You are beautiful. Yes, YOU.

This might come across as sort of cheesy, but seriously, I don’t care if it takes you all day, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and find something that you like about yourself. It can literally be anything; your eyes, your feet, your hips, anything! I want you to look at yourself and see the beauty that everyone else can see in you. I find that a lot of the time, we are a lot more critical of ourselves than other people are. We are our own worst enemy, our own toughest critic. So take a moment to appreciate your own beauty. 

Another thing to consider is that you deserve to surround yourself with people who make you feel better. If anyone makes you feel bad about yourself or your body, then they do not deserve to be a part of your life. In fact, if someone feels the need to bring you down and comment on your body, there is a good chance that they are just jealous. The sad fact of the matter is that everyone has body image issues. Everyone is self conscious about something. Some people are just really terrible at dealing with their insecurities. But that doesn’t give them the right to make you feel bad about yourself. Do yourself a favor and move on from the people who bring you down; you deserve better. 

The last thing I want you to do is stop comparing yourself to others. You can never be anyone other than yourself, and you don’t need to be. Who you are is exactly who you should be. If you stop comparing yourself to others, you may find that you are happier with yourself and all that you have achieved. You are the only person you should compare yourself to. You can compare your current self to your past self in order to see how far you have come. You can appreciate your personal growth and achievements. 

What I want you to understand is that you do not need to change who you are or what you look like to make people like you or to fit in better. There will always be people who will judge you for the things that your not, but you need to remember that it is impossible to be perfect because perfection does not exist. 

The greatest gift you can ever give yourself is the gift of self-love. If you accept yourself for who you are and embrace your strengths and weaknesses, you will be happier. Just be who you are, I promise it will be enough.

xo

Ayla

Selfishness is NOT always a bad thing

Over the last three therapy sessions that I have gone to, my counselor has been trying to get me more comfortable with the idea of doing what is best for me no matter what other people might think about it. One of the many problems that I face in dealing with my anxiety is that I try too hard to please everyone. I don’t want to ever let anyone down which is really hard when I have multiple people telling me what I should be doing in any given situation. 

What I have come to realize is that I am often my own best judge of a situation. I do not need the approval of other people because I know what I want and I know what I need to do to get it. That said, I can never do what it is that I want to do without the approval of the people in my life (ie. parents, relatives, professors, doctors, etc.). 

I remember my parents warning me about the dangers of peer pressure before I entered high school. They said I needed to be careful not to do something that I’m not comfortable with just because everyone else is doing it or someone is pressuring me. What I don’t think my parents realize is that they have become one of those sources of pressure. For my entire life I have done what my parents have told me to do, even when it goes against what I want. I have always been the studious, hard-working daughter who listens to her parents without arguing. 

Another thing that my parents probably don’t realize is that their protectiveness over me as I was growing up has seriously had a negative impact on my ability to cope in stressful situations. I worry constantly. I have no confidence in new situations. I am shy. I have an extremely hard time adjusting to change of any kind. I have been so dependent on my parents over the years that I struggle with my independence even though it is something that I really want. 

So, what I am trying to learn is that if I want to be independent, I will have to start making my decisions with my own best interest at heart even if that makes other people angry. And that is okay. Selfishness is not a bad quality to have in a lot of situations. Self preservation is important. Do what you need to do to achieve your own success. I’m starting to get over my fear of defying my parents but it is still a struggle. When you are controlled so strictly for so long it is not something that can be undone in a moment. I is a work in progress, but one day I hope that I will be able to stand up for myself.

Beauty is a social construction. It is not real. It is not a definition of worth.

I have to keep reminding myself that beauty is a socially constructed phenomenon that is constantly changing. There was a time when it was considered beautiful to be overweight ( by today’s standards). There was a time when it was considered beautiful to have small feet. There was a time when it was beautiful to be short. 

What all of these measures of beauty have in common are the fact that they are out of our control. Our weight, height, and the size of our feet is completely out of our control. While we can do things to change our weight temporarily, in most cases the weight will eventually come back. Similarly, some people just have a bigger frame. This doesn’t mean that they are “fat”, it just means that their genes are different than the ideal size 0 body type. 

This is important for me to remember because I am constantly judging my body for not being skinny. I have idealized skinny as a connotation of beauty which has resulted in poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. I am constantly struggling with the urge to return to my restrictive diet in an attempt to control my weight even though I know that this would mean sacrificing my mental and physical health. One of the triggers for this urge to lose weight is my constant need to compare myself to other people. I often find myself comparing myself to my friends and even people that I see in the media. However, recently I can across a video by Laura Lejuene that inspired me to stop comparing myself to others. While I haven’t been 100% successful yet, I can at least catch myself when I am doing it which can help me stop the comparison. 

Losing Hope in the Mental Health Care System

Yesterday, I had an appointment with my therapist who informed me that my university has cut back the budget for student mental health treatment which has resulted in cuts in the number of mental health therapy visits students are covered for. Previously, my school would approve students for 5 sessions at a time, but there was no limit to the amount of sessions someone could get as long as the therapist that they are seeing provided justification for why additional sessions are necessary. In my case, the additional sessions were warranted because of the ongoing long-term nature of recovery from both bulimia and PTSD. 

Recovery doesn’t happen over night. It is a long process that can take years and even then sometimes an individual is unable to recover totally. Unfortunately for me, my recovery process might be cut short. My school has created a new policy which dictates that each student is allowed only 5 sessions per academic year. 

To put that into perspective, I have 4-5 sessions per MONTH. My recovery plan requires me to have weekly sessions with my therapist. Up until now I have only been able to have access to this care because my insurance through my school covers it. Now that my school has cut the amount of money going towards mental health for students, I will not be able to continue with my treatment as of mid-October and even that is because I have started to space out my appointments to bi-weekly in order to extend the amount of time I will have. 

This is just another example of the lack of attention that is given to mental health. I am paying the same amount of money this year for my school insurance plan but I will be covered for far less. I will be unable to continue with the treatment that I NEED simply because my school does not recognize that it is important. The justification that was given to me in explanation of the cutback in sessions is that the treatment is intended to be for short-term problems. 

In my opinion, this is a load of bullshit. If a school is advertising to students that they offer psychological services, there should not be a hidden clause that says that you can only use the services for easily treated problems. That is basically like saying that if you require more than 5 visits then you are a lost cause and therefore do not warrant the extra expense. Its like saying that someone who has a broken arm should be treated because there is a definite end to treatment whereas someone with cancer should go elsewhere for help. But that would never happen because physical illnesses are treated no matter their severity! 

I don’t understand how they can justify withholding treatment of more serious conditions that require more than 5 sessions of therapy. If an individual is actively seeking out help and has been clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, they should have access to treatment. 

Needless to say I am extremely disappointed in the mental health efforts of my school. Until today I was under the impression that my school was extremely dedicated to providing mental health support to their students. In my opinion it is extremely dangerous for cuts to be made to the accessibility of these services to students. This could lead to increased risks such as suicide. To take away or limit such an important service is unreasonable and appalling. 

I am extremely unhappy with the actions of my university and I have every intention of expressing my concerns. Just when I started to think that mental health was starting to get the attention that it deserves, I find one more reason to believe that there is still plenty of work to be done to end the stigma and make psychological services more accessible.

Looking back and moving forward

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There was a time when this would literally be all I would eat in a day. That’s less than 100 calories. Its crazy to think about now, and I really have no idea how I got to that point, but it seems impossible now. It seems strange to me that I’m in treatment for an eating disorder because I eat regular amounts of food (if not more). I feel like I don’t need to go to treatment because I’m eating. But then I have to catch myself because I still have the urges to restrict. I still have terrible body image. I still want to achieve an unrealistic weight.
I have a therapy appointment in an hour and today we are reviewing my food diary for the last week. The idea of it makes me sick. I absolutely HATE being monitored and I am terrified of the idea of letting someone see how much food I have eaten. For a “normal” person, it might seem normal to eat a regular amount of food. For me, it causes me to feel shame, embarrassment, and disgust. I feel like I’m lying to myself about having an eating disorder. I mean, after all, how can I have an eating disorder when I eat a normal amount of food?
But again, I have to catch myself. The very fact that I do not think that I have an eating disorder despite my obvious aversion to food is proof that I do in fact still have an eating disorder. And if I’m completely honest, I’m sort of glad. I don’t want to let go of the control. It sounds messed up but its so true. I can’t explain it because I don’t totally understand it myself, but I just really need to hold onto it.
Being diagnosed with bulimia has actually really helped in my recovery process though. The gratification that I get when I am told that I have bulimia is a reminder that I still have control. I feel like if someone told me that I don’t have bulimia anymore I would work twice as hard to prove them wrong. Again, I don’t understand why. It just is what it is.
Overall I’m technically healthier now, at least physically. I’m still facing a lot of mental health issues but I’m hoping that if I just stick with therapy it will get better. Some days I really just want to stop, but I also want to make sure that nobody else ever has the chance to force me into anything. If I go to therapy willingly then I have the control. Nobody else. Control is everything right now.

How can I Instill Such Hope, But be Left With None of My Own?

In the song “Hope for Now”, Dallas Green asks the very important question, how can I instill such hope but be left with none of my own?

This song is extremely important to me because it is basically describing exactly how I feel. I work so hard to raise awareness about mental illness and end the stigmatization. I am trying to give other people who suffer with mental illness hope for their futures, but at the same time, I am left with no hope of my own. I’m not sure where to go from here or how to deal with everything, I just need to be strong and fight for everyone who is suffering in silence.

Color therapy

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Have you ever considered the therapeutic potential of colouring? I’ve recently discovered that it is a great distraction when I’m feeling anxious, stressed, or self I destructive. It allows me to just think things through and it actually helps me to calm down when I am feeling overwhelmed. It provides me with a distraction when I am feeling the need to self-harm and it also gives my hands something to do which helps to stop the tactile urge to cut. To someone who does not deal with self-harm this might seem crazy but it works. If you are suffering from self-harm I would highly recommend trying this out. Its a great way to distract yourself and if you are an artistic person like me it can also provide you with a creative release.
This is by no means a replacement for professional therapy, but it definitely helps in those high-stress moments. Your therapist can’t be there 100% of the time to stop you from self-harming and if you really want to recover you’ve got to come up with some distraction techniques and coping skills. This one definitely helps me.
If you’re looking for new ways to cope I would suggest that you give this a shot. If it doesn’t work, there’s no harm done. But if you never give it a shot you won’t know if it will help you!
Other techniques I use to cope and distract myself are journaling, Sudoku puzzles, playing guitar, playing with my dog, talking to a friend, going for a walk, or listening to music (usually in combination with the other activities because music doesn’t really distract me enough on its own).

If you have any other coping strategies that you’d like to share please feel free to leave a comment below!!

Xo

Ayla

For the love of Demi <3

For the last year Demi Lovato has been one of my biggest inspirations. She has helped me come to realize that recovery is possible. She has helped me come to realize my dreams of working towards ending the stigmatization of mental illness. Her strength is inspiring; she has given me so much hope for my future. 

For all that she has done for me, I want to give her my vote for this year’s VMAs and I hope that you will too. If Demi has given you strength and inspired you, please show her your support and vote for her using the hashtag #votedemilovato on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Vine.

Show your support.

xo

Ayla