Chapter 15: Finding Zen

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Balance has been redefined.
Balance which once was the ability to juggle, has become a recognition that the ALL intricacies of my soul must be honoured and nurtured.

Throughout my journey, I have had moments where I felt off centre, I could never really describe it, but my energy made my discomfort apparent – something was off and happiness seemed darkened.

My imbalance was rooted in my own self neglect – suppression of emotions, pushing body to its brink, criticizing my being, and choosing isolation. I was denying myself time and space to ensure that my mind, body, and spirit were being honoured, nourished, and strengthened.

Yoga, which began for me as a way to stretch once a week so I could lift weights, has become a significant element of my life. I have learned to set intention, to step outside myself and connect with the space and energy around me. It has become a time for me to slow my thinking, to appreciate, and realize the value and power of the present moment.

I feel that I have found zen.

Although I still may have moments when I feel frazzled, I have learned to see the bigger picture. Just as I have chosen to live by the motto CHOOSING HAPPY, I have learned that stress is also a choice, why worry or be concerned over things in my life that I have no control, when instead aim to see opportunity for growth.

Balance is no longer the ability to just push forward, but instead the ability to be patient and kind with all parts of myself.

 

 

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Chapter 14: Seventy-Five.

Photo Credit: Chelsey Luren Dixon

Seventy-Five 

And although I try hard not to be driven by numbers anymore
75 is representative of much more than a quantity, it is representative of change. It is 75 days of choosing self love, choosing life, choosing happy.

5 months ago, after 74 days self love, 74 days pushing past my my bulimic habit, I allowed stress to trigger me into a summer of ups and downs.

This summer I took full advantage of rediscovering my love of life and embracing this amazing opportunity to learn about myself. But, the truth and reality is, I existed every day in constant battle with my habit , a battle of will. Although I hate to admit it, on more than one occasion, I allowed my habit to win. I had moments where I solely existed in the depths of hopelessness, certain my fate was sealed.

I don’t know what the switch was, but September 3rd and made a conscious decision to end it. I stepped fully into commitment, something I don’t feel I had really done. I said I wanted to get better, but my until my whole being, my whole soul believed change was possible, the power of my habit would always win.

Finally, I gave myself permission to unleash the strength within…

I have given myself permission to feel, honouring and acknowledging emotions.

I have given myself permission to no longer feel ashamed. Mental health struggles are a reality for most people, I am not alone, nor should I feel shame for what I battle with.

I have given myself permission to be human. To embrace that learning and discovery is non linear. 

I have given myself permission to put me first. I am no longer dictated by fears of what others may think, but instead strive for balance.

I have given myself permission to ask for help. I have learned that asking for support, and saying “I am not okay right now” is not a sign of weakness, in fact, I now see it as a sign of strength, a willingness to seek support in order to grow that much stronger. 

Give yourself permission to heal. The battle with mental health is all encompassing, infiltrating itself into every facet of your being. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, this battle can be utterly exhausting. Show yourself kindness, and give yourself permission to be vulnerable and ask for support.

One day my counter will be irrelevant, I will no longer need the quantify my growth. But for right now, 75 is my lucky number, a number that at times I truly believed I was so far for a reality it felt like an impossible task. I don’t say this to be conceited, but I am proud.

Photo Credit: Chelsey Luren Dixon  –

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Chapter 13: “I Love my legs because…”

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For a majority of my life I have had a negative view of my body. Spending hours in fitting rooms tear soaked with shattered self confidence… trying outfit after outfit as my self esteem melted away…it was never the clothing, I blamed my body…

My legs too thick. My butt too big. My skin too pail. My acne too severe. My tummy too pudgy. My feet too wide. My height…Lacking.

These negative self thoughts strongly opposed my own personal belief system – for I know in my heart that the beauty of a person is not in what one can see on the outside, but the energy that they exude from their heart, their values and outlook on life that is reflected in their actions. 

I had allowed myself to deny all that made me me, putting my appearance on a pedestal as a determinant of my worth. I placed such high value on my appearance yet I was treating it with such cruelty – working out to the point of pain, starving myself, living with extreme diets.

If I truly valued my body, I would treat it with the utmost love, compassion, and kindness.
If I truly valued my body I would nurture it, living with balance not pain.
My actions were not reflective of my beliefs.

Ashley Wiles – a close friend, mentor, and founder of SoleGirls shifted my frame of thinking with the use of one simple phrase… “I love my legs because…”. I don’t think she truly realizes how much her energy, and her love of self has influenced me.

I have begun to see that the core of who I am, my adventurous soul, my loving heart, and my yearn to learn, will remain constant no matter the size of my jeans.
Those who love me, love me not because I have blonde hair and blue eyes, or because I can lift heavy weights, but because of my openness, and my love of life.

The relationship I have with my mirror is changing, it is not as often that I hear the voice of negativity…

I love my legs because they take me to the top of mountains…

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Chapter 12: Bringing Light to the Dark.

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We do not stand alone. 
The power of sharing.
The ripple effect.
The strength of community.

Over the past couple weeks I have seen and felt the efforts to shed light on the reality of mental health. More and more I see people stepping out their personally manifested bubble of darkness, stepping out of their world of isolation that is so significantly linked with mental health and into a the light of truth.

As each person steps forward sharing their story our community grows stronger, and more people see healing as a possibility. This wave of openness and honesty about our experiences is weakening the wall of shame we have each surrounded ourselves with – for the reality is, we are NOT alone.

Two amazing young women, Chelsey Kadyschuk & Jennifer Thompson,  women who I am so proud to call friends have recently shared their stories with the world – their stories of personal battles with mental health, addiction, and eating disorders. I am so utterly inspired by their bravery. Sharing your story publicly can be one of the most terrifying, yet most powerful and healing experiences. It is exposing a very significant piece of your life.

I remember the day I pressed “publish” and the wave of emotional release.
Finally, I didn’t have to hide.

Isolation is addictions strategic manoeuvre, and shame is the voice of power.

Yesterday in Washington DC a rally was held to END THE SILENCE. This is the time. The rock as been dropped and the ripples in the water continue to spread. Ending the silence and breaking the stigma will save lives.

Take the leap of faith.
Find your voice.
Love yourself enough to ask for help.
You are not alone. 
We are here. 

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Chapter 11: We are Creators

My Vision
We are creators of our own reality.
We have a choice.
A choice to be passive recipients or active participants in the story of our lives.

1 Year ago almost to the day, I became an active participant in my own life.

I began creating a reality I wanted. A reality of happiness and self love. 

After a summer of adventure and exploration I entered back into the routine of work life. Very quickly I felt the energy of the fast paced world, holding my breath as learning curves were thrown at me as fast as the tide changes the design of sand.
I was moving with the waves, controlled by the craziness around me. I felt like I was being thrown against the rocks.

A year ago I would have been swept away, but a year ago I was a different person. A year ago I did not fully understand the depth of who I am, the power I hold in creating my own reality.

This craziness, this feeling of being lost being blurred in the present moment was not going to become my new reality. This was not how my story was to continue.

Recognizing very quickly the change in my energy – feeling rushed and panicked, I took an evening to unplug. I spent three hours on my porch painting and writing, and for the first time since going back to work, I slept through the night.

Keeping with this momentum, I took part in an amazing. I created a vision board

A board representing my growth and my future. I flipped through magazines collecting images and phrases that resonated with me. This process for me was a form of active reflection, I was creating a visual representative of how I want to continue living my life.

This board will act as a constant reminder that I am a creator. The choices I make, my actions and reactions, are all MY CHOICE. These choices help me create the life I want.

I will continue to create happy. I will make the choice to embrase all the world throws at me, as opportunities to learn and to grow.

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Chapter 10: I am not alone. WE are not alone.

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I forget. No… I allow myself to forget.

I forget that I am not alone in my journey.  It is when I allow myself to forget, that I slip into a dark world of isolation where the voice of false reality is the loudest. Isolation is fuel to a negative feedback loop perpetuating dysfunctional behavior & negative self-talk. Isolation is the space where the reflection I see in the mirror is not one reflective of truth, it is a reflection without worth. 

Finding the light in the dark of isolation. 

Conversation. Connection. Community.

Openness. Honesty. Truth

Conversation and connection facilitate self-reflection & self-discovery. Openness and honesty break down the wall of lies we create as protective mechanisms – acknowledging the lies gives room for growth, revealing our authentic self. Speaking the truth about our fears and allows us to see the masked truth, the true reality.

My dear friend Chelsey always tells me that isolating myself during my times of pain or darkness is one of the most selfish things I can do, it is willingly giving my addiction power and opportunity. Conversation can be a chance for both parties to learn and grown. Connecting with my support system not only sets ME free, but also gives others a chance to reconnect with themselves and their journey of self-discovery.

Something I have realized through my professional world is that I learn the most about myself as an educator, and about the practice of teaching when given the opportunity to dialogue with other professionals, and reflect.

The same concept applies when working to overcome any mental health struggle – actually, the same concept applies to life! The more we surround ourselves with a community of diverse, open minded individuals, and allow ourselves to participate in open, honest, and raw conversations about life, the more we learn and grow.

I still have my moments of isolation. But with practice, and with patience, those moments are becoming few and far between as I take the power back.

I am so thankful for my community.
They support me patiently.
With love and kindness.
Recognizing that each learning moment has to come from within.
Recognizing that learning is a process, a process with up’s and downs.
Thank you dear friends.
Thank you. 

 

 

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Chapter 9: Power of CHOICE

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Choosing Balance. Giving my mind, body, and spirit some love.

Life, as I have comed to realize is a series of choices.
What I neglected to acknowledge though, is the depth of these choices.
I, we, have choice – not only in how we ACT, but in how we REACT.

I have CHOICE in how I FEEL. 

Over the past few months I have developed a set of tools and strategies supporting an intense reflective practice. Slowly I have developed a strong sense of self awareness specific to my addictive voice – being able to identify it, the trigger, and a coping mechanism.

Here in lies the challenge. I no longer have any excuse to be causing myself pain now that have developed this awareness.

I have been LETTING myself CHOOSE pain. 

Pain is an addiction –  Physical pain, to distract from emotional pain. Bulimia, pushing my body to the point of destruction and exhaustion, not allowing recovery, never allowing myself to be alone are all distract and trigger emotional pain. This is the perpetual cycle.

The more I practice CHOOSING to LOVE myself,
the easier it gets…

My Focus this week….

1. The choice of BALANCE – balance of mind, body, and spirit. Allowing my mind, body, and spirit to be nourished, to recover, and to build stronger.

2. The choice of POSITIVE FEELING – I stated before, I am like the sunrise. Just like the sun I rise each morning. And each morning I have a choice. – choices that now seem laughable given the process of self discovery I have being traveling through.

I CHOOSE to feel worthy, to feel loved, and to feel valuable
Why on earth would I CHOOSE to feel anything but the opposite. I have been CHOOSING to LET myself get “stuck in the suck”

What thought process will you change to bring forward the truth?
Most often that emotional pain is a lie, when I believe the lies, when I believe I am worthless or alone, the cycle of pain begins again. I have a choice in what I believe.

Life a series of choices

We all have a choice in what we believe about ourselves, in how we act & react. 

What choice are you going to make?

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Chapter 8: “I Love myself…”

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For the last few weeks I have felt stuck. I’d go through periods of emotions that felt like utter darkness, I called it “the suck”. I reflected and conversed with friends trying to release the pressure that was building up. But that feeling, that weight on my chest, wouldn’t go away – I couldn’t breathe right, my heart was always racing.

I was stuck in the suck.

Before walking into my session with Todd, I sat in my car and in a note book I wrote down “my secrets”. I wrote down all thing things I had opted to exclude from our conversations, things I kept hidden. Todd had asked me to do this in my last session, and I found it really helpful. The process helps me release and gain clarity, it can be very therapeutic and freeing in itself.

One by one, I read these secrets out loud to Todd and we discussed. No, revealing secrets isn’t easy, but it is worth the discomfort. I am fortunate that I have been able to establish incredible trust with Todd.

One secret in particular scared me. Bulimia is an addiction, but my root addiction is to the pain and associated emotions. By not purging, my addiction has sought other avenues of pain, but through my journey, my addictive voice has lost power. As a last resort, my addictive voice tried to convince to pursue another, very serious form of self harm, This secret embarrassed me, but to Todd, it revealed that my addiction had run out of alternative forms of pain to use as a way to control me…

Todd said to me…

Sarah, how do I know….how did you know that you wouldn’t do what your addictive voice wanted you to do? 

Finally after some surface responses…I sat in silence struggling to say the words… mustering the courage to answer. Tears streamed down my face and I shook my head, when finally, for the first time through this process I uttered the words…

“I love myself too much…”

Those words “I love myself” were the words my addiction feared the most, the 3 words my addiction has NOT wanted me to say. This was the moment I have been waiting and wanting to find… The moment when I could sincerely speak the words… “I love myself”

For the past year, I have struggled to say those words, struggled to believe those words.

This isn’t the end,  but with a sigh of relief I continue my journey forward.

I love myself enough, to no longer choose pain

 Love yourself.  Be kind to yourself.

 

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Chapter 7: Break to Rebuild

The break.  The moment you let go.  The moment you allow the pain to surface from the excuses and lies, and you release like the wave of a tsunami.

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Sometimes in life we break a bone in such a way that it needs to be reset. Sometimes, this bone is set incorrectly, and although the bond is hypothetically healing, the break isn’t healing in a way that supports you.

Life has moments just like this. Moments where you need to break an old wound in order to properly heal… Just after spring break, I broke.  After not seeing Todd for 5 months, I sat curled up in a blanket in his porch describing that I felt stuck in my process of healing, Todd asked me; Sarah what secrets are you keeping? Please remember, the foundation of my healing is TRUTH, me being honest with myself.

“My secret is… I am not doing it for me”

Up to that point in my healing I had periodically minimized and stopped purging because I was scared to be judged. My family and close friends now knew about my habit and I was scared of failing THEM. But with every fibre of my being, my addiction was still active, I was winning purely because of will power. Every day I had to convince myself the pain was no longer there.

At one point during our conversation Todd asked if I would follow his exercise regime, as a counter to my regular routine. I had been pushing my body to the point of exhaustion, Waking up before work at 5 am to run every morning, working out 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day.

As Todd described his proposed “exercise regime”… Which was drastically different than mine,  I felt my body physically reacting. I couldn’t breathe, my chest tightened. What Todd was describing wasn’t exercise in my mind. I was panicking. I sat there as Todd continue to describe he benefits of this regime, and finally told him that I was distracted and barely listening — I told him of the stress I was experiencing.

I cried and yelled as Todd continued to dig, to push me to my breaking point. He questioned my love of being active and healthy, of working out, even if my love of hiking. He questioned my motives. How could I be sure I loved hiking and working out, if the root motive is to be thin? It was a passion fuelled by my addiction. 

My reaction. That stress. It was the power of the addiction showing its true colours. Working out had become a need, a new vice to experience pain so I wouldn’t have to acknowledge the emotional pain I was actually experiencing.

Sarah, what are you scared of?

I was scared of gaining weight of never being  happy.

The truth came out… I linked weight to beauty, and beauty to being a priority, a priority to being valuable, and valuable to being worthy of love. If I am not thin, I am not a priority, and not valuable, how could I be loveable?

I left our session feeling crippled. Feeling more broken and raw than when I arrived, questioning everything about my life and my happiness. Who was I?

I spent the day following day reflecting, contemplating, and questioning. Messaging Todd as clarity hit and pieces of the puzzle came together. I needed to find a balance. As long as I was still feeling the NEED to workout as a strategy to being thin, my addiction still had power.

This break, was a break through.

I acknowledged my pain. I released my pain – or at least began the process. I had reached a new level of self awareness, and began questioning my own thinking and my own motives. Opening up, releasing that emotion, and being honest with myself has been my path to healing, and the first step of me learning to love and nurture myself.

Allow yourself to feel. 

Allow your heart to open and be vulnerable. 

Acknowledging the pain is the first step forward toward healing.

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Chapter 6: Rediscovering Life – Chasing Sunrise

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With any addiction, or mental health issue it is easy to isolate, to put on a front of contentment while simultaneously feeling hallow. I felt hallow. I felt like I was passively moving through the motions of life, experiencing surface level moments of happiness and excitement – but no depth to those emotions. I was numb.

Although my secret was revealed in late September 2014, my habit remained in full force for quite some time. Yes, my daily routine had decreased, and yes I becoming more aware of root causes. But no, the purging had not stopped. I had grown numb to the fear of judgement, people knew yet I made the choice to continue the habit.

But, in February I rediscovered life.

One of my best friends Taylor invited me to the first ever “CHASING SUNRISE” where, with a group of mostly strangers and I hiked up Grouse Mountain at 5am with the goal of beating the sun.

Trusting my connection with nature, my fellow hikers, and my headlamp to guide me up the side of the mountain as chased the sun, I embarked on an adventure that shifted it all.

The moment at the top, where 25 of us stood to watch the sun peak over the mountains, was incredible. We shared stories and laughs over hot chocolate and snacks, each in awe of the positive energy of the group.

There was a moment of complete silence as we all sat in awe of natures beauty, and it was in that moment staring out at the city and mountains as they awakened, as the sun first rose to bring life to its surroundings I felt like I could breathe. My world was put into PERSPECTIVE

Being surrounded by such positive energy REFUELLED my love of life that I thought I had lost. I began to reflect on what I truly valued, and how I wanted my life to reflect what I value.  I was reminded that I have a choice

Even writing this post now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Mountains saved me. Chasing saved me. BC Mountains have become my play ground. A place for self reflection, a place to connect with amazing people and inspire unbelievable friendships.

I am choosing happy. I am choosing to live.  I am choosing to write a story of adventure, authenticity, truth, love, and learning. I am choosing to surround myself with positive, open people. 

To my fellow chasers, thank you for constantly inspiring me, teaching me, and supporting me. As the motto stands… We were born to do more than just pay bills and die. 

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