What’s messy, and why it matters

If you’re a Brené Brown fan like I am, I hope you’ve picked up her newest book, Rising Strong. I’m into it now and can’t help but be inspired by her words and her dedication of the book to the space in between vulnerability and the heroic ending of the stories we are all so excited to get to. She admits that failure is part of life, and says that the journey is messy:

 “We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized. Our culture is rife with those tales. In a thirty-minute speech, there’s normally thirty seconds dedicated to, “And I fought my way back,”…We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending.”

I like to think that my blogging here as well as at my old blog was a space for me to share some of my struggles, but I’ll admit that I like to rush to the ending. Sometimes this blog serves as a spot to figure things out, which is great. But as someone who wants to help others to figure their own things out, it’s a disservice to skip to the ending or to leave out the messy parts. So as I’ve been reading Rising Strong, I’ve been thinking about my own mess in the middle.

On a regular basis, there are parts about living my recovered, healthy, life that are not so easy. There are “failures” or stumbles now, and I don’t always want to talk about them. Is it shame? Is it an attempt to inspire and focus on what’s good? Maybe. But talking about where we feel shame, I know, only takes away its power. And being real about the messy parts of life is what is really inspiring to others. Take it from Brené:

“…[T]here’s a vast difference between how we think about the term failure and how we think about the people and organizations brave enough to share their feelings for the purpose of learning and growing. To pretend that we can get to helping, generous, and brave without navigating through tough emotions like desperation, shame, and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption.”

She talks about “the beauty in truth and tenacity.” So for the next couple of posts here, I want to share some of the struggles I’ve had and/or have when it comes to living the healthy and happy life I try to stay committed to. I’ll talk about what it’s like to walk around recovered—some of the times where I find myself slipping, or the ways that I have to work on staying true to myself. It’s not always easy, and I hope that this serves to send the message that it’s alright to have to work at recovery or living a healthy life. We sometimes see these images of people who have it all figured out and beat ourselves up for not being as carefree or as put together as them. It’s the whole comparing other peoples’ highlight reels with our behind the scenes footage, and it’s shitty if you’re the kind of person who then beats yourself up for struggling. Talk about kicking yourself when you’re down. I’ve been there, and I hope talking about it both helps me to let go of some of that shame and also to let others know they’re not alone.

 

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So in the coming posts, I want to talk about what’s tough. Holidays, the scale, comparisons–these are just a couple of the things I want to talk about.

Are there things you struggle with but keep to yourself when it comes to being healthy and happy?
When you tell your story, do you skip to the end? 

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Recovery: 10 Truths I Wish I’d Known

It is Wednesday, which is usually a pretty boring day. But this Wednesday happens to be smack dab in the middle of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which deserves a little recognition. In the fashion of all the “10 thing I wish someone had told me before I…” articles that float around the interwebs, here are ten truths about recovery that I wish someone had mentioned to me back in the day:

  1. You will learn more about yourself than ever before. So many people go through their lives never questioning the way they think about or talk to themselves. Recovery will force you to think about these things and will expose those not-so-self-serving beliefs that your gremlin has convinced you to think. It will also give you the opportunity to reframe them.
  2. You will get angry. I have never been so mad at myself, at the people in my life, and at society in general as when I was going through recovery. Processing that anger is part of the journey.
  3. You will get sad. It is sad to think about the time, energy, and life we lost to an eating disorder. I will never get another chance to, for instance, go to my sister’s wedding and not throw up in the bathroom. But I will get the chance to live every day of my life from here on out without hurting myself, and the sadness I feel is a sign that I recognize that I deserve—and have always deserved—more self-love.
  4. People say that it will be hard, but it will be hard. Like crying your eyes out because you don’t think you can do it hard. Like your best friend is starting a sugar detox while you are trying to normalize your eating by having a bowl of ice cream tonight hard. Like someone close to you doesn’t get why you don’t just lose weight if you hate your body but you know it’s not about the weight Like getting rid of the cute clothes that only fit when you were doing things to your body that you never want to do again hard. Like every day needing to remind yourself about the reasons that you care enough to keep trucking along hard.
  5. It gets easier. Think of something you’ve learned that was extremely difficult at the beginning when you were just learning, but got easier and easier over time and now feels like second nature. I’m thinking of driving. Just like driving, if we’re used to a disordered relationship with food and our bodies, living a life where we take care of ourselves is a brand new thing. I wanted to lose weight since I was a little girl—of course it was going to feel foreign to start to focus on wanting to love myself and take care of myself. But just like learning to drive, we can learn new habits.
  6. You’re going to make mistakes. To go back to the driving analogy, the first night I got my license I scratched another car—no lie. Did I stop driving? Nope. The same goes for your recovery process. Binge the first night you have decided to start working with a dietitian to help you? You can dust it off and start again. A “relapse” is not a reason to give up—it’s an opportunity to see what went wrong and to learn from it so that you can do better from there on out. Curiosity and the ability to forgive yourself will go a long way.
  7. You are going to inspire others. If you tell your story, you will inspire people. I know that talking about my own eating disorder was scariest at first. I also know that I’ve touched people’s lives and helped them take steps in the right direction. That is a rewarding thing.
  8. You are going to doubt yourself. You will run into someone who seems more confident than you about something: that carbs are going to kill you, that you should never eat chocolate, whatever. And you will want to believe them. But…
  9. You are going to learn to trust yourself. In our world, there are people who literally live off of convincing you to hate your body. There are entire industries that capitalize on confusing people about what to eat. We need to limit our exposure to the kinds of things that try to convince us that we are wrong or broken and to throw us off of our healthy paths, but when we are forced to encounter them, there is only one thing to do: stand strong and stand up for yourself.
  10. It will also be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. At some point, you’re going to look back and see how far you’ve come. You’re going to realize that you are a whole different person with a whole different orientation to your life.  For me, that meant the shift from wanting to survive to wanting to live. That’s a pretty big deal and something absolutely to be proud of.

happppppy

Wherever you are on the beautiful journey that is recovery, I hope you stop and give yourself some credit. Looking back like I had the opportunity to do in writing this is such a good way to reaffirm what we are doing. If you are struggling, and not sure where to start, I encourage you to keep educating yourself–read a book, but also to reach out–to a dietitian, to a friend, to a therapist, to a counsellor, to a loved one, to a doctor. You are not alone, and you are worth recovery! 

Frustrated Friday

This is going to look normal enough, but that’s what makes it frustrating.

Breakfast yesterday was typical–apples with cereal, soy milk, and some raisins…

A short run at a decent pace…

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Me being a goof…

A typical peanut butter and carrot sandwich for lunch…

Greek yogurt and a banana for an afternoon nosh (on top of studying at Starbucks, of course)…

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A giant salad for dinner…

Unphotographed but still normal — an apple after a particularly sweaty (and awesome) yoga class.

A bowl of salty pretzels in response to a craving…

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…but what you don’t see is all the frustration and all the “nibbles” and “tastes” I had along with this (think grapes and berries galore, chocolate covered almonds, handfuls of cereal, etc.), or the evening “mini binge” I’ll get into in a bit…

Facts:
This is a stressful time.
I have a history of using food to distract myself.
I am recovered.
I am strong and fit.

Writing my post about recovery writing yesterday coupled with anxiety over going home (or not going home) this weekend in combination with end of the semester work, my mystery shoulder pain, and other little stressors was a lot for me. I started to have thoughts like “I’m too fat for summer” and “I’m always going to be injured and out of shape” and even “If I could lose weight things would be fine” until I realized all of the things I know as truths: I’m in the process of finding my happy weight by letting it happen as a result of eating in a balanced way and exercising in an enjoyable manner, I am not doomed to be injured forever and there are tons of active things I could do with a hip, shoulder, whatever injury, and if I lost weight my assignments, fears about the future, and dirty apartment wouldn’t miraculously disappear–I’d just be lighter and probably hungrier.

Still, even after a productive day (a short run, lots of homework and blogging, seeing some friends, grocery shopping, yoga, etc.) I should have dove into bed. Instead I dove into old habits and dug into a bag of pretzels and chocolate chips. Throw in some chocolate covered almonds and you have what I consider a mini binge—delivered standing over the sink and with a hefty dose of anxiety and guilt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those foods but there is something wrong with swallowing them whole, telling yourself you shouldn’t be eating them, and with giving them the power I did.

I was going to keep this to myself but I had an epiphany and I remembered that keeping things a secret out of shame just reinforces that something was shameful. This little slip isn’t something I need to be ashamed of. It is something I need to admit. It doesn’t mean I’m not recovered or that I’m letting Ed back in my life, because I am recovered and I intend to stay this way.

So for this epiphany, which comes in two parts:

1. Ed is like an ex boyfriend who wants me back and is pissed that I’m not interested. He gets particularly riled up when I’m getting happier than ever (who am I to like myself or to want to share my recovery tips?) or when I’m stressed (understandable).

2. This one is a bit harder to articulate but I’m going to try: Jenni Schaefer talked about a counter Ed during her recovery and I think I have a counter Ed on my hands. Last night my heart and my head told me to go to bed. But counter Ed told me that doing so, when I was kind of hungry, meant that I was listening to Ed (ie giving Ed the power to say I couldn’t have pretzels before bed). The truth is, I need to listen to ME. Not to either Ed. This is my life and I can decide to eat or not eat something and I don’t have to worry about proving anything to anyone by my choices.

Take that Ed. I’m going to enjoy a day of eating what my tummy wants, exercising if it feels good, and focusing on the right things: finishing assignments, seeing friends, and smiling more.

Do you know what I mean when I refer to counter Ed?
Have you ever dealt with anything like this? Tips?