Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Mask


Dear Blog Readers,

This week I am thinking about how much pretending we do when we are in the midst of our ED thoughts and behaviours. It is incredibly exhausting to present one person and to feel like someone entirely different. I think that many of you will connect with the idea of wearing masks to hide our pain, judgement, shame, and suffering.


Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,

Kira

The Mask
By Jodi















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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content is edited and approved by the moderator. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your health practitioner if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. 
If you would like to share your stories, writings, and art, please email Kmccarthy@Sheenasplace.org
If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at nedic.ca
For information or to register for groups at Sheena's Place, please visit www.sheenasplace.org

Monday, 23 July 2018

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS



Dear Bloggers, Blog Readers and Bloggers-to-be, 

Sending in your work is scary.

Do it anyway! Ha!

Please keep sending your submissions. Also, when you are on the Blog, click on the right hand side of the home page to follow the blog. You can also bookmark it.  I also want to encourage you to engage in discussions through the comment box at the bottom of all posts! (Comments are moderated to maintain safety)

All submissions will be published, with guidance to stay within the Sheena's Place safe space guidelines. I am humbled and honoured to have received so many honest, raw, and vulnerable pieces. Your ability to share continues to amaze me. 

Thank you for entrusting me with your stories.

I am currently calling for submissions explored in ANY format of text or art form on the following topics:
  • Invisible eating disorders due to not fitting stereotypes 
  • Experiences of ED in transgender, gender non-conforming, gender binary, and gender queer bodies
  • Experiences of EDs and disabilities
  • Mindfulness in recovery
  • The Health At Every Size movement (HAES)
  • What does body positivity mean to you 
  • Book reviews

Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,
Kira

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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content on this blog is edited and approved by the moderator. Sheena’s Place does not specifically endorse any advice or content. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your family doctor if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. No one can recover alone.

If you would like to share your story, or other writings or art, please email your submission to Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at http://nedic.ca/ 

If you would like more information or to register for groups, visit Sheena's Place website at www.sheenasplace.org

If you are in a country other than Canada, please google your local or National Eating Disorders Centre.

Having an Eating Disorder an Obese Body by Maddi


My dear blog readers,
It is time for me to publish one of the more potentially sensitive posts that I mentioned last week. This particular piece sparked a great deal of discussion about whether or not vague references fit within the guidelines or not. This piece was part of my inspiration for writing last week’s post about censoring folk’s stories who use words that make some people uncomfortable.
I pointed out that it is important to remember that discomfort and being triggered are not the same thing. I do everything I can to keep this online space safe for everyone. In order to do that, it means being able to publish pieces that are from the heart, are painful, are thought provoking, and that spark (what I feel) are essential conversations.
Obese bodies are very often treated differently than many other bodies. There are many assumptions about why a person is living in a bigger body, how unhealthy they must be, and how they have “done this to themselves”.  Having an eating Disorder in an Obese Body is a piece by Maddi that has been revised more times than I can count. From the first time I read it, I knew that it needed to be published. I also knew that there would be people who would disagree with me because our guidelines are so clear. Maddi, shares her experience of the judgement, and misconstrued notion that having Binge Eating Disorder, or being over a particular BMI, is often not accepted as an Eating Disorder. It is seen as a lack of self-control or willpower. It is seen as the fault of the person struggling with what is actually a psychiatric illness.
Eating Disorders are not a choice and cannot have fault placed on the person suffering, or who has suffered, with this illness.
I decided that this piece was a significant conversation starter. It will resonate with many people who are facing life in a bigger body and the rejection and disbelief of family, friends, culture, and medical professionals. Medical professionals are not immune to societal influences and current beliefs about health, beauty, and acceptance.
This is not a trigger warning. This is an introduction to a piece that addresses BMI, the concept of obesity, and a difficult relationship with food. After many revisions, we have made it is safe as we possibly can without erasing or silencing an already silenced existence. It is time for the silence to be broken and for the gaps in the system to be addressed. There needs to be a shift in the “not sick enough for treatment” mentality or experiences. Thank you for your understanding and if you choose not to read any further, remember that you are loved and worthy.
For those of you struggling with ED in bigger bodies, your experience is real. It is valid. You deserve support and access to the medical care that you need. You are not invisible at Sheena’s Place. Having an Eating Disorder is not your fault.
Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,
Kira
***************************************
Having an Eating Disorder in an Obese Body
By Maddi
I am obese, class III. Actually, if you listen to my doctor, I am pretty far into that class III, but the classes just don’t get any higher than that.
I’m at high risk for joint problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes… The list goes on (and on and on), and I can feel it every day. I wake up in the mornings, and I feel how unhappy my body is with me. It creaks and cracks just like an old house.
I’m never quite comfortable. I twist and turn at night, trying to find a position that doesn’t put too much weight on any one part of my body. My back gets worse and worse over time as I struggle to support my weight and my breasts get heavier and harder to support. Stairs knock the wind out of me, my legs ache walking to the car, and god forbid I have to walk any further than that.
Right now, I’m essentially carrying over double the weight that my body was designed to support. And it’s painful. And frustrating. And I hate it.
On top of the pain and discomfort, there’s the repeating thought in my brain that I did this all to myself. No one forced me to engage in symptoms, I have no thyroid problems, this is all about my relationship with food.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a ‘good’ relationship with food… For so long, I’ve seen it as a source of comfort and calmness when I most desperately need it.
My eating disorder has been my primary coping mechanism for years, and it shows on my body. And even now, as I’m engaging less and recovering more, it still shows on my body. Even when I’m learning new skills, repairing my relationship with food, and focusing on nutrients, my Binge Eating Disorder is reflected all over my body.
Years of regular disordered eating has affected my body in troubling ways. Some ED behaviours can lead to a sufferer looking visibly ‘ill,’ but because of the way my body looks, I’m not seen as a victim of an illness, I’m just weak-willed.
The negativity surrounding bigger bodies won’t be news to any of you, I’m sure. Fat people are so strongly associated with laziness, weak will, and personal flaws that my eating disorder wasn’t acknowledged or diagnosed for years. For years, my weight was an issue. For years, I struggled to control it. For years, food was my comfort, my tranquilizer, and my tie to the world.
In the midst of panic? ED.
Had a bad day? Oh hey, dear old symptoms.
Anxious for tomorrow? My good pal ED to the ‘rescue…’
Can’t sleep? Guess I have even more time to be symptomatic.
But no one saw it as a mental health issue, including me. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t actually a personal flaw of mine, but the result of a disordered relationship with food. But even now, when I’ve accepted it, it’s hard to talk about it with others.
I share a lot about my mental health. I write a blog, I try and do my part to support others and be an advocate. But my eating disorder feels different. Even calling it an eating disorder feels wrong. Like I’m not allowed to use the term.
Obesity is so strongly correlated to personal flaws, that those of us with above-average BMIs from our eating disorders are offered less help, less support, and less sympathy. An article written by two UCLA scholars discusses two case studies, one of a child likely affected by Binge Eating Disorder, and another about a child diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. While the parents of the child with Anorexia were sympathized with in their struggle to find help for their daughter, the single mother of the other child was at risk of losing custody of her child because of accusations of neglect. The article mentions that society views “anorexics as victims of a terrible illness beyond their and their parents’ control, while obesity is caused by bad individual [behaviour.]”
Though other factors like race, gender, social status, income, and familial structure can definitely be discussed as factors in these cases, my experience being a bigger size has shown me that there are different opinions of ED sufferers based on how their bodies appear.
Because my eating disorder is seen as an excuse, not a reason. It’s seen as a way to deflect my ‘personal responsibility’ for my weight.
Because my eating disorder is killing me slowly, it’s somehow less serious, less legitimate.
In my experience, some behaviours are assumed to take dedication and strength, whereas other behaviours are assumed to be a sign of weakness and lack of control. But when it comes to eating disorders, it’s just not fair to see it as anything other than a disorder. It’s not strength, but it’s not weakness either; it’s just a disorder.
I can’t compare my fight to the fight of those with other eating disorders, but I can tell you that it’s been a hell of a fight for me. My fight has been hard. It is a struggle. It is not about lack of motivation or willpower, it is not some flaw inherent in me that has caused me to not care enough to try — it’s a goddamn fight.
I am fighting for my health. But because I have a bigger body, no one believes me.
Maddi is a passionate mental health blogger and advocate.  She started My Bitter Insanity as place for her to write about the serious mental illness she lives with, because she did not believe it was talked about enough.  Maddi hopes to help normalize and destigmatize mental health discussions.

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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content on this blog is edited and approved by the moderator. Sheena’s Place does not specifically endorse any advice or content. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your family doctor if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. No one can recover alone.

If you would like to share your story, or other writings or art, please email your submission to Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at http://nedic.ca/ 

If you would like more information or to register for groups, visit Sheena's Place website at www.sheenasplace.org

If you are in a country other than Canada, please google your local or National Eating Disorders Centre.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Safe Space Guidelines or uncomfortable conversations?


Dear Wonderful Readers,

Another week of heat and sunshine to warm our souls ... and our bodies! I hope everyone is finding a way to stay cool and taking the time for self-care.

Originally I wrote this as an introduction to a piece as I normally do. After careful consideration, I decided that this piece needed to be shared, and that the upcoming piece needed to have its own space to be shared without a long introduction that would take away from the writer, and from the topic written about.

This client-centred blog took almost a year of planning and discussion. The purpose is to create a safe online space to share our stories and experiences. To express what is going on in our lives and in our heads. Although it is an extension of Sheena's Place, it is client-run and is not edited or approved by the staff. It is important that this is known and clear to readers. I try my very best to keep this space safe, and I do check in with staff when I am unsure. I take the responsibility of keeping this space safe quite seriously. 

Moderating a blog that follows a set of guidelines, and represents an agency with a reputation for maintaining safe spaces, is a great deal more challenging than I could have ever imagined. I have been handed the responsibility to make decisions. Sometimes these decisions are nerve wracking. I do this on my own time, as a volunteer, and do the best that I can. When I read through a piece, or look at a piece of art, the anxiety in me asks, "will I get into trouble if I make the wrong choice?"  "Will someone be triggered and complain about me?"  "Am I going to be asked to shut it all down?"   "what if ..."   "and what if ..."   "and also ... what if ...."

I very often have to remind myself that in my real life, I am a professional who makes decisions like this multiple times a day, on a daily basis, often without warning and my response has to be immediate. I remind myself that I have been entrusted with this responsibility so someone must think that I am capable of making the right choices.

Parts of moderation are simply fun! It involves reading, editing, deciding, responding, and posting. I have the honour of sharing client stories around the world. (Hello to all of you over seas!) More importantly, and with great difficulty at times, it involves having to tell the folks who submitted their work that it needs to be edited to fit the guidelines. This does not sound like a hard task. I just have to send a quick email with my feedback and suggestions for edits. What makes it so challenging is:

1. Someone has taken the time to create something.
2. Often the thing that has been created is personal, vulnerable, honest, raw, and painful.
3. What are the boundaries of the guidelines and how far can I stretch them?
4. Is the piece an important conversation starter and stretches the rules just a bit? How much is a bit anyway?

For example, if a piece talks about a topic that goes against the guidelines but is not specific, is it acceptable? If a piece challenges the norms of what is usually talked about, is that acceptable? For example, how many blogs (or even articles!) deal specifically with Eating Disorders and Sexuality, or gender, or sex, or words that some people find triggering and others find powerful?

The process of moderating this blog is both difficult and wonderful at the same time! It is rewarding and beautiful. What has been the most exciting part for me has been the submissions that have evoked conversations about topics that are often pushed to the sides, ignored, misunderstood, or not even thought of.

Next week, we will be featuring a piece that uses a word some may find triggering. This is where you can decide if you want to stop reading or to continue to the end. I had to pause when I was reading the submission because it uses the word "fat" numerous times. If you stop here, because that word and/or concept are triggering for you, please take a self-care and self-compassion break. You are not alone in finding this triggering. Over the next few months, I am going to be challenging ideas of norms. I will space out these pieces between others. I will not be including trigger/content warnings on this blog because the idea is for all of the content to be safe, and because difficult conversations does not automatically mean the content is triggering. I will be sure to introduce the topic so that reader can make an informed decision before reading. I will I also acknowledge that what is safe for some people may not be safe for others. I have to balance the safety of readers with the voices of creators. It can be quite complicated.

If you have chosen to continue reading, here we go!

Living with an Eating Disorder in a Bigger Body.

Technically, one could argue that specific descriptions of bodies and how we feel or what we think about them goes against the guidelines and creates a less safe space. At the same time, those of us who live in bigger bodies, or non-cis bodies, or a variety of sexualities and genders have the right to share our stories, to make our voices heard, and to use the words that are most comfortable for us. One of these words is "fat". I have edited that word out of numerous submissions, and I am questioning this decision.

Fat is not a bad word. It is a word that many people have embraced as part of their identity politics. Do I have the right to deny that discussion? Do I have the right to cut out that part of folks journeys because it makes some people uncomfortable? Do I have the right to silence a discussion about larger bodies, or even about folks who see their bodies in a variety of ways? Does removing one word from a text change its meaning or its power?

It is time to start having difficult conversations about the invisibility of Eating Disorders and the refusal of the medical system and the general public to believe that those outside of the stereotypical presentation of an Eating Disorder exist and that it is not a choice we have made. It is a psychiatric illness regardless of the external appearance of the folks who are struggling. Some of the pieces lined up to be published are not about this topic specifically, yet include a word or two, or topics that some may find uncomfortable. I believe that the best (un)learning comes from moments of discomfort. There is a huge difference between being uncomfortable and being unsafe. The pieces that I am going to be publishing open up space for important conversations and social change. They are not pieces that go against the guidelines set out by Sheena's Place, but need to be recognized as having the potential to cause discomfort for some.

I am taking a risk in publishing pieces that cause discomfort. At the same time, what part of Eating Disorder are truly comfortable? I am hoping that you, as a reader, will make the choice about whether or not to read each piece based upon my introduction to the content/topic. My choice is based on there being common experiences among this community. There are pieces that resonate with me deeply. As a queer woman with an Eating Disorder in a bigger body, it feels important for me to challenge what is "acceptable" when it comes to safety, and not simply for the comfort of the readers.

As this is new territory, I welcome your feedback on this issue and look forward to further conversation. Please feel free to add a comment by clicking the comment button (comments are also moderated before publishing), or email me Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,
Kira

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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content on this blog is edited and approved by the moderator. Sheena’s Place does not specifically endorse any advice or content. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your family doctor if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. No one can recover alone.

If you would like to share your story, or other writings or art, please email your submission to Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at http://nedic.ca/ 

If you would like more information or to register for groups, visit Sheena's Place website at www.sheenasplace.org

If you are in a country other than Canada, please google your local or National Eating Disorders Centre.






Wednesday, 11 July 2018

henini



Hello wonderful blog readers! It is another beautiful day in Toronto as I sit on a patio writing to you. This week we are featuring a poem called “henini” which in Hebrew means “I am here”. What a wonderful title for a poem about the loss and grief associated with Eating Disorders and the powerful fight in our hearts.

I wish you all wellness and kindness.

Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,
Kira

***********************************

henini
i’m mourning the
loss of my tribe.
i’m mourning the
loss of my dreams.

i’m mourning
 the loss
 of my innocence.
i’m mourning
the loss
of my last hiding place.

i’m mourning the loss of
relationship,
no more offers
to get it right.

i have lost the battle,
that has raged on
for so long,
i can’t even
remember
who started
the war.

i lie down
in the hot
sand and
surrender. 

“i am alive,
i am alive!”
said my still
throbbing heart
to the sand, to the
sky, and to me.

here i am.
henini.
By Katharine Angelina Love

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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content on this blog is edited and approved by the moderator. Sheena’s Place does not specifically endorse any advice or content. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your family doctor if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. No one can recover alone.

If you would like to share your story, or other writings or art, please email your submission to Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at http://nedic.ca/ 

If you would like more information or to register for groups, visit Sheena's Place website at www.sheenasplace.org

If you are in a country other than Canada, please google your local or National Eating Disorders Centre.



Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Stand on Your Own - By Preetha


Happy Heat Wave Toronto! And for those of you on holidays, happy vacation.

This week the topic is being well enough in your heart and mind to be able to enjoy the solitude of being alone. Blog contributor Preetha tells us her stance on a life of chosen-singlehood in the form of a speech. She wrote: “The solution to loneliness is not to look for something external but fulfil what is lacking within you. Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you.” Eating Disorders love isolation and love to make you feel disconnected.




Preetha explores her experiences of learning to feel solitude as a gift. Being alone does not necessarily have to be a lonely experience. Have you heard of people being encouraged to “date yourself”; go to movies on your own, walk in parks, take yourself out for a meal, and take yourself places that you would want to take someone special. In Eating Disorder Recovery, learning to treat yourself with self-compassion is so important. Treating yourself the way you would treat someone you love and value is often a foreign experience to folks with EDs (and many people without too!!). It is your birthright right to be loved. By treating yourself with gentleness, self-love, self-kindness, and self-compassion, you give yourself the opportunity to learn to love yourself and to believe that you are important and worthy.




As you face this week, I challenge you to find 15 minutes that you can sit with yourself in solitude and allow yourself the space to breathe and enjoy your own stillness.

Take good care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.

Your blog moderator,
Kira


Stand on Your Own
By Preetha

I`m going to open with a bad joke that I`m entitled to tell because I’m differently abled. Why do people make fun of disabled people? Because they can't stand for themselves.  The title of my speech is stand on your own. It's ironic because I use a walker to stand. As I reflect on my life situation and experiences, I am going to tell you three things about my feelings towards relationships and marriages. You be the judge, do I stand on my own?

            What we consider love these days is not really love. Its infatuation, attraction, lust and attachment. Shirley MacLaine wrote a quote about this “Never trust a man when he’s in love, drunk, or running for office.” I have finally decided to stop looking for a significant other. Not because I declare defeat but because I think love really does blind you. My Cognitive Behaviour Therapy teacher taught me that you can’t feel deeply and think rationally at the same time. I think that is the problem with love. You can’t think clearly and rationally because of your emotions. It blinds you to the point where you don’t see the flaws in the other person. I've never experienced love that resulted in marriage but that is no big deal. I'd rather pass.  Some people are so desperate to pair up, they will pair up with just about anybody. They sometimes make wrong choices.

            I don't think my prince is coming on a white horse anymore. He is riding a turtle and definitely lost. We are subject to all kinds of conditioning from a very young age: from the Disney stories we hear as children, to commercials such as eHarmony, to the many Hollywood love stories.  As my illness caused me to evolve I started thinking about love and marriage. Today I feel I'd rather pass and miss all the excitement. Today, I feel that marriage is a contract I don’t want to sign, a transaction I will not risk making. I have chosen another path for my life or maybe the other path has chosen me. I'm happy single I can't imagine anything else. People can choose to live life in any way their heart desires. I think lust and attraction spark love and friendship sustains it. The marriage contract is not harmful if that is what one desires and if one gets fulfilment from it. I have no objections to it. Everyone desires different things out of life. I think having kids and raising them is a great project that gives one purpose and meaning and that binds two partners together. Some people have told me that raising kids is the best job ever.

            You can't rely on any relationships to stand. The Buddha said nothing is permanent.  Humorous Azad added nothing is permanent except death. We all heard the new statistic 1 in 2 will get cancer. My father died at 55 of a heart attack in 1994. My mother had to learn to rely on herself to raise 4 children. She did a good job and I have no complaints about my childhood and growing up. My mother was strong and resilient as she relied only on God for support. My mother never remarried. She is my role model. People die, friends move on. I have lost touch with most of my university friends because a lot of them chose the marriage path and I didn`t. We don't have much in common. I made new ones, single ones. I consider them my companions. However, relationships are not static. You can`t rely on them to stand.

            The solution to loneliness is not to look for something external but fulfil what is lacking within you. Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you. You should not look for a solution such as marriage to solve your problem of loneliness. You could be married and lonely later in life and at different stages of your marriage. There are other remedies such as making other relationships like friendships. The older I grow, and the more time I spend on my own, the more I find solace in solitude. I don`t feel lonely because the written word is my companion I take everywhere with me. It is full of wisdom. I`m happy flying solo and free. There is a difference between solitude and loneliness. Loneliness is lack of relationships. Solitude is peaceful and meditative. I spend a lot of time reflecting. There is freedom and independence that comes with singlehood.I am a strong advocate for maintaining independence regardless of your relationship status.
           
            So now you know my three views about relationships and marriages.  As they say, Marriage is a wonderful institution... but who wants to live in an institution? .... because what we are looking for is not real love, it is not permanent and many times relationships are used to fill the gap within us. Many able-bodied people can be weak within and many disabled people can be strong.  So, I want you to ask yourself, "Can I stand on my own?"  Be strong and resilient don`t let people, events or circumstances break you. Stand on your own!!!


I want to end with this poem that I wrote in a 2014 poetry class:

Don’t try to fix me, I’m not broken
Don’t judge, by what you see
If I was what you label me to be
Would I be able to do the things I do?
Be this happy
Sanism, Allosexism , Disableism¸
Nothing can be more tyrannical than the world’s definition of normalcy
Than society’s conditioning
It suffocates my existence
The weight of finding a place in this world, of acceptance
Falls on the shoulders of those who can see
Yesterday is but a purple sky
Tomorrow a pink one
Tattered away from the world for safety
Appearance is deceiving like tears on a good lie
I’m far more complex than the eye can see
Like holding on to bedlam
There never was and never will be perfect


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Work published on this blog is property of the writer/artist. Content on this blog is edited and approved by the moderator. Sheena’s Place does not specifically endorse any advice or content. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your family doctor if you have concerns about yourself or your recovery. No one can recover alone.

If you would like to share your story, or other writings or art, please email your submission to Kmccarthy@sheenasplace.org

If you or someone in your life is struggling with an Eating Disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) at http://nedic.ca/ 

If you would like more information or to register for groups, visit Sheena's Place website at www.sheenasplace.org

If you are in a country other than Canada, please google your local or National Eating Disorders Centre.
  
Art is property of © Fox Tales Art by Kira

https://sheenasplace.org/blog/