Sunday, June 30, 2013

Am I Worth It?

After receiving an email from a recovery buddy explaining her belief that she is not worthy of recovery, I began thinking about worth. What does it actually mean to be worthy of something?

During my entire stay in treatment and occasionally from time to time I still question whether or not I am worthy of recovery. As I type that I realize how silly that may sound to most of you. Whenever I hear someone say that about themselves I automatically think they are delusional. Of course they are worth recovery. Why can't they see it for themselves?

More often than not, I tend to be my own worst enemy. Harsh self judgments and thoughts of inadequacy drove my eating disorder for years. The way I saw myself was completely different than what the rest of the world saw in me. 

But why didn't I ever think I deserved to recover? 
Was it out of fear of letting my eating disorder go? 
Was it because I believed the eating disorder was my fault? 
Was it because I knew there are people with far worse problems in this world than me?
Was it because the eating disorder thoughts told me I was worthless for so long? 
Did I believe I had made too many mistakes to ever be worth loving again?
Maybe it was a combination of all of these things. All I knew for sure was no one could convince me that I was worthy - except myself.

We live in a society that places so much emphasis on social status, physical appearance, and material possessions, but do any of those things actually bring worth? I am starting to believe those things may bring a temporary and false sense of worthiness, but if I don't believe in myself none of that matters.

Your body doesn't determine your worth.
Society doesn't determine your worth.
Your past doesn't determine your worth.
Your future doesn't determine your worth.
Your talents don't determine your worth.
Your shortcomings don't determine your worth.
Your relationship status doesn't determine your worth.
Your clothes don't determine your worth.
Your occupation doesn't determine your worth.
Your mistakes don't determine your worth.
You are worthy. 

"You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done - but simply because you are."  -Max Lucado

Worth comes from within. If we continue to look for acceptance in physical objects, we will be searching for the rest of our lives. I think my own worth comes from following my own path, finding my bliss, independence, meaningful connections with others, treating myself with respect, and most importantly, believing in myself and my recovery.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Dreaded Weight Gain Process

One of the most common questions I get about my recovery is how I forced myself to gain the weight. Without a better answer, I usually just tell people I was in treatment and did not have a choice. With my treatment team watching my every move, I felt as though I had to gain the weight or there would be serious consequences.

If I am being honest here, the weight gain was the absolute worst part of my recovery. I hated every second of it. Gaining the 2-3 pounds per week prescribed by my treatment team was torturous at times. Each day after we finished dinner, I would have to sprawl out on the floor, lay there with my protruding belly, and pray I would not feel that full forever.

Without supervised meals and support from the other patients, I would not have been able to gain the weight. When I hear about people recovering and gaining weight on their own, I am blown away by the amount of courage and willpower that must take. Not only was the weight gain process scary, but the body also goes through some drastic changes that I was not expecting. If my treatment team had not been there to constantly remind me that these changes were normal, I would have easily fallen off the wagon.

First, after a long period of depletion and dehydration, the body begins to retain water. Some patients experience 7-20 pound weight gains within the first week alone, all of which is water weight. After the body realizes it will not be in dehydration mode any longer, it can then properly digest those liquids, relieving the initial bloat. 

Before the true weight gain process begins, however, the body uses the first calories it receives to begin repairing the heart, skin, nails, kidneys, brain, ext. After the initial water weight shock, it is actually quite difficult for some patients to gain weight due to excess number of calories needed. Many patients believe that if they up their caloric intake to 1500-2000 then they will start to gain weight, but that isn't necessarily true.

 The body goes into what is called hyperactive metabolic state, which means the metabolism works in overdrive around the clock. During this stage I remember having really bad night sweats (actually I was sweaty all the time ha) and I was always hungry no matter how much food I was forced to eat. Although I did not understand what was going on with my body at the time, both the sweating and the return of the appetite are both signs the metabolism is working again - which is a very good thing. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that in order to actually gain weight, calories need to be quite high. In my experience, the closer I got to my goal weight, the harder it was to keep gaining. I had continuous calorie increases throughout the weight gain process.

Also, those trying to gain weight on their own go through a period where they experience 'extreme hunger.' No matter how many calories are consumed, thanks to the hyper-metabolic state, feelings of hunger are incredibly persistent. Patients are often unfamiliar with hunger pangs, which can lead to guilt, anxiety, and then binging. It is not uncommon for anorexia patients to go through a period of bulimia during recovery.

The worst part of the weight gain process for me was the uneven distribution of weight. When eating disorder patients begin gaining weight, it all goes to the stomach and face. We always joked about our 'pregnant bellies' in treatment; we all had these tiny little bodies with protruding bellies. With time and consistent eating habits, thankfully, the weight does redistribute more evenly.

Digestive problems are another huge complaint of those in the early stages of recovery. Without going into too much detail of my own digestive issues, let's just say things don't move very quickly - if you catch my drift. Patients experience significant intestinal discomfort and often do not regulate for weeks or even months. 

A few other complications I have not mentioned are "refeeding" syndrome, sleep disturbances, nausea, zero energy, and an endless list of psychological disturbances. Again, it is difficult for me to fathom gaining this weight and going through all of these bodily changes without my treatment team. I cannot put into words the level of respect I have for those of you recovering on your own. Hopefully this list won't scare you away from weight gain, but help prepare you. 

The good news is, this weight gain process does not last forever. I always reminded myself that if I could get through that phase, I knew I was strong enough to get through the rest of it. My thought processes and mental functions have improved immensely since reaching my maintenance weight. Eventually I began to see the number of positives that came along with the weight gain outweighed the negatives.

It's hard for me to believe that I have been at my goal weight for nine months now. Yes, I do struggle with body image some days, but I know that losing weight is simply not worth it because I would have to go through the dreaded weight gain process all over again.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You Be You & I'll Be Me

A switch has been made in my brain. I'm not exactly sure when this happened, but I noticed it yesterday for the first time... ever. 

When I first came home from treatment, anytime anyone brought up their diet or health-related-food-talk in general I would instantly become triggered. If I noticed my mom was eating a banana instead of a brownie it automatically meant she was trying to lose weight. Every single time I turned on the radio or the TV, I was bombarded with a new ridiculous diet ad. The girl who sat next to me in class would also constantly talk about how she wanted to lose 10lbs for spring break. 

At that time I was hyper sensitive to all food talk - healthy or unhealthy. The less I knew about your diet the more likely we were to be friends. My meal plan became the only food related business I wanted to hear about and that was more than enough because it was all I thought about. 

Just last week a good friend of mine was sending me pictures of a few of the healthy foods he keeps around the house and before I knew it, I was annoyed and asking him to please STOP. The treatment center I went to did an outstanding job of desensitizing me to "fear foods." Although I understand eating Reese's peanut butter cups instead of an apple is not the best choice for my health, I still pick the Reese's because I CAN for the first time in probably 15 years.  

In my head when people tell me about their new healthy eating resolutions, it makes me feel like my new exciting relationship with unhealthy foods is somehow 'not good enough' or wrong. I have spent a good year developing this new relationship with food, so if I am made to feel like it is somehow incorrect I automatically get defensive.

Slowly, however, over the past 8 or 9 months since I have been home from treatment, those thoughts and triggers have somehow disappeared. Last night while discussing healthy eating again, I realized that my eating habits will always be different from those of others - eating disorder related or not. I don't think a perfect relationship with food exists, so to compare my diet to anyone else is a waste of time. 

Yesterday I also read a post from a fellow recovery blogger about her experience on the Whole 30 Diet. At first I was a little confused about why someone who previously struggled with an eating disorder would attempt to do something like this, but as I read the post I realized it wasn't about ME. She is doing what is right for her at this point in her life and she is seeing huge benefits - yay for her! Who am I to negatively judge a healthy lifestyle change in some else's life? (I told you something in my brain has switched... who is this Kelsi?)

  This post would not be complete without a quote, so here is my quote for the day:
"You be you and I’ll be me, today and today and today, and let’s trust the future to tomorrow. Let the stars keep track of us. Let us ride our own orbits and trust that they will meet." -Jerry Spinelli

I seem to need a continuous reminder that my recovery is about doing what is right for ME regardless of the nonstop diet talk in today's society. Most of my life has been spent attempting to become an exact replicate of those around me, but that only got me into serious trouble over the years. I might even be your friend if you choose to discuss your diet with me now. Separating myself and realizing that I am eating in a way that is healthy for me at this point in my life is all I need to focus on today. 

You be you and I'll be me.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Unstable & Messy

I seem less stable and more messy when I’m really getting better because I’m breaking down the facade of perfectionism and denial.” 

This just might be my new favorite quote of all time and I'm a quote-lover so this is kind of a big deal.
When I first entered treatment and began the recovery process, I did feel - for lack of a better word - crazy. The shock of ending all eating disordered and other destructive behaviors left me to deal with all of my underlying issues that I had been avoiding for years. My identity felt like it was being stolen from me. Who was I without an eating disorder? 

And let's not forget that I was hospitalized, which of course meant I had to be messy and unstable. Deep down I knew I needed help and recovery forced me to face my broken soul. The temper tantrums and nonstop crying were proof that I must really need to be in this loony bin. There are many days during recovery where the inability to control my emotions has made me cynical of the whole process. 

As difficult as it may be to understand, in the beginning of recovery, life with the eating disorder does seem better than life without it. 
But don't be fooled. 

By slowly beginning to break down that facade of perfectionism, a much more carefree life is left to be discovered. Without my eating disorder, I often felt lost and completely exposed to the world around me, but sometimes a shock like that is needed in order to jump start such a daunting process. Sometimes we do need to take a few steps back before we can take a step forward.

By letting go of perfectionism, I have been forced to see the world in shades of gray. Over the years I have become an expert at being self critical when I do not meet my own standards, so learning to express kindness toward myself has been completely foreign at times. In order to let go of my perfectionistic thoughts I have been forced to become aware of my self critical thoughts, practice self compassion, and examine my irrational fears of failure. None of these things happens over night, but I have found that after that "crazy stage" my inner perfectionist has slowly eased up.

Denial - For so long I was being unrealistic about my eating disorder even though it was clear to others that I was struggling. In order to face my denial I had to be honest about my emotions for the first time in my life. At first I remember feeling guilty for allowing myself to reach such an incredible low and it was simply easier to deny, ignore, and refuse to believe I needed help. Just like my perfectionism, with time as I slowly faced my past, that denial was lifted.

Recovery is a messy process and I have learned that it is perfectly okay (and normal) to feel worse before it is possible to feel better. It is important to remember that the only way to begin self discovery is to face the aspects of life holding us back. Most importantly, I am pretty excited to finally see that I am not less stable or messier than anyone else on the road to self discovery - thanks to my new favorite quote.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Have OR Had an Eating Disorder?

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how differently we view food and decide what to eat. Now that I am much more aware of what "normal" eating is, I have also realized how strange current my eating habits might appear to some people. As we continued to discuss eating patterns, I joked and said, "Well, of course I view food differently than most, I have an eating disorder after all." This friend quickly jumped in and asked, "Don't you mean had an eating disorder?"

Here is where understanding the recovery process can be tricky for some people. Yes, I have been in recovery for over a year now, I physically appear to be healthy, and I do have my eating related symptoms under control for the most part. With that said, however, I still have a significant amount of work to do before I am completely free of those eating disordered thoughts. The mental aspect of eating disorders is something that is often overlooked. On the outside, I appear to be functioning in society and eating when I am supposed to, but that does not necessarily mean I've reached a point where I can say I once had an eating disorder. 

So what exactly is the difference between being in recovery and being recovered

In my perfect world, there would be a simple answer. There would be a switch that I could simply turn off and with that forever be free from eating disordered behaviors. Like most things in life, however, it just doesn't work that way. 

The recovery spectrum varies greatly. At one end, a patient might still be binging and purging or restricting, but is making progress in other ways. While on the other end of the spectrum, a patient might be free of symptoms but is continually working on the mental aspects of recovery. Some patients can be free from symptoms for years, but still believe they are in recovery out of fear of reaching a fully recovered state. 

Eating disorder recovery, as opposed to other forms of recovery (such as alcohol or drug abuse), is exceptionally difficult because rather than completely avoiding our "drug of choice," we must face it multiple times a day. Food is a necessity. Period. Living in a society that already has skewed views on food does not make the recovery process any easier, but that does not make it impossible either. 

I think many people fail to understand the mental aspect involved in eating disorders. This is not anyone's fault and does not imply ignorance; it simply shows the complexity of eating disorder treatment. Even professionals have difficulty defining what exactly it means to have or had an eating disorder. It is important to understand the eating disorder mentality before attempting to define recovered. To make things worse, due to the individual nature of recovery, each patient might have a somewhat different view on what it means to fully recover.

To define the word "recovered" is sticky business. Quite a few people with eating disorders believe that it is impossible to fully recover and they will always be conscious of their weight and food choices. In my mind, on the other hand, I do believe there will come a time when my eating disorder is completely behind me. I am looking forward to the day when I no longer live in fear of relapsing and accept my natural weight. Food or the lack there of will no longer be used as a coping mechanism. Food and weight will have their proper place in my life rather than ruling it completely. I will no longer compromise my health or betray my soul to look a certain way or fit into a particular dress size.

One of my favorite quotes, from the book Gaining written by Aimee Liu, about the recovery process is how I like to look at my current place in recovery:

"I've changed the way I think about recovery. I no longer define it in relation to illness but as an ongoing process of restoration and discovery. I see now that I am continuously restoring the essential individual I was born to be while discovering my unfolding connection to the world around me... And there will be setbacks. Sometimes it will seem as if I'm making no progress but simply repeating myself, turning around and around the same old habits and ways of thinking. But as long as I can feel myself present, open and awake, I know I am gradually gaining."

At this point in time, to say I have or had an eating disorder is not as simple as it may seem. There is not a specific moment or day during recovery when that switch is made. Sure, I still have eating disordered thoughts; however, I can do a much better job controlling them now than I did a year or even a month ago. I cannot say I once had an eating disorder just yet, but I am doing the best I can while I still have my eating disorder to continue striving for freedom.


Friday, June 21, 2013

My (Somewhat Depressing) TV Debut

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week I helped out with an interview showcasing my old treatment center for a local news station. Last night the piece aired. After watching it a few times this morning, I'm having a difficult time putting into words exactly how I feel about it. Click the link below to view the video clip.

If I am being completely honest, I was quite excited to see my big television debut. As I watched it, however, I began wishing my TV appearance wasn't quite so depressing. It was not an easy thing to watch. For quite sometime now, I have been avoiding those old pictures and focusing on the endless health benefits involved in recovery instead. Maybe my internal optimist was expecting to see a more upbeat story rather than this four minute downer.

When an individual is consumed in their eating disorder, everyday life is completely distorted. During the time that most of those photos were taken I did not see how thin I actually was. In my twisted eating disorder mind, I really believed I needed to lose a few more pounds.

While being reminded of my past is rather painful at times, luckily I can see past that and focus on amount of progress I have made since then. Sometimes it's impossible to see small changes because I live with myself every single day. This past week I have felt trapped in my current situation, but after seeing this video those thoughts have vanished.

Recovery is a long, long journey and I could not be more thankful for my new found perspective thanks to this video. There might be times when I feel stuck in recovery, but that girl in the video did not even believe she had a future. Eating disorders are an ugly disease. The recovery process, on the other hand, although demanding and terrifying at times, is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me.

As I shed a few tears while viewing that video, I felt a little disappointed in myself for letting my eating disorder get as bad as it did. My exciting television premier might have been a bit of a downer, but more importantly, it reminded me of the how much can change if recovery is taken seriously. My past will always be a part of who I am whether I like it or not. Luckily, with the choices I make every single day, I can decide how my future will play out. Maybe my next TV appearance will be a little more uplifting. ;)


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Just One Drink

This is one of those posts I wasn't sure if I should share, but it is a significant part of my recovery. So here it goes...
Last Friday night while I was out with my best friend Kaila, I had a... drink. Keyword there is A, as in singular. We were out downtown on a busy Friday night and as we looked at the drink menu something inside of me told me to go for it, so I did. As we sipped our cocktails, that old familiar feeling of relief and calmness began to take over.
After finishing our drink, we left that bar and headed to another. As my drink wore off, I began to feel myself craving another. We met up with a few other friends who were ordering more drinks, but thankfully my best friend and wing woman for the night was content with just one drink. As my cravings for another increased, I told her I was ready for drink number two, but she questioned whether or not that was a good idea. Deep down I knew it wasn't, but in that moment I was willing to take that temporary sense of relief instead of looking at the big picture. Having another drink would have led to another and another and eventually a huge amount of guilt.
By the time we were home for the night, the drink had completely worn off and I was feeling great. That might have been the first time I have ever gone out and stuck to the one drink rule. Although the whole bar scene makes me more anxious than almost anything, I not only faced it, but I also had a blast.  
The next day Kaila and I spent the afternoon at the beach and I shockingly wasn't consumed with guilty thoughts from the night before. Actually, I hardly even thought about it. For me to be able to live in a happy moment like that without beating myself up is HUGE.
That night when I got home, I didn't mention the drink to my parents out of fear of disappointing them. I had broken my sobriety, after all. (Surprise, mom...)
After having a few days to process this and a good talk with my therapist, I'm really thankful for how this situation played out. I knew the day when I would have to face my first drink would eventually come and I honestly don't think it could have gone much better. I learned that having one drink still leads me to want more AND that I can still have a ton of fun without drinking.
Recently I've been wondering if drinking would be different for me now that my eating disorder symptoms are under control. My eating disorder and the drinking were directly related. Both were simply a way for me to numb out and avoid the mess of a life I had created. Now that I am back on track with my eating, however, I was curious to see if alcohol had a different effect on me. For now, it still appears too difficult for me to feel comfortable with a single drink... And that's OKAY.
Ever since I admitted to all of you that I got into legal trouble with alcohol, I have been deathly afraid of falling back into that black hole. The only way to get over our fears, however, is to face them head on. I took a huge risk by having that drink, but I also provided myself with a huge opportunity to learn and grow. There is always a trade off in risky situations, but we always have the choice to step back and see the bigger picture.
A huge part of me did not want to publicly share that I broke my sobriety. As an addiction writer for Libero Network and after developing an openness about my struggles with alcohol, I fear this will limit my credibility. But after a nearly a week of thinking about this, I actually now think the opposite is true. Recovery is not perfect. I am not perfect. Keeping my slip up a secret will only allow the shame to build up inside of me.
Bottom line: Drinking is still dangerous for me without a plan and a friend to stop me after one drink. Lesson learned. Don't worry; I do not plan on drinking anytime in the near future. If a similar situation does present itself, however, at least I have a plan and know that if I can survive it once, I can absolutely do it again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Taking Risks

“Great people do things before they’re ready. 
They do things before they know they can do it. 
And by doing it, they’re proven right. 
Because, I think there’s something inside of you—
and inside of all of us—
when we see something and we think, 
“I think I can do it, I think I can do it. But I’m afraid to.” 
Bridging that gap, doing what you’re afraid of, 
getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that—
THAT is what life is. 

And I think you might be really good. 
You might find out something about yourself that’s special. 
And if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. 
Now you know something about yourself. 
Now you know. A mystery is solved. 
So, I think you should just give it a try. 
Just inch yourself out of that back line. 
Step into life. 
Yes. Go. Now.”
-Amy Poehler

 I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have chosen not to try something because I was afraid. There are new risks and challenges to be faced every single day in recovery, but I tend to wait until it is too late to chase after the important things. After getting out of town and spending some much needed time with my best friend this weekend, I am feeling refreshingly motivated. There are so many opportunities out there if I take the time to notice them.

My eating disorder forced me to live in a very rigid and predictable manner. However, I am quickly learning life doesn't stop. There will never be a perfect time to make big changes. Like I have said a million times before, recovery has given me a second chance to take those risks and live my life. Today I am grateful for the frightening, but very necessary risks recovery is continuously forcing me to take.


(p.s. my dinosaur of a computer finally crashed so posts might be lacking this week)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Understanding Eating Disorders

Earlier this week I drove downstate and did an interview with a local TV station as a part of a piece showcasing the treatment center I went to. After answering what seemed like a million questions, one question is still stuck in my brain, "Do the people closest to you understand your eating disorder? If not, how have you dealt with that."

Even after having a few days to process this, I still don't know how exactly to answer that question. The simple answer is NO; people in general do not understand eating disorders. But WHY people don't understand has been the real question nagging at me all week.

For someone who has never had an eating disorder, food is just food. It's that simple. Sometimes people think eating disorders are developed out of stubbornness or are only for the attention, but they rarely have anything to do with either of those things.

Sometimes for me it's difficult to even understand my own eating disorder. Why is eating so difficult for me? Eating is one of the first means of survival we learn as infants. We cannot survive without it. If I am unable to understand why I struggle with it, then how am I supposed to explain it to others? Unless you have been there and lived with an eating disorder, it is impossible to fully grasp the mind set involved.

My eating disorder was more about control. There was so much hurt bottled up inside me and by controlling my food intake, I was able to channel that hurt. For most people, the decent into an eating disorder is not a conscious decision. Eating disorders don't have a cut and dry process. In the beginning I didn't feel thin enough to have an eating disorder, which is where the denial began for me.

Somewhere along the way I reached a point where I could no longer distinguish myself from the eating disorder. In the beginning I could recognize the eating disordered thoughts and label them as unhealthy, but as things progressed and I began to feel the need for more control, everything got blurry. The more I tried to control my eating habits, the more the disorder began to control me. There is a point where there is no turning back and more often than not, a person has no idea they have crossed that line.

It almost became an obsessive compulsive thing for me. My rituals and habits began to control my entire day. If one of those rituals was broken or I got off track, it was like my whole world was ending. I needed that routine to keep me safe. If the rules were broken I felt as though I needed to punish myself. A part of me didn't even understand why I was doing these insane things, but the one thing I did know for sure was that all hell broke loose if I fell off the wagon. Without the rituals I almost felt worthless, even though saying that now sounds totally irrational.

At this point, the brain becomes so malnourished that it is literally impossible to think straight. Everything that goes on in an eating disordered mind is irrational. From an outsider's perspective I can finally see where this would be a difficult thing to understand.

That may or may not have helped anyone understand my eating disorder or even made any sense, but I'm learning to be okay with that. It can be frustrating to go through recovery without a support system who understands. But I think the bottom line here is - people don't need to understand. I have learned to accept that those closest to me don't understand everything, but I CAN still recover.

I spent quite a few months feeling hurt and insulted that my own parents don't understand, but I have recently learned that they can still be supportive without getting it. Will I ever be able to pinpoint why our society is so clueless when it comes to eating disorders? Probably not. But that does not need to stop me from recovering.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


 Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other. 
-Luke 6:28

There will always be people in life that treat us poorly, break our hearts, and think of no one but themselves. I'm quickly learning that is just a part of life. There is no avoiding it. The people-pleaser in me wishes no one ever had a single bad thing to say about me, but life doesn't really work that way.

Over the weekend, a few unpleasant things were said about me by someone I was once close with. Needless to say, I didn't handle it very well. Being self-critical is one thing I excel in, so hearing those negative thoughts reinforced by others is not a fun time. Thankfully, however, a friend of mine helped change my perspective on the situation.

Rather than allowing me to let my bitterness get the best of me, I was told to see what would happen if I practiced forgiveness instead. What if I said a little prayer for this person instead of talking badly behind their back and getting myself all worked up?

Although I didn't really want to at first, it was requested that I pray that this person was able to find peace that night and release some of their own animosity. At first I kind of laughed at the thought of that. It takes a really big person to set aside those feelings of resentment and find a way to feel empathy. If I'm being honest, in that moment the last thing I wanted to do was be a big person. I wanted revenge and was willing to stoop to that level.

With a whole lot of convincing, however, I did find the strength to do as my friend suggested and I prayed that the person with hurtful words could find peace. "You will thank me in the morning," were the words that convinced me to give it a shot. Not surprisingly, I set a new personal record for the number of thank you's given the next day.

When hurtful situations like this happen, I typically find myself down in the dumps for days, thinking I must have done something horrible to cause such harsh words. But the truth is, life is way too short to allow the opinions of others dictate my mood. Similar to many other aspects of recovery, the only person I need to worry about is myself. 

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always reminded me to "turn the other cheek" in upsetting situations like this. Typically I roll my eyes and continue throwing myself a pity party, but maybe my old man has been onto something all these years (shhh don't tell him I said that). 

Forgiveness is rarely my go-to reaction immediately following hurt feelings, but doing so may be the key to happiness. By blessing those who have hurt me, I am able to shift my focus and continue practicing healthy thoughts needed for my recovery.


Monday, June 10, 2013

100 Reasons...

This is my 100th post of the year already. That means I either have way too much time on my hands or I need to celebrate. Maybe it's a little of both, but I always like having a reason to celebrate. Recovery and this blog have both been life changing. One year ago if you would have told me this is where I would be today, I would have laughed in your face. I'm feeling incredibly grateful this morning.

Today I am going to take the time to list 100 reasons why I am grateful for this day in honor of my 100th post. Lately I have been caught up in all of the things that aren't going so well, but I have had enough of that. Expressing gratitude is a much better way to shape my mood.

1. A second chance at life  
2. Kaila  
3. Reese's peanut butter cups 
4. Taylor Swift breakup songs when I need them most
5. The sun is shining  
6. The support I have received though this blog 
7. RCC 
8. My sense of humor 
9. A warm, comfy bed
10. Coffeeeee
11. The return of strong hair and nails thanks to recovery
12. My parents never ending love and support
13. Hammocks and good books
14. Smiles to start my day
15. Kenzie
16. Emails from my fellow Hungry Ghost
17. Sock monkeys
18. Being back in school
19. Getting 100% on my most recent test
20. Snapchat
21. A hot shower this morning
22. Afternoon walks
23. All of you reading this right now
24. Having cousins that have my back no matter what
25. New found ability to sit with uncomfortable emotions
26. Summertime!
27. Lazy kayak floats down the river with my mom and crazywoman ;)
28. Finally finding my assertive voice
29. A new found excitement about the future
30. Dark chocolate
31. Past mistakes
32. ...and lessons learned
33. My renewed health after years of damage
34. Relationships made at RCC 
35. And my FVH girls
36. A reliable car and a full tank of gas
37. Imperfections
38. Carrie Arnold
39. Writing for Libero Network
40. Finding strength in struggle
41. Relaxation
42. Improving body image
43. Anyone willing to go against society's beauty limitations
44. Genuine, uncontrollable laughter
45. Non-judgmental friends
46.No more secrets
47. Or running away from life
48. A brother who supports me
49. Maintenance calories and weight
50. A fresh start every morning
51. Bacon
52. Sobriety
53. My kind heart
54. Social networking and today's technology
55. Random acts of kindness
56. The wisdom I'm gaining as I get older
57. Freshly baked cookies
58. Realizing I am good enough
59. A good night's sleep
60. A good cry
61.Welcoming hugs from family members
62. "Thinking of you" notes
63. Headstands at Cronkright Christmas parties
64. No serious financial problems
65. So many amazing opportunities in my life
66. Quotes like this: "Beauty is the radiance that shines from the smile and is exuded by the gait of a young woman who is content with who she is and happy to be where she is."
67. Change, even though I hate it sometimes
68. Having a beach day planned this weekend :)
69. Mascara
70. A new relationship with food
71. Cool breezes on a warm day
72. No more lying and manipulating those closest to me
73. Fresh flowers
74. Peace and quiet
75. Knowing I can survive difficult times
76. Constantly feeling a sense of accomplishment thanks to recovery
77. Finding myself without my eating disorder
78. My culinary school adventure, even if I'm not sure what it's purpose in my life is yet
79. Nutella
80. Finally finding a career path that feels right
81. A taste of failure
82. People who just "get" me
83. A roof over my head
84. Ability to rebuild trust that was once lost
85. Having my license back
86. A restored metabolism
87. My faith
88. Song lyrics that perfectly fit my mood
89. Patience with myself and others
90. Hot tubs
91. Morning itself, my favorite time of day
92. Muzzyboo
93. Acceptance - of myself and others, the past and the present
94. My dreams for the future
95. Inner peace
96. Tears of joy
97. Freedom
98. Strength and courage to continue
99. A fighting spirit

100. Progress

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Should I Say Something?

Kelsi, in your opinion should a person say something to an individual who is obviously severely underweight? Some expression of concern? I’m not talking about a perfect stranger, but maybe a coworker, or a not-too-close friend. You’ve written a lot about denial; are any comments useful or just alienating? And, if so, what approach would you recommend?

Yesterday I received this question on my previous post. As I began typing a response, it dawned on me how many possible answers there are to this question. Depending on the person or situation an individual may be highly offended or feel relieved if questioned about their weight. 

I posted this question in one of the eating disorder support groups I am a part of and asked for others thoughts on the topic. Here are some of the responses I received:

 "I might not directly say something, but vaguely show interest in them, reach out to ask how they are doing often and be genuine about it."
"Show concern without mentioning weight—that puts them in defense."
"I think I would start with trying to make sure it wasn't a health problem first. Maybe if the person was ill they would feel self conscious about having their weight pointed out to them. It should be clear that the person was coming from a place of caring and compassion and not criticism."
"I don’t think it’s ever okay to bring someone’s body size up in conversation, even if it’s out of genuine and loving concern."

In my opinion, I actually think it is best to say something. The individual most likely will not be accepting, due to that denial, but completely ignoring the problem is not the answer either. Even if the person does not seem to be listening, you would still be providing a level of comfort by reaching out. If the person does eventually decide they want to get help, then at least they know you are willing to listen. However, with the input from the comments above, I would be cautious about directly mentioning their weight. 

The most frustrating part of recovery from an eating disorder is every case is incredibly different. What works for one person generally will not work for another. While some people might be offended by your concern, others (myself included) will be grateful that someone took the time to reach out. For years I felt as though I was not sick enough because no one said anything. In my mind, my problems were constantly being swept under the rug and it was hurtful.

Denial is absolutely an issue to be considered here. If someone had expressed concern towards me, for example, I would have pretended everything was going well and assured them I was fine, but deep down would have felt angry with myself for letting it get that bad. There is also a good chance the person in question is already aware of their issues and would feel alienated when the topic is brought up. 

There are many sides to this question, but I think the bottom line is: expressing genuine concern without the mention of weight might be the way to go. Making sure the person is actually sick and not just naturally thin is a good idea, too. In my opinion, ignoring the problem only creates greater stigma around eating disorders. Although the individual may not be accepting in the moment, deep down they will appreciate knowing someone does care. 

Not sure if this answered your question or not, Aunt Judy, but hopefully it helped you understand the eating disordered thought process. There might not be a perfect answer here due to the individual nature of eating disorders, but expressing a little kindness never hurts. In my opinion, anytime someone speaks up against eating disorders or shows support, we are taking a step forward.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Will People Think of Me?

Around this time last year, a few of my closest family members were beginning to hear the news that I had entered treatment. Against my wishes, my parents told a few of my closest relatives. At the time I was furious with them for telling anyone without my permission. It was impossible for me to understand how they could possibly be doing that for my own good. I remember thinking things like...

What are they going to think of me? 
How much gossip is being spread about me right now? 
Did you hear about Kelsi? 
Will they notice how much weight I have gained? 
If so, what will they think of how huge I am now?
Now everyone will know how weak I am. 

One of the most difficult parts of the transition home from treatment was telling people where I had been for the past six months. Before entering treatment, I honestly did not believe other people knew how sick I was. Although I had been severely underweight for quite sometime, because nobody really said anything to me about it, I thought my illness was a secret. The lack of nutrients to my brain didn't exactly help me see things clearly, either.

Worrying what others think has always been an issue for me, not just when people found out I had been in treatment. From a very young age I have always felt a little different than the rest of my family, which lead to a childhood filled with acting in a way that was accepted. Because I was constantly worried what others thought of me, I never really figured out who I was or what I wanted out of life. Having people find out about my eating disorder felt like the biggest possible let down to those who cared about me. If I wasn't good enough for people before, I couldn't imagine the things they would think of me now.

Once I was able to get past how angry I was with my parents for telling a few people I had entered treatment, I was able to see what blessing it actually was. One of my aunts began sending me cards a few times a week and to my surprise, those cards became one of my biggest motivators. Before I knew it, there were cards coming in from friends and family members that I never expected to hear from.

There craziest part of all - the more people that learned of my stay in treatment, the more support I began to feel. People were not judging me at all and I found support from some of the most unlikely people. Perhaps best of all, I quickly discovered that we are all human. Everyone has their struggles and by facing mine I did not suddenly become less of a person.

People often ask me how to deal with this transition and the truth is, there is no easy answer. First of all, it is important to remember that nobody needed to know the exact details of where I had been. I had the right to decide how much information I wanted to disclose. It was easier to be open with a few of my closest friends at first and once I saw that they still loved me, it became a little less scary to open up to more people.

Also, there is no shame in taking all the time needed to transition back into normal life. My health became the most important thing and I had to accept that recovery takes time. If people were going to gossip or judge me, then they probably aren't the type of people I needed in my life anyways. 

As far as the weight gain is concerned, people did notice and the "you look great!" comments are inevitable, but with time I was able to accept those comments. Friends and family were often just as nervous as I was and feared saying the wrong thing. Although I still saw myself as HUGE, I had to keep reminding myself that my body image was still highly distorted. What other people saw was completely different from what I saw. Those thoughts do go away with time. Be patient. 

I found this picture a few days ago and it has been haunting me for the past 72 hours. The only thing I can think about is what people must have thought of me when I was at that weight. Seeing me at a healthy weight must have been such a relief to my loved ones. I can now see that others did not think any less of me, they were genuinely proud of this huge step I was taking.

Sharing the news of my treatment stay and recovery journey has not been easy at times. I often fear what others must think of me. In the long run, however, it is one of the best things I have ever done. Yes, I was upset with my parents for quite sometime for telling others, but now I can see they really did have my best interests at heart.

Most importantly, recovery has been about finding myself. What other people think of me in every aspect of life - recovery or not - really doesn't matter. In order to take care of my health, I need to do what is right for me regardless of the opinions of others. There's a good chance I will be working on this one for the rest of my life, but there's no shame in that. The only opinion of myself that matters is my own.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Bouquet of Clumsy Words

  A bouquet of clumsy words: 

You know that place between sleep and awake 
Where you’re still dreaming but it’s slowly slipping? 
I wish we could feel like that more often. 
I also wish I could click my fingers three times 
And be transported to anywhere I like. 
I wish that people didn’t always say ‘just wondering’ 
When you both know there was a real reason behind them asking. 
And I wish I could get lost in the stars. 
Listen, there’s a hell of a good universe next door.
Let’s go.
—e.e. cummings

Gosh, I just love that.
So with 5 minutes to spare before I head out the door, here is my attempt at my own bouquet of clumsy words:

You know that moment when you close your eyes on a sunny day,
Soaking up the sun, letting the warm breeze kiss your cheeks?
I wish I always felt that free.
I also wish I could laugh to the point of tears
With my very best friends every single day.
I wish people were brutally honest about who they are
And didn't hide behind ever-changing masks.
And I wish I could run full speed ahead
Into my bright future without an eating disorder.
Let's go.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Wanting an Eating Disorder

Earlier this spring on my flight home from a trip down south, a young man sat next to me and started up a friendly conversation. He asked what I was studying in school and I told him I am going into social work specializing in eating disorders. To my surprise he chuckled and said, "I need to get one of those."

Dumbfounded, I politely smiled and did my best to hide my angry eyes as he continued, "Sometimes I think that is the only way I can possibly lose weight. All I do is eat. I really need to get an eating disorder"

To most people this might sound like a careless joke, but as you can probably guess, I did not find this humorous at all. For the rest of the flight, my mind was off in eating disorder land. Before I truly developed my eating disorder, I remember thinking that I, too, wanted an eating disorder. There was a period of time when I would rip pictures of thin celebrities out of magazines and keep them in a folder as reminders of the "perfect" body. 

Unlike many anorexia patients, my eating disorder began with a series of binges. Those women in the magazine pictures were able to control their eating habits and I desperately wanted the same thing. The perfectionist in me was ready to do whatever it took to achieve that perfect body. A part of me wanted to stand out from the rest of my family and developing an eating disorder seemed to be the obvious solution.

A friend of mine from treatment had a somewhat similar experience. She was born a pastor's daughter and became tired of constantly trying to fit the perfect image everyone expected her to portrait. Possibly as a way to rebel against her family's ideal image, she desperately began to want something to be wrong with her. She, too, believed that developing an eating disorder would fill the holes in her heart. The eating disorder would allow her to slowly waste away and she would no longer needed to fill the perfect child role. 

Recently I have also been hearing about many young people who think an eating disorder would provide an escape from their everyday problems. To make matters worse, some individuals believe that because they wanted to develop an eating disorder, they do not deserve equal treatment. For years I have struggled to find a meaning behind the development of my eating disorder after growing up in a seemingly perfect household. Without any obvious answers, I believed that I was unworthy of treatment. If I was able to put myself in this situation, I should be able to get myself out - right? Unfortunately, eating disorders don't work that way.

Regardless of how or why an eating disorder is developed, the important thing is to understand that everyone is deserving of treatment.

To some, like the gentleman on my flight, developing an eating disorder might be a joke, but to others this is a very serious issue. In the moment, eating disorders might seem like the perfect solution but they are only a temporary fix. In the long run, my eating disorder only created a tremendous amount of pain for me and those who cared for me most.

As much as I hate to admit it, there was a time in my life when I truly wanted an eating disorder. It may have taken me a long time to understand that although I (partly) brought this upon myself, I am still worthy of receiving the help I deserve. I am no longer searching for the reason behind my eating disorder. What's done is done. The only thing I am focused on now is my future in recovery.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Compassionate Curiosity

Thanks to my cousin Adam, embarrassingly, over the past week and a half I have read all 495 pages of Gabor Mate's "In a Realm of Hungry Ghosts," twice. This book shares the lives of several different hardcore drug addicts and in great detail, describes how addiction affects the brain. I have been underlining, highlighting, and writing little notes in the margin like a true nerd... Thanks Adam. :)

Mate believes that all addictions, whether it be substance abuse, gambling, shopping, or even workaholism, are rooted to a painful experience. Like the quote I used in my Addiction post says, all addictions are the essentially same; the only difference is where a specific type of addiction falls on the continuum. Some addictions might be written off as bad habits due to a level of social acceptance, but if the behavior is used to escape the mind, cope with bad memories, or ease anxieties and boredom, it is considered an addiction.

More often than not after I make a mistake or have a rough day in my recovery, I am left with thoughts of, "I'm so stupid. I should know better than that," and "When will I ever learn?" At this point in my recovery, I feel as though I have acquired enough knowledge to handle most situations. Logically I know what is best for me; however, I still make mistakes. Lots of them. When this does happen, I begin falling into the negative spiral of doom. 

Toward the end of the book, Mate writes about the healing process. One of the initial steps toward sobriety or healing is to direct compassionate curiosity at oneself. Mate believes, "In cultivating loving-kindness, we learn first to be honest, loving, and compassionate towards ourselves."

Rather than beating ourselves up and thinking "I'm so stupid. When will I ever learn?" Mate suggests we attempt to change our thoughts into those of an empathetic friend. Instead of instantly judging our behaviors as stupid or wrong, what would happen if we looked inward with a little compassionate curiosity?  A good friend would ask what was really going on to cause those self-destructive actions, not belittle us.

"Compassionate curiosity directed toward the self leads to the truth of things. Once I see my anxiety and recognize it for what is is, the need to escape dwindles."

 Mate also uses the acronym COAL as the main attitudes of compassionate curiosity: curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. The purpose is not to justify or rationalize, but to understand. Treating myself with any of the four COAL attitudes is the complete opposite of how I am used to treating myself in all situations, not just on those bad recovery days. Kind of sad to think about. My therapist has reminded me a million times that I would never treat a friend as harshly as I treat myself, which only feeds my inner perfectionist.

This book has also taught me that incompleteness is the baseline state of all addicts. Mate suggests, "The addict believes - either with full awareness or unconsciously - that he is "not good enough." As he is, he is inadequate to face life's demands or to present an acceptable face to the world." Those not good enough thoughts are at the core of my eating disorder and other past addictive behaviors, which has made facing my issues without that addictive release excruciating at times. Recovery means facing all of those emotions I have numbed out for years and even though I really hate it sometimes, it is absolutely necessarily.

So my goal for this week (and for the rest of my life) is to begin exploring my bad days with a little compassionate curiosity rather than cruel self-judgments. There is a very good chance I will not master this new skill after my first (or second or third) attempt, but I'm not perfect.

"Along with our ability to feel our own pain go our best hopes for healing, dignity, and love. What seems non-adaptive and self-harming in the present was, at some point in our lives, an adaptation to help us endure what we had to go through then."

My past with an eating disorder and other addictive behaviors does not make me a failure. At that time in my life I was doing the very best I could to tolerate painful past experiences. How I choose to deal in the future, however, is my responsibility and with a little compassionate curiosity, I just might be able to see myself as "good enough" someday.