The Different Roads Of Thinking

I have been working in the field of mental health for several years and throughout my experience I witness more and more the power our minds and our thoughts truly have.  I am in awe each day at how truly powerful our thoughts affect almost every part of our lives. The power and magnitude one thought can have and the direction it can take one person on is truly astounding. How one thought can directly influence our perceptions, our emotional states and the paths in life we choose to take. It can take one experience, one comment, one person to evoke a thought which then evokes a feeling or belief and in turn influences our actions. The power of our thoughts can guide us down a road of strength, empowerment and positivity or down a road of despair, defeat and self destruction. Often times we overlook and minimize the magnitude of just how powerful our minds and thoughts truly are.

 

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A lot of the work I do is helping people to identify the positive as well as negative thoughts they feed and give power to each and every day. To identify how their thoughts affect them in multiple areas of their lives. Often times we don’t realize we have the power and strength to choose which mental road we travel down. To often we are fueled by impulse and reaction that we don’t stop and think to question which road we choose to travel down. Do we travel the roads which are helpful with positive thoughts and solutions or do we find ourselves lost and wondering down the road of negative and unhealthy thinking, feeling lost, fearful and trapped?

Listed below are some of the different roads of wrong thinking that have some of the deepest impact, that a lot of people find themselves lost in.

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1.) The Road of Fear and Anxiety: “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” 
― Jim Morrison.

Fear and anxiety have the power to stop many people in their tracks and leave them feeling confused, scared and looking for a way out. Fear can get in our minds and hold us back from where we are meant to go and our destiny. How often have you found yourself trapped in fear and anxiety? Better yet how often did you come to find out that the fear and anxiety was caused by being wrapped up in what you thought would or could happen and not in what was actually the reality of what was happening. Fear and Anxiety can be a sign that there are thoughts and feelings that we are not paying attention to. It can be a signal or an alert that something is going on within us that needs to be addressed. So often fear and anxiety is something that we try to block, numb or not look at because it can feel too overwhelming. The road of fear and anxiety can take people into a dark isolating place or lead them to seek alternative escapes. That is why when fear or anxiety comes up it is best to take time out so you can physically calm down. A moment to ask yourself, what do I need to look at? What is triggering my reaction at this moment? What evidence do I have that my fears or anxieties are true? There is an alternative road to choose and that is the road of introspection and curiosity. To feel safe enough to work through fear and anxiety instead of running away from it can help people realize that they don’t have to succumb to the fears and anxiety they experience. It’s impossible to think clearly when you’re flooded with fear or anxiety. When we can work through fear, when we can face anxiety, then we can work to find ways to cope and help manage anxiety the more confidence begins to develop in ourselves and in our ability to move forward and face the things in life we once avoided.

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2.) The road of doubt and lack of trust: “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac 

How often does self doubt and an inability to trust ones self affect the way you look at making decisions and how you feel about your capabilities? For many people their inability to trust in themselves can create distress and self doubt. The voice of self doubt can be an overpowering voice that has the power to hold you back.  They create thoughts and feelings that keep people from going after things in life, seizing opportunities and keep them from fulfilling their potential. I see many clients struggle with doubting themselves and who they are and in turn have gone down a road of self sabotage, avoidance and running away when they are unsure of people, places and opportunities. Often times people seek outside sources for validation and reassurance, hoping someone else will know what we should do or the decisions we should make. When you doubt yourself it further affirms the lack of trust and confidence in yourself. That is why a lot of the work I do with clients is to identify the messages sent to them about who they are and their capabilities. Whose voice is truly speaking to them and what messages are  influencing and guiding the road they embark on? The more you can take a moment, stop and pay attention to what voice you are listening to, the more you can one day separate the voices of others from your own voice within. Once we can gain awareness and trust in our intuition, identify what it is  telling you and where it is leading you then you can begin to go down the road of confidence and assuredness of who you are and the decisions you make.

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3.) The Road of Victimization- “How would your life be different if…You stopped validating your victim mentality? Let today be the day…You shake off yourself defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.”~ Steve Maraboli

One of the biggest types of thinking that I see hold people back is victimization. The belief and feeling that no one understands you or what you have been through. The fear that after so much pain if you open yourself up to the world or people you will get hurt. The belief that you have no control over your life. This mentality allows room to dwell in sadness and self pity which untimely leads to no where. When we identify ourselves with a victim mentality we allow that to be our identify and box us in. In many cases the experiences people have had carry so much pain and torment it is hard to fathom how anyone could ever understand so we limit ourselves with people and in life. In turn this type of thinking can become a defense mechanism that feels safe and secure. There comes a point however when too many walls are built and defenses are up that we are blinded to see that there are people who care enough to want to support and lift us up. I heard an amazing quote that resonated very strongly with me, ” The victim mindset will tell you all the reasons why you cannot. A victor mindset tells you all the reasons you can.” – Ben Prescott. When we identify  ourselves as a victim and live in fear it leaves room for resentment, anger or bitterness to take over. We give power to the things that hurt us. In time if we allow ourselves to process, to face and to work to heal from the people, places and circumstances that wounded us then the path becomes much more clearer. We have the ability to create a new story, a new role, a new mindset a chance to ask ourselves, Do I walk down the path of continued victimization or do I walk down the path where I now can become the victor from my pain. To choose the path of a victor is to choose a path that leads to hope, healing and freedom.

Listed above is just a few of the many different ways our thought process and ways of coping influence our perceptions, thoughts and actions. It starts with awareness and taking one small step towards change at a time, a step towards new behaviors, new actions, new thought processes and a step towards a new path. Once there is awareness then we can work to find compassion for ourselves, strength, hope and work to walk towards the roads of healing and positive thinking.

To say or not to say…. That is the question?

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” 

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Working in the field of addiction and eating disorders, as well as being in eating disorder recovery myself, I have experienced and witnessed first hand the lack of knowledge and understanding many people have about eating disorders. 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from a diagnosable eating disorder during their lifetime, while many more cases go unreported. Eating disorders are often suffered in silence and while there is a sterotypical idea of how someone with an eating disorder should look or act, that is simply not the case. Anyone and I mean anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter the age, race or gender, eating disorders do not discriminate. It is important to not only be aware of signs to look for when you suspect someone in your life may be suffering from an eating disorder but also to be aware of the sensitive nature of this disease. With any form of recovery there will be good, positive days and then there will be dark challenging days. Often times certain words or statements will be enough to send someone who struggles into the dark tangled web of negative thoughts in their head. This is why education and awareness is so important. It is not the fault of those who do not understand, supporting someone with an ED can be difficult and frustrating, it is hard to watch people hurt themselves and know you can only do so much about it. This is why it is so important to educate and increase awareness for those who may not be able to understand the power of this disease. To help people gain understanding is where true change can occur.

“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”

Listed below are some things you should not say to someone with an eating disorder-

1.) You look healthy– To many people this seems like a very normal, harmless comment often times meant to be supportive but to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder this comment can be one of the most triggering. The eating disorder mind has a way of turning many comments and twisting them into something negative. The ED mind hears “healthy” and associates that with being fat, being like everyone else, being normal or someone noticing a change in their appearance. Being called healthy can send someone spiraling downhill into anxiety, depression or trigger them to engage in their ED behavior. When in recovery from an eating disorder it is a very sensitive time, people are challenging themselves in many ways and if they feel their body changes are noticeable to others it can re-trigger those negative ED thoughts back in a very strong way. I advice many people I work with to not comment on the weight or appearance of their loved ones and focus on discussing inward positive emotional changes instead.

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2. Comments about food– Another big trigger that can effect someone with an eating disorder is when someone else comments on their food, labels their foods as healthy or unhealthy or comments on the amount of food someone is eating. For someone struggling with an eating disorder they are already hyper vigilant about what they eat and are trying to break away from stringent rules or judgments on food. For someone trying to overcome their eating disorder, eating in front of people is a huge milestone in itself, eating in front of others is a common fear for someone struggling. Commenting on what they eat or how they eat only puts the hyper focus and fear of eating back into action. Try to refrain from commenting and instead enjoy the company of who you are with and be in the present moment.

3. Why don’t you just eat?– This comment can be very hurtful to someone struggling with an eating disorder, if eating disorder were as simple as just starting to eat or stopping when full then this wouldn’t be the deadly disease that it is. Anorexia is the number 1 cause of death among all mental health issues. Eating disorders like any other mental illness or physical illness are not a choice, no one chooses to go down the eating disorder path. It is an all consuming disease that takes over someones life. I educate people that I come across that eating disorders are more than just about the food or appearance. There is often a deep wound or pain often times eating disorders become a way to cope with many different aspects of life. Try and be supportive and ask helpful questions to gain understanding of someone who may be struggling.

4.Commenting and criticizing your own weight- Those who are struggling with their eating disorder are constantly judging and criticizing their own appearance so to be around someone who is picking themselves apart only emphasizes the negative thoughts and enforces them in the ED mind. It is best to be kind to ourselves in thought and in action, one negative thought or comment feeds off another.

5. Don’t use or talk about numbers or calories-–  This is one of the worst things you can do to someone with an ED. Many times someone with an eating disorder is trying to stop behaviors, stop the obsession of the scale, stop the focus on a dress size or weight and calorie counting. To be around someone who brings that focus and attention back to numbers will only trigger someone trying to avoid those behaviors. 

6. You don’t look like you are someone who would have an eating disorder– This comment goes hand in hand with rule #1, do not talk about someone else’s appearance. Like I stated earlier eating disorders can affect anyone. Eating disorders come in many forms and the majority of sufferers are not the stereotypical image we have of a severely underweight emaciated person. Anorexia only represents 10% of eating disorders. Bulimia affects three times as many people who struggle with ED and binge eating has the highest incidence. Many times many people can experience traits of different eating disorder behaviors going back and forth from restricting, binging, purging or over exercising. When someone who struggles hears they don’t look like they have an eating disorder the ED mind twists and distorts this comment to mean that they don’t look sick enough, that they don’t need help. There is no one way to look, to be struggling with an eating disorder and by increasing awareness this is how we challenge the stereotype. 

 

These are a few key points to keep in mind when you are speaking with or supporting someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Remember to try and be supportive, instead of focusing on food or appearance focus on how they are doing, how they are feeling and ask them how you can best support them.

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Renovation of our minds

Therapists work with many different types of people, people whose stories and struggle are each different and unique. One common thing I have noticed as a therapist is how powerful our thoughts truly are. Thoughts can either be your best friend or the toughest meanest bully you can ever encounter. The power however is in your hands, the power to make a transformation of your mind is possible. Look at your mind as a room that needs to be redone and revamped, we do not want to demolish the room. The goal is not to destroy, erase, damage or forget the goal is to renew, restore and to renovate.

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The definition of renovation is to replace and make new. Our minds can be filled with toxic negavitve clutter. Our thoughts have the ability to make us second guess ourselves, our worth and what we are caplable of. How many times have you had a thought of ” I can’t do that” I’ll always struggle with this issue ” I”ll never be as ( fill in the blank here)” All these negative thoughts are junk that clutter your mental and emotional space. The moment you give in to the negative thoughts you are making a silent agreement with them. An agreement that opens the door to the negative thoughts and allow it to stay, fester grow and to make themselves at home. We have to develop an “I don’t think so” mentality. When a negative thought or idea comes your way the ability to answer back with an assertive  stance and declare, NO! I don’t think so is how you start to regain power and challenge the negativity. You may be asking how?  Here are some ways you can begin to renovate your mind.

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1. Trace the origin of your thoughts- Thoughts, beliefs and ideas come from somewhere, they have an origin a birthplace. They are like seeds that are planted in us. When negative thoughts come ask yourself, where did this thought come from? Is this serving a positive purpose or a negative? Is this thought my own or does it come from somewhere else? Many times the realization that the origin of certain thoughts come from your past, your expereinces and your relationships can be freeing. Locate the origin and then you have the power to  question, challenge and fight against it.

2. To renovate your mind pull down the negative and put up the positive – Once you know the origin of negative/toxic thoughts you can start to challenge them. This is where true renovation begins, when you start to challenge negative thoughts and ideals you start to take away their power, you start to question the truth behind the thoughts. When you realize certain thoughts developed through things that were said, experiences that one person had the truth behind the start starts to break. This is when you start to replace toxic negative thoughts with positive helpful thoughts that are based off of your values and ideals. This where you start to brighten your mind.

3. Guard your mind and thoughts- When you start to challenge the negative thoughts and are able to replace them with positive then its time to guard your mind. Protect your mind from the negative to come back and reclaim the space it once had. If your awareness is heightened then you will be more in tune with yourself and what thoughts you allow to take space in your mind.

4. Be patient with yourself- Negative thoughts love to come in and say ” You can’t do this” ” This isn’t working” Give up”. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself in any challenging growing process. One of the biggest trigger emotions and thoughts are fear of failure and hopelessness.

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It is very common to allow negative thoughts to lodge into our minds and take over, that up all the space. Whether you are facing depression, sadness, bitterness, grief, eating disorders, addiction my belief is that if we can renovate our minds and clear up a lot of the negative junk then room for healing can truly begin.

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For more information please visit my website http://www.journeytowellness.info

How To Love Your Body: No Seriously!!

I see many different lists of how to love your body and improve body image. These lists are often filled with beautiful affirmations and postivity however for many people struggling with negative body image or deep insecurities with their body, affirmations are not enough. I created a simple list of ways to start to challenge the negative thoughts and to hopefully begin the stepping stones to lead to a path of true body and self acceptance.

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1. Don’t focus on loving your body focus on loving yourself.

“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative”

To love your body means more than the physical you must start with focusing on ways to love and embrace yourself. There needs to be shift from body image to focusing on overall self image. To learn how to embrace all of who you are and everything that, that entails. Focus on your morals, values, goals and your overall purpose in life. By challenging yourself to start to deviate focus from the physical the true parts of who you are will start to shine.

2. Challenge every negative thought-

” With mindful awareness, negative self judgments make an excellent reference point for who you are NOT.”

Chances are the thoughts you say to yourself  you would never say to another human being. So why are they acceptable to say to yourself. Do not be your own bully instead focus on how you can become your own advocate. When you become aware of how truly negative and mean your thoughts can be you can start to challenge and fight them. Once you can challenge those negative thoughts and turn them into positive a true shift will occur.

3. Magazines & media-

“Warning: Reflections in the mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty.”

Turn your view the images and standards society and media portray of it being reality into what it is. The truth! which is it’s a fairy take, fiction, fake a fantasy. The images that are being portrayed are not real and when you can truly believe and know that these are false ideals they will have little control over your life. With the recent reports of stores posting ads with overly obvious photoshop its become increasingly clear how misguided our society is with these standards. 

4. Release Expectations-

” When you release expectations you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be.”

When you hold and place expectations it can often lead to disappointment. Ask yourself how many times you stand in front of the mirror, hoping, expecting to see an image you hold in your mind, only to be let down. That expectation is taking away from the true beauty of who you are, right now, at this very moment. Instead release your expectations of what you should look like and awaken every morning excited to be surprised by the beauty of who you are. 

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I’m not saying that turning your views from the negative will be easy, but the more you challenge the negative the more the positive voice inside of you will start to take charge. It’s time to start demanding, not only an improvement in our body image but our self image! Follow these stepping stones down the path to your own personal freedom.


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For more information about myself and to view my eating disorder internet series visit: http://www.therapycable.com/streams/behind-the-mask.html 

A Call To ACTION: National Eating Disorder Week

Many people do not know that there is such a thing as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  On February 23-March 1 is NEDA. week. This week is important for many reasons, yet is rarely acknowledged in our culture. Eating disorders are commonly looked down upon, and I feel a big reason is because they are misunderstood. Eating disorders are an ever-growing epidemic. Many are not aware of how many around them could be suffering from this disease. Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters, Brothers, Sons, Grandfathers and Dads may be suffering from an eating disorder. It is a hidden secret that is often guarded, protected, and veiled with fears of judgment and shame. It is time to break down the walls. It is time to empower and fight for those suffering from an eating disorder, as well as educate those who are unsure of how severe of an issue this may

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Over 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (anad.org). Eating disorders, specifically Anorexia, are the number one… the NUMBER ONE killer of all mental disorders. NUMBER ONE!!!
Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, but they affect more people than we realize. Dialogues must be started. Media stereotypes and the messages we send to the youth of America must be challenged. This growing epidemic will only continue to get worse, unless we shine a spotlight on this issue and increase our awareness.Young children are not immune to this disease. I have seen patients who have stated that their eating disorders started as young as the age of 5. How can children that young learn to hate their bodies? How do they learn to harm themselves in such a physical way to cope with internal pain? Information about this issue must spread; we cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak up, to learn, grow, and face this problem. For someone suffering from an eating disorder, it may feel like being locked in a silent prison that slowly kills.
 
By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference
There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and people who have or are currently struggling with one. I’ve heard time and time again, “Why can’t the behavior just be stopped?”, as if it were as easy as turning an on switch off. What many people don’t know is that an eating disorder is a disease, and also an addiction. Eating disorders are more than just a behavior; it is a mindset and a thought process that takes over many aspects of a person’s life. There is more eating disorders than an obsession with weight and body image; there are factors that contribute to the extreme mindset and feelings that come with an eating disorder. If we can better understand the mindset and find ways to help then maybe one day the recovery rate of won’t be as low as it is now.The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. We have come far in the last two decades but eating disorders research continues to be under-funded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate, and societal pressures to be thin or look a certain way remain rampant. Some doctors fail to recognize the signs or offer the help that many people suffering from an eating disorder need. Education is vital. 
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We need acceptance, we need love, and we need hope. Most of all, those who suffer from an eating disorder need support. The more we can make them feel safe to share their stories and feel understood, the more we can continue to combat for and help those in need. I have hope that one day we will live in a society where our shape and weight are not what define us. I have hope that one day those suffering will continue to find the courage and strength within themselves to fight and know it’ll be ok; that recovery is possible and that they have a voice we want to hear.This is a call to action. Please do your part and increase awareness with eating disorders. You can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org. The smallest things make the largest difference. Thank you.By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference.

Finding The Artist Within: Art Therapy & Eating Disorders

Art Therapy is becoming a powerful and effective coping skill that the eating disorder community has embraced. Art therapy helps and challenges a person to create and to reflect on the process of the art making experience and the art work they create. This process is powerful especially for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder because it helps gain new insight and awareness about themselves and their eating disorder.

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Having worked with the eating disorder population for six years one common thing I have seen is how difficult it can be for so many to express or identify their feelings and thoughts. For many words are not a viable and comfortable outlet for them to use. This is why art therapy can be so powerful. The transformations I have seen in someone who with words alone could not express the pains within, utilize different avenues of art for expression is inspiring. I wanted to share with the world how art therapy can be used to help those who suffer from an eating disorder in their recovery process.
 
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Art Therapy for Bulimia or Binging:
 For so many people out their suffering from bulimia or binging the behaviors they exhibit is that of a binge then purge cycle or a binge cycle. For someone who suffers with bulimia the purge is their avenue and way to get rid of or releases intense emotions. The purge serves as the outlet for release and a physical act of expression. This physical act on themselves is the attempt to get rid of unwanted feelings & emotions that feel to much to cope with. The binge cycle is an act of no control, a person feels lost and numb during the binge often times this serves as a way to not only disconnect with the body and mind but emotions as well.  The binge and purge cycle are often attempts to cope with unresolved emotional issues such as depression, rage, powerlessness, frustration and sadness. Art therapy is a unique way of tapping into those feelings both conscious and unconscious. 

Incorporating art therapy into someone suffering from bulimia or binge eatings treatment could help with the binge and purge symptoms and a greater understanding of what the binge and purge behavior represents or how its used to help one cope. Using art therapy could become a replacement behavior or coping mechanism for the binge and purge behavior.

Art Therapy for Anorexia
: For someone struggling with anorexia there is a restricting of not only food but emotions. Those who suffer from anorexia severely restrict their food content and this serves many emotional purposes. Starvation depletes the body of essential nutrients that the body needs to feel energy and function. Someone who suffers from anorexia feels a numbing of emotions when in severe starvation. They no longer feel any troubling emotions inside, starvation allows them to numb the pain they feel internally. Art therapy provides an outlet for anorexics to explore buried feelings as well as reconnect with their feelings and perception of themselves and their body.

Art therapy can be used like a key to open doors and hidden things. I empower you if you are struggling with expressing or identifying negative emotions to channel them into a creative form of expression. This allows the development of a new language to find a healthy way to cope with emotions. 

Some examples of utilizing art for coping:

– Creative Journaling

– Scrap booking

– Vision Boarding

– Collage Making

– Painting.

– Writing 

– Pottery/ Clay Making

My hope is to increase the awareness of utilizing art therapy and give so many out there hope that there are healthy powerful ways to confront and get through the pain without turning to the eating disorder behaviors. There is hope for recovery, it’s time to find the artist within

Hope For The Holidays

The holidays can be a very magical and special time for many people around the world but for others the holidays equate stress, anxiety, sadness or anger. This can be for a variety of reasons, familial issues, relationship issues, money issues, health issues the list goes on. For some reason the holiday season is the flashlight that shines on many of these issues for so many. This blog post is written to hopefully shine the light away from all the stress and anxiety and shine the light on the ways you can turn the stress and anxiety into peace, comfort and joy.

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As you are reading this I am sure you are saying how? I know many eating disorder blog posts related to the holidays are focused on the food and food anxiety associated with this time of year. I want to mainly focus on the emotional aspects associated not only surrounding food but surrounding holidays in general. Someone who has or is battling an eating disorder has created a relationship of protection and need surrounding their eating disorder. For many who are still in their disorder the holidays reflect a time where protection and a feeling of safety needs to take place. Protection meaning how do I avoid food this holiday? How do I binge this holiday and have no one notice? How can I purge this holiday without anyone noticing? For someone in recovery the dilemma is how can I prepare for this holiday? How can I stay calm around food this holiday? How can I make sure I don’t under eat or overeat this holiday? I am sure the list of questions and thoughts go on and on. I am here to focus on the fact that these questions and worry can actually feed into the anxiety and stress one may be experiencing. Do not get me wrong to be prepared and mindful and have a plan in place are of utmost importance however ruminating in the thought and worry will only increase thoughts and worry. Implementig action plans and solutions to counteract these thoughts is key.

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For many people that I work with the anticipation of the holiday is often times worse than the holiday itself. Acceptance of where you are at in your recovery or in your disease is a crucial first step for helping you create an action plan.

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Accepting and releasing- This is an important skill because so many people fight and beat themselves up over what they may be going through or facing in life. Accept that you may be struggling, accept that things may not be where you want them be and release any guilt or shame associated with it. Guilt and shame is truly like a prison that keeps you locked up, bound and stuck where you are. If someone who is struggling can come to a place of acceptance, then the light can be shown on the underlying issues that need to be cared for, addressed and movement can begin to happen. This holiday accept and release that this may be a hard time, a stressful time but its ok, you are ok. Release the guilt and shame, release that it may be a hard time for you and accept that for anyone struggling you are doing your best and like any other day the holiday will pass. 

Mindfulness – Become aware of what triggers any emotional upsets or anxiety for you. Whether it be food triggers or emotional triggers. Identify what they might be and for each one create an alternative thought, plan or identify someone you can turn to for support. Many times when someone is triggered the reaction is fueled off of  instinct and impulse. Instinct to push away or ignore feelings, impulse to act out, numb or find a way to cope that may be unhealthy. When someone can become aware of what their triggers are and how it affects their behavior it can be empowering because then an alternative action plan can be created. This holiday if food is your trigger think of a safety person or anchor (object) that you can reference or go to for extra support to help ease your anxiety. Visualize a safe space and take a moment for yourself to be in your safe visual space and breathe.

Presence- Be present with yourself often times someone who is battling or in recovery from an eating disorder has to learn how to reconnect mind body and spirit. An eating disorder serves for many as a way to disconnect from self, people and emotions. The concept of being present can be a difficult one.The concept of being and staying present is important because often times the build up of thoughts of what could or would happen is the catalyst for emotional turmoil and fear. This holiday season challenge yourself to stay present with where you will be, with the people surrounding you, to conversations, to the atmosphere. By becoming present you will allow yourself to become more aware and these are powerful skills to learn.

Prepare- For someone with an eating disorder the stress of being surrounded by food and what to eat and how much can be very tiring. If you are in recovery one of the best things you can do is stick to your meal plan the best you can. For anyone struggling, do your best to plan what you will eat ahead of time so you are not overwhelmed or panicked in the moment. Preparing will allow you to be more present and aware of your surroundings. The anxiety of comments families or loved ones can make or conversations that may be triggering can cause a lot of anxiety as well. Be honest and open beforehand with your family and ask that certain comments not be made or conversations not be had. By setting boundaries you are not only keeping yourself safe you are communicating your needs to the people who love you.

Love and compassion- Be loving and compassionate to yourself, the holidays can be hard, but getting through the holidays when struggling with an eating disorder can be very challenging. Remember to be kind to yourself with your words, actions and thoughts. Reach out for support and allow yourself to be your own support system as well. Love and use your voice to be open with any struggles you may face and set boundaries with family or friends to help them understand your needs and wants. By loving yourself you are allowing others to love and help you as well.

Have hope, if the flashlight can be focused not on the stress, worry and anxiety but onto the hope that is within, chances are the light will showcase things that for someone struggling with an eating disorder can begin to look at, focus on and be grateful. Lets shine the light on hope this holiday season and most of all shine the light of hope within ourselves.

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The Invisible Line: Finding your voice and setting your boundaries

For so many people the ability to stand up for their inner needs and wants can be very difficult. Often times many people I encounter hold many of their emotions and thoughts within themselves. I know especially for the eating disorder population so much of what feeds into their negative view of themselves is driven by an inability to feel they should be seen, heard or have a voice. I work very hard with my clients to not only empower them, but to help them find their inner strength to define their emotions, define their thoughts, define their needs, assert themselves and set boundaries in their worlds. This concept of standing up for ones self is a very hard concept for many people but for the eating diorder community it is especially tough. An eating disorder is a selfish disorder, its a mean disorder, its a bullying disorder. It makes a person feel unworthy, unlovable, and most of all unimportant. This post is for anyone who ever felt unseen, unheard, unloved, for the tears cried at night, for the silent taunting screams that haunt so many. To anyone who ever felt neglected, unappreciated, judged.

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So many peoples lives are spent and driven by the constant worry about what others think, worried about how others see and view them and I ask why? I encounter this pattern with so many of the eating disorder clients I work with, they have such a need and a desire to give all of themselves to loved ones, to worry about how others see them, never feeling good enough, never feeling like they matter. Often times this preoccupation with what others think and how they see us instill a silence within a person. This silence is a dangerous cage, when someone takes their emotions, thoughts and locks them away it’s only a matter of time before all those pent up emotions and thoughts want to break free. I have noticed that for a lot of people who suffer from an eating disorder they have either been surrounded with too rigid of boundaries which leads to suppressed emotions or not enough of a boundary which leads to a sense of not knowing ones own identity. The inability to handle or process emotions from lack of boundaries for someone struggling with an eating disorder can be acted out in many ways.

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Someone struggling with anorexia restricts their food because I often hear it is the one thing that they can control but it is also a way to numb emotions and thoughts. As someone starves themselves and the physical implications start to take affect, the internal implications are unwinding as well. Their is an inability to process or define their emotions and if emotions come up the anorexia serves as a numbing agent. When you are physically depleted, your brain is depleted as well. There is a disconnection between mind and body and often times someone suffereing from anorexia is so malnoursihed or week it serves as a way to disconnect from the world and emotions. This is why in treatment centers when someone is being renourished its an overhwmelming experience. They start to feel again and so many of the negative emotions and thoughts will begin to resurface.

Someone struggling with bulimia its a physical action based behavior. Someone who binges and purges or just purges whatever they ate is coping with emotions and thoughts through a physical act. The pain they feel is often times acted out through purging. It’s a physical release of what has been kept inside of them.  Its a physical representation of trying to purge ones emotions. I hear many comments from so many who suffer from bulimia that its a coping tool for them to release their pain, sometimes its a violent act against themselves, its an aggresive expression of the pain unfolding within them. Within the brain itself the brain associates the cycle of bulimia as a coping pattern so in treatment it is almost like detoxing someone off a drug. The withdrawls from the act of purging leave someone who suffers from bulimia feeling helpless and overwhelmed, when their feelings come up the coping tool they have used for so long is no longer their to serve its purpose and that can be very difficult for someone recovering from bulimia.

Someone struggling with binge eating it’s a way to disconnect from emotions and self. Its an uncontrolable force that takes over its a disociation where a person is not present in the moment until after the binge where guilt and shame then take over. The guilt and shame ruminate and taunt the person which leads to a lower sense of control, worth or value. These negative emotions then fuel the cycle of numbing out and mindlessly eating all over again to further serve a numbing purpose. In treatment for someone who uses food during emotional times this can be a very hard adjustment.

I bring up these three behaviors and components because they all have things in common, they serve a purpose to help someone distract, disconnect and dissociate from emotions that prove to much to bare or handle. I truly believe if someone can develop a way to assert their needs and boundaries and become and advocate for themselves because they believe they are worth standing up for,  it would help them define, process and learn how to handle hardships, needs and emotions. Boundary setting is a crucial skill for people to learn. We must empower our clients to envision and create an invisible line.

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Here is an example list of some unhealthy boundaries:

• Sacrifice their personal values, plans or goals to please others

• Allow others to define who they are and make decisions for them

• Expect others to fulfill all their needs

• Feel guilty when they say no

• Hesitate to share their opinions or assert themselves if they are being treated unfairly

• Frequently feel used, threatened, victimized or mistreated by others

• Afraid of confrontation or conflict

• Take responsibility for other people’s feelings

• Tell others how to think, feel or act

I really work hard to empower my clients to feel comfortable with their voice and their instincts.

Here are some good ways to start defining your needs and emotions:

1. Create a personal bill of rights to slowly feel comfortable identifying  needs and asserting them.

2. Become aware and identify your emotions, thoughts and feelings within your body. This process is about slowly reconnecting with yourself.

3. Set limits for yourself based on your needs and emotions

4. Acceptance- Come to a place of acceptance. Assert your need that you are of value and your thoughts and opinions matter.

For many people when someone starts to assert themselves it can at first be a shock to not only the people in their lives but to themselves. My message to everyone out there who may be struggling with so many emotions that they have pushed down or kept hidden, is to slowly trust in your inner voice, to slowly fight for yourself. There is a purpose to your pain and maybe one purpose is to give you a power you have had all along.

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MIrror Mirror On The Wall: Shattering the illusion that deceives

We all know the fairy tale of Snow White. As a little girl I remember being terrified of the wicked witch and her hatred for anything that the mirror on the wall could reveil would be more beautiful than she was. I reflect back on the messages I received from that one fairy tale, the impact and focus of the mirror on the wall. Determining truth, determining worth, determining value,  determining destiny. I wish I could say that the story of the mirror on the wall is just that a fairy tale however that would be false,  it is very much the reality of so many men and woman today. The mirror signifies worth, value, mood, thoughts, actions and life. What is this mirror and who decided it’s refelction of us was truth, better yet who decided it had the capacity to reflect all of who we truly are. This post takes a closer look at one of the cores of all types of eating disorder and that is negative body image and the distortions that feed into them.  I am writing to shed light on distorted body images that come from struggling with an eating disorder but for those who have or suffer from body dysmorphic disorder as well. My hope is this post will help shatter and break the glass in the mirror on the wall.

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We all have a vision or an idea of what we would like to see. For many when they look in the mirror there is a distinct focus that is the point of fixation. For so many their self worth is linked to what they perceive in the mirror but my message is that the mirror lies. I am not talking about the mirror itself but our minds mirror, the build up of words, ideas, thoughts, images that build up a visual of what we are supposed to look like, what we should see in the mirror and what we are worth. I challenge clients everyday to think for one moment if the image they saw and strived for in their minds would appear in the mirror would they stop chasing the vision, would they feel content, validated, happy. The answer is most always NO. The fear that confines and haunts those who suffer from eating disorders and distorted body images of themselves keep them wanting to go deeper and deeper, it feeds their eating disorders & validates the disorder. If their ” ideal body” was to show in the mirror, they would want to improve that image, go further, keep going. This is where the danger lies, this is the distorted body image that haunts so many people in the world. The belief that if they could achieve what their mind believes is beautiful enough that everything else in their world be alright.

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychological condition in which a person becomes obsessed with their appearance and a perceived flaw in their appearance. So many woman and men struggle with who they see in the mirror. They stand in front of it everyday, some in dread, some in anger, some in sadness and some in disgust. For some the idea of facing what they see in the mirror is so anxiety provoking that they avoid it all together. The race for perfection drives so many to fixate on what they perceive in their minds as flaws. The medias portrayal of what is beautiful as well as our own idea of what is beautiful can be very damaging. Kids at a young age are now paying attention to fashion and dieting the list goes on. For those struggling with a distorted body image I believe it goes beyond just the body focus but a distorted sense of self and the world. Often times those who dislike and hate their bodies dislike themselves. The core in dealing with this issue is to help a client work through what has led to their low self esteem and low self worth. By starting to uncover where they learned to question or dislike who they are. By helping them discover the connections we can slowly start to put cracks in the mirror. 

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It is said in the professional community of those who treat eating disorders that the preoccupation with body image is the last to go in the stages of recovery. While I can agree that yes body image acceptance is very challenging for someone recovering from an eating disorder it is possible. To see the transition from someone who hates their body and who they are, to someone who embraces their body and is proud of who they are,  for me as a clinician it is one of the most satisfying to witness.  I wish I could provide simple steps to loving your body etc I wish it were that easy. What I can provide is hope by just addressing this topic we are increasing the awareness for so many who struggle everyday hating their body. As clinicians I again empower you to educate yourselves and look beyond what is presented to you from your clients. I like to look beyond the negative distorted body image and start cracking that mirror. I look for patterns and connections of what else may be distorted in a clients mind about who they are and the life they could have. When clients can make the connections of the distortions they have that go beyond just their body it can be very powerful for them. If someone who suffers from a distorted body image can get a glimpse of their true reflection it can lead to them developing the tools to shatter their mirrors. If someone allows themselves to be open to challenge what they see, chances are that there may be a glimpse of their true self shown and thats where the power can lie, the reality vs. the mirror. It starts from within, developing self love, develop some empathy for themselves and one day developing pride in who they are. My hope is for anyone struggling to one day see yourselves for who you truly are and that is beautiful. 

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“Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others.” 

For more from Priscilla Jadallah and on eating disorders please check out her internet series Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled

http://www.therapycable.com/streams/content/69-behind-the-mask

Walk On Guest Blog Post written by: Madison Nixey

When discussing any difficult issues or topics what motivates me and keeps me hopeful are the people who live a life of inspiration. I was honored and touched when such an amazing woman Madison Nixey reached out to me and asked if she could write a post for my blog. My immediate answer is yes. Madison is someone who I met about three years ago. I have had the honor of seeing her along her journey in recovery and she inspires me in so many ways. Her spunk, her say it how it is attitude, her humor and her strength never stop surprising me. Madison was recently in New York City participating in the NEDA walk and that is where her blog post starts. Thank you Madison for writing and sharing a part of your experience to the world.

(Madison & I at the Norooz Clinic Art Fair where Madison spoke about her journey  & recovery from her eating disorder)

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Walk On written by: Madison Nixey     

Last Friday, October 4th I flew out to New York to attend my second ever NEDA walk. Sunday morning, October 6, I laced up my Nike’s and hopped on the subway. The Los Angeles NEDA walk was in February this past year and my experience there left a lot to be desired. I got off the subway at Foley Square, right by the big courthouse in New York. We wandered for a little but confused because there weren’t many visible signs up. We made a left and found ourselves on the outskirts of a huge group of NEDA walkers. Around 1300 people came out to support the cause. 1300 PEOPLE GUYS! That’s like, a whole 1100 more than attended the walk in Santa Monica!!! The atmosphere was incredible. All around me I could hear stories of sadness and hope. There were many people walking for their kids and their mothers and also lots of groups walking for people who had passed away from complications of their eating disorders. The emotion was overwhelming walking around talking to people. It was a great mixture of pride and sadness and fallen dreams. There were parents mourning the loss of the great future their child could have had and children mourning the years lost spent with their mothers.

The walk was across the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. You could hear chanting and screaming and laughter. It was truly an amazing event to attend. People were stopping me to ask about the cause and the amount of people who even just turned and gave us a second glance was unreal. Along our route/gathering place, there were signs with statistics and ‘fun facts’ about eating disorders. One of the ones that stood out to me the most was; “35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self induced vomiting, diet pills or laxatives”. Take a minute and let that sink in………

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Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness and the least talked about cause. It is so so important for awareness to be brought to this issue and we all need to get together and talk about it. Everyone knows someone and everybody’s life whether we know it or not has been affected by disordered eating, whether it be within ourselves or people around us. We need to get together to fight. Fight for better government funding, fight for better insurance coverage, and fight for the right to not be ashamed of what we’ve been through and to be proud of the fight we will have to constantly go through for the rest of our lives.

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My eating disorder started when I was 12 years old. I fought to get treatment at age 17. I’ve been in recovery for three years in February. It’s been the hardest, most challenging road I have ever had to walk but it is also the most rewarding and I wouldn’t ever go back and change anything. I view my anorexia more as a blessing than anything because it has taught me to be a strong, independent woman who knows how to fight for what I want. I spend all my free time I have (which is getting to be less and less being in nursing school) dedicated to talking—sharing my story, sharing my recovery and being an open book. The power of sharing your story holds so much, you never know who is still secretly struggling and who could benefit.

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