TRIP TO NYC, NEW HAVEN feat. thoughts throughout trips Week: Failure, Patience, and Hard Work

This past week was trips week, meaning while the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors all embarked on their outdoor education trips, whether that be biking, hiking, backpacking, white water rafting, surfing etc. the seniors did not have school. This week is provided to seniors to work on the wonderful common application, visit colleges, or do any other sort of work required to enter the amazing world of college, and I had one of the best weeks of my life. College applications and extreme excitement may seem like oxy morons, and they are, but I was lucky enough to work on these fantastic essays in New York City and Connecticut. This week was maybe one of the best weeks of my life. It was a week where I could relax and be in one of my favorite cities on the planet and with some of my favorite people. I did not have to worry about school; the panic while rushing from class to class, my ultra colored planner, with random highlighter marks and notes of everything I have to do in my life, and the pressure of school that only increases the magnitude of my eating disorder. The hustle and bustle of Polytechnic school was replaced with the fast pace New York City lifestyle, rushing up and down 5th Ave, waiting for my subway (hoping it is the right one), and the never-ending sound of honking horns and sirens. To some people, this may sound like a nightmare, but to me, this was (is) heaven. The colorful highlighter that is found across every page of my weekly planner (aka my Bible) was exchanged for the flashing lights of Times Square and the leaves beginning their color change all around New Haven (ok, not quite there yet, but I know it will be coming soon and I wanted another comparison 🙂 ). I understand these two places are completely opposite, the millions of people that are crammed into New York City versus the 130,000 people that are spread out around New Haven. Both of these places however, made me the happiest I have ever been. Now, I understand nothing can make you feel anything, but I couldn’t help but feel happy, comfortable, and at ease in both of these places.

 

Before I left on my trip, I was incredibly nervous about embarking on this vacation. As some of you may remember, a little while ago I wrote a blog post on vacations and how for people struggling with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, or any other type of mental illness, vacations can only make all of the above problems worse. I was worried that if I went away I would all of a sudden fall apart. Instead, I felt completely whole. I was not scared of the food I was putting in my mouth, I did not care what people thought about me as I walked down the street, and I learned a couple of important lessons that I hope to keep with me not just through this college process but throughout my entire life.

I know the majority of my readers can currently, have in the past, or will soon relate to this wonderful college process. When I type the “n” into my search engine, Netflix no longer pops up, rather Naviance automatically opens, GREAT! The Common App is apparently my most visited website, and I currently have 8 drafts of my essay, all of which consist of, you guessed it, random streaks of highlighter marks, and random notes in multicolored pens that I swear are incomprehensible to any human being, including myself (maybe that is why I have not gotten very far in it yet!). So needless to say college is important to me and something that I care deeply about. I work incredibly hard yet still feel inadequate. I feel as if my dream school is just that, a dream. My dream life is also just that, a dream. One very important thing that I really need to hold onto, and I am not giving advice, but to all of you people out there who are struggling with something (so all of you), might want to hold onto it to, is that dreams can be realities if you wake up and work at it. I was talking to a really good friend of mine, who is a really important part of my life this past week and who has had incredible success… because he worked at it. If you wake up and put in the effort, and focus on your goal, and believe in yourself you will reap what you sow. Now I want to clear something up, I am not saying if you work at something you are guaranteed that exact thing in return, but you will be rewarded… in time. Which leads me to my next idea/revelation/belief to live by.

All this stuff takes time. College apps are due November 1 if you’re applying early and for regular decision sometime in January (just in case any of you forgot, here is your 1 billionth reminder 🙂 , you’re welcome). College applications take time. They are a long tedious process filled with writing, rewrites, double rewrites (is that a thing? Probably!), long nights, little bit (a lot a bit) of crying, fear, major self doubt, but ultimate reward. Another conversation I had this past week enlightened me on the idea that as humans, we want everything NOW. We don’t want to wait in lines (which is how Disneyland makes so much money off of Fast Passes), we get frustrated if our waiter takes more than 3.5 seconds to bring us our food, and we certainly hate waiting for answers to big life decisions (ie. College). I have talked to so many people who say, “I just want to know where I am going and have it be May already.” Sure, that sounds great. Would I love to know where I will be spending my next four years? Of course, that would take a huge weight off of my shoulders. But do I want to skip these moments that I have lying in front of me to get there? Absolutely not! If I had skipped to May I would have missed this incredibly eye opening and incredible week. I would have missed countless Young Life clubs, friend’s birthdays, Christmas (I’m obsessed with Christmas), and I most definitely would not be prepared for the AP Bio test considering I would have missed almost the entire year. I have lived my entire life waiting for the next thing to come. In kindergarten I wanted to go first grade, then I wanted to be in fifth grade, then middle school, then high school, then senior year, and now all that time has flown by and I don’t know what to make of it. When I was living in France, everything is so slow paced and the French take their time and savor each moment, which  drove me absolutely CRAZY! I did not understand how someone could spend their whole Saturday relaxing, that word is not in my vocabulary! But this idea of patience (which is slowly working its way into my vocabulary) is so key and I have found incredibly helpful. It makes me stop and smell the roses. The week flew by so quickly because I was having so much fun and loving every second but I also savored each and every moment. I did not want any moment to end and hoped it would last forever. It was the first time I was not thinking about the next thing that would be going on in my life but rather about the people/person/scene that was right in front of me.

Finally, I recognized that people tend to sell themselves short (something that is pretty obvious, but not often acknowledged). I think so highly of all of my best friends. I believe they are the smartest, kindest, most intelligent people on this planet and deserve all the best things life has to offer. I couldn’t understand how any of my best friends would not get into their top choice college – I mean they’re perfect for crying out loud! But then I turn to myself and I do not see the same. I have had so many talks with people who feel like they are inadequate but then are so quick to jump and tell me how great I am when in reality I see all the positive qualities in them but none in myself. I have had people tell me the colleges I am applying to are unrealistic and I shouldn’t even apply. My old French teacher told me I would never speak French (mais, je parle français maintenant donc…). My eating disorder told me I would never recover, my depression and anxiety told me they were never going away, but I told myself otherwise. I don’t care what people say you can and cannot do, because when it comes down to it, they are not there with you while you study for hours, or while you cry before a meal because you know you have to eat it for recovery but it will be so incredibly hard. These people who say you are not capable of doing something that YOU want to do really should just shut up, to put it as nicely as I can. If you want to be a doctor and build a rocket but also own a 5 star restaurant in New York, do it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can. You can do anything that you set your mind to and others aren’t there watching your every second or hovering over your every choice. I mean look at Steven Spielberg, one of the most renowned directors of all time, he was denied from USC’s film school (arguably the best film school in the country), or Walt Disney who was fired from a local news paper due to his “lack of creativity and imagination” or Michael Jordan who got cut from his high school basketball team. These are all people (along with many others) who persevered after what are thought to be enormous failures. I have learned through treatment, this college process, my near encounters with death in France, and the continuing process of recovery that failure is 100% inevitable. Do I like failure? No! I don’t know anyone that likes failure. I can understand someone that appreciates failure because some of the most beautiful lessons or opportunities can come out of it. When my old French teacher said that I would never speak French it only made me more determined to learn the language and to prove her wrong. I am now fluent and came from a D average freshmen year (started from the bottom now we’re here!) Failure sucks in the moment but is a beautiful thing in the long run. If I had been accepted to every program I applied for or “succeeded” at my eating disorder or got 100% on every test I took without studying, my life would be completely different. I would probably be swamped with responsibilities, I would still be battling my eating disorder (or have already been taken away by it), and I would never have learned the value of hard work. I work for everything that I receive (something that I learned from my parents). I don’t believe in being handed anything, although it seems like a really nice alternative to hours spent bent over and AP Bio textbook. I remember a couple of years ago we had an incredible runner on our school’s cross country team, Wesley. He was the most beautiful runner and ran so fast you could barely see him as he passed by. I remember my dad telling me that each race, no matter how much pain he was in or hard it had been, meant a lot to Wesley because of all the work he had done to get to the spot he was at. If he woke up one morning and could suddenly run a five minute mile with no effort put in, what would the reward be? The beauty of success is that is derives from failure. I cannot name one success of mine that has not come out of something difficult or had some type of setbacks. So to everyone, as they go through life, college applications, friendships, sports, whatever it may be, remember that it is ok to not get 100% on every quiz, the Ivy Leagues are not the only colleges out there (although they are great places!), being denied somewhere may mean a better opportunity at an unexpected place, and being told you’re bad at something does not mean you are (those people don’t really know you!)

I don’t really know what the main topic of this post was. It was a sort of recap on my trips week but I just had so many good conversations with my friend that stuck in my head that I just had to write about them! I hope that these are some things that you all can hold onto as well during difficult times!

All my love to you all! You are stronger than you know and others can’t dictate how your life turns out.

And to leave you with a quote from an amazing human being…

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneresimg_1008Yes, I ate that, and it was hecka good!img_0925loved this place so much!

Self Esteem – Journal Entry

This is a short piece on self-esteem. I am in the process of writing a longer blog post surrounding self-esteem but it is such a big topic that applies to so many people (those with and without eating disorders). Here is a little journal entry that I wrote all the way back in March! Please enjoy 🙂

Oh self esteem, what a good friend that I really wish I knew better and was closer to. I spend a lot of time thinking about self esteem and wishing that it was something that I could truly embrace and actually have a bit of it. Anyways, here are some of the many thoughts that I have had about the ever so important aspect of self esteem.

 

My Journal: 03/25/2016
We are our biggest critics but that means we also have the capability to be our biggest supporters. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So often we (or at least me, I can’t assume for everyone), allow the words, thoughts, ideas, and perceptions of others affect what we think of ourselves and how we see ourselves. Someone can receive 1,000 compliments everyday but still hate themselves because of that 1 thing someone said a couple months ago. Or maybe because they spent the morning in front of the mirror pulling themselves apart. Or maybe because they scrolled through instagram staring at the photoshopped, fake images of Victoria’s Secret models or bodybuilders and wondering why they didn’t look like that. While external self esteem is important, knowing it inside of you is probably even more important. Everyone could love and adore you, but you don’t know unless YOU know it inside of you (if that makes sense). Once I see myself for who I am as a person and just as the girl with an eating disorder, I will better be able to love myself. I want to become strong enough to the point where I know myself enough that is someone puts me down or says something negative, I can reach inside myself and realize that was nothing against me, rather problems with their own self.

Back to School: A difficult but rewarding transition

Tomorrow I start my first whole week of school. I have had a total of 7 days of school, which have included my first test (thank you AP biology), the first few days of rehearsal, a short “monologue” presentation, a quiz, and a narrative essay. In these last 7 days I have had more work and less time than I have had during the past couple of months. Going back to school has been incredibly difficult, to say the least.

 

It has been harder than I ever could have imagined and I imagined it being pretty near impossible. The schoolwork is difficult, the social setting is difficult, but the effect that it has had on my mental health has been more than difficult. It has not been the glamorous return to school, start of senior year that everyone paints in their minds. It has not been an “enjoyable” or “exciting” walk to classes or rush of people through the hallways trying to be the first in line at Fun Food Fridays. Instead, for me, it has been crying in my dad’s office (the main MVP), shaky hands as I rush to take notes in class after school, anxiety as I try to participate in group discussions, and hateful words of comparison and self-loathing running through my mind as I try to mind my own business. Do I want it to be this way? No. Do I want to struggle through my senior year (what is supposed to be the time of my life)? No. I want to enjoy laugh with my friends, focus on the classes that I care about rather than the eating disorder that I don’t give a damn about. How am I going to do this?

Well that’s a really good question that I wish I knew the answer to.

 

Any sort of transition is pretty difficult, something I assume (making an assumption, I know but we can make on quick exception) you all could relate to. Whether it be changing schools, or jobs, or moving to a new city, home, starting university, or even just starting a new year of high school – it is a scary time in anyone’s life. It is scary to need to meet new people (or in my case, re-meet people I thought I knew), go from a period of no work, to nights spent bent over an AP Biology textbook or in front of a computer typing up an analytical essay while combing through a 600 page book filled with annotations. I am transitioning back into a place where I have spent 13 of my 17 years on this earth (and probably even more than that considering my parents have worked there double the time I have been alive). I was born wearing orange and my first words were the color shout. I have been a Poly Panther since my birth on March 17, 1999 but the thing is, I have never felt like a “Poly Panther.” In fact that identification feels as like the most distant description I would ever use for myself. This is in no way anything against Polytechnic as an institution or a school it is merely just an expression of my struggles trying to re-integrate myself back into an environment that I never even felt apart of. I am fortunate to have people that support, love, and care for me everywhere I turn on Polytechnic’s campus. That is comforting to know and it is something that I can focus on. It is something that can help me through. It is something that will help me through this transition. This transition is an important and difficult one, but not an impossible one.

 

I also feel as if it might be even harder now that I don’t have my eating disorder. This statement might be confusing to some people because of how difficult my eating disorder was/is and the impact that it had in my life. I am so thankful that I don’t have my eating disorder anymore, senior year would be more difficult with it, but it also is harder without it too (if that makes any sense). A lot of the times eating disorders are not 100% surrounding body image or the need to be skinny but rather it is a disorder of control, it provides (artificial) control when there is a lack of it. Right now, I feel as if I don’t have any control, my academics, my happiness, my social life etc. I feel trapped, overworked, tired, and scared and in the midst of all that, the loudest voice in my head is that of my eating disorder. I have not given in yet, thanks to the amazing support of my friends and family and AP Biology because if I don’t have food my brain shuts down and I can’t focus on the one thing that I love. It is still incredibly hard though having to be in an environment plagued with triggers and advocates for my eating disorder. It just makes it that much harder to recover. I was thrown into an environment that I feel like I don’t belong in and with people I feel like I don’t belong with taking class that I feel like I am not smart enough for. I am trying everything I can to focus on why recovery is so important to me (my future, food tastes hella good, my friends, my happiness) and hold on to that list every second of every day.

 

Some people may read this post (in particular the people who see me everyday at school) and think is that really how she felt/feels? To be honest, yes this is how feel and I feel as if it is time for me to be completely honest about it. Going back to school, back to the environment that contributed so much to my struggles and where a lot of the pain started is a little bit like getting the wind knocked out of you. Right now I am trying to catch my breath and figure out how to start breathing (living) again. There are things that I love about school and I am focusing on those people, events (or “checkpoints” as I call them), vacations etc. to get me through this year. This MY senior year. This is MY time to enjoy what I am doing in my life. It is going to be a good year. Hard doesn’t mean bad (thank you Alec) it just means that I am learning something, and that’s what school is supposed to be, isn’t it?

Six Month Mark: Reflections and Thank You

Hello blog readers! First of all, thank you so much for supporting me thus far and continuing to support me through this journey. As you might be able to tell from the title of this blog post, today marks my sixth month in recovery. It is crazy to think back at this whirlwind of an adventure (except adventures are supposed to be fun and this one is not what I would consider “fun”)

 

Six months ago I was not myself. I was a zombie. I was existing, not living. I drug my weak body around with me day after day with a brain that could not think and a heart that was struggling to beat. I isolated myself from people that I loved and cared about and I was fighting my own self. Now, I am getting ready to start my senior year of high school (that is so weird saying out loud). I am still struggling, but not as much. I am still fighting but instead I am fighting for my freedom instead of fighting my own self. I have met my best friends and become closer to people that were already in my life. I also distanced myself from “things” that did not need to be apart of my life, for example, umm… I don’t know, my eating disorder. That was a GREAT good-bye.

 

I figured this blog post should probably have a point to it and here it is. I have learned so many things by going through this process. Here are a FEW of the many things that I have learned and took to take to heart (or at least trying to) during my time in treatment.

 

#1 Life is too short to pick cheese off of your pizza.

This has a bigger analogy than it seems, but it is also very literal. Cheese is on a pizza for a reason because it is an incredibly delicious and necessary part of the pizza. Yes, I was scared of it so I just avoided it. But when I took my first bite without my rituals of dabbing and picking and ripping etc. It was the most delicious thing ever. SO, with that, sometimes the things we are afraid of and avoid, do us less harm when we finally accept it and let it into our lives. I thought that if I had eaten the cheese off of the pizza I would be weak, worthless, and fat. I had a fear and anxiety surrounding that. When I ate it though, it showed me that all of my fears, thoughts, and worries about the pizza were false. I had taken a leap, one that I did not want to take, and I was fine. I was 100% perfectly ok and that makes me happy to think about. The same goes for life. The things we avoid and are afraid can sometimes be good for us when we let them into our lives and we recognize how strong we truly are.

 

#2 (My) first impressions and assumptions are generally wrong

Some of you may know this but I make assumptions pretty quickly (about people, situations etc.) One of my best friends (shout out to KG) is a prime example of this. When I first met her in treatment I never in a million years thought we would become best friends and end up practically living with each other (sorry for taking over your house, KG). In my eating disorder, I was very closed off and did not give people many chances to show who they truly were. Another example is my math teacher in France, Doc A, pretty much one of the greatest human beings on the planet (along with his wife, Catherine) and without whom I don’t know if I would be alive today. When I first met Doc A, I was intimidated to say the least. I thought that he absolutely hated me and so therefore I started the process of shutting down and cutting off. I then came to realize that he and his wife would end up being the biggest support system I had in France and one of the main reasons I woke up in the morning and continued on with life. I never imagined that these two people who I judged at first would become some of the most influential and important characters in the story of my life.

#3 It is not self-centered or egotistical to love yourself

This is something that I have learned but I am still trying to implement into my life. I find it incredibly sad how society nowadays tells us that loving yourself, being proud of yourself, being confident in your body or who you are is selfish and egotistical. Well, it is not. It is actually a beautiful thing to see people who are proud of their talents, their assets, their intelligence… THEM. It is such a rare thing to see someone who is confident in who they are and that is not ok that it is so rare. It is not ok that it is less common for people to love themselves than to hate themselves. It is not ok that there are entire news articles dedicated to everything wrong with celebrities. It is not ok that human beings are constantly told they are never good enough. It is not ok that it is normal for people to rip themselves apart because that is what they are conditioned to believe. Am I currently practicing what I preach? Well, not really. But it doesn’t mean I’m not trying. It is not an easy thing for me to love myself after having spent years listening to a voice (ED) telling me that I am worthless and picked me apart until I could not stand it anymore. So ladies and gentlemen if you take away one sentence from this post, society is wrong, it is ok, AMAZING even, to love yourself and be confident in who you are. So go out and flaunt who you are. Post selfies, please be proud of your bomb contouring, please be proud of your 92% on a test even though it is not an A, please be proud of your uniqueness, please be proud of YOU, (after all, you are the only you on planet earth and that is pretty cool.)

 

#4 Treatment sucks but is also the greatest thing that has ever happened to me

I remember the day my doctor told me I had anorexia (whatever that meant). She recommended going to see someone to do intake for treatment. Ummm, excuse me, what? Treatment! I did not sign up for that, there was no way I could be sick enough for treatment. That word stung and I had no idea it was where I would be going for the next 5 months. I thought treatment was a couple weeks, talking about your feelings, eating a couple meals, and then boom, FIXED! I could not have been more wrong. It was a roller coaster, a constant up and down of emotions, thoughts, and events. It was not reality either. In residential I was not living, I only existed, kind of like in my eating disorder except now I had a purpose, to get better. I woke up and ate my meals, talked in therapy, gave the counselors the BS they wanted to hear, and went to bed. I was a robot and I went through my day like clockwork. After I left RTC, I dropped down to PHP (partial hospitalization) treatment. It was an amazing change. I met some of the greatest people I know. I met people who cared and listened. I had (and have!) the most amazing therapist one could ask for. I had a safe space where my eating disorder could not exist. I had people to go to when my eating disorder wanted to creep back into my mind. I still had the tears, the struggles, and the pain but I also had people to help me through all of that, for lack of a better word, crap. I look back to six months ago and I don’t remember exactly how I looked or felt but what I do remember is that I never want to go back. I know that because of treatment and because of people like LV, AD, AW, JS, KD I have been saved from many months more of pain, depression, and being victim to my eating disorder.

 

 

 

#5 Isolation sucks

I am a very outgoing person. I love people and I am even considered a social butterfly by a lot of my friends and family. If you had first met me during my eating disorder however, you never would have known that. I went to school, attended classes, and returned back to my host family’s home to hibernate in my room for the weekend. I did not go out, participate in group activities, or make many plans with people. Why did I do this? My eating disorder. It was safer for my eating disorder to be locked away in my room. There was no one there to debate my distorted thoughts, keep track of what I was eating (or lack there of), and my eating disorder could have complete control over me. It told me exactly to the second when I could eat. It told me how many sit ups I needed to do for the rice cake I would eat at exactly 3 PM and could not finish until 3:30 PM. It was just ED and me. I was closed off from the outside world but never felt lonely because I always had Ed by my side. So in simple terms, isolation sucks. The way the eating disorder manipulates the brain into thinking that being alone and in solitude is the best thing for you, sucks. I learned that I really like my outgoing side of me and I never want my eating disorder to ever take that away (any piece of motivation counts J )

 

#6 I don’t NEED my eating disorder

One of my biggest struggles with entering treatment is that I did not want to let my eating disorder go. ED had been apart of my life for so long and letting him go felt like a failure and felt like losing my best friend. I thought I needed ED in my life when in reality I just didn’t want to let it go. My eating disorder sucked the life out of me, made me feel weak, inadequate, and worthless. It took everything I loved about myself and ripped it up. Yet, I still loved ED. It gave me the body I thought I wanted. It gave me discipline, control, a coping skill for difficult times, and it made me (artificially) unique. Over the past six months and with the help of treatment I realized everything that my eating disorder did to me. I realized everything that my eating disorder did to my family and friends, the people that mattered most to me. I don’t need that pain or negativity anymore. I don’t the self-hate anymore. I don’t need the depression and anxiety. I just need me, without my eating disorder. I don’t need my eating disorder in order to be good. I don’t need my eating disorder in order to be liked or appreciated or cared for. My eating disorder did not give me anything desirable. I romanticized my life with anorexia while I was in it but now looking back I see all the damage that it did. I don’t need my ED in order to succeed, I don’t need to change myself to be loved by others. All I need is me and that should be good enough.

 

This is not all that I learned in treatment (that would be an entire book), but these are some important things that really mean a lot to me and I felt might be able to resonate with some people. I want to say thank you to everyone who has been there for me at some point during this six month journey. I could not have done it without you all and I would not be where I am today without them.

 

 

 

 

 

Doc A and Catherine – 2 people who literally saved my life in France and in treatment. 2 people who encouraged me and prayed for me daily and never gave up hope. I don’t know what I would have done without you

 

The treatment team – who continues to care, love, and support me. All my love to The BV.

 

KG, JD, JF, IT, EM, GV, BNC, BV – the girls whom I could not live without. Love to you all!

 

Nico – the girl who has the greatest stories and the funniest things to say. You never fail to make me laugh. LUHH YOU

 

Haley – Bling 2, the girl who visited me during my worst times and managed to make it the best of times. I love you to the moon and back.

 

Cooper – a woman’s best friend, my best friend. Even though you can’t talk you always listen.

 

Kena and GB – making me laugh in treatment is the greatest gift you could give someone, thank you so much. Love you girlies XOXO

 

Young Life (and everyone apart of the program) – a break from reality and a sense of freedom from my eating disorder. Thank you for giving me a gift so incredibly rare.

 

My SYA Family – the ones who were there during the worst of it but still laughed at my jokes and worked with me through my difficulties. Vous me manquez!

 

Dieds – Ma prof et mon amie. Je ne pouvais pas vivre sans toi!

 

Tina – the one who brings out the best side of me. Thank you for supporting my creativity, dreams, and making them all come true.

 

And of course, my family – the people that are there for me through thick and thin, who never leave my side, and who support me even on the ups and downs that life throws at all of us.

Ed and his thoughts

This blog post is dedicated to KG. The girl I spend 24/7 with, can talk about anything, will listen to my problems, and has phenomenal turns. Love you to the moon and back and thank you for taking my thoughts away just by being in my presence. XOXO

 

Will the thoughts ever go away?

 

While I was going through treatment and as I continue in recovery, a thought that runs through my head quite often is, “Will these FRITOCKING thoughts ever go away.” The past week or so has been difficult, to be completely honest. I am no longer working so my days are not fully occupied and I have a lot of down time. Now, that may seem like a dream to some people but I dread downtime, I mean absolutely dread it. It means more free time for my eating disorder to penetrate my mind and more time for me to sit, consumed by thoughts of food and hunger cues, and it means more time of just Ed and me (a relationship that I really do not want anymore). I think the thoughts are some of the most difficult parts of having an eating disorder. I heard time and time again during treatment that thoughts are the first to come and the last to leave. Well that SUCKS! Even though I am behavior free and have been for a while now, I do not feel mentally free. So I turn to this question, “Will these thoughts ever go away?”

 

 

Let me backtrack a bit, I have been asked a big question by friends and family quite frequently, “What types of thoughts do you have? I mean what even are these thoughts.” Honestly, such a great question. For me, they crept up nice and quietly on my little 13 or 14 year old brain. They were “positive” thoughts that were helping me “care for my body” and teach me how to “love myself” (FALSE!) They were hints of information about certain foods I could eat or ab exercises I could add to my routine. The thoughts that possess me now are similar. I will be sitting on a couch trying to enjoy the latest episode of The Bachelorette, when I find myself calculating how much I have eaten throughout the day. I constantly check my watch to see what time I am allowed to eat (there will be another blog post on this later). I will grab at my stomach rolls to help me determine how hungry I am rather than letting my actual stomach dictate how it is feeling. It is so easy for me to slip into these thoughts and not very easy for me to fight them off. At first, the numbers of calories and the plans of exercise racing through my brain is a comforting feeling, my eating disorder disguises it that way. But the more I think about it and the higher that the calories climb, the more I recognize this is not what I want my life to be anymore. I do not want my days to be focused on how my stomach looks when I sit down. I do not want to spend hours in the morning ripping my closet apart trying to find an outfit that I can feel comfortable in.

I know I have had moments, even days of absolute freedom, when I am not consumed, tormented, and dragged down by the sinister voice of my eating disorder. I hold onto those moments and hope to find something that will eventually allow me to not just have moments but rather forever freedom. I find myself at a peace in the presence of others. I firmly believe that an important part of recovery is to surround yourself with people you are comfortable with and with whom you can be yourself. When I’m with people like my best friends Haley or KG, or Kelly S, or Nico (and so many more, I am truly blessed) I am at such a peace it is as if my eating disorder does not even exist. Those are the moments my thoughts have vanished; they cannot exist around these people. We honestly could be sitting on a couch, hanging out in a Starbucks, or driving through downtown LA and I am so free and at ease. I grasp onto those moments and they are what allow me to continue on in my recovery. They are the moments when I know that it is truly possible to not be consumed by pain, suffering, and ED thoughts. Each moment not spent in my eating disorder is a beautiful moment and thanks to all of these amazing people in my life I am able to continue on. So I guess to sort of answer my own question (and also to just keep a positive mindset), I do firmly believe that these thoughts will go away. I do firmly believe that one day I will be able to make a difference in other people’s lives and help other people struggling while I myself am no longer struggling. I am confident in myself and all my friends that I have found in treatment that we will be free to enjoy shopping and clothes. Free to enjoy our food. Free to enjoy our guilty pleasures (The Bachelorette). And most importantly, free to enjoy our lives.

 

 

Neutron Stars and Eating Disorders: yes, they relate

I was sitting in Starbuck’s today while attempting to do some wondrous science homework and in the midst of the conversation I was reflecting on some ideas for my next blog post. One idea that kept coming to me was my eating disorder’s great deal of judgment. When I was mired deep in my eating disorder, I was not only very critical of myself and how I looked, but also of others. As I would walk down the street I would look at only bodies, “she’s X pounds”, “woah, that is a fat lady”, “she should not be wearing that”, “BMI of X” and so forth and so on. At every meeting, I would scan the room; I knew I didn’t have the highest SAT score or the richest parents or the most expensive clothes, but I was most definitely the skinniest and the most disciplined. My life was full of assumptions based on what people looked like from the outside. I dismissed people based on their weight or what size they were. In the midst of these reflections, the inspiration/analogy I needed for this post came from above, literally. I suddenly was smacked in the face by some tiny object that fell from the ceiling; “Oh my gosh, that thing is so tiny, but it felt like a boulder hit my head,” was my immediate thought, and then the light bulb flashed on.

 

Ok so has anyone ever heard of neutron stars? Well many of you may know about neutron stars but I knew absolutely nothing until I needed some evidence to support my theory. Neutron stars are collapsed cores of large stars but the coolest thing about them is that if you scooped one teaspoon from a neutron star it would have a mass of around 10 billion tons.[1] I understand you all are probably wondering how in the world this relates to eating disorders, I swear, it does.

One tiny little teaspoon of neutron stars weighs 10 billion tons. If one were to ever look at that tiny teaspoon, they would never guess that it has a weight of 10 billion tons, nor would it be important to them. Also, if you had a ginormous bag of feathers, they’re feathers so they’re not going to weigh that much. It doesn’t matter how many you stuff into a bag, they’re not going to weigh a ton.

 

My point is that judging the appearance of a person, a bag of feathers, a neutron star or whatever, assumptions are rarely accurate. So much of an eating disorder (for me at least) was getting to my ideal weight because once I got there, I thought I would be happy. Once I got there, everyone would finally recognize I was skinny and they would know my weight. But the truth is, people are not very good at guessing weights. I had a four year old that I was working with tell me that she was 200 pounds and I was 400 pounds. Weight, weighing, scales etc. can be such a difficult thing for someone struggling from an eating disorder; in fact it can make or break their day. The number means I am worthy or I am worthless. The number means I am a success or a failure. The number represents what I look like on the outside when in reality, I’m not going to guess that a teaspoon of neutron star is 10 billion tons, I am going to guess it weighs a couple grams, at most. The outside appearance and the number to “what things look like” ratio can be very skewed and creates a host of insecurities and problems.

 

Now yes, I get that I just compared the idea of weight and what humans look like etc. to a neutron star, but I felt as if it explained my realization very well. It doesn’t matter how small I am, or how little I weigh, or how much I weigh, or how big I look, every single person is different in the way his or her bodies are shaped. So next time I have an urge to step on the scale or crave to know how much I weigh, I want to remember, others are not going to know the number based on what I look like so why do I need to know too?

 

Images:

  1. http://everyonestea.blogspot.com/2013/03/correct-amount-of-matcha-on-tea-spoon.html
  2. http://www.wired.com/2009/11/neutron-star/
  3. https://www.pinterest.com/debbiekujawski5/feathers/

[1] http://io9.gizmodo.com/5805244/what-would-a-teaspoonful-of-neutron-star-do-to-you

Ed’s Affect on School

Question: How did your eating disorder affect school?

Thank you so much to the amazing girl, JP, who messaged me on insta and asked me this question! Hope this helps a little 🙂

Ah, what an amazing question and honestly I’m sorry I have not written on it sooner. As many of you may know, I am a rising senior in high school. I am about to enter the wondrous world of college applications, portfolio making, essay writing etc. I have already stepped into the world of standardized testing, ACT, SAT, subject tests, you know… all that super fun stuff. So what did I do about school?

 

To be 100% honest I have not “schooled” since February. I spent my junior year in France, or a part of my junior year in France. I think that this made it more difficult to be able to enter back into school but I was also very fortunate. Right when I got back from France, I was put into a residential treatment center (where I would be for the next 10 weeks or so). I was not able to and chose not to enter into any school during that time so I spent my days doing ACT prep and math pages that Doc A sent me from France. My family and I agreed that time was the time to focus on recovery not on school or putting more on my plate than what I was already dealing with (A very smart decision, I feel) Now there is another factor. I have not been at POLY since May 2015, which I feel is an entirely different level of school and something that I will not be used to come August.

 

My eating disorder also made it incredibly difficult for me while I was in school. Because my brain was taken over by another “voice” and the majority of my time was spent counting calories, worrying about my food intake, planning exercise, and then executing it, I did not have the time or the energy to focus on school. A simple math problem could take me hours and reading just one chapter would take me days. I did not have the motivation to or the ability to do my homework or pay attention in class. A lot of the times someone who suffers from an eating disorder also suffers from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts etc. These make it difficult to wake up in the morning and even go to school. Education and learning was not my priority anymore. School took a backseat to my eating disorder, which was plaguing me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

As some of you may know, I do not quit; sometimes out of my own stubbornness, other times because it’s not the right thing to do, and many times for fear of what others may think of me. I know very well, after having been Ed’s “best friend” for four years or so, he does not like to quit either. He will not give up without a fight and let me tell you the fight he is putting up now is maybe the strongest force I have ever encountered. When I was in France and my parents proposed the idea of me coming back to the United States, every single part of me, SHAE, said yes, take me home, yet every word out of my mouth was “no” and some other bs explanation on why I had to stay in France. My dad and best friend, Haley, had come to visit me during Christmas Break. The week after they left, I completely spiraled. I barely showed up at school, studying was non-existent, and homework was absolutely impossible. I felt completely out of control but that is when I had the ability to say I needed to go home, at least for a few weeks (there was no way I was going to stay, I told myself).

 

When I got home, I was basically told I was not able to go back to France. That meant QUITTING school, GIVING UP, and FAILING, or so I thought. I felt as if my whole world was coming down. Polytechnic school is a place where you succeed. It is a place where failure is not an option and where we breed perfectionists and the best and the brightest, except for me. I slowly learned thought that while Poly does have these expectations it is not a requirement. I am doing my best. I am learning and finding subjects that I am passionate about, which in all honesty, is good enough for me. I got my class schedule today and a “small” wave of panic came over me as I realized even though I am 350 pages into my summer reading book, I am still only half way done. And I pushed my AP Bio textbook to the side in order to set this computer on my desk so I should probably open that and start reading. The nice thing is now, I will actually be able to finish a sentence.

Being there for someone with an ED

How to help someone with an eating disorder

I went to a support group the other night for people struggling with any kind of eating disorder and in any part of their recovery (ie. just starting, 1 year in, a couple months in etc.) One of the topics that came up was the lack of support or understanding from loved ones. My perspective? It isn’t their fault. In fact, there is just not enough education or information available for loved ones to understand how to support. It is obviously different for each person but here I am going write some things of helping/supporting your loved one through an eating disorder.

NOTE: These are all sayings that I have had said to me and I am just talking off of my own experience

1.“You look so healthy” “You look great”

For someone that is struggling with an eating disorder (talking for myself in specifically anorexia) healthy = fat. Healthy means that I am overweight, or that I have failed my eating disorder, or that I am ugly and unlovable (for people who have studied CBT, yes I can see the distortions too) Distorted or not, these types of comments are not helpful. They can send someone struggling with an eating disorder into what I call “analysis mode.” Analysis mode is where the person struggling is trying to figure out the small underlying layers of what the person may mean (even if it is completely unreasonable). For example if someone said to me, “You look great!” I may interpret it as, “They knew I was struggling with an eating disorder and I have gained weight since I last saw them and so therefore they think that I am fat.” Ok, obvious irrational distortions there but that is what is going on in many people’s mind. It is also a comment on bodies and that is a big no-no… leading me to my next point.

 

  1. “She should not be wearing that” “I look so fat today” “That skirt looks so good on you now that you’re weight restored!”

This is a hard one but please no comments on bodies (yourself, the person struggling with an eating disorder, strangers, actresses, magazine photos etc.)

Ok so after reading that sentence who thought, “Wow, well that’ll be walking on egg shells.” CHALLENGING PERFECTIONISM HERE, we’re all human and nobody has ever been perfect at anything (Thomas Edison didn’t make the light bulb on his first try, did he?) I understand A LOT of people struggle with body image and some comments may slip out surrounding your own body image or insecurities. I understand it is totally normal to talk about celebrity weight gain or new plastic surgery or bikini bodies or whatever. I understand it is very easy to say, “Oh she shouldn’t be wearing that.” These are all very normal, understandable, human things BUT it is not only NOT helping the person struggling with an eating disorder it can also put certain thoughts into their head such as “Well that is how I see myself yet my (fill in loved one here) thinks she is ugly and shouldn’t be wearing that, she must not love me” It can also reinforce the thought that EVERYONE is looking at, judging, talking about etc. the person that is struggling with an eating disorder. I know I am very at fault here. I have made too many comments to count and I wish I could blame them all on my eating disorder voice. It is a very difficult thing to do but each time you refrain from commenting on body image of yourself, someone else, the person struggling with an eating disorder it is setting a good example and reinforcing positive thoughts!

 

  1. “Just eat!” or “So you’re finally eating again, you must be better!”

Eating disorders, while they manifest themselves in the form surrounding food and eating are not strictly disorders of food. They go so much deeper than that. They are a mental AND physical disorder. A lot of the time depression, drug addiction, self-harm etc. comes along with them too. Just because someone in recovery is eating does not mean they are better. If you tell me to “just eat” I am not all of the sudden going to do my biggest fear and pick up a fork and eat whatever you want me to, I am sorry you don’t have magic powers. As I said earlier (quote from friend) Eating is simple, NOT easy. Eating disorders are not like a broken bone. Once the cast comes off the wound isn’t automatically healed. There are months and years that have to be put into treatment doing the work, pushing yourself to limits sometimes more painful than what the eating disorder did to you. That is why I cannot “just eat” because my entire being does not want me to.

 

  1. “Are you sure you had anorexia? You don’t look like it!”

UMMMM… NO! First of all, what does “it” look like? What am I supposed to look like to fit your criteria so that you will believe I had an eating disorder? I am so sorry but anorexia (and bulimia, BED, and EDNOS) does not have a body type. They affect people of all races, sizes, ages, genders etc. Eating disorders are not selective and the victim of one does not have to fit your tiny little box that was created by the misinformed people of society. This reinforces the idea also that the person struggling with an eating disorder does not need help or they are not “sick enough” This is only feeding into their eating disorder letting them know that they have not accomplished their goal.

 

  1. “But you’re not fat!”

Thank you so much but this is not helping. I am physically not able to see what I look like. It is called body dysmorphic disorder for a reason. The way I see myself is not the way other people see me. I see myself through the eyes of the eating disorder, which is cruel and irrational. This is also making the assumption that eating disorders are only related to how you see yourself. There are days where I can recognize what my body really does look like but it is still not good enough for my eating disorder, which is a very manipulative and unkind voice.

 

  1. “I’m going on a diet where I’m not going to eat (fill in food groups here)”

I understand that the diet industry is a $60 billion industry. I understand that dieting is apart of today’s culture, America’s culture. This only feeds the eating disorder voice even more. At almost every single lunch since getting out of treatment, there has been some kind of diet talk, some kind of I want to lose weight talk, or some kind of “I ate fruit for breakfast so I can have a donut now” justification talk. It occupies almost every single meal and every single conversation. The eating disorder voice starts jumping with excitement, “Well if they are allowed to cut out bread and not have to go to treatment, why can’t we?” or “Look at their strength to say no, we can say no too!” I just feel as if this is a way to help everyone, eating disorder or not. There are so many other things to talk about than dieting. There are so many more amazing and interesting things happening in the world today!

 

  1. Glorifying eating disorders

This is probably my biggest pet peeve. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for 4+ years and has seen many of my friends be chewed up and spit out by this awful thing, it is NOT something to glorify. There is nothing good about eating disorders, so please do not tell me that I look really great because I lost some weight. Do not ask me my “secret” because it was years of isolation, depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm, fighting my own self, self-hate, and little to no reward. There is not one eating disorder that is better than another. Please do not say to me, “Well at least you have anorexia and not bulimia or binge eating” This is in no way acceptable because it says to the person struggling with anorexia that they “chose” the better disorder and that people struggling with bulimia or binge eating are somehow “less” or “less deserving of treatment” Do not tell me how great you look after you had the stomach flu and have not been able to eat. Please do not tell me how you just don’t feel like eating anything because maybe it will help you lose weight. These words and phrases are just not necessary and do not need to be apart of any sort of conversation.

 

I know the majority (or all) of these are very difficult and asking a lot. I don’t want to come across as harsh or as if I am condemning all loved ones. I know that I have said many of these before (probably for different reasons than loved ones do). It is easy to talk about diets. Living in our society today it is expected that girls are stick thin and look like the Victoria’s Secret models that are pasted across every billboard. I know many people who do not have eating disorders but struggle with body image, which can come about in conversation because it is something that many people can relate to. But being in a house or being around someone that is struggling with an eating disorder, it is best to try and refrain from these 7 things. Remember it is totally ok to make mistakes and slip up. You might hear people who have eating disorders glorifying eating disorders or body shaming themselves or commenting on other people or saying they don’t look as if they have an eating disorder or talking about their diet etc. etc. the list goes on. That is their eating disorder voice talking. It is enough for me to have my ED voice talking in my own head, I really don’t need it coming out of others mouths too.

Going on Vacation: easy for some, difficult for me

I remember sitting through many lectures and discussions during treatment that talked about different triggers for relapse. I understood a lot of them such as certain comments, stressful events, a big change, seeing your weight etc. There was on though that I struggled to understand until I recently experienced it. That trigger was VACATION. Now, vacation may seem like a very relaxing time where one can forget about all worries and struggles and just be able to wind down. However, for someone with an eating disorder, a vacation can bring about a whole host of other problems.

 

Just this past week, right after my discharge from treatment, I went on a week long vacation with north to a family camp in the redwoods called Mt. Hermon. This is something that I look forward to every year. I love the fresh air that floats through the Santa Cruz mountains. I love the shade that the redwoods provide as I stand in the middle of the forest surrounded by thousands of trees. And, I love the people that are there. The crazy dance sessions during worship, the shout of 47 seconds as the timer counts down, and the race to save the very first row because that has been tradition for the past 8 years. This year was a little different. I still had the trees and the fresh air and the people, but I also had an extra “voice” that had spent a couple years nestling itself into my brain.

 

At Mt. Hermon we have all of our meals provided for us in a buffet style dining hall. They also constantly provide snacks throughout the day such as donuts, cookies, scones, ice cream etc. I found that during my time there, a common topic at meal time was how much food everyone ate. I heard comments such as, “Good thing I did the morning trail run” or “I just find myself eating, eating, eating, I’m going to have to go on a diet when I get home.” I sat through a lunch as one woman counted out each and every goldfish to make sure that she had the exact amount for one serving while explaining to us how she had to be “disciplined” and can’t have too many carbs. My eating disorder thrived on this. Of course they didn’t know that I was struggling, how could they? I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want everyone around me to adjust. I just wanted my eating disorder voice turned off and to be able to sit through a lunch without shaking with anxiety. I hated having limited options to choose from. I hated being worried about how much I was eating. I hated the reminders of when I was back in my eating disorder.

 

It was more difficult at the beginning of the week. I felt so lost and alone. The trees weren’t as beautiful, the smiles weren’t as bright, and the air wasn’t as fresh. I felt as if I was walking through life in black and white (not the CBT distortion 🙂 , just the lack of color) As the week progressed however, so did my recovery voice. The more I hung out with friends the more comfortable I became. I walked mindfully through my favorite redwoods and was increasingly relaxed. I had psyched myself out for vacation and focused only on the things that had triggered my eating disorder instead of all the things that were building up my recovery voice.
The week flew by way too quickly and my family and I piled into my mom’s minivan ready to make the trek home. I looked at going home as another trigger in and of itself. I was returning to the hustle and bustle of work, family, driving, and life. I wanted to stay on my vacation because it had finally become the definition of vacation. It was a period of rest. It became a period of relaxation. It was a time for me to unwind and finally separate from my ED. I had thought that at the beginning of the week this vacation going to lead me back into treatment. But instead it built up my recovery voice and helped me continue on my path of recovery.

Quick Entry – October 14, 2015

Note: This is the passage referred to in the last entry (Reflecting Back on Treatment)

Quick Entry – October 14, 2015

This is something that I wrote when I was deep, deep into my eating disorder. It consumed every part of me and stole my focus from school, friends, homework, life, and grammar, as you will see in this.  Please ignore my incorrect grammar, misuse of certain words, lack of punctuation/capitalization etc. This  piece was written during one of my lowest points and captures my raw emotions, thoughts, and perspectives. I have not edited it since it was written in October. I hope you enjoy!

(Just as a disclaimer for anyone who might be triggered, I do NOT use numbers relating to calories, weight, sizes etc. but I do talk about my struggles with food.)

 

i hate it when people tell me i am motivated or disciplined or ambitious or even worse addicted to my healthy nature or my workout regimen. i hate it when people say they wish they had my determination to be so healthy because i have felt for so long now my “healthiness” has become unhealthy. i was scrolling through instagram last night and started crying as i came across a post it said “i destroyed my body for a peace of mind i never got”

when people look at me and see me refuse to eat sugar and fried foods and processed foods and when my conversations always consist of something of healthy information – they don’t know that when i go home i practice some of the most unhealthy habits. i chew a pack (or 2) of gum a day just so that i won’t eat. i drink bottle after bottle of water so that i’ll feel full. i workout as much as i can on the little food that i eat and i count calories as if its my job. if you spent a week with me i don’t know what you would call it but its not healthy. i would not consider myself healthy or determined or obsessed i would consider myself a little bit sick maybe. because i spend 24 hours a day thinking about food. i spend hours calculating how many calories i can eat and how much exercise i will have to do. the mirror is my enemy and i don’t want to step on a scale because when i do the deep seeded hate i have for myself is overwhelming even though the number is far too low for my height, but, i step on it anyways because it tells me i need to. i am so tired of dipping my fork in dressing because i won’t eat it poured over the salad and peeling the cheese off the pizza – never eating a whole slice, unless i made it because i know whats it in it. i spend far too long looking at recipes, workouts, and unachieveable bodies and when I’m not doing that i think about the rolls on my stomach the cellulite on my legs what i will eat next. grocery shopping is a nightmare. i could eat EVERYTHING in the grocery store but i usually exit having purchased a banana or an apple to curb my hunger while my friends leave with the tastiest most unhealthy snacks in the world. WHY CANT I BE LIKE THEM! For one second i would love to just not care just for one second. i want to enjoy actual not 100% chocolate, i want to eat pizza and a croissant aux amandes or enjoy something just something just ENJOY IT!! WHY CAN I NOT ENJOY IT! i wouldn’t consider myself anorexic I’m rarely hungry or at least i don’t feel hungry. I’m just obsessive and i can’t deal with that anymore