Sunday, 25 October 2015

Am I fat enough to be body positive yet? Am I?!

(Yea, I swore I wasn't blogging anymore... But I lied, so shoot me.)
Body positivity. Loving the skin you’re in. It’s a really hot topic and has been for some time. Everyone deserves and is entitled to loving who they are and embracing their physical selves. As women, we grow up in a world where we are never thin enough, smart enough or pretty enough. By reclaiming this, we show that we are powerful. HOWEVER, I’ve been dabbling in the thought that the body positive movement, if you will, is also putting an awful lot of pressure on our young girls to always remain positive, feel pressure to accept themselves or perhaps stifle feelings they may or may not have about their physical bodies. It also, in a sense, still places an awful lot of importance on appearance. Loving your body for how it LOOKS. Remember, being overly concerned with weight and body type happens when they’re young. Elementary kids are dieting, and fear becoming fat over losing a limb. This is an issue, and fat shaming is an issue. Body shaming is an issue. You are never “enough” no matter what you look like. Remember that.

Real women are whoever and whatever they want to be, whether they are curvy, skinny, bony, chubby, tall, short, white, black… let women be women… But that isn’t the point about what I’m writing.

I’m writing because I’m pissed (what else is new?).

I feel like I’m in limbo within this whole body positive movement. Most of the time I feel as if I don’t belong. When I was “bigger” I was gung-ho about loving your body, being proud about who you were, and owning your shit like you were the queen of the world. When I was sick, frail, and a bag of bones, loving myself meant embracing weight gain, a new body, and welcoming my life back. On both extremes I was backed up one hundred and ten percent.

I look pretty fucking awesome now, I’m not going to lie. I’ve got a good strong body that has a little bit of “fluff” and enough curve to hide my skeleton. What’s wrong with that? At first glance, nothing… But since embracing my new life (my new body included) I feel as if I’ve been alienated from the body positive movement in a sense. As I scroll through Instagram I see photos that women post of themselves in their underwear, bikinis, or revealing clothing. Some may argue that they are objectifying themselves, but if you’re comfortable with who you are and you want to show it off, well then power too you. I’ve also noticed that those who get the most support from posting these photos are people recovering from eating disorders (which is awesome, keep it up. We’re all rooting for you. You are fantastic and beautiful), figure competitors/powerlifters (again, amazing dedication to something that brings you joy) and overweight women… Now… this is where my issue lies. These women are praised for “being brave” or “being inspiring” and challenging a taboo and stigma surrounding people who have extra body weight. This in and of itself is amazing, we need more of that. The issue I have is the romanticizing surrounding their bodies and the fact that it STILL reinforces a stigma that a fat woman who posts a photo of herself in her undies is not the norm and is not following the “rules” (trust me, I know them, I was fat once). Take someone with my body type for example… posting a photo of themselves in their underwear and claiming they’re embracing their curves and their jiggle? I feel as if that person wouldn’t be taken as seriously… I mean, what have they to embrace? They’re perfect as they are! They fit the societal view of what the masses deem to be beautiful… Why on EARTH do THEY need to preach body positivity?! I have experienced this, not just online, but in real life. "What do YOU need to worry about, you're so thin!" "I'd kill to be able to eat what you do!" "What do you care what you eat, you're so tiny!".

Fact of the matter is: You don’t know shit. You don’t know who a person is, what they have gone through and what they battle on a day to day basis. Our perceptions of  ourselves are often the worst… Yeah, we’re our own worst enemies, but can we just fucking stop with the body shaming? Can we let it drop? Can we let it be? I don’t care who you are or what you fucking look like. I don’t care whether or you weigh 95 pounds or 595 pounds. You’re sexy, smart, strong, and you are a mother fucking boss. We are all a part of this so called movement. I personally just want to see some good old fashioned support for all people who embark on the journey to self love. We are meant to build each other up, not break each other down. We are all a part of this, no matter how big or small we are.

I’m rambling on because this has bothered me for a while. I want to belong again, or at least feel like I do. So getting this off my chest is a start. I want to be an advocate again and join all those other body warriors kicking ass and taking names. Without these people, we’d be a hell of a lot worse off than we are already. So thank you for being you.

Friday, 4 September 2015

This doesn't mean I'm back

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve written anything like this. Looking back on these posts, I feel as if I am approaching blogging as a completely different person. I guess in a way I am. I have reached what I believe is recovery. I live a full life. I’m back in school doing something I am so goddamn passionate about I can’t seem to contain myself. I’ve moved to a new city. I have new friends, I continue to see old friends, I have future plans, and I know what I want to do with my life. I cook (a lot), write music, play my guitar, dance, exercise and eat. God, do I eat. I’ve been able to weigh myself without giving a shit about whatever number is reflected back at me. I am spontaneous, outgoing, and I’ve got tits again. I have a great relationship with fitness. I take time for me, and I’m selfish for all the right reasons. I love and am loved, and I truly believe I have made it past one of the worst possible things a human being can go through.

I am in school pursuing a career in holistic nutrition. Sometimes I find class difficult emotionally. As I learn exactly what happens to the body when it is not properly nourished I can’t help but want to tuck myself in bed, hold myself and apologize to my poor body for everything I put it through. When I am through with this program I am going to help others struggling with this demon. I’m going to finally write my story. I’m going to heal, and I’m going to spread a message of self love.

Looking at me, I doubt you could even tell I had been through an eating disorder. I know, I know, before you go off telling me you can’t diagnose somebody based on their looks think about it this way: when you see someone who’s genuinely happy, enjoying life, stuffing their face with vegan peanut butter cups and soy based gelato, laughing, singing, making jokes, looks genuinely healthy, has glowing skin, soft curves and full hair…  You wouldn’t necessarily think they spent years of their life poking and prodding, weighing, purging, hating. So based on that… looking at me, I doubt you could even tell I had been through an eating disorder. It’s a blessing and a curse. This is what I want to address so badly.

Recovery is awesome.

It fucking rocks my socks off.

It’s a hard road, but in the end it’s worth it.

There are hundreds of recovery stories out there. Usually it’s young women talking about how they starved, binged, purged, over exercised, contemplated suicide, abused drugs and alcohol and then eventually reached out and pulled themselves out of the black fucking hole that is ED when they were within inches of death. You see their photos, their progress. Skinny things with fuzzy hair growing all over their frail bodies. Brittle, cracking locks on top of their heads. Tired, sunken eyes. They look as if all of their limbs are made of concrete, awkward and heavy to carry around. Many people (myself included) cut all their hair off. They look like little boys. And then magically, one day, everything fell into place. They fought, tooth and nail, to make it out, to reclaim their lives. They tell their story. You feel their pain and think “holy shit, there’s no way anyone would choose this. Look how brave (s)he is”. You see their pictures, their recovery photos. Smiles. Bright eyes. Soft hair. You are left with hope that yes, you can beat this too.

And it ends.

I don’t see much of the aftermath of having reached recovery and living a recovered life. I like to call It “the fallout”. You look healthy, sure. That doesn’t mean the mind has caught up. That doesn’t mean that there are years and years of hard work still to come. All of the shit that ED left behind for you to heal.

Recovery isn’t always cupcakes and rainbows. It can really. Fucking. Suck.

There are days I wake up and I go straight to the bathroom mirror. I have curves now. I jiggle in all the right places. By the standards of many I am “thin, fit and attractive”. More often than not I see a hideous creature. I have no idea what I have become, how this happened. I grab my stomach fat, my womanly curves. I squeeze them and I hate them. I curse the “bra bulge” I have developed. Sometimes I don’t know who is looking back at me in the mirror.

Sure. We all have our days, right? That’s fine. I get over that shit pretty easily. But there are some things that you can’t ignore. It isn’t all mind games.

I am dealing with a lot of physical fall out. My periods have disappeared again, for one. It’s been the better part of a year. You might say “lucky bitch, you don’t have to deal with that every month!”. Let me tell you, it’s one thing to have a menstrual cycle and bitch about it, it’s another not to have one at all and not know why. You feel broken. Your period isn’t there because there’s something wrong with you inside. You feel like less of a woman, and it isn’t pleasant.

For the past ten months I have been dealing with a chronic daily migraine. It has been undiagnoseable. It used to send me to hospital several times a week. I’ve been on so many drugs I lost count. So many I gave up and stopped them all. Things have improved ten fold, but it’s still there, and it still gets bad. What is our best diagnosis? Which makes the most sense? A taxed immune, endocrine, and detoxification system so riddled by malnutrition and starvation that it has hoarded all of the toxins in my organs. Now that I’m a healthy weight, my body can finally detoxify. Migraine is one of the biggest detoxification symptoms. Yeah, it’ll go away… someday. But that isn’t the point. The point is that I feel like I fucked myself into this situation. I blame myself and feel like it’s my fault. The guilt comes back, and guess what? You can’t go numb and block everything out the way you used to. You can’t starve. You know it isn’t worth it. How do you deal? I’ve yet to figure this out.

The last straw happened on Wednesday. I visited the dentist. I had a tooth giving me some trouble, so I went in for a check up. I walked out of that office with the information that years of malnutrition has caused my teeth to begin to decay from the inside out. Thousands of dollars of work to be done (and to make things worse, I’m border line phobic of dentists). The work started today on the bottom right part of my mouth. In the end, it isn’t the fear, it isn’t the pain, it isn’t the money.

It’s ED.

My teeth. My teeth are his. My organ systems… they’re his. My reproductive organs, they’re his too.

I am a recovered individual. I live a life that is full, but today… this week… I can’t help but feel that my body belongs to ED. I put him behind me. We had a break up so epic Taylor Swift wrote a song about it… But here he is. ED is popping up in my life in all of these physical ways as if to say “don’t forget me. Don’t forget what you did. I am still here”.

So… yeah, recovery is worth it, but it doesn’t end when you gain your weight and can eat a cookie without crying yourself to sleep. You have to fucking work for this new life. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I am here. I am HAPPY… but I am tired. I hate that I can’t put it behind me for good, and I hate that I am fighting a brand new battle that has nothing to do with eating. I’m ready for it, I don’t have much of a choice, but I’m really ready for it to be over.

Recovery is a life long choice. It’s ten seconds of insanity that leads to a lifetime of beauty. It truly is a gift. You experience in a few years what many don’t even experience in a lifetime. You live, you learn. So yeah, keep fighting. Keep fighting and don’t you fucking stop. Just know that it isn’t over when you can fit into “normal people clothes”. It isn’t over when you can eat whatever you want and not exercise yourself to death because of it. It isn’t over when you stop counting calories or giving a shit about who is around when you treat yourself to that cappuccino and piece of cake on a Thursday afternoon. You have to be ready for the fallout.

I am a fighter. I survived. And I’m ready to keep surviving. I just needed a space. I needed to write. I needed to feel… because feeling is something you can’t really avoid. I made it, and I plan on continuing to do so. SO fuck you ED. Yeah, you’re still messing things up… but I don’t belong to you. I haven’t belonged to you in a very VERY long time.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Word Vomit (AKA The Update)

Wow, OK. So.

It's been since my birthday. I haven't had a bit of time to even sit down and think about blogging let alone do it! Usually when an update is due I think about it, and then I never get around to actually sitting down until everything has piled up so much I don't know where to begin.That has definitely not been the case. Since the NEDA workshop, since uploading my speech (which has gotten an overwhelming amount of page views, comments, shares... Thank you so much for your support), traveling and battling some inner demons, I have not had a spare minute! It's been go, go, go! A lot has happened. Adventures, experiences, another "Ah-ha" moment in my recovery. Tons. I guess I'll begin from the beginning.

February 8th -- Birthday Celebration
Because my actual birthday was jam packed with other engagements, I had neither the time nor the energy to properly celebrate. That's what Saturday was for! I've got to say, it was all pretty overwhelming when the moment came around to blow out the candles on the first guilt-free birthday cake I've had in years. But I'm getting ahead of myself... This day really was fantastic! I enjoyed a majorly awesome training session and got to spend the afternoon with my younger brother. He and I baked my birthday cake! Well... He baked it, I sort of watched. In the past I would not have been able to give all of that control to him. I would have to measure and mix everything, so I knew exactly how much of what was going in the cake. Not lately, and not that day. Matty and I made a banana coconut cake frosted with honey cream cheese icing! This cake was consumed devoured shortly after a gigantic roast beef dinner! Jess even got a chance to come over and share a piece of cake! I got flowers, a birthday balloon and presents! It truly was fantastic, and not just because of the cake.

This was the first time in many years that I felt OK with celebrating the fact that I am alive, that I have made it another year. I was very excited to share this celebration with the people in my life that I love most. I actually have no words that describe what I felt that day/evening. I was free to be me. Free to be Heather. To enjoy a day about me, to celebrate me, and to be excited for my future. No, ED was not invited.

This was truly a wonderful moment.

February 11-17 -- Trip to Saskatchewan
A few short days after my birthday celebrations, I was packing up and preparing for a week in the flat lands (courtesy of Mike, the not-so-mystery man in my life). Now, I have mentioned this trip on a number of occasions in past blog posts. As I have previously mentioned, there happened to be an awful lot riding on this trip. I had to throw away everything that made me feel "safe" within my recovery -- having a gym to go to regularly, being able to have moments to myself in case I was having an "ED" moment, routine, regular meals. It meant being flexible, eating on the road, going out, being open, and being brave. It also meant being "normal" for once. Of course, I have done things like this on a smaller scale... Thanksgiving, Christmas, the conference for Aboriginal Women Business Owners I attended in the fall... Each experience left me stronger and stronger. Why not tackle this trip with high hopes? I mean, Mike is great. He's supportive, and he's got my back. I'm strong. I'm capable.

I was freaking the fuck out.

The day before I left, it was as if all of my doubt came flooding over me at once. This was stupid. You seriously thought you were ready for this? You're going to get fat out there. You're going to hinder your progress in the gym. Mike isn't going to like you as much as he did in December, you wait. He's going to see how fluffy you've gotten since then. He will be disgusted, you're disgusting. 

That was just a tid-bit of what was going on in my head during that day. I was certainly having my doubts. Thanks to a few good no-nonsense supporters (namely my mama and my best lady bro), things were put into perspective. They wouldn't have been urging me to take this step if I wasn't ready for it. How would I ever really take the first humongous step in recovery that is travel if I don't do this? How will I ever be able to go abroad and see the world if I didn't at least try somewhere in Canada first? It looked like I was in for a ride, no matter which way things went. So, I was going whether I wanted to or not.

In short, I had an abso-fucking-lutely fantastic week away overall. I did have one day where I was feeling down, had difficulty eating, and was definitely plagued by some ED thoughts, but I worked through it, like I always do.My week away included some fun stuff such as:

  • Going out for dinner with, and meeting Mike's friends: I was overly impressed with how well I handled the stress of not only going out for dinner, but going out for dinner with seven other people! I got a "safe" meal that I was comfortable with (and ended up eating more when I got home). Most importantly I laughed, met some amazing people, and got away from the idea that this is a situation that I would normally struggle with a great deal. None of Mike's friends knew I had battled ED, so I kind of avoided that "pre-judgement" that I find comes with knowing a person you are with has had or is currently struggling with a mental illness. I don't know.. People "treat you different". I'm not going to get into it, but that's just my experience. I know it's just people trying to care and be sensitive for the most part.
  • Hanging out with Mike's roomate and her dogs: Mike lives with his two good friends who also happen to be a couple. While the fellas were at work, I was able to get to know Mike's female roomate. She's really great, sweet, kind, and was fantastic company! The two dogs were great to have around too (even though I was a choice target to be barked at in the middle of he night when I was on my way to the bathroom).
  • Training: There was a gym about a block away from where I was staying. Now, working out was NOT a priority for me that week, but it was nice to take a bit of time out of my day while Mike was at work in order to work out, get into my own little routine, and do something that made me feel good about me. I also bought some sick zebra print leggings while I was away, and let's face it, they needed to be shown off.
  • Cooking some lovely dinners: I was able to prepare a few great meals for Mike and myself. It made me feel so extremely good to share my love for cooking with someone who means a lot to me! I'm sure he wasn't complaining either, I made some pretty tasty stuff.
  • Valentine's Date: I hate Valentine's day for a myriad of reasons I am not going to explain because that needs a blog post all in itself. But V-Day was the day I was having a real tough time mentally. Either way, I got through that day as I get through all the other ones. We can't be on our A-Game all the time, and that's ok. But anyway, it was the 15th of February, and I was about to prepare dinner for Mike and I. He got home from work and informed me that we had reservations for dinner in Regina. Now. This freaked me out for a few reasons. 
    • I usually need a little while to mentally prepare myself for an outing such as this
    • I like to plan ahead, make an eating plan to fall back on
    • I'm not that spontaneous
  • It was at that point that I had to say "fuck it, and fuck ED" and jump in with two feet. I got ready, I didn't look at the menu ahead of time. I got to the restaurant (which happened to be a steak house. A house. Devoted to steak. I was in heaven). I ordered wine, shared an appetizer, and ate the most fantastic fucking meal I have ever had. Something about a 10 oz top sirloin steak, extra bloody, just makes a girl happy, yahknow? I couldn't finish the potato and veggies on my plate I was so stuffed, and I was a little disappointed I didn't have room for dessert, but it wasn't worth over eating and feeling sick. I had a chocolate bar when I got home, anyway (hehe). The main accomplishment here was that I was spontaneous, I took a chance, I ENJOYED myself, I enjoyed Mike, I enjoyed the FOOD, GOD DID I ENJOY THE FOOD. It didn't kill me. I didn't "get fat". I didn't fell guilty. I was proud. I was happy. I was full to bursting, and that's OK.

Myself and the Mama, before I left

Valentine's Date
Since making it home I've started work, and made some lifestyle changes that are really making a positive impact in my life. These changes include cutting my training time at the gym and eating bigger in order to sustain the massive gains I've been working toward! I celebrated four months without the scale and six months of eating on my own. I've also tried to include more "fun" into my continuing journey with food by trying as many new recipes as possible (So far, since February, I've tried 29 new recipes!). I'm not sure exactly how to put it, but going away has made me learn so much more about myself. I really have no excuses to fear a situation anymore. I mean, why not jump in with two feet? It isn't going to kill me.

 Over this past week, however, I was pretty sure this ongoing battle was going to kill me.

Another reason why I haven't been blogging is because I have been having a few struggles over the past little while. Yes, things went extremely well out West, yes, I learned a lot about myself, yes, I'm bringing it to the table when it comes to devoting my life to recovery. However, I guess ED was waiting to pull all the stops. Waiting for me to get tired, to show signs of weakness. I've felt fat, I've felt useless, I've felt pretty terrible. Saturday was the worst day. I was Anorexic that day. That's what I told the Mama. I had to set food alarms again. I hated what I saw in the mirrors. I had to force myself to brush my teeth, shower, interact with people. I had no desire to eat, took a panic attack and even sunk so low as to think "well, if you lost a few pounds here...". I realized very early on in the day that these feelings could lead me in one of two ways:

  1. Fight ED like the mother fucking she wolf that I am
  2. Relapse
I chose the former. I'm not a fan of dichotomous, black and white thinking, but at this point in time, it was necessary for survival. My brother seriously stepped up that day. He helped me eat, he did meal support, and he spent the evening trying to distract me. We watched Frozen, it was amazing. In the end I keep in mind how strong I was to fight a day like this -- a day that came out of no where. I never miss a meal or snack. Ever. I know how important eating is, and I don't want to mess this up. I lost so much to ED, I don't plan on losing any more.
A year can make a lot of difference

Four months without the scale

So where am I now? Still a little messed up, but strong enough to kick some ED ass. That's all that matters, isn't it?

Sorry I disappeared. I'm back now. Back and better than ever.