P – The Best Parts of Eating Disorder Recovery

(I didn’t know what letter to put this under, so I settled for ‘P’ because in this article I focus on the parts of recovery. Nevertheless, I was considering ‘X’ as sort of substitute for when there are too many words in a title, and also because I don’t know what topic to write about that could begin with ‘x.’)

Anyway, it’s a good thing that there is plenty of stuff out there on the physical and mental benefits that come with eating disorder recovery. It’s important that this positive and motivating information is available, because recovery can be extremely difficult, time consuming and frightening.

But there are parts of recovery that may fall under the radar. There are small moments that can bring unacknowledged joy and quiet pride. They are special, well-deserved and highly satisfying, especially when you realise how far you have come.

These can include, and are definitely not limited to:

  • A ‘guilty indulgence’ is called that because it is expensive. Doughnut dinosaurs and fancy cake wedges that you need 10 napkins for are unnecessary but a great treat.
  • Your brain becomes a self-judgement-free zone.
  • You look forward to take-away and don’t dread it.
  • Clothes are no longer too big or too small because your weight is finally stable.
  • Hot chips with aioli become a rebellious quick lunch.
  • Say hello to lolly-bags at birthday parties again!
  • The mirror is now used for putting on make-up, styling hair, and brushing teeth, not scrutinising yourself.
  • You have more headspace for daydreams, hopes, and fantasies.
  • You walk with confidence and aren’t ashamed of your appearance.
  • Celebrations such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas are not clouded with resentment or guilt.
  • With less doctor’s appointments comes a crazy amount of free time, to spend however you want.
  • Your life is not ruled by fear, hate, or… rules. (See what I did there?!)
  • You get a much higher capacity to work on yourself, your relationships, your studies/career, and your cheesy pick-up lines.
  • You won’t panic if there is a party with a terrible assortment of ‘food’ fit only for a 14 year old caveman.
  • Photos taken of yourself by others are alright.
  • Exercise is for health, not weight-control, and so it is stress and guilt free.
  • Like in a video game, you have levelled up in independence, fortitude, endurance, weapons, strength, clarity and health.
  • Your relationships with others can improve as you become more relaxed and less suspicious or paranoid.
  • You can let yourself rest and become fully immersed in a movie, TV show or book, with no background urges nagging at you.
  • You are much more present in your relationships with friends, family and animals.
  • Without behaviours such as binges and purges, you save a LOT of money.
  • If you have children, you can be a healthier and happier role model for them. And if you have friends, you can be a role model for them too.
  • Holidays and trips away are soooo much easier.
  • No more lies or sneaking around. You can finally be more honest and direct.
  • You’ve become better at communicating your needs and wants.
  • Consuming junk food and confectionery is enjoyable and does not lead to a chaotic spiral of doom.
  • You’re able to understand and express your thoughts and emotions better.
  • You live with the knowledge that you literally beat death and overcame an enormous and terrifying challenge.

 

Perhaps some of these apply to you, but not all of them. Yet. Guess what, keep up the hard work and they all will. And to those who do not suffer from an eating disorder but are still bothering to read this, hopefully you are able to comprehend how an eating disorder is so much more complex than eating poorly.

Take care of yourself.

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F – Fear

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

It’s a nice quote, plastered all over positive social media images, perhaps a little too often, and it’s nice in that it allows us to imagine the possibilities of adventure and confrontation, discovery and freedom, free from limitations and anxieties.

It’s all too easy to think, “I will be brave when the situation comes around,” when we are feeling safe and in a positive headspace. When things are good, it’s easy to feel prepared and sensible.

However, when a frightening situation comes around, any Tumblr screenshots of positive quotes we have on our phone are quickly forgotten. Most (if not all) of our lessons learnt become near impossible to recall. The times in which we did manage suddenly feel distant and unreal. This time, there is no way out. This time, the end IS near. This time is different to all the other times, because it just is. And so we bash our way through coping mechanisms and quick comforts without much finesse or clarity.

Obviously, I am not talking about the fear one gets from a horror movie, nor the terror of your parents finding that you are managing a drug cartel.

As you may have hopefully realised by now, this is a mental health blog, so I am talking about a different type of fear. One that does not really provide protection or safety – instead, it creates a perpetual state of tenseness. It is constrictive, quashes hopes, trips you up, and traps you.

It is not “let me help you get out of this situation,” it is “let me cover you with honey and bury you in an ants’ nest, just because.” It is the ‘what if’ and ‘what could have been’ of any situation. It doesn’t make much sense and is really damn annoying. For some people, this type of fear comes and goes, for others, it is almost permanent.

Unfortunately, because the emotion of fear itself is not visible, it is easy for others, and ourselves, to underestimate the power that it can sometimes have over us. Fear is indeed just a feeling, but the physical and mental toll it can take on us shouldn’t be ignored.  Dismissing core personal fears and anxieties as silly, insignificant and nonsensical is not the best coping mechanism, because if they are caused by a long term underlying problem such as trauma or a mental illness, as they most likely are, they will resurface at every chance they get. Plus, it’s important to acknowledge our own vulnerabilities, as invalidating our worries  just makes things even more difficult and can further erode our self-esteem.

You see, brushing aside our anxieties does not make them go permanently away, especially when we do it in a manner that makes us feel at fault for having them. Instead of calling the fear we have stupid, perhaps we could wonder why we have it, what the root cause is, and how to address it… how to confront it, or at the very least cope with it and not let it get in the way of being a functional human being.

Everyone has different fears and what some people have no trouble at all with, others will struggle. It’s easy to be jealous of someone who effortlessly manages to give a speech on live television, when you can’t even make a phone call or be honest with a doctor. But it’s important to remember that some people have more cards stacked up against them than others, and perhaps you are one of  those people. And in this case, you need to be compassionate with yourself. Criticising and judging our own fears serves no purpose, it just makes us feel guilty! Remember that just because no one else seems to share the same fears as you, it does not mean your feelings are not valid and your fears are not real. Do not be ashamed of being afraid, nor of being terrified.

Someone out there right now, at this very moment, is terrified of telling the truth, of eating a meal, of admitting themselves to hospital, of taking new medication, of going to the supermarket, of making friends, of leaving the house, of smiling, of saying no. You are never alone in your fears, and every single human being out there is vulnerable in their own way.

So see if you can face your fears, or at the very least acknowledge them, and then reward yourself for your bravery.

B – ‘To the Bone’ [A Discussion]

ATTENTION       ACHTUNG      ATTENZIONE      ATENÇÃO      ATENCIÓN       ATTENTIE        ΠΡΟΣΟΧΗ          HEADS UP       WAARSCHUWING      RHYBUDD

  • I mention details of the movie so if you hate any spoilers, perhaps read this article after viewing the movie.
  • That said, I actually wouldn’t recommend viewing this movie if you are currently vulnerable to eating disorder behaviours and/or tend to be influenced by images of anorexic sufferers. At times, the movie is a visual representation of a Tumblr rabbit-hole, only without the hashtags and mottos. Even Netflix gives a warning.

The other night I watched Netflix’s ‘To the Bone’ and I very much wanted to write about it. But I am not going to write a normal movie review where I evaluate the soundtrack, scrutinise the acting quality, analyse the plot consistency, and question why all movies these days have their titles at the end as if it’s fashionable or something… instead, I shall provide a rambling dissertation of my thoughts and questions, and produce brilliant suggestions on how I can so totally make the movie better – principally in the context of its representation of eating disorders.

The film is, in essence, more about “life” (heh) with an eating disorder than the journey that comes with eating disorder recovery, which is fine: there are plenty of grim and depressing movies out there, and this is light-hearted in comparison. I liked the candid talk of eating disorder behaviours, as they show how the patients have normalised them in their minds. I was happy to see the moments of ugliness, danger, fear, defensive outbursts, and inner turmoil, because that is what eating disorder suffering demands, and any beauty or romanticism of it would have been insulting and just plain wrong. I wanted more scenes like the one where Pearl was curled up on Luke’s lap, sobbing uncontrollably. It was good to see the unsettling contrast between Ellen’s dulled features and her step-sister Kelly’s healthy glow when they were sitting next to each other on chairs – these days it is too easy to forget what a healthy and average weight looks like, and too easy to praise weight-loss and skinniness without realising it too often goes too far. The movie did well in showing some parts of the gritty reality that comes with an eating disorder.

bone pic

The contrast between Ellen and her step-sister, Kelly.

For me, the bruises on Ellen’s spine from doing sit-ups brought back old memories, as did her compulsive exercising behaviours. At the same time, watching it I felt safe and comfortable, because I was in a body that had been freed from anorexia some years ago, and the movie reminded me that I no longer felt what Ellen was feeling: the endless cold, the painful hunger, the shadow of Death, the urge to burn non-existent calories. I hope I do not sound like a cruel sadist, drawing comfort from another person’s pain, but for me the movie prompted me to realise how far I have come. The sheer healthiness of Ellen’s alternate body in her vision is a powerful comparison to her sick self.

But of course, the viewing experience will be varied for many, and it highly depends on personal experience. Those who have not suffered might not understand the significance of some scenes, such as when the patients all swear loudly at the voice in their heads. Either way, ‘To the Bone’ cannot cover every single aspect of anorexia nervosa, let alone eating disorders as a whole – it’s just a film.

Nevertheless, a few extra scenes could have emphasised the ugly nature of eating disorders even further: Luke should have had a meltdown after realising his dancing career was over, to show how beneath his jolly façade is another vulnerable person who despite having gotten so far, at times still deeply struggles. There should have been much more self-hatred and crying. There should have been more emphasis on how much an eating disorder can interrupt life – such as its negative impact on school, work, friendships, and relationships. The teeth, hair and skin of the people with severe bulimia nervosa should not look nearly as good as they do on screen. Hell, they look better than mine. Instead of the girl’s polite paper “barf-bag” under the bed, we should have seen her huddled on a bathroom floor, in the aftermath of her disorder, with a runny nose, red eyes, and smeared make-up. There should have been fear as well as anger surrounding food – a panic attack would have been more powerful than everybody simply storming off. I wish that the girl with binge eating disorder spoke more and voiced her struggles too. A statement such as “I wish I had what you have instead. No one at home takes me seriously,” would have voiced an all too common sentiment for those with binge eating disorder. When Ellen was able to fit her fingers around her upper arm, I wanted her to cry and look terrified, because I wanted her to realise that even when she ‘finally achieved’ one of her personal (disordered) benchmarks, nothing changed and she was still trapped with her eating disorder. It solved nothing.

Anyway, I swear, I’m not a psychopath nor am I the Joker. It may sound extreme, but I just think the more the ugly truths of an eating disorder are shown, the better. They need to counteract the glamorization and normalisation of chronic dieting, the rampant romanticization of weight loss and over-exercise, and the excessive trivialisation of eating disorders as teenage phases. There are many movies that do not shy away from the horrors of rape, war, violence, abuse, and drugs. This should not be any different. Of course the more intense the movie is, the more likely it is to trigger a vulnerable individual, but there is a plethora of triggering material out there anyway within easy reach. At least this triggering stuff could be educational, and especially help in enlightening those ignorant about the seriousness of eating disorders. Besides, choosing to watch this movie as a vulnerable person and not expecting to get triggered is like slathering yourself with honey, lying in the Australian bush and not expecting a horde of ants to come and bite you. I admit though – had I watched this movie several years ago, it would have definitely screwed me over for a few days.

There were a few unrealistic features of the movie that annoyed me (ignoring the scene when the unmarried and childless John Wick/Neo randomly talks to his younger female patient when she is by herself in the bedroom, and the fact that the principle rule is to sit at the table during meal times but no one seems to follow it, nor is it enforced.) Firstly, all of the patients seemed to have disrupted and selfish families, but that does not have to play any role in falling victim to an eating disorder. Plenty of people can tick all of society’s Must-Have boxes and still get sick through no fault of their own. Additionally, while I can’t vouch for everyone, despite the occasional competitiveness and bitchiness, the people who I have interacted with and heard about would never wish an eating disorder on anyone else, and would have never encouraged behaviours in another person. I forget her name, but the girl who aggressively offers Ellen laxatives in exchange for not ratting her out must have been very ill – in more ways than one – to encourage a new and dangerous behaviour to someone else. Finally, apart from Luke and Karen, there is no evidence of the patients making any attempts to recover or curb their behaviours. Instead, behaviours run rampant in the cosy and large house.

Lack of ugliness and flaws aside, ‘To the Bone’ has redeeming characteristics, the biggest of which are its ending and the character Luke. They show that recovery is possible – no matter how far gone or lost one may feel, every positive choice can help. The body and mind are strong, stronger than an eating disorder. There is a rich and bright life after an eating disorder. With these sentiments, the movie rings very true.

P.S. How can Luke kiss Ellen and not wince from her cigarette breath? I also don’t understand what Ellen randomly changing her name to Eli means.

T – Trauma

Who knew that memories could be so terrifying and paralysing?

That mere thoughts could bring you to your knees, gasping for air.

That a certain sound, smell, place, image, could rile up the brain into a wild fervour.

That an event that happened long ago could still hurt today, perhaps even more.

 

One might at first doubt the power that a distressing event can yield over an individual. After all, it happened in the past, they’re safe now, time heals all wounds, it could be worse, they are just bad memories, right?

Well, yes, an unhappy memory is like a broken arm: it needs time to heal, it hurts, it’s annoying… but it does get better eventually.

But on the other hand, a traumatic experience and the resulting memory is like both arms being driven over by an oversized truck. The resulting mess of flesh looks quite ugly, it needs much more intense work and much more time to recover, painkillers aren’t always enough, it’s dysfunctional, it really gets in the way of things and can be extremely inconvenient, it’s not something you would forget – ever.

So some memories can be strong. Really strong. And these vivid memories are nestled in the brain, one of the most powerful organs in the body. The brain is responsible for controlling all bodily functions, so it follows that severe mental damage can cause impairment, loss, disability. The overwhelming and lasting power of trauma should not be underestimated or trivialised.

A traumatic event might not always result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD), at times it just leads to an unfortunate cocktail with varying shots of intense anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. But no matter what manifests afterward, the sufferer cannot do a ‘Frozen’ and “Let It Go.” You see, trauma causes a deep mental wound that feels as real as anything, and any resulting pain is not imagined or illegitimate.

It does all sound pretty hardcore, so you might think that only super hardcore things can count as trauma and perhaps cause PTSD. But you don’t have to have lived through the events of ‘Game of Thrones’ to have experienced a trauma. Maybe you were deeply afraid, perhaps something felt intrinsically wrong, your physical integrity and sense of self might have been violated, there could have been feelings of fear, helplessness, terror… all of that, or just some parts of that, that’s trauma.

Trauma can take the form of abuse, assault, rape, war, death, for sure, but it can also be an experience of divorce, abandonment, a natural disaster, a serious illness, prolonged exposure to distressing events or images, a bad accident, etc. It doesn’t have to be epic to be valid, and no matter what the source, feelings of trauma are legitimate and should not be discounted. Furthermore, past traumatic events may be confusing, blurred, and unclear, but that does not mean that the resulting distress is not real or valid. Dealing with trauma is exhausting, overwhelming, lonely, and crippling, and just because it is all in the head does not mean it doesn’t physically hurt.

There is an unhealthy pressure out there to act strong, to appear like wehave it all together, to play down the effects of a traumatic experience and try to be a Productive Member of Society (PMS, hahaha…) But just as purposely leaving an open wound unattended to and risking infection is counterproductive and silly, ignoring the effects of post-trauma stress and not seeking help may cause it to fester and strike you down later on.

To realise and admit vulnerability takes courage and intelligence. Seeking help and support for this vulnerability is brave and a sign of true strength. Maintaining a façade is not worth the endless suffering in silence of intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, loneliness, isolation, fear, guilt, anger, shame. Would you wander through the streets pretending everything is fine if half your chest cavity was missing? Would you seek help if you were bleeding to death? Would you try to help someone else bleeding to death?

The good thing is that recovery is possible, healing can happen.

Holes can be filled and pieces can be glued together.

Things that help may include but are not limited to time, space, professional therapy, ongoing support from loyal and patient friends and family, acceptance, discussion, openness, medication, learning self-care and self-compassion. Just like recovery with any other mental illness, there are good days, bad days, and really bad days, but eventually, finally, there are more good days than bad ones, and the bad ones feel less frightening.

 

Please take care, I truly appreciate all shares, comments and likes.

Q – Quiz

Firstly, this article (if you can call it that) gives me a chance to add the letter ‘Q’ as a letter-tab in this website, which is good, as I don’t want to write a whole article on Quetiapine.

Secondly, and more importantly, I have wanted to do a fun quiz for a while but originally struggled thinking how to go about it. When you have a mental illness, you do so many self-related forms, evaluations, and questionnaires that your paper trail becomes more significant than *insert a political event here.* The forests of documentation on how much you sweat, sleep, and concentrate do help with examining progress or setbacks, but boy can they get tedious and dreary after a while. So time for another one! You should be used to them by now. Some questions you may relate to, some you may not.

QUIZ OF STUFF – MULTIPLE ANSWERS MAY BE CORRECT. OR NONE OF THEM.

1) You notice that Klinkina Goobies, a friend of yours, seems to be doing much better than you. She seems to be super happy, popular, and successful. It’s making you feel bad because you doubt you will get what she has. How can you not feel bad?

a) Remember that you are only seeing a segment of her life, a selection of her at her best. Everyone has boring days where they do nothing, fart a bit, and attempt to clean a dirty house.

b) You haven’t been dealt the same cards in life as she has. If you have a mental illness and she doesn’t, you are most likely at a disadvantage. Things may take longer, cost more effort, be more difficult, and it’s important to forgive yourself for that.

c) What sort of a name is Klinkina Goobies?!

d) Comparing yourself to others will not help. Focus on what you have achieved and enjoy. If you honestly feel like you haven’t achieved anything, remember that you have made it this far already.

2) You feel like you are never ever going to get better and truly believe that the mental illness will always be stronger than you. What should you do?

a) During the more difficult periods of your life, it’s so much easier to resign yourself to ideations of failure. You can’t control the long term. Since you’re miserable in the short term, may as well take care of yourself now.

b) Challenge your mental illness to a duel by taking off your glove and throwing it on the ground.

c) Know that it isn’t. Know that you are so much more than it. The horrible feelings and compulsions say nothing about your capabilities or merits. (You’ll still feel like utter crap though, don’t get me wrong.)

d) Were you thinking of another, darker option that is not mentioned above? Trust me, it isn’t one. Drop everything and get as much help as you can, NOW.

3) It’s really hard to stay focussed and keep on track when the world is giving you the opposite message. What do you do?

a) Distance yourself from both friends and media who promote rubbish such as dieting and unnecessary weight-loss, who satanify of sugar and flour, encourage fat-hatred, gym-obsessions, calorie tracking, zucchini ‘pasta,’ and guilt surrounding certain food-groups, who think that you should replace every icecream with a frozen brick of kale, etc.

b) Distance yourself from both friends and media who promote rubbish such as the idea of mental illness being selfish, attention-seeking, made-up, and that it can be cured by yoga/raw almonds/jogging/positive thinking.

c) Distance yourself from both friends and media who promote any rubbish that upsets you that isn’t mentioned above.

d) Turn into a train and build a train track for yourself. Ignore the peasants and only let the people you like into your carriages.

4) You meet someone who has completely recovered and is leading a fulfilling and happy life. You feel like that will never happen to you. What is good to take note of?

a) You are not the exception to the rule. You are as bullet-proof as you are the worst person in the world. (That is, you aren’t.)

b) People recover differently and at varying rates, just like children learning at school. Some eating disorder victims, for instance, need five years to recover from an eating disorder, others need ten years. It’s not a sign to give up, it’s a sign to be patient and persevere.

c) The weather and rain forecast.

d) What makes you so sure that you will never recover? If you know what exactly will happen in the future, buy a few lottery tickets and change the world.

5) Which metaphor best describes what having a mental illness is like?

a) Having two weeks where I consume 500 cans of energy drink, 300g of coffee beans, and have injected myself with steroids. Then two weeks where I get forced to helplessly watch everyone I love be tortured to death.

b) Being in a dark, underwater cave, struggling to breathe and stay warm, with everyone telling me that it’s great out here in the warm sunshine. There is also seaweed everywhere.

c) An abusive partner who bullies me and stops me from doing the things I love.

d) The sky is purple and the clouds are black and the trees are turning to dust… but everything’s fine, no really, it’s fine.

6) Is there a positive side to having a mental illness?

a) It gives you a (dangerous) crash course in fields that may include chemistry, nutrition, finance, mathematics, humanities, politics, and debating. You also get extremely good at condensing information when summarising your medical history.

b) If you die, not really. Plus, treatment is expensive and time-consuming.

c) You do meet some amazing people, who are truly strong, supportive, patient and kind. But you also meet some really horrible people who just make things even worse.

d) When you work on recovery, you become an expert in identifying thoughts and emotions. You are able to adjust brain synapses, increase your maturity and mindfulness. You learn who true friends are, appreciate freedom much more, and value positive emotions to an extent that others can’t.

7) This is not really a quiz any more. I should stop now.

a) Indeed. I have stumbled across this site and have no clue what is going on.

b) Please go back to writing normal blog posts.

c) I am cynical and attack mental illness with humour.

d) I need a witty comeback when talking to the ignorant masses.

Take care everyone, feel free to share and comment. :o)

A – a letter to Anorexia

[My apologies for the delay in blog posts, but you know how busy life can sometimes get, and I would rather write a quality post, or at least attempt to, when I am not dashing about the place like a headless chicken on recreational drugs.]

 

Hello, anorexia.

Let’s pretend for a little while that you are human, and not a mental illness cloaked in a black hoodie and scythe.

You would make an utterly brilliant politician. All of those magnificent yet empty promises, the never-ending lies and backtracking, the ineffective policies that cost more than they benefit, the hypocrisy that you refuse to acknowledge.

Yet, like most politicians, despite blatant ineptness, you are somehow… very persuasive. And powerful. You amass supporters with ease. Great big chunks of the internet are dedicated to your policies. You have your own hashtag, for crying out loud. There are even some people who think you’re a bit of a celebrity: glamorous, attractive, they so dearly want to embody you. Your subjects are often fiercely loyal and highly competitive. No other politician but you will demand such high standards, such perfection, such dedication.

Election time comes back around, but you don’t need to campaign. You remain in power, despite being asked to step down. Your ‘no’ is stronger than theirs. You are a dictator now. You oppress. You terrorise. You tear people apart, gram by gram. You kill and maim. Yes, there is opposition: there are many who rebel and try to show your followers your true monstrosity. But your doctrine has leached into our culture. Your ideology is acceptable in magazines, on social media, in the school playground.

I am not afraid of you anymore… but your power is frightening.

You can defy physics and make your subjects see things on their body that aren’t there.

You metastasize in someone’s brain like a tumor, and replace compassion with revulsion. You pinch, bruise, cut, scrutinise, faint, purge, shiver, sweat, torture.

You manipulate logic and reality. Numbers are warped, death is life, loved ones are conspirational, hatred is good, weakness is strength. The distinctions between you and them continue to blur until you take everything from them and leave behind a lonely, cold, and limited existence.

I know that your followers didn’t even vote for you in the first place. There was corruption right from the beginning. Hell, they could have been on another planet and you still would have found them.

You tell your victims that you give them control, we both know that’s not true. Control is being able to command and make the right choice. How is it control if choices are governed by fear of persecution? How is it control if hunger is ignored, rest is refused, warmth is denied, gentleness is rejected? That is bullying, not control. They are not in power, you are. After all, how else could one think that death is a better option than saying no to you? How are you helping them, when you push them to their limits and beyond, in such a way that all that is eventually left is loss and pain? You say that you provide a solution, but we both know that it was you who made up the problem.

Still… you should be afraid of my power too.

I admit, I know that you can’t be beaten by words. Simple promises made to oneself that this is the last day of restriction, this is last day of over-exercising, no more suffering, time to get serious… they hold no power over you unless they are followed through.

But I also know that you can be fooled through actions and love. Strength and dedication wears you down. Yes, you will make an escape from your empire as miserable, terrifying and difficult as possible, but it’s your loss – you will never see the light that the escapees get to see when they make it out. It’s a special type of light, only for them. It’s one that is deserved for bravery and fortitude. It’s made up of joy, freedom, pride, life, hope, peace, health. It’s made up of realisations that birthday cakes are good, not annoying; resting is relaxing, not troubling; food is a pleasure, love is allowed, and acceptance is okay. Out of your clutches, there is no guilt, there is so much less pain, there is the true sense of lightness.

Dictators can fall, and I toppled you long ago. It did take a lot of time, energy and courage, but on the other side, it’s easy to see how pathetic you are.

Sucks to be you, loser.

Bye.

 

 

Hello dear readers, I hope you liked this! A bit more literate than normal, but that’s what happens when creative juices get bottled up, hahaha. I encourage you to comment, like and share. Also a couple of people commented on this blog recently, for which I say many thanks for your kind messages, they made my day and I truly appreciate them.

 

 

 

B – Bravery

Did you know that the noun bravery can mean fine clothes or a showy display? I myself didn’t until I looked up the dictionary definition online for bravery. At first, I was going to aspire after high school debating teams and attempt to start this article with a dictionary definition, but I got side tracked by the idea that you could wear bravery. Anyway, moving on…

Too many people think bravery simply means doing something and not being afraid of it. That to be brave is to be bold and fearless. That a brave person is someone who continually holds faith in their capacity to successfully manage any situation, regardless of how dangerous it may be. However, that is not bravery – that is either being drunk and/or knowing that you are immortal.

Bravery also often has connotations of victory and success: accompanied by triumphant music, the hero’s head is held high while they charge into battle/towards the dragon/keep on getting shot at but somehow magically be able to keep fighting/raise their weapon, roaring about their homeland/mother/freedom. But bravery in real life is quite different. The type of bravery that is required when recovering from a mental illness isn’t so noble or cinematic.

With a mental illness you have to be brave every day. You aren’t really given a choice. If you want to recover and be free from it you have to constantly confront uncertainty, intimidation, terror, and pain. You are required to always be a knight, wobble around in rusty ill-fitting armour, and face off a giant wrinkly dragon (or a giant spider, if you like dragons and don’t want to envisage hurting one) who just won’t leave you alone.

Being brave is personally different for everyone. Especially when it comes to mental illness. Please bear in mind that certain situations and tasks which may seem trivial, forgettable, and even enjoyable to some, may seem to others a like a dragon who has just stepped on a piece of Lego.

Being brave, or having “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty” when trying to recover from a mental illness is exhausting. But you don’t have to do it well. Being brave means confronting your fears, and so even if you make a mess of it all, you’re still brave if you’ve ploughed through and given it the very best shot that you felt capable of at the time.

Your legs have been bitten off, the princess has vomited on her dress, and you’re still facing an enormous, utterly terrifying monster. The dragon breathes out and searing flames of panic attacks, flashbacks, hallucinations, phobias, and hateful criticisms engulf your body and its flimsy armour. As the fire blinds your vision, you start to cry, which is unromantic for a knight, especially when you start getting snot all over your armour, but do you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how badly you screwed up trying to fight the dragon, because you tried. You may be a crawling, sobbing knight, but you’re still facing the situation, and you’re not running away.

Your legs to grow back, you buy some tissues, you try to repair your damaged armour… and you go out and face the beast again. You know that it will be waiting for you, growling and cooking up another blistering firebomb in its stomach. But you still go and confront it, because you know that in order to survive, you have to face the dragon, and as awful as it may be, it is the only way forward. And every conscious choice to attempt to move forward is an example of bravery.

Maybe I am getting a bit too into the metaphor here… just let me put it this way: When you are let go of the ideas that are both your safety net and trap, when you accept the crippling yet liberating truths about yourself, when you give up the dangerous behaviour and rules that are comforting and feel like all you’ll ever know, when you say ‘no’ to the ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ to the ‘no,’ that is you being super-duper incredibly brave. You would put a dragon-fighting knight to shame.