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My Visual: What it’s like to Have an Eating Disorder.

Hey everyone! So, I wanted to do a different kind of blog post detailing a little of what my life with an eating disorder has consisted of. A friend recommended that I sketch out some of what goes on as part of a creative outlet, as well as a way to help people understand more about what this gruesome illness entails. I have made a description for each picture and hope that this post is helpful for friends who have never encountered this struggle. For those who might not be sure what the white substance is in these pictures, it’s sugar, one of the substances that I try and control most during rough cycles of anorexia and orthorexia. Every case is different, and so please just consider this one account of the thousands that exist. This is all in hopes to break the stigma around eating disorders… let’s talk about them.

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Every line that protrudes from her collarbone has a story to go behind it. Understand that eating disorders don’t happen overnight. They take years of constant frustration, guilt and an inability to cope. Personally, one of my issues stem from the fact, that I don’t like change. I have never been used to it, and it is sure to complicate my life if I let it. When change hits me, whether that is from lost friendships, financial struggle, or family conflict, I turn to the things that I am used to… as if to keep a part of the “normalcy” that once was. In this case, I turn to the gym and controlling food. The gym has always been there. The rush that I feel, the ability to just let go and feel nothing…. It’s an indescribable high. While still trying to balance an image of perfection, I’m struggling with a whirlwind of emotional conflicts that are trying to work their way out with an improper outlet. It’s like the kiddie toys at the daycare. A square can’t fit into the circle space, and a triangle can’t fit in the rectangular slot. Nothing can go in or out of that shape basket if it isn’t the right outlet, which is what the gym is in my case. Nothing ever gets resolved there. It’s just a constant. However, the constant turns into more of a problem than a safe space, and in the process my internal emotions are wreaking havoc on my physical body.

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This drawing emphasizes the gym in particular. In my personal experience with over exercising, I have narrowed down the concept of why I do what I do. One misconception is that everyone who abuses the gym, or even food, don’t actually like those things. For me, this is far from the truth. The gym wasn’t originally abused in the beginning because I loved the gym. I always have, and probably always will. I have fun there. I am active there, while also being part of a community while strengthening myself. As previously mentioned, it is used as an incorrect outlet, yes. But ultimately, I started to overuse it to try and attain superficial imperfection in order to try and hide my pain. I figured that if I looked perfect; through looks, social media and so forth, that people wouldn’t question me, my beliefs and my actions. In the realm of Christianity, what is the actual point of pretending we are perfect? If we were perfect, instead of striving to be like the “Perfect One”, who is Jesus Christ, then what was the need for a Savior? This was my conclusion when it came to finally outwardly admitting something that was so important (as well as originally shameful) for me. However, we have to remember that shame left us the moment Jesus carried and died on that cross for us. Bashfulness no longer means anything because we are all recognized to be as sinners. We are all struggling with something. In the end, the weights made me physically stronger, but I felt the same, if not worse than when I started. My boiling pot had long reached the surface and then some, overflowing on to the floor of my “clean” life.

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Percent Daily Values are based on a low calorie, low self-esteem diet that centers around unhealthy thinking and imaginary flaws that caused increased blood pressure and mental health issues. Consult your doctor should you have enough of this insanity.

With every slice of cake, every unplanned event that concerned pizzas and hamburgers, etc. I try to resist. I try and restrict. I try to control. As the gym post mentioned, I love the gym. The same goes for food. Chocolate and other sugary concoctions has always been my weakness, but I still love them just the same. This drawing gives a scenario concerning junk food, and what can go through my mind while eating it. It starts off with be being fearful that I will gain excessive weight, though as we know, this is untrue. I used to weigh myself after meals, but especially after deserts. I experience all of the “servings” listed on this label. I feel shame and guilt because I didn’t have the willpower to say “no”, and I feel as though once again, I have lost control. I am frustrated with my choices and will likely act as such by being in a bad mood, or resorting to run it off at the gym. I immediately regret the slice of cake, but try to get through it anyways. By the end, I am hopeless, because I have NOT enjoyed the cake due to the emotional turmoil, I feel 10 pounds heavier, and ultimately, disgusting. I question the reason that I ever ate it in the first place. It’s a terrible cycle of “want” and “regret”, all for the sake of perfection.

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This drawing represents how one must look at an eating disorder. The way that I treat food is the same way that people can treat substances such as cigarettes, or even those extreme methods, such as marijuana or cocaine. They are outlets. They are used to tone down stress; to calm down after a hectic day. They are used as measures of anger as well as tolerance levels. People addicted to cigarettes also can’t “just quit”. They can’t just “stop smoking”, though there is always an exception to that. And even if they should “just stop” smoking, that by no means guarantees that they can quit that habit for good. If they refrain from that habit, it doesn’t mean that they’re not still thinking about it constantly. Wanting to go back, to release their emotions through that cigarette. For those who truly wish to see this illness as it is, think about it as a porn addict or an alcoholic. If they could “just quit”, don’t you think that they would have by now?

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Some days, I truly feel okay. I can eat whatever, do whatever, and it doesn’t affect me. These are the good days. However, sometimes, things can go from good to bad VERY fast, and I go from nonchalant to freaked out in a matter of minutes. I don’t know how to describe it. Take a drink for instance. When I decide to have a sugary coke, all is well for the first few sips. I love the taste, it’s refreshing. however, should I drink the entire standard sized bottle, I connect that with losing control, and remember talks about empty calories and so forth. I might try to rationalize to myself over and over as to why I should be okay, but my mind might wander into “weight gain” territory, so a meal might be missed that night. All on account of a coke. It’s truly insane. The picture is meant to be over-dramatic because that’s what this disorder is. It’s an obsessive need to do the right thing and to be “good” through food and drinks, and by controlling them, you convince yourself that you are off to a good start with that goal. Wrong.

 

To say all of this is to just open up the part of my world that kept me down for so long. This is me recognizing that being open is one of the most important parts of healing. I hope that this vulnerability can help someone who is struggling to step forward with whatever they are going through.

Good Morning.

 

“Good morning.”

I sit up, look out the window. It doesn’t look good outside. It’s been storming a lot lately.

I throw on some clothes.

I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth.

I go to the kitchen. Two eggs, a packet of grits and a piece of toast. That’s what I want.

Back to the bathroom. “Does this shirt make me look bigger than normal?”

I walk back into my room. Change clothes.

I come back out to the kitchen area. “Okay. One egg, a piece of toast, and orange juice. Sounds a little less heavy.”

This is the new desire of the morning.

While the egg is frying, I go back to the bathroom mirror. Turn sideways.

This multi-patterned legging makes me look stretched out. Too wide.

Back to my room for a third change.

I quickly go back to the kitchen, where my ideal meal awaits. Toast is done, egg is finished, all that’s left is the orange juice.

“There sure is a lot of sugar in that orange juice.” I think I’ll opt for water.

Water it is. This is what I want. An egg, a dry piece of toast and a glass of water.

I look outside again. The day looks less dreary now, the rain has ceased.

Actually, it was never storming.

The storm symbolizes how I feel some days when it comes to my relationship with food. The storm is the inner turmoil that takes place when I want the control; I crave it. If I don’t feel in control, then the day starts off full of sorrow and dampened with the pain of facing the day without a release. Food is my release. When I feel in control, it is as if the rain has stopped, the clouds have disappeared, and life can continue as normal.

I’m not going to lie. This blog post was thought about years before it was even written. For those who know me… who REALLY know me. I’m struggling. I’m struggling big time. I have been for a while now. I try to be discreet majority of the time, but I’m learning that sometimes, it’s okay to be open about what plagues you. So here goes:

        Most of you might have tried to get to know me recently. Or, I’ll even say over the past year or so. And I’ve shut you out. You didn’t hear from me, I didn’t respond to your message… when you ask how I am, I usually say “fine”, or I give you a look that you simply can’t interpret as good or bad. I think I’ve gotten good at this… being so secretive about my issues, that all people can do is stare and wonder about what’s going on in my life. What’s really going on.  I say none of this for attention, as these accounts are real, my story and my struggle is real, and the attention that comes with that is not on me. I wouldn’t wish this kind of “attention” on anyone.

        2010 started me down a wicked spiral of having an eating disorder. Several to be exact. I started out with full blown bulimia…. Imagine this type of disordered eating while trying to maintain a competitive mentality as well as physique for track and cross country. It was a gruesome year, as I was steadily falling apart and not understanding proper coping mechanisms after my father’s unemployment upsets took our house by storm, and tore up whatever pieces of trust and self-worth that I had. I was swept away in guilt, anger and revenge.

        Fast forward to college, where for the first two years, I was having the time of my life. I had all of the friends that I could possibly ever need, and I felt invincible with them at my side. I was out of the verbally abusive household and finally started to see some of the more pleasant moments in life. However, sadly, all good things must come to an end; emotions took control, and whirlwinds of chaos took precedent in a once glorious escape from reality and true  adulthood. I didn’t know what to do with this abrupt change, just as I hadn’t when my father turned our world upside-down. So I resorted to some of my own tactics… my own “coping” mechanisms to get the release that I so desperately craved after all of the emotional damage and stress.

        So fast forward to now. I am trying to rebuild what I once knew, and I’m learning how to truly love myself again. It is extremely hard… harder than one can ever imagine… I now primarily struggle with anorexia and over-exercising, and have been formally diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I suppose that many of you might have already figured some of this out. I know that everything comes to the light sooner or later, and so with that in mind, as well as the reasons for my openness, I chose to make known something that is so personal to me, something that needs deep prayer. And to let you know that I am actively fighting, though some days are harder than others. By no means does this mean that I am perfect, and trust me- I have a LONG way to go. Every single day is an absolute struggle. To wake up and not want to fully attack my body through overdoing it at the gym, while damaging my heart and my emotional well-being in the process. To not want to immediately go to the gym after a regular meal, or even to just not feel guilty about it.

What I need you to understand is this: Eating disorders are NOT just concerning looks, that doesn’t even begin to cover this debilitating illness. They concern how you wish to portray yourself in the face of others. You want to look perfect, to be perfect. It concerns having power- when every other aspect of your life is being controlled by someone else, or by circumstances that are out of your control, at least you have this. At least you have something that nobody can take away from you. This is yours. You can choose what goes into your body, when it does, and why. However, this eating disorder is not just yours. It’s your friends and family’s eating disorder as well. Your loved ones… It affects them just as much as it affects you. Because they don’t know how to help. They see you suffering, and they wish that they could take that pain away. They can’t. They can watch it tear you up limb by limb… they can listen, and hear you out as to why you do what you do… but they can’t “fix” you. They can’t strap you down, force you to eat, and stop you from going to the gym to purge in that way. They can tell you over and over again that it’s going to be okay, but will it? Will it actually, “all work out?”. And the answer that I’ve come up with is no. It will NOT just go away, the habits will NOT just cease. It takes effort. And prayer. More prayer. More action. More guidance. Trust me, I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve taken it easy, not gone to the gym for a bit, then went regularly while maintaining an actual healthy diet. All of that helped for a while. I’ve gone to counseling on and off, and just felt like I already knew the facts that they had set before me. I have read hundreds of inspirational stories and have gained hope from them… and then shortly after, a “bad week” hits, and I am back to square one, all hope lost. Like I said, it’s never easy. This illness is one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Nobody deserves this. It’s brutal. It shows no mercy and will consume every part of you. Some days, I am terrified to leave the house, because of social events that center around food, or because of some situation that will potentially cause me to re-route my gym plans. It would seem that the habits and mind-set that one has while struggling with are ingrained within them, chiseled bone-deep it would seem.

This disease truly captures the worst parts of life, mixes it all up and makes it hard to sort through what’s real, and what’s imaginary.  This illness is not imaginary, however; man, do I really wish it was. To say all of this is to say that I am human. My demons will cause me to falter like everyone else’s. The difference this time is that I choose to be transparent. I’m choosing to not accept defeat; to not intentionally let this illness get the best of me. Every day, I think that I am worse off than the day before, but then I realize that I still have a heartbeat. I am living. I have another chance by the grace of God to conquer this thing, and move on with life. Deep down, I know that I have not given up. And I won’t. I see myself now, and it’s scary. Body dysmorphia usually has me thinking that I am way bigger than I really am, which is ultimately not the case. I truly don’t see what everyone else sees. However, lately I have been able to truly see myself and my heart for what it really is; broken. My heart aches knowing that if this continues, the road to 100% recovery will be that much harder. So I’m asking whoever reads this to first of all, be in prayer for this twisted journey that I wish to get through in one piece. At the same time, I ask that you treat me no differently; I know that this will be the case; I wish for this to be common knowledge, but not a reason to be afraid to talk to me or invite me out to things on account of my struggles.

I also want you to know that no struggle is too big or small. Know that you are not alone, and that God truly meant it when He said that you cannot keep your burdens to yourself and carry them alone. I’m finally doing that, giving my burdens to my friends and family,  being honest with myself, as well as with others, and I encourage you to do the same. The church is the most populated hospital in the world. In some way, we are all broken. That truth will never change.  I hope that by sharing this, that first, it serves as accountability to myself, as I do plan to make full recovery, whatever that entails. And to also let you guys know that I am also here, praying for you, and 100% here if you need anything, or just need to chat. I love you guys, and will continue to pray for you, as I hope you will do with me.

Honesty and Trauma: The acceptance that we’re broken

Sometimes we do things that we don’t want to do for the sake of our lives in the long run. We make decisions that are ultimately for us, and nobody else, and then on top of it all, we have to trust that the decision that we made was the right one. Sometimes we have to face the actual facts of a matter, understanding that eventually, reality of the situation will take its foothold whether we want it to or not, and either you choose to see how things really are now, or see the trauma of it all at a later, more inconvenient point. Sometimes the force of that harsh reality will sting worse than you ever thought it would, knocking you off of your feet and placing you in a choke-hold of which you do not think you can ever escape. Sometimes that pain can bring the ultimately joy that you’ve been waiting to find all of your life- rediscovering God and the life that he had for you all along.

It’s easy to put on a mask. Pretending like your world is nothing but perfect and striving to have everyone convinced that you have it together. It will get old and if it hasn’t yet, I promise you, something will change and you will not have the ability to hold it in anymore. What will change is your desire to be seen as “perfect”. Your desire to please everyone and accommodate their needs before taking care of yourself will fade- will you fade with it? How are you truly supposed to help anyone else in their journey if you can’t face the reality that you do have rough seasons and are not flawless? In many circumstances, it is not selfish to tend to yourself but actually vital for your survival. Are you clear that as a result of trials and life as a whole, you will inevitably change? Who said that this change was a bad thing, to steer clear of and avoid? What effectiveness do we have as Christians to convey that though things are rough, they will get better if we refuse to be vulnerable, accepting that we are not perfect and that our lives will look different from what we might have thought it would look like? We have no effectiveness if we can’t be honest with ourselves or with God that we have problems that must be worked out and resolved. And that our minds and our thought processes will be altered with it. We must truly be transformed of our pride and our vain qualities- easier said than done, I get it. But let’s not use that as an excuse anymore.

I challenge everyone to accept and see their circumstances for what they are. To understand that the cliché “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is simply not true; we struggle daily, our walks with God were never supposed to be perfect. We were never meant to be perfect. And we weren’t meant to stay spiritually or mentally stagnant. Take that thought and run with it. Be prepared to grow; to open your mind to the plethora of change once you accept that there is broken glass that must be mended in everyone’s lives; that you aren’t alone. And that your unique circumstance is just that: something that is not permanent but that is subject to change. You just have to let that transformation and that change in. Let God in.

Photography and Change

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and blog! I have so much to talk about! A few of you might have noticed that I have stepped back when it comes to my social life. I promise, it’s not you, it’s me- wait. Is this a break-up? Anyways, I have been discovering SO much in terms of my photography, and new ideas surface day-by-day. Recently, reality actually hit me that if I play my cards right (which I have full intention of doing), then I will craft what I love to do into almost full income within the next couple of years… and this excites me. It excites me because I’m taking a leap of faith and taking a plunge into an area that I never thought would be so huge in my life. Photography keeps me grounded. It’s something that I love all aspects of: From the planning, to the trials and errors of poses, the post-editing… It relaxes me. Gets me out of whatever storm I’m currently in and redirects me towards a more peaceful shore. It makes me joyous to have a session coming up and to know that the rest of that day will consist of coffee, Spotify, and my computer screen with the raw images flashing, ready to be edited, critiqued and perfected (to the best of my current ability, I have such a long way to go!).

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I want to say a big “Thank-You” to those who have believed in me from the first day I bought my first camera. For those who gave me tips, but especially the words of encouragement that I needed to keep at it. I was given the confidence that I needed to keep exploring and accomplished SO much in the first year alone. You guys have humbled me and have made me appreciate you all the more.

It is only March, and so far, I have officially been booked for 3 weddings, which has given me overwhelming joy. To some who are more advanced in their careers, they might think that’s nothing, but for me, if I finish the year only having done 3 weddings, I can STILL say that it is more than the year before, which is an accomplishment all by itself!

Due to photography, as well as other life altering (and partly brutal) circumstances that have occurred over the past few years, and especially during the last few months, I have had to rediscover myself. It was inevitable, I had avoided certain truths for a very long time and ultimately, I had to make personal decisions for myself that stung at first, but was found to be well-needed and extremely beneficial for me. Through pain and tears, thought, and then second guessing conclusions, as well as the triumphs, I am redefining who I am and truly digging into what I wish to see from myself and this world. I have many goals that were not once there before, and my personality has almost taken a full 360 to get to the point that I have gotten to now in this journey, which I cannot regret in the least. I am very much aware as of recently that many had picked up on this personality change before I did, because for a while, I didn’t see the change in myself that everyone else did. Many also did not know what to think of it, whether it was temporary, permanent, good or bad. When I first realized it, I didn’t know what to think either, so you’re not alone. I will tell you that IF you were/are one of the ones concerned, do not worry. I am fine, I will be fine and am steadily trying to work towards balance and overall life-stability. Of course, I lean on God during my troubled times, but I also have a very small , very amazing network of people who I trust to pick me up when I fall, and to help me unravel and understand some of what I might not see by myself. I am forever grateful for them and always have been.

So there you have it, an update from yours truly. I hope to blog a lot more over the upcoming months so stay tuned, as I figure out what God has in store for me in the months and years to come. I love you all(:

Doing Something Different- Giving up.

Change is not a bad thing. Change can be exceptionally good, especially if you are spiraling down a path that is causing you to lose focus. Several times throughout the course of my life, especially recently, it has been made prevalent to me that change has to happen, no excuses. This year, I have been stagnant in some areas of my life where I needed to be the most proactive. Not only that, but I have let the worst parts of social media determine how I see my own life, and occasionally wincing at the posts indicating that those around me have lives less complicated than my own. The deception is that people will give a true “status” of their lives with “no filter” on social media when in reality, our pride keeps up from giving up every part of ourselves, especially in the public arena. We don’t want people to judge. And in the face of Christianity, we put on a front and would rather talk about the big issues through a screen and not face to face. These are issues that nobody wants to outright address because we have been blinded to the reality of the situation at hand- that we are all suffering in different ways. This world is suffering as a whole. And if we are not suffering in some way then something is wrong. There will always be hard times, physically, spiritually, emotionally and so forth.

Even the most pure thing can be distorted on social media. For example, bible verses can be used to make one seem like they have been in the word constantly, when all they could have done was pull that verse from google, which gets rid of the need for “quiet time justification” in the eyes of fellow Christians on social media. Inspirational verses can be put up, not because the isolated verse actually applies to the person at that particular time, but because with the verse itself comes the many Facebook likes and comments. After all, what Christian wouldn’t like anything that comes from the bible? That might sound harsh but it is meant to prove a point. Any good thing can be fraudulent for our pride or our need to pretend.

So to say all of that is to say that I would like to try something different. As of a week ago. I have chosen to give up Facebook. Facebook will not be deactivated and I will still browse occasionally. My goal for this is to get rid of the obsession to put on a front, to only show my best side. By doing what I’ve been doing on places such as Facebook, Instagram and snap-chat would be lying to my friends and to myself. I am refraining from posting anything to the sites just listed. I do not know how long I plan to do this, but I will say that I will do this for as long as it takes for me to see change in myself and in my media tendencies. This blog will be my main “outlet”, as I am less likely to fabricate my circumstances for the sake of pleasing the public; it is exhausting trying to put on an act 24/7. The hope is that I will be less dependent of Facebook’s ability to make the world less “scary”- the world is a terrifying place to live in, and coming to grips with this fact is the first step in my opinion to help make a difference to change it. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.