Gratitude for Hours well Spent

I am exhausted. Not in the bad – I can’t get out of bed, hate life kind of exhausted. The – I have been so busy out living life that I am exhausted. It is a nice change from the first. I am faced with a lot of work to get done because I have put that work aside for more favorable experiences. Yes I have deadlines, everyone does in life, but sometimes it is better to not spend hours being a perfectionist trying to get the perfect grade. I rarely used to procrastinate. I don’t recommend it all the time, but having to stay up later a few nights over the past few weeks was well worth it. All the little experiences from a super bowl parade to hiking with my dogs have made me genuinely happy. It has been awhile since I have done a gratitude list, but I really think it is important when things are going well in life to write things down to return to on those not so great days.

  1. Football. I am sad that the season is over, but finishing with a super bowl win was worth every up and down during the season. Football is more than just a sport to me. It brings my friends and family together. It also brings the community together and I know everyone will continue to celebrate well into the summer.
  2. Fresh air. My boyfriend and I took our dogs on a hike out around a secluded lake for Valentine’s Day. There is no other feeling in the world like getting outside and being surrounded by nature. I tend to forget how soothing being outside is, even if it is only for a few moments in the backyard. I am hoping to go snow shoeing for the first time in the next couple weeks as well which will be an amazing experience. I am definitely yearning for warmer weather too for more hikes and camping.
  3. People.   Usually I am more of an introvert and a lot of people tend to get on my nerves, but lately that has been changing. I credit working with cancer survivors because I get to meet and interact with new clients on a weekly basis. It has really opened my eyes to how every one of us is truly an individual with unique talents and experiences. I have learned a lot through observation and really listening to people. When I stop to actually listen to someone and understand what they are saying I tend to have a more positive interaction. We all want to be heard, but it is rare to listen and remove your thoughts and judgements. I encourage everyone to practice empathy on a daily basis.
  4. Family. This really goes without saying, but I grateful every moment for the support and encouragement from those around me.
  5. My health. I am grateful that I can get out and be active and enjoy the things I love with the people I love. A lot of times we take for granted what our bodies actually do for us.       There were times in my life where I could barely get around my house, especially after the spinal fusion, and now I am physically in the best shape of my life because I am healthy. For one I am nourishing myself and two I know when to rest and take it easy.       Injury and sickness give me a very cut and dry perspective of how precious my health and physical body are to me. You only get one, take care of it.

What are one or two things you are grateful for today?

Lost Muffins

I found myself incredibly frustrated the other morning. I was driving to school and reached over into my bag where earlier that morning I had placed two homemade blueberry muffins and to my astonishment (and instant irritation) they were nowhere to be found! I got to school and searched the entire car even though I knew it was illogical they could have made their way to the backseat. And the moment I gave into reality that they were nowhere near me, my boyfriend texted me a picture with a question mark and a picture of my lovely muffins in their bag in the middle of my living room floor. Damn. I was specifically craving these delicious muffins for the morning. I had to sigh and move on and eat a banana, peanut butter, and protein bar even though none of it sounded as appetizing as those muffins. This was one of those moments that makes me very appreciative of my recovery. In the past this would have either gone one of two ways. One- I would have found myself ecstatic that I had left behind my breakfast as it would be the perfect time to restrict. Two- It would have ruined my entire morning and I would be left trying to alter my meal plan and be very indecisive of my choices especially with no appetite. Recovery made me realized that although the situation wasn’t favorable, breakfast is required and even though I didn’t feel like eating what I had left, I did it anyway and moved on with my day. Little moments like this are a wonderful reminder that I am free.

One of the Lucky Ones

Claim denied. Upon further investigation I had reached my 2, yes t-w-o, therapy appointments covered under insurance. Even then I was only reimbursed half of the cost. I shrugged, used to the system and went about my morning. Later I was sorting through mail again and as I was shredding that denial letter, I was overcome with gratitude in my situation and sadness for others less fortunate. I am one of the lucky ones and I don’t take that lightly. My family has been able to financially support me throughout my entire recovery journey even when insurance would not. Thousands of dollars. For those of you not familiar with mental health coverage benefits, this has been my experience and although every situation is different, I know there are countless others with similar stories. At my worst, I saw a therapist twice a week, a psychiatrist every two weeks, and a nutritionist once a week. Over ten years into this journey I still see a therapist once a month, a psychiatrist every three months unless an issue arises, and a nutritionist on an as need basis. These visits average around $100 and I know others who have spent much more. I will let you do that math, but it adds up very quickly. Without a doubt I know that the only reason I am in a great place in my life is because I was able to have a stable treatment team. With constant monitoring and support, I never had to be placed inpatient, where cost skyrocket into the hundreds of thousands and most are denied after only a few short weeks, leaving them in debt and fighting for other outpatient care. Some give up all together and end up dying from their disorder because they weren’t able to receive the care that they needed and that everyone deserves. I get so angry and frustrated when I think about this whole situation because I am living proof that there is a solution. It is rather simple in my head so why can’t others see it? Stable outpatient resources = recovered. That is my story and I confidently believe that it can be everyone’s story if they are given the opportunity. I am a lucky one and I will never take that for granted. With this anger and passion, I will find ways to get involved in organizations with similar goals. I know I am only a single individual, but I want to make a difference. I want to find others with similar stories to mine showing that full recovery is possible given the opportunity. I also want to hear from all those who have been denied this opportunity. Something needs to change. I know it is a more complex issue than what I present, but why should it be? I am a researcher by nature and I know I could throw fact after fact out if I wanted to write an essay, but this is from my heart. I won’t ramble on, but I hope reading this makes you stop to think, if even for a short moment, about the future of mental health and what it could look like. If you read this and know of organizations committed to this vision please share in the comments because I would love to explore them as well as compile a list so that others can explore them too.

I am grateful to link up with Julia and encourage you to read her recovery roundup on Mondays where people share stories of recovery and perseverance! recovery-round-up-lord-still-loves-me-link-up

How Writing a Thesis can be Compared to Recovery

I tend to fixate too much on the future, especially when it comes to school. I am finding that the hardest thing about writing a thesis is to actually start the writing. I love data collection and actually getting to do the research, but with the writing it seems overwhelming to start. I have an outline, I know the formula, so why is it getting in my way so much? The answer goes back to fixating on the future. Instead of chapters with subheadings nicely broken down, I can’t help but see the deadline for the entire thing and I am left with an overwhelming sense of dread. There is so much to do! I like to be a perfectionist when it comes to about everything in life, which I might add has been mostly a harmful attribute, and it is the same with this. My head gets in the way and just stops me from writing. I want to get it perfect the first time even though rationally I know that isn’t the right mindset.

In my mind this is very relatable to the recovery process. Whether it is addiction or eating disorders or self-harm, or any destructive behavior- if you look at the grand scale of things, it will automatically become overwhelming and you won’t even want to continue. You know what you have to do, yet your head gets in the way and you fail before you even try. Recovery is just like the writing process. There will be several, and I repeat several, “drafts” before things start to fall into the place you want. You will stumble and trip up and succeed and slip and win and lose and the list could go on endlessly. Recovery has become second nature to me now because I took that first step and kept climbing. I also continue to take small steps every day to commit to this new life. Stop focusing on the end goal and start focusing on all the little steps you can do right now in this moment and today that will help you move forwards. Before you know it, your life will change for the better. Trust me in the fact that you may not see it happening, but you will be able to look back after a while and be proud at what you have accomplished. When I put writing a thesis into perspective and comparing it to my recovery, I know that I will succeed. I just need to start, no matter how small and eventually I will have a finished product to be proud of.

Energy

As an athlete I know all too well how my energy can impact my performance. Not only my physical energy, but the energy of my state of mind. Anxiety and excitement are two opposite forms of the same energy that lead to very different results. Anxiety is a negative form of energy that sucks the life out of me, leaving me hopeless and prone to depression. When I am anxious, I pick apart certain skills or movements and am never left satisfied. Excitement is the positive form of anxiety and instead gives me hope and confidence. I work hard on skills and sets with excitement trying to become my best self. In both energy states I work my ass off, but which one produces the results I want? Obvious to any athlete. But what about applying this principle to other aspects of my life? Getting back into a new semester I find myself a bit anxious and stressed concerning my master’s thesis. That energy didn’t do me any favors last semester. As I picked apart every little piece trying to make it perfect, I lost all mindfulness and serenity in life. That energy carried over through the break and it is exhausting. My brain is wired to default to the negative. I am working very hard to re-wire it and be very intentional about mindfulness and gratitude. At first thought it was very hard to think about my master’s thesis as exciting. Yet the more I separate the stress and anxiety, I actually find there is a lot to be excited about. I love the work I am doing with cancer rehabilitation and it is a privilege to get to work with these survivors every day. Each passing week I am closer to the career I want and the life I have envisioned. This is my passion and school is just a stepping stone to get there. Writing can definitely be compared to competing in athletics. You work hard, have many drafts and edits, and eventually end up with something you hope to be proud of. I compete to win and this makes me excited. I am writing in hopes that my thesis will become published and to have a successful defense in order to graduate. That will be a huge victory and this makes me excited. Regardless, I will finish my degree no matter the state of energy. I hope in the coming weeks to continue to be mindful about this topic and use my energy in a positive manner. Thinking this way does transform you. Think about what makes you anxious and then think about how that energy can be converted into excitement. For example, maybe recovery is wrought with anxiety and there is no way for it to be exciting. Really dig deep and come up with your own personal reasons of how it could be exciting. With no exaggeration, I have found recovery to be the most exciting thing in my life. It gave me a new life. I encourage you to take a step back and consider how you can be intentional with your own energy. It is a challenge and as I move forward I strive to stay excited and inspired about life.

A Mindful Break

The past month has been overwhelming, rewarding, challenging, beautiful, frustrating, joyous, confusing and everything in between.  I finished my first semester of graduate school, but lost my sense of mindfulness along the way.  I intend to find it again and am working on tools to help build it up so I don’t lose it again at the end of the next semester.  Most waking moments recently were filled with everything I had to finish and work on and always my mind was jumping to the next thing before I was done with the first.  That is no way to live and thus the reason that I turned to negative coping behaviors in the past.  I didn’t make it through this period of stress perfectly- recovery is never perfect- but I am very proud that I made an effort every day to put recovery first.  Looking back, this was one of the most stressful semesters of school for me ever, but it was also one of the most rewarding and I love what I am doing.  Now that I have a break, I am fully embracing self-care and being mindful of the now.  I feel a weight lifted off my chest and I know I need to practice being mindful every day, not just when it is convenient.  How am I going to embrace mindfulness over holidays?

  1. Slow down. Especially when it comes to meals.  Lately I have been running out the door with whatever I can grab and eat as quickly as possible.  Not very rational for someone recovering from an eating disorder and I know sometimes that is better than having nothing, yet I know at my best I am mindful of meals.  I intend to do a lot of cooking and trying new recipes as well.
  2. Family time. I intend to spend a lot of time with family and friends and be present with them.  Have meaningful conversations and genuine laughter.  I look forward to both family coming in to visit and going to visit family away from home.
  3. Training. Getting back to a regular gym routine for me is key to my health and success as an athlete.  School for me will always take priority and it has over the past month, so I intend now to get back at it.  I am learning to find the middle between not working out at all and pushing myself to an intense level.  Any form of physical activity, even for a quick ten minutes helps to reset my mind and brighten my day and that is something I am learning to be mindful of.
  4. Creativity. I am very excited to get back to coloring, writing, and reading for fun.  I have done more reading than I can remember over the past few months, but there is something a lot more rewarding picking up a novel instead of highlighting journal articles!

These are just a few things I am working towards and want to continue even when things pick back up again.  Even if you don’t have a long break now – how will you live out mindfulness in your day to day?  What are some small things that you can do to ground you in the moment?

 

A Holiday Check In

This is a post that I wrote this time last year on a different blog and I thought it was appropriate to re-post this week for a reminder!

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This is the first year since I was young that I am truthfully looking forward to Thanksgiving.  Of course I have been thankful in the past to visit family and meet with friends, but I always dreaded the actual day.  Food, food, and more food.  It still brings with it a lot of stress, but I have managed other Thanksgivings in the past with no eating disorder behaviors and I am confident in this one too.  I have a lot to be thankful for and now that I can see past the food to the actual holiday it takes on a different meaning for me.  When I was struggling I always looked to those recovered to give me some guidance during this time of year so I thought I would pay it forward and give you some tips for surviving Thanksgiving with an eating disorder.

  1. It is just another day.  Just because social tradition dictates it as a time to consume more food than usual doesn’t mean that it applies to you.  Stick with your meal plan and eat all of your meals.
  2. Eat breakfast.  This might seem redundant from number one but it was very important to my recovery and my success on more difficult days.  Also make sure you eat all of your meals the following days as well.
  3. Just because there is a huge spread of food doesn’t mean that you have to have everything.  Stick to what is safe if you are struggling, but I also encourage you to step out and try new or more challenging foods.
  4. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the amount of food- start with the basics.  Starch, protein, fat, etc.  Step away and breathe for a few seconds.  I found it a lot more comforting to be at the ‘end’ of the line so to speak when it comes to getting the food so that I could take my time and really get what I needed and what I really wanted without feeling rushed.
  5. Survey the table and food before putting anything on your plate.  Generally your gut will tell you what you want and then it is common for that voice to chime in and tell you what you should or shouldn’t have.  Eat whatever initially came to your mind because it is ok to have what you want!
  6. Be aware of hunger cues and honor them.  You can always have more later on, or you can go back for more if you didn’t get enough at first.
  7. It is ok to say no.  People have an awful habit of trying to feed other people and although it can come out of a caring place, it can get quite annoying for those that are just trying to survive the day.  Even if someone made something special and wants everyone to try it, you can still say no.
  8. Focus on the conversation.  Trust me, people aren’t judging you or scrutinizing every bite you put in your mouth even if you are.  If you are surrounded by people who know about your recovery you might feel overly ‘watched’ but try to make the day less about the food and more about the people.
  9. Take care of yourself.  I want you to challenge yourself and your recovery, but you need to also know that it is ok to put yourself first.  If you need to step away or leave early, do it!  I am not saying to use your eating disorder as an excuse to not eat or to get out of an uncomfortable situation, but you need to do what is best for your overall health.  Family can be stressful and if you need to take a plate home and eat in a more comfortable environment then do it and don’t feel ashamed.
  10. Be mindful and present.  Enjoy the time with family and friends because that is what the day is really about.  Keep your support network close and be honest if you are struggling.  Having someone there with you to lean on can help tremendously.  You don’t have to face the day alone.

 

These are just a few things that I have found helpful in recovery and I hope it can be of help to you too.  Another last thing to think about – I find it really helpful to write down what you would imagine a Thanksgiving to be like fully recovered.  What would you eat?  What would you do differently than you do now?  This gives you a vision to work towards and can give you hope.  I never thought I would ever be able to get through a holiday dinner without behaviors, but I did and will continue to do so.  Be patient with yourself.  No one is perfect.  I still get those negative thoughts but they no longer dictate my actions and I can move past them without getting stuck and I believe you can too.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

New -I am trying a new link up with  Julia!  I encourage you to visit her blog and check out this new recovery round up link where people share anything and everything about recovery!recovery-round-up-lord-still-loves-me-link-up