Liv vs. Exercise: Part 1

Growing up, I always had a love for fitness. I was very active in sports and trained at a competitive level. Running was always one of my favorite pastimes.

As my eating disorder began to get worse, my relationship with fitness took a very dark turn. I became OBSESSED with the numbers. I would go to the gym with a pre-determined number that I must burn off before I was allowed to leave. I never saw anything disordered about this because it was easy then to just convince myself that I wanted to be in better shape for soccer season.

I would go to the gym sometimes more than once a day being completely controlled by the numbers showing up on the machine. No matter how sick I felt, I could not get myself to stop before I hit the number I decided on for the day because if I stopped, Ana would NOT be happy. It didn’t matter if I came to the verge of blacking out— If I didn’t reach that number I was a failure.

As I started treatment, exercise was one of the first things stripped away from me. My relationship with exercise was not healthy and my team knew my obsession with numbers would not get better if I kept going to the gym or doing my ‘secret’ workout ritual at home. I was furious.

As I got stronger in my recovery, fitness would slowly get re-introduced. During these times, when I would go to the gym, I would cover up the numbers on the machine so I didn’t get obsessive over what I was doing. However, no matter how hard I tried to work out in a healthy way, it didn’t last long before I relapsed over the obsession of numbers and lost my privileges to work out.

It felt like a never ending cycle. I was upset and embarrassed with myself. It only became more challenging when I got to college and my friends all wanted to play intramurals or work out together. I always had to find some excuse as to why I couldn’t play. I was always too embarrassed to share the real reason I couldn’t join them was because I was on exercise restriction.

This summer I started running again for the first time in a long time– I started running a lot. I haven’t been visited by the voice that loves the numbers…or at least I don’t think I have been. The most challenging part in recovery for me now is trying to establish what is disordered vs what is not. My relationship with exercise had been toxic for so long that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be healthy. When I wake up and decide how many miles I want to run, I have to question myself and ask WHY I want to run so bad. Do I want to run because I enjoy it? Or do I want to run because I have to hit a certain number?

Anorexia is one giant mind game and trying to tell the differences between her voice and my own is not always the easiest. This is a chapter of my recovery story that is not yet fully healed and I am not sure when it will be. Will I ever be able to have working out as a part of my life in a healthy way? I really am not sure. I am just taking it moment by moment and doing my best to listen to the needs of my body.

Fat is NOT a feeling: part 2

“I feel so fat right now.” 

What is that even supposed to mean? The last time I checked, fat is NOT a feeling. I wrote a similar post to this a year ago, so let’s make this post “fat is NOT a feeling: part 2” 

When I think I feel fat, here are some things as to what I really mean:

  • I feel sad and upset with myself right now
  • I feel ashamed for eating and loving my body
  • My eating disorder has me convinced that I can never be beautiful if I eat that food

Or I find myself being happy if I feel skinny. 

  • I am so happy with how I look right now despite the feeling that I will black out.
  • I have no energy to talk to other people but at least I ‘look’ great
  • I can only be happy if I’m skinny 

I have it convinced in my head that being fat is bad but being skinny is good. It makes me believe that if someone is fat they obviously cannot be happy with life. By associating these feelings with the feeling of be fat, it makes me kind of a brat. How can I be advocating for self-love if I still associate fat with those feelings? When I was at my lowest weight I was FAR from happy. When I was at my skinniest I wanted to be dead. Last time I checked, that’s not happiness

Fat does not equal disgust nor does skinny equal happiness. The way our bodies look have no connection to how we should feel.  When I say things like “I feel so fat right now” I need to stop and think how I’m affecting other people. And when I think I feel so “skinny right now” I need to remind myself of those cold hospital rooms. By negatively labeling fat I am just adding to this negative stigma about body image–I am convincing people they need to reflect on their body shape to decide if they’re worthy of happiness. 

Until we are able to come to this conclusion and understanding that our body shape has nothing to do with our outlook on life, we will never be happy. Until we learn to love the person living inside our skin, we will never be happy. 

Fat is not feeling nor is Skinny.  

90%

This post contains mentions of numbers so here is a TRIGGER WARNING. This post also contains the raw side of being 90% restored. This is being posted to help people put into perspective why it is so hard to say goodbye to ED. 

Emptiness is a feeling I am all too familiar with. Emptiness is a feeling I came to love and crave. To me, emptiness felt like I was finally succeeding at something.

The emptiness I am referring to above is of my stomach after not eating for 37 straight hours. It is the emptiness that comes from only allowing myself to drink ice-cold water and nibble on the occasional celery stick. However, emptiness can present itself in many different ways.

Sometimes emptiness feels like sitting alone on a Friday night while your friends go out and party. Sometimes emptiness is being unable to express any emotions at all. The worst feeling of emptiness, however, is when it is associated with ‘what used to be.’ The emptiness that consumes you after something you once loved is no longer apart of your life.

People who know about my struggles with anorexia look at me and often see a success story (although sometimes I am not sure why.) I mean, yes, I am finally starting to get my life together and now the smiles you see on my face actually are genuine, but I would not consider myself a success story- not yet.

After 6 months, I have finally restored 90% of my body weight. It took 6 months of having to eat roughly 3,000+ calories a day, but my body is finally starting to show signs of healing. That’s a good thing, right?

I know that the size 0 pants I have been wearing this past year were just temporary, but now that I can no longer squeeze into these pants, I can’t help but feel empty. I know that I should delete the pictures I have on my phone of my body with my protruding rib cage and hip bones, but yet I cant help but lay in my bed at night comparing my old body with the one I am living in now.

Do I still sound like a success story?

When I hear other people talk about their eating disorder or when I watch a show where a character ends up revealing that she struggled with an eating disorder, I cant help but feel like a failure because I used to be that girl. I find myself getting competitive with these strangers and fictional characters. I think to myself that I was so much better at my eating disorder. But then I remember that I already ate breakfast, lunch, and a snack that day and I can’t help but freak out over what I am becoming. I am losing my eating disorder and it terrifies me.

I am currently in the most dangerous part in my recovery because this is when every meal I eat is accompanied by Relapse screaming in my face. Ana knows that her reign is close to being over so she pulls out everything she can to stay with me a little bit longer. I love my healthier life, but I can’t help but lust after my eating disorder. I know I need to be 100% to reach my goals, but how do you say goodbye to someone who has been apart of you for the past 14 years?

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.

“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.

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.

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

The Secret Illness

You know that saying that goes something like “treat everyone with kindness for they all fight their own secret battle.” We say it all the time, but do we ever actually think about it? Do you ever think about how your best friend could be depressed or anxious and hiding it all from you?

One of the most mind-blowing things for me to think about is how there are so many others who suffer with mental illness and we do not even know about it. SO many people have a struggle, yet almost every day we see perseverance in this struggling friend. We would never think he or she could be mentally ill.

I was talking to one of my professors the other day. See, I had a major panic attack in her class. It was really embarrassing for me because it made me feel like I was failing at recovery. I went to my professor’s office to talk to her about it and I went into more detail about my history with mental illness. This conversation was so meaningful because my professor said she would have had no clue that I fight myself everyday. People know me for my outgoing personality. I always have a smile on my face. It is hard for others to fathom that I suffer so much.

It’s kind of scary in a way to think about how good I was at hiding my mental illness. I got through high school with very little people knowing I was sick. (Even with missing a month of school for IOP!) And I will NEVER forget that one day senior year in English class, when my teacher made a comment about my cut wrist in front of the whole class. It took him a moment to realize the major mistake he made.

Think about the stranger you sit next to everyday on the train. Or one of your co-workers that you kind of know. He could be suffering and maybe that smile you give him is the highlight of his day.

Think about the ones you loved. We never really know how much someone is struggling until they crack. But what if we took more focus on how our loved ones actually are. Then it would not escalate to the point of danger.

It’s scary to think that people can hide their demons so well.

Everyday, my alarm goes off and I dread getting out of bed. I know that for the next 12 hours I am going to have to be a ray of sunshine, running all over the place, and pleasing others. It’s a lot of work, but it makes me feel good most of the time, so I keep doing it. Sometimes I’ll admit I do need a break. That’s when I hit snooze a little bit longer and stay a little quieter.

Every time a meal comes along I feel full just from the anxiety. I do not think I will ever understand how people get excited about meals. I still do certain behaviors, but no one knows that my weird eating habits are unhealthy.

When it’s finally time to sleep at night I am wide-awake with voices of all the things I  think I did wrong running through my mind.

Mental illness is unpredictable. It’s not a fun thing to live with. Which is why we need to show more compassion to those we love.

We need to be more inviting to companions we do not yet know well. Exchange a smile; genuinely show care about how someone’s day is. Make an effort because you never know what someone is going through. Mental illness can be silent, but deadly.

Stigma

Tonight’s post is going to be a stigma buster. I am going to list the top 5 judgments/assumptions uneducated people have with eating disorders and combat them. These are the 5 that personally bother me the most.

“Anorexia is not actually a disease, it’s a diet.”

  • For some reason, people like to assume that we choose to suffer with anorexia. They think that we enjoy stomach pains, twisted thoughts, and wacked out body image. They ask questions on how to BE anorexic. They seek tips, check out pro-anorexia websites, and ask for the secrets- But anorexia is NOT a diet. It is a disease that affects roughly 8 million Americans. Anorexia is not a choice. Anorexia is not a diet, I would not wish these thoughts and images on anyone in the world. Anorexia has far more to do than just losing weight. Anorexia is a fear of food and weight gain. It’s the feeling of being inadequate all the time and the desperation to do anything to feel worth it. Weight loss is a side effect.

“Anorexics are weak”

  • One of the hardest things to do is admit when you are sick. To come to terms that what you are doing to your body is not okay. The brave men and women who sought treatment for their EDs are warriors. Recovery is one of the hardest things I have experienced thus far. Waking up every morning and fighting the voice telling me how much I suck and how worthless I am takes pure strength. Putting food in my mouth when the voice screams at me to put it down and calls me awful names. That takes strength. I am inspired daily by all the men and women in the eating disorder recovery community. Especially by the girls I was inpatient with. True warriors.

“It’s just a phase”

  • Right now I am at a really good point in recovery. I see my dietician, follow my meal plan, and have maintained weight 3 weeks in a row. But, just because I am doing so well right now does not mean that it is not still a problem in my life. An analogy I saw once was talking about how its like being in remission from cancer. We are just stronger, but its still possible that we will relapse. And you know what? If you relapse its okay. I have relapsed many times. As long as you DON’T GIVE UP and KEEP FIGHTING, you have not failed.

“Its all for attention”

  • Personally this is the one that frustrates me the most. Literally no. Like I do not even know where to start with this. Anorexia is a mental illness. In fact, when I was at my lowest points, I was the most secretive. I do not think anyone still can fully pin point when I was struggling the most (other than by my physical health/appearance.) I have done so many things that no one will ever know about. Anorexia is not for attention. It just is not. Stop believing this and saying this.

“If you don’t look sick, you’re fine.”

  • I never got deathly skinny looking, but that does not mean that I was okay. I may have looked okayish on the outside but my insides were dying. During low points my body was so malnourished. I would go to the hospital constantly for severe dehydration, black out like 3 times a day, not have the strength to leave my bed, have seizures, and I struggled with walking up the stairs. Anorexia is not a disease that is diagnosed by the way someone looks.

So friends, please help me to STOP the STIGMA