Day 99 of 182
Wednesday 13th May
I get asked quite a bit now has your experiment really worked and this blog is the answer.
Yes it has. My discovery of The Secret last year first changed my life and this year it saved it.
If I was to stop now it would be a phenomenal success to be living now how I’m living to feel how I’m feeling is priceless.But I’m not stopping because my dream is to pass this on to others and it’s coming true.
I was twelve years old when I first consciously began my mission to be thin. This is confirmed by a page in a diary I found where I had repeated the sentence “I will be thin” over and over accompanied by a pencil drawing of my body as I perceived it then with rolls of fat and the dream slim body I aspired to have.A guilty relationship had already began with food I would eat sweets secretly and feel ashamed about it but it wasn’t until twelve that this guilty feeling spread to my thoughts about my body also.
Eating Disorders are complex things many different types some are borderline between different diagnosis – mine aged 15 or 16 was Bulimic with Anorexic tendencies, I must have said I was getting better because that was the last of any discussion about it. As with any addiction being secretive is a key part.
I can’t remember when I first made myself sick after eating what I would have considered “bad” foods but I know it had seemed a perfect solution if my strict diet was to slip. Often there would be months sometimes years between binging and purging but I was always on some kind of a diet, my mind was always setting new rules to follow and these rules could change numerous times a day. Calories would be restricted, meals would be missed but I could never live up to my standards and a slip up no matter how small would mean the cycle of negative thoughts about myself, standing in front of the mirror picking apart every inch of my disgusting body would begin.
In my twenties exercise came into the equation and only increased the standards I had set myself, not only could I eat less I could exercise more and more. During periods when my behaviour was intense I could have been working out cardio and weights 3 times a day six days a week on top of a restricted diet. Of course the bizarre thing is that this was only damaging my metabolism but I would keep setting the bar higher- a form of self-sabotage and punishment.
I wasn’t only on a mission to be thin but on a mission to not be me, to change what I was. I didn’t feel worthy enough as myself and needed to create this “perfect” body as something extra like an armour, a shield a badge of approval.
That no matter what kind of a horrible person I really felt I was inside that my discipline and strength to endure this pain would be my shield.
I genuinely didn’t accept that this was a problem, it was me it was the way I was.
Living as I do now I realise how much I was missing out on but I really didn’t know any different. I always felt on the outside like as if everything and everyone were in a snow globe that I held in my hand. Sometimes I wanted so badly to go in but that would mean taking down the barriers I had put up, taking a chance on letting people see the real me it seemed too much of a gamble. it was petrifying so I stayed where I was.
Throughout my life I was I thought a positive person, always smiling to others I would have seemed confident. I always did well at whatever I put my mind to and rarely let anyone see any other side to me, apart from Christian.
Christian who I met when I was sixteen, who always made me feel safe and protected. Anyone who knows him will agree his sheer physical presence gives off an air of strength and caring.
We have known each other and been together for nearly twenty years since I was sixteen and my oddities like waking randomly some days crying with a sense of despair so strong I would want to be dead but not knowing why, taking hours before leaving the house because I hated my body so much, throwing myself intensely into whatever gruelling goal I was chasing, marathons, ultra-marathons, college and a full time job and what brought everything finally to a head training for a bikini competition last October.
I relied heavily on him to know that everything was going to be ok. If he happened to be in a bit of a bad mood I would be in such a panic obsessively asking “are you O.K.? Have I done something? What’s wrong?” over and over. How annoying. If he was sick, I would feel a heaviness in the pit of my stomach and anxiety.
“You are responsible for nobody else’s happiness but your own. Equally no one else is responsible for making you happy.”
Disappointment and anger so often come when we feel let down by friends, colleagues or family but when you take responsibility for your own happiness & learn how to get it alone, that melts away.
This is something that rings so true with me now and not only has this experiment changed my life in an extraordinary way, what a gift I have been able to give Christian in lifting that weight of responsibility for my happiness off of his shoulders.
Learning that I can make myself happy now means that people and situations only have as much power as I allow to change how I feel. There is a quote that goes something like this…
“The pain is not due to the circumstance itself but rather your estimate of it.”
We always have a choice as to how we are going to let something affect us, this is like a super hero’s power that we all have inside of us and by beginning to use it this year my life has been transformed.
Back to my Eating Disorder by last year as the competition drew closer I was retreating completely into my own world. Even though I hadn’t acknowledged its existence I never felt truly alone it gave me strength. It helped me and punished me, made me feel both strong and weak, it protected me from others but in doing that isolated me. I was barely living but it told me I was living a better life than anyone else.
By October it had consumed me, every thought was about food and my body, and I could wear my nine year old daughter’s clothes but still cried thinking I would be too fat to step on stage
I still didn’t see there was a problem.
I was still out motivating runclubs and cleanclubs (my clean eating nutrition programme at the time).I was telling people to love themselves deep down and to be proud of themselves and all they achieve, helping people but not helping myself.
You hear a lot that eating disorders aren’t so much about food but about control, they are I think about a lot of different things for a lot of different people but one common bond -between everyone and those who don’t have eating disorders but criticise their bodies daily, compare themselves to others and feel that they are not good enough -the common bond is love and a lack of it.
Because how can you love yourself when you treat yourself this way? From the extreme, over exercising, starving, binging mindlessly forcing food down only to force yourself to bring it back up, secretly eating and then berating yourself for it. Speaking negatively about your body to yourself and others.
These are not behaviours that you would wish upon anyone so to do so to yourself is a cruelty that does not come from love.
I subjected my mind and body to this since I was a child and nothing I ever could have done would have deserved this.
The treatment for my Eating Disorder was not the traditional learning how to manage triggers and negative behaviours, it was learning how to love me. In the end the thing that had scared me, the idea of delving into the past to ask the question why? It didn’t need to happen because as I began to feel love for myself guilt and worry began to fade.
It was nothing to do with food and everything to do with love.
A lack of love was the problem -the solution was more.
And to feel love for anything I needed to feel good and in the dark place of despair that I was in I needed help to feel good and that help came in the form of my ten rules. Each rule made me feel a little bit better about life and each day I felt a bit better added up until I felt a lot better and feeling a lot better made it easier to love me and when that happened I knew I deserved to live a life without suffering.
I have always had so much love for others but this year my biggest romance was falling in love with myself.
Yes I have days when negative feelings creep in, when negative thoughts about me threaten to return but now I turn to anyone of my ten rules I know that they will bring me back to the moment and I remember that we are all so much more than bodies.
The other day I thought to myself imagine if we were all invisible? If we were wisps of light floating around and all we saw was the essence of a person, the energy. How much less hate and more love there would be.
The more we love ourselves the more love will spread to others.
Below is the second post that I wrote for The Huffington Post at the time it wasn’t right for them. I am a talker, a rambler so I’m proud of what I achieved in 1000 words.
Hello, Goodbye & Thank you. How Gratitude & Love helped me Overcome my Eating Disorder
The power of gratitude and love is something I first became aware of when reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Now, by making them both a part of each day, my life has been transformed.
In October 2014 I said hello to the acceptance of an Eating Disorder that had been a part of my life for 22 years.Faced with an omelette that I didn’t know the exact calorie breakdown for, I raised the plate above my head and threw it across the room. Three of the darkest most desperate and frightening months I have ever known were to follow this incident of the “flying eggs”.
Consumed with panic, anxiety and fear as I struggled to come to terms with what was happening.
An entry from my journal at the time reads.
“I feel like such a failure, it would be easier to be gone than to have people see what I have become.”
Filled with self-loathing, I would sit on my bedroom floor and wish I could crawl out of my own skin. Feeling trapped inside my body and exhausted from listening to and trying to reason with the negative voice inside my head.
But, the seed that had been planted when I first read The Secret remained. I knew it had helped me before when dealing with stress and began to wonder could these principles work with big issues like anxiety and addictions.
From this seed an idea began to grow. To create 10 rules, each small and relatively easy to follow; to make them a part of my daily routine for six months. My hope was that they would become habits and I decided to write daily as a way to track my progress.
The change that came so soon was completely unexpected.
1. Visualize my future, all that I want to achieve until it feels as if it has already happened.
2. Begin a gratitude list and add to it each day.
3. Be kind to myself. Pay myself a compliment when I look in the mirror.
4. Begin each day listening to music that I love.
5. Be aware of negativity in my thoughts and conversations; try and find the positive in all.
6. Fresh air. Spend at least fifteen minutes outside every day.
7. Start a list of things that I love and add to it each day.
8. Be kind to others. Take all opportunities, each day, to show kindness.
9. Giving. Rather than waiting until I have enough, start donating 10% of my weekly earnings to charity.
10. Do my best to follow these rules for 6 months; not pressure myself to be perfect and blog honestly.
Visualizing success in all areas of my life, how I wanted to be and feel, gave me a new sense of hope and excitement.
Seeing in print what I was grateful for made me aware of all I already had. Writing down what I loved from hugs with my children, to sparkles, to sunshine, made me feel good.
Listening to music that lifted my mood first thing each morning delayed and sometimes stopped completely the constant battle with the voice in my head about how I looked, whether or not I should eat, binge or exercise.
Being aware of turning negative thoughts into positive meant I became aware of how often I criticised myself, and not entering into negative conversations could only affect my mood positively.
Giving and kindness to others - the weekly donation, but also smiles, kind words, letting someone ahead in a queue - got me out of my own head and aware of those around me.
Being outside. Seeing all the wonders of nature gave me the ability to keep things in perspective.
All small steps but those steps joining together resulted in me making a huge leap.
Being kind to myself was the hardest of all the rules. Having used mirrors for a long time as a form of punishment, I started by smiling at my reflection, it was a forced smile at first but by only day thirteen the remarkable happened.
As a child I had a navy floral dress with a silky ribbon at the neckline and I loved it. I remember swaying in front of the mirror, happy to gaze at myself. Imagining I was a princess or a famous actress. Full of love for myself, my life and the endless possibilities it held.
Somewhere along the way the love left.
That day it came back. As if liquid sunshine was pouring in through the top of my head. Love and gratitude filled me up, a tingling in my fingertips and toes.
I saw the body that had grown my babies, ran marathons, fed my babies; been a home for the real me, the part that has no reflection, the part my friends and family had always seen. I saw my true self and felt love for it.
That day I told my Eating Disorder goodbye, today I want to tell it thank you….
For appearing with the original good intention of distracting me from feelings of anxiety.
For keeping me company when I couldn’t cope with being alone.
For making me think that I needed you.
For wanting to keep me for yourself.
For the lies you told… that I couldn’t live without you… how if people knew what I was really like they wouldn’t love me… that I was too weak to be without you.
And, finally, for dragging me down with you to a place so dark, lonely and terrifying that I feared I would never get out.
It was there that I found the courage to try and it was all of these experiences that brought me here and able to say,
“I am so grateful for my life, to be really living and really loving - knowing that I am the master of my feelings, and how to live each moment. To have the power within to see and feel beauty in each and every one.”