Friday, January 23, 2015

Crawl

I had an assignment due for MLK day that was not only perfect for the class, but also for my life and this blog...


“If you can't fly then run,
if you can't run then walk,
if you can't walk then crawl,
but whatever you do
you have to keep moving forward.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.



            When I first read this quote, I knew it was perfect for this assignment as it deeply resonated with me. My life up to this point has not been easy; at all. My late teens and early twenties were spent caught up in a life threatening battle with anorexia. I was lost. Luckily, I had parents who were brave enough to intervene and help me find the treatment I needed to save my life. It has been a long, tedious process.

            I couldn’t fly or run. I couldn’t run or walk. I could barely crawl when I entered treatment, but somehow, I learned how to keep moving. Slowly, I began the recovery process. I learned how to take the baby steps needed to rebuild my life. At first crawling didn’t seem like an option. Life was too difficult. I had fallen too far behind and was ashamed of my illness. As I grew stronger and healthier, however, I slowly learned to "crawl" again.

            During the process of gaining nutrition (not weight), I also gained confidence in myself. I was slowly able to move on my own and "crawl" again. It took time, but as I learned to crawl, I also learned to feel good about myself. I felt a sense of independence that slowly led to standing on my own two feet and bravely walking toward my recovery. As I gained momentum, there were very few things holding me back. 

            Crawling turned into walking.
            Walking turned into running.
            Running is still in the process of becoming flying, but I know it will happen.

            The road ahead is long, but well worth it. The learning process is never ending, but just what I need to pursue my degree in social work. I might not be able to run or fly right away, but that's okay. With time, I know I will do well and continue to learn what I need to in order to be a successful social worker.

Life starts out at a crawl.
Recovery has been a crawl.
School starts out at a crawl. 
Being an adult is a long, difficult process that begins with a crawl.


However, as we gain momentum, walking and even running becomes a little easier with each day and each experience we take in.
One day at a time.
We crawl.

Progress. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Embracing Uncertainty


"If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next,
don’t be.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Allow it to lead you places.
Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart
and your mind as you create your own path toward happiness;
don’t waste time with regret.
Spin wildly into your next action.
Enjoy the present,
each moment,
as it comes,
because you’ll never get another one quite like it.
And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost,
simply take a breath and start over.
Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart...
where your hope lives.
You’ll find your way again."


For the past six weeks or so, I've been struggling because I can't stop thinking about the future. I don't like the uncertainty. I don't like the fact that my future is about to change drastically. The amount of regret I feel is so overwhelming at times that it distracts me from living in the moment. Simply writing and thinking about this is causing extreme amounts of anxiety. I can feel my shoulders tensing and my mind racing.

This is the moment, when the anxiety begins, that I need to learn to step back and breathe. I need to think about the quote above. Rather than allowing the uncertainty to consume my thoughts, I can use it to fuel my next move. Yes, I have made some mistakes in the past but that doesn't mean I can't redirect my future. The uncertainty provides me with an opportunity to be brave and take each challenge as it comes.

I'm not a bad person. In fact, sometimes I think I'm a really good person... Who makes mistakes. Unfortunately, I have been dealt different cards than most but that doesn't need to ruin my entire life. We all go through life at different speeds, and that's okay.

So for today my only goal is to remain present in the moment. I can't control the future, but I can embrace the uncertainty to fuel my next move rather than allowing it to cripple me.

Progress.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Day Without Complaining


When I woke up this morning the temperature felt like -4 with the windchill. After a mild start to this Michigan winter, the subzero temperatures are finally here. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, watch Netflix, and complain about the weather. 

Until I saw this...


With a great deal of hesitation, I drug myself out of bed and started a hot shower to ease the post warm, cozy bed chills. I thought of the no complaining for 24 hours sign and was able to instantly shift my thoughts away from the bitter cold, and into gratitude for a steamy shower. 

After going through my morning routine, it was time to bundle up and layer every piece of clothing I owned before making the trek across campus to the library. I felt myself beginning to think about how much I hated winter and seeing my breath the moment I stepped outside; but then I thought of the no complaining sign. Again my thoughts shifted. The first snow of the year is actually quite beautiful and I have plenty of hats, gloves, scarves, boots, and long underwear to keep me warm on my ten minute walk. Walking across campus might not be so bad after all.

Next, I found myself at the library filling out an extensive job application for an on-campus writing center mentor. I was getting frustrated because I had to submit 5 of my past pieces of writing, write a three page introduction to my portfolio explaining my writing style, complete a four page, essay style application, and then finally a resume and cover letter. It felt silly and unnecessary. Before I knew it this application felt overwhelming and I almost gave up, but then I remembered that no complaining sign. I'm lucky enough to have plenty of past college papers and my own personal writing samples. I'm lucky enough to enjoy writing. I'm lucky enough be on a college campus getting my education.

Several other instances popped up today where I felt like crawling back into bed and complaining about everything wrong in my life. But once I was able to shift my thinking, I realized how irrelevant my complaints are. Sure, it takes some serious effort and commitment to go a day without complaining, but I think it's worth it.

I don't think I'll be able to do this everyday for the rest of my life, but I do think if I can learn to implement it on a regular basis my thinking will be much clearer. With a little practice this "no complaining for 24 hours" thing could be my new favorite coping skill.

Progress.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Further Treatment? Not A Horrible Thing, After All

I know I already posted once today, but I am having a serious epiphany that needs to be shared.

When I first left treatment, I often wondered how anyone could ever go back to an eating disorder treatment facility for a second, third, fourth, or how ever many times it took before they were "well." At the same time; however, I had many friends who went back to a different treatment facility for other, comorbid, reasons and never thought they were weak or questioned their need for further help.

Upon entering treatment I was still on probation for a "super drunk" DUI arrest. However, I was unwilling to admit that I had a drinking problem. I had worked at two different wineries for two years prior to my arrest and was miserablely hovering between 80 and 90lbs. In addition to my eating disorder, I drank. I drank to ease my anxieties and restricted to feel good about myself.

In order to help my 22 year old best friend understand, I sent her this message...

"Think of it this way, I restricted calories to feel good about myself and drank to ease my anxieties. I've never really dealt with my anxiety, which happens on a daily basis. The anxiety has eased up a bit now that my brain is getting proper nutrition, but it hasn't fully healed. I take things to another level; think of your anxieties about growing up and being an adult and then multiply it by 30. I'm still 26, almost 27, and needing help. Far from "being on track." So it raises my anxiety that much more, even though I know it will be okay... Someday."


It's hard. It's really hard. It's hard for anyone to understand.


I have a best friend who has seen me through thick and thin (literally), but still doesn't quite get it. Maybe her misunderstanding proves I'm not so ignorant for not understanding why most people need multiple treatments before gaining a full sense of recovery.

I have a loving boyfriend, a loving family who supports me more than they should, friends who are amazing, and a recovery team who will always be there, but I still struggle. I still make bad decisions. I still drink. I still get extreme anxiety.

I'm not looking for pity. This is just the way it is.

Maybe this is where an untreated anxiety disorder and a normal person are different.

Maybe this is where healthy coping skills need to become a part of daily life.
Maybe this is why my best friend says she gets anxiety but doesn't drink or have an eating disorder as a result.
Maybe this is a true disease.

Maybe I need to take this much more seriously.
Maybe this is why people go back to treatment so many times.
Maybe they don't symptom swap and just can't shake the eating disorder.
Maybe I need further treatment after two years of eating disorder treatment discharge.
Maybe this is hard to admit.

Maybe I'm not alone in this struggle.
Maybe I need to ease up on myself and those destructive thoughts.
Maybe realizing this is a big deal.

Progress.

An Unexpected Loss


On New Year's Eve my boyfriend's younger brother received news that his girlfriend had a massive seizure.
Less than twenty-four hours later she unexpectedly passed.
She was nineteen years old. 


Just four days prior to her seizure, I sat next to her at a family Christmas party and she told me about how much she loved the gifts she received from her boyfriend. We laughed while playing a gag gift Chinese auction and laughed at how hilarious their family is. She was perfectly healthy and happy just four days prior to this unexpected crisis.

This will weigh heavily on our hearts for quite sometime as we attempt to make sense of it. No one should ever have to lose a child. No one should ever have to lose a girlfriend or a friend or a sister or a student or a smile that bright. Luckily, I have never lost someone in such an unexpected manner (knock on wood), so it is difficult for me to begin to comprehend how something like this would feel. I'm sure the initial shock of this loss will take awhile to wear off as the family experiences the first year without her. 

My boyfriend's brother did his best to approach the situation with grace and maturity. While she was still in the hospital, he had the opportunity to say goodbye before her passing. He told her, "If you go I'll be okay. If you stay I'll love you forever," and continuously calls her his angel. I have to give him so much credit for having the courage to stand by her side during her final moments. I'm not sure if I would be strong enough to let go of the one I love.

The upcoming week will be incredibly emotional as we say say our final goodbyes, but we will keep reminding ourselves that the big guy upstairs needed her for something more important. Sometimes life just doesn't make sense. All we can do for now is hug our loved ones a little tighter and enjoy this precious life while we can. 

Progress. 

If you would like help out please click here to show your support and donate to epilepsy research. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Disconnect & Feel the Connection


Before my class last night, I had a few spare moments to sit and take in the moment. Students and professors around me were rushing from one destination to another with Starbucks in one hand and cell phones in another; totally disconnected from what was happening around them. Which made me wonder how often I am that person busily distracted and disengaged from my everyday life? The answer is probably more often than I like to admit.

A few weeks ago before one of my classes started, all of us students were glued to our phones, not speaking a word to each other, and sitting in silence. Once class got started, our professor made a comment about how when he was in school the teacher had a difficult time calming the class down because they were all chit-chatting and catching up on their weekly happenings. They were socializing. Not consumed in a handheld "social device."

Last weekend a friend of mine got engaged and rather than calling his friends and family during this oh-so-joyous moment, they all found out through facebook. But if I think about it, I can't remember the last time I found out about an engagement or a pregnancy or a job promotion or even a death that wasn't first seen on my newsfeed.

But why? I can't help but wonder why this de-socialization has become the norm.

In truth, this method of "communication" and "connectivity," only leads to miscommunication and disconnectedness. It's easier to get caught up in what is on our phone than actually dealing with our everyday lives. 

Don't get me wrong, I am guilty of over-posting the blissful moments in my life as a way to somehow prove my happiness to the world. But does it actually make me feel better or more worthy? The answer is no. If I'm being completely honest, I typically get so caught up in the number of likes I receive (or don't receive) compared to everyone else I follow on social media that it creates more stress and discontentment than I started with. So I post again hoping for better results and the cycle continues. 

Recently I have considered challenging myself to a social media detox, but I doubt I'm alone when I say I would be lost without my phone for even one hour. So for now, I am challenging myself to stop at least once during my day and have a mindful moment like I did last night before class. By taking a moment to stop and disconnect from the social media world, I might begin to feel more connected to the actual world around me. 

It's a small step, but it's better than nothing. Who knows, maybe after a little practice I'll be able to disconnect for that dreaded hour... Or longer.

Progress.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Seeing Life in Color


This past weekend I spent two days exploring the Lake Michigan shoreline in the northwest part of the state and was blown away by the beautiful scenery. I wish I would have counted the number of times I said, "We are still in Michigan, right?!" 


Let's flashback five short years ago to when I also spent time in the same exact region of the state, but hardly remember any of it. I don't remember the views being as spectacular, the water being the same vibrant shade of blue, or the adorable shops downtown. All I remember about those trips is how anxious I was because I couldn't control my food intake like I normally could at home. The people around me were constantly watching me eat. I was so caught up in counting the calories I ate and then finding ways to burn them off, that I was barely able to enjoy the moment. 


 These two pictures were taken on the same trail, five years apart. Yet somehow I completely forgot how special this part of the state is. 

People in recovery from eating disorders often talk about "seeing life in color" as they continue to get healthy and maybe this is what is meant by that. Five years ago my vision was blurry because I was unable to see things beyond my disease. I lived in a world of black and white; either I was restricting my intake or I wasn't. Either I was being good or I was being bad. Everything else seemed insignificant. 

But now, two years after leaving treatment, I think I am realizing how spectacular life in color actually is. Don't get me wrong, my life is far from perfect and I still have many things to improve on, but I am no longer living with an eating disorder, nor do I ever want to again. Wow, I need to soak those words up.

I know it's been awhile since I have written here, but I felt like this was a moment worth sharing. I think when we are sick, our worlds become so narrow; all we see is the disorder and nothing else, no matter how incredible our surroundings might be. It is also possible that I have had many of these "seeing life in color" moments recently, but haven't had something this concrete to compare them to.

Empire Bluffs 2009 and 2014
Pyramid Point 2012 (just before entering treatment) and 2014

I needed this. I have been really hard on myself about not being further along in life recently, which seems to be a reoccurring issue for me in recovery. By looking at these photos and thinking back, I am finally able to see just how far I have come in five years. It's weird to admit that I am actually quite proud of myself. 

A brief update - I am currently in the social work program at the school I am attending and absolutely loving my classes. I am looking at a graduation date of April/May 2016 and then will continue on to get my Masters degree. I feel like I am at home in this program... Finally. We are discussing topics that I am passionate about and researching treatment methods and interventions. Who knows if I will actually end up working with eating disorder patients; at this point it doesn't matter because I have found my niche and can easily relate to others in vulnerable positions.

I may have seen the world in black and white five years ago, but I am thrilled to say I am finally seeing in color again thanks to this weekend trip up north and my continued efforts in recovery.

Progress.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Weight?



Let's talk about weight loss after recovery...

Because it happened to me today.

After three months of not being weighed, I tried on a bridesmaid dress that was a little snug on me when I first tried it on 10 weeks ago and it was alarmingly loose a few days ago. As a silly girl I got on the scale at a wedding shower today and was several pounds below my goal weight.

Was I trying to lose weight? 
No. 
Not at all. 

However, I have been busier than I have been in years. Just this past week I worked 26 hours and was in class 18 hours, which equals a 44 hour week. Sounds like a typical college student, right? Of course it does, but I would like to make the argument that being that busy is overwhelming.

There are so many things involved in being a college student that don't have anything to do with being in class.

Work.  
Most kids have to work just to have spending money.
Studying.  
On top of class and work time we are required to find time to focus and study.
Social. 
So that leaves very little time to be social, especially if you work on weekends in your spare time.

This is an overwhelming time. 


Work or go to class?
Be social and go out with friends or study?
Be socially exhausted after a day of class or work (like me) and 
go home and crash or push yourself to be social?

I'm twenty-six years old and I still struggle with this balance. How are eighteen-year-old college students supposed to find that balance? Let alone figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives? Heck, it took me years and a life-altering experience to figure it out. How is my younger brother with no real life expedience, like most college students, supposed to figure it out? 

In my humble opinion, I think this is one of the many places our society struggles. Knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life at eighteen years old is an impossible expectation. So why send kids to college at that age knowing where they stand in life?! It's bizarre. I didn't know what I wanted to to do at 18 when I started school and failed out as a result. 

It's stupid. 
I'm not stupid. 
Our society is.

So as I continue to find myself post-recovery and watch some close friends of mine enter the big, scary work force, please know it is okay to be lost. No one knows what they want in the beginning. That first job isn't supposed to be your dream job. Take it one day at a time and enjoy your current circumstances.


I can honestly say regardless of my current situation and still being in school,  
I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life. 
I am independent.
I have a loving boyfriend.
I have friends who care deeply for me.
I am a bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding.
I feel accepted.

Progress.