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.

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.

My Recovery Journey: Depression

I have not written much in my blog recently, which makes me sad and disappointed.  I had hoped that I would write in this blog at least every week and continue on the same journey I was on only nine months ago.  A journey of continuous growth, positivity, and possibilities.  As it happened, my life did not end up that way.  The months continued on and I struggled to write and to participate in every day life.  I tried to pretend that things were not as bad as they were as I struggled daily.IMG_2014[1]

Things finally reached a breaking point recently.  After seven months of being ill every day from my past eating disorder and other issues and being depressed for nearly as long, I decided things needed to change.  I have been working to change the things that I can change while working to accept the things that I cannot.  It is an on-going process.

Over the last seven months, I have lost a lot of hope, connection, and ability to participate in things I used to, but in the last several weeks, I have been slowly gaining it back.  I have realized that no matter what depths I may enter or complications in my path, my world continues on and so will I.  I will overcome what obstacle is before me, I will feel better, and I will be okay.  This is not the end of my life, but simply a change in direction or a bump in the road.IMG_0011

This last week I have a new strategy for combating all of this grief and depression I am going through.  Keep busy and keep going!  I have been doing art projects on things like why I want recovery and who I am.  It has been so healing as well as occupying.  I have something to be proud of, something to do, and something that gives me some healing.  How wondrous!  I feel a little better with each project.

All of this will pass.  It is all a part of being Bipolar and the cycles that I experience and it will end as they all do.  And the being sick?  It hopefully is already gone.  I have not felt sick for over two weeks now thanks to a new approach.

There is always hope.  If you are struggling, continue to hang in there.  It shall pass and the sun shall shine again!

My Recovery Journey: From Self-Hate to Self-Love

When I was younger, I was bullied for my weight and mental health issues.  My peers poked fun at my body and openly harassed me during some of my classes.  It almost felt acceptable because no one ever really got into any real trouble for any of it.  That feeling of acceptability that was relayed to me through a lack of concern and action and a frequency of attacks, lead me to internalize all of it and turn it into a narrative about myself that still defines who I am.

Out of the bullying built the narrative that I am only defined by two things–my body and my mental illnesses.  I wholeheartedly believed that I was not good enough, unlovable, disgusting, fat, and crazy among other things.  I thought that this would be how my life would be for the rest of my life.  Things, however, changed when all the self-hatred, other issues, and a seemingly innocent diet collided.

It was in college that I decided that I was going to lose weight.  I no longer wanted to be all those horrible things that I defined myself by and I figured that losing weight would fix it for me.  Of course I was completely wrong and losing weight would not fix how I felt about myself, but I started to lose the weight regardless.

The changes I made were small, gradual, and healthy at first.  It was after losing enough weight that people started to notice my weight loss that I started to take notice myself of the progressive increase in compliments, friends, and life experiences I enjoyed.  With each pound I lost, a new narrative started in my mind that I was actually good enough, lovable, etc. if I was thin enough.  This change in my narrative shifted my behavioral changes from healthy to disordered and soon into a full-blown eating disorder.

I have spent years recovering from my eating disorder and it has only been within the last two that I have finally been able to stay behavior free.  But what about that narrative I had about myself that I was only good enough, lovable, etc. if I was thin?  I am still fighting it.  Nearly every day.  It is probably one of the most ingrained thoughts in my head, more-so than the eating disorder behaviors themselves.

I think about why I am still so stuck on believing I am only good enough if I am thin and it makes me reflect on how as a culture we have made fat shameful, unacceptable, disgusting, and something to avoid at all costs.  We have taught children to start hating themselves at younger and younger ages and believing that they have to diet and be thin.  It makes me so incredibly sad to hear children start believing what I believe about myself knowing what I did to myself to try to achieve an ideal that was never achievable.

But it also inspires me to fight.  It inspires me to fight against the self-hatred for my body that I have had nearly all of my life.  It inspires me to love my recovery body that I fought so hard for.  It inspires me to get involved and let people know that diets, disordered eating, and eating disorders do not fix your problems or change how you feel about yourself for the positive.

My journey has inspired to become involved in organizations such as the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and the Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness Campaign (PEDAW).  I believe wholeheartedly in loving the person you are and being able to recover from an eating disorder is absolutely possible.  I am incredibly fortunate to work/have worked with these organizations and spread that message.

The next step in my journey and involvement is next week when I attend the BEDA Conference in Denver, CO.  I cannot express how excited I am to attend this conference with some of the greats in the field.  It is another step towards learning more self-love and acceptance and getting more involved.  I look forward to immersing myself in topics on self-care, self-acceptance, health at every size, and weight stigma.

I hope you will all join me next week as I live-tweet (@kristinseattle) from the BEDA Conference and blog on my experiences there.  I know that there will be lots to learn and grow from as I continue to learn how to love my recovery body and believe for myself that my worth, goodness, lovableness, etc. is not tied to my weight.

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!

On the Recovery Journey: Rough Patches and Body Hatred

The truth about recovery is that it is not pretty, perfect, or easy.  It is never a straight line or a sudden epiphany and then everything falls into place afterwards and there is no more work.  Truth is, recovery is sometimes painful, awful, and ugly.  Even so, it is better than being sick because the days when it is not that way, which grow with each day in recovery, are beautiful and wonderful and there is so much to life that was not there before.

In my recovery, I have come to a rough patch.  One of the biggest issues I face in my eating disorder and my recovery is my body image and right now it is at its absolute worst.  All day my mind seems to filter everything through a “I’m fat” lens and that is the only thing that matters.  It does not matter that something positive happened or that I am a good person because everything ends the same—I’m fat.  The sky is blue and I am fat.  I challenged myself today and I am proud of myself, but I am fat.  Needless to say, these endless conversations in my head lead no where positive.

It feels as though these dark thoughts are suffocating me and there is no escape or air to breathe.  I cannot run away from the thoughts in my head nor can I avoid what I see in the mirror.  I am trapped from the inside and the outside, forced to face this and all the memories, pain, and despair that comes with it.

And am I ever terrified of myself and of the reflection staring at me when I look in the mirror.  Despite it being only my body, it instills great fear, hatred, and pain.  I put so much power into body image and what it holds for me since it is all I have ever known.  That power continues to drive so much hatred towards my body.

A part of recovery and maintaining it, especially during times such as this, is knowing in your heart that this is temporary.  However it works for you, reminding yourself as often as you need that it is only temporary.  I continue to tell myself that this shall pass and that I have worked too hard to fail now and that is the truth.  I may not be ready to embrace fully that I am beautiful or that I love my body, but at least I can say to myself that this shall pass and I can keep working on finding the beauty in myself.

Are you struggling with something in your recovery?  Remember: This too shall pass. ❤