A letter to my body

Happy FriYAY folks 🙂

This writing I’m sharing today isn’t new. I wasn’t planning on sharing it. But, in honor of it being Eating Disorder Awareness week, it’s fitting.

As I stand on these summits,
hike up the trail,
walk around day to day,
hold my body up when I practice yoga,
when I move,
and when I breathe…
I can’t help but feel grateful,
proud,
and respecting of my body.
For what it has done and continues to do for me.

Seven years ago I wouldn’t have had the strength to make it up one mountain,
nevermind all of the the other mountains I’ve climbed,
literally and figuratively.

It blows my mind how resilient our bodies are.
How efficiently they can work.
How they can go from rock bottom to full days of hiking, biking, school, work,
the numerous things we throw at them,
and ask them to do without push-back.
They are magnificent beings,
with an innate power to heal,
restore,
and to work with what they are given.

I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors.
Nature and the silence which it offers holds a special place in my being.
It’s a space to cultivate a stronger bond with my “roots”.

Within ourselves we know what is best for us and what isn’t ideal,
whether or not we choose to listen to or follow this guidance.
For over a decade I let the other voices dictate my path and win every battle.
I destroyed my body and being –
physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

It was a darkness that occurred as part of needing an escape,
being out of touch with my whole self,
and not understanding that in order to really fully get out of it,
I needed to do something I had never done before –
appreciate myself and my darkness.

Embracing the darkness,
letting it teach me how to work with myself,
teach me what felt good and felt like shit,
giving myself space and grace,
permission to grow and cultivate a sustainable relationship with my being…
This was the key.
The key to beginning a lifelong understanding that my body is here for me and I need to be here for it too.

To my body:
Thank you for sticking with me as I figured out and continue to figure out my path.
Thank you for being resilient even when I treated you like actual garbage.
Thank you for allowing me to see and explore beautiful magical places.
Thank you for not throwing in the towel when I felt like I needed too.
Thank you for healing.
I love you.

Discomforts of recovery

Hi all!

Happy Friday junior Thursday 🙂

Blog post number two for Eating Disorder Awareness week is per suggestion/request of two of my favorite humans. One friend suggested talking about bloating and body changes and then another about “tolerating discomfort/moving through discomfort” – this post gets into all of it.

There are a lot of uncomfortable things one experiences both during an active eating disorder and throughout the recovery process. And these things change throughout the experience as well. For example, bloating may be more common during a re-feeding and/or earlier stages of recovery but it’s also not mutually exclusive to this time point. Whereas tolerating discomfort can be seen more as a general concept as, well, real talk – life regardless of an eating disorder (ED) history can be highly uncomfortable at periods. Discomfort isn’t only physical either, it can be emotional/mental, or all of the above.

Without making this a LENGTHY post (it’s still lengthy), because I easily could write a novel on this topic… I’m going to try and highlight the major “discomfort points” that I see based on my own experience and also in the recovery community into three broad “categories”: active ED, early recovery, later recovery. Keep in mind this is fairly generalized and someone may experience something I only list in one “category” during a different time. Everyone is unique (and this is a good thing 🙂 ). I’m also not placing any definition behind early vs. later recovery, again, every single person going through this journey will have their own experience.

Active ED:
– Comments such as: “you don’t look like you have an ED” or “I wish I had your discipline”. Literal face palm here.
– Physical complications such as digestive symptoms, loss of menstrual cycle
– Hunger
– Loss of interest, depressive moods
– Anxiety and hypersensitivity
– The amount of time and brain space that goes into the thoughts and behavioral patterns during an ED
– Isolation and feeling alone
– Deep emotional and mental turmoil

Early recovery:
– Re-feeding
– Bloating
– Extreme hunger
– Comments such as: (e.g “you gained/lost weight”, “you look so healthy”
– Dealing with acute physical complications (e.g blood sugar, blood pressure, electrolyte imbalances, etc., etc.)
– Hunger
– Body changes (literal weight gain/loss, redistribution of weight, overall body composition)
– How clothes fit
– Not knowing how to cope and feeling as if you’ve lost part of yourself
– Being witness to co-workers/friends/family following various diets and exercise routines

Later recovery:
– Dealing with chronic physical complications (e.g long-term digestive issues, bone mineral density, etc.)
– Body changes
– Pregnancy
– Having/finding/maintaining a support system (usually the support being extended is greater during earlier phases of recovery)
– Major life transitions/trauma and managing recovery/remission while minimizing risk of relapse or lapses
– Managing lapses
– Needing to be on any form of “diet protocol” for a specific illness/disease
– Navigating “exercise”/”fitness”/”movement”
– Diet culture

That is NOT a comprehensive list. I couldn’t even possibly give a comprehensive list because I’m going from my own personal experience plus those I know who are in this process and what I see in the recovery community. Which is still all my own perception.

The varying degrees of discomfort are real.
They are extremely valid.
Eating disorders are all consuming,
encompassing.
They don’t just affect someones mental health.
It’s not just about the food.
It’s not a body-image problem at the core.
It’s every.single.part.of.the.persons.life.

Relationships (family, friendships, intimate), school, work, cognition, emotion, connection to self and the entire world, ability to feel joy and ease and safe, physical well-being, trust.

It’s a rabbit hole that is incredibly hard to dig yourself out of.
Cyclical. Painful. Intrusive. Terrifying.

When in the process of writing this, I was having some memories pop up from very early stages of my ED. 11/12 year old Sarah feeling completely inadequate, untrusting, unsafe, and unable to express this. Being terrified of the voice in my head that didn’t seem to be mine, but that seemed strangely safe and comforting. 13/14 year old Sarah engaging in self-harm behaviors because the starving and purging wasn’t enough of a numbing. I remember I would lay on my bedroom floor some nights and just cry, deep deep cry, and write (writing has always been helpful), and cry, and try to be as quiet as possible because I didn’t want anyone to hear me… because I felt like there was no way to help, that it wasn’t that “bad”, and therefore I would just be a burden to everyone around me. I could storytell a lot more but that’s not the purpose of this post.

For now, I want to focus on how to deal with and manage the discomfort.
*And this is entirely from my 26 year old, almost 7 years in remission, perspective.*

Just like everyone will have various discomforts and sticking points at different stages, the ways to manage these will vary too. What works for one person could potentially be triggering for another. Recovery as a whole is a giant grey area and as one progresses further on their path, the grey becomes a little less murky and hopefully reaches a point where you understand yourself pretty dang well as a human being.

The early stages are HARD because the primary coping mechanism is “gone”. It’s getting your feet wet again. Learning what is helpful and what is very much not helpful. During this stage, things can be very uncomfortable… kind of like you’re trying to run in deep thick mud. I’ve discussed this previously but it’s relevant; for about a year after being weight restored I dealt with substantial bloating. This was incredibly challenging because I already felt out of element and then I also needed to continue to fight any ED thoughts that came up and keep taking care of my nutrition/care needs to heal. Which was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. Honestly, beyond grateful to have had a rock solid support system at this time point.

That’s an example of “early stage” from my story.

There’s also re-establishing some form of routine. Integrating recovery practices into daily life. Figuring out boundaries both for yourself and for your relationships. Learning how to express your needs vs. shoving them down until you spontaneously combust. “Early stage” can have a strong emphasis on risk management – the risk being lapse or relapse. Honestly, in my opinion, I think doing what YOU need to do for YOU in this stage to NOT fall back into the rabbit hole is key. That said, relapse does NOT mean you’ve failed. At all. Ever.

I think, to a degree, all of the discomforts of the earlier stages can set someone up to effectively manage future hurdles and speed bumps in a way that feels safe (still uncomfortable, but safe) and supportive of ones’ process and recovery. A lot of the work is really in learning what were the initial reasons (even if not all of them) of the ED’s development. From here, doing the work around this; because it never really was about the maladaptive behaviors in the first place.

Being gentle when things pop up, because they will. Heck, as I was writing this post memories popped up from the intense emotional pain I experienced in the early stages of development of my ED. And I just sat with them, gave them space, and was like this is apparently important to include in this blog. And so I share, and I’m gentle with what comes up.

Another thing I’ve found helpful is breaking down why something is uncomfortable. There are obviously circumstances and situations that are deeply painful or traumatic, these are a whole other thing. But the things that can be broken down quickly, in the moment, like comments people make/feeling bloated/seeing diet ads/intrusive thoughts/clothes fitting different/situational anxiety – break it down.
Why is it prompting discomfort? Where’s the root of that? Is it fear? Shame? Guilt? A brain pathway that needs some “re-wiring”? What is it. Get curious and either rationalize it, re-context it, or change the story around it you currently have in your brain space.

For the bigger discomforts such as major life transitions, I’ll say what has worked and continues to work for me. I recently wrote a whole post titled “managing continued remission”, where I talk about the strategies I find helpful. Read that if you wish, but I’ll make a cliff notes version here:

– Grace
– Love and appreciation for everything I’ve been through, even the dark stuff, because I have gained A LOT of knowledge about my inner world and can now use this to be a better helper/healer/empath/person
– Self-care pyramid/hierarchy of needs – making sure the basics are being covered as much as possible
– Therapy as needed. I think having a therapist during transitions/major life changes is helpful. Sometimes in later recovery stages the support system isn’t as supportive because well, you don’t need it to be, but during major transitions you might need that extra support
– Continuously checking-in with where I’m at, how I’m showing up, and being very honest
– Acceptance that whatever is going on is another piece of the puzzle

On the hard days remember:
The uncomfortable moments will pass.
You will survive this. Whatever the ‘this’ is.
You are strong. Resilient. Capable.
You have value.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout all of this, from age 11-26, is that:
I wouldn’t be who I am today without the deep, ugly, icky, terrifying, uncomfortable. And so I give it respect. I give it space, not power. And keep going.

“Some people survive and talk about it. Some people survive and go silent. Some people survive and create. Everyone deals with unimaginable pain in their own way, and everyone is entitled to that, without judgement. So the next time you look at someone’s life covetously, remember…you may not want to endure what they are enduring right now, at this moment, whilst they sit so quietly before you, looking like a calm ocean on a sunny day. Remember how vast the ocean’s boundaries are. Whilst somewhere the water is calm, in another place in the very same ocean, there is a colossal storm.” Nikita Gill

Sarah thoughts #3 & Eating Disorder Awareness week

Happy Monday folks!

Today, Feb 24th is day numero uno of Eating Disorder Awareness week.

To start things off, I am sharing some writing which gets into what “post eating disorder” life looks and feels like. It feels fitting to share a glimpse into my perspective to start this week of posting off.

For the remainder of the week I’ll be sharing about navigating the grey areas of recovery, fitness/exercise/movement, the stages of recovery, how to support someone, “de-stimulating” the nervous system, and more. If you have a topic you’d like discussed please reach out to me and I WILL cover it.

*Disclaimer: If you are currently struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating, please read this post with your own self care and needs in mind.*

I could write about all the things I put my body through when listening to the voice inside my head.
All of the ways I destroyed myself.
Each of the maladaptive behaviors.
I could lay out the laundry list.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about the experience in a broader scope.
Eating disorders suck.
By that I mean they suck the life out of you.
Literally, figuratively, every possible way.

My life from age 11-20 was devoted to shrinking myself:
physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I DID NOT WANT TO EXIST.

I wanted to disappear,
be gone.
I believed from a very deep core level that there was something innately wrong with me.
This goes deep.
Quick.
Real deep.

I am over six years in remission.
I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to get out of the rabbit hole.
I’m not saying it’s easy.
I’m not saying it feels like sunshine.
More like thunder and lightening and stars all wrapped into a bow made of thorns with sunshine at its ends.

The neurocircuitry of an eating disorder is always at least partially there.
For me, it ebbs and flows.
At this point it’s pretty far back.
Almost as if I stored it in the attic, in a box, with a lock.

I need something extremely stressful to bring the darker thoughts forward in my brain.
When they do come up they’re either a) shut down on instinct because been there, done that, or b) question it and see what needs some tlc in my internal world.
A & B feel safe now because I’ve developed effective strategies to process through the feelings.

This takes time and patience and sitting in fear and discomfort to cultivate.

Now at 26, I can face a thought or a trigger if it pops up in daily life and respond “you are not serving me”,
and let it go….
because it’s not mine to hold anymore,
it never really was.

The things that were once triggers are always there in some capacity no matter how minuscule.
Thoughts do on rare occasion escape the box.
The brain remembers.
The pathways have been formed.

I prefer to use the term “remission”.
Because, for me –
I think of an eating disorder as something that is chronic but that you can heal from and not directly experience in life.

That 11-year-old Sarah is still inside of me.
The inner child work to heal from this all is incredibly important.
The past-triggers and thought patterns are important to acknowledge.
And the things that are related to my having an eating disorder such as body image and self-loathing are also important to acknowledge.

I would never say I have perfect body image, I don’t think anybody does.
But I don’t mirror check or weigh myself 3+ times a day anymore.
I don’t own a scale.
My only mirror is my bathroom vanity mirror.
I COULD own a scale or a bigger mirror, but it doesn’t add value to my life.
I’m not emotionally and spiritually destroyed because of how I look in a picture or feel in my clothing.
My daily food intake isn’t determined by the latter.
I see myself. I feel my body in space.
I am me. I am living, breathing.
I have a body.

I don’t know if the self-loathing will ever go away either.
It’s something that is continuously given space and worked through as much as possible.
When I have more internal chaos and angst,
it’s a sign to take a good look at life and ask myself if I’m living in alignment with who I really am…
And to be gentle with the answer.
Chaos is the biggest cue I’ve found to pre-determine a trigger getting to me on some level.
Self-loathing comes during times of chaos.
It’s a signal I respect and do my best to work with.

This whole experience is a process.
The process is different for everyone going through it,
just like the purpose the eating disorder served is different for each person who experiences one.

For me, I have found that I feel the strongest in my remission,
have the best body-image days,
experience the least self-loathing:
when I am following my own path,
acting in a way that feels deeply aligned with my soul and my being,
I’m honest with those I love and myself,
and I’m contributing to the healing of others.

It’s finding what feels right.
The voice inside that wants to see me grow.
Strengthening the brain pathways that support the good.
Reducing the strength of the brain pathways that say the grass is greener in wonderland… because it’s not.

XO, S

Managing continued remission

Hey folks!

It’s been a hot hot minute since I’ve written a post specifically about remission/recovery. Most posts as of late are hike recaps with the random life update sprinkled in here and there, and some writing I’ve been sharing as I work on my book. But this topic felt extremely relevant as I sat down with my laptop.

DISCLAIMER: if you are in recovery from or currently struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating please read this post with you own self-care and best intentions in mind ♥

The last few months have been a rollercoaster. Actually no, the last year has been a rollercoaster. Between graduating, moving out of childhood home, living between three places for about two weeks, writing and publishing a research article, moving North, living alone for the first time ever, starting my business, leaving my part-time personal training job on the seacoast, finding a part-time job up North, losing health insurance (oh hey 26th bday), starting the book writing process, having one of my best gal pals move across the country, being diagnosed with endometriosis, and probably other things. It’s been a lot. Mostly good or wonderful, but A LOT.

Life transitions throw us off. All of us. It doesn’t matter who you are, your story, or how “strong” you are – transitions are pivots.

TRANSITION
PATIENCE
TRUST

Those have been the three words of the year.

It was the year of so many transitions, trusting that the universe would do its thing and trusting my intuition on what I knew were the right choices, and having patience in it all coming together.

Real talk: it’s been a lot.
Real real talk: I’m thankful to be so far along on the healing journey. With all the pivots, it has felt so much safer and more sustainable.
REAL TALK: there have been a handful of days where my brain is just like “can things puhlease settle down soon”, especially during the period of living between three places.

Then of course there is the settling into a new area. Meeting new people. Finding my humans up North. Becoming acclimated with the vibe here (it’s much different than the Seacoast).

A re-self-discovery if you will. Post pivot/shift/transition self-discovery.

I wrote a post back in 2015 titled being committed to recovery means that, and I do suggest reading that post as well. I’d say this current post is kind of a version two, five years later update on that post.

My two cents after five more years of this process have unfolded.

At this stage of my life (gosh this makes me sound old, ha!) the following practices are the ones that I try my best to implement as needed for self-care and supporting myself. Sometimes this means daily or weekly, or even monthly. It varies. There are so many factors which come into play such as overall stress levels, what’s going on in my life, etc. which influences how much I might need to check-in with myself and include some of the following practices. To start the list will be practices I tend to focus on daily and then I’ll get into other things which are helpful as needed and even some internal mindsets/dialogues that can be useful.

Nourishment – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This one is broad so hear me out. Engaging in nourishing myself on all “wellness/health” levels. This takes time to cultivate a practice of but it’s FOUNDATIONAL for me. Think of a literal pyramid, these are the base, kind of like my “non-negotiables”.

  • Physical nourishment: movement that feels good to my body and mind, that is participated in out of joy not “should”; food – finding what my body feels best with and fueling it with these foods, listening to my hunger cues, and being as intuitive as I can.
  • Mental/emotional nourishment: sleep is a big one here for me, I need enough sleep. Checking in with myself about what I can do each day to best support myself – whether it’s writing, getting outside, taking a nap, listening to music, calling a friend, etc.
  • Spiritual nourishment: including activities which connect my mind/body on a deep core soul level.

Outdoor time – time outside daily, whether it’s a half hour or a full-day hike is helpful. Connecting with nature.

Love, space, grace – this is SO SO SO CRUCIAL. Love for myself for choosing myself and continuing to choose to keep going. Space for the process. Grace for what comes up during the process.

Writing – this has many forms. Book writing, blogging, poetry, journaling. All have their place and a big focus for me is knowing when I need which one. Some days working on the book is so right (and cathartic) and other days I just need to journal either to a prompt or free-write.

Therapy – I have a therapist. She’s wonderful. We sit on the floor, drink tea, let out a lot of “ugh’s”, and chat. Having a neutral human can be so helpful.

Being honest – honesty is a pillar of recovery. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder lying was crucial to the sustenance of the disorder. Lying to myself and my loved ones. Now, it’s being brutally honest (in the most loving way) to myself first and foremost about where I’m at and what my needs are. Sometimes it’s easier than others to be honest to loved ones, friends, people in my life. But most importantly being vividly honest to myself and at least giving a general idea to others.

Connection – ranging from self-connection which is most felt when I’m in a good spiritual health internal space, to friends/family/community. Connection to self and connection with other humans whose presence and vibe feels good.

Curiosity – when negative feels come up (because they do and will), getting curious about them. Why are they there? What lesson am I apparently going to learn? What can this teach me? No matter how much we go through as humans, icky feelings will always show up throughout life, navigating these with curiosity is something I’ve found extremely useful.

Understanding and acceptance – these two are rather helpful during periods of transition and uncertainty. Understanding that I may have different needs than usual, that some dark stuff may pop up, and acceptance of this and allowing myself to pull in the appropriate tools and support.

Check-in – so easily can we opt into auto-pilot or cruise-control without even consciously recognizing it. Making sure to check-in with myself every so often and do a kind of “inventory” on how things are going from the physical/mental/emotional/spiritual perspectives.

Asking for help/support – we’re not meant to do every single thing on our own. While this process is totally my own, it’s completely valid to ask for support in all of this.

“Extra self-love/TLC” – little things that make me happy. Podcasts, hula-hooping, candles, essential oils, dancing, laughing, reading hiking books and blogs, accupressure mat, hanging out in child’s pose on my living room floor, bird watching. These help.

There are many more I’m sure, but these are the main ones coming to mind as I type this post. One of the biggest points I’d like to mention is how this is all a journey. A healing journey. A self-discovery journey. It’s a trail that is walked, sometimes over hills or mountains, sometimes rivers are to be forged and storms are to be managed, other-times you experience the rays of sunshine and fields of wildflowers. It’s the process of walking the trail home to yourself that makes it beautiful and wonderful.

I’m not sure the trail ever ends, and I’m not sure I want it to either. The further I walk, the more I learn about myself, the more I heal, and the more I grow into everything I never imagined possible.

Keep walking.

“Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.”
– Pema Chodron