But This Wasn’t The Plan…

Sometimes, there’s nothing like a nice, long drive alone to fully immerse yourself in your thoughts. So, today, as I drove home from visiting Megan + Rusty + Avery in Greenville (well, technically Taylors), I was flooded with thoughts – and suddenly flooded with tears.

As I drove down I-85, I let the tears fall freely. Certainly I was sad to be leaving their cute little family after a great weekend, but I realized these tears were representative of so much more. And one word kept resounding in my head: GRATITUDE. Unspeakable, unfathomable, overwhelming gratitude.

 

The majestic Queen City #704

My move back to Charlotte in December wasn’t planned. I was a part of a (wonderful) two-year rotational program with Comcast/NBCUniversal. I had completed my first rotation (a year in NYC) and was about to finish my second (6 months in Philadelphia), and head off to my third. I would move back to New York for my third rotation, and finish off the program at NBCU, where I would then transition into a full-time role. That was the plan.

But, my heart was hurting. And as a result of my heart hurting, my health (both mental and physical) was suffering terribly. My anxiety had peaked, and my eating disorder had me strangled in its grips. Every thought of mine was filled with paranoia – from work to relationships to food. I worried I wasn’t performing at my job, I worried people were mad at me, I worried (and obsessed) over every calorie that entered my body.

With the flare in my anxiety, and with the constant thoughts about food (and the, more often than not, daily bulimic episodes), I slowly felt myself losing it. I was sleeping 11+ hours a night and yet, unable to get out of bed. I was mopey and sad and hurting. And worst of all, I was scared.

I was scared as I witnessed my eating disorder creep fully back into my life. It had overtaken me – every bite, lick, taste and thought was consumed with terrible eating disorder behavior. I tried to brush this aside, I tried to quietly take control of things on my own, but with each day, I was further gone.

I knew that if I didn’t make some kind of a change that this would destroy me. So, I resigned.

I left behind my first job out of college, in the middle of the prestigious program I was a part of (and had become a part of me), with an amazing company (and amazing people). It was terrifying, but I knew I had to, because truly, my life depended on it.

I needed my support system, and I needed them at my side. That’s not to say I didn’t have a support system in NYC or Philly (I did – and I love them all!), but I needed my family. I needed my very closest friends. And, I needed my doctors. I needed the people who knew me down to my core, because I was drowning.

Nick Nick Nick Nick


Kat & Cat


To tell your employer and your coworkers that you are resigning is probably the scariest thing ever (especially when you don’t have another job lined up). And it wasn’t the plan. This was going against everything my Type-A, perfectionist self stood for. How could I leave a job, mid-commitment? How could I let down this company? How could I let down all of my fellow program mates (who had become my closest friends)? As a person who has high standards for herself (and who is very hard on herself…), I struggled, but the voice inside my head, and every fiber of my gut, told me I had to do this. I had to do this, but doing so meant going against “the” plan.

The plan I had worked hard for – late nights at the college library, interview prep, 2 big city moves. I had planned my life around this plan (for lack of better words), and suddenly I was going astray. And I was scared.

But, as I sat today on I-85 in tears, it hit me – I had gone against my plan, but I had listened to, followed and trusted in God’s plan. Of course! Why hadn’t I realized that sooner?

Gal Pals!


Avery is everything.

 While it wasn’t my plan to leave my job, God knew that this move was just what I needed, and he planted the idea in my head and lead me to act on this. He was the voice inside my head telling me to return home, because He knew that it was what I needed. And, He gave me the strength to talk to my employers about all of this. He redirected my plan so that I could follow His.

Family.


Since moving back, I have made strides in my health – first in freely discussing it, but second in gaining control back from my eating disorder. I’m not perfect (and never will be), but I am making progress, and that’s all I can ask for.

Most importantly, though, I’ve been reunited with my people. And, while I knew I missed them when in NYC and Philly (hello FOMO all the time), being back has made me realize how much I must’ve missed them, and how many milestones I would have missed had I not come back. Kelley & Matt’s engagement, Megan & Rusty moving into a new house, Panther tailgates with my parents, every second of Avery’s life – all things I wouldn’t have been able to actively participate in had I been home. In addition, I’ve been reunited with some of my best friends from high school and college (and found a job I enjoy!) – what more could I ask for?

Just missing Rusty and Avery😦


A huge, huge part of me felt like I was letting so many people down by moving (namely, my employers/coworkers…and myself). I was embarrassed. I felt like I was being judged. I felt like a failure for not sticking to the plan.

Hindsight is 20/20, though, and while I didn’t stick to my plan, I listened to God’s voice in me and rewrote my plan, according to His direction. And for that, and so many other things, I am grateful.

XOXO

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Sure They’re Gluten Free

Admittedly, I have had this title in my head for a couple of weeks since I first heard I might have Celiac Disease. Two weeks later, I am writing with an official diagnosis .

So, I guess this means I’m now that girl. That girl who can’t eat gluten and requests a special menu and refuses to eat your (delicious and tempting) pizza. Curse you, gluten!

Back in December, I had some routine bloodwork done which showed heightened liver enzymes. Given my history of eating disorders, I felt it necessary to look into this, as my behavior certainly has internal (and unseen) consequences.

In January I had a liver ultrasound which showed that my liver was normal (thank goodness!), so my doctor thought it wise to see a gastroenterologist to get to the bottom of things. After a few more vials of blood were drawn, they told me my bloodwork tested positive for Celiac antibodies. Excuse me?!

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Well, gluten…

This was such a shock as I felt totally fine (I feel very lucky about that!), and I know that often people who find out about their gluten intolerance feel utterly awful. But, I marched on and today had an endoscopy/biopsy of my small intestine which showed that I have Celiac Disease.

It’s crazy to find out such a thing at 23 years old, as you wonder how long this has been going on/how it just developed. And it’s also crazy that even though I felt fine, internally my body was struggling. I’m SO grateful for the medical care I received, including the encouragement and insistence that I look into the issues found in my bloodwork.

Now, I know this all seems kind of odd considering my eating disorder history, but I was told the Celiac Disease is likely unrelated. And, I know that people will say things like “well now you have an excuse to be more restrictive,” but reality is, I have to avoid gluten for my health, and I am not purposefully doing this to “cut carbs.” Like anyone, I want to do what’s best for my body and for me, that means cutting out gluten (per doctor’s orders).

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So, while this will be a major lifestyle change for me, I’ve tried to thing of a few pros (and some cons) of this diagnosis:

PROS:

  • I HATE beer (always have), and now have a legit excuse as to why I refuse to drink it!
  • Gluten free pizza dough is available at so many yummy places (lookin’ at you Mellow Mushroom & Papa Murphy’s)
  • I prefer corn tortillas to flour – long live my Mexican food addiction
  • I truly love fresh, natural and whole foods – fruits, veggies, meat, etc.
  • One of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, is now exclusively gluten-free after author Kristin was diagnosed with Celiac (“later” in life like me!)

CONS:

  • I will have to become an avid label reader (not totally bad, but may slow down my grocery trips)
  • I will have to be very vigilant when out to eat/at social events
  • Biggest of all, I love baking and will have to learn how to whip up some gluten free goodies (although, I did see that Pillsbury makes gluten-free Funfetti mix – PRAISE!)

All in all, I feel content about this diagnosis. While it is definitely not ideal, it is not a death sentence and it is doable. I am grateful that we live in a world that has adapted so much and now has so many gluten-free options. And, most of all, I am grateful to know what was causing the crazy results of my bloodwork because it is never fun to drive yourself insane and wonder what’s wrong with you!

So, now I must begin my gluten-free journey! I have to educate myself on all the dos and don’t’s, and all of the gluten-free options out there. My hope is that I can find some delicious recipes and restaurants with gluten-free offerings and share them with you all! And, if you have any advice or tidbits you’d like to share with me on Celiac Disease or gluten-free diets, please let me know!

XOXO

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

While this post has very little to do with the upcoming holiday centered around luck (hello, St. Patrick’s Day!), I’ll pretend that I’m posting it in honor of my Irish heritage.

I will flat out say that I have terrible luck. Really and truly. That’s not to say I have a terrible life, it’s just that I often find myself facing circumstances or events that make me think “why me?” Luckily (!), though, after a small pity party, I can usually laugh these things off.

I’d like to give you a brief sample of some of the “unlucky” things that have happened to me over the years.

  • I tried out for the middle school and high school cheerleading squad 3 years in a row and was cut every.single.year. #LOL
  • I went to the doctor in the summer of 2012 thinking I had a cold, and ended up learning I had to have surgery to get a cyst in my neck removed. #likewhat
  • I went on a business trip (my first!) in December of 2014 to LA, and American Airlines lost my luggage…and never found it. #stillmissthoseclothes
  • During the time I lived in Philly + NYC, I was on a total of 4 Amtrak trains that completely broke down. #whataretheodds
  • And, lastly and most recently (and looking back the event I laugh at most…yet went full-blown panic mode about when it happened), I spent the last 5 years with a suspended driver’s license WITHOUT.EVEN.KNOWING. #nojoke

Let me take a quick second to explain that last one because now it is fully hilarious to recount.

Like most, I got my license when I turned 16 (summer of 2008). I was a good driver, or as good as any 16-year-old can be, but then one day in the spring of 2010 I got pulled over. Can you imagine?! I really had no idea why I got pulled over as I was obeying all laws, and needless to say I was annoyed. Turns out, my registration was expired (which I will 100% blame on my parents who constantly reminded me the car I was using belonged to them) and I got a ticket.

Fast forward to August of 2010, I went on my 18th birthday to the county courthouse alongside my best friend Nick to expunge the ticket. As I was told by the county clerk, all I had to do was provide them with my updated registration and boom, ticket would be cleared. So I did just that, and followed it up with lunch at Nothing But Noodles (thanks for the great memory on that lunch date, Nick). Happy birthday, clear record.

Fast forward to January 2016, I had just moved back home and needed to get a new license in order to properly register the car I bought. I went to the DMV feeling confident and ready to go, when I was suddenly halted (after waiting in that hellish line) and told that my current license was suspended. Um, perdoname?!

My mind raced, but I knew the only time I have ever been pulled over was after that registration scare in 2010. I thought surely this could not be related. I wondered if I had done something and not known! Or, if my identity had been stolen! These are the thoughts were going through my emotionally hysterical, always anxious head. Because I am rational and all that jazz.

So, I called the county clerk. And, she tells me that sure enough, my license had been suspended back in 2010 as a result of this registration incident, despite having gone to the courthouse to clear my record (and my name! and my glory! and my honor!). Still crazy to me because, in the meantime, I was issued a new license on August 13, 2010 (2 days after my birthday), I had rented a car in Philadelphia and I had purchased a car when I moved home. How does all of that happen with a suspended license?! And how does someone not know their license has been suspended for that long?!

I may never know, but I lived it. And, now that my shortness of breath/tears are gone, I can laugh about this.

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What’s this got to do with anything? Honestly, not much. But, sometimes I will sit around and wonder why I have to deal with so much BS when it seems like everyone around me just breezes by. Why do I have this horrible luck? Why do I have an eating disorder? Why, why, WHY?

But, no sooner do I let myself slip into these thoughts do I remember that every last living person on this planet has SOMETHING they have to deal with that they absolutely hate. No one of us is perfect or living these phenomenal lives 24/7. Life has its ups and downs for everyone. And everyone has some sort of struggle, whether you see it or know about it.

I think a lot of this pity party mentality is brought about because of social media. We see posts of people doing all these wonderful things, and look up to find ourselves in a windowless cubicle knowing the most exciting part of our day might really be the fact that the Real Housewives comes on that night. All too often, though, we forget that social media is a one second snapshot of someone’s life, often bogged down with 19 filters from 3 different photo-editing apps.

I’m not saying you can’t sometimes feel sorry for yourself, I do it! But, just remember, everyone struggles and falls and feels helpless at times. What matters is working hard each day to pick yourself up, and reminding yourself of the things in life that you are grateful for. I’ve found that focusing on these positives, even if it is as silly as looking forward to the #RHOBH, make getting past these pity parties more manageable.

Everybody’s got something, and there’s always someone who’s got it worse than you do. So, pick yourself up, and someone else who might be struggling!, and keep moving forward because, while life can be pretty sucky at times, there’s usual a bright spot at the end of the tunnel (a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?).

XOXO

**PS: The county clerk ended up clearing my record as they realized they had made a mistake, and I now have a fully active license. Phew!

A Week Not for the Weak

It’s midnight on a Wednesday and I have to be up at 6am, but I can’t sleep. It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week, and I feel compelled to write. So many thoughts swim in my head (daily) and this week seemed like the perfect time to put pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard) and let them out. Yes, I know I’ve already discussed my struggle, but one blog post doesn’t encapsulate a years long battle (that I’ve been fighting since 2007).

I’ll tell you straight up, just because I’m willing to talk about my eating disorder, doesn’t mean I’m “cured.” And, quite frankly, I’m tired of this notion that I will be “cured.” That’s not to say I feel that this battle is hopeless and I’ll never overcome, it’s just acknowledging that like any addict, once I reach “sober,” I’ll forever be in recovery. Some days will be harder than others. Some days I will want to slip back to bad habits, but my hope is that I’ll be able to use different coping mechanisms and techniques to get by.

2007
2007: Dropped to my lowest weight of 88 lbs. I hid from the world and completely lost myself.

So, like I said, I still struggle. A lot. Some of the most difficult aspects of this disease are that it is often unseen. Of course, when I was severely anorexic both in high school and college that was noticeable, which made people more sympathetic or understanding of my plight. As I sit here with this newly morphed eating disorder (manifesting itself as bulimia), I’m faced with the troubling reality that I look fine. Truly, I do. You’d never know by looking at me that I obsessively think about/panic over every morsel of food that I eat. You’d never know that it takes every ounce of my being not to try to count every calorie that enters and exits my body. You’d never know that I arbitrarily label foods as “good” and “bad,” and that the second I eat something “bad” I through all caution to the wind and eat everything “bad” in sight, just to get rid of it all later. I can’t even bring myself to say the word purge without feeling utterly ashamed and disgusted.

2013
2013: Hovering around 100 lbs.

And that’s just it, eating disorders breed so much shame because they’re so wildly misunderstood. We see them depicted on TV as a mere choice a person makes, as if an eating disorder is like a light switch I can turn off and on as I please. Dare I quote Cher Horowitz and say “as if!”

What person would ever choose to live a life such as this?! That’s not to say eating disorders don’t sometimes begin with a choice to lose weight, but what person would really choose to try to lose weight by completely starving themselves or by binging just to purge? That’s just not how it works.

Now, I’m going to sound cocky here, but bear with me. Why would I choose to have an eating disorder? I grew up in a middle class family, living in the suburbs with my married parents, two sisters and a dog. I went to Catholic school. I got a great education, graduated top 10 in my high school class and went on to study at the best university in the country (in my eyes at least – #GDTBATH). I had a post-grad job before I even began my senior year of college. I have amazing friends and have been enriched by many life experiences. Why would I choose the kind of pain that an eating disorder causes? WHY?

Answer: I wouldn’t. Every person is wired differently, and you know what, I was wired in such a way that I have a mental illness. I suffer with gripping anxiety, and it manifests itself through this eating disorder, this need to control something and to be “perfect.”

Let’s quickly pause for a minute here. Can I ask, who the hell decided how we as a society define “perfect?” Because I’d like to have a word with said person. I’m sick of this notion that you’re only perfect if you look and act a certain way. Newsflash: there’s over 7 billion people on this earth. Do you really expect 7 billion people to look like the celebrities we see in magazines? Do we expect every girl & woman to have a thigh gap, big boobs and a flat stomach? Do we expect every boy & man to have a chiseled jaw line and a six-pack? We must be out of our GD minds. But, reality is, it’s everywhere around us. We are perpetuating these toxic beliefs. And every day, women and men are belittled and bullied to believe that unless they look and act a certain way, they are not good enough. I mention men here, too, because newsflash part two, men can (and do!) have eating disorders. There’s no gender discrimination here.

So, I’m wired in such a way that I have an eating disorder. Many people are like me, and often, just like me, you can’t tell just by looking at them. Doesn’t make their problems any less real just because they’re not visible. It’s almost scarier because it makes us easy to hide, easy to get away with not getting help. “Certainly I don’t need to seek treatment if no one even notices I’ve lost weight or have abnormal behavior.” << that is an eating disorder thought, and it’s pure danger.

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The scary truth.

Another dangerous belief? Thinking this is all about will-power. People think that if you have enough “will-power” to starve yourself or to binge and purge, then certainly all it takes is will-power to stop doing these things. Ha! If only it were that easy. Many addicts know they have problems yet can’t stop on their own. We know the behavior is damaging, yet we continue to do it. It’s not that we lack will-power it’s just that we are sick. We are sick and we need help.

I struggle knowing that my addiction to food is a bit different than an addiction to alcohol or drugs. See, I’m addicted to something my body needs to survive. I can’t just cut food out of my life. That’s not to say my struggle is harder than other addicts (not at all!), it just requires different treatment to tackle. I’ll never be able to go without food, but my god, I long for a day where every my other thought isn’t about the dang stuff and how I look as a result of that dang stuff!

I know this is an overwhelming amount of text. For some people, not only is it too long to read, but the content is too touchy or too personal, and it’s something they can’t relate to. And for those of you who can’t related, I think that’s great because it likely means you yourself don’t have an eating disorder. But, this isn’t something that you can turn a blind eye to just because you’re not personally affected. So many people struggle and never get the help they need and deserve. Some cases are more extreme than others. But most often, people struggle in the darkness, afraid to let go of this control they’ve long sought after. Afraid that getting healthy means admitting defeat and getting fat. For someone with an eating disorder, getting help can be just as scary as dealing with the disease every day.

Most people don’t want to (and won’t) touch mental illnesses with a ten foot pole. We prefer to ignore mental illnesses, because they’re “not that big of a deal” and “just a bunch of crazy people who make their own problems.” Trust me, I’ve heard it all. But mental illnesses, and eating disorders in particular, are no joke. This is not some BS to get attention. This is a disease with a laundry list of health complications and long-term damage (which I’m having to come to terms with myself).

So, I beg of you, don’t pretend that mental illnesses don’t exist. Don’t pretend that eating disorders don’t exist. These are real illnesses and they deserve real attention.

My advice? Seek help. Offer help. Pray for those struggling. Change the conversation about body image. Hell, stop talking about looks altogether! Start the conversation about mental illness and eating disorders. And, most importantly, work hard every day to love yourself because gosh darn it you are WORTH IT.

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A beautiful reminder that your soul & spirit define you, not your looks. Thanks to my gal, Kenan, for sharing!

No one can fight this battle for you, but by no means does that imply that you have to fight it alone. Let this National Eating Disorders Awareness Week be the start to taking back your health and your happiness. Rally for yourself and others knowing that you are never alone.

XOXO

Leeky Shrimp Zoodles

Zoodles are all the rage these days, and it’s safe to say I’ve jumped on the zoodle bandwagon! Having a spiralizer at my disposal has been incredible (thanks, mom and dad!) as it’s so easy to substitute veggie “noodles” for pasta!

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This Leeky Shrimp Zoodles is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe for Leeky Shrimp Linguine (originally found in her magazine – I don’t have the exact recipe anymore!). This has been a staple with my family for times when my dad, and his poor shellfish allergies, are out of town. While we used to make this with pasta (which is equally as delicious), we have recently been subbing in zucchini noodles – delish!

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Enjoy this for a quick, yummy and healthy dinner!

Leeky Shrimp Zoodles

*serves 2-4*

(adapted from Rachael Ray’s Leeky Shrimp Linguine)

  • 1 lb. shrimp (I used peeled, deveined tail-off cooked shrimp from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 leeks (the white part!) – cleaned, cut length-wise, then sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4-5 zucchini, spiralized
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a small bowl, combine shrimp, garlic, lemon zest (+ an optional squeeze of lemon!), pepper flakes and 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Add 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a deep skillet, add zoodles (spiralized zucchini) and toss while cooking on medium heat to desired tenderness. (I slice my zoodles smaller prior to cooking). Turn to simmer.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to another deep skillet and heat to medium. Add sliced leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly brown-edged. Add shrimp mixture and heat through. Add wine, cook down slightly, then combine with zoodles.
  4. Enjoy!

Happy zoodling! XOXO!

 

*Christmas* Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Merry Christmas Eve, all! I hope you all are ready for the big holiday and not running around crazy with a million things to do. With just hours left before the celebrations begin, I hope you can take this time to relax and spend time with family. That’s my plan! That, and eating a zillion cookies and drinking a glass (or ten) of wine. Yahoo!

  
I thought it would be nice to share a fun cookie recipe for the holiday. It’s super easy, and from one of my favorite bloggers Sally’s Baking Addiction and her fabulous cookbook, Sally’s Baking Addiction (available on Amazon!).

I took Sally’s Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and Christmasified (DEFINITELY a word) them. I rolled them in green and red sugar before baking and used only white chocolate chips – yum! The original recipe is just as delish. Hope you all enjoy! XO!

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow or white boxed dry cake mix
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • colorful sugar sprinkles to roll the cookies

Steps

  1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, cake mix and baking soda together. Set aside.
  2. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl on medium speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, scraping down the sides as needed. Using the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not overmix. With a large spoon or rubber spatula, fold the white chocolate chips into the dough. Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days).
  3. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften slightly at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Place sugar sprinkles into small bowls.
  5. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Roll the cookie dough balls to be taller rather than wide. Roll the cookie dough balls into the sugared sprinkles, coating all sides with sugar. Place the cookie dough balls 3in apart onto each cookie sheet and bake each batch for 10-13 minutes until the edges are slightly browned. The cookies will look very soft and underbaked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days. 

When “Thank You” Isn’t Enough

How does one express thanks for something so beyond words and meaning? It’s tough, and I am simply stumped. But, I owe thanks to all of you who read and supported me in sharing my eating disorder struggle here on my blog. It’s been nearly three weeks since I clicked “publish”  and I am still in awe of the response I received.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to those who read the post, near and far. To those who I know and to those who I don’t. To those who reached out, and those who silently stood by without judgement. It is unfathomable how grateful I am to each and every one of you.

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This journey is ongoing, and likely will never end. I sometimes think of my eating disorder as a volcano – with active and dormant periods. While it will never leave me, I hope that someday it is only a faint thought in the back of my head.

This weekend, in another effort to take back my life and stand up to this awful disease, my boyfriend and I will be participating in a walk for the National Eating Disorders Association. Your thoughts and encouragement mean so much, and, if you are able, please feel free to make a donation to NEDA on our behalf. The link can be found here.

Again, thank you. I hope that in sharing my journey I have eradicated some of the stigma that exists around this disease, and that I have somehow helped others with their own mental health struggles.

XOXO.

The Truth Will Set You Free…

It always upsets me that there’s such a stigma around mental illnesses, especially as they are so common. Despite the fact that I am upset by this, I still refuse to openly talk about my own battle with mental health, simply because I’m embarrassed and afraid to be judged. Quite the contradiction – I hate the stigma, yet I clearly let it live on by not talking about my own battles.

In the spring of my freshman year of high school (2007), I decided to give up sweets for Lent. Innocent, right? Well one thing led to another and I was no longer avoiding sweets, I was avoiding anything I deemed “unhealthy” and overly restricting my calorie intake. I was exercising excessively and dropping weight extremely quickly.

My poor, sweet friends confronted me with their concerns, and I agreed, I had a problem and told them I would stop. Inside, though, their comments only fueled my fire. I accepted their concerns about my weight as a compliment, and used this to drive me to more weight loss.

As school let out for the summer, I had more or less removed myself from any relationships I had with people. I spent my days working out, restricting food and being utterly miserable. I can still picture the meals I ate. 3/4 of a cup of Special K (no milk of course). A can of tuna (no mayo) with pepper and a sliced tomato. Minimal intake of whatever my mom cooked for dinner. Writing that brings me to tears, because I feel the misery and hopelessness I felt back then. And it’s suffocating.

I vividly remember getting up from a chair by the pool, and blacking out and falling to the ground, because my blood pressure was so low. At my worst, my heart rate was 44 and I weighed 88 pounds. Keep in mind I’m 5 foot 5 inches. Terrifying.

After being told if I didn’t get better (by the 3 doctors I saw each week) that I would be sent to treatment, I had hit rock bottom. And I was able to heal and move forward, with the help of my family and friends and a great team of doctors.

Fast forward to junior year of college (2012-2013). My life felt like it was falling apart. My dad was undergoing chemo, my grandmother was dying of ovarian cancer and I was utterly devastated. I turned back to the control of the eating disorder to avoid the hurt.

I would wake up at 6 am to workout before class. I would barely eat at (delicious!) sorority meals. I blacked out at parties. I removed myself from friends, and I know I scared people. Some sorority sisters of mine reached out to my parents, who once again came to help.

I sought treatment at school and seemed to be getting better. Better enough, in fact, that I moved to LA to complete an internship.

I was doing well, but I missed my parents and sisters. I worried about my body, because I didn’t belong to a gym. I felt out of control, and that’s when the anorexia morphed to bulimia (as it often does). After one particular episode that summer, I ended up in the hospital. You’d think that would be rock bottom, like when a drug addict OD’s, but even that didn’t stop my behavior.


And, to be frank, it still hasn’t. I still struggle. To this day. It has been 8 years, and I know it will be a lifelong struggle. Which scares the bah-jesus out of me.

I’m writing this today, after 8 years in this battle, because I am determined to do something. While I’m still figuring out what that something is, I’m calling on you all for help. Help to remove the stigma around mental health. Help and support as I make my decision for what’s next. Prayers for recovery.

Most immediately, I’m asking for donations.  On Saturday, November 14th, I will be participating in a National Eating Disorder’s Association walk in West Chester, PA. You can access the donation link here: http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR/NEDAWalk/General?px=1547384&pg=personal&fr_id=3910

I want to show that I have accepted my problem, and I’m ready to raise awareness and start a dialogue that needs to be started. We as a society have to change, have to stop putting pressure on people to look and act a certain way. We have to stop perpetuating the belief that there is norm we need to prescribe to. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and I’m damn sure there’s not just one best way for us to look and act.

Yet, while I’m damn sure, I’ve still fallen victim to this belief and I fight a daily battle as a result. And I know I’m not the only one, despite often feeling so alone. So please consider giving in some way, even if it’s just saying a prayer. It all matters. Not just for me, but for the millions of people who suffer.

This is the scariest, most honest piece I’ve ever written. I’m fearful of the judgment I will receive for being so open. But I know, the stigma won’t end without the conversation and, let’s be honest, when do I ever pass up the chance to start a conversation.

XOXO.

Working: Have to or Want to?

I recently came across a New York Times article called “Rethinking Work” that left me thinking, and rethinking, a lot of things.

As the article alludes, the notion that we as human beings work solely to make money has been around since the days of Adam Smith, who penned in his “The Wealth of Nations” that “It is the interest of every man to live as much at ease as he can.”

From these words came the idea that it is best to routinize at automate work, so that we virtually don’t have to work, as work is defined. What was once work now has a new meaning, and therefore it should come as no surprise that, according to a recent Gallup poll, almost 90 percent of workers were either “not engaged” with or “actively disengaged” from their jobs. How can one truly be engaged when their work no longer requires effort, when it is no longer a challenge?

While that’s not to say we don’t all dream of a life living in yoga pants and eating bowls of Reese’s Puffs eight hours a day while watching Real Housewives marathons (wait, is that just me?), I find it hard to imagine that most of us don’t want to have a purpose. And, while sitting at a desk all day is not for everyone, that is not the definition of work. Work, or a job, can take a variety of forms (not just corporate), which I think we all too often forget.

It’s certainly easy to fall into the “Adam Smith trap” where we search for jobs that make us the most so we can afford all of life’s luxuries – but at what sacrifice? Sure, you can afford that palatial beach house, but how much joy will it really provide you if you’re stuck there dreading having to return to work the following week?

As Barry Schwartz notes in his NYT article, “Money does not tap into the essence of human motivation so much as transform it. When money is made the measure of all things, it becomes the measure of all things.”

So, while it is important to factor in money when considering work (no one wants to feel completely strapped or worried about finances all the time), it cannot be the sole factor in deciding on a job (or a career). One must consider the job holistically. Do you feel passionate and driven by the work you will be doing? Do you believe in the company you are working for? Do you believe in the product you are selling? Do you feel challenged, and that there are opportunities for growth and development?

loveyourwork

Without these non-salary related questions factored into your job decision, you are likely to end up trapped in a place where you, like so many Gallup poll-ers, feel unsatisfied and disengaged. You’ll lose morale and likely hinder your job performance.

I should note, too, that every individual is likely to have different answers to these questions, as we are all motivated by different things. Heck, that’s what makes the world go round! So, while I am fascinated by the world of media, others are passionate about science or real estate or retail – anything and everything!

I’ll end with a profound statement by Schwartz in which he stated that “Work that is adequately compensated is an important social good. But so is work that is worth doing. Half of our waking lives is a terrible thing to waste.”

Don’t waste half of your waking life. Honor your passions, find your challenge and enjoy what you do.

XOXO

Finding Passion…and Living It

This morning I came across a Huffington Post article titled “6 Ways to Find Your Passion and Live Your Purpose,” which I thought was so timely considering what I have been deliberating in my mind about my quarter-life crisis and going after what I love.

There list of 6 includes the following:

  1. List what you love and connect the dots.
  2. Identify what you do with ease.
  3. Look at your past.
  4. Play like a child.
  5. Do what makes you happy…all of it.
  6. Ask others for help.

All 6 items on these list stood out to me, and when you read the article the explanations for each truly make a well-rounded argument for how these items can help you find your passion. Yet, still, I find myself baffled. How can 6 things that seem so simple make such a big impact?

passion

I think the problem, for me at least, when I read these types of lists is that I automatically assume these are things I am already doing. Of course it’s easy to say that you truly know what it is you love in life and that you try to focus on what makes you happy and do these things. However, how fully are you really embracing this kind of lifestyle?

There are so many things I love to do – travel, eat, write, explore – that I don’t do enough (well, besides eat). And, if I do them, I don’t necessarily allow myself to “live” them. This lies hand-in-hand with my risk-averse personality. I am scared. I am scared to go after what I love, and I think that is because there are so many things I love that seem so “basic” that it is hard to imagine making a life out of these passions. As in, how could I ever get a job doing any of these things?

I want to make a difference in this world, and I think that if every person were to embrace and live their passions, the world would be a better place. We are all so unique and bring such a different perspective to the world, if we were to harness these passions and live them, just think of how bright and beautiful this earth would be.

That said, I love this short and sweet list, but it makes me wonder what more there is to do to find and live your passion. If you have suggestions, let me know, because I am still chasing after mine.

XOXO