For Anyone with an Eating Disorder and Anxiety

I’ll admit it- I am an anxious person. Actually, I’ve come to realize that I am an extremely anxious person as of late because I no longer really use behaviors to cope. Restriction numbs. Over-exercise burns off adrenaline and quiets my mind. Orthorexic behaviors give me a sense of peace and control over my food and body. No longer using these behaviors to the extreme degree I am used to has honestly thrown me for a loop. I want to yell “NOT FAIR” at my treatment team and anyone who helped make me healthy. Like, GUYS, no one told me that eliminating behaviors consistently was going to make me feel like an actual crazy person. I don’t like to admit it- I’m a nurse, and we are terrible patients. I’ve always been independent to a fault and I feel weak needing medication. Not only that, but I am TERRIFIED of starting any new medication because of the experience I had with anti-anxiety and sleep meds in treatment.

If you haven’t ever struggled with anxiety, let me describe it to you. It’s laying awake until 3AM and having a headache for 24 hours straight after that. It’s a cramping stomach- that kind you get when you’re way past hungry- only hunger isn’t the problem. Constant anxiety is feeling like you drank just a little too much coffee, and your nervous system and brain are in overdrive. Anxiety is shockingly exhausting on the body. It’s sleeping because you’re so worn out from the constant hyper-alertness of your mind. Anxiety is napping all the time because of the tiredness, and to avoid feeling like you’re going to explode. Don’t confuse anxiety with worry! Worry is concern over actual events or potential events. Anxiety is all of the above for seemingly no reason.

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As I wrote in my last post, the urges to choose my eating disorder are strong. The thing is- I KNOW my eating disorder will work. I will feel better.

Temporarily.

Then what? As much as I don’t want to feel this constant unsettled feeling, I know my eating disorder can’t be a long term solution. It just can’t. I love my life and the people in it. Life is good; I don’t want to lose everything I care about.

Being healthy and nourished forces me to feel. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. My eating disorder took care of those things for me. I was a walking robot (well, with anxiety). Truth be told, I am ten times as anxious now as I was at my sickest. Recovery has a lot to do with choosing what is hard over choosing what is easy. Which honestly, sucks. I want a quick fix. I want an easy button.

But, I have to be patient. I have been through a lot in the past year personally, including the loss of three people I loved dearly. The brain doesn’t just forget that pain and trauma. We live in a world that teaches us “big girls don’t cry, suck it up, get back in the game, keep your head high, get your shit together, and don’t let them see you hurt.” We are HUMAN BEINGS- God created us to FEEL. Some of us feel things more deeply than others and I’ve learned that’s me. I HATE it. I like being the strong one. The tough kid. The one who doesn’t cry; who can shut off her feelings. Recovery has completely blown that safety next for me. I am trying so hard to be ok with it. I feel vulnerable. I feel stupid, I feel like a wimp, a sissy, you name it. Sharing my story about the journey I am on has helped me realize that hiding and walling myself off isn’t as great and helpful as my eating disordered mind made me think it was. I am an emotional person. I am learning to accept that. Next comes learning to deal with that. Baron Baptiste, the founder of Baptiste yoga says: “We hold the past in our bodies.” What a statement. What truth. For me, this statement is freeing. It means that I can heal and someday my anxiety won’t be so present. For now, that means TRULY sitting in the anxiety. “What’s the worst that will happen? Take it one step at a time,” my therapist says. So, I will be present in my feelings. I’ll stop trying to “stop” them. Everything eventually passes.

Friends, you are who you are. You are wonderfully made. Emotional, messy, chaotic- there is no shame in what makes you yourself. We all the the rest of our lives to either learn to accept ourselves and get along with ourselves; or fight ourselves. You choose.

Grumpy cat, talk to my mind!

Grumpy cat, talk to my mind!

Bad Days and Choices

Being in recovery doesn’t mean you never have really bad days.

Being weight restored doesn’t mean your mind is healed.

The past few days, I have wanted to choose my eating disorder over everything. It started with a change of plans one day that didn’t allow me to go to yoga. Although I’m no longer a compulsive over-exerciser, I still struggle with the lie that I HAVE to exercise to be “allowed” to eat. For me, exercise is a security blanket for eating. Going out with friends for dinner? Having a glass of wine? Eating ice cream? Totally cool- as long as I’ve been to a power hot yoga class or taken my dog on a long walk. I’ve functioned this way for so long, and it is a hard habit to break.
My therapist said it best a few months back: “Just because you body isn’t anorexic anymore doesn’t mean your mind isn’t.” So true. Despite the weight gained, the fear foods challenged, and the food rules broken; my brain is still somewhat sick. I look fine on the outside, but it does not always match what is going on inside. My mind can be the worst enemy I have ever known. The past few days I’ve been consumed with anxiety about my body, food, exercise, etc. Thoughts to restrict, lie to my support people and treatment team, and sneak in extra exercise have been strong.

“Today I want to choose anorexia,” I told my husband in a text the other day. “Today that seems like it will feel better. I know that’s not true.”
Yes, my brain is still somewhat sick. But, it is also healthy too, for the first time in a long time. I know what choosing anorexia means. It doesn’t just mean losing weight, numbing grief, and fitting into smaller clothes. Relapse means losing what matters to me; a list that I could go on and on about. I don’t want to be sick. I think a turning point in recovery is deciding you want to be well more than you want to be sick. Being sick, honestly, it’s more comfortable. It feels like shit but dang is it familiar. Being sick is miserable, and I used to live in fear that I would NEVER ever get better. It was terrifying. My first morning in day treatment, the therapist made us journal. “I would rather die than live the rest of my life with an eating disorder,” I wrote.

So the really bad days- I’ll take them. I’ll take them over threats of residential treatment and crying over meals and almost passing out in yoga and drinking freaking Boost three times a day. In the moment, it is easy to forget that the bad days are better than what being trapped in my eating disorder feels like.

I have to constantly remind myself that although there are bad days, there are also good days. And the good days are so so worth it. Being healthy is hard, but it is also amazing. It means my relationships are genuine. It means my body is strong enough to attend yoga teacher training. It means I can love and support my husband fully. It means traveling and being present and living life in COLOR. Being healthy means much more than being sick ever did.

When you want to choose your eating disorder, give yourself some grace. It happens. Maybe some days you make the wrong choice. But you KEEP choosing life and choosing health. And believe that one day, it won’t be a choice any more. Healthy will be the normal.

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Life is too short not to smile!

 

What I Know

by Lindsey 0 Comments

young yoga woman sit meditation on sunrise mountain peak rock

My dietician always has this thing she says to me in what I imagine is an attempt to “peel me off the ceiling”- if you know what I mean. “What do you know to be true about that?” She asks. Usually, this question is related to an eating disorder thought. What is an eating disorder thought? Well, the best way I know how to explain it, is that an eating disorder thought is a false belief about food, exercise, weight, body image, or eating. FALSE. Meaning the “healthy” part of me that’s hidden away somewhere knows that this eating disorder thought is pretty dang irrational, but because it’s been a part of my thought pattern for so long, it seems normal. For example: “I need to exercise so I can eat.” Taking it a step further, my dietician pushes on- “What evidence do you have that supports that?”

Conclusion- dieticians are actually therapists disguised as food geniuses, and have both an incredible knowledge of nutrition and the ability to get under my skin.

Usually, there is nothing true about the eating disorder thought. I have no evidence to support it. It’s false.
Over the last several months, I have had to do a lot of thinking on what I know to be true about my eating disorder and recovery; and what evidence I have to support those truths. I wish I could flip a magic switch and engrain these truths into my brain- maybe if they were there I’d be able to overlook the irrationality of the eating disorder and follow my true healthy self 100% of the time.

I know that recovery is hard. I know that I was not prepared for the process it takes and is taking. I know that recovery is not something that gets a day off. It is full of choices to me made every day, sometimes hour by hour.

I know that my eating disorder feels safe. I know it is harmful. I know that each time I make a choice that supports ED, I am putting myself in danger. What seems to be “just a few” behaviors can lead me farther away from recovery than I thought was possible. I know that I miss using my eating disorder as a coping mechanism, but I no longer want to starve myself or compulsively over-exercise.

I know that my life is an incredible gift, and the fact that I am still on this earth is too. I know I have done things to my body that I am absolutely ashamed of. I know that I can keep fighting. I know some days I feel like going back to my eating disorder, but I know nothing good will come from it. I will shrink, but so will my life.

I know that my eating disorder will never just completely disappear one day like magic. I know that I would never wish this illness on anyone. I know that there is no real cure. I know it is my own personal hell. I know that this makes me feel discouraged sometimes. But I know that HOPE is stronger than fear.

I know I am loved and supported. I know I cannot comprehend just how much.

I know that my treatment team has my best interests in mind. I know there are times I still won’t listen to them. I know there are consequences. I know that I disappoint myself. I know it is ok to struggle- but not to give up.

I know that I have come farther in recovery than I imagined possible. Yes, I have days where every bite of food I put in my mouth is a battle. But I also have days where I truly believe full recovery is possible, because I’ve been able to do things I didn’t think I could. My life doesn’t revolve around exercise and running anymore. I don’t take my own food to every social event, or pretend I’m not hungry at restaurants. I don’t use to size of my jeans as a scale anymore. These are little things, but they’ve made a big difference in my life.

I know recovery is worth it. Even on the bad days. I know there is life in color, and it’s there waiting for anyone who wants it.

What do YOU know to be true?

 

I Choose

by Lindsey 0 Comments

I have this book called Grace for the Moment. It is written by Max Lucado, and I got stuck on the preface. Here, Max Lucado writes an affirmation for himself. He talks about how the day will be filled with demands, but he must make a choice. Max says that not only must he make a choice, but because of Jesus he is FREE to choose. I read the following pages, which go through Galatians 5:22-23, and they hit home with me. I took what Max had written and made it my own. I do my best to read it every day because it reminds me that I can choose.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23

I CHOOSE LOVE. I cannot justify hating what God has created. I choose to love me and let others do so too. I CHOOSE JOY. I will let God be in charge of my circumstances. I will refuse to be self-critical and damaging. I will not see myself as anything less than fearfully and wonderfully made. I will refuse to see the journey ahead of me as anything less than an opportunity to see God and see good. I CHOOSE PEACE. I will live knowing God has forgiven me. I will forgive myself for what I’ve put my body through. I will forgive myself when I fail. I will not stop trying to get better, so I can live. I CHOOSE PATIENCE. I will choose to overlook the inconveniences of treatment. Instead of stressing about the changes in my body and life, I will allow them with thankfulness, because I am getting healthy. I choose to face the challenges and time consuming process with courage. I will thank God for hope. I CHOOSE KINDNESS. I will treat myself well. I will show kindness to my body by resting it and feeding it, even when I am afraid and frustrated. I refuse to beat myself up if I don’t succeed every day. I CHOOSE GOODNESS. I will be good to my body and mind. I refuse to listen to the eating disorder that tells me I am worthless and should give up. I will be honest in counseling, even if some days that means just showing up. I will get all the bad stuff out. I cannot believe the negative thoughts I have about myself, because I have a God that shows me grace. I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS. I will keep the promise I made to myself to recover. I will trust Him in order to trust myself. I will not question God’s love for me even when I feel like a giant screwup. I refuse to fear that recovery is impossible. I believe I have a Savior who has gone before me and goes with me now. I CHOOSE GENTLENESS. I will not win this battle with force, but by standing with my feet planted in peace and confidence. I will focus on prayer and praise. I will learn to be kind to myself. I CHOOSE SELF-CONTROL. I will not punish and abuse the body I’ve been given here on earth. I refuse to let the eating disorder rule my life. I choose to control what I put in my body in order for it to be enough and healthy and helpful. I choose to continue when I want to quit. I choose to be influenced and taught only by God, not by the eating disorder.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Every day I remind myself and try to encourage myself with this. There are days when I want to replace all these great, positive things with the negative, opposite things I know. But I have a choice. And so I do my best to choose.

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Your Body is in Love with You

by Lindsey 2 Comments

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Your body is in love with you.”

Not exactly what I expected to hear my teacher say during a power flow yoga class. You see, up until a little over a year ago, I swore I would never do “normal” yoga. “Normal” meant anything other than Bikram yoga, a style of yoga that is practiced in 110 degree heat and is a series of 26 different postures, each performed twice. In my head, any other yoga was a studio filled with skinny, pretty girls in matching Lululemon clothes, who drank green juice from Whole Foods instead of eating.

Fast forward to now. I no longer do Bikram yoga. Somewhere between injuring my back pretty badly, constantly being dehydrated and drained from this practice, and laying on my mat in class dreaming of Gatorade; I realized I HATED Bikram yoga. To be fair, I do think Bikram is a great practice, but not for just anyone. Especially someone suffering from an eating disorder where a large part of the battle is about over exercise.

Being the compulsive exerciser that I am, I had to find something else. Running was out- after 2 knee surgeries, surgery for acute compartment syndrome in my leg,, and an ankle reconstruction, my disordered brain knew that running wasn’t the best choice. What if I crippled myself and couldn’t exercise…oh my God, I would become a fat old woman. Randomly, I discovered a yoga studio a few miles from my house with a “30 days for $30” deal, and off I went.

I firmly believe God has such better plans for us than we have for ourselves. This new yoga practice shattered my narrow-minded ideas of what yoga was.. I was floored. I walked into Epic Yoga last November, somewhat convinced yoga would actually be good for me, but mostly looking for a way to burn calories and make myself feel better about eating. Not for one second did I imagine the healing, peace, and joy it would bring me.

My body is in love with me. Despite the years of abuse and overuse inflicted upon it, my body still loves me. Despite my deep hatred for every inch of myself and what extremes I went to in order to change, my body still loves me. “Your body is in love with you,” my teacher said, “think about it. Your lungs still breathe when you’re upside down. When you get tired, your heart beats faster to pump more blood and give you more oxygen”. This is extremely humbling to someone who has spent a good chunk of their life ruining themselves.

Yes, when I practice yoga, my eating disorder still gets satisfaction that I’m burning calories, etc. But with yoga, I have slowly been able to drop some of the most difficult lies my eating disorder has told me. I believe that strong is better than sick. I have to be nourished in order to maintain my practice. I suffer from hypoglycemia as a result to long term restriction, and it only took me one time of nearly passing out in the beginning of class, and needing the teacher to open a protein bar for me because my hands were too shaky. As I sat there on the floor trying to clear the black from my vision and eating the bar, I knew what my body was trying to tell me. Healthy is better than hungry. It takes far more strength for me to eat a difficult meal than it does to restrict. When I choose to use behaviors, I am choosing what is easy. In recovery, what is easy is not usually right. Yoga is teaching me to drop what I know, including expectations of myself. There is beauty in letting go. It creates more space for things I love. It makes me give myself grace. It helps me discover more of who I am. My body is in love with me, and that includes my brain. Yoga has helped me stop looking at my body as the enemy; as something that must be manipulated and controlled so that I feel a false sense of safety. I am learning to breathe, and without breath, there is too much room for the negative chatter of my eating disorder. After all, listening to it has never brought me any real happiness or results. Yoga is teaching me equanimity- the art of meeting life as it meets me. Particularly in recovery.

Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live. It is the home of your soul. It is a vessel of life; a life that is meant to be truly lived, and shared with others. Your body is in love with you. Every heartbeat, every breath, every cut that heals, every emotion that your brain feels. Your body is constantly working to keep you alive and healthy- give it some help.

My Story

by Lindsey 0 Comments

Welcome to my blog! I want to start off by introducing myself. I’m Lindsey. I started this blog in hopes of sharing my story with others who are suffering from mental illnesses. WHAT? Yeah, I know, people don’t talk about mental illness. That’s crazy talk, it’s all in their head, you choose how you feel, etc. But the fact is; mental illness is more common than you think. My story deals more specifically with eating disorders and anxiety, and my ongoing recovery from an eating disorder. Through my recovery, I have met so many amazing souls, and the one thing we all seemed to have in common is SECRECY. My eating disorder, my secret…if people know, what will they do? Judge me. Laugh at me. Think I’m stupid. Shame me. Not take me seriously. Distance themselves from me. Talk about me behind my back. Love me less, or, not at all. All of those things are legitimate fears a person has if they have a secret. I mean, there’s a reason why it’s a secret! Here is the thing though- secrets keep you sick. They absolutely do. That is why I’m choosing to speak out. My eating disorder does not define me. I am so much more than a diagnosis. I want to help break the stigma of mental illness. I want to help girls and boys stop shaming their bodies, and each others. I want people to know and believe they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So I speak up. And I take away the power of my secrets.

I’ve struggled from disordered eating since I was a teenager. I played competitive sports growing up and was also a college athlete. I did not receive any form of help for my eating disorder until I was 26. TWENTY-SIX. There are a hundred reasons why, but I won’t go into them. All I know is that 10 plus years was too long to not have help. By the time I started outpatient therapy, my disordered eating and exercising habits were so deeply ingrained in me, I didn’t know there was life outside them. The very first dietician I saw, I immediately hated, and found another. Seven months later after quite some time in outpatient treatment and weeks in residential, I found myself back inside that woman’s office because my current dietician took maternity leave. I will never forget what happened next.

The dietician took a long look at me. “If someone had told me that I’d see you again in my office, I wouldn’t have believed them. When I met you months ago, you weren’t really there. I could see it in your eyes; you were so lost. And now you’re sitting here, and your eyes look alive now. I can’t believe it.”

It was in that moment I realized eating disorders take everything. Mine had taken my identity, the life in my eyes, my voice. My eating disorder had taken my life while still leaving my body physically here on this earth. Life with an eating disorder isn’t living, it’s existing. I know that to be true with every cell of my body because I spent so much time drifting through life. It breaks my heart. I regret it. I have little to no memory of what others thought were the best times of my life. I was there, but it was just my shell. I had myself fooled, and everyone else.

I checked myself into residential treatment when I was 26. I was diagnosed with EDNOS- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Basically, people like me didn’t fall into the box of strictly anorexic or bulimic from the diagnostic manual THAT WAS CREATED TO BE USED TO BILL INSURANCE COMPANIES. I spent the first year or so of my recovery feeling like I failed- my eating disorder didn’t even really have a name. It was a category. I used EDNOS as the blanket that was thrown over my behaviors that weren’t “bad enough” to be diagnosed with what society is familiar with. I discharged from residential with a whole new outlook on life, but it wasn’t long before I relapsed completely. It takes more than 7 weeks of residential or 9 months of therapy to unlearn things you’ve been doing your entire teenage and adult life.

I could go on about the chapter of relapse in my life, but honestly, who wants to read a depressing post like that? I spent 4 months in various levels of care, and was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. My refusal to gain weight, see myself rationally, or be in a good state of health took its toll. February 14 will mark 2 years of me being intensive treatment free. I am not eating disorder or anxiety free, but I am more solid in recovery than I ever imagined possible. I call this freedom “life in color” because that’s really the best way I know how to describe it. Life controlled by my eating disorder was black and white, with no passion or sparkle. Life in color…is just that. Things have meaning, I have deep relationships, I have found things I really love, and I am happy.

So, my blog. Beast Mode. Name courtesy of my brother, who told me, “you want to name it something people will remember!” I hope that by being vulnerable and authentic, I can show others that it is OK to be your true self. It is OK to be a little bit broken and have problems. It is OK to not just share your highs in life, but your lows too. Not everyone that knows me has an idea of what I’ve been through, and maybe you’re one of those people learning about it for the first time. I am no longer ashamed of my past and I speak up, because in that, my secrets lose power. There is also such a need for HOPE in the recovery community. I want to show hope. Recovery is MESSY. But it is possible, and people who are suffering deserve to know that.