I Am Worthy. I Am Capable. I Am Strong.

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After reading over my last few blog posts I feel like I need to better explain what I am going through and where I am today. Just because I have written about two very serious issues in my recent posts does not mean that my desire for my blog to be a positive place has changed. Reality is that sometimes we have to put on a serious face to effectively get our point across. I have always been honest with you all about my own journey and I never intend to write any other way. So, here we go:

Did/Do I have an eating disorder: Yes.

Am I in recovery: Yes.

Am I capable of cultivating relationships, building a career and living my life to the best of my ability: Hell Yeah.

I don’t want anyone to take my honesty about my disease in the wrong light. My ultimate goal when I started my blog was to create a forum where I could speak openly about my feelings and finally put into words all that was going on within me. I desperately wanted to know if others could relate to me, but at the time I begin PrettyBrittyShines I had no idea if anyone would understand what I was going through. Unfortunately, I learned all too quickly that MANY of you could relate to my struggle and although I never want anyone to suffer, all of you who have shared your experiences with me have taught me that I am not alone.

But, most importantly you have all showed me that just because many of us are dealing with some heavy duty emotions doesn’t mean that we are incompetent or less than. By creating a dialogue about our feelings we are addressing our issues head on and allowing ourselves to still live our lives. It is the time we are taking out of our day to really focus on bettering ourselves, whether we struggle with anxiety, an eating disorder, or any sort of physical/mental health issue that is MOST important in our journey. It doesn’t matter how we seek help whether it’s from therapy, treatment programs, acupuncture, support groups, meditation, yoga, etc. what is important is that we are cultivating and putting forth an effort to focus on our inner selves. By doing that we are not only helping ourselves, but we are learning to empathize with others. Empathy is key folks and I hope we can all learn to embrace this emotion.

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So, Happy Friday ladies and gentleman and I hope that we can continue to keep a positive light even through our most challenging times and remember that everyone has a story and a struggle.

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Being “Pseudo Recovered” Still Requires Hard Work

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Yesterday I came across this poem that really put into words many of the feelings that have consumed me since I left treatment close to two years ago. I know that I am on the path to recovery from my eating disorder and that I TRULY want to be better, but there are parts of me that ache all the time. I hurt because I am constantly fighting against a disease that is so deeply embedded inside of me, as well as society, that wherever I turn I am reminded of it. From breakfast, to lunch, to dinner… it plagues me. I mean who can say that food makes them “anxious” without feeling somewhat ostracized? Food is nourishment and is an integral part of sustaining a healthy mind/body, but honestly since it’s been my worst enemy for so long I am having a difficult time transitioning back to a normal relationship with it.

I recognize that most people will never understand me, and I wouldn’t wish upon anyone the painful task of spending 5 minutes inside of my head, but I can’t help, but be grateful for the poem above. It reassures me that I am not alone and that it’s okay that I’m still fighting even though I’ve been dealing with this disease for a few years now… It’s a marathon, not a sprint (so cliche I know), but the greatest things in life take time and I WILL be better in the long run.

I truly hope that this poem helps some of you as well. I know that it hurts, but we just have to keep fighting. Happy Tuesday 🙂

Let’s Stop “Shaming” Once & For All.

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Being overwhelmed, and even debilitated, by guilt is how I often describe what it feels like to have an eating disorder. I’m my own harshest critic and when I was fully engrossed by my ED guilt consumed my every thought. From disappointing my loved ones, to not exercising enough, to eating too much or even the “wrong thing”… I always blamed myself and felt, what I thought was, outright guilty. I never really understood why this emotion was such a dominant part of my life, but I came across a very interesting article the other day that is helping me to comprehend where this emotion emerged from and… more specifically that I wasn’t actually an individual filled with guilt all of these years, but one consumed by shame 😦

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“Shame In Today’s Society: What It Means, And Why It Absolutely Needs To Stop” by Stephanie Castillo for Medical Daily highlights how our culture has become one that is obsessed with “shaming.” Castillo argues that we must put an end to this behavior immediately. One of the most eye opening parts of this article, for me based on my own personal emotions, is when Castillo distinguishes the difference between guilt and shame. After reading her piece I finally understood that I wasn’t simply engrossed by guilt while in my ED, but I was consumed by a feeling significantly more powerful and damaging : shame. In order to clarify the difference between shame and guilt Castillo references June Tangney, author of Shame in the Therapy Hour, who has found that when a person feels guilty they, they say, “I did a bad thing.” When they feel shame, they say, “I am a bad person for having done that.”

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Holy shit was that eye opening for me. From now on I will never define my emotions as guilty ones because they are in fact those of shame. My ED thoughts correlate directly with our society’s need to shame one another based on being “too thin,” “too fat,” “too slutty,” “too prude” etc. and as a result of this I have been relentlessly “fat shaming” myself for the past couple of years. From “fat shaming” to “thin shaming” NO ONE deserves to feel defective, impaired, or wounded, which shame will always cause…and which I can truly testify to…we all just need to

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The antidote, according to Brene Brown, a renowned shame researcher is empathy. “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment,” she said. “If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re [struggling]: me too.”

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Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State in Los Angeles added: “The changes we need to see are more realistic media images, [starting to] value women for their minds and accomplishments, and raise public awareness of these eating disorders, and their depth and impact. Change can begin one woman at a time. And instead of shaming each other, we can support ourselves instead.”

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So, ladies and gentleman as someone who has felt shameful because of their eating disorder, body dysmorphia and anxiety for FAR TOO LONG I too am calling for an end to “shaming.” We all have enough to deal with emotionally, socially, mentally and physically so why should we make others feel badly about themselves? The answer is simple…we shouldn’t. Just because our society has become a mean one where it is ok, and even normal, to comment on women’s bodies doesn’t mean that we should continue practicing this behavior.

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From this day forward I encourage all of you to join me in pledging to stop spreading shame by looking inward and attempting to find empathy for others. We must remember that we are not alone even at our lowest points. I truly hope that since I am honest and open about my own struggles than others may relate to my story and realize that no one deserves to feel shame. This will be a challenge and change won’t happen in a day, but I believe in you all and I know that together we can make a difference, so let’s do it 😉

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Back To School Time…For The Lucky Ones :)

The Columbia Center for Eating Disorders recently released a blog post entitled, “Back-to-School: Top 5 Way to Tackle Your Eating Disorder Freshman Year,” which lays out 5 ways to help individuals who struggle with disordered eating adjust to life, and all the crazy changes that come along with being a college student. I know firsthand just how scary, stressful, and overwhelming this time is because I was in this position a year ago. Even though I wasn’t a freshman, in fact I was a super senior haha, I still had never been at college while in recovery and therefore everything felt totally new and overwhelming. So because of my experience, I thought it might be helpful if I reflected back, by using the 5 suggestions recommended by the Columbia Center, on how being so well prepared when I went back to school was crucial in my journey to recovery. There is NO chance that I would be where I am today if I didn’t have a team guide me (and basically hold my hand) during this transition.

 

  1. Establish a treatment plan before you start school: 358d3dd03858c46245b2b55eff15823c About a month before I headed back to school my team and I set up a treatment plan that was specific to my needs. The most crucial part of the plan was an ultimatum that was put into place, which was that if I did not follow the rules we set up and I faltered in any way than I would need to reconsider my role as a student, and probably reenroll in an intensive eating disorder program. My plan, specifically, focused heavily on maintaining contact with my team from home as well as building relationships with the services that the college offers. I had to speak weekly with my therapist (via Skype), I had to get weighed weekly as well as get my vitals checked at the health center, meet with a nutritionist (which was an epic fail…) and have the highest/most extensive meal plan. Having all of these eyes on me was overwhelming, but it forced me to be held accountable for my actions, good and/or bad, and created stability in an otherwise chaotic environment.
  2. Don’t be afraid to work with your school’s student health services: b713793c031d592315858b775b38bc45 I know that opening up to even more people when you feel like you have told your story a thousand times over to those already helping you is daunting, but the more resources you have the better. I couldn’t have asked for a better ally in one of the nurse practitioners at my school and without her I wouldn’t be as far a long in my recovery as I am. Her willingness to listen and her desire to learn more about this disease, and how she could better help all her patients, made me feel secure as well as well taken care of. Since part of my treatment plan was to establish a direct relationship with the health center following through with that really made me feel stronger and safer because I knew I now had even more people on my side who genuinely cared/were rooting for me in my journey to recovery. Also, there is no shame in going to health services. I know that there are generally so many stigmas attached to issues of mental health, but you are doing what many other people are unwillingly to do…creating/working for a better you.
  3. Think about housing and meal plan options and how they will or won’t work for you: cbc28f0257697a2e63e5ddd2bcd21390 In regard to housing and meal plan options these two aspects of the college experience are where you need to be selfish in your recovery. It has to be less about what everyone else is doing because you know what, they most likely are not dealing with the same issues you are. So what, if living in a single is most conducive to your treatment plan? That doesn’t mean you are a loner or have no friends. What it means is that it is healthier for you to live alone because you have certain behaviors, as well as routines, that you need to follow to succeed in recovery. For me specifically I was terrified of living alone, but knew it was probably for the best because I had adjusted to a very “non-college” sleep plan while taking a year off. Let’s just say I went to bed at like 10:00pm and got up around 6:00am…total grandma status haha. But, getting solid sleep and feeling like I had my own space to retreat to when I felt anxious/overwhelmed made me a better and stronger person. And you know what? I still made plenty of new friends as well as cultivated my relationships with older ones 🙂
  4. Pick an exercise plan that’s right for you: c1ca4032b8788ccb091b0f9ac6c9dfc8 For me this meant avoiding triggering exercises, like a certain running route, that I knew would bring up memories of when I was really sick. What I ended up doing in order to create a “healthy exercise plan” was setting up a routine that worked well with my class schedule, and also fell in line with the restrictions I had set up with my team. I’m a creature of habit so by establishing a routine that was at a time of the day that didn’t cause me stress and I actually looked forward to was great. It eventually became more of a mindful time and less about a compulsion that is driven by “burning calories.” I started exercising because I loved that time of the day that was all about me and not about sweating off all that I had ate.
  5. Talk to your parents: b4e996eeec67a22bfb27b936e445bded Honestly your parents are going to be really worried about you when you go back to school. So just keep them in the loop and be forward with them. You are an adult, but they will always be your parents and they want to know how you are doing, especially after all that you have been through. They want you to recover and thrive so just keep it real with them and don’t be afraid to tell the truth when you are struggling. Mom and dad are here to listen, love, and support you so let them do that! I spoke with my parents daily and was brutally honest with them. Did that cause them some stress? Absolutely. But did it bring us closer together, as well as enable them to see when I really needed their support? 100% yes. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I just can’t emphasize enough that honesty and constant contact with all members of your team, from your parents to your therapist and anyone else who is in your corner, is truly one of the best ways for you to move forward in your recovery. Keep it real by recognizing/sharing when you are struggling, but also by celebrating in your successes. Recovery is a roller coaster ride and is never easy so we must embrace our imperfections while still fighting for a healthier and happier self.

So, all of you lucky ladies and gentleman who are heading back to school in the next few weeks stay strong as well as focused and never stop telling yourself that it can, and will, get better.

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(or hero) 😉

It’s A Mental Health Issue.

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I stumbled across this image the other day on Project Heal’s (an amazing Eating Disorder Awareness Organization) Facebook page, and I found it really resonated with my own struggle. I’ve learned that those suffering from disordered eating rarely fall under one category, whether that be anorectic, bulimic, etc. and we all, for the most part have a whole hodge podge of varying unhealthy behaviors that we have normalized. I know, personally, through my own experience I exhibited behaviors that probably fall most closely under the diagnosis of anorexic, but there was one key symptom that I never possessed, and that was being underweight.  Did I weigh less than my body type probably should…yeah, but I still never fell into the “dangerously low weight realm” according to bmi calculations and the average weight physicians associate to my height. This fact totally screwed with my own perception of the disease and for months, even after being diagnosed with a severe ED, I couldn’t believe that was what was wrong with me. I just never thought that I looked the part, and honestly many people to this day reinforce this insecurity of mine by saying, “well you never looked THAT thin…”

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So, long story short, and over a year of therapy and treatment later, I now know that eating disorders are much less about your physical appearance and much more about your mental state. No matter how thin I got I was never going to be satisfied with my appearance and that is an issue of mental health. My behaviors, not my weight, highlighted the seriousness of my disorder and I see that even more now that I have gained back some of the weight. Realizing that eating disorders are issues of mental health and mindsets is a fact that I am slowly coming to terms with. Some days are obviously easier than others, but I just need to keep fighting and working to make my mind healthier and stronger. Everyday is a struggle, but I’m not giving up anytime soon even when I am beyond unhappy with myself, which unfortunately has been more often than not these days…I know that the only way to cure this is to continue with therapy and to keep positive.

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I know that I can do this, but I also truly appreciate the support, guidance and love of others. Sometimes I feel lonely in my journey so just knowing that I have people in my corner, especially those of you who follow my blog, truly means the world to me. So I am continuing to fight and I hope everyone who relates to my story will do the same. Lets stay strong and know that we CAN recover.

Why Be Stuck in the Past When You Can Live in the Present?

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Throughout this year I’ve discovered that it’s vital not to harp on why things ended. Instead, I must focus all of my energy on living in the present and becoming a better and stronger versions of myself. Yes, the past is part of who I am today, but I am choosing to use it as a place of reference from which I’ve learned from my mistakes, as well as successes. It’s time for me, therefore, and I encourage you all as well, to take these prior experiences and implement them positively into your present life. I truly believe that everything from this point forward will aid me in my journey of becoming a happier and healthier friend, sister, daughter, etc.

 So, there is no need to stress about why things played out the way in which they did because we can’t go back and change them. We can only learn from our prior experiences as well as our mistakes and make our current life situations the best they can be by taking what we’ve learned from our slip ups, backslides, poor choices, etc and not letting them get the best of us.

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Some Much Needed Words of Wisdom

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Last evening I was checking out Pinterest, which I admit I do an embarrassing number of times in a day, and I fatefully stumbled upon this great quote: “Kind Heart. Fierce Mind. Brave Spirit.” This simple phrase was exactly what I needed to help lift me up from the depressing mood that has consumed me over the last few days. I’ve honestly just been feeling kind of blehh, for lack of a better word, and not in sync with myself. As I mentioned previously adjusting to change is a huge struggle of mine and this particular go at it has not been easy. However, even though I’ve been in this kind of dark mood for a few days I know it is only temporary and I just have to refocus and remember that I have a kind heart, a fierce mind, and a brave spirit so I can do anything that I set my mind to, including getting out of this funk. Better days are on the horizon, I am sure, and I am looking forward to the summer and all the smiling I will be doing in the future. So, happy Tuesday everyone and I encourage you all to stay strong and to find your own mantra that will help you if you are struggling greatly or if you just need a little pick me up 🙂

14 Things That I Am Grateful For Today

As I mentally prepare myself for my graduation from Bowdoin College this Saturday I thought that it would be nice, as well as uplifting, to reflect on 14 lessons/things/people/sayings from this year that I am so grateful for and that have truly changed me. I feel like 14 is an appropriate number because I am a part of the Class of 2014 now and I couldn’t be happier 🙂

1. Recovery de8cfa9a509c0cc2480fd1f0b8e08dd5     2. Family 1480676_10202104144061803_882566437_n   3. Friends (new & old) f8444f31571af6188e6911eeac65817e-1   4. This blog 523ee613c38b6106f6f540a82f40c33e   5. My team of mental health professionals photo-19

6. Learning how to recognize what matters most versus something that deserves a “so what” 52dd6260acc2b3381c09910461f3746a   7. Appreciating the little things cd7163c7bc5208c851570a994793e83e     8. Learning to trust myself again cbc28f0257697a2e63e5ddd2bcd21390     9. Sunny days 796b5e54d65b7a8db49b2f9c1607100f 10.Embracing and appreciating imperfection 7438b1a1df9824438e414aa941009d34 11. The ability to inspire others 0cee4324b6210e26ad010b41b73d0967 12. Sleep…everyone functions better if they get their 8 hours! bf505df64c6cd99af68366aff6b30008   13. The warm and loving welcome I received upon returning to college e4d3f7602c0ab0449a2224cb8c06cdc9 14. My amazing education 819db58ebc52fd66ea0fe7fb0164c3f0

Thank you to everyone who has aided me in my recovery and in my return to college. I don’t know what I would do without all of you….I definitely wouldn’t be here today! So, I think that it’s time to cheers to the Class of 2014, one of the best ones yet, and let’s look forward to all the amazing things in our future!

Wellness Week!!

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Yesterday I enjoyed participating in a lovely afternoon at Lynnfield High School for their Wellness Week. The week centers on promoting healthy wellness behaviors and habits onto high school students who are often most susceptible to stress and other damaging behaviors because of the overwhelming pressures that are placed onto them at this time. The mom of one of my closest friends is the school nurse at Lynnfield and she invited me to speak about body image/eating disorders with her students. As someone who is currently in recovery and not fully healed I was obviously nervous about taking on this challenge, but I am so glad that I did. It was so rewarding and even though not as many students as I would have liked approached my table if I was able to make a difference in just one person’s day than it reinforces everything I am doing. I just had to remind myself that it’s always about quality over quantity!

 


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Here’s the table we set up for the students. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to show my blog, which I truly appreciated and also hope resonated with the students who came over to talk with me.

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Nurse Mary and I at our table!

I hope that by speaking up about my own struggles with my eating disorder that I can help others who are hurting to see that they are not alone and they don’t have to suffer in silence. I’ve grown so much since I’ve started treatment and began to open up about all the trials and tribulations I’ve endured with my eating disorder and I truly hope to continue down this positive and bright path and can only hope that others join me in recovery 🙂

 

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Do You Have A Healthy Relationship With Food?

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As I have mentioned time and time again eating disorders do not discriminate and can affect any individual regardless of their race, gender, age, class, etc. Unfortunately, because there are so many stigmas and stereotypes tied to disordered eating many people who are suffering do not have access to the help they so desperately need and often deny that anything is wrong. In an attempt to bring some awareness to this issue I want to share two links with you all. The first one is an Eating Behavior Self Assessment created by Dartmouth, and the second is a free and confidential Eating Disorder Screening provided by the National Eating Disorder Association. I encourage anyone who is questioning their relationship with food to take one, or both, of these tests. Remember there is no shame in seeking help and taking care of yourself because in the end it will only make you a stronger and more capable person. Happy Humpday and I hope these links help anyone who is having a tough time!