Trauma is not you fault. PERIOD. End of sentence. There is absolutely no “but” necessary. This word, in my opinion, invalidates, minimizes, and places guilt.Read More
Two Novembers ago, I stepped into a space that changed my life and started on a journey I didn’t ever think I would be on. This is when I started my yoga journey, but it has become about so much more than that. In the New Year, I will be stepping out of that particular yoga space, but not before sharing with you what I have learned there.
I have learned that there is such a thing as sacred space. A space where I could go and drop all else, no matter what was going on in my life. Walking through the doors of the studio always lifted a weight off my shoulders. For the next hour, I didn’t have to do or be or think about anything, except my breath. Sounds crazy but when you suffer from anxiety and have an A.D.D. brain, it’s pretty dang comforting.
The sacred space made sense when nothing else did. When death and suicide struck, I came to my mat with anger and disbelief and tried to leave it in the space. Maybe just a little bit less of the pain would go home with me then.
The morning I discovered loss, I went to practice, grief-stricken, and cried my way through savasana, knowing I was in a safe place.
When abandonment visited, I threw my confusion and hurt onto my mat and into my practice, instead of into my life and at my body.
The times I felt life was hard and overwhelming and senseless, I went to that sacred space to remember to slow down, and be patient.
When I watched dear friends suffer, I wrote their name on a post-it before class, stuck it under my mat, and dedicated my practice to them. Maybe I could send them a little magic from the sacred space.
When I too, was tired of fighting, I got on my mat to remind me why I wanted to stay healthy.
My mat, a little yellow rectangle in a big rectangle room, became the space where I learned to breathe again. Yoga gave me the ability to sit and just be with myself. To drop my judgments, shame, and doubt- and just BE. I only get one me. Through recovery I’ve learned you can’t get away from yourself. On my mat, in that yoga studio studio, is where I finally accepted that. And then I finally began to live.
I learned that on my mat, I could go and meet God and the way I perceived Him to be. I learned that this yoga thing is actually a little piece of heaven, because yoga means union, and when you share this practice from a place of love, it is almost Holy.
“All is coming,” I wrote on my worn, dirty mat a year ago, and truly BELIEVED it.
All is coming.
Self acceptance. Maybe self love. Dreams. Life in color. The unconditional love of God in all the shattered places, if one is brave enough to bring their heart to their mat. Vulnerability.
I learned there are no broken people. That nothing is wrong with me. That nothing is wrong with others, and we all just want to be heard and understood.
The truest version of myself. The most light filled version of myself. The self that I can believe is enough, exactly as I am.
I was 12 when I figured out I could throw away my lunches at school so I didn’t have to eat. I was 14 when I figured out I could make myself throw up after eating so I didn’t feel like I had food in my stomach. I was 15 when I told my Bible Study leader what I was doing. Until I was 25, I never again told anyone about my disordered eating and exercise habits. Starving myself and getting “rid” of food by purging or exercising excessively was empowering- as long as I did that, I had some control of what I felt like in my body, and an effective coping mechanism. My Bible Study leader told me that what I was doing wasn’t good, and that she wanted me to call her every evening and tell her that I hadn’t been using those behaviors. I was 15 when I figured out that lying to her over the phone, and occasionally face to face, wasn’t hard.
Not too long ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from my former Bible Study leader. I absentmindedly accepted, and later that day messaged her on Facebook, simply saying “Hi S!” She wrote me back. “Hello sweet friend,” it read. “I think about you all the time. Hope you are doing well…God loves you and so do I!”
A thousand emotions flooded me. Ones from my 15 year old self who had confided in someone she trusted, unsure of what she was looking for. Ones from my 20 year old self, after being caught by a family member throwing up in a restaurant bathroom, wondering why she hadn’t stopped all those years ago when someone told her to. Ones from my 22 year old self as I stopped eating during the day to justify having drinks with friends later, but forget the memories. Ones from my 24 year old self as she ran on greenways for hours and pounded away at the gym, searching for something she would never find. Ones as a 26 year old in rehab, realizing that she had spent over half her life living to die. Ones from my 28 year old self when I wrote her a letter I knew I would never send, telling her I wish things would have been different. That I wish she would have told someone, instead of trusting a hurting, insecure teenage girl to stop going down the dark hole that had ahold of her. That I would have hated her at the time; but looking back now, I would have given anything to have started the recovery process sooner. And even now, as my 30 year old self sits here, part of me paralyzed with fear that I will spend the rest of my life with pieces of myself entrenched in my eating disorder.
They say that hindsight is 20/20. That it’s easy for me to sit here and write that I wish someone had “made” me get help. Whose to say I would have listened? Whose to say it would have made a difference? What would my family have done? And if I didn’t take the path I did, what would my life look like now? I married an amazing man and I love him more than I thought was possible to love someone. I have the best friends anyone could ask for. They are my family. I’m going to be a yoga teacher. I have a great relationship with my parents because of all that we’ve been through.
I say all this because I have a message for you. Maybe you are someone who is struggling- not necessarily with an eating disorder. Depression. Anxiety. Bullying. Suicidal thoughts. Hopelessness. Shame. An addiction. An invisible illness. Maybe you are a family member who knows someone, but is afraid to say something. Maybe you are a friend who is concerned. Maybe you are the actual sufferer.
My message to you is this…please don’t waste any more time.
Be a stand for the person you love; for yourself. We always, always think we have time. Do it now. Be brave now. Say it now. Help them help themselves. In the end, I promise you the only regret you will have is the time you let go by watching someone destroy themselves. An eating disorder has a function- a really good, effective one actually. Depression has a function. Anxiety has a function. An addiction has a function. And suicidal thoughts can become actions. But whatever function a mental illness has, will not serve someone long term. Eventually it will stop working. It will take and take without a person realizing what they have lost.
I hear a lot of people say that they wouldn’t trade their experience with a mental illness (specifically an eating disorder) because it’s made them who they are, and they are proud of that person. Honestly, I’m not there yet. I wish I could smile and say that I love the person I’ve fought to become. That I am grateful for what I’ve gone through because it has led me to where I am now.
But I can’t say that.
It’s shameful to admit.
Because you can’t live in the past. I know I am 100% responsible for the life I create. There is no one to point fingers at, to blame, to look to and say they could have changed me. But I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if at 15, someone would have stood up against the darkness that was swallowing me.
I am endlessly grateful for the people I have in my life now.
Everyday I am in awe of God’s plan.
I am so glad it is better than mine.
I don’t believe that the good things in life diminish the bad things. And the bad things don’t ruin the good things. That’s just life; we are just human, and we are broken; but at the same time broken is beautiful.
And it is human to wonder.
To second guess what my have been.
So give someone that gift. Or give it to yourself.
Love is not just words but actions.
Be a stand.
You don’t ever know what it could mean.
I’m into week three of Yoga Teacher Training and this shit is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s challenging, fun, uncomfortable, rewarding, scary, and amazing all at the same time. I didn’t have the time to write a post about week two, but I wanted to share a meditation we did with all of you. Meditation is a struggle for me, but during this one, I was almost able to BE STILL the whole time! And, I’ve listened to it about 17 times since then. It’s a long read, but so worth it. I’ve included a link of where you can also listen to the audio version of this meditation. Which you should- because these words are ones we ALL need to hear.
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me
by Sarah Blondin
I wish someone had told me when I first began my journey into a life of my own that where I needed to begin was sitting on the floor, with my eyes closed. I wish someone had told me that my first step, the first step anyone must take is inward.
I wish someone had told me when I felt I had nothing to offer the world that all I needed to do, was sit down and breathe. That all I needed to do was learn the practice of opening to and discovering the true Self, sitting inside of me, quietly, and that from there the rest would come easier.
I wish someone had told me that my true value and worth would be found not in attaining or gaining but in meeting this Self. That finding my way to her would bring me gold and riches that no worldly things could buy.
I wish someone had told me when I was lost and desperate for direction and support that I was really longing to meet myself. That nothing else would soothe me until I first came to touch my own inner temple of divinity.
I wish someone had told me when I was swimming in a sea of lonely thoughts, and diving into dark pits that I was being called into the dark underbelly for great reason, that I was being called into the very center of myself as to come closer to my root and bottomless source of light.
I wish someone had told me when I began to run, divert, distract, over consume, point fingers, over work, fight, create drama, choose everything other than love, that I was running away from my own magnificence. That I was running from it because I didn’t believe it was something I possessed. Because I didn’t believe in my own ability to give myself all I needed.
I wish someone had told me I was the only one who could give myself what I asked from and wanted from another. That all I would ever want, all I would ever need, all I would ever desire, all I would chase and scour the earth for was waiting deep in the valley of my chest. That, that was where I needed to start. That there in the quiet of myself was where I would find my eternal river of wealth and value and that all I needed to get there was the breath in my chest and the patience and willingness to understand that I was, and will always be, the answer I am searching for.
I wish someone had told me that from going within I would find housed within me was a tremendous light, my truest version of Self, a self free of suffering and story, my own personal guidance system and a wellspring of wealth, wisdom and knowing. That if I committed to going inward I would in fact be guided to my greatest life and most joyful existence.
I wish someone had told me that from going within I would meet the only person who could give me the love I longed for, the only person who could carry me through my darkest nights, the only person who could heal the hurt inside me through unconditional love, the only person who could truly love me and that, that person was my highest self. The self who knew of my greatness, my capacity, my truth, my limitlessness. That there behind all the tremendous noise my mind created, behind all my resistance to the quiet was all I had been looking outside of myself for.
We are stitched together from stardust, we are balls of light. We are limitless beings with all the wisdom we are in need of. It is in us from the moment we are conceived. Somewhere along the line we got distracted from these truths and are working to re-align with them.
Where ever life leads you, whatever you must face, know deep inside the marrow your bones lives your earth. Your home. You cannot ever loose it, it can never leave you. No matter where you run to, no matter what rabbit hole you fall down, you always have you.
I want to take a moment to tell you, you are here in this moment reading this because your highest truth, your soul is always pulling you ever so gently into your own light. I want to tell you no matter where you journey, no matter what the landscape appears to be, you are being held, you are being loved, you are exactly where you need to be.
I want to tell you, you are already enough. That there are no holes to be filled, no cracks to be plastered. You are already enough and everything you need is within you, rising on your breath and on your hearts beat.
As I made the drive to the studio for my first night of Yoga Teacher Training, this is what was running through my head: “I feel like I’m going to puke. Like, first-day-of-school-puke.”
As I made the drive home from my first night of YTT, this is what was going through my head: “What. Have. I. Done.”
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect back on last week, this is what is going through my head: “God has me exactly where I need to be.”
Twenty weeks of ten hours a week of yoga immersion. That’s not counting the time spent outside the studio practicing, reading assigned books, studying asanas and pieces of the practice, and trying my darnedest to meditate. What have I done?
I have been brave. I have taken a huge leap into a world of uncomfortable, soul-searching, hard work. And my life is going to change because of it.
“What is your default role in life?” Asked our teacher, the first night. The other yogis and I paused and thought. I’m learning that in these moments I have two choices: say the easy thing or say the hard thing. And because MY default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable, I sure as heck want to say what would be easier.
But easier cheapens. It diminishes the experience. It doesn’t allow me to grow. Without growth, there is no change; and without change, my world and I stay the same. There isn’t any passion in settling for a life that never changes- because unchanging equals stuck. For me at least.
“My default role in life is avoiding being uncomfortable.” I said.
Ever been through Yoga Teacher Training? If you have, you know what that statement will entail for me the next twenty weeks.
“Running,” another girl said.
“Being the victim.”
And so the work begins.
This yoga stuff is about un-learning. It is about committing to find my way AWAY from that default role in life that keeps me stuck. It comforts me, sure. But when I avoid being uncomfortable, I don’t EMBRACE. Not just the “bad” but the “good” too. There is no such thing as selective numbing of your feelings and experiences. You simply cannot numb pain without also numbing joy. We humans like to think we work that way, but we do not.
For me, the work in YTT starts with what seems very, very basic and simple. So much so that it’s hard not to judge myself for it. My work starts with looking in the mirror. The full length mirror that takes up the entire wall of the front of the studio. Looking in the mirror at myself- into my own eyes, at my own body. It makes me uncomfortable to see myself and especially to see my body. My body that has been through SO much, and changed so much the past two years. It’s easy for me to make eye contact with myself in the mirror and degrade myself. “Disgusting. Stupid. A burden. Too loud. Too quiet. Too big. Fake.”
Negative self talk- it’s comfortable. It’s natural; it’s my known. The work comes with looking in my own eyes and just BEING. Being silent. Being still. Being accepting. I am who I am, and my body is at a weight it is happy with. My insides and outsides don’t match, but I can teach them to. I can un-learn the things I’ve told myself for so long.
Embracing. I committed to myself and the group to embrace- the opposite of avoiding. They committed too- to staying, to feeling, to being victorious. It’s going to look different for each of us, but that process is part of what will make us yoga teachers. So when we walk into a room to teach class, we aren’t worrying about what everyone thinks, judging ourselves, distracting ourselves, minimizing ourselves, or running from ourselves. The world needs more genuine. The world needs more honesty. Because those are things that are real. Not our perfectly filtered Instagram lives, our generic “I’m fine,” or our masks.
“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious,” says my favorite Rumi quote.
Yoga Teacher Training. Two-hundred hours. Shit just got real.
Last week, I had dinner with two girls I met in my recovery journey. I was struck by how much we all had changed. When you’re in treatment- any level- you hear it again and again: “This too shall pass”. I seriously wanted to punch people in the throat for saying that on some of my worst days. But you know what? It’s so freaking true. All the things I felt tortured by in treatment, all the things my eating disorder and anxious mind raged about- they passed.
No- the hard things, the hurting, the annoying decisions, the loss, the anger, the confusion, the regret, and the tears- they certainly have not and did not just disappear. But as I have gotten healthier, the time have passed where those things no longer control my life and every thought.
Here is what no one tells you starting out: treatment is kind of traumatic.
Sounds extreme, but think about it. Facing something you hate/are afraid of (food) up to six times a day. I remember knowing I was drinking 1000 calories a day in supplements alone on top of my meal plan. Forcing myself to bundle up and walk for an hour & a half in 30-40 degree weather after I got home from day treatment, because I was sneaking in exercise. Getting yoga taken away. Sitting on the kitchen floor crying and wondering if I could ever get myself out of this hell. Finding out insurance didn’t cover labs and tests required for treatment, and owing hundreds of dollars in medical bills. Finding out my primary care physician wasn’t covered either, but secretly being relieved because when I got a respiratory infection, I knew without a doubt she would have hospitalized me. My life became a series of trying to avoid the higher level of care I needed, even if it almost killed me. Going to sleep at night and not caring if I woke up. Carefully hiding the Holter (heart) monitor under my work clothes. Not speaking to my family for weeks, because this illness can and will creep into every aspect of your life. My mom coming to visit and yelling at me in the kitchen because she finally understood, and so did I, that eating disorders are a matter of life and death. Lying to my friends about “where I’ve been” because who wants to explain rehab? Even I didn’t understand it. Missing holidays with loved ones because I’m in treatment. It’s the day after Christmas and it’s snowing; but it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all because my life is a lie and a secret.
Honestly, some of those things have passed and become funny stories. Stuff that no one else except those of us who went through it would understand. My friend hiding cookies in the Nurse Practitioner’s plant when she turned her back. (I wonder if she ever found them). Crying over my pasta being “too shiny”. Bringing snacks to my nutritionist appointment and refusing to eat them because I was a brat. Spiking supplements with various forms of alcohol in a desperate attempt to make them more appealing and drinkable. (Fail). Watching my nutritionist roll her eyes and sigh; because I’m choosing to be difficult. My therapist hardcore dropping the F-bomb during group therapy, just trying to get me to feel SOMETHING. I ended up bawling like a baby and it was absolutely not funny in the moment, but 2 years later, I have that therapist to thank for my life.
This too shall pass.
Someday, you will be healthy if you keep fighting. Your life will be yours again. I know it doesn’t feel like that in the moment. I’ve been there too; those dark times where you feel hopeless and helpless. It gets better. Would I tell you that if it wasn’t true? Absolutely not. For a long time, I didn’t believe that some of that pain would end. I didn’t believe my life could ever be in color, instead of the awful grey it was. I wasn’t sure if I was fixable.
But, GOD. By His grace, I have put one foot in front of the other. There were times I fell. Times I didn’t want to get back up, or didn’t think I could. Sometimes, the struggle is still real ya’ll. But the God I serve is the ultimate Healer, and He has done amazing things with my life in recovery. I am REDEEMED. In so many ways. I don’t know the person I used to be, because she was a shell. I have hope, because I have a Savior who promises to complete every good work He has started in me. Maybe you’re not a believer. Maybe you are. But God is the center of my story, and at the end of the day, I am grateful He chose to keep my here to use my voice and fight this illness. That’s huge- when I was at my worst I truly would have rather died than continue to live that way.
This too shall pass. It absolutely will. Your struggles will not always define you.
If you choose recovery- no one can make you. You have to do the work. There will be days you want to throw in the towel, sometimes more days than not. But that will pass and you will see how beautiful it is to be alive and to be loved.
So be brave.
It’s worth it.
I’ve learned a lot about loss the past year. As I sit here and write this, I even feel a little bit guilty- why choose to write about the bad stuff when I also have SO much good stuff in my life? I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for, but I’ve learned that the good does not cancel out the bad and vice versa. So yes, in many aspects I’ve had the best year of my life, but it has also been one of the hardest. And I choose to share my struggles, because it is in not sharing our sadness that life gets overwhelming. Unmanageable. Too much to handle. Not worth fighting for. I choose to share my struggles because without them, I don’t know if I would fully appreciate the blessings that God gives me too.
Three days before Christmas I lost my best friend. She cut herself out of my life for reasons I’ll never know or understand. I know her better than anyone, and I know this meant I might as well be dead to her. Two days ago, it was my husband and I’s one year anniversary of our marriage. Five weeks after we got married, my brother in law; my husband’s very best friend; took his own life. The day of his funeral was exactly five Sunday’s after our wedding. One day after my 30th birthday my sweet sister friend from treatment died, leaving those of us who loved her in shock. She had fought SO hard for SO long.
Three. Two. One. Gone.
I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to try and understand their pain and help them.
Grief makes us quiet; probably one of the reasons I’ve written so inconsistently. We think grief is like a shell- eventually it hardens and keeps away the rest of the world- but that’s not true. I would love to sit here and say grief is healing but I’m not sure I feel that way just yet. Grief made me unreasonable, bitter, afraid. Grief kept me up with nightmares, it made me worry if I didn’t know where my husband was at every minute, it made me try to fix other people’s problems for them.
Grief is me picking up limes at the grocery store and suddenly having tears in my eyes because limes remind me of how Will showed me how to get the most juice out of them for margarita making, when we visited us 2 weeks before he died. Grief is me seeing Kaila’s happy Instagram life, and knowing what she is hiding- how she is suffering from a severe eating disorder- and lashing out at her in anger. It’s not fair. I tell her. You’re a fake. Emily was fighting and you aren’t and why is she not here. Grief is me dreaming about the beautiful toast Amanda gave at my rehearsal dinner, the night before I got married. It brought tears to almost everyone’s eyes and I never felt so loved, so when I wake up the next morning I roll over and reach for my phone to text her, but suddenly remember she isn’t part of my life anymore.
It’s stupid. I tell my therapist, a dozen times. So stupid. I’m crying over limes in the store, trying to reason with my friend who doesn’t want help, and I should have seen the thing with Amanda coming. She’s crazy. I hate this, it’s stupid, and I hate that I can’t use my eating disorder to effectively cope with all this anymore.
It’s NOT stupid. She says. You say that about anything you don’t want to feel and process. It’s scary and hard but calling it stupid makes it insignificant to you.
The woman has a point. God knows, she has seen enough of me the last several years to often know the truth before I do. And we both know I’m right- I can’t use my eating disorder to cope with all the scary feelings anymore. I’ve tried. But I can’t starve, cut, drink, run, throw up, or over exercise the feelings away. I can’t go numb anymore.
I have to feel.
And it’s hard.
And it hurts.
And I hate it.
But it isn’t stupid.
Stupid is pretending those things that meant so much didn’t matter. Stupid is trying to minimize the losses and cancel them out with the happy, fluffy stuff. Stupid is listening to what the world says and “sucking it up” so no one sees my vulnerability. My God, what would happen if people actually knew people were hurting?!
Maybe there wouldn’t be so much hurting.
I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours. We all have scars. Pain. Heartbreak. And a lot of times, we hide that. I’m not saying to walk around like an open book, professing your sorrows to anyone who will listen.
But grief makes you quiet.
And when we are quiet- we can listen.
If you try hard enough in the listening part, you can hear. You can hear things other people can’t. You can hear others, and you can see others grieve. Before you think what the hell, listen. Look.
That woman in yoga who came up to me before class and thanked me for sharing my story on my blog- she’s suffered with body image issues for years and is trying to juggle being a mom to two little kids. I gave her a little bit of hope.
The older woman I sat down next to at the all day immersion and told my story to- she’s never felt like enough. Now she feels less alone, and more brave.
That Instagram post where I hash-tagged “eating disorder recovery” and boldly declared that despite the struggles, recovery is worth it- someone saw that and maybe for the first time, started to believe it was true. They messaged me and we exchanged stories, and that person is in recovery now. They’re struggling but they’re trying and that beats the hell out of living with no hope.
That time I changed my profile on Facebook to the eating disorder recovery symbol- someone I was in Girl Scouts with saw that and decided that if I were brave enough to do that, then maybe she was brave enough to to try to fight.
That time a nurse from another unit asked me what my tattoo meant and I told her- she has a daughter suffering with an eating disorder and doesn’t know how to help her. Her daughter is the same age you were when things got really bad and no one said anything.
That patient I admitted who overdosed and starts crying then I helped her get dressed- she wishes she would have died; but no one means it more than me when I whisper to her I know it feels that way now, but there are so many people who are glad you’re still here.
Those parents I handed their dying child to- I ignore the rule that says “There’s no crying in the PICU” and dammit, I cried with them because I’m freaking human and death sucks and life is completely unfair.
Grief makes you quiet, but do not let it make you hard. Don’t let loss silence the one thing God gave us that we don’t ever use for evil- compassion.
There is so much sadness in the breaking of our hearts, but there is beauty too. It allows us to relate to other people genuinely. We can grieve without stopping time and looking like the fool so many of us are afraid of others seeing when we feel our losses. Maybe when bad stuff happens, I can listen, and I can hear someone in their grief, turn to them, and say: Me too. I know. There isn’t a need to create a fake Instagram life; to take yourself out of this world with no explanation; to end a relationship to punish someone else; to lose this fight we call life. You aren’t ever alone. Ever.
So I try to own it. I try to own the mess that I feel like I am sometimes but rarely let myself be. Like it or not, deny it or confirm it, admit or hide it- we all have our stuff. I’ve been through a season of loss and it isn’t stupid. I can be sad. I can be angry, even if I’ve had amazing things happen to me along to way too. I can hate having the loss there to dim the amazing. Pain is pain is pain. You and I do not have to justify that at anyone. But in the silence, when grief slides in and covers all the light- because we know sometimes it will- be still and listen. I can’t save the people I are lost, but I can do the best to help others find healing in my wounds.
It’s not stupid. I say. Even if I don’t really feel that way. I’ll make myself say it. It’s not stupid that I’m sad, and angry, and hateful. It’s human.
“Rather than deny our vulnerability, we lean into both the beauty and agony of our shared humanity. Choosing courage does not mean we are unafraid; it means that we are brave enough to love despite the fear and uncertainty.” –Brene Brown
I didn’t go through life thinking vulnerability was a good thing. I actually associated it with negativity. Being vulnerable automatically means you can’t handle your emotions, and you’re just one of those dramatic people that cry all the time about stupid shit.
I could be wrong. I grew up playing competitive sports, and I’m an ICU nurse. There isn’t a whole lot of room for vulnerability in those two things. Suck it up. Work harder. Don’t cry; don’t let anyone see you cry.
I remember when I moved to North Carolina, where I started my recovery journey, and my best friend there jokingly labeled me as a “crier.” I remember feeling like SUCH a loser. Shame crept in as I told myself, “How can you look so weak and needy to other people? How embarrassing. What the heck has recovery done to you?”
Recovery has made me vulnerable. It has made me dig through times in my life I am ashamed of. It has made me expose parts of myself I’ve kept hidden from everyone. It has made me cry IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE- like, more than once. Or twice. Or more times than I can count. Snot-nosed, red-faced, ugly crying in front of all sorts of people in my life. Vulnerability has come with owning my story, and with sharing it. Vulnerability is messy. It is uncomfortable.
I know it’s just not me that feels this way. How many of us were raised with the “don’t talk about it and it doesn’t exist” mentality? Isn’t avoidance easier? We call it “not liking confrontation” to justify tip-toeing around the things in life that make us uncomfortable and emotional. For many, addiction (eating disorder or otherwise) takes the place of being vulnerable. Example: Someone hurts my feelings…like legit hurts my feelings. When do I cry? When no one is looking. How do I cope? I restrict, exercise, and/or minimize.
I wonder if we are afraid of vulnerability because deep down, we know what power it has. Emotions are powerful- they can determine the course of your life. Vulnerability seems more out of control, and who wants to feel out of control in any part of their life?!
What I’ve learned about vulnerability in my recovery is that it means I am brave. I have the courage to share and show my feelings, even when the opinion is unpopular. It allows me to admit I am not perfect in a world that is constantly trying to define and redefine perfection. I had this idea in my head about therapy- that once I talked about something, everything I felt about it would simply melt away. It’s the idea I started recovery with- give it a few months of treatment, and I’ll be all better. But, treatment is not a cure. It is a band-aid, and the medicine is vulnerability. Being brave enough to sit on a couch in a therapists office for an hour a week going through all your shameful shit- that’s hard stuff. Sometimes I have to count to ten really slowly in my head so I don’t just get up and leave a session because I’m so frustrated. And honestly, I spend more time bullshitting in therapy because it’s easier than owning my stuff and having feelings. Writing posts like this and putting myself out there for whoever the heck wants to see- it’s not easy. I worry about what people might think, how they might see me differently, etc. I am afraid. I am uncertain. Vulnerability is hard.
Being vulnerable allows others to learn from your life. When I write a post on Instagram about how I’m doing so well but BAM, one day my eating disorder decides I need a FitBit, and I jump on a scale, and I want to go back to being unhealthy- I have people thank me for that. For me, vulnerability has had a lot to do with admitting everything is not rainbows and roses. Being vulnerable ties us together as humans, because we all struggle. Being vulnerable creates meaning between people who don’t even know each other- “Hey, I feel that way too.” What a relief to know we aren’t alone in our crazy, irrational minds. What a blessing to know we are not alone in life.
So, I challenge you. And, I challenge myself. The next time someone you care about genuinely wants to know how you are, tell them the truth. When a friend calls you out, own it. Don’t just own it, but really think about if what you are doing serves you and the people around you. When you’re too anxious or scared to do something you know needs to be done, do it. Don’t wait. We always think we have time. If someone hurts you, tell them. Instead of holding a grudge or cutting them off, talk to that person. Admit you have feelings. They do too. The next time you want to lie in therapy, skip a meal, or run that extra five minutes- don’t. Take a look at why you’re avoiding vulnerability.
Note to self: To have vulnerability is HUMAN. It is not weakness, it doesn’t make me a wimp, it doesn’t mean there is an absence of strength. The ability to be vulnerable, and confident in such a place- is it actually a sign of strength?
One Saturday, I got up at 3 a.m to do yoga. Last weekend actually. I went to Louisville, Kentucky with several people from my yoga studio to an all day immersion, led by Baron Baptiste, the son of the founder of Baptiste Yoga.
What is Baptiste Yoga? It is a practice that is built upon a physical yoga practice, meditation, and inquiry. The goal is transformation- into full potential, creativity, passion; and development of confidence, autheticity, and possibility. Yeah so…what does that mean? In my own words, Baptiste is a practice that will change your life- if you are willing. In this practice, I have found anxiety relief, physical strength, breath, FUN, new goals and intentions, and confidence. More importantly, I have found community. Friends! Like friends who like the same exercise as I do! For the first time in my life, I’m not just exercising to burn calories or “earn” food; but I am practicing to be a better version of myself. I am practicing because it gives me peace. I am practicing because yoga plays a huge part in my recovery.
Anyways. In classic Epic Yoga style, the group I carpooled with arrived approximately 10 minutes before the programs start. We grabbed our mats, straps, and blocks, and made our way to the very back of the room. Music was blaring and the room had so much energy! Baron Baptiste appeared shortly after, thanking us all for coming.
Until lunchtime, we were led through several fundamentals, breaking down parts of the practice we frequently do. It’s amazing what looking at something in great detail can help you change the way you do it…and leave you sore in muscles you didn’t know existed the next 3 days after! During lunch our Epic tribe took the opportunity to snap a few group photos as we ate outside in the beautiful weather.
Since Baptiste Yoga is not solely about the physical practice, we spent the first part of the afternoon in “Inquiry.” For these exercises, we partnered up with someone near us and got pretty personal with some self-exploration (wait, this is supposed to be YOGA OMG). The room was filled with vulnerability, but also hope, as some brave yogis stood up and shared with 250+ people where wanted to give up being “stuck” in their lives, and what would be available if they let go of what keeps them stuck. Think of it this way:
Q: Where are you stuck? What would be possible if you let that go?
“I open myself up to the possibility of ____ and I let go of ____.”
What would you fill in the blanks with? Some of the things I heard were:
“I open myself up to the possibility of love, and I let go of being hurt and angry.
“I open myself up to the possibility of being enough, and I let go of insecurity.”
I open myself up to the possibility of deepening my practice, and I let go of expectations I have for myself.”
Baron Baptiste had us repeat these statements over and over again to are partners. You could see the tears and hear the laughter as people dropped what they knew. I could straight up FEEL the lightness, relief, confidence, and joy that came from this. One of my teachers is a firm believer in not putting labels on yourself and speaking what you want out loud. To be in a room of 250 people doing just that was pretty powerful stuff. Try it. See what comes up.
After Inquiry we moved on to Meditation. Personally, this aspect is my biggest struggle. I have a hard time quieting my mind and focusing on being present! I fidget, my legs all asleep, my back hurts, my mind wanders, etc. I can’t say I was particularly moved by the meditation aspect of the program, but I know many yogis were. Meditation is something I want to work on, because I am aware of the benefits it will bring.
Then…PRACTICE! It was SO neat to practice a yoga sequence with such a large number of people. Breath and flow filled the room, and I for one forgot about the outside world and its stressors. It was just me and my mat and my heartbeat and my body moving. Peace.
My teachers say “Yoga is about life.” I have to agree with them, even though some days I wonder if I “drank the Kool-aide” when I feel in love with this practice and the people I share it with. The weekend taught me to never say never. Had you told me a few years ago I would spend my time doing something like this, I would have laughed. If you told me I would be healthy enough to do this, I wouldn’t have believed you.But God knew what I needed in my life so much better than I did. Everytime I have said NO, He has helped make me a YES. Epic Yoga- the practice and the people- they’ve helped save me. I can see that there is life beyond my comfort zone, and that I can thrive there. I can see that letting go of fear and insecurity is healing. If you don’t change, you don’t grow.
So do something that scares you. Give something a chance that you’ve written off. Let people into your life. Be emotional. Be vulnerable. Fight for what you want. You might just surprise yourself- your life might just be transformed if you remove what isn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
I’m sitting here on my bed, with the window open and my sweet pup at my feet, occasionally barking at sounds in the neighborhood. It’s just cool enough (for me!) to cover myself in our comforter. My husband’s Discipleship Group is meeting upstairs and there is the occasional breakout of laughter. My belly is full from a dinner we and I cooked together. Today was beautiful and sunny, and I took a long nap to prepare to the half nightshift I’m splitting with another nurse in a few hours. I’m playing music from my “Chill and Write” playlist on Spotify.
I am content. I am thankful. I can sit here and appreciate my breath and my heartbeat and everything my body does to keep me alive.
It isn’t always this way. I haven’t decided what I hate most about my eating disorder, but one thing I know I really hate is how nothing is ever enough. I’ve been battling with thoughts of not being enough more than usual the last week or so. I can blame it on a longer break than usual from therapy, or anxiety from not exercising as much (because um, excuse me, I’m having fun LIVING), but either way, it is there. The discontentment. The disappointment with myself.
Want to know what my mind sounds like sometimes? Well here ya go: I’m going to be the fattest, ugliest, sweatiest person at the yoga immersion this weekend. Oh my God, no wonder I’m going to have to end up riding alone. Who would want to be friends with the girl who says she has an eating disorder but isn’t even thin anymore?! I shouldn’t have signed up. How the heck am I going to eat Zaxby’s as my challenge food this week? Why did I say I would work a nightshift; when am I going to exercise tomorrow? I need to do more abs. Oh my God I have to go shopping for spring and summer clothes; I can’t live in yoga pants. Trust me, I could go on.
In recovery, I am learning a lot of truths. About food, about exercise, about MYSELF. Those are the hard ones. It’s a weird feeling, to still feel like you’re growing up when you just tuned 30 years old. One of the big truths I’m facing right now is that I AM INSECURE. What??? Me? Geeze Linds, now the whole world knows. Ok actually just like the random 5 people who read your blog, but still.
Since I was a teenager, I have placed my confidence and certainty in my eating disorder. There’s just a few things wrong with that (HA), but the biggest problem with it is that I have not learned to place my confidence and certainty in God. I’ve been a Christian since middle school, but honesty time, my eating disorder has been my god with a little “g”. My eating disorder is no doubt TERRIBLE for me, but it has served many purposes. It protected me, gave me purpose, comforted me, made me calm, and helped me deal with the tough stuff in life.
The thing is, GOD can do all of that. And more. I just have to let Him; and believe me that is quite the learning curve. Some days, I’m pretty OK at it. I have the word “grace” tattooed on my wrist but dang do I sometimes with it was on the inside of both my eyelids. Some days, I am miserable. I have mini-meltdowns over my clothes because I’m finding my worth in my jeans. I want to crawl out of this body God gave me, because it is twenty-something pounds more than it used to be and I want to cut off all my fat.
I recently saw a quote by C.S. Lewis. “You don’t have a soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body.” Cue all the feels. What a reminder of how I am to live. As a soul, not a body. My body is just a home for my soul. What does God want from me? To love Him, and to love others as I love myself. I do love others- I love my friends like they are family, I love broken people, I love knowing people’s stories; but I also pretend I don’t- because I’m insecure and what if they don’t love me back. What if they look at me and see what I do when I look in the mirror? I am reminded of a verse: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14) When God said this to Moses, it wasn’t a “feel good” comforting kind of instruction. God actually wanted Moses to what we would probably call “sit down and shut up” so he could truly hear and accept the plans God was giving him. Moses didn’t want to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt- he was scared. Just like I am. I don’t want to let go of the security of my eating disorder- I am scared. BUT, it’s important to note that “do not fear” is written in the Bible over ONE HUNDRED times. The God of the whole freaking universe is telling me that He is on my side. I am here not to manipulate and abuse my body; but travel around and share my soul with others. My sole purpose in this life is not to be thin and eat “clean” but to be an example of Jesus the best I can, and love others. Some days I’m really going to suck at this, but because of grace, that word on my wrist, I get to try again every single day.
Contentment. When you get in your head like I so often do, try gratitude. Try re-framing what your purpose is and where your worth comes from. I can promise you it is not an addiction, a disorder, or a label. And I can promise you, even on the hard days, it is worth knowing your value isn’t measurable in pounds or sizes or the amount of minutes you exercise.
You are enough. Because He says so.