Person of the Year

Time Magazine named Donald Trump its “Person of the Year”. I understand their decision to do so. He has captured our nation’s attention for the entirety of 2016, for better or for worse, and thus has had a big impact.

But Donald Trump is most certainly NOT my “Person of the Year”. As 2016 draws to a rapid close, I reflect on the people who have had the biggest influence on my life. And the first person who comes to mind is my spiritual director, Sister Julia (“Julie”) Grey.

I can easily label 2016 “The Year of Spiritual Growth”. From discerning a call to become a spiritual director, to beginning my own spiritual direction sessions, to maintaining a mindfulness practice, to being stretched and challenged through participation in the parish profile committee at my church, to starting a new practice of daily centering prayer…this year has opened my heart to receiving God’s immense love which has allowed me to give more love to others than I thought I had in me to give.

By living the “little virtues” of gentleness, kindness, humility, and patience, Sister Julie has allowed me to grow and flourish. The light and love of God are evident in her quiet presence and her desire to help me see God’s involvement in my daily life. I’m so grateful for the doors that opened and drew us together as director and directee, and I look forward to continue my spiritual growth in 2017.

On my facebook page yesterday I encouraged my friends to share with each other the person who has had the greatest impact on their personal or professional life this year. I hope you’ll take some time to do so, as well. Share your thoughts with that person, if you can, or with others. Focusing on those positive people in our lives is like throwing water on the wildfire of negative self-talk that otherwise might consume those of us who struggle with disordered eating. Eating disorders thrive on disconnection from others. So take some time to notice and thank those positive people who have made a difference in your life this year. (And share your thoughts with me by commenting below!)

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

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Thriving and Giving Thanks

Last week I facilitated a workshop for students with disordered eating called “Thrive! Don’t Just Survive Thanksgiving”. Attendees were invited to anticipate stressors that could make them more vulnerable to relapse in their recovery. Then each individual created a list of coping skills to deal with those stressors. I was in awe of the number of skills they identified: walk away from the table; take some mindful breaths; text a supportive friend; watch a funny movie; have a discussion with family ahead of time about feelings and needs; listen to uplifting music; and self-soothe in healthy ways.

I enjoyed leading the workshop because I can easily recall a time when holiday meals were agonizing. Food was “the enemy”. I told myself I had “no self-control” and believed if I was around foods I enjoyed (pretty much everything on the Thanksgiving table), I wouldn’t be able to stop eating. I would gain weight. And, to my warped mind, fat was the biggest enemy of all.

It has been eleven years since I began my recovery journey. I still have some fear-based thoughts about food: Am I eating too much? Have I eaten enough variety of nutrients? Did I exercise this morning? Should I eat fewer calories tomorrow? But, thankfully, those thoughts are fleeting. At this point, I’m able to mindfully notice them and gently send them on their way. They are a remnant of my former way of thinking, my former behaviors. They do not consume me now.

One thing that has really helped me thrive, at Thanksgiving and every day, is being grateful. It’s easy to be thankful for the obvious blessings of family, friends, freedom, food, shelter, and companionship with my cat. But I’m also learning (slowly) how to be grateful for even the pain and difficulties in my life.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll start (or continue) a routine of gratitude. There are many small ways to give thanks — a thought, word, or written note; a gesture of kindness; a pay-it-forward moment; or even by contributing your time, talent, or treasure to a charity of your choice. However you choose to give thanks, take the time to do so. Eating disorders thrive on fear and secrecy. Open-hearted gratitude is the cure.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

39 Experiences I’ve Had Before Turning 39

A friend of mine shared with me an article called, “40 Experiences Everyone Should Have Before They Turn 40”. After joking with her that I have over 14 months before reaching that milestone, I looked at the article. It’s an ambitious (and expensive) list of places to see, culinary experiences to have, events to take part in, and ways to give back to others. While I certainly felt drawn to a handful of experiences listed, I was reminded that my greatest moments of fulfillment and enjoyment were not had while pushing my body to its limits, eating a fancy meal, or indulging in an expensive bottle of wine. In fact, the greatest moments in my life weren’t even had while traveling abroad, though I’ve traveled extensively.

No, the experiences that stand out for me in my (almost) 39 years on this planet are those that have connected me inward (to myself), upward (to God/Spirit), and outward (to others). They are moments of gentleness, simplicity, humility, honesty, openness, and trust. These virtues are not often valued by the world, but they have contributed to what I believe are 39 years well-lived, despite many mistakes and challenges.

So, in anticipation of my 39th birthday (a long seven weeks off), I thought I’d share my list of 39 Experiences I’ve Had Before Turning 39. Perhaps you’ve had some of them, too.

1. Cart-wheeled as an adult in a public place

2. Cried in front of a friend

3. Gained wisdom from the stories told by my grandparents

4. Pulled over to the side of the road just to pick wildflowers

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5. Walked away from and returned to God

6. Laughed at myself

7. Practiced meditation, centering prayer, and yoga

8. Named my inner child (“Henrietta”)

9. Talked out loud to animals while out for a walk

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10. Experienced rich blessings by connecting with the homeless, hungry, and marginalized

11. Wrote a letter to my favorite author

12. Grew roots in a faith community

13. Apologized for hurts I’ve caused

14. Faced my fear of public speaking, singing, and acting

15. Marveled at the beauty of Creation

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16. Followed God’s call to become a counselor and then a spiritual director

17. Rode in a hot air balloon

18. Sent love poems to boyfriends

19. Recovered from an eating disorder

20. Practiced forgiving others

21. Forgave myself

22. Shared my story with others

23. Gave a cat a forever home

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24. Sought support from counselors, spiritual directors, and pastors

25. Prayed for my “enemies”, those who despise me

26. Developed friendships deeper than I thought possible

27. Visited war memorials on Memorial Day

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28. Thanked a veteran on Veterans Day

29. Learned about the difference between healthy and unhealthy love

30. Went back to school…twice

31. Attended high school and college reunions

32. Nursed an injured cat back to health

33. Read my favorite novel out loud to my partner

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34. Practiced self-expression through creative arts

35. Remained close with my mom, dad, and brother

36. Let go of “what might be” in order to embrace “what is”

37. Learned the value of stillness

38. Lived alone

39. Loved and lost and loved and lost and loved…

As I review this list, I feel deeply satisfied and content. Sure, it would be nice to experience some of the things on that other list, but at (almost) 39 this feels like a great start.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

Developing Assertiveness

When I was in fifth grade, my “boyfriend” gave me his soccer photo. It was love at first sight. He was cute, athletic, and had a last name that fit nicely with my first (in other words, I could marry him!). However, our relationship lasted only a few weeks. It came to an abrupt and icy end when I refused to let him kiss me while we were at the movies on a double date. I not only refused, I got sick to my stomach! The next school day, it was clear I was no longer wanted. My ten year old self was devastated.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of my relationship history. Unfortunately, it did change my relationship dynamics for decades to come. In middle school, high school, college, grad school, and beyond, I was known by my partners for being “nice”, “sweet”, and “so giving”.

It wasn’t until ten years ago, following my divorce and at the start of my journey to recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder, that I realized that “nice” was synonymous with “agreeable” which was synonymous with “conflict avoidant”. It all started to make sense. In fifth grade, I said “no” and lost a friend. After that, I avoided conflict at all costs. I never pushed back or disagreed. I adopted the interests of my partner. I sacrificed my own desires in order to satisfy my partner’s. I easily forgave injustices. I ignored emotional abuse. I said “yes” to sexual requests even when I didn’t want to. I did whatever it would take to avoid conflict. I did so because I couldn’t tolerate the potential consequences of saying “no” or disagreeing or individuating. I wanted to be liked. I didn’t want to evoke anger, or disappoint someone, or risk rejection.

But, in 2006, I found my voice. My counselor at the time introduced me to a book called, Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Living. The book was instrumental in helping me recognize my right to assert my feelings and needs. Developing assertiveness became a major step in my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder. I began by practicing with my inner critic, pushing back against its demands that I restrict calories and countering its negativity with positive self-talk. Over time, that became easier. As my body image and self-esteem improved, I learned to say, “I am okay” even if someone is mad at me, doesn’t agree with me, or chooses to no longer be my friend.

And with some additional help over the years, I’ve explored my underlying beliefs about conflict and learned skills to help me better tolerate anger (my own and others’). My work is not over. I still fall back into conflict avoidant behavior at times. I still struggle to feel and express my anger. But I know I have a right to assert myself. In fact, I have a responsibility to do so in order to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

If you’re struggling with assertiveness, consider talking to a professional or checking out the following resources:

Assertiveness

Assertiveness Training Institute

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

 

“ERC Saved Our Son and Became Part of Our Family: A Parent’s Story”

On this final day leading up to the Eating Recovery Center’s first annual Eating Recovery Day, I share with you these words of gratitude from a mom whose son has benefited from the supportive environment and treatment at Eating Recovery Center: ERC Saved Our Son and Became Part of Our Family.

Over the past nine days, it has been my honor to be included in this “Recovery Roundup”, in which bloggers have shared their recovery wisdom with others. I’ve received more encouraging words for my own journey and have benefited from the reminder that we are never alone in our struggles. We need only to turn our heads and notice the supportive people around us and then open our hearts to receive that support, always taking it one moment at a time.

Recovery is, indeed, a journey not a destination. I’m blessed to have met some new friends who I now know journey with me.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

“Wise Self Advice to Younger Self”

Today, in this ten day long “Recovery Roundup” (in anticipation of Eating Recovery Center’s Eating Recovery Day – May 3rd), I share with you this link to a post by Nancy, the mother of someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Click here to read her reflections and wisdom regarding self-care when caring for a loved one with an eating disorder: Wise Self Advice to Younger Self. She reminds us that eating disorders affect the whole family, not just the individual.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

“Dear Megan”: A Letter to Myself About Recovery

Dear Megan,

It has been twelve years since you began your journey to recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. Of course, it was a few years before that when you became aware that you were trapped in the cycle of bingeing, restricting, and self-loathing. I know how ashamed you felt and how hard you worked to break the cycle on your own, without anyone knowing and without any help. I’m proud of the way you faced your fear and shame in 2004 and told your therapist, “I think I have an eating disorder.” I’m also in awe of the way you opened up to others after that — telling Mom and Dad, your partner, and your trusted friends. I’m inspired by the way you used your love of writing to start a journal that eventually became a published book. I’m thrilled that you continue to advocate for those who are still on their journeys to recovery.

Since the beginning of your journey, you have learned so much. If I could go back in time and speak to you early on in recovery, I would tell you…

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Be gentle with yourself. Self-compassion will be one of the most important parts of your journey. There will be setbacks and times when you want to give up. No matter what you do or don’t do, eat or don’t eat, say or don’t say, be gentle with yourself. Don’t let that harsh inner critic have the last word anymore.

 

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Your emotions are a gift. Allow yourself to feel them. Bingeing is a way of numbing out when your feelings are too intense. Take a deep breath. The emotions will not overwhelm you. They will help you identify areas in your life that need attention. Talk to someone who can help you learn to “sit with” your feelings instead of avoiding them.

 

IMG_1957Embrace your inner child. Years of perfectionism and rigid thinking have led you to believe that you must be “proper”, “poised”, and “serious” at all times. It’s okay to be silly and childlike and curious. Your inner child is an extension of the True Self, the Divine Spirit within. Give in to those urges to do a cartwheel. Get down on your knees and marvel at the insects crawling in the grass. Draw with chalk on the sidewalk. Sit unabashedly on a swing at the playground.

 

IMG_1962Feed your spirit. One of the greatest realizations you’ll come to is that disordered eating is NOT about food, weight, and willpower. It is about emotional and spiritual hunger that physical food can never satisfy. So, feed your spirit. Pray, sing, join a worship community, meditate, practice yoga, take nature walks, write poetry, dance in the living room, sit still and just notice your breath, open yourself to the presence of the Divine. All of these things will curb the real cravings.

 

And again, be gentle with yourself. You’ve come a long way, dear one. I’m proud of you.

Love,

Megan