All posts by sallycgma

About sallycgma

Hey everyone I'm a 16 year old student from New Zealand who loves music, the outdoors, tea, children, Jesus, yoga, animals, writing, green things, and life in general! :o)

Inside the Mind- breaking stigma with knowledge

Trigger warning: This article mentions specific details of compulsions and emotions relating to eating disorders.

Mental health awareness has improved considerably in the last five years, which has been so encouraging. However, we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of funding and resources for public support services.

One mental illness that I think is still highly stigmatized, significantly under-supported, and poorly dealt with, is eating disorders. We can sit around and complain about this as much as we like, but that will achieve nothing. So, recently I have been trying to figure out why eating disorders are so often swept under the rug.

One large reason, I think, is lack of knowledge of the actual psychology behind eating disorders. Research shows that the main way to reduce stigma, as well as dissolve societal issues, is to establish an increase in knowledge of the issue.

Maybe that is what we need to do here.

Have you ever wondered what actually goes on inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder?

If so, read on.

I am going to share with you some of the compulsions that have been a part of my life from a psychological perspective, in the hope that understanding will be gained, and stigma will be eased.

*please note: I am speaking purely from my own perspective and experience. It is near impossible for me to cover the experience of everyone with an eating disorder. It is important to understand that although there are similar and recognisable signs and symptoms, everybody’s experience is different.

Social eating:

What it looks like: Not eating with others, constantly looking at and/or commenting on others’ food, leaving the table early, not turning up to social events that involve food, keeping a large distance from the food table, avoiding conversations linked to food/body image/exercise.

The psychology: Eating disorder suffers feel very insecure about their relationship to food, and often about their body image too. They are so insecure, that they experience an extreme sense of self-consciousness about their behaviours around food. There is often an overpowering voice in their mind that convinces them that everybody is judging them. This voices seems uncontrollable, and the feeling of relentless judgement of our eating habits is terrifying. As humans, we try to avoid things that terrify us. Therefore, it seems easier to avoid eating socially, rather than fight that intense self-conscious voice.

For people with eating disorders, there is a constant war going on in the mind. A war between the logical, healthy voice, and the toxic eating disorder voice. When we feel controlled by eating disorder voices, there is still part of us that knows deep down that what we are doing is wrong and unhealthy. A large part of my disordered eating journey was trying to navigate what is right and what is wrong, because the mind-war threw me off and I found myself feeling very confused about things that had once seemed so simple and automatic.

A large part of this navigation involved obsessive comparison of myself to others. My intention behind this relentless comparison was to try to relieve my confusion and regain my grasp on realistic thinking. It didn’t work. It just made me more anxious and more obsessed. When there is a controlling monster inside of you that wants to convince you that it is your friend and your conscience, and you are trying to function normally as if everything is fine, comparison seems the only way to try to grip on to reality as it slips further and further away from your grasp.

 

Restriction

Restriction of food is common for people with eating disorders, and is normally the behaviour that is noticed first. The psychology behind this is very varied, so I am only going to speak from my own experience.

What it looks like: Skipping meals, being dramatic and stubborn, being ungrateful for what has been made and prepared, being fussy, “playing” with food more than eating it.

The psychology: Restriction normally became a problem for me when I was already feeling fragile about something else, or when I was tired or stressed. I lost the energy to fight off the monster voice, and so it came in strong. As a meal time was approaching, there was a powerful, unidentifiable force preventing me from eating normally. It’s like there is someone holding a knife to my throat, telling me that if I eat, something very bad will happen. If someone actually did this to you in real life, you obviously wouldn’t eat, would you? It’s that terrifying.

It is not as simple as just not eating, either. Sometimes the ED monster tells me that I’m not allowed to eat certain foods, or I’m only allowed to eat certain foods, or that I’m only allowed to eat a certain amount.

Sometimes the voice gives reasons. These reasons include that I don’t deserve to eat, I deserve to be sick and tired, a certain food is poison to my body, or that eating properly will make me weaker and more worthless than I already am. Of course, these are all utter, evil lies. But when these lies are so strong and manipulative, it is easier than it seems to let them control your life.

For me, if I did manage to ignore the evil ED voice and eat properly, I would experience a sickening sense of anxiety, guilt, and insecurity. In my most fragile times I didn’t know who I was without the ED compulsions, and choosing to do the right thing and fight the voices seemed scary and confusing.

 

Purging

This is something I find very hard to talk about because I am so ashamed, hence why bulimic behaviours often go unnoticed.

What it looks like: Throwing up to be dramatic or to gain attention, a failed attempt at weight-loss, wanting the taste without the calories, “being gross”.

The psychology: Again, I can only speak from my experience. For me, purging was never about trying to rid my body of calories. It began as a way to let out strong and distressing emotions in a way that wasn’t harmful to anyone else. However, over time this led on to yet another powerful voice. After a meal this potent urge to throw up would emerge from nowhere and conquer my mind, and I could think of nothing else until I had done what the ED monster required. If I managed not to listen to the voice, I would feel a confusing mixture of guilt for keeping the food in, and confidence for doing the right thing.

 

Body Dysmorphia

What it looks like: Always thinking they’re “fat”, making negative comments about themselves to gain attention, constantly looking in the mirror and weighing themselves, always comparing their body image to others.

The psychology: People with body dysmorphia have an actual skewed view of what they look like. What they see when they look in the mirror does not match up to what everyone else sees. We are not just being dramatic and self-conscious- we actually have a dysmorphed perception of ourselves. It is basically a “you are your worst critic” scenario to the extreme.

What I hate most about body dysmorphia is how selfish it made me. I became so self-conscious that all I could think about was myself, even though I hated myself. This was uncomfortable and shameful.

 

*I am well aware that I haven’t covered all of the components of eating disorders, and I acknowledge those sufferers who have struggled with compulsions not mentioned here. Since I am not a professional, I feel I can only speak from my own experience.*

I have only recently started opening up about my struggle with disordered eating. I have managed to keep the most part of it secret for years. This secrecy was all out of shame. I have been stigmatizing my own illness.

Is this, perhaps, at least partly because of the social stigma around me?

And I have been one of the lucky ones. One that has only been noticeably physically sick once, and for a relatively short period of time. One that was provided with support and advice at an early stage. One that, for the most part of the journey, has managed to make it through the daily battles with ED voices, and not be fully conquered by them.

And yet it has still been awful.

So I hope that by reading this, you will understand that eating disorder sufferers are not dramatic, selfish, and image-obsessed teenage girls. They are rational human beings who, because of their disease, are caused to act irrationally. Their weight and body function aren’t everything, in fact this is a very small component of a much larger, mental/emotional issue.

They are unwell,

they wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone,

and they need your support for their recovery.

 

 

 

Advertisements

God Speaks

“Don’t you remember the promise I made? I will never let you down.”

I was caught off guard as I briefly closed my eyes in Mass yesterday. The second my lids shut, a bold image of a rainbow appeared to me. My eyes flew open again before my mind registered what was going on.

Was that a vision?

I closed my eyes again, and sure enough, the rainbow appeared again, accompanied by the words,

“Don’t you remember my promise? I will never let you down.”

Classic God. Blatantly and directly speaking to me right in a moment when I am not making any effort to intentionally listen to Him(sorry God!). In fact, I was doing quite the opposite- I was completely zoned out in my own silly universe(God forgive me. And at MASS too! DISGRACEFUL!). Yet there are plenty of times when I am totally and utterly listening to God; desperate and eager to hear what She has to say, and I struggle very much to gain any understanding of what God might be wanting me to hear or see.

WHY?

I will unpack the vision itself in just a moment, but first I would like to discuss the question that was circling my mind as I drifted off to sleep last night:

Why do we so often have clear encounters with God in the mundane; in the moments where we are doing very little; in the moments that could be considered relatively “God-less”? And why do we so rarely experience these encounters when we are supposedly doing the “right thing”, doing what is considered “Godly”, or intentionally following the societal norms of the Christian cultures and communities?

Maybe it is because God couldn’t care less about the humanly rules and expectations we have suffocated Christian communities with. Maybe He laughs at us when we get hung up on which songs to play during sung worship. Maybe She cries when we forbid someone from attending our churches because of their ethnicity, sexuality, or walks of life. Maybe He frowns when we restrict freedom of speech in a church to only a select few. Maybe She rolls Her eyes when we insist on rules around when we should sit or stand, what we should wear, who we should interact with, or what order the proceedings of a church service should be in. Why should God make an effort to only speak to us in moments that are human-approved as “Godly”? God will make and go by His own rules, thank you very much!

Maybe it is because God likes it best when we are able to just be. Maybe we are more in touch with the true essence of our being in God’s eyes when we aren’t being “try-hard Christians”; caught up in a tornado of humanly expectations. Maybe all God really requires of us is to love, to listen, and to be. Maybe we are more receptive to God’s guidance and love when we are making no effort to be anyone else but authentically ourselves. Maybe this “being a good Christian” thing is taking us further away from God’s truth, rather than fulfilling our intentions of drawing nearer. Maybe finding God in the mundane is more raw, authentic, and personal than any other setting.

Maybe it is because when we’re zoning out and thinking of ourselves, God likes to shoulder tap us from time to time- gently reminding us why we’re here and where our priority of focus needs to be. “Helllloooooooo?” says God!

THE VISION

“Don’t you remember the promise I made? I will never let you down.”

What first came to mind in the seconds after this moment was the Bible story of Noah’s Ark, and the rainbow that God sent after the flood to promise that She would never do something like that to the earth again. I was confused. Why this reference? God obviously hadn’t done anything to destroy my life, and I certainly wasn’t worried that He would suddenly flood the earth or anything.

But after some pondering, it all began to make sense. As much as I know in theory that God is always by my side(growing up in a Sunday School and attending a Catholic secondary school definitely made sure I remembered that!), I very often forget to fully adopt this concept into the circumstances of my life, and I don’t always fully trust that all will be well in the end.

I was also prompted to reflect on the past few days and how bad my mental health has been. For a couple of days last week, Anxiety and EDNOS came back to bite me very hard, and I managed to convince myself that I was giving up. That it was too hard, and I was never going to reach the end point of wellness I’ve always aspired to achieve. I was adamant that nothing and nobody was going to convince me that I could possibly keep going. I just didn’t feel strong enough. A wonderful friend of mine’s loving and gentle consolation reminded me that I needed to trust in God’s strength to keep me going, but I must admit I wasn’t entirely convinced that it would work(sorry God!).

Why do we so often recite these universally-known truths about God, but then fail to fully embrace them in the times we need to do so the most? Maybe because our humanness craves full control over everything ourselves. Maybe because it is difficult for us as earthly beings to trust in something that is not materialistically visible.

However, in this moment in Mass yesterday, God brought me back down to solid ground.

“Don’t you remember the promise I made? I will never let you down.”

There is nothing too hard for God. If it feels too hard for me, God will give me what I need to make it doable. Brokenness and trial is part of the human condition, but through Christ we overcome.

And as for the Noah’s Ark reference, I suppose it is a reminder that nothing will crash and burn forever, because God promised us that He would never let pure tragedy happen ever again.

“Don’t you remember the promise I made? I will never let you down.”

 

 

Safe Place

I think I’ve found my safe place.

A place that, although technically public land, feels like mine alone.

A place where no one else seems to come.

A place where the gulls, fantails, bell birds, wax eyes, ducks, and geese feel free to be themselves.

A place where I feel free to be myself.

A place where all I hear is the powerful crashing of waves and the joyous chirping of manu*. There is no doubt they’re singing “bring on summer!”, providing a powhiri** for the new season approaching.

A place where I cannot hear the sounds of the modern messed-up world which, in this moment, I forget I belong to.

A place where the fresh sea spray, crisp south island breeze, and rejuvenating sun rays cleanse me of my hurts and frustrations.

A place where the overwhelming cliff faces and vast oceans humble me down a few notches. Nothing can compare with Mother Nature. And nothing can stand against Her creator.

Oh how I wish the real world was like this…

…Oh wait. This is the real world.

We are living in the fake world we have made for ourselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong- the whare*** where I sleep and wake is not unsafe. It is far from it. I love the home in which I live and the wonderful people whom I live with.

But there is something different, something special, something magical about this safe place. It has the same effect that the secret bay I used to bush-crash to get to as a child did- a place empty of people, expectations, and material things- a place full of peace, beautiful wildlife, and natural wonders. A place that I felt had never been visited by anyone but me.

Toku wahi.

Toku wahi haumaru.

My place.

My safe place.

 

*manu– bird

**powhiri– official welcome

***whare- house

How my veganism is healing me

TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions compulsions related to eating disorders.

 

After too-ing and fro-ing for a long time with a vegan diet, I finally fully committed to veganism in January this year. It has been absolutely amazing, and my only regret is that I didn’t go vegan earlier! My veganism is truly healing me in so many ways:

Goodbyeee gluten intolerance!

Five months into being vegan, I had been reading about how some people were gluten intolerant were able to eat gluten again after changing to a vegan diet. So, I thought I’d give it a go again, after three years of going off gluten. I was a little nervous, as in the past gluten had made me feel very sick, with headaches and nausea being the main consequences.

I started off slow, limiting myself to only one glutenous food item per day. I had absolutely no reaction! It was as if gluten had never been a problem for me in the first place! I was so excited, as eating vegan and gluten free is sometimes difficult, especially when eating away from your own home.

So, over the past month or so I’ve been slowly increasing my gluten intake. Turns out I don’t eat many simple carbs anyway, so gluten isn’t a particularly huge part of my diet. But now I can confidently say that I am no longer gluten free! I am so excited by the fact that a change in my diet healed a part of my body that was limiting me and making me sick. Being vegan reversed a dysfunction in my body, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Me being me, I really wanted to know the science behind how this had happened! Here’s what I found:

(if sciencey bits bore you please feel free to skip past this bit):

According to research carried out by the North American Vegetarian Society(NAVS), maintaining a healthily-functioning intestinal lining(or “gut wall”) is essential to preventing food sensitivity reactions. If holes are made in this lining, mostly due to lifestyle factors, diseases and food sensitivities are paved a way to make it into our bodily systems, causing not-so-fun reactions. The most common lifestyle factors that can cause a broken gut wall include use of drugs, chemicals, radiation, or antibiotics, excessive intake of sugar, alcohol, or antacids, inflammation caused by illness, or stress.

Considering I started reacting to gluten after a very stressful and traumatic time in my life, I think that stress was probably the main cause of my ill gut health. Anyway, evidence has shown that our intestinal walls can heal themselves, if we provide them with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Overtime, the holes can be filled, and therefore our food sensitivities and susceptibility to diseases may disappear. The main nutrients that are needed to repair cells in our gut wall are complex carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, proteins, essential fats and phytochemicals. All of the best sources of these nutrients are found in a well-balanced plant-based diet.

This fully explains why after going vegan I am no longer gluten intolerant! I have managed to let my gut heal by providing it with a lot of the right nutrients needed to repair the damage I have caused in the past. Awesome aye!

source: https://navs-online.org/articles/food-sensitivities-whats-a-vegan-supposed-to-do/

 

Helloooo bulletproof immune system!

My immune system has always been reasonably weak. Strep Throat was common, and varying degrees of common colds regularly made their way into my system whenever I was around anyone else carrying the disease. I was never sure why this was, but figured it could have been because of my very busy, activity-heavy, and often tiring lifestyle(all self-inflicted of course!).

However, since eating vegan, I’ve only had a cold once this whole year, and haven’t contracted Strep Throat yet(I used to be guaranteed to get it at this time of year, every year). The only sickness I’ve had is migraines and as far as I know they aren’t normally linked to a poor immune system. There have even been times when almost everyone else around me has been sick(eg at work or in my house), and I haven’t caught the bug at all!

Why is this? My hypothesis, before I do some research, is that since I’m not eating any animal products, I’m just automatically eating more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with so many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system, as well as many other bodily functions.

Here’s what I found on the net(again, skip this part if it’ll make you yawn):

The Physicians Community for Responsible Medicine have researched and conclude that “the immune-boosting power of vegetarian diets is partly due to their vitamin content, their low fat content, and perhaps other contributors, such as reduced exposure to toxic chemicals and animal proteins.”

They also add a fun fact that: “fats impair immunity, and cutting fat out of the diet helps strengthen the immune defenses against cells that turn cancerous.” I personally think that fully cutting any kind of nutrient out of the diet is unhealthy, but it seems that reducing fat intake(but not cutting it out) boosts immunity, and eating vegan just naturally reduces fat intake.

A vegan forum called “Vegaprocity” have also done a lot of research on the link between a plant-based diet and immunity: “your immune system is only as strong as the food you use to fuel it. Studies discovered that macrophages, a type of immune cells, slowed down in people with a high cholesterol level. Cholesterol is chiefly found in animal based foods.”

“Micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, are essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system.”

Sources: https://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/foods-and-immunity

https://vegaprocity.com/2014/07/healthy-vegan-diet-strong-immunity/

 

Goodbyeee ED voices

Well, sometimes. Getting rid of the evil eating disorder voice isn’t as easy as that. But, when the ED voice is telling me to restrict, I find the compromise of restricting animal products(and nothing else) quite helpful. When feeling vulnerable or fragile, I kind of think of it like I’m already restricting animal products, so I’m eating healthier anyway, so therefore there is no reason why I need to restrict further. I have made a deal with myself though: if I’m going to let myself restrict animal products from my diet, I am never allowed to restrict anything else. Being vegan has made me feel better about eating foods I sometimes find particularly hard to feel okay about eating.

Please note: I have never been too seriously sick with an eating disorder. However, the eating disorder voices have been in my mind over the past few years, and have caused various patches where unhealthy compulsions and thinking patterns have made their way into my life.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way saying that veganism can hands-down speed or help recovery of an eating disorder. I know that some survivors have found this lifestyle change helpful in their recovery, and others have found it detrimental due to the triggers that come with restricting any part of your diet. Everybody’s experience is different, and I am only speaking for myself; no one else.

 

Hellooo fitness+strength

I’ve always been keen on exercise and sport, and have always made an effort in making sure my daily exercise is reasonably high. However, I’ve never managed to become noticeably fit or strong, despite my efforts. I thought this was because my exercise goals were only ever high enough to stay sane and healthy, not to improve at or pursue any particular sport. I also decided I just wasn’t naturally sporty.

Since going vegan, I haven’t upped my exercise intensity or quantity. I’ve continued with my yoga, walking/running/cycling, and netball at the same levels I was before. However, I have noticed a huge difference in my body’s reaction to my exercise since I’ve been vegan. My muscles have never been so toned before. My stamina in my exercise routines has never been so strong and consistent. I have never noticed a difference in my physical appearance due to exercise until I went vegan- I’ve burned more fat and gained more muscle. When I have large gaps between workouts for whatever reason, I don’t feel anywhere near as behind/weak/unfit as I used to if I missed days in a row.

My general energy levels have also increased, not only during exercise but throughout my daily routine. In my very un-scientific opinion, I think this might be because I need to eat more frequently and more quantity to keep myself full, so this regular energy input helps to boost my energy output. Also, a lot of animal products are very heavy and stodgy, and often leave you feeling bloated or heavy. Plants don’t make you feel like this, so generally I feel a lot lighter after meals, which helps me to continue with my day much more easily, as opposed to feeling like you need to sit around or lie down for a little while after eating.

6

 

Without trying to sound like the proud, annoying vegan many of people stereotype vegans to be, I highly recommend adopting a vegan lifestyle. It won’t be as hard as you think. Do your research beforehand, so that you know how to be healthy and how to respond to the inevitable “why are you vegan?” questions. Ease into it if that works best; for example cut out meat first, then eggs, then dairy, rather than cutting it all out at once. You will be surprised at how much better you feel, both ethically and physically.

Everyone except for a small few that I know that have gone vegan rave about how much better their lives are, just like I do. The small few who said it didn’t work for them either didn’t research well enough and therefore didn’t know how to be healthy with their diet(ie maintain crucial vitamin/mineral/nutrient levels), or purely couldn’t for practical reasons(eg parents not allowing it, constant travelling or being hosted by others, etc).

I challenge you. Do it. If you do it right, you’ll never look back.

Featured image: I had this amazing black rice porridge at a cafe the other day! Black rice cooked with coconut milk, topped with nuts, fruit, coconut sugar and coconut yogurt. So yummy!!

I am NOT traumatized

“Cara, you’re traumatized. You have trauma in your body cells that you can’t remove. But that’s okay, because when I pray just now, God is going to banish the trauma from your cells and you are not going to live another day traumatized.”

That was how I was introduced to PTSD. This statement did nothing for me but freak me out, which, for an apparently “traumatized” person, this surely is not a good feeling to have in front of a counselor; the very person who is supposed to make me feel better, not worse.

Worse yet, was the next morning when the perfume of the lady on the bus next to me sent me into an episode of flashbacks and dissociation(which I didn’t actually have a name for then as I didn’t know what was going on), and I realized that God in fact hadn’t “banished the trauma from my cells” as my counselor had said She would. So, alongside the normal fright, confusion, and exhaustion that follows flashbacks, there was now an illusion added to the mix that being “traumatized” must be my destiny, since the quick fix suggested by the professional hadn’t worked.

This initial encounter with (false) awareness with PTSD led me to stigmatize my own illness. I let myself wear the label of “traumatized”, which for me portrayed weakness and inability to cope with life’s obstacles. I also believed that there was a quick fix for PTSD, and that if I couldn’t find it or make it miraculously heal me over night, then I would diminish all possibilities of ever being able to undress from the “traumatized” label I made myself wear.

But fear not! This story gets better!

Now, after legitimate diagnosis and treatment, my understandings of my PTSD are much healthier and more truthful:

  1. Just because I have PTSD, I do not see myself as a traumatized person. Rather, I am a whole being who has experienced some traumatic events in my past, and sometimes my body and brain forget that these events aren’t still happening now, and like to default into coping mechanisms that helped me to survive at the time. This isn’t my fault. It’s just bad luck that my brain was affected in this way.
  2. There is no quick fix for PTSD. PTSD is a physical, chemical change in my amygdala and hippocampus that will not be magically healed over night. My brain needs re-training. It needs to be taught that it doesn’t need to activate the fight-or-flight response everyday anymore. It needs to be taught how to differentiate past memories with the present-day reality. This takes a lot of practice, patience, and love, just like training a puppy.

In saying this, however, I definitely do still have my moments. I have moments of wondering whether I will ever be able to fully escape my past. I have moments of guilt, self-blame, and self-victimisation. I have moments of convincing myself I don’t have the energy to face another day of differentiating reality vs brain-tricks; past vs present; healthy vs unhealthy coping mechanisms.

But each day I am coming to a deeper understanding of who I am without the trauma, and learning how to be more and more in touch with the reality of my present, rather than my past.

Just some facts that everybody should know:

  • Not everybody who experiences trauma develops PTSD, and those of us who do aren’t weaker or more “stuck in our past” than those who don’t. It’s just bad luck that our brains were affected in this way.
  • Not only war veterans suffer from PTSD, and it can develop from both an accumulation of experiences as well as from just one experience.
  • PTSD isn’t weakness. It’s an illness.

 

I’m not destined to flashbacks and dissociation for the rest of my life because of my experiences. I fully believe that one day I will be 100% free of PTSD.

Please bear with me a moment while I undress from my “traumatized” label, and banish it from every ounce of my being.

I will never be seen wearing it again.

 

Dear Creator

Dear Creator,

This weekend I’ve seen so many beautiful things.

They’re not new things. Mountains, snow, ducks, waxeyes, fantails, lakes, tussocks, sunsets…

But this weekend I’ve seen new beauty in them. My mind is blown at the intricate detail of beauty; the many many different levels and layers of beauty around me. I feel overwhelmed when I think deeply about Your power and beauty reflected in Your creation. I am reminded that You place beauty right in front of my eyes every second of every day, yet I forget to focus my lens. Forgive me.

I also learn that if You have put this much effort and love into Your creation of the beautiful things around me, the amount of effort and love you’ve put into Your creation of me must be

truly,

gigantically,

spectacular.

 

You must love me more than I could ever imagine. And that’s really quite an overwhelming thought. I don’t think I realise how much love, care, and hope that has gone into Your crafting of me.

Surely, one can only craft as much love into others’ lives as she understands is crafted into her own…

You are the potter who creates uniquely beautiful mugs, in the hope that one day they will be the source of life and replenishment for those with whom they cross paths.

As I take a moment to fully take that in, I find myself close to tears. Surely I don’t deserve this. Why do you love me so much?

“I just do.” I hear you tell me.

“All I need is for you to accept it.”

 

My gratitude is out of this world. Not only for Your creation of me, but for the beauty You have surrounded me with.

You are truly…

…there’s not even a word. Powerful isn’t enough. Magnificent isn’t enough. Wonderful isn’t enough.

And as a word person this really frustrates me!

 

“All I need is for you to accept it”, you repeat.

Eyes

The naturally gentle, sobering, rocking-chair-like motion of the car ride becomes roller-coaster-like tossing from side to side as we travel further and further away from civilisation. It’s best to keep my eyes on the road, especially since Ellice beat me to shotgun.

But from the corner of my eye I notice his. Both of them. Gorgeous, wide, infant, Italian. Except this isn’t my usual lively, pleasantly-surprised wide-eyed brother. This time the wide eyes are glassy, accompanied with a frown and pouty puppy lips.

They don’t leave my face. Mine don’t leave the road. What’s he upset about? As mine meet his, his gaze suddenly shifts out the window. I no longer see the pout, but I hear the whimpering.

My hand on his knee prompts his knees to his chest.

So we return to our starting positions.

His eyes on me. Mine on the road.

And, action.

My eyes on his. His out of sight.

And so we practice this scene. Over and over again.

Except this is not a play.

It’s my fault. The glassy eyes are my fault. The whimpers are my fault. The frown. The puppy pout. They’re my fault because his big sister isn’t in his life.  His big sister isn’t in his life while he’s growing into a young man. She’s not there to see him swim his first lap of the pool; to read his first written story; to help him count out his pocket money as he makes his first purchase.

It breaks my heart to see his broken. It twists my mind to think I must return home soon.

It takes all my energy to remind myself I have my own life to get on with. That with a twelve-year age gap there comes separation and sacrifice. That the bond of blood is there for life and will still be there for my next visit.

If only a six year old had the capability of holding this understanding too.

Mental Posit(ill)vity

When speaking of mental illness, I could go along the common path of explaining how the stigma is almost as bad as the illness itself, the flaws in the mental health system, or the frustrations of being unable to provide any physical proof of an invisible sickness.

But I won’t this time.

This time I’ll say that my experience with mental illness has helped me to gain so many skills and insights that I would never have gained otherwise. Although there are many days where I am horrified by the alien voice of my own mind, feel trapped in a dangerous psychological cycle, and want nothing more than for my mind to just shut up and be ‘normal’, I still don’t wish that I was, or had experienced, anything different.

Through the many hours of therapy, self-reflection, crying, ranting, brainstorming, creative expression, and supporting of others’ mental illness;

I have become a lot more self-aware.

I have learnt about my limits, my strengths, my weaknesses, my boundaries.

I have further discovered my necessary methods of self-care, my values, and my passions.

I have grown and developed as a person in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I have learnt so much about human nature and the world around me.

I have gained mental strength and resilience.

I have learnt valuable social skills and had conversations and discussions that I will never forget.

I have discovered the experience-strengthened power of my influence on those I’m supporting.

And, for the above, my gratitude overflows.

 

squiggle

 

The mental health journey is a roller-coaster ride full of wonderfulness as well as terribleness, and although I feel exhausted just thinking about it, I look forward to the lessons awaiting me in my future experiences.

Parts of my brain might be messed up but I’m not a messed up person.

 

I might have mental illnesses but I’m not a mentally ill person.

They are not my definition, they’re merely one part of life’s many battles that I am willing to fight.

And I will win.

 

Letters to God

Dear God,

Reverend Bryan gave me your address so please don’t think I’ve been stalking you. That’s still stalking, isn’t it- getting your address off someone else- especially when I’ve never actually met you. Reverend Bryan says he’s met you. He says you’re really nice and I should get to know you too. He says you already want to be my friend, which I must say, God, is very trusting of you! Anyway, I think that’s cool so Reverend Bryan told me to write to you to get this friendship started.

So, I don’t know much about you, and you probably don’t know much about me either (unless Reverend Bryan has told you about me). My name is Lily, I’m ten years old, I’m red house leader at Dominion Road Primary, and everyone says that Sam Gibbons likes me because this one time he bought a giant cookie from the dairy, ate around the outside to make it heart-shaped, and gave it to me at morning tea (gross aye?).

Please write back soon and tell me about yourself. Reverend Bryan told me you live in this place called Heaven, and Sally Muffit in my class said Heaven is in the sky. So if you live in the sky, how does the postie deliver my letter to you?

Yours sincerely,

Lily.
squiggle

 

Dear God,

I haven’t received a letter from you yet, but maybe you’re busy. I hope your letter hasn’t been lost in the post. That happened to Sally once. She sent me a letter and I never received it and we thought maybe it accidentally fell off the back of the postie’s bike.

Reverend Bryan told me to write to you as often as possible, even if you don’t reply. He said the more I write to you, the more I’ll get to know you. I don’t really see how that works, because how do I get to know you more if you don’t write back?

When I write to Sally I tell her what I’ve been up to, so I’ll tell you too. On Saturday Mum was grumpy again, so Dad took me out for ice cream. I chose my usual goody gumdrops and Dad chose his usual orange chocolate chip. Whenever we choose those flavours, Dad always says that we’re “true kiwis”, which is weird because I didn’t think birds ate ice cream.  On Monday Sally told me that she talks to you about anything at all and that I can too, but I don’t think she’s right because me and you don’t even know each other. No offense or anything.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

squiggle

 

Dear God,

Why aren’t you replying? You better watch out or I’ll have to use Mum’s grumpy face on you. I’m not going to tell you anything else about me until you tell me about you.

Please write back soon. Miss Wilson taught us a new word today: “mysterious”. You’re very mysterious, God.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

squiggle

 

Dear God,

You sure are mysterious. Today I couldn’t see my maths book properly because my tears were getting in the way. Reverend Bryan told me I should tell you about Mum. I wouldn’t tell you if he hadn’t told me to, but everybody always does what Reverend Bryan says.

So, Mr Silent Man, Mum is getting grumpier and grumpier. She made me not see my maths book properly because she threw my favourite Christmas bowl at the wall at breakfast this morning when I forgot to wash it. I think my breath stopped when she did it.

If Dad read this letter, he would laugh and tell me to stop whining like the toddler over our back fence! At least mum didn’t throw the bowl at me! She’d never do that. It was my fault for not washing my bowl anyway.

Are you going to reply?

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

squiggle

 

Dear God,

You’re nice to talk to even though you don’t reply. I need to tell someone that mum threw my milo cup at me today when I left it on the coffee table, but I can’t tell anyone who can see my tears. Reverend Bryan told my class today we can ask you to help us with anything and you always will. For the millionth time, this doesn’t make any sense since you don’t even reply to my letters, but Reverend Bryan is never wrong so I’m going to trust him anyway. He better be right.

My shoulder is bruised but I think the bruise on my heart is bigger. Can your heart even bruise?

Whenever mum gets grumpy and my tears come, Dad teaches me how to forgive other people when they do things I don’t like. I’m sure mum didn’t even mean it because she didn’t say sorry. I don’t say sorry when I didn’t mean to do the thing I did, even though mum and dad always tell me I have to say sorry whether it was an accident or not. There’s no way she will do it again.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

 

squiggle

 

Dear God,

You’re a better friend than Sally and Esme, because when I tell you stuff you don’t run away from me and tell everyone that I’m a liar. Sally and Esme asked me why I was late to school today, and Dad and Reverend Bryan say to always tell the truth, so I did. I told them that mum told me in a very loud voice to get out of the house this morning before I had even had my Nutella on toast. Her loud voice made me shake a bit so I decided to do what she said, and then she locked the door and never unlocked it again. So I walked to school, which took a million years.

If you’re a better friend than my best friends, then I suppose that makes you my best friend now.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

squiggle

 

Dear God,

I’m writing this letter in the car and I think I am only half-awake so I’m sorry if you can’t read my handwriting. Actually, this could just be a dream. But if this is real, I’m in the car and it’s dark outside and my eyes keep wanting to close. When Dad woke me up a few minutes ago, he whispered at me to choose my favourite toys and books quickly and then quietly go outside and get in the car. I keep asking him if he’s okay because his eyes are red and he’s breathing funny, but he isn’t talking to me. I don’t know where we are going and I don’t know when we are going to go back home.

I’m kind of glad that mum isn’t coming though.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

squiggle

 

Dear God,

I just found the last letter I wrote to you under the seat of the car when I was cleaning it out this afternoon. I never ended up posting it. But I know now that I don’t need to post my letters to you for you to get them. In fact, I don’t even have to write them down! I can just think them up and you know what I’m thinking. But I thought I’d just write one for fun.

That terrible night was just over three years ago now. It’s kind of weird that I haven’t seen mum in that long. The apartment that Dad and I live in is nice because it has a swimming pool I can use whenever I like. But I have a question for you, God: why do you make some cities more interesting than others? Hamilton is so boring compared to Auckland. I miss Reverend Bryan too, and I sometimes wonder whether he misses me back.

But life is better now, because you’re my best friend. Even though I don’t write paper letters to you anymore, I write them in my heart. And I know you get them because you answer them by looking after me and keeping me safe. I wasn’t safe before, but now I am. And I know you’re always right beside me, even when my tears land on my maths book. I just know it. I can feel it.

When I think about life back in Auckland, I think about how lucky I was to have you to talk to. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I now know that you were always loving Dad and I, even when it felt like Mum wasn’t.

You probably already know this, but you are really awesome, God.

Yours sincerely,

Lily.

 

 

–Cara Adler

What causes sunrises and sunsets?

via Site Settings ‹ Beautiful Mess — WordPress.com

Recently, on a very early, chilly Christchurch morning, while self-pitifully heaving my hefty suitcase out of my accommodation towards the bus stop, I was stopped in my tracks by a magnificent fire brewing in the sky, brushing the wavy clouds with its rich pink-orange glaze. I was completely and utterly flabbergasted by the natural beauty staring me right in the face. Once again, Mother Nature had kindly but powerfully reminded me that my self-pity and tiny little useless worries are unnecessary and irrational. The reason? Because this:

18191494_951322675005089_1615208370_n

Enough said.

How can something so natural be so powerful and beautiful? My human desire to always be in control cannot comprehend the fact that the magnificence surrounding me is due to no human influence. It is mind-boggling how this amazingness is just nature doing its thing.

Every time I have a ‘wow- moment’ with creation my whole life immediately gets put into perspective. The beauty and power around me disintegrates my anxieties, frustrations, obligations, and hurts, re-fueling me with a calmer, kinder, more truthful life perspective.

This, I believe, is the true power of nature.

This, I believe, is Our Creator’s intention of these blessings of natural grace and wonder.

While my eyes were feasting on this delicious sight, I couldn’t help but wonder how sunrises and sunsets actually occur. What is the science behind this daily blessing of radiance?

So I made enquiries with my mate Google* (prepare yourself for a nerdy sciencey bit).

Apparently, we see light and colour in the sky thanks to a phenomenon called “scattering”. When the sun is high in the sky during the day, the lesser amount of air that the sunlight passes through causes the short wave-length of blue and violet colours to be scattered by air molecules much more than the other colours in the light spectrum. Therefore, we see blue on a clear day. However, when the sun is on the horizon during sunrise and sunset, there is more atmosphere, which causes the short wave-length blue and violet colours to be scattered by molecules even more, to the point where they are scattered away from our eyes. Therefore, we see more of the other colours in the spectrum- red, orange, and yellow.

(You may exhale. The nerdy sciencey bit is over).

“Speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of  all mankind.” –Job 12:8-10

*Sunset Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071108135522.htm