Loving my battle scars

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This post has been a long time coming and to be honest I am not sure where I am going to go with it or why I feel like it’s time to write about it, but as I usually write without planning, I am going to run with it. I suspect it will be long, so make yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and join me if you feel inclined. I don’t see it being a two minute read as so many blogs posts are these days, but I’d love for you to stay for the ride.

You see I have written more times than I can possibly recall or link to about my lifelong eating disorder and the multitude of challenges I faced over the last 38 years or so. In contrast I have shared very little about my eating disorder in the last 18 months, but mentioned in various posts that I had taken steps to overcome it.

So what’s changed? First let me say I have not kept this a secret from anyone and pretty well everyone I meet to and speak to about my significant weight loss and resulting good health knows as I am open and honest about it. I just haven’t written about it, well here anyway. I do have another blog dedicated to it which I haven’t updated in forever, but if you want to have a peak, here is one of the pages where I discuss all the things I tried over the years to manage my addiction.

So the big change is that I had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy – VSG for short, or as most people know it – Gastric Sleeve. I had 75% of my stomach removed. Yes you read that right – taken away, not banded, removed forever. And I could NOT be happier.

Why did I do it? From my other blog “I’ve written in other posts about this, but briefly, I was tired of being a slave to my addiction. I had fatty liver and fatty pancreas, had already lost my gall bladder, lived with constant pain and I seemed incapable of doing anything to create sustainable change.

I want to live a long, healthy and happy life and I decided it was time to take control of my body and my addiction and needed a tool to provide me with the extra support I need to make it happen.

Addicts are different to people who just need to lose weight. We use food in ways that non addicts can never understand. Only addicts can truly understand addiction.” Oh and if you think weight loss surgery is the easy way out, you are of course entitled to your opinion but I do invite you to read this post to see why I think it’s far from that.

The last sentence says it all – addiction is a very different animal. I have written previously about the fact that as a food addict we need to slay our demons multiple times a day. We can never take an abstinence approach unlike if we were addicted to other substances (and I am NOT saying that is easy at all!!) we need to eat right?

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So now I am 18 months post op, I have lost a ton of weight and I almost cannot believe I don’t get hung up on the scales anymore. This is after a lifetime of weighing myself and watching the number go up and down and my stress levels elevating or my excitement elevating based on the number. I have been at the same weight for about 8 months now and it fluctuates about two kilos up and down and I could not care less. I reckon I’ve lost about 24 kilos, but again I don’t get caught up on that. It’s what I have gained that has changed my life.

  1. Clarity of thought. It’s as if a whole portion of my brain is now free to explore and create. It’s as if someone came in and swept out a whole bunch of stuff from my brain and thinking and left a clean open room. I no longer obsess over calories, binges, diets, rehashing what I ate, what I didn’t, when my next diet will start or anything remotely like that. It is over – forever.
  2. Freedom from pain. That’s all that needs to be said here.
  3. Confidence. Yes I loved and do my body and I truly learnt to love my curves, but the confidence of knowing that no matter what I put on I look good and can fit into is incredible. This is especially relevant when I am in Bali which I am a lot as their idea of one size fits all used to be a joke to me.
  4. Energy. Yep, loads of it!
  5. No longer reading diet books, posts, forums or anything of the kind – never even crosses my consciousness now.
  6. Not being obsessed with food – like ever. I like food and I still have my days when I eat too much sugar as sugar is my cocaine, but I let it go when I do.
  7. I can eat anything – almost. A few things don’t sit right but those aren’t good for me anyway. Restriction doesn’t work for me and the benefit of this surgery is that I can literally eat anything I want. I feel so liberated that I don’t even have words to express how this feels!

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So that all sounds sunshine rainbows and unicorns right? And to a degree it is, however as a result of years and years of yo-yo dieting and ballooning and shrinking, my body has paid the price in many ways. I have battle scars and quite a few of them.

  1. I had abdominoplasty four years ago – best thing ever. I love love love love it. I had a caesarian with my first son and that combined with fluctuating weight resulted in an apron forever that would never shift. A flat stomach is something I never had and why it may sound vain there are other inconveniences an apron brings that I will leave to your imagination, let’s just say it can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable. The result of abdominoplasty is that I have a scar that goes from the back of each hip right around the front of my body. It’s a big battle scar but one that I wear proudly and only two people in the world see it anyway, although I happily share it if the topic comes up.
  2. Skin. I have loose skin in many places. It is a constant reminder of the fact that my wonderful body has grown and relaxed with me, more times than I can recall. This has bounced back in some areas and not so much in others. I used to have a hang up about it but I appreciate the flexibility that my body has given me and the fact I have survived this long and maintained such good health is somewhat of a miracle if I am honest. I look pretty good in clothes and that’s what matters – except…..
  3. Arms. My arms have always been enormous and out of proportion with my body and are even more so now. Oh how I have longed for and admired arms of other women my entire life. They are now mostly loose and very saggy skin, are uncomfortable and get in the way. As I spend a lot of time in the tropics they are very visible and that’s ok but more importantly, I want to be comfortable. I have decided to have brachioplasty and will be having that in two weeks time. Yes there is a certain amount of vanity to this, but this is one battle scar I will wear proudly and openly for the world to see. I will have a scar running from my armpit to my elbow and it will serve as a reminder of how far I have come and the fact I am now healthy and taking care of my amazing body.
  4. No gall bladder. I was your typical ‘fair, fat and forty’ candidate for gall bladder removal. This affects me depending on what I eat, and obviously having an organ removed based solely on poor dietary choices isn’t idea.
  5. Invisible scars. Because of my sleeve I can no longer enjoy big meals followed by  desserts, and feeling full doesn’t have the same satisfying feeling it used to. It is downright uncomfortable if I eat too much and my portion sizes are like those of a child. Eating out is not as much fun as it was and I can never eat and drink at the same time – ever again. It’s a small price to pay but one that has an impact, especially when friends and family make beautiful meals and I can only enjoy a little.

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So, there you have it, I have plenty of scars and I love them. I am proud of myself for doing what I needed to in order to live a happy, healthy and long life. I don’t believe in regrets because everything teaches us something. I have heard many people say they only regret not doing it earlier, of course we are all 20/20 in hindsight, but I wasn’t ready earlier. The stars aligned and it was right for me to do it when I did.

I am now approaching 52 and I think I’d have to say I am experiencing the best health of my life. I feel like I have woken up from a deep slumber and life is very exciting to me right now. I am proud of where I am today and I look forward excitedly to what the future holds with my newfound levels of energy and freed up spaces in my mind!

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Broken and embracing it

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I’ve noticed a big shift and a bit of a theme developing in recent times and I’m loving it! People all over the world, in all sorts of professions and positions are stepping out and admitting to their vulnerabilities and imperfections, loud and proud. It’s about time.

This morning I read this post by Leonie Dawson, the most recent in a series that she has written on some shifts that have been occurring for her. Leonie has always been authentic in her vulnerability but lately she’s showing more of herself and I’m relating to her more than ever before. At the same time she’s a wildly successful millionaire entrepreneur.

I’ve read many posts and stories of people sharing their “I’m not ok” moments; sharing vulnerabilities, fears, plaguing self doubt, mental illness, physical health issues and imperfections. As I said before – It’s about time.

For too long people, and especially those in business or entrepreneurial type of enterprises, have been only showing the “all good, hunky dory and everything is shiny and perfect” side of their lives. It’s not reality and also only serves to make others feel inadequate. There is nothing more powerful and affirming than realising you are not alone in something. I mean how often have you done a Google search on something to find a gazillion results of people having the same side effect, experience or thought? People speaking out courageously about real life is a wonderful thing in my opinion.

I first began speaking out about my less than ok moments about 18 months ago. I wrote this on my business page in April last year, which was a huge step for me. I mean how could I boldy state on my professional page such bold statements as I don’t look after myself well, when I teach self care for a living? Prior to this “I don’t do vulnerable” was my catch phrase and default position.

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I started this blog in July 2015 as a place to write about anything and everything. It started as a bit of a fun space to talk about different things, that I felt didn’t necessarily belong on my business page, but quickly became much more than that to me. Writing about my addiction, anxiety, depression and perfectly imperfect life has been the most profoundly healing experience. In fact I was so uncomfortable with the vulnerability I showed here, that I didn’t share it with friends and family at first, as for some reason I was ok with strangers reading it but wasn’t ready for those who know me to be the one who has it all together, all the time to read it.

Interestingly I’ve realised that pretty well all of my posts about me actually belong on my business page and I’m finding it near on impossible to separate the two now, which has led me to think about taking my coaching business in a different direction. After all who are we in business if not ourselves? Who are we to share our knowledge if we don’t share all of us?

I’m so grateful to Brene Brown for being courageous enough to speak up about vulnerability and starting a revolution of real! That’s a new phrase I just made up, and I think I’ll keep it and start using it! I give her full credit for starting the conversation and sparking a movement and I’m so happy to be part of it! Let’s keep on being courageous, vulnerable and owning our stuff. Healing is ours for the taking, and it all begins with vulnerability.

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Life as a recovering food addict

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I haven’t written about my food addiction in a long time. There’s a very good reason for that. I’m done. I’ve finally, after 35+ years, got the demon under my command. The demon that consumed my every waking moment. As with all addicts, it will always be part of my life, but right now, at this moment, I control it, rather than it controlling me.

It wasn’t easy. It took some massive soul searching, many dark nights of the soul, and finally some decisions others might refer to as drastic, followed by deliberate action, with the knowledge that I deserve better. It’s been the most interesting and life changing six months of my life and today I’m fitter and healthier than I have been since my teens. I saved my life.

My food addiction had begun to impact on my health in a variety of ways; fatty liver, fatty pancreas, both of which eventually would lead to diabetes and potentially cirrhosis of the liver. I was often tired, lived with constant pain and had a myriad of issues as a result of the excess weight I carried and continue to gain as time went on.  I felt powerless to change, and had tried everything. And I do mean everything.

Over the years I have lost, gained, lost, gained, lost and gained again more times than I can possibly count. I have written about this many times, there’s a whole section dedicated to addiction on this blog. At this moment I’m actually a healthy weight for my height. I look and feel good and sometimes don’t even recognise the person I see reflected back at me in the mirror or in photos. This is not about weight and never has been. It’s about addiction, but the side effect of food addiction is obvious.

The behaviour associated with my addiction held a lot of shame for me and it was something I never spoke openly about until about a year ago when I started this blog. I mean, I’m an intelligent woman, confident and professional and I was completely cognisant of what I was doing. It seemed so incongruent with every other aspect of my life, but addiction is addiction.

Writing about my addiction and talking openly with others was the beginning of my healing. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done and the rawness and vulnerability I felt was excruciating to begin with. However the more I spoke about it, the easier it got and my healing began.

I was talking with a soul sista yesterday who is identical to me in every way. She is the first person I ever met who got me, really got me and had done all of the things I’d done and felt the things I’d felt. I was telling her that I felt like writing a book about living with this addiction, it would have to be fictional but with my story behind it. I would need to make it fictional as some of my thoughts and actions would be too painful and embarrassing to share as a non fiction book. At least if it was fiction, people wouldn’t be sure which parts were true.

She said something that surprised me. She reminded me of how greatly my life had changed and how much I’d moved on. I had left the beast behind, why not keep running and leave it further behind, and continue to enjoy the freedom of living without it? Why rehash it again, when for the first time since I was 14, I was free of the daily thoughts, torture and anguish it caused me?

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She was right. I have moved on. The beast is lagging way behind me now, and I am controlling this demon that ruled my life. I am free, unburdened and lighter than ever, in every sense of the word.

If you have an addiction, no matter what it is, please know that you are not alone. Addiction shows up in many ways and for a variety of reasons, too many to discuss in this short post. But it is very very real.

Please seek help. Please take whatever steps you need to take and do whatever you can to overcome the demon and live your life to the fullest. Please don’t let one more day pass without embracing the amazing human being that you are and living your life free of the burdens this life sapping monster brings with it.

You deserve it.

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We are all a little messed up

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I was talking with a friend recently about some of our family history; we have a great deal in common. We are both adult children of addict/s and we’ve lived our life with varying degrees of success and failure in battling our own demons. We too are addicts, but our drug of choice is food. I have written about this previously on many occasions. This was actually really huge for me to own and talk about, as it’s something I’ve done my best to keep secret and hidden for most of my life.

One of the big issues, and believe me there are many others when it comes to food addiction, is that it is the most socially acceptable form of addiction. Most people aren’t necessarily comfortable speaking about it and it is often incredible private and painful, but the reality is that our addiction is just as difficult to live with and overcome as any other and that includes legal and illicit drugs. Sure people joke about being carb junkies and sugar addicts, but true food addiction is no joke. We don’t stick our cakes and chocolates up our arms, but we certainly eat ourselves into varying states of unconsciousness. Food comas are real. I have put myself into many of them. All of us have hidden the volumes we eat and have hidden wrappers and packets and eaten in our car in moments of pain.

I remember in a previous life I used to buy TeeVee snacks as a treat for my ex. He would have one or two and put the box in the fridge. The next day I would eat the entire box, although that was never my intention to begin with. I would buy another, open it and remove one or two and put it back. This could go on for a week or more, as he rarely went back to have any. Eventually I would stop buying the box and he would feel like a biscuit a week later (who the hell can have one or two chocolate biscuits by the way?!?!?) and would casually ask where the biscuits where. I wanted to reply with “which box?” but I would remark that after a week they eventually all got eaten. This happened many times.

I have been in a gazillion training courses as that’s what I do for a living and morning tea is usually provided. I never cease to look in wonder and amazement when I see a person take one biscuit. In fact I wrote one day in an accountability group I started that I just saw a woman take one biscuit. My accountability partners instantly replied with comments such as there must be something wrong with her, don’t trust her etc. Sure we were joking, but deep in our soul, that is our reality.

The problem is, that in order to live, we can’t just stop eating. I am not saying that giving up alcohol or drugs is easy, but one of the many approaches to recovery from addiction is abstinence. Abstinence works and eventually some people can find they live happy and fulfilling lives without their substance of choice. That’s not to say that they aren’t tempted, not at all, but abstinence is certainly helpful in order to avoid over consumption of anything. Abstinence from food is impossible. We can do our best to avoid triggers and trigger foods, but the reality is we need to eat. Every. Single. Day.

I have come to some realisations lately (perhaps the wisdom of being a certain age, who knows) and one is no matter who we are and where we come from, we all face demons in life, and we’re all just a little messed up. It might be that some people are battling bigger demons than others, and some do it in spectacular full colour and others in quiet agony, but not one single one of us doesn’t struggle with something. Not one.

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As a kid like most of us, I used to love watching TV shows that had perfect families in them with problems that were so easily and promptly fixed. The Brady Bunch was an old favourite, and I still have the boxed set. No problem was so great that a chat in Mike’s office couldn’t solve it, or a family pow-wow at the orange laminex kitchen table with cookies and milk couldn’t fix. I also loved Eight is Enough, oh man I wanted to be part of that family and I had a recurring dream that I was. Not that I didn’t love mine, but they were perfect. Oh and another thing, on TV, everybody is up early and dressed for the day before breakfast. I don’t think this has ever happened one single day in my life.

Now not everyone who uses any kind of substance is an addict, but most people have some way of numbing pain and emotions, whether they are conscious of it or not. There are countless ways that we can numb. People choose alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, pain killers, and then there are other less obvious ways such as shopping, food, procrastination, busy-ness, working long hours, watching TV, scrolling through social media, playing games, sex, unhealthy relationships, being attached to our phones…I could go on and on, it’s all a way for us to distract ourselves and avoid our stuff.

So, what do we do about it? I really don’t have the answer when it comes to managing and overcoming addiction, as it’s something I face every single day, but I think the twelve step programs got it right when they say we can only do it one day at a time. I would even break it down to one hour, one minute and one second at a time.

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We all have our demons, issues, shit, stuff or whatever name you choose to give it. The secret to a somewhat balanced and successful life is admitting that none of us is perfect. We must learn to embrace our imperfections and vulnerabilities and live with them the best way we can. Sitting with pain and discomfort is not easy, and it’s something I have spent a lifetime avoiding, but I am working on it. In order to heal we need to feel.

One moment at a time.

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Stationery porn

 

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Being in a stationery store whether online or in real life is my idea of fun. It’s my kinda porn. I know I’m not alone in this. It seems to be particularly common among trainers, teachers, artists and especially writers.

I get so excited when I see beautiful bright textas, pencils, stickers and my biggest turn on of all comes from journals. Fresh, clean, inviting and a whole new world of possibilities waiting. I can never have enough of any kind of stationery and I have so many books and journals that I don’t need to buy any for a very long time, but there is no such thing as too much stationery in my world.

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Luscious, fresh and clean journals – so good!

Take today for instance. I am in Perth and after lunch my friend and I decided that we want to do some goal setting together for the year. I had already packed a lot of lovely pens, books, journals and bits and pieces, but we decided that we needed another journal specifically for the purpose. Any excuse. I was like a kid in a lolly shop. Somehow I kept justifying the need for more Sharpies and goodies, despite the fact I already have a healthy collection with me here and at home.

This was the result:

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This was quite tame as I am limited by my luggage allowance having just returned from two weeks in Bali and another ten days here, and we just went to K Mart, so I was pretty good really.

Officeworks is probably my favourite in real life go-to, and I can lose so much time just walking around amongst the dazzling variety there. I always say I should never be left unsupervised in Officeworks. I have great memories of a day many years ago when working on the launch of a big change initiative at a previous government position, a friend and I were given the fantastic task of purchasing all of the stationery for about fifteen trainers for a twelve week program for forty people. We had carte blanche to buy whatever we wanted, can you imagine! Two stationery addicts with a government credit card in Adelaide’s biggest stationery shop! We were like giddy little school girls with a year’s worth of pocket money in a lolly shop. Man it was fun!

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Kikki-K is another fave of mine. This is where I usually buy journals, planners, to do lists and all sorts of pretty loveliness.

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Who could resist a display like this?

The only issue I have is I don’t like starting a fresh new journal in case I spoil it somehow. That first page needs to be written in perfect handwriting, with just the right pen. So I have many beautiful, delicious gorgeous books not yet touched, but I am going to start using them and embracing imperfection, even in books, where it is forever there, like forever.

I have started writing in my Leonie Dawson Shining Year books and I’m in a Facebook group where I’ve seen many women posting that they don’t want to write in the books in case they make a mistake, so they save the books and write elsewhere. I totally get it, but I am resisting the urge to follow suit. The paper in this year’s books is a bit shiny and if you don’t wait for the ink to dry, or use the right pens, smudges can happen and did happen early on with mine. I am convincing myself that those smudges are ok, they are a moment in time, a snapshot of embracing my imperfections, acceptance of what is, going with the flow…….you get the idea.

That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. 🙂

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Food

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Always there for me.

Friend.

Lover.

Confidante.

Comfort.

My solace.

There for me in times of need, sadness, commiseration, joy and grief.

Always there when I need you.

Never judgmental.

Always available.

You feel like home.

Sometimes I want to enjoy you with others.

Sometimes I want you all to myself.

When the pain is too great, you take it away.

Filling my aches and gaping holes with warmth and comfort.

Numbed for a time; though never for long enough.

Sweet, salty, soft and chewy.

Crunchy, hard, sour or juicy.

Hot, cold, solid and liquid.

You feel so good and never let me down.

Food food food food food.

 

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Getting a fix

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Standing there, my fix in my hand, I am ready to pay.

The moment had finally arrived. All day it had consumed my thoughts. What can I get, where can I get it, when can I get it. I tried doing other things, distracting myself. Keeping busy. Considering what I could use from home. Nothing I did took the thoughts away. I need a fix. I need it this afternoon. It is not negotiable. But it’s only a few hours until dinner.

No I need a fix.

I hopped in the car and went to the service station and chose my drugs. A packet of Twisties and a dark chocolate coated peanut brittle. Yes that will do it. Hmmm maybe I should get a chocolate ice cream too, yes good. What about packets of lollies…what if I need them and don’t want to have to come back, shall I get them just in case? Whatever I need I must get now, right now. Shall I get smaller packets because I know I can’t stop if I get a big pack and I must finish what I get tonight, so shall I get a smaller one. Just like yesterday when I wanted cake, I didn’t buy a cake that could be cut because I KNEW that I would eat the whole thing. Better to eat an individual smaller cake. No I will stick with these three things and I can come back. Or should I? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes.

I paid and walked out with my three things. I ripped open the Twisties and started scoffing them before I even reached my car, only metres away.

Home again, Twisties inhaled, I decided to savour the chocolate. But just a tiny bite first, until I get comfortable and sit down to enjoy it. No, it’s gone. Big bites, big chunks, eaten and swallowed.

It’s over.

Did it satisfy me? Well I enjoyed the sweetness. Did it fill whatever need I was looking for it to? Not really. I don’t really know what I wanted or expected it to do. All I know is that I needed it. Now I am thinking about the chocolate ice cream in the fridge. Might as well eat that next, no need to wait.

Once again, fucking addiction has me in its grips and one fucking day at a fucking time I avoid looking at it, unless I am feeling strong. When I am strong I can face it and slay that dragon, or at least put the dragon in it’s box for a little while. Today the dragon is slaying me.

Until tomorrow.

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