This is for the people who don’t know how to keep fighting

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Recovery is never easy. You didn’t reach the depths of a mental illness overnight and you’re certainly not going to reverse it that quickly. The process of recovery is exactly that: a process. It takes time and a lot of effort. For those of you who do not know how to keep fighting for recovery, just remember that while it is an exhausting war to fight, it will be worth it in the end.

You are worth the fight.

xo

Ayla

When the future seems impossibly far away, focus on the little things

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Recently, I’ve been experiencing a lot of dissatisfaction with where I currently am in life. I’m in a rush to start the next big phase and my focus on the future is causing me to overlook the present. I’m in such a rush to go from one point to the next that I’ve completely forgotten to celebrate the successes and triumphs of the present.

I’m a very goal-oriented individual; my goals for the future drive me to succeed. As a result, when I don’t have a goal or when my goal is currently unattainable, I begin to feel hopeless and depreciated. My self-worth is so essentially based on my goals for the future that when I encounter a road block it immediately has an impact on my sense of self.

Currently, I am experiencing one of these road blocks. It’s not a matter of being completely unable to attain my goal. It’s a matter of having to wait a year and a half before I can even begin working towards my goal. For me, that year and a half seems impossible. I’ve resorted to counting down the days by crossing each day off my calendar as it passes. The process is torturous. The days go by painfully slow.

However, I’ve recently figured out a way of making the days go by just a little bit faster. I’ve started to set myself goals which I can begin working towards immediately. Some of those goals are really small while others are long-term. While I haven’t noticed a drastic change in the speed of time passage as of yet, I have noticed that my overall mental state has improved. I’ve been keeping myself busy working towards my immediate goals which has given me something else to focus on.

With that being said, my thoughts always return to that oh-so-far-away goal no matter how much time I spend working on my more immediate goals. I know that a year isn’t really that much time in the grand scheme of life, but looking ahead to the future I can’t help but wonder whether I will be any closer to my goal one year from now. In the end only time will tell…

xo

Ayla

Better is not so far away

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This morning I started reading a book called “better is not so far away” by Melissa Groman. Initially, I was drawn to the book because the cover states that it deals with bingeing, starving and cutting, all of which I’ve dealt with and am currently trying to recover from. I picked the book up at the library yesterday and for some reason this morning when I woke up I just really wanted to get a head start on reading it. Coffee in hand, I spent my morning sitting on the balcony reading the book and I was shocked to discover just how much I can relate to the information in the book. I’ve never felt so thoroughly understood outside of the confines of my therapist’s office as I felt when I started to read this book.

I was astonished by just how accurately the content of the book describes how i’ve been feeling. I’ve always felt as though nobody could truly understand what it’s like to struggle with self-harm and disordered eating unless they have experienced it themselves. After reading a few chapters though I realized that the author could empathize with me not only because of the hundreds of clients who she has worked with, but because she has also struggled with the same issues in the past.

When I realized that the author had actually struggled with many of the same issues, I felt infinitely more connected to her. Her book inspired me while I was reading it and I am definitely planning to go and purchase my own copy after I return the copy that I am currently reading to the library. I’ve been struggling with relapses for over a year now and I think that having this book on my shelf will certainly help me make it through those periods without falling completely back into my old ways.

Reading the book has provided me with the same sense of support that I feel when I am talking to my therapist one on one. It’s strange to think that a book can give me the same feelings as my therapist–who I feel really close to–but it’s really the only comparison that I can make to accurately describe what the book is like for me.

If you are struggling with self-harm or an eating disorder and you think you might want to start recovering, or maybe you just want to feel like someone really understands you, I would really recommend that you go and pick up a copy of “better is not so far away”. I’ve only just started reading the first few chapters and I am so thankful that a book like this exists.

Alternatively, if you are a parent or a friend who is trying to understand your loved one’s eating disorder or self-injury, this could surely be a great source of information for you to understand what it’s like to experience these hardships.

I really hope you check it out and let me know what you think!

xo

Ayla

What to expect when your parent(s) find out about your eating disorder or self harm

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A few months ago I had one of the most difficult conversations of my life: I told my parents that I have been struggling with an eating disorder and self harm. At the time, I didn’t know what to expect and I searched high and low on the internet for a few words of advice. I wasn’t able to find much, so I figured I  would write about my own experience in order to help people who might be preparing for a similar conversation.

In my case, I was lucky enough to have my therapist by my side throughout the entire conversation. I would strongly recommend that if you are considering talking to your parents about self harm or disordered eating that you take some time to build a support system before having the big talk. For me, this meant talking to three of my closest friends and having months of therapy appointments in order to prepare.

On the morning of, I had a close friend come and stay with me right up until I had to go into the therapist’s office to meet with my parents. She really helped me deal with the anxiety that I had right before the appointment and I was extremely lucky to have such a supportive friend by my side. I honestly don’t know that I could have gone through with the appointment if it was not for my wonderfully supportive friends and therapist.

During the appointment, my parents were a bit stand-off-ish. At the time, I was thrown off because I was expecting a bit more concern, but I realized afterwards that they were coming into this appointment without any idea of what to expect which caused them to have their own anxiety to deal with. I understand now that they were under quite a bit of stress which may have come across as anger.

When it actually came time to tell my parents about the issues that I had been struggling with, I decided with the help of my therapist to break things down into separate parts. My therapist and I made a timeline of the meeting prior to it occurring so that I would know exactly what I wanted to say and when. This helped to organize the information within the time constraints of the session, but it also helped me tell my parents about everything at a gradual pace to allow them to take everything in.

In terms of their reactions, I was completely shocked. I had been preparing for the worst: screaming, fighting, maybe they would even disown me! There was no limit to the horrible string of events that my imagination came up with. In reality though, my parents remained relatively calm throughout the entire appointment. My mom cried a lot and my dad looked like his heart had been ripped out of his chest, but their reaction towards me was utter compassion. There was no yelling or fighting or blaming. They just listened to what I had to tell them and took it in.

I realize that not everyone’s parents will react the same way, but just try to at least consider the possibility that your parents will have a rational reaction. They will obviously be concerned and may have some questions for you. Try to answer the questions calmly without over-reacting. It may be overwhelming to you, but it will be just as overwhelming, if not more, for your parents who have just received a lot of anxiety-provoking information.

Following the meeting with my parents I told them that I needed some time to unwind and come to terms with everything before talking with them again. I told them that I would call them around a certain time on a certain day which in my case was two days after the appointment. I decided to give myself this time to calm down and regroup after the meeting, but I also wanted to give them time to process the information. When I finally did call them as planned, their reactions were 100% supportive.

Today, about 3 months after the meeting, my parents continue to provide me with support in subtle ways. In the appointment I made it clear that my recovery process would be on my terms and that I did not want them to interfere. They have respected this decision and have not brought up anything unless I am the one to bring it up first.

In the future I do hope to have more conversations about my struggles, but right now I’m happy to have told them everything and not have the pressure of constantly having to talk about it.

So, that basically sums up my experience of talking to my parents about self-harm and an eating disorder. It’s important that my experience will not necessarily reflect the experiences of others, but I hope that you will at least consider the possibility that talking to your parents about your struggles could be the best decision you ever make. It certainly has been for me.

xo

Ayla

Recovery update: Moving on from bulimia?

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Hello again,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. I’ve been really busy with school and work and just trying to figure out where I want my life to go in the future. I’ve made a lot of big decisions and I feel like I’ve really grown as a person. My recovery has been going pretty well with only a few steps backward along the way.

My life is drastically different from the way it was one year ago. This time last year I was not healthy. In fact, I was at risk of dying. It scares me to think about this looking back on everything, but at the time I didn’t really care. My eating disorder was so strongly engrained in my mind that I didn’t really see any hope for a happy future. The only thing that I could hold onto was the constant weighing, measuring and calorie counting.

Thankfully, I’m a lot better now. Sometimes I’m not so thankful for this though. Sometimes there’s a voice in the back of my mind that wishes I could go back to the time when I was thinner. I know it’s silly because the life I was living back then was nothing short of pure hell; but, I still have relapses.

Today, I’m feeling like I am good enough. I am worthy of happiness and recovery. It’s hard to imagine in my mind a life in which I am not completely consumed by thoughts about my weight and the number of calories in the food that I just ate, but reading other recovery blogs has helped me realize that it is entirely possible to reach this point. It is possible for me to have a healthy relationship with food and one day I really hope I will get there. I may not be recovered today, but I’m doing a lot better than I was yesterday and every day before that.

Recovery is a process; I know I’ll get there one day.

Xo

Ayla

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