Everything Flows Onward

finding my dharma. living my dharma.

Yoga Mat, Battleground December 5, 2009

If you’ve not been through an eating disorder before, it can be very hard to understand just what is going on inside the head of someone who is. Today on my yoga mat, Ed* and I engaged in battle. I wrote it down in my recovery journal, but I thought it might be helpful to post it here for others to see. Maybe it will help some people make sense of this disorder. Maybe others who suffer will know that they aren’t alone.

I got to yoga and I sat down on my mat. The first thing I noticed was that it felt good to be there, on my mat. And then I decided that I was going to let this practice be organic. I wasn’t going to push myself to get farther in postures, I just wanted to be right where I was this morning and that would be great. As class began, we all closed our eyes and began centering. In that very moment that things went dark, Ed stepped in swiftly. This was the perfect place for him to start.

Ed: Hey, it’s dark in here. I’d like to fill all this space in. Let me turn on the light.
Jenny: No, Ed. This is my practice. You can’t have my yoga practice today.
Ed: Hey remember that you got rejected by your friends last night. I’m here for you because no one else wants you. I’m always here to help you when that happens. Don’t say no to me.
Jenny: I have not been rejected, Ed. And I don’t want you here anymore. When have you ever followed through on one of your promises to me?
Ed: That is some accusation, Jenny. You’re not good enough and I’m here to make you better. To guide you to perfection. If you’d do what I say for a change you’d see how happy I can make you.
Jenny: These are lies, Ed. I’ve had enough. I want to feel again.
Ed: NO! Look- look at that woman. Let’s see if you can be more flexible than her. That’ll make you better and happy.
Jenny: You’re desperate and trying to distract me. Stop. You can NOT have my yoga today. You’ve taken enough from me. Right now I’m FEELING, Ed. I feel my body. You never let me feel my body. It’s not fair.
Ed: That’s because the EYES have it. It’s not about feeling. What has feeling ever gotten you? Whatever. Anyway… Hey do you want to eat after this?
Jenny: ENOUGH, Ed. Be silent now. There’s no room for you on my mat.

The more I moved and felt myself move, the stronger my true voice became. I told Ed again that I was sick of him. He has only lied to me from day one. He told me yoga betrayed me. But it never did. The whole time it was Ed distracting me from the purpose of my practice. He can’t win with things like yoga around. He is so threatened by the thought of me connecting to myself. He wants me to believe I need him. He’s so desperate he’ll do anything. HE is the scared, weak one. Not me.

I hear Ed so loud and clear these days. He keeps screaming but what he doesn’t realize is that the more he screams, the more I understand what he sounds like. He screams but I will use his screaming to separate myself. If he’s taught me anything lately, Ed, it’s that this is geurilla warfare. That’s fine. The gloves have come off. Today, I’m ready to fight dirty.

I know the war is not over. But today I won this battle. And every victory gives me fuel and energy to persevere. Every victory gives me the will to keep fighting.

*It’s always helped me separate from the eating disordered voice in my head by giving it an identity separate from myself. So I call my ED Ed and I treat my ED like a person who is not myself. Because that is the truth: I am not my ED.

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Renewal of Vows November 20, 2009

I was going to apologize for my inconsistent blogging but instead I decided to accept that I’ll probably never be a person who blogs on a regular basis (unless it’s regular that I’m inconsistent and in that case, I’ll proudly boast that I blog regularly). So even if I come here in spurts and even if I take a month or more off in between, I’ll feel uplifted that when I do make it back to my blog, I’m giving you a true part of me that is honest, open and heartfelt.

Here’s the truth. It’s not always the case, but a lot of times when I stop blogging it’s because I’m not riding the highs of life. Either I’m just coasting through or else I’m down in the dumps. The way that has always been my pattern is that when things get hard for me, when I struggle, I recoil. I go inward (in a bad way), refuse to ask for help, refuse to voice my hardships even when that is the time I most need to.

This was definitely the case in my last hiatus. As a matter of fact, I’ve told a few people now that this last low was actually the lowest I’ve felt since I was in therapy 2 years ago. It hurt me to say it at first. Just like before I entered therapy to get help with my ED, I was ashamed to say I was struggling or needed help. I think in this case it was hard because I’d been doing so well and it undercut my pride so greatly to say that after 1 year of doing so well, that I had “fallen prey” to ED again. I was supposed to be “recovered.” I mean, c’mon. It’s me we’re talking about. I was supposed to do recovery better than anyone ever has, right? Who me? No I’ll just need this one experience and then I’ll be a “pro” at recovery.

So I didn’t do recovery “perfectly.” So life happened and it happened fast. So I got caught off guard. So I stumbled. But did I fail? Am I failing because I still don’t feel quite back to where I was? For a little bit I thought I had. I couldn’t believe I had gone back to that place. The desire to restrict was so strong. It was so clear to me that I’d become checked out. I couldn’t concentrate on conversations with people. I was becoming abnormally forgetful again. I was crying a lot. And those desolate thoughts of “I can’t live my life like this.” “Why me? Why again? ” “Will this ever end?” came right back to me. The mental and physical fatigue that comes with it. I questioned my strength and my ability to remain a warrior in the fight against ED. I doubted my ability to win another battle.

This went on for a few weeks. And then, one day, I said it out loud. “I’m struggling with Ed right now.” One of the most powerful things I’ve done for myself in my recovery is simply to be open about it. I figure, the more people I tell, the more accountable I’ll be held to my own health and recovery. So at the risk of overshare, I just started telling people close to me that I was struggling. And I realized I hadn’t failed. Not even close. For starters, I’m immensely proud to say that during this period, I NEVER restricted. Not once. I wanted to. I wanted to really really badly. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m grateful for the strength that I did have from my previous bout with ED, the strength and awareness that I had gained that kept me from depriving myself of nutrition.

Like I said, things aren’t quite back to where they were before, but I’m working on it. I’m trying. I’m not giving up. I’m taking some new lessons from this. For starters, and the whole point of blogging today, I am RECOMMITTING myself to a CONTINUAL effort to be healthy and proactive in maintaining my recovery. One of the downfalls to thinking that you’ve “perfected” recovery is that if (and/or when) relapse happens, you’re caught blindsided. The mistake I made was thinking I’d be immune to any kind of relapse.

Another mistake was that I was defining relapse too extremely. To me, relapse was going back to my old patterns and not knowing what I was doing and/or not wanting to go back to healthy eating. This of course is wrong. Now that I am body aware again after struggling with ED, I don’t think it will ever be possible for me to not know again when I am becoming detached from my body and leaning towards disordered eating.

So here are a few of the lessons I’m taking away from this latest battle:

For starters, once again I have discovered the importance of being vocal and open equally during the highs and the lows. I will no longer be ashamed when things feel as though they’re going downhill. Instead, I’ll be honest about it. I have an amazing support system ranging from my amazing family and friends to my cybershala on Twitter. I’m loved by these people and I know they want me to be happy and healthy, so why not let them be there for me?

I also think it’s time I became a little more of an activist in the recovery world. I think it will be good for me, it will keep me motivated. But also, how wonderful to be able to help others like me? When I was in therapy and I started to become happier, I was finally able to see just how deeply in the dumps I’d been for the entirety of my untreated ED. I have always meant it when I’ve said since then that I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy (if I had one) or the most heinous person on the earth. What an awful, awful way to have to live our lives. It’s unfair. No one should live like that. So I want to be more active, in anyway I can. I have a lot of love and compassion to share and I think there has never been a better time for me to share it with the ED community.

Finally, I am going to have start by showing myself a little compassion. For Namaste Book Club right now, we’re reading a wonderful book by Pema Chodron and I’m learning a lot about befriending myself and everything about me. My favorite line from the book so far is when Pema writes, “The desire to change is a form of aggression toward ourselves.” So often I think I’m working to rid myself of my ED. I think, “If I can just do x,y and z, I’ll be free of these thoughts.” Or ,”I’d be so much happier if I didn’t have to deal with ED.” Well sure. Of course I would. But the truth of the matter is… I have Ed’s voice with me. So this isn’t changing. Now my work (and believe me when I say it’s work) is to learn to live along side of that voice. To be aware of what ED sounds like vs what Jenny sounds like. To allow mindfulness to help me when I want to react to Ed. Recovery isn’t black and white. I don’t have to feel like a swinging pendulum. I can listen for and be soft with Ed when he pipes up. I can kill him with kindness, even.

The key here, the most important thing, is that I acknowledge my ED. No more hiding it. No need to go back and forth. No need to be anything other than what I am. And what I am is a young woman who lived with anorexia and who works to strengthen herself everyday from it. I won’t let my past or current battles define me. I refuse to be “Jenny, who had an eating disorder.” But I will work with what I’ve been given. Not defining myself by my ED struggles does not mean that I also ignore them all together. My ED and recovery are not things to hide any longer. I am honest (and even outspoken) about every other aspect of my life. This will be no exception.

It occurs to me that I’ve written blogs very similar to this in the past but here it is again. No matter how many times I reiterate and reshape this same idea, I’ll rewrite this  blog every day til I die and mean it. No matter how many times I have to do it, I will always and forever commit myself to health and happiness, to truth and to freedom.

 

Note to Self September 2, 2009

Dear self-

If you’re looking for something external to change what’s going on in your head and/or life, I’d kindly like to suggest that you let go of that tactic. I’m pretty sure you know better than that.

Go inside, please.

Sincerely,

Your Higher Self

 

Campaign of Gratitude: Day 1 November 24, 2008

This week I’m on a campaign of gratitude. It’s Thanksgiving week, and so I figure there’s no time like the present to do it. My goal is going to be to update at least 5 times this week and talk about something for which I am grateful. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Originally I started by making a list of what I wanted to talk about each day but a couple things happened that caused me to alter my subject for this first day. 1) I pulled out an old notebook this weekend to bring to yoga teacher training and, 2) a disturbing article I found online.

The notebook I happened to pull out was the one I used when I was in therapy with Jane my last semester at Murray. There were a couple journal entries in there. The most notable was the first entry, dated July 18th 2007. It was shocking reading the things I wrote:

“…How I feel is confused, chaotic, without control. I feel pressure from myself to get past this, pressure from others to do what they think is best and fear of letting everyone down.”

“I freak out when there are unknowns.”

“I’ve receded into a totally isolated place in my mind and I’ve kept myself from being really honest with even my closest friends and family.”

“Mood swings: I got the nickname of ‘Bipolar Jenny’ last year.”

“Now I am trying to face my demons and I intend to work past them. Now I feel vulnerable and chaotic all over again but the only way I know how to deal is unhealthy so I feel more out of control because I have no coping methods to turn to. I hate being vulnerable. I do not tolerate weakness on my part. I need to be a stonewall and a pillar of strength. I don’t want to be taken advantage of.”

I finished reading that first entry and it was weird how I could only remotely remember those feelings. It seemed to me I was reading about a third party. I was a little taken aback and simultaneously grieving for this girl. How could any single person have all of that going on in their head at one time? Such an unfair burden to carry. No one should live that way.

Then I moved to the next entry and was baffled once more.

July 19th 2007:

“You know, sometimes, I may freak out, but when the day is over there is one thing I know about myself and that is that I am strong and I will achieve the things I want. And I’m positive—I know I will get over this hurdle. Life can be a struggle but all it takes is knowing you can make it… with a little bit of work. And I am ready to work.”

Just one day later, there it was: hope and resolve. What a gift. How lucky am I that it was with me, literally, from the beginning. On July 18th I had hit the lowest point in my entire life to date. But on July 19th, I was already asserting my determination. I’m filled with so much pride for that girl. I’m actually at a loss for words. That girl was me. ME. I know when I wrote that second journal entry that I had no idea how impressive it was. I had no idea the implications. I wonder now if, as I was writing them then, I believed them. I mean, it’s clear I did on some level because I’m here now and I’m infinity times healthier and happier. One thing I know is that for as much as I yearned to recover, I certainly hadn’t really considered what life would be like once I had done so. I had no idea it could be so good and so free.

So this becomes the first subject of my gratitude this week. I know this seems like an egotistical way to start the week, but I maintain that until we find the light within, we cannot shine it out. But today, I am grateful for my strength, my resolve, my optimism. I had so much help along the way in my recovery but I also must recognize that without my own determination, I’d never be in the place where I am now. So I’m going to honor myself, give thanks to myself. I’ve done myself a huge deal of benefit in the past year and a half.

The other thing that brought this idea for day one’s gratitude is that I saw this article online: http://www.newsweek.com/id/170528.

It tears my heart out to think that anyone else is living the way that I do. It seems like it was one thing for me to have struggled but the idea of other people struggling is almost intolerable. No one should go through life that way. It’s just not fair. Something has to be done; these girls need to be reached out to. And I want to be one of those doing it. I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet and I don’t know what the community in Evansville is like, but I’ve got to do something. I have been given a great gift and it is only fitting that now, I should pass it on to someone who needs it, too.

 

my story January 29, 2008

Filed under: anorexia,friends — Jenny @ 10:39 pm

I struggle with anorexia and I have been for nearly a year and a half now. I started getting help last semester and I made huge improvements. Now that I’m in Evansville and on my own, I don’t really have the resources just yet to carry on with therapy. So I’m out here to trying to remember everything Jane helped me realize and trying to apply it to my every day life. It’s all up to me now. Long story short: it hasn’t been easy. Everyday is a battle and a process. I won’t pretend either that I haven’t had days of restriction. I’m not perfect and I’ve made mistakes along the way in my recovery. It almost seems natural that I would slip up a little. I’m no pro at this recovery deal. And that’s okay.

Truth be told, I almost expected it to happen. I’m in a new place, starting from scratch, working a schedule that doesn’t allow for too much consistency, worrying about new, adult things and trying to figure out the path certain elements of my life are taking. I’m out of my comfort zone and this translates to one thing: that same old feeling of not being in control.
This is the root of all my evils, I’ve discovered.

Part of what I did with my eating disorder (who will henceforth be called Ed) was restrict in order to control SOMETHING when I felt like everything else was out of my grasp. What happened was I lost even more control over my life because I was actually giving it all over to Ed. And let me tell you something about Ed. He’s one smooth talker. He had (and lately he’s been trying to make that present-tense) a way of convincing me the things I did were good for me. He would build me up one second and tear me down the next.

Last semester I learned, first, to stop listening to him and to decide for myself what was good and bad. Then, and possibly most importantly, I learned to disagree with him and to mean it. I realized Ed was a jerk and no good for me. I separated from Ed.

Now, I’ve made friends here in Evansville, but it’s still too soon for any of these to stand up to the deeper relationships time and circumstances have had me move away from (geographically, I mean). Suffice it to say, I have moments of loneliness here. These are the moments that Ed stands up in his little corner of my mind that he still occupies and tries to remind me he’s someone who’s “there for me.” And like I said earlier… there have been days lately that I’ve listened to him and come dangerously close to letting him back in my life.

The point of this blog, I realized last night, is going to be to work it out– outside of my head and with the help of the people that love me most. Because the truth is, I haven’t stopped needing you all and I haven’t stopped struggling. And I don’t want Ed to be my confidant anymore. I want you all because I don’t want the false happiness that Ed offers me.

I want the real thing.