blogging, eating disorder, Fear

Feeling

I’m feeling so many things at the moment as my life prepares to shift dramatically again.

I’ve only got 2 weeks left of my maternity leave in Brighton before I go off on an adventure of a lifetime to Asia with my husband and my baby boy. And then after that I’m going to be returning to work full-time and my husband is going to take over the full-time care of my son.

I know these things are right for me – going abroad in search of new experiences as a family is sure to strengthen my family and it fills me with such excitement.

And going back to work and giving my husband time to bond with our son – time I’ve already had – is also so important and right for us as a family.

But I’m still feeling all shook up as the end (or the start of a new beginning) is upon us.

And it would be so easy to push down all the negative feelings with food in this moment, as I have so many times before. The anxiety, the fear, the feeling of wanting to freeze time, the frustration.

But I know that this doesn’t serve me at all.

It just buried the pain deep inside me. A pain I’ll have to feel at one time or another.

So I’m choosing to feel how I feel at 4am as my son plays next to me.

Sadness that our precious time together is coming to an end and that I’ll miss so many ‘firsts’ as I’m back in the office.

Frustration that so much of the next 2 weeks is jam-packed with plans when I just want to be in my baby cocoon and just be with my son.

Anxiety about the unknown – how we’ll cope with a jet-lagged baby (by taking things easy I suppose), whether my husband will cope with the constant haggling we’ll need to do abroad, how our time in Vietnam will work out.

These feelings are sad ones, hard ones, feelings that are due to projecting into the future and thinking ‘what if’ ‘what if’ ‘what if’. So they’re not feelings I can deal with by being proactive.

There are some things I can do –

Reduce the plans in my diary over the next 2 weeks.

Feel the anxiety, frustration and fear – these feelings sit in my stomach and on my chest like a weight.

Acknowledge that this is how I feel. Just getting it out there by sharing what’s going on with you, dear friend, is enough to reduce some of the urge to push down my feelings with food.

So I’ll keep feeling what I’m feeling. It’s the only way of being which doesn’t end with self-destruction.

blogging, courage, eating disorder, self-discovery, self-judgement

Leading lady

I had another great coaching session this afternoon and want to write about a concept that I explored with my coach, Erika – that of leading my life like I’m the leading lady in it.

Since I was younger, I’ve had the impression that (for the most part) I’ve been the side character in other people’s stories. I’ve listened, consoled, been part of things but have not been the central character in my own tale.

I’ve, of course, had moments, relationships and twists in my life where I’ve felt at the centre of my own universe. But for a great part I’ve felt like someone on the side lines.

If I’m honest, I think this is a large part of why I suffered with various eating disorders in my youth. Trying to push myself down to fit into a smaller space. Feeling like I should need less from others. Complying with what I felt was being asked of me even if it wasn’t something I had the energy for or if it was in my best interest.

I lived small.

But I’ve started to unfurl over the past years and I’ve realised that I’m sick of playing a minor character in my own story.

I want to be my own leading lady and I want to take some time to ask myself what this means.

It means recognising that I only have set resources, energy and time. Especially when I return to work in July. I’ll be split between my job (which I love), my son (who is my top priority) and everything else. I won’t have time and space to give away freely and even if I did, I want to live intentionally. Not saying ‘yes’ to everything, I want to choose what I spend my time doing.

It means allowing me to be myself. Embracing all that I am. The parts of me that are kind, funny, thoughtful, generous and interested in others. But the other less palatable parts of me – like how I feel like I’m stubborn and difficult instead of being easy-breasy. How I’m complex and need time and space to process things. How I’m a geek, I love my work and love learning new things – I need to be constantly challenged to be happy. Acknowledging that this will mean that not everyone will like me, but that’s ok.

It means viewing myself intrinsically as a leading lady. Being the centre of my life and sharing what is going on for me in whatever way I choose to do so. I see my life as leading lady being one where I have my close circle of friends who I invest my energy into – it’s in these close relationships that I truly feel at my best.

And I also see myself being present to all the lovely people I have the pleasure to cross in my life without feeling obliged to give more than I can to them. No need to accept invitations I don’t want to accept. No obligation to invest more than I am able to.

I felt scared about writing this post and sharing my thoughts with you, dear friend, because I worried that you’d think me big headed (wanting to be the leading light – I sometimes don’t feel worthy of this) or would take offence at the notion that I’m anything other than grateful for the interest that other people show in my life. But I thought I’d act like a leading lady and start to do what is right for me – part of that is writing this.

And I also decided to share my thoughts because I believe that we don’t act as our own leading ladies (or men!) enough and I wanted to encourage you to be your own leading star in your life. Go after your dreams, create a life you long to live.

Because as much as I think that I deserve to be my own leading lady, I also think that you deserve to be yours.

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blogging, compassion, eating disorder, self-discovery, Wellbeing

My personal mean girl

I have a mean girl voice inside me. I think we all have a version of a mean girl, although many of us don’t listen to her much.

I’ve been a bit poorly over the last couple of days. Nothing major, just bunged up with cold and with a bit of a cough. And coupled up with broken baby sleep (albeit around 7 hours a night), my usual defences against my mean girl had been lowered.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a puffy face, eyes without their usual shine and then my gaze lowered and I saw my post-pregnant body through mean girl eyes. I don’t want to share what went through my mind, but my thoughts were less than kind about how I looked.

In the past these thoughts would have sent me on a spiral down a rabbit hole of promises ‘I won’t eat any sweets today’ that I would most probably break because it was a promise made out of meanness, not kindness. And then the cycle would continue – promises (broken) and overeating followed by such shame and guilt.

I would perhaps look at myself through the day, pinching any excess fat, or would desperately avoid looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see myself through these mean girl eyes.

But today I saw my mean girl for what she was – mostly tiredness, perhaps a distraction from the reality of being dog-tired and a habitual way of thinking which no longer serves me.

And with this knowledge, I was able to say ‘thank you, mean girl, for your input, but I don’t need you today’.

And instead I showed myself kindness.

It’s taken me over 30 years to get to this point – able to show myself kindness in moments of stress and when I’m a bit low – but now that I’m here I couldn’t be more thankful.

blogging, coaching, eating disorder, life coaching, self-discovery, self-judgement

Knowing myself

I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly matters to me. I think it’s to do with the changes of becoming a mum and finding myself with different priorities. But it’s more than that.

It’s to do with me starting to know what I want from life and being clearer in my resolve to go after it. I know this is possible for me only because I’ve started to fully accept who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. Before I used to feel that I was too much. Too bossy, too headstrong, too headstrong, too different.

But now I am able to accept myself as I am with less judgement. I know I don’t need to base my decisions on whether I’ll please other people or whether my actions will make me seem less bossy/intense/headstrong. I accept me and know that’s enough. I’m enough.

It’s so exciting to feel this way; able to go after what I truly want. I feel able to follow what feels right to me and go after what I truly want.

But what does this mean in concrete terms? Well, an example of what I’m talking about is with my coaching.

Some of you may have seen my coaching pages on my website. For those of you who haven’t looked, they explain who I am as a coach and detail what types of coaching I do.

When I first started out coaching, I worked with people on every type of coaching under the sun and advertised all the coaching I did – coaching for those starting a business, looking for a change career, people wanting to improve relationships, increase their self-esteem or overcome comfort eating. Technically, I can coach on all these areas…but I realised recently that I don’t want to do all these types of coaching. Instead I want to coach in the areas which really light me up and where I know I can make a real, deep and profound impact in other peoples lives:

And so that’s what I’m going to do – coach in these areas and, if someone contacts me wanting career coaching, for example, I’ll refer them onto some great coaches who specialise in these areas.

It feels so good to know myself and to go after what I really want in life.

blogging, eating disorder, husband, Love, motherhood, self-discovery

Reaching out

I spoke to my husband today and told him that, for the first time in a long time, I felt the urge to overeat. To comfort eat.

It’s not surprising since I’ve recently gone through the biggest change in my life, my world has been turned upside down, I’m managing not only the needs of my own but that of a new human who I don’t understand and have lots of people visiting, which brings other dynamics to juggle.

I’m not trying to be ungrateful for all of this, I’m just being honest – it all just feels a bit overwhelming at times.

And in this moment, I felt a weight press on me and the only thing I knew would remove the weight was to force it down with food. Lots of food.

And then I realised that food wasn’t the only thing that would remove the weight of pressure bearing down on me. I knew I could remove it by reaching out.

And so I reached out and I told my husband I was feeling suffocated and was struggling. I shared the feelings I was having.

And as if by magic, the feelings went away. I suddenly didn’t have the urge to push my feelings down because I allowed myself to feel them. I listened to what was going on for me.

Not only did this help me in the moment but, knowing what was going on, my husband then was able to help me. He sat me down, got me a drink, gave me a cuddle and left me alone for a few hours of peace and alone time as I fed Jenson.

If only I had known so many years ago how little it takes to make this feeling go away – just acknowledging what’s going on for me and reaching out to someone I trust.

This new life as a parent is so wonderfully beautiful and impossibly difficult and I have a feeling that I’ll need to keep on reaching out over and over again.

And so that’s exactly what I’ll keep on doing.

blogging, compassion, eating disorder, motherhood, pregnancy, self-discovery, self-esteem, self-judgement

My incredible body

When I was pregnant, I was slightly worried about how I would cope with my body after labour. How would I feel about being in a body that was slightly flabby, potentially a bit broken and not like the one I had pre-pregnancy?

I knew that part of my thoughts were due to the struggles I’ve had in the past with eating, having spent a period of my life locked in battle with anorexia and, up until recently, dealing with stress and anxiety through compulsive comfort eating. I remember standing in front of my mirror so many times, pinching the fat on my tummy and judging the dimply skin on my bottom. I would look at other people who were slender with such envy; I couldn’t comprehend how they were able to eat a sensible amount of food and stop when they were full when thoughts of food constantly plagued my mind.

So it was normal for me, in advance of giving birth, to be concerned about how I would feel about my postpartum body.

I have to tell you, dear friend, how much I’ve been astounded by my actual experience of how I view my post-pregnancy body. Instead of judgement at how I look, I’m filled with a sense of wonder and amazement at it.

My body, which is capable of producing enough milk to feed and make my baby thrive.

My body, which went through the most physically challenging experience I’ve ever experienced – labour – and is still standing strong.

My body, which was able to grow another human being.

Another human being!

And it is so much more than that. It is capable of healing itself when hurt, warming itself when cold, has ways of coping with famine and has such strength and resilience.

I remember looking at my stomach the day after labour – it was a bit flabby, still rounded like in early pregnancy – and all I could think about was the amazement I had for it. And I thought to myself ‘how could I have ever been judgemental about my body when it is capable of so much?’

It was as if a light had been switched on and I could suddenly see my body for what it truly is. It’s not something to be scorned, punished or hated or an object to be toned and sculpted to perfection.

It’s truly incredible, amazing and worthy of all my love and respect.

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blogging, eating disorder, gratitude, self-discovery

Release

I was walking home last night, thinking of some people in my life who are going through a hard time at the moment.

It was overwhelming to think of their suffering and so I distracted myself. I started listening to a podcast, recorded a voice message for a friend and put on an audio book before I realised what I was doing…pushing my emotions down through any way I possibly could. Distracting myself from the discomfort of sadness, the guilt that they were suffering when I was ok, a feeling of helpless in the face of their troubles.

But this time I caught myself in the action, I recognised the slippery slope of burying my feelings which leads, in my experience, to a cycle of comfort eating.

And instead of continuing to distract myself, I made myself feel what was going on.

I allowed myself to embraced the sadness, feel the hopelessness, acknowledge that it’s hard to see loved ones suffer. And then I breathed deeply and I let the feelings pass through me.

It seems crazy that all it takes is an acknowledgement of feelings and deep breathing to let go, when for years I buried my feelings with food. But when I dig a bit deeper, I can see that it’s so much more than that.

It’s about acknowledging that my feelings matter. Knowing that my sadness is valid.

And then by breathing deeply and being present in the moment, I’m able to see that I am not my emotions. I am not sadness, I am not hopelessness, I am not stress.

These things are what I feel but they are not who I am. And in seeing this, I’m able to let go of the emotions and avoid the behaviour – the comfort eating – which was so destructive to me in the past.

I am truly free.

blogging, courage, eating disorder, self-discovery

Going back

I’ve got a lovely book that I dip in and out of by Mark Nepo. It’s called the one life we’re given and it’s a reflective book with questions at the end of each chapter to ponder.

I woke up slightly early yesterday morning and spent 15 minutes reading one of the chapters. I loved what it said and wanted to share it with you. It can be pretty much summed up as this:

At every point in our life when we take a brave step forward, we will often want to turn back at some stage. We’ll look back to who we were before – before we took the new job, before we decided to abstain from our unhealthy addition, before we decided to speak up more and be seen by other people – and we will want to go back to the ‘safe’ life we were living before. It doesn’t mean we should go back to this life, but it’s healthy to recognise that this is normal. This is part of life. 

I know this to be so true in my life and I thought I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on my experience with you, dear friend.

My experience can’t be summed up as a one incident, something that happened or a specific event. But it is, over the past 6 months, a revelation that eating to suppress my feelings will never do me good. It will never give me greater abilities to cope with what’s going on in my life. It will never grant me true peace.

All it can provide me with is momentary oblivion from my feelings and then a thud back to reality with an extra heaping of shame and the discomfort of having eaten too much.

But it still doesn’t stop me from having a sort of rosy-tinged reminiscence of the times that I could blank out my experiences. It was ‘easier’ to block out my feelings than to have to cope with them in the moment. It was less hassle to eat away hurt than confess to someone that I was feeling disappointed, angry or sad by something they had done. It was quicker to push down my anxiety with food than surrender to the anxiety in order for it to then be released.

But now I know that it is no good for me, I can’t unknow it. Now I see my relationship with food for exactly what it is, I can’t deny the truth.

And so I acknowledge that this fondness for the past is normal – I won’t judge myself from sometimes wanting to go back to my abusive, unhealthy relationship with food.

But I won’t turn back, instead I’ll keep moving forward.

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blogging, compassion, eating disorder, recovery, self-discovery, trust

It gets easier

If there’s one thing I could go back and tell my younger self about battling an addition – my particular type being food – it would be this: eventually it gets easier.

That’s not to say that it’s inevitable that people will make a recovery from addiction. I feel incredibly lucky to have teetered on the edge of the anorexic abyss and managed to claw my way back to shaky ground.

But it doesn’t make my message back to the younger Amy any less true.

It gets easier.

For so long I felt like I would never be free of this demon of mine – the sweet release I would feel by pushing my feelings down under copious amounts of food, or starving my emotions away by exercising beyond exhaustion. Recovery, normality, seemed like an impossibility.

Don’t get me wrong. In those years it wasn’t all darkness. I experienced moments of liberating freedom – dancing with friends, laughing with family, connecting with those I cared about deeply – but the monster was ever there. The shadow voice calling to me. Tempting me to eat, to gorge, to annhialite myself.

To resist this voice often felt impossible, to think about not buying food brought on a panic close to suffocation. And so I seesawed my way through much of my late teens and 20s, lurching from overeating to starving, freezing my feelings away or burying myself under food.

It was hard but I took some tentative steps forward. I had some counselling, dared to share some of myself with those I trusted, started to listen, accept and love myself just a little bit.

These were baby bird steps forward over several years and it felt for so long that I took 1 step forward and 50 steps back. Because this was often the reality. But I took those steps forward regardless.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I was able to ask myself ‘will this food give me what I truly desire?’ and I was able to resist my shadow voice. Even if a few minutes later I thought ‘fuck it’ and ate everything in sight.

But I kept on seeking help. I kept taking tiny steps forward.

And I discovered that my addiction wasn’t so much about the food. It was about the anger I kept locked up inside me, it was about the fear and sadness I refused to acknowledge, it was about the pain of trying to find my way in the world despite feeling deeply inadequate, unworthy, unloveable.

And in moments of progress I slowly let myself release little pressurised pockets of rage. I let myself cry, mourn, feel sad, wallow in pity, tantrum, express myself, accept my feelings.

And it was bloody hard. No amount of swear words can express how hard it was. But when I did these things – however gracelessly I did them – life got a tiny bit easier. The shadow voice got a tiny bit quieter.

So I suppose on reflection, it’s not just the message of ‘it gets easier’ that I would share with my younger self.

I’m fact, if my younger self met the older me and heard me say ‘it gets easier’, I think the younger me would want to punch the older me in the face. So let’s just say my message is a bit more like this:

Life is bloody hard, and your fight feels so difficult, so crippling, so futile, dear one. It can feel so often that trying to take steps forward is an impossibility. Like trying to recover demands the impossible of yourself. 

But please hang in there. Because millimetre by millimetre, this does get the smallest fraction more bearable. And you do move forward. 

First you can’t see the distant travelled because it’s so small, but if you look hard, you’ll see that you’ve travelled a few millimetres, a centimetre, an inch, a yard. 

And yes, you do sometimes retreat back to your starting place, or even further back, but that ground is slightly easier to navigate the next time, and the next time and the next time. 

And on your journey, you both need to fight against the disordered eating, but also accept that it’s not really about the eating at all – it’s about accepting, loving, forgiving yourself and making sense of what you’ve experienced. 

It’s a paradox that feels nonsensical. But it’s true. It’s about food, but it’s not. 

So pay attention to the food, but also pay attention to yourself. Value your thoughts, your feelings, your views. Because they may not always be right, but they are valid. You have the right to feel them. So push forward with finding your feet, accepting and listening to yourself. 

And know that life feels hard where you are, but it also has the potential for so much more. There is so much goodness awaiting you, dear heart. 

Things you can’t see from where you are but realities that are possible. Being loved beyond belief by people. Heck, loving yourself beyond belief. Feeling such a sense of fullness through becoming a coach and helping others. Feeling such a sense of richness through your writing. 

Living a life that is light with love as much as it is intense with feelings. 

There is so much in front of you that you can’t see. So hold on for just a bit longer. And a bit longer. And a bit longer. Until you’re not just holding on, you’re striding forward. 

And you’ll then know that it does indeed get easier.

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blogging, eating disorder, Wellbeing

Being

I’m a do-er, or I have been for much of my life. Faced with an obstacle or set in front of a problem, I would do, solve, work, push, accomplish.

And when I wasn’t able to do, solve, work, push, accomplish my way out of something (more often than not the emotions I was feeling) I’d eat to distract myself from the discomfort of inaction. Stuff down what was going on inside with handfuls of crisps and piles of sugar.

But I’ve realised that sometimes what we’re faced with in life doesn’t call for action. It calls for space. For time. For listening. For quiet. For reflection. For accepting all that is going on.

For feeling all the multitude of emotions underneath. Whether it is sadness, anger, upset, gloom, guilt, shame.

And when I let myself surrender to the inaction of simply being, I am alive to what’s going on for me. And I can let the emotions pass through me.

I can just be.

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