Sunday, February 12, 2012

When you put limits on treatment...... end up putting limits on your recovery....and your LIFE!

I was speaking to students and faculty at a local college this past week, and one of the points I made, as I attempted to help educate them as future health care professionals; was how important it is to never minimize the seriousness of an eating disorder.
I thought of how many times I myself, while in the throes of this deadly illness, kept telling myself that 'tomorrow', I would change, and it would all be better. Of course, I had countless ways to rationalize and convince myself that I would finally 'do it', and I think at times, I believed it. I felt desperate, yet, also, set on not needing 'treatment', and believing that I had to be strong and 'just do it'. I did this for over 30 years, and I will never have those years back.
I run across people every day who regret not getting help sooner, and who feel guilty because they couldn't do it on their own. I understand that. But I also know that the sooner a person allows themselves to admit they cannot make the necessary decisions to recover on their own, the more of their life they will have to truly live.
Most people who suffer with an eating disorder worry about what other people think, or 'will' think if they seek treatment. There is no way that the people in their lives don't already know what is going on....usually. And if certain people don't already know, they certainly will, once the disorder causes the person to be completely dysfunctional. There is something about an eating disorder that causes the person suffering to believe that they will somehow be the one who doesn't have a heart attack, renal failure or sudden death. It doesn't work that way.
Full recovery is possible, but not without finally surrendering to those who truly know how to help, and being willing to do WHATEVER it takes to never have the eating disorder again. I had to commit to that, probably a hundred times or more, but had I continued to try to tailor my treatment to 'what I would do', and 'what I wouldn't do', in terms of willingness, I would be dead by now. I have NO doubt about that.
An eating disorder serves a purpose; or else no one would ever develop one. But there is a point where it's only purpose is to destroy. Is it really worth not feeling, hiding away, being in constant pain {physical and emotional}, and literally losing moments, days, weeks, and years of your life to hold onto some tiny aspect that offers {distorted} peace?
The truth is, the surrender involved in recovery offers rewards that cannot be seen until it's done.....and each day offers more.
What are you holding onto; and what are you sacrificing for that control?
An active eating disorder and LIFE are not compatible. The longer you wait to choose, the less of one you will experience.
Which one will it be?
Without apology.....♥

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What RULES your life?

How do you know what is 'right' when everything is 'wrong'?
If you could count how many times you 'should' yourself every day, would you be shocked? Probably.
What about those days when everything seems to be a challenge, and you don't think you can take one more problem?
"What am I doing wrong?"
"It's all my fault."
"I deserve to be sad, unhappy or [hungry]"
Do any of these sound familiar?
What about........
"I know I will make a mistake. There is no use in trying."
"I forgot to call my friend back last night. I am a terrible friend, forgetful, and not worth anyone spending time with. "
"My perfect score on the exam was just luck."
"No one called me back about the job. They hate me and I will never be hired."
"If I am not chosen to attend the seminar, I will ever have another opportunty."
"My entire family hates me because I have never done anything right."
These are examples of 'cognitive distortions'. When the internal (and often external) messages you send yourself are extreme, and often stem from negative beliefs or perspectives about yourself.
These messages most often greatly affect the quality of your life.
I was a victim of getting caught up in more than one of these, often for long periods of time.
Much of the time it centered around my core belief that I was a 'bad' person, and that I deserved to
be punished. Good/bad, right/wrong, and should/shoudn't, were the rules I lived by. They were not chosen rules, but rules that I truly felt sentenced to; as a life term.
It is much too complex to explain right here, but once I decided to allow myself to 'choose' what rules to follow, and what I truly believed,  the anger, resentment and frustration began to melt away. I began to respect myself and others more, and I let go of the guilt and fear that I had felt for most of my life. the midst of this process I could not see, nor could I even imagine things ever being better or even different. There is true beauty in hindsight.
Life is not fair. This is one I will always struggle with. When 'normal' pains and losses in life occur, I find myself trying to balance it all again. No longer is it about punishing myself, or is it related to eating or food. But I often find that I must again evaluate who I am in the bigger picture, and what meaning it all has for me. I don't have to always be happy or like the way I feel.
I simply need to keep going.
Without apology.....♥

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Goals for the Holidays

"Don't let the past steal your present."
-Terri Guillemets

Who has time to think about setting goals for the Holidays? How many of us are use to simply "getting through" them without having a breakdown, or without others seeing how overwhelmed we are?
The Holiday season can be stressful for almost anyone, but if you are struggling with an eating disorder, or fighting for recovery, you are likely even more worried and stressed about the expectations of the season. I would ask, "whose expectations are you trying to live up to?"
We all have family traditions that we may or may not enjoy, for any number of reasons. I have found that by focusing on the aspects of those experiences that are basic and meaningful, they are much more enjoyable, and I don't spend the three months prior to December, dreading the Holidays. Many of the activities and gatherings during the Holiday season seem to be "all about food", but I don't think that's so true. Anyone who struggles with an eating disorder, in the mindset of fear of eating, fear of not eating, etc., tends to make it all about food by the focus they put on it in their own minds.
Flexibility is a beautiful thing to consider. What are the 'rules' that you have, that prevent you from finding joy and meaning in your Holiday experiences? Which ones can you challenge or let go of for this period of time; or do they even serve you anymore (did they ever?)
Can you identify certain messages that you adhere to that are only self-critical, and that are based on rigidity and perfectionistic expectations?
I wasted many many years and opportunities for joy by dreading the Holidays for reasons that were only related to worry about eating and food. I missed a lot of 'moments' that I can never have back.
At this time of my life there are other memories and recent grief that causes me to feel many painful emotions, but I will never allow myself to miss out of the joy 'in the moment' ever again.
Are your goals for this Holiday season based on joy and experience, or are you full of dread and fear to simply "get through"? What can you do to bring the focus back to what is really important?
Without apology....♥

Monday, November 28, 2011

How much do WE dictate our own experiences?

"When we put a limit on what we can do; we put a limit on what we can do"
-Charles Schwab
Seems simplistic, eh? But how many times in an average day, do your own 'limiting thoughts' predict what you do in that day? How much do we limit our own experiences, yet then blame our unhappiness or negative experiences on others?
We can always find something 'wrong', or something (or someone) we would like to change.
But how much effort is put into that evaluation, and the wish to change someone or something?
For myself, it brings up a lot of 'angst', and I find that my own experience is greatly compromised in the promise.
I have to let some things go. Life isn't fair, and all things will never be as I want them. I can choose to worry and fret (and complain), which takes a lot of my precious energy and joy; OR, I can choose to stop judging everything for it's good/bad status, and be grateful for the amazing things I have in my life! And I have much to be grateful for!!
In the grand scheme of things, may things could be different or better, in terms of what is right. But for today, which is ALL that I have in this moment, what really matters?
I don't like who I am when I focus on balancing it all out. I don't like how I feel, or how I treat other people. And I definitely don't like how it all impacts my daily experience.
The past 6-8 months have been very difficult for me. My own mortality has once again, been clarified for me with my Mother's passing.
Without 'forgetting' my pain or the emotions I feel, I can still choose to be grateful for the wonderful people in my life, my health, my job , and most of all, for my dear husband, who makes my mere existence beautiful ♥.
I already feel more peaceful.
Without apology......♥

Monday, September 5, 2011

Emotional Honesty: The Key to Healthy Relationships

The topic of relationships came up in a group last week, and it became obvious very quickly that this topic is very complex. After thinking about it in relation to planning my topics for the support group, I came to a conclusion.
Emotional Honesty is the key to any healthy relationship.
It is also the key to feeling peace and less fear in your daily life. This, at least, has been my experience.
What is emotional honesty? The meaning is pretty easy; carrying it out is the difficult task.
For myself, learning to be emotionally honest was an involved process. I had to challenge many fears, including the fear of being rejected, unloved, criticized, or WRONG.
But first I had to gain an awareness of my emotions, because I had hidden them and denied them for most of my life.
Ultimately, this goes back to changing the way you cope with life, emotional distress and challenges. Or rather, deciding to face these things instead of running away [in many ways].
Uncovering those deep emotions inside, along with the values that coincide with the thought processes, is probably the most complex, but also the most rewarding aspect of this.
The 'how' of this is unique to every person, but my professional advice is that no one does this without the guidance of a therapist.
Being able to be emotionally honest means that you don't have to tailor your comments or actions to the specific person you are with, or the situation you are in. YOU are YOU, and that never needs to change. It's about trusting the core of who you are, and not shrinking back from what you believe in; regardless of whether others agree.
Emotional honestly pertains to your relationship to yourself as well. Can you accept your imperfections and keep moving forward?
This is not about vanity or over-confidence. There is humility in being emotionally honest as well. Can you admit your mistakes and apologize without beating yourself up?
The opposite of emotional honesty is isolation, paranoia, manipulation and secrets that hold a great deal of pain.
Approaching relationships with an open mind, an open heart, and confidence that you can be YOU without compromising yourself will reap you many rewards.
Without the component of emotional honesty, no one benefits. I learned the hard way.
Without apology.....♥

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Every day is a New Beginning

Some may consider the title to be a bit 'idealistic', but this is how I have learned to live my life. Truly. There are always changes, challenges and frustrations that come with daily life. We cannot avoid them. I am grateful that I no longer feel the need to try to escape the daily ups and downs, and that I actually look forward to learning from those moments that force me to think [outside of the box]
The last four months have presented me with some exceptionally challenging and painful situations. I have had to accept that with the passing of time comes loss, and the resulting situations are painful. My Mother's short illness of seven weeks prior to her death has left me feeling a myriad of emotions.
I regret that I have learned as much if not more about my parents after their death than I did during the entire time that they were living.
As I move through these emotions, I am realizing that this 'ending' is not unlike a beginning.
The phases that come with the passing of time contain both endings and beginnings. I don't have to like the 'plan', or even understand it. What I have chosen to do is to keep moving forward.
I believe that there are opportunities for new beginnings for us all. I have found that with my recovery from an eating disorder, my eyes have been opened more fully.
Life is bigger, brighter and overall more full.
I am currently walking into new opportunities in every phase of my life. The Recovery Support Group is beginning a new session, and I am excited about the new format and topics!
The 'outreach' aspect of my job title continues to grow, and I am noticing a new perspective in my message. I no longer feel the need to define recovery [for myself], as I am simply living my life. The fact that I know what an eating disorder 'feels' like, and I have moved beyond that in all ways, is not my identity, but rather a chapter in my book.
The first meeting of the support group will focus on life goals, and how these relate to the development of personal identity.
Perhaps you would want to ask yourself, "How well do my life goals fit into my plan for recovery, and how well does my recovery fit with my life goals?"
Every day holds new beginnings. Are you keeping your eyes open to see them?
Without apology....♥

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"BAD Body Image";The emotional connection

Because so many people struggle with the aspect of body image and the discomfort of how they 'feel' in their bodies, I thought I would bring this up for discussion.
For myself, coming to terms and putting this aspect of the eating disorder and recovery behind me, definitely took the longest.
Hindsight has been my best teacher, no doubt, and I'd like to share some of things I have come to realize and understand.
The 'fat' feelings and hatred for my body came directly from how I equated myself to how I looked. And how I saw myself was all connected to not believing I was worthy, loveable or even 'nice'....let alone someone who people would accept. Acceptance and fear of rejection, to me, was all centered around how I believed others 'saw' me, quite literally.
My self-confidence and self-esteem were directly entwined with how I saw and felt about my body.
I started challenging my beliefs first by noticing when I 'felt' more uncomfortable, and then I would literally 'tell' myself that it wasn't truly physical, but it was emotional. Then, I asked myself what am I feeling, and what am I holding in, and not expressing? I couldn't always answer that, but interrupting the process helped me to separate my physical discomfort from my thoughts. Eventually, whether I could come to a clear conclusion or not about what was going on, simply reminding myself that my discomfort was emotional in nature, helped me to move on and not engage in symptoms or self-degradation because of it.
I also began challenging my beliefs that people would reject me, which had held me captive for many many years. I expected to be shunned, but the beautiful thing was, I never was! The more I challenged this, and proved my beliefs wrong, the more confident I became.
This increase in self-acceptance and confidence helped me tremendously. I no longer feel the body discomfort. I do not equate my identity to my body or shape. And I approach life and it's experiences with my eyes wide open. If anyone has a problem with that, it's not my concern.
Without apology....♥

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Scales don't 'fit' into Recovery!

If you notice the picture above, you will see one of the creative results of a recent peer-run group. If you look closely, you can see that there are four sections, which, when all fit together, form the shape of the 'Recovery' symbol.
It was a hot day, we went outside with a bathroom scale and a large hammer. One by one, each person took their turn by throwing, hammering, and stomping on the scale. The intention was to destroy it, piece by piece, and to parallel the act of destroying the scale with tearing down the power that the scale has had over so many people who are suffering from an eating disorder (and many people overall, in our society today).
It was interesting to hear how therapeutic this way for many of these people, as a way to get some of their pent up anger released.
Once all of the pieces of the scale were gathered up, we went to another location, split the group as a whole into four sections, each one taking one of the sections to personalize. The idea was to 'picture' how a scale cannot fit into recovery, by gluing pieces of the broken scale around the recovery symbol, while also writing inspirational quotes or phrases inside the symbol itself. Once the pieces were fit together again, some additional things were written inside the symbol that 'fit' into recovery.
The four pieces will be mounted so that the project in it's entirety can be hung inside the River Centre Clinic in a prominent location.
The consensus of those who participated was that physically breaking apart the scale was a very powerful experience, and that being free to express anger toward the eating disorder in a very tangible way was therapeutic. One person mentioned that seeing the 'numbers' as a piece of paper, that could be simply torn apart, helped her to realize how she does not want a piece of paper to determine her worth.
All in all, everyone agreed that this activity held a lot of meaning for them, and they expressed pride in the finished product.
I plan to do this project on a regular basis as the 'community' at the River Centre Clinic constantly changes.
We have a lot of useless scales to smash!
Without apology....♥

Sunday, April 24, 2011


You know how, when you wake in the morning, your brain kicks into high gear, and the 'balancing' game begins?
Before your feet hit the floor, you already have your day's food and activity mapped out in your head. All planned. Even. One balances the other out. Safety....right?
The phone rings. You are asked to help out with your nephew while your sister goes to the doctor...oh no. That means you can't eat 'your' food for lunch. You will probably have to eat something 'unknown' in front of others, unless you can avoid it all together. Just to be sure, safe, all balanced do 5 extra miles on the treadmill or you do 200 extra crunches. again.
What about that doctor's appointment? The nurse is going to weigh you. Can you ask her not to tell you? But she will know, and what will she think? Better not eat breakfast, or drink anything. Maybe an extra hour of exercise or 10 more laxatives will balance it all out. know you have lost weight since your last visit. What to say? You will have to drink 3 glasses of water and try to get by with leaving your shoes on while they weigh you....they are clueless anyway, right?
Yet, maybe they should know you lost weight. Maybe they will think it's a good thing. They certainly don't know how much you are struggling, or that it's a 'real' problem. Maybe you don't really need to see the cancel the appointment until you can figure out how to balance it all out.
It's Wednesday. You know the weekend is full of activity and meals out with others. You know you will be unable to exercise and you will be 'forced' to eat foods that you don't want, and more of it. For the three days prior, you do twice the amount of exercise and take twice the number of laxatives to be sure that the weekend balances things out. You will be 'caught up' before it even starts. In the end, you end up eating less than you would have on your own plan and you exercise those days anyway.
It's never enough. It never balances out. The fear is always there that you won't be 'prepared', and then what?

Is any of this familiar to you? How much time do you spend calculating and balancing your life, your food, your activity, etc., in order to feel 'safe'? What are you missing during that time? The laughter of your child? Watching a hummingbird in your yard? An opportunity to laugh, to feel the sun on your face, or to smile into your elderly Mother's eyes?
I did this for many years...for over 3 decades. I can't even imagine the emotional energy I wasted on trying to make it all 'balance' out. But I can see what I missed. I now know I was running from, or avoiding FEELING the true pain and joy of life. Either end of the spectrum frightened me.
I attempted to meet up to others' expectations, yet I was sacrificing my own identity in the process. I believed that by keeping others happy I would be safe, when in fact, it nearly killed me several times.
Today is Easter Sunday, 2011. I was thinking this morning about how free I am. I began to remember some of the scenarios that I described above, and how imprisoned I was by my own mindset. I cannot remember any day that was not a complicated balancing act in my mind.
Of course I didn't realize at the time just how narrow my life had become.
What changed it for me? It was another kind of fear, at a much greater level.
My 'aha' moment was many combined moments, of pain and fear and grief. When my17yo son was killed, my life was changed forever. These changes led me to search for answers, and in the process I found my life.
What has been, or will be your 'aha' moment?
Think about your 'balancing' act, and is it working for you? What are you sacrificing in the process?
Carry out your experience, and ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that will happen if I don't 'balance' today out?" And....where is my current plan leading?

Without apology....♥

Monday, March 14, 2011

COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS: The Ten Forms of Self Defeating Thoughts

I thought I would share a bit some information that I have found to be very helping in the process of increasing self-awareness, which is critical during recovery from an eating disorder. I'd love to know if any of you can identify with these, and how you have replaced them with healthy and more rational ways of thinking.....

1) All or nothing-thinking (Black/White thinking)
When you see every situation as all or nothing. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure.

2) Overgeneralization
You see a single example of rejection or error as a never ending pattern of defeat; using words such as "always" or "never" when you think about it.

3) Mental Filter
When you pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, until your reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water.

4) Discounting the positive
You may reject positive experiences by insisting that they 'don't count'. If you do a good job, you can't accept that it's good enough, and you discount it's value.

5) Jumping to conclusions
You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.
a)Mind Reading; making conclusions without checking
out the facts.
b)Fortune Telling; predicting that things will turn
out badly.

6) Magnification (Mountains & Mole Hills)
When you exaggerate the importance of yoru problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. May also be referred to as the
"Binocular trick".

7) Emotional reasoning
When you assume that your negative emotions are reflective of the way things really are. Such as "I feel guilty; I must be a terrible person."

8) "Should statements"
You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. "should" statements that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. If they are directed against other people or the world in general, this can lead to anger and frustration.

9) Labeling
This is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of stating, "I made a mistake", you may say, "I'm a loser". Or you may label yourself as a "failure", a "jerk", etc. This may extend to others as well. You seem them as totally bad.

10) Personalization and blame
When you feel responsible for everything bad or wrong that happens in your world, or even in the world of those around you. However, you don't take credit for the good things that may happen.

Without apology...♥