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.