Eating disorders are wasting your time

Dear reader,

This is a very personal post and I have never written about this subject so openly.

For some reason, I remembered some of my teen idols. I was so in love with a French dancing figure skating pair, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, especially with their performance of “Esmeralda” and “Time to Say Goodbye” in the early 2000’s. Watching them skate again today, brought many memories of my early, young, fragile age, so I decided to go on with my orange-reddish hairstyle 🙂

Another recent idol has been Yulia Lipnitskaya, a young Russian figure skater, who, at the age of only 15 won the gold medal (well deserved!). I was wondering what she might be up to today, 4 years later, and found out that she’s retired from sport, due to severe anorexia.

I couldn’t believe it. It made me so so sad. She is far from lonely case. I dedicated my whole life to classical ballet, up to the age of 21. For years I was suffering from eating disorders. It started as I was getting ready for Ballet Nationals and my teacher made some crude remarks about my weight. At the age of 16, I wanted to do my best to “fit in”, succeed, meet the standards, regardless of how inhumane or devastating they were. I forced my body to do things most people couldn’t even imagine was possible. I pushed it beyond every limit and won the second place, dancing with a torn calf muscle. I could go on not eating for days, or bring every single meal out whenever I wanted. Still, no signs of fatigue or lost strength or physical ability. I had complete control over it. It was my absolute slave.

I made my best friend my slave. And as most things I was up to, I succeeded 100%.

It all got worse at about the same time, when I was almost expelled from school for anonymously publishing an article about certain practices and behaviours at our school. What I’d written was nothing but truth, but the reaction I got from my teacher was awful. I was excluded, humiliated, yelled at so that the entire school could hear and after that I learned to keep quiet, swallow all the injustices and simply pretend everything was fine. Pretend I was okay. Suppress all the emotions, desires, hopes. Just work, work, work. At the age of 16 my wings were broken. Crushed. I thought it was my fault. Everybody was pointing at me, confirming it was my fault. People watching me go down the road of slowly getting more and more exhausted, bystanders not knowing what to do, friends disappearing.

Eating disorders are lethal. They are one of the most damaging addictions. Vicious things, lurking in the back, taking over your life slowly, while you are fooling yourself believing you are in control.

I was so sad to read about Yulia. Such talents, such beautiful souls carried away by this disease. Many professionals are claiming, one cannot escape this circle. That the victim will always stay trapped in the cold hands of anorexia or bulimia. I say they are wrong.

I managed to recover myself. It happened as everyone else gave up. Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, all sort of professionals. They gave up because they failed to ask me one single question:

What are your best hopes?

All of them were focused on ways how the disease was messing up with my life, or worse, how it’s become my life. None of them bothered to ask me about my other sides, my passions or hopes, probably because they assumed I had none. I believed that too. But it was not true. It was only that my wings were broken, but that doesn’t have to mean that I would not be able to grow new ones. Being kept in an environment where everybody was constantly reminding me that I have “screwed up”, “will not make it again” and “can’t do it myself” has been more damaging than the wounds I cut myself.

So at one point, after years of suffering, I decided that I won’t let my 16-year old down. I’ll never hide again and will never bow, even if and when my mouth will get me in trouble. I’ll never stand people for having the wrong energy, because I learned to be protective of myself and of people around me. People who are affected by eating disorders have several wonderful traits – they take it all on them, which makes them very pleasant company. They are incredibly talented, intelligent and resilient. But they simply don’t know that yet or don’t believe it. Eating disorders are a way of withdrawing, distracting from pain, focusing the punishment onto yourself, even when someone else is guilty. But in the cold light of dawn, eating disorders are a waste of your time. And a terrible waste of your potential.

Again, I was so sad to read the news about Yulia. And I know many girls like her, even some boys. I used to be one. And I can also show you that you, YOU ALONE, can manage to spread your wings again, fly, or grow whatever you need in order to lead the life you want. Yes, you can, without medication, painful questions and all sort of experts, who will pretend they care and will pretend they know better than you. No-one knows better than you.

Connect with me, if this sounds appealing and you might benefit from my experience. I was extremely lucky, that a couple of years after recovering, I accidentally bumped into Solution Focused Brief Therapy, which was exactly how I managed to restore my best version. The version that will never shut up and will never ever bend again. So naturally, I became a SFBT therapist and am now trying to make a difference with the approach and care, I needed, but was simply not there. With all my love and all my passion, both of which at some point I thought will never be on the menu of my feelings again. So I got lucky, but not because faith had it, but because I looked out for it.

With so much love to all the Yulias,

Biba

 

This Blog is an Invitation to Life

Dear reader,
this is a message that hit our mailbox today and I’d like to share it with you. Today it was sort of a lousy day, because I hosted a workshop yesterday and was rather ill, so as a consequence today I cannot talk, because I’ve nearly lost all of my voice. So I cannot call anyone, nor pick up the phone (which means I’m pretty bored). Then unexpectedly, this happened. And the sender was kind enough to let this message be shared. I have nothing left to say in addition. Not just because I’ve lost my voice, but because there’s nothing left to be said. 
 
Dear Ribalon,
you don’t know me and I don’t know you. But somehow I feel like I’ve known you forever. I’ve been quite miserable for quite some time. In 2012 I’ve had a car accident. I was in a car with my boyfriend at the time and his sister. We were going home from a concert. He was driving and I don’t remember much, because it was night and we were sleeping – the last thing I remember is him covering me with his jacket so I wouldn’t get cold. The next thing I woke up in the hospital from a coma a few days later. I won’t bother you with details. However in just one night, I’ve lost the love of my life and my own identity. I ended up in a wheelchair. Couldn’t find any reason to live anymore. Nothing made sense. I was nobody, I had nobody. I didn’t know neither who I was, nor who I am supposed to be now. And why. So I stopped attending my university, all I did was browsing the internet and playing some sagas on my ipad. I secretly wished my life was over and I blamed my boyfriend for leaving without me. I blamed myself for letting him drive. I blamed the singer for performing that night. I blamed my parents for having me.
 
Then one day I found your blog. Your logo caught my attention, because it’s so childlike. It was in October 2014 and I was just typing in some keywords about coaching and stuff. Your posts at first didn’t mean much, but they were somehow interesting and somewhat cosy to read, because you were only inviting your reader to join, but never imposed your preaching. And you felt so close, not at all high or perfect and I liked that. I perceived your blog as a silent invitation to life.
 
It’s more than one year since. So I thought I’ll let you know what happened because of, or by following your blog.
 
I am still struggling to figure out what to do and how to adjust to my new situation and my new identity. But I went back to the university. I know it’s not my fault things happened the way they did. And I suppose me staying alive had some underlying reason. And I should make some sense of it. Though it’s still very hard and it hurts me even thinking about it, let alone writing about it, I know I have to stop hiding. And your kind posts helped me do that, step by step. 
 
I realize you didn’t and couldn’t know that. However for me it was like this little light bulb, telling me I’ll be ok. I’m not ok yet. But I have hopes I might get there one day. I simply want to thank you for this and I hope to meet you one day to tell you that personally. Please let me know if you’ll ever host a workshop in XXX, because I’ll surely be your no.1 participant. But you’ll have to find a place that is wheelchair accessible.
 
I hope this message finds you well and sorry for its length.
 
Sincerely,
XXX
sunset

This is my aunt’s picture from her seahouse. I suppose as long as we are able to notice features like these, we might find a reason to smile.

Meet a person who saved my life and doesn’t know it

Dear reader,

sometimes your actions echo and reach much much further than you may realize. Well I think that most of your actions cause somehow a snowball effect, only you might not be aware of it.

Here’s a story about someone that had much influence on my character in the past and is still very, very special to me. A story about someone, who used to be like a mother when I needed one most. A story of someone whom I call my person, the one that watched me grow up and stayed, even until today. Her name is M.

She used to be my teacher in grammar school. I was in love with her. She was my role model and everything she said or did, I wanted to be like her. She had a great sense of humour and my notebooks were full of short notices about the jokes she made in class. She was also a poet and inspired me to write myself. I secretly wished that I would somehow resemble her when I grow up. But I was a messy teenager. Very bright and hardworking, but not very well behaved. I believed in justice and couldn’t keep my mouth shut when I noticed some iniquities. I was also very active and would be in first rows when somebody would propose some action, even though it might have been a silly one. So I happened to be a co-editor of a school paper, which my class had set up and wrote many articles for it. In the beginning of my third year, I was preparing for a national ballet competition and I was quite unhappy about my ballet teacher’s work and attitude. He made it clear I was not his protĂŠgĂŠ, even though I was the only one in class being sent to this competition. I was upset with his methods and behaviour, and not just his, but the entire school policy. Ballet world sucks – it’s very competitive, most of the discussions are around your obeying body and relationships are harsh. But I didn’t mind it back then. What I did mind, was that I wanted to work even harder, but had no opportunity to do so. I wanted more trainings, more lessons, but couldn’t find a listening ear that would enable me to develop to the maximum. So since nobody would listen, I wrote an article about this – an anonymous one, without names, but I did put a signature, which clearly pointed to me as an author. I didn’t want to hide, but didn’t want to point fingers either. I felt I had to let it out and hoped that something would change.

Much changed, and the change came rapidly. My ballet teacher recognized himself in this piece of writing and went mad. I was called up into his office and he yelled at me for about half an hour so loud, that the entire school heard it. I was called names, was threatened and in the end, sent home with a prohibition to come back until the teaching staff board meeting. What was worse, was that he revealed himself as being the person I was referring to in the article, so that everybody knew who he was and what he’s doing and that upset him even more.

I went home. I was petrified. And shocked. My intention was not to harm anybody, but to raise an issue that it is time for a change and discussion. Everything I told was the truth and furthermore, it was not my opinion entirely. We talked about these issues and most of my other colleagues agreed with my concerns, but as soon as this happened, their mouths were shut and I was left alone.

The board meeting was in a few days. I was not allowed to attend trainings in the meantime. When the board was over, M. approached me and said they were considering expulsion. But she told me not to worry, because it’s not going to happen. Later on I heard that she stood up for me in the meeting and claimed that all I did was expressing my opinion in a free speech country and I should not be punished for daring to step out to say the emperor’s naked. She was the only one who dared to say something in my defence. So they did not expel me, I only got a final notice. But the ballet teacher withdrew his mentorship and wouldn’t talk to me for one year, even though I won the second place in that competition. However, inspite of that I cried almost every night, because my spirit was broken. And this was the end of my wild nature. It was the beginning of the end of my career as a dancer, only I didn’t know this at that point. I was only 16.

The end happened about 5 years later. Following years brought me much trouble and some very difficult time. When I left the opera house, I was a nervous wreck. Most of the people abandoned me. M. stayed. But she never asked anything. Never judged. She left me alone, but not lonely. Never gave me “the disgusting look” I frequently got from the others in terms of “look at her, she’s destroying herself and there’s no hope for her”. She was just simply there as if nothing was wrong and I was always good enough, even though I was nothing and felt like nothing.

After I went to the university, she stayed still. Talked to me about different things. She was interested in how I was doing. And I think she saved my life, because she showed me that life goes on, no matter what. That even though you lose everything, some people stay. Not because of what you do and how you do it, but simply because you are and that’s enough. This was huge for me and made me realize, she was there the whole time, from the first day I came to this school. She wrote a letter to me when I was in a hospital and couldn’t rehearse. She congratulated me for my birthday, every year. She read my poems and encouraged me to write, because she thought I was talented. And she was proud when I graduated and won the PreĹĄeren’s prize.

She’s retired now, but we still keep in touch. Our relationship has changed, because she’s not my teacher anymore and I’m a grown-up, but it has become an even better one. She follows this blog and I know that when she’ll read this post, she’ll be very surprised. So here’s to you, M.: You probably had no idea what a positive influence you had on my development. Nevertheless, yes – you saved my life and you contributed a great deal to my moral education. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share a piece of my life with you and have a tiny place in yours. It is a gem for me and no words will ever be enough to say thank you for what you have done and that you are still here.

Once we spent an afternoon at your place and you gave me a small notebook. I use it to write good things in it, that have happened to me. And there are actually many things in there! So maybe I’ll start writing some posts in Slovenian, as you requested. Maybe the time is right to do so.

notebook

The dark side of holidays

Dear reader,

So many good wishes everywhere you look and everybody seems to have such marvellous time. Well, according to statistics, it is also the saddest part of the year – day is short, weather is cold, rainy, etc. (true, depends on where you are), many bacteria causes all sorts of unpleasant pain or cold. Also, for many people, this is the loneliest time of the year and watching merry movies with Christmas tree, happy family and presents only adds to sorrow.

A friend sent me fb message today, wishing me all the best. He also wrote that our friend in common jumped under car. Not by accident I suppose and it didn’t end well.

There are millions of reasons why someone decides to end his/her life. And it is particularly sad if that someone is young, with his whole life in front him. And it’s not going to let it happen.

On this sad day and time of the year, I’ll tell you about my role model. My Grandmother. She’s the one we’ve spent our Christmas with. She was kidnapped and forced to go to war when she was 17. She escaped from the concentration camp and migrated to my country. With a guy who later on became her husband. She didn’t know anyone, didn’t even know how to speak the language in a foreign country. She migrated in 1942 and had to sleep in the woods till 1945, because it was too risky if they would find her. In 1944 she got pregnant with her first child, but still she had no home. She had two more children after the first one. She saw her original family 25 years after the war ended.

Her husband left her after a while. She had to make it on her own. Worked as a cook, cleaning staff, all sorts of low paid jobs, because she had no education. She was about to study medicine, but then the war happened and her dreams were killed. Her three kids grew up and started their own families. I was her last grandchild and I’ve spent my whole childhood with her. I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Had a big dog who would accompany me all the time, she didn’t bother where I was or what I was doing, so at age of 5 I climbed all the hills in the neighbourhood and knew every tree and nobody controlled me or told me what to do or not, when and what to eat and what to wear. Just had to be home as soon as it got dark. Pure heaven.

Back to her. Her husband returned. He was very ill and an alcoholic. There was violence involved. He died soon after. It is now more than 40 years since his death. Her second child, at the age of 52 died from lung cancer. She buried her own daughter. It broke her. I could go on and list you all the difficulties she’s experienced. But let me tell you what’s so special about her.

She survived. All that and more. And yet, today, as she’s nearly 90, she has no regrets. She still keeps her own garden and breeds some animals. She gets up at 5am. No exceptions. Every day. She exercises regularly. Eats only what she grows. Eats little. She learns new things, with passion. She reads everything. From horoscope to the greenhouse effect. When we were implementing Bologna system to our higher education, she knew more about it than I did, and I was in the preparation group at my faculty.

She needs very little. Until recently, she had no trash can, because she didn’t produce any rubbish. Her pension is less than 400€ and yet she manages to give each of us 50€ for our birthdays. She keeps calendar of our birthdays and calls us regularly. She was the one who was most proud when I graduated and I gave her a copy of my thesis. The only original copy I had. She is pure giving. Owns almost nothing and yet, so she says, she is the richest person on Earth. Because she is content with what life had brought her. She desires nothing. Doesn’t complain. Doesn’t accuse, or preach, or command. But she does care. I’m so proud to be her granddaughter. Hopefully I’ve inherited at least some of these brave, modest and powerful genes.

So dear reader, there is always someone, who cares about you. There really is. There is always someone you care about. What difference would it make to tell them that? Or somehow show them? What difference would it make for you, telling or showing them you care? Life is so short. You may feel sorry. Not for what you did, but for what you didn’t do.

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Our potato. My grandmother gave the seeds.

Good life is not just the absence of negative things

Dear reader,

I promised  you to say something about how come we are sometimes better “trained” to respond to negative than to positive feedback. Also, I promised you to introduce a possible way to unlearn old patterns and invite new ones come in.

Back in 2000, my ballet teacher told the class at the beginning of our ballet course that he follows two rules in providing feedback about our performance:

1. what we do right and well, is normal and how it should be done. Therefore he will not say it.

2. what we don’t do right, he’ll emphasize and correct so that we could improve.

After four years of training we felt like we couldn’t do anything right. Out of 18 students in the first year, only myself and another girl have completed the studies in due time. We didn’t celebrate it.

If you do receive a lot of criticism and negative feedback, you are very likely to be doing something really important and perhaps something meaningful, that only a few are willing to try. If you are coping with criticism and can handle it more or less one way or another, you have probably developed a very precious skill: resilience. Further, you might be expressing great courage if you keep going inspite of the criticism. I think this deserves a deep bow. It also demonstrates you are a fighter and survivor.

However, life is much more than that. I bet sometimes you get positive feedback as well. What do you do with it? Do you even notice it? Do you celebrate it or do you accredit less importance to it than to the negative feedback? Maybe because positive feedback is ok, but negative should be considered more seriously, so that you can improve? Close resemblance to my teacher?

Here’s an exercise: try to remember the last compliment, a positive feedback or comment you’ve received about your work. What abilities and skills did you have to demonstrate in order to receive this compliment? What did the compliment giver see in you that she/he decided to delivier it to you the way they did? Why do you think they considered bothering making a compliment or a positive feedback to you? They could do otherwise, but they didn’t. And I guess they were not forced into making this compliment, so they probably gave it freely and out of their own intention.

Going one step further: how did you respond to the feedback? Were you able to take it seriously and accept it? How did you express that? How did receiving the compliment feel inside? What might the other person who gave you the feedback notice about you as you responded? And how did they respond back?

Sometimes we might think that it is good enough not to receive negative feedback and criticism. However life is much more than just the absence of negative. Good feedback is not just the absence of negative feedback. Good feedback is about appreciation, respect, gratitude, kindness, good handshake, a shoulder to lean on, a supportive company, good health, smiling, to be loved and to be able to love. It may feel like a lot. But you deserve this. All of this. And not just sometimes. You deserve it regularly, just as much as you deserve to breathe clean air.

To conclude, here is some experiment you might want to try: you might be waiting for your next compliment and embrace it fully. And how about while waiting, you make a genuine compliment to someone? How about you use the next opportunity you meet someone that is important to you and tell them something about them that you appreciate? Try and observe the difference you will make.

As William Makepeace Thackeray said:

Never loose a chance to say a kind word.

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