It takes a village

It takes a village…

The saying “it takes a village…” has been coming up a lot for me. Recently, Greyson’s daycare class has been closing randomly due to COVID and I have had to rely on a lot of my friends to help me watch him during this uncertain time. I have always been one to struggle with asking for help. Throughout the years, asking for help has gotten easier–especially after having a kid. However, it is still very uncomfortable for me. When I was picking Greyson up from my friend’s house this week, the saying “it takes a village” came to my mind. Ever since moving to Tennessee, I have had to work on creating my support system here. I have made friends who have become family, had jobs that have been very flexible and supportive, and found a church who has welcomed me with open arms. It takes a village to raise a child. I cannot do it on my own.

When thinking of the saying “it takes a village,” I thought about my own recovery. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to continue in active recovery. My village consists of my therapist, dietitian, close friends, and those who pray for me daily. I cannot do recovery without them…I have tried. When I try to be in recovery without my “village,” I slip backwards quickly. I isolate myself and tend to become very depressed. Life is not meant to be done alone. It takes a village to overcome the struggles and addictions we all face.

I remember when I first talked about my abuse. I would try to isolate because I didn’t think anyone would understand. I was grieving my childhood, grieving my dad being taken away, and thinking everything was my fault. When I started dancing, I found a community that helped me through the dark times. I was a part of a youth group and began opening up to people. Throughout the years, I realized that my village has changed. The people who were in my village a few years ago are not the same people in my village now (some may be, but the majority is not). That’s normal. In life, we go through different seasons.

I have recently found a community at my church who push me to be the best person I can be. I have a few close friends who have been there for me at my worst and there for me at my best. When I struggle, I have people I can reach out to. I have people who want to see me succeed and who tell me the uncomfortable things I may not want to hear. I have people who have my best interest at heart. I have people who love Greyson as their own. My village may be small, but my village is mighty.

I encourage you to find your village. Find your people who can help you find your purpose. Find your people who encourage you. Life isn’t meant to be done alone. Recovery isn’t meant to be done alone. There are people out there who love you and want to see you succeed.

-M


your patience is your power.

Why is it that I have all the patience in the world when it comes to the kids at my job? Let it be anything else in my life and I seem to be lacking – especially when it comes to myself. I would never put unfair or unachievable standards on my kids at school. So why is it that I think I’m an exception and I put these crazy standards on myself?

Some people will argue and say it’s just called pushing yourself hard and having high expectations of yourself because you know what you’re capable of. While this can be true in some circumstances, this is not the case. You can trace it back to how my generation uses technology for instant gratification. You could probably even take one of the many effects of my trauma to explain it. Perhaps you could blame it on the subtle red streaks of Irish in my hair and say “it’s just that Irish temper.” Any of these would be an easy explanation into why my patience lacks in some areas. 

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter why. In some instances, I usually LOVE deep diving into the why’s of behavior – especially my own. In this case, I’m more interested in what behavioral changes or mindset shifts I can make to help me live with a little more gratitude and being present in the process. You will make the greatest discoveries about yourself and learn the hardest lessons through the process than you will from looking at a nice list of accomplishments. Reaching goals and moving from one milestone to the next is a huge feat. However, if we only ever focus on the next thing in our reach – the next promotion, a bigger house, a better job, more likes, more followers, more money, etc – we miss the greater joy that is right in front of us. The joy of being present in the process and having patience until we get there. Impatience is a great thief of joy. I’m taking mine back. 

For most of my life, I’ve always put some expectation of perfection on myself. Again, we can chalk up the reasoning behind this to many things from my past and present. The bigger idea is that this image of perfection doesn’t leave much room for failure or learning. How can we learn and grow if we never fail? We can’t. It’s pretty simple. We also can’t learn from our mistakes if we don’t allow room for patience, understanding, and grace with ourselves. 

My patience seems to run thin when I’ve gotten past a stage of self doubt and negative thinking. I find myself in a place where my mind says, “okay, I’ve finally decided on this next goal. Now, let me work tirelessly until I get the answers I want or have achieved whatever the next step is that will lead me closer to my goal.” This way of thinking is similar to the “grind” mindset we see all over social media. The idea that we must work day and night, sacrifice sleep, neglect our wellbeing, and only spend time monetizing every aspect of our life. I don’t know about you, but that schedule doesn’t really look like it leaves much time for being patient with yourself when you fail or make a mistake. 

To give you a real life example, let me give you a closer look into my life here recently. The past year or so has been what some people refer to as a ‘quarter’ life crisis. After abandoning my life in the fitness industry to focus largely on my mental health and healing from my past, I took a job in child care. Hands down, this has been one of the best last minute decisions of my life – and trust me, I’ve had a lot of those. Working with kids has been something so great for my mental wellbeing. It has allowed me the room to not only enjoy my workday, but give my time and energy into something other than myself. Running around wrangling a classroom full of 14 two year olds doesn’t leave any time for you to worry about if your skinny jeans are accentuating your thigh cap or not. You sure can’t teach 20 four year olds about the letter of the day if you haven’t nourished yourself properly. And you can bet your sweet cheeks that the classroom full of 8 screaming infants could give a shit (literally) about what you look like that day as long as you feed them their bottle and pat their booties. 

As much as I was enjoying the work I was doing, I couldn’t help but constantly wonder what my next career move was going to be. I was constantly being asked by friends and family, “well what are your real career goals? You know what I mean, like a real job. What are you going to go back to school for?” These questions, although usually well intentioned, were often followed by numerous suggestions of career paths that would lead to more money than I was currently making. Some suggested teaching. Some suggested being a preschool director. Some even suggested careers that would mix teaching and fitness, like a P.E. teacher. Again, while these were usually meant with love, it put an added pressure on me that I already had on myself. 

All this thinking about where I was going to go next didn’t really leave a ton of room for me to be patient with my own process. Did I actually want a career at the preschool? No. Did I genuinely want to go back to school to further my education? Maybe, but rushing myself through that process was never going to lead me to the right answer. Instead, it made me consider all these different routes that, deep down, I knew wouldn’t lead me to feel very fulfilled in life. This feeling of fulfilment wasn’t something I was willing to give up when it came to my career choice and thank goodness I didn’t. 

Once I finally gave myself a little patience and let myself breathe for a second, I found my answer to my career goals in a book. I had made the decision to trade some screen time throughout my day for reading a few pages from a book that I had been saying I was going to read for a couple months and never even started. The book is called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. It discusses how trauma affects the whole body, mentally and physically. It goes into depth on the science behind what is happening. For the first time in probably my entire life, I wasn’t forcing myself to read. I’ve always joked that I don’t actually know how to read and that my reading comprehension skills were wildly lacking as a funny excuse for why I hated it. Turns out, that isn’t the case at all. I just didn’t give a shit about anything I was reading. I found myself way more engrossed and entertained by this book than anything on my phone. There were no more google searches for side hustles that can help me make extra money. There wasn’t the constant career-column reading on what career paths I can go down with the education and experience I had. It was just me, my fancy mildliner highlighter that I paid way too much money for, my mac-n-cheese cup, and my book on my lunch breaks at work.

I remember thinking to myself it’d be cool to do something centered around psychology and mental health for my career, but I’d always come to the same conclusion. 

I could never do that. 

There’s no way I’d ever be able to handle going back to school with my history of schooling. 

It’s way too late in my life to do some major career move like that. 

I can tell you for a fact that this negative thinking and having zero belief in myself did come from a past of trauma and learned negative self-talk. Thanks to my previous efforts to heal myself from maladaptive coping skills such as these, I knew that these thoughts were dumb. Though at times, I still believed them to be true. Despite the contradicting thoughts in my head, I researched some career paths that involved going back to school for psychology. I quickly found myself overwhelmed with excitement over all the areas of work and study that I could go into. There were even options that included my love for kids – wow, imagine that. 

This is the part where I discovered my next goal. This is the part where my lack of patience almost bested me. I spent much more time on my phone looking up program after program. I reached out to countless schools’ admissions offices to get advice on how to get accepted and what my next steps were. I was trying so hard to hurry up and get started in an attempt to begin class in August (a month’s time span) that I didn’t give myself a chance to breathe. I found myself getting super frustrated and annoyed when I didn’t get immediate responses to my emails or my searches wouldn’t lead me to the answer I wanted. Didn’t people know that I was in a time crunch and trying to rush through a process for absolutely no reason? 

It was at this point that I was close to throwing in the towel. I was falling victim to that negativity in my head again. You might think this hard inner critic is no big deal, but she comes in the form of a bear from my past and sounds so loud it’s like she’s in the room with me. Just believe me when I say this bear is very convincing. 

Using whatever strength I had left after staying up late to chase after answers I wasn’t going to get, I decided to reach out for help. Previously, this was not something I ever did and still took some convincing to do. I called the mom of kids I nanny for in the mornings (she’s a badass career lady that means what she says).  The conversation was quick and concise. She took my doubt and questioned it for lacking any depth or truth. With some reassurance and kind words, I was back on my game. Crazy how kind words can really make a difference in a person’s day or even life.

After all that was said and done, I sat back and let myself catch a breath. I got some rest. I had patience for all the emails I’d sent out and still haven’t gotten a response to. Most importantly I had patience for myself. What was the rush? What would be the point in forcing myself back into school completely unprepared and not at all in the right mindset? I wouldn’t be setting myself up for success that’s for sure. Instead, I talked with some friends and my boss at work about my possible career plans for the future. This time I didn’t go searching for the answers I wanted. I was patient with myself and others and actually ended up getting better feedback than I had imagined. I got some great insight on applying to programs from some old friends who had already done the same thing. My boss helped find job shadowing opportunities to get me some experience in the mental health field. This was all way more helpful than any of my previous plans to dive in head first into something I wasn’t prepared for. 

Through this process I am and will continue to learn and grow in a way that will only better prepare me for my future plans. See, patience is a whole lot more than just not being quick to anger. It’s taking real time to let an idea or decision sit with you. It’s knowing that the hard work will be worth it. It’s knowing that taking back your joy and being present in the process will do more for you than the “grind” ever will. 

Are you currently in school and feeling the pressure to graduate in four years or even early? Maybe you’ve been excited to make a big career change and you’re ready to dive right in. You might be interested in a new hobby, but instead of starting at beginner you’re ready to jump all the way to level expert. What your case may be, know that it is okay to be excited about something new or to want to push yourself to keep going and finish your goals. Where we go wrong is putting an idea of how we think we should do something and possibly an unrealistic timeline on ourselves. If you’re in school and struggling with your mental health, ask yourself what would happen if you took a semester off to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. If you’re ready to quit your job today to finally go for that dream job, slow down and come up with a concrete plan to get there. If you’re about to drop $300 on a new guitar without having a second thought, take a minute to do your research, buy some music books, look into lessons, and be patient. In any scenario, being patient with ourselves and taking time to let our minds feel its emotions, think through an idea, process a change, or heal from our past will never hurt us.

Thanks for being patient with me and making it through this extremely long post. Now that you’ve finished, I challenge you to go trade even a little bit of your screen time for literally anything else that your life is better spent on. 

BYOKOB,

J.


“Not Sick Enough?” You Are Enough!

I’ve debated writing a blog post about the need to be “sick enough” because it’s raw and honestly I still struggle with it at times; however, I then remembered I created my blog to be real and raw and share the joyful parts of my life as well as the not so joyful parts. So, with that being said, I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you.

It is common when dealing with an eating disorder (ed) to believe that you’re not “sick enough.” This has been something I’ve struggled with for years and as I’ve been going through recovery, it is so much more common than I thought. I would constantly think, “I’m not sick enough to have an ed,” “I’m not sick enough to be in recovery, “I’m not sick enough for people to care” the list could go on and on. I would think that because I looked “fine,” I didn’t have a problem and I didn’t have an ed. I follow a lot of recovery accounts on instagram and someone posted before, “I remember thinking “I wasn’t sick enough” until I read that a healthy person doesn’t wish to be sick at all.”

I asked a few friends from treatment what their experiences were on needing to be “sick enough” and this is what their responses were:

Friend 1: “Looking back, I don’t think i would have ever been “sick enough” in that mindset until i was dead. Then I llearned it isn’t healthy to wish to be sick in the first place. I stopped focusing on the question of “how sick am i” and switched it to “why do i want to be sick?” It helped tremendously to change my perspective.”

Friend 2: “Well in regards to my thoughts on not feeling sick enough I know the constant comparison to others as being much skinnier than me and not having an ED made me feel less validated that there was actually something wrong with me. So comparison played a big role.”

Friend 3: “When you feel like you have no idea who you are or what you’re doing in life, ED likes to try and fix it for you by convincing you that you aren’t “sick enough”. When you spend all your time trying to prove you are “sick enough” by comparing yourself to everyone around you, there is no space for your worries and fears. In recovery, I have to remind myself every day that “sick enough” is a lie, that it is an unattainable trick ED plays to keep you trapped. That there is no line you cross where you suddenly become “worthy” of recovery because no one deserves to suffer.”

For the past [X] years, I have struggled with feeling like I am “not sick enough” to actually have an eating disorder. For the longest time (even a couple weeks into starting treatment), I couldn’t vocalize that I had an ed because I felt like I wasn’t “sick enough.” I would just say I had “eating issues. etc.” I couldn’t see that I was underweight. I couldn’t see that I had a problem. Concerns voiced by mental health professionals, doctors, friends, mentors, and teachers over the years paled in comparison to the voice inside my head telling me that until I lost [x] amount of pounds; until I actually fainted upon standing instead of the world going fuzzy around the edges for a few seconds; until I ate under [x] amount of calories a day instead of sustaining primarily on self-loathing, caffeine, gum, and nut butter, I wouldn’t be sick or “sick enough” to have a real problem. When my labs came back not so great, somehow I still thought i wasn’t “sick enough.” When will it be enough? When I’m dead? The eating disorder won’t stop until death comes–which is scary.

Let me tell you a little bit about what it is like to feel “not sick enough.” It is having people praise your dedication and commitment to health and fitness, when it feels like anything but. It is receiving attention and approval based on your shrinking physical appearance, when attention is the absolute last thing you want. It is constantly being bombarded with comments of “I wish I had your willpower,” “You look so good!” or my personal favorite, “What is your secret?” It is rationalizing, manipulating, lying, and ignoring. Perhaps most terrifying of all, it is actually wishing you were “sicker” so that your ed could be “real.” Nobody would knowingly ask someone with an eating disorder what their “secret” is. Yet, when you appear healthy, you get asked that a lot. I never came up with a good way to respond, so I usually disagreed or laughed awkwardly. Not because I didn’t have a response, but because it would have been a little intense to respond as follows:

“My secret? Do you want to know what my secret is? My secret is that all I think about is food. My secret is that unless I exercise [X] times a day, my stomach would be so knotted in anxiety and I would be literally incapable of functioning. My secret is that I could not show up or be present in social situations involving food (hint: all of them) without losing my sanity. My secret is that I was so intensely distrustful of and hateful toward my body I could not and would not allow it to tell me what it wanted. Hunger is something I understood, knew, or listened to. My secret is the food you saw me eating had been consciously prepared, logged, weighed, measured, and planned days in advance. My secret is that my life is spinning out of control and I don’t know how to stop it.”

This train of thought — the undeserving and not sick enough thoughts — is an example of the eating disorder talking. The twisted concept of feeling like you are not “sick enough” is one of the most dangerous parts of the eating disorder. This thinking traps you in the ed and keeps you from getting help. You do not have to “look sick” to be so stuck in an illness that you cannot imagine living another day. You do not have to be hospitalized to be worthy of seeking treatment. You do not have to check off all of the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-5 to “count.” There is no such thing as not being “sick enough.” Eating disorders are competitive. When we are constantly competing and trying to become “sick enough” for our eds to be real, what is the prize?

Death.

When someone thinks they’re not “sick enough” based on the criteria the media and diet culture proclaims to society, they are less likely to speak up, get help, and will eventually die.

There is a massive and dangerous division between the general public’s understanding of eating disorders and their harsh reality. Let me tell you and tell you again in case you weren’t listening or ready to hear it the first time: eating disorders do not discriminate. They do not solely present as severe malnourishment in young, white females. They are not always identifiable upon first glance. Sometimes they have little to nothing to do with a person’s weight. The number on the scale serves only to torment the person with the illness and doesn’t work as a gauge of their health or sickness. Because of this, countless people become more and more entrenched in behaviors that are killing them. I hope this piece resonates with just one single person who may be on the fence between reaching out for a lifeline or continuing to struggle in silence. I said I was writing this piece for me, and I am; however, I am also writing it for you.

This piece is for the girls, the boys, the men, and the women. This piece is for anyone who has ever felt like their struggles and their pain do not “count” because they do not “look sick.” This piece is for the person who wants so desperately to believe they are worthy of help, love, and wholeness but still feels they need to get “sicker” before they have a “problem.”

This piece is for you.

Because you matter. You are not alone. You do not have to live the way you are living. While you may not realize it because the disorder is telling you otherwise, you are enough. You are worth a full and meaningful life. You are worth recovery.

M

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Helpline:

800-931-2237

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org


Go With Your Gut

Have you been considering cutting out gluten or diary? Maybe even sugars or carbs? Before you make a decision, let me give you the real information that no one is telling you about which foods you should be cutting out of your diet.

I love ice cream, but my gut does not. She suffers from something commonly know as LACTOSE INTOLERANCE . However, if you asked if I still regularly choose dairy options, that answer would be YES! 

Made the decision to get sorbet rather than ice cream because that’s what my body needed.

When I was in recovery, I felt like I really had to learn the balancing act between:

  1. Letting myself have food freedom
  2. Taking care of my body as self care
  3. Allowing my eating disorder to take over

For anyone else out there, any kind of gut issues or food sensitivities/allergies, you understand it can be so tempting to want to eat a food even when you know it contains something that doesn’t agree with our gut. Depending on the severity, you can probably relate when I say sometimes i just have to prepare myself with tums knowing I’m gonna be paying for my choices later. For me, this looks like choosing to get that double scoop ice cream cone or ordering an extra large queso. 

Although this option can result in tummy aches and a crazy trip to the bathroom, letting myself indulge sometimes is how i choose food freedom.

Some delicious veggie nachos I made while at the beach.

Other times this might not be the case at all. Telling myself I need to spend some time away from dairy is really just a form of self care. If I continuously choose to hurt my gut with food it wasn’t made to handle, I’m only doing myself a disservice. To be very clear, I am not advocating for you to cut out gluten, dairy, or other foods based on an article you read about how to get skinny and lose 10 pounds in a week. I’m advocating for you to do some self care by showing your gut some love. Loving your body and practicing self care also means that you take care of your body and listen to it’s needs over our wants. 

The key component to remember here is your WHY. Why am I choosing the dairy-free option? Well it’s not because I think cutting out dairy will help me achieve the perfect body type. It’s not because the person I compare myself to on instagram also doesn’t eat dairy. It’s definitely not because I want to cut out as much food as possible as an excuse to not eat when around friends. Yes, these were exactly the reason I would choose the dairy-free option in the past. Now? Now, I love my body so much that I honor and show her love by keeping her strong and feeling her best! Her best is not when she continuously eats something that hurts her. 

When my eating disorder had complete control over me, I would continuously use stomach aches as an excuse to not eat. I could eat just the right amount of something i knew would piss off my gut enough to not have an appetite. This my friends is some wicked form of self hate. 

I would give control over to my eating disorder and go crazy with other food to cut out whether they bothered my gut or not. It would start small and it would grow into something I couldn’t stop. Deep down there was always going to be a reason from my eating disorder why I shouldn’t eat something. That’s just what they do. But the truth is none of those reasons were ever going to bring me as much joy as loving my body does.

My body works hard to keep me going and in return I choose to love her and treat her in a way that will help her thrive. I choose this not just because I have to or because it’s the right thing to for recovery. I make this choice to indulge in body acceptance and self love simply because I deserve it. 

You should go and love yourself,

J


Father’s Day

Father’s Day…this day used to give me the heebie jeebies.  Panic attacks. Nightmares. This day, a lot of bad things happened. It was the day my dad took advantage of me more than usual because it was “his day.” I always dread Father’s Day. It wasn’t until last year when I realized that Father’s Day is just a day. It doesn’t have to have any meaning if I don’t want it to. I started taking care of myself on this day instead of dreading it. Do something nice for myself: go to a park, take a self-care day and rest…the options are endless.

I used to restrict and punish myself on this day because I felt like I wasn’t deserving due to all of the bad things that happened to me. After a lot of therapy and some self-realizations, I can now see that I do deserve good things. One of those good things include not punishing myself for a day that was out of my control. I now look forward to this day because it shows me how much I have grown. It shows me my strength and my perseverance. My resiliency. During my growth, it was hard. It IS hard…but I’m still doing it. I’m still choosing every day to rise above. You can too.

This year is the first year on Father’s Day where I finally feel at peace.

Being a single mom, I started celebrating myself this day. I do the job of both a mom and a dad. I deserve it. If you’re a single mom, I encourage you to celebrate today too. I see you. Your work does not go unnoticed. Being a single mom is hard. Being a single dad is hard. I hope you take some time to do something nice for yourself today. Today, I am choosing to rest. I worked 3rd shift and so I’m exhausted. I’m choosing to spend time with the one who made me a mom/dad.

I wrote something in my book along the lines of how Father’s Day can be celebrating our Heavenly Father as well. It doesn’t have to be an earthly father. I know this day can be hard if your earthly father is no longer with us, you’ve had bad experiences with fathers, you don’t have a father, etc. I encourage you to please take some time for yourself today. Reach out to a trusted person in your life to talk to. Vent to. Cry. Scream if you have to. It’s okay. 

You are not alone. I know it feels like that sometimes but I promise you you’re not. Your feelings are valid. 

M