Two Years of Recovery

Two years today.  That is how long it has been since I checked myself into treatment at Eating Recovery Center (ERC) in Denver, CO.  It is strange and also wonderful to think that it has been that long.  It makes me reflect on how far I have come in that span of time and all the improvement I have made.  It is incredible to think of just how far I have actually come and the accomplishments I have made considering even four years ago entering inpatient/residential treatment the first time around I believed that I had little to no hope and even at ERC I had days where still felt there were things that I did not believe I could overcome.

In two years I have changed my life for the better…

Today I am back to doing what I love, which is writing.  I am able to write and read, which is something I was worried that I had lost forever.  In the throes of my eating disorder, I was unable to do either because of my lack of concentration.

Today I am able to participate in life again and not miss out on the things that I love most.  I am able to go to football and soccer games, watch them at home, feel the joy of fanaticism that I have always had in my heart.  ercThere is nothing like finding that joy again and embracing that part of myself that I love.

Today I am able to have relationships with people.  I have the kind of friendships that I want and deserve and that my friends deserve.  I am not so caught up in my eating disorder that I am unable to have any other relationship but with my eating disorder.  I am not alone and isolated, losing relationships because I would rather have my eating disorder instead.

Today I am overcoming and have overcome many issues that have plagued me for many years.  My fear foods list is now down to a very small number of items when I used to have a huge list of fears and only a small list of safe foods.  My eating disorder is nearly faded away.  The thoughts linger, especially in tough times, and haunt me sometimes, but behaviors are nowhere to be found.  Slowly, but surely, I am working on my body image and it is always improving.  I constantly work on trauma and rape and I have gone from not even being able to really mention it four years ago, barely talking about it two years ago, still blaming myself a year ago, to today and within the last six months finally not blaming myself and working through what happened.  The OCD will be next on my list to tackle though I have worked through quite a bit already.

Next month I will be returning to Denver, CO.  I will return to the area where I truly began my recovery journey.  I will return as a professional, not a patient.  I will return to attend the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s 5th Annual Conference.  There are few words to express the joy that I feel at this moment.  My life has shifted from illness to wellness, from existing to living.  Two years from now, I can only imagine what I will have accomplished, what will have changed in my life.  I am only too excited to find out and to go on that journey!

My Recovery Journey in 2013

Every year in my journal I reflect upon the past year and all of my accomplishments along with goals still in progress and for the next year.  It reminds me of everything that I achieved and allows me to celebrate each accomplishment and gives me a good platform for continuing in my recovery and what else I want/need to accomplish.

One of the biggest rules I have for this yearly reflection is kindness and compassion.  If I am still working on something, then I am still working on it.  If I still did not make it to something on my list that I wanted to accomplish, then that is okay, too.  This is not about what I did not accomplish, but about celebrating what I did.  It about continuing to make, change, erase, or whatever any goals I may have in the future and the future is whenever.  I do not have to accomplish everything in a month, six months, or a year.  There is no perfection here.

Accomplishments

  • Working through difficult issues (some for the first time).
  • Worked through some important OCD issues.
  • Stayed committed to recovery and for the most part did not engage in behaviors all year!
    • This was HUGE for me!  I had a lot of ups and downs after getting out of treatment last summer.  It was last winter, I turned things around and made huge changes and this year really did the best I ever have in recovery.  I am really proud of myself.
  • Improved my physical health through recovery.
    • My body is slowly but surely healing from the eating disorder and it is awesome to hear after a year’s time the improvement in my health!
  • Worked through a significant portion of my fear foods!
    • I have accomplished so much on my fear foods list!  I cannot be more happy!  I am eating foods that I have not eaten in years.  I am so fortunate and grateful for my meal support and cannot wait to knock out those other fear foods ASAP!
  • Made my entire treatment team proud of me.
  • Started writing about recovery and gained more than ever expected.
    • I never thought starting this blog would lead to anything important.  I was so wrong.  I am so grateful for everyone here that reads and every opportunity that has come my way because of this.  I truly do not have words for how much you all and it all means to me.
  • Celebrated my birthday again this year.
    • The story behind this is that I stopped celebrating my birthday many years ago.  I thought that I was not worth it and did not deserve any of it.  It was not until last year that I started celebrating it again.  This year, I celebrated it again and it was one of my best birthdays ever.  I am worth it.
  • Bought clothes for myself using the mantra, “Wear what is comfortable.”
    • This was a huge step for me and I am so glad I did it.  Still need to continue to swap out small clothes and buy other clothes, but I am making more progress than ever.
  • Gained the ability to read again.
    • Up until earlier this year, I had been unable to read because my eating disorder had robbed me of that ability.  My brain could simply not concentrate long enough to be able to read while I was sick.  In recovery, I am able to read to my heart’s content!
  • Took better care of myself this year than ever before.
  • Connected with others (family, friends, etc.) more this year.
  • Ate meals with others and not alone.
    • Big deal for me, too.  I had continued to eat alone like I did when I was in my eating disorder instead of with others.  Long story short, I made a big effort to overcome my fears and eat with other people.  I do not have to eat alone anymore!

Goals

  • Continue writing.
  • Continue to work on my fear foods list and the few items left.
  • Stay committed to recovery no matter what.
  • Build more body acceptance and love.
  • Continue working through difficult issues.
  • Continue to improve my health and heal my body.
  • Continue to celebrate my birthday every year.  I am worth it.
  • Continue to take good self-care and make it a priority.
  • Continue to eat meals with others and not alone.
  • Find more self-compassion, more often.
  • Achieve full eating disorder recovery.
    • This is definitely an on-going goal!
  • Continue to work on my OCD.
  • Continue, “Wear what is comfortable.”

Of course these accomplishments and goals are not an exhaustive list (and I may have forgotten a few big things to write down!), but these are some of the most important recovery accomplishments this years and goals for the next.  I have accomplished so much and I could not be more happy or proud of myself for my achievements.  I cannot wait to see what else I can achieve in recovery in the upcoming year and beyond.  I know, with recovery, I can accomplish the things that were never possible before when I was sick.  I can accomplished my dreams.

What have you accomplished in your recovery this year?  What are your goals for the future?    Remember: Have kindness and compassion towards yourself when writing down your accomplishments and goals and NO accomplishment is too small to celebrate!

Leaving on a Jet Plane: NEDA Conference 2013

Today is the day I leave for the NEDA Conference 2013.  I can hardly believe that the day is finally here.  I have been preparing and packing for weeks now both mentally and physically.  It has taken up a lot of my time, which is why I have been so occupied and away from both my blog and Twitter.

For me, a trip is not simply a matter of packing a day or two beforehand and flying off to my destination.  It takes planning and preparation that is caused by my eating disorder history, my current OCD behaviors, and a lack of clothing that needed to be purchased.  All those things are time consuming especially considering I cannot always accomplish everything on my own.

But I have made it.  Through help, extra work during therapy and dietitian appointments, and several shopping trips reassuring myself on wearing what is comfortable, I have made it.  I managed to overcome necessary hurdles such as meal, packing, and clothes shopping stress; giving myself permission to nap, snack, etc. while on my trip; keeping my expectations in-check; and accepting that there is only so much I can plan and prepare for and knowing I did enough.

None of it was easy.  At times it was quite hard.  My OCD screamed and fought.  I know, however, that it will be okay.  I have the tools I need—I mostly did already.  I need to continue to reassure myself in my ability to cope and the strength I already possess.  I need to belief that I can do great things because I can.

It is amazing all the things that I have overcome to get to this point in my life.  I have gone through so much and have come out on the “other side”.  If I can fight so hard for recovery through all those things that I have faced, then going on an amazing trip to the NEDA Conference is easy.  And, in the end, I was not chosen for a scholarship for the conference for nothing.  I am not going for nothing.  I am going because of my recovery.  The recovery I fought for.  The recovery I still fight for.  The recovery I believe in so much.  The recovery I hope everyone can have themselves.

I can do this.  I can always do this.

See you at the NEDA Conference!

My Week: Coping with the Stress

It has been far too long since my last post.  I have been so busy lately with Weight Stigma Awareness Week, my job, therapy, getting prepared both mentally and physically for my trip to DC for the NEDA Conference that is now less than a week away, and various family obligations.  I have had little time to breathe or take a break.

These last few weeks have definitely tested my ability to cope with stress and anxiety, especially without turning to my eating disorder or my OCD.  Although I have managed to stave off the eating disorder, it is so much harder with my OCD at the moment.  It is without the eating disorder that my OCD is so much louder.  I am grateful, however, that at least I am doing better with a few OCD behaviors.

One thing that has especially been on my mind as of late is what I wrote for Weight Stigma Awareness Week.  It has brought up a lot of emotions and memories for me that are not particularly pleasant.  It reminds me of my childhood and all the comments that were made (even the ones I failed to mention) and of the time before and during my eating disorder.  It reminds me of all those times of pain, sadness, loneliness, and isolation and only those few brief moments of some happiness and acceptance by my peers.

Of course, that is not the whole story, but my emotional mind goes straight to that as all the story is–sadness and pain versus happiness and how my weight must be a factor in it.  It is hard for my logical brain to interrupt these thoughts and remind my self that this is not the truth and that my weight has nothing to do with me as a person and there were other things going on that effected my emotional state such as my bipolar disorder, which played a huge factor at the time.  I wish it were as easy as knowing it in my heart and emotional mind as it is logically.

The memories, too, have challenged me.  I have put some to rest, but others I have not.  It is a work in progress to overcome the bullying as a child/adolescent and the ruined relationships as an adult in college.  It is not as easy as “sticks and stones”.  It is learning to trust others again; building new, healthy, and healthier relationships; and working through the pain of the past to move on to the now.  None of it is easy.

I have a lot to work on at the moment, a lot on my mind.  I can do it though.  Always! 🙂

My OCD and Me

Eating disorder recovery does not end when the behaviors do.  It does not end when the urges stop or subside for some amount of time.  It continues, only it is a different battle.  The battle turns to the emotional.  Recovery becomes about what has fueled the eating disorder for so long and why an eating disorder was used to cope.  It becomes learning about new ways to cope and finally working through all the pain, hurt, despair.

I find myself in that place especially at the moment.  Instead of turning to my eating disorder or having the urge to do so, I am turning to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) instead.  Long before my eating disorder came into my life, I struggled with OCD.  It was my “effective” coping mechanism for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I cannot remember a time in my life without OCD.  It even has strong ties to my eating disorder.  The two have shared an almost symbiotic relationship with each other either working in-tandem or replacing one another as coping mechanisms.  It is only at this point the two are beginning to separate and I find myself more stuck in the OCD more frequently.

For the first time in a long time, I am feeling the weight of attempting recovery.  This one for my OCD.  This is also while still in recovery from my eating disorder, which I still have work to do on and have to work to maintain.  Both while also controlling my anxiety.

One thing that recovery has taught me, however, is that if you do not try, you will never know what could happen.  For the longest time, I went through the motions and waited to see if anything would come of it because I had nothing to lose by at least trying recovery.  I had no idea I had absolutely everything to gain.  I have gained beyond my wildest hopes and dreams.

I think it might be time for me to try OCD recovery.  I have nothing to lose and I have no idea what I have to gain.  The possibilities are endless.  And maybe, just maybe, there is freedom from the obsessions and compulsions out there.  A freedom that I have never known in my entire life.

I encourage all of you to challenge your negative coping mechanisms you may be harboring in recovery outside the eating disorder.  Or have you been successful?  Maybe you are working on more emotional issues right now.  What challenges have you given yourself lately?

Keep fighting the good fight! 🙂