Dear Gracie Bug

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

Dear Gracie Bug,

Did you know that you’re good enough? Did you know that you’re good?  Do you know that it wasn’t your fault? Do you know that life is full of bad things that happen to good people?  But

know that bad things happen to good people because good people have the power to change the world.  Good people take their struggles and use their experiences to connect and empower others through empathy and vulnerability.  Also know that everyone has goodness.  Every person that will hurt you is only doing the best that they can with what they have at the time.  

Do you know how much your parents and family love you? Do you know the lengths your loved ones will go to in the
name of love, for the sake of protecting you because you have a spirit worth protecting, because everyone’s spirit is inherently worthy of protection?  

Do not doubt your worth.  Do not doubt your strength.  Do not doubt your bravery.  Do not doubt your resilience–they will save your life.  You do not have to earn approval.  You do not need to earn love.  True love is given unconditionally and freely.  LIfe is not a performance and your worth is not dependent on the applause.  Life is an adventure and your fulfillment is dependent on being 100% true to yourself and all of the beautiful qualities that make you unique.  Everyone is unique and learning about everyone’s unique qualities and experiences is what makes life so rich.  

Tell your family you love them more.  Be present in every moment with your friends.  Don’t worry about missing out–when you miss out on something it is because the universe has something better, something different, something you need.  

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan.  Don’t make plans.  Just Dream.  Dream and don’t be reasonable, be outlandish.  Don’t dream safe, dream brave.  Don’t have faith conservatively, hold hope radically.

Embrace the road less traveled.  Be grateful for your hardships and your struggles–they will lead you to people and places who will change your heart and forever be in your soul.  Take your time.  There is no deadline to reach certain goals in life even though society will try to tell you that there is a finite amount of time to reach your goals.

You will fall in love, but don’t rush it.  Magic will strike you when you least expect it so be content with each stage that you are in.  Be grateful for the love you will experience everyday, but do not possess it.  Love with an open palm, send out affection without boundaries.

Your smile lights up a room but you do not always have to smile.  It’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to be sad.  You can show your emotions, and your friends won’t leave, in fact they will love you more for sharing your humanity.


Stay messy, a clean room is not the sign of a life well lived.  Keep singing and dancing–your
expression will make life more joyful.  Stay joyful.  Keep your joy for life.  You are the joy of life.

 

Dear little em

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

This video was made in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week.  It is a reminder that we need to speak to ourselves with kindness, contradicting the harsh critic eating disorders cultivate.  Speak to yourself as you would your younger self this day and everyday.

 

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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Stronger Together

 

Written by: Gracie who is a friend, spiritual and recovery warrior, and contributing writer to those at Unpolished Journey.

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No, I promise I am not going to make this political and try to persuade you to vote for Hillary Clinton. 😉

This weekend at the NEDA walk in Chicago I had one of the most overwhelming moments of clarity.  I looked around at my brothers and sisters in recovery.  My fellow fighters.  My fellow overcomers.  My fellow strugglers.  Mostly people that were complete strangers and yet people who probably understand the inner workings of my mind better than many people closest to me.  This is not at all to say that my closest friends and family do not have a wealth of knowledge and try to understand the thoughts, struggles and behaviors that characterise my eating disorder.  However, there is a difference between supporting and learning about an eating disorder from actually living daily with an ED in you HEAD.  At the NEDA walk I was overwhelmed almost to the point of tears.  I saw fighters, survivors, support people and family members.  I saw 80 year olds and 8 months old.  I saw people who wanted their lives and were fighting like hell to reclaim them.

That is when I realized.  I am not alone.  I am in community.  WE are stronger together.

When Morgan and I used to talk about Unpolished at our weekly coffee date she would talk about the inspiration for starting her recovery Instagram.  Both of us felt a longing for community.  A community that was supportive, authentic and hopeful.  We wanted a place for fighters to connect and retire their army of ones to join the army of many.  I realized that Morgan and I as well as Morgan’s sister, Emily, all dreamed of a space for people to connect and gather strength and hope.  Because of this, whenever we would meet up on Fridays, I would always leave our time together feeling refreshed, inspired, and reminded of the reasons why I fight…everyday.

At the NEDA walk, I looked around and I was lucky enough to have two very close friends from my hometown join me, and they also reminded me of why I fight…everyday.  For me, relationships and connections are the reasons I fight.  To be raw and honest there were times when I haven’t wanted my life.  I felt like I had dug a hole too deep.  I had watched too many dreams die.  My world had been turned upside down and my joy was hijacked by darkness.  However, when I couldn’t fight for myself I would fight for those around me.  Those who loved me.  And those who were fighting the good fight beside me.  I have watched the power of Morgan and I’s relationship challenge and strengthen our souls.  We haven’t always been shiny and perfect in recovery and sometimes we still find it hard to share the magnitude or reality of our struggles when we have them.  However, we are able to talk about the real things.  We talk about our goals and our dreams that have nothing to do with living a life consumed with an eating disorder.  We talk about the real and unglamourous parts about living with an eating disorder like literally shitting your own pants.

I have been in treatment.  I have been in groups.  I have seen the sick and often hidden competitive nature of eating disorders.  I know few other mental illnesses that hold such a strong and unhealthy competitive nature and it is something that not few like to talk about.  Common thoughts through the mind with an eating disorder are…

“I’m not sick enough to deserve help..I’m not as bad as her or him”

“I am stronger if I am sicker.  I have to be the sickest or thinnest in the room.”

“I have to share that I went to the hospital to prove how bad I was”

“I can have more behaviors than her…I can be sicker, I can be stronger”

These thoughts are rampant, destructive and a perfect example of what the eating disorder wants.  The eating disorder wants each person to isolate, compete and fight on your own…because on your own you are more vulnerable…weaker…slowly living you life with and for the eating disorder.  But we are truly stronger together.  When we aren’t comparing bodies, behaviors, trips to the hospital or medical complications we can have the space to lean into our true strength.  We begin to focus and reflect for each other the reasons we want to live.  The dreams, the goals, the possibilities of our lives when we are not consumed by a parasitic mental disorder.

Personally, I saw all of the children at the NEDA walk and I was reminded why I want to live.  I want to be a mother.  I want to raise daughters and sons who know their inherent value and worth first before they ever think about their bodies. I saw women who were fighting through shame and stigma to come together and fight for a new life.  I saw friends who have supported me and walked with me through my good days and bad.

I saw why I fight.

I saw who is fighting alongside me.

I saw my army, my overcomers, and I began even more convicted…

WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.

Taking Action

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I have been reflecting a lot on the concept of motivation. The line that is drawn between being inspired and taking action. How can you hear a compelling and riveting motivational speech and be moved to make changes after you walk away from the auditorium?

This past Saturday was the Chicago NEDA Walk.  It was the perfect fall day. Cool breeze, sun out, dry ground. I felt blessed. We all felt blessed as person after person took the stage and announced “record breaking year” or “you deserve to keep fighting” or “there is no one like yourself”.  It was a powerful morning of 700 individuals ranging from those personally affected by an eating disorder to support persons and professionals in the field, all fighting together. We all walked to save lives, to end stigma, to break the silence that suffocates those who are struggling with eating disorders.

It is OKAY to get help.

It is OKAY to simply be you.

And I left the morning with warmth stirring in my chest and a smile plastered across my face because of the motivation seeping from one person’s journey onto my own. To know that I am not alone in this fight to reduce stigma. I do not have to feel isolated in my eating disorder or ashamed or small.

I matter.

We all matter.

Where then did this sinking feeling in my chest come from? This overhanging cloud of “uh oh” that was following me around? It was a powerful morning. It was inspiring. But I worry, about myself, about my friends, about anyone who’s struggling with mental health that they won’t finish the equation of healing.

Motivation/Purpose/Passion/Hope + Action = Recovery.

I know for myself that I have many moments of awakening.  These are when I see my Higher Power and the beauty in life. These moments give me hope in my ability to uncover total freedom from my eating disorder. They keep me fighting. But the moments are fleeting.  I don’t say this to bring us all down or so that we start to see the glass as half empty. I say this, instead, to try and be more real.  Life is mountaintop moments, but it is also the times when you feel normal, okay, good, or blah.  It is the dark days, the long nights, the hard meals. Life is walking alongside 700 people fighting against eating disorders and scrolling through your Facebook feed to see another lost to the disease. It is the week without any homework and the following week with five midterms. It is peace and stress, uncomfortability and rest, and everything in between.

So it brings me to the question what is the key to allowing these fleeting moments of motivation to translate into action?  Because, if in recovery we only followed our meal plan when we felt inspired, or only practiced other self-care activities after a motivational speech, how would we ever move forward?

Sadly, I don’t know that I have an answer to my question. And, quite frankly, I don’t think there is one answer. I think the answer to what compels us to take action changes with each day. It might be a Higher Power, faith, spirituality. It might be your family, your kids. It might be your job, your art. Maybe there is a song that gives you strength to make breakfast or call someone you’ve been avoiding or make an appointment with a doctor. This is a powerful tool to uncover though because once you find what motivates you and gives you purpose, you have found the fix to the “stuck” mentality of recovery. Once you find passion you start to believe in action. So search for your key to action and whatever it is fill your days with reminders of it. Put up notes on your mirror, write in on your hand, change your phone’s background. Keep yourself near to that fighting fire.  My hope for everyone who struggles with mental health is that they may be able to continue walking forward.  They may continue translating the motivational speech into a reason to leave the auditorium and do something. But I know how hard this is, which is why I get discouraged sometimes.

I have a grey cloud looming over my head because I know how difficult constantly acting and fighting can be. Especially when you get yourself in a slump. You fall for the eating disorder’s lies and then suddenly that action step feels so much harder than it did before you gave in. I know that it can seem impossible to get back on track and start taking control of your life again.  I know because that has been me more times than I can count. Sometimes, when you get in this space it requires added troops to pull you along, to keep you from staying stuck and failing to take action.

Added support does not equate to failure.

Quite the opposite, adding support is ACTION.

It is leaving the auditorium and doing something.

There is always something that can be done. The NEDA walk was a great reminder of that. After the walk, I am now inspired to re evaluate my current state, see what is my key towards action, fill my week with reminders of it, and then keep trucking forward. After all, when you are in recovery constant movement is so important. It is a time where we evolve and change and grow. So let’s allow ourselves to do just that.