Regret

Regret – a 6 letter word that plagues me every day.

After 14 months of hating my life abroad, I have finally reached a place of happiness 3 months before we leave.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for having reached this point. But looking back, I have so much regret over how I wasted our time here.

I’ve started venturing into the city once or twice a week, and each time I’m there, I think about how differently our life could have been if only we had made some different decisions a year ago.

I wish we would have lived in Amsterdam. This one wasn’t solely our fault, but had I been in a different mindset, maybe we would have pushed harder to find housing within the city. Living in Amsterdam would have provided more opportunities to work and meet people – both of which could have fostered happiness a bit sooner. But, I didn’t want to meet people. I didn’t want to put myself out there and try to find work. I wanted to isolate myself and count down the days until I moved “home.” That’s not okay.

I wish we would have traveled more. We traveled a good bit, but we could have traveled so much more if I wouldn’t have set so many limitations on our traveling. Traveling made me anxious because it wasn’t routine. Food was different, I couldn’t workout like normal, and I was scared of gaining weight. That coupled with worries over boarding S (the pups) meant travel was limited to MAYBE once a month. Looking back, none of those are good enough reasons to avoid traveling.

I wish we would have been more social. Since D’s coworker (N) has been visiting more, we have went out more, and it has been so much fun. It makes me wonder how different our life here might have been if we would have said yes to more invites in the beginning.

I say “we” in all of these, but ultimately it was I who held us back. D was up for living in Amsterdam, he wanted to travel more, and he would have been more social (both here and in Fairfax) had I been in a better mindset. I think one of my biggest regrets is that I not only ruined this assignment for myself, but also for him.

As our time here slowly dwindles down, I am trying to make the most of every day. We have multiple trips planned. I am saying yes to anything we are invited to, while also trying to invite people to things myself. I am going into the city more and trying to soak it all in before we move. I even tried to convince D that we should move into the city for the next 2.5 months, but he wasn’t in favor of that idea. I also tried to see if we could get our assignment extended, but right now nobody (D, his boss, etc) really trusts that I won’t fall apart again in 3 months.

So, as much as I try to make the most of every day, I do live with so much regret for our time here. Realistically, I know that I couldn’t help most of what I was experiencing. I didn’t choose to struggle with ED or depression or OCD or anxiety. But, I did allow myself to continuously slip further and further away from recovery, without really trying to push forward. Once again, I allowed ED to tarnish an amazing opportunity, while I turned a blind eye and let it happen. There are parts of our life here that I don’t even clearly remember because I was so wrapped up in my downward spiral – none of this is okay with me.

Although I have many regrets over our time here, I also am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. I am grateful for the place I am in now – a place where I can choose to go to dinner and drinks with friends without anxiety; a place where I can choose to not work out because I am sore or I just don’t want to; a place where I can plan a trip with a new friend and know I will enjoy that trip without worrying about food; a place where I can eat lunch in Vondelpark by myself; a place where I can trust that my best friends will always “be there” and love me, no matter where we live; a place where I am happy. Each day, I still have to choose recovery, but that choice is a little easier now because I WANT recovery.

I have found happiness and I never want to let it go.

“We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future, as if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and wildest hopes. But one thing is certain when it finally reveals itself. The future is never the way we imagined it.” – Grey’s Anatomy

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Learning and Growing

I’ve slacked on my blogging goal for 2016.

My other goals are going well, so I’m being lenient with myself about this one!

The past few weeks have been more of the same – going through the motions, biding time until we move home. I am to the point where I know it’s so close, but like a kid anxiously pushing through the last two months before summer break, I am finding it hard to be patient. I am taking life one day at a time, trying to enjoy the last little bits of the life we carved out for ourselves here.

That being said, when D came home two weeks ago with news that one of his co-workers I knew in the states would be visiting soon, I was super excited! I have only hung out with said co-worker a handful of times, I don’t know her very well, but it’s funny that the thought of a familiar face can be comforting when you are missing home.

I think I bugged D every day to make sure he finalized plans – I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all! 🙂

On Saturday, we met his co-worker to show her around a city we live close to. It was such a fun day! We met up with her around 1, and I assumed we would spend a couple of hours, be home by 4-5, workout, and eat dinner. After a day’s worth of touring the city, we ended up at our favorite bar and stayed until well past 7 talking and enjoying each other’s company. Like I said, it was nice to see a familiar face!

Although I had a great time, it was in my reflection of the time that I realized just how special this day was in terms of recovery.

Before we moved, I had plenty of opportunities to hang out with D’s co-workers – not just this one, but many others – but I chose not to. Not because I didn’t like them, but because the thought of spending time with people I didn’t really know well scared me. These people weren’t by best friends who knew my nuances, habits, and routines. They didn’t know that eating dinner after 7 made me anxious. They didn’t know that simply eating dinner in front of them would make me anxious. They didn’t know that half of the time during a conversation, I had no idea what to say or do or think, that I was anxious and sweaty and wanted to cry.

At that point in my life, I wasn’t at a place where I could be comfortable spending time with people outside of my little circle. I had just recently invited my people into my comfort zone – I was just over that stage with the people I trusted – I wasn’t ready to step outside of my comfort zone and brave the world of time spent and conversations had with acquaintances.

But, as proven by Saturday (and a few other times before), I am ready for that now. I was able to have conversations with this person – not just responding to questions, but also starting conversations of my own. I talked to her when D was at the table, and when he was away. I felt comfortable being myself and I could feel that comfort zone behind me – I wasn’t inside of it anymore. It wasn’t holding me back.

I also enjoyed a meal, a snack, and a beer with D and his co-worker. I ordered what I wanted to order, and I ate as much as I wanted to eat. At one point, I did look over to her plate to see how much I had eaten in comparison. But, after I realized what I was doing, I consciously made myself stop. I know how much fuel my body needs, and I know how to eat accordingly. I don’t have to compare my food intake to anyone else’s. That was huge. As we were walking around the city, I spotted a stand for a delicious sweet treat that I wanted her to try – I split one with D, too. At our favorite bar, I had one beer, with no desire to have another, so I didn’t. Usually, when in an uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone situation, I would drink to feel comfortable, but I didn’t need to. I was able to relax and enjoy conversation and company without help.

Finally, as the night came to a close and we headed home, I began to panic a little about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner until after 8:30. A year ago, that, coupled with the fact that I missed a workout, would have sent me over the edge. Not this time. I had a conversation with C about how it was just one day, and in the grand scheme of things, had zero impact. I ate dinner and went to bed.

The past 14 months have been hard. Yes, I have had an amazing opportunity to travel Europe, live in another country, meet so many people, learn so many things. But, there were times when I hated my life. I was depressed, I let food control me, OCD has been tough, and I’m leaving here with more scars (mentally and physically) than I came with. Ultimately though, I have learned so much about myself and I have grown more than I ever imagined possible. Being here forced me to take sole responsibility for my recovery and for my life. It made me hold myself accountable. It showed me just how supportive an amazing group of “home team players” could be.

14 months ago, I would never have experienced Saturday the way it played out. I would have been anxious, quiet, and reserved. I would have eaten too little and probably drank a little too much. I would have told D we needed to leave at a specific time to be sure I worked out and ate dinner before 7. I wouldn’t have had fun, nor would I have been very much fun.

I needed Saturday. Yes, I needed a familiar face and familiar conversation. But, I also needed the opportunity to see just how far I’ve come.

I am proud. I am thankful. I am happy.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”– English Proverb

Three Minutes Can Save A Life

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

The theme for this year – Three Minutes Can Save A Life – is ultimately, a tool to promote quick and easy eating disorder screening as an effort for early intervention.

I can’t even begin to express how important this is.

Even though prevalence continues to grow, knowledge, awareness, and research lags way behind other illnesses. Eating disorders are stigmatized and considered taboo subjects, all the while, kids as young as elementary school age are feeling the pressure of being thin.

Eating disorders are not illness to feel shameful about. They don’t necessitate hiding and lying and pretending everything is okay. Yet, this is how they are viewed. This is how we live with them.

3 weeks ago, I got a new tattoo symbolizing my journey through recovery. I’ve been really into elephants for a while as my own symbol of recovery, so an elephant became the inspiration for the tattoo. So many people have asked, why an elephant? It’s hard to explain, especially without going into a lot of personal detail, but I will try now. A few years ago, during a time where I was feeling really bad about myself and my body image, I saw a picture of an elephant and was in awe of how beautiful it was. I don’t live in a hole – I’ve seen elephants before – but, this was the first time I really stopped and recognized how magnificent these animals are. In my head, I had always thought of elephants as fat, big, large, etc. All words that I viewed negatively. That day, I realized that something I once saw as fat, I now saw as beautiful. I realized that how I viewed these animals changed, and that their size was no longer something negative – it was what made them unique. I began to think about myself in the same way. No, I am not the size of an elephant, but time and again I had labeled myself as fat, big, large. I realized that, in time, I could come to see myself differently, too. That is why I elephants are meaningful to me. That is why I wanted an elephant tattoo.

I researched elephant tattoos online, and found that I really liked outlines of elephants with henna designs inside. I knew I wanted to customize the tattoo, and decided to include the NEDA symbol and a semicolon within the henna designs. I emailed my thoughts to the tattoo artist who did my last tattoo, and she created the perfect tattoo!

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I am in love with my tattoo! It is everything I wanted and more! It is my ultimate commitment to recovery, to avoiding relapse, and to loving myself, always.

As I began to think about how I wanted to address this week, I started to think about my own journey. The last decade of my life, with all of its twists and turns, has ultimately shaped who I am today, and allowed me to come this place I own as “recovery.”

Throughout my journey, I constantly looked for validation that what I was experiencing was actually an eating disorder. I would twist my symptoms until they seemed like harmless routines meant to keep me healthy. I would tell myself that if nobody confronted me about my eating disorder, it must not actually be an eating disorder – I was fine. I wonder how differently things would have been if there were people spreading awareness as much as there is today. Would things have turned out differently if I had taken 3 minutes to complete a screening? If my parents had been informed? If teachers knew warning signs?

That is the kind of change this week is all about. Spreading awareness to parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, and everyone else. Letting sufferers know that they are not alone. Providing a screening tool for people to make sure they have a healthy mindset in regards to food, exercise, and body image.

If you asked me 2 years ago what recovery looked like, I would have said I wasn’t sure it existed. Now, I know that I was wrong. Recovery is a daily choice. Recovery is being triggered and spending a whole day allowing that trigger to consume you, but then stepping back and realizing what happened before sliding into relapse. Recovery is choosing a rest day when your body needs it. Recovery is that moment of clarity in the midst of a relapse. Recovery is being with a friend, enjoying a food you normally wouldn’t eat. Recovery is coming up for a breath of fresh air. Recovery is how we survive. Recovery is messy. Recovery is hard. But, recovery is possible.

However, the first step towards recovery is knowing there is something to recover from.

Three Minutes Can Save A Life.

http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/NEDA

Day by Day. Hour by Hour. Minute by Minute.

This week has been interesting.

To start, D had a meeting with his boss on Monday. I had big hopes for this meeting. Big, misguided hopes. Hopes that were quickly shattered when D didn’t bring home any new information regarding when we could possibly move home.

This meeting set the tone for the week. A tone of frustration and disappointment, while trying to remember D is not to blame and shouldn’t be the target of anger.

I spent Monday on the couch, with Netflix and tears.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a little better. I refocused myself. As disappointed as I was, I felt okay after a long conversation with D. I was in a better mindset and I set about my week, finding as many tasks, chores, and distractions as possible to keep me busy. I blogged, I studied for two upcoming tests, I did some trip planning, I went for walks with S, I read, and finally, I got really desperate and cleaned the house.

I felt happy(ish), I felt like I was doing something (even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing), I felt okay body-image wise, I felt okay anxiety wise.

Thursday was just okay. I could feel the anxiety rising, but I continued to distract and refocus that energy. There were times I struggled, but overall, it was a success.

Then today. I knew when I couldn’t sleep last night that today would prove to be a little more difficult. It started at 8:30 when S woke me up to go out. Usually, I get up when she wakes me up and we start our day – routine has been key to most “good” days. But this morning, instead of starting my day, I decided to crawl back under the blankets and sleep the day away…never a good idea.

When I woke back up at 9:45, I felt even more shitty. The negative self-talk started right away – “you won’t walk as many miles today because you woke up later,” “your abs aren’t going to be as visible because you woke up later,” “maybe you shouldn’t eat as much breakfast because you woke up later.” It went on and on and on.

And, because I woke up in this mindset, the exact things I thought played out. My morning was a little worse than most mornings, but I set myself up for that.

Morning faded into afternoon, and it wasn’t until C text me that I was able to snap out of this downward spiral. Sometimes texting her is like talking things through with myself. I write the text (okay, more like novel) for her, but as I’m typing it, I’m realizing things about myself and the situation that I couldn’t see before. Maybe it’s having someone outside of my head’s input, or maybe it’s taking a second and really evaluating how I feel, or maybe it’s a little of everything, I’m not sure, but it helps.

So, as I’m texting her, I realize a couple of things.

First, I may be biased, but I have the strongest, bravest, most supportive best friend. In just the two years (it feels like so much longer) I’ve known her, there have been ups, downs, twists, and turns and she takes them all in stride. She’s a rockstar. I’m not sure how I “did life” before meeting her and I’m glad that now I don’t have to do life without her. Sappiness aside – she puts up with me and loves all the weird, awkward, unlovable parts, and I’m pretty damn grateful.

Second, I’ve put myself into another hole while living here. I don’t think it was intentional, but I realize now that I did it to myself. Granted, there were things that were out of my control that helped me pick up a shovel and dig a little deeper, but I was the one who initially jumped in and started digging. Every time I refused to meet people, the hole got deeper. Every time I chose to engage the negative thoughts about living here, the hole got deeper. Every time something out of my control happened while living here (not being able to work, frustrations with living abroad, no English-speaking volunteer opportunities, etc), the hole got deeper. But, knowing that I am the one who initially started digging that hole, and voluntarily jumped in helps me take responsibility for my unhappiness here. And taking responsibility for my unhappiness helps me to do the opposite – take responsibility for my happiness here. I’m working on ways to do just that!

Finally, I’ve started to see that all of the negative, unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, etc. are symptoms of something bigger – anxiety. It’s taken a long time for me to come to that realization. I’ve always seen my ED and body image issues, depression, anxiety, and more recently, any thoughts about self-harm as separate, individual things. But, they aren’t. When I feel anxious and I can’t breathe, that’s when I think, “I really need to skip lunch today,” or “I’ve gained weight,” or “cutting would make me feel better.” All of the behaviors, thoughts, etc. are all just negative coping skills that make me feel “better” when I’m anxious. Now that I have that information, it’s a lot easier to choose the opposite.

It’s going to take time to fully be on track with choosing only healthy coping skills – this is a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute journey. But, eating when I want to restrict is a lot less guilt free when I remind myself that the whole reason I didn’t want to eat was because I was anxious.

Today has been hard. That wake-up call text from C wasn’t until 1pm (long-distance/time difference problems) – I had already skipped my normal 10:30 snack and lunch. But, I have the power to do the next right thing, and if that means lunch will be at 2:45 today, then so be it.

This is my journey. A journey to health, happiness, and positive coping skills when I am anxious. I will keep fighting, I will keep learning, I will keep pushing forward.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

Macros and Lifting

When will life be more than macros and workouts?

Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by IIFYM! Macros gave me a freedom with food that I had never experienced before!

And working out – I enjoy my workouts now! Lifting makes me feel powerful and gives me bigger, healthier goals. I’ve even thrown some running into the mix; though I still stand by the fact that I HATE cardio! 🙂

But, I still feel a sense of definition or control from these things.

By lunchtime, my entire days worth of food is written down and calculated. Any deviation from that plan leads to instant panic. Yes, my meal plan is higher than it used to be. It includes foods like Oreos, chocolate, and snack foods. But, if something that I want doesn’t fit, I am not okay with eating it anyway. If I change my mind about a food, I must first consult the plan before actually eating the food.

I became very aware of this yesterday. Every week D and I make a menu. This week we were supposed to have fish tacos. Long story short, our normal grocery store was closed and the one we went to didn’t have our usual tilapia, so D bought a different (breaded and marinated) kind.

When I was calculating my macros yesterday, I noticed that one piece of tilapia was over double the macros it usually is. I panicked. Quickly, our favorite fish taco meal turned into a piece of tilapia and some quinoa – that’s the only way I could get it to fit my macros.

Throughout the day I was angry – I wanted fish tacos for dinner. That was what I had planned on and what I was looking forward to. Lunch was lacking due to the high dinner macros and after lunch I wasn’t satisfied. I found myself going back to the pantry again and again trying to find something to make me feel better. But, I only felt worse.

Instead of being proactive and realizing this spiral I was in, I let it get the best of me. When I wasn’t in the pantry, I sat on the couch sulking or sleeping – sleeping is usually one of my semi-negative coping skills because I use it to shut everyone out.

When D got home and asked what the plan was for dinner, I told him about the macro issue. I didn’t explain how my day had taken a downward spiral because of the macros, simply that we would not be having fish tacos for dinner.

During our workout, I started talking to C and K. With a more clear head, I decided to ignore the macros for the night and eat a more filling dinner than quinoa and tilapia. It wasn’t fish tacos, but it wasn’t so blah either.

I still fought the thoughts the remainder of the night. Between knowing I went over my macros and knowing I spent a large part of my day asleep on the couch, I ended up skipping my normal protein shake. All in all, calories probably evened out at a severe cut to my protein intake. But, I was weak. I couldn’t shake those thoughts and feelings.

So, what I realized was this – even though I eat things I enjoy now, even though I eat more than I used to, I am still controlled by macros. I still wake up thinking about food. I still go to bed feeling the fat on my stomach. I still feel panicky when my macros don’t add up right. And, do I really want to spend the rest of my life like this? Hell no!

K pointed out that with time, we will stop being so reliant on macros, or whatever else we are using. That we will not be counting macros when we are 40. I hope she is right!

I had this same realization today with lifting. I enjoy lifting. I look forward to lifting. But I also see lifting as the piece of the puzzle that is keeping me healthy. So when D decided we should probably push deadlift day to tomorrow, I immediately felt the panic kick in. I took S on a run this morning, but a part of me feels like that wasn’t enough. If I start my day knowing it is a rest day then I feel safer not working out. But I started today thinking I would go on two runs and deadlift. Once that plan changed, the feeling of safety fell away.

I want to live a life at peace with myself. A life where fish tacos are okay if that is what I want, even if it doesn’t fit my macros. A life where pushing a workout to the next day isn’t a big deal. I want to realize that as long as I am eating healthy and exercising moderately most of the time, one day of being “off” won’t matter.

D and I are heading to Italy next weekend. I am beyond anxious over this trip. I’ve talked a big talk about all of the gelato, pizza, and pasta I will eat – but inside, I can’t stop thinking macros and lack of lifting. But, this is exactly what I’m talking about with this post. A vacation should be fun – not a time spent worrying about what I will eat or when I will workout. It’s going to be tough, but I know I am stronger!

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is.” – Sara Bareilles

MentorConnect

One post a week for two separate blogs is more difficult than I thought it would be! But, I’m trying to keep up with them! 🙂

Today I thought I would do sort of a book/website review.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a website called MentorConnect.

MentorConnect is a nonprofit organization focused on eating disorder recovery, founded by Shannon Cutts. Together, Shannon and her team work to match mentors with mentees.

Both mentors and mentees have to meet certain requirements in order to join. Mentors must be at least 18 years old and must be largely eating disorder free for at least 12 months. Mentors will be entering into relationships with mentees who are currently struggling with eating disorders, so it is important that the mentor is relatively strong in recovery. Mentees must complete an application with background information, sign the member’s agreement, and read an excerpt from Shannon Cutts book (provided online).

Once a mentee completes those steps and sends in his or her application, it takes a few weeks for processing and then you can access which mentors are accepting new mentees. Once you browse through current mentors, you can select someone you think you will be a good fit with and message that person. If you both decide to enter into the mentor-mentee relationship, you can agree on a time, date, and form of communication for your first chat. Like with any other relationship, it’s important to assess if this relationship is a good fit after chatting a few times.

MentorConnect is how I met my mentor, B. During my junior year of college, I learned about MentorConnect, immediately bought Shannon Cutts book, “Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Back Your Life,” and applied to be a mentee. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was in a place where I was fully ready to commit to recovery, so instead of figuring out how to search for a mentor, I eventually quit trying.

Two years later, D and I had moved away from my safe college support system. I was in a new place with new people and I was slipping back into eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. I needed to talk to someone who understood these thoughts and feelings, so I tried MentorConnect again. After a couple of weeks, I was matched with B, and the rest is history!

B has been there for me when others haven’t been able to. She has been in these places before and she is able to help me down off of that ledge when things start getting rough. More importantly, she has been living proof that recovery and a life without being controlled by an eating disorder is possible.

If you, or someone you know, is looking for help, guidance, or just someone to talk to who has been there, MentorConnect is a great resource that I highly recommend!

“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” -Ellen DeGeneres

Food For Thought

Funny how whenever I’m feeling a bit “off,” I decide to write a new blog post!

Turns out I didn’t think about the things that come along with being a world traveler before planning tons of trips (aka – eating out every meal). I get that this makes me sound ungrateful. Who would spend time and energy worrying about something as simple as food while visiting another country?! That would be me.

Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time this past weekend with D visiting southern France. The weather was great, the views were incredible, and the food was delicious! But, starting Friday night after dinner, I began feeling a little guilty with my food choices, especially with the lack of exercise.

D is really good at helping me with reality checks during times like these. He was on board with eating breakfast in our AirBNB, eating lighter meals sometimes, and splitting desserts (even though I know he really wanted his own)! He also reminds me that even though I’m not following my normal lifting routine, I am still getting exercise. By the end of the weekend, we had walked over 30 miles – and that definitely counts for something!

So with some gentle reminders from D mixed with some thought stopping and other coping skills, we made it a very successful and fun weekend getaway!

This weekend we leave for Spain. I’m already beginning to think about food choices there. I want to let myself experience the culinary treats that all of these countries have to offer. I don’t want to look back and regret skipping the crepe in France, the chocolate covered churro in Spain, or gelato in Italy. Instead I will continue to remind myself that traveling and touring a city is indeed exercise, and the occasional treat will not impact me in the long run!

Traveling WILL be fun!

When I first started seeing my therapist, C, she introduced a poem to me. So many times I have assessed where I am at on my journey by using this poem. It helps me to stop and think about where I am at, what decisions and choices led me to that place, and how I should proceed.

I thought about this poem a lot over the weekend and I wanted to share it.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall in…it’s habit…but,

my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

I have seen myself in every one of these chapters. Some days when I should be at chapter 5, I go back to chapter 3. In some areas, I am still at chapter 2. Sometimes I revisit a chapter over and over again. But, I am growing, I am moving forward, I am progressing, chapter by chapter, day by day.

Where do you see yourself in the poem? Where are you currently at and where do you want to be? Food for thought! 🙂

Happiness

Websters defines happy as:

  1. Feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.
  2. Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment
  3. Pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.

So, why is happiness sometimes so hard to achieve? What if you are in a phase of life that isn’t particularly enjoyable? Is happiness still attainable during those hard times?

This is something I’ve struggled with for the past 3 months. Once we moved, I wasn’t sure if happiness was possible.

But, after a much needed weekend home (as in the US) with my best friend, a very negative morning before I was scheduled to leave, and a long flight by myself to reflect, I think I’ve come up with an answer for myself.

Before I start, everything I’m about to write is 100% opinion, so keep that in mind.

First, as someone who struggles off and on with depression (that I have labeled as anxiety because depression freaks me out), I understand that happiness 24/7 is not always attainable. Sometimes in order to obtain happiness, one might need therapy, medication, some type of change, etc. But, I have learned that in myself, is that if I don’t try to be happy (or better said if I allow myself to stay in an unhappy place), nothing changes. I feel like my medicine doesn’t help, therapy doesn’t help, reaching out to friends doesn’t help. When really, it’s my attitude that isn’t helping.

During my 6 hour reflection yesterday (with naps off and on), I realized that when I first moved, I created this irrational idea about living here. This idea was that if I hated the place, that automatically meant I had to be unhappy. But, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. After some soul searching, I came to the conclusion that I can dislike the place I am living, but still find positives, things that make me happy, everyday.

I think that was the biggest crux of my current stage of unhappiness. The very real (but irrational) thought that if I am happy, a – people might mistake that for liking living here, b – people might think I no longer miss them, and c – fear that I just might find something I do like about living here. But none of that is rational or true. I can find things in life that I am happy for that don’t include living here, which in turn will help me to be happy. Happiness has nothing to do with if I miss my friends or not. And finally, finding something about this place to like might not be the worst thing that ever happened!

So, first realization – happiness does not equal loving the place I live just as hating the place I live doesn’t have to equal unhappiness.

Second realization – a routine can help minimize downtime where I sit and dwell about disliking living here, or how much I miss people. When we first moved, my routine was completely destroyed. That was a routine that I had worked hard to create and maintain. A routine that was working well for me. But, just because one routine dies doesn’t mean a new (and equally effective one) can’t be created! I plan to create said routine today.

Third realization – sadness, unhappiness, depression, anxiety – whatever you want to call it – it thrives on loneliness and isolation. Sitting inside all day, with only my dog S to keep me company, is not promoting happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog. But, I also need human interaction, and more than just the 5 hours I get at night when D gets home from work. I didn’t have this issue at home because we were 10 minutes from our friends. Plus, I was working and interacting there. But here, I have to find a way to interact with people.

This is one that both D and my best friend helped me realize and contemplate over the weekend. When we first moved, I vowed that I wouldn’t make friends. We are only here for a year, then we will pack up and move somewhere else away from people I just met. Not exactly what I wanted to do right after I just said goodbye to my best friends. But, after a long talk with C (who is very wise when it comes to friendships), she explained that there are different types of friends. C and A are friends that will be there forever. It’s a bond that doesn’t go away. Moving doesn’t break it, life doesn’t break it. It may change and adapt, but it’s there. Other friends can be like this, or they can be there for a certain season of life. It doesn’t make them any less of a friend during that point. But, they are there for a reason, a season, and that is okay. That’s a very hard concept for me to grasp. But I understand now that I can’t just avoid people because I’m scared of making (and ultimately losing) friends here. I have to put myself out there, make connections, and experience human interaction. If not, it’s going to be harder to find happiness while here.

Final realization – being positive will in turn lead to being happier. I was very negative yesterday, and looking back on that, I regret it. Being sad is okay, being upset to travel back is valid, but the negativity I felt towards heading back wasn’t okay. It shrouded the day. A day that should have been spent enjoying the last little bit of time with C and her sister, not sulking because I have to leave. I don’t want anymore trips to be like that. And so I am choosing to be more positive. To look on the bright side and be thankful for the fun weekend I had the opportunity to spend with them and celebrate C’s birthday. To be grateful for the ability to travel home (or friends travel here to visit). Again, I’m going to allow myself to be sad and miss them, but not allow my day to be full of negativity because of it!

Ultimately, being unhappy for a year of my life isn’t worth it. It’s not worth my health (physically or mentally). It’s not worth my recovery. And it’s not worth putting my marriage or my friendships through that kind of negativity.

Will there be hard days? Absolutely. Will there be days that I am still negative, still unhappy, and don’t cope healthily? I’m sure. But, starting today I am making a conscious effort to choose positivity and happiness. And I know I am strong enough to do so.

I’m going to include another coping skill in this post. I use this one a lot!

Motivational Quotes.

Words matter. Words can bring you up or push you down. Quotes, sayings, phrases, lyrics – anything positive that sends a good message helps brighten my day a little! C and I have started sending each other screen shots of these whenever we stumble across one. K sometimes tags me in one on Instagram. They never fail to make me smile. Make me stop, think, and remind myself to be positive, hopeful, and stay strong.

Sometimes I post these quotes around the house. In college I taped them all over our bathroom mirror. I like to keep them close by so that I can go back and look at them whenever I need a little pick me up.

Here are a few to close on. I found some of these about happiness as I flipped through a book A gave me. Some are about staying positive. Feel free to share any you want to add in the comments!

“Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour but this hour.” – Walt Whitman

“No man is happy who does not think himself so.” – Publilius Syrus

“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.” – Epicurus

“Whoever is happy will make others happy, too.” – Anne Frank

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Happiness and misery consist in a progression towards better or worse; it does not matter how high up or low down you are, it depends not on this, but on the direction in which you are tending.” – Samuel Butler

“Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults.” – Les Brown

“Most important, in order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for the totality of who you are and not just what you look like.” – Portia de Rossi

“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

Thought Stopping

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.

Call it writer’s block. Call it boredom setting in. Whatever it may be, I’ve found creating a new blog post (on either of my blogs) very difficult.

It shouldn’t be difficult – I have plenty to write about! New workouts, coping skills, fun trips D and I are planning or have already taken. I’ve even got one blog post half written with no idea how to finish it!

So, I decided to break down the wall and just write something. Anything.

Thought stopping.

Thought stopping is a coping skill my therapist in college taught me. It is difficult in that it requires you to be present in your day to day thoughts.

This coping skill was extremely hard for me in the beginning. But, I found myself using it as recently as this morning. So, it can be very useful once you get the hang of it!

Basically, when you have a negative thought about yourself such as, “I feel fat,” you stop. Do not move on to the next thought. Seize that negative thought and redirect it to be positive.

You change, “I feel fat” to “Fat is not a feeling. I feel (anxious, scared, annoyed, etc) and that is leading me to have negative thoughts about myself.

You change, “If I eat _____ I will get fat” to “It is not logical that _____ will make me fat. I need a healthy, balanced diet in order to survive and recover. Eating _____ will help me reach that goal.”

You change, “My friends haven’t talked to me today, so they must not care about me” to “My friends have lives and jobs and they are busy. When they get a chance, they will reach out to me.”

See, I told you it’s hard. But, it is possible!

Each time you thought stop, you are using logic to counteract the irrational thoughts that pop into your mind. These are usually thoughts that you don’t actively think about – they usually passively come into your brain. Once they do, they leave you stuck, one thought leads to another and you are on a downward spiral. By seizing that first negative thought, you are redirecting that spiral, making those next few thoughts more positive and logically sound.

Thought stopping has played a huge role in my recovery. It has helped me challenge both ED thoughts and OCD thoughts. It has helped me break free of those thoughts that send me to my downward spiral. But, it takes lots of time, practice, and patience.

So, here is my challenge: Be present in your thoughts today. Try to redirect just one negative, irrational thought into something more positive and logical. See how you feel. Be patient with yourself and practice everyday! If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, feel free to ask! 🙂

“The ability to be present in the moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 22-28. National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

A week where people come together and spread awareness about eating disorders by trying to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the subject.

I have looked forward to this week all month. I have looked forward to posting my picture of the NEDA symbol with a little blurb about eating disorder awareness on Instagram as my way of spreading the word and showing I’m not ashamed, while still keeping my own struggle hidden away. #everybodyknowssomebody – little do most of them know that somebody is me.

Why is it that almost 8 years later, I am still afraid of my story getting out there? Why am I terrified that one day my sisters or my parents might stumble upon my blog and find out my secrets? Those are the only people I worry about finding out. My husband, friends, in-laws are all aware of my journey. But the possibility of those 4 people finding out leaves me paralyzed with fear and leaves my Instagram post vague and generic.

I found myself shaking as I tried to find the words to get my point across, while also not raising any red flags. I checked my phone every couple of minutes waiting for an accusatory comment or text message. Why do they still control me? Or are the boundaries I put up to keep them out only keeping me in? Life gets messy when relationships are built on secrets and lack of trust.

So, I’ll say what I really wanted to say here.

The theme this year for NEDA week is, “I Had No Idea.” Eating disorders are highly misunderstood. They don’t discriminate – women, men, children, teens, older adults – anyone can suffer. Eating disorders aren’t a cry for attention, an attempt at vanity, or a phase someone goes through. They are real, deadly diseases – having the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. Too many people suffer in silence because of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear, and enough is enough. There is hope. There is a future past all of the pain. Recovery is possible. But, you can’t do it alone. Eating disorders thrive on secrecy, lies, and silence. In order to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to reach out. Reach out to someone you trust, reach out to a parent, a friend, a teacher. Just reach out. If you reach out and your attempt fails, try to reach out to someone else. Sometimes people aren’t in a place to help. Sometimes they believe the misconceptions that NEDA week is trying to eliminate. Sometimes they are just assholes. That doesn’t mean every person will be.

Reaching out to my husband, my best friend, my other close friends, my personal trainer – all of that saved my life. In the past year I have seen that recovery is truly possible. It is work, it is a process, but it is possible.

So, spread the word this week. Help break down those misconceptions about eating disorders. Reach out if you are struggling. And, always know that you are not alone.