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Archive for Recovery

The Badge

By Emily P.

For seven years, my ribs were a badge of honor. When they peeked through, I was powerful. As though the wars I fought with my body were worth the pain. Badge

I earned that badge by skipping meals, throwing up, and hiding my food. My stomach flattened and my ribs rose. Sometimes, I imagined them bursting past my skin, and that felt strangely comforting.

I didn’t care that I froze when the air conditioning switched on. I ignored the bulging wads of hair that fell from my scalp. I disregarded my stinking breath and the blurred vision when I stood up. As long as I saw those ribs, I was superb.

But during my second year of college, I slowly morphed out of counting calories and obsessing over portion-sizes. I grew tired of my brain’s daily acrobatics with food, and I changed my focus.

I focused on friendships, creative projects, school, hard work: anything that pushed the eating disorder out of my skull, little by little.

Today, I don’t obsess over that badge anymore. I eat until I’m full, and I’ve learned to mostly love my ever-changing body. But there’s always a meek question that protrudes through my thoughts: Will I ever relapse?

It’s frightening to think about.

I cried the first time my double zero jeans felt tight. My brain set off an internal hurricane when I couldn’t pull them past my thighs. Learning to love my health and myself, that was a strenuous fight. And I don’t want to fall back into my former mindset, to fall back into Anorexia.

But there are moments. Moments when I see a bit of my rib in the mirror and a glimmer of pride emerges.

That’s when awareness snaps over me and I push that pride aside, concentrating on self-love.

I used to view Anorexia as a lightswitch that you could click off. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

But there are moments. And maybe there will always be moments. Moments signaling that the fight’s not over. Moments that morph my ribs back into a badge of honor.

It helps to acknowledge moments like these. Understanding these mental changes and actively thinking about my health, that’s how I cope.

And while people deal with Anorexia in different ways, I wonder if the feeling of uncertainty is universal. As I fight and look past my former badge of honor, I accept that my mentality isn’t black and white. That while I am better, I’ll strive to work through the gray.

To look back on the badge as a distant memory. To develop a new badge of honor: my health.

Being Still

Written by Heather Olson

TreesAs I’ve been working through recovery, one of the most challenging things I’ve encountered is appreciating and spending time alone. I find it very difficult to be alone because of the temptation to fall back into old habits when struggling with the difficulties of the day and the accompanied strong emotional reactions.  I find this to be challenging as well because I tend to be a naturally social and extroverted person who wants to talk to others constantly, even when I’m in a negative place and am not able to have the most positive interaction.  This can be especially draining when trying to sift through overwhelming temptations and strong emotions.

When I push myself out of my comfort zone to spend necessary time alone, whether it be taking a walk in the park, listening to my favorite worship music or sitting in complete silence and praying, it can sometimes be more helpful with working through what’s weighing on my heart and mind. One Bible verse that has really spoken to me in this area is Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world.”  Being able to be still by calming my mind and body before God and allowing Him to speak to me is precious and minimizes my focus that would have previously been on any self-destructive thoughts or actions.  It helps me to refocus and have more fruitful and positive interactions with others as well!

 

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.