ana recovery

Recovery Cards

“Recovery simply means possessing the courage to let go of old ineffective patterns of thought and behavior and a willingness to start fresh.”-Thom Rutledge

 

One thing you are never going to hear me say is an “I AM” affirmation. Popular in most yoga classes, self help books, and hippie dippie new age wellness blogs; they are sayings like, “I am truth”, “I am love”, “I am beautiful”, “I am a force for good”, “I am connected to the Earth”, “I am one with the universe”…you get the idea. These affirmations are supposed to be empowering, change your mind, build confidence, and make you feel good.  Anytime I have heard someone say one of these I cringe on the inside. These affirmations feel so fake and the people who say them just rub me the wrong way…it’s like they view themselves as uppity and better than everyone else. And does anyone really believe they are one with the universe?

 

The other day in therapy we actually spent some time talking about recovery tools and what my tools have been/are. I talked about how when I first began recovery the first thing they teach you to do is disassociate–anytime my ED (Melvin) said something I was to recognize it and say the opposite. The idea of disassociation is to draw awareness to these thoughts, begin to break the cycle, and replace them with truth. Sometimes people use affirmations, like what I mentioned above, or in my case I would say “this is not true” or “this is my disorder/Melvin not me”. It is a great tool and it works but eventually it begins to breakdown. For example, I’m immune to it. I have disassociated so much that it’s habit and it doesn’t have the same affect anymore. I say my opposite truth and I’m still in the cycle. Which as my therapist says, it’s ok we just got to find a new tool.

 

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At this same time I found my Recovery Cards. I haven’t seen these things in YEARS!  I was cleaning out purses and purging shit and I found them in a purse pocket. I didn’t open them. I couldn’t bring myself to–it’s not like mementos you have kept from an old boyfriend that is laced with bad memories. For some reason I avoided them, maybe it was because of how I have been feeling about my recovery lately. These cards are makeshift flash cards with various quotes (we all know how much I love a good quote or song lyric!), 12 Step prayers, Bible verses, etc…They basically would calm me down and act as a way to make Melvin’s voice stop.

 

The original clip was still keeping them together. The edges were bent, but the ink was still dark and black. I placed them on my jewelry box so I would see them. With the intention to pick them up and read them. It took me two weeks to pick them up. Honestly, I didn’t even look at them and remove the clip till I sat down to write this post.As I read each one and laid them out on the floor like one of those memory games that you play as a kid, memories flooded back to me. How I use to sit at my job and read these cards because I would begin to have a panic attack. How I would curl up in a ball in bed because I couldn’t make myself eat even though I was starving and I knew I needed to. They would remind me that I am making the right choice, choosing life. That recovery is worth it and that each day “I did my best and that’s okay”.

 

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I can’t remember why I stopped using them. I guess I thought I didn’t need them. Or maybe they stopped working. Who knows? I do know that as I look at these cards beside me the words on them ring true. They may not be your typical affirmations and make me one with the universe but they do center me. That when I’m “at peace with my own soul then heaven and earth will be a peace with me” and that “every morning is a chance at a new day”. 

 

“Just because you relapse does not mean you’re a failure. Relapse is part of your recovery. You will have times you slip and break, but that in no way s means you are a failure. Recovery takes time, it takes trys, it takes work, and it takes fails. If you relapse you didn’t fail, you just slipped. Take a deep breath and start over. You will get there, don’t doubt yourself”.-anon

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Choosing Life

In a year long quest to be more open, honest, authentic, real, and other words of the like; I’m sharing something that I haven’t really discussed or care to talk about. Quite often I get asked why I’m not dancing professionally or why did I not follow up on those goals I set for myself after I graduated college. It’s a difficult question. One I loathe because it has taken me years to come to grip with the reasons and the direction my life took instead. For years I dealt with jealousy when I saw friends live out my dreams and do what I always wanted. I had thoughts of “I am more talented, yet here I am not dancing and they are getting all the attention” or “everyone thought I’d be the one dancing in a company not them”. There were also some other darker thoughts but I don’t feel like going down that road…

 

There are a few answers to this question of why I am not dancing professionally. It’s definitely not for a lack of trying. Honestly, I tried too hard. I gave my heart and soul to dance. It was all I wanted (that and to be skinnier and the most fit dancer in my college company). These are my most used answers-all valid and true:

 

*I suffered performance anxiety in every audition. Every time I auditioned I crumbled. I could not handle the pressure.
*I met my soon to be husband. I fell in love and sometimes when you love someone you change your own path. I wanted him to be successful and followed him encouraging him along the way.
*God’s plan for me changed.

 

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Pic by Katie Norrell

 

Then there is the answer that I don’t answer with very often. I don’t use this answer unless I am completely comfortable with someone or like now. I do feel embarrassed and ashamed of this answer. I feel that people won’t really understand or grasp it. Do you want to know the true answer to why I’m not dancing in a company?

 

I’d be dead.

 

That is not an over exaggeration. If I would have been one of the few to make it in a company I know I couldn’t handle the stress of the grueling schedule, accompanying lifestyle, and standing up to my own perfectionistic tendencies let alone the standards of a company. My dream, along with my addictions and eating disorders, would have killed me.

 

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Performing with the Moonlight Minx Parade Jan 2018. Photo by RAW Tulsa

 

I took me years to come to grips with that final reason and to be OK with choosing recovery. I know that sounds cliche, but to those who don’t know what it’s like, sometimes you think your pre-recovered life is better. It’s screwed up thinking but addicts are not known for their logic. I would try and hide this. Then I’d be dancing or performing in other endeavors and people would constantly ask my why I’m not doing more. I wasn’t comfortable telling people I chose life over my dream. I still live in the past knowing that I could’ve been more. I still sometimes see myself as that young dancer who was on top of the world–who had people loving her when she danced, who wanted to create pieces on her. That young dancer who would’ve been happily dancing in the corps because dance is life and my dream would have come true.

 

However in the deepest parts of me I know that to be dancing and performing to that high caliber you need more than talent. You need to be mentally healthy and physically en pointe. At the time I didn’t have healthy coping mechanisms. I had the passion, the drive, the ambition, the talent–but abusing laxatives, compulsive exercising, and restricting caloric intake negates any of the former. I was coping with the fact that I felt inadequate about my technique/talent. In a world where there is always someone better than you, it can be difficult to stay confident. I was coping with loneliness and the isolation. I was suppressing my anger and emotions from an abusive relationship.  Pretty much I was a hot freakin’ mess.

 

While I may not have danced in a company I did dance professionally for a few years. I became a dance teacher. I was a cabaret dancer/burlesque performer. I performed in local companies on occasion. Now I just take class when I can while pursuing my passion of teaching yoga, wellness, and trying to bring dance conditioning to OKC (my way of contributing to the dance world). I am also happily married with the best furbaby on the planet. I’m living in a big(ger) city. I have some fantastic friends. Things I would have missed out on if my life was what my college self wanted. So am I sad that one part of my life is “over”? Yes. But I am happy that I chose life.

 

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Photo by Matias Cortez

Lessons From NEDA Awareness Week 2018

Each year I participate in the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Awareness Week. I have done something for it every year since I began recovery, roughly six years ago-I honestly can’t remember. Is that bad? Each year I have done more and more to raise awareness and try to make each year bigger, better, and more impactful. I am passionate about NEDA Awareness Week because to me it reminds me so much of the 12th Step, “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other(s) {insert addiction} and practice these principles in all our affairs”.  I use this to educate others, draw awareness to this deadly disease, and also use this week to focus on full support for others who have been through this. Even providing them a platform to share their stories and perspectives. This year I took the last step and took twelve ginormous steps and went all out for this week.

 

 

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What did I do? One of the many things I did was host an Instagram challenge. I partnered with my recovery and yoga soul sister in Tulsa, Cassandra McCoy, to start a challenge. Then Cassandra and I got a sponsor (who turned out to be a new friend!), Jamie at Evolve Fitness OKC. We wanted a challenge that was accessible to everyone and be more than crazy yoga poses. Our challenge was, Spread ED Awareness. Each day we would provide either a statistic or blurb about eating disorders. Then we had a word that was inspired by the post with a corresponding challenge. Challenges were:

  1. A yoga pose that makes you feel confident
  2. What activity did you do that you “failed ” at? Did you try it again?
  3. How have you been resourceful in your workout(s)/Got creative with them
  4. What activity or life event has made you feel strong?
  5. What is something that you have done that made you feel uneasy and vulnerable?
  6. Who supported you during recovery? Maybe you supported someone, who were they?
  7. Last but not least, share your story!

 

 

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I’m not going to lie, I thought this would be “successful” (you’ll see why I use quotes around that). I thought people would be down to participate, especially since we had some cool prizes lined up and it was for a cause. However, I came to realize this wasn’t the case. People “liked” the idea but only a handful of people participated. I was hurt. I was sad. I was disappointed. Cassandra, Jamie, and myself had put so much time into these posts, deciding what to present, etc…and the turn out was low. Somedays I didn’t want to participate in my own challenge. I thought to myself, “if this was a handstand IG challenge or an inversion challenge more people would do this“.

 

Then I saw a post from someone I follow on IG (Justin Wolfer) talking about how it doesn’t matter the size of your following or audience, it’s what you do with it. Talk about a perspective change! I realized my ego was in the way and it was hidden by good intentions. I lost sight of the twelfth step. I told myself, ” It’s not about participants its about spreading awareness and educating”. I then began to focus on all the engagements my posts were getting, the people who were commenting on them, or reaching out to me. That right there is what #NEDAAwarenessWeek is all about.

 

 

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My donation class at Evolve Fitness

 

 

In addition to this challenge I wanted to host a clothing drive. Clothing drives are a great way to practice yoga because it is yoga. Donating clothes is a practice of:

  1. Brahmacharya (non-excess)
  2. Aparigraha (non-greed, non-possessiveness)
  3. Saucha (purity, cleanliness)
  4. Karma (action, generating)

 

I didn’t want just one clothing drive and for me to be the only one participating (which would have a limited reach). I wanted the whole community to get involved. So I decided to reach out to all the fellow yoga teachers and ask if anyone wanted to host a clothing drive for our local YWCA. Much to my surprise I got three other studios involved! Cycle 3Sixty wanted to host a clothing drive/free class AND they did a #WearYourPurple day-every tag/person who wore purple they matched one dollar and donated to NEDA. My pals at Hidden Dragon Yoga in Edmond wanted to have a box for a week. Evolve Fitness, the sponsor for the IG challenge, had a day of free classes for clothes. Then I had my class at Core Nutrition.  When the week had come to a close I counted over 50 bags of clothes!

 

 

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It touched my heart to see so many people come together and do something for other people. To clean out their closets and their hearts, to make space for love. To build community and unite for a cause–being close to Spring and the itch to spring clean doesn’t hurt either….Sometimes it is hard to see the goodness in people, especially in our social media and headline driven world.

 

In addition to having my faith restored in people, seeing the light, and changing my perspective about Instagram (for the one billionth time hah!) this was the biggest thing I learned: Something Small Can Have a Big Impact. I guess I always knew that but it wasn’t till this week and reflecting upon these lessons did I really see it/understand it.  Not only is this shown through the clothing drives–these clothes will go to our local chapter of the YWCA– but I saw it through my friend, recovery warrior,  only participant, and winner: Nikki. Nikki pledged to do this challenge about a month ago then her son died. She almost didn’t participate but decided to anyway. I told her I hoped she found some healing and used this as a way to deal with her grief. Nikki told me that it did help her. That right there is more than enough. That statement is why I did what did and made it all worth it. She got what she needed to go on and live life.

 

What did you do for NEDA Awareness Week? Share below!

 

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Official Diagnosis: You’re on My Last Nerve

If you have followed me over the past few years or know me in real life you are aware of my Phantom GI Issues. For five years these episodes have controlled my life. There were days when I could not get out of bed. There were days when I had to leave work early because I couldn’t stop throwing up. There were months where I lived on smoothies and liquid foods. There were dates with the hubby that had to be cut short because I got sick and would pass out. Then there was the time I had an attack at the OBGYN office; the hubs had to pick me up and I had to drink the orange sugar drink they give pregnant ladies. I lived in fear (and sometimes embarrassment) of knowing that any moment I could have something coming out of somewhere.

 

Over the years I have spent more time in doctor’s offices then I’d like to admit. I have lost my temper and swore off doctors all together. I have had ingested more radioactive tracers than a “healthy” person needs to. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “you’re too young to be here” or “too young to be having these issues” I’d have a brand new car. I had tests done that costs more than a new car done that came back with negative results. I have tried medicine, food, supplementation, and just living to get this under control. I had to listen over and over again to people telling me that I need to ingest essential oils and I’d be cured. That I don’t do enough yoga or meditation. These antidotes spun around me like a record on a record player.

 

I got to a point where I thought they were never going to figure out what’s wrong with me. It wasn’t my gallbladder, my hiatal hernia had been long cured, it wasn’t my small intestine  and it’s function, my colon, or more food allergies. While I almost felt like giving up a part of me kept fighting on. I knew eventually something would have to give and I would find out what was causing my distress. Even though it seemed like no one was listening to me that something was wrong (it started to have that girl who cried wolf vibe) I knew internally something was off. I just had to find the right doctor.

 

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After reading some research on a medicine I was taking, I began to think that maybe my nerves weren’t working. While I suffer from GAD and spent most of my life battling eating disorders, I thought that maybe somehow together they caused the nerves that go to my belly to stop working. If that was the case then maybe there is some way to stimulate them, just like the therapies that are out for Alzheimer’s and when you ESTEM a muscle when it has atrophied too much.  When I went to my new GI doctor we talked about that and he set me up for one final test. The results were positive! I finally got a result: I have gastroporesis/delayed stomach emptying. The nerves from my brain to belly in fact didn’t work. Since they don’t work I can’t tell if I’m full, hungry, or something in between.  I was so relieved. To think I finally had a diagnosis. That something was actually wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy.

 

With this new found relief came a whole new round of stress. Yup, the stress was still around. This time instead of worrying where the closest bathroom was I had to restructure my eating and lifestyle AGAIN. I’m not going to lie it was, and still is difficult. I had to stop eating vegetarian because I can’t digests lentils, beans, and most staples of a vegetarian die (bring it on to those who disagree with research and science). I’m slowly eating more mea and figuring out how to keep my veggie loving self happy. I have to eat small portions every few hours and eat very slowly.

 

While I still have some stress about eating, I feel relief in my diagnosis- almost a sense of peace. With this new found peace I am determined to finally have a healthy relationship with food. It will take some time but hopefully bite by bite food can restore how I view food once and for all.

 

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New Year, Not So New Me

Happy 2018! It’s that time of the year for New Year Resolutions, gym memberships, intention setting, manifesting, positive thinking, living life to the fullest,  and most importantly– #NewYearNewMe. Love it or hate it that is the mantra for January. Our feeds are filled with it, I admit I have used that hashtag myself. While I don’t mind the concept, deep down it isn’t what we think it is.

Whether you make resolutions or like me, set goals and intentions, they are filled with hope and the mindset of change. Our lists guide us every day in aiding us to make the best decisions that line up with our 2018 vision board. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months what begins to happen? Some of intentions/goals/resolutions may have subsided and gotten lost with that gym key fob or they may have fully transformed our lives. What changes do you notice? Maybe you are more peaceful. Maybe you have cultivated mindfulness. Maybe you go for a walk three times a week. Maybe you started a blog or vlog. Whatever it was…they are all external.

 

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But what about internally? Are you any different? If you were to sit with yourself and look deep down inside would you notice anything? Have you changed from a Type A bulldozer to a Type B cool cat? Have you overcome your introversion and became a mad extrovert? What about your values, morals, and things that make you tick? Did they change? I didn’t think so. That’s why #NewYearNewMe is a lie. It “changes” you outwardly but it doesn’t change who you really are.

I may be making intentions to go from a human doing to a human being, live life by The Four Agreements and 12 Steps, be impeccable with my word, take my ACSM Certified Ex. Physiologist exam by April, launch a Youtube channel and dance conditioning in the OKC Metro, blog every other week, become a better wife, and develop a healthy relationship food now that I finally know what is wrong with me; but I’m still Leslie. I will always be a Type A bulldozer who is highly competitive to a fault. I will always be a perfectionist but am choosing when to express it. I will always value kindness, respect, and treating everyone equally. I will always be awkward and quote movies in everyday conversation. And guess what…that’s ok.

 

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So you can’t really be a new you, just you who is making changes to live a life more fully. Are you embracing the #newyearnewme concept? What are you wanting your 2018 to look like? Share below!

self obsessED

Life has been a whirlwind since I last blogged. Lots of life has happened. Since my last post, my husband and I go had three weeks to move from TN to OK. I have been in OK a little over a month and I have been busy! My goal to work in a yoga studio has happened. I am slowly meeting people and still trying to find a way to dance. I have been to the ballet, sipped coffee in new coffee shops, and tried some new things. While life has been good-I am thriving professionally and loving the city life-I have also been relapsing.

This relapse has been slightly different than previous ones throughout my years of recovery. As one continues in recovery, relapses take different shapes and forms (see my other post Rabbit Hole Relapse). This little set back has been triggered by the move. Which makes sense because I am not in control, I am new to a foreign place (even though OK isn’t too different from TN, the parallels are quite spot on), trying to get my ducks in a row, and my workout schedule has changed quite a bit–more on this next week. On top of all of this my GI Phantom has reappeared and we all know how that goes…

 

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Obviously one must restrict calories and find the control through food manipulation when one is going through an uprising. However, I cannot restrict food because it makes me even crankier, so I just obsess about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I secretly count calories, have marathon worry sessions (to bad these marathons don’t burn calories!!!!), eat lots of fruit,  and the worst part of all: I become selfish.

Those of us who suffer from ED’s have one thing in common-we are selfish. When we are in the depths of ED despair all we can think about is ourselves: what we look like, what the number on the scale says, if our food choices are healthy, asking our safe person five hundred times a day if we look fat/have our thighs turned dimply/do we look any different, all we can talk about is food-exercise-body image. We aren’t aware of those around us and how they feel, we can’t see how we are bringing them down, we aren’t content, we see the worst in everything, and most importantly we forget to look around and see the beauty in life.

 

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For the past month, everyday I have been negative about my body. Asking Jeremy every hour on the hour that he is home “how do I look?”, “are my thighs turning into cottage cheese?”, “I haven’t exercised today because my schedule is crazy, is that ok?”, “can you tell that I haven’t worked out?”, “am I still pretty?”. Everything is revolved around me, me, me. Even though he is stressed and could use some comfort I cannot see it or give it because all I care about is what I look like. These thoughts not only cloud our head and thought processes, they cloud our vision. We cannot see things for how they really are. We cannot see who we really are. It isn’t until someone calls you out on your selfishness that you can begin to make a change.

This is precisely what happened with me and Jeremy. One day this past week I spent over the half the day not talking about anything but food and my horrible body. I guess (I guess, hah, I know!) that Jeremy had had enough and he said to me, “I know that what you look like is all you care about but….” I can’t really remember the rest but that statement “all you care about” was enough to knock me back to Earth because I DO care about other things. I care about my family, my dog, my husband, being a good yoga teacher, art, helping those around me, spreading smiles and happiness to those who seem a little sad. That statement helped me to back off a little bit, instead of 500 questions a day about my body I’ll ask 490, and focus on my relationship with Jeremy–because my relationship with him will always overcome and be priority over my relationship with Melvin (my ED).

While I’m still coping with my body and not very happy with it, I am trying my best to be less self obsessED and more content(ED).

 

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