What Keeps Me Going When I Am Struggling

The other day I saw a picture of myself where I was a little underweight and started comparing my body now to my smaller body. I spent hours tearing myself apart. I started hating my softer, bigger body and attacking myself. The truth is that even though I am weight restored, I continue to work on loving myself, and I have recovered a lot, I don’t always love my body. I still tear myself apart sometimes but I don’t let these thoughts make me starve myself. Sometimes I miss my smaller body, but want to know what I don’t miss about being underweight?

  • I don’t miss my hair thinning from a lack of nutrients.
  • I don’t miss feeling cold and weak all the time because I am not eating.
  • I don’t miss lying and hiding food from my family because of the shame and self-hatred I felt on a daily basis. Complete honesty with my loved ones and doctors have improved my relationships and been a turning point in my recovery.
  • I don’t miss passing out because I am not eating enough and working out for 4-6 hours every day.
  • I don’t miss distancing myself from loved ones because food anxiety prevented me from going to restaurants with friends.
  • I don’t miss wearing bulky sweaters in 90 degree weather because I had such a strong hatred for my body that I would cry when I looked at myself.
  • I don’t miss being grumpy and snapping at my family because I am not eating enough.
  • I don’t miss my brother crying and begging me to eat because he is scared he is watching me slowly kill myself.

Sometimes I don’t like my changing body but I will never let that make me go back to starving myself. I will never risk the health I have gained, memories I have made, lives I have touched, relationships I have gained, the laughter, the strength I have gained or the person I have become for a smaller body. I choose recovery every day for these reasons.

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We Are All Much More Than an Illness or a Number

37905062_317085022187145_901276123738931200_n(1)A mental illness likes to make us believe that we are our mental illness. Society likes to tell us that our worth is based on how much we weigh and what our body looks like. I like to tell myself that those are only small parts of who I am. I am so much more than a number and I am so much more than the mental illnesses I have been diagnosed with. There is an amazing movement on Instagram called @i_weigh that helps people realize their value. It’s amazing because it shows people that we are all so much more than what we look like. I think it is so important that we all realize this.

I am someone who has depression, anxiety, PTSD and anorexia but I am also someone’s sister, friend, roommate, volunteer, girlfriend, coworker and cousin. Most importantly, I am someone. I am a living, breathing human with goals and dreams.

I am the memories I have made. I am someone who sings into her hairbrush in the shower pretending to give a full blown concert.  I dance around when I get a little too excited. My nose scrunches when I laugh. I am a violinist and pianist. I love learning, travelling and exploring. I am really blunt when I am tired. I am the sass master. I love random water and nerf fights. I sing out the window even though I am a horrible singer. If I hear a song I love, I dance no matter who is watching. I play air guitar and air piano while dancing around. I make up my own language with friends so we can be weird without anyone understanding.  I communicate with friends by making weird noises and weird faces at them. When I get nervous I babble about random things. I once had a 45 minute conversation about how sporks are the superior utensil with a guy I liked because I was nervous. I am an artist and volunteer. I am my memories and the lives I touch.

I am so much more than my mental illness, a number or the way I look, and so are you.

Happy Thanksgiving

for the blogWith Thanksgiving coming up, I’d like to take the time to reflect on what I am thankful for. A few months ago, I was going through a tough time. I started a gratitude journal, which has helped me feel a little more positive. Every day I write something I am thankful for. Some days it is harder than others to think of something, but even during the worst times, there is something, even if it is small, to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is a hard time of year for me. It usually comes with a lot of food anxiety, body image issues, grief, and is about a week away from a trauma anniversary which brings up a lot of memories and emotions. The holidays can be really hard sometimes, but I still like to think about what I am thankful for. This year I am thankful for:

1.  Sunsets

I try to watch the sunset each day. There is something amazing about the way that each sunset is different but still gorgeous. I love that I can look at the sunset and know that a bunch of other people can look at the same sunset I am looking at; it makes me feel connected to them. Sunsets remind me how colorful and beautiful life can be and that no matter what happened today tomorrow is a new day.

2. Waterfalls

Waterfalls are so beautiful, and nothing makes me happier than being able to splash around the bottom of the falls. Waterfalls make me feel calm, at peace, and happy.

3. Nature

I often escape to nature when I am having a tough time. The fresh air, the sun, and the beauty of nature make me happier. I reconnect with myself in nature. I find nature very healing.

4. Fuzzy socks

I love winter nights where I come home and put on cute fuzzy socks (they usually have really cute designs on them), drink hot chocolate and watch a movie. It Is one of those simple things that makes me feel so happy.

5. Tea

For a long time, tea was the thing that got me out of bed most days. I looked forward to drinking my hot tea in my favorite mug.

6. Books

I love getting lost in a good book. I love holding the book in my hand, the smell of books and turning the pages and I love being able to spend time in a different world for a little bit.

7. Music

The kind of music that makes every part of you buzz along with it. The kind of music you can’t help but dance along or sing along to no matter who is around. Some of my best memories are concerts or jam sessions with some of my friends. The kind of music that makes you feel deeply as well. Music can be incredibly therapeutic.

8. Friends and family

The kind of people who support you when you are going through a tough time and celebrate along with you when you succeed and are happy.

9. Fuzzy blankets

I love cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket. Whenever I get a new blanket, I feel excited.

10. Comedies

I love anything that can make me laugh. I feel so much better after I have laughed. Laughing heals.

11. Fall

The leaves changing colors is one of my favorite sites and makes every drive or walk exciting. I love sweater weather and spiced drinks and food. I love Halloween where I get to watch Halloween movies and see adorable kids in their costumes happy and excited.

12. The beach

I love digging in the sand, splashing in the ocean and looking for seashells and rock. The beach is beautiful, calm and healing for me.

13. Puppies and kittens

How can you not smile when around a puppy or a kitten?

14. Coffee shops and bookstores

A few days ago I found this really cute coffee shop. It was small and cozy, and had bookshelves along the wall. I spent three hours reading, drinking tea by the fireplace and enjoying the vibe of the place.

15. Good conversations

The kind of conversations where you start talking and when you look at the clock, you realize it has been 4 hours. The conversations that leave your heart and soul feel full.

16. Travelling

I love being able to experience another culture and explore new places. I love learning new languages, trying new foods, learning the history of the place and listening to the music.

Being thankful does not take away the pain around the holidays and is not a cure for mental illness. Being thankful does not mean that I am automatically happy. However, being thankful and having things to hold onto makes it a little easier for me to make it through. It gives me hope that I can and will get through the hard times, because I have before. Happy Holidays! If the Holidays are tough for you, please know that you are not alone. I am thinking of all of you and I appreciate your fight. Keep fighting!

Treat Yourself Like A Loved One

ben and meWe tend to be our harshest critics. I have recently started trying to be kinder to myself like I am to others around me. Think of someone you love and care for the most in this world. Maybe it is your child, sibling, significant other or best friend. I think about my brother.

  • If this person engaged in eating disorder behaviors would you think any less of them? Would you think they were a failure or a bad person? I would not. He would still be my smart, goofy, caring little brother and I would do anything to get him the help he needs.
  • If this person failed a test would you think they were a complete failure with no purpose? No. I realize there are more important things in life than tests. I will always believe in him and his future no matter what grades he gets.
  • If this person had a mental illness would you think they were a horrible person, a waste of space, undeserving or unworthy? Of course not! I would do anything to help my brother and would support him through everything.
  • If this person was thin, fat, had cellulite, acne, stretch marks, birthmarks, scars or freckles would you think they were any less beautiful, amazing, intelligent, kind, lovable or worthy? No. I have loved my brother his entire life and will continue to love him. The way he looks would never change the love I have for him, the belief I have in him or what kind of person he is. I will always love him and think he deserves everything good in this world.
  • If this person gained weight would you think of them any differently or think they no longer deserved to eat? No. I have loved my brother at every weight and will continue to love him. Food isn’t something you deserve, it is something you need to survive, I would want him to keep eating.
  • What if this person talked about their bodies or themselves the way you talk about yourself? It would break my heart to see my brother rip himself apart like I used to.
  • If this person needed help would you think they were wrong, weak or any less of a person? Of course not! I would be proud of my brother for taking steps to get better and for having the strength to ask for help when there is so much shame around it. I would want my brother to do whatever it takes for him to get better and be happy.

Why are you any different?

I am at the point where I recognize the negative thoughts and lies my mental illness tells me and how they are not true and I fight with them. I ask why and challenge them and slowly they start to lose their grip. Slowly I am being kinder to myself and healing.

Why We All Matter and This World Needs Us

When I was in high school I felt lost. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, trichotillomania, and  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I felt the pain of the people around me and the world and felt powerless against it. Depression whispered that I would be depressed forever and that I would never get better or feel happy. Depression whispered I had no purpose and no future. Anxiety shouted that I was never good enough and never would be. It took me 17 years to learn that I matter. That we all matter. I am in my early 20s and still figuring it out and that is okay.

I started volunteering and when I saw that my volunteer work has the ability to help people. I knew I wanted to spend my life helping others in some way, but I still am not sure in exactly what way yet.

The things that kept me going when I felt helpless and like I had no future, or the things that gave me a reason for going on, were the small acts of kindness. The card my friends made, where they wrote kind messages after my Grandmother died. The cup of tea my friend made me as she sat with me in a closet after a panic attack. The food my friends brought me when my mom was in the hospital, so I would eat something. The strangers who handed me tissues when I started crying because I had just lost a close relative. The strangers who invited me to their birthday party my first week at a new school after moving across the state.

Likewise, I never realized how much I affected the people around me. Holding my friend’s hand when she reported her sexual assault; talking to my friend all night when she was having a rough time; smiling and having lunch with the new guy; smiling and being kind to a boy who was being bullied and wanted a friend; giving my friend a journal that helped her sort out her personal issues and helped her find her passion for writing. Now, she has a blog and graduated college as an English major.

Don’t doubt your worth or that you have a purpose. Sometimes it takes time to figure my life  out, and that is okay. Every day you are making an impact and leaving small footprints. Maybe you introduced a song to your friend and that song helped them through a dark period. Maybe you smiled at someone who was struggling and that smile gave them a little hope. How incredible is that? Maybe you gave someone a mug as a gift and now it is their favorite mug and they use it to make tea after a panic attack. Someone will think of something you did and smile. Maybe you showed kindness and love during a hard time and made getting through the day a little easier for them. Every smile, every time you volunteer, every act of kindness, every gift and every hello makes an impact, probably a bigger impact than you will ever know.

Your kindness and love are a gift. You are uniquely you and that is a gift. Maybe you don’t know your life calling yet. That is okay. You make an impact on this world and in people’s lives daily, and that is amazing and beautiful. You are so beautifully enough just as you are, so take up all the space you need, and never apologize for it.

What I Do After A Binge

In high school after I binged I would start attacking myself for not have enough control and for eating too much. I told myself that I was disgusting. I ate to the point of feeling sick and not being able to move and my stomach was usually in a lot of pain. I thought I was a bad person for eating too much; I blamed myself for not being “strong enough” to resist the urge to binge. I thought I was a failure because food made me feel powerless. I would spend hours looking up things like “what to do after a binge” but none of the articles I read addressed the real issue.

In order to recover, I needed to address my issues with my emotions, my body, food and my self-hatred and needed to learn more about binging. Now after a binge, I do these things:

1. Forgive myself.

After talking with doctors and therapists and my outpatient team I learned that food has nothing to do with morality or the kind of person you are. Repeat that over and over again until it sinks in. You aren’t a failure, a bad person, or selfish for eating too much, binging or having any eating disorder.

2. I learned that binging is my body trying to tell me something or trying to heal, NOT a weakness or lack of control.

When you starve and deprive yourself your body is starving and needs food. Binging is your body screaming for food because it needs food to survive. It is a survival mechanism that can happen after starvation, deprivation or stress. Give yourself some love. There is nothing wrong with you and you are not any weaker for binging.

3. I don’t restrict, deprive, over exercise or purge.

After a binge it is common to want to restrict, purge in some way or deprive yourself to make up for it but that will eventually lead to another binge and is not healthy. You don’t need to punish yourself for binging because you did not do anything wrong. After you binge give yourself some love and keep going. Eat the next meal because skipping won’t help and continue your day. If you feel sick don’t force yourself to do an intense workout. Sometimes once I can move again I go for a walk around the neighborhood just to get moving and get some fresh air. If I feel better the next day I will continue with my normal workout routine.  There is no need to go crazy at the gym because once again, no need to punish yourself because you did not do anything wrong.

4. Try to find what the binge is telling me.

Maybe I was starving and depriving myself and my binge was telling me I need to eat. Maybe I binged to cope with my emotions or life stressor, so I reach out to a friend, journal or talk it through with my therapist. In outpatient I learned a lot of cognitive behavior therapy skills that I continue to use to this day to cope with emotions and eating disorder urges.

5. I keep fighting.

Overcoming an eating disorder is really hard. We are around food many times a day and need food to survive so we cannot escape food. I sometimes still binge occasionally, but I used to binge around 4 times a week. I move on after a binge every time and show myself kindness. I keep fighting and the binges happen less and less eventually. It takes time to heal your body from the inside and your relationship with food but it is possible.

Never give up on yourself or your recovery and never hate yourself for struggling at any point during the recovery process. You are stronger than you think and you’ve got this!

Never Be Afraid to Ask for Help

One thing I wish I knew a few years ago is that if anything is getting in the way of us living our life the way we want we deserve help.

You deserve to recover from an eating disorder no matter what size, shape or weight you are.  No matter how bad others have it if something is getting in the way of your happiness, you deserve to heal from that. I used to tell myself that other people’s traumas were worse, and maybe that was true, but I still deserve to heal from my traumas no matter what. Maybe you don’t have a mental illness, but life is stressful. Or maybe, you are going through a big change, or life is just hard. You still deserve help.

After I was raped, I went to therapy every day for 2 weeks and then a few times a week for a few months, because that shook me to my core. I reached out to a few teachers who helped me in every way they could, including giving me books about resilience, being flexible with due dates, and sitting with me while I did work, because that was the only way I was able to concentrate and do my school work. I found friends who brought me tea and sat with me in a closet, the only place I felt safe after I had a panic attack. Friends who offered to go with me to therapy sessions, friends who walked to my house with a card saying I was strong and telling me they loved me. Friends who brought me my favorite chocolate bar. Slowly, I had a small circle consisting of my friends, my therapist and my professors who helped me in every way possible to continue achieving my dreams and work towards my goals while healing from trauma.

There is a lot of shame around getting help. When someone breaks their arm, everyone asks to sign their cast and wants to know what happened. When someone is mentally ill, people tell them to “snap out of it.” Mental illness is invisible, but very real. The brain is sick. I used to think therapy somehow made me broken and unlovable. I used to think that in order to be strong, I had to pretend to be happy all the time and get through everything on my own.

Want to know what is actually strong? Facing the shame and asking for help anyway. Embracing your humanity even when it gets ugly; speaking your truth; being vulnerable and working through your pain.

The world is hard sometimes, and while there are people who will judge you for having a mental illness and needing help, those are not the people you need in your life. There are also people who want to help. We don’t have to go through any of the difficult things in our lives alone. Asking for help is strong because it leads to us healing and living our best lives. There is nothing wrong with needing help, we all need it sometimes.

If anything at all is getting in the way of your happiness or you living your best life, you deserve to heal. You should never be ashamed to ask for help so you can heal, no matter what that might look like. Therapy helped me, but I know that is not an option for everyone. I also found help from teachers, and friends all offering support and help in any way possible. You are not alone.