#DontMiss Loving Yourself in Recovery

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It’s so easy to miss the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. I know, because I had one for over seventeen years, and I was a master at not only hiding it from my family and friends, but deceiving myself into thinking that I didn’t have one.

Thankfully, with the help of God and my support team, I was able to get into a healthy place in my life and learn that it is possible to recover. And just as easy as it is to miss an eating disorder, it’s easy to miss loving yourself in recovery. I am a hard worker, and I love helping others, in fact, it’s one of the things that has helped me to recover. So in this VLOG for the Eating Recovery Roundup, I’ve decided to focus on #DontMiss loving yourself in recovery. Enjoy, and if you have any self love or self care tips you’d like to share, email me at nikkidubosecoaching@gmail.com.

With love and gratitude,

Nikki DuBose

Cave Person Brain (Part II)

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By Jennifer L. Gaudiani, MD, CEDS, Founder & Medical Director of the Gaudiani Clinic

In my last blog post, we started to consider how one’s brain responds to starvation, aka caloric restriction. In case you didn’t catch that one, I consider our cave person brain to be the part of our brain that keeps our body running on a day-to-day basis, operating separately from our thinking brain. And as a Cliff’s Notes version to that blog, by way of introducing today’s topic, is when your cave person brain doesn’t get adequate nutrition, it shifts into calorie conservation mode, reducing your metabolic rate (the calories needed neither to lose nor gain weight). These blogs on the cave person brain go into further details about how exactly your body achieves its goal of slowing metabolism. Remember: humans only exist today because our ancestors developed multiple mechanisms to survive famine. When food resources were scarce, humans became extraordinarily efficient at surviving and functioning. I’m always struck by the magnificence of our bodies’ innate functioning…vastly more responsive to our environments and scientifically and beautifully set up to keep us going than our own coarse attempts to over-control food and exercise.

As far as your brain is concerned, starvation includes deliberate caloric restriction in the service of disordered eating or an eating disorder, fasts or cleanses done in the name of health (pro tip: fasts and cleanses are the opposite of healthful), or even a diet. It’s a good moment to put in my expert physician note that diets don’t work. The data all point to 95 percent of weight lost through dieting being regained.

Because our brains are so superb at reacting to famine (aka restriction of calories) by reducing our metabolisms in many ways, all restriction does is make us highly cranky, less able to make sound decisions, feel deprived and think constantly about food, and slow our metabolism.

So, when a dieting person restricts long enough, nature kicks in to demand lots of food—preferably calorie-dense food that satisfies the cave person brain’s needs—and this consumption on top of a slowed metabolism leads most commonly to regaining even more weight than was lost. Thus what dieting most often causes in the long term is weight gain.

Back to how our cave person brains slow our metabolism and react to caloric restriction. In my last post, I talked about body temperature changes and slowed heart rate. Another way the body accomplishes slower metabolism is through slowed gastrointestinal function. When your cave person brain senses caloric restriction, it no longer wants to spend an extra calorie on normal wriggles of the stomach, small intestine, and colon. Pooping every day isn’t considered essential to life (compared with keeping the heart beating, for instance…), so many patients who restrict find that they become constipated. In addition, with stomach wriggles (called peristalsis) diminished, food might sit in a patient’s stomach for far longer, undigested, than it otherwise would in a well-nourished person with a faster metabolism. This condition, called gastroparesis (which can also be caused by many other things), causes bloating, early fullness where just a few bites might make someone feel full, and nausea. While a gastric emptying study can diagnose gastroparesis, these symptoms may occur even before a study shows any abnormality. Thus, someone who is restricting calories and adamantly telling themselves they are “fine” because their bloodwork is normal, but who has symptoms of constipation or gastroparesis, clearly isn’t fine. That slowed GI function is a sign of a body suffering due to inadequate nutrition. Usually, GI function will speed back up over time to normal, with consistent, adequate nutrition and body weight restoration if the person was underweight. But this can occur in people of all sizes and shapes and the unifying factor is caloric restriction.

Caloric restriction that lasts a long time, often associated with substantial weight loss, can cause the cave person brain to shut down sex hormones. To the cave person brain, malnutrition plus high stress hormones (cortisol, which increases due to the stress of starvation) means, “This body isn’t safe to participate in procreation.” To achieve this, the part of the brain called the hypothalamus basically recedes back in time to pre-adolescent levels of hormone production, which substantially reduces estrogen and testosterone levels. For many females, menstrual periods stop (although some continue to get their period despite prolonged malnutrition), and vaginal tissue can become dry and fragile, increasing the risk of bladder infections and of painful intercourse. For males, sex drive diminishes and erectile dysfunction occurs. For both sexes, bone density can drop fast, increasing the risk of fractures. These hormones nearly always come back on line when an individual has consistently rehabilitated nutritionally, usually with restoration of healthy body weight.

Finally, caloric restriction can cause the cave person brain to become severely anxious, even paranoid. Now, it’s true that for some people, restricting can numb their emotions. However, even when this effect occurs, it can be offset by a more “animal anxiety” from the cave person brain. Any of you who have pets know that a dog or cat who’s had surgery at the vet, or been through severe weather, may end up freaked out for a couple days…under the bed, eyes huge, fur up, claws out. Their animal brain knows that they’re in a vulnerable situation, and they’d better be extra vigilant about potential causes of harm. Similarly, when you’re restricting calories, your cave person brain understands its animal body to be vulnerable, not in a safe place to weather another challenge. Thus, the risk radar goes up and my patients feel like they are terrified at the prospect of making a big decision, or a meal plan increase, or even just the arrival of lunch. It’s a disproportionately paranoid, self-protective instinct that can cause a lot of suffering both to patient and family/friends. I remind patients, after bringing this up, “This may not be you, and it may not even be your eating disorder. It may be your starved brain. So let’s nourish you and see how this plays out. You have my compassion in the meantime.” Invariably, my patients tell me that this animal anxiety does really lessen with consistently adequate nutrition.

head-1965667_640To finish the discussion of the cave person brain and metabolic changes with caloric restriction, I have to include a discussion of people’s widely varying responses to malnutrition. There are people who drop weight fast when they restrict (keeping in mind that restricting in the service of a mental illness is vitally different from dieting), and there are people whose body weight simply does not change despite intense caloric restriction. There are people who’ve never had a moment of GI trouble and those who are crippled by GI issues, despite similar intakes and body sizes. Some never lose their menstrual period, while others have to wait years at a good weight to regain theirs. What explains this is our individual, genetically-determined variability in how our body responds to malnutrition. To use a more familiar example, a young man who only drank alcohol heavily for five years might develop severe liver damage, while a 90-year-old who drank his whole life might attribute his longevity “to the whiskey.” Similarly, every person will respond differently to the stress of caloric restriction. However your body responds, remember that your cave person brain is wise and working hard to keep you alive all the time. Give it compassion, rest, and plenty of nutrition.


ckgaudianiclinic-094-copy-300x300About the Author: Dr. Jennifer LGaudiani is the Founder and Medical Director of the Gaudiani Clinic, a unique outpatient medical clinic for adolescents and adults with eating disorders. She is one of very few internal medicine physicians in the country who hold the Certified Eating Disorder Specialist credential from the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. Check out the Gaudiani clinic on Facebook and Twitter.

Love the skin you’re in

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By Madison Swart

As we approach summer, we all know the looming stress of attaining a ‘beach bod’. The pressure we put on ourselves, the pressure created from that girl from high school who was always a little posting her ‘transformation Tuesday’ and looking like a flippin VS model. We all know it. We all hate it. And I have news for you – YOU’RE ALLOWED TO IGNORE IT!

shells-792912_640So for today, I have put together a list of my top 6 favorite blogs you can follow/read this Spring and Summer to help remind you that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL – Cellulite and all.

So this Summer, wear that bikini. Lay out on the quad. Own your body, and know that there are those of us out here who will support you and love you no matter what size shorts you wear.

  1. Stop Hating Your Body By talking about self-love, this blog encourages readers to discuss body image issues related to size, gender, and sexual orientation. Followers are allowed to post their own content, given it follows the guidelines that have been set to maintain a safe space. The blog is described as “Healthy, not healthy, working on it, abled, disabled, we are all human, we all deserve to be happy, we all deserve to love ourselves.”
  2. Fat Girl Food Squad 
 This Toronto-based blog focuses on body positivity by talking about the intersection between food, fat, and feminism. Amanda and Yuli started the blog after feeling alienated by their size at PR events. You can also find IRL meetups regularly through their online community they have built!
  3. The Militant Baker Jes’ blog took off in 2013 after she recreated Abercrombie & Fitch’s ads with the tagline ‘Attractive and Fat’ after their CEO made some crude and unwelcome comments saying that A&F didn’t make XL clothes because he “doesn’t want larger people shopping in the store.” The Militant Baker has more than 500,000 views a month, and focuses on topics from body acceptance, and rape culture to feminism and empowerment.
  4. The Love Yourself Challenge 
Scotty and Rae are a brother and sister duo who create original image content (inspired by their own experiences) with the goal of challenging young people to learn to be comfortable in their own skin by offering them positive and encouraging messages. Rae even shares her story.
  5. Weightless PsychCentral‘s body image blog focuses on wellbeing through a personal, relatable lens.
 The blog is written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., who interviews experts, features recovery stories and provides real and honest feedback for women’s magazines when they host harmful health advice for their readers.
  6. REglam Blog REglam is a fashion magazine aiming to change the conversation around the industry, focusing on real women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Its blog comments on a variety of body image issues.

    0E6FCA243E254133B5E305EC6D7825C5About the Author: Madison is the Founder and President of the Ohio State University Chapter of Project HEAL! She is a senior majoring in Social Work and Psychology currently working as an addiction counselor for The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center. After graduating in May, Madison plans to stay involved with Project HEAL while pursuing a career in Social Work, hoping to help individuals struggling with mental health struggles. Madison runs a blog, www.theadultinghippie.com, and paints in her free time.

A letter written by a caregiver to her partner’s eating disorder

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Dear ED,

How dare you.

How dare you turn my partner into something I no longer recognize. You make her selfish, which she is anything but. You make her hide things from me, yet I am the only person that knows everything about her.

How dare you shame her.

How dare you tell her that she is not enough. That she is not worth it. That she is dirty.

How dare you make her live in a world full of fear when she is so full of nothing but love and empathy for people. How dare you.

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How dare you make her want to crawl out of her skin. How dare you make her want to be just skin and bones in order to be invisible. How dare you take her voice away from her when she is full of knowledge and insight that should be shared with the world.

How dare you break her down into nothing and take her away from me. How dare you make me miss her so much although she is physically standing right in front of me. How dare you be an illness that very few people understand limiting the amount of people that I can confide in. How dare you separate us when we are supposed to be building our lives together. How dare you keep me up at night wondering if she’s okay. How dare you make me pull over to the side of the road and cry alone in my car. How dare you make her so scared and anxious to put anything in her body and take away the joy of food. How dare you make me tell her to take two more bites of food and act like her mom when I am supposed to be her equal. How dare you make me get so mad, frustrated, and disappointed at her just because you embody her.

Shame on you ED. Shame on you for making me scared that she may not wake up the next morning because you made her destroy herself physically and mentally. Shame on you for making me navigate our broken mental health system alone without my partner and best friend. Shame on you for showing me a glimpse of hope, of “normalization” only to completely tear it apart and put our future farther and farther away from us. When will you leave us? Our lives are supposed to be beginning, but instead they’re on hold.

Why won’t you just leave her alone? Her head is full of you. Full of distortions. Full of torturous thoughts.

Please I beg of you just let her be. Your thoughts are a waste of time. She could be spending this time creating and giving back to the world and making it a better place and filling it with joy and happiness, but instead she’s stuck with you. She’s stuck attending to your needs and your desires. Have you ever thought about what she wants? About all that she can give to the world without you present? Please just let her go. I can’t bear to live with you for another day. I’m so tired of fighting you. I just want to be with OJ, just OJ, just as she is without you in her head taking away from our time together. I am ready to continue to grow with her and discover all that we can do together, without you.

In spite,

CJ


Jamie third wheelAbout the Author: Jamie Dannenberg (CJ) is the primary carer of her partner, also named Jamie but referred to as OJ, who is in recovery from an eating disorder. As the partner of someone with an eating disorder and a registered dietitian, CJ has had to learn to navigate various roles in their relationship. With OJ, Jamie has become involved in global advocacy work and together they share their experience as a queer couple in recovery on their blog thirdwheelED. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Road to Recovery: Liza Kulimanova

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By TJ Spencer

Project HEAL provides grant funding for people with eating disorders who cannot afford treatment. For many, this treatment has gone beyond saving their lives – it helps them save others’ lives as well.

Such is the case for Liza Kulimanova, a 2014 Project HEAl grant recipient who currently runs a website, educational YouTube channel and a blog dedicated to helping others overcome their struggles with bulimia.

For Liza, her 13-year struggle with bulimia began in her home country of Russia. She remembers being happy until around age 11, when she began dedicating more and more of her time to her studies and striving for perfection. After trying different weight loss centers and Chinese acupuncture to help cope with her struggles, she was prescribed Fluoxetine to help with depression – but it just wasn’t working.

Her days before treatment were filled with a routine of “dwelling on negative thoughts, zoning out, restricting, binging, purging…being extremely busy and ‘productive,’” Liza explains.

This routine was further perpetuated with she immigrated to the United States in 2010.

“I had no support in the USA and I was extremely isolated,” she says.

She then began searching online for scholarships for eating disorder treatment and discovered Project HEAL. With the grant, she was able to attend treatment at The New Beginning in Scottsdale, AZ.

“Treatment was hard and painful, but at the same time giving me relief and making me feel so much better. I am so grateful for treatment and I see bulimia as a gift now. It really allowed me to become a healthier and better person and grow tremendously from the inside,” she explains.

Today, Liza’s routine is filled with smiling, being more present and aware, checking in on herself, creating time for herself and being open to people, along with blogging and bodybuilding.

“I am very determined and disciplined, and willing to grow consistently,” she says.

This determination and discipline has allowed her to become an ambassador for bulimia treatment through her website, blog and YouTube channel.

“Believe that recovery is possible, because it is. Love yourself enough to get better — just take the first step and see where this journey will lead you. Let your life to unfold and let go of the control,” she advises.


headshotAbout the Author: Second-year journalism and French double major at Seattle University, TJ Spencer is originally from a small town in California, but Seattle stole her heart. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading and showing off her embarrassing dance moves at cardio dance class. You can find her around Seattle photographing anything and everything, or in her bedroom practicing her French by talking to her roommate’s rabbit.

Where is My Chip or Ribbon?

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By: Jeff Holton

I would like to first start by saying that I do not have an issue with anyone or any group that has representation for their struggles, triumphs, and circumstances.  In fact, it has been seeing firsthand the many different people that have been in my life and the joy, encouragement, solace, and unity that each have drawn from their own ribbon or chip, that identifies what they have personally dealt with, and many times still continue to battle through.  I greatly admire what each signifies not only for the cause, but as important the individual person.

When I initially decided, or maybe better finally admitted that I needed to enter treatment for ED my thought was that I would be away from work for eight to twelve weeks, gain a certain amount of weight, and come out on the other end as the same person I was prior to ED.  In fact I was so sure of this that when people would tell him how happy they were for me, and they would be thinking of me, I still remember telling many that it was no big deal and that I would be gone for a little bit of time and comeback with added and needed weight.  It is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong, but this I WAS WRONG!  In fact I was not even in the ballpark, zip code, area code, or whatever analogy you like to use.  I am still shocked at how much I underestimated the process.

I entered PHP September 6. 2016 and left October 26, 2016.  During that time I attended around 35 days of therapy.  The total hours ranged between 250 and 280 hours.  Safe to say that I underestimated greatly what would be involved while in full time therapy, what would be involved immediately after I left, and what would be involved for the next five to seven years of my life.  Since leaving therapy I continue to spend 1.5 hours a week working with my therapy team which includes a dietician and psychologist.

What I failed to realize is that treating ED is not something that has a defined game plan, path, timeline, or basically anything that my structured mind wanted.  In fact treating my ED at times feels like getting all four of my kids on the same page for what is for dinner, the movie we will watch that night, and what the movie snack will be.  There is always a chance that all four (ages 9 through 3) will agree on everything, but more than likely it will be much like treating ED– a 5 to 7 year process to see success.

I bring this up not for anyone to feel sorry for me and what I am going through.  In fact, the opposite.  This is process is me and “my team’s” battle, one that we ARE going to win, and I do not want sympathy, only empathy.  My point in sharing is that treating ED and getting to a place of recovery, which looks different for each person is a long and winding process over many years.

Battling ED, and yes I view it as a battle, is a process that one breath has you feeling as if you are on top the world, and the next scared of a menu or something on your plate. Then you find yourself contemplating what in the hell to pick for your snack, to not having confidence that you are following your meal plan, to being back on top of the world.  This can all happen before lunch, and can happen many times throughout the day for those of us battling ED.

It is a constant process to be mindful, breathe, use your skills, slow down, be present, ask for help, sit with emotions, not be self-critical, and many other things that occur throughout the day while battling ED.

Today there are over 80+ different color ribbons that are designed to create public awareness to health, medical conditions, disability, and other issues. An awareness ribbon is defined as a piece of colored ribbon folded across itself creating a loop shape. Today, awareness ribbons are used globally as a way for wearers of the ribbon(s) to make a statement of support for a particular cause or issue.  There are 100’s of different causes, issues, and diseases that are represented and are very much deserved.

I bring all of this up as I know many on the outside of the ED battle tend to think “Hey Jeff went to therapy for a couple of months, gained some weight, looks better, all is fixed and good.”  Yes things are MUCH better than they were when I entered treatment, AND I am now only six months into my process AND I know that at the very minimum I still have another twelve months left and in most situations another four or five years.  I am comfortable with my process, all I wish is that for myself and everyone else battling ED that we had a ribbon, chip, or some symbol that signified our process, how long we have been in the process, and where we are at.  The battle and process are real and there is no definite end date or finish line.

In the grand scheme of things I know that this is a small item, AND I also know that it is something that I want AND I have learned from many great people that it is healthy and necessary to ask for what I need.


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About the Author: What does Jeff do on his days off?  Well, he has four children under the age of 9, so that keeps him pretty busy at soccer matches, basketball games, baseball games, and acro recitals.  In between chasing after kids, Jeff loves watching Ohio State Football and playing golf.  He is also quite the connoisseur of craft beer.

Journeying Through Depression Recovery

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By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

When it comes to eating disorders, it is not uncommon to assume that the more obvious signs and symptoms are what define these mental illnesses. However, this falls into the stigmas and stereotypes that are too often created about eating disorders. On the surface, it may appear that eating disorders involve a problematic relationship with food, but there are many more factors that interplay in the development of these diseases.

One common aspect of eating disorders that is overlooked is the frequency that other mental illnesses, such as depression, co-occur with eating disorders. In fact, is is estimated that more than half of individuals who develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, also have a comorbid mood disorder, like depression or anxiety [1]. For some, it may be an undiagnosed and untreated mood disorder that triggers the development of maladaptive eating behaviors associated with eating disorders. Because of this common connection between mood disorders, like depression, and eating disorders, effectively treating and managing both conditions is essential to treatment.

Learning From My Own Journey

As a survivor of both depression and an eating disorder, I can attest firsthand to the hope that is found in the recovery journey. Is it an easy process? Not by any means. In fact, the diagnosis of co-occurring depression and an eating disorder can feel hopeless, even overwhelming at times, yet there are effective interventions that can support you through this recovery journey, even when you feel unreachable and at your lowest point.

Some of the most powerful tools for recovery from depression and an eating disorder include the combination of psychotherapy with medication management, such as the use of antidepressants. While some people may feel vehemently against the use of any type of medication for depression, there are several potential benefits that should be researched thoroughly and discussed with your doctor and/or treatment team as an option for your care.

Depression, like eating disorders, is likely influenced by several different aspects, including both biological and environmental factors. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and antidepressant medication may be helpful in correcting this. Developing healthier coping skills with therapy, DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is also a fundamental part of healing and recovering from both depression and an eating disorder.

Individualized Treatment for Recovery

While our diagnoses may feel like a life sentence, it is important to remember that neither your eating disorder or depression defines who you are or what you are capable of achieving. Ultimately, it was through my own struggles with these comorbid conditions that I found healing and became inspired to help others do the same through Eating Disorder Hope. Wherever you may find yourself today, take the necessary step toward recovery by asking for help and discovering what treatment approaches might work best for you. Treatment for co-occurring depression and eating disorders is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and with the help and support of your treatment team and loved ones, you can find your path toward healing and recovery.

References: [1]: Ulfvebrand, S., Birgegard, A., Norring, C., Hogdahl, L., & von Hausswolff-Juhlin, Y. (2015). Psychiatric comorbidity in women and men with eating disorders results from a large clinical database. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 294-299.


Jacquelyn-Pic-2-22-16-250x250About the Author: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology, participation and contributions to additional eating disorder groups, symposiums, and professional associations. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp). Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, walking her golden retriever “Cowgirl”, reading, painting and time with family. Although Eating Disorder Hope was founded by Jacquelyn Ekern, this organization would not be possible without support from our generous sponsors.

Connect with Eating Disorder Hope with Twitter & Facebook.

 

 

(Re)discovering My Roots through Art in Eating Disorder Recovery

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By: Jamie (OJ)

It’s amazing how one day you can wake up and realize that, holy crap, you’ve been back under your eating disorder’s spell for a few weeks and you didn’t even know it. Well, in hindsight, there were some hints along the way, coupled with precarious relief, but nothing that warranted concern. But then it hits you, most likely at an inconvenient time.

A couple of weeks ago, my partner, CJ and I went on a lovely day trip, which like most other day trips included going out for lunch. I ordered what felt like a challenge food I could handle, a sandwich that sounded delicious, and was feeling proud. When the food was brought to the table though, I felt a familiar, yet distant panic. Eating felt hard again. Old narratives and personifications of what impossible superpowers this food was capable of trickled back into my thoughts:

What?!?!?! [honest disbelief]

How did I not see this coming? [useless self-blame]

Why all of a sudden?  [useless self-denial]

How do I fix this? [glimpse of motivation]

I can’t let anyone know, I just need to get out of this ditch on my own. [useless stubbornness thinking I can do this on my own]

At this point in my recovery though, the short-term relief is coupled with the haunting knowledge of the consequences of my eating disorder behaviors. I’ve gained too much awareness and insight into how I want to live my life, that I feel frustrated, shame, and fear after struggling with a behavior. These emotions clouded the clarity and control I thought I gained over my eating disorder and it was hard for me to determine where I ended and the eating disorder began. So I turned to art.

During a session with my dietitian, she brought up one of my tattoos that says, “I am rooted, but I flow” and asked me what I feel rooted in when I’m stuck in more of the eating disorder mindset? I turned to art:

art for project heal post

The image on the left represents how it feels to be stuck in a state where I’m hovering over the unstable terrain of my eating disorder, encapsulated by shame and fear. I know I’ve been in this space before and it can head down a path that will prevent me from living my life and will put me right back into treatment. It’s tight and claustrophobic. I don’t want to be stuck here, but there is also sadly, a part of me that doesn’t want to comply with what I know I need to do to break free. There’s an internal emptiness, but a sense of safety and protection from what’s outside. In this picture, I’m floating, not connected to any roots, because really, fear isn’t grounding.

 

The image on the right, represents being re-rooted in the present. My dietitian encouraged me to dig deep and connect with the roots that felt most inherent and true in my heart. I’m able to listen to the values of my own heart and I’m not stuck, I’m rooted in the honesty, in vulnerability, and compassion, in values that I know feel important to me. Listening to my heart gives me more ways to trust my intuition.

For those of us who sometimes feel stuck during a meal, a lapse, a slip, a relapse… here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take it one day at a time, try to ground yourself in what you know to be true to your values and goals (not your eating disorders’ values and goals)

  2. Notice the source of information that your eating disorder is trying to convince you is accurate

  3. Stay grounded in your roots that originate from your heart.

  4. And perhaps most of all, trust that you are deserving and worthy of and able to believe in yourself.

 

In strength and healing,

OJ


OJ is currently experiencing and documenting the ups and downs of eating disorder recovery. She and her partner (CJ) share their dual perspectives on eating disorder recovery through a queer lens on their blog www.thirdwheelED.com. OJ’s writing focuses on the intersectionality of eating disorder recovery as a self-identified queer and lesbian woman. She also documents her eating disorder recovery in conjunction with other mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Jamie volunteers with Project HEAL Boston.

Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness

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By: Crystal Campoverde

I have begun to see this truth I recite daily play out in my life. A year since immersing into the sometimes-daunting process of trauma work, this quote helps me visualize the co-existence of joy and pain. From my perspective, recovering from trauma requires one to walk through the five stages of grief and loss while simultaneously staying grounded in the beauty of the present.

Renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross famously illustrates these five stages of grief and loss as

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance.

Of course these stages are not linear. Much like recovering from an eating disorder, trauma recovery is like a musical piece with all its crescendos, pauses, accidentals, ebbs, and flows. For me, denial looked like holding my arms out trying to keep two worlds separate – the remnants trauma left behind on one side from the beauty of my present life on the other side.

Bargaining looked like acknowledging selective parts of the trauma to justify its occurrence in my life. Specifically, my vocation became the bow I tied neatly on top of the trauma to make sense of its existence. Of course, that was until even my vocation was not enough to keep the eating disorder and pain at bay. When the bargaining wasn’t enough, I went back to anger. Because wait, why do children, the most vulnerable of any population, have to endure any pain and suffering when they are still establishing their internal resources? My eating disorder gave me the false belief that anger over anything was wrong. So experiencing anger was a sign of moving forward towards accepting the trauma instead of denying it and numbing it out by restricting.

Although I am only in the beginning stages of acceptance, I share with you my reflections to provide fellow trauma survivors hope. Acceptance does not mean excusing the trauma that occurred. As Oprah Winfrey says, “It means letting go of the hope that the past could have been different” and not giving power to the trauma to claim your true identity. So what does acceptance begin to look like? For me, moving into acceptance is unclenching my fists and releasing the burdens I was not meant to carry.

Moving into acceptance is lowering my arms and allowing the remnants of trauma I am still working through and the redemptive moments in life collide like an avalanche. As much as the pain can feel unbearable, the heartaches can keep us awake at night, the anger to want a reason for suffering can weigh heavy, I’m discovering that letting go of the hope that the past could have been different gives one momentum to get up each morning to reach out to community, help others, and to simply be even when things are messy. Because things will be messy when one is recovering from trauma and unburdening the pain since healing is giving witness to the grief.

When the grief presents itself, instead of it letting it overwhelm me and going into denial I now ground myself by saying to my grieving part, “I’m okay, you’re okay, I will let you have your say.”

Anorexia has a subtle way to fill one with the cynical, false belief that you need little to survive- little food, little community, little safety, little hope, little acknowledgement. But once you recover from an eating disorder and begin to unburden the trauma it was covering up, your authentic self begins to emerge. Calmness, clarity, curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, creativity, and connectedness, these 8 C’s from internal family systems model (IFS), are in the stage of acceptance. Sometimes we won’t have answers for experiences we had to endure. Trusting our higher power, we keep our eyes fixed on what’s ahead, unburdening the past, dwelling in hope, and embracing the present. Acceptance to me is what we do with the pain. Yes, the people and things I advocate for are part of my story. I can’t deny that my past has allowed me a unique perspective and intensity to advocate for the very same things traumatic experiences take from others. Today, I am slowly unclenching my hands even with the messiness I am still working through.

Stars-cant-shine-without-darkness.-1In moving forward, you begin to notice the beauty around you to remain grounded. I believe these moments give you momentum to recover what was lost. Allow yourself to feel the stars shining on you even if those around you don’t experience them in the same depth. Bask in them. I am claiming my voice again through these experiences.

When I was in residential treatment, I couldn’t visualize where these life-giving memories would emerge. These moments include running the parking garages with my friend and feeling so alive and free to spend time with such a positive person and feeling my body supporting me.

When I sit with the uncomfortable feelings of a break up, I can now also see that my interaction with him allowed me to dream I could let someone in and feel belonged. When the toddler I nanny spontaneously embraces me, I allow the joyful tears run down my cheeks because I know how it feels to allow love in. Celebrating a friend’s birthday and seeing the wind blow out the candles prematurely and laughing uncontrollably–these are the moments that remind me that I am moving into acceptance and that the trauma cannot have power over my present life.

Yes, acknowledging and recovering from trauma can be painful and can make you feel exposed. This life can be incredibly messy especially when the unexplainable, tragic occurs. There is loss. There is grief. But there are also stars in that same darkness. And if you begin to embrace what you have right now, release the burdens of your past, dwell in hope, you will start to see the stars clearer. These stars include your loving community that sticks with you, Project Heal that is a family to so many in recovery, and your authentic self. YOU are a star shining in the darkness.



15676370_10202766162271418_1024429809987914000_oAbout the Author: 
Crystal Campoverde is a GRATEFUL Project HEAL treatment grant recipient. Having walked through her journey of recovery from anorexia and bulimia, she is incredibly thankful for her loving community and for vicariously experiencing a life-giving childhood at 24 years old. She loves to write, eat cupcakes, practice yoga, and advocate for children’s needs. She is a strong advocate for both eating disorder awareness and post-traumatic stress disorder awareness. She shares her vulnerability through blogging to encourage others in their healing and to lead a fulfilling, redemptive life.

5 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Battle with an Eating Disorder

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By Kylee Schmuck

Eating disorders are notorious liars, gaslighters. They convince you of anything and everything they can just to keep you sick, keep you in their grasp and under their control. Your eating disorder needs you sick to survive, don’t let it trick you into staying sick and miserable. Here are five lessons I learned when working to uncover the lies of my disorder and kick it out.

Lesson 1: No matter what the scale says, you won’t be satisfied with the number when living in your eating disorder.

Eating disorders lie. They thrive in darkness where no one knows the truth and lure in victims with false promises of confidence and success. The disorder gives you a goal, gives you control and something to work towards. You think, ‘once I get to X pounds I’ll be happy’. You won’t ever be happy. You reach that goal weight and the disorder tricks you into going further and further down the rabbit hole. There is no weight that the disorder will be satisfied with. The number will go down and down, until it takes your life. There is no success to be found within an eating disorder unless success is sickness.

Eating disorders aren’t pretty, they aren’t glamorous. They’re ugly and disgusting and rot away the souls of too many beautiful souls.

Lesson 2: You will never be ‘sick enough’ by your disordered standards

5552837418_aacbc2cfb6_zAnother lie eating disorders commonly tell is that you aren’t sick enough to receive treatment. Eating disorders will try and convince you that ‘you don’t look sick’ or ‘well I don’t look like x’ or some other version of these statements. There is no such thing as ‘sick enough’. Your disorder will only convince you that you need to be the worst possible case, impossible of course, to receive treatment or receive help. That isn’t the case. You do not need to reach a certain level of suffering to deserve help and support; if you are struggling and want help, you deserve help.

Lesson 3: Recovery isn’t linear

When entering recovery we often carry over a lot of the habits, mindsets, and tendencies that helped foster our disorder. One such carry over is perfectionism. Perfectionist tendencies may lead you to believe that once you choose recovery or enter treatment, etc. that it is going to be linear. You have this view of recovery as this perfect, straight shot, without struggles or setbacks or relapses. Unfortunately, recovery is anything but linear or perfect. Recovery means accepting that things are going to be messy, you’re going to have hard days and setbacks, and accepting that relapses can happen. Recovery may not be linear, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Lesson 4: Vulnerability is important

Eating disorders thrive in darkness and secrecy. Vulnerability and openness do not mix with an eating disorder. When I began the process of recovery I realized just how important vulnerability is. Staying shut down keeps us isolated, closed off, unavailable to those around us; this is precisely what our eating disorders want. Learning to open up and be vulnerable with those around us not only brings us closer to those in our lives, but brings us closer to recovery. Recovery is not possible without vulnerability and honesty; it’s hard, but it’s vital.

Lesson 5: Rip off the band-aid

My therapist coined a phrase for me to help me overcome some of my biggest fears, “Just rip off the band-aid”. So often the experience of facing a fear is worsened by dragging it out; the anticipatory anxiety only heightens the fear and prolongs the experience. It might seem odd at first, but learning to ‘rip off the band-aid’ and just do it, was an extremely important lesson I learned in my recovery. You can’t wait till you’re 100% ready, you never will be. Sometimes you just have to jump in headfirst and do the things you’re most afraid of. It will be hard, terrifying, often even excruciating, but it is necessary. You will wait forever if you wait for the ‘perfect time’ to do it; don’t wait until it’s too late.

Do not believe the lies that your eating disorder tells you. They may sound convincing, enticing, safer, but they’re not. Work to uncover the truth and learn the lessons of recovery.


 

About the Author:

5E0F3283-A294-4E64-814B-3D56239A062AKylee lives in Seattle and is a true Pacific Northwest girl at heart; working at a tech recruiting firm and in her free time enjoying hiking, yoga, running and exploring the plentiful local coffee shops around the city. Her writing encompasses her mental health struggles with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression, as well as her physical disability and chronic pain. You can find her work on her own blog, Coffee and Reflections, as well as on sites like The Mighty and MCXV. Follower Kylee on Twitter and Instagram.