Recovery Manifesto

Your body is really nothing more than a pair of shoes.

They start out spotless, like a blank canvas.

They carry you from place to place.

After a time they come out with scuffs, dirt and cuts.

The stories they would tell if only they could talk.

 

I will stop trying to beat an unbeatable system.

You cannot argue with science and biology, as much as you try.

Your body will not thrive on inadequate nutrition just because you want it to.

You feed things you care about, your pets, plants, etc.

This should include yourself as well.

 

I acknowledge there is no room for shame.

Shame says “I am bad”.

I will not beat myself up for being human.

I am human, and will embrace the imperfections that come with it.

 

There is no guilt for having to send for a search party,

Especially when it looks like motivation and hunger cues ran off again holding hands.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

It takes strength to realize you cannot do this all on your own.

I will trust my OP team, when I feel like I can’t trust my own thoughts.

I will not believe everything I think.

 

Every body tells a story,

At times it may seem like a tragic love story, or even a fantasy that you only dream about happy endings.

Recovery Record showing up for the third time, asking the same question, “Are you going to eat today?”

The teeth marks on the back of my hand reading like braille, trying to remind me why I started.

 

Exercise is optional, eating is not.

I accept that exercising is not like a carpet.

Spot treatment does not work.

I acknowledge that my self-confidence should never be based on what I’ve eaten.

What I’ve eaten should never be determined on how I’ve exercised.

How I’ve exercised should be focused on body kindness and recovery.

 

If muscles are just the result of repeated heavy lifting, maybe I’m sore from figuring out where this self-hatred should fit.

Moving this self-hatred again, like I’m rearranging furniture.

Remembering that I don’t want it, but somehow feeling its necessity, as if it is my license to drive my own body.

Getting pulled over for something ED deems illegal, but showing my license as proof of, “don’t worry, I still feel entirely inadequate and inferior.”

I will realize that my body is mine, and I don’t owe anything to anyone. It may still feel like I owe something to others, but I will learn to not pay for the space I take up in apologies or miles.

 

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Why I Haven’t, Won’t, and Don’t Plan on Keeping my Eating Disorder from my Little Sister.

Involving family in your recovery is probably a good idea if it is beneficial, but what if that family is your little sister who is 12 years younger than you? Is that too young to involve your sister in your eating disorder and your recovery?

I didn’t keep the fact that I have an eating disorder secret while in recovery.

My sister came with me the day I was admitted, she came to two of my family weekends, and after meals she would sometimes accompany me to the bathroom, where we would sing songs and laugh.

Why would I involve my 12 year old sister in something that could be so raw and vulnerable you might ask.

Her life currently consists of pointe, competitions, and teaching ballet to little kids.

She could very well be in my shoes in a few short years and is susceptible to also struggling with an eating disorder.

If there is the possibility that she could struggle, I want to be honest and open with her about my struggles so she can acknowledge it before it consumes her. That doesn’t mean she won’t hide it, or is sheltered from it, but knowing that it is okay to talk about it and seek help if her eating or thought process becomes disordered.

I reassure her that eating when you are hungry is great. That it is necessary to eat before and/or after practice. That there isn’t “good” or “bad” foods, that regardless if our mom eats, or what she eats, we need to eat and be okay with it. When your sister makes comments like, “Mom can eat whatever she wants, and always stays so tiny.” You know it is crucial to reinforce the thoughts that it doesn’t matter and you need to fuel your body.

Rather than silently suffering for years like I did, and denying I ever had a problem, I want her to be able to speak up, allow me to help, and attempt to nip it in the bud before it overgrows inside of her.

That is why I choose to involve my little sister in something that could be considered taboo or shameful. I want my sister to realize there is not guilt or shame in suffering, and being open with your struggles, and an eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of or silent about.

Ella and the Non Verbal Child

Friends of mine typically know two things about me: I have a three legged dog, and my typical, daily extreme dislike of people.
Today was different, since it was raining Ella and I didn’t do our normal routine of going to the dog park. Instead, I spent over an hour in That Pet Place. The look of fear I get from some people due to the fact that Ella is a German Sheperd kills me. She is the sweetest baby ever, but yet people still avoid the two of us, as if somehow Ella is going to viciously go after them and their small children.


I met a mom and her two kids, one of her daughters has nonverbal autism, seizures, and cerebral palsy. Seeing that Ella had three legs, the mom made a statement of her daughter and Ella both having disabilities.


The daughter, Bri, quickly fell in love with Ella. She copied Ella by panting with her tongue out, squealed, held Ella’s tail, pet her ears, and shook with excitement when Ella soaked her face with kisses.

Was I scared that Bri would reach for Ella and was going to fall out of her wheelchair onto the floor?

No….. I was terrified.

Image may contain: one or more people and dog

I knew my dog better than anybody in that store, and knew nothing would happen. I could feel my anxiety rising, I hated being out, in stores, around people and my very vocal dog for any amount of time. I lived for the fact that I could run in and out of stores by the time most parents got their kids out of their car seat.


This family and I walked around the store for about an hour, letting the other daughter walk Ella, while we trailed behind. Listening to the excited squeals coming from both Ella and Bri. This was an amazing rainy Saturday, that warmed my heart as I watched this little girl shake, squeal, laugh and reach for Ella out of pure joy.

This was the Saturday that absolutely melted my heart.

Hungry *Warning: calorie/carb counting*

Why, why don’t I want to eat? I’m hungry, I know I need to, but I just don’t want to. Nothing sounds appealing. My stomach is growling though.

I take out my phone and go to My Fitness Pal; I type in the Larabar I ate, considering it “breakfast”, but who really knows what it is, and does it even matter?

I’m hungry, but I feel like I just ate. Maybe I’ll drink a little water. No, a lot of water.

I eye the speckled banana on my desk and type it in, considering that “lunch”. It immediately calculates the calories, the 19 g of sugar and the 30 g of carbs.

I’m hungry, but not that hungry. Not 30g of carbs hungry. Not 19g of sugar hungry.

Is it fear? Am I worried about foster care? Am I afraid I’m gonna gain weight?

Why am I afraid of carbs? What has happened lately to set me into this cycle?

It doesn’t make sense. It never makes sense.

I’m hungry, and now I’m out of water.

Radical Acceptance of my Past

I genuinely believe it has taken me this long to finally comprehend radical acceptance.

Being a young, white woman in her early twenties, with a college education automatically puts me in the category of cliché/privileged; and I would be an idiot to disagree. Then throw in the facts that I’m from a family with divorced parents, middle class, and struggled with an eating disorder, and it sounds like any Lifetime movie you have seen that screams cliché.

I’ve also accepted the fact that my past is not something I should hide, but looking back I am grateful and have come to terms that my mom did the best she could.

That does not make what she has said or done in the past acceptable, but I do not feel a lump of resentment in my chest anymore.

My goals, hopes and aspirations as a child was never to have my parents divorce, move 9 hours away to a different state, have my mother become an alcoholic, live with my pastor and his wife, have an eating disorder, turn to cutting, go to every school in the county, but you play with the hand you were dealt.

I am not saying all of this for pity or sympathy.

On the contrary, growing up, I wouldn’t have thought I would be in solid recovery from my eating disorder, become a biochemist, have a German Shepherd, travel to Germany, or have a full ride scholarship to college.

Spending almost a week with my cousin almost makes me thankful for how I was raised, almost. My cousin is still in college, her parents are not divorced, she has three dogs in the suburbs, and has traveled to various places thanks to her parents. During this week, I heard thank you maybe three times, and two of those times was when I was dropping her off at the airport.

She decided to inform me of how she recently broke up with her boyfriend, but had already been spending nights at another guy’s house. The story of wearing leather pants to the bar, but not sleeping in them when she went to his house. Now, I know I am no better than anyone else, I have messed up, I have many many faults, but these are stories I didn’t care to hear.

Instead of visiting the market, or letting me take her to the park, she wanted to go to the mall. When we went out for coffee, she proceeded to whine about the syrup at the bottom of her ice coffee and how she “knew it was going to be an issue the moment I saw her making it.”. When we went out for dinner, she answers the phone in the restaurant. Whistling at me like a dog across the length of a store to get my attention. While we are supposed to be hanging out, she decides to make phone calls, then tells me about how her ex cornered her side guy at the bar.

While in Baltimore for a day, I bought two coffees purposely. My cousin scoffed, complained about something else, and judged me for the two coffees in my hands. As we were walking back to the car there was a man at an intersection with a handwritten cardboard sign (pretty common in that area). I walked up to him, wished him a Happy Monday, handed him the coffee and two packs of sugar, and was given a, “Thank you miss, God Bless.” In return.

I am thankful for individuality, and pray ceaselessly for patience, humility and happiness, but this week was very difficult for me. I’m thankful that I am practically 23 going on 60, and am thankful for gratitude and manners that my mom instilled in me. I fully believe in showing others the same respect that I would want, and be treated in the same manner. I believe in forgiving others for mistakes, because what if that was you one day. Regardless of title, CEO, Janitor, or Security Guard, everyone is a person and has a story.

My mother may not have been perfect, but I also do not correct others if it isn’t important, I consider myself a pretty optimistic person at times, and try to not nit-pick at others, even though I may fall short many times. So, I will focus on the good, be thankful for what I have, finish my glass of wine, and curl up with a book.

My Faith mixed with the Food and Fear

It’s a question I have been asked several times, but I’ve never actually stopped to dig deeply and dissect the answer.

The question may differ slightly,

“How did I get into Christianity?”

“Why did I choose to stay involved?”

“Have you always been a Christian?”

but the answer inevitably brings me back to a certain time in my life.

I can vividly remember being somewhere around 6 years old. I remember our apartment, the glass table, the beanie babies piled high, the kitchen bar, the stained bathroom floor from when I spilled red nail polish. I never remember church. I remember the park, my neighbor upstairs, my cat, the statue of the panther in the living room. I never remember praying.

Around 7 years old I was dragged along with mom who moved to North Carolina with some strange man who would later become my stepfather. I remember my bus stop, my dog, my teacher. Still no church or praying.

In 2000 my brother was born. At some point, unsure of exactly when that was, it was decided among my parental units that my brother, in order to keep him from being damned to hell for reasons I was unsure of at the time, was going to be baptized/saved/christened. I guess by default, I was volun-told that I was to participate in such religious ritual as well. I remember the smell of vegetable oil on my forehead and how I was sickened that I had some greasy oily stuff smeared on my face by a stranger. Up until that point that was the most religious experience of my life.

In 2004 my sister came into the picture. Somewhere between moving and the birth of my sister we began to make an appearance to a church. We stood up, knelt, sat, knelt, it felt like a bad version of Simon says. I watched as my parents introduced me to people that could be my grandparents. We showed up, smiled, and left. One Sunday morning I was getting ready for the perfunctory routine, I had decided to put on mascara and was instantly ridiculed by my step dad.

This is also when their religion seemed to be found more frequently at the bottom of a bottle than in a church pew.

Being under 13, I remember one night, after they had been praising the bottle again. A fight broke out. I gestured to my brother to go to our room and that I’d be right there. I grabbed my sister from her high chair and was going to take her with me to our room. Immediately, I was spun around by a slurred patron saint of the bottle. “You don’t EVER take my child away from me!” With that, my sister was ripped from my arms.

Another move, and another sibling later, I was in middle school. My parent’s religious worshiping of the bottle increased as did my self-hatred. I wasn’t allowed to speak up, have an opinion that was different from my mom’s, or stick up for myself. I turned all the feelings inward. Turning to self-harming, purging, anything. I was already hurting with all of the screaming and fights, which I was convinced was my fault anyways, so it made sense to punish myself, and simultaneously release some of the built up angst. I was blamed for why my parent’s argued. This logic made sense in my world since I had introduced the two of them by accident. I wasn’t sure if they hated me because of it, and if only I was thinner, better behaved, made better grades, maybe they wouldn’t hate me and their marriage would get strengthen.

Eating less, cutting more, purging when I could.

I had the opportunity to go to Ireland on a student program. I was threatened by one of the leaders that if I didn’t start eating I would be sent home.

A family friend invited us to church with them. We reluctantly began to go. I had learned from my past experience with church that it was time to put on my nice clothes, put on a smile and pretend everything was amazingly awesome in my picture perfect world.

Behind closed doors my family threw stuff, screamed, hated each other. My mother would wake me up at all hours to clean my room, clean the kitchen, whatever. Digging her nails into my arm and screaming, as my brother cried from behind her, “Don’t hit her mom!” My parent’s would scream and fight until the church door. With that, the name calling was suddenly, “Oh sweetie, I love you.”, “I love you too honey.” With controlling displays of affection to show to the church how great our family actually was.

I began to question what I was told about God, and even the very existence of God.

“God doesn’t love me, if he did why would he allow this?” I would question.

My own mother would push me against walls, dig her nails into me, and throw stuff at me. The next morning she would say “I love you, have a great day at school.”

I doubted the very word of “love” and it took years for me to be able to tell her I loved her back.

I continued to put on a happy face when we went to church, and was criticized by my parent’s when I wanted to go to church on Wednesdays for youth group, being asked, “Don’t you have anything else you could do besides go to church?”

I went into High School, from moving so much I knew almost everyone in my class. I told myself I would never drink or smoke weed, I didn’t want to be anything like my parents. I began to drink, and would smoke during the off season of sports.

I don’t remember a lot during this time. I went to school, did sports, was on student government, had a job, didn’t eat. Did anything I could to not go home.

Being told that what happens in this house, stays in this house.

My math teacher is the reason I actually became involved and plugged in. During Senior year I moved in with my pastor and his wife. Being told once again that I am the reason their marriage is so rocky, so if I moved out for a while…..

I changed my number, paid my own bills, went to church. Pastor and his wife actually gave me curfew, and I was thrilled someone actually cared about me and where I was. I was diving deep into Christianity, my devotional, and church in a way I hadn’t. We talked, like a family, prayed, like a family, went on trips. There was no yelling, and I realized what I had lived in wasn’t normal.

My parents left the church, I was eventually forced to move back home, and continued to stay at that church for as long as I could, refusing to ever go to church with my parents again.

My math teacher would pray for me and with me. I had convinced myself that if I don’t talk about what’s going on at home, then it’s like it doesn’t happen. After the cops were called, I began to open up to my teacher who invited me to her house, prayed with me, shared books and articles with me, and invited me to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She spoke of her mistakes, I told her about mine, but it was never from a criticizing or demeaning place, but one of hope and love.

After graduation, I moved out, again. Found a church which I attended regularly, as well as a girls college bible study that my teacher led up. It was a safe environment. Learning about mistakes, love, forgiveness for not only ourselves, but others. There was something peaceful about the entire thing, a sense of belonging and security. How faithful God is and all He has in store for us and our future.

During all of this, my self-harming would come and go, and I was consistently struggling with my Eating Disorder. I was told by several people, that someone must have been looking out for me.

Deep in my eating disorder I would eat under 100 calories a day, and was running and lifting. I was taking diet pills, laxatives, and going to the gym. I have sustained injuries because of it, but when I look back, it is crazy to me that nothing severe happened. There is no reason that I shouldn’t have collapsed during a run, or seriously damaged my body.

I can only think that God has something in store for me, for keeping me around.

I continue in my faith for many reasons. It is one step further away from becoming my parents, every person I admire and look to are strong in their faith, and just the pure honesty that is spoken and how I feel after digging into my devotional.

Trust the Process!!!

Self-Empathy & Compassion

Self-empathy, to me, I feel like this is a brand new topic. One read about in fictional tales, along with princesses with flowing locks of hair and birds that make my bed for me.

In Brene Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), she goes on to explain the difference between empathy and sympathy. I’m very guilty of using these words interchangeably for years, but now having such a better understanding of the words. I want someone to empathize with me, but don’t want their sympathy. Brenė puts it,

“When they talked about their ability to overcome shame, they clearly pointed to empathy: sharing their feelings with someone who would understand and relate to what they were saying. Conversely, women used words like hate, despise, and can’t stand to describe their feelings about sympathy seeking- looking for sympathy or being asked for sympathy.”

Empathy, is looking for acceptance, and understanding that we are not alone in our experiences.

It has been argued you cannot give what you don’t have, this also including love and empathy, but I respectfully disagree. It is so much easier to give others empathy and the benefit of the doubt. I questioned daily why I was much more able to cut others slack, or be more understanding of others, why I was so hard on myself, and I believe this is a lack of self-compassion as well as empathy towards myself.

I fully believe that everyone has something in their life they are dealing with. Whether it be a sick family member, mental illness, recent death, financial issues, whatever it is, so I attempt to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That is it though, right there. I don’t know everybody’s story, as much as I love hearing peoples’ stories and hearing how far they’ve come. What if I did though? Honestly, I might be more empathic and compassionate towards them, realizing what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Why is that any different than myself?

I know my story, I know what I have been through. I may not think it is “All that bad” but I know there are people out there who believe I am “brave” “strong” “courageous”. It is the shame of believing the lies I have been fed for years, and internally believing that I am not deserving or worthy. I am much more empathetic and compassionate to those I don’t know their story, than myself.

Worth & Deserving

For the absolute longest time, I was certain that I was unworthy and undeserving- of many things:

  • Relationships
  • Recovery
  • Love
  • Compliments

I believed I was the exception, that serious complications from an eating disorder happened to others, not to me. That others deserved recovery, not me.

 

Being consumed with my inner critic and eating disorder, I fully believed that my worth was based solely on my actions and others’ opinions of me. Yet, it was always unfairly graded and weighed.

Positive that the pleasant compliments were only said to be polite, and maybe even out of pity, they held no truth to them. Yet, when someone was critical or demeaning, I held those comments as gospel and put my worth in my imperfections and short comings.

 

By listening to my inner critic and falling for the lie of being unworthy and undeserving, I was practically saying that I held no worth in who I am.

I would never say this to another person, but yet I found it acceptable to refer to myself as this.

It has taken many, many years, but I am not the exception.

Just like how my body won’t survive on carrot sticks because I want it to.

My worth isn’t based on my short comings because I think that is all I deserve.

 

In a society that thrives on perfection and believes asking for help is a weakness, we become fake to those around us.

It has become taboo to talk about struggles, we portray only the very best side of our life, feeding into the belief that we can’t measure up.

I am a huge advocate for sharing our stories. It is so easy to get caught up with our faults and mistakes and make our identity in them, but yet, I want to hear who you are.

I don’t care about the weather, your car or your job. We ALL have SOMETHING and I want to hear it. What you’ve been through, how far you’ve come, what you learned, and how it made you, you.

So instead of only showing the best side of yourself – be real.

Own your story, it is yours to tell and nobody has the power or authority to belittle it for how far you have come.

Be unapologetically you.

You are worthy of it.

I am worthy of it.

We deserve so much more.

Flaws

You are not your flaws or your short-comings.

You are not defined by what you lack, or how you do not measure up.

Neither is your body.

Your body is not its flaws.

Fat

Scars

Stretchmarks

You, and your body, are not defined by your flaws.

College and Eating Disorder

First, I wanted to apologize.

The days of class I skipped.

The days I couldn’t pay attention.

Or, the days when I would skip your class, and you would catch me running around campus walking back to your office.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was that I was just more consumed with burning calories and making my Eating Disorder happy that I didn’t want to sit in class.

I didn’t want you to take my struggle as apathy or anything like that, and for the professors that did know about my struggle, I’m thankful for all that you did.

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go to class, I physically didn’t have the energy to be there. I was freezing, exhausted, and all I wanted to do was go out and run this anxiety off. Running was more important to me than school, studying, or any sort of life.

Classmates would comment on how athletic I am, and how impressed they were at the distances I was running and how often I went to the gym. (Little did they know I had eaten an apple in maybe two days, and the violent shakes were from the Hydroxycut, not the coffee like I told people.) They didn’t see the girl who laid in her bed crying because of her electrolytes and her legs were locked up again, or the girl who ran to the toilet at 2 am because I had taken the laxatives too early and was up in the middle of the night.

College just seems like one big blur to me. Life was a half-hearted perfunctory routine of get up, run, go to class, run, go to work, maybe go to the gym, and start all over again.

Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my professors. I had her class during the semester that I left for treatment. We sat outside, laughed and caught up on all that we had missed. She told me that I looked happy and she was so proud of me. That, was what I needed to hear. That I didn’t disappoint her, or had somehow failed at being a “normal” college student.

She went on to say that she talks about me frequently, how I never asked for special treatment, and did continue to show up and do well in her class. The only thing I ever asked was if I could take my final early, (I was admitted on finals week).

I was honest and told her that while I was in her class I was consuming more diet pills and laxatives than actual food, she shook her head in a concerning way.

The most difficult was a male professor, only because my senior research also included a food log, which I was sure would lead to me failing my senior research if I didn’t have any data to actually document. He was very understanding, and I missed half of the following semester since I was still in treatment. Returning in March to his Biostatistics class, he was shocked and surprised to see me walk in the door. I had three tests to make up, multiple practicals, and I was determined. He was willing to work with me and said I could take an incomplete and finish the semester when I was feeling better. I told him I was supposed to graduate this semester, and I wanted to catch up.

I did, I finished school on time and graduated on time, missing half of a semester of Biostatistics, Virology, and Biochemistry.

I am very thankful to have the support I did through my academic career. Both of those professors actually wrote me letters of recommendation. They believed in me, even when I didn’t think I could.