Monday, February 16, 2015

Recovery: What has worked for me Positive coping skills and challenges, by Ashley Polson

Being in recovery can be exciting and challenging at the same time. Having been in recovery myself for almost eight years now has given me the opportunity to learn how to take care of myself and learn what works for me in order to maintain a healthy, stable recovery.

There are many times where we need to look at what skills we have and tweak them according to what is happening in our lives at any given time. If some things do not work as good as they used to, coming up with alternatives might be more helpful. Sometimes that also includes asking for extra support from friends, family, a therapist, a support group, etc.

Some things that have worked for me have included limiting my exposure to media such as TV commercials, magazine articles, etc. regarding weight loss or diets during times I am feeling especially vulnerable. I have also learned to remove myself from conversations on those types of topics or redirect them so it is something more healthy and positive. That has also been a good way for me to learn how to use my voice and be assertive in order to take care of myself.

Using positive self-talk and reframing negative thoughts has also allowed me to focus on things outside of my body when I am having difficulty with body image. I try to remind myself that each day my body might be different, clothes might not fit the same day to day, but that it will not be like that forever and instead try to practice self-care and do something nice for myself whether it is something simple like having a bubble bath, going for a walk, or spending time with a pet and just distracting myself. Also, paying attention to my body signals in terms of being hungry, emotionally drained, tired, stressed, etc. is important so I can recognize what is happening for me and take care of myself in order to minimize the potential downward spiral that often leads to negative thinking/feeling.

I have learned a lot about clothes during my recovery as well. Like most, I used to be concerned about size until I started to realize that every store, every style, etc. is going to differ. Instead of focusing on a size, I now focus on what actually fits my body and what makes me feel good. Even if that means trying on hundreds of pairs of jeans and throwing them across the fitting room out of frustration, I have finally learned it is not my body that is the problem and is not what needs to change; it is the companies who make the clothes. They do not accurately reflect every body shape or size. But how could they when no one person is the same to begin with? Even if I have to go through my closet every few months and donate clothes that do not fit me or that I do not wear anymore and have to replace them, I would still rather do that than try to change my body to fit into things that just aren't meant to fit anymore.

As for food, I now look at it in terms of nutrients instead of calories. In doing that, it has become more of a healthy way for me to nourish myself instead of focusing on things that do not truly matter. It has also lessened the level of anxiety I used to feel and has allowed me to be flexible, not deprive myself of things, and not be fixated on rules surrounding what I eat. Facing fears around food is still something I struggle with at times. New foods continue to be somewhat anxiety provoking but also can be really exciting, more so if I find a new food I enjoy. I like trying a new recipe and proving to myself that food can be fun and not so scary. It is especially nice when you  are with someone who is also trying something new so you can share that experience. 

Overall, learning what works for you in the recovery process is important. What works for one person might not work for you. Having a list of things you have found useful or skills you have yet to implement can be helpful when you are struggling and need some encouragement to get through a difficult time. Also, never be afraid to reach out for more support if you need it. It will help strengthen you that  much more.

Ashley Polson is 31 years old from the Okanagan and is passionate about spreading awareness on eating disorders. She is almost eight years in recovery after a seven-year struggle. She has been involved via social media in mentoring others who struggle and enjoys being able to offer support for those seeking recovery.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Guest Post: What does Recovery mean to You?

When the recovery process began for me back in September of 2007, I had a clear image of what recovery meant to me at the end of this journey.  Seven years later it is now clear to me that image never existed, and there is no real end to this journey, which has given me such a sense of relief, and calmness, and clarity to live again.

No matter your age, now, or at the beginning of your journey, one thing that is certain is this journey is your own, and must be directed by you.  I was 37 years old, and had lived with my eating disorder for 7 years before finally asking for help.  My doctor, family and friends were to say the least shocked to hear of my disorder, we can all relate to the loneliness of this disease.  It was at a time of my life that I knew I would not be able to move forward without help and support, it was at a time that I knew I had to choose to live my life for me again and not the disease.

My stubbornness and years of positive thinking and training had me believing that once I got help I would have this problem fixed in no time.  I remember when my doctor told me that because I was not “sick” enough, there would be minimal help and support for me.  Now it was my turn to be shocked, but that was not part of my plan, that was not possible I thought, how could this be?  Before my journey to my recovery began I felt it was already over.   So off to the dietician I went, every week for one hour for 4 years, it may not have been the road to recovery I had planned, but it was amazing the support and education I received.

For me this was not fast enough, I needed more help, I needed to find more support, I needed to try all that was out there, so I did.  From attending ABA groups, to working with psychiatrists in training, to attending short term groups, I was there.  For my recovery once my secret was out, it was out, that was my choice. And do you know what was interesting about that?  It made no difference to anybody. Not to my friends, not my family, nobody.  In fact, I found that if I didn’t bring it up, nobody else did – that was somewhat sad, but again a relief.  One of my favorite sayings is “we don’t know what we don’t know” – and through my recovery there was a lot "I don’t know's".

Quitting was never an option. One certainty for us all is we have nothing but time. Time to grow, time to recover, time to be happy.  So no matter how long it took / takes, I choose to continue to try and find that peace and recovery I so desperately need, because the time I do have I want to spend living.

My recovery has been on my own, it has been me that has kept moving forward, learning new tools to help me change the habits that are a part of this disease.  Tools that focus on the positive, tools that change the way I look at myself which included daily reminders in my phone, tapping, coaching others, and using the dry erase marker to write my favorite sayings on the mirrors in my home, such as, “if I always do what I have always done, I will always get what I have always got”. 

Why?  Because I am a beautiful deserving woman, you are a beautiful deserving woman/man, we are all beautiful deserving people.  I believe that with all my heart and soul.

So what does recovery mean to me?  It means slipping from time to time.  It means medication to help with my anxiety.  It means it is not perfect.  It means I am still working at it.  But most importantly,  it means I am living again. Living at being me, living at knowing I am happy with who I am, never quitting, and accepting me as I am now.  That is what recovery means to me. It is not that 'perfect image' I imagined when I began, nor does it have an ending --and I am okay with that. For me, that is what is important right now.  What will recovery mean for me in 1 year, 2 years, 10 years --I cannot say, but ensuring peace is in my life will always be a priority.

Whatever recovery means to you, let it mean living, let it mean happiness, or let it mean acceptance with who you are now.  Maybe it will mean setting one goal at a time, or letting you learn the tools you need, or let it mean removing the shame …. But most of all, let it mean peace in your life.

About TK:
A highly motivated self-starter with over 18 years of management experience, who has worked for several of Canada’s top Financial and Retail companies. From starting her own production company with one of her best friends, to her 20 years of Life Coach training, TK continues to grow, learn, educate, support and nurture herself and those she comes in touch with daily. You will usually find TK with a smile on her face and energy that you can physically feel, with a laugh that often has people wondering what she is so happy about.  Live, laugh and love everyday with pride, harmony and respect to all.