Thursday, July 7, 2011

This is Camp

This is my home for the summer. Camp.

This is the cabin where I live.

This is my bottom bunk with the blanket that my sister made for me. Cause she's gifted like that.

This is the boyfriend that I love.

This is where I work.

This is what I get paid to say all summer long.

This is the pump system that I will pay for with my summer earnings (and then some) if anything goes wrong. Oy.

These are the chemicals I dump into the pool that make the water "safe."

This is the mask I wear to handle the chemicals that I should not touch with bare hands or inhale, yet I swim in them every day.

This is the summer that may have dramatically shortened the length of my life, yet enhanced it greatly at the same time. Because nasty pool chemicals, plus being physically and emotionally exhausted, yet humbled and stretched has the tendency to have that effect.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I remember one of the first times I realized my parents were human beings was when I was 18 years-old. Before then they were super-human or non-human (depending on what they were or were not granting me). Before then they were bigger, stronger, and so far beyond my own understanding that I assumed there was some sort of special pill or book you came upon the moment you had kids. But when we were told I had an eating disorder, something changed.

My parents no longer had all the answers. They struggled to talk about “it.” They were worried. Sometimes we would communicate through my sister because they were afraid to ask me directly and I was afraid to tell them directly. They were concerned, yet distant. They read books about eating disorders and asked their friends for advice.

Through out the last five years, our family has learned (a.k.a. been forced) to communicate. I don’t know that any of us were intentionally avoiding anything and I never remember thinking, Gee, I wish my family could better communicate, but the eating disorder offered a platform for us to learn how to talk about hard things, even if we didn’t want to.

I just got off the phone with my mom. Where we stand today and where we stood five years ago are very different. She asked openly and honestly (which is the way I prefer it), “How’s the eating disorder?” I told her frankly, “Okay. Could be better, but it’s been far worse.” As I filled her in she told me that she’s been reading the copy I lent her of Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.

“Today I stood in front of the mirror as the book suggested,” she told me. “I realized how much of my critical voice comes from my mom and how much of it I’ve passed on to you.”

Mom never had to say out loud (though, she did that too) that she didn’t like her body. Kids are perceptive. I remember days when she’d walk into the kitchen from a long day at work. Dad and us kids would be stirring pots and setting the table for supper. Dad would look up and burst out in song, “There she is…Ms. America!” and Mom would hush him, “Daryl, stop it.”

When my Dad or anyone else would tell her how nice she looked she’d usually end up arguing with them. I always thought my mom was perfect and yet she disagreed when people tried to tell her so. As a kid I took note that when my parents (or anyone else) told me I was perfect, they didn’t mean it and they were missing something because not even the most beautiful woman in my life believed them. Why should I?

Mom told me, “I’m looking for a magic formula for self-acceptance in this book.”

I laughed at her and admitted, “I’ve wanted the exact same thing. Sorry, Mom. It’s not in there. It’s not that easy.”

I told her that I conducted my Beauty Survey with that purpose in mind: to find the “magic formula” for how to accept myself and feel worthy. I wanted to know what other women did in order to not hate themselves. What I found was at first disappointing: none of them had a formula and none of them could say that they really loved their bodies or felt confident and worthy. This was disappointing because I wanted a quick fix, but it was encouraging because I realized that I wasn’t alone. I told my mom what I found in that survey: “Mom, there is no quick fix. It’s just a lot of intentional hard work.” No magic solution or diet or pill or exercise routine or yoga pose. It comes down to a daily decision to accept ourselves. A decision. A choice. Setting aside time to say, “I am good enough right now.” Not ten pounds from now, a degree from now, or a person from now.

So without further ado, here are today’s daily affirmations:

I am a strong, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman.

I am a human being.

I am healing.

I am growing.

I am aware.

I am wise.

I can smile.

I can laugh.

I can cry.

I can sit and watch.

I can let things go.

I can take deep breaths.

I can fall short of other’s expectations.

I can give myself a break.

I can give grace.

I can be quiet.

I can sing.

I can resist popular opinion of who I “should” be and practice radical self-acceptance, even when it feels like the entire world is against me being whole, healthy, and authentic.

I can be.

Four Percent

Here’s what recovery comes down to: 96% anger, fear, tears, loneliness, and hopelessness, and 4% light, peace, progress, healing, and growth. The ratio isn’t stacked in your favor, but the experts will keep telling you to cling to the 4%: “The 4% is totally worth it. You’ll be so happy when you get there. Don’t give up. Keep going.” Sometimes the 4% seems bogus and I wonder if I’d be better off sticking with the majority.

Sometimes I get sad.

Sometimes I get anxious.

Sometimes I get lonely.

Sometimes I get worried that recovery isn’t for me. It’s like a fable you read about in “happily ever after” stories, but us-common folk will never see it in real life. It’s like personal trainers and chefs to the rich and the famous. Something we may wish for and may actually exist, but will never come knocking on our door.

Much research revolves around the question: “Do people fully recover from eating disorders?” The experts are split. I think they are split because it’s so damn hard to tell the difference between a recovering person and your “normal” American woman. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Either I don’t have an eating disorder or most other American women do.

I say this because it’s frustrating to look around at the “normal” world of women, hear the exact same comments and self-hatred I’ve heard in ED group circles, and then be told that I need help. If this version of “normal” is what I’m supposed to be aiming for, then what’s the point? I’m no longer binging and purging on a daily basis, in fact it’s been 18 months since I threw up and I haven’t deliberately starved myself for three years. I guess I’m looking around for a healthy role model that is “recovered” or doesn’t harbor the typical spew of self-hatred and I’m having a hard time finding one. I’m losing sight of the goal here because there aren’t a lot of examples of healthy, self-aware, and grace-filled women to emulate.

Lately I’ve been considering what I have to gain by fully recovering from this eating disorder. It’s not like I’m engaging in life-threatening behaviors anymore, I just have a hard time not tearing my body and food choices to shreds. How am I any different than most other women I know?

This eating disorder isn’t so bad. It has been by my side for five years. It’s never left me or forsaken me. It’s accompanied me through graduation and college and world travels. It’s reliable. It always flares up in stress. No surprises. It’s predictable. It will always tear me to shreds. It’s comfortable, a security blanket, a pair of slippers. This I understand. I may not like suffering through it, but good consistency is just so hard to find these days.

Today I felt fragile and weak. I lost sight of my goals and my progress. I sat down and watched my own life. I started comparing. I was nit picky. I dissected my decisions, my habits, my body, my smile, my skills, my abilities, and my very worth. It all happened so fast. I didn’t fully grasp it until I stood in the walk-in refrigerator with a glutinous biscuit in hand (i.e. I have a nasty case of gluten-intolerance) and the realization that the biscuit would not help me feel any more worthy. But I ate it anyway. And then some.

I don’t want to live the rest of my life with an eating disorder. Nor do I want to mimic the behaviors or women who spend their entire lives asking others, “Am I thin enough? Pretty enough? Good enough?” I don’t want extreme diets and harmful behaviors, but I don’t want to merely tolerate my existence and waste time telling everyone how much I hate my thighs either. There must be balance. There must be hope out there some where.

Hope, I believe, comes in creating my own woman. I need not be what I’ve been (nor those who have come before me).

Instead, I can choose another path.

Instead, I can put down the magazine.

Instead, I can choose a different movie, a different TV show, a different web site.

Instead, I can avoid looking at the size on my clothes and purchase them based solely on how they make me feel.

Instead, I can keep track of my enjoyment of the food versus the calories and fat grams.

Instead, I can acknowledge the good in others and the good in myself (not a cruel game of comparisons).

Instead, I can give myself a break.

Instead, I can take deep breaths.

Instead, I can focus on the 4%.

Instead, I can eat breakfast in the morning (even if I don’t want to) because my body deserves food and nourishment and grace.