Monday, December 21, 2015

Mmmmmerry Christmas!!
With the weather  a tad warmer something about this holiday I don't know about you, but I've been feeling a bit un-Christmasy.

Here are a few things that I've been up to this month to bring back the spirit of the holiday season

A long running tradition in my family is sugar cookies. They're the best!! It's a family recipe we've had for as long as I can remember and every year we bake them over the holiday. Jake and I decided to keep the tradition running, so we baked some in our new apartment. 
It was the best way to break in the kitchen :)

Honestly, the hardest part is not licking your fingers while frosting. 

The Sunday before Christmas we have always celebrated with the Williams side of my family! It's been a few years since Jake and I have been able to make it since we have been in Illinois but now that we are in Michigan, it was nice to celebrate with everyone again!

My grandma Judy has a knack for hosting!! And she always has the best decorations. 

Among her many talents, she's a practiced doll maker. She has porcelain hand-crafted dolls all through her house. And this year she decided to do something special for all the moms in our family. 

She made Santa's for all the women in our family, each with a special story!! This Santa in particular is my mom's Santa Claus. 

His camouflage coat is old camo from my grandpa. The belt and shirt are from my other grandparents in the family. Along with an un-pictured toy sack full of little trinkets from other members in my moms life. It was such a cute idea!

Hope you are all enjoying the time before Christmas this year! It comes up so fast!! 
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from us here Michigan. 

*What traditions have you been up to, to help get you in the Christmas spirit?

how did I get here?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

This is just part of my story.
"My life includes an eating disorder, an eating disorder is not my life" -Julia 

My life isn’t over yet, and there is so much more to it.
But I want to share my story with an eating disorder. 
It took my life so far from where I thought I would be. But I think it's important to be open. 

I feel like, from my limited understanding, that there are SO many ways to grasp how or who is affected by an eating disorder. It doesn’t always look the same. It doesn’t always impact an individual the same. Because there is so much to know and learn about it, I wanted to share my story. That way for myself, and for anyone who reads this, can understand how this particular disease entered my life. 

I had a full life.
I wasn’t afraid.
I never thought anything of the food I ate. 
I ate intuitively. 
If I wanted only breadsticks from my local pizza place. I ate the breadsticks.
Pancakes for breakfast, because why not?

It wasn’t until my eighth grade year that I fully became aware of this body I was in. Had I known then what I know now;
that it’s entirely unfair to judge a growing teenage body: things might have looked differently. But I didn’t. And I began to notice.

I was no longer the same size as my friends. We got taller or shorter than each other. Shapes began to look unique to each of us.  
We started fitting differently in clothes. 
Some things looked better on others than they did on me.
I didn’t know much outside of some people being big, some being small. I never grew up in a home with foods that were “off limits”. So I never really dealt with much in middle school. Except, it’s when I started learning about different aspects of dieting. Obviously there were the good ways and the bad ways, health class taught us that. Some were harder than others, and then there were scary ones. And something about that caught my attention. I don’t know why. But I was intrigued.  
I remember once when I was in the library, coming across this fictional book about a brother whose sister had something called an eating disorder. He talked about how she was when she was little. A happy go lucky kid, and then slowly, as they grew older, she changed. Closing herself off from everyone, snapping at family members, all the while getting smaller and smaller and his heart just hurt for his sister. And I remember being so curious about what this girl was doing. But so heartbroken for the brother. 
I would never do anything like that to my family.  
Thoughts came and went. As long as I never hurt my brother like that girl in the book. It was okay right? And the eighth grade ended. 

It happened slowly. Cloaked in decisions I thought were my own. I began this dance with food. 
Lunch at high school was my biggest opportunity for making my own decisions. This unstructured concept of lunch money vs. hot lunch opened up so many options. Some days I’d grab a bagel for lunch with my friends. 
Other days maybe we would choose just to grab a drink from the al-a-carte station. 
Needless to say, there was no more “plan” to my meal planning. 

I wont say I surrounded myself with bad friends. Because these people gave me some of the best memories in high school!

But it was almost a game. 
And it never seemed wrong.

Spending time in more after school activities.
Taking more dance classes.
Getting involved in more than one play a year. 
I had all of these new ways to avoid the things that were making me uncomfortable in my own skin. 

So I made small decisions. They never seemed like much. 
That is how I look back on my decisions back then. 
Because to me, they were harmless.

I still ate foods that I enjoyed
I was surrounded by close friends
My weight was normal
But I wasn’t happy with myself. 
Not with what I did. Or my performance in school. I had a pretty easy going nature about  myself as a person, but I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. So I kept making these tiny choices hoping that they would change that. 
At least, that’s what I think?

Cutting my portions at lunch because I knew my mom was making a big dinner
Scheduling dance class or play practice over meal times so I would have an excuse not to be at the dinner table. 
I thought this was just my new found freedom. 
Some people don’t like green beans. I didn’t like feeling full. 
I never felt like these decisions weren’t my own. 

Now, nothing drastic happened in high school. I maintained a healthy weight, and fear never really played a role in what I did or didn’t eat. 

Never did I feel like I was really denying myself of anything.
I don’t say that to down play my choices in high school. I say it because it was an issue then, but never felt like one. It was so veiled in my smile and general healthy physique for a teenager, that to me and everyone else around, I was fine. 
I never thought things would get bigger. 

stuck in limbo.
College started pretty normal
I entered my freshman year. 
Got involved in choir. 
Made some friends
Crammed for tests last minute
Finding fourth meal at Taco Bell
Changing my major not just once, but six times. 

And for the first year, I felt like I was getting this normal balance with food.
I had good college days. 

The summer after my sophomore year I landed an AMAZING summer job. In the suburbs of Chicago. That job took me out of state. Which meant this was the first summer I didn’t live with my family after school ended.
It was the first time I really felt “on my own”. 
A wide world of being an adult was here! It was a weird feeling. If I wanted to go to eat ice cream for three meals, I could. If I wanted to spend my Saturday watching movie marathons, I did. If I wanted to workout through dinner, I would. Because it was just me. 
Harmless right?
This was my choice.
It all felt innocent.

Cutting my portions. 
Working out longer.
Felt like it was what I wanted to do. 

It got real when Jake visited me after work one evening. The relatives that I was staying with were gone for the evening, so he kept me company. 
I grabbed a banana to eat and in that moment, there was this decision in front of me.
To eat or not eat the banana.

I panicked. 
It was the first time I was afraid to eat because of what it might do to me. 
And I couldn’t eat it. 
I was so scared to eat. 

Now this red flag may have sent some seeking help. But I didn’t. 
It didn’t scare me that I was afraid of the food. It just felt like another decision I wanted. 
That banana = that feeling. So I didn’t eat it. 

But that grew. 
And I don’t know how to get specific with it. I don’t have a lot of examples or ways that I chose this ED. But in that moment. I really think I let that in. It never felt like something I didn’t want. 
I don’t think I ever had a goal of some ideal weight or body shape. 
Maybe sometimes.
But at the root of it all. I think all those little choices in middle school and high school gave anorexia the roots it needed in my life, and I didn’t notice. 

I never felt like I was denying myself anything. 

It always felt like me.
I wasn’t sick enough for it to be a big deal right?
Maybe what I was doing wasn’t that bad? I’m not hurting my brother like that girl in the book or like people you read about online, so there was no harm, yea? 
I was the exception. (suuuuure)

All of these little things led me into something I never asked for. 
Had I known that was the end result. I would have chosen differently. 

As much as this ED was engrained in my life, it still continued to be a slow and veiled progression. 
Some times I knew there was something wrong, and I would try to fix it. 
I sought out the on campus counselors. 
But it all felt cheesy. 
I wasn’t “sick” or at war with my thoughts 
So that chapter passed quickly. 

I think that anorexia was good at keeping me blind, and that made it simple for me to appease everyone. 

I was fine. 
I got married to my best friend
Graduated college. 
I was generally happy. 

It’s hard to elaborate because this attitude of ambivalence carried on for quite a while. And my life to me really felt normal. I honestly could not comprehend living my life any other way. This was just who I was and what I did. Why was that so wrong?

within the last year.
Over a year ago, as Jake and I settled into our lives in Downers Grove. 
I was comfortable with the life we were living
We had amazing friends. 
Great opportunities to be involved in our church community. 
Things were SO good. 
But as normal as my life felt, something felt off. 

I felt like myself, but this person I was had such a hard time getting close to her friends. 
They were amazing and loving people, but I always felt awkward. So I never put myself out there. 
But that was just me right?

Alicia: just quiet, not super out going, would rather be at home solo instead of inviting people over.
Yup, sure. This was just me. 

But I knew there was something wrong. 
Eventually I found a therapist. 
Because deep down I knew there was an issue that did need to be addressed. And on the outside I wanted to address it, and wanted everyone to know I wanted it addressed. But I think I was just really good at keeping everyone at bay. 
ED was really good at keeping everyone at bay. Including me. 

Going to therapy felt silly. Like something I did, but never truly committed to.

Time went on, life as normal (or my normal) and a little over a year ago these amazing friends surrounded me with so much care and spoke into my life. 
I appreciated their concern, but I couldn’t really internalize it because my life still felt harmless. 

So after talking with my friends, my therapist, and my husband, I was admitted to a treatment facility. 
It was literally the worst. 
And everyone says that about something or somewhere they don’t want to be. 
Just ask my dad about the Secretary of State. 
But it felt wrong. 
It was logically the right step to make.I didn’t feel like I belonged there. It never felt right. Mechanical. 
That’s all it was. Just do what I need to do so I can leave. That was my mantra. And that’s what I did. Because if I asked myself what was wrong with my life, I couldn’t answer it. There wasn’t a problem. So why did I need to be there? 
I was normal. 

And sure, the mechanics of it all stuck for a while after I left the hospital.
It felt like all I had to do was “plug and chug”
Plug in the right steps and the problem would be fixed right?
That went well for a while, until I actually had to deal with things. 
Because in my head, I was in the same place mentally as the day I entered the hospital. 

Obviously with eating a proper diet, comes weight gain. And I knew it was happening.
But logically it was something that was suppose to be happening, so to avoid the anxiety of what was going on, I just didn’t think about it. 
That was the best way to handle it. 

One afternoon that summer, I went out with a friend for a girls day. It was super relaxing, coffee and nails, you know, girly stuff. And as the afternoon was coming to and end, she mentioned about how well she thought I was doing. 
“I’m not worried a gust of wind will blow you over anymore”...

I understand her words and concern were from her heart. But that just struck me. 
All of a sudden I hated everything that was happening. I hated my body, how “healthy” it was becoming. I hated that number on the scale. I hated it. 
And the words kept coming. 
“You look so good”
“Your so healthy now!”
“Look how strong you’re getting!”
Every comment slowly began to eat away at me. Pushing me further and further away from the progress I had made. 

**Not to say this was the reason for my step back, because in all honesty, I was not in the right frame of mind to understand these words. Even though people saw I was making all this progress towards recovery, my head hadn’t caught up with all the steps I was taking. I hadn’t given myself goals, or made any of my own real personal plans. My mindset was to just follow orders, and life would eventually work itself out. But, like I said, that really only worked until I was faced with an actual problem. 

In the fear that I would completely relapse, I was told about something called “loose recovery”
And that’s what I did. As long as I stayed above “xxx” pounds, I could do what I want. I ditched the administered meal plan and ate safe foods. Only when I wanted. Smooth talked my way out of the recommended exercise restriction. And slowly found my normal life again. 

But normal started to mean different things. 
Normal was “xx” foods or “xx” weight
Then one day the weight would change. Then that was the new normal. Nothing else could be normal if it wasn’t that number I saw on the scale. 
The problem was this would happen again and again. 
new normal
new normal
and it wouldn’t stop. 

And I could protect this new normal subconsciously. 
I had read before about how eating disorders cause isolation and how some people had lost friends. But that wasn’t happening to me, right?

I just wasn’t the type of person to want to head out for dinner with friends
I wasn’t the girl who would want to meet for drinks with my friends on Friday nights. 
So i never had to deal with situations that would have caused me stress. That’s how ED kept me thinking it was me. Because I never put myself in situations where food would stress me out. And I thought that was MY choice.
It was making me think that all of these traits were ME

But slowly, I was losing the things I loved so much. 

I was in the middle of the worst of it.

But I still didn’t even know it. 
As much as I knew it was wrong. It never felt like it wasn’t me. This was my life. 
But it took so much away. And it isn’t until now that I really see it. 

Anorexia playing tricks on my mind.
Because I had done what was right, found counselors and went to the hospital things should be ok.

Making me think I was attaining progress, believing I was moving forward, I stepped on the scale. Confident in my progress.
And realized that was not the case.

That number at that moment, was the lowest I had knowingly been. 
It scared me for a second. But then it was okay. 
I think my casual attitude down played the severity of what was happening to me. 
Im not a worrier or a stressed person, so even in the would be scary moments, those didn’t worry me for long. 
I never felt like Alicia was battling against anorexia. So I thought I was fine. If I still was dealing with this huge issue, wouldn’t I know it? That was just the problem though. This disorder kept closing me off, and keeping me in, that I never really knew it was there. Because I was never in situations where I was stressed or uncomfortable. 

I stopped putting myself out there because I didn’t want to end up where there would be meals. Where I would be faced with these unknown foods. Casual dining. 
Family trips or just visiting home caused so much stress because I knew I would be watched closely. I didn’t have my “safe” foods. I didn’t have the gym.

That aforementioned job, that I LOVED. Was taken from me. 

I was no longer fit to be a counselor or role model in the lives of my small group of girls and I was dumbfounded because I didn’t understand why!?

There were moments when I knew things were off. Like I was on the outside looking in on my own life. As much as I loved my family, my husband, and friends, something kept me back from being fully invested. 

I lost my free will. 

I remember my cousins wanting me to come over for the day, and I literally couldn’t because I knew they would either see me not eat, or that I would eat foods that terrified me. I died inside that day. For the one of the first times, I could really see how much anorexia kept me from. I love those guys with all my heart. And I, Alicia, would have loved to just head on over, drink Frappuccinos and snack on junk food with my cousins. But it kept me away. I was so scared to defy this disordered way of life, I couldn’t even be with family. 

The little normal life I created for myself kept moving on. I couldn’t see it, but things continued to get worse. 

My family shed tears and shared their concerns with me. 
They were terrified for their kid and not even that would nudge me toward change. 
I was calloused. I put on a front for my family and friends. Because if I let them in, that would change my little world entirely. And as much as I knew that. I still couldn’t see what was going on, because to me it honestly never felt like anything was. 
But I knew there was
And I didn’t. It’s hard to explain. 

If I wanted to do things differently I felt like I could. But I chose not to.
ED chose not to.
As much as I desperately wanted to be strong and fit and healthy, couldn’t let myself. 

And I had all the tools to get what I wanted. 
Supportive husband.
Loving family willing to do anything for me.
Cookbooks for well balanced meals. 
The general knowledge to understand that a body needs fuel to go on. 
But for some reason, nothing would change.

Eventually, I would have to adopt the frame of mind I knew I wanted. 

Slowly, things began to happen that would make this boulder of stubborn start to budge. 
People, not just family, began to notice. 
Tyler, Jake and I went to Cedar Point for his birthday. I love roller coasters.

First and foremost was the Millennium Force. Naturally. So we stood in line. As we made our way through the zig zag of the poles, crossing the paths of the same faces each time. I began to notice stares. Oh gosh, you guys like my tank top??

How flattering right? But not really. Stares eventually turned to whispers, friends pointing at one another to look my way, definitely was not because of my tank top. They were noticing me. My frame. My bones. My body that was not the body of a 24 year old young woman. I was so embarrassed...

Not long after that. I was visiting my family and needed to pop into CVS for a water bottle. I collected my things and as I was about to check out, another customer passed me by. As we met each others eyes, she looked at me and told me “you are disgustingly skinny” and continued about her business. 
I was utterly degraded. 
This was never about being thin. Or trying to be pretty. At this point in my life, it was the only thing I knew. And I knew it was wrong. But I was stuck. 

Finally, the tipping point. 
I needed a blood transfusion. 

I had made myself anemic due to my own lack of nutrition. This wasn’t a condition I was born with. I gave it to myself. So before anything worse would happen, I needed new blood. 
And the crazy part of it all, is that while I sat there with tubes in my arms, the only thing I could think of was 
“I really hope this doesn’t make me gain weight”
That’s what’s crossing my mind? Really??
Yea.  It was. 
And that’s when I knew how literally twisted this disease really is. 

Things needed to change.  
And I really couldn’t tackle this alone. It’s something ED didn’t want me to admit to myself because for the longest time, I thought I could stop. All it took was for me to actually want it to stop. 
But that’s just it. 
I did want it to stop. This wasn’t what I wanted. But NOTHING was changing. 
Before going back to Illinois after my transfusion, I did something I absolutely HATE doing. 
I let people in. 

I cried in front of my mom (which if you know me, it’s a big deal) and let her just be my mom. I told her I couldn’t do this alone. I was scared to do it alone. 
So, this summer, my loving mother moved into my apartment with Jake and I. (If this doesn’t speak volumes about a family who loves their kid, I don’t know what does?)

Something about her moving in, made it okay to start this process of letting my ED go. 
I don’t know why. 
But it gave me the ability to be okay with moving on
All those things I thought I could do on my own, I was starting to do once my mom moved in. As I think about it now. I really believe it’s because I let myself be loved. Maybe it’s a weird epiphany. But I think it’s a big reason my recovery could take off. 
I’ve never been the one to tell my family when I was heartbroken. 
The idea of letting my mom or dad see me cry just made me feel silly. 
But I think that was what needed to happen to get things started. 

Now. It didn’t just all of a sudden get super easy
My knuckles had grown white with how closely I’ve held this disorder and I hadn’t even realized it. 
But I was finally able to at least let some of the blood back into my fingers. 

I began to make these minuscule steps toward the life I never thought I could have. My mom helped me plan. We bounced ideas off each other. And her and Jake became my sounding board. 

August was just around the corner, and I knew my mom couldn’t stay forever. 
So Jake and I talked, prayed, and things started to fall into place as we thought about making the move to Michigan so I could continue to have the support I needed. 

It’s hard to describe what has been happening since I’ve moved home. But it’s all been good. Slow progress. But progress. And I’m proud of that. I still feel like I have no words for what is going on in my life. I never knew how to articulate what was happening before because like I said, it never felt like it wasn’t me. It crept in. Undetected. Laid dormant. Then exploded. But it was so slow, I couldn’t even tell it was happening. And it is sort of how it feels now, but on the other end. 

Choosing recovery still feels like my choice, but this time it really is me. It’s a slow and steady pace forward. And sometimes I do not even realize it’s happening. Other times I definitely do. But it’s happening none the less. 

whats next?
ED is not my identity anymore.
ED does’t make decisions for me anymore. 

But now, who am I?

Moving forward. I’m noticing that I don’t identify myself with ED as much. My identity does not lie in anorexia anymore. And it’s honestly kind of left me a bit aimless. Not to say that I want this eating disorder to define who I am as a person. Because that is in no  way what I want. But I feel like I’m left now figuring out who I am.

 Not knowing who you are is leaving me in a funk these days. Even in the low moments though I can find peace in knowing that there is more distance between me and ED now than I think there ever has been. 

Im in this place now where I don’t want to be defined by this anymore. 
I don’t want to be a person who struggles
I don’t want to have anorexia
I’m trying to distance myself as much as I can
Now some days I can put more space between anorexia and myself than others. 
Fighting anorexia is like I know what is the right thing to do, and then I do the right thing, and then I’m frustrated that the right thing happened to me. 
But today I’m in a good head space.

And I think that will happen more often as time goes on.
But Im happy with where things are taking me

It's hard to believe that I really had no idea what was happening.
Back in April, that was the lowest my weight had ever been. It was never intentional. I couldn't see it.
Now, things are looking so much better.
There's almost a 20 pound difference between these two photos.
That blows my mind. . .

I used to think that I was some sort of enigma. 
That some how I was the exception to the idea of recovery. I believed that recovery was this fantastical thing out there that would never fully happen to me. 
So what was the point in trying?
It’s happening
Things are slowly getting easier
Life is starting to move forward
And today. 
I’m happy about that
Sometimes Im afraid. 
Some days ED makes me hate it
But I’m ok
And Im happy. 

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