Tuesday, July 26, 2011

my Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to...
Accept the things I cannot change:
(things like...)
* my past
* other people's thoughts, feelings, & behaviors
* the fact that I am not perfect (and that's okay)
* my "set point" - the weight my body naturally wants & needs to be at to be healthy
The courage to change the things I can:
(things like...)
* recovery & ways that I cope
* my future
* standing up for myself & setting healthy boundaries with people
* accepting mistakes I make & accepting myself
* forgiving myself & loving myself
And the wisdom to know the difference:
Understanding that I can't always control what happens in my life - but I can control how I react to them, how I cope with them, and how I learn from them and move forward.
God, grant me the patience for all the changes that take time,
appreciation for all that I have,
tolerance for those with different struggles,
and the strength to get up and live one day at a time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Next Right Thing

I have been reading parts of the book Goodbye Ed, Hello Me recently. I love both of Jenni Schaefer's books. They have been a staple (a must have) throughout my recovery! My copies of both of her books are highlighted, underlined, written in, folded down pages for chapters I especially like... they are worn & broken in!

I love the way she writes and expresses things, I love that the chapters are short and simple, and I love that there is a chapter for so many of the obstacles that we need to face, overcome, and heal from as we are on our journey to recovery. And they are books that you can read over and over, as different parts will speak to you louder than others depending on where you are in your recovery. 

Last night, I was reading the chapter "The Next Right Thing." She actually has a chapter about this subject in both of her books. This is something that was vital for me to learn in my recovery, and it still is something that I am working on being better at. It's one of the ways I try to live my life. I try not to beat myself up when I make a mistake or I slip, and I also try not to use it as an "excuse" to keep going in whatever behavior I am engaging in. Like thinking... "Well, I started such and such behavior so... I might as well finish it." None of us in recovery are perfect, but that's okay. The goal is progress, NOT perfection. And the important thing to learn is that when you do slip - you don't have to keep going! You can do the next right thing. 

In "Life Without Ed" she talks about doing the next right thing in our recovery. And then in "Goodbye Ed, Hello Me" she expands this and talks about learning how to do the next right thing - not just in recovery - but in all aspects of our lives. And one quote that I really like is "If I relapsed, I learned that I needed to get back on track NOW, not later."
"Ed blindsided me. After several months of following my food plan with no binging and purging, yesterday, Ed came on strong with wanting me to binge. The situation was perfect for him. I was extremely hungry. I was at a place where I had frequently binged before. And I was bored. So, Ed took the opportunity to say, "Jenni, I know exactly what to do here. It will be fun - for old times sake." Before I even knew it was happening, Ed had me. I was in the middle of a binge. Then, Ed really jumped in stronger. He said, "Well, I guess you're back with me now. And you actually thought you were 'recovered.' Of course, tomorrow you are going to have to starve all day long in order to make up for this binge. Then, you'll need to restrict all week."

"No," I said to myself. "I will not go back there." The day after the binge, I refused to go back to Ed. Just one night with him reminded me of how miserable I was with him - how trapped I was. Instead I followed the advice that someone gave a girl in group therapy not long ago after she had relapsed. The advice was, "Do the next right thing." For that girl, the next right thing was to go home after group and eat dinner. For me, the next right thing was to eat breakfast.

Eating breakfast would be a huge violation of Ed's rules. He says, "If you eat breakfast, you won't be able to fit into that dress to wear to the baby shower today. If you eat breakfast, forget about ever wearing those jeans that you just bought. If you eat breakfast, you're going to have to work out extra hard this week. If you eat breakfast, you're a failure." I'll admit it. At the time, I almost agreed with Ed. He was very convincing. But even if I agreed with Ed, I could still disobey him, which is what I did.

Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman trophy winner throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast."

excerpt from "Life Without Ed" by Jenni Shaefer

Monday, July 18, 2011

a bagel with cream cheese, and a smile

There was a long period in my life when I would have rather died(!) than allowed myself (or even considered to allow myself) to eat a bagel with cream cheese! But that is exactly what I am doing right now (and there is no anxiety, no "should I, shouldn't I" thoughts, no guilt!) I'm just sitting here writing and eating a yummy bagel with a "normal" amount of cream cheese on it, and smiling because it tastes so good. And, I never could have believed that it would actually become one of my favorite foods... but it is!

It's moments like this when I am able to recognize how far I have come in my recovery, and how nice it is to actually be able to eat without feeling the guilt that the ed has consumed me with for so long. And even though, I do still have some foods that I struggle with, and even though I am still susceptible to restriction tendencies when I am having my "low moments" - I enjoy food a lot more now... And for that, I am grateful ; )

Sunday, July 17, 2011

letting go of the ed identity

“Sometimes a part of us must die before another part can come to life.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about this quote. I think it is a very powerful, freeing, yet terrifying thing. I think one reason why I held onto my eating disorder for as long as I did was because I was afraid that if I let it go - I would disappear. I would be nothing. That there was nothing to me except my ed identity. I felt like as the years went by, and I fell deeper and deeper into the ed - all of the other parts of me were slowly falling away. It consumed me, it was how people knew me ("the girl with the eating disorder"), it became me...

But throughout my years of struggling to recover. Through all of the ups and downs, the successes and relapses. Letting go of the ed identity and finding "jenn" again was always one of the main goals in my treatment. I would start to let the ed go but then I would get scared because people would ask me... "what does jenn feel?" "what does jenn like?" "what does jenn think?" And I rarely had an answer for this. I got so used to letting the eating disorder dictate and answer those questions for me. I felt lost without the ed. So naturally, I would run back to the ed and let it continue running my thoughts, my emotions, my life.

I felt like I would never be able to have the courage to truly let the ed go. I thought I would forever be wrapped in it's deadly arms. I felt like I would never be able to find "jenn" again. I thought I had lost her forever. She was too far gone, she was too entangled in the madness. But I had to find a way to let it go. I was running out of "second chances" with this illness, and with my life!

"There had to be a death of that persona before I could emerge from the disease and achieve full recovery. There also had to be a lot of pain and struggle because I was ultimately attached to that persona – it WAS me.

But ultimately, the pain that comes with the letting go of the eating disorder, the confusion and disorientation is absolutely necessary. It is a signal that a major shift is taking place. It may happen to us many times over, during different stages of our lives, as we say goodbye to the identity that we formed in order to survive through that period of our lives."
And then about a year ago, while on vacation with my family up in Park City, Utah. Something happened that I will never forget. I was in a pretty horrible relapse at the time. And my behaviors were pretty out of control. I remember one day, I was outside by myself sitting in a park area. It was quiet. Up in the canyons, away from the world, from everyday life. Just ME and the peaceful mountain air, the trees, the sun, the stillness & quiet. And something inside of me woke up. I felt a surge of calm rush through me. I felt a peace I hadn't felt in so long. A peace I never thought I would be able to find again. I remember feeling love (not sure where at the time where it was coming from, God maybe?) and I heard a voice saying over and over "It's okay. You can let go now. You are safe." I will never forget those words. They just kept repeating over and over in my thoughts. And I believed them. For the first time, I believed those words. The love and comfort I felt at that moment brought tears to my eyes and I just sat there for a while. Allowing it to fill me. Allowing it to give me the strength I so desperately needed.

I honestly feel like that was my turning point. Finally, after nearly 16 years of living a life entangled in the eating disorder, I was starting to believe that I might actually be able to let go and move forward in my life. That was the moment that I starting to really believe that it WAS possible to let go of the ed and find "jenn" again. That she has been out there the whole time, waiting for me to come find her. I did still have my hard times in the year that has followed that day in Park City. Really hard times. But I never let go of that moment and how I felt. And it was a big part of what has helped get me through and up to this point in my recovery.

Letting go of the ed, truly letting it go has been very difficult. The process has brought fear, sadness, anxiety, doubt, so many emotions - but it also has been freeing! And it has also brought strength, love, courage, determination, and so many other things. I am still working on finding out who I am without the ed. I am still on that journey. But I can honestly say that "jenn" is more in the driver's seat now then the ed. And that makes me feel truly grateful.

Friday, July 15, 2011

a new perspective on exercise

A little over a month ago, I renewed my gym membership. (Okay, I know what a lot of you are thinking right now but... hold on! And keep reading this post before you start to worry about me having a gym membership.) It's been a really long time since I have had a gym membership and to be honest, I was a little nervous. Especially since compulsive exercise was a big part of my eating disorder. But I trust myself, I trust all the progress I have made, and I trust my family and friends for their support if I feel like I am going too much, or it's starting to become compulsive again. 
But so far, so good! And I am pretty proud of myself for being "responsible" when it comes to how often, and how long I am working out. Naturally, there are those times when I push myself to go longer than I should, or when I go every single day when I know I shouldn't... but I have noticed that the main reasons for that are just a way of coping and releasing stress and not me trying to lose weight... Shocker! I know!! I bet a lot of you never thought you'd hear me say that. But I'm so happy & grateful to be able to say that I have been able to incorporate exercise into my life in a healthy way. A good way. A positive way.

Especially since in the past, pretty much my only motivation for exercising was to lose weight. (I did also use exercise in the past for the endorphins because I was so malnourished and tired all the time that I needed that "high" that exercise gave me.) But for the most part, it was to see the number on the scale drop lower and lower... and lower (and of course, no number was ever low enough...) But I'm learning to love & be comfortable with my body, and so even though I do still struggle with body image things - I am not acting on it, nor do I want to. I know I am healthy. I am right about where I should be. And I am slowly learning to accept that, be okay with that, and love that.

I'll be honest... a part of me still feels that urge to lose weight - not nearly as strongly - but it is still there. But I think the difference is that it's not the reason why I exercise now. When those thoughts do come, I try to ignore them the best I can. And when I can't ignore them, I try to distract myself or talk to someone about how I am feeling. Because I have learned, throughout my recovery process, that talking about how I am feeling is one of the BEST ways to give the ed thoughts less power. (instead of holding it inside, keeping it to myself -which only allows the thoughts to grow and become stronger.) And it works! Not always, but most of the time it works! And I am able to let go a little more from the ed and continue pushing it further and further out of my thoughts, emotions, and... my life!

My goals in regards to exercise now are:
  • rebuild & strengthen my muscles(!)
  • build up my endurance.
  • a (healthy) way to relieve stress & anxiety.
  • to feel strong, healthy, and capable.
  • get those "feel good" endorphins to boost my mood & give me energy.
  • also, even though I am at a healthy weight, I do still want to tone up a little. Which I think will only help me with my body image struggles. And give me that extra confidence. (But if you notice - it's the last thing on this list... It's not my focus when it comes to exercise, all of the other things that I listed are more important to me.)
But... I am doing all of this the healthy way. I'm trying to at least. And that is one of the differences between the old me and the new me. Exercise is a good thing to incorporate into your life. But in moderation, and in a healthy way. And not just at the gym. I also want to try to incorporate other means of exercise into my life like hikes, sports, swimming, dance, rock climbing, ect. I enjoy all of those things, and I enjoy an active lifestyle. For example: tonight, I am going indoor rock climbing. (something that was introduced to me earlier this year). And soon, I hope to try it outside as I continue building up my strength and endurance.

And also, another important thing is to make sure I am eating properly. And eating enough to compensate for my workouts is just as important! I am still a work in progress in both of these areas, but every day I am working on it. And when I slip, I just get back up and keep on going. I am trying to learn from my slips, and I am trying to live a healthy life. Not a "life according to the ed." And I do have to say... a life without the ed is a much happier one!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

no day but today

The heart may freeze, or it can burn
The pain will ease - if I can learn
There is no future
There is no past
I live each moment
As my last

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret - or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today

There's only us
Only tonight
We must let go
To know what's right
No other course
No other way
No day but today

I can't control
My destiny
I trust my soul
My only goal - is just to be

There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today