Holiday Coping 2014

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This holiday season, so far, has been better than I ever could have expected. Thanksgiving went well and I don’t anticipate Christmas being any different. However, that’s not to say that my recovery has gone by the wayside. In fact, fighting for recovery throughout the holiday season has been one of the things that has kept me going. Recovery is something for me to focus on. It  provides a constant supply of goals to meet and to strive to meet. It helps me learn more and more about my abilities and myself each day. Recovery shows me how, even in difficult times, I can remain strong and use healthy coping skills instead. That doesn’t mean that things have been all rainbows and butterflies though. The holiday season has, for pretty much as long as I can remember, been notoriously difficult for me. This December, particularly these last couple weeks, have been trying on me mentally. But during those trying times, I grab my medallion that I was given when I “graduated” from treatment and turn on some music. Sometimes I’ll write or journal. Sometimes I’ll text a friend or make myself laugh by Snapchatting someone. Other times I’ll distract myself by watching beauty videos on YouTube. What I do to cope depends upon what I feel like doing. Sometimes, knitting or doing art sounds like a great idea. Other times, writing sounds better to me. It varies day to day. Recovery is far from a linear process. It is filled with twists and turns and ups and downs and that’s okay. Recovery isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to challenge you and make you fight for the life you deserve. The great thing about life is that, even if you have a bad day or week, there’s always the next day or the next week ahead to be better. The holidays can be rough but we can all get through them together!

My name is Hollyn and this is Where I Stand.

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Finding safety.

UnknownThere is a reason I don’t intentionally put myself into large crowds of people. I quickly become overcome with overwhelming self-doubt and anxiety. Why am I here? Most people that know me on the surface think I’m pretty confident. And, generally if I know my role, my place, my purpose…. I am. I can lead and I can follow. However, throw me into a mix of people and tell me to “mingle” and I wallow. What do I say? I find chitchat dull and exhausting. I say “I’m good” over and over and over again all while wanting to crawl out of my skin. I smile. 

I’m lost. How after knowing so much, after experiencing so much, after seeing so much can we all just stand there saying “I’m good” and smiling. Where is meaning? Where is safety?

As I sat in a chair and watched people interact tonight feeling isolated in my own brain, disconnected and detached I realized this was my reality, and I could either sit idly in the shadows or find safety. For me, safety was found in one person with whom I felt comfortable talking to, and even just sitting with.

This holiday season when you feel like you’re drowning ask yourself – what would feel safe?

You deserve it.

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.


Recovery Thoughts

By: Meagan D.

            Today I decided to take a trip down memory lane and rummage through some old boxes. Among other things, I unpacked tons of holiday cards, a deflated birthday balloon, swimming goggles, and some pretty embarrassing pictures. But what stuck out most to me were the journals I found, and reading back through the entries affected me deeply.

In 2008 (high school) I was in the middle of a raging eating disorder, but I would have never admitted to it at the time. Balancing tough classes, bullying from peers, a part-time job, and a lot of insecurities…my “diet” kept me feeling in control and numb to my emotions. Instead of writing about the problems I was facing, my journal reflects nothing but a desire to “lose more weight and be happy”. One direct quote from my journal was “this is my last fat year”.

In 2010 (college), I spent a year completing my undergraduate honors thesis. I worked as a resident assistant, an orientation team leader, and I was a nanny four nights a week. My classes were challenging, but I managed to score A’s in all of them. Looking back, I remember a lot of proud moments and accomplishments. Rather than highlighting these successes, the majority of my journal discusses my progress in weight loss. It discusses calories, foods eaten (and not eaten), work outs completed, what “happiness” will look like when I am “thin enough”. One direct quote from my journal was “this is my last fat year”.

In 2012, I was getting ready to graduate from college and move into the big-girl world. Taking on a new career, my first apartment, and a puppy…I was nervous but also excited. I had been through treatment for my eating disorder, and had years of intensive outpatient counseling, and I was ready to take recovery into my own hands. During this time, I wrote a lot about the promise of a fresh start; the eagerness to be on my own and start a life free from the eating disorder that held me hostage. I also wrote about how I didn’t feel ready to recover, I was definitely “not thin enough yet”. I wrote about how much BETTER life would be, how much MORE I could accomplish, if only I was “a lower weight”. One direct quote from my journal was “this is my last fat year”.

74925_481908891893235_840663632_n  While I still have a long way to go, I am pleased to say that I am currently in a much better place with my recovery. I am working on discovering who I am outside of my eating disorder, on accepting my flaws and loving myself despite them. For the most part, I am happy. Unfortunately at times, I find myself thinking and writing the same things as above. Whenever I let “wise-mind” take a break, I find that my eating disorder voice tries to creep back in, promising me a happier life, more victories, if only I could lose just a few more pounds.

The truth is…my eating disorder lies. There will never be a number that will satisfy me, there will never be a number that can solve all my problems or make me love myself more. If I were to lose more weight, it would never be enough. My eating disorder cheated me out of applying to graduate school, maintaining a healthy relationship, spending time with my friends, being fully present during my time with loved ones. Looking back, I regret the dinners I skipped, the lattes I didn’t enjoy, and the events I passed up because I was afraid to be around food or people. My eating disorder cheated me out of a normal life.

Even in recovery, there are times I “miss” my eating disorder. There are times I consider taking it back. Thankfully, I am able to remind myself how much I have GAINED (other than weight) from letting my eating disorder go. I remind myself that in 5 or 10 years I don’t want to look back at this time and regret things I did (or didn’t do) because of my eating disorder. I want to live freely; I want to find happiness and success on my OWN terms. Re-reading my journal entries, I remember times of darkness, of not being able to see a way out. I wish to one day reach out to others who are struggling; to tell them that recovery IS possible. It is not an easy battle to fight, and you have to want it and work at it every day. You have to fully trust in your treatment providers; you can’t ever give up. You have to believe in yourself. In the end, I hope that other warriors like me will be able to look back and realize how much stronger, healthier, and happier they are without their eating disorders. I am proud of my story, my recovery, and the person I have fought to become today!


Recovery Art:)

 

 

Recovery art shared with us by Jennifer Packer ♥

If anyone wants to submit pieces, posts, writings, short stories, poetry, letters or photos to Where I Stand feel free to send us a message on Facebook or email Erin at erin@thisiswhereistand with the subject line: Where I Stand Submission.

We are looking for anything that works towards eliminating stigma associated with mental illness and bring hope to those healing!!

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My Family Survived an Eating Disorder

My Family Survived an Eating Disorder

Written by: Lizzie E.

I recently came across a picture that said, “my family survived an eating disorder”. Now that I’ve been actively in recovery for over a year, I can objectively look back and recognize the profound truth in this simple statement.

Eating disorders may afflict individuals, but they affect entire families. My first stay in residential treatment largely overshadowed my little sister’s senior year of high school; her move to college was marked with my absence, as I was away for another stint inpatient. My mom watched her bank account dwindle as my treatment costs skyrocketed. My family’s sense of stability went through the ringer as I cycled in and out of treatment, and my health yo-yoed between recovery and relapse. My mom and sister lived out of a hotel for a period of time, and went through emotional turmoil as I processed past life events. My eating disorder almost killed me, literally, but it also nearly killed my family, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

I do not say any of this to blame myself. In fact, I want to make it very clear that the ramifications of an eating disorder are in no way the sufferer’s fault. I think this is something that my family (and many others) struggles to realize, and I understand that. It was something I was doing and things I was saying that was causing all this pain. I get it. However, let’s pretend I had cancer; that my health was causing financial and emotional burden. Would anyone blame me then? I’m going to go ahead and say no. This is no different. I did not choose to have an eating disorder; the things I said and did were not intentional. It is easy to want to place blame for the horrors caused by mental illness, but don’t blame the sufferer. Blame society; blame those who have inflicted pain; or you can just accept that sometimes bad things just happen and it is nobody’s fault.1510847_10152803605816900_8987147057253860996_n

Again, this idea of blame is not directed at my family specifically; I just know many men and women whose families simply do not (or don’t want to) understand the true nature of an eating disorder. If you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Never blame them. If you are frustrated, discuss it with a professional who can help you understand the disease.
  2. Avoid food talk. Don’t talk about calories or foods you “don’t eat”. And honestly, if you are concerned about food, take a minute to evaluate your mindset. Eat what you want when you want it; your body will regulate itself (trust me, it’s working for me).
  3. If you think your loved one is lying or confused about something related to their illness, don’t tell them that. Again, talk to a professional. Blaming or invalidating your loved one can be devastatingly traumatizing.
  4. Don’t give up. Recovery is possible, but it is not linear. Sometimes it takes multiple tries, but that is not indicative of failure. In fact, if your loved one is still trying to recover, applaud them for their strength.

I have seen far too many families disown their loved one because they cannot handle the disease any longer. I understand it; an eating disorder is a heinous illness to encounter. However, stick it out because it will be worth it. You see, for as much as I missed, I have also been part of many meaningful family events. I helped my sister move into her first apartment (and painted her room…you’re welcome); I saw my mom make an impressive financial recovery after my debilitating treatment costs; this is the second holiday season in a row I have spent at home. I have watched my sister transform into a beautiful, intelligent, dedicated young woman. And I have seen my mom realize her own potential, and ability to be independent. My family is resilient, and I am proud of us! So, yes, I overcame my eating disorder; I have done the treatments and the therapies and the painfully difficult work. But at the end of the day, the struggle is not just mine, and the victory has to be shared. Today, as we hold hands and fight together, I can say my family survived an eating disorder.

My name is Lizzie and this is Where I Stand.


After the big meal: Thanksgiving one second at a time.

Preparing for thanksgiving for someone with an eating disorder is like preparing for the great flood for someone who can’t swim.

Logistics. Logistics. Logistics.

Who – What – When – Where – Why

And it all goes great until it doesn’t. Then what do we do?

You make it through the turkey, the stuffing, and even the mashed potatoes and it hits you like a ton of bricks: you feel just a little too full. All the sudden the food in your stomach weighs you down like bricks. You chest tightens and suddenly all you can think about is each and every bite that passed through those lips.

How many bites of stuffing did I have?

I need to get that recipe.

How much gravy do you think was on my plate?

Simultaneously your waistline expands as your waste band shrinks.

This fit better an hour ago…

I must have gained weight…

There is no way I stayed the same size…

It’s time for damage control. The only option at this point is to fix what has been done. The only option is to correct the error that will ruin everything.

I just need to make it to the toilet

Where are my running shoes

It’s time to plan a fast

Isn’t it scary how easily your eating disorder takes over? Pushing you down even further right when you’re most vulnerable. It’s malicious, despiteful, vicious and vindictive. If it were up to our disorders we would have not only no health, but no joy, no love… no hope.

So it’s time to fight. We are not going to the bathroom. We are not putting our running shoes on. We are not planning a fast for the next 5 days. We will stand in solidarity, because we deserve health, joy, love and yes, hope.

After Thanksgiving Battle Plan

  1. Engage in a healthy activity with someone
  2. Wear comfy clothes
  3. Remind yourself that you are good enough
  4. Remind yourself that you are not alone
  5. Watch a good movie or read a good book
  6. Play with your pet
  7. Call a friend
  8. Remind yourself why you are thankful.

As always,

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.

 


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On a scale from one to ten….

If you’ve been involved at all in the mental health system you know what I’m about to ask you. You may be smiling or rolling your eyes. Maybe your annoyed and now you’ll stop reading. But here I go any way.

 

If you had to rank your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 right now what would it be?

 

You don’t have to answer… I ask you this question because it’s been on my mind a lot today. I’ve struggled to answer it myself. Usually I know exactly what number I am 3.4 or 6.26 and my doctors and therapists and nurses or whoever is around get a good laugh. I have to admit it’s unsettling not being able to identify that number.

We’re taught over and over and over again that to be okay, to be stable, to be alive we have to be able to label it, identify it, categorize it (whatever “it” is).

 

That’s how we know if we are doing well or poorly, its how we figure out what we have and don’t have, what we want and need. What if it’s okay to not know. What is the inability to label ourselves (or a state of ourselves)  is while admittedly uncomfortable but also widely freeing.

Right now my number is aakdjlakf

….how’s that for uncomfortable?

As always,

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand

 


“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

Like most people, I didn’t just wake up one morning mentally ill. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My mother (Donna) was raised by an abusive father (Dennis) and a mother (Darryl) with bipolar disorder and an eating disorder. Donna’s a natural perfectionist in everything that she did and didn’t escape her childhood unscathed.

She remembers her father controlling her and her siblings food intake by drawing lines on the pickle jars in order to track their consumption. Her father routinely harped on her mother’s weight (even while he knew she was throwing up her food regularly). Darryl would have the house thoroughly clean with cake in the oven, or the shades closed, lights off and under the covers. Illness is what Donna knew. Eating disorders were natural. To this day my mom struggles to feel connected with her family.

My father (Dan raised by a man (Eddie) whom everyone loved yet drank himself to sleep every night and took his anger out on his family. His mother (Jackie) did the best she could and eventually left him and stayed with my parents when they first married. The leaving of his wife encouraged his sobriety that lasted until his death.I don’t hear many stories about my grandfather. I had no clue that he was an alcoholic until I was older. My mom whispered it to me one day. My dad never liked to talk about it, only remembering his father in the best possible way.

My grandparents and my parents come with their fair share of baggage with them and in their history (like every human) bipolar, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, addiction. Some might think it’s unnecessary to look back (some treatment approaches), and some might think that all the secrets reside in our past. I find myself in the middle.

My mom’s life built my mom, and she helped build me.

My dad’s life made my dad, and he helped create me.

You know that thing they say about history? If you don’t know it or understand it, you will repeat it? That’s true.

Learning about my past, where these behaviors (some of which I have learned, others biological, others environmental) come from and how to move forward is a really long process that evolves every. single. day.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
― Rick Warren

My name is Erin, and This is Where I Stand


Sometimes really annoying things happen, and they make you want to give up.

Sometimes really annoying things happen, and they make you want to give up. You say “well, it’s a sign I should just call it quits… obviously the universe is against me.” Or you can swallow the big knot in your throat, take a deep breath, and say “this is life; this is how it goes. BUT I will not be stopped.” – #fighterstatus


My cells have detached from my body and I cannot feel my organs.

My cells have detached from my body and I cannot feel my organs. I’m weightless. My heart races and my nails are digging into the palms of my hands. My brain is numb and my body hot.

Panic.

Have you ever experienced panic?

The physical sensations of mental illness are real.