RheasOfHope

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

What I learned from Josh Hamilton September 24, 2012

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“I live by a simple philosophy: nobody can insult me as much as I have insulted myself. I’ve learned that I have to keep doing the right things and not worry about what people think.” Josh Hamilton

The above quote has been taped to my dashboard for the past four years. Why? Because Josh Hamilton is an inspiration to me and many other people fighting for recovery from many different addictions. Recently, an uninformed ESPN writer wrote an article describing how Hamilton lacks mental toughness and shouldn’t be valued as a player. He asserted that Hamilton’s lack of mental toughness showed in his leaving a game early due to blurry vision caused by a sinus infection. This writer went on to describe how other players in the MLB play with much worse injuries—implying that Hamilton is not a tough player. He failed to mention the most important part of the story…Hamilton’s immense amount of mental toughness (or perhaps his 4-home run game, being the first round draft pick in 1999 for the Tampa Bay Rays, being a 5-tool player, being named to All-Star teams, being part of the Home Run derby, being MVP of the AL championship series as well as MVP of the entire AL…oh, and, most importantly, how he used his faith to overcome drug and alcohol addictions to become one of the best players in all of the MLB).

After a car accident early on in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, Hamilton began abusing drugs to heal the physical and emotional pain from the accident. Soon, as with all addictions, his entire world became about his drug use and subsequent alcoholism. This came at the expense of his MLB career as it violated their substance abuse policy. After two years away from the game, numerous trips to rehab and finding faith in Jesus Christ…Hamilton returned to baseball. He found an accountability partner in Johnny Narron who worked with him as both a Cincinnati Red and Texas Ranger. Although he has had two known relapses, Hamilton continues to strive for complete drug and alcohol recovery. During the traditional champagne shower after winning the AL division playoffs, Hamilton’s teammates, respecting this continued efforts in sobriety/recovery, doused him with ginger ale instead.

Others, however, are not as supportive of his recovery. He receives a lot of abuse from both “fans” and other MLB players. Many mock his past. His struggles. His goal to become clean. Why? Because unless people have personally struggled with addiction they will never understand the constant thoughts that go through your head, the ever present temptation to engage in unhealthy behaviors, the barrage from the general population that we have a problem and should be treated poorly, that often times we treat ourselves even worse than they do, that recovery is an ongoing process that does not happen overnight, that every day is a struggle to remain on the path towards recovery, and everything else we deal with on a daily basis. We’re judged during relapses because everyone is under the misguided perception that recovery means perfection, and that we will never engage in unhealthy behaviors again. We’re judged during periods of health by being reminded or ridiculed for the behaviors from which we are recovering. For Hamilton, this may be worse as he has irresponsible and ill-informed ESPN writers misleading the general public on the cycle of addition, and saying that Hamilton lacks mental toughness for trying to take care of himself. Mental toughness is ALL about taking care of yourself. Mental toughness is required for recovery. Mental toughness is a skill you learn by making mistakes and learning to take care of yourself; it is not something you are born with. I admire Hamilton for his ability to overcome his addictions, remain a strong Christian, and help others who are in similar situations. As Hamilton put it “I am proof that hope is never lost”. You can be that proof too…just keep moving down the pathway to recovery and ignore the pressures from the outside. You are recovering for you and no one else; only you know what is going on inside your head and only you can make the choices to recover. Don’t pay any mind to those that judge your recovery. Having the courage to recover means you already possess more courage and strength than those who try to put you down. Never give up hope. You are worth it. Recovery is possible.

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Stranger Danger September 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:12 pm
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When I was in elementary school in the early 90’s, we often had Mcgruff the Crime Dog come to our classroom, in puppet form no less, to speak to us about the ills of strangers, kidnappers, drug use, matches, guns and other assorted evils. We were told never to approach a stranger’s cargo van even if he offered candy or asked for help locating his lost puppy, who also happens to be his best friend. We were also told, on no uncertain terms, that strangers equal danger. Apparently rhyming made the lesson more memorable for us as over fifteen years later I still remember the rhyming, trench coated puppet’s warning. Which brings me to the purpose of this entry: how do I learn to trust? If Mcgruff was correct, and strangers do, indeed, equal danger…then how do I know who to trust; especially with information about my ED?

I recently had an experience with one of my students (who, in the reality of working with college students, is really only four years younger than me) and a co-worker at a lecture at the college that led me to challenge my perceptions on trust. The lecture presenter, although not my favorite, was valuable in that he was able to prompt the exchange I had with these three wonderful ladies. The presenter challenged us to turn to a neighbor and discuss one influential person in our lives. I hate sharing feelings with people I’m not close with, but I used this lecture as a way to get out of my comfort zone. The student went first, and then it was my turn. I decided to answer honestly; to give trust a chance. I said one influential person is my former professor who helped me when I couldn’t help myself and made me realize that I was worth it. My co-worker then gave her answer. Whew. I shared an authentic answer and nothing happened. Maybe there isn’t anything to this trust thing after all? The next question he posed to us was “What is one cause about which you are very passionate?” Again, my perceptions on trust were challenged. My co-worker went first. I thought, what am I really passionate about that I feel comfortable saying to these girls? That’s when I knew what I had to do. I told them that my passion was creating awareness of eating disorders and reducing the stereotypes associated with them. The student then asked me to repeat myself. I panicked because I thought she was going to judge me, but I repeated myself anyway. She then said the most wonderful thing I could ever have imagined, “That’s really amazing. I am also passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illnesses because I was anorexic in high school and know about that pain.”  I couldn’t believe it. This student that I have known and respected for over two years is carrying the same burden as me. I couldn’t really tell you what else the lecturer said that night because all I was thinking about was how my trust in my co-worker and the student lead to a deeper understanding of what we are all going through. My co-worker even thanked the student and me for being so brave and sharing our stories. I felt really wonderful about my ability to trust after that encounter.

On the flip side, however, I realize the need to be cautious about who I trust. While there were two professors on my campus that I had to tell about my eating disorder (as there were certain events happening that prevented me from fully completing my assignments) who completely understood me, pushed me to get help, respected my wishes to keep what I told them in strict confidence, encouraged me to believe in myself and who I consider great friends today…there was another who abused my trust. This abuse of trust came in the form of mocking my illness, telling others about it and generally treating me as a lesser human being. I still carry the scars from this lack of trust. BUT, I also know that I cannot close myself off to trusting people solely because one woman chose to be malicious. The student I talked to Monday night is proof that there are people in the world that I can still trust; that I don’t have to be afraid of who I am. I wonder if Mcgruff has a skit in which he opens up to strangers and gains support, mutual understanding and friends.

 

The pen is mightier than the sword and you are stronger than ED September 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 7:14 pm
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Recently I was able to listen to a podcast featuring Thom Rutledge. For those unfamiliar with his work, as I was before listening to the podcast, he is a psychotherapist and author best known for his work with eating disorders and other addictive behaviors. His podcast got me thinking about the importance of words. As someone who enjoys writing, I often wonder what my words really convey to those reading them (and hopefully there are people reading them).  Certain words express more than just their meaning; they express emotions, movements, or cause change. Surely everyone in America can tell you who spoke the words “I have a dream” and how those words inspired millions of people to consider their own thoughts and actions, and work towards changing not only themselves, but a nation. Now, I’m not comparing Thom to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; I am merely using his speech as an example of how powerful words can be. At any rate, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words Thom used in his podcast; especially as to how it relates to recovery.

“It [recovery] is not just about recovering from an illness; it is recovering who I really am” Thom Rutledge

What a concept. It is always, always stressed that we must recover from our disease; that we must stop using ED behaviors. Not only do we believe that we will be magically recovered when the illness no longer exhibits in our daily lives, but those around us are on that misguided idea as well. Everything revolves around ED; what we eat, what we wear, where we go, who we befriend, who we trust, how we act…everything. Our lives become ED and any semblance of the human being we used to be disappears. We forget who we are, what we like, and anything else not related to the ED. Unfortunately, too many of us keep ED in our lives because we simply do not know who we are without it. It becomes easier to keep and be ED than it is to take the time to work towards recovery.

Thom acknowledges that recovery is a two-fold process. The first half, of course, is “recovery from what’s toxic in our lives” (Thom Rutledge quote, not me). This includes thoughts, behaviors, actions and anything else that prevent us from being who God intended us to be. The second half is “recovery of who we really are; our authentic selves” (again, Thom, not Rhea). With the behaviors gone, we have no choice but to be ourselves. Thom likens it to an excavation, as we are digging ourselves out of ED and discovering who we are underneath all those behaviors. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. In fact, recovery isn’t negative. What could possibly be negative about finding out what makes you happy, doing things you enjoy, finding friends that value you as the imperfect human being that you are and enjoying food as food alone? For so long we’ve told ourselves we don’t deserve those things. However, recovery, both sides of it, teaches us that we do deserve it. Truthfully, we deserve more!

“Recovery, to me, means possessing the courage to let go of old, ineffective patterns of thoughts and behaviors; and a willingness to start fresh”  Thom Rutledge

The first half of this quote reminds us that recovery takes a remarkable amount of courage on our part. All too often, we do not acknowledge our own strength. To let go of everything we know, even if it is killing us, is frightening and yet incredibly brave. We have identified that our disease is not working in our lives, but have held on to it because of some fear, real or imagined, of letting go. Recovery is about gaining the courage to let go of that fear to become who we really are…to do whatever we want to do, go wherever we want to go and be whoever we want to be…all of it without ED. But first, we have to take the initial courageous step of letting go.

The second half of the quote reminds us to have grace with ourselves. Thom stresses that there is no perfect recovery; there never has been, there never will be and you are not the exception. It will be chaotic, you will make mistakes, and it will not happen overnight. By having grace with yourself, you are able to forgive yourself for unhealthy choices made during recovery and you are able to thoroughly examine your mistakes to learn from them. I am a firm believer in learning from our mistakes. When I was a child, I stuck a key in a light socket. OK, mistake, yes. BUT, I learned. Would I have learned that we don’t put keys in light sockets eventually? Yes. But that personal mistake taught me faster and helped me to better believe that the two don’t mix. The important thing is that I learned. I had grace with my 5-year-old self. I learned. I moved on. The same is still true. With recovery, we are bound to have missteps; but we must learn to reflect on those missteps and apply that new knowledge towards moving forward in our recovery.

Ok, so, to sum up a long, winding entry…I just want to leave you with two things. 1) You, yes you, CAN recover. You can recover from the disease and you can recover who you are. 2) Have grace with yourself when you make (consciously or unconsciously) unhealthy choices during recovery.

“Being well takes guts and its hard work and nobody does it perfect, but you can do it” Thom Rutledge

*all quotes in this entry are my transcriptions from Thom’s podcast and may differ slightly from his exact words. Apologies to Thom, if by some chance he sees this, if quotes are slightly off or were misinterpreted.*