Saturday, February 21, 2015

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

  I am a survivor.

Every day, I am a survivor.

I am a survivor of my eating disorder.

Not every day is easy. In fact, most days are really hard. I have to fight the lies in my head all of the time.
 They tell me I'm not good enough. They tell me not to eat or to purge after I eat. They tell me I will never be loved if I'm not skinnier.

They tell me lies.
 For NEDA week, I will be wearing something purple every single day. This fight is so close to me. A year ago, for the very first time, I opened up about my past struggles and how they've affected my current struggles.
A year ago, I was dying. I was killing myself physically and mentally. Every day was consumed by the numbers on my scale.
But the numbers didn't actually make a difference. If they had gone up, I would continue on with my eating disorder habits. If they had gone down, I would feel proud that I was making progress and I would continue on with my eating disorder habits.

Recovery was something I feared. I didn't want it. Because to me, recovery meant weight gain and weight gain meant worthlessness and worthlessness meant loneliness. There was hardly ever hope during that time.

I put myself through nine months of hell. I take full ownership of all of my decisions. I can remember when I started the divorce paperwork that my decision to stop fighting my eating disorder was conscious. I felt trapped and I believed that control would feel so good.

But that conscious choice turned into an addiction and that control I had felt at first disappeared and in it's place, I found myself bound by something much more powerful than I thought possible.

I was hanging on, telling myself I was invincible to the death my friends were claiming would become my reality. I couldn't possibly die.

And the thing is, I didn't die. {obviously...} Oh how grateful I am to be alive and healthier than I was a year ago.

It was on a late Saturday evening a little less than a year ago that I knew this had to stop. I was staring at the grey walls in my family room filled with pictures and memories. I had failed a class and barely passed the others. I had disconnected from my friends and family. I had passed out on multiple occasions. I had stopped my counseling appointments. I was done creating more messes.

So I grabbed my scale and I walked out the back door...
 and I smashed it over and over with a hammer. And when the hammer didn't do the job well enough, I grabbed a shovel and finished it up. I couldn't take it anymore. In that moment, I didn't want to weigh myself ever again in my life! Because at the time, I was weighing myself upwards of 8 times a day. It was ridiculous.

As I said goodbye to the piece of plastic that had given me such a sense of security, all the while entrapping me into believing that my worth equates to a number, I was so afraid of the recovery process. I didn't think I could stop.

It took a while. It wasn't easy at all. I was a mess for a while as I tried to figure out how to eat like a semi-normal person. I made goals and charts and tried to conquer each week, day, hour, or even minute at a time. I wrote positive affirmations on my mirrors and started giving myself personal pep talks in the mirror.

I could do this. I WAS doing this.

It was hard to notice the weight gain. It's still really hard. And I'm actually not in recovery yet. My physical actions have changed immensely but the voice in my head hasn't. My beliefs haven't.
But I'm working on that. I'm working on exchanging what I once believed to be truths and exchanging them for real truths.

The real truth is that I am a worthy human being. I am capable of greatness. Any man in this world would be lucky to have me. I am an incredibly person. I am smart. I am compassionate. I have so many qualities that make me amazing.
And my body is already beautiful. My body has given me two beautiful children. My body has danced and tumbled and can still do some pretty cool stuff. My body gets me where I need to go.

I have worth because I am me. 


Did you know?

 We are all fighters. 

Whether this is your personal fight or not, will you join me in wearing purple this next Wednesday to celebrate life and love? To make others aware of the seriousness of eating disorders? To help the ones who are struggling know that they are not alone?

There are so many reasons to join me.

If you do decide to wear purple on Wednesday {or another day this week}, will you send me a picture? My friend, Letice, is making a video collage for NEDA week and is going to use all of the pictures.
 Everybody knows somebody. 

This fight is real and it is scary. Please remember that your worth is not determined by your physical appearance. You will always have worth. No one and nothing can take that away from you.

And with that, I leave you with a beautiful poem I read today that gave me goosebumps.

“eat, baby.
I know it hurts. I know it doesn’t feel good.
I know your hunger is different than mine.
I know it doesn’t taste the same as mine.
imagine you could grow up all over again
and pinpoint the millisecond that you started
counting calories like casualties of war,
mourning each one like it had a family.
would you?
sometimes I wonder that.
sometimes I wonder if you would go back
and watch yourself reappear and disappear right in front of your own eyes.
and I love you so much.
I am going to hold your little hand through the night.
just please eat. just a little.
you wrote a poem once,
about a city of walking skeletons.
the teacher called home because you
told her you wished it could be like that
let me tell you something about bones, baby.
they are not warm or soft.
the wind whistles through them like they are
holes in a tree.
and they break, too. they break right in half.
they bruise and splinter like wood.
are you hungry?
I know. I know how much you hate that question.
I will find another way to ask it, someday.
the voices.
I know they are all yelling at you to stretch yourself thinner.
l hear them counting, always counting.
I wish I had been there when the world made you
snap yourself in half.
I would have told you that your body is not a war-zone,
that, sometimes,
it is okay to leave your plate empty.” 
― Caitlyn Siehl

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

365 Days of Divorce

 I wasn't quite sure what I expected to feel this week because the feelings I had these exact moments a year ago were quite confusing.
When the papers arrived in the mail with the date stamped February 18th, 2014, I knew what they held. In that large manila envelope was a series of paperwork, all signed and dated by a Maricopa County judge.

It was over.

Seven years of the life we had built were over.

Goodbye, commitment.

It all seemed so broken.

But I had been waiting for those papers because I wanted things to move on. I think I figured if those papers came, I could feel a sense of closure and healing.
That didn't happen. 
Instead I panicked. I turned to the comfort of my eating disorder. I started failing classes. I was full of anxiety most days. I cut off my friends and family slowly.
I didn't realize just how badly I was hurting. I didn't realize how much fear was the deciding factor in my daily choices.

This morning, I was on the computer and thinking about a year ago and the 6 months before that where the separation and lawyer meetings and fights and anger and figuring out custody were pretty much running my life. I looked up pictures from that time---I found the pictures I had uploaded 2 days before he left me. None of them had been edited or saved correctly on the computer. I don't think I had looked at them at all since sliding that memory card into the computer that day because two days later, my life was so drastically changed.
My kids seemed so little back then. I wish I could've bottled them up like this and protected them in so many ways. And then I think about it and I'm glad they've gone through it with me because my kids are some of the bravest I know. They have had to learn a lot about themselves throughout the past year and a half.
 The thing about divorce is that you and your ex-spouse are in charge of how things go.
In the beginning, these questions are started with: Who is filing the paperwork? Will you get lawyers? Who stays in the house? How often do the kids go from one house to the other? Who pays the other or is it evenly split? 
Those questions seem kind of obvious with divorce. Everyone has to figure them out.

But then there are the questions such as: What goals do we have after our divorce? Are we working together to keep our kids healthy and loved? Are we fighting in front of them? Are we going to swallow our pride and treat each other with respect? Are we going to allow the kids to be with the both of us in the same room?
 It's confusing sometimes. 
None of those questions were answered in a day. I've thought about all of them multiple times throughout this past year. I've figured out my personal boundaries and then changed them a few times to make sure I feel safe. I've prayed about my childrens' needs and tried my best to make sure they are ok. In fact, that alone has been the cause of a lot of my anxiety.

I want my children to come out of this as emotionally healthy as possible.
 And I believe they will.

Not only because of what I do for them but because of what their dad does for them. I don't need a marriage contract to know that he is a good dad. He has learned to be there for them too.

My anger toward my ex-husband has eased an incredible amount in the past year. I am working on forgiving him and I believe with the help of my Savior and His atonement, I will be able to completely heal and find my heart at peace.
 I really CAN believe it has been this long. In fact, it feels like it's been even longer. I feel like I've been single for years and I'm kind of, sort of, REALLY ready to change that.
But...God's timing is not my timing...and for today, I'm ok with that. Actually, my heart and my brain don't quite agree on what "my timing" should be anyway so I think it's best to just trust that God knows.
In the meantime, we are a year stronger and wiser. I really would never trade these past few years for anything. I know not everyone would say that and it may seem odd. It's not that I WANTED to be divorced---I didn't. But this past year has taught me just how capable I am of being on my own. I have grown up a lot and have become a much better person. I find myself looking at the entire world differently---more lovingly than I did before. I find myself realizing that sometimes the people we think are the meanest and rudest are the people who need us the most. Often times, the people not smiling are hurting inside and are longing for human connection.

Living with empathy is a much better way to live life. I wouldn't change the infertility or the divorce or the many 'disorders' I have on my medical records. Each and every time I am given something, I learn a whole slew of new things and I become a better person than I was before.

It's weird to think that I've only known about The Togetherness Project for a year because those people that I've met have been life-changing for me. It's weird to think that a year ago, I still didn't know why my marriage had ended. That came later. And although I have many days where the effects of my failed marriage haunt me, I know that I am strong enough to live with the memories and even smile when remembering some of them.

It wasn't all bad. In fact, a lot of it was good. 

Most importantly, I am grateful that it all happened. I am grateful for seven years of a marriage. I find myself learning from those experiences every day. I wouldn't change it. That took a while for me to be able to say. For a while, I blamed myself for getting married in the first place. Who does that at 19?!! (just kidding, to all of my teenage married friends) I didn't know if I could forgive myself for making what I had decided was a stupid decision.

But without my marriage, I wouldn't have my children. Without my marriage, I wouldn't have Togetherness or my ward family or the extended in-law family I was able to fall in love with for seven years. And without my divorce, I wouldn't be the person that I currently am. I probably wouldn't be pursuing a bachelors degree in Human Development and a masters degree in Counseling.

It isn't that staying married would've been horrible. It could've been amazing. We had the choice to make it amazing---and we did not both choose for that to happen.

Three hundred and sixty five days of this life---and I have faith that we will all be ok. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Social Acceptance

 I don't have the typical family---although I couldn't even tell you what the "typical" family is supposed to look like.
I'm number 4 of 6 and I grew up with the knowledge that we are all different. There was no denying this concept. This wasn't even something my parents had to teach me.
It was just a fact of life.
My little sister has never spoken a word in her life. She is autistic and she has a short temper if her routine is tampered with. Her facial expressions aren't always socially normal and it is pretty easy to notice her physical handicaps upon meeting her.
 But who decided this? Who decided what the social norms are? Because what if a thousand years ago, it was normal for people to rock back and forth and hum loudly and walk around with what we could label a 'semi-disgusted look'? What if what was normal back then is not in the slightest bit socially acceptable now?
 At the age of 10, when I was well-equipped to love those human beings who were different than I was, a little brother came into my life and introduced me to a whole different scheme of normal vs. abnormal.
Because although he has a chromosome disorder, he is very high functioning. In so many ways, it is different than watching my little sister grow up. Because he can understand when people are making fun of him. He can communicate and receives love easier than she can.

Although they both can technically communicate, they are different. And on top of that, I am different too. I was given challenges, much different than theirs', that sometimes create socially abnormal thoughts in my head. In fact, sometimes I react in 'socially unacceptable' ways.

But what is normal? And who decides it?
Although each of us (besides my little brother) contain similar genetics, we are all completely different people who react to situations uniquely.

I think this realization is one of the reasons I work so hard to keep an open mind when people share their opinions. Sometimes I am surprised when I find myself agreeing with an opinion I didn't think I'd ever agree with. But the idea that we are all the same just isn't cutting it. Societal norms and cultural beliefs aren't always our personal norms.

And that's ok. It's ok to feel strongly about something but to understand where the other side of the argument is coming from. Life isn't black and white. 

I could say this about my opinions on Ordain Women or vaccinating or eating/exercise or trauma or addiction or pornography---although my opinion on pornography is probably the least likely opinion to budge. 

This vaccine debate has been confusing and hard for me. I've expressed my feelings about my belief in vaccines and have gotten retorts relating to a person's unique experience with a vaccination that their child reacted to. I have also had people speak about how a family member has died due to non-vaccination.
I get it. I do. I get that we all have opinions. But isn't there some line in the middle of all this madness where we sit down and realize that everyone is trying to make decisions based on what they believe to be best? Isn't it ok to speak respectfully and not assume the other side of the argument is being conned by the devil himself?

I get that this isn't always the case. We have a personal duty to judge each situation we are in and decide whether it feels safe for us. I'm not trying to tell you that I think you should put yourself in a situation where you are unsafe or outside your personal boundaries.

What I am asking is that we open our eyes a little wider and look at the people around us. Are they normal? Abnormal? And what makes us label them that particular way? Does our label have to do with our safety or with society's views on what we should/shouldn't tolerate?

Above all else, I find it odd that our general society accepts the notion that if you don't agree with someone, it is ok to blindly view them as less informed than you. I find it odd that an emphasis on love and acceptance isn't the most important thing we focus on in our society. Because how do we know that someone is less informed? Who are we to decide where their beliefs came from and how valid they are?

My mind is circling with these questions and I don't have all of the answers. I just have a view in my head of what the world would look like if we were more accepting of other people, in all of the different and unique "norms".
And I can tell you, that view looks particularly inviting to me.

Monday, February 9, 2015


 Last Thursday in my Sociology 101 class, our teacher read us a story that really pierced my heart. The title was "Eleven" and if you'd like to read the pdf of it, here is the link.

This story explained a lot of my childhood feelings and as I was listening, I knew I could've written the exact same story.

And so I decided I would.

Seventeen. It was supposed to be an amazing birthday.
I woke up that day and grinned from ear to ear as I got ready and headed off to school.
Seventeen. The day I was supposed to be older and wiser, braver and happier.
I wanted life to change that day. I wanted to start over and become the person who was fighting to get out.
Seventeen. The day I came home from school and had a huge fight with my parents. The day I felt the opposite of brave and happy. The day I considered that death might be better than life because life hurt too much.
Seventeen. The day I didn't know if we would be celebrating at all. As the tears poured down my cheeks, I hugged my pillow and wanted to be eighteen...or maybe five. But not seventeen.
Seventeen. The day we made up long enough for dinner at the restaurant of my choosing. It was the day I tried steak for the first time and fell in love with it, if it's possible to fall in love with food.

But when I laid down to go to sleep that night, I was confused. Because seventeen didn't change anything about me. In fact,  a lot of my reactions from that day had come from a younger me.

Someone must've forgotten to explain that when I was seventeen, I was also three. I didn't lose that age just because a new one started.
So sometimes when I'm twenty-seven, I can hear the thirteen year old who is still trying to figure out who she is. Sometimes when I'm twenty-seven and I realize how painful divorce is, I can feel five year old me screaming as I hug my pillow really tight.
I am not just twenty-seven. 

I am twenty-six, twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one.
So when my eyes are burning from the tears trying to break free and I throw a fit in my room, it really is ok. Because along with being twenty-seven, I am also two. 

 When I am in need of extra attention and I feel stupid for wanting that, I try to realize that it's ok. Because along with being twenty-seven, I'm also nine.
 When someone hurts my feelings and my first response is to lash out in anger, it doesn't make me any less mature than the twenty-seven year old that I am. It just proves that along with being twenty-seven, I am also eleven. 
 This year, part of my healing is learning to break away from the fear. Because the fear contradicts my genuine emotions. When trauma set in, I stopped crying in front of others---because to me, crying is among the most vulnerable of reactions and it's scary. It's scary to feel like you're not in control of the water dripping from your eyes and the quiver in your bottom lip.
 But I don't want to be afraid of the "younger than age twenty-six" me who was able to cry and trust that she could show her feelings in front of other human beings.

I want to embrace five year old me who used to cry because her knee got scraped. And ten year old me who used to cry because her friends weren't being very nice. And sixteen year old me who used to cry because she just wanted a boy to notice her. And twenty-six year old me who was found sobbing on her friend's shoulder one afternoon in late August of 2013.

Emotions are healthy. 
Emotions are teachers and healers.

So today I am twenty-seven. But I am also twenty-six, twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one.
And that is never going to change. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Another Storm

I've endured many storms in my life. Some are big and some are small. Some are ingrained in my memory and others are forgotten.

I can remember quite well the summer I was 10. That was probably the summer I spent the most time having sleepovers with my cousins. There were 3 girl cousins my age growing up. One who lived in California and two that lived here---including a step-cousin I had met when I was 8. We spent a ton of time together that summer. My California cousin came for a visit and I can remember one night in particular during monsoon season, a storm had come into town and our power had gone out.
My cousins and I all huddled around a battery-operated night light that was my baby brother's at the time. My dad had gone outside to check the power and I was so scared. I was scared he would never come back or that our house would catch on fire or flood.

But I had my band. I had my team. My cousins kept me brave that night. I watched the shadows dance off the walls as the thunder cracked louder and louder but I knew I would be ok because I wasn't alone.

Another storm I will never forget was during my days at ANASAZI. Because I was there from June to July, I ended up enduring monsoons in the middle of nowhere---with a 8x8 tarp for protection. The first time I experienced a monsoon on the trail, I started to cry. I begged and pleaded for them to let me go home. I told them I was afraid of storms when I was in my own bed and that I couldn't possibly endure it out in the desert.
We hiked through most of it but when the sun started to go down, we built personal shelters out of our tarps and were sent to bed. This was the very first time I remember feeling completely alone during a monsoon. I sobbed under my tarp and pulled my journal out, aware that the lack of light would prove difficult. But I didn't care. I knew I needed to write. I knew writing would help.
I scribbled out most of my fears almost illegibly but the rain was still pouring and I didn't feel much better.

So I started to pray. I prayed out loud. I pleaded with God to stop the storm because I was scared. I was afraid of dying or getting hurt. I was afraid of the loneliness.

I ended my prayer and laid there for a minute, wishing that God was actually real so that He could answer my prayer.

And just like that, the rain stopped.
I could hardly believe it. I had never received an answer to prayer so bluntly before.
I pulled my journal back out and began to scribble the events of the night. I wrote, "Tonight while it was raining, I said a prayer and asked God to stop the rain because I couldn't take it anymore. And you'll never believe it! THE RAIN STOPPED! There is a God. I know He is there. I know He heard me. I felt Him tonight."

It was during ANASAZI that my testimony of prayer began to grow. I was so afraid of death and I felt like we faced so many dangerous obstacles but each time, we were lead to safety.

The storms I have faced have taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be. Some of them have knocked me off of my feet for a period of time but I've gotten up eventually.

I can see that happening with my current storm. I've been knocked down and I'm not up yet. I'm still figuring this all out and trying to repair the damage. But today something clicked. Today, on another Sunday that we were late for church because I dread sacrament meeting alone with my littles, I was listening in Relief Society about patterns becoming habits and how quickly we can become comfortable and set in our ways and I realized, I don't want to be this. I don't want to struggle to go to church. I don't want my children to get used to this example and think that it's normal that we miss the sacrament 50% of the time, sometimes more.

I may not be where I want to be. I may be struggling with this picture of my life and how it's turned out. I may still question why this has all happened in the particular timing that it has.
I will still struggle to feel like I fit in on Sundays. Some of the lessons will still cause a lot of pain in my heart. I will still feel alone and stressed out most of the time in sacrament meeting.
But it won't be this way forever. 
Because eventually, I'll figure this all out. Eventually I'll be standing taller than I've ever stood. I will face this storm and beat it.

Because I know I am capable of greatness. I know I am strong enough to endure the hard days and enjoy the good days.

Although I don't understand it all, someday I will. Someday I will be able to look back and think, "Wow. I made it through another storm."