Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day #31: Reflections

Participating in the Hungry for Change Blogger Challenge was fun for me. I like to spread positivity and hope as much as I can, but I also like being part of a bigger community. I think it's important to work with others as a team to create an awesome, big, powerful VOICE.

Participating has also been a challenge for me - not by way of writing any of the prompts, but because of time. I can't remember the last time I committed to posting every single day without fail. I do so many things in a regular day and while my site is very important to me and the work I do here is something I take very seriously, I typically post about once per week, sometimes twice per week. It's been difficult to make sure I had a post up each day that was really thoughtful and poignant, simply because I have very little (if any on some days!) free time. I found myself typing 2 or 3 blog posts at a time when I DID have a free hour, then saving them to be posted later.

I also often "scheduled" my posts to be published on the morning of the day they were "due," because usually my free time was late, late at night after a long day and evening of work, grad school, and being a wife.

I tried to work in advance and found it worked well. I enjoyed the challenge and even when I felt obligated on some days to crank out a post to continue with the commitment, it always felt good to be another share vital words.

I've also enjoyed reading the posts other bloggers have shared. There are so many wonderful people out there from all walks of life, in all points of recovery, writing the words that make sense to them. I respect it very much.

Hungry for Change is a great campaign with a great message...and it's more than that - it's a community too. I'm honored to have been a part of the collective voice and VERY excited to partner with them for the NEXT blogger challenge, taking place in June (yes, TOMORROW!).

Arielle's Word of the Day Challenge is definitely something different and I hope to facilitate community yet again. With all of you. For details, please click here: Arielle's Word of the Day Blogger Challenge. Hungry for Change and I would love for you to participate! Thank you for writing, thank you for reading, and I hope you'll continue to share.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TRUST and Disclosure of Your Eating Disorder

Today's Wednesday Warrior video is below, continuing with the 4 week rotation theme of relationships.

Day #30: Someday I...

Someday, I...will create the Arielle Bair Foundation. Before I die, I want to create, found, and head a foundation that not only spreads awareness about eating disorders, but provides resources and financial help to people who really want help but can't afford it or access it for some reason. I feel strongly about this and know I can be of some help if the right opportunities and lifepaths present themselves. There are SO many people out there who want and need help, but can't get it due to finances, insurance issues, or even lack of quality care in their areas. I'd love it if my foundation could be international, because there are many countries out there who have health care systems that cannot amply provide for any eating disorder services for the people struggling.

**The AVERAGE cost for a month of in-patient treatment here in the U.S. is $30,000. That's ONE month. And most sufferers need MUCH more care than that provides. You're not "cured" in one month. And most people can't afford this kind of care. Nor can their parents if the sufferer is an adolescent or child.

I say that I want to create the Arielle Bair Foundation before I die, because it will take more resources, planning, guidance, expertise, and TIME than I currently have in my life. But...someday. It's in the works... it's in my head. :)

Can I do it? We'll see. But look, I already have my taglines. ^

And also? Someday I... am going to publish not one book, but many - on a variety of topics related to recovery. I have a unique voice in this field and I don't want to give you yet another personal story. For now, this blog is your place and I aim to serve. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day #29: This is my Song...

There have been many songs over the years that have spoken to me on a deep level. There is actually a playlist I share that I feel is helpful, uplifting, consoling, and hopeful. You can find it in one of my header tabs, Arielle's Recovery Music Playlist. I'd love to tell you what each of those songs means to me, but I'd rather have you find out what they can mean to you. That's the beauty of songs - they are open to interpretation, they can express different things for different people, and they have the power to help us in an almost spiritual way. I will, however, talk about 2 here that have been very important for me.

The first is Watershed by the Indigo Girls. I have taken the liberty of highlighting the lyrics that I find most important.

Thought I knew my mind like the back of my hand,
The gold and the rainbow, but nothing panned out as I planned.
And they say only milk and honey's gonna make your soul satisfied!
Well I better learn how to swim
Cause the crossing is chilly and wide.

Twisted guardrail on the highway, broken glass on the cement
A ghost of someone's tragedy
How recklessly my time has been spent.

And they say that it's never too late, but you don't get any younger!
Well I better learn how to starve the emptiness
And feed the hunger

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony's your heaviest load.

You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.

Well there's always retrospect to light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life
And I have a good laugh.
You start at the top, go full circle round
Catch a breeze, take a spill
But ending up where i started again makes me wanna stand still.

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony's your heaviest load.

You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.

Stepping on a crack, breaking up and looking back
Every tree limb overhead just seems to sit and wait.
Until every step you take becomes a twist of fate.

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony's your heaviest load.

You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.

Based on my liberal highlighting, you can see that I think a  lot of the song is important. And when you hear it with the music and the natural, raw voices of the Indigo Girls... well, you'll just feel every word even more. I could sit here and try to explain, piece for piece, why I like this song so much, how it relates to my own personal journey, and what it means for me... but I feel like it would be an insult to your intelligence. You can read it, you can feel it as I do, and you can understand.

The second song is What I Cannot Change by LeAnn Rimes. I have again taken the liberty of highlighting the lyrics that I found to be most important, and I have also crossed out the parts that allowed the song to make sense to my personal life.

I know what makes me comfortable
I know what makes me tick
And when I need to get my way I know how to pour it on thick
Cream and sugar in my coffee
Right away when I awake
I face the day and pray to God I won't make the same mistakes
Oh the rest is out of my hands

I will learn to let go what I cannot change
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change
I will learn to love what I cannot change
But I will change, I will change
Whatever I, whenever I can

I don't know my Father
Or my Mother well enough
Seems like every time we talk we can't get past the little stuff
The pain is self inflicted
I know it's not good for my health
But it's easier to please the world than it is to please myself

Oh the rest is out of my hands

I will learn to let go what I cannot change
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change
I will learn to love what I cannot change
But I will change, I will change
Whatever I, whenever I can

Right now I can't care about how everyone else will feel
I have enough hurt of my own to heal

I will learn to let go what I cannot change
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change
I will learn to love what I cannot change
But I will change, I will change
Whatever I, whenever I can
So many things in my life have seemed unfortunate, unfair, upsetting, out of my control... I have had to learn to let go what I cannot change, even learn to forgive some things I cannot change, especially as they have related to my father. But I have also learned that I will change whatever I CAN. And that is a very important less to take away from this. Change is such a scary, powerful word. It can be powerful in a bad way, but also in a good way. You get to decide what to do with the stuff that can be changed... and as difficult as it often is, you can make the choice to let go of the stuff that is out of your hands. Doing these 2 things - letting go what I can't change and changing what I can - has made me a happier person.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Arielle's Word of the Day Blogger Challenge!

If you've enjoyed reading all the Hungry for Change posts for the May Blogger Challenge and are sorry to see May end....


A new blogger challenge is coming your way! Actively Arielle and Hungry for Change have partnered together to bring you "Arielle's Word of the Day" June Blogger Challenge. We'd love for you to participate!

You can find all the prompts for each day here (AND you can also sign up [optional] to ensure your blog is easily accessible to everyone who is participating):
And the daily images can be found on the Hungry for Change Facebook page here: June Blog Prompt Daily Images

As always, if participation is not your choice, we hope you will enjoy reading what is to come!

Check out the 1 minute video below to see what's in store!

Day #27: I can't believe that I...

I'd like to say I can't believe I fully recovered... or I can't believe I found love... or I can't believe I now help others. But those wouldn't be true statements, because I CAN believe it. I always knew I could recover. I always knew I would find love. And I always knew I had the capacity and nurturing spirit to help others. I have always believed in possibilities and my own determination.
What I wasn't so sure about was being able to find myself... the self I had lost. I can't believe that the real Arielle back. 

I wrote a post earlier this month on my personal blog, when my mind was going back in time, remembering and realizing things of merit. When I read the Hungry for Change prompt for today, that post immediately came to my mind. I called it "The Real Arielle" and I'll share it with you, because I hope that you can get the real you back too.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an actress. During a physical for entry to kindergarten, when asked to cover my right eye and read a chart, I pretended to faint dead away to showcase my dramatic talent.

I used to talk to anyone who would listen. I used to dance and sing. I loved everything. Everything. I didn't even know the expression back then, but I can tell you: I thought the world was my oyster.

A little later, I thought I'd be a writer, an art teacher, a mother. I had a slew of friends, an eye for clothes and shoes (even in elementary school), and if I knew the answer, then you can be damn sure I raised my hand.

I loved school, hated sports (one of my pretty little black flats once flew off my foot and across the field during a game of kickball), and life was mostly good. Whatever came my way, I could cope. I had the self-reliance, the gumption, the eternal optimism and creativity.

And then came middle school.

Popular AND a good student, I was content. Puberty hit and tossed me to the wolves. I was a victim of what has become the classic "mean girls" scenario. Shunned by all, I went home crying every day. My mother tried to console me with explanations of "They're jealous" or "It's not the end of the world," but to me, it didn't matter the reasons and to me, it was the end of the world.

It wasn't a matter of blame. When a year had passed and the bullying stopped as abruptly as it had begun, I forgave eagerly, hopeful for a better future. The "why?" never persisted - all I knew was that for some reason they had wanted to break me down, "show me". They wanted me to feel pain, to be un-popular, un-wanted, un-loved, forgotten, shunned, snubbed, and alone. Even though they were all nice once and they were all my friends, they backed each other up and ganged up on me. Ignored me. Mocked me. Wrote hateful notes to me. And the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, and soon, a year of my childhood--and a crucial year at that--was gone. Drowned in tears of misery and loneliness.

I don't bring this up to act like a victim or to indicate in some preposterous way that these girls ruined my life. I certainly wouldn't want to be held accountable for something I did at age 11 or 12. I write about this experience merely to explain how it changed me and I take full responsibility. "Outgoing" changed to "reserved", "opinionated" became "accommodating", "present" became "hidden", "vivacious" became "subdued", "filled" became "starved".

I retreated into myself. I became a prisoner of suffering. And suffering became so familiar that I clung to it, used it to cope, used it to keep myself in check. I did it, not the girls. But it became my way of life, my new personality. And sadly, as I remained that way for years to come, it was the Arielle that everyone knew.
Even after the bullying had passed and other torments lingered, like my relationship with my father or the punishment I inflicted upon myself in the form of a ripening eating disorder, I was shy. Quiet. Waiting for others to speak for me. Waiting for someone else to take the lead. Reserved. Unsure.

My high school friends saw this girl. 

My college friends saw this girl. 

But before this girl existed, there was another girl. The real Arielle. The one waiting inside. The one who was actually born into this world.The vivacious, curly-headed, smiling, leader who was ready for the world to be her oyster.

Somewhere in my last year of college, along the edges of my recovery from an eating disorder, among my decision to audition for the Vagina Monologues on a whim and later perform the role I snagged, between the pages of a 90+ page undergraduate senior thesis I adored and best friend who cared for me and coaxed me into flesh and blood instead of a shell of a girl, I started to get the real Arielle back.

My husband Rick never met the shy, reserved version that had been wrapping the authentic Arielle like some flimsy paper for so many years. He met a bold woman with kind words and a flair for writing, a woman who at first glance looked as though she was coming into her own, getting started. But really, she wasn't getting started. She was going back - GETTING back - the Arielle that got lost. She wasn't reinventing, she was revisiting. 

Even as I write this, I can be sure that those of you who've met me in the last 5 years or so are sitting there in disbelief that I was ever SHY. Or RESERVED?! Yet, when I tell some of my older friends the things I'm doing, they laugh in shock the opposite way, as if to say, "You? Shy, little Arielle?" 

Three years ago when I started making weekly YouTube videos, I never dreamed I'd have over a thousand subscribers and even more viewers. But what's more, SIX years ago if you'd have suggested to me that in a few years time I'd be filming motivational speaking videos for thousands to see, I'd have laughed nervously and said, "Never! Not me!" 

But little Arielle, the actress with her delightfully staged fainting spell down pat, would have said, "Of course I'd love to speak on YouTube, but why stop there? I want to speak all over the place!" 

This post just sort of poured out of me, because earlier I had to write down some of the things I do... and I realized with a start of satisfaction that the real Arielle is here. She's been here. She's back. I'm a recovery blogger of 4+ years, an almost L.M.S.W., an ANAD eating disorder support group leader, an ANAD resource person, a speaker, President of my Graduate School's Student Association, etc. etc. etc. If I continue, it will sound more like a resume than a blog post, but the point is that... everyone who's met me in the last few years, who knows me now - they see the real me.

Someone told me the other day that I was "such a natural leader" and I laughed. But then I thought - why the hell am I laughing? People who knew you 10 years ago would laugh, but YOU don't have to laugh. This person only knows the REAL you. She never saw the other Arielle. 

This person I am now, it's not someone NEW. It's not an evolution. It's who I've been ALL ALONG. So if you knew me in the dark days, that's what I'm trying to tell you. And if you know me in the bright days, you're lucky. Because here I am! It's me. The real Arielle.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day #26: ED Activist/Sufferer/Survivor Book Review

I'm going to completely blow you away with my book choice today.

I have never been one to throw myself into books by eating disorder activists, sufferers, or survivors. I have read my fair share, back in the days when I was struggling with my own eating disorder and I have written my fair share of self-help stuff as well. I remember playing the comparison game with certain books I read back in the day - mentally trying to assess if I was sicker than the person in the book or not. For me, it was difficult not to compare, not to judge myself. A lot of books I read, though they were written with heart and good intentions, still glamorized the disease. Like, "things were THIS bad" and the focus was so much more on the illness than the GETTING OUT OF IT.

That's why my blog is the way it is. It's to give tools and resources and advice and motivation for the getting OUT. The NOW. Not where I've been or how bad it was. That only serves a purpose for about 5 minutes. And then (I feel) it's important to move on. Because chances are, if you're reading self-help, you already KNOW how bad it is. You're living it. Or you have lived it.

It's that "message from the other side" that is so under-represented in books. I think it's important to show that real resilience and perseverance exist ... and that real recovery exists too. There are a handful of books that have shown this "other side"... but strangely, there is one book that has spoken to me on a level of resiliency, strength, and human spirit and it was NOT written by an eating disorder survivor.

The book is entitled All But My Life and it was written by a truly inspiring woman named Gerda Weissmann Klein. It's a true story, written about Gerda's experience during WWII and the Holocaust. (Don't write it off as the same as other books on the Holocaust you may have read. PLEASE.) She is a Holocaust survivor, not an eating disorder survivor - and I won't for one second try to insinuate that the two are the same. Surviving horrible atrocities and traumas inflicted upon you and others you love is different from surviving an eating disorder. ...BUT not wholly different. How many eating disorder survivors have survived traumas? How many have been inflicted with this horrible disease, not by choice, but by an uncontrollable turn of events, or by an inescapable mental health diagnosis? At some point, there is a choice to be made in recovery from an eating disorder... and if we're talking about surviving the Holocaust, well, that choice may be taken from you. And the magnitude of something as terrible as genocide is just not on the same spectrum as other traumas. So yes, these two things are very, very different. But similar enough that I KNOW the book will speak to your heart if you just pick it up and read it.

The book title refers to the fact that the infamous "they" had taken everything from Gerda... ALL BUT HER LIFE. And her mission became one of brutal simplicity: to survive. By surviving she could keep the one thing they had not yet taken. And how she did this is ASTOUNDING. I do not use the word astounding lightly.

There is so much I want to tell you about this book, but I don't want to ruin for you the beauty of the story. So read it for yourself. It's not long and you won't regret it. (You can find it for $10.85 or less right here on and let me tell you, EVERYWHERE this book is reviewed it gets no less than 5 stars.)

I came across this book at age 19. I will never forget it. It's part of the reason I think positivity and hope have such a place in my work and in my lifestyle. THIS WOMAN, mistreated, traumatized, and dying in more than one horrific concentration camp, organized her friends to PUT ON PLAYS in their barracks... to keep them sane, to spread the tiny drop of joy she knew still existed because she was still ALIVE, to give hope. And you know what? She wasn't even really quite a woman yet. She was 15...16...17...

This is Gerda. She's 88 and still alive. And if you read her book, All But My Life, you'll never forget her and her spirit. And it might just teach you a thing or two about surviving yourself. Because if SHE can do it, you totally can too.

By the way, she's more than just an author (as cool as being an author is!). She's also a humanitarian, a historian, and an inspirational speaker. According to Wikipedia, "her powerful message of hope, inspiration, love and humanity" has captivated people worldwide. That is obvious to me. She's a human rights activist, super charitable lady, and also won an Academy Award AND an Emmy for the documentary based on her book and her life.
This is a President Obama awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

So, I'll end this unorthodox post with 5 words:


Check it out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day #25: Recovery Toolbox

Lucky for you, I did a splendid little video back in November of 2011 called... you guessed it! RECOVERY TOOLBOX! :)


"Recovery Toolbox"

And this is the video I mention in the above video, and is entitled "What to Do While Waiting for Services." I discuss a Coping Bank and other positive reinforcements!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day #24: Parent Conference

I actually wrote this post FOUR years ago and at the time, it generated a lot of messages from parents (especially moms) who expressed their gratitude for it. But besides the fact this simple letter was written to parents of those with eating disorders in order to give advice, I think it gave them more. I think it gave them HOPE. Because they knew it was written by a recovered woman and that meant recovery was possible for their daughters.

A word to worried parents:

I was once the anorexic daughter that parents worry about. Now that I'm recovered from anorexia and can look at the situation clearly, it's easy for me to articulate what might be needed and wanted—from the point of view of the sufferer. 

Okay, let's be honest; both parties are suffering. 

I feel the best thing you can do for your daughter (or son) is to love her and support her, which you obviously do if you are reading this. Try to understand her. She is probably feeling as though not many people do, but all you have to do is let her know that you WANT to understand. That you care enough about her to want to help her in any way you can. And that you will always be there for her when and if she needs you.

Don't be obtrusive. Don't be harsh. Sometimes it takes a big wake up call to make someone snap to the realization that they are really damaging themselves, but try to be the rock she can turn to when she is faltering. There are plenty of ways to show her the error of her ways without punishing her, condemning her, or making her feel worse.

My parents did good things and bad things. But it's hard for parents—and for anyone—to know how to deal with an eating disordered child, especially when that child is actually a young woman and not a child any longer.

Ask her if she wants you to do anything. Ask her if she wants freedom, support, more recovery resources, info about a support group, a shoulder to cry on, etc. Perhaps she wants nothing. Perhaps she doesn't know what she wants. But if it was me (and it was me once), I would greatly appreciate having my mother or father pose those questions to me.

If she's been in treatment: Just because a treatment place did not work for her in the past doesn't mean she can't get help or will be resistant to other forms of support. One thing that really helped me while I was a college student was going to a support group with other young women who were facing the same problems. We learned to want to help each other, which in turn helped us to help ourselves. If she cares about the well-being of other girls like her, she may invest time in a path towards recovery and soon start to hear what they are saying—and use what she is telling them on herself and her own situation.

Sometimes eating disorder support groups are not publicized and are hard to discover. Ask your local hospitals, do a search online, or contact an eating disorder specialist for info. Don't push…but it's always worth keeping in the back of your mind.

I really feel for your situation. I have a very good relationship with my mother and I know how helpless she felt when I was very ill.

Be there to listen to your daughter, but if she doesn't want to talk, don't press. All you can do is try your best to help her and the rest is up to her. No one can make her do anything—and if they do, it will only be temporary. She needs to make a choice for herself and set goals.

But you can support her in these goals. 

Show her how great life can be without her eating disorder instead of showing her how bad her life is with it.  

Oh, and this:
Tell Her (it's short)

[it's an old, old video and very homemade, but hey... you got the message, right?]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Purpose of Disclosure

This week's Wednesday Warriors video is ready and waiting for you below. You may remember that we are doing a new 4 week rotation as follows:

"Eating Disorders & Different Relationships - Disclosure, communication, & dynamics"

Week 1 (beginning May 14): How to talk about your e/d with people who are NOT friends, family, or significant others, i.e. bosses, co-workers, society at large (like blogging), teachers, coaches, etc.

Week 2 (beginning May 21): The purpose of disclosing and/or discussing your e/d with people (even friends and family) - is it for help, for support, to compare, to shock, to explain, etc? Examining the reasons behind disclosure and discussion of your e/d and what is healthy & helpful (& professional as the case may be, like with a boss or coworkers)

Week 3 (beginning May 28): Eating Disorders & Trust - in romantic relationships and/or friendships, there may be trust issues related to disclosure of eating disorders - discuss this and the things that may be helpful in addressing it

Week 4 (beginning June 4): How your relationship with YOURSELF affects your relationship with others - things to touch on may include self esteem (which we've talked about a lot already), personal fears, self hate, vulnerability, dishonesty with yourself, etc.
 Currently we're on week 2, so stay tuned!

Day #23: Choose a quote that means something to you...

I could sit here forever trying to pick JUST ONE quote to share. I'm an avid reader, an ever-writer and so... words are my life.

For a collection of quotes I generally like to share with you that you can relate to recovery, check out the tab in my blog header called Inspirational & Self-Affirming Quotes.

For some more poignant ones, check out this video I made last night: Arielle Makes You A Vision Board. It's cheesy little me making a vision board just for you and you will be immersed in a variety of beautiful, inspirational, and thought-provoking quotes and images.

If you don't feel like clicking on links today (though I highly, highly - yes, HIGHLY) recommend it, I'll leave you with this gem I've long adored:

What lies behind us 
and what lies before us 
are tiny matters 
compared to what lies within us.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day #22: Keep YOU, Kick ED!

I'm lucky enough to be able to say that my identity without my eating disorder is a strong one. I've left my eating disorder behind. My blog is not about my journey through recovery, because I'm already free. It's about helping others by sharing what I've learned and spreading positivity and hope.

So today, I'm tweaking my response to the blogger prompt of:

Did you ever feel you couldn’t tell where you ended and your ED started? Many people find it difficult to fathom their identity separate from their eating disorder. Who are you? What makes you – you? How do you tell the difference between the eating disorder and you? Why is it important to find you identity and recognise it as being separate from your eating disorder?

and instead I'm going to share with you how YOU can be more than your eating disorder - because you're fabulous! And because I already know what makes me ME! (And you do too, if you've read my blogs these past 5 years.)

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! - and to help inspire you, I made you a vision board! Yes, I did! I made YOU a vision board! Check it out:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day #21: Healers with Heart

Since I essentially thanked my best friend, Libes, for her part in my past recovery from an eating disorder, today I'd like to thank my mom.

[2011. Isn't she lovely?]

She's a healer and caregiver in her own rite, besides being a mother. She's a registered nurse who worked on the psychiatric unit of a hospital for a a few years, then on the mother/baby unit of a hospital for several more years, then decided to become a certified school nurse. Now, she gets to enjoy her summers off and her weekends to herself. She is a woman of many talents; she sews, she paints, she collects sea glass, and is addicted to coffee.

In addition to the obviously healing role she has filled as a nurse for 3 decades, she was a caregiver to her elderly aunt (my great-aunt) for a large chunk of my childhood, and a caregiver to her father (my Grampy) who passed away in 2007. And of course, she raised my younger brother and me.

She's strong, she's capable, and she has a big heart.

She gives all of us (her best friend, my husband, my sister-in-law, my brother, me) gifts on HER birthday. She delights in our presence. Being a mom is priority for her.

But she's so much more.

I have always been close to my mother, so I'm sure when I was struggling with my eating disorder she was at a loss. She found me the best eating disorder specialist. She intervened when she thought I could use the push and stepped back when she thought I needed space. She has always supported me - through childhood ambitions, school undertakings, family troubles, my eating disorder, my marriage, my post-graduate education, my infertility problems. She spent her time, her energy, her money.

So many people would give their right arm for a mom like mine. I am so lucky.

She is one of the most non-judgmental people I know.

She is silly, but she is so smart.

She is funny, but she is honest.

She is my mom, but she is more than my mom. She's my consistent supporter, my friend, my cheerer-upper, my partner in crime (not literally of course!), my biggest fan.

Thanks, Mom.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day #20: The Sound of Silence

Often people who battle eating disorders (and/or other mental health problems) generally
experience a kind of silence in terms of the restrictions that illness or other people place
upon their ability to share their struggles. What does silence mean to you? How
did you change it? How can you break the silence?

Perfect! I did a video this February that was actually CALLED "Break the Silence."

This one too: it's my most recent Motivational Mash-Up (like the previous 8), but much of the theme is Breaking the Silence. Check it out!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day #19: Write a Love Life Limerick

I'm assuming today's prompt is about loving life and not your actual love life, because that doesn't seem as cohesive with eating disorder recovery. :-) Regardless, I'm a writer, so once I start writing limericks, I just can't stop!

Here are two of the several of wrote, because I have 17,304 things to do today, all of which fall under the category of living and loving life! :-)

I hope you can pocket these and take them with you when you need a pick-me-up. They're encouraging and true!

Love Life Limerick #1:

There's so much just waiting for you -
There's no end to what you can do.
So believe in yourself,
Put the past on a shelf,
And life will believe in you too!

 Love Life Limerick #2:

Today is a gift and it's here!
Let go of the worry and fear.
Embrace what you've got,
And call every shot,
'Cause you are the boss now, my dear!

©Arielle Lee Bair
Rock on, limerick lovers!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day #18: Changing Places

Today's prompt for the Hungry for Change Blogger Challenge is a very interesting one and definitely one that will allow you another glimpse into my personal life. Today's prompt invites me to tell my eating disorder recovery experience from the eyes of someone who knows me, who's seen me. 

I thought about writing from the point of view of my mother. I considered writing from the point of view of my former therapist. But then I thought - who has seen me at my very worst and also seen me at my very best?

And I was left with one answer: my best friend, Libes.

There are some things in life you think will never happen to you. That’s the way it always is…until one day you look at yourself and say, “It DID happen to me. I’m exactly like that.” That’s how it was for me in college at age 18, the day I actually came to the realization that I had an eating disorder.

I counted the calories in everything I ate. It didn’t seem dangerous at the time, but soon I made limits for myself. It didn’t help that I was constantly critical of the way I looked. I needed a tan, shinier hair, more muscle, more height. I would tell myself that I had dry skin, dull hair, small breasts, not-white-enough teeth, and any other criticism I felt was true. I even went as far as to make the declaration that my eyelashes were too short. But of all these, the criticism I told myself the most was that there was too much fat on my body.

Thus, the restrictive behavior began. I cut back on food and I kept lists of what I ate, tallying every calorie like a never-ending math problem. During my second semester of my freshman year of college, I was thoroughly aware of how easy it would be to skip meals. There would be no parents keeping a watchful eye on me and I had any number of excuses ready if asked to dinner in the dining hall by one of my friends. I was hungry, but I just considered it a great accomplishment that I could conquer my hunger.

The semester progressed and so did my eating disorder.  I began to fast completely for days at a time. Then, ravenous with hunger, I’d eat a normal meal and feel horribly guilty. I knew I had a problem, so I went to the counseling center at my university and told them about it. No one else knew—not my parents, not my friends, not my then boyfriend—no one. My eating disordered behavior worsened. My friends were worried about me. They watched me all the time. It wasn’t long before the best friend I’d made at school confronted me. Libes knocked on my door one day while I was crying in bed (a common occurrence in those days) and asked me through the door to let her in. She wanted to know what was going on, but I was afraid to tell her…afraid she wouldn't like me anymore…afraid she wouldn't want to live with me next year. She didn’t judge me at all and she didn’t think I was crazy. She sat there on my bed with me and listened while I cried out everything I’d been keeping to myself. She hugged me at the right moments and told me she would help me. She was relieved that I was going to counseling.

I was surrounded by support and coping was easier, but my eating disorder was still there. I slept often, and I didn’t do very well in my classes. With the help of Libes, I tried to eat at least one substantial thing each day, which was by no means healthy, but was nevertheless an improvement. I stopped listing, but I was always mentally counting. I was irrational and emotional. I took naps to save my energy. Everything was going downhill. Libes saw it all and she never rescinded her friendship.

I was scared. So scared.

I have so many sad little memories - like going to an amusement park one weekend with Libes and getting colder and colder until I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. I felt miserable but the worst part was that everyone I was with was just fine. When we left the amusement park that night I saw that my lips were blue and it took me at least half an hour to get warm inside Libes’s heated car. When we got back to our dorm, I almost passed out, so I immediately sat down on the floor and knelt with my head to my knees to make the feeling go away. She got me water and demanded in her maternal yet firm way that I tell her what was wrong. We talked for a long while and she said something I never forgot. In fact, I wrote it down in my journal back in 2003 so I could be sure I wasn't making it up. She said she’d never leave my side throughout college and that she would help me in any way she could. It meant a lot to me to have someone say that.

I also remember taking a shower and watching a lot of my hair come out. With many long dark strands wrapped around my hands and my pink towel around me, I called Libes to the bathroom and showed her. Meaningfully, she said, “This is your worst nightmare, so you know what you have to do.”  I nodded and laughed nervously to cover my alarm that came from seeing my long hair somewhere other than on my head. 

These memories make me sad because no best friend should ever have to see the things she saw or worry about the things she worried about in regards to me. But as days turned into months and months turned into years, I had more good days than bad and recovery was a work in progress that was actually progressing. In the fall of 2002, Libes became friends with a girl who was timid, struggling, and ill. I came with baggage, but she saw through the bad stuff and loved all the good in me. These days, she gets to see the real me. I'm thankful for that. My best friend, my Maid of Honor in my wedding, my other half - she has seen it all and then some. And while I'm sure I gave her a damn good education on what to expect from someone with an eating disorder, it's nice to know that we can just be best friends these days without my old eating disorder lurking around. That time feels like another life. And that is a really cool thing to get to say.

When I think back on some of my college years, I'm not regretful of it all, because I have so many good memories too. But I often think to myself - the ONLY way a girl in my mental and physical state could have even HAD any fun and special memories in college was if she had a best friend like Libes. So lucky for me, I did.

So it wasn't a total bust. In fact, in spite of all the horrid, aching pain that I felt on a pretty regular basis, college was pretty damn great. And if Libes wasn't part of the equation, I truly don't think I could say that. (Am I trying to say that I have the best friend in the world? Oh yes I am!)

Libes and I have been friends for 10 years now. My heart says, "Is that all?" because I feel like I've lived 10 LIFETIMES since the day I met her.  

As for the NOW, what you see is what you get. And if you see it, she sees it too. I've come a long way and who I am now doesn't need as much of an explanation as the past me. This entire blog is the window to my now, so there's really no need to toot my own horn as the saying goes. Suffice it to say: a recovered life is FAR, FAR better than an eating disordered one.

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 how it started almost 5 years ago, plain and simple, when that bad/sad part of my life was ending and I was in a place where I could call my own body HOME. Since then, I've embarked upon a journey to become a professional in my own rite.

In college, which to be perfectly honest, was years after my eating disorder REALLY began, even though the official diagnosis didn't come until age 18, I was always one of those people who put on a happy face—who smiled even when I was hurting and joked around, making others laugh, consistently concealing the emotions at battle inside me. In a way, it sometimes helped not to talk about it. I liked trying to forget, to 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. 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, usually on Libes's shoulder. 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. 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 best friend 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 sh*t. 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 roommate and my best friend Libes, 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 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. On Libes's shoulder.
And after that came the realization.
That. I. Didn't. Want. To. 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.