TOP 10 BROADWAY MUSICAL LYRICS TO KICK-START YOUR RECOVERY

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I’m an unabashed theatre nerd.  I’ve seen a lot of plays, including comedy and drama, and a growing number of musicals, ranging from those done in hole-in-the-wall spaces to touring Broadway productions.
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I compiled a Top 10 List of songs from musical theatre that provide a well-turned lyric that can be applied to recovery from an eating disorder.  I decided not to go with the Captain Obvious choice for each play, although some are too perfect to pick any other tune (like a certain show-stopper from a green witch).  Which ones ring true to you?  Which song lyrics would you add to reflect your own recovery mantras and choices?  Here they are, numbered only for sequencing, rather than which ones I like best:
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 10. Rocky Horror Picture Show “Over at the Frankenstein Place” 
“The darkness must go
Down the river of night’s dreaming
Flow morphia slow
Let the sun and light come streaming
Into my life, into my life”
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Indeed, we must let go of our pain and our pasts in order to make room for the light and the future.
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9. Wicked “Defying Gravity”
“And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am defying gravity”
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It can be painful to leave behind people, places, and situations that kept us feeling earthbound for so long, but we all have wings, even if we’re scared to test them.
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8. Jesus Christ Superstar “Strange Thing Mystifying”
“Who are you to criticize her?
Who are you to despise her?
Leave her, leave her, let her be now
Leave her, leave her, she’s with me now”
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Our new recovery voice can speak for us, whether in simple acts like repeating affirmations or making long overdue declarations to those who would judge us.
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7. Rent “No Day But Today”
“Forget regret or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today”
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We really do have a limited amount of time to get things right.  Every day that we think “tomorrow I will begin”, we surrender another day to regret.
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6. Hedwig & the Angry Inch “Midnight Radio”

“And you’re shining like the brightest star
A transmission on the midnight radio
And you’re spinnin’ like a forty-five
Ballerina dancing to your rock and roll”
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Be sure to incorporate music, dancing, art, writing or other creative elements into your recovery.  Don’t worry if you aren’t “normal”.  Be a rock-n-roll ballerina, if that’s what blows your tutu up!
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5. Chicago “Mister Cellophane”
“Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Should have been my name
Mister Cellophane
‘Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me,
And never know I’m there”
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This attitude can be relegated to the garbage can, and a new way of letting others see us can set us free.  Don’t assume you’ll always be invisible or that you deserve it.  Stake a claim for just who you are and who you want to be, and act in ways that allow the right people to see just how fabulous you are.
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4. Tommy “Pinball Wizard”
“He ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear no buzzers and bells
Don’t see no lights a flashin
Plays by sense of smell”
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Not all moves we make in recovery have clear directions.  Sometimes the biggest steps we take are done in what feels like the dark and the silence.  Develop your intuition, and learn to trust the healthy voice that is reemerging.  You can master the game this way.
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3. Cats “Memory”
“Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory, too
And a new day will begin
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The bedraggled old Grizabella is right.  No matter how dark the night, dawn always comes, and you can ascend to the next level of recovery.  Do not give up just because it’s dark right now.
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2. Spamalot “I’m All Alone”
“Each one of us is all alone
So what are we to do
In order to get through?
We must be lonely side by side”
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Not only does no one recover alone, but we all benefit from having positive friendships and romantic relationships that lift us up throughout our lives.  Even when we are walking through a dark time that only we can truly experience, the journey is always easier when we know others who have gone through their own struggles are walking beside us, offering encouragement and love.
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1. Scrubs – “My Musical” episode “What’s Going to Happen?”
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“What’s going to happen?
What does the future hold?
So many things that I put off
Assuming I’d have time
Assuming I’d grow old”

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While this is an episode of the tv medical comedy “Scrubs”, and not an actual musical, it counts (the episode was almost entirely Broadway type songs). A woman facing her mortality came to a stark realization, just as so many in recovery who face a health crisis do, too.
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While we cannot control everything, we definitely can map out a plan to do our best not only to live a long healthy life full of bucket list items crossed off, but we can truly want this for ourselves.  Not just existing, but living with joy and appreciation – embracing the comedy, the drama, and the music that life has to offer.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of Garry Knight

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH CHRISSY

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder, and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Interview with Chrissy:

Q:  How old are you?
A:  42

Q:  Male or female?
A:  Female

Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A:  23 years

Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A:  Bulimia

Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A:  Sister, mother (now deceased), college roommates.

Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A:  My mom, sister and support groups, both online and in person.

Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
AMy father.

Q:  Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A:  I have been in group therapy, private therapy over the years, along with mild medication for bulimia (low dose)

Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A:  Over the years, the support and therapy helped very much.  However, I would go some time, months and even almost a year, and then slip up for a bit and start binging and purging.  Setting boundaries, learning to accept myself, waking up a half hour early to meditate and get my thoughts together – these helped tremendously.  Also, having the guts to remove myself from toxic people in my life.

Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A:  Being a chubby kid who was teased, along with a home with a very dysfunctional and alcoholic father, was a lethal combination.

Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A:  My mother.  She was so pained about my bulimia and wanted to help in so many ways.  She also felt guilty because she dieted her whole life, sending the message to me unintentionally.

Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  Like I said before, daily work.  Balance, making sure I go online every other day, reading books and blogs on the subject, church, exercising and enjoying it, Not getting too busy or comfortable and thinking, “Oh, I am all better. I don’t have to go online and read those recovery boards.”

Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  The hardest truth that FINALLY put me over the top where I do not binge and purge anymore was medication.  I was always resistant to antidepressants, and only took a low dose.  However, almost every month around PMS time I could not control my binges and would overeat.  I started thinking that I was doing all the work, spiritually, mentally, etc., but kept resorting to these uncontrolled binges.  I started to think maybe my brain is really unbalanced and I should give a higher dose of medication a chance.  I was always embarrassed, and felt weak that I could not control my brain by myself.

I increased my dose to the recommended amount for bulimia sufferers, and my life has changed dramatically.  I have not purged in several months, and the cravings are there, but not as intense.  I have not felt the need to purge at all.  I think the medication part was the last piece of the puzzle I was resisting.

Q:  If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A:  I am in a good place now.  I am engaged in conversations with my sons. We can take road trips, go out to eat, and my mind is actively engaged in the moment, rather than thinking about food or where a bathroom is to vomit.

Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  Each person is different.  I firmly believe that it is a combination of things that have to be done to reach full recovery.  For me, it was balance with God, exercise, myself, medication and relating with others in my situation.

Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A:  It takes a long time.   I relapsed on and off for 20 years.  Finally, I got the right balance of medication and working all the parts of myself to become whole on a daily basis.

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A:  The Something Fishy website was my first online group, then I read bulimia help method blogs, and now Grace on the Moon.  They help so much relating to others who are going through similar thoughts and actions.

Q:  If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A:  I have the confidence for the first time in my life because for the first time I have not had “out of control” cravings since I have been medicated.  I was doing all the other work, but the physical part was out of my control, and I am so happy I finally feel 100% on top of my plan.

Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A:  I have two boys who are not affected at all by my eating disorder.  I have been a mom who has made sure they are not boys who tease.  Maybe I am a little overboard and sensitive about the issue.

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A:  I have read them all.   Any personal recovery stories have helped.  “Goodbye Ed”, “Learning to be Me”,  “She’s Come Undone”.

Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  Pink.

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of becca.peterson26

DO YOU PARALLEL YOUR INNER & OUTER WORK IN RECOVERY?

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Today’s blog is a guest blog written by Joanna Poppink, MFT, a psychotherapist and author.  She discusses the parallel lines of work that need to take place in recovery from an eating disorder.

Ever focus on your food only to find you are hit with an irresistible impulse to act out? Ever ignore your food and focus on your emotions and life goals, yet get waylaid by that same irresistible impulse? Yes?

Breathe and know this is normal. You just need to put balance in your way of living and recovering.

“I can’t do it all. It’s too much,” you may think or cry out. Pause and breathe again. The “it” is your picture of a much more vast territory than you can handle.

All of us have imaginations that reach beyond what we can attain in the time we allot for success. Our imagination motivates us, gives us a goal to stretch for, work for and be creative about. Our self awareness and thinking abilities help us shape our vision into manageable portions. We give ourselves the tools and resources we need for the immediate tasks, and gradually move along toward milestones as we follow our path.

If you have an eating disorder, parallel recovery work can bring you to your recovery path and support you as you heal and develop by meeting your challenges. I invite you to approach your weight and eating issues using the parallel method I’ve found successful with eating disorder patients for over 30 years.

The usual dilemma in attempts to free yourself from your eating disorder is that if you focus your recovery work on food, eating patterns, exercise and body shape, your emotional and mental patterns undermine your efforts.

If you focus your recovery work on your emotional and mental patterns, your relationships, successes and disappointments in life, then your patterns of cravings, and body shape and size concerns will undermine your efforts.

Putting your focus on one aspect of your life system is a lopsided approach that leads to what you think is failure. You feel worse about yourself because you failed. You might also feel relieved that you failed because it means your recovery work is over, and you can return to your familiar eating disorder ways.

You did not fail. The lopsided system you used failed.

Lopsided Approach:

  • When you believe your unhappiness and dissatisfaction come from your psychology, you focus on emotionally and cognitive healing efforts.
  • When you believe your unhappiness and dissatisfaction come from your eating, exercise and weight related issues, you focus on changing your eating habits and body care.

Parallel work brings both recovery aspects of healing together so you can make solid steps toward becoming healthy and whole. The process allows you to stop destructive behavior, and start a positive way of living, free from the domination of feelings and behaviors that plague you.

Your psychology affects your behavior.  Your behavior affects your psychology.

If you feel sad and lonely, angry and misunderstood, oppressed with no way out, stressed or frightened, you might eat for comfort, or exercise for flooding distraction.

If you bombard your body with sugars, processed foods, baked goods, fat and chemicals, your hormone, digestive and neural systems overwork to deal with the flood of material coming in that does not nourish the body. You will be tired, irritable, depressed, have foggy thinking and seek more food for comfort.

If you deprive yourself of food and you over-exercise, your body goes into stress. Your hormone, digestive and neural systems respond as if you are in famine conditions and running from mortal danger. Your emotions will echo that. Your thoughts will be distorted without your realizing that your fear, anger and terrific need to starve and exercise are based on a false sense of running for your life.

When you are flooded with such feelings and thoughts, you will attempt to escape by starving and exercising even more.

Parallel Recovery Basics

Gently and gradually moving back and forth, connecting your thoughts and feelings with your behaviors, and making small but steady changes is the essence of parallel recovery work.

Learning to accept, tolerate and then understand feelings, rather than act them out with food or exercise, is vital for long term recovery. Understanding how your body, mind and emotions respond to how and when you feed yourself, and how and when you exercise, brings clarity and the opportunity to make better choices.

How to Do Parallel Recovery Work:

  1. Work with a therapist and a nutritionist who understand parallel process.
  2. Keep a daily journal in which you describe to yourself your feelings and behaviors. (Later you will see connections that elude you in the present.)
  3. Learn what foods stress your body and what foods truly give you the nourishment you need.
  4. Discover what people and activities stress your heart and soul.
  5. Clear out toxic elements from your life, as well as from food and exercise patterns (people, places, activities, things).
  6. Discover and engage with people and activities that nourish your heart and soul.
  7. Recognize and remove or ignore seductive calls from people, restaurants, billboards, advertisements, food packaging, TV, magazines, movies, and videos that seek to convince you that what is toxic to you is healthful, fun and lovely.
  8. Spend time with people, books, classes and activities which show you a brighter, happier, healthier and more expansive way of being in the world.
  9. Make specific and committed moves to follow your dreams, e.g. take a class, start a career program, volunteer in the community, become financially self-sufficient, or plan and tend a garden.

Parallel recovery work leads you to balance and integration.

You lose your need or habit of involving yourself with eating disorder behaviors or toxic elements in life. You live your life as a whole and healthy person you have become.  In other words, in parallel recovery work you discover who you really are, what you really like and love, and how to respond and take action that truly benefits your mind, heart, body and soul.

It’s so lovely to go from living a life governed by an eating disorder to living a life of resilience and delight. This way of living can be yours in recovery.

joanna poppink  Joanna Poppink, MFT is a Los Angeles psychotherapist in private practice. She is the author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder, Conari Press. Visit her website at http://www.eatingdisorderrecovery.com

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of velocity635

3 THINGS I LEARNED FROM EATING DISORDER RECOVERY

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There are a lot of lessons that come from recovering from bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, and anorexia.  Some are fairly straight forward, and some feel more esoteric.  Three of them played major roles in my recovery, and hopefully will ring a bell or provide inspiration for others.

A procrastinator’s favorite day is tomorrow.

I was the poster child off and on for this on many occasions. There was something about feeling that what I do or didn’t do today is ok, because tomorrow is the day I start doing what is a better choice for me or stop doing what is holding me back.

Tomorrow I will get serious and stop binge eating (so it’s ok to have a final binge of Last Supper proportions today).  Tomorrow I will clean up the incredible mess that is strewn around my apartment (so it’s fine to add some more to the clutter tonight).  Tomorrow I will tell my therapist I want to discuss something really difficult that has held me back for years (so it’s understandable that today I’m going to try to shove it down and ignore it even more).

The problem with this theory is that tomorrow so often never comes.  Sure, the sun rises the next day, but the same fearful feelings were there, so I would decide to make tomorrow be the tomorrow I had planned for today to be.  A week goes by, a month, a year. Yet the “real” tomorrow never comes.  Still the shameful grocery store runs happen, the apartment approaches hoarder status, and the shameful event from my past continues to hold me hostage.  But it’s fine, because I will work on it all tomorrow, I tell myself.  This time I mean it.

Recovery made me face up to the fact that I could keep resetting the clock all I wanted, but I was only delaying, and often making more difficult, the task I needed to begin.  I could keep believing that each and every tomorrow would be different, but I was only putting off what could begin today.

I don’t have to react right away.

This is a two-fold lesson.  The first is that I did not have to react to difficult emotions, situations or news by immediately reaching for a behavior.  I could recognize that something was happening that upset, stressed or frightened me, and I could still develop a capability for riding out the emotions and thinking things through before anything eating disordered “had” to be the answer.

Often I found that the time I gave myself to feel and think things through meant I had less of a compulsion to grab a box of diet pills, write yet another diary entry about how disgusting I was, or cruise wordlessly in my car to get a fix at a donut shop.

The second part of this lesson is that I didn’t have to react right away to a person or a situation in general.  If I knew someone had said something mean or untrue about me, I didn’t have to immediately pick up the phone or find them and confront them.  If someone gave me an ultimatum (good, bad or indifferent), or threatened me with actions if I didn’t do what they wanted, I could step back and assess the situation without immediately giving an answer.

This helped me identify the emotions I was feeling, and vent when needed (to someone who offered a safe space for me to unload, or just out loud to an audience of myself and the cats). I learned that often I benefited from taking my time to assess feelings, actions and options before I “officially” reacted to something. Once I had assessed things, I was often more comfortable with what I decided to do (or not do).

Take a step and the universe takes one for you.

This one was a wonderful surprise.  One real confidence-shaker for me was the assumption that recovery would be just one difficult step after another, with nary a break in sight.  I was surprised to find that when I put my heart and soul into something, often a new opportunity or fortunate moment would happen next.  I’ve heard it phrased as the universe taking a step for you, but you can call it whatever is most comfortable for you (fate, god/goddess, inevitability).

I took the brave step of posting for support on a recovery website (I still remember refreshing the page over and over, certain that my post would be the one everyone rolled their eyes at), and I was rewarded with warm replies and helpful suggestions.  I asked for a suggestion for a book to help with my recovery, and one of the members of the website told me about a book that empowered me greatly.  Reading those kinds of books led me to start a Book Club on the site.

These steps – mine and the ones the universe contributed – formed a ladder, and I climbed up farther than I had known was possible, and with less “OMG, I’m going to slip and fall” and “It’s too hard, I can’t manage one more rung” moments than I had assumed would happen.

I have found this lesson repeating long past the point of being recovered.  Many things that have come to pass with Grace on the Moon have been part of me taking a couple of steps, then the universe contributing one.  I now have more confidence in knowing to expect this when making changes in my life. Even when something big we attempt “fails”, that can be the universe taking the step of showing us it was the wrong path for us, and we can change our direction.

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of Captain Kimo

 

 

 

 

 

THE SCALE: 4 OPTIONS TO WEIGH WHEN BEING TREATED

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One of the biggest tenets of recovery is that an eating disorder is not about weight.  It’s about the emotional issues, past events, things that are going on now, unlearning coping skills that aren’t healthy, and so much more that has nothing to do with numbers.  Whether a person has bulimia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder or anorexia, their weight and destructive obsessions about keeping or changing it are just distracting them from what’s really going on.

Here’s where it gets tricky:  often weight itself does have to be monitored and even discussed by treatment professionals, such as doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and inpatient clinicians.  It can be difficult for a sufferer to balance the need to set weight aside and also invite – or be forced to allow – others to keep track of their weight. For many, the fear that crops up over going to an appointment where they know or even just suspect they will have to get on a scale causes great anxiety, often to the point a person will cancel an appointment or even end treatment with someone in order to avoid what feels like a Reckoning With The Enemy.

A person who is underweight often wants to hold on to staying that way, commonly beyond the point of being able to recognize that they weigh as little as they do.  When weight restoration begins for them, it can be quite difficult to see the numbers creeping up.

Someone who is overweight can feel great shame when they are confronted with the reality of the digits staring back at them.  As well, while society shouts from the rooftops the message that losing weight is always a great thing, it does not respect the fact that many people who have to restore weight going down the scale instead of up deal with a fear of losing weight.

Many folks who have used an eating disorder to lose or gain more weight than is healthy for them have underlying feelings of being somehow protected more if they maintain those weights.  Many a victim of rape or molestation has found a sense of solace by taking their bodies to a size they feel is less likely to attract violent and other unwanted attention. It can even be a way to avoid romantic attention or socially isolate themselves, even if they are doing it subconsciously.  Because of these reasons, restoring weight can be a loaded experience.

If you find yourself in a position of having someone who is treating you for an eating disorder ask or require to weigh you, do not panic.   You can ask to have a conversation about it, and let them know why the thought of the scale is difficult for you.  You have options:

1. You can do blind weights, which is standing backwards on the scale so that you cannot see the number.  The nurse or whoever is doing the weigh-in should be instructed that you do blind weights, and she or he will write down the number but not say it out loud or show you your chart.  You may have to give a friendly reminder at each visit before you get on the scale, but it’s worth it.  You are the patient, and you have the right to make sure they are going along with the treatment plan that’s in place.

2. You can discuss options about how often you need to be weighed, and may find that while other patients are weighed at each visit, your treatment plan can include less trips to the scale.  This is more likely to occur the further along a person is in recovery, but it’s worth asking about.  The idea isn’t to avoid needed weigh-ins, but rather to see if you are in a place in your treatment that doesn’t require you to have your weight monitored on every visit.

3. If you are seeing more than one professional for treatment, you may find that you are getting weighed over and over.  Even a person without an eating disorder would likely tire of regularly visiting several offices (nutritionist, doctor, therapist) and hopping on and off the scale each time.  If your treatment team is working in conjunction with each other, i.e. they pass along needed information so that everyone is on board with how you’re doing and what your goals are, ask if just one of them can be the one to monitor your weight.  Even if that’s not an option right now, it can be a goal to work towards as you progress through recovery.

4. Rethink how you view scales.  You can learn not to hate or fear them.  It likely won’t happen overnight, but attitudes can and do change, especially in something as involved and life-changing as recovering from an eating disorder.  Many things you once thought were impossible to do, think or feel become a regular part of your life as you become healthier in mind and spirit.  While some people choose to do blind weights even after they are recovered (not out of fear, but because that works best for them), many make a goal to get to a place where a scale is just a scale and doesn’t dictate their emotions.  They develop a new attitude about The Scale.

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of helloitserica

MOURNING ROBIN WILLIAMS

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Like millions of others the world over, I was shocked last week to hear about the death of Robin Williams.  I’m old enough to tell the story of how I remember seeing him guest star on “Happy Days”, and was terribly excited when “Mork & Mindy” came on the air every Thursday.  I literally applauded at the end of each episode, feeling he was just that incredible (I was a dork from Ork).   I was a kid – 11 years old – when the egg-shaped shuttle landed in Milwaukee.  I begged my mom to buy me a pair of rainbow suspenders, so I could be like Mork.  I proudly wore them to middle school, only to have some jerk steal them from my gym locker.

Also like millions of others the world over, I was intrigued by his movie career.  I was too young to understand “The World According to Garp”, but I was hooked on “Moscow on the Hudson” (if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out).  He chose to make films that covered a lot of territory.  I have seen a couple of his comedies no less than a dozen times, with “Mrs. Doubtfire” being considered ‘a member of the family’, as I saw someone describe it.

In some ways, his dramas were even better.  Many of us were surprised, delighted and touched by his powerhouse performance as a prep school English teacher in “Dead Poets Society”.  “Awakenings”, “One Hour Photo” and “Insomnia” also showcased a comedian who knew how to put aside the one-liners and the quest for laughs, and deliver performances that stay with you.  “Good Will Hunting” took him all the way to the stage of the Academy Awards.

As I moved through each day last week, I found myself in mourning.  Several friends I talked to, both with in-depth conversations about our grief and in participating on Facebook posts, felt the same way.  The impact of his death was something almost tangible.  There are dozens of celebrity deaths throughout each year.  Some get nothing more than a “meh” from us, and sometimes we don’t know who the person was.  Sometimes we utter an initial “Ohhhh”, and sometimes we feel really sad for awhile.

Then there are the deaths of the famous that in and of themselves become infamous.  Their impact is enormous and the news coverage is out of the ordinary.  They are the kind of losses for which everyone has a “Where were you when you heard about it” moments.  John Lennon.  Princess Diana.  Michael Jackson.  MLK.  Kennedy.  Elvis.

And now, Robin Williams.

I knew I wanted to write about his life and death, but I also knew it would take several days to get a handle on my emotions and what I wanted to say.  I’ve found something that keeps resonating with me, and I imagine with a lot of other people, not the least of whom are people who have reason to read an eating disorder related blog.

I keep coming back to how so many of the characters Robin played are the very people we’d like to think could have somehow saved him.  When he was down in the well of his depression, when he began to entertain thoughts of checking out, what if he could’ve reached out to the very characters that helped so many others?

Adrian Cronauer would’ve given a depressed man a reason to tune into the radio every day and gather steam to start to get better.

Mrs. Doubtfire would’ve taken him in her arms and delivered sage advise in her warm brogue, helping him to see it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Dr. Malcolm Sayer would’ve known how to gently pull an awakening out of him, and stayed at his bedside until he had his strength back.

John Keating would’ve recited “O Captain”, teaching him to use the beauty of words and imagery to fight off the dark calling he felt.

Patch Adams would’ve worked tirelessy to gift him with the ability to laugh, even when all seemed hopeless.

Sean Maguire would’ve provided such an amazing therapy lifeline that his patient would’ve held on and beaten his own thoughts of ropes and final goodbyes.

Mork would’ve analyzed him in his usual “humans are so odd to me sometimes” way, and provide the shoulder he needed to lean and cry on.  He would’ve talked him out of committing suicide.  But Mork was just part of a 30-minute sitcom, with a guaranteed happy ending.

As well, all of those movies were just that – films.  While each of those characters (and more) was able to soothe their fictional co-stars who were suffering – and indeed comfort those of us sitting in darkened theaters and lighted living rooms – they could not save Robin Williams.

And in the most basic, perhaps even banal, terms – that sucks.

Robin Williams was in the darkest moments of his life in order to do what he did.  It is quite likely had he been able to pull himself back from the brink, or had someone been there to stop him, he might never act on that drive again.  Then again, he might have.  We will never know.  We also can’t know how much his recent Parkinson’s diagnosis drove his decision.

What does all this have to do with eating disorders?  Plenty.  Many people whose lives have been wrapped up in anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or EDNOS also experience depression and health problems.  Sadly, a number of them go on to attempt or commit suicide.  There are no reliable statistics that can correlate suicides with either eating disorders or depression.  By that I mean the death certificate only covers the actual physical cause of death.  It doesn’t say what drove the person to act in such a horrifying, permanent manner.  It doesn’t provide insight into why someone chose to punctuate their sentence early, to paraphrase Carrie Fisher.

Perhaps if we had a better, more complex overview of just how many cases of depression and eating disorders end up in suicide, we would be better prepared to combat it.  Doctors and therapists could be better informed, which makes for more informed patients.  Those who hold the purse strings for prevention, treatment and research would gain insight into how to better spend their dollars.  The loved ones left behind, as well as strangers who think a “snap out of it” approach is all that’s needed, would be able to better comprehend what has happened, and have compassion for those who suffer and those they leave behind.

So to my Captain, my Mrs. Doubtfire, my Mork, I say this:  I’m not at all certain what happens after we slip the surly bonds of this world, but I do believe there is more to come.  I take some comfort in my belief that Robin is at peace now.  I wish he had not disintegrated to the point that he went looking for it that way, but I like to think that somewhere, on some plane, a whole lot of other souls have spent the last week laughing like they haven’t laughed in quite awhile.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH LOUISA

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.
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Interview with Louisa:
Q: How old are you?
A: I am 27.
 .
Q: Male or female?
A: Female
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Q: How long have/did you have an eating disorder?
A: I have had my eating disorder since I was thirteen or fourteen.

Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A: I had anorexia during my teenage years, which morphed into bulimia at university. For the past few years I’ve struggled with binge eating.

Q: Who in your life knows about it?
A: My parents knew when I was anorexic but don’t now. My boyfriend and my boss are the only two who still know, apart from online friends.

Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A: My boss helped me by giving me a ‘day count’ of days recovered. He also kicks my butt if I want to relapse.

Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A: My parents have always downplayed my eating disorder as being a ‘phase’ or an ‘experiment’ or ‘being a bit picky’.

Q: Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A: I saw a dietician when I was anorexic, but it didn’t help much. I’ve seen a counselor twice in the past, but can’t afford one at the moment.

Q: What was most helpful to you about that help?
A: Knowing I wasn’t alone.

Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A: A couple of things. I have Asperger’s, which was undiagnosed until I was twenty-two. Because of this I knew I was ‘different’, but not why, so I assumed I was bad. I thought losing weight could make me nicer and more people would like me.

Q: Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: My friends – I often back out of social events involving food.

Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A: I’m not sure.

Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A: Accepting that it will be slower to lose weight than if I restrict.

Q: If you could be eating disorder free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A: I think I’d do more social stuff with friends, etc. because I wouldn’t have to worry about what they think of me and how much I eat.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A: Get help NOW, don’t wait until you are ‘sick enough’.

Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: Be there to listen and don’t minimize.

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A: I joined Something Fishy and now I’m on Grace on the Moon. It helps so much to be able to talk about things and not feel quite so alone, though it isn’t the same as real life support.

Q: If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A: I am scared I will, as I still slip up regularly. My biggest trigger is anxiety and feeling overwhelmed with things.

Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A: I would like to have kids in the future, but would need to be recovered first. I don’t know if I’d be any better or worse at guiding them away from being eating disordered.

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A: Not really.

Q: What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  I can’t really think of any.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

 Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of MTSOfan.