RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on Jesus, life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, healing from sexual abuse, and hope.

When you go to Yamuna Body Rolling March 7, 2020

“How are you feeling,” my friend asks as she puts her hands on top of each of my shoulders, her green eyes staring back at mine.

 

“Like I want to get back in the car and drive away,” I reply as the tears well in my own green eyes.

 

“Would you like to pray, then, before we go inside?”
We place our heads together, wrap our arms around each other, and pray

*

 

My best friend had been inviting me to try the Yamuna body rolling class she attends for well over a year. For those unfamiliar—as I had been prior to my friend’s invitation—Yamuna body rolling was created in the late 1970’s, and the movements are based on the skeletal and muscular structure of the body and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. In the simplest terms, you use various sizes of balls and the weight of your body to release tension in muscles and tendons; elongating muscle fibers, facilitating muscle relaxation, and increasing joint flexibility. Regardless, my brain kept screaming, “TOO FAT! You are too fat for this class. You’ll pop the balls, make a fool of yourself, and everyone will judge you. Not to mention how unsafe this entire endeavor is. A new place?! Are you kidding me? You can’t possibly keep yourself safe in a new place on the other side of town.”

 

When my friend presented me with the three-hour, leap day Yamuna body rolling workshop—which also included prayer, breath work, light Pilates, and journaling—I knew I had to fight back against my PTSD and leftover eating disorder voice by saying yes. That didn’t mean, however, that everything was settled down inside my mind.

 

Immediately after registering, my brain began asking me, “What have you done? You can’t go to this class. Don’t you know the danger inherent in new places with new people trying new things? It’s not safe! It isn’t too late to un-register. They’ll understand; you’re fat and not very athletic, they’ll welcome it. Besides, did you forget what I told you about popping the balls?! Or about it being completely unsafe?!” Those thoughts continued, unfortunately, up until the day of the workshop.

 

Fortunately–because my brain has been running on that same old hamster wheel of shame/anxiety/PTSD/ED for several decades–I felt, for once, that I actually knew what actions to take to calm it down a little. I am very familiar with this particular hamster wheel.  I prayed, I completed a CPT worksheet, I engaged in some grounding activities, and talked to my friend about my concerns. The fear didn’t go away all the way, and it was much less than before.

 

*

 

We enter the beautiful yoga studio that the workshop had partnered with the house the event, and my shame is overwhelming. Not to be outdone, my PTSD joins the party; informing me that I need to sit “crisscross applesauce” with my arms across my chest as long as possible to keep my body small, safe, and unobtrusive. Fear unites with PTSD, and I find myself doing exactly what my brain told me to do.  My friend—noticing my body language–gently touches my hand, reminds me that I’m safe, and reassured me that I can relax. I appreciate and am grateful for these reminders. I glance at the verse on the wall, “Be Still,” it reminds. I would get many more of these from my friend, the instructor, and God throughout the next three hours.

 

*

 

Rather than give a play-by-play of the entire three-hour workshop, I’ll hit the highlights.

 

The workshop tasked me with acknowledging my body and the tension it still holds from my trauma. Though my trauma happened in the past, my PTSD does an inordinately great job of rehashing the trauma and keeping me in a frequent state of fight/flight/freeze…which keeps the trauma’s tension tightly woven into my muscles. One of the Yamuna routines we practiced was placing the ball under our body around our collarbone, rolling it outwards towards our armpit, flipping over onto our back with the ball under our shoulder, and back again. While doing this routine, my hands began to go numb.  Oh great, now I’ve paralyzed myself. I found out, after the fact, that the reason my hands went numb is because there was so much built up tension in my shoulder muscles that the ball wasn’t even enough to roll it out. It wasn’t until that moment that I began to recognize that my trauma is more than the PTSD “safety system” I created to protect me, more than my mental duress, and more than my fear…it’s my body, too. Not that my body, itself is trauma; rather, my body has internalized and held on to my trauma from sexual abuse and eating disorders in an effort to protect me. Though it did protect me at the time, my body’s ability to absorb the trauma feelings no longer serves me well. It is difficult to recognize the myriad ways in which trauma impacts us until we start healing. I, for example, had no idea my body was holding so much of my trauma until I began the Yamuna class.

 

One of the things that really stuck out to me about the class was when the instructor said that, in order to heal completely from our trauma—becoming holy and whole as God intended—we would need to integrate our bodies into our therapy (or whatever healing protocol we’ve created) and our relationship with God. My body is one thing I have always avoided; thinking I could hate, distrust, and ignore my body into submission. Bringing my body into the healing process, I felt, would only complicate things. Dissociating from my body—as had been my norm for the past thirty or so years—seemed as natural to me as breathing. As such, it became a logical aspect of myself to avoid when it came to healing. There’s a certain, indescribable feeling–because I was sexually victimized in this body and that this body was dominated by an eating disorder for over 20 years—that this body can’t be trusted; that bringing my body into the healing process would somehow ruin or mar the healing, and further damage what little self-esteem I’ve built. This workshop challenged me to integrate my body into the mental and spiritual healing work I’ve already started. It is scary, and I’m willing to try.

 

While working on breathing exercises, we were asked to sit in a silver, metal, folding chair that looks like it was taken straight out of an early 2000’s Britney Spears music video. Scooting back into the seat, my hips pressed firmly into the folding joints of the chair that dug deeply into my thighs; which were also hanging over the side of the seat. “You’re too fat. You’re going to break this chair because you’re too big for it,” a familiar voice rang out in my head. My feet dangled at the end of my legs; the ground a few inches away. “And you’re freakishly short, too,” it taunted.  I moved forward in the chair until my feet touched the floor and the pressure from the metal structure of the chair was off my hips and thighs. As I sat there disparaging my body for its weight and height, I heard from God saying, “Rachel, I love you;” words I’ve longed to hear and needed to hear for a long time. I continued the breathing exercises and—at least in that moment—ceased loathing my body for what was done to it, what it’s experienced, what shape it is, and what it weighs

 

*

Laying on my back with my eyes closed on a purple yoga mat borrowed from my best friend, I come to land in my body for the first time in recent memory. I feel secure. Someone walks by outside the window of the studio talking loudly on their phone, and my head doesn’t snap up to investigate the source of the sound. I feel safe. I place my hands on my soft belly, and—for once—don’t feel shame at the curvature or size of my stomach and hips. I have the strong body of a woman. I allow myself to be present, wrapped in the love of the Father, determined to keep pursuing healing in my body, mind, and heart. I feel loved.  I have a long way to go in my healing, and I can’t wait to keep going. Healing has been a long journey, and every moment—every mess, mistake, fear, failure, step, success, climb, and celebration—has been worth it

 

IMG_1250

My friend’s and my bags under the reminder to be still in God

 

 

Ezekiel 37:4-6

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

 

When you are punched October 10, 2019

 

        I barely had time to react between the time I heard, “Boob,” yelled aloud and the moment his fist hit me squarely in the breast. Instinctively, my right arm protectively crossed across my body to shield myself from the blow. I was too slow that time and my body paid the price. Despite this event happening daily—sometimes multiple times a day—I was still unable to predict when it would happen or from which direction it would come. I felt defenseless against each strike.

 

            I had been working for this family for about three months, and had to face this reality each day. Sometimes, this three-year-old would yell, “Boob,” before punching me, and—other times—it appeared as though he had decided at random to punch my breast. Even on our last day together, after punching me in the breast, he pulled down the front of my dress in a crowded yogurt shop; exposing me to the other patrons and leaving me scrambling to cover my body while pulling up my top. Every time he hit me, my PTSD reared its ugly head; presenting me with hyper-realistic flashbacks of my previous sexual abuse, flooding me with feelings of fear and being unsafe, and supplying me with a steady stream of shame-based, negative thoughts about myself.

 

            You might think that this happened in my youth or early adulthood. You would be wrong. It happened this summer; at 31 years old, after having completed HATCH at the Eve Center, after recovering from self-harm and 22 years of eating disorders, and after beginning Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for the PTSD caused by my childhood sexual abuse.

 

            Despite it being glaringly obvious that this behavior was inappropriate and that I did not deserve to be treated this way, I didn’t feel it was my place to address his behavior. I reasoned that, because I’d only been working there for a few months and only worked a few hours a day, that continuing his family’s parenting style superseded my comfort. I knew that routine is essential for young children in developing a sense of safety, love, and belonging. I reasoned that, because I was the first non-family member to watch him, that he was still learning boundaries and appropriate touch. I reasoned that I could work with him to minimize this behavior, and that—in the meantime–I could withstand this type of treatment.

 

            The more I “reasoned,” the more I excused his behavior; the more I excused his behavior, the more it continued; the more it continued, the more he saw his behavior as acceptable and the more it occurred. Entrenched in shame that I hadn’t recognized what was happening to me earlier and put a stop to it, I talked to a friend recently about what I was feeling. She likened his punches to the “frog in a pot” metaphor. I—the frog—was placed in a room temperature pot of water that was slowly turned up degree by degree. At first, the punches to the breasts—the increasing temperature—seemed sporadic and I became acclimated; attempting to rationalize and reason through it. The punches, and the temperature, finally increased to a point where I could not deny or endure it any longer. I needed out of the pot; I finally realized just how hot the boiling water had become.

 

        I didn’t fully recognize the impact the punches—the increasing temperature—was having on my healing from my childhood sexual abuse. I didn’t fully recognize how severely it was triggering my PTSD through intense flashbacks of previous sexual abuse and overwhelming feelings of shame and unworthiness. I began to flinch any time he would move quickly or unexpectedly; anticipating his next punch. I began to fear him sitting in my lap while I read him stories; I had great trepidation at him being that close to my body. I was anxious each time I arrived to watch him because I feared in what way he would touch me. At the same time I was working to unlearn my PTSD safety system in CPT, my body was still rehearsing it every day with this child. I was a 31-year-old woman who was scared of a 3-year-old child because of the way in which it activated my PTSD.

 

        Not only did my body react severely to the persistent physicality of his actions, my brain had its fair share of turmoil. His treatment of my body and his lack of follow through on my requests that he not touch my breasts felt as if it were a “confirmation” of the lies told to me by my PTSD, childhood sexual abuse, eating disorder, depression, and—greatest of all—shame. Lies that told me I was unworthy of being treated well; that mistreatment was what I deserved because I had already been tainted by previous abuse. The pervasive lies told me that my voice and safety were both less important than completing my job.  Unfortunately, the confirmation bias in my mind is very strong and considers only evidence that supports the lies; ignoring evidence that refutes the lies.

 

So what has this boiled frog learned?

 

            I am worthy of continued healing from abuse. I am in charge of who can and cannot touch my body; regardless of whether the individual is 3 or 103. I am the ONLY one in charge of who is allowed to touch my body, and only I can make that determination. My body is my possession and I get to make decisions in which it is involved. Additionally, I have the power to use my voice to express who is permitted and who is not permitted to touch my body. My voice and safety, not only matter, but are important.

 

          I am not to blame for how I was treated, and I can learn from how I was treated. I was very angry at myself for not realizing how this behavior was impacting me, and I was even angrier at myself for letting it persist. It made me feel as if I would forever fall victim to this type of treatment. The shame spiraled and spiraled. I have since been able to take a step back and objectively look at the situation to learn from my experiences. I worked through my thoughts and feelings about what happened, and created a few strategies I can implement should I find myself in a similar situation in the future.

 

          I reflected, recently, on how grateful I am to work for the family with whom I currently nanny. I spoke with the mother about my reflections, and cried when I told her how appreciative I am for that she is creating a place of safety in her home through open lines of communication and being rooted in Christ. I’m also implementing the strategies I’m learning and constructing in CPT sessions into my everyday life; strategies relating to myself and others in regards to safety, trust, power/control, esteem, and relationships.

 

 

Psalm 16: 8-9

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.

 

When Jesus comforts you at a Target Starbucks July 25, 2019

 

“I want to encourage you to start reading through the Gospels right now, specifically noting the healings of Jesus. He is still healing people, and He will heal you, too. I love you,” my friend’s texted suggestion came in the middle of a very rough day as I prepared to go to my weekly session of HATCH at Eve Center. A day in which I was dealing with myriad trauma flashbacks,  shame spiraling, and an even higher than usual hypervigilance. I was desperate for relief from the vivid memories and graphic flashbacks; anything to make the pain stop without turning to old patterns of self-destruction.

 

Even though I was sitting at a Starbucks inside a Target hoping to find solace in the bottom of an iced green tea, I pulled my Bible out of my bag; skimming through the tissue-thin pages until I got to the book of Matthew. I reread through some familiar stories: the birth of Christ, His baptism, the calling of the disciples, the sermon on the mound, and some well-known parables.  As I read chapter after chapter, I began to wonder when Jesus would start healing some people. The irony that I was waiting for the exact same thing in my own life was not lost on me.

 

I then came across the story of a bleeding woman; seemingly haphazardly placed between  Jairus requesting Jesus heal his daughter and Jesus leaving to travel to Jairus’ house to see his daughter. Despite being raised in church as the pastor’s (grand)kid, I had never encountered this woman’s story before.

 

As I continued reading the three short verses of this woman’s experience with Jesus, I felt something I’d never experienced before. I reread the words:

“Jesus turned and saw her.

‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’

And the woman was healed at that moment.”

Matthew 9:22

Sitting there, in the stiff-backed wooden chair at the Starbucks in Target, I received my first (and only so far) visualization of Jesus. In my mind, I was transported to the safety of the Eve Center; where I was, at that time, participating in their HATCH program for survivors of sexual abuse. In my vision, I was sitting in my favorite chair at Eve Center; a red cloth barrel chair. Of course, I also pictured my body curled up into myself sitting criss cross, applesauce; I sit that way in every chair because it feels safe and because I’m so short that my feet don’t touch the ground. Envisioning myself tucked up into the safety of the red chair, I felt the presence of Jesus surrounding me. As I turned around in my chair–in my vision–I saw the bright light of Jesus behind me, wrapping His strong, safe arms around me into a loving embrace while repeating the words, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” We both cried.

 

As quickly as it came, it was gone. I was back in the hard, wooden chair at the Starbucks in Target on that dreary February day. The only reminders of what I had just experienced were goosebumps, a warmth in my chest, and a love that I could finally sense was real. Jesus DOES love me, and He WILL heal me. I felt ready to go to my session and my flashbacks had stopped.

 

In just that short, few minute visual of Jesus I learned several things:

  • Jesus loves me, and my abuse does not discount me from His love
  • Jesus will comfort me when I am experiencing PTSD, trauma, anxiety, etc.
  • Jesus will take care of me
  • Jesus will never leave me or abandon me; with Jesus, I’ll never be alone
  • Jesus affirms my worthiness as a child of God and that nothing can take that worthiness away
  • Jesus will heal me

 

 

After that day, I wanted to learn more about the bleeding woman. Her story is mentioned in three of the four Gospels—clearly John didn’t know what he was missing.

 

The bleeding woman is unnamed in the Bible, but that is fairly typical given the social standing of women at the time. By the time she encountered Jesus outside the temple, she had been suffering from some form of bleeding for twelve years. In an effort to find a cure for the bleeding, the woman had spent years visiting doctors and paying for medicine. Medical knowledge was severely lacking in the time of Jesus, and none of these doctors or their medicinal remedies were able to cure the woman. Before long, the woman had spent a majority of her money on potential cures without any end to her bleeding. She was left penniless and still afflicted.

 

Unfortunately, another common practice of the time only worsened her condition and social standing. Leviticus 15:25-30 paints a fairly good picture of how this woman was treated: anything she sits on is unclean, her bed is unclean, her clothes are unclean, anyone she touches is unclean, anyone who touches her is unclean, any food she touches/makes is unclean, and just about everything else in her world is unclean as well. Her uncleanliness even disbarred her from participating in temple ceremonies; though it is only through the temple that she could declared ceremoniously clean again. With so much “uncleanliness” about her, it is likely that she was abandoned or rejected by society and even her own family. So, she finds herself afflicted, alone, and destitute. Talk about a trauma in need of Jesus’ healing.

 

Having heard stories of Jesus’ healings and then seeing Him outside the temple, the woman knew that Jesus was her only hope. The woman knew Jesus could heal her. In fact, her faith was so strong in the healing power of Jesus that she believed just touching His garment would heal her. She gathered up all her remaining courage, and rushed to the temple. As she pushed through the crowd to get closer to Jesus, she risked violating the social taboo of touching others and making them unclean. Her faith in Jesus and His healings was stronger than her fear of the potential repercussions.

 

The woman inched her way through the crowd that was pressing in around Jesus, reached out in desperation for His cure, and gently touched the hem of His garment—again, risking contaminating the Son of God with her unclean touch. In her belief of His great power, she risked everything to touch just the hem of His garment. Instantly, her bleeding was healed. Her faith in Jesus healed her the moment her fingers touched His robe; her affliction vanished, her trauma was healed, and she was free from suffering.

 

The moment she touched His robe, Jesus felt it. He turned to His disciples and asked who touched Him. The disciples incredulously asked Jesus how they were supposed to know—in a giant crowd of people—who was the one person who touched Him.  Knowing she couldn’t stay unnoticed any further, the woman stepped out of the crowd and fell at Jesus’ feet. But why did Jesus ask who touched Him? After all, Jesus *is* the Son of God, and He knew who touched Him. He asked who touched His robes because He wanted the woman to publicly identify herself, profess her faith in Him, and allow others to see the healing she had received. He wanted others to see the immense faith and strength of the bleeding woman, and how His love for her instantly healed her when, for the last 12 years, nothing else had.

 

Jesus’ healing for the bleeding woman was more than physical. Yes, He healed her of her bleeding. He also gifted her with mental and emotional peace; healing her of her trauma and mental anguish. With the bleeding healed, the woman could also rejoin her family and become a member of society again. Jesus healed her bleeding and gave her life. Jesus redeemed her trauma.

 

Four months later, sitting in a pew at church, I anxiously awaited my pastor’s sermon on sexual abuse. I had known this sermon topic was coming, and I had been praying for strength to make it through the message. I opened up the bulletin and see the verses for the sermon, Matthew 9:20-22. “It can’t be those same verses,” I thought to myself. Flipping through the tissue-thin pages of the Bible from the back of the pew in front of me, I’m met with the familiar verses,

“Jesus turned and saw her.

‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’

And the woman was healed at that moment.”

Matthew 9:22

Once again, I’m consoled by the verses that brought me comfort that February day in the Target at Starbucks. I’m reminded that Jesus heals. Jesus loves. Jesus redeems.

 

Jesus is bigger than any trauma we face. No matter what we experience, we—like the bleeding woman—can live out our faith with the belief that even a small touch of His robe will heal us. We can live boldly following the example of the bleeding woman; knowing that our faith in Him, combined with His immense love for us, will heal us of our traumas. Jesus knows our desperation—our need to be healed—and He is right there, waiting with open arms, saying, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.”

 

 

The same friend who suggested I read through the Gospels to remind myself of Jesus’ redeeming power of healing, sent me this song. Andrew Peterson wrote this song for his pre-teen daughter, but I believe the message is universal. God loves us. He’s freed us from our sins. Peterson writes, “If you are beating yourself up, all of that negative energy could be directed to the Lord and loving people around you instead of this downward spiral and endless loop. That’s where Christ wants to step in-between and tells us to let ourselves off the hook. Realize that we are all someone that Jesus delights in and was willing to die for, and don’t hate yourself.”

 

 

 

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Mark 5:34

 

 

 

When you’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse April 25, 2019

 

Have you ever had a phone call that completely changes your life?

 

I don’t mean like having Ed McMahon showing up at your door with an armful of balloons and an oversized check. Although, that would be welcome if Mr. McMahon were still living.

 

No, I mean the kind of phone call that causes you to re-evaluate the events of your life in a new light; bringing long-repressed memories to the surface, viewing incidents from the past through a new lens, and moving forward solely depending on God’s grace and healing.

 

In early January this year, I was lounging on the couch at my house and talking on the phone with my bestie friend before heading to therapy. Because I have a degree in education and have been raising other people’s kids for forever, she wanted advice on how to help a child she knows and to ask for prayer for his specific situation. Unfortunately, this child had been exposed to many adverse and traumatic events in his family of origin and while in the foster care system; many of which we are not even aware. She described an action he had replicated that was a result of potential sexual abuse in his past. We brainstormed ways to speak to him about the event—clearly stating that that behavior would not be tolerated, and without shaming him for repeating behavior he didn’t fully comprehend.

 

The rest of the afternoon, I couldn’t shake from my head a series of disjointed memories that had been sparked by that conversation. I’d never spoken to anyone about these memories before; not a therapist, a friend, or even a family member. Quite frankly, I’d pushed them away because I was ashamed and fearful of them. It was just easier to live as if they had never happened…so I did…for over twenty years.

 

Around 4:30 that afternoon, with tears in my eyes and doubt in my mind, I picked up my phone to text the friend I’d spoken to that morning. I didn’t even know where to begin, what to say, or if I should even say anything. I put the phone back down on the table. Fear has a way of keeping you captive through inaction, and then anxiety comes along to remind you that the worst-case scenario will surely happen…together, the wonder-team of fear and anxiety work to keep you imprisoned and removed from God.

 

I picked up the phone again and started a message.

  • “I was sexually abused…” delete, delete, delete
  • “I’m not sure what happened, but I think I was sexually abused…” delete, delete, delete

 

The words didn’t sound right. They couldn’t possibly be words that described me. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe what happened to me was just “kid stuff”—after all, I was only nine and my abuser was a six-year-old girl. Saying “sexual abuse” is reserved for big, horrific events, right? Clearly what happened to me couldn’t be that bad…

 

I picked up the phone again.

  • “I’m not even sure what to say or what happened…” delete, delete, delete,

 

Come on, Rhea, say something, anything.

  • “Ever since our conversation this morning, I’ve been thinking about some things that happened to me as a kid, and I think I might have been touched inappropriately by the neighbor girl when I was younger.”

 

I pressed send, clicked the screen off immediately, and set it face-down on the table. What if she responds? What if I’m making this bigger than it is? What if she doesn’t want to be friends anymore because I’m broken and ruined? Again, the dynamic duo of fear and anxiety take control.

 

My phone pinged with the familiar sound of a text message being received. Cautiously, I flipped it over and saw her name. My friend had replied.

 

I was met with the most loving, accepting, empathic, and tender response I could ever imagine. She told me how brave I was for confronting these memories, how strong I was for reaching out for help, and how loved I am by God. I was stunned. Because she has experience working with individuals who have experienced sexual abuse, my friend told me that she had long suspected I had experienced abuse—based upon how I interacted with others, my fear of touch, past patterns of self-destruction, and the callous relationship I had with my body.  However, out of love and respect for me, she did not want to presume anything.

 

That morning I had only repressed and scattered memories of inappropriate touching, and by that afternoon I was an individual who had experienced sexual abuse.

 

However, because of fear and anxiety, I still doubted what I was remembering and what my friend had said.

 

Maybe my memories were wrong? Maybe she said those kind and affirming things because she’s my friend and it is her job to love me? Maybe I am just making a mountain out of a molehill?

 

Naturally, I turned to the internet for answers:

  • What is childhood sexual abuse?
  • Do children sexually abuse other children?
  • How do you know if you were sexually abused as a child?

 

My googling only lead to more confusion. There was no mention of female abusers, abusers who were younger than their victim, or information on how to tell if you were abused. I wanted a tidy little checklist that I could use to quickly ascertain what it was that happened to me. Despite having copious amounts of information at my fingertips, I was left with more questions than answers.

 

Around one in the morning, I grabbed my MacBook and signed onto the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) website. I was too scared to talk to a volunteer on the phone, but felt that the messaging feature to talk to a volunteer would be less threatening. I pressed,“click here to chat” and waited. My cursor hovered over the X on the window while I waited, just in case I changed my mind and needed a quick escape. I could feel my fingers shaking as I fought back the tears.

 

After speaking with a phenomenal volunteer for over an hour, it became very clear to me what I had experienced. My friend was right and the RAINN volunteer provided affirmation of what my gut already knew. It hit me like the biggest offensive lineman in  all of football…I had experienced an entire summer of almost daily sexual abuse from a younger female child who coerced me into recurring episodes of molestation directed toward my body as well as inappropriate touching of my body. I am one of the 42 million Americans who are currently living with the aftershocks of childhood sexual abuse.

 

I closed the lid on my Mac and grabbed my cat; shocked and unsure of what to do next as I sat in the dark on my living room couch. As Rowan’s fur became soaked with tears and she fled in terror that the rest of her body might get wet, I realized I had two choices. I could: 1) curl up into myself–into self-destruction and self-hatred–shut out the world, and live as a victim or 2) I could trust God to heal me and move past what happened to me, becoming the person He created me to be. While both choices seemed attractive, I opted for number two.

 

Since that day:

  • I’ve been honest with my friend about how I am thinking and feeling so that she can pray for me, support me, and just be with me while God heals me
  • I’ve told my therapist, and we’ve worked on the many areas in which the abuse has impacted my life (spoiler alert: it impacts every aspect of your life and its roots run deep).
  • I completed a ten-week group therapy session called HATCH at the Eve Center, growing in healing, in Christ, and in community with other women who have  also experienced childhood sexual abuse.
  • I’ve given control of my healing to God. I can continue trying to manipulate my healing through controlling various aspects of my life, and it won’t help. The only thing that can heal is complete surrender to God.
  • I’ve looked out my bedroom window. That sounds like a small thing, right? Well, from my bedroom window, I can see the porch at my neighbor’s house where the instances of abuse took place. Not only had the new owners removed the pool—another area of abuse—but God had grown a tree that perfectly covers the porch. When I look out my window now, I see my new neighbor’s five dogs running carefree through the backyard enjoying their lives, something I am learning to do as well.

 

Has everything been sunshine and rainbows since then? Absolutely not! I’ve had to work through some pretty crappy emotions (shame, self-blame, fear, self-loathing, and so much more) and look deeper into the root cause of a lot of my “protective” actions (i.e. hyper-vigilance in public, not wanting to be touched, eating disorders, being over-controlling, and all the other things I don’t have time to list). I had to learn how to trust again; trusting myself, trusting others, and trusting God.

 

I have encountered people who do not understand my sexual abuse and have had said some hurtful things:

  • Why didn’t you remember it for over twenty years?
  • Why would those memories just “come up” now; especially during the “me too” movement. That’s pretty coincidental.
  • How could you not know you were sexually abused?
  • Fat girls don’t get abused.
  • Oh don’t worry, it happens to lots of people, you’re fine.

 

For the record, if someone discloses sexual abuse to you (past or present), first assess their safety, and then applaud their bravery and courage. All you have to do is listen to them and love them.

 

It isn’t easy to shine a light on the ugly things in our life, examine them for what they are/what they do, give them to God, and then learn to live differently. In fact, it’s hard, really hard. And I continue doing it because I know that God has a bigger plan for my life. Sexual abuse stole a lot from me, and it’s not going to steal any more. God is redeeming my sexual abuse for His good and His glory. I may not see that redemption soon–or I may–either way, I choose to follow His promises of healing, grace, mercy, and redemption.

 

For more info on sexual abuse:

 

 

“Rescue” by Lauren Daigle has been an absolute rock during my healing. It’s a reminder that God can hear even my quietest SOSs, that He longs to rescue me, and that He will stop at nothing—even sending out an army in the darkest of nights—to heal me.  During my healing, God has definitely been my shelter and armor protecting me from the complexities involved in the process and holding me safely under His wings.

 

 

Isaiah 61:1-4

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations.”

This scripture was instrumental during my time in group therapy. God will release us from the prison of sexual abuse, comfort us in our healing, turn our mourning into blessings, replace our ashes with a crown of beauty, rebuild what was destroyed by abuse, and help us to live in a way that we have never experienced before. 

 

When you throw rocks for healing March 29, 2019

 

On an icy morning in March, I decided to combine God and Marie Kondo as a means to continue healing from my past. Not a combination you ever thought you’d hear, right? Because of the way my brain is wired, I tend to think more in black and white. However, many of the ways in which I have attempted to connect with God are very gray. In adding a physical component to my prayers, I feel more connected in my relationship with God and find my interaction with Him more meaningful and genuine. That is how this God/Marie Kondo morning at Sharon Woods came to be.

 

Keep in mind, I have neither read Marie Kondo’s books nor watched her Netflix series, I’m just basing this on what I have surmised about her from Buzzfeed articles and an episode of Ellen wherein Kondo tidied the office of one of the show’s writers.

 

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My favorite part of Sharon Woods: the bridge that overlooks the waterfall

 

Searching the icy banks of the creek at Sharon Wood for small, smooth, dry stones was no easy task. Not only did I have to contend with my own inability to balance, I also had to keep an eye out for ice and mud; two things that have caused me to lose my fight with gravity on multiple occasions.

 

After I had found viable rocks, I thought about the events in my past that are keeping me from complete healing. What painful events were occupying valuable space in my heart and separating me from God’s love and plan for me? Marie Kondo suggests taking an item and touching it to determine if it is worthy of keeping. Because I cannot touch the events of my past, I took one of the Sharpies I brought with me out of my pocket and began writing those events on the rock; an outward manifestation of an inward occurrence. One by one, the rocks bore the names of my pain: eating disorders, shame, sexual abuse, depression, self-harm, and anxiety.

 

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My rocks

As I turned each rock over in my hand, I thought about everything written in stark, black sharpie; the impacts it had on my life, the emotions that accompanied them, how they shaped who I am, and how they make me feel now having had survived them. In Marie Kondo’s method, clients are asked to consider whether or not the item they are holding sparks joy, if it speaks to their heart, what they learned from the item (what it taught them), and if they want to keep or discard the item. Essentially her method boils down to choosing joy. God, too, wants us to experience joy. After speaking about the family of God, Jesus stated, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

 

Kondo gives her unwanted items a proper send-off by expressing gratitude, staying goodbye and discarding them with a pinch of salt—a Japanese purification ritual. As I am not Japanese, I took a less traditional route. Over each of my rocks, I said a short prayer, gave each item to God, and then threw it into the creek. It was a very literal interpretation of 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

I’ll use the rock that said “Shame” as an example of my process:

Father, shame has taken up residence in my life for a long time. I cannot remember a time in which I didn’t feel shame about who I am or who people think I am. In constantly striving to hide my shame behind the façade of perfectionism, people-pleasing, self-destruction, and caretaking, I lost who You created me to be. Shame has corroded who I am and kept me from You. Please, help me to live without this shame. I want to return to You and to Your perfect plan for me, and I cannot do that with shame running my life. I give my shame to you.

 

I then used my neglected softball skills to throw each rock as  far down the creek as I could. As each rock tumbled down the creek bed, I felt my shoulders becoming lighter. God was taking my burdens and freeing me from their prison; “Give your burdens to the Lordand he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall” (Psalm 55:22). 

 

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Throwing rocks that no longer serve me

 

I encourage you to try something similar. What is weighing you down in life? What is holding you back from who God created you to be? What burden to you want to leave at the cross?

 

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The frozen waterfall…Cincinnati winters, amirite?

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT)

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

 

When you see God’s love February 27, 2019

Quick! Name my favorite woman in the Bible.

 

Is it:

 

  1. Mary, mother of Jesus, who humbly submitted to the will of God in carrying, bearing, raising, burying, and seeing arisen the only Son of God.
  2. Esther, a Jewish woman who became Queen upon her marriage to the Persian King Xerxes, and was able to single-handedly dissuade him from murdering all the Jewish people.
  3. Lydia of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth, who–upon meeting the apostles Paul, Silas, and Timothy–was the first recorded conversion and baptism into Christianity.
  4. Hagar, the Egyptian-born slave of Abram and Sarai (Abraham and Sarah), who was forced by Sarai to bear the illegitimate son of her master in order to produce an heir.

 

While all these women hold a special place it in my heart, it is Hagar who takes the proverbial cake.

 

 

So, who is Hagar?

 

A long time ago in Old Testament days, there lived a couple named Abram and Sarai who were highly favored by God. Unfortunately, Sarai could never conceive a child and had entered into old age without having birthed an heir for Abram. Abram was distressed at the thought of his wealth going to one of his slaves—and not an heir—so he cried out to God. God promised Abram, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have” (Genesis 15:5b). Abram trusted God’s goodness and knew His promise would be fulfilled.

 

With their newfound hope in producing progeny, Abram and Sarai continued to await the frutition of God’s covenant. Sarai’s inability to conceive persisted, however, and her impatience in God’s timing grew. Though Sarai had seen past   fulfillment’s of God’s will, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Sarai owned an Egyptian slave called Hagar—whose name in Hebrew meant “stranger.” Hagar had served Sarai for many years and had generally been treated well by her master and her master’s husband.

 

It was then that Sarai’s impatience got the best of her, as she lost her faith in God’s promise. She railed at her husband, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her” (Genesis 16:2). It was Sarai’s idea to raise Hagar and Abram’s child as her own; positioning that child to become Abram’s heir. No thought was given to Hagar’s wishes or towards using her body in this manner (in all likelihood, Hagar was the first recorded instance of sexual abuse). Abram did as his wife demanded, and Hagar became pregnant with his son.

 

When Hagar easily became pregnant with Abram’s child, Sarai’s jealousy and anger rose. Hagar had done what Sarai had thought impossible, and her rotund stomach only further incited Sarai’s rage. When Sarai brought her concerns about her contemptable slave to Abram, “Abram replied, ‘Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.’ Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away” (Genesis 16:6).

 

Hagar fled her master’s house…abused, pregnant, and alone. It has been surmised that she was likely crossing the desert to return to Egypt. Along the road to Shur, Hagar collapsed in hunger, thirst, and exhaustion near a well. God saw Hagar, and sent an angel to her; “The angel said to her, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,’ she replied” (Genesis 16:8) It became evident, through Hagar’s conversation with the angel of God, that Hagar had no hope for her future or the future of her child, as she had no answer for where she intended to go; aside from fleeing the house of her master.

 

This angel prophesized over Hagar and her unborn son, and directed her to return and submit to Sarai, “Then he added, ‘I will give you more descendants than you can count.’”  (Genesis 16:10). The angel instructed her to name her son  Ishmael; which means “God hears,” just as God had heard Hagar in the desert. Hagar began to see beyond her situation; that, in God, there was hope and a future for her and her child. At that moment, Hagar knew she could trust and depend on God. Hagar’s faith grew as she conversed with God beside that well, “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” (Genesis 16:13-14). Hagar is the first woman to have had a one-on-one conversation with God through an angel and to give Him a personal name.

 

With her renewed faith in the Lord, Hagar did as instructed; as the angel’s prophecy made it clear that Hagar and her son would survive their journey through the desert. Hagar returned to the home of Abram and Sarai, gave birth to a son, named him Ishmael, and her relationship with Sarai was tolerable.  Abraham grew to love his son, Ishmael, and asked that God bless him as his heir. It was during this time that God also changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah, and reiterated His promise, “My covenant will be confirmed with Isaac [a name meaning “he will laugh” which God directed Abraham to give to his firstborn son], who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year” (Genesis 17:21). Sarah, ever in disbelief, laughed when—for a second time—God promised her a son.

                        Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”  Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.” But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh. (Genesis 18:13-15)

 

Sarah straight up laughed at God and then lied to His face

 

As Ishmael grew into his teenage years, as did Abraham’s family, with Sarah giving birth to Isaac. With this birth, Ishmael was no longer considered Abraham’s legitimate heir; that title going, instead, to Isaac. Ishmael, presumably in his angsty teenage phase, teased the baby. Sarah’s jealousy, hostility, and anger towards Hagar again rose. She demanded that Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”(Genesis 21:10b). In her scorn, Sarah refused to even address Hagar or Ishmael by name. Abraham, upset with what was asked of him, did not want to eject Hagar from their home, so he consulted God. Abraham did as he was instructed, because, “God told Abraham, ‘Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too’” (Genesis 21:12-13). With that, Abraham packed water and food for Hagar and Ishmael, and sent them into the unknown.

 

The desert, not typically known for its ease of navigation, soon left Hagar and Ishmael lost and near death. Having consumed what little water and bread they had taken with them, Hagar—again—felt lost and hopeless. Not wanting to see her son perish in front of her eyes, she left him in a bush and went about hundred yards away to mourn the end of their lives; crying out to God.  God heard her cries, and dispatched another angel. The angel asked, ““Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants” (Genesis 21:17b-18). Where there was once only desert sand, there now stood a well. The angel instructed her to drink and to give water to her son. As a result of God’s provision, both Hagar and Ishmael survived—with Ishmael becoming the father of the Ishmaelite people.

 

So, that’s a great story, Rhea, but why would a slave who endured sexual and physical abuse be your favorite?

 

Are you kidding me? Hagar is amazing!

 

Hagar endured myriad abuses at the hands of her masters including:  being a slave, being forced to have sex with Abraham, bearing Abraham’s son, being a target of Sarah’s rage and scorn, being thrown out of her home into the desert, and countless other atrocities that were not included in the Bible. And yet, through it all, Hagar remained faithful to God. Hagar could’ve easily used any one of the malfeasances committed against her as “rationale” to turn from the Lord or blame Him for her difficult life. Instead, Hagar turned more closely to Him. How many of us–after having run away from Sarah–would hear God asking us to return and submit to her, and think, “Yeah, sounds great, God. Let me just return to my abusers and let them raise my son”? None of us, likely. Hagar had unwavering faith in God’s plan for her and her son, and knew that He would fulfill His perfect plans for them. Hagar knew that the words of the Lord are true and can be trusted.

 

Aside from her immense faith in the Lord,  I love Hagar because she is the ONLY person in the Bible to give God a name. Because He saw her and saved her in the desert, she named Him “El Roi,” meaning the God who sees me. God sees us too. He knows us personally, down to the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7) and knowing our words before we even speak them (Psalm 139:4). It says in 1 Corinthians 8:3, that “whoever loves God is known by God.” This means you; broken, abused, abandoned, and weeping, you. God loves us as His imperfect children who constantly seek His grace and mercy. God loves us with an infinite love that we will never be able to comprehend.

 

Hagar survived distressing and seemingly insurmountable conditions—not through her own actions–but through the grace of God. The story of Hagar reminds us of the faithfulness of our God; offering hope for the abused, abandoned, and hopeless. On two separate occasions, God calls Hagar by name. The significance in this action cannot be overlooked. In Old Testament times, women were seen as insignificant and were rarely addressed by name even by their own community. To have the Lord of all Creation, see her weeping in the desert—not once, but twice—and address her personally by name is such a meaningful symbol of God’s love for us today. God sees us as His unique, beloved children and knows each of our intricacies and subtleties.  God did not see Hagar as the world saw her, or even how she saw herself. No. He looked past her abuse, her loneliness, and her distress to the heart of who He made her to be. God doesn’t judge as man judges, nor does He think as we think. God looks to our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). To think, an abused, lonely, and pregnant woman/single mother (depending on which instance to which we’re referring) wandering the desert was seen by God and personally offered redemption, hope, and a future. Twice. God, to this day, personally offers us His love and redemption. We need on invite Him in

 

If God saw Hagar, ought He see us as well? God sees us and knows our situations, offering each of us–no matter our background–exactly what he offered Hagar. God sees past our abuse, loneliness, distress, and all the other garbage sent to us by the enemy. God knows us, He sees us, and He loves us with an unending love.

 

 

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19

 

When you face a valley January 16, 2019

In September I was let go from one of my two jobs; the one that carried my health insurance. Two weeks later I had a car accident, and was issued my first ever traffic citation in over fifteen years of driving. A month and a half after that I lost my favorite job, and my sense of worth along with it. What I didn’t lose, though, was God.

 

We all go through valleys in our life. Most of the time, we get there and we become disgruntled, accusatory, or lose faith in the Lord. We want to be anywhere but in the valley. Who would choose to be in a dark situation or facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle? I’ve been there, and I’m there right now. In my valley, my sense of worthlessness grew exponentially and I questioned if I deserved anything. Perhaps you have felt similarly in your own valleys? Or maybe you’ve pushed those feelings aside, turning instead to addiction, working too much, or other means of distraction to numb the pain. We might be in the valley, but we’re going to do everything in our power not to feel it, acknowledge it, or admit it…especially to ourselves.

 

As Emily P. Freeman, author and podcaster says, “When things end, our hearts might break, especially when the ending is unexplainable. The ending is a part, but it isn’t a whole. Don’t let the ending steal the narrative.” Our valleys are not our whole, and they don’t deserve to take the entirety of our narrative. However, when we’re in a valley, the last thing we can think about is anything other than the valley. It consumes us, our thoughts, our actions, our being. It seemingly becomes us.

 

The Lord, though, has other plans. He doesn’t take us to a valley and abandon us, nor does he lead us halfway through the valley only to leave us to figure the rest out for ourselves. No, he walks the length and the breadth of the valley with us, comforting and leading us for the entirety. Whether short or long, arduous or mild; God holds our hand and guides us through the valley. But, as humans, we often lose sight of that. We think we can do it on our own; “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.” We may think that our valley is too shallow to trouble God with by asking Him for help. That is far from the truth.

 

Without the valleys, we cannot appreciate the mountaintops. Our valleys are not the whole of our stories; they’re an ending of us following our own ways, searching for our own control, and seeking our own desires. Emily asks that we be, “Willing to walk with me through your own endings, for considering an alternative narrative to the story you’re telling yourself, and for starting to get curious about how God might be showing up for you in ways you might not have been looking for.” God is with us in the valleys even when we do not see Him or are not seeking Him. What story are you telling yourself about your life? Your valleys? Your mountaintops? What would it take for you to trust God to lead you to the next mountaintop? 

 

Admittedly, I do often think of my valleys as the whole of my narrative. When I relate my life stories, I speak to my long-suffering with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and eating disorders first. After all, they’re the part of my story with which I’m most familiar; the stories with which I’ve lived the longest. To the casual observer, it might seem as if I lived and have taken up residency in a valley. I then speak to the mountaintop moments; how God used those long-suffering valleys to guide me closer to Him and to teach me more about His sovereign power and love. Though my currently valley is not over, I can see God’s hand in it as I navigate the “what’s next” moments. Even though I know I have a long way to go through this valley, I also know I’m not doing it alone. My God will take His daughter by the hand; guiding me over rough terrain, inviting me to rest in Him, and replenishing me with His Living Water. 

 

Like Emily, I challenge you to consider what joy can be found in the experience prior to the ending; “before the season of goodbye, what hellos were you able to say?” And how were you able to grow in this experience? Where can you see God in those endings?

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 27:14, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” 


Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

 

When diet culture tries to invade Jesus Culture December 19, 2018

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I’m struck by a post from a Christian author I follow. It read, “When I’m not sure I can do one more day of [fad diet], it’s [multi-level marketing “food”] to the rescue. It’s the Barnabas of beverages, baby (still craving a wee piece of toast though)! #fluffytofit #atleastlessunfit.” I stop. I reread thinking this can’t be right. I go to her page to see if she’s been hacked by some unscrupulous soul. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Further down she has an update on her adopted daughter’s health since coming to the States that ends with, “meanwhile, I’m doing [fad diet] b/c I gained [x number of pounds] in the same timeframe.” What? This can’t be real. I wonder how someone who follows Christ, publicly proclaims to be a light for Him, and has written myriad Bible studies on the love of God can fall headfirst into diet culture. I read the comments despite my better judgment. Woman after woman posts encouraging remarks about how the author should keep going on the fad diet, how much weight they’ve (temporarily) lost on the fad diet, how much stronger she is than them for following the fad diet, and how they wish they could also follow the fad diet. I had to reply.

While my reply wasn’t as lengthy as the one I’m about to write here, it had the same message.

Author,

As someone who has only recently gained recovery from twenty-two years of eating disorders—out of my thirty years on earth—hearing the way you so harshly critique your body and your latest diet endeavors makes me sad for you. I was under the influence of a sadistic disease for over 70% of my life because I hated what God so perfectly created. I hated who I was as a person; my thoughts, my depression, my attitude, my personality, my anxiety, and—most of all—my body. Starting at eight years old, I hated the whole of my being despite knowing “God created human beings in his own image” (Genesis 1:27a). In hating my existence, I unknowingly took the stance that I knew more than God about what I should look like and be. At the time, I did not know that, “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks” (1 Timothy 4:4). I was ungrateful of the amazing gift God had so freely given me, and rejected it as worthless. As an adult—however–I know that fad dieting, hating, and destroying my body is not honorable to God and I am grateful that my eating disorder did not kill me. After twenty-two years of self-starvation, purging, cutting, laxative abuse, binging, over-exercising, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, and more… I am finally healthy. I am healthy only because I called out to Christ, and rescued me, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along” (Psalm 40:2).

We must remember, our bodies are a living sacrifice to Him; a temple of His holiness. Worshiping God with our bodies does not include railing and rebelling against it or forcing it to conform to the narrow view of the world. Constant striving to “perfect” what God has already perfected is not honoring God with our bodies; it is quite literally the opposite. It is written, “Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Loathing our body’s natural state of existence, disparaging our bodies in words and actions, and following the cult-like attitudes of fad dieting is not God’s will. Please embrace all of who you are and whose you are without berating yourself for not obtaining society’s narrow, unachievable, ever-changing ideals of perfection. Although women seemingly bond over their mutual perceived failures (i.e. gaining weight or inability to lose weight) and spur each other on in diet culture, no one wins in diet culture except the diet industry…to the tune of over $60 billion dollars a year. It is not honorable to God to worship diet culture or vainly worship our bodies in this way, and it only further perpetuates the myth that we must conform to the ways established by the world through diet culture.

In seeking God’s will, the Holy Spirit has changed the way I think (Romans 12:2), and has allowed me to see my true value and worth. Our value does not come from our ability to shape shift into whatever size is the most aesthetically pleasing at the moment. Our worth is not found in our weight. Our value is not measured by our ability to follow the nonsensical rules of a fad diet. Our worth does not come from anything we do. We are valuable and worthy only because we were made in the image of the most Holy, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10a). When we are tempted to find our worth and value outside of Christ—in our physical appearance– we must remember the words of the Lord as He instructed King Samuel to anoint David as the new king, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). You see, God pays no attention to how we look, what we wear, or how well we adhere to an asinine fad diet. God only looks to our hearts; are we honoring Him, are we sharing the Good News with others, and do we truly love Him.

We are commanded not to, “participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:7-9). Notice, Paul didn’t write that we are to obsess over our bodies to shine the light of Christ. No, he wrote that we are to live as someone set apart, one who follows the love and practices of Jesus Christ, and one who shines the light of Christ for all to see. If we are to truly be lights of Christ in a world of darkness, our lights are dimmed when we become consumed with diet culture. We cannot fully shine for Jesus when we’re unable to love and accept the bodies with which He gifted us. I know this because I spent twenty-two years slowly killing myself, and—over those two decades–I never felt farther away from God than when I did when I was sick. Diet culture is an insidious tool used to keep us from shining the light of Christ; keeping us from His purpose for us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11). Again, notice the wording. Jeremiah stated that God has a purpose for us, and that plan does not include adherence to diet culture. We cannot live for Christ when we are actively worshipping diet culture.

In conclusion, God loves you…as is, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son” (Ephesians 1:4-6). Do not trust the lies of diet culture, trust the Truth and love of our God. As Lauren Daigle sings in “You Say,” please remember, “The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me / In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity.”

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

 

 

When you write your testimony August 5, 2018

After twelve years of being employed by my church and about six years of regularly attending, I decided to take the plunge and become a member. Part of the membership process is writing and sharing our testimony. So, here it is:

 

 Anorexia. Unworthiness. Bulimia. Shame. Binge Eating Disorder. Perfectionism. Self-harm. Depression. Anxiety. Stubbornness. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Self-loathing. Brokenness. Isolation. These qualities are not typically high on the list of Christian attributes. And yet, they were my reality when I accepted Christ.

I grew up attending church with my grandparents and two cousins every Sunday while our parents remained at home. My grandfather was the assistant pastor at the church; which made me the pastor’s kid. I felt the pressure to perform, memorize the verses, perfect the prayers, and act in a manner appropriate for a pastor’s grandkid. While I grew up in the church, I most certainly did not grow up in Christ. Christianity–it appeared to me–was a performance; another area in my life in which I was expected to excel, another area in my life in which I fell exceedingly short, and another area in my life in which I was not perfect—not even for God.

Throughout my thirteen years in public school, I was relentlessly bullied for being overweight, smart, and middle-class. Pictures of cows labeled “Rachel” were passed around behind my back, books were knocked out of my hands on the stairs, and demeaning nicknames were given daily. While I certainly was not loved by my bullies, I also did not feel love from my family. The expectation was to achieve, raise my younger sister, obtain perfect grades, take responsibility for myself and others, and obey the myriad rules of my house. I never once remember hearing “I love you,” being hugged, or feeling like my presence mattered.

Shame and unworthiness—and the accompanying depression and anxiety—was ingrained early and rapidly in my young life. In an effort to avoid feeling this shame and unworthiness, I developed what I now recognize as binge eating disorder at age eight. I ate to fill the void of feeling unloved. I ate to numb the pain caused by my bullies. I ate and ate because it gave a feeling of safety—my one safe space where no one could ever hurt me. When I went away to college, food again became my refuge, and I plunged into twelve years of atypical anorexia. I severely restricted food, over-exercised, abused laxatives, and purged in an attempt to overcome my deeply-rooted feelings of shame and unworthiness. I felt I needed to be punished for who I was and how I felt. If I wasn’t perfect, I certainly didn’t deserve to eat that day. If I got a 98% on a test, I had to use the elliptical until I paid the penance of missing those two points. If I ate more than my allotted calories for the day, I had to purge the overage—and then punish myself for allowing myself to eat. If my bedroom wasn’t cleaned to my standards, I had to punish myself by burning or cutting my skin. I did not seek professional help until I was twenty-one years old; thirteen years into my disorder. I lived in a cycle of self-condemnation, shame, rejection, self-hatred, unworthiness, and fear; far removed from God’s love, a love I did not feel I even deserved.

That is, until the night of December 7, 2017. Two weeks prior, I had been told by my treatment team that I needed a higher level of care for my anorexia. After disclosing this to my friend, she felt I would benefit from attending the healing prayer gathering that night. As we sat together in the pew, I felt my heart began to soften, the walls around my heart began to come down, and I saw—for the first time—the love of Christ. I knew in that moment I had to put my eating disorder at the foot of the cross, leave behind my shame and unworthiness, and move forward as a daughter of the King. But how? I reached into my cavernous purse, and located my planner. Flipping to the “notes” section, I scribbled in hasty cursive, “Julie, I want to accept Christ.”  Julie and Patrick guided me through accepting Christ that evening. I put my past at the feet of the Lord, and I instantly I felt lighter—like God had lifted my burdens, my sins, my shame, my eating disorder, and everything else that was keeping me from Him. The relief I felt in unloading my burden to God was unlike anything I had felt before; I was finally able to take a breath, breathing in His love and acceptance. I felt–instead of shame–a warmth; a closeness I’ve never felt before. For the first time, I truly felt the all-consuming love of the Father and believed that-as broken as I was–I was worthy of that love.

Since that day, I have moved forward in my life confident that God loves me, He chose me, He finds no fault in me, and that He will never abandon me. I no longer ache for the days I spent in my eating disorder; the false protection it offered or the way it numbed me to the world around me. I do not need anorexia when I have the most powerful force on earth and in heaven guarding my heart and keeping it in perfect peace. I live in constant humility that He waited patiently for me while I self-destructed, knowing with only the absolute certainty of a sovereign God, that I would return to Him. I am continually grateful for the Christian mentors and friends He has placed in my path to support my continued growth in Him. I share my story with as many people as possible; knowing that I can use my words to glorify my Father.

 

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 

When Anxiety Paints For You July 20, 2018

When a co-worker planned for us to attend a painting party, I had visions of becoming the female Bob Ross minus the perm. I thought, “I’ll get to hold one of those palates on my thumb, wear an apron, and paint with a knife. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Real artists wear berets. Who am I kidding? I’m not buying a beret—that ridiculous.” The fact that we were painting “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh was a bonus; impressionism is my favorite period of art. I was excited to create my own masterpiece.

 

Anxiety, however, had different plans.

 

The class began at 6:30, and–at 6:15–I was the first to arrive. It was just me and the woman that was leading the class. I stood there awkwardly fiddling with my collarbones while she got out the painting supplies, praying she wouldn’t try to make small talk…which she did. While she rattled through the requisite, “What’s your name? What do you do for a living?” etc., my brain frothed into a raging sea of “what ifs”

 

What if she asks a question I don’t know the answer to? What if she thinks I’m weird? What if none of my co-workers come, and I’m the only one? What if she says something about my weight? What if I say something stupid? What if..? My anxious brain was busy catastrophizing and creating scenarios that, in all likelihood, would never come to fruition. That’s how anxiety works; your brain spirals into the quicksand of worst-case-scenario, all-or-nothing, black and white thinking where anything that can go wrong, will. By the time I realize the thoughts are anxiety-driven, I’m so far into the anxiety rabbit hole that it takes a lot of concerted thought and fact checking to climb out of it.

 

Even after my co-workers arrived, I still couldn’t shake the dread. What if I can’t paint? What if I do it wrong? What if I get paint on my dress after she said it would never come out? What if my co-workers think my painting is awful? What if my painting truly is awful and I just wasted $40?

 

As we were painting, the anxiety rampage continued. I look to the paintings of my coworkers; my swirls are so much bigger than my neighbors’, how did they get theirs to look like the teacher’s,  did I mix my colors correctly, am I using the right brush, what if I’m doing this wrong, why am I such a failure? I take a drink of my Moerlein –playing with the sticker on the bottle to distract me from my thoughts and my painting. I take a deep breath. The teacher instructs us to paint seven stars on our background, but my OCD demands that I paint eight. I make a mistake and want to start over; I want to give up because I can’t do it perfectly. Paralyzed by anxiety, it wins this round.

 

Looking back that the experience now, I can see that my art is unique to me and that it doesn’t matter what looks like. My anxiety didn’t make my painting any better but it certainly lessened my enjoyment of the painting party.

 

I see this pattern again and again in my life; letting anxiety rule my decisions, living life in a series of worst-case-scenario what ifs, and allowing automatic negative thoughts to overrun my thinking.  This is not the life I want to live. This is not the life God intended me to live—despite the fact that He wired my brain to make anxiety a part of my brain. The most repeated phrase,  in the Bible is, “Do not fear.” When God spoke to Moses in the desert, He didn’t say, “Oh, Moses, you’re freaking out? Cool, cool. Panic some more, catastrophize the situation until you’re too paralyzed to make a decision, and then I’ll see what I can do for you.”

 

And Jesus didn’t say, “Anxiety is awesome, y’all. Let us live our lives in constant fear of an imagined outcome that will likely never happen.” No! God does not want us to live our life in anxiety. He wants us to trust Him, grow in Him, and know that He has our lives planned perfectly in accordance to His will. He wants our trust in Him to replace the lies of anxiety. He wants us to use His Word to fight the voices of worry; secure in the knowledge that God has us in the palm of His hand. His grace covers our failures.

 

Through my thirty years of anxiety, I’ve learned more and more to depend on God to get me through those moments (or days or weeks) of anxiety. When my mind begins to spiral into the abyss of anxiety, I am able to go to God with my fears and what ifs. In this acknowledgement of my anxiety, He is able to calm me and abate the anxiety. This acknowledgment also reminds me to employ therapeutic strategies on my thoughts such as fact checking, reframing, and cognitive defusion. It has taken a lot of work and trust in the Lord to get where I am today—and I still struggle with anxiety. However, I know that I am able to overcome anxiety.

 

 

Below are some verses we can use in our times of anxiety to remind us of the Truth:

 

Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Deuteronomy 3:22

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

1 Chronicles 28:20b

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you”

Psalm 3:3-6

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

Psalm 23:1-4

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:1

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”

Psalm 29:11

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Psalm 31:24

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Psalm 32:6-7

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 34:4-5

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 55:1-3

“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger.”

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

Psalm 56:3-4

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Psalm 56:10-11

“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 91

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Psalm 94:19

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 112:7-8

“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”

Psalm 118:5-7a

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”

Proverbs 12:25

“Anxiety weighs down the heart,  but a kind word cheers it up.”

Isaiah 12:2

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense]; he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 26:3-4

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

Isaiah 41:10 and 13

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Isaiah 43:1b-2

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,  I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Isaiah 44:8

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Isaiah 51:7

“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults.”

Isaiah 54:4a

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.”

Jeremiah 1:8

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”

Lamentations 3:57-58

“You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.”

Zephaniah 3:16a-17

“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 10:29-31

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 14:27

“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””

Mark 5:36

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.””

Mark 6:50b

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””

Luke 12:22-26

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

John 6:20

“But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.””

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

Philippians 4:6-9

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”

Hebrews 13:5b-6

““Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

IMG_8868

My completed painting

 

 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

When you trust God to heal June 29, 2018

My cheek, still sun-kissed warm from my picnic lunch, rests on the cool, curved porcelain. A mixture of tears and vomit swirl in front of my eyes while also dripping down my hand. I can feel my heart’s beat throbbing behind my eyes. My breathing is shallow and irregular. My knees, weak from osteoarthritis, tremble from kneeling for so long. I wipe my hands on some toilet paper and reach for my glasses. “This is the last time,” I say to myself as I toss the toilet paper into the bowl.

 

“You know damn well this isn’t the last time. Every time you’ve said, ‘This is the last time,’ you’ve come running back to me to save you. You’re weak, Rachel. You need me. You’re worthless without me. I’m all you’ve got” ED jeers.

 

Various iterations of ED had been a constant in my life since I was eight years old, and there I was, 28, and still fighting her. I’d proclaimed, “this is the last time,” so many times that the words had almost lost all meaning. ED knew this and used it to keep me stuck. It’d be another two years before I shook her off entirely.

 

But this time WAS the last time.

 

I’ve been lured many times by the siren song of purging:

“You ate birthday cake at a party? You’re such a fat ass. What idiot invited you, anyway?”

“You ate dinner after I specifically set your calorie limit for the day? You have no control! Get rid of it!”

“Have another bowl of cereal. It tastes good and you can just purge it afterwards. You know you miss it.”

“Your students had a hard time listening today? You know what will calm you down and make you feel better. Just once more, for old time’s sake.”

 

But that was the last time.

 

Recovery has been a series of consistent choices. It felt—and still sometimes feels—uncomfortable; like mourning the loss of a piece of you. After all, an eating disorder insidiously operates to make you feel like it is a piece of you; the defining character trait about yourself that you cannot—should not–change. EDs thrive on isolating a multifaceted person down to one singular title: eating disorder. Eating disorders want you to believe the lie that you are the ED and the ED is you.  EDs make you feel that they are your identity, that you do not exist outside of the disorder, and that your sole purpose in life is to be controlled by ED.

 

But that is not the truth.

 

You were, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) by a God who created all things. When the ED attempts to convince you that you are nothing, know that God, “determines the number of the stars,  and calls them each by name,” (Psalm 147:5) yet loves each of us so much that, “ the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). Let that sink in for a minute. The God who created each star and knows it by name, loves you so incredibly much that He even knows the number of hairs on your head. In Matthew 10: 27-30, Jesus reminds us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground in death without the Father knowing; reminding us that we are worth more to God than many sparrows. Between naming stars, keeping tabs on sparrow deaths, and knowing the number of hairs on seven billion heads, it sounds like God has His work cut out for Him. And yet, He took the time to lovingly create everything about you—from your dimple on your cheek, to the veins of color in your iris; from the size of your feet to your affinity for cheesy 90’s sitcoms. You are a miracle of creation and no eating disorder can tear that away from you. Nothing about you is an accident; you were made on purpose for a purpose. While I don’t know your purpose—and I don’t always know mine—there is a purpose for your life; a purpose that is not an eating disorder.

 

But if I’m not my ED, what am I?

 

Know that you, “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Notice that the scriptures do not say, “You are an eating disorder. Your sole purpose is to engage in behaviors and obey the demands of the disorder.” No! We are the exquisite handiwork of God, created to do good works; “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1: 7). We are not timid—we have the strength to overcome the eating disorder. We have power, love, and self-control (that I often like to reframe as allowing God control of myself instead of letting the ED have control). I pray that you may, ”grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)

 

 

But why would God give me an eating disorder?

 

In short, He didn’t. Take a look at the story of Job. Horrible thing after horrible thing happened to him—his flock of over 4,000 animals was destroyed, his ten kids died when their house collapsed, his body became covered in sores, and myriad other events that were meant to challenge Job. These things did not come from God. No. Satan sent these to Job as a means to test Job’s faith in God. No matter what atrocity Satan put upon Job, Job never stopped praising, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:21b-22). Satan attacked Job because he doubted the genuineness of Job’s faith in God; believing Job only praised God because of the wealth he had amassed. However, Job persevered and endured the struggles in authentic faith because he knew, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Job knew that God would not attack him or cause him harm; unlike the eating disorder who exists solely to attack and harm.

 

Know that you are worthy, as is. There are no prerequisites to obtaining the love of God, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Even before you were born, God loved you, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4) 

 

I have not purged for two years and I have gotten my restriction under control in the last few months. God can heal and God will heal.

 

2 Peter 1:3

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”

 

When you choose recovery again and again March 31, 2018

Staring in awe at the verdigrised feet of the Statue of Liberty, my stomach growls. “Not now,” ED says, “You have so much to see while you’re here. You don’t have time to waste on food.”

 

My brain–as swampy as the unseasonably warm November air in New York Harbor–can’t create a coherent thought outside of how fat I am compared to the girls posing for selfies with Lady Liberty. “Think of how many people have your fat body in the background of their photos. You’ve completely ruined their vacation memories,” ED whispers maliciously.

 

When was the last time I ate? It doesn’t matter. I have things to see and a conference to attend—I’ve never been to New York, after all. I unzip my blue fleece, and take a step forward; my knee giving way slightly due to my arthritis.  “See?” says ED, “If you weren’t so fat, you wouldn’t have these problems with your knees.” She’s right, I concede, and continue my way around the island; ED berating me every step of the way. At the literal feet of freedom, I continue to be enslaved by my eating disorder.

 

——

 

A few days later, while aimlessly tracing the intricate designs of the conference hall carpet with the heel of my stiletto, I call my friend Jenni in Texas.  I know I have to tell someone about this months-long relapse, and I know Jenni will know what to do. ED assures me that I’m fine. “Fat girls can’t have anorexia. Besides, you ate today, didn’t you? You’re fine. Quit over exaggerating, and hang up on Jenni. She’s a busy woman who doesn’t have time for whiner like you,” she hisses.

 

Ignoring ED, I tell Jenni everything. The pause before her words feels endless. Maybe I am wasting her time? Taking a deep breath, Jenni says, “You say you don’t want to be like your patients. But can’t you see, Rhea? You are them. You are just as sick as your patients. As much as you try to deny it, you are just like them and you know it. You’re a smart woman, and I know you know this.” The reality of her words hit me hard. “I know I can say this to you,” she continues, “because you are smart and strong. You know exactly what you need to do. Now do it.” Jenni is right—she always is—but what do I do now?

 

——

 

Two weeks later, curled up on my therapist’s black leather couch instead of Black Friday shopping, I hear, “I think it’s about time we looked into a higher level of care for you.” In the six years I’ve been seeing my therapist, she has never spoken these words…until now. What have I done? This can’t be happening. Not now.

 

“She’s lying,” ED quips, “She doesn’t think you’re sick and she never has. She’s testing you. She’s trying to get rid of you so she doesn’t have to see you anymore.”

 

“You can’t be serious,” I state aloud.

 

“Oh, I’m quite serious,” my therapist replies, “I’ve never seen you like this. You’ve lapsed before, but you’ve always gotten right back up and kept going. I’m not seeing that right now.”

 

Crap. What have I done? I can’t go to treatment. My jobs, my kid, my students, my life…they’d all be lost. How did I let this happen? I leave her office, head spinning, unsure of what to do next. Where do I go from here?

 

——

 

Two days later, I’m sitting by the ornately-carved gothic fireplace at school struggling through admitting my relapse to my friend. Through tears, I choke out that I need her help; that I can’t do this alone anymore. Julie takes me in her arms, and makes me feel less broken. She promises the walk me through this as long as I’m willing to come alongside her. She institutes adult lunch box buddies after school; wherein we eat lunch prior to me heading off to my second job. Both she and I hold myself accountable for completing nutrition, and examining thoughts/emotions I am feeling when I do not complete.

 

One week later, she takes me to our church’s healing prayer gathering. Instead of ED’s voice, I hear the voice of God urging me to put my ED at His feet, follow Him, and I will be free (read that story here). On February 25th, Julie and her husband Patrick baptize me into the Kingdom.

 

——

 

The buds on the trees are starting to bloom and the birds are gleefully singing. It’s late March, and I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked on recovery.

 

            “I don’t know how you pulled this off. How you turned it around so quickly. I was certain you were going to have to go to a higher level of care to get this far in recovery. I was ready to hand you off, and see you again when you got back,” my incredulous therapist states.

 

            “Honestly, I don’t how I did it either,” I reply, “You’ve known me long enough to know I’m the most stubborn person on the face of the planet, and I was not going to let this eating disorder take my life. My stubbornness–combined with a whole lotta Jesus—is what got me here.”

 

——

 

            I have a long way to go in my recovery, and I am making progress every single day. I can, without a doubt, state that this is the strongest I’ve ever been in recovery. After 22 years spent in illness, I no longer yearn for the days I spent in my disorder. ED has nothing more to offer me. I no longer turn to her for the comfort only Jesus can provide. Eating disordered thoughts still pop up in my head—they’re not called “automatic negative thoughts” for nothing—and I now know I can choose to act in line with my values; acting opposite of what ED commands. I always thought I would have to live with at least some aspect of my ED forever; that I could never be fully recovered. And yet, here I am. I am recovering. I know I can exist without ED. I can draw my strength from the Lord.  I know I can fully recover. I know I can live.

 

 

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep—Matthew 18:12-14

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

 

When you write for ERC February 17, 2018

For those who may not know, I write for Eating Recovery Center’s blog occasionally. This post was originally published on ERC’s blog in November, and I’m reposting it here because I think it’s worthy enough to be included on my own blog.

 

7 Ways to Accept Your Body in a Society That May Not

I look away from the book I am reading aloud to my class as I feel a tiny, toddler hand creep into my lap. I lock eyes with the hand’s owner as she moves it to my stomach.

“You must have a big baby in your belly Miss King,” she states with confidence. My heart skids to a halt, and my students — even the ones who had, up to this point, not been paying attention — all stop to look at me, mouths agape.

 

This, my friends, is recovery.

 

“Your mommy is having a baby, isn’t she, Brooke?” I inquire even though I already know the answer.

She nods proudly, “Nobember firteenv.”

“That’s exciting! I have a little sister too. I have to tell you something though. I don’t have a baby in my belly,” I tell her, while I wonder if the lecture I feel in my soul is appropriate for my toddlers. “Sometimes people have different shaped bellies, and that’s ok. Just like you and I have different hair color, or like how Patrick and Amara don’t have the same eye color, sometimes bellies are different too…and that is the amazing thing about our bodies. We are all different and we are all loved—not because of how we look, but because of who we are.”

“So: no baby?” she questions, sadly.

“No baby; just belly” I answer and return to my book.

 

Prior to my recovery from twenty-one years of eating disorders, that interaction with a two-year old would have set off a cascade of self-loathing and an incalculable amount of time spent engaging in behaviors.

 

My eating disorder would have used the sweetness of a toddler as warped rationale for its continued control over my life.

 

But how did I get here? How did I get to the point where I could brush off her comment without spiraling back into my eating disorder?

 

I did not suddenly wake up one morning — fully recovered — thinking, “You know what? I really love and admire everything about my body today.”

 

Recovery has been a gradual, ongoing process — as I practice accepting my body and appreciating its aesthetics and function.

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things I do that help me love and accept my body — in this very moment — in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite.

 

I know I’m not alone in having to learn how to accept and appreciate my body. Here are some suggestions for you to consider that may help you learn to love and accept your body, too:

 

1. Celebrate your body.
We can learn how to celebrate our bodies for all that they are and all that they do. It may sound and feel trite, awkward, or downright uncomfortable at first — I know it did for me — but celebrating our bodies is the first step towards accepting our bodies. Our bodies are more than their ability to gain and lose weight, more than their ability to contort into the current fleeting beauty-ideal, and more than their ability to conform to society’s impossibly narrow standards. Our bodies swim, nap, canoe, run, watch marathon-length Netflix sessions, play video games, and more — they should be celebrated for what they do — not berated for how they appear.

 

2. Think positively, as much as possible.
Consciously counter every negative comment you think about your body with a positive comment. When you have lived with an eating disorder, negative comments about your body are in generous supply. In fact, it is likely easier for us to generate negative body comments than positive ones — which is why countering these statements is so crucial. For every disparaging thought you have about your body, take a moment to reflect on your body’s myriad positive aspects. One way in which to counter negative body thoughts is to write a letter of gratitude to your body — sure it sounds weird, but it will be worth it. Writing a gratitude letter challenges you to highlight the breathtaking attributes that make you, you. When we focus on what our body does for us — how it aids us in living our lives—we are able to more effectively block out the negativity.

 

3. Be mindful with clothing.
Wear an article of clothing that makes you feel great, regardless of how you feel others may perceive you. In a world of “what not to wear” and “fashion police,” it is hard to feel comfortable in certain articles of clothing — especially with that added fear that someone may comment on your clothing. No matter how much you may like a piece of clothing, the ever-present fear of someone negatively commenting on your body will likely keep you from expressing your true self — I know I feel that way at times.

 

4. Focus on character — not appearances.
Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. All too often we’re greeted with, “You look so good. Did you lose weight?” Does that mean that, in order to look “good,” a person has to lose weight? Does it mean that they looked “bad” the last time you saw them? Does it mean that you’re only “good” if you lose weight? NO! Our bodies have absolutely no bearing on our worth as individuals — none. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the phenomenal aspects of our bodies or our character. By actively pointing the remarkable traits that are possessed by both ourselves and others, we are able to decrease the emphasize on body and appearance.

 

5. Respect yourself.
Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if your body wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness — though society will actively work to convince you otherwise. Denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. In addition, an eating disorder will actively work to persuade us that either 1) we have no needs or 2) we must ignore our needs. I’m here to say that all bodies have needs. A majority of recovery is recognizing what our body’s current needs are, and then effectively meeting them as a means to support and care for our bodies.

 

6. Become an activist.
We can spread body positivity by participating in body activism projects. I’ve joined myriad body positive groups on Facebook while simultaneously blocking “friends” who consistently post body-negative updates. In the grocery store, I turn around books and magazines that objectify bodies by promoting beauty ideals or the latest fad diets. If people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. The diet industry makes over $60 billion annually by convincing us that something is so fundamentally flawed and wrong about us that we can only “fix’’ it by losing weight. But there is no “wrong” body. All bodies are good bodies, and we need not “fix” our bodies in order to be loved.

 

7. Believe that you are worthy.
I leave you with this: appreciate your body. It is all yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation, and there is no other body out there like yours —none. When the world seeks to mold you to fit their idea of worthiness–their narrow and impossible view of perfection — you sacrifice all the amazing attributes that make you unique and loved. We do not gain worthiness by conforming to the ways of others — giving up our true selves. Each time we strive to achieve the trivial and fleeting definition of worthiness, we give up a piece of what makes us extraordinary. You will gain worthiness each time you stand up for who you really are, each time you’re your authentic self in the face of adversity, and each time you hold true to your values.

 

Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

Rachel is a teacher (preschool by day and adolescent patients at Eating Recovery Center, Cincinnati, Ohio by night), photographer, auntie, and aspiring writer. She writes to share that full recovery from eating disorders is — not only possible — but the single most rewarding decision an individual can make.

 

 

1 Corinthians 10:31

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

 

 

 

When you accept Christ December 16, 2017

“You mean they’re going to touch me,” I incredulously—and somewhat cynically–ask my best friend Julie, “You know how I feel about touching.”

 

“You’ll be fine,” she reassures, “They just put their hands on your shoulders, and say a prayer over you or with you. You can always ask them not to touch you.”

 

After experiencing an alarming relapse in eating disordered behaviors that left me feeling even more shameful and unworthy than usual, Julie thought it might be beneficial for us to attend our church’s monthly healing prayer gathering.  I tug open the heavy wooden door to the sanctuary, and gently insist she goes inside first. Though I’ve been in this sanctuary hundreds of times over the past eleven years, I still feel undeserving to enter first. She chooses our pew, takes off her coat, and sits down while I shuffle anxiously behind her. When I take off my coat, I briefly consider setting it and my purse between us—a barrier to protect myself from potential harm. I then remember: Julie is safe, she won’t hurt me, and I don’t need that wall of protection from her. I place my purse and coat to my right, with Julie on my left.

 

I tuck into myself— “crisscross applesauce:” my typical sitting position—meticulously smoothing my dress over my thighs as I wrap my arms across my chest; fingers dancing across my collar bones.  I must make myself as small as possible as a measure of protection, and so as not to impede in Julie’s pew space or have others notice my presence. A subconscious manifestation of my anxiety becomes visible as I intensely wring my hands together, dig for my collar bones, and twirl my rings around my fingers. The more I will my hands to stop, the worse the movements became. I turn to my left—towards Julie. My eating disorder reminds me that I’m at least double Julie’s weight and more than half a foot shorter. I shake the thought from my brain; willing it to be more mindful. Tears begin their migration down my cheeks; this journey is familiar to them.

 

Julie’s upturned palms are resting on her sylphlike thighs, her eyes peacefully closed, head tipped slightly back, and her extended legs are gracefully crossed at the ankles.  The juxtaposition of our body language was not lost on me…which only increases the ferocity of the hand wringing as I draw my knees closer to my chest. Noticing my tears, Julie places a tissue packet between us, pats my arm, and gently states that they’re “communal tissues.”

 

Despite the rivulets of tears, I refuse the tissues. “Using them would be a weakness! You mustn’t have needs!” my shame proclaims. I dig through my coat pockets, finding the two unused tissues I had placed in there earlier in the day for my students to use at recess. They’re reduced to shreds minutes later. The tears do not stop.

 

A woman says opening remarks, a duo sings “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” and the service begins. Julie returns to her serene posture, and I to my anxiety and crying. The longer I sit—overhearing mumblings of Julie’s prayers, crying, wringing my hands to the point of pain, body checking, feeling unworthy, and avoiding eye contact—the more I feel what I can only describe as the Holy Spirit move in me. Tonight was going to be the night; the night I finally accept Christ.

 

You see, I’ve grown up in the church. I did not, however, grow up in Christ. Which, I now know, is a very big distinction. My step-grandfather–Lloyd–is a pastor, and my cousins and I grew up, essentially, as PKs (pastor’s kids). I’ve a wealth of Scripture committed to memory, live my life in accordance with Christian values, have lead many lessons on the Bible, problem-solve based on Christian principles, I firmly assert that Jesus is the son of God and He was a living sacrifice for our sins, and truly believe every word of Scripture is God-breathed and God-inspired…for everyone but me.  You see, it’s hard to accept that a perfect God could—or rather, would—love someone as broken and unworthy as me. Never mind the fact that I have scripture to prove otherwise, and that I trust that no one is beyond the love of Christ. It was hard to believe that a God of love could see past the barriers of shame and self-loathing that I built up around me to “protect” me from others. Because I had spent so many years in my eating disorder, in self-harm, and in self-loathing, I felt I was a huge slap-in-the-face to God. It is because of this unworthiness before God, that I didn’t feel I deserved His salvation…that is, until the night of December 7, 2017.

 

I feel my heart begin to soften. I must do something before shame/anxiety/Satan/eating disorder convinces me not to, before I lose my nerve, and before anything else happens. Glancing to my left, Julie remains serenely in the Word. Everyone around me is quiet. I couldn’t just blurt it out. I look around the sanctuary as if a billboard would appear telling me what to do. I almost lose my courage and conviction—what kind of Christian can’t say aloud that they want to accept Christ? I realize, however, that that is the voice of shame talking.

 

What do writers do when they don’t know what to do? They write! I reach into my cavernous purse, and locate my planner. I flip to the “notes” section and scribble in hasty cursive, “Julie, I want to accept Christ.” I lay the planner on the tissues between us. Julie remains peacefully unaware, and I sit in nervous anticipation. What if she doesn’t see my planner and I miss my opportunity? My fingers quicken their dancing around my collar bones as my shame increases. I take a deep breath and reach out, but I don’t want to touch her. I feel my touch will mar her perfection in some way, and I do it anyway.

 

Cautiously, I tap her forearm and nod my head towards my open planner. Julie inhales deeply, and touches my arm. My tears increase, and so does my anxiety and shame. Julie turns to me, and takes me in her arms. I don’t resist. I allow myself to be enveloped in her hug. It feels good to be held; as much as a vocally protest being touched. She whispers to me that she’s never walked anyone through accepting Christ, and that she would like to bring someone over to help us. I nod in approval as my tears land on her shoulders. Julie names an individual I know to be in the room, and asks if she can bring her over. Through the tears, I choke out a “no.” This person will only increase my shame and anxiety; leading me further from Christ. Julie, undeterred, asks if she can bring over her husband, Patrick. I’ve known him for over eleven years–Patrick is safe. I say yes; unaware that he is on the other side of the sanctuary.

 

Julie excuses herself and disappears, returning what seems like seconds later with Patrick. Standing behind me, Patrick pulls me into a hug; the scruff of his beard on the crown of my head. Again, I don’t resist the touch—which increases the tears yet again. He kneels behind me, calmly rubbing my back, and speaking words of reassurance. I cannot recall everything Patrick said (thanks emotion mind), but I know I accepted Christ. Patrick repeatedly states that I am worthy, that I am loved, and that I am enough—not because of anything I did, but because of what Christ did for me. I am deserving of all these things simply by my being a daughter of the King (not to be confused with my father, Mr. King). Julie, Patrick, and I pray together. I invite Christ into my heart forever. I give him my eating disorder, I lay down my depression, and I relinquish my past. I am His.

 

Instantly, I feel lighter—like God had lifted my burdens, my sins, my shame, my eating disorder, and everything else that was keeping me from him. I feel–instead of shame–a warmth; a closeness I’ve never felt before. Patrick and Julie excuse themselves to allow me some time for self-reflection. I curl back up into myself and cry. This cry is different, though. This cry is a cry of admiration for all that He has done for me while I lived in self-loathing, shame, depression, anxiety, OCD, self-harm, unworthiness, and eating disorders. This cry is a cry of humility that He waited patiently for me while I self-destructed–knowing one day His daughter would return. This cry is a cry of appreciation for His love of my brokenness. I am a daughter of the King, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

 

Amazing Women

It is an honor to know, love, and be loved by these women. Kelli (Left) and Julie (Middle), you inspire me to be a better daughter of the King, “mom,” teacher, woman, and all around better person. These two are the most amazing women—Christ-focused, intelligent, funny, humble, compassionate, wonderful wives, and caring mothers who live their passions and follow where God leads them. They’ve taught me, loved me, trusted me with their kids, cried with me, showed me forgiveness, laughed with me, and helped call me out of the darkness. They’ve each played an integral role in my life over the past 5-ish years (and this week in particular as Julie and her husband Patrick aided my acceptance of Christ). I love these ladies more than words can say, and can’t wait to make more memories with them—preferably in clothes as refined as these

 

 

 

Ephesians 2: 1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

When you (don’t) climb a volcano August 3, 2017

“Stick, lady? It is much more better for volcano.” I take a deep breath and cautiously step onto the centuries-old cobblestone street at the base of Volcán Pacaya in Antigua, Guatemala; looking into the eyes of about fifteen children, each of them cradling a bundle of walking sticks they sell to support their families. Behind the children stand ten or so teenage boys and young men leading about a half dozen haggard looking horses. Behind them are a patchwork of abuelitas, roosters, toddlers, dogs, tourists, and trail guides.

“No, gracias,” I mutter sheepishly, and pass the children who are simply attempting to make a living. Despite the overcast skies, I’m already sweating profusely in the eighty-five degree heat and high humidity.

“You ride horse, lady? Es sólo cien quetzales,” shouts a boy of about fourteen sitting atop a horse roughly the same age. A well-worn cowboy sits atop his head and he sports threadbare Batman t-shirt. I nod my head no, and look away. I hate saying no. “Horse is better, lady. Maybe later? Mi nombre es Luis, y este es Jonathan,” he says tousling the knotted mane of his aging horse.

I turn to follow the others in my group, and receive a face-full of horse tail as Jonathan decides to swat a fly. “I probably deserved that,” I think. The welcome party follows my small group of five as we climb the hill to purchase tickets to enter the national park that houses Volcán Paycaya. They wait as we sign our life away on the waivers, and they follow us as we proceed up the volcano. My group consistes of a motley assemblage of people: me, two men in their late fifties, and a nine-year-old girl. Having been with these people all week, I’d formed a kinship with one of the older men, Francis, and Sophia, the little girl. I knew they would be supportive companions on the hike up the volcano.

DSC_0334

The welcome center at the volcano

The trail of black, cooled lava is steep and narrow—too narrow for the amount of people it is currently supporting. The rocks are sharp and slippery. The mosquitoes are bloodthirsty. The welcome party—children, teens, and horses–continues to follow us. Our native trail guide, Gabriel, stops every few feet to explain to us varying facts about the volcano and the forest around it. I need the rests. My breath is rapid, and I remember my inhaler is in Ohio. I’m sweating from areas of my body I didn’t know sweated. I feel guilty for asking for more rests when others are not. I’m falling behind in my group—back by about ten feet—and only about a foot in front of the welcome party. I feel boxed it, and my anxiety is rising.

“You want horse,” questions Luis, “It is much more easy riding horse.”

“No gracias. I can do this,” I reply sweetly. Meanwhile, my anxiety is now running full-speed ahead, and the voice of my eating disorder is reminding me that I can’t climb this volcano due to being overweight. My anxiety tells me that I’ll never make it up the volcano, and if I—by some miracle I do make it—it will be at the expense of the enjoyment of all the others because I am invariably flawed. My eating disorder tells me the hike would be easier if I were thinner—after all two fifty-year-old men and a little girl don’t appear to be struggling. It is also telling me that I can’t rent a horse because it would painful for the horse to labor me up a volcano–even if I did have the fourteen dollars it would have cost to rent the horse. My perfectionism is telling me to do what will please everyone so that they may enjoy this hike, but what would please everyone?

“Maybe later?” replies Luis and we continue up the steep trail.

I feel pressure from my group and my guide to move faster. I feel pressure from the kids and teenagers to rent a horse—and move faster. My already rapidly-beating heart increases, and my already labored breathing becomes harder. It feels as if it is getting hotter. I’m near tears.

“Lo siento. Yo soy muy gorda. Yo no puedo hacerlo,” I say through tears. I turn to Francis, and tell him—through sobs–that I am unable to continue.

“Jonathan is much more better for volcano,” says Luis from behind me. That’s it. I tell Francis to take photos for me when he gets to the top—forgetting he left his phone at the hotel—and trudge back down the volcano. I don’t turn around to see the reactions of the others—I can’t face them.

I cry openly on the way back down the volcano by myself—tears uniting with sweat as it rolls down my face. I pass two more children attempting to sell me sticks. However, when they see my tears, they think better of asking the strange gringa to buy a stick. I got to the bottom of the volcano, sat down my backpack, and sit on the black soot. My perfectionism yells that I ruined the climb for my group, and that I am going to have to admit to my friends and family that I failed the climb.  My eating disorder yells (because, yes, in recovery the voice still creeps in) that I’m a big, fat failure who would’ve been able to climb had I not been carrying the extra weight—and offers behaviors as “solutions” to change those feelings. My depression reminds me that I’m not worthy of good things, and do not deserve to reach the top of the volcano. I sit as a spectator while my brain beats me up at the bottom of the volcano.

I wallow in my sorrow for awhile, and remember a story the lovely Jenni Schaefer tells about her attempts at skydiving in New Zealand. Not completely comparable, but stick with me. She failed her first attempt at jumping, but was able to jump on her second attempt after defying the voices of negativity. I wanted to defy them too, dammit! So I gather my backpack, dust off my bottom, and continue back up the volcano. It is slow going, and I pass the kids selling sticks again. I get to the spot where I turned around before. I can’t do it. I can’t go any further. My body is exhausted, my brain is drained, and my emotions are depleted.   I make the decision to go back down the volcano.

Again my perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and eating disorder offer their viewpoint on the situation. I do my best to ignore them as I engage the stick selling children in conversation—apparently scary white ladies are less scary when they’re not crying on the side of a volcano. They made fun of my Spanish and I made fun of my Spanish; I think we’re best friends now. I leave the kids, and walk to the ticket counter welcome area. While my group climbs the volcano, I sit at a picnic table in the welcome area and journal. I write about the experience, what my brain was saying, and why I’m not a miserable failure.

IMG_6531

My self-care and writing buddy

A small mutt of a dog—perhaps lab, retriever, random combination—sits near me nursing her one surviving pup. I’d been watching them play that morning, and hoped I’d be able to see them later, as I’m a sucker for cute animals. When she sees me at the table, the dog comes to investigate. I give her a head rub—something I was explicitly told not to do while in Guatemala. She curls up at my feet while I go back to writing. She looks hungry, so I dig in my backpack for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich leftover from the day before (I didn’t eat the sandwich because I was carsick in the coaster van, not because of an eating disorder). As I feed the dog my sandwich—and one of my Clif bars—I come to the realization that sometimes we aren’t ready for hard things, and that’s ok. Self-care should always come first.

As much as I had been looking forward to climbing the volcano all week, as much as I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could climb the volcano, as much as I wanted to say I was able to climb the volcano, and as much as I wanted to avoid the shame that came with not climbing the volcano…I was not ready to do the hard thing. Am I disappointed? Yes, I would have loved to climb the volcano. Did I make the choice that was best for my body and my mind? Yes. Will I climb that volcano someday? You betcha!

What I needed that Sunday morning in Antigua was self-care. I needed time to clear my head, reflect on my values, and sit with a feral dog. Ok, I probably didn’t need the dog and the 2,000 miles in travel. However, I did learn that self-care is more important than achieving hard things, self-care is more important than a perceived failure, self-care is more important than shame and fear, self-care is more important than the belief that you’re letting down others, self-care is more important than checking an item off your “bucket list,” and self-care is more important than doing hard things. We can and should do hard things—don’t get me wrong—doing hard things helps us to grow and develop in authentic ways; AND sometimes we are not yet ready to do them.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them—the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life have been the most rewarding (RECOVERY, going to college, writing, taking care of Leah, etc). Sometimes, though, we just need to slow down and take care of ourselves. What are you doing to promote your own self-care?

Sonya and Rachel

My friend Sonya (from this post) and I in Guatemala. Experiencing a beautiful country with this beautiful soul–who I credit with providing me the wake up call to save my life–was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. 

 

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

 

When you stand up for your health June 6, 2017

To say I have difficulties with doctors would be comparable to saying the Titanic had difficulties with an ice burg.

As early as I can remember, doctors have been expressing “concern” about my weight. When I first began gaining significant amount of weight—from what I now know to be binge eating disorder—my pediatrician informed my mother that I needed to lose weight–suggesting she lock her eight-year-old daughter out of the pantry (an act my parents took into consideration and often used as a threat against me). The same doctor later noticed that, around age twelve, I was developing scoliosis from that ever-present elementary school trend of carrying your backpack on one shoulder. She informed my mother that losing weight would alleviate some of the pressure on my spine; which would mitigate some of the pain I was experiencing. The binging continued.

In my teens, my pediatrician would frequently inform me that we should “probably start looking into how to lower your weight given your family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.” While it is true that heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes are as ubiquitous in my family as black hair or short stature, these scare tactics only turned an already overweight, binging teen towards increased binging in an effort to make the embarrassment of being called fat and fear of these “inescapable” diagnoses “disappear.” This, of course, only trended my weight even higher.

Near the end of high school, I began to experience some unusual feminine concerns—the solution to which was, again, suggested weight loss. It wasn’t until I had an ultrasound in college, that it was determined that these feminine concerns were actually ovarian cysts. I was told the cysts would have been easier to see had the ultrasound waves not traveled through the extra layers of adipose tissue—despite the fact that that was my first ultrasound and no one had postulated cysts in my numerous visits, as the concern was on weight loss. Once again, losing weight was suggested as a solution to my medical concerns. Unbeknownst to my doctors, during those first semesters of college I was in the beginning years of a restrictive eating disorder that thrived on being told I was overweight, and used those words to intensify the eating disordered behaviors.

In college, when I first sought counseling at my college counseling center for what I believed was an eating disorder, I was again rebuffed secondary to my weight, and informed that I was merely feigning an eating disorder because I did not know who I really was. Because, as we all know, no overweight person could possibly have a restrictive eating disorder or be engaging in purging behaviors. Her response to my eating disorder, combined with years of pediatrician shaming past, continued to fuel my ED-NOS. My general practitioner at the time, the infamous Dr. Khaki Crocs, also felt that an overweight individual could not have a restrictive/purging eating disorder. He diagnosed me with an adjustment disorder. His explanation, “an adjustment disorder is like, well, I could diagnose my nurse with one now. She turned 50 this month and has been having difficulty coping with it. You’re experiencing life changes, and you’ve likely lost your appetite because of it.” It was only after I produced papers from Lindner Center of Hope with a diagnosis of ED-NOS, that he added the eating disorder diagnosis to my chart—without removing his initial diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

After college, I began to notice my knee sounded like bubble wrap when I walked and that it would throb for hours after I exercised. This pain was likely intensified by the strict exercise regimen of my eating disorder that never took a day off or let me take it lightly. Dr. Khaki Crocs was dismissive of my concerns, but my pleading that my knee felt wrong was met with a sympathy MRI. The MRI showed osteoarthritis of my knee behind the patella—where the tibia and femur meet—crepitus, worn away cartilage/bone, and edema. Dr. Khaki Crocs and my physical therapist suggested weight loss. To this day, my knee remains the same. A co-worker even joked she knew I was coming because she could hear my knee cracking as I walked.The most endearing  moment with dear ol’ Dr. Khaki Crocs, however, was when I voiced my concerns about my weight trending upwards, and he wrote the following words on his prescription pad before handing it to me, “Welcome to adulthood.” Thanks pal, way to take my health seriously. You’re a gem.

A few months ago, Dr. Khaki Croc’s replacement—whose partner I got by virtue of his retirement—decided to address my weight. My blood pressure was slightly elevated (we’re talking 128/75, so not even high), likely due to my dislike of this woman and my fear of doctors. She took that as a cue to remind me of my family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes—all of which are further complicated by obesity. I informed her that just the week before my blood pressure was too low at the dentist’s (because dentists apparently take blood pressures now), and the elevated pressure was likely a manifestation of my anxiety. She then suggested weight loss again as a means to lower that “too high” blood pressure.

Later in the visit, I expressed to her that I had noticed my weight trending upwards as of late that seemed out of context of my following my meal plan, reincorporating meat into my meal plan, and no longer purging. My dietitian had suggested that that weight increase could be secondary to a thyroid condition, my Effexor, or PCOS. When I relayed this to my doctor, she informed me that my two-year-old blood work showed no indication of thyroid abnormalities, that she’s been “prescribing Effexor and drugs like it for over 20 years and no one has ever lost weight when they went off of it,” and that “even if you had PCOS, it wouldn’t cause you to gain weight.” Her suggested treatment for my concerns was to “remove a couple hundred calories from your diet.” I explained that I’m recovering from a restrictive eating disorder, and that my dietitian uses the diabetic exchange system instead of calories—to which she rolled her eyes and replied, “Well, that has its own issues.” I left with her suggestion to restrict a few hundred calories and instructions to work out more–despite her knowledge of my history with disordered eating and overexercise. I, of course, shared this idiocy with my dietitian, and—after a laugh and mini-vent session–we continued on the same meal plan I already have.

Knowing that I deserved better than Dr. Khaki Crocs’ replacement, I sought out a new doctor last month. This doctor spent 45 minutes with me discussing my eating disorder concerns, my medical issues, my medical history, and what I want out of a doctor. Based on her conversation with me, my medical abnormalities, and past medical experience, she asked if I would be willing to do a blood test–as she felt I likely had PCOS. Forty-eight hours later, I got a message in mychart, “Your labs all look normal. These were done to see if things other than PCOS could be leading to your symptoms. No other signs of issues [were] seen, which does support a diagnosis of PCOS Your sugar is normal. Your cholesterol is good.” She was able to provide me with an accurate diagnosis and explanation for my weight gain in two days compared to the eight or so years I spent with Dr. Khaki Crocs and his croc-less replacement. She truly listened to me, addressed my concerns, and asked how we can worth to better my health without reigniting the eating disorder.

 

There is a powerful hashtag circulating right now–#TheySaid. The purpose behind this hashtag is for women to share their body shaming stories, how they overcame them (or didn’t), and to remind us of our shared humanity as women while empowering us to rise above body shaming. This is my #TheySaid, and my #SheReplied. Never forget your voice is powerful and necessary when it comes to your health. I don’t tell these stories to expose the inadequacies of my former doctors (though they are glaringly obvious) or in an effort to seek sympathy. I relay these stories to show that when you are fat, doctors only see fat. Your arm could be falling off or you could have lost all your blood, but when you are fat, the solution won’t be to reattach the arm or begin a blood transfusion. No. When you are fat, the first solution would be for you to lose weight. After you’ve lost weight, then they’ll see about the arm reattachment or giving you some blood. I relay these stories to remind people that they deserve appropriate medical attention at ANY weight. People deserve love and affection at any weight. People deserve life at any weight. Advocate for what you deserve–you are worthy.

 

Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

When you’re inundated with body shame March 31, 2017

no wrong way

Two images stare back at me from my computer. The one on the left portrays a sad, frumpy larger version of the person—so sorrowful you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan in the background. The one on the right displays a happy, half-naked thinner version–who most certainly has an amazing life and personal jet by now. These images typically have many exasperating hashtags, list the number of pounds lost/goal weight, and describe how much they hate the person on the left. I don’t even know this person, and yet I’ve fallen victim to their expertly- curated Facebook life and their thin-ideal proselytism. These images awaken the demon of insecurity that lives deep within us, and stirs the spirit of body-shame.

These before and after transformation photos are meant to sharply juxtapose the fat, unhealthy version of that person with the thin, happy version. These photos prey on our insecurities, and desire to fit into the cultural thin-ideal. This pervasive thin-ideal convinces us that—when we attain the perfect body—we will gain health, wealth, love, and happiness. It impresses upon us the idea that the thinner body is a “good body” and the larger body is a “bad body”—and, through the transitive property of equality in mathematics, the person living in the “bad body” must also be “bad.” When presented with these transformation photos that perpetuate the thin-ideal, the culture of body-shaming and normalization of self-hatred is perpetuated ad nauseam. This perpetuation has a cost, however, and that cost is self-destruction, self-condemnation, and devaluation of those of us who do not fit the ideal.

Society criminalizes and fears fat at the same time—leading fat to become the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination. The prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased 66% from 1995 to 2006 (NEDA). This is likely why 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner (NEDA), and 81% of ten-year-olds have a fear of being fat (NEDA). This is also likely why the dieting industry rakes in $64 BILLION annually—outearning the wedding industry and the baby product industry. Society conditions us to second-guess any of the confidence we’ve developed about our bodies and question how someone—with our less-than-perfect body—can be accepted looking the hideous the way we do. How much we weigh, eat, exercise, etc. is nobody’s business but our own. Our bodies belong to us—not to social media, not your friends or family, not your doctor, no one. The phrase “Compare and despair” comes to mind—thank you Jenni Schaefer.

Here are the facts: THERE IS NO “PERFECT” BODY and YOUR BODY ISN’T SOMETHING TO BE “FIXED.” Contrary to what society shoves down our throat every minute of every day, there is no perfect body. Have you seen the lineup of female Olympic athletes from the various events throughout the years? Each of them represent the peak performance level of their sport, and yet every single one of them has a different body size and shape than the woman standing next to them. Not to be outdone, men from various nations recreated a similar photo. Health, like our bodies, comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin does not always represent a healthful body, just as fat does not always represent an unhealthful body. Health cannot be measured on a scale or through the flawed mathematics of body mass index.  While weight can certainly be an aspect of health, it is not a sole indicator. Health is also measured through mental and emotional wellbeing, effective relationships with others, meaningfully contributing to society, and myriad other aspects. There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic women

There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic Men

Remember, your weight does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the remarkable, astounding aspects of our bodies. There is more to life than food or weight—don’t let it become the central fixture around which your life revolves. The answer to our body and self-acceptance isn’t found in a fad diet, a new exercise trend, a pill, a cream, a tea, a detox regime, a cleanse, constricting shapewear, expensive exercise equipment, shakes, or anything else the diet industry/thin ideal perpetuators use a propaganda to convince you that you’re worthless while further lining their pockets with cash. As the amazing body-positivity activist Sarah Vance says, “Loving yourself isn’t going to come from changing your body.”

So how can we grow to love and accept our bodies—as they are in this very moment—in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite? I’m no expert on body-positivity. In fact, I’m still working on it myself. What I can do, however, is recommend the celebration of a day of body love as a place at which to start. On this day, for every negative comment you say about your body, consciously counter is with a positive. Write a letter of gratitude to your body—sure it will be weird, and it will be worth it. Wear an article of clothing in which you feel great. Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if it wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a damn massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness—though society will actively work to convince you otherwise—and denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. I also recommend participating in some body activism projects. I’ve joined some body positive groups on Facebook, and blocked a TON of friends who consistently post body negative updates. I also turn around magazines that objectify bodies by promoting the thin-ideal—if people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, you can post body positive post-its on those magazines or on diet products. Be bold.

I leave you with this: appreciate your body, it is yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation and there is no other body out there like yours…none. Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 

When you have a security blanket January 29, 2017

 

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The Eager Beavers: I’m in the first row, fourth from the left in all pink and saddle shoes

I’m twenty-nine years old, and I still sleep with my baby blanket. My mother bought it for me when I was four–for my first day of the Eager Beavers preschool class at West Chester Church of the Nazarene. I had high anxiety about being away from my in-home daycare, and moving to a “big girl school.” My mother thought that having this blanket would remind me of home while I was at school, but I mainly think she purchased it so she wouldn’t have to deal with my pre-K anxiety. She then emblazoned my name on the back with puffy paint, and I’ve held on to it ever since. It’s not like I took it to college with me or take it on work trips, but I take comfort I knowing that it is in my bed. Having that object from my past grounds me in some way, and it’s reassuring that no matter where my life goes, the blanket will remain the same. Perhaps my eating disorder has functioned in the same way?

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Who wouldn’t love a blanket with a teddy bear being carried away by balloons?

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faded, but my puffy paint name is still there 

My eating disorder developed around the end of second grade. After relentless bullying all day at school, I would come home seeking refuge in copious amounts of food—sneaking food out of pantries (hiding the evidence of my consumption by shoving wrappers in the couch, under my bed, or slipping them between the cracks in our wooden deck), eating dinner leftovers all night long, and even eating out of the trash if I couldn’t find anything. I always knew that no matter how bad things had gotten at school that day, I could console myself that evening with food. Binging was my security blanket when the other kids teased me, when they passed notes of cows labeled “Rachel,” when they drew on my clothes on the bus, when they prank called my house during slumber parties…binging was always there to comfort me. This binging continued for the next ten years—searching for security, safety, and reassurance in food.

In college, repulsed by my appearance and in an effort to reinvent myself in a new setting, I sought security in food…or rather a lack of food. I quickly spiraled into restriction, and have never binged again. However, after about a year and a half of restriction, it no longer provided that soothing sensation I felt I needed. My malnourished brain—remembering the feelings of refuge

I received from my blanket, binging, and restricting—decided the only logical answer was to continue to manipulate food through further restriction in addition to compulsive exercise. I temporarily found the comfort and safety I sought. Restriction and over-exercise felt like my teddy bear blanket wrapped around my shoulders—protecting me from the world and comforting me through life. Yet the feeling never lasted. I would engage in behaviors, feel safe for awhile, and then sense the need to engage again to regain the feeling of safety—it was an endless cycle of fear, behaviors, safety, fear, behaviors, safety.

Though I don’t remember the exact date, I do remember that in September of 2009, I thought I could find comfort via continued food manipulation in the form of purging; in addition to my already severe restriction and over-exercise. I could never find, however, the feeling I was seeking—my behaviors were never enough for my eating disorder to be satisfied. Yet I continued to manipulate food in search of this comfort that had eluded me since early elementary school.  No matter what happened in my life, my eating disorder’s siren lure reminded me that I could turn to restricting or purging to get me closer towards the peace I desired within me.

My eating disorder has been with me for the last twenty-ish years–making false claims of serenity and security—and unlike my baby blanket, the safety is promised came at a cost to me. In early recovery, my eating disorder convinced me that if recovery felt too risky, I could restrict or purge to remind myself that the security provided by the eating disorder was still nearby. Restricting and purging felt like my security blanket—if the job of a security blanket is to slowly kill you. Know that eating disorders are not security blankets, they’re not Band-Aids, and they don’t “fix” the parts of life that are not pleasing to you. True security comes from recovery—being able to handle life’s unpleasant moments healthfully and effectively in order to produce a more desired outcome. This is not an easy task, however. Retreating back to the perceived safety of the eating disorder often seems like the only thing I knew how to do. The more practice I had with recovery, and the more skills I gained made this process easier. Know that you do not need an eating disorder to feel secure and loved for who you are. My one year of recovery has provided me with more security, serenity, comfort, and reassurance than either 20 years of an eating disorder or a crummy blanket could ever offer.

 

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

 

 

When you forgive your bullies October 17, 2016

“Forgive and Forget:” we’ve all heard this idiomatic phrase. Perhaps we’ve even uttered it to ourselves when faced with someone who has wronged us, or offered it as a polite consolation to others. But can one truly forgive AND forget? And do we even want to forgive and forget? I was faced with this very question during Daniel’s—my pastor–sermon this weekend.

 

In Isaiah 43:25, it is written, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Many people take this as the basis for “Forgive and Forget.” After all, if the Lord of all creation, says He wipes out our sins and forgets they ever happened, who are we to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us? Only here’s the thing, such a simplistic approach that verse completely disregard’s God’s omnipotence—He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will happen…with that knowledge, how would He be able to just “forget” sin? When it states, “remembers your sins no more,” that doesn’t mean He’s choosing to forgive and forget—He’s choosing to forgive us of our sins as a means to restore our relationship with Him; choosing not to hold our sin against us anymore. He wants to separate us from our sins so that they can no longer ensnare us—keeping us from a relationship with him. Furthermore, He wants us to extend His level of forgiveness to those we encounter. When we think about forgiveness, we must no longer think of forgetting, but of restoration.

 

With that in mind, I revisited a prompt I learned when training for the Body Project at the NEDA conference last month: “Please write a letter to someone in your life who pressured you to conform to the appearance ideal. Please tell them how this affected you and indicate how you would respond now, in light of what you have learned.” I knew immediately who I needed to forgive and restore; my bullies. I hold an inordinate amount of resentment towards these individuals—many of whom I haven’t seen in at least ten years, and none of whom deserve to have control over me anymore. This summer, many people asked me if I would be attending my ten-year high school reunion. My answer was always the same, “No one at Lakota liked me when I was there. Why would they like me ten years later?” Clearly I’m a master at forgive and restore. I had neither forgiven nor restored. In fact, any time my school’s name is mentioned, a feeling of intense sadness and indignation invades my heart. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed that that is my reaction. In an effort to forgive and restore, I’ve written an open letter of forgiveness to my former bullies.

 

Dear Bullies,

I forgive you. That’s right; I forgive you. Right now you’re probably wondering why I am forgiving you all for being horrible people, for giving me ingenious nicknames like “cow” and “whale,” for making a party game out of calling my house, for making me eat lunch alone for all those years, and for the myriad other malfeasances you committed—not just against me—but to so many others. You may be pondering why “Rumpke Recycling” or “Dairy Queen” is forgiving you and is grateful for the abuse you inflicted. While many of you are likely still questioning who I even am; as you’ve likely forgotten—or chose to ignore—your past transgressions. Your past behavior—as malicious as it was, and may, very well, still be—actually made me stronger. Though your treatment of me plunged me into a seemingly inescapable pit of depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders…it allowed me to seek and develop the very tools I needed to escape.

 

After being subjected to your harangue and torment, I grew to believe that I deserved to be treated in an unfavorably and destructive manner. I learned to hurt myself before others could seize the opportunity. I believed—albeit falsely—that hurting myself before others inevitably would, would make the pain more tolerable. However, the only result of that attempt at self-preservation was self-destruction in the form of twenty years of eating disordered hell, self-harm, and isolation. In going through that hell, however, I learned of the inherent worth given to me by God and used your torment as the very foundation upon which I built my life and career.

 

In seeking refuge from the effects of your degradation, I gained invaluable knowledge and tools. If it weren’t for your wrongdoings, I may never have learned how strong, determined, and loved I could be. I’ve discovered that I’m imperfect and that what makes me worthy of love—because everyone is imperfect and we’re all deserving of love. I have come to disregard the negative, hurtful comments of others, while not continuing my negative attitude towards myself either. Asking for help, I’ve learned, is a necessary aspect of a healthy life—not a sign of weakness. Gone are the days of hurting myself before you could hurt me. Instead, I’ve constructed a support network of individuals who genuinely care for me and reinforce my commitment to recovery.

 

As a result of my efforts in recovery, I’ve acquired a job I adore and which also makes great use of my life experiences, education, and empathy. Everyday I have the privilege of engaging with teenage patients in treatment for eating disorders and share what I’ve learned from your many injustices. Likewise, these incredible souls teach me. Together we are overcoming and learning to love our authentic, raw, vulnerable selves.

 

So while you may have attempted to subjugate my life and though I may have missed twenty years of my life to an eating disorder, I stand here today as living proof. Proof that self-care is essential—regardless the opinions of others. Proof that one can rise from their past—from your tragedy, I have triumphed. Although it was painful at the time and was painful to remember, your bullying set me up to be the person I am today. And today, today I am improving. Know that you are forgiven.

 

  Gratefully,

Rhea

jenni-and-rachel

When you gain recovery, you get to meet people who have impacted your life from afar, and who helped you through their books, speeches, and living their own recovery. I was so incredibly humbled to meet Jenni Schaefer a few weeks ago! My goal is to shine as bright a light as she has.

 

Colossians 3:12-15

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

When you take an unintended break from writing October 3, 2016

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Hello, long time so see…or write…or post…or anything. I have always had this little blog in the back of my mind, and kept finding reason after reason (read: excuses) not to write. Perhaps my biggest distraction from writing is this little bundle of awesome.

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Leah Jane was born at 3:21 PM on September 11, 2015.                                 This is the photo I took of her celebrating her first birthday.

 

My little sister gave this world the smartest, funniest, cutest, and biggest troublemaking baby last September, and I’ve spent all my time in awe of this astounding little human. I want Leah Jane to know she can be herself. As part of my homework for the Body Project training (post forthcoming), wrote her a letter that I would like to share here–because it is my blog and I can do what I want:

 

Dear Leah,

Let me start off by saying this: YOU ARE WORTHY. People will attempt to convince you that you will not be worthy until you are a certain weight, until you wear designer clothing, until you can apply the perfect cat eye eyeliner, until you date the quarterback, until you get a 4.0…until, until, until. Worthiness does not have a prerequisite; though the world will do everything in its power in an endeavor to convince you otherwise. You must know, Leah, that the world is wrong.Worthiness is innate–not something you have to jostle and surrender yourself to obtain.

When the world seeks to mold you to fit their idea of worthiness–their narrow and impossible view of perfection–you sacrifice all the amazing  attributes that make you unique and loved. We do not gain worthiness by conforming to the ways of others–we lose it. Each time we strive to achieve the trivial and fleeting definition of worthiness, we give up a piece of what makes us extraordinary. Walt Disney once wrote, “The more you are like yourself–the less you are like anyone else–which makes you unique. The problem with most people is that they spend their lives trying to emulate others and so we have lots of copies but few originals.” My wish for you is to be unapologetically Leah. You will gain worthiness each time you stand up for who you really are, each time you’re your authentic self in the face of adversity, and each time you hold true to your values.

You may wonder, dear heart, what qualifies me to write this. After all, what would your aunt know about the worthiness inherent in being yourself? I have also face the pressures to conform to society’s narrow definition of worthy and beauty, and subsequently sacrificed many aspects of my life to achieve it. I want more for you, Leah. I want you to believe your worth, and to live your life in such a way that your genuine self radiates to all you meet. Know that I am here for you always, and will support you continually.

I love you to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between,

Auntie Rhea

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Another photo I took of my sweet girl for her birthday photoshoot

 

Romans 12:1-21

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

 

When you ask for help May 21, 2015

Seated on a borrowed bike, I continued to pedal despite the South Carolina humidity and the fact that I was sweating out of body parts I didn’t know were capable of sweating. What had been described to me as a “quick, easy bike ride to the beach” was turning into the 2012 Tour de Hilton Head, and I was a female Lance Armstrong (minus the steroids). I had followed the signs along the sidewalk that pointed to the beach, but had, somehow, become lost along the way…VERY lost. My sister was behind me asking me to stop; more like pleading for me to ask for directions. However, I continued on; determined to find my way to the beach without asking for help.
Half an hour later, and, as we could come to find out, twelve miles in the wrong direction, I finally stopped at the guard station to an apartment complex to ask for directions. I unceremoniously dumped the bike on the sidewalk and handed the last of our water to my sister before approaching the security guard for directions. I, typically, am able to create a good rapport with elderly people—this man, however, was NOT having it. Before I was able to ask for directions, he barked, “Get that bike off my sidewalk; people walk there.” I went back to move the bike to the grass, then returned to his station.
“Hello…” I looked at his name tag hoping that adding his name to the question would make him nicer, “Albert. My sister and I were looking for the beach when we got really lost, and we…”

“You’re way off girls. Not even close. Just follow those signs back to where you came from” he said as if my mere presence was inconveniencing him; as if he meant to say “Be gone peasants.”
“Sir, I would really just like to rest for a moment. We came all the way from the stables. I would just like to stay here until my cousin can come pick us up.” The old man was unmoved by my statement, but allowed us to stay until my cousin arrived with a pick-up truck to collect me, my sister, and our bikes.
So, why tell a story like this? Because, as I move along in recovery, I recognize how events such as this one mirror my own journey in recovery. Hear me out on this one…
When I was an 8-year-old girl constantly being bullied for my weight, my poverty, my brains, my clothes, and just about anything else kids would find to pick on, food became an escape; somewhere I could go that the pain wouldn’t follow me. I ate to numb, to shove down emotions, to find friendship, to search for love and acceptance…and I ate and I ate and I ate. For, roughly, the next ten years, I continued turning to food to “cope”. I continued on that path, just as I had continued down the bike path, in the wrong direction. What I had originally turned to to alleviate my pain, had only clouded my path; causing me to become lost in an eating disorder. Instead of helping myself, all the eating was only masking and exacerbating the pain. And yet, I continued down that wrong path, insisting to myself that I knew where I was going and what I was doing.

When I entered my first year of college, I was convinced that the only way to help myself was, again, through food…so I began restricting as a means to reach the “right path”. The restricting, again, only served to get me more lost and continue to distance me from the life I desired. However, people began to give me positive attention. I was lauded for my “weight loss”, my “control”, my “dedication”, my “discipline”, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that described my eating disorder, but not Rhea. I thought, though, that maybe these people were on to something; that maybe my eating disorder would be a ticket back to the right path that would get me to where I wanted to be. So I kept restricting. It was then that I realized I had no clue as to what my “right path” was. However, my eating disorder convinced me that my “right path” was towards sickness…and so I followed it miles out of my way; away from my dreams, friends, family, ambitions, happiness, and, most of all, away from health.

After three years of restricting, I got bored with my eating disorder, and felt I was no closer towards finding the right path. Naturally, I returned back to food. “This time will be different,” I told myself, “This time I will be able to find my way out of the muck and onto the right path.” Thus began purging, over-exercise, self-harming, and laxative abuse; as well as seeing a “counselor” who refused to admit I have an eating disorder. I feel this mirrors the point where I asked the old man for directions; it was merely a holding area. I definitely wasn’t going towards recovery or the right path towards health, but I didn’t have any clear signs on how to get there either.

After working with Lindner, my current (amazing) therapist, Thom Rutledge, and doing lots of HARD work, I have a clearer idea of the right path. My “right path” includes: teaching, writing, photography, working for an eating disorder treatment center, treating myself well, and leading a mentally healthier life. It does not include my eating disorder. I no longer self-harm or use laxatives. I am eating more and have drastically reduced the frequency of my purging. Asking for help, in both of these experiences, was the wisest and healthiest thing I could have done. Does that mean it was easy? Hell no! Asking for help is one of the hardest things (aside from recovery itself) that I have ever done. At the same time, asking for help is, singlehandedly, the best thing I have ever done in my recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it may just end up saving your life…I know it did for me.

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

 

When you talk to a 5 year old March 30, 2015

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“Whatcha playing Miss Rachel?”

I look up from the screen of my phone at the wild mop of blonde hair covering her blue eyes, “Just a text from mommy, that’s all.”

“Oh. OK” she sings and bounds off to play with her my little ponies.

I look back down at the screen and reread the text from Abby’s mother, “Abby has made two comments lately about being ugly or not liking her face. She had told me she doesn’t like her face and then a few nights later that she was ugly. I can’t figure it out.”

Abby is FIVE. She reads and writes on a first grade level despite the fact she is only in pre-school. She loves to take care of her two year old brother. She sings, dances, and enjoys putting on shows. She is funny and sensitive and loves Disney princesses. And, apparently, at the age of five, has decided she is ugly.

My heart dropped after reading her mother’s text. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday; hating myself, thinking I was ugly, feeling like I did not fit in, wanting to be like everyone else, knowing I was fat…all of that and more, I felt all those things at Abby’s age. And there is no way in hell I was going to let this little girl feel the same way!

I remembered Abby’s mom had made a book with the photos I had taken at Abby’s 5th birthday party, and retrieved it from the shelf. I wanted Abby to hear what I would have wanted to hear at her age. Abby and I sat down on the couch to read the book together. Then I found the photo I had been looking for; Abby’s friend Lee. Lee was recently adopted from China at age 5. Lee is amazingly smart; learning English in only a few months. He loves to tell stories, and is very fond of dancing. Lee also happens to only have half of a left arm and a deformed hand on his right. I discussed with Abby what she likes about Lee and what fun things she does with him. Never once did she mention his physical differences. I asked her if Lee being different mattered to her. Abby said that Lee would be her friend no matter how he looked. We talked about how God made Lee special as we continued looking through the book. On the next page was a photo of Abby talking with Queen Elsa from Frozen (well, an impersonator Elsa).

“What do you like about this girl, Abby?” I asked as I pointed to a picture of her.

“That’s just me, silly”

“Seriously, Abby, what do you like about this girl?”

Abby thought for a few minutes before hesitantly responding, “I am smart. And I am funny. And I’m a good singer.”

“Anything else?”

“I’m fun to play with, and I’m good at helping mommy with Ross (her younger brother)” she said with more confidence.

“And do you know what I like about you Abby,” I asked. Abby shook her head no. “I like how nice you are, how much you love others, your smile, the way you laugh when Ross chases the cat. I like you for you, Abby. I like you because God made you Abby and there is no one else like you.”

Abby smiled and looked up from the book, “Wanna try on princess dresses Miss Rachel?”

“Yes Abby, yes I do” I responded.

On her way up the stairs Abby turned around, “I love you Miss Rachel. You have a big heart.”

“I love you too Abby bug. You are smart and beautiful and loving. I am lucky to be your babysitter.”

That day Abby taught me to take a moment to love myself. She taught me how important it is to remember the amazing qualities God gave each of us. She taught me to view the world through a lens of love instead of hate, and to let the light within me shine. This week I am writing down two positive self-talk moments a day to remind myself of the goodness and grace that exists in me. Each time I reread one of these moments, I am able to remind myself that, just like Abby, I am awesome. I encourage you to write down your positive self-talk and then revisit it often. Never forget that you are an amazing person!

Abby

Princess Abby with the Elsa decoration from her party.

Isaiah 64:8

Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

 

When you destroy a relationship February 16, 2015

This Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to take an untraditional look at love by ending a relationship that I had had for many years. Recovery is teaching me that I have to love myself more than I want to stay in my disorder. With that in mind, I decided that my love for myself and my recovery, was more important than this other relationship. However, this relationship was not with a boyfriend, a family member, a friend or any other person. This relationship was with my scale.

For at least the past eight years, scales have been a huge part of my life; the eating disorder itself for eighteen. I remember the little white scale with the dial my roommate had in college, and how she used to hide it from me so I wouldn’t use it. That’s the thing about people who aren’t thinking clearly because they’re consumed with an eating disorder, no matter where you hide a scale, we can sniff it out like a bloodhound. Whenever she would notice that I had found it, she would hide it again. However, again, little Miss “no shame because I can’t even think about how wrong it is to go through people’s personal property because all I can think about is pleasing my eating disorder” would search through her things until I found the beloved scale.

When I moved out on my own after college, one of my first purchases was a black bathroom scale. I set it in a place of honor next to my closet door in my bedroom. Every morning the blinking digital readout of my weight would determine what I wore that day, if I was allowed eat, how many times I would have to purge, if I would be punished for my weight, how much I would work out, how many laxatives I would have to take, where I could go, if I had to self-harm, who I could talk to…

Now that I have stopped weighing myself on a daily basis, my black scale was sent to the inner recesses of my closet for two and a half years; I was not ready to give it up completely for fear that I may need it some day. Today, I only get weighed at my doctor’s office. I do not allow them to tell me the number, I get on the scale backwards with my eyes closed, and have them black out my weight and BMI on the printout they give each patient after his or her visit. I am not yet ready to see the number.

To say that the relationships I have had with scales have been the longest-lasting and most impactful (albeit deadly) relationships I have ever had, would be an understatement.

This Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to end all of that. The scale had to go.

I dug the scale out of my closet; moving aside old schoolwork, discarded bags, and shoes I forgot I owned. There, on my bedroom floor, I grabbed a silver sharpie and wrote a farewell decree on the scale. Then I grabbed my keys and moved the scale outside.

My scale reading

My scale reading the farewell decree.

Thinking it would impart the most damage, I placed my scale under the tire of my car, hopped inside and started the engine. I left the door of the car open, however, in hope that I could hear the satisfying crunch of the scale under the weight of Little Red.

Say your prayers scale

Say your prayers scale

Even after running over it thirty times, the scale was undamaged. I knew this called for reinforcements.

car

I wonder how the scale reacted when all 3,400 pounds of my car ran it over?

I picked up the scale, threw it on the ground next to my dad’s tool bench, and got out the necessary tools. Not wanting to risk flying scale debris in my eye or scale shrapnel in my skin, I used a screwdriver to open the scale. Once opened, I was shocked. A little quarter-sized battery and some wires were what I was letting control my life. Maybe three dollars worth of supplies made my life a living hell for all those years. I ripped out the wires and metal pieces like a madwoman.

Blurry, but you get the idea

Blurry, but you get the idea

With all the pieces that make the scale function removed, I bagged up the remains and gave the scale a less than honorable burial.

intothebin

I hope you enjoy hell, scale

scalecoffin

WhereItBelongs

My scale’s final resting place. It will be so satisfying when the garbage man comes to remove it from my life forever on Thursday!

I could not be happier about my decision to destroy my scale and take back my life. Not a single second has gone by that I don’t applaud myself for destroying this piece of plastic that controlled me for so long. This Valentine’s Day I chose to love myself by ending a deadly relationship forever. I cannot think of a more appropriate use for this day than to celebrate my life, my recovery and myself. Remember, you are worthy of love, life, happiness and recovery!

Ephesians 2:4-5

But because of his great love for us,God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

When you find yourself in a ditch February 3, 2015

I waited helplessly as 6,500 pounds of plastic and steel spun around me; waiting for the sudden stop of the crash, waiting for the sickening sound of the truck as it makes that stop, waiting for the punishment that I knew was coming. But how did I get here?

Just hanging out in the ditch

Just hanging out in the ditch

The morning started out as any other morning—I was running late for work because I had decided petting my cat was more important than taking a shower or putting on clothes. By the time I got out to my car, I was already fifteen minutes late…and then I found out that the freezing rain from the previous night has iced my doors shut and completely entombed my car. Crap. So I slid back into the house to grab the keys to my mother’s Tahoe (which had spent the evening tucked within the safety of our garage).

Despite the fact that I have been driving for twelve years in Ohio winters, I decided that getting to work on time was a priority, and did an unreasonable speed of 35 miles per hour down the road. That’s when the truck and the road had a slight disagreement with one another. A patch of black ice completely derailed my morning.

I did not even see the ice, but I know I hit it. The Tahoe immediately fishtailed towards a line of trees, big trees. In an effort of self-preservation, not to mention Tahoe preservation, I overcorrected by spinning the wheel to the right. The truck lurched to the right quickly, but just as quickly started to rotate in a circle. Time began to slow down, and my brain felt like it completely shut off while the waiting time began. I am not entirely sure what happened next other than that the truck entered the ditch rear-end first with the front tire still on the road.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

As soon as I heard the crunch of the car in the ditch, a primal scream came from somewhere within me. I have never, in 27 years, heard that sound escape my lungs. I opened the door to try to leave the car. However, because I am five-two and the truck is 6 feet tall and in a ditch, I found myself on my knees in the ditch. I pounded my fists into the embankment. I lost a glove somewhere, but I didn’t care. As the snow seeped through my dress and leggings, I heard the hissing of the tires as they deflated. Hot tears burned my freezing face. My breathing was so shallow and rapid I did not think I could stand up.

A man in a purple suv-like car pulled over to ask how I was doing. I couldn’t find my phone; I had lost it in the crash. Still crying and hyperventilating, I managed to choke out that I needed him to call my dad. The man invited me into his car and talked to my dad when I was unable to get out any words. After the call ended, however, the man had to go. Not wanting to risk further injury by getting back in the car, I grabbed my phone and wallet, and stood in the driveway across the street to call AAA.

While I was on the phone, the old man who lived in the house came out to see what a frantic young woman was doing pacing his driveway in sub-zero temperatures. His golden retriever bounded up to me and made me momentarily happy. The man, Charles, invited me in to sit by his fire. I thawed by the fire with Phoebe’s golden retriever head (she would not let me stop petting her) in my lap waiting, again.

My father came about twenty minutes later. He was livid, to say the least. After he yelled at me, lectured me using curse words still unknown to many in the Western hemisphere, and scolded me for taking the truck in the first place, the tow truck arrived. With the Tahoe gone, my dad had to take me to work. I still had to go about my day as if the accident had not happened.

But why do I tell you this story? Why would I willingly share my inability to drive? It’s not for sympathy or money or whatever. It is because of my recovery. You read that correctly, my recovery.

In the past when things would go wrong, I would feel the need to punish myself through my eating disorder or through self-harm. After my first car accident (in college), I falsely believed my eating disorder was comforting me through the resulting chaos the accident caused. But it isn’t just big events, like car accidents, that my eating disorder falsely lead me to believe I needed punishment for; it could be simple things like forgetting a student’s name, getting an A- on a test, or putting my clothes on in the wrong order…it all ended the same way–my eating disorder.

However, now that I am actively seeking recovery, all of that has changed. I’ll be honest, my first thought upon falling to my knees in the ditch was that I would have to punish myself through restriction or purging. I have learned, though, that I do not deserve to be punished. Eating disordered behaviors only make matters worse in the long run. Restricting or purging would not make the accident go away, they wouldn’t repair the truck, and they wouldn’t make me happy. Eating disordered behaviors would NOT make me feel better; in fact, restricting and purging would make me feel worse, more chaotic, and less in control. Mistakes happen and I do not need to be punished for making one. So, what did I do? I heard my eating disordered thoughts telling me to engage in behaviors, but I picked up my self-esteem and my missing glove out of the ditch, and chose to ignore the them. That is what recovery is all about; choosing recovery over and over again. It may not be easy, but it gets easier each time I practice self-care and recovery-oriented choices. Recovery is always worth it–always.

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

When you see the magic eye December 29, 2014

 

Like every child growing up in the early 90’s, I was obsessed with magic eye photos. I spent hours tucked in my room staring cross-eyed at photos, attempting to see the magic hidden peace sign or flower or whatever. I would get frustrated when I tried to show them to my father; “Look harder!” I would urge when he, inevitably, could not see the magic photo. Somehow I could shift my gaze to an area beyond the photo, allowing me to see the magic photo hidden within the designs.  I prided myself on my ability to see even the most difficult of magic eye photos; there was not a magic eye I could not conquer. I thought that it was so cool that I could see things that others could not while we both looked at the same thing.

 

Magic-eyes

Can you find the hidden magic photo in the fairy godmother’s explosion? hint, it was what the pumpkin became after a little magic was added.

 

Eventually, however, the popularity of the magic eye photos waned, and my skill set of cross-eyed photo viewing was no longer necessary, useful, or popular among my friends. My afternoons of magic eye book reading freed up and I was suddenly left with a lot of time on my hands.

 

My eating disorder is a lot like the magic eye photos…only significantly less cool.

 

The goal of the magic eye photo is to get us to see things that others may not be able to see. The objective is to shift our vision in order to view the magic hidden photo embedded in the repeating designs. ED’s goal is to get us to see things, think things, and do things that others may not (and should not). ED wants us to see, think and do what she wants; she completely shifts our vision to match hers. However, the outcome of shifting our vision from our own viewpoint to ED’s is not the ability to see a cute photo of a monkey holding a balloon. The outcome of shifting to ED’s point of view is sickness, pain, personal hell, and sometimes death. By allowing ED to shift our vision, we are allowing her control of our lives. We are basically handing our control to ED on a silver platter.  But I will let you in on a little secret ED does not want us to know, WE are in charge of our lives. No matter what ED says, remember this: ultimately, we are in charge of our own lives-for better or worse, we are in control. When we are able to shift our views away from ED and back to ourselves, we regain many things: the control we gave to ED, our lives, our health, our happiness and our hope. Each time we acknowledge ED and choose recovery, we practice this shift in vision. It is through this practice of recovery and vision shifting that we are able to take back our lives.

 

However, this shift in vision (from ED’s to our own) is not always easy.  You may have noticed I used the word practice in reference to recovery. Recovery takes practice…a LOT of practice. No recovery is perfect either (so you can omit the phrase “practice makes perfect” from your vocabulary). I have never heard of anyone recovering from their eating disorder in one day or on the first try; it will take practice. Recovery will take hard work and it will take time, but it is possible. It is important to remember to have grace and patience with ourselves through the process. Just as I did not learn to view magic eye photos on the first try, neither did I learn recovery on my first try…or my second…or even my third. However, I have never given up. No matter how long is takes me or how hard the work is, I know that I can never give up.  Eventually I will be able to view recovery as I do magic eye photos, as second nature. I cannot wait for the day when recovery becomes second nature. Recovery is real and I am shifting my vision to get there, and you can too.

 

 

1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight

 

 

 

 

 

When you make a wish December 7, 2014

Jiminy Cricket may have been on to something when he sang, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires, will come to you.” Ok, so maybe taking life advice from a Walt Disney character–a cricket no less–is not the most sound of life choices. However, opportunities for wishes have started to appear a lot in my life as of late.

One traditional, yet thoroughly disgusting, method of wish-making, is snapping the wishbone of the Thanksgiving turkey. As is our custom, my sister and I snapped our turkey’s wishbone (despite the fact I’m a vegetarian and didn’t actually eat the turkey; does that cancel out the wish?). Because my sister has won more years than she has lost, I took my side of the wishbone and pulled without having a wish readily at hand. To my surprise, I got the bigger half…and the wish. My lack of preparedness came back to bite me in the rear. I made up a wish on the spot, however. And even though it is considered unlucky to share a wish, I am going to share it anyway (superstitions be damned). My wish was to be able to continue to afford my therapy sessions and, perhaps, save up enough money to begin seeing a nutritionist (as I do not have good insurance).

a blurry phone phone of a nasty wisbone

a blurry phone photo of a nasty wishbone

Also over the Thanksgiving weekend, I took Christmas card photos for a friend at the Cincinnati Art Museum. While I was scoping out the perfect spot to photograph her beautiful family, I noticed a piece entitled, “The Tree of Life”. I had read about it in my local paper, and who wouldn’t be drawn in by a painted tree with glass test tubes hanging from the branches. The tree itself is a real 19-foot crabapple tree that has been painted white and strung with glass test tubes filled with colorful wishes. At the end of the tree’s installation, all the wishes (both displayed and collected) will be burnt; the ash will then be used to fertilize the planting of a new tree at the art museum.

treeoflife

The description of the piece

wishes

Up close view of the wishes

wishesontree

A stunningly yellow phone photo of a white tree

wishtree

another view of the tree

 

 

Because I had some time to kill before my friend and her family arrived, due to my uncanny ability to be obnoxiously early for everything, I decided to take a slip of paper to write my own wish. I sat there in the gallery for at least five minutes before putting pen to paper. What to wish for? Who would read this wish? Should I write  my name? More questions than answers ran through my brain. Since I had already “won” a wish in breaking the wishbone with my sister, I decided not to be selfish by asking for another wish of my own; I wanted to share my Tree of Life wish with others. Again, I think there is some sort of mandate on sharing wishes, but, again, I don’t care. So, here is my wish.

rheaswish

“Awareness, education and research of eating disorders…as well as recovery for those afflicted” nationaleatingdisorders.org

 

While I may not have wished on a star, as per Jiminy Cricket’s suggestion, I made my wishes nonetheless. I share these wishes with you as well. I wish for you all to have happy, healthy, recovered lives.

10345537_631912452104_6586755868781103520_n

I took this photo this summer at a restaurant in Disneyworld. Much like Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy is also full of wisdom, “You deserve to have your wish come true.”

 


 

Matthew 7:7

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

John 15:7

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

When you decide to celebrate with kindness/100th Post November 11, 2014

Normally, I do not advertise my random acts of kindness…as I feel that is a little narcissistic to go around bragging about how I have helped people, and I wish for my acts of kindness to mirror this scripture, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

However, with today being the FIFTH anniversary of my decision to begin working on recovery, I’m actually going to reveal some of my acts of kindness…because that is how I chose to honor the day. To celebrate five years since I asked for help in recovering from my eating disorder, I decided to do five random acts of kindness.

I began the day by writing five letters in cards.

cards

The very first card I wrote to the intake eating disorders coordinator at the Lindner Center of Hope. He was the very first medical professional to diagnose me with an eating disorder (most had written me off due to my size) and helped me find my current therapist when we discovered my insurance wouldn’t pay for treatment at Lindner. I also purchased some beautiful flowers to deliver to the clients in the eating disorders program to remind them of the beauty that exists within and around them. The receptionist at the front desk looked a little confused when I dropped off a bouquet of white roses to a man…at a mental health treatment facility. Thankfully, she took the flowers, and said she would let him know that she had them at her desk.

flowersLindner

 

Two cards were to be placed in the eating disorder/self-help section of my local bookstores. I carefully placed the cards between books I have found especially helpful in my recovery (Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer and Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher [some people do find this book very triggering, however, so proceed with caution])  in hopes that they would be found by the people who needed them.

bookcardBookstore

 

The last two cards were a little bit harder to figure out…inside of each I wrote:

card

At my favorite coffee house this morning, after paying for a stranger’s latte, I handed her the first card. She seemed a bit alarmed, at first, that a complete stranger would pay for her coffee, and even tried to scan her phone after I had already paid for her. However, she seemed to figure it out once I handed her the card. On my way out of the door, she called after me, “Thanks for my coffee. You made my morning. It’s been a rough day and it isn’t even 9 o’clock.”

The second card, in which I had placed $5, was left in the bathroom of one of my favorite restaurants because I didn’t have the courage to hand it to an actual person. There’s something completely terrifying to me in handing a card to a stranger; let alone accepting one.

When I came back from the bathroom–from completing my fifth random act of kindness–I noticed a Korean war veteran and his wife eating dinner. Being the granddaughter of a Korean war veteran, I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who served in that war (especially since they might have had the opportunity to meet my grandfather who died six months before I was born). When the waiter dropped off my check to my sister and me, I quietly asked for his check, paid and left. I can only hope this man knows how much I truly appreciate his service.

So, what ended up being five random acts of kindness in honor of my five year anniversary of asking for help, turned into six…and challenged me to actually say something nice about myself on a public platform…made me realize how much I want recovery. I’ve been on this path for five years and cannot wait until I get to “full recovery”. Recovery is REAL! Recovery is POSSIBLE!

 

 

Matthew 25:35-40

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

When “mental illness” is a Halloween Costume October 28, 2014

“What are you supposed to be? Pocahontas?” my friend asks over the buffet of festive treats at our annual Halloween party.

Over the din of the chatter, I reply back, “No, Mrs. Peacock. You know? From Clue? The board game?”

 

Admittedly, I was wearing a dark teal dress, black blazer, feather earrings, a boa made of gold rope, and feathers in my hair…so Pocahontas wasn’t too far of a leap; especially since I am proud of my Cherokee heritage (even though Pocahontas wasn’t Cherokee). But none of that is actually relevant to this post.

 

It was not until I started thinking of this year’s Halloween costume that I realized just how offensive our most “common” or “popular” costumes are. Women typically wear one of, or some version of, the following: sexy bumblebee, strip-tease Minnie Mouse, seductive dentist, sultry princess, and slutty baseball player…the list of body-exposing costumes is endless. Meanwhile, on the male front, men typically wear some sort of funny ensemble. Despite the provocative nature of the women’s costume and my jealously at men for being able to wear whatever they want, those costumes do not bother me as much as a few others I came across in my search for this years costume.

 

The classic “mental patient” costume. Renditions of this costume include:  straight jackets covered in blood (and for women these straight jackets are low-cut to reveal breasts and short in length to show legs), orange prison-like jumpsuits, hospital gowns that declare the individual as “property” of such and such insane asylum/mental ward, axe murders, sweatshirts that warn others to “approach with caution”, handcuffs/restraints, and Hannibal Lecter-type masks…to name a few. My only response to these so called costumes is “What the hell?”

 

These costumes only serve to perpetuate the myth that those with mental illness are frightening—people we should fear on a daily basis. Furthermore, they maintain the stigmatization attached to a mental health diagnosis. By donning the costume of a mental patient, we are reinforcing the societal view that those with mental illness are lower-class citizens and are somehow less than everyone else (so much so that they have become comedic fodder for Halloween). By dressing up as an individual who suffers from mental illness, one is perpetuating the myth that those with mental illness are a danger to themselves and others, that those with mental illness should be “locked away like a prisoner”, and reinforces the negative belief that those with mental illness are someone to fear.

 

These horrific costumes reinforce the already existing negative connotations associated with mental illness, and are a direct result of a lack of understanding and knowledge of mental illness…not to mention a lack of respect for those diagnosed. Why is it socially acceptable, if not encouraged, to “dress up” as a person suffering with a mental illness? Why is mocking mental illness a costume? A quick Google search will reveal that there are no cancer patient costumes or AIDS patient costumes or Cystic Fibrosis patient costumes or dialysis patient costumes…etcetera. However, a quick search of mental patient costumes yields almost 7 million results; many of which are relevant results.

 

 

Is it any wonder that two-thirds of adults with mental illness do not seek treatment (NAMI statistic)? Who would want to seek treatment for mental illness if they believe they will be mocked openly and freely each time Halloween comes around? This Halloween, I ask you to really consider the motives behind the costumes chosen for you, your children, your pet, or a loved one…do they mock a certain demographic of people, do they perpetuate myths pertaining to a particular group of individuals, do they bring shame/stigma on this group, etc? If any of those answers are yes, pick a new costume. Oh, and mental illness is NEVER a costume

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My friend, Steven (the ninja), and me (Mrs. Peacock) taking some cheesy photos in our costumes. Photo credit to my wonderful friend Mandy.

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

When you discover what is louder October 17, 2014

“You don’t have to get rid of your eating disorder voice in your head. In fact, you can’t” my head popped up from my fervent note-taking at that point in my Recovery Recharge Retreat with Thom Rutledge and Julie Merryman.

Then my thoughts started swimming, “I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?! Why the hell am I even here if I can’t recover? Why did I pay all this money to hear Thom say I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?”

But, then (thankfully), Thom explained his previous statement, “You cannot get rid of the voice of the eating disorder, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recover. You must make the voice of recovery louder. When you start recovery and even, sometimes, in continuing recovery, your eating disorder’s voice may be very loud in  your ear trying to get you to engage in behaviors for one reason or another. However, what you need to learn in recovery, is not how to get rid of that voice, but to make the voice of recovery louder so that it drowns out the voice of the eating disorder.”

Thom went on to explain that the brain cannot encode negative; meaning, the more we tell our brains not to focus on our eating-disordered the thoughts, the more we will think eating-disordered thoughts. The example he always uses is not to think of your left hand. Whatever you’re doing right now, don’t think of your left hand, or how it may feel different from your right hand. Don’t image it feeling like its getting lighter and lighter to the point that it’s lifting off the table. Now, don’t think of a pink elephant. How many of us, honestly, thought about our left hand or a pink elephant despite being told not to? I’m willing to bet a majority of us–myself included. This is what Thom means when he says our brains cannot encode negative. By constantly reprimanding ourselves for having eating-disordered thoughts, we are  rehearsing the exact thoughts we want to be rid of. Instead, by acknowledging the eating-disordered thought for what it is, and then replacing it with a louder, recovery-oriented thought, we are rehearsing recovery and implementing recovery-oriented thoughts over the eating-disordered thoughts. The consistent rehearsing of the recovery thoughts will help reinforce the recovery thoughts as our default thoughts, until, eventually, the eating disordered thoughts don’t even come to mind. We do not have to focus on getting rid of the eating-disordered thoughts then; we must focus on adding recovery-oriented thoughts and the eating-disordered thoughts will disappear on their own.

In thinking about what should be louder in my recovery-oriented thoughts, I came up with these:

What is louder than my eating disorder:

Life: I plan to live a life of service, love, teaching, kindness, giving and of Christ-like actions

Hope: I have hope that I can live life ED-free (side note: Hope is my favorite word ie: Cherokee tattoo on my wrist. A word of caution though, Hope is an action word, not a passive word. We can hope and hope for recovery as much as we want, but unless we put the action of recovery-oriented choices behind that hope, nothing will happen)

Writing: With ED’s chokehold loosened on my life, I have been able to rediscover my love of writing. I have been featured on NEDA’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’s blog roll twice and have recently learned that I have been selected for Melissa Fabello’s MarginalizED Voices Project (where I might actually be part of a published work!)

Photography: Much in the same respect as my writing, my creativity in photography has reemerged as ED has lessened. I’ve photographed weddings, babies, seniors, lots of nature scenes, cityscapes and  my cats

There are a LOT of other things I am discovering that are louder than my eating disorder voice…but, seeing as how I don’t have the time nor the energy to write them all (much like you don’t have the time, energy or desire to read them all), I decided to put my iPhone to work to speak for me.

 

Here are a few more things that are louder than eating disorders:

DREAMS FRIENDSHIP FUN happiness HEALTH HOPE
RECOVERYSELFCOMPASSON

 

LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEACE

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

When thighs get pinched September 30, 2014

“Enjoy those cute, little chubby thighs while you can Marina,” I looked up to see my co-worker taking a pinch of a one-year-old baby’s thigh between her thumb and forefinger while patting her own thigh with the other hand, “Those thighs are cute now. But, when you’re my age, not so much.” My co-worker then turned to me with a laugh and a look of approval seeking. She did not get my approval.

 

After I contained my immediate reaction of wanting to scream at this woman for what she said to this baby and wanting to protect the child from ever hearing a nonsensical comment like that ever again, I began to think about the rational behind why I had such a strong emotional reaction to the situation. I kept circling back to the same series of questions:  Why is Marina not allowed to enjoy her thighs beyond her first year of life? Why don’t women my co-worker’s age enjoy or accept their own thighs? Would Marina be able to enjoy her body despite living in a society of self-deprecation? Is there a time frame to loving your body—does that have an expiration date?

 

We live in a culture where children, especially females, are indoctrinated from the minute they are born with the idea that they will never be good enough the way they are…they must lose weight (thin is never thin enough, until it becomes too thin and then she is ostracized), dress in all the latest fashions, be intelligent (but not too intelligent so as to make those around you feel ignorant), have the chicest hairstyle, constantly be in a relationship (but not with many different men over the course of time or then she will be considered a “whore”), have a lot of money (but not too much, because then she will look arrogant)…and so much more I cannot even list them all. But why? Why are we constantly inundated with the “never good enough” message? And, more importantly, why do we listen?

 

It is easy for me to say, “Oh, you are good enough the way you are. You do not need to change a thing. Everyone around you is so insecure with their own lives that they get a thrill out of putting you down. These simple-minded people think that through revealing your weaknesses they will be made to feel better. You must have confidence in yourself and in your strengths to not let this affect you. You are enough—don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise” Simple, see? That was very easy for me to say. And I 100% believe what I just said to be true. HOWEVER, despite the fact that I know the above statements to be true, I have still fallen prey to the shaming “never good enough” message monsoon. I have felt the shame of not being thin enough, well dressed enough, smart enough but also too smart, having “bad” hair, never having had a boyfriend, not having enough money, etc…and I allowed that shame to negatively influence my life through a sub-zero level of self-esteem, an over 15 year battle with eating disorders, self-harm, a shield of sarcasm to defend myself from “never good enough”, depression at not achieving “good enough”, and anxiety from constantly striving (and failing) to gain “good enough”. It is at the juxtaposition of what I know to be true and how I live my life at which I currently find myself. But, it is at that paradox where recovery begins.

 

Recovery and self-acceptance begin the moment we realize that how we are currently living our lives may be contradictory to what we believe to be true—at least, I know this to be true about myself. By reframing my “I’m not good enough” thoughts to fit what I know to be true about myself, I am better able to tune out the negative voices in my head. Thought reframing is, by no means, easy to do. However, it is a necessary step towards living a life that is more congruent with our values and belief systems about ourselves and others. In a world in which not only society, but my own eating disorder, constantly gives me the message that I am not enough, I gain strength in reframing each of those thoughts/statements to promote my recovery. By practicing thought reframing over and over and over again, these negative messages will have less of an effect on me, as I now realize in what areas we excel and will no longer be ashamed areas in which I do not meet society’s unrealistic expectations. I will never be the societal ideal: tall, thin, blond, white and blue eyed. I am not my appearance, my socio-economic status, my clothing, my hairstyle, my relationship status, or any other “not good enough” measurement set forth by our appearance-based society.  I am so much more. YOU are more. Together, we will show the world that, not only that we are good enough, but that we are MORE.

 

I know I have put up this video before, but I really love the message and felt it deserved to to posted again.

 

Galatians 6:1-10

 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,  for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 

(bold italics are mine, not in the actual scripture)

 

When it is NEDA conference time September 19, 2014

San Antonio, Texas. October 16-18, 2014. National Eating Disorders Association Conference 2014. Be there or be square.

 

Ok, so I guess I am going to be a square seeing as how I am not actually going to be there myself. However, I DO want to encourage others to attend. This year’s theme is Share. Learn. Belong. “Thinking Big: uniting families and professionals in the fight against eating disorders”. I truly think that that is the goal of the conference regardless of theme. The conference is open to  “professionals, researchers, educators, individuals in recovery and their families”, according to the NEDA website as a means to, “connect and learn from one another in a warm, welcoming environment. This year’s theme, focusing on collaboration, will highlight the wealth of knowledge that comes from sharing our experiences and expertise to advance the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.” I stand firm in my belief that by raising awareness on eating disorders, sharing stories of recovery, loss, and simply existing with an eating disorder, networking with professionals to increase best practices of care, and impart knowledge on the disease itself we can decrease the stigma; thereby making seeking treatment at any level less shameful and more respected.

But don’t let me try to convince you, NEDA has created a convenient  top 10 list (much like David Letterman on his various late  night programs):

10) “The NEDA conference changed my life–the feeling of belonging was incredible”

9) Expand your knowledge of eating disorders and deepen your recovery.

8) Busy weekend? You can swing by for a single day.

7) Families and experts come together to learn from one another.

6) Expand your circle, make new friends, build your support network.

5) Share your personal expertise with the eating disorders community.

4) “I loved the general sessions. They were interesting, informative, relevant and challenging”

3) Hear a best-selling author discuss family relationships in the digital age.

2) Earn continuing education credits on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

1) Family-friendly event with family discount packages.

 

I think there are also 10 spiritual reasons to attend…in no particular order

10) Hebrews 3:13–But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

9) John 13:34–A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

8) Romans 12:16–Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

7) Romans 14:13–Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

6) 1 John 4:11–Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

5) 1 Peter 3:8–be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

4) Ephesians 4:32–Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3) 1 John 3:11–For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another

2) Ephesians 4:2– Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love

1) Proverbs 19:8–The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

 

NEDAConference_Reason9

 

When you must try again August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 6:14 pm
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My mother grabbed my six-year-old hand and pulled me forward into the Earring Tree (a now defunct Clarie’s-esque store in our local mall), and shouted “Are you sure you’re going to do it this time? I don’t want to have to make any more trips down here to get your ears pierced without you getting them pierced. Are you doing to do it or not?”

 

I look down at my saddle shoes and then back up at her, “Yes. I am going to do it.”

 

“Good, now get in that chair and I will get the lady.”

 

I climbed up in the metal barstool chair, grabbed the purple stuffed hippo (who also had its ears pierced), and waited for what I already knew was coming. This was not my first trip, or even my second or third trip, to the Earring Tree to get my ears pierced. I had seen a girl in my gymnastics class wearing a pair of “diamond” studs a few weeks before, and had become obsessed with getting my ears pierced too. Miraculously, I had convinced my mother that getting my ears pierced as a first-grader was a good idea.

 

Our first trip to get my ears pierced, I saw another girl who was about four or five years older than me getting hers done. She was screaming, crying, and yelling about how much it hurt. I immediately turned my mother around and got the hell out of there. On our second trip, I climbed up in the chair, clutched the stuffed hippo within an inch of its life, and let the piercer put one purple dot on my ear. Nope. That was too scary, and out we went again. By my third trip, I could sense my mother’s irritation, but that did not abate my fear. I got two purple dots on my lobes on that third visit before I bolted out the door. On my fourth trip, I, again, mounted the barstool chair, squeezed the purple hippo, and got two purple dots on my ears. As the piercing gun got close to my ear, I hopped off that chair so fast you would think it was on fire…and that was the end of the fourth trip. On our fifth and final trip, I knew the routine: get on the chair, grab the hippo, get the dots, and leave. However, this time, they were ready for me. Before I could leap out of the chair, they had already pierced one of my ears. I wanted out of there. However, as my mother so kindly pointed out, if I left then, I would look like a pirate with one pierced ear. So, I got the second one pierced. When I was finished, I did not think about the five trips to the mall I had to take to finally get my ears pierced, I thought about how pretty the earrings looked and how cool I was going to be in my gymnastics class now.

 

My recovery has been a lot like my attempts at getting my ears pierced. Admittedly, it has taken me more than five tries to move towards recovery–a lot more, and it will take even more as I continue walking down the road to recovery. However, every time I thought recovery was too hard, too scary, too “out of control”, or too anything-else…I tried again, just like I did with getting my ears pierced.  And, I am here to say, it is not easy. I am not going to sugarcoat it and say every minute I have been on this road to recovery has been great, because it has not always felt that way. I simply remembered that I needed to keep trying, because the alternative to recovery and life is eating disorder and death, and I am choosing life. Any time ED told me I was not worthy of recovery, that I did not even have an eating disorder, or that I just could not do it, I tried again. Any time I fell hard on my ass during a relapse, I tried again. Any time I thought I messed up my recovery so I should not even keep trying, I tried again. There is ALWAYS one more thing to try.  When we think there is no hope for recovery, try again. There are individuals living fully recovered lives every day, so we know it is possible to recover. I know it sounds cliché, but that is because it is true, never never never give up. Never stop believing that there is something inside of us that wants recovery more than an eating disorder, that happiness more than darkness, and that wants life over death. Recovery will take multiple tries, I guarantee it–I am living it. However, all those attempts work to make a stronger recovery voice in our mind. When we feel like giving up, we must fight that voice (because it is ED’s voice) and remember to try again. We will not remember how many tries it took us to achieve recovery when we look back on our life, we will look around, see the beauty in and around us, and be thankful that we tried again, that we never gave up, and that we chose life.

 

 

Psalm 116:1-9

 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

 

When it’s an anniversary August 15, 2014

Three hundred and sixty-five days…fifty-two weeks…or, as the cast of Rent puts it, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.” Any way you want to measure it, it all adds up to one year. These numbers all also serve to represent that I have now lived an entire year without self-harm. 

Was it easy to stop? In a word, NO! There is still a very small voice that speaks to me any time I feel I am not in control that tells me it is okay to self-harm. I have learned, however, that that voice does not have to have power over my decisions…I do. In changing my relationship with the voice that tells me to self-harm, I was able to 1) disagree with what it had to say and 2) disobey what it was telling me.

Whenever the voice of self-harm speaks to me, urging me to engage in behaviors, I look for evidence of its truth. Spoiler alert! There is never evidence that the voice of self-harm is telling the truth. No matter what trickery, deceit, false promises or fake love the voice of self-harm uses to lure us into behaviors, it is important to know that it is simply not true. Self-harm is never a solution to problems. In fact, self-harm usually ends up creating bigger problems than the one it used to get us to engage in behaviors. It is important to tell the voice of self-harm, “I hear you. I know what you’re saying. But, I WILL NOT engage in the behaviors you are telling me.” Here is another spoiler alert: that will not be easy either. The voice of self-harm will come back with a million and one reasons that we, advocating for our health, are wrong. It is important to remember that no matter how loud, seductive, alluring, etc that voice is, the voice of health is always stronger, smarter and has our best interests at heart. The key to disagreeing with the voice of self-harm is to practice…and then practice…and when we think we are all practiced-out…practice some more. It may sound silly, but actually writing down a conversation between you and the voice of self-harm is very good practice for disagreeing and disobeying.

Recovery is not an “I tried and it didn’t work” kind of deal. Recovery is an “I tried and it didn’t work, so I tried again and again and again until I found something that did work.” That is the disobeying piece of recovery; telling the voice of self-harm that we will not do what it says. It was helpful for me to make a list of activities I could do when disobeying the voice of self-harm; activities that promoted wellness, health, fun and recovery. My list included: photography, writing, coloring (yes, it is perfectly acceptable for adults to use coloring books), taking a walk in the woods, showering, playing with my cats, reading, calling up a friend, or anything else that sounded better at the moment. When one item on my list did not stop the voice of self-harm, I tried another. If that did not stop the voice, I tried another. The very wise, Julie Merryman taught me that there is always one more thing to try; when you think you have exhausted all options and are tempted to give in, there is always one more thing to try. The list of self-harm alternatives is not concrete; it can expand or contract with recovery, interests, passions or anything. The key is to keep the alternatives recovery, health and wellness related…and not to stop when you think you have tried every alternative (there is always one more).

In disagreeing and disobeying the voice of self-harm, or eating disorders, or addiction or whatever voice in our head that does not promote health, happiness, love or acceptance, we are able to regain our lives. In disagreeing and disobeying we are able to take a stand for our recovery and our life. Recovery itself, to me, means life. In practicing and practicing disagreeing and disobeying, I am learning more about myself and regaining more of my life from the negative voices. You can do this too. It will be hard and you will feel as though there are no more options. I am here to tell you that there are. There are always more healthful and appropriate ways to disagree and disobey the voice of self-harm.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

 

When your car gets totaled July 30, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 6:49 pm
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“Um, Rachel? Can you come up here for a minute please?”

 

I set down the copy of The Velveteen Rabbit I had been reading with her daughter as part of her extended care, and walked cautiously up the carpeted basement steps.

 

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think someone hit your car” she said nervously as I stepped into the kitchen.

 

What?! My car was parked on the street in a quiet neighborhood not even ten miles from my house. What kind of a person flies out of their driveway so fast they cannot see my land-cruiser sized red Grand Prix parked on the side of the road? I felt the tears brim my eyes and my throat closing up as I numbly walked out the front door and into the blinding afternoon sun. As I shuffled through the plush grass of the front lawn, I noticed a middle-aged man and his wife were already taking iPhone photos of my, car and had their insurance card in their hand. I had not even seen Little Red yet, but I knew it would not be good. I crouched to my knees and put my hand on her damage; tracing the dent and wondering “why me?” How could he have hit a parked car so hard?

 

Only car on the whole street. How could you not see her?

Only car on the whole street. How could you not see her? Also, can you see her injury from here?

We exchanged information. The man kept saying, “I didn’t see it. I just was getting out of the house and I didn’t see you car sitting there.” I kept reassuring him that mistakes happen. However, inside my mind, I wanted to punch something, to yell at someone, to fix Little Red myself, to scream…and then ED started up (and, trust me, none of her suggestions are fit to print).   

 

After going back inside to finish my work with her daughter, I called the cops (the man and his wife had taken off immediately after we exchanged information…they did not even bother to turn their car off during this whole ordeal). This cop did not want to file a report because there were no injuries, the damage appeared to be less than $1,000, and there were no conflicting stories as to how the accident happened. As the cop pulled away from my still parked car, I got a call from the insurance of the man who hit me. The company assured me that, because the accident was not my fault in any possible way, they would take care of all the repairs to Little Red—and I believed them.

 

I took Little Red to their insurance’s approved body shop for an estimate. Three days later, I got the news that it would cost $1,898 to fix the dent in my door! AND to make matters worse, his insurance wants to total my car because they think the cost of repairs is more than the cost of the car (According to Kelley Blue Book, my car is worth $2,397 thank you very much). After speaking with my insurance agent, gathering all of Little Red’s maintenance records, and learning the laws of “proper indemnification”…I am ready to fight for what I deserve. I did not ask for my car to be hit. I’m not asking for a new one.  I am simply asking for my car to be repaired to the condition it was before the accident; no better, but certainly no worse. The man’s insurance, however, wants it totaled.

 Little Red

So now I am in a place where I constantly find myself; struggling to fight for what is mine.

I cannot believe how many times during my illness and during my recovery, experiences I have had with Little Red have mirrored what I was going through. This accident is no exception.

 

Little Red did not ask to be backed into at 1,000 miles per hour. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but the guy hit her pretty hard; hard enough to leave a Honda Odyssey-sized dent in the back door. Similarly, I did not ask to have a life-long battle with an eating disorder. However, both the accident and the eating disorder have happened, and it is up to me to do the next right thing that would allow for healing in each event—a repair for Little Red and recovery for me.

 

Little Red has survived a lot including: a 55 mile per hour collision with a Ford F-250 (again, not my fault), window motors burning out causing the windows to never come up (all were eventually replaced), break lines snapping, interior flooding, hauling garden equipment and compost, a small collision with my grandmother’s Buick, Ohio winters, Ohio summers and numerous other adventures. However, throughout all of that, I never gave up hope that there was a future for Little Red and continued to work towards repairing her.

 

I have survived many things as well: broken nose and arm, bullying, arthritis, self-harm, depression, more than half of my life with eating disorders, PRAXIS tests, illnesses and a lot of other events I cannot recall at the present. However, instead of treating myself as I did Little Red—repairing and never giving up hope that recuperation can happen—I self-destructed. I used those events as proof that I was unworthy as a human being and deserved everything that happened to me. I put more hope and trust into Little Red than I did myself; how completely backwards is that?

 

Now that I have started the process of recovery, I know that I deserve better than what I am currently doing to myself, and even better than I give Little Red. I deserve life—above all—hope, love, health, healing, friendship, the ability to allow myself to feel emotions, grace and everything else that comes with self-forgiveness and self-compassion.

 

Am I going to stand up and fight this insurance company to fix Little Red? You bet I am! Am I going to stand up and fight ED for my life? You bet your sweet ass I am! No matter what ED tells me, recovery reminds me that I am worthy, I am enough, and I am deserving of a life without her.

 

 

2 Samuel 22

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.”

 

When you play with magnetic poetry July 8, 2014

As the four kids I nanny were sitting at the kitchen bar eating their lunch, I absent-mindedly moved their magnetic poetry words around their refrigerator door; as I had done countless times before. The words had all come from a magnet from the adoption agency that facilitated their second youngest child’s adoption, so it had words that related to adoption. Between trips to refill milk cups, grab napkins, pushing the dog out of the kitchen, and handing out second helpings, I would move another word into the design. Here is my final product:

my "poem"

my “poem”

I have been struggling with my ed a little as of late, so I started with the phrase “embrace beautiful”; hoping that seeing it on the refrigerator would remind me to embrace my beauty. And I do not mean that in a vain sense. I feel embracing my beauty is more than my appearance; beauty is more than how I look. Beauty can be found in my attitude, how I allow others to treat me, my brain, how I treat others, what I say, how I act, and how I choose to see the world.  But, more so than embracing my beauty, I want to embrace the beauty around me; the dew on my car when I leave for work in the morning, the way the youngest child I nanny curls up in my lap and calls herself “Rachel’s girl”, the way the bats fly out of my neighbor’s trees at night, and so much more. Embracing beauty reminds me to be in the moment, to breathe and be present. We spend so much time going through the motions of life, that I truly do not think we stop to embrace the beauty in and around us as often as we should. It sounds cliché  to say to “stop and smell the roses”, but I think that is something we all need more practice with. 

 

The next words I chose to put into my word collage were love and hope. Hope has always been a favorite word of mine; I have it tattooed in Cherokee on my wrist. I think it was Brené Brown who said that hope is not a passive word, but an active one. We cannot sit around all day just waiting and hoping for things to happen, to get better, to work out, etc. We must put that hope into action; making a plan to accomplish what we hope for. We can have all the hope in the world for something, but until we set out to find it, nothing will ever happen. I chose the word love for multiple reasons. First being, I must remember to love others. I often get to caught up in caring for others and making sure their every need is met, I often forget to show the love that makes me do those things for them. They may know I love them, through the actions I do for them, but I seriously doubt they have ever heard an “I love you” from me. Second, and perhaps most importantly, I chose love to remember to love myself. Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” This is probably one of the most accurate statements about love that I have ever heard. A huge part of recovery, for me, has been learning how to love myself and everything that comes with me. 

 

Support became my next word when I realized how huge of a role support has played in my recovery. No one can recover without support. For me, mentoring, therapy and understanding friends have served a key role in my support team. On days when I did not feel like staying on the path to recovery, I would say, “I’m doing recovery for so and so today, until I want it again for myself.” Eventually, “I’m recovering for so and so,” was replaced with, “I’m recovering for me.” Without support from others, there is no way I would be as far along in recovery as I am today. Asking for support takes a lot of strength and courage, but it is 100% worth it.

 

And speaking of worth, my next word in the collage was worth. All too often, my eating disorder convinced me to engage in thoughts and behaviors by telling me I had no worth…that I could never have worth. Ed persuaded me to believe that I could never be worthy because I was not thin enough, smart enough, nice enough, giving enough, tall enough, pretty enough, kind enough; to Ed I was never enough and could never gain worth. She lead me on a path of self-destruction in which she promised the elusive “worth” I wanted so desperately. She claimed I could only gain worth if I followed her every whim and direction; I wanted worthiness so much that I fell for that lie. The truth is, we are all worthy…just the way we are. We are worthy of love, life, good things, beauty, happiness, and everything else we desire. The myth of not being “enough” of something was designed by Ed to steal our worthiness. Don’t let her have it.

 

Wish was chosen for much the same reason as hope. I wish, one day, to be rid of this disease and for others to be free from Ed’s chains as well. Wish, however, is also an active–not passive–word. We can wish upon every star, make a wish at every 11:11, and snap all the wishbones we can find. However, until we put that wish into action using goal-setting, it will remain merely a wish. And while it is good to have wishes, it is also good to have those wishes come true. 

 

The next word moved into my collage was laugh. Laughter, I believe is an important part of recovery…of life.  I realized there is something very therapeutic about laughing. There is no law that states recovery must be this solemn undertaking in which no fun or laughter shall ever take place. In fact, I think not having laughter in our lives only keeps us stuck in Ed’s grasp. While I understand the need to put in hard work and be serious when setting/accomplishing goals, I am also aware of the need to let loose and be silly sometimes.

 

I then noticed the word son…it had been turned upside down by one of the kids. However, when the word son is turned upside down, it reads NOS–as in my diagnosis. I chose to put that on the bottom to show that my Ed has no place in my life; it is under everything else and will get buried by all the recovery-oriented choices I am putting into action.

 

Finally, I chose to put the words I belong at the top of my collage.  For a long time I have failed to believe that I am deserving of recovery (or even a diagnosis). By putting these words at the top of my word collage, I am ready to acknowledge that I do belong in this crazy place we call life; I am worthy, I can have hope, I can love, I can wish, I can laugh, I can ask for support, and I can embrace beauty. I belong, and so do you. 

 

Colossians 3:15-17

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  

 

When geocaching mirrors recovery June 6, 2014

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The rain pours as I tramp through the mud and high grass in my polka-dot rain boots; taking extra care to keep my long dress from getting snagged on the thorns surrounding me. As I smash the mosquitoes attempting to feast on my blood, I hear my friend shout, “I found it!” I look over to find her head-first in a honeysuckle bush—only her black boots visible.

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My friends braving the tall grass to find the cache

So what, you may ask, were four girls in their mid-twenties looking for in the woods in the pouring rain? We asked ourselves the same question multiple times that morning. With the help of our smart phones, we had set out that morning to go geocaching…in a city that three of us had never even been to. Prior to that morning, I had never experienced geocaching before. And, if you are like me, you will need a brief explanation on geocaching. First, someone with a lot of time on their hands creates, hides and records a “cache” on a geocaching app. A typical cache contains a log sheet (to record who found it) and some small trinkets (like stickers, kid’s toys, pins, etc); although some caches only contain logs. Once the cache creator has logged the coordinates of the cache in the app, people can go out to find it…which is what we were doing in the rain on a Monday morning.

 

As I think back to finding the ten caches we discovered, the fun I had trudging through the mud, the enjoyment I had with friends and the frustration I had at not being able to find the cache…it made me think of how similar geocaching is to recovery.

 

1)      The GPS/smart phone app can take you to the cache, but it cannot find it for you; it can only lead you to the area, you must do the work of finding the cache yourself. I remember standing in frustration in the middle of the woods repeating “It has to be here, the GPS said so” while I moved branches out of my way. But that was when I realized it was not the GPS’ job to find the cache, it was mine. The same is true about recovery. It is not my therapist’s job, my doctor’s job, my medication’s job or even my support people’s job to find my recovery; it’s mine. All of these people can help guide me to recovery, but if I really truly want recovery, I have to work for it. All of those people can want recovery for me, but until I put in the hard work to achieve it, nothing will happen. It is like saying you want to learn to ski, but do not want to be bothered by actually using skis; it will not work. Wanting recovery but not working towards it will not work either.

 

2)      While we are talking about finding caches, it is important to note that some caches are easy to find, some are difficult, and some are downright impossible. One of the caches we found was easy to spot nestled in a log. However, another was hidden inside a real mushroom and much harder to locate; I almost gave up on that one. Recovery is much the same way. Certain thoughts, behaviors, food rituals or other ED-associated actions may seem easy, difficult or impossible to overcome. The important thing is to continue to work hard towards recovery. The work will all be worth it when you are able to a live a life without ED. I cannot even recall the amount of times I told my therapist I could not stop taking laxatives or stop self-harming, but I did. I told her it was impossible for me to eat two meals a day, but I do. Do I still have a long way to go to get to recovery? Yes, but I know that I will get there if I just stay determined to win. Remember the cache I described looking for in the beginning? I was so furious looking for it. I was soaking wet, dodging thorns, muddy, hot and mad. Mad at the person who made it for making it so hard to find, mad at the weather for not cooperating, but I was the maddest at myself for not being able to find it. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have been frustrated in recovery; I do not know if mathematicians have ever made a number that high. But I never gave in, and that is what matters. Recovery is all about hanging on when you feel like giving up. Once you string together a series of hanging ons, you will have recovery.

 

3)      Once you find the cache, it is ok to celebrate; you worked hard to find it. I mean, given the entire surface area of the earth, it is pretty mind-blowing that we can find the exact spot someone hid a cache. In fact, we may be walking past hidden caches every day not even realizing it. It is ok to feel pride, too, when finding a cache. If you are like me, you fought the rain, mud and thorns to find it…so proudly sign your name on the log and show everyone how proud you are of your hard work. In recovery, it is also important to recognize and celebrate achievements. Reward your hard work in recovery in body positive ways like getting a manicure, reading a book you have always wanted to read, take a nature walk, watch a movie, take a nap or do something crafty. Recovery is hard; it is not the butterflies and rainbows that lifetime movies or self-help books will lead you to believe. However, it is WORTH it. All the hard work and frustration will lead to a payoff greater than you would ever imagine…a life without ED.

 

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The abandoned building that was home to a cache

 

           2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

When ED stays at your house May 15, 2014

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In an effort for me to understand and simplify for myself how my eating disorder got me to where I am, I started writing…and writing…and when I had written so many words my head started to spin, it spun into this: my eating disorder is like an unwanted house guest who ended up taking my house. Hear me out on this one…

 

I live in the house of Rhea. It’s a cozy little house with a room for everything that makes me, me. There’s a library, a room for learning, a photography studio, a writing room, and countless other rooms. There is also a turret…because who doesn’t want a house with a turret? Then, one day, when my house was feeling kind of run down and shabby, ED showed up on my doorstep like an unwanted fourth cousin staying for the weekend. I did not really want to let her in, but, because she is distant family and I am a people pleaser, I felt guilted into it. Because she had so much baggage with her (literally and figuratively), I allowed her to put it all in one of the rooms that makes me, me. In a sense, I gave a piece of me to ED so she could come live with me. The ungrateful house guest that she is, ED snatched the Rhea room, took out all semblance of me, replaced it with all the stuff from her baggage, turned out the lights, shut the door, locked it, and hid the key. Suddenly realizing she had nowhere else to go, ED came to me and demanded another room in which to put all her baggage. Being the people pleaser that I am, I obliged and gave ED another room in my house; another piece of me. She repeated the same process of Rhea removal and ED installation in each room I had given her, and demanded she be given a new room. Typical reasons for needing a new room usually revolved around me being fat, stupid, unloveable or unworthy for her to stay in a given room…not that the bed was too comfortable, the reading room was full of too many good book, or the turret was just too awesome. No, her reasons for moving and remodeling rooms were based on her hatred of me. And yet, I still permitted her to stay with me.

 

Before too long, ED had destroyed, shut off, locked and abandoned every room in the Rhea house. However, she still wanted more. And me, being desperate for any sense of love and belonging, wanted to give ED what she wanted, despite there simply not being anything else I could possibly give her. Instead of giving up when I told ED there was nothing else to give, she tried to convince me I hadn’t ever given her any rooms in which to stay in the first place. In fact, she worked tirelessly to convince me she had never even been in my house before; this was the time in which I denied the existence of the disease in my life. Each time I challenged ED’s thoughts/ beliefs/behaviors or talked about recovery, ED labored arduously to persuade me into believing she had never visited my house; let alone that she even knew me. However, in the moments in which I agreed with ED, followed her commands, engaged in her behaviors, she was suddenly the long lost fourth cousin and best friend again…looking at me like I was crazy for not knowing who she was. There was no grey area with ED; only black and white. ED either ruled my life and my house, or denied ever knowing me or visiting my house.

 

But now, now I know she is in my life, in my house. I choose to work on recovery. It is like I am walking around the abandoned house of Rhea that was once controlled and destroyed by ED. I am searching for the hidden keys, unlocking doors, turning on the lights and discovering things once hidden, ignored, forgotten or demolished by ED. With each room I reopen and reclaim, revelations are made, questions are raised and I move closer to recovery. It is not just a recovery from my eating disorder (kicking that bitch out of my house and reclaiming it for me), but also a reclamation and recovery of the once forgotten Rhea that ED had kept in the abandoned house. For better or worse, I am willing to face the Rhea that I uncover as I move through the rooms of my house. I am ready to see myself without ED’s influence and behaviors, without self-harm, without shame and without self-hatred.

 

Are you ready to recover your life from ED? What are you most excited about finding or discovering about yourself?

 

 

1 Samuel 16:7

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height… The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

 

When you fight the media May 2, 2014

How about this for some scary statistics:

-42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).

-In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (Smolak, 2011; Wertheim et al., 2009).

-81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).

-46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).

-Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).

-By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life (Smolak, 2011).

 

But WHY? Why are these shocking statistics becoming more and more commonplace? Why is the million dollar question. While I may not have all the answers, I have a fairly good idea as to where the thoughts that lead to these alarming statistics may originate. The Media. Chances are you, yourself, have been the target of the media’s Thin Ideal. I doubt that any of us would want to wake up pursuing the Thin Ideal on our own; those thoughts have been implanted in our brain by the media from the moment we were born. Had the media decided that “the look” was a purple Mohawk and green skin, we might all fruitlessly chase that media ideal simply because it was forced upon us by the media consciously and unconsciously every single day.

 

After ripping through magazines, pointing out media agendas, and talking about how the Thin Ideal media affects our own eating disorder, the girls in my ED recovery support group, our therapist, and I had had enough. Each of us made a goal for the week on how we aim to ignore, fight or raise awareness on the ill effects of the media. I chose fight! I am going to expose these media messages for what they really are…crap.

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Are these the people we want to look up to?

The above magazine article was attempting to point out how we can be like our favorite celebrities by purchasing his or her favorite iPhone apps. Julianne Moore was quoted about this triggering app, “A makeup artist recommended this [the app] to me. You can log what you ate and how much you exercised. When I get bored on set, I can obsessively track my calorie intake.” Does this quote sound anyone else’s eating disorder alarm? I have heard from so many people in recovery whose eating disorder was able to completely take over their life because of this app; this app gives the illusion that it is normal to obsessively count calories, exercise, track eating trends, seek out smaller caloric intakes, and any other thoughts/behaviors that fuel ED’s fire. While I may not know about Ms. Moore’s personal views on eating disorders, I can say that this quote, could be very misinterpreted as a means to further an eating disorder.

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I found this bag of pita chips at my local Trader Joe’s.

I like pita chips. There I said it. And I actually enjoy eating them. Imagine my surprise when Trader Joe’s offered me a pita chip with “reduced guilt”. Oh, Trader Joe’s, how did you know? (sarcasm). As if ED wasn’t already laying on the guilt when I opened the bag, Trader Joe’s goes and adds some more. “Guilty pleasure” when and why does American culture ALWAYS associate this phrase  with food or use it to put themselves down in some way. Over the years I’ve learned food is food; there are no moral values attached to it (like good, bad, sinful, guilty) and, likewise, no emotional values (food is fuel and should not have the power to manipulate your emotions). Eating food should not lead one to feel guilty. Eating should lead one to feel nourished, alive and ready to face the day. We, as a culture of Americans, have become so accustomed to putting ourselves down at every opportunity, placing more importance on the size of clothes than the size of hearts, and tearing ourselves apart over every little thing that society deems unworthy. My guilty pleasure is allowing myself to feel worthy in a society in which everything else seems to scream I am not.

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Again with the guilt association…this time in the “comics”…as if we should laugh about it and encourage our girlfriends to work towards an ED

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But, if we do fall prey to the “Guilty Pleasure” phenomenon, this food company offers suggestions on how to counteract what we’ve eaten…just like ED does. ED is always worried about our caloric intake versus our exercise output, but now, thanks to this company, this box can serve as an aide to further ED’s message (sarcasm).

 

I will never purchase anything from this company again

I will never purchase anything from this company again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and how about this one that seems to be offering us suggestions on how to better listen to and agree with ED?

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Is this magazine promoting ED thoughts? Yes.

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This magazine is also offering ways to listen to ED. What the hell?

Oh, and lest the males feel that the Thin Ideal is only marketed to women, I present you with this “comic”. It appears to insinuate that the larger man needs to work out and stop eating in order to look like the smaller man…eating disordered thinking anyone?

 

 

 

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So, comics are typically directed to children. Do we want our children to think adults consistently skip meals to lose weight? Do we want them fat shaming others?

And here are some more for good measure

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Also, who sends weight loss encouragement cards with caloric information on them? Why don’t we send cards to each other to support recovery or body acceptance?

weightwatchers

I positively LOATHE this brainwashing company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, instead of letting these messages further ED’s conquest on my life, I am choosing to fight back. I am going to do what is right for me and my recovery. I will not be a pawn in the media’s Thin Ideal game. I encourage you to look through a magazine and destroy the messages that perpetuate ED’s lies. If looking at a magazine is too triggering for you right now, just speak up when people around you say things that promote ED’s lies. Nothing is too small when it comes to fighting the media, and especially when fighting ED.

 

All statistics taken from the National Eating Disorders Association website at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders 

 

Luke 11:33-36

 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Philippians 4:8

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

When you make realizations April 25, 2014

 

For the almost two years that I have had this blog, there has always been a thought nagging in the back of my mind. I have felt I have not been completely honest with those who read my blog, and I have to get it off my chest. Although I paint a very self-assured and recovery-oriented picture through my writing, have I struggled for the past five years to actually admit/accept the fact that I, Rachel King, actually have a clinically diagnosable eating disorder, and have had for more than half of my life. I would say, “I’m sick” or “I’m doing well in recovery” or even refuse to admit I had an eating disorder at all. However, I never actually knew what I was really saying. How was I expected to recover from a disease I refused to fully accept that I had? How could I fully immerse myself in recovery if I did not first admit that I had been fully immersed in my disease? Doesn’t everyone always say, “The first step in resolving a problem in our life is to first admit we have a problem”?

I have needed to admit and accept this fact for a long time, but my eating disorder kept telling me I was stupid for thinking that. I don’t think I was ever really ready to let ED go until Easter Sunday this year, when I reflected on the eating disordered thoughts and behaviors I had engaged in over the previous few days. I can’t explain it really, it’s just like, as I sat in my garage (after having engaged in behaviors)…it’s like I finally knew, this is ED. This is exactly what ED is: lies, secrecy, self-inflicted punishment, hiding, feeling unworthy, striving for unattainable perfection, hating that I do it but not being able to stop, false control, and pain…lots of pain.

ED was suddenly and simultaneously the best and worst defense mechanism in my life. It became a way to hide from the bullying I receive from others, by bringing the bullying on myself before they could get me; ED convinced me everyone was, indeed, out to bully me. ED rationalized that if I punished myself first, the pain of others wouldn’t hurt so much, because she knew I would punish myself worse than they could imagine (ED, cutting, exercise, etc). I wanted to hide inside ED because of the perceived safety she offered me; safety I didn’t have from my bullies. I wanted to hide inside her twisted love; love I felt I didn’t have from my family and didn’t deserve from others.   I wanted to do and be everything to everyone: teacher, nurturer, protector, the smart one, planner, volunteer, problem solver, etc. I wanted to be perfect, but, at the same time, was listening to ED tell me I would never be perfect. I wanted to be loved, and turned to Ed for that love because it was the first “safe” place I found “unconditional love”. I now realize that that what ED gave me was never love. ED was manipulation, lies, and destruction. As long as I kept myself within the confines of ED, I would never find the acceptance, love, and roles in life that I wanted so desperately…because ED was taking them all. ED was there to offer me everything I was craving out of life…and then, I was in too deep, she had me in her vice grip. I would never get from her all the things I wanted that she promised. She convinced me that me not attaining what I wanted out of life was my fault because she was never “really” in my life to begin with. She blamed all my life problems on me because “there’s no way I could possibly have an eating disorder” and my pain couldn’t have been caused by her because of that. I’m here now to say it was, all of it. I listened to her lies, false promises, saying she could offer all I wanted, and so much more. But it wasn’t true, none of it. I never got anything she said she would/could offer me if I just did every single thing she said. All I got was my own personal hell. A hell in which I punished myself for every perceived wrongdoing by restricting, purging, cutting, laxatives or over exercise. A hell that I wasn’t allowed to believe I was actually in, let alone tell anyone else about. A hell I thought was never ending. Until now. I fully realize I’m in ED’s little hell, and I know I’ll stay trapped here as long as I refuse to admit she has this power over me. Every time I acknowledge her presence in my life, she gets a little bit smaller and I am able to see what recovery oriented choices look like. It’s a slow and sometimes stumbling process, but I’m ready to get out of this hell.

I encourage everyone out there reading to get out of this hell with me and take our lives back.

 

Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”

 

When students teach you… April 21, 2014

“Look Miss Rachel! Look at what I can do!” Lucas shouts as he hangs perilously by the trapeze bar on his play set. I watch nervously as his Spiderman shoe kicks over the bar and he hooks he knee over the top. I inch forward preparing myself to catch him when his 4-year-old strength inevitably gives out, and he plummets to the mulch roughly three feet below.

 

“Lucas, I don’t want you to fall. Please stop doing that; it isn’t safe” I shout while continuing to slyly move toward him. Undeterred, Lucas continues his trapeze bar conquest; flailing his legs over the bar while attempting to hang upside-down.

 

“But Miss Raaaachel. I HAVE to fall. That’s now you learn” he protests in one of the biggest cliché phrases I have ever heard.

 

A bit angry, I retort, “Lucas, you do not HAVE to fall to show me whatever it is you are trying to do. In fact, you do not have to do it at all if you think you are going to fall and hurt yourself. You can show me another time. Let’s just swing the normal way, and you can show me your trick later.”

 

“No, I want to show you now. I have to do it now. Just let me do it” he asserts a little overdramatically for a four-year-old.

 

“Do what you want Lucas, but I will be here to catch you if you do fall” I say, resigned to his stubbornness and need to show me his trick.

 

And, do you know what? He did it. He kicked his legs over the bar and hung upside down…without falling.

 

So what did Lucas’ pleading about “having to fall” teach me? He reminded me, in his own little way, that it is ok to fall and make mistakes. In fact, sometimes falling is the only way to learn. I tell my students all the time that mistakes are learning opportunities disguised as failures. Use your mistakes—because mistakes will inevitably occur—as fuel to motivate you. Mistakes are not the setbacks or failures society will lead us to believe. Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying, “I did not fail, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s attitude reminds us that mistakes are not irrevocable; mistakes are often a springboard for finding and implementing ideas that will work. Oftentimes the fear of perceived failure is enough to keep us from attempting something new, like recovery. How many of us learned to speak perfect English the first time we tried, or mastered the Viennese Waltz on the first attempt? I am willing to bet very few if any. However, there are many times in our lives we tried something even though we knew the risk of failure was high. The risk of failure is often lower than the prize of triumph.

 

Most days we need to be like Lucas: kick our legs over the bar, hope to be successful, be prepared to fall…but not let the fear of the fall or the fall itself stop us from doing what we want to do.  I fully expect to make mistakes in recovery and in life in general. Nevertheless I will never let those mistakes keep me from living a life free of my eating disorder. I will not let those mistakes allow ED to exert her control in my life and I will not let those mistakes keep me from my ultimate goal…LIFE.

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Lucas demonstrating his athletic prowess

 

Psalm 37:23-24

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

 

 

When you gather seashells April 7, 2014

“Here’s a good one!” my sister exclaims as she bends down into the gulf water and pulls out a glistening white shell with purple streaks.

 

“But it is broken. Throw it back. We don’t want that one” I reply.

 

“No, look at the swirl pattern on the top. It’s really cool looking. I’m keeping it so I can use that pattern in my ceramics glaze.” she retorts as she gingerly places the broken shell in my shoe (our make-shift shell carrier).

 

This exchange got me thinking…what makes a shell a “good” shell; a shell worthy of toting 1,000 miles back to Cincinnati? Does it need to be fully intact, or is broken still beautiful? Does it have to be all one color, or can it be multi-hued? Does it have to be smooth, or can it have ridges? As it turns out, there are a lot of snap judgments being made about each shell as I carefully bend over to examine its worthiness to be extracted from the ocean and placed in my Toms.  This immediately led me to think about my recovery; as that has been a major concern on my mind lately.  The question, “What makes a shell worthy” became, “What makes a person worthy”. Is it their fully intact-ness, or is it their brokenness that makes them worthy? Does perfection make them worthy, or can they show flaws? Again, snap judgments come into play as we deem worthiness in ourselves.

 

To our eating disorders, worthiness is very clearly spelled out: one can only be worthy if they listen to exactly what the eating disorder tells them to do; worthiness is completely hingent upon following ED’s made up and completely nonsensical rules. Neither binging nor purging, neither restricting nor over-exercising, neither self-harm nor addiction can make a person worthy…despite what our eating disorder will try to tell us. Worthiness is found in one’s character and actions, not in their ability to excel in an eating disorder or other addiction. Worthiness is found in the size of one’s heart, not in the size of their jeans. Worthiness is found in one’s ability to care for themselves as much as they care for others, not in caring for others over themselves.  Worthiness is found in one’s ability to love themselves so much that they choose to ignore ED’s constant berating remarks. Worthiness is found in recovery. Worthiness is found in living a life in which our actions, our character and our heart show that we believe that we are worthy of a life without ED.  At first ED will tell us that we are completely unworthy for not following her every whim. However, as we break away from her choke hold, we will see other qualities in ourselves that make us worthy of love, happiness and life. Because, let me tell you, we are ALL worthy of that no matter what ED tries to say.

 

What qualities and characteristics about yourself make you worthy? It can be anything from your ability to nurture others or nurturing yourself when you know you need it. Your worthiness can be something like being a very good scheduler to something like being a wonderful listener. Worthiness, however, can only be found in recovery; worthiness is never found in ED.

 

Some of my sister's numerous shells

Some of my sister’s numerous shells

Zephaniah 3:15 and 17

The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

When you visit the manatees January 26, 2014

Recently, my friend Hannah and I went to the Cincinnati Zoo so she could teach me how to use my camera. As we stopped in the manatee exhibit, I stared in awestruck wonder at the grace and beauty at the two rescued manatees, Betsy and Abigail, as they floated through the water. The Cincinnati Zoo partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program to house and care for the manatees until they are ready to be re-released into the wild. Some of the manatees were rescued as an adult; Betsy was rescued at age 18, and is now 22. While some were rescued as calves; Abigail was found orphaned in Florida and is only a year-and-a-half old. So, why, you may ask, am I writing about rescuing manatees on a blog about mental health and recovery? Excellent question my dear reader. The more I thought about the Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release program, the more it reminded me of eating disorder recovery.

            Both Betsy and Abigail were living in Florida when, for one reason or another, their lives were deemed in danger and they were transported to a location in which they could receive proper care. It is at this second location that the manatees receive the rehabilitation, medical attention, and care necessary to, ideally, return to the wild.  Some manatees, like Betsy, remember their life outside of the rehabilitation center. While some manatees, like Abigail, have lived their entire lives within the glass windows of the rehabilitation center. To me, the lives of these manatees have a direct parallel to ED recovery.

            For those of us with eating disorders, our lives ARE in danger; anywhere between 3% and 5% of those diagnosed with an eating disorder will die from the disease (Walter Kaye, MD). While the types of danger in our lives are not the exact same as the manatees—as I believe our risk of getting hit by a boat while walking down the street is very unlikely—our lives are in jeopardy nonetheless. From heart failure and electrolyte imbalances to kidney failure and gastric rupture, eating disorders destroy our bodies and lives. Once it has been determined that our lives are endangered, we must move to a second location. Be it outpatient, inpatient, partial, group therapy, or something else entirely, we must move into some form of treatment plan in order to regain our lives from this deadly disease; no one recovers from an eating disorder alone. No matter the level or location of treatment, we receive the care, education and medical attention necessary to fully recover. It is through treatment that we learn skills necessary to defeat Ed, stand up for our health and are able to return to the “wild” without turning to Ed to cope. Similar to the manatees, there are some of us who remember our lives before Ed and some of us who have lived our entire lives in Ed’s aquarium. Regardless of whether or not you can remember a life before Ed, through treatment (and ultimately recovery), you can have a life without Ed.

            In essence, these manatees reminded me that recovery is possible. And not only is it possible, it is real! It will take work—hard work—patience and grace with ourselves, but recovery, real and sustained recovery, is possible. Never forget that.

Photography has always been an immensely valuable tool in my recovery, so here are some of my photos from  my day at the zoo…

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The Cincinnati Zoo chose this photo of their bonobo as their pic of the week!

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Crocodile monitor lizard

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Red Panda

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Not the greatest photo…but it is Betsy (background) and Abigail (foreground)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 58:11

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

 

When it is your birthday… January 7, 2014

So tomorrow, January 8th , is Stephen Hawkings’ birthday…and Carl Rogers’ birthday…Elvis Presley’s birthday…oh, and mine too. When you are little, birthdays are a BIG deal. You had to have a theme; mine was typically Disney. You had to tell everyone you knew that your birthday was coming up; usually proclaiming the whole month as your “birthday month”. And there was nothing more embarrassing than wondering what do when everyone is staring at you staring at your cake while singing “Happy Birthday”. Well, now that I am no longer 8 years old, birthdays look a little different around my house. There are no elaborate Disney-themed parties, I do not tell everyone I see that January is my birthday month (barely anyone around me even knows that tomorrow is my birthday), and I sill have no idea what to do when people sing to me (good thing that does not happen with relative frequency).

Tomorrow I will be 26! Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am grateful to have made it to 26, even though that number makes me feel old (I realize 26 is not old my anyone’s standards). I have learned a lot in these years such as: not to put keys in light sockets and that maybe those blonde highlights in my black hair in 7th grade was not as great of an idea as I had thought. I have also learned a little bit about recovery; mostly through trial and error and my conversations with those support my recovery. In honor of my 26th birthday, I present to you the 26 things I learned about recovery:

1)      Everyone, yes everyone, is worthy of recovery. Sometimes our disease tries to tell us differently, but EVERYONE is worthy of and deserves recovery.

2)      Recovery is not linear. There will be ups and downs; there will the plateaus, peaks and valley; but I promise you, we will get there…all of us.

3)      Small steps towards recovery are often healthier and longer lasting than giant leaps. We cannot rush recovery no matter how frustrated we may get with taking those small steps.

4)      Mentoring! I know there is no way I would have been able to stay on the path to recovery without my amazing mentors past and present. This is why I am so steadfast about the importance of mentoring on recovery.

5)      When in doubt, write it out. You do not have to have proper grammar, spelling or even full sentences. No one is going to judge your personal writing. Write down the good, the bad and the amazing! I always feel it is better to get out whatever emotions I have than it is to let it weigh on my chest.

6)      Ed’s thoughts do not have to be your thoughts. “Sure,” you say, but it is true. With lots of practice, time and thought reframing, I am able to take Ed’s thoughts for what they are and then reframe them into recovery-oriented thoughts.

7)      The DSM is not meant to disqualify you from the treatment you deserve; although it does do that sometimes. No matter what the diagnosis, or even a lack of diagnosis, everyone deserves treatment.

8)      I have learned that there is a person that exists outside of my eating disorder and that she is deserving of life and love.

9)      You cannot change the hurtful and insensitive comments about weight, appearance and dieting that others make. However, to continue down the path to recovery, you CAN change your responses to those comments.

10)   There is absolutely no shame whatsoever in asking for and accepting help when you need it. Asking for help indicates a very high level of strength and dignity within you; a level of strength and dignity that acknowledges the fact that you deserve recovery.

11)  Despite what both Ed and society will tell you, food has no moral value. There are no “good” or “bad” foods and neither does eating these foods determine whether one is, themselves, morally “good” or “bad”. Food is food, nothing more.

12)  Every time you do something you genuinely enjoy, you are taking back a piece of yourself from your eating disorder.

13)  There is always a little grey in a situation even if it only appears to be black and white.

14)  Recovery will take time; it is not instantaneous. Just as it took time for your eating disorder to develop, it will take time to recover as well.

15)  Have grace with yourself. Grace is one the most important tools I have learned in recovery.

16)  No one can recover alone. Finding and maintaining a kind and knowledgeable support team is essential. Support teams should be a good mix of professionals, friends and family. With me, my support staff is mainly friends and professionals as most people in my family do not know or understand that I have an eating disorder…which brings me to…

17)  Some people will never understand what an eating disorder is or what it is like to have one. These people will simply never “get it”, and that is ok. The important thing to remember is to continue striving for recovery even if people around you do not understand. Besides, recovery is for you, not for those around you.

18)  Recovery is not always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard. In spite of this, do not use recovery being challenging as an excuse to stop. Recovery may be difficult, but it is so worth it.

19)  Gratitude lists make me feel more positive about my recovery and my life. All too often I find myself dwelling on the negatives or the things during the day I could have done better, and that often leads to neglect of recovery. However, when I look past those things to find moments of gratitude, recovery becomes more important. The gratitude lists do not have to be grandiose things; they can be as simple as “I am grateful for the little boy who held the door open for me at Krogers” or “I am grateful that I got to see a squirrel furiously nibbling at an acorn on my front porch”.

20)  Mistakes are not failures. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” That is basically recovery in a nutshell. Use your mistakes–because they will happen–as learning opportunities and motivation to continue working towards recovery.

21)  Perfection does NOT exist. It never has and never will. Constant striving for this unattainable ideal of perfection only serves to frustrate us and allows Ed to flourish. Being genuinely ourselves is enough; no one is asking for perfection, despite what Ed may tell us.

22)  There is no shame in having a mental illness. We have come to a place in our society where there is this huge taboo on discussing mental illness, and having one is even more unmentionable. Where did this shame and stigma come from? Mental illnesses are not character flaws or wide-spreading contagious diseases or world destroying. It is time to lift the veil of stigma off of mental illness and dispel society’s myths and misconceptions about what they entail. There should not be a disgrace attached to mental illness.

23)  Visual reminders of recovery help me stay on the path to recovery. The reason I have recovery tattoos and wear my recovery rings (one says, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step” and the other is the Scripture verse Jeremiah 29:11 “I have plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”) is because when I see them, I am reminded why I so desperately want recovery.

24)  Finding alternative thoughts and behaviors for when Ed steps in. I have a list by my computer of activities I can do when Ed wants me to engage in behaviors, they include: writing, photography, knitting, reading, or even taking a walk.

25)  Be honest with your doctors and/or therapists. When you lie, they know. They are not stupid people. And although we may think we pulled a fast one on them by lying, we did not…they know. Lying only slows down and hampers recovery. By being honest with doctors and/or therapists, they can help guide you in the right direction and assist you with further recovery.

26)  Find what you love about yourself and embrace it!

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got! I am only 26, it is not like I have a cache of sage advice. Always remember to take care of yourself and stay strong in recovery.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

When cleaning teaches you about recovery December 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 1:55 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It is always amusing to me the things I can find when cleaning out my grandmother’s basement. This was reaffirmed recently when I helped her clean her basement; it looked a little like the inside of a house featured on Hoarders: Buried Alive. A few of the things we found were interesting, such as: an atlas from her high school days in the 1950’s, the baby blanket she knit for me in 1987, and antique McCoy pottery. But, I also found some really uninteresting things as well: a 20-year-old copy of Women’s World, an entire dust bunny civilization (and I am fairly certain they are staging a coup), and a can of beans that expired in 1998. I also found some downright scary things: a taxidermied duck, an unintentionally dreadlocked Barbie, and photos of me. A newborn Rhea wrapped like a burrito in a pink hand-knitted blanket with a shock of black curls poking out of the top. A three-year-old Rhea dressed in pink OshKosh B’Gosh overalls gnawing on an ear of corn bigger than her head. A nine-year-old Rhea propped up on the 1970’s-style couch proudly showing off her newborn sister. And then…well…then there were a series of shots of me looking progressively sadder, shameful and embarrassed. So what happened? In a word, ED. As I dug further through my grandmother’s basement, I realized just how similar cleaning is to recovery.

 

As my grandmother and I carefully moved through her basement one thing became clear, we were not going to be able to keep all of the things she had accumulated over her 72 years. I quickly cleared out a corner and put up three signs: “Crap”, “Keep” and “Donate”.  While not thrilled with my use of the word crap, my grandmother acquiesced enough to give my system a try. Each time an item was unearthed from its basement tomb, it was inspected and sorted into its proper area of crap, keep or donate. Some items were easy to sort. Other times took her longer because of sentimental attachment, plans for future use, trying to determine what the object actually was, etc. Upon recovery-oriented examination, many of our eating disordered thoughts and behaviors can also be sorted this way. As we look at each belief or action we have about ourselves, the world and our eating disorder, we need to question whether it is: true, useful, purpose-serving, a defense mechanism, or something else entirely. Essentially, what purpose do each of these thoughts and behaviors have in your life, and are those purposes positive or negative? Is there any logic to why you are holding on to ED’s toxic beliefs? I am not saying the answers to these questions will be easy; my grandmother agonized over that 20-year-old magazine thinking she could make a recipe or craft out of it “some day” (note: that magazine ended up in crap, as living for “some day” only holds us back). I am saying, however, that that introspection into ED’s influence is very important towards working towards and sustaining recovery. Into which category (crap, keep or donate) would each of your thoughts and behaviors be sorted?

 

As we continued working, I wondered how my grandmother had amassed so much stuff in her basement. Did she throw it down there and shut the door, refusing to acknowledge it existed? Did she squirrel it away for later hoping to put it to use, but forgot about it? Was it a defense mechanism? I did not have the courage to ask her, but I did have the courage to ask myself.  I will spare you my sometimes rambling thought process and leave you with this: When thinking of how your eating disorder developed, and the purposed it serves/served in your life, what did you find?

 

Finally, my grandmother and I had cleaned out one room of her basement. The transformation was almost unbelievable. I learned the carpet was blue, I found an old ring that she let me keep, and I had a lot of time to think about my own recovery. However, the work did not end there; neither for my grandmother or my recovery. Now that my grandmother had these piles in her corner, she needed to figure out what to do with them. Much in the same way, we have these thoughts we have categorized into crap, keep and donate (although, I would not suggest donating any of ED’s belongings). Now what? It is important to put our newfound knowledge to recovery-oriented use; put your newly unearthed wisdom to work for you. One of Thom Rutledge’s nutshells is appropriate here, “Don’t let your insights live with you rent free. Put them to work.” Meaning, now that we have gained all of this insight into dealing with ED, we need to use it to further our recovery in whatever way we can. What is the use of having this insight if we do not use it?

 

Remember that recovery, like cleaning a basement, takes time. Be kind and gracious with yourself in the process.  You are worthy.

 

 The powder factory by my house reminds me of my grandmother's basement...do not enter (also, I took this photo)


The powder factory by my house reminds me of my grandmother’s basement…do not enter (also, I took this photo)

Ephesians 5:15-16

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity”

 

When you find your talents November 22, 2013

“What are your talents, Miss Rachel?” my co-teacher questioned.

“Please?” I asked looking up from the tiny pink converse I had been tying.

“Your talents? What are your talents?” she reiterated.

 

I had been listening to my students share their talents as my co-teacher went around the circle during story time. When you ask two, three and four year olds about their talents the responses you get are priceless: I am good at playing outside, I am good at putting on my shoes, I am good at playing with my toys, I am good at going pee-pee on the potty…etc. Their responses seemed so automatic, so genuine. None of my ten students had to think very long when asked about his or her specific talents. I, however, took an inordinate amount of time.  What in the world is my talent? Ed chimed in, telling me I had no talent; so I should probably just listen to her and be good at an eating disorder. I decided that was NOT a talent. Finally, I decided my talent was reading. Reading aloud to my students is one area in which I do believe I have talent, and it is something I thoroughly enjoy doing.

 

My students and I had been studying the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the concept seemed a little over their developmental abilities: after all, students at this age are not cognitively capable of making inferences or using abstract thinking. However, we decided that this parable was worth a try. For those unfamiliar with the parable, here is a brief summation. A very wealthy master decided to give three of his servants his gold (known as talents) while he went on a long trip. To the first he gave five talents, to the second he gave two, and to the third he gave one. The first servant put his talents to good use and doubled them, as did the second servant. The third servant, however, buried his in a hole and went about his life never giving a second thought to the talent he was given. When the master returned, each servant presented his talents. The master was pleased at the first two servants for doubling the talents given to them, but was outraged at the third servant and made him give the talent he did have to the first servant.

 

So what is the moral of this parable, you may ask? Through this parable, Jesus wanted to show his disciples that it is not the amount of talent that they were given that matters, it is how they use that talent to further the kingdom of God. Both the first and the second servants doubled their talents, and it pleased the master. The third servant hid his talent. and the master was less than thrilled. In the same way as the first and second servants, we must use the talents given to us by God. Instead of focusing on having fewer talents than others—as the third servant did–we need to recognize how much good we can do with the talents we do have. Instead of burying our talents out of shame that they are not as magnificent as those around us, we need to proudly use them to the best of our ability.

 

I have found myself, all too often, hiding my talents in the hole of my eating disorder, perfectionism, anxiety, self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and whatever else I have used…rather than acknowledging that I actually have talents that can not only benefit my life and recovery, but the lives of others. By acknowledging the talents I do have, I am able to see past the veil of Ed and work towards a more recovery-oriented mindset. Concentrating on our lack of talent and flaws only gives Ed a greater foothold in our lives. Conversely, by putting the spotlight on what we do well, Ed’s power diminishes and the glory of God shines through us.

 

What are your talents? What have you been doing to hide them? How can you use your talents to further your recovery, improve your quality of life and take back your life from Ed?

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents. My cats decided to investigate it while I was taking a photo of it; they are odd.

Matthew 25:21

His [the servant’s] master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

 

When it is your Recovery Anniversary November 12, 2013

Four years ago, I made a decision that drastically altered the path of my life; a decision that, ultimately, would lead me towards the path to recovery. But first, the really scary, really awkward, really intimidating initial step.

 

I stepped silently down the creaky basement stairs in the old house my college had converted into an office space. My boss had told me I should speak to one of her other workers about “my problem”; “she could really help you” she said. At the bottom of the stairs I saw Miranda (name changed to protect privacy), her brown bangs escaping her pixie cut as she sat in the floor putting together a display for the farmers’ market.

 

“Hey Rhea,” she said cheerfully with her typical enthusiasm and broad smile, “What’s up?”

 

I sat crossed legged on the floor near her as silently as I had crept down the stairs, admiring her work while picking at my nails. I noticed the vibrant blue of her eyes and the beauty of her tattoos as we sat there in awkward silence. I took a deep breath, “Miranda, the reason I came here today is that I spoke with Lynn (our boss, whose name has also been changed) and she said we might share some similar experiences. And I was just wondering if I could ask for your help because Lynn said you would be open to helping people like me and I just don’t know what to do because therapy isn’t working and Renée (my therapist, name not changed) doesn’t believe me that I’m sick and I am just so confused” I rambled in one long sentence while fighting back tears. I had done it; I admitted my disease to someone and things were never going to be the same…but for a positive this time. Miranda, the angel that she is, did not judge; she took my frightened, college student self under her wing and mentored me towards recovery for the next sixth months. And, on November 21, 2011 even though we had not spoken in months, she helped me through the anxiety and fear of my intake evaluation at the Lindner Center of Hope.

 

On November 11, 2009 I asked Miranda for help for a disease I had let rule my life for at least ten years. On November 11, 2009 I took the first step to recovery…to freedom.

Since that date:

I have drastically limited the frequency of my purging.

I have moved…three times.

I have quit using laxatives.

I graduated from college, received my teaching license, started work on a special education master’s degree, got at reading endorsement for my teaching license, and served two years in Americorps*.

I got my two recovery tattoos…and had one reworked

I have quit self-harming.

I have re-found my love of photography and writing.

I have upped the amount of calories I have a day.

I had an EKG and endoscopy…and became vegetarian.

I reached out to and made friends with the wonderfully beautiful and strong Meredith.

I have attended therapy sessions.

I have learned that my self-worth is not AT ALL correlated to my size.

I have learned that Ed never ever speaks the truth.

I started this blog and had it featured in NEDA’s blogroll.

I have given presentations and written articles to destigmatize EDs.

I participated in the NEDA walk in Washington DC…my first trip to our nation’s capital.

I have emailed the Secretary of State about passing bills and amendments that support research and funding to ED awareness.

I have continued with my passion of educating children.

I have gone to symphonies, weddings, museums, zoos, concerts, beaches, mountains and unfamiliar cities.

I have begun to separate myself from Ed…and I have never been happier or healthier.

Psalm 34:8 and 18

8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him

18: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

 

When you think about gratitude November 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:40 pm
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In the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Platt, asked us to write a few sentences about gratitude. She then collected our responses, typed them on one of our school’s green-screened Macs, and made the resulting copies into Thanksgiving books for each student in the class. Given the fact that we were six and seven years old, we did not know a lot about what it meant to be grateful. In fact, had my teacher omitted our names, we would each have thought that we had written every entry. Many of us expressed gratitude for family, friends, food and a home. A remarkably large number of us included God in our entries; something that I am surprised, but pleased, we were allowed to do in our public school.

This exercise was the extent of our understanding of gratitude. It was never explained to us what being grateful actually entails. We merely thought about what we have in our life, and wrote down that we were grateful for it. Case in point, I wrote I was thankful for my cat, my parents, my toys, my cousins and my clothes. Wow, one point for originality.

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My contribution to the book

While I am still thankful for my cat (although now I have a different one than in my original writing), my mom and dad…and now my sister (I was an only child until I was nine), my cousins, my clothes, and my toys (adults have toys too, they just look like Nikon DSLR cameras and iPhones), I have come to realize that being grateful is about more than just people and things. In my precocious second-grader ways, I wrote two things that I did not really believe then, but do now, “I am thankful for being alive today” and “I am thankful for God for blessing me.” Nineteen years later, I realize how truly grateful I am to be alive and to be a recipient of God’s blessings.

After going through at least fifteen years of depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder…a broken nose and arm, a car accident, self-harm, being a first generation college student, a super annoying nail biting habit, serving in Americorps VISTA…I am alive. I have had the opportunity to experience all of those things because I am alive. While not every aspect of my life had been easy, neither has everything been difficult. And yet, through it all, I am alive. There is a purpose in my life greater than myself that has kept me alive despite everything I have been through. Because I am alive, I know that God is not done with me yet. There are still lessons to be learned, lessons to teach, mistakes to make, and who knows what else. The important thing is that I do not have to know. I must merely wake up each day grateful for the opportunity to learn God’s lessons, teach lessons, and make mistakes. Who would have ever thought I, the perfectionist, would be grateful for the ability to make mistakes?

If Mrs. Platt were still around, I would write this to be included in our book:

I am grateful for the ability to make mistakes; for in making mistakes I learn lessons, grow stronger as a person, and gain insight into who I am as an imperfect human. I am grateful that God has blessed me, or chosen not to bless me in certain situations, with everything that He sees fit; His will is not my own. I am grateful for my recovery and the support from others I have received along the way; there is something truly remarkable that dwells in the heart of those who serve others. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers, the frost on the autumn leaves, the way my cat, Rowan, is always ready for a game of fetch, and a quiet walk through the fields of my friend’s farm.  I am grateful to be alive and for the ability to experience everything it has to offer.

 

Colossians 3:15-17

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms,hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

When it is National Bullying Awareness Month… October 22, 2013

            In recognition of National Bullying Prevention month (October, here in the states), I would like to share some information on bullying that I gained by attending an “Evening with the Experts” presentation held by the Lindner Center of Hope (LCOH). The LCOH is “is a nonprofit, mental health center staffed by a diverse team, united in the philosophy that by working together, we can best offer hope for people living with mental illness. The patient and family are at the center of our treatment, education and research. Lindner Center of HOPE provides patient-centered, scientifically-advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of: Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Addictive Disorders, and Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorders” (as taken from their mission statement).

 

            A study performed by the Bully Project discovered that EVERY day approximately 160,000 students skip school for fear of encountering their bully; that’s 21% of the child population in the United States. However, many well-meaning adults do not understand the various forms bullying can take in today’s society.

 

            Another study, performed by the Youth Voice Project, stated many reasons for which students were bullied: 55% were bullied because of their looks, 37% were bullied due to their body shape, 16% were bullied for their race, 14% were targeted due to his or her sexual orientation, 13% were bullied because of their family’s income, 12% were targeted due to religion and 8% were bullied due to a real or perceived disability.

 

            As presented by Dr. Tracy Cummings, staff psychiatrist at the LCOH, there are five distinct types of bullying:

 

1)      Verbal- takes the form of: name calling, demeaning nicknames, teasing, taunting, sexual comments, hate speech, mocking, note writing/texting, and prank phone calls. Targets of bullying often internalize these verbal messages from bullying and come to believe them as truth.

2)      Physical- takes the form of: pinching, hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, spitting, posturing (intimidation), taking/breaking possessions, sexual intimidation and intruding upon personal space. Fortunately, if there is a fortunately in this situation, physical bullying can very easily travel through the legal system as assault.

3)      Social/Relational- takes the form of: exclusion of self/others, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing someone in public, whispering about others, and imitating. Rather than being an assault on the body—as with physical bullying—social bullying is an assault on a target’s character and is, therefore, harder to see outwardly.

4)      Extortion- is the use of force or threats to get something from the target; either a physical object, an action (such as doing homework or stealing for the bully) or to make any other gain by the bully.

5)      Cyberbullying- takes the form of: email, texts, instant messages, cell phones, chat room, online journals/blogs, websites, digital photos and social media. These forms of bullying can either be attacks on a certain target or exclusion of a target. A study from the CyberbullyingResearchCenter shows that 50% of school-age children have experienced some form of cyberbullying; with 10-20% of those students experiencing the bullying on a regular basis.

 

Dr. Cummings also presented warning signs to look for in students (and even adults) who you may suspect to be the target of bullying:

            Obvious signs of bullying

                        1) physical marks on the target of bullying such as scratches, bruises or other indications of violence

                        2) the target of bullying is missing items

                        3) the target of bullying discloses the bullying (this happens VERY rarely)

            Subtle signs of bullying

                          1)      the target of bullying asks questions about bullying or asks for advice on how to handle situations with bullies

                          2)      the target has somatic complaints (physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or other pains that have no obvious                                            medical cause are often brought on by the stress and emotional toll put on the target by the bully)

                          3)      the target makes self-degrading comments—often the same ones they hear about themselves from the bully/bullies

                          4)      the target refuses to attend school

 

The effects, according to Dr. Cummings, of bullying include the following:

            -fear

            -depression

            -anxiety

            -school refusal

            -maladaptive social interactions

            -compromised educational/job opportunities

            -dysfunctional relationships (targets will not allow positive relationships to form for fear it may develop into bullying)

            -substance abuse/dependency

            -criminality

            -change in sleeping patters (either too much or too little)

            -variance in eating patters (either too much or too little)

            -death (homicide and/or suicide)

 

 

Dr. Cummings also offered many strategies for appropriate interventions.

 

            How to intervene as an adult:

            1)      Listen

            2)      Assess safety

            3)      Demand action 

                   a. Review the school’s bullying policy, bring up concerns with the principal, take legal action if necessary

                   b. Document all instances of bullying

            4)      Stay (or get) involved in ending the bullying

            5)      Build a social network to end the bullying and support the target’s wellbeing

            6)      Maintain a follow-up to ensure the bullying is ending

 

              How to intervene as a child:

              1)      Be empowered- leave a potentially dangerous situation, befriend the target, do not join the bullying, report bullying to an adult

              2)      Act safely

              3)      Act positively

 How to empower targets of bullying: 

             1) let them know you are listening

              2) let them know they do not deserve to be treated the way the bully treats them

              3) Let them know they have the right to leave the situation

              4) Let them know that you are there for support and encouragement 

 

On a personal note, as a target of bullying myself, I know the damaging effects it can have both in the moment the bullying takes places and continuing on into the target’s adult life. These experiences with bullying are one of the many reasons why I started this blog. 

 

Below are some links not noted above that are very valuable toward ending bullying:

1) stopbullying.gov

2) dosomething.org has a “Bully Text” campaign on their website which offers information and an informative, text-based simulation

3) Embrace Civility, a program offered for parents and schools

4) Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center

 

Psalm 94:16-19

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

 

 

When a kid hits you with a hammer October 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 10:23 pm
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“Your face has a hole in it Miss Rachel!” announced three-year-old Lucas as he picked up his orange and black plastic hammer and began hitting the dimple on my right cheek, “And I’m gonna fix it for you like Fix-it Felix.”

 

“Lucas, please stop hitting me in the face with that hammer. Let’s see if there is anything else in this room we can fix that does not involve violence to Miss Rachel” I said as I looked for something, anything, to get him to quit smacking my face over and over with the hammer.

 

“How about your eyes?” Lucas quipped as he began banging his hammer on my glasses, “You wear glasses because your eyes are broken. Let’s fix them.”

 

“Lucas, I wear glasses because it is hard for me to see far away; not because my eyes are broken. I would appreciate it if you would stop hitting me with that hammer” I said as he began whacking my legs in an attempt to fix whatever else he thought he needed to fix on me.

 

As Lucas and I sat in the basement, and he played human whack-a-mole with my body, my brain started spinning with thoughts….irrational thoughts…Ed’s thoughts. Ed chimed right in with Lucas, “See, Rhea, even Lucas thinks you’re not good enough, and need to be fixed. Maybe he can thump on your thighs, stomach and all the other places on your body I don’t like too? I’ve been trying to fix you for YEARS, woman. If a precious little three-year-old boy thinks you’re fat, you obviously are. Let’s go engage in some behaviors so Lucas will think he fixed you.”

 

The further along I progress in my recovery, my ability to spot Ed’s thought process in my life, stop it and reframe it has increased greatly. When Ed thoughts seep their way in to my brain, it is my responsibility to stop those thoughts before they lead me down the path to hell and reframe them into recovery-minded thoughts. By taking a moment to separate Ed’s irrational thoughts from your rational recovery-oriented thoughts, you are able to recognize unhealthy thoughts and behaviors before they grab ahold of you. At first, you do not necessarily have to believe Ed’s thoughts are wrong; you just have to disobey them. With time and practice (lots and lots of practice) you will be able to both disassociate (recognize that Ed’s thoughts are not yours and that they are wrong) and disobey Ed’s thoughts when they creep into your conscious.

 

When Ed told me that Lucas thought I was a fat horrible mess that needed fixed with a plastic hammer and some Ed behaviors, I was able to see those thoughts for what they really were…lies. Lucas was being a three-year-old boy. He was beating me with a hammer because he wanted to “fix something” with it, just like the character Fix-it Felix in the movie Wreck it Ralph. I just happened to be the thing to fix because I was in arm’s length of his hammer. Additionally, I knew Ed was lying to me to get me to engage in behaviors because never once did Lucas tell me that he wanted to fix me because I was fat or ugly or disgusting…he wanted to fix my face because he thought my dimple was a hole and he wanted to fix my eyes because he did not want me to have to wear glasses. By trying to “fix” me, Lucas was actually trying to show that he cared for me. However, by trying to “fix” me, Ed was/is actually trying to kill me; she only cares that I get sick and die listening to and following her lies.

 

I decided, while sitting on the floor with Lucas, that there is a much better use for his plastic hammer…to smash Ed to smithereens. 

 

Nehemiah 4:20

“Our God will fight for us!”

 

When you wear the emerald glasses of Oz September 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 11:48 pm
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Call me odd, but The Wizard of Oz has always been my favorite movie. Perhaps it is Dorothy’s wanderlust for a place to belong, the singing/dancing munchkins, the flying monkeys in fezzes, or the admiration of Dorothy continuing in the face of adversity (even if that face is green and warty).

I was reminded of the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (off of which the movie was based), recently in therapy, when thinking of how my eating disorder views my life and recovery. Upon entering the city of Oz, the guardian of the gate requires Dorothy and company, Toto included, to wear green-lensed glasses. These glasses not only have the aforementioned green lenses, but they are locked in place with a key once they are put upon the head; making them impossible to remove. The guardian of the gate says the glasses are to protect the wearers from the “brightness and glory” of the city of Oz; the glasses are green because what in Oz is not green? The visitors and citizens of Oz wear the green glasses without reservation, as the guardian of the gate has assured them that the glasses are for their own wellbeing. The glasses were decreed by the benevolent wizard as a means to protect them from the brilliance of his city. What these people do not realize, however, is that the glasses are designed to be worn so that everything they see in Oz only appears to be green, when, in reality, everything in the city is the color they would imagine it to be in their lives outside of Oz. The glasses are a mechanism through which the wizard controls his populace; they serve as blinders to the truth that all is not as it appears. By requiring the wearing of the glasses, the wizard ensures that the people of Oz will see his city—and his reign of supremacy—in the way he has intended despite the fact that he is not as supreme as he, and others, is wont to believe. It is a way for him to control how his city, and his own inadequacies, is perceived.

Ed wants to be our emerald colored glasses. Ed works in much the same fashion as the wizard of Oz. Ed comes in to our life with promises to shield us from this hurt, that stress, this relationship or that hardship. Ed uses her glasses in the form of eating disordered thoughts and behaviors as a means to control you, all the while pretending to be looking out for your best interests…to protect you, even. However, all Ed does is use the disordered thoughts and behaviors to hide her own inadequacies, shortcoming and failures by projecting them onto us. Through Ed’s glasses we see only in black and white, good and bad, fat and thin, success and failure. There is no room for self-love, grace, self-confidence, or self-esteem (let alone a brain, a heart and courage); there is only Ed. And this is all there will be until we are able to take off Ed’s glasses. These eating disordered glasses are the mechanism through which Ed controls us, our thoughts, our actions, everything about us. In recovery, we learn we posses the key to take off Ed’s glasses as a means to see the world as it is meant to be seen, to love ourselves as others love us, measure ourselves in terms of resilience not pounds…to enjoy all blessings in our life rather than always looking through Ed’s glasses for the bad. Unlike Dorothy and crew, we have the power to remove our green glasses. When we cease to view the world through the glasses of Ed, we gain the opportunity to see the world and ourselves for what we truly are: wonderfully beautiful and unique people with gifts and talents that work together to create amazing things. So pick up your key and take off Ed’s glasses, you never know what you will find, but I promise it is worth it.

1 John 3:1

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!