Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sixth Year Healthiversary

In January 2008, I made the decision to change my life.  It wasn't a crazy New Years Resolution - it was more a "I'm so unhappy. I have to TRY to change this" thing.  I assumed I'd fail (again) - but I had nothing to lose in trying. So I tried.

Last year, I let it all get the better of me - my focus turned "aesthetic" - I was too focused on how I looked and how it appeared to everyone else - which only served to backfire. I fell apart. My old self-doubt reared its ugly head and said "you assumed failure - you have become that failure".

I stopped treating my body right, and my mind wandered through all the levels of doubt and negatives of the past. I lulled in turmoil and I lost my belief - as though I didn't deserve what I'd worked so hard to change - nor had I been "given" the payout for working so damned hard in the first place.

I expected more and more - and I received less and less for it.

My biggest "failure" was not in lack of achievement - it's in being complacent with what truly mattered - what had driven me in the first place. My heart wasn't in "changing for the better" - it was elsewhere, I was superficial and greedy, and it came back to bite me - to teach me a lesson in humility.

The last couple of weeks have been met with trepidation in the lead up to my sixth anniversary from the day I decided to change. I felt like a failure - untrue to myself - a fraud - after a year of negativity and disappointment that just kept feeding upon itself.  I've gained weight, I quit the gym, I ate everything in sight and withdrew from my networks.  I was shunning myself with shame, and berating myself for making things worse.  I taunted myself that I'd "given up".

But, after lots of soul searching, I realised I haven't given up - not entirely.  I was "hibernating" - waiting until it was 'right', again.  Manifesting the strength and courage to really acknowledge who I am NOW - and what that means to the next chapter.  My evolution.

I woke up and wrote some words on scrap paper first thing yesterday morning...  they read:

I am capable, and I am willing.

I have, and I can do again.

I have exercised the art of discipline and self compassion, and I will continue to do so.

I have adapted, I am flexible.

I am strong, in spirit and in self.

My changes are my choice, and my choices are my challenge that I willingly accept.

I have changed, and I have gained a freedom in doing so. 

I am successful, and will continue to be so, just as I choose.

We're conditioned to believe that success only comes in reaching set goals - anything less than meeting that goal is not enough, and going backwards is instantly negative or a route to 'failure'.  We measure our worth SO MUCH on these factors that they eat away at us until we believe we're 'less' because we haven't yet met them.  Forgetting that our heart, soul, love, honour, trust, friendship = all the beautiful elements that make us who we are, holds far more value than a size 12 pair of jeans and a great set of abs will EVER hold...  On our death bed, will we truly care that we ran 5 marathons or drove a $50,000 car?!      

I will NOT subscribe to the context that I've failed because I couldn't meet a 'goal' that's constructed in this aesthetic or superficial frame.  My true goals - the underlying tummy-numbing goals - were to find a reason to live.  I found that - I found ME.   Everything else is a bonus.

Life is fluid.  What I aspire to change will always keep moving, and I'll move and adapt with it, the way its intended.  That is what drives me, why I started - I chose to live - and all the curve balls, hardship, tears, fun, laughter, happiness, fears, excitement, sunsets and really awesome watermelon are there to be experienced.  To endure.  To embrace.

It's my sixth year anniversary today - and I made the call to forgive myself for the turmoil of last year - it was a learning curve that needed to happen.

Walking around my favourite river circuit tonight, thinking about what I truly want, what "goals" I'd like to fill my year with...  a few choice words slipped into my head that just wouldn't leave me. 

Neither weight loss nor weight gain DEFINES ME.  
My choices and attitude in life do.

2014: healthy in mind and healthy in body.

That's my goal this year - time to round up the happy and embrace another year of life!

Happy Healthiversary to ME!   

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A year ago today...

A year ago today I was staring down the barrel of one of the hardest physical challenges of my life.  A year ago today I went in for my first reconstructive surgery (tummy tuck) with all the bravery and smiles a girl who had halved herself could muster!  I was the fittest and healthiest I’ve EVER been, I’d worked SO hard, I was mentally and physically ready - and I was determined to rock that surgery in every way possible!
A year later, and I’m sitting here with what feels like a fist gripping my heart.  It’s been THE hardest year of my transition, and part of me is just….  hurting/lamenting/questioning/dreaming/consoling… ?  I’m not sure how I feel at the moment.  Very mixed emotions.

Ofcourse, I had to contend with the physical issues post-surgery – there was dizzy spells and fatigue like nothing else.  Ofcourse there was the pain and swelling of cutting off a significant portion of your body. But it was the insane staph infection which totally messed me around for bulk of the months following (and even 12 months later, I still have a few slight issues) – and the biggest brain-messer-uperer was when I “burst at the seams” from the infection.  Scariest thing I’ve been through – there are just no words when you have a mass load of fluids streaming out of a wound in your body and you’re helpless to do anything about it...  It made me seriously question if any of it was worth it.
As the months rolled on, I realised there were other issues coming out of the woodwork that I hadn’t had to deal with before – nor had I been prepped or ‘warned’ about.  My anxiety levels skyrocketed – my heart palpitations were fit to send sonic shockwaves through all of Bathurst on some days.  I’d be close to heart-attack status with the anxiety, just trying to walk into a shopping centre to buy a few groceries, after numerous near-fainting spells over the first couple of months left some jagged memories in there that would shoot me with anxiety every time I’d attempt it.  Even trying to leave my house was becoming problematical – driving my car would scare me (I nearly fainted driving the car when I didn’t know I was infected) - and exercise… pfft.  It started scaring the life out of me – my body would ‘tighten’ when it was swollen with heat or movement, and most days it felt like the safest place for me was to lay on the floor.  Couldn’t fall any further if I was already on the floor. I became very accustomed to laying on the floor.

It hurt SO BAD in that first six months – I was shattered.  My surgery wasn’t the ‘be all, end all’ – it left me significantly scarred (not my surgical scar – that mofo rocks my world, it’s seriously bad arse from hip to hip!!).  No – my mental state was completely shattered.  I was fucked (for want of a better word…!).
My anxiety – untreated and undiagnosed – turned into depression over winter (one of my trouble points on any given year!) – but fuelled with the hurt and resentment of the swelling, issues, anxiety, and my distaste of my wonky, still “unattractive” body….  I forfeited into a spiral of self-hatred and ended up totally lost.
If you’ve read my previous (and very infrequent, very distanced) blogs this year – you’ll have probably caught onto the fact that I wasn’t very ‘ok’.  I thought I had it covered… hell, I’ve been through worse in the past (or so I thought!) – but this was a whole new kettle of fish.  I was in unchartered territory – again – and it left me completely lost.

I went in search of outlets and ‘help’ throughout different avenues this year – including the Brisbane and Sydney Emazon STAND conventions in March and September.  These taught me that there is far more to life than the ‘superficial’ (which I already knew) and pushed me to re-discover and re-connect with my Spirit – and work on finding meaningful relationships with everything in my world.  Including myself – one of my hardest tasks.   
Trying to piece myself together after a massive physical transformation, I was coming unstuck.  Literally.  The surgery – "I thought" – was going to help me feel better about myself.  To help me facilitate some awesome self-love that was still lacking.  Help me be brave and put myself out there – so maybe someone else could see past the exterior and like Amy (god knows my biggest fear is ending up completely alone for the rest of my life…!).   But there it was – in cold hard black and white (or in my case, black and blue!) – the superficial was NOT my answer.  The surgery had failed me in that respect.  My weightloss, therefore, felt like it had failed me too.
I was emptier AFTER surgery than I've ever felt before.   …. And it broke my freaking heart.  
I didn’t look how I wanted – I didn’t like what I saw – I felt rejected, dejected and foul.  It wasn’t “the best thing you’ll ever do Amy!” as I’d heard numerous times prior surgery –  I resented what I saw in the mirror – and even worse, resented the girl staring back at me who had DONE THAT TO ME!  I blamed her for my brokenness.  I hated where I was.
I was full of hate and hurt…. again.  Just like I was when I was twice my size.   THAT is what hurts the most…  How did I end up right back there again?!  

Twelve months later, and I’m still being asked about the surgery.  I went AWOL for a while – trying to deal with everything. I felt I couldn’t comment in a positive light, so I just stopped commenting at all.  People would ask me for specific details, and photos – and it’d take all my energy not to want to shake them and tell them ‘DON’T DO IT!!!’… but I knew that’s not how I felt entirely about it all.  I was just hurting.
There is still a wad of leftover skin on my belly….  That’s something they don’t tell you either – here I was thinking it was going to help rid all that, but NO – there’s only “so much they can take” because its living tissue / blood loss issues mean they can only do so much.   When I was carrying the amount of skin that I was, from having been the size I was, I was left with more skin than I actually realised…  I learnt that the hard way.
I’ve deliberately refrained from showing pictures.  I’m still struggling with body shame – and quite frankly I can see no need to showcase pics of me in my undies for public scrutiny!   I’m far too scared of the damage that may do… even though I’ve suggested in the past that I would offer those up “when I was brave enough”.  Truth is, I’m just not.   I’d love to show the difference between the before and after- it’s quite significant (or at least, moreso at the beginning of the year before my self-sabotage stint) – but I don’t think it’s ‘show worthy’ (my stomach isn’t flat – my body is bumpy and lumpy and I still carry wads of skin in other areas that upset me…).  So it’ll remain private – and as it is, I can barely look at those photos myself without ending up upset.  Looking in the mirror now is hard enough – I haven’t even HAD photos taken in the last few months because of the decline in my mental state in relation to my body.  I feel as though we haven’t even been on speaking terms for bulk of this year.
That’s the thing right there.  The disappointment in the physicality has instigated a serious shift in perspective in my mental state – a very rapid, very dangerous decline.  It had taken me YEARS to like what my body was achieving – losing the weight, getting fitter, reshaping – I was actually starting to LIKE who and what I was!!    There’s one photo taken just a week or so before surgery in a dress at Finale, end of November, that I was totally in love with!  I was just radiant – super happy – and it showed in my face, in my  body, in the way I talked, laughed, looked…
Twelve months later, and I’m a mess.   My body gave out when my heart and head did.  I’m pretty sure I just gave up mid this year. It was just too much. Too hard.  I was over it.  I ached from tip to toe.  Physically and mentally.  I couldn’t breathe from the anxiety, and I didn’t care because my heart hurt so much.  
Add to that, I’d put myself ‘out there’ earlier in the year, hoping I was a bit more desirable (also mistakenly assuming I was more comfortable in my skin) – I’d been met with a string of rejections.  Having my heart ripped out of my chest when I connected with someone, when they chose someone else – well that was the last straw.  I don’t think I recovered after that – to me, that was the biggest confirmation that I was still unwanted – still not good enough.  I stopped looking, I shut down, I gave up on that too.  In my eyes, I was too hideous and foul – and at the rate my esteem was plummeting – too gross of a person, on the inside as much as the outside, to love anyway…  (I’m still fighting this thinking…!)

Lots of tears and lots of FOOD MEDICATING later – and a couple of months ago I’d had enough.  I was tired of crying, tired of hating myself, tired of fighting over and over again the same shit day in, day out.  I was pissed off that I was fighting depression-symptoms again, and I was TERRIFIED that I was heading towards self-harm territory like I’ve dealt with in the past.  Absolutely terrified – and totally fucked off.  I DID NOT WORK MY ARS E OFF TO GO BACK THERE!!!
I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own – I wasn’t winning.  The anxiety had turned festy, and I KNEW I wasn’t winning against that - everything upset me and every day I was contending with 'something'.  I was more inclined to eat my emotions, my body was aching even though I wasn’t training, and I was tired.  Constantly, utterly tired.  I had unexplained pain and fatigue – tendonitis in my arm, severe joint immobility and now a heel spur from seemingly out of nowhere!  My body was breaking down – right along with my head.   So I sought help.   I pulled in my stubborn Taurean head and went to the Dr…
Last couple of months I’ve been on low-dose anti-depressants to help calm the anxiety (and for the most part it’s worked, I don’t rock sonic shockwaves nearly as much now! I was VERY anti-drugs prior to this, so was a major decision for me to go down this path) – and despite my fear of counselling (for valid reasons from prior experience) – I found a local counsellor to go and talk to.  I was punishing myself with massive self-blame, and it was unravelling me.  She was pretty quick to pick up on that in the first couple of sessions – and her questioning me on why I was so adamant on taking the blame for EVERYTHING, and then sabotaging and hating myself for it (when it wasn’t always warranted or even my fault!) - was a key to helping me start turning it around.
I started implementing other techniques aswell - including positive meditation that I’d listen to of a night, and gave myself permission to step back from “the weightloss world” and look after myself for a while.  I hadn’t been able to do that before…  (I felt compelled to help everyone – but then I was hating myself for being a “failure” in the process, a hypocrite – who’d want to listen to the girl who couldn’t even sort her own shit out?!!).  And let’s not even mention the hideous jealousy…  Ohhhh dear god, green eyed monster for sure!    I took myself off dating sites, and I deleted a wad of people from my social networks that I just couldn’t handle ‘for now’ (sorry if that was you, ha!).   I sat on my arse, I ate whatever I wanted, I slept as much as I could and I tried not to let my head go rancid.   I put myself into a bubble for a while – it was time to heal.

So that’s where I find myself today.  Twelve months on from my first reconstructive surgery.  They took about 4kgs of skin off – and in 12 months I’ve put on 15kgs (was nearly 20) – became reclusive – regurgitated some serious self-hatred of times gone by – and learnt some hardcore home truths about being superficial!      My heart hurts for the life lessons I’ve had to endure – but in saying that, had I not gone through this, had everything been “peachy and beautiful” – I’d have missed some of my biggest turning points and experience.  I wouldn’t have found gratitude in other areas or learnt to take the hits the way I have. 

Was it the best thing I've ever done for myself?  Well no - but it has played its part in helping reshape me - physically and mentally.  There are benefits in lesser loose skin - although I spend bulk of my time pulling my undies up now because they keep rolling down over a belly that's out of shape to the rest of me!  I find myself with pockets of fat that weren't there before, with the sabotage-gain and lack of weight training muscle loss - I guess the fat cells have to accumulate somewhere else?!    But I can do pushups now without wanting to hang my head in shame because my gut falls on the floor - which is something that used to send me into fits of tears....  And when I run (if and when I can run these days!) - it doesn't hurt my belly as much as it used to or slap against my thighs  (that's not to say there aren't other issues though - thigh slappage of its own accord is still there!!!).   My body is nowhere near perfect - it's anything but - but it's mobile, and now that I'm back to looking after it PROPERLY - not fueled with hatred or wrong goals - I hope we can start talking again, and make some progress.  I sincerely hope the twelve months ahead can turn this experience into a positive learning curve, and help facilitate some real self-love and acceptance for what I am, who I am, as I am. 

Weightloss can no longer be my main focus.  It’s EGO based, and reflects badly against the person I am within.  It’s superficial and living off the Ego of weightloss success - without having created a tangible, meaningful esteem behind it - leaves you longing and empty.  Let that be my lesson to you all right there!!   My “success” is not found on the scales – it’s in my strength of character, my honesty in myself, my integrity in accountability.   Who I am is not measured on anything other than the heart inside – and as it stands, she’s pretty ok – even with the multiple hits this year that have taken a few chunks out of it.

Would I like a smaller arse?  Sure. 
Do I want to lose this gain and go back to my smallest size pre-surgery?  Yes. 
Will I surrender to quick gimmicks, shortcuts, self-manifesting diabolical obsessive body-smashing or unnecessary starvation to get the results I want?   Hell no.  
Will I have more surgery in the future?  I don’t know.
Will I overcome my twelve months of hurt?  Yes.

Will I be ok?  Yes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pictures of you...

You know I talk "real" about this whole weightloss caper - been at it for over 6 years, I know it's anything BUT super easy - the ups and downs are exhausting!   This year has been one of my hardest mental battles during transition - much more intense than starting out, the doubt, the pushing for control, the physical hurdles as I was shrinking.  Everything mentally this year has pushed me to fighting and sheer exhaustion - the surgery malfunction, the bitter disappointment, the relapse of my depression over winter, and my gain thereafter (I condense the last 9 months in just a few words... it certainly has never felt that "easy" or brief, some days are bleeping hell.)

I've been told that weight issues are just a manifestation of what's hindering you inside (or words to that effect) - and I'm actually not surprised.  My weightgain this year has been a combination of that sheer exhaustion, the spiral of negativity that comes with still not being comfortable in my own skin, the rejection of putting myself "out there", and the self-sabotage and 'well why do I even  bother!'....  OH and that's not to mention the intense emotional backflipping binging that goes hand-in-hand with all the other torments, and then the body totally shutting down in self-protection mode because the rest of the inmates in the joint are running amok!

What fun and joy!!!   Whilst I've been stuffing M&Ms into my mouth with one hand, and dabbing my droopy mascara-stained eyes with the other, my weight has slowly crept up.  No surprise.  Every time I'd walk past the scales, the pangs of hideous shame would hit (to the point where I put them away just so I wouldn't have an anxiety attack every time) - while at the same time I rebelliously loathed and dismissed the damn things because they were damaging my already fragile inner psyche (scales don't measure your true success, and they sure as hell don't measure your overall worth.... my realist inside would say!).

When I had more muffin hanging over the top of my jeans than I was eating, I knew I'd lost my control entirely.  All those lovely smaller clothes I had in my wardrobe didn't fit anymore.  It went hand in hand with my - now hugely evolving - reclusive state, my shut-down from my networks, hiding away and shunning myself away from successful people because I no longer deserved to be in the same category.   I wasn't training because my body hurt so much to move - my joints hurt despite doing very little, my body and brain were completely messed up.

I even went so far as to be fully blood-tested for chronic fatigue a couple of months ago - I was so sure there was something physically wrong with me because I was exhausted beyond belief... but when my bloods all came back even BETTER than post-infection earlier this year, it just jolted me back to reality.   My entire body and mind were in turmoil - and I had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

It's taken me MONTHS to get back to this point of writing - acknowledging - and being able to start being proactive in producing changes again.  My eating is still verging on 'WHOAAAA don't eat the whole horse!'   My exercise is sporadic, and completely dependent on my joints and mobility.   My brain-spasms are a little less intense, but I'm still heart-hurting on a daily basis.   I've taken a few positive steps in making headway to change these things, and I'll be taking more - but at the moment, I'm just focusing on being able to BREATHE.

I don't know a great deal about anxiety and depression - or their linkages - but I've heard it said before that untreated anxiety can lead into depression.  Given my history, and my predisposition to depressiony-symptoms, it's little wonder that I've spiraled backwards the way I have.   My anxiety post-surgery was INTENSE - huge - scary - freaking frustrating!!!   I thought I had it nipped in the bud when I was able to start exercising again / go shopping without passing out because my chest felt like it'd cave in under the pressure of 'freaking out' about it... but I was SO very wrong.

This entire year has been about trying to deal with the surgical misfire - of having a body that was far less than 'perfect' than the bullshit spiels I'd been lead to believe it would create for me.  My pain just festered and grew every time I was rejected (having put myself out there - I want to be loved too!!) - and my self-doubt went off like New Years Eve fire crackers.   I just wanted to be able to be ME and be accepted, and it just didn't seem to happen.   But the trouble is - and I fully acknowledge this - until I can learn to self-accept, I'm going to fight the same battle every damned time...

My growing self-loathing and the doubt kicked well into overdrive during winter - my SADs were going off.  I knew what was happening, but trying to fight through seemed almost futile - it just knocked me like nothing else this year.  More so than the last few.  I just hurt.  Every damned inch of me just hurt.  I just wanted to crawl into a bawl and stay there, indefinitely.    ... and even now, some days I still do.

...but I'm trying to fight through.  When Spring hit, I was ecstatic - surely that meant the end of the winter blues - and I was pretty certain things would just start snapping back into place and I'd hit the ground running, at some point, again.    ... but I underestimated the damage.  The kilos gained I can live with - I take full responsibility for that.  Hell, I even ENJOYED being able to eat whatever I wanted, and holy shit, did I... !!!!     I KNEW there'd come a time when I was going to pull myself up on that behaviour (again) and even now that things are more under control, I don't doubt I'll fall back into the food-trap just because THAT is not the issue I'm fighting here.   It's just a sidetrack!

What's hurting me is the lack of self acceptance - the hatred of the external - the misfired and misinterpreted worth.  I've let myself disbelieve that I'm worth the effort - and I've let myself fall into the trap of drowning my sorrows with food and hiding away into solitude.

At one point I found myself talking nasty smack staring at myself at the mirror - not a word escaped my lips, but the inner monologue was on fire.  Hateful, vengeful, nasty, bullshit - that for 99% of it I don't even believe!!!    ... So WHY was I doing that?!  I'd NEVER do or say those things to someone else... why why why did I think it was ok to talk to myself like that?!   Why do I STILL do that... ?

I was back to loathing my own reflection - and it really had NOTHING to do with the weight gain!  That was the easiest excuse in the book!!  

I went on a secret mission a couple of months ago, with a couple of my friends - thinking sticking myself back on a program would be the catalyst for changing it up again.  BEEP, WRONG!   I know better... but I was desperate, and WAY too exhausted... !!     Absolutely ZERO weightloss - down a couple - back up a couple (rinse and repeat!!)  - but it started putting a little structure back into play.   Note: a LITTLE.  I'm rebelling against this like a mofo!!!

I've been working with other outlets to help turn things around - including new counseling sessions (and if you know me, you know this is not something I've done easily... ).   It's still very new, and I don't know how I feel about it yet - I still put on my 'happy face' when I go in, but it's making me think, and whilst my notorious over-thinking has caused so much issue in the past, this 'thinking' is strategic and a little different.

Yes, the weather change has made a big impact already - the sunshine plays a HUGE factor in my moods!  HUUUUUGE!  This year has been testament to that.  Sunshiney one day = ok!  Rainy the next = look away, look away, look awayyyyy!!!    .. but I'm seeing patterns now, being self-aware, understanding what THIS BODY needs, how it operates, what it works with.

I think that's a win... !  It hasn't always felt like it - but I've never really been this size - I don't know what this body needs or wants?!!  I'm learning.. !

In an attempt to help me overcome my mirror demons - and perhaps shoot the self-hatred of my current size in the foot - a friend of mine took some photos for me.  Given my penchant this year to avoid the camera (like times of old where I avoided cameras like the plague!) - this one became a sticking zone.  I didn't 'want' photos of me right now - not in "this state" - not out of my control!   Hell, I can take a gazzillion selfies and delete nearly a gazzillion shit ones before I'll broadcast the 'acceptable' Amy version...  but give someone ELSE that control?!   Are you serious?!!

.. but I had to let this go.  I had to stand up and fight back.  Stop the self-destructive hatred that's been tormenting me for months - isolating me - ruining me!  I had to stop believing I was so physically unattractive that noone wants me (cuz that's what rejection seems to teach me?!) - and actually break free of what's happened to my body!

Incidentally, let me just jump on a slight tangent right here.  Despite the gain (which makes my clothes tight and my skin uncomfortable) - my surgery malfunction isn't the end of the world.  I know that!  Some days I'll just stand there looking in the mirror at my lumpy leftover belly and be ok - some days I get really sad - some days I'm really proud of that scar that runs from deep one side of my hips to the other.  Some days I loathe what I did - some days I take a deep breath and just accept it as a decision.  Nothing more, nothing less.    My counsellor is trying to help me break away from the self-destructive "you caused your own issues - you did this - it's all your fault Amy!" thinking - and some days I can accept it for just what it is.  Just a tummy, just my body.  Those are GOOD days, but they're rare.

ANYWAY!!  Back to my story...   My friend wanted to take some photos for her portfolio - and I offered my face up to the challenge.   I was quietly shitting myself - I didn't really feel photos would do me any favours at the moment... !!   But I wanted to help her out - she's been such a light for me this year when things have been so rough, and I just wanted to repay her kindness a little.  Uncomfortable in my own skin or not!   Double bonus was if I had a nice photo or two in the process - something I could hang onto that helped rebuild a little of my self esteem.

... but she did more than that.  We had fun!   I turned "professional" and switched into a mode that even let me get changed in the middle of a carpark (all my wobbly bits hanging out for the world to see!).   I am NOT a public body poser by any means - my skin stays WELL HIDDEN - but I'd switched on and that was that.

We shot at the back of a shopping centre - we shot down at the park - we shot near a road.  I could feel people watching - and I felt like a dick and wanted to hide - but this was my opportunity to stand up and do something about my negativity and hatred - and really, I didn't want to let her down.

As fun as the shoot was - I had a mental implosion thereafter.  I sat on my floor and gorged myself with unspeakable things like an entire tub of ice cream (!!) and panicked that I was just totally fooling myself that I was 'ok' in this skin.  I wasn't the girl I was 12 months ago before the surgery (super fit, healthy, determined, knew her shit and knew what she wanted!).    Just a totally broken girl with a bruised soul who got lost somewhere...   So I ate my emotions away, cried my hundred cries, wiped the wad of smudged mascara off my face, and hid my pain away, just like the professional pain-hiderer I am!!

And then I saw the photos...

Not only is she a talented photographer - that goes without saying - but what I saw in those shots was something more than just a photo.   When I reluctantly posted a couple of the initial ones in one of my support groups as a "I stood up and took action today" thing, the reactions were really positive.  It wasn't all about the 'fluff' of how I looked - but what meant more to me was the commentary about how expressive my eyes are, how they tell a story.

That's what's meaningful for me.  My eyes DO tell a story - bulk of it is hidden inside and yearns to have someone here to tell it to.  I hurt every day, but part of me fights to free myself from that every day too.  Where I believe there's fear, I could actually see strength.  Where I believed my physical appearance was laughing at my lack of control and resilience - I could actually see change and adaptation.   It wasn't my body on show here - it was my heart and soul.  Portraiture that made me seen somewhat 'unreal' - perhaps even a little glorified?!  Egotistical - not at all.  I could still read my pain on my face - I could empathise with her, but it wasn't painful sympathy at play here.  It was a 'you've got this girl - just be brave, just believe'.

I don't know if I can really explain it.  I've sat on these images for a week mulling it over.  The one below is my absolute favourite - it doesn't "look like me" (and yet it is) - but there's something incredibly magic about it.  I don't know if it's because I WANT to be that girl - though I am her - or that's what I aspire to shine every day (when there's days I just feel black and weak).   I just know that I connected with 'her' and she's helping me heal right now.

Completely out of my control and comfort zone again - getting uncomfortable because I know there's no point staying here where I hurt so much.  I deserve better than that - and my babysteps are starting to pay off... 

Mantra:  it's got NOTHING to do with how I look, and EVERYTHING to do with WHO. I. AM.

THIS is who I am...

Dear brain: as much as I know you're there to help me reflect and keep me on my toes - please let my body be released from the shackles we're wearing, and let me start believing...  I know we'll all be ok if we just start working together.   <3  Me.