Recovery Diary 2/27/19

 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

I didn’t know eating disorder awareness week existed until I went to treatment. Treatment changed me, opened me up to ideas, movements, advocacy, and hope. It showed me the army of people fighting on the other side of this disease, which is an illness I convinced myself for many years I didn’t have. This week gives me, as well as all those who have struggled or know someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, to share their stories. If there is anything I have learned in my fight for recovery, it’s that sharing my story is my greatest weapon against darkness because it gives me the opportunity to connect. With connection comes community and with community comes healing.

This eating disorder awareness week, I am writing my first post on a beach in Cambodia. I am on a remote island off the southern coast that doesn’t have roads, ATM’s, or modern conveniences Westerners are used to – like hot water or toilet paper. Last night I was reading a memoir about all the pain the Cambodian people have endured from the genocide that ravaged the country in the 1970-80’s. Then suddenly I got sick, like really sick. I was on the floor shaking, cold, clammy, with a twisting stomach. I blamed it on the water, yellow with rust that I brushed my teeth in earlier, but part of me wondered if it the sickness was not brought on by empathy. Empathy and heartbreak for a people so broken, hurt, and traumatized. I look out at the beautiful crystal clear waters and can hardly conceptualize the juxtaposition between the beauty and the horror of the people. It makes me feel sick.

I feel the same way when I think about mental illness. In using Thailand’s slogan, the two are “same, same, but different”. I don’t know genocide. I don’t know war. I don’t know outward inflicted starvation. I do, however, know epidemics. I do know internal war. I do know self-inflicted starvation. People all over the world are experiences hardships that tear them down and bring them towards the brink of all they know.

Nevertheless, it’s eating disorder awareness week and I feel obligated to reflect on my own journey, but this year I don’t exactly want to. Instead, I want to reflect on recovery. Recovery is not following a meal plan to a tee, or exercising the exact amount allotted to you by a dietitian. It is not eating one slice of cake on your birthday or adding cream one time to your coffee. These are all steps towards recovery because each small step leads us in the direction of recovery. But, at the end of the day this isn’t recovery. I feel as if I have the right to say this because I used to believe these actions equaled recovery. Maybe they do for some, but I have come to uncover a whole different meaning of the word.

New year’s eve of 2017 I made a choice. I drove myself home to Chicago, all alone in a car, confused and heartbroken, but determined to never allow my eating disorder to overtake my life again. Now, I have had moments of recovery epiphanies where I am elated at the idea of getting better and moving forward towards health, but this was different. This was a tired, beat, and surrendering moment. It was a lone decision, a quiet determination made by a very emotionally stricken girl. Yet, here I am over a year later and I can say with confidence that my eating disorder was not a part of the last year and two months. There were hard days, but never more than that. Emotions were tumultuous and I was sad and confused at the beginning, but recovery was what I decided to achieve so recovery was where I was headed.

Generally people who have eating disorders are incredibly intelligent and determined. We are stubborn and strong-willed, detail oriented, and fiercely compassionate. All of these traits, when channeled in the right direction, can powerfully propel us towards complete freedom – if we are only to switch the goal from shrinking to freedom.

In the past year I have accomplished little in societies eyes, but that’s not the point. The point is how much I have accomplished internally, how much happiness and freedom have I been able to channel.  So as I think back on all my adventures of scuba diving, yoga teacher training, country hoping, dating, falling in love, and eating good food, I’d say that I am in recovery. I have reached a point that I never dreamed was possible. I mean I had coffee with icing in it at breakfast today and Pringles and Oreos for breakfast yesterday – if that says anything. 😉

 

Love Starts with the SELF! Period.

Words by: Megan Lawrence.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.  

I have searched pretty much any place outside of myself while on the hunt for self-love. There were no limits to how far I would push myself to get a dose of what everyone seemed to be preaching about. I kept coming up short; I kept falling flat on my face. I tried drugs and alcohol for a while, and all that did was land me in jail, as well as the hospital. I thought exercise may do the trick, but all that did was fill me with a new kind of emptiness. Food? I learned that no amount of sugar could make me love myself at the end of the day. In fact, that just filled me with more self-loathing, and depression. Social media can also be thrown into that mix. I convinced myself that likes and followers would make me love who I am. What I discovered is that likes in the form of hearts cannot substitute for the real thing. So, what was left? How about me? What was so wrong with myself that I felt the need to get attention from anything and everything except the one person who could provide it?

Intellectually I understood what it meant to have self-love, but a true feeling of it within myself? That was a foreign concept to me. I will admit, this is not easily done over the course of a day. How we get there is up to us, and everyone is on a different timeline. It comes down to the changes we make in our lives, the people we surround ourselves with, and what we are willing to give up in the process. For me, self-love takes work and incorporating daily practices into my routine that makes me the person I AM the proudest of. When I was able to stop seeking external validation, the internal love was able to blossom the way that it was intended.

As humans, I believe we try our best to figure out the quickest way to get the results we want in life; especially in the societies and cultures we find ourselves in currently. There is no shortage of places to look where we can compare our journeys, judge ourselves against others, and feel disheartened by our growth. Quick is not synonymous with progress. Like I stated earlier, the time that we achieve something is not going to be the same as everyone else. Growth is not linear, and self-love can be viewed the same. There are many ups and downs to be faced when we begin our journey back to ourselves. We can either look at this in one of two ways…we can allow this to hold us back and make us give up, or we can find the trek to be exciting and something to always learn from.

One thing that surprised me the most when venturing towards self-love was the number of people that I lost along the way. Don’t get me wrong, these were not losses, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt when a handful of those closest to me were not in support of my wanting to get better. When you are healing, you are going to serve as a reminder to those that they are not making the best choices for themselves. It is not your job to convince them, fix them, or save them. After some time, you begin to see these “losses” as a reminder that you are on the right path. People will begin to come into your life that WILL support you. This is just one of the many benefits of choosing self-love. When you decide to want the best for YOU, the Universe will start to show you that it has had your back all along. The only person who can truly get in your way is yourself. Do not let that be the case. Take back your life, and discover the self-love that has existed within you this whole time.

Lastly, trust the process. It is not always going to be easy. That is a fact. When we make the decision to discover the love within ourselves, this also means that we are accepting all the dark that resides inside of us. Let’s not forget, the light cannot exist without darkness. We do not have to label it good or bad…it simply just is. We can choose to love it and we can also choose to let it go. You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, easier said than done, and I get that feeling completely. I fought it for quite some time. To be where I am today, and to actually be able to look someone in the eyes and say that I love myself, well, that is something that I am proud of, and something that no one else can take from me.

Regardless of where you are at currently in your self-love journey, know that it exists within you. It always has, and it will always be there waiting for you to find it. You just have to start. Removing the layers that you have put on over the years can all be shed away. Underneath all of that is the love that you deserve. It begins and ends with you.

 

Thank you for reading,

Megan Lawrence  

Recovery Diary 2/09/19

I’m 13 hours ahead of everyone back home. Saturday is ending, while in Chicago the sun just came up. Time is a warped concept that leaves me feeling upside down and backwards, never quite knowing what to make of its strange and twisted factors. The half-moon is in three days. The tides are slowly receding with the moon’s magnetic pull. More and more of the sandy beach becomes exposed each evening as I walk, toes shifting, hands swatting mosquitoes, back to my bungalow. The moon is in outer-space. Outer-space holds all the stars that are above my head. There’s Leo and Capricorn and Cancer and even, my Scorpio shining high above my head. I’m so small and the world is so big and time is even bigger and I get lost in the complexities of all that is around me….

Then I walk inside. I open the door to the bungalow, turn on the fan, and grab my towel to shower. My mind switches from the wonder of the stars and moon to the worries of critique and judgement. I have teacher’s fright big time here on the island. I stay up for hours before I teach a yoga class worry and obsessing over everything I could do wrong. I mediate and do my best to calm my mind, but then somehow my dreams turn back towards the anxieties that await with the sunrise. Even my subconscious gives me little rest. I sent over photographs and a video to the boss of the dive shop I am working with, feeling inadequate with each file I uploaded, doubting my abilities, doubting my projects. If I didn’t receive jaw-dropping amazement as feedback, I wrote everything else off as a failure. Black and white. Anxious and self-deprecating. This was my dark-side.

Then I walk inside. I open the door to the bungalow, turn on the fan, and grab my towel to shower. I make jokes through the door with my partner and listening to the faint rustle of the waves in the distance. My thoughts are preoccupied but my soul is at ease. My body is content, browned and freckled by the intense Thailand sun. My knees and hips are scrapped from the playful waterfalls I have climbed, the rocks I have slipped on, and the current I fell down. The very tip of my nose is red from a tropical kiss too harsh. My feet as worn and blistered from my stubbornness to never drive a motorbike. My body is content. My body is home here. The stars stay in my soul, flickering deep within as I shave one calf and then the other. Scorpio’s nature pulses through my bones and the fading moon phases fascinate my spirit. My soul is at home here. This is my light-side.

I carry around two selves. My mental illness is a part of me and I believe it always will. I can’t turn back time and rewrite the past. I take the past, kiss it on the forehead, then put it in my back pocket and move forward with my life. My eating disorder used to be larger than my light-side. It used to be a monster that controlled everything I did. There was no room to hear what the soul or body had to say, the mind was constantly running the show. But, over the years I have learned how to starve the beast. Ignore its presence and begin to move on with my life. Therefore, as time passed the monster grew smaller and smaller until it was small enough for me to pluck it off the ground and shove into my back pocket. I have two selves, but one is much smaller than the other. The dark-side, this small self, sits in my back pocket. Every once in a while the monster with poke me in the butt, reminding me of my insecurities as an artist, yoga teacher, or simply as a human being. Every once in a while the dark-side will follow me into the shower and ransack my brain while my body and soul are deeply connected with the earth around.

This complex order of things, the two selves, the diminishing of the dark and its periodic resurrection, reminds me of time. It reminds me of my inability to understand the layers, the concept, the complex order of things. As human beings were are complicated creatures, we have so many depths to our nature. It is arrogant to believe I will ever figure it all out. So for tonight, I am content with recognizing that my mind is busy flirting with darkness while my body and soul are thriving in the light – such is the duality of life, the dialectic of the entire order of things.

Recovery Diary 2/6/19

My workspace today was a café carved out of a rocky hill overlooking the crystal clear ocean, which was lined with longboats and palms trees. The café was warm, but between my coffee frappe and the sea breeze I was comfortable. My stomach was full of smoothies, French fries, club sandwiches, and contentment. About two weeks ago I ran off to a remote island off the coast of Thailand called Koh Phangan. I spent a large portion of last summer on this same island and ever since its energy has not let me go. The crystal ocean waves wake me up in the morning and the sounds of birds sing me to sleep in the evening. My days are filled with yoga, waterfall hiking, monkey trekking, scuba diving, and an endless amount Thai food. I look out from this café, pausing my work for a moment, to reflect on how blessed I am.

2018 I named my year. It was the year of recovery, the year of pulling myself out of darkness, and walking into the light. It was the year of new beginnings, new mindsets, and a new way of experiencing the world. 2018, by all means, ended up being my year. I spent it healthy, joyful, and open to new opportunities. When 2019 rolled around, I reflected on what intention I wanted to set for the upcoming months. I thought about my life and felt as peace. I had no idea where the future was going to take me, I had no direct career path, little money, and only a year of recovery under my belt, yet there wasn’t any anxiety. So, I chose to name 2019 the year of joy. This year I intend to truly slow down and experience life in all its glory.

The first month of the year has passed. February has begun and with it I feel a rush of accomplishment. I’m at a café on my favorite island, editing underwater pictures for a dive shop. The jobs I hold let me do what I love – diving and yoga – while living in a place that awakens every spark of joy within me.

It is never easy to get on a plane and jet off halfway across the world. I’ve done it several times now, but never like this. I never left without knowing where I was going next. I never left with a future that was so uncertain or a career that wasn’t set in stone. People consider me a free spirit, but my freedom usually comes with conditions. I wanted a return date on my plane ticket and a five year plan for success in my back pocket. I am teaching at the same 200hr TTC that I trained with last year. This week we talked about the Yama’s of yogic philosophy. I felt struck by the Yama of non-attachment. Why is it that I feel so attached to a plan? Why is it that in order to feel successful I need to have a steady income, hold a 5-10 year plan, and currently be in grad school or better yet working on my doctorate?

Growing up in the US, I was blessed with an enormous amount of privilege. I think about this each time I wash my dishes outside, fill up my motorbike with gas out of a glass bottle, or lug huge water bottles back to my bungalow because the faucet water isn’t safe. But, what some fail to notice is that with privilege comes expectations. Somewhere over the last century, the American Dream has morphed from chasing possibilities to holding societal expectations. The American Dream has turned into graduating high school with a 4.0, going to a four year college, going to graduate school, possibly going on to get a doctorate, getting married, have a full-time job, having kids, buying a house, shopping at Whole Foods, going to Core Power, and eating acai bowls.

I by no means have led a traditional path and I have no intentions to. I find a future that is predictable and etched through society’s ideals depressing and dull. Editing photos while sipping on coffee, listening to the waves, and soaking up all the sun’s vitamins, sound much more alluring.

Therefore, whenever I question the future, whenever the anxieties of the unknowns come into play, or the worries about money, success, and image plague my thoughts, all I have to do is look out my window. I look out and see courage. I feel sand, palms trees, jungle, and ocean. I see an island that is thousands of miles from my comfort zone, but makes me feel right at home. I see the leap of faith I took into 2019, into completely unknown territory. I see all this and I feel joy. I feel the exact emotion I intended to fill this year with. Now, it’s only been a month, but I’d say that we are well on our way to a joy filled year.

Self Acceptance: A Stepping Stone Toward Self-Love

Words by: Zoe Spiers. Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

One of the best things that can happen to someone is when they stumble across the body positive and anti-diet community. This is a community where societal pressures to be a particular kind of ‘beautiful’ are eradicated and a spectrum of all kinds of beauty is unveiled. A community which says you don’t have to go hungry, that you can honour your body and let it be whatever size it wants to be. I remember stumbling across this wonderful community, and being ecstatic, confused, scared and hopeful all at the same time – as I’m sure many of us were, and might yet still be.

Let us dissect these bundled emotions and try to understand why we have all been on this rollercoaster.

We are ecstatic from coming across a group of people that don’t fight for one unrealistic beauty ideal. Instead, they accept themselves for who they are, living life beyond diets, exercise regimes and bucket loads of self-loathing. All things we have grown up to believe are normal (which is essentially how the diet industry profits).

That leads on to why we are confused. How can these wonderful individuals get to a mental place where they appreciate their bodies?

If you’re anything like me, finding the body positive/anti-diet community brings up fear as well. I was terrified of letting go of societal beauty ideals, as well as letting go of my eating disorder. Terrified that I would no longer have the body that’s celebrated worldwide. Of losing all control.

However, above all, many of us experience overwhelming hope when we find these self-love advocates. Hope that there is a life where you can simply live without going from one diet to the next. Without doing the latest celebrity exercise routine on a measly amount of calories, as recommended by some stranger on the internet (with no nutritional qualifications and zero clue as to who you are and what your body needs). Hope that I can go about enjoying my life and go on adventures, and eat the damn cookie if I want it, without having any crippling guilt accompanying it.

Despite all these emotions, and the good definitely outweighing the bad, it can seem impossible to reach this utopia of self-love. You can see it, but you have no idea how to get from A to B. It can seem pretty daunting, and often feel impossible to go from self-hatred we are taught to feel about ourselves based on all our ‘flaws’ (PSA: there’s no such thing), to a place of self-love.

Here’s the thing: it’s not usually possible. How are you expected to suddenly reverse years and years of negative feelings towards yourself in a single night? This is decades of our life, where these thoughts have been ingrained in us. It’s a bit like never running in your life and expecting to be able to run a marathon the next day. Just like the marathon, we must work towards the goal. The ultimate goal is self-love. The key word there being ultimate. For many of us, this is a challenge and one we all should be striving towards. But here’s a thought: what if we all just worked towards self-acceptance?

That daunting feeling starts to ease when the pressure of reaching self-love is lifted. This community isn’t about setting another goal that seems as impossible as that goal weight you set yourself 5 years ago. It’s about removing all these pressures, and if we do that, working towards self-acceptance seems a little bit more attainable.

So, what is self-acceptance? It’s accepting that your body knows when it’s hungry and full (which, FYI, changes daily). It’s standing in front of the mirror, and instead of criticising every last inch and grabbing at your skin, you can just see yourself. Just see a body looking back at you. Hopefully, one day we can look in the mirror with love, but even when we reach that point, self-acceptance might be all we can manage some days and that’s okay! It’s being able to see yourself in a neutral way, without seeing yourself as a host of different things that need to be fixed. Without highlighting everything you’re not.

From experience, I can honestly say I no longer stare at my reflection and wish with every fiber of my being that I were someone else. Sometimes I do still fall into the comparison trap on social media, but with time, it has been increasingly easy to claw myself out of that hole. I’d be lying if I said I looked at myself with love, but on a daily basis I simply see myself in the mirror. I just see an image of all the particles of stardust that have miraculously formed for me to exist on this planet. Not just exist, but live a full life. A life where losing weight and being ‘beautiful’ aren’t my purpose.

It’s taken years for me to get to this stage. It’s practising just sitting in front of the mirror and not picking myself apart. It’s relearning to listen to my body. It’s unraveling years of being taught all the reasons we should aspire to be like the latest celebrity. Getting to a point of self-acceptance, and eventually, self-love, is a daily practise. Just like running a marathon takes time and training, so does rebuilding a relationship with yourself.

That being said, along your journey, treat yourself with love. You may not be able to love yourself yet, but be kind to yourself. Listen to your needs. Feeling ill? Take a day to simply rest. Deadlines getting overwhelming? Make time for self-care, whatever that might be for you – reading a book, taking a bath, having a nap or simply making yourself a cup of tea. Small acts of kindness towards yourself are the stepping stones throughout your journey.

Self-love shouldn’t be a chore or an unattainable goal. It shouldn’t be the next thing that doesn’t work out, because you can’t fail at this. Your self-love journey is yours, and only yours. Only you can dictate how it goes. Working towards self-acceptance has been a massive part of my life, and I’ll continue to strive towards having more days full of love! How wonderful would the world be if everyone were able to simply accept themselves for who they are? It doesn’t seem so daunting when the journey is just as incredible as the final destination, does it?