Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Reality


To say that I have been struggling would be the biggest understatement of the year. I won’t go into details but this past week has been one of the hardest of my life. Yesterday afternoon, I found myself attending a Catholic mass. I wasn’t quite sure what inspired me to go there, as I haven’t been to church in quite some time other then occasional holidays, but there I was. I felt desperate and hopeless and was looking for anything to make me feel better. 

I prayed, cried and then prayed and cried some more. I begged God to help me and show me what the next step was. I left disappointed. I didn’t feel any better. In fact I actually felt worse. I gave up on myself yesterday. For quite some time I felt completely alone and was ready to let this eating disorder win. In some ways I did. 

The evening got way worse before it even began to get a little better. But God was listening. I was not alone. Although I couldn’t see it, He was there by my side. He blessed me with the ability to reach out when I needed to the most and with the most caring, patient, understanding guy to respond. 

Today wasn’t much easier. I would be lying if I said things got a lot better or even a little better because that really isn’t the case. My faith has still been shaken. I am still struggling. But one thing has changed. I know that I am not alone and even more so that I don’t have to face this on my own. I mustered up about all of the courage that I had today to attend my nutrition appointment, even though it felt like one of the most difficult things that I have had to do recently. It is there that I re-gained some hope. I was listened to in the most caring and non-judgmental way and shown the compassion that I have been denying myself.

Today a very good friend sent me a blog post that she had written, with a song in it. I don’t believe in coincidences and this song has been on repeat ever since. 

I don’t really have much figured out. I don’t even see the next step on this recovery staircase. And right now I am not even convinced that I can do this. But I am trying to surrender. I am trying to trust God. I am trying very hard to let go of the shame and disappointment that I feel in myself for struggling and getting to the point that I have recently. I am trying to stop being a hero and pretending that I have everything figured out all of the time. I am trying to let go and let other people in. I am trying to be real and right now my reality is pretty fucking sucky. 

This isn’t my usual inspiring post that talks about the wonderful insights that I have had in my recovery. In fact I am pretty sure this post isn’t uplifting at all. But I feel that it is just as important to share.  With that, I will leave you with a quote that I came across recently “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Ps- If anyone has any spare prayers or good vibes, I could definitely use some sent in this direction. Oh and don’t worry, I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon. I am just going to have to accept that this is probably one of those times that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. 

Here is a video and the lyrics of the song that I mentioned above:

"Someday"- JJ Heller

One day you'll feel the sun
Warming your callused skin
The ropes will come undone
No more wars left to win

Someday my dearest friend
Someday though I don't know when
Oooo you will live in peace.

Your battered heart will soar
Your wounds turned into wings
No one will keep the score
You wouldn't care anyway

Someday my dearest friend
Someday though I don't know when
Oooo you will live in peace.

May you see redemption
On this side of heaven
May you see redemption
On this side of heaven
May you see redemption
On this side of heaven
My friend

Someday my dearest friend
Someday though I don't know when
Oooo you will live

Someday my dearest friend
Someday though I don't know when
Oooo you will live in peace 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rallying for Recovery


This past weekend I spent almost all of my time cheering on the Gators Softball team. Going into the Regional Tournament the Gators were ranked 5th in the nation. There was definite talk of the WCWS in their future. And then they fell apart. On Friday, 3 of the Gator starters were kicked off of the team and the Gators lost to FGCU, a team that had never made it to the NCAA tournament before and just recently joined Division 1 Softball. It was a pretty devastating day.

Saturday rolled around and the Gators came back and won both of their games. Even with a new line up, a lot of distractions and even more doubters they rallied together and pulled it off. Even though I was a little concerned with how they had played the night before, I stood by the team, cheered them on and never lost hope.

On Sunday I went back to the stadium, sunburn and all, to continue to support the team against USF. Although they ended up losing 1-0, they fought hard the entire game and never gave up. Even with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th inning, Gator fans remained in the stadium and cheered on the team. It was obvious that they were going to lose, but all of us hardcore fans rallied on.

If you are reading this, you probably could care less about softball and are wondering why I am recapping the games for you. If you are a Gator hater you might even be glad that we lost. It’s ok, we can still be friends. But the point of this post has nothing to do with softball.

Despite my recent post documenting my grocery shopping success, I have been struggling a lot. The combination of stress in my life, horrible body image issues and allowing myself to get too caught up in other people’s lives/problems has caused me to take a dive off of the deep end. Although I have been treading fiercely to keep my head above water, in the past few days I have sunk and I haven’t tried that hard to remain afloat.

I have come a very long way since last August, yet some days I still feel hopeless. Some days I really want to give up. Recovery is hard, exhausting and seems to take way more effort than I have some of the time. I get overwhelmed with everything that life throws at me and the eating disorder seems like the only way to make it through the day. It feels like a protector; a shield that I can wrap around me to make everything ok. And it works.

However, it comes with a cost and I am not naive enough to believe otherwise. Right now I can come up with a never ending list of how the eating disorder is harming me and not productive at all. I am aware of what I am doing and where it leads. After all, I have been down this road a few thousand times before. I have even seen glimpses of the other side and it’s pretty wonderful.

Now that I am semi out of my denial bubble (I spent a few days ignoring everything recovery related including blogs, people on my treatment team, ripping inspirational things off of my wall and continued to insist that I was “fine”), I have been trying to figure this out from a rational perspective. I have tried to use logic to figure out why I continue to do something that is harmful to me, when I know the consequences and results. And I have gotten absolutely no where, except maybe a little more frustrated. There isn’t anything rational about eating disorders so trying to logically rationalize myself out of this probably isn’t going to happen.

So I am trying to rally. Even though I feel just as hopeless as I did yesterday, I am trying to use the same strategy that I mentioned above in my softball example. I don’t see the finish line and I don’t feel like I am ever going to win, but I am trying to work up the courage to step up to the plate anyways. Just like the Gators probably felt on Friday, I feel like this came out of no where. My recovery was going pretty smoothly and I am not quite sure where the tide turned. But it doesn’t matter.

Giving up is easier and sounds great. But then I stop and think about the amazing support system that I have on my side and the future that I want to have. I think about all of the awesome people that I have cheering me on, even when I don’t want to hear it. I think about John, my number one fan, who is constantly supporting me and standing strongly by my side. I think about all of the people I know and don’t know that are out there fighting every day against eating disorders and other illnesses. I think about my purpose and all of the amazing opportunities I have been given. It’s then that I can’t help but fight and rally on.




Friday, May 18, 2012

Progress



Don't worry, I don't plan on becoming a food blogger anytime soon. After all, most of what I "cook" isn't pretty looking. This picture represents progress for me. Big progress.

I have mentioned before how I sometimes struggle with grocery shopping and even more so how I always buy the same things. Life cereal is my go-to breakfast. Although I occasionally branch out and eat a bagel or waffles, if it's cereal it has to be Life. (They should hire me to do a commercial for them, that is pretty catchy.)

The cereal aisle in Publix scares me. In fact it usually ends in one of three ways:

(1) I avoid the cereal aisle all together
(2) I get tunnel vision and pretend that nothing else exists, grab my Life and bolt.
(3) I go up and down the aisle, while panicking and feeling overwhelmed and scrutinize over all of the choices. Then I leave empty handed.

This aisle has even been known to send me into a full panic attacks and tears. This may be hard to grasp if you don't have an eating disorder or any kind of anxiety issues, but try and bear with me.

Today I decided that I was going to do it. I would not leave Publix empty handed or with Life in my hand.(oh the irony) I would go back to the aisle 5 times if that is what it took. I wouldn't worry about choosing the "right" cereal, the price or the consequences of not possibly liking it. I would look at this as a risk worth taking for my recovery.

I did it and even survived to tell about it. I can't say it was an easy, painless process. I went back to the aisle 4 times and probably spent 15 minutes debating which one to buy. I picked up some, put them in my cart and then put them back. If the shopping cart had hands, I would have probably broken them with how hard I was gripping it. But I bought a different cereal and am super excited to test it out tomorrow for breakfast!

A little fun side note: I couldn't help but notice Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger(what doesn't kill you)" was playing in the background during this experience.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Healing


As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet on my blog lately. We are almost half way through May and there has only been one post. Well two, if you include this one. The funny thing is I don’t really have much of an explanation for this. I have sat down many times with the intention of writing something and have given up quickly after staring at a blank sheet of paper on the computer screen. 

Usually this is an indication that I am having a rough time or really struggling with the eating disorder. At least that has been the case in the past when my writing has slowed down. Thankfully I can honestly say that isn’t true this time. Although there are always the ups and downs, this really hasn’t been a low point for me.

So why haven’t I been writing? 

This blog has been a place to collect, organize and share my thoughts. I have used it partially as a journal to sort through things that have popped up in my recovery journey. Sometimes it’s ‘aha’ moments and other times its things I have observed or random things floating through my head. Writing has been a way to get thoughts, feelings and emotions out in a constructive way as opposed to my old destructive coping methods. It’s been a sounding board of sorts. 

But lately I haven’t needed it. Instead of trying to get everything out of my head and on to paper, I have just been sitting with things. Instead of trying to dissect every belief and idea (whether good or bad) that has popped into my head I have just been allowing them to occur. And it’s been interesting. 

Instead of running to my blog, I have been talking to other people. I have shared my doubts, frustrations and even triumphs in real time, to real people as opposed to the online world. I have sought out face to face feedback. I have said things out loud that I normally wouldn’t even consider doing. And it’s been freeing. 

For the past week and a half I have felt this immense sadness. Everywhere I turn there is something that reminds me of my eating disorder. In Miami, which I visited a week ago, the memories were intense. Since some of my lowest points took place while I was in Miami, there were constant reminders everywhere. It seemed that every place I went, the pain resurfaced. And this was very new to me. I am not used to sadness.  When I returned to Gainesville, this feeling stayed with me and even grew stronger as I realized how many reminders also existed there.

I’ve spent nine years struggling on and off with an eating disorder and other issues associated with it. Pretty much the last third of my life. (Actually a little more but who’s counting) While actively in the eating disorder I wasn’t very present to things around me and my life, so I didn’t really realize the intensity of this. Although I could see the things that I was missing out on, on a small scale, the enormity of it really didn’t register. And now that it has, it has left me in a bit of a funk.

Although I still have my doubts and plenty more steps to take on the road to recovery, it pains me to think of all of the years that I spent suffering. It’s hard and upsetting to think about all of the things that I missed out on and all of the time wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of amazing memories from the last nine years and things weren’t awful all of the time but I can no longer ignore the bad parts. There are reminders of them everywhere and this has lead to a lot of tears recently, along with a lot of regrets. 

From a logical, rational perspective I know that I can’t change the past. I can’t get back all of the years I spent trapped deeply in my eating disorder and self hatred. And I can’t go back and change the things that happened to me because of it. The only thing I can do is acknowledge these memories and feelings, accept the sadness and move on. As well as use this as leverage to keep moving forward. And I am doing that, very slowly. 

Below is a letter written to my former self. Although it won’t allow me to go back and see things differently, it has started to help me heal. Not only am I using it for myself personally, but am using it to inspire hope in others. No matter where you are on your journey, remember that there is always room for improvement. No matter how much pain you may be in, things can and will get better. No matter how dark things may seem, there is always a light shining around the next corner waiting to guide you to freedom. No matter what your circumstances may be, they can change in the blink of an eye. You have the power to change your beliefs, circumstances and life. Stop believing otherwise. 

I spent years suffering in silence because I couldn’t summon the courage to ask for help. I believed that my eating disorder and the pain that I was feeling was my fault. I didn’t think I deserved help, love or life. To anyone who may be reading his, please know that no matter how isolated you may be or feel, you are never alone. It doesn’t matter what you do or how bad things may get, you are worthy and completely deserving of love and life. I am living proof that recovering from an eating disorder is possible. You don’t have to believe it now, but just go with it and eventually you will. 

Dear Former Self, 

You are going to be ok. It will get better, I promise. The pain that you are feeling won’t be with you forever. You won’t always feel so alone. In fact, you will eventually surround yourself with a bunch of loving and caring people who will help you discover your truth and uncover and work through your past. You will learn to let go of secrets that have been holding you hostage for years. It won’t be easy, but you will stop blaming yourself. You will learn the difference between what is your fault and what isn’t. You will learn to take responsibility of your feelings and actions as well as accept your limits. You will be in the horrible grips of your eating disorder for years, but you will eventually seek out treatment. And when you do, it will get harder before it gets easier. But then the quest to freedom will begin. You will let go of the shame that you have been feeling for years and more importantly you will learn to ask for help. 

You won’t always feel so hopeless. One day you will believe in yourself and fight for your life. One day you won’t need to carry all of that baggage on your own. You will learn how to lean on others for support and let them in. You will stumble and you will fall, but you will continue to get back up. And your resilience will be what keeps you going. You will quit jobs, lose friends, make mistakes and fail at some things, but they won’t be the end of the world. It might take you a little longer then you hoped to finish college, but you will finish. And then you will move on to bigger and better things.

Your relationship with your mom will crumble, but then you will begin rebuilding it. You will own the pain that she has caused you and learn to stand up for yourself. Your childhood experiences will start to make a little more sense and you will work on moving on. You will tear down the walls and re-connect with other family members and friends. It will be challenging, but you will have more strength then you need. And you will even begin to forgive her. 

You will learn to forgive but not forget. You will be angry at the times that you have been wronged and the people that have taken advantage of you, but you will stop punishing yourself for it. You will learn to use your words to convey your emotions and thoughts, instead of turning inward. You will eventually stop the self destruction but it isn’t going to be easy. 

You won’t ever achieve the perfection that you are longing for, but you will start to be ok with that. You will have a resume with a long list of achievements, awards and honors but will eventually realize that they mean nothing if you are miserable and alone. You will try to do everything, more times than you can count. And you will succeed most of the time. Until you eventually realize that it isn’t worth it. You will come close to killing yourself, more than once. And the severity of this won’t hit you until months and years after the fact. 

You will continue to think that you are invincible and then you will hear the words “you have cancer”. You will fight hard and beat that battle, only to face it again, along with many others. You will give up many times and then hang on a little longer when it counts the most. You will feel helpless and think “why me?”, but eventually ask “why not?” 

Your eating disorder will eventually force you to take a step back. At the time you will think that your life is over, but eventually realize that it’s just beginning. You will be forced out of your hole of denial and it’s going to feel awful. You will learn to “feel” again and be overcome with emotions and with time they will go away. Recovery will feel like a full time job and will be the hardest thing that you have faced so far. It will seem impossible most of the time. You will want to quit and even think about quitting time and time again, but then realize that there isn’t a quitting bone in your body. 

You will stop trying to please everyone, but not before surpassing your limits. You will realize that you aren’t meant to be an engineer and will continue to pursue it anyways. Then eventually you will let this go. You will forgive yourself for the time spent doing something that you hated, but it will take longer then you hope. You will schedule all of your free time with different activities, only some of which these that you actually enjoy. Until you eventually burn out. Then you will truly learn the value of time. 

You will spend a lot of your time being pissed off, bitter and resentful and even more of your time holding it all in and pretending you’re not. And it will only begin to go away once you acknowledge it. You will talk about embarrassing, hard topics and continually be forced out of your comfort zone. But this is what it will take to heal. 

You will learn to trust again, not only others but more importantly yourself. You will realize that you are capable of making decisions and being in charge of your own life and you will stop turning to others for answers. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out who you are and what you stand for and this will seem super confusing. You will cry a lot, more tears then you thought you had and then you will cry some more. You will be angry at yourself for the years that you lost, but you will eventually understand their purpose. 

You will learn the function of your eating disorder and begin to acknowledge the times that it served you. But eventually realize that you don’t need it anymore. You will spend years believing that a piece of plastic and metal dictates your worth, but you will eventually see the truth. You will spend a lot of time trying to control your weight, only to eventually realize that it’s controlling you. But it’s ok, because you will learn from it. You will spend years struggling with food, but with help, patience and hard work will overcome it. You will take a few steps forward and then a few steps back and constantly be discouraged by this, only to eventually realize how far you have come. 

You will spend years fighting with and hating your body, but will someday realize it’s beauty. You will realize that even through all of the abuse it has stood strongly by your side and kept you together. You will stop calling yourself an athlete and this will be a hard thing for you. But then you will be able to acknowledge your love for sports and truly enjoy exercise. This will help you break out of the cycle of exercise addiction that you have struggled with for years. This is how you will find the balance. 

You will start writing and slowly discover your passion for it. You will even start a blog detailing your recovery journey. You will be really scared about putting yourself out there, but it will eventually feel right. You will stop hiding behind the walls that you have built up throughout the years and this will be one of your biggest achievements. You will end the silence and speak up about your eating disorder and other struggles and this will help you in more ways that you could ever imagine. This will also help other people in ways that you don’t realize.

You will eventually start to realize the years that you have been trapped in your black and white thinking and start to accept the gray. This change won’t come easily and will probably be something that you are always working on, but it will happen. You will challenge that voice in your head that has spent years feeding you lies and telling you that you aren’t good enough. You will begin to notice your unrealistic expectations and that is when you will see your true power. You will long for control and look for it in all of the wrong places, but you will eventually find it the right way, along with happiness. You will cling to things like the eating disorder, over and over again. But you will eventually replace them. And when you do, you will be unstoppable.
You will have to let go of a lot of things, including things that you have been clinging to for dear life. And this will feel horrible. But it won’t feel this way forever. And when you reach the other side, you will let out a sigh of relief. You will reach a level of contentment that you never believed was possible. 

You will be faced with a lot of disappointment and pain before you even slowly begin to see the light. So much so, that you will stop looking for a while. You will lose faith here and there and decide to stay put and even slide backwards a few times. You will hit rock bottom, get a little better only to watch the bottom cave in again. But then you will begin your journey to freedom. Then you will pick yourself up and move along. You will be super uncomfortable and rely heavily on blind faith, but eventually you will start to believe. You will start to believe in yourself and find that confidence that you so willingly lost. And when this happens, things will start to fall into place. This is when you will start to see the benefits of your all of your hard work and be truly proud of yourself.

Once you begin this process, doors will start opening up and possibilities will seem endless. The road won’t always be full of rainbows and butterflies, but you will be able to handle anything. And when this happens you will finally feel at peace with yourself. 

Of course you don’t see any of this now and probably can’t even fathom the truth in any of it. Or are possibly wishing that you could have been spared the years of pain and struggle and just told this right off the bat. And if I could go back and re-write and change the past, I would have shared these secrets. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Without these experiences you wouldn’t be the amazing, strong person that you will become. Our pasts shape our future and your future is looking pretty damn awesome. 

Love,
Daniella  


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Compare and Despair



 It really should be “Compare and make-yourself-feel-like-shit” but I think Jenni Schaefer summarized it a little nicer and in a more public friendly kind of way.

It’s really hard to go through life without comparing ourselves to other people and things around us, but who is it really benefitting? Absolutely no one. Comparing lessens or completely abolishes our accomplishments and even worse, leaves us feeling like we aren’t______( fill-in-the-blank) enough. There will always be someone who does something better/worse than you, has more/less than you and is better/worse off than you but in all honesty what does it matter? 

I used to be a master comparer. In fact I could have a Phd in the subject of compare and put yourself down. Everything I did was compared to what other people were doing or had. I didn’t feel right sharing my cancer story because so many people have had it so much worse. I didn’t feel like my eating disorder was that bad because I wasn’t passing out every day and as thin as others with eating disorders are. I didn’t think that I was doing as well in recovery because I knew people who were further along. I didn’t think I could be considered a good student because I didn’t have a 4.0.I didn’t think I was a decent athlete because I wasn’t headed to the Olympics. And I could continue this list all day long. I constantly compared myself to everything around me and always fell short. I continued to push myself harder but it never felt good enough.

A few years ago (ok maybe like 6) I was taking Calculus 3 with a few friends. This class was the ban of my existence. I have done really well in every other math class that I have taken but for some reason Calculus 3 just went way over my head. I spent all of my free time in the teacher’s office hours, getting all of the help that I could get. At the end of the semester it came down to the final exam and I was told that I needed to get a certain score just to pass the class. I studied my butt off. When the teacher handed back the test I was ecstatic, I had gotten 2 points higher than I had needed. I was pretty much on cloud nine and may have even given my teacher a hug. And then my friend (not trying to be arrogant, at least I am giving her the benefit of the doubt here) came up and showed me her test score. Not only had she gotten 25 out of 25, but she had gotten the 5 point extra credit as well. There went my excitement. I no longer felt good about my grade and instead felt like a failure. As soon as I compared myself to her, who by the way, had done amazing in the class the entire semester, the grade that I received just wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough.

This is just one example of many that I could use to explain how present this has been in my life. Just a few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about our eating disorder recovery experiences and I instantly felt bad about myself. We weren’t sharing stories, we were comparing stories and it wasn’t helpful to either of us. 

I used to compare my body to every women who passed by me. Not only was this harming me, but it also wasn’t fair to them. Some would call it judging and that is because it is. When we compare, we are hurting the other person as well. We are undermining their successes and accomplishments and projecting our insecurities onto them. I was angry at my friend for weeks after she showed me her test score, instead of giving her the congratulations that she deserved. 

We really don’t gain anything by comparing ourselves to others, except maybe some bitterness, resentment and a lot of shame. Accomplishments, standards and even setbacks are all relative. What is painful to someone may not be painful for you or vice versa, but that doesn’t make the pain any less real in either case. Early in my recovery I kept so many of my struggles to myself because I was ashamed of them. I compared myself to someone who didn’t struggle with an eating disorder and was upset with myself that I couldn’t do some of the things that “normal”(as in people who don’t have eating disorders) could do. I have mentioned on here before how going into the grocery store sent me into a full blown panic attack. Yet I wouldn’t tell anyone this or let anyone go with me because I felt this was ridiculous and something that I should just be able to do. During some of my cancer treatments my memory was completely awful thanks to the meds. I simply forgot a lot of everyday tasks that I had been doing my entire life. In the beginning I would get so frustrated with myself because I was comparing myself to my pre-cancer days when my memory was pretty decent. This only made the problem worse.

Open up a magazine or turn on the television and you are bombarded with a certain image. An ideal of how you should look, speak, dress, exercise, work, parent your children etc. But these” ideals” are only harmful to us if we let them be. We get in trouble when we start comparing ourselves and our lives to them. We like to blame the media and other people for our doubts, low self-esteem and lack of self- worth but really we are giving them too much credit. By comparing ourselves to these “standards”, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are allowing someone else to run/ruin our lives. Take your power back. Next time you find yourself comparing, stop. Appreciate what you have. Be proud of your accomplishments. Acknowledge your pain.  Share your experiences. Listen to others. When you stop comparing, everyone is at the same level. And this is when you will truly feel _____ enough and will be able to understand and connect with others and yourself on a much deeper level.