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.

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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.

I Have A Special Secret

You, yeah you reading this.

I hope you are sitting down for what I am about to tell you, but not driving, that’s an entirely different sitting. I mean, I guess you could stand, but be careful walking and reading. What if you bump into someone and that person is having a bad day and picks a fight, and you are all, “Yo, I’m really sorry! I was reading this girl’s blog and bumped into you.” Then that person asks what blog (which could really work to my advantage).

Anyway, you, you reading this. Whether you are standing, sitting (not driving), kneeling, laying down, squatting or jogging, I have some news for you.

You are not special.

There, I said it.

Much like that person you bumped into while reading this, you may be ready to pick a fight.

The truth of the matter is, you are not special. Whether the person who told you this was a mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparent, (pssssttt, that isn’t true).

You aren’t the only one who:

                                Dyed their hair a crazy color

Got a tattoo in a weird place

Speaks a foreign language

Likes food others find repulsive

Now, I know we all want to think that we, as an individual, are special. Not sounding haughty of ourselves, but just “individual enough” to stick out. This could actually serve as a barrier between us and others, us and building relationships, us and our worthiness.

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If we believe we are special, then we are also different and unique; meaning we may interpret that as not being relatable. I could be out in left field somewhere, but by also having that mentality, it can also be thought of that you are the exception to the rule or are somehow undeserving.

You aren’t the only one who:

                                Has divorced parent

Are divorced

Struggles with a mental illness

Struggles with self-harm

Had an abusive childhood

Deals with alcoholism/drugs/addiction

But by believing you are somehow special or unique, you separate yourself from others, believing you are somehow different than everyone around you.

This mentality is a huge factor, I believe, in being open and vulnerable.  If we are unable to discuss our struggles and shortcomings, it makes it that much more taboo when someone finally does open up. We are able to see that “I’m not the only one struggling with _________.” Yet, if we all walk around stoic, others may believe they are the only ones and find it more difficult, maybe even impossible, to open up if they feel like the people around them can’t relate.

I found this to be true during the support group I attend. If we keep the conversation shallow, I leave feeling unfulfilled and like it was a waste. Yet, in front of four new people I talked openly about my urge to self-harm and purge. Realizing that more people can relate than they initially acted. One lady in particular, was quite, until I mentioned my struggle; she opened up about how she copes and what works for her. It was great to see strangers who were able to come together over one very taboo struggle and talk openly, because I know, I am not the only one.

 

Trust the Process!

XOXOXOXO

Insanity in Group

“Insanity is doing the same thing

                                over and over again

                                                  and expecting different results.”

                                                                                                –Albert Einstein

This isn’t the first, or even second, time I’ve left group and felt like it was a waste of time, effort, gas, and regretted going all together.

This evening was nothing different. It takes the “same shit, different day” motto to the extreme.

I feel like I have been going for so long that I know everyone, their back story, and what they are bringing to the table every week.

She is sick and feels like shit.

She so desperately wants to be in a relationship.

She sleeps all day, and struggling.

Sure enough, I was right, I even called it earlier when I was in my appointment.  

Not wanting to even go this evening, one of the girls texted me asking me to come. So I threw on my Nikes, put a baseball cap on and hid myself under a comfy hoodie and headed to support group.

If we were all making progress or something, that would be great, beneficial, something.

It just feels like something has to give. Maybe we need a group exercise, or an assignment, something to pull us from the perfunctory routine of what seems to be a whiny venting session. Or maybe I just need to quit going so often, that way when I go, it is something new.

I sat there, trying to listen, be supportive, but it was the same things I had just heard the week before. My ass bone grinding against the uncomfortable chairs, and being able to smell myself since I had yet to shower post run.

The thought was even there, “Text brother, get him to call you. That’s your way out. Answer your phone, and leave.” Still, I was trying to give group the benefit of the doubt. I may have said two words tonight. It just didn’t seem worth it.

Same shit, different week.

I could have bitched about my head hurting.

Whined about work.

Praised my awesome lunch.

Bragged about a delicious apple cake.

Instead, I sat there. Knowing what would happen if I opened my mouth. Not so much praised for the good, but fixated on the bad.

I would talk about how I ran today, but how I had a black  bean burger yesterday for lunch. It would quickly become a “How often/much are you running?” “Oh, well are you eating lunch every day?” I understand where they would come from, but it just didn’t seem worth it. I may just be being a stuck up bitch, but lately it just hasn’t been beneficial at all, and I don’t think I am getting anything out of it.

I don’t see me returning for a while. Think I’m done re-living the same Thursday of my life over and over.

 

My Motto Growing Up Was, “Never Let Them See You Cry.”

                                “I think you grow up feeling shame about the stuff your parents didn’t allow you to talk about when you were little. So anything that a parent  makes ‘off-limits’ – that’s the shit that’s going to make you crazy when you get older. If you want your kids to be normal, let them talk about everything, then they won’t have any shame around it; then it’s just not a big deal anymore. If you grew up with a lot of ‘off-limit’ things, you have to ask people and figure it all out. The more you know, the more you realize you’re not the only one.”  -Brene Brown “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)”

                What if I was to tell you that I have read this paragraph at least a dozen times, and each time I do, the truth just rings even clearer.

I don’t think Dr. Brown could have written something any closer to the truth. Some families avoid controversial topics such as drugs, sex, rock n’ roll religion, politics, alcohol, body image. Making it very awkward to talk about later in life, or even confusion in their own opinions and beliefs on the subject.

What if though, “the stuff your parents didn’t allow you to talk about when you were little” was basically everything? I’m not saying this in a hyperbolic way either.

For as long as I can remember, I cannot recall a time where my mother and I sat down and had a serious conversation, of any sort. Granted, she talked AT me, and barked orders. My opinions were her opinions, not being allowed to have any idea or opinion that differed from hers (this was considered selfish, ungrateful, talking back). If we were sitting down to “talk” it was full of shame, belittlement, and ended with punishment.

I was not a sheltered kid, in any way, but I do firmly believe my mom was so wrapped up in her world, that I was neglected normal everyday advice and conversations someone usually has with their child. We never had the sex talk, ever, I learned it from the back of the bus. Every topic had shame around it. Mom called me a slut in high school when I asked if I could go to a football game with friends. Sex Ed was one of the most unnerving experiences of my life, once again, not sheltered, but I was appalled that people spoke so openly about sex. My perception of sex was one based solely on control. After angry drunken fights at all hours of the night, loud obnoxious make up sex was next on the list. This became perfunctory in my little head. People didn’t do that because they loved each other, they did it at the end of a fight. The constant “I love you, I hate you” routine in my life was extremely confusing to me.

Another huge one for me was emotions. I very distinctly remember one circumstance in particular. I was sitting on a railing, my foot got stuck between the bars. As I jerked my foot free I fell forward and bashed my nose on the edge of a bench. Immediately, my mother can running over, yelling at me for being so careless and for not listening. This was typical, as was “stop crying before I give you something to cry about”. I was not allowed to cry, I had no right to be angry.

 If I was proud of an accomplishment, I was either selfish, or I was instructed promptly how it had been done “half-ass”. Feelings were regarded as weak, and unable to control yourself, I would be spanked or punished, and still expected to hold it together. Some people hear the saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” My motto growing up was, “Never let them see you cry.”

It just became so much easier to not say anything at all, then to say or do something that would later on be held over your head or used against you. I made sure to never need anything and tried my best to hide. “Fine” was an emotion. That was the deepest it had gone in years. “You look upset.” “No, I’m fine.” It was practically my name and identity. It wasn’t until treatment that I began to learn feelings, much like a kid in pre school.

 

 

Seeing Myself In A Student

It is so difficult to compliment myself, brag on myself, or even see myself in a worthy light. My homework from my therapist this week was to “build a court case” against the lies I’ve been fed for so many years.

This is so hard for me, it is not like me to talk about what I have done or accomplished, because I just find that selfish and conceited.

My last post was about owning your story, but at the same time, owning it, doesn’t mean owning the lies you have been told your entire life. That is completely different. In an attempt to placate my therapist, I sat down the night before, and did the assignment she had given me last week. I didn’t put too much thought into it, because that would have been stressful and scary (which I know is kind of the point, to push me out of my comfort zone.)

Well, yesterday, I decided I wouldn’t wait last minute. I got home from my appointment, sat down and began to really think about the assignment and how difficult it would be. To not do it would be giving into the lies, rather than fighting them, but to do the homework meant dealing with the lies and trying to combat them with bragging on myself.

 

So, as I sat there, staring at the paper, it really hit me that this assignment was going to suck.

I began to think of my kids when I worked at a school, and one girl in particular who came to my mind and heart. I missed her, she had a very difficult home life, was hands down, one of my favorites, a heart of gold, and sassy as all get out (A girl after her own teacher’s heart).

So I started the assignment with, “What Would I Tell Alisha?”

  • You have been through so much, and are so strong.
  • Stay loud and loving.
  • Be there for your brother, you guys will be close.
  • You can’t control your parents.
  • None of that was your fault.
  • You are so loved.
  • It is ok to ask for a hug.
  • Be honest.

This is the girl, who was one of the smallest in her grade, yet, with a older brother, she would be out on the basketball court showing all the guys how to shoot. She was loud, sassy, played like one of the guys, but has a heart of gold.

Every day she would come running down the hallway, yelling my name and run into my arms. I was one of the select few who she came to for hugs and compassion, she didn’t want to lead on that she too, was tough, but needed love.

 

The day she came to school with stitches above her eye and scraped up, my heart sunk. The more I found out about her home life, the more I wanted to pick her up and take her home with me. No wonder she was tough and snarky, but I loved her just the same.

 

Reading the list that I would tell one of my students, but at the same time, me, not wanting or asking for help.

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.

Who, Not What, Are You.

Who are you?

If someone was to ask you who you were what would you say?

Would you identify yourself with your flaws?

Would you identify yourself with the size pants you wear?

“I am _______.”

How would you fill that?

The world has told us to fit molds, stereotypes and to hold certain expectations.

As if your importance and worth in the world is somehow based on how you look; and God forbid we are open about our struggles and flaws, which could somehow make us less human or less worthy.

Who you are is not:

                What you do.

                A label set by others.

                A diagnosis.

                Mistakes you made.

Why would I accept a label set on me by others?

                I don’t walk up to someone and say, “Hi, I am a recovering anorexic.”

“Hello, I am anxious.”

                                “Good afternoon, I am depressed.”

Honestly, to me, this doesn’t sound bad. It would be more real. People may stop hiding behind the taboo shame that comes with these labels.

But, these labels, regardless of what they are, are not WHO we are.

I’m gonna say that again for the people in the back….

                Regardless of what these labels are, THEY ARE NOT WHO WE ARE.

We’ve all got something

I am a firm believer in “everyone has something” and I admire when people are open and vulnerable about their story.

I met a man at the dog park the other day and he also got his degree in biology and works in umbilical cord cells and tissues for a large company.

We talked about his two dogs who were rescues, and how he is now a grandfather because his son and wife had their first child.

He went on to tell me how him and his wife spend their winter in Arizona, but come back to Pennsylvania to take care of his mom with dementia. Through his story he maintained a good attitude and even cracked a few jokes.

His mom had refused to have any “strangers” in their house, which included nurses, therapists anyone, and in turn, every time him and his wife hired somebody, they usually lasted a couple days and then she would fire them.

He told them that the next time  she fired them, to ignore her and come back the next day.

 

My coworker, who has a smile on his face and looks out for me and invites me to lunch with them, just told me the other day that his mom had been diagnosed with cancer in January and was too tired and drained to travel for the holiday weekend.

 

Another coworker deals with his rude wife, while also taking care of his sick mother. He is probably mid fifties, and will take her to her “day camp”. My heart sinks for him when his phone continuously rings through out the day. I feel like he can’t get a breath or catch a break.

 

My high school teacher, who helped bring me closer and stronger in my faith, is unable to get pregnant, and her father shot her mom then turned the gun on himself. Even through all of this her faith is unwavering and I look up to her so much.

 

My best friend struggles with depression, and I love her more than anything.

It may be completely weird, but I love hearing about others’ stories, where they came from, and how they are managing.

 

1 Corinthians 10:12

1 Corinthians 10:12

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Over the course of being in recovery, I have had the same goals.

1)      Be “normal”

2)      Find a healthy balance between working out and eating

3)      Be able to help and share with others

Some of you may read these, especially number one and think, “Come on, what even is ‘normal’, that is such a vague idea.” Others of you, I know because I have talked with others, are sitting there thinking, “Holy shit! Yes! She gets it!”  I’m not saying I want a job, a husband, a dog, a house with a picket fence, 2.5 kids. I already have two of those… I’ll let you guess 😉

What I am saying is I want to eat like a normal person, eat when I’m hungry, eat when I’m not hungry, put cheese on food, not count calories like a fiend. Eat cold pizza for breakfast, have hot chocolate, you know, what NORMAL people would do, and not think twice about.

While I am so thankful that I am not where I was, I know I have work to be where I want to be. (Even though you guys can’t see it, I’m finishing up a tofu taco salad- delish!) I still struggle with the morbid sense of wanting to be sick, and wanting to be back in treatment. At the same time, lately I have been able to take a step back and realize, “ok, I’ve been there before. Nothing will be different, so why do I want to go back?”

At this point in my life, I am 23 years old. Living in Pennsylvania, by myself, moving from NC to PA after graduation to pursue my career in Biochemistry. I feel fortunate to have a career with benefits, PTO, and in a field where I have my degree. So why would I want to throw that all away to go back to being weighed everyday?

I have made friends going to the support group, and through that I have had lunch, and gotten coffee, with some of the girls. It is eye opening that at times, I am the oldest one in the group, and I am not ok with this. I do not want to be tied down by this thing. Recently, I have reached out, getting to know some of the girls, and I want to be a support for them to reach out to.

I have been reminded of this verse lately, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” This is huge to me. I don’t want to reach out to help, if it may completely undo the progress I have built. I want to help and pull others up without worrying about being triggered or being dragged down. I pray this a lot, especially when I hang out with the girls, hoping for the best, for the right words to say and to remember to be careful.

 

Trust the Process!

xoxoxo