Living in freedom: Declaring independence from your eating disorder

July 4th, 2014 Heather Purdin

From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Hope

Being afraid of wearing a bathing suit on a summer vacation; having a fear of clothes shopping due to poor body image; feeling trapped in your own body; constantly counting calories; obsessing over food, weight, or shape; exercising out of compulsion; restricting or overeating in reaction to difficult emotions; feeling compelled to follow an energy consuming fad diet; spending time binge eating and risking life by purging unwanted calories; and especially losing things of importance (i.e. dream jobs, close friendships, precious time with loved ones, and other amazing opportunities)…These are all merely a handful of the myriad of losses of freedom that occur when you are trapped inside the monster of an eating disorder.

Today, hundreds of millions of Americans are celebrating Independence Day. Celebrating our many freedoms is one of the greatest privileges of living in the United States.

July4thI’m no great historian, but gaining our independence from the United Kingdom was not an overnight accomplishment. In fact, it took more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War before the Continental Congress declared the thirteen American colonies independent sovereign states forming the United States of America. In the process, a committee of five men, including Thomas Jefferson, drafted the Declaration of Independence, a document largely dedicated to honoring human rights.

What stand out of greatest importance to me are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s astonishing how much recovering from an eating disorder parallels to this short history lesson.

Life with an eating disorder is an entrapment. Just as with the resolution of the American Revolutionary War, recovering from an eating disorder doesn’t occur overnight. Recovery from an eating disorder parallels war itself because it requires a fight for your life with keen and consistent engagement. From start to finish, it can take several years to fully break free. The more chronic the disorder is, the more difficult it may be to overcome entrenched belief systems that maintain the disorder.

Living with an eating disorder denies several human rights, including the basic right to live. Just yesterday, I learned of another precious life lost to an eating disorder. I’ve sadly witnessed a string of such losses in recent months. In war, it is simple fact that lives are often lost in the fight for freedom. It’s a terrible and irreversible reality. These lives are not lost in vain, but it is incredibly unfortunate to know they have each become another statistic. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders.

So what about liberty? From dictionary.com, “Liberty: freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.” Eating disorders have so much to do with control, or lack thereof: controlling emotions, food, weight, etc. They interfere with health, achievements, healthy and meaningful relationships, education/employment, and peace of mind. Individuals may also feel obligated to follow rules or laws that govern and “protect” their disorders. Restriction may include lack of joy, food, and socialization. Hampering conditions may include things such as negative or irrational thinking and limiting beliefs.

Of course these are all examples and are not a comprehensive list of what may go awry in regards to living a life void of liberty.

Considering these above lists, one can surmise that the chance of living with the pursuit of happiness is nearly impossible for anyone struggling with an eating disorder.

If you are currently suffering with an eating disorder and ambivalent about letting go, hear me out. Please trust me, because I am sadly an expert in this department. I have been “existing” with depression, anxiety, and anorexia for 22 years.

I’ve never truly been happy. Though I have managed to have many great achievements despite being desperately ill, especially mentally ill, very few times have I enjoyed or truly treasured my triumphs. In fact, the majority of the time, I have felt like I’ve been hiding behind a mask like a fraud unable to own them.

If you are suffering, please do not retreat and give up your rights to freedom and independence. Reach out for help now. A soldier does not fight a battle in solitude and recovery is no different. You will need a strong and sound support system and compassionate, experienced treatment team to help you win this war. Begin rallying in the troops, those who will be your allies in this tenacious battle so you can conquer the enemy we call “ED”.

So on this Independence Day, I ask you: Do you want to continue existing rather than living, achieving hard earned successes without appreciation and joy, and staying imprisoned to negative thinking and beliefs?

I hope there is at least some voice inside your soul that wants more for yourself, a part of yourself that wants freedom! I wish I could say this was an easy battle but going to war against your eating disorder will be one of the hardest things you have to do in your life. On the bright side, at least you can begin knocking it out now rather waiting 22 years down the road, only to find yourself living in the trenches alone and hiding from the world that wishes to embrace you, the whole you. Together, we can win our freedom and independence back!

In a fairy tale world, what would your Declaration of Independence look like? What would freedom look like to you? What would living in freedom mean to you?

I wish for you life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! Happy Fourth of July! Let freedom ring.

 

Be Bold: Building Self Confidence

July 1st, 2014 Heather Purdin

From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith

A vital part of leaving an eating disorder behind and beginning to regain your sense of self is rebuilding self-confidence. Everyone suffers from some lack in self-confidence.  Confidence doesn’t come in fixed quantities, and sometimes it takes a few introspective lessons and life experiences to begin to build or rebuild a deeper and stronger faith in yourself.

Find your inner light and let it shine!

It is human nature to think negatively, and studies show that negative thoughts and emotions are quicker to form, attract more focus, and more likely to be recalled than positive ones. Try to begin recognizing values and strengths by thinking about one attribute that has served you well in your life, and then get your support system involved as well.

1.       Share your thoughts with your support system and work together to brainstorm a few favorite things about you. Keep an open mind.

2.       You may be surprised at what attributes YOU find strong vs. what others value.

3.       Ask for specific examples of traits in action. This helps the negative voice.

4.       Identify and share your best qualities by repeatedly putting yourself in positive positions so you can build trust in your abilities and assets.

See yourself clearly, flaws and all.

When building self-confidence, everything comes together in balance. Once you’ve identified some of your strengths, be open to identifying some weaknesses–but not in a self-critical or destructive manner.  It has been found that understanding who we are, be it better or for worse, actually improves self-esteem and acceptance. By looking at patterns in your life that may have brought about conflict or “flaws” such as stubbourness, indecision, and hot-temperedness, you will bring light to other character traits that, although we may not find ideal, you can learn to still embrace. Confidence takes commitment. You can’t spend 50% of your time projecting your best assets and 50% trying to hide your “flawed” traits and then expect to strengthen your self-esteem. This is where the practice of balance and acceptance of yourself as a whole comes into play. Your “flaws” do not have to carry a negative connotation; they are just another part of who you are and they allow you to learn to see yourself clearly while you still continue to shine.

Learn to take a compliment.

Somehow, our culture at large has led us to believe in discounting our accomplishments or playing down positive feedback. If you have poor self-esteem and self-confidence, it can be extremely difficult to accept any type of praise because the inner, negative voice can be so strong. Being able to receive constructive, positive feedback can help counteract negative thoughts and build confidence. A first step in practicing learning how to accept a compliment is simply to simply say thank you, whether your mind lets you believe it or not. The more you do this, the more you will begin to find yourself actually beginning to genuinely accept positive feedback. On another note, if you respect someone enough to take their criticism to heart, it’s only fair to also accept their praise. Another exercise is to practice in front of your mirror, and maybe even while driving your car, repeating a positive feedback mantra, “Thanks, I appreciate your saying that. I worked really hard, and the fact that you noticed means a lot.”

Your support system, your cheering squad!

A vital key in recovery, even in general life, is having a passionate group of support that fosters a sense of belonging and security, both of which build more confidence. These may be family members or friends; they may be people who become educated about eating disorders and can support you in recovery. They may also be people who support you in your general life, perhaps new allies and friends you meet through new social experiences. Remember, healthy relationships are two-sided and include healthy boundaries. Just as these people support, inspire, and encourage you, you will have a natural intuition to return the favor, which will feel great.

BUILD A CONFIDENCE TOOLBOX! (ref, Oprah 2013)

1.       Add a photo of those closest to you: When you have a strong support system and feel loved, it provides a source of strength and security that helps you take bold steps forward.

2.       Include a symbol of new endeavor: If you are challenging yourself with a new endeavor, put a reminder in your box. For example, maybe you are learning how to swim. Put one of your first caps or goggles in it. Confidence can be built by reminders that you know you are pushing yourself forward.

3.       Insert a token of improvement or achievement: You have challenged yourself and now met one of your goals or a new accomplishment. Maybe you finally finished your first Sudoku or your first 5k. Save a symbol of this and place it in your box! “Quantifiable achievements provide an instant jolt of self-esteem, because they make it easy to measure progress.”

4.       Enclose a picture or inspirational story of someone you look up to: Research has shown people get inspired by others who have become successful despite setbacks, and having a reminder can help keep you going.

5.       Have a special reminder of an upcoming event: Looking forward to something keeps you focused on good things to come and also reminds you of your supportive relationships. Secondly, it can also be an encouragement that you are no longer being held back and isolated but building relationships and living life!

6.       Include a token reminder of a time you were there for someone: A card, a thank you note, memorable mementos. Contributing to another person’s life boosts your own self-esteem, especially when it helps them make progress toward their own goals.

Be compassionate, be open to new things, be bold! As you build yourself back up, strengthen your self-esteem, & regain your values, you will find you shine with an identity that is unique and all your own.  A few fun quotes to leave you with:

                I’d go after Moby Dick in a row boat and take the tartar sauce with me. (Zig Ziglar)

                I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back. (Erica Jong)

Keep climbing forward!

What is Recovery?

June 28th, 2014 Heather Purdin

From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith

To anyone deeply engaged in their eating disorder, recovery seems like a long lost wish that is out there but unattainable. Fear, confusion, anxiety, losing control, the unknown, and failure are all just a few of the barriers that keep them locked in their disease rather than taking the first steps into the daunting journey of recovery.

Recovery has many different definitions depending on who you ask. Some feel as though it will be a life long process. Others see it as an abstinence of eating disorder behaviors. Some consider it the ability to find a place of identity and purpose where you can feel free and happy rather than locked down by the eating disorder. Even more hopeful, many believe the eating disorder can become completely overcome and a distant memory of the past. The bottom line is that you need to define what recovery means to you in order to have a starting point for breaking free and living life free of the eating disorder.

The thought of recovery can be extremely frightening. Some feel they’ll go through the process and just end up depressed and fat. For those that have experienced recovery and then relapsed, facing the recovery process may bring about fears of hopelessness and failure that they will never be able to obtain recovery again. Maintaining hope is one of the most difficult and critical emotions to hold on to when taking on the rocky road of recovery.

You can begin by making a list and defining for yourself what recovery is and isn’t. Remember that recovery may involve dealing with difficult and painful emotions from the past, but it also means freeing yourself from all that has weighed you down.

An excellent exercise to do when you begin to define your own recovery is to make two lists, with the main message from these lists being that recovery is about “gain, not pain.”

1) Listing what recovery means to you

2) What recovery is not.

A few examples from each list are below:

Recovery is:

  • obtaining freedom from shame, guilt, obsessive thoughts, & the need to achieve
  • expressing confidence
  • finding balance
  • finding a new healthy identity
  • enjoying food as pleasure
  • creating opportunity
  • rebuilding self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • accepting oneself
  • accepting things you cannot change
  • letting go of the past / living in the moment
  • not taking things out on yourself when things go wrong
  • feeling you deserve recovery

Recovery is NOT:

  • dieting all the time
  • just gaining weight
  • isolating
  • ignoring inner self
  • suffering with guilt and shame
  • enduring starvation
  • losing responsibility
  • turning negative emotions on yourself
  • experiencing rigidity with life, food, perfection, etc.

You can also make a list about your fears regarding recovery. Make your list and then go back and challenge them using skills to reframe each fear. For example:

Recovery will be:

Going back to feeling depressed all the time.

I will have more energy and fuel for my mind to deal with my emotions as they come and with increased nutrition my mind will actually function better.

Looking awful in clothes.

Recovery is being able to wear clothes that appropriately fit my body and will actually look healthier rather than falling off of me or wearing inappropriate sizes for my age and body type.

Not knowing who I am.

Recovery is a rollercoaster but one of the main focuses will be rediscovering my self, my core values, and my identity without the eating disorder.

Losing the real me.

The real me is not the ED me. Recovery is designed to help you rediscover the true real YOU!

Having to seem happy all the time and not being able to show my real feelings.

Everyone has emotions and it is normal to experience them and feel them. No one is happy all the time and that is okay. You can take off the mask and be “real” with people, especially those in your support system.

Being able to do more things.

Yes! You no longer have to hide in the rabbit hole of isolation. Go out with your friends, get involved in some groups or activities in your area, try new things! Recovery will open a whole new door of opportunities.

Recovery can be a challenging and slippery slope. There will be many ups but also downs as well. One may experience many steps forward and twice as many steps back; it’s unpredictable but important to remember that with perseverance it will continue to improve over time. Going backwards can be extremely fearful and stir up emotions of hopelessness and pits of depression. However, it’s important to remember how many  months/years it took for your ED to develop, and they therefore don’t just disappear overnight.

Unfortunately, there may be slips and even small relapses, but the most important thing one can do is learn from these. They allow you to identify possible stressors, vulnerabilities, etc. so you can be more aware and prepared in order to avoid them in the future. Rather than look at them as failures, try to see these lapses as vital learning opportunities to add to your toolbox, and you will be prepared for such experiences if they hit again. Sometimes it may feel as though you get caught in a cycle where you keep succumbing to the same falls time and time again-similar to a toddler falling over and over again without catching themselves. However, it isn’t long before the toddler finally puts his arms out to catch himself, having learned from the prvious falls. Recovery is much the same. Even if you get caught in a cycle, keep trying, use your skills, learn from mistakes, and put your arms out before the fall. It may be a roller-coaster, but eventually you’ll be able to take over the driver’s seat.

One woman shared, “Recovery involves taking risks, it takes courage and determination, but as you get better, theses things also grow so that you are able to cope with the next stage. I have become braver as I have discovered that things aren’t as bad as they seemed-eating hasn’t ruined my life, but rather is improving it. As you recover you start to feel real happiness-better than any you can get from starving or losing weight because it is real. It’s amazing as you start feeling it.”

Some of the best things about recovery are:

  • Smiling much more, the ability to be happy and having more energy to actually  LIVE!
  • Improved relationships with healthy boundaries.
  • Knowing people really do like you for who I are.
  • Having energy to get through the day without always being completely exhausted.
  • Replacing tine spent on maintaining the disorder on developing and engaging in new passions.
  • Amazement that all foods are actually allowed and waking up the next day to discovery they really haven’t done anything bad to you.
  • Gaining a new sense of freedom!

It’s a process, one that is different for all, but everyone owns the strength to achieve it.  Everyone deserves the compassion to live a self-fulfilling, free life with the ability to live each day to it’s fullest capacity.

May You Rise

June 27th, 2014 Heather Purdin

From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Pamela Hale Trachta

43_riseAs I write this, my heroine, Maya Angelou, has left us. By the time you read this, you will have heard many reminders about her talents, her achievements and the way she rose out of a dark beginning to represent women, blacks, and others who feel marginalized in any way.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” began her series of memoirs, recounting a life that made it possible for her to speak with conviction when she recited her well-known poem, “Still I Rise.” (Watch it here.)

“Does my sassiness upset you?” she asks through the poem.”‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room.”

This, said by a woman who was raped at 7 by her mother’s boyfriend. She only told her brother, but when her rapist turned up dead, she felt she had killed him with her voice. So she refused to speak for 5 1/2 years.

“I can get down inside me where a poem may live,” she said. I’d say, that’s called finding your voice. In the poem “On the Pulse of the Morning,” which she composed and read for Clinton’s inauguration, she challenged us all through the voices of the rock, the tree and the river, to honor nature and our country by not reliving history.

She didn’t; she reinvented history. She never had a college education, yet she ended up being awarded thirty honorary degrees.

“Just like hopes springing high

Still I’ll rise.”

She rose in whatever way the occasion required. Pregnant as a teenager, she raised her son by working as a waitress. She used her formerly mute voice to become a successful singer. Also a dancer, director and actor, she appeared in the film “Roots,” was nominated for a Tony and won three Grammys.

“Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise.”

She was a whole woman: sexy, humorous, proud…

“Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

at the meeting of my thighs?”

And so today, and since the day of her death, I am determined to rise. She makes me believe it is possible for all of us to reinvent ourselves, to live past the fear that would pin us to an old fate, forward into a destiny that could be grand.

What would it take for you to rise? I think all you need is the feeling that you carry real life within you.

“just like life, I rise…

I rise

I rise.”

May it be so.

Could Someone You Know Have an Eating Disorder?

June 10th, 2014 Courtney M

Signs that Someone you know has an Eating Disorder

Living with an eating disorder can be extremely challenging, both for the person suffering and for family and friends. Anorexia, bulimia and other conditions take mental and physical tolls, but it can at times be difficult to know when an eating disorder is present so that you or your loved one can get the necessary treatment to regain health. Knowing the symptoms and signs to look for will help you see when you or someone you know has an eating disorder before it is too late.

Understanding Anorexia

Signs of anorexia nervosa include abdominal pain and a thin appearance and the person may have trouble sleeping and experience social withdrawal. Someone that is anorexic may be irritable and outright refuse to eat. Other physical symptoms include low blood pressure, frequently feeling cold and having dry skin.

How to Spot Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, is different in that a person may overeat until the point of discomfort or pain before self-inducing vomit in order to keep the food from being digested into the stomach. Signs to look for include damaged teeth, low self-esteem, increased use of laxatives and constant dieting or fasting.

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you think you may have an eating disorder, it is important to take a step back and analyze the situation so that you can explain what is happening to your doctor and get the help you need. If you find that you are eating more privately or are anxious that someone will find out about you eating, you may be developing symptoms of an eating disorder. The best thing you can do is learn more about eating disorders so you can notice symptoms and improve your health before they progress.

There are many signs for eating disorder, find out some of the main signals with our useful inforgraphic at Mirasol.

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