Month: November 2013

10,000 reasons and an intimate message

My therapist gave me this in one of our first sessions together. He handed me this piece of paper and told me to read it a lout. Of course I was up to it, even though I had NO idea what I was about to read. So here I am sitting on the couch in his office holding this piece of paper called “An Intimate Message From God to You.” I get half way through and I find it hard to read. I almost don’t make it through. I couldn’t say a part of Psalm 139 because I don’t believe in myself the saying of that verse (which you will see in a bit). And I started to cry because I was so moved. It isn’t easy to get me to cry publicly, so that is a huge thing. After I finished reading it, my therapist then asked me how it made me feel. I gave him the look of “honestly, don’t you see my tears?”. A look wasn’t enough so I had to verbalize (part of my recovery is learning to speak emotions). I replied, “It makes me feel better, but it is hard for me to see this in myself. I know this, but I have a hard time believing it.”

To this day I still keep this in my Bible. I have been wanting to share it since I received it about a year ago.  For those of us suffering from low self-esteem or worries about who we are or what not, this is a great reminder of who we are and what we are to be.This is also a great Bible study. Find each verse in the Bible and meditate on it and let it speak to you. It is very moving…

An Intimate Message From God to You

My Child,

         You may  not know me, but I know everything about you (Psalm 139:1). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2). I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3). Even the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:29-31). For you were made in my image (Genesis 1:27). In me you live and move and have your being. For you are my offspring (Acts 17:28). I knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5).I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12). You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book (Psalm 139:15-16). I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26). You are/I am fearfully and wonderfully  made (Psalm 139:14). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And brought you forth on the day you were born (Psalm 71:6).

            I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me (John 8:41-44). I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love (1 John 4:16). And it is my desire to lavish my love on you (1 John 3:1). Simply because you are my child and I your Father (Matthew 5:48). I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11). For I am the perfect father (Matthew 5:48). Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand (James 1:17). For I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33). My plan for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

           My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18).And I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). I will never stop doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40). For you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5). I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul (Jeremiah 32:41). And I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3). If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me (Deuteronomy 4:29). Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). For it is I who gave you those desires (Philippians 2:13). I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20). For I am your greatest encourager (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

            I am also the Father that comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart (Isaiah 40:11). One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered here on Earth (Revelation 21:3-4). I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus (John 17:23). For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed (John 17:26). He is the exact representation of my  being (Hebrews 1:3). He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). And to tell you that I am not counting your sins. Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you (1 John 4:10). I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:31-32). If you receive the gift of my son, Jesus, you receive me ( 1 John 2:23). and nothing will ever separate you from my love again (Romans 8:38-39). come home and I’ll throw the biggest party Heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7).

             I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15). My question is, will you be my child (John 1:12-13)? I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32).

Love Your Dad,

God

*I believe the source is FathersLoveLetter.com*

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And now for one of my favorite worship songs….

Burnout and Overtraining

Give me a few moments to indulge my sport science and exercise science background. It isn’t everyday I get to thoroughly use my college degree and I share the wonderful information I learned there. So on I go….

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Overtrain (overtrained, overtraining): “a sudden decline in performance and physiological function that cannot be remedied by a few days or reduced training, rest, or dietary manipulation…also called overtraining syndrome. It is subjective and identifiable only after the individual’s performance and physiological function have suffered. Due to the highly individualization of overtraining syndrome, it is difficult for athletes, trainers, and coaches to recognize overtraining.  Some of the symptoms include,  but not limited to: loss of muscular strength, lack of coordination, extreme fatigue, inability to work at full capacity, change in appetite, weight loss, sleep disturbances (lack of sleep, trouble resting/going to sleep), irritability, restlessness, anxiety, decrease immunity, lack of motivation, decrease mental coordination and concentration, lack of appreciation of things once found enjoyable.” (Wilmore, Jack et. al, Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 301-302).  Any type of athlete be it strength or endurance can be subjected to overtraining.

On a similar but different note we have burnout,

Burnout as defined by Gould and Whitley in 2009: “it is a physical, emotional, and social withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable sport activity. This withdrawal is characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishments, and sport devaluation. Moreover, a burnout occurs as a result of chronic stress (a perceived or actual imbalance between what is expected of an athlete physically, psychologically, and socially and his or her response capabilities) and motivational orientations and changes in an athlete…the following are some some characteristics of burnout: physical and emotional exhaustion, depression, feelings of low accomplishment, low self esteem, depersonalization.” (Gould, Daniel et. al, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 495-496).

You may be thinking, “what does this have to do with anything?” or “I thought this was an eating disorder recovery blog and we are talking about sport psychology?”. There is a method to my madness. If you didn’t know because you haven’t read previous entries, I am a dancer. I also suffered and in recovery from not only an eating disorder, but exercise addiction.  Dancers are athletes. We train long and hard. When in college it was everyday for hours, especially in performance season. And if you have experienced run through’s and late tech nights, you can relate. On top of this rigorous schedule, I also have found myself battling exercise addiction. As an individual addicted to exercise, I never let myself rest.  This has caught up to me more than once and that is what I want to write about today. My experiences in being overtrained and burnt out.  Especially because at this present moment I am experiencing burn out.

While I was pursuing my undergraduate in Exercise Science, these two topics were of big discussion. There was a point early in my college career that when we were studying the aforementioned topics I realized that I was overtrained. “So this is why I can’t sleep at night and I feel like shit” I would think to myself. Yet, hearing all the factual evidence, I did nothing to remedy it. I also thought, “this doesn’t apply to me” or “I am too strong for overtraining”. What a fool I was. What a slave to Melvin (my ED) and my exercise addiction I was. During this point in time I was doing the following: dance technique classes 3 hrs/wk, rehearsals 5-10 hrs/wk, taught 3 group fitness classes/wk, run anywhere from 3-5 miles/wk, and weight lift (modeled after bodybuilding high volume training) about two hours  3 days/wk. No rest days. I went 7 days a week. Some days I would run, lift, and then dance. Crazy I know. Looking back on it I honestly don’t know how I did that.  And to top it off, I barely consumed 1,500 calories. That would be a high intake day. Yes, again, I don’t know how I did that.

That was my schedule for about the first two years of college till I got anterior knee pain syndrome and some other overuse injuries. I had to stop running all together, which I still miss to this day, running was the only thing that could allow me to fully decompress and escape my negative thoughts. There were moments I couldn’t dance due to my injuries. Despite the injuries, I kept going and going and going (like the Energizer Bunny, in case you missed the reference).

The whole time I kept this routine I had the symptoms of overtraining. I couldn’t rest at night, I had to sleep with the TV on to calm myself. I always was in a fog. I never had enough energy to be my very best or at least pay attention. There were moments I couldn’t concentrate at the task at hand. There would be moments I couldn’t execute the simplest exercises be it dance or lifting. My body ached all the time. I was just tired.  Yet I never did much about it. Even with injuries and removing stuff from my workout routine, an addict will find a way around it. And I did.  All of this eventually led me to burnout. But I never realized I was affected by burnout until now.

I am a performance artist. I love performing. Get me up on stage and I am home. I am free from my ED and I get the attention that I crave. I had a dance instructor say all dancers are selfish because when we perform it is always about us and how good we did we want to hear. He had a very true point. But yet, even through all the compliments and scouting, it was never enough. Well it was enough, but Melvin and my obsession with perfection always thought otherwise. Other athletes can relate, I’m sure. When you are in season it is go time. Long practices, for me rehearsals, no days off. Even weekends see your face more than others. And with every game, for me, performance, you give so much of yourself away that it just wears you out. Thank God for adrenaline, because honestly, with an ED and doing two shows a day I don’t know how I made it through some performances. It can be rough, and this is when I get burnt out. But once a show has closed and I take time for myself, my burn out disappears. Only when do I get in “show mode” does it come back.

Every time I am in “show mode” I get so tired and worn out that I can’t differentiate between my dysthymia (short bouts of depression) and burnout tendencies. It wasn’t till Saturday night after rehearsals for Nutcracker that while talking to my husband I realized I am burned out. And that I hadn’t “felt this way since college”. He pointed out that all those times I get burnt out. He was right. I get tired, fatigued. I end up hating rehearsing and performing. I am unhappy. I put myself under so much stress. Especially this performance because I am a rehearsal director, soloist, and ballet isn’t my first medium (I am a modern, contemporary dancer first) so I have to work that much harder. It is a lot of pressure, and I already have issues with perfectionism.  Every performance I have been in I fall into this rut. I want to quit the show, I can’t wait for it to be over. I hate everybody and everything. I get preoccupied with food and costumes (though I am trying super hard to eat enough and tell myself “I will look good in my costume”). THIS, NOT MY PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENTS IS WHY I THINK THE LORD DIDN’T PUT ME IN COMPANY WORK. How can I be in a professional company when I am prone to overuse injuries and burnout? I am sure if I wasn’t in recovery and didn’t care, I would not have known any difference and a company gig could possibly await me. But, I am in recovery and I do care.

Hopefully, I can learn from this experience as well as past ones to help me avoid burnout in the future. I am already avoiding overtraining, now to just avoid burnout. I believe this may be a future therapy topic….

 

References:

Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Daniel Gould and Robert Weinberg

Physiology of Sport and Exercise, Jack H. Wilmore

 

 

Inside My Actor’s (well Dancer’s) Studio….

What a great idea from the daily prompt. I know I am a few days late from this prompt, but I don’t always have time to blog on those days. Since I am not an actor, I changed it to dancer’s studio. Here are my responses. To whoever reads this, what are your responses? I’d love to know an answer or two from you on these ten questions….Either answer in a comment or click the link below to add yours to the other bloggers who have done this prompt.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/daily-prompt-favorite/

On the interview show Inside the Actors’ Studio, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same ten questions. What are your responses? 

What is your favorite word?

            This is a hard one. I don’t know if I have a favorite word. I tend to use the word lovely a lot. I like to use lovely because I feel as if great, good, well, just seems overused. Lovely also is a great compliment. I know when I think of lovely I see roses, a bouquet of flowers, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly….anything full of beauty, grace, richness, class, fun. Who wouldn’t want that? Now I have the song “On How To Be Lovely” from the musical Funny Face playing on the radio station in my head.

What is your least favorite word?

             Hmmm….the first thing that pops in my head is the F word. Or anytime a swear word is used when there is a better word that can be used. I know I have a tendency to say a swear word here and there, definitely not as bad as use to, but there is a quote I always hear in my head anytime I use a swear word. It helps me to think twice on using a swear word. It said something along that lines that swear words cheapen language. Powerful huh?

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

I LOVE nature. The beauty of God’s wonderland turns me on. Living in the Appalachian mountains really fuels my creative, spiritual, and emotional sides. I walk out my door and see tall mountains, dogwoods, maple trees, beautiful sunrises or sunsets, as well as a myriad of other things depending on the season. In the fall the mountains and trees are all different shades of orange, red and yellow. I love driving on backroads or the Blue Ridge Parkway during this season. In the winter snow covers the tip tops of the mountains, or lays quietly on bushes with icicles hanging off pine trees. In the spring daffodils bloom on the side of the roads and rose bushes start to bud. In the summer azaleas blossom, those gorgeous orange day lilies are everywhere lining every road, the most gorgeous sunsets happen. The season call for dance inspiration, and moves me to thank God for this creation. All of this makes me happy. Just getting out and taking a nice hike just relaxes me and centers me. The spring and summer seasons are more reasons to do yoga outside 😉 .

What turns you off?        

Rudeness. Enough said.

What is your favorite curse word?

As I stated above I am not a big fan of curse words. When I was very angry and going through a rough patch I swore all the time. Then as I started my recovery journey, my swearing has become less and less. If I do swear, which I do I am in no means perfect, I tend to say shit. Shit goes well with other words, and since I from the South it is 3 syllables…SH-III-IT. YouTube Shit Southern Women Say Volume 1 and you will see what I mean.

What sound or noise do you love?

The hard thing about these questions, I usually never have one answer. For this one there is no one answer. I have a variety of sounds that I love such as: heartbeats, Christmas songs, cat purrs, laughter, the door opening and it is my husband coming home, my ringtone when my cell phone gets a call (who wouldn’t want to hear “American Girl”  by Tom Petty go off?)

What sound or noise do you hate?

When brakes on a car needs to be repaired. I am cringing right now thinking about it.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Right now I do not have a true profession. I haven’t really begun my career yet. What I want to do with my life is become a Counselor and Movement Therapist. I want to work with individuals who have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addictions through traditional therapy and also use movement (yoga, Pilates, and dance). Next year I am going to Yoga Teacher Training, and eventually want to get my masters in Counseling or Sport Psychology. When I am established my BIG goal is to have my own studio where I do therapy, teach yoga classes, host 12 Step groups, even work with other therapists/movement therapists to provide a holistic, safe/nurturing, get away for people. A place where they can come for an hour or two and just be kind to themselves.

What profession would you not like to do?

What people on The Deadliest Catch do.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Thank you for your good work and faith. The love and care you have shown and bestowed upon others was a reflection of Me (Christ Jesus) in your life.

Am I A Hypocrite? Little Girls: Love yourselves, though I don’t always love myself…

I am a dance teacher. I love sharing my love and passion for dance with younger girls. It fulfills me to see young girls and young women gain self confidence or fall in love with dance/physical activity. It helps keep them from a sedentary lifestyle. Physiologically speaking, dance increases endorphin’s which helps elevate happiness/decrease depression, dance helps with muscle mass and fat mass.  Also one learns how to stay physically active throughout their life.  Dance  also keeps at risk kids off the street. Dance is a productive, proactive activity. Most importantly, dance gives dancers an outlet for self expression. When they have a rough day at school they can fuel their barre exercises. Tough time with a boyfriend/girlfriend?  Pour it out on the floor during choreography. Need a moment to get away from it all? All day rehearsals are the safe place.

As a dancer who has struggled with disordered eating and exercise addiction, these actions/mind sets can cause interesting emotions in my own dance life. There are moments I am triggered by smaller dancers (who are my size but a teenager), or more athletic looking ones. There are times I get frustrated with my abilities because I cannot pick up the choreography on the first go around.  There are also times I am gentle with myself and over ride my negative thoughts. I may not have killer extension, but I have stage presence. I even use dance as therapy. I made a solo about my eating disorder. I love dance. I can’t imagine not dancing. But, sometimes I have to step back. While in college I got to a point where I had to take a hiatus from dance because it was damaging to myself. When it was time, I came back to what fueled me. This time, I use my recovery tools and have a new message to the girls I instruct. My message is: there is no such thing as a perfect dancer body. Love yourself. Love your body, and it will love your dance. This isn’t an easy message due to the nature of dance. As one goes on with dance, especially onto the college or professional level, the “look” or pressure to be a certain way greatly increases.  Certain companies like a specific body type. Or if you audition for a show, you might not get a part because you have red hair, not brown. Or blonde hair not red. As a dancer who is 5″1, I always put 5″2 because that extra inch makes me more desirable. Ask any performer, there is something on their resume they lie about; whether it be weight, height, they may even color their hair, or where colored contacts. Hopefully as the increase awareness of eating disorders and body image issues get more attention in the dance community, the pressure of a certain look can decrease. The up and coming dance educators, choreographers,  and directors need to focus on technique, passion, and ability. Highlight more about the dancer than just what is on the surface.

Already this Nutcracker season, I have been confronted more with supporting these young girls and developing my mission statement than in previous settings. One of the girls I have the honor of directing mentioned her body is too muscular. She said she was “bigger than a normal dancer”.  I told her she is beautiful. She dances great, and it is because of her muscle she can dance beautifully. I expressed that she doesn’t need to change a thing about her body. It is the only one she has. Another time I saw a girl checking out her stomach in the mirror while comparing herself to another girl. How sad. She does what I do in my bedroom. I wanted to go up and say, “Stop it! Don’t even begin to go down this road! Don’t end up like me.” But I didn’t. What would have happened if I did? I hope she doesn’t start down the road of self deprivation.

At a previous school where I was taking class, I heard a teacher out right compared two girls’ bodies during barre. I was outraged. These two girls were apples and oranges. You can’t compare apples and oranges. The only thing they have in common is that they are fruit. The only thing these two dancers had in common was that they were dancers. Both were strong movers. One was very much an ectomorph (tall, narrow, lanky, slim). The other dancer was mesomorphic (medium built, athletic, ability to gain muscle easily). When comparing the girls, the instructor made it sound as if the mesomorphic girl was less of a dancer during that exercise compared to her counterpart. Automatically all sorts of things popped into my head as I am doing fondue’s and ron de jambe’s at the barre.  For one, the mesomorphic girl could go home and start down the road of eating disordered behavior. She could begin to hate her body and resent the fact that she is seen as “less than” for dance. Resentment against that other dancer could occur. The list goes on and on. As dance educators, we are suppose to instruct young girls in technique.Teach technique sound in kinesiology and physiology. Get past the whole body ideal. Every body is different. God made each of us one way. There is nothing we can change about ourselves anatomically (to the instructor who tried to get my feet to stop pronating, I AM A PRONATOR. LOOK AT MY X RAYS!). All we can do as dancers is strengthen our muscles to help aid our muscular imbalances, work on correct technique, listen, and keep on dancing.

One a similar but different note, I have encountered the evil downfall of most dancers/artists in general: Perfection. As a perfectionist who is trying to give up perfectionist tendencies, I spot these kids who are perfectionists in the making. In choreography class, they keep revising their phrase. They sport frustration on their faces. They will tell me they won’t perform their piece because they don’t want to be made fun of or it isn’t quite right. In rehearsal it is the kids that go above and beyond like Buzz Lightyear and  their technique begins to diminish because nothing is going right.  Perfection and dance go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is a hard wall to break in the dance community. I know in the height of my college dance career nothing was ever good enough. I could have had the best performance but something was always off. It ruined everything! I never got to revel in the full joy of performing. Now I see kids demonstrating those same behaviors, I cautiously say, “This is a positive environment. Your creations are wonderful because they are you. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. Perfection isn’t real. Honesty and truth are real.”

I try to be an example of what uber perfectionism can do to you. I am very open about my overtly controlled college life. How everything was planned. Everything I did had to be perfect. Nothing was out of line. It is no way to live. It is easier for me to be honest and real about my turn from perfectionism.  But ask me about who I feel about my body image and my answer won’t be as honest.

I say all this to these kids and yet I feel as if I am a hypocrite. I tell these young ladies to love who they are. To embrace their body and all that comes with it. Yet, I struggle EVERYDAY with my own body image. I hardly feel fit enough, or muscular enough. Or even dancer-y enough.  Even though my wise self knows the difference; Melvin (my ED from my previous post), jumps on my negative thought train.  I make sure I eat in front of them, so I practice what I preach even though sometimes the last thing I want to do is eat. Everyone tells me how beautiful I am, but yet, a part of me still doesn’t believe it.I just say “Thank You” and go one. Some days I feel more beautiful or fit than others and that is a big improvement. I even am proud of my accomplishments in dance most days.  All of this and it has been two years of recovery! I just always hope that these young women don’t think I am a hypocrite. I hope they see me as a story of inspiration. A story of triumph, and a story of love. That if I, and countless others can overcome this disease, that they can too. Or better yet, they can take mine and others words of wisdom and live an ED free life.

dance