Recovery is not a straight line

pss-recovery

A lot of people with or without eating disorders can fall into the trap that once you’re “in recovery” everything is so much easier when it comes to food. For the longest time I too thought that once I was out of treatment life involving food would be easy peasy, but I’ve come to realize and even accept that it’s more like a wave. Like every other normal person on the earth, we all have our good days and bad days. But over time you find that those bad days aren’t as bad as you once would have seen them as. Sure it may suck, you may be more vulnerable feeling in front of food but you realize it’s only 1 day out of your entire life. That bad day no longer dictates the rest of your week, and once you view it as just a bump in the road you’re better able to adjust, pick yourself back up and dust yourself off.

What I’ve learned over the past few months from being in my life without the guided hand of a team telling me what to do is that I am stronger than I once believed I was. Yes some food challenges I face cause me to stumble a little bit but when I wake up the next day I try and go about my day like the previous days challenge didn’t happen. It’s in the past and really it doesn’t have that big an impact as I thought it would when I was faced with the challenge.

For me recovery has also been (and still is) the process of learning how to love and accept myself for who I am. When I look back on how far I’ve come over the past year or so I see that I am not that same woman who entered into treatment (whether residential or outpatient). I see the future for the 1st time in my life, I have the drive and motivation to succeed and the further along in undergrad I get, the more I am able to realize I can do what it is I want to do .

There’s still so many things I need to work on when it comes to my recovery, there’s still so many challenges I have yet to meet and make myself do and some distorted beliefs I still have. I’ve still yet to figure out what’s an acceptable amount of time to spend at the gym which is why I have been sticking to home work outs and outdoor activities now that it’s nice outside to actually do them, but getting back into the gym is something I want to have happen for me this summer.

Everyday when I wake up I find myself motivated to do life and be healthy about it. That is a huge change from a couple of years ago. When I first began outpatient treatment I was under the impression I needed to do everything right, but over time that became exhausting. It took me a good year to finally release the ropes on doing recovery and learned to relax. I began giving up a little control here and there, tried trusting my treatment team a little more and found that recovery wasn’t perfect, but when I had those wins in my life that recovery was easier than staying sick and being controlled by food.

It’s not perfect. Trust the process and have a little grace towards yourself.

RecoveryRoad

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Anger & Anticipatory Grief

As a lot of you all know, if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve lived with the excruciating pain of something known as anticipatory grief for almost a year and a half. I won’t relive all of the details for you, but if you want to know what exactly I’m talking about when it comes to what happened to my Grandma you can find the posts on my page.

After my Grandma died I felt lost. Yes we all knew it was coming but even with that it’s still hard as hell when it happens. For the past week or two I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I’ve lost over the past year and I’ve come to realize that I was living a life fueled by anger.

All of the things I thought I believed were tested during that time of my life and instead of feeling those emotions I hid a lot behind anger. To sound all clinical and stuff, I was projecting my own disbelief in things like God or a higher power onto those in my life, using friends I held dear to my heart as a scapegoat.

The weird thing about anger and living through a grief process where you’re grieving an eventual loss before it’s happened is that in those moments when you’re hanging onto your last shred of sanity, you don’t realize that almost everything you say or do is an emotional reaction to something nobody can see or help you with. I’m sure if you were to ask those who saw me regularly during this time they would probably tell you I was not the easiest person to get along with. I was pushing a lot of people away who meant a lot to me because being alone was easier than letting people in when there was nothing they could have said or done to give me what I really needed: my Grandma to be ok and back to normal. I blamed God, those who believed in God and were praying and my anger grew and grew.

Now that I’m in a place where I can think more clearly, and the pain I feel now on a daily basis is that of missing my Grandma and still wanting her back, I see the damage my anger caused. To put it in the words of what a Dr. told me a while back. I was angry, I was firing bullets and those who were in my life got hit with the shrapnel. I was always good at anger because as I said previously, feeling anything else besides that when I am going through it makes me uncomfortable and is something I refused to allow myself to sit in and feel. But now that I’m learning how to feel and process my emotions I’m learning that living a life of anger when I was experiencing that anticipatory grief was doing more damage than good.

If I could say anything to those I pushed away over the past 2 years it would be this:

I’m sorry for the things I said or did out of my emotional reactions. Almost none of the things I said were coming from things I actually meant. Did I mean to hurt you? It sounds harsh but yes, I did. It’s almost as if I needed someone else to be in pain with me. For those of you who believe in God, I was projecting my anger that I have towards God onto you because you were tangible and represent everything that was in question at that time. I do believe in God and I am so sorry that I allowed my anger and grief ridden state of mind to dictate the things I said to you all and wrote on here. I was immature, in so much pain and angry but I know it’s no excuse for what happened. I know some of you forgave me, and on the off chance anyone else reads these words I hope maybe one day down the line we can sort things out as well.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

always-greener

Hellooooooooo my friends! I hope you are all having a super-dee-duper week so far and I wanted to congratulate you all on surviving yet another Monday. Seriously, it comes like once a week and is never pleasant or short. But anywhooooooo.

Ok so what I wanna talk about today is comparisons. Before you shake your heads and let out a sigh thinking this is going to be some body image post, let me just say you’re wrong. It’s not about body comparisons, but life in general. I once heard it said “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”, and let’s be really honest with ourselves for a moment. At least sometime in our life we find ourselves wishing to have someone else’s life; we think they have it all together, have everything they always wanted and seem to be doing far better than we are. But the reality of it all is that you may see their grass as greener, but the same sunshine that brings out the green grass on their lawn will soon shine over your yard. Was that too imagery-ish? Sorry. The truth is that at a glance, said person may in fact “have it all”, but you really don’t know what they went through in order to get it.

Even in the life they have now, do you really know what they’re dealing with? Sure you may see the perfect life, just like the one you want, but in all reality, a perfect life is never really perfect. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: if someone appears to have it all together, they’re probably living some sort of lie. Nobody in the history of the world has ever had it together 100% of the time. It’s human nature to hide our failures and weaknesses; it’s one of the things people hide.

To put it some other way, it’s like comparing yourself to a marathon runner when you just started running yesterday. That person didn’t get to the physically fit condition they’re in now by running on a treadmill for 20 minutes yesterday. Everything takes time, and gosh darnit sunshine your time will come! I used to hate hearing that patience was the key to success, but as I grow older and live more life I’m starting to realize that it’s true. The end goal for my academic career is to get my PhD in clinical psychology and be a pretty boss psychologist. It may sound lame to some, but it’s my dream. Now I know several individuals who are living this dream, and I myself find it hard to not compare myself to them. Some are not that much older than me and are already successful, or at least they seem to be. But thinking about it, I have no idea what they went through in order to get there. I don’t know how hard they worked to get into grad school, how long they had to study to pass tests and exams.

So to wrap this all up in a nice little package for you all, try and focus on where you’re at and what you have in life. This may sound super motivational speaker-ish, but those bumps in the roads aren’t failures (at least they don’t have to be), but they’re learning experiences. I can almost promise you that the person you’re so badly wanting to be had to face very similar bumps, and hey, maybe they didn’t learn from them. Maybe they’re still struggling with something you figured out a year or so ago. So chin up kids, and just remember the cliche phrase “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side”

The Barry Manilow Moments

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Is this title misleading? It’s probably misleading. Oh well, that’s just how I roll.

(be prepared for lots of psychology nerdiness in this post folks!)

Ok so there’s this study I learned about when I was in IOP last year. It’s called: The Spotlight Effect in Social Judgment: An Egocentric Bias in Estimates of the Salience of One’s Own Actions and Appearance. Pretty damn wordy right? It’s actually one of the most relevant research studies for those of us who struggle with social comparisons, poor body image & that ever so lovely feeling like whenever we go out in public that everyone is ultimately staring at us. Sounds like a blast right? No, no tis not!

So here’s the jist of the procedure. Researchers had participants put on a lovely t-shirt with a big ass picture of Barry Manilows face on it and walk into a room filled with people. Now before learning of this, I rocked my BM shirt like nobody’s business because listening to pop music from the 80’s coming from a middle aged man who sings the hits like Mandy & Copacabana really adds a big ray of sunshine into my life. But any ways. The whole goal was to see if people actually noticed this ridiculously absurd article of clothing, and guess what? Barely anyone noticed the picture of Barry Manilow gracing the front of said shirt.

When I first learned of this study I thought it was ridiculous. Honestly, I believed that clothing and body image were two completely different things, but guess what folks? It’s pretty relevant to body image! Shocking I know!

For a lot of us we tend to feel constantly judged. Example: I can’t leave my house without having my make up and hair looking as flawless as I can get it. Also the conflict of wanting to wear sweatpants out is something I just cannot get myself to do. What if someone looks at me? They’d obviously be judging my choice in looking comfortable as a bad thing.

But the truth is, nobody really gives a shit about what you look like! I’ve spent years terrified of being judged, and being judged by strangers none the less! I mean these people have no influence in my life yet there has always been something inside of me that needed them to like me and find me physically attractive which meant extra effort before leaving my house to make sure my outfit is on point (I struggled right there to not say “on fleek”, but I’m not that cool to use that phrase and I really don’t even know what it means). As I learn on a daily basis to love myself and accept the way I look I constantly struggle with having Barry Manilow t-shirt moments.

The truth is nobody is staring at me when I go out. Nobody is judging me when I walk into a room, even though it’s still something I think is happening sometimes. Sure some might look in my general direction, but really nobody is that interesting for others in a room to find fascinating to stare at. Even if they are looking at you, 9 times out of 10 it’s nothing negative. I mean it’s not like you’re Beyonce or Princess Kate. How many times do you glance at someone? Probably a lot is my guess. If you’re schema is focused on body image and how YOU look, there’s a really high chance that it comes into play when you’re out and about. Maybe you’re hair is on point or someone really loves that shirt you wore that day. Yet if you’re so self-aware of what you look like or how you feel about yourself (in a negative way) then those looks turn into something negative. The voices in you’re head tell you they’re judging you, yet like the Barry Manilow t-shirt study, I can bet no one is even noticing you.

What I’m trying to get at is this: people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t exactly take the time out of their lives to notice you and how you look. You’re body isn’t on the forefront of their mind when you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or trying on clothes at the mall. They’re probably admiring how adorbs you look in that new skirt or thinking that they should have ordered what you did as the waiter brings out your dinner (their choice of that salad is looking pretty poor as you get handed that scrumptious sizzling fajita… ok now I’m hungry just thinking about this). So try and relax when you go out and you’re not feeling confident about yourself! You rock that confidence like you’re Kanye, just don’t be a douchebag (but feel free to interrupt T.Swift because that’d be more entertaining than having to look/listen to her).

The Media Is Not The Bad Guy

Internet-news The media has always received a bad reputation when it comes to mental health issues, where people see it as the root of all evil to those struggling with things such as eating disorders, depression, self-injury and so on. But you know what guys? I don’t really believe that the media is as bad as everyone would like to think it is.

Honestly, I believe we use the media as a scapegoat to not face the underlying problems. Sure seeing extremely thin individuals all over the place could cause some discomfort amongst those either in the midst of an eating disorder, in recovery from one or even healthy minded individuals who have some sort of body dissatisfaction (because let’s admit it here, we all do to some degree). But to say “hey I saw this on____ and it caused me to develop____” is a cop out.

Eating disorders aren’t media fueled developed disorders, but for a lot of people they like to point the finger towards mass media. The truth is, these disorders are much deeply rooted within the individuals mind than simply a mere exposure to what everyone unfortunately sees everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the world we live in today is all about the latest health/diet fad, exercise and having an “attractive” body which all boils down to being thin, but when someone develops an eating disorder it is not the advertisement company’s or production teams of movies and television shows that caused it.

The individual struggling with an eating disorder have probably always had a deeper issue,probably stemming from self-worth, self-image and self-esteem issues throughout their life. Nobody wakes up one day, sees an ad or commercial and decides that that day they will be anorexic, bulimic or any other eating disorder. These disorders never start out as full blown disorders, for many they simply start as a way to lose weight or have a healthier life style. But there’s something inside of their brains that becomes addicted to the weight loss, the exercise, the lack of food consumed or vise versa. The media only fuels that desire to fit in or “be perfect”, which I believe was never their intention.

I think it’s time we stop using the media as a scapegoat and really look at the bigger issue at hand here; that issue is inside of us.