RheasOfHope

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

When it is NEDA conference time September 19, 2014

San Antonio, Texas. October 16-18, 2014. National Eating Disorders Association Conference 2014. Be there or be square.

 

Ok, so I guess I am going to be a square seeing as how I am not actually going to be there myself. However, I DO want to encourage others to attend. This year’s theme is Share. Learn. Belong. “Thinking Big: uniting families and professionals in the fight against eating disorders”. I truly think that that is the goal of the conference regardless of theme. The conference is open to  “professionals, researchers, educators, individuals in recovery and their families”, according to the NEDA website as a means to, “connect and learn from one another in a warm, welcoming environment. This year’s theme, focusing on collaboration, will highlight the wealth of knowledge that comes from sharing our experiences and expertise to advance the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.” I stand firm in my belief that by raising awareness on eating disorders, sharing stories of recovery, loss, and simply existing with an eating disorder, networking with professionals to increase best practices of care, and impart knowledge on the disease itself we can decrease the stigma; thereby making seeking treatment at any level less shameful and more respected.

But don’t let me try to convince you, NEDA has created a convenient  top 10 list (much like David Letterman on his various late  night programs):

10) “The NEDA conference changed my life–the feeling of belonging was incredible”

9) Expand your knowledge of eating disorders and deepen your recovery.

8) Busy weekend? You can swing by for a single day.

7) Families and experts come together to learn from one another.

6) Expand your circle, make new friends, build your support network.

5) Share your personal expertise with the eating disorders community.

4) “I loved the general sessions. They were interesting, informative, relevant and challenging”

3) Hear a best-selling author discuss family relationships in the digital age.

2) Earn continuing education credits on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

1) Family-friendly event with family discount packages.

 

I think there are also 10 spiritual reasons to attend…in no particular order

10) Hebrews 3:13–But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

9) John 13:34–A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

8) Romans 12:16–Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

7) Romans 14:13–Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

6) 1 John 4:11–Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

5) 1 Peter 3:8–be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

4) Ephesians 4:32–Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3) 1 John 3:11–For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another

2) Ephesians 4:2– Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love

1) Proverbs 19:8–The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

 

NEDAConference_Reason9

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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.

  

 

When you attend a lecture and get a gift from your sister August 20, 2013

Last week I went to an amazing presentation held by the Lindner Center of Hope featuring a lecture by Dr. Chris Tuell entitled “The Addictive Brain and Co-occurring Disorders”. Although the lecture focused mainly on substance, gambling and internet addictions, Dr. Tuell brought up many points that, I believe, can be applied to eating disorder recovery as well as life in general.

 

Firstly, Dr. Tuell described addictions (and yes, eating disorders are addictions) as following a “Three C’s and a T” model:

C- Loss of Control

C-Compulsion

C-Continued use despite the negative consequences

T-Thinking (obsessions)

 

I think treating eating disorders using this addiction model is very helpful for both those who suffer from the disease and those assisting him or her in recovery. Not only are eating disorders a loss of control in terms of thoughts and behaviors (contrary to what society believes), but they soon exercise control over your entire life; including parts of your life you thought were not in danger of being taken over by the eating disorder.  These diseases are compulsions—you feel compelled to engage in thoughts and behaviors even though, consciously or subconsciously, you know they are irrational and unhealthy–continued in the face of negative consequences (and believe me, there are PLENTY of negative consequences and I have experienced many of them) and have many obsessive thoughts. Once both the sufferer and society view eating disorders as addictions rather than brief illnesses in the pursuit of vanity, we can get serious about getting the necessary help and treatment available to all that need it.

 

Dr. Tuell also related a story of when he participated in a blindfolded rope maze as part of an educational experience. Dr. Tuell and his fellow doctors attending the educational session, were blindfolded and told to find their way through a maze made from rope by walking through the maze holding on to the waist-high ropes to guide them—as they did not have the benefit of being able to see the path to the end of the maze. There were only two rules 1) you must keep the blindfold on at all times and 2) if you need help, raise your hand and we will help you. Dr. Tuell expressed his frustration when the maze facilitators would call out that another one of his colleagues made it through the maze while he was still desperately grabbing at ropes trying to find his way to the end of the maze. After twenty, then thirty, then forty minutes, Dr. Tuell’s hand when up and a facilitator came over to ask what he needed.

 

I’m sure you are thinking exactly what I was thinking at this point, “Ok, the good doctor was in a rope maze forever and finally gave up,” but you have probably also added, “and why is Rachel telling me about this now?” Well, simply put, Dr. Tuell’s blindfolded rope maze is very metaphoric of recovery. We go through this blindfolded rope maze of recovery without any clear objective other than to get to the end–which is, of course, recovery. We hear shouts of others as they get to the end, and use it as proof that we are hopeless and will never make it to the end. However, we continue working at finding our way; determined we will get to the end eventually. And even though we know we can get the help we need by asking for it, we are determined to “do it on our own”; after all asking for help is a sign of weakness, isn’t it (it’s not, by the way). Finally, fueled by frustration and self-hatred for not being able to make it to the end, you raise your hand and proclaim, “I need help!” You say it out loud, with pride in your voice and the security of knowing that you do not—and cannot—make it to the end alone. There is no shame in asking for help. If Dr. Tuell had not asked for help, he may still be trying to find his way out of the rope maze and would not have made it to the lecture at all. Asking for help is a strength that few people posses; it is a strength to acknowledge your need for help and find ways to go about getting what you need. I don’t know–and don’t care to know–where I would be had I not sought out both professional and personal help for my eating disorder. Ask for help. You are worth it.

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My little sister bought me this bracelet. It says “I am enough” and has the date 11-11-09 (the date I admitted I need more help; that I cannot do this alone)

Psalms 29:11

The Lord gives strength to His people;  the Lord blesses His people with peace.

 

The gift of recovery December 24, 2012

It’s cold. I’m always cold—the bone-chilling cold that is never alleviated despite numerous blankets and layers of clothing. I don’t want to get out of the covers, but I have a class of first graders to teach. I tiptoe to the bathroom so as not to wake anyone. The room turns fuzzy, but I am used to that. I jump in the shower, and turn on the water—hot, hot to numb the cold. The shower starts to spin around me. Everything goes black. I am aware of my body, but not in control of what it does. I reach out to grab the bar on the wall, but my arm knocks off the shampoo and soap instead. I know what is about to happen, but I can do nothing to prevent it. The room continues to spin as I collapse into a wet pile of body and shampoo bottles on the floor of the shower. Shit. I knew this was going to happen. When I come to, I turn off the water, clean up the mess, go back to my room and call the school; Ms. Rhea won’t be in today (good thing it was only student teaching in college). I curl back up in my bed in the wet towel; not even bothering to put on clothes because that would take too much effort—effort that I don’t have. I fall back asleep. I knew I should have eaten. My best friend of six and a half years/roommate wakes up to begin her day, “What are you still doing here?” she asks. I am afraid to tell her the truth, but I know she already knows. She always knows. She was the first one to talk to me about “my eating issues”. She was the first one to tell me that what I was doing to my body was not healthy, she knew it, I knew it, and I needed to get healthy. She was not afraid to tell me what I needed to hear; not always what I wanted to hear—she is very good at that. She knew I did not respond to coddling or sugarcoating; that it would only help the ED to grow. She pushed me towards therapy (in a good way). She did not always understand the complex and confusing world of EDs, but she knew she loved me and that was enough…and I loved her too. I may have been angry at the time that someone was challenging my ED, but it was exactly what I needed to wake me out of the haze of its power. I needed someone to show me that there are other ways to live than under the thumb of ED. I needed accountability. I needed a friend. I needed someone to tell me the truth. I needed someone to listen. That was over two and a half years ago. Our friendship has grown as I have, bit by stubborn bit, let go of my ED. I am so thankful for what she has done in my life. Had it not been for her support, I would have continued on with my ED and I’m not entirely sure where I would be. Had she not helped me towards recovery, we might not be as close as we are today. This Christmas, my gift is the gift of recovery…it was initially given to me over two years ago from my best friend and it continues to be given to me today through my own efforts. Words can never express how grateful I am for her insistence that I take care of myself…but I am forever thankful for her gifts of support, friendship, recovery and, most of all, love. I wish for you the gift of recover this season.

Because I refuse to attach an entire photo of me to this blog...you get my chin. This is us at our undergrad graduation in 2010 (I'm on the right)

Because I refuse to attach an entire photo of me to this blog (as I prefer anonymity) …you get my chin. This is us at our undergrad graduation in 2010 (I’m on the right)

 

The Power of a Mentor December 22, 2012

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”  – Unknown

Fact: I am incredibly stubborn. Fact #2: I will not ask for help when I need it due to fact #1. For a long time I have viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness; that I was incapable of solving my own problems and people would *gasp* know I am not perfect. However, what I know now is that asking for help shows a great deal of strength. Asking for help shows others that you want to better yourself and learn from what they have to offer. Asking for help can be the hardest thing you ever do. However, I believe, asking for help is often the bravest and most beneficial thing you ever do. When it comes to recovery from an ED, Thom Rutledge always says, “No one, which means no one, can recover alone. And you are not the exception to this rule.” This is where the role of a mentor comes into the equation of recovery.

Journaling, drawing, crafting…whatever you do instead of behaviors, well, they can only offer so much. Sometimes you just need another person to talk to you about what you are going through, to calm you down, or to help you think through a situation. Sometimes just the presence of another person sitting with you, without even speaking, can bring great comfort when working through recovery.  A mentor can offer great insight into recovery because they have been there; they understand exactly what you are going through. They can offer insight and wisdom that comes from living in recovery that many other people cannot provide.  A mentor can help you stay motivated to work towards recovery and be there to support you every step of the way. For me, a big part of my recovery is someone holding me accountable for it. If there is no one there for me to be accountable to, odds are I might not work as hard. So, it is very beneficial for me to be able to have a mentor.

EDs are a disease that tries its best to isolate us from others. They cause us to lie and want us to separate from others in order for them to flourish. All the secrecy surrounding EDs causes us to build walls and not allow others in. A mentor will be able to help you reconnect to the world around you, and offer a special bond of compassionate understanding.  Once you are able to see a mentor accepting you even with all the imperfections you feel you have, you begin to start accepting yourself with those same imperfections.  By accepting your perfect imperfections, you can truly begin to heal.  Additionally, mentors are able to help you see the best in yourself. All too often, we have let our ED tell us there are no good qualities in ourselves. A mentor will help you break that thinking and allow you to see the good in yourself (because, like it or not, there is good in you).

This is the point in my blog where I talk about how much I adore my mentor, Meredith. I met her via her wordpress blog over a year ago (September 1, 2011 to be exact). There was a contact section that said something to the affect of, “If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here”. So, in November, I finally shot off a quick email thinking I would get nothing in return. Boy was I surprised. What I got back was a message with such love and support that I honestly started to cry as I read it. Someone finally understood me. Meredith has had her own battles with ED and has been working on recovery for some time now. We emailed back and forth many times since then, and even became Facebook friends. In October 2012, Meredith invited me to her bridal shower and wedding. I was shocked. I knew she meant a lot to me, in my life, but I never thought I had had an impact in hers. When I met her for the first time I was speechless. Here was this woman who knows so much about me, who has helped me through some of my worst times, who has always known exactly what I need to hear (and that doesn’t mean it was always what I wanted to hear), but who I had never even heard speak. How do you even begin to thank somebody for that? What do you say to someone who has been there for you? (for my actual response, visit this post)

To this day, Meredith and I continue our relationship. She is an amazing woman, mentor and, now, friend. I am constantly in awe of her strength, support and the extent of her generous heart. I owe a lot of my efforts in recovery to her. This Christmas, I am grateful for my relationship with Meredith, and wish that you are able to recover from your ED. Remember, together we can do this. You are stronger than you think and more resilient than you believe…you were made for recovery. Perhaps, one day, further on in your recovery, you, too, can become a mentor to someone else.

Ecc. 4:9-12

Ecc. 4:9-12

 

The day I didn’t meet Britney Spears October 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 11:37 am
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I am not proud to admit this, but, when I was in the sixth grade, it was my dream to meet Britney Spears. Yes, I had become one of those pre-teens. For Christmas, my mother bought me tickets for her “Oops I did it again” tour when it came to the Firstar Center (now US Bank Arena).  I had to wait almost a year for the concert to come around, but I prepared for it every day until then. I rehearsed what I was going to say when I undoubtedly would run into her outside of the concert venue casually exiting her tour bus and meeting fans like she did in her videos (did not happen, by the way). I planned my outfit knowing that I had to dress impeccably so she would notice me out of the thousands of other screaming fans in the seats (again, didn’t happen, but I did put together a pretty amazingly awful concert ensemble). I, being the nerd writer that I am, wrote out potential talking points that I could use when we were chatting on her tour bus after the show (in keeping with the unrealistic expectations, this, too, did not happen). I even had a backup plan should our paths not cross that evening. I wrote a letter to her telling her how big a fan I was, enclosed my phone number and address, and left it on my seat for her to find…like she was going to do some sort of sweep of the venue after her concert. Several days after the concert, I got a letter in the mail. It was from a woman, who was part of the cleanup crew from the concert, lambasting me for leaving my personal information out there, especially since there were men there on a work release program that could have gotten my information to use for less than lawful purposes. And so ended my childhood naïveté, or so I thought.

Here I am, twelve years later after just experiencing the same kind of naïve excitement over meeting someone I had anticipated meeting for a rather long time. This time, however, it was not Britney Spears. It was a woman who has come to mean a lot to me. A woman who has served as a mentor and friend to me for the past year; despite the fact that we had never met. A woman who I respect and admire for her strength, wisdom and beauty. A woman who has shown me that it is ok to work towards recovery because life is so much better on the other side. She’s helped me through so much, and I couldn’t wait to meet her when I got the invitation for her bridal shower in the mail. I was finally going to meet her! “Oh shit, I need to prepare!” was my next thought. What if I wasn’t who she imagined I would be? What if, after she finally met me, she realized that I was more messed up than she thought and didn’t want to mentor me anymore? What would happen if I said or did something to offend or upset her? What if, what if, what if? That was all that was running through my head. After getting incredibly lost on the way there and arriving 45 minutes late, I knew I was not making the brilliant first impression that I was hoping to make. Great, now I’ve given her ample cause to hate me.

I walked in quietly, slid her gift onto the gift table and silently found a seat next to the only person in the room (aside from my mentor/friend) that I knew—all the while praying she wouldn’t notice I was 45 minutes late. Then she saw me. I didn’t know what to say or do. What do you say to someone who already knows all about you but has never met you? I was just so nervous that she would think all the horrible things I was thinking about myself in the car, that I can’t really remember what she actually did say as she hugged me and welcomed me to the shower. She reassured me that they were just eating now and that I had not missed anything. What she did next is a testament to her kind nature and amazingly giant heart…she helped me through the food situation. She made me feel totally comfortable about everything. I have never experienced anyone who “got it”, but she did. She treated me like a normal human being–not as damaged goods– and offered additional support when she knew I needed it most. The whole rest of the shower I kept thinking about how wonderful it is to finally have met her and that she was everything I had hoped for. I am so excited to have her in my life and look forward to our continued friendship (and her wedding!). She may not be Britney Spears, but, to me, she is even better…kinder…wiser…more understanding…sweeter and even more beautiful (in her heart and in her appearance). In the end, I if I had to pick only one of these two women to meet in my lifetime, it would choose to meet this friend over Britney Spears any day.