I’m sometimes asked whether I use this blog as a form of therapy, and whether I write as a way of dealing with my feelings about current or past events. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I’m no stranger to writing from the heart, and that I always aim to be honest and transparent about my recovery from Anorexia and OCD. If you attended my recent seminar at Warwick University for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week you’ll know that this is the case.
On the whole I found actual therapy – by which I mean psychotherapy with an Eating Disorders specialist – to be something that I looked forward to each week. It took me a long time (years) to deeply connect, and to give myself the permission to cry in a session. It took me a long time (years) to realise that my therapist could handle my tears, and that I didn’t need to be strong for her. It took me a long time (years) to accept that I needed her help. That I was desperately sick, and that the NHS weren’t providing me with all of their support for no apparent reason. I never shied away from or missed my sessions, but I sometimes took a thick armour into the room with me.
I haven’t blogged for a couple on months. I guess it’s because I don’t want to bring that same armour to this space. When I start writing the truth just seems to spill out from my fingertips, and I guess I have been scared about what may present itself. Since the start of 2017 the question that keeps presenting itself to me is “Bims, what is your TRUTH?“. I know that I am a writer. So it makes sense to start here.
I’ve both deliberately and inadvertently started to surround myself with others – women mostly – who embody their own truth. I’ve been doing more yoga and meditation, which in the absence of therapy is now my way of facing all of the murky, shitty feelings that would otherwise lay buried deep beneath the surface. This year I have started teaching a weekly mindfulness class, where I encourage the attendees to look inside themselves and honour whatever it is that their minds, bodies and spirits are truly asking for. So it seems only natural that I would start to do the same. In asking my mind what she wants, asking my body what she wants and asking my heart what she wants, sometimes all I hear is “NOT THIS“.
A year ago I was deep in contest prep for my first competition, and I had a laser like focus in reaching my goal of stepping on stage and looking strong, shredded, fierce. In May I competed again, this time trying to bring a softer look to the stage, but my genetics and lifestyle dictated that I was still on the lean side for Bikini. Nonetheless, I embarked on my off season with the intention of competing again in April of this year.
However, a great deal has changed in my life since last summer. I am living in Brighton, surrounded by my family. I am working as a Personal Trainer, both in a busy gym and as an Online Coach. I teach Spin classes, as well as Yoga and Mindfulness. I have made some wonderful new friends and acquaintances, some of whom inspire me deeply. Somehow Bodybuilding has moved lower down in my list of priorities. For instance:
- I could spend an hour training, or spend an hour having cuddles with my niece.
- I could spend a Sunday afternoon eating cold food out of Tupperware on my own, or having a roast dinner and red wine with my family.
- I could spend time obsessing over my own diet, calories and macros, or invest that time into my clients and ensure that they reach their goals.
- I could spend an hour watching bodybuilders on Instagram walking on the treadmill, pretending they are “in the trenches”, or spend an hour connecting with other women in a group meditation.
- I could time taking gym selfies every day (I’m still guilty of the odd one!), adding “structure and sharpen” until I look shredded enough for Instagram, or teach Mindfulness to a group of busy gym-goers who need my guidance and permission to go let go of DOING and enter a calm state of BEING.
The second options on this list, which only scratch the surface, are what give me deep fulfilment.
It’s not that I will never compete again, but at the moment my body is asking for me to be kind, to be soft. I punished and pushed myself through Anorexia Nervosa and, in some ways, through Bodybuilding. The prospect of losing muscle and losing strength is something that scares me; I like looking and feeling strong. But, as I have said many times, true strength for me will always be about allowing my vulnerability to shine through.
I still lift, and I still eat like an athlete 80% of the time. But, I’ve finally developed a yoga practice that is becoming more important than my body part split. I’ve got back into the routine of a daily meditation practice. I eat like a non-athlete (with no restrictions) 20% of the time. As the days and weeks go on I envisage that the sun salutations may start to override the bicep curls, and that the green smoothies with a side of chocolate (because #balance) start to replace the protein shakes. It helps knowing that I have supportive people in my life who love me however I look, as long as I am happy and healthy.
Change is never painful; only the resistance to change is painful
The final point of this blog post is to reassure anyone reading this (and to continue to reassure myself) that it is ok to change. Change is a sign of growth, of self development and self realisation. It’s ok to look inside yourself and do what you know is right for YOU, rather than what the world expects of you. I am asked daily whether I am going to compete again. My Instagram account is littered with selfies, shredz and badly spelt posts from bodybuilders who act as though Peanut Butter is better than sex. I am not them, I am ME, and I am becoming more like ME every day. Writing, meditation, yoga, relationships, love – This is my therapy, this is my truth.