Monthly Archives: October 2014

Walking In Heels

Caroline ArmstrongThere are some things you simply cannot blag your way through. You can fool people into thinking that you like them. Into thinking that you don’t. Into thinking that you’re happy even.

Nobody can blag their way through walking. You can either do it or you can’t.

Standing is quite easy to blag though. When I first started going for screen tests I was still very much a faux-stander. Luckily I quickly cottoned on to the fact that Shopping Channels tend to have counters you can lean on, so I made sure I only applied for jobs at those channels. After I learned how to stand again properly I was able to branch out to where I find myself these days.

It’s not even worth blagging your way through physical recovery. I did with the standing because it was taking me too long and I had sh*t to do, so I compromised. The rest I put the graft in and learned the hard way.

Well. Almost the rest. I may have left one thing out.

I can’t walk in heels. I never bothered re-learning how to. I set my standards fairly low at being happy just to walk in flat shoes. Actually it’s worse than that. I realised that when I wear cowboy boots, the stiff leather means I can always feel pressure on my shins as I walk, so I know my legs are fine.

I been walking really well, (which is to say walking without having to consciously think about it, totally like I was before the wheelchair) for at least two years now. Walking fairly averagely for three. Badly for four. It’s far beyond the time I sorted this out. But this little cowboy boot talisman kept me feeling safe and secure, so I didn’t change things.

Big Mistake.

Mistake because I went for a screen test in the summer and decided I needed to wear heels for this one. How hard could it be? I pose for photos in heels all the bloody time (because as you can see above, photographers make me. So I went and I took these heels with me, slipping them on as I went through the doors of the studio building.

I then proceeded to spend the next hour falling over. Again and again. They gave me the job anyway thankfully. But I was mortified, so I’ve only ever worn flats to work since.

Around the same time I gave a talk where I told on myself about why I wore cowboy boots. What I didn’t realise at the time was that when you tell on yourself to other people? Your magic talisman stops working for you. So now there was no security blanket. The cowboy boots didn’t work anymore. There was no safety to be found whilst walking.

Now I’m having to learn how to walk in heels.

I hate it. It’s basically almost as bad as learning to walk again at all. More difficult in some ways, (and I don’t say that lightly, trust me if you haven’t ever had to do it then I can’t explain what it takes. It’s not even something I’ve ever gone into detail about because a small part of me is afraid to.) But anyway, there’s some disparity in my centre of balance between how my body used to walk, and how it walks now that I’ve re-learned. And as soon as I put heels on my body tries to walk how it remembers walking all those years ago before the wheelchair happened. Now, because my centre of balance has shifted, I fall over a lot in heels.

There are lots of cut and bruises happening right now. And that’s fine, I can cover those for work pretty well. But mentally it’s a pain in the *rse. And I’m kicking myself for not having done this sooner. Because waiting this long was entirely unnecessary. And I’ve expended far too much energy kidding myself that I was fine and I didn’t need a life with heels.

And I don’t. Heels aren’t vital for goodness sake. But freedom is. And being in denial that I’m making any aspect of my world smaller than it needs to be, out of fear is inexcusable. I know better than that. I can do better than that.

So, if you see me falling up and down a high street near you? I’m just practising. Practising making my world a little bit bigger. Nailing this part once and for all.

And if you are learning how to walk again right now? Do yourself a favour and put some bloody heels on. Do it before you even learn to walk outside even. Don’t kid yourself you’ll sort it out later. Because there’s so much else to master that you just won’t. And that’s the whole reason I even built this little website in the first place. To share stuff like this. So that no one ever has to feel alone anymore.

In the meantime maybe we can just all keep putting one foot in front of the other. I promise to catch you if you promise to catch me x

 

 

 

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Shouldn’t You Be Doing This For Free?

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I started all 3 of my websites at different points in my life, but all for one reason: To Be What I Never had.

I never had anyone Be My Example of how to lead a Successful Sober Life, to get sober and stay there.

 

I never had anyone to show me how to get out into the real world and cope with it again after years of being housebound.

 

I never had anyone tell me it was possible to live outside of the prison of Eating Disorders. To explain why I’d ended up there in the first place. And that it was incredibly easy to overcome and to maintain this freedom long-term.

 

Because I never had anyone to show me the ropes? It took me bloody years to figure this sh*t out. And I failed a lot along the way. I fell down. Got pushed over. Ran into walls. Crouched in corners. I felt loneliness and despair beyond description and there was never anyone shining a lamp in the distance, guiding me back onto the right path because there was no path. nobody had cleared the way. I had to pack my own secateurs and hack my way through, crossing my fingers I would reach a place I could at least exist in without wanting to die every day.

I’m here now. Obviously. And whilst I would never wish to put myself through any of it ever again, the very least I can do is spend a good portion of my time ensuring no one else has to do it the hard way. So; that’s what the websites are for.

So why not just make a full-time career out of it if you care so much?

Because I don’t believe anyone should make a full-time career out of other people’s recovery. Anyone who does cannot experience enough time out on the real world to gain enough current knowledge that will keep their information and guidance fresh and relevant. They just end up with Guru-Syndrome, and in endless cycles of recovery-based discussions with other counsellors.

And because if they absolutely have to make their only form of income from other people’s recovery? They are forced to do things like drag out symptoms. And keep people just sick enough to ensure they come back for more “help”. There’s just no option to simply give people the solutions all in one go, and then send them off all better. Repeat customers are the order of the day. And I hate that. It feels so deeply wrong to me. Because I’ve been on the other side if it. Been robbed of money and hope. It’s heartbreaking.

So then why bother doing it at all?

Because I’m really good at it. And it’s nice to be really good at things. I’m not really good at most things in life, this just happens to be one of them. It gives me pleasure to do it. And yes, pleasure is a big part of all successful recovery as far as I’m concerned.

 

But it’s not the only thing I’m good at. And I really, really enjoy what I do for a living. And luckily it keeps me financially secure enough that I’ll never need to depend on helping people in recovery as a main source of income. So I’ll never feel the need to do anything as underhand as refuse to reveal 100% of the information people need all in one go, so they can go off and do the rest by themselves

 

Then why do you charge so much when you do work with people individually?

I don’t charge massive amounts. I start my UK fees at £100 per 90 minute session. That’s enough time to pretty much guarantee somebody won’t need to use me again. It includes a month of email support to implement all the instructions I’ve given. Because I have a 100% success rate with anyone who follows my guidance to-the-letter. If people do want to take it further and implement these lessons on other aspects of their life? That’s fine-but there needs to be at least a month in between sessions-or you aren’t utilising them properly.

And because when I did it for free? No one was interested. No one invested their time because the stakes weren’t high at all. It’s actually not always £100. it’s whatever your currency equivalent is of £100. I work with a lot of American and European people, so I don’t make as much money from those sessions. The South Africans I work with I end up making about £10. That’s not the point. The point is the investment the individual is making. The statement that this reinforces to themselves. I’m here. I’ve paid money so I’ll pay attention: Let’s Go.

So if you don’t need the money, what do you do with it?

Again it reinforces the basic premises of recovery as far as I’m concerned. And whether your recovery is from being physically unwell, being addicted or having an eating disorder, there are universal rules that apply.

  • No more bargain basement hunting. It’s not about getting as much cheap sh*t for as little as I can spend. It’s about paying more for quality. Raising lifestyle standards. Raising expectations. If this isn’t addressed there is no long-term recovery. Because I can’t live in a world where I expect less than I want. Where I accept cr*p experiences. I’d just end up back where I started. Unwell. Addicted. Imprisoned.
  • I must strive for things outside of my current realm of experience. To keep reaching for new, for more. To be a bigger, bolder more beautiful version of myself, that’s what all recovery is. And that takes money. Trust me.
  • Feeling good, all the time. My life has shown me that I cannot expect long-term, successful recovery from anything if my life experience as a whole does not feel good. This encompasses the clothes I wear, the places I live and socialise, the conversations I have and the work I do. They all have to feel good to me. Feeling good is an investment in more. The more I have to invest, the more feel-good components my life will be made up of.

So. That’s why I charge more than most. And why I refuse to see people very often for sessions. and why I feel like it’s okay to charge what I like. Maybe one day I won’t want to do it anymore, Then I’ll stop. For now everyone I work with is happy, and I leave them in a far better place than I found them in, so I’m satisfied. And yes, satisfaction is a huge part of my successful recovery, thanks for asking.

Who do you not charge?

I don’t charge anyone asking for help with physical recovery who is paralysed and being fed through a tube. They get as much help as they want. Because like most of us there’s an infinitesimally small part of me still afraid I will end up there, and if that ever happens I would want someone to do the same for me.

Anyone who is above this stage physically can sort their sh*t out to some degree. And aren’t anywhere near as f*cked as they think they are. Because believe it or not a huge part of successful recovery is stopping manipulating other people to see you as sick so they will give you special allowances on the behavioural front. And everyone who is well now? We all had to learn that. So the quicker you learn it too,the better.

The websites will always be free. The email advice likewise. The individual sessions are just for anyone determined to do whatever it takes to move on immediately to their New Life After and leave old ways behind. It’s not easy so not many want to.

Most importantly; whichever path you choose to take? I wish you all the luck in the world x

 

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The I-Don’t-Want-To-Do List

A million years ago tonight, I sat and gazed from a window very much like this one. Outside was a place I swore l would never come back to. A place that seemed so vast it was all I could do to prevent myself from running and hiding under the bed at the sheer thought of everything that this place represented. Everything that was in front of me.

Except I couldn’t run back then. Or stand. Or walk properly. And that was a bit of a bugger, quite frankly.

I had lived in a state of constant, relentless, suffocating fear for so long that I barely acknowledged it anymore. It was more like the fear had me. It had taken ownership and filled the empty shell I now knew as my broken mind and body. I had learned long ago that terror was not fight or flight. It was just part of being awake.

A hundred lifetimes ago tonight I sat in front of a window and gazed out at my little corner of West London. The place I had come to face it all. To put myself back together.

How do I start? And what happens if-as I suspect- the attempt of putting myself back together only results in my finding there’s too many parts of me missing now, corroded by the fear, to even attempt the crudest of patch-up jobs?-

I didn’t know where to start with fixing myself, so I did what I’ve done my whole life when chronic uncertainty comes to play. I made a list.

Deep breath. Pick up pen. Stop shaking. Start writing.

What do normal people do? One’s who haven’t spent years with a body that doesn’t work and exclusively in the company or their mum and their dog?

•walk down a street
•get on a bus
•go into a shop
•talk to a stranger
•try and look at that strangers face at least once during the conversation
•try and stand up for 2 minutes
•stop shaking
•don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry

I made a list and it was pages long. I wrote and I wrote until I couldn’t see the words anymore. Until my hand went numb.

Until I started to remember what it felt like to mimic the actions of a whole, unafraid. Shatter-proof person again.

The list was vast, stretching miles from the half-person I was now, to the person I hoped to be on the other side. Someone who could definitely, probably, maybe handle the basics of a day. Who had friends and left the house and laughed possibly, occasionally, sometimes.

It became my I-Don’t-Want-To-Do List. It felt totally unmanageable. The components of it were far beyond my grasp.

•Put on a dress
•go for a screen test (whatever the hell that is)
•get a job on tv
•show the doctors they were wrong
•stay out the wheelchair. Stay out the wheelchair. Stay out the wheelchair.

It feels like so many nights have passed since that evening all those moons ago when I sat at my window and made my list. In reality it hasn’t even been all that many sunsets. Not as many as it feels, anyway. And I did do everything on that stupid f*cking list. And it was terrifying. Each part of it. Each endless moment. Until it wasn’t anymore. Then it just became my life. Second nature.

The fear went away because I trampled on it until it was smaller than I was. And I grew bigger and stronger and braver with every task that I drew a line through and mastered.

I’m glad I couldn’t see the future on that night. The night I sat staring out of my window at this town that seemed too big for one who felt so very small and insignificant. Because a lot of things got added to that list. Turns out there were a lot of different windows. My views would vary considerably. The miles between my here and now and the list’s finish line would stretch out incomprehensibly.

I got there though. The people around me changed, I changed. Most importantly the world I saw as unsafe, unstable, dangerous. That world changed into a place I trusted again. I placed I enjoyed.

Broken no more.

Sometimes I forget why I started these little electronic scribbles in the first place. On nights like tonight I remember: it’s for anyone who is also sat overwhelmed by their own I-Don’t-Want-To-Do List. Whatever stage you are at. However broken you feel. I want you to know that you can do it. Even if you aren’t physically able to put one foot in front of the other yet? Don’t let that stop you. Get that list out and start on it right now. And tomorrow. And all the days after to come. You can get to the other side of it. I know you can. I’ve been there. The fear will dissipate.

And you will emerge. Triumphant. All pieces intact. I promise