RheasOfHope

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

When you take an unintended break from writing October 3, 2016

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Hello, long time so see…or write…or post…or anything. I have always had this little blog in the back of my mind, and kept finding reason after reason (read: excuses) not to write. Perhaps my biggest distraction from writing is this little bundle of awesome.

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Leah Jane was born at 3:21 PM on September 11, 2015.                                 This is the photo I took of her celebrating her first birthday.

 

My little sister gave this world the smartest, funniest, cutest, and biggest troublemaking baby last September, and I’ve spent all my time in awe of this astounding little human. I want Leah Jane to know she can be herself. As part of my homework for the Body Project training (post forthcoming), wrote her a letter that I would like to share here–because it is my blog and I can do what I want:

 

Dear Leah,

Let me start off by saying this: YOU ARE WORTHY. People will attempt to convince you that you will not be worthy until you are a certain weight, until you wear designer clothing, until you can apply the perfect cat eye eyeliner, until you date the quarterback, until you get a 4.0…until, until, until. Worthiness does not have a prerequisite; though the world will do everything in its power in an endeavor to convince you otherwise. You must know, Leah, that the world is wrong.Worthiness is innate–not something you have to jostle and surrender yourself to obtain.

When the world seeks to mold you to fit their idea of worthiness–their narrow and impossible view of perfection–you sacrifice all the amazing  attributes that make you unique and loved. We do not gain worthiness by conforming to the ways of others–we lose it. Each time we strive to achieve the trivial and fleeting definition of worthiness, we give up a piece of what makes us extraordinary. Walt Disney once wrote, “The more you are like yourself–the less you are like anyone else–which makes you unique. The problem with most people is that they spend their lives trying to emulate others and so we have lots of copies but few originals.” My wish for you is to be unapologetically Leah. You will gain worthiness each time you stand up for who you really are, each time you’re your authentic self in the face of adversity, and each time you hold true to your values.

You may wonder, dear heart, what qualifies me to write this. After all, what would your aunt know about the worthiness inherent in being yourself? I have also face the pressures to conform to society’s narrow definition of worthy and beauty, and subsequently sacrificed many aspects of my life to achieve it. I want more for you, Leah. I want you to believe your worth, and to live your life in such a way that your genuine self radiates to all you meet. Know that I am here for you always, and will support you continually.

I love you to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between,

Auntie Rhea

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Another photo I took of my sweet girl for her birthday photoshoot

 

Romans 12:1-21

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

 

When you talk to a 5 year old March 30, 2015

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“Whatcha playing Miss Rachel?”

I look up from the screen of my phone at the wild mop of blonde hair covering her blue eyes, “Just a text from mommy, that’s all.”

“Oh. OK” she sings and bounds off to play with her my little ponies.

I look back down at the screen and reread the text from Abby’s mother, “Abby has made two comments lately about being ugly or not liking her face. She had told me she doesn’t like her face and then a few nights later that she was ugly. I can’t figure it out.”

Abby is FIVE. She reads and writes on a first grade level despite the fact she is only in pre-school. She loves to take care of her two year old brother. She sings, dances, and enjoys putting on shows. She is funny and sensitive and loves Disney princesses. And, apparently, at the age of five, has decided she is ugly.

My heart dropped after reading her mother’s text. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday; hating myself, thinking I was ugly, feeling like I did not fit in, wanting to be like everyone else, knowing I was fat…all of that and more, I felt all those things at Abby’s age. And there is no way in hell I was going to let this little girl feel the same way!

I remembered Abby’s mom had made a book with the photos I had taken at Abby’s 5th birthday party, and retrieved it from the shelf. I wanted Abby to hear what I would have wanted to hear at her age. Abby and I sat down on the couch to read the book together. Then I found the photo I had been looking for; Abby’s friend Lee. Lee was recently adopted from China at age 5. Lee is amazingly smart; learning English in only a few months. He loves to tell stories, and is very fond of dancing. Lee also happens to only have half of a left arm and a deformed hand on his right. I discussed with Abby what she likes about Lee and what fun things she does with him. Never once did she mention his physical differences. I asked her if Lee being different mattered to her. Abby said that Lee would be her friend no matter how he looked. We talked about how God made Lee special as we continued looking through the book. On the next page was a photo of Abby talking with Queen Elsa from Frozen (well, an impersonator Elsa).

“What do you like about this girl, Abby?” I asked as I pointed to a picture of her.

“That’s just me, silly”

“Seriously, Abby, what do you like about this girl?”

Abby thought for a few minutes before hesitantly responding, “I am smart. And I am funny. And I’m a good singer.”

“Anything else?”

“I’m fun to play with, and I’m good at helping mommy with Ross (her younger brother)” she said with more confidence.

“And do you know what I like about you Abby,” I asked. Abby shook her head no. “I like how nice you are, how much you love others, your smile, the way you laugh when Ross chases the cat. I like you for you, Abby. I like you because God made you Abby and there is no one else like you.”

Abby smiled and looked up from the book, “Wanna try on princess dresses Miss Rachel?”

“Yes Abby, yes I do” I responded.

On her way up the stairs Abby turned around, “I love you Miss Rachel. You have a big heart.”

“I love you too Abby bug. You are smart and beautiful and loving. I am lucky to be your babysitter.”

That day Abby taught me to take a moment to love myself. She taught me how important it is to remember the amazing qualities God gave each of us. She taught me to view the world through a lens of love instead of hate, and to let the light within me shine. This week I am writing down two positive self-talk moments a day to remind myself of the goodness and grace that exists in me. Each time I reread one of these moments, I am able to remind myself that, just like Abby, I am awesome. I encourage you to write down your positive self-talk and then revisit it often. Never forget that you are an amazing person!

Abby

Princess Abby with the Elsa decoration from her party.

Isaiah 64:8

Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

 

When you destroy a relationship February 16, 2015

This Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to take an untraditional look at love by ending a relationship that I had had for many years. Recovery is teaching me that I have to love myself more than I want to stay in my disorder. With that in mind, I decided that my love for myself and my recovery, was more important than this other relationship. However, this relationship was not with a boyfriend, a family member, a friend or any other person. This relationship was with my scale.

For at least the past eight years, scales have been a huge part of my life; the eating disorder itself for eighteen. I remember the little white scale with the dial my roommate had in college, and how she used to hide it from me so I wouldn’t use it. That’s the thing about people who aren’t thinking clearly because they’re consumed with an eating disorder, no matter where you hide a scale, we can sniff it out like a bloodhound. Whenever she would notice that I had found it, she would hide it again. However, again, little Miss “no shame because I can’t even think about how wrong it is to go through people’s personal property because all I can think about is pleasing my eating disorder” would search through her things until I found the beloved scale.

When I moved out on my own after college, one of my first purchases was a black bathroom scale. I set it in a place of honor next to my closet door in my bedroom. Every morning the blinking digital readout of my weight would determine what I wore that day, if I was allowed eat, how many times I would have to purge, if I would be punished for my weight, how much I would work out, how many laxatives I would have to take, where I could go, if I had to self-harm, who I could talk to…

Now that I have stopped weighing myself on a daily basis, my black scale was sent to the inner recesses of my closet for two and a half years; I was not ready to give it up completely for fear that I may need it some day. Today, I only get weighed at my doctor’s office. I do not allow them to tell me the number, I get on the scale backwards with my eyes closed, and have them black out my weight and BMI on the printout they give each patient after his or her visit. I am not yet ready to see the number.

To say that the relationships I have had with scales have been the longest-lasting and most impactful (albeit deadly) relationships I have ever had, would be an understatement.

This Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to end all of that. The scale had to go.

I dug the scale out of my closet; moving aside old schoolwork, discarded bags, and shoes I forgot I owned. There, on my bedroom floor, I grabbed a silver sharpie and wrote a farewell decree on the scale. Then I grabbed my keys and moved the scale outside.

My scale reading

My scale reading the farewell decree.

Thinking it would impart the most damage, I placed my scale under the tire of my car, hopped inside and started the engine. I left the door of the car open, however, in hope that I could hear the satisfying crunch of the scale under the weight of Little Red.

Say your prayers scale

Say your prayers scale

Even after running over it thirty times, the scale was undamaged. I knew this called for reinforcements.

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I wonder how the scale reacted when all 3,400 pounds of my car ran it over?

I picked up the scale, threw it on the ground next to my dad’s tool bench, and got out the necessary tools. Not wanting to risk flying scale debris in my eye or scale shrapnel in my skin, I used a screwdriver to open the scale. Once opened, I was shocked. A little quarter-sized battery and some wires were what I was letting control my life. Maybe three dollars worth of supplies made my life a living hell for all those years. I ripped out the wires and metal pieces like a madwoman.

Blurry, but you get the idea

Blurry, but you get the idea

With all the pieces that make the scale function removed, I bagged up the remains and gave the scale a less than honorable burial.

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I hope you enjoy hell, scale

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My scale’s final resting place. It will be so satisfying when the garbage man comes to remove it from my life forever on Thursday!

I could not be happier about my decision to destroy my scale and take back my life. Not a single second has gone by that I don’t applaud myself for destroying this piece of plastic that controlled me for so long. This Valentine’s Day I chose to love myself by ending a deadly relationship forever. I cannot think of a more appropriate use for this day than to celebrate my life, my recovery and myself. Remember, you are worthy of love, life, happiness and recovery!

Ephesians 2:4-5

But because of his great love for us,God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

When you play with magnetic poetry July 8, 2014

As the four kids I nanny were sitting at the kitchen bar eating their lunch, I absent-mindedly moved their magnetic poetry words around their refrigerator door; as I had done countless times before. The words had all come from a magnet from the adoption agency that facilitated their second youngest child’s adoption, so it had words that related to adoption. Between trips to refill milk cups, grab napkins, pushing the dog out of the kitchen, and handing out second helpings, I would move another word into the design. Here is my final product:

my "poem"

my “poem”

I have been struggling with my ed a little as of late, so I started with the phrase “embrace beautiful”; hoping that seeing it on the refrigerator would remind me to embrace my beauty. And I do not mean that in a vain sense. I feel embracing my beauty is more than my appearance; beauty is more than how I look. Beauty can be found in my attitude, how I allow others to treat me, my brain, how I treat others, what I say, how I act, and how I choose to see the world.  But, more so than embracing my beauty, I want to embrace the beauty around me; the dew on my car when I leave for work in the morning, the way the youngest child I nanny curls up in my lap and calls herself “Rachel’s girl”, the way the bats fly out of my neighbor’s trees at night, and so much more. Embracing beauty reminds me to be in the moment, to breathe and be present. We spend so much time going through the motions of life, that I truly do not think we stop to embrace the beauty in and around us as often as we should. It sounds cliché  to say to “stop and smell the roses”, but I think that is something we all need more practice with. 

 

The next words I chose to put into my word collage were love and hope. Hope has always been a favorite word of mine; I have it tattooed in Cherokee on my wrist. I think it was Brené Brown who said that hope is not a passive word, but an active one. We cannot sit around all day just waiting and hoping for things to happen, to get better, to work out, etc. We must put that hope into action; making a plan to accomplish what we hope for. We can have all the hope in the world for something, but until we set out to find it, nothing will ever happen. I chose the word love for multiple reasons. First being, I must remember to love others. I often get to caught up in caring for others and making sure their every need is met, I often forget to show the love that makes me do those things for them. They may know I love them, through the actions I do for them, but I seriously doubt they have ever heard an “I love you” from me. Second, and perhaps most importantly, I chose love to remember to love myself. Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” This is probably one of the most accurate statements about love that I have ever heard. A huge part of recovery, for me, has been learning how to love myself and everything that comes with me. 

 

Support became my next word when I realized how huge of a role support has played in my recovery. No one can recover without support. For me, mentoring, therapy and understanding friends have served a key role in my support team. On days when I did not feel like staying on the path to recovery, I would say, “I’m doing recovery for so and so today, until I want it again for myself.” Eventually, “I’m recovering for so and so,” was replaced with, “I’m recovering for me.” Without support from others, there is no way I would be as far along in recovery as I am today. Asking for support takes a lot of strength and courage, but it is 100% worth it.

 

And speaking of worth, my next word in the collage was worth. All too often, my eating disorder convinced me to engage in thoughts and behaviors by telling me I had no worth…that I could never have worth. Ed persuaded me to believe that I could never be worthy because I was not thin enough, smart enough, nice enough, giving enough, tall enough, pretty enough, kind enough; to Ed I was never enough and could never gain worth. She lead me on a path of self-destruction in which she promised the elusive “worth” I wanted so desperately. She claimed I could only gain worth if I followed her every whim and direction; I wanted worthiness so much that I fell for that lie. The truth is, we are all worthy…just the way we are. We are worthy of love, life, good things, beauty, happiness, and everything else we desire. The myth of not being “enough” of something was designed by Ed to steal our worthiness. Don’t let her have it.

 

Wish was chosen for much the same reason as hope. I wish, one day, to be rid of this disease and for others to be free from Ed’s chains as well. Wish, however, is also an active–not passive–word. We can wish upon every star, make a wish at every 11:11, and snap all the wishbones we can find. However, until we put that wish into action using goal-setting, it will remain merely a wish. And while it is good to have wishes, it is also good to have those wishes come true. 

 

The next word moved into my collage was laugh. Laughter, I believe is an important part of recovery…of life.  I realized there is something very therapeutic about laughing. There is no law that states recovery must be this solemn undertaking in which no fun or laughter shall ever take place. In fact, I think not having laughter in our lives only keeps us stuck in Ed’s grasp. While I understand the need to put in hard work and be serious when setting/accomplishing goals, I am also aware of the need to let loose and be silly sometimes.

 

I then noticed the word son…it had been turned upside down by one of the kids. However, when the word son is turned upside down, it reads NOS–as in my diagnosis. I chose to put that on the bottom to show that my Ed has no place in my life; it is under everything else and will get buried by all the recovery-oriented choices I am putting into action.

 

Finally, I chose to put the words I belong at the top of my collage.  For a long time I have failed to believe that I am deserving of recovery (or even a diagnosis). By putting these words at the top of my word collage, I am ready to acknowledge that I do belong in this crazy place we call life; I am worthy, I can have hope, I can love, I can wish, I can laugh, I can ask for support, and I can embrace beauty. I belong, and so do you. 

 

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.