Dealing with Despair

The last week has been rough. I’ve found myself stuck in my all too familiar self destructive cycle of hopelessness and despair. Each day consists of crying in bed questioning the point, and every night I go to sleep hoping not to wake. The self perpetuating cycle of my depression is a dark one, always waiting in the corner of my mind waiting to pounce and take over. And sadly it’s so easy to stay there and let the depression control me, rather than trying to break free. This is why it’s so important to choose recovery everyday and to continue choosing it until it is no longer a choose but rather your reality. I also know however, how easy it is to fall down and to get trapped in depression feeling like there is no way out, sometimes it can happen even when you least expect it, when there is nothing wrong at all. That’s when it’s usually the worst when your not only depressed but also racked with the guilt of knowing you have no reason to be, knowing there are so many others worse off. Yet it never changes that constant familiar undercurrent of miserable in your life, that constant sense of dread each morning knowing you have to face another day. Usually at least for me personally the phases of deep despair will always pass sometimes lasting days or something even weeks. But eventually  it always passes just like a storm and my mind begins to clear and allows me to see a world full of possibilities. Then sadly  more often than not this periods of hope and positivity is gone as soon as it arrives, and the despair returns.

There are so many recommendations of how to feel better and to do this, think that but no matter how much you know about what you should do to get out of ‘depression’ it doesn’t make it any easier. That sense of dread and despair is not something that you can think yourself out of, it’s something you need to feel and work through. Dealing with despair, at least for me is something I’ve had to teach myself to work through. It came to a point where it felt like I had read all the books, done all the things I was meant such as meditating, exercising, socialising, getting a hobby, eating well, reading books, listening to positive podcasts, journaling, doing yoga, making goals and being mindful but none of it worked. No matter what I did nothing stopped the despair, it always came back slowly but surely it always came back and I would find myself deep down the dark hole. I knew what I was meant to do to ‘get better’ but nothing changed the fact I just couldn’t seem to do it. When you are in that place trapped in the dark despair of your mind it taints your entire world, it makes nothing worthwhile, nothing is easy and it all just feels like too much.

Over time though my continual struggles with these all too familiar cycles of despair and hopelessness I have now developed a few tools that have helped. These tools are not a guarantee but over the years and with many experiments I have found them to be some of the most useful methods to help me with my depression and often to just get me through the day.  These are things that are easy and don’t require much physical or mental effort because for me personally doing anything on dark days can be a struggle. xx

These are my 5 tools to Deal with Despair:

  1. Get out of bed.
    It’s simple and effective. It sounds obvious but I often find when I’m at my darkest and there just doesn’t seem to be a point to get out of bed, that it is difficult and almost impossible to do. Often the things that feel the most difficult are the things you must do, so get out of bed and even if it is just so you move to the couch that is achievement enough.
  2. Sky gazing.
    Take a moment to look up into the sky, ideally the night sky and simply gaze at the stars or the clouds. Take that moment to just ponder the vastness and beauty of the sky, let yourself feel how small and insignificance you are in the universe. I have always found that taking a moment to feel my total insignificance and temporary status in this world to be an incredible perspective shifter for me when I feel totally lost and deep in depression. There is something above gazing up at the sky that provides me with such a sense of peace just contemplating the sky, space and time.
  3. Move.
    Everyone knows exercise is good for treating depression. This however doesn’t change to fact that often when you are deep in despair sure we might know exercise will make us feel better but doing it is an entirely different thing. So because I know this happens, I pay a membership to a Pilates studio and committee myself to Pilates classes 2-3 times. Having this accountability factor and something to get out of bed for regardless of whether it’s a good or bad day has made a huge difference for me. It means even when I have had one of my darkest days, if I go to a Pilates class then at least I know I’ve gotten out of bed and achieved something even if I do just go straight back to bed after. And yes I do always feel better after exercising. So committing to a class and giving yourself that accountability factor is a great way to force you out of your despair and at least give you a rest from your head for moment. If you don’t want to committee to paying a membership that at least commit yourself to walking outside for 5 minutes a day, go outside an move just for 5 minutes and trust me it will make a difference.
  4. Watch Comedy TV Shows.
    My personal favourites – Brooklyn99, Parks&Recreations, Workaholics and Little Britain…
    The recommend TV shows is because they are short and often the story line isn’t as important to follow. I find comedy movies usually too long and easy to lose interest in, whereas TV Shows are usually more consistently funny throughout an entire short episode. And if you don’t want to watch a TV Show try at least a funny YouTube video! Laughing is truly an incredible medicine as cliché as it sounds, you can’t possibly be stuck in your head when you are laughing. There is something so therapeutic about being able to just get out of your head for that moment and laugh and just be.
  5. Hand Hobbies.
    Recommendations – cross stitching/knitting, playing an instrument, painting/drawing, making something or baking.
    There is something about using your hands that helps get you out of your head for that moment and gives you the feeling that you are achieving something. I’ve never found reading a book or watching a movie to ever be very useful to help with my depression, however during my multiple hospital stays I took up cross stitching and I immediately noticed an improvement. Using my hands while I was stitching and the need to focus on the stitch count and pattern helped me get a break free from the incessant thoughts in my mind. It also gave me a sense of achievement whenever I finished a cross stitch and there is a real satisfaction in being able to physical hold something you made in your hands. Even on my darkest days now I still use cross stitching as an almost meditative way to help get out of my head when it get too much. Plus even if I spend all day in bed feeling sorry for myself at the end of the day I still get the small satisfaction of getting to hold that little piece of art in my hand, and it’s the small things like that that really make all the difference.

07

That ‘Fat Feeling’

I feel fat. It’s a common feeling you have almost daily in recovery and it never gets easier. When you have an eating disorder your reality is often controlled by how you feel. If you feel fat that means you are fat, so fat becomes your reality. It becomes impossible to distinguish between logical thoughts with eating disorder feelings. There are plenty of recovery resources that give lists of self care and distraction methods to help deal with the dreaded fat days, or should I say almost everyday however I never found any of them to help. How could I care for myself when I was so full of disgust and self loathing that no amount of distraction could help quiet the chaotic thoughts. What I have found to personal help me through my recovery is to realise that you are NOT your thoughts or feelings. In fact being able to observe and accept your thoughts and feelings is a crucial step in the recovery journey.

Often eating disorders are used as a control mechanism to help cope with the uncertainties of life. Through restriction I found peace, or so I initially thought. Anorexia provides a focus, a set of rules to live by and remove anxieties. Anorexia becomes a religion. It feels like the right thing until it becomes so very wrong. You will never be enough for your eating disorder. So stop trying to be.

What I’ve realised during my recovery is that you do not have to accept your thoughts or feelings as the truth. Instead recognise them, accept them merely as thoughts and feelings, then decide to respond. You see anorexia is in fact taking away your control. Take control of your life back and realise you have the choice on how you will respond to these thoughts and feelings. I started at first by simply taking a moment just to notice the thoughts and feelings I was having daily.

“You’ve already eaten too much today. You still need to exercise. You don’t need to eat that. Don’t worry you can just purge it. Just get the binge and purge session over with. You’ve definitely gained weight. You shouldn’t have eaten that. You need to eat less tomorrow. Go for another run. Just have half of it. That was too much you better purge it. You look disgusting. You don’t deserve to eat. You should be stronger. Your pathetic. Why are you such a failure. You can’t even starve correctly. Your too fat to be sick.”

This was and sometimes still is my daily talk, the constant stream of thoughts of my mind that never seems to rest. It’s exhausting but it no longer wins. I started getting better the moment I stopped trying to change my thoughts. There is nothing wrong with my thoughts, they are simply my thoughts but what I can change is how I respond to them. I was so tried of being sick, of being in and out of hospital with feeding tubes and still never feeling thin enough. I no longer had any control of my eating or my life and would go from starving for days to endless binging/purging episodes that always ended in tears. No treatment method seemed to help and I had almost accepted that maybe I was just beyond saving, I just wasn’t ‘strong’ enough to get better, this was just me. I had tried all the treatment protocols and read all the books but there was no moment of enlightenment or mindset shift. Throughout my endless research for ‘the cure’ one commonality I found was this concept of noticing your thoughts or as some call it mindfulness. My use of mindfulness in recovery has been through learning how to recognise my thoughts and feelings then not respond to them.

Initially it was just recognising my urges to binge or restrict, even though I would still respond with my eating disorder behaviours it was just that introduction to noticing those feelings as separate thing from myself. Then it was being able to listen and observe the eating disorder monologue that so often ran through my head. With this practice of separating myself from these thoughts and feelings I was able to view them objectively. Soon recognising urges lead to prolonging the urge to binge or eating something small instead of nothing.  I become more comfortable with just sitting and listening to the monologue of my mind screaming at me, demanding me to respond. I’m not going to lie, being in hospital during some of this time helped in this practice of recognising these strong feelings and not responding, instead learning how to just sit with them. I learnt over time how to sit with the uncomfortable and listen to the screaming until it faded out to simply whispers. Then one day I felt that all to familiar urge to binge, to just take advantage of being home alone, enjoy your last binge, just one last time it coaxed but instead of responding I just sat. I don’t know how long I sat there tears streaming down my eyes, legs hugged close, rocking back and forth but I didn’t move. I just listen to the thoughts, I felt the feelings and I didn’t respond, I didn’t binge. Slowly but surely the urge eventually subsided into silence. And I got to the end of that day exhausted but realised I hadn’t binged, I hadn’t listen to my thoughts or followed my feelings, I’d beaten my eating disorder just this once. It wasn’t easy in fact it was torturous but each new day I endured the thoughts without responding, until days turned into weeks and weeks into months.

After time I began to realise that by getting to actually choose how I wanted to respond to my thoughts and feelings I was actually gaining more control of my life than my eating disorder ever provided. Although some days my eating disorder felt easy, it even felt right I knew that choosing to react in an eating disorder way will only lead to two outcomes, hospital or a grave. Those are outcomes I’m not willing to sacrifice my life for and the possibilities it may hold. Choosing to eat that meal, finish that bite not purge that burger all lead to giving me a chance at recovery and at a future. Everyday day is a decision to recognise those thoughts and react accordingly in the right way not the eating disorder way. And sometimes I don’t win, sometimes it all gets too much and I skip a snack or run an extra kilometre, but at least I recognise that, I accept that and try not to let it happen again. They say practice makes perfect, which is wrong because there is no such thing as perfect. But practice can certainly make you stronger! Practicing recovery consistently everyday is what keeps you in recovery. And being in recovery means being alive and having the chance of a better future.rose_pink3

Start taking control of your eating disorder and stop letting it control you. Try these stepsto begin your own mindful recovery journey:

  1. Take notice of any thoughts and feelings you have during the day.
  2. Try to notice or analyse how you respond to these specific thoughts and feelings your having. Are you responding with an eating disorder behaviour?
  3. Once you have begun to recognise these thoughts and how you respond, start to ask why. Why do I respond like this? Do I have to respond like this? What am I achieving by responding like this? By asking why you are taking control of your thoughts!
  4. Practice prolonging your response to thoughts and feelings especially eating disorder related. You feel like binging, ok why do you feel like binging? What are you going to achieve by binging? What if you put off binging for another 10mins? What if you put it off for another hour? Learn how to sit with the feelings instead of reacting to them.
  5. Choose the right response. Take control of your thoughts and feelings and choose reactions that will help your recovery! You feel like binging, ok you feel like that because your bored. Instead your going to go for a walk or watch a movie and wait until the urge to pass, because it may take time but it will always pass.

Eventually the recovery response becomes your initial response rather than the eating disorder. The more you practice being mindful of your thoughts and feelings the more control you are providing yourself. You and only you has the control in deciding how you respond to a situation. Allow yourself the chance of a future in which you are in control by choosing recovery!! xx

Ps. If anyone is looking for support or just a friend please feel free to connect with me at any time! Just click the CONNECT link on my page.

Pss. Also if there are any particular topics, books absolutely anything you would like me to look into or write about please let me know!! I’d love any feedback or recommendations you may have.

Weight & Worth

Why do we equate our worth to our weight? Why do we let a number become the measure of a successful life? When you have an eating disorder weight feels like your entire world, everything and anything we do is done for our weight. Nothing is as important as weight feels. Our brains become hyperaware of how we feel and everything we feel is dictated by our weight. We have conditioned our brains over time to believe the eating disorder thoughts that tell us that weight gain equals failure and pain. Eating more will always equate to weight gain, that is the eating disorder rule. But is it? Is it really?

During the initially stages of my recovery eating more actually lead to me losing weight, even though it felt like I had gained weight. You see your brain has been conditioned to feel that increased food equals weight gain regardless of what the evidence shows. Logic holds no place in the world of an eating disorder. The body and mind are separate and often what the body needs is not what the brain wants. Food is fuel. What we don’t realise in recovery is that food is actually what helps us feel better, but our brain won’t let us believe that. An eating disorder thrives off control and this is totally lost when trying to recover. This is exactly why during recovery you have to continue pushing, continue challenging your eating disorder beliefs and behaviours so they no longer control you. Stop following your feelings and start following the facts.

The fact is that increased nutrition and a more balanced diet will help improve your energy levels, cognitive abilities, mood and overall health. You may or may not gain weight. More often than not you will naturally gain weight because often eating disorder suffers are under weight, but with that weight gain you will also get to gain your life back. Weight gain is irrelevant to recovery. Challenging your eating disorder beliefs and behaviours are essential. You are worth so much more than your eating disorder. So stop letting your eating disorder define you.

In fact stop thinking about weight all together. Weight is nothing but a measurement of mass NOT worth. In recovery we need to focus on moving forward, moving beyond a world of numbers about calories and weight. More often than not people are able to initially challenge these thoughts and they increase the food intake, decrease the exercise, potentially increase the weight and usually they feel a bit better. So then they stop. They stop at that point in recovery where it’s maintainable and feels attainable, they feel better so there is no need to keep going to keep challenging. It’s as though you come to a place of co-existences with your eating disorder. You are allowed to live your life and your eating disorder is allowed to stay. You eat enough but you still track calories, you eat enough but you still excessively exercise, you eat enough but only certain foods,  and you see your life becomes this thing of BUTS. You are recovered BUT you still have an eating disorder. You still have that familiar comfort that go to in case anything in life is to go wrong or gets too hard. But you see that’s not real recovery, being stuck in that maintainable but miserable in-between of recovery, that’s not living. You need to keep going, keep fighting and challenging even when it feels impossible.

Take a moment to think how much better your life actually is when you are not starving yourself, excessively exercising or binging and purging. Really think. When you are not totally consumed by your eating disorder habits you actually have some time to live a life. Yes during recovery it still feels miserable and uncomfortable and it is hard as hell but your life actually is better than before. It is better than when you spend all day obsessing over exactly how many calories to eat, what time to eat, when to exercise, how much exercise, should you binge or shouldn’t you, and if you do then should you purge. Every day is another day closer to it one day being too much, it’s almost like playing a game to see when your body gives up even when your mind keeps playing. Whereas when your in recovery there is at least less chance of you being admitted into hospital permanently and wasting more time of your precious life. You have the potential of a life when you are in recovery and that is an incredible achievement because you were strong enough to challenge your eating disorder beliefs and behaviours. So does it not make logical sense that even though you may be at a this maintainable point of recovery, where your not sick but not better, that IF you continue to challenge your eating disorder beliefs and behaviours and keep fighting that your life should also continue to improve?

Yes there is no guarantee that there is this amazing life out there for you. But if you look at the facts it is simple, if you don’t challenge your eating disorder if you don’t try to recover you will continue to get sicker maybe lose weight but no guarantee, until eventually you get sick enough that you either end up in hospital or dead. That is the only guaranteed outcome of your eating disorder. NOW if you try challenging those thoughts and rules of your eating disorder every single day when you choose recovery, then you are faced with endless possibilities. Because if you committee to recovery and everything that comes with it such as adequate nutrition, potential weight gain, minimal exercise, and constant challenging of thoughts and behaviour, THEN you have the chance of a life. A life out of hospital, you have a chance to be happy whatever that may mean for you and as you begin to slowly build yourself a life during recovery your eating disorder will slowly drift away. Your mind will no longer be consumed by food and weight concerns instead you will be thinking about living. Thinking about your friends, your job, your hobbies, traveling opportunities and more. By giving the uncertainty of recovery a chance you are giving yourself the certainty of living.

Do not settle for being some what recovered. Keep fighting, keep challenging those eating disorder thoughts and behaviours until you don’t have them at all. Until they are replaced with new beautiful beliefs of hope and possibility. Replace your eating disorder with your life. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. The only way to get better is to keep going because the alternative of being ‘sick’ again, restricting again, binging and purging again that all only leads to one result, no life and no possibility. You will never be enough for your eating disorder and that is NOT because you are not enough. You are ALWAYS enough. So stop letting your eating disorder tell you how to live your life because that is not living. Start challenging your eating disorder and keep challenging it until you start living! xx

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Not Giving Up Even When It Feels Like You Should

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Today was a day. And by day, I mean the kind of day where nothing goes right. This morning I realised I had run out of cashew butter for breakfast so I had to have almond butter instead, which just isn’t the same. Then I had an expo to attend and when we arrived I realised I had gone to the wrong location and then a job interview I was meant to be having this afternoon got cancelled because the interviewer was sick. So, to try and make the best of an already bad day I decided to make some more homemade cashew butter which seriously tastes like heaven in a spread. I decided to try something new and soaked my cashew nuts because its meant to help make them easier to digest, but continuing with the theme of my day… it turns out when you soak cashews and don’t let them dry for at least 24 hours, it doesn’t end well. At this point I realised I’d just wasted a whole bag of cashew nuts and had none left to make more, and I tried to save the mixture I really did but watery soaked cashew nuts just aren’t that saveable…

Trying to still stay positive I went and brought some more cashew nuts to start new and keep with an old recipe that I know works. I roasted the cashew nuts and took them out of the oven so excited to finally make this nut butter, only to accidently drop the tray and have the cashews go flying all over the floor. There are no words for how I felt in that moment. Now I know these are first world problems, but it that moment it just felt like the world was against me. But while I was down on my hands and knees picking up my sad little cashew nuts I realised I could either give up and take this as a sign I was just destined not to make cashew butter today, or I could tell the world to shove it and that I was making cashew butter today no matter what it takes.

So, I picked up those cashews put them in the food processor added some creamed coconut, vanilla and a pinch of salt and in a few minutes, I had mouth-watering roasted cashew butter. And damn it was good. As for the failed cashew butter, I ended up using it to make two batches of protein balls which actually didn’t taste too bad. It was then I realised that just because it feels like the worlds against you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push back. At the end of the day I got to go to my expo eventually, my job interview will be rescheduled, I made 2 batches of protein balls and I got my cashew butter in the end. It might not have been the smoothest day but you know what it was still a success.

Basically, what I’m saying is don’t ever let the world tell you what you can and can’t do. If you want it and you want it bad enough then go get it. Yeah you may not have the easiest journey to your destination but if you keep going you will make it in the end. The world wasn’t made equal and although it’s unfair that’s life, plus it’s the journey to the destination that makes it interesting anyway. Use those unfair moments in life to learn. Today I learnt a few simple things, to read event details more closely, not to soak cashews before making nut butter and to be more careful when taking hot trays out of the oven. Don’t let the world win every day because your so much stronger than that.

It’s the same for when in recovery, you need to keep going even though it feels so wrong, because nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Some days it will feel like the whole world is against you and you will want nothing more than to give up. But don’t let the world win , don’t give up, be better than that. Keep going, keep pushing until you win the war because you can do it, every single one of you can beat the world. And just take a moment to imagine how it will feel when you’ve done it, when you look back and realised you won. Plus, once you’ve beaten the world once then you will realise anything you want is possible. So, go out there and beat the world, BEAT the world until you win!
xx