Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Can't Be Fixed

“Lots of things can be fixed.
Things can be fixed.

But many times, relationships
between people cannot be fixed,
because they should not be fixed.

You're aboard a ship setting sail,
and the other person has joined the inland circus,
or is boarding a different ship,
and you just can't be with each other anymore.

Because you shouldn't be.”

― C. JoyBell C.

Sometimes it's that simple. 
Some things in life are not meant to be fixed and I'm learning to be okay with that.


Sunday, April 28, 2013


1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends
2. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short
3. Nonperformance of what is requested or expected

I'm going to let you in on a little secret - the first time I went to CMU I failed out. Yes, little-miss-goodie-two-shoes Kelsi failed out of school. 

At that time in my life, I began feeling my social anxiety take over and as I continued to skip class, the isolation became my go-to coping mechanism. My eating disorder became more important than my grades. Every time I sat down to study I became so overwhelmed that I would throw in the towel before I even got started. There were countless mornings where I would drive to class, but found myself unable to get out of the car.

I ran away from everything and everyone during those years.

Without any other options, I applied to culinary school and luckily they accepted everyone regardless of past school experiences and GPA. With all of my guilt and shame from being a failure still riding heavily on my shoulders, I decided running away from my problems was the answer. Looking back on it all now, however, I see moving/running to Traverse City was only a temporary solution to many unresolved issues and in the long run it only escalated my disorder.

While my years in Traverse City did have some great moments, I could never truly enjoy them because there was always a little voice in the back of my head screaming "FAILURE!" My eating disorder became the only thing I felt truly successful in; everything else was there to cover up my guilt.

 Now that I have been through treatment for my eating disorder and am trying to get my life back on track, I find myself facing many of my past failures. This week is finals week and every time I sit down to study, I face my fear of failing.

But maybe they weren't failures at all. 
Maybe my past is just a small part of my story.
Maybe failure is the only way to grow.
Maybe failure is a huge part of success.

Maybe if I can convince myself that I needed to go through those difficult times to become the person I am today, then I won't view my past as one big failure. Sometimes we really do need to go through the rough times before we can appreciate the joyful times.

This week as I take my finals and finish up my first (in many ways) successful semester, I know I will be reminded of my past failures. Instead of piling on more guilt, like I have done in the past, I think it's time to remove a little of that weight from my shoulders.

This semester as I take my finals, I can breathe a little easier knowing my past failures have fueled countless positive changes in my life.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Finding My Voice

 Last week I had a conversation with my mom about the prom dress we bought for my junior prom. As we reminisced, her thoughts were, "That was my favorite dress," and mine were, "I hated that dress." Puzzled and shocked, my mom paused and asked, "Why did you pick that dress then? Because I liked it? I thought you loved it." Yes, I picked that dress because it was my mom's favorite and I was afraid to speak up. Heaven forbid I disagree with her; she did take the time to take me prom dress shopping, after all, even though she HATED it.

Over the past 10 years or so I have spent more time seeing a therapist than anyone should have to endure, but every once in awhile a concept sticks with me. Many of you may be familiar with the four types of communication styles listed below: Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive, and Assertive. If you need a little refresher, here is a short description of each,

Passiveness is a communication style where an individual ignores their own feelings, doesn't speak up for themselves, and bottles up anger and other negative emotions. Passive communicators often,
-fail to express feelings and emotions
-tend to speak softly and apologetically
-allow others to cross personal boundaries
-don't stand up for themselves

Aggressive communicators openly share their feelings in a way that violates the rights of others and comes from a place of low self esteem. Aggressive people often,
-criticize, blame, and attack others
-speak in a loud, demanding, or overbearing tone
-does not listen well
-try to dominate others

Passive Aggressive people typically ignore a problem at first and keep emotions to themselves, but will act on their anger in subtle, behind-the-scenes ways. Passive aggressive people will often:
-deny there is a problem
-use sarcasm often
-complain about problems to other people
-pretend everything is fine when it's not

Assertiveness is a style of communication where feelings are clearly stated without offending or violating the other person. This is the ideal communication style. Assertive people,
-state needs & wants, clearly & respectfully
-listen without interruptions 
-use "I" statements
-don't place blame on others
 Obviously, based on the prom dress shopping experience from a many years ago, I am clearly a passive communicator. I have spent my entire life making decisions based on what I believe will make others happy, even if that meant ignoring my desires. For years I have bottled up my emotions and taken that anger out on myself, which has only created self-destructive habits.

One of the many gifts recovery has given me is the opportunity to discover my assertive voice. If I am being honest, however, using that assertive voice is still a work in progress. Simply admitting to my mom that I thought that prom dress was - dare I say it - hideous, was a huge step for me.

I heard this song by Beyonce this morning and although it's a little cheesy, it definitely portraits assertiveness and attitude, which I needed this morning.

Eating disorder recovery is a long, exhausting process that involves dealing with underlying issues and past experiences. Passive communication is one thing that definitely contributed to my eating disorder. My assertive voice completely disappeared for a awhile, but recovery is teaching me to stand up for myself and not allow people to walk all over me.

Using my voice has been a little scary at times because I hate disappointing others, but if I'm not taking care of myself first then nothing else really matters. Assertiveness is definitely proving to be worth the hard work.


Thursday, April 25, 2013


This week has been a little hectic with the semester coming to an end (already!) and my seemingly out of control emotions getting in the way of my happiness. On Tuesday night I found myself frantically cleaning my room and gutting out my closet instead of getting my school work done. Also, I caught myself occasionally letting out screams of rage for no particular reason. I guess if I am going to choose an avoidance mechanism, cleaning is the way to go, but don't let me lead you astray - school work should always come first.

Anyways, late last night on a study break, I found this poem. Sometimes tiny burst of inspiration, like this poem, find us at just the right moment if we take the time to notice them.

"Happiness is a kind of openness, we have learned.
So choose the risky road of power and vulnerability.
Be done with dull things.
Take your life back.

Free yourself from habits of anger and compliance—smoking self-destruction.
Eyes wide open to the world as it is, we grieve.
And in the midst of it all, we rejoice…
We have been told that liberty and happiness are mutually exclusive. 
This notion we reject. 

We can write our own scripts, write our own stories.
We can follow the threads of joy, too,
like sparks flying from the campfire, see where they land.
 We can create a liberation psychology.

So we open to love or work or art that feels expansive.
There is no “happily ever after.”
There is only meditation, action, change, friendship, idea, inspiration, creation.
We spin this light out of darkness."

bluebird, Ariel Gore

Yes, this week has been stressful, exhausting, and emotional, but that doesn't mean there isn't still time to notice all of the reasons I still have to be happy.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Social Anxiety

Hi. My name is Kelsi and I suffer from social anxiety.

Yes, talking about my issues with social anxiety is uncomfortable and by presenting it here in my blog it makes me feel vulnerable. Talking about my struggle with alcohol and the nerves I felt opening up about that, compare to the nerves I am feeling now. For those of you who are lucky enough to not know what social anxiety is or how it feels, I will gladly help you understand. 

When I enter new social situations, such as going to a family gathering or a party of some kind, I immediately start panicking. For most people, giving a presentation or going on a date might cause a few butterflies, but for those of us with social anxiety, these situations bring a sense of panic. My thoughts usually go something like this: 

"Everyone is staring at me." 
"They can all notice how nervous I am." 
"I never have anything to add to the conversation." 
"I must not fit in.
"This nervous giggle is so lame." 
"What is wrong with me?!"

Before I know it, I am ready to leave before I even begin a conversation. This fear of social situations also begins to build before I even leave the house, which often makes me bail on plans last second. This is difficult for me to write about because I know these fears are irrational. My obsessive worse case scenario thoughts prevent me from enjoying my life and to be honest, it's starting to piss me off.

While I was actively participating in my eating disorder, I thought my social anxiety was all food related. If a social event had food, I knew it would make me uncomfortable to eat in front of others and that was my "perfect" excuse to isolate. Now that I am eating somewhat normally, however, that excuse no longer works. 

Right now my social anxiety feels worse than it ever has in my entire life and I think it's because I am finally being forced to deal with it. After crying in my therapist's office yesterday, I decided a certain social situation this week was too much to face and I resorted back to my old isolating ways. I really should know better than this by now. Isolation does not solve anything. Ever.

After doing a little reading on social anxiety, I found that it is most common among individuals with low self-esteem, poor assertiveness skills, negative self talk, and overly self critical thoughts. Being female and having a genetic predisposition to social anxiety can also increase its development. Other factors, such as upbringing, traumatic life experiences (e.g. bullying, abuse), and certain personality traits (e.g. shyness), can greatly impact social anxiety.

So, I am left questioning whether or not social anxiety is my fault and why it is so difficult to get over. Unfortunately, I would test positive for all of the risk factors listed above and many of those things are not my fault. Like many things in my life, in order for me to overcome my social anxiety, it is going to take a lot of time and patience, even if it is frustrating. My therapist says it's best to start slowly when beginning new social activities, so I will need to develop a starting point and over time work my way up.

For some reason, I think of my social anxiety as an ugly personality flaw and I would much rather avoid discussing it. However, there are serious consequences involved if I choose not to deal with it. Recovery from my eating disorder has opened my eyes to how bad my social anxiety really is and even though it's no fun to deal with, without recovery, I would not have this chance to work on it.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Is it Really That Simple?!

I received a comment on my most recent post, Body Acceptance, that I wanted to make sure I addressed. I'm not entirely sure if this post will make sense, so bear with me and keep your fingers crossed. Here is the comment I received:

"And all you've done is EAT? It just seems so impossible to me right now, that all that could be waiting for me if I just allow myself the freedom of recovery. But i feel, like you felt before... that body acceptance isn't something that I will ever get to. 
Is it really as simple as eat more and don't exercise. Like really?!?!  
Because I keep thinking there must be some secret that I don't know about. haha...." 
- Clemmy (Check out her blog here!)

The short answer to this comment is NO. Recovery is not that simple. There is so much more to it than eating and not exercising, but those two things are huge components of recovery. Without weight restoration (or simply regulating eating patterns, depending on the individual struggles) through nutrition therapy, it is impossible to deal with the underlying issues involved. 

Once the physical symptoms are under control (e.g. binging, purging, restricting), the chemistry in the brain actually does change, allowing the next phases of recovery to begin. 

Yesterday on my plane right home, I began reading (yes, another) book called "Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder: Reclaim Yourself, Regain Your Health, Recover for Good," written by Johanna S. Kandel. On page 72, Kandel writes a section called, "Why Does it Have to be so Hard?" that I thought related perfectly to my friend Clemmy's question,
"Change is always hard, even when you know it's something you really want to do. No matter how long you've been struggling with your eating disorder, it's become what you know, it's familiar, it's second nature, and, above all, it's provided you with a false sense of safety. However negative your behaviors might have been, they were providing you with something you needed. The behaviors felt like floaties because they and their outcomes were predictable, even though they were dragging you down."

Recovery often feels like a never ending series of small changes. As the quote suggests, the eating disorder is absolutely a false sense of safety and learning to let go of that can feel like the worst possible thing in the world. For a lot of us struggling with eating disorders, that feeling of predictability and control hold us back from change.

Immediately after reading Clemmy's comment, I became worried that my blog leaves my readers a false impression that recovery is as simple as eating more and not exercising. Please know that is not the case at all. I choose to write about as many positive events as I can as a way to keep myself moving forward.

Three things that have helped me keep pushing forward are, taking recovery day by day (or meal by meal if needed), reminding myself that even when I feel like I am standing still, I am still moving forward, and most importantly as Kandel (p. 70) explains,
"I'm not going to lie; starting the recovery process is hard...  
The negative eating disorder voice in your head will be arguing with your healthy voice about which way to go, and in the beginning your eating disorder voice will be really loud, while your healthy voice may be no louder than a whisper. You may encounter any number of those small choices in the course of a given day. 

Constantly engaging in that kind of battle is exhausting. 
If you thought it was going to be like this forever, 
I wouldn't blame you for giving up. 
But it won't be. 
You have to have faith. 
You will succeed." (p. 70)

Back to Clemmy's question - There is not a secret that all of you are missing out on, recovery is just a really difficult process. There is no shame in struggling. Also keep in mind that not everyone's path to recovery is the same and by comparing yourself to others, it only creates setbacks.

The good news is, however, recovery really is worth it. Today I feel stronger than ever because I have endured the uncomfortable situations involved in change and I am confident that all of you have the power within to change as well.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Body Acceptance

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, my family has been coming to this same vacation spot in St. Augustine for years. Thinking back, I can't think of one year that I felt comfortable in my swimsuit. Every year I went on a spring break diet and exercise plan, but it only seemed to make me more self conscious. Meals were always dreaded because I knew eating would leave me feeling bloated and disgusting. 

One year I became so starved (or emotional, I'm not sure. Maybe both.) that I stole a jar of peanut butter and a half eaten box of crackers from the pantry and ate nearly all of it in secrecy. This incident was before my purging days, so I was forced to endure the guilt involved with binging. My entire trip was ruined as a result because I thought I was fat. I remember feeling really irritated with my family members who could eat three meals a day, plus snacks and still feel comfortable in their own skin. It did not make any sense to me. 

It's difficult for me to believe that I am even saying this, but for the past three days I have gone for walks on the beach wearing only my swimsuit. Before leaving for this trip, I was scared to death to simply buy a swimsuit and I hadn't even considered actually wearing it in public.

Here's the craziest part of all - I felt more confident in my suit this year than I ever have in my entire life. As I was walking, I kept thinking of all of the amazing things my body has done for me: It has recovered from a state of self-starvation, it has allowed my metabolism to work normally again, it has helped my bones grow strong again, and most importantly, it has allowed me to feel happiness again. I wasn't worrying about whether or not my body looked perfect - because we all know it never will - instead I was feeling proud of the hard work that has allowed me to enjoy those moments.

Body acceptance is a state of mind that I never thought I could reach. Ironically, however, now that I have been at a healthy weight for an extended period of time, I feel more comfortable in my body than I ever did while I was sick. My body image was actually worse 50lbs ago than it is right now.

My metabolism has also fired up again. Although it does take time and continuous eating to help the metabolism work properly again, it does happen. When I was restricting my calories, my body would cling onto every morsel of food I did feed it because it didn't know when it would receive fuel again, which causes the awful bloating. By eating regularly, however, not only do I feel better mentally and physically, the bloating has also gone away. My body has re-learned how to digest food - YAY! 

This is a huge step for me. By facing my fear of looking fat in my swimsuit on the beach, I have found a new sense of body acceptance. Amazingly, one year ago, my biggest fear was weight gain and here I am feeling better than ever before in my own skin. 


Friday, April 19, 2013

Phases of Eating Disorder Recovery

Vacation is always a perfect time to catch up on a little reading. One of the books I have been skimming through is called "8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder" written by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb. It has been a pretty fascinating read, even though I disagree with a few of the ideas. That disagreement just goes to show that everyone's recovery is different and there is no single way to treat eating disorders.

One of my favorite sections talks about the different phases of eating disorder recovery. For the few short days that I have been on vacation, I have rarely been obsessing about food or weight the way I used to, which is definitely a first. 

This section of the book, describes the different phases and then has a writing assignment that follows, which allows you to reflect on your current place in recovery. If you are comfortable, give it a try! It was a great way for me to recognize the progress I have made and helped put things into perspective.

Ten Phases of Eating Disorder Recovery

1. I Don’t Think I Have a Problem.
  • It’s my body so leave me alone.
  • There are people who are a lot thinner (worse) than I am
2. I Might Have a Problem But It’s Not That Bad.
  • I only throw up once in a while.
  • My physical didn’t show anything wrong so I am OK.
3. I Have a Problem But I Don’t Care.
  • I know throwing up isn’t good for me, but it’s working for me so I don’t care.
  • I could change if I wanted to, but I don’t.
4. I Want To Change But I Don’t Know How and I’m Scared.
  • I want to eat normally, but I am afraid I will get fat (gain weight).
  • I want to stop bingeing, but I can’t figure out where to start.
5. I Tried To Change But I Couldn’t.
  • I told myself that I would not (fill in the blank) but I found myself doing it again.
  • I don’t feel like I can really ever (change) get well, so why keep trying?
6. I Can Stop Some of the Behaviors But Not All of Them.
  • I could stop purging, but I will not be able to eat more.
  • My eating has gotten better, but my exercise is out of control.
7. I Can Stop the Behaviors, But Not My Thoughts.
  • I can’t stop thinking about food and bingeing all the time.
  • I keep counting calories over and over in my head and still want to lose weight.
8. I Am Often Free From Behaviors and Thoughts, But Not All the Time.
  • I feel fine all day, but under stress I revert back to my unhealthy behaviors.
  • I was fine, but wearing a bathing suit triggered my eating disorder thoughts, and with it some related behaviors.
9. I Am Free From Behaviors and Thoughts.
  • I feel mostly OK in my body and am able to eat things I want and not feel guilty or anxious afterwards.
  • Once I had stopped the behaviors for a period of time, at some point I realized that I was no longer having the thoughts or urges.
10. I Am Recovered.
  • For a long time now, I no longer have thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to my eating disorder.
  • I accept my body’s natural size. My eating disorder is a thing of the past.

 Right now I would say I am somewhere between an eight and a nine, leaning towards the nine. For some reason it is difficult for me to think of myself at a number nine because it seems so high on the list. Obviously I still struggle with giving myself credit, but there's always room for improvement. Getting used to positive thoughts and emotions is much more difficult that I ever imagined it would be, but I am getting there.

Today I am free from eating disordered behaviors and (90% of my obsessive) thoughts!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Happy Place

This morning as I was sitting on our fourth floor balcony, peacefully listening to the waves crash onto shore, and sipping my morning coffee, I welcomed this gorgeous day. The sun was just beginning to peak out over the horizon, leaving behind vibrant rays of pink and orange sunlight. Another beautiful day in St. Augustine had arrived.

This is my happy place.

At the moment, I am sitting on the balcony again eating my lunch after a beach filled morning. My morning was filled with seashell hunting on my morning walk, a little sun bathing, and a sense of freedom I have never experienced before.

 The plants are bright green, flowers are in full bloom, the air smells of salt water and freshly cut grass, and the locals appear to live in a much slower, relaxed state of mind. Yesterday I literally did not move from my beach chair for at least four hours straight. Why would I ever want to leave?

Before we left for this trip, I jokingly told my parents that I do not plan on joining them on the returning flight home. After a day of nothing but lounging in my sun tanning chair yesterday, however, I realize that I might not have been joking at all. Ten-ish years ago, upon returning home from St. Augustine for a spring break trip, as we got off the plane in Michigan, there was snow on the ground and temperatures were well below freezing. Instantly, I turned to my dad and questioned, "Why would anyone in their right mind want to live here?"
My family has been coming to St. Augustine over spring break for many years. It may not be the absolute best vacation spot in the world, but it does hold a special place in our hearts. 

This is the first year I have truly allowed myself to notice the beauty surrounding me. On my morning walk I was not consumed with thoughts of how many calories I needed to burn or repeatedly counting the calories I had eaten. I found myself stopping to take pictures of seashells and paying attention to the direction of the tide. There is no doubt the locals could tell I was a tourist, but I didn't care. 

I was enjoying myself. That's all that matters.

Today I find myself overwhelmed with joy. Recovery really can be a beautiful thing.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Celebrating Progress

 “Every day you may make progress. 
Every step may be fruitful. 
Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, 
ever-ascending, ever-improving path. 
You know you will never get to the end of the journey. 
But this, so far from discouraging, 
only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” 
-Winston Churchill

In two weeks, one year will have gone by since I entered treatment for my eating disorder.

Seven months later, I was discharged, about 50 pounds heavier, and petrified to face the mess of a life I had left behind. Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to begin rebuilding my life and this week I am taking the time to celebrate my progress.

As a way to celebrate I am taking a trip down south to reflect on this past year. Right now only three classes stand between me and my departing flight. Last night my level of excitement kept me from sleeping. Traveling is one of my favorite things in life and I feel very blessed to be healthy enough to start site-seeing again.

Even though this blog is all about progress, I still forget to give myself credit sometimes. I think it is really important for all of us to stop and celebrate an aspect of life that brings us joy, especially after yesterday's events in Boston. Life can be taken from us at any moment - why spend it doing anything BUT celebrating?

I realize that over the past year, the amount of progress I have made will be nearly impossible to repeat, but that doesn't mean my progress is over forever. As the quote above says, I will never reach the end of this journey, but that is one of the reasons life is so wonderful.

I will always have a reason to celebrate.


What are you celebrating today?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Perks of Being in Recovery

"This one moment when you know you're not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite."~Perks of Being a Wallflower

Last night, like the true nerd that I am, I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the millionth time and enjoyed it - with tear soaked cheeks - just as much as I did the first time I saw it. The main character is dealing with his own inner demons, but as the movie progresses, he finds a group of friends that help him discover his worth.

The use of the word 'infinite' in this movie reminds me of my own recovery. The dictionary defines infinite as, "immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive" and "subject to no limitation or external determination." Thanks to recovery, I often feel infinite. In this moment, the possibilities are endless and I can become whoever I choose. My life feels brand new and every single day I recognize a new 'Perk of Being in Recovery.'

In honor of this movie, I thought I would make a list of my "Perks of Being in Recovery:" 

~Genuine, uncontrollable laughter
~Having future plans and actually feeling confident that my dreams will come true someday
~No more lying and manipulating those closest to me
~Clear thinking patters, retaining information, and getting a 96% on my most recent exam
~Healthy, shinny hair and strong nails
 ~Buying clothes in actual women's sizes - I am 25 years old after all
~Feeling a million times more comfortable in social situations
~Full fat lattes
~Having the opportunity to find out who I am without my eating disorder
~Connecting with others who have similar struggles
~Constantly feeling a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small my progress may seem
~Not having to worry about whether my last meal will make me gain weight
~Pasta and warm bread with butter
~Not having the number on the scale dictate my mood for the entire day
~Ability to save money because it is not constantly spent on binge foods
~Did I say bacon?
~Comfort from my meal plan - knowing I won't gain or lose weight
~Actually eating candy out of my Easter basket this year without any guilt
~Inner beauty and confidence
~Going to family gatherings & not freaking out when I see all the food
~Ice cream
~Learning that fullness will not kill me - it does pass
~Letting go of shame, guilt, and fears
~Realizing that I am good enough
~Discovering my assertive voice
~Walking and playing with Muzzy everyday 
~No more constant headaches
~Knowing my mistakes don't make me a bad person
~My parents don't have to worry about me every night
~I paid a lot of money to learn how to cook & now I can actually enjoy it
~Knowing that I can endure difficult times and survive
~Learning to trust my healthy conscious 
~No more obsessing about what I eat or don't eat

The best part is, I could easily keep going. The number of 'Perks of Being in Recovery' does seem infinite.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away...

For the past five days we have seen nothing but heavy rain and occasional sleet. For the next five days, the forecast is predicting nothing but heavy rain and occasional sleet. 

Back when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I used to crave rainy days. When the weather was gloomy, I didn't feel as much pressure to put on a happy face; it was a perfect excuse to sleep the day away, and I could blame my low mood on the weather. Rainy days bring out my depression, which isn't something I talk about very often. 

Depression and anxiety are often two of the most common underlying issues associated with eating disorders and I was no stranger to either of them. While anxiety was (and still is) typically a much bigger issue for me, depression always found a way to sneak up on me when I least expected it. Initially, before I was diagnosed or treated for an eating disorder, I was prescribed anti-depressants; like taking pills would magically solve all of my problems.

One of my favorite quotes about depression comes from a book I read years ago: Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." I read this book very recently after being diagnosed with depression and this quote about depression and loneliness has stuck with me ever since;

“They flank me-Depression on my left, loneliness on my right. They don't need to show their badges. I know these guys very well. ...then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity; but he always does that... But he [Depression] just gives me that dark smile, settles into my favorite chair, puts his feet on my table and lights a cigar, filling the place with his awful smoke. Loneliness watches and sighs, then climbs into my bed and pulls the covers over himself, fully dressed, shoes and all. He's going to make me sleep with him again tonight, I just know it.”

While stuck in a bought of depression, it can feel absolutely hopeless and as Gilbert describes, it often confiscates my identity. Some of the most common depression symptoms include: lack of interest, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, change in appetite, and persistent aches and pains, to name a few.

Eating disorders and depression are a deadly combination. Being severely underweight and malnourished can cause psychological changes to the brain that have been proven to negatively affect mood. Perfectionistic tendencies and feelings of inadequacy, which I have discussed multiple times on this blog, only add to the fire, making those depressive thoughts even worse.

Depression is just one of the many mental health disorders commonly involved with eating disorders; obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar, borderline personality, and panic disorders may be involved as well. In addition, substance abuse, self harm, and even potential suicidal behaviors are coexisting issues and can all lead to depression and anxiety; making the recovery process that much more difficult.

The mental health world is a scary one for most people, myself included. By admitting that I do struggle with depression, anxiety and substance abuse, in addition to my eating disorder leaves me feeling self indulgent and weak; once again adding to the depression fire.

The good news is, however, I have learned that mental health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. I have been shocked multiple times to find out people I would never expect, also struggle with similar issues. Just like I would never treat someone suffering from cancer with disrespect, I should never be disrespectful towards myself and my issues.

Eating disorders are the number one cause of death among all mental health disorders. This is not a matter that should be taken lightly.

Thanks to this rain, I have been constantly reminded of my old depressive ways. Although there is still nothing better than a nap in the rain, my depression no longer jumps for joy on rainy days. Depression might occasionally sneak up on me from time to time, but I no longer feel the need to spend my entire day indulging.

Yes, this weather is awful, but today I am choosing to snuggle up with a big mug of hot cocoa, my girl, Muzzy, and enjoy feeling cozy- rather than depressed.


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, April 11, 2013


This week has been filled with a roller coaster of emotions. Monday and Tuesday, as my best friend would put it, I felt like "a chicken running around with my head cut off," thanks to two big exams and other little homework assignments I had due. While yesterday, on the other hand, was one of those, "I feel so grateful it's making me cry," days.

Yesterday after class, I met with one of my professors to check out my grade on the exam I had taken on Monday. This semester I have yet to have a one-on-one conversation with this particular prof, so I was a little bit nervous for some reason; I think I generally tend to get a little apprehensive around authority figures.
After I found out my grade, we began chatting about my past school experiences and future plans. Earlier in the semester, I wrote an essay question on an exam exposing my eating disorder, which unexpectedly came up in the conversation.
"Do you have things under control now?" 

Those were the words he chose to break the ice and without further explanation I knew exactly what he was referring to. Before I knew it, I had tears running down my cheeks and I wasn't really sure why. Naturally, he began apologizing for springing such a question on me, but I explained to him that I am quite comfortable talking about it and am doing well in my recovery.

He continued to say, "I would have never guessed you had an eating disorder because 1.) Physically you look healthy and 2.) You seem very composed, well mannered, and controlled." 

I chuckled at both statements. First, I could hear my eating disordered brain screaming at me that I must not look sick enough to have an eating disorder anymore, but my healthy brain arguing that looking healthy is a GOOD thing. Second, I had to respond with, "Yes, I am composed, but that is just the perfectionist in me and I am actually trying to let go of some of that. It's a front." My honesty shocked me, but those words just came out. I was exposing my flaws.

We continued talked about my past and upbringing and how my parents are handling all of this; he was genuinely interested in my story. After I spilled my guts and went through half of his tissue box, he leaned back in his chair, put his arms behind his head and said, "You know I have never written a letter of recommendation for a student who has not been accepted into a program? I only write letters for students who show serious promise and heart," and of course, I started crying again. 

As I left his office, I stopped in bathroom to collect myself and found mascara smeared beneath both eyes. Really? Where was this burst of emotion coming from?

Twenty-four hours later, however, I am able to recognize the meaning behind those tears. In that moment, I was feeling such an overwhelming amount of gratitude and sense of progress, that I could not control my emotions. In the past, I would have plastered on my happy face and pretended like everything was going great, but I didn't do that this time.

Those tears were real. 
I was being authentic.
My "I need to be perfectly composed" persona had been stripped away. 
It's doubtful this professor will ever know how big of an impact his words had on me. Never in my life have I felt a greater level of respect from anyone. There I was, completely authentic, flaws and all, and this person still believed in me. I no longer feel like I have to pretend like I am strong because I finally believe its true.


 re·spect [ri-spekt]

Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.

I thought we should jam out to a little Aretha this morning. :) 

 By showing his respect for me, I am able to find a new sense of respect for myself. Yes, I do have a bit of a troubled past, but this professor showed me that I am still a respectful person regardless of my mistakes.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Washout Phase

Recently I have been getting messages and emails from friends of mine in recovery explaining how sick and tired they are of trying. The initial discomfort of eating and dealing with emotions that have been avoided for an extended period of time often feels too painful to bear, which makes going back into eating disordered habits seem a million times easier than continuing with recovery. 

So, I dug up this old worksheet I received in treatment that talks about the "washout phase" of recovery. The first time I read this excerpt from "Improving Outcomes and Preventing Relapse in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" written by Martin Antony, Deborah Ledley, and Richard Heimburg, I was actually in the middle of this stage of recovery. 

Here is the actual text that changed my outlook on recovery (pg 227),

"When clients start to normalize their eating they are likely to experience a "washout" phase. The washout phase occurs during the initiation of normalized eating. It is typical during this phase for clients to experience an increase in gastrointestinal discomfort and pain (i.e., bloating, gas, constipation, and reflux); to feel more preoccupied with food, more dissatisfied with body image, and more anxious and depressed; and to have increased urges to binge eat. Eventually the physical discomfort will pass, and eating normally helps to reduce urges to binge, but at first clients have to do the eating while enduring an increase in physical and emotional discomfort.

It is best to prepare clients for the washout phase, and to let them know that this is a normal but extremely difficult part of recovery. Clients find it helpful to know that the only way to get to the other side of the washout phase is to eat through the distress and pain until they start to feel better, both physically and emotionally. Coping phrases such as "food is medicine" and strategies such as mechanical eating (i.e., planning meals and following through despite feelings) can also help with this process."

It is also important for me to mention, that I honestly felt like I went through this washout phase for a good six weeks. Everyone is different, however, making the period of time spent in the washout phase impossible to predict. The physical pain that is felt during this time will pass and the unpleasant emotions that are finally surfacing after years of avoidance will not last forever. Feelings are just feelings; they can't hurt you and I found I could endure them if I allowed myself to do so. 

To put it bluntly, the washout phase sucks, but it is a necessary part of recovery. I hope this information helps. Keep in mind that if I could get through it, anyone can do it.


Monday, April 8, 2013

After Awhile You Learn...

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child
and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn…
—Veronica Shoffstall

Recovery, I have learned, is a never ending learning process and I don't intend on stopping anytime soon.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Swimsuit Shopping

In a week and a half I am heading to Florida for some much needed relaxation and sunshine. For five days straight, I have nothing planned except getting a start on my summer tan. What could be better than that?

The only downside to my mini vacation, however, is trying to find a swimsuit. For obvious reasons, my suit from last year does not even come close to fitting and I'm pretty sure I threw it out sometime last fall. For the lucky few people who actually enjoy swimsuit shopping, I seriously envy you. For the rest of us, on the other hand, it can be one of the most dreaded days of the year. After recently gaining a significant amount of weight, I wasn't even sure if I had the guts to enter a fitting room to begin the process of finding the right fit. 

Earlier this week, to my surprise, I did find the courage to do a little swimsuit shopping. Over the past few months, I have learned some great shopping strategies to help keep my body image in check. My favorite is to grab a bunch of different sizes, bring them to the fitting room, try them on WITHOUT looking at the tag, and just go with the one that fits the best.

If I am being completely honest, I had planned on buying a one-piece to cover up my new shape. Thankfully as I was looking at the suits, however, I decided I was way too young to go for the one-piece. 

After trying on what felt like every single suit in the store, ironically, I went with the very first one I tried on. Why does that always seem to happen? It fit perfectly, it is my favorite color, pink, and it is a size XL.  

Yes, I did stupidly give in and look at the size on the tag, which almost gave me heart attack. Am I really a size XL?! 

Am I crazy for posting these pictures? Absolutely.
Is my body at a healthy weight? Yup.
Did I spend hours in the gym before swimsuit shopping? I haven't worked out in over a year.
Do I eat Reese's peanut-butter cups everyday? Religiously.
Am I 45-50 pounds heavier than the last time I wore a swimsuit? Yes.
Does it matter? Not at all.

For the first time in a decade, I am not obsessing about the amount of weight I want to lose before spring break. The swimsuit I bought fits my body now, rather than the body I dream of having; even if it is an XL.

When I was underweight and very sick, I always wondered why they even made bikinis above a size small. As I type that now, I realize how incredibly ridiculous and flat out rude that sounds, but when I was sick, I honestly did not understand how anyone above a size 2 could feel comfortable in a swimsuit.

As much as I was dreading swimsuit shopping, it actually turned out to be somewhat of a turning point in my recovery. I know I have said it a million times and even wear a bracelet that says "numbers do not define me," but for the first time I really, truly believe it. In this particular swimsuit, I'm a size XL and - dare I say it - I feel pretty darn good in it.

(Serious) Progress.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gaining: Key To A Full Recovery

Last night I sat down in a comfy chair with the book "Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders," that I referred to in Monday's post and didn't move until I finished it three and a half hours later. It is so fascinating to me that someone can put into words my exact feelings and emotions. Even though the author, Aimee Liu, interviewed several different people with eating disorders for this book, it felt like one big interview of my inner most thoughts. 
If I could quote the entire book, I would, but I will spare all of you the boredom and just highly recommend you get your hands on this book as soon as possible.

In the fifth chapter, Liu interviews a woman named Sheila Reindl, a counselor at Harvard University, and asks what Reindl the key to a full recovery is: 

"A woman has to lose her conception of who she thought she was or thought she should be... She has to relinquish her effort to craft a constructed self and instead must let herself be who she is."

A few pages later, Reindl continues,

"We all have to integrate the light with the dark," Reindl sail, "the noble and the ignoble aspects of ourselves. That's a normal developmental task. It's just harder for people with eating disorders." 

With anorexia, the act of losing weight serves as a metaphor for the feeling that one is emotionally invisible. "The kid who's going to become anorexic typically takes pride in her disciplined emptiness, imagining it as perfect beauty. So the message for her is that you don't have to be perfect to be loved. 

The bulimic, on the other hand, binges and purges in secret - hiding the beast she knows is in there. The issues of shame are stronger. I think that's why when anorexics hit a bulimic patch in recovery or difficulties even later in life, they often want to go back to the anorexia. It felt cleaner and tidier - they didn't have to deal with all these messy feelings and conflicts."

The most enduring obstacle to health in the aftermath of anorexia and bulimia, Reindl believes, is the question of enough. "The women in my study - one to four years after recovery - were still vulnerable to the sense of not being enough. 

It's confusing because you need to accept yourself as you are and yet keep striving to embrace more of who you are."

"That sounds like enough means more."

She smiled. "It also means separating feeling from judgment. I meet so many people who are afraid of feeling pain, of having their heart broken, of loneliness. They're afraid pain mirrors something bad in themselves. It must mean I'm unlovable, unworthy. Maybe it just means, I'm lonely."

At first this bit of information was a little confusing to me; I have to let go of who I used to be, but also embrace who I am? Without my eating disorder I had no idea who I was, where I was going in life, or how to cope with anything. I truly believed my eating disorder was who I was.

If I was no longer good enough for my eating disorder, what was I good enough for?

As I continue to recover, each day I am finding a small piece of myself. Someday those small pieces will come together to form one whole piece and I will find myself. Until then, however, it is so incredibly comforting to know that I am not alone (or crazy) for feeling the way I do.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thinking Errors

In my fist class yesterday, I found out my English teacher wants to keep my final research paper for an example to use for future classes. As I walked to my next class, I felt like I was on top of the world and couldn't stop smiling at random people (who probably thought I was crazy). The sun was shining and life was good.

In my second class, however, I had a lab exam that I had spent hours studying for, but ended up getting a not-so-good grade. Before I even turned the exam in, I knew it was not my best work and the self critical thoughts immediately out numbered my "I feel smart" thoughts from the class before. As I got in my car to drive home, the need for my afternoon nap hit me pretty hard. I immediately crawled into my bed when I got home and let myself drown in the negatives.

The most frustrating thing is, I knew exactly what I was doing. In that moment, I was allowing a thinking error to dictate my mood. After years of therapy, I am finally realizing when I am engaging in a few of the most common thinking errors.

Thinking errors, also known as cognitive distortions, are extremely common in people who suffer from anxiety or depression; which are typically underlying issues for an eating disorder. By engaging in thinking errors, I am allowing myself to believe something that isn't even true. Once I start going along with these thinking errors, I begin that downward mental spiral that I always refer to in my posts. 

Sadly, after many years of engaging in thinking errors, I have become very good at believing they are true. The first step in changing this problem is to recognize them when they happen; so I made a list (from an old worksheet I was given in treatment) of some of the most common thinking errors:

Mental Filter:
Mental filtering is when we focus exclusively on the most negative and upsetting features of a situation, filtering out all of the more positive aspects. For example, my day yesterday; I received a huge compliment on my research paper, but completely forgot about it after bombing my lab exam.

"All-or-nothing" Thinking:
“All or nothing” thinking is when we see things purely in “black-or-white”. These types of thoughts are characterized by terms such as “always”, “never” or “every”. Everything is seen as “good or bad”, “successes or failures” and it is generally the negative perspective that is more readily endorsed, ignoring the shades of gray that lie in between. An example of this, would be me feeling guilty for not getting 100% on a test and thinking of myself as a failure (which also happened yesterday).

Someone thinking in an over generalizing way will often see a single unpleasant incident or event as evidence of “everything being negative”. If something bad happens then it will be seen as part of a never-ending pattern of negativity and defeat. A bad job interview or a bad date, for example, might lead someone to believe they will never get a job or fall in love. 

Jumping to Conclusions:
An individual who ‘jumps to conclusions’ will often make a negative interpretation or prediction even though there is no evidence to support their conclusion. This type of thinking is often made when thinking about how others feel towards us and is often divided into two categories: 
        -Mind Reading: Assuming the thoughts and intentions of others.
       - Fortune-telling: Anticipating the worse and taking that as fact.

Thinking in a magnifying or minimizing manner is when we exaggerate the importance of negative events and minimize or down-play the importance of positive events. In depressed individuals, it is often the positive characteristics of other people that are exaggerated and negatives understated.

A person engaging in personalization will automatically assume responsibility and blame for the cause of negative events that are not under their control.  

"Shoulds" & "Oughts" 
Individuals thinking in “shoulds”, ‘oughts” or “musts” have an ironclad view of how they and others ‘should’ and ‘ought’ to be. These rigid views or rules can generate feels of anger, frustration, resentment, disappointment and guilt if not followed.

Emotional Reasoning:
Emotional reasoning is when we assume feelings reflect fact regardless of the evidence– “I feel it, therefore it must be true”. “If I feel ugly and stupid, then I must actually be ugly and stupid” or “I feel guilty, therefore I must have done something bad and be a bad person”.

By taking the time to recognize these thinking errors, I am also giving myself an opportunity to change the way I react to them. In yesterday's situation, I could have reminded myself of the nearly perfect grade I received on my English paper and focused on that instead. Our brains are extremely powerful tools, but it's also important to remember that not everything we believe is true.

Next time something like this happens, I will do my best to recognize my thinking errors and move on with my day. Sounds simple enough, right?