Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Truly Living

During my 11 years of struggling with an eating disorder, I constantly saw glimpses of freedom. After following months of severely restricting, overexercising and purging, a light bulb would click on and I would temporarily try something different. After being hospitalized or losing people and things that I loved I would enter recovery and try my hardest to get back to being healthy and normal. My head was still full of self hatred and rules but I usually gained the weight back and from the outside appeared to be doing a lot better. Most of my college years were spent this way. I was a mostly functioning human being and was able to survive, yet I wasn't truly living. I was completely disconnected from myself, my body and my needs. The volume of my inner critic was to the max and I hated everything about myself. My head was constantly spinning with should's, shouldn'ts, nutritional information and weights. My number one goal in life was to please others and I didn't mind throwing myself under the bus to do so. This wasn't recovery nor freedom, yet is a place that I could have continued to live in for the rest of my life.

This weekend I got married. The eating disorder wasn't a part of my wedding. I didn't worry about what I was eating. I truly felt beautiful in my wedding dress. I didn't turn to behaviors when I got stressed and overwhelmed. I wasn't trying to please everyone. I took care of myself. I allowed myself to enjoy and embrace the attention. I let go of some control. I didn't feel the need to make things perfect. I felt loved and grateful for being able to share the time with those that mean the most to me. I was open and took in others compliments. I was happy. I was free. I was truly living.

After posting this I thought of a great song to go with it, so I decided to add it. :-)

 "I ain't settlin'
For just getting by
I've had enough so-so
For the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low
So raise the bar high
"Just enough," ain't enough this time
I ain't settlin' for anything less than everything"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ditching the anorexic label

When I was first diagnosed with anorexia I was ashamed. In my eyes it was equated with failure, weakness, disappointment and vanity. I was so ashamed that I had succumbed to what felt like a disease of superficiality and a cry out for attention. As mentioned in previous posts, it took me years to even accept that I suffered from anorexia and to even say my name with it in the same sentence. As the disorder progressed I wore it as a badge of honor. I wore it with pride. Instead of seeing it as an illness, in my eyes it made me special. It was like a special cape, an excuse to get out of life really. If I was incapable of doing everything else perfectly (read as: to my impossibly high standards) at least I could be the perfect anorexic.

This afternoon as John and I were outside playing softball I began to think about how much I still hold on the label as a security blanket and even how much it still defines me. Although I no longer see it in a positive light at all, there are still some parts that I hang on to. Even though it completely destroyed my life and came close to killing me on multiple occasions there is still some sadness around completely giving that label up. 

Recently I have discovered that I enjoy food, cooking and just the overall eating experience. In the past I have been ashamed to admit that I like things like ice cream, cookies and french fries. What are people going to think? Whenever I went grocery shopping I felt that I could only get low calorie and fat free foods. I felt that I had to uphold  the image of being anorexic. Now don't get me wrong, there was a time in my life when I bought those things because I was terrified of everything else but that is no longer the case.

As I was running around the field trying to catch the softballs that John was hitting to me I felt amazing. I wasn't out of breath (ok maybe a little because I am out of shape), dizzy or about to pass out. I wasn't exercising for punishment. My mind wasn't mentally tallying the amount of calories I was burning or even thinking about food at all. I was completely connected to my body. I felt my strong legs underneath me and could hear my heart beating. During those moments I felt completely free. I didn't want to be the girl who passed out on the field. Or was rushed to the hospital for overdoing it. I didn't want to be the "sick one" who people constantly felt sorry for. I wanted to be me, a girl enjoying her love of sports and spending time with her fiance. And I was that girl.

I am in recovery from anorexia. It will probably be a long time before the disease doesn't take up some sort of space in my mind but that's OK. Tonight isn't about being fully recovered or never struggling again. Tonight is about letting go of another label that has kept me trapped for years. It's about taking responsibility for my life and not allowing anything else to do that for me.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Open up your heart

 "Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise, or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."

 Tonight my heart feels so full. I am overflowing with gratitude, joy and love about so many things. It's amazing. My life isn't perfect. I don't have it all together. My problems still exist. Yet it doesn't matter. My heart feels at peace for the first time in a really long time.

Today as I walked outside, enjoying the amazing beauty surrounding me, I was overcome with so much gratitude I thought my heart might explode. I couldn't help but notice the sky, trees, flowers and even the bugs. Everything seemed so much more vibrant than normal. It felt alive. I felt alive. As I walked I wasn't mourning the past or anxiously thinking about the future, I was just there. My head wasn't spinning in a million different directions nor was I obsessing, I just was.

I've done a lot of soul searching in the past few months. I have been continuously forced out of my comfort zone. I've gone head to head with some of my biggest demons. I've had my entire world turned upside down, repeatedly.

Three months ago I didn't envision that I would temporarily give up the life that I was living and enter a psychiatric institute for treatment for a 11 year battle with an eating disorder. Even more so, I didn't think I would" find myself" in the process. For years I have been waiting for God to heal me through others. During my darkest hours, I constantly looked for signs that my life was worth living. I found comfort in children's smiles, watching others overcome obstacles, volunteering and just my ability to be there and help others. I was constantly trying to earn love through whatever means necessary. I didn't think I was meant to exist if I wasn't pouring my heart and soul into bettering the lives of others. I could give, but I couldn't take. I was so consumed by shame, pride and self hatred that I was untouchable. The love, belonging and connection that I was yearning for, couldn't touch me. I was surrounded by people who were trying to help me, but I couldn't take their hands.

My first night in inpatient treatment I cried for 3 hours straight. The only reason that I stopped was because I physically couldn't cry another tear. I was alone in a room with nothing but a pillow, blanket, stuffed animal that John gave me and pictures. I held the pictures tightly against my chest and prayed for God to get me through the night. My comfort had been stripped away from me.I wasn't laying at home in bed with my fiance. I wasn't on the phone catching up with my grandma. I wasn't on the couch snuggling up with my pets. I wasn't at work doing the job that brought me so much joy. I wasn't on facebook staying connected with all of my friends and family. My heart broke into a thousand little pieces that night and then God helped me put it back together.

My desires and passions haven't changed. I love people and know that my calling involves helping others. But those were not the areas of my life that needed to be fixed. God worked in my heart. It was inside of me that needed to be healed and I believe that it has been.

This isn't/wasn't an overnight process. Our lives are works in progress. God is working on me every day. I am working on myself every day. My battles haven't all been won and there is still plenty to be done. However things have shifted. My heart is whole again and I am at peace with myself. I am able to accept the love surrounding me. When John smiles and tells me that he loves me, I believe it. When family and friends offer a shoulder to cry on or words of support, I listen and take it all in. I am no longer trying to earn my right to be on this planet or earn the love of others. Everything that I need exists inside of me and now that I realize this, I am truly free.

This gratitude, joy and love that is radiating throughout me is more sustaining than the eating disorder ever was. I feel more connected to God, others and myself than ever before. The freedom that I was searching for wasn't found by looking outside of myself. The calmness didn't come from order and perfection. The healing came from taking a chance, letting go and full surrendering myself to God. My heart is so full and I know this is where my truth lies.

Friday, May 3, 2013

What I wouldn't give

I am not happy with the size of my body. I hate the amount of weight that I have gained. I cringe when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I can't stand how most of my clothes fit. While I am grateful to be healthy, I don't look at my body in awe. I'm not there yet. Body love and acceptance don't exist in this house and they may not for a while.

With all that said, I wouldn't give anything to make my body smaller. I have way too much to lose. (no pun intended)

I've never really felt this way before. In my all or nothing world I've always felt that I needed to either love my body completely or constantly shower it with hatred and I had the second one down pact. This new middle ground is a little weird for me and I am not quite sure what to think.

I can't remember a time in the last 12 years when I haven't been actively been trying to "fix" my body. Whether restricting, purging, overexercising or even passively trying to lose weight and make it smaller. I was always trying to manipulate it in some way.

To be honest, I wish I could lose weight. I wish I was smaller. I wish the number on the scale was lower.  I hate that I am going to have to let my body do it's thing and accept whatever size it is. I hate that I will never be super thin. And even more so I hate the fact that we really don't have much (if any) control over our body size at all.

I'm not a happy camper. This isn't my favorite part of recovery. This sucks, actually.

Yet, I wouldn't trade the life that I am currently living to be smaller or weigh less. I wouldn't trade the joy and love that John and I feel for each other or the energy and passion to be able to live with purpose and do the things that I enjoy. Gaining weight has allowed me to gain my life back, something that is completely irreplaceable. The gratitude that I feel for the amazing things in my life, astronomically outweighs my desire to change my weight and body. And I mean that 100%.

Recovery is a journey. Just like healing my relationship with food, healing my relationship with my body is going to take time and it isn't always going to be pretty. Although I wish I could skip through this yucky stage, I am grateful for the process. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I wouldn't give anything to lose weight and actually mean it.