RheasOfHope

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

When you forgive your bullies October 17, 2016

“Forgive and Forget:” we’ve all heard this idiomatic phrase. Perhaps we’ve even uttered it to ourselves when faced with someone who has wronged us, or offered it as a polite consolation to others. But can one truly forgive AND forget? And do we even want to forgive and forget? I was faced with this very question during Daniel’s—my pastor–sermon this weekend.

 

In Isaiah 43:25, it is written, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Many people take this as the basis for “Forgive and Forget.” After all, if the Lord of all creation, says He wipes out our sins and forgets they ever happened, who are we to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us? Only here’s the thing, such a simplistic approach that verse completely disregard’s God’s omnipotence—He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will happen…with that knowledge, how would He be able to just “forget” sin? When it states, “remembers your sins no more,” that doesn’t mean He’s choosing to forgive and forget—He’s choosing to forgive us of our sins as a means to restore our relationship with Him; choosing not to hold our sin against us anymore. He wants to separate us from our sins so that they can no longer ensnare us—keeping us from a relationship with him. Furthermore, He wants us to extend His level of forgiveness to those we encounter. When we think about forgiveness, we must no longer think of forgetting, but of restoration.

 

With that in mind, I revisited a prompt I learned when training for the Body Project at the NEDA conference last month: “Please write a letter to someone in your life who pressured you to conform to the appearance ideal. Please tell them how this affected you and indicate how you would respond now, in light of what you have learned.” I knew immediately who I needed to forgive and restore; my bullies. I hold an inordinate amount of resentment towards these individuals—many of whom I haven’t seen in at least ten years, and none of whom deserve to have control over me anymore. This summer, many people asked me if I would be attending my ten-year high school reunion. My answer was always the same, “No one at Lakota liked me when I was there. Why would they like me ten years later?” Clearly I’m a master at forgive and restore. I had neither forgiven nor restored. In fact, any time my school’s name is mentioned, a feeling of intense sadness and indignation invades my heart. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed that that is my reaction. In an effort to forgive and restore, I’ve written an open letter of forgiveness to my former bullies.

 

Dear Bullies,

I forgive you. That’s right; I forgive you. Right now you’re probably wondering why I am forgiving you all for being horrible people, for giving me ingenious nicknames like “cow” and “whale,” for making a party game out of calling my house, for making me eat lunch alone for all those years, and for the myriad other malfeasances you committed—not just against me—but to so many others. You may be pondering why “Rumpke Recycling” or “Dairy Queen” is forgiving you and is grateful for the abuse you inflicted. While many of you are likely still questioning who I even am; as you’ve likely forgotten—or chose to ignore—your past transgressions. Your past behavior—as malicious as it was, and may, very well, still be—actually made me stronger. Though your treatment of me plunged me into a seemingly inescapable pit of depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders…it allowed me to seek and develop the very tools I needed to escape.

 

After being subjected to your harangue and torment, I grew to believe that I deserved to be treated in an unfavorably and destructive manner. I learned to hurt myself before others could seize the opportunity. I believed—albeit falsely—that hurting myself before others inevitably would, would make the pain more tolerable. However, the only result of that attempt at self-preservation was self-destruction in the form of twenty years of eating disordered hell, self-harm, and isolation. In gong through that hell, however, I learned of the inherent worth given to me by God and used your torment as the very foundation upon which I built my life and career.

 

In seeking refuge from the effects of your degradation, I grain invaluable knowledge and tools. If it weren’t for your wrongdoings, I may never have learned how strong, determined, and loved I could be. I’ve discovered that I’m imperfect and that what makes me worthy of love—because everyone is imperfect and we’re all deserving of love. I have come to disregard the negative, hurtful comments of others, while not continuing my negative attitude towards myself either. Asking for help, I’ve learned, is a necessary aspect of a healthy life—not a sign of weakness. Gone are the days of hurting myself before you could hurt me. Instead, I’ve constructed a support network of individuals who genuinely care for me and reinforce my commitment to recovery.

 

As a result of my efforts in recovery, I’ve acquired a job I adore and which also makes great use of my life experiences, education, and empathy. Everyday I have the privilege of engaging with teenage patients in treatment for eating disorders and share what I’ve learned from your many injustices. Likewise, these incredible souls teach me. Together we are overcoming and learning to love our authentic, raw, vulnerable selves.

 

So while you may have attempted to subjugate my life and though I may have missed twenty years of my life to an eating disorder, I stand here today as living proof. Proof that self-care is essential—regardless the opinions of others. Proof that one can rise from their past—from your tragedy, I have triumphed. Although it was painful at the time and was painful to remember, your bullying set me up to be the person I am today. And today, today I am improving. Know that you are forgiven.

 

  Gratefully,

Rhea

jenni-and-rachel

When you gain recovery, you get to meet people who have impacted your life from afar, and who helped you through their books, speeches, and living their own recovery. I was so incredibly humbled to meet Jenni Schaefer a few weeks ago! My goal is to shine as bright a light as she has. 

 

Colossians 3:12-15

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

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When you ask for help May 21, 2015

Seated on a borrowed bike, I continued to pedal despite the South Carolina humidity and the fact that I was sweating out of body parts I didn’t know were capable of sweating. What had been described to me as a “quick, easy bike ride to the beach” was turning into the 2012 Tour de Hilton Head, and I was a female Lance Armstrong (minus the steroids). I had followed the signs along the sidewalk that pointed to the beach, but had, somehow, become lost along the way…VERY lost. My sister was behind me asking me to stop; more like pleading for me to ask for directions. However, I continued on; determined to find my way to the beach without asking for help.
Half an hour later, and, as we could come to find out, twelve miles in the wrong direction, I finally stopped at the guard station to an apartment complex to ask for directions. I unceremoniously dumped the bike on the sidewalk and handed the last of our water to my sister before approaching the security guard for directions. I, typically, am able to create a good rapport with elderly people—this man, however, was NOT having it. Before I was able to ask for directions, he barked, “Get that bike off my sidewalk; people walk there.” I went back to move the bike to the grass, then returned to his station.
“Hello…” I looked at his name tag hoping that adding his name to the question would make him nicer, “Albert. My sister and I were looking for the beach when we got really lost, and we…”

“You’re way off girls. Not even close. Just follow those signs back to where you came from” he said as if my mere presence was inconveniencing him; as if he meant to say “Be gone peasants.”
“Sir, I would really just like to rest for a moment. We came all the way from the stables. I would just like to stay here until my cousin can come pick us up.” The old man was unmoved by my statement, but allowed us to stay until my cousin arrived with a pick-up truck to collect me, my sister, and our bikes.
So, why tell a story like this? Because, as I move along in recovery, I recognize how events such as this one mirror my own journey in recovery. Hear me out on this one…
When I was an 8-year-old girl constantly being bullied for my weight, my poverty, my brains, my clothes, and just about anything else kids would find to pick on, food became an escape; somewhere I could go that the pain wouldn’t follow me. I ate to numb, to shove down emotions, to find friendship, to search for love and acceptance…and I ate and I ate and I ate. For, roughly, the next ten years, I continued turning to food to “cope”. I continued on that path, just as I had continued down the bike path, in the wrong direction. What I had originally turned to to alleviate my pain, had only clouded my path; causing me to become lost in an eating disorder. Instead of helping myself, all the eating was only masking and exacerbating the pain. And yet, I continued down that wrong path, insisting to myself that I knew where I was going and what I was doing.

When I entered my first year of college, I was convinced that the only way to help myself was, again, through food…so I began restricting as a means to reach the “right path”. The restricting, again, only served to get me more lost and continue to distance me from the life I desired. However, people began to give me positive attention. I was lauded for my “weight loss”, my “control”, my “dedication”, my “discipline”, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that described my eating disorder, but not Rhea. I thought, though, that maybe these people were on to something; that maybe my eating disorder would be a ticket back to the right path that would get me to where I wanted to be. So I kept restricting. It was then that I realized I had no clue as to what my “right path” was. However, my eating disorder convinced me that my “right path” was towards sickness…and so I followed it miles out of my way; away from my dreams, friends, family, ambitions, happiness, and, most of all, away from health.

After three years of restricting, I got bored with my eating disorder, and felt I was no closer towards finding the right path. Naturally, I returned back to food. “This time will be different,” I told myself, “This time I will be able to find my way out of the muck and onto the right path.” Thus began purging, over-exercise, self-harming, and laxative abuse; as well as seeing a “counselor” who refused to admit I have an eating disorder. I feel this mirrors the point where I asked the old man for directions; it was merely a holding area. I definitely wasn’t going towards recovery or the right path towards health, but I didn’t have any clear signs on how to get there either.

After working with Lindner, my current (amazing) therapist, Thom Rutledge, and doing lots of HARD work, I have a clearer idea of the right path. My “right path” includes: teaching, writing, photography, working for an eating disorder treatment center, treating myself well, and leading a mentally healthier life. It does not include my eating disorder. I no longer self-harm or use laxatives. I am eating more and have drastically reduced the frequency of my purging. Asking for help, in both of these experiences, was the wisest and healthiest thing I could have done. Does that mean it was easy? Hell no! Asking for help is one of the hardest things (aside from recovery itself) that I have ever done. At the same time, asking for help is, singlehandedly, the best thing I have ever done in my recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it may just end up saving your life…I know it did for me.

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

 

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”

 

When it is National Bullying Awareness Month… October 22, 2013

            In recognition of National Bullying Prevention month (October, here in the states), I would like to share some information on bullying that I gained by attending an “Evening with the Experts” presentation held by the Lindner Center of Hope (LCOH). The LCOH is “is a nonprofit, mental health center staffed by a diverse team, united in the philosophy that by working together, we can best offer hope for people living with mental illness. The patient and family are at the center of our treatment, education and research. Lindner Center of HOPE provides patient-centered, scientifically-advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of: Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Addictive Disorders, and Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorders” (as taken from their mission statement).

 

            A study performed by the Bully Project discovered that EVERY day approximately 160,000 students skip school for fear of encountering their bully; that’s 21% of the child population in the United States. However, many well-meaning adults do not understand the various forms bullying can take in today’s society.

 

            Another study, performed by the Youth Voice Project, stated many reasons for which students were bullied: 55% were bullied because of their looks, 37% were bullied due to their body shape, 16% were bullied for their race, 14% were targeted due to his or her sexual orientation, 13% were bullied because of their family’s income, 12% were targeted due to religion and 8% were bullied due to a real or perceived disability.

 

            As presented by Dr. Tracy Cummings, staff psychiatrist at the LCOH, there are five distinct types of bullying:

 

1)      Verbal- takes the form of: name calling, demeaning nicknames, teasing, taunting, sexual comments, hate speech, mocking, note writing/texting, and prank phone calls. Targets of bullying often internalize these verbal messages from bullying and come to believe them as truth.

2)      Physical- takes the form of: pinching, hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, spitting, posturing (intimidation), taking/breaking possessions, sexual intimidation and intruding upon personal space. Fortunately, if there is a fortunately in this situation, physical bullying can very easily travel through the legal system as assault.

3)      Social/Relational- takes the form of: exclusion of self/others, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing someone in public, whispering about others, and imitating. Rather than being an assault on the body—as with physical bullying—social bullying is an assault on a target’s character and is, therefore, harder to see outwardly.

4)      Extortion- is the use of force or threats to get something from the target; either a physical object, an action (such as doing homework or stealing for the bully) or to make any other gain by the bully.

5)      Cyberbullying- takes the form of: email, texts, instant messages, cell phones, chat room, online journals/blogs, websites, digital photos and social media. These forms of bullying can either be attacks on a certain target or exclusion of a target. A study from the CyberbullyingResearchCenter shows that 50% of school-age children have experienced some form of cyberbullying; with 10-20% of those students experiencing the bullying on a regular basis.

 

Dr. Cummings also presented warning signs to look for in students (and even adults) who you may suspect to be the target of bullying:

            Obvious signs of bullying

                        1) physical marks on the target of bullying such as scratches, bruises or other indications of violence

                        2) the target of bullying is missing items

                        3) the target of bullying discloses the bullying (this happens VERY rarely)

            Subtle signs of bullying

                          1)      the target of bullying asks questions about bullying or asks for advice on how to handle situations with bullies

                          2)      the target has somatic complaints (physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or other pains that have no obvious                                            medical cause are often brought on by the stress and emotional toll put on the target by the bully)

                          3)      the target makes self-degrading comments—often the same ones they hear about themselves from the bully/bullies

                          4)      the target refuses to attend school

 

The effects, according to Dr. Cummings, of bullying include the following:

            -fear

            -depression

            -anxiety

            -school refusal

            -maladaptive social interactions

            -compromised educational/job opportunities

            -dysfunctional relationships (targets will not allow positive relationships to form for fear it may develop into bullying)

            -substance abuse/dependency

            -criminality

            -change in sleeping patters (either too much or too little)

            -variance in eating patters (either too much or too little)

            -death (homicide and/or suicide)

 

 

Dr. Cummings also offered many strategies for appropriate interventions.

 

            How to intervene as an adult:

            1)      Listen

            2)      Assess safety

            3)      Demand action 

                   a. Review the school’s bullying policy, bring up concerns with the principal, take legal action if necessary

                   b. Document all instances of bullying

            4)      Stay (or get) involved in ending the bullying

            5)      Build a social network to end the bullying and support the target’s wellbeing

            6)      Maintain a follow-up to ensure the bullying is ending

 

              How to intervene as a child:

              1)      Be empowered- leave a potentially dangerous situation, befriend the target, do not join the bullying, report bullying to an adult

              2)      Act safely

              3)      Act positively

 How to empower targets of bullying: 

             1) let them know you are listening

              2) let them know they do not deserve to be treated the way the bully treats them

              3) Let them know they have the right to leave the situation

              4) Let them know that you are there for support and encouragement 

 

On a personal note, as a target of bullying myself, I know the damaging effects it can have both in the moment the bullying takes places and continuing on into the target’s adult life. These experiences with bullying are one of the many reasons why I started this blog. 

 

Below are some links not noted above that are very valuable toward ending bullying:

1) stopbullying.gov

2) dosomething.org has a “Bully Text” campaign on their website which offers information and an informative, text-based simulation

3) Embrace Civility, a program offered for parents and schools

4) Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center

 

Psalm 94:16-19

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

 

 

Why Jennifer Livingston Rocks October 9, 2012

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October. The name alone conjures thoughts of children running around, frantically trying to gather as much candy as they can in two short twilight hours while wearing costumes over winter coats (if you live in Ohio)…or perhaps apple cider…or the movie “Hocus Pocus”. Whatever your initial thought, when asked about October holidays, your first thought will most likely be Halloween. I, however, am proposing you recognize another October observance—National Anti-bullying Month. Bullying can be defined as any “behavior [which] hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose. It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation. The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.” (http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp). I’m not going to write about how I was bullied my entire life or give you the numerous sob stories that I endured during my years in public school. No, what I am going to do is show you a recent example of how one woman countered a bully and started a conversation on bullying in America—one that includes everyone no matter their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, socio-economic status, etc. By simply standing up for herself, Jennifer Livingston spread the message that bullying will not be tolerated or excused.(Jennifer’s stance on bullying can be seen here)

A Wisconsin news anchor named Jennifer Livingston  received letters from the public all the time, but this letter was unlike any letter she ever received before. This letter personally attacked her appearance; informing her that she is obese and that that obesity was a “habit” that is harmful to continue. It went on to criticize her for being overweight in such a public profession; stating that her weight does not provide a beneficial role model for today’s youth—especially young girls. Jennifer took to the air to inform people that this man’s behavior is, indeed, bullying and that that behavior is unacceptable in today’s (or any other day’s) society. According to the definition above, this ignorant man’s behavior was done with deliberation; with the malicious intent to harm. One would be inclined to believe that with adulthood comes the absence of bullies. However, in today’s culture bullying doesn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation and are handed your high school diploma. It persists well into adulthood, and, unfortunately, follows some people their entire life. I want to change this. I realize I am only one, but having suffered mercilessly at the hands of bullies, that, at age 24 have not left me, I realize that this issue needs to be addressed. When people like Jennifer use their public position to show bullies that their behavior is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated, the bullies lose some of their power. By refusing to be a victim and allowing this man to tear her down emotionally, Jennifer took a stand against bullying. I implore you to do the same. There are many ways to stand up to bullying. You could call out bullies on their behavior, come to the aid of a target, speak out against the bullying behaviors, refuse to allow yourself to become a “victim”, teach your children how to be kind people and any variety of other ways you can think of to eliminate bullying behaviors.  The culture of bullying needs to end, and you can be a part of that movement. All it takes is one thought, one action, one change in behavior to start a movement that sends a clear message to bullies that their behavior is unwanted, unappreciated and inhumane. Please help me, and Jennifer, and countless others create world in which bullies do not have to power to victimize others.