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

When you wear the emerald glasses of Oz September 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 11:48 pm
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Call me odd, but The Wizard of Oz has always been my favorite movie. Perhaps it is Dorothy’s wanderlust for a place to belong, the singing/dancing munchkins, the flying monkeys in fezzes, or the admiration of Dorothy continuing in the face of adversity (even if that face is green and warty).

I was reminded of the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (off of which the movie was based), recently in therapy, when thinking of how my eating disorder views my life and recovery. Upon entering the city of Oz, the guardian of the gate requires Dorothy and company, Toto included, to wear green-lensed glasses. These glasses not only have the aforementioned green lenses, but they are locked in place with a key once they are put upon the head; making them impossible to remove. The guardian of the gate says the glasses are to protect the wearers from the “brightness and glory” of the city of Oz; the glasses are green because what in Oz is not green? The visitors and citizens of Oz wear the green glasses without reservation, as the guardian of the gate has assured them that the glasses are for their own wellbeing. The glasses were decreed by the benevolent wizard as a means to protect them from the brilliance of his city. What these people do not realize, however, is that the glasses are designed to be worn so that everything they see in Oz only appears to be green, when, in reality, everything in the city is the color they would imagine it to be in their lives outside of Oz. The glasses are a mechanism through which the wizard controls his populace; they serve as blinders to the truth that all is not as it appears. By requiring the wearing of the glasses, the wizard ensures that the people of Oz will see his city—and his reign of supremacy—in the way he has intended despite the fact that he is not as supreme as he, and others, is wont to believe. It is a way for him to control how his city, and his own inadequacies, is perceived.

Ed wants to be our emerald colored glasses. Ed works in much the same fashion as the wizard of Oz. Ed comes in to our life with promises to shield us from this hurt, that stress, this relationship or that hardship. Ed uses her glasses in the form of eating disordered thoughts and behaviors as a means to control you, all the while pretending to be looking out for your best interests…to protect you, even. However, all Ed does is use the disordered thoughts and behaviors to hide her own inadequacies, shortcoming and failures by projecting them onto us. Through Ed’s glasses we see only in black and white, good and bad, fat and thin, success and failure. There is no room for self-love, grace, self-confidence, or self-esteem (let alone a brain, a heart and courage); there is only Ed. And this is all there will be until we are able to take off Ed’s glasses. These eating disordered glasses are the mechanism through which Ed controls us, our thoughts, our actions, everything about us. In recovery, we learn we posses the key to take off Ed’s glasses as a means to see the world as it is meant to be seen, to love ourselves as others love us, measure ourselves in terms of resilience not pounds…to enjoy all blessings in our life rather than always looking through Ed’s glasses for the bad. Unlike Dorothy and crew, we have the power to remove our green glasses. When we cease to view the world through the glasses of Ed, we gain the opportunity to see the world and ourselves for what we truly are: wonderfully beautiful and unique people with gifts and talents that work together to create amazing things. So pick up your key and take off Ed’s glasses, you never know what you will find, but I promise it is worth it.

1 John 3:1

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!


When you think about ED-NOS September 10, 2013


            “FAT” the letters are scarred into the skin above my knee and into my brain. FAT. How can such a small word have such a lasting impact on my life? It is this word that keeps bouncing around in my head, keeping me from recovery…but why? Given my weight (medically obese by BMI measurements and my 5’2” frame) and my ED behaviors (which do not fit neatly into the concise box of anorexia or bulimia), I had, and have, a deep-rooted feeling of fraudulence as an eating disordered person as a result of my ED-NOS diagnosis. I have always felt as if I were not “sick enough” to deserve treatment, that I did not fit into the neat little diagnosable boxes so I could not possibly have an eating disorder, that I was fat, and, as we all know, fat people cannot possibly have an eating disorder *sarcasm is intended in that last statement*.  I have even had a prior therapist who agreed with all those thoughts, rejected the possibility of me having an eating disorder and refused to treat me for a “disease I did not have”. The genesis of these thoughts, however, IS, in fact, Ed. The one who keeps these invalidating, self-disparaging thoughts in my head is, again, Ed.


            To me, ED-NOS has always felt like a patronizing pat on the head; a diagnosis so that I quit bothering the nice doctor and go home. What I realize now is that ED-NOS is a very real, very serious, yet very treatable eating disorder…thus the ED part of the ED-NOS diagnosis. As Dr. Jennifer Thomas, author of Almost Anorexic, states, “Don’t let some words in a book or some numbers on a scale prevent you from getting the help that you need.” In fact, in a longitudinal study on the mortality rates of patients with EDs, Dr. Thomas found that patients with ED-NOS had a mortality rate of 5.2%; compared to a 4% mortality rate for those with anorexia and a 3.9% rate for those with bulimia. Additionally, in her meta-analysis of the physical and mental effects of EDs on the body, Dr. Thomas found ED-NOS just as, if not more, medically critical as anorexia and bulimia. Thus further proving the fact that ED-NOS warrants being taken seriously and is deserving of treatment. The diagnosis does not matter, your health does.  


            My diagnosis of ED-NOS reminds me a lot of my little sister, Morgan’s, journey in school. For as long as she has been in school–she has recently begun her senior year– Morgan has had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to accommodate her unique needs. Morgan has difficulty reading, takes longer than her peers to complete assignments, and has issues with spelling and writing. Yet, seventeen years after her birth, there is no diagnosis as to why her brain processes words the way it does. She has been tested for dyslexia, ADD, apraxia and just about every other disease/disorder at which you can shake a medical textbook. Despite a lack of diagnosis, does that mean her problem does not exist? NO! Her brain processes slightly different that a typically functioning brain—despite not having a diagnosis–and she just needs a bit of assistance in the form of IEP accommodations. Did my parents give up on getting Morgan the help that she needs when she was labeled “Undiagnosed Learning Disability”? No, they worked with the school to create a plan that would make the curriculum more accessible to her. Together, with the school, they helped write an IEP that allowed her additional reading practice throughout the day, extended time on tests and assignments, and the use of a reader if necessary. In short, not having a diagnosis was no excuse for my sister not getting the help that she needed; she received the help she needed, tailored to fit her unique needs, without having a neatly boxed up, diagnosed label.  


            When it comes to seeking and receiving treatment, it pays to work like my sister. A lack of diagnosis (or a diagnosis of ED-NOS) does not mean you lack the right to necessary and life-saving treatment, resources and other essential services. It does not matter your specific diagnosis; the point is, if you believe you may need help…go get it. Do not let the words of others, Ed or some overly specific medical categorizations keep you from living a life free of disordered eating. You are worthy of a happy, healthy Ed-free life no matter what your diagnosis. Go after that life, it is amazing!

Me, on the left, and Morgan
*photo credit, Mandy McDonough photography

Isaiah 46:4

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you


When you fill out job applications September 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 8:38 pm
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“Please explain how your past personal and professional experience make you an excellent candidate for the position for which you are applying…” I stare at the job application screen and watch the cursor tick as if silently mocking me. My brain is empty but critiques pour forth freely.


            “You’re not an excellent candidate,” Ed proclaims, “You don’t even know what to type here. That’s proof you would absolutely suck at this job. Who would even hire you anyway? Don’t even try. What are you thinking? Turn this computer off and go engage in some of my favorite behaviors.”


            And so has been my August: application after application (around 30 in all); one long waiting process after another. The question above remains the hardest one I have had to answer. I know what experience I have and I know why I want to teach…but what makes me think I am better than any other candidate applying for the same position? In truth, what makes me think I am NOT better than any other candidate applying for the same position? In a word, Ed. Through past jobs, my college education, my leadership in my community and my genuine love of children I know I am an excellent candidate. However, Ed stands in the back of my head with a megaphone shouting that it is arrogant of me (and rather irresponsible) to think that I deserve the job over another; especially since I have been doing a rather  horrible job of listening to her demands as of late.


            This is the curse of Ed. She will steal any self-confidence you have and replace it with doubt, insecurity and self-loathing. Part of recovery is reclaiming that self-confidence and seeing yourself as more than Ed. Because, believe it or not, YOU ARE more than Ed. I know what you are thinking, “Could she be any more cliché?” But hear me out. For so long our identities have been wrapped up in Ed: what will I think about myself today, what are others thinking about me today, what ed behaviors will I engage in today, can I even leave my house today…the list goes on and on. We have learned to define ourselves by our eating disordered thoughts and behaviors rather than the unique qualities that make us…well, us. Despite what Ed may have lead you to believe, you have your own brilliant gifts to offer the world; things that others do not possess. And none of those gifts involve anything Ed-related.


            By realizing that God made me more than my eating disorder, I was able to answer the job application question and I have been able to recover the Rhea that was stolen by Ed. I sent in my application knowing that I AM and excellent candidate. Through recovery, you, too, can recover the you stolen and hidden by Ed; because you are not Ed. Take back your power and live your life the way you want; not the way Ed tells you. You are more.


Below is one of my favorite songs right now, “You are more” by Tenth Avenue North. I cannot wait to see them in concert at my current job next weekend!


2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.