I blog for Change.

As I attempt to orient the windy and often treacherous roads that encapsulate life, here are some of my thoughts on the successes, failures and ultimately the hope and positivity in which I strive for a better world. I also hope that I can use this blog as a platform to elevate the social justice issues that are somewhat forgotten in the modern discourse of staying silent on issues that challenge. Sx


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This is recovery, this is life.

It’s been almost a year now since I’ve been in recovery from an eating disorder which almost took everything from me. Last year at this time I was moving out my place where I had been living by myself to make a 6 month transition to living with my parents before they sold our family home. I remember at the time being terrified of how inconvenient it would be for me in which I would have to find creative ways to keep my illness going and preserve that all encompassing thinness that had invaded my brain. Reflecting on this 12 months later, that move was what saved my life. I most likely wouldn’t have been here today if I hadn’t made it.

At the time I remember thinking how much it inconvenienced me to have my family around immediately after meals. See that was the time that I would use to rid myself of every morsel I had just consumed. It was a sickening activity that was shrouded in so much shame. But yet it was something that I couldn’t not do. My mind at the time would just inflict so much judgement and self criticism on me in which I felt I had no choice.

I recall so many evenings after dinner waiting for my Mum to get into the shower and rushing to purge myself of all of the things that would rob me of my perfect physique. Each and every time I would emerge with a heightened sense of helplessness and shame in which I felt trapped in a cycle that I knew was killing me. Sometimes rationalism would set in and I’d affirm to myself that I needed to stop. I needed to do something to put myself on the path to recovery. But that thought was always proceeded by the understanding that if I was to get better I would have to put weight on and there was nothing more terrifying than that single element, which I could never bring myself to do.

People who have never experienced an eating disorder struggle to understand the depths of depravity that this kind of illness takes you to mentality. How much it robs you of your confidence, of your ability to see straight or see yourself clearly. Emotional triggers are everywhere and being associated with food this means there is no escaping them. That inner critic is the only thing that you can hear which constantly tells you that are not enough, that you should feel guilty and that there is always more to do and much more weight to lose.

I feel differently about a lot of things now. There’s something about accepting yourself whole heartedly which changes the dynamics of the hold that my illness had over me. I no longer need to love myself only when I’ve lost that kilo or eaten ‘clean’ for weeks at a time. I no longer chastise myself for having that burger or that piece of chocolate because it’s no longer about controlling my body based on unrealistic standards. I love myself for exactly who I am right now. No matter how much I weigh or what I put into my mouth at any given time.

This isn’t saying that I don’t doubt. My triggers are still my triggers and I still struggle with them. Whenever I inevitably lose weight without trying it goes against every single fibre of my being to not take that to an unhealthy place. To not get drunk on the way my body looks or how well I fit into clothes and keep dropping those pounds. But for me now, there is an entrenched sense of acceptance based on who I am and in spite of how I look. This reminds me that I am and will always be worthy. It repeats the messaging to me that I am more than what I weigh. That I am loveable as I am and that I don’t need to be anything other than that.

Recovery isn’t waking up one day and being completely ‘cured’. It’s about taking small steps, it’s about trying and accepting yourself every single day. It’s about reaffirming that you’re not perfect but understanding that no one is. It’s about drawing on the unconditional acceptance of your loved ones and being honest with them about how much you still struggle. This is recovery, this is life.

Sx

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Life of a Development Worker – The fight against stigma in Fiche.

I landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I had embarked on this trip with excitement but also some trepidation. After working in the Indian context for almost 4 years it was difficult to imagine anything else. I was nervous that being new to the environment that I wouldn’t have anything to offer which would mean that I couldn’t do my job properly. But as we drove through the streets of Addis I was humbled by the sheer beauty of the landscape. The city itself is draped in front of the most breath taking and luscious green mountains which are highlighted by the rolling clouds above them. As I continued to gaze into the skyline my doubts seemed to just wash away.

For the purposes of my visit, I was here to monitor one of our Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) projects. This project in particular works on reducing stigma and discrimination of people with disabilities and assisting them to meet their health, rehabilitation and educational needs. In order to promote people with disabilities being responsible for empowering themselves and demanding their rights to their local government, the project also focuses on creating and supporting Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs). These groups create an opportunity for collective bargaining power in which a united voice is elevated towards ending discrimination for people with disabilities and improving their quality of life.

During the first day of my community visit I attended a discussion in which there were close to 10 people present. At this time I noticed that the room was dominated by men and only one of these was a woman. I watched as she sat quietly for the majority of the discussion. However when it was her turn to speak she opened her mouth and spoke with such assertive clarity. She explained that her daughter was born with multiple disabilities. At the time she was shamed for having brought a child with a disability into the world and blamed for passing down a curse. It was identified to me later that any child with an impairment that is born into a household is always seen as being the mothers fault. It some cases these women face destitution as their husbands leave them and their families abandon them forcing to care for their child on their own.

As I looked into this woman’s eyes she spoke of having no hope, for years she didn’t think it was possible for her child to have any kind of independence or quality of life. She went on to then tell the story of how a local partnering NGO in this area raised her awareness of the possibilities for her child. With this knowledge in tow she successfully lobbied for provision of a wheelchair for her daughter. The local partner has also been able to assist this family with delivering home based rehabilitation teaching her daughter daily living skills aiming to improve her functionality and therefore her independence.

When the meeting was over each participating community member greeted us on their way out. I waited to shake the hand of this strong, resilient lady who had just shared her story. In that moment, as she took my hand I was reminded of the element of sisterhood that is shared by women throughout the world. The empathy we display and the notion of truly being affected by someone else’s story came to the forefront immediately. She shook my hand and then pulled me in for deep embrace. I remember thinking that this wasn’t about gratitude, it was about pride and an enlivened hope that was built into her after seeing the possibilities on offer for her daughter.

The effect that this intervention had on herself also was one which was truly breathtaking. Her entire outlook had changed through simply being aware that her daughter was not the burden that people had continued to tell her she was. She began to understand that her child had a right to be in this world and was capable of things beyond what historical taboo dictated. She has since become a champion for rights of people with disabilities. She is seen as a role model to other parents of children with disabilities. Her confidence and commitment are on show as she now feels as if she is equipped with the one thing that has the potential to change lives, that of knowledge.

Sx

Featured image courtesy of CBM Australia.


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I am not fearless, but I am honest.

I’ve realised that I’ve done a lot of learning in the past year or so. This has occurred mainly because I have been faced with many new challenges which have pushed me to reflect on the higher level meaning of it all. The one thing that I have always been afraid of, which I have been fraught with fear over seemingly came true at the start of the year. The thing with having to face such a substantial and debilitating fear like that is that you have no choice but to go on. You have to stand firm, accept your situation and look that terror in the eye. There is no out in that sense, no one you can run and hide behind or cower in the corner. See life has a certain way of forcing you out of your comfort zone. For me over the last 5 months that has meant stepping out of my parents shadow and walking towards a new future on my own.

I feel like this entire process has been a bit of a grieving ordeal in which I have stepped through so many different stages involved with moving on. I had the denial phase in which I just refused to believe that I was about to be ushered into a new phase of my life, one where I had to stand on my two feet without being propped up by the two people who have always walked beside me. I then had the sheer terror phase where I felt crippled by dread wondering how I could possibly go on. After that came the wave of sadness in which all I could do was focus on an empty house and a life full of silence without physical interaction with loved ones.

What surprised me however was the period that came after that; one of acceptance. Here I am trying to navigate my way through this complicated world. I’m essentially doing it on my own. I make mistakes, I misstep, most times each and every day. But even when I strike out or feel that crushing blow of rejection I stand up and try again. Yes most times I feel like when I fall I have no one to cushion my blow; but surely that just means that I endure that plummet and draw on my own inner strength to rise once again.

I’ve come to understand that these elements represent the one constant in life; that being bumps in the road. Whether or not we feel as if we are in a good position in our lives or proverbially ‘have our shit together’, something always comes along and shifts us off the direction of our seemingly intended course. Whether you stand alone in life or are surrounded by people these blips on the radar of our existence are inevitable. For me after the period of acceptance of where my life was at right now I naively thought that this would translate across to my coping mechanisms in regards to everything in general. But even writing that as I am now I can see that not all trauma can be erased by wielding the same generic brush strokes across everything. And perhaps it’s not supposed to be.

The inevitable truth for me is that I still struggle in dealing with the things that push me off balance. Whether that be a job rejection, the end of a romantic possibility or simply the end of a chapter, even it is a terrible one. Whenever one of these instances comes along I not only tend to wobble but seemingly crumble into a thousand pieces. For whatever reason it consumes me temporarily and I need to go through a process where I grieve for that loss. When I was younger I used to abhor myself for this reason. I used to chastise myself for being too emotional at the most inopportune of times. But now whilst I understand that I do get a little lost within these periods, I also acknowledge that at least I deal with them; I sit with these feelings as opposed to just repressing them entirely.

I’ve often wondered if this makes me less ‘resilient’ or ‘stronger’ than everyone else. I mean I feel things, I allow myself to feel things oh so deeply. I show the world the cracks in my armour and I visibly struggle. But surely resilience isn’t about the lack of these things. It has to be about the sheer element of having picked yourself up off the floor after having collapsed there so painfully mere hours before. It must be about watching that puddle of your tears dissolve and wiping that final drop away as it cascades down your face. It has got to be about acknowledging your sadness, your frustration but about moving forward regardless and not giving into defeat.

I’ve lived out every single one of these actions throughout my life and especially recently. I am resilient, I am brave, I know these things. But not because I wear a poker face or hide behind a façade. It’s because I am courageous enough to show emotion and love in a world that associates these elements with weakness. I am not fearless, but I am honest and I try again every new day.

Sx


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To sunsets…

I saw this Instagram post the other day which depicted a small flower, yet to blossom looking downwards and asking ‘what if the sun never comes out again’ to a larger more developed flower in its steed. It made me think about all the times that we get so entrenched in our sadness or doubt that we can’t see what is inevitable. We tend to get siloed within the thoughts that are consuming us at the time and descend down a proverbial rabbit hole which sinks us deeper and deeper into a never ending abyss.

Perhaps it is the natural tendency for us humans to revel in our despair. It feels like the victim mentality takes hold immediately and we fall trap to the nagging voices in our heads whispering unyielding lies to us about the lack of a tomorrow. But tomorrow always comes. As the rays of a glorious sunrise overcome the clouds to emerge in all its glory, so does the beauty of starting fresh. Watching the sun burgeon on the horizon each morning is sign that every day is a new beginning. It represents the notion that darkness doesn’t last forever, that change is always near.

I’ve had few times in my life when I’ve felt the beauty and at the same time the sheer fragility of this world. Maybe it’s because I always seem to be caught up within the next stumbling block. I have tended to sigh and moan and wonder why I have to keep dealing with these blockages in life. Instead of realising that this is how the experience of living as a human being within this existence will always be. If we choose to focus on all of the bad, on our constant struggles and the harshness of life it will definitely consume us. But that would be the easy thing to do. What’s harder is to look up in these times, acknowledge the sheer harshness yet at the same time magnificence of this world we live in and close our eyes and be grateful.

I remember one particular instance where this occurred naturally and truly caught me by surprise. I was in the Solomon Islands and had just endured a tough day in the field. My body was aching from all the walking and I was emotionally spent from hearing the stories of those I met. I am an emotional sponge so at that point I was on the verge of tears. But as we headed back to Honiara I recall being on a boat and feeling a cool breeze of wind on my face. I remember instinctively turning my face up at that point towards the sky as I gazed into the wonder of the clouds above me. The sun was just starting to set and a burst of sunlight came peeking out of from the clouds. The only thought that consumed my mind at that point was that I was part of something greater, that the splendour of that skyline and the emotion it sparked in me was what life was all about.

It’s easy to get caught up sometimes. I refer to that sentiment as having tunnel vision in which all we can see, all we can feel and imagine for the future is that emotion that we are currently stuck in. We tend to get lost without seeing the bigger picture. We forget to be grateful to just be alive; to be able to see those beautiful, breath taking sunsets that represent the glory of this planet. We forget to breathe, to inhale deeply and reconnect with our spirits, with our souls. It escapes us at those times with just how connected we are to nature, to the environment around us.

What that Honiaran sunset made me realise is that no matter how dark the day is today or how difficult it all feels, the only constant in this life is change. A new day will dawn tomorrow and it will still pose its difficulties but also presents us with a chance to reset, to start new and bask in the awe of those rays of that sunshine on the horizon. I am reminded that life is all about perspective and sometimes in order to draw us out of our self-pitying puddles of doom all we need to do is look up to the sky. To be reminded that we are but a small part of greatness. Of an overarching entity in which clouds blow across the horizon every second to reveal a different view of the sky. To understand that the greyness of the sky, of our spirit at times will subside and reveal something truly astounding.

Sx


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Come what may..

There’s something about the concept of identity and wholeness that has me reflecting on what it means be a self-fulfilling individual. Personally I’m an only child and an introvert at that so most of the time I truly enjoy being on my own. I find myself craving alone time when I have prolonged periods of being around a lot of people in a confined space. I can’t explain the feeling of wanting to just run out of that crowded room in any meaningful way that will translate. But I suppose this fits into the idea that introverted people recharge their batteries in periods of solitude.

What’s funny about this concept though is that even though being on my own is my default mode and one in which I find true peace I also yearn for human interaction. Perhaps trying to find the balance between these two states will be the journey that I take for the rest of my life. But lately I’ve felt a sense of having a gaping void within me which I can’t just seem to fill. As if the presence of someone or something else is just lacking and my entire being is crying out for it.

I suppose this entire episode has been heightened because my Mum, who now lives overseas was here with me in Melbourne for a month and just left over the weekend. I realised in this time that I had grown used to coming home and having someone to talk to, I’d tended to find comfort in the mere presence of having someone I loved around again. I attempted to explain this sentiment to a friend recently and what I found myself saying is that ‘since my parents moved away it’s become more and more evident that I am alone here’.

When I said that for whatever reason I guess that’s the way I felt. My parents and I have been through a lot. For a long time it’s felt that it was just us taking on the world. Both of them have been my constant support and provided me with a kind of unconditional love which I can say I am merely blessed to have had. They have been my stability when I have gone out in the world seeking adventure. I didn’t realise it back then but I knew I could be footloose and carefree because I always understood there was a firm anchor holding on to a loving, supportive household that I could come back to.

I’ve also begun to understand that because of my independence I struggle to be open and vulnerable and to lean on people when I need them the most. Perhaps this is because I’ve known my parents were always there to offer those things and I felt I didn’t have to open my heart up and rely on anyone else. In the time since they’ve left though there have been so many others in my life who have identified themselves as being willing to be there for me. Those who simply love me for me and will support me through anything but whom I have been keeping at a distance without consciously meaning to.

I now know that letting these people in, truly and whole heartedly is not a sign of weakness. I have to completely fathom that those who have taken this journey beside me are loving and trustworthy enough to be let into my heart. I have to allow other people to be there for me when I need them. Not because I am not incapable of being there for myself, but because I am human and I need them beside me.

I had a thought the other day where I felt truly sad that I didn’t have anyone to lean on when I was feeling down or lonely. I posed an open ended question to the universe where I asked why it was that I had to constantly bear the burden of life’s turmoil and heartbreak solely on my own. But the truth is I’ve been isolating myself and protecting my heart from opening up to people who have been in my life and loved me for years. These people are true friends who will always have my back. Instead I’ve been offering my heart up on a silver platter to those who haven’t deserved it and the damage they have done has made me suspicious of those who simply love me unconditionally and ask nothing of me in return.

I am aware of this pattern and for those of you who are reading this piece and recognising yourselves through these words, I am truly sorry. I want to you to know that I’m lucky to have you in my life, that I know how much you love me and that I’ll strive to be a better friend, a better cousin, a better family member to deserve you. I know I am not alone and I promise to lean on you a little more in those times of uncertainty and sadness, instead of closing off and pushing you away.

I can’t guarantee very much for certain but I vow to try. I want you to know that I love you and I’m grateful for your presence in my life and I know we’ll walk forward together dealing with whatever may come our way. Thank you for walking by my side.

Sx


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Little by Little.

I had one of those unfortunate moments through social media the other day when I realised that a facebook acquaintance was good friends with someone from my past. Someone I would like to forget about but yet someone who’s presence and the consequences of their actions still affect me deeply today. It was definitely a rude shock to see this person’s face pasted all over this profile and it made all of the emotions, the feelings that I had locked up so long ago come bursting out in what felt like an avalanche.

I began to understand just how raw it all was for me. Not because I still felt for this person, those emotions were long gone. But instead how much he had taken from me without even realising it. When I met him I was young and spirited and full of self-confidence. I’m not that person today. His actions towards the end of our interactions broke a part of me that I will never be able to fix or put back together. I felt a sense of being worthless, of being un-loveable in a way that I still struggle with today. He took away so much of my confidence, of my ability to love myself because all I have done since he exited my life has been question myself and my value at every turn.

He’s moved on with his life now and is married with a child. I often wonder if he ever even realises how much he stole from me, how his careless actions made me doubt every part of myself. In a way it feels like he hurt me so exceptionally, acted in such a cowardly way, left my life in pieces but then walked away without a scratch towards purported happiness. All the while leaving me a shadow of the person I was before.

I wake up each and every day now and try to reaffirm all the things that my rational self know are true. That his actions don’t define me, that I am more than what he took from me. But self doubt is a funny thing. It creeps up on you when you least expect it and even though this person is all but a memory his presence still haunts me. He made me feel so small and inconsequential that this seems to be my base mode whenever I encounter things in life.

Perhaps I am also still bitter that the universe hasn’t evened out the odds. That I still carry this burden and yet he seems to have escaped it and be utterly guilt free. What I have come to realise though is if I continue down this thought path all it will do is drive me to bitterness and sadness. I can sit here all I want and continue to question why. To wonder whether karma exists and why I still have to doubt myself because of his selfishness. But I can’t do that, it would be pointless. All I can do is remind myself that I have struggled through something that shook me to my core, it robbed me of my confidence and every morsel of worth I had for myself. That I still battle against it every day but that I haven’t stopped fighting. I haven’t given into those thoughts, I acknowledge them but also challenge them as best I can.

In some way I want him to know what he took from me. I also want him to know that I’m not who I was before, but perhaps that’s for the better. At the time my being was shattered, my belief was non-existent but yet I’m still here; broken and with visible battle scars, but I’m still here. Because of him I learnt how to love myself again and little by little I am recovering parts of myself that I thought I’d lost forever.

Sx


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For Sri Lanka.

The past few days have been one of only a few times when I can say that I’ve been utterly lost for words. The events of Easter Sunday in my beloved homeland of Sri Lanka are as heartbreaking as they are beyond belief. Our country only 10 years ago emerged from a bloody civil war which ravaged our economy and divided us on lines of ethnicity. I wasn’t old enough to understand the scale of the devastation at the time but still understood that the scars of warfare were everywhere to see.

Officially the war ended in 2009, but the proceeding years were still encountered with a level of fear and anxiety that was the natural hangover from 30 plus years of outright warfare. It was only recently in the last few years that Sri Lankans had truly started to feel safe and genuinely believe in our country’s freedom from such abhorrent violence. 2019 began with Lonely Planet naming our tear dropped shaped island as the number 1 travel destination for the year. It would be safe to say that all of us were beginning to believe that finally after all these years our country was on the path to growth, to stability and to true freedom.

Cut to Easter Sunday 2019… our dreams have turned into the most devastating nightmares that one could ever imagine. The sense of sadness, of loss is as indescribable as it is baffling. Our beautiful homeland has been brought to its knees in which its bloodstained tears threaten to drown us whole.

When I speak of my country people who are not Sri Lankan struggle to comprehend the passion I feel for my homeland. What I’ve come to realise is that we Sri Lankans are quite unique in the sense of love, of patriotism and of pride we have for our country. This is all because we know the beauty of our lands, we have felt the kindness and welcoming nature of our people. We understand how much we have been tested in the past but how we have endured. We have been battered, bruised and beaten. We have fallen to our knees, been lost in a sense of despair but we never lost hope because we believed in our country. We understood that our little island was a true gem; paradise on earth which had been tainted by hatred, greed and intolerance.

I stand here today knowing all these things so well. I am heartbroken, I am devastated and I mourn for those we lost over the weekend with such a heavy heart. But I also stand strong in solidarity with my country and with my compatriots; Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and everyone in between. I draw on my identity as a Sri Lankan irrespective of faith, religion, caste, creed or ethnicity and I promise that I will not forsake my country or my people when they need me the most.

We will rebuild, we will recover. I say this confidently because we have been through so much and yet we still survive. We are a resilient people whose love for our country will outweigh the seeds of hatred sown by a disenfranchised few. Together we stand in solidarity and declare that we will not be divided, we will not be broken, our country, our people are strong. We will not allow hatred and intolerance to rule how we act moving forward. We will support each other, comfort each other and hold onto the hope we have for our beautiful homeland. We will protect her together, united as one people.

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Sx