and there is life

I feel guilty for my semi-abandonment of this blog.

What used to be such a lifesaving crutch has become just a faint thought in the back of my mind, something I tell myself I should do, something that has become more of a chore, rather than a gushing desire to just write, write, write. 

I tell myself that this is not a bad thing. That I am evolving in different ways; that I no longer need to hide behind a computer screen to express the pain and feelings I experience. That I now have some other outlets that I feel safe with. That I can talk more about what I used to only be able to write about.

Everything is so weird now. I finished my last EVER class, and having been a student my entire life, I’m still in relative denial that I won’t be enrolling in another full semester of courses this fall. I have two jobs now and an internship. My boyfriend has a job and an internship and another possibility in the works. We may be moving.

It’s going fast, fast, fast.

Suddenly, talk has shifted to budgeting and career planning and licensure hours.

Suddenly, life has felt very grown-up.

Suddenly, I have a new plan everyday for what I want to do and who I want to become.

Suddenly, I just keep feeling all the feels.

Embracing them is hard. It’s so much easier- in the short-term- to just escape into my predictable chaos, which is the eating disorder. Focus on my weight instead of my character. Focus on the number-crunching instead of the job applications. Make myself feel good with a binge just to relieve the edge, the anxiety, the pressure I often self-induce.

I am used to following a specific path. I am used to 5-year tracks and mapped-out classes and work schedules. I am used to structure and living in limbo, waiting for the next step…I am used to being “in progress” of something. I am used to filler jobs. I am used to doing what it takes to sacrifice my present in order to have a successful future.

And is the future here now? Because there certainly isn’t a path paved for me. There’s a million paths now, and maybe there have always been a million, but it’s the first time I actually SEE a million.

Nobody is telling me what to do or where to go. I have to make my own, big-girl decisions.

The eating disorder always feels easier, and, paradoxically, it never is. It’s the same irony as wanting to be the thinnest, most delicate person in the room while being allowed to binge and eat all the most glorifying foods in whatever capacity I want. It’s wanting the dialectic–it’s wanting something that is literally and scientifically impossible to have.

So, I don’t know where this blog will go. And maybe that’s because I don’t know where life will go.

But that’s all okay.

I tell myself that. I have to hold onto that positivity, as sugarcoated and glossy as it sometimes sounds…those affirmations work the more I practice them.

 

are you your own best friend?

Dear Bee,

It is such a gorgeous morning, and it is going to be a lovely day. I’m excited to get started. I’ve been very optimistic lately, a nice change of pace from my semi-winter slump. Maybe it’s the Daylight Savings time change and the added sunshine. Either way, I’ll take it. Days are full, but that’s okay. I’m probably busier than I’ve ever been, but that’s also okay. I get to do what I love. 

My eating has been so normal lately. So refreshing. It’s easy. I feel really good in my skin. I’ve been exercising and hydrating and allowing myself to eat whatever I want. I’ve been doing meal prep, which is useful for those very long days. I’ve been cooking again.

This is how I want it to be. This is how I’m going to keep it. 

There is always choice. No matter how out-of-control we may feel, there is always, always, always choice. Ultimately, accepting that choice can be both empowering and defeating. We recognize it is in our own hands whether we want to continue the self-sabatage or make-that-super-painstaking-decision-to-stop. That was where I disagreed with the Twelve Steps philosophy. I am not powerless to an eating disorder. I just felt powerless. And that’s not to minimize the severity of that feeling- it’s a very real and potent and daunting emotion to feel like you can’t control something within you. It’s terrifying.

But accepting that only I am responsible for my recovery, that only I have tools to make myself heal, was the most profound step in bettering myself. 

I am my own best friend. I can finally say that. My therapist used to drill it into me. Be your own best friend. I’m finally there. It sounds cheesy, but it’s miraculous. I actively seek out things and places that make me feel good. I have grown in my own spirituality. I have learned how to self-soothe. I have let go of the vices that are perfectionism and self-loathing. No, it’s not perfect. But it’s a hell of a lot better than it’s ever been. 

I treat myself with kindness. I enjoy my own company. Again, I repeat…this is a miracle. For the first time in my life, I am proud, happy, and overjoyed to be who I AM. I no longer feel this incessant need to change, makeover, or be someone I’m not. 

I am so grateful for my journey. It’s been such an incredible, educational, and inspiring adventure. I hope to never stop learning and growing. But that’s the future. For right now, I’m just appreciative to be exactly where I am being exactly who I am.

It’s one of the most reassuring feelings I’ve ever experienced. 

This isn’t square one, baby.

Dear Bee,

When I reflect on what happened Monday, I realize that it was pretty much bound to happen. My triggering thoughts led to the inevitable action. This does not mean I was necessarily doomed, but it indicates I was not actively working as hard to change my thoughts and acknowledge my feelings as I could have.

It was a weird binge. You know how some kind of make sense and they’re so satisfying because you’re eating all the foods you’ve been depriving yourself of in one harried sitting? Nope, that wasn’t the case this time. Over the long span of the day, I ate basically a bag of fun-sized candy Snickers. Leftovers from Halloween. Overcompensation for all the candy I avoided over the past few weeks.  And some flavored mini rice cakes. Again, nothing great. And some Pop-tarts. Those always show up in binges. I can’t remember the last time I ate Pop-tarts just as part of a regular meal or snack. They taste like cardboard with a coat of cheap icing. With a binge, there is never enough. With a binge, taste doesn’t matter and neither do calories, texture, or stomach pain. With a binge, you are filling emptiness with food…and because one cannot satisfy a feeling with such nutrients, even being stuffed to the brink of explosion does not satisfy.

It was right after my therapy session, too. And we barely even touched on eating disorder related content. We focused more on other things happening in life, on my internship, family, friends. That kind of stuff. I left feeling pretty good. Then, BAM.

I would love to think these slips are completely random, but my ego knows better. There is always a reason, always some kind of underlying motivator that provokes me to engage in destructive behaviors. Otherwise, I would constantly do it. Or I would be able to stop completely. There is a reason I take a few steps back after seemingly taking so many steps forward.  

Of course, I woke up yesterday on a mission to restrict. I had gained two pounds of water weight, after all. I didn’t actively do it, although I wasn’t hungry at all much during the day. Forcing myself to eat was tough, especially when I wanted to get away with consuming as little as possible to “make up” for what I had “messed up.” This SCREAMS eating disorder logic. I’m well aware. That’s why I ate. Restricting just propagates the yearning desire to overeat. This is common sense. 

Today is my half birthday. I don’t think anyone else in the world celebrates these little six-month marks, but my family and I always have. And I love it. Just another significant milestone to remind me of how much I have done in this life and how much I have yet to achieve. Just another reminder of how much I’ve grown and developed into the person I always aspired to be.

I am damn proud of who I am, and there is nothing and nobody who can convince me otherwise. I have my back. It doesn’t matter how long I neglected myself. What matters is that now I know I DESERVE to take care of myself. I DESERVE to love myself. These affirmations are not easy, and it isn’t something I just automatically resonate with. I have to be reminded on a daily basis. I am used to being at war; I am used to being my own enemy; I am used to feeling like I am stuck on a battlefield. And you know what? It is EXHAUSTIVE and, at the end of the day, it is absolutely FUTILE. No matter how much you hate yourself, you’re stuck with yourself. So, sooner or later, you either need to accept or change, because the self-loathing just becomes  and it filters into every crack and crevice of your life, from your relationships to your hobbies to your personality. Self-loathing is an ugly outfit. 

So, I binged on Monday. It wasn’t fun. But, in great news, it was probably only the second or third time in about a month and a half. Am I back at the dreaded Square One? Not a chance. Square One means returning to denial. Square One means choosing to not only engage in destructive actions, but also choosing to BELIEVE distorted thoughts, rather than challenge them. Square One means losing hope and giving up on recovery. Square One means staying in sickness.

I am at Square 38493797. And yes, that is a random number. And no, I don’t care. I can be wherever I want to be. Because I know what direction I am headed. And it’s the furthest path from backwards

 

 

Happened to stumble upon this thing.

  • What ‘eating disorder behaviors have you been able to overcome so far? I no longer feel a need to incessantly COUNT things (calories, minutes exercising, pounds, grams of protein, carbs, pounds, etc.) I make every conscious effort to avoid skipping meals. I do not frequently binge or restrict anymore. I avoid compulsive exercise.
  • How did you overcome some of your eating behaviors? Stopping all the counting and calculations took time and acceptance. For about six months, I did not weigh myself. I weigh myself every now and then, but that number does not determine how I eat for the day. Even though I look at nutrition facts, I do not mentally calculate how much I am eating a day and make food choices depending on some arbitrary number. Quitting the overeating and binge behavior was the hardest, as I consistently want to rebel agains my own self. Bingeing was a coping mechanism for stress, and, at times, I still resort to it. With exercise, I learned how to accept that my body was NOT going to dramatically change due to a missed workout.
  • What is a part of your body that you have come to love since embarking on recovery? Strangely enough, my hips and hipbones. I have a narrow waist and wider hips. Childrearing hips, I once heard. Either way, I love them now. I know I do not have a straight flat-as-a-board body, and I can honestly say that it’s okay. 
  • What does recovery mean to you? It means learning how to ADD passion and SUBTRACT compulsion. The rest just falls into place.
  • Why have you chosen to recover? For my mental health, physical health, because I deserve it, for love, happiness, freedom, and joy. 
  • What has recovery given you so far? Same as above. 
  • When you were in the depths of your eating disorder, what were some of the irrational/false beliefs you had? How are these different now? I believed that I was “good” or “bad” depending on what I ate/exercised. I believed that a certain body weight could bring me a certain emotion or certain outcome, such as love or happiness. I believed that I lacked willpower and just needed to have more control over myself. Now, I know that I am not a good or bad person…I am just me. My appearance doesn’t sustain an emotion, at least not a genuine one. Eating disorders are not about willpower or control. They are about learning how to relinquish both. Oh, and I thought I just had a problem with food. Turns out, I had a problem with LIFE.
  • What have you learned to appreciate since starting recovery? Intimacy, existentialism, spirituality, bubble baths and showers, yoga, good music, eating out with friends
  • Can you remember when you started to think about recovery? What were your thoughts? Are these any different now? Yes. “This will be done quickly, and soon, I will be fixed.” Are these thoughts any different now? You bet. There is nothing quick and no magic fix to this. It’s day-in, day-out. Progress is not linear, but it emerges in some way, shape, or form. 
  • 10 What makes life worth living? The constant element of surprise that is life, love and everything that comes with it, the prospect of marriage and children, traveling the world, sunshine and summer, the beach, exploring nature, the people who make my life worthwhile
  • 11 What things have you learned about yourself since starting recovery? I can be very hard on myself. I struggle with compulsive behavior outside of food. I never formed a proper relationship with myself, even though I always deserved it. Self-care is not selfish. I can LET GO of the things that no longer serve me or feel good. Food is not the enemy; exercise is not punishment. Love doesn’t conquer all, but it MAKES you want to conquer all. 
  • 12 What things did you used to deny yourself during your eating disorder? How do you feel when you allow yourself them now? New clothes, simply because I always thought I was going to lose more weight. Now, I don’t give a fuck. I also treat myself to pedicures and massages (when I was working, anyway…now not so much). I thought self-care was optional, and so I opted out of it. Not anymore. I treat myself to long walks in nature and good conversation with people I love. I LOVE that I allow myself these things. It feels great. 
  • 13. Who can you rely on for support? My family, boyfriend, therapist, former sponsor, classmates, and everyone on here 🙂
  • 14 What has been a positive stand out moment for you so far in recovery? I loved being a speaker and candidly talking for 20 minutes about my eating disorder at an OA meeting in June. I also loved writing a letter of forgiveness to myself in April. So freeing. 
  • 15 Have you had any ‘A-H-A’ moments? Absolutely.
  • 16 What keeps you going day to day? My love for life. 
  • 17 What is a food you missed during your disorder that you enjoy now? Lattes, pizza, slurpees, pancakes, egg yolks, cheese, cereal…
  • 18 What is a hobby you missed during your disorder that you enjoy now? Nothing really comes to mind. 
  • 19 What did you eating disorder take away from you? For the most part, it stole my confidence and intuition. These are two elements I continually fight to take back. 
  • 20 Have you experienced any relapse? How did you overcome it or how are you working through it? Yes. I overcome it by refusing to quit. I know I can always relapse; I am not immune to it.  
  • 21 Are you able to exercise for enjoyment? If not, how are you working towards this? If yes, what do you enjoy? Yes. I enjoy moving my body. I do not consider this exercise, but rather nourishment for the soul. I like taking long walks with people I love. I LOVE hiking. I like dancing with my friends. I like roller-skating and swimming and going to the gym with my boyfriend. I love a good run every now and then. I enjoy playing sports. I like it all.
  • 22 How were your relationships with others tested by your eating disorder? Are they better now? They were completely strained, and I didn’t realize how bad of shape they were in until embarking on recovery. Things were tense and hostile between my family members and me. I lived on edge, constantly irritable and anxious. Friendships were often superficial, as I found it difficult to be vulnerable or reach out when I needed to vent or talk to someone. Everything always needed to look picture-perfect. Things have improved significantly. 
  • 23 How was your relationship to yourself tested by your eating disorder? Is it better now? I was at war with myself, to say the least. I wanted to change everything, from the way I looked to the way I acted to the person I was dating to the job I had. I just wasn’t happy, and I didn’t ALLOW myself to be happy, because I didn’t think I was worth it. My relationship with myself has improved tenfolds. 
  • 24 Do you believe that you are beautiful? Do you believe that one day, you will believe you are beautiful? I’m beautiful, inside and out. I truly believe it now. 
  • 25 What are things you can do now you are recovering/recovered that you couldn’t do during your eating disorder? Eat at restaurants without freaking out, enjoy clothes shopping, eat spontaneously without preplanned times or foods 
  • 26 Were you ever diagnosed with an eating disorder? How did this effect your recovery, either yes or no. Yes. It gave me a label for my abnormalities and encouraged me to seek help. 
  • 27 Have you identified triggers? How do you avoid them or manage them? Yes. I often do CBT work and consider my thoughts and feelings. I try to identify the distorted thought and challenge it. If that doesn’t work, I simply leave the scene or distract myself. I will write about it. Sometimes, I reach out to someone. And sometimes, I give in to the trigger. It just depends. 
  • 28 How have you rewarded yourself throughout recovery? If you haven’t, how can you? I reward myself with frequent self-care, positive affirmations, and enjoyable activities. I LISTEN to what my body is telling me. 
  • 29 What is a current short term goal you are aiming for in your recovery? I want to be able to just continue doing what I am doing. I like where I am right now. 
  • 30 What does being ‘recovered’ mean to you? Do you think this goal is realistic? Yes. I believe “recovered” refers to the absence of eating disordered pathology. I do believe one can “recover.” That doesn’t mean one isn’t immune to never having a distorted thought or temptation, but one can manage it quickly, effectively, and remedy the situation. They are not preoccupied with food or weight. They can live full lives despite what they consumed for dinner. 
  • 31 Have you been able to take any positives from your experience of having an eating disorder? Yes. Absolutely. 
  • 32 What parts of recovery are you truly proud of? I am proud that I sought therapy on my own at a young age. I am proud that I attended support group meetings. I am proud that I was able to tell people in my life what was going on. I am proud that I started this blog to reach out to others. 
  • 33 Have you been able to eat a ‘fear food’? What was it? How did it feel? Yes. All my fear foods at some point or another. Some of them are still iffy for me, but other foods I can eat without necessarily feeling triggered. For example: pizza, ice cream, cereal. I still struggle with some trigger foods, such as Nutella, Poptarts, and packaged cookies. 
  • 34 What do you like about yourself now that you are in recovery? I like my quirky sense of humor, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance. 
  • 35 When do you feel most attractive? Why? Is it a place, time or outfit? Naked. Or chilling my bra and underwear with my boyfriend. I always feel gorgeous around him. I also like wearing sundresses because they are adorable. 
  • 36 What health problems are you now doing better with since embarking on recovery? I no longer have as many stomachaches, bloating, or gas issues. Decreased acid reflex, less cold all the time (but barely, I’m still cold), improved iron levels, lowered body fat.
  • 37 Do you have more confidence in yourself now? YES
  • 38 How did your eating disorder recovery change the way you think about things now? I no longer see the world in rigid black-and-white. I am comfortable with the fifty shades of gray. I realize NOBODY is perfect, and it’s OKAY if I screw up every now and then. I realize TALKING can be just as healing as anything. 
  • 39 Were you ever in denial of your eating disorder? How did you overcome this? Yes. I consistently compared myself to others, and once I learned more about eating disorders, I struggled to believe mine was ever BAD enough to warrant help. Especially when I alternated between restriction and bingeing without the purging by means of vomiting. I felt like I didn’t fit in with the obese binge eaters or the underweight anorectics or the tormented bulimics. Since my weight was in the normal range, I felt invisible. 
  • 40 If you could have started recovery earlier, would you? In hindsight, no. I wouldn’t have been ready for it. I needed to straighten out other things first. 
  • 41 Did you isolate yourself during your eating disorder? How has this changed now? If it hasn’t how do you hope it will? Occasionally. I would avoid going out with friends when I felt triggered or had just engaged in eating disorder behaviors. Or, I’d show up but run on auto-pilot, in that I was there, but wasn’t really THERE. Now, I am much more present. 
  • 42 How did your eating disorder behaviors make you feel about yourself? How do you feel about yourself in comparison now? Or how do you hope you will feel? I felt like an absolute freak and I loathed myself. I thought I was broken. I now realize I was never a freak, and I have never been broken. Everyone has something.
  • 43 What was something that made you realize an eating disorder was unhealthy for you? It didn’t really register until I began therapy. 
  • 44 Did anyone reach out to you during your eating disorder? How did you respond? How do you feel about that now? Not really. I kept it very secretive and under wraps. When people asked me anything related to food or exercise, I quickly shut them out. 
  • 45 What was your body’s purpose during your eating disorder? What is your body’s purpose now or what do you hope its purpose to be? My body was constantly under renovation, in the sense that I was always engaged in some kind of project to “make it better.” It was for aesthetic purposes. Now, my body is my temple. I nourish and love it. My body is not meant to be abused or harmed. 
  • 46 What was success during your eating disorder? What is success in recovery? Success was being able to eat as little as possible. Success was being able to “eat clean.” Success was avoiding binges. Success was seeing a lowered number on the scale. Success was intense soreness the day after a workout. Success in recovery is managing a trigger, identifying the emotions, and finding a healthy way to cope. Success is learning how to live in moderation and APPRECIATE food and exercise for what they are. Success is loving my body for exactly as it is. 
  • 47 Did you ever view ‘thinspo’ during your eating disorder? How do you feel about that now? Not really, no. I wasn’t very involved in the eating disorder community. I actually became more involved in my recovery to increase my support system. 
  • 48 Did anyone ever encourage your weight loss? What would you say to them now if you could? Yes. Of course, they did. I wouldn’t say anything to them now. We live in a society that encourages losing weight and thrives on scrutinizing appearance. It wouldn’t have matter what I said. 
  • 49 Do you plan to symbolise what you have been through in anyway? I do every single day as a therapist, and I plan to work with this population one day. My life today symbolizes that my battles were with it. 
  • 50 If you could give advice to someone contemplating recovery, what would it be? Know that you deserve  recovery. And read WHY CHOOSE RECOVERY at the top of this blog. All those reasons<3 
 

old friendships, rebellion, caffeine, bulimia, & positive affirmations.

Dear Bee,

It’s strange. For the first time in about a year, I’m struggling to actually sit down and write these posts out. This was such a natural catharsis for me, a creative high of sorts, but now, it just feels dull. I’m just going to keep writing and see what happens. Spin gold out of a chaotic mess of the clouds in my mind. Or something artsy like that. I don’t want to edit this either. In fact, once I feel like I’ve said what I wanted to say, I will click Publish Post and be done with it. I just want to ramble. I’m not going to go back and read anything I wrote. So, here goes. 

Several months ago, I wrote this: http://loveletterstobee.com/2013/03/21/the-day-i-broke-up-with-my-alcoholic-best-friend/ in regards to my painstaking decision to end a friendship with one of my closest friends. Last night, we met up for dinner. I initiated the contact. I missed her. I wanted to see how she had been. This girl had been by my side through multiple heartbreaks, graduations, vacations, and spontaneous adventures. A few years ago, we had a threesome with my ex-boyfriend, but that’s an entirely different story. We’ve been close. Closer than close. “Breaking up” with her was harder than breaking up with anyone else. So, we were at dinner, and it was emotional. Tears, hugs, laughs. Flowing conversation for five hours without a hint of awkwardness. We both said our pieces. She still drinks. To what extent, I do not know. I struggle to believe that alcoholics can drink in moderation once they’ve reached the threshold of substance dependence. I’ve heard that some percentage (like five percent) can do harm reduction, but the rest must commit to sobriety in order to kick their addiction. Again, she still drinks. I don’t know what boundaries to set up with her just yet. I don’t know if I want to be friends. It just felt good seeing her last night. Telling her about what I’ve been up to. She’s missed so much of me: my new boyfriend, my new internship, Europe, things with my family. At this point, I just wish I could avoid the alcohol problem, but I know if I choose to do that, it will just become the white elephant in the room. And I don’t want that either.

Anyway, enough about that.

I’ve binged once this week. Last night. Any coincidence that this was right after meeting with my friend? I think not. My eating disorder is boring me. Bingeing once used to be exciting, seductive, and glamorous. I actually felt like such a rebel in the middle of the act, like look at me, I’m breaking ALL THE RULES. Now, it’s just a step-by-step process with predictable emotions, inevitable self-loathing, and a total sense of, I don’t give a fuck. I guess in a sense it’s still a form of rebellion. Except, instead of rebelling against whatever so-called diet I was on, I’m rebelling against recovery. Sometimes, to be honest, recovery just feels like another euphemism for diet, but I know it’s not. 

I’ve also been drinking copious amounts of coffee over the past few weeks. This is 1/3 due to the taste, 1/3 due to the jolt of energy, and 1/3 due to the low caloric content. I keep hearing all these positive studies about the effects of caffeine, so that rationalizes my consistent brew. Still, I know it’s not good to suppress my appetite with a cup of java. I know it’s not good to use it as a natural diuretic, and yet, I can’t lie and say I don’t enjoy those benefits. Whatever. One vice at a time. Nobody would look at a serious drug addict and condemn him or her for chain-smoking cigarettes. The same could apply to eating disorder recovery. The importance thing is awareness. Awareness that I am still using/abusing certain substances to mask the remnants of my disease (I write this as I chew a piece of gum. I chewed at least 4 pieces in a row yetjerday, something I haven’t done in a long while. Five second pause. Just spat the gum out). 

Talked about eating disorders in supervision yesterday, because one of my colleagues is working with an individual struggling with bulimic symptoms. It’s so interesting how easy these cases can sound when presented. Just, you know, teach her some coping skills, show her to value her body, pinpoint how there will never, ever be a good enough body when living with an eating disorder, no matter what number, size, or look she is trying to achieve. Obviously, I know nothing about an eating disorder is simple. But then again, nothing about any mental illness is simple. If it was, I would be out of a job. Plain and simple. Surprisingly, I don’t have any clients who have presented eating disorder pathologies just yet (about the only disorder I haven’t seen), but I often wonder how I will be in the room with them. Will I self-disclose the same way my own therapist did? Or will I remain professional, safe in my powerful chair, and keep distance between us? What if someone who reads this blog was one of my clients? They would never know it was me, I can guarantee that. I present myself so much differently in the world than I do on here. It’s subconscious. Part of it is my ability to deceive as a means of survival. I know what it takes to be successful in this world, and, unfortunately, vulnerability isn’t the road to it. It’s an interesting thought to think that a reader could be a client, since many of them must be struggling/have struggled with an eating disorder or relative mental illness. 

This rambling feels amazing. The morning is turning out well. I randomly picked a positive affirmation out of my “recipes for my soul” love box that I made as a demonstration for a group therapy class I lead, and today’s read, I am exactly who and where I need I am supposed to be in this exact moment. Damn straight. Who am I? A young, talented, creative, loving individual with an unquenchable thirst for life and hunger for adventure. Where am I? In my bed, laptop perched on my stomach, listening to music, ceiling fan blowing over me. I don’t have the answers. I am still exhibiting disordered behavior. I STRUGGLE. I fight. I complain. I question whether it’s worth it. But choices, people, and experiences have brought me to this point, and, when I really think about it, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. 

I am so grateful for this life, for recovery, for all of you lovely readers (I read every single one of your emails and do my best to respond to all of you), for the cloudless blue sky, for the warmth of my bed, for the breakfast I am about to eat (I no longer have to suffer and “starve” today to make up for yesterday), for the clients I’m going to see later, and for the boyfriend I’m going to fall asleep with tonight.

I never thought I’d…

Image

 

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 🙂 

 

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.