I see many people coming into therapy in January. It is a time when many are motivated to get into recovery: from disordered eating, alcohol, compulsive spending, depression. The challenge comes when the motivation starts to dwindle.
Here is Brene Brown’s timeline for January:
January 1 — This resolution is going to be awesome!
January 5 — I’m awesome.
January 10 — This sucks.
January 20 — I suck.
Just as people’s resolutions about the vision of recovery and the life they want are starting to fall into the shame-hole of failure, I want to invite you to try a different approach. Allow creativity, love, imperfection, and not-knowing into the mix…vision collage-ing can be a way to do this. (Oh and doing it with support is even better!)
I imagine a woman:
who is authentically herself
who cultivates her inner soul-flame
who brings this soul-flame into the world to assist in healing individuals, communities, countries, the world
who is being of service in the world in a way that brings joy
who inspires others through her actions; through her being
who is a light to other women
who reveals that beauty is about finding and sharing your inner light
who becomes even more visible in her 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s
who knows that love is more important that anything else
who imagines the world anew
who walks into that world, creates a path, and illuminates the path for others to follow…
“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” ―Meister Eckhart
Thank you for the inspiration of your life and the path you illuminated, Seena Frost, MFT. I am incredibly honored to have met and been guided by you. Your life was a light for many and your light continues to shine. For a beautiful tribute to Seena, founder of the powerful process of soulcollage(R) click here: SeenaFrost, Founder of Soulcollage
I’m reposting this “Force Awakens” post to honor the late Carrie Fischer, who recently died of a heart attack. Bless her and her work IRL for recovery: her own, and advocating for other’s. May she rest in peace.
- Recovery is a hero(ine’s) journey.
Star wars continues to be an epic and a classic for good reason: the hero(ine)’s journey is archetypal. It is something that has spoken to us humans cross culturally for millennium. Recovery is a hero(ine)’s journey. It follows the story of descent and return, of finding the shadow in one’s self, “slaying” the demon, and integrating it. It resolves the tension of free will: choosing to align one’s self with the force. And what is the force? 12 steppers would call this “Higher Power,” some eating disorder recovery circles call it “the part of you that knows,” Dialectical Behavioral Therapy calls it “Wise Mind.” It is the quiet voice of knowing that is always available, should you cultivate the simple but not easy practice of listening to its guidance.
- Do or do not. There is no try.
Over-quoted, but good. Yoda is a good teacher because he is approached with fear and left with love. You can feel his power because he has integrated it into his Being. His wisdom, like any teacher that has walked their talk, comes from not just words, but actions and experience. He has embodied the teaching. This is one reason why it is so helpful to be working with a mentor, therapist, or sponsor who has recovered themselves. They can illuminate the way for you through the experience of the footsteps they have taken on the path.
- Choosing to belong now helps free you from the past.
In “The Force Awakens,” there is a scene at the bar where Rey finds Luke’s old light saber. She has a PTSD-like vision of her past and all the abandonment wounds that are still there. And the wise bar tender says:
“The belonging you seek is not in the past. It is in front of you.”
Recovery is about coming to peace with your past by living your way into the future. The only way out is through. Part of you may want to go to sleep (aka use/drink/restrict/binge/purge/go back to false innocence before trauma), but that option is gone. Once you start to wake up, you can’t go back to sleep.And the connection you want with all of the lost love(s) is here now for you to build. Heal the wounds from the past by living your way into the future, NOW.
- Good Leaders Hold hope, Inspire love, and Dare Greatly
I love how Leah has become a General in The Force Awakens. And I love how she starts to mentor the young Rey. There is a beautiful moment where she tells Hans Solo with great love to bring their son back from the dark side. The force, and a mother, never gives up on hope, on love, on her child.
Unfortunately, Hans Solo ends up dying. But, as Brenee Brown rallies for in her TED talk on transforming shame, you have to be willing to get in the ring and fight, even if you fail:
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself,I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.
- And last but not least It’s not about the size of your body or whether you have “aged well.”
OK, I’m going to blur the character and the actress here and give a shout out to Carrie Fischer. She has grown through the years from starving herself to portray Princess Leah in 1983 slave bikini, to recovering from disordered eating and body image struggles, addiction, and Bipolar Disorder, to tweeting comebacks to criticism about her appearance in the latest film by stating:
“Please stop debating about whether or not I have aged well.”
“Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”
Go Carrie. Go Recovery! And if they ask you to lose weight for the next film, JUST SAY NO! This is not a die-t; this is a live-it.
…and recovery is always possible
My first year with the baby was dreamy, so when I started to decline, I didn’t think it was Postpartum depression (PPD). The docs had said PPD could occur anytime in the first year. They didn’t say what it was when depression occurred after that. Since my self-esteem was plummeting, which is one of the hallmarks of PPD, I concluded that my downward spiral was my own fault, due to poor management of my time and energy. It got ugly as the chemistry in my brain lost more and more balance.
What it felt like is that the sun that energizes the earth and had brightened my day was no longer available. I couldn’t feel its warmth. People often use the sun metaphor when talking about depression. When the depression lifts, they say, it is like the sun comes out again. This is very much what it was like for me. When the sun was absent, it was so frustrating because I knew what was missing – a connection to the universe – but I could not get it back. Movement, light, forward momentum – they were gone.
Usually, when you walk, you go forward.
In the dark season, your footsteps dissolve in the mighty, silent ink.
Lost, you have no choice but to sink into what you cannot see.
You reach out but your hands slide down the slick walks of despair,
This relentless, downward pitch can only be a vein of hell.
the baby sleeps through the night, you get a day off, you lie down and rest.
beats your heart. Your mind says nothing.
You feel heat again in your spine. You see orange at the corners of your eyes.
This quiet place at the bottom where the flame always burns,
must be a chamber of heaven
that it took the darkness for you to see.
I wish that I had known sooner that what I was experiencing was a delayed onset of PPD. I would have sleep-trained the baby earlier, and arranged for more visits like the one I just had at my mom’s. A late-onset PPD diagnosis also might have prevented a lot of anger directed at myself for being such a failure at managing my life. So I say, if you have a child under two and you meet the criteria for PPD, it probably is PPD and deserves to be treated as such. At the risk of stating a cliche, you deserve the support you need to feel better.
Sheira Kahn is a recovered bulimic and Marriage and Family Therapist who practices in the East Bay and Marin County. She teaches self-esteem workshops and classes on reducing emotional eating and is co-author of The Erasing ED Treatment Manual, available on Amazon.
At the age of 50, she gave birth to Alexandria in April of 2014. Her blog can be found on www.sheirakahn.com.