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.

Let’s Talk About, Feed.

There’s a lot of hype right now in the eating disorder community about the Netflix movie, To The Bone. However, we really should be talking about the new movie, Feed. (I attached a link to the trailer at the end.)

I am always hesitant when it comes to watching movies or shows that portray an eating disorder because I never know if it will trigger me. However, I am so glad I watched Feed and I really encourage everyone I know that doesn’t suffer with an eating disorder to also watch this movie. 

Feed does a phenomenal job at capturing the mental aspect associated with eating disorders. This movie does not glamorize eating disorders in anyway. It does not have a huge emphasis on weight loss. It shows the need for control which is what eating disorders are really all about. It shows what its like in the mind of an eating disorder and how easy it is to believe that the voice is a friend.

Feed is finally something that I feel like will help people to better understand eating disorders. So many people would tell me, “just eat” or assume that because I am eating again, I am cured. Unfortunately its not that easy because of that voice… that nasty voice that doesn’t really go away. 

For me, watching this movie at points was a little hard because it did hit so close to home. My ED told me many of the same exact lines that it told Olivia, the main character in Feed, throughout the movie. There were scenes that I felt so easily could have been taken from my own experiences in recovery. (Like when Olivia made the comment about having to drink her salad dressing…don’t even get me started on the nurses making me drink my leftover cereal milk…)

 So to my eating disorder survivors, tread lightly when watching this because it can be triggering. To those who know someone suffering with an eating disorder this is a MUST watch. And to those who may never be impacted by an ED or think you do not know anyone struggling with an ED, still watch this movie. You may be surprised on what signs you’re missing out on.

here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFqV9xtw0Ig

You can watch Feed on youtube or video on demand.

5 Things I Want You To Know

Now that I am at a strong point in recovery, I want to share some things that I still want others to know:

  • I am not always as strong as I act
      • It is really hard for me to allow others to see me vulnerable, so sometimes putting up a strong front in public makes me believe that I am in control. I am much stronger than I ever was before, but inside I still have my anxiety monster wanting to come out and play. I still really appreciate random check ins every now and then because it reminds me that I am not in this fight alone.
  • Recovery is not linear
      • I still hear Ana everyday; the thoughts really don’t go away, they just get muted. She is still in my head, but I have more strength and control to ignore her. Somedays I may listen to her more than others. That doesn’t mean I relapsed though. It just means that I hit a bump and that’s okay.
  • Sometimes I miss being sick
      • This is very disordered, but sometimes I really miss the comfort of my eating disorder. I do not know how to explain it, but there is a sense of safety that I feel with my anorexia. I have lived with this disease for so long that it has become the norm for me. Being healthy and recovered is new for me and I am not fully comfortable yet with the unexpected.
  • My coping skills are imperative to my health
      • I have my coping skills and they have become like rituals for me. For example, I need to be able to have 30 minutes of just me time everyday. If that ‘Liv Time’ gets interrupted, it really throws me off and causes me to spiral. Even if the interruption is the smallest thing like someone losing my pen cap (sorry, mom). I need to have these moments because recovery is hard and it is so important for me to take a little bit of time to do things that make me happy.
  • I have never been happier
      • I am so in love with my life and I cannot thank my treatment team/support system enough for helping me get here. I went from having to stop halfway up a flight of stairs to being able to play tennis again. My eating disorder took away so many things that made me happy and I can finally enjoy it all again. RECOVERY IS WORTH IT AND LIFE IS A PRECIOUS, BEAUTIFUL THING.

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?

Marlena’s Story

My name is Marlena and I’m a recovering bulimic.

I never looked sick. As a matter of fact, I’ve always been heavier which allowed my eating disorder to fly under the radar. No one expects the “fat girl” to be knocking on death’s door. However, I’m one of the lucky ones. I still struggle daily, but I’m alive.

The thing about bulimia is that it’s deceptive. It’s painful, secretive, and hard to catch which is a huge factor in why I struggled for 4 years without anyone catching on. It’s not a pretty blonde girl leaning her head over the toilet with her hair pulled back and her finger down her throat. It’s not politely refusing a cupcake. Bulimia is hair falling out and holes in your esophagus. It’s scarred knuckles from where your teeth break the skin and smelling like vomit no matter how often you brush your teeth.

There are so many days that I just want to give up because relapsing is what is comfortable. It’s safe and what I know. But with the help of my treatment team and support system, I’ve been striving to stay on track and build a bright future for myself because I’m one of the lucky ones because I’m still alive.

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.

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?