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Archive for Recovery

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.

 

Becoming Lighter Each Stone I dropped

By Angela Haugen

I spent a lot of time in my recovery feeling like I was wasting my time. I thought that every counseling session should produce enlightenment and each day should provide improvement.  When that wasn’t happening, I was surely failing. stones-in-hands

After four straight years of feeling as though I’d made no progress, I can remember numbing myself to the possibility of change. At the time, I happen to have found a church that I could sneak in and sneak out of with little interaction with others.  It was a great place for me to just ‘be’ for a while and witness other people feeling things that I no longer thought viable. It was here that I was awakened to the possibility of releasing – of letting go of all guilt and all pain.  All my mistakes, everything from the last minute to the last hour to the last four years, I could literally let them go.

The speaker had talked about the difference between guilt and conviction: one of them holds you frozen in place, keeping you stuck wherever you transgressed; the other moves you toward something new.

Though I was not in a spiritual place, I quickly saw the connection between the extra weight that I felt I was carrying – the weight I was trying to shed with all my restrictions and rules – all of that weight was burden and guilt. I needed to let it go.

The hardest part in all of this process was focusing on me. I was very used to helping others, and accommodating for others, and understanding for others, and forgiving others… but the truth was I just added stones into an invisible backpack of burden each time I did that.  My strong empathetic nature had me carrying unnecessary weight.  It was guilt of what would happen if I disagreed, didn’t accommodate, did things my own way.  And, though I wasn’t in tune enough to FEEL that load emotionally, I mixed it all up in my head and had mistakenly felt it physically.

The first step for me was to look at myself, as I was that day, and drop the stone of that day. Each time I restricted or binged or purged – each and EVERY time – I forgave myself, acknowledged that I didn’t have to do that, but that I was still and person that needed love, even if it was just love from myself.

It didn’t stop right away, but I stayed in the practice of acknowledging exactly where I was and what I did or didn’t like about the situation. I acknowledged the feeling of being disappointed, of wanting something more.  I refused the stone of guilt and set it down.

I stayed in that space, each day dropping the stone of that day but, eventually, I also tried to drop the stones I had collected along the way. Stones of friendships and relationships lost over my ED – acknowledging my part in the loss, but also acknowledging where others had let me down and had left the burden in my hands to carry. Stones of burdens unrealized from childhood and from school and from missed expectations: where people had failed me, where I had failed people.  Where I didn’t match up to what I expected, where I didn’t match up to what everyone else expected, where everyone else’s expectations were unfair or just plain wrong – I released each stone that I could not change or control.  I addressed the ones that  I could confront.  I set down the ones that I could not.

I released other people’s feelings and their reactions. I did not do everything right, but I trusted that others were either capable of addressing that with me, or else let them carry their own responsibility to address it.  I worked hard to releasing the stone of assumption and presumption, and instead focused on laying those stones at the feet of other people.  I asked more questions, clarified statements, and started to say when things bothered me or hurt me or just didn’t fit into my schedule.  I set the stones down in conversations or prayers or calls for help.

It all felt selfish at first. Some people tried to throw the stones back at me and wanted me to carry them (because most people don’t want to hold on to them, I find that they often deflect them – but that doesn’t mean that I have to pick them up!).  I hated having to let go of the comfortable role I’d established as being an ‘easy-going’ personality.  I didn’t want to push back – I wanted to still be the flexible one.  I didn’t want to be the one who riled the relationship or who seemed ‘difficult’ to work with.  But I also didn’t want to carry the excess weight anymore.

Once I realized that I wasn’t going to lose anymore weight because I didn’t actually have any to lose, I was freed up to loose the weight that was tied around my heart – the weight of heavy emotions that were easier to carry than to just address. When I freed myself to no longer carry the ‘bad’ feelings, but instead set those stones aside, I freed myself up to be ok with letting people down, making mistakes, and trying to figure it all out – just like everyone else is doing.

I literally had to forgive myself and embrace the conviction of the self-damaging behavior Every. Single. Day.

Multiple times each day – for over a year an a half before I felt the miraculous release of my ED. The interesting thing was, the day that I let the last stone go – I remember feeling a physical weight lifted off my shoulder.  For the first time in over 5 years, I was lighter.  All because I embraced feeling bad about myself and others…

and then, let it go.