“It’s a lot harder to forgive someone who’s not looking to apologize” -Kimberly McCreight

Forgiveness: it’s a tricky, often evasive concept.

Time and time again I hear people preaching about the power of forgiveness. I’ve been told that the only way to move on is to forgive. I’ve also been told that forgiveness is more about you than it is about the person whom you are forgiving. Similarly, I’ve heard people speak of forgiveness as something incredibly powerful; a force that needs to be harnessed in life.

But I guess forgiveness is one of those easier-said-than-done tasks.

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One of the semi-philosophical questions which I often find myself pondering is the forgiveness of the seemingly unforgivable. Some acts are so atrocious that I can’t even begin to imagine how one might forgive in the face of such cruelty. For example, how does a grieving family forgive a drunk driver who killed their loved one? How does a rape survivor forgive the perpetrator? How does a childhood abuse victim forgive their abuser?

Forgiveness seems like such a massive concept to be grappled with. I can’t imagine how I would even begin to forgive the person who abused me. He brought so much pain and destruction to my life; he made me hate myself. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

But then, does that make me weak? While I have the utmost respect for Mahatma Gandhi, I find the latter quote to be offensive. The insinuation that an inability to forgive is a sign of weakness is demeaning. Anyone who survives trauma is by definition strong and resilient. To suffer loss at the hands of someone else’s cruelty and metaphorically come out on the other side is a sign of strength. To insinuate that an individual must forgive another’s actions in order to be strong is degrading and minimizes the strength that it took to even survive, let alone wrestle with the concept of forgiveness.

So, my initial reaction to the latter quote is one of defiant, frustrated protest.

But then I reconsider my perspective on forgiveness when I look at it as something that someone does for themselves rather than something that is done for the wrongdoer.

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There is a quote which states “holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in your head”. While I see the logic in this quote, I don’t believe that it is entirely accurate. For example, if you are constantly thinking about the actions of someone and this is having a negative impact on your life (ie. you are angry, sad, or otherwise upset) then I would agree that this quote can accurately be applied to your situation. However, I can also see this from an alternative perspective.

For those of us who have received treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of a sexual trauma, you can probably speak to the treatment plan goals intended to help individuals reclaim their lives. For example, in my own treatment, the main goal is to help me move on from intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and thoughts of my abuser which have been causing me tremendous distress. The therapy that I am currently undergoing is intended to metaphorically evict my abuser from my mind so that he can no longer live rent free in my head.

Essentially, the therapy that I am undergoing is intended to have the same end goal that forgiveness supposedly achieves according to the above quote. But the intent of my therapy does not involve forgiveness. Forgiveness has never been my goal. I have no desire to forgive. I do not wish to think about the abuse or my abuser anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I will forgive my abuser. That does not mean that I am willing to allow him to have any role whatsoever in my life. From my perspective, forgiveness is entirely optional and my happiness is not contingent upon my ability to forgive the loser who robbed me of a normal, happy childhood.

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As if forgiveness wasn’t hard enough in and of itself, the concept becomes even more complicated when the individual whom you are forgiving (or not! Totally optional!!) does not offer an apology or any signs of remorse.

I suppose this goes back to the idea that forgiveness is more about you than it is about the other individual, but this certainly makes the already difficult task of forgiveness much more grueling. After all, why should you forgive someone who clearly does not believe that they have done something in need of forgiveness? I guess the answer to this really depends on whether or not you believe that forgiveness is essential to your ability to move on and be happy.

At this point, I’m a bit torn between the two arguments for and against forgiveness. While I can certainly see the value in it in some cases, I do not support the idea that it is 100% crucial to happiness or the insinuation that only those who forgive are strong.

Feel free to share your thoughts below!

xo

Ayla

 

 

I feel like a statistic

I feel like a statistic

Whenever I hear news stories or read articles about eating disorders the first sentence generally has something to do with the number of people in a given country suffering from an eating disorder in a year. While this may be true, by quantifying the illness as a mass issue it seems as though these statistics actually serve to minimize the suffering.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that eating disorders are common and that I am not unique in my illness; but it just seems as though talking about the disorders as a mass issue makes it seem like such a trivial problem right off the bat. I feel as though my suffering is being reduced to a number rather than being seen for what it really is: a serious illness. I feel as though I have been assigned a number, except I am not even worthy of my own number; I am only worthy of being recognized as one tiny insignificant part of a number.

My story is not seen as one of recovery and relapse, or as a struggle to overcome the demons of my childhood. My story is just a number.

I feel like a statistic.

Ayla

Great qualities that I see in YOU (my readers)

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When I started this blog I never imagined that it could become such a supportive, welcoming community. My blog began as a means of helping other people who were struggling but it quickly morphed into a way for others to help me as well.

There have been so many occasions when I’ve been going through a difficult time in my life and I’ve logged into my blog only to find an outpouring of support and kind words. For that, I am sincerely grateful. Many of you have given me a reason to smile on days when all I’ve wanted to do is cry. You’ve planted small seeds of hope in the dark caverns of my mind and been the rays of sunlight that encourage that hope to grow.

You, my readers, are such amazing, supportive, kind, sincere people. This post is my way of saying thank you for helping me through difficult moments. I want to help you realize the qualities that you may not see in yourselves so that I might return even a fraction of the kindness and support that you have shown me.

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You are KIND.

At times when I’ve felt shattered inside your kind words have been the glue that has pieced me back together.

You are SUPPORTIVE.

When I’ve struggled with feeling totally and completely alone in the world you’ve reminded me that there are people who care about me.

You are INSIGHTFUL.

When my perspective on the world is obstructed by my illnesses you’ve helped me see more clearly and think more optimistically about the challenges I’m facing.

You’re THOUGHTFUL.

You show how much you care through your thoughtful comments and expression of interest in what I have to say.

You LISTEN.

You don’t just try to mechanically spit out solutions to my problems; you read my posts, really listen to what I’m saying, and show your support by letting me know that you’ve been through similar situations and come out the other side stronger.

You are STRONG.

Because so many of you have shared your stories with me, I know for a fact that you’re strong. You’ve been through hell and lived to tell the tale.

You are PASSIONATE.

I follow many of your blogs so I’ve spent a lot of time reading your posts about the things that you care about. Your passion shines through in your words; never let that passion fade.

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There are so many qualities that I see in all of you; this list is by no means exhaustive. The list could go on forever! In the interest of keeping this post within a reasonable length, I want to finish off here. Please know that I read each and every one of your comments, even when I can’t bring myself to respond. It means so much to me that you’ve taken the time to not only read my posts, but send your support and kind words.

Thank you so so SO much!

Xo

Ayla

 

Getting through the day

The sound of an acoustic guitar playing a familiar song is one of the most calming experiences for me. Today, this cover of one of my childhood favorites helped me calm down when nothing else could bringing me out of my mental hell.

Music is one of my coping techniques for when I’m feeling really intense emotions or urges to engage in “maladaptive” behaviors (in the words of my psychologist…). When I’m feeling numb, I listen to music that will help me release the pent up emotions that I’m feeling. When I’m feeling overwhelmingly sad or angry or out of control like I was today, I listen to soothing music like this song.

I’m not sure if anyone else finds music to be an effective coping mechanism, but I hope this helps someone else in the same way that it helped me today.

xo

Ayla

4 Reasons to love ‘me time’

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This post may not be totally unexpected coming from an introvert, but even if you’re the most extroverted person in the world ‘me time’ is still important! Here’s why!

‘Me time’ gives you some time for self-discovery

While spending time with others can be a great way to learn new things about yourself, one of the best ways to discover who you are as a person is to spend some time by yourself. This time alone helps you figure out what you enjoy doing for yourself, not because all of your friends enjoy it. Maybe you’re a book work and you just haven’t given yourself the chance to discover it yet!

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‘Me Time’ is the perfect chance to do some self-reflectionwoman_reflecting

Self-reflection is essential to self-improvement and personal success. How can you possibly expect yourself to learn from your past decisions if you never take the time to reflect on them? ‘Me time’ gives you a chance to do this which can in turn help you become a better, mentally healthier person. This is especially true if you’re struggling with something right now. Self-reflection can help you sort through difficult situations and make solution-focused changes to your life.

Sometimes you need to take a break from the rest of the world

Do you e50-ways-to-take-a-break-715x881ver feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? I know I do. For me, this is usually a signal that I need to take a step back from the stresses of life and take a break, even if that just means taking an hour our of my day to watch TV. You don’t need to completely change your life to make strides towards feeling better emotionally. Sometimes small changes are all you need!

‘Me time’ gives you an opportunity to pursue your passions

We’re all different; we all have those parts of ourselves that are passionate about one thing or another. Whether your passion is writing, singing, dancing, running, music or any number of other things, we all have something that ignites that spark within. Finding that passion within yourself can be essential to your happiness, especially if you’re struggling with a mental illness such as depression.

‘Me time’ gives you the chance to find your passion and explore it. Do what makes you happy! Give yourself time to do those things that give you a reason to smile and drag yourself out of bed in the morning.

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I hope these points inspire you to give ‘me time’ a shot! I know it can seem like such an elusive concept if you’re living an extremely busy life; however, you might be pleasantly surprised by just how much your happiness could improve if you spend a bit more time alone with yourself.

Does anyone else enjoy spending time alone with their own thoughts and hobbies? What are your experiences about the impact of ‘me time’ on your life in general? Let me know in the comments!

xo

Ayla

 

When life throws you something tough, say “try me” not “why me?”

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One thing that I’ve learned in over two decades of existence is that everyone goes through tough times at one point or another. Some people go through more than others, but everyone has a story. Everyone has been through something. Nobody is exempt from the shit storm that life throws around sometimes. But I’ve also learned that your approach to these tough times can really change your ability to adapt to unpleasant situations.

For example, if you take the approach of “why me” (which is totally natural!!) you are inadvertently making it harder for yourself to deal with the situations. Taking pity on yourself does not change anything, it just means you’re going to be dwelling on the negatives for a longer time frame than you would if you took an alternative approach.

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So what is the alternative? Instead of saying “why me”, why not say “try me”? This approach still allows you to recognize the fact that you’re in a tough situation, but it also lets you focus on how you’re going to overcome the challenge. The emphasis of this approach is solution-focused rather than self-deprecating. The “try me” approach holds so much more power and self-confidence. This approach embraces your strength and is self-assured in your own problem solving skills and adaptability.

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Now, I know this is easier said than done. I don’t expect anyone to make this change happen overnight. Certainly, just as changing your ways of thinking about anything else is difficult to change, it will be challenging to make this change to your problem solving approach. This is a slow process which will incorporate aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy. You have to catch yourself in the act of thinking “why me” and force yourself to think “try me” instead.  In the beginning, this will be a conscious effort and it will likely feel fake. However, just like any other skill in life, you will get better and better at solution-focused thinking the more you practice it. Eventually, this will become your automatic reaction rather than immediately going to the “why me” thought patterns.

This is something that I am currently trying to work on for myself. I’m really trying to become a more positive and self-sufficient person which would be a lot easier if I didn’t catastrophize every little bump in the road! So now I’m giving this “try me” approach a shot. The last week has been rough, but I’ll get through this. I am determined to overcome this and reclaim my life. I’m going to kick this PTSD to the curb!

I got this.

Xo

Ayla

Rape Joke Slam Poem

As someone who has an interest in poetry, it was only a matter of time before I would look specifically for poetry written about topics related to my own struggles. I’ve come across this particular slam poem many times and the impact that it has on me never seems to wither. These girls convey such a powerful message about the impact of trauma on the psychological health of a victim, but they also address the overarching issues that exist within society. If you have ever experienced a sexual trauma, I would definitely suggest watching this video. It just might help you feel empowered.

xo

Ayla

“But you’re beautiful on the inside…”

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Often times, things can be said with the intention of making someone feel better while actually making the person feel worse. One such instance of this that I’ve noticed is the tendency for people to tell larger girls and women that it’s their inner beauty that counts, not outer beauty.

While I agree with the sentiment that inner beauty is important, I have a problem with the suggestion that outer beauty cannot exist in anyone who is anything but thin. The latter example suggests that girls who do not fit in the category of “thin” cannot be beautiful on both the inside AND the outside.

I’ve seen this sentiment reflected in the advice of parents, teachers, and friends, all of whom are saying such things with the intention of being supportive. While I can appreciate the intention of their words, I think it is important to recognize that the intention of the message is not necessarily as important as the message that is being received–at least not in this case.

Throughout the course of my eating disorder I have been both heavier set and thin–and everything in between. As a result, I have witnessed a trend in which people tend to compliment my “inner beauty” more so when I am not “thin” by societal standards. However, as my weight decreases, there is an inverse reaction in terms of the number of compliments I get about my outward appearance. People start to make note of my shrinking waist line as if the number of inches around my hips is directly correlated with my outer beauty.

We are socialized to believe that thin is beautiful in a way that nothing else can be. But don’t you worry, because we can always fall back on inner beauty if we don’t fit into this societal ideal. So, when you put it into perspective, aren’t we still unintentionally placing a higher value on outer beauty? Doesn’t inner beauty seem to be the runner up? Outer beauty is the metaphorical pageant queen while inner beauty is the 2nd place contender that everyone forgets about when placed next to the first place winner.

It seems so messed up. In a world in which nobody can ever feel accepted by a hyper-critical society, wouldn’t we rather be beautiful on the inside? Wouldn’t we rather be kind-hearted, generous, loving, supportive, empathetic, and compassionate? Why does outer beauty always come first?

One of the things that I’ve recently realized that I’ve lost to my eating disorder is my passion and outward expression of love. I feel miserable a lot of the time and I’ve pulled away from the people who care about me. I’ve lost a spark of inner beauty in my pursuit of the ever-elusive outer beauty. I’ve lost self-acceptance in favor of vanity and suffering. I’ve lost self-love in favor of self-hate and self-ridicule. It seems crazy to think that I would sacrifice so much just to achieve outer beauty when I know deep down inside of me that no matter how much weight I lose I will never be beautiful enough for society.

I think it’s time to reclaim the inner beauty that I’ve lost to this disease. I hope one day I can look back on this blog post and congratulate myself on defeating the monster inside of head.

xo

Ayla

Reasons to LOVE going to therapy

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This post is for anyone who is thinking about going to therapy but has some fears or reservations that are holding them back from making that potentially life changing appointment. For those of you who have been reading my posts for a while, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of going to therapy. I have a very trusting relationship with my therapist which is something that I’ve had a hard time developing with other people in my life. So here is a list of reasons for you to love therapy just as much as I do!

Something that sounds totally crazy to your family and friends is completely normal to your therapist

There have been hundreds of times that I’ve said “this is going to sound totally crazy, but…” to my therapist and she just nods and tells me that she  can understand why I would think that but in fact, it is far from crazy. The fact of the matter is that therapists are trained to deal with situations that the average person would probably not understand. So when I am talking about my anxiety to my family they find it impossible to understand; yet, my therapist just seems to get it. When you’re struggling, having someone who understands you is often the best feeling in the world.

Your therapist will hold you accountable

One of the hardest struggles for me in the past and continuing into today is expressing my feelings just as they are. I always seem to hide behind a mask of happiness—and that’s exactly how we refer to it in therapy: I’m wearing my mask.

Most of the time I feel comfortable taking the mask off in therapy; however, when it comes to talking about really painful things in the past, I often put on my mask and shut out the emotions. Or I try to…until my therapist gently reminds me that I’m in a safe space and I don’t need to have the mask on. Sometimes she will call me on it when I don’t even realize I’ve put it on. It’s so automatic. So having someone there who can gently remind me that it’s okay to feel my emotions is great!

Sometimes all you need is someone who will listen

There have been so many times when I’ve been going through a tough time and I’ve reached out to friends only to receive a noncommittal, half-assed attempt at empathy. While I appreciate the fact that they at least tried to listen, it often comes across as uncompassionate and leaves me feeling as though I’ve bored them or annoyed them with my issues. This in turn leaves me feeling like a burden to those around me which causes me to put on my trusty happiness mask!

Talking to a therapist is pretty much the exact opposite of the latter experience. They listen, they acknowledge your struggle, they support your feelings, and they help you talk through your troubles. Therapists are excellent listeners and sometimes that is the best way to feel better about your situation. Having someone listen to you non-judgmentally allows you to feel as though your feelings are valid, which is something you might not get from friends and family.

Therapists are objective and non-judgmental

One of the biggest reasons why I feel the need to hide my struggles from those around me is because I fear judgement. Mental illness is often stigmatized and sufferers are often oppressed which leaves me with an unwillingness to share my experiences. But a good therapist will be open-minded and will not judge you for the things you say. Your therapist’s office should be a place for you to feel safe and free to express whatever emotions or thoughts you want to. You don’t have to hold back.

Your therapist will remind you of how far you’ve come

When you’re stuck in a rut or feel like you aren’t progressing as fast as you should be, your therapist can be there for you to remind you how far you’ve come. There will be bumps along the way—recovery is a process after all—but your therapist will help you see the bigger picture. Rather than focusing on every little slip up or step backwards, your therapist will help you appreciate these small interferences for what they are—small and temporary.

Your therapist will celebrate your small victories with you

I distinctly remember an exercise that I went through with my therapist which involved eating one single raisin. I have anxiety about eating in front of others, as well as anxiety about eating food in general due to my eating disorder. It took be 5 weeks to eat the raisin. We spent session after session talking about my anxiety and it took many many many failed attempts before I was finally able to eat the damn raisin. By the time I finally decided to eat the raisin I felt silly—why did I have so much anxiety about something that other people wouldn’t even think twice about? I was so stuck on the failures and the fact that it took so long to make progress that I didn’t even realize that I had made progress! But my therapist was right there with me to remind me of the challenge that I had just overcome. I had eaten the raisin and lived to tell the tale!

Therapy will help you become a better, happier you

There are so many reasons to love going to therapy, but one of the most important reasons is the fact that it can help you improve yourself and become happier overall. Talking through your struggles and facing issues head on is one of the main reasons that people go to therapy. While this can be really hard and leave you mentally and emotionally exhausted, the payoff is worth it if it means you can be happier and healthier in the long run.

I believe that therapy has the potential to not only change lives, but save lives. You should never have to live your life feeling as though every single day is an unbearable challenge. Therapy can help you live a happier life. I know from my own experience that going to therapy has made a world of difference in terms of my quality of life and self-acceptance.

If anyone has any other reasons to love therapy, or any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

Xo

Ayla

10 Reasons to fall in love with reading

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  1. You get to live thousands of lives.

I know it might sound a bit cliché, but in all honesty I feel like I’ve lived so many different lives through the characters of novels that I have read. You get to learn so much about so many different ways of life!

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” —Joyce Carol Oates

  1. You’ll become smarter!

Reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary and therefore, a great way to become smarter…or at least you’ll sound smarter!

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3.     You’ll become more aware of other cultures.

Reading allows you to experience the lives of other people without having actually gone through those experiences yourself. It is a great way to learn about the vast number of cultures in the world which can really help you avoid acting ethnocentric. You start to realize that your culture’s way of doing things is not the only way!

4.     You’ll learn to understand the struggles of others.

As most of my readers will probably already know, I am a huge mental health advocate. As such, I believe that reading can be a powerful tool for helping individuals understand mental illness by allowing readers to get a glimpse into the mind of someone with a mental illness. Whether it is an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation, schizophrenia, or any other mental health issue, books can be a great source for information about the struggles of others.

5.     Reading will help you manage your stress and anxiety.

Often the best way to manage stress and anxiety is to remove yourself from the triggers. What better way is there to do that than to launch yourself into someone else’s world for a while and walk in their shoes? Reading can be a great distraction from difficult times in your own life because it essentially allows your mind to become lost in someone else’s world where your own troubles do not exist. This is one of my favorite parts about reading; it’s a great coping skill!

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.” — Fernando Pessoa

6.     Reading is a great way to pass the time.

Feeling bored? Why not pick up a good book and settle in for a nice afternoon or evening of reading? Books are great for so many things; the alleviation of boredom is just one among many great reasons to read!

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7.     Books are a great conversation starter.

We’ve all been there: we meet someone new but we’re at a loss for words. Awkward silence is uncomfortable to say the least. One great way to avoid this discomfort is to read up on some of the best sellers of the year (or of all time if you’re into the oldies) and get the conversation ball rolling. Even if the other individual hasn’t read the same books as you it can always be a great ice breaker to get the conversation going. Who knows what you could learn about someone else if only you bring up the topic of a good book that you recently read!

  1.    Reading releases pent up emotion.

This one may not be for everyone, but in my case I tend to hold back a lot of negative emotions rather than expressing them. However, when I read a sad book or a book that elicits another ‘negative’ emotion such as anger, it helps me to release my own anger, sadness, etc. This is just one more example of why reading is a great coping skill!

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9.     Reading can help strengthen your sense of ethics and morality.

If you’ve read any good novels lately, you’ll probably be aware that stories most often have a climax or a problem that must be solved. Reading books allows us to explore issues that we may not otherwise experience which can help us come to an understanding of ethics. Books can be great for providing us with insights about ethical dilemmas and often instigate self-reflective moments where you might wonder what you would do in a similar situation.

10.     Reading can give you some perspective on your own issues.

Often when people are going through a tough time they tend to believe that their issues are monumental and that others have life so easy. This is a common—and totally normal—response which tends to involve a lot of self-pity. However, reading about the struggles of others can really help to open your eyes about the heartbreaking and life altering issues that other people are going through. This in turn can help us recognize that we are not alone in our struggles and that there is hope for a brighter future.

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” — W. Somerset Maugham

“We read to know that we are not alone.” —William Nicholson