Digesting My Shame (My struggles with Food)

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and that means a lot to many of my friends. Many more than it should, I feel in my heart, because so often eating disorders are related to trauma and abuse, or the destructive social effects in the way that people interact or experience media portrayals.

However, I am proud of these friends and so many more, and often feel appreciative of their ability to verbalize their struggles and share them with others. Food is such an intimate and necessary part of our daily lives, and thus it attracts a multitude of shame and stigma that can be hard to overcome.

So in this post today, I wanted to bring light to a new kind of eating disorder which has been rising rapidly, though it is still not a clinically recognized diagnosis just yet. It is called Orthorexia Nervosa. 

As described by the National Eating Disorder Association:  “Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”.. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise)..Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.” https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

Do you know anyone who might struggle with this, or do you yourself? Please reach out to the hotline number at the bottom of this post, or comment below to share your own experiences.

My experiences:

I have worked with a counselor for childhood related trauma and conditions for about 5 years now, and she knows more about me than most anyone else. However, I remember the day that I admitted to her that I thought I had a problem with eating, and how it was one of the hardest things I ever had to say outloud.

I know am lucky, because I am fortunate to have access to resources that many do not, including counseling, healthcare, income (though still quite limited), internet, and community.

Despite all of this, however, my struggles with food have still made me feel completely isolated among my friends and family, never quite able to describe how most days I skip food for the stress of eating something “wrong”. This “wrongness” was nurtured by many things including:

anxiety around access to food and attitudes towards food growing up

-the bombardment of healthy eating pressures in society and media

-the control over my food choices experienced while in a toxic relationship

But more than anything, it has grown out of one of my weakest abilities, which is that of self care. Self compassion is not something that I had ever focused on until the last few years, and while I’ve gotten immensely better at it in many way, I overlooked this particular element. Its strange even to me, because I’ve always fed my animals the best I possibly could, and I used to love cooking for others. And if I host someone, I always make sure that they eat 3 meals. Unfortunately, that did not translate onto the self, and for me food became so stressful not only to prepare, but simply to consume, that I just stopped.

I’ll explain: Up until recently, despite the fact that I work an extremely physical job, most weeks I  would eat what might equate to 1 meal (though definitely not a healthy or wholesome one at that). This would occur at least 5 out of the 7 days in a week, and had been going on for the better part of 2+ years. Between external and internal pressures to eat well, I just ended up skipping meals, and would be left with such little energy and time that I would resort to eating something high in calories, sugar, or fat (“its better than nothing”, “you worked hard today you’ll burn it off anyway”.)

Recognizing that my relationship with food was becoming toxic, and admitting that I had gotten myself into a bad situation with my health, was really the biggest challenge for me. I am still working with my counselor on it, waiting to see how my changes will effect my blood work, and I am still populating the hang outs with close friends with more dialogue about food than I would like too, but I’m getting somewhere.

I know I am fortunate that my struggles with eating, whether or not they are technically considered a disorder, are still manageable and reversible at this point. Because I also suffer from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I am putting all of my extra money towards a functional doctor, who has a nutrionist on staff, and that makes it even easier for me (Diet is a large part of healing the chronic condition).

Overall, I can rationalize that I have a lot of support and that there are easy ways to get back into eating well. But despite that and the fact that I like to make light of it most of the time because I know its rooted in irrational thought and behavior..every day is still an enormous effort for me.

It is easy to feel fatigued, isolated, and drained from struggles regarding food (physically, emotionally, and mentally). That is real, and that is okay. You just do your best everyday.

Please take this week, and some time every week, to consider those in your life that might also have struggles around food and weight, and to be kind. Remember that commenting on someone’s weight, no matter their size, crosses a very personal line, no matter how close you are to them. Wait for them to bring it up if they feel comfortable, or find a different way to approach it. Help out by following the links on the “Get Involved”  page of the NEDA. Also, remember that not every person who has had an eating disorder wants it to be part of their identity, to be viewed as “in recovery” for the rest of their life. (Here is a great article that talks about why: “It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and once again, I’m not participating” )

Thank you for reading this, and making space to think a little bit more about people’s personal struggles. There is a lot of stress to carry with politics in the US changing rapidly, but it is important to make space for basic individual struggles as well.

If you, or you suspect a loved one might have an eating disorder, please..

1-800-931-2237

What crawls beneath the rock

The soil of life is fertile for conflict, growth, and expansion. When we stop to feel the vibration of the earth beneath our feet, or the warmth of the sun up above, we can hear those whispers that remind us that we are ever moving and adapting to each moment and element of our lives.

Staying grounded has been a weary challenge for me these last few weeks, stretching out muscles for organizing I forgot that I had, and exercising the voice I often quiet in order to listen better.

I love being the rock. In the midst of storm, I like to seem still. On the sunniest days, I love to absorb and reflect the heat. Whether its night or day, I love to remain singular, constant, reliable. I’m comfortable with the weight of my being, which is sometimes quite heavy: a giver and nurturer by choice.

But I am more than my surface, because what effects me extends beyond my physical barriers. What crawls beneath and around these surfaces has the ability to distill my grounding, and my focus at times. It has the power to isolate me in these sensations, and pull me inwards towards thoughts I’ve tried to leave in the crevices beneath.

All of this metaphorical talk feels lovely to my nervous mind, which wants desperately to express itself, and yet balks from a public forum in which to share. There is a reverent recognition inside me for stories shared, and how the power of shared experiences can affect life around oneself. Indeed, I fancy myself as brave, but in moments where I might be able to depict a feeling with exact phrases or an exact story, the words feel too limiting.

This woman, she hears your struggle. She feels it in her bones. There is a reason she brings such fierce passion to her organizing, because her life is about creating space for those to share in struggle, as much as it needs to be about understanding where her struggle has left her. A victim, not quite, perhaps a survivor, but also, vulnerable. As we all are.

One Billion Rising is coming; the day, the events. It is her voice, my voice, shouting from the rooftops to those who know not my recent struggles, that this woman still struggles. She struggles with cycles of emotions, the pains of grief and shame, and the fire of empowerment and connection. She is not missing, she is whole; and she is feeling, and she is loving, and she is asking you to look deeper. Her shouts move beyond her, because that is the only way that she knows how to be okay..sometimes.

3rd person makes it easier for her to say this. Emotional and psychological abuse is abuse. And it is not okay, by any means. Critical discussion and accountability are the only ways to really counter this, but with good intention many want to fall to the side of the wrongdoer, as she once did, to help him change. In this, he continues his cycle, where many will want to ask her point of view, but not be ready to hear it.

And that, is real.

She wasn’t ready to hear it herself.

But she read it to herself as a bedtime story for many nights; she found herself listening to it like a podcast on the car ride home; she found community in a sort of book club which discussed the plot holes, the character development, and the climax.

No, she wasn’t ready.

But she was ready to begin writing the epilogue.

Yes, dear readers, this woman recognizes that compassion has its limits in human nature. We often tend to stick ourselves to the wrong doer, either hoping we feel repentance for our own shame by helping them change, or channeling all our fears into hatred towards them. It is not easy to tend to those who have been hurt, reflections of ourselves. This exists in micro and macro situations, where we fall into a spectrum of diversity. Ranges of this ripple outward from curiosity, but sometimes we hesitate to get answers that would make life harder or less simple. This woman has compassion, if not understanding, for those stuck in this place.  We can only hold so much at a time.

But you see, this woman knows she is the one holding the pen to her story. She rises above this novel with grace, a grace she knows only by her own strength combined with those that have been there to place a warm palm comfortingly on her back, to mail her letters of love and encouragement, to sip tea and discuss the possibilities in life, or share their own struggles in reminder that we all have each other. She has risen before, but never with the support of such a beautiful, empowering community around her.

She is a rock, but her roots help hold her in place. Alone, but connected.

Beautiful and raw.

 

 

 

Breathing In Community

Reflections often come to me after sitting through meetings or gatherings with intention to organize around community. Even outside of comfortable parameters, these types of meetings can stir up energy, though which particular flavor it will be is dependent on how well the communication transverses between individuals.

Currently my thought streams are taking dives into all the puddles of community I have jumped into, particularly within the last 5 or 6 years. My experience as a community organizer is relatively juvenile, though I’ve tried to expose myself to different settings over time. This exposure has been with hope to gain a better awareness of where my ideologies lay, which may or may not be an exact science in the end. At the same time, I’m just stepping back into heavier organizing as I’ve had to take some time to reflect on these experiences and my life in question.

And so, this evening, as I drove home, I realized a simple concept.

I need community- much like I need water, or air. It is something that I cannot exist without, and would not chose to either. Through any ups and downs, my gratitude for my community glows. I breathe in community, and I breathe out community.

To be an effective community organizer, one must try to replicate the lungs that fill our chests and give rise to our voices. We must be able to balance breathing in, expanding, filling, and taking, as we must be able to breathe out, contracting, emptying, and giving. Sometimes, these fluctuations are grand movements, and other times, they are minor shifts. But together, they give continuous vitality to our purpose. If we stop breathing, that purpose dies. We exist, but without meaning. 

This was an incredible revelation for me, as often guilt has encompassed my desire to step outside the realm of active organizing and into the realm of passive support. My energies at time ebb and flow so dramatically between attending as many meetings as possible, or the need for self care, reading, and solitude.

It occurs in this way that is partially why we have seen such standstills in our country, the uneven exchange of air being recycled through our beings. Or why we often seem to find a frenzy of information seeking after a dramatic blow to our system- that sharp intake that kicks us into gear and forces us to exhale. Or those marathons where we find that we need those frequent little inhales to allow us to push through.

The sooner we become aware of this need, and allow ourselves to connect to it, hopefully the more empowered our communities can become. In these times, it is definitely a necessity.

 

Present and (Un)Accounted for

Its funny.. One of the reasons my mind bristles at writing these blog posts is because it can’t stand the idea of writing another first person monologue and exposing it to the masses as though its published presence would have an effect on someone else’s life.

And yet, I am touched by the little snippets and parts of people’s lives that I experience constantly. There is something vain about posting these things, and perhaps there is a call for validation included within their worded confines, but most of all.. writing these thoughts just gives my thoughts a place to exist.

I’ve worked as many hours as possible since around the year I turned 16, freshly licensed and able to transport myself. When not completing paying work, instead I found volunteer work, activist work, or even just friend work to keep me occupied. This is a pattern I have succeeded in recognizing several times,.. and failed to fix several times as well. All the best strategies have been at my fingertips for several years, trends that have now exploded across our capitalism consumed country: yoga, meditation, journaling, etc..

At times, my own age doesn’t even seem real to me. I will be 25 in just a couple weeks, and I’ve been acting like I’m in my 30’s since way before my time. The mortality of it all doesn’t cause me much stress, but the reality of limited time and energy does. I have BIG dreams and plans, so much to do and the desire to do all of it right now. But with the occupation I’ve chosen, business ownership included, I’ve left little space for me to explore beyond the realms of familiar.

However, coming back to this blog, I’ve realized its important to me, because in my daily life I hardly have the time for all these thoughts to work themselves out and stop tangling within their own beautiful contortions. In fact, scarce is the time to devote the energy to this passion of mine, or the fantasies that I so desperately crave.

..To really be as present as I wish to be with others, I need to be more present with myself.

So where’s that start button? Oh yeah.. I guess it would be “publish”.

Thank you for reading.

My Awkward Embrace (and Emotional One Night Stands)

(from 9/26/16)

I don’t always say the right thing or follow the right formula.

Most of my 25 years of life, in the beginnings of my relationships with friends and lovers, I’ve taken what I have and laid it out on the table from the get go. A lot of what I have to show isn’t the prettiest, the corners of past situations or experiences often stained or torn at the edges, and the present definitely a bit cluttered. But I’ll punctuate it with my own hand crafted sense of humor when the goings get too serious.. unless this new person happens to share a lack of inhibitions about opening their heart, in which case we both tumble along.

Though I’ve gathered a slightly more conservative touch to this approach in the last few years, I realize again with a different angle that I’m just not good at small talk. I earnestly want to connect, be authentic, and be myself around others. I will admit that that I still have a long way to go towards authenticity, as sometimes verbal processing lends itself to a selfishness I don’t know how to avoid. But I’ve found that instead of pouring a drink to hang out and relate to others, I pour out myself, and I’ve done this my whole life.

If you are a friend, a lover, or a family member of mine, than you have gotten used to this awkward embrace of mine. Like the thoughts I have that I feel the need to clarify through questions-feeling energy and wondering where it comes from. Analyzing where assumptions come in. I read body language, tone of voice, and other little signs that all make me curious about the person I am interacting with. I am curious, analytic, and compassionate- so I tend to end up worrying at times.  I used to think that this was a bad combination of things, given to me through anxiety and trauma. But now I recognize that they are me. 

 Of course, the way I interact with people often leads me to emotional one night stands. Many a time have I shared a deep conversation with someone, the kind of conversation that gets your gut feeling funny and your head feeling light- the vortex of their desire to connect a great energy draw. They offer to me that they don’t normally connect with people this deeply; that they’re not usually so honest or open about what they are going through.

And then, they are gone.

I used to mourn and feed negativity into these situations. After something so intimate, its easy to cultivate a sense of loss. But through reflection and growth, I now see them more as beautiful, unique gifts of time- moments and experiences I share with others that temporarily embrace the world I want there to be: one where we can speak from our hearts, share our pain, and hold space for each other.. a place of listening and empathy.

Honestly, a lot of my  self-perpetuated anxiety has subsided by embracing my awkwardness, and I do believe that my willingness to share and hold space has helped bring a bit of the light into the world that I feel it needs. Being so open, it is quite a challenge though. It comes with depression at times, and exhaustion. That’s why its so important for me to hold onto my gratitude about experiences and to allow myself to remove attachment to them.

..Easier said than done.

But no matter what I experience, I still embrace my awkwardness, my openness, and my passion to hold space. My life has been so full because of it.

 

The exhale of vulnerability (11/7/16)

Sitting here, enjoying the soft autumn sunlight and the quietness of Monday morning, I find myself finally able to sit down and collect my thoughts and interactions from the last week. Much the same way I pick up the forgotten lukewarm mug of tea on my counter, and swirl it as I look down into its content, I find myself trying to look into all of these experiences, stirring them and trying to figure out this feeling is I have in my chest.

Vulnerability.

It is not something that I intentionally cherished growing up.

In a home where chaos and volatility saturated the air like an overly powerful oil diffuser, I learned to hold my breath in, tight to my chest. The best method of living there was more closely akin to survival, getting through the days, months, and years by existing as much outside of it physically or emotionally as possible. Breathing in would only cause your chest to burn and your eyes to water, and that made it much harder to get to safety.

When I put 8 hours of distance between myself and that house, those experiences, it became much easier to breathe. But the habit had been formed, and much the same way my body found it impossible to exhale under the storm of a panic attack, I found myself still wanting to hold that breath tight inside me emotionally as well. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. The inclination to hold things in while I curled around them.

Do you recall elementary and middle school, when they loved to ask you: Who is your hero? I never had an answer to that question. I always skipped it when possible, or gave a vague response. I hadn’t found my heros yet.

Now, I can think of faces, voices, names. And beyond Brene Brown, they are probably not names you would be familiar with unless you live here in Portland with me. These people, they taught me how to be vulnerable: what it looks like, what it feels like, and its power. Ironically speaking (Or maybe not), a lot of these people practice meditation, and breath work. They are my heros not because of singular actions, but because of the way they live with intention.

I am grateful that I can sit here now, sleepy with the travels from my weekend, and find myself exhaling vulnerability. Recently, I have spent a lot of time having one on one conversations, able to bring my experiences to the table along with my compassion. I am grateful because many of these recent conversations have been with women, and historically speaking, those have been the most delicate and powerful connections in my life.

The joy that I am experiencing.. it is quiet, and bubbling, and unique. It is a lasting joy, the kind that you wake up with the next morning and still smile from. I used to think being vulnerable was terrifying, and in some ways, it still is. Not every time you choose to be open and vulnerable is well received. But it is always freeing. It connects me to my inner truth, and allows me to be present.

I am grateful for my vulnerability. I am grateful for my experiences. I am grateful for the strength and the peace that allows me to embrace vulnerability. I am grateful.. to exhale.

Stumbling in Identities We Never Truly Saw

October 16th,2016

Who I am? To pretend that I might be superior over someone else, or that others should be more like me? You’re right, I am no one in that respect. But it is interesting to question who one’s self is when you peel the layers of expectations away from them, even those of moral superiority. Can we ever truly do such a thing?

This post is prompted by an examination of a loss that is recent to me. Its the loss of a close and intimate friendship I had, and what that friendship taught me and gave me. Or, I should say, its the perception of a friendship I had, and the selfish desire to understand how that loss impacts me now.

Yes, I say selfish, and I try not to shy from that concept because often we are motivated by survival and a desire to feel good about ourselves. Psychologically speaking, kindness is even equated to these motives, though that doesn’t mean to negate the value of the actions themselves. Selfishness is thought to be wrong, and in our culture today belongs to a world of good and bad, black and white. But we all know deep down that there is truly no absolutes in this life (a fact I was confronted with at a young age when I realized that some people actually don’t like chocolate..who knew? Haha)

But we learn and grow and thrive from our own selfishness and the selfishness of others. Its the awkwardness of being complimented for something we’ve done, or thanking another person for speaking their mind. Its the extreme ability for us to learn and gain something about ourselves when someone has taken selfish actions to hurt us.

However, selfishness is not an excuse for any action.

Yes, there comes a time in one’s life when you begin to understand why other people cause pain. Its an unfortunate side effect of opening up to others, nurturing deep connections, and being accessible to happiness and pain. Its part of choosing to be vulnerable. That understanding is empathy, and self reflection. They are also part of what has allowed us to forgive ourselves for indiscretions in the past, or allow us to forgive ourselves presently for not realizing sooner what was to come.

We stumble through this life, guessing and hurting, and healing and trying. If we’re lucky, we are able to find a peace of mind that we share in the suffering of billions around us-that we are not alone. But we are lucky also, in that we get to define that suffering for ourselves. We can be selfish through lies and manipulations, because we are too scared to face what we have too, and because we are too afraid of losing something we never allowed ourselves to have in the first place. Or we can be selfish by being honest, and wanting to share moments and feelings and thoughts with others.

I choose the second option as much as possible (realizing that we often fall into the inbetween). This doesn’t make me better than anyone else, even if it makes me personally feel better about myself. But it does make it harder to respond to the first. They are: different cultures; different languages. At this point in time, I need to solidify my own being, my own question of “Who am I?” before I can fully accept or understand the first. I need to recognize its elements within myself, and how to protect myself from it outside of myself.

The month of September has been a continous stumbling for me. Stumbling into truths, stumbling into feelings, stumbling into realizations. I wish I could say that I’ve come to peace with the recent loss of a best friend, but there are moments when that doesn’t feel true. And yet, that is the cycle of grief, so perhaps I can say in some ways, that there is peace.

The truth that has really bruised me this month, as it does everytime I encounter it- is that when we seek out others to connect too, we must be aware of what we are looking for in the relationship ourselves. What do we need or desire from that relationship, and how does that change its shape? What indeed does it make us over look? With this awareness, comes a certain self confidence, and the faith to adhere to our intuition. Without it, we blindly move throughout, and can lose sight of who another person actually is or what they are motivated by.

That is much easier said than done, and no reason to blame a person who has fallen victim to emotional abuse for not realizing its snares before the worst is uncovered. We all make decisions, but sometimes, it would seem, one person has an unfair advantage over the other person. This is as their own need to surivive can be colored in such a way that would seem to compliment that with whom they are connecting with.

Its curious how individual each trauma we experience can seem. What I have seemed to learn over the years is that no matter what, we must trust ourselves. But, when it comes to others, we must balance trust and caution. If not, we fall into patterns of trusting the wrong persons, because we feel guilt for our distrust, though the distrust comes from valid experiences. The effects of this society that works so hard to manifest distrust of others while constantly speaking of bettering ourselves (both internally and externally) , creates a distrust in ourselves most of all.

Though I have been thinking about all this and more, at this time it that does mean a person is lost to me. And perhaps, they were always a different person anyway. But in the end, it is something that just is, and not something I can blame myself for. Life happens, and with it, we must continue to adapt..

This post has been relatively vague, so I’ll end it with a favorite quote of mine. Thank you for reading.

“…People are rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It is not fair then, to treat people as if they are finished beings. Everyone is always becoming and unbecoming.” -Kathleen Winter

^^ Remember this quote for yourselves, dear ones. And share your compassion with yourselves first.