When you embark on a journey, you may have an idea of what you want to do or the path you want to take, however, it's not quite that straightforward when you actually take your first step on your way. Even with the best of intentions, the road ahead of you has bumps and hidden trails, curves and hills; and your mind is another factor that can greatly affect how your journey unfolds.
The year before I decided I wanted to recover, I kept hearing from people "you are such a wonderful person, you have so much potential, there's so much more to you than the eating disorder." At the time, those words went in one ear and out the other. Sometimes I'd get frustrated for hearing them over and over; and other times it would make me shrink further down and curl inside myself. It was as though those words were so overwhelming that I felt paralyzed and trapped, and guilty that I couldn't see that about me, or that I couldn't do anything to will the eating disorder away. (Now I know recovery is not about willing anything away, it requires a lot of hard work, determination, and fight.) It almost made me feel worse at times, because I suppose it meant that I wasn't living to my full potential. Of course I wasn't. I knew that and everyone else knew that; but still I felt like I couldn't do anything about it.
That last year was not only exhausting, it was debilitating and so bleak it is almost hard to recall what each day was like. Thinking about that now, I wonder if it was so traumatizing that I blocked out some of those memories.
In the past year, while establishing Living Proof MN and starting my mentoring, some of those memories started flooding back into my mind, my memory seemed to open up a bit and there's times now that I can so vividly see a certain point in time, feel the hurt inside of me, feel the sensations building in my throat, and even smell or taste certain foods.
Yes I have lived through those horrendous years and they are behind me, but they also help me when working and mentoring other people struggling with eating disorders. They give me the ability to speak to the ache people feel.
The other day, I spoke with a young woman about her family life. Her mother controlling, her dad quiet, siblings of various ages, and the weight of the world on her shoulders. As she talked about her struggle with anorexia, I saw myself in her. There were so many similarities. It made me think about the majority of people struggling with eating disorders, are we more similar than different. What would it be like to discover those certain triggers and affect them so the eating disorder doesn't get triggered in the first place? It's an interesting concept. That would require people to be raised differently, treated differently, spoken to differently, cared for differently, and for the society to make some drastic changes. I don't know if the world could even handle doing this, or if it's capable of those changes.
When I talk with someone struggling, I am most impressed by the courage and the fight they have and their strength. They are remarkable individuals. I have learned more from them than I have from any book or movie, specialist or research paper.
And it makes me so grateful to be a part of their healing journey, to see that first spark of light, and the glimmer in their eyes. I have seen their hearts ignited and their desires to live refueled. To watch someone return from the darkness is an amazing experience, I wish this for everyone. I know everyone is capable of it. I never thought I'd be proof that it could happen, but now that I am living a life in recovery, I am without a doubt convinced that recovery is even more possible. Not just for some, but for everyone. And having the right people in your life, helping you to see the light, is most important.
The kick-off event went off without a hitch, after a few glitches with the event location and time. But it all came together. Tracy and I got everything situated, set up the room the day before, and prepared the poster boards, chairs, folders, and door prizes.
It was a small group of people on Sunday, but the best part is that I had 15 door prizes and there were 15 people there, which meant everyone went home with a gift, even me ;) It just so happened the one gift I wanted for myself was the one left on the table after everyone picked one for the partner they worked with during the discussion and brainstorming session. So, yes the people that came were meant to be there.
As a group we talked about statistics related to people with eating disorders, what treatment is like, the resources in MN (or lack there of), the vision I have with a community space, and they heard my story of living a life with an eating disorder to living life in recovery.
There was even a student senator of a local community college there, who wanted to educate them-self about eating disorders, and they ended up bringing a lot to the group in terms of what is needed at schools, for professionals, and how to help people who are in need of healing before going to treatment, or some kind of gap program.
I am so thankful for everyone who came and can't wait for the next event!
Yesterday was my birthday, what a fabulous celebration it was. It was inspiring, touching, sharing, growing, and supporting. Tracy and I planned out an entire weekend of celebrating, something I have never done before for myself. From going to the art museum, a healing drumming circle, and having friends at my house I was transformed. It was the best way to start day one of my new year. I thank everyone who sent a card, a gift, came over, or celebrated my life in some way. My life has an abundance of meaning now, I can't begin to put into words how grateful I am to be alive and doing so well.
Have you ever wanted something so badly you started dreaming about it, visualizing it, seeing the space, the people there, and hearing yourself talk in that space?
I have been dreaming of opening a community space and so badly want to make it a reality. The need is out there, there are many people with all forms of eating disorders looking for help and there people dying each day. There are parents and family members scared and unsure of what to do or where to turn.
I was looking online, just searching for anything related to eating disorders and I found many people asking for help to pay for treatment. It is extremely expensive to go to treatment, most insurance companies don't pay for it. There are many people that feel that they are at a dead end and don't know what to do. I want to help those people. There is hope, there is a way out. I can attest to it. Please help me to see this vision to fruition. Please contact me if you are interested in helping in some way.
A little while ago, I was asked "what would you tell your younger self?" Gosh, that's a good question. Everyone starts out so innocent and naive, but the world changes you, it changes the way you think, the way you interact, the way you respond. When I first started engaging in eating disorder behaviors, I had no idea I was doing so. It just happened slowly, and over time it got worse, and snowballed. I was young, about 7 when I can first remember restricting. I don't think it was a conscious choice, more like an unconscious response and result of what was going on around me.
My little sister was born and the house I lived in changed. My parents changed when she was born. I guess I was mad about that. I was mad that I was treated differently. I don't know why I began punishing myself, through restrictive eating. It is hard to understand why anyone would do that in the first place. Eating is a necessary daily task. It doesn't matter how old you are, or what you do for work or leisure. The body needs food and fuel to survive.
It is intriguing to contemplate how a young child would use food as a way to cope with stressors. We all have stress, we all manage it differently, and stress teaches us something. Unfortunately, even without eating disorder symptoms, I still have stress in my life, but I don't cope with them through food. I have found other outlets, and other ways of working through them.
To my younger self: first and foremost, it's important to understand, nothing is your fault.
I am married to a man that I met at a writing group and have 2 big dogs that bring a lot of joy to my life. I like to go camping and hiking and spend time with my friends and family. I have been a registered nurse for 10 years and work with people who have mental health issues and people with drug and alcohol addictions. I have been in recovery from my eating disorder since Oct 2013.