When The Inside Doesn’t Match The Outside

IMG_3804

I could feel her looking at me as I stared out the window. She asked the question again and I knew I had to respond. “So you don’t think you’re thin enough to have an eating disorder?” I stared at her defiantly as I replied,”No”. But even as I said those words my voice trembled. Because I knew. I knew I was sick but I just couldn’t admit it. Not to her not to anyone. And the truth was I didn’t see it. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t think I looked thin, I didn’t think I looked like someone with an Eating Disorder. I didn’t think my insides matched my outsides.

I remember the drive to her office, how at every light I wanted to turn my car around. I remember walking up the stairs barely able to breathe and I remember sitting the open lobby waiting for her to come out and signal me back. And as I sat down and we began to talk. I remember wanting to jump up and run out. But I didn’t, I couldn’t leave because even then, even when I didn’t believe it I knew I needed to hear those words.

Three years later I can remember that conversation like it just happened. Those words were such a pivotal point in my recovery and my dietician words that followed forever impacted me. As I sat in her office that day and we talked about how even if I didn’t think I looked the part or believe it, I was sick.

The stronger I become in my recovery the more it impacts me the way we literally look at people with eating disorders (and people in general). I know for myself and many others there was the misconception that if I didn’t look a certain way I didn’t have a problem. I was small. I was thin. I was little but I would have never deemed myself anorexic. Yet I was.

The fact is that eating disorders come all shapes and sizes, they do not discriminate. No matter how much someone doesn’t believe they fit into a certain category because of the way they look. Size is not the determining factor in an eating disorder. Frankly for many years I “looked” healthy. I wasn’t what someone would consider too thin or too large. I was just average. However, even in my average days I was so so very sick.

The more I work with women who have struggled with an eating disorder the more that constant fact rings in my head that we cannot judge someone by their outward appearance. We have no idea the thoughts going on in their head. The control or lack of control that dictates their life.

Because here is the thing my friend, eating disorders are so much more than what the public sees. There is hiding. There is deceiving. There are things that go on that you would never know about when you look at their smile, at their darling outfit, at their laughter.

I was the girl who had it all together, who had the world at her finger tips, who truly seemed to be on top of the world. But I was sick. I was struggling. I was so desperate for help. But had you seen me, you would have never known.

You may have seen me comment on food. You may have seen me be a “picky eater”. You may have even see me count calories or exercise to the point of exhaustion. But you thought nothing of it, because in today’s society, talking negatively about our body or food is acceptable. You may have thought nothing of it because you too have those behaviors.

As a woman in today’s world, we are taught to care so deeply about what our outsides look like. We are taught to be put together. We are taught to look presentable even “pretty”. We are told to act as if all is okay. Here is the thing though, often times it is not okay. We struggle, we hurt, we often need help and sometimes we need to show that on the outside but we feel like we can’t. Many times the insides don’t match the outsides.

So my hope is this, that the next time we look at someone’s outward appearance we wouldn’t assume they have it all together. We wouldn’t assume that they don’t need help. We wouldn’t assume that they aren’t sick. While this so very much applies to eating disorders I believe it applies to so many other aspects of our lives as well. May we not judge the book by it’s cover but may we learn to read the book and know the story by heart.

All my love,

image

Lines1

When Perfection Destroys

IMG_3041

At barely two I looked into the mirror, about to take a photo with my family and new baby brother and I starred back at my reflection. In the video that records this scene, you can hear my mother telling me to come on. I refuse to come take the picture and there I sit in front of the mirror and announce to myself and my family around me, “My hair don’t look pretty”.

Now some may think that little two year old girl was precious for saying that but honestly I think even at two that statement was a huge indicator of my personality. For whatever reason, I “knew” that I couldn’t take a picture because my hair didn’t look, “pretty”…it had to be perfect. And that is how I lived the first twenty years of my life striving for perfection that was unattainable.

Growing up I was the epitome of the “Little Miss Perfect”. And while I claimed to hate the nickname, deep down I loved it, because it meant I was doing something right. It meant that I was achieving what others thought was perfection. Oh how wrong they were, because inside I was dying. Do you know how hard it is to try to do everything right and perfect all the time.  It was exhausting. And that is where my eating disorder helped me out, he told me exactly what I needed to do to achieve the ultimate perfection and that was be the thinnest possible.

ED had a solution for every failed test, bad situation, breakup, loss, and it was, control it, with food. And the more I let ED take control, the farther I moved away from all that made me happy. Of course he told me the thinner I got, the more I was reaching perfection. However, the thinner I became, the more I lost, grades, relationships, friendships, social events, energy, and ultimately happiness. Yet, ED promised just a few more pounds and I would be there. Well, it never happened. No matter how thin I got, it never worked. And then one day I realized, this whole perfection thing wasn’t any fun, and it sure wasn’t getting me anywhere but despair.

That’s where grace came in and that is where the healing began. However, I didn’t learn that grace overnight but it was the  pain and suffering that got me there. Without these circumstances I am not sure grace would be as real to me as it is now. It finally sunk in that the God that I loved, didn’t love me because I was perfect, He loved me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t. And nothing I could do would make Him love me any more or any less than He did right then. As my dear friend says, “It’s okay that we’re not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” It was that message that made the darkness bearable and reminded me that there was light at the end even when I couldn’t see it. And those people who thought I was so perfect, well they loved the not perfect MK even more, because she was real. Unlike, perfect MK they could identify with the real MK (funny how I was convinced they wouldn’t know how to handle not perfect me).

So what about today? Do I still strive for that perfection? Even those questions make me laugh out loud. Because, today I cannot live without grace, because I am one big mess! And the fact that I am not perfect is totally okay. “Perfect MK” lived a really miserable life that led to a really horrible relationship with ED and other destruction. MK today, she messes up about every other minute. However, she is learning to accept the fact that it is okay, because in her imperfect mess she is loved deeply.

Maybe perfection in any aspect is your goal. My guess is on some level it’s tearing you apart. Let me tell you no matter how hard you try it’s not going to get you anywhere but misery and heartache. And even more, I bet the people in your life would love the not so perfect you even more than you could ever imagine. So just remember it’s okay to not be perfect, in fact it is extremely freeing!

image

Lines1

A Broken Smile

She’s the girl with the smile always on her face. I honestly don’t think she ever gets mad. She is happy ALL the time. Those were just some of the descriptions of a girl who was always smiling no matter what happened, a girl who before everything else kept a smile on her face and always appeared happy. Yet, beneath the smile she was broken, she was sad, she was hurting but know one would have ever known, because she kept a beautiful smile on her face. Sound sad? It was and I know just how sad…because that girl was me…

When Ed and I became friends the first thing he taught me was to numb out to my feelings. For anyone who has ever had an eating disorder, we know that it is not just about the food. For me, every time I restricted I didn’t have to feel. I didn’t have to be aware of how much I was hurting. I allowed my feelings to go numb. Even the happiness that appeared to radiate from me was a desperate cry for help, but no one would have ever known because I didn’t let people see the hurt that I suffered daily.

When I first admitted I had a problem and began to seek help for it, I was terrified and one of the reasons I was most terrified was I was scared to feel. What if things hurt too bad, what if I got really sad, what if I got mad? Even more what if my feelings were silly? What if people thought they were crazy? What if they didn’t understand? What if they were uncontrollable? Ed had fed me so many lies about how it was better not to feel. He told me how I was only going to get let down if I let go of him. What I didn’t realize at the time was that not only was I not able to truly feel anything that could possibly hurt me, I also couldn’t experience true joy either. I couldn’t fully enjoy things. I wasn’t really happy.

There were so many events and situations that happened during my life with Ed that at the time I didn’t experience. From joyous occasions to terrible ones I wasn’t really there to feel them. Much of my problem revolved around the fact that not only was I numb but also I had been told for so long by Ed that my feelings were invalid. He told me I didn’t deserve to feel the way that I did and even more that everyone else thought the same that he did. He told me how to deal with it, by restricting, and therefore the cycle continued.

The other day I was put in a situation that was hurtful. It doesn’t matter what happened but suffice it to say I was hurt about it. My immediate reaction was to dismiss this hurt, to think MK you are overreacting. However, I know better than to do that. So I texted a sweet sister who understands my struggles better than anyone and I told her the situation. She texted me back immediately with not only encouragement and wise words but also you know what else she said?! She told me my feelings were valid and that I had every right to feel that way and not to tell myself any differently. I am so grateful for her (for an abundance of reasons but especially then!) because she was exactly right and she spoke truth to me. You see, it is not even the situation that matters it was the fact that I needed to allow myself to feel. It didn’t matter if someone else thought I was overreacting or silly. It didn’t matter if they didn’t understand. For the moment, I was sad, I was hurt, I was disappointed, I was confused. And you know what? It felt pretty incredible to be able to feel those things. Not because they are the most wonderful feelings but because I knew that I was really experiencing life and I also knew that I wasn’t numbing out. I also know that if I can feel those than I can also be genuinely happy and excited when amazing things happen. Once I was able to be hurt and feel those things I was also able to understand why and honestly felt better about it because I dealt with it.

Life isn’t always happy and wonderful, sometimes, a lot of times it is quite messy. However, I am okay with all of that now because I know that I am not checking out to life the bad or the good. It is hard sometimes though and just like the situation the other day, I I am not careful I have the tendency to dismiss my feelings when it seems to much. Whether you deal with an Ed or not I think it is so easy to be consumed with things in our lives that distract us from how we feel.  It is painful many times and we don’t want to feel pain. We forget though that when we  do that, we also don’t experience true joy either. We don’t allow ourselves to be real when we aren’t feeling. We don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We worry others might not understand and might think we are being ridiculous. We forget that they are our feelings not anyone else’s and therefore no one should be able to dictate how we feel except us. When we allow ourselves to really feel we are truly experiencing life, we don’t stuff down issues that WILL come up later and I guarantee will be harder to deal with the next time around.

Maybe you’re the girl with the smile always on your face, maybe you are the one who doesn’t allow yourself to feel. Maybe you numb it, with or without food, maybe it is with another addiction, maybe it is with work, maybe you will happily deal with how others feel but not you…whatever it is, I just want to encourage you friend that your feelings are valid. Even more I want to tell you that no matter how scary you think it might be to start feeling, it will be worth it. Once you start experiencing life you truly get to live it! I may still have a smile on my face many times. However, I can guarantee though when it is there, it’s real and I want that for you too my friend…because you should ALWAYS REMEMBER…no matter how you are feeling…

YOU are LOVED and YOU are WORTH it!!

<3MK