Saturday, August 28, 2010


"...When they called they said there was an abnormality, I had to go back and have another mammogram, and then i had to go back and have a biopsy," a kind voice recalls into the phone. the voice is salty with age, sweet with the south. the voice is my grandmother's...

"...Cancer is cancer," she says, "...and you think, 'well, this is probably the end of me' of course it wasn’t – I was so blessed..."

i remember us all knowing something was wrong. it was October 2006, and my grandmother (to whom i'll refer as Nini from this point forward) had not been herself for several weeks. finally, less than a week before her surgery, she told us she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.

over a month before, she'd gotten the call to come in so the doctors could get a second look at the abnormal readings on her mammogram. after her second mammogram and biopsy, she had to wait a week or so before she could return to the doctor for her diagnosis.

i remember a point in time when she found herself able to talk about that week. we were sitting in the car as she recalled the torment of knowing yet not knowing what was growing inside her, the gripping fear that accompanied the utter helplessness of having no option other than to wait.

"But what came to my mind in the midst of all of this," Nini says this morning on the phone, "was something that my leader in Bible study said, 'do not waste your suffering- seek the Lord and see how he can use that to strengthen your walk and to make you stronger- to give you insight you’ve never had and make you able to help other people.'"

When i look back on that fall, i consider how alone Nini must have felt waiting to find out if she was going to die or not. the reason she didn't say anything was because i was on homecoming court, and she wanted to wait until after the big football game to tell us the news (i don't suppose this is appropriate given the circumstances, but yes, i wanted to kill her for that). It's hard for me to fathom the kind of strength it takes to think of others above one's self, to knowingly choose peace over turmoil when a cancer of unknown size or severity is alive inside your chest, but Nini did it.

i started to think about my eating disorder and all the unspeakable selfishness and weakness and fear i've spent years in because of it. so many times i tearfully explained through clenched jaws how excruciating it was to try and do better- how even the slightest effort towards progress created a painful turmoil in my head that just wasn't worth it to me.

"I have a mental illness!" i would scream, "you can't just expect me to get over it- i am SICK- just like someone with cancer!"

therapist after therapist urged me to just take a step at a time- my mom likened my situation to a dark forest- assuring me that if i would just step into the unknown and hold on, i would one day enter into a clearing- into freedom.

it's taken five years for me to realize the uniqueness of the disorder from which i suffer. while just as diagnosable as the flu or cancer or any other type of illness, it is one of few in which the possibility for complete recovery rests entirely in the sufferer's hands.

there are countless others like Nini- completely at the mercy of an illness- who would give anything to have the option of guaranteed recovery placed into their hands. colorless, bald-headed people would jump from their beds and follow limitless orders if their doctors told them it would make them better.

fellow strugglers, they are not so fortunate as we.

and yet, we sit and rot and waste away, ignoring the life in front of us that is ours for the taking and using and giving.

if i could go back a few years to Nini's hospital room after her surgery, i would look her in the cancer-free eye and tell her thank you for showing me what it means to be strong, to choose life. i would tell her that in honor of that fearful, lonely week through which she wondered if she'd reached her end, i was going to step into the unknown, stop cowering before my diagnosis, stop getting in my own way, and reach for the life of freedom and recovery that five years later, i've finally found.

Nini- i'm sorry it took so long. but i thank you for loving me all the more anyway. you are a true example of what it means to fight. even when recovery was out of your hands, you chose life regardless. you've inspired me and now i pray your story inspires others. i love you.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a true adventure.

the other day i was spreading some newspaper out on the floor to catch stray paint, and a review of Eat, Pray, Love caught my eye.

as i glanced it over, i noticed that whoever authored the review wrote with a merciless intensity that suggested he/she wanted to be published yet hidden at the same time. he/she suggested that Eat, Pray, Love places bored, spoiled wanderers with the time and resources to run across the world on pedestals as "true adventurers" or "real-go-getters in life".

the author also suggested that the main character's journey is actually nothing more than glorified selfishness and irresponsibility, and that Eat, Pray, Love is enabling and encouraging such thinking, all the while deeming "normal life" as a hindrance to finding our "true selves". i'll never know what this reviewer was really thinking, but it seems to me that whoever it was was feeling a little ashamed or insecure about the lack of adventure in his/her own life.

i can certainly see where the merciless author is coming from, but i've neither read book nor seen the movie, so i can't say whether or not i agree.

but Eat, Pray, Love set aside, i think that the author was wrong to write-off a "normal" lifestyle as in impossibility for adventure.

Merriam Webster's online dictionary defines adventure as, "an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks".

if Merriam Webster is right, then an adventure is not characterized by geographical distance, how much money it costs, or how glamourous or fun it is. In other words, if Merriam Webster is right, as long as a little fear or a little risk is involved, an adventure is just as possible sitting right at home as it is on a transcontinental journey or in some foreign place.

this realization empowered me, and made me excited, honestly. because since january, there've been times i've found myself cowering inside- bracing myself for coming pain and anguish. i've found myself secretly thinking through my escape from this torture and back into my disorder or at least writing off the possibility of full recovery and resting in the comfortable idea of clinging to some habits or behaviors forever. i feel strangely satisfied in thinking, i'm just not there yet. i probably won't do/think that for another couple of years. at times i've been a victim- at the mercy of of my disorder. but it doesn't have to be that way.

i realized that real recovery is an adventurous journey like in some kind of epic story- fighting my way through each day- running straight into the most dangerous and fearful things i can think of- knowing it's going to be awful and wonderful and that i'm going to win- coming out better, happier, more alive than i ever knew i could be. it's been moments of this type thinking that have gotten me where i am, and it's going to be this type thinking as a constant that's going to get me recovered and that's going to start making this fun.

the day before my brother left for college, he wanted to eat lunch at his favorite italian place (italian = my biggest fear food). i decided not to be wimpy and order a salad, but to have an adventure instead. i ate some pizza. not too much, not too little. and when we got home i wanted to busy myself to burn it off and avoid the guilt, but i let my adventure continue. i decided to sprawl on the living room couch instead and watch TV with my brother for the last time for several months. it was the perfect end to our summer.

over a week out from the pizza adventure, i find myself sure of two things: that i'm no bigger than i was before, and that i'm stronger, much less afraid. but i think the most important thing i learned was that many adventures (like pizza) might seem completely hopeless in terms of rewards or happy outcomes, but the most hopeless of apparent dangers often end up being the sweetest. in other words: pizza is delicious.

it's a beautiful way to approach our problems, i think. not as worn out victims just scraping around to survive, but as adventurers on a voyage to recovery from something. we're probably unsure of how we'll do it, but set in absolution of the outcome: victory.

so regardless of whether or not the merciless author's conclusions were correct, whether a trip around the world to figure things out entails immaturity or irresponsibility or not, i think the point- the only way to get anywhere- is to knowingly put yourself in some danger.

i'm not talking about jumping in front of cars or eating rat poison or anything. i'm talking about the dangerous things that might hurt if they happen, but will undoubtedly hinder us if they don't. for some, those things are eating pizza or taking naps or trying to understand what's beautiful about health. for others those things are letting people in, telling someone "no", or trying and failing.

regardless of what our dangers are, it's time to be excited about defeating them- adventure towards them, through them, and past them. to let them happen and let who we are result.

i'm no longer the victim. i'm the adventurer and i'm going to win. join me.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

when i was 16, my dad bought me the most wonderful friend of a car in the world. she is a white toyota avalon and her name is lola. lola and i have spent the past 5 years as the best of friends, and when we celebrate our 6th anniversary in November, we will also celebrate our birthdays: my 22nd, lola's 14th.

in light of the dawning of lola's golden years, a family decision was made to find a new source for my transport to Samford, allowing lola to gracefully retire in our driveway.

although its taken a week or two for me to warm up to my new (new to me, but not the world- she's a 2007) volvo s40, romelia, i've officially made room in my heart for both beauties. in fact, romelia and i have done a bit of bonding on the highway. she burns the road beautifully. it makes me smile while i drive.

lola understands, i think. especially because i still take her out for spins to home depot and thrift stores.

anyhow, the other day as romelia and i burned an hour or so of road between here and my grandmother's house, i began to notice all kinds of different things about her- the kinds of things you only notice for a little while- until you get used to them.

i realize that every side mirror of every car is inscripted with the words, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear," but i suppose i re-noticed it because it was part of the new mirror in my new car in which everything is new and noticeable.

i looked at cars behind me in the side mirrors and compared they way they looked in the side mirrors to the way they looked in the rear-view mirror. the saying was true- the cars looked much farther away from side.

if the way the driver sees things in the side mirrors is inaccurate, then basing one's driving decisions off of the side-mirror images as if they are exactly as they appear could be potentially fatal. so the words, "objects in mirror are closer than they appear," are there to protect drivers from assuming that what they see is true.

as my thoughts gathered, i realized that the same is true for all mirrors- that acting upon mere reflections as absolute truth could result in a life-altering/ending collision- i realized that it already has.

i realized that the time i looked in the mirror and decided that i should bring a plastic bag of lettuce on a high school road trip i killed a memory-

and the time i spent the better part of a december day looking my self up and down in my dorm room and managed to hide an entire meal under the table at chili's before a Christmas party my freshman year at Samford-i killed any energy i could've had to have fun-

and the night during finals last year when i didn't think i looked sick enough to need treatment and starved myself through finals week- i nearly killed my gpa-

the above mentioned times and countless others could have gone differently if i'd have looked in the mirror, understood what i saw to be partial truth, and acted accordingly. although the sharp sting of regret threatens me daily, i'm thankful i killed only time and memories and some potential for accomplishment but not myself.

i know it's near impossible to ignore what we see- at least for me it is. but that's why those words are written on the car's side mirrors- to remind us to consider what we know and not just what we see.

it might require a little guesswork, a little waiting, a little faith, but decisions that are based off of lies amount to nothing, and nothingness isn't my life anymore.

so i'm going to guess and i'm going to wait for cars to pass before i change lanes- because i've got no way of knowing where they really and truly are.

and when i look in the mirror i'll acknowledge what i see, but i'm going to make decisions outside the image in front of me. if i see something i hate- something so detestable it's mood-altering- day-altering even- i might change my outfit or fix my hair, but the image before me will not change the way i act in relation to the things i know to be true.

small things done according to the mirror grow into days done according to the mirror and days done according to the mirror grow into a life done according to the mirror and a life done according to the mirror is a life lived on partial truth.

i want more than that.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

part two: something tragically beautiful happened today...

i loaded my size * pants and some various other useless items (think t-shirts with rhinestone 'e's on them and pajama pants from when i was 12) and headed to saver's.

saver's is a magical place that's very much like goodwill, only the donating and the shopping both take place on the same site.

as i pulled up, a golden-haired man emerged from the side-door designated for donations. he was kind as he took my items and he smelled pleasantly of tobacco. he had no idea what an important thing he was helping me do- how essential it was that he'd showed up to work that morning.

we thanked one another and told me to tell my friends to donate. i assured him i would as i stepped towards the front door and into the wonderful realm of all things old and awesome and cheap.

saver's is normally a multi-hour process of digging and sorting and figuring out what's really cool and what i only like because i'm thrift-happy (being thrift happy is thinking that you love perfectly awful things because you're in an excellent mood because you're thrifting).

today, however, i encountered a yard-long row of the most excellent fabrics i think i've ever encountered (all of which will go towards clothing to fit my new self). i also found a lamp for my new apartment ($6!!!) which i am going to fix up/polish/paint. yes.

as i paid for my things, i couldn't help but marvel at the incredibly apparent symbolism of what was happening.

i had dropped off the old, the evil, the things i still sort of loved but i knew i couldn't. and once i'd done it in faith and walked away, i was greeted with an abundance so beautiful i could never trade it back for the old stuff.

it wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last.

Friday, August 13, 2010

part one: something tragically beautiful happened today...

written yesterday (friday) afternoon...

i was cleaning out my closet and came across a couple pairs of pants...size * pants.

i flared my nostrils at them, wishing that my heart hated them as much as my face appeared to. one pair in particular- the jeans of course- were heavy with painful memories and emotion. i picked them up and thought i'd give them a try.

i won't go into further detail of the failed process that followed, but needless to say, the only part of my body that actually got to see the jeans from the inside was my ankles.

there were two times during my eating disorder in which my hatred towards my body reached an intensity that i could no longer endure. it was these two times that i prayed and asked God to please just take me from my earthly shell, because the fight was too painful to be worth it.

one of these two times was during high school. i was sitting in the pants i held this morning on a pew in the sanctuary of my church. i was sitting in God's house, supposedly the place where truth is close, but i'd held my disorder closer, and the peace that surrounded couldn't get in.

i remember sitting in those jeans, lose-fitting as they were, thinking i was the fattest person at church. the pain was hot and it spread like flames. i closed my eyes for the prayer and hoped they would never open again.

as i relived one of the most difficult memories of my life, something truthful began to make sense...

if i was the fattest person at church when i was wearing the pants that i am now unable to pull up past my ankles, then i've now reached a point of such obesity that i will likely die of a heart attack before i am thirty.

i know i still see myself bigger than i am, but i no longer see a person anywhere close to obese in the mirror, and if i can trust my nutritionist and other honest people in my life (which i can), i am actually in the smaller range of healthy-sized people.

in other words, i had to be skinny when i wore the now ankle-only pants. skinnier than skinny.

for a moment, i basked in the newly shed light illuminating the dusty corners of my mind. when i finally lifted the size * waistband eye-level, a pit formed in my stomach.

i had no idea i was this small.

at last i've been liberated from the most binding insecurity of my disorder: that i was never actually thin, just normal, and my eating disorder existed only in my head.

for a second i thought i'd keep the pants around- that maybe they'd fit at different time of the month.

but when that fleeting second was over, i knew i had to let them go.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

well, crap.

i thought i was done having to listen to things i don't believe and then blindly live them out like some kind of frontline soldier who's been promised he won't get hit.

but "done" i am not.

i've marveled countless times over the way my thoughts- thoughts that were solid as iron- have been melted by behaviors and newly molded by truth.

i've enjoyed the marveling. its satisfying and fun and (as i've recently discovered isn't wrong) it makes me feel proud of myself.

another reason i think that marveling is so wonderful is because it's not wandering blindly into something you're convinced is going to ruin your life (e.g...gaining weight, burning old jeans, following a meal plan, being vulnerable). as i mentioned above, that's a feeling i'd like to keep in the distant past.

it's also a feeling that my treatment team has recently informed me i will have to feel again if i want to be recovered.

last week i met with my dietitian to discuss my obsessive tendencies with working out. She suggested i combine cardio and strength workouts and do them on the same days to cut my workout days to 3 per week rather than 6.

i was perfectly okay with this, as she said nothing about cutting amounts of activity, only days. so i combined the cardio and strength plans i've been doing all summer, wrote out my new 3-day plan and emailed it to my dietitian her for approval. until the email, i'd never informed her of exactly what i'd been doing for workouts.

her reply said that i've been doing entirely too much and that i need to cut back my activity by two thirds.

two thirds. 4 out of my 7th grade math teacher's 6 toes. 600 pieces out of a 900-piece puzzle.

in other words i'm supposed to take one day from the "new plan" i sent Suzanne, divide it by three, and let that be my week's workout.

well, crap.

i do not work out to lose weight. at first i worked out to gain muscle. and now that i've done that and i like it, i work out to keep my muscle and to feel good.

for six years, i looked at my body with utter disgust and disdain. fellow strugglers: anything you've ever thought you'd rather do than endure another excruciating second of self-hatred, i promise i've thought the same thing.

but something happened when i was able to start working out again that's never happened before. i quit obsessing over cardio and focused on strength training. and suddenly my body transformed into something i can tolerate...and sometimes even like.

i realize that a lot of this could be in my head- that perhaps i only think i've toned up because i've been lifting weights and what not. but regardless- i'm afraid of the angry and unpleasant voice of bad body image- i'm afraid of it's misery and all-consuming darkness. and i'm willing to do whatever it takes at the gym to keep the voice away.

but after some crying and thinking and more crying and more thinking, i've realized that although the amount of time i've been spending in the gym is completely worth it to me to keep this pseudo-peace i've found, what's worth even more is fulfilling my call to become a therapist, a wife, a mom, an artist, and whatever else life has in store.

i can't be a therapist if i'm not recovered and i'll never be recovered if i don't stop working out obsessively.

and so i find myself at all too familiar unfamiliar abyss, knowing that i have to trust and to jump.

it's worked before, will it work again?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

my mom had never told me this before...

...but during our morning ritual chat over complex carbs and window-beams of sun, she told me that my therapist in high school looked her square in the face and said i was the worst case he'd ever seen.

i never knew that, and i wouldn't have believed it if either of them had told me (part of me still doesn't), but it was truly encouraging to hear it.

i was partly encouraged because i hadn't thought about high school in awhile. sometimes i forget how bad things were then, and i think only about this past relapse- which was bad, but not as bad-and i feel invalidated in my decision to get help last fall. but thinking about all the years i can't get back, the high school memories i could have had but don't have, reminded me that it was the same disorder that took those years that tried for the final time to take even more last fall.

the other way in which i was encouraged (which is also the better way, because the first way is kind of a crutch for my recovery) was that i realized that a small strand of the EA God always intended me to be reached out last fall, begged for help, and alongside an amazing treatment team and God himself, fought her way out of one of the worst disorders a licensed professional had ever encountered, and reclaimed what she knew was her own.

so for all the fellow strugglers who've found this blog and thought, "wow. i wish i could do what EA's done but i'm just too far gone," know that i was NOT better off than you, it has NOT been easier for me than for others, i was NOT just a minor case that was easily reversed. Know that if i did it, you can do it. I give all credit for my decision to recover to Jesus Christ, but aside from Him, there's no super power or secret to my success in recovery. i didn't want to, i didn't think i needed to, but for some reason i just did it anyway. (sometimes i think it was because i just wanted an adventure).

i'm not trying to be bossy, but please stop waiting for a reason to recover, because nothing's ever going to be good enough for long enough. stop waiting til you want to, because however much you want it, the first time your size * pants won't zip, you'll want your eating disorder twice as much as you ever wanted to eat.

sometimes you just have to do it because you'll die if you don't, because you'll never be anything or anyone but your disorder unless you walk through the fire of letting it go. you're not going to want to until you've tasted life and you're not going to taste life until you've acted outside your disorder for quite awhile.

you can.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

alie b.

as i was sewing/tv watching this morning, a girl in a colorless outfit sauntered onto the screen. satcheled over her shoulder was a small, brightly hued red bag. the show hosts went on and on about the "pop of color" the bag added to the look. considering the fact that the only thing i can remember about what the model looked like or had on is her red bag, i suppose the hosts were more than right.

alie b. gorrie has a red bag effect everywhere she goes. her beautiful smile, warm enthusiasm, and limitless ambitions are undeniable, unforgettable "pops of color".

i first met the wonderful alie b. at an EDA (eating disorders anonymous) meeting. Most of those in attendance were college or older, but young alie b. (who's currently attends Mountainbrook High School) was hardly intimidated.

Alie B. suffers from low vision, an optical condition that causes severe visual impairment. She founded an annual event called Songs for Sight to benefit UAB's low vision rehabilitation center and even met with President Obama to raise awareness for low vision.

To have accomplished so much in the midst of her battle for recovery, it's obvious that Alie B. is a woman of incredible strength. here, if you will, is an in-person look into her fight for recovery:

1. How did you come to decide that the fight for recovery was worth it?

"Making a difference, no matter how small is something I value. To put it frankly, when I was entrenched in my eating disorder, I simply could not give to my full potential. I tried, and I was physically present and there for people- but I was doing a half-ass job, you know? I want to be a music therapist when I grow up, and my GI doctor told me that if my esophageal tear got any worse, I could no longer have my voice. OUCH. That is my career, you know? If i cannot sing, how can I lead others to healing through teaching voice and music? My dietician, Sarah, always reminds me of this- because I have dreamt of my music therapy career for years- and I refuse to let some eating disorder get in the way."

2. What has helped you most along the way?

"three things have truly helped me the most in my journey...
1. the time i spent at remuda ranch- they kicked my butt towards recovery in the best possible way...just super hard
2. finally having a network of women in recovery who understand, .

3. having something to put my faith in that is much bigger than me- the Lord."

3. What is some of your strongest motivation to keep going?

" my future. (like number one) i want to have a music therapy career and be in the moment every day when i go to work/school/etc."

4. What is your favorite thing about recovery?

"Recovery has given me SO MUCH! ...I am so much more of the old, free-spirited me, not the up-tight, perfectionistic people-pleaser I used to be. I also have REAL RELATIONSHIPS! (Keep in mind all of the following aspects i love about recovery are not perfect every day- part of recovery is learning how to make these things possible!)"

5. What is your least favorite thing about recovery?

"They say to plan your life around your recovery and not to plan your recovery around your life.... This is so hard. But when I do choose the first option I'm ultimately so much stronger. I also still struggle with the battles in my head! The voice is quieter, but it's still a fight."

6. What do you love/not love about your body?

" I love my legs and am getting to love my arms- i have gotten so strong this year and love having muscle and being able to lift weights and do push-ups and have definition! The one thing i still just am not wild about is my stomach. I really struggle with it, still. So odd how i love the rest, but keep fixed on that one silly part of me."

7. what is something you've learned about yourself "on the other side"?

"i have discovered that i can voice my needs and it is not selfish! i have also learned that i can eat what i want and maintain my weight- i struggle with this idea....but my new therapist checks my weight and heck- i had an amazing cupcake this week and NOTHING HAPPENED. Pretty cool, huh? I have also found i am a heck of a lot stronger than i give myself credit for!"

what a beautiful example you are, Alie B. Thank you for your willingness to contribute, and thank you for sharing with us your story of restoration. much love to you.



Monday, August 2, 2010

demanding freedom.

let me preface this post with an apology: i know that i am about to de-originalize myself by posting a clip from Lord of the Rings on my blog. how many pastors have done exactly what i'm about to do in their sermons? if i had a dollar for half of them i'd be a wealthy woman.

but when i watched this scene i knew i had no other choice.

my brother and i have spent the past couple of afternoons watching the Lord of the Rings movies. if you haven't seen them or if it's been awhile, the video below is from a scene in which gollum/smeagol fights with himself over which of his alter-egos (good or evil) he will allow to stay.

i found myself incredibly empowered by this scene, and if you're struggling with an eating disorder (or any sort of deception or stronghold) i hope you find it empowering too!

(if you've never struggled with an eating disorder, or any sort of addiction, please don't mistakenly assume from this post that eating disorders/addictions involve multiple personalities or hallucinatory voices. while these things can certainly accompany psychological disorders and addictions, the point of this video is merely to highlight the severity of deceptive thoughts and malperceptions that accompany eating disorders, and to show that with true desire, determination, and perseverance they can be put to rest.)

p.s. yeah. so apparently this video can't be embedded. just click down there and go watch it.