Sunday, November 1, 2015

Oh sweet child of mine

I have spent the last two years swirling in fear, shame and guilt. Trying to do everything I can to be recovered. Or more so, trying to do everything that I can to APPEAR recovered. It's not that I don't want to shed this horrible eating disorder and other mental struggles that keep me stuck. I desperately do. It just isn't that easy. And I think I am finally done pretending that it is.

Dear Grace,

Ever since those two little lines showed up on seven pregnancy tests, I have loved you with every part of my being. Because of this I have wanted to protect you as much as possible. Including keeping you as far away as I possibly could from knowing my inner struggles. Knowing that I passed along the genetic component of mental illness, I have tried as hard as I can to keep your environment free of judgement, negativity and hatred, especially relating to food and body image. And I will continue to do this, except in a different way.

I want to show you that courage comes in many different forms. Not only in triumphs, but in moments of defeat. In moments that you are backed against the wall and are terrified. In moments where things feel too hard and you give in. These moments do not make you weak. These moments allow you to reach out to those who love you and allow them to carry some of the burden. No matter the pain, daddy and I will always be here to hold your hand in those moments.

I desperately want you to love your body and always remember to appreciate all the amazing things that it helps you do. I also want you to know that it's ok to have doubts. While I try as hard as I can, I am not always the best role model for body love. Sometimes I feel hypocritical because I forget that my body is amazing. And then sometimes when you curl up close to me , snuggling hard into my chest and stomach, I feel as if my body is extraordinary. In those moments I feel completely connected to all that is right in the world.

In the morning when you wake up eager for breakfast, I smile so big. And then as you and daddy enjoy breakfast together, I feel super sad. I want you to understand that the reason that I am not always at the table next to you, isn't related to you or daddy, or my love of spending time with either of you. But instead some of my own struggles, that I try so hard to not let you see. 

I know you think I'm supermom and I've gladly taken on the role. There isn't anything I enjoy more than being your mother and watching you take on the world. I want you to know that every super hero has it's battles. I want to teach you resilience but not in the way that I was originally taught. Some days it's hard for mommy to get out of bed or I am frozen in my tracks out of no where because of memories or a current circumstance. It's these moments that I want to hide from you because I don't want you to see me struggle. But these are the moments that allow me to teach you resilience. They allow me to show you how to overcome.

You see, mommy is an overcomer and you are too.Overcomers aren't people who never have bad days or never mess up. They are instead people who get up, dust themselves off and keep going. Not all overcomers look the same or face the same battles. Some people fight battles that are on the outside or that can easily be seen, while others have those battles on the inside. I fight battles on the inside, that can't easily be seen and are very hard to explain to those who don't fight the same. Please know, that you don't have to be understood to be loved and supported. And that no matter the battle, I am always here to listen, even if you think I will never understand.

I fight hard in my recovery every day and will continue to do so. But I want you to know that strength isn't something that can be seen or measured. Strength comes from inside you. Strength doesn't always look the same either. Some days it's big and bold, while other days it's quiet and subtle. Some days you may wonder if it even exists but I promise you that it always does. On days where I am lacking some strength, I borrow some from you and daddy as well as other family and friends. Whenever you fall down, I have a special reserve of strength just for you.

I try my best to create a space that allows you to explore your curiosity as much as you like. But sometimes mommy gets scared. A lot of times the fear doesn't make a lot of sense, but that doesn't make it feel any less real. Know that my odd rules and isolation doesn't have to do with anything you've done, but instead some of the internal battles that I face. Keep being adventurous, free spirited and boldly exploring the world. Your bravery makes me smile and remember the joys of childhood.

I am honored that you chose me to be your mom. The amount of love and joy that has entered my life since you were born is not measurable. Please know that even through my struggles, my heart is continually bursting with the love I feel for you. Being your mom is the best thing in the world!

Love,
mommy   


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oh the journey

This morning I had a "moment" while drying off after my shower. As I stood in front of the mirror I thought "This is mine". The thought startled me so much that I actually looked around, half expecting someone else to be in the bathroom with me. I repeated the thought in my head and then let out the biggest sigh of relief ever.

This is the first time in 5? 10? 15? 20? years that this body feels like it belongs to me. When I look in the mirror I don't see a distorted view of myself. I don't see the pain and suffering my body has endured both from me and others. I see me.

I remember a time when I was younger (probably elementary school) that I felt this exact same way. That my body was a vessel to do a lot of really cool things and it's appearance wasn't important, at least in the traditional way that our society thinks about appearances.

Lately I have looked at recent pictures of myself and thought "wow I look pretty good". My weight hasn't changed much recently nor has my body type. But the feelings I have towards myself have. When I look at pictures, I see the light in my eyes, the genuine smile across my face (or the silly face I am making toward my husband), my soft stomach that my daughter uses as a pillow, my strong legs that allow me to stand up at work all day and just my feminine body that CARRIED A CHILD and is now a mother. I see fat because yes, I do have fat on my body, but it's not the enemy. It belongs there just as my eyes belong on my face and my toes on my feet.

The other day I went shopping for some tank tops and sports bras. While in the dressing room, I got stuck in a sports bra. There was a good 30seconds that I thought I was going to have to graciously ask someone to help me get it off. Thankfully, after some serious acrobatics and ninja moves I was able to get it off on my own. After a quick laugh, I realized that there was no guilt or shame towards my body for this experience, this bra just wasn't made for me.

I remember when I used to squeeze into clothes that were too small because I was embarrassed to buy a bigger size. I also remember when I used to drown in clothes that were too big because I wanted to hide my body or had lost a lot of weight quickly. Now I wear clothes that fit comfortably, no matter what the tag says. Can I just take a moment to tell you how AMAZING it is to wear clothes that fit? You should definitely try it out.  

This post has been all over the place. Once I started typing about this morning, I started remembering all of the other amazing things I have experienced in my body lately and my fingers decided to share them all.

Ever since I started my recovery process, almost exactly 4 years ago, I longed for this "body love" that I heard people speak of. It always seemed so out of reach for me, especially after my body and weight changed drastically during my pregnancy. It turns out that it isn't impossible for me, but instead it just looks a lot different. Instead of focusing on my body and appearance, loving my body is appreciating it for what it does and then focusing on the important things in my life. It's showing up in a bathing suit every day because it's a part of my job and I feel my best when I am around the water. While some people feel fat activism is important and a part of their body acceptance journey, I prefer to honor and love my body in private. I don't spend large amounts of time in front of the mirror anymore and when I find myself on the scale, I know I am looking for something much deeper than a number.

I am pretty content in this place. I am constantly amazed at how far I have come with this all and many other things in my life. I am not really sure what is in store for the future of this blog but I will just wait and see what unfolds. Thank you everyone who reads this, for allowing me the space to show up and be authentic and real.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Full Circle

"Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too"
~Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

Four years ago I was starting a summer that was bound to be wonderful. I had two jobs; coaching swimming and head lifeguard at an aquatics camp. Jobs that were right up my ally and had me doing the things that I loved to do.

Except that summer wasn't wonderful. It was far from it. I relapsed horribly into my eating disorder. Although that summer is now a blur, there are a few things that I remember; 15 hour days in the sun with no rest, swimming miles and miles, internal debates as to whether I would allow myself to have a few cups of the camp fruit juice for lunch, no boundaries, no breaks and constant trips to the scale. I loved being around children and coaching, but I just didn't have the energy to truly enjoy it.

Fast forward to the present.

In about two weeks I will start a job at the YMCA, as head lifeguard and a swim instructor and I am super excited. Not only will I have a new job, but we are moving to Tampa, about 2.5 hours away from Gainesville and definitely out of my comfort zone. As we prepare to leave, I can't help but feel like my last four years in treatment and in recovery have prepared me for this.

I have been out of the pool and away from coaching since that summer 4 years ago and yet when I jumped in the pool a few weeks ago, it felt like I had never left. It felt the same, yet was completely different.

I am not the same. Thanks to my hard work for the last four years and the support of some amazing people, I am a much better version of myself. Despite being way bigger in a bathing suit, I feel way more confident in my body and in it's strength and resilience. Although I am still a hard worker, I know how to say no and have learned that I am way better at what I do when I am taking care of myself properly. Instead of being driven by the desire to lose weight, eat less or be praised for my ability to push myself to the extreme, I am driven by my passions for making a difference and love for children, along with the strong desire to help others.

Although I have been nervous about the move and the job, I don't think I could be any better prepared. While I am sad to say goodbye to Gainesville, the place where I have lived for 10 years, in my heart I know that I am ready to move on. I know that this is the best choice for me and my family. I know that my recovery is strong and I can handle the things that life will throw at me, without needing the old destructive coping mechanisms. I know that I am not perfect and will make mistakes and I'm cool with that.

Yesterday as I heard the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide", I couldn't help but pause and take it all in. I feel like I have come full circle and I am doing exactly what God intended me to do.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Scales are for fish

As I write this my husband is on the floor with our daughter, playing with Legos. We recently had a wonderful visit with my mom to celebrate Grace's first birthday. Within a week of applying to some jobs, I got a few call backs from people who are interested. We are working together with family in order to make a big move which will bring us closer to the things we want in life.

And yet I find myself sitting here thinking about the scale. How much I fucking want to buy that "lovely" piece of metal and plastic and succumb to daily weighing rituals that will hopefully lead to weight loss. And not to forget, the loss of my sanity too and most of the things that matter to me.

Before Grace was born I made a promise to myself that I would not step on a scale other then in various doctors offices and I did it. I made it one year! Now just 3 days after my daughters first birthday and I feel that old familiar calling.

I so badly want to give in.

Seriously?

I am no longer angry at myself for feeling this way. As a whole it really hasn't had that big of an impact on my recovery or even life. It's just in that quiet down time that those thoughts creep in. The ones that tell me that if I was thinner I would be better. Better at what you may ask? Everything.

I would be a better mother and wife. I would handle stress way better. Our financial issues would instantly disappear and we wouldn't be pinching pennies. I'd have my dream job AND still be able to balance staying at home with Grace, happily. I'd be confident and not so sensitive. Life would be easy ALL of the time and I'd be happy. I wouldn't need anxiety and depression medications or therapy. I'd have my shit together, 24-7. Oh yeah, and everyone would ALWAYS like me.

I have been trying hard not to judge myself for still semi believing in this, especially after all of my years of therapy and support groups around body image and nutrition but it's hard. It is so easy to get sucked into this, no matter how many years I have been in recovery.

And well it's been three days and there still isn't a scale in my home...

So although I am sitting here fantasizing about how wonderful it would be, deep down I know the truth.

John is now giving Grace a bath. I hear her giggles, even in the other room. They bring me back to the present. She is my reminder. They are my reminders, that I am loved no matter what my size. That I am good enough right now in this very moment. That my emotions and problems aren't too much. That I am capable of taking care of myself and others. That my life will continue to unfold in the way that it is meant to, no matter what. And of course, that the number on the scale doesn't impact or change any of these things.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The here and the now

I have been kind of avoiding this blog lately. Honestly, the avoidance piece is pretty prevalent in a lot of parts of my life right now. But in honor of eating disorder awareness week, I decided to allow myself to be seen. My voice matters too.

I have been struggling, a lot. I think if I am honest with myself it's been a slow decline since my daughter was born about 10.5 months ago. Parenthood is hard, tack that on to my never ending medical issues and BAM in pops the eating disorder to save the day...

Except that is total BS. Even in my struggling state I am aware of that.

I am bad at reaching out for support and even worse at graciously accepting it. I know I have tons of resources in my corner but recently it hasn't been easy to call upon those. Shame is winning in so many ways but I am not sure I want that to continue. I am pretty sure if I did I would not be writing this post right now.

So yeah, what now?

I have finally come to terms with the fact that this has nothing to do with motivation. If so, looking at and thinking about my daughter would get me to eat and stop engaging in ED behaviors but well, that hasn't happened yet. So I am done beating myself up for that one. Struggling doesn't mean that I love my daughter or my husband less. It doesn't make me less of a mother or wife, just makes me someone who struggles with a mental illness.

This all really has nothing to do with my body size and weight gain. Sure I'd love to lose the pounds that I gained from pregnancy, but for the most part I think my body is pretty fantastic and my daughter LOVES it. There is nothing more comforting to her then snuggling close to my chest while hugging my belly to which she called home for 36 weeks.

So I will plead the stress card. And the new mom card. And the super traumatic pregnancy card. And the adjusting to this new life card.

Excuses? Sure I have tons every single day but I am starting to realize that I don't need to be 100% committed to this recovery thing every moment of every day. Or more so that just isn't realistic for me right now.

Tonight I feel brave enough to speak my truth, even though it isn't positive, uplifting and inspirational. Although writing a blog post isn't an earth shattering achievement, to me it feels like the first step to breaking down the walls that are keeping me stuck. To allowing myself to be seen, completely messy. And to inviting others in to help share the burden. I have always found vulnerability and authenticity awesome and totally feel honored when people let me see those fragile parts of themselves. So tonight I will do the same.

For those of you who still read my blog, thanks for the accepting space! There is something insanely therapeutic about writing for me, especially blogging and I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read! :-)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Body Acceptance

Today I stepped on the scale at the cardiologists office and then I walked away. That was it. Not once during the rest of the appointment did I think about my weight.

Today I got dressed and looked in the mirror. I felt good. I thought I looked good. And that was that.

I can't deny that I have been struggling a lot in different areas of my life, unfortunately, the eating disorder being one of them. However, it has nothing to do with my body. I like my body. And my weight really just feels like another number with no emotion attached.

I am fat. The one thing I feared the most came true and it no longer seems earth shattering. I don't cringe every time I shower or spend hours scrutinizing every inch of myself in the mirror.

Some times when I think about all of this it feels so liberating and I am truly amazed. Other times it goes unnoticed. In fact if I am honest this is most of the time.

I remember spending a lot of time focusing on hating my body. I know that it wasn't long ago. But I am not invested in that any more.

One thing that I find really cool is the fact that I don't even notice other people's size any more. As hard as it is to admit, I used to do a lot of comparing and judging based on body size. But now I feel like I am looking through a new lens. A lens that looks past our cultures stereotypes and my old body prejudices.  

Sure, I have days where I look in the mirror and think "Oh God". But it is usually because I have baby drool or spit up on my clothes or didn't notice that my daughter kindly shared her puffs or puréed veggies with me.

I don't look in the mirror and instantly feel love towards my appearance but I am totally cool with that. I want my daughter to know that she is a beautiful person, with no strings attached. No connection to her appearance or her body size.

I can't shelter her from all of societies crap but I finally feel like I can be the role model that I've always wanted to be regarding body stuff and that is what matters to me.