A Poem on Transformation

Words by: Zoe Spiers. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

To endure the wind, the rain and those that want to bring you down,
It’s a fight that seems impossible to win,
But still you try, try and try again.

The wind thrashes you about,
The storms are a whirlwind in your mind,
Others try to take whatever they need from you,
But still, you stand tall and keep moving.

The dark nights close in,
Or is it a darkness in your head?
The web of torment, pain, fear starts to envelop you,
Until it feels like a hug,
Until you feel safer with the world closing in on you,
Until the demons feel like a world away.

The relief is elating,
And it finally feels like freedom from it all,
But the world hasn’t given up on you just yet.

The challenges thrown your way,
Were thrown because the world knew you were strong enough,
It knew you could endure it,
It knew you could grow from it.

So quickly, as the darkness closed in, light starts to peak through.
At first, it’s daunting as the end seemed to be the only way.
But the challenges thrown your way?
They’ve helped you grow.
You don’t realise it yet,
But because of the darkness,
There is now a light inside you that can guide you,
Just as a lighthouse guides a sailor home safely.

As you make your way through life,
You realise you can protect yourself,
From the wind, the rain, the darkness and the storms.
Suddenly you’re able to fly away,
From those that take without giving anything back.
Despite the challenges thrown at you,
Suddenly, they become more manageable.

With that thought you pause:
Fly? How can I fly?

As you turn around and see your reflection,
A butterfly stares back at you.
The wind, the rain and the birds that tried to take you down,
They couldn’t stop your transformation.
The world threw what it knew you could handle at you,
It knew that you could grow from it,
It knew that despite the darkness feeling suffocating,
That you could transform.
That the light inside you could grow,
Until you are still you,
But a stronger, more resilient version of you.

The challenges, despite all odds,
Helped you turn into a butterfly.
Even when everything felt impossible,
That little light inside you,
The one that kept you going when you wanted to call quits,
It glowed until you found what you were truly looking for.
Until you found home inside you.

Love Starts with the SELF! Period.

Words by: Megan Lawrence.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.  

I have searched pretty much any place outside of myself while on the hunt for self-love. There were no limits to how far I would push myself to get a dose of what everyone seemed to be preaching about. I kept coming up short; I kept falling flat on my face. I tried drugs and alcohol for a while, and all that did was land me in jail, as well as the hospital. I thought exercise may do the trick, but all that did was fill me with a new kind of emptiness. Food? I learned that no amount of sugar could make me love myself at the end of the day. In fact, that just filled me with more self-loathing, and depression. Social media can also be thrown into that mix. I convinced myself that likes and followers would make me love who I am. What I discovered is that likes in the form of hearts cannot substitute for the real thing. So, what was left? How about me? What was so wrong with myself that I felt the need to get attention from anything and everything except the one person who could provide it?

Intellectually I understood what it meant to have self-love, but a true feeling of it within myself? That was a foreign concept to me. I will admit, this is not easily done over the course of a day. How we get there is up to us, and everyone is on a different timeline. It comes down to the changes we make in our lives, the people we surround ourselves with, and what we are willing to give up in the process. For me, self-love takes work and incorporating daily practices into my routine that makes me the person I AM the proudest of. When I was able to stop seeking external validation, the internal love was able to blossom the way that it was intended.

As humans, I believe we try our best to figure out the quickest way to get the results we want in life; especially in the societies and cultures we find ourselves in currently. There is no shortage of places to look where we can compare our journeys, judge ourselves against others, and feel disheartened by our growth. Quick is not synonymous with progress. Like I stated earlier, the time that we achieve something is not going to be the same as everyone else. Growth is not linear, and self-love can be viewed the same. There are many ups and downs to be faced when we begin our journey back to ourselves. We can either look at this in one of two ways…we can allow this to hold us back and make us give up, or we can find the trek to be exciting and something to always learn from.

One thing that surprised me the most when venturing towards self-love was the number of people that I lost along the way. Don’t get me wrong, these were not losses, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt when a handful of those closest to me were not in support of my wanting to get better. When you are healing, you are going to serve as a reminder to those that they are not making the best choices for themselves. It is not your job to convince them, fix them, or save them. After some time, you begin to see these “losses” as a reminder that you are on the right path. People will begin to come into your life that WILL support you. This is just one of the many benefits of choosing self-love. When you decide to want the best for YOU, the Universe will start to show you that it has had your back all along. The only person who can truly get in your way is yourself. Do not let that be the case. Take back your life, and discover the self-love that has existed within you this whole time.

Lastly, trust the process. It is not always going to be easy. That is a fact. When we make the decision to discover the love within ourselves, this also means that we are accepting all the dark that resides inside of us. Let’s not forget, the light cannot exist without darkness. We do not have to label it good or bad…it simply just is. We can choose to love it and we can also choose to let it go. You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, easier said than done, and I get that feeling completely. I fought it for quite some time. To be where I am today, and to actually be able to look someone in the eyes and say that I love myself, well, that is something that I am proud of, and something that no one else can take from me.

Regardless of where you are at currently in your self-love journey, know that it exists within you. It always has, and it will always be there waiting for you to find it. You just have to start. Removing the layers that you have put on over the years can all be shed away. Underneath all of that is the love that you deserve. It begins and ends with you.

 

Thank you for reading,

Megan Lawrence  

Self Acceptance: A Stepping Stone Toward Self-Love

Words by: Zoe Spiers. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

One of the best things that can happen to someone is when they stumble across the body positive and anti-diet community. This is a community where societal pressures to be a particular kind of ‘beautiful’ are eradicated and a spectrum of all kinds of beauty is unveiled. A community which says you don’t have to go hungry, that you can honour your body and let it be whatever size it wants to be. I remember stumbling across this wonderful community, and being ecstatic, confused, scared and hopeful all at the same time – as I’m sure many of us were, and might yet still be.

Let us dissect these bundled emotions and try to understand why we have all been on this rollercoaster.

We are ecstatic from coming across a group of people that don’t fight for one unrealistic beauty ideal. Instead, they accept themselves for who they are, living life beyond diets, exercise regimes and bucket loads of self-loathing. All things we have grown up to believe are normal (which is essentially how the diet industry profits).

That leads on to why we are confused. How can these wonderful individuals get to a mental place where they appreciate their bodies?

If you’re anything like me, finding the body positive/anti-diet community brings up fear as well. I was terrified of letting go of societal beauty ideals, as well as letting go of my eating disorder. Terrified that I would no longer have the body that’s celebrated worldwide. Of losing all control.

However, above all, many of us experience overwhelming hope when we find these self-love advocates. Hope that there is a life where you can simply live without going from one diet to the next. Without doing the latest celebrity exercise routine on a measly amount of calories, as recommended by some stranger on the internet (with no nutritional qualifications and zero clue as to who you are and what your body needs). Hope that I can go about enjoying my life and go on adventures, and eat the damn cookie if I want it, without having any crippling guilt accompanying it.

Despite all these emotions, and the good definitely outweighing the bad, it can seem impossible to reach this utopia of self-love. You can see it, but you have no idea how to get from A to B. It can seem pretty daunting, and often feel impossible to go from self-hatred we are taught to feel about ourselves based on all our ‘flaws’ (PSA: there’s no such thing), to a place of self-love.

Here’s the thing: it’s not usually possible. How are you expected to suddenly reverse years and years of negative feelings towards yourself in a single night? This is decades of our life, where these thoughts have been ingrained in us. It’s a bit like never running in your life and expecting to be able to run a marathon the next day. Just like the marathon, we must work towards the goal. The ultimate goal is self-love. The key word there being ultimate. For many of us, this is a challenge and one we all should be striving towards. But here’s a thought: what if we all just worked towards self-acceptance?

That daunting feeling starts to ease when the pressure of reaching self-love is lifted. This community isn’t about setting another goal that seems as impossible as that goal weight you set yourself 5 years ago. It’s about removing all these pressures, and if we do that, working towards self-acceptance seems a little bit more attainable.

So, what is self-acceptance? It’s accepting that your body knows when it’s hungry and full (which, FYI, changes daily). It’s standing in front of the mirror, and instead of criticising every last inch and grabbing at your skin, you can just see yourself. Just see a body looking back at you. Hopefully, one day we can look in the mirror with love, but even when we reach that point, self-acceptance might be all we can manage some days and that’s okay! It’s being able to see yourself in a neutral way, without seeing yourself as a host of different things that need to be fixed. Without highlighting everything you’re not.

From experience, I can honestly say I no longer stare at my reflection and wish with every fiber of my being that I were someone else. Sometimes I do still fall into the comparison trap on social media, but with time, it has been increasingly easy to claw myself out of that hole. I’d be lying if I said I looked at myself with love, but on a daily basis I simply see myself in the mirror. I just see an image of all the particles of stardust that have miraculously formed for me to exist on this planet. Not just exist, but live a full life. A life where losing weight and being ‘beautiful’ aren’t my purpose.

It’s taken years for me to get to this stage. It’s practising just sitting in front of the mirror and not picking myself apart. It’s relearning to listen to my body. It’s unraveling years of being taught all the reasons we should aspire to be like the latest celebrity. Getting to a point of self-acceptance, and eventually, self-love, is a daily practise. Just like running a marathon takes time and training, so does rebuilding a relationship with yourself.

That being said, along your journey, treat yourself with love. You may not be able to love yourself yet, but be kind to yourself. Listen to your needs. Feeling ill? Take a day to simply rest. Deadlines getting overwhelming? Make time for self-care, whatever that might be for you – reading a book, taking a bath, having a nap or simply making yourself a cup of tea. Small acts of kindness towards yourself are the stepping stones throughout your journey.

Self-love shouldn’t be a chore or an unattainable goal. It shouldn’t be the next thing that doesn’t work out, because you can’t fail at this. Your self-love journey is yours, and only yours. Only you can dictate how it goes. Working towards self-acceptance has been a massive part of my life, and I’ll continue to strive towards having more days full of love! How wonderful would the world be if everyone were able to simply accept themselves for who they are? It doesn’t seem so daunting when the journey is just as incredible as the final destination, does it?

What Comfort Zone?

Words by: Gracie Mayer

Nothing about our friendship has ever been conventional.

I met Morgan at Insight Behavioral Health Eating Disorder Partial Hospitalization Program. To be honest we didn’t talk a whole lot. I was gregarious and cracked jokes to distract myself from the fact that my life stopped yet again to go to treatment. Morgan painted, created, journaled and was more reserved about sharing in larger group settings. I always admired Morgan’s authentic and modest creative flair from a distance. I remember feeling connected to her without exchanging many words, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why.

I remember the day that Morgan was scheduled to share her story in group I was taken out of group for an individual therapy session; I was disappointed because I yearned to get to know Morgan on a deeper soul level but again couldn’t really put my finger on why.

Little did I know… about three weeks later I would decide to leave the program and attempt to build an outpatient team for myself, and Morgan and I would decide to go out for coffee just to chat. I honestly can’t even remember what we talked about… but I remember that we agreed to meet the next week, and the week after that, and then the week after that. Before we knew it, coffee meetups turned into breakfast meetups, and we picked a local spot where we became regulars.

Morgan once shared with me that she has moments where she feels that her Higher Power, or God, comes to her  through events, experiences, places, people etc. She calls these moments “Blue Moments.” Morgan is aware of the beautiful spiritual connectivity of all things and loves to notice the synchronicity of life and its orchestration–something we have in common:). It is no wonder to me that our local breakfast spot was called Blue Max in Oak Park, IL. Blue Max soon became the home of countless “blue moments”; in fact, our entire friendship has been a “blue moment.” When Morgan and I would come together, it was almost as if our eating disorders knew that they were not welcome in our space. It was as if our collective energy acted as a force field shielding us from the destruction and manipulation of our eating disorders.

When Morgan and I met up, we would talk about life, dreams, hopes, spiritual awakenings and our higher callings. I truly attribute so much of my outpatient success to these weekly meetings because they continually reminded me of how much abundance and meaning my life holds. These meetings reminded me consistently of my higher purpose, diminishing the power and need for my eating disorder. Chicago is the city where I chose recovery for myself, reclaimed myself and this “blue friendship” has been part of the foundation that has made that possible. It seemed like time began to fly and suddenly the dreams and hopes that Morgan and I spoke of over granola parfaits and oatmeal became realities.

Morgan said, “Hey you should get your scuba license so we can dive together…there is nothing more magical than floating suspended in an ocean surrounded by only the sound of your breath as you witness the world under the surface of the vast horizon.”

So I did.

And we dove.

We traveled to Key West and dove lagoons.

We traveled to Key Largo and dove beautiful reefs.

So I said to Morgan: “You know…there is a music and yoga festival in Costa Rica called Envision…it would take a lot of planning (which I suck at) but I can’t think of anyone I would rather experience this with then you.”

So we did.

We traveled to Costa Rica to sleep in a tent under the starry skies of the Uvita rainforest–rising early in the morning to do yoga and dancing to drumming circles on the beach as the sun set.

So Morgan and I both love the band Nahko and Medicine for the People. We heard of a music festival timed with “The Great American Solar Eclipse” in 2017. The festival would be in southern Missouri–a point where totality of the eclipse could be witnessed.

So we went.

I flew in to Chicago from Florida.

We drove 7 hours.

We witnessed the totality of the solar eclipse together.

So Morgan and I wanted to plan another dive trip and I said to Morgan: “You know, there is this hostel in Georgia called, The Hostel in the Forest where you stay in treehouses…we could stop there in between dives.”

So we went.

We drove 5 hours into the forests of southern Georgia to sleep in treehouses at night and wander amongst the trees during the day.

Comfort Zone? What Comfort Zone?

Anyone who has battled an eating disorder understands that eating disorders, more often than not, THRIVE on monotony, safe zones, rules, and rigidity. When stepping into recovery, many face the challenge of stepping out of these rules and “zones” that the eating disorder has built–don’t eat this, don’t go there, don’t travel (who knows what you might have to eat), don’t go visit your friend (who knows what her schedule is like and what if you can’t exercise), don’t dare, don’t dream, don’t rest, don’t try something new. Recovery for me is synonymous with the word freedom. For me recovery has been a constant fight to regain and reclaim my freedom, spontaneity and zest for life. I want to take risks, travel, stay up late, dance on the beaches of a foreign country, dive 70 feet into caves, caverns and reefs of the wide ocean. I want to choose what I do, where I go and how I live without dictation from an eating disorder that would rather watch me shrink and wither.  The “blue friendship” I have with Morgan is truly a divine intervention brought to propel me into my recovery–my freedom. This friendship has and always will be a space where our eating disorders are not welcome to exist because we will be too busy LIVING; we will be too busy keeping each other so far out that we cannot even see an outline of the “comfort zones” our eating disorders have promised would bring us safety and happiness.

This is not to say that Morgan and I have had a friendship of travel, adventure and bliss without any hardships. What makes our friendship so blue in my mind is the fact that we have been friends through some extremely heart-wrenching and life-altering moments. Each of us has experienced different hardships–heartbreaks, changes, loss, grief, and illness. However, these hardships have only served to highlight the purpose and synchronicity of our friendship even more.

Recently Morgan and I were asked: “How long have y’all been friends?”

Our answer in unison: “Probably several lifetimes.”

This lifetime we seem to be focusing on keeping each other as far away from “the comfort zone” as possible.  There is a knowing deep within us that what lies outside “the comfort zone” is magic–the highest vibration of the soul, the meaning of our existence, and the depth of human experience that connects us to all beings and all beauty.

Morgan is turning 24 today–her golden birthday! 24 years old on October 24th. Morgan has already accomplished so many dreams; but, there is nothing comfortable about starting a movement to bring awareness to mental health. There is nothing comfortable about sharing your story time and time again, hoping that someone, somewhere will not feel quite as alone. There is nothing comfortable about how Morgan has chosen to live her life and serve her highest calling. Morgan doesn’t just do it… I guess you could say she just blues it.

The Elastic Band Theory – Where the Growth Happens

Words by: Zoe Spiers. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

Open your stationery drawer, and chances are that everyone has elastic bands lingering in there ready for use. There are so many different types of elastic bands, ranging from pink to black to multicolored – buying them in a box, a tin or even as part of an elastic band ball!

Why am I talking about elastic bands? Because I think they are such a good example of your own individual comfort zone. Elastic bands come in all different sizes, much like the size of everyone’s own comfort zone differs – some are bigger, some are smaller, but they all stretch. In order for us to grow, we need to step out of our comfort zone and allow for personal growth, healing and development to take place – no matter how small or big that first step may be. This could be challenging yourself to a fear food or going to a social event – big or small, growth and healing come from moving out of your comfort zone.

It’s most likely going to be uncomfortable, sometimes painful and often messy but this is where the elastic band theory comes back into the picture. When you stretch an elastic band past its natural state, it still bounces back – in other words, your comfort zone will always be there, ready and waiting after you’ve taken the plunge to step out of it.

Your comfort zone isn’t fixed – it can change, grow and expand over time. Stretch an elastic band enough times, it starts to get bigger; stepping out of your comfort zone often enough, challenging yourself regularly, means that your comfort zone will stretch with you as things you once perceived as scary become less scary. Just like the elastic band, you will grow – and that’s pretty magical.

Sometimes, stretching yourself can lead to the panic area – we want to avoid that as much as possible because your elastic band hasn’t stretched enough to reach this area comfortably. That’s okay! It’s not a race to expand your comfort zone – everyone is going at their own pace on this journey.

That being said, sometimes we do stretch ourselves into the panic zone, and that’s when our elastic band might snap. That can be terrifying, potentially sending us into a spiral of feeling like we’ve failed – but we haven’t.

Remember that rubber bands don’t come in packs of one.  It may take a few tries to learn just how far you can stretch a rubber band without snapping it.  We have to be patient; the band has to stretch out gradually, as do you.

I challenge you to stretch your elastic band, step out of your comfort zone – even the smallest step is progress. Remember, all the magic happens when you stretch yourself; let the healing and growth happen.

 

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The Foundation of Recovery is Connection

Words by: Madeline McCallum. Follow more of her journey on her blog, Madeline’s Musings.

The fear of being alone is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. I think this is why illnesses, mental and physical, from mild to severe, can be so detrimental — they separate, they divide, they force us to isolate, sometimes they cause us to create self-destructive myths that push us even deeper into unbearable loneliness.

In order to fight this very strong current that pulls you into solitude, you first must believe you are worthy of connection, of being seen, of being heard. It has taken me many years, many hours of therapy, and a lot of painful self-reflection to realise that this has hindered me from forming deep, authentic relationships. And this is precisely why finding a community in recovery is important — it is part of recovery, it forms the very foundation of healing and growth. In order to quiet the voice that tells you that you don’t deserve help or that you don’t need support, you must stand firm in the fact that you are worthy of friendship. You must believe that there are people out there who will care for you and who desperately want to see you — and I mean really see you.

I am realizing that my greatest battle against my demons is waged every time I decide I am worthy of deep, fulfilling friendship.

Every time I choose fellowship, a piece of my illness fades into the background. My darkness loses a few shades, my burdens feel less heavy. Each morning when I choose connection instead of isolation, vulnerability over fear, I am growing stronger in my recovery and more fully into my authentic self.

Cultivating a community externally is even stronger when you have already connected to your own inner source. When you are reaching out from a place of lack, you are only ever going to build a forced fabrication of a network. When you begin your search for a community with an open, honest mind, you may be surprised who walks into your life. As Sylvia Plath said, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” Relationships are living, breathing things that twist and turn and morph with the seasons. And how exciting! How lucky we are that by reaching out for someone else’s hand, we are not only filling up our own life with more meaning but we are also bringing another dimension to theirs as well.

Opening up to others can feel really scary, but it shouldn’t cause you to immediately shut down the idea of having a community. You don’t need to fling your door wide open, you simply have to crack it open, leave it ajar to possibility. In my experience, setting out to build a support network with the type of “support” you think you need already pre-determined is never as effective as just opening your heart to human connection and watching where your vulnerability takes you. Sometimes you feel the most connected to someone when talking about things that have seemingly nothing to do with you or what you are going through. I have found that forming a community is always a balancing act that consists of being very selective about who you share your energy while making sure not to isolate yourself and develop a fear of vulnerability.

In her book Choose Wonder Over Worry, Amber Rae posits, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.” What is going to spearhead recovery the most is not throwing ourselves wildly in the opposite direction. Becoming obsessed with the other end of the spectrum is just another form of addiction, another blocker in the path, another numbing mechanism. The real work is to be found outside of the polarities, through unmasking pain by revealing our humanness to others.

 

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My Marmite of Recovery

Words by: Florence Taglight.  Follow more of her unpolished journey here.  

Unlike ‘Marmite,’ I have felt every way about the word community when it comes to recovery. Loved it, Loathed it, Thanked it, Wished it didn’t exist and to be honest, I still am not quite sure how thick to spread it on my toast.

 I first realized I loved it when I went to treatment as I finally realized I was no longer alone – something that before then, although I saw online, and on social media, and read about – I still felt – alone that is. Despite the number of people who told me I wasn’t, I still felt like I was the only person in the whole wide world who felt like I did, who felt that sad for no reason, who looked at food as the enemy, not energy, who believed that unless she was perfect she was nothing. So being in a room with 30 people who got it ( even when I didn’t yet) was a huge weight – pardon the pun – lifted off my shoulders. I could hear their stories, and slowly but surely they began to resonate with me, I began to match their cards with mine and connect the dots.

Why I loathe it:

A bit like how a wildfire spreads from bush to bush, alighting one tree, then the next and before you know it the whole forest is lit. A bad day spreads as easy as marmite (oh, in case you are wondering, I hate marmite so why I have subconsciously chosen to make it the metaphor for this post who knows..perhaps its because my sister loves it). Although the online fires don’t always spread so fast, it’s easy for someone to bring me down, too easy in fact. People can be like a grey cloud in your day, and something I am slowly learning to do is let that cloud blow over, or if it does open, to let it open without making me stormy. Trust me, it is no easy feat. I still struggle when I hear someone talk about their diet, or how they ‘earned’ their cupcake but after all, without their rain, my sun wouldn’t be able to create a rainbow.

Why I kept it in my cupboard, long past its sell-by date (Wait, does Marmite expire?):

….and still do. I have met some people who I never ever ever want to leave my life. Their clouds are not clouds that rain on me, but for me to look after and nurture. (Oh, and in case my sister comes over.)

Why I wish it was never ‘invented’ in the first place:

Sometimes I think it would be a hell of a lot easier if I wasn’t ‘part’ of these communities, especially on social media. If I never had to see a quote on Instagram and be reminded that I have an eating disorder, or of my debilitating anxiety. Because after all, the last thing you need on a good day is to give something to the voices to latch on to. However, one day, I will scroll past these posts and the voices won’t latch, they’ll be too far gone, and then, I guess, I’ll be glad recovery communities exist.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Thoughts on Social Media

Words by: Zoe Spiers. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

The internet can be a wonderful thing – it can bring you closer to those friends and family members across the world, rekindle old friendships, and with just a few hashtags it can bring like-minded people together. It can bring people together into a community that would not necessarily meet in the outside world. And that’s amazing. Unfortunately, though, the internet can a dark place too, forming communities that are damaging and unhealthy – they may feel comforting to know you aren’t alone, but they can be incredibly detrimental to your well-being. I remember being a teenager and stumbling across Tumblr, and as with any social media, it can be a really good way to express yourself and find creative inspiration. But I fell into the community that fed my eating disorder. These sites can trigger disordered thoughts about eating, and hashtags make it all the easier for others to find these sites that promote eating disorders.

The internet is a double-edged sword – it’s easy to slip into the darker side of the internet, especially when you’re lured in by the fact there are others that face the same struggles as you, that are plagued with the same thoughts as you. Yes, it’s a community, but it’s a harmful community where everyone is dragging themselves down.

In the depths of having an eating disorder, most have those fleeting thoughts of ‘what if things didn’t have to be like this,’ and in that fleeting moment instead of the usual hashtag you search for, you type in ‘#edrecovery.’ In that one fleeting moment, things can change so much, because you’re introduced to a community of people that do still have the same struggles as you, people that still have the same thoughts as you, but they’re a community desperate to fight their eating disorder.

Finding this community of people who are all striving for recovery, just like you, is empowering. Seeing others do well in their journey gives you hope. Finding this community is one of the best things one can do for themselves in their recovery journey because having an eating disorder can be so incredibly isolating and lonely.

The recovery community is what helped pull me out of a relapse, and on the days I struggle most, they remind me that I am fighting one of the hardest things someone could ever fight: my mind. They remind me that my best is enough and that if I slip up, it’s okay. We support each other, we lift each other up, we celebrate our victories together and challenge our eating disorders together.

Finding a community in recovery can be such an incredible tool to aid in your own recovery, whilst helping others along the way. The kind of connection you develop with your community is deep, as you truly understand things about each other that the outside world may not – this community becomes your friends and your family.

The recovery community is full of compassion, support, and cheerleaders. The recovery community is life-changing – for both yourself and others.

 

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Thoughts on a Road Trip

Words by: Natalie Dormady, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @littlearthlings.  

I recently went on a family vacation to Tennessee.
I live near Toronto.
We decided to drive.

Essentially, I had a lot of time in the car to think about what being gentle with myself means, and how throughout my recovery journey, I have learned, and am still learning how to.

So, being gentle with ourselves. What does that mean? What does that look like?

I know for myself when I first began recovery, I really didn’t know what it meant or what it looked like. I didn’t understand that I couldn’t be gentle and kind with myself when I was engaging in disordered behaviours. Being gentle with ourselves at the beginning of recovery is almost foreign because treating ourselves with kindness and gentleness is something the disorder doesn’t allow. When we begin recovery we are relearning, and unlearning thoughts and behaviours that have been a part of our daily routines for quite some time. We are discovering new interests and hobbies. We are starting a new relationship with ourselves. And in order to become our own friend, we have to show ourselves compassion and gentleness, time and patience.

At the beginning of my recovery journey, while I was still in an outpatient program, my dietician and I came up with something called ‘cozy tea time.’ Cozy tea time meant that at the end of the day, I would take some time, which would be anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, to do something that brings me joy accompanied by a cup of tea. Sometimes this included reading, drawing, doing puzzles and word searches, listening to music or washing my face, but the point of cozy tea time was to do an activity that I enjoyed, in a mindful and judgment freeway. If I found myself talking down, judging or my inner critic becoming loud, I would take a break and sip my tea. This was a really nice way to be gentle with myself, and to discover some new things that I enjoyed doing. It took me a few tries to find activities that I did enjoy doing. Some nights are different than others, and it’s okay to not like something you once enjoyed. It’s okay to try and try again.

Another part of being gentle and kind to ourselves comes from our internal dialogue. The way we speak to ourselves matters, and it has taken me a while to truly understand how important it is to speak kindly with and towards myself. Sometimes I have a very strong inner critic voice in my head, that creates self-doubt and conflict, but I’ve been working on how to recognize those thoughts and counter them with some positive self-talk. I think it’s important to remember that we are trying our best, and our best can look different from day to day. That is okay. Our best is enough. Something I’ve been doing is writing down positive affirmations on sticky notes, and leaving them around my room. Sometimes I hide them, and find them days later, which is a nice little surprise. By having positive affirmations and little quotes around my room, it has helped me remind myself to be patient, and gentle. Sometimes I come across them at a time when the inner critic is quite loud. Sometimes they’re just a nice way to start my day off.

“Be easy. Take your time. You are coming home to yourself.”

-Nayyirah Waheed

So, to answer the questions at the start, ‘what does being gentle with ourselves mean and what does that look like?’ Well, my answer may be different from your answer, and that is okay. Being gentle with ourselves is so important in so many aspects, and how we are gentle with ourselves should be done in ways in which we enjoy and not feel pressured into doing. I’m still learning a lot about how to show myself compassion, and sometimes I need to remind myself to be patient, as a lot of this is still new to me. That is okay. Being gentle towards ourselves is healing a part of us that has been hurt in the past, and healing takes time. Learning takes time. We deserve to be gentle with ourselves. We deserve to heal.

My thoughts on the drive to Tennessee were something like this. Jotted down on a napkin and tucked away in my trusty backpack.

The car ride was 16 hours.
Lots and lots of patience.

We Don’t Recover by Being Harsh with Ourselves – We Recover by Being Gentle

Words by: Megan Lawrence.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.  

It is powerful when someone decides to step into Recovery and make a conscious decision to better their life. It is within this first step that we are able to point ourselves in the right direction. As we continue taking the steps towards becoming the person we were meant to become, we will come to realize that, although we have made the choice to recover, that does not mean it will be smooth sailing from that point on. In fact, you may even be greeted with even tougher battles, and it is because of this that we MUST be gentle with ourselves in our recovery journey.

When it comes to my own experience with recovery, I have hit many uphill climbs, hardships, and unexpected discoveries about myself. When this occurs, I am often left feeling discouraged, confused, and disheartened to find out that there is still more to learn about who I am and why I am the way that I am. I can become very self-critical and harsh with myself, and quite frankly, that is just not fair. It is not fair for anyone to do this to themselves, especially because we are only able to know what we know thus far. Putting ourselves down in any way or wanting to give up on our progress is never going to get us closer to the life that we deserve to live. We chose a life of recovery, not because it was going to be easy, but because it was, and still is, going to be worth it.

Recovery is not synonymous with perfection. If you are recovering with the hopes that you will become a spotless, seemingly unflawed human, you are going to find yourself disappointed on this journey. I say this not to be cruel, but to remind you that you are not perfect. Nobody is. We are all perfectly imperfect as we are, warts and all. When we are hit with a truth about ourselves, we need to embrace it, accept it, and use it to our advantage. We can achieve this by asking, NOT why is this happening to me? But, why is this happening FOR ME? What am I to learn from this realization, and how can I incorporate this into my everyday life moving forward? When we are gentle with ourselves, we allow more room for growth, and we can then step forward into who we are with self-compassion, understanding, and self-love.

One thing I have had to learn numerous times in my dance with recovery is that a couple steps backward is not a failure, but an opportunity to look at my growth from a new perspective. Sometimes we will even be hit with the same obstacle we thought we resolved already, but find ourselves confronted by it yet again from a new angle. This is not a reason to give up. It is, in fact, a new opportunity to expand ourselves as human animals. I for one have faced many of the same challenges, just with a new face. I ALWAYS end up taking away something valuable from these situations, and although uncomfortable at first, we are all way more resilient then we give ourselves credit for. We can withstand many hardships and still live to see the other side of it. I would even go as far to say that we will be able to smile about them as well. When we are gentle with ourselves, we start to see just how much we are capable of overcoming, and THAT, is what we do it for; THAT is why we continue to recover.

Maybe you are recovering from an eating disorder, mental illness, substance abuse, a narcissist, or self-inflicted pain, and even though you know better now, you find yourself in a situation you thought you would have been able to avoid. This does not mean that all the hard work you have done is erased. It is still there. It is always there. Being gentle with ourselves means that we know this is par for the course. There is no guarantee that we will become invincible to pain because although we are recovering, pain is still a part of life. We collect the tools we need as we go, and we use them accordingly when the time calls for it. Mistakes are going to be made, missteps are still going to happen, and hard truths are going to be discovered. There is a reason why so many people avoid recovering in the first place. Be proud of yourself for wanting to recover in the first place. And be gentle with yourself along the way.

Thank you for reading!

 

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