Body Size, Eating Disorder, Recovery, Weight

Advocacy M.D.

“You’ve lost [insert number here] pounds since I saw you two months ago!  That’s a great start!” 

I’m fairly certain if my jaw could literally hit the floor, it would have been immediately dropped and in desperate need of being scooped up.  I gave my doctor a blank stare as she continued with her unsolicited praise for weight loss I was not actually attempting, giving me numbers I didn’t want.

With a chuckle (and lack of genuine concern) she added,
“It wasn’t from purging I hope!”

By this point I’m pretty sure my eyes were about to pop out of my head as this doctor, a MEDICAL DOCTOR, made a joke about my battle with an eating disorder, rattled off numbers, and told me she gave me a medication that aids in weight loss.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, my daughter was in the room with me because my appointment was on the way to her school in the middle of rush hour so it was easier to bring her along.  Needless to say I was fuming.

Continuing with her insidious monologue regarding my weight and health, she went on to exclaim how my blood pressure was well within normal range, my cholesterol was excellent, and my kidney and liver function were great.  So, why exactly was my weight even mentioned, and why was she congratulating me- a person with a history of utilizing unhealthy behaviors- on my weight loss?  She was mentioning it because I am not a size that is socially acceptable.  How can I POSSIBLY be, by all accounts, healthy and yet be this size?  That doctor is human and clearly ascribes to the socially acceptable standard of beauty in regards to size.

Internally my body is functioning very well, even though I am labeled “obese” by the BMI charts (again, never actually intended to be a measurement for health). And, if we want to get technical, I border the line for “morbidly obese” given my height, weight (which, thanks to the neglect of that doctor’s assistant, I now know).  This physician is one that would be categorized in the eating disorder recovery community as a “nightmare” and completely uneducated as to how eating disorders function.  The body is a machine, yes, and mine might be bigger than “average” or “recommended” but it is running like a very loved and cared for machine.

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At my first appointment with this doctor in March, when I was establishing care with this physician in our new area, I told her I had a history…a LONG history…of battling eating disorders and that I still had days where I would engage in behaviors of purging and severe restriction.  Even given this information, she still prescribed Wellbutrin to help with depression and anxiety over an SSRI; however, I went into the appointment today prepared to advocate for my health by asking how to wean off the medication or looking to change medication.

Causing an increased risk of seizures in eating disorder patients, Wellbutrin is CONTRAINDICATED FOR PEOPLE WITH A HISTORY OF EATING DISORDERS ON THE WARNING LABEL because the seizure threshold in those patients is already lowered.  When I, with a much clearer head, asked her about it at my appointment this morning, giving her full details about how often I had been engaging in behaviors just prior to having the medication prescribed, she looked at me like I had three heads.  With a condescending smirk she said, “For only purging? No, you can be on it, you’re fine.”  Then she continued to rattle off diseases where people shouldn’t take the medication.

I was in complete shock for how I was being treated, the condescension, the lack of regard for my mental and emotional well-being, and quite honestly the disregard for my health.  The physician I had in Ohio was WONDERFUL when it came to my history, current size, and appropriateness of realizing my body was very healthy and my weight didn’t actually matter.  Even the OBGYN I saw in South Carolina just a week before meeting this general practitioner told me not to worry about my weight or size because I am healthy.  Those two doctors are the women who SHOULD be treating people with a history of eating disorders and people who might be afraid to see physicians based on how they could be judged for their physical size.

Until today I’ve never experienced such ignorance from a medical doctor.  I’d read about horror stories like this from others in the eating disorder recovery community who had doctors behave similarly, even women who were labeled “thin” but their internal functioning was not optimal.  Unfortunately we often forget our medical doctors are simply human, too. They are pressured by society, just like we are, to look a certain way, wear a certain size, and ascribe to socially accepted standards of beauty.

In situations like I had today it is up to us to find our courage and advocate for ourselves by bringing awareness to the medical practitioner.  We must try to educate medical doctors about how eating disorders function in the brain and that there truly can be health at every size before damage is done to another person who might be struggling.

While I was too stunned to speak up this morning, I will be writing a letter to that practice letting them know why I will not be returning and why I won’t bother to fill any of the years’ worth of Wellbutrin she called into the pharmacy.  Today reminded me that sometimes it is difficult to stand up for yourself while you’re in recovery, but it is absolutely necessary, no matter who the recipient of your advocacy might be.

With Body Love,
Lane

 

Eating Disorder, Recovery, Relapse

Begin Again

Where do I even begin?

It has been quite some time since I’ve had much to say–or much that I wanted to put out for the inter-webs to read, anyway.  I’ve been fighting the “good fight,” albeit unsuccessfully, for several months.  In my mind, I knew the decisions I was making were poor, leading me back to places I didn’t want to go, but I went anyway.  Willingly.

In May I began my trip back down the eating disordered path.  I became a vegetarian, something my husband is convinced re-opened the gates for the eating disorder.  In my healthy moments, I don’t think he is incorrect.  It began with a food “rule” so simple, so normative, nobody thought to question my motives.  Even if they had, any answer about how animals are raised and processed in the U.S. would be enough to satisfy the most curious of people.

After vegetarianism came cutting out other foods and food additives.  I didn’t even enjoy my daughter’s birthday cake this year because so much of it was on my “bad” list.  Something that, to this day, reminds me how far down into the depths of relapse I had descended; yet, it didn’t stop there.  A week after her birthday, one day after my husband left to join a ship for 75 days in the Philippines,  I bought a bathroom scale and proceeded to weigh myself often…okay, almost daily…for well over two months. Finally, after stumbling so far down the eating disordered rabbit hole that I could no longer pull myself back out, I confessed much of my relapsed behaviors to my priest and gave myself over to rebuilding my support network.  I was “trying to be my own savior,” as my priest so eloquently put it, because things were going from “bad to worse, not bad and staying bad.”  His two takeaway quotations were enough to strike me right in the heart and mind.  What had I been doing for all those months?  I had completely lost sight of the body-positive, healthy, recovery-oriented woman I’d taken years to become; seemingly tossed her aside like trash and ran back to what was comfortable and familiar.

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Living in Charleston I’d picked up the “habits” of being a Charlestonian–caring about appearance, clothing, body, and weight more than I had in Ohio.  In Ohio, I am built like so many other women I know.  Moms who don’t spend hours in the gym or subsist on sunshine and air alone. Living in Ohio I felt like it was okay if I didn’t have my “pre-baby body” back immediately afterward—or ever.  Charleston is a whole different ballgame.  Now, if you’ve never been to Charleston, SC let me tell you, it is full of beautiful people.  In fact, it made #7 on Travel & Leisure’s list of “Most Attractive Cities”  list in 2016.  If you ever walk around downtown, Mt. Pleasant, or Sullivan’s Island, you’ll see what they mean; not only is the historic nature of the city beautiful, but the people mirror the city.

Lilly Pulitzer and Jack Rogers adorn the bodies of women like a badge of Southern Honor, as if they passed some sacred Southern Charm test that concludes with, “Bless her heart, she just doesn’t fit in.”  The only thing dear, sweet Lilly makes in my size looks like a colorful potato sack my grandmother might have sewn, then proceeded to throw watercolor paint all over to try to make it look pretty.  Yeah, shift dresses really aren’t my thing, but they sure are Charleston’s.  Even Christian radio stations advertise different procedures you can have done at Lowcountry Plastic Surgery and how fantastic the results are, if you go.  Everything down here becomes about comparison in a way country living in Ohio was not, and I allowed myself to fall into that trap…again.

*****

I keep saying I’m working to dig “my”self out when, really, there is a team of awesome people who showed up with shovels.  Friends who cook with me, eat with me, and even (annoyingly, but helpfully) ask me what I ate to make sure I’m staying on track.  God bless my husband for going through this with me again, because even he admits this is not quite back to where we were in 2014, but it isn’t far from it either.  At one point while I was putting up a toddler-esque fight with him over dinner a few weeks ago, he just sighed.  I realized he was having the same argument with me that I have with our four-year-old daughter.  I was acting like a four-year-old about my food.

News flash: I’m almost 31.

That was eye-opening.

The next day I tore the boat apart looking for my old treatment documents so I could find my meal plan.  Sitting on the floor with a headlamp lighting my way, I found my journals from treatment and, neatly folded between the pages, my meal plan.  Digging it out I started writing out plans to get back on track with exchanges and eat every 3-4 hours.  Not a small undertaking, but I was–and am!–determined I am will regain the happy, go-lucky, healthy woman I was when we moved to Charleston 18 months ago.   I miss her.  I miss her personality, her positivity, her fearlessness.  In those moments I realized I exchanged the exuberant, vibrant, and unique woman I had fought so hard to become in order to fade into Charlestonian society.

And for what?

To wear a brightly colored potato sack and a pair of extremely uncomfortable sandals?   I don’t think so!  Bring on the recycled sari skirts, TOMS flats, and Fair Indigo soft cotton shirts; I want to be the unique, beautiful (inside and out) woman God designed me to be! My faith has grown immensely while living here, even though my eating disorder tried to quell that progress, my desire to serve The Lord prevailed and He provided me with enough support to take down Satan’s “army” of evil thoughts.

The journey to the woman I was when we arrived here is going to be arduous one with undoubtable slips and struggles but, I know I will succeed because it isn’t just me fighting, by my army of supporters who want to help me succeed.

With Body Love,
Lane

 

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

 

Eating Disorder, Recovery

A Recovery Nightmare

What happens when someone in recovery is terrified of gaining weight and sees someone who recovered and did just that?
You get me.  

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There is something with which I’ve been grappling for several months now, this idea that people in recovery do not want to hear what I have to say because I am their worst nightmare.  I am the woman who entered recovery and has gained a solid amount of weight as a result.  My natural set point is much heavier than what is remotely deemed acceptable by society; to the point where even I wouldn’t have listened to what someone my size had to say about recovery when I was in the disease.  Why?  I wouldn’t have been able to see beyond the body size to listen to his/her story.

When I was in the disease my goal was to eat as few calories as remotely possible to sustain life.  As a result, I went through periods where my body weight and size were much smaller than they are now, and yet I never “looked” like I was ill.  Well, except for two truly memorable times when, looking back, I’m amazed and grateful my body didn’t give out on me.  My body, my set point, were always heavier than a “normal” or an “average” woman for my age and height.  That was invariably how God designed me…and I loathed it.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t still struggle to accept this fact every now and again.

In fact, just today I was reflecting on this, as I recounted why I haven’t bothered finding a medical doctor in Charleston.  When we moved from Ohio last year, I had an excellent eating disorder treatment team that I knew I could lean on to not judge me for my body weight or size.  My doctor never belittled me because I am technically obese, she knew the struggle through which I walked and understood my body was trying to find its way. I fear the judgement of others.  I can speak to myself in very realistic terms: I starved myself, purged, and overexercised for 16 years; wreaking havoc on my metabolism and body.  Knowing this began when I was barely a teenager, my body never had a chance to mature and grow, or figure out the true weight and size it was meant to be.  I jumped in and tried to hijack my body to manipulate it into what I wanted it to be.  Ultimately, I sacrificed my body and my mind in order to live in fear of the judgement of others and living to please people.

Often, the eating disordered part of my brain still speaks to me and tries to tell me that no one can see beyond my body.  What I have to say about my 16-year struggle, and the never ending road of recovery on which I walk, will fall on deaf ears because of my size.  When someone with anorexia or bulimia sees me, s/he sees a nightmare: a woman who is overweight as a result of recovery.  The positive is, I recognize that is my eating disorder speaking and not me.  My reality lies with those who never fit the strict diagnostic criteria of anorexia or bulimia, according to the old DSM, but still struggled and felt unworthy of treatment because of weight and size.  Just like I had to convince myself (with some help from TJ) that my life and body were falling apart and I needed help, I learned that I was worthy of love, respect, and self-acceptance.

My body might be someone’s worst nightmare, but it is my greatest reality.
Every day I wake up I am reminded that I am this size because I chose life.
I chose to fight for my life by choosing recovery.

Walking in recovery means walking in this body, at this size, knowing I am healthy despite what society says.  No, you won’t catch me romping around in a bikini at Folly Beach this summer, but more power to the women society labels as “plus size” who are comfortable enough to do so.  Sometimes, I am just grateful to be walking around without a stress fractured pelvis, heart palpitations, and an extreme dissatisfaction with life.  Other days, I rock this thing called life and love the body in which I am living.
So, sometimes I see myself as a nightmare and other times, I see the reality of a life being lived in recovery–an ever-present struggle between fear of judgement and a disease, and being who I was meant to be–regardless of size.

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, God, Journaling, Recovery, Uncategorized

My Demon Has A Name

I’m calling out my current demon for what it is: depression.  While this isn’t directly related to body image, depression can indirectly impact my mood, self-worth, and all other aspects of my life.  Until today I didn’t realize what was happening; until today I didn’t know to call my demon by its name.

******

Two years ago at this time, January 2015, I was in treatment at The Center for Balanced Living; chipping away at the emotional baggage that accompanied a 16 year battle with an eating disorder.  I felt safe and surrounded by treatment professionals as I unloaded that baggage, learned my triggers, and exchanged all of it for pieces of my “new” personality and purpose in life.  Two years ago The Center was helping me along by calling out my demons when I couldn’t and walking alongside me as I found my way through the dark.

One year ago, January 2016, I was still in treatment but on an outpatient level.  Each week I drove to Columbus to see my outpatient therapist and dietician; further chipping away and the old and making room the new.  When my demons came calling my team was there to help me call them out and cope with the subsequent feelings and negative thoughts.  The hard work was getting easier and I felt more confident with each trial that came my way.  Support meant steps toward success.

Today, January 2017, I am out and “on my own;” having been completely discharged from treatment since April 2016.  There are times, lately more often that not, that I question whether I was fully prepared to step out on my own when I did.  At the time I felt healthy, strong, and emotionally able to knock down all my demons through positive thinking, coping skills, and Christ.  However, today I am not so sure.  Today, and nearly every day for the last six weeks, my demon has come to call and I’ve answered instead of fighting.  I’ve allowed depression to seep back into my life through the unsecured cracks in my recovery walls.  I stopped using coping skills, convincing myself I no longer needed things like journaling, yoga, or “me” time to decompress.  I threw myself to the wolves and the wolves have been winning–but today I am calling myself out.

******

The week before Thanksgiving my husband lost his job.  He was, at that time, the sole provider for our family; working weeks away from home in the oilfield.  Then he lost his job and our world was turned upside down.  I called the marina where we live to explain the situation and see if I could work there to help our family along while he figured out what was next for his career.  Graciously, I was given a job as a dockhand doing physical labor for $10.50 per hour.  Well, it was something, so I agreed in order to help support my family–benefits would not be included.  Despite having two degrees I do not hold a social work license in the state of South Carolina, so finding something in a related field would be nearly impossible; for most other jobs my degrees rendered me “overqualified”.  So now I find myself chipping oysters off cement pilings and washing dock boxes, lost in a sea of depression.

Each day I put on my happy face, staff t-shirt, and walk to work; returning at the end of the day exhausted and on the verge of tears.  Much of my depression can be chalked up to anxiety.  I constantly stress and worry over my much younger co-workers talking about me (doubtful), whether or not I’m making big mistakes (usually I’m not), and how long I can keep up this job before I have a breakdown in the employee bathroom (seriously, not much longer).  I put my headphones in and listen to praise and worship music as I chip away at the oysters, begging God to help me handle this anxiety and depression that, at times, seems almost debilitating.  Over the last few days some revelations have occurred during these oyster-chipping-worship hours, causing me to realize I have to confront my demons head-on and recognize where I am in life.

  1. I took being a stay-at-home-mom for granted, as well as the ability to freely write whenever I wanted and now I’m mourning that loss. For the last three years I’ve been a full-time mother and more often than not I was frustrated by the end of that day that I wasn’t doing “more” with my life.  I would clean up messes and meet up for playdates while wishing I could be doing something else.  At the same time, I had the freedom to write and work on my future (hopefully) Kindle Single but rarely did because I was convinced I had writers’ block or something of the sort.  Now I find myself wishing I could be the one running my daughter to school, dance, or a playdate at the park instead of soaking up the strong scent of bleach into my skin.  Lately I’ve been praying for God to give me a second chance at both of those things, as He is the one who gives and takes away.  I don’t always know His plans but I know He has a purpose for me being where I am in this moment and while I pray He changes it, I know He has me right where He wants me.  Clearly there is a lesson to be learned in all of this.
  2. Self-care and the use of coping skills is not a bunch of bologna.  When we moved aboard our boat I stopped doing yoga every day.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have time or space, we live on a catamaran so space isn’t really an issue; it was because I was convinced I no longer needed yoga to center myself and start each day balanced.  I thought being on the water every day would be life-balancing enough but, until recently, I didn’t realize how wrong I was.  I need daily yoga in my life for balance and mental health.  The same goes for journaling.  While I greatly enjoy writing for BBA and our family sailing blog–McKelveys on the Move–neither one can replace my trusty pen and paper journal for my mental health needs.
  3. Wishing my life and current situation could be different won’t solve anything.  Wishing for circumstances to change is a lot like crying over spilled milk; as you cry the spill seeps everywhere creating a bigger mess than the one with which you started.  Right now my life looks a lot like spilled milk that I’ve been crying over instead of cleaning.  Each day I wish my situation was different, that my husband had a good job again, and I would given back that time to write and play with my daughter every day.  Wishing for all those things doesn’t change where I am but only seeks to further my depression and squander the time that I do have doing the things I love.  So today, I’m going to stop crying over the spilled milk and start cleaning.

******

No where in the unfinished, utterly unwritten Book of Life does it say I have to love my job or be thrilled with my current situation.  It also doesn’t say that I have to be happy go-lucky 100 percent of the time.  What I am choosing to write in my Book of Life is this:

Depression comes and goes, the only thing that remains constant is Christ.

My current situation isn’t the most favorable but it is part of the greater plan for my life.  Aside from trusting God I can do my part to ensure the demon of depression stays at bay by committing to doing yoga, journaling, and appreciating each moment and opportunity for what it is.  While that is often easier said than done, choosing to make a commitment to my mental health is important; no one needs to read about the woman who had a mental breakdown in the employee bathroom…but if I do, it won’t be the end of the world because this is my life and so much of it has yet to be written.  This small paragraph in my book won’t last forever but there is always something to learn from every word.

With Body Love,
Lane

Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Shape, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Exercise, Feelings, Friends, Hope, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized

My “Friend” Gym

In the dark of the “Cardio Cinema” at Gold’s Gym I struggled to fight back the tears that started to come to my eyes.  My mind still isn’t healthy enough to do this, I admitted to myself in utter defeat.  The workout seemed easy enough but fighting back the demon that still plagues my mind is another story.    

******

I found a rabbit hole and couldn’t resist the shiny object at the end:
thinness and weight loss. 
Instead of following my recovery mind, I followed the eating disorder right down that hole.  That stupid, big black hole. 

In a matter of weeks I could feel myself slipping and, once again, becoming a woman possessed by workouts, “clean” foods, and my body.  Things I thought were long gone and replaced by more enjoyable life experiences such as happiness, writing for BBA, and health.  I wanted to build my strength and cardio endurance so hoisting the sails on our floating home would be a little less tiring each time I did it; fully acknowledging the risks associated with entering a gym.  In my case the risks are not so much physical as they are mental and emotional, but I thought I put a good support system in place.  I didn’t hide my gym membership from my husband and I even decided to start going with a friend who is in excellent physical condition to help me get back at it.  We set a time limit, and often broke it, but had a plan for our time at the gym nonetheless.  I couldn’t just exercise endlessly without accountability.  That was my plan.  My plan had one major fault: my brain.

By entering the exercise arena again, I opened up a corner in my brain that allowed the eating disorder to slowly creep back into my life.  I could “hear”  it before I wanted to admit it was back.  The voice telling me not to eat because I had done such an excellent workout that I shouldn’t poison my caloric loss with more calories.  Red Flag.  Talking myself into eating over a grumbling stomach; knowing I had only eaten twice but now it was after 7pm so I shouldn’t eat anything more.  Red Flag.  My brain telling me to just make some green tea and sip on it until I am no longer hungry.  Maybe I should.  Maybe then I could actually lose some weight.  Red Flag.   I found myself obsessively looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces with a consistency I haven’t had in months, berating my body and appearance.  It took over my mind every time I saw my reflection with a vengeance for giving it up in the first place.  Red Flag. I found myself utilizing the same old excuses with family and friends who voiced concern over my return to the gym, reassuring them I knew what I was doing and I was ready for this.  Red Flag.

Red Flag.
Red Flag.
Bright, red, you-can’t-freaking-miss-it flag. 

My recovery mind was fading into the background fast; replaced with thoughts dominated by the eating disorder instead of the real me.  But why?  Why now?
I’ve been doing well for so long…

I returned to the gym during a period of high stress.  Mistake número uno.  My sister and the son of my Army Soulmate/BFF were having surgery and I was stressed.  I needed an outlet and I felt my life was too hectic to sit down and write.  Instead of utilizing safe outlets such as yoga, writing, and paddleboarding; I opted for one of my bigger triggers because I thought surely I was ready for a triumphant return.  

I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to be with my sister and Army Soulmate for the surgeries; requiring I stay at a hotel.  Only I didn’t stay at a hotel.  I stayed at this quaint little place, Family House, for people who have loved ones at local hospitals.  Upon walking into the place it felt eerily like walking into an eating disorder treatment facility; a feeling that made me want to rebel against recovery with every fiber of my being.  The large kitchen with two industrial size refrigerators, large sinks, and multiple microwaves screams community meals.  The environment is meant to feel inviting, like a home, but instead feels like what it is–a place where people stay when something serious happens.  I stood in the oversized kitchen after both surgeries had been completed and I had been up for 18 hours, when my mind flashed back to my time at the Center for Balanced Living.  At least this time my food wasn’t being checked and re-checked for meal plan accountability and I wasn’t going to be watched while I ate.  I suddenly felt devious.  I could sit alone at a table where I could eat as slowly as I wanted and throw out food without the need to hide it first.  What I couldn’t believe was that I was even entertaining this thought.  I sat at the table, playing with my food, and eating it incredibly slowly; pushing the thought out of my mind that I might actually be starting to struggle again.  Despite being very busy while in Pittsburgh, I made time for exercise because I couldn’t “undo” all the hard work I had recently been doing.  

All these red flags and I kept ignoring them.  Excusing them away and dismissing them as paranoia.  I mean, when will I get my life “back” if I don’t start now?  I do enjoy the occasional run and the feeling of  being back in the gym, but I went too hard too fast.  The safeguards weren’t enough because I started out doing too much too soon. I didn’t ease back into the gym, I went at it like my mind and body were fully healed and not susceptible to relapse.

I was wrong.

Healing from an eating disorder doesn’t happen overnight.
Recovery and healing happens over years; marked by struggles, slips, and points of higher learning.
My experience in the gym is a point of learning.  Learning I am not able to exercise daily like I used to because my mind isn’t ready for it.
The trigger to return to the eating disorder is still there, lying in wait, for me to choose it.
I chose it.
I tried to ignore it but thankfully I’m stronger than that now.  My husband is stronger and knows when to call it to my attention.
Together we won’t let the eating disorder retake my life.

******

On a similar, yet slightly different note, I hate myself a little for supporting a business that thinks posting crap like this is appropriate, but it is what it is.  Besides, I haven’t been a “girl” in quite some time…I’m almost 30!   

golds-crap

I much prefer the cover image I’ve chosen from Women’s Running Magazine that both demonstrates and states that weight doesn’t matter.  Because it doesn’t. 

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. 

******

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