Fellow Wanderers

The common thread of these fellow wanderers is that they recognize that we are valuable as individuals. We all have value and have an opinion that is uniquely ours. Embrace yours! You are you for a reason. We should make an effort to understand one another. We are all wandering and conquering.

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Today is a shout out day. I want to share some stories of fellow Wanderers and things that keep me inspired. I will mention a few today but I’m planning on more detail in the future. I always try to be inclusive, probably to a fault, so to be clear these will be businesses, blogs, groups, etc. that inspire me. Obviously family and friends support and inspire too and I count some of these people as both and therefore the disclaimer was required. ūüôā

Wanderers go by many names. The definitions I’ve found include those who know where they are going but choose to embrace a journey, they are dreamers, music makers, warriors, and conquerors. We all struggle with different trials; anxiety, depression, ED, shame, guilt, physical disease, cancer, infirmities… we all have our battles that we must face. A friend, and family member of mine is one of these conquerors and he has a story to tell.

The following comes from the Our Story page on The Conquer Shop:

“My name is Noor, creator and owner of the The Conquer Shop. I am an engineer, a businessman, an outdoors enthusiast, a depression survivor and a Lupus conqueror. We built this site as a way to honor all those who are fighting with diseases such as lupus, cancer, depression, anxiety, ptsd, and any illness which are a consequence of the world we live in.

“You see, I grew up watching my own mother struggle with severe pain for years; every day was a struggle just to move about and get her daily work done. Yet she did. She raised me and brother with a determination that would not die.

“Little did I know that I would also become familiar with chronic illness in my own life.

“My Mom always used to say that someone who has not experienced chronic illness cannot truly understand what it is really like: the daily struggle, the fear of a major attack, the wish to just be free.”

From The Conquer Shop home page:

“Together We Conquer
Our Mission is to stand together and show support in the face of Cancer, Lupus, Depression, Diseases and Adventures of all kinds. You are not alone; together, we Conquer All The Things.
A portion of every sale is donated to St Jude’s Research Hospital to help children fight and overcome their battles with cancer.”

I want you to finish his story so you can see the hope and joy that he has found in conquering. Please follow the links and read his story. Explore the shop and support a fellow Wanderer.

 

I heard a quote once that I will butcher here (I’ll still put it in quotes though) and if you are who I stole it from feel free to take credit in the comments. “Telling someone who is having a great day that their day can’t be that great because someone else just made a million dollars and someone else just scored their team the winning goal is the equivalent of telling someone who is depressed that other people have it worse so they shouldn’t be sad” with that in mind this next group is amazing and is not shared because I want to show how much worse other people have it or to shame anyone into thinking their service/contribution is inadequate. These are just amazing people doing amazing work. The group is OUR Operation Underground Railroad (Facebook page). They rescue people, particularly children from slavery and many of their operation focus on sex slavery. There was a different group supported by Ashton Kutcher whose video went viral when he testified to congress. This group does similar work at home and abroad. I’ve donated to them in the past and plan to do so in the future.

Another inspiration is one of Bree’s best friends. She started a website called The Tailored Market (Facebook page) to sell women’s clothes. Her goal is to create a place where numbers don’t matter, which is hard with clothes. She shares beautiful stories and embraces everyone who comes with an attitude of acceptance. She shares her own personal stories of her battle with ED and is doing what she can to raise awareness about the way we talk to one another and ourselves regarding our bodies.

The last one I want to talk about is the non profit More Than Shame (Facebook page). Their mission is to try to raise awareness of the debilitating effects of shame, and how its different from guilt. While also promoting ways to combat its effects.

‘Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.’ -Brene Brown

Shame tells us we should suffer in silence, and not bother anyone with our internal struggles. It tells us that if anyone knew what was going on in our lives they couldn’t possibly love us. So we suffer in silence, and we become sicker. It is not until we realize we are MORE than shame, and there are people waiting to accept and help us on our roads to recovery that we can truly heal. My favorite video from this guy/group is called The Silent Epidemic.

Thank you for giving value to my voice. The common thread of this post isn’t Eating Disorders. Only one (maybe two) of the above groups related to body image. The common thread is that they recognize that we are valuable as individuals. We all have value and have an opinion that is uniquely ours. Embrace yours! You are you for a reason. We should make an effort to understand one another. We are all wandering and conquering. The more we help each other the better we will understand our own journey. That sounds like trickery, how would I learn about me from helping somebody else. To which I answer, when we get outside ourselves by helping/serving/supporting others we can look back and see ourselves more clearly. Maybe we see someone struggling, pleading for support. Maybe we see someone who isn’t as flawed as we thought. Maybe we realize in that moment that we can let someone in to help us, like we just helped someone else. I feel like a challenge to perform random acts of kindness is in order. Please go help someone in a small way today, not asking for anything in return, and see if what I’m suggesting works. Or get really brave and ask for the help you need. Good Luck! I will report on mine soon and you should share or comment with yours.

 

Intro to Triggers

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week… Likely only those who are already familiar with the subject are aware of this. Which is kind of a sad statement given that an estimated 8 Million people (3% of the U.S. population) have an eating disorder. I also suspect that this number is low given how people react and think about the subject.

I can only imagine how many people this impacts indirectly. Friends, family, even acquaintances will see the effects. Today I wanted to broach a subject that will be more difficult and sensitive. I wanted to discuss triggering. Those things that cause recovering people to revert, or they might not even be headed in a positive direction and the trigger makes their behaviors worse.

**A quick note on triggers. Obviously triggers are real and can cause someone deep pain. In todays context there are jokes about people being “triggered” over things that others think are silly. I’ll admit that I find some of them ridiculous. I believe that we should be mindful of our fellow man and help each other where we can. I had a hard time expressing these thoughts because I don’t want to downplay triggers and I don’t want to turn people away who have a misconception about triggers. To be clear – we are talking about genuine psychological triggers not people who get easily offended. (see urban dictionary or your favorite internet search for common meanings of trigger, triggered, triggering)**

Some triggers we need to face head on and others we need to avoid until we are strong enough to face them, or face them in increments instead of all the time. I’ve observed that Bree does better with food when she doesn’t prepare it (However this observation falls apart when people are around, e.g. potlucks, extended family dinners, parties, etc.).

I’m assuming, and we’ve discussed at length, that when she is around food while preparing it she is triggered and won’t eat that meal as well. I’ve found that when I prepare a meal and she helps in other ways that things go a little smoother. She’s not around the food as much and is less triggered. Leading her to eat better. I haven’t discussed this with any professionals so I don’t know if this is good or bad BUT I’m happy to play this role.

I should probably also note that this doesn’t always work, I’m trying to keep this real but my optimism pokes through and as I reread things they always seem super successful. This is not the case. These last couple weeks and months have been rough on this front. While other things go better, this slides downward. We pick up and make progress but it’s a long hard road.

It’s interesting that what works for one person doesn’t work for another and what triggers one person won’t trigger another. Even with the same eating disorder. We are all unique and so are our behaviors and challenges.

The other discussion I want to have about triggers happened on Facebook.

Two quick notes: 1)  I won’t use names these are two great people and 2) in no way is this meant to make them look bad. In fact, I admire and respect the way this was handled and love that they were both looking out for my wife.

Bree posted a picture on Facebook, a friend mentioned something about Bree’s body. It was a nice compliment, something many women face and would love to hear. However, it COULD be triggering for someone with ED. One of my wife’s friends who has shared her own experiences with ED commented on the comment mentioning these triggers, and specifically what it could have triggered for Bree.

I thought to myself that I was about to see some fireworks. Everything was very polite but also blunt. So I thought that would cause a negative reaction. I was very wrong.

These two people don’t know each other, and I’ve observed too many misunderstandings on Facebook to be optimistic. But guess what, the first lady replied politely and asked a genuine question about what she could say that was different and less triggering. The whole thing was an insightful conversation that really touched my heart.

Having that be touching may sound weird because it seemed like an innocent conversation. They were respectful, thoughtful, and insightful about how we should treat one another and learn from each other. Needless to say, I was impressed with the quality of my wife’s friends. These people were truly trying to help and then truly trying to learn.

On this topic specifically, rather than focusing on physical body image in our talk/compliments we could focus on deeper more meaningful observations about those we know. I think that this is a positive change to our mindset and would help avoid many of the triggers that are out there. But not all triggers can be eliminated and we can’t expect others to know what they are. We need to be loving and forgiving to ourselves and others when we are triggered or cause someone to be triggered. We are all always on the road of self improvement, I know that I need mercy and grace as much or more than everyone else.

In searching for a way to conclude these thoughts my mind keeps turning to the general publics view on triggering. I mentioned it briefly up above implying that it might be an over used term. I keep reminding myself that just because it’s overused doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and that it’s a real thing that impacts a lot of people.

I recommend checking out this post 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone with an Eating Disorder. The article has some practical tips on how to love those you know are struggling. Things not to say as the title implies and several suggestions to replace those triggering comments with.

I believe firmly in loving my neighbor and doing everything in my power on a personal level to not be someones trigger. This is what made the Facebook conversation beautiful. Both women were trying to be loving, choosing to be mindful of others and learn without forcing an opinion. We don’t know the internal struggles of those around us. They may have a darkness that is threatening to drown them and I want to be a life-preserver not a rock. I think when we show love and kindness, and enter into conversations with an open heart and mind we can never go wrong.

Book Report: Life Without Ed

When we started this I intended to write more often. Really I have but none of it came together like the first post.

I have recently learned that people with Eating Disorders struggle with the concept of self. So please, bear with me for just a moment while I introduce myself. I apologize if it comes off arrogant or inconsiderate given the over arching topic of this blog. I promise that I will tie it back into the topic at hand and also the big picture ūüôā

I am happy, optimistic, and hopeful. I’ve had some great mentors and role models in my life. I consider myself successful, I have a BS in Biomedical Engineering and work as a Quality Engineer for a Medical Device Manufacturer.¬†I have two children and a wonderful wife. We love being together and going on adventures to the beach, the mountains, or even just to the¬†park. I’ve never struggled with my personal identity. Im learning though that this is not the case for everyone. Especially for someone who struggles with an eating disorder.

Bree introduced me to a book she’s read “Life Without Ed“(I’ve just started reading) but I would like to share the concept with you, and as I read the book I would like to share what I/we learn. The book is written by Jenni Schaefer. In the beginning she describes an abusive relationship with Ed. She continues to describe the problems and effects of this horrible relationship, and then we realize that Ed is actually E.D. for Eating Disorder. Its the theory in the book that when someone struggling with an Eating Disorder¬†can learn to detach the illness from themselves into Ed, they can begin the road to recovery. In order to change your relationship with Ed you have to¬†learn to¬†stand back and separate yourself ¬†from him. They can let go easier when they can find an identity completely separate from their Eating Disorder.

I’m learning from¬†the book, and our own experience, that people with Eating Disorders struggle with the concept of self to the point that it’s hard to distinguish themselves from Ed. They struggle to¬†determine ¬†their own thoughts verses Eating Disorder thoughts. My wife had highlighted this in the book:

‚ÄúI always knew what Ed thought but had to really search to find out what was going on in Jenni‚Äôs mind. Oddly, I realized that I knew Ed very well but frequently felt as if I had never even met Jenni.‚ÄĚ Jenni Schaefer ‚ÄúLife Without Ed, Tenth Anniversary Edition.‚ÄĚ McGraw-Hill Education, 2014. iBooks.

Often people ask general questions in order to get to know someone. Sometimes simple questions leave my wife anxious and at a loss for an answer. For example if someone asks her what she likes to do for fun, her mind goes blank. So much of her identity deals with her issues with food and she rarely gets to reflect on her own self. She has spent so many years with Ed’s thoughts in her head all the time, she struggles to find her own voice. Im also finding that Ed is so encompassing that often people lose the desire to recover all together, because they are afraid of what will be left once the disorder is no longer in control. Ed has been calling the shots for so long, and their worth gets so tied up in how well they are at keeping Ed happy, its overwhelming and scary to think of life without him. Meanwhile I’m overwhelmed thinking of her life with him.

Bree and I have recently had a few discussions about what causes Ed to manifest. Sometimes her struggles seem small and insignificant, and other times they are completely consuming. I have begun to realize how difficult it is for someone on the outside to distinguish Eating Disordered thoughts and therefore understand our loved one appropriately. We are all emotional creatures, we feel joy and love, sadness, anger, and frustration. Ed seems to live in the negative emotions. That is his domain but in the same way an addict feels release, or relief, Ed can make you feel better in the short term but long term you feel guilt and frustration. This is Ed, this is how he works.

Throughout our entire marriage I’ve had a hard time distinguishing between Ed and Bree’s emotions. Over the last few weeks I’ve made an effort to do so. Bree recently had an experience which has helped me see the way her emotions, and therefore eating disorder behaviors swing with her circumstances. She had a friend visit recently, this friend has been an amazing support for Bree and knows her eating disorder well. This particular weekend was planned months before as a sort of reward for following some challenging meal plans¬†and taking some hard steps in her recovery. Bree said that during this weekend she felt more “normal” in regards to food than she has in a really long time. She was able to go to lunch with her friend and just have fun instead of having the overwhelming anxiety that usually goes with her. She was free from the normal pressures of motherhood and stress which allowed her to relax and feel safe and supported. Ed was still there that weekend, he never really leaves, but he was easier to ignore. After her friend left and she had reached the end of the “goal” they were working towards, Ed got louder.

Since that weekend Bree has been very homesick, which has made battling her eating disorder extremely hard. We moved 6 months ago to California for my work and consequentially moved away from both of our families. Her family has spent the summer in Bear Lake Utah since she was a child, and they are currently there right now. Bree has always been big on traditions especially surrounding holidays. We even met on the 4th of July which just adds to the memories and emotions. Homesickness is a normal emotion and it is Bree not Ed. However it makes the battle with Ed more difficult because its easier to use your Eating Disorder to numb unpleasant emotions than it is just to feel them and deal with them in a healthy way.

As I read “Life without Ed” I’m trying to learn how to assist her in her battle, but the part I’m struggling with the most is telling the difference between Ed and normal emotions. Sometimes it obvious, and sometimes it’s not.

I’m happy to be on the road with her as she finds herself. As she separates from Ed we’ve drawn closer. I can tell when she’s losing the daily battle because we aren’t as close. Likewise I can tell when she’s winning. I don’t know how to encourage winning using positive feedback. I do intend to find out!