Monday, September 30, 2013

Medical Complications & Visits to the Doctor

Thanks to my overly cuddly dog who runs around in the woods, and apparently rolls around in poison ivy, I've been dealing with a pretty nasty case of the itchy stuff for the past week or so. Thankfully, I finally gave in, went to see a doctor, and was prescribed some medications to help speed up the healing process. Unfortunately, however, there are some pretty severe side effects that come along with these itch-relieving meds.

For me, nausea and water retention, neither of which are particularly helpful for someone recovering from an eating disorder, have been my symptoms for the past two days. The craziest thing of all is I'm supposed to take the meds three times a day with meals, as soon as my nausea from the previous dose wears off. So I sit down to a meal only to begin feeling like it's going to come right back up, which of course brings back not-so-pleasant memories.

Additionally, the water retention would probably make the average person feel a little bloated, but to me it feels like I have gained about fifty pounds in two days. Which of course doesn't make eating any easier. I think I'm allowed to be a little moody for the next 10 days until this round of meds is finished; if not, I'm using this as my excuse anyway.

In the past I have also spoken with individuals recovering from an eating disorder who have had some type of medical condition that hindered their eating schedule, oftentimes much worse than mine. In a way it's a perfect little excuse to avoid meeting my daily caloric requirements and a part of me is tempted to listen to that disordered part of my brain. 

The healthy side of my brain, on the other hand, knows better. Ten more days of being uncomfortable will not be the end of the world. Ten more days of missing calories might not be the end of the world either, but it certainly won't be in my best interest. So, I'm back to counting calories and good ole mechanical eating for the time being.

Also, I wanted to make sure I shared something a little more upbeat. While I was visiting the doctor, as part of their routine check up, I was forced to get weighed. They asked if I knew my approximate weight and I said no, so up on the dreaded scale I went. 

Without much hesitation I asked if I could step on the scale backwards and both nurses happily agreed. One of them even said, "We will just write your weight down on our charts and you won't have to see it! I wish I had the willpower not to look at my own weight." 

Such a relief. I wasn't sure if they had access to my previous records and knew about my eating disorder, but their response to my request was wonderful. It made my entire day. Lesson learned; don't be afraid to ask for what you need at the doctor's office. More likely than not, they will be understanding and compassionate of our requests.

Almost anything medically related can quickly turn into a trigger for those of us recovering from an eating disorder. Although there is never a good time to get sick or be covered in poison ivy, I am actually grateful this is happening to me further along in my recovery process. I have really struggled with this all week, but I think I'm finally starting to learn a lesson or two from it and see the light at the end of this (very itchy) tunnel.


P.S. A friend of mine is participating in the Out of The Darkness Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I actually did this walk with a couple friends of mine a year ago and it's a great cause/organization. If you are interested or have further questions, please click here!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toxic Relationships

"When someone tells you, “I love you,” and then you feel, 
“Oh, I must be worthy after all,” that’s an illusion. That’s not true. 
Or someone says, “I hate you,” and you think, 
“Oh, God, I knew it; I’m not very worthy,” that’s not true either. 
Neither one of these thoughts hold any intrinsic reality. They are an overlay. 
When someone says, “I love you,” he is telling you about himself, not you. 
When someone says, “I hate you,” she is telling you about herself, not you. 
World views are self views—literally."

Recently I've been speaking with one of my friends about relationships in recovery. Like this quote, in a sick way, many of us internalize the way others treat us and depending on their actions, we either feel validated or inadequate. Growing up I developed a belief that my worth was based on the reactions of others.

I think a huge part of my people pleasing tendencies, is my unfortunate need to hang on to people that don't treat me with the respect I deserve. It's almost as if I need to "win" them over or else I'm failing.  Another aspect of most toxic relationships is loneliness. Again, in recovery this can be a huge issue. I mean, who doesn't want a shoulder to lean on? And if he/she thinks I'm good enough then it must be true, right? 

When relationships don't work out, some of us automatically think it's our fault. And the craziest thing of all, we (or maybe it's just me) cling onto those relationships even if they have negative repercussions. There's always a glimmer of hope that the person will change and "see the light," but they never do. 

Sometimes letting go of relationships can be scary because it feels like my life will fall apart if I do; and the truth is, it might for a short period of time. I might need to spend a few nights crying, punching things, or writing angry letters, but that also allows for a new start and a fresh perspective. Believe it or not, I can develop a bit of a temper in these situations, but I'm learning that is okay, too. Sometimes releasing that anger is the only way to deal with it.

And this isn't necessarily about giving up or weakness. In fact, I think moving away from toxic relationships shows an incredible amount of strength. More often than not we give people one too many chances to show us they care. If people want us in their lives they will make room for us, no matter what.

Life has a much bigger plan for me.
Health and happiness are part of that plan.
Stability and affection are part of that plan.
Kindness and an open heart are part of that plan.
Constant struggle is not. 

If my well being is at risk then it's time to reconsider certain relationships in my life. After all, the way people feel about me has nothing to do with my worth, right? The only person who determines my worthiness is me.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weight Stigma on College Campuses

As some of you know, I took part in BEDA's National Weight Stigma Awareness Week this week. If you missed any of the content submitted by the featured contributors, myself included, you can get a full recap here. Yesterday my post about weight stigma on a college campus was published and I'm re-posting it here. Read the original here. 

Weight Stigma on College Campuses

It’s nearly impossible to spend a day on a college campus without experiencing some form of weight loss talk. As I am writing this, I am sitting in my university library eavesdropping on the table of girls next to me chatting about their goals to drop inches this semester. For someone trying to recover from an eating disorder or anyone with weight insecurities, a college campus can be an overwhelmingly triggering place to be.

As we make the transition from high school to college, for many of us there is a fear and stigma around gaining the Freshman 15. Somewhere over the course of our young adult years, we are taught to believe we need to maintain our 16 year old bodies forever.

As a high school senior, I can remember getting brochures regarding the massive changes ahead of us after graduation. The most important topic on these brochures was always related to the Freshman 15 and ways to avoid the weight gain. These messages against weight gain were ingrained in me before I even stepped foot on a college campus. I began to think if, heaven forbid, I did gain a few pounds, I was somehow doing something wrong. What would my old high school friends think of me if I returned over the holidays a size bigger?

The first time I attempted college, about five years ago, within the first two weeks of my first class, my eating disorder behaviors increased dramatically out of fear of the dreaded Freshman 15. Every time I went to the student gym, I became more aware of the seemingly perfect bodies around me. Before I knew it, I developed a belief that in order to fit in and be noticed I needed to be bikini ready at all times.

As a result of my internalized weight stigma I developed a strict routine and many of my friends began asking me for tips or would compete with me on the treadmill. Rather than focusing on my schoolwork, I became engulfed in this world of weight loss. Maybe I was hanging out with the wrong crowd because sadly, this way of living became the norm and the girls who did embrace their changing bodies weren’t given the time of day. Looking back now, I can see those girls were not heavy at all – they were healthy and we were biased.

After three semesters of college, unfortunately, I failed out because I became so caught up in this eating disorder world. My need to fit in and avoid the bodily changes that take place after high school was much more important than my need to chase my dreams.

Five years, a six month stay in treatment, and a much healthier mind set later, I can proudly say I am back in school and doing my best to separate myself from the stigma surrounding the Freshman 15 on a college campus. Our college years should be about self-discovery and chasing dreams rather than counting calories in order to feel accepted.

The beautiful thing about my college experience the second time around is, I now have the ability to embrace my body and love it for what it is – body acceptance. I can now recognize the many different shapes and sizes around me as equally beautiful. Sadly, there will always be a group of people on campus who will attempt to make us believe the Freshman 15 is the end of the world; but the truth is, it’s the exact opposite.

By finally allowing my body to make the natural changes it has needed to during my early twenties, I have allowed myself to see the world much more clearly. By letting my body figure out what weight it naturally wants to settle at, I can focus on my education, making friends, and enjoying the experience instead of trying to fit someone else’s weight ideals.

This time around I have chosen love, silliness, laughter, and self-acceptance over fear of the Freshman 15 regardless of the endless weight gain stigma on a college campus. What will you choose?

Yay - Progress! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leaps of Faith

"Life is all about huge leaps of faith.
That's what progress is."

A friend of mine from treatment framed this quote for me and gave it to me as a gift when I 'graduated' from treatment just over a year ago. The picture frame has been sitting on my dresser where I can blatantly see it ever since. Ironically, the word progress became my mantra no more than a month later when I started this blog.

After a conversation with one of my email recovery buddies about leaps of faith yesterday, I got to thinking about this quote. Leaps of faith are believing in something that is unimaginable, intangible, and even improvable. Leaps of faith provoke fear in all of us. 

Recovery, in many aspects, is a huge leap of faith. There are so many unknowns in the recovery process.

Who am I without my eating disorder?
How will I handle being at a different weight?
How will I cope without disordered behaviors?
Is the grass really greener on the other side?
Does my treatment team really know what they are talking about?
 How will I ever put the pieces of my life back together?
Will people accept me at a different weight?
Can I let go of that control?
Will I fall apart?

Recovery forces us to face these unknowns whether we are ready to or not. Oftentimes we go into situations completely blind without anything or anyone to trust except ourselves. But how are we supposed to trust ourselves when we ruined our lives in the past?
It's a leap of faith.

Even for those of us who have been in recovery for awhile, we often find ourselves holding onto old habits that keep us stuck - myself included. These old habits are barriers to a full recovery. They offer us alternative means to numb out and avoid direct communication with our feelings. Some examples might be over-exercising, workaholism, alcohol abuse, excessive caffeine, dependent relationships, skimping on calories here and there, avoiding social situations, excessive shopping, oversleeping, or manipulating weight on weigh-in days. 

For me personally, napping almost everyday, occasional alcohol abuse, and as much as I hate to admit it, occasional weigh-in day manipulation, are all symptoms I haven't been able to let go of yet. Without them I don't know how to cope with my anxieties.
Letting go is a leap of faith

So what is holding me back from completely letting go of these unhealthy coping mechanisms? Fear and nothing else. Fear of what will happen to me if I completely let go and leap into full recovery. 

As my quote says, however, life is all about leaps of faith and that's what my favorite word - progress - is all about. It's time to take that leap of faith and finally let go.


Monday, September 23, 2013

10 "Better" Body Affirmations

In honor of BEDA's Weight Stigma Awareness Week, I thought it would be a good idea to promote as much body positivity as I can this week. 

Recently, however, I've been struggling with the whole "love your body" movement. The truth is, some days I just don't love the way my body looks. So, on the days when I don't "love my body" I feel guilty; like I'm doing something wrong when I'm obviously not. 

I found this list of "better" body affirmations that I thought was perfect. The idea of becoming comfortable in my body and learning to accept the inevitable changes it will make throughout my life seems more realistic than developing a constant love affair with it. I'm not trying to bash the "love your body" campaign at all because I think it's wonderful. I really do. But for me, at this time in my recovery, I am in a place where acceptance needs to come before love.


1. Your body is in flux for the rest of your life. Think of your body as fluid instead of static — it’s always going to change. So get comfortable with those changes.
2. No one will love you or not love you because of your body. You are lovable because you’re you, not because your body looks a certain way.
3. The most intensely personal relationship you’ll ever have is with your body. It’s a lifelong relationship that’s well worth investing in and nurturing the same way you would with loved ones.
4. You don’t owe your body to anyone. Not sexually, not aesthetically. Your body is yours. Period.
5. What someone else says about your body says more about them than it does about you. Look past the actual snark to the person who’s saying it, because it’s only a reflection of what they think of themselves. That’s when you’ll see how little power their words have.
6. Your body is not a reflection of your character. It’s a physical home for the complex and wondrous and unique being that is you.
7. Take up as much space as you want. You don’t have to be small, or quiet, or docile, regardless of your physical size.
8. Everything you need to accept your body is already inside you. There’s no book, or diet, or workout routine or external affirmation that you need to feel good about your body right now.
9. Your body is a priority. It’s always trying to tell you things. Taking the time to listen to is of the utmost importance.
10. Wear whatever you want. Your body shape does not dictate your personal style, and fashion rules that say otherwise are wrong. Dress yourself in a way that makes you feel happy and confident and beautiful, because guess what? You are."
 - Ami Angelowicz and Winona Dimeo-Ediger

 I think these 10 "better" affirmations are a perfect way to start my week.

Happy Weight Stigma Awareness Week!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

BEDA's National Weight Stigma Awareness Week

This week is BEDA's National Weight Stigma Awareness Week and I am beyond thrilled to be one the featured contributors for this event. 

The other night I showed this flyer to my dad and he didn't really understand what I meant by the word 'stigma.' Now that I have been writing about eating disorders and mental health on this blog and for Libero Network for about a year, I tend to assume everyone knows what the word stigma means, but clearly that isn't true.

According to the BEDA website, "Weight Stigma, also known as weightism, weight bias, and weight-based discrimination, is judgment or stereotyping based on one’s weight, shape and/or size. Weight stigma fuels behaviors and actions by individuals and organizations that include bullying, hate-speech, and exclusions that limit the ability of a person to gain employment, healthcare, and education."

Some people have a misconception that weight solely depends on an individual's self-discipline and ability to control their food intake. There are also several stereotypes that directly relate to body size; for example, automatically thinking an individual is lazy and inadequate based on their size.  Not only is this an external problem, but these beliefs can also be internalized creating poor body image and potentially eating disordered behaviors. What ever happened to being comfortable in our skin regardless of what size we are, and more importantly, not judging others based on their appearance?

 As a strong believer in body positivity and of course, as the creator of freespo, I think it's important to acknowledge the importance of Weight Stigma Awareness Week. My piece on weight stigma on a college campus will be published on Wednesday September 25th, so be sure to check it out!
(Check out the entire schedule for WSAW week here)

To be on the list of contributors for Weight Stigma Awareness Week is a huge honor. If you are anything like me and get excited about raising awareness for weight related stigmas then be sure to get your fill this week - I know I will!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fighting Off Urges

This isn't a topic I necessarily enjoy talking about. In my mind, it displays weakness and despair, but it needs to be discussed.

 We all have them; especially in recovery.

For the past two days I have been tempted with exhausting urges to engage in disordered behaviors. Last night I had my temporary escape from my anxieties all planned out, but somehow found the strength within myself to fight off that temptation. The weird thing is, I wasn't even all that proud of myself for fighting off temptation. The fact that I was tempted at all to engage in a behavior that nearly ruined my life was enough to make those self-critical thoughts get the best of me.

In the past, I have done whatever I could to numb out those uncomfortable feelings. Now that I am in recovery, however, I am expected to sit with those anxious, depressive, and harsh self-beliefs. I'm not sure if exhausting is the right word to describe this process. It is grueling, strenuous, and draining to fight against the urge to act on behaviors that will get rid of those feelings, even if it is transient. 

 As a result of my efforts to fight off these urges, I went to bed around nine o'clock last night, only to wake up feeling even more fatigued this morning. Somehow I managed to make it through a day full of classes with a racing mind and an incessant need to numb out. Those of you who have struggled with an eating disorder can understand how difficult it is to eat during these times of stress, which of course, only makes things worse. I returned home feeling ravenous, irritable, and longing for a nap in addition to my growing craving to act on these urges. 

Talk about exhausting. As one of my friends put it, sometimes fighting off urges is a full time job in itself. 

The crazy thing about urges is, I know better. Acting on certain behaviors completely destroyed my life in years past, so why in the world would I even think about engaging in those behaviors? If I am being honest here, fighting off these urges in a million, billion times more difficult than actually giving into them.

 So what is really bothering me? What is making me crave this escape from my everyday life? A close friend of mine suggested I make a list of everything that is bothering me in this moment and to my surprise, that list is huge. There are several things I can control and need to take action on; however, there are also several things out of my control right now. Those things that are out of my control at this moment are pretty tough to cope with, but thankfully, I know acting on urges isn't the answer either.

I had plans to indulge in these behaviors again tonight, but luckily, writing and this blog (along with two very supportive friends) are saving me. Reaching out has always been difficult for me. Who wants to admit they are struggling? And even if my friends tell me how much better I am than this stupid disease, who says I have to listen to them? When I want to numb out, I want to numb out. Period.

However, by taking the time to notice these urges before I took action, I was able to talk myself out of engaging in destructive behaviors - even if that meant I drove myself a little crazy today.

I'd say it was worth it.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Symptom Swapping & Comorbidity

As some of you may have guessed, based on my last couple of posts, my emotions have been all over the place recently. One of my best friends from treatment was readmitted to a different facility this week, but not for what you'd expect. After being out of treatment for nearly a year, this individual's eating habits have returned to normal, but unfortunately there are still several underlying issues that need to be dealt with. 

As a result, different self-destructive behaviors have surfaced that do not involve eating, also known as symptom swapping. Symptom swapping is going from one addictive behavior to another. For example, some of us with eating disorders might begin to get our eating related symptoms under control, but begin drinking or smoking instead. Many of these behaviors, such as OCD tendencies, self harm, or shop lifting, are often present during the eating disorder; however, they become much more prevalent during recovery. Without the eating disordered symptoms to numb out and/or avoid, many individuals resort to these other self-medicating tactics.

Another aspect of eating disorder recovery that is often overlooked is comorbidity. Comorbidity, in contrast, is when two disorders are present at the same time. Many of us who suffer from eating disorders also deal with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, borderline personality, PTSD, obsessive compulsive, ext.; which makes treating the eating disorder even more difficult. In one study, it was found that 94% of patients diagnosed with eating disorders also struggled with comorbid mood disorders and 22% deal with substance abuse. 

I found this list of comorbid disorders, but please keep in mind there are several other disorders that may coincide with eating disorders.

 "Depression and anxiety. Disordered eating behaviors like restricting intake, purging or food rituals can serve as powerful stress relievers for those suffering with anxiety and depression.
 Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Eating disorders symptoms can often mirror OCD symptoms. Rigidity, compulsivity and the creation of elaborate rituals around food and exercise often display in both diagnoses.
 Bipolar disorder. Seen most commonly alongside bulimia, bipolar disorder shares several key symptoms with bulimia, including weight issues and impulsivity.
 Substance abuse. Abuse of drugs and alcohol offers a mechanism for those suffering from eating disorders to numb their pain and anxiety. The use of substances that decrease or suppress appetite in an effort to manage weight tends to be an anorexia comorbidity, while the abuse of substances with no effect on appetite or weight tends to be a bulimia comorbidity."

In my personal experience, I honestly cannot think of one individual I know in recovery who has not gone through a period of symptom swapping or suffered from comorbid symptoms, myself included. It's frustrating to say the least. We go into treatment, develop a new relationship with food, and gain weight only to have these other issues surface. I oftentimes question why I can't just have one disorder to deal with, as if that isn't enough.

My heart breaks for my friend who is back in treatment this week, but I am also incredibly proud of her for taking care of these co-occurring issues. Symptom swapping and comorbidity are much more common than I realized. It is also beginning to make sense to me why recovery is never a straight line. We are dealing with more than just eating related issues and if we choose to ignore these things, a full recovery is not possible.

My friend has taught me there is no shame in dealing with other mental health illnesses along side the eating disorder. In fact, it is perfectly normal. Let's all follow her lead and do our best to get the help we need beyond the ED symptoms.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Things I Know For Sure...

Sometimes I feel like every time I sit down to write a blog post, it has been "one of those days/weeks." Regardless of all the positive things going on in my life, there are always a few pesky challenges that get in the way. Is this just a part of life? Will I always be a horribly damaged person? Will our past experiences always be there to haunt us no matter how much progress we make? Is it possible to ever really change who we are? Why do some people struggle through life and others don't?

There are some questions I might never have answers to and things I cannot control. Luckily, however, there are a few things I do know for sure and I think this week needs to be about celebrating these few concrete facts in my life.

Change doesn't happen overnight.
Standing up for myself isn't always easy, but it is always necessary.
Best friends have magical powers to get us through anything.
Steaks should never be cooked more than medium rare.
Or eaten with ketchup.
Sometimes a good laugh fixes everything.
...And sometimes a good cry does, too.
No matter what people have done to me in the past, it does not need to influence my future.
Recovery really is worth it.
Heartbreaks happen and life goes on.
Bad days are always my biggest teachers.
What is right for me isn't right for everyone.
 I'll never be perfect.
Sometimes letting go is the only option.
That full feeling we all get after eating will pass.
As hard as I try, changing people is impossible.
My best is always good enough.
 There are a few moments of pure, intense bliss, like hot air balloon rides with my best friend, and I need to cling to them.

I will never have all the answers. Life will always throw me people and situations that don't make sense but maybe that's okay. Most of my life is unclear right now and oftentimes it's frightening, but at least I can recognize and utilize the few things I do know for sure.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Acting on Hunger Cues

The strangest thing has been happening the past couple of days. No matter how much I eat throughout the day, I never seemed to fill up. On Wednesday, for example, I ate my lunch and afternoon snack before lunchtime. On one hand, it was a pleasant change because I always complain about constantly feeling full. At the same time, however, as much as I hate to admit it, I am still a little uneasy about going over my daily allotment.

Just this week my therapist officially gave me permission to stop meal planning and counting calories (wahoooo!!), even though technically I haven't really been counting calories for a good 6-8 weeks. My weight has been stable for a solid year now and my metabolism seems to be working properly again, but I still seem to struggle with hunger cues. 

Okay, maybe not hunger cues themselves. I know when I'm hungry and when I'm not. Acting on those hunger cues, on the other hand, is the issue. A part of me still feels a sense of control and empowerment while I'm hungry, while another part of me is screaming feeeedd meeee. Sometimes in the middle of the night, for example, I wake up feeling ravenous, can't fall back asleep, and lay in bed contemplating whether or not I should get a snack.

I always find myself wondering if I am truly hungry. There are times when I have a difficult time understanding how I can be hungry an hour after eating lunch, get upset with myself, and find it impossible to focus on the task at hand. Do I eat? Do I wait it out until snack time? If I eat will I be upset with myself? And if I don't eat will I have the energy to make it to my next snack? What is this hunger about? Am I stressed? Tired? Or is this what hunger feels like?

Maybe this is a sign my hunger cues are back in full force. Maybe it's a sign I'm not eating enough. Maybe it's a sign I should start eating fewer calorie dense foods.

Exhausting thought process, right? Welcome to my world.

After years of restricting, binging, and purging, I completely destroyed my metabolism. During the weight restoration process, my stomach had to be stretched out to normal size again. I had no idea what it meant to be hungry, even though I was literally starving. The hunger/fullness part of my brain had been turned off.

As I am letting go of the structure of my meal plan and learning to act on my hunger cues, I think it's important to cut myself a little slack. When I was younger, I remember having days like these where I was just hungrier than normal, so I ate more. Simple. It's time for me to stop associating hunger with a lack of control. I'm lucky (and *gasp* kind of excited) to have my hunger cues back, even though there is a little anxiety that comes along with it.

The best part of all, after a few days of what feels like non-stop eating, my weight seems to be exactly the same. If I have an extra snack or two because I am truly hungry, my body will take care of the rest. Maybe this is what trusting and listening to my body feels like - who am I?


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bonding Time & To-Do List Progress

This past Sunday I had a special kayaking date with one of my cousins who was in town for my grandma's birthday bash. Many of my previous blog posts from the early summer months were inspired by conversations we had and books he suggested I read. Incidentally, both of our past struggles have brought us closer than ever before. I finally found someone outside of my treatment/recovery friends who truly understands parts of my brain that no one has even come close to grasping.

One of the first conversations we had, was in response to the to-do list post I wrote a couple weeks ago. In the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (and also First Things First) written by Steven Covey, the idea of the Time Management Matrix or Quadrant is introduced. By using these ideas, it becomes easier to prioritize my daily tasks and keep my sanity.

Like I mentioned in the to-do list post, I often feel overwhelmed after writing my to-do list. While looking at all that needs to get done and then wondering how I will find the time to get it all done, my anxiety quickly rises. Also, I have mentioned several times throughout this blog that in my past, while I was sick, I would avoid my to-do list all together as a way to temporarily escape my anxieties.

So a possible solution, according to Covey, is this idea of the time management matrix. While writing my to-do list for the week on Monday morning, I broke my list up into four parts or types of priorities: 

1. Urgent and important - items that need to be dealt with immediately. A few examples would be homework or projects that have specific deadlines and family emergencies. I would also put my continued health in recovery in this category.
2. Important, but not urgent - items that need to be planned for. Some of my examples are getting some fresh air, social activities, and blogging.
3. Urgent, but not important - should be minimized. Examples would be phone calls or text messages that don't necessarily have substance and other distractions.
4. Neither important or urgent - should be minimized or eliminated. These activities typically force us to ask ourselves what we are avoiding. Mindless web surfing, video games, or watching too much TV might be examples.

I think there are two main things I took away form this after prioritizing this week's to-do list; 1.) It's perfectly okay if I don't get certain things done on my list and 2.) I really do have enough time in my day to accomplish everything I need to. There are certain things in my day that are important and will help me achieve long term goals, but they are not urgent. If I don't get my laundry done, for example, rather than feeling like I didn't get everything accomplished, I can remind myself that there is always tomorrow. I know that sounds really simple, but by letting go of these perfectionist tendencies that tell me I need to accomplish every single thing on my list, I am actually making huge progress.

As great as these ideas are, more importantly, I am able to step away from the weekend's kayaking adventure and see tremendous changes in myself. While I was caught up in my eating disorder, there's no way I would have even considered alone time, serious conversation, or potential bonding with anyone.
I am happy to report things are beginning to settle down at school and thanks to my new approach to making a to-do list, I feel much more at ease. Recovery, as I am learning, involves so much more than eating and weight maintenance. Sometimes I feel embarrassed because I need professional help to manage these day-to-day stressors; but at the same time, however, I am also starting to realize that I kind of missed out on crucial young adult developmental years while I was sick.

Although I might never be free from daily to-do lists and life's endless changes, at least I have cousins and tricks like the time management quadrant to help me get by. Today I only have two important and urgent tasks on my to-do list and anything else I accomplish is a bonus - I think I can handle that.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Family Parties - Distorted & Healthy Thinking

Last night as I was sitting down to do homework, I was having a difficult time focusing because all I could think about were the incredibly beautiful transitions my life has made this past year.

This past weekend was my grandma's 93rd birthday party and in typical Cronkright fashion, there were more people running around and food being consumed than I can typically handle. As much as I hate to admit it, unfortunately, family gatherings have never been my favorite thing. My family is one of the most loving, goofy, and entertaining groups of people I will ever meet. My family is far from perfect, but they make up for their flaws with a contagious, genuine, and kindhearted spirit. So why in the world would I ever dread these big family parties?

Rather than attempting to critically think about this question and explore the root causes of this issue, for years I have chosen to beat myself up for not enjoying these family get togethers - until now. Here is a list of many of my old distorted thoughts followed by some new healthy thoughts I have recently started to believe:

1. Socially Awkward 
Old Distorted Thoughts: Compared to the rest of my family, I'm quite shy and that shyness was only magnified when I was caught up in my eating disorder. In order to fit in, have fun, or relate to anyone at theses parties I needed to be outgoing, bubbly, and the center of attention.
New Healthy Thought: I don't need to be anything by myself, even if that means I'm quiet, at these parties. The less I pretend to be something I'm not, the more I will enjoy my time spent with these special people.

2. Food Centered Parties 
Old Distorted Thoughts: Food has always been the focal point of every family gathering I can remember. We typically eat holiday lunches, rather than dinners, so the feast can continue throughout the entire day. Oftentimes most of the food is left out and we are expected to graze from noon until sometime after dark when we finally pass out in a food coma. Also, I always thought people were constantly watching me eat and noticing the amount of food I was consuming. Obviously, this aspect of family gatherings has never been easy with an eating disorder.
New Healthy Thoughts: Everyone has different dietary views. I think I have become particularly sensitive to this over the past year and I have finally come to terms with the fact that I do not have to eat what everyone else is eating. More often than not, people are so caught up in their own plate of food, they are too busy to even notice mine.

3. Feelings of Inferiority 
 Old Distorted Thoughts: Due to my lack of enjoyment at these gatherings, my distorted brain makes me automatically believe I'm somehow not good enough. I tend to get in these self-destructive thought cycles: Everyone else looks forward to these parties, while I dread them. They all have so much fun, while I count down the minutes until I can leave. This is my family. They provide unconditional love. Why can't I return that love? I'm just different than everyone. I must not be good enough.
New Healthy Thoughts: I'm sure having my closest cousin ask me to be in her wedding this weekend helped me feel "good enough" at this year's party; more importantly, however, it proved so many of my distorted thoughts wrong. By discovering a little self-acceptance and self-compassion, I am learning to be okay with who I am, which ultimately helps stop those self-destructive thought cycles.

4. Personality Differences and Various Interests 
Old Distorted Thoughts: I have talked about this quite a bit in this blog. Over the past year or so, as I have been stripping away my eating disorder identity, I am learning how different I truly am from many of my family members. I can only handle talking about the Detroit Tigers for so long and I have never been a big fan of football or hunting. Unlike my brother, eventually I want to move away from my hometown, experience different cultures, and find my own perspective on social issues.
New Healthy Thoughts: The best part of all, over time, I have started to realize not only is it okay to be different, but many of my cousins see themselves as different, too. Those differences are what make our family dynamic so unique and wonderful. If other family members can be different and accepted, then for goodness sakes, so can I.

5. Comfort Zones
Old Distorted Thoughts: As crazy and distorted as this might sound, for the past several years I have always felt like my eating disorder has made those around me uncomfortable. I feel badly for making those closest to me feel like they needed to walk on egg shells around me to avoid saying something that might upset me.
New Healthy Thoughts: Again, with my own personal level of self-acceptance over my past, I feel like the more open others are to discuss certain things with me. I'm not saying everyone needs to be as open as I am about past struggles, but I do think there is a sense of freedom that comes along with letting go of the shame associated with a troubled past.

Words don't do justice to my level of excitement this morning. I might not have been 100% comfortable at my grandma's 93rd birthday party, but this year's level of comfort was far beyond anything I have ever experienced. I've always known the issue wasn't with my family members themselves; it was always in my own head. To think a lifetime of distorted thoughts have made noticeable strides in the right direction in just one year is huge. Wish me luck getting rid of this smile anytime soon.


Friday, September 6, 2013

One Year Graduation Anniversary

This post is a little more difficult to write than I was expecting. One year ago today I "graduated" from treatment. Even though I wasn't technically discharged for another couple of weeks (I began doing extended weekends, 5 days at home and 2 days in treatment per week), this day marked the end of my stay as a full timer at the River Centre Clinic, the end of the most memorable summer of my life, and the end of the security blanket treatment had provided. It was officially time for me to start fending for myself in the big and scary world ahead of me.

Sometimes when I look back on this past year, I have a hard time comprehending how much my life has changed. On my drive home from RCC one year ago, I remember thinking about all of the new adventures ahead of me. If someone would have told me all that I have accomplished in one year on that drive home, as mean as it might sound, I would have laughed in their face.

One of the most special parts of graduation at RCC is the box each patient receives at the end of their stay. My box has been in the same spot on my dresser for the past year. It is filled with the good luck cards I received on my graduation day and other feel good notes I kept from my stay at RCC. Out of fear, I have not taken the time to open the box at all over the past year - until last night. Needless to say, I was a bit of an emotional wreck.

The last time I opened the box, I was unsure what the future would bring. I was terrified to leave the treatment chapter of my life behind and had a difficult time even thinking about what was next. Honestly, I wasn't even sure if I could continue using the tools I had learned in treatment on my own. Without my treatment team constantly looking over my shoulder and a daily weigh in, how would I find the strength within myself to recover?

Thankfully, I have surprised myself with the inner strength I have somehow managed to find over the past year. I wish I could say it has been easy and recovery is a smooth ride, but that would be a massive lie. There was a moment during my stay at RCC, however, when I remember thinking there was no turning back and decided I was willing to do whatever it took to somehow reach the other side. 

After a few months and a couple dozen pounds gained, I began growing out of my clothes. In order to make ourselves feel better, a few of my best treatment friends and I decided to burn our old, too small clothes. In that moment I remember feeling a sense of empowerment that I had never felt before. I was fighting back against my eating disorder and surprisingly, it gave me a high that I had never experience. 

By thinking back on that high, feeling of accomplishment and power, and the inner strength I discovered that night, I have been able to push through difficult times. In that moment I knew going back into my eating disordered ways would be so much worse than continuing in recovery. Burning my old clothes wasn't easy, but I survived it. Recovery hasn't been easy, but I'm surviving it. 

 In some ways I have felt like a two year old observing, learning, and taking in all of these new life experiences. Each day since my graduation one year ago, I have learned something new about myself and the world around me. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is, nothing, and I mean not a single thing, in my life is the same as it was one year ago. I'm not even the same person.

This day is bittersweet as it marks the final one year anniversary of my recovery journey. I can no longer consider myself a newbie in recovery; however, that also means I can start making even bigger strides away from my eating disorder. It's scary to think about where my life would be without my stay in treatment.

The quote on the inside of my graduation day box says, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see," and I never realized how relevant that is until now. Yes, at first look my past is troubling, but it's no longer all I see. I never thought one year after graduating from treatment I would see my past as a blessing in disguise or as having a positive influence over my future, but here I am.

I can't wait to see what year two will bring.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Black Nail Polish - A Lesson in Authenticity

"Authenticity is a collection of choices
that we have to make every day.
It’s about the choice to show up and be real.
The choice to be honest.
The choice to let our true selves be seen."

One of the most difficult parts for many of us recovering from an eating disorder is the process of figuring out who are without that eating disorder 'identity.' I have lived most of my life in fear of what others might think if I ever allowed my authentic self to show through. Instead of figuring out my own personal style, where I stand politically, what my interests are, and even what I believe in morally, I have spent years attempting to make choices based on what I think others will consider to be acceptable.

My authentic self has been rejected. When I started this recovery process, I was 24 years old and honestly didn't have a clue who Kelsi Cronkright was without an eating disorder.

Yesterday I decided to make a decision based on what I wanted, not what I thought others would expect me to do. As miniscule, silly, or off the wall as this might sound, by painting my nails black, not only did I step outside of my comfort zone, but also started my week with a surprising extra boost of confidence. 

For those of you who know me personally, it's pretty clear that I am a pink and purple kind of girl. Even by looking at the colors I use on my blog, it's probably obvious I've never been a tomboy. I prefer dresses and lace. I'm a girly-girl to say the least. Stereotypically black nail polish might suggest my style was much more edgy or that I am a hipster who listens to punk rock - neither of which are the least bit true. But for some reason, a small voice (my authentic voice) told me to give it a try.

Before my classes I had an appointment with my academic adviser and if I'm being honest, I was worried about what she might think of me if she noticed my black nail polish. That fear is a perfect example of how hesitant I am to step outside the norm and be myself. Black nails do not agree with the image I typically try to portrait. I was curious to find out what would happen if I stopped trying so hard and listened to my authentic self for a change.

As the appointment with my adviser came to an end, the lady behind the desk, to my complete surprise, looked down at my nails and said she loved the black. I almost fell out of my chair. For the rest of the day I couldn't help but look down at my nails, smile, and feel like a small part of my eating disorder identity had been destroyed forever.

I guess that's what happens when I am true to my authentic self - even if it occasionally involves a little black nail polish.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Recovery Security Blankets

Last year at this time I was getting ready to leave treatment. During this transitional period, my weeks confined in the security of the treatment walls became shorter and my weekends at home adjusting and facing the triggers in a new environment got longer. On the morning my parents dropped me off at treatment, I threw my most impressive temper tantrum ever. There was no way they were going to make me stay there. As my stay came to an end, on the other hand, my attitude changed completely. I was ready to move in and stay forever. 

Treatment became my first recovery security blanket. It was comforting to be around people who understood me and would keep me on track in my recovery. No matter how long I put off going home, I knew I would never be 100% ready to leave. Moving back home meant I would be forced to remove that security blanket and leave a small part of my recovery behind; only to expose myself to the big, scary world that caused my eating disorder. 

As many of you know, I spent most of my summer complaining I felt stuck in my current life circumstances. Now that I have been given a challenge and an opportunity to grow in my new school environment, however, I am craving the old security blanket that kept me stuck, and also safe.

Summer has officially come to an end. It's time for a new chapter to unfold. As this security blanket is removed, a small part of me will be left behind and a new, improved version of myself will be given the opportunity to flourish. 

I think as I continue through the recovery process there will be several security blankets that need to be removed and left behind. Unfortunately, in order to move on from this particular security blanket, I will be forced to face many of my past triggers and learn to implement healthy coping mechanisms. I am also starting to understand why recovery feels impossible for so many of us; the first few days without my security blanket feel too overwhelming to deal with. 

Rather than sitting through the anxiety involved with facing these new challenges, I would much rather revert back to old eating disordered behaviors and completely avoid any form of change. In the short term, clinging onto my previous security blanket feels like the right thing to do. In the long run, however, it will only hinder and stall my recovery. 
Without this security blanket, as I have already learned, I will slip and fall - but maybe that's okay. Maybe the process of leaving a security blanket behind isn't supposed to be smooth or perfect. Maybe the only way to move forward is to be tested. 

 With a new week upon us, I feel ready to leave this security blanket behind and hopefully uncover a new set of strengths within myself.