I Didn’t Take a Year Off and Neither Should You

I Didn’t Take a Year Off and Neither Should You

 

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My recovery required that I stop doing two of the things I loved most. I couldn’t go to school and I couldn’t do any cardio activities. I was pissed. I was angry and sorry for myself and I couldn’t understand why those two things had to be taken from me.

I remember thinking, “How will I survive quitting running and school? How can I ever be successful?”

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You WILL Screw Up

You WILL Screw Up

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This semester has been a challenge for me academically. I have had to start two additional blogs for my already writing heavy classes and regularly post content to them– which is honestly why I have not posted here lately #oops.

I love it. I know that I am learning a lot.

Yet I still sometimes cry my eyes out at 1 a.m. in frustration at all of the work I have to do.

Why? Because learning freaking hurts. 

Yeah, okay, so that’s cliche *eye roll*. Everyone knows that school will suck and you won’t always get an A. It is fairly easy to rationalize screwing up in school.

It is much more difficult, however, to accept the same kind of mistakes when it comes to recovery from mental illness.

I’ve been in a stable place for about a year. I’ve been living on my own for six months. I would say that, overall, things are great…but I still screw up… big time.

I learn and it hurts.

When it happens, I think to myself, “I should be better than this by now. I shouldn’t make these kinds of mistakes. Does this mean I am relapsing? Why can’t I just be normal?

One particular incident has been replaying in my head for the past two weeks.

I was asked to cover an event for one of my journalism classes. We had to live tweet the event and then write a story within 24 hours.

I was incredibly nervous. I had never done something like this before. When I am nervous or stressed, my eating disorder symptoms become my coping mechanisms.

I don’t even realize that it is happening.

The event was at 7 p.m. I didn’t eat dinner before because my eating disorder told me:

  • I wasn’t hungry (truth: I was hungry)
  • I thought I looked huge (truth: I am not)
  • I didn’t “have enough time” (truth: I had plenty of time)
  • I wanted to be in control (truth: clearly, my eating disorder is in control here)
  • The event would be over at 9:30, not a ridiculous time to have dinner (truth: it is a ridiculous time when you haven’t fed yourself since noon.)

I went to the event without dinner. I had prepared notes ahead of time full of questions and detailed research, though!

The research was absolutely useless.

My brain was cloudy, I was cold and shaky, and I could barely focus on the speakers. I could have had a snack at the reception that was held… right? No, I couldn’t.

Those with eating disorders respond to hunger  differently than most people. I had a, “hunger high,” and that is not a melodramatic term. My brain reacts to hunger in the same way that a drug addict’s brain responds to heroin. The hungrier I am, the more difficult it is to eat and I know this to be true.

So, I was there: I asked the wrong questions, took terrible notes, did not fully engage with people and couldn’t remember most of the important details.

Oh, and the event ran an hour longer than I expected.

When I got home I denied that my lack of dinner had anything to do with how the night went. After all, I can accept academic screw-ups when I am legitimately struggling with material. Perhaps I just don’t really know how to cover a live event…

PUH-LEASE. It didn’t take me long to slap myself back to reality (after I ate dinner, to be honest.)

I KNOW how to adequately cover a story, write a lede and ask good questions.

I screwed up in my recovery.

You know what? That is okay. I am managing a chronic illness. I focus on it 24/7 and I do a damn good job.

I made a mistake. Will it happen again? Yes. Will it be fun? No. Will I learn from it? Absolutely.

I learned that my straight-A’s are achieved by a nourished body and mind. I learned that I can’t connect intelligently with other people when my mind is being tormented by my eating disorder. I learned that I need better stress management skills. I learned that screwing up in recovery does not mean that I have failed.

I woke up the next morning and I  didn’t skip breakfast, didn’t overdo my workout, didn’t self-harm and didn’t pick myself apart in the mirror. I laughed with my roommates, went to my classes, followed my workout plan, took a walk and drank some tea.

I moved forward.

and I will not be skipping dinner because of my nerves again.

No matter what you are recovering from — depression, addiction, OCD, bulimia, orthorexia, anorexia, self-harm, anxiety, etc. — know that you WILL screw up.

You will screw up… and it will suck.

That’s how you know you are doing everything right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Not to Say This Holiday Season

What Not to Say This Holiday Season

For most people, the holidays are wonderful. They are full of  family, friends, laughter and love.

For people who struggle with things such as illness, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and familial difficulties, the holidays can bring tremendous stress and anxiety.

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The best way to help everyone have a stress-less holiday season is to be conscious of what comes out of our mouths- shocker, I know.  It is easier said than done, though. I have compiled a list of things NOT to say this holiday season. Many of them are seemingly normal. They are ingrained in our culture and I hear them WAY too often and I even catch  myself saying them sometimes… without even realizing it.

1. “I ate so much, I need to workout tomorrow!” First of all, GET REAL. This is not a healthy mindset for anyone… but chances are, its just a natural comment for you. You don’t mean that you are going to go to the gym tomorrow and spend hours and hours torturing yourself because you indulged a bit at the office Christmas party. You probably mean that you might go for a 30 minute jog. You don’t mean that you are going to starve yourself for the next week. You probably mean you are going to get in some extra greens. What about your co-worker with an eating disorder, though? They see that you ate far less than they did and then think to themselves, “Well I better spend three hours in the gym tomorrow and then skip lunch and dinner.” INSTEAD: Try commenting on how grateful you are to have such delicious food. Compliment whoever baked the cookies, ask for the muffin recipe.

 

2. “WOW, thats a lot of….” … “Oh you are going back for seconds?” … “I thought you didn’t eat junk food!” This one is simple DO NOT comment on people’s plates. Especially the last comment. In the depths of my disorder I only ate “healthy foods.” When I began recovering, I made an effort to incorporate new foods that were not considered “healthy.” Trying these new foods was terrifying. My eating disorder told me I was worthless for “giving in.” People didn’t realize that when they reminded me I wasn’t eating my usual “healthy” way, they were backing up my eating disorder.

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3.”OH PLEASE COME, I WILL MISS YOU SO MUCH.” If someone cancels plans around the holidays, declines your party invite, or chooses another engagement over yours, give them the gift of saying “okay.” Don’t guilt them by saying you will really miss them or that it wont be the same without them. I know those are “polite” automatic responses but for someone with anxiety, it is a response that translates to, “you are letting me down by not coming.” You don’t always know the true reason someone declines an invitation. The kindest host will simply say, “okay.”

4. “You look so much healthier.” People who are in recovery are particularly sensitive about their body. This comment may come from a good place but to them it means, “you look so much fatter.” It is best not to comment on other people’s bodies at all – because everything else aside, it just isn’t helpful. People are not their exterior, they are so much more. Don’t tell people they have the best legs, the straightest teeth, the nicest butt, or the skinniest waist. Tell people that they make you happy, that they are so funny, that you are so glad to see them, compliment their outfit choice. Be genuine, be thoughtful. Body compliments are a cheap shot anyways.

5. “How do you eat so much but stay so skinny!?” The person who you say this too might be trying very hard to gain weight. What you are really saying when you say this is, ” What makes you special is that you are skinny.” It also says, ” you are eating an unreasonable amount.” There is no alternative for this comment. It goes back to number 2. DO NOT comment on people’s food.

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6. “Are you getting help?” When someone you love is suffering, it is hard to remain silent when it comes to their health care. The problem is, if you do not live with them, you don’t see what goes on behind closed doors. A better way to share your concern without staging a holiday intervention is to talk to their primary guardian/ parent/ spouse at a separate point in time. Ask them what steps are being taken, share that you are concerned and ask if there is anything you can do. Do not make assumptions, do not be confrontational, and be patient.

7. Suicide jokes, self-harm jokes, bulimia jokes, OCD jokes. This may seem obvious but the amount of times I have heard these kinds of jokes at a social gathering is astounding. Use common sense and think before telling your jokes.

8.”Who are you dating/ are you still dating?” … “What do you do?” … “So are you having a baby?” These questions are LOADED. If you answer no, you are subject to judgment, guilt, and disappointment. Society tells us that to be successful, we must answer these questions with positive answers. In reality, there are a multitude of reasons that someone may CHOOSE to not date, have a high-paying job, or have kids. It doesn’t mean they are not successful, hardworking, loving people.

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9. Talking about your diet/ exercise routine. Maybe your doctor has put you on a diet or maybe you are just working hard on your personal health. That is a WONDERFUL thing but it is not something that should be pushed outwards for attention. Talking about your diet or exercise habits only serves YOU. This even includes specialized diets such as vegan and paleo. Other people might not be CAPABLE of keeping up with exercise or diet styles because of physical or emotional limitations. Giving up running for almost a whole year of my life was the most painful thing I ever had to do. Hearing others brag about their runs was grueling. Similarly, hearing about how people “successfully” cut their intake to 1200 calories made me feel HORRIBLE about my high-calorie recovery intake.

In the end, just remember to T.H.I.N.K  especially around the holidays. I know it is is  corny but it’s damn good advice:

Is it TRUE, HELPFUL, INSPIRING, NECESSARY and KIND? (P.s. The answer must be yes to ALL five letters)

 

 

 

Because We Are Door-Holders

Because We Are Door-Holders

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One of my professors recently asked my class the following questions:

1. What made you choose St. Bonaventure?

2. What are the similarities of the people who are in the “Bona-Bubble” (the Bonaventure community)?

My answer to both of these questions is the same and I didn’t even have to think about it: I go to St. Bonaventure because we are all door-holders.

If you spend 15 minutes on the Bonaventure campus, you will see what I mean. Walk towards the door of any building and I can guarantee that the person walking through it is going to wait for you.  They will wait even if you are an awkward 20-30 feet away, even if it’s raining or snowing, even if you are both 10 minutes late for class.

When I came to tour St. Bonaventure as a high school student, the door-holders are what sold me.   I watched students rushing to classes, to the library or to the dining hall and I noticed how each person would patiently wait for the next as they walked through the doors. I noticed it because I had not seen it before.

Bonaventure did not offer the grand facilities, variety of programs or notoriety that some larger schools did but  it was the only one where I could feel  the kindness. Yes, I realize that “feel the kindness” sounds incredibly corny but it’s a real feeling.

I  asked around to see if I was the only one who noticed. I quickly found that I am definitely not the only person who notices that we are all door-holders. We all do it.  No one has ever made it a rule or purposefully preserved its existence, there is no ulterior motive involved. So, what makes it happen?

I believe it continues  because St. Bonaventure creates an environment where we realize that something as simple as holding the door says,  “I am going to stop for you, right now, because you are a part of this community and you matter.” There are many reasons I love my school  but  this one is the backbone of all those other reasons.

Sometimes as I’m running on the treadmill at the Richter, I watch a prospective student tour walk by and I just want to shout to the guide, “DID YOU TELL THEM WE ARE ALL DOOR-HOLDERS?!?”

I’m proud to go to school with a bunch of door-holders. Go Bonas! 🙂

Learning to Love High-Calorie Foods

Learning to Love High-Calorie Foods

Before I left for school, my mom and I went shopping for easy grab-and-go snacks that I could keep in my dorm. The search for new snacks made me realize how much my attitude towards calories has changed in the past year. This is an exact exchange between my Mom and I:

Mom: “Mike these snack bags look good… what do you think”

Me: “They look okay but 100 calories just doesn’t cut it”

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