Posted in Be The Change

I’m not scared of dying…I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

I am a strong, authentic woman who really does make an effort every day to show up congruently with courage and vulnerability.  And most of the time I believe that I am doing a pretty good job in that department.  I place personal development high on my list of priorities, as it makes me a better woman, partner, friend, coach, businesswoman and leader.  And yet there are just some things that are difficult to deal with…this week was one of those times.

Since getting sober, I also started to get well.  This means taking care of my physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellness.  So as part of this I take myself off for the advised annual check ups.  The stuff that we all dread, and sometimes because of that we slip into some sort of denial and postpone and delay.  However, I do believe in the marvels of modern medicine and have had a couple of health scares in the past so I make the appointments and hold myself accountable for my own (physical) health.  Alright, it takes me a bit of persuasion to get to the gym regularly…

My last few mammogram experiences have been a little scary, because of the last three before this one there were growths and I had to undergo an FNA (fine needle aspiration) on two occasions.  And erring on the side of caution my doctor recommended that it’s better to know rather than not.  And both times the results were benign and on we went.  This year when I went back, there had been a bit of growth in the lumps and the doctor suggested that I undergo the FNA once again.

The words lumps, too much vascular activity, growth and lab testing immediately creates all sorts of fear.  No matter which way I tried to look at it I was scared.  When I arrived the following day the doctor called me into his consulting room.  For me being called into someone’s office creates all sorts of anxiety and has since I was a young child.  The strange thing is that I have never really been in trouble with any sort of authority figure over the years.  Even seeing the metro police stopping drivers on the side of a highway makes me double check whether I have my seat belt on and glance at my license disk.

So in my pink hospital gown, he informed me that they were going to perform a core biopsy because he was concerned about the growths and wanted a definitive answer on whether there was a problem.  I like to think that I can sense people’s general energy and I was pretty sure I was feeling something verging on genuine worry.  I’m not going to go into details about the procedure other than to say the medical staff were loving, kind and supportive throughout.  Okay, my brain was not happy about what was happening, but 5mg of Valium and I was back on track.

The thing about any sort of investigative procedure is that the tissue samples (in this case) need to go to the pathology lab and that means waiting.  And that’s the worst part of it all.  Monday to Wednesday this week were horrendously emotional.  I vacillated between overwhelming fear and enormous strength.  There were moments when I was already dead at the hand of some aggressive form of breast cancer and others when I was quite logical and present and exploring what my next steps might be if the tumours were in fact malignant as I was medically advised they might be.

There were times when I felt as though there was no way anything of this kind was going to be my story and others when I felt emotionally hopeless and unable to control the tears.  I know how to bring myself into a present, grounded state of being…it’s all part of my personal work.  And yet there were hours over the week where I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, unable to breathe or think.

The truth is I have always been scared of death and it’s something I really don’t like to think about at all.  So when faced with a situation like this which brings mortality front and centre, I am confronted with my single greatest fear.  I get it – we all die.  But if I got one wish I am clear that I would ask to live for 1,000 years.  I reckon by that time I would have done and seen everything I want to.  It’s not adult or reasonable, but hey.  There’s a Woody Allen quote that has stuck with me since I heard it in high school, “I’m not scared of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

So it’s not the thought of being sick or weak that bothers me, it’s just that thought that after that there is nothing.  And while all these thoughts are careening around in my head, I have already made up the end of the story for everyone I love.  How they move on without me and get on with their lives.  This is of course exactly what I want from my tribe if I am not around, yet I feel immense sadness that it could happen.  I’ve made my partner promise to honour my life in that case by getting on with his, and the thought of this makes me cry just thinking about it.  So this was my week, with all sorts of waves of sadness, fear, anger and anxiety.  Interspersed with moments of calm where I am so focused on wellness and strength that there is nothing that is going to get me.  No matter what the outcome.

I don’t really sleep; I can’t really eat (that’s an extremely rare thing for me); I don’t want to be alone; I cannot focus on work!

I am a not a person who sees the worst-case scenario normally, but as you can hear this was not one of these instances.

And after a few calls back and forth with the doctor’s assistant, I get the call to say that although I do have tumours in my breast and they have frightening, impossible-to-say names, they are in fact benign.  And that was the second time in my life I nearly fainted.  The relief that ran through my body and mind was intense.  I cannot explain how uncertainty is my biggest trigger other than to say there is nothing that puts me more into my flight-fight-freeze state than not knowing.  This is where my personal work is…

I need to be present and grounded in my life to achieve the things I want to achieve.  I need to be mindful and responsive if I want to get the most out of my personal and professional space.  So I work towards a quiet mindfulness and presence in my life, and when I am not able to achieve that then I do take the opportunity to learn from the experience.

So, today I am so grateful that I am healthy and that I am able to move forward.  I am grateful for the people in my life that have loved and supported me this week.  Times like this remind me of how loved I am and how many wonderful people I have in my life.  This is a time for me to refocus and move forward in a present and mindful way, remembering to pause and breathe when life gives me challenges to learn and grow from.

authentic

 

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

What’s on the guilt-free menu tonight!?

This is a re-post from the website Alex Campbell Transformation where I wrote this post as part of the series on my personal transformation.

I have been following a flexible dieting approach to my diet for about 18 months and it’s never going to change!  After years and years of battling with food, self-esteem issues because of my weight and constantly losing and regaining weight, I have found my magic bullet.  And it is anything but that in reality…it’s really about the consistency with which I have applied it.

I have checked into My Fitness Pal every day for 585 days in a row and probably tracked for 580 of those days.  Yup, there has been the occasional day when I haven’t recorded the minutia of my daily intake and I am totally relaxed about that.  Unlike people may think I am not obsessed with my food tracking, it is simply something that I do to keep me from overeating and slipping back into my old habits when it comes to my diet.

This DOES NOT mean that I have been on a diet for 585 days.  After losing about 30 kgs over the course of about a year I decided to carry on tracking my food in order to keep  myself accountable when it comes to how much I eat.  The reason being that even at a much lower bodyweight I really do still want to eat…A LOT!  I feel like I am always hungry and in order to not go back to my starting weight of 101kgs,  I use calorie counting as a way of being accountable to myself and yet giving myself some semblance of freedom in which to nourish my body.

At the moment I am wanting to lose a few kilograms and because of that I am going to be focusing on a deficit intake of 1,600 calories/day, probably with one or two days at 2,000 calories.  I have an event in November that I want to look kick ass for, but since January I have eaten more at my maintenance calories than I have at a deficit.  So just because I am tracking my calories and macros doesn’t mean that I am dieting.  I LOVE food and we eat lots of it.  And the the upside of calorie counting is that the eating I do is GUILT-FREE eating.  Something which I NEVER imagined could ever be possible, especially in this lifetime.

I adhere to the idea that 80% of the food that I eat is nutrient-dense; whole food with lots of salads, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and lean meats.  I have made really good friends with the trusty potato (who I feel has been given a very bad wrap over the years) and love all sorts of food which I would previously have seen as bad and not to be put into my body.  I eat homemade pizza on a regular basis because all the ingredients are weighed and measured and I can control the calories by knowing what’s going onto my plate and into my mouth!

Because the majority of the food that I eat is whole food, cooked in my very own kitchen, there is space for some of the other stuff so many people consider to be bad and unhealthy.  How can the bliss that a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a few fruit pastilles be considered bad for me!?  I mean if I count it as part of my daily intake and don’t overdo it, whats the harm!?  Of course I am not eating 2,000 calories worth of high-calorie, low-nutrient food, but I am giving myself the space to enjoy it here and there rather than NEVER being allowed to consider the dessert menu.

Spending years on deprivation diets and not being allowed to eat so may things was much worse for me.  This “absolutely-not-allowed-under-any-circumstances” approach to food and certain food groups led to a really nasty food addiction and a tendency to regain all the weight that I had lost the minute I was off the latest diet that I had been on.  Not one professional I worked with ever got me to look at my relationship with myself and the way that I used food, and I was too deep in the denial to believe that food was in any way masking my unease with who I was.  It really wasn’t about how healthy or unhealthy the food choice was, but rather the emotions and reasons behind the eating that were toxic for my body and my mind.

Working with a coach who really got me to understand what food is all about was revolutionary to me.  Food is not evil!  Carbs are not the devil!  Chocolate is not bad for me!  Burgers don’t need to be on the banned list!  What I did need to learn was that it’s a complex interplay between myself and the world around me.  It’s not about eating the chocolate brownie as much as it’s about why I am eating the chocolate brownie.  I have learned to nourish my body through the food that we buy, cook and eat.  I no longer punish myself by depriving myself of bad food and pushing unwanted, but oh-so-healthy food down my throat.  Who in their right mind actually enjoys rubbery egg-white omelettes and endless lunched of steamed chicken and broccoli!?

I don’t cry about the boring food I am forced to eat when I am dieting anymore!  I do give a lot of thought to what to eat and how to best prepare our food in a way that doesn’t turn it into a calorie bomb.  I guess some people may consider calorie counting for so many days a little excessive, but for the first time since I was 13 I am able to enjoy food and not live in fear of the supermarket, kitchen and dinner table.  More than that I am able to eat out and not feel the need to choose the healthy option off the menu, because I understand that going slightly over on my calories on the odd occasion really isn’t the end of the world.  I guess I have cultivated a growth mindset of abundance when it comes to food.  Rather than depriving myself at every turn to stay at my “ideal” weight I have come to understand that one big, un-tracked meal in a restaurant or a friend’s dinner party is not going to be the nutritional undoing of me.

So I approach food with a far more joyful attitude these days.  I don’t dread eating out or going away for a few days, because I know that tomorrow is another day and that means I can tighten my eating plan and calories up a little if needed and not let things get out of hand.  That was my problem over so many years – the idea that I was either “on or off my diet”.  Being on a diet meant feeling deprived, miserable and pissed off.  While the opposite was to eat whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it, and still feeling miserable and pissed off with myself because of my lack of self-control and -discipline. Now I am far more responsible towards myself and approach food and meals from a present and grounded place.  I’d say I am responsive towards food rather than reactive.

I am not angry about what I should or shouldn’t eat.  If I really want to eat that delicious piece of cheesecake at the end of the meal (or instead of the meal), it’s my choice and I don’t feel like my choices are being forced onto me.  If I have a day when I eat too much then I simply balance it out with a day of lower caloric intake.  I never spend time and effort chastising myself for something  that I ate, especially since I probably really enjoyed it.  What’s the point!?  I know how to eat now and I know how to do it in a way that is sustainable and works for me.  Like I said the magic bullet…of consistency!

I’m not saying my way is the right way or the only way.  What I do know was that understanding what food is about has help me immensely in losing weight and keeping it off.  The minute I tell myself no, I seem to rebel against myself and go to the extreme.  So by giving myself choice and variety when it comes to food I am so much happier.  I have learned to respond so much better than ever before.  And it’s not just about food, but a lot of other areas where I used to be so much more reactive and self-defeating.  It’s a much healthier place for me to be than the place where I am constantly telling myself don’t, can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t!

This place is more about me checking in with myself and finding out if it’s what I really want and need.  It’s about knowing and trusting that I have the skills and the tools to take care of myself.  It’s about being comfortable with colouring outside the lines when it comes to my eating and knowing that I won’t bounce back into my size 42 jeans in a weekend if I stay conscious and aware .

imagesI am writing this from a B&B in Calrens where I am spending a couple of days and I have enjoyed the delicious food that the little town in the Free State has to offer without worrying about whether or not I should be eating this or that.  It’s so freeing after years of feeling bad about eating the dessert or having a second cappuccino for the day.  I feel like I am getting to fully experience life without the crazy ideas I carried around about myself and food.  I am happier, healthier, stronger and more balanced than ever and that’s because of how I feel about myself and how I treat my body with kindness, love and allow myself to have a little fun when it comes to the food I eat.  So tonight I am going to enjoy my dinner and when I get back to Johannesburg tomorrow I’ll decide what needs to be done moving forward to the weekend.  I’m thinking before I start my deficit there’s going to be at least one pizza meal and maybe a piece of cheesecake at my favourite little bistro in Norwood.

 

Posted in Be The Change

Cross my heart! Hope to die? Stick a needle in my anxiety!?

I’ve been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember…and it sucks!! I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, incorporated the tools into my life, and the list goes on. I understand anxiety and I can talk about it in all sorts of different ways and yet when I wake up on one of “those mornings” almost nothing I know, understand or have learned equips me to deal with the feeling. As my eyes open I feel the steely grip of it around my stomach and the mechanical wings of robotic butterflies hammering against my chest. The thing is there isn’t always a reason as to why I should wake up to greet the day with the slightly acidic taste of vomit in the back of my throat, but hey, there it is!!

And no matter how I think or try to ground myself I am like a trigger-ball just waiting to snap at something and spiral into the depths of despair for no other reason than I am awake and the world is out to get me! Logical – No! Real – Yes! I have done the work around my disorder and have a plethora of tools and methodologies to use when it strikes, but when it’s a really bad attack nothing that I seem to know is enough to get me back into a space where I am able to tap into the wisdom, logic and executive thought processes of my prefrontal cortex – the part of my brain where all the good stuff happens. I know what it feels like to “flip my lid” as Daniel Siegel explains and go into that part of the brain where I am being held captive by my amygdala in a state of fight, flight or freeze. I have the “mindsight” to see what’s going on and yet my brain goes into runaway-train mode and I feel like a helpless heroine from a 1920’s train robbery silent movie.

And over the years it’s got better with all the personal work and learning I have done, consciously and consistently incorporating practices into my life to keep me present, grounded and tapped into pre-frontal part of the brain where I am thinking like a rational and reasonable human, and not reacting like an impala under attack by a pride of lions. And still there are days when the the world closes in around me and I am slave to the neurological processes of my ever-complicated grey matter!

What I am not trying to do here is excuse the fact that I become irrational, unreasonable and completely over-emotional in these times. The period between these attacks has got longer with the more practices and tools I use, but still it happens. And in these times not only am I freaked out and impossible, but I have a severely negative impact on the people around me. I become needy and seek affirmation and assurance from anyone within a twenty metre radius, but don’t necessarily believe the words that I hear. It’s really just a nasty emotional quagmire to be in!

And yet I never stop looking for ways to calm my brain and psyche, and develop new behaviour that is supportive of me being in a present, grounded space in my life. Among other things I exercise regularly, follow a healthy sleep and recovery regimen, eat a very balanced and nutritious diet, abstain from alcohol, narcotics and nicotine, journal, do plenty of personal spiritual, emotional and mental work, and follow a number of intellectual pursuits of a personal and professional nature. I am fully aware of my triggers and have a strong system, structure and scheduling process in my life. So it’s not like I am not aware of what needs to be done. The purpose of all of this is to support my well-being and personal recovery, and to ensure that my anxiety is under control on an ongoing basis, and yet I still get struck by the horrible debilitating disorder periodically!

Well, that was until fairly recently…let’s call it a month! And then I was introduced to the wonders of Acudetox otherwise known as sticking needles into one’s ears!? A method of using acupressure points in the ear to detoxify the body and enhance well-being. The reason I was interested to begin with was to help me wean off my prescription of Wellbutrin which could possibly have run its course and actually be adding to the anxiety, although there is no definitive evidence of this and confusing wording like “research suggests…”. On the morning of my first treatment I was having one of “those days” crippled by insecurity and my special brand of crazy thinking. When I get like this it’s like being an astronaut whose become disconnected from the spacecraft, floating around in the ether without any communication or oxygen, and knowing where I need to get to, but being unable to do so. I’m flailing in mid air, fighting the zero-gravity effect and feeling helpless!

So I arrived in a tearful and panicked state. All I really want in these times is to be able to pause and get back into a state of presence and calm, where I can reason, rationalise and respond to my life. I shared the space with my partner who is severely impacted when I am trapped in the anxiety spiral, and the practitioner quietly put the needles into my ears and then left me to sit for 45 minutes. I could feel the anxiety slipping out of my body as the minutes ticked by. To be honest merely being able to sit still when I am so anxious was a feat in itself, but something was happening. I could feel my prefrontal cortex coming back online so to speak and the irrational thoughts and fears ebbing away.

When the time was up and she had removed the needles I still felt the residual effects of my morning – it’s like an emotional hangover when I have a really bad bout. And although the rest of the day I still felt raw and uneasy, the following morning I woke up in a completely different space and time. There was nothing in my stomach or my chest…just a wonderfully peaceful empty feeling. And it was in that waking that I realised that even when I am not in full-blown attack mode, I actually live with the feelings of being anxious on a daily basis…it’s just my normal. Over the past fours weeks my world has changed considerably.

Although I have fleeting feelings of anxiety, my days are far more centred and manageable, and I have been having weekly sessions with the Acu-Angel.  I have been more present, grounded and calm than I have been in ages, even with a chaotic job and a lot of pressure in my life. I am dealing with my triggers more effectively and handling my stress in a far healthier way, and all has been well. Until through unforeseen circumstances I missed my last appointment and along with a special set of stressful circumstances, I had a day!! A horrible, dysfunctional day where nothing I did would keep my in the space of being a responsive, thoughtful woman. And it was in that day when I undid so much of the good I’d done in the previous weeks, I realised just how powerful the treatment I have been receiving is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anything works in isolation. I don’t think that taking meds and sitting on the couch is going to create mental health and well-being, or that going to the gym will get me a great body if I don’t do anything else. I am sure that a combination of practices, habits and behaviour is what is needed to be in a state of holistic wellness. But wow! With all the work I have done over the years, I feel as though acudetox is the thread that pulls it all together. Because while I can be cerebral about my life and what needs to be done, it feels now as though there is something chemical and physical that the needles are taking care of. I don’t know enough to be able to fully explain it, but the feeling of aliveness, energy, well-being, peace and presence I have experienced over the past month or so is nothing short of miraculous for me!

Of course I will continue to use the sessions along with my practices and processes, but the combination is returning all sorts of incredible dividends. My days are calmer and more focused, my sense of self is more realistic and loving, my personal relationship is stronger and happier (as is my partner), and there is a new level of clarity and responsiveness in my professional space. So although I did have an atrocious day on Saturday, and there is some damage control to be done, I am relieved that if I continue with my treatment, these days will eventually be nothing more than a memory as I move into an exciting new chapter in my personal and professional life, free of the shackles that have held me back for what really feels like forever…

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We offer acudetox sessions at The Foundation Clinic, Oaklands with registered practitioner Kim Margolius every Thursday morning.

For more information about rates and to book a session, please contact Leigh-Anne on (010)900-3131 or email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Be The Change

I didn’t say it would be easy…I said it would be worth it!

I love the work that I do (most of the time) and feel blessed to be able to work in a space where I get to support people in their personal processes.  In this process I get to be part of a my clients’ awakening as they move forward in their lives, but these connections sometimes come at a price.  As someone who works in substance abuse and mental health industry I am constantly giving of myself to others in the work that I do.  I show up as authentically as possible as often as possible and try and bring myself as courageously as I can in service of my clients.

But this doesn’t always work in my favour and there are times that the parts of my life I use in the learning are used against me by clients who are in a different parts of their journey.  And that is part of what I do…it doesn’t always go well and sometimes it’s just downright awful, but that’s the nature of the work that I do.  I have chosen to be in this world where I am sometimes open to anger, vitriol and projection.  I’ve done my personal work and I know when I have to stand back and just let the work happen without me.  It’s difficult to quiet my inner critic in these situations and allow the process to unfold, but it’s essential for my sanity and well-being.

At the moment I am in one of these situations.  Not only has there been a difficult situation in my work space, but I have also had an exceptionally stressful few months.  So I have had to put myself first and step away from my professional life.  On the one hand it is exactly what I need to do, but on the other hand it’s been a really bitter pill to swallow.  I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically and socially and for this process to happen I need to be in a safe, loving space.  One of my biggest challenges in life is to practice self-love and right now I have no other choice but to do this.  I am having to show up authentically and courageously for myself for the time-being rather than the clients and patients that are such a high value for me.

So what s unfolding in my life at the moment is a real integration of the teaching and facilitation work that I do at the clinic.  I am having to put down some very strong boundaries at the moment in order to protect my recovery and wellness.  Working in the addiction space means that conflict, crisis and chaos rule and it can be hard to find balance and perspective when I am entrenched in the environment.  In order to build up my personal recovery capital I have to put myself into a mindset where I am practising humility about what I can and cannot achieve both personally and professionally at the moment.

The humility to embrace that I really am just human and that I cannot expect myself to always be able to show up in the messiness of the work that I do without taking time and making space for my own work, healing, fulfillment and goals.  Perhaps I also need to have the “mindsight” to remember that I have already battled a lot of my personal demons and that some of them still lurk in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce into my life, especially when I am feeling drained and burned out.  The one thing I do know is that no matter what happens in my world I am living firmly within the universal principles of honesty, integrity and willingness to see when I need to focus on what I can control in any given situation, and what is complete outside of my control.  And that’s very hard for an “eight”.

I have never claimed to be perfect, I know that I make mistakes and I am aware of where I need to work in my various personal and professional roles.  My growth and development is ongoing and something that I consciously work on daily, weekly, monthly and further into the future.  Most of the goals, plans and actions I focus on are of the relational nature; with myself, the important people in my life, my clients, and the larger world around me.  Sometimes I get these interactions right and sometimes they don’t work out so well, but I am constantly striving to improve the way I connect with myself and the world.

Like most people I come across I am simply trying to be a little better than I was yesterday, and make some mental notes and commitments as to how I can show up authentically, courageously and congruently in my life, my relationships, my work and my community.  So this afternoon I will spend some time looking at my upcoming week, setting out some intentions as to where I can do better in my life and focusing on the areas that fulfill me as well as the areas that challenge me.  I am aware of my “bright spots” in life, but I am equally aware of what needs to be addressed and looked at with an openness and willingness that is sometimes hard when it comes to self-reflection.

I didn't sat it would be easy... I said it would be worth it

But in order to do the work that I do with others, I need to be able to do the work on myself.  Not always easy.  Not always pretty.  But always, always necessary…and always worth it!