eating disorder 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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Setbacks and Pushes Forward

The beauty of life is that it constantly ebbs and flows. There is a quote that I love from my EDA Big Book, “life is not static and neither are we”. That easily applies to all facets of life–from the spiritual to professional. We are constantly in flux. Which can be a good thing. Sometimes it’s annoying. I know I’m not the only one who gets tired of life constantly changing, throwing things at you, jobs falling through, blowing you around like the wind during Oklahoma tornado season. You’re so topsy turvy that you don’t know which way is up and which is down, but you’re good at going side to side…or barely moving. The wind sets us back a few steps but if we turn the other direction that same wind pushes us forward.

 

Ever since I’ve moved to OKC my life has been filled with these set backs and forward pushes. Sometimes it is a lot to take in. There have been days I want to give up and just chuck it all out with the trash. Not the recyclables, the trash.  It has been disappointing to say the least when you hit your stride and all seems to be going well then life throws you a curveball. Jobs fall through. People let you down. You become confused on what you are supposed to be doing with your life. Nothing seems to go right. You face major set backs. You begin to wonder if you’ve been confusing life callings with selfish desires. You realize that you’ve been lying to yourself while holding on to a “dream“. To cope you begin to count calories, obsess over good and bad foods, regret switching up your workout routine, and spend WAY too much time on social media wishing you could switch feeds with those you follow. Sound familiar?

 

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However, just like the Oklahoma wind that never goes away, a change of direction happens. The winds get so blustery that you have to turn around and find a new route to your destination. Along that new route you encounter new people and opportunities. These winds push you forward into an unknown territory. You are slightly scared because no one likes wondering in to the unknown. It is rough, dark, scary, and difficult. You keep pushing forward because deep down you know something good will happen–I mean that’s what they tell you right?

 

Eventually you arrive at this new destination–or maybe it’s where you were heading. The point is you get there. This new direction hopefully added a new perspective to life. Maybe you realized something about yourself along the way, like you are quick to anger/jump off the deep end, talk to much, and may be a tad bit of an aggressive perfectionist. Knowing these insights will help you when you make the trip again. You won’t have that drastic of a set back and you can push forward with more gusto.

 

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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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To Those With Invisible Illnesses

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about invisibility. I’m not talking about the super power, I’m talking about things that can’t be seen. Like invisible illnesses. If you have followed me for some time or know me you are aware of my invisible illnesses: eating disorders, anxiety, un-diagnosed GI issues. But there are also more invisible illnesses: depression, other mental disorders, addiction, autoimmune diseases (fibro, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc…)With 1 in 5 adults experiencing or diagnosed with mental illness, and approx 50 million people living with an autoimmune disorder , chances are you have known someone who is suffering without you being aware of it it.

 

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Those of us who live with these various illnesses become masters of masking our pain with smile and concealing it better than the best make up concealer in the world. Sometimes we are too good at covering it up that people don’t believe us.  Invisible illnesses are also hard to explain when on the outside you look happy and healthy but internally your body is waging war. It seems that unless we bear our souls, post a billion IG videos documenting our lives, send up prayer requests in small groups, act sick all the time, become hermits; then do people only sorta begin to understand or have a bit of sympathy.

I can’t tell you how many times people don’t believe me when I say I have an illness. When I first began to seek help for my eating disorder I constantly heard, “you don’t look like you have one”, “you aren’t emaciated, just thin, only emaciated people have eating disorders”, “but you eat. how can you have anorexia when you I see you eat all the time?”,  “you can’t be addicted to exercise, exercise is healthy!”. Now with my mysterious GI issues I hear, “you are too young to have this problem”, “are you sure you have a problem?”, “it’s just IBS”. Do this sound familiar? “You’re just tired, “all you need is a nap”, “you’re being over dramatic”, “do more yoga”, “try this essential oil”…the list goes on and on.

 

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I have blogged about this before and keep discussing it in therapy, how difficult it is for me to work on cultivating a positive body image when my body hates me. Who else has been there? Between people not believing us, the doctors appointments, the episodes, bland diets, and tears we forget that we aren’t our illness.  It is so easy to get caught up in the physical that we wear ourselves down even more. The disconnect continues to grow and fester till it’s unbearable. But is it truly unbearable?

How can it be bearable? By coming together and lifting each other up. Reminding one another that we are beautiful beings who are capable of so much more; that there is more to life and even on our worst day it’s a miracle that we are even here. We can also see each other–and I don’t mean physically look. I mean really see. Recognize others who are like us and show support. Educate others on these invisible illnesses and teaching them how to show support for people like us. For my yogis out there, really practice Namaste.   Lastly, take time to remind yourself that you aren’t your body by reading this meditation. Then reach out to someone who needs to be seen, fully loved, and fully heard.

 

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So next time you are all alone in our bedroom wrapped up in our favorite blanket cuddling with our doggy waiting for our episode to be over, that we aren’t alone. There is someone else out there wrapped up in their favorite blanket, cuddling with their animal, waiting for their episode to be over.