Friday, May 31, 2013

Feelings are like the weather

When struggling with depression, one suffers a constant battle with negative “feelings”.  If these thoughts are acted on, they can become extremely dangerous and life threatening.

Since I’ve been recovering from depression, I still have a difficult time, however, dealing with feelings of worthlessness.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I recover, I don’t think I will ever be completely free of negative thoughts or feelings.

This thought, in and of itself, is depression to me…

Something that helps me to make peace with this fact is to think of my negative feelings as a thunderstorm.
 
Feelings are like the weather; they come and they go and you can’t control them.  The weather can change from day to day, hour to hour.  And if you live in Ohio, you know exactly what I am talking about.  If you plan a cookout or camp out, be prepared to schedule a rain date…ahem…sound familiar?

Guess what?  You cannot control the weather.  Duh.  And guess what else?  You cannot control your feelings either.

As much as we like to think that we control how we feel, we are just reacting to the “changing of seasons”, if you will.

Thoughts come and go in and out of our heads every second of every day.

You are more than your thoughts.

In the moment of intense feelings, what you experience seems like the truth.  Your feelings, however, are not always the truth.  Your feelings are real, I must make this distinction before moving on.  Feelings are very real.  How you feel is a reality that nothing and no one can change.  But just because it is real, doesn’t mean it is the truth.

Your feelings are valid; they exist in reality.  Yet, just because you have certain feelings doesn’t make them right (or wrong for that matter).

A symptom of depression is blaming one’s self for everything bad that happens.  But just because you feel like you caused that ______ bad thing to happen, doesn’t mean it’s truly your fault.  It is just an example of an unruly feeling.

And just like one adjusts to the weather, you can adjust to your feelings.  You can adapt; you can come inside, turn on the heater, or put on a sweater.  You don’t have to live outside in the cold and rain.  If you have to be outside for whatever reason, you can at least carry an umbrella or wear a slicker. 

I have a posted noted on my bathroom mirror that reads, “Thoughts do NOT dictate actions”.

On a personal note, that quote has helped me tremendously.  Just because I feel a certain way and have certain thoughts doesn’t mean I have to believe in what I feel.  If I am feeling discouraged and unworthy of life, I recognize those feelings and acknowledge that they are real.  However, I know what I am feeling, however real, still is not true.  Just because I really feel unworthy doesn’t mean I have to act as if I am unworthy of my life.

I know that I am a child of God and worthy and deserving of all things good.  And with that belief in mind, I should act on that truth instead.

The same can be said for my ED thoughts.  If I feel good, I don’t feel like I have to lose weight.  However, the times when I am really down on myself, I feel like I need to start dieting again.  When I am unhappy about something else, or I don’t physically feel good, I conclude that my problems would be solved if I starve myself.

Those tormenting thoughts about weight that never leave me alone, however real, are still just feelings.  I don’t have to obey their demands.  Instead of starving myself, I know that I am a temple of the Holy Spirit and I should treat myself with love and compassion.

I think other people might feel like this sometimes too.

We’ve been told that losing weight will make us happy.  And most of us believe this lie to be true.  When we are down, unhappy, or don’t feel good, we think we have to lose weight in order to get our peace back.  And when we are happy, we can eat again.

You don’t have to earn the right to eat.  And you don’t have to “make up” for the things to you do eat.

We’ve been told that we are unworthy of living life unless we comply with what society tells us we must do.  No matter what you do, where you are, or what you are like, you deserve life.

Being aware of your feelings is a key to knowing how to treat yourself.

If you are not sure how to respond to your feelings, err on the side of self-compassion.

Have a nourishing weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to Stop Binge Eating


How many times have you told yourself, “I’ll start my diet tomorrow,” or “I’ll start eating healthier tomorrow,” or “I’ll start exercising tomorrow,” next week, or next month?  “Tomorrow, I will be good,” you think as you savor your “last” cookie.  Yadda, yadda, yadda…

What usually follows after a statement like those above is the thought, “I better eat everything I want to eat right today because I won’t be able to eat it tomorrow.”

And then what happens?  Well, speaking from experience, I usually eat more than I am used to.  I end up feeling terribly full, and incredibly defeated. 

I’ve done it many times.  Have you done it too?

Why, Oh Why, do we do this to ourselves?

I think, it is because we are lead to believe that diets will solve all our problems and make us happy.

But how many times does this practice actually work?  How many times are diets actually successful?

Zero.  Yes, zero many times.

So why do we still worship “the diet”?  It seems to me that the only thing dieting does is cause unnatural eating habits and binge eating episodes.

This week is National Binge Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

What is Binge Eating Disorder, or BED?
Binge eating is consuming a large quantity of food in a short amount of time when you are not hungry or without really tasting it.  Following the binging episode are feelings of disgust, shame, and despair.  If this eating cycle happens 2 or more times a week over an extended period of time, then it is considered BED.

You might be aware of this dangerous eating cycle if you are constantly trying to be on a diet or feel like you “should” be on a diet.  You try and try, but you can’t stop the binging episodes.  But this continual failure doesn’t make you want to stop dieting; it makes you want to diet even more.

What typically can happen after a binge eating episode is the person feels the need to severely restrict or completely eliminate eating.  Or they feel like they need to go hard-core on their diet to feel better.  However, the diet results in, yet again, another binge eating experience.

This negative relationship with food is called Binge Eating Disorder.  It is the most misunderstood diagnosable eating disorder.  There is Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), AN-BN, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS), and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).  In short, BED is different because there is no purging afterward (that would be Bulimia) and there is no extended period of time that one starves oneself (that would be Anorexia).

You can read more about BED here and here and here.

The true cause of Binge Eating Disorder is unknown, just like the other eating disorders.  Genetics seem to be a large factor.  However, most cases of BED can be traced back to unrealistic dietary expectations.

BED is common in adopted children or children who have suffered hunger or starvation.  Not knowing when the next meal will be causes panic and anxiety in children.  This results in binging episodes, hoarding and hiding food, or eating in secret.

Diets set you up for failure, whether they are voluntary or involuntary.  And there are a lot of studies that show the only contribution diets have made to our society is BED.

But don’t despair; Binge Eating Disorder is highly treatable.

The only way to make peace with food is if you give yourself permission to eat.  Give up dieting.

You do not have to earn the right to eat. (I have this reminder on my refrigerator.)

You are allowed to have food today, and you are allowed to have whatever food you want tomorrow.

This mindset change has dramatically improved my overall well being and eating habits.  After I semi-recovered from AN-BN, I still felt like I had to be on a diet (which is why I said “semi”).  I was still deathly afraid of gaining weight.  So my eating disorder stuck around and just morphed into a different eating disorder, BED, over time.

I thought that my binging episodes were the result of weak willpower or some flaw in my genetic makeup.  I was convinced that I was gross, shameful, and unworthy of eating food, and, oh yeah, a really bad person.

But binge eating doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  You are not gross, shameful, or unworthy.  Binging is the result of trying to have an unrealistic diet.  It is the result of expectations that either you or someone else puts on you.

If I know I am allowed to have some chocolate chip cookies tomorrow, I am not going to finish off the two dozen I made today.

-------------------------------------
 
Binge Eating is the result of starvation.  And it doesn’t have to be just physical starvation that causes it.

You could be starving your mind, soul, emotions.  Maybe you binge eat to sooth stress or cope with your sadness.  Whatever the reason, it is because something is lacking.  We live in a first world country with an abundance of food.  However, I see so many people starving on a daily basis.

Emotional starvation: you are trying to fill a void with food and maybe what you need is self-compassion, a good conversation with a friend, or to take a few things off your to-do list.

Spiritual starvation: you try to fill the hole in your heart with food when you really need to pray.  God is the only one who can fill that void.

Or Physical starvation: when you try to “diet” or think you need to skip a meal or a day of meals, your body isn’t getting enough nutrition, energy, vitamins to continue functioning.  And your mind does not get any fuel either so you will be irritable, easily confused, and tired.

If you keep starving yourself for long enough, you body will actually override your mind to get you to eat.  You mind can actually shut down and you will ravenously devour all food in sight.  After your brain is nourished and your body has some food in it, you start to feel guilty and ashamed and wonder how that happened.  What went wrong?  Or why didn’t I have enough self-control?  It is not about any of those things; it is about expectations.

We think that we are “expected” to be able to live without food or minimal amounts of food…and that is just not true.  We think we are expected to look a certain way.  But at what cost; how far are we willing to go to be skinny?

Contrary to popular belief, dieting will not make you happy.  Dieting will not solve all your problems.

The way to have a more nourishing life and a better relationship with food is practicing Intuitive Eating.  You can read more about binge eating disorder with intuitive eating on the website, Weightless.  Below are two great articles on this topic:
 
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2013/05/facts-about-binge-eating-disorder-qa-with-karen-trevithick/


I, personally, practice intuitive eating by following these guidelines:

Eating when I am hungry
Choosing something to eat that sounds good
Smelling my food before I take a bite
Eating slowly
Eating without distractions (computer, phone, TV, etc)
Paying attention to the texture, flavor, and temperature of the food
Recognizing when I am full
Thanking God for the gift of food
Reminding myself that I can eat later if I get hungry again
Reminding myself that I can have food today, and I can have the same or different food tomorrow

BED is a habit, so like any habit it will take time and practice in order to break it.  You may need to get outside help from a counselor or support system.

But remember, you deserve it.  You don’t have to live with binge eating disorder.  You are worth it.  It is totally possible to have a good relationship with food.  And a good relationship with food means having a more nourishing life overall.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't Eat the Birthday Cake!


 
It’s my birthday – not a big deal.

I wasn't expecting this day, however, to be a humongous Eating Disorder trigger for me.
 
I can’t control my height, my hair, and now I realize that my age is in that category too.  When I feel like my life is spinning out of control, I try to control my eating.

When I was in elementary school, I heard my uncle talk about "being fit by 40" or something like that.  Ever since then, I've used my birthday as a measure for my physical fitness.

For a long time, I had this rule that I had to lose a certain amount of weight before each birthday.  I used the mile marker as motivation, kind of like a New Year’s Resolution.  For example, in college, I wanted to be a size 4 before I turned 19.  One year, I decided to lose 24 pounds before turning 24.  You get the idea.

So, every year before my birthday, I would create an eating/exercising routine in the weeks or months leading up to that day.  The tradition became a challenge and a point of pride that I shared with no one but myself.

Today is May 29th, my birthday.  I am twenty-eight.  Yippee.

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel weird.  I feel weird.  This year’s birthday is the first time in a really long time that I haven’t beat myself up or punished myself prior to this day.  Today is just another normal day.

I don’t feel like celebrating my birthday.  I don’t feel like I deserve to celebrate.  It’s just a birthday.  I haven’t done anything to deserve cake and ice cream.

I also feel like I’ve crossed that rickety old bridge where I don’t want to be a year older anymore.  My back hurts, I get heartburn, I found a gray hair, and I drive the speed limit.  I am getting old.

These feelings are scary and new.
 
The default setting in my computer brain is telling me that the only way to feel better about myself is to restrict my eating.  “You won’t feel so bad if you are thin.”

The number one main reason I had a really difficult time getting out of bed this morning is because I think I am fat.  It’s not because it’s my birthday, no, that can’t be the reason.

If I am having those “fat” feelings, there is always something else behind it.  I have to figure out what is really going on and address the real issue.  For example, if I am feeling fat I might be just really tired and need some sleep, maybe my shirt is too tight or immodest and I feel guilty, or maybe I got in an argument with my husband and I don’t know what to say next.

When I did get up, I looked in the mirror to see if the birthday magic transformed me into Blake Lively while I was sleeping.   Instead I saw frizzy hair, dandruff, puffy cheeks, crooked eyebrows, and oh yeah, fat.  I analyzed my butt and my stomach because I am certain it grew overnight.

The only way I know how to cope with these feelings is to return to said E.D.  For years I’ve used my eating disorder to cope with my anxieties and depression.  I can’t control my feelings so I try to control other things.

I can’ control my hair or my height, but I think I can control my weight.  All of my insecurities about myself get piled on my food choices and eating habits.  Because it’s my birthday, I am also realizing that I can’t control my age either.

I’m fat.  My life is over.  I don’t want to eat anymore.  If I can’t try to be stick thin, then, I’ve decided that my life is not worth living.

Jeez.

Deep breath.  Remember, you decided not to listen to those stupid thoughts anymore.  For many years, I’ve believed food was bad.  And for years, I’ve used eating and exercise to cope with all of my emotions.  It is a long-term habit and it will take a while to change.
 
I have to remind myself that there are other things I want in my life instead of the eating disorder.

Regroup and start over.

OK.  What’s going on today?  What’s the real issue behind my "fat feelings"?

Well, I am 28 now, so I feel like I have to have my shiitake mushrooms together and all my ducks in a row, if you know what I mean.  Shouldn’t I be perfect by now?  I mean, I’m 28.  Isn’t everyone perfect by 28?

Give.  Me.  A.  Break.
 
Alright.  I feel a little better now.  Thanks for listening to my ramblings today.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Oh Internet, what am I going to do with you?


The Internet is a double edged sword.  It is wonderful, yet more of a world of widening webs.

I am really enjoying this writing/blogging thing.  If I could post without going on the Internet, I would publish a new article every single day.

However, I must admit, the wondering www dot is taking a toll on my positive body image.  No matter what I do, I can’t figure out how to blog without checking my Facebook news feed. 

For me, too much Facebook equals low self-esteem.  And even though I love keeping in touch with people, it can really knock me off balance if I am not careful.

Each time I post a new blog entry, I scroll through my never ending (literally!) home page and look at everyone’s pictures.
 
Besides feeling like it is a waste of time, I can’t stop comparing myself to others.
 
People post pictures of themselves in new clothes, selfies in front of their mirrors, at the beach, or even prego pictures at such and such weeks.  If I could look at pictures without feeling jealous, I would.  I even feel a twinge of guilty envy when I see beautiful mothers and their beautiful babies.

“I don’t look as good as she does in those shorts.  I wish I could wear a dress like that.  I could never do my hair like that.  She is so pretty.  She is so funny.  Wow; she worked out for an hour in the rain?  That’s a great comment; I could never be that witty.  She is so skinny and she is 5 months pregnant.  I could never look like that.  Her kids are adorable; how does she keep it all together and still manage to look like a movie star?  She takes really great pictures; she could be a professional.”

After the dust has settled, I admit that Facebook causes me to feel like a fat failure.

I have to be honest with myself and decide if it’s causing me more unnecessary damage.  If that is the case, then bye-bye Facebook.

The Internet seems to undo all the positive steps I take.  I am trying my hardest to get rid of the unrealistic expectations I place on myself.  So much of my anxiety comes from my perfectionist tendencies and extremely high standards.  Motivation is a good thing if it promotes action.  But when the expectations get too ridiculous, it can be crippling.  “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~Steve Furtick (from my Tiny Buddha article - Click here if you missed it!)

Facebook is all about showing your best side to the world.  It has “highlight reel” written all over it.

I am working up the courage to deactivate my Facebook account.  I am not ready to do that yet, but if it continues to affect me negatively, then I will.

Famous last words…

I don't want to have to quit Facebook, but should I?  What do you think?
 
Do you avoid Facebook for any reason?  How does it make you feel after spending time on it?  Can you go on the Internet without checking Facebook?  If so, how do you do it?
 
Challenge of the Day: Write down how you feel after spending time on Facebook.  Then give it up for a day.  At the end of that day, write down how you feel.  Is there a huge difference?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Brave's Baseball Rookie Talks About Depression

{Boats Docked in Mexico, by Craig Borchers}
It is really difficult for me to hear people joke about depression and suicide.

I will admit to two dangerously close attempts at taking my own life.  However, for years my mind was occupied with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.

Even though I believe laughter is good medicine, and I promote humor as a part of recovery, I can’t laugh about reality of depression and suicide.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to laugh at it, or even if I should.  I know too many people who have suffered extreme pain because of depression and suicide.

I can’t help it, but I withdraw into myself when I hear people exaggerate their feelings to be funny.  If someone loses a game and jokes that they are depressed, something inside me twitches and cringes.  I would never say anything because I have a plank in my own eye.

Don’t joke about killing yourself.  The subconscious language (speaking without thinking) can affect others and ourselves more than we know.

I read a great article the other day about a rookie baseball player who shared his own personal story with depression.  I thought it was awesomely good timing considering my new found mission to try and break the silence of mental illness and suicide.  You can read the whole article for yourself hereThanks, Husband, for sending it to me. J

Out of all the helpful things, I find the most encouragement from reading stories about people, like me, who have struggled with depression and yet recovered.

If someone can recover from depression enough to end up playing major league baseball, then there is hope for me too.

In the article, Braves baseball player, Evan Gattis, says:

"I was in a mental hospital," he tells USA TODAY Sports. "I couldn't sleep for an entire week, and I knew something was wrong with me. So I got admitted. I was so depressed, all I could think about was killing myself.  I wanted to kill myself for a long time."

In this quote, I thought Gattis revealed a bit of insight into the mind of a severely depressed person.  At first, it can be difficult to know what is going on.  He went an entire week of not sleeping.  What was he thinking after day three or four?  But then, as he said, he then knew something was wrong after a week.  It wasn’t necessarily the fact that he had wanted to kill himself, but the fact that he physically couldn’t sleep.  Often times, when someone is struggling with depression, the mental turmoil is not enough of a reason to get help.  Mental suffering has been viewed as a “lesser” suffering or a kind of suffering that the person brings on himself or herself.
 
In the article, Gattis never really says what caused his depression.  Most people, it seems, don’t have a specific reason why their mental illness started.  Some people can recognize a trigger that sets it off.  But for the most part, it is, usually, a building up of events over time.  This ambiguity is difficult for friends and loved ones to understand.  They want to blame the suffering on something.  In the article, the author writes:

Gattis says he started abusing alcohol and marijuana during his senior year of high school. He sank into a deep hole, torn by his parents' divorce, his father says, and, his mother says, self-imposed pressure to excel at the game he loved.

My guess is that his depression was the result of both those things plus many others working in conjunction with off-balanced brain chemicals and hormones.

Even though I don’t play baseball (chuckle, it’s OK, you can laugh too), I can relate to Gattis’s words about expectations and anxiety:

Yet the better he became in baseball, the more he played, the greater the expectations and the more anxiety and fear he felt.  "I was terrified," Gattis softly says, "of being a failure."

I often felt this kind of anxiety at my job, when I painted, when I ran, and when I did just about anything.  I had these expectations of myself to be perfect.  Pretty soon my fear of failure grew so strong that it crippled me from doing anything at all.
 
Depression can keep you from enjoying life and anxiety can keep you from doing the things you enjoy.
 
If you take all the purpose and meaning out of life and nothing is enjoyable, then what is there to live for?  Even though, it was not baseball or softball that I wanted to be good at, I could still relate to Gattis’s story.

At the end of the article, Evan Gattis is called a hero; not because of his baseball success, but because he beat depression.  Gattis even admits that overcoming depression is one of his greatest accomplishments.  He is now using his experience to try to encourage others struggling with the same things.
 
"Hopefully,” Gattis says, “I can be an inspiration to kids going through the same thing. There are a lot of kids out there depressed. You read about teenage suicides and the things kids go through, and it's so sad.  Maybe, when they know my story, they'll see there's a way out.”

Maybe not in baseball, but is something else.  That’s the beauty of telling your story.  That’s the beauty of the human race.  We can relate to one another through suffering.  Breaking the silence of depression and suicide can cause so much good.  Depression causes one to feel so much isolation.  By breaking the silence, other people can realize that they are not crazy, and that people, like them, struggle with some of the same things.

Gattis, who was drafted in the 23rd round, softly smiles at the memories, wondering if perhaps it was ordained that the potholes and barriers were necessary to find his path to success. "When I look back," Gattis says, "I'd probably do everything different. But I don't regret any of it. There's supposed to be a reason for everything, right?"

Yep.  I agree, Evan.  There is a reason for everything.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tiny Buddha

Today, I had the honor of being featured on a popular website called "Tiny Buddha".

Check out my article HERE.

or here: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/when-your-inner-critic-stifles-your-creativity-4-helpful-truths/

(I am pretty excited about it!!!)

I think I can elevate my blog relationship status from "Rookie" to "Advanced".

Maybe that's being a little generous.

OK, I'll take an "Intermediate".

Monday, May 20, 2013

To eat, or not to eat, that is the question:

{oil painting via galaxyguide.com}
I published this post forever ago, but I could use the reminder, personally.

Don’t eat carbs but carrots are okay to eat, take vitamins A thru Zinc but only in their natural state, olive oil is good for your heart but don’t heat it above 100 degrees, eat broccoli for iron but don’t eat it raw and don’t boil it in water because it will lose all it’s nutrients, eggs are a good breakfast but don’t use a non-stick pan and don’t eat more than six a week, blueberries are good because of the anti-oxidants but be careful because they are carbs, look out for MSG but it’s not always on the label, eat non-processed foods but only organic if you do, wash your fruits and vegetables to rinse off the chemicals but don’t use store bought soap, look out for sodium and cholesterol but you need some so your brain can function, only eat a certain amount of calories a day but eat more if you use more energy, don’t eat… STOP!!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of it.

My counselor challenged me to go into a grocery store and find an item that didn’t have something negative about it.

Apple – peal is covered in wax
Diet Soda – it has Aspartame
Organic carrots – just because it says organic doesn’t mean they didn’t use chemicals to clean it
Milk – you are most likely allergic to the protein in dairy
Dried Fruit – the bag was not recyclable and it has preservatives in it
Chicken – the lady behind the counter was not wearing a hair net

Have I made my point?

To make a long story short, everything I picked up, I could make up some reason it was bad…or at least arguably so.

I then heard this old Middle Eastern proverb and thought it was appropriate.

“Once there was a man who worked in the fields all day. At night, the man went to his tent to rest and recuperate for the next day’s work. He lit a candle, sat on the floor, and took out a bowl of figs to eat. He took the first fruit and opened it only to find a worm. He discarded that piece outside and opened the next one. It too had a worm inside. Each piece of fig he opened had worm. When the bowl was over half gone, the man had a thought. He blew out the candle and finished the bowl.”

Sometimes it’s better to just not know. We are all fortunate enough not to have to worry about worms in our food. But there are lists and lists of other things to make us worry about what we are eating. If we paid attention to all of them, we would die of starvation.

Sometimes you just have to say, “Oh well!”, and turn off the lights of your overactive brain.

I don’t know about you, but going into a grocery store is overwhelming as it is. You definitely don’t need a bunch of negative thoughts on top of all the over stimulation.

I know a lady who lived to be 90 years old and ate a donut and drank coffee with creamer every morning. She had no major health problems and was always in good spirits because of an incredible prayer life. I am sure she had her days, but she definitely didn't waste her time on earth worrying about heart healthy whole grains.

The honest truth; we are all going to die someday. The sooner you make peace with that fact, the sooner you will experience peace. The goal is not to live forever on this planet, but to live forever in Heaven.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum


Put your sarcasm shield on and buckle up.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Well, I confess, wasn’t going to the forum.  I was just going for a jog.

The weather has been so nice recently.  I’ve been trying to be outside as much as possible.  First, I could use the vitamin D-3 (the sunshine vitamin).  I get you, Timothy Green, I get you.  Second, I love being outside.  Third, our garden is growing wicked fast – and so are the weeds!  Fourth, did I mention that I love being outside?

Sometimes, however, being outside requires me to talk to people.  I have this little thing called “shyness”.  Some people think it’s a disease, but Rocky doesn’t.  I think we make a real sharp couple of coconuts - I'm dumb, you're shy, whaddaya think, huh? Thanks, Rocky.

I don’t like when people notice me.  I don’t like attention.  And I don’t like talking to strangers.  I’ll do it if I have to and it always turns out OK, but, on the inside, I am freaking out.  When I first moved to this zero-stoplights-small town, everyone was a stranger, but everyone knew me because I married a local.  I’m kind of a big deal.  Now that I’ve been here a while, I know, well, OK, I know everyone in the whole town – at least, I can recognize them by face if not by name.

So, back to my story.  I was jogging through the town and a lady stopped me.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t you.  She was with her grand kids, I am guessing.  She said someone asked her about the girl running down the road with long curly red (?!?!) hair and she didn’t know who they were talking about.  Once I took off my sunglasses she recognized me.  She said the sunlight made my hair look a little orange.  Great.  “Um, ha ha, thanks?”  She was glad, almost relieved, to finally know who it was.  She admitted she was going to go back to her source to let them know that “the red haired girl running down the road” was “Craig’s wife”.

I hate when people acknowledge me when I run.  I am getting used to being seen at other times: church, the store, the post office, the library.  But when I run during the day, I am ashamed.  Yes, I feel guilty when I run during the day.

You see, I stay home and don’t work.  Well, I don’t have a full-time job.  When people see me during the day, I think they must be judging me.  Yes, I am sure they are judging me.  “How does she have all that time to run in the middle of the day?”  Or, “She could be helping out at church, working for the town, babysitting kids, helping at school, cleaning houses.”  Is it just in my head?  Horton, is a person a person no matter if they have a job or not?

Yes, I stay home, and, yes, I do whatever I want all day long.  I am still trying to be OK with it.  I love it, don’t get me wrong.  I love staying home.  I love being a stay-at-home-wifey.  I am a different person than I was when I had a job.  The stress of a “normal 9-5 job” almost killed me.  Don’t you want a job, Mary?  Negative, Ghost-rider, the pattern is full.

I am so thankful that Craig is taking care of me.  But, I still feel bad around him and other really hard-working-how-are-they-so-dedicated-to-their-jobs people.  Does everyone around here have the German work ethic inherited from their Grandparents?  Sit down for two seconds!

I have to remember; first, those other hard working folks have made the choice to work.  It is their decision – no one is forcing them to work.  Second, I have to remember that I am not saying “no” to a regular job, I am saying “yes” to getting better.  And that is the most important thing I can do right now.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Who cares what other people think anyway, right?  Ding, ding, ding!  Right answer.  Was that a bell, I heard?  One more for the road, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Sorry, I’m done now.  Have a nourishing weekend.  Albetabet alit, that’s all folks.  Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A New Journey: Life Without Medication


My doctor and I decided that it was time to start tapering off of my prescription anti-depressant drugs.  In the beginning, I thought I would have to take the pills forever.  But in most cases, people struggling with depression only have to take the meds for a year or two.  Click here to read my myth busting post about anti-depressants.

Since I began taking the anti-depressants, I have stopped a lot of bad habits and developed good habits (healthy coping skills) to deal with my anxiety and depression.  I am ready to see if I can stay that way without the drugs.

I am still going to monitor my symptoms and take care of myself by going to counseling, eating nourishing foods, exercising to enhance my life, and other self-help practices.  I don’t want to make the same mistakes and end up in the hospital again.

My new treatment plan includes:
Eat regular meals
Eat nourishing foods that I like and that make me feel good
Moderate exercise 3 days a week for 20 minutes if I can
Frequent activities and hobbies that I enjoy (and things that give me a sense of purpose)
Try to get eight hours of sleep a night
Limited caffeine
Limited stressful activities and commitments
Absolutely NO alcohol
 
These changes are not major for me.  I am already doing everything I listed above, and I have been for some time now.  All those things are ways that I take better care of myself.  From experience, I know that those things help me feel better and keep the depression symptoms from coming back. 

The only major change coming up is that I am not popping the little green and off-white pill at eight o’clock every morning any more.

Without the medication, I don’t think that I could have made all those healthy changes.  But now it is time to see if I can still take care of myself while I am off the drugs.  Should I not be able to function without the drugs and my symptoms return, then I will have to get back on the meds.  And that is OK.  I am going to rely on the things I have learned, my husband, my support system, and my counselor to help me monitor my progress and determine whether or not I am on the right path.  If my symptoms return, then I will cross that bridge when it’s time. 

How I was taking care of myself several years ago:
Eating sporadically or only when I “had” to (meaning to keep myself from passing out)
Eating low-calorie, fat-free foods only
Excessive work-outs for 2-3 hours a day
Abuse of diuretics
Long hours at a high-stress job
Sacrificing sleep so I could exercise before work
5-6 cups of coffee a day

I don’t want to go back to the way I was.  Should any of these bad habits return, I am going to see my doctor again.  I know that those unhealthy habits will only lead me to depression, despair, and suicidal tendencies.

All things considered, I am optimistic.  I think everything will turn out fine.  I know that I am the same person now and I’ll be the same person when I am off the meds.

However, I am also not na├»ve.  It is not all of a sudden going to be hearts, stars, and butterflies.  I know that there will still be times of stress, suffering, and bad days.  And that is OK.

So, if you notice my writing starting to take a downhill plunge, don’t be afraid to speak up.  Just kidding.  Most likely, if I start to relapse, I will stop writing altogether.

When I came home from the hospital last summer, I was advised to put together some information for easy access.  Because I always go above and beyond, I created a pamphlet that anyone in the Tri-county area could use for a format.  Click here to take a look.

I advise anyone struggling with depression and anxiety to make a similar document.  Feel free to copy my format, if you like.  I had mine taped to our refrigerator for months.  Now it is taped to the inside of the desk cupboard; forever there if I need it.

I hope this is helpful information.  I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through.  But unfortunately (or fortunately), it does take hitting rock bottom before a change can occur.

Remember, God can bring a greater good out of every bad situation.  He will never abandon you no matter how alone you feel.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Short quiz to see if you have disordered eating tendencies or a body image disorder

I am afraid that this post might come across as a little cheesy.  Just in case you think I am being too dramatic, let me first give you a bit of preparation.

I have never met a woman who does not have some degree of disordered eating.  (Most men have disordered eating tendencies as well.)  I think this is largely the result of false beliefs presented to us through the media.

At least three times a day, we encounter a choice; we choose to have either a good relationship with food or a bad relationship with food.

If you have a bad relationship with food, and these issues are left unaddressed, it could result in depression, anxiety, body image issues, or a life-threatening eating disorder.

Don’t think that just because you are not in high school, you are not at risk anymore.  People of all ages can develop an eating disorder or disordered eating (yes, there is a difference).

So considering this information, take a look at your own life and your own relationship with food.

Quiz:  (But first, a disclaimer!  I made up this quiz.  This is not a professional or psychological quiz in any way, shape, or form.  It is just the result of my personally observations of others around me and my experience with an eating disorder.  I know these questions have very black and white answers listed.  Life is not always this or that, all or nothing, or black and white.  Just choose the answer which closely resembles how you feel.)

OK, now close your eyes, be honest with yourself, and think for a few moments after reading each of these questions.  Write down the number of the answer: 1), 2), 3), or 4) depending on what is next to your response.  Don’t pick the one that you think you “should”; answer how it really is.

 

Lettuce begin… J

 

How do you feel when you are about to eat a meal?
1)      I’ve never paid attention to how I feel before a meal.
2)      Relaxed and looking forward to the dinner conversation
3)      Starving! I am glad it’s time to eat because I didn’t eat breakfast/lunch!
4)      Anxious about what to eat and how it will make me feel

How do you feel after taking a second helping of dessert?
1)      I loved how it tasted…it was so good I had to have another.
2)      Satisfied and moving on with the day
3)      Guilty.  I probably shouldn’t have eating that much dessert.
4)      I am planning to work out or make up for the extra calories in some way.

What do you feel like when you are at a restaurant?
1)      I scan the menu for something that looks good to me at that time.
2)      I always get ______, because it’s my favorite thing to get at restaurants.
3)      I scan the menu for a calorie listing, a diet food, low-calorie or low-fat options, or something I think I “should” eat.
4)      I eat before I go to a restaurant so I don’t have to order anything.
 
Have you ever bought a food item at the grocery store because you thought you “should” and then it ended up going bad or rotten?
1)      Don’t know
2)      No
3)      Yes
4)      All the time

How do you feel when you see a model on a commercial?
1)      It is just a commercial, I don’t think too much about it.
2)      It doesn’t bother me.
3)      I feel a little jealous.
4)      I feel like I should try to look like what I see.
 
What do you think when you look at a women’s magazine?
1)      I think it’s hilarious to see the ridiculous headlines when I am standing in the check-out line.
2)      I don’t look at them because they are full of airbrushed people and false articles.
3)      They are my source and standard for news, health, and relationships.
4)      I can’t help but look at them; however, I always feel inadequate and feel like I have to change myself afterward.

How do you feel when you are around someone thinner or prettier than you?
1)      I don’t notice.
2)      I acknowledge the other person’s characteristics and marvel at human diversity.
3)      I constantly compare my looks and my weight to other people and I wish I was different than I am.
4)      I vow to exercise more, eat less, and do other things to “work on” my appearance.

What emotion do you feel when you look in the mirror?
1)      I make sure I don’t have toothpaste on my face or crusty eyes and then I’m out the door.
2)      Contentment
3)      Shame or Disgust
4)      Nit picking and analyzing everything I see

How many times do you look in the mirror a day?
1)      Maybe once or twice
2)      Pretty often…at least every time I use the restroom
3)      A lot…probably more than 20 times a day
4)      Constantly…I can’t stop analyzing my flaws

What if someone said to you right now, “You are so beautiful (or handsome)”?
1)      I respond with a “thank you”.
2)      That was nice of them to say.
3)      They are just saying that to be nice.
4)      I come up with a hundred excuses about why I don’t deserve that compliment.

What if someone told you that you don’t need to lose weight?
1)      I would say, “That’s for dang sure! What the heck are you talking about?”
2)      I wouldn’t say anything, expect maybe “OK…”
3)      I would say, “No. I do. I could lose some weight here or here.  I need to tone this or that.”
4)      “Are you crazy?  Have you seen my thighs?  I am trying to lose, at least, ___lbs.”

What if someone said you were the “right” size?
1)      “What am I, a fast food drink?”
2)      I believe that I am worthy and deserving of all things good at ANY size.
3)      “No, I’m not the right size.  I never find clothes in my size.”
4)      I am trying to drop a few sizes so I can fit into a size ____.

End of Quiz

 ---------------------------

 
Total your score and read below for your results.

12-18:  You have a positive body image for the most part.  Keep doing what you are doing.  Share with others how you came to this conclusion!  Your example will help countless people overcome the pain of disordered eating.

19-26:  You are on the right track to having a good body image, but struggle from time to time, whether you realize it or not.  You might be recovering from having a negative body image or disordered eating tendencies, and you are on the road to health.  If you did not realize that you have a negative body image, become aware of how you treat yourself.  Root out all disordered eating tendencies before they become habits.  This is especially important for mothers or teachers.  Young children can learn eating disorder behaviors from the adults they admire.  It is good to be aware of how you treat yourself.

27-36:  You really struggle to have a positive body image and you have disordered eating tendencies.  Be honest with yourself and stay away from things that contribute to a negative body image.  You don’t have to live with a negative body image.  You deserve to be happy, respected, and encouraged in your own skin.  Life is too short to spend it worried about your weight.

37-48:  You have severe disordered eating practices and, possibly, a diagnosable eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder.  (This test is not intended to determine whether or not you have an eating disorder.  You can find psychiatric tests about eating disorders here or here or here.  If you feel like you might have an eating disorder, I encourage you to seek professional help.  You deserve it!  You are worth it!  Don’t settle for life with an eating disorder.)


I won’t be offended if you laugh at my quiz or not take it seriously.  I am not a professional and I didn’t spend uber amounts of time testing this quiz.  If I took this quiz last year, I would have scored a 48 – the highest score possible.  And at that point, I had severe body image issues and dangerous eating disorder behaviors.  Taking this quiz now, I scored a 40.  I still have a long way to go, but I am way better off than I was before.

Consider how you answered all those questions above…

What you believe about yourself determines how you treat yourself, especially when it comes to nourishment.

My guess is that most people scored higher than 12.  If you honestly scored 12, then you are doing great in the positive body image/food relationship department.  Tell me your story.  How did you do it?

If you would like to share your answers with me, that would be awesome.  Anonymously put your number in the comments section or send me a private message on Facebook or email me at maryb4jc (at) yahoo (dot) com.  I will NOT publish your answers or draw attention to you in ANY way.  This test is just purely an experiment on my part because I am curious.  If you don’t want to share your results, that is totally OK too, I won’t be offended.

I know not everyone thinks the way I do.  I know not everyone struggles with an eating disorder.  However, I can’t help but think that a lot of people struggle to keep a positive body image.

Just because most people struggle to keep a positive body image and have a bad relationship with food, doesn’t make it right.

Keeping a positive body image and having good eating behaviors will dramatically improve your quality of life.

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to settle for “under-nourished” life.  It is possible to have a good relationship with food.  It is possible to live without the fear of food.  It is possible to never be on a diet again.  You deserve it!