RheasOfHope

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

When I do yoga March 31, 2013

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I bend quickly to my left to keep my balance as my foot comes off my thigh. I breathe. I ground my right foot again, slowly left up the left, and place it back on my thigh. I breathe. I place the pads of my fingers together and point my thumbs to my breastbone. I breathe. My body shakes, but I manage to keep my balance this time. I close my eyes. I breathe. I eagerly await the teacher’s announcement that this side of tree pose is complete. I am, for once, aware of what each part of my body is doing and grateful that it can do it. I breathe. I take my left foot and place it back on the floor, and breathe. I made it. My body made it.

 

On a whim, I took the advice of my physical therapist and decided to start doing yoga. He mentioned it would be good for my arthritis as well as a way to build up muscle strength in the areas around which my arthritis formed. I had tried yoga before, in college, and thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever done. Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact that I was at the YMCA, surrounded by skinny/chatty/catty housewives (the only people who take 10 AM yoga classes on a Tuesday) in tiny yoga tops, wearing a face full of make up, delicately perched on their designer yoga mats…and me, no mat, wearing oversized sweats, black hair pulled back in a messy bun, tired (extremely tired) and wanting these women to leave. I sat in the heavily mirrored room and stared with disgust at my reflection. I compared myself to the small women around me, I berated myself when they could do poses I could not, I let ED convince me that I would be better at yoga if I engaged in her behaviors that day, I held back the tears, I hated yoga, I hated ED, I hated my body, and, most of all, I hated me.

 

Almost three years later, I eagerly open the iPad, sit down on the tan carpet in my living room, and search for the next video in Melissa West’s Namaste yoga series—I do an hour of yoga every night before I go to bed. Still wearing my oversized sweats (the only pair I have ever owned), hair again sloppily pulled on top of my head, still no mat…but my attitude towards yoga has changed…my attitude towards myself has changed. I have learned, through recovery, to become more gentle and forgiving of myself. Both yoga and recovery have taught me that it is completely alright to wobble in a pose (perfection is not even an option), it is absolutely acceptable to stop if I need to (yoga is not a competitive sport and I must, therefore, do what is best for my own body), and it is entirely okay to let my body do what it does best…live and thrive and grow. When doing yoga, I must focus on what each part of my body is doing in order to do the pose in the most beneficial way. This focus reminds me that every part of my body serves a purpose; from the toes that help me push into downward dog to the fingers that I bend into various mudras, and from the thighs that help me in reclining hero pose to my shoulders pressed into the ground supporting me in shoulder stands.

 

Every part of my body serves a purpose; no part is uninvolved. I am reminded that my body does, in fact, serve a purpose. I often take for granted what my body does for me and how much harm it has withstood from my own causation. Instead of degrading my body and cursing its appearance, I ought to be thanking it for allowing me to continue living. Despite numerous protests from Ed and, from time to time, myself, my body has never failed me. My heart continues its rhythmic pumping throughout my circulatory system, my bones continue to remain stable in their construction, my muscles push and pull to propel my body, my lungs expand and contract with air and so much more. Have you ever stopped to think about the numerous involuntary actions your body performs every day? Each day, without so much as a second thought from you, your eyes blink, you breathe, you scratch an itch, your hair grows, your heart beats and your stomach digests your food. Your body, no matter its outward appearance is amazing and deserves to be treated as such. Today, I encourage you to take a moment to thank your body for what it does for you rather than criticize it for what it is not. Take a moment to be grateful for all the wonderful things you can do because of the body you have, not the things you cannot. And, finally, appreciate your body for where it is, right now, in this very moment, …cherish all that you are. You deserve it.

 

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Without the body I have, I would be unable to dig gardens from which many people are able to enjoy healthy and nutritious food. I appreciate everything my body assisted me in doing while digging this garden.

 1 Samuel 16:7

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”

 

When you need music March 29, 2013

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This week has had me confronting a lot of ignorance as it pertains to eating disorders as well as a trying session with my therapist.

 

Let me begin with the fact that my mother does not believe I have an eating disorder, and thinks I am making it up. We had to following conversation while shopping for groceries in Meijers the other day.

R: Look mom, they have turkey burgers on sale.

M: Your father would never eat those.

R: Maybe we can trick him like the time we got Christin (my cousin) to eat the deer meat chili we made.

M: She probably went home and threw it up. *note: my cousin does not have an ED, nor did she purge after eating our delicious venison chili…she was only mildly upset we tricked her, but definitely not engaging in eating disordered behavior*

R:  Yeah, that’s not funny. *Then I went off to look for baby things for my nephew to get away.*

 

Also, this week I had a really rough session with my therapist, that, suffice it to say, left me in tears as I exited her office. Which, I am certain, looked really great to the people I passed in the hallway on my way out of the building. I cried my car in the parking lot, but soon pulled my act together because I had to be to work in half an hour (with work being 20 minutes away). At work, there is a boy we will call Taylor (who is 8) who I have known for a long time, and with whom I have a good rapport. He was wearing an American flag bandanna because he had just come from square dancing at his school. Being the fun/slightly antagonistic person I am, I got Taylor to wear the bandanna on his head like a do-rag (do they still call them that anymore?). I then proceeded to joke with him about his involvement in a motorcycle gang and asked him to show me his tattoos. He pulled up his sleeves and jokingly pointed to freckles indicating that they were his tattoos. I pulled up my sleeve to show him my actual tattoo, and asked if we could still be friends if we are in rival motorcycle gangs. He laughed and, as we settled back into our play dough, my 80-year-old co-worker (we will call her Virginia) asked about  my tattoos.

V: I thought you had one on your ankle. I didn’t know you had one on your wrist.

R: Yeah, I had the one on my ankle done three years ago, and I got this on two years ago.

V: That’s what I thought. What to they mean again?

R: *showing the wrist tattoo* This says ooo-do-gee, it is the Cherokee word for “to hope”.

V: Oh, are you Cherokee?

R: Yes, 1/8th. I got this tattoo as a way to memorialize my Cherokee Grandfather and as a promise to myself to never give up hope in life.

V: What about the other one? The one on your ankle. You told me once, but I forgot.

R: That’s the symbol for the National Eating Disorders Association. *points to NEDA symbol* See, this side is like half of a heart, and this side looks like the curve of a woman’s body. It is sending the message to love your body while educating others on the mission of the National Eating Disorders Association.

V: Right, because if you eat too much, it can do bad things to your heart like having a heart attack. That’s why it has the heart on it. Why did you decide to get that anyway?

R: *I was slightly angry that she assumed I ate too much just because I am fat, so I just flat out said it* Because I have had an eating disorder for over half of my life.

V: Oh, I had a friend whose daughter had one of those. You have to be careful not to binge eat. Its pretty bad for you; bad on your body.

R: *anger growing*. I don’t binge eat, actually.

V: You don’t throw up though, do you?

R: I am working very hard to stop purging. That is one of the things I am focusing on in my outpatient therapy. I am also working on eating a sufficient amount of calories a day and exercising responsibly.

V: Because if you eat too much you could have heart problems; that’s why it’s good to get a lot of exercise.

R: *anger at a breaking point* Sure *moved my chair closer to Taylor and started up a conversation about what he is making with his play dough.*

 

Needless to say, I was upset when I got off work. Again, I got in my car and just let it all out. Fortunately, this time, I was around 9 PM, so I had the cover of darkness to protect my car crying. I turned on the radio to K-love only to hear the most appropriate song come on right when I needed it. It is funny how God sends you exactly what you need when you least expect it. This song is called “More Beautiful You” by Jonny Diaz, and has the message that God made you perfectly, the way He envisioned, to serve the purpose He set forth for you to accomplish while on this earth.

 

Remember, YOU, yes you, are BEAUTIFUL. You are worthy of LIFE, HEALTH, RECOVERY and so much more. You are powerful beyond what you know, more courageous than you could possibly believe and more LOVED than you may ever know. This song served to remind me that there will be bad days, weeks, months, what have you, in life…but the great thing is, that they will pass. Each struggle teaches you something about yourself and your ability to overcome. Every challenge helps you grow. Stay strong and take care of yourself. YOU are WORTH IT! As the janitor at my job says so eloquently, “Some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

 

When you must rat out Ed March 26, 2013

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“Once, I stole a pair of red panties from the department store. My mom wouldn’t buy them for me. She said they were Satan’s Panties.”

-Cheryl, Miss Rhode Island

I recently found myself watching Miss Congeniality; a movie that never fails to make me laugh. Cheryl, in all her dim-witted glory, made me think about stealing. Now, before you ring the authorities to report that I have committed a crime, please know that I have no intentions on taking up a career in petty theft. I have, however, become the target of an actual criminal.  This offense has been taking place, slowly, for more than half of my life without so much as an arrest or subpoena. Well, that ends today. I am here to report a con-woman. She goes by the alias of Ed, but has been known to spread loads of cruel lies…so who knows who she really is. She looks and sounds a lot like me, but, I assure you, she is a separate entity from myself. Ed is also a malevolent dictator; strictly enforcing what I eat, how frequently, the quantity, if it is allowed to stay there, and how much physical atonement I must perform in the form of exercise as a penance for disobeying her commands. But, wait, there is more. She is also a thief. She has stolen my health, and, in return, left me with the following: osteoarthritis (by age 23), anemia, thinning hair, a mouth full of fillings, involuntary rumination, slow metabolism, poor short-term memory, and a less than effective immune system amongst other things. She has a long-standing hostile take-over of my thoughts and emotions. She has also drained my bank account through my numerous efforts to rid her from my life via therapy, doctor visits, medical testing, and reading materials. She is a liar as well. One her favorite lines is “I already ate.” Ed will try to convince friends and family that you are fine that her appearance in your life is nothing to worry about. She will make up any kind of lie to stay in your life. Ed may even convince you, through her lies, that you need her (you do not need her in your life, by the way).

I know, however, that simply reporting Ed’s malicious deeds and willing her away will not remove her from my life. I must continue to fight her day by day, meal by meal, bite by bite, until I have broken her power over me. Only then will I be able to reclaim what is rightly mine. No matter how strong Ed claims to be, I know I am stronger. I know I am more courageous, braver, and smarter too. But, the best part is that you are too. We all are. All we need to do is embrace that knowledge, and Ed will live the rest of her pathetic life in some dismal exile far away from any human.

Song of Solomon 4:7

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

1 Peter 5: 10-11

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen”

 

When toddlers teach you about self-acceptance March 20, 2013

Fun house mirrors. They are everywhere. From Coney Island and haunted house attractions to pediatricians’ offices and the baby room at my job. Looking in one mirror, my 5’2″ frame becomes Goliath-like. Another turns me into Violet Beauregarde after her ill-fated chewing gum incident. Fun house mirrors make you look at the reflection in them in a different way than you would normally view it. They distort your perception of reality by forcing you into this new view of yourself. The mirrors force you to confront your previous perception of yourself compared to what is reflected in the fun house mirror  These differences in views are a lot like what it is like to have an eating disorder.

As I continue on in my recovery, I realize how true the comparison between fun house mirrors and confronting recovery can really be. Recently, at work, in an effort to console (or at least distract) and crying toddler, I put her in front of the fun house mirror. I did this simply because no amount of toys, bubbles or cheerios seemed to lessen the severity of her crying and I was running out of ideas. When her red, tear-streaked face stared back at her from inside the fun house mirror, the crying suddenly ceased. She timidly put a chubby hand on the mirror’s surface; carefully patting her reflection. This would be the point when she would be be questioning the difference between her prior perceptions and her current reality of her appearance. She paused. Her hand dropped. A peal of laughter rang out from her baby belly. Every time she looked at her face, she giggled in delight. The fun house mirror is nothing more than a mirror to this little girl.

I wonder, when do we lose this innocence and self-acceptance. This baby was absolutely thrilled to see her face in the mirror and loved what was reflected back to her. Whereas, I kept trying to hold her in front of me so I did not have to see myself reflected back. I hated what I saw, what I see. I go out of my way to avoid mirrors so as not to be reminded of my appearance. However, this one-year-old embraced the reflection and adored what she saw. I want to be more like this baby. I want to look in the mirror and have enough self-acceptance to like what I see instead of treating my reflection like Frankenstein’s monster. I want to embrace my body, and everything it does for me. As Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “Make the most of yourself…for that is all there is of you”. There is only one you in this entire universe. You bring so many unique characteristics, likes, talents, skills and gifts to this world. And the world deserves to see that. I am going to  accept myself for who God intended me to be, a messy beautiful creation all His own. He never intended me to be perfect. He only wants me to love; love Him, love others and love MYSELF. From now on, I am going to take this child’s approach to life and learn to embrace who I really am outside of my appearance and my ED.
Proverbs 31:25 and 30-31

25: She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

30-31: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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I took this photo of some baby I do not even know at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I feel it speaks to this post. In the midst of all the violence, destruction  and hate that had been at this site, this baby finds the good in the situation by finding a nice place for a quick crawl…plus it is in front of the reflection pond where you can see his beautifully unique and perfectly imperfect self reflected in the water.

 

When your food gives you advice–round two March 11, 2013

Although not medically confirmed, I am fairly certain sweet tea runs through my veins where there ought to be blood. Ok, so maybe that is an exaggeration…maybe. Most of my family is from Kentucky (a town called Willailla). I feel the name of this town alone explains my preference for sweet tea; as well as how I got this latest advice from my food. Each bottle of Sweetleaf organic sweet tea has a “granny-ism” under the lid (think of it as a hybrid fortune cook and Snapple lid). My most recent granny-ism read, “Always look on the bright side of life.” My immediate thought was of Eric Idle and his Monty Python crew in kick-line formation singing in Spamalot…but I digress.

Naturally, being the overanalyzer that I am, I decided to overlook Spamalot and go for my second thought…recovery. All too often, Ed encourages us to focus on the disappointments and difficulties of life. When I would get A’s on tests, Ed would be the first one to remind me that I missed two questions. She pipes up to remind me how stupid I am, how much I need her in my life, and encourages me to engage in her favorite eating disordered behaviors. The mirror is another one of Ed’s specialties. No matter how good I feel in a particular outfit, Ed is there to quickly point of the flaws.

What I am trying to say is this, Ed will do anything in her power to keep you from seeing the bright side of your life. She knows that by keeping you from seeing the joys and blessings in your life, that she can ensnare you in her web of behaviors, lies, deceit and darkness. Ed thrives by making you turn a blind eye to your strength, your spirit, and your determination. By looking on the bright side of your life, you can quiet Ed and her constant buzzing in your ear. It becomes easier to see the uniquely magnificent qualities with which you were blessed. It becomes easier to acknowledge her opinion for what it is and then choose what is best for you…the next right thing for recovery. Today I am choosing to look on the bright side of life. Although is it pouring rain here in Cincinnati today, I am acknowledging my blessings: the woman who works at the supermarket who helped me bag my groceries, the fact that I woke up without arthritis pain, the fact that they Lord kept me safe all day today…and so on. By showing gratitude to yourself and others, you are able to truly see the bright side of life…and kick Ed to the curb.

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My granny-ism…and my ruby slipper nails (because the Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie)

Romans 8:28 and 31

28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

31: If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

When a kindergartner makes you think March 5, 2013

“Pick a color” she instructs while holding out an origami fortune teller mere inches from my face. I look at the four squares with blue, purple, brown and black hearts.

“Blue” I reply. Blue is my favorite color.

“B-U-how do you spell blue?” she asks as her small hands fumble with opening and closing the paper between her fingers.

“Let’s sound it out. Buh”

“B” she opens the paper

“Luh”

“L” she opens it the same way; she cannot make her fingers open it in the opposite direction.

“Ew.”

“I don’t know.”

“U-E.”

“U-E” she says, confidently opening and closing the fortune teller again, in the same direction. “Now pick a number”

“8” I say, knowing I can only pick an even number.

After she counts to eight while opening and closing the fortune teller in the same direction, “Pick another number”

“2” it is the only even number left.

 

She struggles to lift the flap to reveal my fortune. Finally, she gets her finger under the paper, “You are pretty.” As I stand there in somewhat stunned silence, she bounces off with a wide smile to tell the fortune of another one of her friends. After she leaves I absent-mindedly pick up some trash on the floor; I am supposed to be teaching after all.

 

All I could think of was my “fortune”. Every time I look in the mirror, ED tells me I am not pretty. She (yes, my ED is a girl. She has my voice—which is feminine—so why can’t she be a girl) goes to great lengths to prove to me that she is right. As long as I can remember I have listened to ED; her tempting voice whispering in my ear—luring me towards self-destruction. I want to please her, but I know it will come at the expense of my own life. When I think about my fortune, it reminds me that I do not have to listen to ED.

 

We live in a world where beauty has become a way to categorize ourselves. As in, “she is the girl who is short, with black hair and green eyes.” Not, “she is the girl who likes to take photos, who works with the kids in the room down the hall, who always shows up obnoxiously early.” We have become a world obsessed with looks, clothing, and overall appearance. And, while sometimes describing people by appearance is helpful (for example if I were in a room of all red-heads, it would be easiest to say, “the brunette”), it should not be the be all, end all of each individual. In fact, the messages with which we are bombarded every day in the media of western “beauty” are often unattainable. Why is it that we feel we must conform to these ideas of beauty? We cut our faces and pull them tighter, inject poison into our wrinkles, we put plastic bags of saline in our breasts to make them larger, we inject silicon into our lips, we have the fat sucked out of us like a vacuum, we have our noses broken and molded back into a more desirable shape, and so on and so forth until we look less like a human being and more like an alien…all in the name of conforming to society’s vision of beauty.

Having never fit into the “ideal western beauty”, Ed has turned me towards believing that I am worthless. But a simple kindergartener’s paper fortune teller has reminded me of the truth. I am pretty. I am worth thinking well of myself. I am better than the negative things Ed tells me. I may not always believe it because I am still under the spell of Ed’s lies, but I, Rhea, am going to tell Ed no by learning to accept myself. I will accept that my scoliosis leaves one hip higher than the other. I will accept the jade green eyes that I got from my father instead of envying the blue eyes of my sister. I will accept that my stomach, stretched by years of overeating, will always be a little saggy. I will accept my wonderfully olive skin. I will accept my scars; including the one I got when my neighbor pushed the fertilizer spreader into my eye. I will accept me. Only by accepting me and acknowledging the truth that God made me beautifully imperfect, will Ed shut up.

 

I absolutely love the band Seabird. I have seen them live several times and am consistently amazed by them. I also love that they are local boys (coming from just across the river from me).  “Don’t you know you’re beautiful” was filmed entirely in my hometown of Cincinnati, has the most amazing imagery I have ever seen in a music video, and is full of inspiration. This song is a reminder to everyone that they are beautiful in the eyes of those around you, but especially in the eyes of God. You are beautiful. You are worth recovery.

 

Hebrews 6: 18-19

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

 

When you must go on a short rant March 3, 2013

We’ve got to stop whispering.  People are dying.Lynn Grefe

 

As proud as I was that NEDAwareness Week and the NEDA helpline were promoted on this morning news show. As proud as I was that this program was raising awareness and educating viewers on the causes, research, funding and general overview of symptoms. As proud as I was that they actually took the time to interview NEDA’s President/CEO, Lynn Grefe. As proud as I am that they chose to interview a woman that did not fit into society’s narrow-minded, stereotypical view of EDs; by including a Latina woman who spoke out on diversity among ED suffers in terms of age, gender, race, etc. As proud as I am that it did not provide any pro-ana or pro-mia messages. As proud as I am that ED-NOS was even actually mentioned in the program….

 

I have to wonder why they ended the program with the stories they did; not to mention the dumb question the male anchor asks. After all the awareness they raised, why did they think it was a superb idea to end it by promoting an upcoming interview with a woman named Denise Austin who was visiting to hock her newest book where the biggest words on the cover are “Skinny”, “Fat Blast Diet” and a warning that “reading this book may cause: thinner waistline, toned tummy, slender thighs, and a sudden burst in confidence”. Because we have to read her book to create the societal perfect bodies as a means to attain the confidence we so desperately crave (please know that sentence was intended with my fullest amount of sarcasm). That preview was followed by a story on how you can purchase one of Princess Diana’s dresses; all of which appear to be very small. Additionally,  they failed to mention Princess Diana was bulimic and that no one in the royal family cared. They blamed her bulimia for breaking up her marriage to Prince Charles (completely ignoring the fact he was having an affair), made jokes about “food reappearing” after meals, and accused her of “wasting food”.

 

All of this leads me to question, did the producers of the show even view the segment they created on NEDAwareness week? Or, better yet, did they take a moment to let the message sink in after viewing it? Did they understand the importance of events such as NEDAwareness week? Did they stop to consider how greatly eating disorders impact the lives of those who suffer from them? Did they think about the stories they chose to follow? It may have been a complete oversight on their part. However, part of me wonders why they chose to put those particular segments right after a piece on NEDAwareness week.

 

 

And because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to embed a video (despite 2 hours of youtube tutorials, google searches, wordpress searches and FAQ visits…because I refuse to admit I cannot do something right) here is a link to the video so you can see to what I am referring.

Click on the photo or the link the view the video:

click on me to view the video

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/video/8527953-26th-annual-national-eating-disorders-awareness-week/#.UTEOFJBIuA0.facebook

Ok, rant complete.

On a side note: on April 7th I will be walking in my first ever NEDA walk in Washington DC with my cousin! I am so excited that I check the walk participant center and my airline reservations daily.

 

Romans 5:1-5 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”