Take it one breath at a time

Sometimes when things get tough you just have to breathe. Take it one breath, one second, one hour, one day at a time.

Right now, I’ve just gotten off the phone and received some news that changes the plans that I had my heart set on for the next year of my life. It’s not devastating in the grande scheme of things, but right now I feel like I am on the verge of losing control. That’s what panic disorder does to you. Take someone who has high anxiety to begin with and add in some bad news to shake up their plans and you get catastrophic thinking that makes everything seem so much worse than it really is.

At this point I feel like completely giving up. It’s an unreasonable thought and one which I know I will not go through with, but sometimes it seems so impossible to go on. But if I just take it one breath at a time, it almost seems manageable.

I breathe in and out, slowly and deeply. I managed that breath, so who is to say I can’t manage the next one and the one after that? Who says I can’t get through the next second or hour or even the next year? It seems so impossible, but if you break it down into smaller steps, its more achievable. I can do this. I can get through this. I’ve survived worse.

I’m really scared and anxious right now, but I’ve got to keep breathing. Even if my plans change for a few months that doesn’t change my chances of achieving my goal one year from now. I can still get where I want to be, even if the path to get there is a bit longer or more difficult that I thought it would be.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last month. It’s been a really hard month full of a lot of self-doubt, self-blame, and a huge amount of anxiety. I don’t deal with change well, and I certainly don’t handle it well when my plans for the next year fall apart one after the other. Maybe the path that I’m fighting so desperately against is the path that is best for me. Maybe it is the path that will get me where I need to be. I don’t know and I suppose I never truly will. I don’t understand why bad things happen, and I don’t understand why people lie and deceive you in ways that turn your upside down; but it happens. I don’t think I truly understood how unpredictable life can be until this past 5 months of my life. I’ve encountered so many road blocks and so many unexpected barriers. I’ve felt like giving up so many times; but I didn’t. I’ve learned that my ability to adapt and survive is a bit better than I gave myself credit for.

Right now, I feel like an anxious ball of self-doubt. I felt the same way one month ago. But in between the self-doubt and the anxiety I’ve also discovered that I can do things that i don’t really want to do in order to get where I want to be in the future. I’m not happy right now and I hope that this won’t be what the next year of my life will be like, but I think I can survive it even if I’m stuck in this place for a few months. I’m learning to tolerate distress. I’m learning how to be a stronger and more adaptable person.

xo

Ayla

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

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

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

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

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