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Archive for May, 2015

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#1

Visited some of my facilities in Hammanskraal, North of Pretoria, today. As usual I was stunned by the extreme poverty these people are living in and I (again) asked the question: Why am I even trying to make a difference? I’m just ONE person! And (again), the answer came….through the people I met….they appreciate everything one does for them SO much. A kind word, a hug, a caring touch….that is what makes a difference; not STUFF. It made me realize how blessed and privileged I am to have this unique opportunity of working together with these honest, God-fearing people to build a better world for our children.

I may not be able to change the world….but I can be the light in someone’s darkness.

#2

A dear friend of ours, who recently had an operation to remove a malignant tumor from her colon, visited today. It was such a wonderful surprise to see her up and about. It made me realize again, just how precious life is, how short our time here on earth may be and we have to cherish each moment. This is something one rarely understands, unless you have to face the possibility of your own demise at the hands of your own body.

#3

My friend Onicca, housemother of an orphanage, principal of two daycare centers and pastor at the local church in a township, took me to see their new building today. Something was so profoundly different inside those walls that I couldn’t quite understand what it was. There were children screaming and shouting outside, but inside it was like a vacuum filled with peace and serenity. ”God is here,” explained Onicca.

She was right….they receive no funding (the building was a donation from someone they prayed for a while back), the congregation is too poor to help financially and both she and the bishop do not get a salary. A church was needed….they provided it out of simple care and love for the people in their community. No talk of who’s who in the church, no ”special” families, no-one to buy the grace of God, so to speak…just simple faith, prayer, belief in God. I personally think that many city dwellers can learn from this. So many churches (if not all of them) are driven by Mammon, by greed…..if you are not SOMEONE in a church, even your humble donation or your honest offer to help with services will be ignored, often quite rudely…just brushed off. You may ask how I know this….because I’ve seen it happen and it totally changed my idea of modern religion.

Witnessing Onicca’s devotion and listening to her testimony showed me that there really are good Christians out there…people who suffer daily, yet they still trust in the power of God, His ability to bring healing to the sick and peace of mind to those stressed by life’s traumas….it gave me hope.

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Watching the biographical ‘’Starving in Suburbia’’ otherwise known as ‘’Thinspiration’’….a true-life drama  about a 17-year old dancer struggling with anorexia, brought back some tough memories of my own. The struggle that never really ends once begun, the obsession that no one seems to understand, it came back in a flood.

This young girl in the story was influenced by something she saw on the internet, so people could point fingers and accuse those who created the website or sites for being the cause of her illness. What caused me to become sick back in the day? I wonder that myself. Over the years, 30 of those  now, I’ve been wondering….why did it happen? Me, who so adamantly professed that I will never get an eating disorder, because I loved food too much….when and why…questions forever unanswered, even now, after all the years. Maybe it is time, yes?

Was it the gym-teacher that refused to say my weight out loud in class? Was it the family member that said I’m well-built? Was it stress at the loss of a loved one? The many wild changes in my life that flooded my teenage years? Personally, I think it was all, and none of those things. In the end something did trigger it, but I made the choice to starve myself. It always begins like that…the simple decision to lose a few pounds, not necessarily because it is the ‘’it’’-thing to do, or because I’m a bit chubbier than my peers or because somebody called me fat….and then it escalates into obsession.

Every person who ever suffered through this disease, be it anorexia, bulimia or NSEA (non-specified eating disorder) has a different reason for becoming ill. While doing my dissertation on the subject, I’ve discovered numerous answers to my questions about the trigger, the final nail in the proverbial coffin….well, it is simple, actually, when you, as a person, more often than not a perfectionist, feel you are not in control of your life and the things happening around you, you seek out ways to regain that control. Sometimes people become obsessive about their work, they start drinking, using drugs or….starving…..that is how it was with me.

And eating disorder gives you that sense that you are NOT a failure after all, that you ARE in control of SOMETHING and that you CAN do a GOOD job at it. Of course, underlying that craving for final and ultimate control, are many other issues….having low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, ….that all serves to fuel the wish for control; to SHOW people that you’re worthy. And, of course, it is all a sham……it is fake, this control, because in the end the disease becomes the ‘’entity’’ that gains control and the victim becomes powerless…..it slips away…. My experience may differ widely from other survivors’, but that is why I said, each person has a unique experience with an eating disorder; triggers differ, backgrounds and family dynamics are different, there are unique personalities with different emotions and even some with underlying physical illness. You cannot always blame society, although there is something to be said about the worlds obsession with perfection and ‘’thinness’’, neither can you blame friends or family….in the end, the only thing that matters is that the affected person gets the help and support needed to get well. Why it happens is not always so important…you will understand when you read what I have to say about my own experience.

Let me tell you how it was…….this is an old story and you may have come across it once or twice on my blog. I was a strange girl, weird even, according to many opinions, a perfectionist, never accepted by  my peers, a nerd; I was known as an ‘’academic wreck’’, never allowed to participate in sports, cultural activities, never allowed to go to school dances or parties or movie-nights. That was my life; I went to school, to church and home…it was fine, I never complained and learned early on to enjoy my own company. To this day I don’t particularly need companions, friends, people always hanging around…I can entertain myself. People blamed my parents afterwards, even my boyfriend (whom I eventually married). Me, I never blamed anyone but myself for everything that happened and, somehow, that made it worse. I carried the burden for every little thing that happened in my life and the lives of others I’ve known…..perhaps that is why, when we lost a dear one in the year I got sick, I couldn’t bear it….I couldn’t bear the sadness of the others. It broke my heart to see tears of loss and I could do nothing to take it away, to make it better. To understand why I wished to help it go away, you need to understand what I did, what I was, when I was growing up….other people’s happiness always came before my own. I would have sold my soul to the devil if it would put a smile on my Mother’s face. I’m not saying this to gloat about my good intentions and holier than thou little heart, no, never….never that…it was just important to me that people NOT be sad. I’ve always felt so responsible for other people’s joy in life that, if they are sad or unhappy, I’d take it so personally that I’ll go to great lengths just to make them happy again. It always felt sure that I was the cause for unhappiness….even if I knew that it didn’t make sense, that is was not true. Why was I like this? I don’t know….just another mystery to me.

During that last year, before the demon took over, I’ve done a lot of silly, crazy things, made choices based on this ever-increasing wish to bring happiness to others, to be the ‘’good girl’’….wrong choices…wrong for me. I’ve studied so hard in school to make my grades, to get distinctions so that I would be offered a bursary to study, saving my pensioner parents the money. I decided to study for a degree that would be paid by part-time work in a hospital and the other half by the bursary. Included would be lodgings and a uniform…again saving my parents the extra expense of paying my way, paying for clothes and food, etc, should I stay with them. In the end it was all for nothing….it didn’t please my Mom, so I decided not to go to university. Mom wanted me working and/or married and with babies in short order….as a ‘’good girl’ was supposed to do. In that year I started dating my husband, I got my first job (which I hated), started studying for a diploma in Banking (yuck!) and lost my mini-me….a little girl…in a car accident. I was 18 years old, without proper emotional support throughout and, fool that I was, I still thought I’d be happy if others were smiling…which they were not, especially after the death of the child. I felt helpless….out of control….

Now, you need to understand….I was someone that thought I could control everything….even other people’s happiness and here, something happened that I couldn’t change, make better. I tore up my university papers and Mom was semi-happy (good), I started working at a financial institution and my parents were happy (good)…even if I disliked it, they were happy…so what! I sang in the church choir, went to church every Sunday, to youth every Friday, taught Sunday school, dated a good, church-going boy with a steady job in the Air Force (good girl) and then…BAM…it all crashed and burned, literally on that night in September 1985. For me, that was the final straw….the last hold I had on the semblance of control I had in life….so I had to get it back. I remember the decision as clear as if it was yesterday….I was sitting in our back yard, by the pool and thought…’’They are falling apart. Someone has to stand up….that someone has to be me.’’ I did, I got up, made lunch for the mourners inside and went on…yay! Control is back! It didn’t end there, though….the unhappiness stayed, despite all my efforts and in the end all my efforts to bring joy in other people’s lives, nearly killed me….

Yes, so, I lost control, regained it in a way, but…..I was not perfect, I was NOT a good enough girl…I must be better; I need to bring new happiness. It was easy, I thought, I have to be better or die, better or die….it was like a constant drum-beat in my mind. I decided to starve myself every time I saw unhappiness in someone’s eyes, unhappiness that I couldn’t change,  and since joy was absent, I simply stopped eating. At first it was obsession towards perfection…perfect smiles, perfect family, perfect life. It evolved and became…perfect body, perfect work, perfect dress, perfect daughter, perfect girlfriend;  good girl and, perhaps then, acceptance, ….by family, by peers….even by the ‘’it’’-girls I knew in school, miserable as they were. I thought my efforts at being perfect for those I cared for, would make them smile again. However, no one noticed….no-one got any happier either, they were all drowning in sorrow, their outlook on life dark, gloomy. Rapidly losing weight, those close to me saw the physical changes, but they were so consumed by their grief that they turned a blind eye. Instead of talking to me, finding out what was wrong, I was teased: I was the thermometer look-alike with my red, and very fashionable, bow-tie, I was the pea-shooter, the straw, the slinky, the happy-go-lucky-legs and the ‘’bad, bad girl’’ for making Mom worry more…and this while she was so sad for losing her grand-daughter. The obsession towards perfection changed…it became the obsession to vanish from existence, to take up as little space as possible, because, you see, I realised that nothing I do will ever be good enough. In fact, I’ve been fooling myself all those years, thinking I had the power to make people happy, while the truth was that I never succeeded even in that. I was stupid, unworthy, nothing….

Yes, losing the weight was about counting calories obsessively, measuring the circumference of my thighs and weighing myself constantly. Yes it was about drinking laxatives, counting how many times I chew my food, writing my weight in a diary and obsessing about every ounce gained. I wanted to get smaller, because I wasn’t worthy of being here, being human at all…I was a failure. I wanted to stop BEING by becoming a child-shaped person, and eventually simply, poof…gone. I nearly succeeded…..anorexia took over every nook and cranny of my life, not because I wanted to be model thin, to look like Kate Moss or because I was emotionally and/or physically abused….it took over my life because I just didn’t want to be here anymore. It was suicide by Ana….and the sad thing was….I made the choice; it was nobody’s fault but my own.

I survived though, also by choice……the doctors told me I had three weeks to live. The guy who is now my husband saved me ….he convinced  me to choose life and, if it wasn’t for him, I would have died…..I went to hospital and they managed to fix my body. My mind, well, I’m still working on that!

It took me 20 years to accept the body I have now, to accept the fact that I MAY live, that I have right to life and that I could actually stop pleasing others. (On that one I’m also still working.) The thing is, even today, I can quote chapter and verse, the fat and calories in food, I still count my meals, I don’t own a scale, but I sometimes stare at my shape for hours on end, hating what I see, despising the fact that I’m here, alive. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lovely life, I have a gorgeous family, a happy home, I adore my husband, I’m finally doing something that I love (my counselling, my charities)….now it is a question of: do I really deserve this? Wouldn’t they be better off without me? That is something that I still struggle with….that is the residue of my anorexia experience. Fortunately now I have the wisdom, if not always the will, to understand that my life has a purpose, even if I don’t know exactly what it is and, more important, I am responsible for my own happiness, NOT that of others. Each for his/her own….you cannot make someone’s future for them, they have to do it all on their own.

When asked what would I change if I could ever travel back in time….I’ll change nothing (oh,  maybe the loss of our girl…yes, maybe that)…but what I’ve experienced, good, bad, ugly…whatever, I don’t hold it against myself or anyone else….I accept it for what it was and now, looking back I understand there were lessons to be learnt, even in the events we couldn’t find reason or purpose and, if we change our lives, wouldn’t we forfeit the wisdom we’ve gained? Wouldn’t a change in the past, change what we have become?

Years ago I read a book called ‘’The Tommyknockers’’ (laugh if you like, and yes, it is a Stephen King, of COURSE it is!). The story is quite weird (to be expected from King) and is about a lady that digs up a spaceship. The spaceship ‘’infects’’ the villagers of a nearby town by altering their brainwaves and ultimately their body-chemistry and physical appearance, in the end they all die (spoiler, sorry prospective reader of this SK-tale). Past experiences are like that….these people changed because they were exposed to the waves emitted by the spacecraft. They couldn’t change back into their old selves once the change began…..in the story it is said that they ‘’become’’. The past and our experiences change us, we can never be the same, but we can USE those experiences to ‘’become’’ better, more fulfilled, wiser and ultimately more HUMAN than we’ve ever been. The other day I heard the singer Rihanna say in an interview that her Mother used to tell her ‘’there are no mistakes, only lessons in life’’.

Yes, indeed, no mistakes, only lessons….we are so hard on ourselves, I know I am. We should stop chastising ourselves for our bad choices and start accepting that, yes it happened, yes it was wrong, but it is over, done with…. We would be far happier if we live with thankful hearts in the moment, reaching for tomorrow and the rest of our lives, because, friends, it goes by quickly and we shouldn’t waste time scratching and clawing at the old, dusty wounds.

Let me tell you this, if I can do it….you can too. Anorexia saved me from myself, it showed me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was and surviving that and whatever else happened in my past proved to me that I have reason to feel proud, reason to give myself a hug and say: ‘’Good girl.’’

Mirrorsoul

Do you need help with your eating disorder? Do you suspect a friend or family member to suffer from and ED? Why not get in touch with me? Let me be your friend…I’ve been there and I KNOW…click here and email me NOW before it is too late.

Help is available here too:

  1. https://www.b-eat.co.uk
  2. www.twinriversrehab.co.za
  3. www.anad.org
  4. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
  5. www.eatingdisorderhope.com

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#1

The cat below is NOT ours…however, I was trying very hard to bluetooth a photo of my daughter in her pirate outfit to my laptop without much success (laptop is having a terrible day…moody as hell!). She won the fancy dress competition at her school today, so I’ll just HAVE to post a photo at a later time.

…updating this now on May 28…here’s my little pirate!

Anyway, that was a very wonderful thing, all in all and it brightened up our day tremendously. Miss T was in quite a good mood too, so that’s another plus.

#2

Oh, and Daddy got his new glasses today (not good, because now I actually have to wear make-up!).

Yip, it was a good day! (Also NO LOADSHEDDING!!)

Good Day via ImagesBuddy

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Had all my kids with me today…..what a blessing. Despite #loadshedding as usual, we had a lovely time just being together. The kids did laundry, washed their car, chatted ….I am so thankful for my family.

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