Lessons of Hope and Recovery: PART 3

Following on from yesterday and Tuesday’s blog posts (read them before this one!), here’s the next part of my seminar on five lessons of hope and recovery…

7Speaking of food, who likes cheesecake?

There is a point to that question, I promise… now I’ve been luckier than leprechaun wearing a hat of four-leaf clovers, to have had the same care co-ordinator for my whole time as a service user within NAViGO – up until this month, due to my change in services. Seven years of wisdom from Mandy Barker. I can honestly say she has changed my life. I may have had a long, rocky journey, but that’s no reflection on Mandy’s input. In fact, I’m 99% sure I wouldn’t be here today.

After going through some difficult things in her own life, I threw a question at her one day. We’ve often talked about life being a load of juggling balls. And basically how I am completely gobsmacked the way people juggle relationships, work, hobbies, friends, health and to actually have dreams in life. How do you know you’re giving all those things your best? I have often found myself focusing on just throwing that one ball in the air, out of fear I won’t give it my full attention if I bring in any others. Hence, ending up being so good at Anorexia. And Bulimia.

“How do you do it?” I would ask. “I don’t doubt your struggles, but how do you pick yourself up and continue to give your best at what you do, after experiencing something so difficult?” Something I felt so unimaginable to my own life?

Her response was this: “I am prepared to take the rough with the smooth, in order to experience everything life has to offer.” Wow, I just thought. What a simple, powerful statement – and it makes so much sense.

If you let yourself fully feel emotions when things are tough, if you cry when you need to and know that you’ll survive the discomfort, then you’ll experience emotions to the maximum when things are good, too. You’ll laugh a bit harder or feel that gush of excitement a bit deeper. When you use coping mechanisms that numb out the more difficult emotions – like sadness, anger, grief etc. then you won’t feel the best of the nice things either – like happiness, love or excitement. You just float through life, just you and a rubber ring, without going on the water slides, finding new coloured waters, or feeling the sprinkle of fountains on your skin. And I don’t want to be one of these people that just float through life without feeling everything. So sometimes this is enough motivation to let myself feel the uncomfortable emotions. To take more risks – knowing that when I’ve proved that I can get through it, there will be something more rewarding at the end. Like that new opportunity that will come of it. That more confident day. That more enjoyable experience, or feeling that bit closer to someone. And overall, not just better mental health but a richer quality of life.

For example, like shitting yourself about to give a talk; but once I’ve done it knowing how empowering it was to share my voice, and maybe even being a little bit proud of myself for fighting the anxiety to tell me to cancel because I won’t be good enough. Or because people will judge me because of how disgusting I feel about my weight; and it’s okay to feel disgusting – it’s what I do with it. Whether I let it win, or I feel it but get up every morning with purpose, just like Mandy does.

And so all of this, is where the cheesecake comes in. Would a cheesecake be as tasty without the rough and crumbly digestive base? If you just ate the smooth topping, would you experience the full contrast of texture that defines a cheesecake? It wouldn’t give us the full experience, like in life.

So let’s keep eating cheesecake everyone. (in moderation)

(continued in tomorrow’s post…)

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