I’m back!

I would like to apologize for my disappearance on my blog. This fall semester with my course studies along with an Intensive Outpatient Program demanded so much of my time; I needed to concentrate on my most important priorities: my health and my course work. Not to mention, the Holidays have been and still are in full swing and—from my husband and I coming from divorced parents with one living out of state—there are a lot of get-togethers and a lot of meals.
Though, being honest, I have genuinely missed attending to blog and giving it the effort that I finally have a chance to now. I love my network of followers—though small—it’s amazing on how a little encouragement can really change my day for the better. I also desire and find so much fulfillment when a post of mine helps someone else out there in a positive way. I appreciate the positive coping tool of my blog; it has been one of several tools that have helped me redirect my focus from food and the desire to return to eating disorder symptoms instead of choosing recovery. ‘Redirecting your focus’ is a topic I intend to discuss on my blog, but first, I’d like to give a condensed summary of my IOP and the three most vital things that I took away from the experience.

Learning to label, explain and feel your emotions
I know that I wrote an entire post regarding emotions and recovery on the blog sometime in October—but goodness!—learning to navigate emotion really is a huge part of recovery. I realized how much I snuffed my emotions, both the good and the bad, with my eating disorder. Of course, the resurfacing of some of the good emotions wasn’t too much of an obstacle; however, the bad emotions were a totally different beast. This is where IOP really helped me out. The topics discussed and the exercises performed gave me novel ways to handle all of the unpleasant areas of my life that I refused to acknowledge and process. More importantly, I realized the importance of allowing myself to feel. Allowing myself to—for the duration of the emotion—to feel it. In other words, my automatic tendency was to distract, restrict, or push the emotion away as fast as I could—I did not want to feel it for any amount of time. Just learning to allow myself to feel and ride the wave of the emotion was a big step for me and something I am still working on.

You cannot do recovery alone
As much as I firmly believed that a support team and the inclusion of the loved ones around you wasn’t a vital ingredient to making progress, having a support system really-truly-honestly provides a tremendous help toward making and maintaining progress in recovery. One day of the IOP was set-aside for ‘family day’ where you invited the people around you that you felt needed (not wanted) to come to be educated and to engage in a safe discussion of needs and boundaries. I cannot put into words how nervous I was for family day, I was scared. But, my goodness, I would have to say it was one of the days where I felt I learned the most in the program. I invited my mother and my husband; they now have a deeper level of understanding and have such a better idea of how to help me through my journey. I plan to discuss more of this in a later post. So stay tuned because I am back with my blog.

You will not be magically healed come the last day of treatment
As much as people on the outside looking in may hold this assumption, it really is not the case. Even for me and the other individuals in the program had to accept this fact to a certain extent. One thing that that me and one other woman realized was how we both had our own expectations of where we thought we would be, come the final days of the treatment and where we actually were. Setting expectations can be helpful, but they can also breed disappointment and discouragement. What’s more important is that you note and credit yourself for the progress that you have made and are making and take each day one at a time. Compare where you are and where you want to be, and you will get nowhere. Now dealing with the people who will think your eating disorder will have vanished is a different struggle. This is where communication is important and another reason why educating your support team will help ease future anxiety and misunderstandings.

There were so many things I learned during IOP and those things will definitely arise in subsequent blog posts. But I really wanted to review the main themes I found from reflecting back on my treatment in the program. And again, I am sorry for my absence; I definitely will be more consistent with posts now that I’m on winter break from college.

AND

I hope everyone has, and has had, the happiest and most pleasant of times this holiday season

Changing Positive to Negative: Thoughts and Affirmations (cont.)

Expanding from my last post, I want to discuss the benefit of working through replacing your negative thoughts and beliefs with positive ones. Positive thoughts are more commonly referred to as affirmations and all affirmations are, are phrases that are healing self-scripts that counter negative self-scripts (as explained in my last post).

It wasn’t until I actually wrote down all of my thoughts and beliefs that I have of myself to realize just how horribly I think and speak to myself. None of them were positive. That glaring fact in and of itself was an encourager to ask the question: “So how can I fix this?” The ‘fixing’ process I like to liken to sifting through your wardrobe, ridding of the clothes that don’t fit, make you feel good, or just plain need-to-go and replacing those clothing items with new ones that will better suit you in the long run. Also, just like there are different types of clothes, I’d like to think that there are different types of Affirmations that serve different purposes. There are statements of who you are (I am), statements of your potential (I can) and statements of the positive changes you wish to see in your life (I will).

I am: statements of who you are.

This type of affirmation is a positive affirmation of a real state of being that exists in you. You can achieve a full list of I am statements be taking a full inventory of your attributes, strengths, competencies, and talents.

But what if you’re like me and only can think of mostly negative ones? I mean, the whole point is to try to create a positive list to help you formulate a better image of yourself, not one that makes you feel worse. What ended up helping me to find some positive attributions about myself was to imagine what my best friend and husband would say about me to someone who asked them about what I was like. Things started to flow a little better from there. I am statements could look similar to the following examples:

  • I am capable
  • I am a great friend
  • I am a talented ____
  • I am trustworthy
  • I am loyal
  • I am beautiful
  • I am strong
  • I am intelligent
  • I am funny
  • I am resilient

I can: A statement of your potential

This is a statement of your ability to accomplish goals. It is a statement of your belief in your power to grow, to change, and to help yourself. I can statements can be developed to help you set short term goals (3-6 months) that you wish to accomplish within yourself and in your life. Examples include:

  • I can learn to handle my emotions
  • I can succeed
  • I can gain self-confidence
  • I can improve
  • I can heal
  • I can let go
  • I can be positive
  • I can let go of guilt
  • I can let go of fear
  • I can reach out to my support team
  • I can follow a meal plan

I will: Statements of positive change in your life

These affirmations pertain to changes you wish to—and plan to—achieve. It is a positive statement of what you want to have happen no matter how impossible it may seem initially. Some I will examples might resemble the following:

  • I will like myself better each day
  • I will be completely honest, no matter what
  • I will learn to forgive myself
  • I will recover
  • I will take a risk to grow today
  • I will feel less guilt each day
  • I will feel good things about me today
  • I will smile more today
  • I will grow emotionally stronger each day
  • I will take care of me today
  • I will learn to accept and respect my body
  • I will learn to live without my eating disorder

So start building a list. It may start out small but as good things come, write them down. Become aware of the negative thoughts/beliefs that arise and be diligent with replacing them with better ones. Can’t think of a replacement? Then return to your list until you find one. If we can ingrain bad thoughts, we can also ingrain good ones. As the common quote by Gautama Buddha states:

We are what we think. All that we are arises in our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.

Affirmations and Their Effects

The world that we live in is the one that we create. We create our world with every thought we think, with every word we speak, and with every action that we take. ~ LeVar Burton

  • Are you saying things to yourself that create a world in which you want to live?
  • Are the things you are thinking about and the actions you are taking helping yourself in your recovery? Will they help you reach your recovery goals?

I’d like to take the time to discuss the incredible power of the mind. We are what we think, and the things we repeat and re-run in our minds eventually become ingrained in our belief system. I know I am guilty of treating myself horribly when it comes to thoughts and beliefs I have toward myself. I am not very nice, gentle, or forgiving with myself. Much of my negative self-scripts probably catalyzed my Anorexia and more than likely catapulted me into the relapse I’m in the process of climbing out of. What exactly is a negative self-script? Some examples of Negative self-scripts are:

  •             Negative beliefs you have about yourself and of which you remind yourself daily.
  •             Negative statements about yourself that you sprinkle into your daily conversations.
  •             Negative assessment you are others have made of your competency, skills, ability, knowledge, intelligence, creativity or common sense. You have agreed with this internally and, thus, believe it to be true.
  •             Negative stories about your past behavior, failures, or performances that you systematically run over in your mind and which influence your daily conduct.
  •             Ways in which you deny yourself for goodness, hard work, and caring by: 1) not taking time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, 2) living in a style of self-denial and austerity and 3) being afraid to let your guard down and relax, lest you fail to achieve your “Big Pay Off”
  •             Feelings of inferiority you harbor about yourself and the belief that, no matter what you do in life, it will never be good enough
  •             Feelings of over-responsibility with which you burden yourself. This includes the belief that others in your life will never be able to fully take care of themselves and that you are responsible for them no matter what.

So what ends up happening after consistently thinking, believing, and feeling various negative self-scripts? Obviously, the results/outcomes can’t be all that constructive. Though many people—including myself—may believe that “being hard on yourself” or always thinking of the ways you could do better lead to better success in whatever. I think I am starting to wonder if that statement may not be accurate at all. Some outcomes of chronic negative self-scripts are:

  •             Over-dependence on the approval of others
  •             Lack of self-esteem and low self-concept
  •             Immobilization (you cannot take risks, changes, or believe there is anything you can do to get better)
  •             Negativity
  •             Pessimism
  •             Self-pity
  •             Depression
  •             Cynicism
  •             Fulfillment of prophecy (what you think eventually becomes your reality)

Everyone has varying degrees to the extent of which they engage in negative self-scripts, but what can someone do to help reverse the causes of negative-self scripts? Well, the self-bullying thoughts—as I like to refer to them by—did not set up camp in your mind over night and they sure as heck aren’t going to pack up and leave in a night either. Working toward replacing the maladaptive thoughts with positive self-affirmations is an effortful process that takes much patience, persistence and perseverance. Ever try to change someone’s mind about anything? It’s hard! So don’t expect to change your own mind with a snap of your fingers. It is a process. So what are, and what do, positive self-affirmations look like? They are:

Healing, positive self-scripts you give yourself to counter your negative-self scripts
Vehicles by which you can free yourself from your over-dependence on other’s opinions, attitudes, or feelings about you and feel good about yourself. I so need to work on this for myself!

  •             The visualization of a new order and sense in your life, which you can work toward achieving
  •             You take personal responsibility for your health and emotional stability. This one I have really been pondering on the most.
  •             You let go of negative emotional baggage that you’ve been carrying and the resolution of negative feelings from the past so that you can face the present in a less obstructed view.
  •             You give yourself permission to grow, change, to take risks, to rise up, and create a better life for yourself. This is something I truly want to embrace for myself…
  •             The recognition of your own rights and affirming your claim on them.

Whew! Covered a lot, but I really wanted to journal—and blog—about affirmations. I feel too many of us are so consumed in and abide by are negative self-scripts that our health, friendships and relationships, and emotional well-being suffer in result. It’s daunting to think that I am working to change my thought process, belief structure, and view of myself, but I really want to work hard in changing them for the better. Why? Because I don’t think my recovery from Anorexia is going to happen unless I really tackle my current belief system that revolves around Ed. I’m thinking my next blog post might be on ways I think I could begin to act toward changing my negative self-scripts to healthy affirmations. Things I tend to journal and write about tend to resonate with me much longer, so I definitely think that blog post will be written. Lol. Until I squeeze the time in for another post. Here’s a quote I read that I have read over and over in the past few days.

            It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief, and once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen. ~Claude M. Bistol.

Let’s just all try to make those affirmations positive so positive things will happen

The Function of Eating Disorders

What Function Does your Eating Disorder serve?

One of the reasons that an eating disorder can be difficult to recover from is that it may serve an important purpose in your life. Figuring out just how the eating disorder symptoms you exhibit benefit you could very well be a big help toward your recovery from it. For example, for some individuals, restricting food and over exercising is way to feel in control or to gain praise and attention from others. For others, bingeing and purging may be a way to suppress or mask difficult thoughts and feelings. In the first case, it might be necessary to find healthier ways to feel in control or to gain praise and attentions, whereas in the second case it may be important to learn to identify and process the thoughts and feelings more directly. For me, the following is a list of what my eating disorder does for me.

  • Helps cope with my negative thoughts and feelings
  • Controls my weight
  • Helps me feel in control
  • It gives me comfort
  • It feels familiar (companion, habit)
  • Helps me strive for perfectionism
  • Focuses and distracts me from more difficult issues
  • Gives me discipline or punishment (“I don’t deserve to eat”)
  • Numbs my emotions
  • Purging allows me a perception of normalcy—it allows for normal eating
  • Helps me to fit the ideal of society
  • Gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Through severe restriction, it helps to numb my emotions, cope with negative thoughts and feelings. Through both purging and restriction, it allows me to appear normal when I need to appear normal, fit the today’s societal obsession with weight loss and exercise, discipline and punish me, and help in my goals for perfectionism. Through the use of a scale, how my clothes fit—or don’t fit—and new caloric lows it gives me a sense of accomplishment, a ‘weight loss high’, and distracts me from difficult/uncomfortable issues or situations. Other reasons that an ED could function as are listed below:

  • Relieves or manages stress
  • Protects your self esteem
  • Suppresses traumatic memories and events
  • Helps to hold your family together
  • Helps you to receive attention and love
  • Give you a unique identity (makes you special)
  • Gives you time for yourself
  • Relieves boredom
  • Helps you deal with anger
  • Serves as a scapegoat for failures
  • Gives you momentary freedom
  • It buffers your relationships
  • It acts as an escape from daily stress

Now the questions appear: How much do I need the ED to fulfill these needs? How much longer am I going to allow it to function so heavily in my life? And are there other—better and healthier—methods to fulfilling these needs?

I definitely think there is an abundance of other methods that could replace ED. Will finding, applying, and choosing those methods every time instead of Ed be hard? Yeah…it probably will be. Habits aren’t formed overnight and no one likes being away from their security blanket of coping—whatever that coping looks like (Ed, alcohol, etc). I don’t like to admit the fact that a part of me still feels I need the ED in order to function as a normal human being. But that’s one more reason to fight back that much harder and to adopt new ways of managing the unpleasant things in order to break free of Ed’s destructive ways.

Journal Your Thoughts

The two important things I did learn were that you are as strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step…making the first decision. ~Robyn Davidson

So today, for part of our homework for tomorrow’s IOP meeting, we needed to journal our thoughts on the above quote given to us by the directing therapist. I thought I would share my thoughts concerning the quote.

“You are as strong as you allow yourself to be” This section of the quote struck a particular chord with me. I think people accidentally create an easy out for themselves when they say or feel “I don’t think I am strong enough” when it comes to anything—it doesn’t just have to pertain to recovery. Fixate on this thought enough and you run the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents you from achieving what you originally set out to obtain. I feel the only thing you can do here is to replace the thought with its opposite (i.e. I have the strength inside of me to do ‘this’) and focus on the replacement thought regardless of whether or not you believe it.

The second part of the quote I have mixed feelings about. While I do agree that the decision to take that first step is an incredible feat by itself, I feel the commitment to—and the choice to choose that step—over and over throughout the course of day or week is the most difficult part. It’s one thing to choose recovery for a meal, a day, or a week, but another thing to choose it every time no matter what.

What does this quote spur inside of you? Do you agree with what the author says or believe otherwise? Are there additional things you find to be just as—or more—difficult? Ponder it…maybe it might help breed more insight into what might be holding you back.

Here I Go…

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.

So tomorrow I begin my six week intensive out patient program…I’m terrified of the changes that are to come but I know that I want what the program and recovery will give me. After a week of getting battery of labs from my physician, rearrangements to my academic schedule and my research assistance ship, hassles with the insurance companies, and figuring out the ginormous finances I am one tired girl. On top of this, I decided I still want to remain–and thanks to some pretty understanding professors, can remain–full-time in college and am still set to graduate from college next spring. Needless to say, my plate is full but I am going to do my best to post what I learn, experience and wish to share to my blog as often as I can amidst it all.

I also want to thank my readers and to the support from some wonderful people I’ve received since starting this blog. Your readership, input, and support means more to me than I can properly convey into words. So, again, Thank you so much.

 

 

 

Excuses and Change

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So this week has been a crazy whirlwind. On top of 2 papers being due, an ethic’s analysis and a Spanish midterm exam I have also taking the huge step in enrolling in an eating disorder intensive outpatient program (IOP). My husband came to my therapy session and we both expressed our thoughts, needs and options concerning my health and my treatment. Let me just say, that hour of therapy was probably one of the hardest hours yet. Amidst trying to decipher how the financing will be worked through, I have been working through an IOP checklist which includes calling my insurance company, scheduling an assessment with a psychiatrist, and obtaining another round of labs from my physician. Multiple phone calls, needle pokes, an ekg, and an almost-done checklist later, I’m feeling so completely overwhelmed. How do I feel about the development of enrolling in a more intensive level of care?

I am terrified, to say the least.

A part of me does not feel I deserve a higher level of care nor that I need it. Though, deep down, I know I need more help in order successfully get me out of this relapse. I am so scared of beginning this program…I am unsure of my strength and ability to handle the changes up ahead. I know this is going to be tough, but I have got some great friends and my husband by side ready to help me through this phase in my life. I’m still committed to what I wrote about in my first blog post (link below). Despite the odds, obstacles and perceived impossibility of this journey, I’m determined to remain resilient and as positive I can be throughout this process. One thing I know for sure—dwelling in negativity and nurturing doubt and uncertainty will only leave you stuck. So, though I may not be feeling the hope I wish to, I believe that you can still have hope without experiencing the sensation of it.

Also, some things I have learned from this week that might help some of you.

There were a handful of excuses I made regarding the ‘impossibility of commiting to an IOP program’ that ended up working out better than I anticipated. My main excuses were the following:

My professor whom I’m conducting research with will not allow me to maneuver my lab hours in order to allow me to go to the IOP.

In fact, when I met with her, she was completely understanding.—Let me add here that I was completely honest about my situation. I told her I was struggling with an eating disorder and that the level of care that I would be needing would slightly interfere with my current lab commitment. To my surprise, she expressed happiness and praise that I knew myself enough to know what I needed in order to build a better quality of life. Additionally, she wanted me to keep her updated as to whether there would be anything she could do in order to help me during my IOP. During my meeting with her, she contacted the other lab assistants and stated that a change to the lab hours would be occurring shortly. The conversation could not have gone more smoothly. I was so incredibly relieved.

The IOP is financially out of the question: Though a portion of this is true, my husband and I have been floored (in a good away) with the amount of support our family has offered us. I did not know how much the people closest to me genuinely were concerned about my condition and were glad that we were coming to them asking for help to get me better. The whole experience of talking to my family, in and of itself has been very therapeutic.

The insurance company will not cover a penny: Though they are not covering much, they have said they will cover a small portion. Better than I hoped to say the least.

So, if you think you might need a higher level of care, don’t let your excuses stop you from trying to make it happen. Keep fighting for yourself, even when you realize you might currently be losing. Though this week has been very rough and emotionally taxing, it has gone better than I initially anticipated and better yet? I have even felt the hope I still know I have to beat my  eating disorder.