Final NH 4K’s – Bonds 9/9/18 & LIFE shenanigans

Hey folks!

Grab a coffee (or tea), sit down, and get ready to read and look at pretty pictures of mountains. This is a long one.

Ugh, guys, I have so many feels right now. Well, not specifically RIGHT.THIS.EXACT.MOMENT, but lately.

Why, you might ask? So many exciting and new things going on in this so called game of life and I’m just uber digging it. And, I feel weird to say I’m uber digging the life game, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve said that and meant it. In fact, it feels so weird that I’ve purposefully been quite absent on all forms of social media and even in real life recently because my brain has needed some major space for processing and not having a meltdown over sheer excitement/being stoked.

I’m ranting.

You see, I have this tendency to get super uppity and happy about things and then almost wear myself out on the idea and find myself running into a brick wall, losing interest and becoming, well, kind of in the dumps from an emotional perspective. Blaming that I’m a Gemini? Maybe. Blaming that I’m simply a feeler of all things and that I need to really feel and process things but rarely give myself the light of day for the ladder? More likely (but being a Gem’ prob isn’t super helpful. Kidding, kind of.).

Anyways. I’ve given myself space to just feel things. Space to take a step back and remember why I am going after all that I’m pursuing. Why it’s even important to me as a human in the first place. I’m allowing myself space to think, process, and fall back in love with my dreams, goals, and most importantly – my life. I feel that by letting go of the “shoulds” I had previously set for myself regarding school, a career, and even just how my life looked on the outside has proven beneficial in me feeling much more grounded and even productive. I’m half winging it and half going with what I know deep down to be my path? And, honestly, it has actually been a really neat (and semi terrifying) process.

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Motto 😉

What have I been up to during my intentional hiatus? I finished the NH 48 4000 footers (more on this below!), I got into a dual-degree program and am now simultaneously an undergrad (psych) and grad (nutritional sci) student, I’ve accepted a position for independent contract work to take over a bootcamp program hosted through a local CrossFit, this blog is no longer .wordpress.com but rather .com (YASSSSSS), and oh – I’ve been taking care of myself and honoring my unique quirky needs physically/mentally/emotionally and it’s been rather rad.

“She remembered who she was and the game changed” – Lalah Delia

Let’s talk mountains, before I get all emotionally sappy on you.

THE BONDS.

Hands down my favorite hike to date. Isolation is my second love.

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Our (Amanda (Pan) and I) approach was to out and back from Zealand Rd. making the trip 19.8 miles and 4,850 ft. elevation gain. Yippee.

We started off from Zealand Rd. at the Zealand Trail trailhead. The first 2.5 mile chunk of this hike is pancake flat (okay, there are rocks and roots, I admit). This brings you up to the Zealand Falls hut which we made a quick pit stop at to pee and take off a layer as the morning was a nippy one and took a bit to get warmed up! From here, we continued up to the first summit of the day – Zealand Mountain. Zealand has a special place in my heart as this was my first 4k back after my injury (I’ll delve into this more). At this point I felt really good, looking forward to tackling the many miles ahead and happy to be frolicking in the middle of nowhere with Pan.

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Zealand summit is the most exciting….

Between Zealand and Guyot went by rather quick and let me tell you the views from Guyot had me giddy for what was to come. I was also mildly excited for the champagne Pan brought along to celebrate my finish on Bondcliff (the final peak for the day), and getting the epic Bondcliff clif shot. We continued, onward, upward, and a solid amount of downward. The third peak was West Bond. West Bond isn’t on the out and back hike per se, but is a small (0.5 mi) spur trail off of the trail between Guyot and Mt. Bond. OKAY, West Bond is probably my favorite of the Bond trio because it’s 1. GORGEOUS, and 2. off the beaten path unlike the others and therefore gives off a much more secluded wilderness vibe.

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Cairn atop West Bond

After a snack and photo op we headed back to the main trail and continued our walk to Mt. Bond. It was at this moment of sumitting that I made the slightly awkward to Pan (and extremely awkward on my blog) statement that I was 98.5% sure mother nature just blessed me with that monthly present (TMI? Sorry not sorry… My website 😉 ). I had feels it was coming, and after having been blessed with it on Owls’ head (the second longest 4K hike, I pretty much knew I was in for it on the Bonds). We quickly left the Bond summit and headed to Bondcliff via a detour in the middle of the woods to, ya know, deal with feminine things and jazz. THANKFULLY nobody else was super close by at this point. Hands down honest, I wasn’t even mad or annoyed about it. Like, yeah, it’s a hassle but after losing my cycle for three years due to complications from my eating disorder, getting it on my last 4K hike almost seemed like it was meant to happen, kind of like a sign that I am “doing things right” for myself, my body, and my life.

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From Guyot, headed back to the car

Once at Bondcliff we broke out (popped) the champagne and had a series of photo-ops and random “ahhhhhhh” moments of finishing the list. The whole thing was surreal and kind of felt like a dream but also so real. I think part of me felt I would never finish. And, I think finishing was the ultimate icing on the cake for proving to myself that I can in-fact accomplish challenging aspirations. Admittedly, we hung around at Bondcliff longer than anticipated and once finally moving and grooving again we decided to book it as we wanted to be back to the hut and therefore onto the flatter miles by dark. Besides a few stops to pee, layer swap, and take way too many pictures of endless mountains, we made good time back and were at the hut just after sunset. I do enjoy hiking in the dark, it’s such a different ballgame and really allows you to experience the outside world. All in all the Bonds were a mix of everything and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Smiles for all the miles

This hike has surely been a long time coming after dealing with a stress fractured fibula in April 2017. That was my first stress fracture since 2012 and a big smack in the face. I didn’t see it coming, at all. In hindsight, I was running too frequently for my body and therefore going beyond my body’s ability to adapt and recover from the breakdown I was putting it through. Healing this injury took more mentally than it did physically as I had at this point completed 27/48 4K’s and was legit head over heels for hiking. I felt extremely uncomfortable, unsure of how to manage the mass of internal dialogue, and anxious to get back to hiking. Having dealt with similar injuries prior and not fully healing them or myself I knew that I needed to actually FULLY heal before getting back to hiking to ensure I could continue this newfound love of mine for years/decades/the rest of my life.

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Bondcliff shot uno

I didn’t “plan” to talk about that injury in this post, but it kind of flowed in. And, to be honest, it’s the first injury I didn’t subsequently relapse after and I think that’s actually a big f*cking deal and it’s something to be talked about. I think it shows 1. how much I’ve grown into myself, 2. how much I truly LOVE hiking and outdoor adventuring, and 3. how #2 aided in the development of #1.

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Bondcliff shot dos

Throughout my journey of hiking the 4000 footers from July 2016-September 2018:

I have stress fractured a fibula and healed it. Changed my college major. Applied to and have started graduate school (noting that for a hot minute I was convinced I needed to stop school because my mental health plummeted last Spring SUBSTANTIALLY). Accepted a position that scares the shiiiiiit out of me, but that I’m tackling because it’s so incredibly the right move for ME. Reduced the amount of time I spend inside the gym lifting and increased the amount I spend outside hiking, biking, running. Took up new hobbies such as indoor rock climbing (outdoor soon?!) and trail/gravel biking. Developed a better relationship with my being around body-image, self-awareness, my internal voice, and just how I approach things.

It changes you, hiking 48 mountains. Not so secretly, I’ve repeated so many that I’m now at 87 NH 4K summits!!!!!!! I randomly counted the other day and was half floored. It’s not even that many, in the grand scheme, but looking back to the girl that was extremely lost, confused, unsure if she could actually seriously make it in the world before this journey – those 87 summits mean something. They mean a lot of somethings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from perfect. But, I found something that has not once made me feel like I need to be perfect, or have my life together, or never make a mistake. I have found something that is equally healing and challenging. Hiking has pushed me in ways I have never been pushed and allowed me to cultivate skills that I’m not sure I would have otherwise ever learned. It has brought amazing people into my life who I’m beyond grateful to call friends, provided me a gateway to grow in other domains of my life, and allowed me space to think and feel and process. Two years and two months after the start of this journey, I can firmly state that hiking is absolutely my jam.

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” – Rumi

XO, S

School updates & tales from the (previously) injured

Hey friends! Happy Saturday!

This post could really be titled: “school updates, going with your gut, and things I’ve learned from being an athlete and working my a*s off to get into remission from an ED”. But, I figured that might be slightly too lengthy and aggressive 😉

This week has definitely been a game face, come at me bro, kind of week. School has been a tough one this semester – not because I don’t enjoy learning but because being in a classroom is extremely draining for me. Furthermore, mentally and emotionally I was checked out the first month of classes, which took its toll. I made a good mental shift last weekend and am working my behind off to get on track. I’m beyond thankful for understanding profs but am also wanting to talk about what helped me make this shift from stuck in a locked cage without a key → come at me bro. Before I get into this post, which will discuss the mental component involved with school currently, let’s talk hiking (duh)!

I took Tuesday as an escape day for a small hike. Full write up to come but here’s a snap:

Mt. Pierce – 2/27/18

What did I do last weekend?! Shockingly enough, I didn’t climb a mountain. I wasn’t feeling it and knew I would be going Tuesday so decided to opt for some much needed R&R. I used to seriously suck at rest days and recovering my body from the large amount of physical taxing I put it through. Ever since being injured back in April I’ve grown to be much better. I still have my days and weeks where I push the throttle a tad too much, but this whole thing is a process. People don’t wake up one day and have this stellar capability for self-care.

Let’s talk about rest. Not just rest, but recovery as a whole – rest, mindset, giving oneself space and time. As a weightlifter/hiker/exerciser/ex-distance(wannabe still) runner/bike-rider/previously competitive jump-roper who likes to climb walls and fly down mountains on a snowboard occasionally… my body gets put through the damn ringer. I’ve had more stress fractures than one would like to admit. Two were likely a combination of factors both inside and outside of my control. The others were most definitely a mix of not sleeping enough, being way to high-strung and stressed (hello, cortisol), weird periods, not fueling/re-fueling adequately, and ramping up too quick or just full out over-reaching and over-training for my circumstances.

Growing up as a competitive athlete, for me, is a catch 22. I wouldn’t trade it for the damn world (or all of the mountains being in my backyard) but it’s a mindset that can make or break me. My competitive nature has the potential to drive me into the ground, quickly too. I mean heck, when my April fibula stress fracture happened – while not a quickly developed injury, the pain came out of nowhere, within 1/10th mile of a run I felt it, and ran 2 miles blasting music because I was determined to get through it. That’s what I call driving myself down. Conversely, I can pull myself out quickly when that mental light switch changes position. With having anxiety since early childhood, a decade long eating disorder, other mental health things, various injuries, physical complications from the ED – jumping down the deep and dark rabbit hole is always a potential. It always will be a potential; the degree of likelihood will just be varied. But, kind of like the the growing up as a competitive athlete is a catch 22, so is all of this. You grow through what you grow through and with this experience those words fit the bill.

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With each subsequent injury I’ve worked to cultivate my skillset around taking care of myself – both physically and mentally/emotionally. Nobody is taught, per say, how to take care of themselves. Sure, basic human needs are taught, but really getting to know yourself and both understand and honor your unique human needs – this is learned through trial and error, falling down on your face, and internal chaos. My most recent injury taught me a lot about not only what is important to me but also how far I’ve come despite how I sometimes feel about myself. What do I mean by this? I (like many others) frequently get trapped in the cycle of negative self-talk/catastrophizing/irrational thoughts and find myself feeling like I’m never going to get over this and will just remain running on the invisible hamster wheel. That said, even with these feelings rearing their ugly heads to an increased degree with the injury, I allowed myself to keep going forward. There were some backwards steps here and there so I guess it was much more like a cha-cha but THAT.IS.OK.

“Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Each injury with the exception of my first was either during or “post” ED. I’ve talked before about how no matter how much I try to separate these two entities – athletic endeavors and ED – it’s nearly impossible after a certain period of time. I was an athlete way before the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns, and through it all, not to be uber cliche, but channeling that mindset has saved my life more than once.

We are not static beings. Struggles do not remain separate from one another. Life is messy, brains are messy, and we fully bring to the table everything we’ve ever been through into every situation we’re presented with. The anxiety, panic attacks, meltdowns, ED, misophonia, it’s all meshed together into what I call my personal shit sandwich. And, for those wondering, I would not trade my sandwich for an easier one. Not now, not ever. I’m used to managing this one and that makes it safe. Not comfortable, rather extremely uncomfortable, but safe. It’s familiar. New battles are new, but the feelings are similar enough to be relatable to past struggles and therefore able to be worked through at the right time and with enough balls, or nerve, or both.

“Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight…” ― Cheryl Strayed

It’s strange; snapping myself from the rabbit hole to motivated AF to get myself on track in the blink of an eye or snap of fingers. I was talking to a few close friends about this and I think it has something to do with both competing from a young age and also working my way through the ups and downs and out of mental health happenings. It doesn’t make it any less weird to me, but it makes more sense. When I’m in a dark place the only thing capable of bringing me out of this is myself. Similarly, when I’m in a good place, it’s me that keeps me there. Depending on what I’m doing in my life and how I feel about that/how it makes me feel about myself essentially determines everything. It’s keeping the stoke high first and foremost.

I like to think of this process from rabbit hole –> crawling (ok, running) out like I do hiking, lifting, jumprope, and running. I go to a deep place in some workouts, I tell myself to create a tunnel and dig. I used to allow things to happen to me, and one day I decided that wasn’t going to be the case anymore. While this process definitely wasn’t an overnight thing, nor am I perfect at it, it seemed to just appear out of the abyss. By ‘used to’, I mean for the bulk of my existence before I made the decision to put myself into treatment at age 19. This sticks out to me as the most pivotal moment in becoming who I am today. It was putting on my big girl pants, and saying fu*k you to my own BS. It was beginning to work through things instead of using behaviors as a means to get through life and numb it all out. It was the catalyst to really feeling things, and let me tell you, there were a LOT of feels. Most importantly it was the beginning of a beautiful yet messy relationship with my being, leading me to feel more solid behind my decision making process currently; that is to say, I trust myself.

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So, bringing this all full circle, I want to talk about school and what I’m learning this semester. As I mentioned the first month of school has been a crap shoot. I’ve attended maybe 1/5th to 1/4th of my classes, and as of last Friday had completed almost no work. As of yesterday, so a week later, I’ve caught up to nearly 70% (guesstimate) of where the class is at. What happened? That mental shift, using my competitive nature.

Last Friday I had a meeting with a prof which after about a good half hour of crying led to meeting with this prof and my advisor. I went into the first meeting expecting to discuss how I was starting to get some work done but this is not what ended up being discussed which is what led to the latter. With my advisor we discussed things from 1. concerns about current academics, 2. my mental health, 3. my reaction to things (e.g anxiety), and 4. a solution. It was proposed to take a leave of absence, and while unable to fully defend myself in the moment I knew this was the “wrong” choice.

In that moment I felt bombarded, attacked, being told what was best for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy faculty at my college are willing to go out of their way to talk things out, but that doesn’t change how I feel and what I know I’m capable of. I think this meeting was the final spark needed to fully ignite the trigger and switch the my mind switch from “off” to “on”. Zero to 100 in under a day and so far it’s sticking. I’ve experienced this before, 0 to 100 in mindset, and for me, this is how I function and is something I’m learning to work with, kind of like a superpower. During the period of 0, it’s exhausting. It’s frustrating especially in school because I’m not “that” student. But the 100, which makes up the bulk of my existence, I feel good, primed, ready to go.

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Fast forward to the end of this week and I’m feeling really good about getting through the semester. I’m at the point with college where I’m ready to throw up deuces and never step foot in a classroom as a student again. I LOVE teaching, learning, and being involved, but the environment is too stimulating and therefore toxic… Which in theory sounds like a considerable reason to take the time off but I have a feeling I would only become less tolerant/more sensitized with doing so. I’ve established and accepted that a traditional college experience is not my jam, and rather prefer solitude and pursuing my interests actively versus sitting in a classroom. Well, there is also the miso thing. All of this said, I have five classes remaining which includes the current semester. I’m proud of myself for getting through my time at the college I’ve been at since transferring in Spring 2015 from community college. Since day one it’s been a rough road, but through the ups and downs I’ve learned numerous life lessons, connected with some wonderful humans, and developed various awarenesses about my being that will ultimately serve me moving forward.

At this point I’m continuing. I’m continuing because as much as I want to just give the peace sign and say F*CK this, I’m committed to finish what I started. I had a really good conversation yesterday with someone at school who has known me for years. We talked about the mindset I’ve discussed in this post and that ultimately I know, deep down, what I can and can’t handle. I’m not looking at this situation as a negative, but rather something to grow through and use as practice in managing my being. I’m utilizing my athletic nature and ability to tap that mindset.

It’s keeping that competitive side of me wrangled in for good and ready for action. It’s supporting myself to the best of my ability which includes going with my gut, casually winging it, and full-heartedly trusting myself when I say “I’ve got this”.

“Being human means having doubts and yet still continuing on your path.” ― Paul Coelho

Semester beginnings & ramblings

Hi all!

Whelp, it’s been a hot minute.

My last post was a rather deep one. By that I mean it was deep AF.

I took school break off from blogging because I needed it. While I had every intention of posting, I also knew it wasn’t the right time. I even started a few; they remain hanging around in my draft folder. I like blogging because I genuinely enjoy it. Writing makes my soul happy. When writing a post doesn’t lead to fulfillment I know it’s not the right time. I knew that for a little while my being needed me to process and live more than it needed to write. For me, writing is the like the ocean. It ebbs and flows. I’ll always love it, but sometimes I feel closer to it than others. And, that’s ok.

That will inevitably be the theme of this post; it’s ok. Everything will be ok.

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Mt. Tecumseh – Jan. 2018

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Pano from Tecumseh – Jan 2018 (Mt. Washington is snowy peak in WAY distance on left)

First let’s get into what this current semester looks like… I’m focusing much less on academics and much more on research and working. This is obviously meticulously planned and calculated. The classes I’m taking are ASL 2, Introduction to the Deaf World, and Psychology of Child Development. I’ve joined a research lab and will be focusing on concussion and head injury. I’m also working a few nights a week as the manager at my work.

Great? Yeah, kind of.

I’m opting to take Deaf World pass/fail, not because I can’t get an A but because I don’t NEED to, because taking the stress and pressure off will likely prove useful. This isn’t a course for my major or minor (therefore aloud to be P/F), and I feel like I’ll ultimately take more away from the course if I’m not in my head about my grade. It’s not always what we are capable of doing, but what is best for our being – mentally, emotionally, ect.

Second “non-traditional” approach being taken this semester is that my child development course is being done in an “online fashion” even though it’s a face-to-face class. Let me explain this one… So I’ve previously discussed (briefly) about having over-stimulation responses to certain sounds, and that this over-stimulation typically presents itself in the form of a flight-or-fight response. Years later, I have a much more comprehensive understanding of the components of this issue – termed misophonia (miso). My primary trigger sound is typing, which as a college student in 2018 is nearly impossible to escape. Second, third, fourth, ect. (aka the bigger triggers/more difficult ones to work with) include chewing (auditory and visual – so seeing people chew or hearing it provokes the same response), sniffling (please let me know if you know of any locations on earth where people never come down with colds), that nervous/bored habit that when someone is sitting cross-legged and their top leg moves around OR when someone is continuously moving their foot/feet when sitting (obviously visual issue). I could talk much more about this but that isn’t the purpose of this current post. This is just to get into why I’m doing the bulk of my work for this course online and by-myself versus sitting in lecture… because I ultimately have to come and go so much or fully leave that I’m missing a lot of content and it’s 1. distracting for others and 2. emotionally/mentally draining for me. While I do have accommodations (grateful), I’ve also learned and accepted that sometimes being honest about all of this with professors is much more useful on both sides than playing it off as “I need to come and go and test separately”. Like, honestly, we are all human. Talk to people. Let them know what is going on. Be honest. Feel your feels. Do what you need to be successful short and long-term.

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My last course, ASL 2… for starters I dig sign. I was absolutely petrified when I changed from neuroscience to psychology because it meant I would need to take a year of a language. My anal side felt like this was a bad idea… My GPA was/is amazing which I’m proud of and didn’t want to jeopardize that. I always thought learning a language wasn’t my “thing”, after all I took Spanish 2 twice in high school and still walked out with maybe a C?! I’m happy that 1. It went much better than anticipated and 2. I love it. That all being said, due to current higher anxiety levels which in turn make the miso more heightened, for me, it’s been an interesting semester thus far. Physically being in class is draining and I do think there is more to this than simply I’m currently more sensitive.

So, that was a hefty load to drop.

What am I doing outside of class, research, work? Well, I’m using my week day time wisely as much as possible and taking some escapes as needed. Note: always needed.

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Yay, snow!

This week I took Tuesday to go snowboarding in the morning and then went rock climbing at night. Days like this help bring me back down from my over-stimulated school self. I’m becoming painfully aware that I not only find profound bliss but also that I consistently need these things in my life. Going hiking on the weekend and then just lifting during the week with a run and bike here and there is great and all but it’s not enough for me to feel sustained. I’m not saying I don’t love those things, but there is something to be said about the magic felt when being outside and/or pushing both my physical and mental body – hiking, snowboarding, climbing, long exhausting runs. While lifting and very high-intensity workouts do help, being in a gym is stimulating and I find that the benefit really ends up only neutralizing the hit I take with being there. That said, how I feel and function physically is greatly improved by these things which makes them worth it.

It would be very easy for me to slip far down right now, with the uncertainties of school (both current and looking at graduate school), heightened mental health happenings, and feeling out of my element sometimes unable to escape. I’m trying to not put a ton of emphasis on negatives that arise, and rather take them for what they are and move forward. It is what it is and at the end of the day how I handle things matters. Conversely, the positives, the escape days, weekend hikes, being with people who feel like home… well this is where the emphasis is going. All of it. Because it matters so much, it needs to be there, and to sum it up with minimal word usage – the more I can stay absolutely stoked on life, the better my chances.

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Mt. Eisenhower summit – Dec 2017

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Casually plotting world domination.

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View from Mt. Jackson – Jan 2018

The thing is you have to fight the whole time. You can’t stop. Otherwise you just end up somewhere, bobbing in the middle of a life you never wanted.” ― Alexander Maksik

What recovery feels like

Hi all!

Before I even get into the depth of this post I’m adding two disclaimers… one for myself and one for many of you whom may be reading this.

  1. This is one of the more vulnerable yet freeing blog posts I’ve written. It’s also likely the longest.
  2. If you currently are struggling with, are in recovery from, or feel at risk for an eating disorder please read this post at your own discretion.

No introductory paragraph needed, this post is a long one as is. Let’s go…

A few weeks ago a close friend asked me something I’ve not yet been asked – “what does recovery feel like?”

An on the spot question that I didn’t feel prepared to answer. Crap. I wasn’t taught this in therapy or treatment. I was given tools to work with myself rather than against myself in my journey to become “whole again”, whatever the heck that means. I wasn’t told how to respond to what this all feels like…

My response: well, uhm… challenging, freeing, comfort-zone breaking, and well, really really terrifying.

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Let’s talk.

Recovery is messy. But, on the other hand so is actively living with a raging eating disorder. And, for those of you reading this despite the disclaimer who may think “but my ED is under control, not raging”, this applies to you too.

Before I can even begin to discuss what recovery feels like, which will take up the bulk of this post, I must briefly discuss what living with an ED feels like. Rather, what did this feel like to me, because everyone’s experience is unique. I’ve written about this before, even posting a journal entry which I’m going to take an excerpt from…

The manifestations inside of my brain are a complete madness. The voice which leads me to follow down the path of habitual maladaptive and self-destructive behaviors. It’s a complete psychosis. All I’m trying to do is prove myself to the voice inside of my head. It’s pathetic.

Living with an ED is hell. It’s having two voices inside of your head, one which is you and wants to see you follow your path, your soul, and fulfill your dreams. This voice is who YOU are, it’s the one which you will hopefully become friends with in recovery. The other voice is “ED”, it’s the devil. It’s the voice which tells you the despite your hardest effort you will never be good enough. No matter how “sick” you get it’s not enough (but, remember, it’s your loved ones that are saying you’re sick… ED says you’re stronger than the rest, that you’re better, that they’re all wrong). Sickness can be felt as strength in an ED. Sickness being following the commands of the voice inside of your head that is trying to kill you but also the voice that is followed because it makes you feel put together although in reality you’re crumbling apart by the second.

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In the same post, from the same journal entry (just go read the post, it’ll make much more sense), I get into some of what recovery feels like… especially the being triggered part.

Recovery is messy, but relapse is deadly. In recovery the voice partly subsides. It’s weaker. Your now not completely starving. Memories begin to feel more like imaginations, almost as if the eating disorder doesn’t actually exist and you haven’t played around on the fine line of life and death for the past however many years. But you have to remember that’s a lie and you did. Then you question yourself. Was I really in that deep. Did I actually do that to my body, my soul, my life. I know it happened but it feels so surreal. Almost as if it’s someone else’s story that I heard before. My mind doesn’t want to remember the past. The pain. The struggle. It wants to make it better.

Then you remember. What’s worse than remembering the truth is that your mind begins to feel the same way as when your head was in the toilet or as when you could count with your fingers what you consumed last week. It’s sick. But it wasn’t that bad, right?

My recovery has been going since 2012. It’s had some pot holes and some speed bumps. I would be lying if I said recovery is easy, simple, free of hiccups. I think the bumps are what have made it, at least for me, “work”. I think the plethora of hiccups have made me stronger, one by one, in fighting the ED voice in my head.

I wrote a few months ago about having had a stress fracture earlier this year. This was my first major injury (the type that kind of makes you press the pause button) since treatment. I was nervous. I felt like part of my identity was being taken from me. I told myself to just go with it. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Cliche but it helped. I won’t say I felt entirely in control throughout the whole healing process, that’d be a full-on lie… BUT, I trusted my ability. I trusted all that I’ve been through in the process of recovery and that I could get past a slightly larger speed-bump. I was honest with loved ones about what I was feeling. I jumped on the fu*king do this bandwagon and went with it.

Arguably the most useful skill I’m cultivating is to ebb and flow.

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Writing about recovery is equally as hard as writing about what living with an ED is like. In one way I think it’s more challenging because everyone experiences recovery differently, and that’s what makes it last, it’s individualized. That said, ED’s come in all forms and affect people differently. I don’t want anyone to take my journey as an instruction manual. That can go both ways, I don’t want me writing about my darkest moments to become a goal to get sicker or deeper into the illness. Conversely, I don’t want anyone to follow my recovery path step by step because it worked (is working) for me. Moreover, out of all of my friends with similar struggles, all of our ED’s and all of our recovery processes are quite different.

Begin-again

It’s not sunshine and rainbows. I think most know it’s not. While sometimes the image of being recovered may seem like this magical place where the demons are gone and you’re no longer sick… I’ve yet to come across someone where this holds true. I won’t say it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying the process is much more raw and you have to get your hands dirty. It’s a process. Recovery, or as I prefer to call it, remission, is a continual journey of triumphs, road bumps, setbacks, painstaking realizations, a whole lot of crying and accepting. It’s wanting to throw in the towel, and maybe that does happen. Maybe somewhere in the process it’s too much for that moment and a slip up happens or a relapse happens. That doesn’t make it any less real. It doesn’t make it a failed attempt. It doesn’t make you weak.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy

Getting past the darkest moments is what made me stronger. They are what made me believe in my ability to keep going, even when I don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or feel like my remission is an inconvenience to my life (and yes, that’s present tense… because  it’s often a lifelong journey). Trust me when I say I can count the number of times I’ve been pissed off that I’m in recovery, mainly in the beginning stages. I used to feel guilty for having to put my mental health first. I felt ashamed to need to make sure that I was having my personal needs met because that meant I would (hopefully) take care of myself. Still from time to time I feel this way, like when I say no to helping out at work because I have a plan for a hike that day and I know that hiking is the most amazing thing I’ve found for my mental health. I’m better at knowing my needs now, understanding what is within my capacity and what is absolutely going to lead to a meltdown. Just because I “know myself more” doesn’t mean I don’t still feel guilty about it no matter how much I’m told I shouldn’t.

I wanted (and tried) to throw in the towel at-least a half dozen times but something kept me going. I had the slips, the near falls, the desire to just be like “I’m over it” or “I’m better at managing an ED than dealing with the insanities of remission”. I literally felt like I was losing my mind, that everything I worked for was slipping away. In reality it was the opposite. Everything I worked for was everything my ED wanted me to work for. It needed to slip away. I needed to let it go for the sake of healing. I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. NO. I needed to get comfortable with being really uncomfortable. NO. I needed (and have) accept being uncomfortable with being really uncomfortable.

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Undoubtedly the most uncomfortable I’ve been in this process is dealing with the mental discomfort associated with the physical discomfort. Let me clarify in a rather abrupt manner… Gaining weight because I medically needed to → ED telling me I’m a pathetic piece of shit; dealing with the 5-6 month pregnant look of bloat because my body didn’t understand how to properly digest food for about the first YEAR of recovery AFTER regaining weight → everyday wanting to crawl out of my skin and feeling like I was; having a tooth break because you “floss too much” → well maybe something caught up to me; having blood work come back abnormal → equally terrifying (healthy voice) and amazing (ED voice…. the “you’re finally sick”); being 24 with osteopenia that you’ve had since 17 → still processing this one; being 24 and spending upwards of 2-3 hours a day in the bathroom because my GI is still not fully comprehending what eating to fuel my body means → I sometimes study in the restroom because #aintnobodygottimeforthat.

Coping with the physical aspects which arise is challenging especially considering I’m working my way through a mental illness and my coping mechanisms are kind are what got me into this lovely mess (sarcasm). I think that sarcasm and sass helped me cope. They were two of the things I was good at that weren’t necessarily maladaptive. Sure, lessening or making jokes of my tendency to annihilate myself isn’t super positive, but it sure beats crying for an hour, in my mind that is. It worked for me and that’s what I care about. It helped me ignore a lot of the noise going on between my ears which would otherwise destroy me.

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When I entered my last treatment (IOP) I was well into weight restoration. I was working out, not excessively but I was working out. I had previously taken months off during my relapse, I’m the person who hates working out when I’m in the throws of a relapse… will discuss hold tight… I was told to stop going to the gym, running, ect. To let myself heal – mentally and physically. After some solid counterarguments I did what I was being asked told. I hated every second of it. I wanted the release, the passion, the excitement. I wanted something I felt good at because I felt pretty bad at the whole “getting better” thing. This was a major turning point for me because up until this point, if I was at a stable weight and food intake (and no I don’t mean “healthy”), I would exercise. In my mind I felt like it was safe and totally okay for me to continue working out in the program I was in. NOPE. Taking time off to really separate things and work on my health without the addition of external stressors was key. In hindsight, I agree completely.

On why I wouldn’t work out when I relapsed in 2011 – exercise and sports were a part of my life prior to the development of my ED, and I like to keep them as separate as possible. While yes throughout the years they have become intertwined, but as I like to make a counterpoint of, everything in my life has become intertwined because my ED started at 11, my last relapse was at 18, and I’m now 24. For me, fitness is a positive thing. I LOVE IT. I, as in me, as in Sarah. The ED voice tries to rear it’s head in and overdo it but it’s me that enjoys it. It’s taken years to disentangle this mess. I’ve learned, rather felt, that when it’s the ED voice in control of over 50% I workout because I feel like I need to, not because I necessarily want to. If life gets in the way I lose it, crumble, I can’t manage NOT working out because at this point it’s a compensatory behavior. When I’m in a good place, I want to be there, I take more days off and accept the “shit happens” better. The mindset difference still blows my mind, night and day.

Throughout the past few years I’ve worked tirelessly to reach a point where I cherish off days, and instead of making off days into active recovery days, I now just take OFF days. I’ve embraced changing my workout plan up when it’s needed, deciding on a whim to head out for a ride on the bike versus lifting if it’s what my brain needs for positive mental health. As much as I despise the saying about balance being key, balance is key when it comes to my lifting, biking, running, hiking, yoga-ing. There’s a line, I respect the line. Not saying I don’t ever cross it, I am human, but I acknowledge it’s existence.

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During my time in IOP I was working, taking a full class load, and then going to my group 4 nights and 1 weekend day. It was a lot. I find myself sometimes thinking that I don’t know how I did it but then I think that’s why it worked for me. I didn’t try to solely focus on getting better, my life didn’t revolve around just that. It was the major focal point, but I was also a student and employee. I learned how to work getting better into my daily life versus being given skills and then thrown back into my life. I’m grateful that I was at a point in my illness where this was an option. IT WAS NOT fully supported but I did it. I’m not being like wahoo yay me, but we’re all different. Some people need the recovery process to be a bit less hectic, and some, like me, find the hecticness is almost healing. However, now, I choose to live a slightly less hectic but very supportive of my needs lifestyle because it’s good for me.

This taught me a large lesson in choosing what to add and subtract from my plate. One of the most valuable life lessons I’ve taken away is that while I might be entirely capable of doing something, that doesn’t mean I always have to do it. Just because we as humans have this interesting ability to shove things down and keep pressing forward to get everything done, doesn’t mean we need to do this. What if something needs to be removed from the daily routine? It doesn’t make you any less worthy. It doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. Maybe it just means it’s not best for your well-being. Routines ebb and flow, busyness comes and goes. Just because we had a hectic routine for a few months or years doesn’t mean it need be maintained for life. Breaks are allowed. Your worth is not defined by your capacity to drive yourself into the ground.

You have innate value because you’re alive.

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I think that while when I was in treatment and the beginning stages of recovery, the time when I absolutely feared the bumps, the hard-times, the triggers – that these are actually the things which made me resilient. I’m not perfect, nor do I wish to be. Trying to be perfect almost killed me, so I’m actually rather against that notion. This entire process is learning to understand yourself. As simple and as complex as that is. We are all built on a foundation of sunshine and thunderstorms, positives and negatives. We all have our own personal shit sandwich. WORK WITH IT. Don’t work against yourself by fighting with the summation of things which comprise your foundation, your story, as a human.

A lot of the work is done by yourself. Sure there may be loved ones in your life, or a therapist, who can help you by supporting you on your path. Ultimately though, it’s you for you. It was me for me. I am the one still making sure that my mental health needs are met because I know what happens when they aren’t. I’m still watching out for that. Nobody else knows how you’re feeling, even if you tell them. Our understanding of the world is entirely up to us. Our ability to flow with life is entirely up to us. It’s hard. The continuum from sick to well is a long one and it’s different for everyone. Some of the times when I felt the sickest were when I looked the “healthiest”. Mental health doesn’t always show up in a physical capacity. We are the only ones who realize the depth of the demons inside of our heads and are the only ones who can choose and keep choosing to fight the fight.

The ED voice, it’s almost as if it’d hardwired into my mind at this point. It’s still there, it’s less frequent and has much less power, but it’s there deep down in some form or another more than I’d like to admit. A major focus area for me has been working to stop the habitual pathway of thoughts in my mind. Right now I’m going with the flow, I’m doing what feels right to the voice in my head which supports me and helps me grow as a human being instead of the one which wants to send me back down the rabbit hole. Not all days are of the positive type where I end the day thinking “I can do this, I’ve got this”. There are plenty of times still, 4 years later, where I want to just be over it. I accept that while I’m past the major hurdles, my remission is still the most important thing in my life because it’s the closest thing I have to feeling like I’m being the “best” version of myself. It’s what makes me, well, me. I’m enjoying not being in control over everything and you can sure as hell bet I’m going to continue winging it.

“You must want to spend the rest of your life with yourself first.” – Rupi Kaur

XO, S