Endings and New Beginnings

–I had written this post before, but it got lost. Here is attempt #2.–

Today is the last day of operation of FxMcRory’s. I am more emotional about it’s closure than I thought I would be.

I worked here many years ago as a food runner during Seattle sports gamedays. Located nearby the stadiums, FxMcRory’s is a popular bar and restaurant with over 40 years of operation. It has a reputation of being the tailgate location before games, especially the Seahawks, where the bar fills up by 9-10am and there are wall-to-wall people.

The years I worked here were very busy and when I was at my most ill. I spent many days struggling to make it through the up to 10-12 hour shifts with few breaks. I was anxious, stressed, and sick most every day I worked. It was some of the roughest years of my life.

But working here and those years in my life were not all bad. Between the stresses of my job and my eating disorder and anxiety, I also entered my recovery. I went from struggling to make it through my days and shifts to thriving and moving forward with the rest of my life.

This place, this bar, is my constant reminder of the struggle of where I started and the joy of where I am going. I look around here at this place and those memories and I am reminded that I have grown so much and I have so much ahead of me. Where I used to barely get by, I now thrive. This was the end of the pain and sadness of my eating disorder and the beginning of my recovery.

As it closes, I too close a chapter in my life. I am transitioning from the beginnings of my recovery into the next stage of my life–going to school again and getting a second Bachelor’s degree. I do not know exactly what is ahead of me, but I am reminded what is behind. I feel grief, relief, sorrow, and triumpth. I know that the past may have been difficult, but my future is here and now and I cannot wait to see what will happen and what I will experience.

A salute to endings and new beginnings! Goodbye FxMcRory’s and hello Washington State University and my future!

ICED 2016 Wrap-Up: Advocate/Blogger Perspective

I have never been to ICED before and it was a bit of a shock.  Unlike the NEDA Conference, which I usually go to, this one is a lot more academic and focused on research and clinicians.  It was also a lot bigger with roughly double NEDA’s usual attendance.  As a current non-student and introvert, I felt intimidated and overwhelmed.  I realized over the course of the 4 days I was there that my feelings were not unique (a lot of people have the same feelings) and that really I was in the right place–I belong at ICED and in AED.

Despite my fears, the conference was incredible.  It was everything that I was hoping that it was going to be, but feared expecting of it.  I was able to learn tons and network with the people I needed to.  It was the richest experience from a conference that I have had in a while and it makes me want to attend every ICED.

Plenaries, Workshops, and SIGs Oh My!

From the opening speaker, I knew the conference was going to be controversial.  To open ICED with a speaker formerly employed by Unilever speaking on her experience working for Unilever’s Dove brand and their Self-Esteem Project was bold.  It ended up sounding as positive as one can imagine.  Half the speech was a Unilever advertisement on the awesomeness of the company and the good that they are doing for society and the world (this is the same company that owns a skin-lighting cream and Axe body spray) and the second half was focused on the actual Dove Self-Esteem Project.  It was not a particular hit with the audience or me.  I am not a fan of this company (or any company) co-opting the body-positive movement for sales to begin with and this speech really reminded me of why.

The next day’s opening Plenary was just as controversial with phrases thrown about such as “obesity kills a lot of people” as if it were somehow even a fact or relevant at an eating disorders conference.  The presenters had some interesting things to say in general, but it was hard to listen when their speeches and studies had quite a bit of weight stigma and lacked diversity at all as though every individual with an eating disorder is a cis-gender white female.

Beyond the controversial plenaries and speakers, I went to some absolutely wonderful sessions.  It is those sessions that made my time at ICED so much more meaningful and inspiring.

The SIG Discussion Panel on eating disorder recovery was fascinating and thought-provoking.  Several presenters were questioning the definition of recovery and whether we can or should define it and ways to possibly define it.  It really made me think about how I have defined recovery, how the field defines recovery, and how society defines recovery.

That presentation really stuck with me throughout the weekend and this past week.  I have really been contemplating all the ways recovery is defined by not only myself, but others.  One of the great points brought up in the presentation was if it was actually a good thing to define recovery.  The reason for this was that others would feel as though if their recoveries did not look like those that it was just another way they did not measure up and how they have failed.  That made perfect sense to me.  I have been using the hashtag RecoverED for quite a while and I have used it as a definition for the outside world and others to know that I no longer have eating disorder behaviors and suffer from an eating disorder.  But what kind of message might that send to others who are still suffering?  What is RecoverED?  I think I need to change my message and go back to simply using the word ‘recovery’ and better define how my life is now post-eating disorder.

Another really meaningful session for me was the Trauma, PTSD, and Eating Disorders workshop on Saturday with Dr. Timothy Brewerton, Jenni Schaefer, and June Alexander.  June and Jenny shared their trauma, PTSD, and eating disorders journeys with the group and Dr. Brewerton provided the medical background for the session.  Jenni’s story in particular was one I could relate to and touched me deeply.  This topic of eating disorders and trauma is one of the issues I bring up often at conferences because of how common it seems to be in eating disorders and how deeply it has affected me in my life.  It does not seem to be on many provider’s or treatment center’s radars when it really should be.

I could not end this without discussing how amazing Plenary Session IV was on Saturday morning.  The plenary had a social justice focus and brought together some incredible speakers–Thereasa Fassihi, Chevese Turner, Ilan Meyer, Marcella Raimondo, Sigrun Danielsdottir, and Deb Burgard.  In this plenary, the social justice, marginalized voices, intersectionality, sexual and gender minorities, diversity, etc. topics were front and center.  It was clear from the opening that it was about not just who was in the room, but who was not in the room.  (From the demographics of the conference, that is an important thing to point out.)  The theme centered around who we are missing from the research and treatment and why.  The only thing that would have made this plenary better was if it was not relegated to the last day at 9am.  It should have been an opener for everyone to think about throughout the conference instead of something about half attended.  This topic is too important.

Networking

For me, conferences are not just about going to sessions.  It is a lot about networking.  Connections help me move forward and make what I do feel even more fulfilling.  I think that is why ICED was even more wonderful.  It was almost as though everyone got the same memo–attend ICED!  Nearly everyone who I am connected to went to ICED this year.

It is truly hard to describe what it feels like to be at the same conference with so many people who share your passion and drive with the same kinds of beliefs and desires.  It is a very validating experience and one that I do not get very often since I live in Seattle and far from many other advocates, organizations, conferences, etc.  It really fills up my soul to know that I am not alone not only in my experience but in my desire to make a shift in the conversation surrounding eating disorders.

This conference was special from any of the others that I have ever been to.  Instead of simply another conference experience, it was a culmination of all the conference experiences I have had and all the social networking I have done.  People knew who I was and wanted to connect with me and others who I had connected with wanted to connect even more.  It felt incredibly validating and made me feel happy, as if I had finally made it into this field that I have tried to insert myself into for so long.  I have been searching for that for quite a while and to find it is really hard to describe with words.  It is like finding your best friend you have pretty much everything in common with and you wonder how you never found them until now.  Like being recognized for your work with an award or recognition and everyone is ecstatic for you.  Like finally finding that validation that you needed so badly and feeling that relief that comes afterwards.  Or maybe even like enjoying your favorite dessert with your favorite people.

It was this finding my place and my people about ICED that really touched me and made the conference a success.  It is a big part of what I need to continue to do what I do and hopefully do more in the future.  Definitely not the only part, but a big piece.  I cannot wait to see everyone again and be even more inspired by and vocal about the workshops.

I hope to see you all BEDA 2016 Oct 27-29 in San Francisco (yes, also!), which I will be attending!

My Recovery Journey: Four Years Later

Four years ago today I was returning home following my second stay in residential treatment.  Today I am at the ICED conference preparing to network, learn, and figure out a next step in my life as I navigate working as a professional in this field.  It is incredible to look back each and every year and realize the changes that I have made and the hurdles I have overcome.  None of it was easy, some of it was incredibly painful and hard, but it has all been worth it to get to this point.  If I have made it this far in four years, I can only imagine where I will be in four more.

I hope that you, too, celebrate each and every accomplishment.  You are worth it.

ICED and Other Things

I am on my way to AED’s ICED Conference. I have been looking forward to going to this for an entire year, ever since I heard it would be in San Francisco. I am so excited that it has been hard to contain my excitement. I am also terrified because this conference is a big deal and going is yet another step towards working in this field and moving forward in my life as a whole.

ICED is going to be huge this year. It is double the attendance of NEDA in a usual year. It will be epic to say the least. I have to be on top of my game as well as well versed in who I am and why I am present. It is daunting and overwhelming. But at the same time, I will have so many people there that I know that I know I will be and feel supported. It is those individuals that really help the fear and apprehension that I feel in finally going to this conference.

Outside of going to this conference, I have been busy with family stuff, contemplating graduate school moves and/or future careers, working through important issues in my life, and thinking through plenty of blog topics. Of course whenever I think of blog topics, I am either in the shower, driving, or otherwise engaged, so it is impossible to write down my brilliant ideas. Hopefully I will get to writing some new things in the next few weeks/month or so. I have ideas regarding post-treatment life and some other treatment-related topics. I want to get a bit more academic in these posts since that’s where I am in life.

I cannot wait to update during the conference and post-conference. Don’t forget to follow my Twitter as I will be posting a lot of it there, too, including Donut Quest 2016! See you soon!

My Recovery Journey: Sharing My Story

Ever since I entered a solid recovery from my eating disorder, I felt a calling to have a voice in the field of eating disorders and mental health.  I felt that in order to reduce shame/stigma, increase awareness, and help spread the message of recovery, I needed to be a voice in the community—no, I had to be.  I knew that staying quiet about what I had experienced would keep me in a place of shame, stigma, and secrecy and I did not want that anymore.  I decided to create this blog and write in order to share my story.

I wanted to make a positive impact.  I wanted to pay-it-forward after receiving so much while I was in the throes of the eating disorder.  It is in sharing my story and doing advocacy that I have tried to do this.  With each positive feedback on my work, I know I am doing the right thing for me, that I have done what I have set out to do.

To not speak out for me would be keeping myself in secrecy and shame.  Instead of putting a face to this illness and a story of how I overcame what I did, I would be another individual in the shadows.  That is not what I wanted for my recovery and my journey.

It is a risk to share my story knowing that anyone can read what I have written.  But I do so unashamed of myself and where I have been and where I am now.  All those experiences–slips, falls, fails, setbacks–made me who I am.  They made me a stronger person.  It is those experiences that shine a light on this disease and the journey past them that give hope.

Not everyone makes the choice I did and not everyone has to.  That is the beauty of recovery–you get to choose what you want to be/do!

I do not regret my decision to speak out and share my story.  It has given me so many opportunities to connect with others, grow as a person, and learn.  It has been an extra push for me in my life to make it to the point in my life where I can now say I am recovered.  It is a constant inspiration to be not only a recovered person but the person who I am meant to become.

This blog is where I have been and where I am going.  And I am unashamed.

My Recovery Journey: RecoverED?

All of the things that have happened in my life over the last year have really been on my mind in the last month. I have been thinking mostly about how far I have come and how much I have overcome.  And it is not just in the last year that there have been huge changes and strides made in my life, it has been a long transition over time since I first tried recovery in 2010.

From 2010 to now, things have changed drastically. I am not fighting daily to stay in recovery. I am not battling every day against an eating disorder voice that will not stop. I am not waging a war against my body and self because I hate them so much. Instead I am living my life, doing what I love, and loving myself more. It is a complete turnaround.

Everyone’s definition of recovery and recovered is different. My definition is living a life outside of the eating disorder. I think I have finally found that life. I think I have finally found recoverED.

15 Goals for 2015

Hello again, readers.  It has been a while.

This past year was a difficult one for me. I went through a lot of change and transition and had just a generally rough time.

It is now a bit into 2015 and I have been thinking hard about the prior and upcoming years. What can I do differently this year that will make an impact so that this can be a better year than the last? What kind of goals do I have that I would like to accomplish this year? I think I have come up with a few. Here are my 15 for 2015:

1. Write.
I have not been writing like I would like to and like I enjoy, so this year I will try to write as much as I wrote previously and maybe more. I will not hold myself to a certain number but simply have a goal to write more. I have plenty to write about so hopefully it will not be a problem.

2. Get a better work/life/etc. balance.
One of the other reasons I have been struggling to write is finding some time in between everything else. I would like to set a goal of making a plan to strike a balance between my activities.

3. Figuring out a “next step”.
In my recovery, it has been a series of steps from one stage to the next. I have been stuck in the same place for a while and I think and feel it is time to move on to the next whatever. I really hope to figure out what that is. And this does not simply encompass recovery but my life.

4. Finish reorganizing/redoing my space.
At the beginning of this new year, I completely tore apart my space and cleaned from top to bottom. Everything that needed to go that was not useful anymore, went. It was a hugely relieving experience. I still have a little bit to go and I know I can get it done!

5. Attend at least one conference this year.
I fell in love with conferences after I attended my first one in 2013. It was so awesome. I hope to at least make it to one this year!

6. Feel more comfortable in my own body.
I am still working very hard on my body image and feeling comfortable with my body. I hope to continue on this path through this year and make strides towards finally being okay with the way I look because in the end I am okay, enough, and lovable at any size.

7. Work through the “deep stuff”.
There are a few big items on my list of things to work through and overcome. I hope to make that list just a bit shorter this year and every year.

8. Get active!
I love being active whether it is hiking, soccer, dance, etc. I have not been as active lately and I miss it terribly. This year I will strive to add more activity and have some more fun!

9. Keep pursuing what I love.
Never give up on my goals, hopes, and dreams just because I may not reach them right now or fail here and there. I am a worthwhile pursuit.

10. Celebrate!
When I get into a down mood, I tend to forget to celebrate the small wins and myself. This year I am going to work on continuing to celebrate every accomplishment, big and small. Also, I am going to celebrate my birthday meaningfully.

11. Be grateful.
One of the things I struggle with quite a bit when I am really down is being grateful for what I do have or in general showing gratitude to those who deserve it in my life. I am going to really try to insert more gratitude in my life.

12. Have fun!
I am generally pretty good at having fun and keeping fun going in my life, but I would like to strive to have more diverse fun in my life and have a more balanced fun. Instead of the same video game over and over, play a new one once in a while. Also, in keeping with having fun in my life, I want to work on still going out or still having fun even when I am done. I tend to cancel plans or be a downer during whatever activity it is because I am not in the best mood and/or think I will not have fun. I want to work on that this year.

13. “Always look on the bright side of life!”
I am a pretty positive person, especially so in public. In private, I can be more of a downer when I am depressed. I want to work on continuing to have that more positive outlook regardless of my emotional state.

14. Re-connect and connect with others.
This one is huge for me. I had a lot of connections in college and afterwards I have not been able to have that again. I am working hard on connecting to new people and continuing to connect with those that I have known. I need to keep up with this and make it a priority. It is very important to me.

15. Keep learning and growing.
I never want to stay static. This year is a year of growth and I look. Forward to what is to come.

What are your goals, hopes, and dreams for 2015?

Gratitude: Change/Transition

I am regaining my ground.  I am connecting with others.  I have joined a group.  I have even cut my hair and styled it ever so slightly differently.  It is an all-around change to my life.

I was inspired after my last post at the ocean to begin keeping busier and start changing with the change instead of against it.  Amazing how much better that has worked!  I am actually enjoying some of the change (especially my hair) rather than dreading the lot.

Nothing is perfect, nothing ever is, but it is better.  Things are better.  For that I am grateful.  Grateful to be able to spend time with friends.  Grateful to not be sick.  Grateful that I have such an amazing support system.  Grateful that I am coping okay with these changes and transitioning better than I was.  Grateful that with change I am learning I can do anything and overcome anything.  Grateful that I am in recovery, for which I am always grateful.

Hopefully soon I will write a proper post with an update on what I have been up to.  Until then, remember that change is not the end of the world.  Change is hard and it really sucks sometimes, but it also can be good and you never know what it can bring.  Give change a chance?

Keep up recovery, warriors!

Recovery Resources: Rise Up+Recover App

imageI believe in helping others in recovery through sharing resources and positive tools rather than triggering/negative tips. In that spirit, I would like to share with all of you a great resource that I discovered recently which I absolutely love.

I want to introduce you to the Rise Up+Recover App.

I am a big proponent of apps and technology. I think that they are really easy and convenient to use. Instead of relying on paper, you can simply use your phone or tablet. How much more simple is that?!image(1)

Rise Up is a meal and mood recording app for your phone. It records snacks, meals, and associated moods with meals. It also doubles as a mood record app with a separate place to record your moods throughout the entire day outside of meals. Other features include meal reminders, coping strategies, journal topics, and a link to the Recovery Warriors resources.

One of the reasons why I love this app so much is the ease of use. It is basic yet in depth enough to function great. You can record all your meals and an unlimited amount of snacks easily and quickly while also identifying a wide variety of emotions. If you happen to mess up, you can simply click on it again and go back to edit it. It is QED!image(3)

image(4)With the stand alone mood section piece, it is the same idea as the mood section on the meals but it is for your day, which is especially helpful if meals tend to be especially stressful on their own and not due to your daily activities or any mood disorders you may experience such as Bipolar disorder (like me).

The extra resources are awesome. There are several coping skills, activities, and journal activities/topics. You can also access the Recovery Warriors resources such as the blog and podcast from the app. I think my favorite extra resources are the Body Image coping skills and Journal Activities topics for my private journal. I still struggle with my body image and it is great to do activities that remind me of the true definition of beauty or not to image(2)compare myself to anyone else. The journal topics are incredible, too, for my private journal so I can explore for myself more things that I have yet to write about and continue to explore them later as they change such as the perfectionism tendency, which I still fight. I can even mark my favorite topics and easily come back to them later!

Rise Up+Recover is a great resource to use while in recovery. I hope you consider using it or another app in your journey as apps can be incredibly helpful tools for recovery. They are a resource to go to for support, an aid in therapy, and can help you visualize your own recovery progress.

I encourage everyone to consider using tools such as this app if this sounds like a helpful resource for you in your life and recovery.

The Uncertainty of the Ocean

I was at the beach today.  It was an ocean beach at the Puget Sound.  Usually at the ocean I might put my feet in enough to walk in the sand and water and down the beach, but I never venture far into the water.  I am fearful of what may be in the ocean.  I am afraid of what could be lurking in the waters, especially and specifically because it is not clear.  There could be jellyfish or crab, sharp shells or seaweed, or maybe even a shark!  It is a complete unknown at times what could truly be beneath your feet.  And that frightens me.  Enough to keep me mostly on land.

But today, I walked into the water and kept walking.  I looked at my feet and could hardly catch a glimpse, but I kept walking.  Despite not knowing what was beneath me, I continued walking.  I decided that my desire to be in the ocean amongst the beauty, solitude, and joyfulness was greater than my fear of the unknown and uncertain.

I realized at that moment that I do not know what is in front of me now either.  My world is in a great transition and I am attempting to cope with a low point without turning to my eating disorder again.  This moment and what is before me is a huge unknown and very uncertain.  But I am going to keep walking.  The unknown/uncertain is scary and unnerving but I can face it and overcome it.  Just like the ocean, I can walk through all this scariness and be okay.  I will be okay.