(this will send you to an online application process)
Wednesday, October 11 2017
The Struggle Is Real- but It Can End
If you ask my husband what is one of the most memorable times that we disagreed when I was in the throes of my eating disorder he would say it was the time when we were discussing day-to-day struggles; his perception as a non-mental illness sufferer was MUCH different than mine.
We were having an argument over how stressed I was a simple daily task, and he said to me- “Gah, why does everything have to be a struggle, Brooke? Life really does not have to be this hard.” I got super offended, snapped back at him, “Every day IS a struggle; you’re just living in denial. Every day is a struggle.” Little did I know at the time that struggle was my truth, but it is not that way for all people. Even though there are struggles in life, people can actually live through day-to-day existence without struggling through every, even seemingly mundane, second.
People who are not mentally ill understand this truth; for those of us who are in the battle of our lives with ED, it does not seem possible. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed or eating breakfast can be utterly impossible. My experience was with anxiety and anorexia with purging tendencies; and with that daily battle, the struggle was REAL for me. The same goes for someone who suffers from binge eating disorder, bulimia, addiction, suicidal thoughts… the list goes on. Nothing seems easy when you brain is so full of chatter, static, and opposition that you cannot think clearly, much less grasp reality.
I could not do any normal task without the ED voice in my brain screaming loud as hell. When I would pick out my clothes in the morning my eating disorder voice would be berating me with put downs such as: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”… And then that same dialogue would repeat when I looked in the mirror to do my make-up or fix my hair. That would sound like: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”… And then it came time to eat breakfast… You get my point. The eating disorder voice was on repeat and on full volume almost 24/7. Even now in my recovery, when there are times of change or unknown, I can feel my brain slip back into the self-criticizing mode. Before, I would listen to the belittling; I would use a disordered behavior to numb out or unhealthily cope with the stress. Now, I recognize that ED is loud, I fact check with a loved one, and I use opposite action to fight the disordered part of my brain that needs to be shut down. It is simple, but not easy… yet it can be accomplished with practice, support, and time.
I realize now that my husband was correct… life does not have to always be a struggle. It is hard for someone who has never experienced the brain of someone who sufferers from mental illness to understand- and maybe we can be thankful for their inability to empathize… but the world needs to be informed so sympathy and help instead of isolation and judgment can be given to those who do struggle daily. For me, and millions of others in the world, mental illness and struggle ARE the reality; where I can agree with Derrick and also give hopes for those who endure this painful reality is, with time, treatment, support, possibly medication, the struggle CAN end. It CAN cease. It CAN get better. It just takes you, the sufferer, fighting to live free.
Keep up the fight, Warrior. The struggle can end.
Monday, September 25 2017
There is something I want to clarify with anyone who is unaware of what an eating disorder is and what an eating disorder isn’t.
First of all, anyone that suffers from an eating disorder wants you to know this:
We would never wish an this disease on ANY one… but it would be wonderful if the non-disordered eating population could understand a few key things- so with that goal in mind, let me get started…
What an Eating Disorder Isn’t and what and Eating Disorder Is:
Isn’t: An attempt to get attention from those around us
Is: A mental illness that is all consuming
Isn’t: An attempt to lose weight
Is: An innate fear of food that is secondary to a deep down hurt/trauma/ pain
Isn’t: Strong will power or lack of will power towards food
Is: A learned behavior over time that has become a way of numbing out any emotion
Isn’t: A glamorous act
Is: A traumatically terrifying way of living in a Hell on Earth on a daily basis
Isn’t: A disease that can only be determined by weight
Is: A disease of the mind that can come in any way, shape, or form- it does not discriminate
Isn’t: A selfish act
Is: A lack of self-worth
Isn’t: An easy fix
Is: A long road that takes time, money, professional support, possible medication and hospitalization and sheer grit and tenacity to overcome
Isn’t: A choice
Is: A disorder, a mental illness that is the combination of the phrase “nature loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”
Isn’t: Widely understood
Is: Made light of or praised because often society deems disordered behaviors as healthy
Isn’t: Understood by most medical professionals
Is: Often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to lack of knowledge and training on professionals’ behalf because it is a very subjective disease that there is no cookie cutter definition/test for
Isn’t: A thin, privileged, white girl problem
Is: Experienced through all sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds
Isn’t: “Just a phase” or “normal” or “no big deal”
Is: A disorder that without treatment can end in short term and long term physical and mental harm and in many cases, death.
Isn’t: Easily treated
Is: On average a 45+ days in very expensive, not all insurance covered, hospital stay… Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient Hospitalization, Years of therapy, and support groups to boot…
Isn’t: About food
Is: About control
Isn’t: An option to eat or not eat, run or not run, purge or not purge, etc. …
Is: Survival… every second in an eating disorder mind feels like survival with symptom usage as the only means to live
Isn’t: Living life to the fullest
Is: A living Hell for those who suffer and those who love the sufferer
For someone who has never suffered from disordered eating, and eating disorder, or mental illness, the solution may seem simple… but those of us who have been in or are in the trenches of an eating disorder know that simple does not always mean easy.
Ask questions, care relentlessly, and love unconditionally… And know that the Warrior that is fighting is the battle of a lifetime for their freedom.
Friday, September 15 2017
With all that I am,
And all that I hope,
I wish for your wellbeing,
In learning how to cope.
This world is not set up
For the ones who feel so deep,
But honor the beauty in the downfall
And don’t be afraid to take the leap.
It may seem like a spiral spinning
Out of control where you aren’t winning,
But rock bottom is the rescue,
And from there can be a new beginning.
Trust those who don’t promise perfection,
But the ones who lend protection,
Because they are the angels
Who will lead you without question.
Aim for free, indeed,
Strive to live life by your own creed,
And the outcome will be one day
That from your chains you will be freed.
Tuesday, September 05 2017
Voiceless-Thoughts in the Practice Room
I am back home in the beautiful mountains of Northern Pennsylvania for my final year of college, but I am well aware that I no longer belong. As I set down to the piano bench, and placed my vocal score in front of me, I could feel a shiver ascend up my spine. Once carrying an overage of 20-21 credits, I now begin to spiral if I creep over a mere sixteen. Yet- I realize I am human, and this new reality of recovery is okay. A young woman who once gained her lifetime highs from sustaining breath taking high notes in her favorite arias- I am lucky today if I can sing above a D5 on the staff because of the damage my eating disorder has caused to my voice. More-so, I will be even luckier if I am ever able to sing the way I once could. I am twenty one years old, and I face health threats to my esophagus that doctors typically see in the fifty year old alcoholic males they treat- but moreso the same health threats that cost me my ability to sing.
If I could speak to my younger self- there would be so many things that I long to tell her- but it does not matter since I know she would never have listened, anyways.
I write because I hope someone understands that I chased an eating disorder for the happiness I never got. Yet- that is exactly what eating disorders do. They rob you of everything you are. The very person you have aspirations to become is never who you will be as long as you cling to these false perceptions.
Samantha in her eating disorder would do anything to protect this false identity, and because of these sacrifices I am a college vocal performance major who may not be able to finish her degree program since I chose an eating disorder over my prospective career. I was warned, and I knew the repercussions of the disordered behaviors before, and during college… but Ed never listened. Ed thought he was more important. I am one and a half years divorced from my eating disorder, but it was too late by this point to reverse the damage done that would eventually cause the shadow of severe acid reflux has still cost me my vocal health, and singing voice. Yet I want you to keep reading because even though these things occur- I want you to recognize amidst these trials- there is beauty.
Humility is losing part of your singing range, and sitting in front of the piano with tears streaming down your face as you realize the permanent damage. When you realize that Ed has officially stolen from you the very thing that drove you to choose life.
I divorced my eating disorder to save my voice, and here I stand at a crossroad of vocal therapy fearing I may lose the battle.
But the thing is- I am more than this one thing. My voice inspired me to get to life, but Samantha is so many more things than a singer. She is a fighter, a warrior, a writer, a dreamer, a future therapist, a Daughter of the King- You are so many more things than your struggles, too. I write because we may fight, but these fights make us stronger people. Never let the world change the soft heart you possess. You are priceless.
One of my Pastors spoke a few months ago about how God will NEVER cause trials to happen in our lives… but we can always know, and believe that He will find a way to turn these adversities into the most beautiful peaks if we allow Him to take the reins. While I am unsure of the future, and perhaps you are too, I would encourage you to look at Psalm 23 because with God we can fear no evil for He is with us. Let His rod and staff be a comfort unto you in your trials, but also throughout the beautiful moments as well.
Perhaps you are at a fork in the road as well- be it school, family, or the woes of recovery, but I want you to know that you are a beautiful and incredible warrior who is fearfully and wonderfully made. Ed may have “stolen” from you… but life is yours the minute you CHOOSE to reclaim it. Life is mine. Life is ours. I will sing again- a song is whatever you make it. Make it beautiful.
Wednesday, August 23 2017
Are you in the beginning stages of an eating disorder? The question is blunt, but if any of you are like me, you may be browsing Manna's blog to get some sort of gauge or grip on where you really stand in the complicated world of ED. If you look on the internet or WebMD definition of and eating disorder, it probably involves BMI and cookie cutter symptoms that a person may or may not experience; however, the only true indicator of mentally ill and needing help is an individual’s state of mind and how much the disordered thoughts run one’s everyday life on a day-to-day basis.
Are you constantly worried about your weight? Are you obsessed with what you do or do not allow yourself to eat? Are you a prisoner to strict rules and regulations? Are your joyful times in life over shadowed by anxiety, fear, regret, and shame? If so- there is hope. No human being deserves to be plagued by the little voice in the back of his/her mind that states over and over again, “you are not good enough” because that voice lies.
If rules, regulations, regret, shame, and food rule your mind, there are a few tips that you can take into battle to help you win the war.
Do you ever look in the mirror and feel as though you have no idea what or who to believe about yourself, your body, or your health? Have you ever wondered, “why does my body need this food?” or “will I be changed from this one meal?” – I have. Still to this day I have a trusted friend and my husband to fact check with when the eating disorder voice is screaming so loud that I can’t hear my own thoughts.
True life example text exchange from my husband and myself:
When I cannot tell reality from ED, I solicit help. Fact checking with a person who knows my struggles and will answer in a pro-recovery manner gets my head back on the right track. Reach out to someone and fact-check when you need reassurance. It is a game changer.
2. Get to or Have to
When faced with a food, exercise, social, or any decision that can be hard to decipher through the eating disorder thoughts, ask yourself this question. Do I get to __________ or do I have to __________. This is a life-saving practice for me to stay in my wise mind.
Example dialogue that will ensue at a restaurant:
Me: I really want a salad.
Counter Me: Do you really want a salad, or do you want it because it is what ED is telling you it is a healthier option?
Me: Well, if I am honest, ED is kind-of loud….
Counter Me: Do you get to have the salad, or do you have to have the salad?
Me: The chicken sandwich really does sound good to me… I feel as though I am need more protein than the salad would offer.
Counter Me: Get the chicken sandwich.
Me: Thank you, I will.
Asking yourself this important question in ALL areas of your decision making in recovery will help you make the right choice to keep you on track. It takes practice, but my last tip will help you get there.
3. Opposite Action
This is one of the hardest, yet most effective ways to counter and conquer ED thoughts and fears in the battle for recovery… opposite action. There will be fears/hesitations that your eating disorder will stir up in you on a daily basis; you have to challenge that thought and take back control of your body and mind by doing the opposite action.
Let me give you an example:
The other morning I was tempted to run while I was on a walk. Running was my addiction when I was deep in my disorder, so it is a definite NO for me now in my recovery… Well, when I recognized this unhealthy want or need in my body movement, I stopped, acknowledged the ED thought of you should run, and I literally sat down on the curb. That small act of defiance to the ED voice helped my wise mind regain control so I could continue my walk in peace.
Other examples: When ED thoughts tell me to order wheat bread, I get white. When ED thoughts encourage me to do crunches, I journal instead of giving into the exercise demand. When ED thoughts tell me to judge my stomach, I rub it and give myself a compliment. When ED thoughts tell me to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil, I grab that liquid gold and veggie oil it up. When ED thoughts tell me “That is enough to eat”, I take one more bite. This practice has helped ground me in my wise mind and help cultivate a healthier relationship with myself, and I know it can help you, too.
In conclusion, if you are reading this, you either suffer from these debilitating thoughts or want to help someone who is… These three actions can truly jumpstart a person into being more aware of his/her wise mind and begin to diminish the ED thoughts that can weaken even the strongest person. Like all good things, this takes time, but what do you have to lose? Time will pass either way, you might as well learn to live fully present in the moment while you love yourself to the core- that is my hope for you, Fighter.
Friday, August 04 2017
I have always said that in disorder, sickness grows in the dark. Knowing that this is my experience and belief, when I am quite, my eating disorder is raging beneath the surface in the depths of my mind like a storm building on the horizon. I hear the rumble of you are not good enough in the back of my mind long before the full blown ED brain takes the reigns and commences control of my behaviors and actions. I am still in control when I hear that distant rumble, but if I don’t sound the alarm when it starts, the whirlwind of my disorder can sweep me off my feet before I even have a chance.
I have had this experience with my old weight rules recently, and as I need to sound the alarm on myself, maybe you can use a siren, as well.
When I was deep in my disorder, I had a weight that I could not and would not exceed. If I was getting close to this number on the scale, I would use disordered behaviors… ANY disordered behaviors to see that number get back down to a “safe range” (eye roll inserted) for my liking. Well, when I went to treatment, although I did not know how much I weighed, I had done my research with weight restoration, and I had an idea of end weight goal; and of course, it was well over the allotted amount of space I had always allowed myself to take up in this world… So, after months of fighting and griping, I allowed my weight rule to go up to what the doctors were saying would be the best chance of me being recovered…. But a new rule was silently put into place at this point. Sound familiar?
Although I knew I wanted to get better, my rules for my weight have silently still been in place. I maintained the new allotted weight requirement for a good six months into my recovery, and then I began to gain weight. I know this because I had to buy new clothes, my body was changing and developing, and I felt more energy and strength, as well. Nothing bad, nothing drastic, just new. And I am not sure about you, but new to me can be frightening. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a routine blood-work check-up… Although I did a blind weight check (when a person does not look at the number on the scale), when the sweet nurse handed me my paperwork summary of the visit, there it was. My weight in all its glory staring back at me on the paper in bold print. My heart sank. I was well over my post treatment weight rule. Well over.
This hit me hard. Super hard. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, I crumpled the paper, and shoved my feelings in the back burner of my mind to fester and smolder for months. Now, in full blown summer vacation/bikini mode, my insecurities are rearing their ugly heads. Instead of owing my body, I am feeling shame. Instead of enjoying the ocean view, I am checking to see if I have gained another roll. Instead of playing the waves with my kids, I am contemplating what others may think of me as they walk by. One word to describe those thoughts and feelings: miserable.
So as I sat in silence, my husband called me out, and we finally spoke of the dark place I had allowed my mind to wonder. We brainstormed reasons one cannot put a cap or limit on weight, and I would like to speak them to you and also to myself:
1. You are human, not man made.
Duh- it seems so simple, but why do we hold our animate beings to inanimate standards??? All living things fluctuate, grow, evolve, change… why would our weight not do the same? I was born six pounds… thank goodness I have grown since then!
2. Nature is on a constant cycle- so are you.
The moon goes though phases throughout the month, and I bet no one ever judges it. A flower blooms and wilts in its own time, not ours, yet we give it sympathy and grace. The cycle of nature is beyond human power, and our bodies are a part of that cycle. Enjoy each season as it comes. Our bodies are no different.
3. Every body is beautiful. Period.
Sitting on the beach, looking around, I saw all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages of human beings enjoying the day. I thought to myself, what a blessing to have so much diversity in this world. How boring would it be for us all to look perfect? And what is perfect, anyway? I know my perfect sure looked different than my husbands. No one way, shape, color, gender, ANYTHING is perfect, and the sooner we embrace that within ourselves, the sooner we will get to share our light with the world.
After further conversation, a little bit of reality check, and much needed letting go, I came to the conclusion. I need to love more and fear less. My body is not something to fear, it is something to embrace at every shape and stage. My body is not something to shame it is something to show gratitude towards and appreciation to. My body is not something to regulate, it is something that will be a vessel for me on this journey through life… and I better treat it well so that life can be one filled with joy, happiness, and health. Weight is irrelevant to joy. Weight is irrelevant to health. I need to start living those beliefs, not letting rules hold me back from joy. How about you?
Sunday, July 09 2017
What it means to accept truth…
I have to admit… lately I have struggled in the area of acceptance. Acceptance is not an easy thing for me to grasp, and there is good reason. While deep in my disorder for years and years, my perception of belief verse reality was extremely skewed. My wise mind told me one thing whilst my disordered mind begged me to see it differently. This was not only in the area of food, it seeped into all aspects of my life and it wrecked me for some time.
I dated a boy as a sophomore in college that was a beautiful soul. He was kind, loving, and smart. He cared for me like mad, and when summer came around and it was time to part ways, my ED brain planted false fears in my head that this meant abandonment… my belief: I was not good enough for him to stick around for. The reality: the sweet young man had to go home to work and make enough money to support his continuing education for the upcoming fall semester. I, of course, listened to my ED mind, left the sweet guy high and dry with not a clue of why I ran, and found the safest available man to fall back on. I have since apologized to this sweet, un-expecting guy, and I have further thought about that fear of abandonment and how my motto was always “hurt before him/her before he/she hurts you”.
This fear fueled my life. I ran away from commitment, from friendships, and from family from my teens into my 20’s due to this belief that I was not good enough for anyone… I just ran; I trusted no one. The reality: I could not trust myself.
Have you ever felt that way? I was the classic cliché of “It’s not you, it’s me” in all my relationships. I didn’t know myself so I could not fully give myself to anyone else because it was a false identity that they were getting to know. Back then, when a person liked me because I mountain biked, played guitar, or ran marathons I resented him/her because it really was not me they liked… I hated bike ramps, I sucked at guitar, and I certainly didn’t want to run marathons the rest of my life. I was a walking fake. But here is the kicker- it was easier to be liked for something I wasn’t than to be disliked for the person I actually was. The act was a protection mechanism that saved my true self from being exposed and hurt. I always compare it to this: singing Karaoke in a funny way with a group of friends after a few drinks… no big deal! If you asked me to go sing the most meaningful song to me as well as I could… FORGET IT! I am not exposing my true voice like that for ridicule and criticism. In my disorder, all my relationships were based on a lie. They were like the Taylor Swift states in her song Blank Space, “I’ll find out what you want, be that girl for a month.” I cried the first time I heard that song because it was not cute or funny… it was my life.
The truth? I had to take an hour long leisure test with a therapist at Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders because I was CLUELESS about what I actually liked! Since that day, I have given up conforming to please others, and I am happy to report I have found I love the following: Indie Pop music (ALL of it!), writing, cats, hiking, Flannery O’Connor, cooking, and my family. It is possible to weed out the disorder and figure out the reality of who you are. I am proof.
Oh my… reality verses belief on this subject could be a whole book in my life, but I will try to summarize my thoughts quickly. Belief: That there is good and bad food and what I eat defines the type of person I am. Reality: food is fuel. Period. Each food has a purpose and function in our body- brain fuel, muscle rebuilding, pleasure, energy… each food group/type can be placed in a functional group, and eaten in moderation, all can be so healthy and good for you both mentally and physically! Let me explain.
I use to place foods on a T-Chart of Good/Bad. The belief of my black and white thinking painted me into a corner in so many areas and levels of my life. Not healthy whatsoever. Whether my eating habits were healthy or not, my thinking and obsessive nature towards food and my fitness were breaking my heart down… literally. The reality: my heart was dying because of the rigidity, stress, and lack of nutrition I was forcing upon my body. Belief was what the world was praising me for; the reality was that I did not fit into what the world told me ALL people needed… shocker. Even though Fit Bits are the craze, owning one could be my downfall. Even though the Whole 30 and KETO swears it will bring all people health and happiness, the reality for me is that dieting in that manner would slowly lead to my death over time. Do you believe the government when they say everyone should vote for one candidate? Hell no. Why would we believe one doctor/friend/personal trainer that endorses that one “lifestyle change” or “fad diet”? Seems simple to me now in my wise mind, but I remember the ED brain buying every food/diet trend on the market. I only ate dry tuna and baked beans for 6 months straight… my brain was sick. Now, I listen to myself instead of the world… everything in moderation. Some of my favorites now: guacamole, BLT’s, pinot grigio, crab dip, fresh cherries, and pralines and cream ice cream! All of these would have been on my “bad” list pre treatment… but now they are on my “enjoy life” list. This is healthy for me. My husband knows that if I give any one of these up to call my therapist. Healthy is relative, and there is no bad food. That is my new reality.
What it means to be sick and need help for an eating disorder:
Belief: the only people who suffer from life threatening disease are women with a BMI if below 16.
Truth: ANYONE who CANNOT FUCTION PROPORLY IN SOCCIETY due to THOUGHTS, BEHAVIORS, or BELIEFS needs and DESERVES help.
Can you tell I am passionate about this last one? Let me explain why.
For 16 years, I researched, looked up, and tried to find ANY textbook/WebMD definition of an eating disorder that I fit into… I even was on a heart monitor for a month, where the doctor recorded my heart dropping into the 30’s regularly at night, and I was PRAISED for being a stellar athlete… Reality??? I was a 30-year-old teacher/mom of two that was waking up in the middle of the night to exercise just to “get my work out in” for the day. Athlete? Really? Although my BMI was in the normal range for my height and weight, I was dying. My heart was stopping. There is case after case of women and men just like me, normal weight or overweight even that die from eating disorder related complications because we do not “fit the mold” that society deems to be “sick”.
When will the world wake up? I almost died waiting to go to treatment because I refused to eat the month prior to going because I thought I would not fit in… I would be too big to need actual help. What a crock. It may be a blunt statement, but it needs to be said- we need to stop focusing on weight and focus on the brain. Weight is the belief. The brain is the reality. The people in the eating disorder community know this, but society glamorizes anorexia and disgraces binge eating. One is pitied and one is shamed. No one talked about bulimia, EDNS, chew and spit, laxatives, and any and all in between. The only common factor that they all share is that there are humans experiencing struggle on the other end of these diagnosis; human beings who need and deserve help. That is the reality.
C.S. Lewis once said, “There are far better things ahead than we have left behind”. Although these words are true, they can be hard to swallow when facing the daunting task of facing change, even if it is for the better. The belief- I would never be able to live without my eating disorder. The reality- I am actually living now that I have chosen to leave it behind. Now that I am living free, I get to know the true me. And that, warriors, is a gift that only I can give myself.
Wednesday, June 28 2017
As I was parking at the grocery store today, there were no spots up front, so I decided to park in the back near the buggy drop off- as a mom of littles, it is easier/safer that way. After I parked, I noticed a woman creeping down the aisle obviously looking for a front row spot. I got Anna Blue out, and the woman slowly passed by again, visibly frustrated. Then it was Graham’s turn, and we snagged a cart next to the car. AGAIN the woman came down the aisle and proceeded to honk at me when I was crossing in front of her to go into the store. She threw her hands up at me, said some words I would not want to repeat, and banged her fists on her wheel in sheer anger. Guess the parking lot fairy, as my mom says, was not being kind to her today. I waved, walked me and my children into the store and went on with our shopping. What is my point? Let me get to it…
That woman paced the parking lot at least 4 times looking for a front row spot. I went to an open spot in the back, parked, got my kids out, and walked in the store in the amount of time it took her to get good and mad and she STILL did not make any progress in her task at hand of shopping. You have seen this scenario play out in many different ways, shapes, and forms in your own experience, but did you stop to think about it in reference to recovery? There are no short cuts. If you try to cut corners in treatment, you will only prolong the process and end up frustrated and behind. Let’s look at two specifics.
When I first started to see a nutritionist about 8 months before I entered inpatient hospitalization I was put on a meal plan to attempt to help me balance out and bulk up my food intake. I was so skewed in my perception of what I was actually eating that I would log that I ate two servings of fruit when I actually only had half of one, and I would lie outright about my fats and carbs. When I would walk into the dietitian’s office I would look like gold on paper, but my weight was steadily dropping. Obviously, I am not the first client to do this, so after 6 months of me lying, cheating, and manipulating my meal plan, it was determined that I needed a higher level of care. I thought my team was delusional; I was not even thin in my mind, so I just stopped eating. As I was drug crying into the Carolina house (a residential eating disorder center) I still had opposing opinions about the meal plan that was put in place for me. I knew what was good for me, and that was not what I was there for; didn’t they get that?!? (Insert eye roll towards my disordered self here) I was flabbergasted by the portion size and thought they were truly trying to kill me. The dietitian finally took me aside after a few days of my protesting and griping, and she said, “Brooke, we are only following the plan your dietitian had in place in Atlanta. Didn’t you follow this before?” With my hands clinched in fists and tears in my eyes, I slammed my hands on the couch and said, “Hell no! I cheated like a mug! Why do you think I am here?!?!”
Do you see the comparison playing out? I was the lady searching for the front row space in the parking lot. If I had listened to my dietitian from the beginning, did the hard, diligent work of following a meal plan (along with the obvious therapy that I needed) I may have been able to park and go on into the store without making any detours. But, that was not in the cards for me. I didn’t want to put in the work. I wanted to cheat the system. I was not willing to change my ways short term to ultimately get better mentally and physically in the long run. I wasted so many years trying to cheat my way out of fully healing. Turns out, all that avoidance, stubbornness, and unwillingness to work only landed me deeper in my disorder. There are no escalators on the climb to recovery… only stairs. You cannot wait around for the elevator that does not even exist… you just have to hike up your boots and start climbing.
Phew, this is a tough subject. There are so many scenarios, hardships, hurdles, and circumstances that come along with this topic, but such is life. There is no such thing as a free lunch (pun intended), and recovery will never come free, both metaphorically and literally. Let’s discuss the literal in my journey- my husband and I are teachers, have great insurance, and get paid a decent monthly salary. We would be considered lower middle class, had (before my treatment) zero debt, and we follow the Dave Ramsey rules of “if you live like no one else today, you’ll live like no one else tomorrow.” Why am I giving you my personal financial business? Because when I was told that I would have to go to inpatient treatment to fight the disorder that was killing me, even though insurance would cover 70% of my medical needs, that still left us with a $27,000 bill that we did not have the money for and me out of work for 6 months without pay. Gulp. So what did we do? We made it happen. We applied for medical loan after medical loan until someone covered us. We maxed out our credit card. We sold whatever we could of value in our home. We cut the cable. My husband took extra jobs coaching and driving a bus. We grinded for the money because my life is worth more than the $27,000 it would take to get me the help I needed.
Honestly, my point is a little tougher to swallow. Nothing worth having comes easy. Because we did, and still are working to pay off that debt (we are down to $15,000 after 12 months of hard work! Whoo Hoo!), because it was not handed to me, to us, we do not take the weight and value of recovery lightly. It is all too easy to set up a go-fund me page and beg for someone to take the financial burden away from you, and there are cases where that is needed and that is the best option/blessing there is, but it also takes that I earned this aspect out of recovery. I had a colleague that placed her daughter in an anxiety/depression recovery program, and her sweet daughter asked to help pay for the cost by working and paying her mom back for the treatment. My friend said, “Brooke, there is no way I can allow her to do that. She is my daughter and I would do anything for her health and well-being!” My response was, “What if her taking responsibility for the financial part of her recovery will be the factor that makes her appreciate the hard work she is doing to live free from her demons that much more?” Get my point? It is like buying a kid a cell phone verses making them earn money to buy one on their own. Let’s be honest, the kid that worked for that phone will always be the kid that understands its worth. Recovery is no different.
Another point I want to throw out there is that it is always easier to help to someone who is working his/her damndest to make a way for his/her self. I have learned that first hand. We have had help along the way, but that help was never asked for, it was always given through God prompts on our loved one’s hearts after they saw our diligence, hard work, and dedication to work so honestly and hard for my health and freedom from ED. Derrick and I never stopped tithing or giving to others throughout our own struggle, and God provided tenfold for us. Even in months that we were going to be $1,200 in the hold solely from bills alone; somehow we always ended up with the exact amount of money that we needed to survive and provide for our family that month. This may seem like a cliché, sing-song pitch, but it is simply the law of attraction. What you put out there is what you get back; give and it shall be given to you. Don’t wait around feeling sorry for yourself or think it’s not worth it… I am not worth it… because you are. You are more than worth a free life, even if you have to work like hell for it. It pays off in the end… and I am proof of that.
My point… you can’t have a million dollar dream on minimum wage effort. Recovery will never be handed to you. It will never be the front row spot. It will never be the million dollar power ball. It will come from blood, sweat and tears. It will come from the long hours of extra and grueling work. It will come from the sacrifices, the faced fears, and the digging deep. But I can tell you this… the sooner you get to work, the sooner freedom comes. Waiting is just accepting where you are in misery instead of demanding a better life for yourself. Recovery is not a privilege, it earned. So get started. It is worth it, Fighter.
Sunday, June 18 2017
I attend 12 Stone church in Snellville, GA, and although today’s teaching was geared toward honoring Father’s Day, the valuable lesson that was brought forth was priceless to me in my search for inspiration to continue on my path of recovery, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
The sermon today was based on two concepts: working to provide for your kids is honorable, and making time for your kids is powerful. Replace kids with recovery and you have my new mantra. Think about it- recovery is one of the most needy, precious, priceless endeavors that you will ever face.
You have to provide for yourself in recovery.
Provide space to heal- I can honestly tell you that I have over and over again asked for, demanded, and taken the space needed to work on my recovery. Last year, it meant leaving my kids, my husband, my job, my life to honor myself enough to provide the help that I needed to get well. When I got home from treatment it was me asking my friends and family to provide me with time to heal and re-adjust to life without ED behaviors. And just recently, I have taken the space from social media and writing I needed to reflect on why I want, need, and embrace recovery even in the face of uncertainty that life always holds. Working to provide the time, space, attention, love for recovery is honorable, self-full, and truly necessary for long term healing.
Hebrews 8:1-2 says, “We have a high Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There He ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle.”
I can rest easy in honoring myself and my recovery because there is a God in heaven who honored me by giving His only son in a true act of unconditional love for all His children. I am one of those children… I am His. I matter. So do my strife and struggles. God cares even when it seems like the world does not. When I honor myself I am ultimately honoring Him because when I am at my best I am doing my best work for His kingdom. I once heard struggle on Earth compared to Jesus’ struggle… We do not go through hardship on Earth because God is vengeful or unfair.
Making time for my recovery is powerful.
Time is a tricky thing… it can be the source of joy but also pain; it can be a blessing but also a curse. It can wound, heal, scar, and replenish… but my favorite thing about time is that it passes no matter what. It is the one constant in this life; everything is temporary- the good, the bad, the joyful, and the mourning. Time is going to pass, so I have learned that instead of fighting it I can embrace it with grace and fervor that will aid in bringing me through pain and suffering and setting me up to bask in the joy that time can bring, too.
What does that mean for me? It means that instead of trying to avoid, rush through, or fast forward through pain, emotion, and tough times, I need to be present in the time at hand to fully honor my power and strength that God has given to me. The other day, when I was struggling with the feeling of imperfection in my body and the old anxiety that attaches itself to being full, I made myself sit in the moment in those feelings without rushing to get rid of them. I deserve to feel the power that I have cultivated in my recovery. Think of it like this: we all know the speed limit, but we have a choice to break it or to adhere to it. We all have the ability to know right verses wrong, healthy verses unhealthy, and recovery verses relapse- and all of these will look different for each individual in his/her experience; taking the time to recognize the difference in all of these spectrums takes courage. My pastor often says anything hard in life merely takes 30 seconds of courage. I use his tactic daily to face my fears, and I encourage you to do the same.
There is an age old saying of “people don’t change.” In a way, this statement is true. People alone will not change. With God, anything is possible. I am living proof. I went from an anxiety driven, self-hating, body and food obsessed, exercise addict to Brooke. I say Brooke because she is someone worth knowing. I am now not only a mile time, flat stomach, and a clean-eating lecturer that takes others down, but I am now a child of God who lifts others up. My value is in my heart, not my body. My mind is clear enough to connect and healthy enough to live free.
God raises the dead to new life. We all have challenges to face in this life, and if we go at them working to provide and make time to cultivate the best life possible, God will be there fighting alongside of us. What is your challenge? What is God calling you to provide for and spend time on? Where do you need to honor yourself and nurture your power?
One of my favorite quotes is by Ron Blue- he says, “The longer term your perspective, the better your decisions will be.” To have the bigger story, see the bigger picture. Recovery is my big picture, so I am providing the space and taking the time to honor that vision for my life.
Exodus 3:14, “I Am that I Am.” God is bigger than my struggle, and all I have to do is reach for him and he will meet me in my needs. His timing is perfect, but my timing is worth my efforts. Work to provide and make the time. It will bring you honor and power.
Thursday, June 08 2017
Well hello there! It has been a Mississippi minute since my last post! Elenore Roosevelt once said “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”; we as human beings love to romanticize the concept of distance because it beats admitting how hard it can be, but I think Ayn Rand was more correct in my case… she once was quoted saying “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” Through my recovery journey, I have been 100% candid about my recovery: the struggles, the triumphs, and all that fall in-between. I have not posted in a while for a few reasons, and I feel compelled to share them with you. Avoiding is my go-to protection mechanism, as Dr. Burnett so kindly reminded me of today, and I am done hiding what I have been going through, so bear with me!
Okay, so I guess I can do it the old fashioned way: Hi, my name is Brooke, and I have been struggling. Phew. That feels so freeing to admit. I feel better already. Shall I elaborate? I think so.
The last few months have been rough. I have had my safe haven of a home disrupted because of circumstances beyond my control, warmer weather has brought a whole new challenge with my growing body and need of new clothing, and the constant drone of “Mommy” due to summer break has prompted my wise mind to take a back seat to the ever persistent eating disorder voice that promises to fix everything. It has been rough. As I type this I am a bit teary because I think this may be the first time I am truly letting it sink in how tough it has been. Again- avoidance is my jam until reality catches up with me… and here I am being real. I have had to fight tooth and nail to say recovered the past two months.
Two weeks ago, I went to Starbucks to get a Frappuccino; as I was driving home, all I could hear was my ED mind telling me “I didn’t need that coffee treat. Why was I so weak to give into that craving? Brooke, you know what to do. You know how to get rid of it.” So, like my eating disorder brain wanted me to, I dutifully, reluctantly, yet desperately went running up the stairs as soon as I got home to the trusty bathroom. I paused. I looked at the toilet and thought about my choices. My ED mind was telling me to “get rid of it!!!”while also calculating the calories I consumed… but my wise mind was frantically reminding me of the past 16 years of suffering followed by the hardest 87 days of my life in treatment followed by a year of being free of behaviors…. Wow. Once I really compared the two as I was staring down at my crossroads the choice seemed so clear. I literally shook the ED thoughts out of my brain, said “NO” out loud and walked out of the bathroom and back into my messy life.
It was not an easy choice. I wanted to use a behavior so badly. I was there, alone, and no one would know, but I would know, and through recovery I have discovered that I matter. You see, I use to put all my worth, all my happiness into others. My body, my life circumstances, my abilities were my determiner of my worth. How fast I ran, how good I looked, how liked/loved/accepted I was by those around me… and guess what? Having those things at the forefront of my contentment was a disaster waiting to happen, always. Dr. Burnett often told me the only thing I can control is myself; that woman knows what she is talking about, believe me. I cannot control everything around me, I can only be settled and well with myself. I actually matter. You see, using a behavior in that moment of panic would not have changed the circumstances of my life; in all truth, it would have actually complicated it even more. Behaviors such as running, purging, binging, and any and all in-between are not solutions, only a mask for reality. Avoidance. Distance between me and a life of freedom. I am no longer willing to give up that freedom so easy. I have lived in it long enough now to understand its value… and a Starbucks Frappuccino is not the straw that will break this camel’s back, I can tell you that right now. But in all honestly, I can talk big now, but I almost allowed that delicious drink to be my first slip. Recovery is a choice, just as anything in life, and it is easy to make the wrong choice in a moment of weakness, not just for me in my battle with my eating disorder, but for everyone every day in this life. Can I get an Amen?
So, here is the deal. I struggle, but I am proud to say that I have taken time to process my struggle and choose the free life. The ED voice can be strong, but the skills I have learned through my treatment are stronger. I needed to do this without the accountability and pressure of social media to know that it was truly what I wanted, not just what I was promising to so many for acceptance and approval. Thank you for understanding my absence… but the reality it much sweeter when we share our hearts. I am grateful that I finally know the value of mine.
It is simple, but not always easy. Thank God for living free.