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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Single Woman

"I wish I'd enjoyed my single days more and spent my free time reading or becoming a better photographer or something, and not worried so much about the meaning of golf balls.  Because here's the thing, I was fine on my own and so are you. But it can be hard when you feel ready for Happy Couplehood and you seem to have missed the train. As my friend Oliver Platt used to say to me about hopes and dreams I'd share with him 'It's coming, just not on your timeframe.' I find this a helpful reminder in any number of ways: not only when you're hoping to meet someone, but also when you're waiting for a better job or for some relief during a bleak time."
-Lauren Graham, "Talking As Fast As I Can"

I've loved Lauren Graham since the first time I watched "Gilmore Girls", I loved her even more after watching "Parenthood", so obviously I got a copy of her book "Talking As Fast As I Can". I anticipated enjoying the book, but I did not expect to be hit with that tidbit about single life on page 100.

She gets this whole single life thing.

I reread those sentences four or five times because they were everything to me; finally someone who actually gets it and put it into words perfectly. I don't want to look back on this time in my life and wish that I had enjoyed these days more, I don't want to wish that I hadn't wasted my time analyzing things that didn't need to be analyzed, and I don't want to look back and regret dating decisions made because I was lonely or I dated because it was expected of me. I am perfectly ok being single right now, and I'm enjoying it while I'm in this stage of life. There's a freedom in being single that isn't the same in "happy couplehood", the independence isn't the same, the free time isn't spent the same way. Those things all change, and not in a bad way, but they still change. So until the right man comes along, I'm going to enjoy the freedom, independence, and my free time the way it is right now. I won't stop living my life and become a shut in just because I'm single. Living my life means I occasionally go on a date when I feel like it, or there's someone who interests me enough. I'm not waiting to do things until I have a special someone to do them with, I'm doing the things I want to do either on my own or with friends. I can always do them again when I make it to "happy couplehood."

I am perfectly fine as a single woman.

I know who I am, I'm figuring out some of the things I want to do, defining the things I know I want, I know my strengths and my short comings, I know that I can be a lot sometimes, and I know that I could also be the best thing to happen to the right person. My time is valuable, I am valuable, and I'm not going to waste my time on someone who doesn't appreciate who I am. I've already wasted too much time on those types of guys. I also know what baggage I'm bringing with me (there's not a lot, but there is stuff), and I'm not afraid to talk about it because I want someone who can handle it. Some of it I may talk about earlier than people think you should, but I have an eating disordered brain that I have to do battle with some days. I'd rather know sooner rather than later if that's something that someone thinks they can handle or not, and it's ok if they can't, I understand that. There are days I feel like I can barely handle it and I've lived with it for 16 years. I'm not even sure how to have that conversation to be honest, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I expect the same conversation in return when this someone is ready to share his stuff. I want to know what I'm in for, I want to know how to be there, how to be supportive and when. Life gets ugly sometimes, and you have to be able to lean on other people.

Somedays the loneliness kicks in and I do start to feel like I missed the train to Happy Couplehood, but when I really think about it I am 100% certain that I didn't miss the train at all. I just don't have the ticket for that train yet, and I'm ok with that. Sometimes I feel like people expect me to not be fine with being single, which is just confusing to me. Why wouldn't I be ok, what's wrong with where I am especially if I'm ok with it? Yes, at times it's lonely and frustrating, but just because I'm 28 doesn't mean I'm desperate to find someone because 30 is just around the corner. I'd rather wait and have it be right than jump into something for the sake of not being alone because I am perfectly fine as a single woman.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Making A Home

From the age of 20 to the age of 26 (and just over a half) I averaged about one move a year. I became a very efficient packer, came to loathe packing with every fiber of my being, I didn't get attached to the places I lived, most of my belongings remained boxed up in my parents basement waiting for the day I could unpack for good, and I felt like I didn't have a home. My parents house was familiar and comfortable, but it just wasn't home to me any more. The closest thing I felt to home was crawling into my pillow top bed (with Kate shaped dent), pulling the covers up, and escaping into a book or my journal for a bit. I would do this sometimes when my bed wasn't moving with me and it was still at my parents house. I would just crawl in for a few minutes, breathe, and find my center again.

I bought my house about a year and half ago, and it still feels weird sometimes to have my all my books out on shelves rather than packed in boxes, to have all my kitchen gadgets and toys accessible to me without having to remember which box I packed my offset spatula in, and to be adding things to my house to make it my home. I still don't think it's really sunk in that this place is mine, that I don't have to pick up and move in the next month, and I think I'm just now starting to let it be home.

It's been so strange not packing everything back up after about a year, not having to find and move to a new space. In fact not packing has become almost foreign to me. I'm getting to choose colors for the walls, learning how to paint said walls, choosing furniture and decor, I get to fix things/learn how to fix what I can, I'm planning future projects, I get to do yard work, and I get to make this house home. I haven't been able to do that in 8+ years, I haven't gotten to fully express myself and put out the things that mean something to me. Every item that hangs on a wall in my house has a story, in fact there are very few knick knacks and decor items that don't have a story behind them. I've collected things that are authentic to me and who I am, so that my home reflects my story as much as the tattoos on my body do.

Not having to move every year or so means I've had to learn how to stay in one place, and how to have roots. I don't think there are any self-help books out there for learning how to stay somewhere. Learning how to stay and put down roots means finding out how it feels to stay in once place, figuring out how to invest in a community I'll be in for at least a few more years, and finding the time to do things I always wanted to do. I've actually found working in my backyard has me feeling the most rooted as I rake up leaves, dig weeds out of the "grass", debate ripping out the two planters back there, debate what plants to add for color, what veggies and herbs to get planters for on my deck, and take care of a space I've never had a chance to care for before. Sure I've done yard work and mowed lawns of the places I've stayed, but never mine. There's something about having my hands in the dirt of MY backyard that makes me feel rooted and connected to where I am right now.

At heart I'm a wanderer. I love traveling, experiencing the new things a place has to offer and exploring a city. I also love having something familiar and comforting to come back to, somewhere to call home. I was worried that having roots would make me feel trapped, like I wouldn't be able to wander anymore. Roots have actually made the trip back home easier than it used to be. I used to come back from a trip and wonder what on earth was coming next, where I was going to be in 6 months, etc. As I've settled in and started to put down roots, I don't worry about that as much.

I have a place to be.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Working Woman

The real title of this post should probably be "Why I Stopped Working A Ridiculous Number of Hours Even Though I'm Behind In My Work."

I read an article in December about work/life balance, at least I think that's what it was about. I've been reading quite a few articles on that subject lately trying to find balance in a way that works for me and my life, so I don't have a link to the article or remember who wrote it. I do remember one phrase that stuck with me from that article,

"The work will always be there."

That hit me, hard; all of a sudden things became clear about how I was going to balance my life better.

My current job is frustrating to me on a daily basis for many reasons. The one at the top of my list right now is that I'm constantly behind, and probably will be for the rest of my time there due to decisions being made about how things are being done and staffed. Constantly being behind was majorly getting to me, and it still does some days more than I'd like it to. I hate not being on top of things, and I highly value being able to be proactive in my work so we're not scrambling at the last minute stressing about if we'll be able to get something done on time or not. I knew I couldn't work crazy hours to try and get everything done because it affects every aspect of my health, and I like having some semblance of a personal/social life. The one line completely changed how I approach my work day, and in turn my personal life

"The work will always be there."- There will always be another agreement that needs to be taken care of, a training that needs to be done, a meeting with legal about a consultant, an email with explicit directions on our procedures, a coworker who's spreadsheet doesn't like a perfectly good formula, a file that needs to be put together, etc. It will never stop coming, it will always be there. The work isn't going to magically disappear as I complete my tasks. As soon as I complete one task, 1-2 more will inevitably take the place of the completed task. My To Do list will be never ending and everything is supposed to be considered the highest priority.

I'm learning the importance of important v. urgent when working on prioritizing my tasks. It's not that I don't have time for something, it just may not be a priority at that moment. Everyone believes they are important and their item should be my priority. Well I've got news folks, you're important and you're not important all at the same time. I've found the trick is to make them feel like they're important and have my attention even if they don't at that moment. So I send updates and estimated completion times to let them know I haven't forgotten about them, I'm just not there yet. (I am responsible for multiple aspects in our department, and there may be another item that has more of a priority status that they don't know about). I've stopped giving excuses too, or long winded answers. I made my answer short and simple, I don't stress over them misunderstanding my meaning, and I educate when needed. I put that item on my to do in the next 24-48 hours list and I keep working on the day's priority.

I started leaving at a specific time every day too. I get in right before 7am most days, I work through lunch almost every day, so I leave at 3:30 (except on Fridays when I leave at 3). I wrap up what I'm doing, and I go home.
I do not bring my lap top with me unless there's a threat of snow or I'm working from home the next day.
I do not let work invade my thoughts when I am not working.
I do not give out my cell phone number to anyone who has no reason to have it.
Doing this enables me to actually have a life outside of work. I have time to see family/friends, I get to yoga, I can get another workout or two in each week, I have time to walk and play with my dog, I have time to tackle my To Do list during the week so I enjoy my weekend all the more.

I may not always have this luxury since I want to own a small business someday. For now though this works, and I'll find a way to adapt it as I go and transition into new positions in the future. I haven't had a tension migraine in about 2 weeks since I started really practicing this. My stress level feels lower for the most part, and I'm practicing my focus for the year ("slow down and chill out"). I stopped emotionally investing myself in my work too (not normal for me, but very necessary), it was causing additional stress and the job doesn't emotionally care about me. Work won't be there for me when I get sick or life gets rough, but my people will be if I invest time in them. I give it 100% when I'm working, but when I'm done working it no longer gets my attention. I'm finding I have free time, real free time where I'm not sure what to do with myself. I actually have time for a hobby that isn't orchid growing or reading which I had time to do in my occasional spare time, and I don't know what to do with myself. It's a wonderful feeling, not knowing what to do with my time and deciding where to invest it.
"Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices."