Thursday, October 31, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"Instead of focusing on how far you still have to go, 
take some time today to remind yourself of how far you’ve already come. 

Yes, you’re still struggling. 
And yes, you still have some distance to cover, 
but those things don’t discount the progress you’ve already made. 
Healing takes time. 
It’s not a process that can be rushed. 

Beating yourself up for not being further along doesn’t improve your situation. 
It makes you feel awful and it keeps you stuck. 
Your journey may be slow, but it’s not without promise. 

Despite how difficult this process has been, 
despite how hopeless you’ve felt, 
despite all of the people who have told you that you would never make it, 
you’ve never once given up. 
You’ve never stopped fighting and pushing forward. 
So give yourself some credit for that. 
It wasn’t easy. 
 But you did it, and you deserve to be proud of yourself. 

Let go of this idea that you should be further ahead, 
and trust that it’s okay to be where you are. 
Trust that you won’t be here forever. 
Trust that you will get to where you need to be. 

You’re doing the best you can each day to fight the darkness you feel, 
and that’s all you can ask of yourself. 
It’s enough."

I read this last night, and I'm not sure if I was being hormonal or if those words are just that powerful, but it definitely resulted in a few tears. No matter what stage of recovery I am in, I always feel like I should be doing more. Breaking recovery down and living day-by-day helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed by this never ending process.

Today I am choosing to focus on the positives and giving myself credit for how far I have come.
I'm doing the best that I can.
And that is enough.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Got in a Fight Last Week...

I got in a fight last week. Okay, maybe fight isn't the right word, but I definitely got in a bit of an argument. Long story short, we were discussing addiction in one of my classes and a girl sitting behind me rose her hand and said,

"It really frustrates me when people struggling with addictions lie. They tell their therapist and/or loved ones they are doing great, only to find out they are secretly using again. Why would they ever resort back to those behaviors when it ruined their life in the past?
It's stupid. Just stop using. It's simple."

Before the poor girl even finished her statement I obnoxiously raised my hand ready to fire back. Thanks to my irritation, I didn't give the girl a very nice response. I basically told her she didn't have a clue and social workers need to be more understanding of these things... Oops.

After processing this for about a week and a thoughtful chat with my mom, I now realize the general population probably has similar thoughts surrounding addiction. To my surprise, my mom actually had similar thoughts as the girl and said I am in a unique position because I have been there first hand.  So I thought for this post it would be helpful for me to explain why the girl in my class made me want to fight her.

Let's break it down piece by piece.

"It really frustrates me when people struggling with addictions lie."
Those of us who are addicts or have battled eating disorders are the best liars in the world. We will do whatever it takes to keep our disorders and behaviors safe. If lying means we can maintain our false sense of control, then we will absolutely keep the truth a secret. No matter how irrational it may seem, there are times when lying feels like the only option. 

"They tell their therapist and/or loved ones they are doing great, only to find out they are secretly using again."
I think it's pretty safe to say all of us with eating disorders and/or addictions have lied to our therapists in the past. There is a massive amount of shame involved in having symptoms and I am always afraid to disappoint those who are working so hard to keep me healthy. The amount of pain I have caused my loved ones in the past is already too much to bear. I can't imagine putting them through that again. So yeah, in the short term lying to them does seem like the best thing to do.

"Why would they resort back to behaviors that ruined their life in the past?"
Honestly, I cannot come up with a solid answer for that question. All I know for sure is during times of intense anxiety or pain, fighting off those urges to use or have symptoms is a million times harder than giving in. For several years I used restricting calories and alcohol to numb out; they became my go-to coping mechanisms, my comfort, my (sick) best friend. Also during those times of intense anxiety, I am not myself. I lose the ability to think rationally. All I care about is numbing out, even if that means resorting back to behaviors that once ruined my life.

"It's stupid. Just stop using. It's simple."
The girl in my class obviously has been lucky enough to never experience a mental health disorder first hand. It is not stupid or simple. In fact, it is incredibly complex and draining. It breaks my heart to think there is such a large misconception surrounding addiction and eating disorders. If the recovery process was simple then I wouldn't have this blog or be dedicating years of my life to the process.

I may not have handled the situation very well in class, but I was honestly shocked at the words coming out of her mouth. There have been a few instances similar to this where I am caught off guard and a little triggered while discussing mental health in class. Learning to keep my personal beliefs and experiences separate from the course material might be tricky at times, but at least now I know getting in fights isn't nearly as effective as explaining myself.

Not everyone understands. Although that is difficult for me to grasp, it is important for me to learn to be patient with the girl in my class, just like all of you have been patient with me.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Insecurities

Growing up Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays. Getting dressed up, trick-or-treating, scary movies, endless candy... What's not to love?

Somewhere along the way, however, Halloween changes drastically. I remember my first big Halloween party in high school; everything was suddenly different. Girls were expected to wear the tiniest outfits they could find and candy was traded in for alcohol. Feeling awkward and out of place at these parties, as the years pasted, I stopped looking forward to this holiday.

 For the past several years, my Halloweens have been spent alone with a pile of scary movies to help distract my brain from the "what is wrong with me for not liking the young adult version of Halloween?" thoughts.

This weekend I took a road trip to visit my best friend with an original plan to attend one of these massive, drunken, slutty Halloween parties, but quickly began to feel anxious about the situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure (after a few drinks) it would have been a great time; however, I just couldn't find the willpower to go through with it.

Actually, somehow for the first time in my life, I did find the willpower and self-confidence to turn down an invitation that made me feel uncomfortable. So I'm left wondering why that makes me feel like a horrible person. I'm twenty-five years old. Theses parties are supposed to be my favorite thing in the world, right? And if I don't enjoy being surrounded by drunken idiots then there must be something wrong with me, right?

 Worst of all, for girls there is a pressure to dress a certain way. Halloween is the one holiday where it is not only acceptable, but also expected, to go out in public wearing next to nothing. I know this goes against popular opinion, but if I'm being totally honest, I just think it's trashy and have never been into that whole scene. It's not for me. That's not who I am. So again, why do I feel guilty and ashamed for going against this unfortunate norm?

After chatting with a friend of mine last night about my Halloween insecurities,
I finally realized two things: 
1. I'm not alone with my uncertainty and 
2. There are other ways to have just as much fun as everyone else
on Halloween without getting too crazy.

A friend of mine also expressed her fear of Halloween and the pressures to show some skin, which of course made me feel better. She decided to wear a fun costume, go out and focus on the silliness of the moment rather than her insecurities. Her exact words were, "The mental chaos will be present, but I will allow the enjoyment of the situation to be louder." Amen, sista.

As for me, I spent a day with my best friend eating pumpkin donuts and drinking fresh, local cider at a nearby farm; followed by an evening of pumpkin carving and munching on roasted pumpkin seeds. We took full advantage of what the season had to offer without all of the alcohol and skimpy outfits. Best of all, we both spent the evening being our goofy selves, laughing until it hurt, and celebrating Halloween anxiety-free.

I might not act the same as most people my age, but for the first time in my entire life I am finally okay with that. I'm learning there are other ways to have fun and feel good about myself in these situations. Just because I'm not doing what everyone else is doing does not make me crazy or wrong in any way. 

Halloween no longer needs to be about insecurities.
However I choose to celebrate is the right way to celebrate.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy One Year, Progression Obsession

One year ago today I wrote this:

"After years of obsessing over food, numbers, calories, & weight, I’m ready to make a change. Now that I’m fully committed to this little thing called recovery, I need to switch that obsession to something more productive. Every single day I’m making progress & I rarely take the time to stop and acknowledge it.

I can’t promise I will be able to update this blog every single day, but it’s worth a try. No matter how big or small the growth may be, it needs to be brought to my attention.  

Progress. Progress. Progress. My new obsession will be progress.

Welcome to my Progression Obsession. :)"
 (Full Post Here)

Honestly, it's a little difficult for me to comprehend the amount of progress that has been made over the past 365 days. I spent most of my evening last night with a box of tissues reading through all 188 posts. This year has been rough; but it's also been pretty amazing at times. The girl who wrote the original Progression Obsession post is not the same girl sitting in front of my computer today.

There are so many things to say and remember in this post. It's kind of difficult to narrow it down to a few favorite memorable moments, but I will do my best. Let's take it month by month (and be sure to click the link for the full post).
Remember this post from last October when my old therapist sent me to an FA (food addicts) meeting?! I was forced to stand and say "Hi, my name is Kelsi and I'm a food addict." They all talked about how flour and sugar were the devil, while I sat in the back of the room fuming. Although it wasn't funny at the time, it sure is nice to look back and laugh about it today.

My first Thanksgiving out of treatment was a pretty big deal. For anyone who struggles with an eating disorder, Thanksgiving, the most food-centered holiday of all, can be an extremely stressful time. Last Thanksgiving, for the first time ever, I was actually thankful to be around loved ones rather than rushing home to avoid this food-filled day.

I think this post, I Feel Fat, is one of my early favorites. Everyone going through recovery can relate to this post and I did my best to bring a little humor to the situation. By wearing my younger brother's shorts, who just happens to be a tall, skinny bean-pole, I was able to put my distorted body image to the test... And of course, my fat thoughts were proven wrong.

This was my first big month for Progression Obsession. The New Year brought new followers and a new sense of confidence in my writing. Weight Loss High has been the single most viewed post (believe it or not) on this blog. Who doesn't experience that "high" associated with losing a few pounds?

However, the two most important posts, also making the top five most viewed posts in Progression Obsession history, are Sick as Your Secrets where I admitted to struggling with alcohol and the famous Freespo post that now has its own Website.

Oh goodness, I almost forgot my First Day Back in School! I remember being just as excited to start school last January as I was 20 years ago when I started kindergarten.

The second month of the year was equally as impressive, if I do say so myself. Not only was I able to share my first Bacon Cheeseburger with my bacon obsessed best friend (who first met me as a sick vegetarian), but I also began to see the beginning of the Weight Redistribution Process (also in the top 5 most popular posts of all time).

Again, I feel like the third month of the year had so many big moments, it's difficult to know where to begin. First of all, I had a big birthday and turned the big 25. That was the first time since returning home from treatment that I found the strength to put some of my culinary skills to good use. As most of you can imagine, being an anorexic chef isn't exactly something I am proud of, so tapping those culinary skills has been somewhat triggering at times. I'd say my cake was pretty impressive...

I also had my first triggering experience with a professor in my Things Not to Say post, which got more views than I expected. It will never fail to amaze me how clueless people are when it comes to what to say and not to say to someone with an eating disorder. At the same time, it's hard enough for me to understand the disorder, so I can be somewhat empathetic.

Also, during the month of March I finally began to see in pictures just how sick I was. While comparing pictures from my intership in Aspen to pictures of me at a healthy weight, I finally saw just how sick I really was, which was HUGE.

Okay, I need to brag a little here, but I had some really great posts in April. The Perks of Being in Recovery was so popular I even sat in my living room with my dad while he read it. Crazy, I know! Celebrating Progress was another exciting post because I was officially six months out of treatment and celebrating all that had changed in my life. This post, Body Acceptance, was truly the first time I EVER felt comfortable in my own skin. And the crazy thing was, I spent the entire week on vacation, on the beach, and in my swim suit... Crazy, right?

This post, Swimsuit Shopping, is still a little embarrassing to admit I posted on the internet but just so happens to be one of those top read posts. I think there is something to be said about a healthy body in a bikini. We live in a society obsessed with skin, bones, and unhealthiness. It was a nice change for many of you to see a healthy body rocking a size XL... especially after I was tempted to buy a one-piece. :)

Geez, I wish I could somehow dedicate an entire post to the month of May. I published more posts during this month than any other and learned more about myself than I have in my entire life. Read the One Year Ago Today and Addiction posts and you can begin to understand why. 

Most importantly, I made the decision to bring my best friend along and attend the Annual Bridge to Recovery Walk put on by my treatment center the River Centre Clinic. I cannot say enough good things about the treatment center I went to and how the staff truly saved my life.

 This post, One Year Sober, left me with mixed emotions. While I should have been proud to hit such a huge milestone, I also felt ashamed for celebrating such a thing. The support I received from all of you after that post completely changed the way I view my past with alcohol. I can't say thank you enough.

Although I have said this every other month, I really think June was one of my most successful months in recovery.  The Dreaded Weight Gain Process was one of my first posts to be acknowledged on a large scale; the National Academy for Eating Disorders took this post and reblogged it for their clients to read, which was super exciting.

I met and became really good friends with one of my biggest supports in recovery, who just happened to teach me about Forgiveness. I also went back down to my old treatment center and interviewed with a local TV station for My (somewhat depressing) TV Debut. Possibly my most significant moment came when I broke my year long sobriety and Had My First Drink.

Once again, this was a HUGE month for me. It's kind of exciting that life continuously gets better and better as the recovery process progresses. And once again, as difficult as it is to believe, I had a few posts shared on national scale - A Friendly Reminder, I Wouldn't Want to be Any Thinner, Why Media and Body Image Aren't to Blame, Digestive Difficulties & Menstrual Regulation, and Getting Back on Track... just to name a few. Hard to believe, right?!

This was an up and down month for me. It started with an awesome Lunch Date with my Baby Brother who just happens to be one my biggest supports in recovery. Somehow this 21-year-old-dipshit understands my recovery on a deeper level than I ever expected. Pretty cool, dude.

I also had a great vacation and did an excellent job with Vacation Triggers. More importantly, I returned home from that vacation with Bragging Rights and newly discovered Emotional Intelligence. My host was pretty awesome, too.

Last month I was put to the test more than any other month as my perfectionistic tendencies have been getting the best of me. Even though it was an up and down month, I finally began seeing Family Parties in a new, less scary light. I also had the opportunity to bond with a cousin of mine and rode in a hot air balloon. Checking that one off my bucket list!

So, here we are one year later. As silly as it might sound, this blog has been the single most important part of my recovery to date. I know sharing my experiences has been a shock to many of you and isn't right for everyone, but I have been able to begin the process of getting to know myself as a result. Recovery is not easy, but it's worth it.

If this much progress can be made in one short year, I cannot wait to see what the next 365 days (and 188 blog posts) will bring!


Monday, October 21, 2013

I'm a Crazy Narcissist... And Not Sorry

I had a really great weekend. Probably one of the best I can remember in a really long time. I made new friends, ate the best pizza of my life, and visited an amazingly brave young lady.

Unfortunately, there was an awkward situation that ended with me being called a crazy, emotionally unstable, narcissist. And apparently I'm needlessly cruel, damaging with people's time, and reckless with emotions.

Where is that Forgiveness Post from earlier this summer? I think I need to read that a million times tonight. 

Maybe I am a little crazy and emotionally unstable. I have been through hell and back. I'm still trying to put the pieces of my life together. And yes, I am very emotional; maybe even to the point of being unstable at times.

As I reread those first few statements, I notice it really is all about me. Maybe I am a narcissist. But ya know what? Right now, at this time in my life, I need to be selfish. If anything or anyone in my life is bringing me down, then I need to do what is right for my health and nothing else. Nothing is worth going back to the dark place I was in 18 short months ago.
And I mean nothing.

 Let's talk about being selfish in recovery (or life in general) for a moment. For as long as I can remember I have put my needs on the back burner in hopes that others would be accepting of me. As a true people-pleaser, most of my disorder was fueled by this constant need to hide my true self and act accordingly. The beautiful thing about recovery is I am learning there are times in life when it is not only okay to be selfish, but also totally necessary. Especially if my (already unstable) well being is at stake.

Most of my life has been spent worrying about what others might think of me, so hearing these harsh words wasn't exactly easy. But I do think it is important for me to take a step back and realize this has nothing to do with me. Deep down I know I am far from cruel, damaging, or reckless with emotions. In fact, it's almost a little comical anyone would say those things about me.

This whole situation is still a little raw and I'm not exactly sure what the final lesson learned will be. But I do know there are times in life when it's perfectly okay to be a little selfish... Even if that does make me a crazy narcissist in the eyes of certain people.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Overshooting Set Point Weight

In my previous post, I touched on the fear many of us recovering from eating disorders have about never regaining a normal metabolism. So I thought I would continue chatting about fears this week and attempt to discuss overshooting. Overshooting happens when an individual goes over their goal or set point weight during weight restoration. Obviously most of us fear gaining any weight at all, so the thought of gaining too much weight if oftentimes unimaginable.

Discussing this here is a bit of a slippery slope, however. The last thing I want is for everyone reading this to suddenly think their set point weight is higher than it needs to be; this overshooting thing doesn't happen in all cases.

Sometimes one of the most difficult parts of recovery is accepting the weight our bodies and treatment team would like us to be. And sometimes, due to each individual's body type, two people of the same height might have different goal weights, making this process even more complex. It would be so much easier if everyone had the same exact body type and metabolism; and there were specific numbers that were considered ideal weights based on height, but it doesn't work that way (and no, I do not think BMI is a useful measurement of anything).

To say attempting to figure out the body's healthiest weight after years of nutritional denial is a complex process is an understatement. The treatment center I went to used our pediatric charts, looked at our weight trends as adolescents, and then used those numbers to predict our goal weight, so I was lucky. But oftentimes I question how professionals go about deciding on a goal weight. Is it a shot-in-the-dark-and-hope-for-the-best type process? Maybe, and that's a scary thought.

My treatment team also taught us that each time the body endures a yo-yo, restrictive diet pattern, not only does the body regain the weight (and then some), it also increases the set point. Meaning the body will naturally settle at a higher weight each time.

I think the idea of having my set point weight go up even higher if I ever did fall back into disorder eating patterns has been one of my biggest motivators for maintaining my current weight. Not only would it be miserable to gain the weight again, but to have an even higher goal weight?! There's no way I could handle that. So although it is difficult to accept a new, higher weight, I always knew the alternative was way worse.

In the book Unbearable Lightness written by Porcia de Rossi, she confesses she overshot her set point weight by about 35 pounds before finding a healthy balance. However, I don't think overshooting is always that extreme. Typically I hear people overshoot their weight by about ten percent or less. I have even heard of some treatment centers that discharge their patients five pounds higher than they need to be as a precautionary measure.

As my mindset has gotten healthier, I have started to believe overshooting is actually better than undershooting. Eventually the body does even itself out at the weight it needs to be. If the body never reaches its healthiest weight, however, there is a much better chance of relapsing. I know a few people who have fought against their body's set point weight (which is easy to do, don't get me wrong!), only to find themselves binging or creating other unhealthy eating habits. 

I wish I could give you all a solution and a way to get over the fear of overshooting set point weight, but I don't think there is one. What it truly comes down to is letting go of every ounce of control the eating disorder has and allowing the body to repair itself. I have been at my set point weight for a full year and still fear gaining anymore weight, but maybe that's normal?

Yes, overshooting my set point weight has always been a fear of mine. Relapsing due to undershooting set point, however, is an even bigger fear.
And I hope many of you can start to look at it that way, too.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fragile Metabolism

Back while I was still in treatment and in the middle of the weight restoration process, as much as I hate to admit it, there were several occasions where I would sneak out after hours and go for 30-40 minute walks. At the time, I was on extremely high calorie counts and honestly didn't think these walks would have any affect on my weight. Burning an extra one hundred calories or skipping a few calories here and there could not possible show up on the scale the next morning - right?! Wrong.

Here's the thing - during the weight restoration process, and then there after for an extended period of time during maintenance, the metabolism is extremely fragile. For a "normal metabolism" that has not been under the distress associated with restricting and other erratic eating habits, missing a few calories will not necessarily have an immediate effect on weight, the way it does for those of us in recovery.

There were numerous times during my morning weigh in when the treatment team knew I had symptoms, even if it was just a short walk, before I even told them. The scale never lied. Although I'm not exactly sure why the metabolism is so fragile during the early stages of recovery, I do know with time and consistent eating it does seem to regulate itself. It's almost like after years of confusing our bodies, it needs time to relearn these basic functions again.

The fragile metabolism is one of the reasons the early stages of recovery are so difficult for many of us. After I hit my goal weight, I remember thinking I could get away with skimping on calories every once in awhile, but all it did was confuse my body more. It was also nearly impossible for me to wrap my brain around the idea that I needed THAT MANY calories in order maintain my weight. The body needs more calories to repair itself and function properly than most of us with eating disorders like to accept.

This study is proof that anorexics who were underweight require an abnormal amount of calories just to maintain their weight during the initial stages of recovery. And as far as metabolism goes, this study compares the metabolic rates of eating disorder patients two years after weight restoration with healthy metabolisms. I was excited to find the metabolic rates between the two were very similiar and there were no significant differences in body mass or overall body fat percentage.

So there is good news and bad news here. The bad news is the metabolism is incredibly fragile during the early stages of recovery and the slightest decrease in calories can be an issue. However, with time and consistent eating, the good news is, the metabolism will eventually return to normal. The damage done to the metabolism may be severe, but it is definitely reversible.

As for me, after about a year of maintaining my weight, it's exciting to think I no longer count calories or eat the exact same amount everyday, but my weight remains the same.
I think my fragile metabolism is officially a thing of the past.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Understanding Loneliness

I have said it several times here in this blog, and I will say it again today - loneliness is without a doubt my biggest trigger. But I'm talking loneliness in a much deeper sense than my forever single status. Yes, I have friends, a loving family, and am surrounded by 30,000 students everyday on campus; however, I still find myself with a void in my heart at the end of the day.

After speaking with a friend and doing a little reading on this topic, I think I am beginning to understand where this loneliness is coming from. In the article, Epidemic of Loneliness, loneliness is described as a lack of connection with those around us. Oftentimes we view loneliness as a personal weakness or inability to interact with others, but that is not the case at all. 

In another article sent to me by a good friend, Understanding the Pain of Abandonment, toxic shame surfaces when physical or emotional abandonment occurs in our early childhood years. Physical abdandonment, for example, takes place when a child's parents are physically disconnected. If the parents are constantly working or if there is any type of abuse present, a child might constantly feel abandoned and carry those feelings of loneliness with them throughout their entire lives.
Emotional abandonment takes place when the child begins to feel like they need to hide a part of themselves in order to please their parents. For me, this one really hit home. At a very young age I developed a belief that I needed to be a star athlete because my dad was. I also have a different personality than most of my family members, so I never felt like I fit in (as irrational as that might be). Over the years, I internalized all of these personality differences as something "bad" or "wrong," which left me feeling disconnected and alone.

Other acts of abandonment occur when children do not feel like they can live up to their parents expectations, children are taught it's not okay to make mistakes or show emotion, and when successes are not acknowledged. When our needs are not met as young children, those feelings of rejection can stick with us through adulthood causing this chronic loneliness.

To make things worse, now that I am in recovery, I often find myself upset that nobody around me understands my illness. Heck, I don't even understand it most of the time, so how can I expect others to? When I get caught up in distorted thinking, I tend to feel completely alone with these massive issues that seem completely irrational to others. Recovery can be a lonely place.

The good news is, however, I am finally starting to believe this loneliness stuff might not be my fault. There are some deeply rooted issues from my childhood that I have recently begun addressing. I think it's also important for me to mention that I grew up in a wonderful, loving household. My parents did everything right. I was just born with certain anxiety related personality traits that, unfortunately, made me more susceptible to disordered thinking.

Recently I have been extremely hard on myself and have let my loneliness get the best of me. Yes, I often do feel alone in recovery, but that does not make me unlovable. My loneliness is deeply seeded, but I have found with a little work, it can be improved. This week my goal is to take some time each day, even if it's only fifteen minutes, to do something that fulfills me. Just like I schedule time to do school work, practicing a little self-love is also a necessity.

I might have quite a few more issues to sort out before this feeling of loneliness is lifted, but at least I have found a starting point. It's exciting to think my biggest trigger is not my fault. In fact, it might even be perfectly normal to feel the way I am feeling. No more shame; it's time to understand loneliness for what it is rather than viewing it as a character flaw.


Friday, October 11, 2013

One Hundred and Three Percent

This post is a little difficult for me and quite personal. Just last week I wrote an email to a recovery friend who is enviously studious confessing a few of my insecurities surrounding school. We were discussing how she enjoyed going to her teacher's office hours; while I, on the other hand, wasn't so thrilled about one-on-one time with my teachers. My exact words were...

"I've always been rather shy in class and I have a fear of authority figures. I fear not being "smart enough" to hold a conversation with my professor. Weird, right? While I was sick and in high school/college in the past, I was never a very good student because I was so caught up in my disorder. So I'm still in the process of believing in myself academically. I am one of those people who needs to study A LOT just to get a B."

For some reason it is difficult for me to share that quote here on my blog, but there's a good reason behind it... Trust me.

 Even before I was physically ill in high school (binging and restricting doesn't exactly scream eating disorder), I still struggled mentally to find a level of self-respect that allowed me to believe I could succeed in the classroom. I think I graduated with a 3.2 GPA and was actually denied acceptance to my first college of choice. To say I was an average student would be an understatement.
 Teachers scared me.
Test anxiety was my expertise.
 I didn't believe in myself.
Honestly, what was the point?
School just wasn't "my thing."

Now imagine beginning college with no study skills, not a clue what I wanted to do with my life, a belief that I wasn't really good enough for school, and an increasingly dangerous eating disorder - talk about a recipe for disaster. And as many of you know, disaster is exactly what happened.

Now if you can, imagine going back to the school I failed out of five years later and facing the daily triggers associated with being reminded of previous failures on daily, consistent basis; you can begin to understand how it feels to be back on that campus. I recently told my best friend there are days when I get so caught up in those past failures and triggers that I need to get off campus ASAP, nap, and then regroup before I can even begin to cope in a healthy manner. I know that might sound extreme, but it's very real.

 Here's where the good news comes in...

Five years, a very solid recovery under my belt, and a new found sense of self later, not only am I back at the school I once failed out of, but I am proving to myself that I am beyond intelligent enough to be there. Can I please just brag for a minute and share that I got 103% on my most difficult midterm yesterday?!

Recovery has given me so many things; but I honestly think my brain, or at least my developing belief in my academic skills, is by far the most rewarding. Although I still have what seems like an eternity to go before I am done with school, at least I can say my brain power has improved immensely.

Most importantly, I can now confidently say that I am not, and never was, too stupid for college.  

While caught up in an eating disorder, it was nearly impossibly to concentrate on anything except my illness. An eating disorder is a full time job, just like recovery, and I don't think many people realize that. It has taken me a full year out of treatment to reach a point where I can finally say I believe in my academic future. I'm not stupid. My eating disorder might have made me believe I was, but I am no longer a victim to that disease.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Snack Attack

Confession - I need serious snack help.
I'm guilty of packing the same old, boring, unsatisfying snacks with me to school every single day. As an early bird, I typically eat (a pretty substantial) breakfast before the sun comes up on my way out the door. Then I'm in class through lunch time and only have about five spare minutes to scarf something down mid-morning. In my perfect world, I would have a twenty or thirty minute lunch break to re-group and enjoy a balanced meal; but let's be real, nobody has that kind of time.

For the past several weeks my mid-morning snack has been a granola bar of some kind or twizzlers. Sure it tastes alright, but it doesn't even take the edge off my hunger; leaving me dreaming about food rather than absorbing class material. 

Let me just take the time to say how huge it is for me to admit I no longer enjoy that hungry feeling. This is a big deal!

I've tried eating a larger breakfast, and although I don't enjoy being hungry, being too full (especially first thing in the morning) turns me into one cranky lady. I have also tried packing more calorie dense foods - think almonds - but that doesn't seem to do the trick either. And if you must know, I did try eating in class, but was forced to throw it out (haha). Drinking more water did help hold off my hunger; however, instead of counting down the minutes until I could eat, I found myself counting down the minutes until I could use the restroom.

So I actually need a little help with this one. My google search on 'quick satisfying snack ideas' resulted in countless diet and appetite curbing articles. How frustrating. I will admit that I am kind of a weird eater and don't necessarily enjoy eating quickly or on the go, but I guess it's time to make some changes.

Have any of you been in this situation? And how have you dealt with it? 

Can I please just say one more time how exciting it is to finally not enjoy feeling hungry? :)


Monday, October 7, 2013

Somebody's Daughter

"And if your daughter came to you,
crying with hunger, 
would you tell her no?
Would you tell her she is too fat,
she wants too much, 
she must shrink into society?
Then why would you tell yourself the exact same thing? 
You are somebody’s daughter."

I read this quote yesterday and not only did it break my heart, it also really got me thinking. 

Why is it that those of us with eating disorders and other self-destructive tendencies think we somehow deserve this type of treatment? As the quote suggests, never in a million years would I tell my own daughter (or anyone close to me) to deprive themselves of a basic necessity. So, again, why is it okay to do this myself?

Where do those of us struggling with eating disorders and similar addictive behaviors gain this belief? No matter how many times I ask myself this question, I can't seem to come up with a reasonable answer. Like my own mother, and several other mothers in this world, she never gave me a reason to believe I should be treated with such disrespect. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has ever given me a reason to internalize such harsh self-beliefs - except myself.

Even with that, however, I am still left questioning why I do this to myself, yet everyone around me doesn't seem to have the same problem. I mean, my issues in life are far less severe, even somewhat irrelevant, compared to many in this world. It's frustrating, to say the least.

I think, if I am trying to make sense of this, all normal people have negative self-thoughts from time-to-time, right? Now imagine those thoughts times ten (or 100), but on a non-stop, persistent basis and you get what those of us with eating disorders experience. And it's crazy because most of us in this position would never, ever dream of treating anyone with the same mockery.

Unfortunately, some of us might be born with this undesirable trait; there's just no escaping it. The good news is, on the other hand, there are ways to overcome these impossible thoughts. Although I still have quite a bit of work to do, I am much more self-accepting than ever now that I am in recovery. Learning to treat myself with the same respect as I hand out to others might be life long learning process and that's okay.

This upcoming week will be a busy one and I can already hear some of those nagging voices creeping up on me.  But if I can keep in mind that I am somebody's daughter maybe I'll be able to show a little more kindness.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Recovery Highs & Lows

Phew. Somehow I managed to survive this week. And somehow the first six weeks of the semester are already gone.

Based on my past several posts, I think it must be obvious these past few weeks have been a little rocky to say the least. After speaking with a good friend of mine who is further along in the recovery process, I was reminded that we all go through these recovery highs and lows. I'll be honest and say I have slipped up a few times in the past few weeks; however, I am learning those mistakes do not need to define my entire recovery. Some slips might also be bigger than others, but it's all part of the healing process.

Whenever I get in these low places, I tend to magnify all of life's little problems and completely forget about all of the happy things that may have happened during the day. So I thought for today, as I am feeling good about surviving these few weeks, I would take the time to keep my spirits high and talk about all the positive events I have left behind.

School has by far been my biggest stressor. When I'm in a rough place mentally, I tend to resort back to perfectionistic tendencies as a way to gain a false sense of control. After studying like a crazy person for my first big test of the semester, I ended up getting an 80% and was almost disgusted with myself. 

But here's the thing - as long as I finish the semester, regardless of my grades, that will still be huge improvement from my first go-around in school. As silly as it might sound, most days I like to believe I can feel my brain growing. I am absorbing and conceptualizing class material like never before. Thank you, food.

Another hurdle I faced these past few weeks was that miserable bout of poison ivy. Although the prescribed meds worked wonders and began working almost instantly, they had some pretty nasty side-effects. My (oh-so-precious) sleep schedule has been off, I've been incredibly nauseous and bloated, and have just felt bogged down while on these medications.

The good news is, I only have a few more days on these meds and as the doses have been lowered, I'm beginning to feel like myself again. My appetite is back in full force; another good sign. Oh, and I should probably throw in there that I took that test during the worst of it, so maybe an 80% isn't so bad, after all. 

The strangest trigger at the moment is the onset of the fall season. Typically this is my favorite time of year, but I can't seem to get myself in the mood for cooler temperatures just yet. My summer tan has officially faded and I want my sunshine back. Once the temperatures start dropping, there's no escape for the next six or seven months, which is enough to depress me a bit.

Maybe this weekend I need to get out some apples and pumpkins and do a little fall baking to lift my spirits. Also, as I think back to this time last year and how much has changed, it helps me recognize all of the things I have going for me this fall. Cold temperatures might not be my favorite, but having my life back on track makes a miserable Michigan winter a little more bearable.

I think it's safe to say, I hit my first major recovery dip, but thankfully I feel myself steadily climbing out of it. Reaching out to a supportive friend has been a lifesaver. I highly recommend it. By focusing on the positives, utilizing the many tools I have developed to cope, and putting things into perspective, I feel ready to tackle the upcoming weeks.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Periods of Growth

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. 

We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. 
It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, 
that we were in fact in the process of change, 
of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. 

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, 
as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth 
as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. 

Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. 
But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. 

Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, 
holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, 
eventually become the periods we wait for,
for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared 
for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, 
a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.” 
 -Alice Walker

I don't have much else to say. Sometimes I find quotes seem to literally take thoughts from my brain and put them into writing; making my life easier. It's almost like these quotes know me better than I know myself. 

Right now I'm in the middle of an unpleasant period of growth. I'm stressed, avoiding, numbing out, isolating, irritated, and acting on old perfectionistic tendencies. But sometimes struggling through these periods of growth is the only way to reach the other side. I've been here and gotten through before, so thankfully, there is lots of hope to lean back on. Sometimes I like to think damaged people are the most dangerous because we all know they can survive.

 So I think for the rest of today, my only goal will be to allow myself to see this period of growth for what it is. No more running away from it. It's here and it kind of sucks; but as the quote says, on the other side of this period of growth, the next phase of my life will soon be revealed.