I remember the exact time I had my first anxiety attack 17 years ago. I remember the feelings explicitly, although at the time, I had no idea that’s what it was. I was physically and mentally aware that I was having a 4-week term miscarriage. What I did not know was that the heart racing, nausea, dizziness, out of control, barely able to breathe feeling was anxiety.
This miscarriage took place three years after delivering a healthy baby girl, with no pregnancy or delivery complications. Following my miscarriage, my obstetrician sent me for various tests. Not to determine why the miscarriage happened, but to determine if there was anything physical that could be found in order to move forward for another pregnancy. It was during that time that I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid cancer. It was a lucky find. Nothing anyone was looking for or anticipating finding. Of course, this did not happen overnight. There were ultrasounds, biopsies, specialists and many appointments before cancer was confirmed. I had my full thyroid surgically removed followed by two radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) sessions (to sum it up simply, I swallowed a radioactive iodine pill each time that absorbs healthy and cancerous thyroid cells). This all took place over a span of three years, during which time I was advised not to try and conceive. All baby-making plans were on hold especially after RAI.
I recall many moments of anxiousness during this time. I was worried for my daughter and my husband. I was lucky in the sense that I had a highly treatable cancer, found at a very early stage. However, removing your thyroid is not as simple as it sounds. Your thyroid produces hormones that control every aspect of your metabolism, from your heart rate to how quickly you burn calories. Needless to say, I was thankful for the cancer to be gone, but struggled tremendously with the symptoms of having no thyroid. My daughter was young at this time, 7 or 8 years old. My husband and I wanted to protect her from the worry, the scary bits, and generally just allow her to be a kid without dealing with big stuff. We now know that it should have been more carefully thought through. Children are extremely perceptive, and they usually sense when something of a serious nature is being hidden from them. She knew...not exactly what...but she knew something was up. We never intentionally set out to keep things a secret, we just wanted to protect her. Now we know that we were creating a false sense of reality for her, which we would never ever repeat.
Ultimately, after five years of navigating through this time in my life, we decided (lovingly, affirmatively and logically) to not have another child. We were comfortable with our decision. Enter the world and its opinions....and that all pretty much fell to shit for me. I was often asked questions such as “aren’t you having another child”, “don’t you want to give her a sibling”, “aren’t you worried that she will be alone”. And more. It took me a very long time (years) to finally move past all of this negative and toxic “advice” and knock it down one person at a time. There are a multitude of reasons why people have one child – check out @momof1anddone whom I adore for “squashing the stigma of being an only child parent.” We need more Amandas in this world. And for anyone who knows my daughter, she has definitely squashed the stigma of being an only child.
Today, I can affirmatively say that my daughter is my best friend. And vice versa. I only started calling her my best friend in the last year – she is now 20. I just don’t understand how I could have been her best friend before that since parenting involved being an authority and imparting guidance. Yes - I care, love and feel compassionate towards my friends and my daughter, but I don’t act authoritative with my friends. I was not afraid to discipline my daughter, nor did I feel the need to overcompensate by trying to be her friend. Today, my daughter is an adult. My daughter and I choose to spend time together, to talk daily and share what we want to share. She also has the confidence, trust and ability to tell me to back off if need be, because let’s face it, I am still her mom. And I’m ok with that. It’s not her job to fulfill my emotional needs.
Raising a child in the 00’s is hard, and it’s busy. Things go so fast. And there is so much to deal with all the time. As parents, we always made a point to talk to our daughter and there were no topics that were off limit, based on her age. We often went beyond levels of comfort and had conversations with her about sex, drugs, alcohol and mental health. We were never afraid to set boundaries with her. But we always made sure to explore why we were setting those boundaries. Everything was different from the way I grew up. Therefore, I chose to educate myself, to read, to research, to listen to podcasts. If I didn’t know, I researched, made notes. I felt the need to stay relevant and aware especially with help at my fingertips. And I am so grateful I did. Because when the time came for my daughter to tell us about her anxiety, her panic, her phobia and her overall mental health, we were so thankful that she felt comfortable enough to tell us and for us to know enough to validate her feelings and help her get the professional help she needed. This time, I did not protect her from the scary stuff. I openly and truthfully shared with her my journey with anxiety, medication and mental health. Today, my daughter and I openly and lovingly share resources, tools and therapies related to our mental health. We continue to learn every day.
My name is Beatriz. I am a proud mom of one. A wife. A daughter. A sister. I am an entrepreneur, a teacher and a mentor. I have had a full thyroidectomy, cancer, and a full hysterectomy including both ovaries. I have anxiety. I take daily medication. I am strong, loving and compassionate. I am smart, opiniated and tenacious. I am many things, but my favourite by far...I am a proud mom of one.
My daughter’s name is Madison – the creator of Speaking Truth Company.
She is not afraid to take chances. She is loving, yet strong willed. She is able to “put it all out there.” She is ready and able to fight stigmas. She knows when to ask for help. She knows how to help. She knows how to stand up for herself. She is smart, loving, empathetic, compassionate and well-rounded. She is Madison. And she is my daughter.
She just taught me how to “put it all out there.”
Unmatched energy, untapped potential.
Not much compares to the progress we can make through taking what’s known as a leap of faith.
Now, please don’t go jumping from building to building and telling people Jake Myles told you to take that life changing leap, that’s not what I’m getting at.
But have you ever taken a chance on something you knew with your whole heart was meant to happen?
Now flip it.
Have you ever taken a chance on something you knew without a doubt it wasn’t going to happen for you?
If you said yes to either of those questions. You know exactly what I’m about to get into.
Leaps of faith are chances, they’re risks. Taking control of a situation, looking it dead in the eyes and deciding to make something happen for yourself that you normally wouldn’t do.
A word I want to highlight here, is “belief”.
It’s one thing to strongly believe in what you can do and what you can control, but believing in things that you can’t control, something like the the unknown and still pushing forward is what’s so great about these decisions, they’re ours to make.
Belief is what will get you to take that leap. Believing in, not only the outcome, but yourself. Knowing deep deep down that you will be okay, regardless of what the outcome may show and that will make it easier to trust your instincts in the future. Once you take that first leap into something special, it’s so hard to ever look back.
I guess that’s what any of us really want right? To live a life full of mystery and excitement with new opportunities around each corner, but how do you expect to live that real authentic, meaningful life, without testing who it is you want to be?
How many times do we switch up the people we want to be and the things we want to do?
And how many times do we lose ourselves along the way?
The thing with taking leaps is that we will most likely fall. You’re not gonna land every jump safely on the other side but where you land, that safety net or window ledge or whatever you want to call it, might just be the landing you were looking for. That change in pace, that new environment or however you choose to look at it.
I believe everything happens for a reason, I have for a long time and I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before on the mic but if you don’t land exactly where you wanted to be, take it for what it is. There’s a reason you landed there. There’s a reason that chance you took put you in the position that you are now in.
Long story short, you have to trust yourself. Trust your vision and trust your heart.
This profound belief that good things will happen when you choose to take control of your life harnesses this type of protection against your fears.
Is it scary? Yes.
Is it hard? Without a doubt.
But is it worth it? Absolutely.
I’m still trying to find that for myself. The total confidence to be able tot are those leaps whenever they arise. I’m definitely becoming more aware of the fact that often I can’t control when they appear and just what lies ahead but I see it differently than I used to. I’m so much more conformable with the unknown, I mean I still have a long way to go, but I’m not as scared as I used to be.
Whether you’re not he verge of following your passion or you have that gut feeling inside you and you’re not sure whether or not to follow it.. take that leap and follow your heart.
Know that when you follow your heart, you’ll never regret it because at one point in time, it was everything you wanted, and more.
Hold onto that as tight as you can and never let it go because it goes by so quickly.
And do you want to spend the rest of your life wishing you had, or do something now and spend the rest of your life, thanking yourself for what you do today.
My journey with (diagnosed) mental illness started when I was 12. First came anxiety, and then depression, and, most recently, bipolar disorder. Though these 9 years have been difficult, I have been fortunate enough to be able to receive therapy. I know this is unfortunately not the norm for many struggling with mental illnesses; many go without help (that is another blog post all in itself). That is why I wanted to talk about 3 things I have learned in therapy that have helped me expand my thinking in order to cope with my various mental illnesses.
Just a reminder, I am not a professional. I’m a 21 year old simply speaking from experience. These skills have taken me a long time to work into my coping toolbox, and even still I am not a master of them. Give yourself grace.
Dialectics falls under the umbrella of DBT. Dialectics is the shifting of the mind to see that two things can be true at the same time. I used to be confused when I would feel two emotions at once, because I didn’t really know if that was normal. When I learned about dialectics in group therapy, I realized that two things can in fact be true at the same time. For example, I can be sad *and* excited. I can be lonely *and* content. Instead of saying “I feel X *but* I also feel Y”, I have gotten into the habit of saying *and* instead.
Here are some other examples of dialectical thinking provided to you by Sarah (@sar.thrives on instagram)
2. Feelings are not facts
When I am experiencing a depression cycle, I sometimes *feel* like my negative emotions will last forever. I *feel* like i am not strong enough to rise up and beat off the zombies. Then i learned that just because i *feel* a certain way, that does not mean it is a fact. It is simply a feeling. We must not attach factuality to feelings or thoughts because you can end up believing some nasty stuff about yourself. So, here’s a tip: when you are in your most grounded mind, or your “wise mind”, we must tell ourselves that what we feel is not always the reality. Repeatedly. This will help us when we are in times of distress, because we have already been reminding ourselves of this.
3. Radical acceptance
Ah, radical acceptance, my favourite. Simply put, radical acceptance is the act of accepting your reality, when you cannot change your reality (despite the desire for it to be different). We cannot change what we cannot change. This is a tough pill to swallow! That’s hard! That’s why for me, radical acceptance is the key to letting go of suffering from what I can't change. Once I accepted my reality, I could stop fighting so hard. Resisting my “present'' so much. So, whatever we are experiencing suffering from that we cannot change -- i.e. our weight / our bodies (yup, I said it. We cannot change our bodies long term...), our face shape, our current situation in life, etc etc, we must work to accept it wholeheartedly to reduce suffering.
I want to reiterate that these skills, like acceptance for example, are so much easier said than done. So so so much easier said than done. For me, effective coping comes in waves. Sometimes I am a mess for weeks on end, and sometimes I can pull myself out of it quickly. It all depends on how actively I am working to make myself feel better. Having mental illness(es) is a full time job. So fight like hell. While fighting like hell, though, have some patience with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind.
From the outside looking in you’d say “wow, look at this guy… he’s got it all!” “He’s always so happy”…
I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy? I’ve had so much success professionally and not too many people in my industry can say that but it’s what happens when the lights go down and screaming fans are not there… that’s when you are tested the most.
Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows … Imagine not really knowing if people liked you because you were you or because you were someone famous and all they wanted was to be around that. Imagine having critics chew you up and spit you out because they didn’t think your work was good. Imagine having people on your team that you trusted for years to only have them disappear off the face of the earth with tens of thousands of dollars of your money. Imagine after having so much success being told by your record company that they’re “going in a new direction” or having family members repeatedly struggle with addiction… These things can really mess with someone mentally and I fell into a bit of a dark place.
My career started when I was very young and I was brought up in a home full of love but we weren’t the “come home and tell me what you’re feeling” type of family… If you were sad, you dealt with it… If you were mad, you dealt with it… Problem with that is when you’ve held in so much over so many years, you’re setting yourself up for a nuclear bomb of emotions to explode. The other problem I was facing was that because of my upbringing, I wasn’t comfortable talking about my feelings. “I’m a man and I should just deal with it myself” or “I’ll figure it out” but I came to realize that is not healthy and I wasn’t gonna figure it out. Well I mean my wife really helped me realize that as it really started to take a toll on our relationship so I needed to make a decision… Go and get help or be unhappy and keep making the people around me unhappy. Well… I decided to go and get some help and it was the best decision I ever made.
In 2019 I started seeing a therapist once a week. To be honest, the first time was kind of weird… You’re thinking that this person is judging you because you’re a bit of a screw up, “Why are you here?”, “What is your biggest problem you think?”, “What do you wanna work on?”…
Umm how about EVERYTHING! Haha! The more he spoke and the more I spoke I became really comfortable talking and realized he was not judging me, he was listening. I think that’s a huge part of it for men, we just want someone to listen to us, support us and not judge us. Atleast for me that was a huge part of it. Every time I left there I felt lighter and felt like I took something away from the session that I could use everyday at home with my wife and my kids. I’ll never forget this one exercise we did that REALLY hit home for me…
My therapist picked up a piece of paper, rolled it up and asked me to grab one end as he held the other end and said “I am the bad thoughts you think of, The fear of what your wife is gonna say to you when you open up to her , the fear of talking about your feelings, all of that stuff and right in front of you is this dark hole and I’m going to pull you into it… what are you going to do Shawn?” At first I thought to myself “I don’t know what this guy is trying to teach me here, it feels kind of dumb playing tug of war in his office, this is what I’m paying for?” He asked me again “Shawn, I’m your thoughts, fears and I’m pulling you into this black hole, what are you gonna do Shawn?” to which I answered “I have no idea what you want me to say” then he answered “Just let go” so I let go and said “WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!” I didn’t expect that” So deep yet so simple! It’s crazy how that moment has stuck with me for 2yrs and anytime I feel embarrassed about saying something, expressing my feelings or feeling depressed in someway I just say to myself “Shawn, Just let it go and say it!
This whole idea of a man felling like less of a man in terms of seeking help is so backwards to me now… I believe it takes a real man to realize he needs help and not be embarrassed about that. Sure maybe 30 years ago this wasn’t a thing but in times like we are living in right now, it is more important than ever to seek the help you need and deserve. Since going public with my struggles, the amount of support and other men who have told me they’ve experienced something similar has been so inspiring. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not perfect (my wife will tell you that herself…haha) and I’m still a work in progress but I continue to work on it everyday.
I’m not sure there is one answer on what makes you happy in love and in life but I hope my story can help someone feeling like there’s no answer get the help they need to at least find their answer.
Stay safe & much love
TW: thoughts centred around disordered eating/binge-eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and self-destruction.
Helloooo :) I’m Bri, pronounced like the cheese, and I deal with disordered eating. Wow, that feels good to write. Specifically, my eating disorder (ED) is referred to as binge-eating disorder (BED). Shit, that feels so good to write! It feels good to write that I deal with an ED because for many years, I hid that part of myself. I believed I might come across as a weak person who has no will power if I declare I have BED. But it’s time for a declaration.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when my relationship with food became toxic but looking back at my old journals, it was around the time I was 15 years old.
Flashback - It is the summer of 2013 and I am participating in an intensive ballet program in a different province. For the first time, I have to plan out my meals for myself. I have to rely on what my body is telling me and what signals it is sending me. After a long day of dancing, my body tells me that I am hungry. Food, please! So I listen, and I feed my body with whatever cravings it wants. Oftentimes, I would feed myself to a point of discomfort. Ouch! Stomach is filled. Then, I would throw up the food that has already gone down my throat, and I would pray that I got it all out. Noooo! I need that nutrience! Next, I would prevent myself from eating due to the fear that I would overeat again. Help! I am in pain! Thus began a cycle that would continue for many years.
eating to the point of discomfort,
purging when unhappy,
body checking in store windows,
sucking in my stomach,
preventing normal breathing patterns,
choosing diet fads that did not align with my body,
lying to loved ones about my issue,
being jealous of others for having the “ideal body”...
My habits were distractions to rid me of having to make healthier choices. Not good.
Later on in my teens, I realized that my body had been trained to reject certain foods because they were deemed “unhealthy for a ballerina”. Growing up, I wished so badly for a “ballerina body” that I stopped listening to my natural hunger signals.
There were wonderful moments in my adolescence, and I am lucky to have had the opportunities I did. Yet, along with those delightful moments came many moments where I completely missed the parade. I was self-destructive. It got to a point where I stopped believing in my ability to be beautiful. I couldn’t accept compliments from others because I didn’t think I deserved to be beautiful. At least, MY definition of beautiful. Looking in a mirror, my mind would distort the image I saw, and I would only see a monster looking back at me. The reflected image of my stomach area reminded me of a globby-goopy-monster who gobbled on anything in its garden. My neck area, in its reflected image form, reminded me of a mogully-manufactured-monster who munched on megatronic meals. I write “the reflected image” because that is not what was actually there. My ED enveloped my sight and blinded me from who was actually in the mirror. A human. A body.
Flashforward to the present - I am 23 years old, a graduate of Ryerson’s BFA Dance program, a podcast host, and a lover of musical theatre. Most importantly, I have been in ED therapy for over a year now. Working with counsellors one-on-one, and with BED group therapy facilitators. These experiences have guided me to take action to control my ED and seek health. Three times a day (perhaps more) I face food. In order to nourish myself, I confront the history of pain that I’ve battled within the presence of food. The binging, the starving, the hateful thoughts towards my stomach and neck areas... I try to remember the tools I’ve been given and I try not to revert back to my old habits. And that can be EXHAUSTING at times. I often get tired from trying to eat!!
My relationship with food will continue to be rocky, even with the therapy I am involved in. Grocery store shopping is still an anxiety-inducing experience. Ordering at a restaurant, before COVID-19 restrictions, takes me longer than most people I know. When I sit down with a friend to eat, my ED voice pulls up a chair at the table too. An uninvited guest. A loud, arrogant cousin with a million statements in my head: Ignore your cravings, conceal your taste buds, only eat the vegetables, don’t even think about dessert, wait to eat until someone else has started, wHYYyyy are you thinking about dessert?! Stop eating you fat piece of shit!! This dialogue can be louder than my healthy thoughts. I feel guilty thinking about some of the interactions I’ve had with friends because I wasn’t being present with them. Half-dealing with the ED voice, half-engaging in friendly conversation. What a fucking mess.
I hope that every dancer, and human, does not put themselves what I put myself through. As a dance teacher, I try to incorporate affirmations of gratitude towards the body in my classes. Thanking the muscles and joints that brought each student to the class. Practicing those positive thoughts of love to the body, helps me remember that my body is mine, and I have the power to nourish it.
I’ll leave you with this affirmation - I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. (you can use this in a sexual situation too!!)
All jokes aside, this affirmation has helped me to eat with mindfulness and with love for my body’s signals. Eating is what propels me into living a happier life.
And I am done being angry at my body.
My website: themusicthemirror.com
Some resources to check out:
- Sheena’s Place Organization (link here) - center for eating disorder support
- Mindfully Megg on IG (@mindfullymegg) - helps educate & empower dancers to prioritize nourishment
- Kathryn Morgan on YouTube (link here) - professional ballerina who makes honest videos about her journey with body image issues
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!