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Tag Archive for self-care

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.

Calling All Artists!

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ATTENTION ARTISTS!

Art and Eating Disorders- Building Community Awareness 2017

The Emily Program Foundation is calling to you for your artwork inspired by body image, eating disorders or related experiences. We are excited to host this upcoming exhibition at the Southern Theatre in partnership with Altered Esthetics to build awareness and education around eating disorders in our community. The exhibition will be on display February 3rd-26th, 2017.

If you have ever created artwork inspired by eating disorder recovery, please submit your work to this show! Themes include, but are not limited to, eating disorders, body image, and recovery.

Don’t wait to take part in this show; space is limited. Submissions are accepted on a first-come first-serve basis. Art pieces must be framed and equipped with a wire hanger upon submission. Artwork will be displayed anonymously (unless otherwise requested).

Please include a photo of your piece and submit your artwork with the submission form to

Emily Monson no later than January 2nd, 2017.

Submit works to Emily Monson, Outreach and Program Manager

1295 Bandana Blvd. W., Ste. 210, St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact Emily at emily.monson@emilyprogramfoundation.org or 651-379-6122 with questions and to obtain a submission form.

southerntheaterlogo-purpleAElogo_419.eps

A Call for Artwork!

Art and Eating Disorders – Building Community Awareness 2017

The Emily Program Foundation is calling to you for your artwork inspired by body image, eating disorders or related experiences. We are excited to host this upcoming exhibition at The Southern Theater in partnership with Altered Esthetics to build awareness and education around eating disorders in our community. The exhibition will be on display February 3rd – 26th, 2017. 

Dance of Freedom - Art Exhibition 2014

Dance of Freedom – Art Exhibition 2014

If you have ever created artwork inspired by eating disorder recovery, please submit your work to this show! Themes include, but are not limited to, eating disorders, body image, and recovery.

Don’t wait to take part in this show; space is limited. Submissions are accepted on a first-come first-serve basis. Art pieces must be framed and equipped with a wire hanger upon submission. Artwork will be displayed anonymously (unless otherwise requested).

 

 

 

For more information on this exhibit, please see our events page.

Please include a photo of your piece and submit your artwork with the submission form to Emily Monson no later than January 2nd, 2017.

Contact Emily or call 651-379-6122 with questions and to obtain a submission form.

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.