorexia for many years, and I am always very honest about my experience. And I always will be.
However, I am aware of the fact that my honesty could encourage other sufferers to torture themselves even more, as that is the nature of the disorder. Therefore, I will always be careful what and how I am going to say.

 I can tell you that I still remember the day when I've made a decision that I am not going to eat anymore. So, you can say, I've chosen to starve myself. You are right! That is exactly what I did, but little did I know that I was already in the grip of anorexia.
There was that inner "voice" that told me that I did not deserve to eat, nor did I deserve to live. This voice have been living inside me as long as I have known myself, this internal voice have told me from a very early age that I was not good enough.
This voice was like a dictator giving me commands for the first 24 years of my life. It was ordering me to believe in certain thoughts, and it helped me to hold onto certain comments that I heard people say about me, so that I could hate myself and continue hurting myself. All those negative comments became the part of my inner voice. I believe that "the voice" have served a very important purpose; and that was to destroy myself! I chose to believe that I was worth nothing, I could see no evidence that would support it otherwise!

It was about few months after I 'declared' to starve myself, when my class had to watch a movie called: Schindler's List in the cinema (in 1994), around that time I begun to look obviously ill. After that movie my classmates, friends and family started comparing me ( my body) to those who were deprived of food and water, and as a result were starved -even to death- in the concentration camps.
I was told that it was wrong to starve myself when there is nobody forcing me to not to eat. I even heard people say : " How dare she can choose not to eat when there are people starving in Africa. What about those who are tortured and starved against their own will?" It was few months later when I was hospitalised finally, and and every morning I was weighed.  One of those morning the nurse who weighed me picked my arm with two fingers, like I was a dirty cloth and with disgust on her face said: " Do you think this is how you should look in your age?"

 Little did people know that there was my very own prison guard living in me; "threatening" and convincing me to believe that I must obey "the voice" that told me not to eat, because I don't deserve food.
And no, I did not feel proud that I could starve myself (what made me feel good was that I could diligently do what anorexia told me to do. It felt satisfying when ED "told" me: "Well done for doing what I've told you to do.") It felt good that there was at least "someone" who would acknowledge my achievements.

But did I think that I was a hero or that I was above everybody else, because hey, I can starve myself... NO, I did not!
I was crippled and disabled by the illness. I lived a sad and lonely life...well, I did not live.. It was just an existence and I longed for it to end!

Did those comments about people who starve as a a result of human cruelty or poverty or disaster, made me fell good....? No, those comments felt painful and created an incredible anger toward myself, I hated myself even more. What I thought was :" How could those dear people die, and I live? I should be the one who dies. I don't deserve to live but they do!"
Did I like being compared to thin and dying people? No, I did not ( hence the hiding in over sized clothes)! I would have been more than happy to have my food shipped to those people who were starving in the world. I would have given anything to change with other people's suffering. I wished I could remove others pain, because I believed that nobody in this world deserves to suffer but I.

When you are in a condition when there is little or no food and the body begins to starve your instinct kicks in, the one that drives you to survive. You want to feed your body, you don't want to feel the symptoms of hunger: cramping and pain in your stomach, dizziness, irritation, headaches...etc. That is why you look for food at all costs. And often you eat whatever you can in order to eliminate the symptoms of and to survive.
But when you are struggling with anorexia ( or a period of time when you starve yourself), that instinct only makes matters worse! As much as you want to nourish your body, you equally want to follow what the eating disorder is ordering you to do; starve. That itself creates a tremendous tension. But because you do believe that you have no place, no rights to be on this planet, you carry on to obey "the voice", and starve yourself.
And as hard as it may be to believe, that is how it is. In the case of an eating disorder sufferer there is no external force, ( per se) that deprives him or her from the right to exist and tortures to death, but the illness from within is that force.

Let me make it clear, eating disorder is an illness, and as long as we oppose to believe that, we will not be able to help those who are suffering.
Helping a person who is struggling with anorexia is very challenging. And it is a lot of work.
The best thing that anybody who is willing to help can do is to offer compassion and love.
However, my question is, how can that be achieved from a judgemental point of view?
Those who are battling with anorexia ( or other eating disorders) do not believe that they are ill. From their point of view they are not good enough, and they deserve to be punished. They often have these thoughts: " If you would really know what I did, do, think etc. You would agree that I am a terrible person." Therefore, not feeding themselves is justified and seems the very normal thing do.

Whether you are a counsellor a medical professional or a family member or friend; remember, when you look into the eye of the person who is struggling with anorexia, that person wants to believe that she/he can be loved and worth your time and attention. They judge themselves more than anybody else does around them.

 I hated myself for doing what I did during my illness. I did not understand myself, I was puzzled. I thought I've gone crazy. But at the same time I felt guilty when I didn't exactly followed the inner "voice" but just the same I felt guilt and shame when I did follow "the voice". I so wanted to be a 'good' patient who gets better easily and quickly... I so wanted somebody to tell me that what was going on with me was okay. Even if my actions were "sick".
I longed to hear ( wanted to believe ) that I was worth being loved, and I was worth fighting for, because I was more than my eating disorder! I wanted to know how I can get "the voice" to stop in my head.

I have recently read an article where the prisoner's ( in the Holocaust concentration camps) painful body was compared to those of whom are suffering from anorexia nervosa, and how "insane"it  is that in our "free and wealthy age, people are willingly starving themselves." ( So, I guess this article was describing me when I struggled with anorexia.) And I agree it is "insane" that in this "free and wealthy age" people can feel so unloved and have so much self-hatred that they believe that they are not worth to live and choose to starve themselves to death. I think it is tragic!

I personally know and respect the writer of that article. However, my question is; how helpful it is to publish an article like that? How would a person who is suffering from anorexia would turn to somebody for help who "sighs, sighs and sighs and think that his/her illness is just simply "insane"...?

Do we need to compare and most of all how helpful it is to compare people's pain? The mental and physical pain of an anorexia prisoner vs. a concentration camp prisoner.....
 What happened in the concentration camps was indeed a disaster! It is also a disaster when one thinks that himself or herself is wroth nothing! Can we actually measure the weight of a disaster when the result is the same...pain, suffering and death?

Monday 30 January 2017

Positive that all that I need?

   “Be positive! All you need is positive thinking!” I hear people say this to me quite often. Are they right?

We have all heard the phrase about “waking up on the right side of the bed”. Your day starts off in the “right” frame of mind; floating to the kitchen, singing “good morning” with the birds, and making happy faces in your pancake batter. On the other hand, if we wake up cursing the alarm clock for pulling us out of our slumber, we have woken on the “wrong” side of the bed. This concept makes sense, right?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt so upset and broken that you thought you would never survive the pain? Did somebody suggest that you “just think positively?” or “thinking yourself out of it?” And did you? How did that work for you? Did this method of coping help you feel better?

I tried to force myself to “just think myself out of it” when I experienced a less-than-ideal situation. What happened instead was that the next time I had similar feelings, all of those unresolved emotions from my previous experience also came back. Can it be possible that positive thinking is the same as avoiding feelings? Does it hinder us from experiencing uncomfortable emotions? Should we avoid feeling upset and hurt at all costs?

Let’s face it, life is full of ups and downs. We feel sadness, pain, happiness, and joy. We need to experience all of these feelings; without them, we could not appreciate the difference between one or the other. Have you noticed that if you are in emotional or physical pain, and someone tells you to simply find a positive outlook, you feel like you might snap? Because I sure do. Hearing that response may make us feel as though our feelings have not been validated, and that there is a simple answer to our problems if we could just see the silver lining.

I wish I could tell this person endorsing the positivity method that I need to have my moment of feeling pain. I need to learn that it is okay to feel sad, angry, and every other uncomfortable feeling. I don’t intend to dwell on these feelings, but I need to not be afraid of them. I do not want to live my life anticipating the next negative thing that might come along, because they are coming whether I am ready or not. Let me learn to feel these feelings, handle them, and move on. 

I wish I could tell this person to allow me to access positive thinking as a part of a balanced life and not as a scapegoat. Let me be grateful, and not by shutting out the negative, but by acknowledging the hardships of this life, and therefore, being grateful for all of the joyful moments that also come my way.

We must learn not to feel guilty for taking the time we need to feel sad, angry, or frustrated. This takes time, and there is no right way to learn. I am still trying to figure it out for myself, and that is okay. Nobody should expect you to instantly try to generate positive thoughts immediately after feeling anything negative. Your feelings are valid.

In order to develop a balance within your thoughts and emotions, you need to get to know yourself. It is because I know myself that I am aware of the need to move on if I don’t want any negative feelings to drag me down. I have developed a list of things that I can do to help me feel better and begin to look forwards, as well as some self-soothing and self-care activities that work for me. Examples of these include having a nice hot bath with a good book and some candles lit. When I am reading in the warm water, I can feel my heart and my mood warming up. 

Perhaps try and configure your own list for the next time you feel as though you’re ready to move on from some negative feelings. Who knows? You may experience that a brighter thought will come effortlessly as you begin to embrace accepting all of your emotions. For those of you who try tirelessly to think positively all of the time, consider that you might be missing out on some real life experience. You may be robbing yourself of the things that make life more colourful. You may be missing a chance to experience your life to the fullest. Allow yourself to acknowledge all of your feelings, good and bad, and find out what works best for you to move forward. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.