Dear young Lexi

A letter to the girl on the left, who looks happy, but is aching inside. From the girl on the right, who has learned how to laugh and smile and feel joy.

“Dear young Lexi,

I wish I could tell you that you will be okay. 
I wish I could give you a hug and tell you its okay to cry, be angry, feel.
I wish I could tell you it’s okay to ask for help.
I wish I could help you see that life will get better.
I wish I could take the emotions and the struggles you feel and put them into present day me. Because I know how to cope with them now, and you don’t.
I wish I could tell you that starving yourself doesn’t fix it.
I wish I could tell you that the numbers on the scale do not change your worth.
I wish I could list the things that are so much better than being skinny.
I wish I could explain to you that you don’t have to have it all together.
I wish I could tell you that control over food doesn’t mean the chaos in life goes away.
I wish I could make the lies go away.
I wish I could have stopped you from all the pain and hurt and tears and heartbreak.
I wish I could show you how to love yourself.

But you will learn.

You will learn to trust the process.
You will learn to feel the pain and accept it is part of life.
You will learn to ignore the voice.
You will learn to tell society’s standards to fuck off.
You will learn to work on accepting yourself.
You will learn how to live life again.

And those lessons, they are priceless.

From,
Present-day Lexi”

xoxo IMG_4747

*originally published on my instagram

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Mephistophelian weariness of chronic

This week, in therapy, I talked a lot about being tired.

Not sleepy, didn’t-go-to-bed-early-enough tired.

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me thinking about that recovery life

Tired of the energy it takes to do recovery. Tired of the time I have to spend thinking about what I ought to do to fight the eating disorder, what I need to do to keep myself fueled…

…when what I want to do is hit the “fuck it” button and just stop.

There is a dichotomy between chronic and chosen. With chosen–like a goal or a desire–you can stop if you opt to. You can, for example, decide you want non-decaf coffee today even if your goal was to limit caffeine.

But with chronic, you cannot decide. Your choice is void because it was never your decision to begin with. 

When you decide to recover, you waive any possible “fuck it” option. You contend with the idea of never-ending mental energy.

Most of the time, the benefits of recovery vastly supersede the annoyance of your waiver.

But occasionally, the Mephistophelian truth of your decision comes out: you don’t have a choice. 

I sound negative. I recognize this. But I also acknowledge that recovery is not universally positive.

A multitude of recovery, the little undiscussed bits and pieces, can fluctuate between the poles of experience: positive, negative, neutral.

Just like the comprehensive trajectory of recovery, the energy consumption annoyance goes up and down. Remember: “recovery isn’t linear.” Turns out, the stamina it takes to consistently pick recovery isn’t linear, either.

However, there is a silver lining (er, gold lacquer… just a little kintsukuroi reference there 😉 ).

In my experience, opting for the endurance it takes to be in recovery is much more preferable to the pertinacity  it takes to be symptomatic in an eating disorder. Eating disorders are WORK, mental energy wise. You think about calories and food and exercise and guilt and your body and etc. and etc.

If you are already putting in the energy, why not have it be directed in the direction of the path giving you back vitality… towards recovery.

 

xoxo

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on fashion, clothes, and body neutrality

In my opinion, navigating the world of fashion has some potholes.

Maybe a lot of potholes.

Fashion, at least as we know it in contemporary society, is rife with body ideals and

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unattainable beauty standards. Models are such a small percentage of the population, body type wise. Actually, the ideal body type we see in the media and on fashion magazines is nearly equivalent to that of a prepubertal girl. Seriously, I am not kidding.

As someone who really loves fashion and clothes and expressing myself in this way,figuring out how to appreciate fashion without bombarding myself with image upon image of edited, manipulated, unattainable bodies has been challenging.

Here’s how I do it: I don’t.

I simple don’t look at fashion media. Occasionally, I search Pinterest for inspiration. But mostly, I figure out how to appreciate fashion through my own body and appearance.

Fashion, therefore, serves as a means of appreciation for my body. It is a neutral ground of body acceptance.

B9A48871-3FA4-4FCC-89C0-D1BC7003A76CThrough clothes, I work to acknowledge my body. I don’t necessarily LIKE my body, even if I like my outfit, but I can appreciate my body as a part of the art of fashion. Body neutrality.

Part of my recovery, past and current, is figuring out who I am both in what I like and how I present. Throughout my recovery, I experimented a lot with clothing styles. I went from dark and gothic, to dark vintage, to somewhat alternative, to a strange mix of all of the above.

Fashion style is personal. It doesn’t have to fit into a box with a label and a color and sit on a shelf that is labeled “me.” It can change and flow and be fluid. Much like us, fashion  is not static.

Embracing the fluidity of my personal expression, though it means I have gone through IMG_4212lots of clothes, has allowed me to experiment with my comfort zones and boundaries. And, boy, have I learned how to thrift shop! (You have to, if your style keeps changing!)

Even now I look in my closet and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I bought this or that article of clothing, much like I look back at my past and wonder why I did something or why I picked what I picked or cringe because an experience was just really embarrassing and I didn’t realize it.

And, that’s okay. People change. Trends change. Clothes change. We change.

It’s all part of life.

xoxo

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NEDA Week

“Recovery isn’t linear,” I tell myself for the umpteenth time…“Ups and downs. You are going to struggle…” a constant reminder for me.

When I first began treatment 617 days ago, I didn’t believe in anything beyond my eating disorder. There was no “life without anorexia.” Although I don’t necessarily think there is a recoverED—a point I struggled with for a long time—I believe wholeheartedly in recoverING: the ability to live a life free of disordered thoughts, actions, restrictions; one where I make the decisions and enjoy the turbulence of living. A constant, everlasting work-in-progress type of life. Part of my personal recovery was denying the dichotomy of healing, and learning to embrace a “third space.” It was learning to be okay with imperfections in all spheres: body, recovery, intelligence, actions, feelings.

617 days ago I got my life back. Granted, it didn’t feel like it. I was living in a different state at a place where you had to ask to do just about anything. I tried to quit recovery more times than I can count. I wanted to recover, but “not like this.” I wanted to be MOSTLY better, but hold onto a bit of my eating disorder because it was safe, known, and it made me feel in control. Turns out, you can’t do that. Surprising, right?

For me, recovery meant letting go, going against everything the eating disorder “supposedly” gave me—what I thought was control—to become autonomous. It sounds so easy, when I write it out and look at it… but if you ask anyone who is in recovery or treatment, I can almost guarantee they will tell you the process of freeing yourself is no where near simple. (I want to make sure I note, here, eating disorders do NOT discriminate by gender, race, social class, age, etc. You don’t have to look like you have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in a variety of forms.q They are ALL illnesses. They are ALL real.)

“Recovery isn’t linear.” Recovery will never be linear. Healing isn’t linear. And, although sometimes I wish it was, ultimately, these twists and turns supply more than a straight line ever would. Sometimes I still struggle with accepting my ups and downs; I probably always will. That’s okay. “It’s okay to not be okay.” And it’s okay to ask for help, take time for yourself, and give yourself the love you deserve.

 

XOXO

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*This post was originally published on my personal Instagram

living in limbo

I did something I never, ever thought that I would do: I quit.

I quit my job. I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed something new–something better for me and my mental health.

It was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do. That might sound strange, but I have a tendency to want to people please. And leaving a place because I am the one who wants to is very different for me. Doing something because it is in MY best interest is an action I have only recently begun to act upon consistently.

I’m in a strange place right now. I am stuck waiting for a few different events to either play out… or not. And that is difficult for me, because I have no control over them anymore. I can no longer influence the outcome–they are in others’ hands.

Limbo is, well, uncomfortable, almost by nature. But it is especially trying when the limbo rests between what *feel* like two very different, important outcomes.

It is nearly impossible to resist trying to affect the outcome one way or another.

Sitting here, writing this entry, my brain keeps pointing out all the other, more productive (or not) things I could be doing instead. It keeps trying to redirect my brain to something more comfortable. Because that is what it is supposed to do–help me be comfortable.

But change, bravery, lessons do not lie in what is comfortable. No, one must leave the comfort zone to discover something new. For nothing is unknown in comfort, in the common.

What’s worse is that old habits lie waiting in the discomfort, trying–though unsuccessfully–to win me back. It was expected, but not welcome. Unhealthy habits are never welcome.

I’ve been vague in my discussion above for a reason. I intended to NOT name what it is I am waiting for and in limbo between. Because it doesn’t matter.

There are always going to be these weird times of limbo. The events, decisions, actions are going to change–but the feelings, they stay the same.

The discomfort lives in the limbo–it always will. It’s what you do IN the discomfort that makes the difference.

 

let’s talk about the green

*trigger warning: facts about the meat industry are included. No pictures or calorie numbers are present. Please assess whether this will be okay for you.*

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There have been a few changes to my life lately.

First, under the supervision of my nutritionist, I have made the switch to a vegetarian lifestyle. I am so thankful for my recovery and the ability I now have to make choices like this.

Why vegetarian? I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve mulled it over for years and years and then put it aside when I went into treatment. However, I am now in a place where I can responsibly choose a vegetarian lifestyle and remain grounded in my recovery.

Vegetarianism, for me, is a moral and ethical decision. I do not support the meat industry and the factory farming of animals. I do not support animal cruelty and the immense amount of waste that is brought on by the meat industry.

Here are some crazy facts (and by that I mean really striking) about it:

  • In one month of vegetarianism, you can save 8+ animals.
    • In one year, 100+ animals.
  • 80% of the antibiotics sold are used on livestock
  • 6 million animals are killed PER HOUR for food
  • 50% of our grain production goes to feeding animals…
    • Think about how many we could feed with this grain? It would greatly help with world hunger.
  • 91% of Amazon Rainforest destruction is done for animal agriculture
  • US livestock produces 116,000 pounds of waste PER SECOND
  • Feed stock grown for animals is responsible for 56% of all of the US water consumption
  • It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef
  • Livestock (and their bi-products) produce 32 billion tons of CO2 per year

But most of all, I just can’t get myself to support an industry that generally mistreats, abuses, and crams animals into small spaces. Nor can I even fathom the idea of de-beaking chickens. It just isn’t right.

Therefore, I am eating vegetarian and supporting what I believe as an animal lover.

This includes buying only from companies that do not test on animals and are free of animal cruelty.

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Second, I’m going green. I mean MUCH more green than before. I used to recycle and occasionally bring my own reusable bags to the store, but I want to do way more than that. I’ve done a lot of soul searching around what I believe and one of those is that the environment needs to be protected in anyway possible. This means more than just reduce, reuse, recycle. It means doing everything possible to eliminate some of that contribution in the first place.

So what have I done so far:

  • My kitchen is going paperless. I have replaced paper towels with different towels for hands and spills. There is a laundry bin specifically for them in my cleaning closet.
  • I started a little compost container. It’s just an air-tight jar, but it’s something and the best I can do with an apartment.
    • I am… however… looking into worm composting.
  • I am growing my own herbs and have many other plants on my window sills. I am looking to increase these.
  • I am buying secondhand whenever possible and trying to donate everything I don’t really need. Because I have way to much “stuff.”
  • RECYCLING.
  • I am going to start making some of my own cleaning products. This can include laundry detergent, and other household cleaners. If I don’t make it, it is going to be bought from an environmentally responsible company.
  • I will be biking and walking when I can and driving only when needed. (It’s a college campus, I don’t NEED to drive unless it is to the grocery store.)
  • No straws, sytrofoam, wasteful use of plastic, plastic utensils that I cannot wash and reuse.
  • Tupperware and reusable bottles. Everything possible reusable.

I’m pretty happy with it! I am cooking so much more and I just feel better in my life when I know I am doing my best to be sustainable and help animals.

finding balance

In my opinion, one of the hardest things about “re-learning” how to live life and take care of yourself through recovery is finding balance. For much of the time one is in treatment, the day is simply JUST treatment. But leaving the world of formalized and center-based treatment back into the world of outpatient appointments and mostly free weeks results in a lot to be determined and time to be filled.

Balance.

It is something I talked about so much with my therapist and my treatment team. It is a vocabulary word that has been a staple in my language for the past 5 months.

Balance.

Balance.

Balance.

What the hell is balance.

I can’t say I have done a perfect job moving from IOP to outpatient and balancing recovery and life from the get-go. But I also didn’t expect that I would.

If I learned ONLY one thing in treatment (which is far from the truth…I learned more than I can communicate), then it would be that I cannot expect perfection because it is realistic, possible, human. I would disappoint myself literally every time if I expected to be perfect. Never in my life have I or will I be perfect. This transition is no different. In fact, the lack of perfection is what makes it so successful.

I have had to sit down and talk to myself. I have had to tell myself that “yes, I can eat that. I will be okay.” I have had to make a conscious decision to order the hard thing that would have been so easy to avoid. I have tried new things. I have internally fought and won. I have internally fought and lost. But I have kept going and corrected and worked my ass off for the recovery that I so want and love.

That is what balance is to me. It is realizing that I am going to have a few bad days…maybe more than a few. But that I can persist anyway. It is relearning what life in the “real world” is like… with the constant daily challenges that I was somewhat sheltered from in treatment. It is picking the hard things because I know I can… and more than that… that I have to. It is realizing the mental difficulties are all worth it because they get smaller and smaller with exposure.

And it is giving myself grace for the days when I have more trouble. For the days when I need some help. And for the moments when I question it all and keep going anyway.

It’s a process.

That is balance.

changing with the season

DSC_0810As much as I try to blog at least once a week… it doesn’t always happen. And this one is going to be a doozy because it’s been a while and so much change has happened in my life lately.

So change used to suck and it was scary and unknown and terrifying and I thought I was going to die. Guess what? I don’t feel like that anymore. If I did… these past two weeks would have left me six-feet-under…maybe more.

As spring officially begins (but no one informed the weather because it’s not cooperating to be honest), change has come to my life as well. For the past 291 days I have been either in a treatment center, in between treatment centers, fighting treatment centers, fighting myself for being in a treatment center, or fighting ed while in a treatment center… but last Friday, I took my last steps into and out of of my Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and made my transition to the “real world.”

I’ll be honest… that on paper doesn’t sound like much. But it is. And I try not to tell people they are wrong, but if you are thinking right now “that sounds easy. You just have more free days,” you are wrong. Flat out fucking wrong. Because along with leaving a treatment center, even one at IOP level, comes leaving the security of a place where you can go multiple days a week for a few hours and be surrounded by others who genuinely get it. It means (if you are like me and went to a center in a different state) packing up and moving yourself 3 plus hours back to your college town and trying to fit back into the place where you used to be…. but this time, without a prevalent eating disorder. It means being somewhere were you can’t see your treatment friends outside of a center even if you wanted to because they aren’t there with you… at all. It means facing questions about where you were and what you are doing that you may or may not want to answer. It means finding a new balance. It means so much more accountability for your own recovery and fear that you might mess up. It means trying to make a place for yourself all over again. And it is scary.

But it is also necessary. It is life. There comes a day when we all need to leave the metaphorical nest of an eating disorder treatment center. Hopefully, you have tested your wings a bit before you do… but you never really know if you can fly without taking the leap. You have to throw yourself out of the nest and trust you will be able to soar sometimes and just ride the wind other times. But either way, the only option is out and it’s up to you to remove both your feet from the edge and go.

And go I did. IMG_2389

In the week since I left treatment, there have been so many emotions. I cried with happiness as I looked over at my boyfriend one evening and realized I didn’t have to leave again the next morning. I cried with sadness as I read our treatment group chat and realized I wouldn’t be able to join in on any of the activities because I am three hours away. I dealt successfully with some ED thoughts as they (not surprisingly) tried to convince me to do something I didn’t want (or would) do, and then felt guilty for having the thoughts in the first place. (But, they will be there sometimes, and it is not whether I have the thoughts but what I do with them that matters the most.) I have struggled (and still do) with insecurities going back to work and feeling like I am annoying and disliked by a co-worker. But then told myself that it doesn’t really matter anyway, because I am being me. And then told myself it again…and again… and again… an still do. I’ve felt apathetic. I’ve felt confused. I’ve felt scared I was slipping because I didn’t write down my food the next morning and make sure I had enough even though I was eating when hungry and all. I’ve felt lonely. I’ve felt immense joy. I’ve felt loose and free and fun loving and then uptight and worried. But all of these things are just feelings. And I am still here. I am still living. I am still recovering. I am still doing my best to push towards what I want most… a life free from ED.

My journey is not yet over. There is so much more to come. And I have miles left to travel. But it’s begun a new chapter. And that new chapter starts with me here. Living a free life where I used to be consumed by an eating disorder.