In between the many papers, tests and presentations, I thought I should have an update of sorts. I have been wanting to write for a long time, but when I sit down to work there seems to always be something more pressing to do. That is no different today, but I still need to take the time for myself. This morning is wonderful and slow before I rush off to a full day. I tried the pumpkin Noosa for the first time and it was amazingly delicious. I make a pumpkin cheesecake for the holidays and this yogurt tasted a lot like that. I highly recommend it! I have had to be more conscientious of my meal plan lately which frustrates me, but also reminds me that life will always have the ups and downs. I am not struggling, but I was getting into poorer habits that could lead to destructive places. Luckily I am in a place to recognize the signs and make corrections. Starting the day sitting down with breakfast helps tremendously. This time of year always leads to a decrease in mood due to the time shift and the added stress of graduate school has made it extra challenging. More days than I like to admit I want to just crawl in bed and stay there, but I keep dragging myself (extra caffeine required) along. Being back in class makes me realize why all my bad habits were so easy. Coping skills take time, while other behaviors don’t. I have had to discover quick coping mechanisms to turn to. Some of them have included social media, short play sessions with my dogs, hot showers. Anything to clear my mind and reset so I can come back and be productive with my work. It is a balancing act, but I am looking forward to the holiday season where I get a break from the endless pile of work and get to spend a lot of time with family. I enjoy my work in cancer rehab and my clients brighten my day. My training for competition is coming along well, but also with ups and downs. School sometimes gets in the way of training and I have just had to accept that and work with the schedule I have. Overall things are good and I am very grateful, I just need to keep taking it one day at a time and ride the waves that my mood brings. I know that is a cliché saying when it comes to bipolar, but I have found it to be very true. If you go with the flow of your moods and don’t fight them, they are more manageable and the negative does pass. I am actually proud of myself. I am handling grad school very well and I am enjoying it. The stress and pressure is sky high, but I am prioritizing and also living life. I am doing what I was not able to do throughout high school and undergrad. It may have taken some time, but I feel my life is my own again.
I just wanted to take a minute and throw out some advice from experience, take it or leave it, but I feel it is something to be said. I don’t exclude myself when I say that a lot of people with eating disorders tend to make other things besides their recovery priority number one in their lives. Big mistake. Maybe one of the biggest mistakes you will make in life. I know I can look back in hindsight now, while in the midst of being sick it isn’t always clear the mistakes we are making. I get that, but that is why I am writing this to those who may not be able to see life as clearly through the lens of a disordered mind. Stop waiting for tomorrow, for the semester to end, for the seasons to change. Make recovery THE most significant aspect to your life NOW. And don’t half ass it. I told myself countless times that I was in recovery, yet refused to make it a priority in my life. I stayed sick for far too long because of it. I also talked myself into believing at one point that this was just how it was and I would just have food issues my whole life. Please don’t believe that voice when you hear it. Please don’t believe that you will be stuck forever. I know you may be reading this and you think you are different. Think you have it handled or think that other things in life are far too important. Let me tell you what has been important in my life. Taking the time to learn how to live without the eating disorder. Because of those precious months directly spent on myself, I now have the ability to A) go out and have meaningful conversations with people B) spend less time and effort on class work because I have more energy and ability to concentrate C) have energy to work out and train and appreciate how strong I am D) fill my day with things I never would have done before E)…F)….Z)….the list could be endless and I want everyone to have their own lists free of disease. I have come across countless people refusing to get the help they deserve because school or work or even family comes first. I am guilty of it too and I know that is how our brains are wired, especially after the hell we put our bodies and minds through. But you can break it. Recovery is hard and takes a lot of motivation and dedication and it hurts and sucks and it is anything but fun – but it will give you your life back. And instead of living in a state of quasi recovery, it is worth it to endure the pain to push past and find a new you free of the eating disorder. I will be the first to admit that it would have been easier just to keep on living like I was, but I look back now and the life I have is astounding and beautiful. All days aren’t always like that, but I have an abundant number of good days compared to bad and all days good or bad are more meaningful. No matter where you are on your journey, just ask yourself a few questions. What is stopping you from making recovery the priority in life? How would your life look different if you put recovery first? Everyone’s experience is unique but for the longest time me putting recovery first looked mundane. For me it was getting up and eating breakfast and taking my medication and making it to all of my appointments. Reading, writing, coloring, crying, shouting, feeling. And because of it I am able to breathe again. I want everyone to be able to breathe again.
I think I will put my two cents in on what full recovery from an eating disorder looks like to me. It is my opinion that it is a very individual and unique process to go through recovery and therefore everyone’s outcome will not be the same. I think many people strive to return to the person they were before the eating disorder took hold and that is very unrealistic and to me dangerous thinking. In fact having been diagnosed and gone through treatment I believe that I have changed for the better. I like who I am becoming more and more as the days pass and accepting that I am different has been nothing but positive. I have to be realistic when it comes to recovery. To me that means accepting that I have to take care of myself first and be aware of areas that could cause struggles. You can’t just automatically recover and live life as though you never had this experience. To me there could always be a stray occasional thought but that doesn’t mean that I am not recovered or that I am on the edge of relapse. My brain has been physiologically wired differently due to this disease and those pathways are hard to rewire. Recovery and recovered seem very synonymous to me which is why some people adopt the thinking that recovery is a lifelong process. I agree one hundred percent that it is a lifelong process, but I also believe that to fully live a life of recovery you have to take that step and confidently say that you are recovered. I have never called myself fully recovered and I think that is a hindrance to me fully accepting my life. I know in many people’s experience, including my own, they are waiting for some defining moment where they are recovered and boom everything would be perfect. Black and white thinking is often the thinking that led us down the destructive path to begin with. I used to tell myself oh I will be recovered when I don’t see a therapist anymore. Oh I will be recovered when I can plan meals and go grocery shopping without getting stressed. Oh I will be recovered when…..the list was endless. I believe full recovery is possible because I am living a functional, fulfilling life where I once wanted no life at all. I am living full recovery so why shouldn’t I take that leap and declare myself recovered? Calling myself recovered doesn’t change who I am or invalidate the fact that life is a process and I will continue to work towards a better me every day. So I challenge you if you are in that ambiguous area where you aren’t sure if you are recovered or what that looks like to you, to take that step with me and start referring to yourselves as recovered and see what happens! And for those continuing to struggle, hold on to hope that there are many of us out there who have been through this hell of a journey and are succeeding.
The older I get, the harder it is for me to sleep in. This morning I slept longer than usual and was up around 8:30am where I gladly poured a cup of coffee and sat outside on the deck with my dad. I am a big coffee person and like it all from black, to flavored creamer, to iced etc etc. Anything coffee/tea related and I am a fan. I enjoy getting up and having slower mornings. I wanted to take more time this morning to enjoy the outdoors but if we were to be out in the sun today, the morning was the time to do it. I woke my sister up and we had breakfast together. I had greek yogurt with granola, peanut butter toast (I was beginning to go through peanut butter withdrawal), and half a banana. My sister made a nice fresh fruit salad and I quote, “If the food looks pretty, it will definitely taste pretty!” I do admit I am a fan of artistic food and think presentation is an important quality. We hurried up and finished getting ready to be out the door. Today we explored Jamestown which was founded in 1607. They are always in the process of archaeological digs and to me it is all fascinating. I don’t always know and remember a lot about history, but I love to learn about it and be immersed in it. We explored the Fort area and talked with a lot of the historians and archaeologists. It is hard to imagine traveling across the vast ocean to a new and foreign land. I am drawn to the history of Jamestown as well because of my Native American heritage. The Powhatan people are not in my lineage but I like to learn about all different tribes. By this time of the day it was getting too hot and humid to walk around outside much so we packed up and went to lunch at an American Bistro. Lunch was a little hectic for me today because nothing on the menu sounded great right off the bat and I was pressured to make a decision before I was really ready. Does anyone else with a disordered history have trouble making decisions when it comes to restaurants? Usually I don’t have too much of an issue but today it was definitely a struggle. I really like to take my time, but since we were with company I felt like I shouldn’t make the whole table wait on me. I settled on a meatball sandwich. It was alright but not satisfying. I was really trying to eat intuitively too and I feel like I still was distracted and ended up too full. I was in a pretty sour mood after that because I want nothing of disordered behaviors to be around during vacation. I knew a lot of self care would help out though so we returned to our friend’s house, took a short nap, and then went to the rec center where I ran. When in a crummy mood, I don’t feel like exercising at all, but I know that I will always feel one hundred percent better afterwards and guess what – I did! My sister and I came back and went to the pool for an hour before dinner. One of the highlights of my day was sitting on the deck before dinner enjoying a nice glass of Cabernet and having some alone time. The birds were all out and about and I enjoyed everything from cardinals to woodpeckers to hummingbirds. Just sitting outside and soaking up all the sounds helped me get back into the practice of mindfulness after a more stressful few hours. I suggest everyone just sit outside somewhere for a half hour and interact with nature. It is a very nice opportunity to reset and unwind. For dinner our hosts made an amazing tortellini salad with shrimp, prosciutto, peas, roasted red pepper, and squash. Fresh and delicious. And I was a lot more mindfully present and able to enjoy my food. Dessert, which I couldn’t pass up, was a lemon pound cake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream on top. It was a nice ending to the day and by now I have forgotten all about the lunch struggles. I am happy that I am able to let the things that used to tie me down just pass by. Instead of thriving off of disorder, I took some time for self care and climbed back on the horse so to speak. I suggest if you are struggling to try and turn your day around right when it begins to slide in a negative direction. I would usually allow the whole day to be ruined and I would think that tomorrow would be a fresh start. No, make your next hour your fresh start because it gets a lot easier to break a cycle if you cut it off as it begins. A lot of days were wasted telling myself tomorrow is a new day. Although it wasn’t the best day I really can’t complain because I was able to explore and learn about the history of my country. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?!
Today has mostly been spent running around finishing errands and making sure everything is set for a week and a half long vacation! The excitement hasn’t quite set in yet because I get very anxious packing and making sure everything is in order before leaving. I am also not fond of flying in the least bit so that makes things a little more stressful. Once I look past the actual traveling part I do get excited and just want to be there already. Which in a sense is very different from my younger self. Vacation was synonymous with dread. Eating disorders and vacation don’t mix well. Numerous vacations have been wasted worrying about food and stressing over exercise and not remembering them in the least. Slowly but surely trips have begun to get easier and this one should be no exception. Staying with friends helps lessen the anxiety around meals and although I know I will want to work out at some point, there is no pressure to have to. I can fully enjoy the company and family and the food, although present, will not be the main focus. I am actually looking forward to trying new foods. I still have to remain vigilant of course and be mindful of my meal plan, but it is vacation and normal to indulge. A recent win for me was buying not one, but two swimsuits for this trip. I took my sister along and was determined to take my time and find something that I loved. Turns out that I tried on two that I couldn’t decide upon which is a rarity, so I made the executive decision to get both. I was a bit shocked that I found more than one and I actually liked what I saw in the mirror. Yes it was uncomfortable but I set those feelings aside and I am very happy with the results. I was not looking forward to the ocean or the pool before and now I can honestly say I am really excited! It is a goal of mine to be more mindful of this vacation and enjoy all the little moments so I will probably be writing updates along the way. Time to continue packing and mentally prepare for two flights, the first of which leaves at 5:30am!
Writing tends to fall towards the end of the priority list these days. Considering it is one of my best forms of self-care, I definitely need to be mindful of not forgetting it altogether. What better way than with a blog update! I saw my therapist this week for the first time since she went on maternity leave in the spring. I think we were both a little surprised with how well I have done over the past months. Not to say that she didn’t have confidence in me, I just have a track record of rolling down the mountain into a hole and needing a lot of assistance to climb back out. I started seeing her almost two years ago when I was sick of feeling stuck. I was tired of settling for a life where I continuously lived in a semi-recovered state. Sure I could survive life that way, and I did for several years, but something inside me knew that there was a better way to live. I couldn’t put it into words then, but I knew change needed to happen. Every single day I am grateful that I went back to treatment and fought for this life. A free life. I know I still have work to do. We all do. But this is the first time in a long time where both I and my treatment team have acknowledged that I am not stuck anymore. I am definitely beginning to live a life of full recovery and not settle. Even if you are new to recovery, please never let yourself settle for anything less than complete freedom. And if you consider yourself as recovered as you will ever get, reconsider! There are always ways to continue to move forward and live your best self. I realize that it is therapeutic for me to write, but I also hope to reach others in recovery to continue to show people that it is possible to get your life back and rediscover who you are. No matter if it is eating disorders, substance abuse, mental health disorders, etc – life can always be beautiful.
Yesterday I returned home from a much needed vacation. It wasn’t without a few challenges, but it was one of the better vacations I have had in recovery. Road trips can be especially challenging seeing as my brain still computes stuck in a car all day to you need to restrict your intake. Luckily I have learned to pack easy foods that satisfy me and my meal plan without having the added anxiety of fast food stops. The first day with family I followed through and went shopping! I even bought a new summer dress that I really love. (pictures to come in the future!)
We spent a plethora of time out on the lake. Kayaking, jet skiing, swimming. I used to be all consumed by the eating disorder and would spend the hours cringing about how I looked in a swim suit and comparing myself to others. This time I felt completely free. I wasn’t necessarily free of a thought or two, but I didn’t let these fleeting moments ruin an entire day. I was able to be mindful and enjoy the amazing company. I also spent a good deal of time with my horses. Being around them makes me completely calm and stops all my anxiety in an instant. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I was able to spend time with them again. The most important piece of this vacation was the fact that I was able to remind myself that it is normal to indulge in things outside my normal routine. It was a nice break from my normal gym activities and I enjoyed things I don’t get to do as often like kayaking. It was refreshing and peaceful.
Coming home I recognized a change in me. I returned home and instead of having an irresistible desire to “compensate” for a week of vacation, I simply fell back into routine. It used to take me weeks to adjust back after a vacation because I would inevitably fall into a disordered eating pattern. And it isn’t as if I am fighting for recovery like I have had to in the past. I woke up today like any other normal day and I didn’t even realize this was a very large accomplishment until I sat down to write. It is one of those accomplishments that makes me think more and more about being completely recovered and what that looks like for me. I have considered myself in strong recovery for a few months now and can’t help but wonder what that “line” is to be able to call myself recovered. People have their own beliefs about the definition of recovered and I am still figuring out what that looks like within my own life. That will have to be a post for another day because I could probably write a novel about my experience and beliefs from my journey. For now I am content to not let the eating disorder have any control in my day to day and I am very excited about what the next few months have in store for me.