Thursday, June 26, 2008

Letter to All

There are times when I feel there is so much I have to say and there’s just not enough time in the day to say it all. There are times when I feel no words can adequately express what is my heart. There are times when I remember the life I used to lead and am overcome with the deepest of desires to help. To reach out. To give back. To support. To explain. To send love.

You are out there. And we’ve never met, but I truly think about you often in my daily life. When I am at the grocery store, I wonder about you. When I am in my kitchen, preparing dinner, I wonder about you. When I am going to sleep at night, I wonder about you. When I am looking in the mirror, I wonder about you. You are very important to me.

I am not here to rescue or to save, but I do hope that I can help even in the smallest of ways. I have to admit that I feel a strong sense of duty (no, that’s not exactly the right word…maybe a calling is better) to share and help and support. I don’t mean this in an arrogant, self-righteous kind of way. I just mean that I can say with complete honesty that I have come a long way and I know I can give a sense of understanding and a positive outlook. Clearly, I am not perfect and I will never pretend to be. I do hope, however, that by telling you I was once in a terrible, low, unhealthy place and am now free and happy, I can give something. Something. Whatever that “something” may be.

In a strange way, I feel as though I went through my eating disorder partly for a reason: so that I could help others. So I could mold that experience into something new and positive. So I could bend it into something else that I could be proud of. I can’t seem to shake this concept. It always feels true. I came out of my whole horrid nightmare with a pure clarity—a really good understanding of what I had experienced and had struggled with and had overcome.

It is very fulfilling for me to give even the tiniest glimmer of hope to others that there is life after an eating disorder. It is very meaningful for me to be able to read all your wonderful, strong, and spirited responses and emails.

I think you are all incredible and fantastically beautiful. I just wanted you to know.

All my love,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Unlimited Chances

There's no such thing as giving yourself too many chances. You yourself are the only one who can give YOU as many chances as you want or need. There is no limit to chances. There is no maximum.

I know how hard it is to even try. I used to have days where I just didn't care about a damn thing. I just wanted everything to stop and leave me to sit with myself and fade away into nothingness. I used to cry until the tears wouldn't come anymore because I had used them all up.

I got sick and tired of it. I know you're probably sick and tired of it now...maybe you've BEEN sick and tired of it for a long time...maybe you're even sick and tired of being sick and tired...

But maybe there’s something missing... Perhaps you’re sick and tired, but unfortunately, too tired to do anything about it. That's defeat. Don't allow yourself to be defeated. It's too easy. You're worth so much more than that.

In any case, I know it can feel too hard to even begin to try some days...because it's the same old story. The same old song and dance. To just keep on keeping just keep on trying again and again. If you've been through this so many times and have been fighting for so long, it gets old and it gets worse.

That's the bad news.

The good news is fighting back is the only way you're going to eventually get out of the hell. The good news is: there IS a way out. It's just really hard to find. But if you want out, you've got to look. And if you're still coming up short, you've got to KEEP looking.

Because the thing is, you're either going to burn out and fade away or you're going to start climbing that rope to safety and freedom and health and happiness. Those are the only two alternatives...because this awful state of struggling—even if it’s been going on for a long, long time—only lasts so long, my friend.

You need a change--and I don't mean a change in your attempts to recover. I mean a vacation from your normal way of living. Nothing eating disorder related. Just a plain and simple change. And a big one. Something to rip away the focus on your eating disorder, to force you to spend time reflecting on yourself, to simply BE and exist and breathe in the change that will surround you. And when you come back from this "vacation"--when you've implemented this change--you just might not be so tired and listless. You'll be fresher, clearer, and better able to put a new foot forward. Again.

A big change is the only way to get out of that sick-and-tired-don't-care attitude.

I'm not saying there's one answer for everyone. But time away, that mental "vacation" (in whatever respect is available and possible) from the same old daily life you have is beneficial. You can recharge, restart, and refresh. But it can't be something subtle. It has to be something big. Significant.

You have a lot of chances waiting. Take them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gaining Weight *and* Perspective

When attempting to recover physically, it's important to try to forget about numbers and just eat when hungry, consume a healthy amount, exercise if you want to but don't overdo it, and never compare yourself to someone else or your recovery process to someone else’s.

I didn't have a "goal weight" I wanted to reach to be healthy again. Why focus on a number again when that’s all I’d been doing in the past? I chose instead to focus on feeling—feeling good and strong, that is. I just got to the point where I gained and gained and then as my healthy lifestyle became normal for me, I maintained and continue to maintain.

You reach a point where your body is comfortable. And everyone's bodies are different. Don't try to compare...just try to be healthy...and let your body fill out as it wants and needs to.

There are all different body frames, lifestyles (athletic, active, sedentary, etc.), and different genetic factors as well. One person’s recovery weight will not be the same as another’s. Even someone who is the same height as you are. Focus on you, not someone else or what someone else says.

I was always very I can't say I got BACK to a normal weight. I just finally got to a weight that was right for me and it happens to be the most I've ever weighed. But I was growing before...I was a child and an adolescent...and when I was no longer a child, I was seriously ill and MUCH too you can't use previous weights as a gauge. You have to live in the moment. Live in the now.

I’ve found a maintainable weight for me. I eat 3 meals, plus snacks, and never restrict. I run, but only 1 mile and only a couple times a week—if I even have the time. That said, I'm only in my twenties and if as years go by I gain a few more pounds, I won't be upset. I can gain some and still feel okay and be healthy.

Recovery can only be about you. If you don’t like yourself, you’ll never like the way you look—no matter what your weight. As you gain weight in an effort to recover, try also to gain perspective. Without it, weight—low or high—won’t matter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Way to "Alive"

I dive head first, with deepest thirst, into a past I've left behind…to seek and find the reasons why so I can try—to help. To reach. To teach. To grab a hold of each and every one who's struggling so, who's feeling woe, who's in the grip of THIS—this deathly kiss—this comfort that is sick and wrong, this depressed song…my friends, this has gone on too long. Bite back. Fight back. Don't be afraid it might come right back. Go ahead. Leave it dead. Move, I said! Become anew. It's hard to do, but worth the pain, and in the end you will be sane. You will be YOU. You will be true. And this is all you have to do: make an effort, stake a goal, and soon enough you will be whole. And most of all, yes…in control. Take back your power, take back your life, and every hour will be rife with every sweet thing you can dream, and possibilities will seem…real. At last. So use the past. And push on through, with all your struggles strapped to you. And when you've gone to hell and back—learned the knack, survived attackyou'll know there's nothing that you lack. And you can take and deftly make your struggles into something new. And share the secret known to you. And one day soon, a different tune will play and stay…and you, with zeal —I swear it's real—will finally feel alive.


© Arielle Lee Becker 2008


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering the Realization

This blog has a point and a purpose. Not only that, it has a message. I have a goal. It's here to give people hope. My goal is to be an example—to cause people to say, "If that's what recovery looks like, sign me up!"

That's it, plain and simple. From the beginning—from the start of my descent into an eating disordered life—I've always known I wanted to stop. I didn't want to have an eating disorder any more than one wants to have any other disease. I knew it was unhealthy and I knew I needed help. Before I told anyone about my struggles, before I was confronted, and before I had even come to terms with my issues, I went to see a counselor. I remember making the appointment; it all seemed so surreal.

I was your average girl who watched TV and saw anorexic girls on talk shows, skin and bones, crying their eyes out in front of the camera. I never thought I would relate to the girls on those couches, talking about their fears of food and their distressing disease. But suddenly, almost before I knew what was happening, I was on my way to anorexia myself…and it wasn't long before I was diagnosed with the very same disorder I had often heard about on television.

At my consultation appointment at my college campus's counseling center, I recall explaining my daily habits, my calorie counting obsession, and my way of fasting for days. I could hear myself saying the words, knowing full well I had a serious problem or at least the beginnings of one. From that point, even though I sought help, was confronted by my best friend, and told my parents, I ended up getting worse before I got better. Sometimes I even got better only to get worse again.

Things weren't clicking in my head. The constant struggle became so normal to me and so strangely comforting. I used anorexia to cope with stress, to deal with change, to help me feel special. All the while, I still hated it. I'd get angry every time I went to see a doctor who told me I should be weighing about xxx pounds. Not only did the very thought seem ridiculous to me, it also agitated me—because I always wondered how I'd look at a higher weight, always somehow knew deep down that a grown woman should be weighing much more than I did…and well, should look more like a woman.

Even when I got better and better and I managed to eat enough to be considered "okay," I was still constantly struggling with mental aspects of anorexia. Sometimes I was even annoyed because I thought everyone around me assumed I was fine again simply because I weighed xxx pounds. It was so untrue and so hard to explain. At times, I was the furthest thing from fine.

I have always been one of those people who can put on a happy face—who can smile even when they are hurting and joke around, consistently concealing the emotions at battle inside. In a way, it sometimes helped not to talk about it. I liked trying to forget, be able to have a good time with friends, if only for a few fleeting hours.

It was sad, because something always seemed to fall. I always seemed to fall. I wanted to enjoy myself, to be happy with my friends, to let my mind free itself of numbers and perfection, but I could never enjoy myself completely.

It was like I was at a party, having a blast with a big smile on my face, but there was someone in the corner, wearing dark clothes and looking at me with a scary expression. My eating disorder, my inside pain and dissatisfaction, was that dark, scary someone in the corner. I could still have a great time, could still make great memories, but I was always being watched by something that wanted to take it all away.

When I think of times like this, I am reminded particularly of a few nights out with my college friends when we'd drink and have a good time dancing and laughing…and on the way home, when the alcohol had loosened the strings around my turbulent emotions, I'd start to cry relentlessly. It's kind of embarrassing even now, but I was much more of a mess than I let myself or anyone else believe. Tears typically accompany a mess.

Whether I cried walking home from a bar—feeling as though I was completely ruining the carefree mood—or later in the night back at my old apartment to my best friend, everything seemed to come crashing down after having fun. It took me a while to learn that I'd never really be able to be happy again unless I fixed myself first. Until I took care of what was making me hurt, any fun or happiness was temporary.

I knew I didn't want to live like that. After all, who does?

Looking back, nights like that feel like a turning point, or several of them. I knew my entire life was going to be like that if I didn't change something. If I hadn't had the friends I do, I would have fallen into a sad little hole and lied there 'til something drastic finally pulled me out…if anything pulled me out at all.

This realization came after years of unhappiness and what can only be described as shit. This realization came after a freshman year of college that makes me cringe to this day. After days and nights of worrying my friends, of sleeping in the daytime for hours at a time, of letting my past of a being a straight A student fall into the trash as I used all my effort to even make it to—and through—classes. After tedious meals in the dining hall, whole Biology classes spent incessantly tallying my food intake, and one distinctly frightening night when I attempted to measure my dwindling waist by fastening a belt around it—then trying to measure the belt with a ruler—only to be stopped by my freshman room mate and my best friend, who both had to hold me down on my bed while I thrashed around and essentially freaked out. After counseling and eating again only to make my sophomore year a near repeat of my freshman year. After group therapy and fainting spells. After screaming matches with my parents. After actually seeing the number 89 on the scale at one point and hating the sick euphoria that attended it. After obsessive term papers on eating disorders in an attempt to teach myself to stop what I was doing.

After all this came those fun college nights that ended in tears.

And after that came the realization.

That. I. Didn't. And. Couldn't. Do. It. Anymore.

So I set out to learn myself and discovered a lot. It has to start with you.

It has to start with YOU.

But most of all, it has to start.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fear of Failure

I think it's only natural to be afraid your eating disorder will come back...but the important thing is that if it ever DOES come back, you have the tools to fight it. It may never completely cease to exist, but you can be stronger than it is and you can survive.

Fear is only going to bring you down. It can take quite a while to be rid of an eating disorder, especially if it has been with you for a while, and no amount of relapses makes your recovery any less valid. It is a difficult fight, but you can do it. You’ll have good days and bad days. Just remember what you truly want. If recovery is your goal, you are already far along on your journey to a better life.

Bad days are inevitable, but you can pull through. Being afraid to slip back into your eating disorder can make you run closer to recovery, but if the fear becomes so great that one setback makes you doubt yourself, you need to recognize it and fight it.

Fear like this means you’re just waiting for your eating disorder to take hold of you again. It means you don’t think you can really get away from it. And in that case, you won’t.

We are all human and one setback does not negate all the hard work you put in up until that point. You aren't starting again at square one just because you had a setback. You are working towards something that is hard to achieve and it's only natural you will have slip-ups. If you recognize that you did something you didn't like, and feel bad over it, just get back on the road to recovery. That's all there is to it: putting a slip-up behind you. Many eating disordered people have relapses (sometimes multiple relapses) before they feel they are totally recovered. Just keep hopping back on the track to your goal.

Think of it this way: If you want to get from California to New York and you drive 1000 miles, then stop your car and therefore stop making progress, you don't have to start back at California to get on your way to New York again! You are still 1000 miles of the way there. You may have stopped and therefore your trip will take more time, but you don't have to start over. Just get back in the car and keep going. You'll get there eventually. And you can stop as many times as you want.

Put more faith in yourself than in your eating disorder.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Filling the Gap

I think wondering how to fill the gap your eating disorder previously filled is very common. But remember—only you can answer the question of what to do next.

And there is so much waiting for you. There are a thousand possibilities at your fingertips, from the simple every day things to the more complex life goals. You just have to ask yourself one question.

What do you want to do?

It’s an open question with many possible answers…and that’s the beauty of it.

What's in your head and your heart? What are your passions? What makes you feel good?

Do you want to make new friends? Do you want to go back to school? Do you want to get out in the job world? Do you want to pursue a dream you’ve often had in the back of your mind? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to travel?

Now comes the obvious thought: we can’t always do what we want to do. Finances get in the way. Time can be an issue. A lot of things can prevent us from doing what we want to do. BUT—and this is a big but—you never let things be an issue when finding a way to fit your eating disorder into your daily life, did you?

Granted, money doesn’t grow on trees and lots of things that are very important take up our time. Understandable. Valid. But if you really want something, you can achieve it. And don’t let anything stop you.

Most importantly, think about what would make you happy. Come up with three things.

Then find a way to incorporate them into your life. Fill that gap. There’s no charge for that kind of fill-up.

Best of luck.