one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

What does success mean to you? May 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:19 pm
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I was recently scanning the channels on late night TV when a commercial caught my eye. Usually I don’t pay attention to these kind of commercials, but when you see a train wreck you just have to watch, right, its human nature. Anyway, it was for some horrible food program (Nutrisystem), and the overly excited and obviously photo-shopped spokesperson (Janet Jackson) raises her hands above her freshly coiffed head and obnoxiously proclaims “this is what success looks like!” It was just so ridiculous and, I’m sorry, but completely not true. Success, at least to me, does not mean I must look as if I am a photo shopped Janet Jackson. Janet Jackson is not a role model of mine and her adherence to an expensive food delivery slash brainwashing “diet” is not ever going to be a motivating factor in my recovery. 

To me success is this: (not necessarily in order of importance)

-having a healthy relationship with both food and myself

-living at peace with myself and my body

-recognizing and understanding hunger cues

-allowing myself to feel emotions

-eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m not

-being honest with myself and others (in all aspects of my life, not just with eating)

-asking for extra help when I need it

-eating a variety of foods

To me, success must just be measured differently. To me, success is a state of mind, not a dramatic “look at me world, and see how awesome I am” as the spokesperson would lead me to believe. To me, success is feeling good about myself, my food choices, and my body. My success is not dependent on what some actress/singer/MJ’s sister is paid to tell me on late night TV. My success is not measured by what this woman thinks of me. Success is different for each and every person–for each person is fighting their own battle. Success is not the universal be all end all that this commercial would have you to believe. So, I challenge you to think about what success with beating your ED means to you or would look like to you…focus on that…and tell the dumb photo-shopped spokeswomen of the world to shove it. 


Curiosity doesn’t kill…complacency does May 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 6:21 pm
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           For 117 days I have been free of purging and cutting. For over 5 months I have been free of laxatives. For most people, these accomplishments would be enough to motivate them to stop restricting as well. But, for me, all this has done was cause me to hit the “plateau of complacency” as I’ve come to term it. The plateau of complacency is where ED lives and thrives. He wants all of his victims to find a home on the plateau of complacency and set up a permanent residence. On Wednesday, I called my doctor for my blood work results & every level that was tested came back normal–low, but  normal. I donated blood today and was actually able to do it (I usually get turned away for low iron or low blood pressure). I made sure I walked the mile to the hospital today to get my blood pressure a little higher; it, surprisingly, made it to 120/80. So, here I am with normal lab results, not purging, not cutting, not abusing laxatives, only exercising 3 days a week…but also, still not consuming enough calories in a day to be considered healthy. Essentially, and mostly metaphorically, I’m checking out rental properties on the plateau of complaceny while real estate agent ED tries to talk me into it like a used car salesman. The upsetting part of it all is that I know that this is what he is doing, and I know it is wrong; yet I have stood on the plateau of complacency listening to ED’s sales pitch for so long, that it seems safe to be standing with him. I realized, last night, that I no longer want to hang out on this plateau listening to ED’s lies, so I got out some of my old journals and started reading. My hopes were to see how far I’ve come by revisiting my old writings. Unfortunately, I realized that what I am experiencing now is the same endless loop of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. All it did was serve to feed ED’s worn out sales pitch. Complacency is ED’s BFF (to use the language of a pre-teen girl). It is his way of tricking us into keeping him around and buying a house on his plateau of complacency.  Continued property search on ED’s plateau will eventually kill you…and I’m not exempting myself from this statement. So, today, rather than listening to this sleazy sales pitch again, I am choosing to take time to really acknowledge and listen to my body, its hunger cues, its needs and make my way off of ED’s plateau. What will you do today to climb off of the plateau of complacency?


My life as Noah May 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 7:05 pm
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After my last session with my therapist,  and after giving in to the demands of ED for the past three days, I used my 40 minute drive home to do some major thinking about what I want out of recovery. I wrestled with the idea of what recovery looks like, what I need to do to get there, how I can get started getting there and what it means to me to get there. You’ll have to know a little about my history to understand why what happened next meant so much to me…my step-grandfather is a pastor and I spent my youth following him to each of the churches for which he became the pastor. I think it made my faith stronger, but I had never felt that I had ever been given a clear, “and the heavens opened” sign by God…that is, until last night. As I was driving and thinking, as I said earlier, I noticed the biggest rainbow I had ever seen stretching over the bridge I take home. Usually my first thought would have been “cool, a rainbow”…but for some reason, my thoughts brought me to the story of Noah. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, after God sent a flood to destroy the wickedness in the world, he sent Noah a rainbow as a promise that he would never again flood the earth. I felt that the rainbow that night, although visible to all commuters, was a sign for me; a promise that as long as I stayed committed to recovery that He would never leave me and would guide me where I needed to be.

About ten miles down the road, I saw a white bird (which, with my limited knowledge of bird species, I assumed to be a dove…could’ve probably been anything) fly out of a creek by the side of the road. Again, any other day, I would say something to the effect of “oh, pretty bird, that’s nice”, but last night I thought again about the story of Noah. Noah, after the rains had ceased, sent out a dove to search for dry land. After finding no land, the dove returned. Later, Noah again sent out the dove in search of dry land. This time, the dove returned with an olive branch, indicating that land had been found–an enticing glimpse at what would be once the waters fully receded. Once again Noah sent out the dove and it did not return, indicating to Noah that the waters had receded and the world was, once again, safe. I feel like my recovery is often like the dove Noah sent out. At first, I was scared of recovery and flew back to the perceived safety of the ship. Then, knowing I had to give it another try. I came back with a fleeting glimpse of what recovery could be, but still, I had come back to the ship (and ED). Now, as I prepare to send the dove out again, I hope that it does not return. Not that I don’t like doves, they’re very cute animals, I just hope that ED can be released with the dove never to return to my ship. Ok, so maybe the metaphor is a bit stretched…but I still feel like God was telling me not to give up on recovery. Even though I’ve slipped a little and let ED back into my life, it does not mean he gets to stay there. As I work towards recovery, I know that God will never leave me and will continue to give me strength to press on. No matter what you are going through, ED or otherwise, please know that He will never leave you either.


Tattoo Confessions May 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:47 pm
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With the return of summer comes the return of clothes that, shall we say, are a little less covering than the turtlenecks and parkas we wore just a few short months ago. Ohio weather is fickle and I still have my winter coat handy, just in case. Anyway, I was reminded, once again, that with the change to my summer wardrobe, my tattoos once again emerge from their winter hiding place to speak of my life’s journey. I tend to forget I even have them; they’ve become such a part of me that they’re as natural as freckles on other people.

I was getting my change back from the not-so-friendly cashier at Krogers when she saw the tattoo on my wrist and did a visible eye roll accompanied with the wonderful scoffing sound that is oddly reminiscent of a cat struggling with a hairball. First off, I would just like to dispel the myth that tattooed people are lesser humans than non-tattooed people; each tattoo tells a story, even if that story is, “I got drunk at spring break and ended up with a snail on my rear end.” They are roadmaps of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and serve to either remind us of that story or to engage others in conversation about them. They speak of the human condition as a whole. Second off, I would like to tell you the stories of my tattoos in hopes that you will see me in a way other than girl with two tattoos who, clearly, deserves to be scoffed at when getting handed back her change at Krogers.

Tattoo 1: January 9th, 2010…one day after my 22nd birthday…I took my mentor at the time (who inspires me to this day despite the fact that our interactions are limited), to accompany me to get my first ever tattoo. I hesitantly walked into a tattoo shop in Dayton Ohio, clutching the design I had picked out close to my heart while offering up silent prayers that I wouldn’t be judged by what I was about to do. I had been wanting a tattoo for many years, but wanted it to mean something very personal and that represented who I am as an individual–something I wouldn’t regret when I was 40 or 50 like a dolphin jumping through a hoop of fire or name of a current crush. I had been contemplating going to therapy for about 6 months at that point, but had only been going to counselor, but was not getting the treatment I needed. I had been scouring the National Eating Disorder Association’s website for some time, looking for ways to get help…and that’s when I decided to get the NEDA symbol. It would be a constant reminder of where I had been with the disease, where I am with it, and where I hope to someday be with it. I wanted to be able to look at it every day to remind myself why life is so worth living, why I am worth loving and to always believe that I am worth treating well. It was to be my “strength for the journey” tattoo–my constant companion who would never judge but be an ever present reminder of my will to recover. I wanted to cry as I handed the folded up paper with the NEDA symbol on it to the man behind the counter, as I knew the inevitable was about to happen. I’ve heard it before: you don’t look like you have an eating disorder, which one do you have, why would you let yourself do this to your body…the list is almost as endless as the list of certain celebrities’ ex-husbands. As I was signing my life over to the tattoo artist, he unfolds the paper and stares at it for what seemed like an eternity. “So, what is this anyway?” he asks. I tell him that is the symbol for the National Eating Disorders Association and how they work to raise awareness and education on EDs as well as help those suffering from EDs and their families get help…and prayed that was the end of the questioning. “So, like, you have an eating disorder or something? Which one, anorexia or bulimia?” was the next question. I explained to him that it isn’t always such a clean cut distinction between the two but that my disordered eating is currently under a different category of eating disorders called “Not Otherwise Specified” as it does not fit all the criteria for either anorexia or bulimia according to the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The questioning stopped at that point, and the guy seemed a little taken aback by my honesty and the tears that were starting their journey down my cheeks. The rest of the experience was just talking about tattooing and his future move to Chicago, as I’m sure he felt a little uncomfortable talking about the tattoo itself. And, in the end, I ended up with exactly what I wanted and had educated on EDs at the same time. Every time someone asks about that tattoo I speak of NEDA’s hard work but also of my own. I still struggle. Daily I tell myself there is a difference between my thoughts and what my ED tells me–most days I listen to what’s right, but we all make mistakes. But it’s different now because I can look at my tattoo and remind myself why it is so important that I keep fighting, keep living and keep breathing.

Tattoo 2: September 24, 2011. My friend Kaity, who was visiting from out of town and had promised me we would get tattoos together, and I went to a shop to fulfill that promise. I got the word “Hope” written in Cherokee (my heritage) tattooed on my wrist. I chose to get “Hope” tattooed at this time because I had graduated summa cum laude from a private college the year before, but was still fighting to prove that I was good enough. That fighting took form of continuing my ED, self-mutilation and abusing laxatives. After receiving help from both the Lindner Center of HOPE (well, just an intake eval and a diagnosis) and my current team of doctors,  it is my hope that I will move beyond these issues and learn that I am good enough (plus, hope is part of the Lindner Center’s name). That I am good enough to live. Good enough to love and good enough to love myself. Because now that I am in treatment, it is my hope to be able to live a healthy life as well as educate others about EDs. I know I don’t have all the answers (nor do I claim to), and I know I’ll be fighting this disease for many years to come…but I also know that these tattoos will remind me why I am fighting so hard, why I need to take life one day at a time and why it is so important to love life.

So, next time you are giving a twenty-something back her change at Krogers or come across a person at your local library who is tattooed, don’t automatically assume that they’ve been in jail, dropped out of high school or any other misconceptions you may. If you’re brave enough, ask them their story. If you come across me, by chance, I would love to tell you about mine…of course, after reading this, you have a pretty good idea of what mine mean.

My NEDA tattoo...probably the only photo of me that will ever appear on this blog.

My NEDA tattoo…probably the only photo of me that will ever appear on this blog.