Chapter 9: Power of CHOICE

Relaxing Sketch

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.  BLog Post - Pain

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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Chapter 5: I am freedom…

I sat in person with Todd for the first time, where he asked me to write down the 10 things I wanted most in life. Being true to my non linear way of thinking, I created a mind map around the one thing I wanted most in life

To feel free.

To me this meant, free financially, free to choose, free to move. To feel unconfined, that I had choice.

Of course, this wasn’t enough, Todd insisted I complete the list

Here is my list…

True Self

In complete silence Todd reviewed my list, after which he said one thing

“Sarah… you ARE freedom”. 

This statement… indicative of the power my addiction, the power the stories it told had over me. My addiction convinced me I was trapped, and that purging was my ticket to freedom. My addiction made me feel that I was losing connection, that I didn’t have choice, that I was confined and trapped. My addiction numbed my emotions.

Everything I had listed, I had or was… I AM happy, I AM connected, I AM secure. It was the power of my addiction to purging, to the ritual of of pain that convince me otherwise. Recognizing and acknowledging the LIES my addiction fed me, allowed me to see the TRUTH.

Todd made me repeat out loud each statement “I am Freedom”,  and with each echo of the statement I held back tears… I said them, but I was not at a point where I believed them. I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel free.

Identifying the excuses and the lies my addiction fed me to create build a false reality showed me that I was not following my own belief system, I was not living as an authentic, true version of myself.

I realized that I had not been living for me. I had been making decisions based on preconceived expectations – based on what I THOUGHT people wanted and expected me to do. A personally manifested story of non existent expectations.

It is important to know that this took time. Shifting my thinking was challenging and took (still takes) intentional effort and consistent reflection. I never realized the power of the story I was telling my self, and how quick and easy it had become to make excuses, to justify my story, to perpetuate the dysfunction.  

In order to really move forward with my feeling I had to be aware of every decision I was making, reflecting on why I was making it. Those moments when I felt trapped, when I felt I couldn’t breathe I had to remind myself that I am loved, that I am free, that I am NOT my body…that story that was being told was my addiction feeding my lies to fuel my ritual.

I have come to learn through my journey that I have a choice. I have a choice to be happy. I am the writer of my own life story, I can either let my addiction feed my lies, or I can see the truth.

I am freedom.

I am choosing to live with truth. I am not longer going to choose pain, but instead choose to love and nurture myself.

What are the 10 things you want most in life…

 

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Chapter 4: The veil

The day came when the darkness of my veil would begin to lighten, when the act of talking to a stranger would open my soul to a state of raw vulnerability and truth.

I was scared.

I knew this conversation would force me to reveal pieces of myself  that I both knowingly and unknowingly kept hidden. I was scared of my truth. 

My dear friend Dean asked his brother, Todd Ritchey, to speak with me as a means to me taking my first step towards healing. Todd is an addiction intervention specialist, and although we’d never met, at the request of his brother, Todd made time in his schedule to have an ’emergency’ phone meeting. 

It was now or never

I remember pacing the hallway as the phone rang, each step matching fast paced rhythm of my fear driven heart beat. I felt my chest tighten. I was panicking. I knew how this would work. I knew he would ask me questions that I wouldn’t want to answer. I knew that this would make it real.

My face stained with tears, my heart raw like a fresh road rash, the stranger on the other end of the line altered the trajectory of my journey. Todd guided me through a conversation, leaving my soul exposed to the elements. I was forced to be real. To show emotion. To admit the truth.

I admitted that I felt embarrassed and shameful for my actions.

Shame because I knew that what I was doing was harmful. Shame that binging and purging made me feel good. Shame because I am an educator and therefore should be a role model. Shame because I was living a lie acting against the core of what I believe and value.

I admitted I was scared of what people would think, that I would disappoint.

3 hours later our conversation came to an end, I was raw, I felt broken, but I also felt free. For the first time in months I felt my lungs fill, unobstructed.

This same day I had a lunch with one my of my best friends, and I made the decision to tell her what I was going through. She reacted not with judgement, but with support and love. She may not realize how much this meant to me, knowing that a friend, whose opinion I hold so close, was so open and accepting. I wasn’t surprised.

This step, although didn’t result an immediate termination of my habit, was the first step toward my freedom.

The cycle had been broken as my secret had been revealed. 

 

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Chapter 3: Learning to walk…

One of the hardest parts of my healing process, was saying it out loud, admitting my problem with intent to heal.

How could I tell the amazingly loving and supportive people in my life, who care about me, and have done so much for me, all that I have been doing to myself. 

I was embarrassed. Ashamed. Guilt Ridden. I feared people would look at me differently. I feared I would disappoint and hurt those close to me.

As my counsellor/dear friend would later informed me… I was not following my own belief system… If people in my life were going through what I have been going through, I would want to be there for them, just as those in my life have been there for me.

I was manifesting a story based on preconceived expectations.

I knew deep down that my friends and family would be nothing by supportive and loving. 

Fear and shame gave my addiction power.

Telling someone meant my addiction would lose power.

I truly believe that people come in and out of my life for a reason. My dear friend Dean and I met at a BC Teacher Rally down town, just after my story began. We Shared a moment of excitement about being from the same district, and me being me, decide it was prime time to take a selife with my new friend.

For some odd, unexplainable reason, our souls connected. Dean is a kindred spirit. From then on, Dean and I have had amazingly heart felt conversations, sharing pieces of ourselves.

Not that my friends are not amazing, but I needed to tell someone that really didn’t know much of my life – I needed an OBJECTIVE PARTY. Dean being the a-social soul he is, I felt would be able to provide the objective insight I needed.

Up to this point, I had told 2 people up to this point, but masked the truth with lies that the habit was over

So 4 months after this “1 time” deal began…

I took my first step.

I told someone with a small shimmer of intent to move forward

I was learning to walk again. 

Discovering my breath

Thank you Dean.IMG_0750

 

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