You’ve Got This

I’m facing what feels like the most difficult challenge I’ve been through in my life. Objectively, from an outsider’s perspective, that may seem overly dramatic and just downright incorrect. However, as a master in avoiding feeling for about 90% of my life… the fact that I am letting myself feel through this challenge and simultaneously saying goodbye to my “person”… makes this a truly unique situation.

No one has any advice for me. No one has any solutions. Everyone just tells me to keep going. Take it one day at a time. Live the moment. Accept the struggle.

So here are my top 20 ways I’ve gotten through the last week:

  1. This. Ann Voskamp is one of my favorite authors and EVERYTHING she has posted on her Facebook this week has been exactly what I needed to hear.
  2. A text from a friend who I rarely communicate with on the hardest day of this week (and probably of the last few months) saying she prayed for me in adoration that morning.
  3. A text from my old roommate later in the week letting me know she was praying for me.
  4. The excitement of the new opportunity of coaching cross country. (More on that later.)
  5. My best friend calling and telling me she knew there was nothing she could say but she is there for me and she knows I will get through because I’ve gotten through everything in the past.
  6. Daily Mass.
  7. This song. On repeat.
  8. My parents coming to jump my car that randomly died (why not?) for no explicable reason. The mechanics can’t find anything wrong with it. There was too much going on in my life to make time for my parents or deal with that situation – and this was God’s way of making it happen without me having to go over there which is more than I can handle right now.
  9. My new counselor (she is phenomenal by the way – more on that later too)… And her suggestion I see her again next week instead of in two weeks to get me through this goodbye.
  10. The smiling faces of the students I work with.
  11. The “how’s it going?” of my new boss and his constant encouragement.
  12. A coworker whose reply to my statement, “I’ve never had so many people worried about me,” was, “I’m not worried about you. I knew you would get through.”
  13. Drinks with a dear friend and the excitement of working for the same organization next year.
  14. 24. Because Jack Bauer.
  15. This text from a friend: wp-1469882395894.jpg
  16. The stories of people I know in Haiti on missions and babies dying from malnutrition.
  17. Someone I work with who assured me she has had goodbyes just as hard (aka I’m not a total idiot for how hard this is.)
  18. Another coworker who told me how capable she thinks I am.
  19. Running.
  20. Me – because I look in the mirror and I see someone who is hurting an awful lot but knows she will come out of this stronger, who is brave enough to let herself feel all this, and who is fighting daily to get through this challenge. And because she can look in the mirror and see herself, feel compassion, talk to herself, and love herself – all things she couldn’t do a few years ago.

 

Moral of the Story:

  • I’ve got a  pretty incredible support system. It is a support – not a solution and often we look at them to be something they are not, but as a support system – they are rocking!
  • God is going out of his way to show me he has got me.
  • There are good things going on and all one has to do is look for them.
  • This is hard. It is okay that it is hard. Fighting it doesn’t change it. This is life.
  • There is healing yet to come. It will come, in time.
  • This is recovery.

Eyes Wide Open

I’ve never found something that accurately describes what I love so much about travel… as I currently sit with my hood on my hoodie up and the warmth of my laptop is far too comforting as I try to stay warm on the bus…

Yes… it is the getting away and actually disconnecting – except that I couldn’t relax last night because I knew the work and homework hanging over my head wasn’t going away.

It is one of the three things I spend money on myself for… but that stresses me out.

I take a bit of joy in proving to myself that travel doesn’t have to stress you out because my mom was always very stressed about travel and it almost took the joy out of traveling for me. I have on occasion waiting to pack until moments before leaving just to prove to myself that it doesn’t have to be stressful. But let’s be honest some of my less glamorous  moments have been around travel as well. (Aka me shouting down the street for the counselors and campers to come back this afternoon.)

So I’ve always had a hard time putting my finger on just what it is that I love so much about travel.

And last night when perusing Pinterest I found this quote which begins to point us in the right direction:

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Travel is about the experiences, the memories, the people you meet along the way (friends and strangers)… the food (which I often am able to enjoy)…

But then I found this quote (because I apparently couldn’t sleep), and it summed up exactly what I was feeling last night…

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Heightened state of awareness… mindful… receptive… and undimmed by familiarity…

That is what I enjoyed for the past two days in a city…

not a new city…

a city I’ve been to several times…

But the magic of travel makes it all new…

The  fountains beside the escalator in the mall…

the garden plots in the sidewalks…

the locals running along the lake shore before 7am…

the 40 some people at Church at 7am before heading to work…

the buildings – the marvelous architecture…

overlapping of styles…

beauty, history, and humanity all wrapped up in one place…

the homeless man curled up in a doorway…

the bellman who ushered us away from the door after getting caught in a torrential  downpour…

the  blown away umbrella…

the overly pierced DJ setting  up in Top Shop..

the girl and her mother in matching outfits…

the little girl in the mall with the most adorable outfit..

our friendly bellman…

the stressed out business woman waiting for her Starbucks…

the free iced coffee from the lady in McDonalds who appreciated our group…

so many little things.. so many details wrapped up in 24 hours… all noticed because one can’t go somewhere out of their comfort zone without traveling with eyes wide open.

 

Because the Internet Said So

I read somewhere (probably Runner’s World) an article about the top ten foods for runners. (If I had time I  would look it up and link it – but I’ll leave that to your mad-Google skills if you are so inclined.) Often these articles leave me nothing but frustrated that I don’t have time, energy, or money to buy things like flax seed. But this particular article had a great truth (because the internet always speaks the truth) and one of the foods included was a vanilla milkshake. (Can I get an “Amen” for authorization to eat ice cream?)

So here is a little secret… I’m like 8085, 90% sure I’m lactose intolerant (and there is something about nuts too…) but I like ice cream way too much to find out for sure. An upset stomach is a small price to pay. But while I’m on the tangent… I’m fascinated by something else I read somewhere else – similarly unlinked… Apparently when a body is underweight (I’m not saying I am… I actually don’t know what I weigh at the moment…) But anyway… avoiding the double tangent – apparently when a body is underweight it knows which processes are unessential to survival and that is why it shuts those down first. Which is why people with eating disorders lose their period… and also can become lactose intolerant… Because the body only produces lactase to break down lactose. So the body conserves energy by stopping producing lactase. I find it fascinating. God did a pretty good job on this whole body thing. (Awe at our bodies is something I’m learning after reading a whole book on body image the other day – but  more on that in another post – hopefully soon!)

Despite this unfortunate lactose sensitivity I seem to have (which fluctuates and I’m pretty sure correlates to my eating), I pretty much can never say no to ice cream… which makes it a great thing for when I’m stressed.

Which I am… permanently… for the last two months and for the foreseeable future. (We are working on that – and before you get ready to  comment away with stress management tips… I am facing some pretty objectively difficult situations (aka whole world turning upside down) and the amazing support system and mentors in my life continue to remind me that stress is pretty normal right about now.)

Add to that some pretty difficult hurts and uncovering of past wounds… and you’ve got this girl Upside Down and Inside Out (definitely not where I thought I was going with the blog name – but what goes around comes around)… And here are the not so pretty facts:

I plain and simple didn’t know it was possible to hurt as badly as I’ve been hurting recently.

Yes. I mean that – every. word. of. it.

But I’ll fill you in more on what I’ve been learning through that at some other tear-free moment in the future.

What I can tell you is that in this eating disorder there are many factors that lead me to restrict or reach for other coping mechanisms or eating disorder behaviors:

  • Not wanting to feel – so preferring to feel hungry
  • Body image triggers
  • Food triggers
  • Family situation triggers

In short, there are times when I reach for the eating disorder to help me cope. But there are other times when my body and my mind almost reach for it automatically. There are times when I simply am not hungry – in fact I find food repulsive. Every bite is a fight… without any eating disordered thoughts… my body is just coping.

Those are the times that help me understand a little bit better what happened all those years ago. It is hard not to beat oneself up for ever developing an eating disorder – especially in my case when I am very self-aware and constantly self-monitor. (I was actually told I was a bit of an anomaly with my eating disorder because I was always fully aware of what was going on.) But days like today remind me I was also surviving. I was coping and responding to something that was too big for me to handle and I didn’t have proper coping mechanisms or supports. And that helps me to have compassion for myself.

So today is a no hunger day. (Remember when all days were no hunger days and I wondered if I would ever feel hunger again?) My body has other ways of letting me know what is going on – nausea and headaches. And I didn’t want to feel like that – so I was wracking my brain for anything that would sound good…

You guessed it… a milkshake.

So  that is how I ended up at McDonalds for lunch today… snack wrap, fries, and  a shake… Because every runner needs her fuel.

And every girl in recovery has to fight for freedom!

 

Don’t Quit

The other day was the first time I have feared injury in a long time.

As someone recovering from an eating disorder who has been lucky enough to keep running as a part of my daily life, this would certainly be a challenge. But it is amazing how little by little I’m able to shift my focus from needing to run – to being grateful that I am strong enough and healthy enough to run.

Running shows me daily that I don’t know how to give up. I can only remember three runs that I have let myself stop and walk – two because of cramps and one because of wind. There is a part of me that simply doesn’t know how to give up.

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And when I run – I can feel. So much of my recovery is about feeling. I’m afraid to feel. And this summer I’m doing plenty of feeling.

I’m learning that feeling is hard – but I can make it through. Where did I learn to be afraid to feel? I don’t know if it is so much that I was afraid to feeling – as I learned that I shouldn’t feel – that I shouldn’t be so sensitive. But the funny thing is, those feelings don’t just go away, they stay inside and they have to come out somehow.

And that is what continues today. It has to come out somehow – and as I get closer and closer to facing those feelings…. I am able to let go more and more of the control, the fear, the need to protect myself.

I read an article that made me cry. The description of the grips of an eating disorder brought back memories and sadness. Last night I read in a book about body image which shared a girl who had lost everything – her friends, dropped out of school, been addicted to the fatal combination of heroine and cocaine – when she was asked if she feared relapsing into drugs and alcohol her reply was, “No, not really. I fear going back to being anorexic.”

We have lived a hell. That is what the article reminded me of. And the fear I have of going back is never completely gone – especially this summer as I’ve been struggling a bit more. People can’t imagine what we have been through. I remember when I was told, “I was playing with fire.” By that point I already knew it was too late. As an educator, I watch many of my students “play with fire” with eating habits… And I  want to shout out – don’t  do it!

Everyone’s story is different. No one can understand exactly how I got where I did. No one has the exact same underlying roots, reasons, or current struggles. But there are people who know what it was to be in a place where you knew you weren’t yourself and where being controlled by an illness (while ever thinking that you were fine.)

I do fear going back. And this summer as I push myself not to be afraid to feel, I know I’m healing yet another aspect. The  fear for me comes from the fact that there is no defining line between struggling and a full blown eating disorder. I can’t name the moment when that switched. And so every time there is an eating disordered thought, or behavior, or inclination… it strikes fear in me.

I am sure with time that fear will diminish. But for now I keep pressing forward – always with the unknown. Like that pesky feeling in my knee the other day – I had to slow down, stretch, rest, re-center, and assess. And that is how it is with the pain of feeling… the eating disorder fears… all I can do is slow down, assess, and re-center.

The image and reality of distance running help me remember that. Sure, it is a place I can feel… but mostly it is a place that reminds me again and again of my strength. I can keep going. I do not quit. I have never quit. It isn’t about how fast or slow I go. It is simply about never giving up.

 

Going Deeper

I don’t know what to write…

It seems like every five minutes my thought processes change.

Change.

That’s the word for it.

And change reveals things about us.

It reveals things we haven’t seen before.

I’m losing another part of my support system.

Last year my therapist.

This year my mentor, my boss… the person who was there when no one else was…

The one who launched me on the road to recovery…

Who  accompanied me to my first therapy appointments…

Who looked at me and was honest enough with me to tell me I needed help…

The one who has eaten more meals with me than I can count over the last seven years.

It is good. I need to take this step.

But I am sad.

So sad.

And it is revealing – revealing insecurities I haven’t faced yet.

Because she has been both a support and a crutch.

So that going back to therapy thing – s*** just got real.

We are digging deeper.

And some of these days have been really rough.

Scary rough.

Till I remind myself that I am strong enough.

Then they are just rough.

Without the scary.

But real rough.

I told my therapist I didn’t want to start working again because when we dig deeper it triggers the need for control and the unhealthy coping mechanisms I have.

She agreed – and said it is the way through.

So I’m living triggered.

I’m living watching myself reach for coping mechanisms I haven’t reached for in a long while.

But I know they aren’t the solution.

I know the solution is forward.

It is deeper.

It isn’t easy not to fall into the fear that I’m getting worse.

But I remind myself I’m taking a step back to see clearer – not to go backwards.

It is rough though… Isn’t deeper supposed to avoid the chaos of the waves?

Isn’t it odd how these are always the moments when it is too hard to reach out?

It is too hard to explain what is really gone.

And the self-talk is self-critique for struggling.

When did struggling become bad?

But it all triggers the fears… the fears of going back.

I know I won’t – but then again – I didn’t think I would feel like this again.

That’s the point though – the feeling.

I am feeling.

Feeling what I was always too afraid to feel.

So… therapy should be fun on Tuesday…

 

At the end of the day, it  isn’t about the struggle or not the struggle. It is about the courage to begin again tomorrow. 

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