NEDAW 2015: Hollyn’s Story

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My story began back my junior year of high school in 2011. I began restricting by what I believed was “simply” not eating 1 meal or another. Things quickly progressed though and soon I was restricting more than could keep up with. I was in outpatient therapy at the time but it wasn’t doing me a ton of good. My disorder progressed as I continued throughout high school and into college, seeing therapist after therapist all over the city up until I left for college in the fall of 2013. College was supposed to go well. I had a team set up on campus that consisted of a therapist and a psychiatrist. My parents came up to visit me every few weeks and I had a dorm room to myself so I didn’t have to worry about the stress of being social all the time or sharing my “personal space” with anyone else. I also had a friend in the same dorm building as me, just a floor up. Everything was supposed to go smoothly. Unfortunately, my eating disorder, which I had been in recovery from for about 6 months pre-August 2013, came back with a vengeance with all the change and the lack of supervision. Long story short, I wound up taking a medical withdrawal from college and coming home mid-October 2013. I was devastated. I felt like a failure for allowing my eating disorder back into my life and for letting everything that I’d worked so hard for come crumbling down around me. I took the rest of the fall semester off and started school at a local community college for the spring semester of 2014.

Now that I was back home, in familiar surroundings and with my family, everything should have gotten better, right? Wrong. I did well in school that spring semester, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. My eating disorder raged on and was relentless. Finally, just before leaving for a family vacation that summer 2014, I filled out an online contact form for a newly-opened treatment center down the street from my house. I ended up emailing the intake lady from the treatment center over 2 different family vacations that summer. Finally, I went in for my assessment and found out what insurance would (and mostly wouldn’t) cover. I’m so thankful that my treatment center was flexible because they worked out something they called “modified IOP” between my parents and insurance, which meant I went in for 6 hours/day, 3 days/week for the 2 weeks before school started up again, then I went into the regular 3 hour/day, 3 day/week IOP once school started. All in total I was in treatment for 2.5 months. I’m so thankful for the time I spent at the treatment center with the staff and other patients. They truly changed my life. Now, 6.5 months out from my intake date and about 4 months out from my discharge date, I’m in such a better place than I was when I was admitted. Things still aren’t “perfect” and I still struggle, but I can’t imagine where I’d be had I not received the help I received.

This National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015, I’m thankful that I got another chance at life. I deserve a life free from my eating disorder and so do you!

My name is Hollyn and this is Where I Stand.


My heart is purple.

I get really bogged down sometimes in all the crap that people say and do and the darkness that they seem to so eagerly and happily spread. I’m not going to even pretend that the past few weeks have not been really difficult, because well, they have. I find myself asking: Why do I stay here? What am I even doing? What is the point? If this isn’t working… Why are you not doing something else?

A few days ago Where I Stand​ launched the annual Purple Love campaign for Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’d be lying to you if I told you I was not completely overwhelmed at the thought of it in the moment. I was feeling drained and empty. Asking myself “Where will I get the strength to do this?”

And in perfect timing and fashion I was answered in message from a woman who follows Where I Stand. She sent me this:

“Hi Erin,
I just wanted to say thanks for all you do for Where I Stand, and with the purple project! Its always amazing to see others so dedicated to helping others in need. It is my passion and dream to be a motivational speaker and to help others just like you and lizzie do. I would love to do what you both do…”

I don’t do ‘my’ work, Where I Stand, Mental Health Advocacy, things like Purple Love because they take energy from me, but because they fill me with energy, light, hope and joy.

I wear purple because my heart is purple. I’m filled with purple love. <3

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.

https://www.facebook.com/events/780561922037631/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

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Defining Strength

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Defining Strength

By: Erin Elizabeth Casey

 

I used to believe

The strong were the ones who jumped the highest

Lost the most weight

Gained the most approval

Got the highest grades

And still held that perfect smile on their face

 

I was wrong

So incredibly wrong

 

I saw true strength the day my best friend told her mom on me

I see true strength each time I witness an honest and true apology

I saw true strength just the other day as my friend cried and said “I am not okay”

It takes true strength to be real, not just know the ‘right’ thing to say

 

I see true strength when people choose to build others up high

Rather than tear them down to make themselves feel important, cool or fly

 

Strength is in facing our fears

This sometimes means welcoming the tears

And not checking out with rounds of beers

 

Running from our fears, challenges, or problems is not strong

And to be honest you won’t be able to go for long

 

Good for you if

You can jump the highest

Lost the weight you wanted

Gained everyone’s approval

Got the highest grades

And maintained that perfect smile

 

That’s good for you

But true strength is found in doing things we don’t want to do

But know we have to

Because they make things better and right

For me and for you

Because you see this strength helps to turn on the light

And this gives everyone more power, strength and might


On Making It

Written by Lizzie E.

There are so many days when I find myself asking myself if I can really do this; is the fight really worth it? Recovering from a mental illness of any kind is a struggle. It is, undoubtedly, the most difficult thing I have ever done (and continue to do). I think it is natural to have those moments when you want to give up. It’s like anything; when things get unbearably tough we want to throw in the towel. Think about running a marathon. I’m not a distance runner myself, but I can only imagine that there are numerous moments throughout that race that quitting seems like the best option. However, I bet the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel when you reach the finish line makes it worth the struggle. It is the same for recovery; we will have our highs and our lows. There will be times we need to stop for a break and times we need to grab a water to refuel (i.e. seek extra support, go back to treatment, etc.). Sometimes just seeing our loved ones cheering us along on the sidelines is enough to push us through a tough moment.

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I feel like so many people experience this incredible guilt when they need additional help in the recovery “marathon”; I know I have. It is especially difficult when you start off strong and then hit a bump in the road. You may feel like a failure. But I can assure you, what you are experiencing is OKAY. It is part of recovery. Mental illness is tricky. There is no magic cure, no special pill, no secret mantra that can fix everything. It is a process; it will have ups and downs. There will be times when you feel so exhausted that you need to stop. That is okay. What matters is that you listen to yourself. If you feel yourself falling, don’t stay on the ground. The biggest failure is not seeking help when you stumble; it is staying down after that fall.

I recently came across a song called “You’re Worth It” by Cimorelli. The artists sing, “when will you realize…you’re worth it, you don’t have to do anything to earn it…you’re perfect, you deserve it, when will you see what I see, and realize you’re worth it.” It is not a particularly profound statement, but it radiates truth. You are worth all the help and support you can possibly get. Recovery means reaching out for that assistance, listening to your body, and trusting yourself. Do that and, trust me, you’ll make it.

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My name is Lizzie and this is Where I Stand.


You never know whom you’re helping.

I was in my dietician’s office the other day, upset because I’d lost weight. Feeling like a failure, I began crying. So she started getting me to talk, to talk about anything, just as a distraction. So I began talking to her about what I want to do with my life after college.

I told her I want to work for a non-profit organization & do public speaking (at schools, etc) about mental health & eating disorders, as well as about suicide & suicide prevention. I told her about an opportunity I was given in the spring of my senior year of high school. My dad is heavily involved in the alumni association for UT here in town & one night, the local branch of the Texas Exes (alumni association for UT) was holding a mental health symposium for alumni & some other locals. One of the speakers at the symposium was a social work professor from UT. She had been informed of my story in casual conversation with my dad beforehand & she graciously asked me to speak with her during the symposium. At the symposium, the professor spoke for a while, then allowed me to share my story. Afterward, as I went back to my seat, another of the presenters, whom I’d volunteered for over a couple of years at the non-profit she worked for at the time, got up & put her hand on my back. She proceeded to tell everyone how I’d texted her one night & (according to her) wound up helping to save someone we both knew from taking their own life. That was quite a shocking compliment to hear. Before the UT social work professor finished speaking, she took some questions from the audience. One man, knowing that a woman from the alumni association had recently committed suicide, proceeded to ask the professor what he could’ve done, what he should’ve done to save her from taking her own life, even though he had no idea that the woman was suffering at all. I immediately began balling and anxiously trying to get permission to answer the man’s question, which I quickly was given the time to do. I told him simply, “there’s nothing you could have done. she didn’t want you to know. she really didn’t want anyone to know & she was good at making sure that’s how it stayed. people with mental illnesses are amazing ‘actors’. you could be their friend, parent, sibling, child, teacher, co-worker, anyone, & no matter how close to them you may be, if they don’t want you to know that something’s wrong with them, you might never know. it’s not your fault. please don’t blame yourself for her death” & I left it at that. Thinking back to that moment & the answer I gave that grieving man makes me cry to this day. His wife later came up to me & thanked me, telling me how much he had needed to hear that.

Speaking up makes a difference. People hear you. They hear what you say, they read what you write, & they see what you put out into the world. YOU can make such a tremendous impact on the life of another person, simply by sharing your story or your experience. I share because I’ve seen the power in sharing. I’ve seen the power in honesty, pure, raw honesty. I’ve seen how age is nothing but a number when you have words to share that someone else desperately needs to hear. So go out there & share YOUR story. Make an impact on someone else. Don’t be ashamed of what you’ve gone through because I can tell you one thing, someone, somewhere out there, needs to hear what YOU have to say. So say it.

My name is Hollyn and this is Where I Stand.

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The Power of Friendship

Written by Lizzie E.

Let me tell you a little bit about one of my best friends, Jackie. She has a way of viewing the world that is simultaneously authentic and introspective. Sometimes I like to just listen to her speak, because she has a way of interpreting things that always makes me feel like everything will be okay. Jackie radiates this amazing duality of Godly-love and tough-love; she knows how to speak the truth in a manner that is unceasingly loving and supportive.

I met Jackie in my fourth year at UVA, when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. When she found out that I was struggling, she took me under her wing, accompanied me to doctor’s appointments, dragged me along on grocery store runs, and texted me daily to check in. Through all of this, Jackie remained completely devoid of judgment, and completely full kindness.

A few weeks ago, Jackie and I got together for coffee and life-chatting. As I recalled something I had been struggling with, I was reminded of this young woman’s keen ability to soothe any soul. Her simple words brought me comfort, peace, security, and most importantly, the sense that I was not alone.

What is my point, you may ask, in writing a piece showering my friend with compliments? Well, for one, these are not mere compliments; they are facts about Jackie’s character. But my real intent is to illustrate the power of connection and solidarity. There are few things more powerful that the feeling of being supported when your world is falling apart. I am approaching one year of freedom from an eating disorder behavior that used to plague me, and I am reminded that I did not get here alone. I have walked this road, hand in hand with treatment providers, family members, fellow survivors, and incredible friends, like Jackie. You do not have to walk this journey alone; you do not have to feel shame if you slip. Your true supporters will never leave you; I know mine haven’t.

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As I continue this road to healing, I would like to give a shout out to the other amazing friends who saw me at my worst, held my hand through it, and continue to stand by me as I strive to be my best. Thank you, Priya, Katie, Victoria, Kelly, Lauren, Laura, Brittany, and Claire!

My name is Lizzie and this is Where I Stand.


Little Reminders for the New Year

By: Rachel Moreland

imagesI spent New Year’s Eve or ‘Hogmanay’ as it’s referred to in Scotland with my British husband and some New Zealand friends of ours from church and you know what they all had in common? They all had a list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s a universal principle that most people see the New Year as a fresh start, a chance for improvement, refinement and forward progress. The desire self-improvement is cross-cultural. This New Years, instead of focusing entirely on traditional resolutions like going to the gym 5 times a week, I have focused much of my attention on emotional, spiritual and intellectual goals. Why? Because I have found that my body and physical well-being is more affected by my spiritual and emotional health than anything else.

The root of all health is in the brain. 

The trunk of it is in emotion. 

The branches and leaves are the body. 

The flower of health blooms

when all parts work together.

(Kurdish saying)

 

Cut yourself some slack.

Making a list of goals for 2015 is all fine and good if that helps you keep motivated and focused however if the thought of breaking one of your rules makes you sick, you might want to re-think your strategy. Being too hard on yourself actually hinders, not helps, yourself from achieving your goals. Guilt is not a positive motivator. By all means, give yourself rigid guidelines and stick to your guns, but do NOT punish yourself when (yes when and not if) you fail to make it to the gym one day or sneak a chocolate candy. Guilt is by no means a positive incentive. Take it from me, cut yourself some slack and don’t become your worst enemy. You’ll thank yourself later.

Not all resolutions are task-oriented

The most common New Year’s resolution I’ve heard revolves around dieting or body image.

I will work out every single day.

I am giving up dessert in the New Year.

These physical goals are great and I encourage people to think about living healthier lives in 2015. I too want to get back into the rhythm of practicing yoga. I find bodily exercise helpful for my emotional well-being and peace of mind. I am an advocate of staying active and living an active lifestyle. Perhaps what I’m suggesting is for us to look beyond the stereotypical ‘better body by 2015’ goals and understand that health goes beyond the physical body. We consist of body, mind and soul. If we work on our bodies but ignore our minds and emotions, perhaps we’re missing out on opportunities for personal growth and development. Like our bodies, our minds and souls need to be nurtured too.

Do what makes your soul happy

I’ve already touched on this a little in my previous point, but it’s equally important to nurture our minds and souls as it is to nurture our bodies. Discover your passions and interests. And visit that thing as often as you need to feel good. Singing. Cooking. Dancing. Painting. Designing. Decorating. Photographing.

Whatever it is, what makes your soul happy is essential to living well this New Year. Make time for your soul by making time for your hobbies. Setting aside time to be in our element, to sit and reflect are precious moments where the world is shut out and we can be the people we were created to be. Untouched and inspired.

Surround yourself with positive people

I’ve really struggled with this one in previous years. Shouldn’t everyone like me? The reality is, not everyone will like you. In the same way not everyone likes chocolate cake, not everyone will choose you, call you up for coffee, make time for you, speak well about you, or befriend you. This is an important lesson to grasp. But once you wrap your brain around this idea, then you can be free. Free from the need to people please. Freedom from caring about what other people think. We can then be comfortable with ourselves and invest in people who are actually worth our time. I used to get quite panicked and anxious if I found out that someone didn’t like me, gossiped about me or found fault in me. I can recall countless hours where I would anxiously await their phone call or spend emotional energy deciding how I would speak to them. What I’ve learned from those few instances are some very powerful lessons that I intend to take with me into 2015. Concern yourself with people who encourage you and build you up. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t waste your time and energy on people who are negative and only cause you grief. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. You’re the best you there ever was. Invest in those people who see that.

Learn to let things go

Why do we like Disney’s Frozen? Perhaps the song ‘Let it Go’ speaks all too well to many of us. Learning to ‘let it go’ goes hand in hand with avoiding places and people who are negativity magnets. You don’t need negativity in your life. Life presents enough of its own challenges. You don’t need negative people to bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself. But we are human so we will hurt when people say unkind things to us. And sometimes we will hurt very deeply. I experienced this first hand at my very first job in Scotland. I discovered that my boss was gossiping about me behind my back – she actually called me stupid! You can imagine what this did to my sense of worth and value not only as an employee but as a human being. How could I work for someone and do a good job when I was perceived as stupid?! I had to learn to take out the garbage every day. With the help of family and friends and countless times praying to God for strength and self-control to not lash in anger, every day I had to ‘take out the trash’ (or rubbish if you’re British)! I had to filter everything I overheard and throw out the stuff that was negative or mean-spirited. If it wasn’t helpful, encouraging or positive, I would toss it out. Whatever didn’t affirm or uplift me, I learned to filter it out from the rest and throw it away! Because after all, nobody stores up garbage. Garbage is smelly and messy. Who needs that?

Don’t underestimate yourself

Perhaps what I learned most in 2014 is to never underestimate yourself. Don’t allow someone’s negative opinion of you to define who you are. Don’t give in and believe untruthful words spoken over you. You can imagine the difficulty of working for someone who thought I was clueless. The most challenging part of my experience was resisting the temptation to believe my boss’ own words. Words have the power to bring life and death Proverbs says. And my boss’ label of ‘the girl who asks dumb questions’ hung over my head for weeks and even made me question my own abilities. I started to outsmart my own common sense and rethink my career path. Most days, I came home from work feeling undervalued, unappreciated and stupid. All because some person labelled me in a negative way. My self-esteem were caught under fire, and I had to do everything in my power to stay the course and focus on truth, Which is that I am made in the image of Christ and I am not highly valued by the One who created everything and everyone, including my boss.


I do the exact same thing every morning…

I do the exact same thing every morning. I stare into the yellow box designated for that day of the week. The small round pieces of white, peach, blue, pink and yellow stare back at me.

“Do I need these today?”

“I won’t die.”

“Maybe… just maybe… I don’t need them anymore.”

I swallow the handful of pills together, all at once. I know my reality.

Throughout my day I think about those pills, what they are doing or not doing in my brain and how they are enabling me to function. I think about what they are taking away from me, the good and the bad.

“I can’t think, my medicine is making me stupid.”

I obsessively nag myself for not being stronger as I advocate for others to accept themselves and their need for medication.

“I am so blessed to have found something that works for me.”

I’m thankful for the medicine that enables me to function while being afraid that it ruins me.

“….is this even me?”

I do the exact same thing every night. I stare into the purple box designated for that day of the week. The small round pieces of white, peach, tan, yellow and pink stare back at me.

“Do I need these tonight?”

“I won’t die.”

“Maybe… just maybe… I don’t need them anymore.”

I swallow the handful of pills together, all at once. I know my reality.

While I drift to sleep I think about those pills, what they are doing or not doing in my brain and how they are enabling me to function. I think about what they are taking away from me, the good and the bad.

“I can’t think, my medicine is making me stupid.”

I obsessively nag myself for not being stronger as I advocate for others to accept themselves and their need for medication.

“I am so blessed to have found something that works for me.”

I’m thankful for the medicine that enables me to function while being afraid that it ruins me.

“….is this even me?”

 


The Duality of Mental Illness: What the World Fails to See

Written by Lizzie E.

Her perfectly straightened, auburn hair swung back and forth against her elegantly curved spine. She had a spring in her step and a smile upon her face that eluded confidence and happiness. People turned to look as she walked by. She was admired for her quick mind, kind heart, and witty personality. This girl had no enemies; she was like by all. Her pristinely Windexed honors diplomas hung proudly, though she was not phased by the impressive nature of her accomplishments. She was simultaneously adored and envied; a powerful combination that made her impossible to hate. To the world, she was perfect.

To her, she was her own worst enemy. That pearly white smile was deliberate; a façade to cover the years of torture and pain penetrating her entire being. Her body, though seemingly perfect, was failing. Those elegant bones were bruised beneath those pressed designer clothes. Those flawlessly painted nails were her tool, used in attempt to scratch the “fat” from her slender frame. Those diplomas took hours to precisely, evenly hang on the wall, not because she was proud, but because she needed a distraction. They served as a reminder of her failures; after all, she had received mere honors, rather than high honors.

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The world saw a girl who had it all. In reality, she was falling apart. Don’t always trust what you see; someone may be fighting a secret battle. Just because it is invisible, it does not mean it doesn’t hurt.

My name is Lizzie and this is Where I Stand.

 


About Pain.

In life people suffer and endure pain, but I don’t have to tell you that. What I do want to tell you however is that there is a right and and wrong way to deal with that suffering and pain.

Say what? Did your therapist tell you something different?

Yep. I’m a girl who some would say has been through a lot of crap. I’d agree, although I know people who have been through Hell ten times over than anything I’ve experienced.

No one gets through life unscathed. Suffering is part of this journey.

However, no amount of suffering gives any one of us the right to break, rip and shatter other people. Our pain never justifies inflicting more pain.

It’s easy to excuse someone who is broken, but being broken is not a license to do harm.

I say this knowing that I’ve hurt my fair share of people. I’ve used my pain and my suffering as reasons to spread darkness. I admit, I’m at fault here too. But, if we don’t recognize this in ourselves and in each other this vicious cycle of causing pain and suffering and excusing each other for doing it won’t end.

You’re brokenness, pain, and suffering does not make you bad, or ugly. However the choice you make to inflict those things on other people does.

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.