I never thought I’d…

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I saw this project this afternoon, and, after feeling royally un-feminine, un-artsy, and un-creative (thanks gorgeous, perfect Pinterest world), it really struck a chord. I want to make a huge poster for myself with all the things I never thought I’d be able to do, experience, or feel. We so often focus on the opportunities we missed or the things we lack. Yet, very rarely do we step back to admire ourselves or reflect on the accomplishments we have made. 

This is sad!

Today, we were discussing depression in one of my supervision sessions, and my supervisor said, Depression happens when expectations mismatch reality. This resonates so much with me. Depression manifests itself in a world of “what-could-have-been” and “what-should-be.” Very rarely does the individual feel content with him or herself because a dark cloud of mistakes, flaws, and vulnerabilities looms over the overall forecast.

This mismatch also happens with eating disorder recovery. We experience that sense of painful failure when expectations mismatch reality, when we place too much emphasis on where we think we “should” be in our journeys, when we fail to recognize the uniqueness of our process, when we become too hard on ourselves. I know the majority of my slips in recovery occur when I feel like I am “not doing good enough.” I become impatient. I think, I shouldn’t be doing this or I’m stupid for thinking this way or why am I still acting like that? 

And admittedly, it can be tough to avoid the comparison trap, especially in a society that thrives off quick fixes, speedy recoveries, and essentially a non-relapsive mindset. No wonder we expect ourselves to be perfect. We watch the reality shows and read all the “success stories” and wonder why the same formulas cannot or do not work for us. Duh. They make eating disorder recovery look simple! Switch around some behaviors. Love your body. Practice being kind to yourself. And boom! Recovered! With a snap of the fingers.

Again, expectation versus reality. It is so important to learn how to distinguish the two, and, more importantly, recognize when one is surpassing or overshadowing the other.

In honor of Pinterest and positive affirmations and having pride in myself, I am going to complete this activity, and I welcome all of you to as well! Why not make yourself feel good? You deserve it.

I never thought I’d….

Find that one person who connects with me at every single level, makes me laugh so hard I cry, keeps up with me intellectually, spiritually, and mentally, and turns me on like nothing else. 

Stay this close to my brother.

Like country music. I totally do.  

Actually stay vegetarian after just deciding at 14 that I never wanted to eat meat again.

Run a half-marathon. 

Actually feel confident dancing.

Travel across the world without having a tangible plan.

Have a threesome. Yep. That once happened.

Outgrow the high school mentality. Thank GOODNESS. 

Be proposed to at nineteen years old. That was tragic.

Graduate college just days after turning twenty-one.

Play a confederate in a research lab.

Learn how to cook.

Enjoy yoga. 

Work with the special-needs population.

Learn how to skateboard. 

Swim with sea turtles.

Float in the Dead Sea.

See a bear in my own campsite.

Be able to type as fast as I can…remember how hard it was when you first learned???

Develop an eating disorder.

Go to therapy.

Write a screenplay…nothing really happened, but it was cool nonetheless.

Appreciate my parents as much as I do now.

Outgrow make-believe and my invisible friends. I still miss that.

Become frugal or cheap. Totally, totally am. 

Drink coffee. HA. 

Enjoy non-fiction books.

Want children. 

Believe I was beautiful.

Lose some of my first friends….that’ s just life.

Like beer.

Be kinky. Yeah. I am. I like that shit rough.

Always feel cold. I DON’T REMEMBER THIS AT ALL AS A CHILD.

Pass geometry in ninth grade.

Have a lead in a school play. What’s up, eighth grade?

Volunteer to do homeless outreach.

Learn how to print film photography in a darkroom.

Figure out how to like my hair. I LOVE MY HAIR NOW. 

Enjoy hiking as much as I do.

Become an adult….maybe 🙂 

 

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Be nourished. Be loved. Be grateful.

Scribbles on a notepad. Pen to the paper. That is where the magic happens for me. This is my raw identity, the one that so often gets concealed beneath the facade of deceit and make-believe. My written word cannot lie. My written word stays free of ego, edits, and censorship–until, of course, I know my written word will be read.

Every once in awhile, we have those days where the meaning of life astounds us and the very miracle of our existence brings us down to grateful, humbled knees. I am in that experience right now- floating in this phase of utter awe. Embracing the delicious energy of life. Nourishing myself in love. Letting the harmony of the ordinary revitalize my spiritual virtues.

We spend most of our lives escaping- running away. We cope by destroying. We think we heal by avoiding. We fear pain to the core, and we do all we can to limit it from penetrating us. We hide from pain by expanding our wallets, by emptying our liquor, by tangling our bodies with strangers, by swallowing pills, by busying our schedules, by burying ourselves in technology. Rarely do we question our methods of escaping, but that is only because we refuse to accept what it is we are so desperately trying to escape from. Our perceived insecurities, our dissatisfaction, our aching and unfulfilled yearnings and desires. We look at our lives and think about what we want, what we lack, what we are aiming for. When do we ever just look at our life and feel absolute and total peace?

Hardly ever. And so, we reach outwards for solutions, believing answers lie in the hands of our society, believing solace can be found within the almighty dollar, believing happiness can be found within the realm of status, popularity, and power. We hate to believe all that we need lies within our souls. That is too simple and unappealing. Too “lazy.” For when we believe virtue is a result of what we already have, we have to realize we are accountable for our lives and for the paths we seek to travel on. We have to realize we are in charge of our own destinies. We have to realize that nobody owes us anything and that nothing is inherently ours and that nothing external can shield us from the corruption we cause to our internal selves–at least not for very long.

I have been thinking so much about death lately, and that may sound morbid, but it’s not. In fact, it’s incredibly therapeutic. Like most, I feared death. To the bitter, withered core. With fear comes the inability to accept. The inability to understand. The more I can accept and embrace my mortality, and I mean really let the fact that I will die and can die at any given time sink in, the more I can appreciate this awesome ride called life. The more I accept the finite, the more I want to live in the greatest capacity I possibly can. Every moment is a new experience at life, and whether I know the rules to this game or not, I get to enjoy playing it for as long as I am a player.

I do not regret anything I did or said or did not do or did not say in my past. I am me. I am whole. And I am always enough to be living and relishing in this world. Had I not been who I was, had I not gone through what I had or made the choices I made or learned the lessons I learned or met the people I met or took a leap of faith when the time called for it, I could not emerge into the person I am. And that’s a person I am proud to be.

Grateful Optimist

Dear Bee,

Journaling is so healing. I love writing these letters. In fact, I just love recovery: the good, the bad, the laughter, the tears…it’s one amazing process.

I have written about it countless times, but I never want to underestimate the power of gratitude and optimism. Gratitude puts my life in perspective. Gratitude gives me insurmountable joy and satisfaction. And optimism? Optimism makes life always worth living. Optimism turns ordinary situations into fabulous moments. Through recovery, I have become a grateful optimist. Through recovery, I have started to transform into the person I always wanted to be, but didn’t know I could ever become. 

My eating disorder is a symptom of fear, insecurity, anxiety, and depression. I’ve been working to conquer each of those. I worked through fear when I first walked into therapy, when I bravely ended a stagnant, dysfunctional relationship just as I started recovery, when I first went to an OA meeting, when I began to eliminate negative people from my life, when I started opening up about my eating disorder in real life and through this blog, when I quit a job because it became too demanding, when I booked a trip to Europe on a whim, when I decided to plunge into a new relationship a few weeks ago because my intuition (correctly) told me this was going to be wonderful. I am working through insecurity through cognitive restructuring and positive affirmations. I am learning to believe that I am worthy, amazing, and beautiful. I used to rely on this validation from other people: now, I can give it to myself. I am working through anxiety by meditation and yoga, by learning how to deep breathe and step out of triggering situations. I now recognize that most of my worries are irrational, and I am working to work accept the present moment for what it is. I am working through depression by actively seeking to engage in positive activities and people and taking medication. 

Recovery isn’t cheap. It isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. It isn’t linear. It isn’t logical. It isn’t even fun most of the time. But moments and clarity like this make every penny, hour, tear, and heartache worth it. 

Recovery at any attempt is always worth it. A desire to heal yourself is always worth it. Self-love is always worth it. Happiness is always worth it. Treating yourself with kindness is always worth it. 

Eating disorders are NEVER, EVER worth the sacrifice of your health, self-worth, and happiness. 

I used to be a perfectionist, so it was no surprise that I delved into recovery with the same kind of mindset. I still have high expectations for myself, but I firmly believe in progress over perfection. My expectations have shifted from I have to do this perfectly to I am exactly on the right path. There is no right way to recovery, and it is a journey, not a destination. I am so kind to myself lately. I am so much more forgiving. I am proud of myself, and I am happy with myself. These are huge accomplishments. These give me so much joy. 

Most of all, I know I am worth recovery. I no longer want to be sick. I no longer want to be hidden or protected by my eating disorder. I no longer want to shun myself from the world. And how am I doing this? Mostly by shifting away from dwelling on the problem and instead focusing on the SOLUTION. Recovery works when I work it. Recovery feels good when I let it. Recovery has changed my entire life. It has given me immense courage, peace, and energy. I love deeper than I ever have before. I experience richer than I ever have before.

For today, I am a grateful optimist. I am happy to be me. I am in love with my life. I am a girl who still consciously decides everyday that I AM WORTH IT. 

Grateful for my willingness

Dear Bee,

I feel grateful for every minute spent in recovery. Recovery makes life not only worth living, but also worth so much more. It makes it fulfilling; it makes it meaningful; it makes it something overwhelmingly beautiful and glorious.

I have never been content with the ordinary, and I have never been someone who can be pigeonholed into one category or stereotype. I can finally say that I like it that way. When I was younger, at times, I occasionally felt like an outsider. I wanted to be “normal.” I was pensive, yet thrill-seeking. Social, yet introverted. Academic, yet athletic. I had a million different interests, and most of them were obscure compared to my friends. There were so many times I wished to be that typical quiet and constrained girl-next-door. So many times I resented being smart, inquisitive, analytical, or even kind. So many times I wished to be anyone but myself. 

I embrace who I am today. All the flaws, from my incredible stubbornness to my god-awful singing voice to my inability to do nearly anything deemed feminine (sew, bake, knit, etc.). All the quirks, from my obsession with all things Disney to the strange way I eat oatmeal to my undying love for 90’s boy band music. All my talents, from writing to photography to making FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC homemade pizza. 

I am a good person. A worthy person. A person who makes a difference in so many people’s lives. I have so much to receive, and I have even more to give. 

There is so much pressure to label eating disorder recovery. So many people who insist there is only “right” way. News flash. There isn’t a right way to do anything. Recovery is different for everyone, because LIFE is different for everyone, because dreams and desires are different for everyone, because strengths and weaknesses are different for everyone. 

I am grateful for my willingness to take any length for my recovery. Grateful for my open mind. Grateful for my receptiveness to advice and guidance. Grateful for the learning, the growth, and, yes, even the setbacks and hardships. In fact, I am probably most grateful for those rough moments, because they remind me exactly why recovery is worth it. They remind me that life is unbalanced, often uncontrollable, and imperfect when I feel otherwise convinced that is my utmost responsibility to balance, control, and maintain a perfect existence. 

Today, I am just one of millions in recovery. Whether we know each other or not, we are a common, united force, a group of champions, a league of individuals who one day stood up and decided they were WORTH the gifts of self-love and self-acceptance. Who decided they deserved more than the inwards punishment and hatred. Who decided they were no longer going to tolerate abuse from their greatest and most prevailing enemy: themselves. Who decided well-being was more important than the body, the food, or the control. Who decided, that no matter how hard it was or how long it took, it was all worth it.

How honored I am to be among such incredible people. 

spin, sunshine, and orgasms.

Dear Bee,

I was not about to let you interrupt another day or ruin my mojo, so I didn’t. Go me.

The title of this letter just about says it all. I haven’t been exercising much this week. I’ve actually been really inactive and lethargic, and this is unusual for me. I’m usually a ball of unrestricted energy. I’ve never understood how people could be comfortable with not moving their bodies. No matter what my food looks like, I always keep up with the exercise. That’s how I knew things were getting bad.

Anyway, I did a spin class this morning. And I went running last night. Hard, hard sprints. I did both strictly for the endorphins. I just needed physical release. Even though I usually steer away from pure cardio in the gym (because it gets dreadfully boring), I was just chasing the “runner’s high.” And, it worked. 

Sunshine. Yes. Even though I needed to study and work on treatment plans for school today, I did my reading and work outside for some much-needed Vitamin D. I find it just physically impossible to not feel at least a little better when it’s nice and warm outside :).

And orgasms. Do I need further explanation? 

You know that annoying phrase, it’s the little things? Maybe it can just be that simple; maybe it’s when we try to overcomplicate, analyze, and categorize life into one huge puzzle that the world feels complicated and impossible. We all have things to do. We all have obligations and demands and responsibilities. But why not make them as pleasant as possible? The little things. If you have to study, why not make the atmosphere comfortable and soothing? If you have to work, why not wear your favorite underwear underneath (as I most definitely will be doing this afternoon)? If you have to eat and you have an eating disorder and it’s a rough phase and everything about eating seems to terrify you, may as well make the dining experience as pleasant as possible. If you have to look for a new apartment and everything is expensive, disgusting, or unavailable, may as well keep telling yourself that the perfect one is just around the corner. 

And if all else fails, just have an orgasm. 

 

Seriously!

Today is the perfect day for a perfect day

Dear Bee,

Today, I am stronger than you.

Today, my efforts are more persistent than yours.

Today, I am worthy of loving myself.

Today, I am exactly and naturally enough, no more and no less.

Today, I am happy to be alive.

Today is the perfect day to have a perfect day.

Today, I can find meaning in the smallest intricacies and details of my life, in the background chatter and soft jazz music playing in the coffeehouse I am sitting in, in the pretty blue shade of sky outside, in a memorable line I just read in a school textbook, in the fit of laughter I shared with a coworker earlier today, in the excited feelings I have for the weekend upcoming ahead.

We often think it is the big events, the profound changes that move us, that define us. We ignore those average days, perhaps rendering them as useless or as hindrances slowing down the wait until we reach our more “exciting” future.

We chase the clock, watch the minutes tick on and on, forgetting that each moment only lasts once, that each memory is only created once, that each breath is unique, each interaction irreplaceable, each sunrise different.

We get lost between recovering from our past and aching for our future.

We get lost for a time that may never be ours, for a memory we may never make, for a person we may never meet, for an experience we may never have.

And, in doing so, we fail to see what is right before us.

Today, I am recovering from an eating disorder, from many years of self-defecating behavior, from inner turmoil and bitter pain, from shame and secrecy, from hiding and shielding myself from the unknown ambiguity of the randomness of the world, from a world tightly controlled and manipulated by my inflexible hands.

And today, I am grateful for my growth, for my struggles, for every punishment I induced on myself…why?

Because, today, I am alive. Today, the past does not matter. The future does not matter.

Today, I have the present, and that is all I need.

the “happy people” are onto something

Dear Bee,

So, the double-edged sword about this whole recovery process is that revealing all the subconscious layers comprising my distorted thoughts has unleashed a sense of self-awareness I simply wasn’t expecting to handle.

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News flash: You’re not JUST present with my eating disorder. You’re present in other parts of my life, unfortunately, and I now realize that there is MUCH to be linked to my attitude towards food. I have concluded that I don’t just have an eating disorder. I have an entirely dysfunctional, disordered way of thinking.

Now, I realize this confession sounds rather cynical.  I also know, however, deep down, that it is the purest truth. I know that it’s true because whenever confronted on it, I instantly DENY its validity. The mind becomes fiercely defensive over the parts of ourselves we do not want to own.

I have been thinking A LOT about happiness and optimism lately. I used to dismiss the “happy people,” especially if they weren’t “up to my standards.” Up to my standards meaning they weren’t hardworking or outwardly successful. I thought people who were happy but lived what society may interpret as mediocre lives were simply just lazy. They were happy because they didn’t know what stress or pressure felt like. I must be better than them because I work hard in every aspect of my life. I climb to the top, even when the ladder is wobbly and my legs are on fire. I know the meaning of sacrifice: in sleep, in sanity, in health, and in balance. I know what success looks, sounds, tastes, feels, and smells like.

And yet, I am entirely devoid of meaning. Almost everything I do is out of compulsion (I do this, because I have to do this to feel fulfilled) rather than out of passion (I do this, because I want to do this to feel fulfilled).

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I now realize it’s those “happy people” who have it right.

 Rather than worry about what others think or contort themselves to fit into a societal mold of normalcy, they do whatever they damn well please. “Success” to them is measured as maximizing their quality of life.

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True happiness leaves no room for eating disorders.

True happiness means chasing passion and eliminating the excess toxicity.

True happiness frees the mind of compulsion, obsession, and preoccupation.

True happiness is liberated freedom in its purest and rawest element.

From now on, in addition to my eating disorder recovery work, I plan to add an integrative happiness and optimism component. I will continue with my gratitude journal. I will make a conscious effort to do more things that feel good. I miss achieving “flow,” the psychological term associated with literally “losing track of time” due to total immersion in a passion. I used to “flow” all the time as a child, but you now put the brakes on, because you don’t want me to just let go and let loose.

Well, too bad. The better I feel about myself and life, the more I can push you out!

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