RheasOfHope

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

When you make realizations April 25, 2014

 

For the almost two years that I have had this blog, there has always been a thought nagging in the back of my mind. I have felt I have not been completely honest with those who read my blog, and I have to get it off my chest. Although I paint a very self-assured and recovery-oriented picture through my writing, have I struggled for the past five years to actually admit/accept the fact that I, Rachel King, actually have a clinically diagnosable eating disorder, and have had for more than half of my life. I would say, “I’m sick” or “I’m doing well in recovery” or even refuse to admit I had an eating disorder at all. However, I never actually knew what I was really saying. How was I expected to recover from a disease I refused to fully accept that I had? How could I fully immerse myself in recovery if I did not first admit that I had been fully immersed in my disease? Doesn’t everyone always say, “The first step in resolving a problem in our life is to first admit we have a problem”?

I have needed to admit and accept this fact for a long time, but my eating disorder kept telling me I was stupid for thinking that. I don’t think I was ever really ready to let ED go until Easter Sunday this year, when I reflected on the eating disordered thoughts and behaviors I had engaged in over the previous few days. I can’t explain it really, it’s just like, as I sat in my garage (after having engaged in behaviors)…it’s like I finally knew, this is ED. This is exactly what ED is: lies, secrecy, self-inflicted punishment, hiding, feeling unworthy, striving for unattainable perfection, hating that I do it but not being able to stop, false control, and pain…lots of pain.

ED was suddenly and simultaneously the best and worst defense mechanism in my life. It became a way to hide from the bullying I receive from others, by bringing the bullying on myself before they could get me; ED convinced me everyone was, indeed, out to bully me. ED rationalized that if I punished myself first, the pain of others wouldn’t hurt so much, because she knew I would punish myself worse than they could imagine (ED, cutting, exercise, etc). I wanted to hide inside ED because of the perceived safety she offered me; safety I didn’t have from my bullies. I wanted to hide inside her twisted love; love I felt I didn’t have from my family and didn’t deserve from others.   I wanted to do and be everything to everyone: teacher, nurturer, protector, the smart one, planner, volunteer, problem solver, etc. I wanted to be perfect, but, at the same time, was listening to ED tell me I would never be perfect. I wanted to be loved, and turned to Ed for that love because it was the first “safe” place I found “unconditional love”. I now realize that that what ED gave me was never love. ED was manipulation, lies, and destruction. As long as I kept myself within the confines of ED, I would never find the acceptance, love, and roles in life that I wanted so desperately…because ED was taking them all. ED was there to offer me everything I was craving out of life…and then, I was in too deep, she had me in her vice grip. I would never get from her all the things I wanted that she promised. She convinced me that me not attaining what I wanted out of life was my fault because she was never “really” in my life to begin with. She blamed all my life problems on me because “there’s no way I could possibly have an eating disorder” and my pain couldn’t have been caused by her because of that. I’m here now to say it was, all of it. I listened to her lies, false promises, saying she could offer all I wanted, and so much more. But it wasn’t true, none of it. I never got anything she said she would/could offer me if I just did every single thing she said. All I got was my own personal hell. A hell in which I punished myself for every perceived wrongdoing by restricting, purging, cutting, laxatives or over exercise. A hell that I wasn’t allowed to believe I was actually in, let alone tell anyone else about. A hell I thought was never ending. Until now. I fully realize I’m in ED’s little hell, and I know I’ll stay trapped here as long as I refuse to admit she has this power over me. Every time I acknowledge her presence in my life, she gets a little bit smaller and I am able to see what recovery oriented choices look like. It’s a slow and sometimes stumbling process, but I’m ready to get out of this hell.

I encourage everyone out there reading to get out of this hell with me and take our lives back.

 

Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”

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When students teach you… April 21, 2014

“Look Miss Rachel! Look at what I can do!” Lucas shouts as he hangs perilously by the trapeze bar on his play set. I watch nervously as his Spiderman shoe kicks over the bar and he hooks he knee over the top. I inch forward preparing myself to catch him when his 4-year-old strength inevitably gives out, and he plummets to the mulch roughly three feet below.

 

“Lucas, I don’t want you to fall. Please stop doing that; it isn’t safe” I shout while continuing to slyly move toward him. Undeterred, Lucas continues his trapeze bar conquest; flailing his legs over the bar while attempting to hang upside-down.

 

“But Miss Raaaachel. I HAVE to fall. That’s now you learn” he protests in one of the biggest cliché phrases I have ever heard.

 

A bit angry, I retort, “Lucas, you do not HAVE to fall to show me whatever it is you are trying to do. In fact, you do not have to do it at all if you think you are going to fall and hurt yourself. You can show me another time. Let’s just swing the normal way, and you can show me your trick later.”

 

“No, I want to show you now. I have to do it now. Just let me do it” he asserts a little overdramatically for a four-year-old.

 

“Do what you want Lucas, but I will be here to catch you if you do fall” I say, resigned to his stubbornness and need to show me his trick.

 

And, do you know what? He did it. He kicked his legs over the bar and hung upside down…without falling.

 

So what did Lucas’ pleading about “having to fall” teach me? He reminded me, in his own little way, that it is ok to fall and make mistakes. In fact, sometimes falling is the only way to learn. I tell my students all the time that mistakes are learning opportunities disguised as failures. Use your mistakes—because mistakes will inevitably occur—as fuel to motivate you. Mistakes are not the setbacks or failures society will lead us to believe. Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying, “I did not fail, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s attitude reminds us that mistakes are not irrevocable; mistakes are often a springboard for finding and implementing ideas that will work. Oftentimes the fear of perceived failure is enough to keep us from attempting something new, like recovery. How many of us learned to speak perfect English the first time we tried, or mastered the Viennese Waltz on the first attempt? I am willing to bet very few if any. However, there are many times in our lives we tried something even though we knew the risk of failure was high. The risk of failure is often lower than the prize of triumph.

 

Most days we need to be like Lucas: kick our legs over the bar, hope to be successful, be prepared to fall…but not let the fear of the fall or the fall itself stop us from doing what we want to do.  I fully expect to make mistakes in recovery and in life in general. Nevertheless I will never let those mistakes keep me from living a life free of my eating disorder. I will not let those mistakes allow ED to exert her control in my life and I will not let those mistakes keep me from my ultimate goal…LIFE.

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Lucas demonstrating his athletic prowess

 

Psalm 37:23-24

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

 

 

When you gather seashells April 7, 2014

“Here’s a good one!” my sister exclaims as she bends down into the gulf water and pulls out a glistening white shell with purple streaks.

 

“But it is broken. Throw it back. We don’t want that one” I reply.

 

“No, look at the swirl pattern on the top. It’s really cool looking. I’m keeping it so I can use that pattern in my ceramics glaze.” she retorts as she gingerly places the broken shell in my shoe (our make-shift shell carrier).

 

This exchange got me thinking…what makes a shell a “good” shell; a shell worthy of toting 1,000 miles back to Cincinnati? Does it need to be fully intact, or is broken still beautiful? Does it have to be all one color, or can it be multi-hued? Does it have to be smooth, or can it have ridges? As it turns out, there are a lot of snap judgments being made about each shell as I carefully bend over to examine its worthiness to be extracted from the ocean and placed in my Toms.  This immediately led me to think about my recovery; as that has been a major concern on my mind lately.  The question, “What makes a shell worthy” became, “What makes a person worthy”. Is it their fully intact-ness, or is it their brokenness that makes them worthy? Does perfection make them worthy, or can they show flaws? Again, snap judgments come into play as we deem worthiness in ourselves.

 

To our eating disorders, worthiness is very clearly spelled out: one can only be worthy if they listen to exactly what the eating disorder tells them to do; worthiness is completely hingent upon following ED’s made up and completely nonsensical rules. Neither binging nor purging, neither restricting nor over-exercising, neither self-harm nor addiction can make a person worthy…despite what our eating disorder will try to tell us. Worthiness is found in one’s character and actions, not in their ability to excel in an eating disorder or other addiction. Worthiness is found in the size of one’s heart, not in the size of their jeans. Worthiness is found in one’s ability to care for themselves as much as they care for others, not in caring for others over themselves.  Worthiness is found in one’s ability to love themselves so much that they choose to ignore ED’s constant berating remarks. Worthiness is found in recovery. Worthiness is found in living a life in which our actions, our character and our heart show that we believe that we are worthy of a life without ED.  At first ED will tell us that we are completely unworthy for not following her every whim. However, as we break away from her choke hold, we will see other qualities in ourselves that make us worthy of love, happiness and life. Because, let me tell you, we are ALL worthy of that no matter what ED tries to say.

 

What qualities and characteristics about yourself make you worthy? It can be anything from your ability to nurture others or nurturing yourself when you know you need it. Your worthiness can be something like being a very good scheduler to something like being a wonderful listener. Worthiness, however, can only be found in recovery; worthiness is never found in ED.

 

Some of my sister's numerous shells

Some of my sister’s numerous shells

Zephaniah 3:15 and 17

The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”