Yesterday I woke up feeling happy.I literally had zero anxieties. It was strange. My brain didn’t know what to do.
No anxieties—gave me anxiety.
So here’s a little back story:
I had quite a stressful week.
I had gotten violently ill and had to deal with incorporating food back into my life after almost 48 hours of eating and drinking the bare minimum. This is an extremely difficult task for someone with an eating disorder.Being sick has a psychological effect of wanting to continue to restrict even if the restriction began without your consent. Furthermore, I had to go from Work to Renfrew (16.5 hour days with lots of driving). I made the decision to bail on Renfrew one day which causes me anxiety because I really want to be dependable, but I was putting my mental state first (which typically causes guilt) and I was just too exhausted. I also had to deal withheightening drama, a boss who put an extra load of work on me, and being taken advantage of by co-workers.
Thursday I was able to work through it at Renfrew.
At first, I was having a hard time in my therapists office because I did not want my anger to linger. I felt as though I needed a change in attitude before it devoured me.
I would justify everything as I vented. I’d explain the unfair situation and then say, “But it’s okay because…”
My therapist told me to stop rationalizing it and to trust what I was saying. She told me to get the emotions out without judging them. I rebuttaled:
“I do not want to feed my anger. I don’t like the person I am when I’m going on and on about other people or life being unfair.”
She explained that this was part of the eating disorder. By not talking about it, I am shoving my emotions down and smoothing them over (get it—a direct correlation to what I do with food when I get out of work).
She told me to stick with talking about the reasons why it is unfair.
By removing the judgements (the “buts” and rationalization), I was I able to realize that I can talk about my emotions without being consumed by them. It is therapeutic to spill the emotions out and not just leave them bottled up. I need to either vent to a support or journal in order to recognize why I shouldn’t be treated this way.
Furthermore, it gives me the ability to find a solution. After getting everything out on the table, I can now look at the positives.
Initially, this situation didn’t seem to have a solution which is probably another reason why I tried to cover my emotions up and “just deal with it.”
I want to be compliant, I want to be kind, I want to be able to handle what others throw at me. However, I also want to work to the best of my ability. If I am being taken advantage of, it is not unkind to state the facts and express reasons why I have to say no.
I felt amazing. Venting lifted the world off my shoulders. Being non-judgmental allowed me to forgive myself. And removing the rationalizations eventually gave me solutions.
I continued my day. I was able to be honest with loved ones about my day without crucifying myself for my emotions.
I couldn’t wait for the weekend. I wanted to wake up without any obligations. I wanted sleeeep!
But a complete worry-free Saturday morning? I have to be honest: when I wake up without any worries, sometimes my brain makes up an irrational one:
“My boyfriend’s going to break up with me.” “My mom is going to get sick.” “So and so doesn’t like me.” And then I mentally whip out my Renfrew worksheets. “What evidence do I have to support this?” “If this is true, how will I handle it?” It’s a lot of work calming anxieties.
But I had none. A thought even crossed my mind: “aren’t we worried Rob is going to break up with us…” (ED said)
“No.” I answered.
“Well aren’t you unhappy with your body?” (ED said)
“No, I’m really not. No faking today, I really do like it.” I said.
I got ready and went to Renfrew. Suddenly, in my euphoric moment I realized I didn’t necessarily want to eat. I was feeling afraid of food, like it might ruin my worry-free attitude. Despite the fact that I’ve had no issues with binging and restricing all week.
At Renfrew a memory came up and I went with it…
I was 17 and at the beginning stages of my eating disorder. This particular boy may not remember saying these words; he may not remember the way he looked at me; but 8 years later–the memory was clear as day.
A few friends were gathered around a fire drinking in the woods. I was carefree and laughing, having a great time and feeling good. On the walk out, I jumped on another boy’s back for a ride. The other one was not amused. He seemed offended as he watched my actions unfold throughout the night. Finally, he lashed out. For no obvious reason, he called me superficial. There had been no talk of image or weight during our entire night so I was very confused. He added to this by bitterly saying I was ‘conceited’ and blamed it my body.
(Many people experience their bodies being a spectacle for peers. This boy considered me “thin.” I’d lost weight after being bullied years earlier for being called “fat” by another boy. Don’t you just wish body shaming of all kind would vanish. It clearly has an effect on all ages especially susceptible adolescent minds.)
I was devastated. I shut down. I tried to continue my good time but it was completely forced. I felt really guilty for being happy with my body.
My ‘happiness’ had been labeled ‘conceit’ and according to this boy, my ‘carefree’ attitude was only because I was ‘skinny.’
There are no such things as coincidences. I have been working hard on self-acceptance for many years, and this memory popped into my mind for a reason.
I allowed it to resonate and shared the incident with the supports around me.
I did not manipulate my body to achieve happiness today, but I due to old beliefs, I thought food would ruin my ephoria. I am demeaning myself because being completely content may make others look angrily upon me. Therefore, I can only be content as long as I have an underlying struggle with my weight
I feel uneasy over loving myself.
Is it all because of this one incident? No. But this boy clearly had the same beliefs as ED. And since ED was just beginning to take control of me at that time, that boy validated EDs lies. Lies that were buried deep in my skull until I had the proper education, coping skills and support to dig them up and plant new ones.
Luckily, we had art next and I furiously journaled:
…”you’re only happy because your skinny.” How can this be true? I had cake, cookies, and pizza this week!
I want to exercise to keep this feeling? But I didn’t exercise at all in order to achieve this feeling…
I haven’t restricted so why do I feel guilty for being happy with my body? Do I actually feel guilty that I haven’t been bingeing?
Do I not deserve to feel “skinny?” Because I have an ED? I don’t know if ED even considers this skinny, I’m just at peace with my body?
I hate the way that boy looked at me–like I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t know if I’m actually working through anything or making any sense, but I hope that writing this down is freeing myself of it…
Happiness is not related to thinness, no matter how many people may hold that belief.
ED gave me a high every time I was happy with my body. But that high was fleeting. It was due to over exercising and restriction.
And I’ve proven many times in recovery that I can experience happiness without focusing on my body or the mirror.
Today’s euphoria was not due to manipulating food or exercising. It was the real thing.
It was due to feelings of adequacy. Feelings of pride that I took care of myself this week. Feelings of contentment for life and love from my boyfriend. It was due to appreciating my kindness both for others and for myself. And my new super-power: venting and finding a solution!
…I was confusing feeling “thin” and feeling “light.”
My ED likes to misinterpret “lightness” as a physical sensation. And often tricks me into restricting and exercising in order to feel “light.” That is why it is a fake euphoria.
I know now that feeling light is a mental state. And food does not affect its ability to come and go…
This feeling will inevitably pass, as do all feelings. But, now I can enjoy it as it comes and not fear losing it because of actions or thoughts associated with food or body.
Being content with oneself is not conceit. It is kindness and we all need to appreciate it when it comes.
Being care-free is a blessing. There are too many worries in life, and when they seem to dissipate for one beautiful Saturday, smile and go about your day, in hopes of it lasting forever. But also knowing, that if it leaves, it will soon return as long as you take care of yourself.
Writing is so therapeutic. However, it can be difficult to get started sometimes. Therefore, I use writing prompts. My favorite one is gratitude.
Not only does it help with the writing process, but afterwards you realize how blessed you are to have so many things in your life.
I showed my blog to a few close friends. One of them asked when I was going to write about her. I laughed, but realized that writing is a really wonderful way to let people know how much they mean to you. It feels good to show people how they have changed your life for the better.
Recovery leaves footprints in almost every aspect of our lives. In therapy, I learned “you can pick your friends.” Recovery gave me the ability to let go of those who treated me badly or affected me negatively.
Loved ones are meant to empower us, to show us our strengths, and to bring out the best in us. They are little angels put in our lives to make us laugh through all the bullshit.
It is really hard letting someone you care about go, even if you know you don’t deserve how they make you feel. Odds are you still love them and have been friends for many years.
But there is a saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So, not only do negative people subject us to abuse, but they influence the way we think and act.
I want to thank recovery for the strength to stand up for myself. I am grateful for the beautiful people I have in my life.
Here are my five people (give or take some) .
Sara/My Best Friend:
I think she is stunningly beautiful and she thinks I’m full of shit but graciously takes the compliment with a little sarcasm.
She is the epitome of a girlfriend. EVERY GIRL deserves one of these friends in their life (and I’m so blessed that you are mine). Even when we disagree, I can sense that she wants to hug me and hurt me at the same time. I know that she will always love me; she won’t ever let me go.
This friendship of 10 years has always gotten me out of the house. She has helped me learn that–yes, I need my nights in, but sometimes the best thing to do is have a night out.
She taught me that sometimes a night out may just mean drinking wine with your best friend. Or bawling our eyes out to a really sad movie that only she would torture me to watch.
I let her talk me into doing crazy things because I know she will take care of me when it all goes to hell (and then, of course, find the humor in it later).
She is the first person to teach me I don’t need to be ‘on’ every time I’m around a friend.
Sometimes we get really deep. We may cry about life’s newest problem, but we mostly realize how life doesn’t change that much from when we’re young: time heals all, we still have to buy our own toothpaste; and we still have trouble making our own doctor appointments.
It took a very dependent relationship to teach me the importance of girlfriends. Depending on one, sole person for happiness is dangerous. That’s why friends are important, too. Never lose sight of how wonderful girlfriends are. The right ones will always be there when you need to vent or cry or bitch.
You need them in moments where you don’t want to shower or get dressed, if even to just nap with. You need girlfriends to belly laugh with faces full of pizza with. You need girlfriends to express disgusting things about yourself and ask if that’s normal.
I truly love you so much and can’t wait to see where the next ten years leads us. Thank you for growing with me. Thank you for all the memories. And Thank you for never letting me go.
I knew him 8 years ago and I never, ever pictured myself being with him. I thought he was handsome, but his arrogance and dirtbag friends made him so unattractive.
Life throws you curveballs though, and I couldn’t be more wrong about everything I inquired about this guy.
Sara, my best friend, got me out of bed on this particular night. I really needed it, and as always, she came to the rescue even after we hadn’t talked for the past 5 months (I had been in treatment—which she didn’t know about).
I pulled myself together, literally shaking as I met up with her and some of her guy friends.
Four guys that I haven’t seen since high school. Ugh, high school.
The guys were really nice to me though. And I was trying to be myself, but my social anxiety was coming down hard. That night I was lucky enough to be surrounded by outgoing people. They each came up to mingle with me which made me feel super comfortable. I was having a really nice time but I was still shaking.
The last guy that caught my ear had a much less abrasive aura (not that the others were rude, but they had strong personalities and some of them were even hitting on me a little). He was just asking me questions, and telling me things about himself. I was impressed with how he could really hold a conversation, not just make small talk. We quietly clicked. I felt like it was just him, I and Sara—all my anxieties went away. Listening to him really soothed me.
He kissed me that night and I walked away thinking it was just a fluke because I suddenly remembered the guy he was in high school. I didn’t want to get involved with anyone from that crowd.
Life hands you things sometimes though, and it forces you to reevaluate past judgements. I had to relearn who he was as a person. It turns out, he is the exact opposite of everything I had thought.
He is the kindest man I’ve ever met. He is compassionate. His first instincts are to help. He is calming and speaks passionately. He is humble and smart and hardworking. From thinking I could never have a good thing to say about him, I now can’t find the words to express how blessed I am to not only have him in my life, but be the person that he loves.
To this day, he puts me in a peaceful state. He makes me uncontrollably laugh when I thought I couldn’t smile. He gets mad when I ask for his stories, but it’s only because I love listening to him so much.
He is proof that there is no such things as coincidences. We meet who we are meant to when the time is right. I have never been so thankful for all the events that led me to him.
Laura is the hardest person to write about. I don’t want to use clichés because it seems insincere—but, they literally all represent our relationship:
We feel each other’s joy and pain. We would move mountains for each other. She is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. She is someone I can turn to no matter what. She is my best friend; my other half; my soulmate.
We met under very interesting circumstances: both fighting eating disorders. We were equally motivated to kick ED’s ass and start living our lives again. Because of treatment, we knew each other’s deepest secrets and worst fears even before becoming best friends.
One of my first and favorite memories of Laura is sitting on the couch with the rest of our “Frew Crew.” Our therapist was standing in front of us all, writing on a white board. She said something that triggered a laughing attack in both me and Laura. Suddenly, we were holding our breath and turning an uncontrollable shade of red while trying desperately to stop giggling. The therapist was getting annoyed and no one else in the room knew what was so funny.
Girlfriend moments like these are the best. What makes these memories with Laura even more powerful is because we always manage to have them while simultaneously working through serious emotional issues: comedic relief through life’s toughest moments.
Knowing each other for only one month, we bonded over the fact that we both ridiculously laughed and cried at the same time. We can go from venting and uncertainty to laughing and ready to take on the world.
One of my favorite things about Laura is her receptiveness in moments of doubt. I encourage her to take on a positive point of view, I remind her of her strength and she genuinely soaks it all in. By the end of a conversation that started with “I need your help,” it ends with “You are so right!” and she is back to being the fighter she always will be.
I want to purposely take on a challenge each time she calls on me to get through her own—just so we can conquer it together. Her successes are my motivation. I don’t know where I would be without her, especially on my journey in recovery. But, beyond that, my life is more enjoyable and fulfilling because I can share it with her.
My work best friend:
Sometimes you aren’t equipped to deal with the crazies that work throws at you. We can control who we surround ourselves with—to an extend. Co-workers and family unfortunately don’t fall into that category. But we can choose who we actually “listen” to. Shannon saves me from the crazies.
Why is this friend so important? She keeps me laughing during my most stressfull hours. We may look like we are losing our minds when we are hunched over, tears streaming down our face, but she’s actually keeping me sane in these moments.
I never thought of the daycare as a place to find friends.
The small chitchat I had with my co-workers always gave me anxiety. Work is a triggering place because I want everyone to like me (the people pleaser in me). Therefore, I hang out with my toddler buddies and hope to leave without any adult interaction.
But honestly, that’s not the best way to live. The hours go by much faster when I am enjoying the time with a coworker. Afterall, these people know exactly what I go through at work! If nothing else, we have that in common and we should make the most of it together. Having this attitude has led me to one of my best friends. She possesses the same kindness, and positivity that I have grown to love within myself.
On days where I walk in with worry lines, she reminds me to smile (or at least fake it till we make it). We praise each other on our work ethic, for our silly little crafts and sometimes just for making it till the end of the day. And as described earlier, she makes me laugh until I cry, which is one of life’s little joys.
I’ve noticed that because of her I sometimes spend more time talking than paying attention to my students (not necessarily a good thing—but the upside is that I am less of a perfectionist at work)
Oh, and speaking of ‘the upside,’ she always reminds me to look on the bright side. “Good things happen to good people” (a saying that my boyfriend also uses).
Family: (I cheated–I grouped family together as my fifth person :))
We can’t choose our family. I always remembered a passage I read in a book:
A little girl was talking to God and said, “I love my family, but I wonder if you tried out any others before you picked them for me.”
I’d like to believe that my family is mine for a reason–as is yours and everyone else’s–although at times we may feel like that little girl.
There is no getting around the idea that your family ultimately sculpts who you are, and I am actually very thankful for that:
First, my sister:
I’ve lived in the same room as her for 25 years. We played together everyday. Waking up to the same mess of Barbies that we left the night before and continuing to play.
One day we traded all that in for make-up and boys. We got ready and gossiped every morning together before going to school. We passed notes in the hallway, we were in the same classes, and we had the same friends. I don’t know how two people could see so much of each other and still find things to talk about.
There was a point when this all stopped—which I realize now was inevitable. We got to a certain age where we needed to create separate identities for ourselves. We had always been identified as “the sisters” and not as two different people, which lead to unhealthy comparisons.
We may not be best friends the way we were as children, but we both already have best friends; therefore, Becky is considered much more than a best friend.
For those who understand how lucky I am to have a sister:
It means having amazing memories together. We have such a strong adoration for each other. She is the best roommate I will ever have. She knows exactly what I’m thinking when I shoot her the “eyes.” She plays my favorite songs at the bar, just like she always has when we were little in the car together. And for the rest of our lives we get to reenact childhood traditions and torture our future spouses with them.
And for those who are not lucky enough to have the sister that I have:
Becky can tell you who said what in what movie and when at the drop of a hat (she’s a hard-core movie quoter). Her one true love is Harvey Kinkle, and she deserves no less than him in her near future. She’ll knock your socks off by ordering an old-fashioned (and genuinely likes them). She’s smart as hell with a pretty face which I think is incredibly rare and impressive. She sings and dances in dive bars, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass who is watching as long as the person with her is having fun (which they always are thanks to her high spirits). We break out into a 40’s type dance duo every time an oldie comes on (and she always spins me back cause that’s the best part). She won’t admit it cause she comes off hard as a rock, but she really does reflect on the words you say to her and tries to be the best person she can be. She’s always searching for a way to find peace and true self-love. She’s a little hippie reincarnated (without the drugs and guru). She forgives and forgets very easily–both a blessing and a curse.
We don’t spend every weekend together, but I still get to rummage through her shoes and help her do her cat eyes. I still get her hand-me-down, and she still gets to wear all my crop tops.
And we will always be proud, protective and bat shit crazy about each other.
I have the best mother in the world. Anyone with the same opinion, I feel very happy for–because you must have had a similar upbringing to me. From day one, my mom has put others before herself. Above all else, she has put her children.
I have my mom to thank for getting me through my darkest days. She selflessly spent night after night consoling me when I was confused, angry and alone. When my eating disorder spiraled, my depression began and my social anxiety worsened, I chose to hide out in my house. She took me on car rides. She patiently waited in there with me until I was ready to enter a store. She took me shopping and took me on walks–anything to make me happy. And all the gratitude and happiness that I possess today is truly thanks to her persistence during those hard times.
She always said, “If I could take your pain and carry it for you, I would.” And I know she meant it. Today I am lucky enough to experience that kind of love for others. I often feel this way when the people I love are in pain and I thank my mom for my big heart.
This leads me to suddenly realize another important lesson my mother’s taught me, “The most important thing one can learn, is to love and be loved in return.”
When I felt unloved, undeserving, worthless and unhappy—my mom taught me what unconditional love was. She always preached about unconditional love. But it wasn’t until I hit my lowest point that I actually grasped the concept. Being able to love people the way my mom loves is the greatest gift in the world. When she is being pushed away, she stays with open arms. When she cannot understand, she asks for a deeper explanation. When there seems to be no answers in life, she keeps the faith.
When I was in treatment, I was living three hours from my mom. However, I received a reminder every morning to be proud of myself. She never, ever wants anyone to feel alone. She is the most selfless and thoughtful woman I will ever know. She taught me to find happiness in giving and of course loving unconditionally. I hope one day to be a mother just like her.
My dad has taught me many things. Above all else are my two favorites:
One is my ability to listen. To give people my full attention and enjoy their company. Much like the heart my mom taught me to have, this is another one of my favorite qualities. The second thing I cherish is the importance of imagination. Fondest memories of my dad include being scared to death—and now I’ve become one of those strange people who enjoy being terrified.
Driving in the car at night on a desolate road, my dad would accelerate and pretend we were the “Chariot” trying to get through a raging storm. One time, he had gone into grave detail and told 6-year-old me he was a vampire. 18 years later I reminded him of this and told him I actually believed it for a while. I also told him that I indulge in this imaginative story telling to my kids at my daycare–and thoroughly enjoy the shoe being on the other foot.
He helped me go to sleep at night by telling me about the chapters he read in his latest Stephen King novel or by having me close my eyes and design our very own Space Ship.
We knew where the bunks were, who was sleeping where, the layout of the control room, the dining room and all the high-tech gear we’d carry with us.
My dad is my biggest fan. He believes there’s nothing that I cannot do, and just like my mom, never lets a day go by without making me feel loved. Because of him I never wake up or go to bed without giving those I love a hug or kiss or simple ‘I love you.’
He taught my sister and I how to dig for treasures at flea markets and garage sales. And that material things aren’t what makes people happy. Thanks to my dad, I’m a simple kinda girl. All I really need is a little imagination and adventure.
The more I write about the 5 people in my life, the more I realize that I am both consciously and unconsciously attracting the same kind of people into my life.
I really suggest that anyone reading this goes through this exercise themselves. I hope you realize the beautiful people who you have in your lives. Focus on the positive aspects of your loved ones and let go of anyone that isn’t serving you and making you a better person.