Eating Disorder, Emotions, Recovery, Social Media

FEED: The Eating Disorder Movie Support People NEED to See

I don’t cry during movies.  It isn’t my thing.  I don’t become emotionally attached to the characters or the narrative, I simply observe.  So when I broke down sobbing, absolutely ugly-cry sobbing during Troian Bellisario’s film Feed, it took me by complete surprise.  That–my sobbing breakdown–is precisely why I believe those supporting a loved one in eating disorder recovery need to see this film.

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Forget To The Bone with its stereotypical eating disorder narrative and rent Feed on iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon, or a few other places and take a hard look at what it is like to live inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder.  Your $5.00 for the rental price will not be money wasted if you want to truly try to understand what your loved one is experiencing.  Quite honestly, the trailer (linked above) does not do the movie justice.  Allow me to explain…

The movie is about twins, Matt and Olivia, who are as close as two people can possibly be until Matt is tragically killed in a car accident (sorry for the spoiler).  Following his death Olivia, who already had perfectionistic tendencies, copes with his death in the only way she can figure out how–through an eating disorder.  While it may be confusing to understand at first for someone who hasn’t lived through the hell that is this disease, Matt becomes the personification of Olivia’s anorexia.  

Feed doesn’t just chronicle another white girl’s descent into the pits of hell through her starvation; it gives a voice, character, and narrative to the eating disorder itself, as it slowly swallows her whole.  Troian melds the two seamlessly by utilizing the brother, who begins as a caring and nurturing voice to help her navigate through grief, and turns him into the monster that is her disease.  This film allows those who have never struggled with an eating disorder an inside glimpse into what day-to-day life is like while in the throes of this deadly mental illness.

Now, most individuals who suffer don’t have a twin that takes on their eating disorder’s voice, but the eating disorder does have a voice.  For so many, as is reflected in the film, the voice begins softly and lovingly; reaching out and wrapping friendly arms of guidance around the struggling person before transforming into an abusive, dominating force that drives all decisions and actions.  Depending upon the situation, the eating disordered voice will switch between the two–friend and abusive partner–until it controls every thought and aspect of the individual’s life.  The disease chokes out the healthy voice in the individual, making the eating disordered voice the only one the person can hear; impeding concentration and normal social interaction.

Feed is the first eating disorder movie to ever give a character to the disease itself; fully demonstrating just how dominating the disease truly is over the mind and life of the individual.  The personification of the character’s anorexia brings to light why it is so difficult for those who struggle to break free and come back from the depths of this disease.  I found myself wide-eyed with agreement at nearly every turn the eating disorder made Olivia take, as I know what it is like to live with that hellish voice in your head.

My sobbing meltdown stemmed from the difficulty Olivia had in telling her therapist about the disease; the struggle to “come clean” while the eating disordered voice was yelling at her to stop.  That particular scene was one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever watched, as it was like witnessing part of my own life play out on film.  The moment when I decided life was worth more than the “friend” that was dominating the thoughts in my head, and subsequently betraying that “friend” was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  This film shows the struggle–eating disorder development to choosing life–in astonishing detail.

I won’t lie, Feed might be hard for you to watch knowing this is the type of hell your loved one experiences on a daily basis, but it is incredibly worth it to help you understand the internal battle taking place.

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This is me and my biggest recovery supporter; he fully intends to watch the movie, as hard as it may be.

In the end, the eating disorder is always there, we just learn how to live with it and control it rather than it controlling us.

Please take the time to rent and watch this movie; it truly is the best film about eating disorders that has ever been made.

With Body Love,
Lane

 

Eating Disorder, Emotions, Social Media, Triggers

Unintentional Promotion

To The Bone

My social media newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram have been inundated with posts warning about the triggers, dangers, and how “horrible” this movie could be for those in an active eating disorder and those in recovery.  I, too, jumped on the bandwagon and wrote a few posts about this eating disorder community hot-button issue before I found myself in a place of emotional upheaval.

The truth?

All these posts about the movie are, in themselves, triggering for someone who is trying to protect herself from seeing the movie prematurely.  The posts are unintentionally promoting the film and creating a mass of curiosity.

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While many organizations within the eating disorder community actively oppose the movie’s narrative–the emaciation of the actress, and the triggers by featuring eating disordered behaviors–the countless blog posts about the movie, how to identify red-flags, and determining whether or not you should see To The Bone are only further promoting the film.  In essence, these organizations that are trying to protect their supporters from seeing the film are actually luring them in to watch it.  For anyone with a Netflix account that is trying not to watch this movie until they are in an emotionally healthy place, it is already very difficult to resist the temptation to view it; let alone seeing live discussions on Facebook regarding the film.  This has been my situation.

Every night while my husband is away for work, I watch a show or two on Netflix before I go to bed.  It is a habit I developed to help draw my focus away from our boat bobbing up and down; causing me to worry endlessly about popping a line again (thanks, anxiety).  The film came out while he was still home but we were so busy preparing for his departure that we didn’t get time to watch it together.  So, for two nights I managed to avoid the film, despite it showing up on my Netflix feed as something I might want to watch.  Um…heck yes I want to watch it…but I know I shouldn’t right now.  For two nights I would sigh and resign myself to watching Hawaii Five-0 instead.  Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and, while Vivienne was spending the night with my in-laws, I decided to watch To The Bone while I was home alone.

My thoughts?

I can honestly say I wasn’t triggered by the somewhat graphic images of emaciated bodies on the screen.  This is definitely a first for me, as I once used eating disorder movies as “inspiration” to spur me onward in my self-destruction.  The film displays a “trigger warning” before the movie even starts, which made me question whether or not I was prepared to watch.  My stomach felt heavy, like I had eaten rocks for dinner.  There has been so much hype surrounding this movie that I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would it be triggering?  Would it bring up unpleasant memories? I had no idea how I would react.

To The Bone Trigger Warning

Several times throughout the film I felt a little apprehensive about how it would play out and what my reactions might be.  In all reality, nothing about seeing eating disorders displayed on the screen, or hearing talk about behaviors, made me long for that life again.  It made me sad that I was once like that–completely consumed by this mental illness.  The movie did, however, bring up a lot of memories that I needed to process.  After the movie ended, I sat motionless in our guest room, my head a cascade of thoughts.  I ended up taking a long walk around the marina docks to sort through was was happening in my head.  It was so much that I struggled to process it and, after returning to the boat to check on the dogs and write a little bit, I went back out for a second walk.

So many thoughts about the person I was when I was living in the eating disorder flooded my brain.  The times I was so dehydrated lifting a glass of water felt like I was picking up a 10 pound dumbbell; the hip injury I suffered from being malnourished and exercising too much; going through the Wendy’s drive thru late at night to get the two things I allowed myself to eat, only to stop on the way home and purge in a random farmer’s field.  The amount of lies I told, the secrets I kept, and the behaviors that waxed and waned with life events were in the forefront of my mind following the film.  Memories from treatment were ever-present, as well.  That drop in my stomach before weigh-in on Saturday mornings, having my food checked to make sure it satisfied my meal plan, wanting to throw up so badly following a meal that it almost made me go crazy…but I survived.  Sixteen years living in an eating disorder, using it as a means of control–a standard of perfection, and some of it still haunts me.

Okay, back to the point…

Overall, I don’t think To The Bone is really all that different from every other eating disorder based movie…ever.  The narrative is the same as it always has been–anorexia: emaciated, near-death, white, and female–which does not fit the majority of eating disorders.  It certainly didn’t fit mine for most of those 16 years.  This movie shows me how important BBA and other blogs like it are in order to bring life to eating disorders other than anorexia.  This movie inspires me to keep sharing my story and being open about what it was like to go to treatment at a time when I wasn’t extremely thin; knowing I was still incredibly sick and killing myself for perceived control.  It was hard and, as much as I appreciate any movie that brings awareness to eating disorders, it concerns me that someone who watches it and who is struggling may not see his/her struggle as valid.  That individual may not believe s/he is “sick enough” for treatment based on the severity of the character in the movie.

That is where I get to keep working.  I get to keep promoting the truth: eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages, etc.  Eating disorders do not discriminate and not everyone who needs treatment is going to be emaciated.  No matter your size, eating disorders are deadly; the deadliest of all mental illnesses.

 Each narrative is valid.  

Every individual struggling with an eating disorder deserves treatment, regardless of what the disease is telling you.

If you watched the film and feel triggered, I encourage you to reach out to a friend, therapist, or someone in your support network.  In the last 48 hours I have received messages from roughly three people wanting to talk about the movie, so feel free to reach out to me, too.  If you watched the film and have never struggled with an eating disorder, I’m glad you took the time to watch it, and I hope you gained some insight.

With Body Love,
Lane

 

Eating Disorder, Emotions, Recovery, Social Media, Triggers

Taking Responsibility

“You are not responsible for your disease.  You are responsible for your behavior.”
-Edgewood Treatment Center

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Something that has been weighing on my mind since the premiere of the “To The Bone” trailer on June 20th, is the reaction from people in the eating disorder/recovery community.  Considering I follow several eating disorder recovery pages on social media, and belong to several recovery-oriented groups, I’ve seen a firestorm of angry emotions aimed at the film, the writer/director, and the recovery-oriented nonprofit organization, Project HEAL.  Quite honestly, it is disheartening and frustrating to see the response it is receiving from those in the community.

I was trilled to see a film is being released that gives viewers a glimpse inside the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder.  As someone in recovery, it is hard to explain to “outsiders” what it is like to have a second voice that dominates your every thought regarding food, body, weight, and exercise; a voice that has the calorie count of dozens of foods memorized.  A voice that categorizes food into two categories: good and bad (no such thing).  When you tell people you have this almost-audible voice screaming at you to avoid eating and telling you how disgusting, fat, and hated you are; you are generally met with faces full of a lack of understanding.  This film is bringing that voice and the out-of-control nature of eating disorders into the limelight.  It has been a very long time since a movie was made regarding eating disorders and, quite frankly, this one appears to do a better job than any previous movie.  While I haven’t seen the film yet (it is released July 14th on Netflix), I am already thrilled to see from the trailer, the people in the treatment facility are of various sizes, genders, and ethnicities; bringing to light the fact eating disorders do not discriminate and you do not have to “look” a certain way to be sick.  That being said, the director has been accused of glamorizing the disease, as the main character is emaciated and has that stereotypical “anorexic look,” and Project HEAL has been under fire for supporting a film that is triggering to many of its supporters.

This is where I am going to say ENOUGH.  I know all too well how it feels when everything around you seems to be triggering.  A certain song, location, person, or inanimate object can make you want to retreat into the walls of the “comfortable” eating disorder.  Realistically, my biggest trigger to this day is knowing where a scale is in someone’s house; it is the entire reason I get ticked off every time I see the stupid thing in the bathroom at the marina where I live.  Once I see the scale and learn of its location, it is the greatest temptation in the world to want to stand on it and see my weight in a bright digital display; recovery has taught me that will not help me remain in recovery but might lure me back into the “safety” of the eating disorder.  From the moment I know the location, it is triggering every time I go to a place with a scale because I want nothing more than to stand on that stupid thing.  However, I don’t ask the person to move it because I am taking responsibility for my recovery.  I cannot expect people to safeguard me or my recovery from all possible triggers all the time.  I have to do that for myself.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  While somedays are easier than others to say “screw the scale,” there are some days when I have to reach out to my support network and ask for help.  Recovery means responsibility.

We, as individuals in recovery, cannot blame triggers and temptations on those around us.  We cannot ask people to continuously make accommodations for our eating disorder journey.  Life is full of triggers, and we have to learn to navigate the minefield, sometimes while bombs are going off in our minds.  I support Project HEAL’s decision to be involved with promoting the film “To The Bone” because I see the value in giving the general public inside information on the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder.  While I see where those in the throes of an eating disorder, or in the early states of recovery, will probably find the film triggering; we must accept only we are responsible for our journey.

This film has an opportunity to do some serious good for those in the recovery community by giving us something to which we can direct our support network, friends, and loved ones to show them what even a few minutes in our mind is like.  Stop getting angry over the triggering aspect and applaud the film for its intention–spreading the word about eating disorders and how it is mentally and physically damaging to its victims.  If you know the content will be triggering for you, please, don’t watch it and reach out to your support network (you can even privately message me via social media or e-mail) if that will help you safeguard your recovery.  At some point we have to stop expecting others to protect us from our minds and work to protect ourselves.  It is not–and will not–be easy, but that is why we build support networks of people who we can lean on in triggering times.

With Body Love,
Lane

Challenge, Eating Disorder, Recovery, Social Media, Triggers

When Triggers Are No Longer Triggers

Earlier this evening I read an article on The Mighty criticizing the upcoming Netflix movie To The Bone.  The movie depicts the struggle the writer had with anorexia.  Given the struggle was with anorexia, the star of the movie is extremely thin.  Out of curiosity I followed the link to watch the movie trailer, knowing in the past things like this were known triggers of mine.  For some reason, seeing an emaciated woman would drive my brain to want to look that way as well.  It suddenly became a competition.

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Watching the trailer, I witnessed the emaciated woman talk about counting calories, exercising until she was bruised and exhausted, and finally ending up in treatment.  When she wanted to give up on herself others refused to give in.  I watched the main character watch others having fun, eating, and living life while she sat on the sidelines.  In a way, I felt like I was watching my former life on the screen before me in a manner older movies about eating disorders could never capture.  In that moment I felt sorry for the main character; I did not want to be her.

Instead of feeling triggered to return to that former life, I felt pride and happiness.  I often find it hard to believe that I started this final recovery attempt 2.5 years ago now.  Often, it feels like a lifetime ago that the diseased portion of my brain controlled my every thought, action, and entire life.  Watching the trailer I was reminded of how much better life can be on this side–the recovery side–of things.  Instead of watching my friends eating sushi, laughing about stupid stuff that happened, and deciding to get snow cones at the last minute; I participate.  I go get sushi and eat in front of people while sitting in a crowded restaurant without fear that people are judging my body and the amount of food on my plate.  If someone is judging, it is his/her problem not mine.  I honestly feel a little sorry for said person because, quite possibly, s/he is struggling with body image and food–perhaps without even realizing it.  I’ve learned life is so much better when it is being lived versus when I was living inside myself, hidden by a life-threatening, life-changing disease.

While this film may indeed be triggering for someone in an active eating disorder or in the very first stages of recovery, I think there is going to be a lot of educational insight into the mind of a person struggling with an eating disorder.  In the few moments of the trailer alone, I was really surprised by how spot-on the thoughts, actions, and mannerisms of the woman struggling were to what it was like in my mind during the eating disordered reign.  I am so proud I am in a place where I can see something like To The Bone as educational content instead of using it to trigger my own disease and spiral back to the depths of the disease.  This was a cathartic work for the writer, something I completely understand, we just chose to do it differently.  Typically, I try to protect those in an active eating disorder, and those who are in the early stages of recovery, by not writing anything that could be clearly triggering.  This post is going to be a little different.   

I think the trailer to this movie could be good for those readers who have not struggled with an eating disorder, and even those who are like me and no longer triggered by this material.  It makes me grateful for the place I am in now, strong, healthy, and living life.  Within the few moments presented in the trailer, I felt like I was watching much of the eating disordered dialogue I had with my struggle presented in a movie format.  It brings to life a lot of things I write about.  So, this is where I am choosing to trust my readers and let them explore their boundaries.  While this material isn’t triggering to me, I understand and respect that it may be triggering to others; therefore, this is where I am trusting you to know your limits and the bounds of your struggle with this disease.

 

This is where I am choosing to trust my readers and know I cannot protect everyone from triggers at all times.

 

***TRIGGER WARNING***

 

To The Bone Movie Trailer

 

With Body Love,
Lane

 

Alcohol, Appreciation, Body Appreciation, Body Love, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Faith, Feelings, God, Hope, Journaling, Recovery, Sobriety, Social Media, Triggers, Uncategorized

Seeking Sobriety

Recovery teaches individuals to replace unhealthy behaviors for positive practices, coping mechanisms.  Often that means instead of purging after a meal, the individual is taught to do something such as coloring, knitting, etc. to help take the individual’s mind off the temptation to engage in harmful behavior.  However, there are times when an individual picks up another harmful habit to replace the original harmful habit.  In my case, I was starting to become a closet drinker to replace the emotions the eating disorder attempted to drown out.

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In my family there is a history of addiction.  Without throwing all the people under the bus, I will say my dad was an alcoholic.  He may not have admitted it, but he was; I believe it played a part in killing him.  To some degree, I believe I inherited his addictive personality.  The eating disorder was similar to an addiction in that it gave me a “high” when I restricted food or purged.  I used the eating disorder to cope with stress, loneliness, sadness…well, just about any emotion or feeling possible.  While I have not been using alcohol to fill all those voids, I was using it to cope with loneliness and stress above all else.

Living in a marina, I am surrounded by people who drink on an unhealthy level.  The ship store offers a wide variety of craft beers and wines that are easily accessible.  There are people who drink early in the morning and continue to do so all day long.  Smelling alcohol on someone’s breath at 10am is not abnormal.  I feel into the trap of thinking drinking every night was completely fine for me.  Perhaps for some people having a beer after work stops there, but for me, it became something that made me salivate.  Got in an argument? Grab a beer.  Feeling lonely?  Open up that wine.  Boat troubles got ya down? No worries, a rum cocktail should fix that right up.

Before I knew it, I was having a beer or two nearly every night and drinking them without eating much on top of that.  I had moments where I would want a drink so bad my mouth would water and I was having an all-out craving so I would walk up to the ship store and take care of it.  While I love living on the boat, the availability of alcohol when I lived on land in a house was not like it is now.  On land I would’ve had to drive 10-15 minutes to get to a store, buy the beer, then drive 10-15 minutes home.  By the time it was all said and done I didn’t think it was worth it, and at that time I was still in treatment so utilizing positive coping skills was easy.  Convenience is everything.

Over the years I thought I had found my balance with alcohol.  For example, I realized three years ago that I can’t drink vodka because it makes me incredibly angry and argumentative.  Just ask my old iPhone that got thrown down in a fit of vodka-fueled rage onto the pavement and shattered.  Wine makes my nose stuffy, but I drink it anyway because it is socially common since it “pairs well” with food.  Of course mimosas for breakfast and brunch; especially in the South.  Then there is beer.  Not your run-of-the-mill Anheuser-Busch beers, but the well-crafted, flavorful beers.  They come in all flavors now–cold brew coffee, PB&J, notes of citrus fruits–I could go on and on.  Lets not forget my Caribbean island favorite–rum…or rhum, depending on where it is from.  Just typing that all out makes my mouth water thinking about it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been down this road.  The first time I ever went to therapy for the eating disorder, back in 2008, my therapist was concerned about my drinking.  Of course, at that time, I was a senior in college so drinking a lot and often was not uncommon.  Again, alcohol was and is an accepted societal norm.  I still have the charts from that therapist regarding “how much should you drink” based on your age, weight, and other factors.  At the time I didn’t think anything about drinking; even though I still feel bad about the one time I showed up for my appointment a little tipsy.  My reasoning?  It was St. Patrick’s day so Ann Arbor was full of green beer.

I’ve said the words, “I’m going to quit drinking” several times over the last few months to my husband.  I would try and it would last a few days, maybe a week then I’d be back at it again.  While my husband has been away on business I realized I really don’t think my behaviors toward alcohol are healthy.  My mindset isn’t simply having a drink with dinner, but having a drink to drown something out.  Quite honestly, the prevailing thoughts are similar to what made me want to restrict food to numb out feelings and get a high from it in the first place.  Either way, none of it is healthy.  Therefore, I’m calling myself out and making it public to work toward accountability.  I’ve been living my eating disorder recovery as an open book, so I’m adding this to it.

If you’re reading this and you want to offer me a drink next time you see me, please don’t.  Social drinking is so common and accepted that I struggle to say no.  I don’t want to be the odd duck; which makes me smile a little when you consider in high school I wouldn’t drink at parties, but instead would drink plain orange juice to try to fit in.  Alcohol is a socially accepted drug.  Heck, I studied that in graduate school.  Some people can have a drink and that is that; there is no deeper emotional reasoning behind it.

That person is not me.
I am the person who uses it to replace “my” addition of disordered eating.

Once again I find myself returning to tried and true coping mechanisms I learned in treatment, as it is obvious I still need them.  Finding my center and my ability to cope with loneliness and stressful situations in a healthy manner is of the utmost importance for my recovery and my future; therefore, I must give up alcohol.  I know this is not going to be easy, as I’ve said, it is socially common and acceptable; however, many before me have done it and I know it is what is best for me.

During a phone conversation with a friend and mentor the other day she said, “When you crave it is an opportunity to spiritually connect.  Discontinuation of a behavior is trusting in God’s power.”

If you need me, I’ll be crafting a little memo with that on it to post in my kitchen.

With Body Love,
Lane 

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized

Identity

“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.”
-Doug Cooper

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 Identity.  This is a concept with which I have struggled in recent months.  For nearly two decades my identity has been wrapped up inside a neat little package I refer to as the eating disorder, and subsequently my recovery.  When the satin bow on that neat little package was untied it led to the contents spilling out over the table like puzzle pieces without an order.  Each facet of my life lay before me, upturned and mixed up, waiting for me to pick it up, examine it, and set it in its proper place; in hopes of uncovering my true identity somewhere in there, or perhaps when the puzzle formed a picture.

I started this blog when I was merely months in true recovery after leaving treatment, and it has provided an outlet for my thoughts as much as it has provided inspiration for people who read it.  Each day I grow stronger in my recovery and take more steps away from the life that once defined me; almost as if I am stepping out of my old body and life to move forward into a new one.  Taking off my mask and revealing my true self.  The eating disorder was the mask for so long and the space between the mask and my face formed the majority of my identity for the last two years–my recovery.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) and usually I flood my social media accounts with facts, stories, and information about eating disorders, treatment, and statistics.  Not this year.  My choice to not participate wasn’t a conscious one, it just happened.  My newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram have been bombarded with NEDAW images, sayings, and statistics; yet I have not shared any of them.  It isn’t because I no longer care about individuals struggling with and recovering from eating disorders–not at all–but my identity is not longer wrapped up by the satin bow of recovery or the messy puzzle of the eating disorder.  I still greatly care about and pray for individuals who have not yet discovered the freedom recovery will bring.

I have found myself writing for BBA less and less over the last six months, as I have been stepping away from the eating disorder and recovery communities more and more.  Writing for BBA only once each month wasn’t a choice I made with logic or reason, but it one that has happened as my life is being lived.  Eating disorder thoughts no longer dominate my mind and a “proper” meal plan isn’t something that I cling to in order to give me normalcy while eating now.  My exercise isn’t obsessive or damaging to my recovery and my body does not define me.  I’ve started to leave the role of eating disorder recovery advocate and step with my whole heart, mind, and body into the roles of Christian, mother, and wife.

Earlier today I found myself sitting with a friend and discussing this very topic over coffee.  Identity can be confusing for adolescents and young adults, sure, but it can be equally confusing for adults; especially those impacted by trauma or mental illness.  My friend and I talked about finding our identity in Christ and what that actually means.  Whether or not you are a Christian, or have a Higher Power at all, your identity is found in your personality, beliefs, etc.  While I do not hold the answer as to what it means to have my identity in Christ, I know my “roles” fall under that identity.  My confidence comes from Christ and knowing I am created in His image.  Outward beauty holds no power over my heart and the acts of kindness I can perform for others.

Struggling with my identity 0ver the last several months culminated itself today when I realized my identity is found in more in my heart than anything else.  My identity is my calling and purpose.  Christ has given me a heart for people society tends to overlook or despise–inmates and individuals struggling with substance abuse–and how I focus my heart, energy, and attention speaks to my identity.  I still love and care about the eating disorder recovery community, as it helped form who I am today and I’m eternally grateful for the individuals God placed in my life to help get me here, but it isn’t the biggest identifier of who I am anymore.  My BBA posts may not be as numerous as they once were, but they will still show up every so often, as I wholeheartedly believe everyBODY is beautiful.  There are self-acceptance and body-acceptance lessons to be gleaned in every day life and when a lesson smacks me in the face, I’m going to share it.

My identity is in Christ and the courage I have to serve the community He placed in my heart many years ago.  My identity is found in the life I lead; not in my body, recovery, or past history of an eating disorder.  For me, this is not my identity anymore but a building block to help form who I’ve become.  I may live on a sailboat and enjoy sailing, but I don’t identify myself as a sailor to define who I am any more than formerly struggling with and in recovery from an eating disorder makes me a person with an eating disorder.

In the last six months I’ve found the courage to “let go” of the mask, and the space between the mask so my identity could emerge.  It has been there all along, waiting for me to realize that my identity is found in the calling Christ placed in my heart long before recovery was on my radar.

 Identity.

Yes, I struggled with an eating disorder for 16 years, and yes, I am in solid recovery after two years of ridiculously hard work, but neither of those things solely define me anymore.  Christ defines me.  The heart He has given me for the incarcerated and addicted population helps define me.  My role as a mother and wife are part of my identity.  I will continue to write for BBA but I no longer feel like my recovery or being a writer for BBA is the biggest part of my identity; a feeling that is even more freeing than recovery itself.  As my husband said when I explained all this, “I’ve waited for years to hear you say that.”

I’ve waited years to feel it.

With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Friends, Hope, Joy, Love, Postpartum Body, Recovery, Social Media, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

The Mountain and The Molehill

Two years ago I was ending my time in intensive treatment and facing outpatient treatment.  I was working hard identifying my triggers, creating a bank of coping skills, and spending more time at treatment-related mental health, medical, and nutritional appointments than I ever thought possible.  My life changed in many ways when I made the decision to finally get serious about getting better, and the mountain I thought I was facing has become nothing more than a molehill.

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Prior to entering treatment I knew I was staring  at a mountain before me.  I was preparing to have my way of life taken away in order to teach me how to face life in a healthy way.  At 28-years old my food was monitored and carefully portioned, followed by being watched by treatment professionals as I ate it all within an allotted time.  If my nutritional needs had not been met during the day I was given a Boost nutritional drink to supplement.  I was prevented from using the bathroom after eating, and told not to exercise.  My life was getting turned upside down, voluntarily, but it was anything other than pleasant.  I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to face life without the close “companionship” the eating disorder provided.  With each new challenge I conquered, I climbed a little higher up the mountain and toward full recovery.  I slipped and stumbled along the way, sliding back down the slope and often feeling like I was starting over.  However, with every slip I was never back at the bottom staring back up at the mountain in its entirety.

Fast-forward to one year ago when I was in outpatient treatment, still working diligently with my therapist and dietician to reach my nutritional and mental health goals.  One year ago I was close to ending my time in therapy while sorting through the remnants of my past trauma and striving to overcome anxiety.  I was struggling to eat in restaurants, sit with my back to the door, and go out in public to crowded areas.  I worked hard with my therapist to identify what made me anxious and how to cope with it when the symptoms of anxiety would arise.  At the same time I was working hard with my dietician to become comfortable eating in public and eating foods that were challenging to been seen eating (i.e.: pasta).  Nothing about recovery has been easy but it has been completely worth it–and the journey isn’t over yet because I am still learning.

Now, nine months discharged from all types treatment, I am still working to stay strong in recovery but these days the challenges don’t look like a mountain but more like a molehill.  While there isn’t a giant mountain for me to climb, I do stumble over the molehills from time to time.  I have to work hard not to fall on my face as a result.  For example, it took me a few months after moving on our boat to realize I wasn’t giving myself the time for self-care that I did prior to moving aboard.  Instead of crafting, journaling, or doing daily yoga and meditation I was constantly rushed with adjusting to life on the water.  As a result, I fell over that molehill and spent a few months on the ground in a relapse state.

My recovery is nowhere near complete, as I believe it is a life-long learning process, but what I have learned about myself is worth the fall.  I thought I didn’t need the amount of self-care and meditation that I once did, but that is the beauty of recovery–I am always evolving and proving myself wrong.  I thought I didn’t need intensive treatment in 2014…I was wrong.  The memory of my therapist and dietician talking on the phone, and coaxing me to call the treatment center while in a therapy session, will forever be burned in my memory.  Only after a month of intensive treatment did I realize I spent so many years of my life trapped in a disease and in need of recovery.  Then, as I continued to meet with my dietician even after ending treatment with my outpatient therapist, did I realize my thoughts surrounding certain foods and my body image still needed work.

Today, I love being in recovery and continuing to learn more about myself and this life.  There are times I wish I could talk to a therapist, but that is when I remember I harbor within me the ability and strength to pick myself up from stumbling over a molehill and learn from it.  I’ve come a long way from the scared woman I was in 2014 when I passed through the doors of the treatment center.  My triggers are fewer than ever before.  I mean, I am sitting here watching the Miss Universe pageant while I type this; something I couldn’t have done even last year.  (Which, by the way, Miss Canada was just interviewed about body shaming and loving who she is in her own skin. LOVE!)

Regardless of stumbling over a molehill a few times this year, I love myself more with each passing day.  I grow stronger with each new revelation about my body, myself, and my life in recovery.  Being confident in my body and who I am as a woman helps me enjoy life with a passion I’ve never before experienced.  My personality has grown and I’ve developed likes, dislikes, and favorites that I never had the opportunity to do before.  I may look vastly different from five or ten years ago (see photo below) but I feel more beautiful than ever.  I don’t often post photos from when I was sick, but in this case I look at the photos in amazement.  My eyes are brighter, my smile is genuinely happy, and I am truly living life instead of existing in it.

IMG_0836.JPG
L to R, Top to Bottom: 1. The absolute lowest point in my eating disorder; 2. Two weeks prior to entering treatment in 2014 (my eyes look hollow, sad; 3. June 2016;  4. July 2016–happy, healthy, strong, and confident 

My body is this beautiful, unique instrument with which I get to experience life and nothing, not even the eating disorder, can take that from me.  

With Body Love,
           Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Pregnancy, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Weight

Faith, Food, and Faulty Thinking

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you’d never think a negative thought again.”

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Thoughts have the ability to determine our day, even our outlook on life.  Our thoughts, when verbalized, have the ability to shape the minds of children and support or break down others.  Thoughts, especially in conjunction with words, are the most powerful weapons in the human arsenal.  Sometimes thoughts feel so uncontrollable, so overwhelming and demeaning to ourselves that we act based upon those thoughts.  This is the case with me when eating disordered thoughts once controlled my life.  Sometimes the thoughts are still powerful and it takes all the remaining mental strength I have to reason with myself and convince myself that an eating disordered life is no way to live.  Due to my own faulty thinking regarding food and body image when I am being controlled by the negative eating disordered thoughts, I am able to recognize the potential dangers in others when they verbalize their faulty thinking.  

In September I was added to a group on Facebook that seeks to support women on their weight-loss and healthy eating journey though a biblically based plan.  In order to protect the women of that group I will not name the plan or the group but the basics are this: balance your blood sugar through different types food/fuel combinations; typically resulting in weight loss but at a minimum resulting in change in energy level.  The principles are solid and I have reaped some of the benefits of utilizing this notion in conjunction with the knowledge base I have from working with a dietician for 18 months.  I have more energy and I’m less sluggish when I follow the food combinations outlined by the plan but I have not, and will not, go “all in” as so many in the group say.  I see the faulty thinking in this.  Food becomes about rules, competition with self and others, and all too often becomes about the weight loss.  Daily in this group women post photos of their feet standing on a scale to show how much they weigh or body comparison photos demonstrating their weight loss over the last few months.  I shake my head because I know weight alone does not signify health.  In fact, multiple women in the group have commented that since starting the plan and going “all in” they have lost a significant amount of weight (in too short amount of time, in my opinion) and, as a result, are struggling with hair loss.  That raises a red flag to this woman in eating disorder recovery.  Hair loss in the land of eating disorders symbolizes a lack of nutrients, and potentially a serious caloric deficit.  In fact, when I was in treatment we had a lengthy discussion about weight loss and hair loss.  The body is preparing for starvation.  This is not something I want.  I happen to like my blonde hair and would prefer not to lose it.  

Women also post almost daily about being discouraged, hating their stomaches/thighs/etc, and begging for tips on how to make the plan really work for them to lose weight.  It seems very reminiscent to pro-ana discussion groups in which I once found “support” and encouragement.  However, this group does it to “glorify God” by taking care of their bodies, as they are a temple for God (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I am not mocking the faith of these women, as I believe in God and have a strong Christian faith, but I believe most of them are not doing it for this reason alone but also because they absolutely hate and are ashamed of the way they look.  Some women who utilize this plan have been urged by medical professionals to lose weight or death and disease will ravage their bodies and, as a result, lose weight and truly become healthy.  Everyone has their own motives but I know not everyone has pure intentions and use the group as a means for comparison, self-deprecation, and a motive to lose more weight.  

The most worrisome posts to me are the ones where emotions are clearly tied to weight and body size.  Women who say they cry because they gained two pounds instead of losing two or saying they “feel fat” because they aren’t dropping clothing sizes.  These are borderline eating disorder thoughts, especially when combined with the strict rules being followed when going “all in” on the plan.  So often the “rules” associated with the plan remind me of the rules I followed when I was living in the eating disorder, which is what scares me for these women.  The most disturbing trend I keep reading and seeing in this group deals with the children.  Women post selfies standing sideways in the mirror often but the photos that really rip at my heart are the ones where these women are posing with unhappy, self-loathing faces (words to match) and their child is standing beside them, silently observing the self-hate and learning these behaviors.  I’ll be the first to admit that I still fall into the trap of body-checking by standing sideways in a mirror (when I have access to one) to determine whether not I like how an outfit makes me look but I never, NEVER do it in front of Vivienne.  However, some day she may catch me doing it and it is for that reason I need to continue to strive to change my behavior.  I can still clearly picture the photo that hurt me the most and it is of a woman who is doing just as I described and her daughter, the same age as Vivienne, is standing beside her with a sad face, too, while clutching her blanket.  Is this really what we want to teach our children? 

I know it isn’t what I want for Vivienne.   I don’t want her to look at her body after it has birth babies and hate what she sees because her stomach is no longer flat and her breasts aren’t perky.  We were all created unique in God’s image and that uniqueness extends to our bodies.  Some people are built to be heavier than others.  We aren’t all going to look like models, have well-defined muscles, or absolutely zero cellulite.  Sometimes we forget that while God created us with different personalities He also created us with different bodies, but all are still created HIS image.    All I can do is strive to take care of my body to the best of my abilities in this life I have been given.  I can’t get bogged down by playing the compare and despair game and I don’t want to pass that game on to my daughter.  

It is time to change the conversation.
We, as women, have a responsibility to the young girls in our communities to teach them to love who they are, regardless of body size.
We, as mothers, have the chance to change how our daughters look at themselves in the mirror and the dialogue they have about their bodies.
We, as Christians, have a responsibility to celebrate all bodies and the uniqueness God created.

No two people were created exactly the same and that is something we should celebrate!
It is time to quit playing compare and despair.  
It is time to teach our daughters that bodies change over time but their abilities should still be praised over appearance. 

With Body Love, 
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Forgiveness, God, Hope, Joy, Love, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized

Faith and Forgiveness

“This is the body of Christ broken for you,” said the layperson, as I tore off a piece of bread from the communion loaf.  I took a few steps to the side, “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” I dipped the piece of bread into the cup then put it in my mouth as I walked away.  “Surely the body and blood of Christ has calories,” my 13 year old, very eating disordered brain reasoned. I held the bread dipped in grape juice in my mouth until I walked back around to my seat, where I promptly spit it out into a tissue; feeling only slightly guilty. 

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I grew up going to church; the same little Methodist church in which my mom was raised and where her entire family attended (still attends) church.  I liked the ritualistic, methodical nature of it all but I didn’t understand the deeper meaning.  While I believed in God I didn’t care to dig much deeper than the surface.  I didn’t read my Bible, in fact I didn’t have the slightest clue where the books where located much beyond Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy… five books.  I could easily locate the first five books and Psalms because it was somewhere smack dab in the middle.  While I believed in God and believed Jesus died for my sins, I was not finding my worth in Christ but in food, losing weight, and being thin.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my husband about my faith and why I am so silent and unwilling to openly share my beliefs.  I rarely write about them on this blog and I don’t openly share them on social media very often either.  I was afraid.  I feared judgment by others for my outward showing of faith because I lived most of my life in a less than Christian manner.  Quite honestly I feared the meme that sometimes circulates on social media would be what people thought about me:

E Card

Only my “wild” live-for-yourself days weren’t in high school but in college.  In many ways I put on airs; in front of large groups of people I was this demure, sweet girl from the middle of Amish country nowhere Ohio while secretly going to parties, and going beyond what any true Christian girl would with boys.  My dad walked out on my 17th birthday and instead of finding comfort in God and looking toward my heavenly Father I turned toward earthly comforts–most often found in the growling of my stomach and the attention of men.  I felt abandoned, unloved, and unworthy of being loved by my dad so I found it where I could.  When I went to college this pattern of beliefs and behavior was amplified by a culture where drunkenness and intense sexuality was widely accepted and eating disorders ran rampant.  Instead of really searching to find a church home, despite one of my closest friends always inviting me to her church and praying for me constantly, I found my own path to the bottom of alcohol bottles in place of food.  I exercised a lot because I knew that a thinner but still muscular physique would be attractive and I could feel wanted.

My brain suffered from my lifestyle.  As I’ve stated in other posts I lack memories from my 16 years in the eating disorder because my brain was starving.  My brain was starving, sleep deprived, and drunk.  I made a lot of mistakes and sometimes went to Catholic Mass with friends to feel better about what I had done before going back out on Saturday night and doing it again.  In reality my relationship with God was almost nonexistent because I was so angry with God for what had happened to my family.  I was a good faker about how I believed and loved God but in reality acted in any way but faithful.  My body became my enemy, despite the knowledge that my body is a temple for God, and the weapon of choice for God’s enemy to turn me against Him.  The war waged on with the eating disorder but instead of battling the eating disorder and trying to get better I was battling God.

After college I did what I used to do so well and ran from Michigan down to Savannah, GA where I was living with a man I met through a friend in the Army.   He, like me, was an Army officer and gave me so much attention it was easy to continue using my body as a weapon against God.  I continued in the eating disorder and continued to be sexually immoral.  He was a believer, but a believer like me–on the surface level.  It was easier and more fun to indulge in a lifestyle against the Bible than to follow as God commanded and save sex for marriage.  Before too long I realized his attention for me was a drive for control and he wanted to control me, my actions, and my career by advising me not to be the best officer so my career could tank and I could get out.  I got out, out of that relationship and moved to another state.

Enter my husband.  My husband who wasn’t just a surface level Christian but a true believer in the Bible and teachings of Christ.  TJ invited me to go to church with him and I did.  I started to go to church again and actually listen to the teachings.  I started to read my Bible like I never had before and started to realize the eating disorder was a weapon against myself and God but I wasn’t ready or able to stop it just yet.  I also realized that my actions over the previous four-and-a-half years could be forgiven.  I prayed for forgiveness for my actions often but never really forgave myself.  My past was a big, dirty, shameful secret.  A secret I shared with my husband before we got engaged and married but a shameful secret nonetheless.  I had treated my body poorly not only by starving it, purging food, and overexercising but by how I had allowed it to be something for the Devil to use to turn me against God and the teachings of the Bible that I had held true until I was 19 years old and in college.

Finally, a few weeks ago, after TJ and I had this conversation about my fear of sharing faith I realized my prayers for forgiveness had been heard.  My sins during that time in college when I was a very lost, very ill sheep from God’s flock had been forgiven long time ago when I first asked and I didn’t need to hold it against myself anymore.  My forgiveness isn’t greater than God’s forgiveness.  I’m healthy now.  My body and brain are healthy and God was one of the biggest proponents for getting me through the eating disorder.  My faith grew stronger over the last two years and that means the secrets that continued to plague my mind and make me feel unworthy of being able to share my faith needed to be shared.  I might have grown up believing in God but I got lost along the way and turned my body into a weapon to wage war against myself and God.  I’m not perfect, I never was and never will be.

Striving for perfection nearly killed me and did kill my faith in the process for a few years.  My body isn’t a weapon but an instrument through which God uses me to spread His love and message of forgiveness.  I believe God has forgiven me for using my body against Him and for mistreating it for so many years.  I kept from my body the physical and spiritual nourishment needed for my survival.  I had forgiven myself for struggling with the eating disorder long ago; realizing it played a part in turning me away from God but He has since used it for His greater glory as well as the good of myself and others.  However, I had not truly forgiven myself for my sexual immorality until a few weeks ago.  It was a grudge I held against myself in silent shame and it was hindering me from outwardly sharing my love for Christ and my faith.  Judgment from others may come because people may not have forgotten my actions in college, but I know the greater truth:  God has forgiven me.

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving even though we have rebelled against Him.”
Daniel 9:9  

Forgiveness

My past holds no power over me now because I keep no secrets.  Everything I’ve done, experienced, and survived make up my story that God uses to show is unconditional love for His people.

With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Friends, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Motivation, Recovery, Social Media, Uncategorized, Weight

Motivation

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

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I found myself sitting in Starbucks a few days ago with a woman who is walking her own eating disorder recovery journey.  I respect all people who walk this journey, as they are courageous enough to fight a difficult fight, but this woman in particular.  She had never met me but reached out online and asked to meet up while I was in town.  Naturally, because I love sharing my story and learning about others walking a similar road, I agreed and found myself sitting across from her talking about our recovery road.  That is when she asked me the question I wasn’t quite sure how to answer, “What was your motivation?  I find myself wanting to give in sometimes and resorting to old behaviors.”

What was my motivation to recover?

My immediate answer was, “Vivienne, my daughter.”  At least Vivienne and TJ, my husband, were the initial motivators but upon further reflection after leaving Starbucks I began to dig deeper and remember my bigger motivators when I was in the depths of the disease.  Sometimes it is hard to recall what I was thinking at that time because my world was spinning so fast and I was working all day, every day to recover.  My motivators changed like the tides but I boiled it down to be concise enough to fit on this post.  So, to the woman I met in the coffee shop, I hope you see this post and know this is how I would answer your question if you asked me again.

External Motivation:  This was the initial motivation that got me into the doors of the treatment center; the motivation that made me reach out to a therapist and dietician in the first place.  I’ll admit, when I started working with Amy (therapist) and Anne (dietician) it was for external factors.  My doctor said I needed a therapist to help deal with postpartum depression and eating disordered behaviors; in order to appease TJ and my doctor, I found one that worked with eating disorders, too.  I knew I wasn’t being the wife and mother I could be and I needed help to figure it out.  So, off to therapy I went.  When I decided it was time to see a dietician I picked one that worked with eating disorders but I wanted lose weight, not necessarily deal with all the eating disordered behaviors.  My external motivators that got me through the doors of both outpatient and IOP were TJ, Vivienne, my desire to lose weight, and my desire to appease people in my life. While those are not the best motivations, they did start me on the path to true recovery.

Internal Motivation:  This is where my goals for myself, my family, and the dreams that extended beyond my body came to play.  These motivators weren’t present in the first half of my time in IOP but really started to show themselves during the second half.  Once my body was starting to replenish the much needed nutrients I began to untangle the web of myself.  The eating disorder started when I was so young that I didn’t really get the chance to figure out my true likes, dreams, and personality.  Once I started to see beyond the external motivating factors that got me into treatment I began to see the motivating factors within myself; my driving forces to recover.   During treatment I realized the primary emotion I ever let myself feel was anger; which, as I learned during an internship with recovering drug addicts, is actually a secondary emotion.  Anger always masks another feeling, and in my case anger seemed to mask every other emotion possible.  IOP helped me start to experience feelings of true happiness and I wanted more of it. I began to have more positive life experiences and started figuring out my goals and passions; such as my sense of adventure (I am an adrenaline junkie) and love of helping others.  Radical body acceptance was introduced and I ran with the idea of accepting my body and myself exactly as I was at any given moment.  I started to let myself dream again and one of those dreams was to move to an island in the Caribbean with my little family.  This was a dream my husband and I shared when we first got married, but as I drifted back to the eating disorder I slowly let myself forget about the Caribbean until I was near the end of IOP.  I wanted so much more than to be sitting in weekly appointments with a therapist and dietician for the rest of my life.  I wanted to be free to explore new countries, cultures, and not be afraid to try the ethnic foods of those cultures.  I wanted to truly enjoy my life instead of merely existing in it.  

Spiritual Motivation:  God is the center of my life and marriage.  I hold tightly to my Christian values and beliefs, and I believe with all my heart God is the primary factor that got me to this point where I can say I am recoverED.  While I do not discount my own hard work and diligence, I looked to Christ for my strength at the times when I was my weakest. My husband and dietician were adamant God was going to use me and this struggle for a greater purpose when I was stronger, and I see now they were right all along.  God has granted me with the ability to write well and the vulnerability to be completely honest about my journey; two things that, when combined, create a greater purpose for my struggle.  God lit a fire in my life when He led me to this path of recovery–a fire to live a life so full of purpose that now I can live it fully for Him.  I get to share this recovery story with anyone who reads this blog, follows BBA on Facebook, or meets me in person and give all glory to God in the process.  God gave me a passion for sharing my story with others and some extremely big dreams for my family that could only be carried out when I was in full recovery.  I am now in that place and those dreams are being fulfilled.  

Musical Motivation:  I’ve always been drawn to music and I love singing.   My mom told me ever since I was an infant I needed music to go to sleep, so it isn’t a surprise that I created multiple recovery playlists to help motivate me.  On the 45 minute drive to IOP, therapy, or appointments with my dietician I would have a recovery playlist blasting loudly through the speakers of my Honda Pilot.  Songs from several different musical genres all came together on my lists: Christian hymns, Christian pop songs, country, rap, SOCA, reggae, secular pop…I have a rather eclectic music collection.  Some of my favorites are as follows:

You Make Me Brave–Bethel Music and Amanda Cook (Christian)
Diamonds–Hawk Nelson (Christian)
Beautiful, Beautiful–Francesca Battistelli  (Christian)
Crushed and Created–Caitlyn Smith (pop/country)
Monster–Skillet (Christian Rock)
Fight Song–Rachel Platten (pop)
Lose Yourself–Eminem (rap)
Part of Me–Katy Perry (pop)
Hearts of Warriors–Casey Montana Rogers (country)
Cleanin’ Out My Closet–Eminem (rap)
Phenomenal–Benjai (SOCA)
Wild Child–Kenny Chesney (country)
Ah Feeling Mehself–Patrice Roberts (SOCA)
Soul of a Sailor–Kenny Chesney (country)
Surrender All–Matt Boswell (Christian, currently playing with post)

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If I could re-answer the question about where I got my motivation I would say it was (and is) three-fold with a fourth bonus.
My main motivators were
external, internal, and spiritual
but musical motivation is always a bonus!

External motivation is what got me through the doors and into treatment but internal and spiritual motivation were what kept me there for the long haul. 

What motivates you in recovery and in life?

Find your fire, your passion and keep fighting for it! 

With Body Love,
Lane