RheasOfHope

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

When you find your talents November 22, 2013

“What are your talents, Miss Rachel?” my co-teacher questioned.

“Please?” I asked looking up from the tiny pink converse I had been tying.

“Your talents? What are your talents?” she reiterated.

 

I had been listening to my students share their talents as my co-teacher went around the circle during story time. When you ask two, three and four year olds about their talents the responses you get are priceless: I am good at playing outside, I am good at putting on my shoes, I am good at playing with my toys, I am good at going pee-pee on the potty…etc. Their responses seemed so automatic, so genuine. None of my ten students had to think very long when asked about his or her specific talents. I, however, took an inordinate amount of time.  What in the world is my talent? Ed chimed in, telling me I had no talent; so I should probably just listen to her and be good at an eating disorder. I decided that was NOT a talent. Finally, I decided my talent was reading. Reading aloud to my students is one area in which I do believe I have talent, and it is something I thoroughly enjoy doing.

 

My students and I had been studying the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the concept seemed a little over their developmental abilities: after all, students at this age are not cognitively capable of making inferences or using abstract thinking. However, we decided that this parable was worth a try. For those unfamiliar with the parable, here is a brief summation. A very wealthy master decided to give three of his servants his gold (known as talents) while he went on a long trip. To the first he gave five talents, to the second he gave two, and to the third he gave one. The first servant put his talents to good use and doubled them, as did the second servant. The third servant, however, buried his in a hole and went about his life never giving a second thought to the talent he was given. When the master returned, each servant presented his talents. The master was pleased at the first two servants for doubling the talents given to them, but was outraged at the third servant and made him give the talent he did have to the first servant.

 

So what is the moral of this parable, you may ask? Through this parable, Jesus wanted to show his disciples that it is not the amount of talent that they were given that matters, it is how they use that talent to further the kingdom of God. Both the first and the second servants doubled their talents, and it pleased the master. The third servant hid his talent. and the master was less than thrilled. In the same way as the first and second servants, we must use the talents given to us by God. Instead of focusing on having fewer talents than others—as the third servant did–we need to recognize how much good we can do with the talents we do have. Instead of burying our talents out of shame that they are not as magnificent as those around us, we need to proudly use them to the best of our ability.

 

I have found myself, all too often, hiding my talents in the hole of my eating disorder, perfectionism, anxiety, self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and whatever else I have used…rather than acknowledging that I actually have talents that can not only benefit my life and recovery, but the lives of others. By acknowledging the talents I do have, I am able to see past the veil of Ed and work towards a more recovery-oriented mindset. Concentrating on our lack of talent and flaws only gives Ed a greater foothold in our lives. Conversely, by putting the spotlight on what we do well, Ed’s power diminishes and the glory of God shines through us.

 

What are your talents? What have you been doing to hide them? How can you use your talents to further your recovery, improve your quality of life and take back your life from Ed?

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents. My cats decided to investigate it while I was taking a photo of it; they are odd.

Matthew 25:21

His [the servant’s] master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

 

When it is your Recovery Anniversary November 12, 2013

Four years ago, I made a decision that drastically altered the path of my life; a decision that, ultimately, would lead me towards the path to recovery. But first, the really scary, really awkward, really intimidating initial step.

 

I stepped silently down the creaky basement stairs in the old house my college had converted into an office space. My boss had told me I should speak to one of her other workers about “my problem”; “she could really help you” she said. At the bottom of the stairs I saw Miranda (name changed to protect privacy), her brown bangs escaping her pixie cut as she sat in the floor putting together a display for the farmers’ market.

 

“Hey Rhea,” she said cheerfully with her typical enthusiasm and broad smile, “What’s up?”

 

I sat crossed legged on the floor near her as silently as I had crept down the stairs, admiring her work while picking at my nails. I noticed the vibrant blue of her eyes and the beauty of her tattoos as we sat there in awkward silence. I took a deep breath, “Miranda, the reason I came here today is that I spoke with Lynn (our boss, whose name has also been changed) and she said we might share some similar experiences. And I was just wondering if I could ask for your help because Lynn said you would be open to helping people like me and I just don’t know what to do because therapy isn’t working and Renée (my therapist, name not changed) doesn’t believe me that I’m sick and I am just so confused” I rambled in one long sentence while fighting back tears. I had done it; I admitted my disease to someone and things were never going to be the same…but for a positive this time. Miranda, the angel that she is, did not judge; she took my frightened, college student self under her wing and mentored me towards recovery for the next sixth months. And, on November 21, 2011 even though we had not spoken in months, she helped me through the anxiety and fear of my intake evaluation at the Lindner Center of Hope.

 

On November 11, 2009 I asked Miranda for help for a disease I had let rule my life for at least ten years. On November 11, 2009 I took the first step to recovery…to freedom.

Since that date:

I have drastically limited the frequency of my purging.

I have moved…three times.

I have quit using laxatives.

I graduated from college, received my teaching license, started work on a special education master’s degree, got at reading endorsement for my teaching license, and served two years in Americorps*.

I got my two recovery tattoos…and had one reworked

I have quit self-harming.

I have re-found my love of photography and writing.

I have upped the amount of calories I have a day.

I had an EKG and endoscopy…and became vegetarian.

I reached out to and made friends with the wonderfully beautiful and strong Meredith.

I have attended therapy sessions.

I have learned that my self-worth is not AT ALL correlated to my size.

I have learned that Ed never ever speaks the truth.

I started this blog and had it featured in NEDA’s blogroll.

I have given presentations and written articles to destigmatize EDs.

I participated in the NEDA walk in Washington DC…my first trip to our nation’s capital.

I have emailed the Secretary of State about passing bills and amendments that support research and funding to ED awareness.

I have continued with my passion of educating children.

I have gone to symphonies, weddings, museums, zoos, concerts, beaches, mountains and unfamiliar cities.

I have begun to separate myself from Ed…and I have never been happier or healthier.

Psalm 34:8 and 18

8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him

18: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

 

When you think about gratitude November 6, 2013

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In the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Platt, asked us to write a few sentences about gratitude. She then collected our responses, typed them on one of our school’s green-screened Macs, and made the resulting copies into Thanksgiving books for each student in the class. Given the fact that we were six and seven years old, we did not know a lot about what it meant to be grateful. In fact, had my teacher omitted our names, we would each have thought that we had written every entry. Many of us expressed gratitude for family, friends, food and a home. A remarkably large number of us included God in our entries; something that I am surprised, but pleased, we were allowed to do in our public school.

This exercise was the extent of our understanding of gratitude. It was never explained to us what being grateful actually entails. We merely thought about what we have in our life, and wrote down that we were grateful for it. Case in point, I wrote I was thankful for my cat, my parents, my toys, my cousins and my clothes. Wow, one point for originality.

Image

My contribution to the book

While I am still thankful for my cat (although now I have a different one than in my original writing), my mom and dad…and now my sister (I was an only child until I was nine), my cousins, my clothes, and my toys (adults have toys too, they just look like Nikon DSLR cameras and iPhones), I have come to realize that being grateful is about more than just people and things. In my precocious second-grader ways, I wrote two things that I did not really believe then, but do now, “I am thankful for being alive today” and “I am thankful for God for blessing me.” Nineteen years later, I realize how truly grateful I am to be alive and to be a recipient of God’s blessings.

After going through at least fifteen years of depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder…a broken nose and arm, a car accident, self-harm, being a first generation college student, a super annoying nail biting habit, serving in Americorps VISTA…I am alive. I have had the opportunity to experience all of those things because I am alive. While not every aspect of my life had been easy, neither has everything been difficult. And yet, through it all, I am alive. There is a purpose in my life greater than myself that has kept me alive despite everything I have been through. Because I am alive, I know that God is not done with me yet. There are still lessons to be learned, lessons to teach, mistakes to make, and who knows what else. The important thing is that I do not have to know. I must merely wake up each day grateful for the opportunity to learn God’s lessons, teach lessons, and make mistakes. Who would have ever thought I, the perfectionist, would be grateful for the ability to make mistakes?

If Mrs. Platt were still around, I would write this to be included in our book:

I am grateful for the ability to make mistakes; for in making mistakes I learn lessons, grow stronger as a person, and gain insight into who I am as an imperfect human. I am grateful that God has blessed me, or chosen not to bless me in certain situations, with everything that He sees fit; His will is not my own. I am grateful for my recovery and the support from others I have received along the way; there is something truly remarkable that dwells in the heart of those who serve others. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers, the frost on the autumn leaves, the way my cat, Rowan, is always ready for a game of fetch, and a quiet walk through the fields of my friend’s farm.  I am grateful to be alive and for the ability to experience everything it has to offer.

 

Colossians 3:15-17

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms,hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.