Talking to parents about eating disorders and self-harm

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Last week was one of the most challenging weeks that I have ever had to face in my life. I had to face the challenge of telling my parents about my mental illnesses. I was dreading it for months but I knew that they needed to know about it, and there’s no better time than the present, right? Right.

I had been worrying for months about how to tell them and how much to tell them. I didn’t think it would be possible for them to understand. I thought for sure that they would be mad, but I was wrong.

The amount of love and support that my parents showed me was incredible; it was unpredictable. I had imagined every possible worst case scenario in my mind but never once did it cross my mind that my parents would be 100% supportive. Turns out I should have had more faith in my parents. They’ve been incredibly supportive and have continued to treat me the same as they treated me before. They are 100% supportive of my recovery and are not being pushy or asking questions about my illnesses. They’ve completely respected my boundaries and are not pushing for me to tell them anything that I am not ready to talk about.

In my mind I thought that they would freak out, yell, scream, cry, and any number of other bad reactions. While it’s true that there were some tears and some questions in the first hour or so after learning about my struggles, my parents were not angry or disappointed in me about any of it.

On the contrary, my parents told me over and over again about how proud they are of me for struggling with these illnesses for so long but still working to recover on my own. They recognized the courage that I couldn’t even see in myself for a long time. They saw past all of the self-destructive behaviors and saw only a girl who was fighting to survive the only way she knew how. And they were proud of that girl; they are proud of me.

For anyone who is considering talking to their parents about an eating disorder, self-harm or any other struggle that you may be facing, please trust me when I tell you that it gets better after you disclose your struggles. I tried for years to hide my secrets, and I was very successful at hiding them, but in the end the weight of all of my struggles almost destroyed me. It took more courage than I even realized I had for me to finally open up and talk to my parents about my struggles. That being said, I didn’t get through it alone. I had my therapist by my side during the appointment with my parents, and I had the support of two of my closest friends who were there for me before and after the appointment. I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life, and I am so happy that I was finally able to open up and tell my parents about my struggles.

Sharing my story has been a life changing experience for me. I realized that if I can get through that, then I can get through anything. I’m no longer ashamed of myself for what I have been through; I am proud of myself for getting through it all.

I am so much happier now that I have told my story and showed my family the “real” me. If you are thinking about telling your parents, be prepared for them to be upset, but have faith in their love for you. The love that they feel for you will be so much stronger than any other emotion; no matter how upset they may be initially, they will still love you and support you.

Have faith in the love of your friends and family. Have faith in yourself. You are strong enough to get through this.

Now is all we’ve got

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Now is all we’ve got

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I want my life to take me and who I want to be in the future. A lot of the time this can be really inspiring because of all of the potential in the world, but at other times it can be really intimidating. Sometimes the future can be a really daunting thing that we have to face which can lead to a lot of unwanted stress.

Right now I’m faced with these daunting and stressful thoughts about the future as a result of an upcoming appointment which could change the course of my life forever. It’s times like these that my therapist encourages me to use “Radical Acceptance” and accept that which is unacceptable. But the problem is that acceptance does not necessarily mean that I will not feel stress or anxiety about the upcoming appointment. In fact, I accepted the inevitability of this appointment months ago, but that doesn’t make it any easier to think about.

After countless nights spent tossing and turning thinking about this appointment that has not even been scheduled yet, I realized that I really do need to stop worrying so much. I realize that now is the only thing that I have and I need to focus on the present. I can’t keep stressing myself out and counting down the days until the dreadful appointment will become a reality. Instead I need to live for the small joys that I get to experience every day. What is the sense in worrying about something that has not even arrived yet? Or in worrying about an outcome that I have very little control over for that matter?

It seems like such a silly mantra, but it’s the truth. The here and now really is the only thing that we have for sure. The future isn’t a guaranteed thing so we need to start living in the moment and appreciating what we have. Even though I know that this appointment is literally one of the last things that I want to face right now, I know that there are a lot of people in situations that are a lot worse than my own.

So, with that in mind, I have challenged myself to go the entire day tomorrow without talking about the appointment that I am dreading so much. Perhaps if I stop talking about it with friends so much I will be able to distract myself with other conversations and subject matter.

Here goes nothing!

Xo

Ayla

Why “slut shaming” should sound more like “sexuality shaming”

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One of these huge movements for the empowerment of women recently is the idea that slut shaming is not okay. While I agree that it is not okay, I believe that calling it “slut shaming” is in and of itself not okay. I mean, think about it: by calling something “slut shaming” you are inadvertently telling people that it is not okay to shame a slut, but it is okay to still refer to them as a slut which is in and of itself a demeaning term.

So how about this: how about we drop the term “slut” all together? It’s a disgusting term born from patriarchy. It is a term used to demean any woman who should dare to express her sexuality while at the same time it is a term that men will use to refer to a woman who isn’t quite ready to have sex yet.

“Slut” is a ruthless term used to insult women whether they are sexual or not; whether they have had one sexual partner or 15; whether they have are monogamous or not. But the fact remains that it is most certainly NOT okay.

As a sexual abuse survivor, I can tell you that I experience a great deal of insecurity and anxiety about sexual relations of any manner. I have never been able to be completely intimate with a man and yet I have been called a slut so many times that I’ve lost count. As if I needed another reason to feel disgusted by sexuality; as if I needed another reason to feel horribly about myself.

If you agree with me then I want to you to make a vow to yourself to never refer to another human being as a “slut” or any other sexually demeaning term. I want you to empower women, not tear them down. Let’s end slut shaming, not sexuality shaming.

Ayla

This is not the end of me; This is the beginning,

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We’ve all heard it time and time again: “live in the moment”. And while it can definitely be a good thing to do, there are also benefits to thinking about the future. For one, if you are struggling with something in this present moment, it can be helpful to think about how your struggle won’t necessarily last forever.

Alternatively, it can be great to think about all of the things that you want to do in the future in order to give yourself a reason to keep on fighting. For a long time I felt so lost; I felt like I had no purpose. However, lately I have been feeling really hopeful and at peace with myself. I’ve been more optimistic and I’m working towards achieving my goals for the future. Over the last few days I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time, and tonight in particular I’ve felt so free and independent.

Thinking about the future really helps me to focus on working towards something that matters to me. I’ve essentially assigned myself a purpose for my future. This doesn’t mean that I’ve figured out my life goal, but it means that I am giving myself small goals to work towards.

Right now I have a mental list of things that I want to achieve, but I’m planning to make a written list really soon so that I can not only have something to look forward to, but also so that I can look back on everything that I have achieved once I cross some of these goals off my list.

If you are feeling really hopeless or unhappy, I would encourage you to make your own list of dreams, goals, and hopes for the future. Even if it does not change your mood or outlook instantaneously it might just give you a reason to keep on fighting.

I’ve come a long way in the last few weeks and I am so proud to say that I am 19 days free of self-harm as of today. It hasn’t been easy, but my new-found optimism is certainly helping me keep on going down the path to recovery. I know that the next few months are going to be some of the hardest months that I will ever have to face, but there is going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

This is not the end of me; this is the beginning.

xo

Ayla

New year, new me? Not so fast…

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Looking back on 2014, I have come to realize that this past year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Over the course of the year I have gone through waves of relapse and recovery, I’ve had my ups and downs (admittedly more downs than ups), I’ve felt completely hopeless, I’ve felt completely alone, I’ve felt out of control, I’ve been completely self-destruction; but despite all of the hardships, I’ve managed to hold on to some semblance of hope for a better future.

Ten months ago I was forced to face something that I had tried so hard to forget about for the past decade: I was sexually abused for 2+ years of my life. I was forced to confront the memories, relive the past, and deal with the shame that came along with it. Some of my coping techniques were not healthy, but with the help of a friend I was able to seek help for my self-harm and for the eating disorder that has plagued me since I was a pre-teen girl.

In June of 2014, I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, and depressive symptoms. On top of this I was suffering from self-harm and social anxiety. It was taking everything that I had just to make it through the day; I wasn’t living, I was just existing. I wasn’t happy, and my diagnoses did not just magically make me feel better, but it was a step towards recovery. I got the answers that I needed in order to help me start working on the issues that had been progressively getting worse since I was only 10 years old.

Today, I have been self-harm free for 12 days. While this may not seem like much to an outsider looking in, this is a huge accomplishment for me. In terms of my eating disorder, this continues to be a huge struggle for me and there is not a day that goes by that I do not worry about my weight, the number of calories I have consumed, and how many pounds I need to lose to reach my goal. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t improved at all; on the contrary, I am coming to understand that there is no such thing as “perfection” and to chase such a thing through weight loss is hopeless and unhealthy. This doesn’t mean that I am going to just wake up one day and stop obsessing about food, but it is a start.

One of the other things that I struggled with a lot in 2014 (and perhaps the thing that had the biggest impact on my unhappiness) is the burden that I held in protecting my family from the reality of my abuse and the abuser. This is a burden that I continue to hold even today, but I have talked to my psychologist and we have tentatively talked about having a family session within the next 4 months in order to tell my family what happened to me and help them understand my illnesses. Some of you might think that 4 months is a bit too much time to take in order to tell my family what I have been dealing with, but in all honesty it might just take that long for me to work up the nerve to finally tell my parents what happened to me. I am hoping that it won’t actually take that long, but I’m prepared to give myself the time to cope with the decision if I need to. My hope is that 2015 will bring me the peace of mind that comes along with relieving this burden; I don’t want to hold on to the secret anymore. I want to be free.

2014 was a really hard year full of struggles, and I’m not going to ignorantly claim that 2015 will be completely flawless, but I am hopeful that it will be a much better, happier year. I’m done feeling unhappy; I’m done hurting myself as a distraction from the pain that others inflict upon me; but most of all, I am done living my life to make other people happy. 2015 is going to be the year that I live my life for me. I will do what it is that I want to do and I will put my own happiness above that of the people who don’t have my best interest at heart. Some might call it selfish, but sometimes selflessness can be just as harmful as selfishness. There is a fine line between the two and it is important to find a balance.

2015 is going to be my year to reach for my dreams and live my life for me; I’ve only got one life to live after all.

So here’s to a wonderful, happy, challenging, inspiring, dream-filled year. I hope you all have an amazing 2015 and I can’t wait to share another year with you all!!

xo

Ayla

Self-Harm Recovery Round 2: Lets Try This Again

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About a month ago I relapsed into self-harm. I had been 47 days free of cutting but then I became overwhelmed with stress as a result of school, family fighting, friendship tensions, and a number of other things. I had managed to go almost 2 months without self-harming but then the stress simply became too much and I had no way to cope.

That’s where I went wrong last time: I didn’t come up with any alternative coping strategies. This time I have armed myself with the coping techniques that my therapist gave me as well as some of my own.

One of the best coping strategies that I have is reading. It allows me to get lost in the story of someone else for a while and forget about my own struggles. I have to be careful about this, however, because in the past I have been drawn towards books about self-harm and eating disorders. While these stories helped me to feel less alone, they also triggered me a lot which is not ideal when trying to recover from such illnesses. Instead, I’ve decided to stick to books by one of my favorite author’s (Richelle Mead) with her Bloodlines series (because who doesn’t love a good love story with some heroics involved, right?).

So far I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time reading because of the holiday season, but I am sure once I go back to school and work I will have to budget my time a bit more carefully. That being said, I have managed to go 10 days without self-harm as of tonight. This may not seem a lot to some people, but when you consider that this is something that started 4 years ago, 10 days is a pretty good start to recovery and I am proud of myself.

I really hope that this attempt at recovery will be much more successful because I truly believe that I deserve so much better than to harm myself. It has helped me in the short term for a long time, but in the long run self-harm is not a solution to the deep-seated pain that someone else inflicted upon me. I am determined to end the cycle of pain that others have inflicted upon me as well as the pain that I have inflicted upon myself.

It’s time to recover from self-harm once and for all!

xo

Ayla