It’s cold. I’m always cold—the bone-chilling cold that is never alleviated despite numerous blankets and layers of clothing. I don’t want to get out of the covers, but I have a class of first graders to teach. I tiptoe to the bathroom so as not to wake anyone. The room turns fuzzy, but I am used to that. I jump in the shower, and turn on the water—hot, hot to numb the cold. The shower starts to spin around me. Everything goes black. I am aware of my body, but not in control of what it does. I reach out to grab the bar on the wall, but my arm knocks off the shampoo and soap instead. I know what is about to happen, but I can do nothing to prevent it. The room continues to spin as I collapse into a wet pile of body and shampoo bottles on the floor of the shower. Shit. I knew this was going to happen. When I come to, I turn off the water, clean up the mess, go back to my room and call the school; Ms. Rhea won’t be in today (good thing it was only student teaching in college). I curl back up in my bed in the wet towel; not even bothering to put on clothes because that would take too much effort—effort that I don’t have. I fall back asleep. I knew I should have eaten. My best friend of six and a half years/roommate wakes up to begin her day, “What are you still doing here?” she asks. I am afraid to tell her the truth, but I know she already knows. She always knows. She was the first one to talk to me about “my eating issues”. She was the first one to tell me that what I was doing to my body was not healthy, she knew it, I knew it, and I needed to get healthy. She was not afraid to tell me what I needed to hear; not always what I wanted to hear—she is very good at that. She knew I did not respond to coddling or sugarcoating; that it would only help the ED to grow. She pushed me towards therapy (in a good way). She did not always understand the complex and confusing world of EDs, but she knew she loved me and that was enough…and I loved her too. I may have been angry at the time that someone was challenging my ED, but it was exactly what I needed to wake me out of the haze of its power. I needed someone to show me that there are other ways to live than under the thumb of ED. I needed accountability. I needed a friend. I needed someone to tell me the truth. I needed someone to listen. That was over two and a half years ago. Our friendship has grown as I have, bit by stubborn bit, let go of my ED. I am so thankful for what she has done in my life. Had it not been for her support, I would have continued on with my ED and I’m not entirely sure where I would be. Had she not helped me towards recovery, we might not be as close as we are today. This Christmas, my gift is the gift of recovery…it was initially given to me over two years ago from my best friend and it continues to be given to me today through my own efforts. Words can never express how grateful I am for her insistence that I take care of myself…but I am forever thankful for her gifts of support, friendship, recovery and, most of all, love. I wish for you the gift of recover this season.
The Power of a Mentor December 22, 2012
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” – Unknown
Fact: I am incredibly stubborn. Fact #2: I will not ask for help when I need it due to fact #1. For a long time I have viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness; that I was incapable of solving my own problems and people would *gasp* know I am not perfect. However, what I know now is that asking for help shows a great deal of strength. Asking for help shows others that you want to better yourself and learn from what they have to offer. Asking for help can be the hardest thing you ever do. However, I believe, asking for help is often the bravest and most beneficial thing you ever do. When it comes to recovery from an ED, Thom Rutledge always says, “No one, which means no one, can recover alone. And you are not the exception to this rule.” This is where the role of a mentor comes into the equation of recovery.
Journaling, drawing, crafting…whatever you do instead of behaviors, well, they can only offer so much. Sometimes you just need another person to talk to you about what you are going through, to calm you down, or to help you think through a situation. Sometimes just the presence of another person sitting with you, without even speaking, can bring great comfort when working through recovery. A mentor can offer great insight into recovery because they have been there; they understand exactly what you are going through. They can offer insight and wisdom that comes from living in recovery that many other people cannot provide. A mentor can help you stay motivated to work towards recovery and be there to support you every step of the way. For me, a big part of my recovery is someone holding me accountable for it. If there is no one there for me to be accountable to, odds are I might not work as hard. So, it is very beneficial for me to be able to have a mentor.
EDs are a disease that tries its best to isolate us from others. They cause us to lie and want us to separate from others in order for them to flourish. All the secrecy surrounding EDs causes us to build walls and not allow others in. A mentor will be able to help you reconnect to the world around you, and offer a special bond of compassionate understanding. Once you are able to see a mentor accepting you even with all the imperfections you feel you have, you begin to start accepting yourself with those same imperfections. By accepting your perfect imperfections, you can truly begin to heal. Additionally, mentors are able to help you see the best in yourself. All too often, we have let our ED tell us there are no good qualities in ourselves. A mentor will help you break that thinking and allow you to see the good in yourself (because, like it or not, there is good in you).
This is the point in my blog where I talk about how much I adore my mentor, Meredith. I met her via her wordpress blog over a year ago (September 1, 2011 to be exact). There was a contact section that said something to the affect of, “If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here”. So, in November, I finally shot off a quick email thinking I would get nothing in return. Boy was I surprised. What I got back was a message with such love and support that I honestly started to cry as I read it. Someone finally understood me. Meredith has had her own battles with ED and has been working on recovery for some time now. We emailed back and forth many times since then, and even became Facebook friends. In October 2012, Meredith invited me to her bridal shower and wedding. I was shocked. I knew she meant a lot to me, in my life, but I never thought I had had an impact in hers. When I met her for the first time I was speechless. Here was this woman who knows so much about me, who has helped me through some of my worst times, who has always known exactly what I need to hear (and that doesn’t mean it was always what I wanted to hear), but who I had never even heard speak. How do you even begin to thank somebody for that? What do you say to someone who has been there for you? (for my actual response, visit this post)
To this day, Meredith and I continue our relationship. She is an amazing woman, mentor and, now, friend. I am constantly in awe of her strength, support and the extent of her generous heart. I owe a lot of my efforts in recovery to her. This Christmas, I am grateful for my relationship with Meredith, and wish that you are able to recover from your ED. Remember, together we can do this. You are stronger than you think and more resilient than you believe…you were made for recovery. Perhaps, one day, further on in your recovery, you, too, can become a mentor to someone else.
So, I went grocery shopping… December 19, 2012
As I am more and more awakened to recovery from my ED, I become more and more aware of the media messages that constantly bombard us with messages that “thin is the only acceptable cultural norm” (For the record, that is not my belief). Going to the grocery store used to be easy for me. I would get my safe foods, ignore my trigger foods, and avoid the stares I assumed I was getting (paranoia often accompanied my shopping trips). Now that I actually pay attention to the grocery store, I see the horrible message we are sending to our nation… emblazoned on our food labels, put into food adverts, and on our makeup products. I have already shared my thoughts on this obsession with the “perfect’ (fyi, there’s no such thing as perfect) body, but I wanted to show you. I fancy myself a freelance photographer and wanted to use that skill to share with you what I am talking about. Now, it is rather difficult to inconspicuously take a Nikon D5000 to the grocery and take pictures…so I had to use my cell phone. Therefore, the quality is not the greatest, but it gets the point across.
Ok so, this blog was harsh. I get that. It is cynical. I get that. It is hypocritical. I get that too. I have fallen into the trap of trying to become the “cultural norm”…but that doesn’t mean I can’t work to help other people not fall into the same trap. You must work to become cognizant of the messages society is sending so as not to fall prey to their tactics of making you feel bad about who you are as an individual. You are more than your outward appearance. You are more than what society tells you you are. You are worth recovery.
Why the fashion industry sucks December 9, 2012
I have recently found myself in multiple situations in which it became necessary to purchase new clothes: bridesmaid dress shopping and picking out clothes for my Aunt to buy me for my birthday. To me, going clothes shopping is not unlike preparing for battle. Before I leave the house, I repeat to myself that I am at size “recovery”; and that no matter how the clothes fit or what size they are, I have to embrace that I am doing the right thing for me. I tell myself not try on the clothes only to talk about the negative aspects of my body or make destructive comments about myself. Additionally, I pack a purse (I never carry purses because they’re so heavy) with my shopping essentials—a phone to reach out for additional support while I am there, my journal with some of my favorite recovery quotes, a bottle of water and a small snack. It is like I have to mentally and physically prepare for something that people do just for fun; on a whim with no advanced rehearsal. Shopping should be fun, right?
Theoretically, yes, shopping should be a fun time. For me, however, it often turns into a potentially triggering experience, and I often dread going. Take, for instance, my recent trip to buy my bridesmaid dress. When I arrived at the salon, the woman at the front desk set me up with my selected dress (in the size I sheepishly admitted to her pretty much by only moving my mouth to form the size) and led me to a dressing room. It was then that I was introduced to my “consultant” who just showed up five minutes before, and was still putting on her own clothes. I told the mad at the world lovely saleswoman, Sandra, what size corset I needed (because this dress kind of requires one). She left for about five minutes, and came back with one two inches too small; clearly not the size I asked for. I was devastated when it wouldn’t close, but somehow gathered the courage to ask for a larger size. However, when I went to ask her for another size, she was gone. She finally made it back to my room, and promised me she would go get one that would fit. What did she bring back? A corset four inches bigger than the original size I asked for, of course. When she handed it to me, and I saw the number, I immediately started panicking. I shut the door to my dressing room, sunk to the ground and silently started to cry. Here I was in this gorgeous dress, shopping for my best friend’s wedding, and I am reduced to tears over a woman who can’t grab my size. I was embarrassed when she grabbed the one that was too small, because it didn’t fit. I was ashamed when she thought the second one would be my size; because I felt she thought I was fat. I am hunkered down in a mirrored room, wearing the most beautiful dress I have ever worn in my life, crying; crying because I can’t fit into the clothes, crying because the woman can’t pick the right size, crying because I’ve allowed my ED to continue for the past 14 years, crying because I was overwhelmed, crying because I don’t know what else to do.
My mind went immediately back to my ED/self-harm, and has been there ever since. But why? Why am I letting this horrible “consultant” and the fashion industry dictate the terms of my recovery? I recently read that retailers allow for something commonly referred to as “sewing tolerance”. This refers to the amount of acceptable difference (plus or minus) from the company’s specific measurements compared to the actual measurements after sewing. Meaning, of course, that the size you are trying on could actually be one size smaller or larger than what you think you’re trying on; and still be able to pass the company’s quality control inspector. This often leads to frustrations; especially if the clothing is on the smaller end than the size it is actually labeled. Despite my knowledge of this, shopping for clothes is still something I fear. Because I know that I will have to buy clothes again at some point in my life (or run the risk of becoming a nudist), I have been looking for ways to combat the negative feelings I have towards shopping. The website freedomfromed.com has a few tips on how to view clothes shopping in a more positive light:
1. Take a supportive friend or family member with you. This individual can help you see the positive things about your appearance that you can’t see for yourself.
2. Do your best to focus on your health instead of your clothing size while clothes shopping. What good will wearing a new outfit, in a smaller size, be if you are too sick or weak to enjoy wearing it?
3. While you are clothes shopping, try to concentrate on the colors you like more than on the size. Remember that just like there is more to you as a person than the number on the scale, there is also more to you than the clothing size you wear.
4. Keep in mind that clothing sizes vary from one brand to another. You deserve better than to let the number on a tag make you feel badly about yourself.
5. Ask God to help you see yourself through His eyes. Invite Him to go clothes shopping with you. Let Him help you to see the positive things about your appearance.
I wish everyone the best when clothes shopping, as I know how detrimental it can be to recovery (at all stages). Don’t allow the numbers on the tags or the hangers or whatever determine how you treat yourself or how you feel about yourself. You are in charge of your health, your recovery, your well-being and YOUR life…not ED, not the fashion industry, not the department store…YOU. Clothing shopping can be hard, but it is not impossible. You can do this. We can do this.