bulimia 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

A Whole 30 Full of Nothing

Congratulations! You made it through January. 31 days full of hope, can do attitudes, intentions, and of course….“diets”. Between juice cleanses, Paleo, vegan, Keto, vegetarian, it’s hard to see straight. Did you see one or more of these flood your social media? If your feeds look like mine over half of your friends chose Whole 30 as their New Years diet of choice. For 30 days my feed was full of Larabars,  kale chips, strawberries, and why sugar (in all forms) and gluten is the devil, why you need to cleanse yourself by restricting your food in take, and most important a mindset that a majority of food(s) are bad.

Too me that doesn’t sound like a diet. It sounds like an eating disorder. Eating disorders are extremely deceptive and sneak up on you. They creep up in the middle of the night posing as a good dream–dreaming of pounds lost, a healthy intestinal tract, clear skin, a sense of worth because you made it thirty days with little food. ED’s and food restriction give you something that most people can’t, a feeling of superiority–which when you lack confidence this superiority feels really, really, really, really, good. But ED’s devour you and suck you in. Eating disorders like to make you think that you are in control but you aren’t! They are. ED’s manipulate science, buzz words, and use scare tactics to keep you under their thumb.

 

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Before you know it you have drank the (no sugar) Kool-Aid filled with collagen peptides and bone broth, you’re a “whole food expert”  giving everyone nutrition advice because you have done something that is seen as hardcore and valuable. Or  you give advice because you got a six week certification, so that means you are superior to someone who has a masters or doctorate.  If you have made it this far, another congratulations! If you disagree with me and want to blast me online go ahead, you won’t hurt me.

Hear me out though. This is why I write this. Here is a quote from one of Melissa’s blog posts,Food freedom is feeling in control of the food that you eat, instead of food controlling you.“. That right there is blatant eating disordered talk. To make it even more infuriating, she follows up with this,

“Food freedom doesn’t mean that you’re a perfect eater, however. It doesn’t mean you always make the “right” decision. It doesn’t mean you always stay on track, and never fall back into old habits. Food freedom means that when you fall off course, you don’t let it ruin your day (or your week), physically or emotionally. It means you always have a plan for returning to a place of healthy balance, gracefully. It means you recognize that life happens, but every “slip” is actually a learning experience, and your food freedom plan is that much more robust for these lessons.

Food freedom demands that you’re in this for the long haul. There is no hack for food freedom; no shortcut or quick fix. It’s you, working my 3-step Food Freedom plan, day in and day out, every single day. There are no weeks off. There is no “I’m on vacation, so I’m just not going to think about it.” You can’t disconnect from your body or your relationship with food when things get hard. Food freedom demands more attention than that.”

 

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This is prime example of the smooth operator that an ED is. It is mixed messaging at its finest. Sure this sounds good, we all want food freedom, but look at her language. Words such as: right (ED: terms good/bad), slip (ED term: relapse), demanding attention, and that you have to do it HER way are setting someone up for an eating disorder. Sure you may not give in to this aspect of it, However, someone who is upset with their life, looking for control, coping with a traumatic event, etc… this language and concept will lead them down an eating disorder path. Conversely if someone has orthorexia (obsession with clean eating/healthy eating) using Whole 30 is the perfect cover up. It gives them a reason that is societally ok to be this obsessive. Which as a recovery warrior is the last thing I want see.

I want to see women and men have food freedom because they want it, not because someone else told them to or because their diet is “less than”. I want them to find their own version of healthy by working with a dietician who can customize a program for them.  I want them to work out in a smart, evidence based manner, where the results are actually a lifestyle that is maintainable. Everyone deserves a healthy lifestyle but at an eating disorder free cost.

 

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For more articles about eating disorders and Whole 30 see the following:

 

***P.S-I am aware that there is a post about ED’s and Whole 30 on the Whole 30 blog. It is very generic and in my opinion glazes over some the of deeper issues that sets eating disorders apart from disordered eating (gateway to ED’s) and doesn’t take the seriousness of this issue.

 

 

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!

Stepping into Karma

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”-Step 12, EDA Version

karma: Sanskrit for action

 

In many different spiritual paths we are called to help and be of service to others. Through serving others we are able to show people that kindness does exist in what can be seen as a cruel world. That there is something more to life than just the everyday drudgery of Facebook scrolling, Neflixing, coffee drinking, working that 9-5, and sleeping. For those of us who have chosen a recovered life it is imperative that we serve others who were once (still) like us by sharing our story and helping them out.

Step 12 is an action step calling for us to be stewards and it reminds me of another action: karma. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, but the concept of “what goes around comes around” isn’t what karma truly is. My favorite explanation of karma is by Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With Heart, “karma means that nothing arises by itself. Every experience is conditioned by that which precedes it. Thus our life is a series of interrelated patterns” (273). Kornfield later states, “the intention or attitude that we bring to each situation of life determines the kind of karma we want to create. Day to day, moment to  moment, we can begin to see the creation of the patterns of karma based on the intentions in our heart” (279).

 

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This is precisely what those of us in recovery are to do with our daily lives while waving our recovery flags. Our hearts are to be so devoted to recovery that everything we do is to be intentional. Our intentions for sharing our stories isn’t to be boastful and “hey, look at me” it is to be honest, real, and selfless. We are intentionally making new patterns of behavior to correct patterns of the past.  It reminds me of a quote from my EDA Book, “As we begin to realize that our world has been changed for the better through the step work we have done, we simultaneously become aware that the gift of life in recovery comes with the responsibility to share it with others. Now that we have begun to experience healing in our lives we must extend a hand to those who still suffer”.

I hadn’t really thought much about my own personal recovery lately. I have been falling short on my steps–honestly I haven’t been living a 12 Step life. I lost my mission that I sat out to do when I first began this blog. I began imageoftheheart to share my experience with others who suffer or know people who are suffering, to help them make sense of this disordered world. And what have I been doing? Nothing. I haven’t been generating any  karma, just a pool of nothing.

 

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Over the past month people have reached out to me. I have answered questions on how to support loved ones with EDs. I’ve shared posts with those who are new to recovery. I even helped someone seek recovery. Between the Facebook messages and emails something began to stir within me. Something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Purpose. Direction. A moving current of karma. This karma current swelled within my heart and helped me get back on track. To start the steps over, to be intentional in my recovery and not just throw it to the side like stale piece of bread.

If what Kornfield says is true, “The heart is our garden, and along with each action there is an intention that is planted like a seed. The result of the patterns of our karma is the fruit of these seeds.(277)”. I want to sow beautiful fruit-ripe, juicy, organic recovery fruit. I am tired of have OK, slightly spotty recovery fruit. Since this is a new month I am taking accountability for my actions and starting over. Tilling up my soil and ready to sow new fruit that is sweet with karma.

How is the karma in your life? Are you generating positive action while sowing sweet fruit or are you just skirting by and sowing OK fruit? Are living with intention and removing yourself out of your actions towards others? If you aren’t happy with the answers or the taste of your fruit then take some time to re-focus. Make an intention to be intentional. Lend a helping hand to someone in need, share your story, hold space for others. Generate karma.

 

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comfortED

I’m baaaaccck….again. I know I keep  saying I’ll be consistent and keep writing but yet here I am three months (ish) since my last post. So where have I been? I’ve been teaching lots and lots yoga. I’ve been doing chores, lots and lots of chores. I’ve also been trying to stay one step ahead of Melvin, and dealing with the loneliness that has surfaced. With each passing day I say to myself, “I need to write”, “this would be a great post”, “you could be writing right now since you aren’t doing anything but watching Netflix “,or “I’m too emotionally spent to do anything but watch Netflix”. Lately though I have felt compelled to come back. There have been too many self discoveries, perfect post ideas, and recently I’ve been encouraging others in their recovery journey. So here I am, watching Netflix (think a British version of House Hunters) and writing my first post in three months. Here we go…

This past Sunday in Small Groups we were asked a question, “What is your favorite comfort food?”. All of us had to answer as a way to promote class bonding and get prepared for the lesson (how God is the ultimate comforter and through his comfort we can be of comfort for others-awesome right?!). We go around and everyone answers. People talk about their mom’s macaroni and cheese, their grandmother’s chicken spaghetti, ice cream, cupcakes from this cupcakery in Wilco, Texas, chocolate chip cookies with coffee,  and pad thai and other Asian noodle dishes (my husbands answer). I was last and it was my turn! All eyes were on me. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t think of anything. I eat avocado brownies-not comforting. I eat lentils-I have a favorite recipe but it isn’t what I’d call comfort food. I drink protein shakes with collagen-not comforting. I have sweet treats that I binge on (dairy free ice cream of the chocolate chip cookie dough persuasion to name a handful) but those indulgences don’t comfort me–they have the opposite effect. Luckily the leader’s wife helped me out. She made a really witty joke about how my food allergies keep me from having any comfort food. She has a point, I mean I can’t eat my mom’s macaroni and cheese anymore.

 

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All during class I couldn’t shake the fact that food doesn’t comfort me. Here I am six years later and I still have a hard time with food. I cannot use food for comfort because it will trigger a binge; which will lead to a purge session either on the treadmill or weightlifting bench.If it doesn’t lead to a binge it will lead to self loathing. There are times I really do enjoy food (like the vegan ramen from Goru Ramen in the Plaza District, Ridgewood BBQ back home, anytime I eat pizza, Holey Rollers donuts) but food is still a form of survival. I eat because I have to. I eat because I get hangry if I don’t. I eat because I have fitness goals. I eat because starving sucks. I eat so I can keep Melvin at bay. I eat because that’s what humans do.

Taking this a step further and using our Small Group lesson about comfort I started thinking about how ED’s are used as a comfort. Those of us who live with an eating disorder or lived with one, found comfort in it at one point in our lives. Instead of God, family, music, faith, food, yoga–counting calories, lifting sessions, and laxatives became our comfort. When our friends weren’t there our ED was. When our family didn’t understand us, our ED did. When God forsook us, our ED showed us the way. When we were alone and misunderstood, our ED “got us”. Everything was cold, hard, and dreary, except for our disorder.

We believe our ED is a comfort instead of what it really is-a discomfort. We can’t see the discomfort that our disorder is causing us because we have been so manipulated by its words and the false sense of purpose it gives us. We believe with every calorie it will replace the friends we are losing.  We believe that every minute on the treadmill will warm us up like a flannel blanket. We believe that every meal we skip will save us from the torment that is our life. When in fact its the opposite. Those skipped meals aren’t warm flannel blankets. Those perfect calorie counts and hours on the treadmill don’t comfort us like our friends and faith will. The only comfort we have is knowing that there is something bigger and better than our disease. The only comfort, even though it can be just as discomforting, is recovery and placing faith in a higher power. That is the warm flannel blanket. That is what warms our hearts. That is our comfort food.

 

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