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?

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 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

Waves

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.

Recovered

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.