In the room where it happens!!!

In the room where it happens!!!

Dear Friends,

I can’t believe it’s been over four months since my last post. So much happened and I look forward to sharing it all with you. But before I do, I want to tell you about something that happened because I Recovered from my eating disorder.

I saw Hamilton on Broadway.

My eating disorder thrived on keeping me disconnected. It kept me focused on two things: My body and food. Everything else felt like borrowed time. Through recovery I started connecting. To my body, to people, to books, to tv shows, to music, to moments, to Hamilton.

This is my Hamilton story.

My obsession with Hamilton started last year at a pivotal place in my recovery. I was feeling all the feelings and searching for connection and inspiration. Negative and scary feelings easily distracted me because I wasn’t use to feeling them. I yearned for something hopeful and inspirational to help keep me on the road to Recovered.

Enter, Hamilton.

It’s amazing what art and creativity can do when you open yourself up to it. The Hamilton cast album blew me away. I also loved the story behind the musical. How a story about our nation’s founding fathers was being told by people of color through rap and hip-hop. And how it took Lin Manuel Miranda (who wrote the book, lyrics and music) six years to write it.

Six years. That resonated with me. When I was working through recovery I often wished I could fast forward to Recovered. In the early days I couldn’t even imagine what Recovered looked like, I just knew I wanted to get there. Fast.  Recovery was so painful, scary and hard and I was so tired. I just wanted it to be over already.

Then I reminded myself that it took Lin six years to write Hamilton. Good things take time. And fantastic, life changing things take a lot of time. And a lot of hard work. It helped put recovery into perspective. I listened to the soundtrack everyday. Sent it to friends and people I just met. I got my kids into it. And no doubt annoyed my family by signing lyrics and talking about the show. NON. STOP.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to New York. I went with the SOLE purpose of seeing Hamilton. I didn’t have a ticket. I looked online and the cheapest ticket I could find was $1000. I knew the digital lottery was my only chance at a more affordably priced ticket (before each show the theatre runs a lotto for the seats in the first two rows. It’s called ham4ham because each lotto ticket costs ten bucks). I knew my chances of winning were slim to none because over ten thousand people entered the digital lottery every day. I decided to go and try my luck with the lottery anyway.

Actually, I was ready to cancel the vacation altogether because of all the anxiety triggers: the flight to/from New York, getting from the airport to Midtown (and back again), leaving the boys (although I knew they’d be in good hands with Nana and Grandma Jean), SO MANY PEOPLE, and, ya know, trying to score a ticket to the hottest show on Broadway. Frankly, if I still had my eating disorder I never would have agreed to go to NY in the first place. And if I had gone, I probably would have stayed in the hotel room the whole time.

Despite all the potential anxiety triggers, Steve convinced me the vacation would be worth it. I knew he was right. (Steve went as well but flew separately and we barely saw each other because he worked the whole time while I…well, I played :-).)

When I got to New York, I went to our hotel in the middle of Times Square (HOLY PEOPLE!!), checked my bag with the bellhop and walked the block and a half to the Richard Rodgers Theatre (Hamilton).  Looking back I’m not sure what I thought I might accomplish by going to the theatre, but to the theatre I went.

I walked up to the marquee around noon and there were a ton of people there (curtain wasn’t until 7pm). Some were taking pictures of the marquee or just passing through, while a bunch of people (between twenty to thirty people) looked like they were camping out in front of the theatre.

I asked the doorman, Jimmy, what they were doing. He told me they were waiting in the cancellation line. I’d never heard of a cancellation line before so I had a lot of questions. Basically, minutes before each show the theatre releases cancellation tickets. Some days they may have twenty cancellation tickets, some days two, and some days zero. Cancellation tickets vary in price but are usually somewhere between $170 and $550 (unless you get a standing room ticket. Those are $40).

Cancellation tickets are first come/first serve. I spoke with a teenage girl who was in line with her younger sister and Dad. They got to the theatre at 5 am that morning (Dad of the Year!) Most of the others had been there for several days (Later, I learned most wait three days for a ticket).

 Jimmy and the LINE!

Jimmy and the LINE!

 

Jimmy discouraged me from joining the line. He said there probably wouldn’t be many cancellation tickets this week because it was Lin, Leslie and Pippa’s last week. He encouraged me to enjoy my three days in New York and not spend them in line. I was inclined to agree. I didn’t want to spend all my time waiting in line for just a chance to see Hamilton. (Actually part of me did want to do it, but the other part knew there were other phenomenal shows to see.)

I decided to just do the live and digital lotteries and spend the rest of my time seeing other shows and tourist attractions. I knew I’d have to do some waiting for the live lotto on Wednesday. But hey, the live lotto usually only had about three thousand entries. So, yay three thousand! Better odds! Someone has to win, right?!

I entered the digital lotto on Tuesday and part of me actually thought I might win. Back in ’96, I won the live lotto for Rent twice, so I thought maybe I had good luck with Broadway lotteries. Cut to 4:00pm. The rejection email was swift and the disappointment acute. I sucked it up and rallied.

I put my newfound knowledge regarding the cancellation line to use and headed to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre box office. I arrived about thirty minutes before showtime and was the first person in the cancellation line (holla!). I waited approximately three minutes before they sold me the “Julia Roberts” seat (their words) at an “Ali Fields” price (my words). For the first time that day, I felt like I’d won at something.

book of mormon marquee

I sat next to a mother and son from Indiana. Like me, they came to New York with the hopes of getting tickets to Hamilton. They only had a day left and found resale tickets for one of Wednesday’s shows for $1,200 a ticket. They were leaning towards buying the tickets. (and I daydreamed about taking a similar mother/son(s) trip with my boy(s) in ten to fifteen years.)

book of mormon playbill

The Book of Mormon was hilarious! So fun, so much talent and a message I enjoyed. The entire cast was fantastic! Elder McKinley was my fav (such SASS!) I left the show filled with excitement.

Steve got into town while I was at the show, so we met up around 10:00 pm and got something to eat. Since we were so close to the Richard Rodgers Theatre (wink, wink), I suggested we head over to see if anything was happening at the stage door. There were a TON of people there waiting. We saw Mariska Hargitay and her family come out. The understudy who played Aaron Burr that night also came out. Steve lasted maybe ten minutes before heading back to the hotel. I stayed for another twenty minutes during which time nothing happened (I still loved it.)

Steve had to work the next day, so I mentally prepared myself to stand in line for the Hamilton live lottery and ham4ham show. I got in line early so I could get a good spot for the ham4ham show. I got to the theatre a little after 9am and the line was already almost to the end of the block. I hoped to see the mother and son I met the night before at The Book of Mormon but there were A. LOT. OF. PEOPLE.

The lotto didn’t start until noon so I waited for three hours to write my name on a piece of paper and put it in a huge bin that would eventually be filled with over 3,000 names. I met some super nice people from Australia who made the time go by quickly.

Hot and sweaty but happy to be here!

Hot and sweaty but happy to be here!

The waiting paid off because I got a pretty good spot for the show. Front row stage (or stair) right. I was SUPER psyched because I knew this was probably the closest I would get to seeing anything Hamilton related. For 45 minutes I stressed about someone making me move.

ham4ham

Lin came out around 12:45ish and read a love letter Hamilton wrote to Eliza. Then Phillipa, Leslie and OAK (my fav) came out. Everyone lost their minds (myself included) and it was tough to get a good view. Since it was Lin, Phillipa and Leslie’s last week we all sang Happy Trails (Oak held up cue cards). It was awesome.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Lin Manuel Miranda!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen: Lin Manuel Miranda!!!

After the show, Kaitlin Fine read the lucky winners. We all clapped for the winners while secretly hating them. I didn’t win but was happy to see Lin’s last ham4ham. I was also tired. The air around the theatre is electric but also tense and a bit stressful. Everyone wants a ticket and would do almost anything to get one. Not to mention the cast sightings. Everyone wants to be apart of every moment and it’s just not possible. There are too many people.

So after four hours of standing in line, I was ready for a Hamilbreak. I hopped on a bus and headed downtown. I promised my boys I’d see the Statue of Liberty, so I did. I relaxed and saw the sights. At 4 pm, I got the dreaded, “Unfortunately, you were not selected…” email from Hamilton (which feels a lot like “It’s not you, it’s me”).

Who can see the Statue of Liberty? It's there, I promise!

Who can see the Statue of Liberty? It’s there, I promise!

That evening I went to see The Color Purple. I went directly to the box office at the Benard B. Jacobs Theatre and got an incredibly amazing seat for an incredibly amazing price. I cannot even begin to describe how magnificent the show was. I spent the entire second act trying very hard not to sloppy cry in front of a bunch of strangers (including Sharon Lawrence who was sitting right in front of me). Cynthia Erivo got a well deserved standing ovation in the middle of the second act and it all felt like magic. Her talent was awe inspiring.

Color Purple

Same for Danielle Brooks, who played Sofia (she also plays Taystee on OITNB). Oh my goodness was she fun to watch on stage! I’m not sure why, but being in the room with people living their passion and using their talent to connect with others makes me cry (this is a new thing I discovered through recovery). Anyway, I cried a lot during The Color Purple. There were some sad tears (because it’s The Color Purple), some talent tears and some female empowerment tears.

 SIGNED!!

SIGNED!!

I waited by the stage door and got autographs. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before (aside from Hamilton the night before when I hadn’t even seen the show). As I walked back to the hotel, I realized that even if I didn’t see Hamilton, I got to see Cynthia Erivo’s Tony winning performance and Danielle Brooks’ Tony nominated performance (not to mention the incomparable Heather Headley). That would be enough (you with me Hamilton fans ;-)).

 LOVE HER!!!!

LOVE HER!!!!

I went to bed, emotionally spent, but happy. Content. I woke up the next day and almost forgot about the Hamilton lottery. Frankly, I almost didn’t enter because I knew the likelihood of winning on my last day in New York was slim (or zero). I also didn’t want to spend the whole day stressing about my battery dying and not being able to get my “You Won” email (I knew if my phone died I would totally win and not be able to claim my ticket). But really, I didn’t want the letdown of the inevitable rejection.

Yeah, I got over it and entered the lotto. When I did, I noticed something strange. The lotto closed at noon. The lotto usually closed at 4pm. And then I saw it… TWO shows! For whatever reason they were doing two shows on a Thursday (they usually do two shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays). So this was interesting… I thought I only had one more shot to see the show and now I had TWO. There it was…hope.

I hopped in the shower, got dressed and headed out to get something to eat. My hotel was close to the Richard Rogers Theatre so I decided to walk by on my way to get a bite. I walked up at about 9:45 am and there were thirty or so people in line. I kept walking…then I stopped, turned back and got in the back of the line. I had a feeling….

The woman in front of me had just gotten there but most of the others had been there for days. One girl I spoke with had been there for a week. I stood there talking with fellow Hamilton fans. It was great. It was nice to be surrounded by people who were even more excited about Hamilton than I was.

Within about forty minutes or so, people started getting tickets to the matinée. It was unreal! People were beside themselves. Some were happy crying and some just stood in disbelief. All of a sudden I was twentieth in line. Then some of the people in front of me stepped out of line because Lin wasn’t in the matinée. I would’ve loved to see Lin, but I really just wanted to see the show (plus I’d heard fantastic things about Javier Muñoz’s Hamilton).

The theatre released more tickets and suddenly I was fifteenth in line. Then a few more tickets… OMG, I cannot even tell how nervous, stressed and exhilarated I was in those moments as I moved closer and closer to the front of the line. I kept thinking, “Holy cow! This could really happen!”

At about 11:00 am they stopped releasing tickets. I was eighth in line. Someone said they would release more tickets right before showtime. And since I was eighth in line I had a fair (but not great) chance of getting a ticket. I hadn’t eaten anything and I knew if I waited in line for the next three hours and was lucky enough to get a ticket I wouldn’t be able to eat until after the show ended around 5 pm. Whatever. It was worth it. Plus I had a couple granola bars in my purse. I stayed in line.

About fifteen minutes later, someone from the theatre came out and offered two premium tickets. These tickets are more expensive than other cancellation tickets but still way, way, WAY cheaper than resale prices (because you’re buying directly from the theatre). The eight people in front of me decided to wait for the less expensive cancellation tickets (most of them were also looking to buy two tickets). At number eight in line (which meant I needed the theatre to release at least seventeen more tickets), I wasn’t about to throw away my shot. I asked if I could just buy one ticket. They said yes and lifted the barricade.

I don’t remember much of what happened next. I know I got my ticket, put it in my wallet and went to a diner to eat. I then spent the next two and a half hours obsessively checking my wallet to make sure I still had my ticket.

I called Steve, my Mom and Jean and let them know. Then went back to my hotel room and hibernated until show time. I didn’t post anything on social media or tell anyone else because I was so nervous something would happen. Truth be told, my anxiety was off the charts but it was a good anxiety. I still couldn’t believe I got a ticket to see the show I’d been obsessing about and imagining in my head since last year.

I got to the theatre around 1:30 and the line (for ticketholders) was already around the block. I ran into some of my cancellation line friends (they were all in front of me in the cancellation line). They got tickets too, but didn’t get them until right before showtime.

I got inside and immediately looked to see who was in the show. Twitter already told me Lin, Daveed and Oak were out. They were the only three out! OMG, the rest were original cast members! When I realized that I was going see Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr, Phillipa Soo as Eliza, Renée Elise Goldsberry a Angelica, Anthony Ramos as Laurens/Phillip, Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy/Maria and CHRIS JACKSON as WASHINGTON, I almost lost it.

Cast

The wait for showtime felt like forever. Then the lights went down and Leslie stepped onto the stage. Everyone applauded. You may be surprised to know I didn’t immediately start crying. I marveled at Leslie’s stillness, his unbelievable poise and voice.  A wave of emotions came over me when Javier entered as Alexander Hamilton, but I held it together. When Chris Jackson entered as Washington I bounced in my chair and clapped like I was at a New Kids on the Block concert (yes, I am that old).

“Wait for it” brought the first tears. Up until that point, I danced in my seat, mouthed the words to every song and reveled being in the room where it happened. Oh, and “Satisfied.” OMG, Renée Elise Goldsberry SLAYED that song and all I could do was watch and marvel at her talent.

Then “Wait for it” started. Tears. Such a powerful song with so much meaning and heart. It was an honor to see Leslie perform it. Again, he was so still. He let his voice and the words do all the work and wow, just wow. Honestly, at that point, I was rooting for Burr.

The tears returned during “Dear Theodosia” and I was really hoping Hamilton and Burr would end up as friends. Oh, and there was an extra scene that wasn’t on the cast album. Eliza gave Hamilton a letter informing him of Laurens’ death. Agh! My emotions!

During intermission I went to the concession stand for a drink. I wasn’t thirsty, in fact, I knew I wouldn’t drink anything for fear of having to pee in the middle of Act II. But someone mentioned that if you buy a drink you get a really cool souvenir cup. I asked if I could just buy the cup. No, but the guy said he could just put a little water in it. Sold! I got one for myself and one for a fellow Hamilton fan back home.

Then Act II started. I basically spent the entire second act crying in varying degrees. Except “What’d I miss,” that song was pure fun. The actor playing Lafayette/Jefferson seemed much more comfortable playing Jefferson. He had swagger and confidence. The song was a real treat. I respectably wept through “Take a Break” because I love the song so much. Oh and Eliza beat boxed for Phillip’s rap! OMG! Joy!

“Say No to This” was just as sexy and sad as expected. Jasmine Cephas Jones has an amazingly sultry voice. Not going to lie, it was kinda hot.

Then we got to “The Room Where It Happens.” AHHHHH!! Happy, happy, talent tears. I don’t even have a word to describe Leslie’s performance. His movements were so graceful and purposeful. It was a phenomenal performance and I was a little surprised it didn’t get a standing ovation. It certainly deserved one. (I read that he got one on his closing night).

I bawled through the entirety of “One Last Time.” I had a small tear break and then “Blow Us All Away” happened. By the end of it I was bawling again (and searching for a dry part of my Kleenex. Side note: Why didn’t I bring more Kleenex!). And then Renée started “It’s Quiet Uptown” and I crumpled into a mess of sloppy tears. I can’t even talk about when Eliza held Alexander’s hand at “forgiveness.”

“The Election of 1800” and “Your Obedient Servant” gave me a moment to get ahold of my emotions. But I knew what was coming…. “The World Was Wide Enough.” What an amazing final song and I cried through the whole thing. Happy tears, talent tears, sad tears, inspired tears. I was a bundle of emotions. Near the end of the song, Eliza became the focus and had a moment at the very end of the show that I didn’t expect and OMG, I lost it. I am tearing up now just thinking about it. I won’t spoil it.

After the show I bought a few souvenirs and then met Steve for dinner. I wanted to do the stage door but there were a fafillion people there and I couldn’t get a good spot. Plus I wanted to see Steve. Steve made this all happen. He knew how much I needed a break and how much Hamilton meant to me. And although he didn’t tell me at the time, he had a feeling I’d find a way to get to the show. I love how he believes in me. I am grateful to have such a loving and supportive husband. I am also soooooooo grateful to my Mom and Steve’s mom, Jean. They watched our boys and took great care of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last November, I started this blog because I wanted an outlet to share my story. It seems like no one ever talks about eating disorders, yet so many people have them or know someone who does. There is so much shame and hiding and I got tired of hiding. I was also really proud of how far I’d come  in my recovery. When I started the blog, I was so close to Recovered I could almost touch it. Writing and sharing my story played a large role in getting me across the Recovered finish line.

Except Recovered isn’t a finish line. In fact, in so many ways my journey has just begun.  So, I’m changing things up a bit. Being Recovered is new and I am still finding my footing. There is so much self-discovery and boundary testing. It’s exciting, terrifying, exhilarating and disconcerting. My hope is that by doing more writing exercises from the book (8 Keys), I can work through this discomfort and continue evolving as a Recovered person. I also want to write about some of the other books I have been reading as well.

So, I am going to try to post more often which means that I won’t be able to put as much time and care into each post. This is really scary because almost everything I have put up on the blog, I have worked really, really, really hard on (that may seem surprising). I know nothing is perfect but I do try to make things as perfect as I can so as to protect myself from shame, blame and judgment (hello defense mechanisms!) I recognize protecting myself from shame, blame and judgment is an impossible endeavor, so I’m summoning my courage to post more and edit less.

The response I’ve gotten from the blog thus far has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive which helps me find the courage to dare greatly. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful community with such wonderful and supportive friends. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my story. And a huge hug to those who have reached out to me. You have had a huge impact on my life and recovery and I am forever grateful.

On to writing exercise #11…

Examining Some of My Personality Traits

Self-Centered. In learning to love myself, I have gotten to a place where I tend to put myself and my needs first* (*as a Mom it is impossible to put myself completely first. While I do spend a lot more time on myself than I use to, my “me time” is often interrupted by my boys and their “immediate” needs (which can include (but are not limited to): food, potty help, kissing an boo-boo, breaking up a fight, fixing a cape, reading a book, playing a game, playing pretend, pressing the “continue watching” button on Netflix – I feel your judgment Netflix). The pendulum has maybe swung a wee bit far towards me and I’m still working to figure out the balance.

On the positive side, I’ve discovered that if I focus on self-care and meeting my needs, I am much more available for my boys. Connection is one of my core values. Brené Brown defines connection as, “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Connection is so important to me. Without it I start to feel unhinged and anxious. When I take care of myself and pay attention to what I need I am much more able to be present and connect with others.

Perfectionist. I still struggle with this. All. The. Time. Especially with the blog. Sometimes it is really hard to write something and get it posted because I feel like it must be perfect. I have to summon a LOT of courage to hit that “publish” button. For years, I rarely wrote anything, even in a journal, because I knew whatever I wrote wouldn’t be perfect. I thought I was the opposite of a perfectionist because I never did anything. I thought I was just lazy. Until I got to the root of why I was afraid to do anything, because I knew I couldn’t make it perfect. Boom. The lazy perfectionist.

I mean why write something that isn’t perfect? Why write something that isn’t the next Hollywood blockbuster? Why do it? Because it matters to me. What I write may not mean anything to anyone else, but it means something to me. As much as I hope my writing resonates with others, I write for me. And that is enough.

To be fair, it is still a struggle. And I am really struggling right now. I have so much to say but I can’t seem to get it out because I don’t know how to say it perfectly. I don’t even know exactly what perfect means. Yes I do. Perfect means that everyone will understand exactly what I am saying and I will be immune to blame, shame and judgment. While I know that is unrealistic, I still can’t help it.

I suppose the positive part of being a perfectionist is that I care. I care how my words affect people. I want people to feel like they aren’t alone but I also don’t want to make anyone feel bad. I care. I really care. I hear people talking about not giving a f*@k, I’m not that person. I give a f*@k.

Impulsive– I am impulsive, mostly because if I don’t do something right then and there, I fear I’ll never do it. I’m not a big doer. I like to think I am, but I’m not. I mean, I’m usually in bed by 8:00 pm. On the weekend. On weeknights, I’ve been known to climb into bed by 7:30pm and doze off to Parks and Recreation. (Any “me toos” out there? … … Bueller? … Okay. Fine. Judge me.)

A lot of this stems from having an eating disorder for several decades. Making plans and then cancelling them because of my eating disorder was my default setting for most of my life.

I’ve been getting better about it. Over the past year, during my recovery, I started adding things to my schedule and doing more. I’ve had some super fun adventures with my Gold’s Fit friends and I made more commitments to meet up with friends on a regular basis.

Now, as a Recovered person, I continue to add more events to my calendar and it is freaking me out a little. It is new, it is scary. But I want to go and do and stay out and experience things. For whatever reason I’m always afraid of being tired or getting a cold. Is that weird? That might be weird. I have two small children so I usually end up with a cold anyway. This is something I am working on and am open to any and all advice on how to find the courage to be more of a doer.

Avoidant. Oh man. THIS. For whatever reason, lately I have been finding ways to avoid writing. I am also taking Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester and I am having trouble sitting down and doing the work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing it. But it is scaring me. Last week we had to come up with my two core values. We all have a ton of values but she asked us to narrow those down to the two values, that without which, nothing else matters. That was hard. Really hard. I narrowed it down to connection (which I mentioned earlier) and creativity. Those are the two that seem to have opened my world in the last year and without which no other values matter. I had courage in there but realized that connection and creativity were the foundation for my courage and pretty much everything else I value.

Back to being avoidant, OMG, I “avoid” feelings and doing something by using social media, Netflix and food. I will spend 20 minutes scrolling through social media in search of something to catch my attention. I also use Netflix, I’ll get lost in show and spend hours upon hours “avoiding” my feelings. This doesn’t happen as much as it use to but it still happens.

Now I think that binging on tv and scrolling through social media are better than binging and purging on food but I fear, for me, they have a similar function. To distract, to avoid dealing with something else. After a Netflix binge I’m always a bit depressed and wee resentful of the show that made me sit on my ass and watch it for several hours (part of me blame’s the show for being so damn good.)

The last several days I have tried really hard to avoid writing. And yesterday I noticed that I was using food. As you can imagine, with my history, this was somewhat alarming. I wasn’t binging or even looking to binge. I just got uncomfortable with what I was writing (or not writing) so I got up to find a snack. Then I did it again fifteen minutes later. I wasn’t hungry. I knew I wasn’t hungry. At first I didn’t realize I was doing it. I thought I was actually hungry. Then I began to see the pattern. I was just trying to avoid the computer.

It confused me because the only person who ever directed me to food in times of stress was ED Ali, but she’s not here anymore. I don’t feel her, I don’t hear her, I don’t see her. I don’t have any of the other tell-tale eating disorder thoughts or behaviors. It is just this thought that if I have a snack it can buy me some time. It has nothing to do with hating myself, sabotaging myself, binging, purging or starving myself. I’m just looking to avoid doing something because it makes me uncomfortable.

I recognize that I may not be the best person to determine this, but it doesn’t feel inherently eating disordered. I suppose all thoughts about food are not necessarily eating disorder thoughts.  Granted, looking for a snack when I should be facing an uncomfortable feeling is not a great coping mechanism. Neither is binging on Netflix or scrolling through social media. Not super healthy, but also not necessarily eating disordered. Wow, being a person is hard.

That might be the biggest awakening I’ve had as a Recovered person, that life is just hard. No matter what I do or how I look at it, I will face moments that make me uncomfortable. It is what I do when I am uncomfortable that makes the difference. It is time to stop using Netflix, social media and food to avoid feelings. Or at the very least start using them less.

I’m uncomfortable. My life is changing. I’m feeling things. I’m doing more. I am showing up and letting myself be seen. It is scary. It is vulnerable. And sometimes I want to avoid the discomfort of vulnerability. Rather than avoid those feelings today I decided to workout, write and reach out to a friend. Oh, and it’s 8:20 pm on a Monday night and I’m not in bed yet. I dare say things are looking up…

Affirmations are important. Another tool in my anxiety management toolbox. Little mental reminders that reinforce who I am and what is important. As I progress through recovery my affirmations evolve. While it may not seem like one, reminding myself that Recovered isn’t a Fairytale has become an incredibly important affirmation.

The closer I get to Recovered, the more intimidated I get by identifying as Recovered. That probably sounds strange but when I started recovery in my twenties, and even when I re-committed to recovery earlier this year, I thought Recovered meant everything in my life would be fixed. My eating disorder would be gone and life would be perfect. Lollipops and rainbows. No pain, no hurt. No anxiety, no stress. I’d be thin, happy, have tons of friends, a dream career and, of course, be Mother of the Year. Happily ever after. A Fairytale.

I believed Recovered was a Fairytale because I had no idea what a Recovered life looked like. As I get closer to Recovered, I realize how unrealistic that belief is because if my life has to be perfect to be Recovered, I’ll never be Recovered.

So I remind myself, Recovered isn’t a Fairytale. Recovered means I no longer have eating disorder thoughts or behaviors. Recovered does not mean life will be perfect. Life is hard. Really hard. And despite not having eating disorder thoughts or behaviors anymore, my life isn’t perfect. I get hurt, I feel sad. I get anxious, I stress out. And, for reasons I can’t explain, no one has awarded me Mother of the Year yet.

Everyday I confront a myriad of emotions. In addition to affirmations, I learned, and continue to learn, different coping strategies that help me feel and work through my emotions in healthy ways. But it isn’t always easy (it turns out even joy requires vulnerability). Frankly, life can be overwhelming and down right exhausting at times.

So I remind myself, Recovered isn’t a Fairytale. Recovered means I don’t have an eating disorder anymore. Not having an eating disorder anymore means that I get to live my life. Feel my life. Love with my whole heart, pursue my passions, connect with people on a deeper level, laugh until my belly hurts, and cry because I am so overwhelmed with joy I can’t even stand it. I also get to fall flat on my face, embarrass myself, stress out, fail, hurt, cry, and hide. And then I get to rise and do it all again. It isn’t a Fairytale, but it is pretty awesome.

 

 

 

I was really intimidated by this writing assignment when I first read 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder in March. At the time, I had no idea what a Recovered life might look like, let alone what my Recovered life might look like. The idea that I could even be Recovered seemed foreign and too far out of reach. I was also dealing with over thirty years of self-hatred, so I didn’t feel worthy enough to even fantasize about it. When I read through Key 1 again a few months later for the support group I was in, I still had trouble sitting down and doing this assignment.

Even now, dreaming about what I want my Recovered life to look like feels vulnerable and scary. What if people think it’s stupid? or too ambitious?  What if I don’t get to Recovered? What if I can’t do it? Is my dream too far out of reach? What if I fail?

But something is different now, I like myself. I believe in who I am and what I can do. I know that whether my fantasized “Day in the life of Recovered Ali” happens, I will still be okay. My life will have meaning and purpose because I will continue to show up and allow myself to be seen, regardless of the outcome. (Anyone notice the heavy Brené Brown influence? I love that woman.)

What I know right now is that I want to help people. Specifically, I want to help women extricate themselves from the “weight-loss as a lifestyle” quagmire. When I say “weight-loss as a lifestyle” I am talking about people, like myself, who have spent most of our lives in a constant state of trying to lose weight. However, it is important to note that you do not have to self identify as having an eating disorder to be living “weight-loss as a lifestyle.”

The fact is there is “no one size fits all” method to get to Recovered. And Recovered means different things to different people. There are so many different methodologies and stories out there and they are all important.  The more people “show their work” on their recovery and talk about their stories, the more powerful this revolution becomes because, hopefully, people will see that they are not alone and that they don’t have to live a life beholden to a number on a scale.

I felt alone for a very long time and I’m sure it played a role in why I was sick for so long. I discovered Glennon Melton’s blog, Momastery (www.momastery.com), a few years ago and though I didn’t realize it at the time, something inside me changed. Her bravery, courage and honesty about her life as a Mom and someone dealing with eating disorder issues, resonated deeply with me because I saw parts of myself in her. So I didn’t feel alone anymore. Now that feeling wasn’t a magical pill that instantly changed everything for me, but I believe it shifted my mindset enough that I was able to get where I am today.

Okay, now the fun part….

Day in the Life of Recovered Ali

My day starts early. I wake up at 5 am, right before my alarm goes off.  I climb out of bed and head downstairs to get my first cup of coffee.  I am excited to get downstairs and write.  My body feels a little sore from a tough Gold’s Fit workout the day before.  I smile.  The coffee smells fantastic.  I love this time in the morning when everything is quiet and new.  Anything can happen and the sky is the limit.

Today I am working on a presentation for a conference.  My presentation is about mainstreaming eating disorder recovery. My work is influenced by the amazing and inspirational work of Carolyn Costin, Gwen Schubert Grabb, Brené Brown, Glennon Melton and Elizabeth Gilbert. As well as my conversations with my therapist, Liz, and dear friends, Abbie and Jamie.   I admire these women so much and have learned so much from all of them. I continue to learn from all the wonderful, courageous people who come into my life.

Before I work on the presentation, I email my Dad. I let him know that I am working hard and the presentation is coming together.  I talk about where I am on the book I’ve been writing and how much I enjoy the support groups I’m working with. I facilitate support groups (like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In groups, maybe?). The group supports one another and works together to hold each other accountable.  I also like the sense of community a group provides. Recovery takes a community. The focus of the group is to start healing from the inside which will then take care of external appearance issues.

Then I do some journaling to check in with myself.  I know how important it is to check in with myself to see how I’m feeling.  I feel good today.  I feel worthy and like I belong to the amazing group of woman and men that are in my life.  I work on my gratitude practice and am so grateful to have a strong purpose of what I believe in and want to do.  I have two wonderful boys that I love spending time with, I have Steve, who I love more everyday, I am healthy and love myself and who I am becoming.

The boys wake up.  I am a little bothered to cut short my writing time, but I know I’ll have plenty of writing time once the boys are in school so the feeling passes quickly. Plus their smiles light up my life.  I fix them breakfast and we talk about what we want to do today. We connect by reading books, playing games and rough housing.

I get them off to school and I head to the gym for Gold’s Fit.  I’m still a little sore from yesterday but I am excited to see my friends and I have already told myself that I can do anything for an hour.  Doing Gold’s Fit isn’t about losing weight or even getting fit.  Working out is about managing my anxiety.  It feels good to release the energy, work hard and sweat.  Plus the friends I’ve made are awesome.  We hang out and talk for a bit after class and then I head home.  Feeling good and ready to get to work.

I give myself 30 minutes to clean when I get home.  Then I take a shower and sit down at my computer.  I am working to join a revolution.  Helping women change their lives. Eating disorder recovery gone mainstream.  One woman at a time. I love this work.  It gives me purpose and empowers me.  I want to help women break free from the chains of constantly living the “weight-loss as a goal” lifestyle.  One person at a time.

I finish working and pick up the boys.  We go to a park and play for an hour or so before dinner.  I let them watch tv so I can get dinner started.  I still hate making dinner but it is a way that I can show my affection for Steve.  As Brené Brown says, I can “practice” loving him rather than just saying that I love him.  We have dinner at the table as a family and each talk about what we are grateful for that day.  5 positive things and one thing that we would like to work on.

Steve plays with the boys after dinner and I clean up the kitchen.  Steve gets the boys ready for bed and I come up for hugs and kisses.  I spend 5 minutes with Wyatt and 5 minutes with Harrison. I love “5 minutes” because I get to cuddle with each boy and hear more about their favorite part of the day.

Once the boys are in bed Steve and I spend an hour or so together.  I call it connection time, which can mean different things on different days.  Sometimes it means talking, sometimes it means sex, sometimes we watch tv and sometimes we sit next to each other while we play on our phones (ah love in the Twenty-First Century). Then I go upstairs and get ready for bed.  Today I was enough.  I watch a show or two and fall asleep.  Steve comes up an hour or two later and I am already asleep. I love having him next to me when I sleep.