Whats in your mirror today?

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Image from Steemit

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Is it an image of success? Or one of failure? It’s a strong word that. Failure. And I believe we use it way too much. Because really, just having got out of bed and fixed the sheets is a success. If you’ve got a pet you’ve probably fed it and possibly yourself. You may have said a prayer if you’re a religious person. And most of us will already have an idea of what we want to do with our day and been in contact with friends or family.

So really, the day will have got off to a fairly good start.

But have you said anything positive to or about yourself today? Or have you focused on the negatives? The washing up left in the sink from last night’s dinner or the hoovering that needs doing?

I’ve written recently about self judgement and the ways in which others judge us. Or at least, the way we think they’re judging us.

I’ve been in hospital not too long ago and when going through my medical history and what medication I’m on, the nurse’s voice often turns to a bit of a whisper when going on to ask about my alcohol consumption and what I’m doing about it.

Immediately I feel judged and ashamed. I feel like a failure.

The image of the below was sent to me when I was going through a particularly tough time. And when I spoke to friend of mine who is very religious she told me to rememver that Jesus doesn’t judge me. He loves me. And he forgives me. That’s positive self talk.

So why do we judge ourselves so harshly?

If we take the statement from the image and apply it to ourselves we face the question of why we allow ourselves to believe the judgements of others or our assumption of their judgements?

Perhaps instead we shout be asking: what is that person thinking and feeling? Can we help them? The obvious reaction might be to feel resentment towards them but does that help us ourselves or them?

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. But maybe this is the exception to the rule.

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions but they’ve been circling round in my head and I’d love to hear what anyone’s thoughts are. (if you’d read this post this far. I know it’s a bit of a ramble).

And there I go again – self judgement and assuming no one will find it interesting. I want to read more into what has been written on the topic and I’ll blog about what I find out.

Conquering self-judgement

If your school career was anything like mine, it will have been drilled into you from a young age that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.

But it would seem many of us still rate a novel’s merit on the ethnicity of its writer.

According the black author Candice Carty-Williams, publishing remains a ‘white middle class industry’ with little recognition of its non-white contributors from ethnic backgrounds.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, The ‘Queenie’ author talked about the lack of recognition for black writers, the morning after she won overall book of the year at the British Book Awards, making her the first black woman to win the accolade.

And it got me thinking about the way we judge others in a general sense, and perhaps more importantly, about how we judge ourselves.

Candice Carty-Williams and her award-winning debut novel Queenie

I know I for one am guilty of imparting on others the judgements I hold about myself. I assume people look down on me for the aspects of my life or past that I am ashamed of. But that’s only my own opinion and fear of being judged poorly and I’m trying hard to challenge it.

A friend recently shared with me that she too had gone through a time in her life when there were things about herself of which she was ashamed. But her faith in God helped her through. She told me that Jesus is not ashamed of me and that if I put my faith in him he will remove my shame too.

Now, I’m not a religious person. I never have been. But I do envy the people I know who have found God and seem to be so much more at peace. It is, after all, a comforting idea that someone somewhere out there is looking out for each of us, no questions asked, and guiding us in the right direction.

So I’m giving it a go. That’s not to say I’ve got my nose in a Bible or that I’ll suddenly start preaching from the rooftops. But I’ve started reading a book of short stories by people who have overcome adversity with the help of their faith.

The book, simply called Stories, is a compilation of extracts from King’s Church, Newport attendees writing openly and truthfully about their experiences. And it is followed by some really eye opening questions to encourage self-reflection.

It’s given me the opportunity to explore the way my past shaped how I think and behave and feel a connection with the people behind the extracts. There’s no preaching, no forcing opinions or beliefs on others, just a series of normal people – most of whom I’ve found I have at least one thing in common with.

Do I judge the authors? No. I am inspired by their strength in overcoming hardship to lead happy, fulfilled life.

And perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I began by opening on a random page and reading a page. One per day, and answering the questions that followed. Every single one read like an extract from my own story. I’m willing to consider the belief that it wasn’t just coincidence that drew me to them, so I can stop judging myself and feeling shame.

Happy birthday Einstein – and thank you for your inspiring words

Better late than never… happy birthday to Albert Einstein for Saturday. Chap would have been 138 a couple of days ago – quite a milestone.

Image from Wikipedia

One of the phrases that got bandied around when I was at rehab came from him – that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It pretty much sums up every addict, in my opinion.

Every time (and sadly there’s been many) I’ve gone through a detox I’ve come out the other end convinced I’m ‘cured’ and can return to normal social drinking. Glass of wine with dinner, a bloody mary with brunch on a Sunday, champagne to celebrate some special event…

But he was totally right. I’ve tried and failed so many times, so why is it that my brain convinces itself that THIS TIME I can do it?

When real life is too hard to cope with, let your imagination take you somewhere else.
Image from Raquel Dorsey’s Pintrest page

I don’t have an answer to that question. Maybe it’s what the universe has planned for me – if you believe in all that – or maybe I really am just completely delusional. Either way failure is something I need to learn to accept. And if I stop trying I’ll stop failing. It sounds so simple. But it’s not.

My favourite Einstein quote, however, is ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. When life seems to just be pummeling you into the ground, imagination can take you anywhere you want to be.

I think it’s why I enjoy reading and it’s something I’m trying to get back into – now that I’ve got some much free time on my hands. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book. It doesn’t need to be the works of Shakespeare or one of the Bronte sisters’ tomes or anything ‘high brow’. I love a good beach read and it really does seem to have a positive affect on me.

Recovery is such a strange beast. And it’s different for every person. I guess it’s just about finding what works for you. For me, and apparently Einstein, imagination is the greatest way to switch off from the world. Yes, knowledge can get you far in life when it comes to jobs etc. But without imagination where’s the fun? It’s the longest, toughest thing you’ll ever do – life, that is. So we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible.

Now if this isn’t a man who liked fun then who is?! – Image from BBC

I don’t hate myself and I don’t want to die…

“I hate myself and I want to die.” Nirvana

I remember listening to Kurt Cobain sing that lyric during my teenage rebellious stage. My parents hated Nirvana. I loved the band – and not just because I liked their songs but because the lyrics spoke to me in a way that made me realise I wasn’t alone or weird in feeling how I felt.

But breaking it down into pieces; I don’t want to die, at times I hate where my life has taken me, but do I hate myself? Hate is such a strong word. I’ll go with dislike for the time being.

Image from themamahood.com

So as I’ve written about in previous blog posts I’m trying to practice self love. Not easy. Recently I took a piece of paper and split it down the middle. On the left: things I like about myself and my life. On the right: The things I don’t.

The left was longer.

I don’t mean to reel off a sob story – in fact I hate pity – but I suppose I’m having a bit of a pity party of my own. Learning to love yourself is hard work! Especially when Facebook shows you memories from however many years ago looking fantastic and having a wonderful time with the friends you’ve since pushed away. – NB at the time I hated every photograph of myself. Now I look back and realise they weren’t all so bad.

So I looked for some tips and I found this online, on the The Cabin Chiangmai blog:

How to Love Yourself during Recovery from Addiction

  • Understand the disease of addiction. …
  • Understand that your past actions do not define you. …
  • Make amends with the people you hurt. …
  • Take care of yourself. …
  • Plan your future. …
  • Fake it ‘ till you make it. …
  • Always remember that You are Worth It.

I know I can’t fix myself in a day. I’m as impatient as it gets. Anything I want to have achieve I want to have achieved yesterday. If that makes sense.

I struggle with the idea of addiction being a disease. You can’t catch it – or can you? hmm… Past actions, well I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve also achieved a lot.

I have endless to-do lists but that doesn’t really count as planning for the future – right now none of it seems or is possible.

I think the first one I need to work on is remembering that I am worth it. I’m not sure what ‘it’ is at the moment but it’s something. Perhaps it’s just being alive, or actually maybe it’s giving myself another chance. If I listed the things I want to do and then put a line through all the ones I’m afraid of I’d be left with nothing.

I’m trying to make amends – it’s not easy when I’m so ashamed of myself – and I’m pretty damn stubborn. But to anyone reading this who I’ve hurt, I am so sorry. And I know I’m being a tremendous wimp by not apologising in person – part of writing this blog is because I’m trying to build my confidence back up and then maybe I’ll be ready for such confrontations.

Right now I know I’m faking it a lot of the time. For me it’s easier to do the whole British stiff upper lip thing and act like everything is just hunky dory. I know that in the long run that’s not going to help me – tell a doctor you’re ok and they happily tick you off their list.

Catch my drift?

So here goes… my goal for this week is to try to be more honest about how I feel and stop resisting help because I fear it makes me appear weak.

Love thyself AND thy body… Self care in recovery

Photo courtesy of houseofcourage.ca

‘Stop drinking’, they say, ‘get your act together and be “normal”.’

Um yes, that’s the end goal but there’s so much more to it. And I’m not just talking about psycho-therapy.

Ultimately, recovery (or not) comes down to the individual and sometimes it’s the littlest, seemingly mundane tasks that help.

One of them is starting to love yourself again. Alcohol might, as it id for me, begin as a really shitty coping mechanism for my eating disorder. Then it spiraled out of control. For a while when one was OK, the other wasn’t. I can now recognise that. Then both got a million times worse at the same time.

It wasn’t until rehab that I realised the importance of re-learning how to love and look after myself. I didn’t feel like I deserved it but there is copious amounts of research to support how crucial it is. One example is published on Science Direct, based on a 2019 conference, which reads: ‘The beneficial effects of self-care include improved well-being and lower morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs.’

In rehab we had a hot tub, a sauna, a gym. There were weekly acupuncture and massage sessions. Irrelevant, you may think. But I truly believe it helped, even if only to distract my mind for 30 minutes/ an hour at a time.

According to the Silver Ridge Recovery blog there are six main aspects To achieving and maintaining successful recovery:

  • Fuel your brain and body with healthy food. …
  • Have fun and relax every day. …
  • Get plenty of sleep. …
  • Exercise. …
  • Reduce stress. …
  • Stay mindful.

Science Direct goes on to add: “There is growing recognition of the need for people with chronic conditions to assume responsibility for their own health and to be actively involved in self-care. Out of 525,600 min in a year, patients spend only on average 66 min or 0.01% of the time with healthcare professionals (Racine, 2017). All other health maintenance, illness prevention, monitoring and management activities are done by persons with chronic conditions and their care partners as self-care activities (Riegel et al., 2017). A care partner can be defined as “a person who provides unpaid care to someone with a chronic illness, disability or other long lasting health or care need, outside a professional or formal framework” (https://eurocarers.org/about-carers/).”

Over the next few posts I’m going to be looking into the positive results of taking the time to do things such as care for your skin, your hair and your body. As well, of course, as your mind.

Just take the example of my kitten, Bruno, who loves nothing better than playing with his toys, eating nutritious food he likes, going for a run aroun outside then having a chill out on his blanket…

Make like Bruno and have a cat nap