Sunday, 26 October 2014

Stress, Forgiveness, and Mental Health

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you were just so angry or hurt by what someone did or said to you? You likely felt that you could not forgive them at the moment. How could they do such a thing? How could they hurt you like that? We've all had times like this. Remember when your coworkers teased you for not attending that late-night party? Or when your friends forgot to invite you to dinner? What about when your children yelled at you and disrespected you? Or when your partner or spouse didn't even offer to help you with the dishes? Remember the time your parents got angry at you for that awful mark you got in school? The list can go on and on.

We've all been hurt or angered before. Needless to say, it is very difficult to forgive other when this occurs. Right away, we feel a rush of emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, tension, embarrassment, pain, etc. We simply cannot find it within ourselves to forgive. And that's okay. We all need time to process our emotions. We need to think about what happened, how we are feeling, why we are feeling this way, and what we can do about it. Remember that it is NORMAL to feel angry, hurt, stressed, or tired because of circumstances, others' actions or words, etc.

After you've had time to process your emotions...can you find it within yourself to forgive others? What impact does forgiveness have on mental health? A study focussed on the relationship between stress, forgiveness, and mental health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/pubmed/25139892. The researchers administered a survey to participants on life events associated with stress and forgiveness. Then, they completed another survey on mental health. The results? Those who were able to forgive others had significantly better mental health. They experienced less stress, anxiety, and depression. They felt happier and calmer.

Why does this occur? The simple answer is that holding grudges never helps anyone  - neither yourself, nor the person who hurt or angered you. When we forgive, we feel a sense of relief. It doesn't mean that we are being 'weak' because we forgive; rather, forgiveness is a sign of strength. Forgiveness means that though someone else has hurt me, I am strong enough (and wise enough) to let it go. I have become hurt and angry, and that's normal. But I refuse to let that event stop me from enjoying a happy, healthy life. I refuse to hold a grudge and let this event haunt me, or interfere with my relationships with others. I will choose to forgive. And doing that helps us feel healthy. When we forgive, we can forget about how others may have hurt us, and we can focus on the present moment. We can focus on our goals and continue to make decisions that will help us lead happy, healthy, successful lives.

There is a part in the Bible when Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who continuously wrongs him. Jesus answers that we must forgive not only seven times (seven was the honoured number of that time), but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). Did Jesus mean to forgive 490 times, and then stop after that? No. Jesus meant to always forgive  - to set no limits on forgiveness. There is a well-known quote that says: when I forgive, I forget. And it's true. When we forgive, we can forget what wrong others have done to us. And we can move on with our lives. This is a wonderful, freeing feeling!

'Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, fighting, and harsh words. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.' (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

My Book is Getting BIG Reviews!

I'm so blessed to say that not only is my book selling well....now it is getting great reviews from some very influential people! See http://www.laurassoapbox.net/2014/10/unafraid-of-food-and-food-puns.html for one example!
 
Laura Collins is the founder of FEAST, an organization created to empower families to support loved ones and friends in overcoming an eating disorder. Laura has so kindly read my book and provided a generous and supportive review of it!

Mr. Brad Butt is a Member of Parliament. I was honoured to be able to meet with him a while ago in the summer to discuss eating disorders and how we can help the government of Canada support ED prevention and treatment. It was amazing to be able to sit with a government official to discuss how Canada can raise awareness about ED and mental health! What a way to use my journey and book to make a difference!

For all of you who have purchased and read my book, thank you so much. For those who haven't purchased a copy yet, you can odder one online and get it delivered right to your house! Please visit http://gsph.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=598 to get a copy and support my book,  myself, and the awareness of eating disorders and mental health! My book is helpful not only for those struggling with ED, but for anyone interested in reading about my personal experiences with anorexia (how I became sick when I was young, my journey in the ICU, and how I recovered afterwards). The book is also great for anyone who wants to learn more about ED or mental health in general - there are a lot of great tips and funny puns in there!

Lastly, thank you all for your support. Your care and love mean the world to me. I know I wouldn't have made it this far if it weren't for all of you. I am forever indebted to you all. And thank you, Lord, for giving me the courage and strength to recover, to share my story to the world, and to continue to advocate for others. It is amazing to see how our struggles truly do make us stronger and wiser.


"My grace is sufficient for you; My strength is made perfect in weakness" (1 Corinthians 12:9).






Sunday, 12 October 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all those in Canada (or anywhere else celebrating!), Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! This holiday allows us to all take the time to reflect on what we have and are thankful for. Of course, we really should do this everyday...but Thanksgiving is the one day that you should really take to count your blessings.
 
If I were to list all my blessings and what I'm thankful for, I would never be done! God is so good to us - He gives us so many blessings. One of these blessings is knowing that He loves us unconditionally. In honour of Thanksgiving, I have decided to list some things I am thankful for. I am also going to take this as an opportunity to let others know how thankful I am for having them in my life. Mom, Dad, and Nansy - I love you more than you can imagine. I am so blessed to have you three in my lifer. You never gave up on me, even in my worst days in the ICFU. To all my readers and friends, I am thankful for your love, kindness, encouragement, and support. I would never have come this far if it weren't for you all. And first and foremost, God, I am thankful for Your love and strength. I am thankful that You allowed me to experience struggling with ED, because this journey has made me who I am today. I thank the Lord for giving me the courage to openly speak about my experiences so that others can learn about ED and mental health.

Here are some more things I am thankful for...what is on YOUR Thanksgiving list? I am thankful for:
-life. Even though it gets challenging, I am thankful to be alive.
-my health. We all struggle with health issues, but it could always be worse. I am thankful for being able to breathe, eat, sleep, talk, see, walk, move, hear, write, etc.
-school and work. Life gets stressful, especially with work demands and assignments. But I am thankful for these, because my education allows me to interact with the world and to constantly use my brain to learn and teach others. I am thankful for work because it keeps me busy, allows me to use my talents and gifts, and provides money to pay the bills.
-my church and faith. I wouldn't be anywhere if it weren't for my faith, the Bible, and my church community. I am thankful to be a child of God.
-nature and the Earth. The Sun and stars are beautiful. Flowers make everything look pretty! Oceans show us God's power. The moon fills the sky at night. Animals are evidence of God's creation. Everything in nature reminds me of how much God loves us.
-challenges. Difficult as they may be, each new experience and struggle helps me grow and learn. I have become wiser and stronger because of every obstacle I have faced.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 107:1)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Watch My Latest Presentation: How God Works In Our Struggles

A few weeks ago, I was asked to do a presentation at a Hamilton church on my journey with anorexia, as well as how my faith strengthened me during this battle.

My struggle with ED has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. There were many nights when I lay on my bed, wanting to eat - but being unable to do so. There were days when I wanted to die because I didn't know how long I could endure the suffering. In the ICU, I was dying from organ failure because of ED. All this time, I questioned how this could possibly lead to something positive. How could God use this for the good? Why was God allowing this to happen to me?

And then one day in the ICU, I was awakened by the nurses, who told me that the breathing tube was coming out because I had regained the ability to breathe. The impossible - living after this near-death experience - had happened. I wasn't dead. I was alive! At home, I began eating and gaining weight, I started a blog. But it was still very hard, and I wond4ered why this had happened to me. Why all the pain and sadness? Why was I going through this?

Two years later, today, I have a successful blog and a published book. I am graduating with my nursing degree in a few months. I am at a healthy weight and am happy. My story has reached many and has helped others learn about mental and physical health, and eating disorders. Many, including myself, praise God for these miracles. Now I see why I struggled, why I almost died. Now I understand that God truly uses our experiences for the good. We don't always understand the reason for our pain. We struggle and don't see how God can use this for any good. But one day, we will. And then we will realize that God never left us...that His plans for us are good.

So, please take the time to watch my presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NWHRfBc9Y4. It is just over half an hour long, but I guarantee that you will enjoy it and learn something from it. I hope this talk encourages you to keep fighting, and to never give up faith in God. You may not always realize the reason for your struggles...and that's okay. But never lose trust that God has a great plan for you...and He will never leave you alone.
One day, you will look back at this struggle and experience and realize what it has taught you, how it has strengthened your faith or the faith of others, and how you have become a stronger and wiser person because of it.

 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fr. Anthony Needs Your Help!

To all my readers, family, and friends:

This is a message from Fr. Anthony Messeh, who is a famous blogger and priest, as many of you know. I have posted on his blog very often, and his posts are always refreshing and encouraging!
 
His message this time is one of need. There is a building of a church in Virginia that needs some funding by October 12. Please realize that I am in no way pushing nor am I begging for any money for this church. However, as a member of the church, I know that without the donations and support of others, we would not be here today. These churches do not only spread God's message - they also minister to the poor, sick, homeless, etc - even those who are not Orthodox. Here are links to a video and website about the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRQWz5eIl_0, and http://franthony.com/i-fr-anthony-need-your-help/. This website explains more about the project: http://onebrickarlington.com/

If you are able to donate an amount, no matter how small, please do so. If you are able to share the message and spread the world, please do so too.

And finally...thank you to everyone! Whether or not you directly donate to this cause, I am thankful for all the support and love you all show to me and others. If you are unable to donate, please consider praying a few prayers for the completion of this mission!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

EDs are NOT a Passion!

There was a recent article released by Western University that claims that anorexia nervosa, or eating disorders in general, should be called a 'passion'. According to the authors, a passion is something that one finds enjoyable, but can be destructive in excess. (See
http://www.exchangemagazine.com/morningpost/2014/week33/Thursday/14082209.htm for details).

Teen Mental Health Statistics [INFOGRAPHIC] | Paradigm MalibuNow, allow me to tell you what I think about this 'discovery'. EDs are mental illnesses. Some people think of ED as an addiction in that it becomes obsessive and difficult to stop or control. This I understand. My issue with defining ED as a passion is that a passion denotes something positive, something we love and strive to always follow. Now, EDs do become obsessive, and patients always strive to focus all energies and thoughts on the disorder. However, EDs are in no way, shape, or form enjoyable. ED is not something the patient loves. It is not fun, exciting, or life-enhancing. Calling ED a passion makes it seem that the patient enjoys the ED. But this isn't the case at all.

EDs are destructive. They are the number one killers among all psychiatric illnesses. They can cause severe organ damage, emotional pain, and other complications. Patients never choose to have eating disorders. But we can choose our passions. For example, I may find that I enjoy writing and am good at it. I make this my passion by constantly writing, looking for ways to improve my writing skills, etc. But no one ever chooses to have ED because it is fun or because they are 'good at restricting and losing weight'. There is a big difference between the two situations.

I also don't particularly like how the authors state that labelling ED as a passion will change the way we treat these serious illnesses. The authors say that thinking of EDs as a passion means that we see that patients can make decisions about the passion - the ED. But is this true? Not really. In most cases, the ED, as a mental illness, takes over the patient. The individual with ED is not able to make decisions on when to restrict food intake because it is not them in control, but the ED. The person with ED doesn't make a decision to binge, purge, or restrict. It is the ED. Likewise, the patient with ED cannot always make the decision to start eating and to recover. This takes time, and in many cases, treatment must start even when the patient doesn't fully accept or appreciate it. But if we called ED a passion, we would be saying that the person can make decisions on when to engage in the ED, when to stop, etc. And we know that this isn't true at all. We have seen time and time again that brain changes, along with hormonal and chemical influences, change the way a patient with ED thinks, acts, eats, etc. So really, the patient is under the control of the illness. It isn't a passion. It is an illness.

Why do we have to come up with different words to describe what an eating disorder is? Why cant society just accept that ED is a serious and deadly mental illness? Why do we need to bring in incorrect terminology and false ideas around this issue? It is enough to say that EDs are mental illnesses - and life-threatening disorders. This alone should be enough to make us understand that treatment, identification, and prevention need to start as soon as possible. Would you tell someone who smokes or drinks alcohol obsessively that they have a passion for smoking? No. Would you tell someone who has depression that they have a passion for feeling sad? No. So why is it alright to label ED as a passion? It isn't.

Perhaps instead of wasting research dollars, time, and effort on
finding new ways to label EDs, we should instead focus on why they occur, how we can prevent them, and the best ways to treat them. We should focus on how to support patients and their loved ones.
That kind of research and initiative is worthwhile. That's what will make a difference to the thousands of people living and battling eating disorders daily. Prevention, identification, and treatment. Not labelling. We all need to work together to make these changes - every little thing you say or do can make a big difference. Remember this quote on the image to the right - be kind. You never know what each person you meet is dealing with. Don't judge, don't blame, and don't stereotype.