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.

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Connection

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When I first met with the woman who is leading my Yoga Teacher Training (Misti- remember that name, you might hear it a lot), two things she said stuck out to me. “This is more than fancy yoga poses. I could teach a monkey to stand up and call poses, but the real work comes with connecting.”

People ask me “Why is Teacher Training hard?Aren’t you just learning how to teach yoga?” True…but the thing is, you have to start with yourself. It’s more than memorizing a sequence and all the names of the poses and the flow. Sure, it is about that, but not solely.

Yoga is about connecting. Connecting means sharing- my stories, my feelings, my struggles, my celebrations, my fears, and, and exposing myself. It means being PRESENT in my body, and aware of how I feel both physically and emotionally. That is how I will connect with my students.

My eating disorder started when I was a young teenager. I grew up learning how to disconnect myself from my body. I coped with unpleasant emotions with restriction, purging, compulsive over-exercise, dieting, etc. At this point, more of my life has been spent actively in my eating disorder than out of it. That’s a scary confession. It makes me a little ashamed. It feels pretty dang shitty.

When someone walks into a room, they bring their energy with them. If you’ve never taken a yoga class, you might not notice that, but it’s true. People bring a “vibe” with them. It’s why you meet some people and immediately feel their joy. It’s why you meet some people and get a funny feeling- their energy is telling you something. If this is sounding “yoga woo-woo” to you stay with me; I have a point.

When I am in front of people, particularly in a yoga studio, and I am the one they are focused on, I bring a few different types of energy, but the dominating one I PERSONALLY CAN FEEL is disconnection. It makes perfect sense- I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life hating my body. Trying to change it. Trying to shrink myself. Using behaviors to cope with feelings. Going inside myself when things got stressful, sad, or hard. Pair that with the perfectionist part of me that has the need to “do this RIGHT” and hopefully you can imagine my discomfort. Everyone is looking at me. They are watching me. I can’t imagine what they are thinking if I’m already ashamed of myself. UGH. Instead of relaxing, I do what I was taught to do growing up playing competitive sports: TRY HARDER. Suck it up. And then criticize my lack of confidence.

Misti reminds me to come back to my “WHY.” Why I want to teach yoga. I can sit there and give my “WHY” a pretty description, but it comes down to one thing: connection.

I believe God gave me yoga to put me on the path of healing. And through healing, connect. I have a story- we all do. But I wonder- how many of us go through life and never tell our story? If I don’t connect with the people around me, my story stays inside. And what better way to connect with people than through a yoga practice that has changed my life? I believe in it. I believe this practice works. I believe all of our pain and sorrow has a purpose. And so I have to connect- which means I answer the hard questions and say the hard things. Because at the end of the day…being a yoga teacher is not about me. It is about the people I teach. If I can come from a place where I am genuinely in touch with my body and my mind, I believe I can help others. I’m not totally sure what that looks like. But I’m finding out its has to do with a lot of soul-searching, self-compassion, and leaning into the unknown.

Yoga asks, “what is possible?” Yoga is the journey. Yoga means UNION. The message of yoga is “we are one.” Is it making a little more sense now why training isn’t just about learning yoga poses and calling them in front of a room full of people? The self-work is difficult. It looks like holding myself accountable to the group of girls I am with. We are HUMAN. We don’t like to be bombarded with the things that we avoid. But genuine connection and relationships don’t come from things we don’t say. They come from placing out the pieces of ourselves we would rather keep secret…because when we do that, maybe someone can say “Me too.”

My yoga tribe is a stand for me. We keep each other in integrity, and that doesn’t just apply to admitting we did or didn’t do our reading. It means that when we get together, for those 10 hours every week, we are real with each other. Sometimes that means dragging your butt into the studio on fumes. Sometimes it looks like telling Misti that I pretty much hate her, because she’s making me stand up in front of the group for waaaaaay longer than I’m comfortable. My tribe is teaching me to connect. And trust. And that is what’s going to make me a good yoga teacher. When I teach a class, I’ll be able to bring my “WHY” and my story, because I’m learning to to not disconnect myself from it. The story of how God has used this practice to help save my life- and all the junk that goes along with it. There is beauty in the breaking, and I’m all in.

Flip your perspective.

Flip your perspective.

 

The Work Begins

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.
“Wounded.”
“Being the victim.”
“Anger.”
“Being OK.”

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.

The power of a blank canvas.

The power of a blank canvas.

Outsides and Insides

Long time no post! I want to take this post to talk about where my mindset has been lately. Recovery wise, the lack of writing has a lot to do with me kind of feeling like I’m at a standstill. I know that’s better than going backwards, but it’s still frustrating. So often I wish I had a timeline for recovery, and assurance that someday this illness will no longer be in my life at all. That is what I struggle with though; the thoughts of “is this as good as it gets?” I try to hold on to the truth and promise that God is the ultimate healer, and apply it to my recovery. In all honesty, I’ve discovered what I call the ugly side of recovery. After the weight has been restored, and I don’t look like the person with food issues anymore. People comment that I’m strong and healthy, and I try to smile. But then comes the shame. The feeling like a fraud. My insides don’t match my outsides, and if you’ve ever lived that way, it’s confusing. I want myself to match. I want to look at that woman in the mirror who flexes her muscles jokingly at her husband saying “suns out guns out” and be proud that I am strong. But, I’m used to having noodle arms, and I don’t anymore and sometimes I really miss that thinness.

People talk about missing your eating disorder. That always sounded weird to me, but in some ways I get it. It makes me feel a little dark and twisted- to miss something that was slowly killing me. But I’m not going to lie, I miss weighing 20+ pounds less and wearing size X jeans. Not because I felt accomplished, but because it felt familiar. Let me be clear, it did NOT feel good. I felt like shit. But I was so used to that. It was my normal. And wether a person’s “normal” is healthy or not, it feels comfortable. I miss feeling more secure because I was “smaller” than all the people I was around. Shallow? Selfish? Maybe. But it’s the ugly truth.

Recovery, in the long term, is like slowly having a rug taken out from under you that you didn’t even realize was there. The rug is my eating disorder. Intensive treatment was different- that rug gets YANKED out from under you FAST. But slowly seeing just how much of my life changes when the eating disorder fades often makes me lay facedown on that dang rug and cling to it for dear life. Change isn’t easy. The realization that so much of my life is still affected by this illness isn’t easy. Sometimes I’ll feel great about where I am, but then I’ll walk into my dietician or therapists office and get hit with the reality that I am still very much disordered in some ways. Not always by my behaviors, but more so with my thought processes. And then I feel the standstill and I’m angry; because My God, I look healthy now and I can go more than a day without exercising and I can eat donuts; so why the hell can’t I just be FREE. And I’ll come to admit to myself that once again, my outsides doesn’t match my insides, and it is SO unfair. I look fine. And most of the time, I am fine. For that I am thankful. But when I do not feel fine, I struggle with wishing my appearance showed that.

Eating disorders don’t make sense. My therapist has told me this approximately 9825 times, but giving myself the grace to accept and understand that is still hard. I’m an ICU nurse, and I want to understand exactly why A causes B, and what can fix it. Recovery and eating disorders aren’t like that though. So, acceptance. Acceptance that my journey is not over, and that it may be far from over. That’s difficult to sit with. Grace. Grace for myself because I am human and I can’t “cure” myself by beating myself up over things. Grace is having hope. Right now I’m sitting on a plane flying to California for vacation with my family. Last time I was on that side of the country, I had just started recovery. It was my secret. I have a lot of good memories from the trip, but one of them was carefully hiding my eating disorder while still trying to not completely throw everything my treatment team was teaching me out the window. Kinda exhausting. Here I am three years later. I have a blog where I put my experiences and struggles out there for absolutely anyone in the world to see. I’m eating a snack right now. I’m not stressing over when I’ll get a workout in today after sitting so much. I see how far I have come, and I hope. I hope for the days when the things that seem impossible now no longer are. Just like the things I never thought could change, actually have.

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