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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

What is the purpose of mirrors? Why do people choose to obsess over their reflection?

Personally, I don’t think there is anything positive to come from staring at yourself in the mirror.

I could be wrong, and you might think I am totally off course, but, I believe the sole purpose of mirrors is to nit-pick at our flaws.

We know what we look like, and when it comes down to it, we really aren’t all that interesting to stare at either. So why are we so focused on mirrors and what we look like?

Even looking in a mirror to do your makeup or hair, we do it because we are unsatisfied with how we look. Mirrors serve absolutely no purpose. We stare at them to pick at our face because of break outs. We body check in them to see if we have drastically changed in the past ten minutes. We use mirrors so we can focus in on our insecurities and what we consider our short comings.

So, put away the mirror, focus on how you feel, and not so much how you look.

My Worth Is Based On My Performance

It has always been something. It may be grades and my academic performance, sports and how many shots I blocked in the goal, or how many times I ran the bases. It may be dependent on how I scored on a test.

My worth is directly correlated with how I performed or succeeded. When I talk about something I accomplished, it is always in a way that makes sure people understood I could  have done better, just in case what I did isn’t up to their standards.

“Yeah, I tore my meniscus and ran the 15k. My time was a hair over an hour and a half… could have been better.”  “Yeah, the average on the test was a 74, I got an 89. Wish it would have been an A.”

I need to work on this. By who’s standards?  If running a 15k in the pouring rain was easy, more people would have been there. If everyone could get an 89 on the Biochemistry test then 74 wouldn’t have been the average.

I am my worst enemy and harshest critic. I’m not even sure who I am comparing myself too, besides everyone, and I can’t be everyone simultaneously… I can barely handle being “me” whoever that is.

But I immediately relate my performance and success to what I deserve and what I am worth. I want to be better, faster, smarter, thinner but stronger.

Well, now I have to get ready for my final presentation.

Practice being human & Trust the process

Namaste

Ahimsa, Mindfulness, Yoga, and ED

I can’t remember a time where I enjoyed something, in the past few years. It was the same perfunctory routine, wake up, run, class, gym, home, maybe run again, throw up if I had eaten anything. I prided myself on going a thousand miles an hour. I ran longer, quicker, more frequently. Went to school, work, home, etc. Never sitting still, never wanting to be with myself long enough to feel or acknowledge myself.

There was a time, a long time ago, I had fun. I enjoyed doing things. I would go out to eat with friends, go shopping, soccer, etc. As the years in my eating disorder progressed, the things I once used to enjoy began to diminish. I enjoyed running, but it had also become something that I NEEDED to do in order to feel any bit of accomplishment- it was no longer just for enjoyment. Then I was introduced to yoga.

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There have been several people in my life recently who have asked how and why I got involved in yoga. What am I supposed to say? “Oh, when I went to residential treatment for my eating disorder they took running and exercise away, but I got to do yoga twice a week….” For some reason, I just don’t think this is the answer they would be expecting.

I soon found my passion and love for yoga. Breathing, being still, sitting with myself (something I never would have done months ago). When I left treatment I found a yoga studio close to where I live. I hesitantly walked in. Almost a month later, I am still going, I love it and learn more and more everyday.

Being the youngest in the class, I am in such awe of the women in the class. They may be older, but I have such respect and admiration for them, the way they move, how they embrace their self and how they even push themselves while in different poses. I admire them so much and even hope I can strive to be like that in 30 or 40 years.

The body dissatisfaction I still have is ridiculous. Feeling like the fattest one there, trying to hide my body in large t-shirts, sometimes even hoodies. I sit on my mat, completely aware of my lumpy, rolley stomach. Going into Adho Mukha Svanasana (or downward dog), obvious to the fact that my thighs are touching. Bringing my hands to Anjali Mudra I am coached to set an intention for the class.

This concept was entirely new to me. I had brought my hands to heart, and bowed to my instructor, in residential, K numerous times, but an intention? The first couple of classes I went to my brain froze. Setting no intention for the class. Sometimes briefly I would decide last minute to focus on doing “yoga on my own mat” as to focus on myself and not compare myself with others. Eventually, my intention became to be more comfortable in my own skin in class. I began to wear a tank top and leggings, being so self conscious about my arms and body. My intention was to try and be comfortable, not be so self conscious, self critical.

Ahimsa is one of the lessons in the study of yoga, meaning non harming. When I read about this I immediately thought of the literal term of being non-violent. Is there more I thought? To not cause harm, I would be included in that statement, self harm, is still harm, and does not follow the idea of non-harming. It teaches us to not act, think, or speak in harmful ways. This would also include samskaras, or negative feeling and thought processes that can also be very harmful to ourselves. Which also ties into the cocept of Niyamas, or our attitude towards ourself.

While I am still extremely far from reaching self love or even acceptance, I have found something that I enjoy doing again. It doesn’t involve running my body into the ground when I haven’t eaten in a week. It doesn’t involve isolating myself.

ED is still with me on the mat, but even if it is only briefly, it is amazing to sit quietly with myself and be ok with it. To have him be silent.

I am able to challenge myself on the mat, in ways that aren’t self destructive or harmful. I have a growing respect for my body, the strength is possesses, the asanas it is able to hold, and the inversions my body can contort to. Yoga isn’t about how fast, how far, how much, but while you are all in a room together, it is what you, as an individual, can accomplish on your mat within yourself.

Iokah samatah sukhino bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Namaste & Trust the Process