Vulnerability

354: Me. Trying to look cool, calm and collected before my presentation. (I was really nervous)

Hello Friends,

I’m back! I definitely needed the weekend to regroup and recharge.

On Sunday night, I presented Beyond the Stigma and Misconceptions: The Truth About Eating Disorders to a group of dear friends. It was an incredibly personal presentation so I was nervous. I worked really hard to minimize triggering language and get to what people with, or with a history of, an eating disorder want others to know about eating disorders.

I used my story as a catalyst to move beyond the basic eating disorder talking points. My goal was to create a safe environment to share and connect with others. The only way I know how to do that is to show up and be vulnerable which was a bit intimidating. But so worth it.

It was an experience I won’t soon forget. We had a vulnerable, open and insightful discussion about eating disorders. I am so grateful for the amazing women who held space with me Sunday night to comfortably talk about a really uncomfortable subject. Ladies, you know who you are…. Thank you ♥

 

@Nesby’s

344: Date Night Jazz

On Saturday night, Steve and I got to go on a date (thank you Nana and Papa!) Steve arranged for us to go see some live jazz at a place called @Nesby’s.

It was a phenomenal evening. The food was fantastic! We had an amazing time catching up with friends before the music started. And then the music, oh the music!

Tim Cunningham and his band played for well over two hours and they were spectacular! @Nesby’s is an intimate venue which enhanced the experience because the music filled the entire space. Plus you could see and feel how much Tim and his band love playing music. They played a wide range of music from Stevie Wonder to Adele. Tim’s cover of Adele’s Hello brought the house down and me to tears (incredible talent makes me cry).

All in all it was a bit of a weekend. 🙂 Have a great Tuesday friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi All!

You may have noticed I jumped from Day 349 (yesterday) to Day 346 (today). Instead of including all three of the pictures I posted yesterday as Day 349, I am going to count them as Days 349 – 347 (a collage still counts as one picture).

Yesterday’s post took a lot out of me. Not in a bad way. Being open and vulnerable are incredibly important, essential even, but sharing isn’t without consequence. Today I feel a bit drained, like I just ran a marathon (emotionally speaking). I feel good, like I accomplished something, but tired. I need to take a few days to focus on self-care.

Posting multiple pictures in one post gives me some leeway now and in the future to take time to replenish my self-care reserves while continuing the 365 Challenge.

See you all Tuesday! 🙂

 

**Trigger Warning** I talk about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors in this post.

One of the most dangerous misconceptions about eating disorders is that you can tell someone is sick just by looking at them. People expect someone suffering from a devastating eating disorder to be emaciated and dangerously thin. And sometimes they are.

But most times they’re not.

I took the picture above on February 15, 2015. I wish I had a picture of my entire body from that day but my eating disorder and intense self-loathing made it difficult for me to get in pictures back then.

While I don’t remember much about this day, I do remember liking this photo. The angle, the lighting.  I thought, “I look like I have it all together. I look happy, healthy, and confident.” What I really meant was, “Sweet! I made myself look thin in this picture.”

Four days later I wrote:

February 19, 2015.

I am so unhappy I can hardly stand it.   I don’t feel great and didn’t feel up to doing Gold’s Fit today.  I have no idea why this happens to me sometimes.  I just feel so upset and unhappy and I can’t seem to get it right.  I want to stuff myself and get drunk on food.  That is the only thing that seems to snap me out of it.  Not even my adorable boys can snap me out of my funk.  I love them so much and just feel like such a horrible mom when this happens. 

 I know that after I purge and get drunk on food I will feel numb and then the guilt will set in.  “Why do  sabotage myself yet again?”  I do this.  As  soon as I start getting under control,  my depression and anxiety come back and I feel like a crazy person and sabotage myself and all of my efforts.  I want to be better than this.  I so so so very much want to be better than this.  (This computer is driving me nuts because it keeps moving the cursor as type.)  I just want to feel even and level.  I feel like if I could just stay on an even keel I could be a better person.  The person I was always meant to be. 

Maybe I should take that writing class, maybe that will get me on track.   I think it may start this week.  That is a plan. I’m not sure how much it will help but it may help a bit.  Maybe writing will help me sort out my feelings and help me get through these episodes.  I just want to feel okay and be a better, more present mom for my boys.   

Okay I think I may be onto something because I am starting to feel a little better.  It almost feels like I loosened the valve on my feelings.   The pressure of all the uncomfortable feelings built up so much that I felt like I was going to explode.  It physically makes me very uncomfortable so I tend to turn to food to help change the way I feel physically.  This morning I tried to work out but that didn’t help either.  I felt nauseous and light-headed.  Writing was my last resort and it looks like it was the one I should have turned to in the first place. 

It isn’t surprising.  I think I have always known the key to my mental happiness is through writing.  Instead of binging and purging on food.  It is time to start purging all of those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings onto a piece of paper.  I just want to live my life.  I want to provide a life of fun and adventure for my boys but I am often paralyzed by my own fears, insecurity and, let’s face it, uncomfortable feelings.  I just don’t have healthy coping strategies in place. 

It took everything in me not to edit the crap out this journal entry. I’m posting it because I want people to see that you can’t always tell someone is sick by looking at them.

My smile and non-emaciated body masked a devastating truth: I was suffering.

February 19 wasn’t my worst day. Nor was it the day I committed to recovery. At my lowest, my darkest, I couldn’t write. I could barely move. Depression and anxiety are crippling on their own, add in a merciless eating disorder and the unforgiving darkness of self-loathing can become unbearable.

Eating disorders are incredibly hard to see. Which makes it easy to hide and pretend that everything is fine when it suits our illness.

Eating disorders affect people of all shapes and sizes, race, ethnicity, age and sex. They are devastating and complex mental and physical illnesses that must be treated by a professional (preferably someone who specializes in eating disorders).

April 5, 2015

This is me on April 5, 2015, about a month into recovery (I hit rock bottom in mid-march). My family knew I was working through eating disorder recovery and supported me. Being seen, loved and accepted for who I was (i.e. someone struggling with an eating disorder) made me feel safe. So even though I was nervous and self-conscious about my appearance, I got in the picture.

It is so important to look beyond the physical and pay attention to behavioral or emotional symptoms of suffering. Here are a some possible signs and symptoms of an eating disorder*:

How often do they talk about food (calories) and dieting? Do they bring them up at seemingly random times (when not eating)? How often do they talk about their body and/weight?

When I had an eating disorder I thought about food and dieting almost constantly. Which meant I was often distracted and forgetful. If I wasn’t thinking about food or dieting, I was thinking about my body. How it looked, how I wanted it to look, how my body was too big, too ugly, too…bad. I thought, “If I could only lose INSERT NUMBER my life would magically fall into place.”

How do they talk about themselves? Do they put themselves down a lot? Do they often seek reassurance from others that they look or act okay? Do they often compare themselves to others (and find themselves lacking)?

My eating disorder, compounded by my intense self-loathing, made it very difficult to ever think positively about myself. I put myself down a lot and could not accept a compliment. Anytime someone said something nice about me, I found a way to minimize or dismiss it entirely and put myself down.

Do they ever talk about feeling out of control around food or being afraid to eat certain foods? After they eat, do they berate themselves for what they ate? Do they often become moody and irritable after eating?

I often felt out of control around food. Not all food. Certain foods were trigger foods, meaning if I started eating it could lead to a binge. I would feel so much shame after binging that I would belittle and demean myself. Sometimes I would vent my frustrations of my “lack of control” out loud but I mostly keep them inside. Those negative feelings often manifested as moodiness and/or irritability.

Do they seem more moody and withdrawn than normal? Are they becoming less and less social? 

After a binge or purge all I wanted to do was hide. Go to bed and forget the rest of the day. I said no to most social invitations because I often felt ashamed of my body and what I’d eaten that day. If I’d eaten something “bad” or too much of something “good” I felt intense shame and guilt and didn’t want to leave the house.

*Just because you or a loved does one or some of these things doesn’t mean he or she has an eating disorder but these are some red flags to look out for.

November 2016

Here is a picture of me in November 2016, fully Recovered. Aside from make-up, a professional photographer and a different camera angle, I look a lot like I did back in February and April 2015. While I may look similar, the way I look at myself is completely different.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering. Reach out. Treatment is available and a full and complete recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

If you would like more information or have questions, please check out my Helpful Resources page or email me at roadtorecovered2015@gmail.com.

 

 

I woke up today with no idea what to post. I usually have some idea of what picture I’ll use or what I want to write about. Not today.

Today I woke up clueless.

Since the goal of this challenge is to post a picture everyday, I started looking through the pictures on my phone and computer. As I looked through pictures of all our adventures over the last year, I noticed something interesting. Something different.

I was in a lot of them. Actually, I was in most of them.

When I had an eating disorder, and even during my recovery (which included healing my body image), pictures made me painfully anxious. I rarely let people take pictures of me and when I did, I held my breath between the time it took to take the picture and see the picture. Sometimes the picture would surprise me and I would feel relief, but most of the time shame would hit like a sucker punch to the gut.

Last year was different. I didn’t hate myself. I took A LOT of pictures. And I was in a lot of pictures. Sometimes alone but often with a friend or loved one. Since it’s 5:30 in the morning and I don’t want to wake people up to see if I can post their picture, I put together a collage of selfies.

I remember taking every single picture in the collage above. What stands out is that I didn’t take the pictures because I thought I looked good, I took them to capture a moment I wanted to remember.

Live for those moments friends! And get in the picture 🙂

 

 

Ice Storm 2017

 

I recognize it is nearly impossible to see the ice crystals on the tree. But they’re there. I swear.

I’m not sure if you heard, St. Louis had wee bit of an ice storm over the weekend. Early in the week there were rumblings of a big storm coming. By Thursday, everyone in and around the St. Louis area was at a grocery store buying all the things. By Friday afternoon, everything was shut down.

Everything.

Schools, offices, stores, gyms, churches.

There was nothing to do but stay home.

It.

Was.

Awesome!

Believe it or not, I am an introvert. So staying home in my comfy jammies all day is my jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting out and connecting with friends and going on adventures but I also need home time. Having a day or two where the only things on the agenda are reading, writing, playing, cuddling and puzzling recharge my battery.

Steve and the boys managed to fly the coup for a few hours on Saturday. While they were out running errands and having crazy fun at Monkey Joe’s, I wrote and worked on my presentation. I even moved my computer back downstairs to my little office area in the basement.

352: Still in my jammies 🙂

Steve and I (or maybe it was Mom and I?) created this workspace when I went back to work in 2014. I used it quite a bit then but not so much now. Even when I started blogging at the end of 2015, I did most of my writing at the kitchen counter. Truth be told, I found comfort in being close to the boys while I wrote. Even though they interrupted me no less than a thousand times.

Actually, I think I counted on the interruptions because it distracted me from trying to be perfect. I struggled with lazy perfectionism, meaning I often wouldn’t even start something because I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. Knowing the boys would interrupt me incessantly gave me permission to not be perfect. To just write.

I still battle my (lazy) perfectionism. But now I focus more on the process. I promise myself I will show up and see what happens. We’ll see how it goes down here. If it becomes too much, I’ll head back up stairs.

Martin Luther King Day

 

351: Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King day. He fought for equal rights for black lives because black lives matter. To honor him today, I am going to reread his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”  If you want to read it too you can click the blue link. It will take you to The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford. You can read the original document, listen to the audio version or read an annotated version of Dr. King’s incredibly powerful letter.

Have a great Monday friends!

 

 

Shout out to my bro and sis-in-law for this AWESOME shirt 🙂

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game
Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it
You get nothing if you

Wait for it, wait for it, wait

God help and forgive me
I wanna build
Something that’s gonna
Outlive me

– Alexander Hamilton, Room Where it Happens

Any self-respecting Hamilton fan finished out the verse (am I right 🙂 ). I’ve listened to this verse from Room Where It Happens probably a hundred times over the last few months. It’s become my anthem. My mantra.

 It reminds me that if I want to do something I have to get out there and do it. The lyrics challenge, even dare, me to put aside my fear and (lazy) perfectionism and get out there.

Get some skin in the game.

I want to be a part of something that will out live me. I want to help eradicate the prevalence of eating disorders and dismantle fat phobia and diet culture.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal lyrics also remind me of Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.  Her phenomenal book was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s “In the Arena” speech. In the speech, our 26th President says:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Get in the arena and do. Don’t sit on the sidelines, judging and commenting from the safety of the padded seats. Get in there and mix it up. Fight, flail, fall, give yourself time to heal, then get back up.

Giving yourself time to heal is essential to getting into the arena. Brené talked about self-care a lot in Daring Greatly. Getting in the arena (ie. gettin’ skin in the game)  is hard so it’s important to take care of yourself. If you don’t have the strength to put your foot in the arena today, that is okay. Take care of yourself. Listen to your body. Your mind. Heal. Then come back. Try again. If you’re still not ready, that’s okay too.

Giving ourselves time to heal before we stand makes us stronger.

I have to remind myself of this from time to time when I start feeling overwhelmed or overexposed. I want to do so much but I’m not much use when my anxiety flies off the rails. It’s okay to take care of myself. It’s okay to set boundaries. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to put my skin the arena (see what I did there 🙂 ) at my own pace.

Have a great weekend friends!

 

***Trigger Warning*** This post focuses on food and cooking. The content could be triggering for those in ED recovery.

 

 

I never liked cooking. Or rather, cooking always made me incredibly anxious.

I suppose a lot of it had to do with my decades long battle with an eating disorder. As I moved through recovery, I often wondered if I would ever enjoy cooking. And as I moved through my first year of Recovered, the wondering continued….

Enter: Blue Apron.

A wonderful friend, who I owe an extreme amount of gratitude, introduced me to the glorious Apron of the Blue. As we sat on the gym floor stretching after a grueling workout, she regaled me with a story about a service that delivered three delicious meals to her home every week. It included every thing she needed, in the exact amount she needed and gave detailed instructions on how to cook it (with pictures!)  No last-minute trips to the grocery store to pick up red wine vinegar or heavy whipping cream. It was all there. All she, or her husband, had to do was cook it.

At the time, I was still rooted firmly in “I hate cooking,” so I didn’t run home and immediately sign up. But it got me thinking. I challenged myself to look deeper into why I hate cooking. I wrote in my journal and talked with Steve. I dug deep to figure out the trigger point of my cooking anxiety. After a lot of digging and soul-searching, I questioned whether my issue with cooking had more to do with planning the meals than the actual cooking of the meals.

Steve and I decided to let Blue Apron plan a few dinners for us. We were able to get half off on our first delivery so we figured it was a win/win. And was it ever a WIN! (**EDIT: If anyone is interested in trying it out let me know. I can send you a coupon so you can get your first delivery for FREE).

Has anything ever come along that made your life so much easier that you asked yourself what you ever did without it? Yeah, that’s Blue Apron. It turns out I quite enjoy cooking when I don’t have to plan it OR buy all the ingredients (only to have Worcestershire sauce and rice wine vinegar sitting in my cabinet for a year).

I am a Blue Apron enthusiast. Cooking is a fun and, dare I say, cathartic experience. I put on music, pull out the ingredients and follow the step-by-step directions. I find great satisfaction in the ritual of gathering all the ingredients I need for a meal and putting them together on the counter (I seriously love having the just the right amount of everything).

I do things like zest and mince (I should have gotten a picture of me zesting :-)). And I get to eat things like crème fresh and freeka (I’m still trying to figure out how to properly drain the water without losing half of the freeka. The freeka is to small for me to run it through my strainer).

I even made pot stickers! Pot stickers!

And the best part of it all?

Every night we sit down and have dinner as a family. 🙂

 

 

Livin’ La Vida Knope!

I’m a Parks and Recreation enthusiast. I love the show. The show models connection, compassion, hope and love. My favorite episode of all time is, “Leslie and Ron.” The gang lock Leslie and Ron in the Parks and Rec office to make them talk after being at odds for a couple years. It is a master class on the importance and potency of vulnerability in friendship. And now I cry every time I hear Willie Nelson’s “Buddy.”

I love the book. Clearly (see above). Leslie wrote this book on the show and then they made it in real life for super fans like me. 🙂

And I love all the characters. Ron, the feminist alpha male. Tom, the dreamer always thinking of the next big thing. Andy, the loveable, loyal, and kind goofball. April, the cool one who pretends not to care but cares deeply. Donna, the confident, outspoken, hilarious, and kind co-worker (“Are you Nell. From the movie, Nell?” OMG, best line delivery ever!) Jerry/Larry/Gary, the loveable, warm-hearted guy who is both the schlemiel and schlemazel of the office. Ann, the smart, funny, straight-laced nurse. Chris, who literally, cares about everything and everyone. Ben, the smart, kind, caring and enthusiastic and unapologetic nerd (to me nerd is a loving term). And finally, Leslie, oh Leslie, Leslie, Leslie.

Leslie isn’t afraid to put everything’s she got into something or someone she believes in. She’s not afraid to try too hard or care too much. She is authentic, she’s vulnerable, she’s brave. She believes in who she is, what she wants and her ability to go get it. I know she’s a fictional character, but I think all the things that make her her are possible for us too.

I’ve been thinking about Leslie a lot lately (not just because I still watch at least one episode everyday, thank you Netflix). This challenge is, well, a challenge. Every morning I find myself confronting my perfectionism, my fear of saying something offensive or triggering and my fear of trying too hard and exposing myself to shame, blame and/or judgement.

More times than not, I struggle to let go of a post after I hit “Publish.” I often find myself frantically rewriting or cutting parts of a post after I sent it out to the world (subscribers may have noticed this). Everyday I work on finding my voice and mustering up the confidence to use it. I think, “What would Leslie Knope do?” And then I move forward.  I also keep going because of you. I see you. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement. Thank you so much.

 

 

Yes, I’m wearing a hat inside my house at 5 am.

Last month, the Director of Program Ministries at my church invited me to give talk about eating disorders. It’s scheduled for the end of this month. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my story and spread awareness about eating disorders.

I’ve been working on it a lot lately.

While I was working on it the other day something felt familiar, kinda like déjà vu but less intense. Then it hit me. My life looks a lot like the life I wrote about in Writing Assignment #4: A Day In my Life When I Am Recovered (if you click on the blue it should take you to the post).

Back in November 2015, I imagined what a day in my Recovered life would look like. I remember writing it. I tried to write it months earlier but anxiety took over so I gave myself permission to step away. A few months later, Recovered seemed less intimidating. My anxiety was definitely still there, slowing building below the surface, but I kept reminding myself, “Recovered isn’t a fairytale.”

As I wrote, the anxiety melted away and I enjoyed dreaming about what a day in my Recovered might look like. Rather than create an elaborate fantasy (which I’d done in the past) I worked hard to keep my expectations high, but realistic.

Back in November 2015, I was nine months into my intense recovery work. Most of my eating disorder behaviors were gone but I was still dealing with lingering eating disorder thoughts. So when I thought about a day in my Recovered life, I focused in on what my life would look like without eating disorder thoughts. A life where I could be fully present and show up and be seen and fight for a cause that I believe in.

It all felt aspirational, yet within reach. Not necessarily within my grasp, but close enough that it didn’t paralyze me with fear and self-doubt.

A little over a year later, I get to be fully present in my life. Everyday I challenge myself to show up and be seen in an effort to fight for a cause I believe in.

Keep dreaming friends. Keep moving. I know the road is long and the journey slow, but you will get there. Where ever “there” is for you. You may move backwards, sideways, up or down. But if you keep moving, if you keep getting up, you will move forward.

 

 

 

 

360: Painting with Mom

Hello Friends!

I decided to take the weekend off and post a recap on Monday.

So here we are! Week 2!

What a weekend! On Saturday, Mom and I took our first painting class. We heard great things about those painting classes where you sip wine while you paint so we decided to try one out. We booked two spots at Pinot’s Palette in Chesterfield. (The sipping wine part is optional. Mom and I sipped water.)

And we LOVED it! Neither one of us had ever really painted before so we had no idea what to expect. We each sat down and looked at our blank canvas with an open mind. A blank canvas can be really intimidating but Emily, the woman who led our class, put us at ease. She was great. Her directions were specific yet vague enough to give us the freedom to add our own unique touches.

Mom and I encouraged each other, laughed with each other and admired each others handiwork. Mom kept accidentally mixing extra colors into her background. I liked it because it added depth to her canvas. It also made me giggle because every time she did it she would chuckle and baffle, “Now how did I get green in there?!”

Mom and I had an absolute ball and were a bit shocked and completely delighted by the outcome. We can’t wait to go back!

359: Heading home after Sunday dinner.

On Sunday we did what we do every Sunday: Dinner at my parents house. It is one of my absolute favorite traditions (and not just because I don’t have to cook). It started back when I was in law school. I’d drive from my apartment in Lawrence to Mom and Dad’s house in Olathe. Back then, Dad was retired and cooked most of the meals. They were amazing. His shrimp marsala and chicken gorgonzola stand out as favorites. At some point Dad went back to work so Mom resumed culinary control over Sunday Dinner.

When my parents moved to St. Louis a couple years ago we started them up again. First at our house (while Mom and Dad looked for a house) and then at their house. Every week, my Mom makes a delicious meal, yesterday it was honey mustard chicken (YUM), and often follows it up with a homemade dessert (her crisps are EVERYTHING).

Before and after dinner, the adults hang out upstairs talking, reading (Dad has Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. I couldn’t resist picking it up), and/or watching football. We turn off the tv during dinner, and Mom’s always the first to say, “Let’s turn the game back on.” Especially if her beloved Packers are playing. The boys play downstairs, but often gravitate upstairs to where we are. I love that they love being around us. I know it won’t last forever so I try to appreciate it.

Plus it gave me the opportunity to capture this moment forever:

 

358: My Heart

My boys. My life. For the last six years I’ve spent most of my time with these two humans (with H joining the fray four years ago). They bring me more joy than I could ever possibly put into words. That they bring each other the amount of joy captured in this photograph makes me feel complete in a way I never imagined.

PS. It’s not always like this. Most days their incessant bickering makes me wish they came with a mute button. Or maybe a pause button. 😉

Happy Monday friends!