A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

It wasn't you, it was me.

I know it sounds cliché, but I guess cliché doesn't necessarily make things less true. So, really, in complete seriousness:

It wasn't you, it was me.

All you have ever done was love me. Protect me. Aid me in self-expression and spirit. Without you I wouldn't have spent years on the soccer pitch feeling invincible. I wouldn't have gotten the closest I can to flying with gymnastics. I wouldn't have kicked Jared's ass in jousting in 5th grade. I wouldn't have been able to discover a new love for snowboarding, laugh properly using my whole self, run just to see how fast I could go. I wouldn't have been able to hug Joe before he died or take Niyadog on so many walks and adventures after waiting for her for 21 years.

It is not like we haven't had our struggles. Our other chronic illnesses are a daily battle now, I still often wrestle with my mind, and I know I get angry with you sometimes, but none of it is your fault. I think I pushed you too hard for too long when the only thing you have ever done is tried give me everything—and so much of what I asked for was so unfair.

It wasn't you. It was me. There were things about myself I didn't like, fears and feelings I couldn't handle. I wanted to be so much—everything and nothing at all. And the depression didn't help. My mind and it's miswiring. There was just so much I didn't understandbright and heavy colors or feelings or pains that built up and soon expanded or melted (I don't really know) into hatred. I was mad at you for not being what I wanted you to be, for what I thought I needed you to be. And I didn't know how else to deal with it. I thought if you and I could just do a little bit more—on the inside and the outside—things would get fixed. I thought that because I felt so ugly on the inside, that if I could be beautiful on the outside, some of that would seep through. That I would be happy.

And you tried. You tried so hard because you remembered all those summers we spent running through sprinklers and playing tennis against the chipped garage door. You tried because you loved the hike we took to the top of a 14,000 ft mountain, the boys we made swear during hockey. You tried because when we spent those nights in the backyard, kicking the soccerball against the wall, it felt like the universe had shrunk. That the culmination of time and stardust was this simple and beautiful moment: late afternoons (some laden with crickets, some heavy with the Colorado winter) dropping into dusk, dusk fading further until house-corner floodlights popped on, the constant often-rhythmic snap of grass beneath feet after a chip, or a particularly sound kick echoing against the mountains. The stars and the night and a girl and her dreams.

You tried so hard because you wanted it back. You wanted me back. But I hated you. You had done nothing but help me chase my ambitions, love me, and yet I hated you because I was in so much pain.

Even more, you tried to tell me. So many times in so many different ways, and I didn't listen. At first, gently prodding me about our limitations, how they aren't bad—how heeding them would mean we could do more together. That if we took care of each other we could take on the world. You tried so hard, prodding giving way to pleading, but I didn't listen; I didn't want to hear it. So you continued on as best as you could. Struggling to give me everything when I gave you nothing.

I am sorry.

It is a love I didn't completely understand. One I still don't. Especially considering how I spent so much of my life destroying you. And even though I have tried my best to remedy this, some days I still find myself saying things I think I mean. I still get angry or hurt or I am overwhelmed with feeling. And you wait patiently, knowing I will find my way back. Because the truth is you are powerful and so strong and maybe that scares me a little sometimes.

So, no matter what, I will fight. I have fought for 9 years and I will keep fighting just as you have fought for me. And I promise I will keep trying to listen, even if it's hard for me to hear at times, because all of my favorite memories exist because of you. As are, I know, all my favorite memories to come.

Love,
Sarah

Eating Disorders are an Invisible Illness

Only recently have I realized that not many people understand that eating disorders are, in fact, an invisible illness.

Image borrowed from  Screen Relish

Image borrowed from Screen Relish

So I'm going to say this louder for the people in the back because it's very, very important:

you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.

It's kind of like you can't tell if someone has diabetes just by his/her appearance. Sure, some may need a insulin pump just like some disorders may cause the person to be very frail, but eating disorders do not discriminate. No matter how much you weigh, what you look like, your socioeconomic status, your gender, your race, your religion, your age, your sexual orientation... eating disorders can, and do, affect everyone.

I have no doubt this misunderstanding has been perpetuated by the media's often macabre focus on anorexia—blasting their articles with shocking "before and after" photos and bold headlines that state the person's extreme low weight. And while talking about the deadliest mental illness is important, there is so much being overlooked and left out, and that is far more damaging than people may realize.

Often, a big component of these illnesses is the lie that "you aren't enough". In direct relation to the eating disorder, it often becomes "you aren't sick enough to have an ED", or "you aren't thin enough to have an ED". This is continually enabled by the aforementioned articles, as well as the misunderstanding of people in general. (Not to mention medical personnel, but that's a whole other rant for me to get into another day.I cannot tell you how many people I've heard say they don't think they have an eating disorder because their BMI (which is a crap measure of health to begin with)/their weight/whatever doesn't qualify or isn't "enough". Not to mention people having said such things to them (i.e. "You weigh too much to have an eating disorder." "Men don't get eating disorders.") And with an illness as dangerous as these, when early intervention is vital, that false belief can literally mean life and death.

Besides—when it comes down to the nitty gritty—eating disorders aren't about weight anyway. It's a far more sinister internal struggle that manifests in the person's relationship with food. But, still, many people are kicked out of treatment programs when they reach a "healthy weight " even though that does not, by any means, mean they are cured of their disorder. In fact, some people have been refused treatment or insurance coverage because they don't meet a certain criteria.

Certainly doesn't help combat that falsity that "you aren't thin enough to be sick", yeah?

It's a dangerous and difficult path to wager as someone who struggles with a disorder as well as those around them who care, and I would encourage people to check out Types & Symptoms of Eating Disorders by NEDA. Listed there are ones which have a clinical diagnosis under the DSM-5. But some—like orthorexia nervosa—aren't listed and aren't in the DSM-5 (another avenue which can lead to feelings of not being "sick enough" etc.) However, all eating disorderswhether recognized in the DSM, have other variations, disordered eating, etc.are valid; there is no hierarchy.

And we, as a whole and as individuals, must start looking past the outside and start seeing the invisible.

Sarah

If I missed a disorder of any kind please let me know so I can add it; it is important to me that all are represented.

What Does National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Mean?

In addition to reflecting on what National Eating Disorder Awareness Week represents to me (awareness, of course. But also advocacy? Ending stigma?), I have been considering trying to write a blog post of some kind every day during #NEDAW (Feb. 21 - 27th). Which is a big thing considering I'm actually making a structured goal, let alone one that requires consistency.

I know all two of you must be asking, Who are you and what have you done with, Sarah?! But she's still here, as demonstrated by how I've spent the entire day thinking, "Well, do I really have anything to say about eating disorders? What if I've already said all the stuff I can speak to ?"

I have my personal experiences which are, of course, extremely important. I have ideas and opinions I've gleaned from reading, listening, learning, and reflecting. But I am not the most structured, factually focused person out there. Also, I've never really aligned myself with 'advocacy'; not because I have anything against it, but that I approach things with the viewpoint of writing what I know and if someone gets something from it, all the better! Lastly, there are many extremely intelligent people I follow on Twitter who have done their research, remembered their research, and can translate that research into something streamlined and accessible (i.e. Andrea LaMarre is brilliant!)

That's not me, though. That isn't how my mind operates. And the majority of the time I'm OK with that, but as I was reading through post after post of great information today that I am thrilled is getting out there, it was difficult not to look at my blank little blog page and think, "Well, what am I going to write about that hasn't already been written about, and written better?"

Honestly, I still don't know for sure. But I spent last week searching for people who would want to share their experiences with eating disorders. I can only speak to what I went through, but eating disorders are vast, in addition to anorexia and bulimia (which are only recently beginning to be talked about) there is EDNOS (Eating disorder not otherwise specified)/OSFED (Other specified feeding or eating disorder), BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), BED (binge eating disorder), among others. And I feel it is vital that every narrative about EDs are heard. Disordered eating included, as it is a huge stepping stone toward the previously mentioned illnesses.

The awesome Eye Still Brave contacted me to share, for which I am excited! But no one else responded. Which is completely fine, of course, but it got me wondering why that was. I know EDs thrive on isolation, guilt, shame, and silence. Speaking up, about anything, is hard—especially regarding something as personal and difficult as an eating disorder. And I understand people not being ready or not even wanting to share experiences.

But it got me thinking that even IF everything about eating disorders has already been written (unlikely) or the things I'm trying to say have been expressed better/differently (possibly (with also a nod to the fact this might be perfectionism trying to sneak in)), I probably still ought to keep shouting into the void anyway. Because I can't tell everyone else his/her/their experience is valid and worth telling (which I truly believe, through and through) if I think I've written all I can write about my experiences/thoughts about eating disorders.

So, in short, I've decided that to me National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is about speaking up. Even—especially—when I think it's already been better said. Because 1) that kinda sounds like something the ED voice in my head would want me to believe and 2) really, even if it has already been said, that doesn't mean it any less important or tru

So, we will see how this blog-a-day goal works with my here-to-there self (and the acceptance, of course, if it doesn't work!).  But in the meantime, if you're ready—and no matter what it is that might make you hesitate— speak boldly, my friends!

- Sarah

 

Also, if you want to speak up and don't have a platform, or would like to share your blog regarding eating disorder (I don't post anything with numbers), then don't hesitate to leave me a comment or shoot me a message!

POEM: Everything You Need Is Already Inside You

There are no tools of man
for cleaning out
the gutters of the mind.

It comes after,
long after,
the smothered labor
of foundation,
and its undoing. 
Because the past has settled and held
you forever, you see—
so how are you to know
you stand on snake coils
and poisoned rods?
How are you to know there
are better things
than these faded crosses.

But after that
after the arduous and surreal revelation,
the excavation
of childhood
which fell and was forgotten
beneath a front porch
June fray of correction,
you realize
roots have grown
in your heart
(they can wriggle through
stone, you know.
I know because
my heart was once stone).
And it
is only when
you pull those up
like a vine,
leaving chasms in your body
where water rushes in,
when your soul has been gutted
by exhaustion and
your heart
has been purified
and partitioned
to a prototype,
when you think
it is finally finished,
then
then!
is when you must dig
your knees into the dirt
and scrape away the last bits of muck
with your goddamn hands.
Because
there are no tools of man
for cleaning out
the gutters of the mind.

© s.e. carson

 

Recovery and "The Moth"

One of the best sentiments and explanations of recovery I ever found came from a TV show. 

That might be silly, but it was so profound to me that, at the time, I was brought to tears. And to this day, I still think about it often. Sometimes dissecting the depth of it. Sometimes just letting it drape over me without any real thought.

So, on second thought, I guess there isn't anything silly about that. Because that's what art does.

Anyhoo, it was an episode of Lost which (I've found) to be sort of a polarizing TV show. So, if you're on the "eh" end of the spectrum, hang with me here because it's worth it. I promise. :) A few days after they crashed on the island Charlie, drug addict, begins going through withdrawl. Previously, he had given his remaining stash to John Locke, telling Lock to keep it from him.

CHARLIE: You hear what I said? I want my drugs back! I need them!

LOCKE: Yet you gave them to me. Hmmm.

CHARLIE: And bloody well regret it. I’m sick, man. Can’t you see that?

LOCKE: I think you’re a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I’m gonna prove it to you... I’ll let you ask me for your drugs three times. And the third time...? I’m going to give them to you. Now. Just so we’re clear.

CHARLIE: Why-- Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just throw them away -- Get rid of ‘em and be done with it!

LOCKE: If I did that, you wouldn’t have a choice, Charlie.

Choice is an entirely different part of recovery I think, but that's something I'll have to muse over and write about later.

In summary, though, Charlie's withdrawl eventually worsens, and he comes back asking Locke to give him his drugs for the second time...

CHARLIE: I want my stash, Locke. I can’t stand... feeling like this.

LOCKE: Let me show you something... (Points out a cocoon on a tree trunk) What do you suppose is in this cocoon, Charlie?

CHARLIE: I dunno. Butterfly, I guess.

LOCKE: No. It’s much more beautiful than that. This is a moth cocoon. Ironic. Butterflies get all the attention. But moths? They spin silk. They’re stronger. Faster...

CHARLIE: Yeah. Wonderful. What’s the --

LOCKE: See this tiny hole? This moth’s almost ready to emerge. It’s in there right now, struggling, digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now I could help it, take my knife, gently widen the opening... And the moth would be free. But it’d be too weak to survive...

The struggle is nature’s way of strengthening it.

 

Now, there's an entire other conversation to have about the interaction between Locke and Charlie, what each of them are doing, how healthy/unhealthy it is for recovery, etc. But this post isn't about that. This post is about that little cocoon with the moth inside, fighting to get out and be free once and for all.

And that is the image I carry with me on my recovery. Most especially in the beginning when there were many relapses and sliding backwards and hatredfrustrationanger that now when I had decided I wanted to get better I still "wasn't".

But the struggle is part of recovery. Not just a "well, that's just how it goes and the way things work" part. But, I feel, a truly miraculous and necessary part. And, with the help of this two minutes, I was able to see that my struggles were actually aiding me. The sliding backwards, the relapses -- they were still moving me forward in my recovery because they were strengthening me in ways I needed to be. In self-understanding, in patience, in forgiveness, in determination, in conviction.

When you're in the mix of it, though, it definitely doesn't feel that way. Because that's what the eating disorder wants you to think -- that those moments mean you are weak. But, in actuality, it means you, and your recovery, are becoming an even greater force of nature. If I backslid again, I could remind myself that I have before, but that I was also able to right my ship. I had the strength to do that. Me. Myself. I had the choice and I kept choosing recovery. And a recovery with relapses and struggles, I think, might be stronger than one that is "perfect".

It’s frustrating for me –- I can't seem to find the words explain how I feel about it. I really wish I could, though. Because, now, that part of recovery -- that horrible, tortuous, hope shattering, drowning-in-guilt, "I can't even do this right" part -- strikes me at as something inexpressibly and achingly beautiful.

Because we can look at those moments and know we have been forged by fire.


("The Moth" script borrowed from: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/105_moth_network.pdf)