Thursday, April 28, 2016

Emotional Honesty

Let's talk about emotional honesty.

Looking back a few years on my previous blog posts, I didn't really know what it meant to be emotionally honest. On my "send off" (aka graduation) at RCC this time around, one of the therapists told me she was convinced I had a twin. 

She said the Kelsi that came in to treatment in 2016 was a completely different person than the Kelsi that came in during the summer of 2012.

Luckily, she was right.
And luckily, that leaves me with plenty of new blog inspirations.
I'm still the Kelsi who published nationally inspired blog posts before;
luckily, for you, I have more to say this time around.

The Kelsi who came into treatment during the summer of 2012 was a kind-hearted and motivated young woman. Those blog posts from years ago were factual and from the heart, but not 100% percent beneficial or emotionally honest.
That Kelsi was still sheltered and in complete denial.
That Kelsi was a great person,
but needed a little more life experience to fully embrace this blog and share what it means to be emotionally honest. 

Emotional honesty is difficult.

When was the last time you sat down and actually evaluated your emotions?

I'm sure it's easy to remember when the last time someone asked how you were doing;
but when was the last time you answered with emotional honesty?
Sure, I get it, it is always easier to answer with, "Fine!" or "I'm okay, thanks."
But what's the real answer?
Who is the last person you could be emotionally honest with?

When I first began treatment at the River Centre Clinic for the second time, I couldn't remember the last time I had been emotionally honest.
Maybe I hadn't been emotionally honest ever.

Maybe I grew up in a (wonderful and loving) household where it was acceptable to be a happy-go-lucky teenager who loved playing softball... Because that's what she believed her professional baseball player dad wanted her to do.

Actually, 28 years later,
I finally don't think her parents wanted her to play softball at all.
I think she set super high expectations for herself;
Which were impossible to live up to.
And eventually lead to hard times.

Emotional honesty is tough.
It requires vulnerability and authenticity.
It requires taking a risk.
 It requires finding friend who gets what it means to struggle.

Let's do it together.
Let's struggle together.
Let's take this risk and become emotionally honest.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Everything But My Name

During the past eight months I have...
Called 4 different treatment facilities home.
Shared a room with 17 other women.
Lived with approximately 65 other people.
Lost and regained almost 50 pounds.
Spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday in treatment.

If you would have told me eight months ago this is what I traded my senior year field work in for I probably would have bought a plane ticket and left the country. At the time, I thought my first 21 day treatment stay was the end of the world. I remember begging the program director to let me leave early because I didn't think I needed to be there (haha).

One of the women I lived with in my second treatment facility said, "Recovery means changing everything but your name." She was right. Sometimes I get impatient with myself thinking I should have this figured out by now; that one treatment center should've been enough. However, when I allow myself to think about it, changing everything but my name is a process and would take any normal person an extended period of time. Not to mention, I was super resistant to any kind of change during the first four or five months (and still am at times). Looking back, when I first began this process last September, I honestly didn't think I had a problem or needed treatment. That statement is comical now. As my cognitive and emotional health slowly returned, I was able to see the seriousness and life-threatening consequences my actions could have easily caused. Not an easy thing to face. Staying in denial was easier than facing my truth, which is why I remained in a state of oblivion for so long.

This morning I spent a couple hours reading through old journal entries from the past eight months. I think it's safe to say I went a little crazy at times. It hasn't been an easy road. Some of the journal entries gave me a good laugh. Some of them had me reaching for a box of tissues. I found this quote in one of my journals...

"The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your injuries.
And it’s not always successful.
No matter how hard we work at it, some wounds might never fully heal.
You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living.
Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were.
You might not even recognize yourself.
It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all.
You’re a whole new person with a whole new life."
-Erin Brown

These past eight months have had their ups and downs. My recovery has been far from perfect and I've had to learn a few lessons the hard way. Sometimes I get so angry and impatient with myself because I have this disease. Sometimes it feels easier to crawl back into bed rather than face the day. Sometimes I curse normal people out for a walk with their loved ones because there were times when I couldn't even go outside without permission. 

But sometimes, I feel grateful for all of the people I have met along the way and people who can relate to my daily struggle. Sometimes I realize how important it has been for me to heal in a safe environment. Sometimes I look back and think of the lifelong friends I have made. It's horrifying to think about where I might be without this experience. I know I have a long road ahead of me and I am far from where I would like to be, but I am no longer in treatment. Today I have the opportunity to make decisions for myself and to practice what I have learned from four different treatment centers. Today is the next step toward changing everything but my name. Today I can say I survived the hardest part.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

I Have a Choice...


Five out of the past six months of my life have been spent in three different treatment facilities and I'm still not done. More than likely there will be another treatment stay in six weeks when I finish my current program. That is my reality right now. This process is overwhelming because I am both terrified of losing this battle and I am terrified of fighting it.

Luckily, I have learned several new tools along the way that have helped keep me safe. The first time I was in treatment for an eating disorder four years ago, I gained the weight but I barely scratched the emotional surface. I did the best I could at the time, but didn't dig as deeply as I needed to for life long recovery. Here are a few things I am focusing on this time around in order in order to fully engage myself in the process:

Emotional Honesty

I have spent my entire life wearing a mask in order to achieve a false sense of belonging. Depending on the situation and group of people I was around, I wore a mask to adapt to that situation and fit in with that group of people. I have been doing it for so long that I lost track of who I really was and what I wanted out of life. I felt like if I was making those around me happy then I would be happy. Emotional honesty has forced me to take off that mask. It has been incredibly difficult work, and more often than not, it isn't pleasant for the people around me. However, slowly, I have begun to see the benefits of having my inside emotions match my outside actions. Struggling my way through this part of my life and being real about it makes me human, not crazy or a bad person.

Similarities vs. Differences
A huge part of the reason I have been in multiple treatment centers is because I get caught up in picking out the differences between myself and the other patients. While I was in substance abuse treatment I told myself I didn't look like an addict so I didn't need to be there. Many of the patients there had come from jail or were homeless, but I was still functioning in my daily life, so I clearly wasn't that bad. I had a loving family and didn't experience trauma as a child, so I couldn't relate. I picked out the differences and effectively justified why I didn't belong there. Sure, it was effective, but more importantly, it also kept me in denial about how serious my addiction and eating disorder had become. Over the past several weeks, I have been working extremely hard to become aware of when I pick out those differences and put up that wall. It feels overwhelming at times because I do it so often; however, the more I share those moments with my therapist the more we are able to process it and dig a little deeper. It's not easy to admit I have put myself on that pedestal for so long, but facing it and picking out the similarities rather than the differences will be crucial moving forward.

Playing the Tape Through
There have been several moments I have wanted to give into cravings or be symptomatic. Sometimes in the moment giving into that craving feels like the only option because fighting it off requires doing the opposite of what I have done for more than a decade. Sitting through cravings and urges feels unbearable in the moment. However, if I allow myself to "play the tape through" and think about the consequences that will follow if I have a drink or engage in eating disorder symptoms, it helps bring me back to reality. At this point in my life the consequences are extremely high, but it's easy to lose sight of that when those cravings hit. Playing the tape through is frightening, yet effective. The consequences simply are not worth risking all of the hard work I have put into my recovery this far.

Reaching Out
This one has always been difficult for me for several reasons. Reaching out to a supportive friend or a therapist means I have to tell the truth. I have been consumed by my lies and sneaky behaviors for so long; being vulnerable and sharing what is actually going on with me exposes me. Often my thoughts feel so absurd and illogical that it feels embarrassing to share them with others. Normal people don't think the way I do, right? Fortunately, I have been proven wrong in regards to the way "normal" people think. By opening up and sharing when I am struggling, I have been given the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. People who can relate. Viewing reaching out as courageous rather than a sign of weakness, has allowed me to feel empowered. Vocalizing my cravings and sneaky behaviors squashes the likelihood of acting on them. As the old saying goes, "You are as sick as your secrets." The more I allow those thoughts to fester and grow, the worse off I am. Reaching out over the past several weeks has changed my entire outlook on recovery.

One of the best gifts I have given myself is to remember when people say "recovery," they typically think of returning to how they were before the addiction or eating disorder. But there is no going back. It is irrational to believe simply gaining the weight or remaining sober is enough. It's about reinventing myself. In order to live a happy, healthy, and addiction or eating disorder free life, I need to become something completely different from what I was before. One of the girls I was in substance abuse treatment with always said, "You have to change everything but your name," and she was right. 

I have a choice.
I can either give into my old ways 
or I can challenge myself daily and rebuild my life.
Today I am grateful to have the skills and the ability
to choose the more challenging road.


Friday, October 30, 2015

"Bad Kids"

About two months ago I attended my first ever Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Without ever attending any type of twelve step meeting, I had no idea what to expect. This particular night we attended an open speaker meeting. It was an opportunity for an individual with a substantial amount of recovery time to share their story with the group. Sounded painless enough.

My heart sank when I immediately recognized the speaker from my past. I had gone to grade school with this person and knew he began using at a young age. To be terribly honest, he was one of the kids my goodie-two-shoes gang and I made fun of and looked down upon. I did not grow up with access to drugs or alcohol, and therefore, did not understand why anyone would go down that path. He hung out with the kids my parents told me to stay away from; the "bad kids."

So there I sat fifteen years later listening to the so-called "bad kid" teach me about how to recover from addiction. To say I was humbled is an understatement. Pinpointing a single emotion to that night is impossible. I was dumbfounded, ashamed, nauseous, mortified, confused, and most importantly incredibly proud of this young man's journey. I had been shaken to my very core. Suddenly not only did I have to interact with these "bad kids," but I had to look to them for guidance and support.

As I am writing this, I realize how judgmental it sounds and I apologize for that. At the same time, however, I think it is important to note the way I once thought is not uncommon in today's society. Simply put addicts are wrongfully seen in a negative light.

For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, you know I primarily wrote about my eating disorder recovery journey. Over a short period of time I gained a substantial following and felt a sense of belonging. Although it might have been a bit shocking at times, talking about my eating disorder publicly did not feel socially unacceptable. 

Here I am, however, a few years down the road tackling an equally devastating and challenging form of addiction but feel suffocated by the social stigmas involved. I have been hesitant to post this for awhile now, but this is a disease people die from every single day; not something to be quiet about or shy away from.

As a child I was taught to believe addicts are somehow “bad kids.”
However, now that I am white-knuckling through my own sobriety and recovery,
I am finding these so-called “bad kids” are my soulmates.

Addicts are remarkable people.
Addicts fight a war within themselves every single day.
Addicts are stereotyped and discriminated against.
Addicts are beaten down and made to believe they are weak.
With all odds against them,
addicts do live healthy lives in recovery,
and for that,
I am grateful.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Honesty. Openmindedness. Willingness.


Three of favorite words.

With the exception of about three people, not including my parents, most of you think I have spent the past month at my old eating disorder treatment center for a "booster." Meaning my weight was down a few pounds and old self-destructive thoughts were creeping their way back into my life. Which is only partially true.

Here it goes... I was in a three week program for substance abuse here in my hometown. Some of you might be thinking, "omg, finally," and some of you might be a little surprised.

Both are okay. 

With this decision brought the loss of my senior year internship, giving up my apartment, the end of a relationship that brought several joys to my recovery, and several other raised eyebrows.  To say I was lost and in complete shock is an understatement. Here's the thing about entering substance abuse treatment as someone who has only indulged in wine - I've never done drugs, I don't smoke cigarettes, and I've never even seen weed in real life (giggles allowed). Most of my fellow patients had done time in jail or lost their kids as a result to hard drugs. I was out of place and struggling.

I never took the program seriously.

Here I am a week out of treatment wishing I could go back.
Wishing I could have a re-do.
Wishing I could take advantage rather than spite the people around me.
Wishing I wasn't so damn judgmental.

Forgive me, but I've always had a stereotype of what it means to be a drug addict, regardless of my social work background. Regardless of the fact that I have struggled with a behavioral addiction (anorexia) for most of my life. Who am I to judge these people?

On one of my first days we learned the acronym HOW.


There were several nights when staff members asked if I had opened up and begun accepting the program. In all honestly, I usually rolled my eyes and questioned how I could even fit in with these people, let alone get "on board with the program." I had been through treatment before, done this work, and was a little insulted they didn't understand I wasn't a hardcore drug addict. Deep down I probably knew I needed to be there, but my acceptance level was zero.

Here I am one week out of treatment and wishing I could move back in. I might have said and done the right things to get out, but it did me zero good in the long run. Even though I grew up in an upper-middle class family and had all of my needs met, I still belonged there. I was no different than anyone there.

Honestly - I am an addict. Whether I use an eating disorder or wine to numb the craziness in my brain, I'm still an addict.

Openmindness - During my first week in the treatment center, all I could focus on was my judgments. I'm sure everyone in the house hated me for this, but it's true. If I am an addict, who am I to judge anyone who has dealt with relationship, professional, or even legal problems who is also an addict?
Not cool, Kels.

Willingness - Here's the big one. Am I truly and deeply willing to accept who I am as an addict and those around me for the wonderful human beings they are? Yikes. Seems like a loaded question. The willingness to accept myself as a part of this family?! One day at a time.

This is a difficult post, but much needed. 

Hi I'm Kelsi, and I'm an alcoholic.

I hate those words, but they are part of me and my future.

The most important part of any AA meeting is the newcomer. So here I am...

Willing and ready.

Serious Progress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Foods vs. Bad Foods: Part 2

Just today I found this response/question from 2013 on my Freedom: Good Foods vs. Bad Foods post, which was ironically posted two years ago today. I know that thanks to TimeHop... Slightly embarrassed for not answering sooner, but here's the question...

"I was looking back on your old posts, because it usually helps when i'm having a rough day in recovery, and this post stood out. I recently met with a dietitian for the first time yesterday and ever since have felt really down. I feel like she overlooked the eating disorder part because when me and my parents left all i had was a list of things to not eat and a "clean" meal plan. Ever since I've felt pressured to live up to that meal plan but it took enough effort to get to a place where food was starting to not seem so black and white (good and bad) and now I feel like i'm back a square one. It sucks because I've been trying so hard to not restrict amounts and types of food like i did before, and i feel like the dietitian is telling me to go back to doing that. I'm so confused, and angry, and unsure of what to do because at this point i feel worse emotionally and somewhat physically, but I'm doing what she suggested. Any advice?"

And here's my rant three years out of treatment...

First of all, this is a really difficult question and I am not a doctor or dietitian, so please take everything I say in this post with a grain of salt. It's all personal experience; which can be a great thing or a horrible thing, based on the individual.

However, when I first started college and while in culinary school, I took two different nutrition classes. I took this course twice. I took this class probably five years apart and at completely different universities. HOWEVER, both classes indicated most dietitians do not have the proper eating disorder education. They are only taught a short excerpt from their text books and then move on to different macro and micro nutrients. Very few dietitians specialize in eating disorders and it's insulting.

I realize this might be controversial, as many dietitians probably feel like they can treat EDs after receiving a simple bachelors degree, but from my experience they tend to teach ED patients more harm than good.

What I'm trying to say is, if dietitians aren't given a proper education in eating disorders, they tend to teach their ED patients BAD vs. GOOD FOODS. They only reinforce the fact that, even though the patient is recovering from an eating disorder, they still need to steer clear of anything fattening, containing too many carbs, or has too much sugar. Whether dietitians want to believe it or not, this only reinforces the eating disorder by continuing those extreme habits

If an ED patient is told to eat healthy and constantly avoid "bad food," they will continue to do so; along with restrict calories and fight off cake, ice cream, and cheeseburgers, because they were told to do so. RATHER THAN EMBRACING LIFE and the different foods it might bring.

Sure, the treatment center I went to had an extreme approach. We were taught a calorie is a calories is a calorie, and it's proven true ever since. Sure, we ate nothing but frozen meals and junk food, but only did so for a short period of time while gaining weight. However, and most importantly, post-treatment I was able to attend a birthday party and eat cake without feeling guilty. I was able to attend a summer barbecue and enjoy a burger or a hot dog (even though I entered treatment as a vegetarian) without self-destruction. I can have bacon and eggs with my boyfriend for breakfast without throwing it up two minutes later. I don't need to punish myself for eating a cookie each night after dinner.


There were never any constraints on my diet during treatment, and as a result, I am happier and healthier because of it. Food doesn't scare me, as it would a person who is still taught good vs. bad foods from their dietitian.  

I'm so grateful for the Little Debbies and Poptarts I was forced to eat in early recovery.
Even three years later.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dreaded Weight GAIN in Recovery....

So I got on the scale the other day for the first time in over a year and almost had a heart attack.

I've gained a few pounds this summer. Ironically, the only reason I stepped on the scale was because I could feel the weight gain in my gut (haha bad joke, but serious).

I could feel it in the way my clothes fit, in my energy level, and in my hunger levels.
1. Skirts and dresses still fit, but my skinny jeans are super uncomfortable.
2. I'm always tired, hate waking up in the morning, and sometimes feel worse after coffee.
3. My hunger has been non-existent, which should be a huge red flag. Don't eat if your body doesn't need it. Simple. 

I sometimes wonder after two weeks of this how it is possible to become overweight, which sounds like an awful thing to say, but it's true. 
Simply put, I feel terrible.

Maybe that's because I have struggled with an eating disorder and the slightest weight gain makes me feel like a balloon. 
Maybe it's because I hate feeling full.
Maybe it's because it's summer and I have been eating hot dogs, potato salad, and french fries.
Maybe it's because my activity level has severely decreased.
Maybe it's because I have reached my late twenties (only 2.5 years until I'm  30. AHHHH) and my metabolism is finally slowing down.

In all honestly, it's probably a combination of all of the things listed above. Actually, in all honestly, I think it might be normal to go through five pound weight fluctuations. But it honestly feels like the end of the world while being someone who recently dealt with an eating disorder. 

Just last week, I spoke with my (new) therapist about this. I was sure it was all in my head and feeling "fat" was nonsense... Until I got on the scale. Damnit, scale.

Sure, I'm still at a healthy weight for my height and most of my clothes still fit (although some of them are a bit tight). 
Sure, it's only five pounds, but it feels like the end of the world. 
In all honesty, it makes me want to start a diet tomorrow, which is Monday, and power through until I lose a good 10lbs..
 It makes my brain act in crazy ways. 

In all honesty, this weight is still a few pounds below the weight my treatment team set for me. Sometimes I wonder if they purposely set our goal weight a few pounds higher than need be because they know we will lose a few post treatment... Or maybe my low mood has been due to lack of lbs? It's so hard to say and it's so frustrating to be in this position.

So here I am admitting to weight gain, which might be one of the most difficult things I have done in years. How could I be so weak to eat this much? How can I be so stubborn to not accept this might be where my body needs to be? How could I? 

The good news is, I'll be okay.
I might hate it and I might try to cut calories.
But I'll be okay.

The good news is, I know better than to lose too much weight. My metabolism will settle where it needs to. My body might gain weight as that is normal as we age and the metabolism changes. I might need to eat a bit healthier and fit in a bit more activity, which sounds like the rest of America.  

But I'll be okay.
There's no need to lose 30lbs in order to be happy or accepted.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Lovin... And Wardrobe?

I recently had a fan of the blog email me and ask to write about a specific topic
(which I love! So please, ask away!!)...

"This is my first summer post-treatment and now that I am at a healthy
weight, it's scary to wear my summer clothes. I used to feel so nice about
wearing short shorts and tank tops, but now I'm noticing that I barely
recognize my body. It's scary, but I know that I look healthy; it's just a
sight I'm not used to. It makes me feel nervous, self-conscious, etc. Have
you ever experienced this? Do you have any tips? You are so gorgeous,
whether you're wearing a sweater or a sundress. I want to love my body in
all seasons. Thanks!"

This is difficult for me to answer because I am three years out of treatment and still struggling with body image myself. The short answer is YES, it is scary. It is difficult. But hang in there...

I wish the answer was simple. I wish I could say I am perfectly content with my post-treatment body three years later, but I can't. How are we supposed to feel confident in our skin after the adjustment in body weight post-treatment?!

Just a week and a half ago, I took a trip to Northern Michigan and spent an entire day on the water with girls who had 'perfect' bodies. 
It sucked.

I had my bikini on, but sweat through the little cover-up dress I had on. I honestly felt like the biggest girl there, even though I can look back on it now and see the amount of body fat I have was completely irrelevant.

I had a great time. 

I enjoyed the company around me and genuinely laughed.

I really enjoyed the food... Bagels (with full fat cream cheese) and an amazing tortellini pesto salad were two of my faves.

A few more favorite things...
Laughter as my silly friends jumped out of their kayaks and peed in the lake like kids.
An adorable three pound dog who ruled the house and became my best friend.
A new found culinary treat (The Little Fleet) that satisfied the food snob in me with the pulled pork nachos! Nom!
Visiting with one of my favorite culinary friends.
And of course, cheering on some of our best friends as they completed the Cherry Fest 5k, 10k, 15k, and (crazy people) half marathon.

Sure, I was worried about my weight.
Sure, my weight was 2-4lbs higher than it's been in 10 years.
Sure, I felt like the biggest lady there.

However, I found a way to enjoy myself regardless.
While in recovery from an eating disorder, it is extremely difficult to engage in summer activities. Whether that means wearing shorts, tank tops, or a bikini.. It's all intimidating, no matter how far along in recovery you might be. 

So, back to the original question, what tips do I have to survive summer after recovery?

Sundresses. Seriously. Wear them all the time. Find dresses that are flattering high on the waist. That's my biggest secret. High waist and belts at high waste are my best friend.

Color. If I'm trying on dresses, I try to find a color that compliments my skin tone. I'm super pale. So anything to contrast is wonderful. Think blues, greens (especially with the red tones in my hair), purples, and bright pinks.

COMFORT. This is the most important while in recovery, which is why sundresses are my go-to and I still default to them daily. Also, try not to look at the size. If it fits, it's perfect. If not, try a different size. Regardless of what the tag says. I have found I can go from a size 12 to a size 2 depending on the store so forget labels.

Again, COMFORT. Shorts can be difficult in the summer. Just this year I found myself too old or too big or too whatever to fit into shorts I wore last year. I was humiliated. How is it possible that I now need to buy shorts in the lady's department rather than in the juniors? It didn't seem fair. Luckily, once I found a pair that fit, I felt better about myself and my age... It was a double whammy.

Okay, let's get back to the original question....

How is it possible to feel comfortable in your own skin the summer after gaining weight?

To be perfectly honest, the summer after recovery was also the most difficult time for me, as well.
I hated my new body.
I wanted out.

It was difficult for me to see that fitting into sundresses and shorts was actually a good thing. It was difficult (and still is) for me to see my body filling out the clothes I am expected to wear.

The good news is, we are trying new things and asking important questions. Let's keep up the good work in recovery and begin to see body acceptance as a positive.

One day and one size at a time...