Eating Disorder, Emotions, Social Media, Triggers

Unintentional Promotion

To The Bone

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

The truth?

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

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

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

My thoughts?

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

To The Bone Trigger Warning

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

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

Okay, back to the point…

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

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

 Each narrative is valid.  

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

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

With Body Love,
Lane

 

Eating Disorder, Emotions, Recovery, Social Media, Triggers

Taking Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Body Love,
Lane

Appreciation, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Hope, Journaling, Joy, Love, Motivation, New Year, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

Happy Holidays

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.  Each moment is all we need, nothing more.”
-Mother Teresa

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The holidays are challenging for people struggling with, and in recovery from, eating disorders and I don’t think it really matters how long a person has been in recovery–the holidays can be rough.  Food, and tons of it, at every gathering and family members who are either talking about their own diet and work out regimen or commenting on the progress of the person in recovery.  Sometimes it is difficult to tune out the diet talk or know how to handle comments about recovery, but that is why it is of the utmost importance to be mindful and present at all times.

Christmas is right around the corner, closely followed by New Year’s and those *wonderful* resolutions.  We are about to be spammed more than usual with diets, before and after photos of half naked people praising the latest boot camp style at home workouts, and the pushing of gym memberships.  Not only that, but this year my 30th birthday happens to be sandwiched between the two.  Yep.  The big 3-0 in two weeks.  Talk about time to practice being mindful and present at all times!  It can really be challenging to stay mindful but here are some tips on how I plan to do it and you can always use them too…

  1. Yoga, deep breathing.  These are always my go-to for mindfulness and bringing myself back to the present.  I live on a sailboat in South Carolina where the weather has grown chilly and doing morning yoga outside isn’t really an option and neither is doing yoga in a very small space; therefore I don’t get to do this one as often as I like anymore but even a few simple poses can help.  Take time on the morning of a gathering to do a quick 10-minute sun salutation to start your day and get yourself into the right frame of mind to deal with negativity and diet talk.  Clear your head and throughout the practice remind yourself that you are enough and you are beautiful exactly as you are in this moment.  Find things you appreciate about your body and speak them gently to yourself.  Once you reach the gathering take a few moments before going inside to breathe deeply for five breaths and again remind yourself that you are enough and there are many wonderful things about you.  If you find yourself struggling with anxiety during a gathering take a step back in a quiet room and repeat the deep breathing exercises.
  2. Power Playlist.  I love music.  It is huge motivator and mood changer for me so I have playlists ranging from caribbean/reggae, Christian, to recovery oriented positive playlists.  Depending on my mood I select something to help lift it.  Typically the recovery positive playlist is my go-to when driving to gatherings or places where I know anxiety will automatically increase.  Singing the songs in the car helps immensely to bring myself into the present moment.  Listening to my recovery positive playlist helps me feel empowered, strong, and prepared to deal with any eating disorder thoughts that pop in my head.
  3. Small Reminders.  I have a thin rubber bracelet that says “Beautiful Body Acceptance” on it that I wear often.  Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a treatment professional who said she loaned her BBA bracelet to a client over Thanksgiving to help bring about mindfulness in times of stress.  While not everyone has a BBA bracelet there may be a small piece of jewelry you can look at to remind yourself that you are beautiful, unique, and your body is something to be loved and appreciated.  Maybe it is a small silver wave ring or bangle to remind you to let the emotions roll over you like waves, acknowledging them but not being taken under by them.   The same could be said of an ocean blue colored piece of jewelry or something with sea glass.  However, the sea is not calming to everyone (I love it and practically live on it, as I live on a sailboat) but surely there is something that could help remind you to acknowledge the emotions but not be swept away by them.  Be creative!

There are so many ways to be mindful and bring yourself back to the present during the holidays.  The most important thing is to remind yourself that you need to take time for self care.  Constantly being around others can take a toll on anyone, but especially someone who is trying to recover from an eating disorder.  Anxiety, stress, worry, and the eating disorder voice and take over at any moment which is why it is so very important to remember to take time for mindfulness.  Experience joy this Christmas season by believing that you are worthy, loved, and beautiful just as you are.  Take time to breathe and remember why you are fighting so hard for recovery.

With Body Love,
Lane 

Body Image, Body Love, Body Size, Challenge, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Encouragement, Faith, Feelings, Friends, God, Hope, Recovery, Triggers, Uncategorized, Weight

TrIgGeRs

“Whenever you get TRIGGERED...get curious.
Ask why.
Dive DEEP.
That’s where the beauty lies.”

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Sometimes triggers feel like they can break me.  At the very least they shake me to my core and make me question my recovery; forcing me to examine my stance and stability–or lack thereof.  While I once had a running list of things that triggered me, those things now cease to exist and it is the random, small things that force me to dig deeper in recovery.

In the beginning triggers where the glaring, obvious things that often stand in the way of people trying to achieve solid recovery.  Some of those are still triggers for me and force me to step with caution in this dance I call life in recovery.  Triggers would often follow the “people, places, things” rule that those in recovery for substance addiction face.  However, triggers can often be other things such as songs, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and smells. Sometimes triggers are so random they sneak up on me and I feel like they are going to swallow me whole; forcing me to return to the “safety” and “security” the eating disorder once provided.

For the longest time I had to avoid Wendy’s fast food restaurant because in college I would go through the drive thru and order things off the dollar menu to eat and subsequently purge.  Wendy’s became a trigger for me once I started to move toward recovery my senior year of college, suddenly becoming off-limits.  A place could set me down the wrong path.

To this day the song Courage by SuperChick throttles me back in time to lying, hiding, and covering up my actions.  Telling everyone I was fine, I had eaten dinner before I arrived, or that I hadn’t exercised beyond the point of exhaustion more than once that day was a near daily occurrance.  I can still picture myself driving through the University of Michigan campus on my way to the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders  for the Monday night support group listening to that song.  It was on my “triggering” playlist I kept on my old-school iPod Nano to spur me on toward a lesser caloric intake and unhealthy weight loss.

Numbers are still a trigger for me but it is no longer every number related to an eating disorder (weight, calories, numbers, etc.), just certain ones.  For example, I still avoid seeing my weight at the doctor’s office and I have no intention of returning to knowing it because, for me, it serves no purpose other than to instigate evil in my life.  Calories, however, no longer bother me as much as they once did.  Often I don’t even look at them unless they happen to be plastered on the menu at a restaurant, then it seems unavoidable.  When people rattle off their weight, pants size, or amount of time spent engaging in exercise I am often unfazed.  At least I no longer compare myself to others!

Sometimes I don’t have to dig very deep to figure out my trigger; I only have to HALT. I first learned about HALT in grad school when I was working under an amazingly brazen internship supervisor who was in long-term recovery for substance addiction.   She was seriously kick-ass–and still is!  Anyway, HALT was used to help those in substance addiction recovery figure out their triggers and I realized it applied to eating disorder recovery as well.  Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  Most of the time what is triggering me fits into one (or more) of those simple categories.  Although, there is almost always more to it if the trigger is in the “angry” or “lonely” category.  A different internship supervisor in grad school always said anger is a secondary emotion so we need to dig deeper to find out what is really causing the problem.

However, I still have those random triggers that sneak up on me.

Today I had to dig a little deeper to find why something triggered me.  I had to ask myself why I was being triggered by something so seemingly small.  What was it?

A sore throat.

An absolutely random thing was triggering me to engage in an eating disorder behavior.  I swallowed a piece of the bread on my grilled cheese and it scratched my throat as it slid down.  The sensation was so eerily similar to the feeling of purging that I could feel the thoughts creeping in and encouraging me to go ahead and engage in that behavior.  The thoughts telling me to do it “just once” because I was already having an “off” day.  That’s when my recovery brain–MY brain–jumped in and thought, “Ah ha! There is the real issue; the ‘off’ day.”  But what about it had been so “off” anyway?  I started to think along the HALT line: I wasn’t overly hungry (since I was eating), I wasn’t tired, but I was feeling angry and somewhat lonely.

Realistically, one of my biggest triggers–if not the biggest–is anger.  Before going to treatment and learning how to feel and experience emotions again, all I ever felt was anger.  I would hold all my feelings inside until a situation that made me angry came along and I exploded; not usually on a person but on myself in the form of engaging in the eating disorder.  Makes sense right?  Not.  I allowed something someone else said/did to anger me (usually meaning I was hurt by their words/actions) and only hurt myself more instead of talking to that person.  I digress, I was feeling angry about things that made no sense to be angry about and determined it was really just feelings of frustration and stress instead of anger.

Aside from stress and frustration, I also felt a little lonely.  As I’ve stated before, we moved  to a new state and, even though we lived here once before, my family and my closest friends are still in Ohio (or Columbia, SC and Saint Vincent in the Caribbean…okay, I have a lot of friends but none in Charleston).  While I used to have almost weekly coffee dates with friends and a standing weekly lunch date in Ohio, I no longer have any of that.  I am usually quick to make new friends (as my sister says, I can make friends with a rock) but our current situation makes that a little difficult.  However, as I turned my mind toward the positives and reasons why none of this was worth throwing in the towel on recovery and allowing a lapse to creep into my life, I counted my blessings.

God is providing for our needs.
We have a place to temporarily stay while we finalize our new living arrangements.  We have food, shelter, and clothing.  We definitely are not “homeless” as I often lament to friends.

I am staring to make new friends in the one area where I branch out.
The Charleston Community Yoga center is ah-mazing.  From my very first class I felt welcomed into the friendly atmosphere.  I started to become a “regular” at a few morning classes and, as a result, met a woman who has a child the same age as mine and we have started planning to have playdates.  Hopefully once we get plugged in at a good church in the area we will make even more new friends.

Finally…

Any day in recovery is better than even one moment in the disease!
Yes, I get frustrated and stressed that God’s timeline isn’t lining up with MY timeline but that doesn’t mean this is an “off” day.  It just means His timing for our living situation hasn’t been met yet.  Patience, Lane.  Seriously, this small amount of time is just that–small.

With Body Love,
Lane