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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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

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

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.

Meal of the Week

I am going to start highlighting a fave meal of mine each week so up first we have: Olivia’s oats. 

Before I dive in, let me give you a super concise breakdown of what my meal plan is like.We do not focus on caloric intake but rather what we call exchanges.

So you have 6 exchanges for each of the food groups: protein,grain,fruit,vegetable,lipid, dairy.

 Each type of food is worth part of an exchange. For lunch I need to have 2 grains so I would have a cold grain of like cereal and a hot grain would be a serving of potatoes. It’s hard to initially understand because cheese can count as either a lipid or dairy so getting used to that took a while. However I was lucky to have a whole team of eating disorder warriors at the hospital to help me figure it out. Now it’s a breeze (kind of…)

When planning meals I always think how I will meet my exchanges. A recent new favorite of mine is using oatmeal for the grain exchange. Here is what I do:

Ingredients:
2 cups of oatmeal (grain)

1 cup Soy/almond milk (dairy)

2 TBSP peanut butter…or more since PB is DELISH (protein)

A serving of raspberries (fruit)

Lots of Cinnamon (which I just realized does not count for anything… Thanks H and E) 

If I have this for breakfast, I still need to hit my lipid exchanges so I normally just add a cheese stick or some nuts. (Peanut butter can also count for a lipid exchange) 

It’s pretty self explanatory. Combine the oats and milk and microwave one minute. Microwave the PB for 30 seconds (make sure to stir!!) and then just combine everything to make it look pretty enough for a picture.

However, it smells too good that I do not take the time to make it pretty for a picture… I just dive in to eating the gooey deliciousness. 

I’m not trying to call myself the next Ramsay, BUT man this oatmeal combo is great. Also I clearly am not an expert with the exchange system so if you are curious on it more I highly recommend meeting with a dietician.

Solid foods are a bit challenging for me right now since I am struggling with chewing so I have been preferring to eat more liquids/ soft food. This meal is perfect in every way. 

Try it out! Let me know what you think… And keep in mind… the more peanut butter and cinnamon you add the better it will taste. Don’t let ED scare you away from peanut butter! 

A poem?????

*inspired by a poem i read awhile ago but I can’t find anymore so I tried to make my own version..

I know this girl named ana

She lives inside my mind

She tells me what to wear and eat

And she isn’t all that kind

 

I became friends with this girl named ana

She says she will keep me thin

Workouts, diets, blacking out

This no longer seems like a win

 

Ana is a monster

When will this pain end?

The only way I can escape

Is probably when im dead.

 

 

Ana ruins everything

I need to get away

She lived with me for far too long

She will do anything to stay

 

A doctor comes to help me

He says that I am ill

“You have an eating disorder

Now here, swallow this pill.”

 

I go to many doctors

They always poke and pry

This is not who I want to be

As I sit alone and cry

 

I feel I cannot escape Ana.

Shes a monster inside my head.

I know she has one thing in mind

To starve me till im dead.

 

I am stronger than this girl named ana

It took me awhile to understand

I need to eat food to live and grow

Life without Ana will be grand

 

I know it wont be easy

And at times ill want to stop

But I will not let her gain control

Im determined to come out on top.