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.