Body Acceptance, Eating Disorder, Encouragement, Faith, God, Recovery

The End of an Era

“To let yourself go, is to burn with desire and never look back.”
-r.m. drake

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Each year, near this date, I reflect upon the evening I went to treatment; the anxiety, fear, and anger–with myself and those who “intervened” on my life–when I pulled open the heavy wooden doors and walked into a world for which I was not quite prepared. I’m always grateful to no longer be in that place, both physically and mentally, but I would still have moments when I would spend more time on that day focusing on the past than the future.

I tried really hard to be the “perfect” patient.  Four years ago I felt like a failure as a mom, wife, and person as a whole so I didn’t want to be a failure in the recovery department as well.  I had just been discharged from the Army due to anxiety and eating disorder, losing part of my identity in the process.  My daughter was just over a year old and I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and, in moments, was certain she would have been better off with someone else.

From the moment I entered treatment at The Center for Balanced Living, I played the game and played it well.  My meal plan was followed to the letter; I never tried to get away with having less for each meal than was meticulously planned ahead of time (and approved by a team of treatment staff), I didn’t attempt to purge while at the facility, and I didn’t hide my food.  I always did my treatment “homework” and came prepared to be a “leader” in the group.  The one thing for which I didn’t account at the time was how playing the game would ultimately delay true recovery.

The eight weeks I spent driving back and forth to Columbus for treatment was indeed a time of self-discovery.  I was nearly 27 and didn’t even know what my favorite color was!  I had spent my entire life playing a game; people-pleasing everyone until I was so drained, I neglected myself.  I wanted nothing more than to be perfect in every way.  I never wanted anyone to have a reason to dislike me or think ill of me; a mindset that has forced me to look back over my failures (perceived or actual) and stumble back down relapse road.  By the grace of God, I am grateful I am no longer intimately familiar with “relapse road”.

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This year, on the fourth anniversary of when I entered treatment (December 8th), I am working toward being more authentic than I have ever been; unashamed of myself, my beliefs, or desires.  Just as the quotation at the top of this post says, I have slowly been letting myself go and burning bright with desires I’ve always been too fearful to have show.  I’m tired of looking back and wishing I had allowed myself to make more mistakes in treatment; to play the manipulative part with the treatment staff openly, rather than storing it up inside and being manipulated by Satan.  Well, I am manipulating myself and others no more and I’m not looking back on that time as a failure, either.

I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat artistic.  Not in the sense that my amazing friend Megara Wiild is; but in the musical sense and I’ve always been afraid to embrace the “odd” side that comes with a more artistic brain.

  • I like tattoos (and wish I had more than one).
  • I want my hair to be a wild color and have started experimenting with adding “secret” colors to the underside.
  • I’ve finally started dressing how I please (rather than how society says I should).
  • I love God and desire to serve Him with all I have, with all that I am and to do so without concern for how others may judge me.
  • Along with that, I prefer to cover my head for prayer or church service, as a sign of respect to my husband (especially when he is away) and honor to God–something most women no longer do.
  • I, along with my husband and daughter, have been called to be long-term missionaries, sailing to Central America.  This year, on the anniversary of entering treatment, we will be setting sail from Charleston, SC toward Central America.
  • One of my deepest desires is to be a voice and a helper for other Christians struggling with mental illness who are afraid to seek help for fear of judgement or being told to “pray harder” to make it go away.

These are the reasons why I am burning with desire and looking forward–no longer looking back.  This will be the last year I do an “anniversary” post because I have so much more to live for and I don’t need to continually look back and take “stock” in order to measure success.  Recovery, as with everything in life, is a process and constantly changing.

Moving forward in the calling The Lord has placed on my life is the reason I have decided to end my Beautiful Body Acceptance blog.  My writing – this blog – has been an invaluable tool for me during times when I could not process or speak clearly about what I was experiencing.  I’ve lived recovery as a pretty open book, sharing the good, the bad, and the dreadfully ugly.  Moving forward with life is what I am supposed to, and will, do.  This chapter is closing, and the writing I hope to preserve by turning into a book in the future (with a few additional writings, as I have FIVE posts that remain unpublished).

My recovery has been anything but perfect, and that is what makes it so incredible.  My faith has grown deeper and my desire to share it has greatly increased.  I am going to live out Matthew 28, The Great Commission, by hanging up my recovery blogging hat and focusing solely on our mission work.  I’ve discovered strengths I never knew I had and allowed myself to become the woman I was afraid to let others see…me.

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I will leave the Beautiful Body Acceptance Facebook and Instagram pages accessible for another month before disbanding the social media accounts.  Please, feel free to follow along on our family’s mission by following us at our sailing  blog, Cay to Life, or on Facebook and Instagram.

Finally, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has followed this blog for the last four years.  You have provided support, love, and encouragement along the way and I am grateful for each of you.  I pray each of you finds solid recovery and the strength to stand up for your authentic self each and every day.  xoxo

With Body Love,
Lane

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.

*****

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, 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, 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, Eating Disorder, Emotions, God, Recovery

Robbed and Reborn

I often say my eating disorder helped make me the woman I am today.  That statement is not false, as it developed at the start of my adolescence and carried me into adulthood.  My eating disorder comforted me through the stress of middle school; the pressure to be perfect in high school; fear of failure in college and the desire to be the best female officer in my military unit.  My eating disorder was the third wheel in my marriage; the shoulder to cry on during death of my father, and the driving force behind my postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of my daughter.  While the eating disorder held and overwhelmingly large role in my life during my developmental years, it also robbed me of a plethora of youthful experiences throughout my life.  It took away time that I’ll never recover.

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As a 30-year-old wife and mother, I have grown to realize while most people my age where identifying their personalities, likes and dislikes, and exploring the world around them I was focused on food.  Nearly every memory I can conjure up over a 16-year span in my life involves food—or the fear of it—in some form or fashion.  It is almost as if my adolescent and college years were laser-focused on calories, food, exercise, and fear of public opinion.  I did all I could to remain the innocent and sweet girl the adults in my life knew and wanted me to be.  Very rarely did I push the boundaries of what was permissible and, when I did, it was under extreme peer pressure.  I never attempted to sneak out of the house in high school, despite having the perfect bedroom setup for such a feat.  I was never late to anything and panicked over timelines and deadlines.  I watched Center Stage on repeat, longing to have the body of a ballerina.  Instead of reading mysteries, romance, or what was popular, I was reading Reviving Ophelia and Stick Figure as triggers and an attempt to further normalize my eating disorder.  Something about reading books like that in adolescence hardwired my brain to forever only find eating disorder and recovery-based books interesting.

In college, when friends stayed out late, I was pulling late-night study sessions in the library because my fear of failure wouldn’t allow me to have fun.  Instead of bar hopping and enjoying my new-found freedom in turning 21, I would gym hop and spend hours exercising.  I didn’t buy beer for my birthday, I bought a second gym membership off campus.  Rather than participating in “Pizza and Real World” nights my friends would have in their dorm room, I pulled marathon sessions of HBO: Thin, Secret Between Friends, and Dying to Dance; making absolutely sure I burned every last calorie I had eaten that day.  Sometimes I would break down from extreme hunger and drive to Wendy’s in order to buy my favorite “binge foods” off the dollar menu, only to go home and purge.  Sometimes I didn’t even make it that far before I had to do the deed.  I remember how my thoughts raced in fear the night my roommate and her boyfriend brought home a Chicken Alfredo pizza; calories upon calories that I would have to attempt to eat and would subsequently purge.  Rather than attending a local fraternity party, I went running on the dark streets of Ypsilanti, Michigan late at night only to pass the fraternity party a friend was attending and he insisted on walking me home because he was worried.  All I could think about was how I was missing out on burning more calories instead of being thankful someone was looking out for my well-being.  When President Obama was elected in 2008, I watched his victory speech from the treadmill at my 24-hour gym…it was past midnight.  I was the only one in the gym other than the employee.  The eating disorder robbed me of a true college experience; made of bad decisions, pizza, and making fun memories with friends.  My memories involve all those things, but most are far from positive memories.

By the time I commissioned in the Army I knew I had a serious problem.  I would do training on as few calories as possible; fortunate not to become a casualty by means of mental illness.  Knowing I was my body’s biggest enemy while attending Airborne school at Fort Benning couldn’t stop me from restricting my caloric intake and purging before training to jump out of airplanes.  After nearly passing out on a five-mile formation run, and being forced to drink copious amounts of water by my peers in an attempt to keep me from getting booted out of Airborne school, I ate a little more for the duration of training…which was all of one week longer.  After I was assigned to my unit, I purged lettuce while on training missions out in the field in order to cope with the perceived stress of my job.  After going to dinner one evening with my superior officers, I purged in the restaurant bathroom then had an anxiety-filled meltdown on my cot later that night about what I had done and the fear of being caught.  The eating disorder robbed me of being the best officer I could’ve been by being healthy.

When I got married the eating disorder played a role in everything.  My husband is a saint for putting up with it—in many ways, he still does.  I didn’t want to have him feed me cake at our wedding because I didn’t want to eat cake.  We did the wedding ritual but that was the only cake I ate.  The eating disorder became my partner when TJ went away for work.  We lived our lives in three or four week increments at that time and each time TJ went away, the eating disorder returned full-force.  Then TJ would come home and I would have to resume eating like a “normal” person.  It was a vicious cycle. I would argue with him over food, my body, and how I viewed myself.  To this day I don’t know how TJ dealt with the grief I was giving him.  We have had to work hard to establish our marriage in recovery because TJ married a different person than the woman he is married to now.

Finally, by the time Vivienne came along, enough was enough.  My dad died while I was pregnant, and instead of restricting my calories or purging, I ate my feelings.  I ate everything.  I thought I was granting myself reprieve from the eating disorder in order to nourish a healthy baby, but really I just exchanged my traditional eating disorder behaviors for a new set of behaviors.  Instead of eating less to be “healthy” I was eating anything and everything in order to help numb out the grief.  I ended up giving birth to a nearly 10-pound baby girl, but she was healthy nonetheless.  The eating disorder robbed me of experiencing joy and a true emotional attachment to pregnancy.

While the eating disorder has given me many, many memories and robbed me of so much, it also gave me many positive things.  My senior year of undergrad I attempted to get help when my Army ROTC program forced my hand a little.  I attended therapy and an off-campus support group.  I still remember the phone call and conversation with the treatment provider at the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders. Even though I was often a less-than-willing participant in my therapy sessions, I was given the first (albeit shaky) foundation for my eventual recovery.  In the support group, I met four brilliant and beautiful women with whom I formed a very strong friendship that remains to this day.  We called ourselves the Monday Night Enthusiasts because, let’s face it, when you’re spending time in therapy and support groups instead of partying it up in college, you connect with those who understand you and your situation.  Some of my best, happiest, and most fond college memories involve those women. (T-rex arm fight, anyone?)  Down the line, when I attended IOP in Columbus, I met another woman who I would call a best friend—more like another sister.  We barely knew each other in treatment, as she was leaving in my first few weeks of attendance, but down the line she lived with us and we formed an amazing friendship.  She helped fill the support gap when TJ went to work, offering me accountability in recovery after treatment.  I often think I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t come to live with us for those six months.

The eating disorder gave me the chance to go to treatment and truly get to know myself.  Over the course of two years I dug deeper into my past and myself than most people ever will.  I learned how to view the world through a different set of lenses, ones that allow me to love myself with open arms.  Being on this earth and occupying space in this body is a gift; one that many people take for granted every day.  Society tells us we should hate our bodies and compare our lives to everyone else—for these is always something better, right?  Recovery, which was only possible because I struggled with an eating disorder, taught me to value it all.  Value my experiences, my body, and my life.  That doesn’t mean it will all be pretty and wonderful, but with each experience is a lesson and it is up to me to value the lesson.  The eating disorder gave me the chance to be a healthy role model for Vivienne because I chose to recover.  I will continue to teach her to love her body, value her experiences, and see that life is a precious gift.

I used to wonder why God “made” me suffer from an eating disorder for so long.  It wasn’t to punish me or because He didn’t love me.  No, God wanted me to recover all along but it was up to me to choose when to fully immerse myself in the joy of recovery.  What was supposed to be “the best years” of my life were no where near what I am experiencing today.  Being a healthy, recovery-minded mom and wife are definitely the best years for me. Every day I see God using my struggle for the benefit of others and I realize all that pressure–16 years of pressure–was to help form a diamond.  A rough around the edges, uncut diamond that is still being shaped into a shining gemstone for Christ.

With Body Love,
Lane

This post is dedicated to K.K.M.  Your light was beautiful, bright, and will always be remembered.  I know you’re t-rex arm fighting in heaven.

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 

Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Encouragement, Exercise, Feelings, Friends, Gratitude, Hope, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

Challenge to Train

The therapist I saw during my years in graduate school would marvel at how I turned everything into a competition.  It doesn’t matter what, I made it a competition in my mind in order to be the best…to be perfect.  

Here I am, years later, a little–okay, a lot–less competitive.
However, all that has started changing.

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I joined a local gym in the fall and struggled to maintain a healthy focus while getting back into something that was once used as a tool against me by my eating disorder.  My thoughts quickly changed from having a healthy focus to an eating disordered focus rather quickly.  While I wasn’t spending an excessive amount of hours in the gym, I was severely restricting my food intake in combination with exercise; making my sole focus weight-loss.  Within a few weeks of joining the gym my behavior started to raise red flags with those who are close to me.  My track record of easing back into the gym is definitely not good.

Therefore, when I signed up for the Ruck to Remember 60 to 60 event taking place over Memorial Day weekend, I knew I needed to start with my head in the right place.  The event is a 60 mile ruck march where I’ll be carrying 40 pounds on my back.  While it takes place over three days, it will still be physically and mentally demanding.  I had considered signing up for this event for several months, but feared training for it because of the eating disorder’s ability to grab ahold of my brain in the gym.  That, and the last time I did a long ruck march was when I was in the Army very sick with an eating disorder, and ended up stress fracturing my pelvis from overuse and stress on weak bones.  Needless to say that was a less than pleasurable experience.  So, how to tackle training while keeping the eating disordered thoughts at bay?             

Reach out.  I’m training for this with a former Army instructor, turned friend, who will also be participating.  Accountability for training.  This instructor was with me when I got injured during the ruck march before and hung back with me at my painfully (literally) slow pace because I refused to quit.  Next, I e-mailed my former dietician to ask for help and guidance with the nutritional side of things.  I concluded the e-mail with, “I know this sounds like an eating disorder horror story…” Nutritional guidance for endurance training.  Finally, I found a training buddy here in Charleston.  A former Army infantryman has decided to run with me at 0400 in the morning (or in the afternoon, if I’m lucky) before he goes to work.  I’ve surrounded myself with accountability this time around.  Of course, I strive to be honest with TJ about everything, including the moments when the desire to hit the gym may not be motivated by healthy factors.

Instead of turning this into a competition with myself to be perfect or to lose weight and burn calories, I’ve turned this into a competition with myself for something good.  This is a competition to prove when I am healthy I can do more and be better than I ever was when I was sick.  I look back on several occasions when I was in the Army and find myself grateful nothing worse than a stress fractured pelvis happened to me as a result of the eating disorder.  Now I am out to prove to myself that training in a healthy body–a body that is far heavier than it was at any point during my time in service–can serve me better than my sick and broken body ever did.  For once I am taking my need to compete and putting it toward a recovery mindset instead of an illness centered one.

During my two years of treatment for the eating disorder, I learned to embrace mindful, slow exercises such as yoga and slow walking.  While these exercises are fantastic for the mind and my healing body, I appreciate their place and purpose, but there is something deep inside that yearns to leave everything I have on the pavement.  The Army instilled in me the need to compete with myself and I want to train with a purpose for something greater than just me.  Participation in the 60 to 60 event does just that.  It gives me a greater purpose and a reason to, once again, leave it all on the gravel.  My body is healthier and more nourished than ever before, as is my mind.  By the time Memorial Day rolls around I will be ready to participate, and my focus won’t be on calories burned or weight lost, but rather the lives that were lost protecting the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

I can already see a difference in how I treat my training times now versus six months ago.  Having a designated purpose for training makes all the difference to me and my recovery.

With Body Love,
Lane

PS In case you are wondering, yes, the featured image is of me in 2007 during some Army training.   Here is another (that is me in the front):

HMMWV Pull

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