Gabi - From Wards to Warrior

What stops me from being real?

Ultimately the ruination and rumination that came when i stepped into anorexia's realms was what stopped me from being real. it took who i was and marled and mottled me. i became  a compulsive liar, not just to those who loved me and cared for me but mainly to myself because i didn't believe they were lies as long as i was forcing my body into the fake perception of a perfect weight that i strived to shrink myself down to. i lied and cheated about anything that threatened my precious weight loss. i secretly exercised wherever i could. i hid food in hankies and told my nan i couldn't come over for roast dinner on a sunday because i had homework or because i was ill or because i was going out with friends. and then i wouldn't go out with friends either because i believed i looked fat and ugly around them and i didn't even want to smell or be near the chips or chocolate they would buy and happily eat without a care in the world. i would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and tip away half of the milk to fill it up with water so that the breakfast my dad was instructed to make me would be less calories. i told my dad i was going out to meet my boyfriend when i was actually going to run rampantly in the woods for hours. i drank litres and litres of liquid from all these bottles i hid in my bedroom before i was weighed so that no one would know. i hid my body under blankets and hoodies that i didn't even like so that no on would see the bones that i couldn't see but knew damn well were there. i didn't talk as my real self. it was all anorexic language. i spoke of and answered for anorexia and anorexia only. my lips were tainted with lies and i was living a whole lie. my dad got down on his hands and knees and begged me one morning before school to just have one bite, just one bite of a cereal bar so that i wouldn't collapse again in school and put more risk to my faltering heart beat. as tears streamed down his face i swore to him that i would eat it on the way and do you now what i did? i let anorexias gnarled fingers which were my own now chuck that cereal bar straight into the bush of someones flower bed the moment i turned a corner down the road that couldn't be seen from the living room windows of where i lived. that was not me. that was not the real me. I've done these things and so many more horrible things. and it was because i allowed anorexia to dictate to me that i had to do this in order to keep that monstrous malady thriving in itself whilst it killed me. every meal missed wasn't missed to anorexia as it made a meal out of my body instead. what stops me from being real? the weight of anorexia. the 4 and a half stone unrealistic, skeletal state that i shrunk myself down to. and the psychological heaviness that I carried the whole time that was only real because i materialised it myself to be so.

 

How did I break free?

Have I broken free yet? I honestly don't think it 'free'. I think I'm freer. I have times where I feel free. I'm experiencing them so much lately. I've been socialising with people who i never believed would want to me after everything I've put them through or after getting a glimpse of my history is alive only just met them. I've been thriving in the career path I am trying to pave for myself and I've been pursuing passions such as dancing, drama, creative writing, wandering and wondering without solely striving for a step count and calorie burn. I've been trying new foods that would have previously petrified me. I've secured myself a little waitressing job and I'm in school after fifteen months of no education and no interaction with people the same age as me other than those who similarly wanted to just end their lives in the institutions they had been sectioned or forced into. times where i feel untouchable, where I'm so aware that a year before something that has happened like feeling bloated or not looking how i would like to look in the mirror would completely destroy my whole day, and it is these times i feel free now because I notice that it doesn't destroy me anymore. it annoys me. but it doesn't threaten my entire existence and demarcate my day into a delusional delirium of sit-ups and squats and feuds with food served up to me as i get away with any starvation that i can. the little things make me so happy because i didn't realise they were little luxuries until they got taken away, and only realised it even more so when they came rolling back into my life with reality. so i wouldn't say brokEN free. id say it breakING free. every single day in some way or another. and there's so much mentioned and so much more that is helping me to do that.

 

What would I tell my younger self/my self in those dark moments?

I remember so meticulously what all the dark moments of despair felt like. the depths that i felt i couldn't dig myself out of. that delusion that i deemed as so real even though i knew at the same time was utter nonsense even though my brain was so befuddled that i couldn't think straight. i think that made it worse. knowing i was doing it to myself and that I did actually have power over it. i don't think a word anybody ever said would have made a difference. i had to do it myself. I cant pinpoint the exact time or moment that i did this but sometime in the last twelve months or so i must have just had a stuff it moment and thought that's it. this is not me. this not the life I want to live anymore. I don't want to just breathe. I don't want to just exist. I want to be alive and LIVE. I want to be alive and feel alive. i want to find what ignites my soul and i want my eyes to sparkle like i see in others when they're doing what they love. i want to be authentic. i don't want to live a lie anymore. and slowly it has just got better and better. I've been able to lunge and leap so many leaps of faith that not only i but others were beginning to believe id never make. I'd nearly died three times due to a rapidly faltering heart rate, through collapsing in dangerous places, and also  through intentional overdoses. i cant believe how it used to be compared to now. life really is just getting better and better. so what i would tell myself is to simply hang in there because obviously know now from the future me talking right now that things will blossom beautifully as long as i stay alive to live it from then on. thank god i stayed alive. because there's so much to this life, so much beauty to this world that i never noticed, so many magical moments to meet with new people and memories to materialise and stay in my mind forever. i want to explore this earth!

 

SO what does being real look like for me?

being real began with my being vulnerable. after six years in and out of psychiatric wards paying this dangerous weight game of relapse and restoration, restoration of weight through force feeding and then relapse back into the rubble and bones that i kept becoming time and time again upon my escape from these places i was discharged from.... after sox years of this chaos and a more corrupt mindset each time i entered the doors to these two prevalent paths, i was finally given the appropriate therapy  i needed which involved a colossal array of different styles and techniques and talking talking talking TRUTH. BUT all in all, to tell the truth, i had to be vulnerable. and allow myself to be vulnerable. hadn't cried in six years, other than the tears of anorexia when i was forced a fudge cake or sedated for running wild in the corridors as my bones crunched and clicked away whilst i withered and wore them away.... i hadn't cried in  six years about anything REAL. and i didn't for a long time. and then one day i talked about my past more than i ever had. not just the stories of anorexia nervosa but the tales of turbulent times throughout my childhood and the tough times and the good times instead ALL things true to me that were so far out of my reach whether they were wonderful or horrible. all the things that made the me before i became mottled by anorexia. I finally became honest with myself and i guess this residue of unfelt feelings that i'd forced down with fingers down my throat or with excessive exercise or with the  heavy hollowing emptiness in my body through starvation. i cried for a good few months. literally someone could just poke me and i would cry and it made me feel pathetic and uncontrollable. but that was the real little girl coming out. the girl crying for all the times she didn't. and i think thats where the real me began? i don't know. it began there and now real to me looks like doing what i truly love and telling others the truth as well as telling myself the truth. real to me is messy hair and messy souls, hearts on sleeves and raw words, fighting for what i believe myself and pushing others to do the same, laughing at my own jokes and laughing in the company of others until i get a sore stomach, crying if I feel like crying, not settling for what doesn't make soul shine and my eyes sparkle, being able to look in the mirror at the real healthy me and not want to tear at my own skin and try to make my soul trespass my bones in this petrifying protrusion of the pieces of my body in order to make a point to myself that i will never prove... real to me is following my gut and intuition which I don't think i ever trusted even before. real to me is not believing the bull shit that is still lingering in my brain that I once believed was real. real is not the withering weight i once was nor is it the well weight I am now. thats not real. we are not defined by numbers nor figures nor shapes or sizes. real is just real. theres no other way to explain it. you only feel it and see it in others. so I guess I just have to share my reality and hope other people will take it on board. 

 

Gabi's Story

 

Four years. Four years of inpatients and outpatients, the first admission and the slippery sliding of a wheelchair down the narrow corridors of hell. Four years of mayhem, of watered down soup bowls replaced with piled plates, trembling cutlery and spoonfuls of trepidation, tears blending with fatty tides of milk, spicy havoc, oil greasing my mind and the slippy ground I paced upon, torrential tantrums and white washed walls painted with bloody tomato sauce. The meticulous meal plans and mantra of eat, rest, repeat, the manipulative mayhem, crumb stuffed bras, defiance and devious deceit in the chocolate squares up sneaking sleeves.

 

Four years dominated by petty numbers, scrutinising tea bag boxes and the back of toothpaste tubes, three times on the scales and three times off, constantly calculating calorie after calorie after insignificant calorie, living by different equations and the same old ridiculed routine, just checking, double checking, figuring figures, rationing macronutrients, quantifying each mouthful and ripping the crust from a slice of bread that was three grams overweight in my angst of becoming that too. The sin of sitting, one hundred star jumps and fifty seven more to be sure, running through the streets like a maniac into the dead of the autumn nights, falling through fall, snowdrifts of confusion throughout winter and alopecia like dead leaves dropping in spring.

 

Constantly working out, working out the footsteps traipsed and quantifying every movement, dizzying sit ups, ticking timers and endless exercise regimes… The looking glasses and distorted perceptions, a dependency on an airy nothingness, standing at each and every possible angle to get a glimpse of a hollow void of daylight between my thighs. All this time with the same sounds- a keyboard ribcage with no tune, creaking floorboards at 6am, crunching of dry crackers and the clicking of brittle bones, the beep beep beep of hospital wards and the groan of the blood pressure cuff, the drumming beat in between the breathlessness, jingling pockets full of fake weight and the tap tap tapping of the walking calculator I had become.

 

Four years caught between who I was and who I wanted to be, dismantling my body and erasing it into a blank canvas of sickly paper skin, tinged with the yellow of liver failure, splattered with purple bruises, etchings of red, stained blue on the toes, tips and lips, smudged shades of grey balancing lifeless eyes. With a two word diagnosis came hunger, craving and shrinking, goosebumps like scattered stepping stones on the pathway to hypothermia. Less than ten syllables worth of time wasted on  shivering muscles and aching bottoms, chipped tea cups, ink stained ramblings, fragmented wings and fluttering heartbeats. “No thank you” to haribos rolling off my tongue as swiftly as half the Christmas dinner slipped from my plate that first year… bony cages, ribbed lies and fainting on the bathroom floor, walking on clouds, MyFitnessPal and loss of true friends.

 

And water water water, empty bottles, filled excuses, eating the egg then treading on egg shells, chew, swallow, quiver, the taste of shame, frozen and ghostly mid summer, never satisfied, “Just a kilogram more to lose”, numbness in escaping a realm of emotions, little ants of energy swimming in the guilt gushing through my bloodstream, scuttling skeletons and skin and bone to health and then back to skin and bone again,  then tip toeing somewhere in between and just dancing on the edge of what could be, taking tiny bites of life and then ruining the taste for myself, letting old habits and persistent notions in through the wounded cracks and allowing them to spill over the surface of some beautiful memories.

 

A few years ago I hit rock bottom- the foundation now slathered with the conundrums and  fears of recovery that I would begin to rebuild my life onto. But somewhere along the line I must have stopped clambering up and settled for the borderline in between. Because for years I’ve merely been traipsing the alleyways of an unshifting mindset... Wandering a walkway of wretched routine every single day, beginning each morning with tip toes to the mirror where I glare at this control freak that is so tangled in the strings of delusion and messy chaos, a girl whose fire died a little more every time she blew out the candles and refused a slice of cake, a stranger with a scatterbrain who I have lived with for far too long. For some reason someplace I settled once more for carrying the mountains I was supposed to be climbing.

 

But I refuse to stand stagnant whilst my life drifts by anymore. We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea- and if that, along with some of the incredible experiences I’ve had, isn’t proof of the extraordinary facets the world has to offer then I don’t know what is. I built up a cage out of the barriers of my mind and I’m done with being trapped when the key out is right at my fingertips.

 

I once reached that size zero, that number, that body that I strived for so much. And it gave me exactly what it is. Nothing. You can’t kill the part of yourself that hates yourself without becoming it.  I sacrificed every piece of the puzzle I am for a peace of mind I never achieved. I fed it all my elements and it indulged in them and starved me into nothing. That’s what me at size 0 was… Nothing. And now that I amount to something it’s time I made use of it. It’s time to stop merely floating by and just existing, and do one of the rarest things known to us humans as we count on the world to keep dishing out endless moments. It’s time to destroy what destroys me- and it’s time to live.

 

Gabi's "real" poem

 

You try adding yourself up
Out of all your disdained things

And wonder why you feel heavier
Cascading their weight right onto your wings

It’s because the figures you figure your figure with
Are fallacies so untrue
And of all of the jigsaw pieces you’re verily made of
Let me name just a few

I’ll do this by asking some questions
And Perhaps my queries will just go to paint
The verisimilitude to so many

And then what to you would be crazy and quaint

 


So have you ever tried counting the raindrops
How many for mascara to melt
Or tallying up salty tears you’ve tasted
From all radiant and ruptured feelings felt


Because I bet when you’re prancing from puddle to puddle
When you're wandering woods or barefoot on the beach
I bet you weren’t ruminating those sugar free sweets on the shelf
And how you’re only allowed one bite of each


You know when you’re living for the moment
And there’s flavours of freedom on your laughing lips
I know then you’re not worrying whether

This type of energy will transpose to your hips



So when you’re putting yourself in a piggy bank
Spending your body pound by pound
Do you ever think of all the little lucky pennies
Picked up on your travels that you’ve found

And coming to the topic of travel
You know the tracks you don't timorously tread
You are these ventures you spontaneously step into
When there's no tip toeing to the tick tock in your head

And what about little luxuries put into your pocket
I bet you don’t add those to your mass
Berries broken from bushes when you’re just wandering the world
Not frozen fearfully on that square piece of glass


Can’t you feel the maps through the bones of your body
To places your head and heart has been
When you don’t just equate yourself to your equator
And don’t grasp glances to get what you glean




Put your button eyes away for just a second
And stop pressing their calculator keys
Now tell me do you see any need to tally
The times a tree branch bounces on the breeze

Tell me if you truly spurn each stretch line
Then why miscount the one on your lips
The length of your smile that unfurls for miles

When you’re not worrying about the width of your hips

When you’re looking in the mirror can you not perceive
That in actuality you’re measuring with your mind
For if I asked you to gauge your flaws on your fingers
You’d be poking skin to which you’ve gone very blind


 

And don’t you dare tell me you only tasted calories
Don’t tell me it was flavoured with dread
When you were just turned six blowing out birthday candles
And cake wasn’t deemed devilish in your head


Why are you so worked up about what’s in the measuring jug
When there’s a cosmic volume to your soul
Why let these liquid thoughts leak from mind to mirror
Pour untrue perceptions into the shape of your vessel


Segmenting memories into minuscule halves
I don’t glimpse that when you’re feeding your soul
For never have you portioned out on a plate
The moments that make you feel whole




Must you work every element out numerically
Why should symbols stain your worth
When there’s so many incalculable entities
So much more beauty to this earth


Did no one ever say you’re all the books you have read
All your told and untold tales
And did you ever ask yourself how many pages you get through
When you spend a day reading the scales


When you’re dancing through doing what you love
You don’t see the sparkle in your eyes
These grains of glitter that come from your glow within
Specks that you simply couldn’t summise




You attempt adding yourself up
Out of components that should know no amount
And you wonder why this chaos has coalesced
To such a convoluted count

And because I already know the truth
That you will never take up too much space
I don’t expect you to answer my queries
For they are staring me unquestionably in the face

All I will ask of you now is that
You begin believing in the infinity

To all the innumerable beauty in who you already are
And the same one who metamorphoses to finally see

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Slow Erosion >> We all Struggle Sometimes

Slow Erosion >> We all Struggle Sometimes

#RealTalk - Been there for sure and actually feeling it right now... it’s been a really challenging last few months. In September I realized I've actually been BURNT OUT all this year. That felt right but sounded like a bit of a shock. I mean so often you hear about burn out being these life shattering stops and breakdowns, but I was still pushing on. However, I've realized burn out can also be a SLOW EROSION. Slowly loosing motivation, passion, energy, drive, joy, until it's just so hard to keep pushing through and your body starts forcing you to stop... 

Just Me Is Enough - Jess

 I have always been self conscious! I have struggled with self esteem for quite a long time and recently I have become sick of it. I am sick of not letting myself let go and be me. I want to be REAL! Just recently I have learnt through my God that I am enough. I am special and I am purposed. I am me and there is no one I would rather be.

I don't need to worry about what people think of me anymore because I know being JUST ME is enough.

Just know how beautiful you are and being you is the best thing you can do. 

She is clothed with strength and honor, and she can laugh at the time to come. Proverbs 31:25

p.s. Thank you Choose Real team,
I just wanted to let you know how awesome the work you are doing is. You are empowering girls like me to be ourselves and that is just amazing. I hope you realise just how great you guys are!


Jess 

My Battle With Mental Health - Bella

My Battle With Mental Health - Bella

Bella courageously shares some of her journey with mental health, inspiring us all that we are stronger than we think... I think the most important thing I learned is I am NOT MY OCD, I am not any of my illnesses, I am just a girl who had mental illness. I choose to be real and tell my story so that others can too, it's okay to not be okay and help is out there!! Thanks for letting me share all of this with you!! 

Belly Love - Sabrina

Belly Love - Sabrina

My name is Sabrina - and yes I am poking my bare belly. I've always been self-conscious as a child about my weight, and even though family and friends always told me I was beautiful, I may have sheepishly smiled with thanks, but deep down never fully believed it was true... Being REAL to me means raw. Natural. Unedited. Uncensored. As you are. No games. No hiding. No cover-ups. TRUTH. Uniquely YOU... 

A Recovering People Pleaser - Larrisa

A Recovering People Pleaser - Larrisa

Oh I am most definitely a recovering people pleaser! Comparison being my drug of choice for sure. What will people think of me if I am different, if I contribute to the discussion from my own point of view how will I be treated? Was I good enough to be in the team or leading the team just as I was? All of this internal dialogue kept me bound and second guessing for a long time. Looking back now I just think what a waste of precious energy!

Stop Hidding Behind A Mask - Elena

What does being REAL look like for you?

Being true to what you feel. Not hiding behind a wall and covering up what makes you, you. Stand tall and strong for all your positive attributes, as well as not being afraid of what makes you human and vulnerable. We are all flawed. Let's support each other in this. This perception that every other person has it together is what fuels and further drives down anyone with feelings of inferiority.

What's stopping you? Or what use to stop you and how did you break free?

I have always been my own worst enemy. Believing that everyone had their lives sorted, knew who they were and were confident in their place in the world. I suffer badly from anxiety, which can be incredibly difficult to deal with on days where I doubt my self worth to the world. This is made worse by the fact that I don't look or act it, so nobody would know to see me. I am perceived as someone who has their life together, and come across as very confident and self assured. On my bad days I hide in bathroom stalls to avoid trying to deal with social situations where I feel out of my depth. I am stronger than ever with a solid circle of support around me, and I draw this strength from knowing my people will be there for me if I reach out in vulnerable moments. Every day is a new day to start again. Speaking out when I am feeling low has been the biggest thing I could ever do for myself, and others around me who gain their own sense of relief and clarity that they are not alone in the world. I don't hide behind my anxiety anymore. I own it. It will not own me. I have days I slip. But I put on a happy beat, reach out to my people, and practice some self love and meditation until I can pull through. And a healthy dose of excercise does miracles.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing ok, and you know what? People love you. Of their own free will. Give them enough credit to know a person worthy of this when they see it. You are unique, and you should own that. Don't wish you were more like someone else. You don't know their journey, or what they are going through. Just like they don't know yours.

Why are you standing with ChooseREAL / what does it mean for you?

It means to stop pretending we are OK if we aren't. And it's OK to admit that. Stand tall. Own your issues. Be real, and don't let them own you. You will be stronger for it. And you don't know whom you will inspire and give comfort to when they realise we all have our demons. Even when it appears to the outside world like we don't. We can beat them when we stand together, and offer a kind word and a strong shoulder to lean on in tough times.


Elena Liz Smith

I am a 30 year old medical sales professional. To the outside world, and those that don't know me, I have my life figured out and have nothing to bring me down. This is a misconception. Anxiety can effect anyone. It doesn't discriminate on social standing, looks or career. It doesn't care how others see you. It will drag you down if you let it. My message is, don't. Push through. Face your fears. At every chance, do something that makes you nervous. And if you fail, that's ok. We can't all do everything. But every success will bring you a step closer to realising your potential. Your abilities. You'll surprise yourself. You are amazing. And nobody except you can prove that. Prove it to yourself. And remember. You are not alone. That confident looking girl or guy next to you? I bet half an hour prior they were hiding in a bathroom stall fretting about this very moment. Be kind to them. And yourself.

Being Authentic - Rachael

What being REAL looks like for you?

Being REAL for me is about being authentic. Authentic is defined as "...of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine." Being confident in how I am different and unique is a way for me to be comfortable in being genuine and authentic. 

What's stopping you or what used to stop you and how did you break free?

I used to be stopped by doubt and discouragement. Discouragement robbed me of courage to step out and make change. I'm learning to not give too much influence and space in my life to discouragement. Instead I surround myself with people who are supportive and encouraging. 


Rachael Stevens

Growing up in a broken home and a survivor of abuse, Rachael was hospitalised when she was 15 into a psychiatric ward with anorexia and depression. Later she dropped out of year 12 after being hospitalised again for attempting suicide. At this point she was informed she would never be able to work or study full time for the remainder of her life. Rachael has overcame these immense challenges and over the last 6 years used her experiences, largely in a voluntary capacity to inspire others that recovery from mental illness is possible. She is also an outstanding student in her final year of her degree at The Australian National University studying sociology. While studying in 2014 she self-published her story, entitled “The Skeleton Diaries” to provide insight, challenge stigma and to give hope to sufferers. Rachael has shared her personal story of recovery in high schools throughout Australia. 

https://rachaelstevens.com.au/ 

 

Strength in Vulnerability - Zelma

Strength in Vulnerability - Zelma

I kept saying to myself: "I'll do the selfie part when my skin is clearer/I've had more time to do my hair and make up/when I've tidied the house and there isn't washing everywhere". Then I realised - I am choosing real. Why would I want to contribute to such a campaign with a "fake" picture?! So here I am - in all my glory (or not) - as I am, no make up, pulling a weird face, but loving being part of this and being a voice for those who would be swallowed up by those same thoughts...