OJ and CJ’s #imnotsorry Stories

A special treat!  Two #imnotsorry stories are being shared on this post.  Get excited my friends.

headshot_final_12_16

Written by: OJ, recovery warrior and co-founder of the blog thirdwheelED, providing a queer perspective on eating disorder recovery (check it out at thirdwheelED.com).  

#imnotsorry for developing self-compassion after years of self-hatred and shame. For fifteen years I’ve struggled much of the time in secret with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. For years I wished I had the strength to ask people for help but I didn’t know how to and I didn’t always feel worthy or deserving of help from others. I constantly berated myself and insisted that I “should” be okay, even when I wasn’t. As a queer woman who has experienced sexual assault, I became familiar with feeling insignificant and meaningless, and the power that this can have on one’s sense of self. It is dehumanizing and corrupts one’s identity.

Eating disorders are probably one of the least compassionate ways you can treat your body. There’s a convincing voice constantly yelling at you that you don’t deserve to eat. As I was trying to defy science, depriving myself of food made me feel powerful, hypnotic, and safe, but in reality I became essentially sub-human. I restricted as punishment because I blamed my body for being inherently “wrong”, and the only way to “fix” it was to make it disappear, so I thought.

Finally, I’ve reached a point in my recovery where #imnotsorry for not being okay. Admitting to struggling is incredibly hard, yet an admirable act of bravery and resilience, and I could not have done this without the help my partner, CJ. Accepting my pain as valid was a pivotal point that helped change my perspective from one of self-anger, hatred, and destruction to a perspective of curiosity, love, and self-compassion.

As self-compassion has become a larger part of my recovery, I have been able to hold myself during more challenging and potentially triggering moments, providing safety from within myself, which is where the true sense of power can be found.

Self-compassion is difficult to conjure. I used to equate it with selfishness and any act that I may have associated with self-compassion, made me feel ashamed for not putting other people’s needs first. I’ve learned that self-compassion is actually one of the more altruistic attributes you can develop. It’s not about loving and only caring about yourself, but rather it’s about choosing to be kind and gentle with ourselves, leaving more space to be authentically compassionate to others.

dsc_5119

Written by: CJ, supporter & partner of OJ, as well as the co-founder of the blog thirdwheelED, providing a queer perspective on eating disorder recovery (check it out at thirdwheelED.com).  

#imnotsorry for asking for support even when my partner (OJ) struggles in recovery. Throughout OJ’s recovery, it has been difficult for me to ask her for added emotional support because I know she is working so hard. It took me a while, though, to understand that by asking her for support, I’m actually helping her in her own recovery. By us resuming our relationship again it gives her eating disorder less space to take over, less control and provided my partner with an ability to look more into the future at what lays beyond her eating disorder.

When OJ was sick she wasn’t able to handle her own needs let alone mine. I took on the role of trying to figure out what the best treatment for OJ would be. We’ve been together for 5 years and not being able to make these important decisions together was difficult. Overtime as OJ finally received the treatment she needed and got healthier, I had to learn to trust that she would be okay if I asked for her support.

While learning to trust her ability to withstand difficult emotions, I was also learning more about myself. And as they say, there’s always good that comes with the bad. While I want nothing more than to get her eating disorder out of our lives, her process of recovery has in turn led to my own process of recovery as a caregiver. I’ve become more aware of my own emotional intelligence and mental health, typical things we tend to ignore in our society. I realized that I’m actually not all that great at telling OJ about my own feelings. I tend to pretend that everything is okay even though I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve, and she’s really good at calling me out on that. I realized that if I expect her to tell me how she’s feeling in order to get her eating disorder out of the shadows, I need to do the same.

As caregivers we don’t receive the same type of treatment that our loved ones do. This results in a somewhat slower recovery process as a caregiver. There are times when I finally understand a dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) skill that OJ has known about and has been utilizing for months. There are so many moments in which I wish I could turn back the clock and change the decision I made, but I’m learning to forgive myself and know that I did all that I could in that particular moment. Learning about myself, and asking for and getting the support that I need, has helped me to better understand and connect with what OJ is going through. Perhaps most importantly, it has improved our communication and made us more connected than ever. Never be afraid to ask for help or support, because in supporting each other, we create more connections and that is what healing is all about.

 

The Storm

Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook Manager and Contributing Writer of Unpolished Journey

emotional-storm

What do you do when emotion wells within you like a storm breaking on the horizon?

Do you wait in anxiety as the storm moves closer?

Do you open your arms a yell out “Bring it on!”

Do you sit in the rain and just feel the drops hit your bare skin?

Do you see the storm, lose yourself in the storm and feel that you can never find your way out?

In the last couple of weeks I have had a lot of emotions come up around the holidays.  I have had mixed emotions around this time of year.  A piece of me is so overwhelmed with joy, possibility, gratitude, contentment and peace.  There is another piece of me that is consumed with regret, sadness, loss and loneliness.  At first, when I had the feelings that I label as negative or unwanted like sadness and loneliness I wanted to run in the other direction.  I constantly made myself feel bad for feeling negative emotions especially when I have a loving family and friends, a warm place to sleep and an abundance of resources.  However, it felt that the more I judged myself for feeling the negative emotions, the more that I spiraled into negativity.  I found that when I could simply step back and honor the sadness, the loneliness or the loss I could fully find peace with the storm and look inside myself to grant myself some compassion and hold space for the full range of emotions that I was experiencing.  Living the human experience means experiencing the good with the bad.  The negative feelings will not last forever, but the same goes for the good feelings.  This too shall pass is applicable to the good and the bad.  I cannot expect to constantly live in the joy and elation that comes with life and I also can find comfort in knowing that the negative feelings will not last forever either.

Lately I am trying to give myself space to feel everything.  It is definitely not comfortable and definitely not easy.  When I allow myself to feel all of my emotions I also allow myself to come to others to receive help and support–I find myself living more in community and building stronger relationships founded in vulnerability.  Also, allowing myself the space to sit with difficult emotions helps me resist the negative coping mechanisms I would often use to numb out the negative.  When I allow myself the space the feel my sadness or loneliness I have the urge to turn to my negative coping skills but if I can give myself the grace to sit with the feelings that I am so afraid to feel I can begin to trust myself.  Often times I would fight myself because there was a piece of my that didn’t believe I could handle the negative emotions–I didn’t trust that I could take care of myself and give myself compassion.  I need to be the one to give myself compassion, love and acceptance.

I noticed that when I fully experience the emotions I label as negative or uncomfortable I can greater have gratitude for joy, peace and contentment.  Sometimes the dark helps accentuate the light and I find that the richness of my human experience is fully expressed.  The holidays bring up a range of emotions.  For those with eating disorders, this time of year that is commonly a time of indulgence and a focus is given to the communal aspect of food, isolation and anxiety are high.  In addition, the holidays can bring up memories or feelings of loss for those who are maybe no longer in our lives.  On the flip side, the holidays are a times of joy, togetherness and a celebration of life.  I find that my holiday season is more rich when I hold space for the fullness of my experience instead of labeling some of my emotions as bad and some of my emotions as acceptable.  I think that ignoring my negative emotions or pushing them to the side only sends a message to myself that I am only loveable when I am happy or “ok”.  However, I am loveable and worthy of love when I am happy, sad, lonely, angry, depressed and frustrated.  We are all loveable and worthy of love through the entirety of our experience.
My challenge this holiday season is to see the storm, respect the storm, share my storm and experience my storm with grace and compassion.

I Forgot to Charge My Laptop

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations at Unpolished Journey

So, I was a Peer Advisor at my college this past semester.  Simply put, this means that I helped instruct three University 101 classes a week alongside an Academic Advisor and worked to build relationships with the students, in order to provide an environment where they felt comfortable coming and talking to me about whatever they may be struggling with their Freshmen year.  Phew, that’s a mouthful.

For class one week, I had sent out an email to our students notifying them that they would need to bring their laptop to class.  On Tuesday, before one of our University 101 classes, the first student had arrived.  We were chatting about how his week had been so far and how his Tuesday was going as he pulled out his laptop.  He opened up the computer and a loud beeping noise sounded.  His response?  A nonchalant shrug, and “oh, I must’ve forgotten to charge my laptop.”  He then proceeded to calmly move to a seat that was closer to a plug than his original choice and charge his computer.

You’re probably thinking, okay, so?  He forgot to charge his laptop.  What does that have to do with anything?  Well to me, that moment was a light bulb turning on kind of moment.

lightbulb

You see, growing up, I was always a very anxious child.  I had breakdowns when separated from my mom or dad from the time I was little and often had those intense kind of screaming and crying fits before going to school in the mornings – all the way up until sixth grade.  Yeah, I wrote that right.  Sixth grade.  The anxiousness continued in other forms throughout my life but that just gives you a small picture of how it has always been present from the beginning.

Although it has always been a part of me, I never really saw myself as having “anxiety.”  The word gets tossed around so much.  “Not knowing is causing me anxiety.”  “That test gave me so much anxiety.”  “This traffic is raising my anxiety.”

That’s not to say those people’s feelings are invalid at all.  They are very much valid.  But I think the word gets used so much, in so many different contexts, that it loses its weight and meaning in the process.

So back to UNIV and the uncharged laptop.  In that moment, when my student said he had forgotten to charge his laptop, my heart immediately sped up.  My first thought, was holy crap, no.  What if he didn’t bring his charger?  What if there isn’t a plug nearby?  What if a document of his didn’t get saved?  He might not want to move seats.  Of course he doesn’t want to move seats – he chose that seat.  What if the computer doesn’t turn back on for some odd reason?  What if he has to buy a new laptop?  Should I loan him my laptop?  Of course, you should, idiot.  (…You get the picture.)

I sat on the table up front and watched as he calmly got up and moved spots as if it was no big deal.  Little did he know that his Peer Advisor was internally freaking out and simultaneously in awe of how calm he remained.  It was in that moment that I realized my experiences and thoughts do not reflect everyone else’s.  Not all people finds themselves feeling overwhelmed or anxious over an uncharged laptop.  And in that moment, in our classroom that was held in the basement of a dorm, I realized: I have anxiety.

Him (top) vs. Me (bottom)

Calm guy meditating seated on bed at home

o-kim-kardashian-ugly-crying-face-facebook

(And I also realized I was thankful that we still had a good 15 minutes before class started – I needed to process, alright?  Cut a girl with anxiety some slack. 😉 )

I know what you’re thinking.  In that little and strange moment, you came to realize you have anxiety?  My answer to you is yes.  It’s always been hard for me to fathom that little things don’t get most people worried or upset, but in this small moment, it clicked.  I realized that not everyone experiences a tidal wave of anxiousness when they forget to charge their laptop or pick out their outfit the night before or put their planner in their bag.

I always imagined that there was this absolute threshold you had to reach in order to consider yourself as having anxiety or depression or an eating disorder or whatever it may be.  I never thought that my anxiousness over forgetting to charge my laptop or forgetting to pick out my outfit the night before qualified.  I supposed that yes, I’m anxious, but I’m not anxious enough to say I have anxiety.  Having this mindset is what prevented me, and prevents others, from seeking help.  My mind would tell me and still at times tells me things like, “I don’t really have anxiety” or “there’s probably a bunch more people out there who experience anxiousness to a degree a lot worse than you.”  It’s difficult because society can’t visibly see the struggles someone with mental illness is dealing with.  So there comes this judgment and questioning on whether or not you’re really having a difficult time or not.  Where’s the proof?

I think it’s fair to say that if we feel overwhelmed or in a place where we need to seek help, we shouldn’t feel that we don’t have “enough” of a problem to do so, and we shouldn’t have to feel the need to prove that we are struggling.  Having to prove that we are actually struggling is in fact a danger to those dealing with mental illness.  There then becomes this inherent competition on who is worse off.  Why the hell are we trying to prove whose struggles are worse?  Each individual faces their own battles, each struggle is valid, and each person deserves to have support.

stop-trying-to-prove-yourself-small

So yes, that moment, in the classroom, when my student forgot to charge his laptop, was an epiphany for me.  My struggles are valid, other people don’t always feel anxious over the little things that I feel anxious over, and I don’t need to have a certain amount of anxiety in order to seek help and support.  And neither do you.

Navigating the Holidays in Recovery

Image result for the strongest we don't know their battles

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

Those who are in recovery from eating issues, substances, or mental illnesses navigate the holidays differently than the rest of the world. I don’t say this to ostracize those in recovery, but in attempt to validate feelings of misplacement or misunderstanding in your day to day life.

Lately, I have found my mind trying to convince myself to disregard a promise I had made months and months ago- the promise to live a life of recovery.  Mental illnesses will use any excuse to try and wiggle their way back into our lives, but when living a life in recovery, this is not an option. Though your mind might tell you otherwise, the gift of recovery will be the best gift this Christmas season and, it is a gift only you can give yourself.  Therefore, if you set your mind towards receiving the gift of recovery, it most certainly will be wrapped under your tree this season because you are the one making sure it is there.

I decided to write out some scenarios for different mental health struggles and how they may pan out over the course of the next week or so because I know I have personally found myself feeling overwhelmed with the approaching holidays. I thought some of our readers might be feeling anxious as well and be able to relate with some of these situations. So, here they are:

If you are a recovering alcoholic, the holidays are going to look differently than about 90% of the adult population. They will be about sobriety and navigating triggers that come up as the hours of the night give way to more and more drunkenness among friends and family. The question from your aunt of, “can I get you a glass of wine” will suddenly become an internal battleground between your addiction and your recovery. Wine. Wine. Wine. It will be everywhere, the glasses like bullets trying to shoot at your delicate glass sculpture of recovery. As you politely refuse your aunt’s offer, a victorious chorus will erupt in your mind and you can then plan how to celebrate with your home AA group next meeting. To everyone else at the party this seems like nothing, but you know this is huge. A sober holiday is like walking through open fire unscathed. You fall into bed knowing tomorrow you will get to add a day towards your next recovery chip and congratulate yourself because this year you promised to give yourself the gift of recovery for Christmas.

If you are in recovery from bulimia, the holidays are full of anxiety as you try and prepare for the amount of sweet treats you will be offered and all the holiday feasts you will be attending. Walking into a room full of platters of appetizers, with the smell of dinner swimming in from the kitchen, and the display of desserts in the corner, causes an eruption in your mind between the instinctual mouth-watering- out of control- “I want to eat it all”- bulimic dialogue and the recovery wisdom you have fought so hard to lean into over the past year. Grabbing a plate and giving yourself appropriate proportions seems to the room insignificant, but for you is it monumental, the act being equivalent to finishing an iron man race on one leg. This is one of the hardest things for you and you are doing it because this year you promised yourself that you would give yourself the gift of recovery for Christmas.

If you are in recovery from anxiety, the holidays are the accumulation of everything your illness tries to avoid throughout the year- family, friends, conversations, and unpredictable events. Pulling up and walking into your relative’s Christmas Eve Party becomes the “it” moment, the moment you have prepared for weeks to accomplish, walking up that sidewalk, ringing that doorbell, greeting everyone with a smile will send buckets of sweat down your back. But you do it. You make it. You will soon be at the party. You will notice you breath, taking breaks in the bathroom, keeping your support people nearby. Making it to the Christmas Party is equivalent to winning a gold medal in the Olympics, but no one else will seems to notice. It will be silent victory, a personal victory. You will applaud yourself as you lay in bed because this holiday season you promised to give yourself the gift of recovery.

Whatever your struggle may be this holiday season, give yourself enough grace to render it significant. Don’t compare your experience with someone else’s because it is impossible to do so. We each have our own minds, with our own thoughts, and our own battles. This holiday season, know that their are others struggling with mental health. There are others celebrating small, silent victories. There are others who don’t feel as though their battles are seen, understood, or validated.
And that is okay because the strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.

Relapse and Road Head

Written by: Ana Mai Luckett. This post was originally published on Ana’s blog, Tales from Brain Rehab. Check it out to see read more of her story!

Image result for recovery

One of my favorite things to do when I’m really depressed is google depression. I’ve spent days watching sometimes inspirational, sometimes incredibly sad TED talks, or heart felt slam poets explaining what depression means to them. It was on one of these such depression K holes where I stumbled upon this article in People Magazine. No judgement please, I only found it reputable because of the depression fog I was trapped in.Under regular circumstances I get my information from much more credible sources, like the internet. This article was a conversation with some actor ,who’s name currently escapes me,  where he talked about his struggles with depression. One of the most memorable parts was where he talked about how gradual that changes come after starting treatment, and it’s often the people around us who notice the changes before we do.This was true for him until one day he was walking outside, as he normally did, but was taken aback by how beautiful his neighborhood was. There were no drastic changes but the simple things like the color of the trees and the serenity of the stream just blew him away that day. All of these were things he stopped paying attention to when his depression got bad. So just by observing his surroundings through new mindful eyes, he finally got an assurance that his treatment was working. This was such a major realization for him because he was able to experience his own progress for the first time, rather than relying on observations from others.

Since reading this, I’ve been waiting for my moment with the trees- my grand realization that all of this is worth it. There have been moments here and there that teeter on grandeur and wisdom, but nothing screams breakthrough yet. This morning though, I think I came closer than I ever have to that moment.

It all started when I woke up and the first thing I wanted to do was shower and get ready for my day. I honestly can’t remember when I last woke up with that much energy and motivation to move. I even wanted to shave my legs- a task I’ve been neglecting since I’ve been home so it’s gotten a little bit out of hand. I didn’t actually end up doing that because one razor simply wouldn’t be enough and I didn’t have anymore blades, but before I jumped in my shower I also did my laundry! This has been on my list of things to do for weeks now, yet has remained untouched. By 11 am I was showered, had clean laundry, and even blow dried by hair. Before starting brain rehab this wouldn’t have been as much of an accomplishment , but when your day exists of going to and from therapy, the drive to wear anything but leggings and baggy sweatshirts kind of goes out the window. I  even left my house with plenty of time to stop and pick some prescriptions before I went to Denver-  another errand I’d been putting off.

The whole morning I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy all of this was. All of these things I was dreading or just simply too lazy to do, weren’t actually the worst most inconvenient things in the history of the planet. I caught myself becoming excited about the thought being a normal college student again and doing things like this all the time. That early jolt of confidence then just morphed into a sense of calm as I started my drive.Which was unusual because the weather is finally starting to revert back to traditional winter patterns.I braced myself for an incredibly tense and frustrating drive having to deal with all of the out-of-staters driving like it’s the dawn of the ice age. When you’re on a highway that is completely dry, regardless of the snow that may be around you, there is no need to drive 30 miles under the speed limit in the left lane. None.

So even as frustrating driving was, I think because of it I saw my tree today. I was cruising in the right lane and passing everyone to my left, because that makes sense and is definitely how highways work, when I momentarily glanced to my left and saw the driver of the car next to me with his phallic member in the mouth of his passenger. In layman’s terms, I saw somebody getting road head. After the initial shock wore off, I started laughing uncontrollably. Like to the point where I was more focused on the pain in my abdomen caused by the intense emotional outburst, than on my actual driving. This was just for a second thought, don’t worry mom, after this eyes stayed on the road and hands stayed on the wheel.  I somehow ended up behind this car for a while and kept on watching the woman’s head pop up for air and then go right back to it. It was a scene so ridiculous and out of the ordinary, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new American Pie movie is already in the works.

After witnessing “the event”, my  instinct was to call everyone I knew. Because they are my friends, we all share an incredibly immature sense of humor, and I knew that their reactions would be similar to mine. And to no surprise, they were. We laughed about the absurdity of the situation and reflected on just how dangerous it was. It was a brief reflection though, because when the topic is road head, safety is the least appealing part of the story to keep coming back to. A brief summary of our conversations then goes something like this: we traded various forms of “Oh my god,” then moved on to “I didn’t think that people actually did that in real life,” and added the occasional  “ how can you even keep a car in control when your genitals are in another human’s mouth?” The answer to that one is, you can’t. As entertaining as it was, this was one of the cars going below the speed limit in the left lane, and to make matters worse, it kept creeping dangerously close to the center line and then jolting back to its rightful place. Roadhead: a fun way to relieve stress, but also a huge distraction. Moral of the story, don’t do it.

I’ll bet by this point you’re wondering why I dedicated an entire blog to that time I saw road head. The first reason is easy: hours later I still find it hilarious and the internet deserves to know. The second is more personal. For the first time in god knows how long, I was able laugh without that voice in the back of my head popping up and reminding me I’m depressed and shouldn’t be doing this. Looking back on this entire day, I can’t count the number of times I’ve smiled. For once it’s not because numbers that low simply don’t exist, but rather, it happened too many times to keep track of.

Yesterday my countdown to discharge began, and I’ll be finished with brain rehab sometime between the 22nd and the 30th of this month. Getting that news was incredibly exciting, but at the same time, it’s also fucking terrifying. In my opinion, it’s impossible to face this news without some part of yourself fearing for what comes next. No matter how many exciting things or support systems I have in place, relapsing and ending up right back to where I was just months ago, will always be possibility. I’m no fortune teller, so it would be naive of me to think this is the last time I’ll fall. And so in lies the reality of the work I’m doing here. My past has scarred me in ways that will never fully heal, and triggers will always be lurking around me.  This is a lifelong journey , but starting to get back into my routine and simply taking the time to laugh today helped me to see how much I want to be back. The fear of relapse will always exist,but I’ve found something that overshadows that; my desire to return to the land of weekly laundry schedules and people who will never not laugh at stories about road head.

The Road to Recovery from Anorexia is Not a Straight Path

Written by Morya Gorsky, a mother of a daughter recovering from anorexia. This post was originally published on Moyra’s blog, Gorski Wellness. Check it out and see what other amazing transformations her and her daughter are up to!

moyra-and-anna-on-ferris-wheel-225x300
Two and a half years ago my daughter started to make some changes in her eating so that she could feel and look better. As a nurse and wellness consultant I applauded that and encouraged healthy choices as she learned how her food she ate impacted her mood, energy and way she felt.

Little did I know that this would be the start of a journey into the depths of an eating disorder that has taken hold of her and her thoughts and turned something that was once a simple desire to feel and look a little better into a disorder that has such a strong hold on her that some days it’s hard to see my daughter in the midst of it.

As I continue to support and love my daughter unconditionally, I keep hearing a voice in my head that I should write, write down my thoughts feelings and share them. I have done a bit of sharing on social media, mostly Facebook. I’ve shared my struggles and hard days. I’ve encouraged others by putting up quotes and affirmations to help them see the bright side but in truth I look at them first off for myself most days. I have been astounded by the support and stories that I have been shared with me. This is not a disorder for the few. There are SO many that have struggled, know friends and family that have struggled, still struggle, pray for peace and continue freedom everyday day. I am grateful for the love and support that has been poured out to me and my family through this time. It is humbling and  it provides peace and strength on the good and bad days.grateful-300x148

I have learned so much during the time and today I find myself frustrated and sad. I myself had my own eating disorder when I was in college and in my early adult years. In those days there wasn’t much conversation about anorexia or anxiety or social pressures except to say that we knew about Karen Carpenter and her sad story. As I went away to school, away from home and that security, I found myself feeling unsure about the decisions I was making or expected to make. There were academic pressures, social pressures around drinking and sexual activity, Pressures to fit in and have fun, academic pressure of what major to follow and what we were to do for the rest of our lives. I felt alone and very unsure. That is when my taking control of one part of my life that I could, my eating began. I was not hospitalized or sent to a treatment program. I do thank my friends who were aware enough about my changing moods and size and loved me enough to encourage me to go see a counselor at our college health center.  The counseling helped and the finding of my passion of helping others in nursing I believe helped. Looking back I can’t say there was one thing or another that really helped me but I do know that by the grace of God, my confidence in myself and my abilities, self compassion and faith and just a whole lot of effort and pushing forward got me moving into a direction of freedom and self assurance. It has been a journey for sure, sometimes harder than others but somehow I got through it.

Fast forward to today and my daughter. The pain for me really began when my past was seemingly repeating itself in front of my eyes in the life of my daughter. Mention of a genetic component of eating disorders made me think that I was somehow responsible for what was happening. The feeling of responsibility coupled with hopelessness has led me to days of feeling a pain that is deep and raw and nothing that I have ever experienced before. I know that many of my days in college were dark, filled with a feeling of being alone and not understood. I also had the beautiful realization and life experiences that have shown me that there is a hope and life on the other side that is beautiful, one filled with love from others, from my heavenly Father and from myself. In the past several years I have shared my struggles and confidence in a better tomorrow with my niece when she was struggling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. One of my best friends has a daughter that began struggling and was consequently admitted to a residential program for help. I remember talking with her on the phone as well as her sister who was in so much pain that she found it hard to go on in life. There were tears and anna-and-moyra-bdaywords of encouragement.

But here I was all of a sudden with my daughter in front of my with the same struggles, becoming deeply entwined with the feeling of hopelessness, sadness, lack of self esteem and confidence. It caused me to pause in disbelief and shock. Therapists were called, dietitian appointments made and hard conversations with my husband about what to do if what we were providing at home was not enough. What next? How could we leave our daughter someplace else, not under our roof and with our family?

anna-tough-225x300

We did though. My daughter has been in 2 inpatient/outpatient programs, one residential program out of town and is currently in her 4th residential treatment stay closer by to us. It’s hard to have her not home with us. I miss her. I miss the physical presence of her in our family dynamic. But mostly I miss her, her great big smile, her infectious laugh, her go-forward attitude, work hard, play hard spirit, the lightness of her hair and her thoughts as she has shared her ideas, thoughts, commentary on life that is wise beyond what I imagined from her, funny and filled with wit and sarcasm and the deep desire to help others learn and enjoy a life that is possible. I wonder one day when that girl I know will be back. Maturity and life challenges are changing her and I know as she works toward freedom that my ‘little Anna’ won’t be back. A new daughter will emerge, one filled with grace and wisdom as before but a different perspective on life that her struggles and experiences have led her to.

My perspective has changed as well. When I overhear some conversations about small, materialistic things, or struggles with what clothes to wear or the battle to look better than a neighbor or friend, I do a private eye roll and move on. Many things in life that I see around me just don’t matter. What matters to me is my family, making sure that they know they are loved unconditionally by their father  and myself. Filling my children with love and confidence, making sure that  they know that their thoughts and feelings matter and they are children of God, unique from all others and blessed by a God and family who loves them….that continues on a daily basis. I am not afraid to talk about my past and have authentic conversations about the struggles that my daughter is facing. I am open about how I feel Social media has impacted our kids in such a negative way, creating a society of people who don’t know how to communicate with each other in a way to foster true friendships and compassion. I believe that everyone’s path in life is unique and may not follow the path that others follow in the way of school, college, vocation, life and all.

neda-walk-1024x768

I think we need to change our conversations. I participated in the NEDA walk this September in Chicago. It wasn’t so much a competitive walk for fitness but more about awareness, discussions of hope, real talk about struggles and hope. I got a chance to meet and hear Iskra Lawrance, a British model who was the key note speaker and one who has championed body diversity and committed to changing the image of women. She was told she was TOO BIG to be a traditional model and then soon discovered Plus Size modeling. There she discovered that she was NOT BIG enough. She had many years of struggle with an eating disorder and lack of body acceptance. She is a beautiful women today, one who accepts herself as she is and encourages others to do that same things of themselves.

walking-225x300

iskra-and-moyra-e1479345905484-300x225I feel blessed to have met her, hugged her and told her how much I appreciated all that she has done and continues to do to champion a change in our conversation.

I love the things she shared.

       Be proud of what you have been through.

                Tell someone that you see                        and love that they are good  enough

                Be cautious of advertising as they want you to buy                 into insecurities so that you buy things.

                Shine Bright for the world to see

               Choose to pay attention on purpose

               Look at yourself in front of a mirror and pick out 10                        things that you love.

                Injoy life….not just Enjoy….be IN Joy of your life.

 

Iskra smiles, she is warm, she shares a hope and light that it will all be ok.

She speaks about body positivism and again challenges us to Change the conversation.

 

I have asked God for peace and for strength. I have been challenged to Trust God and Obey God. Find acceptance in what is before me and create a conversation of encouragement and love. The road to recovery that my daughter is on has been rocky. It’s been up and down. I’ve seen her struggle, I’ve seen her emerge victorious and find purpose and hope again. I’ve seen her doubt herself and pay more attention to what others think than what she knows is true about herself. She is fighting. She has won and she has lost. And it will continue. I know she will come out on the side of Freedom. Her story will be one of hope, love, authentic truth, self love and finding your path, trusting that God is ultimately ordering your path in life.

words-of-strength-225x300

It’s hard sometimes. There will be more writing. There will be more talking. There will be more praying, a LOT more praying. There will be freedom and peace. Freedom and Peace for my daughter. Peace and connectiveness (that has been lost) for my family. There will be stories to tell of strength found when we didn’t know there was any more.  I pray for awareness of the necessity of change, change in our thoughts, our conversations, our attitudes about mental illness and those things that take over that we just don’t think we have control over. In the end we do have the power, with the help of the almighty creator to create a life of love, peace, joy and freedom.

family-with-leis

For now I leave you with this.

If you know someone struggling, get them help.

If you are struggling, call someone, go someplace and get the help that you deserve.

There is no shame in falling down and needing someone to help you up.

peace-of-god

For the Doctor’s Office

Performance by: Emily Creek (Check out Emily’s Vimeo account for more of her work.)

“Gratitude is a lesson I don’t have a grasp on yet. Reflecting on this past year of SO much growth and love was sharply contrasted by the past three months of pain and confusion. For me, words seemed to fail. I couldn’t even think of words to express gratitude in mourning in joy in confusion.

So I made a dance. An act of worship to God. An expression of gratitude for the community I was placed in and then left behind.”

Do You Make Lemonade or Get Lost in the Pitcher?

Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook manager and contributing writer at Unpolished Journey

Image result for hope

When life hands you lemons…

Do you make the lemonade?

Or do you drown in the pitcher?

When life confronts us with struggles we have three options.  We can let these struggles define us, destroy us, or strengthen us.

Will you let your struggle define you?

Or will you choose to be more.

More than an addiction.

More than an eating disorder.

More than depression.

More than anxiety.

More than an illness.

More than a loss.

More than a failure.

So often life hands us situations that baffle us.  We shake our fist at our higher power exclaiming “Why me?” “Not NOW” and “What did I do to deserve this?!”  The danger in these times of trial is the sometimes very tempting urge to give into these struggles.

We become our struggle.

Our struggle defines us.

Our struggle destroys us.

Suddenly we are nothing more than a shell of what we one were.  Our soul is no longer leading and we confine our thoughts, actions, and dreams to the box drawn by our struggle.  Our worlds shrink and our authentic selves shrink as well.

In the past weeks I have been thinking a lot about recovery vs. recovered.  I have been reflecting on what it would be like to be recovered—not just in recovery, but recovered.  What I would say, do and feel?  What could I chase if I let go of the labels of my eating disorder?  What kinds of authentic connections could I build?  Where would I travel?  What would I achieve if I refused to let my life slip into the role of a professional patient, a perpetual diagnosis stuck in a life defined by a disorder instead of allowing my authentic self to lead.

It was in this week that I was reflecting on my 7, almost 8-year battle with an eating disorder that I realized that I wanted to live a life defined by freedom.  A life where my authentic self led.  A life where I reclaimed myself.  My eating disorder hijacked so many pieces of my soul and tried to stifle the light that came from authentic self.  I wouldn’t trade the last 8 years because I have learned so much, grown so much and met so many beautiful souls.  However, one of the most special gifts my eating disorder has given me is the chance to fight for the woman I know I am and to fight like hell to reclaim her.  I have had the distinct privilege of having beautiful things that I love about myself stripped from my core and hijacked by a mental illness.  I watched as some of my joy faded and I tried even harder to smile and cover up the joy I felt I was losing.  I watched my zest for life fizzle.  I watched my silly instincts to make a face at my friends or crack a joke become more strained and forced.  And finally at a certain point I realized that I missed myself.  I missed my core and I wanted her back.  The cliché that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone really resonates with me because I didn’t know how much I loved the child within myself until I had stifled and starved her so much that she shrunk into almost non-existence.

In the past week I decided to notice moments when I truly felt like myself—moments where I got lost in the joy of living and was fully present in my authentic self.  I noticed some of the moments when my authentic self was leading.  I went to a bookstore with friends where we reconnected with the inner child and flipped through books cracking jokes and making faces.  I realized that how deeply I value laughing from my belly.  I realized how deeply I value laughing until I pee my pants—spare change of clothes or not.  I went to work and busted out singing with a customer because…why not?  I felt my inner child slowly creeping back into daily life…with urges to cartwheel, when I was cleaning my yoga studio, using a banana as a banana phone (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about), dancing the cha cha slide with a random group of students at my school because no one wants to study for finals, and allowing myself to embrace the strength of my body instead of rejecting my strong body as a failure to follow my eating disordered thoughts.

There are still so many moments when I feel a need to prove myself.  I feel a need to prove that I had struggled…and then when I get comments like: “wow, you look so different” or “oh my gosh, that was you in that picture?”.  I still find it hard to let be, let go, let live, let flow.  I still fight with my urge to let my struggle define who I am.   But recently I am realizing that when I let my eating disorder define who I am, I also simultaneously agree to let it confine who I am.

I am still constantly in the process of reclaiming myself, but this is the also the exciting part of recovery.  At times the challenge of reclaiming your authentic self can be daunting or frightening because our authentic selves have taken the back seat when being consumed with the struggles of life.  We may have even believed that we could never be ourselves again…our eating disorder, addiction, illness, or anxiety had become our identity.  But I assure you, they are not.  You are more.  Life has more.  MAKE YOUR LEMONADE, SWIM OUT OF THAT PITCHER AND GRAB LIFE BY THE LEMONS.

The Depression Dictionary

Cross posted with permission from Aleah’s blog (found at https://thedepressiondictionary.wordpress.com/).

black-and-white-flowers-for-aleahs

de·pres·sion

di’preSHən

noun:

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I’m almost finished by drowning. I’ve sunk so far, past sapphire waves with lace edges of white foam, past anything that can be construed as beautiful. I’m down into something darker, something fathomless. For the most part, I’ve stopped kicking, stopped pushing against the pull of the tomb that is the ocean floor.

But moments come when a spark of oxygen reawakens my consciousness and I realize I haven’t died yet.

Instantly, panic. Desperation and a frantic reach upwards. The surface breaks violently and I rise. There’s just enough strength left for me to sip in a breath, enough strength to realize that’s the last bit of it, and the strength is gone. My lungs burn and my muscles pull away from my bones in exhaustion, rejecting to be part of a whole that seeks something more than the end.

Blinking, I see someone above me, standing on a vessel not capsized with the bullets and bombs created by other people’s choices. They lift their arms and eyes into the warmth of the sun.

I hear them inhale, deeply. I try to do the same.

They breathe. I don’t.

Salt fills my every sense, stinging, tearing at any exposed weakness. I’m consumed, a disfigured lump sinking back down into the briny abyss.

Jump. Please, jump.

They don’t. They’re still breathing.

What a luxury it is to breathe.

In 2014, I wrote this definition of what depression meant to me. I was struck by how depression is often sanitized by clinical definitions and muted expressions. I couldn’t find anything that described how I lived my life on a day-to-day basis with a mental illness. We understand that someone loses interest in things, someone has a hard time with self-care, someone may have experienced abuse, but what does this actually look like? After pondering these things, I was fascinated with the idea of creating a comprehensive dictionary of poetry and prose that delves deeper into my own personal experience.

This website (https://thedepressiondictionary.wordpress.com/) chronicles those definitions in a hopefully raw and inspiring way.

Dear Depression

Written By: Bri Conn who is the owner of the blog Broken Brave and Beautiful (Brokenbraveandbeautiful.weebly.com)

dear-depression

Dear Depression,
I feel you. Throughout the past month, you’ve been creeping in again slowly but surely. Your filthy grip is attempting to hold me down. You’re like the one fly that I can’t seem to kill. There are days when I think you’ve flown away and other days I can’t keep you away from me.
Throughout the years you’ve hit me in waves. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d see my 17th birthday, but I did. I went on to see my 18th and 19th birthday. Now, I’ll be damned if I don’t see my 20th, 21st, and 22nd birthdays and all of my birthdays after that.
You cause me to sleep all day and night or don’t allow me to sleep at all. Simple things like going to eat or showering become difficult. I’ve even started to leave my door unlocked throughout the day so that in the event I fall asleep; my friend can come wake me up to get food.
Missing Bible study and support group has become a habit instead of a rare occurrence. I go to class looking like a zombie and count the minutes until it is over. When asked if I’m still swimming, I laugh. I haven’t been in the pool in over three weeks. If I’m having a difficult time just trying to eat and shower, what makes you think I can swim laps for an hour every day?
My clothes hamper is overflowing with dirty laundry. Each day I look into my closet and see the dirty heap of colors before trying to convince myself I’ll take care of it today. Dirty dishes sit staring at me waiting to be washed, but one look and I go back to bed.
Remember that speech I gave three weeks ago on how to make brownies? I’m sure you do depression; you filled me that day and had me in tears. It’s a miracle that I didn’t break down in front of the class. Oh, and let me remind you about the church bonfire on Halloween weekend. We all danced and sang, and I was having a wonderful time, but for a few brief minutes, you hit me. The song changed, and that’s when it happened. Quietly, I got up and went to the restroom for a few minutes while tears streamed down my face.
Now, my body is full of excitement for upcoming events, but you keep telling me to cancel. You say that I’ll just get hurt. Things will never work, so why try? You’re the dark storm cloud that appears in the middle of a young child’s birthday party. In this case, I’m the child, and it’s my birthday you’re trying to ruin.
Some tell me to turn to my faith, and I’ll be okay. Believe me; I am, but unless they’ve experienced this for themselves they simply do not understand. Others refuse to believe I live with you. Surely you can’t suffer from depression if you smile at others and always make others laugh? Maybe they are right. Maybe I don’t need to go to therapy. Maybe I don’t need to be medicated. Maybe I’d be fine without all of it; maybe I’m just crazy. But I’m not willing to risk the maybes.
So depression, this isn’t a love letter to you. It’s me wanting to break up with you. All I ask is that you release your grip on me. Let me live apart from you. Let me thrive. You’ve been a part of my life for so long now, and I think it is about time we go our separate ways. I won’t give you the stereotypical, “it’s not you it’s me” line because it is you. I’m not the problem here, you are. I don’t love you, in fact, who could? You make life a living hell for all of those that suffer from your grip. Even the so-called “lucky ones” who are considered high functioning don’t love you. So move along, you’re not welcome here.
Sincerely,
The Girl Who Never Loved You