Recovery Diary 09/09/18

There’s a certain euphoria that accompanies watching the water. The bend, curves, and movement of the droplets each have their own personality. To imagine all these little drops of water dancing together to make up such an amazing example of the order of everything, is mesmerizing. I have and always will be enchanted by the water. We have a love for one another that is unexplainable, but the relationship doesn’t exists among words because the connection does not make sense in this reality. It is a spiritual bond. I feel it in the smile on my face, the kiss of coolness of my skin, and the beauty of the dance of the waves.

The waves are huge tonight. The water is angry. It crashes and screams against the concrete barrier which I am sitting on. The wind howls and the sky is grey giving the water a greenish hue. The crashes echo into the air creating a melody so sweet and powerful, I can’t help laugh along. The water dots my cheeks and I giggle with each touch. Suddenly I am a small child experiencing everything for the first time. There is a magic in these moments and I am completely at peace.

My mood shifts as quickly as the water’s waves. Just minutes before as I was driving towards the water, I felt on the verge of tears. There was a deep rooted darkness spreading rapidly in my gut up towards my throat, leaving me silent and uncomfortable. Now here, everything feels like complete bliss. I am light and clear and the darkness has shrunk once more. My voice returns in the form of laughter and joy. I no longer feel connected to the dark figure that road here along with me.

These mood swings have been happening frequently over the last couple of weeks. I am riding them out, which is a new concept for me. Before I would jump headfirst into the darkness, believing its lies as I slowly drown into self-hatred.  But that cycle didn’t work, it never worked, it never will work so I am trying something different. It’s called waiting. And waiting and waiting and waiting with the hope that something will change. Of course, I do other things- coping skills as the professionals would say. Meditation, yoga, art, music, and lots and lots of reading. These skills are supposed to turn things around, lighten my moods, make me feel less dark and heavy. Maybe it does help, but the change is so slight that I don’t notice. I suppose I believe in the change because I keep doing these skills and waiting for things to turn around.

But nothing the professionals have taught me compares to gentle hug I receive from the water.  I find myself commonly singing around my apartment the soundtrack to Moana, “I’ve been staring at the water…” and so on. My roommates and boyfriend laugh at it, but they too know. They know that I am, in fact, just like Moana. I feel this connection with the ocean deeper than any connection on land. It gives me joy by simply being by its side. I am a child in love for the first time. It calls to me, sings to me, talks to me, and suddenly I am the hippy grandmother from Moana dancing on the beach while the manta rays encircle me.

My name means Lady of the Sea. Is it the ultimate irony? Have I unconsciously adopted the love for the ocean because I knew the meaning of my name from a young age? Or was this name meant to be, specifically chosen to me from some spiritual realm unknown, at the time, by my parents? We all can believe our own answers to these questions. I don’t dwell on them. I just love that even my name points me towards the water. What a gift, what a friend, what a complete punch in the face to the loneliness that my demons spill upon me.

I sit and watch. I close my eyes and allow the mist of the waves kiss my cheeks. I say a prayer. I meditate. I film the crashing of the water against the concrete. And then I leave. I leave knowing that I will be back, tomorrow and the next day and every day after that.

I leave knowing if I continue to nurture this love, no darkness will ever overcome me again.

 

Transforming Love

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer here at Unpolished Journey

Hate breeds hate.

Love breeds love.

Negativity breeds more negativity.

Positive energy breeds more positive energy.

One of the most power tools that I have learned in recovery is the power of my own thoughts.  Your feelings shape your thoughts and your thoughts shape your actions and your actions shape your reality.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned that my lack of self-compassion and self-love was fueling the belief that I didn’t deserve good things.  I began to believe that I wasn’t worthy of a future full of opportunities and possibilities.  I didn’t love myself enough to want good things for my life.  In maintaining these beliefs, I denied the truth that I was a powerful force with the capability to shape my own future.  So I began to choose to believe that I was worthy.  Even when I didn’t believe it for myself, I chose to give my eyes a break and see myself through the eyes of those who love me.  I softly whispered statements like: “I am light” to myself.  I had to fake it to make it, but once I began to show myself the love and compassion that I would show to my best friend a world of possibilities opened.  I could imagine myself happy.  I could imagine myself healthy.  I could imagine myself content and I could imagine myself giving back to my community to create change.

Ok, cool, Gracie, but how? How do you just flip a switch? How long does that take? I don’t want to believe that I am loved, lovable and worthy because I’m a piece of shit.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been in that dark place.

And to be honest, I could be back there at any point in my life because that is the nature of mental illness.

But self-compassion starts from recognizing and embracing your humanity.  When you realize that you are not the first person to make mistakes and you are not alone if you feel that you have messed up, you can find the grace to see the beautiful life you deserve.  If you are a survivor of trauma, you are just that–A SURVIVOR.  It was not your fault.  Darkness tries to take our the strongest, most powerful lights.

The world has plenty of hate, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of criticism, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of negativity, it does not need yours.

This life will throw unknowns, trials and tribulations at you and what your soul needs is for you to build yourself a fortress of compassion and armor of self love.  It sounds cliche, but life will give you enough hardships that being kind to yourself is necessary and imperative.

Imagine the compassion and love that the universe has for you–enough to bring you into this world.  The fact that you are here means you have a purpose.  Do not look at the trauma and near death moments you have lived through as evidence that you should not be on this earth.  ALL of the trauma and experiences that you have lived through and survived are proof that YOU ARE STILL MEANT TO BE HERE. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE. YOU ARE A LIGHT. YOU HAVE INHERENT VALUE AND WORTH SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE.

The more you can foster self-compassion for yourself the stronger you light will shine.  Self-compassion is contagious and if you show yourself grace and compassion, those around you will begin to believe that you will show them the same compassion.  Those around you will begin to develop the same self-care and self-love.  I want to broadcast that I work to forgive myself and care for my spirit each day because I want my friends and family to know that I will treat them the same.  I speak kindly about myself so that those I love will begin to shift their focus to their gifts, talents and beauty.  Compassion for yourself creates more compassion in a world that needs transformation.  Transform the way you see and treat yourself and you transform the world.

The Body Wasn’t Meant to Shrink

Written By: Emily Rutherford, contributing writer and mental health advocate. Check out her Instagram @artwithanxiety for more of her work!

My body wasn’t meant to shrink, it was meant to stand tall and grounded.

My body wasn’t meant to make me feel insecure. It’s meant to make me comfortable in my skin. It’s the only thing that hasn’t given up on me, how could I possibly hate it?

My body wasn’t meant to be punished. It wasn’t meant to be starved, scratched, cut, and given up on. And, those scars are now signs that I am stronger than my mental illnesses. That depression and my eating disorder did take control at one point, but I’m not letting that happen anymore.

My body is not yours. It’s mine. It takes me where I need to go, tells me when I’m hungry or full or tired.

Learning to love my body still seems like a daunting task. And, it doesn’t happen overnight. Right now I’m learning to not hate my body. It doesn’t mean I have to go from hate to love. I can feel indifferent about it or even insecure at times, but my body does not define me. I’ve been weight restored for a while now, and last night as I got out of the shower hating every inch of it, I told myself “this is what i’m going to look like for the rest of my life, I should probably stop hating it and trying to change it. I should probably work on acceptance.”

Normally I hate “should” statements, because they drove my disorder. “You should go to the gym.” “You should skip lunch.” “You should go on a diet.” “You should wear pants and longsleeves in 90 degree weather.” “You should hate yourself.” The list could go on and on. The difference now though is that body acceptance is in line with my recovery. It’s what I’m encouraged to learn, and it’s not something I let myself feel guilty about that I’m not there yet. I’ve spent 15 years hating it, it’s going to take time.

Instead of saying you love your body, bring your attention to its functions. My legs allow me to walk around the city. My arms allow me to do art. My eyes allow me to see the beautiful world. My voice allows me to be heard. My flexibility is being enhanced through yoga.

Your body is SO much more than what it looks like on the outside. That’s the most uninteresting thing about you. Cultivate awareness to your personality, your spirit, your kindness, your hope. Don’t lose hope. Your body believes in you. Treat it kindly in return.

Protection or Connection?

Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook Manager and Contributing Writer of Unpolished Journey

“Gracie, what is your favorite part about playing the role of Annie?”

“The applause.”

In fourth grade I had the privilege of playing the ball-busting, red-headed orphan Annie in my school’s musical production of Annie.  I remember this exact question and my answer from a radio interview with a local radio station.  They asked what my favorite part about playing Annie was, and I immediately responded without hesitation: “the applause”.  Fast forward five years, 230 pimples and one driver’s license later and my answer was “the affirmations”.

“Gracie why do you always smile, try to make other people laugh and hide any negative emotions?”

“The affirmations.”

I never really saw myself as a girl with extremely low self esteem, and I was always able to find something nice to say about myself.  It wasn’t until the onset of my eating disorder that I realized I was living like a leach – relying on the affirmations from those I loved to create my self-esteem.  I didn’t realize that I didn’t have self-esteem because my “self” wasn’t involved.  I had “external esteem”, which I had grown to believe would only exist with a calculated performance of perfect emotional regulation and joy.  Don’t get me wrong, joy is my main mode of operation naturally, but when I began to notice that this quality attracted people to me, I suddenly began to believe it was the only quality that attracted people to me. Enter Gracie’s struggle with boundaries.  Oh, I hope they like me.  Oh no, don’t be sad EVER…stay joyful, stay joyful, stay joyful.  They’re sad, make them laugh.  They’re upset, cheer them up.  Of course, I was not everyone’s “pillar of strength”.  In fact, there were many times I turned to my sister for comfort, peace and to be myself.  My family helped provide a safe haven where I could experience more than joy and only joy.

This is what brings me to my little bit of insight into boundaries.  I loved Emily and Morgan’s views on boundary setting as a healthy emotional practice in learning to say no and accept your own limits with self care.  However, I want to take a different look at the power of boundaries.  You see, boundaries work two ways: boundaries work to keep people out and they also work to invite people in.  When I was putting on my brave, “only-pure-joy-and-positivity” face, I was actually keeping people out.  Without being consciously aware, I had created a boundary that would shield other people from having to deal with my full range of emotions and likewise would shield me from having to be truly brave and vulnerable with the emotions within myself I had deemed as undesirable.  I had created a boundary around myself as a protective shield for fear that if I let people into my inner world, they would not love me, not care for me, and ultimately I would end up alone.  You may know exactly what I am talking about, and this may manifest in a different way for you.  Some people create this wall by being only angry, only sad, only funny, only quiet, only selfless, only perfect, only smart.  Many people build walls and boundaries to keep the truth of their whole and complete selves a secret for fear that the entirety of who they are will not be accepted or is not enough.

However, boundaries can also be made to let people in.  My sister and I are actually in the midst of a lifelong practice of this.  As I mentioned before, my sister was often the person I felt I could most be myself around.  I felt that with my sister I could let down my walls and open a boundary that invited her in.  However, I often felt that my sister set a brick wall boundary, except her boundary and wall of protection was “only perfect” and “only strong”.  My sister was always perfect in my eyes.  She was successful, strong, supportive, intelligent, full of wisdom and advice, and always right.  It wasn’t until we both began to grow older, and she began to share some of her college experience and more personal life with me that I began to see my sister’s humanity…and guess what…I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT.  I still remember my sister sharing one fun story about going out on the town with her college friends, and I distinctly remember thinking…I want to be friends with my sister.  This may sound like a slap in the face because at this point I had known the woman for 17 years.  So why was it that just now I wanted to be her friend?  Of course we were always friends, we are sisters and we are each other’s ride or die.  However, I always felt like my sister was more like another guardian or protector.  Because she was older I often felt like she was out of my league for friendship, she was too put together, too wise, too perfect.  I often felt like there was something blocking her from creating a boundary that would let me in because instead she needed to be strong for me, support me, listen to my problems and give me all the advice.  When my sister began to break down that wall by simply telling me a story about more of her personal life, she began the process of setting a new boundary that invited me in.  As we continue to get older, I have loved getting to know my sister, watching her grow, change and blossom.  I have loved seeing more of her humanity and more of her beautiful soul.

Boundaries are not only about saying no, getting your needs met and understanding your limits.  Boundaries are also our tool for connection.  Sometimes it is appropriate to use boundary setting for protection and other times we need to use boundary setting for connection.  Boundaries can be set to guard our hearts and boundaries can be set to invite people to see more of our heart.  We are all different: some wear our hearts on our sleeves looking to open up to any and everyone, in which case we may need to learn to guard our hearts a little more.  Others guard our hearts too much preventing any deep, meaningful and fulfilling connection to happen.  Who are you?  What do boundaries look like for you?  And how can you adjust your boundaries to align more with your authentic self?

To My Younger Self

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

In honor of NEDAwareness week, the team of Unpolished Journey decided to write letters to our younger selves.  After completing the letter and rereading it, I was caught off guard by how kind the words were. I wasn’t expecting the compassion and empathy I felt towards that little girl. Though I feel racked with self-loathing and critical thoughts, exercises like this help show me there is some love interwoven among the lies of my eating disorder.  So, without further ado, here is my letter to my younger self:

To my younger self,

There is so much that I want to teach you about acceptance, heartbreak, loss, and patience. I want to warn you about the trials to come – in school, in relationships, in life. I want to make you promise never to pick up the diet pills or tape measurer. I want to make you look in the mirror and say the words, “I love myself”. I want you to never, ever feel like too much.

But I know I can’t.

I can’t because those things – the trials and pain, the insecurities and illnesses – they will teach you more than any conversation ever could. Even if I could sit you down and pour a breathless monologue overtop of you, it wouldn’t do the trick. Words sometimes fail us. Especially when God knows we need our experiences to shape us.

The trials and pain are part of your journey. I wish that I could steal you away from the darkness or at least tell you the darkness won’t hurt. But I won’t lie to you. You whisper enough lies to yourself. It is going to hurt. The years ahead will be hard and stressful and confusing, but they will also be filled with some of the most fulfilling moments – moments of deep connection, true friendship, pure joy, childlike wonder.

Morgan, the road ahead is adventurous. So, as with any worthwhile adventure, there is going to be hard moments, easy moments, joyful moments, moments when you just want to quit. Never give up. That’s my greatest form of advice. No matter what you are feeling – hopeless, worthless, fat, ugly  – NEVER give up because the moments of darkness are what allow us to appreciate the light.

You have so much worth. You have so much purpose. Over the years you are going to meet so many amazing people and do so many amazing things. You’re young now. You haven’t felt the intense hunger pains. You don’t know yet how it feels to run on weak and tired legs. But as you get older, as you go through the years, you will learn so much about the power of will, the power of self, the power of faith.  You, my friend, are going to be shaped into a deeply wise woman who understands the depths this life has to offer simply because you have lived it. The ups and downs, light and dark, pain and relief- you know it. You lived it. You are living it. And that makes you one of the bravest people I have ever met.

Keep your chin up, Morgan, you have no idea what you are capable of.

With peace and blessings,

Your future self

Do You Make Lemonade or Get Lost in the Pitcher?

Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook manager and contributing writer at Unpolished Journey

Image result for hope

When life hands you lemons…

Do you make the lemonade?

Or do you drown in the pitcher?

When life confronts us with struggles we have three options.  We can let these struggles define us, destroy us, or strengthen us.

Will you let your struggle define you?

Or will you choose to be more.

More than an addiction.

More than an eating disorder.

More than depression.

More than anxiety.

More than an illness.

More than a loss.

More than a failure.

So often life hands us situations that baffle us.  We shake our fist at our higher power exclaiming “Why me?” “Not NOW” and “What did I do to deserve this?!”  The danger in these times of trial is the sometimes very tempting urge to give into these struggles.

We become our struggle.

Our struggle defines us.

Our struggle destroys us.

Suddenly we are nothing more than a shell of what we one were.  Our soul is no longer leading and we confine our thoughts, actions, and dreams to the box drawn by our struggle.  Our worlds shrink and our authentic selves shrink as well.

In the past weeks I have been thinking a lot about recovery vs. recovered.  I have been reflecting on what it would be like to be recovered—not just in recovery, but recovered.  What I would say, do and feel?  What could I chase if I let go of the labels of my eating disorder?  What kinds of authentic connections could I build?  Where would I travel?  What would I achieve if I refused to let my life slip into the role of a professional patient, a perpetual diagnosis stuck in a life defined by a disorder instead of allowing my authentic self to lead.

It was in this week that I was reflecting on my 7, almost 8-year battle with an eating disorder that I realized that I wanted to live a life defined by freedom.  A life where my authentic self led.  A life where I reclaimed myself.  My eating disorder hijacked so many pieces of my soul and tried to stifle the light that came from authentic self.  I wouldn’t trade the last 8 years because I have learned so much, grown so much and met so many beautiful souls.  However, one of the most special gifts my eating disorder has given me is the chance to fight for the woman I know I am and to fight like hell to reclaim her.  I have had the distinct privilege of having beautiful things that I love about myself stripped from my core and hijacked by a mental illness.  I watched as some of my joy faded and I tried even harder to smile and cover up the joy I felt I was losing.  I watched my zest for life fizzle.  I watched my silly instincts to make a face at my friends or crack a joke become more strained and forced.  And finally at a certain point I realized that I missed myself.  I missed my core and I wanted her back.  The cliché that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone really resonates with me because I didn’t know how much I loved the child within myself until I had stifled and starved her so much that she shrunk into almost non-existence.

In the past week I decided to notice moments when I truly felt like myself—moments where I got lost in the joy of living and was fully present in my authentic self.  I noticed some of the moments when my authentic self was leading.  I went to a bookstore with friends where we reconnected with the inner child and flipped through books cracking jokes and making faces.  I realized that how deeply I value laughing from my belly.  I realized how deeply I value laughing until I pee my pants—spare change of clothes or not.  I went to work and busted out singing with a customer because…why not?  I felt my inner child slowly creeping back into daily life…with urges to cartwheel, when I was cleaning my yoga studio, using a banana as a banana phone (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about), dancing the cha cha slide with a random group of students at my school because no one wants to study for finals, and allowing myself to embrace the strength of my body instead of rejecting my strong body as a failure to follow my eating disordered thoughts.

There are still so many moments when I feel a need to prove myself.  I feel a need to prove that I had struggled…and then when I get comments like: “wow, you look so different” or “oh my gosh, that was you in that picture?”.  I still find it hard to let be, let go, let live, let flow.  I still fight with my urge to let my struggle define who I am.   But recently I am realizing that when I let my eating disorder define who I am, I also simultaneously agree to let it confine who I am.

I am still constantly in the process of reclaiming myself, but this is the also the exciting part of recovery.  At times the challenge of reclaiming your authentic self can be daunting or frightening because our authentic selves have taken the back seat when being consumed with the struggles of life.  We may have even believed that we could never be ourselves again…our eating disorder, addiction, illness, or anxiety had become our identity.  But I assure you, they are not.  You are more.  Life has more.  MAKE YOUR LEMONADE, SWIM OUT OF THAT PITCHER AND GRAB LIFE BY THE LEMONS.

State of (my) Union

(This post was originally posted on Emma Florin’s personal blog, emmaflorin.wordpress.com.)

I’ve spent a large portion of my life visiting other cultures and nations around the world. I would go as far to say that my experiences abroad have shaped me into the person I have become. I’ve been to magical places like Paris, the Caribbean, the rain forest of Costa Rica, and even the Gobi freeing Desert.

I’ve also been to places struck by insane poverty and disease. I’ve been in hospitals in Africa where I literally felt the Spirit of Hopelessness wash over me when I opened the door. I’ve seen kids walking around in masks because the air is too polluted to breathe.

I have wept, laughed, danced, prayed, and laughed some more on five different continents.

As I think about the current state of the ever-beautiful United States, I am reminded that we are not invincible. There is pain everywhere. There is corruption everywhere. There is beauty everywhere. America is not invincible folks. Sometimes this reality comes in the form of a natural disaster. Or a family dog passing away. Sometimes it comes in the form of a flawed human elected to run our nation.

I know beloved and dear friends that have walked out of their doors this week and felt that Spirit of Hopelessness I felt in the AIDS clinic in Swaziland. I know beloved and dear friends that have wept over the current events and extreme fear of the future. But I do not know many beloved and dear friends that have gathered around food and wine and laughed like I laughed in Paris.

We aren’t invincible, beloved and dear friends. And we are in a time of realizing that, once again, on a very real level.

And I don’t know what to do about it. I’m a confused millennial that wants more for our country. I am an optimistic millennial that is hoping to change our country. But I’m also tired. Tired of fighting for things that should come naturally. Tired of fighting for the joy that I experienced on the back of a camel in the Gobi dessert. Tired of people getting killed for no reason, when I’ve seen toddlers die because they were born with AIDS.

I don’t know what to do, so I’ve decided to bask in the things I love about my life. I even forced myself to make make a list (enjoy), and hey, maybe you should do the same. Because we aren’t invincible, but we do hold power. We hold the power to love. Love so well that it compels change.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite things. Maybe you love them too and have just forgotten…

The first sip of piping hot black coffee in the morning.

The smell of a brand spankin’ new book.

Really cozy socks.

Fire #nopyro

A really excellent meal.

A good cold beer on a hot (or cold, who am I kidding) day.

Exchanging a wave and a smile with a stranger who lets me in traffic.

People who laugh REALLY loud and genuinely at the movie theater.

CLEAN SHEETS.

Reuniting with lifelong friends and picking up where we left off.

Porches. All types.

Stargazing.

Candy Corn.

Bassett Hounds.

The sound of a group of people singing at church when the instruments stop.

Finding something that I thought was forever lost.

Getting off a plane somewhere I haven’t been before.

Speaking of planes… getting bumped to first class.

Super cuddly babies and puppies (obvi).

Breakfast.

A hot dog at a baseball game (once I get over the fact that it’s going to cost a month’s rent…)

Twinkle lights.

Cute old people. (see picture below if you need more detail)

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Honestly, the list could definitely go on. But, are these the things I spend my time thinking about? No– if you saw my recent Google searches you would probably not want to be my friend… In the interest of full disclosure my last three searches were: 1) Who is Yoko Ono? 2) Are all baristas know-it-alls? 3) Who becomes the president if the president is assassinated before the inauguration?

All of this to say, remember what makes you happy. Stop dwelling on the negative. Eat candy corn. Drink good beer. Let someone in front of you in traffic. Take a selfie with a sleeping Mongolian granny for goodness sake.

We aren’t invincible, people…but I’m ready to accentuate the GOOD and spread it around because we need it. Amen?