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

When The Velveteen Rabbit teaches you about recovery July 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 10:09 pm
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Growing up, my greatest friend was my late 1980’s/early 1990’s model Fischer-Price tape player. You see, I was an only child until I was nine, had parents who worked long shifts (whom I would often go days without seeing) and I was relentlessly bullied. Each night, I would grab my cat, Babs, turn on my favorite tape, and listen to it until the comforting  voices on the tape lulled me to sleep. My tape of choice was a read aloud version of the book The Velveteen Rabbit. I remember the woman had a slightly English lilt to her voice and read in such a nuanced way that the book no longer seemed like a children’s book. I remember many nights, near the end of the book, when my tears would drop silently onto Babs’ head as the boy in the story became ill and when the rabbit met Real rabbits. 


Yeah, I had one of these bad boys.

Twenty something years later, I no longer listen to the tape before bed, Babs passed away after twenty-two long years and my cassette player has been replaced with an iPhone. However, my love of The Velveteen Rabbit remains strong. Each time I see a copy in a thrift shop, book sale or shop I purchase it; I must have five or six different copies now. Recently, I revisited The Velveteen Rabbit to read to my nephew. As I reread the book to myself, I realized it was too long for him to sit through, but I discovered an important lesson from the book as it relates to my own recovery. 


The passage that stuck out to me this time. Photo of one of my actual copies of the book.

While getting the lay of the land in the nursery, the velveteen rabbit asks the skin horse what it means to be Real. The skin horse replies, “It [Real] doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”  The rabbit then asks the skin horse if he is Real. “The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” said the skin horse, “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 


That is when it hit me, why my ardent love for The Velveteen Rabbit finally became useful, why all those nights falling asleep to the book, crying into my cat, served a purpose. The skin horse’s words hit on what the journey to recovery is like. Recovery does not happen all at once; it is a compilation of small steps, bites of meals, and disagreements with Ed. Eventually, those small steps, bites and disagreements add up to become full Real recovery. Recovery does not happen to you. Trust me, if my therapist could wave a magic wand upon my head or have me click my ruby slippers three times to be cured of this malicious disease, I would very much take her up on that offer. However, as it stands, that is not how recovery happens. Recovery is a process, something that becomes a part of your life. And, believe me, it will take a long time. Recovery, like becoming Real, is not for the faint of heart. It takes a great amount of strength and courage to recover; those that break easily when Ed comes trotting down their path to recovery may have a harder go of recovery than those who resist her temptations.


Recovery will challenge you to look at the way you perceive yourself, the ways others perceive you and the way you think others perceive you. You may think your hair has been loved off or your eyes have dropped out (I hope this is not the case) or you have become loose in the joints…or your thighs are too wide, your stomach too big or your butt not big enough. But, for those who truly love you—and you should count yourself among the list of those who truly love you—none of those things will really matter. Recovery is based on the acceptance you gain for being who God made you to be. Let’s face it, He did not make me to be a six foot two all-star power forward. I have come to accept that that was never my place in the world. Through recovery, we learn just what that place may be. In recovery, we learn who we are, what we like, our talents, our gifts, our abilities, every little thing about ourselves…outside of Ed and her influence. Through recovery we become our Real selves; recovery uncovers our Real authentic beings.


We learn that our looks need not matter to those who love us, as they have an unconditional love which has little to no basis on our appearance. We ought to strive to have that same unconditional love for ourselves. I have spent so long criticizing my body; punishing it for every perceived flaw or transgression against my being. I should have been thanking my body. Every time I breathe without thinking, blink without trying, walk without planning each muscle movement…I am reminded of the wonderful Realness of my body; it’s ability to continue on in the face of adversity and self-destruction. The same is true with the rabbit. Despite the boy playing with him until his seams became loose, his fur discolored and his nose worn away, the rabbit became Real. His less than perfect body was perfect in the eyes of the boy; flaws did not exist. In fact, the very things that other’s perceived as flaws in the rabbit were the very parts that the boy loved the most. 


Finally, recovery is for always; just like being Real. Recovery is not something we can do for a few hours or a few days—recovery is for always. Starting out recovery will seem like walking to school in the snow with no shoes, uphill both ways of course. Each meal, heck, each bite, will seem like a battle that cannot be won. However, as you continue with recovery, it gets easier. Each meal becomes less of a challenge. Each bite is no longer a war. As long as you always remember the ultimate goal of Real recovery (not only from the eating disorder, but also recovery of your Real life) you are taking a step towards being capable of loving yourself as the boy loved his rabbit. Recovery is Real. You are Real. You can and will be able to do this. 


1 Peter 5: 6-11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 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 your garden teaches you lessons July 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 7:50 pm
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Today my garden taught me that it is perfectly acceptable to be a daisy in a field of black eyed susans. All too often I find myself thinking I have to change, to be perfect, to be accepted. My garden reaffirmed my recovery in that I don’t have to change or be perfect (in fact, perfect is impossible) to be accepted. I simply have to be Rhea, because being Rhea is enough.


Taken with my phone…so it’s not the greatest quality

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


When you confront Ed… July 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:57 pm
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            We, as a culture of 21st century human beings, are relentlessly exposed to, what I think of as, a societal eating disorder. Now, that is not to say that all seven billion people on our planet suffer from the disease or engage in patterns of disordered eating. What I am saying is this: our world culture ingrains in us many thoughts that I see, now that I am in recovery, as eating disordered in nature. These societal opinions, beliefs, behaviors and assumptions on food are very provoking to those of us with an actual eating disorder. The eating-disordered processes of thought and actions we are trying to recover from, are the very same messages we are being inundated with as being “normal”, “acceptable” and “healthy”; the exact messages our eating-disordered mind tries to convince us of as well. To a person in recovery from an eating disorder, the question becomes, “To whom do I listen: society, Ed, my recovery voice, my therapist, my doctor, my friends, my rational mind or something/someone else?” Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is. This is the cycle of thought in which I have been trapped for several weeks: how can I maintain my recovery in a society that seems to be reinforcing of my eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Furthermore, how can I separate the negative messages received from Ed and society while working towards recovery; for what is right and true and healthy for my mind, body, and, ultimately, my life—because every minute I desperately cling to this disease the farther away life slips from my grasp.

            Now, being of a semi-rational, yet well-educated mind, I know I cannot change the opinions of a society or the culture of the societal eating disorder. What I do have the power to change, however, is my internalization and reactions to the messages I receive from the societal Ed; while simultaneously fighting my own Ed in my head. I am very much a proponent of talking out my thoughts as a means to understand them. Yes, I am the girl in the grocery debating aloud over what I should buy (but that is usually me just talking back to Ed as a means to make my voice louder than hers). I have found, through my own journey to recovery, that talking back to Ed is one of the most effective tools I have learned. By countering the negative messages (and subsequent actions) of my own eating disorder using my recovery-oriented, rational mind, I have been able to put health and self-care into practice.

            Here is what I mean…in dialogue version as a means to simplify things. This is a real example of an event in my life.


Woman from my family after being asked to try a bit of a dip recipe: I can’t eat that. I will have to walk an extra mile to get rid of those calories.

ED: See Rachel? The thoughts you think are irrational and eating disordered are the same thoughts that she is having. I don’t know why you go whine to your therapist every week about me “controlling” your actions. By the way, even though you didn’t eat any of the dip, you should probably walk a few miles too…just in case.

Rhea: Wow, that is a lot of negative and possibly eating disordered thinking. This woman is telling me she must walk one punitive mile to make up for her indiscretion of consuming one bite of dip. And Ed is not only agreeing with her, but trying to force their mutual viewpoint on me. THAT is the societal Ed meeting my Ed. In the past I may have agreed with them and engaged in behaviors that got me to that sick place where I was. And what good did that give me: losing friends, losing health, losing life. Seems like I lose a lot more than I gain when I chose to follow Ed’s advice.

ED: No, you’ve got me all wrong. I just want you to do what I say. That’s not being controlling, that’s me taking care of you. I’ve taken care of you for fifteen years, just let me do my job. You’re still alive aren’t you?

Rhea: Ok, Ed, if you think you are “taking care” of me, I will never ask you to watch my nephews, or, hell, even a houseplant, if that is your definition of taking care of me. You destroy everything. Where were you when I was getting my MRI because I developed arthritis at age 23 due to bone loss? Were you taking care of me then? Where were you when I was hunched over a toilet in the US Capitol building secretly purging my lunch because you told me it would calm my fears of being in an unfamiliar city? Were you taking care of me then? Ed, I could give you fifteen years of examples of how your taking care of me lead to a slow self-destruction. If this woman wants to walk a mile as her punishment for eating a bite of dip, let her. I am learning to no longer allow the unhealthy, seemingly eating disordered choices of others interfere with my recovery.  I am learning to no longer be a slave to your demands.


            These “conversations with Ed”, happen with relative frequency in my day to day recovery. The only way to get Ed out of your life is to talk back; she thrives on controlling you and does not anticipate objections to her demands. By talking back to Ed, you are speaking up for yourself, your recovery and your life. Do no let the societal Ed and/or your personal Ed bully you anymore. This may sound cliché, but you, yes you, are worthy of an Ed-free life. You deserve nothing less than the best…and that includes a life over which Ed (in singular or societal form) has no influence.   



Luke 21:19

Stand firm, and you will win life.


When you get a tattoo…redone July 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 10:51 pm
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While reclining on the black leather dentist-esque chair, I pull my legs into my usual “indian style” sitting position and tug at my tribal print maxi dress to conceal my legs. Ted, my tattoo artist, chats over the whirring din of the tattoo machine. The whole experience is oddly relaxing. He asks me if I am doing ok; apparently tattoos are supposed to hurt. I say that I am doing ok (no pain at all, actually), and joke about the scars over which he is tattooing. “I don’t know if you see those scars,” I laugh, “but I have done a lot more harm to myself than anything you could be doing now.”

I decided that there is no shame in revealing the struggle it took to get to where I am today, and I opened up about my past of depression, self-harm and eating disorders. I explain that the tattoo is the Cherokee word for Hope (oo-du-ge-gv-di). My paternal grandfather (of whom I am an almost exact copy) was half-Cherokee; thus the significance of the Cherokee syllabary. I chose the word hope for two reasons: 1) the most obvious reason being that I began my recovery journey by getting an intake eval at the Lindner Center of HOPE in my hometown and 2) to remind myself to always hold on to hope despite what may lie ahead. I had gotten the original tattoo two years ago, but was less than satisfied with the results. In the end, when I looked at my new tattoo, I was happier than I thought could be possible. The fuzziness of the original was gone. The ink was vibrant again. The tattoo was actually centered on my wrist. Basically, there is no real “message” in this post, as I often try to put into my posts. I just wanted to share my wonderful new-ish tattoo.


The old fuzzy, off-center, incomplete tattoo (and some tomatoes from my garden). I forgot to take a before photo.


The “in progress” photo…still incomplete, but getting there.


The day after. I was taking a break from lesson planning by relaxing at the creek with a Thom Rutledge podcast. Although still not healed, it is on its way…kind of like me. I am not healed/recovered yet, but, one day, I will be. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.



When you go to Krohn…again July 2, 2013

My grandparents gave me a ticket to the Butterflies of Morocco show at Krohn Conservatory. Even though I already went once, I jump at any opportunity to take photos of flowers and wildlife. I spent the entire day by myself taking pictures. I did not even think about my eating disorder until I realized I was not thinking about it. That is why I love photography. It is a time for me to escape my world and jump into a world that I create in my camera. All photos taken with a Nikon D-SLR, D5000.


The old water tower in Eden Park


Orchids, my favorite flower.


The leaves on a bonsai tree.


A statue in the bonsai room



A view of Kentucky (the land of my people) from Cincinnati (the land of…where I was born and live now)


Then a thunderstorm rolled into the park


Job 5:9
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.