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?

The Power of a Changed Perspective

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

The other day, I went for a walk. I enjoy taking walks in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at its highest and its warmest. Each time I set out on a walk I find myself feeling grateful to live near a path that leads to both a field and a forest. As the field came into view, my eyes were met with a bright yellow, almost as if the grass had been spray painted. I walked closer to the field only to recognize that the yellow was coming from dandelions. Hundreds and thousands of them all huddled together like they were trying to imitate the sun. I remember feeling happy – like this odd sense of uncontrollable happiness – all from these dandelions. In the midst of this joy, a couple walked past me, and I overheard the woman say, ‘thank goodness I don’t have to pull out all those weeds.’

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My perspective has changed throughout my recovery journey, particularly in the moments of discomfort and difficulty. When I was struggling with the eating disorder, my perspective on situations became very black and white. It was very much a one-way road with no other possible routes. If I were to be standing in front of that field filled with dandelions at the height of the disorder, I would have sounded like the woman who I passed.  I would have only seen weeds and that would be that. I don’t even think I, my true self, had a perspective of my own while I was struggling. The eating disorder’s point of view had instead climbed into the driver’s seat.

I’ve been learning a lot about perspective from drawing as well. For example, the other day I was trying to draw waves. I became fixated on getting them to look like they were all going in the same direction. The lines needed to be perfectly aligned. I quickly became frustrated with the tiniest of details. I had been working on these waves for so long that I forgot about the rest of the drawing.

There was a moment when I got up to let my dog outside. When I returned, I took a moment to look at the drawing from standing up.  Seeing the picture from farther away, rather than scrutinizing it from inches in front of my face, I realized that the waves would be more effective going in all different directions. I wouldn’t have seen this if I hadn’t taken a literal step back and looked at it from a different angle.

I often zoom in so close that I lose sight of the overall picture. It’s sort of like an iceberg. Zooming in and focusing on one tiny detail only exposes you to the tip of the iceberg and you miss the immensity that is its existence. But if you take the time to zoom out and see the whole picture (or in this case, the whole iceberg), you discover something you never even knew existed – you develop a new perspective. I find myself remembering this when I’m faced with an obstacle. There is always another way to look at the situation. I just have to take a step back, breathe, and remember that this is an opportunity to learn and grow.

With time, my point of view, Natalie’s point of view, is finding her way back into the driver’s seat. I’ve found that I am learning to appreciate the uncomfortable days and the tough situations (well, more than I used to) because I now see them as an opportunity to learn or grow. Granted, it may not always seem like that at the moment. Sometimes all I can see in the moment is the ugly and that’s okay. But it’s slowly getting easier to take a step back and collect my thoughts, only to I find that I am capable of seeing things in a new light. I may not be able to see them right away, but they’re there once I give the clouds time to pass.

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“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

-Wayne Dyer

Changing the way we think is definitely a practice that gets stronger with time and patience, and that’s okay. It’s okay to struggle to see a situation any different but remember that there is a chance to. I hope that when you see dandelions the next time, instead of weeds you’ll see them as little flowers or small suns. I hope they can bring you joy.

 

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Setting Boundaries: Instagram and Eating Disorder Recovery

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

I followed a link on Pinterest the other day to find a post titled, “Toxic relationships and Setting Healthy Boundaries in Recovery.” I was intrigued – something in me knew I had to read this article. When sitting down to write this post, I intended to write about taking small steps towards trusting myself and celebrating the tiny victories. But after reading the post from Pinterest, I decided to switch gears a little. The article I found on Pinterest talked about setting healthy boundaries in relationships. This resonated with me as I’ve been learning how to trust myself in knowing when a boundary needs to be enforced, but specifically in the virtual world – the Instagram world.

When I was engaging in disordered behaviours, it was hard to see that some relationships were unhealthy and quite toxic to my recovery. At first, I refused to view them as toxic. And yet these relationships were not benefiting me in recovery and instead were triggering my disordered voice. Recognizing they were, in fact, toxic, and I could consciously choose to let them go, marked a first step towards bettering myself and my mental health. Trusting that I was capable, and allowed to, set a boundary was scary and tough. Some relationships I had on Instagram were also relationships I had in the real world. I followed friends from high school, college and family members whose accounts did not allow me to have a safe virtual space. I was more worried about their perception of me than putting my recovery, and myself, first.

My relationship with Instagram has been a bit messy. When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I used Instagram as a place of comfort. Or more accurately, my disorder used it as a place of comfort. I used to follow a lot of accounts that were fitness and diet oriented and accounts also struggling with their disorders. I found a false sense of comfort in seeing that I wasn’t alone. When I would scroll through my feed, I saw and read the very things that fed my disorder. Look this way and eat this way and she’s doing this and why am I not at the gym and they had a bad day so it’s fine if I do…the thoughts were never-ending. My virtual environment was not a safe space for me. For my disorder, yes, but not for me. Once I realized my relationship with Instagram was hindering my recovery, I accepted that I had to, and more importantly, was allowed to, make changes.

To set boundaries on Instagram, I asked myself, why do I follow these accounts? Do I like their posts? How do they make ME feel, rather than how do they make my disorder feel? I trusted that I had my recovery in mind. I trusted myself to know that I deserve a safe space. I let go of one triggering account and swapped it for a really funny, cute dog account. I like dogs, and animals, and nature, so if I’m going to go on social media, why not watch and see and read posts that I actually enjoy? The next day I remember unfollowing every account that made me feel invalid or like I needed to change something about myself in order to be accepted. It felt like a rock was lifted from my chest. When I scroll through my feed now, I see videos of dogs doing strange things, wonderful paintings and doodles, mountains and oceans. I’m reading captions that inspire me, rather than the disorder. My virtual space has become a safe place for me.

“Boundaries are part of self-care. They are healthy, normal, and necessary.”

-Doreen Virtue

We are not obligated to follow anyone. It took me some time to realize this, and I’m still reminding myself and working on it. That’s okay. Unfollowing someone doesn’t make you a bad or mean person, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t like them. You have every right to curate your feed with images and captions that make you feel inspired and happy. Your mental health is so important, you are so important.

 

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Rediscovering Trust in Eating Disorder Recovery

Written by: Zoe Speirs, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”

– Paulo Coelho

When I first embarked on my recovery from an eating disorder, I remember thinking I could never trust myself around food: to know when to eat, when to stop, how much to have, what to eat, what times to eat, and so on. The constant torment that I no longer knew how to do something so many knew how to innately terrified me. I wanted to rewind to when I was a child and could fully trust my body to know what it needed and when. I was terrified that I would never get back to that. That even in recovery, I would always have one foot stuck in this need to control, never knowing if I could trust my body again.

Sound familiar?

It can feel impossible to actually let yourself trust your body and trust yourself around food. I KNOW how hard it is. It can feel like you’re stuck in this cycle of not being able to let go of the control. So here are three tips that have helped me rebuild my relationship with food and rediscover my brain-body connection:

1. No food is out of bounds. You need to break down those rigid rules that your eating disorder had in place for you. There is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food – food holds no moral value. It doesn’t dictate whether you’re a good person or worthy purely because you ate kale. Nothing bad will happen to you if you let yourself enjoy all food groups. Yes, that includes those homemade cookies your eating disorder has deprived you of.

2. Once you’ve established that you can eat anything, you might feel the need to eat everything you’ve deprived yourself of for so long. I honestly thought I would never stop having the urge to eat peanut butter and brownies. But if you let yourself eat what you crave and however much you need, these intense cravings will start to die down, and you’ll start craving things like broccoli too! You’ve spent so long denying yourself of what you want and need, that your body is trying to get everything it’s not allowed before it’s taken away again. It takes time for your body to realise that these foods won’t be denied anymore. This part is scary, and I completely understand. I was terrified. But if you trust yourself enough to let your brain-body connection rebuild, I promise you things will settle.

3.  So you’ve started rebuilding your relationship with food and letting the brain-body connection re-establish. But what about your weight? This can be really scary, especially in eating disorder recovery. I urge you to throw away your scales and just let your body do what it needs to do. Your weight will settle at your set point – it will be exactly where it needs to be. Here’s one of my favourite affirmations that helped me accept changes in my weight: ‘My body may become bigger in the future, and it may become smaller, but whatever it is right now, is exactly how it has to be’. Your body is just a vessel to carry you, so let it decide what’s best for it.

Trusting yourself around food is hard, but it is so worth it to finally let go and be able to live. However, it’s important to remember that with all this in mind, you need to trust that you are capable of recovery. That although recovery is hard, scary and will involve a lot of hard work, that you are worthy of it. You are worthy of reclaiming your life. You are worthy of practising self-care and setting boundaries to help you through these tough times (and any time really!). Trust yourself to do what’s right for you.

Look after yourselves beautiful people – the road might be bumpy, but with trust, we can move forward.

 

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It’s Okay to Struggle to See the Good

Written by: Zoe Speirs, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

In a day and age where self-care is finally being made a priority, we find ourselves bombarded with messages of how we should practice gratitude – and whilst practicing gratitude is important and feeds the soul, it’s pretty hard to be grateful for things when life is hard.  It’s hard to be grateful when the world feels like it’s against you, but you know what? You know what we don’t get told? It’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to struggle to see the good and be grateful for the small things – your feelings are valid, and sometimes it’s not easy to see beyond the clouds and find the rays of sunshine.

I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, no matter how painful it might feel at the time.  Despite this belief, it can still be difficult to see past the pain you’re currently in. We are told to be grateful, but also be present – sometimes, doing both can be painful. You can lose a family member, and although you have an incredible support network around you and amazing opportunities coming your way, it can still be pretty impossible to feel grateful for anything. Seems valid, right? But with pressure to constantly show gratitude and see good in situations, there often comes feelings of guilt, a feeling that you’re drowning when you can’t seem to find the good. This guilt of not being some radiant, positive person all the time. Of not being like that really zen Instagrammer that has her life together.

When you feel this way, you need to hit the brakes on and take a step back. We are all human, and we feel. If you can find gratitude for the little things in life when things are tough, that’s something worth celebrating. But we need to take the pressure off to constantly find the good. Picture this: if you miss an episode of your favourite programme, is it okay to beat yourself up about it? Or are you going to accept that you had a fun dinner planned with your friends and just live in the moment? The same applies here – you’re trying to find gratitude in your day-to-day life, but when you can’t because life happened, why should guilt be the predominant feeling when this practice is meant to be uniquely good for the soul (and mental health).

So lovelies, take a step back, breathe, let yourself feel – the rays of sunshine will find you once again.

 

Featured image by Johannes Plenio

Not a Narrative

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

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“So a continual and deep risk for us, if we are to feel the presence and friendship of all there is, is to humbly lift the veils we drape ourselves in, the veils that insulate us as the self-creators of everything we experience.

“Whether we accept it or not, we are asked to let life, in all its unseeable elements, touch us.”

-Mark Nepo from “The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life

I feel really frustrated when I wake up and find myself in a Bad Day again.

I would actually consider myself pretty in line with social researcher Hugh Mackay’s concept of happiness – or, rather, his attack on the concept. He says that “the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness” has led to a “contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness.” If there is one thing I am not afraid of anymore, it is my range of emotions. I think that my capacity for deep feelings, for sentiments strong enough to carve ravines into the canyons of my memory, is actually a beautiful thing that makes me uniquely me. Not everyone has access to such a wide spectrum of being – and I’ve grown to appreciate it as a gift.

However, when it comes to recovery and those feelings and urges that don’t have an explanation and don’t make any sense, I still get taken aback when they seem to crop up out of nowhere.

And this isn’t just waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

This is like somehow I managed to crawl inside one of my night terrors while I was sleeping and when I woke up I didn’t blink out of it – instead I see darkness, I feel heavy, my brain is like smog and my heart is drowning and I want to press the Off button and hope that tomorrow I can reboot.

I struggle to see how the presence of this kind of experience in my life can still mean that I am on some sort of road to recovery.

And as I write that, I am thinking that maybe it isn’t about a road to recovery, or really a road at all. A road seems to imply an end, a final destination. But maybe recovery is really just a wave, a tide that ebbs and flows but always feeds back out into the vast ocean of self.

I recently came across a Margaret Atwood quote that I think captures the essence of this wonderfully:

“When you are in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or someone else.”

The story of my journey isn’t a story yet – it can’t be neatly tied up into a beginning, middle, and end. And thank goodness for that, really – that gives me room to grow, to experiment, to fail, to try again.

Recovery means staying On even through the Bad Days. Just that, just the getting through, is recovery. It’s been crucial for me to recognize that there isn’t an alternate universe that I’m striving for where every day is full of happiness and fulfilment and great strides forward.

My day to day life is full of so much glory that I am constantly floored by the magic and mystery of it all, and it is also full of dips and clouds and moments when I feel like a puddle on the floor.

Being patient with myself means recognizing that all of me, the night terrors and the wonder, the eyes that see beauty in every crack and crevice as well as the soul that stores pain like throbbing wounds in the muscles between my shoulder blades, is part of my story. Even if it’s not clear to me yet, even if it never will be clear. It is valid and it is my truth.

Kenzie’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery.  Interested in sharing?  Email us at info@unpolishedjourney.org.  

Tell us a little about yourself. 

Hi, I’m Kenzie! I’m 21 and a senior Spanish and Social Work student at Loyola University Chicago.  I’m originally from California but absolutely LOVE the Midwest. I adore penguins, dogs, coffee, and travelling. I’m a firm believer that people need other people and am aspiring to work in clinical mental health to promote hope and help.

What has your mental health journey been like?

I have struggled with mental illness for most of my life but never prioritized mental health until college. I didn’t grow up understanding mental illness and wasn’t aware of treatment or resources that were available. Untreated depression, anxiety, PTSD, disordered eating, and more had been building on each other and getting worse until the beginning of my junior year of college I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. In my two-week hospital stay I knew I was ready to do whatever I could to prioritize myself and my health. I became super outspoken about mental health and my current mental health journey. I joined a therapy group at the wellness center on my campus and met with multiple therapists and psychiatrists until I found some that seemed to fit.

During this time, I had many different diagnoses and medication plans thrown around, and I was overwhelmed and confused. Things didn’t feel like they were getting any better, and I didn’t know what to do. Second semester of my junior year I realized I needed a higher level of care than I was getting and started an intensive outpatient program (IOP) to focus on trauma and substance abuse. I balanced IOP, individual therapy, work, volunteer and school for four months until the semester ended. School was not something I was willing to take a break from unless it was completely necessary and IOP was the most that I could do while still in school so when summer started I started a partial hospitalization program because I needed a higher level of treatment than I had been getting. I took half the summer to completely dedicate my entire days to recovery, while still maintaining freedom at night, which was exactly what I needed. I came into senior year much more grounded and rooted in my mental health than ever before.

I have a therapist I love and trust who pushes me to go deeper and grow more than ever before. I have a psychiatrist who I feel genuinely listens to me and isn’t quick to overmedicate or misdiagnose. I am part of therapy/recovery groups on my campus that help me feel belonging, while allowing me to continue to learn and use skills. I have community that supports and encourages me and my mental health journey. My mental health is still a struggle.  Most days are a lot better than before but to be honest there are still some that really suck. These are so much easier to get through with the resources I am connected with and by knowing how strong and resilient I have been and will continue to be. For so long I felt silenced, isolated, powerless, and alone because of mental illness.  Now, I try to combat those feelings not only for myself but for others too, by sharing my experiences and journey.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery? 

To be completely honest, the biggest practical obstacle has been insurance/financial situations. My insurance plan cut out halfway through my planned time in PHP, which wasn’t the first time it stopped covering treatment. I say this not to scare you away from getting treatment for financial reasons but to encourage you to find the resources. I want to affirm that mental health coverage in the United States is often less than desirable but there are tons of resources our there if you search for them (or ask for help to find more). My current therapist and I have a sliding scale agreement that is totally doable for a self-supporting college student.

The biggest personal obstacle for me has been shame/honesty. I spent a long time wearing inspirational t-shirts from To Write Love on Her Arms and talking about wanting to work in mental health without being open about my own struggles. I felt ashamed not only because I was struggling with mental health but because I never felt like I was far enough in my recovery. I struggled to know how open and honest I could be with myself, my treatment team, and people in general. As someone who wants to work in mental health, it’s easy for people to say that I’m not capable if I’m not “recovered” and that makes it really easy to want to stay silent about struggles and pretend to be okay all the time.

What helps you maintain recovery?  

COMMUNITY. Recovery is choosing every day (or every hour) to heal and grow and without people supporting me it would be so easy to give up. People, especially other people in recovery, are huge part of my personal recovery because they show me that recovery is possible and important. Honesty and authenticity are also huge parts of keeping on track with recovery. Having people with whom I can be unfiltered and honest about the authentic highs and lows of life is essential.

On a more practical level I love using various creative outlets as self-care activities. Some of my current favorites are: coloring (mindful coloring books and swear word coloring pages are amazing), watercolor painting, collage making, tie dye, and dancing. I’m not very creative but I love looking up different projects on Pinterest or Tumblr that can allow me to be artistic without feeling pressured to come up with something new myself.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

Be gentle with yourself.

Know there are resources.

Ask for help when you need it. Please never feel like you’re asking for too much or too often because you are deserving of recovery no matter what.

Find support systems and treatment teams that fit you. It’s always okay to switch therapists, psychiatrists, and friend groups.

Know you are someone loved and worthy even when you feel you do not deserve to be.

Only Human

Written by: Casey Urban, contributing writer.  Connect with her on Instagram (@caseyurban) or on her blog www.caseyurban.com/blog/.

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Me: “I hate that I’m like this.”

Kyle: “What, human?”

This conversation followed a panic attack I had after getting an unexpected call to work a 14-hour flight to India in the middle of the night. I panicked because I had trouble eating lunch earlier that day and I knew the flight could possibly push me into relapse, or at least somewhere close. Disordered thoughts about relapsing into restricting, binging and purging flooded my head as I sat across the table from my boyfriend while he ate lunch at a local Cuban restaurant. I’m a reserve flight attendant in recovery from bulimia and the thought of working at 14-hour flight sent me into a state of panic. Working international flights without much warning have historically caused me to binge. almost. every. time.

I’ve been in recovery from bulimia for 3 years. However, my job as a flight attendant has caused me some anxiety which has caused me to revert back to my old friend – food. I haven’t purged but I have binged countless times since I’ve started working as a flight attendant over the past couple of years. It’s no where near the amount of binging I used to do when I was in the throes of my bulimia, but thoughts of relapse over the past 6 months or so have raised quite the cause for concern. My bulimia bottom was binging and purging for 10 hours a day, and I refuse to go back to that mental space.

I tend to be extremely hard on myself. It’s hard for me to forgive myself after I’ve made a mistake. I have even recently confused struggles with mental health as “mistakes.” However, I will say I’m better than I was 5 years ago and in five years, I’ll be even better about this than I am now. My boyfriend’s reaction to my negative self talk was exactly the thing I needed to hear. I am human. Yes, I am in recovery and yes, I also struggle sometimes with thoughts of binging and purging. For someone in recovery and dealing with a lot of stress, this is normal. Fifteen years of mowing down neural pathways associated with bulimia will not change over night. Recovery takes time, professional help, a lot of support from friends and family, and above all, patience.

Ways to Engage During NEDAwareness Week

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations

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I wanted to take a moment to share some events that are taking place in or near the Chicago area in honor of NEDAwareness week.

1. Consider getting a group together to go see a movie that discusses the realities of struggling with an eating disorder.

“All of Me” Movie Screening

  • DateMonday, February 26, 2018
  • Time6:30 to 8:30 pm
  • LocationNorthwestern University, Annenberg Hall, room G15, Evanston, IL
  • Click here for more information.

2. Attend a night filled with discussion on leaning into our authentic selves.

Free Community Event to Celebrate National Eating Disorders Awareness Week – This is ME!

  • DateWednesday, February 28, 2018
  • Time6:00 to 7:30 pm
  • LocationThe Renfrew Center of Chicago, 5 Revere Drive, Suite 100, Northbrook, IL 60062
  • Click here for more information. 

3. Take action steps to further your own recovery journey by attending an EDA group.

EDA – Eating Disorders Anonymous Drop-In Group

*This event was not specifically created for NEDAwareness week.  I added this option for those looking to join an EDA group.  It occurs every Wednesday at The Awakening Center.

  • Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
  • Time: 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • Location: The Awakening Center, 3523 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 6065
  • Click here for more information. 

4. Connect with your mind and body at a yoga or meditation class.

Centered Studios (off the Morse stop on the red line) offers a great selection of yoga classes, as well as a two-hour meditation on Friday evenings.  Consider getting a group of friends together to go to a class.  Here’s a link to their schedule.

 


 

You may be saying, “But wait!  I’m not in the Chicago area.”  No worries.  Here are some other ways to take action during NEDAwareness week.

 5. Set aside some time to meditate during the week

NEDAwareness Week Guided Meditation with Dr. Jenny Copeland, Facebook Live event

  • Date: Monday, February 26, 2018
  • Time: 7:00 to 7:20 pm.
  • Location: online
  • Click here for more information. 

 6. Consider enrolling in a course to improve your relationship with your body.

Click here to see various online courses on making peace with food and your body offered by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD CDN. 

7. Start reading Megan Crabbe’s body positive book on making peace with your body.

Click here to order the book on amazon. 

 8. Put up post-its on your bathroom mirror with body-positive quotes.

 Here’s a list of some quotes to get you started. 

 9. Watch the documentary “Embrace” with some friends, which follows Taryn Brumfitt’s journey as she seeks to make peace with her body.

You can order the film here.  The documentary is also available on Netflix! 

 10. Finally, follow our contributing writers on Instagram. They’ll be sure to fill your feed with inspirational and body positive messages. 

@mayerbear

@caseyurban

@beautifullyflawedbean

@marcelailustra

@thefriendineverwanted

@boporecoverywarrior

@madelineinbloom

Mindfulness vs. Resolutions

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Mindfulness and mental health

“You go where you look.” The repeated phrase of my ski school trainer, my driving instructor, my ballet teacher, my high school tennis coach. A lesson that at the time I filed away as just another way to improve my performance, but now realize was probably the most relevant and profound advice I have ever received.

What you are giving energy is what you are giving life. More important than any physical resolution, concerning my health or my weight or something I need to fix or change, this year I resolve to try to pay more attention to where I am investing my energy. If I’m focusing on stress, or on the past, or on everything that can go wrong, then I am probably directing myself down a path of disappointment and grief. We have an internal dialogue going on 24/7, but as I heard Dan Harris say recently on a podcast, so often we pay more attention to the speaker in our head than the listener. By only engaging with the speaker that tells me I’m scared, that tells me I’m a failure, that tells me I’m way too busy to figure out why I’m scared, I miss out on a whole other dimension of human experience.

I prefer mindfulness over resolutions. Mindfulness deconstructed from the zeitgeist version of it – at its core, it really just means stepping back and listening to your internal dialogue. If you set out on a quest to quiet your thoughts, you will not be successful. If you approach mindfulness as another thing to add to your “New Me” to-do list, then the quest is doomed from the beginning.

There is so much to be said for just observing your thoughts, without judgement. When I learned that my thoughts aren’t truth, that the speaker in my head is not always quoting facts, it was honestly revolutionary. Taking time to just tune in to the movie constantly projected on the cluttered walls of my mind helps give me clarity into why I may be feeling the way I am and always reminds me to quietly redirect my mental energy. As Dan Harris says, “You just want to see whatever is there, so that it doesn’t own you.”

Another reason I prefer mindfulness over resolutions is because resolutions imply rigidity. How do I know what is going to serve me in October, when I barely know what I want for dinner tonight? Mindfulness allows for flexibility – it is the practice that helps me make quick decisions that feel right, in tune. It allows every day to be a moment to focus on my intentions, not just the beginning of the year.

I try to stay far, far away from anything that connotes restriction – and resolutions seem to have gained a reputation for doing exactly that. I like the idea of committing to something that adds, that brings joy, that gives back to my community and my loved ones. By being very conscious of where I’m throwing my energy, ultimately I’m showing up as the best, most authentic version of myself, both in my inner dialogue and in my interactions with others.

You go where you look. And once you find yourself somewhere, there you are. I have a tendency to constantly calculate my next move and forget about the girl who is here, now, present tense. In all of the planning and prioritising, and even in the depths of the quest for betterment, the girl that likes soft rain on tin roofs and tends to get distracted by sunlight on her cheeks gets lost. Here’s to prioritising her, to observing my thoughts but not necessarily believing them. And to be mindful of my precious energy, because when channelled in the right direction, my strength can move mountains.