RheasOfHope

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Dear Leah,

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

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

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

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

Auntie Rhea

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

 

Romans 12:1-21

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

 

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When it is your birthday… January 7, 2014

So tomorrow, January 8th , is Stephen Hawkings’ birthday…and Carl Rogers’ birthday…Elvis Presley’s birthday…oh, and mine too. When you are little, birthdays are a BIG deal. You had to have a theme; mine was typically Disney. You had to tell everyone you knew that your birthday was coming up; usually proclaiming the whole month as your “birthday month”. And there was nothing more embarrassing than wondering what do when everyone is staring at you staring at your cake while singing “Happy Birthday”. Well, now that I am no longer 8 years old, birthdays look a little different around my house. There are no elaborate Disney-themed parties, I do not tell everyone I see that January is my birthday month (barely anyone around me even knows that tomorrow is my birthday), and I sill have no idea what to do when people sing to me (good thing that does not happen with relative frequency).

Tomorrow I will be 26! Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am grateful to have made it to 26, even though that number makes me feel old (I realize 26 is not old my anyone’s standards). I have learned a lot in these years such as: not to put keys in light sockets and that maybe those blonde highlights in my black hair in 7th grade was not as great of an idea as I had thought. I have also learned a little bit about recovery; mostly through trial and error and my conversations with those support my recovery. In honor of my 26th birthday, I present to you the 26 things I learned about recovery:

1)      Everyone, yes everyone, is worthy of recovery. Sometimes our disease tries to tell us differently, but EVERYONE is worthy of and deserves recovery.

2)      Recovery is not linear. There will be ups and downs; there will the plateaus, peaks and valley; but I promise you, we will get there…all of us.

3)      Small steps towards recovery are often healthier and longer lasting than giant leaps. We cannot rush recovery no matter how frustrated we may get with taking those small steps.

4)      Mentoring! I know there is no way I would have been able to stay on the path to recovery without my amazing mentors past and present. This is why I am so steadfast about the importance of mentoring on recovery.

5)      When in doubt, write it out. You do not have to have proper grammar, spelling or even full sentences. No one is going to judge your personal writing. Write down the good, the bad and the amazing! I always feel it is better to get out whatever emotions I have than it is to let it weigh on my chest.

6)      Ed’s thoughts do not have to be your thoughts. “Sure,” you say, but it is true. With lots of practice, time and thought reframing, I am able to take Ed’s thoughts for what they are and then reframe them into recovery-oriented thoughts.

7)      The DSM is not meant to disqualify you from the treatment you deserve; although it does do that sometimes. No matter what the diagnosis, or even a lack of diagnosis, everyone deserves treatment.

8)      I have learned that there is a person that exists outside of my eating disorder and that she is deserving of life and love.

9)      You cannot change the hurtful and insensitive comments about weight, appearance and dieting that others make. However, to continue down the path to recovery, you CAN change your responses to those comments.

10)   There is absolutely no shame whatsoever in asking for and accepting help when you need it. Asking for help indicates a very high level of strength and dignity within you; a level of strength and dignity that acknowledges the fact that you deserve recovery.

11)  Despite what both Ed and society will tell you, food has no moral value. There are no “good” or “bad” foods and neither does eating these foods determine whether one is, themselves, morally “good” or “bad”. Food is food, nothing more.

12)  Every time you do something you genuinely enjoy, you are taking back a piece of yourself from your eating disorder.

13)  There is always a little grey in a situation even if it only appears to be black and white.

14)  Recovery will take time; it is not instantaneous. Just as it took time for your eating disorder to develop, it will take time to recover as well.

15)  Have grace with yourself. Grace is one the most important tools I have learned in recovery.

16)  No one can recover alone. Finding and maintaining a kind and knowledgeable support team is essential. Support teams should be a good mix of professionals, friends and family. With me, my support staff is mainly friends and professionals as most people in my family do not know or understand that I have an eating disorder…which brings me to…

17)  Some people will never understand what an eating disorder is or what it is like to have one. These people will simply never “get it”, and that is ok. The important thing to remember is to continue striving for recovery even if people around you do not understand. Besides, recovery is for you, not for those around you.

18)  Recovery is not always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard. In spite of this, do not use recovery being challenging as an excuse to stop. Recovery may be difficult, but it is so worth it.

19)  Gratitude lists make me feel more positive about my recovery and my life. All too often I find myself dwelling on the negatives or the things during the day I could have done better, and that often leads to neglect of recovery. However, when I look past those things to find moments of gratitude, recovery becomes more important. The gratitude lists do not have to be grandiose things; they can be as simple as “I am grateful for the little boy who held the door open for me at Krogers” or “I am grateful that I got to see a squirrel furiously nibbling at an acorn on my front porch”.

20)  Mistakes are not failures. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” That is basically recovery in a nutshell. Use your mistakes–because they will happen–as learning opportunities and motivation to continue working towards recovery.

21)  Perfection does NOT exist. It never has and never will. Constant striving for this unattainable ideal of perfection only serves to frustrate us and allows Ed to flourish. Being genuinely ourselves is enough; no one is asking for perfection, despite what Ed may tell us.

22)  There is no shame in having a mental illness. We have come to a place in our society where there is this huge taboo on discussing mental illness, and having one is even more unmentionable. Where did this shame and stigma come from? Mental illnesses are not character flaws or wide-spreading contagious diseases or world destroying. It is time to lift the veil of stigma off of mental illness and dispel society’s myths and misconceptions about what they entail. There should not be a disgrace attached to mental illness.

23)  Visual reminders of recovery help me stay on the path to recovery. The reason I have recovery tattoos and wear my recovery rings (one says, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step” and the other is the Scripture verse Jeremiah 29:11 “I have plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”) is because when I see them, I am reminded why I so desperately want recovery.

24)  Finding alternative thoughts and behaviors for when Ed steps in. I have a list by my computer of activities I can do when Ed wants me to engage in behaviors, they include: writing, photography, knitting, reading, or even taking a walk.

25)  Be honest with your doctors and/or therapists. When you lie, they know. They are not stupid people. And although we may think we pulled a fast one on them by lying, we did not…they know. Lying only slows down and hampers recovery. By being honest with doctors and/or therapists, they can help guide you in the right direction and assist you with further recovery.

26)  Find what you love about yourself and embrace it!

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got! I am only 26, it is not like I have a cache of sage advice. Always remember to take care of yourself and stay strong in recovery.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

When it is your Recovery Anniversary November 12, 2013

Four years ago, I made a decision that drastically altered the path of my life; a decision that, ultimately, would lead me towards the path to recovery. But first, the really scary, really awkward, really intimidating initial step.

 

I stepped silently down the creaky basement stairs in the old house my college had converted into an office space. My boss had told me I should speak to one of her other workers about “my problem”; “she could really help you” she said. At the bottom of the stairs I saw Miranda (name changed to protect privacy), her brown bangs escaping her pixie cut as she sat in the floor putting together a display for the farmers’ market.

 

“Hey Rhea,” she said cheerfully with her typical enthusiasm and broad smile, “What’s up?”

 

I sat crossed legged on the floor near her as silently as I had crept down the stairs, admiring her work while picking at my nails. I noticed the vibrant blue of her eyes and the beauty of her tattoos as we sat there in awkward silence. I took a deep breath, “Miranda, the reason I came here today is that I spoke with Lynn (our boss, whose name has also been changed) and she said we might share some similar experiences. And I was just wondering if I could ask for your help because Lynn said you would be open to helping people like me and I just don’t know what to do because therapy isn’t working and Renée (my therapist, name not changed) doesn’t believe me that I’m sick and I am just so confused” I rambled in one long sentence while fighting back tears. I had done it; I admitted my disease to someone and things were never going to be the same…but for a positive this time. Miranda, the angel that she is, did not judge; she took my frightened, college student self under her wing and mentored me towards recovery for the next sixth months. And, on November 21, 2011 even though we had not spoken in months, she helped me through the anxiety and fear of my intake evaluation at the Lindner Center of Hope.

 

On November 11, 2009 I asked Miranda for help for a disease I had let rule my life for at least ten years. On November 11, 2009 I took the first step to recovery…to freedom.

Since that date:

I have drastically limited the frequency of my purging.

I have moved…three times.

I have quit using laxatives.

I graduated from college, received my teaching license, started work on a special education master’s degree, got at reading endorsement for my teaching license, and served two years in Americorps*.

I got my two recovery tattoos…and had one reworked

I have quit self-harming.

I have re-found my love of photography and writing.

I have upped the amount of calories I have a day.

I had an EKG and endoscopy…and became vegetarian.

I reached out to and made friends with the wonderfully beautiful and strong Meredith.

I have attended therapy sessions.

I have learned that my self-worth is not AT ALL correlated to my size.

I have learned that Ed never ever speaks the truth.

I started this blog and had it featured in NEDA’s blogroll.

I have given presentations and written articles to destigmatize EDs.

I participated in the NEDA walk in Washington DC…my first trip to our nation’s capital.

I have emailed the Secretary of State about passing bills and amendments that support research and funding to ED awareness.

I have continued with my passion of educating children.

I have gone to symphonies, weddings, museums, zoos, concerts, beaches, mountains and unfamiliar cities.

I have begun to separate myself from Ed…and I have never been happier or healthier.

Psalm 34:8 and 18

8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him

18: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

 

When people read your blog…2 April 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 7:45 pm
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I still find it shocking to find out that people 1) read my blog and 2) care about what I have to say. Anyway, here are the details on the Liebster Award.

“Liebster Awards Nominees go to up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.  The origins of this award are unclear and are simply given by fellow award nominees to blogs that inspire them and that they enjoy themselves.  ‘Liebster’ means means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome in German.”

I would like to thank Lindsay at “The Leaking Boob” for the nomination. She writes about everything from changing careers and her adorable daughter to her husband going back to school and recipes…and much more. Check out her blog!

Liebster award

Anyway,here are the conditions of the award

11 Random Facts About Myself

1) I am almost fluent in American Sign Language after taking three years of classes in my high school, having an interpreter as a cousin and having her Deaf boyfriend join our family.

2) I could pretty much live in dresses/skirts and leggings. They are so much cuter than pants, plus I feel more put together when I am dressed nicer…this may be why I only own one pair of sweat pants.

3) I am obsessed with the Cincinnati Reds; I believe it may be a sickness at this point. I went to spring training (when they were still in Sarasota) during my spring break from college, I have been to many Redsfests (think comic con for Reds fans) and more games than I can count.

4) I am a recent convert to vegetarianism. I  would like to say it is because of how animals are treated prior to and during slaughter (which is beyond horrible….tiny cages, no room or ability to move, steroids, hormones, covered in feces, inhumane euthanasia, etc), but really it is because of my rumination and how hard it is for the body to digest meat. More about this in another post.

5) I am a huge klutz. This can be demonstrated by the fact that I have broken my nose, arm, middle finger and numerous toes…not to mention an ill-fated incident with an oven and a frozen pizza that left me with a huge burn scar on top of my left wrist.

6) I am the first in my immediate family to go to/graduate from college.

7) I spent that last two years working for the Americorps VISTA program assisting people in rural Ohio gain knowledge on, build, maintain and harvest from their own gardens.

8) I think I could live at Disneyworld and never get bored.

9) I love to knit and sew, despite the fact I can only knit square and rectangular things.

10) I have never been stung by a bee/wasp/etc, but I have been stung by a jellyfish.

11) I hate am terrified of odd numbers and go to great lengths to avoid them when possible (I realize it is impossible to avoid odd numbered highways/roads…which is why the numbers can add up to be an even number and it is ok then)

11 Questions from Lindsay

1.  Favorite book: Tied between all Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, and my all-time favorite, The Velveteen Rabbit

2.  Favorite online shopping site: I do not do a lot of online shopping, but, when I do, it is usually amazon because I am most likely buying books for my kindle.

3.  Happiest childhood memory: My father would always take me to his friends farm where I got to milk cows by hand, watch the automated milkers, gather eggs, climb around in the hay loft, chase chickens…and anything else I felt like I wanted to do. It was so fun.

4.  Biggest goal on your bucket list: I would like to, someday, adopt a child. I have felt in my heart that adoption was right for me for a long time, and would like to share that with children in need.

5.  One place you’re dying to travel: Due to my immense love of Sherlock Holmes, I have always wanted to go to England.

6.  Biggest inspiration: My friend Meredith. Daily, she shows me how to live a recovered life of grace, humor, intelligence, beauty and gratitude.

7.  Favorite season: Fall; I love the leaves…and when all the restaurants come out with their pumpkin food.

8.  Biggest pet peeve: people who cannot clean up after themselves when they make a mess

9.  One person you would like to meet: my grandfather. He passed away while my mother was pregnant with me. For the first few years of my life everyone called me “little Buck” because, apparently, I look just like him…only a girl.

10.  Age when you got your first cell phone: 15…and I think I am the only 25 year old without a smartphone

11.  3 words to describe yourself: nurturing, humorous, fighter

11 Questions from me, Rhea

1) Are you an early bird or a night owl?

2) What is your favorite vacation spot?

3) What is your favorite color?

4) Who is your favorite writer?

5) What is one thing you know for certain?

6) What was/is your first car?

7) What are your hobbies?

8) Who or what inspires you?

9) What are two (or more) positive traits that you posses?

10) What is your favorite quote?

11) What is your greatest accomplishment?

11 blogger nominees

(here’s the thing, I don’t regularly read or subscribe to 11 different blogs)

1) MK writes about her own brave recovery from an ED, about having grace with herself, loving others and loving herself. Her selfless writing inspires me.

http://leavingperfectionlearninggrace.com/about/

2) Matt is a writer and activist for those who suffered/are suffering with an ED. He speaks to people about the misconceptions about EDs (specifically that they are a women’s disease), lobbies for better mental health practices, and advocates for, not only his recovery, but the recovery of others. He is doing what I aspire to someday do for others, and my recovery.

http://arenomore.wordpress.com/about/

3) Rachel writes about her path to recovery from her ED while teaching those unfamiliar with EDs more about them. She always gives me something to apply to my own life with her writing and provides her readers with questions to get them started thinking about their own recovery. No to mention we have the same name! Although I go by Rhea instead.

http://hungryrunninggirl.wordpress.com/about/

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father

1 Corinthians 15:10

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

 

Jane Austen, I am not August 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:25 pm
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“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”           Joan Didion

Sometimes, at least to me, it seems like writing is the only place where I am truly free to be myself. To think whatever I want. To say what I please. To be who I really am. To pose questions I would be too afraid to ask anyone. To express all the thoughts careening through my head like runaway trains, and put them into some semblance of a grammatically correct sentence; without fear of judgment or consequence. In short, writing is where I feel the most unrestricted. And in my world of ED, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder/ritualistic behaviors, and constant worry, a world in which I am permitted to be completely myself is the greatest thing I could ever imagine.

Lately, I have fallen into old unhealthy patterns. I’ve let my true self become overwhelmed with the burdens of disordered eating, feeling the need to control everyone at all times, needing everything to be done in even numbers and then beating myself for being overwhelmed with those preoccupations. But, through it all, writing has been there for me. Everywhere I go, my little Monet-painting bound journal goes with me. I write whenever I feel anxious, when I have a question, when I want to engage in unhealthy choices, when I am engaging in unhealthy choices, when I’m mad at myself, when I’m mad at others, when I have a profound thought (admittedly, this is quite infrequent). I write when I’m working, I write when eating (again, admittedly, quite infrequent), I write as I’m watching TV, I even write when reading (although, that usually doesn’t make sense when I go back to read it…both the book and the writing). Ever since I started writing three years ago, I’ve filled up five journals and countless scraps of paper; all kept in a box in my closet.

One would think that over the years my writing would improve to the point that the thoughts would connect, the punctuation would be correct, or, at the very least, be interesting. But, that’s when I remember, my writing is for me. I write for my own sanity, creativity, enjoyment and recovery. My purpose for writing reminds me of the best gift I ever got from a mentor. This particular mentor had been a co-worker and close acquaintance for some time, and was only a few years my senior. I, however, knew nothing of her story and she knew nothing of mine. It wasn’t until I was told to speak with her about my struggles, that I understood that I am not alone. She showed me that I can overcome anything, she gave me strength when I didn’t have any, she encouraged me to work towards recovery, she was a shoulder to cry upon, she was a person to share successes with and she showed me how amazing life can be without ED. She gave me a page out of one of her old journals, which I hold dear to me today. No one, aside from her, knows I have this or has ever seen it. Every time I read it I am reminded of her raw emotions, her uninhibited writing, and hope to be as real as she is with herself in her writing.

Essentially, this post has no purpose other than to express my love of writing; albeit not the Pulitzer prize winning writing of those who came before me or will come after. It is merely one girl’s thoughts and challenges in her own life and working towards bettering herself as a human being. That is what I hope people take away from my writing, as I do it for no other purpose.