A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation – Salty Hair, Tanned Skin, Sandy Bottoms, Soft Bellies and Smiles!

Oh Vacation….what an amazing and delightful concept! Some say that vacation is a state of mind, some say it’s important to make life your vacation, but I have a whole different outlook on this holiday from life. When I used to think of vacation, I would picture perfection…perfection in every way. The perfect views, the perfect food, the perfect swimsuits on perfectly tanned bodies, perfect memories to laugh perfectly at in the future. Picture perfect everything, a vacation from the imperfection that we call life, a vacation from busyness, ugliness, messiness, stress, hatred, and self loathing, a vacation from the shackles of my Eating Disorder. But in reality, these perfect expectations only tightened those shackles even more.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
White sand, and blue water!

But isn’t this how so many of us look at vacations, or holidays? We expect perfection, and once this ideal implodes so does our ability to adapt. The bathing suits, sandals and sarongs that we pack unfold into unrealistic expectations, stress, worry and imperfection, when in reality, a perfect vacation is imperfect….just like life! This past week was the first vacation that I have taken away from those perfection ridden expectations, it was the first vacation I took in the absence of my Eating Disorder and in the presence of self-compassion, self-forgiveness and imperfection….perfectly imperfect!

You may be wondering what I mean by a vacation free from my Eating Disorder…..and what I mean is this…

I wore a bikini on the beach with confidence and pride

I stood tall on my paddle board proud of my softer belly and stretch marks and cellulite

I didn’t work out, because I simply did not want to

I ate when I was hungry, and drank when I was “thirsty”

I stayed up late and laughed until I cried

I hopped on a paddle board and giggled every time I fell off…which was a lot

I made mistakes and held too high of expectations, and it was OKAY….my vacation did not implode

I cried until I laughed

I let go

AND….

When I returned home I did not kill myself at the gym, instead I went for a walk on the beach and nourished my body with food. I was gentle with myself…I eased myself into the reality of life.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
Wet hair, tanned skin, sandy bottoms and soft bellies!
A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
Imperfectly Paddle Boarding!
A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
Shrimp all day every day!

The Trip

My parents took my two sisters and all of our significant others on a beautiful and luxurious trip to the Emerald Coast. This was one of the most special vacations I have ever been on. It was the first time our family has taken a trip together in about six years, with no agenda, no holidays, no weddings, just us. We played in the water, walked on the beach, drank lots of pina colodas, chardonnay and mojitos and ate amazing sea food, fried treats and fresh sweets, we laughed until we cried and we cried until we laughed….it was perfectly imperfect….!

I thought I was taking vacations the past twenty six years of my life….but it was never vacant from my Eating Disorder. Every vacation or trip I took was ridden with expectations, harsh judgement on how I looked and felt. My Eating Disorder put restrictions on not only what I could eat, and what my body could do, but also, what I could and could not wear, when, where and how I laughed, it consumed my every move, and nothing was ever perfect enough, imperfection was not an option, and therefore expectations were never met. Vacations were not vacant from stress instead they were filled with triggers and shame.

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
So much laughter this trip!

What Was Different This Time?

This past week, on the white beaches of the emerald coast, I was free from those shackles, I was free from my Eating Disorder, because I chose freedom, I chose recovery. Full recovery is possible, it is hard, it seems impossible, at times, it does not seem like a choice….but it is! With hard work, a treatment team, support and determination I chose to be free and to let go! I can now go on vacation, and wear a bikini, have a soft belly, eat and drink whatever I want and have no shame when I return home! I eat when I’m hungry, work out when I feel like moving, drink when I’m thirsty, sleep when I am tired, cry when I am sad, and laugh when I am happy! I have a bikini body by simply putting a bikini on my body! I have a beach body by simply having a body and going to the beach! I went on vacation by vacating my expectations, and perfections! I had a perfectly imperfect vacation…and it was imperfectly wonderful! I dare you to try approaching your next vacation or holiday with imperfection!

A Perfectly Imperfect Vacation
Beach Body: Have a body, go to the beach

Read more about my tips and tricks while on the go here! 

And, as always, #SelfCareItOut!

My Recovery Kitty – The Saga of Lilly!

Buckle in for a funny and plot twisting post, you’ll be shocked at what happens!

At the very beginning of my Eating Disorder (ED) Recovery, Sean and I moved in with one another. Maybe I should be clearer, I moved in with Sean and three of his friends, and yes, I know what you are thinking… Why would I ever do such a thing?!!

Yes, it was chaotic, extremely trying and oh so difficult, but it worked! But that is for another post, this post is about my first little fur baby!

This was 4 years ago! I had just moved out to Jackson….and the journey was JUST beginning…I had no clue what I was in for!

When I moved into Sean’s place I decided that I needed something that I could call my own, something that I could love, hold onto, take care of, something that wasn’t connected to anyone else, and that wasn’t related to food, or my body.

The Animal Adoption Center in Jackson, WY, had just received a litter of kittens, and it just so happened that I was a crazy cat lady…so it was really meant to be! Sean was on board, after a bit of convincing…and it was decided! I was going to be a kitty mother! I specifically wanted a boy, that was my only requirement. I went to the adoption center and played with all of the tiny creatures, and picked out this little black kitten, he was PURRFECT (lol…too corny)? Sean made a separate visit to the adoption center, and unknowingly connected with the same kitten, and the deal was done! We named the adorable little man Liam, and counted down the days until we could take him home!

Liam’s first week home! Look at those saucer eyes!!

I took Liam home when he was about eight weeks, he wasn’t drinking his mother’s milk anymore, and they therefore allowed us to adopt him! Liam was about the size of a tennis ball, his fur was all-scraggly and his eyes were as big as saucers! I fell in love, and a small part of me started to heal with that newfound love and connection. My purges were less frequent, and I wasn’t constantly thinking about recovery, instead I was focused on this new little, but oh so big, love!

Only a few days went by and Liam got really sick, and I mean really sick. It turned out he had a parasite that is common in feral born cats, and most often ends in death. I was determined to keep my new little baby, nothing could take him away from me! I stayed up nights with him, cleaned him in the bath, spoon fed him and hydrated him to the best of my abilities. I took Liam to a different vet to get a second opinion, and they prescribed some intense antibiotics and fluids for my little 2-pound bundle of love. With a lot of patience, perseverance, fluids and love, Liam finally got better, and with every day so did a small piece of me.

Sweet little man! This was him at about nine weeks!

A couple of months went by, and Liam started to change. His attitude and overall demeanor completely shifted, in that he became protective of his food, he would hiss and bite every time we tried to pet him, and he never wanted to play. The anxiety started to weigh on me, this little kitty was getting in the way of my relationship, was causing me more stress than joy, was testing me! But I kept reminding myself that this was a sacrifice, this was the cost of being a kitty mother, unconditional love! Remember patience is so crucial within the most trying of times (Click on the link for more)!

I was counting down the days to Liam’s appointment to get “fixed”, the vet advised me that getting neutered usually helps the testosterone levels, therefore it might alleviate some of his behaviors, although it is best for male kittens to wait at least three months.

The day of Liam’s neuter appointment finally arrived! I brought Liam to the vet, they put him under a mild anesthetic, and began shaving his under belly. The vet advised me that I could stay in the room, as it would be a quick “snip, snip.” I sat there for a while, and the vet tech hesitantly asked me if Liam had been neutered already, I said no, as he was adopted at the young age of eight weeks. The professionals kept feeling around, and abruptly said…. “welp, um it’s a girl!” I paused, shook out my ear, and laughed “right!” thinking that they were joking, and after a few moments I quickly realized this was no joke! “Jayne, your cat is a girl, we are going to have to do this quickly, as a spade takes much more time, precision and need for anesthetic”

The vet tech pretty much pushed me out of the room, and told me to return in a few hours, they would call me if there were any complications. I, on the other hand, was a mess. This verdict tore me apart, my little baby boy, was not a boy, he was a girl! I was obviously not crying because of the social norm that gender is, instead my tears were coming from a place of uncertainty, in that I had put my heart and soul into something and now that something changed.

Those eyes!

Once I collected myself, I returned to the vet, and picked up Liam, it just so happened that poor little baby, girl, Liam had been in the middle of heat, and was in so much pain that she was coping the only way she knew how! The craziest thing was that two different vets had informed me that Liam was a boy; he apparently had two little fur toughs at the base of his under belly that shaved right off! The poor thing was hurting for the past couple of months! Liam was coping by biting, scratching and growling, he was hurting me because he was in pain. This behavior was synonymous of my ED, my behaviors were only manifestations of anxiety, stress, perfection, and pain….I was hurting my body because my perception of the world was hurting me, I was in pain. 

Happy brother and sister moment! Poor Gio had a little eye issue!

I brought Liam home, and quickly shed of my sociology background, rid of the notion that gender is a social norm, and got Liam a sparkly pink collar to go with her new name; Lilly…. for some reason this made me happy, probably a confirmation of the misogyny of society.

She thinks she is royalty!

Lilly started to recover, and her true personality started to shine through! She was a sweet, incredibly sassy, kitten with somewhat of an attitude problem! Lilly grew to LOVE her adopted Kitty dad, Sean, and rebel against me, her mother. She would scratch me, bite me, ATTACK me, and then go and cuddle with Sean, like the typical angsty teenager! For a brief period we allowed Lilly to be an outside cat, but when she came home one day all bloody and tore up from being hit by a car, Lilly quickly became an indoor cat again! I know…the drama!

She chose her Dad’s team over her moms Blackhawks….

The saga truly goes on an on, Lilly continued to test me, and with that I grew stronger. I was able to take care of something, watch a small being, MY small being almost die, come back to life again, change personality, and truly REJECT ME, and with that came so much pain, so much discomfort and so much growth.

Yes, we even tried walking her!!!

Lilly’s journey was symbolic of my Eating Disorder Recovery. It was tumultuous, painful, confusing, what seemed like a near death experience, challenging, forever evolving, uncomfortable, and beautiful! With pain, and discomfort came change and growth. Change cannot and do not exist within a state of comfort.

A game of “where is Lilly?”

Believe it or not, Lilly was a MAJOR part of my recovery. She tested me in so many ways, she pushed me to reevaluate what I believed was healthy, unhealthy, important, not important, life or death, Lilly taught me a new kind of love, one of constant challenge and testing, My recovery kitty reminds me everyday what unconditional love looks like, feels like, and let me tell you something, I have learned how to love myself, unconditionally…. and that is self-compassion at its finest! So thank you my little Recovery Kitty, I love you Lillykins!

This was when Lilly was an “outdoor” cat, she would go outside for about 15 minutes and come right back in! I miss this little bungalow we lived in!!
Lilly and Gio are the best of friends…their personalities shine through in this photo!
Living For Life, Love and Self-Care and Advocating For Eating Disorder Recovery

Be Your Own Advocate

Advocate for yourself!!!
Advocate for yourself!!!

Whether within recovery from poor self-image, people pleasing, lack of self worth, or an Eating Disorder, having a voice for yourself is crucial.

Advocacy is one of those things that doesn’t necessarily seem natural to us, in that we were never taught how to assert ourselves, promote ourselves and look out for the greater good of our souls. We grew up with parents, or guardians of some sort as our advocates, teachers, coaches, tutors, aids, peers, counselors, and even companies and government officials who speak on behalf of us. Within daily life, as an individual, the only advocate is yourself.

It takes courage, adjustment, and self-acceptance, but the moment you start to advocate for yourself, the moment you begin to look out for the greater good of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, the moment you talk on behalf of your soul, is when you will truly be advocating for yourself, and this is self care at its finest!

If you don’t advocate for your emotional well being who will?! No one. Because, you, and you only, are the one who knows your limitations, boundaries, feelings, emotions and state of wellbeing. The absence of advocacy calls for compliance, blurred boundaries, lack of care for one’s self, and pure exhaustion.

You cannot live a happy and fulfilling life if you are constantly filling up someone else’s cup from your own supply, because that will only run you dry, leaving other people underserved in the end. Think of yourself as a barista…. you cannot properly and sufficiently serve others if you haven’t had the chance to stock up the fridge, prep the machine, or serve yourself! You must be your own barista, and serve yourself first, before you can serve others.

I am a recovering people pleaser, and self-advocacy is something that I struggle with on a daily basis, and with constant practice and time I have greatly improved! For a very long time I surrounded myself with friends that required constant service, in that I had hardly any time, if at all, to serve myself, metaphorically speaking, they were overly caffeinated individuals, and being their barista, I was at fault. It took me to the point of a breakdown that I realized I needed to speak up for myself. When a friend asks to go out for drinks during a busy week with school and work, I can now practice self advocacy by saying “I cant tonight because I don’t have it in me, I love you but I can’t.” Or sometimes I even say, “Thank you for the offer but I just need to have some time with Sean/myself/family.” It is OKAY to serve yourself, to advocate for yourself, to be honest and possibly displease others!

Advocacy is crucial in so many areas of our lives…

In Eating Disorder Recovery…

-Advocate for support when needed

-Advocate for space when needed

-Advocate for trust

-Advocate for treatment when needed

-Advocate for nourishment when needed

With friends

-Advocate for space when needed

-Advocate for support when needed

-Advocate for closure when needed

-Advocate for your self-care

With Work

-Advocate for your time

-Advocate for your professional and personal boundaries

-Advocate for your gender rights

-Advocate for EQUAL pay

-Advocate for a raise

-Advocate for a promotion

-Advocate for security

With yourself

-Advocate for nourishment

-Advocate for sleep

-Advocate for luxury

-Advocate for health

-Advocate for wellbeing

-Advocate for happiness

-Advocate for recovery

Lets advocate for self-advocacy! God knows that someone needs to stand up for your wellbeing!

Five Ways to Celebrate Recovery!

In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness week below is a handful of ways to recognize and celebrate your own recovery, as well as, spread awareness!

Your recovery hero is first and foremost yourself, which is a beautiful achievement, but there are also other heroes within our life that helped us through our eating disorders, were the catalyst to recovery, or maybe just influenced self-awareness. Whether your recovery hero knows about their impact on you and your recovery or not, take the time to acknowledge them! Celebrate your hero! This can be intimidating at first so here are some ideas on ways to acknowledge that special someone in your recovery journey!

-Make a picture collage and post it on social media, send it to them, or frame it as a gift!

-Make a playlist that embodies the spirit behind your recovery journey

-Write a letter to your recovery hero and send it in the mail or read it to them out loud!

-Treat your recovery hero to an afternoon with you, show them love, respect and appreciation through vulnerability and friendship!

-Give your hero a hug, and just say thank you!

Social media, in particular Facebook and Instagram can be incredibly triggering for individuals within recovery, in that it is a digital world created upon filters, editing, #hashtags, and fabricated moments of someone’s life. Therefore, instead of allowing social media to take you down, create an account that can only lift you up and inspire you! Creating a recovery account is done with the intent to surround yourself with real, normal images, as opposed to the fabricated filtered images we see on a regular basis. Therefore, following inspirational, real, body positive accounts, and fellow ED veterans can be incredibly rewarding and normalize your social media world again! RecoveryLoveandCare is on Instagram, therefore start out with following us, and slowly navigate your way through the #bodypostive #bopo world!

Set aside at least twenty minutes every day this week to celebrate you! Self-care is the key to a successful recovery, therefore self care and self-love must be practiced on a daily basis! Self care doesn’t have to be time-consuming, it can be as simple as running yourself a hot bath, going for a walk in the morning, painting your nails in silence, or dancing in front of the mirror while you get ready for work in the morning! Therefore, this week try to condition yourself to practicing self-care, set aside twenty minutes a day for seven days, and just celebrate yourself!

This is a moment for true reflection and honesty. Are you truly at a point of recovery, and if so are you still in need of professional assistance? This is a question that is not meant to shame or pressure anyone, instead it is meant to challenge our self-awareness, because self-awareness is a major component within eating disorder recovery. No, recovery is not linear, but are you truly at the point in your recovery that you do not need professional assistance? In other words, intensive treatment may not be needed anymore, but the weekly or monthly check in with your helping professional, nutritionist or primary care doctor is always helpful, and has been proven to help individuals through their eating disorder! So if you or a loved one is in need of a little extra help within their recovery, bring some awareness to the topic and have an honest conversation about the overall recovery process.

Lets have a real conversation about Eating Disorders, no shame, no stigma, and no embarrassment, just truth. Sit down with a loved one, or maybe even a stranger and discuss what everyone else is afraid to talk about! Starting the conversation will take us one step closer to healing!

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017!

This week is Eating Disorder awareness week! What does this mean?

There is an entire week dedicated towards educating the public and honoring those within their Eating Disorders and Eating Disorder Recovery. February 26th to March 4th will be focused on continuing the conversation about Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Eating Disorders other specified, as well as, educating the public about the truth behind Eating Disorders, continued funding towards Eating Disorder treatment, honoring the recovered, and spreading love and awareness to those affected by Eating Disorders and those who lack an understanding of Eating Disorders and Recovery.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) host’s week of awareness, therefore I encourage everyone to visit their webpage. NEDA offers a plethora of ways to not only get involved within Awareness week, but also offers resources for those in need of extra support, see below for a list of services…

 

  1. Free online screening for Eating Disorders
  2. Local and online resources for those in need
  3. Ways to raise awareness and get involved within the recovery community
  4. Local and global walks in honor of NEDA awareness week
  5. Stories of hope
  6. Resources for treatment and insurance
  7. Public health concerns and a conversation surrounding the stigma of Eating Disorders

As we move into this week, I encourage everyone to take the time to visit this website and join the conversation!