Tag Archive for mental health

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.

Renewing Your Mind

Written by Heather Olson

I’m constantly amazed by how powerful the mind is. I’ve become more aware of this every day as I work through recovery.  I’ve found that renewing my mind is a daily process (even hourly at times), which involves filling it with truth rather than the lies that have held me captive for so long.  I know I’ve felt in so many instances that I don’t have any control over the thoughts that can debilitate me, but I’ve learned that I have more power than I realize.

 

I get to choose what I’m going to focus my thoughts on and what I’m not. 

I get to choose whose words will be allowed to enter my mind that will help me grow (whether they are uplifting or constructive criticism).  Ultimately, I get to choose what fills my mind and what doesn’t.  I’ve personally found that reading my Bible and learning about how God sees me and how much He lovesFlowers me helps to change the negative thoughts that come into my mind constantly throughout the day, especially the lies I personally tell myself.  One verse that I love replaying in my mind every day is 1 Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”  This reminds me that I have the choice to give God ALL of my worries, stresses and daily struggles and don’t need to carry them on my own.  He has placed people in my life to walk beside me and help me through them.  As a result, my mind can refocus on positive thoughts and can be renewed!

Eating Disorders Coalition Advocacy Day 2017

On April 5th, 2017 The Emily Program Foundation and scholarship recipients traveled to Washington D.C. for the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Advocacy Day. Below are the reflections of our award recipients from their first experiences on The Hill.

Award Recipient Jamie Margetta:

This past week I was given the privilege to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Day on the Hill. I was graciously awarded a scholarship from the Emily Program Foundation to fund my travels to Washington, D.C. to advocate alongside EDC members who are as passionate as I am about eating disorder advocacy. I expected to walk away with a new experience and a sense of accomplishment from advocating, but I ended up walking away with so much more. My experience at EDC’s Advocacy Day was eye opening, exciting, educating, and overall an experience I won’t soon forget. I was given the Jamie, Jillian and Molly opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives and express my passion to eating disorder research, early intervention, and education. It was very empowering to be able to express not only my passion on this subject, but why others should care. Presenting fact sheets, personal stories, and evidence that eating disorders matter and they need help was very gratifying. I am so thankful the Emily Program Foundation gave me the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and truly express my concerns and needs for the eating disorder community. I met the most amazing group of people and learned so much from the advocates. This is definitely an experience I will not forget, and I am so grateful I was able to advocate on behalf of friends, family, and loved ones who have experienced the challenges of an eating disorder. Your voice matters!

 

Award Recipient Molly Britt:

As a university undergrad, I did not believe that I could make a difference in the political world without any experience. My experience at the 2017 EDC Advocacy Day completely changed my view of that. While working alongside women and men of all ages, I got to meet with congressional staffers and spread the word about the importance of eating disorders and how the political Molly Britt and Emilyworld could help. It was the first Advocacy Day since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act which was the first time in history that specific language regarding eating disorders was written into policy. Our mission was to prompt the members of congress to put this policy into action. I was overwhelmed by the support that so many of these staffers conveyed toward our cause and felt as though I was really making a difference. To top of the great day, I got to hear Amy Klobuchar – one of Minnesota’s senators and a driving force for eating disorder policy – speak and thank us for all our hard work. This day has motivated me to participate more in policy change surrounding eating disorders and all other mental health causes.

Beautiful Just The Way I Am

By Haley Bougie

The summer before my 8th grade year I changed schools. At first I was angry because I would miss my old friends, but it wasn’t long before I ended up liking the neighborhood and the city. I still didn’t have friends around though, so my days were pretty boring. When school started I was so scared and nervous I didn’t know what to do. I was worried about what I’d wear, what I’d look like to others, and even more worried about where I was going to sit for lunch.

On the first day, I walked into the school looking for my first class all the while feeling insecure about my new peers looking at me and even about those being nice to me. At one point, when I noticed that everyone had an ask.fm account for Facebook, a place where you can anonymously leave questions or comments, I wanted one as well. At first it was amusing, but then people began writing extremely offensive remarks on my wall regarding my bodies’ appearance and who I was as a person. Eventually, I deleted the app but I could not forget the comments directed towards me through it.130204111816-high-school-student-hallway-sad-bully-story-top[1]

Despite the fact that I did not know exactly who was writing the comments, I had a feeling they were from girls at my new school and I began to feel really nervous before leaving for school in the morning. From what started as an innocent Facebook App turned into a year-long downward spiral of bullying, depression, an isolating home life, self-harm and an attempt to take my own life.

Little did I know, it was after this moment that I began a life changing journey through mental health treatment. While I was there something remarkable happened. I began making friends in treatment who were compassionate and supportive who helped me to realize I was not alone. I knew that treatment had afforded me with the opportunity to surround myself with positive people who had similar life experiences. It was being there that made me better. Meanwhile, I was afraid to go back to school after the incident because many of my classmates knew what had happened. However, I was surprisingly supported by my peers. I felt that everything was going to be different.

When I was 16, all of the hopes that I had suddenly diminished when a friend and I posted a photo of ourselves in swimming suites on Instagram. The bullying started once again and I fell back into the familiar feeling of worthlessness and isolation from a pain that I did not know how to handle.

While dealing with my own bullying situation with these girls, I suddenly realized, that I was not their only victim. They were saying mean things about other girls as well. This is when it finally clicked for me that maybe it wasn’t my size or shape or appearance that was bothering these girls or any of the people that had bullied me in the past. Perhaps, they were struggling with their own identities and putting me down was something that helped them to feel better about themselves.

With that in mind I started to look at myself in the mirror and look at their words, over and over. It didn’t take me long to realize that I do not look like them and I did not want to look like them. I didn’t fit into any mold of what young women are supposed to look like, nor did I want to. I only wanted to be me. My features are different, my hair is different, my body is curvaceous, and I love it! It took toxic people to convince me that I was fat, worthless and ugly. I struggled for a long while, before I realized it was time to erase the toxicity from my life.

My weight is something that I still struggle with from time to time. My body is not the same as that of the average teenage girl, but I no longer feel the way I once did. I know that my curves are a sign of how satisfied I am with life as well as a sign of beauty, strength and maturity. Ridding my life of toxic thoughts and toxic people has changed everything. I no longer listen to what people have to say about me, because their words have no bearing on the way that I feel about myself.

 

History Has Been Made

Guest Blog Post by Kitty Westin

kitty-and-amy

I was thrown onto an uncharted path nearly 17 years ago. I was in excruciating pain, I was lost and confused and had no idea how to navigate the path, where the journey was headed or what I was supposed to do along the way. When Anna died from an eating disorder on February 17, 2000 I felt like my world had blown apart. I did not know how to survive the tragedy but I did know one thing; I had to somehow transform the horror of Anna’s death into something positive. I reached out to Senator Paul Wellstone who was a champion of mental health parity and asked for his help. I told him Anna’s story and he told me to take the story to Washington D.C. He said that I should bring as many other voices with me as possible because that is what would make change happen. My journey has been hard, frustrating, messy, and often filled with obstacles, but it was always a journey of love.

Once I figured out that the journey was headed towards Washington D.C. it did not take long for others to join me on the path. People from across the United States stepped up and were willing to use their voices and tell their stories to Members of Congress. Soon we had a movement that included thousands of people who were committed to a common goal, which was to pass meaningful Federal legislation to address eating disorders.

In 2014 we introduced the Anna Westin Act and our advocates began the hard work of meeting with their representatives, making phone calls and sending letters, emails, tweets and posting on Facebook to drum up support. As the 114th Congress was nearing the end we heard that our efforts were successful and language from the Anna Westin Act was included in a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act. The Cures Act is a bipartisan bill and both the House and the Senate were motivated to get it passed before Congress adjourned in December. The House of Representatives passed the Cures Act with Anna Westin Act language included on Nov. 29 with an overwhelming majority, 392- 26. The bill was brought to the floor of the Senate on Dec. 7 and I along with fellow advocates watched as the Senators filed in one-by-one and voted. The bill won with an overwhelming majority of 94 – 5. On Tuesday, Dec. 13, President Obama will sign the bill and it will become law! After nearly 17 years of work we passed eating disorders specific legislation. We made history and the efforts of our advocates will help millions of people by providing training for medical professionals and clarifying that mental health parity applies to all levels of treatment including residential.

It is hard to describe how it felt to be sitting in the gallery of the Senate to witness this historic moment. I was elated and relieved. I felt immensely grateful to our grassroots advocates and our champions in the Senate and the House who worked tirelessly to get this done. And, I felt calm, like a weight was being lifted from my shoulders. I willingly took on the burden of getting this done and I was never alone on the journey. There were always people who helped carry the load but I always felt that it was my responsibility to be Anna’s voice and to get this initiative to the finish line. However, I and my fellow advocates could only take it so far, we had to have Members of the Senate and the House take it across the finish line. Senator Amy Klobuchar stepped up and assured us that she would do everything in her power to pass the Anna Westin Act and that is exactly what she did. She asked three women Senators to help; Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Senator Shelly Capito (R-WV) and they worked as a team to get this done. I am proud of our Minnesota Congressional Delegation who joined forces nearly unanimously including Sen. Al Franken [D-MN], Rep. Erik Paulsen [R-MN-3], Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN-5], Rep. Collin Peterson [D-MN-7], Rep. Tom Emmer [R-MN-6], Rep. Richard Nolan [D-MN-8], Rep. Timothy Walz [D- MN-1] and Rep. Betty McCollum [D-MN-4] to help millions of people who are affected by eating disorders.

Passing language from the Anna Westin Act was truly a team effort. It proves that having passion and commitment and never, ever giving up can lead to success. Our work is not done, there are other issues that we need to address related to eating disorders but let’s all take a moment to bask in this victory! Anna wrote the following words in her journal just days before she died; “May your dreaming never end and your voice never die”. Thank you for daring to dream and using your voice. Together we made history!