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My Story

So this entry has taken me a while to write.  It is a rather intimate and personal entry, but given the content of my blog and my need to both help myself and hopefully help others I want to share.  Also, since it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I feel that this is the right time to begin to share my story.

Over time I will break up my story into parts and share more about my struggles and my recovery, since I don’t want this blog post to be too long.  But for now I am going to tell you an abridged version of my story.

I know there are quite a few blogs out there which are based around the same concepts as mine; health, body image etc…  And I know for me when I stumbled across a particular blog back in January (2010) it honestly had a HUGE impact on me.  It was almost like an “ah-ha” moment.  Reading someones own personal story which was just like mine made me feel not quiet so alone.  It gave me comfort to know that its ok to still have these struggles from time to time, that there is no such thing as being “perfectly recovered.”   I guess that’s also part of the whole mindset that goes along with having an Eating Disorder, the constant need for own self perfection and control.   There is only so much one can do, but whats more is how you deal with the struggles.  I can choose to sulk and think I’m doomed for life with this disease or I can choose to accept who I am and use that pain to motivate me to work that much harder and use my own experience as an educational tool to help others.

Ironically my Eating Disorder manifested itself right after I decided to quit dance.  I grew up dancing, starting at the age of 3 with ballet, then I moved over to Jazz, then Modern and stuck with that through my first year of college.  After my first year of college I decided to quit dance.  My life long dream was to dance in New York.  I finally made it to New York for a summer dance intensive in 2002.   Finally! the dream I had, had throughout all my years of dance, there I was! But I was still unhappy.  I began to notice that I was quite different from everyone else there, meaning that everyone else had this drive and passion for dance.  Whereas I did not.  Don’t get me wrong I love dance, but there was a major difference between my love for it and everyone else’s.  I didn’t want to fight my way to the top, I just wanted to dance, perform, and have fun.  So I quit.  Now after years away from that world I can now finally appreciate it and go back and take classes and be in love with it in a whole new way which makes me happy.

After I stepped away from that world I moved onto a few other trial and errors as a major.  I tried photography, that was just too much work and I was way behind where everyone else was with all the art classes, I felt so lost!!  A few months into this new semester at college I grew into a deep depression and decided the best thing for me to do at that time was to move home and take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  So I moved home and back into my moms house.  I got a job at a gym as well as a serving position at a coffee bar/cafe at night.  Over that next year I spiraled downward very quickly.  I got sucked into the party scene that comes with working at bar/restaurants.  I had no idea who I really was at the time so of course I followed what everyone else was doing just for the need to feel accepted.   Even though I had lots of so called “friends” I ultimately felt very alone, and the further I went into my disease.  It’s difficult to truly explain just how isolated one can get while deep into the disease.  But like any other addiction, the deeper and lower one gets with the depression and obsessive acts the bigger the blinders become.  You stop caring or noticing the people around you, and the more you become focused on “getting your next fix” or “perfecting yourself”.  I say “perfecting yourself” in quotes because often the major misconception of eating disorders is that it is all about vanity.  It soooo is not.  Granted yes part of it is, but that is not the overall driving force that gets you to the disease part.  It ultimately has to do with control.  It all begins when something in your life is out of balance and the person feels like they have no control over their life, or that something isn’t good enough.  Or if they have suffered from physical, sexual or verbal abuse as a child making them feel as though they are not good enough or that they are worthless.  This ends up making the person feel that the only way for them to regain any control is by what they put in or don’t put into their own body.  You have the control with what you do or do not eat.  The same can go with any addiction.  All of this has now grown to my major fascination with psychology and addiction (another passion of mine along with nutrition).

Moving onto the present time.  Stemming from all of this has of course led to me having to re-learn how to love myself and the body I was born with.  I have been recovered now from the depths of my eating disorder for quite some time thankfully.  But the “evil thoughts” aka negative self image bashing that goes on in my head, are still around.   For the most part I am able to keep them quiet, but I am only capable of so much and every so often, like when I am tired, or had a bad day or something to that effect they creep up on me and they can be oh so relentless.

That’s the thing with the disease of an eating disorder.  With all other addictions, you can step away from the thing that harms you; alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping etc…. but an eating disorder you can’t really abstain from food…. you need food to live!! So that makes it just that much harder to fully recover.  The thoughts and obsession will forever be there.  It’s needing to get to that point of learning how to accept yourself and how to manage your thoughts about how you view food.  For me, as I stated before, I still struggle.  I consider myself midway recovered.  For a while I thought I was fully recovered, but realized I was more in denial.  I slipped back a bit about a year ago when I had a rude awakening about where I really truly was in my recovery.  So for the past year I have been doing a really deep internal look into myself and have been trying new healing methods to get myself to a point of full acceptance.

It is really brutal work, but in order to get to where I want to be, which is happy with myself, like really TRULY happy.  I know that I need to do some hard work before I can get to that point and STAY at the point.

What I am doing now, is lots of honest journaling, this blog, changing my diet (which is HARD!!!) by eating whole foods which nourish my body and provide it with lots of amazing nutrients that do wonderful things for every single part of me – especially the brain!.  I also do a lot of positive self talk.   And the hardest thing of all, is getting myself to take these steps S-L-O-W-L-Y.  I had gotten myself so accustomed to jumping head first into things and thinking I had to do them all at full blast and perfectly (that would be the competitive part of the disease) that I’d totally brainwashed myself.  In order to get something to really stick and become a habit, I need to take it slow.  So while I love to exercise and I know it’s good for me and keeps me level, I am making myself do things one step at a time.  Right now I am focusing on my diet, because ultimately, that is the key that is going to keep my body and mind strong.  The rest will just fall into place after that.

I recently had an epiphany – in order to achieve happiness with myself I have to treat it right.  It’s like being in a relationship, if you want a positive outcome with your partner you have to put into it what you want out of it.  Meaning, if you treat your partner like crap or skimp on loving them then the relationship will soon fall apart.  The same goes for you and you.  If you want yourself to be happy and strong you need to feed it right and treat it right, otherwise you will get sick, become unhappy and fall apart.

So that is my story in a nutshell.  Thank you for reading and allowing me to share with you some very personal intimate stuff.  I truly hope that with my story, and future stories, that I can help some other people out there who may be struggling themselves.   There is hope out there, and you CAN do it.

If anyone is in need of talking please do not hesitate to contact me and share your own struggles, story or concerns.  Elw.brown@gmail.com or if you need professional help please contact the National Eating Disorders Association for hotlines or information.

Tattoo on my left foot of the National Eating Disorders Association recovery symbol. Surrounded by butterfly's to symbolize "stomping out my eating disorder and being set free"


Body Image Part I – Unbearable Lightness

“Once you engage your own inner wisdom, you can change or improve your habits of thought, your emotions, and your behaviors… and create a more positive and joyful life experience right away,” “This process, when engaged in regularly, heals both your present and your future. It also enables you to live a life full of joy, meaning, and purpose—right here, right now.” Dr. Christiane Northrup

Body image and loving oneself is something which many women today struggle with on a daily basis.  Whether it is a mild dissatisfaction with ones own body shape/size or if it is a full-blown body distortion/eating disorder, the fact is, ones view of what a real woman’s body shape looks like is totally and completely distorted.  We have lost all sense of what “normal” really looks like.

I have had my own struggles with this, which I am slowly working on writing up into a series of entries of “my story” coming soon.  I have thankfully recovered from the physical part of the disease, but as most of you out there, who may still be struggling with or who have previously dealt with an ED, well know the most difficult part of recovery is the mental part of it.  Quite frankly I find that mental aspect of it all by far the most difficult.  You simply cannot detach your brain or turn it off.  If we could then we wouldn’t have such issues as Eating Disorders or other mental diseases now would we?!

I recently finished, quite quickly I might add, Portia de Rossi’s new book “Unbearable Lightness” which is a memoir of her own battles with an ED.  It was quite a brutally honest reflection of her battle as she chose to write it from the perspective of person who is actively going through the battle.  From the diseased view point.  I found this to be both disturbing but at the same time refreshing.  On one hand I felt that “this could be really bad for those girls who are stuck in their disease, they could get ideas!!” but on the other hand it also brings to light just how INSANE one can get while in it.  It brought back some really awful memories for me, a lot of those insane things I did when I was stuck deep in the disease.  It reminded me of just how crazy I got and just how badly I DO NOT want to EVER go back to that point.  It scared me again, which I think can sometimes be a good thing in terms of being “scared straight” or a wake up call, if you will, to remind you of where you are now, were you used to be, and where you don’t ever want to be again.

In any case, I have written below a couple of excerpts which really stood out to me and have stuck with me, because it is exactly how I feel now.  It was like reading my own thoughts on paper, but written by someone else.

From “Unbearable Lightness”

“I finally understood that by being on a perpetual diet, I had practiced a ‘disordered’ form of eating my whole life.  I restricted when I was hungry and in need of nutrition and binged when I was so grotesquely full I couldn’t be comfortable in any position but lying down.  Diets that tell people what to eat or when to eat are the practices in between.  And dieting, I discovered, was another form of disordered eating, just as anorexia and bulimia similarly disrupt the natural order of eating.  “Ordered” eating is the practice of eating when you are hungry and ceasing to eat when your brain sends the signal that your stomach is full.  “Ordered” eating is about eating for enjoyment, for health, and to sustain life.  “Ordered” eating is not restricting certain kinds of foods because they are ‘bad’.  Obsessing about what and when to eat is not normal, natural, and orderly.  Thinking about food to the point of obsession and ignoring your body’s signals is a disorder.” Pg. 295

Also:

” ….because I knew I could eat pasta and ice cream again the very next day if I wanted to, I stopped wanting it in excess.  If it were going to be available to me anytime, why eat like it was the very last time I’d ever taste it?  The fact that I stopped labeling food as “good” and “bad” made me just see it all as food.  Like Carolyn had told me, there was no bad food.  There were just bad practices.” Pg. 305

I find comfort in reading other peoples own stories about their journey through the disease because it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I’m not totally crazy.  That many many other women are out there who struggle or have struggled with this.  And that reason alone is why I wanted to start writing this blog.  To hopefully help others, the way that previous books/stories have helped me.

“True nobility isn’t about being better than anyone else; it’s about being better than you used to be.” - Wayne Dyer

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