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Archive for Recovery

How I Stopped Hurting and Started Healing

Submitted by Amy Hastie 

Sometimes I forget how far I have come and how much I have progressed through my recovery from an eating disorder. I had one of those moments last week. I had slept in and as a result, I ended up hastily sprinting down the road towards my bus stop in the hope of still making it to work on time. Thankfully, I did manage to reach my place of employment in a punctual manner that morning, but that’s not the point of this story.

Amy Hastie - How I stopped hurtingI didn’t feel the physical effects of my spontaneous bus-catching jog until later that afternoon when I was enjoying a walk at the gym and started to feel a muscular pulling sensation near my groin. Here’s the amazing part ― I immediately pressed the “STOP” button on the treadmill, stepped off and went home to rest. This seemingly simple choice to stop exercising when feeling an injury coming on might seem like a logical and mundane decision for someone to make, but for me, it was an achievement.

See, I used to get injured ― a lot. I wasn’t accident-prone, clumsy or unlucky. Under the control of Anorexia and even in the later stages of my recovery, the incessant pressure to push past pain and risk my physical health for fear of gaining weight truly controlled and consumed my life. I could never risk a day without exercising. I was never allowed to alter the type of work-out, the intensity or length of time. Every session was rigid, punishing and exhausting beyond words. That’s why getting injured used to be the most terrifying thing in the world for me – it meant resting and the potential weight consequences that could follow.

Yet, the ironic thing was that over-exercising had always created injuries and physical health issues for me. If I had just listened to my body on so many occasions in the past, if I had rested for just a day or two, I could have spared my body so much pain.

During one of my anorexic relapses, I was participating in artistic in-line skating – essentially figure skating on roller blades. It was a wonderfully fun sport, but coupled with my obsessive and disordered tendencies, it was at times, unhealthy for me. I was over-exercising in addition to the skate training so my body was rapidly weakening in all its forms. One morning whilst doing my usual rigorous walk before work, I began to feel pain in the top of my foot. Of course, Anorexia told me to keep walking and disregard it, so I did. Weeks later, I was practicing at the rink when I landed a jump and suddenly felt excruciating pain in that same place in my foot. I stopped skating that evening, but the next day I was back to my grueling walk, once again ignoring all of the discomfort.

It wasn’t until I could barely stand on the foot (let alone walk), that I finally caved in and begrudgingly sought medical advice. After receiving the results of my x-rays and bone scans, it was confirmed that I had not one, not two, but three stress fractures in my foot. I was also informed that the bones in my feet were osteopenic, which can be a precursor to osteoporosis. I was devastated – not because of the severity of the injuries, but by the reality that I would not be able to exercise for weeks

What followed my stress fracture diagnosis was six months of wearing a protective boot. I was banned from any form of weight-bearing activity which in turn had Anorexia restricting my food intake once again. I was in such a dark place at a time when self-kindness and compassion should have been in full force.

A few months after my fractures had finally healed, I launched myself back into working out. Anorexia was taunting me about “lost time” and all the hard work I would need to do in order to regain its approval. As a result of this fear-inducing pressure, I ended up badly damaging my knee on the treadmill. I decided to rest, but not entirely ― that would have been “unacceptable”. Whilst sitting down and pumping weights one morning, I slipped a disc in my lower back. This injury was the most debilitated I had ever been and involved months upon months of bed-rest, pain and incapacity.

It is truly frightening how much of a hold Anorexia had on me. My body was in such danger and distress, yet the pressure to maintain an image of perfection took precedence.

As I have worked through my recovery, I have looked back and asked myself over and over – why didn’t I stop and rest as soon as I had felt that little twinge in my foot? What if I had decided to forego the treadmill and stay in bed the morning my knee gave out?

Moving forward, it’s amazing how natural it has become for me to simply listen to my body. I now stop when something feels even slightly uncomfortable or unnatural. Now that my mind is clear and healthy, I have the power to nurture and take care of myself physically. I have reduced the intensity and frequency of my workouts. If there is something fun occurring after work, I will skip exercising completely. If I am exhausted or run-down, I will simply rest, sleep and recuperate.

I now choose to move my body in a variety of ways, based on my genuine desires and needs. Sometimes if I am pumped and energized, I will turn up my favorite music and go to the gym. If I have been cooped up inside all day, I will enjoy a gentle wander around a beautiful park with my husband. Above all else, I stay in tune with what my body is asking of me. I decide on exactly what I feel like doing instead of what I am falsely obligated to.

Self-care is absolutely essential in our lives. Our bodies are all we have, so it is vital we take the very best care of them. Since embracing this mindset and lifestyle, I have been completely injury-free. It has taken me a long time to come to this peaceful, free and powerful place both physically and mentally, but I am so happy, content and proud that I made it here.

It’s All About the Journey

By Jessica Kaliher

A lot of people are under the impression that the journey to a better anything is a straight, constant, line upward. I hate to break it to you, but this is not the case at all. Unfortunately, it is more of a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. There are solid weeks when you finally feel you are on the right track, only to have something happen and your progress go back a little bit, but fear not.

Trust the Journey

Your progress is not derailed. It’s okay to have downs, in fact they can even be helpful because this is where you learn and grow…if you allow yourself to. To really make progress, we should be able to bounce back quickly, but often times we go in circles and ruminate on one little slip up. It does not make you a failure if you slipped back into bad habits; it makes you human and you are capable of overcoming whatever it is.

If we see life and our goals as a journey we are less likely to feel so discouraged every time we aren’t 100% happy, because that’s just not possible. Humans have a wide range of emotions and it is okay to feel all of them. If we acknowledge that we are on a journey, we know that better times are coming. A string of those moments mixed with hope and hard work will produce a more uphill squiggly line, rather than just constant ups and downs.

Path to Success

Hopefully one day, you will have more ups than downs, but what I am trying to say is that it’s okay to have the downs because life is an adventure.

I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that those who have reached their goals are always happy, content, and “finished.” It takes constant work to maintain where we are. This “destination” is a complete illusion.

It is great to have goals, and once you achieve one, you should celebrate! But then keep growing on the path you’re on and be prepared to handle any experiences that may go outside of the “perfect” line you have envisioned for yourself.

Every Victory Counts

If you have the mindset that it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, you will be more present and grateful for each small victory. There is no rush. Anything good takes time and you are surely worth it! Slow down, be mindful, take care of yourself, and trust the journey.

There is no “right” way to recover or love yourself. So, here’s to not being so freaked out and discouraged every time we aren’t acting in alignment with our goals. Here is to being brave, picking ourselves up, and moving on along our crazy, twisted, beautiful path.

 

Being a Friend to Someone with an Eating Disorder

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By Cathy Paper

Throughout the years I’ve seen many people move through eating disorders.  People of all ages at various times in their lives. And being a friend to someone with an eating disorder can be both exhausting and rewarding.  

What do you say to someone you care about when the person you see in front of you is clearly struggling?  Do you ask about their recovery?  Do you talk about food or weight and shape ever?  So many activities are around food that it can be challenging to find ways to connect.  Or maybe you’re mad because your friend is so absorbed in their eating disorder that they don’t appear to want to talk about anything anymore related to your lives.   

These are just a few examples of why being a friend to someone in recovery is tricky.

I’ve heard stories of young girls who have told their friend who is in a recovery program that they “Can’t be friends with them right now as it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship.”    This breaks my heart as the isolation that can accompany an eating disorder is great enough.

I’ve personally felt that feeling of being out at meals with someone who pushes their food around all night long and ultimately eats two or maybe three bites.  Do I say something?  Do I let it go?  Do I ask them if they are ok?  

It depends.

All of these instances are where being a friend requires figuring out how to support or ask questions of your friend who is working to manage their eating disorder.  Maybe you choose not to say anything in the moment, but you say something the next day.  Or you offer to go with your friend to a friends and family support group as that might spark good conversation.  Or you can acknowledge that you’re not sure what to say but you want them to be healthy and that you are there for them if they ever want to talk.  You can also encourage them to share with a professional if you feel anxious they may harm themselves.

Here are three tips I try to follow:

1. Be upfront. Ask how the person is doing with their recovery.  This way you can see what they want to talk about without saying anything about weight or food.

2. Spend time with the person or send a text to say “I’m thinking of you. Do you need anything?” Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to many people and friends offer to help even when they don’t know what to do.

3. Encourage your friend that you believe in them and you love and care about them. Just being present is reassuring.

I get tired of thinking about what I can and can’t say to my friends with eating disorders that are active.  I miss my friend that used to laugh and joke with me about silly stuff.  I worry about their long term health, but by being silent and not saying anything I am making it more difficult to feel like I’ve been a good friend.  And, a good friend, speaks up even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

 

To the Ones Who Didn’t Give Up on Me

By Angela Haugen

I spent many years in the middle of my eating disorder. It literally ate me alive – the drive to continue as well as the drive to stop.  Those competing forces were so strong. They sent my mind into overdrive. letting-go-being-free-aiden-galvin

It never rested. There wasn’t a moment of peace.  More than 5 years on high alert trying to make change.  Keeping the same path.  Changing course.  Maybe this way would be better.  Or perhaps that way might provide more success.

What was success? How do I get there? The thoughts pulsed and pushed.  It was as if I opened the door to a flood that couldn’t stop coming no matter which door I shut or which one I opened.

I would still consider myself “recovering”, even more than a decade without any sign of disordered eating or disordered mindset of my body. I remain alert to what is being said around me and what I’m saying to myself.  This is as much for me as it is for my daughter – I pay attention to how I interact with others, how I interact with food, how I talk about and engage in exercise, how I encourage and compliment, and what I look for in compliments and encouragement from others.

I walked a long hard road to recovery, as anyone with an eating disorder does. Many addiction recovery stories include avoiding the triggering substance – ED’s are forced to face their biggest hurdle multiple times each day.

I find it easy to still think I’m in it all alone. So much of it is in my head – it must just be me that feels the weight of it all.  But in truth there are and always have been many along my path that helped me.

Sure, some got frustrated and left. It’s understandable, even though it was hurtful.  Recovery is a hard road and the square-root of the burden lays on the person engaging it.  The burden so greatly impacting the behavior; the burden so symbolically needing to be lifted to find recovery.  But it weighs on those around us as well.  Many could not handle not being able to control my poor choices.  They didn’t understand it.  They had no idea the dizzy speed of my mind or how desperately I was trying to find a way out.  They only saw the wrong in what I was doing and the need I had for change.

At the time I didn’t get it – but now I have more grace. I see their hurt and pain in the loss of control.  In watching me hurt.  It’s too much for some people.  I look back in love, understanding that they too were unable to hold that pain and had to release it to be lighter themselves.  Some people feel the need to hold on too tight.  Their letting go is for them and, truly, ends up being better for you.

Instead though, it’s the people that have stuck with me. Those that have held me loosely.  The ones that have known my pain in the midst of this low point – they are the ones that I know I can turn to with anything.  They continue to make my road lighter.  They accept my expectations, my boundaries – or they set their own with me.  They see me as I am: imperfect and trying.  I return the grace-filled favor.  I truly believe that those that held me in that time of internal chaos would hold me now even if I was still there.

We rarely talked food or weight or exercise. We talked life, and hurt, and happy, and annoyance.  They invited me out, they invited me over.  They invited me to talk.  They invited me to sit and be.  We had fun.  We went out.  We stayed in. We talked.  We ate… or not. With them, I wasn’t only a girl with an eating disorder – I was just a girl in the world that they shared life with.

They set an example and eventually, I followed. With them, through these relationships, my mind was set free. I eventually couldn’t focus on another goal or what was going on in my head.  I was re-calibrating.  I was feeling loved for who I was right there.

Despite needing to make changes on my own, I could not have overcome this on my own.

So, to the ones that stood beside me in the depth of my hurt, the ones who never let my setbacks define me, the ones who let me be where I was and loved me anyway – I have nothing but the biggest debt of gratitude. You allowed me to freely be me. To move at my pace.  You never took on my burden – you just made it lighter by walking beside me, helping me to focus on what was good about the moment, helping me to find a new identity. You sacrificed time and conversation – opening ears and schedules and space.

Thank you!

Sifting Through the Weeds

By Angela Haugen

We moved into a new house this last year. It hadn’t been well-cared for, so the number of projects to do were endless at best.  Since the weather was changing to spring, we decided to tackle the outside first so the kids could be out with us. digging-up-weeds-in-garden-e1463765253590

I looked at the landscape and almost waved my white flag of surrender before even starting. Even though I knew it needed change, I scanned the yard and didn’t know where to start.

I think recovery can look a lot like this. We know something needs to change and we even know there is something more waiting for us in the end, but getting started – getting dirty – that’s the hardest part.

So as I took on this goal of trying to find beauty within the weeds, here’s what I learned in the process:

Start somewhere – anywhere.

The yard was literally so full of weeds and overgrown brush that I didn’t even know how to formulate a plan.  I had no good strategy.  One day, our friends brought over a leaf blower and just started gathering up pieces of the mess.  It was just the beginning, but so valuable.  After that, I just decided to start pulling weeds.  Recovery is similar – you don’t need to know how you are going to make the changes that need to be made.  Start somewhere.  Get a counselor, talk to a friend, be honest with someone about what you are struggling with.  Any step in the right direction is a beginning.

It’s not a one day project. 

I finished the first day and felt alive with all that we had accomplished.  I was no doubt going to be done and have a whole new yard in weeks.  I may not have had a vision, but I had a goal.  I thought I could will my way through, but the reality was weeks of on and off rain and tons of setbacks in other projects that took my focus off my goal. Weeds kept coming, I needed new tools, as well as extra hands.  It was definitely not going to be a fast project.  Once you take that first step in recovery, it’s easy to think that it’s going to be a quick and easy fix, but the reality is often quite different.  You can make great strides in adjusting your perspective, only to have old hurts and painful relationships sidetrack your efforts.  You may need to try new tools for self-talk or join a therapy group for a while to be reminded that you aren’t alone.  Recovery is a journey, not a project.

Weeds are complex and come up… all the time.

I pulled, raked, yanked, hoed, tilled the soil – but weeds still came. Weeds come in dense patches. They come widespread.  They are just below the surface. And they are deep in the soil.  They can look just like a plant while totally choking out something that is trying to thrive. Weeds are funny things because the ground can appear completely clear, but a little rain or inattention, and pop up they come again.  Landscaping, like life, requires constant attention – diligent effort to make sure that you are on top of all that is going on around you.  Negative and unhealthy thoughts, just like the weeds, are are trying to choke out the beauty in the surroundings.  They can easily be hiding just below the surface.  Recovery will be an ongoing maintenance of catching thoughts before they bloom too full, so they don’t get a chance to ruin what is lovely. You may not be able to catch them all at once, but you can keep an eye out for them so they don’t grow too fast.

It’s ok to work on one section at a time.

I saw the big picture of the lawn and knew my end goal I wanted to be done, but realistically I need to take on one chunk at a time. Each time I’d weed and water and plant, I’d celebrate my accomplishment for that part, it looked good and I’d worked hard. Working hard on one area of recovery is a valuable part of the journey. There is a lot to celebrate in each part of the process that you work hard on; celebrate it. It’s ok to only have the energy to take it one part at a time – legalize one food, capture one thought, release one part of your hurt. Celebrate all you’ve done and where you’ve come from. Pick your next area to do, but then remind yourself that this area will still need to be weeded and maintained occasionally as well.

You’ll learn… and change your mind.

We initially picked a spot for our kids to plant some flower seeds. It was a cute nook and seemed a great place for them to be able to participate a bit. The seasons were moving quickly and I had my green thumb cruising so I rushed it a bit and quickly yanked out weeds, did a few swipes with the rake, and after seeing a mostly dirt-ed area, I had the kids plant their seeds.  It didn’t go well. I hadn’t realize how little sun that area got and these seeds required a lot.  I also didn’t know that they were better planted at another point in the year.  None of these things led to good results.  Additionally, with our heads out of the proverbial weeds, we had more time to make a better plan for the yard.  It was time for a restart in this space.  I had to dig the area up again – more thoroughly – and ended up relocating the plants that would do better in a new area.  Recovery was a lot like this for me.  I rushed some things and had to come back to them.  There were things that seemed like a great idea to try, but they didn’t work well for me.  I needed to find what worked for who I was and what season of life I was in.  I know certain areas of my life are well-cared for and getting just the right light.  I can also tell when other areas aren’t getting enough light or water.

The more you pay attention to your landscape: what looks and feels beautiful to you, what thoughts help you grow and change and which ones don’t, seeing where you need extra help and where you can get victory on your own – the more you do these things, the more you realize that you won’t always get it right and you may need to make a new plan, but your hard work will pay off.

I hope that your garden grows – that you flourish and bloom in the space that is just right for you. Remember, making your own landscape is a journey and not just a project.