Okay. I decided to do this blogathon on an impulse. No posts were in the bank, so they're going up late in the day. For this, I apologize. Today, from the crack of dawn, I was out of the house and tramping around town in the heat. No fun. I had an appointment with my psychologist and our next is in one month. We're winding down... Then back uptown we had another appointment with our financial advisor. Never fun and games either. In between, a quick trip to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled. Walks with the dogs. The stuff of daily life that helps to keep us running. I was thinking about you... Still, all along, you were in the back of my mind. I knew I would have to get my new installment in fast. And late. Really late. It's going to be short, too. Here's what I have to report. It's about The 10th Mirror. "The Mirror of Consciousness" or the inner mirror. It's about body-image. The power of the inner gaze.
I just read Jenise Harmon's enlightening Sorting Out Your Life blog here at Psych Central. It's titled Live Beyond Normal and it's one of today's most popular. It deserves to be and I urge you to read it... Before I rhapsodize about her insights into that misunderstood word, normal, not one of my favourites, I read more posts by Jenise. Thinking Outside The Box hit home for me. "Everyone sees the world through their own frame, or box," Jenise says. "Early on in life, people are given labels, told who they are and what is expected of them. They are ‘put in boxes.’ A teacher may label a student as gifted or slow. Parents see one child as the athlete, one as the smart kid, one as the comedian. Peers give the labels of stupid, ugly, dumb, fat, or loser.""But boxes, no matter how ornate or beautiful, are limiting." So true. So beautifully stated.
I had another blog post planned for you today, but it will have to wait. This one is about knitting. Ripping out knitting, actually. Thus far, I have encountered relatively few problems with my knitting and crocheting, but today was different. Today, it was knitting Hell in this house... Ninety-nine percent of the time, I adore knitting. It's a reliable self-soothing activity. Delightfully portable. I knit in the car. On the bus. On the subway. Whilst awaiting appointments. Usually I fall into an easy rhythm as I knit and meditate. It's mindful. Relaxing. Peaceful. It takes me back to my childhood summers when my mother and her friends would sit by the beach and knit together, keeping watchful eyes on us as we swam. Knitting in public is a great way to meet people... Sometimes, on the subway, people ask me what I'm doing. Knitting in public is not exactly commonplace with most people wired to their iPhones or glued to their iPads. It's fun to elaborate on the Zen of knitting. However, there was no Zen in my knitting this morning. Just anxiety, frustration, angst and apprehension. Was I ultimately a failure at my beloved knitting?
My formal psychiatric psychotherapy is ending. I've been reflecting on some recurrent themes. They won't move mountains for you or transform your view of life. They're not earth shattering. That's a misconception about psychotherapy. Psychotherapy doesn't change you... It's gradual. It's hard. It's work. It's a process that can change the way you feel about yourself, though you don't realize it while it's happening. You have to commit yourself to it. You end up, I think, with a bit of insight. People don't change and you can't change them... This is perhaps the hardest, most challenging realization I've learned in my therapy. I'm constantly learning and relearning it. Really accepting it has made my life more peaceful. This is as close to an absolute truth as any I know.
This morning I saw my psychiatrist Dr. Bob for the first time since May 16. One month ago. "My exit strategy"... We're spacing out our appointments. Seeing each other monthly. This is all part of my "exit strategy" from my psychiatric psychotherapy. Dr. Bob and I began seeing each other in 1990. That's 22 years of life-changing therapy. This past February he spent six weeks at Addis Ababa University teaching psychiatric residents through an exchange program with the University of Toronto. Initially I was concerned about him being so far away for so long. I was meeting with my psychologist Kim Watson and working on recovery from my eating disorder. So I was not working entirely without a net. When Dr. Bob returned he couldn't believe the change in me... "You've done it," he said during our first session on March 29. "You've been working very hard." That was when I began for the first time in my life to entertain the idea of what until now was unthinkable for me. Leaving therapy...
Language and mental health/psychiatric illnesses/conditions/diagnoses/challenges/differences ~ labels ~ are hot button, triggering issues for me. They drive me crazy and feed into our collective consciousness, our prejudices and discrimination. Our negative stereotypes. Our sick public discourse. Language is political and words matter... It's time to stop and think about the words we use. To heal that discourse. I'm hypersensitive to language. So, first, let us consider the seemingly innocuous little article "the"... It sounds innocent enough, but not always. I cringe at the term, "the mentally ill." Who are the mentally ill? What exactly does that mean? Who are "the mentally ill?" Are they one group of people or many different, unique individuals? What do "the" mentally ill look like? What are their mental illnesses? Do they have productive jobs and careers? Do they have families and friends? What exactly are we saying when we talk about "the mentally ill?" And how about "the homeless"? I really get upset when I hear or read that one. The article "the" when describing a group of people instantly labels them and no one wants to be labeled... Linguistically, the word "the" used that way is an insidious device to take away our individuality, our uniquenesses.
I detest the word "stigma." It makes my skin crawl because no one takes personal responsibility for it. I hate the way it sounds. I hate to even say it. I prefer calling it the "S" word, but nobody knows what I mean because "stigma" is so ubiquitous and so convenient. Do you know what it means? Discrimination and Prejudice. Add two more words to that definition: Fear and Ignorance. Negative Stereotyping. Unnecessary Barriers. Get the picture? There is no stigma. Just prejudice and discrimination. When you say the word "stigma" you actually incite "stigma." Linguistically, it's an etymological trick, a praeteritio. Nasty stuff. Let us ban that word and call it by its proper names. Discrimination and Prejudice. Perhaps then, people will take personal responsibility for their own attitudes and ignorance and fear and prejudices and discrimination. May even attempt to change their attitudes. Learn more. Understand more. Become more empathetic. Compassionate. Kind. Inclusive. Maybe. But will anyone accept that their attitudes are prejudicial and discriminatory, that they have a problem? Perhaps by changing the language we can begin to change our culture, and our collective conscience? Am I asking too much? Certainly, we, who live with our psychiatric histories, who internalize our diagnoses, seem to suffer the most as a result of these sick misguided prejudices and discrimination. This irrational fear and ignorance. "Stigma" isn't some black cloud, out there in "society." The word is constantly misused and misunderstood. Here's some background on this blighted word...
"Writing is like playing the piano. It takes practice." Those were the unforgettable words of one of the brightest City Editors I ever worked with at The Toronto Sun. And he's right. Lately, I've gotten out of the habit of writing and blogging, so I've decided blatantly to copy Margarita Tartakosky, an associate editor and Weightless blogger here at Psych Central, and blog every day for 31 days. Margarita is my muse and my constant source of support and inspiration. Her blogathon ran during the month of May 2012 and was carried on her personal website here. It's definitely worth a gander. Today is the first day of my Blogathon... Mine is beginning today ~ Monday, June 11. There is no significance to this date. It's simply the day I'm beginning. And I've already begun, with two posts that went up earlier today. About Attuned Eating. And being attuned to my body and myself. Two parts. Some of these Blogathon posts will be short and spontaneous. Writing to be another of my self-soothing activities as long as I don't get too perfectionistic .Perfectionism invariably blocks me and stops me.
I regarded my body with disgust... Now, I'm actually beginning to luxuriate in my physicality. To feel a sense of compassion and empathy for my body especially when I consider how I abused it and detested it all my life. Not fair, considering how well it served me. This process is not linear. It ebbs and flows. I still have simply awful moments and days. But I swallow the discomfort and do my best to use the strategies I learned to carry on. (Delay. Food is Medicine. Distraction. Mindfulness. Self-Soothing Activities. My knitting and crocheting are perfect for this. You cannot eat and knit at the same time.) Walking my dogs morning and night is a magical mindful activity that calms me instantly. We walk for about 45 minutes at a time and it's the best therapy for me. Self-Soothing Activities... Other self-soothing exercises that work wonders for me are knitting and crocheting, caring for my plants (and trying not to murder them with my black thumb), grooming my dogs, looking at art books and seeing good movies. The Gym Is Off-Limits, Forever... Though I confess, at times I miss the gym, but going there would be analogous to a recovering alcoholic visiting a bar. Very triggering. For those of us recovering from eating disorders, during the first year following treatment, relapse is a real danger. We're vulnerable. So my gym membership is gone.
It's been a while since we spoke. Please forgive me. Lots happening here. Most of all, I've been coping with breathtaking changes, coming so fast it's hard for me to keep up. Settling into my body... Five months ago I finished the Toronto General Hospital Outpatient Eating Disorder Program. I'm settling into my body. It's exciting. I've learned to trust the eating plan. It works. But it's no cakewalk. I still have urges. Mini-subjective binges. I fight the "f-t" monster in my psyche. Saying that word hurts me because it is so bloated out of proportion these days. Recently reading about idiotic women using feeding tubes to lose weight sickens me. Will this craziness ever end? Why would anyone submit themselves to such indignity and self-abuse? Enough of that. Growing to accept my body... The big news is I'm actually coming to terms with my appearance. I'm not only tolerating my body, but accepting it. Very occasionally, I even like it. This is a first. The reason for these cataclysmic changes lies in my work with psychologist Kim Watson, my years of work with my psychiatrist Dr. Bob, and the work I'm doing myself as on healing my relationship with my body, an entity I separated from my consciousness for too many years.