Nicolette’s Point of View

 A Letter to Ana

Dear Ana,

​My name is Nicolette- you don’t know me very well, but I’ve seen you many times and feel like I know you very well. You see, you know my little sister, Olivia. Oh, you know her, the bubbly, energetic, passionate girl you’ve been stalking for the past…too many years. Somehow you’ve never affected me directly and I’m still not totally sure how you choose your victims. You see, Olivia and I aren’t that different. Sure, she may be a bit louder, chattier, and more adventurous than me (but let’s just keep that between us). However, you have indirectly impacted my life and I’ll always remember the wake you leave behind.

​Olivia and I are three years apart (some people think we’re twins but we both know who has the better brows…me). My parents gave me the best gift a girl could ever ask for, a little sister! Olivia was born to be my personal BFF. Obviously, we had our squabbles, broken Polly Pockets, an arm or a nose occasionally falls off an American Girl Doll, but just your typical sister stuff. For a while, that was all we had to worry about. But that was before you moved in, Ana. That was before you changed everything.

​I still remember the day. We had just moved to our new neighborhood in the cookie-cutter Geneva, IL. We could tell through driving around “the circle” we were going to be living in a neighborhood full of fun and active kids. While I was excited about the possibilities of new friends, maybe even a new ~*crush*~ (in my own defense I was twelve or thirteen and reading waaaay too many Seventeen magazines), I remember lil’ Olivia making the comment “Wow! We’re going to become sticks!”, meaning, we’re going to be playing outside all the time and exercising so we’ll become super skinny! Probably not the first thought someone going into 3rd grade should have…I should know because I am now a third-grade teacher and all those kids care about are Taki’s, Roblux and Five Nights at Freddies, and taking down Donald Trump…but that’s neither here nor there.

​I digress. To me in that moment, bells went off in my head. I remember from reading all those Seventeen Magazine articles about the warning signs of an eating disorder. I often think back to that moment and wonder if I had done something differently in that moment, maybe things would’ve been different. Maybe, if I had said something I wouldn’t have spent lying awake at night while in college wondering if my sister was harming herself, or contemplating harming herself. Even though you don’t know me personally, Ana, I know you and I know what you can do. I remember my stomach being in knots as I listen to my mom crying over the phone, running out of ideas to help my best friend. The amount of stress that puts on a person is inconceivable. A thousand “what ifs” constantly running through my mind. The person you changed my sister into was constantly on my mind. My own relationships suffered from the stress. You changed me, Ana. Maybe you don’t always see the collateral damage outside of your victims, but it’s there. You are more powerful than you know. I could go on telling you about the thoughts that were going through my head, and at times still do, but I don’t want to give you the gratification that without even trying, you almost had another victim.

​Olivia asked me to write something for her NEDA project about how EDs affect the people on the outside. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do it at first. I didn’t want to admit that you influenced me because putting all my thoughts and memories that I’ve tried to forget will only make you more real. I’ve realized through my sister, that girl you tried to take down, that this is exactly what you, Ana, need to hear. Yes, there are some nights and periods of my life that I hate thinking back on. Seeing my BFF struggle and hate herself is gut-wrenching. Thinking about those times makes my stomach turn into knots again and my heart start to race. So, take this as a goodbye. We might bump into each other again, either when you try to take my sister away again or one of my “kids” (which I currently have 48 and counting btw, occupational hazards). But through my strong sister and watching the warrior she has become; I’ve learned how to beat you and work through you. I hope I never see you again, but I know I will. You’re clingy and needy and seem to never disappear. We all know that one person who is just always “around’. No one likes that person, Ana, and we can only hope that one day you will be defeated for good. But, until now I’m going to enjoy the occasional glass (or two)…(or three)…(ok the whole bottle) of the cheapest red wine we can find with my sister. And you’re not invited.

 Sincerely,

Nicolette

 PS- You can’t sit with us.

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Bridget’s Story

“Anorexia is one disease I was certain I’d never suffer from. Growing up, I ate whatever I wanted, worked out and had a healthy relationship with food. I even remember making immature remarks with my best friend in high school about a girl who clearly suffered from bulimia, not understanding how serious the disease was. “How the hell could you not eat, and how could you do that to your body?” I wondered. I was sure that girl with the eating disorder would NEVER be me.

In the fall of 2012, I began college. Constant school stress, high levels of anxiety (which I’ve since been diagnosed with) and no longer having my support group from home took its toll on me. At first I lost my appetite because I was simply too stressed to eat. Slowly, it became intentional. Anorexia creeped its way into my life until it controlled me completely. I worked out 2-3 times per day. I obsessively counted calories, challenging myself to consume as little as possible on any given day. I weighed myself twice, sometimes 3 times a day, getting a secret high every time the number on the scale dropped lower.
I was extremely sick, but on the outside I appeared fine. Friends and family commented on how skinny I looked, but I told them I simply was working out and eating well. I had a 4.0, had joined a sorority and made plenty of friends. But nobody knew how sick I truly was. I convinced myself I was fine and that I didn’t need help. It wasn’t until my older sister reached out to my best friend from home in November that I was confronted about having a problem.
I lied. I got angry, and I pretended like she was crazy for thinking anything was wrong. But slowly, the walls that I had built up to convince myself I was OK came tumbling down. I had no energy, my immune system was a wreck, and I became so depressed I was sleeping at least 10 hours a night. It wasn’t any way I wanted to continue living.
So, I started the long process of recovery. I tried multiple therapists (none helped me personally, but that isn’t to say therapy can’t help others). But as my college years continued and I battled ED tendencies on and off, I started to find connections to why I couldn’t eat. It all came back to anxiety and having control to attempt to limit my anxiety. I craved control of my life so badly that I chose the one thing I knew I could always control: my food intake.
When I had a relapse my senior year of college, I finally saw a doctor. I was so ashamed, but I told him the truth. And he helped me. He didn’t judge me or think I was exaggerating. He listened and decided anxiety medication was the best step forward. A year later, I’m on a daily anxiety/depression medicine that has worked wonders. I have no urges to go back to my old ED habits, and I am the happiest I have ever been. I still have progress to make, though. I have yet to return to running and working out, but that is my next step (and one that I fully know I am capable of doing).
Recovery is a long process, but one that is worth the pain it takes to get there. I’m no longer bitter or angry at my disease because it showed me I am strong enough to overcome any obstacle life throws my way. To anyone suffering, do not hesitate to seek help. And to anyone who knows someone suffering, I encourage you to speak up. It saved my life, and it could save someone else.”
-Bridget Brady, 23, Chicago

“If You Give It An Inch, It’ll Take A Mile”

One thing a lot of people know about me is my addiction to Starbucks. Over the holiday season, I accumulated a lot of gift cards to this delicious franchise, which I have been utilizing just about every weekend. I normally go and order my normal safe drink- a grande iced skinny vanilla latte (light ice). However, because today is the kick off for NEDA week, I asked my recovery friends to give me a challenge.

Right now I am currently sitting here fighting back the urge to cry/hide/throw up as I stare at my tall caramel Frappuccino in front of me. When I ordered it, I did not think that there would be a mountain of whipped cream and caramel drizzle on top.

IMG_4190.JPGNone of the people around me probably are aware that I am currently freaking out of a four-dollar drink. All the people chatting and working around me have no idea that I feel like the walls are closing in on me and that the thoughts in my head are telling me that with each sip I take I am gaining pound after pound.

This is a snippet of what it is like to live with an eating disorder. Most people do not think twice about what they order (other than the fact that they spent a ridiculous amount of money on a tasty drink LOL). However, for me, this drink is one of the most challenging things I will do all day.

A simple blend of coffee, milk, and caramel is causing me far too much anxiety. I wish I could sit here and just drink and enjoy like all the other people around me. I noticed that as I sit here typing and slowly drinking I am slipping into comparing myself to other people. I saw a very slender woman walk in and I was instantly filled with self-hatred because I was thinking how I lost all self-control by drinking my calories. Ana demands that I must always be the skinniest person in the room. I cannot do that by drinking these calories she yells!
However, THAT IS NOT NORMAL/HEALTHY THINKING! But, the thing is, I am not the only one who thinks like this. So many people suffer with an eating disorder and are filled with these thoughts. I am being controlled right now by whipped cream. I am letting the idea of consuming whipped cream cause me to spiral out of control.

My good friend Hailey was the one who told me to challenge myself with this drink. When I first saw my order, the panic set in so I texted her. I was texting her how I couldn’t drink this and that I needed to get rid of the whipped cream. I wanted to just scrape all of the caramel whipped cream goodness out of my cup and into the trash. I was in a full out panic. Hailey responds to me with this simple sentence: “If you give it an inch, it’ll take a mile.” 

I wanted to challenge myself today because it is the kick off to NEDA week 2017. I wanted to challenge myself because I deserve to be able to enjoy a drink without freaking out. I wanted to challenge myself today because I want to gain my life back. I am so sick of living in fear over food and calories.

This frappuccino will not end me. It will not make me gain ten pounds nor will it make me a failure. The only thing that will fail me will be if I give my eating disorder that inch of control. If I give ED that bit of power, I am inviting the behaviors back in. I am welcoming ED to come waltz in and torment me. So, all I have to say to ED is, not today b*tch. Not today, not ever again. I am in charge of my life now. I am the master of my fate.

“The Anorexic Body”

I have been biting my tongue now for a while on the topic that I am referring to as ‘the anorexic body.’

The anorexic body, is how people who do not understand EDs, wrongly determine if someone is struggling with an eating disorder

So, let me ask you, being that I have been recovering from my anorexia for years now, how am I supposed to look?

Am I supposed to be rail thin and bony? Do you want me to have curves?

I have anorexia, so I should look like I have anorexia, right? Otherwise, am I really sick?

I am asking these questions for a reason. I am asking them because I am trying to figure out where this myth started that in order to have an eating disorder, you must look a certain way.

Granted, I know an obvious answer is media. Most often, when we see a skinny GIRL, the first thing that comes to mind is, “I wonder if she eats.” But, when we see a skinny BOY, its just assumed that he must have an insanely fast metabolism. The girl in the picture will go on to receive copious comments discussing her body shape. People will either comment things like- “BODY GOALS!” or “Gross, she does not look good at all she is a skeleton.” No one would ever dare to assume that the boy might be the one with the eating disorder. Nope, isn’t anorexia something only girls get?

I am not sure who or how these assumptions began about ‘the anorexic body,’ but it needs to stop ASAP.

People suffering with an ED are continuing to suffer because they do not meet the physical requirements of an eating disorder and therefore do not get proper treatment. It is as if there is a rule that if you don’t look the part, you’re not really sick.

I am curious about how we rooted the idea of the ‘normal/perfect’ body.

What is normal?

What is perfect?

How should my body look?

How should YOUR body look?

….does it really even matter?

You Can Help Make a Change

Hello my fellow EDwarriors and all the lovely humans who are still following my blog even with my major neglect towards posting. It means a lot to still have this support so I thank you!

This is a super important post and I need your help so please read it all!

We only have a little over a month until NEDA week! AKA a very important week dedicated to spreading as much awareness on eating disorders and helping people gain a stronger understanding of this serious illness!

That being said, I am being pretty ambitious this year and I am working on 2 major projects/campaigns to increase awareness.

My goal with these projects is to put a face to the disease; to get people to understand that their son/daughter/wife/husband/neighbor/etc could be silently struggling from this disease. Anorexia is the deadliest mental illness and if we increase awareness/understanding we can work to decrease the rate of mortality and support those suffering from getting to that point.

I am making a generalization, but our society is a little naive when it comes to eating disorders.

Our words and actions have a lot of power and we throw around negativity like its confetti- and just like confetti, the negativity spreads everywhere and never really gets completely picked up. Many of the things we say/do today are unhealthy behaviors or triggers associated with EDs. Gaining knowledge on eating disorders will help to prevent us from spreading this idea that we are inadequate.

I work with kids and I see too many little girls and boys already hating the soul that live inside their skin. Between the pressures of schoolwork, to activities, to needing to build a perfect resume to get acknowledged by colleges; the expectations put in place are obscene. Childhood is not supposed to be a job.

We can so easily alter our body now through surgeries that we are becoming strangers. We are forgetting that everybody and EVERY BODY is beautiful because we are being told that there is something wrong with the way we look.

That is why NEDA week is so important. That is why I am working so hard to make sure our voices are heard- so we can learn to love ourselves again and support those in need.

If you want to be apart of one of my projects I would absolutely love it. The more people involved, the more people it will reach.

I am compiling a video using footage of those impacted by EDs. Whether you suffer with one or you know someone who suffers, I would love to hear your voice. Tell me how this impacted your life, or why you chose recovery. Tell me something you want everyone to know about EDs.

If this is something that interests you, please contact me at liveliv_EDrecovery@aol.com for more information on this project and for the guidelines for the clips.

I have set up a gofundme as well and all the money raised is going to National Eating Disorder Assoications so we can provide resources to those who need it. In the link you can read more about the campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/eating-disorder-awareness

Thank you for the continuous support and PLEASE SHARE this post so we can get as many people as possible involved.

A NYE Letter

Dear,

Tomorrow marks the New Year. The one time of the year that many people believe is the only appropriate time to make a resolution to change. People tend to make a big deal out of this night because it marks the night of new beginnings.

We make a big fuss over the New Year because we see it as a chance to make the change we have wanted to do. But, do we need one set night to allow us to feel the need to make a life change? Sure tomorrow when we wake up it will be a new calendar year, but has anything else really changed?

The thing is, we let ourselves use our New Year resolutions as a way to move on from the things we want to forget.

“2016 was a shitty year for America” I see this headline everywhere, but 2016 ended up being my best year yet. Yeah, I am very upset over a lot of the changes that happened in the world, but that is no reason to make me resent a year where I had the most growth. Things will happen that we cannot control and we cannot blame the way life is now because of the last year we had. Everyday we are able to make a new resolution. Everyday we are able to make a new change. Things will only be bad if you all yourself to manifest these feelings.

We can be cowards and live with negativity OR we can choose to be a hero.

Dear Past Liv,

If I told you this time last year that in the February of 2016 you would be hospitalized for your eating disorder who you have believed me?

Liv, you started 2016 off terribly, lets be honest here. She was not in a good place, and she would not have believed that she would have accomplished as much as she has today.

When I entered the year 2016 my goal was to just live, but I did not know what I was living for. I did not know my purpose. We are not just born to die.

So for my readers who believe that the New Year is the only chance you have to reinvent yourself, I ask you to open your mind more. We do not need a holiday in order to start something new.

So, tonight, just live. Because we cannot control where we will end up- but we can control how we choose to let it impact the way we live.

Im baaack

Hey. It’s been awhile and I am sorry for my absence. Things got a little crazy for me. So this post is just an update I guess of the past weeks from my last post. I have some really good ideas to write about later.

Eating wise I am doing great, yet I have been struggling to gain weight and I am currently approaching my lowest weight from back when I was 15. Its frustrating because even with two ensure plus a day; I cannot seem to gain weight. My pulse and blood pressure are out of whack and I just wish I had some answers.

This is the ugly side of an eating disorder. The side that does not get mentioned much because we strive to be strong- weakness is unacceptable; we must have zero flaws in the eyes of Ana.

I hurt my body for so long and she needs time to heal. Time that I do not necessarily have. My mood is great- I have never been so happy and content with how my life is looking. I can taste that I have a very bright and exciting future approaching in the next few months. Between having amazing placements for student teaching and just the love and support of my friends, I do not want to do anything to jeopardize my happiness.

I have so much control over Ana right now. My body just needs to replenish.

I sometimes hear people say that they are going to not eat for a couple days or talk about an extreme diet they want to try to lose weight.

When people say they wish they had control over food like I do, it makes me shudder.

I do not have control over food. Food has control over me. Not eating is not self-restraint. It is my mind screaming at me that if I eat even one chip from the bowl in front of me that I am a failure.

Anorexia is not glamorous.

Anorexia is my nightmare and I just want to WAKE UP ALREADY–HELP ME WAKEUP.

Even when I have control over her, she still finds ways to barge into my life.

I am sick of waking up shaking because I do not have enough body fat to keep me warm. I hate when my ears ring and I start to see dots. I am sick of needing to take breaks while walking up stairs. I am sick of being constantly dehydrated even after drinking what feels like an ocean. I am sick of the exhaustion followed by the hyperactivity. I am embarrassed by my body right now. I am covered in bruises because of deficiencies. I may not look sick and I do not want validation if you think I do.I just need to keep doing everything I am doing and hope that I will start to gain weight. Leggings are not supposed to be baggy. My bones are not supposed to stick out as much as they do.

I am still capable of being the successful person I am. Someone once asked me if I was concerned about this blog with the fact that future employers may find it. I put thought into it, but at the same time, spreading awareness on eating disorder is SO important to me. I will continue to advocate and bring as much light as I can.

Just because I have anorexia it does not make me any lesser of a person.

It does not make me incapable of doing the things I love.

Please just take time to understand before jumping to conclusions.

This post is a weird one for me, but it’s the only way I can reach people to understand that I am not engaging in behaviors. I am stronger than ever mentally, it is just physically where I need to find the missing piece leading to these symptoms.

Until next time..

A letter I wish I recieved

The hardest time of the year is quickly approaching—holiday season.

Between thanksgiving feasts to Christmas dinners – not to forget the temptations everywhere of homemade cookies and hot cocoa, I have to fight really hard to stay ahead of Ana.

I think back to the stranger I once was. That scared, little girl who thought she was only beautiful when her body was completely empty. The girl who always had a plan of manipulation in mind to get what she wanted.

I compare her to who I am now and I struggle to fathom that this ghost was once me. This past month alone was filled with so much success and love. So many happy memories and genuine smiles. I realized MY purpose.

I wish I could talk to my younger self and tell her what I know now… but, I cant. So, instead, I hope that someone who is currently in a place like my past self will stumble upon this letter.

Dear friend,

Hey. It’s been a wild year hasn’t it? I know you’re scared. Holiday season is coming up and that normally means there will be a lot more food to eat with big groups of people. Not to mention in these big groups of people, there are those select few who will be nonchalantly watching you and they will notice any of your unhealthy tricks. Your little mind right now must be scattered with backup plans trying to figure out what tricks will work. I know you think that not eating is going to be the best thing for you, but lets stop and think for a second. Write down what you value. Now add in a goal you have for your future self. The goal can be big or small, just something that can be worked towards. You don’t have to tell me what you wrote, but just picture in your mind what your life would be like if that was the focus. I know Ana is living in your head. Telling you that all of this is a lie and that you should never trust anyone. I bet right now she just told you I am trying to make you fat. Tell Ana I say hello, and that I don’t miss her one bit. I can’t wait until we are both free from Ana.

What is more important to you? Sharing time and memories with friends or passing out after walking up a flight of stairs? Would you rather eat a cookie even if your mind is telling you how wrong that is or would you rather be in the hospital hooked up to a tube force-feeding you the nutrients you keep depriving yourself?

I have a feeling your goal for yourself was not something about having years filled with therapy and self-hate. Or spending more time in a hospital than with the people you care about. But, if you keep letting Ana in, that’s the direction you are going.

Harsh? Yeah, it is. But it is also the reality. This holiday season is about love and joy and being with people who make us feel good. Yeah I get how tempting that sounds to sleep through Thanksgiving dinner, but then, let me know how much fun you have spending your days alone in the hospital. I will always remember my 17th Thanksgiving as the day before I went to treatment.

That is Ana’s goal. Ana, the one you TRUST, is really just your escort to death. Don’t let her win. Listen to me when I say the hospital is not a fun place to be. I am pretty sure they purposely keep the EDP unit on the coldest temperature. Maybe it is so that Ana will freeze to death so that YOU can live again.

I do not expect you to take my advice and make these changes right away. You will not disappoint me as long as you keep trying. I know you’re scared. I was and still am sometimes. But now the reason I am scared is because of the consequences for how long I danced with Ana. The longer the dance, the longer it takes for organs to heal.

This holiday season, lets find a new dance partner. I will not let you feel alone or that nobody cares for you. Because I do. Even if I have never met you, I care. If you start to slip and lose hope and you do not know what to do, I am going to tell you right now what to do. You are going to reach out to myself or someone you trust. You are not going to let Ana win. You are so much stronger. You have no idea how much greatness and unconditional love there is for you. So, until you can see this on your own, I am your anchor. I will not let you forget how worthy you are.

xx Liv

A Breakthrough

Yesterday I had a breakthrough with recovery after seeing my dietician and therapist. My dietician showed me proof of my body cells clearly leading to heart failure and irreversible neurological damage; along with a high increase of not being able to have a baby or instead, having constant miscarriages. I always hated my therapist because she is a bitch to me, but I finally understand what she is doing.

I have spent so much time obsessing over what’s wrong with me and trying to get people to understand how serious my demons are, when in reality, I need to channel this energy into positive thinking. By making my main focus my ED and my Bipolarness I am not letting myself enjoy life.

If you’re reading this you might be thinking, “well duh, Liv, obviously positive thinking leads to a positive life. And that by being so focused on the negativity was hindering me from LIVING.” From now on, only positive things will be my focus. My journaling and painting is where I express the negativity. Of course I might still ask for help in regards to eating and grocery shopping, but I will get to that point where it gets easier. I AM NOT MY ILLNESS.

I looked at myself in the mirror today while changing and started crying at how unhealthy my body looks. I do not want this to be my life. It is not normal for my rib cage to show every bone so clearly and to have such protruding hipbones. This IS NOT how my body should look and I need to start loving my body AND myself.

I thank you all for the support, it really mean a lot. BUT, the only one that can save me is MYSELF and by finally realizing that I seek attention through my actions is not the way to go about recovering. I am scared to admit when I am struggling, but I need to express this in healthy ways. Hurting myself is not the answer. I am not saying that my mental health is made up or attention seeking, but I am saying that when I get so desperate and so consumed by my thoughts, I do not properly handle myself well. It is okay to just say, “Hey today is a rough day for me, but it will pass.” It’s SO much better than trying to give off clues that I desperately need help by making it physically obvious. I have a voice that can express what is troubling me. My journaling is for my demons. Not my friends. My friends are my support; not my therapist. And my perspective on my mental health is finally starting to change.

My new life begins now; A life of positive growth and positive thinking.

Facade

Façade-my favorite word

Everyone lives a façade. We create a perfect outside image to hide our actual reality.

“When did creating a flawless façade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person who lives inside your skin?”

Sometimes, recovery is one big façade. Being threatened with treatment and having opportunities snatched away makes some of us who are struggling not want to admit it.

I do not want to tell my parents that I am struggling right now.

I do not want them to know that I have hardly been eating any food.

I do not want my friends to see me feeling glum and sad.

I do not want to ruin my façade.

I’ve been doing exceptionally well since I was last hospitalized in February. I have been going to appointments, following my meal plan, taking my medications. I was able to stop acting because I started to naturally feel like my normal, go-lucky self.

One of the reasons I created this blog is so people can understand that anyone can look happy and healthy on the outside but really have something dark going on in their actual reality. Some people do the best acting in their daily life so know one will ever know the truth.

So, yeah right now I do think I need a kick in the butt. I need to eat. I need to get re-motivated. I get scared for my parents to find out because they have spent so much money to finally get me “cured.” I do not want to waste their money by not listening to my dietician because I am skipping meals. My dietician is a crucial part of my recovery team and I need her.

I think its important for parents of children struggling with an eating disorder to understand that we do not intentionally act like brats and ignore the things we are told to do. Eating is scary. Recovery is scary. Changing to a new (healthy) lifestyle is scary. I have been living in a way fueled by Ana for so long that I get scared sometimes what will happen without her.

I want to be able to be open with people. Well okay, I am extremely open with everyone since I publicize my entire recovery, but I leave out important facts. I do not mention the part where I only ate on meal on this one day or when I stood in the aisle at the store fighting the urge to buy laxatives.

I am sick of being sick but I am also scared to say when I am feeling weaker.

I will have bad days or weeks but that does not make it appropriate to threaten to send me home from college. It does not make it okay to say to someone they need to go into intensive treatment over a slip up. Doing this makes it worse. Doing this makes me (and probably a lot of other fighters) want to fake our recovery, which benefits NO ONE.

So, when you see your child struggling, try to just show support. Do not freak out and jump to conclusions so quickly. Obviously do so if it keeps getting worse, but we need to feel supported and cared for. We are not giving up and we need to know that our support system won’t give up either.