It’s been a while since I last sat down to blog. I’d like to credit it to not having the time, which I could probably do. This term has by far been my busiest yet, with taking 19 credits, being a manager of the gymnastics team, which includes being at all practices and meets (including travel ones), having a boyfriend, spending time with my other friends, working out, and staying committed to my faith. In all honesty though, this blog just hasn’t been a priority for me recently. And while I was feeling a decent amount of guilt about that for a period of time, I’ve reconciled it. For a good chunk of my life (six years), my eating disorder, as well as battle with anxiety and depression, were the center of my world. My life revolved around appointments, group therapy meetings, daily vital sign testings and weekly blood draws, meal planning, etc. Everything I did was determined by what would best help my recovery. I commuted to Corvallis from Portland and back (170 miles roundtrip) for about a year because I needed the support of living with my mom but wanted to keep the consistency and normalcy of staying in school and seeing my college friends as much as possible. That life became my normal.
I don’t know how to explain the shift that happened in me over the last six months, but boy, has a shift taken place. For six years, I “trusted the process.” I went through the motions that all of the professionals in my life told me to, without seeing any real progress. I mean sure, I saw some physical signs. I gained weight, my heart rate and blood pressure stabilized, and my digestive system sorted itself out to the point where I could eat food without experiencing severe pain. My mentality, though was still the same. I felt like an anorexic living in a normal-sized person’s body. Which, to be honest, felt even worse. I felt like a fraud! Finally, though, after six years (SIX YEARS!), I can say that that’s no longer the case. My mind has finally caught up to my body, it’s caught up to my actions. My thoughts are finally those of someone who has a healthy relationship with food, a healthy relationship with exercise.
Is my life perfect right now? Ha! Not at all. My face is breaking out the worst it ever has (due to my body STILL trying to figure out an equilibrium with it’s newfound hormones, a result of finally having an adequate amount of body fat after suppressing it for so many years), my hands are still causing me problems (yes, the ones that I’ve had three surgeries on in the last sixteen months), my grades are not nearly where I’d like them to be, and I got my first speeding ticket last night. Yet despite all those things, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin, even in the moments when I’m uncomfortable. My mom actually had to remind me the other day to schedule an appointment with my dietician because it’s almost been a month since I’ve seen her and been weighed in. I don’t think I’ve gone a month without having my weight taken since I was fifteen. It just so is not at the forefront of my mind right now; there are so many things that are so much more important to me at this time. Eating healthily and exercising are still a big part of my life, but that’s because of the way that they make me feel and the joy and confidence they bring me, not because of a number they’ll bring my body down to or a specific way they’ll make my body look. I’m not rigid about going to the gym or getting a certain number of steps in each day, rather, I workout when I’m able to make time for it (which ends up being about five days a week, give or take), and stay as active as I can aside from that. I’m not trying to hit a specific number of calories, macros, or exchanges; I eat what I’m hungry for when I’m hungry for it, and stop when I’m full. Some days that means I’m eating quite a bit more than I normally do, and sometimes I eat a little bit less. If I have a drink, I don’t deprive myself of that many calories-worth of food, I just acknowledge that it’s a treat, and not something I do every day, and that my body knows what to do with it. I’m not going to gain any real weight by having a beer every once in a while.
I’m cognizant of what I’m putting in my body, but I’m not obsessed with it. I truthfully didn’t think I’d ever get to this point. It’s for that reason that I’m writing this post tonight, that I decided to make it a priority. At our gymnastics meet today, we honored a mental health campaign that’s being spearheaded by two Oregon State student athletes (one of which is a former gymnast), called Dam Worth It. It’s centered around recognizing the epidemic of mental health issues in student athletes, but it really can be applied to everyone. The message is that whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing: You aren’t alone.
So while I’m proud, and happy, and so, so thankful, that being enthroned in the grips of mental illness isn’t my life any more… I recognize that for a long time, it was. And I want anyone, and everyone, who’s experiencing any sort of it right now: Whether you’re struggling for the first time ever, or have been for twenty years, there is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t believe it, but praise Jesus, I continued to hope and walk in that direction, and I’m finally there. It can happen for you, too.
Well, I don’t have anything big to report this time…and I’m thankful for that! My weight’s held steady, all of my other bodily functions have continued to occur like clockwork as they should, and I’m happy. My final Fall term of my undergraduate career is wrapping up, and BOY, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. All of you who haven’t gone through college…It’s true that it FLIES by! I was asked the other day if I’m ready to be done with college (though I am still planning on going to nursing school), and my answer was a very firm “No”! I’m having an absolute blast this year. I’m loving where I’m living and the friends I’m living with, I’m loving my classes (for the most part!) and finding microbiology much more interesting than I thought I would, I love my job managing with the gymnastics team, and overall, I’m really just loving life. Do I still have days where I feel off? Yeah, of course. But I’m no longer consumed by something that casts down so heavily on my soul. The sky being gray and gloomy outside doesn’t cause me to sink further into depression, my jeans being a little more snug than they were the day before doesn’t cause a panic attack, and a restaurant being out of the meal I was planning on having is just a reason to try something new. Thanksgiving normally brings with it a ton of stress, drama, and anxiety. This year though, for the first time in as long as I can remember, that wasn’t the case. My brother and I joined our dad, stepmom and stepsister on a trip to spend five days with my dad’s parents in California, and while there were plenty of uncertainties and events that could’ve triggered a plethora of adverse responses, they didn’t. I counted the other day, and I think I ate out 12 days in a row until I returned back to school yesterday. Is that ideal? No. But did I handle it? Yes. It was just the circumstances that arose over those couple of weeks, and I made it work. Now, I can (hopefully!) get back into my routine, but I feel like it’s situations like that that cause me to gain more confidence in myself and trust in my body. I made healthy choices for the most part during those 12 meals out, but I also went with the flow. I went for walks in the morning (and a short run, twice) during our trip, but I didn’t go out of the way to find a place I could go lift, or go buy a guest pass to a fitness studio for a week like I would’ve done in the past. I recognized that it was just five days of vacation, and while I really missed getting a good workout in, it didn’t harm my body. If anything, it helped me come back stronger! While I didn’t feel particularly powerful in the gym today, I did certainly feel ready to get back into it, and was more pumped for my lift than I’ve been in a while!
I just realized that I don’t think I’ve posted on here that I had to have a third surgery (all within 10 months) on my wrists a little over two weeks ago. This was my second on my left hand/wrist, the other (third) being on my right one last December. This was another reason for me eating so many meals out: It’s a lot easier to purchase and eat a meal than it is to cook it when you only have one hand! Anyway, because of that, I also haven’t really been able to get in a “good” workout for a while. I didn’t do any cardio from the day I had surgery (November 9th) until I went for the two runs I just mentioned while in California, and when I say they were short, I mean short (we’re talking 15-20 minutes). I can’t lift any weights with my upper body until at least 8 weeks post-op, so my return to the gym today was solely leg focused. I’m pretty bummed about the muscle I know I’m going to lose in my upper body (I’d actually been making a lot of progress the last few months), but I’m also just that: bummed. I’m not devastated, or distraught, or in a wave of panic. I’m bummed, and that’s okay. I know that I can get it back, and I love my body for possessing the strength to get it back once it’s healthy again.
I’m so, so thankful to be in the headspace that I’m in, and I celebrated this Thanksgiving thinking of how thankful I am to have made the progress in my recovery that I have this past year. I am continually so thankful for everyone who has helped me to get to this place that I’m in, namely my family, treatment team, and close friends. I have more to be thankful for than I can even comprehend.
Brad and me in California last week
Here’s a belated “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting from me!
Depending on what they are in remembrance of, they can bring up all sorts of different feelings. Sometimes, the same anniversary can elicit two different reactions, depending on the year, or your state of mind.
Six years ago, on this day, I was hospitalized for anorexia.
I am so happy, proud, and encouraged, that today, I am celebrating.
I’m celebrating where I am now, in contrast to where I’ve been. In years past, this hasn’t been a happy anniversary. It’s been a reminder of the battle being fought; a reminder of how much effort was being required every. single. day.
Not this year, though.
I had another weigh-in yesterday. My weight has continued to hold steady at my ultimate goal/restored weight. My mental state is the best that I think it’s ever been. I’ve graduated to only having to drive to Portland to see my therapist once a month, and psychiatrist once every two. My mom is gaining back her trust in me. I was able to go spend a weekend in Bend with one of my best friends (and roommate from last year, Claire) this past weekend, and had almost no reservations about it. I didn’t bring any of my own food, and I didn’t ask her in advance what we’d be eating. I haven’t felt this free in six years.
So today, we celebrate. I celebrate, my family and friends celebrate, my team celebrates. Most importantly, we praise and thank Jesus for the work that He has done, and that He continues to do in me.
If I had a penny for every time someone asked me about my tattoo, I’d be a rich lady! And for the sake of this college girl’s wallet, I WISH that were the case! Nevertheless, I get asked about my tattoo a lot. I love that. It’s part of the reason I decided to get it in such a visible place, because I knew it would be a great conversation starter. It definitely has been. I’ve been asked about it by strangers on the MAX, professors in a college class, baristas at Starbucks, sorority girls during RUSH…the list goes on, and on, and on.
I get asked about it so frequently, that I feel like I should have a pretty good handle on how I like to explain it by now. For whatever reason though, I don’t. It’s because of that, that I decided to write this blog post today. I want to finally express what the writing on my arm means to me.
I’ve never been much of a tattoo person. I’ve said from the beginning that this tattoo on my arm is the only one I’ll ever have, and I maintain that to this day…despite all the warnings from other “tattooies” that assured me I would get hooked after one. Not the case! I don’t care for the look of tattoos, and I’ve never really appreciated them as art. In my opinion, if I want a beautiful piece of art, I’ll get it printed on a canvas and hung in my living room, not on my body. Clearly though, I have a tattoo. So why the exception? Why is Ecclesiastes 7:5 written in permanent tattoo ink on my arm?
As with all bible verses, there are multiple translations of Ecclesiastes 7:5, but my favorite is the New Living Translation. It says,
“It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.”
There are a lot of ways to interpret all bible verses, but the way I take this one, is that my eating disorder is the fool. For years (six now), it’s tried to convince me to trust it. It’s made my family, my friends, and medical professionals, out to be liars, when in actuality, they were just loving, concerned people…and rightly so. They were telling me truth, it just wasn’t the truth that my E.D. wanted me to hear. It turned me into a liar, believing that pleasing it was the only important thing in my life, putting to the side my relationships with all others, including with God.
This verse was shown to me at a time when I needed it most; the first time I ever went through treatment. I was fifteen years old. I was vulnerable, scared, and running on pretty close to empty. The eight months of treatment I entered into, was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through in my fifteen years of life (and I’d gone through some tough stuff). I knew that I had to fully surrender myself to Jesus if I was going to come out on the other side of this disease, if I was going to beat anorexia. It was then that this verse sort-of became my life mantra. It still is, and I’m reminded of it every time I look down at my arm. It reminds me in my eating disorder, but also in all other areas of life, that I am not the end all, be all. I do not know everything. And sometimes, what’s inside my own head is the fool. It’s up to me to take a step back, and decide who I’m going to listen to. Will I choose to listen to the voice inside my own head, the fool? Or will I choose to listen to the other voice, the voice of wise counsel, both of Jesus, and of those who He has placed in my life to guide me?
So, that is what Ecclesiastes 7:5 means to me. I guess it wasn’t that hard to explain after all!
In all other news, my recovery is going great. I had a fun week of celebrating my twenty-first birthday with friends, which included multiple instances of going out to eat. And guess what the crazy part is? I actually wanted to. Celebrating, even by way of food, sounded fun to me. I truthfully cannot remember the last time that was the case. My weight has continued to hold in the middle of my healthy weight range, and both my treatment team and I are very proud of that.
It’s been a while! And I am happy to say that this is 100% a good thing. My life has been busy this summer, but I am so happy. With the exception of doctor appointments (and even those are beginning to dwindle a bit), my life has consisted of “normal” 20 year old busyness, and I am so, so thankful for that.
It dawned on me this morning (while I was coaching at swim practice, and had a fresh blackberry that one of the lifeguards offered me) just how far I’ve come in the last few months. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but MAN, I almost started crying as I thought about it! I didn’t even give a second thought to having an extra bite of fruit, after having already had breakfast, and me refusing to eat a fresh blackberry (Yes, just ONE!) from the bushes while my mom and I went for a walk is something we argued about frequently just six months ago.
Because of that realization, I decided to pop on here and make a list of recent happenings that I am proud of. Here goes.
Timing: The time at which I eat my meals and snacks has become so much more flexible. I used to eat breakfast at 8:30, morning snack at 11, lunch at 1, afternoon snack at 4, dinner at 7, and evening snack at 9. On. The. Dot. As you can probably imagine, being this rigid around meal and snack times can be a challenge for, well, life. I would turn down social situations so that I could make sure I was home to eat my food. And no, eating out with a friend wasn’t an option (see #2 and #4), so that meant I couldn’t do anything with anyone for about half of my day. Talk about a challenge!
Variation in Food Choices: The list of foods that I’m comfortable eating has grown, a lot. I used to rotate between 2 or 3 meal plans, and would eat those same meals and snacks every day. Yes, every day, and no, I did not get tired of them (Which is weird, I know. Welcome to living with an eating disorder!). I’ve begun experimenting in the kitchen more, which for the most part, I am actually enjoying. I’ve discovered that I really like sautéed kale, and have been using that in a lot of bowls and salads as opposed to my usual romaine lettuce base. I’m really proud of myself for this, because I continued to use it even after realizing that kale contains quite a bit more calories than romaine. I also know, however, that it has more nutrients, which is something that wouldn’t have mattered to me a few months ago (more calories = not going to eat it, regardless of the nutritional value), but now, I am able to appreciate.
Dating: I’ve gone on a few dates. Like actual, real dates where we got food, not just “grabbing coffee.” I was telling my mom, you don’t realize how much you’re limiting yourself by only allowing social interactions to occur around coffee (which was my life for the last few years), until you start expanding that and being okay with going to get a meal, or ice cream, or whatever. It sure is a lot more fun, and opens up WAY more doors. Who knows if anything will come of these dates, but regardless, they have been fun opportunities for me to have to step outside of my normal routine, and get to know new people.
Eating Out: Kind of going off that last one, going out to eat doesn’t scare me anymore. I can remember a time (not long ago!) when I couldn’t imagine myself ever being able to go out to a restaurant and order something off the menu. Ever. I really thought that wouldn’t happen for me. I’m proud to say that that is not the case anymore! While some restaurants may be more of a challenge than others, I’m pretty confident that I can find SOMETHING that I am comfortable eating on any menu. As a matter of fact, my mom and I are even planning a little staycation before I go back to school, and included in those plans are a few restaurants around Portland that I want to try. Yes, you read that right! That I. WANT. TO. TRY. Wooot!
Fluctuations: I’m way more okay with fluctuations. This is a big one as well. A couple of times at weigh-ins, my weight’s been up a little, and other times, it’s been down a little, which is completely normal, but to me a few months ago, would’ve been terrifying. I haven’t allowed those minor differences in my weight to determine what I ate that day or the following one, and I’ve continued to adhere to my meal plan, per my doctor’s orders. I trust that my body knows where it wants to be, and frankly, I’m really not scared of what would happen if I ended up gaining another pound or two. To be honest, I feel like I’ve already had to gain so much weight, that one or two pounds just doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I’m practically pinching myself as I’m writing this, because I can remember the way it made me feel, like my skin was crawling, when just a couple of months ago, my doctor asked how I would feel if I ended up having to gain another pound or two. I’m seeing huge progress here. Huge. Progress.
Body Dysmorphia: I have a more accurate view of my body. I don’t see myself as “fat”, which, even though I’ve always known that medically I wasn’t, my own view of myself was so skewed that even a few months ago, I would’ve bet you money that I was. I am gaining muscle through weight-lifting, which I’m proud of, but I also think that I’m just getting more comfortable in my own skin. My treatment team has been telling me FOREVER that this would happen (medically speaking, distorted body image is a side-effect of being even just a pound or two underweight), and I’m elated that it finally has. I still have days where I don’t love my body, but who doesn’t? I’m trying to focus more on the things that it CAN do than the things that it isn’t.
Exercise: I’m less rigid in my exercise. This is a huge one for me. I love working out, and I always have. The euphoric feeling people often refer to as a “runner’s high,” I seem to get whenever I get my heart rate up. And to be honest, I think I’ve always been that way, but for a good chunk of my recent life, my eating disorder stole that from me. I worked out because I had to, because I was scared of what my body would do if I didn’t burn X number of calories on the elliptical for even one day, because I didn’t trust my body to take the food that I was giving it and use it to nourish itself, etc. The list could go on, and on, and on. Recently, since having been cleared to add cardiovascular exercise back into my life after an 18-month hiatus, I’ve been able to enjoy things like lap swimming, hiking, circuits with weights, and power yoga. I have some other bodily issues (which have been very frustrating) that are making running not an option for me right now, and I’m staying away from doing cardio machines for the foreseeable future, but these other fun ways of exercise have helped me to realize that I DO love working out, and not just for the sake of burning calories. I’m so incredibly proud of myself for taking the long break from cardio that I did, because now, I’m not scared of what will happen to my body if I take a few days off from working out. I used to be held captive by the monitor that would read how many calories I’ve burned, and now I’m getting to redefine my relationship with exercise in a completely new and healthy way. And, most importantly, I’m having fun while I’m doing it!
Whew! That was quite a list! There are more things, but those are the major ones, and all that I’m going to take the time for. Did I mention it’s been a busy summer?
In all honesty, the hardest part of recovery right now, is that I’m still not “recovered,” even though for the most part, I feel like I am. Both my mom and my treatment team are still very wary of me slipping backwards, and that has been frustrating for me. I would like for my doctors and therapy appointments to be reduced to once every few weeks or so, but no one else is on board with that just yet.
I have to continually remind myself that they are this way because of how many times I’ve relapsed. And I understand it…but still, it can be hard. I get mad when my mom isn’t giving my praise or compliments when I’m realizing how far I’ve come, or when she asks me to send her a meal plan for the umpteenth day in a row, but usually, once I take a step back and take a deep breath, I can identify where she’s coming from, and then I’m okay.
Well, I think that’s it! As always, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for following along on my recovery journey. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it.
On Thursday I said, “Goodbye,” to the house I’ve lived in since last June. I’d never lived in a house with three other girls, or any other girls for that matter, before. It was a growing experience in so many ways.
I didn’t expect to cry when I left, but I did. There were so many emotions running through my mind. As I told one of my dearest friends, and roommate, Claire, while we said our goodbyes (although we did clarify…it’s not a goodbye, just a see-you-later!), as she’s graduating from Oregon State today, the four of us did so much more than just “live” together. We learned together, laughed together, and most importantly, loved together. She was quick to point out how much we grew together, too, and I’d have to agree. It’s really weird for me to think back to this time last year and where I was mentally. I feel like I’m a completely different person. We laughed when I pointed out that I think all summer last year, I had five things in the fridge at all times. Five things, and only five things. All summer. I ate the same breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and evening snack, all summer. For three months. That’s a lot of the same! Now, I’m getting better at switching things up, and when opportunities come up that push me out of my comfort zone, most of the time, I take them. It’s still not easy, but it doesn’t cause me to break out in panic, and the majority of the time, I even end up enjoying it! I’m learning more and more that life is better without my eating disorder.
My mom and I were running errands last night, and I got teary eyed at the check-out of Home Depot. It’s going to sound ridiculous, I know… But you know where they sell candies and things on the shelf next to the check-out? I saw Reese’s peanut butter cups, Twix, and sunflower seeds, all sitting along the shelf. Claire’s favorite things! Oh, how I will miss her! And that’s such an incredible feeling. To have grown so close with someone that simply seeing their favorite treats will bring you close to tears. I’ve never had that before. I’ve had close friends, yes. Lots of them, actually! But there’s something about a roommate that’s different. They’re there all the time. Especially during such a transformative year for me. They were there after each appointment, when there were tears of sadness and tears of joy. They were there when I lost Rocky, when Bradley played his last football game (they actually came to that game!), when I had to have two hand surgeries in six months, when I didn’t think I could make it through one more week of anatomy and chemistry… They were there through all of it. To give pep talks, hugs, share in the sadness or rejoicing I was experiencing, and just to be a listening ear. This year, more than anything, I think I learned the value of relationships. The value of truly living life with someone, or multiple someones! The coolest thing about that, is that it’s the exact opposite of what an eating disorder wants. It’s often said in treatment, eating disorders thrive in secrecy. They desire seclusion, delusion, and anxiety and depression. There’s a reason I’ve never lived with roommates before this year, and it’s not because I just prefer to be independent. It’s largely been due to my E.D. I feel so blessed to have lived with girls who were such positive influences in my life. They were each so healthy, in their own way. Some ate “cleaner” than others, some worked out more, but all lived a life of balance. Each of them was down to grab pizza at 8 o’clock if someone offered it up, none of them were scared to try a bite of someone else’s food, each of them worked out because it made them feel good. I’d be silly to think that being surrounded each of these girls’ healthy mindsets wasn’t critical in helping me develop my own. I know that Jesus placed each of these girls in my life for a reason, and I am so much more thankful for that than I can put into words. So, Claire, Anna, and Molly… Thank you.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. I’d sort of forgotten (I’m not a terrible daughter, I had gotten him a present…I just forgot about the typical celebration part!), and had planned to go out to a smoothie bar with my friend, Savannah. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while… Honestly, something that I’ve been wanting to do for years (!): Go to Kure and get a smoothie bowl. It’s a pretty trendy thing to do in Portland, and honestly, I think I’m the last one of my friends to have ever not had one…but due to E.D. reasons, I never have. I’d gone to Kure, twice. But never have I gotten a bowl (it’s a smoothie base, topped with granola). It was going to be a challenge for me, but I was up for it! Anyway, the plan was to go Sunday morning. Then, my mom reminded me about Father’s Day. Shoot. We proooobably should go out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner with my Dad. That was going to mean two challenge meals, basically back to back. Oh, and how had I forgotten? My mom and brother and I had made plans for a family friend to come over tonight to play games…and have dessert. Yeah, the D-word. Three things in 24 hours?!! Ohhhh boy.
You know what, though? I’m feeling up to it. And that’s the part that’s so cool about growth. Along the way, I didn’t notice how much each “challenge food” I’d done, each last minute things I’d said yes to, each “full-fat” thing I’d ordered, etc. thing was making me grow, but now I’m seeing the results of it. Am I still slightly stressed about the fact that I have all of these more difficult things coming up in such a short period of time? Yeah, it’s not ideal. But it’s life. And more and more, I’m learning to embrace that.