Tag Archives: Emotional Health

Refuse to shrink (and other recovery thoughts)

Hello world! How ya doin’?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this blog to be. It’s shapeshifted multiple times over the past year and a half- from just a general personal blog to eating disorder recovery to body positivity and now is at a place that is kind of a combination of the three. But after last week’s election, I am more inspired than ever to talk about feminism and oppression and social justice. It’s clear by the election results that there is still so much work to do and I want to help do it. It’s possible that those topics might leak more into my blog every week- this is your warning. You don’t have to read it. But like I said last week, I have to say it.

Today though, I want to talk about my recovery and my eating disorder response to the election.

My recovery has been going really, really well. I hardly count calories ever, except to make sure that I get enough. I order what I really want when I go into a coffee shop. I eat chocolate at 9am like it ain’t no thang. I am coming to a place where I really do love and appreciate and honor my body. It feels really, really good.

As I’ve forged my way into recovery, I have learned to stand up and speak out. I have never been one for confrontation (in fact, I am still not if I can avoid it). I also lived solely to please others. I lived in a world where isolation was easier, so that there would be no one else to please- but that self-isolation mostly just brought depression and anxiety. I felt trapped and like I wasn’t smart enough/important enough to speak out and say what I believed in. I felt like it was never my place. Now I can see that I have to make my place in this world. I can see that I am valuable and that I do have important things to say.

The election results were really, really hard for marginalized people of all sorts, including people who suffer from mental illness. The mental illness support pages I follow on social media were posting links to suicide prevention hotlines and other similar resources. Their messages were all the same. You matter. This is not the end. Do not give up here. We will make it through this. 

That is really scary. Scary that the election made marginalized people feel so hopeless, so worthless, so unimportant that advocates and sufferers alike were worried about taking their own lives. Scary that death seemed easier than dealing with the hardships that are, undoubtedly, ahead. I heard from friends and acquaintances who suffer from the whole spectrum of mental illness- no one took this news easily.

As a person who has suffered anorexia, my response was the urge to restrict (surprise, surprise). This election made me absolutely sick to my stomach (no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, this election was pretty sickening). I felt nauseas and sad and not even the teensiest, tinsiest bit hungry. It made me want to push away from the world, back into that little hole of isolation where I only had to worry about myself. It made food seem unimportant. In the days after the election, I wasn’t necessarily restricting but I certainly wasn’t taking good care of myself. And I was doing that for reasons that are obvious to me- I wanted control of something, at a time when everything seemed so wildly out of my control. I wanted to shrink my world back down to that little safe, sad hole where heartbreak like that didn’t exist because I didn’t let myself feel that hard.

Thank God that didn’t last long, amIright?

I let myself wallow for a few days and be sad. I am still sad. I don’t think this particular brand of sadness will go away for awhile. I did not, however, let myself skip meals or go for a 7-mile run to numb myself. I wasn’t my best recovery self, but I certainly wasn’t my worst eating disorder self either. Not even close. Not even a little bit.

After a few days of processing, I can see clearly that this is not the time to shrink. This is not the time to back away. This is not the time to hide.

Now is the time to stand up. To engage. To fight. To refuse to back down, regardless of what challenges lie ahead. And this goes for anyone who feels anything about this election. We need to stand up for what we believe in. Our beliefs are valid and worthy of being shared. The only way we will move forward is by sharing and seeing that we are all part of each other. We belong to each other. And we have to love each other really hard.

When I restrict, my brain gets foggy and I can’t think clearly. Anxiety and depression come more naturally. I don’t have energy and I start to lose that piece of myself that has forged her way into this world and found her place. I start to get a little lost.

We cannot let ourselves get lost.

To anyone suffering from mental illness or any other marginalized person: this is not the end. There is light and love and goodness in this world- we have to engage and be part of it. Let yourself be sad but then invite courage and strength into your world so that we can stand up and unite. I believe in you. I believe in all of us.

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When you’re a little off center…

It took me awhile but after twenty-three years, I’ve finally found my center. You know, the place everyone is referring to when they describe themselves “centered”. The place where peace emanates from, the place where I feel grounded and whole. I am centered when I have a low (but not too low) stress level. I am centered when I am doing work and activities that fulfill me. I am centered when I am making time for myself. I am centered when I am eating regularly and enough. It’s in this place that I can think clearly, laugh loudly and feel good, despite what thoughts pop up.

I am very off-center.

Before anyone gets worried (ahem, mom), I am fine. I am just a normal person who sometimes has bad days and who sometimes doesn’t sleep well at night. Most importantly for myself, I am eating enough (although I do believe I could stand to eat more because I’m a bit more draggy than usual, even for this kind of mood. Oh, the wonders of recovery. Never know when your body suddenly wants to make more repairs).

I started moving away from my center this weekend. I spent my weekend in Rhode Island, which is where I went to college and where a lot of my friends still live. Let’s get two things out of the way first: I’ve had my panties in a bunch because my October weekends are getting eaten alive by life. I just want to slow down, enjoy my favorite time of year, go for a hike in these beautiful NH mountains by myself. I want to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning and get a cookie butter coffee while I’m over there. I want to write and read and bask in the beauty of the Earth. I regret to inform you all that I am selfish when it comes to my weekends. I love seeing people and spending time with my friends but I also love two whole days where I have no plans, no obligations, just me doing my own thang. And I have not a single weekend in October to myself which makes me (again, selfishly) grumpasaurus rex. Second, the full moon was this weekend so this moon child was feeling all sorts of nutty.

Also before everyone I’ve spent an October weekend with feels bad/mad/sad: HI GUYS I love you all so much it’s stupid, I am just being a greedy wench who wants it both ways. 

That being said…I went to Rhode Island this weekend. Which is a place where I spent four long, unhappy years trapped by my eating disorder and unbearable anxiety. It’s a place where I spent many nights crying, feeling unwanted, feeling bad about myself, feeling different, feeling every emotion under the sun. I had some very dark days there. And it’s a place I have not been back to since recovery.So basically, my weekend brought up some unexpected things. And for the most part, thatI spent most of my weekend with four of my friends, all of whom except one had not seen me since recovery (it is worth noting here that I was not worried at all about them seeing me and thinking of me differently. That’s just a thought I had now like hey, they might have noticed you gained 50 pounds but it’s totally not anything I thought of beforehand because they are all good and loving and funny people who don’t judge people based on the way they look. These are the kind of people everyone should hang out with). Anywho. I just wasn’t used to being my recovered self with them. Even when we went out to meals, I started having thoughts about who I used to be when I was with them and how I used to eat and who I am now and what I eat. It’s like looking at a picture from your childhood; suddenly, you are sucked back into the past and you forget where you are or what you’re doing or how you’ve grown.

didn’t stop me from enjoying the weekend. I had a swell time. I laughed harder than I have in awhile and loved up on people who I haven’t seen in awhile and ate delicious breakfast foods. But those thoughts sat in the back of mind, lingering there like smoke after you blow out the flame. And then I continued to let it smolder for a few more hours while I drove home. And then I decided that I didn’t feel like journaling (which I do every night, especially after a weekend of not writing) and I didn’t feel like reading and all I wanted to do was watch mindless TV and get mad over silly things and then walk by the river with a podcast in to distract myself from it all. Note: this is not helpful.

Yesterday, I was trying to be kind to myself but my tummy hurt and work was dragging by and I didn’t like my swollen belly and my hair was driving me crazy and my knee was bothering me more than usual and I went to bed later than I wanted to and I didn’t sleep hardly at all and this morning when I woke up, it was cloudy and colder than it was supposed to be and I didn’t feel like going to work and I had a headache and an ingrown hair and it was raining on me during my outreach stops and they gave me the wrong thing for lunch and I forgot my seltzer water home and how could anyone possibly happy when so many catastrophic things are happening to her?!?!?!

Yes, I am being a baby. But even still, this whole combination of things plus exhaustion brought up some very real depression/anxiety/body image thoughts for me. As I drove home from work today, I just thought to myself: what are you doing? Why are you making yourself miserable? Why aren’t you writing when you know it will help? Why aren’t you reading when you know you would rather do that than watch that episode of Friends for the 27th time (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? Why are you letting those body image thoughts take hold in your brain?

I’m not saying that depression or anxiety or eating disorders are decisions; they aren’t. They are very real, very scary, very distressing and unpleasant. But after seven years of dealing with these things, there are things I know I can do to make myself feel better. It’s easier, yes, to be enveloped by the bad thoughts and curl up in them like a blanket. That is a place I once took great comfort. But that’s not where I want to live anymore. That blanket that once felt warm and cozy now feels scratchy and harsh, like it’s been used too many times. That warm feeling comes when I’m at my center, when I’m honoring my truth in my little bubble of authentic life.

So I need to move back towards that space, back to to the place where I feel like I am serving a greater purpose and am fulfilled, happy, whole.It’s not easy. But it’s easier than getting sucked into that dark place, where the light gets so dim it eventually goes out. Fighting back against that by doing things I love to a place where I feel like I am beaming light? Yes please. That is where I want to be. That is where I’m going. We all have that center, the place where we emulate light and love, to the place where we’re all just feelin’ really good, man. It’s our job to find that place, figure out how to get there and then do everything in our power to stay in that sliver of life where joy and fulfillment and contentment and passion live. We all have that place. And we can all get there. Tomorrow is a new day.

Now I want you to tell me…
If you’ve had an ED, has going back to places/people you associate with that thing brought difficult thoughts up?
Does this post resonate with people who have dealt with mental illness in general? Do you feel like there are times when you are off-balance and can feel yourself being pulled in the opposite direction?
How do you find your center?
What’s the best thing that happened to you today? (In case anyone is wondering, mine would be writing this blog post in my sweatpants under this cozy blanket.)

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Link Love: September Favorites

Happy September! I can’t believe it’s already September. Where does the time go? I feel like it’s been awhile (at least a couple weeks) since I had a regular post on here and I assure you, I will be back to regular programming soon. Between my job, adjusting to the move and the physical therapy I’ve been doing for my knees, I haven’t had much time to write lately. I have about three posts in the works- here’s hoping I finish one soon! (PS as always, I’ve managed to keep up with Instagram- if you’re not already following me, check it out HERE)

 

It’s been awhile since I did Link Love- I got into the pattern of doing it on the first of the month but August 1 was the day I moved into my new apartment and blogging just wasn’t happening  that day or the days leading up to it (I kind of waited until the last 48 hours to pack my life’s belongings up neatly into boxes…oops). So instead, I have two month’s worth of links to share with all of y’all! Hope you enjoy them and if you have any thoughts or comments or questions or general merriment to share, please leave them in the comments below! Happy reading 🙂

Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism
This is a great article about racism in the US. There are so many people I’ve met in my life who try to deny the presence of systemic racism in our country and it makes me frustrated that people can’t talk about it in a reasonable, adult way. I also just need to share the tweet below that so profoundly describes white privilege (don’t even get me started on this Colin Kaepernick situation).

 

There is no social justice without bodies
Linda Bacon, the pioneer of the Health at Every Size movement and author of the book, wrote a great piece about weightism on the HAES blog this month. Linda Bacon is knowledgable, progressive and all-around amazing. 

When will food issues be on politician’s plates?
Food issues- sustainable agriculture, food insecurity and anti-hunger initiatives- are all things I am very passionate about (hence the reason I have the job that I do) but they are issues that politicians rarely address. I met a woman running for State Representative here in New Hampshire who advocates for sustainable agriculture as one of her main issues and it was so refreshing and exciting to see a political who is passionate about the work that is so important to our future.

Body acceptance rises among women
!!!!!! Finally some good news. This makes me so happy. Let’s take our bodies BACK.

We’re so confused: The problem with health and exercise studies
As a dietitian, the amount of nutrition information on the internet is truly terrifying. If I had a nickel for every time someone read that “you should eat XYZ everyday” or that “ABC is the new superfood/magic potion/answer to all of life’s questions”, I would be a freaking millionaire.

What to do with those leftover meal plan swipes
Back to school seemed like a good time to talk about food insecurity on college campuses. Most people don’t think about hunger on college campuses but it is very real. And in many cases, dining halls give you more swipes than you can use in a semester. What a wonderful solution to a big problem!

The problem with thin privilege
THIS IS SO GOOD. Thin privilege, body shaming, feminism, social justice all in one place. PLUS Kelsey Miller is amazing and you should all read her book Big Girl if you’re looking to see why you should give up dieting for good!

That’s all for now! Like I said, please feel free to leave any comments below and have a beautiful first day of September!

Climbing.

I hiked a mountain yesterday.

I love hiking and no matter how many times I do it, I will never stop loving the quietness of nature, the sound of leaves crunching under my hiking boots, the scrambling to get to the top of the mountain, the way the whole world kind of melts away. And this hike was especially wonderful because it was with two of my best college friends and conveniently, two of the best roommates I’ve ever had.

Now, I know, really and truly, that hiking a 4000 foot mountain isn’t exactly within my recovery “rules”. My recovery body has not experienced exercise in over 7 weeks. Not even a short run around the block. Not even a brief stint on the elliptical. I do some yoga stretches sometimes, particularly when the sunshine (or moonshine) is coming in my window in the morning or night but that’s about it. But this was one of my best friend’s first time ever in New Hampshire and what is New Hampshire without mountains? So I admit, I broke a recovery “rule”. But I actively made the decision when they told me they were coming up that this hike would not be about calories or about how I was “burning off” my meals or how I was “earning” food. This hike would be about friends and trees and nature and Earth. And also, I’ve lived with many-a-rule for much too long and even though my no-exercise rule is in place for a good reason, it was worth breaking to appreciate this time with my friends.

The world slips away when you’re hiking. You aren’t surrounded by people and noise and useless chatter. You’re not comparing yourself to other people you say either in real life or on social media. You’re not scrolling through your Instagram feed looking at people who have “perfect bodies” and you’re not watching Snapchat stories of people having “more fun” than you. Your idea isn’t filled with other people’s ideas and images; it’s filled with your own thoughts, your own imagination with nothing but the dirt and the sky and the trees around you. When I’m hiking, I’m not comparing myself to the perfect-looking girl in the advertisement, I’m not pinching the parts of me that are not “perfect”, I’m not counting calories in my head. I’m just appreciating the fact that I’m made up of the same stuff as the dirt and the sky and the trees and that I deserve to be here too.

Hiking a mountain parallels recovery in a lot of ways and there’s a lot of metaphors (or similes if we want to get really technical about things)  that I could come up with. Like how it’s easier in the beginning and then after awhile, it starts to get really hard and suddenly you’re finding it much more of a challenge than you did in the beginning. Or how there’s always going to be parts where you trip or possibly fall. Or how there’s unexpected parts where it’s slippery (because it’s March and there’s still ice- and because there’s always going to be places in recovery where it’s easier to slip up). Or how good it feels to get to the top after so much hard work.

I haven’t gotten to the “summit” of recovery yet, I’m not even close. Full recovery doesn’t happen in 7 weeks. It happens in a year or two years or eight years or twenty years. But I can say with certainty that I’m getting closer everyday, even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I feel like I want to sit on the ground halfway up the mountain and just enjoy where I am without pushing on farther. But I don’t. I don’t give up because I know there is so much more at the top. I know that I’m cutting myself short if I stop. That even though I might be comfortable where I am right now, it’s not where I’m supposed to end up. That if I keep going, there will be so much more and I will be able to breathe so much deeper and see farther and have an even better perspective. Because that’s how it feels to be at the top of a mountain- you can take a deep breath and enjoy. Look around, spread out your arms and embrace all of the beautiful Earth around you.

 

I haven’t gotten to that point in my recovery yet, but it’s coming slowly but surely. And until then, I’ll refuse to give up, I’ll refuse to stop climbing, I’ll refuse to sit down and I’ll keep looking ahead to the day where I can spread my arms out and breath a little deeper.

 

6 Things People with Anxiety Are Tired of Hearing

I’ve been suffering from anxiety for a long time, long before I ever considered it anxiety or any sort of disorder- it only took me 22 years to realize that throwing up every time you travelled or got nervous (like on the alter at church- twice) isn’t exactly normal. My family and friends have been tremendously helpful and supportive throughout this process. I’ve gotten words of encouragement and support whenever I needed them. There are, however, certain things that just make me cringe when I hear it and/or exacerbate the anxiety so I made a list so you can help the anxiety-ridden gem in your life without making them inwardly cringe. Enjoy and happy weekend!

  1. “I worry a lot too.”

This is one of the most common misunderstandings about anxiety. Worry and anxiety are not synonyms. Everyone gets worried. Worry is a natural human emotion. Some worry is good; it can motivate us to make a plan of action, to fix something that needs to be fixed, to help us find solutions. Everyone worries but not everyone gets anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is exactly that- a disorder. It’s a chemical imbalance; it’s outside the realm of worry. You might worry, but do you ever wake up with heart palpations out of nowhere and not be able to explain them? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and worry one of your loved ones with die in a terrible situation that you create entirely in your head? Do you ever spend an hour-long car ride worrying about the fact that you might have left your hair straightener on, even though you know you shut it off or worry that the oven is on, even though you didn’t use it? Do you ever enter a room full of people and feel exhausted and tight-chested at the prospect of what could be awkward conversation? Do you ever have a twitch in your leg and worry that you have some sort of overlooked diagnosis that will lead to paralysis or cancer or death? Worry is one thing. Anxiety is another.

  1. “Just calm down.”

Oooooh is that what I have to do? Calm down? Thanks for clearing that up!

Everyone with anxiety knows that they need to “calm down”. That isn’t the problem. I think I speak for all people suffering from anxiety when I say if we could, we would. But it’s not that easy for people with anxiety. Generalized anxiety is a disorder, one that prevents people from “just calming down”. In time, anxiety can become well controlled through medications, therapy and other techniques but until then, calming down simply is not an option. And by telling someone with anxiety that they need to just calm down trivializes the worries they have. It makes them feel like there is something wrong with them because they can’t calm down, which pushes them further into the downward spiral of anxiety.

  1. “You should do yoga/meditation.”

Yes, we all know that yoga and meditation are proven to reduce stress in some people. Truly, we do. Although there are no numbers to prove it, I would guess that every person with anxiety has at some point been recommended to try yoga or meditation. Chances are that the person you are speaking to may have tried it before. Maybe you suggested this because you’ve tried it and it helped for you or you have a friend who tried it and says that it changed her life, but what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve found my own ways to calm myself down when I feel the waves of anxiety rolling in and those methods look a lot different than the methods other people have come up with. Each person is different and each person finds peace in his or her own way. While yoga is certainly a helpful way to calm down, it’s not the only way and it doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, try asking if they’ve found anything they can do to calm themselves down and figure out what works for them individually.

  1. “Take a joke!”

This is possibly the least helpful thing you can say to anyone who has anxiety. The person who says this is trying to get the person to lighten up, get out of their anxiety-ridden mind and just enjoy the moment. But this phrase likely has the opposite effect. People who suffer from anxiety get caught up in their own mind and are also battling their own insecurities and uncertainties. I know that when my anxiety pays me a visit, I am sucked into a world of self-doubt and become even more sensitive to anyone poking fun or offhandedly joking. This situation is even worse in public situations with people you may not know particularly well because you’re trying so hard to appear like it totally doesn’t bother you when in fact, you’re on the verge of tears and having a hard time maintaining normal conversation because your mind is taking you down a terrible path of self-hate and fear. Whether it’s with people you know well or people you don’t, hearing to just “take a joke” makes you feel like you’re somehow failing at controlling your emotional reactions and the thoughts in your head when in reality, anxiety is not something that you can control.

  1. “Go out and forget about it.”

A lot of people go out and have a few drinks to forget about their worries and troubles. That may work for some people but it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. When anxiety strikes, the last thing I want to do is go to a crowded bar. People with anxiety try to process everything so precisely and with so much detail that a crowded place with lights and TVs and multiple conversations and too many people and drinks and that cute guy and the girl who has the cute outfit and the football game and the guy who is trying to talk to you and the conversation behind you is all TOO MUCH. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting and when my anxiety gets particularly bad, all I want to do is curl up in my bed, watch 30 Rock and have a glass of wine, thank you very much.

  1. “But you have so many good things in your life.”

Though certainly well intentioned, reminding someone with anxiety that they have so much good in their life ultimately makes them feel worse. When someone with anxiety hears that, it trivializes his or her fears and worries. They hear, “I have so much good and I still feel like I’m failing, like I’m not good enough, like my life is bad. I’m not appreciating what I have, I’m a terrible person, I shouldn’t feel this way, blah blah blah.” We know we have good things in our lives. We know that what we’re worrying about may seem trivial and small and ridiculous to worry over. We know that there are a lot of good things in our lives, our families and our friends and our boyfriends and our warm beds. We know there are people suffering worse than us. But that doesn’t make anxiety go away. Anxiety doesn’t happen because people think their lives are bad. Reminding us that we have so much only makes us feel like we are failing even more. Instead of trying to talk someone out of there anxiety, the best thing you can do is offer a compassionate and understanding shoulder to lean on. That is something that every anxiety-sufferer will appreciate.