Monday, July 21, 2014

my lifecoach is a bossypants

but apparently that's what i need. not eating protein with breakfast? "how about a fucking hard-boiled egg?!" elena says. ok. i admit it. sometimes i need someone to tell me "shut up, sit down, and respond to your work emails. RIGHT NOW."


last week i got in trouble for not responding to student and admin emails in a timely manner. because i've been avoiding things. i focused on my research, my phd students: the stuff i like doing. which meant i had over 400 unread emails in my inbox. UNREAD AND UNDEALT with (and this doesn't include the ones i read, starred, and meant to get back to later). so i spent three days last week doing that.

this whole story is related to me realizing more things about who i am and how i deal with things. a few weeks ago, i spent several hours writing out the positive and negative traits my parents have and how i express these same traits. and when i recently saw my mother, i talked to her about some of these things. it was the first time i had seen her in person since i had told her about bulimia a few months ago (i had hidden my struggle from her for 8 years).

when we talked face to face, she was asking me why i felt the need to avoid strong feelings and binge and purge instead. part of it is that i learned the avoidance from my parents. so i tell her, "well, you know how dad never shows anger toward us because he doesn't want to upset us? well i think that i learned some of these emotion-avoidance techniques from seeing them modeled."

my mom does this too, but i didn't mention it to her. i focused on dad. then, after a few minutes, my mom quietly said, "i think i do that too." and i crumpled inside. it was emotionally beautiful. i softly and slowly replied, "yeah, a little bit. but that's because that's how you've learned to manage your feelings. i just need to learn a new way now." and it was probably the most real and most amazing conversation we've had in a while.

i've been trying to "name" my most overwhelming traits that voice themselves in my head, so i can talk back to them and tell them how ridiculous they are:

miss smartypants can do it herself: i have a fucking phd. i know what i'm talking about. don't try to give me advice or fix me. i know what i'm doing and why i do it. don't even try to help me in any way.

miss disrespect: my time is more important than your time is. i need to get on this fucking train right now, and i need you to get the fuck out of my way. i'm quite sure you don't need to do as much as i do today. i'm busy being super amazing and i don't have time for your needs.

and, of course, annie avoidance: this feels too hard to deal with now; i'll do it later. if i avoid it now, it might just go away. if it doesn't go away, at least i don't have to feel it now. isn't it better to protect myself from feeling these intense things?

god those are embarrassing to read. the reasons i keep these voices around in my head are pathetic. sad. terrible to think about. and i hate listening to them. so i'm putting them out there. because that helps me be more accountable.

this week i commit to more routinely recognize and respond to others' needs more fully. i will give of myself at work as i do to my friends. promise: i will spend one full hour each morning or afternoon completely engaging with and responding to emails. consequence: if i don't meet this goal each weekday, i have to skip sunday afternoon yoga and set aside an additional two hours to catch up on the backlog. (richard--when you see me sunday afternoons, ask me if i've been emailing!)

and i also commit to still taking the time for myself that i need. evidenced: fullness training with elena on the mat this morning before leaving the house; facetiming with sister at the office earlier today and having a creepy face contest (umm i totes won that shit). and, to sister: #iloveyoumorethanyouloveme

a, thanks for the cover-ups before i could deal. k, thanks for the promise brainstorming. and o, thanks heaps for the fake lifecoach bossypants-ing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

energies

ok. so like i know my eating disorder has layers: layers that affect many areas of my life... like that actually affect my family, friendships, relationships, and career.
one of my best friends texts me and says: maybe you need to put some of this energy into your work.
i go late to a birthday party to squeeze in an extra workout.
i don't focus on a friend's conversation because i'm re-calculating the calories in my dinner.
i tell a friend i can't go out to dinner because i think the menu won't have anything healthy enough.
or, in my married life: my partner feels ignored and alone because i spend all of my free time at the gym.
and yet somehow i was able to mostly choose to ignore that i was allowing these things to happen. some of these things i've been starting to realize, but it wasn't clear until last night.

a friend and i were talking about the energy we put into things: into our work, into our relationships... and i asked her if she felt like our subtle shifts of energy were apparent to others in our life. like, when i make a conscious heart-felt decision, do the people that it affects feel it? i was arguing that they did (because i was feeling the energy being poured back into me after one of my conscious shifts). my friend said she agreed: she had noticed that after consciously choosing a small energy shift at work, a colleague commented and fed back to her the change. there we go: at least two pieces of evidence for people in our lives feeling the importance of where we place our energy.

and that's when it really hit me: umm, ok, so besides choosing my eating disorder over my marriage and past relationships, i was also putting all of my energy into it. no wonder my partners and friends sometimes felt like they were in it alone. because i was physically there, but my energy mostly never was.

i arrived back in sydney from the US this past week, and spent the weekend catching up with various friends. on saturday, i spent the day with a couple of friends, and just went from one thing to the next. that meant there was no time for a workout. not even a quick yoga sesh. in the back of my head, i heard the familiar voice: "ummm, wanna tell your friends to run a few errands so you can go for a run?" and it was strange, but i noticed myself talk back to it, "why don't i just enjoy being with my friends and take a day off?"

yeah, that's right. i took a day off. #miraclesnow right? you know what else? it happened again sunday. i went to yoga with a friend in the morning, but i never got to "escape" for a cardio session. i just kept enjoying my friends. talking. connecting. loving.

i expected to wake up monday feeling gross. fat maybe. like a failure maybe. like i had to do three workouts that day maybe. but guess what? i felt happy. i felt like i had been loved up all weekend. and i felt ready to take on the week.

so when my friend and i were chatting last night about the importance of placing energy, it really hit home. placing energy into the relationships in my life is way more worth it than another workout. i know that extra workout isn't going to fill me up or make me feel fulfilled. i'm not saying i'll never forgo a social situation because of my eating disorder again, but i'm learning. and i invite you to keep reminding me. if you hear me try to bail on brunch for a run, call me out.

i'm listening.

Friday, July 4, 2014

rainbow potentials

"even before it is anything, there is always the potential for something becoming. what. it is."

sometimes potentials seem right around the next corner. but sometimes they can seem few and far between.

I love bring alone. I love having time to do handstands without being watched. I love having time to take a bath. I love being able to process things and write them out.

but I used to be super afraid of being alone. being alone used to be a prime opportunity for binging and purging. I would anxiously await the next opportunity to be alone so I could binge and purge. and i would dread the next time I was alone, feeling like binging and purging was a forgone conclusion. and even though I craved it, I didn't want to be a slave to it.

being alone carries a lot of baggage for me. and highly intertwined with this is a feeling of loneliness.

loneliness is weird. it isn't the absence of people, like being alone. it isn't even the absence of people who are close to you. it is this deep-rooted sense of despair associated with not feeling truly connected.

it's taken me quite a while to figure out what my loneliness is. and maybe it's different for different people... but my loneliness is a fear of not ever bring totally understood by another person. it is me doubting that I'm truly loveable. it is me lying to myself about what I really need in my life. and it is me not trusting that my inner-guide knows what's best.

my loneliness packs all of these negativities and insecurities into a dark cloud. and then it floats and hovers around me, seemingly waiting for a little dip in my self-confidence or mood to begin a storm.

sometimes the storms are just light spatterings. during these times I may feel lonely, but I can still find the strength to call a friend to give me the support I can't give myself.

sometimes the storms are a little dangerous: I feel dis-connected. I feel an emptiness inside that I want to fill, but I'm not connected enough to know how or why. I buy a new dress or pair of stretch pants. I feel like I can fill the hole with things instead of processing. I end up feeling guilty for the money I've spent.

sometimes the storms are hurricanes: they halt all travel plans. they take precedence. they destroy whatever else was on the agenda. when I let my fears take over, by choosing to avoid, or by choosing not to process some difficult emotions through writing or talking, I feel out of control. I feel desperately lonely and turn up the avoidance to max by binging and purging. I actively ignore other options, even though I tell myself I'm not.

when I'm lonely, people can help. they can help me process. they can distract me. but they actually aren't the cure. I can't prevent myself from ever being without a support. I can't ensure there will always be someone I can call at any time of day.

but I can address these roots of my loneliness. I can shine a flashlight up to the storm cloud.

my flashlight has self-forgiveness, gratitude, self-trust, honesty, and love.

and when I shine my light through the loneliness, there's the opportunity for rainbows. which may sound super corny. but those rainbows keep popping up. and they're bridging gaps and building systems of connections. both within myself and between myself and others.

I've been trying to avoid a few things lately--a big decision that carries lots of uncomfortable discussions and possible hurt feelings with it. the decision also carries the potential for exacerbating any loneliness I'm experiencing--which may be the scariest part.

this avoidance recently triggered a binge/purge session. there I was--feeling so strong and confident in so many ways, but not fully engaging with my anxieties. and before I knew it I was anticipating, planning, and then actually binging and purging.

i felt guilty. I felt stupid. I felt inauthentic. I confessed to a friend right away. that gave me some of the external support I needed. but what I really needed to do was sit down. pause. look for my flashlight. and then: forgive myself for binging and purging, practice gratitude for all the support and skills I have cultivated, be honest about the underlying anxieties that were triggering this, start to address those fears, trust that this slip-up isn't the end of the world, and be open to listening to my inner-guide when it starts to feel the next rain storm starting.

I have a friend I've been talking to about her struggles with binging and purging. our triggers and experiences are very similar. sharing these things feels good; it feels supportive and less-lonely.

this is probably normal. but it's also kind of funny, because if means that one of my biggest life-storms is forging the way for another rainbow. and I'm praying she will make her own rainbows too.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

great expectations

right now i'm on a flight from LAX to NYC. i have no internet. so i'm watching movies on this little screen in front of me. and making notes to myself in my phone.

while making a post-flight to-do list, i found a note saved in my phone called "great things." it hadn't been edited since late february, and i had forgotten about it completely.

i started keeping the "great things" list when i was feeling especially hopeless in mid-january. on this particular morning in mid-january, i remember that i had woken up to a post on facebook of a motivational quote saying "expect that something great is going to happen today." that post gave me hope. so i decided to expect great things for that day.

that night i wrote down all the great things that had happened that day.

"great things that happened to me today: Cosmo wants to interview me. sold my marriage bed i hate. had great yoga sesh. got to watch honey boo boo without judgement. gave toffee to cute old mechanic man that got my sunglasses back and he hugged me."

i remember that day. i remember waking up in tears. i remember crying when the mechanic hugged me. i remember crying while selling my bed frame. it was a hard day. in a string of hard days.

but i managed to focus on the great things.

for 33 days I kept this list. and i remember going back and reading previous days' great things to keep myself going. some of the days there were lots of things; some of the days only one or two. some of the things are grand; some of them are little.

some of my favorites, in no particular order:
girl i don't know in yoga put her hand on me when i was crying.
matt facetimed me to check on me; dennis messaged and checked in on me.
BFF dinner at wagaya.
kitty got a 457 promised to her!
swimming with lydia.
i can recognize gratitude in my day.
anthony was back for train club.
girl in acro yoga said that my yoga touch I gave her at the end of class was heaven.
blackmilk batman cape suit arrived!
i can forgive myself.

there were tons of great things. and reading them made me cry.

i actually felt quite a mix of emotions while reading them: i felt grateful for all the great things; i felt sad remembering how hopeless i was feeling during that time; i felt blessed reading about the things my friends did for me; i felt amazed at my strength.

i don't remember what exactly stopped the list; i think that i was doing gabby's 40 days and got really caught up in journaling and was really focusing on that. or maybe i was just feeling more hopeful and didn't need to rely on the list anymore.

but i think i'm going back to keeping it. gratitude is so powerful. and so healing. my list is all the evidence of that i need.

while writing this blog, i was half listening to a recording of arj barker's comedy show "heavy." he says that hearing someone say the common australian phrase "no worries" is "comforting. and gregarious. and sincere. and exceedingly unrealistic. and slightly insensitive, actually, given the state if the world today." he suggests that "some worries" would be more appropriate.

this cracked me up. but it also felt super appropriate. yeah, i have some worries. but i also have lots of great things happening. every day.

great things so far today:
having an amazing BFF take me to the airport.
no line at check-in.
friendly old man chatting to me in line for coffee.
coffee. American coffee.
free wifi at LAX. #wifiismycrack
my favorite pretzels right by my gate.
nice girls next to me for my long-ass flight.

and all i've done today is go to the airport and sit on a plane. think of how many more great things might happen once i meet my parents in NYC tonight!

who knows: maybe it'll be a home alone 2 disaster. maybe we will lose my dad at macy's (again). "some worries."

but me? i'm expecting great things. and miracles.

Monday, June 23, 2014

heart courage

when i started the whole 40-day miracle process (thanks gabby!), i started to address my fears. i realized how brave i was being every day, and i told my sister about it. she started the 40-day book as well, but didn't feel like she was doing brave things as a result. i told her they didn't have to be as drastic as confessions to a parent or addressing a divorce. i told her they could be little things. she thought really hard. she finally said, "well, i don't feel comfortable talking to parents, and i had to do it all week at parent-teacher conferences."

and you know what? that's a big deal. every little thing we do that involves being courageous is a big deal. because it's hard. and we rarely give ourselves credit for these things.

i'm constantly impressed by the courageousness my friends possess.

my sister who has the courage to have difficult work conversations.
my friend who has the courage to show up for a coaching call where he feels ambushed.
my friend who has the courage to show up to therapy each week, even though it's hard.
my friend who has the courage to move from AU to the US for 3 months w/o her partner.
my friend who has the courage to make a life-move to the US from AU.
my friend who has the courage to make a life-move to AU from the US.
my friend who has the courage to come out as a child sexual assault survivor to the world.

and my friend who has the courage to finally ask for help with her struggle with bulimia.

big things are hard. but little things can be just as fucking hard.

i have struggled with bulimia. i have struggled with asking for help. i have gone around in circles in my head for hours, days, and months with arguments for not talking about it. i've made deals with myself about when i'd ask for help. i've made rationalizations about why i hadn't asked for help. i spent about as much time dealing with the struggle with asking for help as i did with the struggle with bulimia.

so i wanted to acknowledge my friend's step. because it's big. so: "hey girl!! good. fucking. work."

right now i'm making a big decision. it's still a bit secret squirrel, but it involves drastic life changes on a number of levels. i've panicked so much that i've ended up in tears in work situations; i've made pro and con lists and talked to my lifecoach (elena!) about them; i've avoided making the associated necessary plans involved with the decision; i've gone to see a fortune teller; i've stressed to the point of returning to disordered eating habits; basically, i haven't really been dealing well. it's hard, and i don't feel super courageous in this decision process.

but, regardless of how i feel, i've had a few friends tell me that i've been courageous. elena also commented on my courage. hearing it from other people helps to make it a bit more real. and i appreciate that.

we all have choices every day. we decide how we live our lives. we can be courageous: we can live in our hearts, be vulnerable, be true, and be authentic. or we can choose to avoid.

avoiding is easy; having courage is hard: it wouldn't be so worthwhile if it wasn't. but sometimes we just need a little push. a little push toward talking about something we don't want to talk about. a little push toward asking for help. a little push toward a creative new business venture.

invite: write down something you're afraid of right now. now make a step toward addressing that fear. and tell someone about your step. post it. blog it. talk about it. share it.

i'll do it too. i'm afraid that the remnants of my eating disorder will never fully let go of my life. i've been working on several aspects of this. but i've got one more step i'm gonna put out there: i will be there for my friend who is just starting to address this. and i will not let it trigger me. and i will reach out to my supports if it does. i promise to ask for help if i need it.

i chose bulimia almost nine years ago. and i've chose it over and over since then. but now i choose to live in my heart. and to have courage. and to enact courage. and to be courage.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

through the rabbit hole: the new normal

i was in yoga class tonight and richard, one of my all-time favorite yoga teachers, made us do a sequence on our toes. and, as everyone was thinking "WHEN THE FUCK DO WE GET TO PUT OUR HEELS DOWN?!" he casually said, just think "this is the new normal." and how appropriate was it that i was wearing my alice in wonderland blackmilks in class tonight? down the rabbit hole into wonderland--that's having to get used to a new normal (or a new madness) quite quickly.

i laughed out loud when richard said this. (yeah, i totes LOL in yoga class.) and then i thought, "it really can be that easy, though, can't it?"

we get stuck in habits. in patterns. in our set ways of doing things. we forget there are other ways. we forget that we might have even had a different way at another point in our life.

then, something shifts. and suddenly, we're in a new normal. sometimes without even realizing we are there.

but, other times, we search for a new normal. we look for ways to shift. we LONG for any catalyst. and yet we still can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. we become sure there is not even an end to the tunnel. we decide we might as well die in that tunnel.

i've been in that tunnel. i've lived in that tunnel: i've been sure i was stuck in a marriage i could never get out of; i've been sure bulimia and exercise would overpower every thought for the rest of my life. i've been sure that my dark tunnels weren't tunnels, but rabbit holes that i would have to make the best of for my remaining days.

but you know what? there is always a new normal. there is always a fucking way out.

easier example? i thought i'd never adjust to living in australia. i thought i'd never understand the mobile phone plans (umm, i call them "cell phones" in america, guys!). i thought i'd never adjust to a more relaxed work-life (umm, yeah, that may have been a faster adjustment). i thought i'd never understand the slang. but now i eat brekky with mates, not worrying over whether i'll get to the office before that arvo, and i even offer to call my friends' mobile phone carriers to help sort their over-priced plans. it just happened: a new normal was created. and i live in it. and i love it. and i didn't have to MAKE it happen.

medium example? i've begun to be less reactive. i've worked a lot on understanding why i respond the way i do in various situations. i used to be super reactive: i would lash out when something upset me, regardless of the cause or who was involved. but, as i've worked around this, i've started to change. a few nights ago a friend was SUPER SNIPPY with me on the phone. and i found myself saying, "no, look, that's ok. i can easily change plans." after the call i thought "wow. a year ago i would've said, 'fuck you!' and hung up. even a few months ago i think i would've said, 'look, you're being a jackass; i'll just talk to you later.' but look at how i can calmly respond now!" i know i've worked a lot at it, but it's nice to be able to acknowledge this shift: this new normal i've been noticing myself creating and living.

harder example? i started to learn to appreciate food as fuel instead of calories. doing handel coaching with elena, i had to photo all my meals. AND LISTEN TO HER FEEDBACK about them. because of this, i had to have more conversations with my friends about how my eating habits affected them. i had to make promises to elena about my eating and exercise habits. i had to learn to take control of my choices and understand that these choices were giving me life.

every day of that was difficult and challenging in new ways. but 6 weeks after that food photo diary began, i think i've made drastic changes from where i was. i did binge and purge once recently: last week. but something i noticed about it? it was hard. not the physical act, but the emotional act. my head wasn't on board. it was like "what the fuck are you doing? why are you doing this? what is happening here?"

i talked about some of these themes with my friend lydia recently, and she said to me, "yeah, well, it's because it's not normal for you to binge and purge anymore; you've created a new way of thinking." oh. yeah. a new normal. my friend kelli has been trying to drill my body image shift into my head every time i see her. (i'm starting to hear her.)

this new normal wasn't easy to find. it isn't even easy for me to acknowledge: i still binged and purged last week--fighting the internal dialogue and self-trust i've built to do so. i was actively trying to NOT acknowledge my progress.

and i think that's one of the most important things here: we have to be able to RECOGNIZE when we have a new normal. we have to live in it--because that is where we are at that moment. we have to always be in the present. we have to stop letting our past dictate our futures.

i had a friend of a friend tell me recently that he had trust issues in relationships. when i asked why, he told me about something an ex had done. i said, "but your next partner isn't that person in that other situation. that person who hurt you isn't the same person they were then. even you aren't the same person you were in that situation. why would you let that experience color what might happen next?"

and he just looked at me in awe... or like i was crazy. i'm not sure. sometimes i confuse that look.

but either way, i'm appreciating the new normal i've been actively designing. and i'm super-appreciating all those in my life that keep helping me notice it (besides those already mentioned, KR, OCS, BP, AJS, MJR, SP... i know y'all got my back).

because "i can't go back to yesterday; i was a different person then!" ~lewis carroll, alice in wonderland

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

choose your own adventure

remember those "choose your own adventure" books? i loved those books like crazy. LIKE. CRAZY. live the version of the story you want? and if you don't like it, you can just read the other version instead? awesome. freaking awesome. give me that. always.

in the real world there aren't re-dos. but there are certainly versions of the story from each person involved. and there are also the various versions of the story we choose to present to the world.

someone that i hurt a while ago, but that i really care about, was talking to me last week about the period of time immediately after "the incident," as well as our friendly relationship now. he said to me: "how was that situation hard for YOU? you ended up getting everything you wanted!"

BAM!
WHACK!
KAPOW!


shot.
straight. through. the. heart.

why did that comment hurt so much: because i felt utterly misunderstood? because i thought we were past it? because i didn't want to relive the hurt? i'm not sure. the truth is, i didn't get everything i wanted out of that situation. in fact, i didn't get the only thing i wanted. sure, i have versions and pieces of it, but i also put a pretty big dent in my friend's trust. and that also hurt me.

so.
much.

it affected my words, thoughts, and actions for weeks. but, at the same time, it was also the catalyst for me starting to make change; for me to examine my words, thoughts, and actions. out of the hell i felt i was in, i found the capacity to start to make shifts. for that, i have immense gratitude.

but it was terrifyingly hard; it was not pretty: it was fucking fiery transformational shit.

and as i keep replaying those words from last week in my head how was that hard for YOU?, i find myself wondering: how many times do we assume something is easy for someone else? how many times do we think we are the only ones hurting in a partnership, friendship, or relationship?

probably a whole fucking lot. when we feel deep pain, we tend to forget about the pain that the other person in the situation is feeling. maybe it's because that person hides it from us. maybe it's because we don't want to admit that they could be hurting too. or maybe it's because we're busy trying to make it look like we aren't hurting.

i certainly spent quite a bit of time posting gorgeous photos of my friends and i doing amazing things during that time.

and then i came home and cried.

hiding our hurt from the world can become a full time job. when my marriage was breaking down, i spent lots of time posting happy things. and when my husband left, my mom said to me, "but you guys looked so happy on facebook!" oh, umm, yeah, i forgot to post "i feel miserable tonight" or "i feel stuck in my relationship and hopeless about changing it" or "here's a photo of us sitting on opposite ends of the couch and not talking as we eat dinner!"

hiding my hurt became second nature. as i think it does for most people.

but why not surrender to it?

being vulnerable, even to those you want to hide it from most, is what this world needs. as i've begun to crack open more, to allow people to see my un-armoured heart, i've found deepened and inspired relationships. i've become happier for real. not facebook-happy: i'm talking happy-happy.

it's hard work, though. letting the masks fall away; showing people genuine pieces of yourself. it's scary. but it is way way way more worth it.

so choose your own adventure.

live the life you really want: tell your mom that thing you didn't wanna tell her; confess your missteps to your partner; call your sister and apologize for that thing you did. ...and tell them how you felt during those costumed times.


show it. live it. and freaking shine on.