Opening Up

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11898592_1000951529957051_7626290742355010347_nAyanna Bates is from New York City. She is aspires to be a Clinical Psychologist so she can help others who are suffering with mental illnesses. She advocates for Mental Health by passionately using social media to educate and inspire people, encourage hope in those who are suffering, and help break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Recovery is, being honest. Being honest with your friends and family. Being honest with your treatment team. Being honest with your therapist. But most importantly, being honest with yourself.

This journey requires you to look deep inside of yourself. You may unravel, spiral backwards, leap forwards, fall head first, and stumble back up. This journey requires you to, open up.

Opening up; allowing yourself to be vulnerable, make mistakes, forgive yourself, and try again. Yes, this reality can be frustrating and heart wrenching, but also bright and welcoming.

Recovery is freedom, second and fourth chances, an undeniable love for yourself. You have the power to soar and opening up will allow you to do just that. Let others in, accept the helping hand, surround yourself with positivity and possibilities because you are worth recovery.

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Islam and Eating Disorders in the Muslim World

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For over fifteen years of my life I’ve suffered from the Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. I have had relapses, but keep on rising up with a belief that the Eating Disorder is an illness that can be defeated. I run a blog and offer support to anyone and everyone who needs support to defeat the demon of Eating Disorder. This blog specifically  creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, and offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones. My campaign started from home in Surrey, UK and has now spread to countries across the world. I’m grateful for this illness because it has given me life from a different perspective, it has helped me to gain in-depth understanding of mental illness and it has connected me to beautiful souls from various faiths, cultures and backgrounds across the world.

War Against Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan. Please visit: https://waragainsteatingdisorder.com

*Please note that my experience of my illness and my recovery is only that my-own. I share all of this because I know that what I went through is not confined to just me, it relates to others as well*

I have been asked lots of questions on the negative voice of the demon of Eating Disorder. So many of us struggle with this voice in our head and its evilness. How did I recover from this menacing voice, how did I shut out its evil whispers?

I spent many years living under the slavery of this voice. Yes, I prayed, but with an absent mind. There was no concentration in my prayers and my mind was always so tired. At times I felt too tired and would perform my prayers sitting down and sometimes lying down. Anorexia robs you off your physical and mental strength.

My first step to recovery was NHS outpatient therapy in UK. Despite an excellent therapist and a brilliant psychiatrist, I wasn’t getting better. I was then sent to an Eating Disorder Unit. Even after reaching a certain body weight, my mind was still stuck in its disordered phase. Physically I looked fine, but my mental health was another story in itself. (Like many people with anorexia, I never wanted to go to an Eating Disorder unit).

After discharging myself from the unit, I went back to London to do some voluntary work. It was a difficult time. I spent whole days staring at the computer screen with a blank mind trying to shut out the negative whispers of the demon of Eating Disorder. Other times I studied lunch menus and planned elaborate lunches.  At a low weight, your mind can switch from being rational to irrational but with the weight gain, rational mind becomes slightly stronger and it’s more aware of your thoughts and self-destructive behaviours. It was this coherent spurt of rationality that made me embark on a journey of seeking help for my disordered mind.

I never talked about the negative voice to anyone, even in therapy I never acknowledged or admitted that I had so many thoughts going through my mind. I always gave an illusion that I was perfect and in perfect control of my emotions and my life.

So, I started looking for something, any Islamic place that would help me to defeat this voice in my head. I tried other methods of recovery as well; I went to Chinese Herbalists, Buddhist group, relaxation classes, yoga, to no avail. I considered going to Yemen, to Damascus, to a remote village in Pakistan, to Egypt, anyplace that would provide relief from the negative Eating Disorder voice in my head.

In 2012, I came across the Sufi School of Teaching on internet. I contacted my local group and told them of my interest in joining a group for meditation.

Me and the Sufi School of Teaching

The road to eating disorder recovery starts with admitting you have a problem. I acknowledged that my mind was troubled and that my thoughts were irrational. In recovery therapists and psychiatrists emphasize changing your brain through positive thoughts, affirmations and behaviours. I wanted to influence my mind with positive thoughts. I wanted to recreate my connection with God and mostly I wanted to silence the negative voice in my mind and fill my heart with the praises of Allah.

At the Sufi school of Teaching, my first practice was to do silent meditation for 45 minutes every morning and evening. The art of meditation in Sufi school is the art of being with yourself, connecting with your heart to connect with Almighty. The meditation is also a way for an individual to realise that they are not in full control of their life but God is.

The Art of Silent Meditation

You allow the thoughts to flow through your mind. There were many days when I found the practices very difficult. Our actions can never be divorced from the state of mind from which they spring. This is the basic idea behind meditation. As long as our actions are based upon the needs to satisfy the demon of Eating Disorder they will in the long term reinforce the very feelings of discontent we are trying to avoid and will keep us stuck in the horrible world of negative living. My Eating Disorder mind, which was my subconscious mind, was 80% of my whole mind and I hated those negative thoughts with sheer vengeance.

I used to think, what happens if I stop, if I take time out from doing anything other than serving the needs of the demon of Eating Disorder? I was petrified of making that discovery and then I learned that:

Miracles happen, your mind changes, and you become aware of yourself.

One evening I was meditating and all of a sudden negative menacing voice was there, telling me that I was worthless.

And to this day I will never forget  how I responded to that voice in my head, “No! I am not worthless!  Allah made me, He made me special, He never creates anything that is worthless, Allah mentions me in the Holy Qur’an, I am special, so go away”.

That was it! From that day, every time a thought crossed my mind, anything that was negative, I would talk back. I became increasingly aware of myself, my mind and my thoughts. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I realised that I was changing, my appearance was changing, my thinking was changing, there was a glimmer of life in my eyes and my mind was becoming free. Through the practices, meditation, Dhikr, and Durood my mind slowly changed and I realized the greatness and grandeur of Almighty Allah . Contentment surrounds your heart and your heart becomes engaged in singing praises of its beloved Almighty Allah. This positive change enabled me to build up a strong emotional positive attitude to life and those around me.

I began to have the strength to stand up for myself and tell people what I believed in. To this day people are shocked by my strength. When a wedding proposal came for me, I told the family about my illness and the phases I went through. In a culture where mental illness is seen as a taboo topic, my blunt honesty cost me a lot. I didn’t get married and it upset many people and alienated me further.

I am a living proof of a person who has spent all her life under the slavery of Eating Disorder and prevails. Fifteen years of Eating Disorder suffering is a lot, but all I know is I’m strong, by God I have so much strength. I hate all kinds of Eating Disorders, because all Eating Disorders are dangerous and can kill.

P.S.:  We all are different. Our experiences are different. Recovery means different things to different people. Some people recover with the outpatient therapy, some recover in the inpatient settings and some recover at home. Some people recover with the help of spirituality, and some with the help of other coping tools. But for some recovery is a long arduous journey full of trials and tribulations. Please seek help for your Eating Disorder. Embark on a journey that you feel is best for you. A journey to recovery is a unique one, it’s a journey of self-discovery and ultimate happiness. How many of us are provided with this ample opportunity to rediscover ourselves in this world? Not many, I believe.

Five Things I Wish My Wife Knew

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This week’s Feature Friday is written by Joseph R., who writes from a husband’s perspective. Joseph is a psychologist, snowboarder, animal lover, and skateboard enthusiast. More importantly, he is a supporter of his wife and best friend, and an advocate for all those affected by eating disorders.

Five Things I Wish My Wife Knew

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Having a spouse in recovery from an eating disorder makes things slightly different from other relationships. Loving someone who has struggled with this type of issue requires some sensitivity, carefully chosen words, and attention to what is not said. Now I admit that I am the furthest thing from the perfect husband. I have made mistakes and said insensitive things. I’ve become fed up with the monster we call ED from time to time and lost my patience. I’ve become annoyed during the reoccurring debacle that used to happen when we had to choose a restaurant to eat at, or the struggle of setting time limits at the gym for her. Sometimes it could (and can still) feel like walking on eggshells. I have found that I often need to remind myself that these feelings are real to her, even if they don’t make sense to me. The experience of having an eating disorder is completely foreign to me, but it shouldn’t stop me from striving to understand and help in any way that I can. I think this probably goes for most people in relationships with those who have struggled with an eating disorder. We don’t mean to be insensitive. We don’t understand. But we want to. So be patient with us too, ok?

 

Most of us husbands/boyfriends have probably thought about all of the things on this list, and wished, as I often do, that their significant others would simply believe what we know so clearly to be true. These are things that I think about often since I have a wife who is in recovery. In fact I will speak for all husbands and boyfriends when I say we wish you knew…

 

  1. You are absolutely beautiful. This sounds generic, and I am sure most spouses say this at some point but it is true and it is probably one of the most important things I can say. Why? Because she spent such a long time telling herself just the opposite. I think I say it a lot but it can really never be said enough. I wish she knew that when I am feeling down, I bring to mind an image of her gorgeous smile, and it always makes me feel better.

 

  1. But you are so much more than your body. So I would be a liar if I said her looks weren’t what first caught my attention. But after I developed that initial attraction, it was everything else that kept me coming back! It’s like the first time I went to Chipotle. The initial cool factor about designing my own burrito is what made me want to go in the restaurant. But the food (i.e what is inside the burrito!) is what kept me coming back time and time again. She is smart, I mean for real smart. I know I would not have been able to get through graduate school without my wife. She is also caring, and not to mention fiercely passionate She keeps me on my toes and the spontaneity is part of what makes my life worth living. Finally, she is super weird- a quirky little oddball that I absolutely adore. These quirks are part of what make life interesting and fun for me!

 

  1. You are brave. I think it is fair to say that everyone has his or her struggles or their form of demons. But someone who has a history of an eating disorder has had to battle those demons at least 3 times a day, possibly more. I cannot understand what it must be like to have an “ED voice,” but I know it takes true courage to have to stand up to that monster. I applaud her courage today and every day.

 

  1. You are a warrior. Yes she had courage to face her struggles, change her behaviors, and do the hard work of recovery early on. But she has also turned herself around and become one of the fiercest warriors in the true sense of the word. Through effective war strategies, and yes it can be a war, she has become successful and gotten her life back. Gotten even more back, I mean she got me after all (Just kidding). But in all seriousness, by being a warrior and continuing to be one, she is now able to advocate for other sufferers and help people heal. To me, that is the mark of a truly beautiful soul, and more admirable than someone who has never experienced adversity.

 

  1. I feel when you feel. I don’t know if she knows this, but when she is upset, I am upset. No one likes to see his or her spouse upset. But it’s more than that. If she is having a bad day, it pains me. I want to do anything within my power to help. Sometimes I can’t and that’s painful too. To know that I can’t take away the hurt left behind from this terrible disorder. If ED were a person, I would literally fight him to the death. I may not win, but I would do everything in my power to take him out.

 

I definitely don’t say these things enough but I think them all the time. Again I will speak for all the husbands/boyfriends/significant others (well all supportive ones at least) of those in recovery or struggling with an eating disorder-we are in your corner! No we don’t “get it” get it, but we are here to help in anyway possible, and even though we make mistakes, we wont give up if you don’t.

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Feature Friday!

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Todays Feature Friday is Casey Chon, Prohect HEAL’s Twitter Manager!

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Feature Friday!

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Another Feature Friday to kick off the weekend!

Cassandra Peterson

 

 

Feature Friday!

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Happy Friday to you, our beautiful readers, and welcome to another edition of FEATURE FRIDAY!

This weeks guest is Brianna Utz, Founder and Social Media Manager of the Southern Minnesota Project HEAL Chapter.

 

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Meet Michelle Casey, From Our Rutgers Chapter, In This Weeks Feature Friday!

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Meet our Northern Virginia Chapter Founder

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