Giving Thanks – Nov 7&8

I have had a busy few days so this one is combined for yesterday and Monday

Today I am thankful for: YOGA.

When I tried out yoga for the first time in high school, I didn’t really get much out of it. I’m not quite sure why, maybe the fact that it was in a gross work out room, the videos were terrible, or I couldn’t accept it as something that made me appreciate my body. Regardless, I took a 2 year break. I rediscovered yoga the fall of my senior year and haven’t looked back since.

The past 3 years, my practice has changed my view of myself and my body. I feel strong and empowered. Pulling out my mat is the second best way to calm my anxiety/emotions (first is spending time with God).

In my eating disorder, yoga has taught me to appreciate my body. I can love my body for all of the difficult practices and poses I am able to do. This has been the best form of movement for me because it is not about burning calories. Ever since residential, however, going back on the mat has been hard. My body is different from it once was: larger in size, stretch marks, cellulose, weight gain. Entering into a practice meant having to face many of these things. It is almost impossible not to notice the changes when you’re being so mindful during yoga.

I spent months avoiding something I had once loved so dearly. Thankfully, I am finally coming out of my slump now. Yoga has once again become something I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. My day has been long, stressful, and just plain sad. ED thoughts were loud as well. My best decision was getting out my mat and going through a 45 minute video. My outlook changed immediately and I could breathe again.

I’ve worked hard to get back here. I now can cherish and appreciate every moment on my mat because of my journey.


 

Today I am thankful for: SOVEREIGNTY. 

It’s election day. A majority of our country is so focused on voting and election results, as if what happens could be so catastrophic that the entire world would end. I completely get this. The president is seen as someone who holds all of the power in our country. Not only that, but the US is judged by the world based on who our leader is. This year is particularly nerve-wracking as the prospect of both candidates seems so bleak. A lot seems to be riding on the decisions we the people will make.

While I certainly do have fears if one candidate is elected, I am not making it my number one concern. He or she will have their four year run. They’ll make mistakes, get our country into trouble, develop bad policies, stand for values many of us can’t agree with, and promote an image to the public that is harmful.

No matter what, there is only one ruler who truly matters: God. We can clearly define and set limits as to what the president can do. While he or she can serve as a figurehead, influence the people in our nation, and pass laws, they will never be able to single-handedly control every American or overtake the entire world. God, on the other hand, is limitless.

I love the way Theopedia has explained sovereignty:

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto(in practice).

We should take comfort in this. God is God. He doesn’t get taken aback by anything that happens. As Christians, we need to take this lens of who God is and apply it to the most pressing item on every American’s mind: this election.

Regardless of the results, at least half of the American people will be in disarray tomorrow. It’s a hard reality to face when the person you so badly believed was bad for this country ends up the next president.

We can wake up, accept what has happened, and turn back to God. Our country needs prayer. It needs us to step up and be His hands and feet.

 

Whatever the results of this election are, we can rest in the truth that the King of Kings is above the man or woman who is set to rule our country for the next 4 years.

 

Giving Thanks – Nov 6

Today I am thankful for: SAFETY

I take this for granted constantly. I focus on all of the “stuff” that happens, good or bad. There is more to live than just that.

God protects me from all types of harm. A sampling of safety blessings from today: driving back to Calvin safely, protecting me from ED thoughts, allowing my EDS to be mild enough to function, having no war going on, not dying fro my ED or anything else. When written out, the safety and security from God is so very important and prominent in my life.

I need my savior in order to feel protected. Without Him I am alone in this world. No one would be there to catch me when I fall. I trust him to the best of my availability because I know He will do what’s best for me.

When you look at the big picture it’s clear to see the blessings in life. God loves me. He wants me to be here and thrive each day.You aren’t alone or forgotten about either. He will wrap us in His arms and fight our battles as we also do. Remember that, I will too.

Life After Residential – 6 months out (!?!?!?)

Holy cow. 6 whole months since I signed papers, hugged the staff and friends, and stepped on a plane to enter back into the real world. It feels like just yesterday and a million years ago. There isn’t a moment where I’m not thankful for all I learned during my time at CFD, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Realizations in the past sis months:

Motivation for recovery lessens when things start to get hard after the “honeymoon phase.” Much like the spiritual high you receive coming back from church camp, the recovery high after residential fades away. Real life doesn’t come with 24/7 support, a ban on any diet/food/calories/exercise talk, distracting table games, lack of mirrors, others who 100% understand you, and therapy every single day. Without the extra push to recover it has been hard to keep at it. I start shifting toward using exercise to cope and believing a little restriction is okay. Thankfully I’ve now learned to keep motivation up by focusing on my goals and doing recovery for me.

I can get out of a relapse. I feel stronger than ever since beating my first relapse. Seeing my weight was a huge trigger, one that could have sent me into a deep pit I couldn’t get out of. Fortunately, I found my strength in myself through Him. I deserve recovery and I have so much life ahead of me. I don’t need to turn to my eating disorder to deal with things. I can fight urges. In previous relapses, I never wanted to or thought I would be able to fight. There was an entire year spent on the edge of being forced into treatment, FV round 2, and residential. I was sick and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. A huge factor now is knowing what recovery is like: freedom, joy, truly living, despite struggles.

I am capable on my own. I have relied on therapists, dietitians, friends and mentors, the entirety of treatment staff. While that was absolutely needed during residential and as I transitioned back to life on the outside, it isn’t at all realistic or healthy long-term. At some point I had to take control and responsibility for myself. I can’t have therapy everyday. Sometimes I have gone two weeks. Sure I have had days where I needed someone to rescue me, and then I did get support from others. As time has gone on that hasn’t been the case. I journal, manage my emotions in a healthy way, fight urges, talk to friends about anything but my eating disorder. Heck, today in therapy we didn’t focus solely on the ED and I was able to work through anxieties and other things. I really can’t explain how amazing and empowering it feels being able to stay healthy mostly on my own.

I can share about my eating disorder in a way that isn’t a sad story that I feel is burdening others. Before, I told others about my ED and MH issues out of necessity. I needed support and for people to avoid diet talk. Some relationships were built and consumed by my sickness. I felt guilty for sharing my story because I was broken. I haven’t actually told anyone new in person about this yet, but I am planning that very soon. I’ve prayed about it, and I am going to tell my favorite from work. She has noticed the difference in me now and I want to let her in. I feel such joy about all I have accomplished. Why wouldn’t I want to share openly how I have become resilient through God’s strength? Instead of “look what I am going through” it is “look at what I’ve conquered that’s made me into the person I am today.” I am blessed by this change.

There is no perfection in recovery; I am a work in progress. This is kind of cliché but also true. I have had countless slip ups, even in the past two months coming back from my relapse. Just like my self harm recovery, I have days where I follow urges and compulsively exercise/restrict. These things are normal. I can’t expect myself to be completely recovery-minded 110% of the time nor allow others expectations to affect me negatively. I have learned to forgive and accept my failures in the same way I celebrate my successes. It isn’t a linear process in the slightest.

I am different from the girl who left treatment 6 months ago. (Not talking about my body here). My dreams have multiplied as I realize how much more I am capable of now. I am working very hard to not let food be the main focus in my life. Sure, I probably think about it more often than the average person, but it in’t anywhere near when I first left treatment. Until a month or so ago I was still counting exchanges and being rigid in my diet.I have conquered many fears since coming home. Some examples: being able to eat a healthy amount around basically everyone without struggling (much), trying former fear foods, openness about my story, looking at my body in the mirror. I feel so much joy. I never expected or dreamed of this. I wake up happy, enjoy my job, talk with people, find happiness everyday. I definitely had more a more positive mood coming out of resi but not like this. I have grown in self-love exponentially. Overall, I have been able to discover who I really am along this journey (not what the ED made me).

He makes recovery possible. I have struggled in my relationship with God, especially during my darkest points in my eating disorder. I felt abandoned and unworthy of His love. I am just now seeing how wrong I was. He has been there since Day 1. My faith and relationship with the Father is my number one now, not my ED. It is such a blessing.

It’s crazy to think of all the progress these 6 months have brought. I learned how to deal with everything in a healthy way and without relying on the ED in residential; however, this time has been applying those things. Each day I continue on my recovery journey which all began at a house in San Diego.

The Future…

Ever since I’ve become stronger in my recovery and feel the need to live, I have thought more and more about the future. I have goals and dreams I never thought possible. Nearly every plan would be squashed by the eating disorder before. I honestly didn’t have many things I am meant to do that I felt I would be able to accomplish. I no longer need to plan everything around my eating disorder, but can reach for all life has to offer me.

I have had strong prompting about the future. God is directing me down paths I could never imagine. I have and will continue to pray over these things, of course, but I hope to listen to them all as I move forward. Some are rather scary and seem very overwhelming now. Many instances I’ve opened my heart to things that were once a “no way.” I trust that God will make a way and calm my fears. Hopes/dreams/promptings lately:

  • I want to get married. Ever since being so mistreated by my ex-boyfriend of 3.5 years I vowed to never marry. It didn’t seem right for me and the fear that I was unlovable and would only be abused paralyzed me. Suddenly I realized I really DO want a life partner and best friend. I truly don’t want to be a single mom and not be able to give my children the attention they deserve. I was planning on that because I want children more than anything and would do it alone. God has opened my heart to marriage and love, partly through a conversation with a friend at work. I trust that I will find a Godly man who will be exactly what I believed I never deserved.
  • I am going to York. Last April, I discovered a study abroad program to York, England through my school. It is held during spring semester. I had been very disappointed in myself with being held back one more year until nursing when I found the opportunity. Immediately I knew this was why I didn’t fast track to start nursing classes. I will probably write another post on it soon, but for now I’ll just end with how blessed I am. I would never be able to do this without the grace of God and recovery.
  • I will write a book (maybe 2 or 3, who knows!). I have a love for writing. My first story, and not the picture book kind, was written in 5th grade. Since then I have had countless ideas turn into drafts turn into chapters. Blogging has also been a way to write in the everyday sense v working on one thing for months. I’m not sure what type of book I will create, but I’m thinking either a spin on the memoir format, fiction based on what I have gone through, maybe even some sort of devotional. Either way I know that whatever I write will be exactly what I need to.
  • Adoption. Joni and Friends was going on at work for the last 2 weeks. The camp brings together those with special needs (physical, mental, emotional, etc) and their families. I have had some thoughts about adoption, and specifically special needs adoption for around two years. I read about an organization that helps place these children from other countries with families. I was horrified and so saddened by the way they are treated simply for having a disability, but that was it. Adoption has been more on my mind in general lately. I believe that God used Joni and Friends to show me that adoption doesn’t have to be for a perfect, healthy baby. These parents that I’ve seen are so strong and do everything for their children. The kids, no matter how “imperfect” or “unwanted” by society’s standards are loved, happy, and thriving. I saw plenty of the hard times too, of course, but regardless it has changed me. I’ve had recurrent dreams about my future daughter, a little girl who happens to have Down syndrome. I realize that is only a dream and reality may be much different and there are so many extenuating circumstances. That doesn’t change how strongly I feel about adopting a child with Down syndrome. I want to be a mother who can change my child’s life with love and opportunities where despair would have been. I pray that God will let that happen.
  • I will share my testimony/story. I’ve done plenty of sharing online, and even somewhat in person. This is something I love and is helping me (hopefully others too). While it is huge that I’m able to be open and honest with my struggles, this now seems pretty easy. I don’t like easy. I want to talk to others about it, but not in the way I have been. Previously, other than really just two people, I have shared about my ED when it was necessary. I told my roommate and RA mostly to have some accountability and warn them. It felt like there is something wrong with me that is a burden to others. I’m in a different place now and even though I do struggle and will in the future, I want to do this in a more positive way. I am in the process of writing my testimony and have rewritten my story. That is what I want to share with people. Here I am, here is what I came from, here is what I’ve gone through, here is what I am working on, here is where I am going to be one day. I have one dear friend in particular I plan on telling soon, and I am nervous and excited. One day, somehow I will do this on a stage or in front of a group. I will not be a burden but living proof that you can overcome.
  • Medical missions. At some point in my life I want to bring my skills as a nurse to a place that is in need. We are Jesus’ hands and feet. Serving others and bringing them healing is what I am called to do. I want to extend that out from where I will serve in a hospital and into an area with little medical care.

Progress is

Measuring progress through my own lens.

Handling urges the best I can even when I so badly want to give up.

Lowering perfectionistic grade standards.

Going out with friends instead of turning them down.

Not needing the “food police” to ensure I eat enough.

Removing outside influences (mainly social media) that are harmful to me.

Being trusted to handle my own medications.

Smiling, laughing, enjoying, loving, socializing, living.

Taking care of my body: resting when it needs rest, fueling it, enjoying movement, keeping it from harm.

Working with my therapist and dietitian instead of fighting them.

Speaking out about what I need.

Asking for help without feeling shame.

Putting my relationship with God above my relationship with self-hatred and the ED.

Seeking out opportunities for fellowship instead of waiting for them to come to me.

Feeling joy and gratitude in the little things.

Work being about serving God not a way to exercise and restrict.

Entering the healthiest summer I have had in at least 5 years.

Trying not to dwell on mistakes I have made.

Feeling so incredibly excited for the future.

Allowing myself to have foods I crave, not only the ever-shrinking safe list.

Approaching clothes shopping in a different way – focusing on what I feel best in, not the sizes.

Calming my anxious thoughts before they become overwhelming.

Coming back stronger from the worst and fastest relapse I have ever experienced.

Others telling me how I look so alive now.

Investing in whatever is helpful for me to continue regulating emotions and negative thoughts.

Plans for the future that are not driven or held back by my eating disorder, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, etc.

Contentment.

Embracing social gatherings with food.

No meticulously planning meals and snacks beforehand.

Moving past the strict meal plan.

Using the energy once taken up by the ED towards everything I love and deserve.

Going a week without therapy and not self-imploding/freaking out/slipping/breaking down.

Trusting that God has this all under control and seeking Him again.

Separating the lies of disordered/irrational thought out from my own.

Sharing my story instead of hiding it from the world.

Choosing spontaneity, not rigidity.

Believing I am more than my problems that weigh me down.

Enjoying and noticing the world around me.

Becoming more passionate about photography.

Coming through so many difficult situations that would have broken me before.

Realizing I am worth so much more than I ever imagined.

 

Last session with S, first with J

In the midst of crazy exam, I had my last appointment with S until next fall. To say I was an emotional wreck is no exaggeration. It was so much like every other session we’ve had: laughter, honesty, tough love, goals, and some assignment I completely hated but ultimately is good for me. To all of that add tears, and lots of them.

I wrote her a card earlier that day and bawled for an hour cried some writing it. I had trouble even putting to words all she has done for me this year. A quick run down of what I appreciate: her tough love no BS attitude, that she helped me get treatment, pushing me when I dug in my feet, dealing with my constant sass, truly caring, helping me find myself again, being exactly the therapist I needed. She is amazing at her job and I really felt she deserved to know how much she means to me. I wanted her to read it in session, so I had her do that while she forced me to work on the assignment I started the week before. I kept glancing over and saw her crying, then started crying and we were both a mess.

While we weren’t “having allergy issues,” we talked about goals for the summer. She didn’t focus on the ED stuff. Obviously I want to do well and control disordered thoughts as they come, but that being my whole summer would be so sad. Smaller goals include making a bucket list for York (which I shall talk about soon!), spending time with friends, and getting out in nature as much as possible. My favorite thing we talked about is a daily photo journal. My challenge is to take one photo a day that makes me happy, shows God’s blessing in my life, or is a part of beautiful creation that somehow has meaning to me. I also can’t obsess over editing or taking the “perfect” photo and have to limit looking at the screen after snapping and time spent in photoshop. So far, being 6 days in, I absolutely love it. I write a few sentences to go with each day and I can already tell this photo journal will be so special to document my summer. I definitely plan on posting my adventure here soon. At the end I thanked her once again and we hugged/cried some more. Walking out was so very bittersweet. I’m sad to leave her for the summer but I know I’m going to have so many stories and progress to share when I come back.

Today I met with J again for the first time this summer. I hadn’t seen her since the day I got back from residential. I was so nervous (why? I have no clue) walking back into her office! For some reason I feared that we wouldn’t click again or I would be awkward or something otherwise bad would happen. It didn’t feel weird or awkward one bit. Going into her office felt like being home again. Immediately I was so happy to be back.

It was nice to catch her up on everything that’s happened since I last saw her. I loved being able to tell her all of my progress, fun things that happened, and hopes for the future. I also was very open and honest about the struggles I’ve faced, namely my relapse. We talked about what led up to it, how serious/what it entailed, how and why I came out, what we can do to prevent another when things start going bad, and the new hope it has given me. I truly feel like I relapsed so I could learn exactly what I need to fight for. J completely agreed, and in her prayer at the end (our traditional closing) she specifically thanked God for it.

After catching we talked goals and what I need from her. Ever since residential, I’ve really learned what helps and what doesn’t when it comes to therapy. The two most helpful things, even though I HATE it, are tough love/pushing me to do my best and assignments. J said she definitely will do both. Plenty of assignments I fight against but are really for my good and J stretching me to do better are in the near future. I told her about my goals for the summer from S and we also talked about some to add. She loves the photo journal as much as I do and can’t wait to see them, especially since she enjoys my photography (a print I gave her last summer now hangs in her office 🙂 ). My relationship with God still isn’t anywhere near being repaired. I already wanted to do something to grow closer to Him again, but J helped me find specifically how I can make that happen this summer. She gave me the ACTS acronym for prayer/journaling, is having me write to Him daily, wants me to continue my happy journal, and restart the ED devotional I have. I’m looking forward to the spiritual growth I so need. Her promise to me, beyond being her wonderful self as a therapist, is giving me an assignment every week to torture challenge me. I know having J by me this summer as I work toward health and these goals is just what I need. I am excited to see all the growth that is to come.

I am so lucky to have two very different therapists who are equally amazing for me. I thought it would be really hard switching for summer. (Would I miss S too much? Would J do enough? Would I love J too much to ever be okay with S again? Was I going to lose my mind and cry and struggle?) All of my fears have been squashed and I’m looking forward to working with J again. Her more gentle style is going to be perfect for this time where I’m not so stressed with school and everything going on. S and her no BS way is great at helping me through all of the emotions, triggers, and stressors when I’m back at school. God has truly blessed me with giving each of them at the time I need their help the most.

And then God had other plans

A month ago, Saturday the 26th, I was singing in the car with other girls, headed to dorm retreat. I was so pumped for the night and knew exactly how I thought/expected it would go down: growing closer as a floor, marshmallows, lots of card games, singing, “mocking”, and enjoying each other’s company. That may have been the case for everyone else there, but not me. We were about to play capture the flag with each floor of girls and guys facing the other two. Seems all good and fun, right? Wrong! Not even five minutes in, yours truly managed to run hard into some guy’s shoulder and get knocked out. So fun, not!

I remember waking up on the ground with people around me and a killer headache and “faceache.” A girl from the other team helped me back to the lodge since I was so unsteady. She sat with me, I got an ice pack and some ibuprofen and figured all would be fine in an hour or two. Wrong again!

Long story short, I ended up leaving dorm retreat that night and headed to the ER. My no big deal injury turned out to be a concussion, broken nose, and fractured orbital bone. I am so lucky to have not lost any vision. I saw an ENT a few days later and had surgery the next Monday. Overall, I was out of school for two and a half weeks.

It was really hard being away. At the same time though, I know why it had to happen. I was on the verge of needing treatment had I stayed in school much longer. Instead, my home became my inpatient. I went through the grueling process of refeeding for what seems like the thousandth time by now. It wasn’t a great time by any means. I still feel sad about all the time I missed. I’m not even caught up yet on all my work. But, despite all of that, God is still showing me how much He is in control.

After what seemed like huge strides towards recovery while I was home, I expected school to be fine. I see now that was pretty naive. It hasn’t been anywhere close to easy. Restriction is as high or higher than before my injury. I’m struggling to focus and handle everything. Eating on my own now is a wreck most days. I am isolating. I feel depressed and anxious all the time. I have more thoughts of food than anything else. I have began exercising again (not as strenuous though).

I am baffled right now. I don’t get why I am still barely surviving here. I’m hoping to figure things out and make steps towards recovery soon. I have some support here and treatment. I know the tools and i know what needs to be done, it’s the putting it in action that just isn’t happening.

Right now, I am going to trust God. Maybe my plan is not what is meant for me. Maybe he has a whole other idea that will lead to me living a fuller, happier life than I am right now. Maybe there is even more beauty waiting for me on the other side.

For now, I will do what I can to fight this illness and cling to Him. I will be open to whatever needs to be done.