Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Life > Eating Disorder

Recovery continues to be a strange place for me these days. I find myself avoiding this blog and running from talking or thinking about anything eating disorder related, which is completely opposite from how I was a few short weeks ago. It almost feels like life is becoming more important than the eating disorder, and while that's a wonderful thing, it also makes me a little uneasy.

Life is actually pretty great right now.  Last week I finished up my first (and only) semester back at the university I failed out of a few years ago. I found a way to face my daily triggers and push through the courses - which isn't something I was sure I could ever do, but I did it. Wait, not only did I do it, I also ended up getting all As.

In three weeks I'll be starting at a new university and am finally moving back out on my own. My housing arrangements were just finalized yesterday and I could not be more excited. For the past year or so I have felt trapped living in my parents basement, but there is finally an end in sight. The past couple of months have been spent worrying about the future and driving myself crazy for no reason. Things really do seem to fall into place with time, patience, and a little hard work.

There are also a few new relationships developing in my life right now. New friends have come into my life and I have been lucky enough to reconnect with a few old friends. It's a really nice change to see my social circle slowly developing again. As I begin this new chapter at the new school, hopefully the number of new friends will continue to increase. I don't think many people realize how isolating eating disorders can be or how scary it can be to put yourself out there after years of being sick. Thankfully, my fears of never being accepted due to my past have been proven wrong.

Eating, as unbelievable as this may sound, has almost become second nature. Don't get me wrong, I still have days where I try on every single sweater in my closet only to leave the house with a heavy bad body image cloud hanging over my head - but what girl doesn't experience that from time to time? 

Recovery is no longer about food for me. In fact, I don't think it has been about food for awhile now. Recovery has become a constant battle against my inner, incredibly harsh self-critic. I'm starting to think this battle and constant quest for self-improvement is what recovery is all about. It is possible I will spend the rest of my life searching for this so-called "happy place," but I have learned over the past few weeks just how important it is to focus on how far I have come rather than how far I still have to go.

This place in recovery is also strange because I feel like I will somehow begin to relapse if I continue to allow my life grow larger than the disorder. A good friend of mine gave me the most perfect advice last night, "Your life revolved around EDs for years! And now separation from that is an option. It is reasonable to want to take that!"


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas List

How is it possible we are only fifteen days away from Christmas? How is it possible this is finals week already? I swear, just yesterday I was still wearing flip flops and working on my summer tan; today there are four or five inches of snow on the ground and temperatures aren't even supposed to peak in the twenties. Can someone please tell me where the time goes?!

Yesterday my mom asked me if I would put together a list of gifts I want for Christmas this year. I'll be honest, in years past this has been one my favorite tasks. My Christmas lists have always been a good page or two (or three or four) in length just in case my parents magically discovered extra spending money that year.

This year, however, I am finding it incredibly difficult to come up with much of a list at all. The two things I do have on my list are a haircut and a pair of jeans; both of which I could probably do without (well, except maybe the hair cut. I might end up taking a pair of kitchen scissors to my locks if I don't do something about this hair in the next fifteen days). 

Maybe this is a sign of my old age officially kicking in. This year Christmas isn't necessarily about Christmas morning. While I was a kid, and while I was sick, the more gifts I unwrapped Christmas morning the better I felt about myself. I wanted to tell all of my friends I now owned the latest piece of technology - whether it was a computer or a phone or whatever. I wanted to show up at school after break in my new clothes because I knew everyone else would be doing the same. Christmas gifts gave me a false and very temporary boost in self-esteem and distracted me from actually enjoying the Christmas season.

Also, for several years Christmas was an anxiety-filled time for me. All of the family parties, cookies, and heavy winter comfort foods sent my eating disorder into panic mode. Rather than spending my days running around campus alone, not only was I forced to sit with uncomfortable emotions while on break, I was also surrounded by people who I thought had a close eye on my eating habits. Maybe recovery has taught me a thing or two about the joys of Christmas, too.

Again, this year is somehow different than Christmas's past. Maybe I have finally learned the road to inner peace forces us to dig much deeper than material things. Don't get me wrong, if I really wanted to come up with a longer Christmas list, I could absolutely do so. Instead, for a change, I think I will see what happens if I ask for less.

I just might be surprised and receive "more" as a result.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It's About Self-Care

Over the past few weeks I have had several people ask me if I am okay. Compared to the constant writing and publishing of posts the first year of my recovery brought, I have been slacking a little. My best friend recently asked if something had changed to cause this lack of blogging, but I was unable to pinpoint one specific reason.

Maybe I am avoiding certain uncomfortable emotions by not writing as much. Maybe this is a sign I am stepping forward into the next phase of recovery. Maybe I just can't think of things to write about everyday anymore. Maybe life is starting to become more relevant than the eating disorder.

I found this quote last night and thought it was perfect. A week or two ago I had a chat with my therapist about how I sometimes feel guilty for not blogging, which is silly. It has become such an important part of my recovery, so it makes sense why it might seem like I am struggling. I assure you, however, by taking a step back I am learning to practice a little self-care.

"Your needs don’t make you too much.
They don’t make you selfish or weak or greedy.
They make you human. We all have needs. 

And those hungers aren’t something we should feel ashamed of.
They’re normal, we didn’t get enough of them as children hungers.
Affections we’ve been deprived of by the people who are supposed to care for us.
Connections we needed to feel whole and spaces we needed to feel safe.
Cravings we’ve been taught we didn’t deserve.
Appetites we’ve learned to suppress and fill with guilt.
Again and again we’ve neglected our needs 
because we’ve been taught that they were too much— 
that we were too much.

But we don’t have to any longer.
You don’t have to.
Whether you need support, alone time, affection, connection,
validation, or reassurance that you are loved — 
it is more than okay to ask for what you need.

Making your needs known isn’t about being demanding or selfish.
It’s about self-care.
It’s about creating a safer space for yourself.
It’s about using your voice and speaking your truth.
It’s about giving yourself permission to take up space.
It’s about listening to your hungers and honoring them.
It’s about honoring yourself."
 -Daniell Koepke

I think this idea of practicing self-care during recovery (and life in general) is often overlooked. There have been countless occasions over the past year and a half where I have felt guilty for needing more time to heal. Time and patience can be incredibly irritating at times, but they also happen to be a huge part of self-care.

Right now I am doing what is best for my health and recovery by trying to find balance between my eating disorder/blogging world and the new person I am becoming without the eating disorder. I have a feeling writing will always be a part of my life in some form or another; this certainly is not the end of my blogging days. However, I needed to take a step back for a week or two and that's perfectly okay.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks

Recovery has been a strange place for me over the past several weeks. Just when I thought my weight and eating habits had become somewhat normal, I dropped below the 5-7lb weight range I'm expected to maintain for the first time. There is a rumor in the ED recovery world saying emotional and mental well being are negatively affected after being just five pounds under the set point weight. I didn't believe this was true... Until now.

After getting weighed last week, I convinced myself that I felt fine at this weight and didn't understand the point in gaining those few pounds back. Just that thought alone, however, is clearly distorted. I'm in denial. Just a few pounds and I'm already feeling consumed with those unhealthy thoughts. It's a slippery slope; and for the first time I can understand how quickly a full blown relapse can happen.

I'm thankful for this knowledge and supportive friends who have reached out to me.

Thanksgiving, as most of you know, is often one of the most difficult days of the year for those of us with or recovering from an eating disorder. Spending an entire day focusing on the massive feast always sends my anxiety through the roof. Although I am comfortable in almost all food situations these days, I still find myself uneasy on the days leading up to Turkey Day.

The good news is, once I got over my anticipatory anxiety and was finally ready to eat, my fears seemed to vanish. Maybe knowing I still need to gain a pound or two made me comfortable around all that food. Maybe I'm just making progress in those situations. Maybe it was a combination of both.

I'm thankful for the smoothest Thanksgiving I have had... ever. 

I'm thankful for a loving family to spend the holidays with. I really do take them for granted sometimes.

I'm thankful for having the opportunity to change my future, even though I often feel frustrated with my current life status. Sure, living at home is painful at times, but I never stop to consider where I would be without my parent's love and support.

I'm thankful for my dad calling me out on my bullshit a few days ago. Couldn't have come at a better time. Sometimes a little tough love is exactly what I need.

I'm thankful for growing relationships in my life. It's so refreshing to finally see the light at the end of the isolation tunnel.

I'm thankful for my best friend and her ability to read my mind.

I'm thankful for each new day. These past few weeks have had their ups and downs, but thankfully I have this day to start fresh. I can't help but laugh when I think back to last Thanksgiving and how much has changed.

Most importantly, I'm thankful for progress.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

20 Things Needed for Happiness

A few days ago, with the best of intentions, I sent this article called 20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy to my best friend, only to end up having both of us feel worse about ourselves and more unhappy than ever before. 

The list includes things like anger, the idea of a perfect partner, a perfect life, financial success, good fortune, thoughts of our exes, stubbornness, procrastination, negativity, jealousy, insecurity, the past, and expectations... just to name a few. There are a few more on the list like a perfect body image and the approval of others that might actually be helpful to let go of, but the majority of the list are things everyone I know deals with on a daily basis. 

After reading this article over and over, my best friend and I agreed many of the things on this list are not only a part of life, but actually needed to achieve happiness. Maybe this was simply our way to make ourselves feel better, but I like to believe there is a good amount of truth in the way we rationalized the article. 

1. The Approval of Others. Sure, we all know those people who don't care one bit about what others think of them and can't help but feel a tiny bit jealous. But at the same time, I think having an idea of how to properly act among those around us is important. For example, using offensive language. In some situations it is not only nice, but necessary to be aware of what others might think of the words we choose to use.

2. Anger. Anger is a perfectly normal emotion. In fact, at this very moment, I am learning that anger is not only normal, but completely necessary. If I choose not to express my anger, I internalize it, which only leads to self-destructive thoughts. Anger is needed to be healthy. Period.

3. Negative Body Image. Yikes. This is a touchy one for me for obvious reasons. BUT I have also learned that there is not a single girl (and maybe even guy) who has great body image every single day. To ask me to let go of all negative body image only sets me up for failure. I have to accept that my body weight will fluctuate and there will be days where my fat jeans are needed... and that's perfectly okay!!

4. Idea of a Perfect Partner. I hate the word 'perfect' because there is no such thing, but I do think everyone needs standards. Obviously I will never meet a perfect guy, but if I aim too low I am only setting myself up for disaster. Perfection, no. High standards, yes. There's nothing wrong with that.

5. Perfect Life. What is perfect for one person isn't perfect for another. Maybe making 30K a year and being single forever is perfect one someone, while making 100k, being married by the age of 22, and having 5 kids is perfect for another. There's no such thing as perfect, so it's easy to argue this one. A rocky, eating disordered early 20s, graduating school five years behind schedule, and being a 'late bloomer' are all perfectly normal for me. So who's to say my life isn't perfect?!

6. You're Going to be Rich. Honestly, after spending most of my 20s as a college student any salary will make me feel rich at first. My dad always says, no matter how much money you make you will find ways to spend it and I couldn't agree more. I already know once I (finally) graduate and enter the field I am passionate about I will be 'rich.' Don't tell me I shouldn't expect to be rich. The word itself is subjective. 

7. The Idea that Good Fortune Will Arrive at Your Doorstep. Don't kill my optimism. That's all I have to say about that. 

8. Excuses. This one is tricky. But the article uses the example of not getting up early to go to the gym; however, in the sleep deprived culture we live in, sometimes that extra sleep is a perfectly acceptable excuse. I'm never going to be perfect and if you want to believe that's my excuse for not accomplishing every single thing, well then, it sucks to be you. 

9. Thoughts of your Ex. Without remembering the things my ex did wrong, how would I know what I want in a future partner?! It's impossible to let go of every single thought of an ex, so why not use them to find a better partner next time? Duh.

10. Stubbornness. The article says, 'the less stubborn you act, the more open you are to experience new things.' Sure, I agree with this to a certain degree, BUT there are some things I deserve to be stubborn about. If I wasn't stubborn about my disapproval of the billion dollar weight loss industry then I would be stuck in old, sick, and disordered thought patterns... right?! 

11. Procrastination. As I have gotten older, I have definitely noticed I need to plan ahead and get certain school projects done. However, some of my best work is done at the last minute and as long as I am getting my work done then I am 'good enough.' There's no need to expect more perfection out of myself than I already do.

12. Your Baggage. How else are you going to learn from past mistakes? Maybe baggage is totally necessarily to live a happy life?!

13. Negativity. Honestly, sometimes I have days that are nothing but negative... but how else would I learn? No one is 100%  happy-go-lucky all the time and to pretend that is true only sets us up for failure. Trust me, I spent way to many years of my life ignoring my negative emotions and it only led me to my rock bottom. Embrace your negativity, but be sure to learn from it.

14. Judgmental Thoughts. Not sure I can argue with this one. 

15. Jealousy. Sure, there is not a single thing to gain from being jealous. But to expect this emotion to completely disappear from life is irrational. Jealously isn't something we have much control over. Actually, it's a perfectly natural, normal, and instinctive emotion, so trying to fight it is a set up for failure. Yes, jealously can go to extremes, but in small doses, it is perfectly normal.

16. Insecurity. Again, this goes back to the body image one. Please show me a person who is 100% secure 100% of the time. We all have flaws. It's what makes life so wonderful. To completely ban insecurity is like expecting to ban flaws. Who wants to live in a perfect world?! Not me.

17. Depending on Others for Happiness. So does this mean we are supposed to isolate and be non-social? That might be a little extreme, but as I am gaining strength in my recovery, I am learning without the help and support of others, happiness is not possible. Surrounding myself with people who make me smile and giggle is one of the best things I can do for goodness sakes! So does that make me dependent? Maybe, but there's nothing wrong with that!

18. The Past. I hate this one. If I completely let go of my past then I would stuck in old destructive habits and honestly, probably dead. 
I need my past. 
I need to learn from past mistakes and carry them with me in order to grown and progress.

19. The Need for Control. Okay, another tough one. Many eating disorders are fueled by this need for control. However, by taking control of the things I CAN control, rather than letting go of that false sense of control the ED gave me, I have taken my life back. I do need some control in order to fully recover; thankfully it is a healthy sense of control.

20. Expectations. So, are you telling me that if I expect the least of people and situations then I will be somehow fulfilled?! The article says, "Managing your expectations is the key to happiness. If you let go of expectations, you will never be disappointed," but I have to disagree. Without expectations I would settle for less than I deserve. I am an incredibly strong individual who has been through more than most twenty-five year old women dream of. I deserve to have high expectations. I want to succeed and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Honestly, I think most of these "Keys to Happiness" are about finding balance. To believe we need to completely let go of these things or totally embrace them is wrong. Everyone in this world is different. What is right for me and what is right for the author of that article are completely different. 

There is no point in beating myself up because I can't, and never will, let go of those twenty things in order to find happiness.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Naturally Thin Struggle, Too

Ever since I started writing and publishing this blog, a shockingly high number of people, most of whom I least expect, have reached out to me and said they could relate to my writing on some level or another. In fact, I have recently started to feel more connected to my peers than ever before because I have chosen to share some of my troubled past. Funny how that works.

Late last week an old friend of mine from my early college years sent me a message that completely changed my perceptions of the naturally thin. Honestly, I always thought this friend of mine had the 'perfect' body, was absolutely gorgeous, and had her life together. I was incredibly jealous of her to say the least. Reading about her experiences was heartbreaking because she hid her struggles so well and I know how difficult that can be...

"Although I don't suffer from an eating disorder, I have battled for several years with severe/chronic depression. I actually started feeling that way after years of being teased because of how thin I was (I naturally have always been underweight), people would constantly tell me I looked "gross" and "sick" and all kinds of bad things. All I wanted was to have curves like "real women" did. Funny how so many women strive to be thin but there I was thin as a rail and I was the most self-conscious person around, humiliated and disgusted by how I looked. 

I have been in and out of several mental institutions and on different medications and have just this year found some peace from this illness after completing a behavioral health program after I was hospitalized (yet again) for severe depression. I have also attempted suicide once a few years back during one of my most darkest days. 

There is a daily struggle with learning to love myself and all my flaws. I used to feel like I was too ugly and worthless to even leave the house. I also struggle with body dimorphic disorder. Spending hours a day looking at pictures of 'beautiful women'', and staring at myself in the mirror hours on end just to end up feeling like I'm the most disgusting person on earth. The mind is SUCH powerful thing, and its unfortunate that us women get to the point where these illnesses ruin our lives and steal our joy. Fat, thin, tall, short," beautiful", or not... each woman deserves to feel good about themselves, despite what society makes us feel."

I think there is a huge misconception in today's society that makes us believe life would somehow be perfect if we are thin. The multi-billion dollar diet industry is proof that most Americans strive for the so-called perfect body. This friend proved to me that 1.) having the perfect body doesn't solve all problems and 2.) even those who appear to be perfect don't necessarily have their lives in order. Maybe I'm not alone in my insecurities after all.

My friend's exact words were, "I just want girls to know that they aren't alone. Even girls who seem to "have it all together" are sometimes suffering inside."

Perhaps my previous post about being normal isn't so abnormal after all.


Thank you again, you know who you are, for sharing!! :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I Just Want to be Normal...

I've been avoiding writing all week. My thought process has gone something like this, "I just want to be normal. I don't want to talk about eating disorders anymore. I don't want to talk about my feelings. I don't want people to know about my past. Leave me alone. Let me be normal for a change."

Part of my brain is telling me if I run from my feelings then maybe they will magically disappear; while the other part of my brain is laughing at how silly that sounds. For over a year I've been working incredibly hard to sort through years of suppressed emotions, and honestly, not only am I sick of it, I'm starting to get a little pissed about it. Just when I think I have made a breakthrough, a new challenge appears in front of me. It's a never ending process. 
Last night I saw this article re-posted all over my Facebook news feed - Better? Yes, but the Pain Remains. If you haven't read it yet, do it now. Although I don't feel the way the author of this article feels every single day, I definitely still have more of these moments than I like to admit. It's been a good fifteen months since I reached my goal weight, so I should be completely recovered by now, right?

This morning I read this post, The Unknown, and luckily my thoughts were put back into a much healthier perspective. Recently I've been wishing away this phase of my life because it's uncomfortable. The future is unknown and I don't like it. Just like I have been running from blogging this week, I've also been running from life. Thank you, Alex, for these words,

"I realize by wishing away the unknown, by knowing all of the answers, I am wishing away the most rewarding journey of life. The journey of discovery, journey of passion and journey of fate. I am a believer that things happen for a reason, things align for a reason. I don’t know why I had to have an eating disorder, but I do know I gained a lot from it. If life was easy and could be wished away where would I be?"

Although my journey isn't necessarily normal and probably never will be, by learning to accept where I am for what it is, I might learn to embrace the process and those dreaded unknowns. Yes, I am tired of being in this strange place between a full blown eating disorder and normalcy, but I know it won't be like this forever. 

I just want to be normal. So I will live for today and take it one step at a time because that's as normal as it gets for me right now.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lessons from the Mental Hospital

I've been in a bit of a TED talk craze lately, so forgive me for referencing one for the second time this week. Lessons from the Mental Hospital by Glennon Doyle Melton made me laugh and cry and wonder if this woman somehow hacked into my own brain. Minus a few details, our stories are freakishly similar.

My eating disorder went through several different phases - from restricting to binging to purging to maybe eating somewhat normally here and there only to end up purging some more. Technically I was diagnosed with anorexia due to my dangerously low weight at the time of admission to treatment, but could have been diagnosed with several other things as well. For the final six months or so before entering treatment, my life was nearly identical to Melton's college years:

"The sun rose everyday and I started binging and purging, and when the sun set, I drank myself stupid. The sunrise is usually people's signal to get up, but it was my signal everyday to come down. To come down from the booze... I could not come down. That was to be avoided at all costs. So I hated the sunrise. I'd close the blinds and put the pillows over my head. While my spinning brain would torture me about the people that were going out into the day, into the light, to make relationships and pursue their dreams and have a day. And I had no day. I only had night."

Like Melton, I was a disaster. My life had been ruined. Thankfully, however, I was admitted to a short term mental hospital for four weeks to stabilize my health before my six month stay in treatment. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, I can now see those first four weeks in the mental hospital forever changed my life.

Don't get me wrong being admitted to a hospital for mental issues isn't the most fun I have ever had; however, for the first time in my entire life it felt like the people around me were speaking my language. Without knowing the details of each individual story, I could sense similar pain and frustration begging for relief and understanding. The people I met in the mental hospital taught me more about myself and this big, scary world than I will ever learn in a classroom.

Public speaking is not my favorite thing in the world. In fact, those of you who know me well know I'm not a real big talker in general. But for some strange reason, every time I go back to my treatment center to guest speak or just simply being in that group therapy setting, I feel at ease. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I have been through these struggles is so I could find a place where I feel connected to those around me... Even if it is in a mental hospital or treatment facility with "crazy" people.

Melton begins to wrap up her TED talk with this quote,

"I still get very high and very low in life. Daily. But I've finally accepted the fact that sensitive is just how I was made. That I don't have to hide it and I don't have to fix it, I'm not broken. And I've actually started to wonder if you're sensitive too? Maybe you feel great pain and deep joy but you just don't feel safe talking about it in the real world. So now instead of trying to make myself tougher, I write and I serve people to help create a world where sensitive people don't need super hero capes. Where we can all come out into the big scary world and just be humans."

I love that for so many different reasons. Why have I grown up believing being sensitive and having feelings is somehow wrong or unacceptable? Most of the people in my life feel most like themselves on a baseball field and always thought I was wrong for not feeling the same way. I feel most like myself in a mental health setting, and although it has taken me awhile to get here, I can finally see my stay in the mental hospital wasn't such a bad thing after all.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Overshooting Set Point & Kristi's Story

A few weeks ago I wrote about overshooting set point weight without having any personal experience of my own. I just wrote what I knew about it hoping people could relate. Luckily, a friend of mine was willing to share her experience with overshooting and I'm posting it here today. The best part of her story is even though she went above her goal weight, she is still learning to love and accept the weight her body is now settling at. Thanks, Kristi!

"A prominent characteristic of life within an eating disorder is devaluing one’s self to being nothing more than a number on the scale. Having value in the world is not reflected in personal dreams and aspirations, impact on the lives of those around you, or the love and value that others around you offer to you. It all comes down to a number. “If I can just get down to X-lbs then I will be a better person.” But the catch is that reaching a number is never enough to increase perceived personal value.

In treatment, as mental stability and awakening is revitalized with finally feeding your body the nutrients and calories it needs to function properly, life’s meaning is no longer contained to a small box. The world opens up and once again we can truly live and not just [hardly] survive. With this it gradually becomes easier to accept a healthy goal weight and a body that regains shape, form, and the very much dreaded [healthy!] fat.

So you finally come to accept your new, healthy body and weight. You can rock what you’ve got and carry yourself with confidence. But what happens when something goes awry somewhere down the road and you begin to gain more weight?

This is what happened to me. Twice.

Thanks to genetics, my thyroid became severely underactive, which results in an underactive metabolism and significant weight gain. A couple months before diagnosis I noticed the gradual increase when I would try to put on my shorts or my jeans or my bathing suit and my body just did not look or feel the same in them. By the time I was diagnosed, I had already gained almost 20lbs. That was a self-esteem crasher. But I was hopeful with the disease getting under control thanks to medicine that the weight would fall off.

But the opposite happened.

Around the same of my hypothyroidism diagnosis I was started on a new medication to address an entirely different mental health issue that was going on. Thanks to that medication, not only did it not allow the weight to come off, but it added 10 more pounds.

I had been stable in my eating disorder recovery for several years before the dreaded 30lb weight gain. But it didn’t matter; my world was rocked.

I’ve spent the last six months trying to relearn how to not fight and hate the weight gain or my body. I’ve been reminded that fighting and hating will make it much more difficult to learn to accept it. Instead I need to accept my body as it is, and continue to treat it right with healthy behaviors and I will begin to find confidence in that way. Doing so has not only adjusted what I see when I look in the mirror, but has also helped me learn to trust my body all over again.

I’m definitely not all the way there yet. But each day I make a little more progress, and that’s all I can ask for now."

A huge part of this blog is weight and body acceptance regardless of BMI or society's ideals of thinness. I am beyond honored to feature Kristi's story here on my blog. Honestly, I still fear going over my set point weight. So to hear it is possible to to find acceptance at any weight is incredibly encouraging. Thanks again, Kristi!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult 
as spending our lives running from it. 
Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky 
but not nearly as dangerous as giving up 
on love and belonging and joy— 
the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. 
Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness 
will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
-Brené Brown

When I think about the word vulnerable, the first thing that comes to mind is weakness. I associate being vulnerable with being exposed, imperfect, and fragile. Vulnerability is defined as easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally or emotionally and open to attack, harm, and damage. After reading the definition, I can understand why vulnerability is often seen in a negative light.
But is it really that bad to be vulnerable?

A few weeks ago I saw this TED talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability and ended up watching it three times in a row hoping to soak up every ounce of what she was saying. Here I am a few weeks later, finally able to absorb and process what her message.
According to Brown, our go-to reaction to being vulnerable and experiencing pain, sadness, grief, and uncertainty is to numb out. I write about numbing out all the time in this blog. Those of us who struggle with eating disorders avoid difficult emotions and often fear being vulnerable. Being vulnerable means letting go of the false sense of control the eating disorder provides. Being vulnerable means allowing others to see our hurt and imperfections. Being vulnerable means removing the masks we wear to disguise our true feelings.
Being vulnerable also means, however, experiencing joy, love, and compassion. I have met people (including myself not so long ago) who think shutting off all emotions is the only way to avoid being vulnerable and susceptible to hardships. To an extent that is correct, but I think the lack of meaningful relationships and happiness is worse than the risk of getting hurt. 

Now that I have had time to process all of this, I no longer believe vulnerability is about weakness. In fact, I think it takes an incredibly brave person to open themselves up to this ugly world we live in. Yes, staying stuck in the numb and lifeless state that is an eating disorder might seem like the best way to avoid life's struggles, but it also eliminates the opportunity to experience anything. Being vulnerable is about taking that leap of faith and accepting myself enough to keep moving forward.

Back to my original question - is it really that bad to be vulnerable? I guess it depends on what you want out of life. If exposing your authentic self and dealing with unwanted emotions is too much to handle, then yes, being vulnerable is a bad thing. By accepting vulnerability, on the other hand, you are given an opportunity to live a much fuller life. 

Brown says it best, "Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage." I've had my fair share of troubles and heartaches, but through vulnerability I have also been able to put the pieces of my life back together.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Anger Management

I have been experiencing a lot of anger these past few weeks. More anger than I ever remember experiencing and I don't know what to do about it. It's not necessarily yelling and screaming anger, it's more like an unfamiliar side of anxiety and excessive internal criticism.

As a child, I developed a belief that angry people were bad people. Typically if my parents were angry with me then I would be punished and I knew I was in trouble. This resulted in my unhealthy people pleasing behaviors and a plastered on fake happy face. Regardless of how much I hated conforming and acting a certain way to fit in, it still beat having others become angry with me.

I also feared allowing others to see me get angry because then they would think I was a horrible person. Rather than finding outlets for my anger, all of those emotions were internalized leading me to bottle up and run from those uncomfortable feelings. This also explains why I am incredibly hard on myself; all of that pent up anger was not allowed to be expressed towards others, so I made myself believe everything was my fault.

When the constant negative self-talk became too much to handle, I did everything I could to numb out and avoid those emotions... Hello, eating disorder. When the body and brain are in a state of starvation, it is nearly impossible to focus on anything except food, which was a temporary escape from my anger.

It's been over a year since I left treatment and began working on the underlying issues involved in my eating disorder, but the anger is just now starting to surface and I don't like it. I'm angry at everything and everyone. Experiencing years of repressed anger has left me feeling edgy and apprehensive. My thoughts are racing more than ever, I can't concentrate, and I feel like a crazy person 98% of the time.

Last week a friend of mine suggested I start writing in those moments of intense anger, so I gave it a shot. As I began writing, I found it easier to write letters to specific situations or people in my past. Obviously I would never share these letters or actually send them, but I did find they helped me sort out my emotions. In addition to writing, I have read deep breathing, counting to ten, a good night's rest, exercise, and identifying anger triggers can all help cope in a healthy way.

That's the thing about recovering from an eating disorder - in order to continue progressing, I've learned I need to sit with and feel those uncomfortable emotions even though it's easier not to. Interestingly, I found after a few months of treatment, I began feeling the grief associated with a breakup in my life that had happened two years previously. Again, rather than actually going through the sadness, anger, and loneliness that comes with a breakup, I just numbed it out because in the moment that was better than feeling those things.

Anger is an emotion that I have never really allowed myself to experience. Learning to cope with this emotion in a healthy way will be a challenge, but I think this whole crazy-person stage is the first step. I never realized just how numb I had become to the world around me until recently. Although finally experiencing this ugly emotion has been irritating, it sure beats living in a lifeless, numb eating disordered world.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Isolation & Holidays

This is one of those posts that is somewhat embarrassing for me to write, but I think it is relevant and (hopefully) relatable.

During my eating disorder I did an excellent job pushing people out of my life. Not necessarily because I didn't like them, but because I wanted alone time with my disorder. Isolation is often a huge part of what keeps eating disorders "safe" in our minds. The more I pushed people away, the less likely they were to notice my strange eating habits or get in the way or my daily rituals. Most social gatherings are also food-centered - grabbing lunch with a friend, parties with hors d'oeurvres, spontaneous ice cream runs in the summer - which meant I was going to stay as far away as possible.

Unfortunately, holidays also fall under this social, food-filled, eating disorder threatening category. I hated holidays. All of them. So as a way to ease my holiday anxiety, I would simply avoid them all together. Certain holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving forced me to eat a meal with family members, but I usually left shortly after I was done eating.

Other holidays that aren't quite so family-based, like Halloween, 4th of July, and New Years Eve, I have spent alone for the past several years... Which is the embarrassing part of this post. Most people look forward to these holidays, have plenty of friends to celebrate with, and often create lifelong memories on these special days.

As for me, however, loneliness triggers have sadly become a normal part of holidays. To make things worse, as backwards as it may sound, the more alone I feel the more likely I am to intensify the isolation. The logical thing to do would be to reach out and make plans, but after years of pushing people away I fear being rejected.

The good news is, last night for Halloween I had plans with a friend for the first time in years (again, kind of embarrassing). Rather than getting dressed up and spending all of our money at the bars, we simply stayed in, made dinner, and carved pumpkins. Honestly, it didn't matter what our plans were for the night - I wasn't alone.

One of the biggest lessons I have been learning over the past few months is that I am not like most people my age and that's ...brace yourselves... okay. For the longest time I assumed there was not another soul in the world who preferred to stay in on Halloween night, but I have been proven wrong yet again. I think I'm embarrassed to share all of this because it goes against the norm. Learning to be myself and standing up for the things I want in life is still a work in progress, but it has gotten better in a relatively short period of time.

Isolation has sadly been a crutch and a go-to coping mechanism for me over the past several years, especially during holidays. Thankfully, however, I am starting to notice myself crawling out of that dark hole. Spending Halloween with a like-minded friend doesn't sound like a big deal and I could have easily written it off, but I'm choosing not to. 

Only 55 days until Christmas! Bring on the holiday season.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"Instead of focusing on how far you still have to go, 
take some time today to remind yourself of how far you’ve already come. 

Yes, you’re still struggling. 
And yes, you still have some distance to cover, 
but those things don’t discount the progress you’ve already made. 
Healing takes time. 
It’s not a process that can be rushed. 

Beating yourself up for not being further along doesn’t improve your situation. 
It makes you feel awful and it keeps you stuck. 
Your journey may be slow, but it’s not without promise. 

Despite how difficult this process has been, 
despite how hopeless you’ve felt, 
despite all of the people who have told you that you would never make it, 
you’ve never once given up. 
You’ve never stopped fighting and pushing forward. 
So give yourself some credit for that. 
It wasn’t easy. 
 But you did it, and you deserve to be proud of yourself. 

Let go of this idea that you should be further ahead, 
and trust that it’s okay to be where you are. 
Trust that you won’t be here forever. 
Trust that you will get to where you need to be. 

You’re doing the best you can each day to fight the darkness you feel, 
and that’s all you can ask of yourself. 
It’s enough."

I read this last night, and I'm not sure if I was being hormonal or if those words are just that powerful, but it definitely resulted in a few tears. No matter what stage of recovery I am in, I always feel like I should be doing more. Breaking recovery down and living day-by-day helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed by this never ending process.

Today I am choosing to focus on the positives and giving myself credit for how far I have come.
I'm doing the best that I can.
And that is enough.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Got in a Fight Last Week...

I got in a fight last week. Okay, maybe fight isn't the right word, but I definitely got in a bit of an argument. Long story short, we were discussing addiction in one of my classes and a girl sitting behind me rose her hand and said,

"It really frustrates me when people struggling with addictions lie. They tell their therapist and/or loved ones they are doing great, only to find out they are secretly using again. Why would they ever resort back to those behaviors when it ruined their life in the past?
It's stupid. Just stop using. It's simple."

Before the poor girl even finished her statement I obnoxiously raised my hand ready to fire back. Thanks to my irritation, I didn't give the girl a very nice response. I basically told her she didn't have a clue and social workers need to be more understanding of these things... Oops.

After processing this for about a week and a thoughtful chat with my mom, I now realize the general population probably has similar thoughts surrounding addiction. To my surprise, my mom actually had similar thoughts as the girl and said I am in a unique position because I have been there first hand.  So I thought for this post it would be helpful for me to explain why the girl in my class made me want to fight her.

Let's break it down piece by piece.

"It really frustrates me when people struggling with addictions lie."
Those of us who are addicts or have battled eating disorders are the best liars in the world. We will do whatever it takes to keep our disorders and behaviors safe. If lying means we can maintain our false sense of control, then we will absolutely keep the truth a secret. No matter how irrational it may seem, there are times when lying feels like the only option. 

"They tell their therapist and/or loved ones they are doing great, only to find out they are secretly using again."
I think it's pretty safe to say all of us with eating disorders and/or addictions have lied to our therapists in the past. There is a massive amount of shame involved in having symptoms and I am always afraid to disappoint those who are working so hard to keep me healthy. The amount of pain I have caused my loved ones in the past is already too much to bear. I can't imagine putting them through that again. So yeah, in the short term lying to them does seem like the best thing to do.

"Why would they resort back to behaviors that ruined their life in the past?"
Honestly, I cannot come up with a solid answer for that question. All I know for sure is during times of intense anxiety or pain, fighting off those urges to use or have symptoms is a million times harder than giving in. For several years I used restricting calories and alcohol to numb out; they became my go-to coping mechanisms, my comfort, my (sick) best friend. Also during those times of intense anxiety, I am not myself. I lose the ability to think rationally. All I care about is numbing out, even if that means resorting back to behaviors that once ruined my life.

"It's stupid. Just stop using. It's simple."
The girl in my class obviously has been lucky enough to never experience a mental health disorder first hand. It is not stupid or simple. In fact, it is incredibly complex and draining. It breaks my heart to think there is such a large misconception surrounding addiction and eating disorders. If the recovery process was simple then I wouldn't have this blog or be dedicating years of my life to the process.

I may not have handled the situation very well in class, but I was honestly shocked at the words coming out of her mouth. There have been a few instances similar to this where I am caught off guard and a little triggered while discussing mental health in class. Learning to keep my personal beliefs and experiences separate from the course material might be tricky at times, but at least now I know getting in fights isn't nearly as effective as explaining myself.

Not everyone understands. Although that is difficult for me to grasp, it is important for me to learn to be patient with the girl in my class, just like all of you have been patient with me.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Insecurities

Growing up Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays. Getting dressed up, trick-or-treating, scary movies, endless candy... What's not to love?

Somewhere along the way, however, Halloween changes drastically. I remember my first big Halloween party in high school; everything was suddenly different. Girls were expected to wear the tiniest outfits they could find and candy was traded in for alcohol. Feeling awkward and out of place at these parties, as the years pasted, I stopped looking forward to this holiday.

 For the past several years, my Halloweens have been spent alone with a pile of scary movies to help distract my brain from the "what is wrong with me for not liking the young adult version of Halloween?" thoughts.

This weekend I took a road trip to visit my best friend with an original plan to attend one of these massive, drunken, slutty Halloween parties, but quickly began to feel anxious about the situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure (after a few drinks) it would have been a great time; however, I just couldn't find the willpower to go through with it.

Actually, somehow for the first time in my life, I did find the willpower and self-confidence to turn down an invitation that made me feel uncomfortable. So I'm left wondering why that makes me feel like a horrible person. I'm twenty-five years old. Theses parties are supposed to be my favorite thing in the world, right? And if I don't enjoy being surrounded by drunken idiots then there must be something wrong with me, right?

 Worst of all, for girls there is a pressure to dress a certain way. Halloween is the one holiday where it is not only acceptable, but also expected, to go out in public wearing next to nothing. I know this goes against popular opinion, but if I'm being totally honest, I just think it's trashy and have never been into that whole scene. It's not for me. That's not who I am. So again, why do I feel guilty and ashamed for going against this unfortunate norm?

After chatting with a friend of mine last night about my Halloween insecurities,
I finally realized two things: 
1. I'm not alone with my uncertainty and 
2. There are other ways to have just as much fun as everyone else
on Halloween without getting too crazy.

A friend of mine also expressed her fear of Halloween and the pressures to show some skin, which of course made me feel better. She decided to wear a fun costume, go out and focus on the silliness of the moment rather than her insecurities. Her exact words were, "The mental chaos will be present, but I will allow the enjoyment of the situation to be louder." Amen, sista.

As for me, I spent a day with my best friend eating pumpkin donuts and drinking fresh, local cider at a nearby farm; followed by an evening of pumpkin carving and munching on roasted pumpkin seeds. We took full advantage of what the season had to offer without all of the alcohol and skimpy outfits. Best of all, we both spent the evening being our goofy selves, laughing until it hurt, and celebrating Halloween anxiety-free.

I might not act the same as most people my age, but for the first time in my entire life I am finally okay with that. I'm learning there are other ways to have fun and feel good about myself in these situations. Just because I'm not doing what everyone else is doing does not make me crazy or wrong in any way. 

Halloween no longer needs to be about insecurities.
However I choose to celebrate is the right way to celebrate.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy One Year, Progression Obsession

One year ago today I wrote this:

"After years of obsessing over food, numbers, calories, & weight, I’m ready to make a change. Now that I’m fully committed to this little thing called recovery, I need to switch that obsession to something more productive. Every single day I’m making progress & I rarely take the time to stop and acknowledge it.

I can’t promise I will be able to update this blog every single day, but it’s worth a try. No matter how big or small the growth may be, it needs to be brought to my attention.  

Progress. Progress. Progress. My new obsession will be progress.

Welcome to my Progression Obsession. :)"
 (Full Post Here)

Honestly, it's a little difficult for me to comprehend the amount of progress that has been made over the past 365 days. I spent most of my evening last night with a box of tissues reading through all 188 posts. This year has been rough; but it's also been pretty amazing at times. The girl who wrote the original Progression Obsession post is not the same girl sitting in front of my computer today.

There are so many things to say and remember in this post. It's kind of difficult to narrow it down to a few favorite memorable moments, but I will do my best. Let's take it month by month (and be sure to click the link for the full post).
Remember this post from last October when my old therapist sent me to an FA (food addicts) meeting?! I was forced to stand and say "Hi, my name is Kelsi and I'm a food addict." They all talked about how flour and sugar were the devil, while I sat in the back of the room fuming. Although it wasn't funny at the time, it sure is nice to look back and laugh about it today.

My first Thanksgiving out of treatment was a pretty big deal. For anyone who struggles with an eating disorder, Thanksgiving, the most food-centered holiday of all, can be an extremely stressful time. Last Thanksgiving, for the first time ever, I was actually thankful to be around loved ones rather than rushing home to avoid this food-filled day.

I think this post, I Feel Fat, is one of my early favorites. Everyone going through recovery can relate to this post and I did my best to bring a little humor to the situation. By wearing my younger brother's shorts, who just happens to be a tall, skinny bean-pole, I was able to put my distorted body image to the test... And of course, my fat thoughts were proven wrong.

This was my first big month for Progression Obsession. The New Year brought new followers and a new sense of confidence in my writing. Weight Loss High has been the single most viewed post (believe it or not) on this blog. Who doesn't experience that "high" associated with losing a few pounds?

However, the two most important posts, also making the top five most viewed posts in Progression Obsession history, are Sick as Your Secrets where I admitted to struggling with alcohol and the famous Freespo post that now has its own Website.

Oh goodness, I almost forgot my First Day Back in School! I remember being just as excited to start school last January as I was 20 years ago when I started kindergarten.

The second month of the year was equally as impressive, if I do say so myself. Not only was I able to share my first Bacon Cheeseburger with my bacon obsessed best friend (who first met me as a sick vegetarian), but I also began to see the beginning of the Weight Redistribution Process (also in the top 5 most popular posts of all time).

Again, I feel like the third month of the year had so many big moments, it's difficult to know where to begin. First of all, I had a big birthday and turned the big 25. That was the first time since returning home from treatment that I found the strength to put some of my culinary skills to good use. As most of you can imagine, being an anorexic chef isn't exactly something I am proud of, so tapping those culinary skills has been somewhat triggering at times. I'd say my cake was pretty impressive...

I also had my first triggering experience with a professor in my Things Not to Say post, which got more views than I expected. It will never fail to amaze me how clueless people are when it comes to what to say and not to say to someone with an eating disorder. At the same time, it's hard enough for me to understand the disorder, so I can be somewhat empathetic.

Also, during the month of March I finally began to see in pictures just how sick I was. While comparing pictures from my intership in Aspen to pictures of me at a healthy weight, I finally saw just how sick I really was, which was HUGE.

Okay, I need to brag a little here, but I had some really great posts in April. The Perks of Being in Recovery was so popular I even sat in my living room with my dad while he read it. Crazy, I know! Celebrating Progress was another exciting post because I was officially six months out of treatment and celebrating all that had changed in my life. This post, Body Acceptance, was truly the first time I EVER felt comfortable in my own skin. And the crazy thing was, I spent the entire week on vacation, on the beach, and in my swim suit... Crazy, right?

This post, Swimsuit Shopping, is still a little embarrassing to admit I posted on the internet but just so happens to be one of those top read posts. I think there is something to be said about a healthy body in a bikini. We live in a society obsessed with skin, bones, and unhealthiness. It was a nice change for many of you to see a healthy body rocking a size XL... especially after I was tempted to buy a one-piece. :)

Geez, I wish I could somehow dedicate an entire post to the month of May. I published more posts during this month than any other and learned more about myself than I have in my entire life. Read the One Year Ago Today and Addiction posts and you can begin to understand why. 

Most importantly, I made the decision to bring my best friend along and attend the Annual Bridge to Recovery Walk put on by my treatment center the River Centre Clinic. I cannot say enough good things about the treatment center I went to and how the staff truly saved my life.

 This post, One Year Sober, left me with mixed emotions. While I should have been proud to hit such a huge milestone, I also felt ashamed for celebrating such a thing. The support I received from all of you after that post completely changed the way I view my past with alcohol. I can't say thank you enough.

Although I have said this every other month, I really think June was one of my most successful months in recovery.  The Dreaded Weight Gain Process was one of my first posts to be acknowledged on a large scale; the National Academy for Eating Disorders took this post and reblogged it for their clients to read, which was super exciting.

I met and became really good friends with one of my biggest supports in recovery, who just happened to teach me about Forgiveness. I also went back down to my old treatment center and interviewed with a local TV station for My (somewhat depressing) TV Debut. Possibly my most significant moment came when I broke my year long sobriety and Had My First Drink.

Once again, this was a HUGE month for me. It's kind of exciting that life continuously gets better and better as the recovery process progresses. And once again, as difficult as it is to believe, I had a few posts shared on national scale - A Friendly Reminder, I Wouldn't Want to be Any Thinner, Why Media and Body Image Aren't to Blame, Digestive Difficulties & Menstrual Regulation, and Getting Back on Track... just to name a few. Hard to believe, right?!

This was an up and down month for me. It started with an awesome Lunch Date with my Baby Brother who just happens to be one my biggest supports in recovery. Somehow this 21-year-old-dipshit understands my recovery on a deeper level than I ever expected. Pretty cool, dude.

I also had a great vacation and did an excellent job with Vacation Triggers. More importantly, I returned home from that vacation with Bragging Rights and newly discovered Emotional Intelligence. My host was pretty awesome, too.

Last month I was put to the test more than any other month as my perfectionistic tendencies have been getting the best of me. Even though it was an up and down month, I finally began seeing Family Parties in a new, less scary light. I also had the opportunity to bond with a cousin of mine and rode in a hot air balloon. Checking that one off my bucket list!

So, here we are one year later. As silly as it might sound, this blog has been the single most important part of my recovery to date. I know sharing my experiences has been a shock to many of you and isn't right for everyone, but I have been able to begin the process of getting to know myself as a result. Recovery is not easy, but it's worth it.

If this much progress can be made in one short year, I cannot wait to see what the next 365 days (and 188 blog posts) will bring!