2020 Vision

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” – Proverbs 16:9

2019. Where do I even begin? It’s tempting to say that 2019 was the worst year of my life, but that’s so negative. And really, not true at all. I will say that 2019 was the hardest year of my life. It took me on twists and turns that I never saw coming and wasn’t sure if I would make it through. But, by the grace of God, I am ending 2019 as a completely different person.

At the beginning of 2019, I was lost. January was really when things started going downhill. I was falling deeper and deeper into my eating disorder with what seemed like no way out. Not to mention, my first therapist had quit over Christmas break. A few people knew what was going on, and they were doing everything they could to help, but the eating disorder was just too strong. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I felt alone.

Thanks to my time at Timberline Knolls, my treatment team in Columbia, and the endless support I have received, my life completely changed.

Now, at the end of 2019, I still don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know one thing: I am stronger than my eating disorder.

I don’t regret one moment of 2019. Everything that happened this year was a part of God’s plan. The way the year started, I thought I was going to lose everything. Instead, I gained everything and more. 2019 gave me a new outlook on life, new passions, the sweetest new friends, and new dreams for the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about New Year’s Resolutions. It seems like we get so caught up in the whole “New Year, New Me” thing that we don’t take the time to appreciate what we’ve done in the past year. I read this quote tonight that really sums up my feelings about it:
“A Toast to the Old You: If you feel inspired to use the new year to help you reset or change habits: Great!
And yet,
The old you has survived every terrible day, every hard thing, every awful circumstance, and every heartbreak you’ve ever felt. The old you is a fighter. And that’s worth celebrating.”

So that’s what I’m going to do in 2020. I’m not going to get out all my colored pens and make a list of resolutions that I never look at again. I’m going to celebrate me. Celebrate the old me, the current me, and the future me that God is creating.

I’m not where I want to be, but at least I’m not where I was.

To 2019, thank you.
To 2020, let’s do this.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Five Tips for Better Body Image

“My body is a brilliant and resilient being that I can either choose to live in harmony with or live in war with. Just for today, I choose harmony.”

I’ve never done well with things changing. I like control, structure, and predictability. Recovery is none of those things. (Spoiler alert, I know). As I’ve been navigating this journey of recovery, just about everything has changed. One of the hardest changes is weight gain. Sure, it’s a necessary part of recovery, I get that. But, that doesn’t make it any easier. It is so hard to watch your body change into exactly what you don’t want it to be. These past few months I’ve been working really hard to accept my new recovery body. I know I’m not going to wake up one day and love this new body. Like everything in recovery, it’s going to take time. So for now, I’m learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Having a positive body image is not easy, especially with the way our world is. Everyone is so focused on the newest diet craze and always talking about losing weight. I decided to make a list of some of the things I have done to improve the way I think about myself. No matter who you are or where you are at in your journey, I hope these tips will help you like they have helped me.

1 – Get rid of scales and mirrors
Although scales and mirrors were not created to be negative, they tend to do more harm than good. Removing them from your environment removes the temptation to focus on your body.

2 – Wear comfortable clothes
Clothes play a huge part in positive body image. If you wear clothes that are too small or uncomfortable, it draws attention to the parts of your body you are trying not to focus on. When I wasn’t quite ready to go shopping for new jeans that fit, I wore leggings exclusively for weeks straight. For more about getting rid of clothes that don’t fit, check out my blog post from a few months ago called, “Keeping Sick Clothes Keeps You Sick.”

3 – Haircut!
Weight gain is often necessary for recovery. Instead of dwelling on the way your body is changing, find something positive you can change! Maybe you get a haircut, try a new makeup style, or get a new outfit. Find whatever it is that will give you that little extra confidence boost. When I got out of school for Christmas break, I decided to get 5 inches cut off my hair. I never expected that something so simple could make such a difference. I loved the change so much, that whenever I saw a picture of myself, it was the first thing I was drawn too.

4 – Yoga
I’ve mentioned this before, but yoga has been a huge part of my recovery. I first started yoga during my time at TK. Afterwards, I found a local yoga teacher and have only fallen more in love with it. Yoga helps me connect with my body and focus on the positive things it can do, instead of the negative. Even if you don’t think yoga is for you, give it a try! It’s a full hour where I am saying kind things to my body and feeling at peace with myself. Even on the worst body image days, I leave yoga feeling better than when I went in.

5 – Don’t play the comparison game
Eating disorders are all about comparison, even in recovery. The more your body changes, the more the eating disorder compares it to what your body once was. I often find myself looking at pictures from when I was sick. All that does is bring back the eating disorder voice that I’m working so hard to get rid of. Instead of dwelling on the comparisons, reframe those thoughts to something positive. When I find myself wishing for the body I once had, I think about how much stronger I am now. My body may be different, but everything else in my life is so much better. If you try to play the comparison game, you’re always going to lose.

I didn’t come up with this list on my own! So, shoutout to my friends, my favorite TK BHS, my treatment team, and my yoga instructor 🙂 Working on positive body image is a long process. You’re not going to wake up one day and love what you see. But that’s ok! Give yourself grace. Take it one day at a time and ask for support when you need it.

Your body is always changing. Appreciate what it is doing for you right now.

I’m proud of you. God loves you. You got this.

Recovery Doesn’t Take a Sick Day

“You have survived 100% of your bad days. You will survive the next one, too. Baby steps.”

Well, it’s flu season and guess who caught it? Last Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, runny nose, and everything in between. I tried to go to class, but I could tell that I needed to be in bed. So, that’s what I did. I wanted to crawl into bed and stay there for the entire day. But, I knew I couldn’t do that. Because recovery.

When anyone catches a cold or any kind of virus, you lose your appetite. You survive on crackers and juice. Then after a few days, you get your appetite back and everything is back to normal. Things aren’t that easy when you have an eating disorder.

ED already causes me to have a pretty limited appetite. I don’t feel hunger and fullness like I should. And I probably won’t for a long time. They’re becoming stronger, but it could take up to a year for hunger and fullness cues to be reliable. Nothing ever sounds particularly “good.” Sometimes I can get excited about my most favorite foods, but nothing else sounds more or less appetizing. So catching a cold made those pre-existing symptoms even stronger.

Luckily the worst of the cold only lasted about 3 days. In those 3 days, I did the best I could. I made sure to get out of bed for meals. I didn’t meet 100% of my meal plan, I wasn’t even that close. But I did the best I could.

After resting and lots of cold medicine, I started to feel better (Shoutout to my roommate for taking care of me). But I noticed that ED voice was getting louder. It kind of took me by surprise. I hadn’t heard the voice being that loud in a while. I didn’t really know why it was all of a sudden so present. I was pretty much over the cold, so my appetite should be back, right?

I talked to my dietician and my therapist and both said that any kind of sickness is so hard to manage in recovery. Any time the meal plan isn’t met, no matter the reason, it makes room for ED Voice to be louder, which puts you at that much more of a risk for relapse.

Tuesday was a hard day. I cried in the cafeteria because I was overwhelmed.
Wednesday was a hard day. I stared at my dinner for 45 minutes before I could take a bite.
Today is a new day.

Yeah, ED Voice is really loud right now. But thanks to my support team (friends, professors, treatment team) I was reminded that I have fought it when it was louder. My dietician and therapist helped me come up with some tips for dealing with sickness in recovery.
1 – Find foods that seem a little easier. Food doesn’t usually sound good when you’re sick, and it’s going to be even worse with an eating disorder. So, instead of looking for food that is appetizing, find foods that seem easier or safer. Think of something you know you can eat. And if you eat that same thing 3 meals in a row, that’s fine. Do your best to stay on an eating schedule.
2 – Give yourself grace. I’ll be honest, I have not been very good at this one lately. By the end of the day, I think about all the food I missed today and how I should’ve eaten more. But that kind of thinking is not productive. My dietician always tells me “One snack at a time, one meal at a time. Then put it behind you, it’s done.” My meal plan has me eating 6 times a day. That means I have 6 different chances to get it right. If I miss a snack, ok. Move on. Focus on doing the next right thing.
3 – ED Voice is a liar. Don’t listen to it. ED Voice will use sickness as an excuse for missing meals and snacks. “Oh, you’re sick you don’t have to worry about eating, just rest.” Resting is good, but you have to eat.
“Nothing tastes good, so what’s the point in eating.” Even if it doesn’t taste good, you have to eat.
“You’ve fallen behind already, you’ll never catch up.” Progress over perfection.
Take everything ED Voice is telling you and attack it with facts.
4 – Ask for help. Every time you challenge ED Voice, it gets quieter. That’s hard to remember in the moment. When I’m staring at the plate in front of me, I’m not thinking “Don’t worry, it will get easier!” I’m thinking, “Wow, this is impossible.” That’s why having support is so important. Whether it’s a text of encouragement from your treatment team, a friend to sit with during a meal or snack, or reassurance from a professor, find the support you need.

The good news is it’s pretty easy to fight off a cold. You can take one or two sick days and then you’ll be feeling better! The coughing will cease, the nose will stop running, and the throat won’t hurt anymore. ED Voice isn’t quite that easy.

You can’t take sick days from recovery.

It’s hard, I know. I’m proud of you. God loves you. You got this.

Keeping Sick Clothes Keeps you Sick

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” – Matthew 6:25

One of the hardest parts about recovery is the way your body changes. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward and it’s not really what you want. Everyone tells you it’s good, it means your healthy. They’re right,  but it takes time to mourn the body you once had, or the body you thought you wanted. I’ve been in recovery for awhile now, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable in my body now. Body Image is one of the last things that ED can hold on to. Changing the way your brain thinks about your body is a long process. I’m not going to wake up one day and love my body. (Wouldn’t that be nice, though?). So, start with the baby steps. My goal for now is acceptance. I don’t have to love my body right now, but when I look in the mirror, I want acceptance and contentment. No strong feelings one way or the other. My therapist and I have been talking through a lot of different strategies to learn how to accept this new recovered body of mine.

I had been complaining recently about my clothes not fitting the way they used to. So, we decided to take inspiration from one of my favorite shows, Tidying up with Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo is the CUTEST little professional organizer who invented her own way of organizing. With the KonMari method, you pull all of your clothes out and lay them in one giant pile. Then, you hold each individual item, and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If it does, you keep it!  If not, then you thank it, and get rid of it.

So, that’s what I did. I spent hours going through every article of clothing, one by one. I held them, tried them on, and got rid of what didn’t fit. Pretty soon, I had a good size pile of clothes to get rid of.

Cleaning out my clothes was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I reached out to one of my friends from TK and she reminded me of such an important truth, “Keeping sick clothes keeps you sick.” The Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls used to tell us this all the time, and it’s so true. “Sick clothes” are more than clothes that are too small. It could be a pair of jeans that you hope to fit into some day. It could be a shirt you always throw on when life gets extra exhausting. Keeping those things around does nothing for you. They keep you in negative behaviors, and they keep you sick.

It was going ok until I got to my favorite pair of jeans. They’re the perfect color, and have red flowers embroidered around the ankles/ legs. I even call them my happy pants! They definitely spark joy. It sounds silly to be so attached to a pair of pants, but we’ve been through a lot together. I wore them to my very first dietician appointment. I was terrified. But my floral pants gave me a little extra confidence boost. I wore my happy pants just to have some reason to smile, and it usually worked! Who knew that a pair of pants could cheer you up?

When I held those jeans the other night, it felt different. They don’t fit like they used to, because I’m not who I used to be. They were there for me when I needed them, but I don’t need them anymore.

Besides my jeans, I found a shirt that instantly brought me to tears. It was a floral, long sleeve shirt that I wore all the time at TK. Now, this shirt still fits, but I knew it was time to move on. That represents a part of me that is gone. Just like my jeans, I didn’t need that sick shirt anymore.

What in your life is keeping you sick? It’s time to throw it out!

I’m proud of you. God loves you. You got this.

Questions for a Friend

In case you don’t know who I am, my name is Rachel. Amanda & I spent our whole lives living 45 minutes apart but actually met at CMU. She’s become one of my best friends and walking along side her in every step of this journey has been a joy. And a challenge, but primarily a joy. Walking so closely with her through this I got a lot of questions from my friends, her friends, my family and just bystanders who heard bits & pieces.

I’ll never forget the day that Amanda came to my room to tell me that she had began skipping meals. I’ll never forget the days following that I spent hours trying to think of what I could do, pleading with God to fix this, and scared beyond belief that I was going to lose one of my best friends. As Amanda became more open about what she was going through, I began getting a lot of questions as the friend of an individual with an Eating Disorder. The questions were often the same, and as the friend, they were sometimes hard to answer. Here are some of the most common questions and how I answered them.

How do you do it? 

You just do. The perception was that I knew what I was doing. Spoiler alert… I didn’t. I will tell you that loving a friend with ED is very similar to loving any other friend. When your friend needs you, you show up. So that’s what I did. I showed up. Every day, every meal, every hour. Some days were harder than others, depending on how much Amanda wanted me there. There were days she didn’t want to respond, and it was clear I was bugging her. But it was important for me to show up for her on days she didn’t want to show up for herself. The simple answer to this question was that I just did it. 
Other things I did to help show up for her daily included learning all I could about her ED, talking to other individuals I knew that struggled with ED to learn what helps/hurts, leaned on my own SMALL, trusted group of friends when it got harder, and asked Amanda what she needed from me often. 

How do you make her eat? 

This question, as sincere as it always was, made me laugh. You don’t. I never, ever could make her eat. She is an adult and her own person. I could encourage her (& believe me I did) to eat, but I could not make her eat. I could ask her how a certain meal went or if she was able to get lunch, but I could not make her eat. That wouldn’t be helpful to her, or our friendship. As you learn more about ED, you learn that it isn’t just about not eating. It goes so much deeper than that. 

Plus if you know Amanda, you know she’s too stubborn to let anyone force her to do something she does not want to do. 😉 

What is okay to say to her? When is it okay to ask about it? 

Ask her. She knows the answer to this question better than I ever could, and it is not rude to ask an individual with ED what questions to ask and when it is okay to ask a question. This also varies from person to person. What worked and was good for Amanda may not be for your friend suffering from ED. For example, you may notice we always say ED (eating disorder) instead of a specific name of a disorder. This helped Amanda, so it’s what we do.

Most importantly, know that even if your friend isn’t responding well, she/he feels your love and sees how much you care. You asking about their ED from time to time is not going to send them into a down spiral. It’s going to make them feel loved, and that’s the ultimate goal for you as a friend. 

How do you know she’s telling you the truth? 

Oh the question that always lit a bit of a fire in me. I know that she is telling me the truth, because she is my friend. Because she is my friend, I trust her. I trust that she will be honest with me. And making her think that I didn’t trust her would only make things worse and damage our friendship. I encouraged honesty by reminding her that I would never be mad at her for skipping a meal or hiding something from me. If your friend is struggling to tell you the truth, remember that ED is a nasty, terrible, awful thing that makes your friend not be so much like her/himself and they need your love. 
Trust. Your. Friend. 

How is she? 

This was the most common and the hardest question for me to answer. I leaned on Amanda for guidance on how to answer this. Ultimately this story is and always will be Amanda’s. It is not and never will be my job to tell it. Often I would ask Amanda how much was okay to tell and who was okay to tell it to. She understood that I needed to be able to tell a SMALL group of friends to be strong enough to continue to help her. Further than that, I often kept my responses simple. “She’s making it.” “Ya know, things are going, and things will be okay.” “She’s alright.” As time has gone past, Amanda has (clearly) become more and more open with her story, and she has given me permission to answer these questions more openly. 

At the end of the day, remember this is your friend’s story and they get the power to tell it. 

You will be asked so many questions and face so many situations being the friend of an individual with ED. If you’re anything like me, you will cry lots of tears for this person too. But I promise you, it’s worth it. Stick by their side. Show up for them everyday, and remember to take care of yourself too. You can’t help take care of them if you aren’t healthy yourself. On the extra hard days, remember they love you and you don’t want to look back on this situation wishing you had done more. From a friend to another friend, thank you for loving her/him. They couldn’t do this without you. 

P.S. If your friend goes to a treatment facility, get in the car, train or plane and go see them. Gosh dang it, the distance and plans and money will figure itself out. They need you the most then.

I am Not my Eating Disorder

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

My therapist and I have been talking a lot about identity. What is identity? Well, Google says identity is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.”

“Who or what a person is.”

So, who am I?

This is what my therapist and I have been working on. But it is not something you can just decide in one session. Every person is so different and so complex. When I think of someone’s identity, I think of their core being. Their soul. What makes them happy? What makes them mad? What are they passionate about? What are their goals?

When I think of my identity, I think of anorexia.

When so much of my time is spent working on recovery, it is easy to fall into the mindset that all I am is my Eating Disorder. I started to think that when people look at me, that is all the see. They see someone who had to take a month off of school to go to treatment. They see someone who can’t handle leadership roles because of my mental health struggles. They see a girl with an ED.

But that is not true. At all.

I decided to find out how people do see me, and get rid of a little more of that nasty ED voice.

I’ve mentioned before how the bond you make with the residents and staff at Timberline Knolls is unlike any other. Whenever someone was discharged, all of the girls on lodge would write that person a note in a journal. Staff would join in too! By the time you left, you had a journal full of encouraging notes from your new friends, the BHS’s, nurses, therapists, and anyone that made an impact on your recovery. I got my journal out the other day and read through it. (Every time I read it I cry and cry and cry, but that’s beside the point.) I decided to write down every way that the girls described me. Anytime they said “you are…..” I wrote it down. I expected to have a short list with the usual things, nice, smart, helpful, kind. But instead, I had an entire notebook page full of words about my identity.

Words like:
– Bright Soul
– Inspiring
– Welcoming
– Sweet spirit
– Radiant
– Brave

And so many more. You know what? Not one person said “you are your eating disorder” or “you are really good at losing weight” or “you are really thin”

Not. One.

When I sat back and looked at that new journal page, I was overwhelmed. What a powerful reminder of my identity. As a society, we tend to focus on the negative. We focus on our imperfections, our mistakes, and our failures. We all have things that we would like to change about ourselves. But here’s the thing: When someone looks at you, they don’t think straight to your flaws. They see what they love about you. They see your smile. They see your courage, your kindness, your sense of humor.

You are not defined by your imperfections.

Even more importantly than how the world sees you is how God sees you.

There are so many verses and songs about our identity in Christ, but I’m gonna start with this one by Hillsong.

“Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I’m proud of you, God loves you, You got this.

Self Care First, School Second

Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” -Katie Reed

I love school. I always have. Central Methodist University is my happy place. I love the atmosphere of school, the structure and schedule, the motivation that comes with wanting to succeed, the relationship with teachers, all of it. As much as I love school, I have had to realize something very important.

School is not everything.

This was (and still is) a really hard concept for me to accept. For the majority of my life, one of my biggest priorities has been doing well in school. Getting good grades, pleasing my teachers, never missing a homework assignment, everything that my brain told me I needed to do to be the “perfect student.” And I would do whatever it took to make those goals come true.

I have mentioned before that perfectionism is directly correlated to the development of eating disorders. Of course it is not the only factor, but it’s a big one. Here is what I’ve learned from my experience: the more I listen to eating disorder voice, the stronger my perfectionistic tendencies are. Eating disorders are so ridiculously competitive, that’s what makes them so dangerous and hard to beat. In the height of my eating disorder, my entire day was centered around being the best at everything. The best at doing homework, at being organized, at practicing, at pleasing teachers, at staying up late to be the most productive I could, the list goes on.

Well, guess what? You can’t be the “perfect anorexic” and the “perfect student” at the same time. I tried, it doesn’t work.

When I started exploring the idea of going to treatment, one of my biggest hesitations was leaving school. I told my treatment team that if I had to take time off of school, I wouldn’t do it. I was so afraid of falling behind, but mostly disappointing my teachers. I felt like such a failure. But then I realized something that changed everything. My eating disorder had ruined school for me. School was supposed to be my happy place. But with ED running the show, I wasn’t even enjoying school anymore. I couldn’t focus in class, I never wanted to do homework, I couldn’t practice piano or memorize music. That’s when I realized something had to change.

Deciding to take a month of school was one of the hardest decisions in this process. I didn’t know how to exist without school. But my professors at CMU bent over backwards to make my recovery happen. The plan was to continue school while I was at treatment, mostly through email with my professors. Once I got to TK, I realized that wasn’t really going to work. Recovery was going to be a full time job, and I couldn’t be giving any of that time away to school. My professors were incredibly understanding and said they’d do whatever it took to catch me up when I got back (and they did.) Taking that time for myself helped me realize that school is not a measurement of my worth as a person. Grades don’t measure how much I am going to succeed in life. My life is just as valuable whether I am at school or not.

My happiness and health are more important than my GPA.

As I start my junior year here at CMU, I’m constantly having to remind myself of these truths. I’ve had a really hard time adjusting to being back at school and have noticed myself wanting to fall back into old habits. But, almost 6 months out from treatment and my professors continue to give me grace and show me that they care more about my health than my grades. They have never once been disappointed in me for putting my mental health first. As well as teaching me about music, they have taught me that to be the best teacher I can be, I have to take care of myself first. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Are you afraid of what your teachers might say? I know I was. Just to show how much people care, here are some quotes from my professors when I have expressed the struggles of recovery:

“I hope you know that you can come to me with absolutely anything and I will be here for you. Baby steps!”
“You are a very special child of God. Remember that.”
“Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be thinking of you over the next few days. Sending healing thoughts and prayers to you.”
“I am SO PROUD OF YOU! Focus on you and don’t apologize for it.”
“You are doing so unbelievably well. Try to cut yourself a little slack.”
“Celebrate your baby steps today! Get back up when you fall down.”
“Your health and taking care of yourself is FAR more important than anyone else’s opinion.”

Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. If you need to drop a class because your schedule is too full, do it. If you need to move classes around to have time for therapy, do it. If you need accommodations made, do it. If you need to take an extra semester so you’re not as overwhelmed, do it.

Prioritizing happiness and health doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you successful.

Eating Disorders don’t take a Summer Vacation

“It takes a little patience, takes a little time. A little perseverance and a little uphill climb.” – Dear Evan Hansen

It has been a hot second since my last blog post, so I figured I’d catch everyone up on what I’ve been up to this summer. I have been channeling my inner old lady working at Joann Fabrics, helping my best friend plan her wedding, I took a trip to Chicago, and I’ve had some of the sweetest reunions with friends from treatment. I go back to school in a week (!!!), so it’s the perfect time for a summer reflection! I love lists just as much as I love reflecting, so here are a few of the things I have learned this summer.

1: Leaving your hometown is scary, but worth it
I am going into my 3rd year of college, so I have lived away from home, but I always have gone back to my hometown for summer breaks. I decided this summer I was ready for a change. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I decided to go for it. I found a friend to live with in Columbia and within the first few days, I knew I made the right choice. Having the freedom to make my own schedule has been so good for me. This is also the first time I have lived in a town bigger than 3,500 people. There is so much more outside of my hometown and thanks to moving away this summer, I have started to realize how great it is to explore! Besides, living within 15 minutes of Target and Chick Fil A has been life changing.

2: Planning ahead quiets ED Voice
Yes, I am in recovery, but that doesn’t mean the eating disorder is gone. I have hopes that someday that voice will be nonexistent, but that takes time. A lot more time than 4 months. I didn’t go a lot of places this summer, but when I did, I had to do lots of planning. I went on a week long choir trip right after school got out, and then a few weeks ago I went to Chicago. As much as I’d love to leave ED voice at home, that’s not how it works. When I did take a trip, it felt like 50% of my bag was full of snacks. I had to plan ahead with my dietician for every day I would be away. We looked ahead at restaurant menus to find meals that met all my meal plan requirements, we made a list of snacks to bring that didn’t have to be refrigerated, and talked through any situation that could be triggering. Even though ED voice had to come with me on vacations, planning ahead made it much quieter so I could enjoy the trip!

3: Spend time doing what you love
This summer I have worked at Joann Fabrics and have LOVED IT! It seemed like the most likely job to be free of food, weight, and body talk. I never imagined to love it as much as I have! I did some sewing in high school, but haven’t done much in college. Since working at Joann, I dove back into hobbies I enjoyed pre-eating disorder: scrapbooking and sewing. Spending my free time sewing, instead of on Netflix, has improved my overall mood. This summer really taught me how important (and how therapeutic) it can be to do things I really enjoy! Self care is not a waste of time.

4: It’s ok to need help
As much as I have loved living on my own, there have been a lot of new challenges that come with that. While I am in school, I have a meal plan through the dining hall, so I don’t have to cook for myself. There is no dining hall in the summer. I have had to grocery shop, meal plan, and attempt to cook (Even if it’s just the microwave.) These are normal “adulting” things that everyone has to deal with. But for someone who is recovering from anorexia and has never been on her own, it’s a lot more challenging. But I don’t have to do it alone! Whether that’s someone to go to the store with me, my dietician helping me make a grocery list, or friends making dinner with me, it’s ok to ask for help. I am very excited to be back at school and have all my meals made for me, but I am also very thankful for another opportunity to take down ED voice, one Aldi trip at a time.

5: Community is everything
As I have mentioned before, the friends I made at Timberline Knolls have been some of the biggest blessings in my life. This summer I have been able to text, FaceTime, and even meet up with a few of them! Nothing has made my heart happier than continuing to do life with these girls by my side. It is so important to have people in your life that truly understand what you’re going through. We all have been to treatment together, we all struggle, and we all support each other. Besides TK friends, keeping up with my treatment team has been so important. No matter how much I am struggling or no matter how much I want to just quit recovery, my treatment team is behind me 100%. Even on the days when I want to skip appointments or just give up, they are there to help. I owe so much of my success this summer to them.

6: Keep going.
Recovery is a long, hard process. But it’s just that, a process. Recovery has really tested me a few times this summer and I have wanted to give up. But I keep reminding myself that recovery is worth it and it will get easier. If something isn’t working, change it! Giving up and giving in just gives ED voice more power. Every time I choose a recovery action instead of an ED action, it quiets that voice a little more. The best things in life aren’t easy. It’s ok to be tired, frustrated, or irritated. As long as you keep going, keep fighting, keep choosing harmony. You got this.

Recovery is not Linear

“Recovery will feel like you’re dying a million times, and every inch of you will scream at you to stop. But don’t give in. Life is waiting for you. And it will get better. It will get easier. I promise.”

I want to be really vulnerable with you. I  want to be real. I want to talk about the things no one really talks about. I want to talk about how hard this truly is. I’ve been in recovery for 3 months now, and even though so many things have improved and become easier, there are a lot of things that are still really hard. I want you to know that I am far from perfect and I still struggle. A lot. There are good days and bad days in recovery. Here’s a list of some things I’ve been struggling with. The nitty gritty stuff in recovery that just truly sucks. 

1: Body Image
One of the biggest struggles in ED recovery is body image. I’ve struggled with my body image for the majority of my life. It is hard work to rewrite the thoughts you have had about yourself for so long. Having an eating disorder causes your view of your body in a totally distorted way. The way I see myself is different than the way everyone else sees me. And that’s not something that can change overnight. For me, being in recovery meant gaining weight,about 20 pounds actually. That is really hard when your mind already sees your body in a distorted way. It’s really hard for clothes not to fit as well as they used to or look how I wanted them too. I am still adjusting to this new body that I have. I have to remind myself every day that the way I feel is more important than the way I look.

 Something that has been so important in my recovery is yoga. I started doing yoga at TK and have kept up with it since then. Yoga has taught me to truly appreciate my body and what it can do for me. I also don’t weigh myself. When I go to appointments where they need my weight, I don’t let myself see it and they don’t tell me what it is. I don’t need to know because weight is matter, but weight doesn’t matter. Lastly, I try to limit time in front of the mirror. I’ll look in a full length mirror in the morning to make sure my outfit matches and all that good stuff, but that’s about it. My therapist has said that body image is one of the last things for ED voice to let go of. These things help me overcome body image issues. 

2: Appointments
Something many people don’t realize is all of the appointments involved with recovery. Recovery is a process. It’s a way of thinking and a way of living, and it takes a lot of people to keep me in recovery. My “Recovery Team” consists of 3 main people: my therapist, my dietician, and my doctor. I see my therapist and  dietician once a week. My doctor is once a month, but we keep in touch. It’s easier now that I am out of school to make these appointments, but scheduling 2 hour long appointments with people 30 minutes a way while I am in class is a little trickier. All these appointments are time consuming, hard to schedule, and not to mention, expensive. Did you know that insurance doesn’t cover therapy? It’s been 3 months since TK and we’re still fighting with them for reimbursement. 
But, my team is everything.
As annoying as all the appointments can be, I know that my team is on my side. They want to see me healthy and happy. And they work so hard to make that happen. They know what I need and will do anything for me.

3: Meal Planning
This was something I did not expect to take so much time and energy. Before TK, meal planning was easy. I didn’t eat anything. And if I did eat something, I walked to the cafeteria at school and saw what they had. Now I am living on my own and am responsible for all my meals. I am responsible for grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. One of my hopes for recovery is that my mind would not be so focused on food. I still think about food all the time, but it’s different. Instead of thinking about what meals to skip and how much I would allow myself to eat, I have to think about when I need to go grocery shopping, what I need to buy, when I need to eat, what I have to cook, and if I’m meeting my meal plan. My meal plan means 3 meals and 3 snacks every day. I have to plan days in advance what my schedule is going to look like so I get everything in . Then during each meal and snack I have certain nutritional requirements to meet. It takes some planning and some thinking, which is something that I am not used to at all. The good thing is I know more about nutrition than I ever expected I would! I also have to track everything I eat for my dietician. I have pages and pages of meal logs with everything I have eaten since TK. 

One of the biggest struggles with meal planning is hunger. They say that accurate hunger/ fullness cues could not come back for a year or so. It is so hard to eat a full meal when I am not hungry. That’s been one of my biggest struggles recently. I want to eat and stay on track, but I’m not hungry. If I am hungry, I usually feel full quickly. Something that helps is to set out all the food that fits my meal plan, not just what I’m hungry for. It takes me awhile to eat sometimes just because I don’t feel hunger and fullness like I should. That’s something I never expected to be such a long lasting problem. 

4: Media triggers
Diet culture is an awful thing. It was something I didn’t notice until now. On social media we worship the thinnest celebrities and praise people when they lose weight. Everyone is on a new diet fad that they post about all day long. Everywhere I turn it’s food, weight, body. I didn’t realize just how triggering some of these things could be. Whether it’s Netflix, Instagram, Facebook, magazines, or people just talking, I am much more aware of how focused society is on physical appearance. Last week I was watching one of my favorite shows and there was a new character on the show. Another girl (who was actually the worst) encouraged this character to start purging and restricting. I finished the episode because I thought I’d be fine. I was in recovery, right? I watched another episode and quickly realized I could not handle that. The girl who kept encouraging her to purge and restrict felt like my eating disorder voice live, on screen, talking to me. I quit watching the show, and I haven’t touched it again. Just 2 episodes caused me to have one of the hardest weeks I have had in recovery. 

As much as I want to shield myself from all possible triggers, I can’t hideout in my room and not associate with society. I’ve found a few things to help. I have cut back on social media tremendously since TK. I have decided that whenever I see a post about a diet or someone losing weight or any negative food, weight, or body talk on social media, I close out of the app. The sad thing is, it doesn’t take very long to see one of those posts. I have found that the less I read those posts, the better I feel. It’s about being aware of what I can handle and what I can’t. 

5: Restaurants
I’ve never really loved restaurants. Since I’ve had a complicated relationship with food my whole life, I’ve never enjoyed social food settings. When I started to get sick, restaurants became more and more anxiety producing. 3 months into recovery, restaurants are still really hard. I feel ok with familiar restaurants with a few people that I am very comfortable with. But a restaurant I have never been to or a group of people I don’t know very well is really hard.

However, I can’t stay away from restaurants forever. My dietician recommends I go out to eat once a week just for exposure.. When at restaurants, I do best if I sit at the end of the table and by people I’m most comfortable with. I realized if I sit in the middle of the table, I feel way too overwhelmed with all the people and food. I also look up the restaurant ahead of time and read the menu, so I know what to order beforehand. I’ve also started locating the bathroom and the exit in every new restaurant. Then if I get panicked, I can go to the bathroom or step outside for a few minutes. Just knowing the way out is comforting and makes me not feel as trapped.

1: A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
2: The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost

A return to a “normal” state. I expected to leave TK, go back to my life, and move on. I didn’t expect things to be perfect, but I expected to pretty much go back to a normal life. But what is normal? A “normal” life is a boring life. 

The second definition is what recovery actually is. It can be summed up as a process. There is not an end to recovery. It is a new way of thinking and a new way of living that will never end. It’s not something to achieve and move on from. Recovery is something I make a part of every decision,  situation, and day.

Recovery is not linear. This was said all the time at TK, but I never really understood it. Now I get it. Recovery is not just a constant upward slope to becoming the “perfect” person. Recovery has ups and downs. There are good days, bad days, and days when it doesn’t even feel like I’m in recovery. But like I’ve said before, it’s baby steps. I still have lows, but each bad day seems a little bit better than the last. I’m constantly learning more about myself and how to cope with the tough stuff. 

I know that was a lot. But I want to encourage you. What’s the hard thing in your life right now? The pain in the butt thing that just doesn’t seem to be getting easier? I get it, I’ve been there. I was there this last week. Keep going. The best stuff in life isn’t easy. You are doing it, and I am so proud of you. 

Progress Over Perfection

“Take it 1 day at a time. One meal at a time. One snack at a time. Then put it behind you. It’s over, it’s done.”

It’s no secret that I am a perfectionist. Anyone who knows me at all knows that. I love everything to be exactly in the right spot, I triple check my homework, I practice one measure of music for an hour, I calculate what grades I need to get to keep my 4.0, I sort everything, whether it’s by color or alphabetical, or sometimes both. It’s just who I am. Now did you know that perfectionism is linked to eating disorders? Perfectionism is about control, and controlling how much or how little you eat is just another way to feel like you are in control. Before I actually had a diagnosis, I began researching like crazy. Some people had mentioned to me that this could be an eating disorder, but I wasn’t ready to accept that. I was going to read everything about them to prove to myself that I was “fine.” Then I read one article that changed everything. I found out that it is very common for people with eating disorders to be major perfectionists. Talk about a major callout. Reading that sentence changed my whole perception. That link to such a major part of my personality really got me worried.

That’s what made fighting so hard. I had to fight my ED voice AND my perfectionism voice.

The first few days at TK were some of the hardest days of my life. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never done anything like this, nor had I known anyone who had. I didn’t have any kind of reference point. I just knew that I wanted to get better, and I was going to do whatever it took.

After a few days or a week or so, I was feeling pretty discouraged. I felt like I was getting nowhere. If I didn’t eat, I was disappointing the staff and myself. If I did eat, ED Voice was mad, and I felt physically sick because my body wasn’t used to food. There was no way to win. One night I stayed up later than I usually liked because I just felt so lost and so hopeless. I waited until one of my favorite BHS’ was done helping everyone else so I could talk to her. The conversation we had in one of the group rooms at like 10:30 at night changed the rest of my recovery. (10:30 is pretty late when you wake up at 5:30 everyday)

She introduced a totally new concept to me: baby steps. While I was feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, she was proud of me. She was proud of the baby steps. She printed out a quote that I continued to read throughout my time at TK, and I even return to it now in the new struggles of recovery.

“Sometimes falling down is part of the process. That uncomfortableness is where change happens. Where we evolve. Where we turn that weakness into strength. This struggle that you’re going through is part of the process. And you will make it through.”

Process, not perfection.

I realized that I had unintentionally set unrealistic expectations for myself. I felt like I was in treatment, and the only thing I could do was eat everything they gave me. 3 meals, 3 snacks, 100%. That just wasn’t realistic. And no one was expecting me to do that right away, except me. When I was asking that much of myself, of course I was going to be disappointed. I was setting myself up for failure. When I decided to shift my perspective to the baby steps, everything changed.

We decided to set more realistic goals. We started small. The new goal was to attend every meal and snack and sit with the food in front of me. Then eat 50% if I could, and finish with a drink supplement if I needed to. Just lowering the expectations made me feel so much more confident. By setting realistic goals, I was able to meet them and have the strength to surpass them. It wasn’t about eating 100% at every meal. It was about showing up. Taking the baby steps to eventually reach those 100%s.

Baby steps are just as important in recovery. It’s easy to get discouraged when I slip up or when ED thoughts creep back in. It’s easy to focus on the negative, or focus on what we can’t do. What if instead, we focused on what we can do?

I still get anxiety in unfamiliar restaurants or with big groups. Ok, but I can cope through it. I used to say no and not even go.

I still see my body in a negative way. Ok, but I’m learning to love it instead of finding every way to change it.

I still don’t have normal hunger/ fullness cues. Ok, but I am able to push through those and stay on a 3 meal/ 3 snack schedule.

Recovery is hard. It’s going to be hard. Recovery is up and down. There are good days and bad days. But no matter what happens, I am still fighting.

I am not perfect, but I’m still fighting.

What baby steps have you taken to become the person you want to be? No matter what they are, you’re doing it and I’m proud of you.