Ed and being close to others don’t mix well

It’s been kind of an odd past two days. My schedule has been flipped around which always bugs me. I didn’t have philosophy yesterday and that was nice but made the day seem longer somehow. After school I saw Jenny instead of today because she was subpoenaed. Then I obviously didn’t have therapy at my usually time today and I just got done with class. Usually, changes in schedule stress me out and in the past always left me clinging to Ed. I am trying my best to keep that from happening.

Jenny and I talked a lot about the homework she gave me. I had to read a poem about masks and then answer questions about my mask. We really got into some things I have always felt about myself and how damaging it can be. She’s also trying to encourage me to let more people in and see the real me. It’s really good that I am going to tell my high school girls because that is definitely opening up and being genuine. Beyond Kim and Rick, she wants more support for me. She wants me to either reach out to someone new or talk again to old support.

The best example of support/friendship that I’ve let dwindle is with my friend Dani. I probably haven’t reached out to her in a few months. She has always been support since the very beginning, but I started feeling like a burden and just stopped talking to her. It’s my own fault that we aren’t so close. I hate it but at the same time I don’t feel worthwhile so I don’t want to have her worry about me. I feel like a nuisance not a friend. Jenny really wants me to reach out to her again. I don’t know how I feel about that. I love her and would love talking to her again, but it seems hard. Jenny suggested kind of saying how I’m doing and that the reason why I haven’t talked to her is because Ed is so loud. She has recovered from an ED so I know she would get it. I don’t want to have to say those words though… Somehow it’s just a lousy excuse. It’s me who’s at fault because I could have and should have kept in contact with her anyways. I shouldn’t be so stupid.

The above is probably breaking Chaplain Roze’s “11th Commandment” – thy shall not beat thyselves up. I know it isn’t good to blame myself for all of this but I don’t feel comfortable blaming the eating disorder either.

I really enjoyed yesterday’s session but I don’t think I’m ready to follow through. I don’t know how. I just feel awkward and worthless and everything else so I don’t want to waste any more of Dani’s time. My friendship with Dani isn’t the only one I’ve let go. I have a few others and I can see that maybe anxiety/depression/Ed contributed to them falling apart. I hate that this terrible part of me had to do that. I have isolated so much. It’s sad really.

Overall I have such mixed emotions. I want to be close to others, but being close means being vulnerable and being vulnerable means sharing this part of me that brings so much shame. I don’t even know how to get close to people again because I’ve had a huge wall up for a really long time. I’m going to think about Jenny’s suggestion/challenge still. Maybe I could get the courage to text Dani this week.

I feel so full.

Today was amazing. I knew it would be good and fun but it was even better than expected. I am full of love and life and happiness.

We went apple picking with a group from our church and then came back and baked apple pies. Before all that, we had church, sunday school, and a luncheon.

The message today was really really good. It spoke to me because it was all about how God will bring you through battles that will ultimately make you stronger. My eating disorder is the hugest battle in my life right now and I am beginning to see how I can use my testimony and all of that pain I’ve gone through as something positive.

On that note, I took Kim aside because I wanted to touch base with her on telling the high school girls and how I could prepare. We had a really great talk. She is beyond supportive and understanding. I couldn’t ask for a better support outside of therapy and MH professionals. We decided to hod it off an extra week because she and a couple of girls won’t be there next week, but by doing that we will be making a much better time arrangement. The boys all will be paint-balling so we’ll have just girls meet up and talk then go to the park or coffee shop. I am going to talk some about my past before the ED and then really focus on my struggle and how my relationship with God has been affected. I have some great verses I’ve found about beauty and things that I’ll share too. I want to make them comfortable but also have them see me as who I really am: broken but made whole b God. I want them to ask questions or come to me for things they have going on too. I have no doubt that they will also be supportive as well. I was pretty nervous at first, but as I talk more with Kim and plan it out I am glad to be doing this. I am also thankful to have her there because I know it will still be hard to talk about. I am praying for the right words and that I can make some kind of impact on them.

I didn’t end up helping with sunday school today and instead prepared lunch with some other women. It was pretty fun and we joked around tons as always. Lunch was walking tacos and it was pretty doable. I freaked out a bit but in the end I ate. It definitely helped to have my middle school girls sitting at the table because I had huge motivation to eat right.

After lunch we finally headed to the orchard. The car rides there and back were a huge highlight. I sat by the sweetest little girl and two HS girls and showed them tons of chinchilla pictures. We also played around with some of the boys there. I don’t think there was more than a minute where we weren’t laughing. Apple picking was also great. We ended up with 12 bushes and ate tons of apples too.

Baking pies was so so fun too. I was on the mixing/filling pies table with some HS girls and we had a blast. I was really glad to spend time with them since I hadn’t too much before. We baked 110 apple pies and had lots of laughter, smiles, and stolen apple pieces as we “tested if they were edible.”

I don’t feel so alone anymore. I have my church family and they are the best people I could ever ask for. I was hugged no less than 20 times today from youth girls, an adorable one year old, Rick, Kim, and so many others. I am loved. They all believe I deserve to be happy. They all see so much worth in me. Many of them look up to me. It doesn’t matted what the ED voice tries to say because nothing can take away how any of them feel.

Best last minute decision in a long time

Usually when I don’t think through things to make a decision, I end up doing something negative. I’ll restrict or exercise or otherwise follow the Ed voice most of the time.

Today’s decision, on the other hand, was very positive. I chose to go to the Christian Fellowship Club with a friend after class. I LOVED it. It’s a small group and we’re the only girls, but it’s nice. Everyone else was so kind and I think it will be good for me to be spiritually challenged once a week. It’s spending time with people. It’s getting to be away from Ed.

I was able to eat lunch after our meeting. I had strength. I feel good today. I feel better than i have.

Usually i have a really hard time meeting new people. I’m always afraid of how badly they will think of me. These people didn’t see me the way I do though. They didn’t see someone who feels overweight. They didn’t see me as struggling and not put together. They saw me as a child of God. They saw me exactly how God sees me. I want to see myself that way. Our conversation was about our identity as Christians and it was exactly what I needed to hear. We are all God’s masterpieces. It doesn’t matter how broken I feel because God is going to use that brokenness to do His work.

I want to continue to strengthen my faith. I want to be able to see the real me. I want to lean on God and follow His plans for me. This is another way I am going to get to do that and I am excited. This year is going to be different from lat in the best way.

Ed is on a loudspeaker

The week so far has been… challenging. I don’t know why but Ed thoughts have been so overpowering. I can’t remember having thoughts this strong since before treatment. I have freaked out over gaining weight from water and restricted more. I don’t get why this is happening now. I wish it would go away.

Despite Ed being loud, I am trying to move forward as much as I can. Youth group on Sunday was hard because we had ice cream and donuts for a snack. Rick gave me the option to just stand off to the side or not have any but I did a small scoop and sat with my girls. I couldn’t have that chance of them watching what I do and follow my bad example. I handed out an article on Christian dating and also “Emily’s Dating Tips” during small group and they loved it. At the end of the night I decided I need to tell the girls about my struggle ASAP. We’re going apple picking next Sunday so this gives me two weeks to prepare. I am going to have Kim in there with me for support and also plan it out beforehand. I am so thankful to have her to talk to and I am praying for the right words to share this with the girls. I want there to be honesty between us and for them to be comfortable talking with me about things in their lives. I also hope to help prevent them from dealing with the struggles I have.

Yesterday I met with Paul for the first time in over two months. We talked a lot about getting more support. I know that home isn’t ever going to be a great support system for me. My parents just don’t understand eating disorders the way I need them to. I’m thinking maybe I could talk to Kim and Rick more about it when I’m struggling but I really haven’t decided anything concrete. I just feel stuck. Therapy today reiterated some of what Paul said and we discussed ways to try and tone down the ED thoughts. I want to try hard this next week to try to at least stop my slipping deeper into the ED. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I really don’t have that choice anyways with my parents and school but I can’t have that become reality.

I really want this heightened anxiety and depression and Ed thoughts to go away. I can’t do school and youth group and everything else if I keep slipping. I am at a point where I’m not functioning all that well anyways so I absolutely need to work hard to stop Ed. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t.

I love what I do

A month ago, I never could have imagined my life would change so much from being a youth leader. I have only done a handful of youth events, but every time I get closer to these kids and feel better about myself in the process.

Take yesterday’s overnight event, for example. It was a pretty emotional message and as the only female leader it was my job to talk with any girls who needed guidance. I was able to heavily impact one girl who has so much going on in her life. She spoke of tragedies and situations that make it hard to have faith in anything. She was angry at God. I connected with her on that and spoke briefly of my own experiences. I’ve always been nervous of praying for others but I was able to find the words she needed. Her outlook on life and God was different after because of me.

After talking with her, I also spoke with a few girls about friendships and other issues middle school girls tend to have. They all view me as a huge positive influence in their life. They don’t care if I’m not perfect. I have knowledge and love and compassion for them and I am always there to talk. When I told them these things they looked so grateful and it made me cry.

Struggling with an eating disorder makes it almost impossible to believe any part of you is good. I can’t remember a time when I thought positively about myself. In the few short weeks I’ve been helping with these groups, I feel useful. They need someone in their lives like me. I have a positive impact on them. I can help them. I am doing something so good. I have a purpose. I have a reason to recover.

In order for them to learn from me as much as I can, I want to share my story. Not the one that you see from the outside. But the truth that includes struggle and heartache as well as strength. I haven’t decided about telling the middle school about my eating disorder but I am absolutely certain I am sharing it with the high school girls. I talked with Kim (youth pastor’s wife) and she agrees. It’s a way for me to connect with them and help prevent even a few girls from having some of these issues I’ve dealt with. I also want to make them feel safe talking to me about any subject similar to that. I don’t want them to be alone like I was.

I really can’t stop smiling. I think this is going to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. I am lucky and blessed to be a youth leader. God is so good. He is going to use these things I’ve gone through to help others, I see it already.

Taking care of myself

This isn’t something I am good at, not at all.

Even before the eating disorder, I have never really liked myself or felt any reason to be nice to myself. It just didn’t make sense Why would I deserve good things if I wasn’t a good person?

Today, my view of myself really isn’t much better, however, I am trying my best to not do such harmful things. This goes way beyond eating right and not overexercising. I have to work hard to stop any negative thoughts because thinking this way takes me further into the black hole of mental illness that I am so desperately trying to climb out of.

It isn’t an easy task. At this moment, I honestly don’t want to do any good for myself or my body, so I’m listing some reminders of why I’m not as terrible as the voices are telling me:

  • I am a youth leader. The girls love me and I am helping them by being there.
  • I am good in school. I’m not perfect but I am good.
  • My friends tell me I have a big heart and that I am supportive. They wouldn’t lie to me.
  • Jenny says I am making progress. This is an amazing thing. I have worked too hard not to be happy with progress.
  • I have gained weight but this has brought me nothing but more happiness and light in my eyes.

I think I’m going to write out this list and add more to it so I can have it to look back on. I have to fill my mind with these positive truths and get rid of the evil lies Ed and the negative voices try to get me to believe.

What will you gain when you lose?

So many advertisements, celebrities, etc claim that simply by losing weight you will acquire confidence, beauty, attention, power, and more. While there may be a few “lucky” ones who are able to lose weight the healthy way and do gain those things, it isn’t always the case.

I was one of those who didn’t end up so lucky. Like millions of others around the world, I developed an eating disorder. What you will gain from these diseases is nothing like what everyone wants you to believe about weight loss.

Your confidence will cease to exist. You will grow to hate your body and yourself. You won’t feel worthy of food or love or anything good at all. You will get so good at brushing off compliments that you won’t have to even think about it. Every chance you get you will tear yourself down even more.

You definitely will get beautiful, if you consider dull and thinning hair, cracked nails, rotting teeth, huge dark circles under your eyes, fine hair all over your body, dry skin, and jutting bones pretty.

For those people who wanted more attention from weight loss, an eating disorder will help you get it. As you slowly waste away, you will grow accustomed to the worried looks of friends and family. Soon, all that will be on other’s minds is your eating habits and weight. All the loose clothing and excuses in the world won’t stop them from commenting.

At first, there is an illusion of gaining power a control through the eating disorder. You feel strong for denying hunger and exercising more than your body is meant to handle. Every time you listen to the eating disorder instead of your voice, the feeling grows stronger until eventually you don’t have any control at all.

A restrictive eating disorder may cause you to lose weight as you intended, but it will do so much more harm than good. Your body, mind, relationships, and future will suffer. Each day will be hell.

You will have to lie to anyone close to you. You will stay up late at night thinking of food and how to avoid it. You will become extremely isolated. You will always be cold no matter how warm it is. Every time you get up you will have to fight passing out. Sitting in a chair for more than five minutes will become impossible unless you don’t mind having your legs go to sleep. You will become extremely weak and will still force yourself to exercise. Concentrating on anything other than your eating disorder won’t happen, partly because the ED voice won’t let you and partly from malnutrition. You will get chest pains and wonder how much longer you can do this without your heart giving out. Depression and anxiety will be so high you might not care anyways.

Please, don’t let any internal or external pressure push you into an eating disorder. You are beyond incredible just the way you are. If you feel like yourself or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, get help as soon as possible. It is so important to fight against the disordered thoughts and behaviors early instead of getting deeper into it.

Some websites with information on eating disorders and their treatment:

Week Update

It’s been a pretty long week but I am feeling better. I’m not exactly sure why but I’m definitely happy about it. Good things that happened this week:
     – First high school and middle school youth groups went really well. I am loving that I am able yo do God’s work.
     – My meeting with Jenny went well. Her therapy style is amazing and I think she is great for me.
     – I ate lunch with Erin both days this week and it was fun talking to her about the future. I didn’t hesitate to finish my lunches 🙂
     – I figured out my top five transfer schools and major!!! I am going to major in nursing and possibly psychology too. Colleges I’m applying to are Wayne State University, University of Michigan, University of Kentucky, University of Pennsylvania, and Boston College. All of them are very good nursing schools and looking into them is so exciting! I actually have something to work towards and I feel positive!
     – My eating has been really good this week! I have been able to push through the thoughts for the most part. It feels easier now and I hope it keeps looking up. I want to leave Ed behind so I can live my life!

I am a youth leader and I have an eating disorder.

I *should* be doing my “homework” from my early college dean – rating transfer schools – but instead I feel compelled to write this post, as I’ve had tons of jumbled thoughts since yesterday.

Yesterday was my first day being a youth leader for our church. I am helping Sunday nights with high school and leading the girl’s small group, then Wednesday’s I’m part-time photographer and also being helper for the middle schoolers. I am beyond excited to see how I can change their lives and just how God will work through me. 

An unfortunate part of having the eating disorder is that my eating and body image and thoughts are not exactly healthy all the time. There will no doubt be countless times where food will be around during youth group. I never want to be a bad example in any way to those girls, especially when it comes to body image or eating habits. Knowing that this won’t always be easy to do, it became clear to me I would have to let the youth pastor Rick know about my anorexia.

I put it off for weeks because it’s so hard to tell people. Last night before youth group was time. I told him all of my worries for negatively affecting the girls. We talked tons about how this has been for me and he truly cared about what I’ve gone through. I knew he would be a good person to tell, but his response blew me away. He was extremely receptive and supportive and nonjudgmental. I teared up in his office. He wants to be there for me however he can, both in prayer and in person. He will be that person to pull me aside if I look like I’m struggling. He even brought up one day telling my story to the girls in high school as a testimony, and I actually love that idea. If I can help even one girl to not develop an eating disorder I consider that a huge success.

Towards the end of our talk he said something that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I had explained body image/self acceptance issues that go along with the ED and his response was, “I know you aren’t able to believe this right now and maybe you never fully will, but God does not make mistakes. You may feel broken and terrible, but He sees you as perfection. This disease or anything else will never change His love for you.”

It’s so hard to even consider that statement as truth. Liking myself or anyone, even God, loving me is such a radical belief compared to what Ed tells me. To him, I can never be good enough and perfection is impossible. In God’s eyes, however, I already am perfectly imperfect. Even as I type this now it’s astonishing. I really needed to hear that so badly because I get so caught up in Ed that I don’t take the time to even consider it.

Something I’ve noticed since telling first my college dean and then Rick about the ED is how it almost feels good. This terrible, shameful, embarrassing part of me I’ve hidden for so long is being exposed and while I do feel vulnerable and scared at first, soon after comes such relief. Rick and Erin love me and are there to help in any way they can. No one is forcing them to be supportive of me, they just are on their own doing. That is simply amazing. 

To anyone struggling with reaching out about your eating disorder or even other mental health issues, it is so freeing. Find that trusted adult or friend. I promise you it’s worth it.

Dear Ed,

Last night I did it. I wrote my second letter to Ed. I was crying the entire time (after a fight over my eating/exercise with my mom). It feels just as raw and powerful as the first one. I’ll post both of them.

The first one we were told to write as a breakup letter during my second week at PHP. I was at a very different place in recovery than any of the other girls, so mine wasn’t exactly a breakup but I was still really proud of it.

The second one, Jenny didn’t give me a format at all. She wanted me to read my last letter and write Ed again like I would write a note to a boyfriend or whatever. I really like how it came out.


Dear Ed,

     The time has come. You have been a part of me for way too long. You have promised me so many things: thinness, beauty, acceptance, worth, love; but you left out the fact that getting those through you is both impossible and self-destructive. 

     I am just beginning to see what you have really done to me. You have taken my zest for life.You have wreaked havoc on my body and mind. I have lost focus on the things that truly matter because all you let me think of is food and calories and exercise and being thin. I only have you to thank for my weight loss, but I’m starting to see that shrinking my body didn’t do me any good in all the areas you promised it would. 

     I have you to thank for all the bad. Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed. My once healthy hair has fallen out and become thin. I am constantly cold from all the fat you said needed to go. I have isolated myself because going to any social event would mean having to eat. I worry all who are close to me with my eating and appearance. I am so physically and mentally exhausted everyday that all I am able to do is please you. I have lost all ability to concentrate on anything else at all. You have taken over my entire life. I want to take it back.

     Maybe I don’t fully believe that recovery is possible for me right now. Even with so much uncertainty of what I need to do, I see that I need to change. I want to truly live again. If it’s even possible, I want to one day say I love myself and mean it. I want to be able to go through a day without worrying so much about food. I want to be able to accept people’s compliments and not automatically discredit them. I want to feel confident. I want to be happy. I want to have a healthier body. I want to look in the mirror and not be disgusted. I want to be free from you.

     I don’t think I will ever be 100% ready to let go of you, but despite that I am going to try. I don’t want to be stuck with you the rest of my life. I deserve to be free and recover. This isn’t goodbye yet because I am simply not ready. The day for goodbye will come, but until then I will try my best to push you away.

Emily

Written August 6th, 2014


Dear Ed, 

     It has been nearly a month since I last wrote you, and a lot has changed since then.

     You told me from the very beginning that Forest View was a terrible place and wouldn’t help. You are a liar. I have gained so many tools to use against you. I feel stronger. Of course, even now you point out I also had to gain weight. It’s hard to deal with but maybe not as hard as living with you. I have a LONG way to go, but FV has put me on that path.

     You have made my life hell since discharge. Every moment of every day is a constant battle. I want you out of my head now! I want to be able to focus on other things and not feel so terrible about myself. I want to get through a day without lying to my mom, throwing away food, calorie counting, overexercising, or any of the other behaviors you still make me do today.

     I know the last time I wrote I didn’t know if I could say goodbye yet. Today I still feel that way. Yes, I wish I could not care about food or weight or any of it, but at the same time it DOES feel good restricting and seeing myself lose weight. 

     I want to get rid of you. I want to be me. I want to think for myself. I want to not be depressed or anxious or withdrawn.  I want to be happy and you won’t allow that. Pack up your bags and prepare yourself, because soon you will be evicted from my life.

Emily

Written September 4, 2014


As I reread and compare the two letters, a glaring fact is that I have a long way to go. I don’t want to focus on that though. As Hannah taught us in PHP (a good story for another day, maybe I’ll do lessons a learned from PHP post soon), you have to work against that perfectionistic piece of your mind that says “you should be better and you should do xyz” and realize that while you may not be where you want to be you have made progress and you continue to make progress. So where I stand tonight is I have worked hard this past month. I can’t let go of Ed yet but the things I have learned and will continue to learn in therapy are helping me fight to be free again. I am not better yet and I am okay with admitting it because I realize how much work there is to be done.