Secrets…Being a therapist…Why I blog…


INSANITY copy (Photo credit: Inspiredhomefitness)

The other day my sister, Michelle, posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Why are you skinny people doing this to yourselves??? I thought insanity was designed for overweight individuals???”

As you might imagine, the “insanity” to which she referred is the Insanity Workout exercise program by Beachbody and led by Shaun T.  Nine days ago, I decided to take the 8 week challenge and have been reporting my progress to friends and family via Facebook.  I am happy to say that I have completed each day thus far and intend to continue so doing.

Now, back to my sister’s comment.

You see, she is right.  I am not overweight and thus it would seem that I would have no just cause to take on such a workout program.  Right?




I decided to take on the Insanity Challenge, because I wanted to prove two points to myself:

  1. 1. I can achieve a high level of fitness as a person with fibromyalgia; and
  2. 2. I can take care of my body as I choose to without fearing input from others.


A world of secrets…

Back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body had been changing rapidly.  As I wrote in my recent posts, I had gain a significant amount of weight in only a couple of years.  You see, before I started graduate school, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor from 2002 to 2004. That period of my life was one in which I experienced a high boost to my body image.  I was strong and healthy.

My weight then was higher than what it is now, but it was never a concern to me.  My major concerns:  strength and endurance.  And if there is one thing that I have lamented greatly since having fibromyalgia was the loss of my physical strength and endurance.

With my weight gain came real health concerns, such as being warned about my blood pressure and having some other health issues being labeled as “due to excess weight.”

"If you had 5 minutes...,"  collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

“If you had 5 minutes…,” collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

It was frustrating to find myself in that state and feeling that I couldn’t do anything physically about it…like exercise in the way that I had in the past.  I was too tired.  I felt too much pain.  There was a bigger issue though…


As many of you know, I am an art therapist and counselor.  I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.  This area of specialization developed from my second year internship and subsequent job.   So, why would working within this area create a problem for me?  Simply this…

How does a therapist embark upon a health improvement that would mean significant weight loss while reinforcing to her clients that their desire to lose weight was unhealthy?

For a long time, I did not have an answer.  I worked in a place where there were strict rules on how food could be discussed and what foods could be eaten.  Discussion of weight loss, weight loss programs, and diets was forbidden.  This is not to say that these rules were always followed.

The reality was that a majority of the staff was female, White and American; and the fact is that a majority of White American females struggle with body image and disordered eating.   This is not to say that women of colour are immuned to such an experience.  So, as the saying goes, don’t get it twisted.     



Being a therapist…

Also, there seems to be a very strange expectation, i.e. that all Black women are happy with being overweight.  I write this because of various experiences I had while trying to manage my weight issues.  The most memorable of these was an experience I had with an older White female nutritionist who worked at a local hospital.

I was given a referral to visit this nutritionist because both myself and my doctor believed that it would be good for me to have professional advice on how to safely and slowly lose my excess weight through diet, since exercise was proving difficult for me.  At that time I was about 50 pounds overweight.

I sat with the lady and stated my reasons for coming to see her.  From her lips came the following response:

“But you’re Black!  Why would you want to lose weight?  Aren’t all Black women a bit fatter that everyone else?  Aren’t you people use to being like that?”

Now, some may believe that I am exaggerating…but I kid you not.  Those were her  exact words that are engraved upon my heart and mind.  I was in disbelief.

There I was seeking help to lose the weight that was causing me severe health problems…and there was that lady telling me that I didn’t need to lose the weight because of my skin colour.  Huh?


So, I realized that I had to do it on my own.  I decided to take matters into my own hands as I wrote in my previous post.   The thing was that at work, although I had explained to some that I was planning to lose weight, there was apparently discomfort that I had made such a choice.

Moreover, I did not discuss just how much weight I intended to lose, because that was no one else’s business except for me and my doctor.  Looking back, perhaps it would have been better if I had simply stated a number, even though I did not have a number in mind.

The world in which I worked during that time became closed.  I watched as people stared at me with curious and suspicious eyes.  I listened as people made side comments about me.  I answered as people kept asking me, “haven’t you lost enough now?” or “why are you still losing weight?”

And then there were the painful rumours regarding eating disorders and even my sexuality.  It was a truly discouraging time.  I often felt alone; and between having fibromyalgia and being the only Black clinician on staff as well as the only art therapist, I often felt misunderstood.

My studio space became a place of refuge during the last year of my weight loss.  I watched as people, who were once willing to speak with me or were friendly with me, stop interacting with me.  And, in all honesty, the decision to move to Italy came at the right time as who I had been no longer was.  The new person did not fit in with my old world.

So, why have I written about this or about anything else?

Because it was time.  Especially as a counselor specializing in eating disorders.  You see, even counselors are human. 😉  Even we struggle with our bodies, including food concerns, weight and body image.

It is a strange paradox about the world of psychology.  As a counselor you are expected to help others in overcoming their problems.  At the same time, however, it is seemingly frowned upon by peers if you have problems of your own.

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

There is a reason why…

research has looked into the suicidal tendencies of psychologists (counselors/therapists/social workers, etc.).

There is a reason why….

some of us feel that there is a need to be invincible.  That there is a need to hide what hurts us, to hide our struggles, to hide our true selves.  We walk about attempting to be the tabula rasa (blank slate) for everyone, including our peers…and it just doesn’t work.

There is a reason why…

many of us, who were once bright and shining candles, finally burnout.

There is always a reason why…

I write about this, as well as the previous blog post, to write the truth about a topic for which I held tremendous fear: my weight loss.

I write because I believe that it is the job a therapist to be human and to show his or her client that there is always a path to be found out of the difficulties of life, not just via book lessons but through setting the example by how we live our own lives and how we take care of ourselves.

Until Next Time,


Fibromyalgia welcomes you…to DIY

The invitations have already been sent.  The preparations have already been made.  Nevermind why you have been chosen.  Nevermind why you cannot refuse.  Fibromyalgia welcomes you…and asks you

“How shall you live this life?”

The house into which you have been welcomed provides an entrance but no exit.  The walls upon which you now stare are absent of windows.  There are stairs placed here and there, but that lead nowhere.

And still the question lingers,

Ireland: dark house“How shall you live this life?”

The daytime brings some light but never enough to provide sight.  The nighttime brings the descent into the darkest parts of your being.  There is limited sight.  And what cannot be seen must be felt.

Now the words come to your mind once again,

“How shall you live this life?”

Through the cold and the warmth of passing seasons, you use what provisions you have brought with you.  Through the cold and warmth of passing reason, you understand that these provisions are increasingly dwindling.


Seasons (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

Yet still, the demand persists,

“How shall you live this life?”

There are times when you hear knocking at doors that you can neither see, much less open.  There are times when a ray of sunlight shines through the cracks of the wall, reminding you that there is something more than this experience.

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

(Photo credit: Samie Harding)

There are times when you cannot sleep.  There are times when you cannot eat.  There are times when you cannot move.  There are times when you cannot remember.  There are times when you simply cannot… anything.


Then suddenly everything changes one morning.  You open your eyes to see that you have never left all that you once thought lost.  You open your mind to feelings of hope and joy.  You open your arms to embrace family and friends.  You open yourself to experiencing life at its fullest.


Black (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then suddenly everything changes one morning.  You open your eyes to see nothing but the all-consuming darkness.  You close your mind to feelings of hope and joy.  You open your arms, only to close them around disconnection and doubt.  You are closed to experiencing your life as you have known it. Thus…

“How shall you live this life?”

By understanding that even in the darkness and emptiness of fibromyalgia, you can still find the tools to help you in reconstructing the house in which you now find yourself.

The reality is that no one can save you from fibromyalgia.  No one can fix this house for you.  No one else can live your life for you.  There is no running away.  There is no mental escape.  There is only the fact that…

only you can make a home for yourself out of this house of fibromyaglia.  And even the act of simply choosing to do so is the first step to finding the door.

Make this house of fibromyalgia  your next Do-It-Yourself project, and have fun with it!  Imagine what would make this house a home for you.

Until Next Time,


He tells me to write Fibromyalgia…

Days of weakness.  Days of strength.

Tu sei debole,” my Italian professor says pointedly to me. “Io sono forte.  Quindi io vinco e tu perdi.” 

It is a discussion on verismo and positivismo–the idea that we are what we are until we die and that there is nothing we can do to change it.


Fibromyalgia is the body that will not rise, even when the mind commands it; the mind that will not rest, even when the body requires it; the emotions that rage; the emotions that calm–the pendulum of the self that swings wildly with the change of the weather…the change of the seasons.


Fibromyalgia is the body that overcomes pain, even when the  mind surrenders to it; the mind that overcomes suffering, even when the body submits to it; the thoughts that beseech; the thoughts that concede–the pendulum of the self that settles slowly with the transformation of self-perception…the formation of self-acceptance.   


“I am a person who has a chronic illness,” I say to myself and others. “Fibromyalgia and I are not one and the same.”

My professor is staring at me.  He can see that my movements are slow.  I am in pain.  It takes me a long time to rise from my seat, to pick up my books, to pick up my coat, to put my bag on my shoulders.  It is not a good day.  There have not been many good days since late autumn.

“Is it always like this?”

Shamefacedly, I raise my eyes to meet his. “Often enough these days.”

I have no excuses.  I have learnt well enough by now that people will judge you as they will–but he isn’t judging me–and if the judgement is harsh, then you can only apologise for having disappointed–but he isn’t disappointed in me–and move on.

“Have you ever written about it?”

Rilke. Found via Google Images

Found via Google Images

“I have tried in the past.”  The question is not unfamiliar.  Indeed, it was only a little over a year ago that another professor from the Creative Writing Program made the same inquiry.  “I decided to take some space from it.”

It is momentary, the dance of excitement that control his features before coming to an abrupt halt.  Here is an opportunity.  I know it is an opportunity.

My mind already understands the words that have yet to be spoken to me.  My mind has already resolved itself to the task that is to be required of me.  My body feels heavier than before, the skin and flesh of my chest press too much against the bones that encase my lungs.  My body feels more alive than before, my shoulders and my head are relieved of some invisible burden.

“Whenever you cannot be here,” he says before continuing to gather his things. “I want you to write about it. Write about your fibromyalgia.”

In this moment, he is teaching me something I had once learnt, seemingly long ago.  He is teaching me that self-acceptance is a dynamic process that evolves from self-confrontation.

It is time once again to look in the mirror.


Thank you again to those of you who continued to visit my blog even though I have not posted in some time.  More recently, I have been struggling with my FMS symptoms and have had to prioritize the tasks I needed to accomplish during each day.  As such my writing fell temporarily to the wayside.  I have decided to dedicate my blog writing to dealing with topics related to FMS until the end of May (which is the FMS Awareness month), including reviewing books as well as activities/tools that have helped and are helping me in my process. 

Until Next Time!