The Monster Under Your Bed

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with fear. On one hand, fear can be a great motivator for an ambitious, strong-willed person like me who is quick to a challenge in the name of self-improvement. Am I scared of it? Then that means I am going to pursue it, head on. On the other hand, fear has been an invisible, vicious undercurrent consistently derailing my steady swim and yanking me further out to sea.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone particularly controlled by fear; to be honest, I’ve usually thought I tend to fall more in the opposite camp – making decisions that will be uncomfortable and scary, with confidence in my capacity to persevere.

That’s why, upon drilling down on a particular pain point and realizing that at the root of the discomfort is fear, I am always surprised. It becomes almost a humbling experience. Fear is, after all, an ego-driven quality. It is defensive and reactive – it’s a combination of how we are wired (the sympathetic nervous system) and how we have been trained by the world around us to avoid “bad” or “different” things/feelings at all costs. This fear reaction consequentially makes us very resistant to transformation.

For me, I find the fear monster lurking under my bed after huge changes have occurred in my life. I start to scramble around in the hopes that constantly doing will make being easier. This is how he rears his ugly head – disguised as strength, as discipline, as a coping mechanism that makes sure I don’t have to lean into the unknown.

As I grow more and more aware of myself and learn how to recognize when I’m off balance, it becomes easy to grow frustrated when I can’t pull myself out of something, despite using all of the tools in my self-help tool kit. Fear exists as control, as isolation, as complacency. Only when I sit myself down and internally scream “WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF” do I pause and realize that I am, in fact, acting out of fear – the fear of not knowing, the fear of being unaccepted, the fear of “getting off track,” etc. This is where the process becomes very humbling – I promise you that when you sit in stillness with yourself and really think about why you are so afraid of gaining weight, of being unregimented, of taking time off work, of quitting smoking, of missing a workout, the answer actually contains a lot more depth than those surface level issues.

What, then, is the antidote to fear? Well, I definitely know what it is not – it is not complacency or helplessness, just throwing up your hands and conceding defeat. This is putting yourself into victim mode – feeling like everything is happening to you. As seems to be a running theme, it comes back to finding the middle point between giving up control and feeling helpless.

I think our agency can be found in determination. When we think of fear we think of the overcoming of it, but sometimes the real strength lies in existing alongside the fear.

Fear can many times be rational, and in my darkest days I found myself wishing I was more afraid – wishing I had something to be afraid for, anything to feel strongly about. As I’ve learned how to deal with more irrational fears, such as a piece of cake somehow equating to my chances in the college admissions process, I recognize that many of my fears now – like the passing of time, my parents aging, being hurt when I’m vulnerable – are valid, straightforward, and are not going to disappear any time soon. I think naturopath and life coach Beth Bridges poignantly captures this duality when she says, “Life delivers us circumstances, events, people that are beyond our control. But – our acceptance of their place in our life, in our experience, is very much within our control.”

What if we retrain the way we react? Instead of collapse, of heaviness, of constricting, of hiding, what if we expand, listen, push into the hurt? What if we look under the bed and realise that the monster living under there isn’t really a monster at all, but rather all of the feelings, gut reactions, and daunting decisions we’ve brushed aside and let collect, out of sight?

And even if we did find a monster there, wouldn’t there be a relief in knowing? No more wondering or haunting nightmares about what is lurking. If we are prepared, equipped with strength and sound of mind, letting our hearts rather than our ego drive our reactions, that monster doesn’t stand a chance.

Steps Towards Freedom

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder of Unpolished Journey

Oh Darling, it’s just a step,Image result for holding the universe

with your eyes closed tight

and your hands tied

and your feet bound

and your faith caught up

between the what is lost

and what is found.

Oh Darling it’s just a step,

towards everything that’s right

away from darkness

and into light;

a step of courage,

a step of hope,

a step to flourish,

a new way to cope.

 

Related imageOh Darling, you must walk

away from all you know

off this cliff

towards the freedom

you deserve to hold.

 

Self Compassion in Real Life

Image result for self compassion

Written by: Morgan, Founder of Unpolished

My alarm goes off. It’s 10pm and I have to leave for my overnight shift in 15 minutes. My body is sore from exhaustion and my head is pounding because I didn’t drink enough water throughout the day. It’s hard to keep track of the basics. Sleep. Water. Food is easier, but maybe because I am hyper-aware of that element. I slowly peel my eyes open, place my feet on the ground, and stand up.

I have to make money. I have to pay bills. I have to save if I want my year of travel to happen. But, I also go to work for deeper reasons. I go to remind all the girls there that they matter. My overnight doesn’t include much interaction, but I find ways to brighten the house. Writing notes, making homemade games to play in group. There are ways to leave traces of hope in a space where many are hopeless.

Compassion for other’s is a simple concept for me to grasp. Others deserve compassion. Others are important and worthy and beautiful because I love people. I truly do. There are very few people I find myself having issues with. But, one of those few that cause issues happens to be myself and this is, perhaps, the most problematic situation.

“How can you be compassionate for others without having any compassion for yourself?” my therapist asks me.

“It’s simple,” I respond, “You just do it. It’s second nature for me.”

But, as the years go on and time slips by, I start to realize the issues with this way of living. Living without compassion is like hiking in the desert without sunblock. Eventually you will end up burned, dehydrated, and tired. Eventually you will wear out. Eventually you will have to stop.

Maybe that’s what treatment was for me – my burn out point. It was my body, mind, and spirit saying, “hey listen lady, you need to learn to be nicer to us.” And, yet even with them screaming in my ears, I still have the hardest time listening.

Self-compassion looks a lot like the last 6 miles of a marathon. Clenched teeth, testing faith, the final stretch. It doesn’t feel good at first. Especially if you haven’t been practicing it previously in your life. For me, self-compassion is standing in the bathroom, staring at my face in the mirror while my head screams to stop and my heart screams for help. It is painting my nails when my head says it’s pointless, taking a day off work because my heart needs a nap, or painting when I haven’t cleaned. Self-compassion is a fight. It does not come easily.

But, just like training for a marathon, the more you practice the easier the fight becomes. Over time the fight will feel less like the last six miles and more like the first ten. It will still be strenuous and hard, but it will offer more reward than struggle. Keep practicing. Self-compassion is so important even if it feels unnatural.

Transforming Love

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer here at Unpolished Journey

Hate breeds hate.

Love breeds love.

Negativity breeds more negativity.

Positive energy breeds more positive energy.

One of the most power tools that I have learned in recovery is the power of my own thoughts.  Your feelings shape your thoughts and your thoughts shape your actions and your actions shape your reality.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned that my lack of self-compassion and self-love was fueling the belief that I didn’t deserve good things.  I began to believe that I wasn’t worthy of a future full of opportunities and possibilities.  I didn’t love myself enough to want good things for my life.  In maintaining these beliefs, I denied the truth that I was a powerful force with the capability to shape my own future.  So I began to choose to believe that I was worthy.  Even when I didn’t believe it for myself, I chose to give my eyes a break and see myself through the eyes of those who love me.  I softly whispered statements like: “I am light” to myself.  I had to fake it to make it, but once I began to show myself the love and compassion that I would show to my best friend a world of possibilities opened.  I could imagine myself happy.  I could imagine myself healthy.  I could imagine myself content and I could imagine myself giving back to my community to create change.

Ok, cool, Gracie, but how? How do you just flip a switch? How long does that take? I don’t want to believe that I am loved, lovable and worthy because I’m a piece of shit.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been in that dark place.

And to be honest, I could be back there at any point in my life because that is the nature of mental illness.

But self-compassion starts from recognizing and embracing your humanity.  When you realize that you are not the first person to make mistakes and you are not alone if you feel that you have messed up, you can find the grace to see the beautiful life you deserve.  If you are a survivor of trauma, you are just that–A SURVIVOR.  It was not your fault.  Darkness tries to take our the strongest, most powerful lights.

The world has plenty of hate, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of criticism, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of negativity, it does not need yours.

This life will throw unknowns, trials and tribulations at you and what your soul needs is for you to build yourself a fortress of compassion and armor of self love.  It sounds cliche, but life will give you enough hardships that being kind to yourself is necessary and imperative.

Imagine the compassion and love that the universe has for you–enough to bring you into this world.  The fact that you are here means you have a purpose.  Do not look at the trauma and near death moments you have lived through as evidence that you should not be on this earth.  ALL of the trauma and experiences that you have lived through and survived are proof that YOU ARE STILL MEANT TO BE HERE. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE. YOU ARE A LIGHT. YOU HAVE INHERENT VALUE AND WORTH SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE.

The more you can foster self-compassion for yourself the stronger you light will shine.  Self-compassion is contagious and if you show yourself grace and compassion, those around you will begin to believe that you will show them the same compassion.  Those around you will begin to develop the same self-care and self-love.  I want to broadcast that I work to forgive myself and care for my spirit each day because I want my friends and family to know that I will treat them the same.  I speak kindly about myself so that those I love will begin to shift their focus to their gifts, talents and beauty.  Compassion for yourself creates more compassion in a world that needs transformation.  Transform the way you see and treat yourself and you transform the world.

When

By: Morgan Blair

For everyone who has ever had a bad day.

When you cry from deep in your belly,
And your sobs turn into heaving,
And your body is clenched with no hope of tasting a breath.

When you can bathe in the tears pouring from your eyes,
And the saltwater burns as it leaks onto your chapped lips,
And it tastes like a heavy, sad ocean on your dry, dry tongue.

When you lie on your bathroom floor with the lights off,
And you sob until you physically can’t anymore,
And you’re nothing more than flesh flickering in your candle’s light.

When your thoughts swim to the dialogue of too much,
And that your body is too much,
And you are too much,
And life is too much,
And hoping is too much,
And thinking is too much.

When you have that night that you don’t think you can survive,
And you fall asleep,
And when you wake up you find a way to begin again.

Ticking Heart

There’s a ticking in my head.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

It sounds like a clock but I know it’s the beat of my heart. It beats from my head, controlling all that I do. Some call it passion, some call it spontaneity, I call it ticking- a life line, a source of comfort. My heart is in my head and my head is in my chest. I am backwards, upside down, and inside out, but I like it that way. It makes me feel whole to be fragmented in a way that brings my heart into the center of everything I do.

What’s a heart? What’s a head? These words mean so little to me in the context of subjective reality. One controls the other or the other control the latter. It doesn’t matter. We function. We live. We work. We sleep. It is what humans do and yet everyone is concerned about what makes their heart work. Concern diminishes the heart’s language. It silences it. It becomes mute and the head becomes loud and demanding. Stop trying to find the heart. Just let it be.

Live. Eat. Sleep. Walk. Talk. Eat some more.

The body has a magnificent way of aligning your purpose like stepping stones for a wobbling toddler. Step across the stream. Let the body, let the energy of your spirit guide you to whatever purpose you were given.

The minute we go searching for a purpose, purpose runs away. It hides and gets shy like you have just shown a light on a star. It is meant to shine only in the dark. Bring in a flashlight and suddenly the star disappears. Have patience. Have trust. Have confidence in the energies around you to align in ways that will strengthen your spirit, that will bring out your ticking heart. That will tick and tick and tick until that tick is all you know and suddenly your heart is in your head and your head is in your chest and you are all backwards and inside out because that’s the way true passion is expressed.

Just a thought.

Eclipse

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

Related image

We drove a long way. Six hours to be exact. To see it. See the eclipse. Out in the middle of no where, in the line of totality, on the highest point of the Native’s land. We set up camp, got out the hummus, and turned on some Nahko to prepare our minds and spirits.

These moments mean more to me than they might to the average person. I look out at the rolling hills, I feel the blazing sun on my skin, I taste the pita and hummus on my tongue, I hear the music, and everything- I mean everything- is amplified as if coming out of a blaring speaker somewhere off to my right. I know what it is like to be trapped in darkness, to be friend’s with death, to fantasize about fading away. I know darkness, therefore light is overwhelmingly beautiful. It is a sight I always feel I am seeing for the first time. A new friend, a new food, a song, an experience, water, life, love, hope, all these things allow me to fall in love with life all over again.

Lightness, goodness, hopefulness, these are equal to the eclipse. A sight that together the entire nation shared in its wonder. Together we stood up there on that hill under the 90 degree sun, cheering as the day turned night, as the universe took control of our attention, as we, if even for a moment, were not distracted by our differences. Unity. What a sight. The world is a magical place. So many concepts unexplained to us.

I rested on that hill, under the newly night sky, and embraced the dark. I sat in the dark, yet completely encapsulated by the light and magic of the moment.  I used to only recognize the dark, but now I am friends with the light. Now I can feel these experiences with an intensity some may see as unimaginable.  I know death, I know hopelessness, I know despair, and I am so thankful for that because in knowing these things I am able to appreciate their counterparts that much more.

Today is my little cousin’s birthday. He passed away a year and nine months ago. I still don’t know what to do with that loss. But somewhere during the eclipse I felt like I got a glimpse of his beauty once again. He was there. There was a chill in the air, a comforting blanket of hope, and he was the one covering me in it. What a thought? What a sight? What an experience?

I write them down now, these experiences. I don’t want to ever forget all the light I have felt. I don’t want the darkness to win over my mind. I set reminders for myself.

The eclipse.

Andy.

Energy of hope.

Energy of light.

I write these things down, close my notebook, and smile as I express gratitude for being healthy, alive, and hopeful enough to embrace these moments.

Embrace your own moments of light today.

Stay magical,

Morgan

Learning to Let Go

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

What’s on your mind, causing you constant anxiety, keeping you from reaching your full potential, holding you back in fear, limited your abilities? Whatever it is…

Let that shit go.

It is weighing you down, keeping you from being able to spread your wings and take flight. It is the boulder tied to your balloon keep your feet stuck to the ground. When, you weren’t even meant to be on the ground in the first place.

I think a lot about the image of the butterfly trying to fly while being tied to a boulder. It keeps it low to the ground and exhausted, pulling down and inhibiting the butterfly’s natural born purpose.

We are that butterfly. We let stuff weigh us down all the time. Our past, our anxiety about the future, food, body image, fear, hopelessness. I could go on and on. I know, because I have been there. I have been carrying multiple boulders around with me in a backpack that seems to grow larger with each passing day and, you know what? I’m done. I have decided I am done. I am going to practice what I preach (shout out to Kesha) and let that shit go because it is no longer serving me in any way.

 

In order to experience true freedom in life, we have to first understand what freedom asks of us. Freedom is not something that you just magically wake up one morning possessing. Freedom is a battle. You have to first win, catch, and hold on to it. Freedom requires work and I think that is what people don’t understand. It’s like the saying of “if you wait until you feel motivated you will never start in the first place”.  The same could be said of freedom. If you wait until you’re ready to let things go, to experience release, to live a life apart from fear, then it will never happen. Why? Because, we never feel ready. Readiness is just an abstract construction we have created within our minds to try have a concrete understanding of a concept you can’t possibly tangibly explain. It is a dangerous thing to wait until we are ready for freedom because, in doing so, we may never experience the delicious taste of its blissfulness.

I used to think that recovery was something that eventually would fall into my lap. That one day I would wake up with an intense desire to get better and therefore would never have an urge to use my eating disorder ever again.  I waited years for that day.  I waited through many treatment stays and many relapses, always believing that my recovery epiphany moment would eventually come.

It never did.

I never had one moment where I was like “wow I’m in recovery”. It was a slow crawl towards health. An uphill battle, which I started to climb when climbing was the last thing I wanted to do. My recovery epiphany looked a lot like training. Slow and steady wins the race. It was months in the making. It was hard to even see the progress. But slowly recovery unfolded and suddenly I could look back and see just how far I had come.

I believe the same is true for freedom. Recovery and freedom go hand and hand. So, in order to obtain freedom, I believe the process looks a lot like recovery did and does. It is slow and hard and complicated. Freedom is an uphill climb with a tired back and sore feet. Freedom is starting from where you’re at and trusting the view at the top is better than where you are currently standing. Freedom is pushing and pushing and pushing yourself to do what scares you so that one day you can look back from the mountain’s summit and say, “I did that.” I climbed. I got myself here. I fought for my freedom. Because, there is nothing more satisfying than fighting to become the person you’ve always wished to be.  

If we return to the butterfly metaphor, freedom in the process of cutting those strings. No one is going to come and cut them for you. You have to be willing to do that part yourself. You have to get to a point where you are done carrying around extra shit and are ready to let it goooooooooo.

I don’t know what helped me get to the point of willingness to fight for my freedom, to start cutting the strings connected to my boulders. I think, perhaps, it was simply exhaustion. Exhaustion from fighting so damn hard. It just wasn’t worth it. So I got out my big girl scissors and cut cut cut away all the parts that weren’t serving me anymore. And boy can I fly better and higher than I ever have before. The summit of the mountain climb is near. I can finally see it after all these years of waiting at the basecamp.

It’s there.

It’s real.

I am coming for the amazing views.

Let that Shit Go

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer and Facebook manager of Unpolished Journey

Written for August’s monthly intention of Letting Go.

Image result for let that shit go

In my early recovery I remember having a transformative conversation with one of my friends.  I told her, “I have been praying and praying that God will take my eating disorder from me.”  Her reply was earth-shattering, and brilliant, and infuriating and one of the deepest truths I have ever heard.  She said, “God can’t take something from you if you are still gripping it as tight as you can.”

She was right.

I was begging God to free me from my eating disorder.  I wanted freedom, relief and a return to normalcy around food and eating.  I was begging God to take my eating disorder from me without doing the work of actually letting it go.  I still wake up every day and make a conscious effort to let it go–to loosen my grip and to turn it over to a higher power.  But more and more each day I have such gratitude for my eating disorder because it has strengthened my ability to let go, my unwavering belief that this too shall pass and my constant journey to embrace change.

There are so many categories of letting go.  I have had to let go of people because they let go of me.  I have had to let go of behaviors that didn’t serve me.  I have had to let go of thoughts that diminish my worth and convince me I am unloveable.  I have had to let go of the expectations for how I thought things or my life would be.  I have had to let go of the need to control and predict every step in my journey.

But with all of the things I have let go–there are so many things that I have gained.  I have gained improved relationships with many of my friends, learning to focus on loving without expectations or conditions.  I have gained new activities and behaviors like yoga and daily meditation that serve me and nourish me.  I have gained new patterns of thinking that affirm my worth and empower my goals. I have gained a beautiful perspective that allows me to embrace the alternative routes, detours and scenic routes I have taken in my life.  I have gained gratefulness and an ability to lean into the unknown with excitement and hope instead of dread and anxiety.

I am constantly learning, and every step is part of the process–the process of learning to love and let go, the process of learning how to breath and begin a new journey by letting go of the past, the process of remembering to not sweat the small stuff and let go of the trivial day to day mistakes that don’t matter.

I began to notice that the pain I feared in letting go was soothed by abundance that filled my life when I finally did start letting go.  Sometimes we have to let go in order to clear space for the new adventures, growth and relationships.  When we empty ourselves of everything that does not serve us, does not bring us joy and does not align with our life’s higher purpose we allow ourself the space to invite in new opportunities and transformation.

To recover I must transform.

To transform I must let go.

Free Refills Unavailable

Written by: Florence Taglight, contributing writer for Unpolished Journey and blogger at findingflo.co.uk

Free refills unavailable.

Unlike most places in America, here in the U.K we don’t get free refills at restaurants, so once you’ve drunk your drink, you’re done and either order another, or perhaps switch it up to water.  Needless to say on first trips to America I was guzzling so much iced tea and Arnold Palmers (something the UK needs more of) that I was constantly going to the bathroom and on return to England, practising my tiny sip taking to make my drink last the duration of my meal.

Okay, so you are probably thinking, what on earth does this have to do with compassion?  Followed by I’m reading this to gain some insight not learn about refill differences in USA and UK.  Well, be patient.  It’s coming.  Now in fact.

Often people in recovery from a mental illness, or perhaps those caring for one, tend to love and love and love, and care and care and care or even cry and cry and cry till we can love, care and cry no more.  That’s ‘normal.’  You are not emotionless or cold-hearted, merely a human being. A human being who needs to replenish, revitalise, rest and recuperate.  It can be extremely difficult when all you want to do is love someone and show them you care, but by taking time out for yourself, you will be able to be more present for them when they need love, more caring for them when they need caring for.

But although helping others is fantastic, and what I do believe we are put on this earth to do, throughout recovery I have learnt that as I try to be compassionate to others, I end up neglecting myself.  Sound familiar?  I will bake, cook, shop and clean for all those around me who show me love, because it’s a two-way street, right?  But I forget that these people also bake, cook and shop for themselves.  They also tell themselves nice things, refill their own cups not just everyone else’s.

I used to find it impossible to sit down and watch TV.  I HAD to be doing something – emptying the dishwasher, folding, organising.  I’ve always been a fidgeter but just watching TV for me seemed, well, wrong.  I’ll tell you what is wrong – that thought process. It could not be more wrong.  So, although I’m still learning, I’m learning pretty fast and enjoying the time I am spending with me.  After all, no matter if I meet my soulmate and we become attached at the hip (unlikely), I will spend my whole life with ME, so surely I should be the one most compassionate toward myself and not rely on those around me to give me love or to give my love too.

So if you are stuck on how to refill yourself so you can refill others, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Write yourself a poem, and then read it to yourself.
  2. Take yourself on a date, for hot chocolate preferably.
  3. Watch a film like Pretty Woman or The Lizzie McGuire Movie – I know extremely different genres.
  4. Buy yourself a present – fluffy socks? Fairy lights? But don’t go overboard…I fell at this hurdle; I own enough notebooks to document my life, twice.
  5. Paint your toenails – it is surprisingly relaxing. Plus if they suck, chances are nobody is going to see them for a while, so you can leave them all messy, which personally I find extremely satisfying.
  6. READ someone you trust your poem about YOU.