Friday, December 21, 2012

When life happens, I want to be there

As usual this holiday has inspired me to reflect on my experiences, my relationships, my health and my overall life perspectives.  I like to start with the shortest time frame, the closest things, and build out from there.  Generally this approach ensures I end on a positive note.  Maybe it’s the distance or the time that’s passed that allows me more of an open-minded outlook and more permission to view the older, wider scope stuff as positives.  That’s neither here nor there I guess so here we go…

Starting with the near and dear, this year feels like it’s been a rough one.  If nothing else, it’s been a change packed one and we all know how I do with change! Growing pains indeed!!!  I moved my home; lost a dear friend; changed jobs; welcomed my new nephew home J; had neck surgery; and got some life-changing news about my mom.   Those were the doozies.  Sprinkled through were the little things: I celebrated three years sober; I got to hear stories from some awesome women and be inspired by their strength again and again; I went camping with my husband, then with friends, then with more family; I giggled a lot with too many friends and family to count; I enjoyed the ups and downs of my high school divers and celebrated their new skills; Notre Dame is #1 and going for the National Championships in a couple short weeks, and I was there with my dad, bro and husband to watch them beat USC; I wore a crown on my birthday on a hiking trail; I reacquainted with friends of old; I was able to clean up a little more of the wreckage of my past and continue to feel more and more at peace with others; I got to enjoy a rad cousin day; I heard just last week my brother has delivered three babies (WHAT!!!??? He’s really going to be a doctor!); I called my mom and sister almost every weekday morning and heard them and the kiddos in all their morning glory.  I could keep going but suffice it to say life is happening and the coolest part is I’ve been there to experience it! 

If I take a walk away from all that and turn around to see the bigger, broader view, I’m just in complete and total awe at the gifts and love that seem to have been poured straight down on my head in the past year or 4 or 33.   I see how lucky and blessed I am.  Certainly in light of all the traumas and hardships that are happening around the world, my ‘changes’ seem luxurious and inspired.  My heart aches for those in pain, experiencing injustice and stricken with loss.  I want to fix the wrongs and the hurts and the grief, but of course I can’t.  It makes me wonder how I got so lucky.  I used to ask God why a lot.  “Why me God?  Why is it so hard God?  Why can’t it be different God?  Why can’t I just quit God?”  I had to stop asking why in order to allow myself to just live and do the next right thing.  So now as I’m asking “How did I get so lucky God?” it occurs to me that I just don’t get to know the why’s and how’s of life.  I’m discovering that it’s in the not knowing that I’m enabled to live in today and simply do the next indicated thing.  Truth is I can’t know when someone will need my help or even if I'll be able to help them when they do, but so long as I show up and remain present, you bet your butt I’ll be there when life happens.   

All the love during this holiday season and happy reflections to you!!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Learning learning learning

While I've been away...

I have been learning and learning and learning and learning with change.  So much has been brought to my plate and I have gotten overwhelmed, frustrated and slightly depressed at times.  Each time I have hit an emotional wall, I have looked deep within myself and found I am okay.  So, I get back on the horse and continue learning.  That's the overview of the past month and a half or so.  There's really not much more to tell than that, minus the colorful background stories.  So here's the filler...

I got a new job and have been in my new role for over a month now.  It's a lot of the same daily duties as my last job, but a completely different schedule and company culture.  So far I hate it and am totally stressed out.  I have broken down four times at work.  Eeek!  Three of those breakdowns happened in front of people, including both my supervisors.  Being the crier I am, those moments have been super embarrassing.  I'm good at what I am doing and people seem to value what I'm adding, although I haven't settled in enough to do what I was hired to do.   The job provides stability and possibilities for future family making so yay.  Experience tells me it will be all good whether I come to like the job or not, so I am just walking through the new of it right now.  I finally got my second neck surgery scheduled.  It's in a week and a half!  I am really nervous and super excited at the same time.  I am so tired of being in pain all day, every day.  I don't handle it well, but I am told no one really handles chronic pain all that well.  The moments i crumble are times when I really believe that I can't do it anymore and that doing anything that day is just too much.  Getting up and going to work and meetings and family fun are completely unfathomable.  So I panic in the form of a temper tantrum of some sort with tears and snapping and yells.  It takes about thirty minutes or so for prayer to come to mind as an option and a couple more for meditation to come in the mix.  When they do and I use them, I begin to breathe normally again and feel comforted by all the love inside me and in my life.  I realize I am blessed and protected and finally I know I can successfully face the day.  Sounds rough I know, but it works for now.  I celebrated some of my new employee benefits with fun trips with family and friends and some days of self spoiling.  Let's see... we had a big family day that rocked, a couple of niece and nephew movie days, some camping and hiking, dive season is starting up new captains and all, one of my dear friends relapsed into drugs but came back alive and wants sobriety again, I found an awesome women's group that I feel at home in, I knitted my first teddy bear, my husband got me flowers on a whim atop all his cooking and cleaning for us everyday. 

So all this and I just feel like I'm on the learning train.  My life is full and amazing and changing!  I believe change opts me to learn or crumble.  I'm blessed to have the continued desire and stamina to learn through change.  So here's what I think I have learned or am learning through the last months:

  1. Humility may just save my career and my relationships
  2. I must make time for silliness
  3. Exercise is a huge asset to my recovery
  4. I need to say thank you without criticism attached on either end
  5. Quiet time is essential to enabling me to feel peaceful and spiritually connected
  6. Crafts are a good therapeutic outlet for me
  7. Singing out loud or dancing inspires joy in me
  8. It helps to assume people at work are cool with me until they show me otherwise
  9. I'm smart and resilient
  10. When it feels like to much, I can remember yesterday felt that way too and I've made it to today, so I'm already doing what I don't think I can.
      BONUS: God's got me no matter what, no matter what.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The meaning of my tears

Oh man some days just show up a bit rougher than others and today has been one of those days.  I guess I’m chugging along just fine now and I have some hope back in my corner as I walk through each next hour, but I’m pretty tired and am just kind of putting one foot in front of the other until I’m done.  I’ve cried it out once already today, and that helped me get through work, but I think I’ll need another session once I’m home. J   I’m a total crier.  It’s how I process a lot of things.  Not only do I cry at the sad, difficult and lonely times, I cry at the happy too and the exciting and the inspirational.  I believe I have proven beyond much reasonable doubt that I come by my tears biologically.  If you took a look at the reactions of women in my family, you would likely agree.  If you found a way to disagree, I’d probably wonder if you were being contrary just to be contrary, but I digress.  My tears are very comprehensive and can be an outlet for a myriad of different emotions.  I thought I would describe 20 or so different cry occasions to give you a little peak into the meaning of my tears.

  1. This morning I woke up in pain and lot of it.  I couldn’t see the silver lining to my experience, and I couldn’t see hope in it.  I was unable to grab strength from all the things I CAN do.  I didn’t even want to imagine trying to get through today.  Planning any plans was impossibly overwhelming.  I cried hopeless tears.
  2. On my way into work this morning I called my lovely friend in recovery.  I told her it was a very bad neck day.  I shook and raised my voice and cursed as I cried into the phone.  I said it was unfair and I didn’t understand it.  I told her I was mad at my life and at God.  I cried angry tears. 
  3. Yesterday I watched the replay of the USA women’s4 x 400 meter relay win their Olympic race in London.  Tears filled my eyes as I watched them embrace each other and their families and the announcers cheered into their microphones.  I cried tears of inspiration.
  4. My mom once ran a stop light in that way where we both realized she had done it only after she was all the way through the intersection and at the same time.  The look we gave each other was so priceless that we burst into laughter and were both crying through our giggles.  It was the kind of moment where you can never tell someone else and have it be as funny.  I cried tears of friendship.
  5. My dad had heart surgery.  It was pretty minor on today’s scale, but I was scared for him, especially after I’d heard how bad his tests were.  He was getting a couple stints put in, and I cried into my shirt as I told my support group how much I wished I could give him a hug before he went in for surgery.  I cried tears of fear.
  6. My grandma died only six months after my aunt had committed suicide.  I prayed and prayed around the time of my grandmother’s funeral and tears came each night as I envisioned both my aunt and grandmother watching over me.  I cried tears of faith.
  7. One day I listened as one of my family members listed out a lot of different things I had done to cause her hurt and worry.   I knew I had harmed her, and I knew I couldn’t fix her pain.  I cried tears of guilt.
  8. This one’s silly but still true.  I think I wrote about this before even.  I was struggling to find friends in my new city, and I went up to a women I didn’t know to introduce myself.  I was at a meeting with a bunch of other recovering folk and thought she would welcome me with open arms.  She ignored me and turned her back on me.  I cried tears of rejection.
  9. My husband and I hosted a game night for some of our friends and we completely disagreed on the rules to one of the games.  We bickered quite a lot and once everyone left we talked it out and agreed to disagree.  I cried tears of frustration.
  10. I got into the college of my choice after putting soooooo much pressure on myself and sooooo much importance on it.  I jumped and cheered when I read my letter.  I cried tears of relief.
  11. My lovely friend Tina died after a courageous and beautiful life lived to the fullest.  I miss her fierce expressiveness, her faithfulness to life and her fantastic parties.  I cried tears of loss.
  12. I experienced my wedding day surrounded by my closest family and friends.  I felt beautiful, confident, loved and secure.  I cried tears of happiness.
  13. I danced ALL NIGHT at my wedding.  I cried tears of bliss.
  14. I was supposed to be brought on as a new employee at a company I had worked with for a while.  The conversation began with great promise for promotion and ended with a clear understanding that the company and I did not mix.  I walked out of the conversation without a job.  I cried tears of disappointment.
  15. Two of my cousins sang with such beauty, generosity and talent at my wedding.  I was so touched and filled with the moment that I felt my heart might explode.  I cried tears of love.
  16. I found myself sober after a fast moving and beautiful year of ups and downs.  Then two years.  Then three years.  I cried tears of hope.
  17. I have been a lifetime fan of both Disney movies and the Disney Channel.  I get lost in the stories and laugh and cry along with the characters.  I cry tears of innocence.
  18. I broke my back when I was eleven and my gymnastics career ended.  I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I knew I had lost a big part of me.  I was confused, distraught and broken.  I cried tears of grief.
  19. I have looked loved ones in the eyes and told them I was sorry for the harm I’d done them over the years.  I have been truthful, simple and specific.  I have let them drive conversations and listened to their side.  I have cried tears of humility.
  20. So now I have read my list back, and tears welled up in me as I went.  As I read, I felt pride in the realization that all of these moments have shaped me.  None of these moments own me.  I have walked through the good and the bad.  While I am indeed a kind of weepy woman, I have come out with a level of dignity and grace that is surprising even to me.  I cry tears of strength. 

Thank you for all my tears. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No Film

Keeping on the theme of my awesome nephew, my newest little buddy was baptized this past weekend.  What an amazing deal!  I’m telling you, I’m still blown away.  I was the camera girl, and I felt honored as usual in being asked to help.  I wonder when the novelty of being trusted with responsibility is going to wear off?  I hope never!  When everyone left for the church and I was left behind with my husband, I did have a moment of panic as physical pain and exhaustion took over.  I cried a few overwhelmed tears and took some medicine before I could join everyone at the church.  When I did, I was overwhelmed in a very different way.

Family and friends showed up in the usual rowdy fashion.  I got that old nervous feeling that we might get into trouble or insult someone for making so much noise inside the church.  That passed rather quickly though as I saw that the laughter, the hugs, the kisses and the play were nothing short of heavenly.  We, as a community, were lifting all that joy up to God.  It just kept getting better and better: the neighbor kids embracing one another; my nephew playing with dad between, under and over the pews; my young cousins reuniting and lining up excited and thrilled to be together in one long row; the priest processing in with both families of the soon to be baptized children to the tune of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”; the proud Godparents smiling down at my beautiful nephew as the sacrament of baptism was performed; the sign of the cross being made on my nephew’s teensy two year old forehead by his parents, godparents, grandparents, aunts and big sister; my 3 ½ year old niece making the sign of the cross on her brother’s forehead with no knowledge of what that meant, but displaying all its depth with her simple desire to share the moment with him; both my niece and nephew crawling all over the pews, trying to be quiet and watching their brother take the spotlight (they don’t like that one bit!).  All of it was just so beautiful.  Then, to really bring it all home, the priest raised my nephew up in front of the altar, nice and high, over his head in awesome celebration.  We all swooned and awed at the magnificence of our newest family member.  A feeling of limitless love filled me as I shared all of this with my dearest of family and friends.
I got such great camera shots of all of this.  I mean, great shots.  I was really on top of it.  People were posing for me, asking for a copy to be sent to them later on, and giving me thumbs up as I clicked away.  And then I realized, there was no memory card in the camera.  I had taken it out that morning to print some pictures for house decorations for the reception after the ceremony.  This is one of those cameras that does NOT save any pictures on the hard drive.  They just don’t exist.  So bummed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I had pictures of all those moments digitally captured!  I was so sad and apologized profusely to just about everyone.  Of course, they all said it was no big deal and we’d just collect shots of the day from a bunch of other folks and make a collection.  Okay, I agreed, but mine were so good!! Hahahaha.

For lack of words... or pictures!
Now that a few days have passed and I look back on Sunday, I just know I do not need pictures to remember the inspiring love I felt inside that church.  In fact, the power of it seems to have grown.  What a gift to have my spirit so lifted.  There is no picture that could capture that.  It is magnificent, awesome, beautiful and infinite.  My heart and spirit are so full, and they will remember that day forever. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

To love freely...

I am incredibly tired today so I am a bit off but decided I had better blog anyway so as not to let this writer’s muscle of mine wither too much.  I have probably already passed that mark but here we go anyway…

It is a pretty amazing time for my family, and I am still a little overwhelmed to be a part of it.  My sister returned home from China a few weeks ago where she was adopting her third child, my new nephew.  An elaborate babysitting schedule was laid out by my sister and bro-in-law before she left, as my niece and nephew had to stay back in the states with working dad.  I took on a few days of babysitting, and my husband and I got to cook some meals for the gang.  I was filled with such a powerful sense of purpose that I really loved every bit.  My bro-in-law did a great job keeping mom and kids connected via Skype and even wrote a daily blog to loop in the extended family.  My new nephew is home now, and he’s a total rockstar!  There’s absolutely no question that he knows mom and dad and siblings are his.  It just blows me away, like it was meant to be and his heart just knows. 

I cannot even begin to understand what my nephew is thinking and feeling inside that little body of his.  I do like to guess at it though. :)   He seems a bit confused as to who I am and what’s going on sometimes, but that’s to be expected since he’s two years old and EVERYTHING JUST CHANGED.  He maintains a pretty fierce look for the most part with occasions of tears and more of brilliantly joyful smiles.  He has the coolest smile.  His whole face lights up!  Overall, I imagine a crazy amount of determination working inside him.  I project that his efforts are to focus, to understand, to communicate, to get fed (he really loves food!), to connect with mom and dad, and to explore his siblings.  I also wonder what he is feeling, aside from what he’s thinking, and simply have no clue.  I hope to spend more and more time knowing and loving him, but for now the mystery that is him is more than magnificent.

I will love abundantly.
My reflections today really started, and end now, with my wanting to fix my relationship with a particular someone.  Let’s call this person Amanda.  I want control over what she thinks AND feels about me.  I want her to love me and trust me and confide in me the way she did a decade ago.  The wreckage of my past just slaps me right in the face some days, usually on the days I least expect it!!!  The thing is that I just don’t know what’s going on inside Amanda’s head and heart.  Unlike my new little nephew, I have a history with her and have decided some things based on that history.  She should forgive me.  She should believe I have changed.  She should know I love her and want her in my life.  She should reciprocate all my feelings.  As I write that I realize that what throws me is not that Amanda doesn’t meet all the ‘shoulds’, but that I just don’t know.  I feel lonely and scared- very different from the love and joy and hope I feel when watching my nephew without knowing.  I check myself with other people on this, and I find support in their feedback and find a greater love for Amanda in all her stubbornness and quirkiness.  The hurt remains of course, but hope is gained.  I believe and know I am taken care of and surrounded by the love of friends, family and God.  I would like some answers to emerge, and I would like even more for those answers to include Amanda and I becoming as close as we once were.  For now, I don’t have any answers so what can I do?  Probably nothing...  sitting still stinks.  Haha!  I hope to one day let go of my desire to control how other people think and feel towards me and to just love.  To love freely and without expectations is a practice that often eludes me.  Great thing is that sober experience and hope are on my side today.  And so, just for today, I will love abundantly!

Monday, June 25, 2012


I have heard in recovery that the road gets narrower.  Meaning that the longer a person stays clean and sober their scope becomes smaller in terms of things they find acceptable or venture to explore.  The flip side is also said - that life gets bigger.  I used to try to side with one or the other of these ideas, but today I realize both are a fit for me.

I have such a big life today!  I simply cannot physically or mentally experience everything I’d like to, and I imagine that my list of to-do’s will never shrink short enough to do it all.  In fact, I bet it just keeps growing.  People like having me around and they trust me.  With that I have discovered how much time a relationship, a close relationship, really demands.  It’s funny that I didn’t know that before, but I suppose I never really pursued healthy relationships, or probably more accurately, I never had the ability to put any consistent time or care into them.  Today I have been blessed with all these people in my life as the certain result of working off a different moral code than ever in my past.  I don’t tolerate deception or drama or bullshit of any kind for very long today.  I used to live immersed in lies and cheating and manipulation and gladly welcomed the same from people around me.  Now it’s just too uncomfortable for me to operate in that environment.  I simply find the pain of my old way of living unacceptable since having discovered and practiced a different way.  I really don’t try to push the limits all too much anymore.  I still crave excitement and once in a while I consider that crazy life again, and that lasts about 10 seconds.  Haha!  Seriously though, it only lasts a moment because it’s fairly impossible for me to think past a drink in my hand without then seeing complete chaos and destruction.  I find it comical that so many people draw an immediate assumption that I’m a goody-goody and always have been.  Actually, that can be bothersome to me at times because I want everyone to know that I’m not some na├»ve little princes, and I’ve seen more pain than they have probably only heard about.  You can see my enormous ego has not left me entirely!  Good part is that I don’t have to say a word about my past and the feeling of desperately needing them to know who I really am passes.  Lately two instances have occurred at work in which coworkers have tried to entice me into trying out some booze.  It’s hilarious that they assume I have never drank before.  I have forever assumed that people can detect the alcoholic in me.  I have hated that because I have felt branded.  Now, I feel uncomfortable with their assumption of my clean living.  Man, I spend a lot of time worrying about how others see me.  So silly. 

So yes, in many ways my road has narrowed.  I don’t seek crazy.  I don’t break the law.  I don’t keep secrets.  I quickly and directly admit when I lie.  I do not manipulate people or institutions.  I don’t go to bars and clubs just for a thrill.  I try not to hurt others.

My road has also widened.  I get together with bunches of recovering men and women, and I share and listen.  I babysit for my cousins and niece and nephew.  I have traveled to another country (yay!!! Finally!).  I coach teenagers to become better at my favorite sport and present them with more possibilities for their future.  I go out to eat and enjoy food.  I dance and sing and hike and swim and craft and play.  I have game nights with my husband.  I host alcoholics and addicts in our home when they seek my husband and I out for help.  I have made a home with my husband.  I pray and find peace in quiet.  I ask for help.  I really love who I am.  I am a recovering, faithful, smart, professional woman who loves her family and the silly things life, and most of the time I OWN IT!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Attitude Makeover - HFC Day 17

Think about what you feel pessimistic about, frustrated about or are struggling with, either now or at some point in the past. What were/are those issues? What stops/stopped you from making changes? What do you need/ did you need to confront those issues? Can you make plans to take steps to change? If you have done this, were you able to make changes? What challenges can you set yourself for the future? (Remember to make them realistic and achievable!)

Okay so this is kind of interesting.  I spend so many of my days and moments trying not to be pessimistic and to put a hopeful spin on every one of my experiences.  Truth is that I can throw the meanest pity party on the block.  My default is self pity and it leads me into depressive episodes and sideways anger.  My self pity used to keep me from even trying to recover from ED.  I was so stuck to my pity pot that I really believed that no one even cared if I got healthy.  I can see the faulty thinking there and the disease twisting my truths, so today I stay on the lookout for that voice in me.  I’m not perfect at it though and my entire recovery has been filled with frustration and pessimism over a severe neck injury I suffered in my third month of sober abstinence. 

I herniated a disc in my neck while I was showing off diving for some young kiddos at a community pool.  My husband was with me and we had been dating for only about a week.  Six months later the doctors decided surgery was necessary and performed a spinal fusion.  A year later, I was closing in on my wedding day and my pain remained so severe that I feared I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our celebration.  Three years since the injury and I am still in pain.  I did get some good news just last week that the fusion is complete but received the bad news that arthritis is developing at the injury site. 

Now, this whole thing has really sucked in so many ways.  I have lost a lot of my strength and muscle since my injury and building it back up now is super slow going.  I don’t have the same body shape at all anymore.  I have always been pretty ‘gymnast shaped’.  I never had hips or big boobs.  That’s changed.  I do have hips and I have bigger boobs.  I have had to accept a whole new body.  Man, it was hard enough accepting it the first time!!!   I’ve been angry at myself and at people that just don’t understand.  I’ve been jealous of people that get to workout as hard as they want to and feel that good ache in their muscles from a job well done.  I have yelled at my husband for being attracted to me when I’m in super exhausted from fighting the constant hurting.  I have cursed God for giving me recovery just to give me a serious injury. 

All this is self pity.  What is more is that it is self pity that to me seems justified.  It seems logical and normal to feel down about something like this.  It feels like I should have permission to feel sorry for myself, and the truth is I don’t have much control over what thoughts and emotions hit me at what time but I do need to look for positive outlets for them.  I know from my history that I can’t afford to get sucked into the morose thinking and a defeatist attitude for too long.  So, I have made a commitment to share my frustrations with other people and to find a positive in everything.  Sometimes this can be challenging but for the most part it isn’t so difficult.  Without my injury I would not have had to look so deep within; I would not have had to ask for so much help; I would not have had to pray so often; I would not have had to sit still and just be.  In these ways my injury has given me the quality of recovery I have today.  I have to remember that I don’t know what the big plan is for me and that even the seemingly terrible can bring beautiful gifts.    

Fat is NOT a feeling! - HFC Day 16

Eating disorders are not about weight. But so often people express that they feel ‘fat’. What feelings have you really been experiencing when you have said you feel fat? Or what do you think lie beneath the surface of others who express this. You can write directly in response to this blog prompt or why not alter it and look at your emotional experience of eating disorders – what did you feel? How did you know which emotion you felt? Why is it important to be aware of your emotions?

It is perfect that this was yesterday’s challenge, because yesterday I decided I was willing to weigh myself.  I very rarely weigh myself and sometimes I have to force myself to get on the scale just to ensure I’m not letting ED get away with anything ‘under the hood’ so to speak.  So I checked in with the scale yesterday, did not like what I saw and actually laid on the floor for a few moments before I could collect myself enough to carry on with my day.  It’s incredibly strange, even to a bulimic like me, how just a number can take hold of my emotions and feel so threatening and damning.  Two minutes before I weighed, I talked to my husband about needing to do it.  I gave myself a whole bunch of affirmations, felt great about my fitness level and body overall, and BAM! the number shot it all away.  The cool part is that I did NOT have to have a horrible day yesterday.  In fact, I was able to feel pretty darn confident and even like my reflection in the mirror.  What!!!!????  Nothing short of a miracle. 

For as long as I can remember, ‘that number’ directed my mood and my ability to walk through a day.  If the number wasn’t lower, I felt fat.  If I felt fat, that meant a whole bunch of bad.  It meant I wasn’t pretty, likeable, friend worthy, capable, intelligent, talented, lovable, forgivable, ugh - all goodness gone.  Feeling fat was my blanket holding and covering all my fears, insecurities, brokenness and anger.  I think I was challenged by every single one of my treatment providers with “Fat is not a feeling.  What are you feeling?  What’s inside?”  This was always frustrating to me.  I’m not sure what triggered me to decide that the feelings I had were not okay, but I decided it.  I couldn’t find a neat spot for the mess of emotions I had before ED, and they were too embarrassing to tell those I trusted the most.  I needed a hiding place for my feelings and that place became my eating disorder.  Once I hid my feelings there and found it to be an extremely effective safe zone, I became comfortable with it.  Saying “I feel fat” was completely okay with me.  I didn’t have to go any deeper and find unwanted truths or share hidden secrets from my past.  “I feel fat” was enough to keep the topic right there on the surface.  Of course, the time came when this was crippling to me, and it began to kill me.  I didn’t know how to go deeper.  I was so alone and I couldn’t find any number on the scale that would take away the fat feeling.   I know the reason I couldn’t shake it was because it wasn’t about fat at all.  It was about what was going on in my head, heart and soul. 

So yesterday, I freaked for a minute, regrouped and got my program on.  I told myself a mantra (borrowed from a friend and program) just for times like this ‘Take care of the spiritual and the mind and body will follow.’  I went over this as I got ready for work and as I drove in.  I also gave my sister a ring to commiserate about our God given ‘heavy genes’.  Upon walking from my car to the office, I connected with gratitude.  I thought about how blessed I am in my life today, how much I love my husband and family and friends, how I have a wonderful ability to show up for life today and how my body allows me to do that.  By the time I sat down at my desk, I had a smile on my face and I felt beautiful.  

I know!  Recovery is cool. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Letter to Little Me - HFC Day 15

Write a letter to yourself as a child – you can choose which ever age you feel is most relevant to you. What do you want to tell that child? What wisdom can you share with him/her? What encouragement can you give to that child? Tell that child what good qualities you see in him/her. After writing reflect on what you have written and recognize that those qualities still lie within you, as does that child.

Dear Francie,

Hello beautiful!!! So you are only six and I am thirty two but believe me when I say, I get you.  I know you love making lists so here’s a checklist for you to complete every day.  Feel free to rewrite it as many times as you like, and to cross out your completions with bold marker or circular scribbles, whichever you like. 
  • Giggle.
  • Tell your sister and brother you love them.
  • Raise your hand in class and ask a question.
  • Ask your parents to tell you a story about them when they were your age, they have some doosies!!
  • Do a dance – freestyle.
  • Get good and dirty.
  • Mess up your hair.
  • Sing a prayer or say it aloud.
  • Cuddle with mom or dad or brother or sister.
  • Give yourself permission to cry, even if you don’t cry, just remind yourself that it’s okay if you do.
  • Find some water and get yourself soaking wet (bath, shower, hose, pool).
  • Keep dreaming BIG.
  • Remember you’re a kid and your parents will take care of you and your bro and sis no matter what, no matter what.
  • See you body in the mirror and love it.  God gave it to you and it can do so much already!  You’re so fabulous exactly as you are.

This should be a good start.  Everything is going to be okay.  You are okay!  Have fun and be bold.  Be grateful for what you have and embrace it all with joy and laughter. You’re six!!!  Woohoo!

Crimes against Clients - HFC Day 14

Share your experiences about a professional or professionals (doctor, therapist, nurse etc.) that had a negative impact on your recovery. How did they make you feel? Did you speak with them about this? How did they respond? How did they impact you? How did you recover from that experience? How did you learn to seek help and trust professionals again?

This is a shaky one for me.  In my letter to medical professionals (Day 6) I expressed my frustration with my treatment over the years but also my gratitude for all the men and women who have treated me.  I believe that all my experiences, good and bad, have made me the recovery woman I am today.  I know that everyone I come in contact with is a teacher – some of what to do, some of what NOT to do.  Either way, I can learn from everyone.  Back in the throws of bulimia, I didn’t see it that way.  When a professional (aka role model) showed disease behavior, I took away bad habits and negative massages and fit them right onto me.  A lot of times I knew I was self-sabotaging and wanted to bring the pain.  Other times I was competitive or seeking attention.   Occasionally, that “I’ll show you how sick I am” mentality drove me.  In the most dangerous times, I just had no fight left and I was giving up. 

So, you may be wondering what made some folks such bad examples.  My perception may be off and my disease certainly filtered things said and done differently back then, but the number one reason I decided a professional was not worth my effort to recover was inconsistency.  If the message of the professional was inconsistent with their behavior, I was done.  The most obvious example I have is one therapist who owned a day treatment center and was my primary therapist.  This was an eight hour a day, five day a week deal, and I was a patient there for over two years.  I saw so much of this therapist that I could tell you what she would say next, if she was in a good or bad mood, and how she was doing with her food.  She was a recovery anorexic, or maybe just an anorexic.  Here was the inconsistency.  She spent all day, every day, telling us to embrace our bodies, sharing professional opinions, encouraging us to eat balanced and nourish ourselves while she did none of it herself. 

If I could go back now, I would ask her why she only ate 150 calories for lunch every day and how that made any sense to eat during our sessions.  I would show her that my meal of 500 calories, made no sense next to hers.  I would ask her why she got plastic surgery and showed off her cleavage at work while telling us we were perfect just as we were.  I would challenge her to explain her significant weight loss after her husband left against her claim that we did not have to use food to cope with any and all circumstances.  I would call to her attention that we were all competing with HER!  I would share my anger and confusion towards her and her behavior.  I would explain my pain in all its depth and tell her I wanted to be free.  I would walk away from two years of a dead end pursuit and look for help and hope in someone who had recovery.

I spent years being angry at this therapist.  I felt that I had lost so much time being sick because of her.  I don’t feel that way anymore.  I learned a lot from that experience.  Today, I interview my doctors and therapists.  They are working for me after all.  If I don’t find hope in their story, sense in their methods, or most important to me consistency in their words and actions, I find a new professional.  This has served me well and I am my own mental health advocate.  I tell a doctor or therapist when something doesn’t seem right or when I’m just not feeling comfortable with my progress.  I have learned what I don’t want in my treatment, so now I’m finding what I do.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Choose between 1 and 10 people, alive or dead, who you feel are or were positive role models. What are their names? Tell us a bit about them. What do you admire them for? How do they inspire you?

1.  Grandma Frances - My grandma and my namesake.  Classy and quirky all in one.  She was athletic and smart and easy to laugh and delighted in victory.  She played a mean game of horse rummy and took no mercy, even on eight year olds.  She played basketball when she was seventy some years old.  She was deaf and never apologized for raising her voice to an accidental yell in public.  She could be quiet too.  She could sit in the sun and nap and read for hours.  She made the most delicious peanut butter cookies and had a way of making root beer floats the most exciting grandma treat EVER.

2.  Mr. Nish - My high school cross-country coach.  This is going to sound strange but the most overwhelmingly amazing gift that Mr. Nish gave was listening.  He was the greatest listener I have ever come across and it's no surprise he was the most popular and beloved teacher at my high school.  From what I hear, he still is.  All of us want to be heard and when we are, we don't forget it.

3.  Father Roberto - A priest I very recently met who has the most contagious smile I've ever caught.  He can share and lend joy to anyone within moments.  His eyes are clear and his gaze is free of doubt.  He is joy, embodied.

4.  My sister and brother - My best friends and the greatest siblings anyone could ever have.  My brother and sister taught me how to stick by the ones you love, no matter what.  They taught me how to forgive in the purest sense.  No love is lost, the harm is left behind and the bond gets stronger with time.  I don't know where they learned this stuff, but I know I learned it from them.  

5.  Mom and dad - They never ever gave up on me and will never ever stop teaching me how to live.  My most natural desire is to be with others, to socialize and enjoy the company of others.  I love people and I love the relationships I've formed today.  I have learned to communicate and to add to a relationship because my parents have always sought to give more than take to one another and to the people around them.  They are my examples of married life and the finest I know. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hungry For Change May Challenge - Days 10,11, 12

I’m way behind!!!  It’s been quite a week so these will be short but I hope you still enjoy….

Today is bloggers choice! You can write on anything you wish with regards to eating disorders, relate mental health or social problems. Maybe you have read an article or seen a photograph or advertisement recently you wish to respond to. Perhaps you want to reflect on the challenge so far? It’s entirely up to you. If you’re stuck for ideas post on the HFC Facebook page for inspiration.

I’m a bit relieved that the free style day was day 12.  I’m going to take this day as a day off.  Something extremely valuable and a lesson I’m still learning in recovery is recognizing my own need for unstructured hours.  Me time.  I am a busy body all the way, and I really do love staying productive and creating memories with other people, especially with my family.  But quiet and rest and stillness is just as important as all the activity.  So today, I’m going to take my free style day at home by keeping this entry short, not making too many plans, and maybe a getting in a couple of naps.  It’s been a loooong week!! 


Today direct your writing at someone in particular, some people in particular or society in general. What do people misunderstand about you? What do you need them to know? If you could explain your eating disorders and how you experience them without consequences – what would you say? How could the person/people reading your writing support you or others battling or in recovery from eating disorders?

Dear mom of the teenaged girl,

BE CAREFUL! Your daughter is more than you see.  She’s talented, strong, beautiful, spirited, and sensitive.  You see these things - but remember too that your daughter is simple.  She’s a young girl and she needs permission to make mistakes.  She wants you to admit she’s not responsible for everything.  Not because you are putting too much pressure on her but because she is.  Telling her she’s putting too much pressure on herself is not going to cut it.  Be aware of the way you talk to other people.  She is listening.  Try not to predict her future.  Try to talk about who she is with your family and friends and not always what she’s earning on paper or in medals or up against her peers.  Remember to tell her silly side and her mistakes too with love and laughter.  Maybe she walked into a wall or couldn’t stop giggling or was afraid of a trip or ride.  Share these times.  She will know that ALL of her is to be celebrated and not just the things with the ‘good’ tag. 
Another thing, your daughter is going to be okay no matter what happens to her or what mistakes you make.  She may get mad at you or blame you for things but don’t take it on.  Don’t blame yourself for her hardships.  It takes away from her ability to fully experience and own the blame and pain.  Teenagers love drama and getting through trauma and tough times of their own allows them a sense of pride and strength.  Allow it and don’t steal it.

Remember that you are a wonderful mom.  You care and she knows it.  Try not to take yourself too seriously.  She will learn that from you too.  Be joyful and celebrate being a woman!  Embrace yourself and your daughter will too.

Good luck!  Love, Fran


Choose ten words; five of which relate to your experience of eating disorders and five of which relate to your recovery. What does each of these words mean to you? Why are they important to you? What part have they played in your illness and recovery?

  1. Grace
  2. Action
  3. Love
  4. Resilient
  5. Freedom

  1. Shame
  2. Guilt
  3. Broken
  4. Lies
  5. Lonely

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Viva La Difference - HFC Day 9

Today is about celebrating what makes people different. What makes humanity interesting is that we are all unique. What does it mean to be different? Write about yourself or someone you admire or people generally in terms of celebrating the differences that so often people are mocked for. 

What does it mean to be different?  To me that can mean a whole lot of things both good and bad.  The thing about people’s differences is that everyone carries them with a different level of confidence.  You see folks displaying that quirky confidence, the loud confidence, the silent but strong confidence, the silly shy confidence, the not-so-confident and shaky, the not-so-confident and showy, the not-so-confident and pained.  So I guess what I’m saying is even differences are different, depending on who’s wearing them.  Of course I wish I could shout from the rooftops or, better yet, tell each and every person in this whole world individually that they are God’s kid and that they are just the way they are supposed to be in every way. 

I’ve talked about how much I love being an Aunt, and how my niece and nephew amaze me every day with their love and innocence.  My nephew is what the world would call different.  My nephew was born with no thumbs.  He had four fingers but no thumbs.  Shortly after he came home, doctors made him thumbs by taking his pointer fingers and turning them to the outside of his hands.  They also moved a bone in each hand over towards his new thumbs to give his hands more support and strength.  Now my nephew has three fingers and one thumb on each hand.  He also has a lot of scars and not much strength in his hands in general.  He’s three and a half and has a three year old sister who is much more physically advanced than her brother.  I’ve been so amazed as I watch the two of them grow together.  At first, my niece had a hard time sharing, helping, and waiting.  My nephew lost patience with himself in the blink of an eye and went into frequent tantrums.  My sister and brother-in-law were consistent, supportive and open-minded.  Talk about celebrating differences!  They like to cheer and sing and dance for their children.  It’s beautiful and I believe their celebrations and consistent messages of love and tolerance have allowed for the picture that is today:

My nephew uses his thumbs!  He doesn’t have a lot of strength and is coming up on a muscular surgery to try to help with that, but he makes no arguments when he is reminded to use his thumbs.  His sister cracks me up when she says in her mama-mimic singsong voice, “Use your thumbs”.   He takes part in all kinds of games and can ask for help in a strong voice, no whining.  It’s not perfect but he knows he’s capable, and he is happy.  He loves loves loves his sister, and she loves loves loves her brother.  They spend hours giggling with one another, changing clothes or ‘costumes’, reading books, planning tricks or silly presentations for mom and dad.  My nephew is a total ham and a jokester.  He has this big beautiful personality and engages so well with people.  He gives the greatest hugs and will make faces at you until you laugh with him.  He knows he’s different and he certainly has a lot of frustrations because of his handicap, but I see the growth and the blessing he is.  I think he knows he’s great and special and loved too.  One unexpected gift that my nephew in all his uniqueness has given me is a very different meaning to my cutting scars.  He does not know how I got them, but he likes to compare our scars.  He puts his arms up to mine and points out that we are the same.  The first time he did this it brought tears to my eyes.  I have experienced the transformation from a painful and shameful memory to a loving purpose-filled gift.  This kid is so rad, I could go on for days!

My nephew is different.  Different is awesome!!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words - Day 8

Choose a picture (non-triggering) that speaks to you with regards to the experience of an eating disorder and/or recovery. Write in any way you choose about what it means to you and why and what lessons can be learned from that. You don’t have to write a thousand words, but if you would like to – feel free!

This was taken on my wedding day one year ago…

I don’t know what I weighed that day.  I did my own makeup, light and simple.  My hair turned out pretty cute.  My mom finished the happy yellow ribbon for the dress that morning.  Nothing was exactly in place but everything was absolutely as it was meant to be.  All day I embraced my own beauty inside and out, and I was totally present.  The abundance of laughter, hugs, kisses, dancing, and family that celebrated life with faith and love that day filled me completely. 


Forgotten Brothers - Day 7

Today think about men who suffer from eating disorders. Either write from your experiences as a male ED suffer, from the point of view of a friend of a man suffering an ED or else imagine how the experience of an eating disorder and of recovery is different for men.

This topic is very difficult for me being that I try to write from my own experience and avoid projecting too much on others.  Not that I don’t have a ton of ideas and opinions about other people’s experiences but I’m guessing most, if not all of them, are inaccurate and sell others short.   The experience I do have is through relationships with men and it’s strange to reflect and see that after all these years in rehab and day treatments and group recovery, I don’t know very men who have admitted an eating disorder.  On top of that, I can only remember one man I knew when I was eighteen who admitted he was bulimic and I don’t recall ever having an anorexic male friend.  I participated in a sport where I know the bulimia and anorexia among males is much more common than in other arenas, so I am absolutely certain that I just didn’t notice.  It is sad to think that even from someone who watched and compared every little thing and every little habit of every girl, I didn’t see the men. 

I remember the man I knew with bulimia.  I remember we shared a lot of our pain and heartache with each other about the disease.  He was a lifeguard at the pool that summer and a wrestler all throughout high school.  He told me how his weight struggles has begun as a young kid but that his bulimia kicked in when he had to do weigh ins before wrestling matches.  At eighteen, without a sport to pursue any longer, he couldn’t stop binge purging.  He had lost the ability to control his intake and his absolute need to vomit afterwards.  I totally understood his disease and related to his behavior, but I could not console him at all.  I remember that the loneliness he talked about sounded slightly different than mine.  He called himself a freak and told me he wasn’t much of a man and that he was weak.  I believe these were feelings that came from being a man with a disease hidden from the world as an ‘acceptable ailment’.  It was heart wrenching to listen to his stories but I’ve never forgotten.  I have coached kids since that show all the signs, most were wrestlers at some point and divers with me.  The approach I have taken is simple education, nothing personal.  I might need to think about whether or not that’s even supportive.  If they’re suffering, they may feel like lonely week ½ man freaks. 

I admit I have been part of the forgetting crowd.  Today, I strive to join the support reaching out to my forgotten brothers and to meet any hand asking for help in the future.  You are not alone.  We have the same illness and recovery is possible for all of us.