What happens when you work on your body before you work on your mind?
So Daisy was now around 6 months old and I was in full swing with getting my life in order, starting with my health kick.
At this point I was feeling pretty good with my life, better than I'd ever felt before, I was eating food that was good for me and I was losing weight as a result, and it was the first time in my entire life that I'd tried at something and actually succeeded.
I ended up turning this 'health kick' into a little hobby and spent majority of my time trying to educate myself about how to live a healthy life. This was really the only thing that was helping me get through what felt like the very very long, lonely and difficult days of being a new mum - which can be a extremely isolating, and certainly was for me.
I had turned most of my unhealthy eating habits around and I was actually enjoying this new way of eating, something I never thought I would be able to do!
However, although I was eating well, losing weight and feeling pretty good about the whole thing, I was still unwell a lot of the time and I was still struggling with serious brain fog that made me feel like I couldn't think straight, multiple skin issues and worst of all my lifelong digestion issues that gave me immense discomfort.
Basically I still had hundreds of symptoms going on within my body that were causing me a lot of discomfort.
That's when I was recommended to go and see a Naturopath. Now this was back in 2014 when Naturopath's weren't as much of a hot topic as they are now and I literally had NO idea what the hell a Naturopath was, but I liked the sound of someone who was going to look at my health on another, more personal level .. so along I went.
On my first appointment she told me things that were so specific and individual to me and my body that my mind was blown wide open - open to the fact that there was way more to health than I had ever known about and there was so many things I was doing that were causing me this discomfort.
It was only then that I realised, the way we live our lives effects our bodies tremendously, which meant I could learn to take control of mine. I remember thinking I would of never heard of or known about what was causing me all of the discomfort because I've never known anyone to look at my health this way and on such an intricate level and that's when I fell in love with the health world. She looked at everything I was eating, drinking, taking and not taking and it felt amazing. Before this I'd only ever had someone say "you have this, we don't know why, here's some medication that might help, take it forever." Something I was conditioned into believing was the only way, before I experienced this new world of health.
Words like "gut health" "gluten intolerance" "blood type O" were being thrown around the room and I literally had no idea what she was talking about, but somehow it all seemed resonate with me and I was ecstatic that I was getting the answers that I had been desperate for and that might be the solution to ending the state of constant illness I was living in. I never realised what I ate and my lifestyle could impact me so much, and I was prepared to do everything she told me. I went away with some simple protocols and changes to make to my diet and lifestyle and I started them right away. Over the next few months a lot of my challenging life long symptoms were starting to disappear and I couldn't believe it. Not only were the things that had caused me so much discomfort for such a long time subsiding, but my whole body and how it functioned was changing, dramatically.
I was pretty much eating 'perfectly' for my body which was working incredibly well for me so I decided I was going to take control of my body even more and start exercising, something I always thought I was terrible at. But I discovered Kayla Itsines Instagram account and her Bikini Body Guide. I bought it and started the program straight away.
I was the most alive I'd ever been.
Weight was dropping off me at an even more rapid rate now, but what got me really excited was that my body shape was changing completely, something I thought would never ever happen.
You see.. I had been telling myself this story since I was about 8 years old that I was 'born fat' and I would never look like other girls, I’d always be a 'bigger girl' This is something that I still occasionaly struggle with today and that led me into some very scary places. But at this time with all of these new habits I'd taken up, I started seeing that maybe it didn't have to be that way, maybe I could actually look like other girls that I admired if I just worked really really hard and ate perfectly. I had this idea that If I controlled everything then I could manipulate myself and my life into looking like the girls I so desperately wanted to look like, and in my mind this is what would lead me to all the happiness, fulfilment, success and contentment I was so badly trying to find in my life.
I came up with this idea that happiness was waiting for me on the other side of my 'goal weight'. So I devoted myself to control absolutely everything in my life, because this meant I would achieve my ultimate goals and bring me all that I've ever wanted.
I became an expert at working really really hard whilst exercising (something I thought I would never be able to do) and I became even more of an expert at controlling every morsel of food that went in my mouth.
The weight was dropping off me at a rapid rate and my body was changing quickly. This made me feel ways I had never ever felt before and needless to say, I was hooked.
I kept going with both eating what was only meant for my body type which very quickly turned into only eating what I knew made me lose weight and NOTHING else.. and I kept on doing this intense exercise guide. In fact it even got to months on end.. and then years on end, of doing this very strenuous exercise - day in and day out. This amount of intense exercise combined with eating extremely strictly, everyday single day, with pretty much no rest was making me feel so strong and resilient and like I had my whole life sorted out.
This went on and on and I thought I had succeeded at nailing a healthy lifestyle. But at the time I couldn't see what other people could see.
I was developing a very disordered way of living.. and it wasn't just an eating disorder it was a entire lifestyle disorder with an intense case of body dysmorphia and an extreme need to control everything in my life.
My life long insecurities and lack of self worth and self love from being 'an overweight and dumb girl' when I was growing up (The story I wrote about myself that my loud little mind had on repeat 24/7..) Turned health and fitness obsessed young mother, proving everyone who doubted her wrong - sounds like a great story of overcome and triumph.. which is exactly what I tried to make it look like.. but truth be told, what was really happening was I was just brining all my demons that had controlled me my whole life along for the ride with me and into the new ‘successful me’ and my life was rapidly becoming darker than it had ever been before, all with me being completely unaware of what was going on because this was all subconscious and automatic.
(Remember what I mentioned about not being consciously aware of any of this at the time, it is only hindsight and the work I've done that made me realise all of this was happening)
I became scarily addicted to exercising and eating extremely strictly and I was becoming more unhealthy than ever, even though at the time I thought the exact opposite. I thought my ability to eat this well all the time and exercise every day was bound to deliver the best health of my life and give me all the answers I needed. I thought I was getting to the point where I felt like that happiness, contentment, fulfilment and success within myself was just around the corner and if I just keep going and control everything more and more, I will have 'my dream body' and hit my 'goal weight' and I'll be happy and I will finally feel comfortable in my own skin.
So I controlled everything even more.
The constant negative self talk that had complete control over me since I was a little girl had started effecting every decision I made throughout the day. Though I didn’t recognise it at the time, these thoughts in my head were getting more and more nasty and controlling.
I couldn't go a day without exercising and when I say exercising, I mean pushing myself to the point of exhaustion day in and day out - 7 days a week. If i hadn't exercised that day, my mind would be on repeat about how much of a failure I was and I would get the most insane anxiety over this. This inner dialogue then started about how I've failed, and in my mind this meant: Because I had failed to control what I was doing to my body, I was going to gain weight from this and I was going to wake up an be fat again (that is not an exaggeration, these were real thoughts I was telling myself and battling inside my head all the time)
On top of the feelings about exercise, the eating was getting worse and worse. The amounts that I was letting myself eat were getting smaller and smaller by the day. People would ask me why I was eating so little and I'd just make an excuse until they stopped asking. I declined pretty much every offer to go out with my friends or family because I knew that what I was eating wouldn't be perfect and I couldn't control it, because I wasn't preparing it myself. In my mind if I couldn't control my food, this meant it would make me gain weight or stop me from losing more weight. My inner dialogue going on in my head at the time literally told me if I didn't eat only the things that were making me lose weight, then immediately I would gain weight. This is a very bad relationship with food, and something that still rears its ugly head every now and then, to this day.
This pattern ended up with me usually binging every time I left the house because every time I wasn't in control of my food and I ate something out of the ordinary and out of 'perfection', that little shadow in my head told me I was a failure and I may as well eat as much as possible. I would end up bingeing because I was so goddamn hungry all the time, that as soon as I got that thought to just keep eating 'cos you've already stuffed it all up' I would eat to the point that I was sick. Of course the bingeing made me absolutely loath myself for DAYS afterwards. I used to feel physically claustrophobic in my own skin and literally have heart palpitations over the fact that I'd eaten more food than usual because in my mind this will meant that I will of put on weight.
Then the inner dialogue in my mind would be on repeat with the volume cranked up as loud as possible saying "I've binged, I'm fat, I'm a failure again" and I would literally go into a dark whole that was a cocktail of depressive thoughts and horrible anxiety, barely being able to function because I was paralysed by the fear I'd made myself gain weight because I couldn't control myself.. and for days and days afterwards I couldn't stand myself, so I would punish myself and restrict my food even more.
The next thing my mind started ruling was a serious case of OCD. I was a complete control freak because my mind told me that if I controlled my life, everything would be perfect. But then something weird happened, this OCD started to make me view everything as a superstition... for example I used to pick out which piece of cutlery I would use to eat my food that day, and this would determine how my day was going to go - which really meant whether I'd lose more weight or not. I literally wouldn’t be able to eat until I'd done this. It wasn’t just the cutlery, overtime I started to do it with all kinds of things, pretty much everything. Jess (My Fiancé) used to ask why I was staring at the forks and picking up multiple ones, instead of just grabbing one to use.. he started picking up on all these weird things I was doing and I just used to brush it off as something weird and quirky I would do. Writing that out is so bizarre and I know it's batshit crazy stuff but why I tell this story is so you can take away from it the severity of what can happen when you’re in a bad mindset and you’re not in control of your mind, your mind starts ruling your life, and until you become aware, you let it. I was completely out of control, but I didn't know it. I was living in a complete state of fear, just like most people are - my case was just more severe and I was very much unaware of it, and I would of had no idea what it meant if someone told me I was 'living in a state of fear' at that time.
My disordered lifestyle had consumed me, I could barely look at myself in the mirror anymore because I was so scared of the disappointment I would feel after staring at all my 'flaws'.
I'm sure you are probably wondering what I looked like at this time, could people tell I had a problem from the outside? Probably not. I was quite thin for my body type and you could see every bone in my body sticking out of me, but I wasn’t scarily skinny to outsiders because I'm naturally not a tiny person (something I could NEVER accept). In fact to the outside world everyone thought I looked great. People commented on how great I looked all the time, I even had one friend that every time I saw her she'd say “Wow you've lost even more weight”, and that made me feel so good, I'd be on such a high after hearing that. Which confirmed this idea I had that happiness would be on the other side of my 'dream body'. I started to crave these compliments like a full blown addict. But the thing was even though people told me I looked great and I wanted them to say that, I couldn't actually see it myself when I looked in the mirror. I craved the compliments like a crack addict but still hated the way I looked.. I would smile at whoever was giving me a compliment and say thank you and have a little burst of 'happiness' but seconds later that inner dialogue in my head would tell me they were lying and just saying that to make me feel good. When I looked in the mirror all I could see were a multitude of flaws, I used to absolutely fixate on all the ‘terrible parts’ of my body. I'd look at what I thought were major flaws and the anger and resentment toward myself would rise up my body and make me incredibly anxious. Every time I looked in the mirror I thought about how much more weight I needed to lose, even though every bone in my body was on full display, and I was the littlest I'd ever been. I saw a girl riddled with flaws and excess weight that (in hindsight) actually weren't there, but I could see them.
For years every single morning I'd get up and the first thing I would do is get on the scales. Every single morning. I even travelled with them. This determined my entire day - if the kilo or gram hadn't gone down I would get on 10 more times to see if they were faulty. If the weight was the same or lower, that meant I would have a good day. But god forbid if it had gone up, even by 100 grams, I would go into a manic dark hole for the entire day. The day would be made up by a combination of self loathing, extreme anxiety to the point of panic attacks and then bouts of depressive and extreme thoughts about myself. To make sure that weight stayed down on the scales each morning, I got to the point of starving myself to feel good because I was terrified to see the number on those scales go up. I was still eating so I didn’t think it was unhealthy - but I strived to feel the sensation of starving because in my head that meant I was losing weight and I was safe.
If I felt starving when I went to bed, I'd succeeded for that day, that was my goal each and every day.
People who were closest to me started to pull me aside and ask me what was going on and if I was okay, because they knew I was anything but okay, but I convinced them I was fine, just like an addict would do. I kept exercising everyday, pushing past the point of exhaustion and not listening to my body, ever. I was eating less and less and getting stricter and stricter, and my anxiety was getting worse and worse. I didn't have any sense of reality, all I could think about was losing more and more weight. I became obsessed with how much other people weighed and how they ate, and I spent my time trying to figure out what other skinny people were eating. This idea that happiness came down to what I looked like and felt about myself had completely consumed me. I kept comparing myself to everyone and ended up just tearing myself apart.
After treating myself like this I developed severe adrenal fatigue and my hormones went completely haywire, and this messed up my health completely.
My body was going crazy and my mind even worse. My naturopath could see what was happening and she was trying to explain to me that my body was under chronic stress and malnourishment and how bad this can be for my health. She was continuously telling me to change things in my lifestyle, but I didn't listen, it would go in one ear and out the other because I only wanted information about how I could lose MORE weight. I could not control that part of my mind, it was literally all I could focus on and I didn't know why. The sad thing about this was I had gone from seeing a naturopath to better my health, to seeing her to gain information about how I could become 'skinny', so all the valuable information and suggestions that would of saved me were wasted because I was so focused on the wrong thing! And my mindset was not on fixing my health at all anymore, even though I made everyone believe that's what I was all about.
The hardest thing thinking back to this time of my life was that this very disordered lifestyle I was living, of course effected my relationship with my daughter, which pains me so so much to this day.
I was so anxious all the time that I didn't have the patience to be a good mother, I loved her more than anything in the world and she was my entire world but I couldn't get past this toxic headspace that I was living in, which meant I was not nearly present enough with my little girl. I just couldn't stop my mind from racing.. I wanted to be the best mother I could possible be from the day I had her - that was the whole reason I started my big 'health kick', and the whole reason I declared to change myself in every way that I could control. I was still trying my absolute best to be everything and more for her, but that became so hard because I was completely trapped in my own head and I didn't know how to get out.
With all of these crazy thoughts I had going on in my mind and all the crazy actions they led me to do, I put it all down to the same thing - how badly I wanted to feel happy. I was so convinced that my happiness and success would come with this 'dream body' that I was trying to achieve, that it had complete power and control over me. The stupid thing was I couldn't of felt less happy or less successful while I was doing all of this, but I still was under the impression that that meant I just had to work harder and control more and more.
I still can't believe the exact reason I started to get my health together and lose weight was to be the mother I wanted to be for my girl, and it had turned into the one thing that was stopping me from being exactly that. I still can't believe that I put all my happiness down to what I saw in the mirror, but it was just my mindset and the way I was programmed. I hated what I looked like growing up, so in my mind I though that If I changed that, I would finally feel the happiness and worthiness I had always longed for and I would finally start to feel comfortable in my own skin and I would start to like myself.
Boy was I wrong.
A lesson that took me a very long time to realise.
I finally got to the point of realising I had a serious problem, slowly but surely.
After this realisation, I desperately wanted it to end. I wanted to be the mother I set out to be when I had my daughter. But after realising this, I didn't know what to do about it.
I was terrified because I knew that if I were to address these issues it would mean i couldn't get any skinnier and I still couldn't accept what I looked like, I still wasn't feeling happy or successful which must of meant I wasn't skinny enough!
But I started to really recognise that this can't be normal, and I started to crave feeling normal. I longed to be able to eat a meal without hating myself, I longed to be able to like myself, I wanted so badly to feel confident without having to starve myself. I remember I used to read quotes about self love and just think to myself how.. how do I do it, I'll never ever be able to..
I absolutely loved eating good food and exercise and loved the way those things had made me feel once upon a time.. but my mind got the better of that, just like it did when I was little and when I was at school and I thought I had to eat to be happy.
This quest for happiness and 'finding myself' still had complete control over me and took over my whole life, everything I decided had happiness attached to it became something I had to have and would do anything to get..
I still wanted so badly to feel healthy, but it turned out I didn't know how to eat well and exercise and actually be healthy and have a healthy relationship with these things - I only knew how to starve myself and exercise to the point of exhaustion. All I wanted was to be able to look in a mirror and not pick myself apart and tell myself I was always going to be 'fat' and "big and bulky". I longed to be able to take a photo and be happy with the way I looked and not tell myself "I'd look better if I just lost a little bit more weight." I look back at these photos now and cannot believe how much my mind got the better of me, I can see now looking back that I wasn't just 'thin' or 'lean' I was unwell. I needed a way out but I didn't know which way to look. I’d finally gotten to the point that I recognised and acknowledged that I needed to end this battle but I didn't know what was actually causing it or where to start.
I wanted to become truly healthy.. and even though I didn't know how to go about it I made the decision to somehow stop this vicious cycle.
It's funny how the universe works..
In January 2016, just after realising all of this and deciding to heal myself, I was planning to go out to dinner with my friends, but I had been feeling a little 'off' for a few days.. and suddenly it hit me that I hadn't had my period that month yet.. I went and got a pregnancy test immediately and took it “just in case” I was planning to have a few drinks at dinner so I wanted to be sure, even though not one cell in my body thought it was going to be positive. I took the test and one line came through very quickly and strongly... thank god, it was negative.
But a few minutes later I looked again, and a second - very faint line started coming through. My hands started trembling and the sensation of shock, fear and adrenaline rushed through me like a wave. I fell in a heap crying on the floor not knowing what to do. I was in a state of complete shock - strangely enough, a lot more shocked than when I fell pregnant with Daisy.
The intense fear set in straight away.
Sometime's something that seems like the worst possible outcome at that time, is the exact solution you've been asking for.