Monthly Archives: February 2012

Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

Way back in 2004, I made a big decision. I got out of class one night and drove from the city back to my parents’ house with the intention of telling them I had an eating disorder. It was rather spontaneous, although it had been in the back of my mind for months. Having had inconsistent luck with friends when seeking support, I wanted to try and avoid those same pitfalls when speaking with my family.

I had found an article on a website that seemed perfect – it was something I wished I could make everyone read before they tried to talk about eating disorders. I printed it out and stuck it in my backpack, where it stayed for weeks, just in case I needed it. When I finally got home, I handed the print-out to my mother and asked her to read it and to not say anything until she had.

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 9

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Part 9 brings us a great post from author Becky Henry, who shared her Top 10 Reasons for Recovery, but first explains it’s origins:

I’m on a mission to improve the lives of all impacted by these most deadly of all mental illnesses.  One life at a time.  I start with the family members who are walking around with their hearts ripped open from the pain they have observed in their loved ones who are being taken over by one of these monsters.

As part of that mission I am doing what I can to help raise funds for research.  The AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research idea came to me one morning while meditating.  There are approximately 70 million people worldwide suffering from eating disorders.  They all have at least one person who cares about them.  The idea is that if each of those carers donates $1 to this fund then there will be millions for research scholarships. Here is the website http://www.aedweb.org/Get_Involved.htm when you click on the purple words AED and Hope Network 1 Family $1 Drive for Eating Disorders Research you will be taken  to another page.  On this page put your dollar amount in the box next to the words, “Scholarship Fund” and your donation will add to the others and soon we’ll have some answers. 

In that role of helping the caregivers or carers I often suggest that they make a “Top 10 List” of things that they enjoy doing, that bring them peace and joy.  The purpose is to help them get their oxygen mask on so to speak.  To get their cup filled up so that they are equipped to not only function well themselves but also to be an effective support to their loved one who is so sick.

So today I am sharing my “Top 10 Reasons for Recovery! “

1. There are people who care about you and want you to live.
2. You are special because you are alive.
3. Life in recovery is amazing.
4. It gets better.
5. You have talents and gifts that are unique and the world is waiting for them.
6. Your true self is waiting to be released.
7. Your dog/bird/spider/lizard/cat/pet.
8. Having FUN!
9. Enjoying life and food and yourself.
10. It would make Becky happy to know that Ed lost and YOU won!  Truly.

You can see her full post here.

I don’t have much to add today – all of her points are great! There’s a whole life of experience, opportunity, and happiness waiting to be lived. Please consider donating to Becky’s fundraiser and supporting the important work of the Academy for Eating Disorders.

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Review: The Slender Trap by Lauren Lazar Stern

Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to be talking about books like The Slender Trap by Art Psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist Lauren Lazar Stern. The Slender Trap is a workbook full of exercises to challenge the reader to think about eating habits and body image in different ways, and could serve as a good companion piece to a treatment program. However, when it comes to resources like this which are more in the “self-help” realm, I caution strongly against trying to rely on a single resource without any guidance from a qualified treatment professional (a sentiment echoed in the book’s introduction).

Lauren Stern offered me a copy to do a write-up with, but first asked me: “Is it OK that it’s geared towards women? It is definitely relevant for men, too, but the writing is directed towards females!” Well, it turns out she was right on both accounts. The topics and ideas in this book are relevant to potentially anyone with an eating disorder, regardless of gender. At the same time, it’s very much a book written and intended for a female audience, which I’ll comment on shortly. I don’t consider my writing to be geared at a particularly male or female audience, so I told her I’d be happy to give my impressions. As far as I’m concerned, anything which promotes and supports recovery is OK with me!

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 8

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Today’s post comes from writer Benjamin David in the UK (another male contributor – awesome!) Ben writes:

Nothing beautiful has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was paramount to individual circumstance. This illness can plague, tarnish and jade the emotional faculty and instils within sufferers a ubiquitous obsession, infatuation and anxiety that can tarnish almost every element of one’s being. I have spent numerous, mundane hours pensively exploring my mind, recognising my tendencies, frailties and strengths and recognising that despite all the perceived “benefits”…. I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to have the freedom to make an impartial action, to take an impartial, rational stance. I wanted to be able to sit down without that lingering impulse that is symptomatic of an eating disorder. Tranquillity, peace and serenity cannot be induced with a oscillating and unyielding eating disorder… The road of recovery is a journey of self-discovery. We recognise our values, qualities, desires, strengths and weaknesses. We advance within ourselves, we question the pressures that the inane mass media invoke on us, we question those comments from others about our appearance and we ask ourselves why we deserve freedom. The most striking question that we ask is what it means to be happy and what founds the most impassioned, long lasting and healthy form of happiness?

You can read the full post here.

I really like the inquisitive nature of Ben’s post, because everyone’s experience is going to be different. Before you find the right answers, you must first ask the right questions, and I think we will all have a different question & answer even if we all arrive at the same conclusions. This speaks to the deeply personal nature of recovery – although there is certainly a universality in the experience of an eating disorder (just read the whole blog series from this month, we’ve all hit many of the same themes!), the path that each of us take to recovery is as unique as the individual.

Others can push you along, encourage you, and point you in the right direction, but no one can walk it but you – day by day, meal by meal, one foot in front of the other.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 7

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

This post actually went up earlier this month and it got lost in the shuffle. So, better late than never! Today’s featured post comes from another UK-based writer, Sia Jane Loyd. She writes:

The day I chose to eat, was the day I chose to turn my life around. The day I chose to accept my body for what it is, is the day I chose to turn my life around. And the day I chose to let go of any remnants of this illness, is the day I fully recovered. Over the years I have written at length about how I personally define recovered life. I know there are a lot of sufferers who have their own interpretation of recovered, because let’s face it; anything is better than full engulfment in the illness. For me however, there are a number of distinct factors that incorporate being recovered. The obvious for me were weight restoration to a point of health, eating a healthy, balanced and varied diet, with no safe foods or foods I feared. There was then the social integration back into life, the letting go of compulsive and obsessive behaviours, sleeping enough, and finally, the living. A lyric speaks, we might all be alive, but not everyone lives. And that is the key to recovered life; the actual living. To look at me, talk to me, spend your days with me, you would never have thought I had a life threatening disease a number of years ago.

You can read her full post here.

She draws attention to a very important idea – though we may be alive, are we truly living? What does living mean to each of us? I often think of the years I was anorexic as years that were stolen from me. I should have been focusing on school, making friends, and developing relationships. The eating disorder ravaged my life and forced me to place everything else on as low a priority as possible without feeling like a complete failure. I wasn’t failing my classes, but I wasn’t doing well in them. I still saw my friends, but I felt like I was lying to everyone, smiling and assuring them I was OK, not unlike being in an abusive relationship and dreading the return home where things are so different behind closed doors.

It was easy to feel hopeless back then. I remember the first time I went to a support group, I heard people talking about recovery. I’d heard about it, but didn’t really have a good concept of what it consisted of. I almost thought I’d go to the support group, they’d tell me what to do, and I’d do it and get better, not unlike getting a prescription from the doctor for a cold.

I quickly realized that recovery from an eating disorder wasn’t going to be that simple. This could have been a discouraging thought, except for one thing: the people I met there had hope. They had an objectivity and peacefulness in their voices when they would talk about their struggles that was so foreign to me, and I wanted it.

That was my first moment of resuscitation – a glimpse of the life that could be if I committed to recovery with all my heart and mind.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 6

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

The posts just keep coming! Today’s post comes from Arielle Lee Bair, who runs a fantastic blog devoted to body image and eating disorder recovery. She starts off with her recovery mantra (Hey, I have one of those!) which speaks for itself:

Recovery is possible.

It’s not a guarantee. It’s a possibility.

It’s not simple. It is difficult and sometimes seems impossible.

It’s not a one-step process. It’s a multi-step process complete with twists and turns and bending roads…and roads you didn’t even know were there.

It’s not the same for everyone.

It’s not always a happy process. It’s not always a sad process.

It IS empowering.

It’s not about pleasing other people. It is not about them.

It’s about YOU.

It’s not about perfection. It IS about emotion. It IS about honesty. It IS about self-discovery and self-affirmation.

It’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about using what you’ve got.

It’s not about hiding. It’s about finding and displaying.

It’s not a quick-fix. It’s a lifelong plan set into motion by truth and nurturing and self-love.

It’s not about external factors or environment. It IS about what’s within.

It is not crazy. It IS real.

Recovery is possible.

…It’s difficult to promote recovery to those struggling with eating disorders when they are constantly being told that the odds are against them. Why bother trying at all? If you are already deemed to be (and doomed to be) a statistic from the start, what’s the point in paying money for treatment/care/counseling or getting support from friends/family/services? Isn’t it all a waste?

The short answer is: NO. Not only is recovery completely possible, it’s also worth every effort. Whether you’re involved with a whole treatment team, simply seeing one therapist, using an alternative support system, or going it alone – recovery is possible, real, and wonderful.

I know this, because I’m a recovered individual myself. It wasn’t always an easy path. I worked hard, used support, created support I didn’t already have, and kept climbing.

You can read the full post here.

Arielle’s post echos some of my sentiments from last time – that recovery is a meal to meal, day to day process that takes time and energy. Sometimes it feels awful, sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes that’s discouraging. But, as Arielle wrote: not only is recovery possible, it’s worth every effort.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 5

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. 

Today’s post comes from Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia, who also started this whole conversation that turned into a whole series across multiple blogs. She also did most of the organizing and recruitment, so big thanks for that! What I love about these kinds of collaborations online is that Anne-Sophie is based in Switzerland! Along with one of our UK-based contributors, we’ve got an international group writing about recovery.

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 4

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

The next post in this series comes from Tracey Weldon, a UK-based blogger. It looks like we’ve picked up a theme: the deadly seriousness of eating disorders, and the potential for hope and happiness through recovery. Tracey writes:

It took me a really long time to accept that I had a problem – that I had eating disorders.  Partly because that kinda goes with having a voice in your head telling you that the destructive behaviours are what is best.  But mostly because for the bulk of the time I was sick I didnt ‘look’ like I had an eating disorder.  I was an appropriate weight for my height and later – overweight.  And because I didnt look sick I convinced myself I wasn’t.  But some things cannot be hidden and living in torment can only be contained for so long.  What I want you to know, whoever you are, however you eating disorder manifests is that eating disorders dont discriminate, and they often dont lead you to an emaciated frame.

…In the years I suffered from eating disorders before I chose to fight to recover I lost a lot to them.  They cost me my teenage years, my dignity and friendships.  They made a liar of me, a thief of me and landed me in thousands of pounds of debt.  The most devastating thing I lost in my eating disorders – was my self.  And I’m sure that reads very cliché, corny even, but it’s true.  See, you don’t get to have a life and an eating disorder.  Maybe you’re reading this reassuring yourself that this doesn’t apply to you and that you have both.  You really don’t.  Eating disorders mean dying and death – and even if that death isn’t a heart stopping one, it is still devastating.

You can read the full post here.

One of the hardest things when you first start seeking recovery is getting an objective view on where you are and what you need. When I was sick, I certainly didn’t think I was “sick enough” for almost any level of treatment, and that same mindset has been consistent with pretty much every person or friend I’ve known who has struggled, too. But since when is the patient the best person to be making those kinds of judgement calls? Not to mention, the effects of malnutrition on the body and brain are disruptive to emotional management and decision making processes. Therefore, a key step to recovery is not just getting help but appropriate and adequate help.

For some, it becomes a matter of pride. “I should be able to do this on my own!”, we declare. If it were that easy, though, I bet a lot of us would have. As it stands, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness. The moment we start using words like “should” we are creating more barriers to do what is necessary.

No matter what we think we “should” be capable of, when we learn that we need additional help, that should never be a a source of shame. Admitting you have a problem and seeking help takes courage, and so I find it strengthening and empowering to acknowledge our own limitations.

Thanks for reading, and make sure to give Tracey some love on her page!

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 3

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Today’s post comes from Jessica over at Life After Anorexia. She has some excellent reflections on why recovery is worth doing. Here’s an excerpt:

Transformation is not a future event. It starts now. Today. Don’t say you’ll begin recovery tomorrow or next week or next month or when you’ve lost another XX lbs. Do it now. None of us have any promise of tomorrow. Life is too short, too beautiful, too precious, and too fleeting. Even if your world is so dark you can’t possibly see that right now, I promise you, it is.

Recovery is possible. Recovery is worth it. Recovery is necessary.

I also once said: “But I’ve realized recovery doesn’t mean boring. It doesn’t mean normal or mediocre or bland. Recovery just means healthy. How can I be spectacular and different and unique if I’m dead? Anorexia = another statistic. Anorexia = death. Dead means dead. Dead means it’s over. No more chances. No coming back. But with recovery comes hope. Hope means good things will come. Recovery means energy. Energy means I can do all the things I want to do. Recovery means promise. Promise means a chance to be all the things I want to be. Recovery means life. It means more than life. It means to be alive. Unique. Special. Free.”

You can read the full post “Recovery is Still Worth It” here.

Jessica has written with a seriousness that I try to put into my own writing – the deadly seriousness of eating disorders. They are so often trivialized and dismissed by our culture that this important fact can get lost in all the misinformation. That would be a discouraging message on it’s own, but Jessica is completely right when she follows it up by talking about the hope and life that is found in recovery.

“Recovery is possible. Recovery is worth it. Recovery is necessary.”

Amen to that.

Like this post? Stay up to date by ‘Liking’ my blog on Facebook, following me on Twitter or Tumblr, subscribe via email, or just leave me a comment to let me know what you think! 

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 2 (My Turn!)

Today it’s my turn to talk about reasons for recovery! In case you didn’t know, I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Beyond the guilt, shame, and self-hatred of any eating disorder is a person who is entirely capable and worthy of giving and receiving love, and fully capable of recovery. The eating disorder tries to convince you otherwise, and will do anything it can to stick around. It poses as your best friend, but in truth, it wants to kill you. In fact, eating disorders result in more deaths than any other mental health condition due to the physical effects they have on the body. Usually when someone enters recovery, there are a myriad of excuses, barriers, and reasons (some real, some exaggerated, some fabricated) which stand in their way. Let’s say someone had to go into a sixty day inpatient treatment program, how do you think that someone would react to such news? Most people do not respond with enthusiasm.

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