Sunday, January 30, 2011

i rarely visit my nutritionist these days...

...but every now and then i'll pop in for a little tune-up.

friday afternoon, i sunk into her brown couch as she lithefully crossed one leg over the other in a turqouise wicker chair in the opposite corner of her small office.

we caught up for a moment and she cradeled my previous files in her forearms and elbows, close to her lap, while she reviewed them.

our session commenced with its typical first question: "alrighty," she said, "what have you been doing for breakfast?"

without so much as a blink i replied, "three fourths of a cup of oatmeal with two tablespoons walnuts, a little brown sugar and an 8 0z glass of milk."

she nodded, "okay. when will you eat next?"

again, without a flinch- "a luna bar- around 10 am"

she wrote some notes and nodded, "whats for lunch?"

i rubbed my legging-covered knee and described my typical 3 0z of turkey on wheat bread with olive oil mayonnaise.

her pen stopped mid-sentence and she lifted her gaze to mine, looking slightly amused.

"this is exactly what you told me you were eating back in september," she flipped back a couple of papers and nodded, "have you been eating the same thing every day?"

my face twisted into a smile, "this is what i like," i said, almost whining, "and i eat a number one at chick fil a every so often!"

she raised her eye brows, slightly tilting her head, "i just don't think you know what you're missin'. and dinner and snacks- those are the same too?"

i scrunched my shoulders, bracing myself for her disapproval, "ehhh...yeah."

she lowered my files to her lap and shook her head a little. she explained that eating for health is not just about nutritional value, but flavor, texture, temperature, and variety.

she commended the progress i've made, but told me it's time to embrace myself by embracing food.

i told her that of course it's the safety that makes me eat the same things, but it's even more so that i feel really wrong about making any thing more than the pure basics for myself to eat. i just want to go to the store and get my staples and put forth as little time/effort as possible to fix them.

i suppose i'd forgotten that i'm actually allowed to make things that are yummy and fun and just for me. it still feels a little wrong, but when i put sharp cheddar cheese {which was my favorite in my pre-eating disorder life} on my sandwich saturday afternoon for the first time since i was fifteen, i decided to try and stick with it.

normally, when i say that i believe i'm worth caring for, i fully and truly believe it. but when i think about cooking just for me- fixing any given thing just because i want to- it's hard to wrap my mind around that being okay.

so here i am, venturing into more uncharted territory. it will be scary and it will be hard, but i think it will also be fun. and i know that it will be free.

i leave you with the following photo of my adventurous dinner saturday night:

whole wheat pasta with chicken and lots and lots of grilled veggies...and my new friend, pesto.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

an almost relapse.

the other day i drove back to samford for my very last semester of college.

i was supposed to be sentimental or incredulous or savoring memories past and memories to come, or something like that i think.

i allowed my mind to drift for old time's sake, but i wasn't softly smiling or feeling full-hearted in result...i was counting calories.

it had been months since the familiar, sinister voice beckoned to me, offering its advice to make me look a little thinner, and thus worth a little more.

it took me aback a little bit...the way it does to see a somewhat forgotton name from a dramatic past pop up at the top of a text much of a jolt as it was, there was something spark-like about it, something that stirred up everything i'm trying to hate and reminded me how much i used to love it.

i knew the moment i detected them that i needed to drive the thoughts out of my head, but i didn't. i didn't, because as much as i hate to admit it...

...i kind of liked that they were there.

it takes roughly six hours to drive from my home to my school. apparently, it also takes roughly six hours for me to step an entire year back in my thinking.

i hadn't planned on acting on any of the thoughts. i just wanted to enjoy the safety of thinking them. but by the time i got to my apartment, i'd devised a restrictive eating plan and began to carry it out.

i won't go into any detail in regards to what i ate/didn't eat saturday night and sunday, because i just don't see that information serving any positive purpose for anyone.

but i will say that i spent sunday morning wandering the grocery store, purchasing my eating disorder's favorite "foodless foods" as i like to call them, and feeling strangely secure having them rolling around in my cart.

i continued, walking hand in hand with my disorder into the night.

i found myself at an opening event at which everyone reunited for coffee and dessert to welcome the spring semester. i downed a couple of cups of coffee (many of you fellow strugglers have probably experienced a twisted relationship with coffee) and found it incredibly {but now that i look back, unsprisingly} effortful to be myself.

i can remember being around bigger groups of people when i was sick and feeling completely caged. it was like the real me was in there, but my eating disorder was a prison that not only took over my body and mind, but my personality as well. i was so frustrated that i couldn't just make my real self come out.

it took proper nutrition and disobedience of my disorder to liberate my true self before, so i don't know why i thought i could have it all this time.

it took about an hour amidst the people i love for me to remember that my disorder wasn't going to accept just a portion of my efforts. it will always want everything. my thoughts went into a battle that was so explicitly back and forth, i could almost feel it from one side of my head to the other. it was like i was going to rip down the middle.

i was just standing there, feeling safe, but dizzy; euphoric, but sad. as much as my disorder wanted me, i knew God wanted me more. and my true heart, the one that's emerged from the past year of healing, began mourning all i was going to lose if i chose to stop eating and turn back.

this person doesn't know this, but as the battle reached its peak of intensity, a friend approached me and told me a story of some positive effects of this blog he'd observed in a fellow struggler's life. {that being said...this is God's blog...he put on my heart to start it, and he does what he will with if i say that someone has benefitted from any words that i post, i am not implying that i did anything besides stand in as a willing vessel to accomplish any of it} at that point, the battle was over.

i texted my best friend and my mom and told them what had happened and told them it was over. i felt joyously liberated and i thanked God for his provision and i danced with friends and glow sticks and went to sonic with them afterwards and ate/drank a dr. pepper float.

i woke the next morning feeling relieved and even safer than i'd felt with the "foodless" cans in my cart. i bought some awesome velcro dance shoes and some cinnamon almonds and you know what?...

...i haven't looked back.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

i almost put up a before/after picture

...but i had an uneasy feeling about doing that.

i want you to know though, that today, for the first ever, i believe with the fullness of my heart that without my disorder, i am not only a far better person on the inside...

...but a far better person

on the *outside*

as well.

and i want you to see for yourself:

in december of 2009, my body was at the lowest weight it would ever reach during my four years of college.

about one year ago today, i was in my third week at Magnolia Creek. i had yet to gain more than about a pound. according to my nutritionist, everything i ate was going to repair my internal organs. this continued for another couple of weeks until the weight finally began to stick.

towards the middle of April of 2010, i reached my goal weight.
i hated it.

in november of 2010, {weighing roughly 20 pounds more than i did in november of 2009[dont get used to me using numbers. this was merely an exception to my no-number rule]} this photo was taken at Chi Omega Formal:

fellow strugglers: today is January 18, 2011. It has been more than a year since i made the decision to go into recovery from my eating disorder.

I have fought through hatred of my body, knowing that maintaining a healthy weight was the only way to sustain the livelihood that i have discovered in taking care of my self.

this morning, as i was drinking coffee and looking at old pictures, i found myself suddenly able to see that the picture above is a much better look for me than pre-recovery pictures.{note: it took 10 months of existing at a healthy weight for me to come to this realization}

take heart- whatever your struggle- and know that for the time being, what is right and true may only have mourning to offer you.

persevere {through the pain and the anguish and the sorrow} and one morning you will rise to find joy and truth and life.

it keeps happening over and over.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

i had to say goodbye today...

...which i always hate.

but i will be returning to Mi Esperanza (along with my mother and grandmother) in June, which certainly makes things easier.

i tied up some lose ends at the center and hugged everyone and took a few pictures. they'd all made me jewelry and i put it on and thanked them as many times as possible and told them i'd never take it off. we kissed one another's heads a few times over and then i slung on my backpack and that was that.

afterwards we went to the airport to pick up a couple of the Mi Esperanza board members. in a day or so, the entire board will be in town for meeting and planning and a little mission work. once we picked them up we got some lunch and then went for a beautiful hour's drive up the mountains and into a quiet, rural area called santa ana. one of mi esperanza's founders has a beautiful home here and it's where all of the board will be staying.

i've always been fascinated by any and all females who happen to have been walking through life longer than i. there's something about just being around them, soaking in everything they say and do and don't say and don't do. i know they're not perfect, but they've made it as far as they have so there's got to be something said for observing them, no? it just gives me an expectant joy. and something to work towards.

we sat and stood around the kitchen counter talking and laughing for the afternoon's remainder until it was time for dinner. one of them made the most wonderful meat sauce which we ate on top of pasta along with some salad and bread. (cake from a honduran bakery came afterwards).

as we sat outside with low lights and candles and stemless glasses of wine, i looked around at each of their faces and i realized that i'm going to be them one day. whatever it is i end up doing with my life will at least have unfolded a few times and i'll hopefully have found a man who will put up with me and i'll maybe even have grandchildren.

i looked around at them and i realized that i am not just fighting for right now. i'm fighting for 30 years from now. i'm fighting for the nights like this one that just couldn't be much better. nights with old friends and fun and good food and true purpose behind them.

i took a bite of bread and i realized that the disorder that took hold of me for so long had not planned on letting me go. that had i not chosen to refuse it any more power in my life, one day i could be 50 years old and shaking my foot a million miles an hour under a dinner table, surrounded by all the heart-filling things this life has to offer, unable to partake of any of them.

i am not just the fleeting 22-year-old version of EA, only to be followed by the adult in act 2 of life. right now, i am 25-year-old EA and i am 50-year old EA and i'm the EA in between and after. when i gave myself away to my disorder, i was giving it all.

i am not only recovering the here and the now. i am recovering the rest of whoever i'll be.


Monday, January 10, 2011

hola again...

...from my favorite place in the world.

This time last year, i was beginning my second week at Magnolia Creek. Today, i am beginning my second week at work with Mi Esperanza.

Mi Esperanza [which means, "my hope"] is a non profit organization dedicated to empowering women. mi esperanza offers skills classes in sewing, cosmetology, and computer operation. once they've completed the sewing classes, some of the women find jobs elsewhere, while some choose to stay with mi esperanza, making bags, clothes and accessories for their line which is sold in their web store and a store here in Tegucigalpa.
when i come to honduras, i come with a notebook full of designs for new products to add to the mi esperanza stores. i've been coming since 2009 {and actually had to cancel a trip last january because of treatment}.

So far this trip, we've come up with a couple of journal covers, as well as some awesome new bags inspired by a photo of some Honduran architecture i took the first time i was here (pictured below):

this was taken from a car window in June 2009

and these are the bags the above photo inspired

We're also working on some neat-o journal covers made out of recycled plastic bags. i don't have any great pictures of those (because i forgot my camera cord [surprise to those of you that know me-i forgot something!] and can therefore only upload photos from my phone).

but the most important thing, really, is that i give each of the women about a million kisses and hugs a day, that i tell them i love them at least half that many times, and that i've invested enough into taking care myself that i've actually got something i can pour out to someone else.

i used to always want to make things about everyone else. not that that isn't a great thing, but i never thought i was worth taking care of at all and so i found my sense of worth in how happy i could make other people. {it's called codependency: you depending on someone else's dependence on you}

the funny thing is, the more i denied myself, the more selfish i actually became. i found myself serving others out of a hollow, exhausted heart. there wasn't any love or any joy. i just wanted to do as many things as i could possibly do for other people- not because i loved them, but because i hated myself.

but now, i find i'm truly able to live a life that is not about me. life isn't about me, and so i eat and sleep so i can have energy to serve and to love. life isn't about me, and so i say, "no" sometimes so that tomorrow, i'll be fully present in every conversation instead of distant and tired and faint. life isn't about me, and so i take steps to be healthy so that six months from now, i can be serving others instead of sitting in a doctor's office.

that being said, i now want you to meet the five best women i know:

this is sara.
(sorry that this looks like a mug shot. something really refreshing about these women is that none of them have ever practiced smiling for a picture in front of a mirror or tried to figure out which side is their "good" one)
sara has a heart of gold. she is quiet, but when she laughs, it's from her heart. she's got a smile that's the most genuine of any i've seen. when she speaks, it's unfailingly soft, but always encouraging. as a grown woman she has far less than i had the day i was born, yet her faith in God runs deeper than i'm able to understand.

this is reina.
i had the privilege of visiting her home this past saturday and meeting her family. she is unceasingly laughing or smiling. although she is hardly carefree, reina lives and thrives apart from those things that she cannot control, making her a ray of sunshine for all she encounters.
{p.s...when she saw me last week she told me i had filled out...oh well!}

this is amparo.
amparo is quiet and but far less stoic than the summer of 2009 when she and i first met. although we've not discussed her past, i sense that she has been through quite a bit. but as quiet as she is and as scared as she may be, amparo knows how to be loved. the slightest touch lights up her face, and she stops everything she's doing to receive a hug. as i've grown to know amparo, i have watched her allow others in, and i have watched her face soften and her laughter abound in result.

this is cecilia.
cecilia is the sewing teacher, and in charge of the maquila (which is the sewing room). She is always supportive of the designs i bring for the women to learn, and always ready to have as much fun as possible. before i grew to know any of the other women, it felt like cecilia and i had always known one another. she is someone who not only sees the best in people, but enjoys the best in people. i hope that i'm like her one day.

this is romelia.
[my car is named after her]
romelia and i have an unspoken, special bond. if one of us isn't screaming laughter at the the other one, it's because it's the other way around. she's sassy and she withholds no opinions, but neither does she withhold any love. the first morning i walked into the Mi Esperanza center, romelia leapt across the small back courtyard and enveloped me in her arms. it's funny to me that a 40-something-year-old honduran woman and i could be such good friends. but then again, of course we are.

if you learn love yourself, you never know who you'll end up getting to love afterwards.

more pictures to come from the states,


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

one year ago today...

...i was the wide-eyed new girl walking into Magnolia Creek Residential Treatment Center for Eating Disorders for the first time.

i had butterflies and goosebumps and a zillion thoughts flashing through my head. i was freezing cold, but my palms and my armpits were damp with sweat.

i kept starting prayers as i made the 45 minute drive out there, but i couldn't keep my composure long enough to continue any of them.

i remember walking inside and feeling like my head was spinning. my nutritionist walked out to greet me and told me to have a seat on some tan couches in what looked like a decently cozy living room.

i sat and stared all around. first at the surrounding couches and fireplace, then at the purplish-blue walls, then at the floor. there were notebooks everywhere. i saw them but i don't really remember thinking anything other than that i hoped i wasn't going to be the fattest girl there.

a kind woman appeared and looked over at me from the back of the couch. she introduced herself and escorted me to a private office where we went through about a million pages of intake papers.

next was breakfast.

a woman with blonde ringlet curls pressed her lips into a sassy smile as she put a tray with a bowl of cereal, an apple, and some toast on the glass kitchen table. her name was angela. she had a strong voice and an even stronger presence. she was the kind of girl who's hand was on her hip more than it wasn't. she gave extra emphasis to all of her consonants. "This is your breakfast. and this," she said, "is my table".

i remember not knowing how to react, and so i sat down and gulped at what {at the time} looked a massive amount of food.

"you're not gettin' up til you eat that," angela said.

once i felt ready, i started with the cereal. the apple was next, then the toast. i began tearing it into tiny pieces. angela shot me a stare and raised her voice, "NO tearing at my table!"

once i'd gotten breakfast down, i joined the rest of the girls for group therapy, which was where i would spend the majority of my time.

i spent the rest of the day fearfully eating whatever was put in front of me, and half getting-to know, half competing with the other 8 the girls in my position.

it was almost like a game to me. i remember, at the the end of that first day, feeling like i'd finally succeeded at something. i was sick enough for someone to have to sit by me at the table and force me to eat. i had no idea who i was, but i knew that i'd done something right- that i'd dedicated myself to my disorder to the point that i'd been sequestered to a treatment center in Chelsea, Alabama.

my life was not mine, and it wouldn't be for another while.

fast forward to today, 365 days later.

i woke up to my dad poking me at 3:30 am. "get up," he said, "you've got to make this flight."

i stumbled out of bed and showered and shoved last minute items into bags and by sheer miracle itself, made it to the airport even earlier than we'd planned.

By 5 am, I'd checked my bags and it was time for Dad and i to say goodbye.

we stood a meandering few feet from the security line and held on to each other while he told me a couple of times to be safe. I assured him i would and told him to try and get a nap later on.

by 9:30 am, I was in houston, texas having starbucks oatmeal and coffee.

by 12:30, i was looking out of a plane window over Honduras.

Now, at 5:09 pm, one year after my first day at Magnolia Creek, i am resting in a dear friend's home.

tomorrow i will wake up and eat breakfast and drink some of the best coffee this world has to offer. next i will begin some design work for a women's program here called Mi Esperanza {Mi Esperanza means, "my hope". full post on this program and all that they do and what i'm doing while im here is coming up in the next couple of days}

i've worked with these women before, and they are truly my heart. i can't wait to work with them again, but even more so, i can't wait to love on them.

thanks to the journey that began one year ago today, i know that i am worth the fight that's taken/ing place.

it's the fact that i know i'm worth caring for that enables me to care for others.

on that note, i leave you with this...

{DISCLAIMER: please do not judge the content of the video that accompanies this song. sadly, it was the best that youtube could's incredibly cheesy although somewhat relevant. just don't look, okay? close your eyes if you want...but please listen to the song.}