It is all worthwhile.

Hate The Holidays? (It’s okay…ish)

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, the holiday season is officially in full swing. Homes are covered in flashing lights, shops are playing Christmas music, pumpkin scented/flavored products have been swapped out for peppermint ones, and people dressed as Santa are frolicking around at every corner (okay, that last thing may not be a universal occurrence during the holiday season.. But in New York City, there are Santa Clauses everywhere). The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, but everyone is too full of pure holiday-induced bliss to care. This is the most wonderful time of the year.

Except for when it’s not.

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Listen, I am not bashing the holidays in any way, shape, or form. I am not a Scrooge. I am not going to complain about how the holidays are awful and stressful and blah-blah-blah. I like the holidays… Or at least I want to.

I know that I am not alone in my being in an especially bad place during the holidays. The holiday season is a time of heightened, both good and bad, for almost everyone (who celebrates). But for some, bad feelings are so intense, so all-consuming that they completely overpower and swallow up any joy that may be coming to the surface. What you are left with is total darkness.

The holiday season can be a painful one. When we sit down to Christmas (0r whatever it is that you celebrate) dinner, we are faced with empty chairs where loved ones that are now gone once sat. We remember the way this family member laughed, the amazing stories that they used to tell, or the way that they would always get just a little too-tipsy after dinner and begin to pick fights with anyone and everyone. We remember those famous cookies that a loved one once made, knowing that never again will we be able to enjoy them in the way that we once did. We are forced to come face to face with any fractures in our families, so-and-so isn’t talking to so-and-so so neither of them will be joining us for dinner, uncle something hasn’t spoken to his sister in 15 years and he’s not going to start now, even if it is Christmas time, maybe someone has recently gotten divorced and now must navigate who gets the kids during the holidays and who will be left all alone. It’s hard.

The holiday season can also hurt if you are someone who struggles with any sort of mental illness. As always, I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. If you are someone who struggles with anything, whether it be anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, etc. this time of year can throw you into a state of complete and utter dread. Honestly, just being a highly sensitive person (an empath) can lead one into panic when thinking about the upcoming season.

Holidays are hectic, I don’t care who you are, what you celebrate, or where you are. No matter what, you will experience some sort of pandemonium during the holiday season. Traffic is worse, crowds are worse, people are frantic. You are hard pressed to find a single store or public location that is not at least somewhat influenced by the holidays. For someone who struggles with any type of anxiety or panic disorder, this can be a nightmare. The idea alone of going into a crowded grocery store has been enough to leave me shaking and sobbing in my car, too terrified to even get out, let alone step food into the store. Again, I know that I am not alone here. This irrational reaction to what is a (admittedly high-stress) non-threatening situation can cause many who do not understand the diseases of anxiety or panic disorders to roll their eye and write you off as a drama queen. Just suck it up and deal with it. They might say. Just deal with it. You might even be saying these things to yourself.

Listen, I am in no way saying that allowing your anxiety to keep you from accomplishing necessary everyday tasks is the right thing, I’m not even encouraging it. What I am saying is that I understand and empathize with what you are feeling and what you are feeling, though irrational, is completely valid. Each and every feeling that you have is valid, this is an incorruptible truth. I don’t care if you are sobbing over not being able to find a certain dish to eat breakfast off of (I have done this.. often) or something equally as absurd. It is valid. Each and everything that you have ever thought or felt that has caused you any type of real emotion has been valid…

Even during the holidays.

If you are someone who struggles during the holidays, it can be so easy to beat yourself up over it.

What is wrong with me? This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. Am I really so deeply and fundamentally flawed that I can’t even get my s**t together for a couple of hours to go to this party and pretend I’m happy? Everyone else is so happy and I’m not and that is so selfish!

I could go on.

When you are looking around you and seeing nothing but green-and-red-clad-bliss, it can be easy to feel like a complete failure as a human being if you are struggling.

It is okay. You are okay.

Here’s the thing – this is supposed to be the season of giving. We give gifts and time and love to all of the special people in our lives. But what about ourselves? Do we give anything to ourselves? I’m going to bet that most of us don’t.

So why don’t we try to reclaim this idea of it being the season of giving and truly make an effort to give to ourselves. Why don’t we try to give ourselves compassion? Why don’t we try to be especially gentle with ourselves? Why don’t we, instead of making only monetary investments in gifts for others, make spiritual (or emotional) investments in ourselves? Why don’t we tell ourselves that just because it’s the holiday season, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to feel our feelings. Why don’t we tell ourselves that it is okay to miss a certain holiday party or gathering that we don’t feel up to attending? Why don’t we allow ourselves to have patience with ourselves, to not get swept up in the holiday pandemonium that we believe we are “supposed to do.”

I know that this is easier said than done. Trust me, I know this all too well. I know that there are certain things that will have to be done for the sake of others at the expense of your own well-being. I know that there will be times where we will beat ourselves up over maybe eating “too much” or not having enough money to get everyone gifts or whatever it is. I am not off floating on some rainbow cloud somewhere where I have no trouble taking care of myself first and where I take nightly bubble baths while drinking overpriced tea. I’m right there in the trenches with you. I am sitting here thinking about “how much I have eaten today” and “how gross it is.” What are these thoughts giving me? Nothing. Still, being aware of the bad thoughts and identifying them as such is, in my opinion, the first step towards real self-care. Instead of sitting and wallowing in these thoughts, I am telling them to all of you and doing something that I love. I love writing, and I don’t do it nearly often enough because I’m “not good at it” (according to the little jerk that lives in my head).. But I am doing it anyway, despite what the dark part of my brain may tell me. It’s not a lot, but it is still practicing self-care and compassion. It is a step forward.

So here is my challenge for you, promise me that you will try your hardest to give to yourself, your soul, this holiday season. Promise me that you will try to practice gentleness towards yourself at least once a day until December 25. Self-care doesn’t need to be elaborate. Practicing self-care isn’t all bubble baths and tea and yoga. Self-care can be cleaning up your room that, while how messy it is has been making you anxious, you have been too depressed to clean. Self-care can be listening to a podcast that makes you laugh. Self-care can be waking up extra early to watch the sun come up. Heck, self-care can be eating two tablespoons of sunflower butter instead of one. Self-care is anything and everything that lifts you up, that creates a little glimmer or light among the seemingly endless dark.

Everything you think and feel is valid…

Even during the holidays.

…If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this manner, I also made a video on my Youtube channel about this topic.

Holiday Fears And Gratitudes

First and foremost I would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you Americans/those who celebrate. I woke up this morning with a strong desire to write. I miss blogging (though can you miss something that you never did consistently?), but, as I have written about previously, the words just don’t seem to come to me anymore. But today is different.

I think a lot about what I want this blog to be. There is a part of me that wants to treat this as some sort of online journal where I spew out my thoughts and feeling for the whole world to see; and there is a part of me that wants this blog to be something clean, professional, marketable.

I have eluded to some of my struggles with mental illness over the course of my (few) posts on here, but I don’t know if  have ever said it outright.

Hey there. I’m Erin. I have an eating disorder

Exhale.

I have fought myself so long on whether I should say that one sentence right there – “I have an eating disorder.” Why? It’s not because I’m ashamed or because I don’t want people to know. It’s because I fear that, if people know that I struggle with an eating disorder, they will not want to listen to what I have to say. But why is that? Does having a mental illness make me any less of a person? Does it make my thoughts and feelings less valid? Does it cancel out any knowledge I have on certain topics?

Does it make me no longer a person but, instead, a diagnosis?

No.

I truly think that the reason that I find myself lacking the motivation to write is because  I have been desperately trying to hide a part of myself from the world. It is true that I am not my diagnosis (though it is not uncommon to begin to see your mental illness as your identity) but that does not change the fact that it is a part of me. A lot of who I am today is a result of my lifelong battle with anorexia and EDNOS.

I so desperately want there to be a place where there can be an open and honest conversation about mental illness. I want there to be a place where nothing has to be so precious. I want there to be a place where people are unafraid to talk about the darkest parts of their minds without fearing judgment or the possibility of being scolded for being “triggering” (a post on trigger-warnings and my feelings about them will soon be n the works). I want there to be a place where mental illness is just a piece of a much larger story, not the center point of it.

Anyway… Thanksgiving.

Now that I let the cat out of the bag about my struggles with anorexia, lets talk about one of the scariest days of the year for those who struggle with this illness – Thanksgiving.

Even if you don’t struggle with an eating disorder (or any mental illness for that matter), the holidays can be an immensely hard time. They are a time where money is tight, stress levels are high, stores are crowded. It can all be very hard to deal with. If you feel this way, know that you are not alone in this. I know that this fact seems like common knowledge, but it is so easy to get swept up in just how “full of holiday cheer” everyone is and then beat yourself up because you are not as “happy as you are supposed to be.”

You are allowed to feel the way that you feel. Even during the holidays.

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that if you have even the slightest bit of understanding of the way that eating disorders work that you know that Thanksgiving is an especially tough day. The holiday is centered around food and food, or the control of it, is the way that you express your illness. Eating disorders exist in an endless amount of forms so it would be silly of me to try and lay out exactly how those who struggle will handle this day. The best that I can do is take my own personal experiences and feelings and lay them out for you to either resonate with or not.

Something that I want to do, and that I encourage you do as well, is create a “Fears and Loves” list. Admittedly, I am stealing this idea from the absolutely incredible podcast “The Mental Illness Happy Hour.” I encourage you all, no matter what your mental state is going into today, to create one of these lists. Sometimes, it takes putting it in writing to actually know how you are feeling.

Please remember that these fears come from a place of… well… fear and that this place is not rational. Fears don’t need to be rational to be valid. If something scares you, it is worth discussing, even if it seems silly to you or others.

My Thanksgiving Fears

  1. I fear that I will eat too much.
  2. I fear that I will gain weight.
  3. I fear that I will let my eating disorder ruin my holiday.
  4. I fear that I will let my eating disorder ruin my family’s holiday.
  5. I fear that my I will exhibit disordered behaviors at the dinner table.
  6. I fear that I will make my family feel uncomfortable.
  7. I fear that having so many people in my home with cause me to have a panic attack
  8. I fear that said panic attack will lead to my family thinking I am either rude or crazy.
  9. I fear that every holiday for the rest of my life will be like this.

 

My Thanksgiving Loves

  1. I love listening to my grandpa tell stories of the days long ago while he sits at the table talking with his brother.
  2. I love being in a room with all of the people that I love most in the world.
  3. I love that I have such a big and close-knit family. I am very lucky.
  4. I love that I am about to go for a long run and that I will get to see other runners, happy and excited for the day, out doing their own Thanksgiving miles.
  5. I love the house smelling like rosemary from all of the Thanksgiving  cooking.
  6. I love the way that apple pie looks when it first comes out of the oven.
  7. I love that, while I still struggle, that I can sit and joke and laugh with my family while we eat Thanksgiving dinner today. Even last year, this was near impossible.
  8. I love that I am lucky enough to live in a nice warm house with people that love me.
  9. I love that I am lucky enough to live on this planet that, every day, I am so in awe of.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

What are some of your fears and loves today?

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Why I Won’t Put A Label On My Diet (And Why You Shouldn’t Either)

Labels seem to be very in vogue these days, especially when it comes to one’s dietary preferences. Vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb, primal, paleo, vegetarian, pescatarian, grain-free, fully raw, low-fat-raw, rawtill4,801010, plant-based, clean eating, if it fits your macros…

I could go on.

Now, let me be the first to say that I have not one thing against any one of these diets (okay I have an issue with a couple). For the most part, each diet (when executed properly and intelligently) is actual pretty darn healthy. What I have an issue with is the unhealthy mindset that comes along with the obsession with labeling oneself.

Back in the day, there were essentially three labels that people used in regards to their diets: omnivore, vegan, and vegetarian (you could throw pescatarian into this as well). That was it, clear and simple. Did gluten-free exist? Yes, but being gluten-free was left to those with Celiac. Did paleo exist? Probably, though I don’t know that it was labeled as such.

What I’m trying to get at here is that is seems to me that people just ate food. Every single person on the planet has always and will always eat differently. No two people (should) have the exact same amount of calories or ratios of macro-nutrients each and every day. That just doesn’t make sense. Some people have a natural gravitation towards higher fat foods as they feel better when they eat them, some people avoid dairy because it makes them feel sick, some people feel more satisfied eating lower fat. When a person is in touch with their bodies, they know what to eat and how much of it to eat. If a person really desires some nuts, they should probably eat some nuts. If a person really wants a huge bowl of fruit, they should go get themselves a watermelon. Our bodies do not define themselves as high-carb or paleo, so why do we? Why don’t we just eat what feels good? Maybe what feels good to you just so happens to fall within the criteria of being paleo. Cool. Awesome. But why do you need to put a label on it?

People do not belong in boxes. If I had a penny for every time I have said this in my life, I would probably have enough pennies to afford a bag of organic lettuce at Whole Foods (that stuff is expensive as heck). I try to live my life with this mantra existing as a florescent sign that is constantly flashing in my subconscious mind. As someone with the tendency to collapse into a puddle of self-loathing on the daily, I have a whole lot of trouble with trying to accept myself as I am. I have spent the majority of my life trying to hide the most vital pieces of myself that make me who I am in an attempt to not be judged by the world. I feel that a lot of us do this, I mean, it is human nature to want to belong. So what do with do with this burning desire to fit in?

We attempt to shove ourselves into boxes that we do not quite fit in.

We go to school and try to figure out which “crowd” is ours. Are we one of the preppy kids? An athlete? An artsy-type? A drama kid? An academic? An outsider?

Why the heck can’t we be all of the above?

I feel like putting a label on your diet is basically just the grown-up version of what we go through in middle school. Each diet camp is just another clique and I am so freaking sick and tired of trying to belong.

I find labels damaging, especially to those who are in recovery from an eating disorder or a broken relationship with food. When you are coming from a place where so much of your life was spent trying so hard to be “perfect” when it came to diet, why are trying to recover by finding another way to put pressure on yourself.

Multiple times a day, I hate myself for not being vegan. I eat “vegan” probably 85% of the time and vegetarian almost 100% of the time. Why? This is just the way that I tend to gravitate. I feel a little bit better about myself knowing that most of what I eat did no harm to a life.. But I am not vegan. I can’t be vegan right now, and even if I went 100% vegan some day… I still would never call myself a vegan. Deep down, I know that the second that I slap a label on the way I eat is the second that is the beginning of another downward spiral. Coming from anorexia (though this applies to all who have ever struggled with food whether it an eating disorder or chronic dieting), I put so much pressure on myself to constantly be perfect. This is something that, though I am getting better at practicing self-compassion, I still struggle with daily. The second that a label is slapped onto my diet, I know that it will be all I focus on. Living up to my label will become an obsession in the same way that starving myself was. That is so damaging.

What I am saying here is that I truly believe that we need to reject the labeling of ourselves in all parts of our lives. This could be the diet that we ascribe to, the personality-type we believe we are (creative, analytical, etc.)… All things! Say it with me… PEOPLE DO NOT BELONG IN BOXES. There is no perfect label that you can put on yourself because you are the only you that you are. Your label is unique to you and that is what is so amazing about being a human being. When you realize how incredible it is that you are the only one of you that ever has been and ever will be… God, it is just the most liberating feeling imaginable.

All in all, be who you are, eat the way you want, live the way you want, and don’t fear not belonging to a specific group or label.. You are so much more than just your dietary preferences.

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Mental Illness: The Mind’s Foreign Invader

There are currently 5 half written posts sitting in my drafts here on this blog. I have had several topics that I have wanted to address for weeks now. I have been out and have had to stop mid-run because there were too many ideas filling up my head and they had to be written down. Every idea was, to my perception, a great one and I was so excited to sit down and write some quality blog posts that would hopefully help at least one person.

But when I did get to sit to write, the words wouldn’t come.

One of the many weird things about the human mind is that, while it feels like we think in our native language, it is sometimes completely impossible to articulate our thoughts, even though they seem so clear and concise within our minds. What a frustrating thing to have the words flowing though your mind and filling it up but not being able to put those thoughts down on paper. This has been my experience not only for the past few weeks, but for years.

I have never had a clear picture of what I want to do with my life. I have never had a dream career. I have never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. I have never wanted a “normal job.” In fact the sheer idea of working a 9-5 job for the rest of my life makes my heart shrivel up with fear. It is not the idea of working that scares me, not at all. I want to do something with my life. It is simply the idea of working a job that doesn’t fill me up and leave me excited to work each day that makes me want to cry. I have spent most of my life asleep, consumed by self-hatred so intense that it prevented me from living a real life. While the monster of self-hatred still has its ugly hand clasped tightly around my neck, I am finally starting to realize that hey, maybe I’m actually worth something. Maybe I do deserve to be alive. It is such a self-aggrandizing thing to believe that you are the worst creature to ever step foot on the earth. I believe that each and every human is a crucial entity to the thriving of the universe, except for me. What makes me think that I am so special as to be immune to this being a crucial being?

Back to the words.

All I have ever wanted to do was elicit emotion in others. Since I was a little girl, this idea has played over and over again in my mind. I want to make people feel something. I want to be able to reach out and touch the hearts of other people.

Now, you can’t exactly major in heart touching. Actually, I guess you can, but I’m not aiming to be a heart surgeon over here.

I have always found myself moved by books and movies and music. There is something so incredible about being able to read a book and think about how the author of that book must feel knowing that characters that they created have become the loved ones of all who encounter his/her novels. Sometimes I just sit and think about what it must be like to be J.K. Rowling. Her children, the ones that she created in ink, have become family in the homes of millions. Her creations have brought families together, have made people read who never had any interest in reading prior, and have allowed those going through rough times to escape the harsh world that is their own for a little while. What she created has brought both crushing heartbreak and unbelievable joy to so many people. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in a position where you know that you have touched the hearts of so many. I tear up just thinking about what that must be like.

So I decided I should be a writer. Books provided me with so much all my life. As corny and cliche as it may sounds, books, along with music, really did act as my dearest friends for most of my life. In fact, they still do to this day.

Words, they used to come so easily to me. I could sit and write for hours and hours about the characters that existed in my head. As I fell asleep each night, I would write the stories in my head. I could see the characters, hear them, feel them. My brain was constantly creating. It was an escape from reality and it was exciting and beautiful.

And then it stopped.

The deeper that I fell into my mental illness, the harder it became to see the stories. I lost the ability to dream. The beautiful worlds that existed in my subconscious were ravaged by the monster that is mental illness. It all shut down. I shut down.

Now, quite a few years later, I am finally waking up. I don’t know if I could say that the voice of my mental illnesses are any quieter. In fact, I could argue that they are louder than ever before. The difference now is that I am aware that these monsters are foreign invaders.

Picture an angel fish. While beautiful to the eye, angel fish are actually not native to Florida’s water. They were brought over by outside forces, not by nature. After the angel fish were released into Florida waters, they quickly multiplied and took over. These fish, while now that there are multitudes of them, do not belong in these waters. These fish are hunting and killing the fish that are native to these waters. They are multiplying and destroying and it is all so unnatural.

But would you have known this just by looking? Probably not. How would you know that angel fish are actually harming the waters of Florida just be looking? To the normal eye, when there are a ton of a certain kind of fish in the water, you assume that they are meant to be there.

I swear that this analogy made way more sense in my head…

If my angel fish analogy was understandably in any way, picture mental illness as the angel fish. These diseases, these bad thoughts, have had such a presence in the mind for so long that you often fail to really understand that they are not supposed to be there. This illness that takes up so much space in the waters of your mind is actually destroying the parts of your mind that are meant to be there.

So when I say that I woke up, I truly mean that the parts of my mind, the parts that held my true self, began to remember that hey, they’re the ones that are supposed to be here, not this outsider that is mental illness.

The hardest part of recovery takes place after you wake up. When you identify yourself by your diagnosis, it’s easy. “Oh, I can’t eat because I have an eating disorder.” “Oh, I can’t go out because I have social anxiety.” “Oh, I want to die because I have clinical depression.” Once you realize that these thoughts are not who you are is when the real work begins. Once you realize that there is actually a lot more to you than a simple diagnosis is when you are forced to exit the safe space of mental illness.

Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc., they all actually exist to keep you safe. I know, how twisted is that? But it’s the truth. When you are completely consumed by a mental disorder, you don’t have to face the big scary thing that is “the real world.” No, you get to stay safe and snug in your little bubble of self-destruction.

Oh yeah, except for the fact that this disorder that is keeping you safe is also simultaneously killing you.

I guess that what I am trying to say in a not-so-concise way is that mental illness causes us to lose the parts of ourselves that make us who we are. We lose our much-ness. And sometimes, it seems as though it is impossible to get what used to fill us up and make us whole back.

Well, I want my much-ness back. The words will come back.

Eating Disorder Recovery, Eating Habits, And Shame.

I can already tell that this is going to tough for me to write.. It’s funny, I am a very open person. I have reached a point in life that I do not care who knows about the darker parts of my life. I do not mind putting details of my struggles with mental illness online. I do not care that people know that I am “crazy” or “a head case” anymore. That being said, there is one aspect of my life (or lack thereof) that I feel so deeply ashamed of.

The way that I eat.

I have an eating disorder. This is no secret to any of the people in my life. Do most of them think that I am mostly better now? Yes. I am at a “healthy weight.” I run. I “eat healthy.” People constantly comment on my “self-discipline,” my “fitness,” my “knowledge” when it comes to eating right and losing weight.

Honestly, these ideas that people have about me, my health, and my diet are pretty far from the truth. I have a twisted and, in my honest opinion, gross relationship with food that just seems to worsen as time goes on. At this point in time, I feel that my relationship with food has never been worse than it is now. I have been 68 pounds and eating 150 calories at day, but I still had a better and more normalized relationship with food and eating  than I do currently.

And I am so ashamed of that.

I don’t talk much about the way that I eat. I don’t eat around people, I don’t go out to eat, and I try my hardest to make sure that no one is aware of when and how often I eat. I feel so lost and out of control and scared and disgusting and I truly have not even the slightest idea of how to get out of this. I listen to recovery podcasts, read inspirational books about recovery, read recovery blogs, go to therapy, plan out meals…. But I still find myself practicing the same shameful (in my opinion) eating habits each and every day.

I hate my body. I hate the way that I eat. I hate the way that I feel about food. I hate being like this. Something that no one tells you about eating disorder recovery is that it is so much harder to be in recovery than it is to be in the depths of an eating disorder. When you are completely consumed by an eating disorder, it all feels very safe. You have this fake sense of being in control. I’m not saying any of this is good, not at all. My anorexia almost took my life, but at least I didn’t feel like I do right now. When I was dying I felt nothing, now I feel everything.

It is all too much.

I can’t tell you exactly when my eating habits morphed into what they are now. The best I can do is trace it back to New Year’s Eve 2011. I had been hospitalized at 68 pounds on March 25, 2011, the day after my 16th birthday. I had spent two weeks in the hospital and released, at the same time, my dad had been hospitalized, diagnosed with brain cancer, and died on April 14th 2011. I had dropped out of going to the doctors at the hospital after having multiple panic attacks over not having gained enough weight to be allowed to exercise again, I had also stopped going to therapy after my therapist blamed my mom’s thinness for my eating disorder. I had tried out for my high school’s cross country team in an effort to lose weight. I had made the team and had, unexpectedly, fallen in love with running. I was still 10 pounds underweight and was still restricting my intake to 700 calories a day, but I had found something that made me feel again. I loved running and that was changing everything.

Then I gained weight.

I don’t know exactly what happened. The last time I remember “being thin” was on New Year’s Eve 2011. I don’t know the significance of that date or why I feel like that day was the day that everything changed. But I feel like something shifted and snapped on that day. Two weeks later, without increasing my calories whatsoever, I was up 20 pounds.

I lost it.

Gaining weight is always hard, but I imagine that weight gain is easier to deal with when you are aware of the reasoning behind the weight gain. You overeat and you gain weight. Simple. But what about when you are eating a third of what you are supposed to be eating, running over 30 miles a week and shoot up 20 pounds in 2 weeks? What to do you do when your weight shoots up and you cannot just cut calories and lose it? I felt so out of control. I felt like my body was rebelling against me. I spent my whole life fighting against the body that I so desperately hated and now it was finally fighting back.

My eating habits became stranger and stranger. I began to fear eating actual meals apart from breakfast. Having not had a hunger cue in years, intuitive eating was not and never had been an option. I ate bites of food while standing up. I began to fear eating anything in entirety. I would eat only the crusts off of a slice of bread and discard the rest. I would cut a sweet potato into 10 pieces and only eat one, or I would just eat the skin of the sweet potato and leave the rest. I would bake healthy banana bread and cut paper thin slivers off of the edges of each piece and eat only those. It would take me over a week to finish a single protein bar because I would cut it into centimeter thick slices and eat only those.

Today, I still have those eating habits. It has been over 3 years and I am still in that same place that I was back then. My weight is “healthy,” I am “fit,” I eat, “healthy.” So tell me, why do I hate myself this much? Why can I not bring myself to sit down for a normal sized meal, yet I can spend over an hour cutting bits off of a protein bar and eating those? I guarantee you that I eat more calories by eating in my strange ways that I do than I would if I sat down and ate normal healthy meals. I so wish that I could wake up in the morning, run, and then sit down to a beautiful smoothie, bowl of oatmeal, or scramble. I wish that I could cook up beautiful bowls of vegetables and grains. But I can’t, and I am so ashamed.

I have a lot of knowledge about nutrition, I really do. I spend hours every day listening to health podcasts, reading books and blogs, and doing as much research as I can on all types of eating from paleo to raw veganism and everything in between. I love healthy food and love the idea of living a healthy life style. Yet I still find myself in the kitchen in the morning dipping the crusts of a piece of Ezekial Bread into peanut butter and jam. I still find myself hiding food. I still find myself grazing and then not eating meals because I have eaten more for breakfast than I would have liked to for the entire day. I feel soft and flabby and fat and disgusting. I feel like I am eating constantly and I am so ashamed. I go to bed each night in searing pain because I do not seem to properly digest anything that I eat and I spend most of the time being in pain but eating anyway.

I would in no way classify my way of eating as binging. I do not eat large quantities of food. I do not eat until I feel physically sick. I do not eat quickly and uncontrollably. I do not eat because I am feeling sad. I just spend hours picking at things and it makes me feel disgusting and I am so ashamed of the fact that I eat in such a bizarre way. I hate the looks I get when I am caught in the ritualistic act of slicing up a protein bar into paper thin slices. None of this is normal and I feel so disgusting and out of control and I just do not know what to do about it.

There is a sad part of recovery where you gain weight and people stop caring. When you are visibly wasting away, you are babied in a way. It is all very dramatic. “You’re going to die,” they tell you. “Please eat,” they please. You are seen as fragile and sick and in need of love. You are applauded when you tearfully succeed in eating a “fear food.” You feel loved. But when you are at a normal weight, suddenly it is all very different. When you are crying because you physically can’t get yourself to bring a spoonful of frozen yogurt to your mouth, you receive a look of complete disgust. When you are panicking because you are so fat and cannot be seen, you are yelled at and told to shut up. You are still very sick. You are still very fragile. You still desperately need to be loved. It just doesn’t seem to matter anymore one you can no longer see your bones.

I hate admitting to things still being this bad. I hate admitting to being “weak” in regards to having a “control” over food. I know that these thoughts and feeling are disordered, but I do not know what to do with them. I do not know how to break the cycle of disordered eating. This has been going on for so long and it seems that no matter what I do, I wind up in the same place. I cannot live like this forever. I can’t. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do anymore.

The Bodies Of Others Are None Of Your Business

Today’s post may seem a bit rant-ish (not a word, but I’m going to with it), because, well, I’m heated!

Recently, I have started bringing a book to the gym so that, after I finish my workout, I can hop on the treadmill and walk for a bit while I read. This new routine of mine has been so incredible for me. This past year has been rough for me in terms of being able to focus on… well… anything. I am assuming that this is a result of my PTSD finally catching up with me. Studying for tests became a nightmare. I had to read sentences over and over and over again and no matter what I did, I could not retain anything that I read. I stopped being able to write (this I am still struggling with) without getting distracted and frustrated. All things that I used to find solace and peace in became impossible. Escaping into stories being one of these things, I hadn’t finished a book in quite some time.

I have never been someone with a long attention span. Even as a child, I always had to be doing multiple things at once. I would be listening to the teacher while drawing a picture and whispering to my friend. I would routinely run a lap around the basement while I played Pokemon on my Nintendo 64. However, back then I was actually able to get things done simultaneously. Today, I still have to be doing a million things at once. But I get nothing done. Everything seems so difficult and overwhelming and impossible now. Nothing comes naturally anymore.

But I digress, as this post is not about that.

So I have been reading on the treadmill. I find that if I am walking while I read, I am actually able to focus on the story I am reading and this excites me so much. I am going through books faster than I can afford to buy them, and it is wonderful.

Or it was.

There is a small “Lady’s Only” section of my gym. This area is more private, making me feel a bit more at ease while I walk. Every day, I finish my workout and go over and hop on one of the two treadmills in this section. Funny thing is that, regardless of the fact that I am, for the most part, there at different times each day, this one woman is always there.

This woman is there everyday, plugging away on the same elliptical day in and day out. She is probably in her 50s, and she seems very friendly. She is one of those gym-goers that seems to know each and every person at our gym (or at least those who hang out in the Lady’s Only section) and she is also one of those gym-goers that is quite the Chatty Cathy. Now, this wouldn’t be an issue (though I will admit that it is slightly irritating when people try to speak to you while you are gasping for breath on the treadmill) if it weren’t for the content of the conversations that she strikes up.

“Oh you lost weight.”

“Did you lose weight?”

“Do you think that I lose weight?”

“Do my thighs look bigger?”

“Do my thighs look smaller?”

“I can only lose weight if I starve myself.”

“Muscular girls are disgusting.”

I could go on.

I try really hard to not let her get to me.. But I’m not quite there yet. Maybe it’s due to my experience with an eating disorder, but there is something that is just so deeply disturbing to me about this type of conversation. The questions are typically directed towards anyone who will listen (and are normal responded to in a very uncomfortable fashion) and the comments on other woman’s weigh loss or lack thereof rarely receive much more than a mumbled, “I haven’t lost any. But thank you.”

This goes on every single day, and each day I get a little bit more worked up. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was one comment in particular.

She was talking to (or at) the woman on the elliptical next to her about her thighs (are the bigger? smaller? the same? I don’t want the to be muscled) and the woman next to her sighed and said, “You don’t want toothpick legs anyway. They are not attractive.” To this, the woman (who initiated the conversation) responded (for too loudly) with, “You’re right. Have you seen that one really skinny blonde woman who comes in here a lot? I don’t think she eats. She must not. She definitely doesn’t eat.”

I had to hold my breath to keep from losing it.

Here is the thing, I have seen the blonde woman in question. She is definitely unspeakably thin, but I never really thought about it. Why would I? In what way does that impact me?

Why on earth are the bodies of others any of your business?

We lived in a twisted culture today that is impossibly obsessed with critiquing the bodies of others. The magazines on the newsstands are clad with huge headlines of, “250 POUNDS *insert celebrity here* HAS LOST ON CONTROL.” “95 POUND CELEBRITY X ANOREXIC AND DYING,” and, my personal favorite, the oh so wonderful “BEST AND WORST BIKINI BODIES,” with huge red circles surrounding the “disgusting rolls” of a woman bending over (because, I mean, skin totally shouldn’t fold over when you bend over) and other revolting commentaries on female bodies. For some sick reason that I cannot quite grasp, people eat this stuff up (not literally though, because women must eat nothing but Special K and low calorie yogurts and 90 calorie snack bars and “sensible dinners”).

I know for a fact that this woman at the gym is not commenting on other bodies to be cruel. She seems to genuinely believe that talking about nothing but bodies and weight and thighs and calories is commonplace. The sad thing? It kind of is.

Yesterday, as I often do, I was browsing Tumblr and came across a before and after photo posted by one of the women I follow on the site. Unlike most before and after photos, the one was not of weight loss, but rather of muscle gain. Below the photo was a wonderful little paragraph about how much better and healthier and happier she felt now. Below that paragraph was a comment.

“I think you looked better before. So much more soft and feminine.”

Obviously this comment lead to a heated back and forth between the poster and the commenter which ultimately lead to this gem of a comment.

“Soooo I like her body one way and she likes her body a different way but he is allowed to say it but I’m not? That’s makes sense 😂”

How does this make sense? Yes, there is obviously a difference between the poster commenting on how she feels about her own body and some random person on the internet commenting on a body that is not her own.

Again, how does what someone looks like impact you in any way?

You never know how what you say about someone can affect them. For my (admittedly skewed) brain, I take someone calling me “healthy” or “normal” as them calling me fat. I know that this is not rational, but it is the way that my mind works and it really can mess with me when someone comments on my body, even if they mean it as a compliment.

I see the way that the women at the gym react when this one woman comments on their possible weight losses. More often than not, they seem more uncomfortable than flattered. Very few people enjoy having their bodies scrutinized (I would say that no people do… But I can’t know that for sure) and sometimes even what are meant as compliments can make someone feel hurt and uncomfortable.

The same thing goes for commenting of what someone is or is not eating. It is absolutely ridiculous to claim that just because a person is thin that they do not eat. This is a result of our messed up diet culture and the ways that the media tells us that the only way to be slim is to “eat mindfully” and use “portion control” and, my favorite, “trick yourself skinny.” Books and magazines and television commercials tell us to enjoy these “guilt free” snacks (because food, the very stuff that keeps us alive, should TOTALLY make us feel guilty) and to eat less and chew gum instead of eating and all of that nonsense that has lead to there being almost no women left who have completely healthy relationships with food.

It is also horrible to comment on what others eat. You may think that you are doing someone a service by complimenting how they, “only eat healthy things,” or, “would never eat xx.” You may also think that you are being helpful when you tell someone how much fat or calories are in what they are eating. You are doing nothing of the sort. You are doing nothing but projecting your own insecurities onto another and making another human begin feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. You are not helping the other person, and you are certainly not helping yourself.

It just boggles my mind to see just how skewed the general public’s perception of what is okay to comment on is. We truly live in a world where people believe that they have the right to offer “helpful” commentary on others simply because they put themselves out there in the world. Surely if they put a photo of themselves online then it is okay to offer your opinions on what is right or wrong about them, right? Surely there is nothing wrong with that.

It’s just insane and this type of behavior has become so normalized that most people barely bat an eye when the conversation turns to being about nothing but weightless or when they begin talking about Aunt Sally’s weight gain or whatever it may be.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. What if instead of wasting all of your life-force commenting on what other people are eating or doing or looking like, you take that energy and aim it towards bettering yourself?

Then maybe this world would be a more positive place.

(Late) Introductions Are In Order…

Since I started this blog a few months ago, I have been all over the place in regards to what I want to do with it. I have had a couple of blogs in the past, each of which I ultimately deleted once they began to no longer feel genuine. I have had a healthy living blog (what got me into blogging in the first place) where I tried to fit myself into the “Everything is so perfect! I just ran 10 miles and made a green juice!” archetype that seemed to be the norm amongst the healthy living community that I love so dearly… It was fun at first, I’m not going to pretend that it wasn’t. However, my unhealthy mind and lack of mental health slowly but surely began to creep into my posts until, eventually, it was all I wrote about.

It’s funny how difficult it is to hide your real self, even when you are safely secured behind a computer screen.

Not wanting to be identified by my mental illness, I wiped the blog and started anew. This time, I chose to write about health and fitness still, but I also wrote about everything else under the sun. Again though, I deemed my cheeriest persona and tried to write behind that guise when, in reality, I was slipping. Naturally, I lost interest in writing.

So here we are, the Erin Honor blog. When I created this, my first and largest choice was of what to call it… So I used my name. Now there was no pressure, there were no expectations of what this blog had to be. RunSmileLive, ErinLearnsToLive, SnapbackAndRacingFlats, all of those were created in attempts to portray only fragments of my whole self. I wanted to show the light and hide all of the darkness. I was always very good at pretending everything was alright when it wasn’t.

I can’t do that anymore.

I spent too much of my life trying to pretend that it was all sunshine and rainbows and it left me emptier than before. Now, I’m not saying that this thing here will be all doom and gloom, I’m not even saying that I am a negative person. I’m not. Really. I promise.

I’ve said it before in previous posts and I will say it again; we live in a really cool world. I am so grateful for that. That being said, I have spent the bulk of my life hiding a fog of mental illness. I have spent my whole life fixated on my deep rooted hatred of my body and myself. I have spent my whole life trying to destroy my physical self so that I could be free.

But that’s not how it works, now is it?

You can’t separate your physical and spiritual selves. I have spent so much time truly believing that I could kill my physical self without killing my whole self. Yu can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way.

So where am I now?

I think that is what this blog will be. Every time that I have started a blog, I am ashamed to admit that there was a large part of my brain that was doing it just to be seen. I love writing, I always have. However, I was trying so hard to fit the mold of what the “popular” bloggers were doing because, well, I wanted to be life them. I’m not them. I am me, and I may not be very happy about that right now, but I really want to try my hardest to one day be able to be proud of being me. That is my goal. That is my mission. That is what this blog will be.

I have been frozen for a very long time. I fell into this whirlwind of self-hatred when I was very young. Six years old, to be exact. I fell into the dark, cold depths of my mind and froze. I am now 20 years old, but I still feel like that sad and scared 6 year old girl. I am the little girl who just wants a hug and a kiss on the forehead and to told that everything is okay. I am the little girl who can’t hold a part time job because she has severe anxiety and has had to quit every job she has had after having panic attacks in front of full restaurants. I am the little girl who feels like the world is too big and she is too small. I am the little girl whose cries too easily and loves too much. I am the little girl who has been this way for too long; who has had no idea of how to crawl out of the darkness.

I can’t be that little girl anymore.

This blog will probably be one that no one will read, and I have decided that I will be okay with that. This blog is going to be little more than the explicit mental outpourings of this scared little girl who is trying to put herself back together. Recovery is hard… No, hard is an understatement. I don’t even know how to properly articulate how hard it is. Eating disorders, depression, anxiety, social-anxiety, body-dysmorphia, mood disturbances… these have all been a part of me for almost the entirety of my life. They have, in some sick way, kept me safe. Sheltered. When I am so caught up in my own mental illnesses, I do not have to go out and experience all of the scariness of “the real world.”

But here’s the thing… I want to know the real world. I want to know love and light and happiness. I want to know success and failures. I want to see far places far and near. I want to go as far out of my comfort zone as I can. I want to feel my heart flutter with nervousness and excitement over new experiences. I want to know it all.

More than anything though, I want to finally know my true self.

So that’s it. This blog will be the documentation of my journey towards recovery. This blog will be a place where I can learn to find the joys in life again and where I can rediscover all that I was once passionate about before the monster of mental illness came in and stifled me.

I hope you, reader, will come along with me on the adventure. I am so excited and scared and thankful.