you do not have to justify your existence

I really dread the question “so what do you do?” We all ask it. It’s the classic way to start a conversation with someone we’ve not met before. We have questions we’re “expected” to ask, and in turn we’re expected to answer them. What do you do. Where are you from. What are you studying. Where do you work.

You all know the drill.

I dread the question because here’s the thing: I don’t currently work. I previously have studied (and graduated). I have had jobs on and off over the last few years but haven’t maintained anything for a good long while. I have deferred a social work degree which I probably won’t return to anytime soon. It’s not because I’m not smart or capable, it’s not because I’m “lazy” and “a bludger”. The reason I don’t currently work is as simple and as complicated as this: I’m not well, I haven’t been for awhile now and my life essentially revolves around my eating disorder. Recovery from anything is in itself a full-time job, anything mental OR physical. Recovery requires time and effort and commitment and intention, it involves conversations and appointments and more conversations and more appointments. It’s hard, it’s really hard work. But I won’t be stuck in this position forever. I won’t always be unemployed, I won’t always have so many appointments and blood tests and rigidity and structure and routines and days that look exactly the same as the one before; I won’t always have so many days that look exactly the same as the next.

However, here’s the thing. I feel shame. I feel shame when someone asks me “so what do you do?” Truth be told, I’ve rehearsed my answer before you’ve even asked because I knew you would ask. It’s what we do. Heck, I’ve even caught myself asking people this a few times. How would it be though, if we answered with the entire truth? Would my honest answer make you feel uncomfortable? Would you judge me? Probably yes, to both of those things. Would you get it? Probably not. And so I rehearse my vague answer and quickly deflect. I turn the question back on you.

This is how my life is now and this is where I’m at. It’s not always where I will be, it is just a snapshot of a moment of time. It is a snapshot of how my life currently looks. It’s how it is for now and it is how it will continue to be, for a time.

I don’t need to be DOING anything in order to contribute to society in some meaningful way. I’m a daughter and a friend and a granddaughter and a sister. I’m a cat lover and a dog lover, in equal measure. I’m assertive. I have a deep love for peanut butter and reading and writing and making bagels. I have a penchant for purchasing books at a faster rate than I can read them. I can make people laugh and I can make small talk and I do my best, which is all any of us can do, really.

I don’t need to justify my existence by doing all of the things society expects of me. I’m no less of a person because I’m not working or studying or having my own family or saving to buy a house. Each day, I’m striving to grow and striving to better myself as a person. My worth doesn’t stem from the things that I do in this world, I simply am worthwhile because I am here. The same goes for all of us. We exist and that’s the most important thing of all.

Today my psychiatrist told me that when people ask him what he does he often says “nothing”. Let me assure you, he does a heck of a lot but he knows his worth doesn’t stem from that and that whilst his work does form part of his identity, it’s not WHO he is. Today he told me that I need to bring all of myself and nothing more. So here it is. Here I am.

More than anything, I want all of the people in my life to bring all of themselves and nothing more too. All of their flaws and imperfections, their snorty laughs and their accidental mispronunciation of words, their dislike of broccoli and their undying love of dark chocolate digestives. Their not knowing their right from their left. Their bravery in standing up to bullies and their fear of public speaking. Their courage to speak to strangers and their inclination to avoid parties with friends. We’re all works in progress, and that is what our lives are made up of.

We’re becoming who we’re meant to be, and that’s the most successful thing we’ll ever do.

Hospital Won’t Make You Well.

My very first hospital admission was in 2013. I was 20 years old and naïve; I was relatively new to treatment and had never had a conversation with anyone who’d been in an inpatient setting before. I was super motivated – I thought I’d go in, get my food on track, increase what I was eating, gain the weight that I’d lost and then be good – ready to discharge and life would be back to how it was before I relapsed.

But that’s not what happens and that’s not how it works. Continue reading

on living and connecting.

I’ve always known recovery from an eating disorder is possible, because I’ve read books about it. I’ve heard people share their recovery stories. I’ve even had the privilege of witnessing it happen from time to time. I’ve known that recovery is possible, but I’ve only known this on an intellectual level – not in my own experience. Whilst I’ve definitely had times where I’ve been more “well” in the last 7 years, I’ve certainly not yet reached a place in that time where I would say my life has been substantially improved, regardless of how things have been perceived by others, or by my friends and family. Continue reading

Before, Now, After.

There is always a before, a now and an after. Take the current COVID19 pandemic, for example. In just a few short weeks, everyone’s lives have turned completely upside down. Before this, we could sit in the park with a friend drinking a takeaway coffee and not even have to consider the distance between us or be concerned a cop might rock up and give us a fine. We could walk down the main street of our hometown and explore the little shops, wander around the bookshop, pop into Vinnies. We didn’t have to avoid people on our morning walks and make an obvious point of walking around them. We weren’t necessarily wearing gloves to buy groceries or sanitising and washing our hands obsessively or wearing masks or feeling anxious if the person in our train carriage had a cold. Indeed, we could even catch public transport without an ounce of anxiety. Continue reading

eating disorders & COVID-19

 

In the last few days I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post discussing how disabilities and mental health issues can lead to isolation and a general feeling of being ostracised in the community but there’s something else that’s come up in these last few weeks and even more so in these last few days that I feel is a more pressing issue to write about.

Obviously, everyone is pretty aware of the current situation regarding COVID-19. It’s a scary time for many, particularly those who are the most vulnerable. We’re conscious of not being too close to people, we’re aware of minimising contact, people are feeling anxious about touching coffee cups and handling money, sitting on trains and buses, going to church, entering shopping centres. There’s huge financial burdens and stresses on people which is just adding to the anxiety. Grocery stores are empty, broccoli is $11.90 a kilo (wtf) and everyone is panicking. Honestly, it took me 3 days and 6 grocery stores to find a bag of oats (shout out to Aldi). People are rationing and hoarding; walking around our local Woolies is genuinely really distressing and depressing. Every second shelf is empty and a lot of people are somehow managing to get by without the basics. Life has enough stress without this. There is still rent to pay, dogs to take to the vet, appointments to attend. There are children to protect and teach and work to be done. There are weddings and funerals and other sicknesses to be managed. Just generally, there’s a great deal of tension around. COVID-19 is constantly on peoples minds.

Obviously there are people who are more vulnerable to getting sick – REALLY sick from Coronavirus. The elderly, those with chronic illness (things you might not even think of – diabetes, heart or lung disease, cancer, various autoimmune diseases, HIV and AIDS, Down Syndrome and eating disorders, for example) are particularly more at risk than your average Joe.

So: eating disorders. It’s taken me awhile to get around to the main point of this post (soz fam, but thanks if you’ve read until now). I’ve been worried the last few days about people I’ve met in hospital who might be freaking out with all this food hoarding and panic buying going on and just today a conversation surrounding that has happened amongst a few of us. It’s going to trip a lot of us up. People who might not have an entirely clear understanding of eating disorders may not realise that some of us really struggle to be flexible with foods we eat or with specific brands that we buy. And it’s so easy to use that as a reason to forgo our meal plan or to restrict our intake. I don’t know how to address this because it obviously is what it is and some of us will certainly find ways of adapting, but not all of us are in a place where we can. What’s the point of posting about it if I don’t have a clear solution? I don’t know. But I just want people to be aware, I guess. It’s not so easy for someone to just eat pasta if they only feel they can manage rice. It’s not so easy for us to choose a different brand of yoghurt or have a different snack or have a different muesli bar than usual. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense even to me but the anxiety that comes up is real and there and undeniable. I’m worried about people with eating disorders because we’re already more at risk of getting very unwell were we to contract this virus but even MORE vulnerable if it shakes up our meal plan or routine and things become or seem unmanageable. I know for myself I’m already freaking out about the prospect of what might happen if I’m unable to be outside and exercise and how that might impact my meal plan. It all has a flow on effect. I do want to acknowledge also that there are people with allergies or intolerances who are also restricted in their food options, so it’s important to be mindful of this as well.

Please be aware of this. Those who know people with eating disorders, those who have family members with eating disorders – please know we might need some extra support with foodstuff at this crazy time. There is likely to be greater anxiety and we might need extra encouragement. We might need you to swap muesli bars with us if you don’t really give a shit what flavour you have. We might need you to grocery shop with us so we don’t have huge panic attacks in the cereal aisle, or even shop for us. This is a crazy time for everyone but there are different layers to this for different people and groups.

And for those who this is an issue – reach out. Share with people what’s going on in your head; share what the eating disorder might be shouting in that head of yours. Maybe you feel undeserving of food, or feel like you need to leave it for others but this is not the case – you deserve it. You need it. You need food just as much as anyone and you are so worthy of that.

So. Here ends the blog post.

Bek x

for Liam & for you & for me & us all.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post all day and had carefully crafted in my mind everything I’d wanted to say. But here I am, 8pm on Thursday night and I’m at a loss for words. But anyway, let’s see how we go.

This week, an old school friend of ours died. He would’ve been 28 this year. We’re all shocked and understandably devastated in our own ways and for different reasons. For me, Liam was one of those guys in school who I’d always have a bit of a laugh with. He was a jokester. He had nice eyes. The goofiest laugh. A friendly smile. A dry sense of humour. He was smart. He was unique. There was no other guy like Liam in our year; he was friends with everyone. He was special to a lot of us. I definitely had a crush on him at some point. He was a goofball. I loved that.

After we left school in 2010. Liam and I stayed in contact. The odd message here and there. Mentions of catch ups and coffees but life always managed to get in the way, as life does. At times when I was really struggling with my eating disorder, he’d always reach out. He always read my blog and he’d always message me after a post if something I’d written had really resonated with him. He encouraged me during some really hard times and was so open and honest about his own struggles with other addictions and his own recovery in that.

Liam believed in recovery from addiction and from mental illness. He believed in me and MY recovery. If he knew others who struggled with similar issues, he believed in them and their full recovery too.

So this is why I blog. For people like Liam who read my words and who can relate. For family and friends who want a better understanding of mental health and addiction and compulsive behaviours. For people to not feel so damn alone and isolated in this. We’re all here, doing life together as best we can, so let’s keep doing it. We need to do the best we can with what we have and we need to show our love and care and concern for others so they don’t fall between the cracks.

Big love,

Bek X

stick around for the good days.

You might not believe it, but the good days exist. Or the good moments exist. The good minutes, even. A stranger walking by who catches your eye and smiles. Sunshine after a week of rain, or rain after the driest summer on record. The beautiful meow of your cat when you arrive home. The magazine you subscribe to arriving in the mail. Peanut butter. Bowls of rice. The satisfaction of finishing a book. Giggles escaping from your mouth that you didn’t even anticipate occurring. Your favourite song playing on the radio. Cards in the mail from friends; text messages saying hey thinking of you praying for you love you I’m glad you exist. Delicious smells of fresh bread when you walk by a bakery. Wisecracks from oldies. Cups of tea before bedtime and soy flat whites during the day. Breakfast. Breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner because it’s the damn best.

Green, lush grass that a month ago was crunchy and dead beneath your feet because of the lack of rain. Thunderstorms. Walking by the ocean. Watching a sunrise; watching a sunset. New, fresh tubes of toothpaste. Sleeping through the night. Dogs. Your dogs. Strangers dogs. Big dogs. Little dogs. Fluffy dogs. All kinds of dogs.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the good things.

Good days exist, good moments exist and good things exist, but some days we need to look extra hard for them. Some days are painful. Some days feel unbearable and it can feel like it’s just one horrible thing after the next. Depression isn’t just mental, it’s physical. It’s crushing and ever present. But there’s blue among the grey and I hope the grey starts to become less and less for you all x

Mental Illness is not a Flaw in Character.

We’re not very good as a society at talking about mental health. It’s awkward. It’s kind of gross, all that vulnerability that is felt when you put yourself out there and share parts of life that aren’t all that nice. We fear people will judge us, that we will be seen as attention seeking, looking for sympathy. It’s just generally not a nice vibe. And so we conceal it all inside of ourselves, and we become inauthentic because we aren’t being our true selves with friends and family Continue reading

a rambling rant // a friendly reminder

This is a friendly reminder that eating disorders are a mental illness, not a physical illness. The basis for diagnosis is thoughts and behaviours. And whilst there may be (but is not always the case) physical consequences to an ED, this is not a marker for how serious ones eating disorder is. In fact, all eating disorders are serious. Continue reading

on friendship and eating disorders

Oh man, a blog post! What a time. I’ve had so much to write but also so little, and lots of words running around in my head but no space in my brain to sit down and write them out. And to be honest, I still don’t have the space so these words will likely be clumsily strung together – sorry fam. Bear with me in this time of writers block Struggle Street. Continue reading