Thursday, May 31, 2012

reflections


As I sit here and reflect back on this past month, I feel a lot of gratitude.  I have really enjoyed participating in this writing challenge and I have also really enjoyed reading everyone else's blogs too!  Writing is in my soul, and the easiest way for me to express myself is through words.

Some of the topics were easier to write about, and some of them were more difficult... because they brought out emotions and feelings that I am still sensitive about.  But I found strength in writing about those particular topics, and I found strength in the words of other's who also participated in this challenge.  I think this challenge has strengthened my recovery and has also healed some of the things that are still a bit fragile in me.  And for that, I am grateful.

But tomorrow is the start of Arielle's Word of the Day Challenge and I can't wait to see what this new blogger challenge will bring.  Because when we UNITE, we become STRONGER.  When we share our experiences through our blogs, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we help to strengthen others.  No matter where we are in our recovery - we are ALL strong women and I feel so blessed to have met all of you.
  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Someday I...


 

Someday I hope to...
get married and raise a family of my own.
continue strengthening my recovery, and living a healthy & happy life.
continue to pursue my dreams and my passions.
get involved in some kind of humanitarian work.
 do everything I can to be a voice & raise awareness,
and support those who are struggling with eating disorders & addictions.



Someday I hope too...
Live life to the fullest.
Always stay grateful for all of my blessing and never take anything for granted.
Let go of the hurt and pain from my past and allow myself to heal.
Be able to truly love myself inside and out (imperfections and all).
Hold the people & things that matter to me close to my heart - always.
And to... live, love, & laugh often!


This is my Song...


It's hard for me to pick just one song because music has been - and is - such a big part of my life.  But the song that I chose is one of the songs on my recovery playlist.  It has been a calm in my chaotic world.  It has given me strength, hope, & peace.  It has... just like the title says... Lifted me up. 

"Lift Me Up" 
Kate Voegele

This road is anything but simple
Twisted like a riddle
I've seen high and I've seen low
So loud, the voices of all my doubts
Telling me to give up
To pack up and leave town

But even so I had to believe
Impossible means nothing to me

So can you lift me up?
And turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome more than words will ever say
And I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And that a day will come when the fight is won
And I think that day has just begun

Somewhere, everybody starts there
Counting on a small prayer
Lost in a nightmare
But I'm here and suddenly it's so clear
The struggle through the long years
It taught me to outrun my fears

And everything that's worth having
Comes with trials worth withstanding

[Chorus]

Oh lift me up, oh lift me up, oh lift me up
Oh lift me up, oh lift me up, oh lift me up
Down and out is overrated
I need to be elevated
Looking up is not enough
I would rather rise above

[Chorus]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

reality check!


Eating disorders destroy lives.  Eating disorders slowly tear you down inside and out, leaving you lost and broken.  Eating disorders kill.  There is nothing glamorous or cool about them.  The reality is that they will take EVERYTHING away from you... and they won't stop until they've taken your last breath.

Here is a glimpse into what my reality was like:
  • Severe malnutrition.  My body was so starved that it was slowly shutting down.
  • I got sick really easily because my immune system was so weakened.
  • My muscles ached constantly, especially at night and it was almost impossible to fall asleep sometimes because of the pain.  My joints ached all the time and made it hard to move sometimes.
  • I felt cold all of the time and was unable to get warm no matter how many layers I wore.
  • Sometimes I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without having trouble breathing or feeling exhausted.
  • The loneliness, hurt, & sadness ached so deeply inside that, at times, I didn't want to live anymore.
  • I would lose handfuls of hair every day, I stopped getting my period, and my skin became very dry.
  • Heart palpitations, electrolyte imbalance's, dehydration almost daily.
  • I couldn't focus, I couldn't concentrate, I couldn't remember things very well.
  • Severe digestive problems.
  • Insomnia.
  • Exercising to the point of collapsing.
  • Frequent trips to the emergency room.
  • Hospital stays and treatment programs.
  • Laxative, diuretic, diet pill, & prescription drug abuse.
  • Dizziness every time I stood up, and passing out also became a very frequent occurrence.
  • The fear of eating became so severe that it crippled me and caused severe anxiety.
  • I became withdrawn and depressed.
  • I was barely functioning in my day to day life.
  • Exercise, weight, calories, ect. consumed most of my thoughts and my time.  I became a prisoner to my eating disorder.
  • It got to the point at one time where my body was so weak, I got a severe kidney infection, my body started to shut down, I developed pneumonia, I went into septic shock and respiratory failure.  My body was so damaged, I nearly lost my life. 

But the WONDERFUL thing is that... you CAN find your way out.  You CAN rise above all of this and you CAN live again.  Because living with an eating disorder is NOT living... it's a slow suicide.  Recovering from my eating disorder was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  It was scary and painful.... but it was also the BEST thing I ever did because in the end I got my life back!  I found the peace, happiness, and freedom that I had lost for so long and feared I would never find again.  But I did find it, and you can too!  

Recovery is worth it.  YOU are worth it! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

I can't believe that I...


I can't believe that I... 
am an intuitive eater.

This is a really big deal for me because I honestly never thought that I would get to the point in my recovery where I could eat intuitively.  My hunger and fullness cues were completely screwed up, eating mindfully terrified me, listening to my body terrified me, and eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full... well, these were ALL things that that I couldn't comprehend.  I had ignored and shut off these things for so long, and the fear that I had built up inside of me was so strong that it was really hard for me to believe that I could actually trust my body, listen to my hunger and fullness cues, and eat mindfully.  

It took a lot of hard work.  A lot of trust in my treatment team.  A lot of trust in myself.  A lot of patience.  And a lot of forward steps and backwards steps but... I can finally say that I am an intuitive eater.  Of course, I still have my bad days, I still have the days where I struggle and let my emotions affect my eating... but most days, I eat intuitively.  And it is one of the most freeing feelings.  It makes eating enjoyable again now that I am not letting the eating disorder dictate my meal plan for the day, and I am not so fearful of food.  It really is quite an amazing thing to me.  And if I can do it, than anyone can do it because I honestly thought that I was a hopeless mess when it came to intuitive eating.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

ED activist/sufferer/survivor Book Review


This is a book that I got in treatment.  I have read it over and over... and over.  And I still continue to read it when I need a little extra encouragement.  My copy is highlighted, circled, underlined, written in with my own thoughts, certain pages are dog-eared... let's just say it's been used a lot!  I have had the opportunity to meet the author, talk with her, & hear her inspiring words and music. 

Her name is Jenni Schaefer. She is someone who I think is such a beautiful example of recovery and using her voice to raise awareness, to educate, & to support others who are struggling.  The book is "Life Without ED" and if you haven't read it, I really encourage you to go out and get it today!  She also has a second book that is just as good called "Goodbye ED, Hello Me."   Which I also think you should go out and get!  Her words are powerful, but they are also very relatable.  I recommend this book to anyone struggling with an eating disorder.



recovery toolbox


I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me in my recovery.  It think it's so important for us to have our "recovery toolboxes" so we have those things can that help us, soothe us, encourage us, inspire us, help us cope, & keep us strong in our recovery.  Here are some of mine:

Friends & Family:  This one is very important to me.  To have their continued support is a huge strength in my recovery.  I think that it's so important to have people that you can trust, that you can talk to, that you can lean on when you are struggling.  And I have found in my own experience that when I voice my thoughts, feelings, or urges... I am less likely to act on eating disorder behaviors.  Because when I am able to talk about it and process it in a healthy way, I have found that the behaviors then don't seem as strong and overpowering.   Talking to someone gives the eating disorder less power, and makes you a lot stronger.

Be Creative: Creativity is a HUGE part of my life.  It's one of the biggest parts of ME.  I use this a lot in my recovery also, whether it is through art, music, writing, it was the easiest & most natural way for me to express my feelings.  To understand and process my feelings in a healthy way.  I am a very creative person and I spend a lot of my time in my every day life doing things that are creative.  Music is a huge one for me.  Music soothes me and helps me to center myself.  It is one of the things that I go to when I need some peace or comfort.  Music heals me.  Another one is writing.  Writing is in my soul.  Whether it's songwriting, journaling, poems, stories, letters, whatever... writing is one of my biggest passions.  And it has helped me and continues to help me in my recovery.

Mindfulness: The definition of mindfulness is:  "Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience. For example, a mindful approach to one's inner experience is simply viewing "thoughts as thoughts" as opposed to evaluating certain thoughts as positive or negative."  This one was so so so so hard for me to learn!  Feeling my feelings and staying in the moment were things that I was terrified of and I ran away from it for the longest time during my recovery.  But once I was finally able to learn how to be mindful.  Things changed, and they changed for the better!  It's a process for sure, and I am still learning how to be mindful, but I find that when I am mindful when it comes to eating, to exercising, to feeling my feelings, or just living each day... I have found that things are SO much better when I am being mindful.

Helping others:  I love to help others.  Whether it's through acts of service, helping people who are in need, giving a note to someone who is having a rough day, or helping others who are struggling with their own addictions and need support... my heart is filled when I am able to give of myself to help someone else.  When we do things for other people, it takes us away from our own "selves" and our own problems.  And who doesn't feel happy when they know they are helping someone else or making someone else's day a little better?  I think service is such an important thing.  And I believe this is one of the things we can do that not only helps the person we are helping but it also helps us become stronger in our own recovery. 

Those are the main things in my toolbox... but there are also other things in there.  Things that I use to help soothe me, things to help me cope when I am struggling, and things to help me stay strong in my recovery.  Some of those things are:  Laying outside in the sun reading, writing, or just closing my eyes and relaxing.  Taking a nap, going for a walk, going for a drive, talking a bubble bath, getting a massage.  Eating no matter what.  Especially when I don't feel like eating - because when I don't feel like eating... it usually means I need to eat.  Exercising in a healthy way.  Coloring in a coloring book or drawing.  Putting together a jigsaw puzzle!  That is one of the things that relaxes me the most.  I love to sing along to music and sit on my floor and work on a puzzle.  Going to the park and swinging on the swings.  Playing sports.  Spending time with people I love.  Going window shopping or browsing through thrift stores and finding hidden treasures. 

I think it's SO important to have a recovery toolbox, and I hope that all of you who haven't made one already, can think about the things that you can put in your toolbox and then USE those things when you need them.  Our toolboxes are there to strengthen our recovery and to strengthen ourselves.  That's what they are there for!  They are there to protect us from relapses and from the eating disorder.  So let your toolbox help you.  They can and they will if you let them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

parent conference


If I could talk to a parent who had a daughter or son struggling with an eating disorder, I would tell them to... love her/him.  They are most likely hurting and even though their behaviors might make it hard to love them at times... love them still.  They might not realize it, and you might not either, but they desperately need your love.  Unconditional and sincere.  Just love them, support them, and encourage them in every way that you can.  Let them know that you are there for them always, and no matter what.

Learn to separate your child from their illness.  Your daughter or son is NOT their eating disorder (though it made seem like it).  It is something that has taken hold of your child and they are lost inside of it... but your child is still there, they just need someone to find them.  Someone to help THEM find themselves again.  To find a way out of the illness and back to that person that they were, and the person that they are.

Never give up on them.  If they are anything like me - it is gonna be a fight for their life.  It is going to be a long road full of ups and downs.  And there will be many times where it seems like they are never going to let go of the eating disorder... but if they keep holding on, keep fighting, and keep believing... they will recover.  Recovery IS possible!  It's not easy but it is possible.  It will probably be the hardest thing they will ever go through.  But it is possible.  So never give up on them.  Support them as much as you can.  Encourage them.  Be there for them.  Listen to them.  BELIEVE in them.

Get them help as soon as possible!  Early intervention is so important when it comes to eating disorders.  One thing my parents wish they could have done differently was to get me help sooner.  But it's hard sometimes when people aren't educated or don't understand how severe eating disorders can be.   A lot of the time, parents think it's just a phase, they are just acting out and doing it for attention, that they "just need to eat", ect.  I know my parents felt this way.  Parents are in denial a lot of the time too and they don't want to see it or believe that it could happen to their child.  But you can't close your eyes and wish it away.  Your child needs help.  And they need it now.  So do whatever you can, with whatever resources you have to get your child to a therapist, doctor, dietitian, support group, inpatient, outpatient, treatment of ANY kind - whatever you can do.  There are things behind their eating disorder that need to be healed.  And they can't do that alone.  And depending on the severity of their illness - their life could be in danger.  They need intervention.  They need people to help them medically, emotionally, mentally, & spiritually.

Find a support group for YOU if you can or become educated about your child's illness (by reading books, talking to people, doing research) so you can better help them or understand them.  I know you are probably so confused and so scared.  And if you are able to find an outlet (like a support group for friends & family) then you can release your own feelings and find help for yourself.  Eating disorders affect you too.  Understanding eating disorders and getting the support you need for YOU is so important.  It is one of the best ways you can help your child.  And one of the best ways you can stay strong to continue fighting for them.  This is going to be a long journey and you need to make sure that you take care of yourself too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

choose a quote that means something to you


There are so many quotes that I love.  So many!  And it's hard to choose just one... but the one I chose for today is the quote that I read every single day.  It's framed and hanging up in my room.  And it's a quote that has helped me - and still continues to help me in my recovery and in life.  And it will be words that I will lean on for the rest of my life.

"Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
At the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow."

I love this quote because I think it fits perfectly with the whole attitude of "progress not perfection."  And while I was struggling to recover I seemed to have soooo many setbacks, steps backwards, no steps at all, relapses, ect. And I was feeling so frustrated that I couldn't seem to hang on to recovery.  And that I kept failing.  But what I didn't realize was that you can only fail if you stop trying.  And so I took this quote and held it close to my heart and reminded myself daily (usually many times a day) that courage is not these huge powerful steps forward - a lot of the time it is the quieter, smaller steps that we make that really can make an impact.  Courage is about trying, and doing the best that we can.  And that to me is what recovery is all about.  It's what life is all about.


(the quote that is hanging on my wall)

keep YOU, kick ED!


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 eating disorder. I felt like as the years went by, and I fell deeper and deeper into the eating disorder - 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 in it's control. 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!

Letting go of the eating disorder, I mean truly letting it go has been very difficult for me. 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 wonderful things! I am still working on finding out who I am without the eating disorder. It's a process.  But here are some of the things that I have discovered about myself and who I am:

I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a girlfriend, a friend, a coworker.  I love to laugh and be silly.  I love being around other people, but occasionally I need some "me" time.  I am passionate about music, writing, and anything that is creative.  I am sensitive... sometimes too much.  I am shy when I first meet people.  I love to rock climb.  I love to be active.  I love to be outside.  I love learning new things.  Sometimes I am lazy, and sometimes I like to sleep in.  I usually try to see the best in things, but sometimes I can be moody.  I love going out and doing things but I also enjoy spending nights in.  I love shopping, clothes, and fashion.  I like to curl up with a good book or movie.  And I do have a slight addiction to the soap opera General Hospital.  I am a spontaneous person.  I love road trips.  I love to dance.  I adjust really well with change and I am a go with the flow type of person.  My favorite food is spaghetti.  I am emotional.  My favorite color is lime green - but I also like pink, silver, and red.  I am a spiritual person and that is something that is important to me.  I love learning new things and challenging myself.  I want to get married and have a family someday soon.  I want to travel and experience new things.  I am a hard worker.  I like things clean and organized... but I occasionally let that slide if I am feeling lazy.  I really want a little puppy named Snoop (yes, like snoop dogg). I love the spring, summer, and fall - and I hate the winter.  I have a lot of things that I want to do in my life but I also try to live day to day and enjoy the things I have in my life now.  And I am a survivor.

Monday, May 21, 2012

healers with heart


To one of the care techs at my first inpatient treatment center,

I was so scared.  I had never been in treatment before and I wasn't sure I wanted to be there.  All of my coping skills were being taken away and I felt like I just wanted to run for the door and back to the world I knew... my eating disorder.  I was so sad, so lost, and I was sitting by myself on the couch that first day.  I didn't talk.  I didn't know what to say.  I didn't know what to do.  But I remember you coming over and sitting next to me.  You smiled and introduced yourself.  The caring that I saw in your eyes made me feel comforted.  You talked to me for a long time, and I felt like you cared about what I had to say.  You were the first person who made me feel safe in such a scary place.  And 6 years later, I haven't forgotten that day.  I never will.  Because you cared.  Because you listened to me.  And you did every day until my discharge date.  And I want to thank you for that.  You were a healer with a heart, and you probably won't ever know the impact you made on me - but it was a big one.  You were there for me during the meals, you were there for me afterwards when I needed someone to calm me down.  You were there for me after hard sessions with my therapist, dietitian, or doctor.  You were there when I got in trouble.  You were there to help calm my anxiety.  You were always there when I needed you.  And that meant a lot to me.  You were there at the beginning.  You helped me to be brave.  And I will never forget that.

Sincerely,
a girl who was once lost but has now found her way

Sunday, May 20, 2012

the sound of silence


One of the things I that used to be the most afraid of, is now one of the things that I am the most grateful for...
...my voice.

As I little girl, it seemed like whenever I would try to express my feelings - I would be ignored, missunderstood, made fun of, or it would come out wrong and I would get in trouble.  And so I started to hide.  I kept things to myself.  And I started to believe that silence was the only way I would feel safe.  If I kept my feelings, my thoughts, my secrets to myself then I couldn't get hurt.  But what it was really doing was killing me.  Slowly, the silence was breaking apart my already fragile spirit.  On the outside, I had my mask on.  I became really good at pretending to be okay - when on the inside I was lost and hurting.

And then at 13 years old, I found a way to express those feelings.  I found a way to cope with those feelings.  My eating disorder became my voice.  It said the things that I couldn't say. The things I didn't know how to say.  The things I was afraid to say.  And I hid behind my eating disorder.  It wasn't until being in therapy for many years that I was able to slowly start to find my voice.  That voice that I lost so long ago.  It was always there inside of me... I just stopped using it, and then eventually forgot how to use it and then became very fearful of using it.  But because of my family, my friends, and some amazing people who were on my treatment team - I found my voice again.  And I slowly learned how to use that voice again.  And that was one of the greatest gifts recovery has given me. 

Something that was said to me so often in treatment is "our secrets keep us sick."  And they do.  But those secrets need to be heard so that there can be healing.  So my prayer today is that all of you out there who are still struggling to find your voice - that you will find that strength deep inside to take the steps you need to reclaim that voice.  Your life depends on it, and it's worth it!  YOU are worth it!

write a love life limerick


I never knew what it meant to truly be alive,
Until I stepped out of the darkness and let recovery save my life.
And now I laugh, and love, and live,
And I have so much that I want to give.
Because I didn't just survive... But I am also learning how to thrive.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

changing places


For today's challenge, we are supposed to see the eating disorder through someone else's eyes.  When we are consumed with our eating disorders - we don't see how it is affecting other people.  We think that it is only hurting us... but the truth is (and this is true with any addiction) is that it IS affecting everyone around you.  Addictions don't just hurt you, but they also affect the people who love you, and the people in your life. 

I asked my mom if she would answer the question on today's writing challenge and share what it was like for her to have a daughter struggling with an eating disorder.  Some of what she wrote was really hard for me to read because I still feel so much guilt for what I put people through because of my struggles - but it needs to be shared.  Our loved ones need their voices heard because eating disorders affect them to.  So this is what my mom wrote:

What did I see? 

I saw a girl become very insecure and her self confidence and self esteem go completely away during this time.  I saw a beautiful girl lose her physical beauty to pale skin color, thinning hair, very frail body and when I would look in her eyes, there was so much sadness, loneliness and darkness.  I saw a fun, active girl become so weak that she would pass out when she stood up, couldn't get out of bed most days and had no strength to keep a job or take care of herself .  I saw a compassionate girl become so obsessed with anything and everything she could do to please the eating disorder that she became selfish, dishonest and ungrateful for what others were trying to do to help her.  I saw a girl at the end of her " hanging on" to what was left of her real self and crying desperately for help - any kind of help - but not strong enough to accept and comply to receive that help.

What did I feel?

It took me many years to accept that my daughter had an eating disorder.  I felt she was a picky eater, unmotivated and too much into looking thin.  Then when the eating disorder was in almost complete control and I was seeing the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological effects of it, I felt TERRIFIED!!!  I felt helpless, frustrated, stress, betrayed, unappreciated, depressed, insomnia, guilt, lost, extreme sorrow, my heart breaking, etc. 

What did I do?

I cried ALOT!!! I prayed ALOT!!! I tried to change her and fix "IT". I went to counseling sessions with her.  I read books on eating disorders.  I went to counseling for me to understand this eating disorder and how I could accept what was happening to my daughter.  I learned that I could not fix or change my daughter (a very hard thing to accept and apply).  I had to separate the eating disorder from who my daughter really was.  I learned to love my daughter unconditionally, focus on her, and how to not encourage eating disorder behaviors and thoughts by what I said and how I reacted to her.  I learned to validate her feelings and just LISTEN.  I did not need to give her advice or criticism.  I so much wanted to build a relationship with my daughter by letting her know I loved her no matter what she did or said, that I would be there for her at all times, that she could call me anytime she needed help or needed strength to fight the eating disorder, that she could trust me to just listen to her talk, that I would fight for her and I would help her go through recovery however she wanted my help.

Do I regret or would I have done something different?

Yes, I have many regrets about things I have done or said to my daughter.  I know I contributed to part of the problem or the cause of her turning to the eating disorder for the reasons that she did.  If I knew then what I know now about eating disorders, I believe the degree to which my daughter suffered in the eating disorder would not have been as severe. The lack of knowledge people have of eating disorders is unfortunate.  I truly believe that the more people are aware of and understand this terrible disease, the less suffering there would be and there would be more support that is so desperately needed.

How do I feel about where my daughter is now? 

I feel very blessed and fortunate that my daughter is in such a good place now in her recovery.  I am so grateful for the health of her body after all the destructive behaviors she was engaged in. This is a great blessing!  I am grateful that she came to the moment in her life where she really felt in her heart that she did not want to live with the eating disorder any more and she took small steps at a time to climb out of that hole. I feel blessed that she continues to fight the thoughts and behaviors of the eating disorder.  I feel blessed that she met a special young man that told her she was beautiful (inside and outside) before he even knew about the eating disorder and continues to support her in such a healthy way.  I feel blessed to see her smile and see the glow in her eyes again.  My daughter is BEAUTIFUL inside and out!  I know she still has her struggles with the eating disorder.  I know this is something she will always have to fight.  I believe the fight will get easier as she continues to become confident and secure in who she is and what her purpose is in this life. 

What are my hopes?

My hopes are for my daughter to become a strong woman who truly believes in herself and that she is beautiful.  I hope her dreams will become a reality.  I hope she will become a wife and a mother and share her love with her beautiful family.  I hope she will continue to share her experiences of how she has survived an eating disorder and to encourage, motivate and be an example to others that are struggling and trying to find the courage and strength to beat this disease. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

attitude makeover


My attitude makeover goal is to stop being so hard on myself.  Because I am.  I have been ever since I was very young.  I was very critical with myself, impatient with myself, and constantly compared myself to everyone around me.  And these things caused me to harbor feelings of not being good enough or feeling like a failure.  Through my treatment, I have been able to work on this and let go of some of these feelings...  But I still notice it affecting my life and how I feel about myself. 

It's weird because I am very understanding and patient with other people, but when it comes to ME... I can't seem to have that same sentiment.  I know I can't be perfect at everything, that I will make mistakes, that it might take me longer to learn something than I would like it to... but it's hard for me to not get frusterated or critical of myself when those things happen.  I need to learn how to have the patience with myself that I have for other people.  But it's hard.  We are all our own worst critic, right?  And I sure am mine.  But I am trying to work on it.  One of my mantras is "progress, not perfection," and I try to continually remind myself of this.

It's really hard to change the beliefs and feelings about ourselves that we have had for so long.  It's how we are used to thinking - it's engrained in our minds.  It's automatic.  But that doesn't mean we can't change those things.  And that is what I have learned (and am still learning).  As I have been in treatment, and I have talked about things, and I have worked on things... I have found that the way I feel about myself is changing.  And it's changing in a good way.  I am letting go of the things I held onto for so long, and I am healing that little girl.  But I am still really hard on myself.  And I am still impatient with myself.  I don't know if it's because I have unrealistic expectations, or if it's because I think I should learn things faster than I do, or what... but it's annoying.  So I am going to make a goal to be more patient with myself, and to remind myself that my best is good enough.  No one is perfect.  It would be a boring world if we all were.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

fat is NOT a feeling!


We spend SO long in our eating disorders internalizing our emotions and it manifesting itself through "I feel fat," that we start to become out of touch with what we are really feeling.  And while it might be true, we might feel fat... why do we feel that way?  What is causing those feelings?  What is underneath those feelings?  Those are the real questions we need to be asking.  What lies underneath those words is what needs to be uncovered, recognized, and dealt with.   

I know for me, it was easier (safer I thought...) for me to focus on my body and how I felt about it, then to deal with what I was really feeling.  To cope with my feelings (anger, sadness, anxiety, ect) I turned it outward and focused it on my body.  Because that was something that I could control.  That was something that I could use to numb out those feelings.  But the longer I was in treatment, the better I started to understand the actual feelings that I used "I feel fat" to hide behind.  And I was able to work on them.  I was able to vocalize what was really going on inside.  It was hard though.  Really hard.  Feeling my feelings was so uncomfortable (and sometimes overwhelming or scary) that it took a lot of time for me to really believe that those kinds of feelings are healthy, that they will come - but they will also go, and that feeling them won't kill me.  But it took time for me to get there.

I have to admit that there still are those times when I find myself thinking or saying this, but it doesn't happen as often and I am a lot more aware of it.  I understand now that when "I feel fat" starts to come into my thoughts - I know it's because I am feeling some kind of emotion (like anger, sadness, anxiety, ect.) and I am able to ask myself "Why am I feeling this way?  What's going on that is causing these feelings?"  What am I really feeling?  And I am able to express my feelings in a more healthy way.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a letter to little me



Dear Jenny,

You are such a sweet, sensitive, & innocent girl.  Don't be in such a rush to grow up.  You'll have the rest of your life to be an adult.  I understand how you are feeling right now, lost and forgotten in your family - different in so many ways.  You feel misunderstood and you are holding so much hurt and fear.  But please listen to me when I tell you how important you are to your family, and how much they really do love you.  They need you in their lives so much more than you realize right now.  They love you so much!  Just remember to be patient with others, and most importantly, patient with yourself.

I also understand the hurt and pain that you feel of not being good enough - please don't put that burden on yourself.  You're just a little girl.  You have so much to live for and you are going to do so many wonderful things in your life.  You are so smart, beautiful, & talented.  Never forget that!  All of the hard times you will go through as you grow up will only make you a stronger person.  Please try to remember that as you are going through them.  You have such a kind heart.  And one day, despite all of the challenges life will bring you, you will be able to use that kind heart and your story to be a light in other people's lives.  You are so unique and that's one of the things people love about you.  You are caring and forgiving.  You are nonjudgmental, you always look for the best in everyone.  Please don't let the world take these things away from you.

More than anything, I wish that I could protect you from all of the pain that life is going to bring to you - but I can't.  What I can do is be right there to walk beside you, and even hold your hand when you need me to.  Always remember that every trial and every tear is going to make you the woman that you are meant to be.  You are going to learn from those hard times, and become a stronger person because of it.

And remember to never ask why or become angry at God. He won't ever give you anything you can't handle - even though there will be many many times where you feel like he does.  He is always there for you.  Remember that.  Don't let go of that.  And please, please don't ever stop dreaming!!  Keep those dreams close to you, hold them as tightly as you can, and never look back.  And no matter what happens, always remember that you are loved by so many people and that you matter.  Remember that you ARE enough.  And you will find the happiness and peace that you long for.  You will.  I promise you that!

with all my love,
Jennifer

(me in the middle)

Monday, May 14, 2012

crimes against clients


I feel like, for the most part, I have been a bit lucky when it comes to this topic.  Naturally, I have had doctors, therapists, dietitians, ect. who have not been as knowledgeable or understanding about my eating disorder or how to appropriately help me.  And that did not help my recovery... but for the most part, no one really ----.  Except two people.  

One was a psychiatrist who gave me a medication that had weight loss as one of the major side effects.  And my eating disorder took advantage of that, and lose weight I did!  My parents had to intervene and quickly helped me wean myself off of that medication.  They were flabbergasted as to why he gave that to me when he I told him in our first (and only) session that I had a long history of anorexia and was still struggling with it.  

And the other person is a therapist that I had.  I don't really want to go into detail about what happened.  It hurt me a lot.  And it's in the past, and I have moved on.  What he did isn't important... what's important is that I was able to let go of what happened, and the hurt, abandonment, and other feelings that were brought to the surface because of the situation.  It took some time, but I was able to let it go.

I did have a doctor and therapist who both had to "fire" me and that hurt me a lot, because at the time I wasn't able to see why they did that.  I thought it was because they didn't care.  But now, in recovery, I am able to see why and I am grateful to them for what they did.  They didn't stop seeing me because they didn't care.  It was the exact opposite.  They stopped seeing me because they did care.  They felt my eating disorder was too severe for them to be able to treat me.  But they made sure I had someone else to go see or a treatment center to be admitted to before they stopped seeing me.  I thank them for that.  For caring enough about me to help me find the help that I needed at those times.

I feel like throughout all of my years of treatment, I had some really good people on my side.  Most of the people who have been on my treatment team at one time or another, has been very tough and would not let me get away with things... and believe me, I sure tried.  I really tested them.  But they could see through it.  And looking back on it now, I feel very grateful for that.  Because I needed that toughness to find recovery.  I was stubborn, I was scared of letting go of the ed, and I really struggled with finding recovery.  And I tried to get away with things because of it.  But most of them saw through it, and I owe them a lot.  I owe them my life.
 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

role model roll call


It's hard for me to just choose a few people for this topic.  There have been so many men and women who have inspired me at different times in my life, and I am who I am today because I knew them.  Whether I knew them personally, or they were someone I knew from the media... different people have shaped and changed my life at times when I needed them.  But since today is Mother's Day, I thought I would talk about some of the women who inspire me.

My mother.  She is one of the greatest examples to me of unconditional love.  My sisters and I couldn't have asked for a better mom.  She always loved us no matter what we did - and I sure tested that love as I was growing up and also struggling with my eating disorder.  But she never stopped loving me.  She never gave up on me even when other people did.  I didn't make it easy for her to love me - but she did, and I knew she did.  And for that, I am grateful.  I honestly don't know where I would be if she wasn't in my life.  She has become one of my best friends.  She is the first person I want to call when I have exciting news.  And she is the person I want to talk to when I am struggling or having a hard time because talking to her brings me so much comfort.  I love my mom so much.  She is a strong woman. She would do anything for her children.  She would do anything for anyone.  She has such a kind heart.  And I love her.  (and my dad too! he is such an example to me.  He is an amazing man.  And I love him so much!)

My sisters are also great examples of unconditional love and what it means to be a woman, and also a mother.  I have three sisters and one sister in-law.  They are all great examples to me.  They show so much love and patience to their children.  They have been involved in church, and in the community, and they give of their time so lovingly to help others.  They are strong women who know who they are.  They are my sisters.  They are amazing.  They are beautiful.

One of my closest friends, Kathryne.  She is a true example of a strong woman.  She has been through so much and still sees the best in life.  The best in everything.  She doesn't let live knock her down, and when it does she gets right back up again.  I admire her so much, and she makes me a better person just by knowing her.

Audrey Hepburn, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, and the many others who give so much of their time, energy, & love to humanitarian work.  They travel all over the world to meet and lend support, raise awareness, and speak out for those who can't.  I admire these women so much. 

Ellen Degeneres is a huge role model for me.  She has overcome so much and has come out on the other side shining.  Her love for life.  Her love for other people.  Her love of bringing laughter and joy into other people's lives is inspiring.

Tyra Banks is a strong, fierce woman.  She does a lot to help promote healthy body image and she has  a foundation and is also a mentor for teens and I think it is so wonderful.  She helps to teach young girls about positive self-esteem and life skills - and she does it because she believes in it.  She is also a smart business woman and is always striving to improve herself. 

All of you out there fighting for recovery.  All of you inspire me.  What you are doing is not easy.  It's the hardest thing you'll probably ever have to do (I know it was for me), and the strength, courage, and beauty I see in you inspires me.

And anyone out there who has overcome adversity, struggled with an addiction and is striving for recovery, or who has overcome obstacles in their lives... you are ALL role models and inspirations to me.  The courage and strength that it takes to overcome these things is a beautiful thing.  And your stories help others find their own light, their own courage, their own strength to keep getting up when life knocks them down.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

my serenity prayer (for "free style" day)



The Serenity Prayer has always been a big part of my recovery.  And it has been a source of comfort and strength for me in times when I really needed it throughout not only my recovery - but my life.  At one of the treatment centers I went to, they had us personalize the serenity prayer.  It is something that I carried around with me for a long time.  I would read it often and it really helped me.  I wanted to share my serenity prayer on here for free style day, and I encourage anyone out there to write one personal to themselves if they feel inspired to.  It is something I hold close to my heart.

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.


Friday, May 11, 2012

i want you to understand that...


I want you to understand that...
all of you inspire me so much.

I have met so many strong, courageous, beautiful people through the blog world (and also through treatment) and it has been a blessing to me in my life.  I have had my friends, my family, my treatment team, and other people who have supported me and been a source of comfort and strength - but NOTHING compares to people who have been through the same thing.  People who truly understand what you are feeling, thinking, & struggling with.  But all of you do, and I cherish that.  

Not only have you helped me to find recovery - but you have also helped me stay in recovery.  When I read your words, your thoughts, your advice, your struggles, your ups, and your downs... I find strength in them.  I find comfort in them.  I find strength in YOU.  No matter where you are in your recovery, you have helped me and I thank you for that.  I thank you for sharing your story and your struggles.  I thank you for sharing the milestones and victories.  I thank you for being YOU and letting me be a part of that.  I know recovery is possible.  It is possible for ALL of us.  And as long as we stick together, and fight this fight -  nothing can stand in our way!   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

only words?



Five words that represent my eating disorder are:

1. zombie - I was literally the walking dead.  I was not present in my life.  You can't be when your brain and your body are so starved.  I was alive (barely at times) but I was not living. I would just go through the motions but a lot of the time I wasn't really there - I was off in my own zoned-out world.  There are periods of my life (during the more severe years of my eating disorder) that I don't remember much.  There are missing pieces in my memory from those times.  Being a walking zombie is no way to live.  It's a way of slowly dying.   
2. control - What started out as a young girl (me) desperately searching for some sort of control, comfort, & escape in a world that seemed so out of control... quickly developed into that very thing (the ed) taking over and being the one in control.  It happened before I even understood what was going on, and by then it was too late.  I felt bound to my eating disorder.  And as hard as I tried, I could not break free from it.  And for the longest time, I was terrified of letting go of my eating disorder because I felt like my world would completely fall apart and become out of control (even though that is exactly what was happening because of my eating disorder...)  How irrational is that!?  But that was what I honestly believed.  My thoughts and beliefs had become so distorted, confused, & mix-up that I didn't know what to believe anymore.
3.  lonely - Isolated and misunderstood.  Those were things I very much felt while struggling with my eating disorder.  The isolation and loneliness because I had to keep so many secrets.  I couldn't let people in to my world because my eating disorder was my world.  It's a very lonely place to be.  I lost myself, I lost who I was and the things that mattered to me in my life.  Even when I was around friends and family - I still felt alone because I couldn't let them in very far.  I kept most people at a distance because I was afraid of them knowing my "secret."  I felt very misunderstood with the people in my life who knew I had an eating disorder because I didn't feel like they understood me, what I was feeling, or what I was going through.  They didn't understand why I was doing these things to myself and why I couldn't stop.  It was a lonely place to be. 
4. painful - Eating disorders are painful.  Very painful.  The emotional pain (that I tried to numb out with my eating disorder and also that I had to confront and heal through my recovery) was very painful and nearly unbearable.  The physical pain (from the damage the eating disorder caused my body and also the recovery process & re-feeding process to regain my health - that I had to deal with multiple times due to many relapses) was very painful and nearly killed me. Literally.  This list could go on and on... there has been a lot of pain. 
5. deadly - My eating disorder was killing my spirit.  It was killing my soul.  It was killing me.  That is the number one goal of an eating disorder and it won't stop until it has succeeded.   


Five words that represent my recovery are:

1. love - In recovery I have found love. I have rediscovered the things that I used to love before my eating disorder. I have discovered new things in my life that I now love and enjoy. I have become so much closer to my friends and family, and am able to love them so much more now. I have reconnected with my spirituality and my relationship with God and my love for Him has strengthened so much.  I have found love in the simple things in life. I am finally learning to love myself (imperfections and all). I met and have fallen in love with the man of my dreams. My best friend. My everything. Because of recovery, I am able to give and receive love more fully, and because of recovery, I have fallen in love with life again. (I mentioned this in a previous post, so sorry if it is a repeat for some of you).
2. protect - This word has two meanings for me.  At one of the treatment centers I went to, they would often tell us to "protect your recovery."  And that is something that is so very important to me.  Recovery is a fragile thing.  It can crack and break if we are not careful.  I know for me, even though I am strong in my recovery - I still have my low moments, my hard times, and my triggers.  And I need to make sure that I stay mindful of these things so that I can remain grounded in my recovery.  And the other meaning this word has for me is that recovery is a protection for me.  Just like I need to protect it - it also protects me.  It keeps me safe, healthy, & strong. 
3. life - I have my life back.  And because I am not spending all of my time, energy, and thoughts on my eating disorder - I am able to live that life.  I have so many things I want to do in my life and I can do them now.  I have hopes and dreams.  I have goals.  I have a lot to live for.  One of my favorite quotes (I've even thought about getting this as a tattoo...shh, don't tell my momma!) is "I live to love and laugh often." 
4. health - This is one of the things I feel very very grateful for.  It's been a slow process, and there are still some things that aren't completely healed or working right (and might never be) but I am truly amazed at the resilience my body has.  Through all of the years I struggled with my eating disorder, I damaged my body inside and out.  And to have my health is something I will never take for granted.  Our bodies are incredible.
5. strength - I am not longer that timid, insecure, fragile, scared girl I used to be.  I am a strong, independent, hopeful, happy woman.  And I have found this through my recovery.  I have been through so much in my life and I have come out on the other side stronger and wiser than ever.  I know I can handle anything life brings my way because I have that strength and that courage.  So life... bring it on!  I am ready!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Viva La Difference!


More and more often in our world, people are mocked or judged for being different.  But our differences are what make us unique.  And those differences are what should shine through.  I wish we lived in a world where people were celebrated for their own unique differences instead of being judged, ridiculed, or made to feel ashamed of these things..  We need to teach & show our children that expressing ourselves is healthy and okay.  Because it is.  Just because you are different, doesn't mean you are less than.  You are just as important as anyone else.  We are all different, and our differences make us beautiful.

I admire people who are able to embrace their quirks, differences, and imperfections because to me they are real, and they are strong.  They are not hiding behind a "safe" facade - just so people will love or accept them more.  I think our world is too full of judgment towards each other and it needs to stop.  We need to embrace the things that make us unique, and we need to be able to express those things.  Life is meant to be lived, and we can't live if we are too busy judging each other.  And we can't live if we are too busy hiding our true selves behind a mask and trying to be someone we aren't. We pick ourselves apart and compare ourselves - and that damages our spirit.  

I used to hide behind that mask.  I have struggled my whole life with comparing myself to everyone around me.  And wishing I was more like them and less like me.  I never felt like I was good enough, and I spent so much time and energy wishing I was "more like this, or more like that" or wishing "I wasn't like this, or didn't look like that."  But through my recovery, I am starting to find that self-love and self-acceptance that I have struggled to have in my life.  I am learning to believe that I am beautiful and great in my own unique way.  That the things that make me different from other people are the things that make me... ME.  I still struggle with feeling "good enough" or comparing myself to others, but I have come a long way from where I used to be.  And I know that it will only strengthen in time.   

                                    We need to learn to embrace and love ourselves for who we are.  
                                                      Because those people are pretty great!  

                                   And we need to learn to embrace and love others for who they are.
                                                   Because those people are pretty great too!