Speaking in Public, My Recovery in 3 Chapters

I was recently asked to speak about my recovery at a fundraising event being hosted by the treatment center where I went for treatment.  I was thankful and excited for the opportunity to share my story, because I don’t think the binge eating end of the spectrum gets as much air time, but I was also nervous to publicly share and be vulnerable standing up in front of a room full of strangers.  I feel much safer writing, because until I hit the publish button (and really even after) I have as many do-overs as I want, until it feels “good enough” (which is really a subject that needs to be revisited. Often.).  I can delete and re-write and re-edit until the cows come home, but standing in front of people, I just have that one shot.

I talked for a few minutes about how I came upon my diagnosis somewhat by accident.  I don’t think I’ve ever even told y’all the story about how I had gone to the library in search of a book on juicing, because I had just watched a movie about how a 30-90 day juice fast was totally going to solve all of my problems (HA!).  But the universe had different plans for me that day.  On top of the shelf where I was supposed to find juice books, there was a special display with an outward facing book that had “Food Addiction” in the title (here’s a link to that book, if you’re interested) and I just thought “YES, THIS IS IT.”  That was the first in a long line of books that helped me make sense of my struggle.

It’s not that I hadn’t tried to get help for my issues with food and weight and eating before, but by the age of 30, after 25 years of being scolded about my weight by doctors and other adults and at least 15 years of taking various and frequently dangerous/harmful medications and supplements, not a single one of them had ever uttered the words “Eating Disorder” to me.

I was pretty lucky, because my awareness on the subject happened to coincide with changes in diagnostics, insurance and laws that allowed me to be diagnosed (because BED was added to the DSM) and get treatment (because of new requirements for equal coverage of mental disorders).

It’s been about 4. 5 years since that day in the library and my life, thoughts, and behaviors have changed pretty dramatically in that time, so I wrote something that reflected that progression that brought me to the point of standing in front of a room full of people and reading my story to them:

My Recovery in 3 Chapters


I knew I needed help when I started believing that driving my car off the road was a reasonable way to solve my problems.

I thought “surely a few weeks in the hospital would be the least shameful way to get a break from trying to escape the mediocrity, worthlessness, and self-hatred that I felt all the time.”  And if I happened to die in a *tragic* accident, that would be OK, too.  Maybe by lightning…  Please God?  Send lightning.  Come quickly.

I started sneaking off to a therapist.  I don’t even remember where I said I was going.  I don’t remember a lot of things, because my thoughts were always consumed.  Thoughts about whether my husband would still love me, if he knew he married a fraud. Thoughts about that time I ate all the ice cream cones and visited 5 grocery stores to try to replace them before he got home, but they were all sold out.  Thoughts about how ashamed I felt when he discovered my “crime.”  “You ate all of them?” he asked, trying to hide his disappointment, not, SURELY, at the fact that that he just wanted an ice cream cone, but because he finally saw me for my greatest shameful secret. It wasn’t *his* fault that the “person” he married was fictional.  “Now God?  PLEASE send lightning?”

I don’t remember what happened after that.  I was too full to think.  Too full to feel anything other than my aching abdomen and trying to squeeze in tiny breaths that didn’t make me expand any more.  Sleep.  Start a new diet tomorrow.  Really be serious this time.

“It seems to me the problem is that you don’t love yourself,” my secret therapist said.  How dare she?  I mean, I couldn’t even speak the words “I love myself,” because it felt like such a heinous, outrageous lie, but that wasn’t the point.  I was not to BLAME.  It wasn’t my FAULT.  RIGHT?  But anger turned to shame anyway.

Changing my geography didn’t work the last three times, but I was determined to try harder this time.  Really make it work.  A fresh start, a new life.  So we moved again.  I still don’t know how my demons arrived before the furniture.

I kept trying and failing.  Trying and failing.  Was I really even trying? My dad always said I could do anything I set my mind to.  Is my mind not set? I try even harder.  Failing and failing and failing.  It must be me.


I’m granted the luxury of residential treatment.  I feel totally indulgent.  Lazy.  Cowardly.  Too weak to face my challenges on my own.  Completely unworthy of the concern and care given to me. I’m lost in my thoughts, consumed by the narrative of the inevitable end.  Cut short by insurance.  Thrown into the wind, with wings that can’t fly.  Destined to crash and burn.

My brain becomes the valiant defender of my fragile heart, too busy layering elaborate thoughts on top of sophisticated words, bound together by complicated sentences, to *feel* anything.  More evidence that recovery is not for me.  I feel empty. Uninhabited. Like the hollow shell of the person who was supposed to have this life.  I wonder who she is, what she is like, if I would like her?  I go through the motions. “Fake it till you make it,” they say.  But will you still make it if you fake faking it?  They’re fighting for me, but I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve it.

I start to feel some things.  I only recognize sadness.  I don’t know how to BE, when I’m not anxiously tangled, twisted into a tense little knot.  I don’t really know who I am when I don’t hate myself.  I feel more things.  I still don’t recognize them.  Is the absence of anxiety a feeling? Is this what joy feels like?


My enoughness is reflected back to me by the recovery warriors fighting for their lives alongside me. I love them with my whole heart, even though they are just like me.  I love them, therefore they are lovable.  If they love me, am I, therefore,  loveable, too?  A seed is planted and it grows.  Did you know that love multiplies?  The more you love, the more you love.  Has everything always been this beautiful?

I no longer see the glass as half empty, because I AM THE GLASS.  A perfect vessel to contain my multitudes.  I fill my glass with things that work and things that don’t.  Very well then.  Just like Whitman, I contradict myself.  I pour out the contents a million times over, until I find some things that fill my glass AND my emptiness.  *I* decide what stays.  I discover the things that make my glass sparkle and sing.  Spreading Love. My community of peers.  Mountains. Art.  Music.  Filling my lungs with air, breathing into my whole body.  Taking another breath and another one and being so very thankful.

Here are some examples of those things filling my glass.


I love painting pottery. This one is inspired by the poem/sayings “A boat is safe in harbor, but that’s not what boats are made for” and “To cross the ocean, you must first lose sight of the shore.”



This painting is done with alcohol ink, one of the “new things” I tried with one of my recovery peers.


This is my dog, being loved up by recovery peers at a NEDA walk.


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Ditching resolutions, one day at a time.

I haven’t written anything in a while.  Unlike in the past, I haven’t beaten myself up about that every day, but it has been on my heart for the last few weeks to get back to it and today seemed like a perfect day to do it.  You see, today is the first day of a fresh, new year.

In the past, I would have spent this day trying to figure out once and for all what I have to do to fix (meaning completely change) my “miserable” life.  I would have been trying to plan meals, talking myself into restricting whatever it is I decided to cut this year, while also clearing out closets and junk from every corner of my house and life.  I always got burned out around mid afternoon, and all the things I had pulled out of drawers and corners would stay out in the middle of the room for the next few weeks, until I could muster the energy to put it all into another box, to be dealt with some day soon, or more likely, next New Year’s Day.

I actually stopped making “diet” resolutions a few years ago, but I had really only renamed the resolution to be “lifestyle change” and as we all know, a diet by any other name… well, you know.  But this year is different.  I did still have the thought that I should be setting a resolution, and wondered how I would trick myself into not thinking of it as a resolution, because clearly calling it that destines it for failure.  But then I had a good internal dialogue with myself about a more realistic reason (besides destiny) that resolutions haven’t worked out for me in the past.

Some of the phrases that I’ve learned to love from EDA are “just for today,” or “one day at a time,” or “one step at a time.”  Resolutions are a commitment for the WHOLE YEAR.  I used to think that if I didn’t accomplish the gigantic feat I had tied my self worth to for the year, especially failing so quickly after setting it, it had to mean the bad things I believed about myself really were true.  But what those phrases remind me of is that progress doesn’t have to come in giant leaps.  In fact, I am much more likely to be successful one day at a time.  I’m in control of the choices I am making RIGHT NOW.  I don’t know what tomorrow looks like, or the day after that, or next month, or the next 12 months, that’s overwhelming to even think about, but this day, my next right choice, those are well within my reach.  Why should I sabotage myself by setting lofty goals for the whole year, when I can just DO the right thing right now.  Like just sitting down and writing a blog post when I am thinking about it.

In addition to setting manageable goals that are within time frames that I can commit to (ie one day at a time), I have another reason for ditching resolutions.  Resolutions tend to address fundamental flaws.  Something big that is wrong and needs fixing.  I talked about this in this other post a while ago, ACCEPTANCE was the only way out of self hatred for me.  I learned to accept myself, just as I am right now.  Accepting myself doesn’t mean that I don’t have to, or try to make an effort to make the next right choice and the next right choice after that, and it doesn’t mean that I’m never going to make mistakes, or have regrets, but it means that I no longer believe I am fundamentally flawed.  I don’t have to recreate myself, because I am perfectly imperfect, with a new opportunity in every new moment to choose wisely.



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Self Love Hack #6 & 7: Self care isn’t selfish

Today is the last day of August and I have one more self love hack to share with you.  Self care is a necessity, not an indulgence.

When I first learned about the concept of “self care” I thought it sounded more like self indulgent pampering and required lots of beauty products (my relationship with which is another story for another day).  I totally saw it as a luxury and definitely not as something that should be prioritized.

Meanwhile, I felt so behind (and guilty about it) in my work, that I would negotiate with myself about taking breaks.  I would try to force myself to finish a task I’d been putting off, or a task that kept being pushed to the back of the priorities because it didn’t have a specific due date, before I would allow myself to take a break, or get up for lunch, or even a snack.  The bargaining never worked out in favor of getting the task done, and the usual outcome was that I’d get so hungry my head would start to pound and my focus would drift away and I’d basically just sit at my desk pushing priorities back and forth, getting nothing accomplished until I was so hungry and useless that I’d end up bingeing to soothe the hunger and the shame.

The irony of this is that I work in marketing and operations in the service industry and we tell our stores ALL THE TIME “you can’t sell from an empty wagon” or “you can’t pour from an empty cup” or “you can’t get water from an empty well” and all of the other variations on this cliche. If we didn’t invest in new inventory, we would eventually run out of things to sell and would ultimately go out of business.  This is as true in physiology and psychology as it is in business.  We might already know and accept that athletes need fuel.  Body builders know when they need to eat protein and fats and carbs before and after workouts, and when they need to rest, to help build up and heal their muscles.  Body builders don’t eat because they have somehow rationalized that they *earned the privilege*  and they don’t rest because they are giving up/lack willpower, but because they know they will not be successful in their physical endeavor without proper amounts of fuel and rest/rejuvenation.

This is also 100% true in recovery and life in general.  If we don’t give our minds and bodies fuel and rest, they start to shut down non-essential systems, in order to keep us alive.  Bodies are brilliant at adapting to circumstances, but when they lack resources, they aim to survive, not thrive.  You might be thinking (I know I did for a long time) that you don’t have the energy to do self care, you don’t have time to take care of yourself, but it is absolutely critical that you build it into your schedule, because if you burn the candle at both ends, you’re eventually going to flame out and then you won’t just not be able to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anything or anyone.

Once I got to the point of believing I could better take care of my work, and the people who counted on me, when I was sufficiently taking care of myself, I still needed to figure out what that meant for me and how to go about it.  This part is all about trial and error.  After spending most of my life filling idle time with out of control thoughts and process addictions (and there were many, maybe I’ll dedicate a post next month to my cross-addictions), I had no idea what kinds of activities I actually enjoyed that also made me feel full, alive, satisfied, rejuvenated, etc.

In addition to not knowing what would be helpful to me, I also have a difficult time making decisions in general (especially when I’m already mentally tapped out), so even if I had a strong desire to go and do SOMETHING for myself, I’d end up too overwhelmed deciding what that something might be, which just resulted in spending the day on the couch watching a Law & Order marathon and feeling guilty about it (spoiler alert, guilt and shame are pretty much the opposite of self care).  It helped me to sit down and make a list of ALL the things I might enjoy (open ended opportunity to add to it later) and then just close my eyes and put my finger on something to do, so I didn’t have to make a difficult decision in the moment.  You can also make yourself a self care calendar and schedule things.

Make a calendar and keep your commitments, even if they are “just” coloring for 5 minutes a day and washing your face once a week.

They might even be things you do anyway.  Consider the things you already do that might have self care value for you.  One of my dear friends LOVES to mow the lawn when she needs a break from work/thoughts/life.  It’s a chore that needs to be done, but she uses it to her advantage.  I don’t have a great history of taking care of my skin, so following a nightly face cleaning regiment is deliberate act of self care.  Side note, thoughts are SUPER IMPORTANT in this process.  If I decide to make face washing part of my self care routine and then I spend my face washing time thinking about how it’s a waste of time and I hate it and I shouldn’t be doing it, then that’s going to have the opposite outcome than what you intended.

Again, self care doesn’t have to be a big, time consuming undertaking.  Sometimes I like to paint my nails.  Sometimes self care is just walking away from my desk and watching a 30 minute episode of something that makes me laugh out loud.  Sometimes taking 5 minutes every hour or two to paint a few more sections on my calendar is just as refreshing as a day at the lake.  The important part to remember is that you are doing something, intentionally, for the express purpose of taking care of yourself.

Commit to the things you’ve scheduled for yourself the same way you would commit to an appointment, or a date with a friend.  Think about how you feel when a friend keeps cancelling the plans you’ve made together.  I tend to feel abandoned, unloved, undervalued, sad, etc.  Think about the message you send yourself, when you cancel your self care… I’ll wait.

Lastly, and I guess you could call this hack #7, because it applies way beyond self care specifically: ACT AS IF.  It’s a chicken and egg situation.  If you wait to treat yourself as if you have value until you feel like you have value, then you will never get to feeling like you have value.  Act as if you believe you deserve time spent on yourself.  Act as if you think you are worthy of the resources you require.  Keep treating yourself the way you would treat someone you love, even if you don’t love yourself yet, and you might just start to feel different.

I’d love to hear what kinds of self care activities you come up with, or already incorporate into your days and weeks.  Leave a comment below, or join me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/recoveringgirl/

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Self Love Hack #5: Spend time with your reflection

When you think about yourself in your mind’s eye, what do you see?  I don’t know if this is normal, but I never seem to have an accurate image of myself in my mind.  Between pictures from the past and reflections in windows and the limited number of mirrors that only extended to the parts of my body that I didn’t mind seeing, I constantly found myself being surprised at my appearance when I occasionally got a thorough, full body look at myself.  Not necessarily a negative or positive surprise, just sort of “oh, I forgot.”  And why wouldn’t I forget?  I’ve avoided mirrors and photos for much of my life.  I don’t even have a lot of wedding pictures framed and hung, because my critical negative voice always kicks in when I see myself from those angles in that dress.

I think the same thing happens with other people you don’t see every day.  Without getting into all the reasons why it’s never a good idea to comment on another person’s body or size, my mother can never tell if I’ve gained weight or lost it since the last time I saw her, though that doesn’t keep her from congratulating me, but I digress.

In addition to not really having a firm grasp on what I actually look like, I was also very uncomfortable seeing myself in ways I don’t normally see myself, for example, wearing a dress, or makeup, or a new haircut, or nail polish. Seriously, I type a lot for work and the first few times my nails were painted, I had this “whose fingers are these” reaction CONSTANTLY.  However, I have found that I can train myself to be comfortable with the glances I catch of myself not looking the way I expect myself to look by doing it more often.  The more often I wear skirts and dresses, the less it startles me, the more it looks totally normal to me, and the more comfortable I am doing it.  And this brings us to Self Love Hack #5: get used to what you really look like from all the angles in all the positions by spending time with your mirror image.  

Side bar, sort of, I always used to have cleavage issues with clothes I bought, because I bought them after seeing what they looked like standing up straight in a mirror and didn’t think about what happens when I sit down: my legs push up my belly, which pushes up the under wire, which puts the boobs in my face and all of a sudden, a totally acceptable neckline on a shirt or dress becomes awkwardly cleavy.  So now I do all the acrobatics in the dressing room; I sit down, I bend over, squat, lean, stretch, spin, hands up or hands down… back up, back up… just kidding (but extra points if you get the reference).

OK, back to the point, the thing that helped me get used to my appearance was putting up mirrors in places where I spend a lot of time.  I started by putting a mirror at eye level right next to my desk.  As I told you when I started this self love series, I didn’t necessarily know that some of these changes were going to help me change my perception of myself.  The original reason I put up the mirror next to my desk is that I also struggle with dermatillomania (compulsive and obsessive skin picking) and when I was stressed out by work, or anxious about a deadline, or bored on a conference call, my fingers would scour my face for any imperfection to pick at as a distraction.  I would end up creating huge sores and scars, because I’d keep going until I *got* whatever was there (usually a hair, ingrown or otherwise).  By hanging the mirror, I was able to visually confirm that there was nothing to pick at, or if a hair was bothering me, I could pull it out with tweezers without putting a big hole in my face.

Aaaanyway, once I started seeing my face all day every day, I got used to seeing the double chin and mustache and freckles, I started noticing the nuances in my expression and how pleasant my face is when I smile.  As I got more used to seeing my own face, my narrative started to change from being critical about certain features to just accepting them as normal and even attractive.  Then I  put a full length mirror in the bathroom.  Reframing my thoughts about the functionality of my body, instead of focusing on the appearance, while also getting used to the appearance has helped me in a way I can barely explain.

What it really boils down to is that once I got used to what I looked like, I didn’t have to have a narrative in my head about how shocking it is and what other people must be thinking (reminder: you can’t control what other people think about you, their thoughts define who THEY are, NOT who YOU are and their perception certainly does not have any impact on your worth).  Do I still have negative thoughts sometimes?  Absolutely.  Do I still push in my belly and tuck strategically when I’m naked in the bathroom mirror?  Sure.  But these thoughts don’t feel urgent anymore.  I don’t obsess over them.  They don’t keep me from leaving the house.  They don’t make me think about how to punish myself.  And they definitely don’t make me think about what I ate for dinner and all the things I’m not going to eat for ever after.

It might not sound like such a big deal, but normalizing my appearance in my own eyes, by really seeing myself in all the most “unflattering” ways, has really helped me accept and love myself, and that has been a huge contribution to my recovery.

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Self Love Hack #4: Replace negative self talk with affirmations

Have you ever listened to a song you don’t even like so many times that you involuntarily sing along during certain parts?  That’s sort of what negative self talk is like.  You hear your negative thoughts about yourself repeated so many times that you just sing along without thinking about it, or challenging whether those sentences are even accurate (“rock the cash box” anybody? extra points if you get the reference).

As I’ve mentioned before, when you are still new to developing love for yourself, it might be easier to think about how you would treat a friend, or even a stranger and just apply that treatment to yourself.  One phrase I like to use when I catch myself talking sh*t about myself is “HEY, I don’t like you talking about my friend like that!”  It’s important to stop the negative thoughts as soon as possible, because feelings follow thoughts.  The more you think something, the more it feels true.

The next step, after shutting down the negative thoughts, is to replace them with healthy, positive thoughts.  I was suspicious of the idea of affirmations at first, because I was suspicious of myself.  I hated myself so much, that I was uncomfortable repeating affirmations that didn’t feel true, which is a trap, because they won’t ever FEEL true, if you don’t first THINK they might be.  This is where Hack #2 comes in handy: take your affirmations from trusted friends, peers or counselors.  Believe that what they see is true to them and repeat it, until it doesn’t feel wrong anymore and then repeat it some more, until it feels like it might be true, and then repeat it still more, until it definitely feels true.

I wrote about this last December, when we were getting ready to visit family for the holidays and I was beating myself up for what my body looked like and what people would think about it (reminder: what people think of me is none of my business… see what I did there?).  So I shut down the negative thoughts, wrote myself/my body a letter to remind me why I shouldn’t disrespect her, and every time the negative thoughts came up after that I would affirm myself by saying “I love my body and the amazing things it can do.”  I try to look at myself as a whole as much as possible, because there are still body things I can get carried away with, but again, I shut down those negative thoughts and say firmly and factually that I love my WHOLE self, humanity and flaws and all.


I love my body and the amazing things it can do. - Recovering Girl

Say it with me now.

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Self Love Hack #3: Re-parent yo self

In my case parenting, or lack thereof, was a big contributing factor in my lack of self worth and ability to love myself.  I’ve long since made peace with the fact that my parents did what they thought was best and parented to the best of their ability (as inadequate as that ability may have been), but after years of believing and internalizing that I was the problem, this awareness and acceptance was not nearly enough to fill The Parents Sized Hole in my Heart.

I tried filling that hole with food, while I waited for them to come around,  but at some point I had to let go of the expectation that they would change and find a way to help myself, which brings us to self love hack #3.  This hack requires a good imagination or ability to visualize and a moderate tolerance for being considered a crunchy hippy (because talking about inner children seems to evoke this accusation).

I don’t have any human children of my own, but I’ve been awkwardly perched on a chair for the last hour, to comfort my four-legged perma-toddler, because it’s storming and he is scared.  I may not know what it’s like to be a parent to a baby, but I know how to love someone or something with my whole heart and I know now what I needed in a parent when I was younger.  As an adult I have the capacity and ability to provide that for myself.


Be the person you needed when you were growing up.

“Be the person you needed when you were growing up.” – Recovering Girl. Image credit Pixably @wordswag

I think in a lot of cases my emotional responses are still rooted in my childhood fears, especially when my reaction seems disproportionate to the situation.  So when I catch myself reacting from a distorted core belief, I try to connect my present day adult with the inner child at the center of that belief and act as I would have wanted a parent to behave.  I prefer to actually visualize my inner child, because it is much easier to be gentle and loving towards a child than it is towards and adult reacting like a child.  I imagine my inner child climbing into my lap, holding her tight and encouraging, comforting, validating, soothing, reassuring her, or whatever else she needs in that moment.

It took me a while before I was able to trust myself to reparent in this way.  This might even sound a little coo-coo, but it took some time for my inner child to be willing to be parented by me.  So in the meantime, I imagined other people (whom I considered to be more capable at parenting, more loving, and more trustworthy/reliable) holding and supporting my inner child, until I was able to see myself in that role.


If this sounds a little too split personality to you, it might help you to name your inner child something other than your own name.  Until you start to love yourself, it might be easier to pretend that the child you are lovingly re-parenting is a separate person who is not you.  And if this still seems too far out there for you, stay tuned for some of the other, more mainstream self love hacks coming up this month, including self care, affirmations, mirrors and focusing on the present moment.

Pre-publishing confession: I’m a little nervous to put this out there, because I don’t want you to think I’m off my rocker (even though I’m aware of the fact that I can not control, nor am I responsible for how other people feel about me, nor is it any of my business).  But I believe that getting to know my inner child and learning how to comfort her has made a huge difference in my ability to see myself as lovable and learn to love myself, so I felt like I had to include it in the list.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  Do you believe you have an inner child calling the shots sometimes?  Are there other ways to re-parent yourself, without imaging your inner child?

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Self love hack #2: believe the people you trust

I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of August to some of the *hacks* that helped me develop self love.  They are not in any particular order and certainly didn’t all start at one time with the purpose of learning to love myself.  It’s really only in retrospect that I am recognizing their significance.

I used to argue with people who told me something good about me; sometimes out loud and sometimes just in my head.  I see a lot of people doing this, so I’m sure it is familiar to you, too, but take for example a compliment about an outfit.  Somebody says “I love that dress/outfit” or “you look amazing in [whatever it is],” and I respond “what this old thing? I literally only paid $1 for it on clearance at Goodwill (this would be a good place for hyperbole font, add it to the list of needs next to sarcasm font) and besides, look how it clings to my belly/makes my ass look/rides up when I bend over/[other insecurities here].”

Even if I left the house thinking I looked OK, I just thoroughly convinced myself that I look terrible in whatever I am wearing and become super self conscious about it, because for some reason I refuse to believe that the complimenter is being sincere/honest with me and I can’t accept an impression of me that doesn’t match the vision I already have of myself.  I basically impose my own prejudice about myself on this poor, unsuspecting third party who was just trying to pay me a compliment.

And like I said, this isn’t exclusive to out loud conversations.  I didn’t believe people when they would say they love me, or told me I’m smart, or worthy, or whatever else.  In my head I would always respond “you only think that because you don’t know me that well, you don’t know how terrible I really am” or “I am not competent at this, I’m competent at pretending I am…”  Once again, being so averse to the compliment that I spend the next several thoughts convincing myself that I am the actual worst.

I had this conversation out loud with my therapist once. She had said something about how she saw me as a bright light that attracts people.  I could have gone blind from how hard I rolled my eyes about that, especially because I had felt for much of my life that people were always running away from me.  So I explained to her how I knew I was absolutely no good and her response was “do you trust me?”  If the answer was yes, then I had to believe that she was being honest about how she saw me and if the answer was no, she shouldn’t have been/couldn’t continue to be my therapist (because what’s the purpose of paying a therapist you don’t trust, amirite?!?).

I also experienced this again when I was in treatment.  The women in my group knew ALL my worst beliefs about myself and they still loved me in the same way that I loved them, even though I knew all of their worst beliefs about themselves.  Logically, if I really loved them, then maybe they really loved me.  I still didn’t necessarily believe that what they thought about me was true from my own view, but I gave myself permission to trust them and their assessment of me, and to substitute it for my own.  My own eyes were cruel and harsh towards me, in a way I would never be towards a person I loved.

Seeing myself through the eyes of those who love me, helped me learn how to look at myself as someone lovable.  And once I saw myself as lovable, I was able to give myself love.  Once I stopped arguing (inside or outside of my head) about how valuable, worthy, lovable, good I was, I had space to start believing more and more that what my most trusted friends and loved ones told me about myself was TRUE. And the more I believed it, the more true it felt. Neuropathways for the win. Again.

If you’ve been on a journey of recovery, discovery, or self love, I’d love to hear some of the things that have worked for you.

And hey, if you have a hard time trusting other humans, consider how your pet sees you. 😉 ❤

Maybe you trust your pet’s judgement more than other humans. I don’t know about you, but my dog ADORES me, even though he is with me ALL THE TIME and knows EVERYTHING…

Follow my page on Facebook for new posts and updates: https://www.facebook.com/recoveringgirl 

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Here’s what happened when I bought myself flowers for a year

July TOTALLY got away from me, not JUST because it’s been so hot that I’d like to go to sleep in a refrigerator and not wake up until September or October, but that’s definitely been a contributing factor.

I also had a birthday, which led to a lot of time thinking about how much my life has changed over the past year.  I changed jobs (more accurately, quit the job that was killing my soul and hindering my recovery with no backup plan and then the universe dropped the most perfect work arrangement that EVER existed into my lap), I started working on pre-requisites for a master’s degree program and discovered a surprising love for chemistry (probably mostly due to the abundance of puns), I started an EDA meeting that has brought together 8-10 participants each week in just a few months, I stepped down from weekly, emotionally volatile and exhausting therapy sessions to light hearted check-ins every 4-6 weeks, and I’ve been very consistently eating breakfast and dinner every day for a while (still work to do on this, but much further than I ever thought I would get).

In all of this, one of the biggest themes/shifts has been self love.  When I started on my recovery journey, I couldn’t even say “I love myself” out loud, because it felt like such a heinous lie.  Today I can say it AND mean it!  This change didn’t happen overnight, or automatically.  I cultivated it.  Like a garden.  I planted a seed and watered and tended and weeded and watched it grow.

Given that I used to think it was completely impossible for me to love myself, just based on how much I hated myself, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the actions I took to develop and grow this love for myself.  One of those things has been buying myself flowers.  This might not be as big of a deal for you, but here’s some background on why I think it was for me.

I used to think cut flowers were the biggest waste of money! It was a big scarcity issue for me. In fact, for the first 9 years that my husband and I were married, I never allowed him to buy cut flowers for me.  After all, they are basically already dead when you buy them, they don’t serve any particular purpose and the money might as well go straight to the trash, where the flowers will end up eventually.

Instead, whenever he wanted to surprise me with an anniversary gift, or a “just because I love you” gift, he would bring sweets, which seemed like a perfect solution to me, since I was going to spend THAT money on my next binge anyway.  And of course this just reinforced my belief that food is love, which was one of the core beliefs that kept me trapped in my eating disorder for so long.

Then I went to treatment for my eating disorder and there was a staff member that brought in fresh flowers almost every Monday.  I loved seeing the new flowers every week.  It became something I looked forward to, was grateful for, and on the rare occasions that a week was missed, I really noticed their absence. The fact that somebody was going to the trouble of buying and arranging flowers, to bring beauty and (ironically) life into our living space made me feel cared for, valued, and loved.

What I realized is that I didn’t just think flowers were a waste of money, because they are expensive (actually not even true) and don’t last… but that I didn’t think I deserved them.  Meanwhile, this person who barely even knew me, valued me so much that she bought flowers.  Every week.

It took me a long time to value myself enough to spend money on flowers simply because they are pretty and I enjoy looking at them.  But one week last year, we had a coupon for flowers from the grocery store and I decided I was going to buy myself this treat.  I was going to set them on the dining room table, where I sit down to eat between two and six times a day and each time I sit down, I am reminded that I value myself so much, that I believe I am so deserving, that I can have flowers on my table, just because they bring me joy.  And each time I see them and that thought fires down this new neuropathway I created, I believe it a little bit more.

I made a decision that this was a worthy budget entry, but I do know personally, and for others on a budget, it’s not always that simple.  As you may recall from a few paragraphs ago, I changed jobs last year.  I only make about a third of what I used to, so I say this not to justify the dollar amount I spend on myself, but to tell you that it doesn’t have to be a bank breaker.  My grocery store sells flowers that are already pretty reasonable, but when those flowers get close to the “sell by” date, they are discounted to half price.  I spend somewhere between $3 and $7.50 at a time and, depending on the type of flower, they last 2-3 weeks.

When I think about the amount of money I used to spend on a single binge, to fill this hole where self love should have been, I know that a fragrant, colorful reminder of that love and value at my dining room table is the absolute BEST way I can be spending those $120ish a year.

Here are a few of my favorites.

A gift of love from me to me.

A gift of love from me to me.

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Perfectionism vs Drafts Challenge Update

Well folks, it’s 10:45pm on June 30th and while I have made some updates to at least four more drafts, there is definitely no chance that I will post them in the next hour and fifteen minutes.  But guess what?  I published SEVEN posts in the last 3 weeks, compared to 7 posts in the 9 whole months before that.  I definitely got my mojo back and I have no shame whatsoever about not making it to the arbitrary number I set for myself.

Have I managed to completely let go of perfection and not edited a few of those 7 posts to death?  No… but I definitely gained some courage and made some progress.  I’m still going to finish 4 more drafts, because it’s been a great project and because it doesn’t have to be all or nothing (as in, if I didn’t post them by the time I said I would, I can’t post them at all).

In the meantime, thanks to all of you who have been following along and liking and commenting and encouraging me.  And HAPPY JULY!

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How will I know myself?

I started this post for the first time last August (2013).  I’ve come back to it a number of times since then, but I’ve never really been able to verbalize this feeling.  Maybe this time will be the charm.

***These were the only 3 sentences in a draft dated 3/11/2014.  I came back to it many more times between then and now.***

How will I know myself has been one of the most difficult questions of my recovery, right after who am I, if not this.  My identity was so thoroughly wrapped up in my eating disorder for more than two dozen years, I couldn’t even fathom an identity without it. The other things I identified with were anger, despair, and resentment.  In mid-2013 I was just learning about how I was going to need to let go of all of those feelings, if I was going to have any chance at recovery and I. was. terrified!

After spending so much of my life managing my emotions, so I would always be prepared, I would always get what I expected (even if it was the minimum, or the short end).  Not knowing what to expect, abandoning these emotions that seemed so quintessentially ME, felt like a huge risk I wasn’t sure I was willing to take.  Aside from mistakenly believing that I wasn’t me without those crusty old resentments, I also thought letting them go meant I was giving up on fighting for myself (you can read more about that here).

But last fall (2015) I finally figured it out who I was before my inner adult/fixer/dictator squeezed out my inner child (see picture below).  I remembered the exuberance, the wild, free-spirited, girl who loved to twirl and radiated love and light, wanting nothing more than to receive love and light back.

This is a drawing of my inner child and safe space environment from a therapy session.

This is a drawing of my inner child and safe space environment from a therapy session.

And I also gained one of my biggest insights yet, that I can fill my self/vessel/being with whatever I want and if they don’t fit or feel right, I can dump them and try something else.

These two learnings led to a revolutionary change in my perception of myself and my willingness to see myself as something other than what I had always seen.  I realized that recognizing myself wasn’t dependent on certain emotions or behaviors, because I had created them.  They weren’t actually me; they were something I created to keep me grounded, safe, but in reality, there is no spoon…  😉

The questions still remained, who was I supposed to be, how would I become the person I was supposed to be, and how would I recognize myself if/when I ever became that person? I haven’t talked much about how I answered that first question, but it’s all about being in the present moment.  “Becoming who I am supposed to be” is in the future, and the future doesn’t exist.  My purpose, and happiness, is in actually being who I am right now and discovering whether that feels right and then being who I am in the next moment, based on what I discovered about myself in the last, which is also the answer to the second question. Trail and error.  Is it getting a little too meta in here?  The third question, how will I recognize myself, becomes easier the better I get to know myself in the present.  As I create the life that feels right, I will start to recognize it as my own work.

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