Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Day In The Life Of... Feeling Weird

It's been just over a year since I started my new job, and I still feel weird most of the time.

It feels weird to have a job I love.
It feels weird to have free time.
It feels weird to be able to process things, and live life out of survival mode.
It feels weird to be happy on a regular basis.
It feels weird to have my work recognized and rewarded.
It feels weird that I can take a real break, and take care of myself properly.

It's been a year of adjusting to a whole new normal. My body took a physical hit as I left a state of constant high stress levels (we're talking 5+ years), I have free time (usually) which means I need some new hobbies, and I've noticed areas of my life that need change.

I spent the first few months of 40 hour work weeks napping and sleeping as much as I could as my body began to adjust to a new sleep pattern, significantly less stress, and real rest. I was so physically drained after years of caffeinating myself to get by, not getting enough rest, and constantly being in a state of high stress that I needed an excessive amount of rest to recover. I took naps after work when it wasn't my night to make dinner, I would watch tv or a movie without working at the same time, I journaled, and I just tried to gauge how I was actually doing. Over the last year I've noticed my energy levels are more consistent, I have more energy, my hair is getting noticeably thicker as it grows back (and annoyingly falls out of my bun), my nails aren't as weak, and I don't wake up in a caffeine deprived fog. I've also noticed that as I rested and practiced self-care my bulimia recovery became a little easier as I took better care of myself, and learned to better manage stress and change.

Resting included a great deal of binging on Netflix shows and not much physical activity, but as my energy levels came back I realized I had free time to fill. I haven't had free time since, well, I couldn't tell you the last time I had free time. I'm not really sure I understand this concept of free time since I don't sit still/relax well, so doing nothing makes me crazy. I gave embracing yard work a try and decided it's not going to be my thing, I tried gardening and found peace with my hands in the dirt and tending to my outdoor plants, I got myself a nice comfy reading chair that the dog has claimed as his own but shares with me, I've embraced tea over coffee, and I started to study cooking/baking techniques more (mostly through watching Julia Child's old television shows). I'm still figuring out what I want to spend my free time doing. I'm also working on getting up earlier to get in a couple more workouts a week, and just deciding what I want to do with my life since I feel like I can actually live rather than just survive.

As I've come out of survival mode I've picked up on a few areas where I need to grow. The biggest change I've decided to make in 2018 is that I was going to do some church shopping (or at least try to). I won't delve into all the details, but it comes down to a lack of being fed where I was as much as I love the people there. Over the last year I realized I wasn't growing spiritually at all, I hadn't grown for a long time, and I was totally stagnant. I totally missed this living life in survival mode, and that lack of growth was affecting my ability to be the type of teacher I want to be. I was burned out and had nothing left to give, so I decided it was time to apply what I learned through my selfish focus of 2017 and find a place where I would be fed and, eventually, begin to serve. I say I tried to church shop because the fist one on my list of churches to try ended up being the only one I went to...
I had a list, I promise I did (I have witnesses to that list) and I was looking for other churches to add to it, but the first place I tried just felt right. The people were so friendly, so cheerful, they made it seem normal that I was church shopping, sitting by myself wasn't awkward, and they encouraged me to try other places. Every other person I meet seems to have at least one tattoo which I find comforting, and the sermon series that started on my first Sunday was very applicable to my life. So I decided to go there for the length of the sermon series, see what I thought and felt through the weeks, and I would try another church after that. It was week three of the sermon series when I cried the first time, and every week after that I felt more like it was where I needed to be. So I decided to stay, I joined a small group that starts this week, and not long after I decided during a sermon one of the pastors said something along the lines of it being a "Me too" church. If hadn't known before that moment I knew then that I was were I needed to be. Why? Because I've come to believe the words "Me too" are some of the most powerful because they bring openness, foster trust, and you realize you aren't alone in life. There is so much power in knowing you aren't alone, in coming alongside another or together in a group and walking through the hard stuff with people who get it. I know the impact "Me too" has made in my life, especially in my recovery from bulimia, and it's something I want to be a part of.

It still feels weird feeling ok, being happy, enjoying my job, and living life as a happy person. I'll get used to it eventually, I think... I felt so bad for so long, so miserable and hopeless, that feeling happy is still foreign to me. It's given me a different perspective though, a greater appreciation for what I made it through, a greater appreciation for what I have now, and, at the end of day, I know I made the right choice to take that pay cut and start over again. I stood up for myself, for what I wanted out of a career and out of life, for what was going to be best for me, and my whole life has begun to change. I don't think I'll stop feeling weird for awhile as I continue to make changes and grow, and that's ok; normal is boring and doesn't work for me.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Day In The Life Of... Fighting An Eating Disorder

This quote hit home with my recovery journey. Specifically, "The answer is your functioning heart."

November 2016 I went to the doctor, a new doctor that I really like. As we talked about my medical history I brought up the three times I've passed out. I hadn't talked about them with a doctor previously because until the third time there was something that preceded the passing out that could have caused it, so I wasn't super concerned. My new doctor could also find reasons to explain the first two times I passed out, but the third time is what made her want to rule out a heart problem by running an EKG. She didn't hear anything abnormal with my heartbeat through the stethoscope, and expected the EKG to come back normal.

It didn't.

My heartbeat was off just enough that combined with my passing out she sent me for a heart echo just to be sure nothing was wrong. She was sure the echo would show that my heart was fine, there were no defects, and that my heartbeat is just a little different. (My heart is perfectly fine. We've discussed hyperthyroidism since then after my blood work came back, and this would be in line with that from what I understand). She wanted to play it safe though in case there was something wrong and it could be caught early, and I love her for that. I had to wait a couple weeks before I could get an appointment for the echo, and another week or so for my doctor to officially tell me the results of the echo. Those weeks I was more stressed and worried than I let on, I didn't really talk about the test being done either. I kept telling myself everything was ok, it would come back normal, and that I was fine.

I was not fine.

In the back of my head all I could think about was that I had done this to myself. My 13/14 years of eating disordered behaviors had taken a toll on my body that I wasn't fully aware of. It's only been since entering recovery I've become aware of the potential health problems that could come up as a result of my bulimia. I knew that heart problems were a potential health condition that could come with bulimia as were fertility issues, but I had thought that maybe since my behaviors weren't frequent at times over 13/14 years of purging I had escaped it. Nothing medically related had ever come up before, no doctor had said anything to me about my having an eating disorder, so I just assumed I was fine. The more I learn though, the more I wonder if I really am physically ok, or if maybe something is being overlooked because no one knows to look for it.

As I prepared for my doctor's appointment today I felt like it was time to have my chart reflect my past. I'm fairly certain my first GYN suspected it; she always lectured me on my weight in a way that made me wonder if she knew my secret. Her lectures always felt like they were out of concern though, there was no judgment in them, and I always felt that she cared about my well being. Unfortunately she left the practice and wasn't able to witness my recovery journey so far.

So at my doctor's appointment today as we edited my family history I fixed mine, and my medical history now includes those 13/14 years.

We talked about those years a little, my recovery, what I'm doing to stay there, and my doctor recommended seeing a specialist to determine if I need to have an endoscopy to check my esophagus.  Right now there's not anything else she felt needed immediate attention since we already checked my heart out. She gave me a whole list of doctor's to choose from that she trusts, and ran through them with me before my appointment was over. I'm not really looking forward to yet another doctor's appointment, but I know I need to do it.

I'm still learning about the potential affects on my health bulimia may have caused. I'm pretty sure the enamel on my teeth has been affected, my memory definitely was effected, and I'm sure there are other things I'll find out down the line. There are times when my mind drifts into wondering what I've done to myself, how I could have made that choice.
Those are the moments where the hardest writing exercise of my life comes into play; I had to thank my eating disorder. Yes, you read that right; I had to say thank you to my bulimia, thank the demons that haunt me, find the good in the struggle, and forgive myself because I just didn't know any better. I stared at that exercise when I came to it, I walked away from the book it was in for a few days, and I thought long and hard about how I could thank something that I fight every day, and probably will for the rest of my life in one way or another. How could I thank something that may have caused health problems that will affect my future? How could I thank something that impacted moments of my life that should have been memorable and enjoyable?

That's when I realized something; I would not be who I am today if it wasn't for my struggle with bulimia.

I would not be a fighter, I would not have the drive to love the crap out of teenage girls in the hopes that I can save them from something I couldn't save myself from. I would not be as strong as I am, I may not have made it through the hard times. I would not have found a deep love for yoga, I would not have pursued strength training and found all the positive things in my life I have because of that path. I may not have had the drive to make a home that lead me to buy a house at 26. I may not have found the strength needed to love and train a dog that has his own struggles with anxiety.

My life would not look like it does right now, and I'm so very thankful for this life I have.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Getting Fit (My Yoga Practice)

After a couple months away from yoga class I got back to it! I started a new job back in May around the same time I started my first ballet class in 15 years, so I gave myself permission to not make it to yoga class and to let my home practice slide too during that time. I took the pressure completely off since there was a whole lot of change happening at the same time, and I had no idea how my ankles were going to handle ballet after 15 years. Once spring session of ballet ended in June I went back to yoga, and my practice wasn't the same as it had been before I started my new job.

My current job has a drastically different work environment than my last, so far it's been for the better and I don't see it getting any where near as bad as where I was working. I'm finding it much easier to leave work at work, I like what I'm doing, and my stress level is significantly lower. A lower stress level seems to be the biggest change in my life with my new job, and it has changed my practice. When I started practicing yoga two and a half years ago it was all about trying to let go of the stress that built up every week, trying to leave work at work, a new and fun way to mix up my workout routine, and trying to get out of my own head for 90 minutes. Yoga was all about letting go of the day/week, stress relief, and self-care. There are still elements of letting go and self-care in my practice, but I've found my practice is much more peaceful now, I'm more connected to my body, and it's become more spiritual. My intention has become to just enjoy those 90 minutes and see what my body can do, and what I need to spend a little more time caring for in the next few days.

Not pushing myself to let go and destress has made my practice so much more peaceful. I don't have to spend as much time trying to get into the right mindset for class, trying to let go, or trying to get out of my head. Work is at work, and I can let my mind go blank or focus on whatever I'm trying to figure out in my personal life. I'm not as crabby when I practice which provides a clearer headspace to kick my practice off with. After I get my mat all set up I stretch a little and meditate on my intention for that practice. Sometimes my intention is a mantra or a quote I'm focusing on, and sometimes my intention is to just make it through class without falling over or staying in child's pose or corpse pose the whole time (both are valid intentions and options during practice if that's what you need).

My goal has become to find peace through my practice, and to spread that peace through my life.

I'm much more focused on what my body is telling me; are my ankles sore, is my lower back out of whack again, have I been sitting on my right hip too much, how is the tension in my shoulders, are my wrists correctly positioned so they won't ache tomorrow, etc.? It's so much more internal, it's about getting to know myself again which goes back to my intention for this year of "Slow down and chill out." This is a year that I'm being a little more selfish with my time, I'm using more of it on me and the things I want to do because I'm figuring out who I am again after years of being away from myself.

I struggled to connect my faith to my practice at first. Yoga does have a spiritual element to it, and it took me a little while to connect my Christian faith to those aspects. I incorporate prayer, either at the beginning or by thinking about someone who needs a little encouragement/love at that time. Some practices my intention/mantra is a verse, or a concept, or sometimes I choose to just be still and listen. More and more I've been choosing to clear my mind and be still.

I think this is one of the most beautiful things about yoga; as you change your practice changes with you. It can be in the small things from practice to practice, week to week, or month to month as you get stronger or come back from an injury. It changes as your life changes in the big ways and the small ways. Your practice meets you where you are and pushes you to go just a little further, to try something new, and to keep practicing. There are a variety of styles too that suite your wants and needs. I decided on hot vinyasa after researching the different classes that were provided in my area. My joints aren't so good, so the heated room helps with stretching and makes it a little easier (and means less aches) for me. I also enjoy a good sweat, which vinyasa provides even without a heated room. (Vinyasa yoga means a continuous flow of poses and postures with lots of push ups, squats, and lunges hidden in the flow).

I don't practice yoga because it's trendy, or because I need to validate my wearing yoga pants on a daily basis; I practice yoga because I like how it makes me feel physically and mentally. As my practice has become less of an escape I feel like it's become more authentic to me, and more a part of who I am. When I practice my eating disordered brain goes quiet and I see what my body can do, how far I can push it, where I've improved and am ready to start trying to practice the next modification to a pose. I'm not self conscious about being clad only in my sports bra and capris (I tried wearing a shirt my first hot class, it ended up drenched with sweat and I was super uncomfortable so I stopped wearing one during class), or the sweat dripping out of every pore. My brain is occupied with how amazing my body is, seeing all the things it can do now and the things it will do as I learn and practice more.

Yoga isn't just about training my body, I'm training my brain which effects my mental and emotional health. For example, I have a love/hate relationship with downward dog. I hate holding it as a resting pose because my wrists feel like they're going to give out by breath number 3, but it's the pose where I learned I don't have chunky thighs and I love it for that. This showed me how much my physical, mental, and emotional health tie together, and how intertwined they are. I've been more aware that when one is out of balance or a little off the other two often shift that way as well, and if I work on fixing the balance everything goes right again. That's the focus of this journey I started to get fit. It started almost four years ago with a focus on my physical health as I started strength training, and has ended up changing every aspect of my life in ways I never expected.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Day In the Life Of... Fighting An Eating Disorder

About a year ago I started reading books about eating disorders; what an eating disorder is, what causes someone to develop one, the effects of them on the body physically, mentally, and emotionally, what recovery from an eating disorder is, what that recovery looks like, and what life in recovery looks and feels like. Each book caused an emotional response as I worked through the emotions, feelings, and memories that came up. As I read I made connections I cried... a lot, and I realized that recovery is as individualized as the person fighting their eating disorder.

For some reason I only recently made the connection that my bulimia started around the same time I badly sprained my right ankle in 7th grade. I could barely walk let along dance. I wore brace for at least 4 weeks, and my ankle was never the same after that. To this day my right ankle is weaker, and gives me more trouble than my left. Maybe it was my first ballet class since that injury that triggered the connection as muscle memory kicked in, and my body went through movements it hadn't gone through in over 10 years. I honestly forgot how much I love the feeling of ballet slippers on my feet, my hands on the barre, and letting my body take over as it feels the music. So much of ballet is about controlling the body, while at the same time finding the balance of letting go and making the movements appear effortless and graceful. When I stopped dancing in 7th grade I lost the control I had over my body through dance and my identity.

I am a dancer, I always have been and I always will be. At 28 I know that dancer is a part of my identify, not the entirety of it. In 7th grade though, I was a dancer, it was my thing and I was good at it. I loved dancing so much I had every intention of pursuing dance as my career. With something as small as an ankle sprain I lost all that, and I lost myself in trying to find control along with my identity outside of dance. I thought I found it in binging and purging, but I hadn't. Eventually I danced again, but my brain was already stuck in the eating disordered habits I had created before I realized I created them.

I didn't realize I had an eating disorder until a few years after it started, and I was set in the habits. Nothing I learned about anorexia or bulimia in health class helped me identify what had begun because the causes we were taught focused only on the factor of body image. I wasn't happy with what I saw in the mirror, but it was so much bigger than that. Maybe they didn't know better back when I was in health class since eating disorder treatment began relatively recently, but they should know better now. Eating disorders always come back to a feeling of control. I wanted control over my body, over my life, I want to know who I was, and to change how I felt about myself. My eating disorder told me it could give me those things, but it lied to me and I've spent years fighting those lies.

Recovery is a choice, and somedays that choice is more like a battlefield. The last few weeks have been rougher than usual. I've been more conscious about the lies being whispered ever so softly in the back of my head, and about choosing recovery. Some days choosing recovery is easy and some days choosing it takes every ounce of strength I have, but I keep choosing it. On my good days, I barely think about the choices I'm making because the good choices have become habits. On a bad day, it's a struggle to stay in the moment and keep my thoughts focused where they need to be, and actively decide to stay. This is when my self-care practices, and the good habits I've made help carry me through. I take recovery one day at a time, I think about the 24 hours in front of me because I don't know what my recovery will look like in a week, a month, or a year. I focus on today, what I'm doing to get stronger, the things I like/love about myself, and I practice self-care. This battle, it's exhausting, but a bad day in recovery is far better than a day when I wasn't. Recovery isn't easy, but it's worth choosing and fighting for.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Music Lover

I've been processing some things over the last few months; a whole lot of change, getting my fight back, deciding how I want My life to look, and feeling more like myself every day. With all that the music has been a little more melancholy with very meaningful lyrics to me.

"Heart on Fire", Nashville Cast
"Who threw the punch that you couldn't handle/ What came along and blew out your candle/ Oh, gotta light it back up/ Maybe it's just yourself that you're fighting/ Keeping the shine in your star from rising up/ Gotta light it back up/ Won't let you sink like a stone to the bottom, bottom/ Let me remind you of the you you've forgotten/ It's just a road, it's just a wave that you're riding/ I know it's rough, gotta get back up/ Light it back up/ You were the girl with the blazing heart on fire."
This song hit home for me, I lost my fight a few years ago and only recently got it back. At some point I just lost it, and getting it back was a 3/4 year long journey. In losing my fight I lost a part of me that I loved, a part of me that was essential to my core, and in losing my fight I lost my way. No more were, I am the girl with the blazing heart on fire, and it's not going to be put out again.
"After the Storm", Mumford and Sons
"I'm scared of what's behind and what's before... But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears/ And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears/ Get over your hill and see what you find there/ With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair/ And now I cling to what I knew/ I saw exactly what was true/ But oh no more/ That's why I hold/ That's why I hold with all I have/ That's why I hold."
This songs makes me cry, it just hits a nerve with me as I've worked on loving myself as I am. As I've learned to love the girl who thought bulimia was the answer, as I learned to embrace that I always see the good in people even though I end up hurting because of it at times. I'm learning to embrace every part of me, the part that feels every emotion to the extreme, the part that cries herself to sleep after being strong for too long. It's all about the journey, showing grace to everyone including myself, and doing it with flowers in my hair after the biggest storm I've gone through has passed.
"All I know is that I need space/ If it takes a rocket, ok/ Somewhere more than a planet away/ I'll wave to the man in the moon/ Put a light year between me and you/ I need space/ I'll wave to the man in the moon/ No where to be and nothing to do/ With a light year between me and you/ I need space..."
Now here's a song I could have used a few years ago, but somehow it fits perfectly where I am right now too. It ties into 2017 being my year, a selfish year where I slow down and chill out as I focus internally.  I'm doing my best to move on from the things that no longer serve me, the things that I've held on to for reasons I couldn't really tell you, and learning to say no when I need space. 
"You ain't missing nothing cause love is so damn hard/ Take it from me darling, you don't want a heart/ Hey there Mr. Tin Man/ I'm glad we talked this out/You can take mine if you want it/ It's in pieces now/ By the way there Mr. Tin Man/ If you don't mind the scars/ You give me your armor/ You can have my heart."
"The Weight Of These Wings" hits home with so many songs, this one hit me the most though as I listened to it for the first time. This is how I felt for so long, if it meant never getting hurt again I would have given up my heart for armor to protect myself. Looking back, there's no way I would be who I am or where I am without the broken heart, I've come to be grateful for a broken heart and dreams that won't come true.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Feeling Weird

The last month has been, well, weird.
I feel completely behind while at the same time ahead of where I thought I'd be, I feel completely overwhelmed and yet not overly stressed, I feel OK and so not OK in the same moment, and things just haven't been going according to plan. Though it's worked out well, for the most part, I hate that. I am a planner, so much so that I almost always have a plan b to my plan just in case the first plan doesn't work. In all of this weirdness I have been showing myself as much grace as possible as I completely change my weekly schedule with a new job, and all the changes that came with that. This week was particularly rough on the things not going to plan front, and as I struggled with it this week I remembered my focus for 2017,

Slow down and chill out.

2017 is a more selfish year for me, a year I hope to finally learn how to say no, and only no, when I want (and need) to say no, a year where I get to know myself again, a year where I pursue things I want to pursue (ballet class has been so amazing), a year where I ease the pressure off myself, where I slow down, and I learn to just be present and chill.

This new job feels totally different to me than my last job, but in a good way. I feel like I'm good at it, and I want to be good at it. I find the work interesting and challenging, my brain is working and problem solving, I'm learning, I can do basic math in my head again, and parts of the job I just get. That's big for me, that's how I felt in college with business and marketing; they just made sense to me, and having that feeling again has been wonderful. It's a totally different speed, and, in some ways, more balanced. There are projects I have time to fully research, read up on, and prepare, and other things that are clear priorities to get out. I'm doing 40 hour weeks right now as I adjust, learn, train, and get used to a whole new industry, and my brain feels so much clearer.

I feel like I'm thinking straight for the first time in years.

The biggest question I've gotten lately is in regards to how I'm feeling about my new job. I like it, I'm pretty sure I do at least, but I feel so weird right now I'm not sure how much. I'm feeling things I haven't felt in years, things like peace, calm, clarity, like I'm finally myself again in some ways. It's not just because of the new job, I got my fight back earlier this year, I've learned to love myself, and I'm doing much better at practicing self care. Everything feels new, and weird, and wonderful, and strange all at the same time. It's a whole new normal for me, and I'm taking my time settling into it. I'm seeing what works for me, how I feel about things in my life, and making changes where I need to.

I'm not doing anything to fight how I'm feeling either partly because fighting my feelings has gotten me in trouble in the past, and I honestly think weird is how I should feel right now as I settle into a whole lot of new. Feeling weird isn't a bad thing; I'm also starting to think this feeling of weird is part of the culmination of the the journey I was on the last few years. Everything seems to have lined up well in regards to that. Change came at the exact moment I needed it to, and it was a change that allowed the culmination of that journey to be realized. I'm not the biggest fan of change, but I welcomed this change with open arms because I knew where I was definitely was not where I needed to be. I said 2017 was going to be my year, and it has been in ways I didn't think it would be and it's not even half over.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Girl With Tattoos

Tattoo Number 4 is official! I kept saying it was going to happen, and after over a year of talking about getting it I finally did.

Psalm 46:5 "God is within her, she will not fall;
God will bring her help at break of day."
I asked one of my sisters to draw/write this tattoo for me since she doesn't want to get a tattoo with me, and my handwriting is terrible so I wasn't about to write it. I wanted something unique and special for this one, so just picking a font wasn't going to cut it. This verse became one of my mantras over the last 3/4 years (other mantras include, "Not my circus, not my monkeys", "I am enough", and "Everything is ahead"). The last 3 or so years have been particularly rough for me, especially emotionally as I worked through some things, and I started repeating this verse to myself as a reminder that I just had to get through one day, and that I wasn't as on my own as I felt.

I've struggled with how to put into words what this tattoo means to me. This tattoo was a culmination of a journey in away, and it means so much that I've finally had it inked on my skin.

Failure is one of my biggest fears (right up there with heights and deep water). I found this verse particularly helpful as I faced feelings of failure in my personal life, professional life, and worked though some personal things that weren't the easiest to emotionally process. This verse was especially helpful as I attempted to recover from an eating disorder (ED) for what felt like the hundredth time (and probably was at least the hundredth time). The fear of failure plagued me in school, and it's followed me every day of my career. This fear of failing has kept me from trying things I probably could have done well. The thoughts of "what if I fail, what if I can't, what if it doesn't work out?" followed me. I'm constantly worried that I won't succeed at something, though I'm not sure why since I haven't actually failed that often. Repeating this verse to myself is a reminder that I'm not going to fail/fall, there is always something to learn if I don't succeed how I wanted to.

It also reminds me that each day is a new opportunity to try again. Today may have been super crappy, but maybe tomorrow won't be. I'll feel better/stronger in the morning, and maybe it will be a better day. It gives me hope knowing whatever it is I didn't do so well today I can work on doing better tomorrow. All I can do each day is give it 100%, and if I can say I did my best then I did enough.

It always amazes me how quickly I adjust to a new tattoo. The first few days I'm very aware of it as the healing process begins (especially with number four), but after that it just becomes a part of me, like it's always been there. In a way it has always been there, just not a permanent visible reminder to me and broadcasting to the world that I'm one of those people who has tattoos. My tattoos show my journey, my story, and they're a way to bring myself back to my center when I start to drift.