I am sure that everyone who joined us on last Monday evening will want to join me in thanking Natalie for sharing her incredible story with us. She last spoke at our group in 2017.
Natalie is a grateful survivor who is inspired by all aspects relating to Recovery and Personal Development. Her battle with anorexia started at a young age and as she moved through life, her poor mental health and addictive behaviour kept her trapped in a dark and dangerous place. However, in 2016 at the age of 43, she began to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of body and mind. By her own life’s experience, Natalie shares a message of Hope and that real, sustainable personal change is possible, no matter how unachievable it may appear. A healthy relationship with food … who would have thought!
Born in South Africa, but living in the U.K. since 2003, Natalie now embraces a successful career in the Corporate World, but her real life’s purpose lies in the work she does outside the” 9 to 5”, where she seeks to help individuals who experience similar struggles to those that she has overcome. She demonstrates that living life on life’s terms, achieving freedom from self-destructive behaviour and most importantly, learning to love ourselves is a gift available to us all. It IS achievable… one day at a time, through Gratitude and Grace.
There were so many empowering messages within Natalie’s talk (no magic wand of course, rather a huge cloud of fairy dust) that I cannot include them all. These are the top ten highlights that I took away:
- Recovery is always possible – never give up HOPE
- Recovery is a complex process and it is important to take one step at a time (for Natalie the 12 step programme was fundamental to her recovery journey)
- The first step is acceptance. “I am ill and I want to get better and there are powers in the universe that are bigger than me and my eating disorder”
- FEAR is a real roadblock to recovery. HOPE is the only thing more powerful than FEAR, so families that hold onto even the tiniest glimmer of HOPE in those darkest days will be keeping the recovery candle alight for their loved one. (Natalie’s husband attended the carer workshops in 2016 and his unconditional love and unerring hope shone through in the sessions)
- You can reframe and depower FEAR with the acronym:
- Affirmations are invaluable in helping to start to rebuild self esteem. (Natalie said “I do love myself and so I don’t need to engage in self destructive behaviour”). Focus on your loved one’s tiniest achievements (and try not to get caught up with focusing all the time on ED behaviours and setbacks)
- Patience (of a saint) is essential – with a swift nudge every now and then
- Humour is so powerful and energising (in contrast being serious all the time is exhausting and draining). Smile more, engage in fun family activities especially those that make you laugh out loud
- Find likeminded people you can connect with (New Maudsley groups, BEAT, FEAST etc)
- Help your loved one find likeminded people they can connect with (patient support groups, recovery ambassadors, BEAT etc) One of the hardest things in recovery is that most people don’t understand and will often say and do unhelpful things
We promised to include a variety of resources:
12 step recovery:
Natalie talked about how the 12 step recovery programme had helped her and will be letting us have some of her favourite resources. Meanwhile you might find this website interesting:
Patient support/ recovery groups in Kent
National support for patients
HelpFinder – Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk) for groups in other regions
Young Adult Mentors
Comedy and Eating Disorders
Comedy for Coping – Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk) – a programme patients can sign up to
Xavier Amador – LEAP (find things you can agree on eg art, drama, music, nature to build on your healthy relationships, and then you can partner with your loved one in their battle with their destructive ED behaviours)
If I have forgotten anything please let me know.
If you have any other resources you think might be useful to share please let me know.
Our next carer support group is on Monday November 29th from 7pm. Please contact Jenny for the Zoom link and details.