Sunday, June 30, 2013

Moving on

Today I got pissed off. It was the kind of anger that leads to action. The healthy anger, when boundaries have been crossed or you have been wronged in some way. I am not used to this and I will admit that it freaked me out a little but it lead me to do something that really needed to get done.

My "trusty black pants" and I have been through a lot together, 12 years to be exact. They were worn to every high school sports banquet, all of my college sororities induction and initiation ceremonies, every job interview I have EVER had and pretty frequently in my last year of working. Anytime I needed something professional to wear, I could always count on them, which is where they earned the "trusty" part of their name.

The last time I wore these oh so trusty pants was the day that I ended up in the hospital after practically passing out of work.(oh the irony) Shortly after this was when I put my life on hold and admitted myself into treatment. Since then they have hung quietly in the back of my closet.

These pants won't even come close to buttoning anymore. I could have saved myself some tears if I would have gotten rid of them weeks ago, but I don't think it would have been as monumental as it was today.

The tears faded quickly, as did the sadness. Then came the rage and boy was I angry.

Angry for all of the years that I tried to make my body smaller in order to fit our cultures ridiculous standard of beauty. Angry for believing all of the lies about how much happier I would be if I just lost weight. Angry for all of the time I spent standing in dressing rooms in tears because of the number on the tag. Angry for all of the times I missed out on something important because I felt like I was too fat to go. Angry for all of the time that I wore clothes that were uncomfortable because I couldn't bring myself to go up a size. Angry that I ever allowed my worth and value to get wrapped up in sizes and weights. Angry for all of the time I have lost because of my eating disorder.

Getting rid of these pants today wasn't nearly as difficult as I had imagined. It was hard but when I realized how much they were holding me back it became a no brainer. As I handed them over to the lady at Goodwill, I didn't want to cry. I wanted to celebrate. Celebrate my body, my recovery and my life. Although this was a huge moment, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. There is no longer any room in my life for things that hold me back or make me feel bad about myself. I refuse to allow anyone to tell me that that size of my body is wrong or that my weight is too much. And more importantly I refuse to tell myself that. I have too much to live for in order to allow that to take up any more space in my life.

I know that there are still many steps along the journey to accepting and loving my body but I know that it's not anything I can't handle. Today marked a huge victory, as well as paving the road for many more to occur. As the anger starts to subside I can't help but smile and think about how amazing this feels. I no longer need to put so much trust and meaning into a pair of pants. Clothes are meant to be worn but aren't meant to define us.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

What it's like to be real

Nothing is more courageous to me than vulnerability. I am overcome with so much joy when I see people being themselves without fear or apology. Being real is not something that seems to be praised in our society but I personally believe that there isn't anything more powerful to witness. We all have moments when our lives are messy. When it feels like everything is falling apart and we are holding on for dear life. This is beautiful. This shows strength. This is what it means to be human.

For years I kept all of my pain deep inside. Fearful that allowing anyone to see it would cause judgement and more pain. Instead of getting the help I needed early on in my struggles, I tucked all "negative" emotions away and vowed to only show positive ones. Struggling wasn't ok. Falling apart was unheard of. I had to have it together ALL of the time. The only way that this was possible was to be someone that I wasn't. To be fake. And the years that I spent living this way really makes me sad.

Being real takes balls. It means being uncomfortable, having people disappointed in you and just accepting that sometimes life just sucks. It means letting go of the reigns of control and ditching the shoulds. It means giving up on the life that you think you are supposed to live, in order to live the one that is unraveling before you. It takes patience, practice and many leaps of faith. It means showing up for yourself no matter what the circumstance and what others might think

It may sound like being real takes a lot of hard work but that really isn't the truth. Trying to live up to impossibly high standards and be someone you are not is exhausting. While being real can't promise perfection it allows for simplicity and hope.  It's honest, genuine and truly inspiring.

Although some times its hard to let down the wall and let others in, I think learning to be true to myself even in my darkest moments, has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. Being vulnerable and sharing my story, both the ups and downs, continues to open the door to allow others to do the same. Through this we are all reminded of our humanness and able to connect on such deeper levels.

Curosity and Forgiveness

I used to respond to my struggles with condemnation, hatred, punishment and shame. Lots and lots of shame. If I slipped and engaged in any eating disorder behaviors it was grounds for punishment. I am a failure. I am a screw up. I will NEVER get better. I don't deserve anything, even life. I honestly believed that if I didn't respond this way I would just do it again. I thought this was the answer. I thought that just maybe I could hate myself healthy.

These past few weeks I have had my share of struggles. My recovery has been tested on many occasions and I have given in. But my attitude has changed. Instead of reacting with judgment, I have tried curiosity. Hmm, I wonder what this is about? What's going on here? Instead of jumping down the all too familiar pattern of self hatred, I've taken a deep breath and tried to ground myself in my body and feelings. Am I stressed? sad? overwhelmed? upset? angry? frustrated? confused? anxious? What do I feel in my body right now? tension? tightness? heaviness? What is the tape that is playing in my head? Where did these thoughts come from? In the moment these questions may not stop me from engaging in the destructive behavior but they do allow me to take a step back and figure out what is going on.

The relief that eating disorder behaviors bring is very very temporary. While reacting this was, as opposed to my usual way, I am ending the cycle. Self hatred just breeds more self hatred which then in turn breeds more destructive behaviors. It never leads to freedom.

I struggle a lot with forgiveness when it comes to myself, especially related to my recovery. Allowing myself to stop and see what is going through my mind right before and during the times when I am engaging in behaviors, has really helped in acceptance and forgiveness. All eating disorders have a function and we will continue to use them until their function goes away. Responding with these questions has really allowed me to see the function of my eating disorder and learn the exact instances that I immediately engage in behaviors. Although this awareness doesn't necessarily keep me from engaging in them, I really do believe this is a huge step to getting to that point.

Eating disorders are cruel and painful diseases. We don't need to make it worse or harder on ourselves. Shame and self hatred are two things that eating disorders thrive off of. Curiosity and forgiveness are not. Next time you find yourself in that all too familiar cycle, stop and respond with gentle questioning and fierce kindness. You may not be ready to completely let go of the behavior but you don't need to be in order to change the way you look at it and yourself. Recovery is a series of steps and I truly believe this step is one that will make a huge difference in your life.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Life is precious

When I was first discharged from treatment I was full of so much gratitude. I was grounded. I was doing better in my recovery yet I was aware of where I had been. I knew how sick I was and how fragile life is. Although I had my slip ups, I was fully present to every aspect of my life. I didn't want to miss out on what was truly important. I had spent way too many years doing that. I was living with purpose and cherishing the things that mattered most. I was making time for myself and doing the things that made my heart full. I was embracing everything life had to offer.

Recently I have realized that I have moved away from this calm, peaceful place back to a place of worry, doubt, fear and hatred. A place where I am never enough and can't do anything right. A place where weight loss and nutritional information are taking up a lot of my time and my head is constantly spinning. This place leaves no room for love, passion and purpose. It's paved with isolation, rigidity and rules. It's lonely and all too familiar. It's no where I want to be.

I left treatment with unrealistic standards for myself. I wanted my recovery to be perfect. I wanted to proudly say I would never restrict/purge/overexercise or harm myself in any way ever again. I wanted to slam the door on that chapter of my life. And I did.

I am not the person I was when I entered treatment, nor am I the person I was when I proudly walked out of those doors. I am constantly changing, evolving, growing and progressing. I am exploring and testing the waters around me, trying to figure out how to survive in this world. This includes stumbling and occasionally falling, followed by rising and dusting myself off.

I am seeking the middle ground, a place where perfection doesn't exist. A place where disappointment and failure teach us yet don't condemn us. A place where I have the space to struggle, reach out for support  and compassionately pick myself up along the way. A place where kindness, gratitude and love freely dwell. A place that isn't black or white but a lovely shade of gray. Where numbers are unimportant and food is nourishment.

This is the direction I am headed. This is the place I want to be. This is what freedom looks like. This is the life that I want to lead.