A Little About Me & My Take On Mental Disorder

I am a woman. I have birthed four children. I have maintained a relationship with a man for close to two decades now, married for almost seventeen years. I have a puppy that is love incarnate. I have worked as a registered nurse in many corridors of hospital care and I managed to create and boss three business’ in the interior design world. I have seen babies born and every age imaginable die at the hands of tragedy or decline in one’s health. I’ve created beautiful spaces in individual homes and workspaces out of the images and acumen for spatial surrounding in my mind. I traveled to another continent for a year and learned how to serve on another man’s property far from the comfort of my own home. I have worked in the world of celebrating moments in our lives through event planning (one of my favorite jobs). I have taken classes to hone my skill in communicating through writing (still finding my way…. see egregious punctuation errors and run-on sentences). I’ve run three marathons and pretended to be an olympic lifter in the subculture of those who are freakishly strong. I know a little about a lot and have insatiably studied random topics over the years on the human heart, mind, body, and way about us in terms of how we function. I am a believer in God, and Jesus, and His Holy Spirit. I believe He created us, came for us and will come again. I’m not ashamed of my strong spiritual beliefs or my weak human shortcomings. I’m not put off by the beliefs of others (at all), their choices (no matter what) and certainly not by their own personal shortcomings (we all share a shocking potential for failure). At this stage in my life there isn’t a human alive that I wouldn’t invite to dinner at my table, and I mean that with every fiber of my being. I openly talk about addictions to comfort through sharing my struggles with an Eating Disorder which is a mental disorder that uses the human body to produce a sense of security or control. I share freely about my own substance abuse which is also a mental game that numbs the partaker providing a temporary, fleeting escape from the discomfort of their struggles. Any addiction to comfort (comfort is essentially the key driver) winds up eventually owning the host (every time) no matter the portal of escape one uses. Neither addictions nor mental disorders are complicated. They are baffling, cunning, and “wise” (oxymoron…. majoring on moron) with a slithering boa constricting approach to the essence of any human. Addictions and eating disorders are born out of a desire to adapt to our surroundings and to survive what we cannot change or control with periods of mental reprieve. That’s it. I firmly believe that ALL humans matter whether they are male or female or find themselves suspended in-between those declarations of gender. I believe that ALL people are important whether they are the CEO or the individual that cleans the building under the dark of night that the CEO builds his empire in. I believe that wealth and fame and poverty and perceived insignificance has invaded every single aspect of our society and because of that an actual injustice runs rampant across the globe. I believe our culture has shifted for the negative and the positive with the rise of social media. Anyone can say anything, at any time, no matter how they feel and despite small or large impact. There’s a free for all happening and it is stirring the bridled and unbridled emotions of many, especially the young. The young lack the capacity to fact check and choose judiciously what to believe about themselves and others and are yet flooded with mere opinions expressed through emotional verbiage or filtered images. Our youth, simply based on their fluctuating maturity level with complex thought, struggle to find the difference between fact and opinion and how to apply those to their own mind’s ability to think and decide. The intangible and tangible structures of our society attempts to build up equality and simultaneously oppresses equality through that same system with pride over a good, better, best pecking order. It’s unnerving to me. In terms of material possessions I have a beautiful home the serves us well complete with a backyard pool in a winter state. Please know that a Florida native needs direct access to water…. and not the murky, ten-thousand-to-choose-from lake kind of water with a mushy bottom and fish the size of your thigh that you can’t see swimming around you. In terms of family connection I have two parents that thankfully still live in my home state of Florida and three siblings with fantastic spouses and nieces and nephews that I would give a kidney to. I have friends, young and old that love me and care for me and check in on me regularly. I have extended family that treats me like I am one of them and no matter the geographical distance between us. I was a trained dancer as a child, raised in the performing arts and therefore taught how to put yourself out there despite your introvert or extrovert bent. I was not unlike any kid that searched for their significance through the incoming and outgoing tide of acceptance from others and the pressure to rise to popularity. My mom taught me to befriend everyone without exception. That gave me space to build connection in almost any circle allowing me to also find a degree of comfort in any circle. We moved a lot as a family so the ability to adapt in changing environments whether you liked it or not was also built into my DNA.

All of this and more brought me straight to the table of survival from an Eating Disorder and a global decline in all the things that made me: Me. I have experienced in part, or in full, every single solitary comfort known to man. I am privileged beyond measure. No question. I don’t have all the money in the world, but I’ve had enough at my disposal to provide opportunities galore to create comfort, pleasure and memorable experiences.

And yet…. I have felt unloveable deep in my core. Because of this core belief, my life has unraveled, more than once.

Where did that feeling come from? After ALL this good outside of me that could tell me a strong tale about my value in this world and my place amongst its occupants the question about my worth still echoed in the hollow halls inside me. I realize now, with the minuscule wisdom of a forty-two year old, that material possessions and interpersonal relationships that surround our existence mean absolutely NOTHING if you doubt yourself on the inside. Doubt in our own worth is a silent killer. Its nearest companions (for me) are shame and ridicule. These companion players don’t need to be center stage or high functioning inside any one human, but they directly feed self doubt with information as though it’s fact or objective material harboring accusation held against the host. Shame and ridicule will use the experiences we have had with our own shortcomings and the painful encounters with others ALL DAY LONG to gnaw at our core value. My physical body has suffered serious ridicule from me and abuse or neglect at my own hand. I have stories in my past that told me a strong, objective tale that something was wrong with its subject. Somewhere along the way I let those experiences tell me what was true about me instead of my own opinion of myself. This is tragic, but despite this reality she, my body, has shown up for me every day, no matter how I feel, and functions for me with or without favor or attention from me. Her resilience is astounding. She has never wavered in waking up to face another day despite the brutal lashing I’ve given her in “feeling” like she was too much or too little. With the utmost humility she gently tells me when I am in need of energy and no matter how many times I’ve ignored her for the selfish gain of my appearance begetting an internal sense of control she keeps trying. She knows when she’s tired and she knows when she’s had enough in one day. I have pushed her, pulled her along, withheld from her, required much from her, neglected her and berated her appearance or inability to accomplish more. My internal mental hunger to be more knew no end and I demanded my body to answer tangibly for that void. That friends, is an internal mental disorder manifesting itself in a network of thought and directly using a human body to answer the mind. I’ve used my body to speak back to my disordered mental understanding of myself for over thirty years. I wasn’t born with an eating disorder, one was presented to me at a young age and I unfortunately bit the bait. Eating Disorders fed by shame and ridicule will take their time to make an impact. They don’t mind being drip fed by self doubt as they lurk in the corners waiting for the full meal of actual physical hunger. They sit idle by consistently extending an opportunity to its host to take the reigns of control, but, at first, it doesn’t demand to be entertained in full. Until it does. An Eating Disorder knows a thing or two. It’s confident in its ability to sytem override. It’s befriending at first helping the host feel like it’s coping with the feeling of internal chaos knowing that it will eventually implant its virus so deep in the mind of its user debilitating their ability to choose life through forgetting to remember to eat. At what point did I decide to turn against body, my most faithful ally, to listen to the eating disorder’s proposal in my mind for a sense of control I longed for? At what stopping point did my gratitude for her service evaporate into a raging demand for more output of tangible control? At what point did I externally start to destroy her for the internal question that clanked around inside of me…. “Am I worthy of love?” “Am I good enough to be here?” My body never wavered. She never left the job due to a demanding boss. She never turned a blind eye to my wandering heart and putrifying ability to listen to Health. She stayed close, gave more when she could, and stopped almost cold in her tracks when she could no longer meet the demands. My Eating Disorder was a portal for mental control that used my body to answer a revolving question in my mind. Substance abuse was a portal for escape to avoid the gnawing feeling that no matter how much I gave physically it never seemed to feel like enough satisfying a sense that I was worthy.

If you’ve read this far I doubt you are left with a question as to whether or not an Eating Disorder is a mental health issue. There’s no denying that it is. When you are in the thick of the disorder it holds such a boastful presence that it convinces you to avoid connection with anyone or anything else as it slowly leads you to a solitary grave of being your highest “caretaker”. It’s a sad, slow and steady decline of our human brilliance. I am one of the lucky ones or blessed… whichever word you’d use. My body waved a white flag of surrender in its greatest hour of need. I am forever grateful for her friendship and loyalty. Much to my own surprise I do not regret having an eating disorder or a history of substance abuse. They worked in tandem to assist me in avoiding reality and answering the questions I had about my worth simply by slowly and surely disabling my own choice of thought. I have experienced an exaggerated sense of avoidance of my core self and ultimately a loss of depth in relationship with myself and others. I know better now. I will do better now.

I assure you that valuing yourself through the pure power of your mind to choose to believe that you are amazing, as is, is key to your survival, and mine. Our physical body is amazing. It can do almost anything you charge it with and the capacity to learn and adapt and accomplish much is literally endless. I’m increasingly convinced that we are limitless in our capabilities. I am enamored by human potential. Our body is the vehicle that allows your spirit and worth to show up for your whole entire life. Our mind and thoughts provide the gas to go further and stay put wherever we find ourselves. Prioritizing self care of this body and mind means that you respect what your body needs and appreciate what it enjoys and you guard carefully what you think about yourself. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I have a chance to live again. So do you. Every single day. I do NOT take this lightly. My body size says absolutely nothing about my value and physical hunger is a call to action to eat to live. Period. Avoidance of hunger and controlling what you see on the outside doesn’t tell you how good I am at being me. I see that now. I surrender every day to that life giving train of thought now.

I leave you with this…. Are you surrounded with much in terms of material possessions that reflect your personality and interpersonal relationships that reflect your ability to connect? If so- in the midst of it all do you feel like you are enough? Or are you hustling in any way to answer that through something outside of the voice inside your own mind? What about your life is helping you cope with discomfort or chaos in your mind about your inherent value? Answering that question deeply and honestly takes nothing short of humility and requires a reprioritization of things in the aftermath. It is never easy to face our coping strategies. It is never healthy to ignore our truth either. We are brilliant and full of wonder and the capacity to change for the good or the not so good knows no bounds. It all comes down to choice and the power we invoke to believe the very best of ourselves. Every day. Your body will honor your beliefs and stand steady for you. May you work hard to compliment the efforts of your body and mind to carry you through this amazing existence.

Hope

Sometimes we have to stare HOPE right in the face.

Sometimes we are holding on by a thread.

Sometimes it’s a fight to keep it together.

Sometimes we feel too far gone.

Sometimes we feel like hope for change is lost in some unobtainable cloud.

Sometimes we feel frustrated and defeated and even a little bit lost.

Sometimes we live our days on autopilot meanwhile our “issues” burrow a hole in our heart.

Sometimes it feels like it’s been just too long to see any actual change meet any horizon.

Sometimes we feel lonely in our struggles.

Sometimes we don’t feel like fighting for a darn thing. We just want to feel okay, whole, mended, complete, strong, full, healthy, wise, grown….

Sometimes life takes its time to make a turn for the better.

Sometimes that thing called time zaps our will to hope in more.

Hold on. Don’t let go.

“I know your heart is heavy from the fight. You never know just what tomorrow holds and you are stronger than you know. Just take one step closer. One foot in front of the other. You’ll get through this. Just follow the light in the darkness. You’re gonna be okay. When the night is closing in don’t give up, don’t give in. This won’t last it’s not the end ” Jenn Johnson

I believe in us.

Believe in you.

 

Beauty And The Beach

I sit on the Beach in the warm Florida sun with the breeze on my face, salt in the air, and the sound of waves crashing just 20 feet away from me. I can taste the salt in the air and smell the suntan lotion and my senses tell me I am home. This is Heaven for me. I am a Cocoa Beach native and no matter where I live in the world this will always be my true home. This is where my heart feels most content. A surge of peace takes over me at the beach. A gentleness takes over my pulse.

I can hear the laughter of my children. I can hear them hollering to one another make-believe scenarios like “getting away from robbers” and mermaids coming ashore as they body surf the cresting waves and I smile. I know I am gifting them with the same experience that made up nearly every day of my childhood. My heart fills with deep contentment. I could sit there all day. I could sit there all day as we chase the sun down out of the sky.

I sit there glued to my chair. I’m glued for many reasons. I sit locked in because I relish in the feelings of peacefulness and the symphony of pleasant sounds that surround me. Not a wandering crab or a flock of birds is lost on me. This beach is to me the most beautiful haven on the planet.  I also sit locked to my chair because of deep-rooted insecurity. If I get up and stroll to the shore “what will others think when they see my body and this swimsuit” I wonder. How can a place that is dripping with a sense of home also be welcome to my entrenched body image issues and shame over my appearance? How can a negative internal narrative show up for a forty year old mother of four? Aren’t we over this stupidity by now? It’s a mystery to me how I can feel such a sense of peace, but simultaneously be glued to a beach chair so no one sees my body. How can I feel such joy and yet choose to be locked down to a stupid striped chair so that I don’t feel the rejection I’m projecting from my neighboring beach go-er … whom I don’t even know. I skip out on the fun with my children because I’d rather stay tied to my chair then give a passer by the opportunity to think I look “fat”. I full-blown lie and tell my kids “mom just loves to get a suntan” when I refuse their request to come play. The truth is mom is deeply insecure in her own skin and simply cannot get up. Won’t get up. I decline their request to show up at the water’s edge because it’s too cold I tell them. The truth is my negative internal dialogue is robbing me of the ability to show up for them with any level of participation.

I hate this scenario. I hate how my self-doubt sits on my chest like a beached whale. I hate that I am choosing to skip out on writing notes in the sand and building castles with motes and drawbridges. I hate that I opt out of a stroll to collect shells because I fear the opinion of people watchers that are all foreign to me and nowhere near my inner circle of friends. I hate that I let shame and insecurity rob me of memories to be made. I hate that I let my insecurity be bigger than my strength and resolve to show up for them. The barrier to my full, true joy is that I give a sh*$ what other people think of me instead of being a badass mom with four children having a little fun while centering myself in presence.

This has to change. Insecurity, humiliation and a negative internal dialogue are not things that we deliberately pack in the bag of sand toys. Yet they show up in full force.

I love watching the tide. It comes and goes at a rhythmic pace. As does our positive and negative narrative running through us. Unlike the tide however we have control over our thoughts and the freedom they allow us. We have to deliberately attack our negativity with life-giving thoughts that unlock confidence and resolve to get up out of a chair and care not what the world sees apart from a mom engaging wholeheartedly with her children. You might be thinking that I’m really glued to the chair because of simple vanity. I assure you that’s not the case. We live in a culture that values thinness and rewards it with compliments and we brutally judge one another on the daily. We live in a body centric environment and have raised one another to think that thin is beautiful and anything outside of that needs to be reigned in. In order to be counter-culturalists we have to choose to value who we are on the inside over what we show or see on the outside. This takes effort as we go against the tide of our society. But it’s a fight to the death of the joy-robbing, presence stealing moments like these.

I believe in us and the power to go against the tide, to get up out of our chairs, to inhale freedom and to exhale presence. Now, I have a mermaid to rescue…..

Finding Joy

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Finding joy is sometimes akin to a kid picking through their spaghetti dinner and finding the one, minuscule, green fleck of parsley and mistaking it for lettuce. It’s hidden sometimes beneath the noise of our day-to-day lives.

The clamoring sound of the obligations in our day-to-day call desperately for our attention. We have to slow down, catch our breath for just a moment and count our blessings. Literally count them. Acknowledge them. Shine a light on them as if they were the star of the show. Our days are FILLED with competing emotions. We can name our to-do lists like a bunch of bosses. But can we find our daily silver lining? I suppose that’s what the gratitude movement is all about. It’s a charge to grind life to a halt just long enough to see the concentration of its goodness.

When we see something we have to say something. We have to train our minds to connect with our hearts and to then feel the pleasures of this one, beautiful life. Joy is found in simply lighting your favorite candle or watering your stupid huge collection of houseplants. Joy is found in deliberately sipping your hot coffee slow. Joy is the smell of freshly mopped floors. Joy is watching the sunrise and taking in its beauty. Joy is listening for that fleeting moment to the laughter of a child. Joy is scoring that clearance item at the end of the Target aisle. Joy is your favorite song popping on the radio in that seventeenth car ride of the day. It’s a moment found mixed with the pleasure of LIVING. It’s everywhere you want to be. Acknowledging the joy-filled moments strengthens our resolve to withstand the chaos of our days. It softens our hearts and preps us to weather the storms.

Slow down. Slow way down. The hustle and grind of life will wait for you as you pick through the moments and name the joy. Life is full of them. It takes a deliberate attempt to find them and call them to the forefront. It just does. It requires a choice and a cultivated practice to see the silver lining.

I believe in us and the power to harness joy.

Failure Is Our Friend

I am allowed to be BOTH a work in progress AND to help others grow at the same time. I refuse to wait until I believe I’m perfect or someone else has deemed me worthy of impacting others. I am unapologetically accepting a life of massive growth & improvement.

I couldn’t love this quote more and I am nearly stumped for words after reading it…. Nearly 😉

So many of us fear failure. So many of us struggle, to some degree, with perfectionism. We live with the pressure of presenting ourselves as fairly put together. We think that as an adult we’re supposed to know more and to do more and to be better than we are. We take our strengths and push them to the forefront so we appear as shiny little objects. The reality is we are all in a constant state of growth and change. The whole of our lives will be filled with one learning curve after another. The opportunity for change just NEVER stops. With that in mind what if we considered failure as our friend? What if we decided our failures and struggles were our companion that leads us into growth and improvement? What if we took failure and mixed it with a little vulnerability and showed the world our humanity versus the image that we have it all together all the time? What then? I imagine it would look like a bunch of deeply accessible people helping one another become who they long to be. I bet we would feel like home to one another.

I’d give anything for my 40 year old self to have an opportunity to speak to my 20 or 30 year old self. I would open wide my arms, wrap them gently around and tenderly give myself a hug. I would sit myself down, stare straight into my eyes and whisper intently: “It’s ok. You’re gonna be ok. This failure and this need to appear perfect is in vain, dear girl. Let it go. Let go of the desire to have it all together because the reality of life is that you will never ever stop growing and improving. Your failings are the cliff edge, your tipping point into something beautiful. It’s the catalyst into change and once you step straight off the cliff and skydive into change the view is breathtaking. Every time. Embrace it. Yield to it. You are not disqualified by failures you are validated by them. You are validated as an evolving seeker of truth. Do not listen to the clamoring noise of discontentment over who you are and who you are yet to be. Break bread with others, share who you are, as is, because they are in the same boat as you. No one has it all together. Breathe and unapologetically accept a life of massive growth and improvement. ”

We need to be kinder to ourselves in my opinion. We need to speak to ourselves words of encouragement. We need to deal tenderly with our areas of growth and change and give ourselves room to mend and to breathe and to become who we long to be. The world doesn’t need more shiny objects. The world needs people committed to a life of massive opportunity for growth and change and copious amounts of grace to cover it all.

I believe in us and all our imperfections.