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.

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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, Faith, God, Recovery, Relapse

Things Can Change

“Progress not perfection.”
“Secrets keep you sick.”
“Don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others.”

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These cliche eating disorder recovery quotations are what come to mind as I sit down to write this post.  I’ve been struggling with shame lately, as I receive messages from people speaking about how my story and recovery are inspirational.  In the last few weeks I’ve felt as if I am living a lie.  My mind and recovery have been shrouded in shame as I face the truth about myself: I’ve been living in a full-blown relapse; not just a slip, or a small lapse, but an all-encompassing, all-consuming relapse.

My recovery is not perfect, despite my desire for it to often appear as such.  In fact, my recovery has twists and turns just like everyone else.  I am perfectly imperfect.
(Yes, another cliche quotation)   

That once small eating disorder voice started to come back to life in June when the financial stresses of my husband’s job loss were really beating down on us.  From that point it grew into what it is today–the loud, obnoxious, controlling, and hellish voice it is.  I could no longer drown it out so I began to follow its demands for me to restrict my food intake and increase my exercise.  The lies and cover ups for my behavior quickly followed.  I went so far as to tell my priest’s wife nothing was going on, when she asked me after church one Sunday because she had noticed a change in my behavior around food at our bible study.  (For anyone who is wondering, I attend and Anglican church and our priests can be married.)

I told myself I could handle this on my own, no one would need to know I signed a deal with the devil and picked up old habits.  My “fate” for truly entering this relapse was sealed when I picked a number and set it as my target for weight loss over the next few months.  Of course, I needed a way to measure and quantify this target so I broke my number one rule for recovery: do not step on a scale.   I didn’t just step on a scale, I went to Walmart and bought one. For two weeks I carried the scale around in my backpack like a secret weight of shame on my shoulders and weighed myself almost daily.  Watching the number decrease, as a result of my starvation, increased the eating disordered part of my brain.

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This sealed my fate for relapse

Throughout this downfall I documented the tailspin in a series of notes on my phone.  I could see the path down which I was heading and did not try to stop it; instead, I embraced it. 

Last weekend I “came clean” to my priest’s wife while my daughter happily watched Moana.  I realized I was in over my head and needed more support than I could give myself.  So, I did one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a long time and reached out for help.  You see, in South Carolina I lack the amazing support network I had in Ohio; not because I don’t know anyone, but because I haven’t truly let anyone in.  I no longer have my therapist, dietician, doctor, friends, or support group at the treatment center.  I came to the realization that I don’t have a solid support system here that knows how my eating disorder operates and, in order to regain strength, and focus once again on recovery, I need to build a support system.

Surrounding myself with people who will check in and support me when every bite seems difficult is what will be key to getting back on the right track.  Rather than spending a ton of time in “talk therapy” when I already know what I need to do, I plan to build a new method of recovery.  One where God is truly the center of it.  My faith has always been an integral part of my path but it has never been the center; that spot was reserved for the professionals on my treatment team.  I will not deny they gave me the tools and knowledge I have right now, but it is time to focus on the bigger picture for long-term recovery.

My recovery looks a lot like a puzzle, and with one piece out of place the whole thing falls apart.  One piece at a time my recovery was disassembled, and one painstaking piece at a time it will be replaced; this time with God at the center.

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I decided to craft a visual for my recovery puzzle

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Rather than cliche eating disorder recovery quotations, this will be the quotation on which I will place my focus; remembering God has the power to change me and heal my thought patterns.  I’ve always been afraid to speak much on my faith, for fear of judgement and ridicule that I must not be faithful enough; otherwise, I wouldn’t have an eating disorder anymore.  God knows my heart and wants to work through me for the benefit of others.  In order for His works to be done, I must be in a place to receive what He has for me, and it all begins with getting back into recovery.

With Body Love (working on it again),
Lane

P.S. For my South Carolina friends, be prepared, I’m going to be asking for your help a lot more for the time being.

 

 

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