Sep 30, 2010
How our thoughts create the melody of our entire lives... that lead to Eating Disorder recovery or death...
“Change your thoughts and you will change your life.” That sounds like a very generous offer doesn’t it? I think so. Almost as generous as the size of a pyramid, which is never too far from a “Pyramid scheme” is it? I mean come on, so if I have cancer I can just think, “Healthy! Healthy! Healthy!” and my human tissue will instantly change? Probably not. Like you, I’m a skeptic and I’ve lived long enough on planet earth to know that when something is too good to be true, it’s usually because it most certainly is. But, after some trial and error I have found a morsel of truth in the power our thoughts have over our lives….
Our thoughts are the background music to a party. Everyone knows that a bad DJ will kill a great party. Likewise, bad thoughts can literally kill a good life. In between breakfast, school, work, movies and parties we listen to the background music. If this background music is positive, say U2, Sheryl Crow and The Jackson 5 most likely our interactions over breakfast, at school and at work will be positive. But, if they are negative, like Fiona Apple, Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails most likely we will have negative interactions. The same way music gives us a feeling in our bones we can’t describe; the thoughts in our head either put us at ease or make us a little jumpy.
This theory makes me both disappointed and hopeful. Disappointed in that it scares me to think of how many years I let ED be the “DJ of my mind”. I let him tell me how lousy he thought my body was, how stupid he thought I was, how insignificant I was, how much better the world would be if I was just gone…. I almost died from the Spin Master Lady Killer ED… that was until I got spun in to a much better, upbeat, upscale, classy, fun party called, “Recovery.”
In Eating Disorder recovery I have learned that I have many, many, many choices. That I don’t have to let Spin Master Lady Killer ED be the DJ of my thoughts. That actually I am the Rock Talkin’ Recovery Jockey of my thoughts. That I get to be still and ask God, “What songs/thoughts are the best to run through my head?” With God’s help I have the raddest play list that ever hit the Eating Disorder scene. It’s kind of like when you’ve experienced really bad music for a long annoying road trip and finally someone plays some tunes that put you into post-massage relaxation status… you just know you’ve found the real McCoy.
Today, in between sets of breakfast, school, work and friends I tell myself mantras over and over and over and over and over again… stuff like,
“I’m beautiful. I’m smart. I’m blessed. I’m beautiful. I’m smart. I’m blessed.”
Sometimes if I start to hear ED play his emo-trash and play on my insecurities I’ll play,
“I’m not everything, I’m enough. I’m not everything, I’m enough.”
When things don’t turn out the way I want them to (which us controlling Eating Disorder girls experience often) I think,
“God’s plan is perfect. God’s plan is perfect. God’s plan is perfect.”
And when the eating disorder tells me that I’m not beautiful enough or thin enough, I again say, “I’m not everything. I’m enough.”
“I’m not everything, I’m enough.” Is actually the first melody I learned in Eating Disorder recovery. It’s meaning is quite profound.
If you look at the first part, “I’m not everything….” This means I can never be everything to everyone. Which means I can’t be everyone’s best friend and I can’t be everyone’s enemy either. I can’t be the smartest to everyone and I can’t be the dumbest to everyone. Physically it’s impossible, therefore it is true. I’m not everything.” This gives me some peace. It evens out the playing field that I have never really accurately understood. I have always thought it was a good thing to be many things, but it really isn’t. Because if everyone and everything liked me that would mean some shady characters would like me too and that’s not necessarily who or what I want to be either.
In the second part, “I’m enough.” Is where I learn that who I am exactly at this moment is actually enough to stand on two firm feet in the world. I have already established that I can’t be everything to everyone, but I can be me, abstinent, un-abstinent, sober, alcoholic, depressed or happy…. It doesn’t matter, because no matter what I do, I will always be enough because of the first word in this phrase, “I’m” the second part is defining the first, “Enough” and as long as I am an “I’m” I will always be “enough” no matter what “I’m” looks like, sounds like or acts. That gives me so much peace.
I hope you girls learn how to be your own "Mix Master Miss" upstairs in your head. Because you’re worth the good tunes. Life is too good for bad music!
Sep 23, 2010
How much does the support of a family play into Eating Disorder recovery? You may be surprised...
Some of my most difficult moments at the Victorian have been watching a family hand over their daughter, sister and mother to us. Often times the client is screaming, crying and pleading the typical statements of, “This is a mistake! I do not have a problem!” and “Please don’t leave me here! I’ll eat! I swear!” The clients behavior is typical for anyone who would be scared and frightened of giving up their disease and being left in this new place with all of these new people (who are allegedly going to take away the disease that gives them the only aspect of control that they have.) Having worked in the field I know that the clients are going to be more than okay. That actually this is the best place in the world for them and in just about 48 hours they will realize that too and will be hugging and periodically laughing and yet still crying soon.
The difficulty for me has always been watching the parents leave. Their usually crying and sad as well, but it’s the looks on their faces that kills me. I can only describe it as the look on someone’s face if their home of the past 30 years was just demolished by a tornado. You can’t see a tornado coming, you are shocked, heart broken and at a loss for words at the devastation in front of you… but, they can’t do anything about it now… but just walk away and start over. It’s in the “walking away” part that there is a fine line… “how far exactly should the parents walk away?”
Parents usually take two routes. Route 1: Helicopter Parent. Out of love they want constant contact with the client, out of fear they question the therapeutic process and the staff, out of anger they are impatient with the recovery process of their loved one.
Route 2: The family expects that the staff “fix” the client. They don’t want to show up for, Family Week. They don’t want to be bothered with updates on the clients progress. They just want the bill and the date to pick up their “fixed” loved one. These families aren’t “bad” or “insensitive” people, in fact they are very sensitive. They are in so much pain that they can’t bare to witness the healing process because it means they might have to get some healing themselves and healing usually involves a lot of pain to walk through before you get to the other side.
I would like to show you some stats that are pretty impressive regarding how the family plays a part in Eating Disorder Recovery:
One study involving 80 teens with bulimia put about half in a treatment program that included family therapy and the others in more traditional psychotherapy. Six months later, the success rate for those given family therapy was twice as great as it was for the others.
About 40 percent of teens whose families participated in their treatment had stopped bingeing and purging, compared with 18 percent of those treated without family involvement. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Another study, published in the journal Eating Disorders, followed 32 teenage girls with anorexia and found that 75 percent of them were in full remission three years after treatment that had included family therapy.
So if you really want your loved one to recover long term you’ll show up for every therapy session and Family Week right? Well, half right… Right in YES, show up, as Woody Allen says, “90% of success is just showing up.” The other half is you have to show up WILLING to also look at how you as a FAMILY have played a part in the Eating Disorder. I remind you that Eating Disorders are genetic. It’s no one's fault, just like Bipolar Disorder is no one's fault… it’s a psychological disorder… however, environment factor and FAMILIES greatly trigger these disorders… meaning every woman out there with Eating Disorders, yes all 10 million in the United States alone, have a family that also needs to be in therapy. That family needs to change their own family dynamics, boundaries and values while the client is re-feeding themselves and trying to combat the most fatal disease of all psychological disorders.
All that to say, I hope see you at Family Week. It’s hard. It’s not pretty. It will be exhausting. It will be painful. It will be shocking. It will also be the difference between the girl you love living the life she was put on earth to live, or dying and becoming another statistic. Choices… we all have choices. Make yours a good one.
Sep 08, 2010
Over the weekend I was asked by my very sweet friend Jamie “How do you help someone who you suspect has an Eating Disorder?” Jamie is an intelligent, sophisticated and caring woman. It was so startling to see someone who is so well spoken look to me for guidance on how to speak to this elephant in the room. I realized that there are many of us who are in the same scenario, wanting to help, but having no idea how to. Today we will explain how to lovingly answer the CALL to talk to someone about their Eating Disorder when we see it.
We have all seen the elephant in the room with an Eating Disorder. She is the girl who seems to live at the gym and talks to no one. Though she looks like a frail walking skeleton you’re pretty sure her glare could quite possibly kill you on the spot if you get to close to her coveted treadmill. Then there is the shy co-worker who hides her obese frame in her cubicle. Her drawer is full of sweet and salty binge foods that she eats all day. She refuses to go out to lunch with the office and instead isolates.
So how do we help someone we suspect may have an Eating Disorder? We have to answer the CALL which definitely isn’t an overnight process….
Connection – Part of the reason you feel compelled to help this person who possibly has an Eating Disorder is because you notice the lack of connection in their life. You’ve noticed this person has no friends, no hobbies, a lot of anger, a ton of hatred and some serious depression. On the flip sometimes they are possibly the opposite extreme as an “Achieve-a-holic” and are so hyper and busy that they can’t build connections. A lot of the reason for these behaviors is somewhere in their past this person learned that connections are dangerous and hurtful. You are going to try and break down this barrier by building a connection and being their friend. Take an interest in one thing they like: Animals? Books? Science? Fashion? Let them know that you care about what they care about and maintain that connection. Be the same person you are each time you see this person: stable and loving. A person with an Eating Disorder will look for any reason possible to turn on you and consider you “ dangerous just like everyone else.” Try and keep your commitments and your word with this person. Let them know that this “connection” with you is important to you.
Authenticity – From an Anorexic to a Compulsive Overeater, people with Eating Disorders don’t believe that the world allows them to be their authentic selves. They truly believe they will combust if they actually speak their mind and stick to it. It’s your job to mirror authenticity to them. Show this person what authenticity looks like. Be humble, talk about your own struggles with insecurity, self worth, pain and anger. Show this person that you accept yourself for all your gifts and equally for all of your flaws. This will shock them like seeing snow on the beach. They will be attracted to that element of authenticity because essentially that’s what we ALL want.
Laughing – When you’re introduced to a new baby what do you do? You try to make them laugh. When men take women on dates, what do they try to do? They try to make them laugh. Why do we do this? Because we all know that when we are laughing it signals that we feel safe with the other person. This may sound trite, but try to find the humor in life with the person you suspect has an Eating Disorder. When you make them laugh their brain will fire serotonin that will then fire a signal to their frontal lobe that you are a safe person to be with.
Loving – Now the hard part…. Loving…. Is a hard thing to do. I was recently introduced by a friend of mine to a guy that I dated for a couple of weeks. It didn’t end well and when my friend heard about this he asked me, “Do you mind if I have a man to man talk with this guy the next time I see him about this whole situation?” I thought about it for awhile and I realized that if my friend said anything to this guy I was going to look like an immature little girl who ran to her friend and tattled. On the flip I also realized that in my recovery from my Eating Disorder that I had many people lovingly call me out on my behavior and that made me realize the gravity of my disease. So my answer was, “If you feel that’s on your heart to do go for it. People being honest with me is the most loving thing I have ever experienced.” The guy was spoken to. Will he change his behavior? Will he treat the next woman differently? I don’t’ know. But at least I know that I was willing to make a loving decision even though it was uncomfortable to do so.
The fact of the matter is talking to someone about their Eating Disorder is a very uncomfortable, awkward thing to do; which is why so many people let the elephant stay in the room. But, if you can get over that fear of uncomfortable and awkward feelings you just might be doing someone a favor … or even saving their life. When I think of love I don’t think of Cinderella, The Notebook or Romeo and Juliet… I think of Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus…. I think of people who put themselves in the most uncomfortable situations for the sake of other people being able to experience FREEDOM at its fullest.
I think that no matter our education on Eating Disorder we can all see that the person in this disease is in chains. The only way we free them from that is by lovingly saying, “I care about you. I adore you. I’m also worried about you and I think you might have an Eating Disorder that’s killing you and it’s killing me to watch it.” Then sit there and listen. See what they say, they might deny it. They might laugh in your face. They might scream in your face (that one is always intersting ;) ) and they might (which I have also experienced) say, “How did you know? Can you help me? “
You never know what comes from loving someone. It’s scary. It’s heartbreaking, but most of the time… it’s worth it. Thanks for reading this post and thank you for answering the CALL to love someone out of their Eating Disorder.
Sep 03, 2010
Studies show that women with Eating Disorders have a stunted mental growth from the time their addictive behaviors started. Meaning if they started their behaviors at 10 and they are now 25, they still have the reasoning and emotions of a 10 year old. Part of the The Victorian treatment involves raising the clients to become women. Teaching them how to live in society without their addicitons. This is a testimony from one girl who grew into a woman during her time at The Victorian.
Dear any woman with an Eating Disorder,
If you only knew what I know now, you would prevent this nightmare from getting any worse. My name is *Kelsey Conrad, and I am an alumni of the Victorian House, a rehab for Eating Disorders in Newport Beach, California. I was in-patient there for about 6 months.. yes, SIX months..hard to believe for me, even still. I was admitted because my bulimia, anorexia, and compulsive overeating got out of control, and I struggled greatly with maintaining "abstinence" from food on a daily basis. It became a habitual cycle to be engaging in behaviors like: binging, purging, restricting food, taking laxatives, diet pills, and over-exercising. I found myself lost in my negative thought process, and realized I wasn't going anywhere I wanted to go in life, nor did i believe I was capable of doing so. After a few more years of turmoil and hopelessness, I found myself in the office at the Victorian, signing my life away for the next thirty days.
In a sense it was liberating to know that I was finally going to be taken care of, and these people are here to help me activate my life, and find my true self. The staff at the Victorian are very loving people. They are willing to do what it takes to make you reach your goal.
During this process, there were a lot of things that I had to sacrifice in order to be healthy again, and it was very hard sometimes to accept reality, and what is the most logical thing to do for my best interest. I found that keeping very busy with assignments, appointments, and activities was helpful in accelerating my recovery process. At The Victorian, there was never a dull moment. I enjoyed the meetings for the most part, but having the beach so close by wasn't too bad either. The therapist sessions were incredibly eye-opening, I was amazed at the little life lessons I learned while surrendering my disease to someone I knew could understand me. Mediation and yoga were probably my most favorite activities, not to mention all the tension I was relieved of during massage therapy. Holidays were amazing. During my stay at the Vic I missed: my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New years, Valentines day, and Saint Patrick’s Day.
At first I only thought I was staying for 30 days, but my condition was still not completely relieved until five months later. It was very hard at times, because I missed my life, my friends, my family, my job, my car and my cell phone. But I knew that the only way I was ever going to be able to stay abstinent and sober was to surrender my will and take direction. I can honestly say that The Victorian saved my life. I'm eternally grateful for the friends I've made along the way, who will still take my phone call and help me to get out of self, for the knowledge I gained on how to live my life happy, free, and sane, and for the tools I need to sustain my true value for the rest of my life.
If I can say anything to you, its please get the help you deserve, and stick with it for as long as you can. It's amazing how much self-awareness and power you gain from working a program that is a proven method for improving your life, and loving your life. Keep coming back.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the alumni.