Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Day After a Slip-Up

This past week has been one of the most difficult and stressful weeks I have had since I have been home from treatment. It was back to school week. My emotions were all over the place. On Tuesday I couldn't leave campus fast enough and ended up in a fit of anxiety and tears when I finally did begin driving home. Due to the new schedule, my eating was all over the place. Most of the week I felt hungrier than usual, due to stress or the extra walking around campus or both, and as much as I hate to admit it, that hungry feeling provided me with a sick sense of satisfaction.

Being back on the same campus where many of my eating disordered behaviors began and after three semesters failed out of, is a little triggering to say the least. I am forced to face many of my past insecurities head-on each time I go to class. It's difficult to say whether or not I will ever be 100% comfortable on that campus, but I am willing to give it time and hope for the best.

I survived my first week and thought a celebration was needed.

Without going into too much detail, out of shame, let's just say I used a poor coping mechanism to 'celebrate.' I slipped up and I'm not proud of it. 

 Luckily, I have really great friends to fall back on in situations like these. My "little sister," as I like to call her, reminded me last night that mistakes and slips are inevitable. Recovery is never, ever perfect. I got off track with my eating a little bit yesterday, but as my little sis said, all I can do today is get right back to it. "Just know what you are doing this for. Your future, career, your LIFE," were the exact words that pulled me out of my funk yesterday.

When these slip-ups happen, I have two choices: I can let it keep me down, throw a pity party, and continue to stay off track OR I can learn from it, pick myself up, and allow it to make me better. I think the latter is a much better option.

As I am continuing down this road to recovery, I have learned the slip-up itself isn't nearly as important as how it is dealt with the following day. 
I'm human. 
I am imperfect. 
We all make mistakes.

Today is a brand new opportunity to make the right choices in my recovery. Oddly, I actually feel great this morning. I know from here on out, every time I face my fears at school, it will get a little easier and that is what this blog and recovery are all about.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

To-Do Lists: Helpful or Not?

It's the third day of school and my to-do list is already longer than I can handle. In the past, while I was sick, I would make a to-do list only to get overwhelmed and give up before I even got started. Believe it or not, this is a sign of perfectionism. Typically we think of perfectionists as those who work on a project until it is perfect and they begin losing their minds. I knew my work would never be perfect, however, so I would avoid it because I figured I would fail anyway. That fear of failure kept me from trying.

 Now that I am in a much healthier place, I obviously want to do better in school than I have in the past; but what happens when my to-list keeps me up all night thinking about the tasks I need to complete the following day? This morning, for example, I was up at 5:30am (I don't have class until 10:00) because I couldn't turn my brain off.

Worst of all, once I do begin checking things off my list or turn an assignment in, something new comes up. The idea of a "never ending to-do list" is already making me crazy on the third day of school. Yikes. 

I think this comes from the idea that until my to-list is complete - and it won't be for sixteen weeks when the semester is over - I won't be good enough. Good enough for what, you might ask, but I can't really come up with an answer except I will not be meeting those perfectionist demands. It always feels good to get 2 or 3 things done on my to-list, but once I begin looking at the 10 other things that need to be done, I start to let my anxiety get the best of me.

This is the first semester I have taken a full load since leaving treatment about 11 months ago. Maybe I'm freaking out a little because I am now being forced to put more effort into school than recovery, which is a scary thought. I'm on the verge of a big change and half of my brain is telling me to run and hide, while the other half is telling me I need to study until I am perfect. No wonder I'm feeling so exhausted this morning. 

As I reread the words above, I realize how irrational my thoughts are in this moment, but that doesn't make them any easier to deal with. Years ago when I first attempted school, I was faced with these same changes and I chose to run because in that moment it eased my anxiety. Luckily now, I have a few more healthy coping mechanisms that will help me through this - I just need to use them. 

I'm not sure what to do about my to-do list right now. Maybe breaking it down into 2 or 3 tasks per day, rather than being overwhelmed by the entire list, would be helpful. I know once the semester gets going and I find my routine this will all get easier. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to deal with anxiety is to sit with it until it passes. Being on the verge of change can be triggering, but like I mentioned before, I now have the option to face my fears or run from them.

I think I've done enough running.


Monday, August 26, 2013

10 Ways to Ease Back to School Anxiety

"Kelsi, would you mind writing a post about 'back to school'? How do you prepare to make healthy choices for the new school year?

...For me this time has always been traditionally a time of anticipation but also anxiety. While I often yearn for the security which school provides during free time in the summer I also dread going back. Between picking new classes, choosing the prefect school supplies, worrying about what new and old friends will think of me, and (dreaded) shopping for clothes I feel pretty frazzled right now..."

Today is the first day of my fall semester. Although it will be nice to get back into a routine and dive further into my education, as an email buddy said, going back to school can also be quite overwhelming. School is stressful enough without the added pressures of recovery. So how in the world are those of us in recovery expected to balance all of this? Here are a few tips that have helped me and a few that I have set as goals for the upcoming semester to help get me through without going insane...

1. Plan Snacks. Or even meal plan for the entire day if necessary. For me, when life gets busy I always feel better if I have my eating planned out. Sure it's a hassle to take the time to think ahead, but it also prevents me from thinking about food all day because my meal plan is already in place. That way I can focus on absorbing the class material and coping with triggers in a healthy way if and when they come my way. Yes, I am doing my best to move away from meal planning right now, but there is no shame in reverting back to it if it helps me stay on track.

2. Create a balance. This one is tricky for me and my fellow perfectionists. In order to receive the best grades possible, it might seem like a good idea to study, study, study nonstop, but I'm learning it's important to take a break every once in awhile. Planning a little social time, a movie night, or simply an hour away from the computer can all help recharge your batteries.

3. Do Your Best Work... and learn to be happy with it even if it's not perfect. Another tricky one for perfectionists, but it's so important. My therapist reminds me every week that as long as I am doing my best work, whether the outcome is an A or a C, then I should be proud of myself. Some classes are more difficult than others and it's okay not to be perfect.

4. Don't Procrastinate. After 20 years in school, I still struggle with this one. On the few rare occasions when I have worked ahead, I have found my stress levels decrease dramatically.

5. Playlists and Pump Up Songs. Sometimes when I'm on campus, it's easy to feel trapped in my own (typically destructive) thoughts. Music, I have found, can calm my nerves and bring me back to a healthy mindset. Whether I need a pump up song before a test or a relaxing song to bring stress levels down, once my headphones are in, I am good to go. 

6. Put Things Into Perspective. More often than not, I blow certain situations out of proportion and get myself worked up for no reason. By looking at the big picture and asking myself if whatever is bothering me will mean anything a few years down the road, it becomes easier to keep my cool.

7. Get involved. This is a new one for me and one of my biggest goals this semester. Most universities have more clubs and on campus activities than I have ever taken the time to discover. I think if I can meet people with similar interests this semester, I will feel less out of place and meet some new, healthy friends.

8. Physical Activity. For some of us in the early stages of recovery, physical activity is not recommended. However, for those of us who are a little further along and feel comfortable compensating the burned calories, physical activity can be an excellent way to take your mind off deadlines and studying. For me, I'll need to start slow in order to avoid being triggered. Yoga and walking might be a good place to start. 

9. Study Buddies. School is hard enough. Why not buddy up with people from class and make studying easier? That way, just in case a class is missed, they have your back.

10. Stop Comparing. Easier said than done, I know. This one gets me in trouble every single time. There will always be smarter, prettier, and more outgoing people in class with me. Like so many other things in recovery, as long as I am doing what is right for me, it really doesn't matter what anyone else is doing. I tend to focus on those few individuals who I think are "better than me," rather than taking into consideration the many different types of people on campus. It's time to step outside the 'eating disorder tunnel-vision world' and start loving myself for who I am and what I have to offer.

I'm looking forward to a new semester even though some of my triggering anxiety still lingers. If I can recover from an eating disorder, I can do just about anything. With the help of these healthy coping mechanisms, school and the start of a new semester might not be so scary after all.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Social Withdrawal & Eating Disorders

I went back down to my old treatment center as a guest speaker earlier this week and like every other time I have done so in the past, left on a complete high. There are very few things I love more than speaking about my past with an eating disorder because it helps other, which in turn, helps me.

During the evening group where a panel of four of us former patients spoke with parents, there was one question that really got me thinking: Did all of us (on the panel of recovered/recovering patients) suffer from social withdrawal and/or isolation during our eating disorder? Before the man asking the question even finished his sentence, all four of us were unanimously nodding a definite YES to answer his question. 

For me, in order to keep my eating disorder alive, I needed that alone time. It was almost as if I had created this secret life of rigid routines and the deeper I fell into my disorder, the more uncomfortable I became in social situations. The primary focus in my life had become my eating disorder, which didn't leave any room for outside relationships. Year after year I continued to push more and more people out of my life because the eating disorder became more important.

To make matters worse, most social gatherings revolve around food. It didn't matter if it was a family gathering, a lunch date with a friend, or a quick cup of coffee to catch up, they all became overwhelming because additional calories were involved. If I, heaven forbid, ate a cookie or something, I often felt the need to burn off any excess calories consumed and forced myself to compulsively exercise in secrecy (hello culinary school years).

During this discussion, a light bulb went on in my head. My first two years of college were incredibly difficult for me and as a result, I failed out of school. Ever since then I have had a false belief that I am just not fit for college; I'm simply not smart enough. But I think I can finally see my inability to succeed academically in the past had nothing to do with my level of intelligence - it was all about social withdrawal due to my eating disorder.

At the time, I was heavy into the bulimia stage of my eating disorder and I often became so anxious that nothing else mattered except escaping my daily triggers at school. My escape method of choice was, of course, the binging and purging. Our college years are meant to be spent making life long friends, drinking on the weekends, and learning how to live with roommates, all of which are highly social. All I wanted during that time was to isolate and be alone with my eating disorder; so that's I did, regardless of the consequences.

 One of the other girls on the panel of recovered/recovering patients said while she was in her eating disorder, it was as if she was living in a blurry, black and white world. Throughout her recovery journey, however, she began to see world in a crystal clear, vibrantly colorful way. Recovery has opened my eyes to an entire universe of new positive life experiences thanks to my new found social interactions. The relationships we build with others, without the eating disorder getting in the way, have the ability to change every aspect of life.

Unfortunately, in the past I did allow my eating disorder dictate and completely ruin my social life. During the past year of recovery, however, I have slowly begun rebuilding meaningful relationships. I have even proven to myself over the past two semesters that I can succeed in school. Those eating disorder thoughts can no longer convince me I am not smart enough to succeed.

Slowly, day by day, thanks to my new freedom to engage in life, I am beginning to see the world in beautiful, vivid color, too.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Parents Diet...

I've had several requests over the past couple of weeks to write about the effects dieting parents can have on their children. This is an interesting topic for me. While I don't think I have much experience with this, maybe I have more than I give myself credit for. 

Let's rewind about ten or eleven years; it was the summer before my freshman year in high school (wow, I'm old). At the time I was playing travel softball and on the way home from one of my weekend tournaments, my mom and I stopped for a fast food dinner. We ordered a typical burger and fries, like usual, and continued on our way home. All I remember about the drive home was how upset my mom was with herself for being so full. "I can't believe I just ate that. I'm so fat. I know better," were her exact words as she looked down at her full stomach in disgust.

My mom is a tiny woman. She is about 3 or 4 inches shorter than me and at the time, I probably weighed a little more than she did. For the longest time I really struggled with this. Daughters are not supposed to be heavier than their mother, or at least that's what I forced myself to believe. So in my disordered mind, if she thought she was fat after eating fast food, then I must have been really fat.

After moving to a new school my freshman year, I began to feel out of place and insecure. At the same time, unfortunately, I also developed an interest in the diets my mom was trying week after week. The South Beach Diet to be specific, really stood out to me because my mom had the most success with it. Not long after I found out about her diets, I began trying them and after a week of starving myself would end up binging, which of course lead to the yo-yo dieting weight gain cycle. I was 14 years old. 

In no way am I blaming my mom for my eating disorder. Regardless of her dieting, I think I would have struggled my way through high school, but dieting just so happened to be the coping mechanism I was introduced to during that crucial time. After seeing how upset my mom was with herself for eating fast food, I quickly began to believe in order for me to be accepted by her, my weight needed to be minimal.

Now that I am living back at home and am at a healthy weight, I still despise the idea of being heavier than my mom. Logically, I know being a few inches taller than her will naturally make me weigh more, but that small eating disorder voice sometimes gets in the way.

As far as I can see, my mom has been diet-free for several years now, but that is not always the case for those of us in recovery. Many patients return home to friends and family members constantly trying to drop a few pounds. It's nearly impossible to completely escape it.

So what is the best way to deal with diet talk among parents while trying to recover? 

The most important thing for me has been to always remember my dietary needs are different for the time being. My body is in repair and I worked way too hard to gain the weight to fall back into old restrictive habits. Just like everyone has different needs in recovery, even healthy people have different dietary needs. Slowly, I have begun to find a balance between those "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods, but I really had to separate myself from my parent's eating for a good six to eight months.

My mom and I can now share some clothes, and while that does bother me, it also gives me hope for my 50 year-old-body in the future. Maybe the whole fast food incident from years ago is simply proof that healthy people also struggle with body image from time to time. In no way was my mom implying that I was fat and for the first time I am in a healthy enough mindset to realize that.


There is so much more that can be discussed on this topic, so please feel free to share your experiences and if you have learned ways to deal with dieting parents in a healthy way.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bragging Rights

There are very few times in life when I feel the need to brag. Typically I would rather share life's special moments with a few of my closest friends and move on with my life. Today, however, I kind of feel like I have earned bragging rights so I am taking full advantage of this rare opportunity.

Yesterday, after three weeks without being weighed and the day after returning home from vacation, I had to step on the oh-so-dreaded scale. Keep in mind the last time I went on vacation, my weight did drop a few pounds, making this a somewhat nerve racking weigh-in. Luckily, to my surprise - cue the bragging rights - my weight was exactly where it was supposed to be.

This is a big deal for several reasons:
1. I didn't count a single calorie for 9 days straight.
2. I could have easily restricted, but with the help of a supportive friend, that wasn't even an option.
3. I was much more active on this trip than normal, which meant I somehow compensated for the burned calories without even knowing it.
4. We ate ice cream twice a day and faced plenty of other Vacation Triggers.
5. Does this mean I can trust my hunger cues?! Maybe not 100% just yet, but I am getting closer every single day.

I will treat my body with respect and kindness. 
I will feed it, keep it active, and listen to its needs. 
I will remember that my body is the vehicle that will carry me to my dreams.

 I have this quote on a sticky note next to the speedometer in my car and after a 12 hour road trip over the weekend, it is now permanently stuck in my brain. That sticky note has been in the same spot for almost a year now. Sometimes I take the time to stop and read it, but sometimes I completely forget and carry on with my day.

As I drove home from my therapist's office yesterday, I reread the quote I stared at for 12 hours straight on my dashboard and smiled. For the first time in nearly a decade, I am effortlessly treating my body with respect and kindness, exactly as the quote suggests.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Emotional Intelligence

After nine days away from home and the blogging world, I've returned with a new perspective on so many different aspects of my life. As I make the transition back to reality, there are a few key lessons I need to be sure to keep with me and implement in my daily life.

Two different nights last week ended with me feeling completely and utterly stupid. Thanks to a group of law students and their extreme level of book-smarts during a local trivia night, I immediately became uncomfortable. Honestly, during the two nights combined, for a total of 100 questions, I don't think I could have answered more than 3 correctly. 

As my friend and I drove home, I confessed my feelings of inadequacy and was immediately stopped from my typical self-destructive behavior. In that moment, I was unaware of the idea that all humans possess different levels of intelligence. Sure, these nerdy, book-smart law students score way above average on standard logical intelligence tests, but how would they score on the other 5 types of intelligence?

Verbal, visual, physical, musical, logical, and most importantly, emotional (combines interpersonal and introspective) intelligences can all be used to determine how "smart" an individual is. My friend reminded me of an incident earlier in the day where my emotional intelligence helped pull him out of a dark, depressive negative spiral. He insisted my intelligence was no less than anyone's at the table; it was actually higher than most of his buddies, but on a different level.

 Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions not only in myself, but in others as well. Some believe that emotional intelligence is just as, if not more important than logical intelligence in order to live a healthy and balanced life. Over the past year of recovery, learning to be in touch with my emotions has allowed me to develop healthier coping mechanisms and become aware of the emotions of those around me helping build stronger relationships.

Somewhere over the course of my life, I developed a belief that, thanks to my mediocre grades, I must not be very smart. I am one of those people who need to study like a maniac for basic, general ed courses; while my law school friend could probably ace the final without attending one class.

But that doesn't mean I'm not intelligent.

My brain works differently than most and for the first time ever, I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Yes, when those law school students asked me what I was going into and I said social work, I felt insanely insecure because there's a good chance most of them could get a social work degree in their sleep. However, and most importantly, that doesn't make me any less of a person or mean I will be less successful in life.

School starts in a week and I am thrilled to start the semester with a new found sense of intelligence.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vacation Triggers

I've been out of town on a much needed vacation which explains my lack of blogging over the past several days. Even though most people think of vacations as relaxing, believe it or not, they can be somewhat triggering for those of us in recovery. One of my email recovery buddies told me her doctor warned her most patients lose weight while on vacation; which is true, but not a good thing to tell those of us in recovery. In our sick minds it makes us think that if we don't lose weight while vacationing then we're somehow a failure. 

The only time my weight has dropped a few pounds was, ironically, after a week long vacation last April. Without the structure of my meal plan and eating at regular times, it became easy for me skimp out on calories here and there. Nobody noticed because I appeared to be eating normally.

This time around, although it hasn't been easy, I have been doing my best to consume my recommended daily calories. In my opinion, learning to deal with past mistakes differently is what recovery is all about. Here are a few of the potentially triggering situations I have faced:

Eating at different times. When I am at home, I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same exact time everyday. Maybe that is a little too structured, but it keeps me in line so I stick to it. Since this vacation has started, I don't think I have eaten breakfast before noon once.

Huge lunches. Without eating much breakfast, I have been enjoying much larger portions at lunch. So far I have had two buffet style (which is always scary) lunches and a cheap Chinese food lunch; none of which I would have ever picked on my own, yet was pleasantly surprised at my ability to face these fear foods.

Ice cream for breakfast. Actually, it was more like lunch because it was after noon. Sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry's was a perfect way to start my day and I highly recommend it. 

Munchies. Bacon & cheddar fries and muddy buddies chex mix are my new fave.

Being around people who actually enjoy being full. What? How does that saying go? Something like, "a full belly, is a happy belly." As strange as it may sound, somewhere along the way, I forgot that some people actually do feel content when their stomachs are full. It's nice to be around people who have such a relaxed relationship with food.

Ordering the most outrageous quesadilla I have ever seen. It was enormous. I thought ordering a quesadilla would be a safe choice, but I was quickly proved wrong.  Everyone at the table was ooohh-ing, ahhh-ing, and high-fiving me when they saw that thing. For me, on the other hand, that massive plate of food triggered a mini freakout. After eating what I felt comfortable with, I stopped even though it didn't look like I had even put a dent in it. Worried about what everyone else might think, I did struggle through the meal, but survived it.

Vacations are supposed to be an opportunity to escape daily life and have a good time; both of which I have done, but I have also been faced with quite a few tests. There is still a small voice in my head trying to convince me to skimp on calories. Luckily, however, with the help of a supportive friend and knowledge gained from past mistakes, it has been much easier to ignore that disordered voice this time around.


Best of all, I made a new special friend on this trip. :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lunch Date With Louis Part 2

Last year around this time, one year and six days ago to be exact, I was home from treatment for the weekend and went on a lunch date with my younger brother, Larsen (Louis is one of his many nicknames). All I remember is my nerves were through the roof and I was worried about how awkward it might be for him to have lunch with his eating disordered sister. I wrote about it here in 'Lunch Date With Louis.'

If you have been following my blog for awhile, you have seen these before and after photos one too many times before. I would apologize, but they display progress much better than I can with words.

My best friend and I always say, "It's amazing how much can change in just one year." Just one year ago I was still in treatment, about 10lbs away from my goal weight, and afraid of a simple lunch with my baby brother. As I re-read that sentence, I can't help but get a little emotional. Absolutely nothing in my life is the same as it was just one year ago.

When we got in the car yesterday, to my surprise, my brother asked if I remembered what song was playing last year when we went on our lunch date. I was shocked he even remembered having lunch with me at all, so to hear he remembered the song we jammed to made my entire day. If I'm being honest, I had totally forgotten about the song. He surprised me yet again, and had downloaded it so we could jam out to it again. Twenty-four hours later I'm still smiling at his thoughtfulness.

Wait, did I just call my brother thoughtful?!

 This summer has been somewhat unique because both my brother and I have been living back at home - and driving my parents insane, I'm sure - for the first time in years. At the same time, however, looking back on the past few months, I think it's the best thing that could have ever happened to the relationship I have with my brother. We spent most days having lunch together at home, laughing at each other, and getting to know one another again - eating disorder free.

In the original Lunch Date post, I talk about how I always felt inferior to my younger brother while we were growing up. While he will always be the better athlete and more laid back sibling, this summer has taught me that I don't have to be either of those things to be "good enough." We are completely different people, so why did I expect myself to be interested or as good at the same things as him?

Yes, he does have his strengths, but so do I. 
That poor kid cannot write to save his life; I write almost everyday. 
He is still struggling to figure out what to do with his future; I officially have a distinct path and cannot wait to pursue it. 
He cannot even fix himself a PB&J without feeling like it's a chore; I have a culinary arts degree. 
He is incredibly laid back when it comes to school; I have anxiety that helps push me to get things done.

Last year at this time, as sad as it sounds, all I could think about was how embarrassed he must have been to have a troubled older sister. I didn't really think he would ever be able to look at me the same again. Luckily, however, after spending a summer together, I can see the changes not only in myself, but in our relationship. I'm no longer just his eating disordered sister.

This picture shows just how much he loves taking pictures with me ;)

Sure, I have complained about living at home for the past few months, but I can finally see the new relationship with my super cool brother is one of the many blessings that came along with being home. He is moving into his new apartment this weekend, which made last night (potentially) the last night we will ever live under the same roof again. Siblings are one of the greatest gifts we have in life. Regardless of our differences, I am so blessed to have have this guy in my life.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Learning to Act Against Impulsiveness

 This past week has been a pretty exhausting test of my decision making skills. Long story short, I applied to a school about 2 hours away from home, wasn't really expecting to get in, got my acceptance letter last week, and then had to choose between what I want in this moment and what is right for my future.

 A major component of my eating disorder was impulsiveness and I still struggle with the need for a short term fix at times. Last night I did some reading on the relationship between impulsive behaviors and eating disorders. Not surprisingly, I found the two are strongly related (for the entire article click here).

"Impulsive behavior seems to be particularly characteristic of individuals with bulimia nervosa or the binge-purge type of anorexia nervosa. That is, these individuals may look for excitement, fail to think about the negative consequences, and engage in behaviors that are potentially self-damaging.

These impulsive tendencies may lead to a variety of potentially harmful behaviors including excessive alcohol or drug use, rage outbursts, violence, self-destructive behaviors, sexual promiscuity, shoplifting, or other forms of social irresponsibility. When an eating disordered individual displays these behaviors, it may significantly complicate their life, and if they are receiving treatment, it may pose further difficulties for their recovery."

As a binge-purge type anorexic who struggled with alcohol abuse, this (unfortunately) describes me perfectly. I was willing to do whatever it took to ease my anxieties and pain in the moment regardless of the long term consequences. Honestly, I don't think I even believed I had much of a future, like I was a lost-cause, so I might as well continue act upon those destructive, impulsive tendencies.  Impulsiveness kept me sick. 

As I continued reading, I also found that in some European countries they diagnose certain eating disorder patients with "multi-impulsive bulimia" (or MIB). MIB is diagnosed if an eating disorder patient shows three or more of the following behaviors: extreme alcohol abuse or dependence, other drug use or dependence, stealing or shoplifting, self-mutilation, or suicidal gestures. These symptoms are very similar to those shown in eating disorder patients who also suffer from borderline personality disorder. Worst of all, those of us who struggle with MIB behaviors, are the most resistant to typical eating disorder treatment.

"In one study of 112 bulimic patients, 20 fully met criteria for MIB. Twenty years after they were diagnosed, only 3 of these patients were recovered or doing well and nearly half of them had significant alcohol or drug abuse problems—25 percent had died."

Twenty-five percent. Those numbers are staggering, stunning, shocking; I can't put into words how devastating those numbers are. Clearly eating disorder patients who also show impulsive tendencies need to be taken seriously. My impulsive behaviors only led to significant self-loathing, legal troubles, and even had life-threatening consequences.

 Yesterday, at the last second, two weeks before the fall semester begins, I made the decision to stay at the school I have been attending since January despite a very strong urge to move away from home. Over the past several weeks, the main complaint I have had in recovery is feeling stuck in my current life circumstances. My irrational thoughts told me living on my own would somehow prove to my parents that I was "good enough."

Sure, moving away would have been exciting and a temporary fix to this stuck-ness I have been feeling; however, that excitement would eventually wear off. The root of my problem would have been ignored for the time being, only to be magnified in the future. Most importantly, at this time in my life I cannot afford to move out and go to school without my student loan debt going through the roof. Why would I give myself more money troubles if I can avoid it?

I can't help but think that I am completely going against the 'live in the moment' mentality I have been trying to apply to my life over the past year. At the same time, however, that doesn't necessarily have to be true. As a wise friend of mine said, "It won't be easy, you'll have to search for more opportunity, but it's there. You have to remember how lucky you are to be alive, to be healthy, and to be safe." Impulsiveness never gave me a chance to feel any of those things.

This decision might not bring immediate rewards, but in the grand scheme of things, and in my heart, I know someday down the road I will be incredibly thankful that I chose to act against my impulsiveness today.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wholeness Rather Than Happiness?

"I actually attack the concept of happiness. 
The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - 
but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness 
seems to me a really dangerous idea 
and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, 
which is fear of sadness. 
It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 
“write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep,” 
and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. 
We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. 

Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for 
and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; 
all of those things which make us who we are. 
Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, 
but they don’t teach us much. 

Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain 
they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” 
I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness”
and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” 
Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?
and if you’re having a bad day, it is."
Hugh Mackay

For those of you who have been following my blog, this quote may come as a bit of a surprise, especially after my previous obnoxiously happy 5k post. At the same time, however, I think the words written above need to be given some thought. 

Life, especially life in recovery, is far from perfectly happy all the time. In fact, most days are really, really difficult and there are several emotional breakdowns involved. Sure, there are brief moments of pure bliss and I think we need to cling onto those moments in order to keep pushing forward, but the truth is things really do have to get worse before they can get better.

Maybe if we shift our focus and strive for wholeness rather than happiness, accepting those bad days as a part of the process might not seem so unbearable. I absolutely, one hundred percent believe my worst days have taught me the most. As the quote states, we live in a society that fears and looks down upon sadness rather than accepting it as a part of life. No one is immune from the sadness bug and that's okay.

Trust me, I have spent way too many years of my life putting on that happy face and pretending like everything was great in life, but it got me nowhere. I'm not saying we should wallow in our hard times, but I do think an important aspect of recovery (and life in general) is to acknowledge these difficult times, learn from them, and grow - adding to our wholeness.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Happiest 5k :)

Let's talk about the best day of my summer today, okay? Yesterday I did the Color Run, also known as the Happiest 5k, with my best friend and literally had sore cheeks all afternoon from the nonstop smiling. 

Happiness is something that we all strive for, yet rarely find a way to fully achieve it. I think as I am continuing to discover myself through recovery, I am finding that true happiness often comes from the simplest things. Before I began recovery, I had lost sight of what it felt like to get caught up in a perfect moment like this. For this one day all of my anxieties were erased and I found a way to simply be.

Before the race started, we were in crisp white t-shirts and freshly showered, as you can see in the first picture. Although we looked good, because well, we always look good, our outfits just weren't complete. There were five different stops along the way; each drenching us in a different color paint. By the end of the race, as you can see, we were completely covered in a sweaty mess of mixed paint - how fun is that?!

Recovery, in my opinion, is very similar to this crazy happy 5k.  To start the race, I wasn't sure just how colorful I wanted to get. Kaila, my best friend, had done the race before so she knew where to run in order to get the most paint on us. As the race went on and I eased into the idea of being covered in paint, I realized this was a once in a lifetime thing so I might as well get as colorful as possible. When I first started getting my feet wet in recovery, I was apprehensive. Now that I am a year into it, however, I can see that the more I push and challenge myself, the more 'colorful' I will become as well.

If it wasn't for recovery and a healthy mindset, I would not have been able to enjoy this very special moment. Life is meant to be lived happily... And colorfully. Twenty four hours later I am still completely blissed-out. After taking three showers yesterday, I have yet to completely remove all of the color from this crazy day. Let's hope recovery and all of the colorful adventures it has brought me will leave that strong of a mark, too.

Progress. :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why the Logical Brain Doesn't Always Win

  I have a question. Why do I often find myself acting a certain way even if I know I shouldn't be? There are some situations in life where all of my logic goes out the window and I am left making crazy, compulsive decisions.

Last night, for example, I decided to skip my night snack because I was upset with a current life situation. In that moment, for some reason, cutting back on calories felt like the only way to rebel against those surfacing unpleasant emotions. Logically, however, I know better. I know that restricting calories is never the answer. 

It would also be a big, fat lie to say this is the first time I have gone against my logical brain. Almost every time I see my therapist we have a conversation about this. 

Do I logically know restricting calories is bad? Yes. 
Do I always get 100% of my calories in? No.
Do I logically know that I am a worthy individual? Yes.
Do I always believe it? No.
Do I logically know that being at a healthy weight does not make me fat? Yes.
Do I always feel good about my body? Hell no. 
Do I logically know procrastinating on a school assignment will add unnecessary stress? Yes.
Do I ever do school work ahead of time? No.
Do I logically know that drinking is something I should avoid altogether? Yes.
Do I live a life free from alcohol cravings? Not even close.

According to Albert Einstein, one of the most logical men of all time, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." So does this technically make me insane? If I know certain behaviors are more beneficial than others, WHY do I continue to fight against logic?

Here's what I do know for sure - Restricting calories absolutely is a (poor) coping mechanism that has given me a sick way to deal with things in the past; however, it got me nowhere. In the moment it seemed like a good idea to go against all of my hard work but this morning I am beating myself up like no other. I don't usually have slips like this. My brain keeps telling me I should know better than that. What is wrong with you, Kelsi?

Logically I know recovery is all about learning to deal with situations in a healthier manner, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, I choose to react in an unhealthy way. Over the years I have become an expert at finding a temporary escape from difficult times, only to cause more damage in the long run. This way of thinking has been ingrained in my head, making me wonder if it is possible to erase this go-to coping mechanism of mine. 

I'm struggling with this concept right now. Thankfully, I have a choice to make: I can listen to my logical brain and see that simply acknowledging this is an issue for me is a step in the right direction or I can continue to wallow in self-critical thoughts. It might not always be easy for me to be logical, but that doesn't mean I can't continue to move forward.