Between hurricane and harbor

In a video that is several years old at this point Jamie Tworkowski retells the story that lead to the founding of To Write Love on Her Arms. As Jamie is telling the story he quotes the story and says “These words like most honest words, will be written next to midnight between hurricane and harbor as both claim to save her” I’ve had this quote written down for several years and stumbled upon it tonight and was instantly struck by the last part “between hurricane and harbor as both claim to save her”. 

This quote perfectly describes how I feel currently in my life. I’m trapped between a hurricane that is my eating disorder and the harbor that is recovery as both claim to save my life and be the solution to my problems. Currently, I feel like I’m failing, failing at both having an eating disorder and being in recovery. I go back and forth in my mind about which I want more and then feel guilty when I “give into” one over the other. This is such a disordered thing but it is the exact place I am at and I have come to accept it. I constantly feel pulled between the two and it sucks. One side is the hurricane, the temperamental hell that is an eating disorder. It is appealing because we all love the idea of the danger of a hurricane but we know that once we step into it nothing good is going to come from it. It’s more appealing in thought than it ever is in reality. It’s not safe and it is no place for a person to be setting up camp and living. On the other side there is a harbor, a harbor is safe and I don’t know if you’re like me but I’m not always a fan of safety. I like to live on the edge, take chances, make mistakes, etc. I love the unknown and anything that gets my adrenaline pumping is my favorite. The harbor doesn’t appeal to me too much because it’s so safe. However, it does appeal to me because harbors are beautiful. I think of a beautiful painting and postcard when I think of a harbor. I think of a small town filled with happy people. That is appealing to me, the innocent beauty of a harbor. It is full of promise and goodness and it is the perfect place to settle in and call home. 

These two scenarios perfectly describe my eating disorder and recovery. My eating disorder is the hurricane, it is tempting and dark but it is no place for a person to call home. It is dangerous and once your in the middle of the storm the appeal has worn off and the fear sets in. There are few ways to escape and you find yourself surrounded by darkness. Recovery is the harbor. It is safe and appealing, but since it is so safe it doesn’t always seem like the place to settle. It is picturesque and perfect from afar but I’m sure we all know that not everything is perfect in the harbor and for that reason recovery loses it appeal. It’s not going to be perfect. Sure it is the happiest, safest place to settle into and to call home and it is always the right choice but it isn’t always the more appealing sounding choice. 

I constantly feel pulled by both of these places and never know which to choose, they both have appeal and they both claim to deliver some promise or some form of salvation. However, I think we all know the harbor is the safest, more ideal form of salvation but that doesn’t mean we don’t get pulled out and into the hurricane every once in a while. This journey called recovery and treatment is one in which I’m constantly being called to from the midst of the sea, the harbor and the hurricane surround me and I’m the captain of my fate, meaning I decide which I allow to provide me my salvation. Choose wisely, but always remember, if you fall prey to a hurricane they don’t last forever and the safety of the harbor is always one small decision away from being your salvation. 

Recovery; the gift that keeps on giving.

A lot of people view recovery as a chore, as yet another thing that needs to be done in order to live a healthy and happy life. However, I think the best way to think of recovery is as a gift. The best part about this gift is that it is a gift that keeps on giving to you and others in your life. 

Recovery is the greatest gift you could ever receive. It is a second chance at life, a chance to leave the pain that is at the root of the disorder in the past. It is an opportunity to rebuild relationships, with others and yourself. It is the chance to start breathing again instead of being suffocated by the weight of this disorder. It is the chance to begin to enjoy everyday once again and to realize there is more to this life than weight, food, exercise, etc. Greatest of all, it is a chance to start fresh and to realize that your dreams are possible and that you can survive and conquer everything and anything that is put in front of you. 

Even in the midst of my broken journey with recovery the past two and ahlf years I have been blessed with some of the greatest gifts I could ever receive. First, I was given a chance to recover and to experience the gift that is recovery. There are so many people who battle this disease and never have the chance to experience any form of recovery or never have the opportunity to have does where they feel recovered and that breaks my heart. Recovery is such a beautiful blessing even though it is hard and sucks at times.  I’ve also been given the chance over the past couple of years to begin to work out and work on some of the deepest and most painful parts of my life and my heart that have only perpetuated this disorder and caused it grow into the monster it has. While the issues aren’t worked out entirely the beginning stages have begun and that is so incredibly important and such a great gift to have been given. I’ve also been blessed with a reminder that the most beautiful gifts in our lives come in the midst of the greatest battles we have. What provided me this reminder? My best friend and biggest supporter who I met while I was in outpatient treatment. This girl is my rock and the one person I know I can always call and reach out to who will understand exactly where I am and how I feel. She is the most encouraging and inspiring individual and I would be completely lost without her in my life. Her friendship has been the greatest blessing and probably one of the best gifts recovery provided me. Another gift that recovery has blessed me with is the ability to rebuild relationships where I lost trust or hurt the people who I love and who care for me. Eating disorders destroy lives and destroy trust in relationships and working hard to get that back has sucked but it has been a blessing to see where my relationships have recovered and to see where they can go in the future. Recovery has also given me the chance to live, and to live fully. My disorder was so out of control when I first went to my first round of outpatient that I wouldn’t not have been alive much longer. My body and mind were failing fast.  I was unable to enjoy the things I formerly loved doing and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy them even if I could have done them. Over the past two, broken years, I have been able to live so much life that I couldn’t ever complain about the shitty place I’m in with my disorder. I have joined a sorority, been on several missions trips to the Dominican Republic and plan to move there for a little bit in the future, I have been able to go to two incredible NEDA walks, I have been able to climb mountains, and just live my day to to day life with the greatest friends and family a girl could ask for. Recovery has given me the chance to not just survive but to live and thrive and that is a great gift. Last, recovery has provided me the chance to start fresh. As I begin a new round of outpatient treatment and begin the lifelong process of letting go of this disease, I realize how lucky I am. The past couple of years of “recovery” have been a roller coaster and a failed attempt at truly recovering and allowing myself to fully heal, but they have been filled with blessings and gifts and have provided me the hope to try this one more time and to start fresh with a new team, new outlook and new resources. 

Recovery is a gift, so treat it is one and be grateful everyday for what it has, can and will provide you in the future. Just because it is a gift doesn’t mean it is an easy road to walk or that it doesn’t come with failure at times, but it is a gift, so it is good and it is worth it. Embrace what has been given to you, so you can go forth and give unto others. 

Why go back when you can create a new life?

“Recovery isn’t about getting back how you were before. It’s about creating something new.”

I think this is one of the most important things anyone in recovery or considering recovery needs to understand. I know when I first entered outpatient treatment a few years ago I didn’t understand this. Instead, I wanted things to go back to the way they were when I was four, before I knew what it was like to have food issues and to focus on what I was eating, what makes you fat, my weight, etc. I wanted things to be simple again and to be easy like they were before the problem existed. Sadly, I think a lot of people in recovery desire this exact same thing. 

However, from where I’m at now, and as I begin treatment all over again, I realize I would never ever want my life to be the same. In my previous post I mentioned some of the benefits of falling down the rabbit hole and now that my life is so drastically different because of this disease I couldn’t ever imagine it being like it was before. I have learned so much and gained so many positive things in the midst of this horrible challenge. I’ve gained the passion for my future and I have a vision and outlook on life that I could never have been blessed with if it weren’t for the hell of this disease. Why go back and live in a state where everything was “perfect” when life isn’t meant to be perfect all the time. We are meant to struggle and grow through our struggles, it is part of being a broken human that will never be perfect so why go back and undue all that has been done by this disease? I know it sounds crazy but think of all of the ways you have grown through this struggle, think of the incredible, kind, understanding, and beautiful person you have been forced to become because of such great challenges. Those are the blessings and the beauties that come from pain and they are all worth the fight it takes to gain such incredible and inspiring qualities. 

So don’t ever focus on going back to the way things were before, you were not the incredible individual you are now and you wouldn’t be without your struggles. So instead focus on creating something new and taking all you have been through and using it to bless someone’s life and to only grow and fuel yours. You’ve been given the opportunity through recovery to make this life everything you have ever wanted so don’t waste that precious gift by trying to rewind time and undue what can’t be undone. Instead, be grateful for the struggle and dive head first into the future while knowing full well that anything is possible so long as you are starting new and starting fresh. Own your journey and all you have been through, it is so beautifully unique and only you will ever live it. Take recovery as the opportunity to create the life you’ve always dreamed of and never waste it wishing you could go back because there is nothing about living in the past that will benefit you while everyone else is living in the present. Be present, be a dreamer and start fresh; you’ve been given a once in a lifetime gift. 

Just like Alice… Down the Rabbit Hole

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

In the first few chapters of her book Wasted, Marya Horbacher quotes this sentence from the first chapter of Alice in Wonderland and I think that Marya got her point across in this simple quote…. This is the essence of one’s journey into an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are like chasing that little white rabbit down the rabbit hole. We follow after the still small voice in our heads without ever considering how we will get back. 

When I first began to struggle with this disease I was about four or five years old. I heard a still small voice tempting me in my head telling me that maybe I shouldn’t eat this and that and then with the years the voice grew stronger and stronger and eventually lead to full blown anorexia and bulimia that after years landed me in treatment my sophomore year of college. Back when I was so young I never once second guessed that voice I was following, it made me feel better about myself and what was going on in my life. Not eating was the perfect solution to all of my problems and I never once understood or considered that it could lead to greater problems in the future or that once I fell down the rabbit hole coming out of it would be so much harder than the moment I fell down it. I feel like the years of my struggling were very much like Alice’s time in wonderland. My struggle brought chaos and challenges into my life I had never foreseen when I first decided to not eat and to listen to that voice. I made friends in treatment and unlikely places I would have never even dreamed of meeting and encountering in my life. It has been a wild ride and there has always been evil of this disease lurking near me, much like the cheshire cat and the queen of hearts taunted and tortured alice during her time down the rabbit hole. And just like Alice made it out of wonderland and conquered the evil she encountered, one day I will conquer this disease and make it out of this eating disorder centered life. 

Much like Alice’s struggle, an eating disorder is a one way road and you cannot ever get out of it the way you came into it, but you can however make it out, just like Alice did. It’s going to be a unique, difficult, testing and trying journey and unlike anything else you will ever go through but you will come out a different person with a new perspective on life. You will have a concern and care for things you never even imagined and your heart will be softened by those people you meet throughout the process. You won’t be afraid to conquer the demons and the challenges that lie before you and you will find your way out of the chaos one way or another. You will never be able to go back and undue what has been done or escape the rabbit hole the way you came into it, but when you look back on the journey you’ve had and who it has made you, you very well may not want to ever imagine what your life would have been like if you hadn’t made your way down the rabbit hole. 

I know that sounds crazy, but I know firsthand that I am so grateful for my fall down the rabbit hole and what has come from this horrible disease. I have passions for things I never thought I would ever even care about, I have friends from treatment I couldn’t ever imagine my life without and I have an appreciation for health and life I could never have without having almost lost both of those things forever. Yes, there are consequences that will always be with me, yes, my fresh start in treatment is going to be hard and I will face many scary things, and yes, life has sucked throughout this trip throughout the rabbit hole but the blessings I’ve received during the darkest times in my life outweigh all  of that. Sure the rabbit hole might be dark and full of things you may have never imagined, but it will grow you into a strong, beautiful, caring person others who never made it through the rabbit hole could only ever dream of becoming. 

Recovery… It’s a hike

Today, I had the opportunity to go on a lovely six mile hike with one of my dearest friends who has come back home for the next month! As we were hiking I was able to see a lot of parallels between the journey we were on and my own journey with recovery this far. 

At the start of the hike we were both so excited for the adventure that was about to begin and could not wait to start. As the hike started things were easy and almost felt too easy at times. Then as we continued along the fatigue starts to set in and the legs and muscles begin to ache, your chest is tight as you breathe and you begin to see nothing but difficult times ahead of you in the path. There are rocks everywhere and the path is so steep it seems almost impossible to keep going at times. But you continue on, stop to take a second to breathe and ask people who are coming down the trail how beautiful it is in the top, just to keep yourself motivated and then you continue on, knowing that soon enough you will be surrounded by beauty and will have conquered a mountain. As you reach the peak of the mountain you rejoice knowing your hard work has paid off and you can finally take a moment to rest, relax and take in all of the beauty that life has to offer. You’re relieved to be able to enjoy the moment and grateful for the challenging path that got you to where you are. Life is good and in that moment you are full of gratitude. 

I think the same timeline is true for recovery. In the start it can be a little too easy, there aren’t a lot of rules yet, the problems aren’t truly being dealt with and no one is being too too hard on you. But as the recovery and treatment process continue things become a little more difficult and the excitement for gaining your life back begins to fade. You find yourself fighting to breathe and to stay upright and the road ahead is filled with nothing but challenges and rocky times. But, with the support of your friends, family, team, etc. you continue on and keep fighting even though it seems like reaching the end will never happen. You begin to ask those who are more recovered what it is like and it sounds like a beautiful paradise and it motivates you to keep on going because what lies ahead is far more beautiful than the challenges you are currently facing. Eventually you reach the top, and while there is no finish line in recovery there is a plateau where the triggering moments become fewer and fewer, the relapses and slips begin to decrease and the freedom and love for life, food and yourself begins to take over. You find yourself grateful for the path you walked that got you to this pure bliss known as recovery and you acknowledge how strong the hike has made you. You are grateful for the body that has carried you this far and the strength that is held within it is one of your most treasured possessions. Life is good and while it will still be hard at times the hardest part of the hike is over and you can begin to enjoy life again, free of the continuous thoughts and actions that exist in relapses and slips. 

Recovery is a hike, but it is a damn well worth it hike and what lies at the peak is the greatest gift any of us who have fought this disease could ever ask for: freedom and there is nothing more beautiful than freedom, not even the gorgeous view I saw today. 

Why “Simple Not Easy”?

To some the name of this blog might not make any sense, but to me it is the perfect description of the recovery process. Recovery itself is a sequence of choices that are made in order to better your life, health, mind and body. These choices in and of themselves are incredible simple. These are choices like deciding to eat, deciding to not workout too much, deciding to go to appointments, follow a meal plan, do the recovery homework, etc. All of these choices have to side, you can either decide to follow through with the decision that is going to best support you in your recovery or you can decide to have a slip up and a potential relapse. The choice is always yours, even when it feels like it’s not…. To people who don’t have experience with recovery or an eating disorder, trust me when I say feeling like none of this is your choice is one of the most common feelings in the eating disorder world. 

Anyways, recovery like I said is a series of choices which is such a simple thing when you think about it. However, just because it is such a simple idea does not mean it is an easy process. Making those decisions is one of the hardest things in the world. You are constantly fighting a voice in your head that is telling you to stay sick and that doing everything that is good for recovery is something horrible and something you do not deserve to do. Every time I make one of those good simple choices I am instantly hit with overwhelming guilt and a sense that I make a horrible eating disordered person because I’m attempting recovery. It’s the most fucked up thinking around, but it makes sense when you have an eating disorder and it makes making these simple choices so incredibly hard. 

Similarly, letting go of a disorder that has been with you for a long time and all of the habits, patterns, thoughts, etc. that come along with it is an incredibly hard thing. Essentially you are recreating a new life for yourself and that is an incredibly scary and overwhelming idea and decision to make. The unknown is the biggest fear of the control obsessed eating disordered individual so why would we ever want to let go of our greatest comfort? It’s slowly killing us and putting our lives at risk every second of the day, yet the idea of letting go of it is so hard to bear that many people run from having to make the simple decisions and end up abandoning recovery altogether. 

For these reasons and so so many more recovery is not an easy process. It takes an incredibly strong person to fight through this battle and to come out victoriious on the other side. It is an incredibly long (life long) battle and it will be easier at times, but it will always be hard. But no matter how hard it may get at times, it will always be simple and it is comforting to know that it is not something that is so complex that it will never be achieved in this lifetime. Recovery, it’s simple and not easy, but then again nothing worth having in this life is ever achieved the easy way, but it is still achieved and for some reason I find great comfort and hope in that. 

The Toolbox

So I have toolbox…But what is inside???

So earlier I wrote about how everyone in recovery is like a construction worker with their toolbox however, I did not mention what exactly is in my toolbox. So for those who are interested here is the start of my toolbox and some things I may not yet have, but I believe to be essential to any recovery toolbox. 

The Essentials: 

1: A kick-ass treatment team - This could include anyone from your doctor, therapist, nutritionist, etc. 

For me this now includes an awesome locally owned integrative therapy center that incorporates yoga and body work into the process!  There I’m lucky enough to have a psychiatric NP, cranial sacral specialist, therapist (starting next week!), yoga instructors, eventually a nutritionist (no where near ready to have one of those again), and an incredible mamma bird who runs the place and affirms her love for each client. 

2: Friend and family support - The people with whom you spend your life with are some of the most essential people in the recovery process. They will have seen  you at your worst and will always desire to help you reach the best days of your life. They cheer you on when you feel alone and love you when you least deserve it.

I haven’t always felt the support of my family and friends, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I have incredible people in my life including my family, friends, and the most incredible group of sorority sisters around. While each person may not actively come out and say I support you, I know I have their love, support, and well wishes in my recovery and if I ever needed a shoulder to cry on, a friend to go grocery shopping with, or anything at all I could count on any one of these people to be there for me in whatever way they can. 

3: Hope - Hope is one of the most essential parts of recovery. Hope is what motivates and propels you to move forward in recovery and to believe that better things are coming even if things are hard right now. Even if you can’t have your own hope in the present moment, borrow the hope of the people in your life (number two is super important!) and use their hope until you are able to find your own and believe in it. 

4: Confidence - Okay, I know it’s funny to list confidence as an essential since most of us in recovery lack it but I’m not talking about physical confidence (that comes with time and recovery) but rather confidence in yourself that you can achieve great things in recovery. Similarly, you need to have confidence in your treatment team and in the process you are going through. If you have confidence you have a mighty key that will unlock many many great doors. 

5: Trust - It really is true what they say in alcoholics anonymous “It works if you work it” and “Trust the process” . These two quotes might seem cliche but they are two of the most vital tools to have in your toolbox. If you work the process of recovery then recovery is going to work and be successful for you. Similarly, if you are able to trust the process, your body, your team, and most importantly yourself then you will be unstoppable. Sure things may seem out of control, but that’s why trust is so incredible vital in this process. Embrace the change and trust that it will work out for the best. 

6: Reality Checks - Now I get that this is something that is hard to keep in your toolbox at all times, but, a good reality check every now and then is a great tool to have. Without people who are willing to be blunt, honest, and vulnerable with you about how you are doing and people who ask the hard, tough questions that force you to check yourself and face the truth head on, you will make it no where in this journey. How can you move forward successfully and honestly when you can’t even be honest and have a good look at the truth of your situation. 

7: Honesty - This goes with number six but ties into all of the other tools. You need to be honest. Honest about your disease, honest about your behaviors, how you feel, how your body is, etc. Honesty is the most important tool. If you can’t be honest then no real progress will ever come out of the process. 

I struggled during my first round in outpatient treatment to be honest. I couldn’t face the honest truth about some of the ugliest parts of my disorder and my behaviors. I was ashamed of the truth when there was truly no need to be ashamed of my struggles. I hid things and never allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest about what I needed and what I was doing. I held myself back from a great shot at recovery because I was too scared to tell 100% of the truth. This time around I’m not doing that, I’m being 100% honest and open no matter how hard it may be or how much it may hurt to work through. 

8: Relaxation Techniques - Recovery is one hell of a stressful process, therefore, it is important to have techniques that work to relax you and your body. This could be any hobby or activity you find to calm and soothe you. 

For me I love yoga, listening to music, watching some netflix, meditation, writing, my faith and so many many forms of exercise that are healthy and relaxing. Each one assists me in a certain way that none of the others do and each is so crucial in the process. If you don’t have any techniques that relax you, google some and start trying things out. That’s what I had to do at times and trust me it pays off when you feel calm and cool about life. 

9: Books - Recovery books are so incredibly inspiring and motivating, I cannot say enough about how much I love any sort of literature about eating disorders, recovery, affirmations, devotionals, etc. They are such a great tool to have because they encounter you in a way nothing else can, they speak to parts of your soul and inner self that no therapist, nutritionist, friend or family member ever could. They help you gain insight into your struggle through the struggles of others… I could go on on and will eventually get around to a separate section of this blog with my previously read and need to read books on eating disorders and recovery, but for now all I can say is get out and get some good books and read them! 

10: Faith - I’m not just talking about God or gods here, I’m talking about anything greater than yourself, the world, humanity, etc. It is different for everyone and so important to have. Once we are able to realize there is more to life than just ourselves, and our problems and we are able to put our faith into something bigger it takes a big weight off of our shoulders and allows us to be gentle with ourselves. When we allow ourselves to trust that there is something greater controlling our futures, fates, destinies, etc. then we are able to trust the process and trust that it will work if we work it. It doesn’t matter what each individual has faith in, it is irrelevant honestly, all that matters is that it gets your through the day and gives you hope for a brighter and better tomorrow!

For me my faith is placed directly into my personal faith. Trusting that God has bigger things planned for me than I have planned for myself gives me so hope for this process and for the future. I’m able to find so much in my faith that has helped me over the past few years and will continue to help me as I start fresh. A few of the most important things that have helped me are:

“No in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” 

“You are altogether beautiful my darling, within you there is no flaw” 

and “For I know the plans I have for you declared the LORD, plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” 

I could go on and on about these three verses from the Bible, especially the last one, but I won’t get into that. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that faith in something better and promises of a better tomorrow are so important and no matter what you trust in, trust that it will be giving you a bigger, and better tomorrow!

There are so many other things that could be found in the toolbox and I’m sure that with time I will add more and provide a section in this blog that is just my toolbox, but for now it is small and for now it is good. One day I won’t need each of these tools, but right now I do need them and they will only make me stronger and help me as I continue this journey called recovery. 

Construction and Recovery: A perfect little pair

I can see it now, you’re sitting at your computer screen or staring at your iphone thinking what the hell does construction have to do with recovery from an eating disorder so let me tell you how perfectly connected and intertwined these two things really are. 

As someone who is starting fresh with recovery I like to think of myself like an individual who is starting out their career as a construction worker. While construction may be drastically different than recovery from an eating disorder the worker and I both have something that we share in common; a toolbox. In order to even begin the process of starting and eventually completing a project a construction worker needs to have a toolbox filled with different resources and tools, I think the same is true for recovery. As I begin this process over again I need to be well equipped with tools before I even start this journey. 

From the start this is a process that can never be done alone or without a toolbox. Sure one person can do all of the work themselves, but the tools and sometimes other people are needed to support the individual. As the process continues you find that you have collected more and more tools and resources that help make the job a little bit easier. However, at the same time, you may find that you are able to let go of some of the tools you previously used because they no longer serve your purpose, thankfully though, these tools are always in the toolbox when you need to pull them out for the surprise bumps in the road. 

The same is quite true for recovery. It is a process that must be completed by one individual, however this one individual is never without their box of tools and hopefully other people and resources who help them as they begin to tackle new and difficult “projects” or tasks in recovery. As the individual begins to grow stronger and stronger their recovery continues they find that they have collected quite a few tools and that not all of them still serve the purpose they previously did. So the individual may choose to stop meeting with a practitioner, may let go of a book or an affirmation, but they never say goodbye to these things forever. Instead, they keep track of their former resources and know they can always access them when a new challenge arises in the future. 

Similarly, with time the individual can be viewed as a strong and powerful individual who is able to stand tall on their own and in their recovery.This individual is much like the final structure that was built by all of the construction workers. It is strong and it is beautiful but it did not get there on its own. Rather, it is the sum of all of its parts and would not be anything without the tools and the people who built it up and helped it become what it is today. Someone going through recovery may do the hard work on their own and inside of themselves but they are nothing without all of the tools and people who aided in their recovery. But, beautifully, just like a building, one day they are able to stand strong on their own, yet they can never deny all of the individual things that built their foundation and got them to where they are. 

I wish I could say I’m the strong building standing on its own, but right now I find myself to be something like that of an empty lot that has just had the construction workers and tools arrive on the site. I’m starting over with recovery, a new treatment team, a new treatment center, and a set of new (and  a couple of old) resources and tools. I like a construction site am a work in progress that is full of promise and that will one day rise up and stand strong and beautiful as its own building.