Friday, June 1, 2018

twenty seconds of bravery

The bravest thing I have ever done was run away. I ran away and hid in a bathroom stall. I stayed in that stall for what seemed like hours until someone safe came to get me. Later, I stood in a courtroom and testified against someone who hurt me. Multiple court dates. Months of it. But the bravest thing I’ve done - it was running. I still can’t believe I did it. To this day I cannot believe that I had the courage. Me, the girl who refuses to walk through tall grass because of snakes. But I did. I had twenty seconds of insane courage. In those moments, I saved myself. Those moments were a definite stand of No. I will not let this happen again. I refuse to live this way. I do not deserve this.  

When I was a little girl I was molested by a neighbor. I remember every moment of it, clear as day. I can feel it happening like it’s happening right now. I remember the feelings that came with it. The shame that tickled low in my belly. The nausea, the offness of the situation. The cold stripe of fear that ran through me when he locked the bathroom door behind us. The sudden emptiness that occurred the moment he took my dress off, my underwear. The darkness that followed.

Within a year, I began to be sexually abused by a female. It happened often, like clockwork, for two years. It was disgusting and vile and perverted.

I never said anything. I did not tell a soul. I lived with it, tried not to think about it, tried to erase those memories like they did not happen to me. Then, when I was 12 years old, I saw both of the people who abused me within a week of each other. It had been 4 years. I had tried to forget, but when I saw them, everything rushed back and plowed into me. The woman walked up and put her arms around my waist, saying I missed you and I shoved her, hard in the chest. I looked at her and said don’t you ever touch me again.

Maybe that was brave. It probably was. It did not feel brave. It felt like I was prey about to be eaten. I felt like I was drowning, on the verge of collapsing into terror.

When I saw him, later that week, he was with my family. They loved him. I couldn’t breathe. When I got up to go inside to go to the bathroom, he followed me in. I could hear him breathing, his steps synced two steps behind me. I became ice. I panicked when we got inside. We were alone. We were alone. I was not going toward the bathroom; that could not happen again. It couldn’t. I couldn’t take it. So I walked into my grandmother’s kitchen, each step feeling like it took hours of my life that I’ll never get back. I reached up to grab a cup that was red and shaped like the Kool-Aid man. His hand wrapped around my thin wrist, hard. A sharp twist, his body flesh against mine, blue eyes centimeters away. Silence. My heart pounded; everyone could hear it for miles. The kitchen watched, the oven watched, the clock on the wall. Outside, I heard my mother’s laugh. His lips moved, almost touching mine. “I’ve missed you.”
I said nothing. I stopped breathing. After another set of infinity-like hours he let me go, turned, and walked away. He never acknowledged me again. I went into the bathroom and dry heaved. I felt disgusting. I felt like I was rotting away inside. Everything I had felt as a child felt new and raw and I couldn’t run from it anymore. It was so real. It was too real. The terror I felt ravaged me. I was an angry, terrified little girl.

Later that week I cut myself for the first time. This continued for years and years and years. Then I stopped eating and got razor thin. I stopped thinking, stopped drinking, stopped living. I was a paper doll with a paper heart beat. I stopped feeling the skinnier I got. I got so thin I think I know what it feels like to be dead.

I got better. I stopped starving myself, stopped slicing and carving up my thighs. I got tattoos instead. I fell in love with a boy. I moved far, far away from the place those people hurt me at. I have a dog, my beautiful little girl, and a husband. I have friends, a church, and so many people who love me. I have a future here before me, full of babies and a career and more dogs than I can count and a life I desperately want to live.

All that pain almost killed me. It kills people. It can eat you alive. It’s unforgiving.

I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if I had told somebody ten years ago, at 12. Or at 15. Or at 7 or 6 or 5. I told my friends, finally, when I was 15. I told a counselor when I was 17. I told my boyfriend when I was 19.

I want to tell you five things. They are important. They are what I have found through nearly two decades of living with the things those people did to me and my body and my soul. I wish I would have heard these things sooner. Talked sooner. Gotten help sooner. I am so lucky to be alive. I want you to be alive. I want you to stay alive.

  1. Some people will not help you. You will be courageous and tell them and they will let it slide off their shoulders like raspberry jello. The first counselor I told at 17, that I had been molested, responded with, “there are many types of molestation. Fondling, intercourse, etc.” And that was it. That was the conversation. Literally. He was not a good counselor. With all that being said -
  2. Find people who will support you. Find them. They exist. Find a good counselor. Talk to them. You don’t have to tell them specifics. I have only told three people in detail about what they did to me. My counselor, Lacy. My friend Ashley. And my husband. I did not have to. It was my decision. You can still get counseling - get help - without describing it.
  3. Refuse to be unheard. What happened matters. How you feel matters. Even if you don’t want to go to court or report it, it matters. This stuff can destroy you. You don’t have to fight it alone. Tell people you trust and love. If they don’t listen, tell someone else. Tell it louder. For twenty seconds, be crazy brave and say, “Something awful happened to me. I need help. It’s hurting me. I need you to help me and believe me.”
  4. Know that it may become harder before it gets better. You’ll talk about it in counseling. You’ll feel the things again. You may have nightmares. You may be terrified or angry or inexplicably sad. However, there are ways to have therapy without experiencing the trauma. You can talk to a counselor about doing some of these things so you don’t have to relive it over and over and over.
  5. It gets better. I was so angry at God for years because I still felt the pain of my abuse. I hated him. Hated it. I begged him, screamed at him, cried, bartered for him to just make the pain go away. It didn’t for a long time. Now, after nearly 4 years of counseling, I can definitely, finally say that I have gotten 40% better. I no longer experience panic attacks. I don’t want to kill myself. I let my friends hug me. I stand up for myself. I don’t hurt myself to try to save myself anymore. I am learning how to live with all the things that have happened to me. Truly, I tell you: they do not define me or my life. I thought they did for a very long time. They still exist in my life, but I am not backing down.

I have so many people on my side. I have told my mother, my grandmother, and many of my friends. And many others. My pastor* and his wife, those who have had similar experiences. I talk to the kids I nanny about people touching them - I tell them to TELL ME or their parents when - if - it happens. It happens so much. In your home, at your church, at the mall, at school, in a bathroom.

I am still learning, still growing and healing. I have a tattoo of flowers on my leg. They’re blooming. Learning how to flourish after years of being still, dead, and cold.
Please, if you’re reading this today, even if it’s scary, get help. Tell someone you trust. If they don’t do anything, tell someone else. If you’re hurting yourself, tell someone. If you think about killing yourself, tell someone. If you’re slowly dying inside, tell someone. Find someone who refuses to stop helping and loving you. You deserve so much more than you have been given. If you want to, you can tell me. I can listen. If you want to, tell the police. If you want to, tell your doctor or a counselor or your aunt.

If someone tells you: believe them. Fight for them. Below, I have shared my favorite passage from one of my favorite books Exit, Pursued by a Bear. In it, a young girl is drugged and raped. She has a best friend, Polly, who refuses to leave her side. Who goes through hell with her, refusing to let go of her hand.

“Finally, there is a good chance that somewhere in your life, there is a champion. She will be an older student. A teacher you have never had. The secretary. Someone else’s mother. But that person will have a car and she will make time for you, and she won’t judge or ask questions. Finding her might be hard; you might never have spoken to her before. If you’re lucky, she’ll find you. Trust her when she does, even if no one else has ever stood up for you. I gave Hermione a Polly, but I think Polly might be the least fictional person in the book.”

There are so many Polly’s out there. They will believe in you. I do.



*I just want to say that my pastor, who is a pastor at a Southern Baptist Church, took my history of sexual assault, including an issue that happened in college with another man, very seriously. He believed me and fought hard to protect me. He loved and cared for me and, if I had gone to the police, he would have been there with me. Every church, every pastor should be like this. I was lucky to have been given such a church right when I needed it.
_______________________________________________________________________________

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” - Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

Johnston, E.K.. Exit, Pursued by a Bear (pp. 247-248). Penguin Young Readers Group. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

yo groceries

Before Daniel and I moved into our first apartment, I spent a lot of time researching food. Specifically, I was preparing for our future grocery list. I am super exciting.
I did this because a) we’re poor now b) we knew for sure the minimum money we’d be able to spend each month, based on Daniel’s assistantship alone (because I still don’t have a job) and c) that wasn’t much money at all.

I was unanimously voted head of the financial division of our household and I honestly really enjoy it. I had fun taking my Econ courses in college, and I like dividing up the money we have toward our expenses - bills, food, insurance, rent, etc.

Also, food has been an issue for me before, as you probably know. In college, my biggest expense was food. It’s kind of ironic - an anorexic spending all her money on food - but it was true. I want our family to be good stewards of what we have, to quickly pay off my 18,000 in undergrad debt, and eat healthy. So I made a plan for us to spend 150 dollars every two weeks, totalling 300 dollars per month for our food.

That includes everything - groceries, eating out, coffee, water, drinks at the pub, ice cream runs. 300 a month, max. No going over, nope. So far, a week in, we have spent our 150$, we have more than enough for the next week and have been able to get some fun treats. And we’re also eating really well.

I thought I’d share what our grocery list looks like. I know it’s hard. I’ve seen many of my newly married friends asking on Facebook how they’re supposed to do this. I didn’t know. It’s chaos having your own first place and paying for things and trying to keep yourself AND your spouse alive.

So, hopefully, this helps you. Or maybe you can improve this system Dan and I use, or straight out tell us we’re spending too much money on food. I’m down for whatever you have to say. I’ve divided out grocery list into 6 categories, to help show how we broke our spending down: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy, and other.

FRUIT
The cheapest fruits you can buy are pretty much the following: small apples, kiwi, bananas, melons (particularly cantaloupe), pears, and maybe oranges, depending on where you live. We got the following:
6 pears, four kiwis, 3 bunches of bananas, a bag of apples (about 4$ was the cheapest I could find for that), 5 pears, a huge tub of strawberries, a cantaloupe, and one pineapple.
The main keys to fruit shopping were buying a mixture of nearly ripe and not ripe at all fruit. We’ve eaten about ¼ of what we bought in the past week - what was ripe - knowing that the rest wouldn’t be ripe until week 2, so we could guarantee we’d have fruit around. Similarly, I looked for the cheapest deals. Target has the cheapest bananas around; Aldi has cheap strawberries; and walmart was for the rest. No amount of fruit except the apples was allowed to be over 3$. That’s roughly 26 dollars we spent for fruit for two weeks.

Other tip: I froze a cup of each kind of fruit we got for smoothies - except bananas for which I froze 5 bananas - and to make a fruit sherbet ice cream, because we can’t afford frozen delicacies yet. Take it or leave it :)

VEGETABLES
6 92 cent bags of frozen vegetables. A 95 cent bag of baby carrots, two small squash, one green pepper, a bag of potatoes, and an onion.  About 12$.
We prepare one bag of vegetables every other day, consuming half of it and saving the other half for the off day when we don’t make a new bag of vegetables. The carrots are one of our snacks we can eat whenever, and the rest are for specific meals.
GRAINS
Two loaves of bread, a canister of Quaker Oats, 2 boxes of blueberry muffin mix, one box of cornbread mix, one 95 cent cranberry orange muffin mix, a pumpkin bread mix, a thing of bagels, two boxes of cereal, and one of those huge cheap bags of cereal from Walmart, whole-wheat pasta noodles, tortillas, whole-wheat buns, 4 oven pizzas, and some 95 cent crescent rolls.
This is a pretty big category, but it was surprisingly cheap! First, I sent Daniel to Aldi to get whatever he could from this for cheaper than a few dollars, which knocked out a chunk of it. The rest we got at Walmart - again, everything had to be under 3 dollars, with the exclusion of the big bag of cereal, which cost about 5.  
After one week, we’ve barely dented the above. This was more than enough for us.

PROTEIN
** This will probably be different for you! Daniel and I are not carnivorous. I only eat bird meat, and Daniel decided to do this with me because it’s super CHEAP. One of the reasons I love ‘em, the scrooge.
We got 2 canisters (I don’t know what to call them) of ground, low-fat turkey meat for super cheap, a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Walmart, 4 chicken drumsticks, a Jiff low-sodium peanut butter, and 24 eggs.
We make one meal per day with protein in it. For the first two weeks we chose the following “big” meals we would have: spaghetti with turkey meals, BBQ chicken legs, turkey burgers, Sloppy Joe’s (made with turkey), Chicken Fajitas, Baked Chicken.
That’s six meals, but we them each twice, so we have Chicken Fajitas once a week. Every two weeks, we will pick 6 meals and do the same. For the 7th day, we use one of our oven pizzas or have breakfast for dinner, which is a great way to save money.

DAIRY
½ gallon of almond milk (I can make it last a month), 1 and ½ gallons of 1% milk for Daniel, a package of American Cheese, and a knock-off container of yogurt.
That’s it. We don’t use butter, oil, or margarine in our house. 1) It makes me sick (lactose and a dairy allergy)  and 2) I want our family to get our fats from nuts and fish, preferably. Or in the junk food we get.  
** I use mashed bananas as a substitute for all oil. It tastes way better and doesn’t make your stomach feel gross at all!


OTHER
Bag of coffee beans, two Diet knock off 12 packs from Walmart ($2.52 each), a 12 pack of walmart lemonade (2.52), a small bag of flour, sugar, and brown sugar, salt, and pepper, sloppy joe mix, fajita mix, a bag of doritos, orange juice, and coconut oil spray for cooking.

That’s it.

For us, the first shopping trips cost $30.08 (Aldi), $3.00 (Target), 2$ (Publix), and $79.52 (Walmart). That’s $114.60, leaving us $15.40 to spend. We spent that the next few days - buying orange juice, the lemonade, yogurt, another thing of bananas, a pineapple, and the doritos. We had enough left over for the two boxes of additional Walmart cereal, where we both got to pick what we wanted. We have spent 150 and we will not spend any more until next Monday. We will have more than enough until then, and we’ve been able to have snacks, seconds, and smoothies throughout the day.

If you have any thoughts let me know. Or, better yet, more tips to save money! We aren’t gonna coupon though, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

Some other things, before we go.
As I said earlier, we have one “big meal a day.” Usually dinner, and usually Daniel makes it, which is awesome, because I’m a terrible cook. So with that, Daniel usually has a sandwich or leftovers from the night before for lunch. I usually have a peanut butter sandwich, a few pieces of fruit, leftover vegetables, and some cereal. Or we eat a big brunch. I cook crepes every few days, and I love to bake. I’ve made muffins and pumpkin bread and I like to make smoothies, so we’re eating a lot and staying full.
Definitely make sure you’re eating enough and giving into your cravings. If you want something sweet, eat something sweet. If you want to eat some doritos, get a bag. But make smart choices. Get knock-off brands, even if you think they “don’t taste as good.” Save your money now until you get jobs where you can get actual cereal and not the Walmart brand. You’ll make it until then.
Drink water instead of soda and coffee. This is HARD for me, but I’ve gotten it down to one a day, so we don’t have to buy as much.

Grow your own vegetables and spices! I cannot wait to grow our own basil, mint, tomatoes, and rosemary. It’ll be fresh and lovely and something to take care of.

I hope this helps you and your little family, wherever you are and however poor you are. Eat. Break bread together. Work and love each other. It'll all be okay.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

my thoughts regarding 13 Reasons Why

Hi. 

I've wanted to write this post since I finished watching 13 Reasons Why a few weeks ago, less than a week after it came out. I watched it over the course of the week slowly, similarly to how Clay listened to Hannah's tapes in the series itself, because it's a hard show to watch.
Rape. Bullying. Depression. Suicide.

Suicide. Suicide. Suicide. 

I know - I know how hard it is to see it. Let me be clear, I understand the worry this show has provoked. I understand suicides come in clusters, provoking others to attempt the same thing. I've read a lot of posts, a lot of research and articles and scientists discussing how this show could negatively impact people, especially people struggling with thoughts of suicide, like Hannah Baker - the character in the show who kills herself. 

I thought I would share my thoughts on some of their ideas as a person who has not only attempted suicide but still struggles with the impulse to this day. 

I'm going to address three of the most common arguments I've heard against the show - not to try to prove anyone wrong, but to share my reaction to each and ultimately share why I think 13 Reasons Show is an important show for people to watch.

The first concern I've heard has to do with the lack of help Hannah receives throughout the show. So many of the adults in this show fail to help Hannah, especially her teachers. They acknowledge this. One of them - who is one of the "reasons" Hannah ends her life is torn apart by that. 
Most of the adults seem too busy or not concerned enough about Hannah. I think that's true. However, instead of taking the lesson from this as "no one cares about my sadness" or to not ask for help, for me I realized the following:
No one else is going to save you. No one else knows what you're feeling. Be real. Talk about it. Be blunt - say "I'm thinking about killing my self." 

Hannah didn't ask for help. There were people who valued and treasured her and in the end she lost the fight - because she was alone. 
You have to choose to fight, choose to live. If you can't do it - like I haven't been able to, like Hannah wasn't - you have to ask for people to help you. Find people who will, whether those individuals are counselors or teachers or therapists or friends or parents. 
But you have to speak. Depression and suicide and desperate to keep you silent and alone. That's when you're easy to take. They make you fragile and lost and then they take you. 

The reality I saw in this show was that you can't rely on others to save you from your mental illness. Because people fail. They're busy and don't know your heart and thoughts. You have to fight first, even if it's just to find people to help you get better - fight to find a person who will listen and help you as you try to help yourself.  

I don't feel like I fully explained that point as well as I think about it, but I'll move forward and hope that it comes full circle later in this post. 

The second huge argument I've heard is that this show glamorizes suicide.

I don't believe that. 

I watched the scene where Hannah killed herself four times. I made myself watch because it reminded me that suicide isn't beautiful. It's not glamorous or lovely or peaceful. It was awful. It was bloody and terrifying and it hurt her. She died alone. She died all alone. 
She died in a pool of her own blood, crying out with pain, in a silent bathroom all by herself.
It was awful. It was terrible. Her parents found her, and it was heartbreaking. Their grief racked my body with sickness, the horror of it all. 
It didn't glamorize anything, in my opinion. But maybe that seemed glamorous. For someone who has been there or who is tempted to do that so often, it was a stark example to me of what suicide is and how it's awful and sickening, terrifying and painful. It made me remember it's not a glorious escape. That my blood won't be beautiful. That the escape I crave isn't really an escape at all - it's just more pain for myself, the world, and the people in it. 

The last big thing I want to touch on is that people say that Hannah places the blame on others for her death in a way that says they killed her. 
I believe the point of the show isn't to show how these terrible people made a girl kill herself. I think it shows how the awful things that happen to us can destroy us if we don't heal from them - if we don't win the battle to overcome them. 
She got raped. She got bullied. She got grabbed and touched and called awful names. She didn't do anything when her friend got raped. Her hurt, her guilt, her body. They all ate her away. If she hadn't used people's names, what would we call the tapes? Reasons. Reasons why she killed herself. 
Because rape can make you want to kill yourself. Because bullying can destroy you. Because guilt can consume you. 

When you experience trauma - whether that be assault or abuse or anything - you can face deliberating effects that interfere with your ability to live.
Hannah's reasons were experiences that led to her no longer being able to live. When certain events occurred, she began to experience devastating depression, anxiety, and other overwhelming negative effects on her mental health and emotional stability. Those things hurt her deeply and chipped at her willingness to live until there was nothing left. 

Maybe that's blame, but to me it was a list of things that took parts of her until there was nothing left. 

So, what? So. I believe this show portrayed things that happen every day in life, particularly in high schools, that can destroy us if we can't properly combat them. 
All of my friends in high school had been sexually assaulted. All of them. Me, too. I'm not exaggerating. I wasn't bullied, but millions of students are actively being bullied.
Abuse. Rape. Hands on your body, being called names in the hall. Broken relationships. Rumors. Loneliness. Being ostracized. 
They can destroy you. They tear at your soul, your heart, your sense of self.
Like Hannah, you can suddenly believe you are nothing. That no one cares. That you're alone. That you can't live anymore - that it would be better if you are dead. 

This show presented the reality that we all face. Especially us millennials, who have the highest unprecedented rate of anxiety and depression. 

It showed what happens if you give up. You die. You die alone. And all the people who desperately loved you become broken, battered, guilty people. 

Also, I think it showed that in a world against us, loving each other, even trying to love someone back to life, is one of the most vital tools we have to help each other. Clay wasn't a therapist or medical doctor. He couldn't cure Hannah. In the end, she wasn't cured. She lost the battle against mental illness. People lose it every day. But he acknowledges his love could have helped her. We cannot underestimate the power our care has on a person. Us loving someone can be an essential tool in their fight. We must be willing to help people battle their pain. If not, what hope is there? 

This show is a call of action to me. To know the signs. To listen. To try to talk about these things. Especially to yell from the rooftops - "DEMAND HELP." Do not stop until you find a person who can help you. Save yourself. Fight. Fight. Fight fight fight fight, because no one else makes the decision for you.
You choose to kill yourself.
You choose when you give up. 
You're the one that's gotta do this, but you can have other people walk belong side you, if you go find them. It's not easy. But it's the only choice you have.

It took me 9 years to find an antidepressant that worked. Years of pills, of no pills, of prayers, of counseling, of no counseling. Of using other things to not feel, to not kill my self that only hurt me. It took years. And sometimes I was alone.
But sometimes I let other people hold me because I couldn't do it. Sometimes it took a person. It took me remembering one person who loved me - who would be devastated when I killed myself. That's what it took. For Hannah, it could have been Clay. For me, it happened to be my tiny brother and sister. They were my reasons I chose to stay. 

13 Reasons Why was just that - 13 reasons why Hannah didn't want to stay anymore. 13 things that led to her battling depression. 13 things that led her to choose to kill herself, to end her story. 

She lost the battle. 

I believe this show is important. I do not want it taken off Netflix. I want it to show that yes, these things happen. These things can kill you. But. But. You are not alone. Your story doesn't have to end because of them. They don't have to be reasons why you killed yourself.

Your story doesn't have to end with you alone, empty, believing lies about your worth and life and future. Your story can be altogether different. It can. It can be one of healing and triumph and restoration. It can be a battle against the terrible. Against rape and death and dying and depression. 

To me, this show reminded me of all the reasons we must desperately fight if we want to live, especially in a world where so many things can hurt us. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

what a year of "recovered" looks like

Sometimes I feel like I need to stop writing posts about eating disorders, but it's my jam.

Sorry for trying to be funny, but I know eating disorders are a hard topic to read about all the time. It's all I write about anymore but I think it's because it was such a big part of my life. It was one of the hardest things I've experiences. It was real, for me, for three years. I couldn't talk about it for a long time, especially last year when I was recovering, but I can now. I find myself wanting and needing to write about it. So here I am, writing about it for another time.

I don't know why I had to justify myself, but I did, so happy Tuesday.

I guess I just wanted to write a post about balance. I have for awhile, ever since I saw a blogpost from a girl who had an eating disorder but didn't want to participate in eating disorder awareness week because of some of the treatment particulars most commonly used for eating disorders - such as: sticking to an exact meal plan with three snacks and 5 servings of vegetables and X calories every day and not being able to be vegan during treatment because "it limits your diet" and other stuff like that.

I mean, I feel that. That makes sense to me. But to not participate in building awareness for the millions of men and women, boys and girls, people, who have eating disorders because of that makes me sad. It makes me most sad because I don't want people to believe that they have to recover a certain way. That they must do and eat the way above, only, to be "recovered."

The reality is that recovery is your own. It can be like what I described above and for some people it must be. For some, there has to be a strict plan to follow in order that their bodies heal from their disease. Until they can intuitively eat, monitor their body and weight on their own, and trust themselves to feed themselves they will follow that plan.

Anyway, I'm done talking about that. I just wanted to make how I felt about that very clear, especially for those considering recovery -- it's yours. Your body, your food, your plan. Work it out with people you trust, and learn how to feed yourself and live.

I wanted to give a bit of an example of how my eating has worked the past year, since I officially reached my pre-eating disorder weight exactly a year ago. It's been a whole year?????? I can't believe it.

But I can feel it in my body. Which is never really and truly hungry anymore. Which is strong and alive and well maintained. It's healed. I don't gain weight anymore. In fact, I've lost a lot of it. Not by restricting or exercising. By just living and trusting my body.

I'll use numbers to show this, because I think it helps. Last April I reached about 135, which was my weight before anorexia. That January I had weighed 98 pounds. So that's nearly 40 pounds in 4 months. Then, though, I kept gaining and gaining until I was probably 150 by July.

Let me be clear, it was very hard. But I had to eat. I was eating 2000 calories a day. I felt uncomfortable all the time, but that was what my body needed. It had been starved for three years. It had been YEARS since I'd eaten butter or pizza or popcorn or ice cream or bread. It hadn't had real sugar in forever, or protein. I ate granola bars and oatmeal for 3 years. How was it supposed to know what the heck to do with real food?

But, by September, I realized I wasn't hungry ALL THE TIME anymore. I began to feel full at meals, instead of having no idea when I was empty or full. I began to crave specific things - vegetables, bananas, salty pretzels. Suddenly, I knew what my body wanted to eat and how much it needed. I listened to it, ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full, and by December I was back to 135 pounds. I rest there now, comfortably, eating what I want and need to without fear of gaining 5 pounds or starving myself.

I'm chilling. And it's so easy now. I really am able to like myself now. Whereas, in April and August and December and June I hated myself. I was repulsed. I cried all the time. I felt terrible.
I got used to this new body. I'm fine with it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable, but most of the time I am content. I worry about stupid things - like showing my arms or thighs, or the roll I have on my belly - but I'm challenging myself to ignore them.

Because I'm tired of counting and measuring and hating this thing I'm in. I want to eat popsicles and go to nature centers and speak French and kiss my boyfriend and beat people at basketball.
I am silly and funny and high maintenance and love languages and eat donuts and a fan of cuddling. I am a sister, a friend, a Gab-Gab, a student, and a fiancé.

I love being able to eat two bananas and peanut butter and a bowl of Captain Crunch all in the same day. What I'm saying is that you have to learn. It's a process. It's not perfection in the slightest. Today I had two bagels for breakfast, two bowls of Captain Crunch for lunch, 3 little powdered donuts, and I'll have granola and some clementines for dinner. And I'll try to get Daniel to buy me a strawberry popsicle later.

Let yourself feel this out. But you must eat. You can't just eat 1200 calories or 1000 - "just what I need to survive" - and call that healing or living or being free. It's not. You can't restrict your diet and life and body to a certain size or food items or whatever. Eat what you need. Be aware of your needs - supplement. If you don't wanna eat meat, by all means, don't! But eat nuts and tofu and get your protein and iron, because you need it.

Don't be afraid of this. I know you are. I was. Still am, many a time.
It's going to be okay. You are. It gets better. I promise. Give yourself 6 months. Live with yourself. Feed your body. Nourish it. See what happens.

I bet, maybe, just maybe, you'll find you have so much more life than you've ever had before.
And if there's extra weight, I know you don't believe it, but, you aren't going to mind that much anymore - not with what you'll find in front of you: the beauty & freedom of a life not starving but full.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why should I care about eating disorders?

Why should I care about eating disorders?


Good question.

I understand where you’re coming from, though, to be perfectly honest. Before I had an eating disorder, I didn’t comprehend what having an eating disorder meant for a person. I didn’t understand how it affected a person and their family’s lives.


Looking back, I encountered eating disorders numerous times and I didn’t even realize it then. I remember, distinctly, the time where I walked in on one of my closest friends only to find her throwing up in a bathroom. She explained to me, quite quietly, with a note of guilt creeping into her voice that sometimes she threw up after she ate.
I said, “Oh.” Because I had no idea what to say. I didn’t know what else to say or do, whether I should talk to her about it or not, whether she wanted me to or not. It never even crossed my mind that she needed help. I didn’t think “maybe I should tell an adult” or “maybe she has bulimia.” I didn’t say anything, and, unfortunately, she continued to struggle with an eating disorder for quite a few years, until she was finally able to find help.


But what if I had said something? Don’t get me wrong; I am not plagued by guilt over this conversation. I, simply, was ignorant. I didn’t know the signs, symptoms, or realities that come with eating disorders and the people suffering from them. I had no idea what to do, or what to look for, or how to help someone battle their condition.


I am writing this blog post to try to help you know what to do. I think it’s vital for you to know what to do because 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder sometime during their lives. I am writing this blog post because at some point in your life, someone you love will have an eating disorder, whether it’s your neighbor, your spouse, your child, nephew, partner, or best friend. Whether it’s a girl at work or your son’s lab partner or someone of your very own flesh and blood - they will be suffering from the mental disorder that has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. They’ll be dying, right before your eyes.


And it doesn’t matter what they look like. They can be whatever label society has created - fat, skinny, curvy, a twig, a stick, voluptuous - and still be dying and suffering right in front of you.


Eating disorders are silent, vicious beasts that exist best in secret. They are most threatened when they are discovered by others. They vie to be kept in the dark, feeding on the insides of the person you love, in order to accomplish their goal. The goal is always death. If you’re good at anorexia, or bulimia, or any eating disorder, the prize is less weight, and, ultimately, dying.


I’m writing this because I never knew what I could and should do to help someone. I am writing this for my mother and father and sister and brother, for my best friends and lover, who had to watch me starve myself for three years. I cannot begin to imagine how they felt and I am so very sorry, but I am determined to try to help you and me, us - I am determined to try to help us, as people, - help those who we think are struggling with the deadliest mental illness there is.


What can I do about eating disorders?


  1. You can spread awareness. If no one knows about something, how can we ever expect there to be understanding or - better yet - action? If we don’t know the facts about eating disorders, especially the signs and symptoms, how can we help the people we love get better? Do your research. I’ll do mine, too. And then tell others about it.
  2. You can do SOMETHING because “awareness without action is worthless.” I just quoted Dr. Phil, and I am not ashamed, because he is dead right. I can know all the facts about eating disorders, I can know what it’s like to have one, but if I don’t do something about it, I’m not changing anyone and the time I spent existing in an eating disorder or learning about one is worthless. There are always things to be done, so don’t let yourself use that excuse. There are walks every year for NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) and many other organizations dedicated to helping people recover. There are treatment centers who would love funding or volunteers or support that change countless lives every year with their care.
  3. You can talk about them. There are girls and boys on track teams and sitting in history class wondering if they are alone in their illness. I DID NOT KNOW I HAD AN EATING DISORDER FOR OVER SIX MONTHS AFTER IT BEGAN. I didn’t know what anorexia really was. I didn’t know if other people were like me, or if I was the only one. I thought I was alone, but now I know - we are never truly alone. I was lucky enough to meet countless others struggling with conditions similar to mine, but so many people, especially the young boys are girls who are fighting eating disorders, are so deeply alone. So, please. Let’s talk about this.


What can I do if someone I love has an eating disorder?
I decided to add, “What should I do?” to this question, because, as a survivor of anorexia, I know what it’s like to have people who want to help you. I know the good things people did to help me - and I know the things that pushed me away, closer to my eating disorder.


  1. Don’t show them you are angry toward them. I think this is hard. I think it’s very hard, but it’s also very important.
When I first started losing weight, I remember my parents telling me for the first time that I needed to stop. I remember their words - “that’s enough.” I remember my real dad yelling at me to eat. I remember their frustration and the accusations and the constant feeling of tension at meals in our house. Oh, I hated it. I was so angry and scared, but I didn’t believe I had a problem. I was angry because they wanted to take something I thought was good away from me. Their anger made me shut down. And, later, when I finally realized I did have a problem, I was too embarrassed and scared to talk to them, because they had been right. I was afraid they’d be angry again. (This was not their fault at all. It was no one’s fault. It was simply how my and our story unfolded).
Please, if you expect someone has an eating disorder, don’t be angry.


2. Try to talk to them about it. Like I said, I didn’t believe I had a problem, and I believe many people suffering from an eating disorder have similar beliefs. I have heard the phrases “I only skip one meal” or “I eat enough calories to live” or “I only threw up twice last week” so many times from people who needed help. Even if they don’t believe they have a problem, they do. Try to talk to them about if. If they don’t want to talk to you, find someone they will talk to. Take them to a counselor, a good one. And even later, ask them if about how they’re doing. Be gentle. Remind them you’re only asking because you love them, and you aren’t trying to control them or take away their power. You want to hear them. If they don’t want to talk, respect that, but remind them they can always come to you.


3. Please, be careful with the doctors. This one is tricky, because doctors are essential for recovery. They were for me. I had two counselors, a psychiatrist, and a person who weighed me every week when I first started to truly recover. I wouldn’t have gotten better without them - and I needed a medical professional to write down my weight each week. NOT A PARENT. A medical professional. Doctors are essential for recovery, but some don’t handle eating disorders well. At all.
I was told by the first doctor my mother took me to, that I was perfectly fine. That losing the twenty pounds I had lost was okay, as long as I didn’t lose more. That my BMI was normal, so I didn’t have an eating disorder. I used that against my mother, and lost thirty more pounds for good measure, because I was perfectly fine with a lovely BMI. Again, for the ones in the back, you can have any BMI and have an eating disorder. So find a doctor that takes the person you love’s condition seriously, regardless of their size.


4. This one I feel like I’ll get some flak for, especially from people with eating disorders, but I’m sorry. I believe this. Put them into treatment. Do it. Stop whatever it is they’re doing and get them into a program. If it’s college or high school or work or being a mom or playing baseball - get them out of it and put them into an intensive recovery program.
They are not living. They might be doing “big things” but they are dying from their disorders. School is not more important than recovery. Graduating college is not as important as not starving to death. Being able to finish your senior year of high school will not ever be more important than you getting your life back and healing from a disease that is very likely to kill you and rob you of your future.


5. Don’t comment on their bodies. Especially once they start gaining weight because they are saving themselves by eating. DO NOT DO IT, no matter your intentions. It’s not encouraging. It will destroy them. It’s devastating. Don’t comment on their bodies or weight. If you must, compliment their souls. Complement their choice of makeup or shirt or eye color. Tell them you love their smile and laugh and the way they make pancakes or can do math. Compliment on what is definitively them, not what is changed as they change shape and size.


5. Love the crap out of them. Love them so hard. Point them to Jesus, because that’s a transforming kind of love. Pray for them, sit beside them while they cry, let them know they can call you anytime of the night (and mean it), help them believe they are precious and have value and are loved because they don’t believe it. They don’t see themselves the way you see them. They can’t. They have to learn, and it takes a really long time. So love them until they can learn to love themselves and let themselves eat and live again.


6. Let their recovery take time. Eating disorders don’t just go away, especially once a weight is reached. Even if they look healthy again, don’t just assume they’re better. It’s still a long fight and struggle inside the mind. I struggled the most with my eating disorder once I was weight restored (i.e. reached the weight I was before anorexia). Let their healing take years, if it has to. Allow them to heal at their own pace, and let them find their life slowly and steadily.


I think that’s enough for today, guys. I’m tired after writing that, but a good kind of tired. I will hopefully write more this week. I want to, desperately. Please, please, please email me or message me on facebook if you have any questions or concerns, or if you want to tell me your story. I would love that. I truly would.


Below, I am including a chart concerning eating disorders in teenagers, a poem from my current work in progress Heartbeat Sound, and some useful links for research. I hope you enjoy all of them, and can learn something to help you whenever you encounter a person with an eating disorder.


Much love always,
Gabbie



from http://nedawareness.org/about

Also, check out, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/what-are-eating-disorders.


This poem was written the first week I started not restricting. By restricting, I am referring to the diet I lived by when I was anorexic. I had a 1000 calorie limit, and I exercised for about 2-5 hours a day. For some reason, I started to eat much more than that. I blame a loving God, who put me in the places I needed to be. He gave me wonderful counselors, medication that helped my brain, a boy who loved me desperately, and some amazing friends and family that believed in me.
It was three years long coming; I started to gain weight back that I desperately needed. People started to notice. The following is what I wrote last year in response to that. I have decided not to change it, because I think it's important to show you what I thought when I was still in the depths of my eating disorder.

January 31st at 11:39 PM
Two people today
told me:
         “Wow, you look different.”
         “Your face looks rounder.”

Because I do not look like a skeleton?

Because I am 107
bordering on 108
         with thighs close to touching

Nauseating
         that thought

But I have a body that isn't fat
         it's not, gabbie
         It’s not

It's got more meat
you can't count my bones
but it is firmer
solid
with bones that do not feel like they will break
and a softer waist
wider thighs
thicker arms
but it's also fed
more energy
larger size
not straight lines
broader thighs
lighter eyes
hair that grows
         not falls
a number that climbs on the scale
muscles gaining mass
fat gaining, going high
fat doesn't have to be bad

Why live a life
dictated by a number?

But don't
comment on my body
the shape of my face
don't tell me I look great
don't mention my thighs
or the roundness of my face
or how different I look

Just don't
I don't care what place you're coming from
whether it's kind
         or not
concerned
         or proud

Don't comment on my body
my shape or my size
my hair or my eyes

Comment on my kindness
         my compassion
Find something that's me
         regardless of size

Tell me to nurture that
to make that grow in size
remind me that I am not me
         not bound by this body
because as of now
this thing is my enemy
and I don't want it to be me

So let's focus on different aspects of me
comment on my laugh
or my jeans
         not their change in size
tell me you like my creativity
or my writing
how I cannot do geometry

make my spirit
my portion my prize
until I'm ready
and can live and exist

regardless of size