Tag Archives: Recovery

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!

Looking for ourselves in old photos

This past week, I’ve found myself looking at old pictures of me. Pictures of me in college, pictures of me at the beach, pictures of me at my sister’s wedding, pictures of me at my graduation. In all this pictures, I am smiling, looking happy, taking photos with all my family, laughing with my friends and I looked back at these photos and I felt…

Awful. Terrible. Ashamed. Self-conscious. Sad.

In all this pictures, I weigh less than I do right now. Most of these pictures were taken in the span of time I was at my lowest weight and the ones that weren’t were when I was at a weight that was still too low for my body. And right now, I weigh more than I ever have in my life (I can’t say that definitively because I don’t own a scale or weigh myself but I can tell you with pretty much absolute certainty that it’s true). I don’t look like I do in those pictures, at least not to me. I look nearly unrecognizable to my disordered eyes. My belly has some squish, my bum is ever-expanding and my first reaction when I saw these pictures was I want to look like that again. 

But here is the thing: that’s not true. I don’t want to look like that again. Because when I looked like that, I was waging a war inside my head. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I was too busy counting calories and planning workouts to enjoy the beach or the time with my friends or the party. Wherever I was, I wasn’t really there. I was off in my own little world, a world filled with self-hate and calories and meal planning and workouts- a world that no one should ever have to live in.

As I looked at these pictures, I thought to myself: if I looked like this right now, how would my life be different? The answer: it wouldn’t. My life wouldn’t suddenly become better. I would still be a student, finishing up her dietetic internship and getting ready to launch into the real world in a few months. I would still be living in this same apartment, driving the same car, have the same friends. All my relationships- with my family, with my friends, with my partner- would be exactly the same, arguably better because I more willingly engage in conversation when my head isn’t swirling with ED thoughts. I would still be a book enthusiast, a feminist and advocate for equality, a coffee shop explorer, a Bernie Sanders and lefty politics supporter, a lover of all things Earth and an admirer of funny women; I would still drink tea in bed every night and listen to podcasts and watch Jeopardy and like nothing more than a night alone with a glass of wine and a good movie in bed. (And in case anybody was wondering, yes I am living the life of a 65-year-old woman in a 22-year-old body). All of these things would be same if I was that smaller size again. My position in life wouldn’t change.

If I were that size again, I would be in exactly the same place but. I would still feel trapped, imprisoned in my own head. I wouldn’t feel this free. I wouldn’t be able to eat ice cream every day. I wouldn’t be able to reconnect with all the foods that remind me of childhood, that I deprived myself of for years. I wouldn’t be able to read and write and daydream in the afternoon because I would be forcing myself to complete an excessive workout. I wouldn’t have time to spend with the things that I’m passionate about, the things that make my soul sing. My body would be smaller, but my life would be smaller too.

Here is one of the latest photos of me, taken last weekend right before a date night. Enjoying the space I’m taking up, embracing my recovery body and excited about life. If you’re in recovery, I urge you to think of not just how you looked in old photos but how trapped you felt felt. Think of not just the weight you’ve gained, but the life and the freedom and the ability to enjoy life. So do I want to look like I used to? You know, I think I’m actually okay here.

Mirror, mirror.

Mirrors are great for checking your teeth after lunch to make sure there’s no spinach stuck in between them. They’re great for making sure your skirt isn’t tucked into your underwear as you leave the bathroom or to check to make sure there’s no toilet paper hanging off your dress . They’re handy for putting on make-up, if that’s something you choose to do. They are nice to have around to ensure your shirt matches your pants or to check if your skirt is appropriate length for work.

You know what mirrors are not great for checking?

Your self worth.

Now before I go any further, I need to preface this by saying this post is not intended for those who have love their bodies and are happy with what they see in the mirror and who are so beautifully entrenched in the idea of body love. To you, I think you are awesome and inspiring and I encourage you to keep on doing you. For everyone else- keep reading 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, I went home last weekend for Easter. This was my first visit home since I started the recovery process. After about 10 minutes of being home, something because remarkably clear. Mirrors, mirrors, everywhere. Now before I continue, my house does not have an exceptional number of mirrors. There are mirrors in the bathroom, the bedroom and a few decorative mirrors around the house. It’s not like I live in some crazy fun house of mirrors or anything like that. But my apartment, for the most part, is quite devoid of mirrors. There’s a small mirror that reveals only my head and shoulders in the bathroom and a very small mirror I use to put on makeup (which I do begrudgingly) and that’s about it. My full-length mirror hides tucked away in my closet, pulled out only when necessary (mostly on date nights or mornings where I’m too tired to decide if the things I’m wearing match). So to go to somewhere with more than two tiny mirrors, well, it was a bit of an eye opener.

I decided months ago, before I began this process, to hide my full length mirror in the closet because I realized I had become quite a mirror addict. And my guess is that I’m not alone in this, especially for any women reading this. How many times do you check the mirror before you decide on an outfit in the morning or before you leave the house? How many times do your find yourself seeking one out during the day to make sure your hair isn’t sticking up funny or your butt doesn’t look too big? And of course, how many people use any semi-reflective surface they walk by to check out their reflection? Windows, glass walls, reflections on car doors, reflections on regular doors…sound familiar? I am definitely guilty of this. In high school, I remember using the trophy case in the social studies wing to check my reflection every day. I was obsessive about checking my reflection and the way my body looked in mirrors during college. I find myself using the glass sliding doors in the morning when I’m walking into the hospital some days.

And the thing is, this isn’t even an eating disorder behavior at all. I’m willing to bet that some, if not most, people reading this can relate to the phenomenon of needing to check your reflectionMaybe you check out your stomach, your face, your thighs, your boobs, your shoulders….whatever it is! Everyone can find things on their bodies that they fixate on and don’t like. And so what do we do when that happens? We feel the need to check on it all the time with the help of our trusty mirrors.

Personally, I have always been fixated on my stomach. Every mirror I walked by. I would check it out by the side, from the front- and if there was a way to check it from the back, I’m sure I would have done that, too. I tormented myself over those 6 square inches of my body. How did they look today? Was it bigger? Smaller? Puffier? Flatter? Should I stop wearing this shirt? Ahhhhh! I’m driving myself crazy just thinking about this old habit of mine.

But guess what? NO ONE CARES. No one cares how my stomach looks. No one cares if I have a funny hair sticking up. No one cares about my little bit of eyeliner that went slightly off course this morning. No one cares because chances are, they’re too busy thinking about their own flaws anyway. It needs to stop! We give these mirrors so much power over us. I used to let me reflection in the mirror ruin my day. As soon as I woke up, it was the first thing I checked and if I didn’t like it that particular day, well then, the day was ruined. Here’s the thing: nothing good came from this. Giving our mirrors more power than they deserve is a losing battle. I rarely thought I looked good, no matter what I saw. And on the off chance that I didn’t hate it, I felt pressured to keep it that way and to do more, control more, which just feeds right back into the eating disorder. It’s a vicious cycle that anyone can get sucked into, regardless of whether you have disordered eating or not.

Your reflection in the mirror does define your worth. It cannot show the happiness and joy you bring to other people’s lives. It will not show you your compassion or the way your genuinely care about the world. It cannot measure the love in your life or the kindness of your being. It cannot show you how much your friends and family care about you. It cannot show you all the good things you think or the bad jokes you tell that make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

This week’s blog comes with a challenge, my friends:

DO NOT let your mirror control your life or your mood or your day or anything else.
DO NOT give your mirror more power than what it is- a silly little piece of glass.

Pay attention to how many times you look in the mirror and what you’re hoping to seek from it. Are you going to check that you don’t have something in your teeth? Cool! Are you going to make sure that your body looks “acceptable”? Not cool. You might actually be surprised once you start recognizing how often you look in the mirror (again, this does not apply if you are one of the fabulous people who embraces body love in all their glory. In THAT case, keep looking in the mirror cause damn, you look good girl). I encourage you to try to practice a little mindfulness when it comes to your mirror-checking habits. OR if you want to challenge yourself even more, point out all your positives when you look in a mirror. Give yourself compliments. Shower yourself with self-love. In my hopes of embracing body love, those are things that I’ve been trying to do lately and I gotta tell you, I think it’s helping. Cause I gotta tell ya, those mirrors at home? After awhile, they didn’t bother me one bit.

Just for you guys…some silly mirror pictures to prove how little my reflection really means. If this post resonated with you or if you do challenge your mirror habits, I would love to hear about it in the comments below! Sending love and wishes for a happy week to you all!