mental health

The honeymoon phase

The first time I told my story, it was full of  honeymoon anecdotes and comparisons of my new life being visions of Oreo’s with an adequate amount of filling and dogs that never barked when you tried to pet them.

But that wasn’t real.

It was a real-life story painted over with social media gloss – I was still too raw to speak about what recovery was really like.

And in a word, it was brutal.

The moment you step out of treatment for the first time, you feel like the end of a Fast and Furious movie where everyone is walking away in slow motion like a hero away from raging fire and burning demons.

But here’s the truth – no one walks away from a burning scene in slow-motion; you wouldn’t get out alive that way.

You get away as fast as you can, and figure everything else out later.

I had spent so much time over the previous summer fighting with my own mind until it started to realign with reality, and I didn’t want to think that I wasn’t “fixed“; that my condition hadn’t been “cured“.

But mental illnesses aren’t “cured”, mental illness is managed.

And at first, my recovered life outside of treatment WAS a honeymoon; nothing was off-limits and everything was possible; until I found myself trying to do school work at a Starbucks, unable to drink my calorie-filled drink (steamed soy milk with vanilla, it was before my coffee days….)

I stared at the cup for what felt like forever, willing it not to hurt me. I grabbed my phone and spoke with someone I had been in treatment with, and I called my mom. 40 minutes later, I managed to finish my beverage, but the thought that something so simple could suddenly be so scary made me wonder if all that time spent fighting ED was worth it.

Was it worth it if it meant I was still going to endure rough days and difficult meals?

Uhm….yes.

Your most difficult days in recovery are still going to outrank your best days ill. Just because the bright color of Skittles is suddenly blinding, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to override those thoughts and enjoy them.

Just because a hamburger resembles anything BUT a salad doesn’t mean you won’t finish it and be glad that you did.

Whatever you need to get through a meal: viewing the food as fuel for a workout, viewing it as an experiment (“let me eat this meal once and just see what happens) or prefacing the moment with everyone around you so they know to keep the conversation light and OFF the casserole, do it.

You can’t “recover” wrong; rough days, struggled meals, relapses and all.

You’ve still survived, and that was the point from the beginning.

So congratulations, you’re still incredible, despite the dark times.

You’re still a warrior.

mental health

Self love takes time

When I decided I wanted to be thinner, I wanted to be thinner right away.

When I recovered and decided I wanted to be strong and have incredible muscles, I wanted those muscles to appear overnight.

With a black and white mindset comes the need to change instantly.

We always want to be something we aren’t, or have something we don’t.

And we want it to happen yesterday.

Every day, I just want to love myself.

Right away.

I didn’t want to put in the work; I just wanted to “be thin” and have all of my problems disappear.

Because that’s rational.

And I didn’t want to put in the work for gaining muscle (AKA eating in a calorie surplus) – I just wanted to BE stronger.

Also rational.

As easy as it is to say “you can’t change the situation, but you can change your mindset”, that doesn’t happen with a thought – you have to be willing to put in the work.

Self love isn’t instantaneous.

It’s looking at yourself in the mirror every day until you start to appreciate what God gave you.

It’s eating when you’re not sure you’re hungry because you know your body needs it, until you can intuitively make that decision.

It’s going to the gym when you don’t feel “muscular enough” because that’s how you GET THERE.

And it’s getting out of bed every day deciding that you’re going to FIGHT for acceptance of yourself and your body; that you’re going to wrestle with and conquer those voices telling you it’s impossible.

You don’t just decide to recover and love yourself; you have to wake up and make that decision over and over every. single. day.

But pretty soon, you will look in the mirror without wondering why you were the only person in the world given fat cells (you weren’t – fat acts as a layer of support to protect your vital organs; it serves a purpose).

You won’t stare at the clock, wondering if it’s too early to eat, or if you should wait until lunch because “intermittent fasting” has become some strange thing people are obsessing over (gross)

And you will go to the gym when you want to, and stay home when you don’t; because either option is okay, and neither is incorrect, or makes you any less worthy.

It’s easy to find things you want to change about yourself; we never go out comparing positives to others (“wow that person is just as kind as I am”).

Why not?

Because it’s easier to go out and say “she’s prettier than I am” or “he has more muscle definition that I do” because 1 – it’s all relative and 2 – just because someone is pretty or has great muscle definition doesn’t mean you DON’T.

More than one person can be beautiful.

Even more – everyone can be beautiful.

And everyone is.

We just need to drill that into our mind, and know that it’s okay to let go of thoughts that do not make you strong, and of people that do not make you want to recover.

It’s okay to love yourself; it’s a worthwhile investment of your time.

mental health

it’s okay to take, though

“Be encouraging”

“Show them it’s possible”

“You’re too strong to fall off the wagon”

“Give them something to believe in”

It’s important (and at times therapeutic) to use your story to inspire others; I thrive on sharing the high points with those still suffering so they understand that their life won’t always be comprised of lows.

But you can’t pour positivity with an empty cup; and even the givers of inspiration need to refill.

It’s OKAY to be the person in need of inspiration.

It’s OKAY to be the one pulling positivity and courage out of a friend to borrow for awhile.

And it’s OKAY to take strength from someone after giving it away for so long.

The first time I spoke in front of the public at a Recovery Night in St. Paul, someone told me that I inspired them; from that point on, I never wanted to lose that feeling.

And the first day I woke up to a rough day, I tried to ignore it.

I didn’t want to preach that recovery was possible when I didn’t feel 100% satisfied with my own.

But lying about progress to inspire people isn’t beneficial, and it’s okay to be genuine with those around you and open about the ugly parts.

Relapsing doesn’t make you any less inspirational, and having a rough day doesn’t immediately revoke your recovery card.

Being authentic and real and raw with people doesn’t hinder your ability to inspire any more than hiding your struggles and pretending recovery is one giant honeymoon.

And it’s okay to be a giver that takes every once in awhile.

It’s not like a giver can be a giver without a taker anyway, right?

 

 

mental health

Relapse

I relapsed in December 2014.

Wait, let me back up.

I relapsed from September 2014 – December 2014.

In early September 2014, I got thrown off of my four-wheeler and was prescribed Hydrocodone to help the pain.

I didn’t tell that doctor that I was QUEEN of finding ways to help the pain.

I stared at the paper in her hand, practically salivating at the thought of having a legal prescription in my hand again.

Pushing aside progress to make room for the comfort of feeling number was much too easy.

I would wake up, workout (a strict NO from the doctor couldn’t stop me), come home, take a Hydro, and settle into an unsettling comfort until bedtime.

When a week was up, and my back slowly started to feel better, I left that out during my check-up.

No really, it was still hurting.

For the next three months, I used the hydrocodone to make myself believe I didn’t need to do well at my job, and that I wasn’t deserving of moving out with my now-husband.

He bought a house; I drove home from work to lay in his bed until he got home so I could tell him I wasn’t ready.

I told him I needed a more permanent job.

In reality, I wasn’t ready to give up my demons; I was relishing in the sunshine of a rebound.

I got talked to by my boss multiple times, even threatening termination if I couldn’t get my shit together.

I didn’t think I had a problem; they were my pills.

But it’s still an addiction; even if it’s your name on the bottle.

Then one night in December, I went out with friends.

I took a hydro, met a friend for dinner, then took another when we left for the party.

Then came the alcohol.

I loved it; I was falling in love all over again, just not with a person.

But I forgot how hard it hits.

And the second time around was twice as brutal.

When I woke up the next morning on someone’s couch I sat up, stared straight ahead, and tried to focus on SOMETHING.

Something that would remind me what happened the night before.

Something that would eventually play back the actions that would almost cost me my relationship.

I drove home, drenched in sheer terror for what I had done.

When did it get so bad again?

What about the progress I had made?

What about my boyfriend, and my job, and the fact that I was finally almost done with college?

When did it all become so un-important?

When I got home, I threw the remaining pills down the toilet (which I don’t actually think you’re supposed to do but that’s not really the point of this story now is it?)

And when the truth came out to my boyfriend months down the road, I had to tell him that I relapsed.

And that I swore it wouldn’t happen again.

And that he didn’t have to believe me.

But by some miracle of God, he stuck with me, and I will forever be undeserving and grateful for him and his support with my recovery; the eating disorder, the pills, anxiety, all of it.

The greatest negative aftermath from the relapse was my back (lower left side); it never healed properly.

My entire left side isn’t as strong as my right; I get flare-ups in my PSOAS and piriformis almost monthly, and I have terrible grip in my left hand.

Because I didn’t calm the fuck down and take a break when the doctor suggested.

I was too busy staring at the prescription, willing the pills to love me as much as I loved them.

I haven’t relapsed with pills since then.

And when I went to the doctor for a check-up to see if anything new was discovered, they prescribed me a non-addictive pain medication, which just isn’t as fun (kidding, not funny).

We spend so much time praising recovery that it almost seems inapt to even talk about relapse.

But it happens.

Recovery isn’t a fucking dreamsicle of a life where you’re magically fixed and nothing terrible ever happens again.

It’s brutal and rough and aggressive and requires more work than just letting yourself be ill.

It’s a decision you make once, and then have to continue making every. single. day.

But it’s beautiful and surreal and allows for so much happiness and freedom.

Secrets are the epitome of addiction.

Loneliness is the paragon of relapse.

Keep those around you who understand that they won’t understand, but go out of their way to be there for you at any moment in time.

The ones that don’t need you to say anything to know when it’s been a rough day.

And if you recovered once, and are dealing with an urge or relapse, know that you are so much stronger than your demons.

And that if you cave, you can always get back to where you were.

That’s the beauty of recovery; it’s always an option.

 

 

mental health

To my eating disorder….

I didn’t have a date to Senior Prom.

We broke up the night before.

I barely graduated from high school with a 2.6 GPA.

And I didn’t go away to college that fall.

I dropped out of the school musical, quit dance, and started skipping classes.

I dodged invites to hang out with friends so I could go home and let you run me ragged.

Literally.

I lived off watermelon, ice chips and guilt.

You crowded so much of my mind that I don’t have as many memories as a 25 year old should.

And I spent entirely too much time wishing I was thinner, better, smarter.

Or at least thin, good or smart ENOUGH for you to let me go outside and play.

You took everything; wrung me out until all that was left was the blonde hair on my head and just enough eye movement for them to roll back inside my head at the thought of having to hold a conversation.

You took everything, and left me with nothing.

Wait, let’s try that again.

You took everything and, because of that, I know what it means to FEEL like nothing.

And I know how much I have now, and all of the good things you have been replaced with.

I went to community college to live at home and be near my family and doctors.

I got a job that only had me working 4 hour shifts so I could eat all my meals at home.

I started dating someone and slowly started to believe he wasn’t lying when he told me I was pretty.

I graduated.

I got a full-time big girl job.

I got MARRIED.

To someone that wasn’t you.

I purchased a brand new car because I was saving my money and not spending it on diet pills and laxatives.

I went on trips for fun because I had time and wasn’t spending it all wishing I was good enough for you.

And I told everyone what you did.

I started with my family.

And ever so slowly, it began to build.

I told everyone I knew about the harm you caused.

I was surprised to find out how many others you had already gotten to.

You’re quick and you’re mean.

And for years I was hopelessly, tragically and unhealthily in love with you.

But people fall out of love, and I had never been so happy for those feelings to fade.

And I warn you; let this be your only notice.

That every time you try to get under someone’s skin and make them feel inferior, I will be right there to list YOUR flaws and YOUR motives.

I will beat you to the punch.

I will make sure everyone knows how wonderful they are.

So no, this is not a “thank you for teaching me” note.

This is a FUCK YOU, we’re perfect, letter of intent.

Intent to continue living in freedom.

Intent to destroy you.

Sincerely,

1 of 70 million

 

 

 

mental health

When your fitness app membership ends

This morning, feeling incredibly uncomfortable with myself, I logged on to my MyFitnessPal account (yes, I still have the app; it’s become somewhat of a metaphor for hoarding something you will never use again; yet here we are). Turns out, my membership (the month-to-month one that allows you to view and set goals based on macros) lapsed when my debit card closed for fraudulent activity.

For a moment, I stared at my screen, praying for the macros to suddenly appear without having to enter my credit card information again.

In my mind, as long as the opportunity was there, I was doing no harm by utilizing the macro services as I worked to transition into intuitive eating.

But I didn’t take into consideration a lapsed membership.

The last time something shut down without my prior knowledge, I ended up in rehab (my family’s treadmill broke). So naturally, I considered all the terrible things that would inevitably stem from this incident:

  • I would gain 10 pounds because I would have NO IDEA what I was putting in my body
  • I wouldn’t be able to eat out because there was really no way to track what was going off my plate and into my digestive system
  • I would have to eat the same thing every day, consisting only of foods where I KNEW the macros by heart (#calorieaspergers)
  • The entire world would combust

Then I considered a rare alternative: what if nothing happened?

What if I left the app alone, shut it down, and went on eating the way I had been, learning more each day about what my body likes and dislikes, and how it responds to various foods?

Even more, what if I didn’t update the app with my new credit card number?

What would ACTUALLY occur?

Chances are, nothing major (unless you count saving $9.99 every month).

Your body is not going to change just because you enter everything you eat into an app.

Your PERCEPTION of your body isn’t going to change if you consistently depend on entering every bite into an app with a very generic way of determining the needs for your body.

You know what knows your body’s needs better than an app?

Your body itself.

GASP!

Is it crazy to think that you can live without the crutch of a macro calculator everywhere you go? It shouldn’t be.

I understand if you can’t bring yourself to delete your macro calculator or food tracker app, I get it.

But little steps are a thing for a reason.

Try tracking less, and then not tracking; don’t delete the app, just don’t open it.

Day after day, it gets easier. You will get closer to freedom, and your body will get better at alerting you of when it’s hungry and what it’s hungry for.

That’s called intuition, and it’s a real thing.

So is recovery….

mental health

#FearFoodFriday trends

While I was reviewing my previous #fearfoodfriday posts, I noticed a trend:

  • Simply Balance blue corn with flax seed tortilla chips
  • Tostitos roasted red pepper chips
  • Bolthouse Farms salsa ranch dressing
  • Archer Farms sweet potato potato chips
  • Sun Chips sweet potato and brown sugar
  • Minute Maid pink lemonade

All of the items are processed; they are not fresh fruits or vegetables, meat that needs to be cooked or organic ANYTHING (actually the first one technically is but whatever).

So what is with the stigma against processed food? Well, if you were to ask Dr. Google, you would “learn” that packaged foods are “highly addictive”, have “unhealthy sugar levels”, are “difficult to digest” and contain “high levels of refined carbohydrates”.

And yet I was taught 6 years ago that no food is bad….

Because it’s NOT!!!!!!!!

YES, the food listed above probably isn’t going to give you the best “bang for your buck” (aka the most food for the calories blah blah blah), but the purpose of recovery isn’t to stay away from food because you’re afraid, it’s to understand that no food is going to hurt you as much as your disordered thinking.

So what if we reevaluated the cons of the above foods and made them make more sense and appear less taboo?

“highly addictive” – that’s call being DELICIOUS; and if you’ve never had an issue with not being able to stop eating once you start, you’re probably not going to come face to face with that problem now.

“unhealthy sugar levels” – yes, if you drink the entire container of pink lemonade, you are probably going to have hella energy and experience an INSANE sugar crash later on; good, naps are healthy.

“difficult to digest” – all of our bodies work differently. Some bodies can’t digest lactose, some can’t digest gluten, and some have no problem digesting anything. Having chips with a meal is not going to trigger an inability to digest anything ever again, that’s as unrealistic as thinking you can get all the nutrients you need and still lose weight while drinking cayenne pepper and maple syrup.

“high levels of refined carbohydrates” – I have not met a coach that has told someone to stay away from pop tarts before a workout because they’re processed. Especially if you are a competitor or generally looking to “make some gains”, allowing your body to take in refined carbohydrates is going to allow those carbs to be more readily available for your workout because they are fast-digesting. Which means yes, white rice is going to be JUST AS fine to eat as brown rice.

*insert audible gasp here*

And all that sodium that people say are going to be detrimental? Sodium actually serves a crucial role in the functioning of your organs and keeping your electrolytes up (electrolytes help you rehydrate faster after losing water and minerals through sweat).

So should everyone try to eat mainly unprocessed food? Maybe.

But maybe it’s all personal preference; and I am not going to be the first one to try and take gummy bears away from a 5-year old because they come in a package and are made of sugar.

It’s all about listening to your body and taking its cues into consideration; your body knows what it needs, and it knows what to do with the food you provide it.

Yes, it really is that simple.