I’m Breaking Up With You

 

The following post was written by a courageous woman.  With bravery, she describes a monumental part of her journey while recovering from an eating disorder.

 

 

I’m Breaking Up With You

 

We broke up last night.  It had been a long time coming.  I knew from the moment I placed your shiny red body into my shopping cart at Wal-Mart that you were a bad idea.  You seduced me, telling me you would make me happy and motivate me to lose the last of the baby weight.  Had I known that I would fall under your spell, end up being controlled by you, and you would make not my life, but the life of my family a living hell for the better part of a year, I might have left you on the shelf.  But alas I am a girl and we’re attracted to shiny things so you stayed in the cart and that’s how our relationship began.

As soon as I brought you inside, I took you out of the box up to the bathroom and stepped on you, the numbers began flashing before settling on a depressing 148.5 lbs, 25 lbs above my pre-baby weight almost 6 months after I gave birth.  Obviously I wasn’t one of those women who lost weight by breastfeeding.  I decided I needed to step up my game and started paying attention to what I ate and working out.  3 days later I stepped on you again, 148!  Yes!  You became a constant motivator, seeing the numbers on you go down felt like a major accomplishment.  Until one day I stepped on you and the number didn’t go down, in fact it went up .5 lbs.  What did I do wrong?  Why weren’t you my friend anymore?  I skipped dinner that night and threw in an extra workout, determined to not only lose that .5 of a lb but another 2 pounds by the end of the week.

Soon you became an addiction; I was stepping on you multiple times a day to make sure that you never moved.  Whatever number you presented to me in the morning determined how much I was going to work out, what I was going to eat and what kind of mood I’d be in.  Like a fly caught in a spider’s web I was unable to escape you.  You controlled me.

Four months after I started therapy for my eating disorder, I started relying on you less and less.  I went from weighing myself multiple times a day to once or twice a week.  Every time I would step on you I got butterflies in my stomach and would mutter to myself please don’t go up, and you would reward me with the same number for months.

I ended up forgetting about you hiding under my bed for weeks, and one day I saw your shiny red body peek out and decided I should just reassure myself that I could eat and not gain weight.  I guess you’re mad at me because I neglected you under my bed for so long because you showed me that I had gained 3 pounds!  3 pounds (I know to anyone reading this that 3 pounds really only makes a different in infants, sports weigh ins and very little else but when you’re recovering from an eating disorder 3 lbs feels like 100).  Not taking into account that I spend the week before with a bad case of P.M.S and ate 10.00 worth of candy from the Bulk Barn to myself and had started working out and could already see some muscle forming again, those 3 pounds felt like the end of the world.

This time though, I handled it differently.  I didn’t stop eating, I ate when I was hungry, I didn’t increase my work outs, and when I complained to my therapist about the 3 pounds, she said she couldn’t tell and I looked the same as the week before.  She then asked me if I noticed those 3 pounds and answering honestly I told her I couldn’t.  That moment was the first time breaking up with you entered my mind.

I spent weeks go back and forth about getting rid of you.  I was scared if I let you go I would somehow end up gaining 100 pounds and not noticing.  You tempted my from under my bed on a daily basis, almost pleading with me to let you have control over me.  Finally I had had enough and realized I needed to let you go.

I wrapped you in tissue paper and put you in a gift bag and handed you to my husband.  He took you out of the bag, and asked why I was giving him a scale.  I corrected him that you were not just any scale; you were the scale that trigged my eating disorder relapse, and made our lives hell for the better part of the year.  Then I told him to smash you with his sledge hammer or run over you with his truck at work the next day.

I have no idea what my husband did with you, if he ran over you, smashed you with a hammer or threw you off the roof, all I know is you are no longer in my house and no longer have control over me.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I had kept you, just because I feel like I need some reassurance that my weight isn’t creeping up.  And then I remember all the horrible times we shared, that I am much more than a LED number on a red shiny scale and I’m a million times happier without you.

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25 Things My Eating Disorder Taught Me

 

The following post comes from a very brave individual whom I’ve had the honour of spending time with in the latter part of her therapeutic journey in recovering from an eating disorder.  I will always admire her courage, integrity, and willingness to persevere, even when through the moments of discomfort.  She wrote the following post and has given me permission to share it.  

Thank you for sharing. You are truly remarkable.

 

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25 Things My Eating Disorder Taught Me

I’ve spent 19 years of my life suffering from an eating disorder. I struggle to remember a time in my life when food, calories and feeling like I was I was never good enough wasn’t something that filled my thoughts. The day before I turned 30, I had a realization that this wasn’t the life that I wanted, and started therapy 2 weeks later. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past 6 months.

1. The best therapist is someone who’s actually understands the complexity of an eating disorder. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in therapy for my eating disorder. However this is the first time I’ve had a therapist that realizes it goes deeper than just a fear of food. I can say anything to her and she gets it. She knows exactly how I feel and how lonely, controlling and complex an eating disorder is. She never mentions my weight or what/how much I should eat. And with the focus off food and my weight I am able to deal with the underlying issues which aid in my recovery.

2. Admitting you need help is scary. Getting help is even scarier. The scariest conversation I ever had with my husband was telling him I had an eating disorder and needed help. Going to therapy and learning to let go of something I’ve lived with for 19 years and the only way I knew how to cope with life was terrifying. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

3. Curls are hot. I have spent years doing everything humanly possible to have straight hair. Growing up all the girls at school had straight hair and I wanted to be just like them. I stopped straightening my hair a few days ago and I love my curls. I feel much hotter and sexier than I did with straight hair. And if it wasn’t for my eating disorder and going through therapy I don’t think I would have ever had the confidence to wear my hair curly. Plus I’m sure my kids enjoy that it no longer takes me an hour every morning to get ready.

4. I don’t have to like everybody. I am a people pleaser. I hate conflict and wanted everyone to like me, and I felt I should like everyone back. However there are some people you are just never going to like, you can tolerate them when necessary but you will never like them. And that’s okay.

5. The only one who cares what you look like or how much you weigh is you. I can promise you that when you’re in a room full of people wondering if you look fat or if your outfit is okay, no one is even paying attention. And if you do encounter the one person who makes it her personal mission in life to put people down, just feel sorry for her. Because she isn’t happy with herself and wants to make you miserable too. But you’re better than that.

6. Know what works for you. When I first decided to try therapy, I called an eating disorder group that offered free treatment. I found out it was mostly group therapy and knowing myself and how competitive I was with my weight and wanted to be the skinniest person in the room, I knew that wasn’t going to help me. I ended up paying for my therapist but I know I would not be where I am in terms of my recovery if I had done group therapy.

7. Food isn’t scary. I remember when I first started therapy, she told me that there is a life when food doesn’t occupy every thought and it’s so freeing. I laughed to myself and thought she was full of shit. Guess what? I now eat 3 meals a day plus snacks and I look forward to meal time.

8. Eating does not equal weight gain. I eat; my weight is still the same as what it was 6 months ago. Who knew?

9. You need to get better for you. I started therapy to get better for everyone else. I realized how my eating disorder was affecting everyone in my life, my husband; my daughters and I never wanted either one of my girls to go through an eating disorder. I wasn’t doing it for me. It wasn’t until 4 months after I started that I finally felt ready to get better for me. And I’ve made more progress in the past 6 weeks than I did in those 4 months.

10. Lipstick isn’t scary. I have the kind of lips Kim Kardashian paid for. I spent my childhood being called Ronald McDonald lips. My teenage years were filled with sexual comments about my lips from hormone ridden teenage boys. I learned early not to draw any unnecessary attention to my lips. A few weeks ago I was at Sephora and tried some lipstick. It looked good, and I didn’t look like Ronald McDonald with red lips.

11. Working out is no longer about losing weight or looking good. I love how strong and accomplished I feel after a work out. If the scale changes numbers or my thighs get smaller great, if not it doesn’t matter because I still feel great.

12. I also no longer feel that I HAVE to workout. I’m not going to gain 100 lbs because I skipped a few workouts, the world won’t end. It’s not the key to my happiness.

13. No one cares what you look like in a bathing suit except you. It’s not the terrifying experience magazines make it out to be. I can put on a bathing suit, wear it in public and not think I’m the grossest thing in the world.

14. My husband knew a lot more than I thought he did. I used to feel that he wasn’t supportive because he never asked how things were going, or mentioned food or my weight. I thought he didn’t care. It turns out not mentioning those things were the best thing he could have done. He gave me what I needed the most and I didn’t even realize it, he let me figure out what I needed to do to get better and figure things out without jumping down my throat. I wish more people in my life took his approach.

15. Quality over quantity. I love shopping, I love deals. I am the type of person that will buy something even if I don’t like it because it’s a good deal and it might get worn once before it sits in my closest untouched. I spent New Year’s Day cleaning out my closet and getting rid of all those impulse purchases. My wardrobe is a lot smaller now but it’s filled with stuff I like. When I go shopping now I’m not looking for the cheapest thing on sale rack, I’m looking for things I will wear forever and the best quality I can afford.

16. I hate the stigma that comes with an eating disorder. When I tell people I have an eating disorder and am in treatment, there’s dead silence. No one knows what to say and the subject is quickly changed. It’s not viewed as a disease it’s viewed as a choice. If I had cancer no one would one would ever dream of thinking that was something I chose, and I would be told how brave and strong I am for going through treatment and everyone would voice their support. So why is it any different with an eating disorder? I didn’t wake up one day and decide hey I’m going to spend 19 years of my life fighting an eating disorder and being miserable. It is a real disease and I am brave and strong for going through treatment and I deserve support too.

17. I am lucky. I have two amazing girls, the ability to stay to home and raise my toddler while being home when my oldest gets home from school. I have an amazing husband who works his ass off so I’m able to do this. I have a nice house, car, clothes, great friends and family, and the greatest guy ever.

18. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, as long as you have one or two people that you know will have your back through everything that’s all you need.

19. Unconditional love. I’m not talking about the love you feel for your parents or child, I’m talking about the love where you know no matter what happens, no matter how tough things get that person will stick it out with you. I put my husband through hell. There were so many times I didn’t think that we would make it, my eating disorder clouded my judgement, was a constant voice in my head telling me that because he didn’t do this or this that he didn’t love me. And I would lash out at him, start fights and just be an overall miserable bitch to him. It would have been so easy for him to say I didn’t sign up for this shit and just leave but yet he’s still here, still tells me he loves me, still sleeps beside me, and still planning our future together. I know that no matter what I have him and that we can get through anything together. I am really lucky.

20. My body is pretty awesome. It’s not perfect, but after everything I’ve put it through, it still housed 2 beautiful, healthy girls for 9 months (or 10 but who’s counting?). Those 2 stretch marks that used to piss me off and make me sad every time I looked in the mirror? They’re a constant reminder of how amazing my body really is.

21. My husband prefers me with curves. And I have to agree with him, I wasn’t attractive when I was battling my eating disorder. Looking back at the few picture I have from that time, I looked sick and unhealthy. A few pounds and some food later, I’m back to looking healthy and(dare I say) attractive.

22. Recovery is not always easy.

23. Bad days are ok. I have days where I don’t think anything looks good, my ass is too big, I eat junk all day and that voice will pop back into my head telling me if I don’t eat I’ll feel better. But now I am strong enough to NOT listen to that voice and carrying on with my life. I’ve skipped meals, I’ve been super skinny, and that never made me feel better.

24. I am okay just the way I am. I am never going to always be the skinniest person in the room. I’m not always going to be the most friendly or outgoing. I won’t have straight shiny hair or perfect teeth or a 6 pack. I am not perfect and I am never going to be, but that’s ok.

25. Happiness is reading the same book to my toddler a hundred times a day, chasing my kids around the house, snuggles and stories before bedtime, laughing with my husband and cuddles in the middle of the night. There is no magic number on the scale or anything I can buy that would give me the same feeling.

 

I still have a ways to go in my recovery. I am no longer a person with an eating disorder; I am person recovering from an eating disorder. And some day I will be a person that’s recovered completely from an eating disorder..

Honestly I’m Not Lying

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As defined, self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.  It involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.

 

“Deception may give us what we want for the present, but it will always take it away in the end.”  ~Rachel Hawthorne

 

Humans are the masters of selfdeception

 

We lie to cover or deflect so many things, such as; social ideals, our most important life choices, future aspirations, relational happiness, addictive behaviours or strategies, etc.

 

Self deception often shows up in romantic relationships. At the core we lie because we don’t have enough strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that may follow. When we admit and own who we really are we have the opportunity to change.

 

Ever have an experience with a love interest where you know he/she is not being honest with you? Whether you have proof of this, or it is just based on instincts, you just have a knowing that not all the puzzle pieces are fitting together. In your gut, you do not trust it, but yet you try to convince yourself otherwise.  Rather than acknowledge this for what it is, we tend to lie to ourselves because we simply do not want to feel or experience the consequences that may result from both knowing and feeling the truth about a particular situation or person.  Self-deception keeps people in unhealthy situations and unhealthy relationships all the time.

 

 

Sigmund Freud first described lying through ego defence mechanisms.  Essentially these are strategies that protect our core sense of self  as a way to protect us from what is really true.  For example, “denial”. Denial is refusing to believe that something is true even though it is.

“I do not have a problem with alcohol” (even though I drink every day)

“I am not jealous when I hear other men are interested in my partner” (even though I secretly check her e-mail).

“Of course he is telling me the truth” (even though there are so many puzzle pieces that simply do not connect)

 

What we end up doing with denial is we rationalize. We know something does not make sense or feel right, but we try to rationalize and thus give it a new falsified meaning.

 

Self deception leads to an immense amount of pain and regret. To avoid being honest we often make choices that have painful consequences to ourselves and others.  For  example, we may use drugs, alcohol, eat, shop, gamble, lie, etc. Some people choose not to change, even when they are miserable, thereby deceiving themselves.

 

Looking back with regret, for some, can be painful because you cannot change the choices you made in the past.  What you can do, is either learn from them or not and thus continue to repeat the same pattern. When we do not take full responsibility for who we are, we hurt ourselves and everyone around us.

 

So, how do we start becoming more honest with ourselves and others?

 

The first step resides within awareness.  In many ways, we become our own personal observer.  For example, when what someone says does not match how they behave, or when what you are saying does not match how you are behaving – pause.  Wonder about why this is not matching up.  Why can you express one thing and act/behave in an entirely different way.  Why can he/she tell you how much they care about you in words, yet their actions seem so opposite.  When you become aware that you are thinking irrational thoughts – pause. Check in with yourself and ask “what does this say about me in this moment?” When you are feeling unresolved/unsettled about something or someone – pause.  Check in with yourself and ask “what does my response to this person or situation say about me?”  Being able to use the process of “pausing” and asking yourself some pretty important questions in the moment is critical in developing self awareness.

 

As we become more honest and aware we become more responsible for ourselves and can own our story.  This not only increases our awareness, but allows us to be more present with how we are feeling in a particular situation or with a particular person and make honest decisions based on this.

 

Although we cannot change or avoid all of the things we may encounter during our existence, what  are responsible for is our reactions or responses to all of them. We are responsible for ourselves. Period.

 

One of the best ways to confront our self-deception is through the use of Psychotherapy.  I am not saying this out of bias, I am saying this because countless amount of client work and experience proves this statement to be true.  It is probably one of the only relationships that you will have in your entire life that exists solely to benefit you.  If you find the right therapist that is suitable for you, you will be able to open up in a very new way, thus learning so much about yourself, but mostly – you can be honest.

 

The truth about therapy is that it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable with another person.  Confronting our self deception can be a life long journey, but a worthwhile one.

 

Choose to become more honest about the lies you choose to tell yourself.  Choose to live a more fulfilling life, because you only have one.  Choose to be a more honest liar because what’s scarier than something changing is everything staying the same.

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Behind The Mask

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I told another lie today

And I got through this day

No one saw through my games

I know the right words to say

Like “I don’t feel well,” “I ate before I came”

Then someone tells me how good I look

And for a moment, for a moment I am happy

But when I’m alone, no one hears me cry

I need you to know

I’m not through the night

Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light

I need you to know

That we’ll be OK

Together we can make it through another day

I don’t know the first time I felt unbeautiful

The day I chose not to eat

What I do know is how I’ve changed my life forever

I know I should know better

There are days when I’m OK

And for a moment, for a moment I find hope

But there are days when I’m not OK

And I need your help

So I’m letting go

I need you to know

I’m not through the night

Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light

I need you to know

That we’ll be OK

Together we can make it through another day

You should know you’re not on your own

These secrets are walls that keep us alone

I don’t know when but I know now

Together we’ll make it through somehow

(together we’ll make it through somehow)

If you are someone who has endured or is enduring an eating disorder, then the aforementioned lyrics from the song “Courage” by Superchick may resonate with you.  If you are someone who is on the outside of an eating disorder (perhaps a caregiver, partner, friend, etc.) then these lyrics give you a very small sense of what it may be like for someone who is struggling.

 

Living and experiencing life with an eating disorder is like living with an additional persona, but constantly. In many ways, I believe we all have a split off self.  Meaning, there is a part of us that we may keep disconnected as a way to protect.  Is this healthy? not over time, but in the moment it may feel necessary. Within the realm of an eating disorder, there is the constant inner dialogue that goes back and forth in one’s mind creating such inner turmoil and conflict.

 

“Should I eat this?”

“No, you should not eat at all”

“But, I am hungry”

“How can you be hungry, you ate yesterday”

“I did, you are right, but I am feeling hungry again now”

“There is no way you are feeling hungry again, all you ever do is eat!!”

“Ok, maybe you are right.  I do not deserve to eat. Maybe I will reward myself later or tomorrow”

 

Imagine this type of dialogue, but constantly.  It is an exhausting battle and can leave many people feeling really isolated, out of control, and empty.  Eating disorders fall under the realm of behavioural addictions.  While they are most prominent in women, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of men who are now suffering with eating disorders.  Eating disorders can be fatal, most commonly ending in cardiac arrest.  In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

 

Along with eating disorders, come many misconceptions.  The biggest misconceptions is that eating disorders are solely to do with food. This could not be farther from the truth. While manipulating food and the body may serve as a distraction from uncomfortable emotions and life experiences,  it is this reprieve that is enticing – as opposed to the goal of being skinny.  Food is part of the strategy – either over consumption or under consumption, but simply addressing the “food” as a way to recover is not the way to go. This would be similar to telling an alcoholic to simply not drink or to drink less. It simply does not work and takes far too much willpower which eventually runs out.  The other most common misconception about eating disorders is that you have to be severely underweight in order to have one.  This is also false.  While this is a component often associated with Anorexia Nervosa, it is not usually a component associated with Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder (BED), or EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

 

Eating disorders have often been referred to as “the disease of silence” and this is quite true.  Metaphorically, individuals with eating disorders are silently screaming.  If you are reading this and you are currently in the throws of an eating disorder or have recovered from one, you likely understand this completely.  In essence, you may be silently screaming for something, such as; love, connection, forgiveness, acceptance.   While you likely have your own subjective experience of what void you are looking to fill, it becomes much easier to rely on the eating disorder to fill the void as opposed to asking for the things that you  need. Perhaps you feel unworthy and thus undeserving of what you need and thus you retract and and secretly wish others would reach out and be able to see through this and offer you whatever it is that you are looking for.  Unfortunately, this does not always happen and so the vicious cycle continues.

 

Many individuals with eating disorders can hide it really well.  Several people often describe it to me as having a double life in many ways.  They are successful, driven, motivated, likeable, yet on the inside and behind closed doors they feel out of control, compulsive and often lonely.

 

Not long ago while doing an on screen interview on eating disorders and Pro-Ana websites, some controversy was stirred around my statement “these websites are both devastating, yet necessary”.  While I understand this may sound like a contradiction, it is absolutely true.  If I apply this to someone who identifies as an alcoholic, they would state that alcohol feels  necessary to them at times for their survival, yet the consequences are devastating.  The same applies to eating disorders.

 

There is so much shame infused that talking about it openly and freely can be terrifying. According to research, people with eating disorders often hold a low trust belief in others, have a hard time opening up and sharing personal information, and have an increased probability of loneliness. It takes immense safety and trust within a relationship to allow this individual to become vulnerable enough to share.

 

So, what role does an eating disorder play in ones life?

 

Imagine for a moment that the eating disorder is a mask which protects the individual from feeling their true feelings, thoughts, and ability to experience their true “self” on a deeper level. For many people, their eating disorder is their “crutch”. It becomes their way of coping and their sole companion.  For example, someone with an eating disorder who has a current life situation which feels out of control may cope through restrictive eating by drastically reducing their food intake, bingeing and purging, over-exercising, etc.  This may allow them to exercise control, thus regaining their sense of otherwise lack of control that they are feeling in the rest of their life.  You can compare this to substance abuse.  An individual may reach for alcohol or drugs as a way of escapism and numbing out.  This allows them to feel as though they are self-soothing through the temporary euphoria that they may experience, however, this false self eventually wears of, as does the associated falsified feeling attached.

In therapy, the goal is to work through the mask by getting to a place where one can experience their true feelings and embrace authenticity while dropping all defences and denial based strategies – which only serve to protect the eating disorder. When one accepts that the eating disorder is a metaphoric mask, which safe guards the individual from exposure to true feelings, thoughts, and ultimate experience of their real ‘self,’ then one can perhaps infer that this mask is synonymous and really is not their “real self” at all.  It becomes a process of individualization and creating a new identity outside of the eating disorder all the while embracing shame, developing healthier relationships, and getting to know their inner self.  There is also a process of thought separation that goes on whereby, one learns how to separate rational from irrational thought patterns and reframe them.  It sounds like a lot of work, but the truth is, it is about unravelling the the eating disordered voice and infusing the individuals voice.  At this point, letting go of the eating disorder does not seem so threatening, nor terrifying, but necessary.

 

Recovering from an eating disorder is scary, but so is staying exactly the same.  While it may not seem like it at times, there is hope.

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Moment of Change

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That moment when you know everything is about to change.

That moment when you feel both terrified and excited interchangeably.

That moment when you want to quit, but muster up the strength and courage to keep going.

That moment in which you choose to be vulnerable and embrace your fear.

That moment when you decide to be honest with yourself.

That moment when you are not afraid to fall…

 

We have all encountered moments in life where suddenly, without warning, everything changes.  Some change is completely unwanted.  For example, when we learn of an unexpected crisis or a encounter a sudden loss, we may not be ready or willing to embrace the impact this sudden loss (and change) will have on our life.  We may not be ready to just let go and/or accept the way in which our life has changed without warning. When the rug is suddenly pulled from beneath our feat, we are met with one of our biggest fears – the fear of uncertainty.  That being said, while uncertainty is something we fear, it is also one of our top human needs.  We both fear it, yet we need it.

 

On the other hand, there are other moments that arrive unannounced, which can also change our life in a big way.  These moments may bring with them excitement and a renewed sense of hope.  For example, this may be the moment when your child was born, or perhaps when you decided to go back to school.  This could be the moment when you knew what you were put on earth to do, or when you embarked on writing a book. This could be the moment when someone entered into your life unannounced and suddenly everything changed.  This could be the moment when you realized you were falling in love.  Of course, these things can also bring with them tremendous fear and uncertainty, but are they worth the risk?  Can you think of a moment or moments in your life when suddenly everything changed? Notice what is coming up for you now as you think about this.

 

Sometimes we think that monumental change is something that only happens over time, perhaps in a gradual progression. While this it sometimes true, it is not always the case.  There are times when profound and lasting change can happen in a moment.  It can be in a simple word, experience, or encounter.  It can be seconds long, yet something within you immediately shifts.  You feel different and in that moment everything changes. Perhaps you are feeling so strongly about something and moments later you feel quite the opposite. Perhaps you feel like you are on the right path and then all of a sudden something transpires which leaves you in a state of wondering.

 

In my practice I have seen how  love and connection can change a person.  I have experienced how a chance encounter with someone can greatly impact you in such an unexpected way.  Take the notion of falling in love as an example. The moment when you realize you are falling in love can can be the most exciting and terrifying moment of your life. It is often described to me as a “moment when everything changed”.  Falling in love with someone can be scary because it is completely out of your control.  It is unplanned and often enters your life unannounced.  So, what do you do?  Do you allow it in or block it from happening? I suppose this depends on several factors, such as: fear, safety, trust, past hurt, and the need for certainty. At the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants. If you simply allow yourself to be changed, you may experience some pretty phenomenal things.  Often embracing changes involves the process of letting go.

 

Letting go of all the past hurt you endured

Letting go of the notion that you are going to get hurt again.

Letting go of fear.

Letting go of the need for certainty and making room for a little uncertainty.

 

These can be difficult things to let go of because they are part of your experience. However, if we constantly live in the past, we leave no room for the present.  If we do not leave any room for the present we limit so many possibilities for our future.

 

In essence, we will all experience moments that change us in some way. Some of the best moments in our life come from doing that which scares us the most.

 

Perhaps, instead of being afraid of things changing, we should be more afraid that they continue to stay the same..

 

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Fear of Love

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This post is a follow-up to my last entry on fear.  It was stated that our top two emotions are fear and love and that we often end up fearing love.

Fear of love.  Let’s explore this.

Do we really fear love itself or do we fear that we will not be loved back?  I was watching a talk given by Nathaniel Branden, a Psychotherapist who is an expert in self-esteem and romantic love. He spoke a lot about the most common barriers to love, such as: fear that it won’t last and fear that you will not be loved back.  I will add to that by saying that there is often the fear of exposing yourself for who you are and that your flaws and imperfections will be revealed and possibly rejected, and also the fear of someone not being able to love you forever. Notice how all of those barriers to love incorporate fear?  In my last entry I made a statement at the end of the post “what you really want is on the other side of fear”.  Often, love itself is on the other side of fear.

Another barrier to love is that you may feel undeserving of it or even unlovable.  These two feelings can be very anxiety provoking and what do we do when we feel anxious? Well, we like to get rid of the very thing or feeling that is causing us anxiety and in this case, it would be the potential of love or love itself– all because we are afraid. We want it, but we fear it, so we avoid it.  It can be a vicious cycle, unless we find a way to break it, while being vulnerable by embracing the associated fear(s).

Eventually fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy and we may adopt a disposition to behave in self-destructive ways.  You may find yourself turning to self-destructive behaviours such as excessive drinking, gambling, drug use, overspending, self-harming, etc. What are some ways that you sabotage yourself when trying to avoid fear and/or potentially love? Thus potentially leaving you feeling unhappy or unfulfilled in some way.

Why do we regard unhappiness as normal? Why do we find so much familiarity in staying with something or someone that brings is so much unhappiness? Why do we spend days, months, years in unhappy relationships?  One answer: fear.

Love requires consciousness. When we are young, the emotional part of our brain overrides everything else. What we want most is love and connection. When something threatens our bond it can be terrifying to us and we end up feeling that our survival is threatened.  This is where some of the very first thoughts arise: I’m not good enough, I’m unlovable, I’m guilty, I’m flawed, What is wrong with me?

These thoughts, over time, start to feel like they are facts.  We tend to believe them and thus they keep us away from love and connection and potentially keep us in the wrong type of relationship. As a result, we often look to make up for love through other means, such as: achieving a special status, making more money, accumulation of things, mass consumption, power, etc.

One of the most common things that tends to happen at the onset of a relationship is the masks that we wear.  We wear masks as a result of fear.  The mask will attract the love object, but it will not keep it.  Imagine two people wearing masks and body armour laying in bed with one another trying to be in love.  Its not possible.

When we start off by wearing a mask, we attract someone to only a version of who we are –  perhaps what we deem as being the only appealing side of ourselves.  We expose only what we think is the loveable components of ourselves and nothing more. Wearing a mask all the time can be exhausting, so over time it may start to come off and suddenly you realize that the real you may not even be attracted to the person you were with while wearing the mask and vice versa.

You ever have those moments in the beginning stages of a relationship where the other person does or says something which leaves your feeling upset or let down in some way and yet you say absolutely nothing and brush it off.  Or, how about all of those times where you want to say more but you don’t.  You want to share more,  but you are afraid.  You want to tell that person how much you love hearing from them, but you don’t want to seem needy. Emotional connection is a vital component of love.  When we are willing to be vulnerable, we allow ourselves to connect.

Often, practicing love is the act of letting go.  It is having the courage to be who you really are while giving others the freedom to be who they really are as well.  It is connecting through imperfections and embracing vulnerability.

Right now in this moment, what is holding you back from love or perhaps achieving a deeper love and connection with someone? If you could reach inside of yourself and remove your fears around this how different do you think your life would be in this moment? Interesting how quickly this can change for someone who knows that they only have two months to live.  Suddenly the items on the bucket list are being checked off and they are doing all the things in which they once feared.  Why? Because they know their time is limited, so why not.  Why should it be any different for you? In essence, we don’t know when our time here is about to expire – but yet we spend some much of our lives wasting it.

What will you choose? Fear, or love?

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Fear: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

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Thinking a lot about fear, or rather, feeling a lot about fear.

Many people have been conditioned to believe that fear is very much the enemy. Perhaps you have been taught that being afraid means that you are weak. Its like the old saying “have no fear” because feeling fear would put you in a very vulnerable place.

Fear is present because the future is unknown. Guess what? It always will be. However, it is often not fear itself that hinders us, but rather our relationship with fear Fear is one of the most commonly expressed and experienced emotions, but how we respond to it – or don’t – gives us a lot of information about our relationship with it.

What do you do when you are afraid of something? How do you respond to fear? Avoid, distract, numb out? Or do you face it head on? What is your relationship with fear?

Think, for a moment, about the fear of joy and/or happiness.  Yes, let that sink in for a moment. Even writing that feels odd, but it is so common. Some people fear happiness and joy because they don’t feel they deserve it.  In my experience, I have come to learn that one of the most commonly feared emotions is joy (right next to love).

We fear joy because we fear losing it.

Just recently, someone said to me “I am always waiting for the ball to drop so I have stopped getting too happy about anything because if it does not work out I will not be too upset and if it does, then I will be pleasantly surprised”.  That in and of itself is the fear of joy and happiness accompanied with the fear of losing both. When we finally reach a point in our life where we are experiencing joy, our mind tends to automatically go to a place where we think about what it may be like without feeling joy. It is in this moment that we may do all sorts of things to shut the feeling off, rather than be with it. When we reject fear, it becomes fiercer and has a much bigger impact on us.  However, if we welcome it and embrace it, it can come with ease and its intensity is not nearly as strong.

In essence, we are all afraid. We fear so many things, such as;

Fear that you may not be secure enough

Fear that you may not be thin enough

Fear that you may not be successful enough

Fear that you may not be good enough

Fear that you may be alone

Fear that you may not be loved enough

Fear that you may not have enough

Fear that YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH

While one of the main emotions we experience is fear, the other one consists of love. It is interesting how the fear of love often results.

It was John Lennon who said “there are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.  When we are afraid, we pull back on life. When we are in love, we open to all life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.”

Many of you might be thinking “yeah right, the fear of love?”  It’s true. One of the things that people want the most (love and connection) is the one thing they end up rejecting the most. Many people have such a fear that they will be rejected or that they are unlovable in some way that they end up pushing it away in the process.

True loves leave us feeling vulnerable. To feel vulnerable means to feel fear.  Often people spend so much time putting on a mask in order to cover their real self. They are afraid of someone else not liking or even loving the real them and in turn they only offer a version of themselves.  When we get to a place where we are ready to allow ourselves to fall in love, we are taking a great risk because we become immersed in a place of being vulnerable. We are also allowing ourselves to embrace our fear.  I often hear “but it was so good in the beginning”.  I often ask, “yes, but were you authentically yourself in the beginning or a version of yourself”. The most authentic relationship that you can ever have is one which consists of you simply being you. With that in mind, think about the people in your life who really know you. Are there many? Who are they?

One of the greatest risks and joys is in allowing yourself to experience both love and fear. We are all afraid at times, but we are also incredibly brave.  Rather than focusing on what you have to lose by embracing what you are afraid of, think about what you will gain.  For example, if you are wanting to leave a relationship you are unhappy in, if you only think about what you may lose, you will never leave. If you allow yourself to think about what you have to gain, you will be able to make they move necessary for yourself. When you are focused on what you may lose, you are trying to play it safe.  You are afraid of making a mistake or having regrets.  You become shut down to the concept of taking a risk, even if this risk can bring about a chance for happiness.

Upon closing this post, I will leave you with a quote by Brene Brown:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 

Just remember, everything you want is on the other side of fear.

 

 

 

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Find Time to Make Time

 

A story told time and time again is “I don’t have enough time” or “I could not find the time to…….”  The issue here is simply in the verbiage.  If you are looking to “find time” you will never find it.

Time cannot be found.  Time simply is.

 

Time is present and we are present within it.  Have you ever slowed down enough to be with yourself in the moment? If so what happens?  This is very much a practice based in mindfulness, but such a healthy one.  When I am taking groups or individuals through guided relaxation or imagery and we take a couple minutes of silence to focus on our breath, one thing I often hear from people afterwards is “that was the longest minute of my life”.  So, when we don’t have enough time we complain about it and when we are present within time we complain about how slow time is passing.  What a contradiction.  If you have ever allowed yourself to be present and within a state of mindfulness you have probably noticed how much time seems to slow down when you focus on it with each passing second.  When you embrace the moment, you embrace yourself within the moment.

 

We live in a world where there is such a strong sense of scarcity in our culture.  We often here people talk about what they do not have enough of, instead of what they have.  Wake up in the morning and already you don’t have enough time, or clothes to wear, or money.  You may tell yourself that you are not skinny enough or fit enough. The concept of not “having enough” is ever growing, as is the desire to always have more.  The same goes for time.  You may tell yourself that you don’t have enough time to take time for yourself.  Or, you cannot find the time to go to the gym.  You are absolutely correct if this is your way of thinking as you will never find time.  Instead, you must make time.  We often give up on or lose out on things that may be important to us or even good for us because somehow they get moved around on the priority list.

 

I had someone say to me recently “I always feel like I am being fit in, like he is literally just finding time for me, booking me into a time slot”.  What an awful feeling to be on the receiving end of – to be fit in.  In essence, many people want to feel like they belong and that they are important.  Imagine, instead, making time for someone or something that is important to you.  What would that be like?  Imagine making time for yourself? What might you do with it?

 

The thing with time is that it is a limited resource.  It is one thing that we cannot simply buy more of on demand. It is also the one thing that we tend to give away so easily.  Can you think about the ways in which you are giving away your time day after day?

 

The following manifesto has been viewed over 65 million times by people all around the world of all walks of life.  The meaning behind every line is centered around the concept of not wasting your time.

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The point is, no matter how much you get done, there will always be more to do.  Imagine letting go of having to get everything done and focus instead on making time for achieving, experiencing, or feeling what is important to you.  Imagine you made time to be present and allowed yourself to embrace your surroundings.  Imagine you made time for that important person in your life or relationship you are looking to develop or grow.  Imagine you made time to re-connect to your self and got to know who you are on a deeper level.

 

If you find yourself complaining about not having enough time, then simply remind yourself that you will make time for what is really important to you. What’s even more important here is knowing what is important to you….

Emotional Avoidance: Denying The Truth, Denying Yourself

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Denying the truth is like looking out a window and seeing the rain falling and saying “it can’t be raining”.  Clearly it is indeed raining, so why say it isn’t?  Its more about not wanting to believe it’s true and feel what this may bring up for you.

According to recent psychological research (by David Barlow, Steven Hayes and others) one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance.  As defined, emotional avoidance refers to any action/behaviour that is put in place/utilized to prevent the occurrence or stop the feeling of an uncomfortable emotion, such as fear, sadness, shame, or happiness (yes, you read the right).

So what are some of the most common ways a person may try to avoid uncomfortable emotions? There are several, but some of the most common are; alcohol, food, drugs, eating disorders, shopping, gambling, sex, social media, self-harming, etc. 

We live in a society where numbing out is readily accessible. In many ways numbing out is idealized, but all that happens is you continue to be drawn away from yourself.  There are always ample distractions waiting for you, but at what price? There has been a lot of research done on the subject of emotional avoidance which has proven that conscious attempts to suppress and/or avoid thoughts and feelings will actually increase their intensity. Things like addictions, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc., can be a direct result of emotional avoidance.  For example, you feel bad so you reach for a substance. This equals temporary pain relief. This wears off, so you reach for another. Not so bad in the short term, but as the pattern continues to repeat, so does your automatic response to avoiding your emotions. The very thing you are using to avoid your emotions becomes the thing that ends up causing you more harm.  The more you avoid, the more the emotions tend to manifest themselves and will likely impact you in a really unhealthy way. While avoiding your emotions and what you may be feeling in the present moment may feel good (and I use that term lightly) temporarily, the end result is usually anything but good.

For example, let’s say you are fearful of being with your awareness that a particular relationship is unhealthy for you. Avoidance would be to keep yourself busy and focused on other things and not address the issues that are happening in the relationship. You may pour yourself into work, or start spending money unnecessarily, but both of these things will only provide temporary relief. In the end, the relationship is still unhealthy and you are still unhappy within it.

Imagine if you have a fear of public speaking. The emotion you are trying to avoid is the fear.  By avoiding the fear (fear of judgement, failure, or not being good enough), you are keeping yourself “safe” by not allowing yourself to experience the uncomfortable emotion, but you are also restricting yourself from the very thing that may allow you to grow.

Over time avoiding your emotions can leave you feeling imprisoned. Within this imprisonment, you may convince yourself that you are too scared or unwilling to make a change or take a risk.  Perhaps the concept of the unknown is too unbearable.  So what happens then?  You stay stuck while continuing to play out the same pattern day after day, wishing you were somewhere else, but too frightened to do anything about it.

The bottom line is, your thoughts, feelings and emotions go with you everywhere that you go.  You can not selectively avoid emotions.  When you avoid one emotion you avoid them all. Your feelings are a part of you, so while you may think you are doing yourself a favor by pouring yourself into countless distractions, you simply are not.

Emotional avoidance places great restrictions on how you live your life.  For example, if you are depressed you may start to isolate yourself in order to avoid situations that may leave you in a deeper state of depression.  The very thing you were trying to isolate yourself from may have been the very thing that allowed you to feel better.  Instead, you end up in a deeper state of depression.

When working with people I operate from the standpoint of our emotions being a form of information to us.  They provide us with raw data of what is really going on. What if you allowed your emotions to serve you in a healthier way and tried to embrace them, as opposed to avoiding them? Imagine how different your life could be.

A stage that my clients and I often arrive upon in therapy together is the idea of emotional acceptance.  Being able to identify what you are feeling and make sense of it.  A lot of progress comes from allowing yourself to sit with your feelings of discomfort while exploring them a little further.  This takes time, but has great potential. Emotional acceptance is a far better strategy than avoidance. By accepting or owing your emotions, you allow yourself to become aware of the actuality of your situation.  Once you start to own your emotions, you no longer have to push them away which allows you to learn more about it, why it is present in your life, and what you can do with it.

The interesting thing about all of this is that when you begin to accept an uncomfortable emotion, it will inevitably lose its power. To sum this up, I will leave you with this example. Imagine being caught in an undertow while swimming in the ocean.  If you panic, you may try to swim as hard as you can.  In essence you are swimming against the current and end up feeling even more fatigued and may even start to cramp up. As a result, you may be pulled under.  However, if instead you just allowed yourself to let go, the current would simply take you out to sea and eventually you can swim safely back to shore.  If you continue to push powerful emotions away, they will continue to work against you.  If you allow yourself to let go a little bit and embrace your emotions you open yourself up to such learning, personal growth, and freedom.

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Authenticity: Becoming Who You Really Are

 

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier.  The way it actually works is the reverse.  You must first be who your really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you really want.” – Margaret Young

But how do you go about doing this? Where do you start?  Both are really good questions, but the beginning point most definitely starts with embracing your authenticity, which often includes embracing your shame.

Brene Brown has described authenticity as:  a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  When I think about authenticity I think about the concept of being who you really are and exposing the real you.  It is about showing up and being seen.  It is allowing your “self” to be witnessed, not only by other people, but by yourself.  It is about embracing transparency, while allowing yourself whole self to be seen.

People every second of every day make choices based on what think is the safest, easiest, or most comfortable.  This often leads to complacency coupled with a constant search for happiness or contentment through other means (i.e. drugs, alcohol, sex, consumption, gambling, over eating, under eating, etc.).  We often do a great deal of storytelling.  One of the stories you may tell yourself is that it is simply too risky being authentic and going after what you really want because the unknown or end result of this can be terrifying.  What if it doesn’t work out? What if I regret this?  These are very plausible questions, but they are also stories based out of fear which then take you right back to the beginning of your ever-so-convincing story.  We become masters of having cyclical conversations with ourselves.  We can quickly convince ourselves that it probably just easier and/safer to continue doing what we are already doing. Perhaps this means staying in an unhealthy relationship, or an unsatisfying job.  Perhaps this means not having that difficult conversation with your mother that you have been wanting/needing to have, or telling someone how you really feel about them. Maybe you have repressed feelings that you really want to share with someone, but are too afraid of risking it and it then rubbing upon a fear of yours, such as rejection or judgment.   If being authentic were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? But, what if it is the only way to becoming who you really are and living the life you really want to live? Often what makes being authentic so difficult is the stories we tell ourselves, our past conditioning, our patterns, and our fears.   To be authentic, we have to be vulnerable and, for many people, being vulnerable is terrifying.

So why live an inauthentic life? We live in a society which makes it increasingly difficult to be ourselves.  There is always the latest and greatest image we need to strive for. We are told how to look, what to obtain, what to do, and in many ways, how to feel.  It all seems so easy, so why doesn’t it work?  Because these things and idealizations take us farther away from who we really are.  They add yet another mask that too will expire as soon as it runs its course and leaves us reaching for the next latest and greatest thing to obtain outside of ourselves.

In my work, I have come to see first hand that when you trade in our authenticity for things such as comfort, certainty, and safety, the following will often result: anxiety, eating disorders, uncontrollable anger, addictions, blame, resentment, depression and suicide – just to name a few.  Is this really a good pay off for being the person you think everyone else wants you to be?  Does this seem like a healthy way of living?  While these things may provide you with safety, certainty and a way to numb out, perhaps there is a healthier way of achieving the same?

I am recalling an exchange I had with someone not too long ago as I write this.  This person has at least three different lives going on.  He describes himself as a completely different person at work, at home with his partner and kids, and then with his friends.  Here is part of our exchange:

“What would it be like if you were simply “you” in all three areas of your life, instead of three different versions of you?”  I asked.

There was a long pause.

“It would be the biggest relief of my life” he said.

“So, what’s stopping you?” I asked.

“I may end up entirely alone”, he said.

This is often the fear.  If we are truly who we are will people still like us? Will they abandon us?  Will we be rejected? Well, every time we are anyone other than our self, we are in essence rejecting our self.

Imagine allowing yourself to truly wake up instead of living a life that is composed of only various versions of you.  Imagine what this would be like? Sure, there may be some fear of the uncertainty surrounding this, but also allow yourself to feel what that may be like.  Imagine being out of that relationship you have been wanting to exit for a long time or that job that has been weighing you down.  Imagine having that talk with your mother that you have been putting off or picking up that new hobby that you keep putting off because you don’t think you would be good enough at it? When we begin to take a deeper look at our life and begin admitting the truth about ourselves and our relationships we will begin undergoing a powerful transformation.  Our daily interactions which were once infused with avoidance, numbing out, escapism, and disconnection will now begin to feel more real and will be based on truth which is completely grounded in our own reality.

I will conclude this post by saying that while I am aware of how terribly difficult being authentic and vulnerable can be, I am also so inspired by the people I encounter in my life who have done and/or continue to do the hard work. Those who continue to take risks.  Those who allow themselves to show up and be seen.  Those who allow themselves to fall when they need to.  Those who are courageous enough to say that being vulnerable is simply too difficult or not safe for them at this time. Those who start the ongoing process of embracing who they really are.  The process of being authentic is never finished.  It is ongoing.  This doesn’t mean that we must jump in head first, it just simply means that we start somewhere.  When we commence the process of digging a little deeper, bit by bit, we begin to foster a new connection with our “self” on a deeper level, let go of connections that are unhealthy, and risk embracing new connections.

 

 

 

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