Archive for the ‘Self-Esteem/Growth’ Category

negative thoughts and behavioursOften we post lots of information about ‘positive’ signs and skills. After all part of recovery is learning to focus on the positive. But what about the negative, how do you recognise negative coping skills. How do you know that the behaviours you are doing are actually harming you or not promoting recovery. We live inside our heads so much that often negative process are so natural as breathing we think this is normal. Continuing negative behaviours can act as triggers for relapse or harming ourselves even more.

As part of a bigger post, I found a great list of negative behaviours and recognising them as such. Put together by Blake Flannery it is an excellent starting point. You can add your own unique negative behaviours to the list. The full article by Blake ‘List of Coping Skills for Anger, Anxiety and Depression’, also gives a lot of positive skills and how they actually help us by adopting them.

Being aware is the starting point for changing any behaviour.

Negative Coping Skills

Here’s a list of things that will cost you in the long run as coping strategies. These do more harm than good in most cases and can make life more stressful.


  1. Procrastination
  2. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  3. Wasting time on unimportant tasks
  4. Shopping (online or malls)

Interpersonal (With Others)

  1. Blaming
  2. Isolating/withdrawing
  3. Mean or hostile joking
  4. Gossiping
  5. Criticizing others
  6. Manipulating others
  7. Refusing help from others
  8. Lying to others
  9. Sabotaging plans
  10. Being late to appointments
  11. Provoking violence from others
  12. Enabling others to take advantage of you

Cognitive (of the Mind)

  1. Denying any problem
  2. Stubbornness/inflexibility
  3. All or nothing/black or white thinking
  4. Catastrophizing
  5. Overgeneralizing

Tension Releasers

  1. Tantrums
  2. Throwing things at people
  3. Hitting people
  4. Yelling at others
  5. Destroying property
  6. Speeding or driving recklessly


  1. Suicide
  2. Self harm
  3. Developing illnesses


  1. Making fun of yourself
  2. Self-sabotaging behaviors
  3. Blaming yourself


  1. Spending too much
  2. Gambling
  3. Eating/drinking too much
  4. Setting dangerous fires
  5. Continually crying

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Many therapists use the term ‘Distraction Toolbox’ for recovery strategies. I have written before out this too and what Sophie used as her distraction toolbox. Basically the idea is to use healthy and positive means of taking the attention from eating, or ED thoughts, negativity etc that drag you down into ED behaviour or worse, relapse. Learning to block ED thoughts and behaviours, automatic thoughts, anxieties, fears, black/white thinking is critical to recovery and moving forward.

The below is a visual idea that makes it clear and easy to imprint your mind. Sophie’s biggest problem was trying to remember her tools to use when the ED voice was really loud. She would get distressed and her mind would go blank. So visual for her worked in clearing some of the ‘noise’ and helped her focus.

Thanks to Buzznet and ‘Forbidden’ Blog.

Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 1
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 2
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 3
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 4
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 5
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 6
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 7
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 8
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 9

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(… or reflections on our anorexia journey)

The uni break went so quick. One minute she is home, next minute gone. lol, well almost. She went back earlier, so excited for the new unit, then realised she was back way too early and desperately homesick this time. She came back home, instead of toughing it out. She said she had a much better chance of not falling into depression or anxiety by coming back home. As always I observe everything she says and does. Sophie’s maturity surprises me to the level she has achieved (within a mere several months), her insight and empathy (so apparently missing) is finally blossoming. Doesn’t mean she was always calm and not hysterical at times, but a definite switch. Before she went back, the aspie side of Sophie was all organised. Doctor appointments made, counselling appt made, new referral appt with ED specialist made, classes sorted, disability needs sorted. She just ploughed through it all. This is the plus side of having aspergers.

The new ED specialist is more of a counsellor but has the insight and understanding of what having an eating disorder in your past means for you presently and how you relate and cope with life. Whilst Sophie has to travel to this centre, I am pleased she has taken this on board as an extra coping and learning tool.

It is also time to start weaning her anti-depressant medication. Five years is a long time to be on the medication, and now is the time to slowly (painfully slowly) wean her off and see how she responds.

For me it’s been a time of great reflection. 5.5 years into this, 5 years from diagnosis, 3.5 years from full weight stabilisation, 1-1.5 years with no anorexia behaviour or thoughts. It’s been an amazing ride, that only those who have been here know how crazy, mixed up, painful, the intense highs and the intense lows. Moving from small picture, every moment, every day stuff to big picture stuff that encompasses months. Being part of a new parent support group too, has been part of this reflection. I have had to think back to the very beginning, remember things I thought I had put away forever. It’s actually been a painful journey for me, but it has honed my thoughts and beliefs about eating disorders and taught me to be far more articulate and to advocate on a higher level.

Thought I would put together a summary – seems a timely thing really.

our anorexia journey

Biggest Mistake
* under estimating how long, painful and soul destroying this journey is
* feeling guilty that I had somehow caused this

Biggest Misunderstanding
* that we could get through this in a couple of months – not years

Biggest Regret
* not demanding more from the health system around us or challenging the wrong beliefs at the time

Biggest Fear
* wondering if at times I could continue to care for her
* her dying before we could turn this around into recovery

Biggest Lesson
* how quickly you go from health to critical and in a hospital bed
* how you can never never negotiate with an eating disorder
* your child is totally separate to the eating disorder behaviour
* comorbid illness are a part of eating disorders and make the struggle to recover harder and can become a part of life afterwards

Biggest Myth
* you don’t have to be skeletal to have anorexia
* relapse is a valid and normal part of recovery not something dangerous, fearful or not normal
* tube feeding is not a shame or psychological issue. Not now. Older women struggle with this and parents have their own hangups about this. The reality is very different for those in their teens who are tubed fed.

Biggest Support
* those I met going through this journey who were travelling it too
* having an amazing, strong, recovery focused team of five professionals

Biggest Surprise
* the inner eating disorder voice in my daughter’s mind. Like getting to know the devil himself.

Biggest Problem
* health professionals who still do not know how to diagnose or treat eating disorders
* the lack of resources (both money and treatment) for parents and sufferers to access to get treatment and recover.
* the different approach, government understanding and health systems in each country that actually hamper treatment when the illness itself is the same regardless of country.

What I did Right
* early detection, early intervention
* standing with her despite the horrors of the illness and behaviour and walking with her to recovery

What Benefits Did We Gain
* obviously my daughter’s life and health but also gaining a deep, close and open relationship with my daughter
* gaining some wonderful new friends who truly understood and still stand by us
* an intimate and highly experienced understanding and knowledge of eating disorders that we can share with others

What Did We Lose
* the years my daughter cannot get back of her normal growing up time with her peers
* friends

Before Anorexia
* my daughter was anxious, highly strung, a perfectionist, a misunderstood kid with her peers
* I thought I had a plan mapped out for some kind of normal existence like every other family raising teenage kids
* I thought I was already a strong mum because of domestic violence.

After Anorexia
* my daughter knows herself so well compared to other kids her age. Whilst this is a plus it is also a negative, as she struggles to find a close friend
* I learned I am stronger than I thought, I learned a deeper side of me, and I learned the dreams I had no longer ‘do it for me’. I search deeper.
* I am still finding who I am now, I no longer want the same dreams. I still struggle to find my way around a kitchen after so many years tied to anorexia cooking and preparation.

The Blog Role
* ended up being far more than I ever thought, and gained me so much privilege to talk to others on all levels in this journey. Thank you!

What would I do Differently
This is very personal. It would be to leave our dysfunctional family domestic violent life instead of waiting til further into recovery. I had planned to leave just before my daughter started down the slippery slope. I thought (wrongly) that staying might have been better for her health. It would have given full FBT a better chance and a safe environment that had no anger, expectations, eggshells etc in it.

Family Based Therapy
That eating disorder recovery is NOT a one-size fits all. Despite the best statistics, FBT (Maudsley, FEAST, FBT types) don’t always work for some families. This is not a point to be guilty about or feel like you have failed. It just is. Means you just go and find what does work for your family and how to care. As long as there is forward progress into recovery then you are going great with whatever you are doing.

Families are not to blame
I will keep saying this shouting it from everywhere. Eating disorders are genetic based. Families do not cause eating disorder and are not to blame for an ED developing.

My faith took a pounding, became far more realistic and more honest. Like David I adore but I will question and ask.

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This wonderful post offers a deeper side of distraction. When your list is working for you, when maybe you are further along and its time to dig a bit deeper in the emotions and mind. I love the part of breaking things down into small manageable pieces and dealing with emotions in bite sized chunks. It helps you not be overwhelmed by it all, solving small pieces and gradually stringing them all together.


From: http://susanschulherr.com/eating_disorder_recovery_blog/2009/09/coping-beyond-distraction-expanding-skills-for-living-in-eating-disorder-recovery/

Most of you are working on learning better ways to handle distress than turning to your eating disorder. This is an excellent project! Your success with it will go far to help you build a solid recovery.

Many people—with or without eating disorders—turn first to distraction as a way to manage difficult feelings. By distraction I mean diverting your focus from the upsetting thing to something unrelated, to get your mind off the upset. You’ve probably figured out that your eating disorder has been an unhealthy version of distraction. But maybe you’ve also found that listening to music, gardening, going to the movies or laughing with a friend can be healthy distractions.

I personally like distraction as a coping mechanism. I wouldn’t want to face life without it as an option. I find it can be a helpful choice when:

• I need to quiet down so I can consider a problem or upset more calmly and clearly
• I’ve worn out the usefulness of thinking about a problem for the time being
• There’s nothing I can do about a problem or upset

Several potential drawbacks go hand–in–hand with using even healthy distractions to cope, however. Most of these have to do with misuse or overuse.

The most common misuse of distraction comes from confusing it with an actual solution. Distraction at its best is only intended to provide a temporary resting place when you need a break from focusing on resolving your distress. When your distress is too intense or you’ve focused too long, a break is a good idea. Bur when you use distraction as a substitute for working out a problem or coming to terms with distress, you run into trouble. It’s the “ostrich with its head in the sand.” You not only fail to resolve anything, you build a reputation with yourself as someone who can’t handle difficult experiences. The next time something hard comes up, you haven’t developed any confidence in yourself. So you’ll be more likely to turn to distraction as a substitute. It’s a vicious cycle.

Overuse of distraction is likely to occur when you don’t have sufficient alternatives for coping with your distress. When you turn to another focus, you don’t come back. You may tend to get lost in your distraction activities. You start to play video games, surf the net or read a novel and suddenly the whole day is gone. Many addictive activities start out in exactly this way.

There are two coping challenges for which you need more and better coping tools than distraction. The first is problem solving. The second is managing difficult emotions.
Let’s consider some alternatives to distraction for times when either challenge is threatening to overwhelm you.

Problem Solving

Everybody runs into problems that seem overwhelming from the start or bog us down and frustrate us as we try to find resolution. You might try one or more of the following techniques which successful problem solvers use to see themselves through to the end:

• “Talking yourself through” confusion, uncertainty and frustration; for example, offering yourself reassurance or a steadying voice: You can do this or You’ll be okay or Just stay with it.

• Reminding yourself of times when you successfully handled other difficulties that at first seemed overwhelming

• Breaking the problem down into small, more manageable pieces

• Asking for help

Managing Difficult Emotions

There are many approaches to managing difficult emotions. All of them have something to offer as you work on developing this basic life skill. The important thing is that you find approaches that suit you—and that you use them! Here are a few examples:

• Dealing with only small doses of feelings at any given time

• Thinking of soothing, comforting responses

• Imagining yourself in a peaceful place or with a comforting person while you feel the feelings

• Learning to sort out and correct distorted thoughts that are making you feel even worse, such as Nothing ever goes my way; I’m such a loser; Nobody will ever love me, and so forth
• Engaging in mindfulness meditation in which you learn to observe your feelings rather than be totally in them

• Praying (if this fits with your beliefs)

• Walking, exercising or practicing yoga while experiencing the feelings

• Sharing your feelings with people who are sympathetic and calming

Remember that none of these techniques is likely to provide instant relief. But your effectiveness in using them will get better with practice. And as you get better, you’ll have more confidence in yourself. You’ll be able and willing to take on more in life.

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It’s been a really busy couple of weeks. I am part of a group called International Eating Disorders Action, and I have been talking with The Butterfly Foundation for changes to some of their content. It’s critical that people in the ‘industry’ of eating disorder education, hope and treatment get their information right. I have also been asked to be a part of the committee for NSW Service Plan for Eating Disorders. This scares me a bit as I don’t have a degree and don’t feel I have the health qualifications needed. I am hoping they will hear what I have to say and treat it with respect.

On top of that I was asked to write an inspirational post for the blog “Beautifully Broken“. That got me thinking. What’s inspirational? Is what was inspiration to me or us, the same for others? What’s the point of the story – you fully recovered, you achieved what exactly? We love inspirational stories – feel good, warm, fuzzy, got a success to it. The social media world will either love you or hate you, depending upon the vibe of the day and click rate.

A lot of media only want the click bait inspiration too. They want the low weight, the NG tube feed, the hair failing out, pictures of before and after. That’s not inspirational, that’s sensational. It not only doesn’t tell the real story behind, it only makes it today’s news and nothing to hold onto.

Do I cite the way I watched my daughter fall back into relapse and then painfully picked herself back up again (and again, and again …) and continued toward recovery? Do I write about the way her support team was constant, unchanging and had endless patience with her? What about how she is fully recovered? How her inner true person fought to be heard above the anorexia voice and won. My daughter or her story is not something to hold up to inspire others. It can bring hope but the reality of holding it up as inspirational, places burden on both the giver and the receiver. Don’t get caught up in another’s story.

Sometimes what is encouraging to us, just pushes someone else’s buttons. I have lost count of the times I have seen Jenny Schaefer hate posts, simply because the person is so stuck or sick with ED they cannot see any light ahead. What about if Sophie crashes back into relapse and really struggles, how is that ‘inspiring’ after just writing how inspiring it is she is fully recovered. What if you don’t have a great team to support you? If your alone, your mum doesn’t take notice and medical services are too far away and too expensive. How inspiring is your story if no one can relate or finds that what you experienced is ‘so not’ the reality for them.

Inspiration shouldn’t come from only outside of yourself. It needs to also come from within. What inspires you to take the next step, for you, by you. Not because someone else did it. Inspiring yourself means building bridges and digging yourself out when times are tough and you keep desperately struggling. The personal inner journey is what can strengthen and build you more than someone else’s journey. Many find the exploration of their spiritual life the inspiration and strength here. Recovery is about exploring all of yourself in all areas for growth, maturity and to strengthen yourself again relapse.

So what is my inspirational piece. Just this:

  • Recover for yourself, not for someone else.
  • Your story/journey is the most important not someone else’s.
  • To never, ever give up hope nor feel that recovery is not something you can achieve.
  • Recovery is personal to each person in their own way and ability.
  • Don’t compare yourself with anyone else.
  • Find inspiration in all places that you can relate to.
  • Surround yourself with people who support your recovery.
  • Find role models if need be, but remember you are not them.
  • Inspiration is not all good, happy thoughts – it can be painful, letting go thoughts. Learn to leave false guilt behind.


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Up front, there is no preventing an eating disorder, nor can you give someone or yourself an eating disorder. It is genetic based and then a complex list of high risk characteristics, culture and environment that may or may not help the genetic tendency. Evidenced-based research has not been begun or done enough to show an eating disorder can be prevented by loving your body and having a good self-esteem. Eating disorders are a mental health illness and like all the other mental health illnesses are genetically based, and education is not going to stop you developing one.

There are lots of words buzzing around at the moment that are used in different ways, different meanings and evoke an emotional response from many. Preventative is one of these words. It’s the buzz word for the Body Image, Self-esteem, Healthy Diet industry which has touched down into eating disorder territory. Taken on a responsible level, some websites and organisations don’t say that good body image and self-esteem will prevent an eating disorder but its worth talking about. Taken though from some others, who only want ‘media click rate’ or sensationalised reporting, they do say that prevention is possible and achievable and only report one viewpoint.

Using the word preventative has responsibility attached to it. You have to have evidence to back up what you say. You have to not give false hope and misleading information. You can have no definite in an area which has so far proven to have none.

When someone uses the word preventative attached to their own personal meaning, then the listener can take offence as the meaning of preventative does not match their personal understanding of the word preventative.

The word preventative has 3 contexts in regards to eating disorders.

Preventative 1. Preventative measures in regard to body, mind and health taken to stop an eating disorder ever developing. It stems from the ideal we can educate ourselves out of developing an eating disorder. Mainly aimed at youth and the self-hate body talk, body image, diet and lack of self-esteem in our young people. Some are so strong on this, it becomes their main/only message and has strong language that makes it sound this type of prevention will work. Others get in on the new media buzz word and pay a level of homage to body image. Its about getting in on the band wagon. There is after all money to be made for some of these organisations. Others take a more reputable approach and mix this new preventative message as a ‘maybe’ but make sure the real truth of eating disorders is in their information.

Preventative 2. Preventative intrusion to stop relapse in early recovery. This is an approach taken by pro-active treatment teams to hopefully head off a nose-dive into relapse in early to mid recovery. It might take the form of admission into hospital or treatment centre, it might be a change in medication or more doctor/dietitian visits. It’s aim is to try and stop the impact of starvation on the body and mind, hopefully stopping further or more damage. It also aims to continue therapy recovery not to go back to medical recovery.

Preventative 3. Preventative life behaviours to stop an eating disorder returning. Those who have fully recovered have written and talked about how stress, life changes, traumas, tragedies, lack of self-care can suddenly put them back on an eating disorder behaviour pattern. Some find being always aware of their body and mind health can have a lot of benefits in preventing an eating disorder creeping back into their lives.

One word but 3 meanings depending upon whether you are before, during or after the eating disorder. Perhaps the industry-standard usage of the word preventative might need looking at. Maybe a better word to describe what we are all trying to do, a word that suits each as a separate area.

We grasp for hope. That is human. If there is a chance that preventing a person from a bad body image and loving their God given body shape, might stop an eating disorder from developing we will follow it. The illness is so tragic and destructive, those who have suffered or cared for or watched someone with an eating disorder, will try anything to stop it happening. In a world where there is no cure or magic pill for stopping or treating an eating disorder, of course we are going to explore other areas. Research tends to catch up with the social and cultural buzz. There will be research done. Having said that sometimes research gets it wrong too. Look how many research outcomes have been turned around in recent times. We need to be careful not to rely too heavily on one industry area alone.

As parents/carers/advocates we need to be discerning in all we read. Take note of where the article comes from, learn the respected names in research, what internet sites are objective and truth related, make sure we read every side so we can weigh up for ourselves how to help our loved one. Don’t take someone’s strident view, or just the fact they wrote a book or blog, started a company or their name seems famous. None of these gives any of us the authority to say we are right. My view of genetic based development didn’t come from just reading authoritative ED sites and research. They were honed and refined through reading personal blogs, stories, articles, and our own anorexia journey. I read the false hope, flakey edge stuff. I am thankful it was there. It helped and made me discerning and far more wise. It gave me the fuller and wider picture.

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This come courtesy from Weightless. It is good advice all round – regardless of what illness or pain we have in the household and how to cherish each other and our relationships.

Be someone's safe placeListen to your loved one without judging or criticizing them.

Listen without fiddling with your phone.

Listen without interrupting.

Be curious. Don’t jump to conclusions, and assume you know what they’re going to say or why they feel the way they feel. Ask open-ended questions.

Don’t bash others’ bodies or your own in front of your loved ones.

Don’t make negative comments about their body.

Don’t make comments about the calories in their food or how much they’re eating (e.g., “Wow, you can really put ‘em away!” “Are you sure you want that second helping?”)

Avoid saying “You’ve lost weight! You look great!” We never know why someone might’ve lost weight. They might’ve been terribly sick or stressed out. They might’ve just stopped a restrictive diet. They might have an unhealthy relationship with food. In other words, we just never know. It also makes people wonder, “did I look bad before?” Either way, it can be potentially upsetting or triggering for someone.

Respect their boundaries. Let them decline invitations they’re not interested in. Give them the space to say no to extra commitments. If they’re not ready to reveal what’s bothering them, try to respect that, too.

Hug them.

Hold their hand.

Tell them you love them.

Tell them why you love them.

If you feel comfortable, be vulnerable with them.

Keep their secrets secret.

If you find yourself getting angry, take a break. Take a breather. No one feels safe opening up to someone who’s boiling over and yelling.

Validate their feelings. Let them feel what they’re feeling. They’re not wrong, weak or selfish for having those feelings. Again, get curious.

Why are you feeling this way? What happened? Help me understand how you’re feeling.

Ask how you can help: What can I do for you? How can I help you with this? What do you need? Ask this regularly.

Ask them directly about safety and self-care: How do you feel safe? How can I help you to feel safe? To take kinder care of yourself? To feel the way you’d like to feel?

Of course, we may try our best to create a safe space for our loved ones, and we may mess up, because, well, we’re human. These are just suggestions and reminders that we can do many things to help others feel safe, too. When we inevitably make a mistake, we can be honest, we can apologize, and we can keep trying.

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