The Nontraditional Journey

A little over a week ago, something wild happened- I graduated from college.

Yeah, you read that correctly, I Olivia, am officially a college graduate with a full time teaching job. Starting in August, I will be living on my own and teaching fourth grade. I could not be happier because I am finally living the life I dreamed of.

To say my college experience was nontraditional would be an understatement. From transferring universities, taking a semester off, going inpatient for 5 days during my JR year, experiencing wild side effects from years of destroying my body, and the other random shenanigans in this lovely life on mine, it wasn’t always the easiest. To be honest, sometimes I am even I am a little surprised that I was able to graduate on time.

This isn’t going to be some post about how hard I had it. Rather this is about how lucky I am to be supported by people who encouraged me to take these untraditional risks. You see, not many people are given as many chances as I was. Not many people are lucky to have such supportive family and friends. I was a lucky one because I never had to do any of this alone.

My mental illnesses had quite an impact on my past 4 years and to be honest, it sucked. For awhile, I used to be scared that a girl like me could ever actually recover and live a normal life. But I did it and if anyone reading this is in a similar position, just know that you can do it too.

Transitions are scary and college can be a weird time. Trust me, I know. We grow up believing that things need to be a certain way. Ever since a young age we are told that if we want to be happy, we need to graduate college and get a job. I don’t know who started that rumor, but your life doesn’t have to be that way. Its okay to take a semester off. Its okay to transfer universities. Heck its okay to not even go to a university.

When I was 18 years old I had NO IDEA what I was doing and I am glad I had enough courage to go against the norm and take that semester off. Had I not taken that semester off, I would have missed out on those 5 months of self-discovery to figure out what I really wanted to do. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Sure it wasn’t what I was ‘supposed’ to do and some people thought it was ‘crazy’, but that didn’t hurt me. If anything it helped me.

The only mistake we can make is to live a life that isn’t what we want it to be. If you are unhappy think about what you can do to change that. Its so simple really, but yet we love to complicate things because of this pre-determined idea of how things are supposed to be.

I support the nontraditional journey. I support the traditional journey. I support whatever journey you take as long as it truly makes you happy. You will end up where you need to be, but the path to get there is up to you. Make it a good one.

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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.

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.

You Are Never Alone

Everyone has had that feeling when you walk into a room and instantly feel as if everyone just looks up and stares at you. Like you know when you open your mouth to say something, but immediately stop yourself from the fear of being judged?

When no matter what the circumstance you just feel piercing stares and a strong feeling of being unwanted? As if you do not belong anywhere?

3AM is a dangerous a time.

Sometimes even being in a crowded room is a dangerous time.

There is always that strong, overpowering feeling of being alone.

The feeling that nobody likes you.

I am very happy with how my life is today. I have great friends, but yet sometimes I still often feel alone.

I see pictures of people and wonder why I can’t be apart of that happiness. I sometimes wonder if I even actually belong where I am.

Loneliness is a dangerous feeling, but I’m here to tell you that you are not alone.

Our brains play tricks on us. Our demons try to destroy us. But the truth is, no matter what, you are loved. No matter what you do you are loved.

Acknowledging that not everyone will love and appreciate you the way you want is a hard thing to do, but keep in mind that you are the light of someone else’s world. You are the reason why the sun shines so bright for someone else. How amazing is that to think about? People talk. Its what we do. People say hurtful things and don’t always include others. However, don’t let that break you. Brush yourself off. Stand up tall. Smile, persevere.

These feelings are strong; trust me I know. I have had many nights where I just run away and disappear for a while. Ill sit in my car and just drive. I try to escape the feelings. But I want to tell you that it is not constant. I want you to know that no matter how unwanted you feel that it is all a façade.

You are important.

You are worth life and so much more.

You have your humans, your teammates. You have your biggest fans and supporters. You have an army by your side.

It does not matter how big your army is, what matters is the support you receive.

Do not give into the thoughts. I know it is so tempting to drown them out with a bottle or a pill. Put down the blade. You are wanted.

Many of my readers do not know me, but the thing is, I care greatly for all of you. You do not realize the impact you all have on me. You allow me to be open with my biggest feelings.

I won’t lie, I get nervous often about my blog. I think people will find it annoying or think I do it for attention. I think that a lot actually. I almost stopped completely during my long absence earlier this month. But then I started to realize, what about the strangers and friends who have messaged me. What about the people who read my words and find strength, hope, and courage. Too many people have reached out too me for guidance and that inspires me. I see myself making a difference and that’s all I could ever ask for. I cannot give up on them because of my own irrational fears. Not everyone will approve of me, but what matters is that I approve of myself. So, next time you start to think no one likes you—stop yourself from that kind of thinking. Look at pictures of a younger you, because that younger you loves you. That younger you is inspired by you and if you cannot do something for yourself now, do it for that young girl staring back at you in the picture. She loves you. You wouldn’t hurt your younger self, so love yourself now.

You are so worthy of love.

You are wanted.

You are appreciated.

You deserve to be happy.

You are not alone

POV: ANA

Hey, let me introduce myself. My name is Ana. And honey, you’re lucky I found you. Lets pause for a second and take a moment to check you out in the mirror. What do you see? Because all I see is fat.

You are fat, worthless, and honestly unlovable if you’re going to look like that. That is why I am here to help you change.

Have you ever heard of a thigh gap? And do you think its okay to be able to peel fat off your hips because honestly, that’s disgusting. Man, you are so lucky you have me now. I am going to be your best friend and I am going to change your life. I cannot believe you go out in public looking like THIS!

Thank god i am here to help. Lets start with food. Are you actually going to eat THAT?

I mean it’s your body, so do what you want, but if you want to be perfect I would have something else.

Good girl, put it down, pick something new. You don’t need that food… or you know what? I actually do not even think you are hungry at all.

Come on; follow me out of the kitchen. Lets find something to do to distract from the hunger.

Still hungry you say? Wow I should have known you were even more pathetic than I thought. This is why you have no friends. You have no strength or self-discipline. But fine, do what you want. Go eat that food. You’ll come crying back to me sooner or later.

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Hm, you seem a upset laying on the ground like that. You FATASS. Was the food really worth it because look at you now. You’re even more DISGUSTING. I am embarrassed to know you. Maybe I should just leave now. I mean, everyone else leaves, right? Maybe now you know why.

Oh wait…what’s that? You need me? Yeah hun, you’re right so lets start listening to me from now on.

Luckily I know how to get rid of what you ate. I have three choices: throw up, swallow laxatives, or work out until you pass out. Although… looking at you, maybe you should work out until you pass out anyway and throw up/take laxatives. Everything helps.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Days, weeks, months have gone by and wow you’re looking great.

I’m so proud of what I have created.

Your mom called, she invited you over to dinner, but I of course turned her down. I used that excuse about already having plans with someone else. This is the 5th dinner in a row we have missed! I am so impressed with what your strength.

It’s okay that you want to sleep all the time. I would rather have you working out, but at least when you’re asleep you cant eat.

You know what? I am almost proud of you. But don’t get too happy yet, because there is still a long way to go.

Your ribs stick out nice, but they can stick out further. I can wrap my fingers around your arm, but it needs to be looser. And don’t get me started on the collarbones. Just because you lost weight doesn’t mean its over yet. You don’t know this yet, but you won’t be done with me until you’re just a pile of bones. I am your escort to death.

So come on, lets bundle up the layers; don’t let them see your secret. You’re doing so great. But, if you don’t listen to me, I will leave. I will leave you and no one will love you. Remember, without me you’re nothing. Without me you’re worthless. We are best friends. You mustn’t disappoint me. I am so excited to see how perfect I can make you.

XOXO,

ana

Acknowledgment

Today in one of my classes, my professor asked us to reflect on our past teachers. She had us think about which teachers had the biggest impact on us and why they did. As we started to reflect on our previous teachers, I began to realize just how much this one past teacher impacted me. Not only did she mentor me and teach me, but also she went way above and beyond that. This teacher inspired me to want to be studying education today. This is sappy, but I honestly could not picture how my college career would be like thus far without her. For privacy reasons, I am going to leave her unnamed, but if she reads this, hopefully she knows it is about her.

It is kind of sad to think about how little we sometimes acknowledge the people in our lives that have had such a lasting impact. Think about a little boy watching the trash man drive by. That is one of the highlights of his week! It is wild to think how something so small can have such a huge impact on someone.

Yet, where is the acknowledgment that these silent rock stars deserve?

My past teacher motivated me to learn, even when I was not the most well behaved kid in class, she encouraged me to keep trying even when I really did not care at all, but most importantly, she was there for me through such a difficult part in my life.

For me, my desire to be a teacher goes much further than just wanting to teach content to younger students. My desire to be a teacher is shaped by the immense impacts my previous teachers have had upon me. My previous teachers have been friends and companions. They have been people I can confide in. This one teacher specifically was always there to drop everything for me and even let me each lunch with her when she had a break (at this point in life I had to have EVERY meal monitored. My choices were to eat with the nurse or to find a teacher.) When I asked this teacher she was so welcoming and understanding. She confided in me and I began to establish such a strong bond with her. I only hope that one day I can be half the teacher she was to me.

She is strong, bold, and creative. She is a fighter, caring, compassionate. She dealt with a lot of shit and still made it about me when she could see I was having a hard day.

This teacher is the reason I managed to finish my senior year of high school.

She has had such a lasting impact on me and this is why I want to be a teacher. I want to help all students who need a mentor like that in their life.

So I guess my point of this post is just a thank you. I am going to try to do more posts like this where I take the time to acknowledge an individual who has helped me get to where I am today.

My challenge for my readers is to also stop and think about those who have impacted you. Remember to tell the people you love how much you love them. Every little gesture can mean so much to someone. Find a little way everyday to let someone know just how much he or she means to you.

Update

Wow, hello. It has been 2 weeks since I have last written, but I have just been so insanely busy with school.

So this post is just going to be an update for those who care.

This year so far has been off to a great start. I am going to be real, eating has been a major struggle, BUT I am so proud of myself for still taking care of my body as best as I can.

Getting back into a routine was a challenge and a blessing. I only have classes 3x a week, but Wednesdays are so busy for me which makes planning for meals to be a bit tricky. I finally met with my dietician this past week and she has been helping me to figure out how to go about finding times to eat with this busier schedule.

The hardest thing for me right now is holding myself accountable for buying food and actually making meals. For the most part I have been doing alright. I lost a few pounds in the little under a month that I have been here, but I have finally started to maintain my weight.

Ensures are becoming my best friend at the moment, but I do not want to have to be dependent on them again. However, until I get back to meeting exchanges, if drinking 2 ensures a day is what my body needs, that is exactly what I will do.

I am working so hard on clearly indicating when to eat, when to do homework, and when to take time for myself. I find myself wanting to use the excuse, “I just do not have time to eat.” but that is no excuse. There is always time to eat, and I need to make sure I am making time for myself. My body comes first. My health comes first. This is an important year for me and I NEED to be healthy for it.

I student teach in the spring. I have worked TOO hard to get to where I am only to relapse and not be able to complete my schooling in the spring.

I had a lot of nerves coming back to school because I was worried I would not have as much support as I needed. But boy, I was so foolish to think that. I have found so much support within my friends, professors, and sorority. I have friends checking in on me and surprising me with my favorite snacks. I am so lucky to be at such a supportive university.

So yeah, this past month I have had my highs and lows. My mood has been all over the place and sometimes I have wanted to just stay in bed all day. I am starting to acknowledge that its okay to have days like that. I cannot expect everyday to be perfect. Sometimes my body will just need a break and thats fine.

So, thank you to everyone for helping me stay strong this first month back. I was really nervous that I would relapse right away. I have found that I am much stronger than I thought. I would not be where I am without the support I have from all of you.

This is my year. Liv is finally living.

Senior

So today I had my first day back to classes for my SENIOR year of college.

It is crazy to think that I will be done with school this time next year.

I only had two classes today and I am already filled with emotions. I am excited, curious, and thrilled. However, I am also struggling and anxious.

I knew coming back to class and getting in a routine again would be a challenge for me. However, I did not expect it to be this challenging. I made a meal plan for myself, I am trying to stick to a set sleeping schedule, and I am making sure to give myself at least 30 minutes of “liv time” a day.

The only problem is I am petrified to eat again and I am so tempted to buy a scale for my apartment.

Here at Drake I have weekly weigh ins/vitals, I meet with a therapist, dietician, and I call my psychiatrist back home as needed. I do not do blind weigh ins, which is probably something I should work towards.

So not only am I here juggling 18 credits plus about 40 hours of field experience, I am also in some kind of doctor’s appointment on my time off.

Luckily my schedule is pretty laid back this semester even though I have so many credits. I really only have to worry about Wednesdays since I am in class from about 9:30am-8: 20pm.

I had my first weigh in today and I maintained my weight so that’s a good sign. However, if I keep not eating I wont maintain much longer and then I will get sick again. And if I get sick again that means I wont be able to graduate on time and I might have to go residential or something, so there’s a lot on the line.

I want to say that I trust myself, but it’s hard to trust myself when sometimes I become a different person.

I just have to stay focused and be with the things that keep me grounded. I need to remind myself WHY recovery everyday.

I love the families I nanny for and I want to continue doing that for as long as I can.

I love teaching and I want to be healthy enough to be bending up and down without blacking out each time.

I just need to stay aware and remind myself that it is okay to take a break when things get too overwhelming. I am lucky to have no class on Thursdays and Fridays so if I need to go home I pretty much have a nice long 4-day weekend to enjoy.

This year is a big year for me.

All I can say is I am so thankful for the amazing support that I have going into this semester and the unconditional love I receive even when I feel I do not deserve it. Your support means everything to me.

I am…

I used to only care about..

How my body looked, being the skinniest, how I looked in the mirror.

I used to only care about…

Counting calories, being perfect, eating  less than my peers.

I used to avoid hanging out with friends and participating in activities

I used to be a zombie just trying to get through the day.

I had excuses lined up for why I couldn’t go out.

I had rituals I would do before bed that Ana insisted I had to do.

With about six years of recovery under my belt I am now starting too..

Love my body, feed my body, and accept who I am.

I am starting to…

Have energy to be involved in activities, get excited about seeing friends.

Life is no longer a chore like it was before.

I no longer just go through the motions

I no longer cry myself to sleep.

I still have urges of restricting and body checking.

I still struggle with accepting my body.

I still get frustrated that I suffer with mental illness and the feeling that I’ll be like this forever.

I worry no one will love me since I sometimes forget how to love myself.

I worry I will not reach my goals and aspirations and let myself down.

However, I fight because I want to be strong and healthy.

I want to get married, start a family, travel the world.

I need to eat and take care of myself.

I need to stop inflicting pain on my body.

I am a work in progress.

I am a young woman in recovery.

I am an Ed warrior and everyday I am getting strong towards destroying my demons. 

I am Liv and I am NOT defined by my disorders. 

summer ’16

Tis the season for change. The season for things to come to an end so new things can bloom.

This summer may have been my best one yet. Not because it was perfect, I definitely struggled and relapsed. BUT it was my best one because I learned so much about life and recovery and myself.

This summer I broke my phone 3 times, I made new friends, trusted the wrong people… I worked with awesome summer campers, had days I didn’t want to leave bed, and spent too much money. This summer I did a lot of stupid shit but I also grew immensely {{{cue the cheesiness}}}

This summer I put MYSELF first. This summer I focused on making me happy and healthy.

I began free writing and drawing again, I was able to run for a little bit of summer, I got a new car, I painted, and traveled. I took chances again and put myself out there.

I felt like a real girl again this summer. I wasn’t consumed with thoughts of food. I still was not reaching every target, but Ana’s voice was turned off. I was back in charge.

My biggest takeaway from the summer is probably to just let karma take control. Shitty things will happen to good people. However, what makes the person good is how they respond to the bad. Do not seek revenge. Do not crave to see others suffer.

When someone wrongs you, its best to just turn the other way, be the mature adult, and walk away. Karma will take care of everything in the end.

My summer is now almost over and I am all moved into my apartment.

Am I scared for this year?—Yes.

Am I ready for this year?—Yes.

I am always scared I will relapse. Living on my own scares me because it is only myself accountable for actually eating my meals.

However, as I enter my senior year I reflected on my past semesters of school. I have yet to have one completely healthy/no need for a hospital semester of school. I do not want to jinx myself, but I have a feeling this will be the year.

I am stronger every day.

I am surrounded by great, genuine people.

I have skills to control my urges.

I am sick of being sick.

So here is to the start of my senior year.

Here is to living, learning, loving and making mistakes along the way.

Here is to good health and happiness. May you also accept health and happiness as well because YOU DESERVE IT TOO!