Monday, December 24, 2012

Weight Loss will not fix your life

I used to believe that if the number on the scale just dropped one pound lower then I would be OK. I would no longer be haunted by the pain of my past. I would be able to handle the fact that I was stuck in a field (engineering) that I hated. I wouldn't be depressed and anxious all of the time. My insecurities would just melt away. I would be perfect; confident, people pleasing without resentment and able to give everything I had to the world without wanting/needing anything in return. I believed with every fiber of my being that if I could just make my body as small as possible, my life would be better. I would finally be happy and loved. I would be able to handle my emotions without being too sensitive and people would like me.

I refused to believe that I had a serious illness and needed help. My safety and comfort were wrapped up in numbers. I clung to calories and the scale for dear life. I couldn't bear to face the things that I was avoiding. Even after entering treatment, I swore that I could be in recovery and still manipulate my body and I tried for months.

Around this time of year, we are bombarded with a bajillion messages about the newest diet and how to go about losing weight the quickest. Everywhere you turn there is an ad about weight loss, claiming that we will be happier, healthier, get the job, promotion, girl/boy if we just shed those holiday pounds. While these messages no longer trigger me and I know that weight loss isn't in my future, I still find them very upsetting. I believe that every person has the right to do whatever they want with their body, but it pains me to see people trying to fix their lives by losing weight or feeling that they need to be smaller in order to be happy, healthy and beautiful. Our bodies aren't the problems, our cultures narrow standard of beauty are.

I have spent and continue to spend long hours in treatment to overcome my eating disorder, as well as all of the underlying pain and problems related to it. I no longer believe that losing weight is the answer. My happiness, worth, comfort, safety and security are no longer dependent on numbers. While I can't speak for everyone, losing weight didn't fix my life or bring me happiness and love, it brought me a 10 year battle with anorexia, wrapped in years of self-hatred, that almost ended my life. I try my hardest to keep from preaching and telling others how to live their lives, but feel that if my story can keep one person from hating themselves or getting caught up in the diet industry, then my struggles and pain have not been in vain. It may seem like everything would be better if you were thinner, but I promise you that your body is amazing exactly how it is and you are more than capable of handling everything that life throws your way. You will be OK, trust me.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healthy Empathy

Whenever something bad happened around me, it used to be a reason to stop eating. If a friend shared a rough day with me, I then had a rough day. If I read something painful in the news, I became overcome with sadness and owned the pain like it was my own. If a friend with an eating disorder relapsed, I then began struggling. If there was a problem in someones life, I ran to the rescue and put all of my effort and energy into helping. In every one of these scenarios I completely forgot about myself. I wasn't important, other people needed me. How could I spend the time taking care of myself when there were so many problems in the world and so many people so much worse off? How dare I be that selfish...

On Friday I shed a lot of tears for the shooting in Connecticut. Just like most other people, I was horrified by such a cruel act and felt (and continue to feel) for each innocent person whose life ended prematurely, especially the children. But I continued to eat every meal and snack. I did not need to force myself to suffer in order to grieve for this incident. No more pain was necessary. Having a good day on Friday, did not mean that I was being disrespectful to those who lost their lives.

Some days I still really suck at this. I am still learning emotional boundaries and how to separate myself from others trauma as well as how to use my empathy and compassion in a healthy way. Some days when I am struggling on my own I have to consciously force myself to remain in my own bubble, in order to adequately take care of myself. As someone who genuinely loves helping others and is a person that others feel comfortable turning to, sometimes this is really difficult. When I see suffering, it's hard to not want to take on others pain and help relieve the burden, but in reality, this isn't helpful. I am not God and I can not save/help everyone and it's prideful to believe that I can. I am slowly learning that I can support a friend, grieve a loss and still take care of myself. I don't need to go through someones exact pain in order to be able to lend an ear or a helping hand. Most importantly, if I am not healthy; mentally, physically and emotionally, then I won't be of service to anyone at all.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Words

Today I sat down with a paint brush and a blank canvas and wrote out every single negative label I have internalized throughout the years. All of the things that other people have said or called me and more importantly all of the things I have called myself. It was incredibly painful yet freeing. When I was younger I remember hearing the phrase "Sticks and stones make break my bones but words will never hurt me." While I have never been in a physical fight before (water polo doesn't count), I believe that words are a lot more powerful than physical actions. Bones heal, scars fade but we never forget the things people say to us, even more so the things that we tell ourselves. As someone who is very sensitive and internalizes things very easily, each of the words on the canvas above have a painful memory and story attached. We can't control the things that people say about us, but we can try our hardest to remember that usually what people say is a reflection of where they are at and probably doesn't have much to do with us. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, we can break the cycle of name calling in our own heads. One of the most helpful parts of my recovery has been recognizing my negative beliefs about myself and the stories behind them. Our bodies, thoughts, feelings, personalities are not the problem, but the stories that we tell ourselves about them are. You have the power to re-write your own story. It's never too late. Challenge those beliefs. Approach them with compassion. Replace them with fierce kindness. And remember, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How my personality saved my life

Today I went to a workshop on the enneagram. For those of you who have no idea what that is, it’s a personality typing system that gives us a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. I will save going into details about the enneagram itself for another post but if you are interested you can check out, http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/


Ever since the enneagram was introduced to me, I have been fascinated by it. At first I used it more as a tool to try to learn about others and gain a better understanding of how to better help others grow. But for the past few months I have used it more as a tool to learn about myself; see my underlying motivates, figure out why I find myself in the same patterns that I do and how to better myself. To say that it’s been a huge factor in helping my recovery would probably be an understatement of the year. 

Tonight as John and I were lying in bed, we began discussing the past year and the ups and downs relating to it. I immediately began thinking about the horrible day in May. The day that I seriously considered taking my own life. On that day I was miserable. I felt like I couldn't see past my pain and I couldn't handle the immense shame and sadness that I felt. I felt broken and like I was too far gone to be fixed. I felt lost and confused and desperate. I was so consumed by self hatred and anorexia that I struggled to see the point in anything. The depression scorched my passion, enthusiasm and optimism. I was obsessing about everything but cared about nothing, or so I thought. 

I had gone to church earlier that day and I was so fucking angry. I had pleaded to God to please show me some sign that He had heard me, something in my heart that made me feel better and I saw nothing. I laid on my bedroom floor, thinking of all the possible ways that I could die. In between thought I begged and pleaded for something to help me, anything to make me feel better. Right when I got to the point where I was seriously considering doing something stupid, I stopped. Before I even realized what I was doing I was on the phone with John. While I don't remember exactly what I said, he came over before I knew it.

For a while we sat in silence. I sobbed hysterically but I couldn't form words. It was about 30minutes or so before I even began to talk. I don't remember exactly what I started off with but it was along the lines of "I am giving up, I can't live like this anymore." Shortly after coming over, John was in the bathroom. He had eaten way too much Chinese food and that combined with my upsetting state of mind made him sick. As he sat in the bathroom, practically throwing up, I sat outside on my desk chair trying to figure out what to do. Here I was, completely irrational and ready to end my life, but trying to figure out how to make John feel better. In between thoughts of how depressed I was, I continuously asked John how he was doing and what I could do to help. I got him water, offered him my bed and constantly tried to make him comfortable. Even though I was completely out of touch with reality, my core values of wanting to help others seeped through. That night, John's sickness, forced me to think about something other than my pain and suffering. It forced me to think past myself and I honestly believe it saved my life. 

Unfortunately or actually fortunately, this hasn't been the only instance of this. While this example has been the worst case and the most serious case of this, most of my recovery attempts in the past have been because of others. For so many years I had such self hatred, I didn't want to recover from anorexia for myself, but instead for others. I couldn't stand to see the pain that I continuously put my family and friends though. Although it took a long time for me to realize how serious of a problem I had, deep down inside I knew that I was slowly killing myself and I couldn't handle leaving John alone.I couldn't face the thought of my mom burring her only child. While I tried to keep my struggles a secret, I wasn't naive enough to believe that I wasn't affecting others and the idea that I was directly hurting people was something that I couldn't handle. Even more so, knowing that I couldn't truly help other people and make a difference in this world, while struggling, kept me going on more days that I can count.

Right now my recovery is solid. I have come a long way. While I still stand by wanting to help others and enjoy doing so every day, I don't need to remind myself this constantly to keep going. Not only do I see positive things in other people and love encouraging growth, but I see these things in myself. My compassion and empathy now work both ways. I still enjoy catering to others needs, but I don't forget my own. I wake up feeling grateful for every day and am honored to be apart of others lives. I am optimistic, enthusiastic and super sensitive yet also have a dark side. While I sincerely wish that day in May had never occurred, I know that I wouldn't be where I am today without it and have no doubt that my personality kept me alive.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Redefining Struggle

These past few weeks have been very difficult. More difficult than things have been in a while. Yet difficult looks a lot different than it used to. In the past a difficult day consisted of feeling overwhelmed/like I couldn't handle things and not eating because of it. It consisted of attempting to use food (or lack there of) to attempt to control what I couldn't. I used the scale, restriction, calorie counting and isolation for comfort. I obsessed about everything, honestly making things more difficult in the long run. I wasn't solving my problems or working through my pain, I was avoiding it. In the past a difficult day was an instant excuse to use the eating disorder to cope and I looked for every excuse possible.

Difficult days don't look like that anymore. Even though my recovery is still a work in progress, conscious restriction is no longer an option. It isn't my go to. In fact, I am paranoid to not eat. When I go long periods of time without eating, I become crazy; overly emotional, unable to handle anything, hysterical and completely irrational. My mood is no longer dictated by the number on the scale nor do I use a piece of plastic and metal to dictate my worth. Calorie counting is no longer a part of my daily time wasting. Although unfortunately a lot of nutritional information is engrained in my head, I no longer spend time keeping track of every calorie that goes into my mouth. In fact, it really pains me to think of all of the years that I spent doing that.

Difficult days are no longer days ruled by the eating disorder. These past few weeks have been hard but have shown me how solid my recovery is. They have shown me how strong I truly am. There have been a lot of tears, uncomfortable moments, pain, anger, change, among many other negative things, but restricting hasn't crossed my mind. A lot of days have been a struggle, especially emotionally, but I have turned to John, family, friends and my treatment team for help and comfort. My hard days are no longer defined by the food that I don't eat or the things that I avoid, instead by gentle reminders that it will get better. Some nights end with me curled up in a ball crying in bed. Most mornings start off with a lot of self-talk and reminders.Most days end with me getting off from work, eating dinner and going to bed. Some days I am a mess and rely a lot on deep breaths and constant reassurance from others.

A year ago, I couldn't imagine a life without anorexia and now on most days I am living it. I don't remember the exact moment when I decided that things had to change but I know that I haven't looked back. It will be a while before I can let my guard down, but I am confident that anorexia no longer has a place in my life. No matter how hard the day, I know that I can get through it.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beliefs

I have very strong convictions. When I believe things, I believe them to the core of my being. For the most part it is very hard to change my mind. While this is a quality that I really love about myself and is part of why I pour my heart into everything that I do, it has also made changing false beliefs, especially about myself really difficult. The cycle of self hatred and negative beliefs have become so engrained in me that they are really hard to erase and let go.

This past week has been really rough for me in a lot of ways. (a little disclaimer: ed behaviors have been close to nonexistent and I have been doing pretty well in recovery) I have been eating a lot more, trying new foods and most importantly I gave up calorie counting and looking up nutritional information cold turkey. Even though I have been doing significantly better on the food front recently, until this weekend I still kept track of every calorie that was going into my body. This weekend I finally got fed up enough to stop doing it and while it's been extremely liberating, it's also been really scary. Without numbers as a guideline and still not being completely sure how to listen to my body or figure out exactly how much food it needs, I have been convinced all week that I have been overeating. Multiple times a day I have been overwhelmed by my body, completely convinced that I am gaining weight and my body is seriously changing. You may be thinking that it's a little extreme to think that my body has changed so much in a week or even daily, but I have honestly believed that every day. Today, in my nutritionists office, when I stepped on her scale and she assured me that my weight hadn't changed at all, I was so confused and angry. You mean to tell me that everything that I have believed all week is wrong? What about all of the eating disorder beliefs that I have held on to and listened to for years?

For most of my life I really have believed that I was inherently flawed and unlovable. Some days I still look at John and the other people in my life and think that they must be crazy to love me and want to be around me. I am not ungrateful for the people and good things in my life, I try to count my blessings everyday, but I have been confused as to how/why I deserved them. For years I wholeheartedly believed that love was conditional and something that I had to earn.I believed to the core of my being that in order for people to love me I had to be perfect, thin,selfless, constantly giving and constantly have my shit together. It's taken a lot of work and therapy to change these beliefs and some days are easier than others.

Recovery is much harder when you completely believe the things that the eating disorder is telling you. This is where pride comes in, but for years I honestly believed that I could change my body and could get by on less food. I thought I was different, that I was the one that could survive at a low weight with my health and happiness intact. The more people told me that I couldn't or how unhealthy what I was doing was, the more I wanted to prove them wrong, because I believed I was above that. To someone who doesn't struggle with an eating disorder, a lot of the rules and beliefs sound completely absurd and irrational ( which they are) but I still believed them.   

In the past year in a half, since I entered treatment and have been working hard in recovery, I have begun to view the world in a new light. My ideas and beliefs around a lot of things have changed significantly. Although I am not thankful for my eating disorder and the pain and suffering that I have endured throughout my life, I am very grateful for the self exploration and chance to constantly improve and better myself and my life. It is a lot of work and my stubbornness hasn't helped, but learning about myself and letting go of harmful beliefs has been freeing. Some times I feel like a little kid, growing up all over again and I am thankful for the opportunity to try something different.

In some aspects of recovery I still have a long way to go and know that this is a life long journey. I still have a lot of deep held beliefs that could use some work, especially related to my body. Some days I still need to be reminded by John that he loves me no matter what or by my treatment team many other things, but I don't need it as often as I used to. When I think back to the person that I was and the things that I believed about life and myself 2 years ago and where I am today, I am reminded that anything is possible. With hard work and a lot of support and encouragement, I know that I can continue to chip away at the beliefs and self hatred that have kept be stuck and chained to the eating disorder for years.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A letter to anorexia

Dear anorexia,

I am angry. I am sick of letting you run my life. I am sick of living in constant disappointment. Your promises are faulty. You continuously LIE. You NEVER make me feel better about myself. You constantly rob me of joy and peace. You ruin everything. When I listen to you I am miserable. Nothing is ever good enough. There is always another rule. Another food that will make me fat. With you every calorie is a war. You take away the fun of everything. I will never win. You make me hate myself and I am really sick of it. I miss the freedom of eating what I want and enjoying food, as well as cooking and baking. I am sick of picking the lowest calorie foods where ever I go. I am so fucking sick of reading nutrition labels like they are divine truth.

I HATE YOU and really wish that you would leave me alone. You have worn out your welcome. I can no longer live within your rules and boundaries. I REFUSE to. The price is way too high. You are WRONG and have stolen way too much of my life already. The number on the scale is never low enough for you. In your eyes, I am always too much; too needy, too selfish, too big, too fat, unlovable, a disappointment, a failure. The bar is always raised. Your goals are not attainable and I am so sick of trying to reach them. YOU DO NOT DEFINE ME, I AM SO MUCH MORE!

You have spent years twisting the truth, making me believe that the only way that anyone will like me is if I am perfect, thin and constantly ignoring my needs but this isn't true. I have a life; wonderful relationships, a amazing fiance who loves me unconditionally, family, friends, a great job and so much more. I have these things because of ME, because of recovery. THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. When I listen to you, I completely disconnect from everything I believe in and value. My morals go out the window. You don't make me better, you make me bitter and ungrateful and no fun to be around. You promise that "moment of relief" but fail to mention the even bigger consequences. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. Listening to you isn't worth it.

You think that you are clever because of the grip you have continuously held on me, but you better watch out. I am so much STRONGER than you think and it is not because of you. I WILL NOT go down with out a fight. YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT ME. Trust me when I say that you picked the wrong person to mess with. You will not win, I can promise you that.

I have a voice and it's LOUDER and more POWERFUL than you. You may not always hear it, but it's there and it's constantly getting STRONGER. I have support and more people on my side than you can handle. YOU HAVE NO ONE. I can read between the lines and I am on to you. You aren't welcome here anymore. My need for you is long gone. PACK YOUR BAGS AND GET THE HELL OUT.

Sincerely,

Your worst enemy, a very pissed off Daniella



Saturday, October 20, 2012

My body

Most mornings I hate my body. Showering or changing clothes is painful. As much as I hate to admit it, there are days where my feelings towards my body dictate or more so ruin my entire day. Some days it's just really hard to get past. Friday was one of these days. I left for work already in a bad mood. I then spent the morning calling eligible blood donors in an attempt to try to get them to donate for a patient in the hospital that they were an exact match for. This patients life is completely dependent on others. He receives blood transfusions very frequently and is in constant need of them to live. Can you imagine that? And he is just one of many.

As I sat there and ate my lunch I was overcome with gratitude. Although I have had my share of medical issues and am no stranger to being very sick, I am fairly healthy. I am able to get up every morning and live the life that I want to lead, with very little restraint. Thanks to my body I can do a lot of amazing things. My body has been through hell multiple times but it's resilience has always shone through.

Two and a half years ago I lost all of my hair. For a good amount of time I was completely bald. During this time and as it grew back I wore bandanas and hats. Every time I noticed any growth, I threw a mini celebration. Before this experience I had always hated my hair. I constantly envied people who had straight non-frizzy hair. I never understood how people could get there hair to look so put together, when no matter how hard I tried (if I am honest with myself, I very rarely tried) my hair was a hot mess. It seemed to have a mind of it's own and was up to no good. While I was bald, I longed to have my hair back. Even through each awkward stage of growth, I cherished every hair on my head. Now, it is curlier and frizzier and on most days it looks like I don't believe in a brush (I promise I do) but I have learned to accept it and am grateful to have hair at all.

When I look at or think about my body I am overcome with a long list of things that I hate. Recovering from an eating disorder has meant gaining weight and watching my body change and this has been really difficult. Unfortunately I am not in a place where I have kindly accepted  these changes and right now the idea of loving my body sounds impossible. But I am starting to replace the hatred with gratitude. While I don't appreciate the shape and size of my body I am extremely grateful that I am healthy and able to wake up every morning and give back to others. I have been given many chances in life and my bodies strength and perseverance is largely to thank.

I made this earlier this year at an event for national eating disorders awareness week. We were asked to write a "letter to our body". Other people were writing amazing, inspiring things about their bodies but all I could come up with was an apology.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Brainer

What recovery has given me: a life, an amazing relationship with my fiance, growing friendships with my coworkers, renewed relationships with family and friends, a fulfilling job that I look forward to everyday, the energy and passion to help others, the drive and desire to make a difference, the ability to laugh, love and be myself, among numerous other things

What anorexia has given me: a smaller body

Do I like that I am gaining weight? No. Do I enjoy how my body is changing? No. Is letting go of having a smaller body and everything related easy? No. Would I trade any of the good things I mentioned above for having a smaller body? No fucking way.

I haven't always felt this sure. Although anorexia has had many other benefits in my life in the past, currently this isn't the case. To be honest, right now I really hate my body. Each time I shower or look in the mirror I sigh in disgust. However this is one of the first times in my life where I won't even hesitate to say that recovery is worth it. It's worth every pound gained. No matter how appealing being thin sounds, I have way too much to lose. Anorexia wasn't my choice, but recovery is and it really is a no brainer.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Real Life

"If you're brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello."
~Paul Coelho

I still struggle, every day actually. Some days are less than stellar and end with me curled up in a ball crying. Sometimes I freak out around food. I still see my treatment team weekly and mostly follow a meal plan in order to eat enough. Some days I feel like I can't handle the world or my emotions and the eating disorder behaviors look very appealing but I am starting to learn better ways to cope. My recovery is pretty far from perfect but I actually have a life now.

Today I cooked John meatloaf and a carrot cake from scratch for his birthday. There was a time where even using the microwave sent me into a panic attack. This morning we went out to breakfast and I enjoyed some very yummy blueberry granola buttermilk pancakes as opposed to my usual breakfast. Not only was it delicious and a lot of fun but it was my idea. In the past few weeks John and I have participated in two game nights with coworkers, both which included alcohol, food, games, a lot of laughter and staying up super late. We have gone bowling, to softball games and even walked around downtown and campus with the pets. I actually have the energy and desire to do these things. We go grocery shopping pretty frequently and have been trying out "new" restaurants. In the depths of anorexia I couldn't step foot in a grocery store and refused to eat anything new.

I was promoted at work. As of tomorrow I am now a full time employee with a better schedule, most weekends off, insurance and benefits, as well the opportunity to continue working for an amazing company. Each morning I look forward to going into work and I am beyond grateful for the friendships that I have made and the ability to work helping others. At the end of every day I smile. It's such a great feeling to be able to give back to a cause that has greatly impacted my life.

My relationship with John has grown stronger and I can't wait to marry him in a few months. Our relationship has been through more than most couples in their first year but we have become closer because of it. He is my rock. No mater what happens he sticks by my side. Lately our relationship revolves more around fun and enjoying each others company and less around my issues and the eating disorder. Exactly how it should be.

This stage of recovery isn't easy. My eating disorder behaviors have greatly diminished and I am left with the anxiety and underlying issues. Some days I am so overwhelmed that I feel like I can't function normally. I get stuck but I keep eating. In the moments of panic the thought of instant relief is tempting but I have far too much to lose. I don't miss anorexia, even the things that I saw as benefits. There was a point where I needed it to survive but that ship has sailed. Real life is hard and full of a lot of uncertainty but it's completely worth it. The worst day in recovery is better than the best day with anorexia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Inspiration

I've always collected inspirational and motivational quotes and song lyrics. Whenever I come across something that I really enjoy I always write it down or save it to my computer. For the past year I have been even more adamant about this, hoping that maybe if I repeat them to myself enough they will eventually feel true and replace all of the negativity and non-sense that has been on repeat in my head for years. Today I read this and I smiled. Not just because it was so uplifting but because I believe it 100%. It's not easy to erase years of awful beliefs and on some days it feels like a worthless cause. But self-hatred is completely learned and boy am I thankful for our brains amazing ability to re-learn and do things differently with practice. 

"Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cupcakes

Almost one year ago I planned a social for my sorority at a cupcake place in town called Sarkara Sweets. It's a place where you can build your own cupcake and has a ton of options. At that time I was struggling greatly with the eating disorder and eating a cupcake wasn't even close to an option. That same day I had spent the afternoon frantically shopping with a few sorority sisters for another event that we had planned that weekend. About 30minutes before the actual cupcake event I came close to passing out. It was no doubt directly related to my lack of nourishment. Because of this I completely skipped out on the event.

Today I came across an advertisement on facebook for the same cupcake place. I even went to their website a few times to see what they had to offer. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the place out of my mind. After dinner tonight I decided that I was sick of allowing the eating disorder to rule my life and take away the joy of enjoying tasty desserts. I gathered about all of the courage that I could come up with and asked John if we could go get cupcakes.(Thankfully he usually obliges especially when it involves yummy food) The entire drive there I had a smile across my face and must have said "I am really excited" at least 10 times. Although the cupcake was mediocre at best, I enjoyed the entire experience and am very proud of myself for this accomplishment. The eating disorder has stolen a lot from me and caused me to miss out on a lot of things in the past 10 years. I can't go back and change those memories but I am thankful for the opportunity to create new positive ones. Every time I step out of my comfort zone and tell the eating disorder to f*ck off, it loses it's power over me and I am one step closer to freedom.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Owning what is ours

"The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself." ~Mark Twain

Hi, my name is Daniella and I am sensitive. I cry easily and often. I laugh loudly. I feel deeply. I am emotional. I am easily overwhelmed by the world around me. By both it's bigness and it's beauty. I care a lot and sometimes get swept away by my own feelings and the feelings of others. I am jumpy and get scared easily. I smile, a lot and am easily amused by the simplest things. Most of the time I take things way too personally. I give 120% into everything I do and easily get engulfed in whatever task I am doing at the time. I don't like loud noises, peoples in masks (Halloween anything minus the candy) or spiders. Most of the time I feel like I don't fit into this world. I feel my best when I am surrounded by children, animals and nature. I am naive and gullible. If you play a prank on me I will fall for it, every time. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt times ten and believe that everyone deserves a chance no matter what they have done or continue to do. I am forgiving but can also be resentful. I don't do well with being told what to do yet am always looking for ways to better myself. If you yell at me, I will ignore you and shut down. I get overstimulated easily. I enjoy listening to others and am honored when people share their lives and stories with me. I consider my grandmother to be my best friend and long to be half as amazing of a women as she is. Some times I can be bossy and seem like a "know-it-all". Grammar isn't my strong suit and English will be the only language I ever know. I have the memory of a goldfish. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and am sometimes too honest. My feelings get hurt easily but I am also good at bouncing back. I have a sense of humor, can be sarcastic and really enjoy joking around with others. I pour my heart and soul into things that I care deeply about. I am passionate. Sometimes I can be dramatic. I am dependable and you can almost always count on me. I have a lot to say and talk way too much. Pride is my number one nemesis. I can be judgmental but am also very understanding and empathetic.I really enjoy helping people, nothing makes me feel better. I try to please people at every chance I get and really struggle with wanting others to like me and be my friend. I love learning and can honestly say I learn at least one new thing every day. My enthusiasm is childish and I think that is freaking awesome. I cannot wait to have children of my own some day. I value relationships way more than accomplishments and material things. I love reading, writing and singing. Music is the window into my soul and I love song lyrics and quotations. I love being close to others and most of the time I struggle with overstepping my boundaries. I have a voice and I am slowly learning that it's ok to use it. My political views are idealistic, extreme and would never be feasible in the world, but I still believe them. I consider myself a feminist and believe that I can do anything that a man can do yet personally love cleaning, cooking and taking care of others. ("traditional woman roles") I am open minded and love hearing and learning about other peoples viewpoints/ideas/opinions. Although I don't go to church regularly I consider myself a very spiritual person and believe that re-finding my relationship with God has been a one of the biggest factors in my healing.

I have spent many years out of touch with myself. For the longest time I have seen parts of my personality and who I am as flaws. I have spent years hating and punishing myself for things that I cannot help. I have been ashamed and have spent a lot of time and energy trying to "fix" things that were not in my control. In order to truly accept ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin we have to learn to own the things that are ours. Above is a glimpse of me and who I am. There are things that I wish I wasn't but being angry about them doesn't make them any less true. Self exploration as well as being honest and true to ourselves is difficult, especially for me after years of internalized beliefs that who I am and the things that make me tick are wrong. But learning to embrace even my deepest fears and struggles has opened up so many doors for me and has allowed me to start to work through my pain and overcome anorexia as well as be the person that I am truly meant to be.

True things by JJ Heller 




Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My journey

I don't believe in coincidences. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. In May when I hit a rock bottom of sorts with the eating disorder and my life, I picked up the book "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth. I tried to read it. I made it through the first few chapters but it was a pointless endeavor. I didn't have the energy or focus to actually read much or the attention and awareness to actually absorb anything that I was reading, so I ended up putting it back on the shelf. Yesterday as I was feeding the cat (the cat food is on the book shelf, don't ask) I saw it and decided to pick it back up. In less than 24 hours I devoured the book from front to back. Before bed, in between chores and work, as well as on my lunch break I found myself glued to it. I couldn't put it down. At the risk of sounding super cheesy and maybe a little wonky, I felt like the book was speaking to me. Throughout the book I laughed, cried, gasped, was overcome with fear, shame, relief and many other emotions. At this stage of my life and recovery, with all of the self exploration I have been doing lately, it felt like the missing puzzle piece. No it didn't solve any of my issues and isn't any kind of replacement for treatment or a cure of any sort, but it taught me a lot about myself and my struggles. Although I bookmarked a lot of pages because there was so much that was pertinent and helpful to me, there is one passage that actually knocked the wind out of me.

"I tell her that I have never met anyone for whom years of rejection and hatred suddenly and miraculously turned to love, even after a face-life, LAP-BAND surgery, liposuction. When you love something you wish it goodness; when you hate something you wish to annihilate it. Change happens not by hatred but by love. Change happens when you understand what you want to change so deeply that there is no reason to do anything but act in your own best interest. When you begin to inhabit your body from the inside, when you stop looking at it through, as my friend Mary Jane Ryan says "bank camera eyes", any option except taking care of it is unthinkable." ~Geneen Roth, Women Food and God

Wow. It's been said to me many times that we don't take care of things that we hate. Think about a bad gift that someone has given you, usually it sits in the back of your closet or is re-gifted right away. Because of trauma, abuse and a lot of internalized beliefs over the years, I have had the self-hate thing down pact. Although most people consider me a very considerate person and can't imagine me saying anything intentionally hurtful to others, the self-berating that goes on in my head on a daily basis is far from nice and PG. I have spent the last year trying to recover from an eating disorder, while consistently every day telling myself that I don't deserve to eat. That I don't deserve food, good things or happiness. I have been so confused because I have always had this amazing ability to cater to the needs of others and take care of others, yet I have been clueless as how to go about taking care of myself. I have gone to therapy, gotten advice of others, read books and yet still continuously find myself stuck in the depths of anorexia. Although there have been times of reprieve, I always seem to hit the same wall and end up back in the same place. Am I unable to truly recover? Am I just too sick or too far gone? Am I lying to myself when I tell myself I really do want to change? The answer to all of these questions is no and I am finally starting to see that. The bottom line: Until now I have never truly felt 100% completely worth it. My hate for myself was so strong, that it isn't shocking at all that I continue to struggle.

Although this realization is very painful, it has been the most freeing thing in the world. Through this passage and this book I have finally started to realize that I am not doomed forever. I am not too broken to be fixed. Most of this isn't even my fault. I have spent years running from my emotions and myself because it seemed I had to. It seemed like the only way to survive. Along the way I lost touch with myself and the hatred seed was planted. I have constantly been looking for external things to make me feel better. I have looked everywhere imaginable for freedom, love, peace and acceptance and have always come up empty handed. I now know that I have been looking in all of the wrong places. I will never find love in a place so full of hate. It doesn't matter all of the amazing things that I have in my life, I will never be able to completely appreciate them if I don't appreciate myself. Recovering from my eating disorder is more than learning how to eat properly, it's finding my way back home.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Surrendering

Striving for perfection is exhausting. The reward is always out of reach. The bar is always set higher. Constantly trying to please others, giving away your worth is defeating. It's a moving target. You will never be happy. You will never be good enough. Trying to control everything, including others and their emotions will never work. You will never feel safe. You will never be in control. Constantly being at war with yourself is frightening. Self hatred and punishment will never lead to peace. Keeping  your guard up high, always in survival mode is tiring. It lessens your chance of connection. It keeps you untouchable. It ruins your chance of truly enjoying love and affection. Constantly denying yourself what you need is painful. It doesn't make you better or stronger, it makes your resentful and selfish. Ignoring your emotions, feelings, likes and desires is heartbreaking. It takes away your beauty and what makes you human. It steals your gratitude and appreciation. Constantly beating your self up doesn't lead to making less mistakes or being better, it takes away your opportunity to learn and grow. Eating disorders are powerful and destructive and it takes an enormous amount of strength to hang on to one for so long but this path will never lead to freedom. Pride is lethal. Shame and secrets are debilitating. Pain is universal and suffering is inevitable. However compassion, empathy and forgiveness are all possible. No matter what the magnitude or how long you have been suffering, healing can happen.

I am a fighter. It is in my personally to never give up,to never surrender or show fear. But I have been living in fear for as long as I can remember. I have used my eating disorder as a shield. I have held my guard up high and allowed my past and my pain to ruin my life. On the outside it seems like I have it mostly together but on the inside my insecurities eat my alive. I judge and have constantly convinced myself that I am better than you because I can lose weight, go long periods of time with out eating and constantly put your needs before my own. I have put up walls to keep people out and have deceived myself to believing that I don't need anyone or anything. But none of these things are true. All of these things have lead me further from myself, joy, happiness, love and freedom.

Today I am done fighting, with myself and everyone around me. I am admitting defeat, waving my white flag. I am surrendering. For the longest time this felt wrong and like betrayal, but today is feels like relief.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Living Proof

Today I can actually imagine things getting better. Although I am not there yet I can picture a life without the eating disorder. I can imagine living authentically, happily and every day to the fullest. I can imagine actually being at peace with food and even more so with myself. I don't have a solid plan or time frame when I think this may happen but it no longer seems impossible. I know that my pain isn't in vain and that some day I will be triumphant in this battle.I will survive and I will thrive. I will eventually use my story and my experience to help others.

Over the last week I have done some serious soul searching. It hasn't been easy or anywhere near perfect. I have stumbled and fallen but have continuously gotten back up. It's been uncomfortable, painful and confusing. I know it's just the beginning. I know the road ahead is going to be full of a lot of hard work and even more tears but I truly believe that I can do this. Even if its temporary, at this very moment I believe in myself and right now that is good enough for me.

A lot of this optimism comes from within, it's in my personality to be positive and enthusiastic, but I know that I would have never gotten to this place if it wasn't for the amazing love and support that has been shown to me. Although it has been here all along, in this past week the encouragement that I have received has been phenomenal. Saying thank you wouldn't even begin to do the gratitude that I feel justice.

I believe that recovering from an eating disorder and learning to accept and love myself completely is going to be the hardest thing that I will ever have to do. In fact, I witness this every single day. Some days I truly can't imagine things getting any harder. But even in my moments of doubt, which there are plenty, I wouldn't trade this for anything. Although I can't see the finish line, each day I am reminded of why I keep going. I am not a victim, I am a survivor. A fighter. A conqueror. I will overcome this. And trust me when I say that if I can, so can you.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Voice of Truth

This morning when I woke up I kept waiting to be overcome with dread. I was waiting for the omg-I-can't-believe-I-thought-it-was-a-good-idea-to-post-my-bathroom-binge-expirence-for-the-entire-world-to-read. I was waiting for the fear of judgement and the moment when I convinced myself that everyone thought I was truly crazy, awful, horrible, unlovable, a failure ( feel free to insert any other bad adjective here).  I was prepared to be overcome with shame and not want to face the world. But it didn't happen. I didn't regret it, feel that it was a horrible idea or even really think twice about what other people might have thought. I didn't care.

As I re-read my own post I had mixed emotions. Part of me saw someone who was in a lot of pain and I felt for that person. The other part of me was wowed; amazed by the courageousness of sharing such vulnerability and hope. Then a thought ran across my mind. I wasn't worried about other peoples judgement/hate/negative comments because I knew that they couldn't be any worse than the stuff that I tell myself every day. This thought caused me to stop for a second and I felt pain and sadness well up in my chest.

Fast forward to lunch. I sat at the table with a sandwich in front of me, completely full of rage. Inside my head the eating disorder was screaming at me for being hungry, needing to eat, actually wanting to follow my meal plan. With clenched fists and a lot of tension, I ate the sandwich, one bite at a time but the anger just kept building. Just an hour earlier I had stepped on a scale and saw a higher number than I had previously and this was just fueling the fire.All of the anger was directed internally and I just wanted to punish myself. At that moment I just wanted to do something self destructive.

But I didn't.

A very tiny part of me didn't want to hurt myself. A very small part of me wanted to give myself a hug. To remind myself that all of the things that I was currently being told were lies and it really was going to be ok. This voice was so quiet, yet so powerful and reassuring. It felt like the truth.

For the next few minutes John and I searched for any glass in the house that we didn't care about. (yay to the fact that we recycle) We drove out to an empty parking lot and one by one I threw glass objects at the ground.(don't worry, we picked it up) I wasn't angry at myself. With each thing that I threw I got angry at the eating disorder. I got pissed about all of the false beliefs that I have internalized over the years and all of the pain it has caused. I didn't blame myself. I wasn't ashamed or full of guilt. I wasn't even angry for all of the times I have given into the eating disorder. I was angry for all of the time I have spent believing that I am not good enough, unlovable, unworthy and a failure. That my weight makes me a horrible person. That I will never overcome this. I wasn't mad at me, I was mad for me.

This was one of the most cathartic and eye opening experiences of my life. It was me fighting for myself, instead of against myself. It was freeing and amazing. I came home feeling empowered; like that maybe there could be an end to my pain and suffering and I could finally unchain myself from the eating disorder and other self destructive stuff.

I am an empathetic, loving, compassionate person with a huge heart. I am good at listening and taking care of others and I pride myself on being giving and helpful. For the first time in my entire life I feel like I used these positive qualities for myself and it didn't feel wrong. For the longest time I have been trying to "hate myself healthy". I have believed that maybe if I just hate myself enough I will be able to overcome all of this, but instead have fallen deeper into depression, self hatred and anorexia. External factors are no longer holding me back, years of internalized beliefs and negativity are. The eating disorder is fueled by shame, secrets and self hatred. Continuously allowing this to all fester in my head is holding me back. Although it's hard to overcome something that has had years to build momentum, I now know another voice exists.A voice of truth. My voice. And I will not allow it to be silenced anymore.





Friday, September 28, 2012

Shame

Tuesday night I found myself sitting on the rug in my bathroom scarfing down any food that I could get my hands on. Previously, in between doing dishes I was opening the cabinets and searching for all of the forbidden foods that I don't normally allow myself to eat. I wanted everything and at that moment didn't want a single thing to stop me. I was hungry, starving actually after days/months/years of restricting yet I was so full of shame this felt like my only option.The fact that in that moment I needed help and more food was too much for me to handle. I was so hungry yet angry about the fact that I was hungry, that eating in secret seemed like the answer. I didn't want anyone to know that I was hungry or eating (two things that equal being needy, selfish and too much in my mind), so there I sat huddled on the bathroom floor in tears, eating all that I could, while John sat in the other room. After this I immediately went to bed. I had to. I was so full of self hate and paralyzed by shame and fear. I wanted to forget and pretend like the entire thing didn't happen.

The next day I decided that the solution to last nights "problem" was to go back to restricting my food intake and just keep the entire thing to myself. Even thinking about it brought up so much shame, that I couldn't imagine sharing it with anyone, even my nutritionist. Around noon I took my lunch break at work. I didn't plan on eating. I repeated over and over again "I don't need food", a very well known thought in my head, yet I couldn't hold back how I was feeling. I couldn't hold back the tears; the sadness that I felt for denying myself what I truly needed, the pain from all of the self hatred and the shame from all of the secrets. For a brief moment, in between a lot of negativity and eating disorder thoughts, I decided that I couldn't continue to live like this. I realized that my life was being destroyed and consumed by shame. It wasn't just around food, it was around everything. I felt ashamed for needing things, for wanting others to like/love me, for having an eating disorder, for struggling to take care of myself, for needing to ask for help, for being good at my job, for my personality, for having likes and desires, for being too much etc.Although incredibly painful and hard to swallow, this thought forced me to pick up my phone and call John, who was also on his lunch break. Through a lot of tears I told him what had happened the night before and asked if he could talk to me while I attempted to eat lunch. It was difficult but at the same time relieving.

Tonight I am writing this post and sharing this painful story in attempt to eliminate some of the shame. Although it was quite an eye opening experience, I have easily fallen back into the same patterns over the past few days. After restricting and not following my meal plan for a few days I was overwhelmed by hunger yet again. Although I followed my meal plan today, tonight I had the same urge to eat anything and everything, in secret. The entire night I have had the eating disorder screaming in my ear telling me that I am needy, selfish and too much for needing/wanting more food and being hungry and a failure because I can't even eat like a normal person. I have had many moments where I want to give in and not in a healthy way, yet tonight I refuse to allow shame to win.

Even though I can realize that a lot of my beliefs are illogical and even wrong, I can't instantly ignore or erase the things that I have been telling myself for years. I can't just "snap out of" using eating disorder behaviors to cope. My hunger and fullness signals are still very messed up and I have no concept of "normal" eating. I have no clue how much food my body actually needs and most of the time I am too scared to even begin to experiment to figure that out. I am constantly consumed by shame and anxiety for needing things and even more so for asking for help. I don't know how to separate my feelings and problems from my relationship with food. On most days I feel like I am stumbling around in the dark yet I am learning to use my treatment team, John and friends for guidance. I don't have all or many of the answers yet I refuse to give up. I have read stories and know personally people who have recovered from eating disorders. Although I can't even begin to imagine it, especially for myself, I continue to hang on to the possibility. Shame will NOT win.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"It's not about the food"

"It's not about the food." I can't even begin to tell you how much I have heard this phrase in the last year. Yes, eating disorder recovery involves changing your relationship with food. It involves eating and letting go of whatever way you use food to cope in your life. Without adequate nutrition you cannot recover from an eating disorder, no matter how much other work you do. But your behaviors, feelings, actions, beliefs and reactions around food usually mirror something much larger and this is what I mean when I say, "it's not about the food."

I have an intense fear of eating too much and of being full. This fear combined with all of my years of under-eating has completely thrown my body signals as well as my perception out of whack. While some people actually struggle with eating too much, physically stuffing themselves to being uncomfortably full, this isn't the case for me. Throughout the last year there have been many times that I have complained of being way too full and eating too much. I have laid curled up in fetal position on the couch practically withering in pain and uncomfortableness. Although it may sound overly dramatic, in the moment it's how I feel. I've gone into my nutritionists office complaining that "it's just too much food", "that there is no possibly way I can eat another bite". Each time she has responded with the question "What's too much? because it's not the food."

Last night John and I ate dinner. I followed my meal plan and ate what I needed to eat. Although it was a bigger dinner then the night before it wasn't a large amount of food. About an hour after we finished eating I was consumed by omg-too-much-food-I-am-way-too-full feelings. It wasn't completely mental as I felt hyper aware of my body and my stomach actually hurt some. Being the amazing, supportive guy that he is, John comforted me and reminded me that I didn't eat too much and that these feelings will pass. Instead of distracting myself, which is my usual way to deal with this, I sat through the discomfort and tried to tap into what I was feeling under this. For the next 20minutes I shared with John my fears and frustrations from the day. Out came my fear of being noticed and seen by others and of being too much and too big in this world. I don't want to go into details for privacy purposes, but it was some pretty deep and intense stuff. Sharing with him didn't make the feelings and fears go away but I was now able to breathe. Instead of feeling overwhelmed I felt ok. The fullness that I felt was 100% completely gone. Less than an hour before I couldn't imagine ever having room to eat another bite and now just after I was already starting to think about my before bed snack.

I was shocked. Although on a logical level I can realize that most of the time I am not eating too much, it's hard to truly believe something when you haven't experienced it yourself. Last night I saw first hand that it really isn't about the food and that my feelings of "too much" are much deeper than the amount of food I am eating. Although this realization didn't cause the fears and beliefs to diminish and I know the struggle will still be there, I feel a little more confident that once I begin to heal some of the underlying issues and work through the shame and false beliefs, I will be able to fix and change my relationship with food.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reasons for Recovery

Yesterday I ate lunch at the mall food court in between my therapy appointment and work. I sat near an area that is designed for kids; there are big tables for adults near small tables for children. As I ate lunch I couldn't help but enjoy the company of a group of 3 small children sitting near by. As they sat enjoying their Chick Fila, I felt a sense of peace and calmness that I am not used to feeling, especially when food is involved. Their simplicity, innocence and joy was contagious, as was their ability to feed themselves. With ketchup and bbq sauce all over their hands, mouths and table, they happily sat and ate, untouched by external cues or rules. Besides the fact that I just love being around children, this was truly inspiring to me. For that moment everything felt ok.

Later at work I was surrounded by coworkers, board games and more pizza and bread sticks then you can ever imagine possible. I happened to be lucky enough to be apart of the team that won the summer challenge at work and was rewarded with a party. For two hours, we enjoyed laughter, food, games and just enjoying each others company. While I had a great time and was truly myself, I didn't allow myself to partake in any of the food and felt a sense of sadness. Although I love the work that I do, my coworkers are a big part of what makes work so enjoyable. The friendships that I have built since starting this job are irreplaceable and add to the joy of coming into work every day.

I know that recovery is a process and isn't linear; some days it's a few steps forward, others one or two back. Through each meal or uncomfortable situation I remind myself of why I continue to push forward. On some days this isn't as obvious to me and I use my support system to help remind me. In the moment when I am struggling greatly and feel super uncomfortable and just want relief right then, I easily forget the big picture. Below is my reminder; my list of why I want to recover. This list is obviously personal to me, although I would encourage anyone who is struggling with something to make their own.

Reasons for Recovery/Why I want to Recover

1. To some day be a mom- have a kid, be able to nurture, care for and show love to a child that is mine

2. To have a long, happy, healthy relationship with John- to grow old together and be able to live happily by each others side

3. To be able to give back to the world- wholeheartedly give time, energy and love to those in need

4. To be a role model- practice what I preach, truly live authentically to my morals and values

5. To share my story and passion with the world- connect with others completely

6. To be able to work with children in whatever capacity necessary at the time- fill my heart with their joy and innocence as well as provide them with whatever they need

7. To be healthy- physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally

8. To be fully present and experience life and everything that is has to offer- to be able to live in gratitude and truly enjoy the good and accept the bad

9. To be social- able to have fun and enjoy the company of others

10. To make peace with food and my body- to nourish myself completely and accept everything about my body, flaws and all

11. To be able to truly express myself and share my gifts and experience the world- through my writing, this blog and even communication


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trust the Process

Although I have unlimited understanding, compassion and patience for others I struggle with those qualities when it comes to myself. I get frustrated in myself, especially my recovery when I have a hard day, when I find myself in a place I've been before or when it seems I am moving forward at snails pace. My perfectionism and high expectations for myself leave me defeated. I don't want to still struggle with anorexia and I am sick of hating myself as well as continuing to feel the pain from my past and allowing it to affect my future. No matter how insightful I may be or how much knowledge I gain about recovery, sometimes I feel completely spent and hopeless, like I will never reach the "other side". Although I respect that I didn't develop an eating disorder over night and that a lot of my wounds are still fresh, I long to let go and move on with my life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and today while reading I came across the passage below. It was exactly what I needed to give myself the space and kindness to accept where I am at today. In order to become who we wish to be, we have to accept and understand who we already are.

"Recovery is a healing and spiritual process. It's also a journey, not a destination. We travel from a path of self-neglect into self-responsibility, self-care and self-love. Like other journeys, it's one of moving forward, taking detours, backtracking, getting lost, finding the way again, and occasionally stopping to rest. Unlike other journeys, we can't travel it by forcing the next foot forward. It's a gentle journey, traveled by discipline, and by accepting and celebrating where we are in that journey today. Where we are today is where we're meant to be. It's where we need to be to get where we're going tomorrow. And that place we're going tomorrow will be better than any we've been before." 

~Melody Beattie in the book "Beyond Codependency"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Power of Uncomfortable

If I had to describe this last week in one word I would easily describe it as uncomfortable. There have been numerous times throughout each day where I have wanted to completely crawl out of my skin, instantly disappear from my current location or a combination of both. It's been brutal and has felt awful. Uncomfortable really is the best way to describe it.

Following a new meal plan and eating more food each day has felt excruciating. With each bite I have felt extremely uncomfortable, like it isn't humanly possible to eat anything else. Only to then be reminded that a few hours later I am going to have to do it all over again. Being vulnerable with those around me; sharing my deepest struggles to John and in therapy as well as writing this blog is uncomfortable. Each time I hit "post" I am faced with uncomfortable feelings about putting my life on display. In both therapy and my nutrition appointments this week, I stepped out of my comfort zone and talked about some of my most recent fears and concerns, and during those times I wished I was Harry Potter and could instantly make myself disappear from the room. Yesterday at work I talked to my boss about changing my schedule and had to face the uncomfortableness of asking for what I needed and the possibility that she may be disappointed in me. I also went grocery shopping yesterday by myself and had a mini panic attack when I looked down in my cart and realized that I actually had a decent amount of food and even a few things that were more indulgent and things that I wanted.

Eating more, sharing more and asking for what I need brings up so many uncomfortable feelings for me and this week for the most part, I forced myself to sit through all of them. The shame, guilt, disappointment in myself, feelings of unworthiness, being too much, having needs and being seen as selfish. Instead of ignoring my needs and restricting my food and my life, I've felt the fear and done it anyways.

Being uncomfortable is painful and doesn't seem to be getting too much easier over time. However, it has had enormous benefits and these are why I continue to push through. Eating more and following my meal plan has allowed me to have energy. Even though it's only been a few days, I can feel and see the difference. The haze of starvation is beginning to lift and I am starting to feel better physically. Not to mention, I am a little more emotionally stable. Being honest and vulnerable with my treatment team has allowed them to help me more. Sharing all that I do and opening my life on my blog has not only taken away some of my shame, but given others the permission to do the same. It's allowed me to connect more deeply to others.To help others while being authentic and genuine. The messages that I have received from people who read my blog make the uncomfortable feelings worth it. Asking my boss to change my schedule felt empowering. Although difficult, it felt good to be able to look back and think "wow, I stood up for myself and none of my fears came true."

I have a very high pain tolerance. I have spent years starving myself; feeling so bad that I wished I could die right there but continuing to do it anyways. I have been in many difficult situations and have faced a lot of adversity in my 25 years of life. My ability to "suck it up" and carry on when things become difficult is no doubt why I am still alive. I am no stranger to uncomfortable. But this kind of uncomfortable is different. In my eyes this is way worse then starvation, cancer treatment and mental abuse. This kind of uncomfortable is raw, overwhelming and cuts deeply into every part of me. This kind of uncomfortable forces me to take a look at the things that I have been avoiding for years and the feelings that are at the core of so many of my issues. This kind of uncomfortable is truly awful but where the healing begins.

Pets- the cure to feeling uncomfortable

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Self-care

After I write a post that is incredibly vulnerable and really puts myself out there I always go into hermit mode for a few days. At first there is in the initial "what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-and-why-in-the-world-did-I-ever-think-that-was-a-good-idea?" moment. This is usually followed by a lot of panic and self-doubt and omg can I erase it off the internet and out of everyone's mind right now? After a few days of seeing that the world is still turning and people are still speaking to me, I begin to calm down some. Following this I get a bit of writers block. It really isn't that I don't have anything to say but I feel like I have nothing good to say. That anything that I can come up with just isn't going to live up to my previous post or be worth reading.

To be quite honest, this time around it's been a little different. All of this did occur, pretty much exactly in the order described, except there has been more to it. With working two jobs my free time is very limited. Most of it is either spent running errands, doing chores or sleeping. The whole concept of taking care of myself is still pretty foreign to me. I still struggle greatly with meeting my basic human needs like eating enough and getting adequate rest. Recovery is still incredibly difficult and I am still working on finding the balance between myself and others. Most days it seems like I take more steps backwards then forwards.

A week or so ago my therapist told me that we can't truly be present to others if we are ignoring ourselves and although we may not see it, we are not the only ones that suffer when our self care is lacking. At the time I left her office completely angry and pretty much believed that she was completely wrong. That same day I made a huge mistake at work. A mistake that wouldn't have happened if my mind was present to what I was doing, instead of a million other places. I was devastated and embarrassed. For a few days I believed that I just needed to try harder. That I needed to say screw recovery and myself and pour more energy into everything else; my job, relationships etc. I decided that I just needed to give more and focus more on others and things would get better.

On Saturday I completely lost it. I turned into a crying hysterical mess and couldn't ignore my needs any longer. I was so emotionally done that I called a coworker and asked him if he could work for me a few hours so I could come in later. At that point it really wasn't an option of taking a break anymore. I laid on the couch for a few hours switching in between crying, talking to John and staring at the ceiling. When I did go into work I was completely unfocused. A parent even asked me if I was ok because I looked exhausted, which isn't something that is good when you are driving children around the mall and in charge of their safety. It was then that I realized that everything that my therapist said was correct and something had to change.

I needed to start taking care of myself and it couldn't wait.

After this realization I didn't do anything too crazy and I can't say that I made huge changes or that it isn't still difficult, yet I did do a few things. First off, I rearranged my work schedule so I had time to see my therapist this week. It involved asking my boss to change my schedule last minute and sitting with the disappointment that I felt in myself for doing that. Secondly, I spent a few hours on Sunday coloring in a coloring book and drinking a Mike's hard lemonade. This broke a bunch of food rules as well as my struggle with allowing myself to take breaks. Not to mention I haven't had an alcoholic beverage in about a year and a half. Instead of "wasting" time on the internet reading other blogs and blogging myself as a distraction, which I am sometimes guilty of doing, I sat with myself and my feelings. I talked to people in real time. I caught up with a friend that I hadn't talked to in a while and shared some of my recent struggles with her, as well as listened to what is currently going on in her life. I spent some quality time with John, which has been seriously lacking recently, even though we live together. I got incredibly honest with myself and realized that I was heading in the same direction that I have headed many times, burnout.

My eating still needs a lot of work and my emotions are still all over the map. I have been faced with a lot of shame and guilt in the past few days for taking these steps for myself. It still feels wrong. Although I am still exahusted and have a long way to go, I have noticed small differences. On Monday I felt a little more rejuvenated for a long day of work at the train. I wake up in the morning with more optimism and less dread. Today I took a nap and I didn't beat myself up about it. All of this is progress. Most of the time I feel like recovery has to be big and bold and only huge moments count and are worth mentioning, but I am slowly starting to realize that it really is more about the small things adding up over time. It doesn't matter how slow you are going, as long as you don't stop.

A friend shared this on facebook a week or so ago and I have been dying to find a way to tie it into a post. This one is pretty perfect! :)




Friday, August 31, 2012

What Weight Gain Means to Me

I wrote this post this morning, shared it with a close friend and then freaked out. Although it was saved as a draft I decided that it was way too personal to share on my blog. I put the entire post out of my mind and then went to work. Today was the best day of work that I have had since I started working there. The actual work part was the same; same tasks and time frame but I felt different. Something was better. I not only felt present to what I was doing but I felt connected to those around me. Although I have only known them for about a month, my coworkers and I have formed quick friendships. We have inside jokes and are constantly laughing with and at each other. Leaving work today my stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard. When I am at my job I am myself. Because I am doing things that I enjoy and am surrounded by people who feel the same, I don't hold back. Although I remain professional when I am actually doing my job, my filter isn't up and my guard is down. I am loud, clumsy and not afraid to show it. Today I feel like I gained a little bit of my confidence back and because of that I decided to post this. Enjoy!

I have a huge fear of gaining weight. I can not remember a time in the last 10 years where I wasn't completely affected by the number on the scale. Although, what is deemed to be "ok" has constantly fluctuated depending on how much I am struggling with the eating disorder and other things going on in my life. Some people, those who have eating disorders and those who do not, have a specific number in mind that is their "ideal perfect" weight. Some believe that at that weight magic happens; they will finally be ok, have their lives together and things will be perfect and wonderful. Due to our culture and the messages that we are constantly surrounded by it's no big surprise that people are so attached to the idea that thin is better and spend so much time fixating on weight, trying to manipulate their body and dieting.

Although I do struggle greatly with the idea of gaining weight, I do not believe that weighing more and being fat is bad. I do not believe certain weights are better than others nor are certain bodies. I don't buy into the stereotypes that people associate with fat and I don't believe that weight and health are the same thing. I really don't believe that a number on the scale tells you anything, other than how much you weigh. That number doesn't measure your worth or your value or say anything about your personality or the life that you lead. When you look at someone you can tell their size and what your prejudices are about people of that size, but nothing else. I have a lot of friends and family members who are bigger, they weigh more, and are some of the most inspiring people I know. They aren't lazy or unmotivated and they know how to take care of themselves just fine.

So given this information why am I chained to a piece of metal and plastic? Why is my fear of gaining weight so strong, that I would rather give up more important things in my life in order to remain stuck in the fog of under eating? 

Recently my nutritionist asked me the same question. Why do I fear gaining weight and what does gaining weight mean to me? When the question was first posed to me I gave my default answer of "I don't know", which at the time was the complete truth. I thought about our culture and the "thin is in" message but realized that I didn't buy that. When I hear others bashing their body or talking about how much better their lives would be if they just lost X lbs, it genuinely hurts me. I don't judge others by their size and I see nothing wrong with being bigger. The diet mentality and industry has always blown my mind.

Some people have the misconception that those with eating disorders, especially anorexia are vain. The media portrays the illness as a choice and as a way to seek beauty. While some of those who struggle are fixated on their appearance and do strive to achieve a certain level of thinness, this isn't the case for everyone. Those who know me know that I don't wear make up and most of the time am wearing a t-shirt and jeans. While I respect the people who put a lot of time into getting ready and looking their best, it really isn't my thing. If it wasn't for the fact that I work at a job that I need to dress professionally for, I would probably look like a disheveled mess every day and I would rock it. I don't believe how I dress or look says anything about me, other than I don't really value peoples appearances.

So back to the question, why do I fear gaining weight? Below is my raw, genuine, vulnerably written answer to this question. It wasn't easy to share this with my nutritionist and it scares the hell out of me knowing that I am putting my deepest, darkest fears and concerns out in the open on the internet for anyone and everyone to read and ridicule. However I believe that being honest and open is important. I hold on to the hope that maybe this will resonate with just one person. That I will be able to help end some of the shame and stigma around anorexia and maybe open peoples eyes and views a bit. I am also sharing this for myself, as a way to begin to change some of my beliefs and take my power back from anorexia and those who have spent years telling me lies that I have so faithfully bought into.

What Gaining Weight Means to Me 

Weighing less keeps me small, keeps things manageable, helps me go unnoticed. It keeps my passion and ideas at bay. It helps me fit into this pre-made box that people have been trying to squeeze me in my entire life. Gaining weight means bigger, it means becoming too much. Too much everything, which is unacceptable in the eyes of my mother. Gaining weight means I can no longer hide my personality behind my appearance. Being small means quiet, polite, compliant, going with whatever everyone else is doing. Being small means people will like me, at least my voice and opinions will be contained, so there will be no confrontation or rejection. Being small helps me keep the peace. Weighing more means taking up more space, existing, needing. It means having opinions, needs, wants and desires and showing them. All of those things feel selfish, needy and not ok to me.  It’s bold, daring and brave. Ever since I was a child I have felt cursed. I have felt cheated, like I have been given so much to offer the world and so much in general but then surround by people who can’t handle it, who think it’s too much, who think I am too much.  I have been told that my passion, ideas and enthusiasm for life is childish, my feelings are dramatic. That I am over sensitive and unrealistic. That I care too much, like it’s a bad thing. All of my life I have felt like I have been given a gift, a very big heart and the desire to share it with the world. I feel that one of my strengths is my ability to connect, understand and empathize with others. I feel the need to love and care for others with every part of being. I have a desire to help others and truly believe that I can make a difference in this world. I truly believe in the good in everyone and that everyone deserves a chance and I love working with people who have been told otherwise. I never give up on people, ever. And I love listening and learning. I love working with kids with troubled backgrounds, the disabled or even those who have mental or physical illnesses. I feel like listening to others and sharing the power of love and connection is better than anything else. But I have been told over and over again that I am naïve, that my enthusiasm isn’t realistic and so I have succumbed to trying to fit the ideal. Keeping my body small, helps keep me small and helps me keep to myself and not disappoint others. It keeps my “bigness” at bay. It allows my feelings and dreams to be toned down and then others can handle me. No one has to know about my passion to help those in need, take care of others and be a part of other people’s lives. The gratitude that I feel when people share things with me and allow me to be a part of their lives is not comparable to anything else. The joy that I feel when others are happy can’t be beat. 

I feel so strongly about so many things but have always been shot down, told that it can’t be done, it’s too much. I have been told time and time again that there is only so much I can do and that I am wasting my time. That instead I should focus on more “important” things. But what is more important than people? What could be more satisfying then helping others?

Gaining weight means I am here to, that I matter and that I am no longer second best. And on most days I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel like I can handle that. I feel selfish for taking up space. Weighing more scares me because what if people can’t handle it? What if I lose the ones that I love? What if others are right? That I am too much, too childish, too emotional and too big of a dreamer. What if I can’t devote my life to helping others? What if I can’t be the person that I long to be? What if I am just naïve enough to believe that I can make a difference in this world? Then when? Weighing less narrows my options. It keeps my contained, practical even. It keeps me realistic. It keeps me from trying. And if I don’t try, I don’t have to suffer the consequences of it not working out. Keeping my body small, keeps me in the lines. 

Weighing more means not holding back. It means no longer allowing my body to do the talking. It means showing that I have a voice and am not afraid to use it. It means that I have a presence. That I am no longer sitting back letting the eating disorder run the show. That I no longer have an excuse to hide behind. In my mind weighing more shows confidence, strength and courage, and although I long for those things, they scare me.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Justification

Earlier at work I walked into the break room to get some water. As I walked in a coworker and friend said something along the lines of "I am eating such a healthy lunch of x and y (exactly what she had is currently escaping me) but I am ruining it by drinking a soda with it. I don't normally drink soda or allow myself to buy it but when it's here and in front of me I give in. I only drink about 3/4 of the can so I guess it isn't that bad but I really should be drinking water. I really shouldn't be drinking this but...". I politely cut her off because I couldn't handle hearing one more self berating comment come out of her mouth. I responded with "You know, having a soda every now and again isn't that big of a deal. It will be ok and is nothing to be ashamed about." Before I could finish she cut me off with more justifications. I listened and reminded her that there was no judgement from me and that she didn't owe me any kind of explanation for what she was or wasn't eating/drinking or anything for that matter. She then proceeded to tell me that maybe she wasn't trying to convince me but instead convince her self that what she was doing was ok. I paused for a moment, this is something that I am all too familiar with. I empathized and gently reminded her that she didn't do anything wrong, that last I checked she hadn't murdered anyone so she had no need to punish herself, it was just a soda. Although I am not sure how much I helped or if anything I said sunk in, it really got me thinking.

I constantly feel the need to justify my actions, behaviors and really just everything, especially my eating. Whenever I write down food journals for my nutritionist I almost want to explain why I am choosing the things I am, which is a little ridiculous given that most of the time I am following her suggestions or meal plan. When I pull out a snack in an odd place or when no one else around me is eating I feel like I need to explain myself. When my metabolism is on overdrive due to re-feeding I feel like I need to wear a sign that says "I am in recovery from anorexia and that is why I am eating all of the time." If I get hungry in between a meal or snack time I feel that the only way I can eat is with a good reason.

This isn't just present around food. I have examples from my life and from friends who don't suffer from any kind of disordered eating. I remember earlier this year a good friend of mine went to Target because she forgot to pack some underwear for a trip . She came back with more than just underwear and gave a 15min explanation as to why she bought each other thing. As she justified herself, I looked at her with this mystified look. Another friend kindly asked her if she was happy with all of her purchases. When she replied yes, he said "Case closed, they were necessary".

Although this issue affects males, it seems to be even more predominant in females. We feel the need to justify everything that we are doing; that it isn't OK to do something just because. If you are tired, take a nap. If you are hungry, eat. If you see a pair of jeans that you really love, buy them. No need to explain that you haven't slept in a few days or that you skipped breakfast this morning or that you haven't bought jeans in years. Do something and don't feel the need to offer an explanation, whether it's to yourself or someone else. Drop the guilt. Own it. If you feel like baking cookies for dinner, do it. Who cares what anyone else says or thinks.You don't owe an explanation to anyone.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Inspiration-Music

I love music; singing constantly and inspirational song lyrics. Music has been vital in my recovery. I came across this song yesterday thanks to Pandora and just wanted to share. It's been on repeat ever since. Enjoy!

 
Be strong in the Lord and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
Thank God for each day,
His love will find a way,
These are the words I would say
~Sidewalk Prophets 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Running on Empty

The title of this post describes exactly what I have been doing lately. At the end of the day I have been completely exhausted and emotionally and physically drained. Like I mentioned in previous posts most nights have ended in meltdowns. I have just been too tired to be able to handle my emotions effectively and get to the root of what has been bothering me. I have kind of jumped into survival mode and it hasn't been pretty. Everything seems like the end of the world and needs a solution immediately.

Yesterday was a long, hard day. I have a love/hate relationship with Thursday's. I have a nutrition appointment followed by a long day of work, so they are always a bit trying. When John picked me up, done was the understatement of the year. I had a headache, sore throat and was exhausted. It wasn't a bad day, just very draining. As soon as we started talking about dinner the panic kicked in. I didn't have the energy for a fight, with either John or the eating disorder and felt too bad physically to even consider skipping dinner. I settled on Moe's, which is always a default and dinner was had.

This is where the magic begins.

After dinner I started thinking about the dishes in the sink, the laundry that needed to be done and the emails/texts that I had ignored while at work. And then I decided that it could all wait. Let me repeat that again, then I decided that it could all WAIT. I put my phone on silent, reminded myself that it was ok to leave dishes in the sink and that the laundry would still be there tomorrow. I reminded myself that I needed a break and that it wasn't selfish to take some time for myself. (I had to repeat this a lot throughout the night and I am not sure if I ever completely believed it but I went with it anyways.)I wasn't a bad friend, fiance, daughter etc and the world would keep turning if I did absolutely nothing "productive".

It wasn't easy and there were plenty of times where I did check my phone to make sure that no emergencies happened. I didn't really go near the kitchen because I knew that if I saw the dishes in the sink then I would start washing them. John and I did make an impromptu trip to the grocery store and I did read a few emails that I had missed earlier. But I also relaxed and did things that I enjoy and help me unwind.

I read blogs and other articles on the computer that I had been behind on. I snuggled on the couch with my pets and fiance. I journaled some. I listened to some of my favorite songs. I ate frozen yogurt without distraction. I spent an hour before going to sleep laying in bed reading a mystery novel on the kindle.

For the first time in a few weeks I woke up rejuvenated. I actually slept fewer hours than I had on previous nights but I didn't feel exhausted. I didn't wake up with dread. I didn't feel on the verge of tears or like the slightest thing would set me off. The world kept spinning and I was ok.

This morning I did the dishes, responded to emails/texts and came up with a plan for laundry. I was able to get everything done that I didn't do last night and it didn't feel like such a chore. I wasn't hanging by a thread emotionally. I was even able to enjoy a long chat with a friend who is going through some rough stuff right now.

Although this experience has taught me a lot, taking breaks and time for myself is still really hard for me. I feel selfish and needy and like there are way better uses of my time. I see all of the suffering in the world and I want to help, whether it be a distant person or a family member or friend. I look at my never ending to do lists and always find something that needs to be done. I have no problem with taking a back seat. Except that it starts to take a toll rather quickly, especially emotionally. Running on empty was easy when I was completely numb to the eating disorder and practically emotionless but that isn't the case anymore. As hard as it is to admit, I can only handle so much. It's hard to give when you having nothing left.

I believe that I have a lot to offer the world but I am starting to realize that I can only do this when I am healthy. Healthy not only means physically, but emotionally as well. It doesn't just mean eating and sleeping well, but also finding a balance between others and myself. All of this is new and foreign to me and I am still learning but experiences like last night are small steps in the right direction.