If not now, then when?
The question was enough to fuel my morning drive to work.
Recovery has been filling my mind and thoughts, probably more than it should.
Life is going great, I have no more stress than the next person,
A good job an awesome dog
A warm apartment a running car supportive friends
Coffee benefits paid time off
The ability to run
Why does my recovery want to take a sudden stop?
I don’t think it was sudden, it never is, but the restricting became more and more, until my list of foods was as depleted as my ability to fight ED off.
I’ve begun seeing a nutritionist, after months and months of putting it off, not wanting to go, etc. I like her, she is a believer and advocate of HAES, believes in intuitive eating. Overall, I have enjoyed the experience.
Yet the battle in my head is still raging.
It isn’t as easy as the “talking back” that I hear others talk about so frequently. No, for me, it has to be factual.
Which kinda fueled the internal dialogue this morning.
On more than one occasion I have been in a room of people struggling with their Eating Disorders, whether it be in treatment, support groups, wherever.
I look around, (and no, this is not going where you think it is going), and sometimes I am almost the oldest in the room, sometimes I am practically the youngest. When I am at the upper range of age I remember being their age, being so filled of denial, and so full of my eating disorder.
When there are people much older than me, I think of that is how I want my life to be at their age?
Should my life be focused on my body and eating disorder when:
I have kids
Start another job
My kids are grown up
My siblings get married
So, if not now, then when?
I also have “Trust the Process” tattooed on my wrist, to remind me of recovery.
I’m struggling with following my meal plan given to me, and it is so difficult to listen to my body when I am hungry and not feel the need to run first in order to “earn” the food that my body needs.
I am telling myself that I wouldn’t want someone to tell/question me on how to do my job, so then why am I questioning and fighting her so much?
She knows what she is talking about and is on my side, so why am I fighting her?
I need to focus on Trusting the Process.
I may not always enjoy it or find it easy, but I’ve been here before.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
For the absolute longest time, I was certain that I was unworthy and undeserving- of many things:
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 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.
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.
I feel like I am in a constant state of confliction.
Fighting two ideas and desires in my head.
Part of me wants to be the warm, welcoming, happy, friend who is willing to lend an ear, or a couch.
The other part is extremely misanthropic, wanting nothing more than to be alone, reading, running, or coloring.
I met a friend in support group. At first I thought she was great, she was struggling, but she was nice, caring, etc.
Since she was struggling, and I felt like I was finally starting to make friends up here, I told her she was welcome to come over when she needed.
I felt like her Eating Disorder was on its period. She told me she was losing weight. She saw a picture of my best friend and I, from before treatment and commented on how skinny I was. Feeling so grateful I was in the mindset I was, and was able to mentally step back and try to decipher her intentions behind the comments. It was as if her eating disorder was trying to start something, and I wasn’t going to bite (no pun intended).
At first it wasn’t bad. Texting to let me know she was heading over. Then it became more frequent and with less heads up. It quickly became a knock on the door, or a phone call, “Hey, unlock the door, I’m standing outside.”
After a difficult week with my mother I wanted nothing more than to stay cooped up in my apartment with my dog, a good book and alternating between fresh pressed coffee and fresh brewed tea.
Then my phone began to ring. I ignored it.
I got in the shower. My phone rang again.
Headed to go run errands. Text message.
Got home. Phone rang.
Sitting on the couch reading. Knock at the door.
I figured it was only a matter of time. I opened the door and said, “Well, I’m glad you aren’t dead.”
I told her I was about to head out, and was actually going to go to my grandmother’s house (which, I had already decided earlier that day, I wasn’t up for it.) She stayed for what seemed like forever, lying that I was about to run to Barnes and Nobles, and she attempted to invite herself along.
Monday I talked to my new therapist, K, about it. She was trying to get me to put up some boundaries, and try to put some distance there. I don’t want to upset her, or rock the boat, but she is starting to remind me of my old roommate, and it is just making me question if this is a healthy relationship to be in right now. K agreed, and also wondered about my friend’s comments.
So, I got home. Exhausted from work, and from my session with K. My upstairs neighbor was standing on the stairs, checking her mail. I stood there and listened to her talk and complain about various things- the new neighbor, her job, whatever I would listen to. She then asked if she could pet Ella before she left.
There goes the internal conflicting dialogue.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!?! I’m not even IN my apartment yet, I’m still holding my shit. Fuck no, leave me alone.”
“Ok, just for a minute. Maybe it will make her day, no harm in it, plus don’t want to piss off my neighbor.”
So, my neighbor was now standing in my living room petting my dog, while I am trying to hang up my keys and purse, put my lunch dishes in the sink, and take my shoes off. She is still standing there, telling me for the umpteenth time about her bitch of a coworker, and how the neighbors keep banging stuff, and how expensive the rent is. The only thing I am thinking is how badly I want to get out of my jeans.
Literally at this point I have tried the, “Oh, ok Jo, well, I mean, I was going to take Ella on a walk and change.” She kept on talking, this time about some movie about a dog she had just told me about last week.
At this point I am so mentally exhausted. Part of me wants to immediately hop on my phone and email K:
“So not only is my friend randomly stopping by, but now my fucking neighbor has been standing in my living room for the past twenty minutes!!”
I couldn’t fucking believe it!
Practically giving up, I headed to my room where I flung off my nice button-up shirt from work and threw on a tank top. Announcing audibly, “the next thing to go is my pants, regardless if my apartment door is open or not.”
She gave another “Ok, well, I won’t hold you up any longer.”
I had been hearing that for the past 8 minutes and 26 seconds…..
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!