Aug

1

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, body acceptance, body image, embodiment, emotions, mindfulness

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“If You Can’t Spend an Hour Alone with Yourself, How Can You Expect Anyone Else To?”: Adventures in a Floatation Tank

At work and in my personal life, I make a conscious effort to “practice what I preach”.  I love my job in that it allows me to offer support, encouragement, and tools to my clients to help them create a more fulfilling, balanced and enjoyable life.  Much of what I talk about in sessions with clients is “self care”, which is a practice of taking care of yourself through activities and rituals that nourish and foster relaxation and healing.

ID-100276528This, admittedly, can be difficult at times if you’ve struggled to have an accepting relationship with yourself.  “Oh, it’s so much easier to take care of others than to take care of myself”, is a common excuse to avoid practicing self care.  Yes, I agree that focusing on ourselves can sometimes be uncomfortable and unsettling, however the mental, physical, and emotional rewards of such practice is undeniable and incomparable.

I believe strongly in congruency and authenticity, and feel that I cannot appropriately suggest to my clients to do things that I myself am not able or willing to do.  So, I try to maintain a regular routine of self care in my own life.  This typically involves exercise, mindfulness practice, gardening, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering.

Yesterday I gave myself a gift of something I’ve never done before, and I have to admit, something I was a bit unsure about: an hour in a floatation tank.  A floatation tank is an enclosed, insulated, sound- and light- proofed tank filled with water and 1000lbs of Epsom Salt.  I entered the room which held the tank and was told that I would be retrieved again in one hour.  “Sometimes that time goes quickly, sometimes it feels like it goes very slowly”, I was informed by the woman working there.

Then she left me.  A jolt of anxiety and nervousness rushed through me.  I gingerly entered the tank and closed the lid.  Pitch blackness.  No sound.  And I was floating as if my body was weightless.  With sensory deprivation this intense, my mind started to freak out a bit.  “What if I can’t get out?”,  “What if they forget I’m in here and I get stuck?”, “How am I going to just float here for an hour?  That seems like an ETERNITY!”, were all thoughts that raced through my head.

After about (I think) ten minutes, I noticed my mind begin to settle down.  I tried to actively practice mindfulness of where I was and to notice any thoughts that came into my mind that took me away from the present moment and to put them in a balloon and let them float up to the top of the tank for the time being.  I tried to do something that has been a difficult practice for me for my entire life: to let go.

When your mind can’t get data from what you see, and when it can’t register information from what you hear, it feels quite deprived.  It’s lost two of its most reliable sources of data which can tell it if it needs to feel a certain feeling: fear, excitement, joy, surprise, or if there is some sort of threat.  At some point, the struggle to try to control the experience lifted from me and I was able float, aimlessly.  As my mind quieted, I was left with only the sensations that my body was feeling — body talk.  I felt fully, truly present in my body.

This type of experience taught me so much and in reflecting back, I believe it could be very beneficial for anyone who feels stress.  I think it could especially be powerful for people who struggle with issues related to body image and disordered eating because for this hour, your body is completely weightless.  You must trust it, as it is your only source of information and awareness.  It challenges you to re-evaluate how you perceive and feel in your body without using visual cues to determine this, and it gives you a sense of being in your body in a whole new way.

Here are the Top Ten Benefits of Floating

  • Renew your energy for daily life in one short hour
  •  Improve your health and sense of well-being
  •  Relieve stress and anxiety
  •  Overcome physical exhaustion
  •  Reset your biological clock, overcome jetlag
  •  Increase mental, physical and emotional resiliency
  •  Increase creativity and problem-solving ability
  •  Enhance athletic performance and shorten recovery time
  •  Strengthen the immune system, alleviate pain & speed healing
  •  Deepen meditation, heighten self-awareness and visualization to achieve your goals.

And more, depending on your personal goals!! Read more about floatation here.

From the perspective of a professional in the mental health field, I would add:

  • Restore and renew your perception of your body and what it means to “be at home” in your body.
  • Learn constructive and empowering tools to navigate your relationship with your thoughts and your mind
  • Learn to let go and embrace what you cannot control
  • Listen to and embrace your intuition

After my session, I felt rejuvenated, relaxed, and also slightly discombobulated.  I felt like I had been on a different plane of existence for an hour — a refreshing to “get out of your head, into your body”, and embrace a new perspective.

I’d encourage anyone who would like to explore a new way of being in your body, a refreshing way of experiencing your mind, and to experiment with “letting go” and trusting your intuition to sign up for a session in a floatation tank.  You’ll walk away feeling much different than you did before you went in, and this experience is unlike any other!

May

20

By Kate Daigle

5 Comments

Categories: acceptance, metaphor in recovery, mindful gardening, mindfulness

Disorderly Mindfulness: When it Hails on Your Freshly Planted Garden

I love spring! It’s my favorite time of year, as it yields heaps of sunshine, flowers, gardening, composting, and new beginnings.  Gardening is a hobby I really enjoy — getting outside, digging my fingers into the dirt, smelling the fresh earthy scent of life.  It’s where I can release anything that’s not serving me and focus on nurturing new plants to life.

I’m just beginning to learn about the ins-and-outs of gardening — soil composition, xeriscaping, vegetable garden planting, composting, etc etc.  This year we tilled a large plot in our yard that had never been used before and made it into a beautiful spot to grow vegetables and herbs. So much possibility!

Whether I knew it or not, this year in gardening is teaching me more about patience, balance, and letting go than I

My plants patiently waiting to go outside.

My plants patiently waiting to go outside.

could have ever imagined — and it’s still only May!  I have been reflecting on the parallel process of my experiment with gardening and the challenges and growth that I observe my clients experience every day.  The perseverance of the plants amidst the powerful elements of nature reminds me of the resiliency and strength my clients embody as they work towards a healthier, more loving relationship with themselves and other parts of their lives.

If you are from Colorado, you know about the extreme weather patterns we can experience, especially in the spring.  A couple of weeks ago, I’d gone to several markets and sales and stocked up on dozens of vegetables, herbs, perennials, annuals, and just about anything else I could grow!  Of course, the next day brought a blizzard that dumped eight inches of snow.  My plants were patient and waited it out in my house until it was safe for them to go in the ground.

After hours of planning out the garden, planting my seeds, transplants, and new plants, and making sure they had everything they could need to thrive, I was hopeful that my garden would grow, grow, grow!  Then, two days later, a massive hail storm hit.  My larger eggplant lost all of its leaves and my baby transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant seemed to drown in the barrage of ice balls.

Just when I thought everything was in order, chaos hit.

Hail!

Hail!

Have you ever experienced something similar in your life?  For example, a health crisis that seemed to come out of nowhere, or an accident you didn’t foresee happening?  A loss of some kind — loved one, relationship, house — or a personal experience where you felt you had no control?  I think we have all been there.

It’s normal to experience ups and downs in life, things that you cannot control or avoid.  As humans, we will feel a range of emotions on a daily basis, some more pleasant than others, and it’s how we choose to deal with those emotions and experiences that paves the way for our next step.

I could obsess about my garden, worry about what I “did wrong” or “how I could have avoided the hail”, and spiral into a tornado of negative self-talk.  (Trust me I did go there for a bit!).  I could also choose to acknowledge that it is highly unpleasant to have this happen to something you value so much and have worked so hard on, but that all hope is not lost.  There are windows of possibility.  After all, the saying goes that “the sun always comes out after a storm”.

My little eggplant will rebound.  I’ll make sure it gets everything that it needs.  And if some of my plants succumb to the whims of Mother Nature, what is there that I can do about it?  Nothing.  This is also a lesson that is tough but crucial to learn:  we cannot control everything in life, and it is when we are able to embrace the chaos — to accept that it will happen at times but we will get through it — that we find peace.

By surviving a storm, we recognize that we are stronger than we ever knew, and that we could do it again if we needed to.

Hail in my garden.

Hail in my garden.

So out I go to nurture my plants back to health, amidst the chirps of the birds who are used to riding the waves of nature’s whimsical weather.  Because they know that the storm will pass, that the sun is behind every dark cloud, and that hope, patience, and perseverance are all we need to find it.

By being mindful of the moment, observing what is in my control and what isn’t, I am able to release the tension, anxiety and fear that holds me back from truly enjoying my garden, this activity that nurtures my soul so much.

Do you need support in finding the hope amidst a chaotic or challenging time in your life?  Or a little help getting back in balance after a difficult, unpredicted life experience?  I can help! (I’m still learning at this gardening thing, but am a great, empathetic, and skilled counselor!).

The sun emerges.

The sun emerges.

 

Give me a call at 720-340-1443 for  a free consultation!

And stay tuned for more exciting updates on my mindful gardening adventures and for an upcoming Mindful Gardening Class  this summer!

 

Mar

26

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, awareness, balance, body acceptance, body image, body language, body love, connection, eating disorder recovery, embodiment, emotions, gratitude, inner voice

Five Steps To Becoming More Embodied: How To Be At Home In Your Body

Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies.  To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection.  This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it.  Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions.  Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:

‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’

To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born.  To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.

What does it mean to “be embodied”?  Being “embodied” signifies:

  • feeling at home in your body
  • feeling connected to your body in a safe manner
  • an increased ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of its sensations (emotional and physical)
  • Safe and healthy expression of needs, desires, fears and wants through the body
  • an increased ability to self-soothe when feeling escalated or agitated
  • an ability to identify inner needs and tend to them appropriately
  • Connection to and acceptance of all parts of your body and of yourself
  • Connection to your sense of self; your soul
  • Ability to recognize and correct cognitive distortions related to your body

Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.

1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you.  Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively?  It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower?  Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step?  Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this.  By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.

2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body?  What would it say to you about its life if it could speak?  Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials.  Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present.  Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13′, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33′).  Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point.  Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body.  Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?

3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources.  What kinds of statements do you send to your body?  That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong?  That it’s beautiful?  That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’?  Write these down in a notebook.  Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much.  Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!

4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies.  Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy?  Try it!  You can begin in your own home.  Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body.  And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness.  Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air!  Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it.  See how it feels!

5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals.  We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them.  Have you ever had a stress headache?  Or shoulder tension?  These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body.  When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well.  Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc).  On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc).  Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.

These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life.  This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more!  There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!

Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body.  What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this?  There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.

This is the only body you’ll have.  Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!

 

Jan

8

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, adversity, bullying, self-acceptance, self-definition, self-esteem

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“I Choose to be Happy”: Living a Life Defining Yourself From the Inside

I came across this TED talk today featuring Lizzie Velasquez, a woman who has published three books and been a motivational speaker for eight years.  Lizzie is a young woman who is one of only three people in the world living with a syndrome and physical deformity so mysterious that doctors still do not understand what it is.  Upon seeing her, a first glance might evaluate her to be “unattractive” by conventional standards; she describes her syndrome as “her body not being able to gain weight” and that she has never weighed more than 62 lbs in her life.  She is visually impaired and can only see out of one eye. She does not meet conventional beauty standards.

However, spend one minute listening to her and you feel an immediate connection, warmth, and confidence.  Her humor is sometimes self-deprecating, but also truly self-affirming.

She speaks some of her struggles with being bullied as a child but she speaks more about her life-long solid belief that “I’m a fun kid and everyone is missing out”.  Lizzie credits her parents raising her no differently than any other child for her ability to see herself as a person with physical impairments, but nothing else abnormal about her at all.

As I was mesmerized by Lizzie’s charisma, I reflected to myself:  “why do we define people by their outside appearance before looking inside?”

Lizzie asks the audience several times: “what defines you?” “how do you define yourself?” How does that limit you?

Have you ever struggled to answer those questions?  When asking yourself: “how do I define myself?”, what are the words or terms that come to your mind first? Are they words that describe you physically?  emotionally? spiritually? intellectually? relationally?

Now ask yourself: when you meet someone for the first time, what are the ways that you initially find yourself describing them?

In Lizzie’s case, she has had experiences with many people in her life — children and adults — describe and judge her in a purely physical way.  She has even been labeled “the world’s ugliest woman”.

We are all familiar with this type of judgment.  We get messages from the media, from friends, from other men or women that certain physical appearances are more desirable or “beautiful” than others.

That kind of evaluation can cause pain.  Why does ‘different’ have to mean less-than?

Lizzie says “in this situation where I saw this said about me, I had two options.  I could choose happiness, or I could choose to give up.”  She chose happiness.

What if you chose to be happy…from the inside?  What if you decided who you were, how you defined yourself, and how you viewed others from looking inside and not just the outside?

Where have you faced adversity and instead of giving up, just worked even harder and bigger?

I encourage you to watch the video of this remarkable, brilliant, confident and funny young woman and take notice of any initial observations that come to you about her.  Then, after the video is over take notice again of observations you have of her.  What changed?

Oct

9

By Kate Daigle

3 Comments

Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, anxiety, awareness, compassion, connection, eating disorder recovery, exposure therapy, intuition

Facing Your Fears and Soaring: How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Helped Me Confront My Demons and Thrive!

I don’t see myself as a “typical” risk taker — I don’t think I’d ever like to climb on the side of a jutted cliff or swim with sharks (yikes!).  But sometimes something gets into me that pushes me to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to my very limits.  I recently engaged in one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across in my career: PUBLIC SPEAKING.

I was very fortunate to be chosen in April to be a presenter for the Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Regional Conference held on September 20-21, 2013.  This association brings together professionals who utilize Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory with clients in many different capacities to help reduce suffering and facilitate healing.  I put together a presentation entitled: Embracing Our Bodies, Allowing Our Experience: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to Treating Body Image and Disordered Eating Issues.  This topic is near to my heart and I am always excited to explore the ways that ACT is effective in helping clients from this population.

Values directionIn April, this sounded awesome!  As the days, weeks, and months crept by, I found myself engaging in several anxiety-related activities that let me know that I was feeling quite nervous about presenting in front of so many national and international peers who have a vested interest and skills in ACT.  Looking through the ACT lens, I was definitely utilizing experiential avoidance.  I procrastinated by doing ANYTHING but work on my presentation (including cleaning and organizing), I filled up my schedule with other activities so I ‘wouldn’t have time to work on the presentation’, and I began having anxiety dreams, one of which included me standing naked in front of all of the mentors and people who have been meaningful to me on my professional path and not having a word to say.  All of these techniques did not help to reduce my anxiety, but just delayed it and actually helped it grow.

When it finally came time to present at the conference, I felt the anxiety shivering up and down my body.  I knew deep down that I was not nervous about my competency, as I have had training and lots of experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but more about being vulnerable and speaking in front of so many peers that I deeply respect.

Having “survived” this experience, I wanted to share a few things I learned from it, as it has opened up my eyes to the courage, vulnerability, and strength that clients embody every day:

  • By being real and opening up to my audience about how nervous I was, I was able to find more space and acceptance for the feelings of anxiety and still go on with my presentation even though they were there the whole time.  In ACT terms, this would be called “acceptance”.
  • Beginning with a mindfulness exercise helped me reconnect with my breath and check in with my body and notice any tension, sensations, emotions it was holding.  This also aided my audience to reconnect with themselves as well.  In ACT, this would be called “contacting the present moment”.
  • All morning before it was my turn to present, I went to several other workshops that I found very engaging and inspiring.  I wasn’t able to be truly present, however, because I had intrusive thoughts such as “your presentation isn’t as expert as theirs is”, or “your nervousness is going to get in the way of effectively relaying your presentation”, and other annoying, damaging thoughts.  I actively tried to notice those thoughts and pin them as JUST THOUGHTS.  They don’t have to mean anything unless I believe them.  In ACT, distancing from unhelpful thoughts is called “defusion”.
  • I realized that I have had this experience before.  I sometimes get caught up in an anxious mindset that is almost paralyzing.  At the time of this newest challenge, I made a big effort to notice that I was going into that all-too-familiar frame of mind I could call “my anxious self” and then observe it.  I didn’t have to believe that this self was all of who I was or that it really has much relevance.  In ACT, this awareness and attention to my ‘anxious self’ is called “Self-As-Context”.
  • Much energy and effort had been expended to get myself to the conference and prepare my presentation, so was I really going to let the anxiety keep me from doing what I originally intended?  Why was I truly there?  I reminded myself that I was there to help offer tools to others about treating eating disorder populations with ACT, and this was important to me because it helps to advocate and spread the word about how this can help those in recovery.  By defining my “values”, I was able to keep them in my mind and move forward even though I was still anxious.
  • Finally, I did it.  I presented my workshop and got through it, and it went quite well.  I felt great!  By taking an action that is guided by my values, I am engaging in “committed action”.

Little did I know, I was utilizing all of the components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help me get through my nerves and present my workshop on the very same topic!

This experience deepened my awareness of and empathy for the struggles that my clients engage with every day.  Those in recovery from eating disorders, body image struggles, anxiety, or self esteem issues can seem paralyzed by the challenge of recovery — much like I was before my presentation.  But I know from personal experience that it is possible to recover from an eating disorder and to face your fears and prove to yourself how strong you are!  

It still will be quite some time before I submit a proposal to present at a national conference again, though :)

 

Jun

27

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, awareness, eating disorder recovery, emotions, flexibility, mindfulness, perceptions, self-love

All or Nothing: The Dangers of Getting Trapped in Rigid Thought Patterns — And How to Break Free!

I was recently asked if I thought there was such thing as “good foods” and “bad foods”.  To me, this is like asking “do you want to get stuck in a rigid cycle of all or nothing thinking?”.  The answer is no!

For myself while I was going through my recovery many years ago, and for others who are actively engaging in freedom1recovery today, ‘all or nothing’ thinking can be a common yet very limiting and confining behavior centered not just around eating, but branching out to many areas of life.  ‘All or nothing’ thinking occurs in eating disordered behaviors but is not limited to this realm.

Many of us have caught ourselves thinking or feeling: “It has to be this way or nothing at all”, or “I am not able to enjoy my day until I do x, y, and z.”  These limiting thought patterns can make us feel like there are only two extremes to choose from, both of them so extreme that they are unhealthy to maintain and actually diminish our life satisfaction.  It’s like we’re keeping ourselves in a jail cell, yet we don’t have the key.  What gives?

For people who are struggling with disordered eating (and this concept can be applied across many realms, struggles, or concerns), they can arrive at a dichotomous crossroads where there is some sort of decision or classification made about themselves and their experience.  These choices might be related to weight, body shape, numbers, or certain food types and amounts.  Once there is a “rule” set about these things, it can become quite rigid and hard to challenge.  Some folks may decide that certain foods with lower fat or carb or sugar content are “good” foods, while everything else is “bad”.  This is based on a fear of gaining weight, but I also see it as a fear of letting go of control.

What is the function of the “all or nothing” thinking?  There can be numerous reasons for this, but one of the most common is that seemingly only having two choices (“good or bad”, or “right or wrong”) helps to create a focus where they can put their energy and attention.  Food might be something that they can control, when something else in their lives feels out of control — whether it be emotions, a family situation, a relationship, etc.  Food can be the “red herring“, the object that is focused on instead of what’s really going on underneath.  The problem is, when a rule such as “I can only have x y and z food (even if I don’t really like it), but not a b and c foods (even if I love those foods)”, the body and the emotional self begins to feel deprived and to crave those foods that “aren’t okay”.  This can commonly lead to eventual out of control behavior around food, such as bingeing or emotionally overeating and “feeling out of control.”

3679716854_f83a5b625bIn recovery, I help my clients find the “grey area”.  This can be very scary at times, as living in the “all or nothing” has felt safe, albeit not healthy at times.  Only in the grey area can we embrace life’s imperfections, its joy, its silliness, its sadness, and to find ways to tolerate all of these without needing rules to govern them.  In the grey area, there are no rules about food, emotions, or the human experience.  So, to answer my original question, : “NO, I do not think there are things such as “good foods” and “bad foods”, as these trigger the dichotomous thinking and lead to a rigid, rule-driven, stuck emotional place.  By offering ourselves and our experiences compassion, we can eat all foods – especially the ones that we really love! — in moderation and enjoyment.

I don’t want to undermine the importance of nutrition.  Getting our nutritional needs met is very important! Some foods have higher and more diverse nutritional content than others, and these foods will make our bodies feel strong, energized, and healthy.

I think that sometimes when ‘all or nothing’ thinking becomes extreme, folks can become convinced that only certain foods with low fat, sugar, salt or carbs means “eating healthily”, when in reality, we need a good dose of those things for our bodies to function fully.  Consulting with a nutritionist is a great way to learn about your body’s specific needs.  When fear consumes certain foods for you, the true meaning of nutrition and health can go out the door, and the “food rules” can become more about control than about truly nurturing your body.  Don’t forget to also nurture your soul — sometimes an ice cream sundae is just what your soul ordered!

By exploring what’s really going on underneath, and having compassion and tolerance for those feelings, we are able to move forward and walk the life of value that we’ve always wanted.

Tell me, what is your experience with “food rules” or “all or nothing thinking” and what are some ways to find more balance and flexibility?

Jun

11

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, body love, eating disorder recovery, healing, inner hunger, inner voice, intuition, metaphor in recovery

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The Labyrinth of Recovery: An Ancient and Mysterious Archetype in “Eating in the Light of the Moon”

“In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds wholeness.”

Charles Gilchrist labyrinth

As I embark upon research and reading for my presentation at Friday’s Conscious Living Book Club event, I have come across the metaphor of the labyrinth.  This metaphor is truly speaking to me at this moment.  In Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, PhD, the symbol of the labyrinth highlights each of the chapters as Dr. Johnston explores how metaphors, stories, and fables can describe our relationships with food and can help us understand and heal from disordered patterns of eating and experiencing our bodies.

“The labyrinth walk is a request to nature for harmony.”

A labyrinth is a pathway that loops back repeatedly upon itself, reaches the center, and then winds its way back out again.  It’s different from a maze in that there are no barriers, false turns, or dead ends.  You cannot do anything wrong.  There’s only one path to the labyrinth, and you have no choice but to follow it.  The labyrinth is typically in the form of a circle, with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center and back out again.  On the spiritual journey we meet fellow travelers, obstacles and unexpected turns. The labyrinth walk is a process meditation that seems to suspend time as well as judgment and invites us to embody our experience in a completely new way.

Many see the labyrinth as a symbol of the journey of life, death, and rebirth and our journey through life.  In recovery from disordered eating or from any other type of addictive behavior, says Dr. Johnston, the journey requires you to follow a twisting, turning, winding path to your center.  You must leave behind perceptions of yourself that you have adopted from others and you must reclaim your own inner authority.

On your path, listen to your inner voice and allow it to offer guidance and support as you search for true thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Let go of linear expectation of progress, disengage the rational mind, embrace the power of emotion and intuition.  When you are able to do this, you can find freedom from behaviors and compulsions that have seemed to be holding you hostage, and your inner voice can guide you to nourish the TRUE hunger that you are feeling.

labyrinth_bloom_landmark_images_with_permissionOne of the cool things that I love about the labyrinth is that you can actually, physically, take this walk.  There are hundreds of labyrinths dotting our earth, many ancient and naturally born.  They have been healing tools for us for thousands of years!

As you wander the maze either literally or figuratively, imagine that you are wandering to the true center of yourself, you inner voice, your pure soul.  However, when you get to the center, when you find the essence of who you truly are, this is not the end of your journey — your task then becomes to find your way back out again and exit the labyrinth, and as you do so, integrate this new vision or understanding of yourself with a new way of being in the world.  This is the most pure definition of eating disorder recovery.

A mentor of mine uses the labyrinth concept regularly with the clients she helps, and envisions someday creating a real labyrinth for them to follow as they are working through healing issues in their own lives.  She had the idea that as they wandered through the labyrinth they could share all of the worries, anxieties, doubts, or negative self talk that plague them every day, and offer space to these feelings.  But once they reach the center and turn to find their way back out, they will come up against these feelings again on the path and this time they must offer them compassion, hope, and grace.  This exercise allows our FULL experience to be accepted and all feelings we might have, but as we integrate a new worldview on our way out of the labyrinth (or on our way in recovery) we can show ourselves that we are able to fully experience joy, peace, and love as well as the “negative” feelings.

Tell me:

  • How do you think the labyrinth could be a rich tool for eating disorder recovery?
  • How could it help you heal parts of yourself and discover what you are TRULY hungry for?
  • How does the metaphor of the labyrinth fit in with your own life journey and soul searching?
  • What other metaphors can be used in recovery?

Leave a comment with your own thoughts on this concept and any other ideas for how it can be healing!

May

28

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, awareness, body love, compassion, eating disorder recovery, inner hunger, metaphor, mind-body connection

Addictions as metaphor: What are you TRULY hungering for??

closeupofdancingitlotmI thrive on being inspired. Experiencing others’ wisdom feeds my soul.  Today I am particularly inspired by two amazing women: Chela Davison and Anita Johnston.  These two women are writers, healers, and visionaries.  Chela writes in poetic prose on her blog, words that we can all relate to: “Our addictions keep us all wrapped up, entangled in the illusion of release”.

When we become addicted to something — alcohol, food, sex, gambling, drugs, work — this forms a way of coping with a particular sensation that is uncomfortable.  “But it’s not the vice that we crave”, writes Chela, “it’s the relief from the arising sensation.”  What if we found a way to eliminate the suffering that can come with pushing away uncomfortable feelings, and instead found a way of being with them in an accepting way?  

Dr. Johnston is a clinical psychologist and the author of one of the all-time flagship books of my own journey to recovery and ultimately helping others, Eating in the Light of the Moon.  I am fortunate enough to be invited as the guest speaker at the Conscious Living Book Club on June 14, and I have chosen this book as a spark for discussion and deep meditation.  Why? Because it invites us to explore, through storytelling, myth and metaphor, our relationships with food and emotions, where “stories help us connect with our inner world, to the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth, and to the power of our intuitive wisdom.”

Chela and Anita both draw us deeper — they invite us to truly meditate on what nourishes us and how food or other “things” can become ploys for trying to meet some deeper need.  Can we find what we are truly looking for and stop the seemingly endless race (sometimes in a hamster wheel, spinning, spinning) to avoid what we are feeling?  What if we already have everything that we will ever NEED?

I invite you to begin a meditation on what your “drug of choice” — whether it be food, alcohol, sex, relationships, shopping, exercise — truly does for you (or used to help you with, but doesn’t work so well any more).  What’s your metaphor?  What are you truly hungry for?  Could it be love?  Attention?  Self-acceptance?  Companionship? What is its symbol?

We are taught from a young age that pain is something that is bad to feel.  That we shouldn’t feel it.  That we should do everything we can to change it.  This might involve eating, drinking, or taking drugs as a way to try to change that feeling.  However, pain is a normal, human feeling that we all feel.  It’s okay to feel it.  The true struggle comes when we exert endless amounts of energy to try to avoid it, and then we develop eating disorders and other addictions because it doesn’t work.  Food, at that point, is not what we’re truly hungry for.   

As infants, we eat intuitively.  We don’t want to eat when we’re not hungry.  Sometimes, as a way to try to meet selfLoveFortune-500x375our needs, our caregivers may feed us when we actually are tired, lonely, in pain.  Thus begins the cycle of trying to soothe an emotional need with a physical thing.  Food can take on a whole other role: companion, soother, nurturer.

How do we free ourselves from these struggles?  First, we must understand what we are truly hungering for.  Then, we must find a way of connecting with our bodies and our emotions (ALL of our emotions, even the scary ones) in a healthy, accepting way.  At this point, we are able to shift the way we experience our emotions and find a way of being with them that is nurturing, not self-destructive.  Your need to use food or other substances in unhealthy ways will no longer be so forceful!

So what’s your story?  How does food talk to you?  Eating in the Light of the Moon uses a metaphor of an old woman in Japan who followed her hunger to a dark cave filled with scary creatures who tried to keep her captive.  Only by finding a way to give them what they TRULY needed, was she able to escape.  Reading this, and other stories in the book, can help us sort out what’s going on under the surface in a fanciful, endearing and enlightening way.

Interested in learning more?  Attend the Book Club on June 14, or email me for your own FREE copy of Eating in the Light of the Moon. I would love to hear your own thoughts and musings!

Tell me: What are you TRULY hungry for? And how can you nourish that hunger in a compassionate, accepting way?

 

Apr

26

By Kate Daigle

4 Comments

Categories: acceptance, body acceptance, body image, growth, insight

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What Does “Bikini Body” Even Mean? Three Ways to Embrace Your Beautiful, Bold Body!

It’s that time of year again.  The media pressure to work out and have the ‘ideal’ body has waned a bit since the New Year’s Resolutions campaign, but now it’s coming back in force as the weather warms up and we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine: “get your best bikini body yet!”, “are you ready to hit the beach?”, “three tips to lose weight FAST to fit into that tiny bikini!”.  Then there’s the comparisons to celebrities who have the “perfect bikini body” and whose pictures are spread throughout the internet and in magazines as the “ideal role models” for how your body ‘should’ look this summer. Whoa.  I’m exhausted even thinking about it.  I can feel my chest start to tighten as I almost fall into that trap: “how will I EVER get my body to look like THAT??”.

Deep breath.

Who said that anyone had to have a certain body appearance or type in order to wear a bikini?  Where is the logic in that?  It doesn’t make sense to me and it feels very shaming, judgmental, and narrow-minded.  For those of us who embrace and love our bodies no matter what they look like (or are desiring to do so!), these messages can be very harming.  Bikinis come in all shapes and sizes, just like our bodies do.   And we all have a right to enjoy our bodies, whether in a bathing suit, a dress, a towel, a jumpsuit, a clown’s suit, or whatever we may choose!  I’m of the belief that if we are able to physically put on a bathing suit, we are ‘bikini-ready’.

I found this great article on the Huffington Post that inspired this blog post which asked readers to submit photos of their own fabulous, REAL, bikini bodies!  What I loved about it was the energy radiating from these women (no men included in this exercise, though I think that would be a GREAT idea, as men are subjected to media and slide_289059_2281071_freesocial pressures as well).

These beautiful bikini babes were jumping around, swimming with fish, enjoying the sun, and even in one case, running through snow, all embracing their REAL, healthy bodies.  I could just feel how happy they were, and even if some of them have had body image issues come up (which can happen no matter WHAT your body looks like), they were not allowing those to bulldoze their fun in the sun and water (or snow).

An important point: your body might naturally look a certain way — thin, heavier, whatever.  It’s not what your body looks like that matters as much as how you feel in your body and the amount of joy, acceptance and satisfaction you are able to experience in your body.  Exercising and eating foods that feel great to your body are certainly healthy practices, but we must remain present and balanced in these pursuits so as to not damage our self esteem and body image.

I wanted to offer some food for thought on this topic as we head into summer and are bombarded with messages that (mostly) tell us that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to change.

  • Instead of giving energy to “what’s not right” or “what I need to change”, try to reframe and notice what you already, splendidly love about your body.  We can lose awareness of our body and become disconnected, this giving way to letting the negative messages sway us.  What does your body do every day that you admire?  Which body part can you try to focus on and send love to for an entire day?
  • Take a step back and notice the underlying forces in media messages.  Most advertising has some subliminal message or force working for it — that may not have anything to do with what it’s showing you.  The diet industry (as well as the junk food industry) makes BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of telling us that we need to be perfect and offering us “solutions” that may damage us more than help us.  Try to notice these marketing measures with a critical eye before you deem them true.  Do they really have your best interest at heart?  What will you sacrifice by doing what they tell you to do to “get that bikini body”?
  • Team up! Chances are, you are not alone in feeling these pressures.  Reach out to a friend who also might have some body image struggles and commit to embracing your bodies together.  Harming social messages can influence us sneakily, silently, and powerfully - so our response must be proactive, loud, and communal!  If you show others that you can enjoy and empower your real, beautiful bikini body, you will also empower them to do the same.

What else? I’d love to hear other ideas, thoughts, impressions, or questions about this topic.  It’s something we images-13can all relate to.

If you are looking for support in embracing your beautiful, awesome, real bikini body or in accepting yourself in any other way, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation.  You can reach me at kate@katedaiglecounseling.com or 720-340-1443.

Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!

Apr

9

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, anxiety, awareness, meditation, mind-body connection, mindfulness

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Tuesday Tune-Up: How to Find Deep Relaxation Amidst a Chattering Mind

snowToday is a snowy day in Denver!  As the wind blows and the temperature plummets, I am reminded of the gift of slowing down.  When something comes up that takes us out of our regular routine (whether it’s weather, illness, unforeseen obligations, etc), we might have no choice but to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N.  I greet this ‘slowdown’ with anticipation and also a bit of anxiety.  What to do on a snow day?  Play out in the snow? (did that, nose froze!).  Read a book (yes, please)?  Peruse the internet ?  Have you ever felt this way?

As I noticed all of the feelings I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having, I brought myself back to the present moment and asked:

“What choices do I have with this experience?”

I realized that I have the power to choose acceptance of this moment, EVEN THOUGH I still might feel some anxiety (or whatever else).  I became aware that this concept is something I have been working on with clients recently: finding a way to be with slightly uncomfortable feelings while making a choice that helps me to make steps towards being the person I want to be.  And today I really want to be peaceful and embrace the cold and snow because I know that tomorrow the sun will come out again, the flowers will be nourished, and the birds will awaken.  It will be spring once more.

Mindfulness can be effective in just a few minutes.  What is mindfulness and how is it effective?

Mindfulness is:

  • Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.
  • Mindful eating invites us to slow down the process of eating, to notice all it has to offer us — the smell of the food, the texture of it, the taste, the sensation of chewing and swallowing and noticing the change in our hunger as we eat.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn offers:

    “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;

     

    On purpose,
    in the present moment, and
    nonjudgmentally.”

A great book for introducing yourself to this concept is: Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Kabat-Zinn is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Today, offer yourself the gift of slowing down, breathing deeply, checking in with your body awareness, noticing your thoughts but trying to not attach to them.  This video is a great tool for experiencing the benefits of mindfulness — whether you have a snow day or a busy day – truly allowing us to feel our bodies and to follow their lead into our experience.  I invite you to try it yourself — whether you have an hour to give or even just five minutes.

Feb

14

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, artistic expression

A Valentine for the Soul: Kate Daigle Counseling Winter 2013 Newsletter

Sending You a Love Letter From Kate Daigle Counseling!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine reminds us that life should be filled with love - for our friends, for our partner, for our family, for our community, and, extra importantly, for ourselves!  Have you shown yourself love lately?  Sometimes I think the greatest gift we can offer each other and ourselves is to slow down, notice, and be grateful for the world around us.  Here are a few great tips for focusing on this reconnection and being present with yourself amidst a busy, chaotic world:

  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, look out your window.  Take three to seven full breaths.  Inhale the colors, shapes and textures around you.  Don’t think about it — just breathe it all in, even if it’s just a patch of sky.  Notice how you feel.
  • As you walk to and from your car (or from building to building), feel your feet on the ground.  Imagine that your mind is in your feet — feel them there completely.  Notice your weight as it shifts from heel to ball, foot to foot.  Any time you notice yourself thinking, just note to yourself “thinking” and return to feeling your feet on the ground.
  • Give yourself permission to mimic the weather with your mood.  If it’s raining or snowing outside, let yourself be lazy on the couch or a little bit contemplative and melancholy, if that’s how you’re feeling.
  • Bring nature indoors.  Open the window.  Buy some houseplants.  Don’t be afraid to talk to them (or to listen to what they have to say to you).  Keep a vase of flowers on your kitchen table.  Start an indoor herb garden.  Put a crystal on your desk or a small fountain in the corner of your living room.  Find ways to bring the colors and vibrancy of the natural world into your home.  (Adapted from The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover).

Want to read more (this is just a snippet!)?  Access our ENTIRE Winter newsletter here, and be sure you sign-up for all future editions! (sign up box is on my homepage).

Feb

7

By Kate Daigle

4 Comments

Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, anorexia nervosa, awareness, balance, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, mindfulness

What Would it Be Like to Accept Your Emotions Instead of Fight Them? An ACT Approach to Mindful Recovery

images-11 copyI don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to change something.  When I was a teenager, the focal point of the thing I wanted to change was myself.  This dissatisfaction with myself, or parts of myself, spiraled into an exhaustive effort and cycle of “if only I looked like…if only I could do…THEN, I’d be happy”.  Let me tell you how that ended up: in an eating disorder.  Only when I was able to accept myself, ALL of myself, and the range of emotions I experienced on a daily basis, was I able to stop destructive behaviors and lead a value-driven life.  I know that I am not unique in the way I was thinking; I believed that my emotions were the problem and that my thoughts were “bad” and that I needed to change all of it.  When I stopped struggling with all of those beliefs, I was free.  That didn’t mean accepting the negative beliefs and talk I was saying to myself, but stopping the struggle with my emotions, as I learned that it is not the emotions themselves that create dis-stress or dis-orders, it is the struggle, or attempted control, over the emotions that is the problem.

Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive over-exercising and other types of disordered eating behaviors as well as body image struggles can be borne out of a desire to find happiness and peace — but somewhere that mission gets diverted into destructive behaviors that lead to suffering.  It seems that there is a call to find a way to “be with” our emotions in non-destructive ways.

I am currently getting trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically-based therapy that “makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product”, writes one of its founders, Russell Harris.  This approach is rooted in values, forgiveness, mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self, a therapy that encourages us to accept what is without judgment, and to be find some peace in our struggle (while acknowledging that some type of suffering is part of the human experience).  ACT has been clinically proven to effectively treat eating disorders and other types of conditions such as OCD, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress, amongst many others.

ACT uses six core principles to help people develop more psychological flexibility and to get out of some of the rigid patterns that keep us stuck in self-destructive pattens:

  • Cognitive defusion: when we are able to ‘step back’ and observe language without being caught up in it.  We can notice our thoughts at a distance, release some ownership of them, and tell our minds “thanks, mind, for that thought” instead of automatically believing it to be true or a real part of ourselves.  As we defuse our thoughts, they have much less influence.  This can be very effective with negative self-talk or eating disordered thoughts that could lead to destructive behaviors.
  • Acceptance:  making space for unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings, emotions, sensations, urges, and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or letting them “drive the bus” (a metaphor in ACT where emotions may feel overwhelming but you can still take charge of driving the bus of your life).  I find this to be quite powerful in eating disorder recovery because it allows us to be with our emotions and to find a way of accepting themimages-12 copy (even if we don’t necessarily like them) so that they don’t feel like big scary monsters that we need to flee from.
  • Contact with the present moment:   the practice of bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experiences with openness, interest and receptiveness.  This is akin to mindfulness, where we are able to engage fully in our present moment and be open to all that it has to offer without trying to change any of it or judge it.  The key here is: not trying to change anything.  Yes, we have painful experiences that we would perhaps like to change or erase.  The goal of mindfulness, which in this way is helpful to recovery, is to be in the present with openness so that we can feel our emotions and hear our thoughts but have some space from them so that we can make a choice about what type of behavior is associated with this experience.  This can lead to choosing less-destructive behaviors as a way of relating to the emotional experience we have.
  • The Observing Self: a way of experiencing directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, roles, sensations, etc.  In eating disorder recovery, this means disconnecting from the eating disorder and seeing who you are separate from the ED and empowering that self to heal, soothe, and find balance in accepting ways.
  • Values:  clarifying what is most important to you, deep in your heart what gives you energy, joy, purpose.  What sort of person you want to be, what is meaningful and significant to you, and what you stand for.  Finding and focusing on your personal values can facilitate the process of accepting your emotions and can be a motivation for sitting with uncomfortable feelings in pursuit of a value-driven life.  Values are what come after an eating disorder; our values are the parts of us that were suffocated by the ED and are powerful and eager to be free.
  • Committed Action:   This is the “action” piece; setting goals, guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them.  This makes it all worth it!  This is the behavioral part of recovery where destructive behaviors become extinct and value-driven choices and actions replace them.

I’m eager to utilize this approach with clients and am excited about the way that it encourages us to be ourselves, knowing that we are okay just as we are.  To me, this is a big sigh of relief!

Are you interested in  applying some of these principles in a hands-on experiential way?  Are you ready to cultivate a more peaceful, accepting relationship with food and yourself?  Join me and colleague (and ACT expert) Christine Allison, MA, LPC on March 2nd, 2013 for a workshop where we will practice all of this!

Early bird special ends on 2/15 so ACT now!!!

Held at my office, 709 Clarkson St, Denver, on 2/3 from 10am-2:30pm, the early bird rate is $65, and after 2/15 it will go up to $85.

Contact me to sign up TODAY — seats are filling up!

See the flyer here:

Cultivating a Peaceful Relationship with Food

Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris

Jan

9

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, body acceptance, body image, body love, eating disorder recovery

New Year’s Resolutions? How About Embracing Ourselves As We Are?

Happy New Year!  

flat,550x550,075,f2013 is opening up as a bright, fresh breath of air, full of possibilities!  How do you approach the New Year?  Are you one who makes resolutions to change something, start something or stop something?  Are you one to focus on deepening practices that you are already currently doing?  Whatever your approach, the underlying theme that I hear from clients (and from myself!) is: I want to be happy and healthy.  This is a very doable, energized mindset — but what if you are setting yourself up to fail?  The way that we approach this goal is critical to our end result.

The #1 New Year’s Resolution in America is to lose weight.  We have all been there.  I have been there.  I committed myself to working out every day for 30 minutes and had a “goal weight” that I wanted to reach by a “goal date”.  Then, when my stamina for getting up early to go work out wore down, I felt badly about myself.  When I wanted those delicious foods that I really enjoy but couldn’t have them because they weren’t part of my “diet”, I felt badly about myself.  When I lost 10 pounds, I felt proud, like I had accomplished a goal (more of an uphill climb). .  . but then that satisfaction wore off and the weight I’d lost came right on back.  I felt devastated.  This is very common.  Why?

Why does weight loss have such a powerful and motivating force upon us?  It can make us feel elated — for a while.  Then when it’s not sustainable it can make us feel some of those uncomfortable feelings (guilt. . . shame. . . disappointment) . . .when we don’t “succeed” at it.  This sets us up to continually feel badly about ourselves, initiating a cycle of dieting and deprivation that only leads down a road of misery and yearning for that chocolate chip cookie.  Dieting is the leading cause of eating disorders (note: not everyone who goes on a diet develops an eating disorder, however, the diet mentality is a strong trigger for those who might be at risk for eating disorders) and can also lead to bingeing, purging, and other self-destructive behaviors.  Losing weight can “talk a big talk” and convince us that we will love ourselves if only we weighed X amount.  It sure is convincing — and a lot of pressure!  What’s the deeper need? And how can we meet that as well?

I’m not saying that it’s not okay to have goals, intentions, motivations — I think those can be very healthy and enriching things!  I am asking us to contemplate the types of goals that we set and the reasons we are setting them.  As I mentioned earlier, the most common desire for those setting resolutions is to be happy and healthy.  Yes, for some this means losing weight in order to lower blood pressure or decrease the risk of diabetes or other health-related reasons.  For those who are looking to lose weight so that they will feel better about themselves, I believe that there has to be more to it than that.  Just losing weight is not going to make you feel better about yourself (see above).  In face, it may have the opposite effect (again, see above).

I ask you: what are you really looking for?  What do you truly need?

Some answers might be:happiness-1

  • happiness
  • self-acceptance
  • self-esteem
  • self-love
  • energy
  • feeling healthier
  • being accepted by others
  • fitting in
  • having something to be proud of

…and others.  Does weight loss bring these things to you?  I want to invite a radical idea:  what if you accepted yourself just as you are today?  What if you didn’t need to change/add/subtract/stop anything about yourself to be happy and accepted?  Close your eyes for one minute and try to imagine what that might be like.  You. Are. Beautiful. Just. As. You. Are. !  These are intentions that foster recovery from eating disorders, addictions, low self-esteem, and other issues.

Special New Year’s bonus:  Download my “NewYearsIntentions” handout that encourages reflection of the past year and includes a guided meditation to embrace intentions for 2013.  I hope that this year is a happy, balanced, nourishing year for you all!

Looking for a guide on your journey of self-discovery?  Send me an email and let’s chat! I offer a complimentary consultation to explore what this exciting chapter of your life might look like!

Dec

13

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, acceptance and commitment therapy, balance, connection, creativity, gratitude

Eeyore’s Very Bad Day? A Powerful Message of Acceptance Through the Lens of ‘Winnie The Pooh’

images-7Growing up, I spent many giggly hours watching ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and reading the books about Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Roo, Kanga, Christopher Robin, and all of their friends.  As an adult, I look at these stories and realize the powerful messages they send us: unconditional love and acceptance, the beauty of simplicity, that we are all unique and different.  The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet offer extended meditations on these lessons of peace and understanding.

Today I re-watched one of my favorite episodes, “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore”.  The psychotherapist in me couldn’t help but focus on the different roles adopted by the characters as well as the humanity in the story.  This particular episode centered on Eeyore, the gloomy donkey with a rain cloud perpetually hanging over his head.  Many of us, myself included, can identify with the sadness and despondency that envelopes Eeyore each day.  Perhaps there is a part of you that really relates to this.  Do you allow this part to have a voice?  Do you push it away and try to ignore it because it feels consuming and dreary?  Do you judge it and tell it that it doesn’t belong?  These actions are the very thing that Eeyore fears. . . that being himself is too heavy for anyone else to love or accept.

When Eeyore goes to hide away and isolate, Pooh goes to find him and try to understand why he is so gloomy that images-8day.  Pooh, finding out it’s Eeyore’s birthday, goes to round up his friends to bring him gifts and celebrate.  Of course, things go awry (Pooh, unable to control himself, eats the honey that he was bringing for Eeyore, and Piglet trips on his balloon gift and it pops).  In the end, all of these characters, who might represent parts of ourselves, sit down at a table and celebrate Eeyore’s birthday.  Giving Eeyore space, love, acceptance, attention, and not trying to change him in any way — these actions allowed Eeyore to feel safe and enjoy himself after all.  He found that the popped balloon fit better in the (empty) jar of honey than it would have it it was still intact — showing us all that sometimes when things don’t go as planned, they actually turn out better.  The silver lining of an unpredicted experience.

Who are the parts of you?  Do you have a Tigger — a part that struggles to focus or commit, sometimes says or does the wrong thing but is lovable just the same?  Do you have a Piglet — a worrier who wants everything to be okay but doesn’t always know the answer?  Do you have a Pooh — a thinker, with great ideas, a peace-keeper, also lovable for his faults?  An Owl — wise, knowing, but overcompensating for not being perfect?  An Eeyore — gloomy, sad, despondent, brought to life and empowered when his voice is heard and validated?  Can all of these parts of you sit down at a table and share a birthday celebration without judgment, exile or banishment?

As Pooh says at the end of this story: “Everybody’s alright, really”.  This is a very healing perspective on the essence of human nature — after all, Pooh is the bear that can heal us all.

Take a look at the video yourself and share your perspectives on what Pooh and his friends can teach us — as children, but even more meaningfully as adults.

 

Nov

21

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, gratitude

Gratitude in Recovery: What I Learned from my Eating Disorder and What You Can Too

I love this time of year because there is so much energy given to gratitude.  Thanksgiving is a holiday that may bring trepidation and anxiety to folks recovering from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, but it is also a day where we are invited to sit down and be thankful for what we have.

There’s not a day that goes by where I am not giving thanks for my recovery from my eating disorder.  As I sit and hold space with my clients who are finding their own journey to recovery, I am regularly reminded of my own process and the steps that brought me to where I am today.

The recovery process of an eating disorder is fraught with ups, downs, twists, and turns, and many frustrations and confusions about these peaks and valleys.  Why can’t I just stop these behaviors? some might wonder….or, Why am I not able to see myself the way that others do?  I have had to answer these questions myself, and the passion I felt for my own health and healing ignited my career path to becoming a psychotherapist who helps others get here too.  Sometimes my clients and I contemplate what they could learn from their eating disorder.  What is its function?  What are its needs?  What is it trying to tell you? And even: What is it wanting to help you with?

I know, thinking of an eating disorders as “helpful”  might seem bizarre and unconventional.  Eating disorders are painful, destructive, and demeaning, you might say.  I agree — they are those things.  But by looking at it in a new way, in one that invites gratitude and healing instead of illness and pain, we might find a more peaceful path towards the end goal: recovery.

In the spirit of gratitude and thanks, I wanted to offer some insight into what I learned from my eating disorder (perhaps that I might not have learned in the same way if I hadn’t ever had an eating disorder) — and what you can too.

What My Eating Disorder Offered to Me and How My Recovery is Deeper Because of It:

  • I have feelings.  Some muddy.  Some sticky.  Some smelly.  And they are all ok!  I remember that before I developed an eating disorder, I experienced many complex and somewhat foreign feelings (maybe part of being a pre-teen!) and I didn’t know what to do with them.  I pushed many of them — ones that felt ‘unacceptable’ — inside and tried to forget about them.  Oh how they grew and festered!  This then caused me to feel overwhelmed and not know what to do with them.  Disordered eating was one way of trying to manage.  In my recovery, I have learned to find ways to sit with and sit through all of the feelings I experience and to understand that they are part of what it means to be a human being.  I am grateful for all of my emotions, as they give me depth, character, and space to grow.
  • I can eat!.  When I embarked on recovery, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to eat foods that I really loved and feel satisfied by them.  I worried that my relationship with food would always be somewhat warped and abnormal.  I am so grateful for the relationship I have with food and eating today.  There is truly nothing  that I tell myself that I cannot eat, and I check in with my body daily to ask it what it is wanting.  When I am able to do that, I can eat until I am satisfied, enjoy my meal, and leave the table knowing I can have it again tomorrow if I wish.  Freedom from destructive eating behaviors is so liberating and my whole view on food has shifted!
  • I know myself pretty damn well.  One of the requirements for recovery from an eating disorder is a willingness to explore, accept, and challenge yourself.  Through my recovery journey, I have deepened my connection with my body, I have found acceptance with my emotions and feelings, and I have developed a peaceful perspective about who I am and what makes me unique.  These are things that I believe I learned so deeply (because I had to)  in my recovery and I’m not sure that I would have explored myself so intricately if I hadn’t developed an eating disorder.  I am still always growing, learning, and changing, and will forever be on a quest of self-discovery — and I feel like my eating disorder allowed me to be open to that challenge.
  • My body is mine.  And it’s beautiful.  I was walking down the street yesterday, noticing my steps, my pace, the way my feet felt in my shoes.  I realized that I didn’t want any other body.  I spent so many years wishing I had a different body.  But if I had a different body — blue eyes instead of brown, etc — then I wouldn’t be me.  I am the only person who could be me, and this body is a gift that I am given the responsibility to take care of.  And it will give back to me a hundred-fold.  And it does.

These are a few thoughts that came up as I was contemplating gratitude today, Thanksgiving Eve.  I learn new things every day that I am grateful for in my recovery as well as things that my eating disorder has taught me.

I invite you to think about what you are grateful for today and every day and to foster some energy in that direction.  If you have recovered from or are in recovery from an eating disorder, what are you taking from the process?  What do you want to look back on in ten years and remember about this journey?

Recovery is lifelong.  Every day brings a new opportunity to utilize skills, tools, and learnings from our life’s path.  And I’m always growing and learning.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.  I am grateful for all of you!

Are you looking for support on your journey to recovery?  Please contact me today or call me at (720) 340-1443 to schedule a complimentary consultation!

Aug

2

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, anorexia nervosa, balance, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder recovery, journey

The Bench: A Place of Respite for recovery and for all journeys in our lives

Today I am reflective of the journey.  

I have embarked upon a journey of significant life changes and milestones as of late, and am grateful for the twists and turns along my path as well as for all of the benches that have been provided and upon which I may rest.

I came across a poem today entitled “The Bench” by Anne Edwards on a wonderful site called EatingDisordersRecoveryToday.com and found it so touching that I wanted to repeat it here.  I hope it can provide encouragement and support for those on any life journey…and in recovery from an eating disorder:

The Bench

By Anne Edwards
©2010 Gürze Books

I know the journey is hard.
There’s a bench just up ahead
Under some trees.
Let’s sit down,
Stop for a while.
We don’t have to talk
Unless you want to.
We can listen to the birds sing,
Feel the wind,
Enjoy the view,
And see,
Really see
The life that’s out there for us.
Then,
When we are both ready,
We can continue
Our journey of recovery.
I know it has its bumps
And steep hills,
But it also has its
Easier, smoother valleys and vistas.
The most important thing,
My friend,
Is that we not travel it alone.
It is a journey meant to be taken
Hand in hand.
Take mine.

 Where are you on your journey?  Where have you come from?  Where are you going to? Do you have a bench where you can sit awhile, until you are ready to continue?  There may be mountains to climb, but remember that there are “beautiful vistas” as well.  This poem is so inspirational to me and comforting as I continue on my own journey of recovery, wellness, balance, and health.  It is helpful to have a hand to hold along this journey, for support, for guidance, for warmth, for grounding.
Hold out your hand to another on this journey.  Ask for support on your own journey.  You are not alone…and the view is amazing.

Jul

11

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, peace, recovery from eating disorders

Idleness: An Unexpected Gift in the Midst of a World Spinning on Busyness

Last week I had several colleagues suggest to me that I read the article “The ‘Busy’ Trap” in the New York Times.  ‘Oh, yes’, I responded to them. ‘I noticed that…but I was too busy today to take a look at it.  I’ll try to put it on my list for tomorrow.”  Ironic, right?  When I finally sat down today to read the piece, I was left with tears in my eyes by the end of it.  The message of this article speaks so true to me, as well as to many others, which is why it was posted all over social media;  I am guessing I was not the only one who was ‘too busy’ to read it.  Trust me, allow yourself the several minutes out of your day to read this piece; it will take you by the shoulders as well, shake you, and ask ‘why do you feel the need to be so BUSY all the time?’.

Several points struck me about this piece: one, that we ‘choose’ to be busy.  It’s almost a distraction, a buffer, from our raw, naked selves.  The author, Mr. Kreider, points out that those who work three jobs and don’t have a spare minute to sit on the couch because they need to provide for their families are busy….but mostly really tired.  They don’t have a choice.  The rest of us are busy because it can make us feel important, worthy, useful, productive.  But if we are too busy to slow down and truly live our lives, to allow ourselves to do activities that feed our souls instead of drain them, then we are losing a part of ourselves and not gaining anything.

I am one of the busy ones.  Mr. Kreider speaks of fleeing the city to an ‘Undisclosed Location’ where he could write in the morning and play in the afternoon, but where he had no phone or internet and he ‘remembered buttercups, stink bugs, and the stars’.  Being a business owner, a perfectionist, and a recipient of society’s pressures and expectations to SUCCEED, I often feel like I should be busy.

When I went on vacation in June, a whole week was spent in the countryside with no phone, no internet, no television, and only the canal, the cows, the sheep, and the birds to provide distractions.  It was incredibly difficult for me to sit and be idle.  I realize now, after being back in the busy-ness of work, that idleness is not just challenging for me.  Mr. Kreider realized that “idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.”

I am blessed to be given the gift of providing support to those who are struggling with eating disorders and I am grateful that I am allowed to be a witness of their journey towards wholeness and recovery.  I have learned from my own recovery as well as from supporting the recovery of my clients that sitting with idleness is a challenge.  We feel we should be busy, doing something, or distracted in order to be at peace or of worth.  At the end of the day, it feels good to say ‘I did this today’.  It is a great feeling to accomplish a goal, but I am reflective now of how I define these goals.  I would like to place as much value on reading a book in the hammock as I do on ‘getting tasks done’ from my to-do list.  Shifting this perspective replenishes my vital energy and supports my life-long recovery.  Sitting with myself in an idle space is not a piece of cake, but it is the pathway to embracing all parts of myself and finding value in the simplest things.

Jun

26

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, perspective, self care, travel

The benefits of self-care: learnings and musings from my time away

It has been some time since I’ve written…and I’ve really missed it and missed my readers!  While on break, I realized the therapeutic value for me in writing blog posts and journal entries and I am eager to process some of the other things I learned while away from my “regular life”.

I was fortunate to be able to take three weeks and travel overseas on a journey of self-care, connecting with loved ones, and exploring new places.  Now that I am back in the office, I have been reflective of a few things that I learned and noticed while I was away.  These musings have benefitted me deeply as a person and as a psychotherapist and I thought it might be helpful for others if I posted them on my blog.

Reflections from a journey away from routines, control, and expectations:

1.)  One of the first things I learned was how challenging it was to give up control, expectations and routine!  It proved to be an exercise in self-restraint to separate myself from my work and “just be” (though I did get this down after a few days of adjusting!).  Three weeks away from email began to give me symptoms of withdrawal…which I quickly realized was not a healthy thing.  I confronted how tied to my work and my home I am, and I learned that it is imperative for me to have boundaries in the way I spend my time, my energy, and my resources.  I desperately wanted to be present and aware during my journey, and this was shown to require more work to accomplish than I had thought!  The benefit of this, though, is noticing that there is extraordinary value and meaning in the simplicity of life, and things don’t need to be complicated!

2.)  I also learned that we are all the authors of our own happiness.  I spent time in some very rural areas and met people who live simple, humble lives.  These people work very hard and enjoy the bounty of their work as they feast on the fresh produce from their gardens, sip the wine from their grapes, and enjoy the meat of the cattle they have raised in their own pastures.  This is all they need to be happy.  The beauty of their lives struck a deep chord with me and I notice how contrasting the aspects that make up my life seem to be from this simplicity.  I am motivated to pursue that simplicity and the appreciation of the earth as the wonderful people I met do every day.  Through making these connections and observing this way of life, I realize that I have a choice.  It does not matter how much money I have or what I own; I can enjoy the beauty of life simply by embracing the gifts of the present moment.

3.)  Relationships are the roots of a beautiful life.  Spending time with loved ones and forming new relationships with friends from afar can deepen our sense of self, our connection with our world, and manifest priceless new memories for a lifetime.  In nurturing my relationships and in embarking on new friendships, I was offered a fresh perspective on life: joy is experienced in the present moment, in a joke with a friend, in the taste of a delicious fruit, in the sound of a bird’s song.  It does not matter what language we speak or if we understand the words of another — connection is felt inside, in a language that does not use words.  Joy is who we are, not what we own or where we have been.  In giving up control of where I was going and what I was doing, I was able to embrace the raw beauty of what IS…without needing to change anything.

Now, back home where there are many other gifts and examples of beauty, I am grappling with how to integrate my experience abroad with my experience in my home.  It has not been a simple transition however I am grateful for how many definitions of peace, beauty, and happiness I have discovered!

I am hopeful that some of what I learned could strike a chord for you as you embrace the challenges and the gifts on your life’s path.  Whether you a in recovery from an eating disorder or managing stressors of a different kind, I know that life can be overwhelming.  I encourage you to take a step back and think about the choices you DO have and how you can find peace in a moment of every day.

Dec

29

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, anorexia nervosa, awareness, binge eating disorder, body acceptance, body image, bulimia nervosa, coping with the holidays, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, education

Concerned that a loved one might have an eating disorder? Five tips for helping to promote body-love and self-acceptance

The holidays are a time of togetherness for family and friends.  They bring a certain warmth of sharing love and memories, often coupled with catching up with loved ones who have been away for some time.  The holiday season is also filled with food, drinks, and more food — another way that families show and share love.  What if you start to notice behaviors with a loved one that are abnormal or self-destructive?  I recently read an article by the Huffington Post entitled Parents are the First Line of Defense Against Eating Disorders in College Freshmen.  This article gives helpful tips for noticeable signs that your college freshman may have developed an eating disorder after their first semester away from home.

Going away to college can be a perfect storm for eating disorder development:  the child’s first taste of freedom and choice, the endless array of dorm food and late night pizza runs, the desire to fit in with new friends through food, drinking, and overindulgence.  In the article, some of the signs are noted as: a noticeable weight loss, a withdrawal from family and friends, and over-concern with meal preparation, discussing that college is very stressful or anxiety-producing, and excessive exercise.  While one or two of these symptoms might not necessarily mean that an eating disorder is present, these can be signs to keep in mind and notice if they intensify or inhibit the student’s life.

So, say you are concerned about a loved one’s behavior and mood changes and worry that he or she might be developing an eating disorder?  How do you approach them so that the disorder doesn’t get worse and he or she might seek out help?  This is a very tricky and touchy area, as eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating disorder are plagued with feelings of guilt and shame and often are kept in a place of denial.  Anorexia nervosa is also difficult to approach due to the rigidly-controlling and overwhelming feelings that this disorder might inflict on the loved one.

Here are a few tips for trying to show you care about a loved one who might have an eating disorder or body image struggles; I found many helpful hints in the book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, PhD which is a very powerful book about “how weight obsession is messing up our girls and how we can help them thrive despite it”.

1.)  Your teenage daughter stands in front of the mirror and says she is ‘ugly and fat’, pointing out the flaws in her thighs and waist.  What do you say?  “I think you have a beautiful body.  Think of all of the amazing things that it does for you: ride your bike, play soccer, dance, run, jump.  When I look at your body I see a body that is open to a whole world of exciting possibilities.”  Try to re-direct the focus away from negative thoughts about the body towards positive, accepting, and hopeful thoughts about the amazing capabilities of our bodies.

2.) Do you notice your daughter or son starting to control food and avoid certain types of food due to potential weight gain?  What can you do?  Model for him or her a positive relationship with food and your body.  Try out many types of foods and express how delicious they taste.  Love food for the energy it provides, for the way that it makes your body feel.  Be adventurous, be brave.  Treat your body with kindness by exercising, eating intuitively, and not worrying about how much or what type of food you are eating.  Your children will notice this body-acceptance and hopefully adopt it themselves.

3.)  You are a father and are noticing your daughter comparing herself to others, not ‘measuring up’, and starting to refuse food so as to lose weight.  What do you do?  Compliment her for things about her that are amazing and are not tied to appearance or weight.  Help her see her strengths in writing, sports, or theatre without using the way she looks as a defining component.  Tell her she is beautiful and remind her of this often.  Model a safe, secure, and loving environment so that she can feel okay to be just who she is.

4.)  Your daughter does not make the volleyball team, feeling excluded and ‘not good enough’.  She begins to isolate herself and work out in her room for several hours a day in order to ‘get in better shape’.  What do you do?  Perhaps you had an experience in school where you felt rejected or that you didn’t measure up to the standard.  Share that experience with your child, show her that it is a normal, if painful, growing up experience, and that she thrives in many other areas.  Help her understand how you got through that experience, what you learned from it, and that you are always there to talk with her.  Help her to channel that energy into self-esteem building ways, such as joining a yoga class or volunteering at an animal shelter.

5.)  You notice large quantities of food disappearing and that your partner has little energy, significant mood swings, and wants to be alone a lot.  What do you do?  Don’t confront her right away, but try to spend more time with her where food is involved:  cook together, eat together, and talk without distraction (like tv or computer) while sharing a meal.  Don’t criticize her food choices or amounts.  Show her that you care but offering to spend time doing her favorites activities.  If she is isolating, invite her to watch your favorite television show together.  Create a positive, safe, and nurturing environment and model healthy eating habits to her.  Offer yourself as someone she can talk to and not be judged.  She will do so when she is ready.  Also secure support for yourself: go to therapy, talk with loved ones, do research.

Struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues is devastating for the loved one as well as her family and friends.  The more that this is talked about and normalized, the less hidden and shaming it will be.  There is always hope, and there is always a time and space for recovery.

Sep

12

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, self care, therapist as client, wellness

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Can you talk the talk if you haven’t walked the walk?: why therapists need to be clients themselves

One of my greatest strengths as a therapist is the fact that I am human.  I am achingly human.  In school, they try to teach therapists-in-training how to set boundaries between yourself and your client — how to leave the feelings, emotions, and process of therapy in the office so that it doesn’t affect your home and personal life.  On the other hand, we are taught (and it is reinforced) that having empathy is a primary asset of a great therapist.  So….being able to “walk in my client’s shoes” should help me become a more dynamic therapist, but I also need to learn to leave those shoes at the front door.  Whew!  This is one of my biggest challenges currently in my career.

Being able to feel and connect with clients can help build that relationship that allows the client to feel safe and secure to risk what it would be like to make some changes in his or her life.  I think that this ability to empathize deeply with clients can ignite a charge of positive progress in the therapy, and I also think that this quality needs to be carefully monitored.  Therapists are at risk of burn-out if they don’t engage in self-care on a regular basis.  And I think that being a client ourselves is one of the highest forms of self care — for several reasons.

I have had clients ask me if I have been in therapy myself.  Honestly, I can’t imagine not having been in therapy, and I am quite open about it.  When I chose my career path (or it chose me…), much of the drive and inspiration that took me there came from experiences and growth I have had in my own years of being a client in therapy.  I learned valuable tools to help myself find peace and happiness and I also learned a lot about the therapy process itself.  How could I know that I wanted to be a therapist if I’d never laid on that couch?  I couldn’t imagine it.  In my training program, we were encouraged to attend therapy ourselves, and though it was not required, it was given to us for free.  This, my university and professors thought, helps to build an amazing counselor — one who knows what it’s like to be across from the therapist, one who is open to working on his/her own issues, and one who can process the anxiety and awkwardness of a first therapy session with you — because they’ve been there.

I am writing about this today because I feel it is crucial for our interests and most especially for the interests of our clients that therapists engage in self-care.  A therapist who is burned out and has no outlet to process will have challenges being present for his or her clients.  I also think that if we are in therapy, or have been in therapy, we are showing a commitment to the therapeutic alliance itself.  We believe in it.  We respect it.  We are just like everyone else.  I get the sense that sometimes therapists are regarded as “in power” or “the leader” in the therapy room.  This, in my opinion, is furthest from the truth.  The client is the expert of his/her own life and story, and the therapist is the listener and sometimes the guide.  I know that if I was a client today and my therapist shared with me that he/she has been in therapy at some point in their lives, I would feel very connected to my therapist — that he or she is a person, just like me, who has things they need to work out, just like me.  And they care enough about themselves (and their clients) to talk to someone about those issues.

Going back to the start: I am human.  This serves me well sometimes, as it enables me to empathize and connect with clients on a very real level.  This also challenges me sometimes, as I work to define my own emotions in my own life.  Therefore, I go to therapy.  Going to therapy, though it can come with all sorts of pre-conceived notions and judgments, is the act of a strong and resilient person — someone who cares enough about him or herself to commit the effort to making a better life for themselves.  I’m not going to lie — it often takes a lot of hard work, patience, and honesty.  But for me, those three are virtues in the handbook of freedom and happiness.  Being a client in therapy has made me a better woman, therapist, friend, family member, and citizen.

What has it done for you?

Oct

11

By Kate Daigle

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Categories: acceptance, LGBT community, National Coming Out Day

Recognizing the importance of National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out day.  I did a little bit of research about this civil holiday and found that it is borne out of the event of the first march on Washington by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender people (LGBT).  The march was on October 11, 1987 and signifies the LGBT community’s struggle for acceptance in society.  Every October 11 since then has recognized this message.  The purpose of National Coming Out Day is to promote honesty and openness about being lesbian, gay, or bisexual (read more: http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/orgs/avproject/NCOD.htm).  I think this is a courageous, outstanding, and respectable event for all of us to bring to our awareness, especially after the recent tragic deaths of four teenage boys who committed suicide after being bullied for their sexual orientation.

I have written before about the dangers of social media and how this ‘instant connection’ we have through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other sites can interrupt honest communication and can promote misunderstanding and bias.  I do have to say that today I am encouraged to see many people post to their Facebook accounts messages about being advocates for the LGBT community: (______) is a straight ally and today is National Coming Out Day. Donate your status and join me in coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality by clicking here: http://bit.ly/9xGNV2.  I have seen a few people come out today on Facebook, garnering love, support, and empathy from their friends and family.  No matter when or how one decides to come out, it can be risky as you cannot predict the reactions from those you open yourself up to — especially on a social media network.  Brave and confident souls, I commend you and support you!

The New York Times online blog writes today about the challenges of coming out to parents and loved ones…and how it has never been easy, even without social media.  Coming out can be intimidating for the gay/lesbian family member, as they may fear if they will still be accepted and loved after this revelation.  The recipient of the news may also go through emotions, feelings, resentments, regrets, and all sorts of other reactions to the news – especially if their son/daughter/parent had waited many years to open up.  In the NYT blog, an adult daughter talks about her trepidation about coming out to her mother, and how she felt the only way she could do it, at age 28, was to write her mother a letter and mail it across the country.

The uncertainty of being accepted or judged by family members can escalate into anxiety, depression, anger, and sometimes tragedy.  After Tyler Clementi’s suicide last month after his roommates unjustly exposed him to the internet, his parents have come forward and said that they did not know he was gay.  I can only imagine the complexity and anguish that must have been going on in Tyler’s mind and my heart goes out to him and his family.  Perhaps, with the right circumstances, Tyler could have opened up to his family and his path would have shifted from secrecy about who he is to openness and self acceptance.  But we will never know what “could have been”, and it’s tormenting to imagine that now.  We DO have the choice to change the way we judge, treat, and criticize people who are different from “the mainstream” and we CAN make this world a more understanding place for every type of person who lives in this diverse society.

Today, I embrace each one of my friends and family members who are of the LGBT community, whether they are open about their sexual orientation or not.  I am an ally to each one of you as a friend or as a counselor.  Today, on National Coming Out Day we must all lend our voices in support of the LGBT community, because there are plenty of people who still judge and attack them.  On some message boards today, there are plenty of comments — those supporting National Coming Out Day, and those who believe it should not matter.  There still is bigotry in this society, and it is unfortunate to see.  However, there is also a lot of progress in accepting multiculturalism and diversity.

This day is a chance for those who have never felt safe to embrace who they are, and for those who have confidence to give their hand to those less sure about being out.