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

When e-mails make your day… January 31, 2013

I applied to have my blog included in the blogroll for this year’s NEDA awareness week. The “confirmation of application’s arrival” email said I wouldn’t hear back from NEDA about a decision on my blog for a few days; so, naturally, I put it in the far recesses of my mind. After all, I have to save my brain power for important stuff like quoting the Big Bang Theory and knitting.

I opened my email today expecting only my “Daily Mentoring Moment” from MentorCONNECT and hoping for an update on my education award from Americorps. What I found, however, made my day; possibly even my week.

It read,

“Hello Rhea,

Thank you for submitting your blog to the 2013 NEDAwareness Week Blogroll.  Congratulations!  Rheas of Hope has been selected to appear on the Blogroll of the 2013 Nedawareness Week website! NEDAwareness Week 2013, February 24th – March 2nd, is fast approaching and is the largest eating disorders outreach effort in the nation, with participation from all 50 states and more than 31 other countries in 2012.  This growing force of volunteers is committed to raising awareness of the dangers of eating disorders as serious, life-threatening illnesses — not choices — and the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorders.  Last year, NEDAwareness Week reached 70 million people, and with this year’s diverse events and activities attracting public media attention on local, national and international levels, we hope to reach even more! Our data from program outcomes demonstrate a strong relationship between this outreach effort and help-seeking behavior, with traffic to our national Helpline doubling, and requests for personalized support from a NEDA Navigator tripling, during February of 2012.

Thank you for being a part of this outreach and for helping to spread eating disorders awareness within your community.  You are making a difference!


Ellen Domingos”

NO WAY! My little old blog, my side hobby, my thoughts,  my photos…someone actually cares to read them? And especially NEDA? I’ve been a huge supporter of NEDA ever since I thought I might have an ED, and I even got their logo tattooed on my ankle as a constant reminder of my goal of recovery. So, to have them include my blog, it is mind boggling (or mind bottling if you are a Will Ferrell fan). I am so grateful, honored, and humbled to be included in this year’s NEDA awareness week blog roll!

My NEDA tattoo while donating blood this month on my birthday


When words don’t come, photos speak January 27, 2013

I can’t even think about what I want to write this week. It is as if words have made a mass exodus from my mind. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this week I am. Therefore, I am going to steal the words of others…and use my own photos. These photos were all taken with a Nikon D5000 SLR.

This was taken in a back alley of the historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmington Ohio

This was taken in a back alley of the historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmington Ohio

I chose this photo because behind it were all sorts of spray painted graffiti (think anarchist symbols, curse words and all other kinds of hatred), but, on top of it all was a simple chalk drawing and the word peace. I feel like that myself sometimes. I have this permanent message running through my head of self hatred, but, in rare moments of clarity, it is as if someone has chalked self-compassion on my heart.

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”

Marcel Proust

This photo was taken on my friends' farm in Turtlecreek township Ohio

This photo was taken on my friends’ farm in Turtlecreek township Ohio

This photo of my friends’ farm reminds me that every day is a new day…every moment is a new moment. All too often I find myself catasrophizing my recovery. I think, “Well, I engaged in behaviors. All is lost. I guess I have to stop fighting for recovery.” However, I should really think “Well, I engaged in behaviors…what can I do, right now, to get back on the path to recovery? What is the next right thing for me?” Every moment you choose to do the next right thing is a moment you gain strength, courage and the confidence you need to live a recovered life.

“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead”

Louisa May Alcott

I took this picture at the memorial wall at the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

I took this picture at the memorial wall at the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

I saw this sign, probably crafted by a child, and was immediately reminded that love is greater than all things. Even in the chaos of all that remains at the site of the bombing, this sign hangs alone on a simple chain link fence. A simple reminder that you must love yourself; loving yourself is an important step in recovery.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Lucille Ball

I took this picture right as I got off a rickety old boat to get to Daufuskie Island

I took this picture right as I got off a rickety old boat to get to Daufuskie Island

Initially, I took this photo because I was struck by the state of disrepair of the pier. “How could someone let the pier just fall into the ocean?”, I wondered.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I thought of my own life. I often wonder, “How could I just let my life be overtaken by ED?”. But, then I remember, my life is my own…I am in charge of my life, my choices, my recovery. Never forget that you are in charge of your recovery. Your life is yours, not ED’s.

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I took this photo at Cade's Cove in Gatlinburg TN

I took this photo at Cade’s Cove in Gatlinburg TN





I took this photo solely because I like landscape photos (if I could make a living on it, I would). I don’t have any revelation about this photo…so it just gets a quote.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some”

Charles Dickens

Sometimes I go to take pictures in places I probably shouldn't be. I took this photo in the empty chapel at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati

Sometimes I go to take pictures in places I probably shouldn’t be. I took this photo in the empty chapel at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati

Remember, when recovery seems daunting…God is working…“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

And always remember, your body is perfectly made my the Lord. God doesn’t make mistakes, He doesn’t make ugly, He does not want us to condemn ourselves or hate our being. He simply wants us to love and love us.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10


Martin Luther King Jr Day and Recovery January 21, 2013

As a licensed educator, I believe in “teachable moments”–those moments in which unintended yet valuable information is imparted; those moments in which my students finally “get it” and you can just see the light beaming from their faces because they finally made a personal connection to the material. I am reminded, this MLK day, of a day last year I spent working with my college students on a reflection activity after a day of service in his honor. I found myself having my own private “teachable moment” while trying to engage them in the reflection activity. The students were reading quotes from MLK, and determining what they meant to each them in terms of their service that day, as well as in their own lives. As I listened to these students, I couldn’t help but do the reflection activity along with them in my head. I had been having a rough couple of weeks with my ED, and this reflection activity was just what I needed. I thought I’d share a few quotes that we discussed that day, and what I thought about them… in the off chance that I could provide anyone else with a “teachable moment” (although, the Rev. Timothy Harris, who spoke to the students later that evening at  our community “A Day On, Not a Day Off” celebration, said something to the effect of “people can only inspire you because they have awakened something that is already within  you”. I hope to awaken that hope and motivation that lies within each and every one of you.)

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” MLK

I thought this quote was a direct relation to my experience with treatment. When I first started treatment, I had no idea where the journey would take me. I had no idea what to expect, what recovery entailed or just how hard every day was going to be. Essentially, I was stepping with reckless abandon onto a staircase enswathed in total darkness. However, I knew that if I just took that first step, that first step towards the rest of my life, despite the fact that I didn’t know what was coming or where I was going, I would be able to take it. And although the staircase is still dimly lit, there is a light. That light shines without regard to my EDs thoughts, is starting to revel its path to me. Each step I take, recovery is more and more lit. And, one day, maybe in the near future or maybe even in the distant future, I will reach the top of the staircase to achieve recovery.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” MLK

This one is the quote that really resonated with me. In the face of all of his adversaries, violence from all sides, persecution and naysayers…Martin Luther King chose love. Love for himself, love for others and, most of all, love for those who didn’t love him. Hate was not in his vocabulary; neither in thought, nor action. It made me wonder, if a man with such odds stacked against him can choose love, why can’t I love myself? It’s simple enough, people do it everyday. However, I have been letting myself be burdened by hatred for so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to love myself, my body, my personality…the list is endless.

So today, I am taking Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s words…and I am choosing to keep taking steps in faith towards recovery no matter how dimly lit the staircase may be and I am choosing to love myself and to remove the hatred from my life. And perhaps, someday, with a lot of work and patience I may be “free at last” from my ED. Here are some things I have done since that day last year with my students:

My two recovery ringsThis picture is of my recovery rings. They were gifts (albeit cheap ones–they’re both fake) to myself to celebrate specific milestones in my recovery. The one on the bottom is the one I got first, in December 2009, to stand as a promise to myself that I was going to fight for recovery. I purchased it shortly after I started talking to my mentor at the time at the possibility of beginning counseling at my college. It is a twisted ring that reads “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. I thought that was a perfect representation of my recovery; all it takes is one step to get started on the path to recovery. One positive step each day and recovery will be soon within my reach. The second ring, I purchased last night. It is symbolic of my first full year of recovery; it has been just over a year since I got a diagnosis, got serious about therapy and started working toward recovery. These rings, along with my recovery tattoos, serve as a constant and daily reminder to keep living, keep fighting, keep breathing and keep working towards recovery.

And, yes, I am very pale…I have the flu, what do you expect?


An open letter to the nurse at my GP January 15, 2013

Dear nurse with the curly red hair,

I apologize for addressing the letter this way, but I have never asked your name. I intend to do that at my next appointment as it is common politeness to know the names of those around you. Therefore, until I learn your name, I will refer to you as the curly red-headed nurse as you are the only red-head in the office.

First off, I would like to thank you for being you. You are the first nurse I have ever had that understands EDs. When I was embarrassed to tell my Doctor I had been diagnosed with an ED by the Lindner Center of HOPE and my therapist, you told me that you understand what I am going through, and that I should feel safe to address my medical concerns with you as a nurse. When I told you that the doctor refused to believe that I was sick—diagnosing me with an adjustment disorder believing that I was “going through a phase in my life that I couldn’t handle”– because I lied to him about my behaviors, you encouraged me to be honest with him so that I can get the medical tests necessary for living a healthy life. When I started tearing up in the office, you comforted me by telling me that there is nothing you haven’t heard as a nurse and that you’re proud of me for seeking the help that I need. Then, just like the last day of summer before school starting, you were gone. That appointment, in 2012, my doctor finally listened to me. I was honest about my behaviors, but those same behaviors also made me feel ashamed. It was so easy to talk to you about my concerns, but the doctor, in his crocs and khakis, scared me half-to-death. I felt like he was judging me with every behavior revealed. At the end of my appointment, he changed my diagnosis from adjustment disorder to ED. I even had the nerve to have him write in my chart not to allow the nurses to tell me my weight; which was quite an impulsive decision, but one that I was ultimately proud of. I was so appreciative that you listened to me, gave me the confidence to speak to Dr. Khaki Crocs about my ED, and spoke to me with genuine care.

When I came back last November for chest pains, you lead me down the hall of pictures to the SCALE. I tried to stop and look at each picture of Dr. Khaki Crocs climbing this mountain or SCUBA diving to this coral reef or his son smiling in his Air Force uniform next to some shiny aircraft…anything to keep the scale from coming. You knew what I was doing; they must have taught you the art of patient stalling in nursing school. When we got to the scale you asked me if I wanted to get on forwards or backwards. That little bully voice in my said told me to get on forwards so I could watch you slide the little black weights across the slick numbers. You told me that forwards was fine, but that I had to close my eyes. You, again, knew exactly what I was going to do. When I peeked through my heavily mascara-ed eyes, I saw you covering the numbers with my chart. As mad I was that I couldn’t see the numbers, I was thankful that you had not let me see them…it would only allow ED to continue in my life.

When Dr. Khaki Crocs decided that I needed an EKG right then, I panicked. I had no idea what an EKG entailed. However, when he told me that you would be performing the EKG, I was instantly reassured. I knew that you would explain the process to me and understand my concerns. As you placed each electrode on my chest and ankle (PS…I still don’t understand why it had to go on my ankle, but whatever) I kept thinking how naked I was in front of a complete stranger. I don’t like seeing my own body, let alone letting someone else see. When I am nervous I stop breathing and get really quite; something you picked up on straight away. While connecting the electrodes and working on the machine, you talked to me. You asked me how therapy was going. You asked if I liked to read, and, when I said yes, you talked to me about “Life without Ed”. Having read that book, I talked to you about how fond I am of the authors Jenni Scheafer and Thom Rutledge. You spoke about how much that book has defined your life, and of your dream of hearing them speak in Cincinnati. Then I told you about my blog, and how ecstatic I was when Thom actually read and commented on it! Before I knew it, the once awkward test had become totally relaxed. When the test was over, and I learned my heart was beating normally, I was thankful that you had been there to calm me.

I had to go back right before my 25 birthday this January for a routine office visit. I hoped you would be working, because sometimes you’re not there when I go. I positioned myself in the waiting room so that I could see what nurses came to the door to retrieve patients. When I saw your red head pop out of the door I was relieved. When you came to get me, I knew the scale was next. I wasn’t scared this time, though, and didn’t stop to analyze each picture of Dr. Khaki Crocs cross country skiing or diving in the Bahamas or riding a bike up a mountain path . I went straight to the scale. When you noticed I got on facing forwards, you made me laugh when you said, with fake exasperation, “Look at the ceiling.” I wasn’t even tempted to peek that time because I already knew you had put the chart over the numbers. Then you took me back to the exam room. As I heaved myself onto the table (as the table is very tall and I am very short), something creaked. I, in an effort to lessen the embarrassment by making a joke, decided to say that I broke the office. That was when you pointed out that I wasn’t being gentle with myself. I had never thought of it that way before. I had always made jokes at my own expense to protect by self from threats from others I thought to be imminent, but I was really just tearing down my self-worth. I appreciate you for planting that thought in my head, because I do need to be kinder to myself. You then asked me how therapy was going. When I told you I hadn’t purged in two days you shared in my joy of not engaging in behaviors…genuine joy, not “I’m the nurse and I am paid to be here” joy. As I ran into you on my way out of the office, you quietly said, “Take care of yourself” as I walked back to the waiting room. Thank you.

It is not often that you get a nurse with compassion, empathy or understanding. I got all three when you pulled my chart. I also got the bonus of your understanding of EDs. But, most of all, I would like to thank you for kindheartedness. You always know what to say and how to make me think. I appreciate all that you are.




Recovery’s Baby Steps January 7, 2013

Baby steps. We hear about them all the time. Baby steps towards recovery. Baby steps towards a healthy relationship with food. Baby steps. Sometimes I just want to say “Screw baby steps, I’m jumping in and you can’t stop me. I want recovery NOW!” I am terribly impatient when it comes to recovery. Unfortunately, that’s typically when I fall on my rear and am gently reminded about baby steps (or, in many instances, a not so gentle reminder of “I told you so”). My nephew is currently on the verge of walking…and as I watch him try so desperately to get to where he wants to be, I’m reminded again of baby steps. My nephew, Wyatt, is a year and a half old and has Loeys-Dietz Syndrome (LDS). In fact, he is one of, if not the, youngest child in the US to be diagnosed with LDS. LDS is a genetic disorder that affects connective tissues as well as the cardiovascular, skin and musculoskeletal systems. This makes walking, and many other functions we take for granted, difficult for him. He has had surgery on his spine and skull, hernia operations, wrist splints, heart problems, pulse oximeter when sleeping, physical and occupational therapy, ankle braces, glasses and numerous medications…all without complaint. This little man is a fighter. And this little man wants to walk. If baby steps are good enough for Wyatt, certainly they’re good enough for me, right? If Wyatt, with all his baby drive and enthusiasm of being able to take steps to get what he needs, is happy with eensy-weensy baby steps, why can’t I be satisfied with my own baby steps in recovery? I feel like throwing my hands up every time the insurance does not cover a service I need, each time a doctor does not understand EDs, each time I use ED behaviors, every time something in my life does not go exactly as I planned or envisioned…the list is endless. But I remember little Wyatt, and I see the joy he has as he takes his baby steps and the passion he has for an accomplishment that others may see as simple. I remember the constant smile he has spread across his cherubic face, the way his blue eyes spark with delight each time he stands, and the way he claps for himself whenever he is able to take a step. Sure, he has moments of terror as his diapered bottom hits the floor after a failed attempt…but he gets back up and tries again, no matter how hard he fell. He also takes time to celebrate his progress. By clapping for himself, Wyatt is teaching me that it is ok to celebrate progress…all progress. Even baby steps are progress and are just as important to recovery as huge steps; if not more important. So, I have decided to stop trying to jump into recovery and start taking baby steps. If baby steps are good enough for Wyatt, they’re good enough for me too…and they’re good enough for YOU! So celebrate the baby steps, celebrate your accomplishments and celebrate life!

Is this not the cutest kid in the world?

Is this not the cutest kid in the world? His mouth is full of goldfish in this picture or he would be smiling. He is always happy.

Also, I heard this song on the radio today…which inspired this post..It is by Toby Mac and is called “Get back up”

We lose our way,
We get back up again
It’s never too late to get back up again,
One day you will shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,
Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up, get up,
You gonna shine again,
Never too late to get back up again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever
(May be knocked down but not out forever)


Each day is a new day January 1, 2013

I am not one for grandiose New Year’s resolutions that often express “goals” that are either a) unrealistic or b) far too objective or overarching for one to know where to being going about achieving the resolution. It seems that as long as my memory serves me, “quit biting your nails” has been tops on the resolution list each year. However, each year, as in years past, I have not ceased biting my nails…not for wont of trying, however. I feel as though once-a-year resolutions may set us up to fail. I made “not biting my nails” a resolution, but did I address any of the practical steps towards achieving that resolution? No. I did not think of strategies to stop biting, I didn’t make a list of behaviors I could do instead of biting…nothing. I simply berated myself each time I found myself biting my nails. “You can start again tomorrow”, I would tell myself, “bite as much as you want today, and you can try again tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow turned into next week, next month, next year, you get the picture…until “not biting my nails” made it to next year’s resolution list. My ED has manifested itself in much the same way. When I found myself engaging in behaviors, I would often give excuses for engaging in them–that I needed to do X behavior because of X event or whatever. Then I would say that I would engage in all the ED behaviors for the day and start again tomorrow…which would turn into next week, next month…until I’ve held on to the behaviors for 17 years. Which only fueled the cycle of self-condemnation, low self-esteem and punishing myself for engaging in behaviors. I’ve found, through lots of mentorship, therapy, and recovery, that each moment is a moment to start anew. That just because I thought about or used behaviors this once, doesn’t mean they have to continue. I don’t have to wait for a new day, a new week, a new month, etc to start recovery again. NOW, now is the moment for recovery. Ok, so I thought about or used behaviors…what can I do right now in this moment to make sure I return to recovery? What can I do, right now, do make sure I do the best thing for my physical health, mental health and recovery? I’ve heard it put simply as this “Do the next right thing”. I encourage you this new year to do the next right thing each moment of every day. Don’t put off recovery for next year’s resolution list or even tomorrow’s resolution list. Recovery is a moment by moment, meal by meal event–not a once a year event. By doing the next right thing, you are putting you and your recovery first.

Who would have thought that a simple magnet on my grandmother's fridge would actually spark a decent thought within me?

Who would have thought that a simple magnet on my grandmother’s fridge would actually spark a decent thought within me?