Next Best

Find a penny, 
leave it there. 
Prettier things
are everywhere. 

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Perennial

Plant me, 
watch me grow. 
Water me, 
nourish my soul
with
love and tenderness. 
Let my leaves and
petals fall;
I am meant to wither
from time to 
time. 
Give me your
blessing,
allow me to 
be reborn.
I will always 
push through the
constraints of 
the gardens of life.
Shine your sun

onto me, 
as I sprout through
the tightly packed
earth formed
by my mind.
Be patient with me, 
I need time to 
come home. 
But I promise, 
I always will. 

Survivor’s Lament

They told her
run, run, run,
but not too fast,
you should
let them chase you.

They urge her to 
quiet, quiet, quiet,
tell no one of 
this battle.

She wanted to
go, go, go,
anywhere other than
where they were,
and to hold onto
her innocence.

All they do is
take, take, take,
everything from
the ones they catch.

But frozen she
stood, stood, stood,
her brain unable
to tell her lips.

She longed to
scream, scream, scream,
but she could not
find the words.

They looked at her and
laughed, laughed, laughed,
her lament providing
them with a sitcom’s
worth of humor.

Eventually they
lost, lost, lost,
interest in her
and walked away.

They left her there to
melt, melt, melt,
away with her memories
of her ordeal. 

She finally
screamed, screamed, screamed,
but she
knew, knew, knew,
that it was in
vain, vain, vain, 
because it was her word against their’s
and who would they
believe, believe, believe?

An Open Letter of Thanks to my Friends

Dear friends,

I want to start this off by saying that I am a handful. There are times that I honestly can’t even imagine being friends with myself. I am aware that I am far from the easiest person to be in a friendship with, and I wanted to explain how thankful I am for the friendships you all give me.

I am blessed with some truly amazing people in my life. I want to tell you all why I’m thankful for you, and I what it means to me to have you all be the people you are.

Thank you for tough love. Seriously. Thank you for being strong enough to tell me the things I need to hear even at the times I don’t want to hear it. This may sound trivial, but it honestly makes such a difference in my life. I have a tendency to build things up in my life and put myself in a sense of denial. I tell myself, and the people around me that I am okay and that my life is okay; even though I am drowning. You all notice this, and you tell me when I am not okay. You show concern, and you tell me. The fact that I know I can count on you all to be honest and give genuine advice and help, it means more to me than you know.

Thank you for letting me be vulnerable. I have a lot of baggage (it’s all designer though…) and a lot of emotions. There are times when I feel like I’m falling apart, where I cry so hard that I can’t see or where snot is just pouring out of my nose, but you never turn me away. You let me have those moments where I wallow and where I just need to be sad. This ties back into the giving of tough love, and it’s crucial. You know when to give tough love, and when to be soft and gentle. You can distinguish between scenarios and you give me what I need. Sometimes I just need to cry, and I can do that with you. You all accept me even when I’m messy; it means a lot.

Thank you for listening and hearing. When I tell you anything, from he big stuff to the small, I always feel heard. Genuinely and truly heard. What I mean by this is that I always get more than a generic response from you guys, more than a “I’m so sorry you’re going through that” or “I’m always here for you.” I always get a response that is thought out and meaningful. The way that you can show me that you are taking in what I say and really appreciating it, and then giving me a well thought out response, it’s just priceless. I feel worthy, validated, and meaningful.

Thank you for understanding that I can’t aways be “on.” I’m constantly working on myself, and how to deal and cope with my issues. I process things differently and I go through a lot of trial and error. Sometimes it all just gets to be too much and (despite my best efforts) I just shut down. Now, I can understand that this would be frustrating in a friendship. You guys just get this. You let me take my time to recharge, you put up with the times I’m high strung and needy. Basically, you ride the ups and downs that comes with my living with both anxiety & depression. You understand that sometimes it’s all too much and I just need to be “off.” The understanding you all display to me means more to me than you can ever know.

Thank you for teaching me. You are all so brilliant. I learn so much from all of you each and every day. You bring such unique gifts to the world and I am so thankful for the wisdom I have gained from all of you.

Thank you for laughing at my lame jokes. This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. But basically, I’m ninety percent sure that I’m never half as funny as I think I am, but you guys always laugh anyways. It’s just nice. You’re good people.

Thank you for always being my cheerleaders. No matter what it is I may be doing, you always support me. Thank you for believing that I can do anything even at the times when I don’t believe in myself and for always reminding me that I’m stronger than I think I am.

Thank you for learning with me. In the years you’ve all been in my life, I think I’ve been thrown some curve balls. There have been many times where I am just completely at a loss of how to handle things. There have been many learning curves and you’ve all been willing to learn with me. You have all taken a seat  on the crazy train that has been my life and you’ve never once asked to get off the ride. Your willingness to learn, understand and adapt is probably one of the most comforting things I’ve ever experienced.

Thank you for reminding me what I deserve. In the past, when my self esteem was basically non-existent, you have all never failed to remind me just how amazing I am and in turn remind me what I deserve in life. Whether it’s been in relation to romantic relationships, bad work situations, school or anything, you all have always been there to pick me up when I’m too low to do it myself. I can’t say thank you enough for that.

Thank you for showing me that friends don’t care how you look. At a time when my appearance has changed drastically, and so did my mindset that my value was dependent on how I looked, you always reminded me that I am more. You showed me that I am more than a dress size, or a number on a scale. Recovery wouldn’t be the same without you.

I like to think that I’ve got one of the best #squads around. I also like to think that people should take pointers from you guys, not only when it comes to being a good friend who lives with mental health concerns, but just in general. You’re all the best people I know, and I’m so happy to know you. You all make me better. I can only hope that in some ways I repay your goodness.

All my love,
Emma

The Problem With “Clean Eating”

This could very well be an unpopular opinion of mine, but I’m going to share it anyways. I have a huge problem with the term “clean eating.” Now I can guess at what you’re thinking, “What could possibly be wrong with healthy eating?” I don’t have a problem with healthy eating, I think that eating balanced meals while still eating what you want (intuitive eating is my jam) is amazing. What I have a problem with is the other negativity that comes with identifying some types of eating as clean. The problem with this is that the flip side of having some types of eating or some types of food being viewed as “clean” is that others are then “dirty.”

Let’s look at some other things in life that are sorted into categories of clean or dirty.

  • Laundry
  • Home
  • Furniture
  • Bedroom
  • Dishes
  • Teeth
  • People

When you look at these things and you think about the connotation that these things are labelled with when they are dirty, it’s not very pretty. If you see a person who for whatever reason has poor hygiene, what would you think? Would you look down on this person because they are less clean than you? Would you wonder what is wrong with them that causes them to be dirty?

Let’s look at a home. When you were growing up, did your mom or dad ever get really stressed before having company over? By this I mean did they ever run around trying to clean every part of the house because they couldn’t seem to stand the thought of their company seeing them living in anything but a clean home?

What do these things tell us about how we view things that are dirty? It shows that we think they are bad, not worthy of being seen. This is exactly what “clean eating” is doing to certain foods. It is saying that there are some foods that are worthy and that are right, while there are others that are dirty and deserve to be eaten with feelings of shame or guilt.

When my eating disorder was at its peak, I masked my symptoms with exercising and “clean eating.” I could not tell you the amount of times I posted on Instagram or Facebook about a workout I had done or a meal I had just eaten, looking for some kind of validation that I was doing something right. When in reality, I was exercising to the point of passing out most days, and I was purging almost all of the “clean” food I ate. I remember feeling that if I was eating food that was not socially viewed as “clean” then I would have to work out longer, deny myself of my next meal, or ensure I purged until there was nothing but bile left in my stomach.

This is what diet culture is doing to our society. It is creating the belief that some foods warrant the eater to feel shame and guilt. It is telling people that certain meals are “cheating,” NEWSFLASH: eating is not a game. It is something we need to do in order to fuel our bodies and live. Diet culture tells us that food = shame. But what I wish I had known is that food = life. I wish I had known that there can be moderation with food and that food does not have to be shrouded in shame and guilt. I wish that I had known more, and known better. I wish that we did not live in a world that pushes these beliefs down our throats, beliefs that contribute to a culture promoting disordered eating.

I wish I knew so many things that I know now. But I cannot go back and change what I didn’t know then. So I am telling you all in the hopes that the mistakes that I made could potentially be avoided by another.

The Magician, The Enemy & The Warrior

My mind is a magician, a wizard if you will. But not the kind like Harry Potter, if that were the case then perhaps I would enjoy the curses I have been afflicted with. My mind is well versed in tricks and spells alike, it has no problem keeping me up at night. 

My thoughts are my enemies, they pit me against myself and seem to enjoy watching the chaos that ensues. My thoughts are not always my choosing, sometimes I wish I could just turn them off. 

My body is a warrior, and sometimes it feels like I am fighting a losing battle. I take up proverbial swords and weapons, trying to ward off the thoughts that my mind conjures up; but to what avail? Because, even when I successfully fight off these thoughts, they always manage to come back again. 

I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of fifteen, generalized anxiety at seventeen and developed an eating disorder at nineteen. This is what my life has felt like since then. I feel that I am constantly afraid of the things my mind can do to me, the thoughts it can produce and the horrors it can wreak on my body and my life. Living with multiple mental illnesses is a daily struggle, and I wish I could say that I’ve come up with all the answers, but I have not. I am learning things about myself day by day, and I am hoping that these sometimes small lessons are enough to continue fighting my battle.

My mind is skilled at casting spells and controlling the thoughts that flood it. There are days when my mind is the scariest place on earth, so I sleep to avoid confronting it. I am never sure of what version of myself is going to wake up; this is a fear that is so paralyzing that staying in bed all day out of fear has at times become the easier option.

My body tries to fight against my mind and thoughts. There are days where this fight seems totally doable; like I am Harry Potter, I am the chosen one and I can take on anything life throws my way. But there are also days where the fight seems like I am a single feather in the direct path of a tornado; a fight that is over before it starts. On these days my body feels like a shell of which the contents are completely detached.

Everything is impossible to explain, so I don’t even try to understand. Nothing seems reparable, so my toolbox collects dust.
On these days, I feel like a stranger to myself.
On the good days, I know and understand every last bit of myself.
On the good days, I am Harry Potter. On the good days, I win.
On the good days, I fight hard enough to accept the bad days where
even the idea of 
fighting is too much.
I have accept that my life is about give, and take.
I have accepted that there are times that the hand I have
been dealt seems like it is the worst possible hand.
But I have learned to make daring plays,
I have learned to cast counter spells,
I have learned to combat my enemies,
and I have learned that this battle is mine to win. 

 

You Are a Candle

You’ve pushed yourself to the point of breaking. You’ve put your blinders on and you can’t see anything other than your pain. You told yourself it would be different this time and that never again would you allow yourself to get to this point; yet here you are.

Burnt out.

When we push ourselves over and over again and we refuse to listen to our bodies, the only possible outcome is burn out. We crash and burn and we think that it is the end. We get to the point of breaking and we break and once we are broken we fear that we will never be put back together again.

There are two things that I have learned about burn out over the years, and honestly, I have found them to be quite helpful.

The first thing I have learned is that burn out is avoidable. When we learn to listen to our bodies and our minds and the cues that they give us, we can learn how to notice when a burn out might be coming. When we know the cues and the signs to look for, we can notice them, and adjust our lives accordingly. Let me give you an example. Something that I know about myself is that when I am close to a burn out I have absolutely no creativity. Now I’m no Picasso to begin with, but I love to write and read and let that side of my brain get some exercise. However, if I am close to a burn out, that side of my brain, and the interest I have in those things completely shuts down. I have no desire to write or create, nor do I have the ability to focus on something long enough to read it. Historically, I would notice these things and I would shrug it off and attribute it to being tired and needing some sleep and nothing more than that. Now I know that those things are ways of my brain telling me to slow down because it can’t take anymore. I don’t always life recognizing these things, because it can cause me to feel like I’ve failed or to think that I should be able to do better. But now that I am more aware of these signs and what they are a precursor of, I am more likely to head the warnings. I would much rather be forced to take a single mental health day than find myself out of work for months (yeah, I’ve been there). There are other ways that both my body and mind can indicate to me that a burn out is coming and if I don’t do something soon I’m going to break, and I am learning how to recognize these things every single day. The more I listen to my body, the more avoidable burn outs will become.

The second thing I have learned is that a burn out is not the end. Candles can be blown out, but they can also be reignited. Humans are no different. Sometimes we need a break, that is completely normal. We need to give ourselves breaks, and if we happen to need a break because of a burn out, then so be it. There is no shame in your mind or body needing a break from the struggles of life. We live in a world that tells us that we have to be on our A Game every second of the day, but that’s simply impossible. We will have times that we need to step back from things and recharge our batteries, and there is not a single ounce of shame in needing to do that. Please remember that we blow candles out before we go to sleep, but we can always light them again in the mornings. We, as humans, are the same. We can allow ourselves to rest and it is not the end.

Burn out can happen. It is just a part of the fast-paced world we live in. But if we learn to listen to the cues that our minds and bodies can give us, we can learn to pre-emptively combat burn outs. But, sometimes we will fail to catch a burn out, and that is okay too. Humans are candles, we will need breaks sometimes, but we can also always be reignited.

You Can’t Love Yourself Until You Like Yourself

Over the past four months, I have been on a journey to self love. I am sort of considering this to be an extension/the next chapter of my eating disorder recovery, and let me tell you it has been anything but easy. I’ve engaged in some wonderful communities through social media and I have found such positivity, I have challenged myself to look at my body in ways I hadn’t previously, I have examined the thought processes I engage in and challenged them, and I have been working to see positivity in all things about me.

But recently I have had a thought. When you’re starting to date someone, you almost never truly love them right away, you like them first. Perhaps a journey to self love is not so different from the journey of engaging in a romantic relationship. I can pinpoint a few specific parts of myself that I love: I love my legs, my sense of humour, my ability to empathize with people, and my smile. But when I look back on my life, I didn’t wake up one day and immediately love these things. I remember when I discovered that I was funny. I had always like to joke around in school, I enjoyed it and I liked it. I was never the smartest kid in the class, but I knew I could tell jokes and be funny. I liked this about myself. I was in the second grade and there was a girl in my class named Gabrielle. We weren’t great friends by any means, but we did happen to be the two tallest people in our class. It was our school picture day and our class was being organized by height to take a class picture. We were waiting for our class’s turn to go up for the picture and Gabrielle and I were joking around, something I did regularly, and she told me she thought I was funny. She said this while laughing and with a smile on her face. I realized that my humour had the ability to make people happy, and I liked that. I realized that this was something positive about myself. I may not have been very smart, but this was something I was good at, and I realized then that I loved that. This whole scenario led to me loving my sense of humour.

When I look back on my life with regards to the things I love about myself, each of these loves has their own origin story. My legs, smile and ability to empathize with people each started out as something about myself that I liked, and then they each had their own defining moment and grew into something I loved about myself.

So I’ve been thinking about all of this lately. There is a lot of talk on social media these days about self love. There are amazing social media campaigns encouraging people to embrace the parts of their minds and bodies that have been deemed by society to be unworthy; and I think that’s great. But the thing that people don’t seem to talk about as much, is the fact achieving self love is not something easy.

We live in a world that is constantly telling us that so many parts of us aren’t worthy of love, and that is harmful and it is detrimental to our mental and physical health. But what if we looked at self love from a simpler lens, what if we changes the way we looked at it? What if we started out with liking things about ourselves? If you go out on a first date, and you like the person by the end of it then there is much more of a chance that you could one day grow to love this person. In my opinion, the relationship we have with ourselves is the exact same.

Let me give you an example. Throughout my life (this was heightened during and after my eating disorder), I have really hated my stomach. I remember being maybe 10 years old and thinking to myself that if my t-shirts were tight that I had to suck my stomach in all day because it was too big. This has followed me throughout my life and when I developed my eating disorder my stomach was the part of me I hated the most. I would search Youtube endlessly for videos of ab workouts and I would work out until I could not stand. Now that I am in recovery I have gained a fair bit of weight, and (lucky for me) most of it went to my stomach. Despite this new weight being a symbol of my recovery and a symbol of being healthier, I still could not embrace it. I couldn’t even fathom loving this part of myself that I viewed as disgusting. I decided recently that I did not want to live a life where I am constantly hating myself and constantly putting myself down. I thought that self love was something I could just jump head first into. I saw all of these beautiful women on social media of all different body types and they were embracing every part of their bodies- even their stomachs. I thought that I could be like that too. So I sat in the bath tub and I just stared at my stomach, waiting for that light to go off that would make me love this part of me. Spoiler alert: The light never went off. I felt so discouraged, I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t love myself. Then a little over a month ago, I was shopping and as is normal when clothes shopping, some items I tried on didn’t fit right or didn’t fit at all. The thing that surprised me, was that I was okay with this. If this had been even a couple months earlier, I would have immediately engaged in extremely negative thoughts about myself, but I just shrugged it off. It was that moment when I started to like my stomach.

I don’t love my stomach yet, but we’re still in the dating phase. We’re getting to know each other, and we like each other right now. Things are going well, and I think one day we’ll fall in love. I know that that day won’t happen right away, we’ll have to court each other for a while, wine and dine each other. But one day in the future, I will fall madly in love with my stomach, and I can’t wait for that day.