Intention assignment

It has been a crazy two weeks. I was pretty busy during spring break (treatment 2 days, recovery book club, trip to the butterfly exhibit/GR, movie, shopping x3). I also ended up with a sinus infection and lung infection of some sort. I got antibiotics called in Wednesday and then actually went to the doctor Friday (more on this soon) and added steroids. Also, Thursday I went to treatment even though I felt like I was half dead… I’m still on the mend from that but I feel a ton better. Now that I’m not so exhausted I’ll definitely be posting again 🙂

Yesterday I was at (basically) IOP. We had experiential group which has always been a favorite of mine. The focus was on intention. We went to the library and each chose our own little area to sit. There was an article to read and then an assignment with 4 questions to think about. I kinda loved it. I was able to get some good insight. I don’t often think of these things. Here are my responses, although I probably will expand on them at some point:

Who am I? I am a human being who has value and purpose in this world. I am a daughter, nursing student, writer, Christian, animal lover, and friend. I struggle greatly with my mental health, but I am not defined by it and I will not allow these struggles to hold me back. I am resilient. I have overcome many hard things. I am stubborn, which can be used in positive and negative ways. I am a dreamer. I have plans for my future. I can imagine a healthy and fulfilling future for myself. I am going to be a nurse. I cannot wait to combine my love of medicine and caring towards others into my career. I strive to help and support others, especially my friends. I try to see the best in others. I am learning more about myself every day and I know this is a lifelong journey. I believe in God and lean on Him because I cannot do this on my own. I am a survivor. I will not let my past hold me back.

What do I want? I want freedom. I am held back by my struggles now. I don’t want this to define my life anymore. I want to explore my passions fully. I want a family one day. I want to be a wife and a mother. I want to be the best nurse possible. I want to be an inspiration to others. I want to rescue animals.

How can I serve? I will be a light others who have similar stories of struggle as I have, and I want to be able to show them that things get better. I will give them support and be someone to lean on. I will be an advocate for mental health and EDs. I will fight to decrease stigma and encourage others to seek out help. I will share my story. I will care for my patients and provide them with the best possible care. I will help to save and foster animals. I will use my voice to fight for causes I believe in. I will be Jesus’ hands and feet. I will strive to show empathy and compassion towards everyone I come across.

What does the universe want from me? What is my purpose/God’s plan? To be authentic and honest, so I can encourage others to do the same. Using my story as a testimony. Fulfilling my vocation of nursing to the best of my ability. Raise my future children to be the best little people possible.

A note: in being authentic, this is exactly how I wrote and isn’t the most grammatically correct/best word choices ever

NEDA Walk Ann Arbor

My mom and I will be attending a NEDA Walk in April. I am beyond excited to participate this year, it’s been on my bucket list for a long while now! I know it will be a fun day and awesome opportunity to get together with others in recovery/raising awareness, but that’s not why I’m walking.

NEDA walks raise money for the National Eating Disorder Association. The funds will support individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Some programs and services offered by NEDA include an online screening tool, support groups, legislation advocacy, research grants, connecting sufferers to treatment options, and funding initiatives to prevent eating disorders.

As you may already know, I am one of the 30 million Americans who will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime. I have spent years in this battle. It’s affected every area of my life – friends, family, school, passions, and overall well-being. It’s been a long journey, but thanks to some amazing support and treatment programs, I am still fighting strong. My hope is that I will be able to help others like me in pursuing recovery and spread awareness about eating disorders.

I am walking for myself and everyone else who has struggled or will struggle with an eating disorder. I hope that through the contributions I can make I will be able to impact others.

I hesitated whether to ask for donations here on my blog, but I’ve decided I would, since this is why I’m walking. If you are willing and able to donate, please let me know. I won’t be posting the link publicly but I’ll send it to anyone who asks via my email revivingemily@gmail.com

Thank you!

For information about NEDA, NEDA walks, eating disorders, and more, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Halfway there!

The semester is officially half over and I’m on spring break! It’s crazy how long/fast the past 6 weeks in pediatrics were. I’m thankful for every second (okay, maybe not the stress) and it is by far my favorite placement in nursing so far.

I remember back to my first surgery, in 2009 when I was 14. I was naturally pretty terrified and uncertain about the decision. I’d never stayed in the hospital or had surgery before, and here I was about to have a major operation with 3 nights there. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. The staff was all amazing, especially my nurses. I have the fondest memories of how kind and helpful they were. Other than the whole pain thing, I enjoyed my stay. I vowed then that I would one day work in the medical field, but specifically at Devos. While my mind has changed a thousand times since then, I’ve now come to that same conclusion. I would love nothing more than to work in pediatrics (hopefully NICU!) in the very hospital that changed my life.

I’ll admit, I’ve cried more than a couple of times during this first half of the semester. I dealt with a ton of frustration, anxiety, some panic, stress, and exhaustion. There were late nights and some missed assignments. I made plenty of mistakes (which only added to my frustration). I lacked motivation at times. Despite everything, I ended Tuesday in the happiest of tears. I did it! I’m content with my grades overall and I feel like I put in as much as I could, considering my #1 job right now is recovery. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, so I am trying to be proud of the accomplishment.

I am beyond grateful for peds rotation as a whole, my professors, the off unit experiences I had, and the floor nurses and patients. These 6 weeks confirmed a thousand times over how much nursing is my calling. Nursing school is tough. I’ve wanted to give up, but the interactions with patients and glimpses of the future I’ll have makes it all worthwhile.

After break, it’s OB time, and I’m getting pumped for that too! It’ll be weird to work with adults again, but I’m excited for the opportunity to witness birth and see more babies, of course. I already can tell I will like this area as well. Still, I think peds will hold my heart 🙂

If only…

I wasn’t born anxious. My cousin never lived with us. I loved myself. No one teased me growing up. My aunt didn’t constantly call me “skinny minnie.” I never self-harmed. I didn’t have pectus excavatum or the Nuss procedure to correct it. The media was less focused on the thin ideal. I started therapy years earlier. Someone noticed that there was something very, very wrong. My depression didn’t exist. I had more self-confidence and higher self-esteem. My family didn’t have a history of mental illness. I never had GI issues and lost weight because of it. No one told me that my chest was weird or that I have the body of a gymnast. My family was different. I had more support. I didn’t push myself so hard in everything. I leaned more on my faith. I never dated my ex. I opened up more.  I lived in a different school district. I had more friends. I cared a little more about my own well-being. I had better body image. I wasn’t a major perfectionist. I never signed up for early college. I reached out to someone, anyone.

These things didn’t happen, because then, maybe I wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder.

For a long time, I wanted an answer, a cause. I longed to have this “aha” moment in therapy so I could finally make some sense out of it.

I’ve realized that eating disorders don’t have just one cause. My anorexia makes sense. Because I didn’t love myself, I had no problem harming myself. Perfectionism fed into the need to count every single calorie. I had no healthy coping skills, so using ED behaviors instead was much easier than dealing with emotions and stressors.

When my brain had all of these things coming at it, the response was to turn to food, exercise, restriction, and numbers. Someone else in the same situation may have gone down the path of addiction, or maybe they would have come through just fine.

I’ve often asked why – why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I be strong enough to deal with everything? Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I get over this? Why am I so messed up?

I no longer ask these questions, and part of this is because I’ve begun to accept my eating disorder. It happened. I struggle. I can grow through it. There is nothing I could have done differently. It’s okay that I didn’t take more positive steps. I am not a failure because I got sick. This doesn’t need to be the most important, defining aspect of who I am. I will win. I am strong enough to do it.

Boycott the Before – Why transformation posts aren’t all that helpful

We are accustomed to seeing before and after photos – in weight loss commercials, on personal Facebook/Instagram posts, and pages advertising the next miracle drug/diet/magic fat-shrinking wrap. Most of these involve a before body that is “less desirable” in many ways (“fatter,” less fit, larger, etc) juxtaposed to the “better” body picture in which the person is always smiling. This is so common in the media that it’s easy to glance over and not realize what effects it may have on us. While I could go on about this more, I am instead focusing on a different sort of body comparison: before and after eating disorder recovery posts. This is especially important to talk about considering the numerous posts I’ve seen during NEDA week.

Full disclosure, I was one of these people a few years back. I felt that if I could post a picture of my lowest weight and where I was then it would prove my recovery and validate my struggle. I now realize this isn’t the case, and I would like to encourage others to reconsider the perceived benefits that come from these posts.

I do not feel adding in examples will do good for anyone, so I will instead describe the typical images you may come across. On the left is typically a clearly malnourished and emaciated person, sometimes one who looks more like a skeleton than a human being. The right will show the same person but with added pounds and a “normal weight.” There will be smiles, much like with the weight-loss versions, and a caption that explains their recovery and how much better they feel at the new weight.

I am in no way trying to bash those who make posts like these (remember, I did this too!), just give a little insight on why I believe they can be harmful. A quick rundown on how this can be problematic:

  1. Promotes the belief that eating disorders and recovery are both defined by weight. I have run into this countless times before. Many people are not very well informed on eating disorders in general. There are many myths about the correlation between BMI/weight and how they relate to eating disorders. One is that you need to be underweight to suffer from an eating disorder. Considering just one eating disorder diagnosis has a weight requirement, this simply isn’t the case. Naturally, this thinking leads to weight restoration being proof of recovery. If you’ve gained back the weight, you must be cured! Personally, I have struggled at a pretty large range of sizes/weights. My sickest period in thoughts, behaviors, and overall state of mind weren’t at my smallest. I actually haven’t been underweight for a majority of my eating disorder. You simply cannot judge how well someone with an ED is doing by looking at how their body has changed.
  2. Comparison, comparison, comparison. If there’s one thing eating disorders are great at, it’s comparing in nearly everything. The before and afters open up additional dialogue for the ED to run with. Was I smaller than them? Why did I have to gain so much more? Who is the sickest? The answers to these questions may lead thoughts into a pretty dangerous situation.
  3. Too much focus on the physical side of these mental disorders. Quite obviously, changing eating habits, exercise, and use of behaviors all tend to have an effect on the body. Often times this is a visible marker for the eating disorder. While it must be noted that this is the case, adding more emphasis is not helpful. Having “sick v recovered” photos out there magnifies the outward signs of EDs, while we should be focusing on psychological warfare that those struggling experience. This reduces a multifaceted illness to a superficial view.
  4. The before as a goal instead of a cautionary tale. Some viewing these images will flip the entire meaning of them around. They will idolize the “before” as something to work towards. The hopes of a smaller body become possible, as long as they follow disordered eating and mirror the opposite of how the transformation occurred.

There is a movement that I absolutely love and support called Boycott the Before. This week, #BoycottTheBefore, is meant to change what eating disordered recovery is seen as: a mental change, not just the physical one (that may or may not be present!). I love that their aim isn’t to shame anyone who posts transformation photos, but simply educate how they don’t show the full picture. (Side note: I really support and have posted a transformation that was just of my face before and after recovery because you could tell I was miserable based on my expression, bags under my eyes, etc.) I think it’s so important to emphasize all aspects of eating disorder recovery. The mental and emotional healing that takes place is for the most part way more important than the physical side of things.

If you are in recovery, I challenge you to consider posting something this week to show that there is so much more to recovery than weight!

Here’s mine:

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The first time I started treatment and recovery, I remember thinking that if I just gained back some weight and no longer “looked sick” I would be recovered. I was so wrong. I haven’t been at or near my lowest weight since the very beginning of my eating disorder (5ish yrs ago), but since then I’ve seen way more struggle. I have been a walking, talking eating disorder with no real Emily present. Yes, my journey from sick to healthy, and relapse to recovery many times has included some weight gain. That part truly doesn’t matter, though. What’s the most important are the mental and emotional changes I’ve gone through. I am way more than the physical part of my transformation. 
I’m so happy to be a part of the #BoycottTheBefore movement. The goal here is to focus on where you are in recovery and the triumphs you’ve had without posting a before/after transformation photo. It’s not that those are wrong to post, but more so the importance of opening up a conversation about ALL aspects of recovery. 
I go into some more detail about this in a post on my blog too. {Link in bio}
I hope that by sharing a little bit of my story and thoughts I can promote awareness about and the truth behind eating disorders. #edrecovery #edawareness