How are you going to take action?

No Body Story Shame

Hello and happy first Friday in June!

The Potentia team has transitioned into our summer schedule which is full of vacations, sun, and fun while continuing to serve our community by treating the whole person and the whole spectrum of mental health and wellness issues.

As many of our long-time friends know, one of the areas we offer specialized support is in the treatment of the eating disorder spectrum.

Today I am adding to the voices talking about World Eating Disorder Action Day – which was yesterday but better late than never!

I know when I write or talk about eating disorders, many say this issue is not important to them because it does not impact their life.

I ever so gently want nudge that sentiment to say that this issue – the most deadly of all mental health struggles – is an issue for us all.

In fact, this is a leadership issue and your voice and action is needed.

It is time to take action and create space to have a different conversation about food, health, bodies, worthiness, strength and success.

Many are secretly struggling with self-loathing, anxiety, fear and shame around how you feed, move, dress, rest and talk to your body. This may not present as a clinical eating disorder though the distress is still significant.

We live in a culture where it is acceptable – and often encouraged – to critique how people look, eat, dress, and live. Our bodies, which are both personal and private, are often not respected in search of  control, status, belonging and relief.

Shaming self and others destroys souls and never leads to sustained change or healing.

And this is where you come in on this call to action.

Even if eating disorders do seem like they not impact you, taking some subtle yet powerful actions to help create more safe spaces to talk about what it means to be well, what it is like to struggle with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, recovering from trauma, neglect, loneliness and hopelessness can make a profound difference.

Genetics, family of origin and difficult like experiences play a role in how we all navigate what it means to be well. The media we consume, our social, professional and faith communities all have a powerful influence on our lives, too.

Would you consider taking action on any of the following areas? These may seem like small gestures or actions. Do not underestimate the power of making a small change.

  • Discourage negative body talk or shaming at your home, school, place of worship and.or work.
  • Affirm people based on their character not their looks or physical accomplishments.
  • Edit your consumption of media (tv, social media, magazines, etc) or even consider taking a media fast for a week.
  • Learn about orthorexia and how the obsession to eat healthy is really masking serious disordered eating, anxiety and other serious struggles.
  • Read this series I wrote for Darling Magazine on the myths and meanings of eating disorders.
  • Make a commitment to learn more about what it means to feed well, move well, rest well and talk with your body well. Dr. Megan Holt is an excellence resource for in-person or online health + wellness consultations.
  • Stop dieting and extreme ways of feeding and pursue a practice of intuitive and mindful eating.
  • If there is someone in your circle of influence you think may be struggling on the disordered eating spectrum, dare to have a courageous conversation with him/her – stating your love, your concern and your suggested resources. 
  • Commit to making the dinner table and home a place where food is discussed neutrally and is a means for fuel and medicine and enjoyment – not to be a source of obsession or fear.

 

What would you add to this list? 

How do you plan to take action in your circle of influence? 

 

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching

PS – Make sure to check out our Summer Mental Health Camp offerings throughout the summer!

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The Loneliness of Suffering in Silence

Helenkellerbest

suf·fer·ing noun the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.

Too many people are suffering in silence. Our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, members at our church and our social media friends may not look like they are struggling because most people do not wear their loneliness and shame on their sleeve.

We all have become pretty darn good at hiding our suffering.

In vulnerable and authentic conversations, I hear people say:

Well…everyone seems to have it all together.
Why am I still struggling? Others seems to get over challenges quicker than I do.
I am the exception to grace, forgiveness and peace.
I can’t talk about my loneliness. No one will understand because I have so many blessings in my life, I will just seem selfish. 
I am tired of trying again and again and nothing seems to work to help me feel better. 
It only makes me feel worse worrying the people around me – it is better to just keep my pain to myself. 
If I really told people about why I am hurting, I would lose my job, my family, my friends. No one at church would talk with me anymore. 
I do not have the resources to get help. I need to just figure this out on my own. 
I do not think people want to hear the pain. It seems everyone wants to fix me instead of understand me. 
Too many people think mental health struggles are my fault. If I could do something to stop feeling this way, I would! I have tried!

Story shame disconnects, blames and fuels fear beyond its protective origins.

Shame wins when you stay silent about your pain. And shame also wins when you shrink from the messiness of entering into another’s story of struggle because of judgement, blame and fear.

I made a vow to myself when I was in high school to do everything I could to make sure people did not suffer in silence like I did during my teen years and beyond.

The mentors, friends and professional in my life were anchors as I navigated figuring out how to adult in a way that made sense to me and was sustainable.

Eventually studying why people struggle helped me develop a deeper understanding of my own story, my brain and the spiritual aspect of suffering which eventually led me to my current professional passion as a therapist.

Mental illness is real and the statistics around those wrestling mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders are way too high.

But even greater is the epidemic of loneliness.  This is the kind of loneliness that is not based on whether you have people around you but more about whether you feel seen, heard and understood.

The kind of loneliness I am talking about is a deficit of social connection – which may seem ridiculous to those who say we are more connected then ever in this era of social media. But what is presented on social media is often not a holistic picture of people’s lives.

This video address the connection of loneliness and social media brilliantly:

Loneliness impacts our physical body and our souls. It is a biological warning sign there is a threat to our social connection. It activates the pain triggers in our brain to inform us we are in danger.

Loneliness is different than depression but is a bedfellow with it, for sure. And shame, oh the narrative of shame, gets fueled when we are in connection deficit.

Experiencing positive connection often does not eradicate the loneliness immediately. But if steadfast in the practice of reaching out and showing up with the right support, you can begin to get your mind, body and soul to recalibrate. Genetics, temperament, history and life experiences all play a role in the impact of loneliness and suffering along with how we heal from these difficult states.

It is also risky business to be steadfast with someone struggling. Rarely are there quick fixes and it can be intense navigating how to help, when to help and when to step back.

It is scary to reach out for help. It is also scary to help someone.

Committing to help someone struggling involves uncertainty, messiness and stress.

Committing to keep trying to heal involves energy, motivation and commitment.

When judgement spikes when confronted with stories of struggle, be clear it is armor to your vulnerabilities which have been triggered by giving witness and feeling painful emotions.

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” – Henri J.M. Nouwen The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

We desire so deeply to be seen and when we are  – it can also be one of the most terrifying experiences, too.

I think there is more we can do in our communities to decrease the numbers of those suffering in silence.

We are not the ‘other’. Either we are struggling or we have come out of our time of suffering so we can support those who are in the pit of pain.

We need to cultivate in our communities permission to share struggles, regularly communicate the message to never stop trying and that showing up for help is deeply important, if not necessary.

This UCLA Loneliness Inventory is a useful tool in assessing you loneliness scale and the need for additional support. 

For those feeling suicidal or who know some struggling with suicide and need support, connect with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To text for help, contact Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., click here international support. Grief and loss resources are available here. (link http://www.griefshare.org/.)

My challenge to you is to dare to reach out this week to one person – whether to share you care about someone or to reach out for your own help.

Never underestimate a courageous act.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT