Admitting it is The First Step

This is the second in a series of posts on dealing with an eating disorder. Read the first one here.

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I went into the therapists office for my first meeting in full denial. I didn’t have mental problems, I had heart disease. But I was so scared about what was going on with my body I was willing to get someone to say I was fine in the head so I could go back to my doctor and tell her to check again.

After a few sessions, I was given a diagnosis. My therapist, Marcia, who had been solely working with eating disorder patients for 15 years informed me I had one of the worst cases of anorexia she had ever seen.

Well then. I still thought she was wrong, but I was scared, really scared. I could feel my body dying and many nights I would wake up with serious stomach pain from starvation and such weakness that I couldn’t stand up. I slept with grapes by my bed to stave off the hunger pains. A few grapes would often get me back to sleep. But I knew deep down my body was failing and I feared I would not wake up one day. So my fear kept me coming back and listening to her words and attempting to answer her questions.

Immediately after her diagnosis a whirl wind of things happened. They happened so fast I didn’t have time to run screaming from the office. Before I could spell anorexia I was connected with an amazing team of professionals who worked with me on many levels in different capacities. I was given names and addresses of where and when to show up. That was pretty much it.

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I met with Marcia 3 times a week to begin with. Most of the hard work happened here. Gut wrenching, soul searching, truth telling stuff.

My psychiatrist, Michael, was very nice, and patient. We met monthly and he mainly helped me cope with what I was dealing with in therapy through medication which I did not want to take, and often didn’t, much to his dismay. But in the end he was a key piece of my recovery whether I liked it or not.

Pam, my diatician, met with me twice a week for a weigh in and education on good nutrition. She was unbelievably patient and kind to me as I very slowly began to re-eat. I had to put on a paper gown and step on a scale twice a week in front of Pam and provide documentation of my food intake to her. She put it all in a computer so we could see what I was really doing and how my body was responding. She was a great friend and I loved meeting with her. She taught me so much and seemed to truly love me through a very difficult recovery and learning process.

Finally, there was Dr. Kimberly, the one who diagnosed me to begin with. She monitored me as needed to make sure my body was healing and rebuilding the way we hoped it would. She delivered the good news, bad news and the unknown to me with understanding and kindness in her voice.

That was it, my full, amazing, talented, gifted and patient recovery team. I will forever love and cheris them in my heart.

They saved my life.

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About 6 months into therapy I finally agreed “I may have an issue”. Just a small one though. I wondered how long this was going to take to get over, but all my therapist would tell me was she was going to be with me for a long time.

After a year I realized I was dealing with a giant and I was fully onboard – willing to defeat it, but incapable of doing it quickly. It was going to be a long road and Marcia assured me she wasn’t going anywhere. Those were comforting words to me.

And we were just beginning.

 

 

 

All moms have stuff

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Everybody has stuff. Everybody.

Even that mom at the pool who, after her third baby, still looks great in her college bikini.

Even the mom who’s children never seem to fight (in public at least).

Even the mom who cooks super healthy food for her family and claims her kids just “eat it up.” She uses no trans fats, sugar, gluten, or high fructose corn syrup. No veggies that have been genetically modified, no sir. She only buys organic produce, grain-fed beef and nothing that is farm raised- only wild caught with no steroids or antibiotics used. Her milk- not a whiff of rBST, only soy or almond. Chicken and eggs – free range, We could go on, couldn’t we?

Even the mom who is always dressed perfectly and who’s children never have holes in their leggings or a shirt with stains.

Even the mom who makes sure her children are getting to try every prectice or game without it affecting the family negatively at all and even appears to really enjoy the racing from event to event.

Even the mom who never misses a beat, she never forgets pj day, picture day, a field trip permission slip or to put money in her kiddos school lunch accounts.

It gives me indigestion just typing it. Because I know these people.

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I’m not sure why I still get jealous of these moms. They have stuff too. You know that, right? Trust me, they do.

I can say that with great confidence because some people have told me they think I’m that kind of mom. I appear organized, patient and calm.

But I have stuff.

I’m an anorexic. Yep, I said it. At the age of 8 I developed a deadly eating disorder to help me cope with some things that happened to me when I was really young that I had no control of. What I could control was what went in my mouth, and so I did.

That eating disorder ruled my life for 16 years. Then one day I ended up in my doctors office with a heart that was leaking, organs that were failing and a body that was feeding on itself to survive. My doctor very sweetly told me she believed I was anorexic and that there was nothing she could do for me. I had to fix this myself and if I didn’t I would have a heart attack. She said it could happen in the next month or in a year, but that was where I was headed. Then she handed me three cards of psychologists that worked solely with eating disorder patients and with a few words of encouragement, she sent me out the door.

Out of fear of loosing my life I went to see one of those psychologists. And that’s how it all began.

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No one is only what they appear to be. Everyone has stuff. So the next time you feel jealousy coming on, or put yourself down for your inadequacies, remember that you aren’t alone. You are in good company. And remember that the ones that try hardest to make you think they don’t have stuff, have more than the average! They have to cope too, somehow.

So hold off on the jealousy, judgement and harsh thoughts. These moms may just be coping with a curve ball life has thrown their way. They may work hard in one area of their life to cover up another that isn’t so together. They are likely dealing with real life too. Just like you. Just like me.

At the Core of Vulnerability is Shame

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I carry more than a fair share of baggage with me in life and although I have done lots of work to unload it and deal with is in appropriate ways it still creeps up once in a while. We moved a few years ago to a new state and when we did I lost the support system I had spent seven years building at our old home. Although I knew it was very important that I had one I didn’t bother to build a new one until I crashed and burned. Oops, lesson learned again.

I found myself at a very low weight that I hadn’t seen in many years with anxiety through the roof. My heart was beating erratically, I had pain with no explanation, emotional craziness and I wasn’t functioning as the mom I want to be. I was checking out way too often.

I went to the doctor for some help. And I entered therapy again.

Things in my life that were completely out of my control were giving me great anxiety and I had no way to safely deal with them so I spiraled down very quickly. A little help from the doctor and a booster shot from the therapist gave me what I needed to get back on track.

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I’ve had setbacks before, but this was a bad one. And I had a lot of work to do to keep it from happening again.

One of the things that was significant in my search for answers were these TED talk by Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability. I posted about the vulnerability one yesterday. And I said then, I dare to be vulnerable IF it helps me live life wholeheartedly. Because that life sounds so very good.

Well, Brene goes on to explain where true vulnerability starts (you can listen to that TED talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame). And it isn’t pretty. It starts with your shame.

After listening to this I thought, “Oh, I can be vulnerable, but maybe not with my shame. I take it all back, I would rather live in a cave. Forget the wholehearted living thing.”

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But truthfully, I do dare to live courageously and deal with my stuff so that I can live wholeheartedly. For me, for my husband, for my children, I dare. So I set out to rebuild my personal board of directors.

I searched my current contacts for people I might feel comfortable being vulnerable with. I reached out to them and started the process of building the friendship deeper. Some were a bust – that’s ok. Others were a gold mine. And I love them for it!

Brene Brown uses different friends for different situations. When a kid or mommy situation arrises she calls those friends. When a work situation arrises she calls on those friends.

I’m a girl with only a few friends at this level. I need about 2 or 3 so they need to cover just about all areas. I have to keep it close you know.

I built a new support system in about a year’s time and today it is working well. I have 2 (maybe 3) people who know my “stuff” and I can call anytime for help. A pre-requisite of mine was that they had to be vulnerable with me too. I don’t need a listening ear, I need people in this fight with me living vulnerably and open with their shame as well. Having a bunch of friends listening to your stuff who appear to have no stuff is not encouraging at all.

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In Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” she talks about using her friends to bounce things off of immediately after she feels the shame. She urges you to never let shame sit there festering inside you, tearing you down. The longer that goes on the worse the ramifications are.

Shame grows in darkness.

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For me, shame feels like rocks in the bottom of my tummy. When it first comes on it feels heavy and sick. And if I don’t expose it to the light, talk to someone about it, it will grow and destroy – quickly. This is when I call on my girls. The faster the better.

Let’s say I am visiting a friend and they say something that really cuts deep. And it stirs up all my old pain. They may, or may not, have meant to hurt me, but they did nun-the-less. And it reminds me of my feelings of unworthiness, being unlovable and scared. I hear things like, “your not good enough, you need to be better, do more.” So when I get in the car, I send a quick text or make a phone call to ask for prayer and a little time to talk. Then I pray and ask God to remind me of how He thinks about me.

As soon as light is shed on your shame it knocks the legs right out from under it. Your friends can shed truth on it, God will blow it up with His truth every time, and all of a sudden it isn’t growing anymore, it’s dying.

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I wish I did this well every time. But, no chance. It takes work and courage and vulnerability. Some days I possess more of these qualities than others.

But I can say undeniably that when I deal with my shame well it is life-giving. The benefits are immediate.

I am enough. I am strong. I am courageous. I am loved.

Dare greatly with me to live vulnerably in your shame so that you may live wholeheartedly.

 

Living Wholeheartedly

Last week I talked about people who make us feel good by just being around them and I said I would like to be more like that kind of person. I keep thinking that those people must be very comfortable with themselves or they couldn’t give off the vibe they do.

Thinking along the lines of how to be a more approachable, comfortable, loving person myself, reminded me of a talk I heard a few years ago by Brene Brown on wholehearted living.

You can listen to it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

This is Brene Brown’s definition of Wholehearted living:

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Oh, that sounds really nice!

I want to live wholeheartedly.

I long for this kind of life.

I desire to be this kind of parent.

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Wow, I want to grow up in that home, don’t you?

But how do you do that? Somehow I don’t think the answer is found on pinterest or in a list of 10 things you can do to increase the fulfillment in your life.

She says the answer starts with vulnerability.

So, In order to live life wholeheartedly, I not only have to accept my own imperfections but I also have to share them with others? Ouch.

That’s going to take come courage.

Do you dare?

I think I dare.

Focusing on the Beautiful in the Mess

 

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It is so easy to get down on my house. When I just look around the house and see all the projects I haven’t gotten to or the stuff sitting on counter tops and floors I get frustrated, and beat down and sometimes even angry.  It’s easy to stay there, irritated and madly picking up like some crazed housewife. But it’s like that again the next day, so the crazed housewife thing doesn’t seem to be fixing anything. I bet you feel the same way some days.

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So I started wondering what would happen if I focused on the beautiful in the mess. The things in each room that bring me joy not all the things that I need to still get to.

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I went around the house taking pictures of my favorite things in each room. The room’s jewelry. The piece de resistance. Almost every room has one. And on the days when my house was under siege by trash mongers I focused on these pieces. I found that I was able to rest amongst the chaos when I focused on the beautiful.

It’s the same way with our soul. When we are not restful, if we focus on what God says about us it brings us rest in the middle of the crazy.

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The truth is my house isn’t all junk, there are projects that are completed, and there are beautiful things in it. Just as I am not a total looser in life, God says I am beautifully and wonderfully made no matter what someone else does to me or says about me.

It’s what you focus on. If you focus on the negative and undone in your home, your home will be a tangled mess in your mind, but if you focus on the beautiful your home, it will be a restful and peaceful place, even amongst the mess.

If we focus on what others say about us, or do to us, we may feel bad about ourselves, but if we focus on what God says about us, who God says we are, we will be peaceful and joyful.

Today, I challenge you to focus on the beautiful in your home and in your life.

Back To School

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If summer was a baseball game, we just slid into home with the winning run.

This summer was the first summer I wasn’t ready to send my kids back in mid July. Usually I hit the wall just after the 4th of July (which is way to early by anyones standards). But this time, I was still having fun the day before school started.

We had some vacations pretty well spaced out to mix things up, which helped. But I also think the kids were at a better age, and it was fun. We have had babies for so long, now everyone walks, talks, and potties in the potty. No more diapers, no more sippy cups. Ahhhh.

We did a lot this summer, but the day before school started the kids wanted to throw a party for the little girl across the street who was going home after spending the summer with her grandparents. And I said, yes.

So the night before school started, I had a house full of kids eating pizza and playing games.

We slid into school the next morning, house destroyed, tired and smiling.

We had shoes on our feet (even if they weren’t appropriate for gym), clothes on our bodies (even if it was what they wore the day before) and food in our lunch boxes that I scraped together since I hadn’t gone to the grocery lately.

And I realized it is JUST FINE. We had fun, went out with a bang and slid into school with our sun kissed faces beaming.

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Happy back to school!

 

My Kids Took Over the Kitchen This Summer

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This is the new sign in my kitchen. It all started when I told my daughter I hated my life. Statements like that are excellent confidence and security builders – you should try them. You say something like that to your kid and stand back and watch them flourish.

I’m kidding of course.

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It was a real humbling moment for me.

All summer our kitchen has been riddled with crushed cereal, half eaten fruit laying on counters and cabinet doors wide open with snack boxes ajar. Little ones eating in the living room and crumbing all over my rugs and furniture. Snack wrappers stashed under sofas and chairs… you get the picture.

One day while getting breakfast for everyone I ran downstairs to get some milk (because the fridge in our kitchen was not working) when I realized someone (not me) left the basement refrigerator door open all night. Everything gone. On my way upstairs I noticed a half eaten apple sitting on the basement floor. Ants all around.

Later that day the subsequent trip to Costco, post fridge disaster, was still stacked high on the counter when my oldest decided it was time to bake something. Trying to give her freedom to be a big kid I decided to let her continue. While I cleaned off the table and floor (by myself) from breakfast, lunch and snack, she was making a new mess on the small portion of the counter you could still see. Looking for help I glanced into the sitting room to find four other kids watching TV and playing on electronic devices while I was cleaning up their messes.

It was then that I reached my boiling point and words flew. I didn’t really mean what I said. I was just frustrated with the situation I found myself in. I had just then decided they should be helping me but I wasn’t making them, in fact, I wasn’t even asking them to. But I was mad they weren’t helping me anyway.

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That night at my Bible study this statement struck me. “Your emotions are an indicator, not a determiner”.

OK, so my feelings don’t dictate, or determine how I must react. I am asked to have self control with my actions and words. That is a choice that I have to make in the moment and I take responsibility for that.

I know this, but I blow it once in a while. I’m not perfect and I’m not going to be perfect. Even God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. Ahhhh, sigh of relief.

But the most freeing piece of that statement was that my emotions are an indicator.

For some reason I have a very difficult time feeling justified in creating household rules based upon my feelings of frustration or irritation. When I am frustrated with some behavior going on in my home I feel like I need to “deal” with my emotion rather than changing the situation that is causing my frustration. So for me this was liberating to realize that my feelings of frustration over the constant state of my kitchen were an indicator that something was wrong in my home. And it was not only ok, but my job as mother, to change the situation.

In this case it was straight forward. I have the right to insist others clean up their own messes and respect our home and if they don’t they lose some privileges in the kitchen. While it isn’t ok for me to say hurtful things, it is ok for me to insist on some appropriate behavior around our home.

So for now the hours of operation were posted. This enables me to manage the meals and enforce the cleanup without hanging around my kitchen ALL DAY LONG.

I apologized to the kids that night for my actions and I prayed in front of them asking God for forgiveness as well. Then we discussed how out of control the kitchen had been lately and I told them the kitchen was going to have open hours each day until I knew people would clean up after themselves. I expected a lot of groaning and moaning, whining and complaining, but instead, I think they appreciated the boundaries. Imagine that.

We are all beautifully imperfect!