RheasOfHope

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

When you must try again August 27, 2014

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My mother grabbed my six-year-old hand and pulled me forward into the Earring Tree (a now defunct Clarie’s-esque store in our local mall), and shouted “Are you sure you’re going to do it this time? I don’t want to have to make any more trips down here to get your ears pierced without you getting them pierced. Are you doing to do it or not?”

 

I look down at my saddle shoes and then back up at her, “Yes. I am going to do it.”

 

“Good, now get in that chair and I will get the lady.”

 

I climbed up in the metal barstool chair, grabbed the purple stuffed hippo (who also had its ears pierced), and waited for what I already knew was coming. This was not my first trip, or even my second or third trip, to the Earring Tree to get my ears pierced. I had seen a girl in my gymnastics class wearing a pair of “diamond” studs a few weeks before, and had become obsessed with getting my ears pierced too. Miraculously, I had convinced my mother that getting my ears pierced as a first-grader was a good idea.

 

Our first trip to get my ears pierced, I saw another girl who was about four or five years older than me getting hers done. She was screaming, crying, and yelling about how much it hurt. I immediately turned my mother around and got the hell out of there. On our second trip, I climbed up in the chair, clutched the stuffed hippo within an inch of its life, and let the piercer put one purple dot on my ear. Nope. That was too scary, and out we went again. By my third trip, I could sense my mother’s irritation, but that did not abate my fear. I got two purple dots on my lobes on that third visit before I bolted out the door. On my fourth trip, I, again, mounted the barstool chair, squeezed the purple hippo, and got two purple dots on my ears. As the piercing gun got close to my ear, I hopped off that chair so fast you would think it was on fire…and that was the end of the fourth trip. On our fifth and final trip, I knew the routine: get on the chair, grab the hippo, get the dots, and leave. However, this time, they were ready for me. Before I could leap out of the chair, they had already pierced one of my ears. I wanted out of there. However, as my mother so kindly pointed out, if I left then, I would look like a pirate with one pierced ear. So, I got the second one pierced. When I was finished, I did not think about the five trips to the mall I had to take to finally get my ears pierced, I thought about how pretty the earrings looked and how cool I was going to be in my gymnastics class now.

 

My recovery has been a lot like my attempts at getting my ears pierced. Admittedly, it has taken me more than five tries to move towards recovery–a lot more, and it will take even more as I continue walking down the road to recovery. However, every time I thought recovery was too hard, too scary, too “out of control”, or too anything-else…I tried again, just like I did with getting my ears pierced.  And, I am here to say, it is not easy. I am not going to sugarcoat it and say every minute I have been on this road to recovery has been great, because it has not always felt that way. I simply remembered that I needed to keep trying, because the alternative to recovery and life is eating disorder and death, and I am choosing life. Any time ED told me I was not worthy of recovery, that I did not even have an eating disorder, or that I just could not do it, I tried again. Any time I fell hard on my ass during a relapse, I tried again. Any time I thought I messed up my recovery so I should not even keep trying, I tried again. There is ALWAYS one more thing to try.  When we think there is no hope for recovery, try again. There are individuals living fully recovered lives every day, so we know it is possible to recover. I know it sounds cliché, but that is because it is true, never never never give up. Never stop believing that there is something inside of us that wants recovery more than an eating disorder, that happiness more than darkness, and that wants life over death. Recovery will take multiple tries, I guarantee it–I am living it. However, all those attempts work to make a stronger recovery voice in our mind. When we feel like giving up, we must fight that voice (because it is ED’s voice) and remember to try again. We will not remember how many tries it took us to achieve recovery when we look back on our life, we will look around, see the beauty in and around us, and be thankful that we tried again, that we never gave up, and that we chose life.

 

 

Psalm 116:1-9

 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

 

When it’s an anniversary August 15, 2014

Three hundred and sixty-five days…fifty-two weeks…or, as the cast of Rent puts it, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.” Any way you want to measure it, it all adds up to one year. These numbers all also serve to represent that I have now lived an entire year without self-harm. 

Was it easy to stop? In a word, NO! There is still a very small voice that speaks to me any time I feel I am not in control that tells me it is okay to self-harm. I have learned, however, that that voice does not have to have power over my decisions…I do. In changing my relationship with the voice that tells me to self-harm, I was able to 1) disagree with what it had to say and 2) disobey what it was telling me.

Whenever the voice of self-harm speaks to me, urging me to engage in behaviors, I look for evidence of its truth. Spoiler alert! There is never evidence that the voice of self-harm is telling the truth. No matter what trickery, deceit, false promises or fake love the voice of self-harm uses to lure us into behaviors, it is important to know that it is simply not true. Self-harm is never a solution to problems. In fact, self-harm usually ends up creating bigger problems than the one it used to get us to engage in behaviors. It is important to tell the voice of self-harm, “I hear you. I know what you’re saying. But, I WILL NOT engage in the behaviors you are telling me.” Here is another spoiler alert: that will not be easy either. The voice of self-harm will come back with a million and one reasons that we, advocating for our health, are wrong. It is important to remember that no matter how loud, seductive, alluring, etc that voice is, the voice of health is always stronger, smarter and has our best interests at heart. The key to disagreeing with the voice of self-harm is to practice…and then practice…and when we think we are all practiced-out…practice some more. It may sound silly, but actually writing down a conversation between you and the voice of self-harm is very good practice for disagreeing and disobeying.

Recovery is not an “I tried and it didn’t work” kind of deal. Recovery is an “I tried and it didn’t work, so I tried again and again and again until I found something that did work.” That is the disobeying piece of recovery; telling the voice of self-harm that we will not do what it says. It was helpful for me to make a list of activities I could do when disobeying the voice of self-harm; activities that promoted wellness, health, fun and recovery. My list included: photography, writing, coloring (yes, it is perfectly acceptable for adults to use coloring books), taking a walk in the woods, showering, playing with my cats, reading, calling up a friend, or anything else that sounded better at the moment. When one item on my list did not stop the voice of self-harm, I tried another. If that did not stop the voice, I tried another. The very wise, Julie Merryman taught me that there is always one more thing to try; when you think you have exhausted all options and are tempted to give in, there is always one more thing to try. The list of self-harm alternatives is not concrete; it can expand or contract with recovery, interests, passions or anything. The key is to keep the alternatives recovery, health and wellness related…and not to stop when you think you have tried every alternative (there is always one more).

In disagreeing and disobeying the voice of self-harm, or eating disorders, or addiction or whatever voice in our head that does not promote health, happiness, love or acceptance, we are able to regain our lives. In disagreeing and disobeying we are able to take a stand for our recovery and our life. Recovery itself, to me, means life. In practicing and practicing disagreeing and disobeying, I am learning more about myself and regaining more of my life from the negative voices. You can do this too. It will be hard and you will feel as though there are no more options. I am here to tell you that there are. There are always more healthful and appropriate ways to disagree and disobey the voice of self-harm.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.