Saturday, November 30, 2013

Recovering from a Holiday Hangover (and I'm not talking about alcohol)

I'm republishing this post (with a few modifications) from my archives.  I wrote it the day after Thanksgiving last year.  I am realizing that I need to read it again and take my own advice.

Give yourself permission to eat...unconditional permission.

You do NOT have to earn the right to eat food.  It doesn’t matter that it was Thanksgiving just two days ago.  That was then.  Today is today.  It doesn’t matter if you ate a lot more than you are used to.  It doesn’t matter if you ate “bad” foods or not.

You are allowed to eat today.  Are you hungry?  What are you hungry for?

Don't give yourself penance for what you ate in the past.  Don't tell yourself that you will exercise or diet in the future in order to not feel guilty about eating.

Food is more than just food.

Food can intellectually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our minds by sitting around the table and talking to people.  We get a chance to share stories and hear about the lives of other people.  We use our brains to cook and bake yummy things.  Eating gives you brain power.  If you skip a meal, you skip more than just the energy needed to move your body; you skip out on intellectually stimulating your mind and your social skills.

Food can spiritually nourish:
During a meal, we nourish our souls.  We pray before we eat.  We thank God for the gift of food.  Meals are really very spiritual and scripture based.  There are incredible teachings centered on food and meals in the Bible if you stop and think about it.  For example, the Passover, Manna from Heaven, the Last Supper, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Eucharist, just to name a few.  If you skip a meal, you miss important spiritual nourishment.

Food can emotionally nourish:
Eating IS a very emotional experience.  Everyone remembers their favorite things to eat as a kid.  Lasagna is so nostalgic for me that eating it can bring me back years and years.  Food can be associated with traditions.  Can you say, “Birthday cake”?  Root beer floats, Friday night treat night, bike rides to the tasty freeze, and “slapping” cheese.  I won’t explain why all those foods have meaning to me beyond just nutrition.  I would run the risk of overloading the inside jokes to poisonous levels.   I am sure everyone has their own stories about childhood and food.
{Photo courtesy of}

Want to make this Holiday Season more enjoyable?  Want to get rid of your fear of the feast?

This Holiday Season, you can change the way you view the abundance of food.  Start by asking yourself what you are really hungry for or what you are really craving.

Don't eat something just because you think you "should".  Don’t make food choices because of what other people are eating, what you think is healthier, or what you think you “should” eat.

Allow yourself permission to eat unconditionally - without repercussions.  Remind yourself that if you don’t eat all your favorite foods today, you will still be able to eat them tomorrow.

Eat slowly.  Ponder the food you are eating, where it came from, what it tastes like, what it looks like, etc.

Trust yourself.  Your body is NOT a Tasmanian devil waiting to be released.

This might take some time.  So don’t get too discouraged if you find yourself reverting back to your old ways or feeling the old guilt trip after eating “sinfully delicious” desserts.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a break.  And remember, food is not intrinsically evil.  Food cannot be “sinful”.  This concept is a fabrication of the modern media via commercials and women’s magazines.

If you improve your relationship with food, you will find that your Holiday experience will be more enjoyable...and nourishing!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are you thankful for your marriage?

I am eternally grateful for my husband, Craig.

The main reason I am where I am today is because of him.  Without Craig, I do not think I would be alive.  He has done so much for me these past few years.

He listens when I need to talk.  He is there for me when I need to cry.  He supports me in whatever I do.  And he lets me know he loves me and will never leave me no matter what.

During the toughest of times, he was very good at making himself available when I needed him – that means he truly listened, looked me in the eyes, and was not distracted by television, the iPad, his phone, or time constraints.  And if I felt like I needed to, I could call him at work.

Before we got to that point, I tried to pull myself up by my own boot straps.  I thought that I had to do it alone.  I got myself into this mess, so I have to get myself out.  Needless to say, I had some trust issues.  But, in some way, I think we all have trust issues.  Ingrained in our fallen human nature is the tendency to want to do it our own way all by ourselves.

But that thinking is so wrong and is why so many people fail in recovery.  We’re not meant to do it alone.

Most people treat marriage like college roommates – each going about his/her own life, only to meet up when their paths cross in the living space.  But marriage is so much more.  When you see it as it is, marriage is a very humbling experience.  You have to be vulnerable.  In order to have a good marriage, you must admit you can’t do it alone.  Once you allow your spouse to take care of you, you will understand your vocation of married life more fully.

God unites spouses in marriage because He knows that is the way they’ll get to Heaven.  This is the point of the vocation of marriage.  God brought Craig and I together because without him, I would not make it to Heaven, and without me, Craig would not make it either.  Each and every marriage contains this sacramental reality.

Whether or not you struggle with a mental illness, this is so important to think about.

In order to get to Heaven, you HAVE to learn how to ask for help and to ACCEPT help when help is given.

No matter what your situation is like, if you do not depend on your spouse, you cannot get to Heaven.  So often I see this attitude of prideful independence or some people might call it the “martyr syndrome”.  If you adopt an attitude of “I don’t need”, your marriage will not help you get toward your ultimate end.  Of course, our culture will tell you the opposite; you must be independent and you cannot rely on anyone but yourself.  Can you see how this philosophy is damaging marriages?

A good marriage can show us how we are supposed to relate to God.  God wants us to completely depend on Him for everything.  And He wants us to grow in faith through relationship and community.

So, with the true meaning of marriage in mind, let us consider “happiness”.  If you are relying on your spouse to make you ultimately happy, then you will be disappointed.  God created us for eternal life; nothing will make us truly happy besides being united to Him.  As Saint Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, Oh Lord”.

Conclusively, living out your vocation of marriage means depending on your spouse to help you on this earthly journey.  Depend on God for your eternal happiness in the next life.

If this made any sense (hopefully it did, sometimes I think I get too philosophical), during this Thanksgiving week, take some time to express gratitude toward your spouse – and of course, God too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Craig's Helpful Tips

Considering it’s that time of year when we count our blessings, it’s worth noting the main things that have helped me get better this past year.  In a short answer...I have to say, Craig.

I am so Thankful for my husband.

I was talking with him recently and we both came up with a several key components that have aided in my recovery.  He had a few things that helped him, helped him help me, and helped our marriage.

So, whether you are personally struggling with depression and anxiety, or you want to help a loved one, maybe you will be able to benefit from his advice.

Craig’s Points:
Communication, Communication, Communication:  We talked about everything – and I mean everything.  We still talk on a regular basis.

Helped get the ball rolling with the initial step to find a counselor

Talked with and got guidance from a man whose wife deals with the same issues

Doing own research online and gaining a fearful respect for the disease

Wanting to see things get better

Prayer and sacrificing own wants at times

Learning to recognize when to just listen – it’s not about the nail

Realizing it can’t be “fixed”

Continued patience and sacrifice

Recognizing that this will always be a struggle to some extent – there will be good days and bad days.  It is a long journey, have to be in it for the long hull.

Being committed to our marriage in good times and in bad
Thank you, Craig, for helping me on this journey to find mental health.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for more on this topic)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Someone stole my 26.2 sticker

Last weekend, someone took my 26.2 marathon sticker magnet off of my car.  I don’t know why anyone would steal anything, let alone a stupid car magnet.  I should have just left it on my fridge.

I get that it may come across as being vain and egotistical to publish yourself as being among the few completers of a marathon – 0.5% of the U.S. population to be exact.  Maybe some people don’t like it and want to “teach a lesson” to those horrible people who put stickers on their car.  Or maybe some people think they could never run a marathon so no one else should run one either.  I’m pretty sure that’s called “envy”.

In my opinion, the 26.2 sticker is no less vain than a high schooler wearing a letterman jacket with all their varsity letters and awards sewn onto the coat.  Well, maybe some people don’t like those either.

I think it’s good to celebrate your accomplishments.  Obviously, bragging is another thing.  But, if you have a healthy pride in who you are (sometimes its called self-esteem), you are more likely to achieve other goals in the future.  Setting goals and striving to accomplish them is a huge part of maintaining good mental health. 

For me, completing a marathon was so much more than running 26.2 miles.  Sometimes, I feel like I have not accomplished very much in my lifetime.  It is really easy for me to believe the lies of depression and get down on myself because of this.

Each time I saw the 26.2 on the back of my car, I was reminded of that time in my life when I defeated my inner demons, persevered, and overcame incredible mental obstacles.  For me, that sticker represented a bigger reality – the beginning of my defeat over depression.

I was not trying to brag or to make other people feel inferior by placing that sticker on my car.  I was only remembering that “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who strengthens me.”  Maybe next time I’ll make my own sticker that says “26.2 – Phil. 4:13” because that is what I really meant to say.

I'm over the sticker - really, I promise. But I'm taking something out of this experience. I should never judge another person. I have no idea what is going on in their life or in their mind. Perspective changes how we see other people and what they do.

Going forward, let us remember to encourage each other’s strengths and to affirm each other’s talents and gifts – there’s not enough of that in the world.  Instead of comparing ourselves to others, let us recognize our own gifts.  And instead of cutting people down with gossip in order to make ourselves feel better, let us remember how each one of us is unique and has a specific purpose in this world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Year Anniversary Post (Nov. 15th)

It’s been one full year since I started this blog!  (On November 15th)  I’m pretty proud of myself, I’m not gonna lie.

If you didn’t know, I started this blogyish thing last year because I was wigging out about the upcoming holidays.  For many reasons, the holiday season can exaggerate the symptoms of those who struggle with mental illness – and make normal people do crazy stuff.

Looking back on those inaugural posts, I am surprised by my sarcasm.  I felt so insecure about publishing my writing on the internet.  Who am I that other people would read me stuff?  I still feel that way, but I am less sarcastic because I have so much I want to say.

This whole year, I’ve just wanted to scream on the rooftops that mental illness is real and it hurts – but it’s beatable.  You don’t have to settle for a mediocre life – you can have a nourishing life.

I’ve tried to bring you with me on this journey.  And that’s why my posts are as different as my changing moods.  I’ve tried to make you cry with me, laugh with me, rejoice, or rally with me.

I think, on the whole, I’ve really just wanted to empower you by giving you information.  I believe knowledge is not only powerful, but self-awareness is sanctifying.

Anniversaries are a good time to take a step back and assess how far we’ve come, what has changed, and how we’ve grown.  Even though some days I feel like I’m at square one, I can still look back and acknowledge all the progress I’ve made.

Below are five (so difficult to choose!) of my favorite posts from this year.


I hope you have a nourishing week.
See you again soon!

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Thomas Peters Story

We believe what we believe for a reason.  The laws of our faith are more than just laws; they are more than just rules to keep us in line.  We do what we do because we love.  Only on the foundation of love does the faith make sense.  When tested, like gold refined by fire, we see the true strength and beauty of the faith in our own lives.

This story below will give you courage to continue to uphold the dignity of all life, live faithfully, and remain hopeful in unconditional love.

Earlier this year, two college classmates of mine got married.  When I say college classmates, remember that I went to four different colleges/universities in four years.  These two lovely people were with me during my first college experience at Ave Maria College in Michigan.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of Thomas from those years – except that he was an excellent actor and stunned the audience with his superb performances.  Natalie, on the other hand, I remember very well.  When I first met her, I thought she was, perhaps, the most beautiful person I had ever seen.

As with many of my college acquaintances, I lost touch.  It was through Facebook, of course, that I found out they were getting married.  It put a smile on my face and gave me joy to know that Ave Maria had enabled yet another holy marriage.

About four months ago, it was also through Facebook, less than a year into this couple’s married life, tragedy struck.  In a diving accident, Thomas sustained severe, life-threatening injuries to his head, spine, and lungs.

By no small miracle, he survived and is making great strides in recovery.  Thomas is confined to a wheel chair, for now, and is still without the use of many of his muscles.  He's probably not much older than me.  His wife of now almost 7 months has faithfully stood by his side and used her loving power, which no doctor could simulate, to aid in his recovery.  It brought tears to my eyes the day I read that, after two months, he was finally able to make the sign of the cross again.

This week, contrary to the initial belief of doctors and medical professionals Thomas was able to go home!

(If you would like to read the whole story, you can find more information on their blog.  Read this piece that Thomas wrote himself with the knuckle of his pinkie finger.  Truly amazing!)
We can’t even begin to imagine what Thomas and Natalie are going through.  But I do know, however, that through every step of the way they have stayed faithful to God and faithful to their vocation.

After following a blog for a certain amount of time, you being to feel like you know the people.  You share in their joys and sorrows, and you empathize with them in their pain and suffering; it's the phenomenon of blogging.  Yet, personally knowing these people, I can tell you that they are for real.  In their lives is the making of two beautiful saints.

Why does God allow these bad things to happen to such good people?  He only allows it because, in His infinite wisdom, He knows that a greater good will come from it.

The reason I am telling you this story is because they are hosting a special social media-thon to raise money for medical expenses.  If anything can break the spirits of a devout, young couple, it is the financial burden of extreme medical bills.
Also, quoted from their blog, "With your help, Thomas could go to more therapy sessions, and more therapy means a better chance at a fuller recovery."

Most of the time, we are not given the opportunity to directly answer someone’s prayers.  But God uses us, His instruments, to bring about His plan in every circumstance.

I am reminded of a piece of wisdom that used to sit on top of our refrigerator when I was a kid:  “If you pray, God will make a way.”  I know Thomas and Natalie are praying for a way to make this happen.  But the thing is, they don’t have to do it alone.  We are the Body of Christ; when one part suffers, we all suffer.  Let us show them that they are not alone.

Thomas is a writer, and as I am sitting here looking out at the snow and complaining about the cold temperatures, I am humbled.  I can type this post and sip my hot coffee.  I have two working arms and two working legs.

Thomas writes for Catholic Vote.  Before his accident, he strove to promote the value of human life, from natural conception to natural death.  He has been a strong voice of conviction and hope in this dark world.  From his work, countless lives have been saved.  However, I think now, by his example, even more people will come to the fullness of faith.

The value of a human being is not reduced to what he can do.  Every single life has inherent value given to him by God.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a 4 week old baby embryo or a bedridden elderly woman.  Our culture is trending toward this notion that, in order for one to be worthy of life, he or she must contribute to society in a useful way.  If this belief becomes the standard of law, then how would beautiful people, like Thomas and Natalie, be treated?  With the dignity and respect every person deserves?

I hope that Thomas and Natalie can see the good that is in God’s plan – if not now, then maybe someday.  They might not realize it, but they are positively impacting many other people’s lives by sharing their story and living as an example.

The special social media-thon was technically yesterday.  I know I am a day late.  But, I’m pretty sure our generosity would still be accepted.  If you would like to help Thomas and Natalie, click here.
Even if you can’t give any money, you can still offer some prayers.  We should never underestimate the power of prayer.
If you’d like to spread the word, share his story on your social media pages with #IStandwithThomasPeters.

Thank you for reading.  God Bless You All.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to make sure you get enough food this holiday season

{Photo credit here}
This time of year I am extremely bugged by all the “Diet” articles.  OK, well, ALL YEAR my blood pressure goes up when I see weight loss tips and tricks.  “10 ways NOT to gain 10 pounds before the New Year” or “The Best Tips to Keep You from Eating at Parties” or “How to Stick to your Diet during the Holidays”.

It’s all lies and distraction.

First off, these articles presuppose that we WILL gain weight during the Holidays.  Most people think that, left to our own devises, we will run amok and eat everything in sight.  Not true.  If we listen to our bodies and our needs, we won’t go crazy.  Binging episodes could happen IF you were dieting and restricting yourself from eating and enjoying food.  But, if you give yourself permission to eat today AND permission to eat tomorrow, you can have a healthy relationship with food.  Besides, it’s OK to gain weight.  Really, it’s OK.
Second, these articles give you the notion that the Holidays are a terrible time of year when you must practice extreme moderation and self-control in order to be worthy to start a new year.  The thing is, food enables us to keep living.  And the gift of good food exists for our enjoyment.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are a wonderful time of celebration when we can receive these good gifts.  It is appropriate, and good for you, to enjoy the pleasures of food.  If you try to act like Jillian Michaels this time of year, you will be distracted from the Reason for the Season.  Does anyone even remember anymore that we are celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th?

So, below is MY list of 13 Holly-Jolly Tips for Eating during the Holidays.  (Proceed with caution; contents may contain sarcasm.)

In case you didn’t know, the holidays are quickly approaching.  Thanksgiving is about two weeks away, believe it or not.  You are probably beginning to worry about being able to get enough to eat and drink in the upcoming months.  The last thing you want to happen is January One rolls around and you’ve missed out on all the delicious desserts and scrumptious feasts.  Don’t worry.  Have no fear!  I’ve got the perfect plan for you and for anybody who wants to make sure they get enough sustenance and sweetness this year.

13 Holly-Jolly Tips for Eating at Parties

Tip #1:  Don’t let yourself get too hungry.  Because you can’t think straight on an empty stomach, in your dizziness, you might end up making bad food choices, like choosing fruit cake over pumpkin pie.  Or you might forget the whipped cream topping to your hot fudge sundae.  That would be tragic.

Tip #2:  Take time for exercise.  For example, a light walk around the shopping district or a stroll through the candy store will help keep your Christmas spirits up.  Or, you can also practice lifting bags of flour to get your muscles ready for lifting the utensil to your mouth.

Tip #3:  Plan a strategy.  Make sure you know which side of the table the cheesy potatoes will be set, and where all the best desserts will be placed.  You might also want to bring your own serving spoon to avoid delays.  It’s good to sit near all the food, because that is where all the fun company will be.

Tip #4:  Don’t eat before a party.  You know there’s going to be good food there, so why waste your appetite on stale tortilla chips or soggy peanut butter and jelly?

Tip #5:  Bring a box of granola bars or healthy snacks with you wherever you go.  In case you meet a homeless person, you will be able to give them something.  Or, you could invite them to the party.  That would be interesting!

Tip #6:  Find useful ways to avoid stress.  Naps are good…especially after a big meal.  Embrace those whacked out dreams, tryptophan is a psychedelic drug.

Tip #7:  Aim for Seven-a-day.  Secretly steal seven vegetables off different people’s plates and throw them in the trash.  Double points for making it in the garbage disposal.

Tip #8:  Use a small plate.  Remember to grab one in line and tuck it under your food plate.  It can be used as a fan in case the room gets too hot from the crowd.

Tip #9:  Don’t fill up on water.  Water is full of H2O.  That precious space can be filled with egg nog, hot chocolate, or champagne.  As my friend Mallory says, “if the glass ain’t fogged, your drink’s not nog”.  Apparently that’s what the elves sang just before they got her.

Tip #10:  Before you eat anything, ask yourself, “Could I put some dip on this?”

Tip #11:  Don’t go back for seconds.  Eat off other people’s plates.

Tip #12:  Balance your meals.  When you’re walking around, mingling with friends and family, and you’ve got pecan pie in one hand, make sure you put some crackers and cheese ball in the other.  You don’t want to tip over from the weight of it.

Tip #13:  Portion control.  Don’t let your portions boss you around.  Show them who’s in control.  Eat them.  That’s right.  You’re the boss; they’re just amounts of food.
Idea inspired, borrowed, and stolen from Mallory, author of “The Toast”


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The two things that keep me happy in the winter

Speaking from experience, the winter is a rough time for Ohioans who struggle with depression.

I know, I know, you're like, "but, hey, it's not winter yet!"  Well, we've had two legit snows this season already.  So, I'm just going to make the call.
I have found that there are two lovely things that keep me happy and sane in during the winter months.  These things are both good, yet they are completely disproportionate in hierarchy.

The Holy Mass and Caffeinated Coffee.  I know, can you get any more sacrilegious?

I’ll start with coffee.  I say “caffeinated” because, recently, I’ve been trying to give up caffeine.  I don’t really know why.  I guess it’s because I think I should.  Caffeine is apparently bad for you.  And for some, I’ve read that it increases anxiety and depression.  Considering my history with mental illness, I thought that I myself was counted among the statistics.

But, I love coffee.  I love everything about it: the smell, the taste (creamer or no creamer), the way I can see the steam rising up in the sunlight, the routine of waking up and making it in the morning, the communal-conversational aspect, the different kinds and flavors, the way it warms me up, the way it brings me simple joy, and the boost of energy.

I’ve been trying different teas and decaf coffees since this summer.  But there was just something about them that didn’t do it for me.  It is probably all in my head, but, hey, after all I’ve been through, I respect the power of the head.  During this experimental process, I regretfully found myself slipping further and further into discouragement, and scarily, depression.

I didn’t realize what was happening until recently.  And by recently, I mean this morning.

One day last week, my sister, who I consider to possess saintly temperance accompanied by meritous stubbornness, questioned my decision.  She said, “Don’t give it [coffee] up if it causes you anxiety”.  Her point didn’t really click until now.

Anxiety is a worse enemy compared to caffeine.

Yes, caffeine may be the cause of some people’s anxiety.  And crazy amounts of the stuff, I admit, are not good for anyone.  However, for me, the giving up of coffee affects me more negatively than the effects a cup or two of caffeine has on my body.

Being dependent on coffee, doesn’t bring me down.  In fact, it reminds me that I am completely dependent on God.  (How’s that for a segue?!)  I can do nothing on my own.  Yet, through HIM, I can do anything.  If it wasn’t for God, my life would be meaningless.  And if it wasn’t for Jesus, my suffering would be in vain.

I need God.  I express that need by going to daily Mass when I can throughout the week.  Even if I can necessarily “feel” it, the graces received from Jesus in the Eucharist are my true source of sustenance.

My anxiety and depression keep me from going to the Sacred Liturgy every day.  Interestingly, I can see a positive difference on the days that I go, and on the days that I don’t, I feel the lack or void.  I believe that this reality is caused by my desire to have a purpose.

I’m pretty hard on myself.  I beat myself up for my faults, failures, imperfections, and even things I can control.  I long to feel worthy, deserving, and accepted.  I feel like I have to prove it to myself, the world, or whomever, that I am good enough, that I am deserving of the skin I’m living in.  Since I can’t keep a job, I am tempted to feel like my life has no importance – that my day to day workings are meaningless.

It helps me to remember my ultimate goal.  My purpose in life is to get to Heaven and to bring my husband with me.  That is the most important mission.  Everything else is bonus.

When I am at Mass, I know that I am wanted.  I know that God wants me there to pray.  I know, because of the Catechism and the lives of the Saints, that the Holy Mass is the single greatest thing we can do here on earth.  So, when I go to Mass, I am 100% convinced that I am doing God’s will.  You cannot buy that kind of motivation.

Waking up to a cup of coffee and then going the Mass (don’t worry, the proper fasting time required is observed J), I get the chance to start the day on a positive note, which, for me, makes all the difference.

Starting your morning off on a good note will help you have a good day overall.  And it is worth saying that just because you have a bad morning, doesn’t mean the rest of your day will be bad.  There is something to be said for working through things you can’t change, like a bad morning.
However, if you are struggling with depression, or the need to find purpose and motivation in your life, figure out what simple things can positively impact your day.  I say “simple” but I really mean “daily”.  Find something that you can do daily or at least regularly, because, in our nature, is the need to be constantly reminded of our value and self-worth.

Make these small changes and watch how much more nourishing your life will become.

Monday, November 11, 2013

If I didn’t struggle with an Eating Disorder, would I need God?

There are times when I feel like I conquered the impossible and beat my eating disorder.  And then there are times when I feel like the E.D. will be a part of my life forever.

A few weeks ago, I ate a gynormous wedding style supper at a fund raising event – no qualms, no fears, no counting, and no regretting after.  I was hungry, the food was delicious, and so I ate.  It was a wonderful gift.  I felt so normal, like that was what the eating experience was all about.  I didn’t even think about all these things until later because, in the moment, I was thinking about the event.  Last year, I wouldn’t have even remembered what the speakers said because my mind would have been too distracted with trying not to eat that much, or with counting calories, or with thinking about “making up” for all the “bad” food I consumed.

Yet, just last week, I had such a difficult time getting myself to eat.  I wanted to go back to my old habits.  The temptation to skip meals was not just in the back of my mind, but making itself known loud and clear.  I felt powerless over the eating disorder like I had never learned anything at all.

Maybe I am afraid of the upcoming holidays.  Maybe it’s the same old fear of gaining weight.  Or maybe it’s something else I haven’t recognized yet.

Why is eating, something so basic, so necessary and fundamental to human life, such a struggle?

I wish I could just let it go forever and never have to deal with this eating disorder again.

Other than my mental problems, my life is very good.  I have an amazing husband, a wonderful house, good friends and family, and lots of other beautiful gifts.

If I didn’t struggle with an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety, then I probably wouldn’t have much suffering in my daily life.  I don’t have to cut trees down to keep my house warm.  I don’t have to sew my own clothes.  And, ironically, I don’t have to hunt and kill my own food.  I’ve been given bountiful gifts from God.

The truth is, all these good things from God are blessings, yes, and very good indeed.  However, my comfortable life doesn’t necessarily keep me close to God or help my relationship with Jesus.

The thing that unites one most closely to God is uniting one’s sufferings to Jesus’ sufferings on the cross.  One cannot know God unless one has truly suffered.  Because, it is through pain that we realize we need God.

When things are going well, I often forget about God.  But when I am in pain, I think about God all the time.  If I didn’t suffer from an eating disorder, would I think I didn’t need God?  Would I still turn to Him and beg Him for help?  Probably not.

Suffering reminds us that we need God every day.  Without Him, we would not be here.  And without Him, we cannot make it to Heaven.

This is why many Saints would embrace their earthly crosses, their own pains and sufferings; because they knew it was the path to God.  Suffering is the most difficult blessing to understand.  “Your rod and your staff are a strange mercy in a world where I’m not yet home.” (Audrey Assad song, Lead Me On.)

So, going forward, I will remind myself of the “why”.  Maybe God is allowing me to struggle with this eating disorder, because He knows that through my suffering, I will ask for help realizing my complete dependency on Him in every moment and in everything I do.

Then, practically speaking, I will take my own advice.  I will continue to give myself permission to eat.  I will go through the motions even if I don’t feel like it.  Meaning, I will eat three meals a day even when I am tempted not to.  I have come a long way and I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.

If you are struggling with something, whatever it is, think about all the good that has come from it.  Maybe your suffering has helped you become a better person.  Maybe it is helping you become closer to God.  We might not be able to see the forest through the trees.  Yet, God never lets us suffer for no reason.  Most of the time, we don’t know the reason why.  But, it is still comforting to know that there is a purpose.  Even if just for the fact that pain and suffering will get you to pray more.

Remember, after the Cross is the Resurrection.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

There are a lot of people who have eating disorders, but don’t (or can’t) find treatment and healing because they don’t fit into any of the diagnosable categories.

Even if someone is trying to find help on her own, for example, through reading information on the internet, she might become discouraged because she doesn’t fit all the criteria listed for either Anorexia Nervosa (AN) or Bulimia Nervosa (BN).

This is problematic for anyone suffering from an eating disorder because that window of opportunity, that brief moment when she really did want to get better, was met with the realization that there is no help for her.  In addition, she might even be confronted with feelings of “I guess I’m just crazy” or “I do not deserve to get help”.  Worst case scenario, the lack of treatment might spur a resolve in the victim to “try harder at the eating disorder so that it gets bad enough to merit help”.

The paragraph below is taken from the article, “My wife has an eating disorder”.  The husband, and author, writes about his experience:

Emily, obviously, has an eating disorder. It is neither anorexia nor bulimia because it includes symptoms considered exclusive to both and is instead categorized under the heading “eating disorder—other.” Food stresses her out. We have spent literally 45 minutes in a restaurant batting away increasingly brittle waiters as politely as possible until she can figure out what to order; on more than one occasion, the waiter has snapped at us and we’ve just had to get up and leave because people start to stare, which makes Emily even more nervous than she already is.

The writer would agree that the current check marks for determining whether or not someone has an E.D. are unfortunately inadequate.

Eating disorders are way more complicated than we think.  For example, in dealing with anorexia on paper, there is a check list of symptoms.  One of those items is losing your period for three or more months at a time.  This can occur to a women’s body when she is severely underweight and malnourished.  Yet, this is not a guarantee.  There can be dangerous eating disorder patterns including serious starvation, but depending on the person and her original weight, she may or may not lose her period.  And, stubbornly, doctors continue to use this symptom as an indication of whether or not someone deserves eating disorder treatment.

In his article, the husband continues:

The leaving utterly mortifies her; one of Emily’s darkest nightmares is that she would be a bother to someone, but even worse than that is the feeling, in her words, that “if I get fat again, I’ll die.” I used to think she was being hyperbolic until I finally realized that she really did think she’d die if she gained five pounds — not of anything specific, just of being fat. Again, my wife is freakishly smart. She knows people don’t die from gaining five pounds. But she is certain, though she knows intellectually that this is not the case, that she will be the exception.

These words might sound crazy to those who do not struggle with an E.D.  However, it is very real.  People who suffer from eating disorders live in a twisted world.  As you can see from the above paragraph, even “freakishly smart” people can still have irrational fears concerning food, weight, and appearance.  I would argue that a more accurate determination of an eating disorder would be to examine one’s food and eating anxieties.

This would ring true for the wife in the article:

[S]he can’t order takeout after 8 p.m., because she gets tired and the stress of fatigue pushes her that crucial few inches over the precipice into recursion and terror and paralytic anxiety… She hates to eat with anyone besides me, and even then, although we’ve eaten nearly every meal together for five years and change, she has to know what I’m ordering, and if it’s a salad, she has to get a smaller salad. If it’s a steak, she has to get a smaller steak.

The eating disorder is just a manifestation of deep, unshakable fear: that she’ll never be good enough, that she’ll never live up to the standards set for her, that she’s somehow ugly in a part of herself no one else can see, and that fear, actually, is eating her; consuming her from the inside out.

If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here.

If not, I will leave you with his poignant conclusion to all women (and men) struggling with an eating disorder [emphasis added]:

Many women already deal with eating disorders; others are in the early throes of anorexia or bulimia or some permutation thereof and “just trying to lose weight” or some other excuse.  Here’s the thing: an eating disorder is not a part-time occupation.  The name fits much better than whoever wrote the DSM-IV entry probably intended: it is an eating disorder in the sense that it disrupts your ingestion of food, but it is also a disorder that devours.  It devours you, and it will devour your loved ones if you let it.  If you understand only one thing from reading this, please understand that an eating disorder is not something you do to yourself; it is like suicide in that it constantly tells everyone who loves you that their opinion of you is worthless, and you don’t care what they think.  Unlike suicide, it is reversible.  Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, good old-fashioned therapy, and occasionally tough-love inpatient treatment can work wonders, and ultimately, you will be the person you’re supposed to be. Trust me, you are not supposed to be the person you are becoming when you purge, exercise until you pass out or see spots on an empty stomach, or eat half an apple for dinner.  That person is dead.

Thanks for reading.  Have a nourishing day.