The Angel on my Shoulder Hung an “Out of Office” Sign

I feel like I’d be lying if I didn’t say that for a moment, if only a brief moment, it felt like it was my eating disorder and I against everyone else.
In the cliché scenario of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the angel had hung an “Out of Office” sign, and the devil was none other than the eating disorder I had catered to for an unknown amount of years.
Sitting in my appointment replaying the week over in my head, “I did alright” I told myself. Allowing myself to eat pizza, toast (with butter), and other terrifying foods that sat somewhere between dentist appointment and pap smear on list of things I really wanted in my body.
Then hearing, “I’m concerned, this isn’t good. There has to be a shift.”
At that moment, the devil on my shoulder gave me a high-five and felt ready to tag team the world.
Having to sit and acknowledge the fact that no, maybe running and working out isn’t a great idea right now was enough to bring tears to my eyes; Unable to figure out how I would cope and numb everything if I wasn’t able to lift and go to the gym.
They joke that “Denial is more than just a river in Africa.”
Which is true, to me it felt more like a hot tub, surrounding me with comfort and warmth. Trying to get out of it would be uncomfortable, and leave me wanting to dive back in head first, to what I had grown accustomed to. Much like the parable of the boiling frog, in which a frog is placed in warm water, and the temperature slowly rises to boiling, until the frog is boiled to death.
I wanted more than anything to stand up, I could feel ED tugging on the neck of my shirt. I wanted to let ED ruin this appointment. I wanted to act like a 2 year old, the “terrible twos” – type of two year old, and have a fit. I wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about.
The dietitian, with more letters behind her name than actually in mine, I wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about. I wanted to gesture to the waiting room and shout that “I DON’T LOOK LIKE HER! I’M FINE.” Once again, using my weight and my capabilities in the gym as my only standing as to why I am “fine”.
Now, taking a step back, I know that what she says is truth, and I know something has to change. (I’m also glad I didn’t make an ass out of myself yesterday).
It speaks volumes when something as little as trying to take a break from exercising sends me into a full blow panic and fit. Now, trying to remind myself that; not running is an accomplishment for me.
Taking another step back, I realize that if I had the type of body my ED says I should want, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy, or do, the physical activities I want. Plus, then what? I’d be another year or so older, still struggling with an eating disorder, maybe weighing less, but at some point being right back here.
It’s been a reoccurring theme lately from various people, that your heart only gets so many beats, so why waste them on things I don’t enjoy?
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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.

 

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.

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.

Complacency

It was that awkward moment when I realized I’m not doing as well as I thought I had been.

There was no purging, I was starting to go out more with friends, work was at a steady lull.

I had stopped going to therapy, and had stopped going to the support group. I felt fine, so thought I’d take some time off.

I’d been so busy ignoring my Eating Disorder, that I had neglected to see it had slowly began to crawl its way back into my life. Then, Saturday, it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Holy Fuck. I’m running twice a day again.”

I hadn’t thought about my Eating Disorder, I hadn’t even been thinking about eating, and that was the issue. When I sat down and really reflected, I realized I wasn’t doing “better” I was just neglecting my recovery and becoming complacent. I hadn’t been eating, or even packing breakfast, and lunch was a joke, not packing anything for that either.

I haven’t been fully involved in my Eating Disorder.

But I haven’t been fully engaged in recovery either.

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

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.

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.

Own Your Story

In the words of Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

I recently met up with my kindergarten teacher, I am now 23. I moved from Maryland to North Carolina when I was 7, and moved to Pennsylvania last year. The two of us got together and had lunch, it was slightly awkward at first, but we got over that real quick.

She began to ask me about life and how everything was, why I moved up here, etc. My mom had kept in contact with her through these years, sending Christmas Cards, school pictures, and other miscellaneous items.

Years ago I would have lied, well, not necessarily lied, but done what I had been taught growing up.
“Do not talk about your family.” “What happens in this house, stays in this house.” These rules were verbally beaten into me, for fear that people might find out we aren’t the picture perfect family we acted like.

So anyway, my kindergarten teacher began to ask questions, and rather than lie, or give the fake convincing smile I had practiced for many years, I was honest. “I guess when you are sending letters back and forth, all you hear about is the great things in our life.” She looked at me slightly curious.

I went on to tell her I had a scholarship, did sports, traveled, voted most unforgettable, (the usual happy and surface deep stuff I would typically tell people.) I also told her that my parents quickly became very close with their relationship to alcohol, I moved out in High school, my grandmother and I were no longer close, and had to go to treatment.

It wasn’t a pity party, but it wasn’t fake. She had only heard what mom had told her over the years. This was my opportunity to explain, that like everybody else, we all have something, and my life was no exception.

I consider myself very blessed, having a great job, good friends, a dog, and in recovery. It was not always like that, and I am so thankful I am mentally in a different place.

What I grew up thinking was normal, became apparent that these actions were not only not normal, but in general, were not ok.

 

Trust the Process!

xoxoxo