September 12th, 2014 Heather Purdin
From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
Recovery from an eating disorder is complex. It’s full of rollercoasters, intense emotions, radical acceptance, willingness over willfulness, courage, and perseverance. It’s easy to go back to negative behaviors where the eating disorder can calm anxiety and make you feel like you have control. But, in actuality, you are only locking yourself back in the box while the ED destroys your life. Bottom line: Recovery can be very scary. As you continue your recovery journey, you will have to face both old and new fears. By gaining a new perspective of how to conquer those fears, you will build more strength and courage every time you step out of the box and face that fear.
If you have read my other posts, you know that I used to be very athletic triathlete and cyclist. As I move further into my recovery and have begun to work towards reclaiming those passions, I have had to look fear straight in the face. It’s not a perfect road…Some days I can do it; other days I might hang back a little and tip toe outside the box. I have a hard time being patient with myself and remembering that my body is still healing, thus when it comes to biking and swimming, I need to learn to be more forgiving without letting fear take over and quitting completely.
I have recently joined a community center that I can both bike to and swim once I’m there. I felt like a small child holding my mom’s hand when I went to try swimming. Luckily, I chose to face this fear by choosing to go with someone from my support system. It was my first time there actually using the facilities, and I didn’t understand how the locker rooms worked. A swim team was starting, and I hate being cold, which all lap pools are kept at a cooler temperature. I had anxiety just thinking about going. Seeing the swim team was intimidating and brought up old emotions of when I swam on a team. I knew my stamina was definitely not up to par, and fear immediately took over telling me, “You can’t swim, look at those girls, they are in the best shape and can swim forever.” I hovered over the lane edge, knowing the cold rush I would feel as soon as I dove. Half of me was saying, “no, no, no!” The wise mind other half was telling me, “at least jump in, you love swimming and you have to start somewhere.”
With a deep breath I took the dive and immediately began sprinting down the lane trying to warm myself up. I could feel my body maxing out, which was a bit frustrating, but I accomplished a small step towards my larger goal. I may have only done two laps but I didn’t quit, I tried it, and I can prepare myself better the next time. I was a bit discouraged, yet at the same time, I was trying to turn my mind and use it for more motivation.
Now, I could get down on myself and compare doing two laps to two miles. However, the initial goal was breaking the box, and I at least jumped in and tried. The next time, I knew what to expect a little more, and although there is still a bit of anxiety, I try to keep pushing myself and not have any expectations other than getting in the pool and swimming. In time, I hope it becomes therapeutic as it used to be.
Another example of overcoming recovery related fears centers around social situations. After isolating for so long, it’s easy to decline the party invitations, going out for meals, returning to work, etc. This may sound silly, but I was invited to see a movie with my neighbor about a book we’ve been discussing. I tend to experience a panic state going to theatres, so I seldom ever go. I don’t think I’ve been to a movie since Harry Potter. Everything inside of me was screaming no! Then, I took into consideration that this was a social event, very few that I ever have, and I needed to push myself instead of hiding in my apartment or avoiding with other tasks. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face….we must do that which we think we cannot.” I tried using my wise mind, and made the goal that every day I will push myself to face at least one fear, big or small.
Tess Marshall, M.A., who specializes in learning how to live a bold life, has created nine tips to face fear in the face so it no longer rules our lives:
1) GET COMFORTABLE WITH FEAR.
Try and do one thing each day that might cause fear and invite it into your life. Let yourself feel it and breathe through it. Every time you conquer a fear, it builds courage and opens up new doors in your life. Such examples I’ve had this week: actually going to the pool, going to a movie, cycling more and building up a commuter bike, and facing strong anxiety that seems to build in the evening with some yoga.
2) MAKE YOUR DOMINANT THOUGHTS POSITIVE.
Give yourself positive mantras, thoughts, and positive energy that generate success, whereas more fearful thoughts will just attract more fear. I have my apartment posted with random quotes and affirmations. Sometimes they get stuck in my head which helps me turn my negative thoughts around.
3) DON’T GIVE TIME, ATTENTION, OR ENERGY TO FEAR.
Take action towards fear and don’t let opportunities continue to pass you by. This can be difficult, but if you continue to be consistent, prepared, focusing on solutions, that energy will further motivate you to conquer what’s ahead. This is a perfect example of facing my movie theater fear. I could decline and lose the opportunity to get to know my neighbor better (and possibly seeing a good movie), but I’m tired of letting fear and anxiety keep me imprisoned and losing out on opportunities to grow. If I don’t like theatres still after, then I don’t really have to ever go again. (Isn’t that what Redbox is for?)
4) NEVER DWELL ON SCARCITY
“Focus your attention on being ready, willing, and prepared for the beauty, wonder, connections, good fortune and favorable circumstances that are yours if you are willing to work and be open to it.”
5) REVISIT YOUR VICTORIES.
Every time you conquer a fear, don’t brush it under the rug. Celebrate it and use it to continue building courage, motivation, and strength. For example, I rode the community center once, I can ride again. I got in the pool, and even though I didn’t last long, I got in and tried to swim a few more laps as well as tried out their therapeutic pool – which is a bit warmer!
6) LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE VICTORIES OF OTHERS.
Read or learn about inspiring people, events, things that have occurred when people have faced fear in the face and overcome all obstacles to achieve their dream. Some examples are Walt Disney, Oprah, Robin Williams, etc. Maybe it’s not a famous person or event; maybe it’s a special person in your life. My mom may not be famous, but she is one of the most perseverant, compassionate, and courageous people I know. Do you have anyone you look up to? Why?
7) ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR SUPPORT.
Use your support team to help you overcome fearful moments. The first time when I just wanted to try the pool (after changing about 10 times because I was letting anxiety take over and not wanting to go), my mom came with me and just said, “Jump in and see how it goes.” It was a small step, but one more step of courage I can build upon to do it again.
8) CREATE A SUPPORT GROUP OF FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES.
Having a strong support team helps build that foundation of trust and more willingness to overcome the fear. Supporting each other can make tough moments easier, and possibly even more fun.
9) PLAN TO BE GREAT
Create a list of your goals and conquer them. Use the SMART goal setting technique so you can celebrate even the tiniest step. The power is within you to overcome obstacles, and let your dreams and happiness re-enter your life. .
No longer do we have to let doubt, fear, and anxiety dominate our lives. Don’t let the ED or fear steal anymore joy, sleep, dreams, and goals. DO NOT let FEAR define your life. You are all strong and courageous! Sometimes we just need to dust ourselves off and remember that “I CAN” reach my goals and dreams.
A few quotes to fight fear with:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”
September 5th, 2014 Heather Purdin
From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Joanna Poppink, MFT
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
When you are feeling alone, depressed, scared, frustrated and bingeing away or running on the treadmill as if you were running from a pack of wolves, when you feel you have no place to turn and you reject all options, you still have an option.
Inspirational quotes come through your Twitter and Facebook pages on a regular basis, even if you are not looking for them. You can use them, not just for a momentary glimpse into a different way of thinking, but as a practical way to get back into recovery mode.
How? Do a google search on inspirational quotes. You’ll find many sites with long lists of wise and profound words from people across time. Pay attention to how you feel as you read them.
When you find one that seems to speak to you or expresses what you wish you had or opens a window of perception for you, linger with it.
Write it down.
Break it down into daily tasks you can do to make that inspirational quote truly your own.
For example, if Rumi’s quote above feels like it is wise guidance to having love in your life, then
- keep it.
- write it down.
- journal about what barriers you have within you that block love.
This is not a time for self criticism. This is your looking at what those obstacles within might be.
Once you have a list, then you can journal about what you can do to dissemble those obstacles.
- When you do this you are increasing your awareness of your way of being in the world.
- You are learning how you affect responses around you.
- Best, you are learning how to make many subtle changes that eventually erode your barriers and allow love to enter your life.
Many of your interior obstacles are strengthened by your eating disorder thinking and behaviors. As you follow your own ways of dissolving your obstacles in order to allow love in your life you discover that you are weakening your eating disorder.
Inspirational quotes can be wonderful guides and support for you.
Here are a few inspirational quote sites to get you started.
And more on this subject:
Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist in private practice, author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder. Website firstname.lastname@example.org
August 12th, 2014 Courtney M
Recognizing Signs of Eating Disorder Relapse
When a person is living with an eating disorder, the effects of the disorder can be felt by everyone in his or her life. It can be extremely difficult to break old habits that lead to developing an eating disorder, which is why it is critical for patients seeking treatment to understand how to recognize the signs of a relapse. By doing so, a person can avoid relapsing and, instead, continue to make strides toward full recovery.
Signs of a Relapse
Patients are at the highest risk of experiencing a relapse between six and 17 months after they are discharged from a treatment center, but many do not know what brings on a relapse. Warning signs to watch for include:
• Feeling hopeless or stressed about your recovery
• Isolating yourself from family and friends
• Obsessing about your appearance or thinking constantly about food
• Hiding information from your treatment professional
Preventing a Relapse
If you notice any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is seek help from your doctor. Even if you feel like you just need someone to speak with about your recovery, talking to a professional is an important first step. This way you will be able to develop the skills you need to confront your disorder head-on and prevent a relapse from occurring.
Be open with your family and friends about your recovery because involving others helps add accountability and shows you how much support you have on your side. Getting treatment, developing a relapse prevention plan, and understanding how your feelings affect your health are all vital steps in your recovery.
August 11th, 2014 Heather Purdin
From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
One of the hardest paths in the journey of recovery and living a wholehearted life is retraining our negative thinking, showing ourselves the compassion that we are worthy and that we do deserve recovery. A major part of this process is learning how to embrace shame, guilt, fear, vulnerability, and worthiness. The eating disorder has trained us into negative thinkers with severe cognitive distortions, especially catastrophizing. We set the bar so high we can never reach it, making us feel flawed and never good enough. This leads to drowning in our fears, shame, and guilt at such a toxic level it sends us into a whirlwind making us sicker adding to anxiety, self-doubt, and lack of worthiness.
I never thought such a chaotic rollercoaster of recovery and relapse would go on for so many years, full of experiences beyond my own imagination, including so many experiences I’d like to just hide from and forget. To maintain recovery, I know I have to get at the roots of the disorder. I have kept them hidden and struggled with lack of worthiness every day for years.
It was only recently my therapist asked me to write a list of my shame. I was scared to death she was going to see what an evil person I was. I never thought I had been that “sick,” but when I looked at the dreaded list I was astonished at all the events that had occurred during the depths of my disorder. This was not me, for I highly valued integrity and being authentic. The person on that page was a monster. Despite being at the full cliff of vulnerability giving this to my therapist, it was the first time I had ever verbalized any of it and just how toxically that list affected me every day.
Author and researcher Brene Brown created “Shame Resilience,” as a process to learn how to deal with shame, guilt, and fear, so one can learn to cultivate compassion. “If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way-especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.” She found that shame loses power when it is spoken, so I put myself out there with my therapist and took the first step.
One of the most helpful parts of Brown’s work was separating guilt and shame.
Guilt=I did something bad. It is about our behaviors. It is just as powerful as shame, but the effect is often more positive, because it more tangible, leading to apologizing or changing a behavior.
Shame=I am bad. Shame is about who we are and is extremely destructive. It corrodes the part of us that believes we can change and do better.
Learning shame resilience is tedious and may involve some radical acceptance, but it can be an extremely critical and effective skill on your road to recovery. For those who have struggled for many years, these emotions may have built an ugly, interlaced web over many aspects of your life. I am still at the very beginning, taking baby steps, for guilt and shame runs deep. In addition, I have to face some things on my list, including consequences, every day—such as filling out job applications, trying to repair relationships, not being defined by the eating disorder, and even trying to find a few supportive people with whom I can share my story with.
Creating worthiness is a constant battle for me. This most likely comes from the fact that shame keeps me away from owning my story, leaving me worried that people will think less of me. I am fearful of being judged by my past and I want people to see me as I am now, not as the monster of my past. The basis for Brown’s research is that: “Shame resilience is the ability to recognize shame, to move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity, and to ultimately develop more courage, compassion, and connection as a result of our experience. The less we talk about shame, the more we have it.”
Shame Resilience 101:
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.
2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Shame is the fear of being unlovable, yet shame loses power when it’s spoken.
3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.
The three seeds of shame that grow quickly like weeds and intertwine you with thorny vines are secrecy, silence, and judgment. The basis for shame resilience is to learn how to recognize shame and move through it constructively, yet maintain worthiness and authenticity. These are critical aspects of recovery as we are rebuilding ourselves and redefining our values. Ultimately, developing more courage, compassion, and connection from these experiences and learning to talk about them, the less power they will have. The experiences we have had are all part of our story. While we don’t need to go broadcasting them to everyone, finding a small, supportive group you can process with will help immensely. The eating disorder will quickly grab onto the weeds of shame and guilt, but practicing awareness and talking about it will help you keep growing with authenticity versus drowning in the swamp of unworthiness and fear.
Everyone has a different reaction to shame, and it is important to become mindful and aware of your own reaction. Dr. Linda Hartling, a relational-cultural theorist, found that in order to deal with shame, some withdraw and keep secrets, some move forward and try to please, and some move against by trying to gain power over others or being aggressive. The bottom line still comes down to the fact that shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection. It is our story that brings about worthiness, courage, compassion, and connection. We all have imperfections, and letting go of the perfectionistic aspect that the eating disorder loves to hold so high is a key value in recovery.
Most people have actual physical symptoms when they become aware of shame, and it’s important to develop that awareness, too. For me, my negative thoughts start racing; my anxiety runs into a panic attack; my fight or flight rises; I want to run, hide, and isolate; and my level of worthiness drops so low it scares me into worrying I may have very negative, impulsive behaviors. However, by acknowledging and becoming aware of this process, I have learned to step back, take a few moments, practice deep breathing, maybe journal, and maybe go for a walk so I can think things through a little bit more. Basically, I have to create space and time for myself.
In order to begin figuring out your own shame-resilience and story claiming, Brown proposes four questions to help you become more aware:
1. Who do you become when you’re backed into that shame corner?
2. How do you protect yourself?
3. Who do you call to work through the mean-nasties, the cry-n-hides, or the people-pleasing?
4. What’s the most courageous thing you could do for yourself when you feel small and hurt?
Recovery is a process, and the eating disorder is only part of your story. Learning to acknowledge, own, and grow from all the experiences all help build compassion for yourself. I can live with regrets and shame and wish it all away, but there is no such magic wand. I now have to learn how to embrace and work through it, even if it’s just with one supportive person. I have a lot to work through and it’s not easy. Sometimes I just have to practice kindheartedness, even if some days I can’t really believe the words. Rebuilding myself with compassion, love, belonging, and authenticity all starts at the same place: “I am worthy.” And you are too!
Brown, B. (2010). The Gift ofImperfection. Center City, MN: Hazeldon.
August 9th, 2014 Heather Purdin
From Mirasol ED Recovery Guest Blogwriter ~ Faith
Author Brene Brown has written an amazing book entitled The Gifts of Imperfection (which I highly recommend getting from your library or online). She goes through 12 guideposts on how to start living a wholehearted life. The first one I wanted to touch base on is how to cultivate compassion for ourselves and begin to let go of perfectionism due to the fact that among those diagnosed with eating disorders, perfectionism is a highly noted characteristic. It runs rampant in our lives, tells us what is good and not good, and makes us believe that the number on the scale determines our worth; it even causes some to believe they have to be a perfectionist at their eating disorder.
In learning to discover ourselves without the eating disorder, we have to start building our whole hearted self, including being able to show ourselves some self-compassion, which can be difficult after abusing ourselves for so many years. Anna Quindlen was quoted, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Embracing our story and becoming our true authentic self is an exhilarating experience. As the suffocation of the eating disorder lifts more and more, you, too, will understand.
Perfectionism can be toxic and poisonous. It leads to depression, anxiety, addiction, and what Brown terms as “life paralysis.” Life paralysis is missing out on all the opportunities, dreams, and other events/goals because of the fear of being imperfect or failing. This all comes together to determine your self-worth, which of course is a distorted line of thinking and leaves you missing out on this amazing thing called LIFE!
Brown notes there is a definite difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. The following myths will most likely sound very much like the negative tape running over and over in your head, especially at the height of your disorder.
-Perfectionism is not being the best at everything, not looking or acting perfect, nor does it foster growth. Rather, it works as a “twenty-ton” shield that we believe protects us but actually holds us back from making any type of forward process.
-The core of perfectionism is trying to earn approval and acceptance, which does not reinforce self-improvement. This is one of the most common themes found among those with eating disorders. Many are raised or conditioned feeling as though they need to be the best, be people pleasers, and need acceptance all while their self-worth is defined merely by their achievements and what others think of them.
Adversely, Brown came up with her own definitions/guidelines of perfectionism:
-It is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fields this primary thought. Essentially, if you look beautiful, make great achievements, and do everything perfectly, it minimizes the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
-Perfectionism is self-destructive because there is no such thing as “perfect.” This unattainable goal is based off illusive perception, and no matter how many awards, no matter what the scale says, you cannot control one’s perception. This is a perfect opportunity to practice some self-compassion.
-Due to the fact that we experience constant shame, judgment, and blame, especially in the midst of our eating disorders, perfection becomes addictive. The false belief that if we were perfect enough we would be able to do everything right leaves us not knowing how to deal with such emotions. This faulty belief encompasses a major root of the eating disorder, because it is wrapped up tightly in shame, judgment, and blame.
-Another common trait among people suffering from an eating disorder is the constant negative voice telling them that “I’ll never be good enough.” Because they cannot reach such unattainable expectations, feelings of shame and judgment are too much to handle leading to self-blame, resulting in the management of such strong emotions through using the eating disorder.
Beginning to overcome perfectionism, as we disconnect from the eating disorder self and begin to build our authentic identity, we need to be able to identify, understand, and acknowledge our vulnerabilities, including the shame and judgment we carry. In reaction, we need to start allowing for more self-compassion and the process begins with accepting our imperfections. Within this practice, we begin to find courage, compassion, and connection. This is not an easy process as perfectionism and vulnerability often lead to the chronic compulsiveness and addiction the eating disorder imprisoned us with. It’s not a one-step magical process, but by taking one small step at a time and working on the negative tape of thoughts running through your mind, you begin breaking through the trap of perfectionism.
One personal example is that I was extremely compulsive about being prepared for everything and always being on time, usually even thirty minutes early for any appointment or scheduled event. I had a Mary Poppins bag ready for any situation. A few years ago, I served on a Mercy Ship that served the west coast of Africa, and even the best Mary Poppins bag could not prepare me for what I was in store for there. I learned about “Africa-time” which basically meant when they said they would see you later, it might be eight hours. My first day, I was literally bucketing water from the flooded medical clinic on the ship. I worried, “I am going to sail on this thing?” I did, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Since my return, I definitely am still on a reduced version of “Africa-time” and am much less compulsive about being prepared, trusting that things will work out somehow. I had to rewrite the negative tape.
Brown breaks down two examples of self-talk: perfectionism self-talk and healthy-striving self-talk.
Perfectionism self-talk: I’m fat and ugly. I cannot reach my expectations. I’m a constant failure. I’ll disappoint everyone; I always mess up. The number on the scale determines my self-worth and it’s never good enough.
Healthy-striving self-talk: I am worthy of love and respect and can be accepted for my authentic self. I will invite courage, compassion, and connection into my life. This journey is for me, and I will take one step at a time. I am strong and I can do this.
As I said, this is not an instantaneous process, but nothing in recovery is. You’ll find it’s all part of the journey.
When Brown further researched healing perfectionism, she discovered that many women spoke of their imperfections honestly without shame and fear. They acknowledged they were doing the best they could and slowed the practice of judgment. A strong root of courage, compassion, and connection was at the core of how they treated themselves. Once again, these can be difficult things to begin to practice: start slowly, one day at a time, and take baby steps if need be. You are doing the best you can!
Self-compassion is at the root of beginning to accept ourselves and being able to live an authentic and wholehearted life. Dr. Kristin Neff, who specializes in research on self-compassion, divides it into three parts:
Self-kindness: Feel our feelings and accept them rather than punish ourselves with inadequacy and beat ourselves up with self-criticism.
Common humanity: Suffering and inadequacy are a shared human experience-it’s not just you! Give yourself a break because nobody is perfect. That’s what makes us all authentic and unique.
Mindfulness: Similar to the DBT practice, we take a balanced approach to all of our emotions, but we don’t get stuck in the sand trap. We let ourselves feel our emotions, but let them run through our “Teflon” mind, so we don’t get stuck in a field of negativity.
At the end of each chapter of Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection, she uses the acronym DIG, get Deliberate, get Inspired, and get Going! (I have used her acronyms before and love them, I am constantly still using TGIF: Thankfulness, Giving, Inspiration, and Faith).
So DIG deep into imperfection and self-compassion:
Deliberate: Brown suggests taking Dr. Neff’s Self-Compassionate scale to help you begin to understand where you are at in terms of compassion, self-kindness, mindfulness, etc. This test can be found at www.self-compassion.org.
Inspired: Take off the mask. The process of recovery is learning to be your authentic self, real and imperfect, letting go of all control. “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” You are not alone, and it’s often those vulnerable moments that bring us closer together.
Going: Simply stated, find a mantra for yourself that opens each day up to self-compassion. You are doing the best you can each day, slips or no slips. “Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is just enough.”
Christopher K. Germer once said, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” Moving forward in recovery can be scary, difficult, and hard. We often want to reach back into what we know is controlled and seemingly comfortable. Learning to treat ourselves with compassion, surrendering vicious routines, and just letting go can change the entire path or the rest of your life. Go DIG!
“The past has no power over the present moment.”-Eckhart Tolle
Brown, B. (2010). The Gift ofImperfection. Center City, MN: Hazeldon.