Recovery Diary 08/21/18

(a late night poem about the beauty industry and all the lies it throws our way…)

you take three steps forward

before jumping headfirst into a pit of cement

that you read in an ad was supposed to be a shower of

lilies,

rainbows,

and unicorns

you drive to the ER

with a mosaic of red between your eyes

you take a picture

you post a comment on the ad

and become the perfect pinnacle of sacrifice

beauty is pain

no pain no gain

what are you gaining

the ER nurse doesn’t understand that

you were just showered in lilies,

rainbows,

and unicorns

you jumped into a pile of cement

the nurse is relentless

you show the nurse the picture

they get it now

everyone gets it

after all

only an idiot would jump into a pile of cement

Recovery Diary 08/17/18

The rain starts lightly, like the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. Pitter pattering across the roof, the windows, the lamp posts, the streets. It coats the asphalt in a sheer sheet of glass making something so strong, delicate, slippery, and misleading. The night crept up on me. The daylight was swallowed in sleep, tears, and pages of other’s stories. I don’t understand the stirring, twisting, gnawing pain in my gut that keeps me prisoner to my bed. It hurts. It hurts worse than it has in months. This year was nearly free of this sickness, this knot in my gut, and yet here it is back with vengeance.

I still have bad days.

“You’re depressed, PTSD can manifest in this way sometimes. It is just flaring up right now. Be patient with yourself,” professionals tell me through concerned stares and scribbling pencils.

“I’m broken,” I explain.

There is a leak in my gut and insecurities, shame, rejection; they are all pouring in. I am slowly drowning in my own body. The leak, the crack, the hole in my gut, it’s real, it’s real, it’s so damn real I can hardly breathe because my lungs are filling with the liquid of my tears and my heart is weighed down by a thousand bricks of all the things that should have been said. Do I even matter? The demons creep back in spewing lies into my mind. Life starts to shrivel and the world becomes a pin hole that I no longer fit in. I want to disappear, I whisper under my breath as I fade into another dream. I want to be far away from all this pain, all this suffering, this sickness that will not go away.

“When did you start feeling this way again?”

Of course, the therapist would ask me. If she didn’t what was her degree for in the first place? This is a business arrangement, a chair worth thousands of dollars to help make me better. The cushion is sewn in my dollar bills pulled from my throat of hard work and perseverance.

“Just this week I think,” I explain.

I can’t remember because when the demons come, the days blur together. Colors melt and it all looks grey. Voices are muffled by the watery tears flooding my lungs all the way to my ear channel.

What have you been doing to manage all this pain? The therapist is relentless.

I roll my eyes, “living.”

I live, I live, and I live. I want to shout at her empty smile and plastic red lips. Living is getting up and eating and bathing and going to work on time and paying bills and getting gas. I text back, I hang out with friends, I do what is required because what the fuck I supposed to do? Living is all that I know because at the end of the day I am a creature and creatures know one thing for sure: how to survive. I am in recovery. I remind myself. Sometimes all you are going to feel you can do is survive. The feelings will pass. I hope they will pass.

Flash forward to Monday morning, waking up early, drinking coffee, eating breakfast, listening to music, and writing. I am smiling as the sun rises. I am looking up the next country I will travel to.

It’s night and day. Yin and yang. Dark and light. I have many persons, many demons and many angels all within me. One day might be a rain shower of bullet casings and the next a sunrise of unicorns. I’m not broken. I’m just figuring myself out and, actually, I am okay with that.

Recovery Diary 08/14/18

My alarm went off at 7 and I didn’t wake up until 9:25. I was supposed to leave at 9. I don’t know why I am oversleeping every day this week. When I was in my eating disorder, I would be lucky if I slept past 6. I was always restless, agitated, and running around doing a million things because doing everything was far better than sitting with my own thoughts. But here I am staying up late with enough energy to talk, watch movies, read, and write. Here I am beginning to feel like a normal human- what a weird and foreign concept to someone in recovery.

I was late so I grabbed a cliff bar, granola bar, and water to eat/drink in the car. I had some coffee with cream and sugar- a new recovery phenomenon for me. At noon I was asked if I would want to go grab pizza. I panicked. I hadn’t had any food- in my disordered mind- that had any nutritional value today. I needed a smoothie, or a salad, a quinoa bowl perhaps, or one of those insta posts of a colorful plate of veggies- #recovery? This of course is a lie that my mind was telling me because all food is processed and used by our bodies. Our bodies are well oiled machines that are a whole lot smarter than the logic our disordered minds try to use to define their functioning. And guess what? Our bodies function better when we allow them to have what they truly want to have. These days even when the panic sets in around certain foods, I try my best to push past. I know that to give into those panicked thoughts would strengthen the muscles I don’t want anything to do with. I want to be toned by authenticity, normalcy, and freedom not from hours in the gym or a million Buddha bowls. I want peace. All I have ever wanted was some peace. In simpler terms, that meant I needed to get the effing pizza.

Pizza and real soda because to get diet soda would be an eating disorder win and I am not in the business of losing. I am competitive by nature. I want to win. I want to beat this disease that, for so many years, has taken over my mind. So, real soda is a must and not just any real soda, but Root Beer. This is a childhood favorite that I never was allowed to have. Now, I have it when I want. Soda is bad for you. This nagging voice, these lying thoughts trickle in forcing me to hesitate when picking out the drink.  So is self-punishment and restricting my life, I internally yell back to the voice as I grab the harmless Root Beer.  Yes. Another win. Like I said, I am not in the business of losing.

Don’t get me wrong, these decisions to get what I want are hard as hell. I have to aim, fire, and shoot at the eating disorder multiple times throughout the day. The difference now is that the eating disorder doesn’t have a chance. I am pulverizing it. Devouring its very existence. The eating disorder is dying with each passing day because I have been in enough therapy. I know too much about recovery to not fall into recovery. I can’t unlearn all the skills and coping mechanisms that I have been taught. I have, in a way, been brainwashed into recovery. I have no choice, but to choose freedom. For this very fact, I will be eternally grateful to all of the therapists, dieticians, and fellow patients that have helped brainwash me along the way. With the help of a mini army, I have been given the gift of freedom.

 

 

Self Compassion in Real Life

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Written by: Morgan, Founder of Unpolished

My alarm goes off. It’s 10pm and I have to leave for my overnight shift in 15 minutes. My body is sore from exhaustion and my head is pounding because I didn’t drink enough water throughout the day. It’s hard to keep track of the basics. Sleep. Water. Food is easier, but maybe because I am hyper-aware of that element. I slowly peel my eyes open, place my feet on the ground, and stand up.

I have to make money. I have to pay bills. I have to save if I want my year of travel to happen. But, I also go to work for deeper reasons. I go to remind all the girls there that they matter. My overnight doesn’t include much interaction, but I find ways to brighten the house. Writing notes, making homemade games to play in group. There are ways to leave traces of hope in a space where many are hopeless.

Compassion for other’s is a simple concept for me to grasp. Others deserve compassion. Others are important and worthy and beautiful because I love people. I truly do. There are very few people I find myself having issues with. But, one of those few that cause issues happens to be myself and this is, perhaps, the most problematic situation.

“How can you be compassionate for others without having any compassion for yourself?” my therapist asks me.

“It’s simple,” I respond, “You just do it. It’s second nature for me.”

But, as the years go on and time slips by, I start to realize the issues with this way of living. Living without compassion is like hiking in the desert without sunblock. Eventually you will end up burned, dehydrated, and tired. Eventually you will wear out. Eventually you will have to stop.

Maybe that’s what treatment was for me – my burn out point. It was my body, mind, and spirit saying, “hey listen lady, you need to learn to be nicer to us.” And, yet even with them screaming in my ears, I still have the hardest time listening.

Self-compassion looks a lot like the last 6 miles of a marathon. Clenched teeth, testing faith, the final stretch. It doesn’t feel good at first. Especially if you haven’t been practicing it previously in your life. For me, self-compassion is standing in the bathroom, staring at my face in the mirror while my head screams to stop and my heart screams for help. It is painting my nails when my head says it’s pointless, taking a day off work because my heart needs a nap, or painting when I haven’t cleaned. Self-compassion is a fight. It does not come easily.

But, just like training for a marathon, the more you practice the easier the fight becomes. Over time the fight will feel less like the last six miles and more like the first ten. It will still be strenuous and hard, but it will offer more reward than struggle. Keep practicing. Self-compassion is so important even if it feels unnatural.

Free Refills Unavailable

Written by: Florence Taglight, contributing writer for Unpolished Journey and blogger at findingflo.co.uk

Free refills unavailable.

Unlike most places in America, here in the U.K we don’t get free refills at restaurants, so once you’ve drunk your drink, you’re done and either order another, or perhaps switch it up to water.  Needless to say on first trips to America I was guzzling so much iced tea and Arnold Palmers (something the UK needs more of) that I was constantly going to the bathroom and on return to England, practising my tiny sip taking to make my drink last the duration of my meal.

Okay, so you are probably thinking, what on earth does this have to do with compassion?  Followed by I’m reading this to gain some insight not learn about refill differences in USA and UK.  Well, be patient.  It’s coming.  Now in fact.

Often people in recovery from a mental illness, or perhaps those caring for one, tend to love and love and love, and care and care and care or even cry and cry and cry till we can love, care and cry no more.  That’s ‘normal.’  You are not emotionless or cold-hearted, merely a human being. A human being who needs to replenish, revitalise, rest and recuperate.  It can be extremely difficult when all you want to do is love someone and show them you care, but by taking time out for yourself, you will be able to be more present for them when they need love, more caring for them when they need caring for.

But although helping others is fantastic, and what I do believe we are put on this earth to do, throughout recovery I have learnt that as I try to be compassionate to others, I end up neglecting myself.  Sound familiar?  I will bake, cook, shop and clean for all those around me who show me love, because it’s a two-way street, right?  But I forget that these people also bake, cook and shop for themselves.  They also tell themselves nice things, refill their own cups not just everyone else’s.

I used to find it impossible to sit down and watch TV.  I HAD to be doing something – emptying the dishwasher, folding, organising.  I’ve always been a fidgeter but just watching TV for me seemed, well, wrong.  I’ll tell you what is wrong – that thought process. It could not be more wrong.  So, although I’m still learning, I’m learning pretty fast and enjoying the time I am spending with me.  After all, no matter if I meet my soulmate and we become attached at the hip (unlikely), I will spend my whole life with ME, so surely I should be the one most compassionate toward myself and not rely on those around me to give me love or to give my love too.

So if you are stuck on how to refill yourself so you can refill others, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Write yourself a poem, and then read it to yourself.
  2. Take yourself on a date, for hot chocolate preferably.
  3. Watch a film like Pretty Woman or The Lizzie McGuire Movie – I know extremely different genres.
  4. Buy yourself a present – fluffy socks? Fairy lights? But don’t go overboard…I fell at this hurdle; I own enough notebooks to document my life, twice.
  5. Paint your toenails – it is surprisingly relaxing. Plus if they suck, chances are nobody is going to see them for a while, so you can leave them all messy, which personally I find extremely satisfying.
  6. READ someone you trust your poem about YOU.

Reasons to Recover

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

Mental illness blinds us. It sticks us in a tunnel that appears to have no end. All darkness. All hopelessness. This tunnel that we are trapped in is small and dingy and only has enough room for ourselves. We become completely consumed by our own internal suffering that we are unable to notice anything happening around us. We become shut off to the concept that others might be struggling to, that we may be able to help if not so trapped within ourselves. We become blinded to any goodness, any light, any hope that may be surrounding us because we are trapped in that dark, hopeless tunnel with no belief in our ability to crawl out. Our world becomes only as big as the tunnel – narrow, small, dark, and completely isolated from the rest of the world.

This tunnel analogy rings true for me when I fall back into my eating disorder. Except, not only does my eating disorder’s tunnel appear small and dark, but it also comes with spiders and chains and an unrelenting obsession with myself. What did I eat today? What am I going to eat today? What do I look like? How much do I weigh? How many miles did I run? When can I binge next? Within the chains of my eating disorder, locked in that tunnel, there is no one else that matters except for myself, my food, and my weight.

When I am trapped in my depression tunnel, I become consumed with myself as well, with my focus more on my own suffering than food or my weight. I ruminate on past memories and reasons why I deserve to be so miserable. I am unable to fixate on why I am on this earth, and I replay in my head why I am undeserving of this thing called life. Depression is cruel. Depression is the monster in the tunnel that locked me up in the eating disorder’s chains and released the disorder’s spiders across my entire body. Depression in the mother of all things miserable and the captain of a self-consumed darkness that shuts everyone else out.

With all that being said, I have come up with my top three reasons to recover from these terrible diseases.  As I describe them, they are in no way ranked in order of importance. These three reasons are equally significant to my soul’s desire to recover.

  1. My first reason to recover is to be able to Experience Life. To get out of that damn tunnel. To pull myself out of that self-consumed misery so that I may be able to truly see the goodness surrounding me. I want to be able to have relationships, have passions, experience the world around me. I want to be able to smell the flowers, climb the mountains, bask in the sun. I want to dive below the ocean’s surface and fly high into the clouds. I want to truly live.

  1. My second reason to recover is to Help Others. When I am trapped in my mental illnesses, I don’t have the mental capacity for anyone else. I don’t even care enough about myself to begin to care about others. This is the exact opposite of who I was created to be. I know that we are here on earth to be able to reach out and touch the lives of others. Also, when you are able to help others, you begin to feel more confident in yourself because you feel like you matter, that you are significant, that you are needed. It is no wonder why mental illnesses want to keep us trapped in a tunnel because if we are isolated from the world then we don’t even have the opportunity to connect or inspire others. Therefore, we don’t feel like our presence even matters in this world.

  1. My third reason to recover is to Reconnect with my Passions.  I am an artist. I am a painter, a writer, a dancer, a performer, a speaker, a lover of all things creative. I watch movies for hours, analyzing the director’s and editor’s filming techniques. I critique art in museums. I read for hours without even noticing any time passing by. I am a passionate person. That’s who I created to be, but when I am in my eating disorder or chained down by my depression, all I care about is my internal suffering. I don’t have any energy left to be excited about art or creating. I don’t have any life inside my veins and therefore there is nothing left to overflow into my art. Therefore, I am not fulfilling my purpose and will, leaving me unsatisfied with my existence.

Mental illness loves to tear us away from our reasons to recover. It loves to blind us, trap us in those tunnels, and leave us in the dark. Its goal is to pull us as far away from our purpose’s so that we are unable to believe we even have one. It is important when seeking out a life in recovery to make a list of your own reasons for embarking on this journey. Pin them up on your wall, tap them to your mirror, stick them on your fridge, write them on your arm. Whatever you have to do to remind yourself constantly throughout the day that you WANT and DESERVE recovery.  You aren’t meant to live a life stuck in a dark tunnel.

I Forgot to Charge My Laptop

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations at Unpolished Journey

So, I was a Peer Advisor at my college this past semester.  Simply put, this means that I helped instruct three University 101 classes a week alongside an Academic Advisor and worked to build relationships with the students, in order to provide an environment where they felt comfortable coming and talking to me about whatever they may be struggling with their Freshmen year.  Phew, that’s a mouthful.

For class one week, I had sent out an email to our students notifying them that they would need to bring their laptop to class.  On Tuesday, before one of our University 101 classes, the first student had arrived.  We were chatting about how his week had been so far and how his Tuesday was going as he pulled out his laptop.  He opened up the computer and a loud beeping noise sounded.  His response?  A nonchalant shrug, and “oh, I must’ve forgotten to charge my laptop.”  He then proceeded to calmly move to a seat that was closer to a plug than his original choice and charge his computer.

You’re probably thinking, okay, so?  He forgot to charge his laptop.  What does that have to do with anything?  Well to me, that moment was a light bulb turning on kind of moment.

lightbulb

You see, growing up, I was always a very anxious child.  I had breakdowns when separated from my mom or dad from the time I was little and often had those intense kind of screaming and crying fits before going to school in the mornings – all the way up until sixth grade.  Yeah, I wrote that right.  Sixth grade.  The anxiousness continued in other forms throughout my life but that just gives you a small picture of how it has always been present from the beginning.

Although it has always been a part of me, I never really saw myself as having “anxiety.”  The word gets tossed around so much.  “Not knowing is causing me anxiety.”  “That test gave me so much anxiety.”  “This traffic is raising my anxiety.”

That’s not to say those people’s feelings are invalid at all.  They are very much valid.  But I think the word gets used so much, in so many different contexts, that it loses its weight and meaning in the process.

So back to UNIV and the uncharged laptop.  In that moment, when my student said he had forgotten to charge his laptop, my heart immediately sped up.  My first thought, was holy crap, no.  What if he didn’t bring his charger?  What if there isn’t a plug nearby?  What if a document of his didn’t get saved?  He might not want to move seats.  Of course he doesn’t want to move seats – he chose that seat.  What if the computer doesn’t turn back on for some odd reason?  What if he has to buy a new laptop?  Should I loan him my laptop?  Of course, you should, idiot.  (…You get the picture.)

I sat on the table up front and watched as he calmly got up and moved spots as if it was no big deal.  Little did he know that his Peer Advisor was internally freaking out and simultaneously in awe of how calm he remained.  It was in that moment that I realized my experiences and thoughts do not reflect everyone else’s.  Not all people finds themselves feeling overwhelmed or anxious over an uncharged laptop.  And in that moment, in our classroom that was held in the basement of a dorm, I realized: I have anxiety.

Him (top) vs. Me (bottom)

Calm guy meditating seated on bed at home

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(And I also realized I was thankful that we still had a good 15 minutes before class started – I needed to process, alright?  Cut a girl with anxiety some slack. 😉 )

I know what you’re thinking.  In that little and strange moment, you came to realize you have anxiety?  My answer to you is yes.  It’s always been hard for me to fathom that little things don’t get most people worried or upset, but in this small moment, it clicked.  I realized that not everyone experiences a tidal wave of anxiousness when they forget to charge their laptop or pick out their outfit the night before or put their planner in their bag.

I always imagined that there was this absolute threshold you had to reach in order to consider yourself as having anxiety or depression or an eating disorder or whatever it may be.  I never thought that my anxiousness over forgetting to charge my laptop or forgetting to pick out my outfit the night before qualified.  I supposed that yes, I’m anxious, but I’m not anxious enough to say I have anxiety.  Having this mindset is what prevented me, and prevents others, from seeking help.  My mind would tell me and still at times tells me things like, “I don’t really have anxiety” or “there’s probably a bunch more people out there who experience anxiousness to a degree a lot worse than you.”  It’s difficult because society can’t visibly see the struggles someone with mental illness is dealing with.  So there comes this judgment and questioning on whether or not you’re really having a difficult time or not.  Where’s the proof?

I think it’s fair to say that if we feel overwhelmed or in a place where we need to seek help, we shouldn’t feel that we don’t have “enough” of a problem to do so, and we shouldn’t have to feel the need to prove that we are struggling.  Having to prove that we are actually struggling is in fact a danger to those dealing with mental illness.  There then becomes this inherent competition on who is worse off.  Why the hell are we trying to prove whose struggles are worse?  Each individual faces their own battles, each struggle is valid, and each person deserves to have support.

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So yes, that moment, in the classroom, when my student forgot to charge his laptop, was an epiphany for me.  My struggles are valid, other people don’t always feel anxious over the little things that I feel anxious over, and I don’t need to have a certain amount of anxiety in order to seek help and support.  And neither do you.

Relapse and Road Head

Written by: Ana Mai Luckett. This post was originally published on Ana’s blog, Tales from Brain Rehab. Check it out to see read more of her story!

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One of my favorite things to do when I’m really depressed is google depression. I’ve spent days watching sometimes inspirational, sometimes incredibly sad TED talks, or heart felt slam poets explaining what depression means to them. It was on one of these such depression K holes where I stumbled upon this article in People Magazine. No judgement please, I only found it reputable because of the depression fog I was trapped in.Under regular circumstances I get my information from much more credible sources, like the internet. This article was a conversation with some actor ,who’s name currently escapes me,  where he talked about his struggles with depression. One of the most memorable parts was where he talked about how gradual that changes come after starting treatment, and it’s often the people around us who notice the changes before we do.This was true for him until one day he was walking outside, as he normally did, but was taken aback by how beautiful his neighborhood was. There were no drastic changes but the simple things like the color of the trees and the serenity of the stream just blew him away that day. All of these were things he stopped paying attention to when his depression got bad. So just by observing his surroundings through new mindful eyes, he finally got an assurance that his treatment was working. This was such a major realization for him because he was able to experience his own progress for the first time, rather than relying on observations from others.

Since reading this, I’ve been waiting for my moment with the trees- my grand realization that all of this is worth it. There have been moments here and there that teeter on grandeur and wisdom, but nothing screams breakthrough yet. This morning though, I think I came closer than I ever have to that moment.

It all started when I woke up and the first thing I wanted to do was shower and get ready for my day. I honestly can’t remember when I last woke up with that much energy and motivation to move. I even wanted to shave my legs- a task I’ve been neglecting since I’ve been home so it’s gotten a little bit out of hand. I didn’t actually end up doing that because one razor simply wouldn’t be enough and I didn’t have anymore blades, but before I jumped in my shower I also did my laundry! This has been on my list of things to do for weeks now, yet has remained untouched. By 11 am I was showered, had clean laundry, and even blow dried by hair. Before starting brain rehab this wouldn’t have been as much of an accomplishment , but when your day exists of going to and from therapy, the drive to wear anything but leggings and baggy sweatshirts kind of goes out the window. I  even left my house with plenty of time to stop and pick some prescriptions before I went to Denver-  another errand I’d been putting off.

The whole morning I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy all of this was. All of these things I was dreading or just simply too lazy to do, weren’t actually the worst most inconvenient things in the history of the planet. I caught myself becoming excited about the thought being a normal college student again and doing things like this all the time. That early jolt of confidence then just morphed into a sense of calm as I started my drive.Which was unusual because the weather is finally starting to revert back to traditional winter patterns.I braced myself for an incredibly tense and frustrating drive having to deal with all of the out-of-staters driving like it’s the dawn of the ice age. When you’re on a highway that is completely dry, regardless of the snow that may be around you, there is no need to drive 30 miles under the speed limit in the left lane. None.

So even as frustrating driving was, I think because of it I saw my tree today. I was cruising in the right lane and passing everyone to my left, because that makes sense and is definitely how highways work, when I momentarily glanced to my left and saw the driver of the car next to me with his phallic member in the mouth of his passenger. In layman’s terms, I saw somebody getting road head. After the initial shock wore off, I started laughing uncontrollably. Like to the point where I was more focused on the pain in my abdomen caused by the intense emotional outburst, than on my actual driving. This was just for a second thought, don’t worry mom, after this eyes stayed on the road and hands stayed on the wheel.  I somehow ended up behind this car for a while and kept on watching the woman’s head pop up for air and then go right back to it. It was a scene so ridiculous and out of the ordinary, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new American Pie movie is already in the works.

After witnessing “the event”, my  instinct was to call everyone I knew. Because they are my friends, we all share an incredibly immature sense of humor, and I knew that their reactions would be similar to mine. And to no surprise, they were. We laughed about the absurdity of the situation and reflected on just how dangerous it was. It was a brief reflection though, because when the topic is road head, safety is the least appealing part of the story to keep coming back to. A brief summary of our conversations then goes something like this: we traded various forms of “Oh my god,” then moved on to “I didn’t think that people actually did that in real life,” and added the occasional  “ how can you even keep a car in control when your genitals are in another human’s mouth?” The answer to that one is, you can’t. As entertaining as it was, this was one of the cars going below the speed limit in the left lane, and to make matters worse, it kept creeping dangerously close to the center line and then jolting back to its rightful place. Roadhead: a fun way to relieve stress, but also a huge distraction. Moral of the story, don’t do it.

I’ll bet by this point you’re wondering why I dedicated an entire blog to that time I saw road head. The first reason is easy: hours later I still find it hilarious and the internet deserves to know. The second is more personal. For the first time in god knows how long, I was able laugh without that voice in the back of my head popping up and reminding me I’m depressed and shouldn’t be doing this. Looking back on this entire day, I can’t count the number of times I’ve smiled. For once it’s not because numbers that low simply don’t exist, but rather, it happened too many times to keep track of.

Yesterday my countdown to discharge began, and I’ll be finished with brain rehab sometime between the 22nd and the 30th of this month. Getting that news was incredibly exciting, but at the same time, it’s also fucking terrifying. In my opinion, it’s impossible to face this news without some part of yourself fearing for what comes next. No matter how many exciting things or support systems I have in place, relapsing and ending up right back to where I was just months ago, will always be possibility. I’m no fortune teller, so it would be naive of me to think this is the last time I’ll fall. And so in lies the reality of the work I’m doing here. My past has scarred me in ways that will never fully heal, and triggers will always be lurking around me.  This is a lifelong journey , but starting to get back into my routine and simply taking the time to laugh today helped me to see how much I want to be back. The fear of relapse will always exist,but I’ve found something that overshadows that; my desire to return to the land of weekly laundry schedules and people who will never not laugh at stories about road head.

The Road to Recovery from Anorexia is Not a Straight Path

Written by Morya Gorsky, a mother of a daughter recovering from anorexia. This post was originally published on Moyra’s blog, Gorski Wellness. Check it out and see what other amazing transformations her and her daughter are up to!

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Two and a half years ago my daughter started to make some changes in her eating so that she could feel and look better. As a nurse and wellness consultant I applauded that and encouraged healthy choices as she learned how her food she ate impacted her mood, energy and way she felt.

Little did I know that this would be the start of a journey into the depths of an eating disorder that has taken hold of her and her thoughts and turned something that was once a simple desire to feel and look a little better into a disorder that has such a strong hold on her that some days it’s hard to see my daughter in the midst of it.

As I continue to support and love my daughter unconditionally, I keep hearing a voice in my head that I should write, write down my thoughts feelings and share them. I have done a bit of sharing on social media, mostly Facebook. I’ve shared my struggles and hard days. I’ve encouraged others by putting up quotes and affirmations to help them see the bright side but in truth I look at them first off for myself most days. I have been astounded by the support and stories that I have been shared with me. This is not a disorder for the few. There are SO many that have struggled, know friends and family that have struggled, still struggle, pray for peace and continue freedom everyday day. I am grateful for the love and support that has been poured out to me and my family through this time. It is humbling and  it provides peace and strength on the good and bad days.grateful-300x148

I have learned so much during the time and today I find myself frustrated and sad. I myself had my own eating disorder when I was in college and in my early adult years. In those days there wasn’t much conversation about anorexia or anxiety or social pressures except to say that we knew about Karen Carpenter and her sad story. As I went away to school, away from home and that security, I found myself feeling unsure about the decisions I was making or expected to make. There were academic pressures, social pressures around drinking and sexual activity, Pressures to fit in and have fun, academic pressure of what major to follow and what we were to do for the rest of our lives. I felt alone and very unsure. That is when my taking control of one part of my life that I could, my eating began. I was not hospitalized or sent to a treatment program. I do thank my friends who were aware enough about my changing moods and size and loved me enough to encourage me to go see a counselor at our college health center.  The counseling helped and the finding of my passion of helping others in nursing I believe helped. Looking back I can’t say there was one thing or another that really helped me but I do know that by the grace of God, my confidence in myself and my abilities, self compassion and faith and just a whole lot of effort and pushing forward got me moving into a direction of freedom and self assurance. It has been a journey for sure, sometimes harder than others but somehow I got through it.

Fast forward to today and my daughter. The pain for me really began when my past was seemingly repeating itself in front of my eyes in the life of my daughter. Mention of a genetic component of eating disorders made me think that I was somehow responsible for what was happening. The feeling of responsibility coupled with hopelessness has led me to days of feeling a pain that is deep and raw and nothing that I have ever experienced before. I know that many of my days in college were dark, filled with a feeling of being alone and not understood. I also had the beautiful realization and life experiences that have shown me that there is a hope and life on the other side that is beautiful, one filled with love from others, from my heavenly Father and from myself. In the past several years I have shared my struggles and confidence in a better tomorrow with my niece when she was struggling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. One of my best friends has a daughter that began struggling and was consequently admitted to a residential program for help. I remember talking with her on the phone as well as her sister who was in so much pain that she found it hard to go on in life. There were tears and anna-and-moyra-bdaywords of encouragement.

But here I was all of a sudden with my daughter in front of my with the same struggles, becoming deeply entwined with the feeling of hopelessness, sadness, lack of self esteem and confidence. It caused me to pause in disbelief and shock. Therapists were called, dietitian appointments made and hard conversations with my husband about what to do if what we were providing at home was not enough. What next? How could we leave our daughter someplace else, not under our roof and with our family?

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We did though. My daughter has been in 2 inpatient/outpatient programs, one residential program out of town and is currently in her 4th residential treatment stay closer by to us. It’s hard to have her not home with us. I miss her. I miss the physical presence of her in our family dynamic. But mostly I miss her, her great big smile, her infectious laugh, her go-forward attitude, work hard, play hard spirit, the lightness of her hair and her thoughts as she has shared her ideas, thoughts, commentary on life that is wise beyond what I imagined from her, funny and filled with wit and sarcasm and the deep desire to help others learn and enjoy a life that is possible. I wonder one day when that girl I know will be back. Maturity and life challenges are changing her and I know as she works toward freedom that my ‘little Anna’ won’t be back. A new daughter will emerge, one filled with grace and wisdom as before but a different perspective on life that her struggles and experiences have led her to.

My perspective has changed as well. When I overhear some conversations about small, materialistic things, or struggles with what clothes to wear or the battle to look better than a neighbor or friend, I do a private eye roll and move on. Many things in life that I see around me just don’t matter. What matters to me is my family, making sure that they know they are loved unconditionally by their father  and myself. Filling my children with love and confidence, making sure that  they know that their thoughts and feelings matter and they are children of God, unique from all others and blessed by a God and family who loves them….that continues on a daily basis. I am not afraid to talk about my past and have authentic conversations about the struggles that my daughter is facing. I am open about how I feel Social media has impacted our kids in such a negative way, creating a society of people who don’t know how to communicate with each other in a way to foster true friendships and compassion. I believe that everyone’s path in life is unique and may not follow the path that others follow in the way of school, college, vocation, life and all.

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I think we need to change our conversations. I participated in the NEDA walk this September in Chicago. It wasn’t so much a competitive walk for fitness but more about awareness, discussions of hope, real talk about struggles and hope. I got a chance to meet and hear Iskra Lawrance, a British model who was the key note speaker and one who has championed body diversity and committed to changing the image of women. She was told she was TOO BIG to be a traditional model and then soon discovered Plus Size modeling. There she discovered that she was NOT BIG enough. She had many years of struggle with an eating disorder and lack of body acceptance. She is a beautiful women today, one who accepts herself as she is and encourages others to do that same things of themselves.

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iskra-and-moyra-e1479345905484-300x225I feel blessed to have met her, hugged her and told her how much I appreciated all that she has done and continues to do to champion a change in our conversation.

I love the things she shared.

       Be proud of what you have been through.

                Tell someone that you see                        and love that they are good  enough

                Be cautious of advertising as they want you to buy                 into insecurities so that you buy things.

                Shine Bright for the world to see

               Choose to pay attention on purpose

               Look at yourself in front of a mirror and pick out 10                        things that you love.

                Injoy life….not just Enjoy….be IN Joy of your life.

 

Iskra smiles, she is warm, she shares a hope and light that it will all be ok.

She speaks about body positivism and again challenges us to Change the conversation.

 

I have asked God for peace and for strength. I have been challenged to Trust God and Obey God. Find acceptance in what is before me and create a conversation of encouragement and love. The road to recovery that my daughter is on has been rocky. It’s been up and down. I’ve seen her struggle, I’ve seen her emerge victorious and find purpose and hope again. I’ve seen her doubt herself and pay more attention to what others think than what she knows is true about herself. She is fighting. She has won and she has lost. And it will continue. I know she will come out on the side of Freedom. Her story will be one of hope, love, authentic truth, self love and finding your path, trusting that God is ultimately ordering your path in life.

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It’s hard sometimes. There will be more writing. There will be more talking. There will be more praying, a LOT more praying. There will be freedom and peace. Freedom and Peace for my daughter. Peace and connectiveness (that has been lost) for my family. There will be stories to tell of strength found when we didn’t know there was any more.  I pray for awareness of the necessity of change, change in our thoughts, our conversations, our attitudes about mental illness and those things that take over that we just don’t think we have control over. In the end we do have the power, with the help of the almighty creator to create a life of love, peace, joy and freedom.

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For now I leave you with this.

If you know someone struggling, get them help.

If you are struggling, call someone, go someplace and get the help that you deserve.

There is no shame in falling down and needing someone to help you up.

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For the Doctor’s Office

Performance by: Emily Creek (Check out Emily’s Vimeo account for more of her work.)

“Gratitude is a lesson I don’t have a grasp on yet. Reflecting on this past year of SO much growth and love was sharply contrasted by the past three months of pain and confusion. For me, words seemed to fail. I couldn’t even think of words to express gratitude in mourning in joy in confusion.

So I made a dance. An act of worship to God. An expression of gratitude for the community I was placed in and then left behind.”