Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Accepting & respecting where you are

Last night I went to a presentation given by Ragen Chastain about the positive body. For those of you who weren’t there or don’t know about her, you should all check our her blog at Dances with Fat . She is an amazingly inspirational person with a lot of wisdom, insight and humor. I will write more about the presentation as a whole in later posts.

Before the presentation there was a booth set up by BeRealUF, (here is more about them and their message for people to write inspirational letters to their bodies so they can hang them up in the new Eating Disorder Recovery Center at Shands. They included things like “Dear body, you are awesome. Thanks for being able to dance/swim etc.” or “Dear body, you are amazing and awesome just the way you are.” Etc. They were all happy, cheery and full of positive self love.

Just like everyone else, I was given some construction paper, markers and stickers and told to come up with the same thing. “You want me to what?” was my next response. The girl at the booth kept telling me that it didn’t need to be creative or artistic and just simple words would do. The thing is, the creative/artistic part wasn’t the problem. I can draw stick figures like the best of them and Lisa Frank and I are best friends, but the idea of coming up with positive things about my body made me feel like she was asking me to perform surgery and I have a very unsteady hand. The longer I stood there and looked at the examples that other people had done, the more discouraged and frustrated I became. The best that I could come up with was, “Dear body, I don’t hate you as much today. Occasionally you are ok and I can begin to consider accepting to you. Thanks for breathing for me?” The thoughts that were running through my head weren’t exactly inspirational or things that would be appropriate for patients in an eating disorder recovery clinic. But in all honesty, I was just excited that I wasn’t thinking of four letter words and my body in the same sentence.

This experience, along with conversations that I recently have had with my treatment team have made me come to a realization: Recovery and life are about accepting and respecting where you are. I would have loved to participate in the activity above and been able to share a positive message about my body with others, but I am not there yet. It’s truly inspirational to hear and see others speak so positively about their bodies and themselves and it really gives me something to look forward to but no amount of persuasion and hope is going to create something that isn’t there. Let’s use the analogy that you are running a marathon. You are at mile 2 and you are dreaming of the finish line. Not only dreaming of it, but thinking about how wonderful it is going to be when you cross it and how much you can’t wait for that to happen. Dreaming and wishing are good things but it doesn’t matter how badly you wish to be at the finish line, you still have 24 miles to go before that happens. In that moment, no amount of dreaming and wishing are going to get you to that finish line, but running for 24 miles will.

Accepting where you are right now is hard, especially for me. As I have mentioned in previous posts, these last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle for me. I have had a lot of stressful and big things going on in my life and have been using the eating disorder to cope. I have spent countless hours banging my head against the wall and wondering why the heck I am doing this again when I know the outcome. (Duh, it’s because it’s what I have done for most of my life and it’s going to take more then a few months to re-learn new coping skills and re-wire my brain, but that is a completely separate post) In order to discontinue the spiral downwards I have reached out for help and support during this time. For me that has included going back to the basics some and following some things I did early in recovery which include following a meal plan and using more structure and other people’s advice (as in people on my treatment team who I trust, not rogue strangers or people that have no idea) to help me eat and take care of myself.  

For the past few weeks I have been frustrated by this. As I sit with a plate in food in front of me, taking myself through it and hating a lot of it, I’ve been angry at myself. I’ve been thinking back to a month ago when this wasn’t hard for me and when I truly enjoyed eating, cooking and trying new things and I’ve constantly been wishing that I could just snap back there. Like I mentioned in the marathon example, wishing only gets you so far. Reminding myself of where I once was and using that to get angry at myself for where I am now, isn’t going to bring me back to where I was a month ago or where I wish to be. Instead, accepting where I am right now and working to get back where I was will. You can’t begin to fix something until you accept it for what it is. I have slipped and messed up, but that means absolutely nothing other then the obvious, that I have slipped and messed up and now have an opportunity to work on making things better and doing things differently.

This concept not only applies to eating disorder recovery and me, but to life in general. We could all use a moment of stopping for a second and accepting and respecting where we are whether that has to do with a problem we are facing, our jobs, schooling etc. Accepting where you are doesn’t mean giving yourself an excuse to stay in a bad place. I am by no means saying that you should be like “well I am currently not eating and this is where I am at, so I guess I should just continue to not eat.” Or “I am currently stuck in a crappy job, but it’s where I am at so I shouldn’t try to find a few job.” Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t hope/wish/dream about the future. For me, talking to other people who are further along in their recovery or seeing people who’ve made it to the other side and truly love themselves is really helpful. But only to the extent that it gives me the hope that things can get better and that I can eventually get there as well. I hope know that one day I will be like the people that I have mentioned above and be able to genuinely love my body and myself and be fully recovered from the eating disorder. And boy am I excited about that day. But for now, I am going to accept and respect exactly where I am. Today I hate myself a little less then yesterday and plan on doing all that I can to continue on the upward swing of the recovery process. And for now that is exactly where I am and is good enough for me.

Here is a song that always makes me smile: 

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