Eating Disorder and Recovery Story

A while back, I shared my story on Instagram in a seven part series during NEDA Week. This post is a collection of those captions.

I’ve struggled from disordered eating since I was a teenager. I remember worrying about body image and food at age eleven. However, I played competitive sports growing up and was also a college athlete, so for the first several years of my eating disorder, the excessive exercise I did was considered “normal” and even “dedication.” I ate as little as I could while still maintaining my status as a star athlete. Starving myself completely would have affected my performance greatly, and it would have devastated me to lose my starting position on any team. I spent most of my teenage years at a perfectly normal, healthy weight, even though I was suffering mentally and emotionally. I began to struggle with anxiety and insomnia, further exacerbated by the restriction and exercise compulsion. I stopped enjoying things “normal” teenagers did because I was fixated on food and exercise, but hid it behind my outgoing, tough demeanor. Before entering college on an academic and athletic scholarship, I vowed to myself I wouldn’t gain the dreaded, “Freshman Fifteen”. 

I didn’t just avoid the “Freshmen Fifteen” in college- my eating disorder and compulsive overexercise spiraled out of control. Anxiety and stress from nursing school and playing college soccer dragged me deeper down. If I thought we didn’t “work hard enough” at a practice, I would go running afterwards. Sometimes I ran 2-3 times a day, or for 1-2 hours at a time. I lived on Diet Mt. Dew and cereal, and my idea of a meal was fat free ranch and cucumbers. I was plagued by constant respiratory illnesses, asthma, and extreme exhaustion. Still, I managed to receive my nursing license at the age of twenty, lead my soccer team in minutes played, and run cross country on a scholarship my senior year. My weight? All over the place, from what I remember. But that number was irrelevant to me.

I graduated in 2008 and moved to Nashville, TN to start my career as a nurse at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. By that time, me eating disorder was so engrained in me that I didn’t really understand I had a problem. Working nightshift and maintaining the restriction and exercise patterns led me to constantly be sick- doctors even testing me for immune dysfunction because of the frequency and severity of infections. Not once was I asked about exercise or eating habits. I was more bothered by my anxiety. I ended up reaching out to someone- I’ll call her C- at my church who helped me find a therapist. We met for coffee one afternoon, and she asked me various questions, one being “Do you have an eating disorder?” I paused, and said no. After some thought, she gave me someone’s information to contact. As we got up to leave, C said “You know what, wait a minute. The Lord is telling me that you need to see someone else. Let me give you her information.” I didn’t know it then, but in that very moment, God had started writing my redemption story. A story that is messy, ugly, and far from over. I truly believe if it were not for divine intervention that day, I would not be here. 

I am endlessly grateful for the time I spent with my first therapist after that meeting. It was in her office the first mention of an eating disorder was brought up, due to my therapists’ own experiences, but I pushed the hints aside. It wasn’t until I hit a new low- an absolute rock bottom- that I realized how very little regard for my own life I had. I owe so much gratitude to my friend Tara for sticking by my side during my absolute lowest. The ways in which she loved me, cared for me, and fought for me are living proof of God knowing exactly what we need when we need it. Because of Tara’s friendship and my therapist teaching me that I had a voice, I went for an assessment at The Renfrew Center, which was located where I lived. I was clueless. I was lost. I was sick, but in denial because I “looked fine.” It didn’t matter that I was ruled by anxiety, food rules, and exercise schedules. It didn’t matter that I hated every ounce of myself and couldn’t remember the last time I ate a full meal, or ate without compensating. When Renfrew immediately recommended hospitalization or residential treatment, I blew them off. I had just accepted a travel nursing position in North Carolina, and didn’t have time for that. At the urging of my therapist and Renfrew staff, I found an outpatient treatment team in North Carolina before moving there. “No big deal,” I thought. “A few months of that, and I’ll be fine.” I didn’t know I was about to begin a journey that would shatter everything I knew. A journey that would break me, again and again. A journey that would give me a second chance at life.

In North Carolina I began to work on recovery and had a very huge reality check. I struggled to function working full time and maintaining my health. Only my friend Tara knew I was getting help- I felt so very alone and scared. My outpatient treatment team urged me to go to residential treatment, but I had no insurance, no medical leave as a travel nurse, and no support. I began researching scholarships for treatment and met an angel of a human named Lynn, who had a foundation known as Melissa’s Voice. Lynn has lost her sister Melissa to suicide after a long battle with an eating disorder, and was interested in helping me. With her support, I told my family about my eating disorder and started to let friends in. Lynn graciously gave me a scholarship and connected me with a friend she had who ran a treatment center a few hours away. I took a chunk out of my savings, and with help of my parents, entered residential treatment in 2012. By this time, I had been enslaved to my eating disorder for nearly fourteen years.

In those weeks at the treatment center, I realized this: eating disorders take everything. Mine had taken my teenage years, my voice, my identity. It 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 a shell of myself. I had myself fooled, and everyone else.  I am forever grateful for the amazing souls I met in that big blue house where I found my heart and learned how to fight for my life. I am forever grateful to the people that helped me get there. But, I was still ignorant to the recovery process. As much as I hoped eight weeks of intense treatment would be enough to “cure” me, it was not.

A report in 2017 analyzing the results of 27 studies regarding relapse rates of anorexia sufferers, showed that over 25% relapsed within six months of completing treatment…that percentage increases after one year to 50% or higher. Six years ago when I discharged from residential treatment, I can honestly say that I never believed I would join those statistics. A few months after completing treatment, I moved back to Nashville, and found myself in full blown relapse, and the most physically ill I had ever been. I found myself back in treatment for several months, discharged, and pushed onward. However, I am fighting against something so strong and so dark, and my journey continues to be rocky. I spent 18 weeks in treatment starting last June. I spent most of 2018 wishing my life would end as I dealt with a degree of depression and anxiety I didn’t know was possible. After two treatment centers, an amazing psychiatrist, and life-saver of a therapist who refused to give up on me, I am slowly getting back on my feet and moving forward.

I still struggle. Daily. But I am still here fighting, which is an accomplishment in itself because I did not see a future for myself even 6 months ago.

I have anorexia, I have anxiety, I have PTSD, and I have depression…but these things do not have me. I am not a diagnosis, I am not a failure, I am not too much. This illness that tries everyday to tell me otherwise and convince me my life is not worth living, is wrong.

2,190 Days

I don’t write when I’m sick. On Instagram I do; little snapshots into my life; but I do not write here. This blog was started simply as a space to share my words with the universe- wether that happens to be one person (hi mom) or a hundred. This space has been silent lately. It became blank when I became silent because I had slipped once again into the turmoil of my eating disorder and everything that goes along with it. Six years fighting this. Seventy two months. 2,190 days. I remember being told the average time it takes someone to recover is six to seven years. 2,190 plus days later, I am here…fighting my way through the blank, silent space and trying to reclaim my life.

Exactly one month and one day ago today, I discharged from treatment. I discharged myself, making one of the most difficult decisions of my life as I walked out of the treatment center that day. After fourteen weeks of tears, angry outbursts, and confusion, I saw little progress. Honestly, I still don’t know how much I see. In some ways I am worse off than I was before. In the same number of ways, I am wiser, and learning my journey looks different than I pictured.

I haven’t written because when I am sick, I am ashamed. Ashamed of looking just fine on the outside, but being a mess on the inside. Ashamed for needing treatment again, and feeling like I came out no better than when I started. When I am stuck in shame, I don’t write. I don’t eat. I can’t rationalize. I can’t see the severity of my depression and destructiveness. I can’t escape the paralyzing anxiety that often cripples me from doing little but exercising or sleeping.

One evening at treatment, I refused dessert. A staff member put me in someone’s office with worksheets and a pen, and left. I was told that by not eating, I was choosing not to participate in group, and could process on my own. She was down the hall but I was alone, in a room, and in my mind, this was my punishment. I filled out one of the sheets and turned over the paper and started writing.
“The things no one will say to me.
Not enough.
Non compliant.
Treatment resistant.
Too much.
Too late.
Waste of resources.”

As I wrote, the tears came. The silent kind, where you don’t even blink or scrunch your face but they keep on falling and falling and you don’t know where they keep coming from. The kind of tears where there aren’t even any sobs, just all that damn water pouring out of your eyes like its never going to stop because it comes from a place so full of hopelessness and defeat that maybe it can’t be dry.

I left that night and began to plan how to end my own life. I’m a nurse. I don’t have to google how to, don’t have to wonder what will work, etc- I know. I always have, its medical knowledge and basic common sense. But this was the first time I thought out when and how. Something in me made me pick up the phone and call my best friend. I was crying so hard that I don’t think she understood much of whatever I was trying to say, but she left where she was and came to meet me at her house immediately. I am here today because I have an amazing support system and a God who says my story is not finished yet. I did not want to make that call to my friend, and still think maybe it wasn’t my own power that made my hands do it.

You see, that’s the thing about the last 2,190 days…nearly every one of them have been spent in a fight I am not winning. It adds up. To being hopeless. It adds up to me concluding that I would very much rather die than continue to live like this. Something I do not talk about outside the four walls of my therapist’s office is how chronically suicidal I have been. I went to treatment this time in hopes of it helping with that. Treatment did not “make me” want to end my life that night- the thoughts were already there and have been for a while. They were exacerbated by the feelings of worthlessness of my impression of being given up on. It made those words I wrote on the back of the worksheet very real to me. My work is believing they are not, and believing I am not too much.

It has only been recently that I have begun to come to terms with accepting my humanness. Which means I may live with having an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD for the rest of my life. But, that doesn’t mean that those things have ME. I am a fighter and I am hella resilient. In all of my weakness, I also have a God who is my strength. I know I am loved, beyond my ability to comprehend, by both God and the beautiful people He has placed in my life.

I’ll put these thoughts out there on to my blog and into space, and half of me will likely regret it. No one wants to talk about suicide. No one wants to yell to the world how much they are struggling. No one even understands mental illness. That includes me. And yet, I do. I talk about it. I do it for the one person who might need to read this. I do it for my family and friends, who I often can’t tell in conversations how much has been going on. I talk about it because this part of my life keeps me coming back to my yoga mat, and my yoga practice has healed parts of me I thought were unreachable. I do it to glorify God for continuing to bring me through the darkness- even when I don’t want Him to. Even when I beg Him to stop; when I’m angry at Him and think He made me wrong. I speak my truth for myself, because I am healing from the outside in, and I continue to learn that silence only breeds shame. Shame breeds sickness, and that is not how I want to spend my life. I will heal.

How Long Until I’m Recovered?

October 15, 2012. My first week in residential treatment. I am scared, I am anxious, I cannot fathom that I am here in in this place.

November 5, 2013. “Dear Body, Why do you let me down? I can’t trust you.”

February 14, 2014. Four moths ago, my life was slipping away. I am stronger now, the second time around.

September 1, 2015. “Things are better. They really are. Recovery is worth it. Recovery is possible.”

April 11, 2016. The last time I journaled. DAMN. Sorry therapist. “In the big picture, my life is amazing and my problems are small. I am tired. I am so tired. I want an easy button. I’m human. I want myself to be fixed, but what if this person I am is all I will ever have?”

July 29, 2017. I stopped working so hard to destroy my body, because I didn’t love it more when it was smaller.

May 25, 2018. I need more help. Have for a while now. Since November, and I’m finally willing now. I eat enough to get by, I feel my clothes get smaller but my mind tells me otherwise. I feel like shit on my yoga mat more times than not, and I am usually too tired to practice. If I don’t practice, I can’t eat, and something I love is turning into the awful cycle of compensation now. Yoga saved my life but I don’t really want to be alive right now. I realize now my eating disorder will never not be a part of my life, and I mourn that. I realize that I struggle with something that will mean I forever have to be careful and aware that each big decision I make in life is truly what is best for my health. I learn once again I cannot run from myself by burying myself in a job, by throwing myself into new things, by denying that anorexia has crept into both the smallest and biggest parts of my life and I am starting to lose myself again.

June 3, 2018. A week from tomorrow I’ll walk through the doors of The Renfrew Center once again. I was for damn sure that I would never have to do this again, but I am also for damn sure that I will not continue to live this way.

Instagram Recovery vs. REALcovery- guest post

My recovery from my eating disorder was singlehandedly one of the most challenging, confusing times of my life. I was left feeling hopeless so many nights. I was left with tears running down my face for years just because of an extra slice of pizza.

My recovery was hard.

But the thing is, my recovery was not like what is so commonly depicted on Instagram. And my life to this day is still not like many of these popular, famous Instagrammers.

When I was in the beginning of my recovery, chickpea pasta was not an option for me. Vegan cheese was out of the picture. There was no exercise allowed- not even walks. I was not allowed to make myself some extravagant oatmeal creation with zucchini and egg whites. I ate the packets of brown sugar oatmeal. Two to be exact. And I dealt with the anxiety from that packaged, brown sugar oatmeal. I dealt with the guilt of not being allowed to do any physical activity. I sat at the dinner table with sweaty palms and a terrified stare when white pasta with marinara sauce was placed in front of me. I watched as my family so effortlessly ate this meal. But for me, it felt like there were bricks weighing my wrist down and I could not lift up my hand to that fork. And when I did, I dealt with the negative thoughts that rapidly entered my brain, causing me to want to run away from the dinner table and lie in my bed with the covers over my head- blocking out my reality. My reality of recovery being eating, feeling guilt for eating, pushing through the guilt, watching the tears drop down my cheeks, and waking up the next morning to do it all again. It was a draining process, but a process that became easier over time… a process that gave me strength.

I wouldn’t change this process for the world. I wouldn’t recover in any other way. I am thankful I was exposed to all foods. I am thankful I was forced to just take a seat and not move my body at all. It so desperately needed that rest, and I knew my body thanked me for giving it that.

But when I look on Instagram now, I see many young girls approaching recovery differently. Working out 5 days a week while still trying to gain weight. Eating, but only eating “clean” foods. Having such a tight grip on what foods are “okay” to eat. This honestly makes me sad, because this is not what recovery should be. Recovery from anorexia should be planting yourself on your favorite chair and not doing anything when all your mind wants you to do is work out. Recovery from anorexia should be challenging yourself to have the cupcake when the thought of having it causes you anxiety- but doing it anyway because in difficult times comes immense growth. Recovery from anorexia should be loosening your grip around control with food and going with the flow- letting others decide where to eat, letting others cook for you, switching up your typical foods and trying something new. Recovery should equate to living a life of freedom from food and exercise. Recovery should feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder because you are allowing yourself to sleep in, instead of waking up at 4:30 am to workout. Recovery should be a smile on your face after eating a slice of cake with your best friend. Recovery should bring you genuine smiles.

My life to this day is still freedom. My life is not focused around the food and movement I do. My life has more meaning than that. My life is not spending 5 hours a day in the kitchen. It is not going to the gym every single day. My life has more value than what I will eat for dinner tonight. This is what recovery has given me. This is what recovery continues to give me. A life that is so fruitful in other things besides food and exercise… a life that sets my soul on fire… a life that brings me challenges and tears some days but endless laughter and joy other days. My recovery has allowed me to embrace my humanness. It has allowed me to embrace the individual I was always meant to be.

You can find more of Alyssa’s recovery experience on her Instagram at @blissful_lyss29

November Through December

November unraveled me. Slowly, like thread falling from fabric, before I knew it, I was in a place where I found my own self unfamiliar. I signed up for a Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) training- meaning I would be equipped to teach TSY to others- but it also meant I had to look at some things I had long ago tucked away. You know, those things that are probably a “big deal” but you relive the events over in your head enough to reduce them to a simple, almost meaningless event that might have happened to someone else, but certainly not to you.

Then the nightmares started, and the anxiety that made me chew the insides of my mouth raw. I woke my husband up at 2am the night after the first training. “Why did you let me do this?” I demanded. “Why? This shit is hard. I’m reading hundreds of pages about how our bodies hang on to all the stuff we go through, and I see myself in those pages, and I realize that its true- the body remembers. And the body always wins.”

I’ve been a Pediatric or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse for 9 years. I’m human- I’ve been through some tough stuff- we all have. Family issues, lost friendships, death, bad relationships, you name it. I’ve had an eating disorder for more of my life than I have not. Like how it sounds or not, we are all trauma survivors in some sense.
November reminded me of this. My body spoke to me in ways I could not ignore. I am a person who feels very deeply. I care for others with my whole heart. As much as I hate to admit to being emotional, I am. I am still learning that this is a gift and not a flaw like I’ve told myself and been told for so long. It’s the way God made me. I’m not made wrong, even though much of the time I resent that way I am. It can make living life HARD, because in the same way a person can be giddy and beside themselves with joy, I can be wracked and stunted by sorrow. Emotion that settles into my bones and fills all the spaces I didn’t know were empty. I am the same way with love. The beauty of it touches my soul and makes the entire world feel brighter. I have finally learned, that I cannot choose to feel one spectrum of emotions over the other. In attempting to numb pain, I will inevitably numb joy as well.

November unraveled me, and December has left me undone. I am owning my role in it and beginning to pick up the pieces. Some of them are painful, like the relentless migraines I’ve developed and the depression that has snuck in. Some of the pieces are healing, like the person from my past I reconnected with and spoke my truth to. I am still discovering pieces, and I get to pick and chooses what I want to stay, and what I want to go. It’s my life, not anyone else’s, and I want a say in how I choose to process and heal and implement wounds from the past.
The body remembers. Our brains are wired a certain way to react and protect us when needed. We can’t control that. Our tissues and muscles and cells hold the memories. Be careful what you pack away in hopes that the unseen disappears. God made us so beautifully flawed- breakable, ignorant, and so just so HUMAN. The unraveling and undoing of things in our lives has a purpose. Hold on to that hope.

I’m a Mess and I’m Learning That Isn’t a Bad Thing

I’m a Mess and I’m Learning That Isn’t a Bad Thing

Recently, my therapist brought up a good point (they’re good at that). To say I struggle with self love is an understatement- hell, I struggle with self LIKE a good amount of the time. She pointed out to me that when I’m talking about my child (my 90 pound fluffy baby beast dog), I laugh at her quirks and call her a mess.

“Why is that?” She asked me. “Why do you point out those messy things?”

“All the things that make her a mess are the things I love most about her,” I replied without hesitation.

“Exactly. Why can’t you love the messy things about yourself too? You don’t tell your dog to stop doing the things that make her personality hers. Why do you do that to yourself?”

Point for the therapist. I broke eye contact and looked away. It was true, I realized. So logical, so simple, so seemingly EASY.

“What are you thinking?” She asked me.

I didn’t answer, mostly because at the moment, I was thinking how much I hated my therapist, and counting to ten in my head whileI convinced myself not to straight up peace out of therapy. I don’t hate that my therapist is right. I don’t hate her for pointing out the obvious to me. What I hate is that there’s no easy button for self love. I KNOW I’m spending, and have spent, more years of my life than not, being critical of myself to the point where I don’t even like myself. I hate that there’s no “cure” for that except hard work that I have to do myself, because I’m not completely convinced self love is possible for me.

“It’s OK to be who you are,” said my therapist, who I don’t actually hate. “What if you could take the things you think after messy about yourself and embrace them for making you love-able? What are those things? They might be really simple, like you only wear thin socks, but those things are OK?” Not exact quotes (except for the thin socks reference) but you get the idea.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. I’m not special for struggling with self-love; those who don’t these days are probably in the minority. So, I wanted to take a few minutes, and acknowledge that I am a mess…and that is ok. That does not mean flawed, or stupid; it just means I am ME. And no matter how hard I try to fight it, I can’t truly change the core of who I am.

I’m sensitive and emotional, but I am also tough and a bit rough around the edges. I speak my mind, sometimes before I think. I believe in standing up for what is right. I don’t have an ounce of Southern charm in me, even after living in the south for ten plus years. I would give a friend the shirt off my back, and that gets me hurt a lot. I always want to include everyone. I don’t have a best friend because ALL of my friends are my best friend. I don’t know what day it is half the time because I’m a nurse. I don’t want to be a nurse anymore but I don’t know what else to do. I’m bad at math. Like really bad. I forget people’s birthdays, I send cards late, and I do all my Christmas shopping at the last minute.  I procrastinate. I don’t balance my checkbook and my husband keeps track of the bills because if it were my responsibility, we wouldn’t have electricity (this almost happened once). If I carry cash, I’ll give all of it to homeless people selling The Contributer. I don’t own high heels because look like a baby giraffe walking in them, and who wants to wear uncomfortable shoes? It takes me forever to cash checks. I can hardly work our TV at home, and I always forget the password to our wireless. Actually, I always forget the passwords to everything that requires a password. I don’t bake, and I’ve ruined two crockpots. I know the words to a shocking amount of rap songs, and I sing them in my car. My ringtone is “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, and that’s also the song I blare when I’m having a bad day or leaving work. I hate card games, because I’m bad at them, and I really hate losing. I don’t love having game nights with friends because I never like any of the games and get bored easily. I don’t sit still very well and I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to a movie. Or watched one. When I go to work, I look like I’ve just rolled out of bed because I don’t understand the point of doing my hair or makeup when I’m going to work as twelve-plus hour shift.

I am a mess…because I am human. I am a mess and I’m learning that isn’t a bad thing…becuase it is what makes me, me.  And that is ok.

Reflection: Yoga Teacher Training

“I asked for truth + was given silence.
I asked for truth + was stripped clean from my image.
I asked for truth + all I believed had meaning broke within me + outside of me.
I asked for truth.
I did not realize I was asking to be emptied.”
-Sarah Blondin

Yoga Teacher Training was something I decided to do for myself, and myself only. Coming into Pathfinders, I had a vague “WHY” and made up some stuff about how yoga had helped me so much, and I wanted to share that with others through teaching. That wasn’t completely untrue, but I felt like I should have a why. People told me I should have a why and know what I wanted to accomplish once I was certified. One of the many lessons I have learned in teacher training is that doing things because “I should” is never fruitful.
I drove to the studio the first night of training feeling like I was going to throw up from nerves and anxiety. I almost quit after that night. I almost quit the second week. I almost quit five weeks in. Honestly, I stayed partly because of the financial commitment I had already made. Also, I stayed because I believed Linda when she told me :something magic happens in that studio.
“Truth” or “Satya” has been my go-to word for two years, as I started my yoga journey and got serious about my recovery. I wanted truth in my life- to speak truth, to believe what was true about myself, to find out who I really was, to share my truth, and to speak truth to others. I didn’t know what genuine truth was, having lived a lot of my life checking boxes, doing things “I should”, and avoiding emotions and shame. Yoga Teacher Training brought all of those things to light, and more.
Finding Truth, or Satya , is not a peaceful process. It is destructive in a way that is healthy- the opposite of the way I had done things for so many years. Finding truth has involved me being silent, and being present in what is uncomfortable. It has shattered my concept of what really, truly living life is; because that has not meant to shrink myself and hide my story. Seeking truth has made me share my own truth, and not apologize for doing so. It has helped me find my voice and be a stand not just for others, but finally for myself as well. Finding truth has helped me accept myself in a way that muscling through everything and “sucking it up” never did. It has meant being still. It has meant looking at WHY I really choose to do things, because ONLY I am 100% responsible for the life I create.
Yoga Teacher Training has brought me joy. I am the happiest, most confident version of myself that I can remember being. This Yoga Teacher Training has had God’s hands all over it from the very beginning. When I walked into Pathfinders, met Misti, took a class, and felt the magic, I committed to 200 hours of training on the spot, because I heard God in the space.
“This is it,” I heard. “THIS is the place you will heal.”
So I jumped in, not even knowing what that meant.
Healing has come in so many forms. It has come in tears and internal temper tantrums in the studio as I am being pushed to my edge mentally and emotionally. Healing has come to me in seeing that my mat is simply a mirror. How I do my yoga is how I do my life. Every bit of it. That would have sounded like crazy yoga woo-woo sorcery to me even just a year ago. Yoga has taught me to be intentional with my life. Healing has also come in the form of love and friendship with my tribe members. I continue to learn so much from each of the beautiful women I share the studio space with. Each of them means the world to me in a way I can’t explain. That’s scary for me, because vulnerability and attachment make me nervous. But man, have those ladies taught me that it’s worth it.
Yoga will be a part of my life for the rest of my life, because it is not just about yoga. The goal isn’t fancy poses, a fit body, or finding my inner peace. This practice has opened up new possibilities everywhere in my life. God has given me the unlikely platform of teaching yoga and writing to do for others what I so desperately needed most of my life- belief that I am enough without being too much. Belief in full recovery and life in color.


Epic Reflections

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.

Yoga Teacher Training Wisdom

Remember when I said I was going to write a blog post for every week of Yoga Teacher Training?

Well, I haven’t. I think we are on week 9 or 10…where has time gone?!

Life has been busy. It’s been a huge adjustment for me to have more of a set schedule than I’ve had in years. Training is Tuesday and Thursday nights, so I rarely work during the week. I try to keep a consistent schedule of working Sunday and Monday right now. Yes, that leaves me with waaaay more “free time” than I’m used to. However, this Yoga Teacher Training is a little bit like being in school- but like, FUN school! I have homework and reading and practicing, and although it can be intimidating at times, the work is also very soul-filling. So, I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned over the past several weeks, because this process has been life-changing.

“Your mat is a mirror. How you do yoga is how you do life.”
This comes from one of my favorite teachers, and it may sound a little woo-woo, but it’s been a heck of a truth bomb for me. Yoga has taught me self-awareness. I’ve spent years and years abusing my body. I’ve learned that on my mat, accepting myself has to happen BEFORE change happens. On my mat, I meet myself exactly where I am. I am not broken, there is nothing to be fixed, there is nothing wrong with me. I am present. This helps me be present in my life. No more “fake listening” to people. No more investing in relationships that are toxic. No more saying YES when I should be saying NO. On my mat I listen, find compassion, and am grateful for my physical body. In life, I see these things becoming core beliefs. I don’t wish my body away anymore. And when I’m not caught up in that song and dance, things in life open up.

Yoga is the journey.
I started doing yoga because my treatment team had banned me from running, the gym, and the Bikram yoga practice. It’s not a fluke that I stepped into a studio and fell in love with this practice. My recovery journey was flipped upside down when I started practicing, and it has led me all the way to Yoga Teacher Training. The journey never ends.

Yoga means union.
The message of yoga is that we are one. We are all connected. Be nice to people. Be kind. Everyone has a story. I’ll say it again- BE NICE. BE KIND. If we are one, it’s not all about you. Give credit where credit is due. Lift others up, because it lifts you up too.

Contentment/happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Perfection simply does not exist, but balance does. We are human, and we all have our shit. Your problems are not more important than anyone else’s, and theirs are not more important than yours. What is possible when you are aligned?

Being a yoga teacher is not about ME.
When I teach, I am there for the people in front of me. I am there to hold space for them and give them what they need. I am not there to “get it right”. Teaching yoga allows me to just be.

“You can teach a monkey to call yoga poses.”
You cannot teach a monkey how to connect. You cannot teach a monkey how to share. It’s not just about calling the poses right…teaching yoga is about connecting with my students through breath, compassion, vulnerability, and my personality.

Run towards fear.
Fear has something to teach me. Facing fears allows me to grow. Avoiding fear creates limits.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Baron Baptiste, creator of Baptiste Power Vinyasa style yoga. “This is what the process of yoga does. It wrings you from the inside out. It brings up everything that’s in there- the fears, doubts, frustrations, toxins, strengths, beliefs, potential- and exposes it either to be released or to be used for growth. It challenges physically, emotionally, and spiritually and gives you the opportunity to experience every part of yourself on a whole new level. It all starts in your body, on your mat.”

My tribe and doing what I love!

Be a Stand

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.