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serotonin

If I had known what a difference antidepressants would make in my life, I would have started taking them years ago.

I spent years putting it off, telling myself medication wasn’t necessary.  I’d have day-, week-, sometimes even month-long periods of feeling awful and hopeless, and then a patch of “good days” would come along and convince me that I was making mountains out of molehills.  I couldn’t possibly be truly depressed; I just let myself think negatively too often.

During the bad days, the internal debate of whether or not I should give antidepressants a try seemed like an obvious choice.  I’d keep telling myself “at the next appointment” I’d ask my doctor about it, just to find myself in a better mood when that appointment came, and change my mind once again.  At one point I actually did ask for my doctor’s opinion on  me trying medication, and she was very much in favor of it.  I told her I’d think it over, and of course by the next time I saw her, I’d chickened out.

Looking back, the things holding me back seem incredibly petty.  I was afraid antidepressants would make me gain weight.  I worried that I’d become a kind of pseudo-happy, and be reliant on drugs for the rest of my life.  Even the issue of how much medication might cost went on my list of objections.

The factor that I’m most sheepish about letting stop me, however, is the worry that I’d be judged for needing medication to deal with my seemingly wonderful life.  I’m a privileged white girl, with a lovely family and good friends, a good job, a good life overall.  What right did I have to be depressed?  Even the people around me who “understood” depression told me all I needed was some fresh air and exercise; think positive and you’ll feel better.  All that did was make me feel worse when I tried my best to do those things, and still felt terrible on a daily basis.

All the sunshine and inspiring Eckhart Tolle books in the world won’t pull a person out of depression if the brain chemicals aren’t behaving.

I’m constantly amazed at how much easier life is with the help of my antidepressants.  The facts that daily life doesn’t have to feel struggle-y and grey, and that it’s not normal to be sad and anxious for the majority of your life seemed like brand new information when I started to feel better.  I didn’t even realize how low I had been until I began to feel…normal.

It’s the absence of the bad things that I notice the most.  I don’t have days on end of crying before work, and faking smiles to get me through the day.  I don’t feel like crying and completely on edge when mom starts cooking something oily and stressful for dinner.  I don’t see my future as bleak and hopeless.

Instead, I’m beginning to feel like a real person.  Joking and laughing and being fully present with a person, rather than being stuck in my head worrying about how much they hate me, feels good.  Being able to look forward to things, even the small things, feels good.  Simply being able to enjoy my life, relax a bit, and not have a constant torrent of negative thoughts flooding my brain, feels amazing.

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When did disordered eating become so…normal?

I may have abandoned the pursuit of a career in nutrition, but I’ve been more than tempted to put on my dietitian hat and start lecturing lately.  Good lord, there are an awful lot of unhealthy habits being encouraged in the name of “health”!

When did such a disordered relationship with food and fitness become so…normal??

I work with nearly all women so, naturally, the topic of dieting comes up pretty frequently. To minimize my nutrition-ignorance-related rage, I try to ignore it as much as I can, but the things I do hear leave me incredulous.  Weight-loss plans that allow you to eat no carbs, no fruit, no sweets, no alcohol…and very little of the few foods that are deemed acceptable.  So little, that exercising is considered risky and off-limits.  To me, all those limitations sound far too familiar, too close to being an eating disorder.  And yet, it’s not some get-thin-fast diet found on a sketchy pro-ana website.  It’s a certified “lifestyle program”, run by (seemingly) professional nutritionists.

WHERE did these people get their education?  How are they getting away with giving people such terrible advice??  It makes me angry, how irresponsible it is for nutrition experts (who should know better )to be promoting such unhealthy ways.  They of all people should know the damage that this kind of diet can do to a person’s health, both mentally and physically!

And then there are the macro-tracking, health-obsessed, superfood-of-the-week people. I can’t log onto Facebook or Instagram without seeing someone’s plate of protein pancakes, complete with the fat/carbs/protein captioned below the picture.  Does everyone really need to know the nutritional info of everything you eat?  Do you??  Your body isn’t obsessing over whether or not it’s “reached it’s ideal macros” for the day, why should you be?

Oh, and the “fitspiration” craze.  Whether it’s the thin, toned, muscled-but-still-feminine girls or the bulking up bro, the gym time involved seems a little obsessive to me.

Between overheard conversations, Facebook statuses, and Instagram progress pics, I could go on and on about the unhealthy mindset everyone seems to be wrapped up in.  I cringe to think about how many of those “healthy” lifestyles could lead to some seriously unhealthy consequences.  How long can you follow that strict diet before anorexic thoughts creep in? At what point does counting macros and eating clean become orthorexia?  Will the need to workout every day turn into a legitimate addiction?  It makes me worry how the best of intentions can go so far astray.

It seems I’m in the minority in this thinking, however.  Everywhere I look, these behaviours are admired, encouraged, and seen as accomplishments.  Of course, diet and exercise changes can be for the better, if it’s done in a healthy way.  In everything, moderation is key.  But these all-or-none approaches take it past the healthy, and edge into the disordered.

I don’t know.  Maybe the general public needs to be better educated about nutrition and wellness.  Maybe, coming from a history of eating disorders, I know too much?  Maybe I’m just more sensitive about such things.

Maybe a little bit of all three (everything in moderation, of course).

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self love in 2016

I posted this on my instagram, but I feel it belongs here as well.

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new year’s honesty post: I may talk a big talk about positivity and self love and all that stuff, but in actual fact I’m fucking awful at it. I’ve been struggling, hard. I’ve been beating myself up about all my failures, and forgetting how far I’ve come in this past year. but really? life doesn’t just hand you wonderful things, and if recovery were easy people wouldn’t struggle for years with eating disorders. with everything, you’ve got to fight for what you want in life, and accept that you’re gonna mess up once in a while. you don’t have to be perfect, no one is. just do the best you can. so, here’s to starting 2016 with a better attitude and a lil self compassion. 💕 happy new years bys, don’t forget to be nice to and love yo’self this year

To add to that, I’m setting a few goals for 2016:

  • be healthy enough to train for and run the Tely10 Roadrace with mom in July
  • be more social, by which I mean seeing friends and leaving the house at least once a week
  • travel, somewhere, anywhere, at least once this year
  • be solid enough in recovery by December 2016 that I don’t need monthly checkups
  • have some kind of plans/be thinking about moving out in 2017 ?

I’m not so good at goals, but I need something to work towards; I’ve begun to feel useless and totally unmotivated lately.  I think I can handle those things.  Hereby giving myself a kick in the ass to step my game up, I’m going to make 2016 goooood.

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because being sick takes too much effort

Revelation time.

It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s something I want to get down in words, so that maybe there’s a better chance I’ll keep it in mind and keep believing it.

Stuck in one of those hopeless-feeling slumps a few months ago, I remember asking a friend who was doing well in recovery when it all started to make sense for her. I was feeling so discouraged and frustrated with my progress (or lack thereof) in recovery, I needed some reassuring that it was possible.

Her answer, at the time, gave me a little hope that maybe someday I’d understand, but also seemed pretty unlikely. Quite simply, she said being sick takes too much effort.

I’m still struggling, I’m still sick, I still obsess over the silliest things – but I’m finally realizing she was right. After little tastes of recovery and the freedom it brings, following ED’s rules is exhausting.

I’m not super sure where my weight is right now, but in my mind it’s higher than I’m comfortable with. It may be my disordered mind, but seeing my little belly in the mirror makes me feel awful. It’s a daily struggle to stop myself from constantly body-checking and obsessing and worrying about weight gain.

In the worse parts of my ED, it would have been an obvious decision: eat less. Obviously, the way to fix everything is to restrict and cut out anything unhealthy that may have contributed to that flubby body. But now? Yeah, cutting back and getting really strict about what’s “okay” to eat is still a thought. But it’s not one I’m listening to.

I’ve discovered I really like some of those foods ED would say aren’t okay. Some of my favorite foods are probably the ones most likely to make me gain weight. And this is where Brittany’s words ring true – being sick is a lot of work. Why should I deny myself the simple pleasure of eating yummy food? Sure, a little body discomfort sucks, but forbidding poptarts sucks even more.

It may not be a huge aha moment, but I’m really glad I had this one. Food used to be such an unpleasant concept to me – something necessary to be tolerated but never enjoyed. Being able to connect good food and a happy belly to a happy Emily is a much nicer frame of mind.

Again, baby steps – but I’m getting there.

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nothing’s stopping you but yourself

I think I’m at the point where I’m just really disappointed in myself because I’m not better yet.

By saying that I don’t mean to discredit how far I’ve come – I know I have made progress in recovery.  I’m better than I was.  My list of fear foods, if I were to sit down and write one, is a fraction of what it once was.  My anxiety about foods has lessened, I’ve relaxed about food rules, and I’ve had glimpses of how truly wonderful life must be without an eating disorder.  But by no means can I say I’m recovered, and that fact makes me so, so angry at myself.

I really want to do better.  I don’t want to be stuck in this disordered life forever; there’s so much I’m missing out on, still.

I know, I’ve preached on and on about the “compare and despair” thing, and how everyone’s recovery is a unique, individual journey.  But right now, I think it’s the kick in the butt I need.

Two of my friends from Hope therapy have been top of my mind lately.  One, for a terrible reason, and the other for a wonderful one.

I’ll start with the terrible.

I met Jess at Hope, and we just clicked.  I felt we did at least, but I think that’s the way she made everyone feel – her loving, smiling, wonderful personality drew people to her, and made you feel special just to be in her presence.  We helped each other through the shittiest struggles of recovery, and saw each other on some of our best and worst days.  No matter how bad her day was going, Jess always had a smile, hug, or a joke to make someone else feel better.  I watched her transform from a sad, sick, ghost of a girl to the glowing, happy, healthy girl I loved.  The past few months I really think she was doing well – living her life fully and happily.

In the midst of her living her life and doing what she loved, Jess died in what I can only call a freak accident while rock climbing.  It’s still fresh, and not completely real to my brain, so I won’t write a lot about it, but I’m overwhelmed by how unfair life can be.  Jess struggled so hard, and overcame so much, just for this to take away the life she fought for.  My heart is absolutely broken.

At the same time, another one of my recovery friends is making my heart glow with pride.  When I first went to Hope, Brittany had been going for quite a while already, and although I immediately liked her, in the back of my mind she was always somewhat of a lost cause.  It was obvious how very much she was struggling, and I was afraid she was one of the unlucky ones who are stuck, just “surviving” within the disorder for the rest of their lives.

Well, a year and a half later, she’s proving me wrong, and I’ve never been happier about being wrong.  She’s gone away to an inpatient program, and as I watch her progress through Facebook, and get lil updates via text message, I can’t help but grin.  I think she’s really beating this.  She’s becoming healthier, brighter, realer in every picture, and you can see in her smile that recovery agrees with her – mind, body, and soul.  She’s been a bit of an inspiration for me.

If my two friends, both of whom I had labeled “sicker than me”, can recover and leave Ed in the past, what’s stopping me?  I know the answer, and It’s time I acted on it.  Nothing’s stopping me but myself.

It’s time to step my game up.
Recovery is possible, even for me.

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allllll the birthdays, and alllll the cake

I survived it: the weekend of allllll the birthdays, and all of the challenges that came with.

Like many of the things I say, to someone who’s never suffered an eating disorder, that sounds ridiculous.  Challenges?  What are you talking about, birthdays are great!?

This year I would agree – yes, birthdays are great.  For the years and years when my eating disorder ruled my life, however, birthdays were nothing but stress and avoidance.  Toooooo much food and socialization for Ed, that’s for sure.  Family dinners were never fun, and birthday cake was not even up for consideration.  When mom insisted that I choose a birthday dessert, it was always angel food cake – the only thing Ed considered safe.  (I had angel food cake somewhat recently, after being re-introduced to actual desserts, and oh my god – it’s the most boring cake in the world.)

Last year, soon after starting my recovery journey, I had my first piece of birthday cake in over ten years.  It was a huge accomplishment for me at the time, and a pretty exciting “new” thing.   Looking back on it, I’m still proud of that baby step, but I’m even more proud of how far I’ve come since then.

I spent my twenty-second birthday in Montreal with a friend, at a weekend-long music festival.  Eating that weekend was pretty unstructured and messy, but birthday cake was a priority.   It ended up being a slice of chocolatey mousse cake, at breakfast time, followed by a day of eating definitely-less-than-I-should-have.  Like I said, baby steps, I guess.  Any cake was a pretty big deal after ten+ years of none.

This year, birthday number twenty-three, involved a whole lot more cake.  A whole lot more everything.

My mom’s, my cousin’s, and my birthday are all within a four-day period, and this year that resulted in a full weekend of birthday festivities.  Between Friday and Monday, our fridge calendar was blocked solid with celebrations, and leading up to it, I have to admit I was pretty nervous and anxious about all the food that would be involved.  A single piece of cake is one thing – a weekend full of food-related events is just slightly more stressful.  If I didn’t explode from either all the calories or all the anxiety, it’d be a miracle.

Well, it’s Tuesday, and here I am.  And let me tell you – I had a fabulous weekend.  I fully enjoyed it, because I didn’t listen to Ed’s BS.  This year, I didn’t miss out on anything.

The past few days were wonderful.  I shared a drink (or two..) with my baby cousin to celebrate her turning nineteen.  I enjoyed a backyard barbecue with all my friends and family (and maybe more drinks).  I went out for a lovely birthday dinner with my also lovely boyfriend.  I ate homemade ice cream cake, and good old-fashioned vanilla birthday cake, and fancy gourmet (birthday) cupcakes, and it was all DELICIOUS.   And best of all, I talked and joked and laughed and enjoyed a relaxed, carefree, pretty-much-normal weekend with my favorite humans in the world.

This was not a weekend I could have enjoyed a year ago, and most definitely not before that.  I’m so glad I’ve come far enough in recovery to be able to celebrate with my loved ones, and not have food be such a stressful thing, or something that prevents me from having a good time.  I can’t lie – I did have a few moments when Ed tried to take over, and tell me “you don’t need to eat that, you don’t need those extra calories”.  But I had to remind myself – one weekend of more-than-usual consumption is not going to matter in the long term.  Turning down the birthday treats, and being awkward at the various events, and spending my time obsessing would have had a much more negative impact on my weekend, and memories of it.

I have such amazing people in my life, and I am so thankful I got to spend my birthday (and Mom’s and Sammie’s) with them this year.  Birthdays are pretty cool, when you let them be.

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yoga lessons/body love

I couldn’t begin to count how many headlines and articles I’ve read lately all with the same basic message: “Stop worrying about having a ‘bikini body’, and love your body the way it is”. Finally, bloggers, celebrities, and real-life girls are fighting back against the body-shaming, the diet trends, and the pressure to have the perfect summer body. This negativity is all-too prevalent in our society, and it’s overwhelming for anyone who is less-than-content with their self image. This new trend of body love is a refreshing change, and I’m thrilled to see so many girls embracing it.

That said, learning to love your body is hard. I’ve been at both ends of the scale – overweight to underweight, even at a healthy weight for a while – and I don’t think I could say I loved my body at any point. Tolerated it, sure. Even kind of accepting it in a “it is what it is” type of way. But loving my own body, the way it is? That one’s tricky.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know I’m not even in the minority in feeling this way. Even the girls parading around in underwear for the annual Victoria Secret fashion show have some little flaw they’re not 100% happy with. How the hell can we be expected to love our average, far-from-perfect bodies, when even top models struggle?

I think the key is to worry less about what your body looks like, and more about what it can do. If we stay focused on physical appearance, there will always be something that could be improved. The pursuit of the tiniest waist, the biggest muscles, or the most-toned abs is never ending, so save yourself the stress. Forget about the size or shape of your body, and just take a moment to be amazed by what your body is capable of.

For me, that wonder comes to me at yoga class.

I started my yoga journey at one of the unhealthiest times of my life. Stuck in a state of denial about my decade-long eating disorder, it was a wonder my body could keep up in class without collapsing mid-warrior pose.

Since then, I’ve had the “I need help” realization, met with doctors, seen therapists, and started giving my body the proper nutrition it deserves. I’m far from “perfectly recovered”, but I’m miles from where I was a year and a half ago. In day-to-day life, my body is still something I struggle to embrace, and there are days I cringe and want to cry at what I see in the mirror. But at yoga class, I can definitely say I like, and am proud of, my body.

I can feel how much stronger I am now than at the beginning, and it feels good. I can see how much farther I can bend, and how much deeper I can stretch, and I can’t help but be impressed with how far I’ve come. Each time I chaturanga my way into upward-facing dog, I’m proud of how much arm strength I’ve gained. The little accomplishments add up to a whole lot of body-appreciation.

I feel like yoga came into my life at the perfect time, when I needed it most. It’s an escape, a de-stressor, and a teacher of life lessons. It’s helping me learn to love my body, regardless of how it looks, and that’s a lesson I think we all need to be reminded of once in a while.

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