Recovery & joy.

Hello everyone! I’ve not been able to write as frequently on here for the past few weeks, which makes me a bit sad. I love the WordPress community I’ve found here, and following along on everybody’s journeys and adventures. Currently I’m working on catching up on all the blogs I have missed reading, so I’ll get through them all eventually!

The past couple of weeks have been hectic and so, so busy, which is why blogging has taken a backseat, and become a little bit neglected. Hopefully in a week or two, things will settle down, and I can get back to rambling on here more often. I’ve been working all the time, as well as spending a lot of time with family and friends, and while both of which has been anxiety provoking, they have brought me so much joy. I am so thankful for the past few weeks, and all the wonderful people in these moments.

A massive highlight has been celebrating our first wedding anniversary!

We spent a weekend driving up and exploring the very tip-top of our group of islands here in New Zealand, a place called Te Rerenga Wairua, or Cape Reinga. It’s over 100km away from the nearest small town, a distance which makes the final destination even more special. Neither of us had been up that far before, and so it was magical to see it all for the first time together.

Right at the very top, the view is magnificent, surreal. There is a cute, little lighthouse, and you can see the waves coming in different directions, crashing against each other, marking where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. It looks like something out of a movie – too spectacular to exist in this life. The deepest, rich blues of the oceans, and the sheer, stark quiet of the place, was incredible.

We camped at a beach about 45 minutes away, at Spirit’s Bay, an isolated, gorgeous coast with a wild swash. About 10m from where we pitched our tent, there was a herd of around 20 horses, all carefree playing and grazing. We drank moscato, got a bit giggly, and reveled in our surroundings. It really was the most special place.

The next day, we explored the Te Paki giant sand dunes. It was nothing like I ever expected, or even could have imagined. It was like stepping into a whole, new land; a sand desert so different from all other landscapes here. The sand dunes are dynamic – ever-changing and shifting. We climbed up so many sand dunes, people were boogie-boarding down them and everything, and I can’t even explain how vast and brilliant the world felt from up there. It made us feel so small, in the best of ways.

This beautiful celebration that we were so blessed to have made me think about a lot of things.

About joy, about luck.

About the little things, which can be as meaningful as the big things too.

It made me think about recovery, and how thankful I am for it.

Without recovery, I doubt I would have been able to get married. I wouldn’t have been able to give all the time and energy that marriage deserves, because I would have been to preoccupied being trapped in the eating disorder. I wouldn’t have been able to wake up and eat cookies for breakfast outside our tent. I wouldn’t have been able to go swimming, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it up those crazy huge sand dunes. I wouldn’t have been able to have fun.

I wouldn’t have been able to live the journey, of our first year of marriage, let alone find joy within it.

Without recovery, from many other things as well as the eating disorder too, I doubt that I would still be here today.

Recovery is the hardest thing. But it is so, so worth it. I promise.

Keep fighting, my sweet friends.

P.S. Hope you like the photos! I’ve decided to try be brave, and start using our own photos instead of CC0 images. It might help to put a face to all these ramblings too.


Dermatillomania, bees, and buttercup.

Yesterday during a volunteering session at the local community garden, I had a really interesting experience.

We were clearing out a garden bed in order to create a bee-friendly space. A space with a diverse variety of flowering plants, to give the bees a healthy range of pollen sources. This first involved weeding out all the invasive, pest species, and then planting new flowering herbs which will hopefully grow big and strong.

Getting rid of all the buttercup plants first was a mighty task, as it had completely taken over with really deep, twisting roots. Although buttercup is flowering and therefore can be suitable for bees, it’s pest and weed type nature means that it smothers out all other, less intense plants, removing the natural diversity in both the vegetation and soil.

We used hook type tools, and Japanese weeding blades to clear the buttercup shoots and to dig up the roots, and in doing so, something really weird happened.

It’s really difficult to explain. In using the tools to dig deep into the soil, and remove out the knot of budding weeds which centred each buttercup plant, this mirrored exactly how it can feel to have dermatillomania.

Don’t worry if you are lost, even I’m quite confused about it all at this point.

The drive, the full concentration, and sole needing, of absolutely having to remove all the complex layers of root systems of each plant – is exactly how I feel having dermatillomania.

Except with my skin.

Macro Photography of Green Grass

Even thinking back to all the weeding we did, removing the plants in their entirety; it gives me a weird feeling. A feeling of needing to keep going, to make it all perfect, of it never being good enough. A feeling of absolutely having to, of there being nothing else I would want to do, or could do instead. That this is what I need to do, plain and simple. Making the soil pristine from all buttercup roots which could come back with a vengeance, and the appearance of the garden bed with far less imperfections – it’s all exactly the same as needing to clear and get rid of my skin.

As a small child, I remember sitting in the gravel driveway of my Uncle’s farm, using a stick to pick out small stones. This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, per say, as visiting the cows or hanging out with my cousins would have been far more fun, but it’s something I couldn’t resist. I had to, almost impulsively. It’s like I had no control. The satisfaction of removing each small piece of gravel was like some sort of buzz, keeping me going and going until my parents said it was time to drive home. The knowledge that what I was doing was incomplete and unfinished, bothered me greatly.

It’s not as though I’m particularly passionate about weeding, or removing small pieces of gravel for that matter. It’s more an “instinctive” feeling or drive, like something I just have to get done before all else. I took a while to get to sleep last night because my brain kept replaying over and over again how removing the weeds felt. And how that feels very weirdly exactly the same as removing anything I deem “wrong” with my skin. Which is quite often an awful lot, and sometimes apparently invisible to everyone else.

I don’t necessarily like or enjoy what I’m doing. I just have to do it, if that makes any sense.

All I can think about is how it feels removing the weeds, which is annoying because today there are lots of things I need to get done, and none of them involve obsessing about weeding buttercup. Honestly, if anybody else could see inside my brain, they would be absolutely baffled.

Seriously brain, what are you doing?

Hopefully this discovery, albeit strange, can help me channel some of the nuisance that is dermatillomania into helping the bees instead. Saving the bees is a way better cause than taking apart my skin any day.

All of this felt kind of uncomfortable to write, like saying it aloud. Does anybody else have experiences that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the brain, but feel strangely similar?

Finding anxiety in novel pages.

A few days ago, I was buzzing around the local library. I’m going to say buzzing, because browsing would be too serene, and wandering is what I wished I was capable of doing instead. My anxiety was taking my stomach on small leaps that day, causing me to flutter nervously around, haphazardly picking up random books before setting them down again, hoping nobody would notice.

Imagine! Somebody being aware of my existence in the library! How terrifying!

I noticed a book on one of the display shelves at the end of the rows, which had really intriguing cover illustrations. It is a collage of faces, and it drew me closer instantly.

The book was Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall, and I just got a good feeling from it. It’s weird, how intuition works. After briefly worrying about if it was right to take a book from a display shelf, or if that was a ‘bad’ thing to do, I decided to just get over it, and loan it out. It’s amazing how even a simple trip to the library can include a cascade of anxiety-driven, absolutely ridiculous thoughts.

And what can I say, aside from wow? I need to find better words, aside from wow, for this book.

I think what was worse than a nervous breakdown was the route on the way to it. Everything is scarier when you anticipate it, right? I bet real crazy-town is actually not so bad. Maybe a little bit freeing. Still, I was trying to avoid it with every bit of my anxious, cautious self, and avoiding anxiety only makes it worse. It lurks in your periphery, taunting you with every doubt and possibility you could ever dream up.

I didn’t pick the book based on anything apart from liking the cover. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing to do (note to self – please work on this whole “not being sure of yourself thing” – it’s annoying), but that’s how it happened, and the universe really surprised me.

One of the narrators in the book has panic disorder and OCD, as well as many intrusive thoughts, which naturally filtered her voice, and the way the reader experiences her story. Whittall’s descriptions of panic attacks and anxiety were incredibly accurate to my own experiences, it was kind of spooky. I felt as though the thoughts of the narrator experiencing these could have been mine, but far more coherent and understood.

It didn’t matter that I understood what was going on physiologically  in my body. My neural thermostat was fucked up. My body went into fight-or-flight response for no good reason. Blood rushed to my heart and legs, away from my fingers and face, causing my extremities to tingle. My stomach shut down, throat constricted. All these things are helpful when you’re faced with an oncoming bus. Need to lift a car to save a baby? Awesome. Sitting at dinner? Absolutely incapacitating.

As I quickly read through the book, it was a really enjoyable read, I became sure that Whittall must have experience with anxiety herself, to be able to write so accurately and elegantly about a topic that I imagine would be really difficult to write about otherwise. One quick Google later taught me all I needed to know, and gave me the gift of reading more of Whittall’s writing.

astronomy, clouds, dusk

Having a panic disorder means you’re way too alive, as if someone has turned up your volume button to deafening. Somewhere inside, the real you lies dormant, asleep for fear of having to live like an electric current, a lightning bolt, a bottle breaking into shards. I’m a jack-in-the-box that won’t stop jumping out, an uncontrollable, hiccuping heart.

I found a fabulous short article called Why “Crazy” People Make Great Writers that Zoe Whittall wrote for Open Book, a website celebrating Ontario’s literary scene. Honestly, the more I learn about Canada, the more in awe I am. I am so excited to hopefully travel there someday.

Both Whittall’s article and book are written with great wit, humour, alongside the harsh reality of living with mental illness. And that’s something I admire, an awful heck of a lot.

When you’re having a panic attack the one thing you’re certain of – besides your own death – is that the attack will never end. Even when it does stop, there’s always a sense that another one is on the horizon, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What are your favourite books that deal particularly well with mental health issues? I would love to have some recommendations.

Light beyond self harm – A guest post for Be Your Own Light.

The amazing Eleanor from Be Your Own Light invited me to write a guest post for her blog, and here it is (the link is just at the bottom too)! Thank-you, so incredibly much Eleanor, for the opportunity to be part of the important work you are doing. Her blog is a wonderful resource for all of us in the mental health community, and she writes with honesty, strength and frankness about her experiences. Definitely check it out!

(image: Dare to Live SOS) The author Kaitlyn blogs at . Trigger warning: talks about self harm behaviours (but not graphically), please be careful when reading. When you are curled within the cradling, spiked tentacles of self-harm – one wrapped around each wrist, and another brushing away any tears – those pesky alternatives of “holding […]

via Light Beyond Self Harm by Kaitlyn W at — Be Your Own Light: A Mental Health Recovery Blog

The pain of self-harm.

Here’s a thought; pain echoes.

Today’s topic is a sensitive one, and one that I believe is relatively under-discussed. There are different opinions surrouding it, and it can be an almost controversial topic. I’m just here to share my own, personal experience, and I welcome different viewpoints in the comments section. Today’s topic is also something that is very close and cuddly with my heart – self-harm has hurt me, and those close to me.

Lets start with this – the gut-wreching, heart-breaking, pain of self-harm. The physical pain of self-harm is central, obvious, and speaks for itself. However, the emotional pain of self-harm is often withheld it’s rightful voice, and is shadowed into the corner, where all the other elephants in the room as swept. The emotional turmoil of self-harm, both in the moment, and years into recovery, still breaks and burns. And not only for ourselves, the ones committing the act, but also in the hearts of those that care about us.

It’s an understatement to say that self-harm is tied, woefully strong, to our emotions. This could be in the way of how some believe they deserve the pain of self-harm as punishment, the later realisation of actually tearing your treasure of a body down, or the bundled feelings beneath, which self-harm releases. In all it’s ways, shapes and forms, self-harm is a heavy load to carry, and the burden of it can definitely trample the mind. In some instances, self-harm can be tethered and dragged by our emotions of impulsivity, and of wanting to feel something, when actually the mere wanting of self-harm is a feeling of pain in itself. 

Once the vicious cycle or addiction of self-harm is set in place, tearing ourselves away will release the floodgates to further emotional pain. The journey of reckoning and scuttling around “deserving” to be free of self-harm will bend your heartstrings until they snap. Furthermore, living life without self-harm can be incredibly painful at first. If self-harm is a blanket, a cover, a masked warrior to dealing with painful emotions, then ripping it off and having to feel everything that has been surpressed beneath physical pain, is a truly harrowing and difficult experience.

While the pain of self-harm is by every definition, substantial to the individual involved, this pain echoes. The pain we feel is also felt by those who care about us, even if some express it in a way that’s unexpected, or not as we initially understand. Imagine your dog or best friend is upset – you would feel upset that they are upset – and this is perfectly okay. It may not be their fault, that whatever has hurt them is causing them harm, but their pain still echoes regardless.

If you have somebody close to you that experiences self-harm, then you will be forced to understand – the pain they experience is not limited to themselves. It bounds, it leaps, it frenzies and weaves it’s way into the lives of others. Having somebody you care about engage in self-harm, is incredibly upsetting, and immensely awful. All the care and support you hold for them is seemingly not making a dent in the lows they are feeling. 

While self-harm is a battle that nobody wishes to fight, part of being a caring partner or friend is the responsibility of reducing the amount of pain that the other experiences. With self-harm, this is something we have at least a small amount of control over. Engaging in therapy or other professional help is a good place to start. Those that care about us cannot save us from self-harm, but they will continue to support, love, and feel the pain of it all, while we are in the progress of saving ourselves.

If self-harm is part of your life, I am sorry. It’s a truly awful and difficult experience. But you can, and you will, learn how to be free of it. It will become less painful, for both you and those close to you, with time. I promise.

Anxiety and radishes.

It was the day. My palms were all sweaty and my heart kept overexaggerating the noxious boom-de-boom sound. My legs felt like not-quite-ready jelly; watery and useless. My thoughts were racing, a mile a minute, about all the dire possibilities that would most definitely, certainly, absolutely happen. All of them. For sure.

Was I on my way to war, you might ask? Was I about to rob a bank? Or perhaps was I about to sacrifice myself to a wild tiger? Another solid guess.

Alas, no. But from the way anxiety was pounding “OHMYGOSH!” throughout my body, they would have been safe guesses.

Today was the day I had signed up to volunteer in the local community garden.

The horror! There is quite possibly nothing more terrifying! Than! Volunteering! At a garden!

I really hope how incredibly illogical it all is, is coming across well. Something that really annoys me about anxiety, aside from, well you know, the anxiety, is how it’s usually completely irrational, and over the top, and just plain batty.

My brain was moping on about how it was probably cancelled but I wouldn’t know, about how the organisers probably already hated me but felt bad so would let me come along anyway, and my personal favourite – that I would accidently kill a really rare native tree, and probably just Have To Die after that.

Anyway, I changed my mind about thirty-one times in the morning, to go or not to go? I so badly wanted to; to help make a difference, and also to prove to myself that I could. Eventually I made a deal with myself that I just had to walk there. I wouldn’t expect anything more. There are many volunteering opportunities each week, so missing one would not be the end of the world. But it would make the next attempt much more difficult.

My go-to list included practising mindfulness, triple checking I had taken my medication, autogenic training, calling anxiety out, and doing Wise Mind. Something right must have clicked, because instead of ending in an usual episode of panic attacks and self-harm, I managed to just be. With the physical symptoms of anxiety throttling, yes, but that’s what they remained as. As symptoms; not all that I became.

After much faffing about, I somehow made it to where I was supposed to be. And somehow, I went in! And did it! We helped to tend to the food forest, and set about readying the garden for the next season. And it was fantastic! I learnt so much, had a great time gardening (it was very theraputic and grounding), and ultimately got to show anxiety whose boss.

Heck yes!

All this crazy anxiety, it’s also ridiculous because it’s so self-centred! It tells me that everything bad is going to happen, to me specifically, and that I am in the centre of every social situation, making an absolute fool of myself, of course. And logically, none of this is true! I am just a person, exactly like everybody else, and I am entirely insignificant in the big scheme of things. And the anxiety is even more so. I was there to help the trees, for goodness sake! Anxiety; please stop making everything about you. You are boring and a dweeb.

Everybody has their own doubts and fears and dreams, and these may play all too loudly and demandingly in their heads too. Ultimately, we are each so small, and that doesn’t mean we aren’t important, but more that everything that seems like it’s too much, is actually survivable. We can keep going, and we are bigger and brighter in different ways than anxiety tells us we are.

I just wanted to share this little piece to say – you can do it! You can do hard things! I believe in you all. You are so much stronger than anxiety’s voice.

What helps me to feel alive.

A big part of my mental illnesses (I’m looking at you in particular self-harm, don’t think you can escape my knowing stare) is the need to feel something, literally anything at all. The overwhelming sense of blankness, or a void of all feelings, would become unbearable, that I would want to do just anything to break out of it. I craved to cry, to be angry, to experience elated joy. Anything, but the sense of blank indifference. This would normally manifest into impulse behaviour, where usually I would self-harm or starve myself, and very rarely would take prescription drugs in a way that wasn’t prescribed.

It became clear with recovery that I would need to learn some new, healthier ways of feeling something, especially when the need to be impulsive was such a big part of the emptiness I was feeling. The ways that I write about below all help by engaging my senses, which is something that depression and anxiety tend to make me hide and isolate away from. Maybe the best way to feel something, when nothingness is all there is, is to physically feel. Talking, seeing, hearing, touching. After being able to physical feel, or interact with something. mentally feeling something becomes a bit easier. I don’t know if any of this makes sense, so I’m just going to head straight into what helps me to feel alive, in the hope that it may reach somebody else who needs it.

art, concept, dark

Swimming. Being underwater is something I have written about before, and I’m sorry if it’s getting a bit old now, but I cannot stress how much the ocean helps me. Submerging my full body, brimming with doubts and fears and everything I don’t like about myself, hushes it all down. The muted sound of the water swaying around you, feeling how the tide moves you; it is so beautiful. Peace melts into my brain, and I slowly feel more content. For an added bonus, I recommend cold water. Feel how the water grips you; the sharpness and temporary pain of the temperature while your body adjusts.

Talking honestly. This is something that is widely proclaimed, but can be so difficult to do. The weight being lifted off once you have spoken is immensely wonderful, even if the your words were hard to say. Talk about how you are feeling, or get something that you have been avoiding off your chest. Sometimes it’s only afterwards that we can truly feel how encompassing and stifling holding back how we feel, really is.

Going up a mountain. My husband and I are lucky to live in a region with heaps of dormant and extinct volcanoes, and walking up them, especially at night, truly is something else. The view of the ocean, night sky and city lights from the top is really good for making me feel how insignificant I am, but in a good way. I feel small, surrounded by ethereal beauty. It reminds me that everything is going to be okay.

Playing on a playground. This one can be a bit tricky, because you have to find a time where you will be free from the stares of confused children, and not be seen as hogging the swings. But playgrounds, yes, why on earth are playgrounds not be for adults too? They can be so much fun! Go down the slide and feel the wind rush past you, or make a little course and race someone to the finish. Let yourself be silly, and go with the flow for a bit.

This is my little, but still growing, list of what helps me to feel something; to feel alive. What works for you? I would love to hear your stories.


Sometimes recovery looks like misshaped pancakes.

When most people cook pancakes, they end up looking like the masterpiece baby of Betty Crocker and the sun. All golden brown, perfectly circular, stacked like a spring.

Are those pancakes even real?

This morning, I took it upon myself to get out of this little funk hanging above my head. A fiesty, fun-sized personal raincloud thumping along over the past few days. There’s nothing in particular wrong per say, I just feel flat like a pancake. It is also important to note that I don’t feel like a pretty pancake, but more like one that didn’t make the first cut, let alone the final cut, for being frumpy, pale and misshaped.

This wee storm brewing in my brain only happens occasionally nowadays. Thanks to therapy and medication, I’m only graced with the boring and dull, relentless hold of depression rather irregularly now.

“Let’s not sleep at night, but during the day instead!”

“There is literally no point in doing, well, anything.”

“Hmm, I’ve been thinking, and it would probably be wise if you just killed yourself already.”

Depression is a very polite, weirdly formal creature to me. Anxiety is the more aggressive, rowdy type. Depression is the guy who sits in the corner of the nightclub and refuses to dance, while anxiety is the guy who loses his s*#t in the middle of the dancefloor, and gets dragged out by the bouncer.

Yeah, I can assure you, I’m totally all together right now. 

Anyway, by the time we got to the nicely put, suicidal requests, I was So Very Over feeling depressed. Not that anyone is really into it, I’d imagine, but depression truly bores me. So today, was going to be a day. Not just the word “day” but a day of doing, of being.

I decided to make pancakes.

Before you get a lovely image in your head, let me break it to you. They were from a bottle, and ended up kind of a spongey, pastey yellow. Nevertheless, they were pancakes, and although they weren’t picture perfect, they were alright, and that was good enough for us.

So we ate our lumpy pancakes, and I told depression to shut up, and we cleaned the house and got on with our day.

And today, today was just a day. And sometimes in recovery you have days where you just have to keep going. It’s not sunshine and rainbows, but rather blobby pancakes and scrubbing the kitchen floor. These days, they are good, because despite the nasty, groaning bellows of being useless, and suicide, and everything else that I’m completely and utterly over with, I can keep on going. 

These days always do pass.

These are the days where recovery is made.

Clearing the cobwebs.

Last weekend, my husband and I set out to do something I had been avoiding for a long time. And I mean quite a while. Ever since I moved out of home about two years, I have procrastinated this task with cunning stealth. It makes me feel ashamed.

It has just occurred to me that many of these little pieces of my life that I share on this blog are about me avoiding something. Maybe this realisation is the universe giving me a little hint – “stop running.”

And so last weekend, I tried to stop running away from things that have to be dealt with. Running away from things that are painful. Perhaps the very fleeing, and the avoidance, are more painful that just facing it all head on.

But I don’t know. All I know is that it hurt, but at least it’s done. It’s not hanging over me in the same way anymore.

My parents, very kindly, were storing some boxes of things from my adolescence in their garage, while we sorted our housing out. They are incredible people. I have felt so guiltly for taking up some of their space, with useless things that I was avoiding going through.

I also do need to put it out there, that my procrastination of this task is not solely because of what it all meant. It’s also because the mere idea of sorting through things is something that I just generally, can’t stand. You know how everyone has that one household task they just cannot deal with? I’m happy to do dishes, vacuuming and laundry, but give me a box to sort through, and suddenly there are a billion other mundane tasks I will be doing instead.

So, we tackled the handful of boxes, and all that was inside. Most of the things we got rid of or donated, and all of those were easy to go through. We could laugh and reminisce over what was inside. 

Then we got to the stuff that was heavy. It was all tied to the illnesses that grew out of the past. I threw away my old, hidden set of scales. We got to the beautiful notes and art my friends made me during my dark time at school. We eventually reached around ten of my journals, documenting a period of about six years.

Writing upon these hundreds of pages, at the time, was nothing special. I realise now that I tended to write very matter of factly about what I was experiencing. Each page was littered with self-harm, weights, calories, exercise, suicidal thoughts, anxiety. Darkness seeped from journal to journal. At the time, it felt like it was no big deal, because this was my everyday. Life was used to being this way.

I couldn’t read most of them. I flipped through a couple, quickly, before realising that my parent’s garage on a beautiful summer’s day, probably wasn’t the right place or time. My husband suggested we put them in the recycle box. That seemed healthy; forgiving. But I couldn’t.

So now, they rest in a much smaller box, at the top of our wardrobe, along with a few other things we are bringing into adulthood with us. I don’t know why I am keeping them. They will not help me in my recovery. They only serve as triggering reminds, taunting me to read them and rejoin.

Recently, I have gotten rid of all my clothes that only fit a sick body. Photos that do not serve me are now out of reach. These small reminders are no longer part of my life. But my journals? I don’t know why, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away. I have to find a way to keep on going onwards and upwards, despite what they hold.

Reclaiming summer.

It’s no secret that I love summer. I adore the constant hum of cicadas, and all the beautiful fruits that are in season. From November to February, I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be, than at the beach.

For some reason, summer makes me feel strong. Perhaps it’s the perpetual warmth, which can reach even the innermost depths of the darkness inside me. Or perhaps it’s that my skin is busy, producing enough vitamin D in the sunlight to keep me afloat. Either way, it’s strange that I should feel strong in summer, when summer is the season that has been the hardest for me.

The ebbs and flows of my eating disorder used to often peak in the summertime; coming out to bask in the warmth while my authentic self would be forced into hiding. The lack the routine of school, or in early university days, classes, would wreak havoc on my depression, anxiety, and intensity of self-harm. Without the structure of academia, I would usually crumble more so than at other times, falling into the full grasp of these illnesses.

Therefore, it would make sense to have been conditioned to dislike summer, at least to some extent. I have many years of negative memories from during summer, some from many years ago, and others from quite recently. Many of these I don’t feel ready to talk about yet, because I haven’t worked through them enough to be comfortable to share. It’s weird how most of what has influenced my mental illnesses has happened during the summer. Life is funny like that.

In some ways, summer frightens me; the pain of the past is still all too real and daunting. However, in other ways, I am reminded of my love for summer. I love the smell of the ocean. We love taking our dog to the beach, and watching her run through the sand, but quickly dance away from the water’s edge. I love exploring the coastline with friends, and my memories of camping with them every summer holidays during school are some of my dearest.

adventure, back view, beach

Maybe this is why summer is so special to me, despite it being a season of not very nice things to think back on. Despite it all, summer, essentially, has made me strong. My summer battles have largely helped to craft me into who I am today. I didn’t choose them, but recovery is teaching me to fight back, and if nothing else, I am learning how to be strong from it all.

Therefore, this year I am reclaiming summer, for all that makes it so brilliant. On its own, there is nothing essentially bad about summer. Summer is warmth and light; golden yellows and cool blues. Summer is not what has happened during this time. Summer is instead what we make it, and who we become through the strength it has given us.

At the end of last year, I wrote about how it was one of my goals to wear a bikini at the beach. This would be an act of defiance, a great big scream at the lingering remains of the eating disorder, and at everything else up in the brain that chips in to tell me I’m not good enough, that I’m awful, and that I shouldn’t be alive.

And last week, I did it. I wore a bikini. We went swimming. It was so scary at first, but we had an absolutely magical time. Summer is for swimming, and I am learning that I am allowed to have fun. I am also learning that I can say nasty things right back to the silly lies inside my head. A few days later, I did it again. And this weekend, we are planning to go to a beach waterfall, and guess what? The bikini is coming along. What’s neat is that I’m learning that wearing a bikini to the beach isn’t a big deal. Like at all. People don’t care, and my human body is entirely insignificant in the big scheme of things. And I love that. My brain makes my body out to be such a nightmarish horror, when in reality, it really doesn’t matter. At all. The end.

Reclaiming summer has also being happening in other ways too. Although I vowed to avoid New Year’s Eve like the plague since a few years ago (if you would like to read my little ramble about that, you can do so here), this year my beautiful husband wouldn’t stand by and let it pass. He was determined that I would be able to enjoy myself, and work on reclaiming New Year’s Eve too. So he invited around a couple of our dearest, closest friends, and we had so much fun. I was an anxious mess leading up to the day, but by nighttime, laughing more than I have in a long time, I trusted that everything was going to be okay. Seriously, it was the best New Year’s Eve of my life. I am so thankful for him, for pushing me to strive for brighter and better, when I cannot do it for myself.

This year, I am reclaiming summer. It has been spectacular so far. Thank-you, summer, for the warmth you bring.