RheasOfHope

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

When you (don’t) climb a volcano August 3, 2017

“Stick, lady? It is much more better for volcano.” I take a deep breath and cautiously step onto the centuries-old cobblestone street at the base of Volcán Pacaya in Antigua, Guatemala; looking into the eyes of about fifteen children, each of them cradling a bundle of walking sticks they sell to support their families. Behind the children stand ten or so teenage boys and young men leading about a half dozen haggard looking horses. Behind them are a patchwork of abuelitas, roosters, toddlers, dogs, tourists, and trail guides.

“No, gracias,” I mutter sheepishly, and pass the children who are simply attempting to make a living. Despite the overcast skies, I’m already sweating profusely in the eighty-five degree heat and high humidity.

“You ride horse, lady? Es sólo cien quetzales,” shouts a boy of about fourteen sitting atop a horse roughly the same age. A well-worn cowboy sits atop his head and he sports threadbare Batman t-shirt. I nod my head no, and look away. I hate saying no. “Horse is better, lady. Maybe later? Mi nombre es Luis, y este es Jonathan,” he says tousling the knotted mane of his aging horse.

I turn to follow the others in my group, and receive a face-full of horse tail as Jonathan decides to swat a fly. “I probably deserved that,” I think. The welcome party follows my small group of five as we climb the hill to purchase tickets to enter the national park that houses Volcán Paycaya. They wait as we sign our life away on the waivers, and they follow us as we proceed up the volcano. My group consistes of a motley assemblage of people: me, two men in their late fifties, and a nine-year-old girl. Having been with these people all week, I’d formed a kinship with one of the older men, Francis, and Sophia, the little girl. I knew they would be supportive companions on the hike up the volcano.

DSC_0334

The welcome center at the volcano

The trail of black, cooled lava is steep and narrow—too narrow for the amount of people it is currently supporting. The rocks are sharp and slippery. The mosquitoes are bloodthirsty. The welcome party—children, teens, and horses–continues to follow us. Our native trail guide, Gabriel, stops every few feet to explain to us varying facts about the volcano and the forest around it. I need the rests. My breath is rapid, and I remember my inhaler is in Ohio. I’m sweating from areas of my body I didn’t know sweated. I feel guilty for asking for more rests when others are not. I’m falling behind in my group—back by about ten feet—and only about a foot in front of the welcome party. I feel boxed it, and my anxiety is rising.

“You want horse,” questions Luis, “It is much more easy riding horse.”

“No gracias. I can do this,” I reply sweetly. Meanwhile, my anxiety is now running full-speed ahead, and the voice of my eating disorder is reminding me that I can’t climb this volcano due to being overweight. My anxiety tells me that I’ll never make it up the volcano, and if I—by some miracle I do make it—it will be at the expense of the enjoyment of all the others because I am invariably flawed. My eating disorder tells me the hike would be easier if I were thinner—after all two fifty-year-old men and a little girl don’t appear to be struggling. It is also telling me that I can’t rent a horse because it would painful for the horse to labor me up a volcano–even if I did have the fourteen dollars it would have cost to rent the horse. My perfectionism is telling me to do what will please everyone so that they may enjoy this hike, but what would please everyone?

“Maybe later?” replies Luis and we continue up the steep trail.

I feel pressure from my group and my guide to move faster. I feel pressure from the kids and teenagers to rent a horse—and move faster. My already rapidly-beating heart increases, and my already labored breathing becomes harder. It feels as if it is getting hotter. I’m near tears.

“Lo siento. Yo soy muy gorda. Yo no puedo hacerlo,” I say through tears. I turn to Francis, and tell him—through sobs–that I am unable to continue.

“Jonathan is much more better for volcano,” says Luis from behind me. That’s it. I tell Francis to take photos for me when he gets to the top—forgetting he left his phone at the hotel—and trudge back down the volcano. I don’t turn around to see the reactions of the others—I can’t face them.

I cry openly on the way back down the volcano by myself—tears uniting with sweat as it rolls down my face. I pass two more children attempting to sell me sticks. However, when they see my tears, they think better of asking the strange gringa to buy a stick. I got to the bottom of the volcano, sat down my backpack, and sit on the black soot. My perfectionism yells that I ruined the climb for my group, and that I am going to have to admit to my friends and family that I failed the climb.  My eating disorder yells (because, yes, in recovery the voice still creeps in) that I’m a big, fat failure who would’ve been able to climb had I not been carrying the extra weight—and offers behaviors as “solutions” to change those feelings. My depression reminds me that I’m not worthy of good things, and do not deserve to reach the top of the volcano. I sit as a spectator while my brain beats me up at the bottom of the volcano.

I wallow in my sorrow for awhile, and remember a story the lovely Jenni Schaefer tells about her attempts at skydiving in New Zealand. Not completely comparable, but stick with me. She failed her first attempt at jumping, but was able to jump on her second attempt after defying the voices of negativity. I wanted to defy them too, dammit! So I gather my backpack, dust off my bottom, and continue back up the volcano. It is slow going, and I pass the kids selling sticks again. I get to the spot where I turned around before. I can’t do it. I can’t go any further. My body is exhausted, my brain is drained, and my emotions are depleted.   I make the decision to go back down the volcano.

Again my perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and eating disorder offer their viewpoint on the situation. I do my best to ignore them as I engage the stick selling children in conversation—apparently scary white ladies are less scary when they’re not crying on the side of a volcano. They made fun of my Spanish and I made fun of my Spanish; I think we’re best friends now. I leave the kids, and walk to the ticket counter welcome area. While my group climbs the volcano, I sit at a picnic table in the welcome area and journal. I write about the experience, what my brain was saying, and why I’m not a miserable failure.

IMG_6531

My self-care and writing buddy

A small mutt of a dog—perhaps lab, retriever, random combination—sits near me nursing her one surviving pup. I’d been watching them play that morning, and hoped I’d be able to see them later, as I’m a sucker for cute animals. When she sees me at the table, the dog comes to investigate. I give her a head rub—something I was explicitly told not to do while in Guatemala. She curls up at my feet while I go back to writing. She looks hungry, so I dig in my backpack for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich leftover from the day before (I didn’t eat the sandwich because I was carsick in the coaster van, not because of an eating disorder). As I feed the dog my sandwich—and one of my Clif bars—I come to the realization that sometimes we aren’t ready for hard things, and that’s ok. Self-care should always come first.

As much as I had been looking forward to climbing the volcano all week, as much as I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could climb the volcano, as much as I wanted to say I was able to climb the volcano, and as much as I wanted to avoid the shame that came with not climbing the volcano…I was not ready to do the hard thing. Am I disappointed? Yes, I would have loved to climb the volcano. Did I make the choice that was best for my body and my mind? Yes. Will I climb that volcano someday? You betcha!

What I needed that Sunday morning in Antigua was self-care. I needed time to clear my head, reflect on my values, and sit with a feral dog. Ok, I probably didn’t need the dog and the 2,000 miles in travel. However, I did learn that self-care is more important than achieving hard things, self-care is more important than a perceived failure, self-care is more important than shame and fear, self-care is more important than the belief that you’re letting down others, self-care is more important than checking an item off your “bucket list,” and self-care is more important than doing hard things. We can and should do hard things—don’t get me wrong—doing hard things helps us to grow and develop in authentic ways; AND sometimes we are not yet ready to do them.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them—the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life have been the most rewarding (RECOVERY, going to college, writing, taking care of Leah, etc). Sometimes, though, we just need to slow down and take care of ourselves. What are you doing to promote your own self-care?

Sonya and Rachel

My friend Sonya (from this post) and I in Guatemala. Experiencing a beautiful country with this beautiful soul–who I credit with providing me the wake up call to save my life–was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. 

 

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Advertisements
 

When you have a security blanket January 29, 2017

 

img_5780

The Eager Beavers: I’m in the first row, fourth from the left in all pink and saddle shoes

I’m twenty-nine years old, and I still sleep with my baby blanket. My mother bought it for me when I was four–for my first day of the Eager Beavers preschool class at West Chester Church of the Nazarene. I had high anxiety about being away from my in-home daycare, and moving to a “big girl school.” My mother thought that having this blanket would remind me of home while I was at school, but I mainly think she purchased it so she wouldn’t have to deal with my pre-K anxiety. She then emblazoned my name on the back with puffy paint, and I’ve held on to it ever since. It’s not like I took it to college with me or take it on work trips, but I take comfort I knowing that it is in my bed. Having that object from my past grounds me in some way, and it’s reassuring that no matter where my life goes, the blanket will remain the same. Perhaps my eating disorder has functioned in the same way?

img_3778

Who wouldn’t love a blanket with a teddy bear being carried away by balloons?

img_3780

faded, but my puffy paint name is still there 

My eating disorder developed around the end of second grade. After relentless bullying all day at school, I would come home seeking refuge in copious amounts of food—sneaking food out of pantries (hiding the evidence of my consumption by shoving wrappers in the couch, under my bed, or slipping them between the cracks in our wooden deck), eating dinner leftovers all night long, and even eating out of the trash if I couldn’t find anything. I always knew that no matter how bad things had gotten at school that day, I could console myself that evening with food. Binging was my security blanket when the other kids teased me, when they passed notes of cows labeled “Rachel,” when they drew on my clothes on the bus, when they prank called my house during slumber parties…binging was always there to comfort me. This binging continued for the next ten years—searching for security, safety, and reassurance in food.

In college, repulsed by my appearance and in an effort to reinvent myself in a new setting, I sought security in food…or rather a lack of food. I quickly spiraled into restriction, and have never binged again. However, after about a year and a half of restriction, it no longer provided that soothing sensation I felt I needed. My malnourished brain—remembering the feelings of refuge

I received from my blanket, binging, and restricting—decided the only logical answer was to continue to manipulate food through further restriction in addition to compulsive exercise. I temporarily found the comfort and safety I sought. Restriction and over-exercise felt like my teddy bear blanket wrapped around my shoulders—protecting me from the world and comforting me through life. Yet the feeling never lasted. I would engage in behaviors, feel safe for awhile, and then sense the need to engage again to regain the feeling of safety—it was an endless cycle of fear, behaviors, safety, fear, behaviors, safety.

Though I don’t remember the exact date, I do remember that in September of 2009, I thought I could find comfort via continued food manipulation in the form of purging; in addition to my already severe restriction and over-exercise. I could never find, however, the feeling I was seeking—my behaviors were never enough for my eating disorder to be satisfied. Yet I continued to manipulate food in search of this comfort that had eluded me since early elementary school.  No matter what happened in my life, my eating disorder’s siren lure reminded me that I could turn to restricting or purging to get me closer towards the peace I desired within me.

My eating disorder has been with me for the last twenty-ish years–making false claims of serenity and security—and unlike my baby blanket, the safety is promised came at a cost to me. In early recovery, my eating disorder convinced me that if recovery felt too risky, I could restrict or purge to remind myself that the security provided by the eating disorder was still nearby. Restricting and purging felt like my security blanket—if the job of a security blanket is to slowly kill you. Know that eating disorders are not security blankets, they’re not Band-Aids, and they don’t “fix” the parts of life that are not pleasing to you. True security comes from recovery—being able to handle life’s unpleasant moments healthfully and effectively in order to produce a more desired outcome. This is not an easy task, however. Retreating back to the perceived safety of the eating disorder often seems like the only thing I knew how to do. The more practice I had with recovery, and the more skills I gained made this process easier. Know that you do not need an eating disorder to feel secure and loved for who you are. My one year of recovery has provided me with more security, serenity, comfort, and reassurance than either 20 years of an eating disorder or a crummy blanket could ever offer.

 

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

 

 

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 talk to a 5 year old March 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 8:57 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

“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.

car

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.

intothebin

I hope you enjoy hell, scale

scalecoffin

WhereItBelongs

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 find yourself in a ditch February 3, 2015

I waited helplessly as 6,500 pounds of plastic and steel spun around me; waiting for the sudden stop of the crash, waiting for the sickening sound of the truck as it makes that stop, waiting for the punishment that I knew was coming. But how did I get here?

Just hanging out in the ditch

Just hanging out in the ditch

The morning started out as any other morning—I was running late for work because I had decided petting my cat was more important than taking a shower or putting on clothes. By the time I got out to my car, I was already fifteen minutes late…and then I found out that the freezing rain from the previous night has iced my doors shut and completely entombed my car. Crap. So I slid back into the house to grab the keys to my mother’s Tahoe (which had spent the evening tucked within the safety of our garage).

Despite the fact that I have been driving for twelve years in Ohio winters, I decided that getting to work on time was a priority, and did an unreasonable speed of 35 miles per hour down the road. That’s when the truck and the road had a slight disagreement with one another. A patch of black ice completely derailed my morning.

I did not even see the ice, but I know I hit it. The Tahoe immediately fishtailed towards a line of trees, big trees. In an effort of self-preservation, not to mention Tahoe preservation, I overcorrected by spinning the wheel to the right. The truck lurched to the right quickly, but just as quickly started to rotate in a circle. Time began to slow down, and my brain felt like it completely shut off while the waiting time began. I am not entirely sure what happened next other than that the truck entered the ditch rear-end first with the front tire still on the road.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

This incredibly accurate Microsoft Paint rendition of my accident.

As soon as I heard the crunch of the car in the ditch, a primal scream came from somewhere within me. I have never, in 27 years, heard that sound escape my lungs. I opened the door to try to leave the car. However, because I am five-two and the truck is 6 feet tall and in a ditch, I found myself on my knees in the ditch. I pounded my fists into the embankment. I lost a glove somewhere, but I didn’t care. As the snow seeped through my dress and leggings, I heard the hissing of the tires as they deflated. Hot tears burned my freezing face. My breathing was so shallow and rapid I did not think I could stand up.

A man in a purple suv-like car pulled over to ask how I was doing. I couldn’t find my phone; I had lost it in the crash. Still crying and hyperventilating, I managed to choke out that I needed him to call my dad. The man invited me into his car and talked to my dad when I was unable to get out any words. After the call ended, however, the man had to go. Not wanting to risk further injury by getting back in the car, I grabbed my phone and wallet, and stood in the driveway across the street to call AAA.

While I was on the phone, the old man who lived in the house came out to see what a frantic young woman was doing pacing his driveway in sub-zero temperatures. His golden retriever bounded up to me and made me momentarily happy. The man, Charles, invited me in to sit by his fire. I thawed by the fire with Phoebe’s golden retriever head (she would not let me stop petting her) in my lap waiting, again.

My father came about twenty minutes later. He was livid, to say the least. After he yelled at me, lectured me using curse words still unknown to many in the Western hemisphere, and scolded me for taking the truck in the first place, the tow truck arrived. With the Tahoe gone, my dad had to take me to work. I still had to go about my day as if the accident had not happened.

But why do I tell you this story? Why would I willingly share my inability to drive? It’s not for sympathy or money or whatever. It is because of my recovery. You read that correctly, my recovery.

In the past when things would go wrong, I would feel the need to punish myself through my eating disorder or through self-harm. After my first car accident (in college), I falsely believed my eating disorder was comforting me through the resulting chaos the accident caused. But it isn’t just big events, like car accidents, that my eating disorder falsely lead me to believe I needed punishment for; it could be simple things like forgetting a student’s name, getting an A- on a test, or putting my clothes on in the wrong order…it all ended the same way–my eating disorder.

However, now that I am actively seeking recovery, all of that has changed. I’ll be honest, my first thought upon falling to my knees in the ditch was that I would have to punish myself through restriction or purging. I have learned, though, that I do not deserve to be punished. Eating disordered behaviors only make matters worse in the long run. Restricting or purging would not make the accident go away, they wouldn’t repair the truck, and they wouldn’t make me happy. Eating disordered behaviors would NOT make me feel better; in fact, restricting and purging would make me feel worse, more chaotic, and less in control. Mistakes happen and I do not need to be punished for making one. So, what did I do? I heard my eating disordered thoughts telling me to engage in behaviors, but I picked up my self-esteem and my missing glove out of the ditch, and chose to ignore the them. That is what recovery is all about; choosing recovery over and over again. It may not be easy, but it gets easier each time I practice self-care and recovery-oriented choices. Recovery is always worth it–always.

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

When you see the magic eye December 29, 2014

 

Like every child growing up in the early 90’s, I was obsessed with magic eye photos. I spent hours tucked in my room staring cross-eyed at photos, attempting to see the magic hidden peace sign or flower or whatever. I would get frustrated when I tried to show them to my father; “Look harder!” I would urge when he, inevitably, could not see the magic photo. Somehow I could shift my gaze to an area beyond the photo, allowing me to see the magic photo hidden within the designs.  I prided myself on my ability to see even the most difficult of magic eye photos; there was not a magic eye I could not conquer. I thought that it was so cool that I could see things that others could not while we both looked at the same thing.

 

Magic-eyes

Can you find the hidden magic photo in the fairy godmother’s explosion? hint, it was what the pumpkin became after a little magic was added.

 

Eventually, however, the popularity of the magic eye photos waned, and my skill set of cross-eyed photo viewing was no longer necessary, useful, or popular among my friends. My afternoons of magic eye book reading freed up and I was suddenly left with a lot of time on my hands.

 

My eating disorder is a lot like the magic eye photos…only significantly less cool.

 

The goal of the magic eye photo is to get us to see things that others may not be able to see. The objective is to shift our vision in order to view the magic hidden photo embedded in the repeating designs. ED’s goal is to get us to see things, think things, and do things that others may not (and should not). ED wants us to see, think and do what she wants; she completely shifts our vision to match hers. However, the outcome of shifting our vision from our own viewpoint to ED’s is not the ability to see a cute photo of a monkey holding a balloon. The outcome of shifting to ED’s point of view is sickness, pain, personal hell, and sometimes death. By allowing ED to shift our vision, we are allowing her control of our lives. We are basically handing our control to ED on a silver platter.  But I will let you in on a little secret ED does not want us to know, WE are in charge of our lives. No matter what ED says, remember this: ultimately, we are in charge of our own lives-for better or worse, we are in control. When we are able to shift our views away from ED and back to ourselves, we regain many things: the control we gave to ED, our lives, our health, our happiness and our hope. Each time we acknowledge ED and choose recovery, we practice this shift in vision. It is through this practice of recovery and vision shifting that we are able to take back our lives.

 

However, this shift in vision (from ED’s to our own) is not always easy.  You may have noticed I used the word practice in reference to recovery. Recovery takes practice…a LOT of practice. No recovery is perfect either (so you can omit the phrase “practice makes perfect” from your vocabulary). I have never heard of anyone recovering from their eating disorder in one day or on the first try; it will take practice. Recovery will take hard work and it will take time, but it is possible. It is important to remember to have grace and patience with ourselves through the process. Just as I did not learn to view magic eye photos on the first try, neither did I learn recovery on my first try…or my second…or even my third. However, I have never given up. No matter how long is takes me or how hard the work is, I know that I can never give up.  Eventually I will be able to view recovery as I do magic eye photos, as second nature. I cannot wait for the day when recovery becomes second nature. Recovery is real and I am shifting my vision to get there, and you can too.

 

 

1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight