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

Week recap 2/22/20

Hi all!

Back to the game of the “2’s” today with it being 2/22/2020… How is it almost March? Can somebody please explain this? While winter hiking has been a lovely time adventuring into Narnia-land, I’m becoming more and more giddy for summer. Perhaps it’s because I’m a June baby, or perhaps it’s that I have a high preference for shorts>pants… but May-October are my happy months 🙂

I miss blogging for blogging.

For the few of you (you know who you are) that have followed my tangents over the years, you know this, and for new readers (hi!) a little backstory: I’ve been blogging since early high school. The OG blog was Peanut Butter and Deadlifts. YES. It no longer exists on the interwebs so don’t bother with the classic Google search, it will result in many things I’m sure, none of which will be my first child (first blog).

I digress.

I started blogging as a way to express my creative side and also in hopes of engaging with the larger blogging community. Honestly ‘blogging’ has changed a lot over the years. I think mainly because there are now podcasts and audiobooks… you can’t read a blog post driving/ running/ cooking/ cleaning etc., but you can listen during those activities. It’s all about accessibility. While podcasts are great and all, there is something about having a blog that I very much enjoy. There’s also something about reading others blogs that just makes me feel a sense of connection.

After stepping away from maintaining a blog in the traditional sense, I’m placing intention towards moving into this space again. Because it feels good.

While I can’t say if weekly recaps will become a weekly thing, I am drawn to the idea of sharing a weekly overview. A lot can happen in a week, and a lot of good has happened over the past week.

I joined a gym: After taking the time from when I moved in October-now off from lifting in a gym setting, it feels deeply fulfilling to be back in that space (and having more of an equipment selection is also welcomed… it’s like a playground). I’m a big proponent of outdoor movement and home workouts, but I have a side that still loves barbells and all of that. Having started lifting at 14 years old, it feels pretty innate.

Was asked to be involved in a women’s health workshop: I was technically asked last week but just determined what I’ll be contributing! A local wellness studio is hosting a workshop in April and I’ll be speaking about the menstrual cycle phases and how they relate to physical activity, performance, and recovery from activity. I’m literally SO beyond excited for this and the topic. About a year ago an article I wrote on the Role of Psychoneuroendocrine Factors in Menstrual Dysfunction Among Athletes was published in the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition publication from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and I have missed wearing my nerd hat to the nth degree. If anyone reading is local to the Conway NH area and would like to come or wants to read that article, send me an email at snlacourse (at) gmail (dot) com

Took a week off from hiking: Between it being ridiculously cold a few of the days, just not feeling like hiking, and enjoying lifting this week, I took the week off. I love that I’m in a place where I can be very intuitive around movement and what feels good and right at a given time. This skill has taken YEARS to cultivate. It’s surely a skill. It’s easy to just go through the motions, being out of connection from a mind/body perspective, and just exist on auto-pilot. This is one of the main topics that continuously comes up with clients.

Made progress on an e-book: I’m working on a few projects, one of which is an e-book which will/should be available on my website early April. As someone who works well in bursts, sometimes progress feels like a cha-cha.

Friday Seacoast trip: Yesterday I took a trip to Portsmouth NH, the area I’m originally from. After moving North in October, my social life has taken a hit. Being an independent introvert I don’t mind this much, but the past few weeks I’ve been feeling like I needed some tlc from my seacoast fam. Boy was this so needed. I met two lovey humans for coffee dates and then went out to dinner with co-workers from the job I had from 18-25, who are pretty much my moms. My heart feels full and I’m going to be adding more trips south to my calendar.

It was a good week ♥

“When will you stop being afraid of everything you can be. When will you let flowers grow in the cracks of your soul. When will you understand that those broken parts of you have learned how to sing more beautiful songs than the loveliest of songbirds.” – Nikita Gill

Photo at top of post is from Summer 2019, Airline Trail on Mt. Adams

Sarah thoughts #2

Hey lovebugs!

This post round dos of Sarah thoughts, aka where I share some of my writings with you humans who read my blog ♥. I hope you enjoy and that it’s able to be resonated with in whatever capacity is helpful for you!

The chaos:
It feels as if my brain and body could explode.
As if everything could and will combust.

The chaos is an internal cue that there is something out of alignment.
Either I’m living out of alignment,
I’m acting out of alignment,
or I’m engaging in things that are out of alignment.
Regardless, it is an internal cue that something is off.

Sometimes the chaos is nonexistent and sometimes it is felt within every nook and cranny of my being.

While in reality,
I recognize it is here to teach me something or to help guide me.
In the moment,
it feels as if my worlds are colliding and that I am drowning.

The truth is, I will drown if I give it power beyond what it is there to teach.

The chaos is a double edged sword.
It’s main purpose is to teach,
but if that isn’t accepted and taken inward
then it will slowly pick and pick away.

The chaos has become one of my biggest assets,
I know that it means something significant.
A safety net if you will.
When I feel chaos I now know that something needs to change,
it will not otherwise dissipate or disappear.

If chaos is a reg flag,
prolonged chaos is nearing one too many red flags.
That moment before the devastation occurs.
Before the bomb goes off.

Devastation, while not permanent isn’t something I welcome with open arms.
It tends to be synonymous with darkness.
Uncomfortable darkness.
Rather than watching too many red flags present themselves,
I am continuously trying to find ways to navigate the chaos as it presents. To better understand it.
To not fear it.

Chaos = learning = potential = growth.
That’s the mindset.
Keep the arrow pointing forward.