“Be kinder to yourself.
And then let your kindness flood the world.” – Pema Chodron
I am a former anorexic. My niche was exercise anorexia (which meant that not only did I obsessively count calories and limit my food intake, but when I ate normally in front of others to keep up appearances, I OVERDID it with my exercising) and… occasional bulimia.
I suffered in silence with it, not telling people what I was experiencing. Having been severely criticized in my childhood and long into my adulthood, I feared letting anyone into what was going on in my head, because I was SURE I would only be criticized for that too.
I struggled with this mental illness while I was married to my first husband. As his body started to waste away from his cocaine and alcohol addiction, I fell more and more into the clutches of my own inner demons, and my own weight was falling off me, very unhealthily.
I alternated between trying to eat normally and healthfully, to depriving myself of food when my husband pinched my already skinny butt and proclaimed I was putting on weight.
I punished myself by over-doing the exercising and by severely limiting my food, which in turn led me to binge eating and panicking after that I’d get fat, so I’d force myself to throw up.
I struggled for control in my life. where everything seemed to be so very out of control.
Anorexia and exercising seemed the only way to conquer the fear and the terrible stress from what was going on with my husband, with my marriage, and within myself.
I came from an abusive childhood and really didn’t have any coping skills or tools to deal with regular life, let alone a marriage to an addict.
The big turning point for me came when my gynecologist told me she was worried about me, that I had stopped menstruating for a year and my weight was at least 15 pounds below the lowest limit for my height and weight. She wanted to send me to a dietician. She was going to order me to go.
I took the public transit home from her office and went over in my mind what she had said. I was amazed to have heard that I was so severely underweight that my doctor wanted me to see a specialist.
I knew it was serious.
When I got home I told my husband that my doctor had a frank discussion with me about my weight.
He immediately joked how he was happy that she was on his side, to let me know I needed to lose a few pounds.
I got icy cold. I suddenly realized that I really didn’t have the kind of weight problem he thought I had, and that the problem was in his head. I realized he had a problem with reality. I told him I wasn’t fat, that he just had fat eyes, if that made sense, but he understood what I meant.
From that moment onwards, I vowed to just eat healthily and exercise moderately.
I knew I could never again keep a scale at home to weigh myself, follow any weight loss diet, or even to count calories, as these would remain triggers for me (for decades). …Even as recently as a couple of years ago, I declined joining the office weight loss group, and felt some negative pushback from a couple of people who didn’t understand that this could be a trigger for me.
Since I had been severely limiting my calorie intake and my portion size, my stomach had shrunken and eating a normal size meal made it hurt, which was one of the reasons why I had started purging.
I learned that I needed to start eating more nutritionally dense foods and stay away from snacking on celery sticks!
One thing which I hadn’t YET learned was to practice speaking kindly to myself and to suspend judgement. I was still very much into professional level negative and hateful self-talk, which kept my feelings of self-worth extremely low.
Having very low self-worth and the inability to bolster myself up meant that I was still seeking approval from others. I believe I was very transparent with this neediness, that I brought in more people into my life who were controllers, hence I experienced many more years of suffering.
Controllers are all around us, all the time. When we ourselves still have damaged areas, we connect and identify more easily with them, and allow them into our lives. As we become healthier, we no longer tolerate people walking all over us, as we aren’t seeking approval in unhealthy ways!
Honestly, it took me years to learn these secrets!
The more I put into practice speaking kindly to myself and suspending judgement, the more I was able to move past the moments where I felt triggered. Even the triggers have lessened their grip and no longer have the power to send me spiraling down the rabbit hole of very negative self-talk, anxiety and depression!
As I move through the various phases of menopause, I’m now able to make peace with the weight gain which accompanies these hormonal changes!
Do I still look at my tummy fat with a baleful eye? Yes, I do, if I’m going to be completely honest. However, the harsh judgmental thoughts have pretty much gone away, and when anything surfaces, I have learned to speak kindly to myself, allowing myself to just live the human female life experience!
If you are struggling with poor self image, and feel a need to starve or otherwise harm yourself, please seek help! There is no need to suffer in silence! Mental health has come ahead by leaps and bounds from where it was even a couple decades ago!
I have learned that self-acceptance is part of self-love, which is vital for strong mental health!
Everyone: Remember to practice speaking gentler and kinder to yourself! Practice suspending judgement for a day, then add more time!
While change doesn’t happen overnight, incrementally you will start to feel better about yourself and your life! As you start to feel better about yourself, your outlook on your life will also improve, for you will start to see yourself as capable and not a helpless victim of circumstance!
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