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.

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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.”

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When you’re inundated with body shame March 31, 2017

no wrong way

Two images stare back at me from my computer. The one on the left portrays a sad, frumpy larger version of the person—so sorrowful you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan in the background. The one on the right displays a happy, half-naked thinner version–who most certainly has an amazing life and personal jet by now. These images typically have many exasperating hashtags, list the number of pounds lost/goal weight, and describe how much they hate the person on the left. I don’t even know this person, and yet I’ve fallen victim to their expertly- curated Facebook life and their thin-ideal proselytism. These images awaken the demon of insecurity that lives deep within us, and stirs the spirit of body-shame.

These before and after transformation photos are meant to sharply juxtapose the fat, unhealthy version of that person with the thin, happy version. These photos prey on our insecurities, and desire to fit into the cultural thin-ideal. This pervasive thin-ideal convinces us that—when we attain the perfect body—we will gain health, wealth, love, and happiness. It impresses upon us the idea that the thinner body is a “good body” and the larger body is a “bad body”—and, through the transitive property of equality in mathematics, the person living in the “bad body” must also be “bad.” When presented with these transformation photos that perpetuate the thin-ideal, the culture of body-shaming and normalization of self-hatred is perpetuated ad nauseam. This perpetuation has a cost, however, and that cost is self-destruction, self-condemnation, and devaluation of those of us who do not fit the ideal.

Society criminalizes and fears fat at the same time—leading fat to become the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination. The prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased 66% from 1995 to 2006 (NEDA). This is likely why 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner (NEDA), and 81% of ten-year-olds have a fear of being fat (NEDA). This is also likely why the dieting industry rakes in $64 BILLION annually—outearning the wedding industry and the baby product industry. Society conditions us to second-guess any of the confidence we’ve developed about our bodies and question how someone—with our less-than-perfect body—can be accepted looking the hideous the way we do. How much we weigh, eat, exercise, etc. is nobody’s business but our own. Our bodies belong to us—not to social media, not your friends or family, not your doctor, no one. The phrase “Compare and despair” comes to mind—thank you Jenni Schaefer.

Here are the facts: THERE IS NO “PERFECT” BODY and YOUR BODY ISN’T SOMETHING TO BE “FIXED.” Contrary to what society shoves down our throat every minute of every day, there is no perfect body. Have you seen the lineup of female Olympic athletes from the various events throughout the years? Each of them represent the peak performance level of their sport, and yet every single one of them has a different body size and shape than the woman standing next to them. Not to be outdone, men from various nations recreated a similar photo. Health, like our bodies, comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin does not always represent a healthful body, just as fat does not always represent an unhealthful body. Health cannot be measured on a scale or through the flawed mathematics of body mass index.  While weight can certainly be an aspect of health, it is not a sole indicator. Health is also measured through mental and emotional wellbeing, effective relationships with others, meaningfully contributing to society, and myriad other aspects. There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic women

There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic Men

Remember, your weight does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the remarkable, astounding aspects of our bodies. There is more to life than food or weight—don’t let it become the central fixture around which your life revolves. The answer to our body and self-acceptance isn’t found in a fad diet, a new exercise trend, a pill, a cream, a tea, a detox regime, a cleanse, constricting shapewear, expensive exercise equipment, shakes, or anything else the diet industry/thin ideal perpetuators use a propaganda to convince you that you’re worthless while further lining their pockets with cash. As the amazing body-positivity activist Sarah Vance says, “Loving yourself isn’t going to come from changing your body.”

So how can we grow to love and accept our bodies—as they are in this very moment—in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite? I’m no expert on body-positivity. In fact, I’m still working on it myself. What I can do, however, is recommend the celebration of a day of body love as a place at which to start. On this day, for every negative comment you say about your body, consciously counter is with a positive. Write a letter of gratitude to your body—sure it will be weird, and it will be worth it. Wear an article of clothing in which you feel great. Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if it wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a damn massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness—though society will actively work to convince you otherwise—and denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. I also recommend participating in some body activism projects. I’ve joined some body positive groups on Facebook, and blocked a TON of friends who consistently post body negative updates. I also turn around magazines that objectify bodies by promoting the thin-ideal—if people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, you can post body positive post-its on those magazines or on diet products. Be bold.

I leave you with this: appreciate your body, it is yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation and there is no other body out there like yours…none. Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

“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.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 

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 must try again August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 6:14 pm
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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.

 

Signs of Life November 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 3:03 pm
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Ok, I’ll admit it, I absolutely love donating blood. Not in a weird way, but in the “I am glad I can use my life to save lives” way. I came to terms at an early age that I would never have a career in the medical field, and I am ok with that…so, I do what I can, and give blood.

That being said, I’ve always failed in the pre-screening process somewhere along the way–leading to me getting the all to familiar “Rain Check” card which includes a list of foods I should add to my diet to increase my iron levels. I’ve come to term this rain check sheet the “fail sheet”.  However, I have been committed to recovery (with a couple of bumps along the way), and thought I was healthy enough to try again to donate. Typically they check my temperature first. Followed by blood pressure and a finger prick test to check iron levels. They siphon the blood into a capillary tube, and drop it in a solution to test the iron levels. If the drop of blood fails to fall to the bottom of the solution in the allotted time, they spin your blood in a centrifuge to get a more accurate testing of the iron levels.  This time, however, the nurse checked the iron first; completely throwing off the routine. The drop of blood went into the solution, fell slightly, then rose back up to the top while swirling around in the jar. I know the process all to well; I had just failed the iron test. The nurse walked away without saying a word, stuck the capillary in the centrifuge and pulled out the receipt-like report. Studying it with a frown, she turned back to where I was sitting. I knew it. I failed again.

She walked back to where I was sitting, fail sheet in hand. I looked up and said, “oh man, the fail sheet?” She kind of laughed and replied with what I could do to raise my iron levels. Then I was exiled to cookie and orange juice island to wait for my friend who was actually able to donated blood.

However, this failure didn’t affect me the way failure has in the past. Before, I would get discouraged, and go running back to ED behaviors to cope with my emotions and perceived failure; as failure in any way in my life seems unacceptable to me. This time, however,  I knew that I was on my way to well, and my iron levels were just low this one time. It didn’t mean I am failing at recovery; it simply meant that yesterday my iron count was low. Recovery is showing me that health isn’t something to be feared. I now have tools and practices in place that I can draw upon in situations that would normally tempt me to reunite with ED behaviors. In fact, although I was telling myself lots of horrible things after I failed and wanted desperately to engage in ED behaviors, I went back to my office and had a normal lunch…and kept it down.

So although I couldn’t save someone else’s life by donating blood, I was able to practice some self care strategies to fight ED behaviors and work towards saving my own…because sometimes, you just have to take care of yourself because that’s all that really matters. After all, even the airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others with theirs in case of emergency.