Temple

By Maddie Young

As I sit here staring at the screen I'm filled with aggravation and pain. I've written countless blog posts and journal entries but this is by far the hardest thing for me to write about. Part of me doesn't understand. I don't understand how I can write about a tornado and trauma with my father but can't even think to begin to write about this. It feels like it shouldn't be this difficult. I've been hiding from the truth practically my whole life.

All I can think about is an alcoholic reaching for his next cold one regardless of the situation or time of day. That's how I feel with you, ED. You're far worse than an abusive relationship. You're there when I wake up, when I'm happy, when I'm sad or anxious, when I'm trying to go to sleep. You're there every minute of every day. Quite frankly, you're exhausting. It's always one extreme or the other. I eat too much or I eat way too little or not at all. I spend over two hours in the gym or don't do anything at all. There's no in between. You make me so mad. I feel like I've done everything yet still can't get rid of you. I want to blame it on my father since that's when it seems you decided to first come around. I was so young and so vulnerable. There would be weekends with no food or water. What kind of parent doesn't care to properly nourish their own child? Anger arouses. The enemy had swooped in and already taken control.

Then I begin to think how could anyone allow themselves to skip meals and in turn lay on the bathroom floor crying because it felt like they were going to be sick? But I allowed it. It was a coping mechanism. ED, you teamed up with the enemy and filled my mind with lies. My heart hurts and filled with cheerlessness.

I've allowed other people to walk all over me because of you. I believed that I was ugly and fat and can barely look in a mirror now because of it. The people I love the most and look up to would ask, “Are you really going to wear that?” Or “Do you think you should eat that?” Now I hide in dark, looser clothes because I'm embarrassed and broken.

Hopelessness and fear. Anger and jealousy. Sadness and pain. Regret and shame. Restraint and burdens. I feel trapped and a failure. All strong and powerful feelings and thoughts swirl in my mind as I begin to allow myself to experience something that I've never done before. It's completely outside of my comfort zone and honestly, I don't like it.

The figure and shape on the outside can't even begin to represent the person I am on the inside. There's this picture in my head. A tall, beautiful girl dancing freely and confidently in fields of sunflowers and wildflowers. She radiates desire and grace. That's who I long to be.

I've prayed and continue to pray. I know that I can only experience complete freedom through Jesus. Without Him the enemy and Ed will continue to tear me down. I am reminded in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that my body's a temple and won't magically be built overnight. He has placed Godly women in my life to speak truth and wisdom over me when my mind begins to trick me into thinking I can't overcome this. As badly as I wish that my fairy godmother could wave her magic wand and all of this mess would magically be fixed, I am beginning to accept the challenge and time that it'll take. I've faced many challenges in my short life on earth and with each step I've grown in my faith and relationship with Jesus. I've watched one sister fight Ed and is now living out life in freedom. This is a gleam of strength and hope. I will continue to be vulnerable and trust that my Heavenly Father continues to take care of me. It's time for a new season in my journey. I know it won't be easy. It'll be hard. Very hard. But I've fought like hell to get where I am and I don't plan to stop until I can finally say I've broken up with Ed. With Jesus and sweet sisters by my side, I will overcome this.

Maddie Young

Maddie Young

Alex's Recovery Story

By Alex Berthelot

My name is Alex and I am here to share my journey through mental illness and recovery!

My journey with mental illness began when I was a kid and diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It was really distressing for a while however as I grew older it began to get easier to manage. As the OCD started to get better, the depression kicked in at age 13. I began crying a lot at school and I wasn’t able to figure out why. All I knew is that I felt really alone and none of my peers seemed to quite understand what I was going through. 

I resorted to self harm in 8th grade and I so badly wish I could go back to that night, the moment before I hurt myself for the first time, and give my younger self a big hug and let her know that hurting yourself physically will not dull the pain on the inside, in fact it will make it much worse in the long run. 

Years went by and things got a little better, I switched schools in 10th grade and finally thought I found a school where I fit in with my peers. It didn’t take long for me to become involved in a horribly controlling relationship that was abusive in almost all ways you can imagine. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that abusive relationships can happen at any age. Just because my abuser was 16 years old doesn’t justify it, and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t abuse. I tried so hard to reach out for help over the course of that relationship but no one believed me for reasons which I still fail to understand. 

Thinking back to this time in my life is hard. It was such an incredibly dark time. My self harming behaviors became so severe that the people at the urgent care near my house knew why I would come in every time and the suicidal thoughts were overwhelming. The abuse was so bad that my body’s coping mechanism became to dissociate and detach myself completely from the present and live partially disconnected from daily life and my junior year of high school I spent more time in different psychiatric hospitals than I did at school. It became clear to my therapist and parents that I needed a higher level of care than I could receive at home and so when I was 16 years old my mom and I flew across the country to Utah and I was admitted to a residential treatment center there. I would not be standing here right now had I not gone to residential treatment back in 11th grade. I worked the program, worked hard in therapy and graduated and was able to move home after 8 months of living there. However, the month after I graduated that program I relapsed with self harm. 

The next 3 years are a bit of a blur, I still struggled with self harm and depression but I managed and I graduated high school and moved to college which are 2 things I never thought I would be able to do. The first year of college was not without its struggles but I managed to enjoy most of it. However my Sophomore year is when my mental health started to decline rapidly. Second semester sophomore year is when I became really truly incapacitated by my mental illness. I ended up experiencing a manic episode, which is something I had never experienced before. I was feeling so incredibly good, I thought I was cured from all of the pain depression and PTSD brought along so I quit therapy. Soon the good energy I was feeling turned into angry pent up energy and I was barely able to sleep for a week. I started taking too much of my sleeping medication to try and help me sleep and ended up crashing really hard and really fast. The depression was back but this was no longer functioning depression, this was not being able to get out of bed for a week other than to use the restroom type of depression. I forfeited everything necessary to survive such as food and showering because I literally was so incapacitated, apathetic and lethargic. My roommates were starting to get really worried about me (for good reason) however my depression convinced me that there was no problem. My self harming behaviors were out of control and the suicidal thoughts were becoming so loud and it really seemed like the only way out was death. I remember sitting on my bed staring at my prescription medication. I knew I was on medication that could really be dangerous in an overdose situation and I wish so badly I could go back to that night and tell myself what I know now. Even though my depression was telling me that I wanted to die, I know now that I just wanted to no longer be in such emotional pain. So often depression convinces you that the only way out of such pain is through death and so a year and a half ago I tried so hard to leave this world. The next couple of days are a blur, I woke up to the sounds of the hospital machines that were keeping me alive and just stared at the ceiling in disbelief. I never imagined myself alive at age 20, but there I was in a cold hospital room, hopeless but alive. It took almost a week for me to be medically stable enough to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital and after I was discharged from psych, I withdrew from school and moved home and began treatment at Skyland Trail. 

It was about 1 month into my stay at Skyland that I finally realized that I either put my all into recovery or I die. I realized recovery is not going to work if I only recover for my family. Recovery is only going to happen if I want it. And so that is when I fully committed to finding my way back to the light, not because my family wanted me to, but because I wanted to. 

The biggest, most helpful realization I had at Skyland was realizing that recovery doesn’t mean the absence of mental illness, recovery means learning to live with it in a way that still allows you to have a full and fulfilled life. If you had asked me a year and a half ago if I believed that I would be able to live a life and experience happiness I would have laughed in your face. Now, a year and a half into recovery, I am still learning how to manage my illnesses and it’s still hard at times. In fact since I graduated from Skyland, I have been able to start processing through the trauma I experienced throughout that horrible relationship and this is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I am so proud to say that even though talking about it is beyond painful, I am still 100% committed to using the skills I learned to help regulate my emotions and when I need more support, I allow myself to reach out for it which is something I have never done in the past. 

Something I really struggled with when I was in the depths of my depression was feeling like I didn’t deserve to be here and that I had no purpose in life. It’s still hard to find a purpose for all of this pain I’ve been through, especially when it comes to the abuse I endured but I am confident in saying that I did not fight through all of this pain and find my way back to the light only to stay quiet about it. I am here to share my story and to let others know that it is so possible to find a life worth living. 

At Skyland I was inspired to start keeping an art journal. 

Through journaling I came to this realization and learned that the reason I started self harming in the first place was because I was feeling so much emotional pain and distress and I didn’t know how else to convey how bad I was feeling, so I thought that maybe if I hurt myself on the outside, people would realize how badly I was hurting on the inside. That whole plan kind of backfired because I would self harm and immediately cover it up and not let anyone see. And before I knew it I was quite literally addicted to hurting myself. I am so thankful I began journaling and in my journal among random drawings is where I keep my poetry. I have found that even if writing doesn’t completely convey how I’m feeling on the inside, it is still much more effective in communicating the thought process in my head and helps not only me understand myself a bit better, but I also share my journal with my therapist and it helps her know how she can help me best. I found myself writing a piece on New Years Eve, which is typically the day I dread most out of the whole year. I have always detested it because in the past it always felt like a sick slap in the face because I spent a whole year sad. This year was different though. I found myself reflecting on everything that happened in 2016. It was most definitely the hardest year of my life and also the year where I allowed the most healing to take place. I wanted to share this poem with you all:

 

“this year i found myself broken 

before i even knew i was breaking.

 

sitting on the edge of my bed 

staring at the floor of my bedroom,

with a pain in my heart and a sickness in my head

that no living being should experience,

i tried so hard to leave this world 

and i came so close to being gone.

 

i woke up to the sound of the hospital machines 

that were keeping me alive and spent the following days 

lying in an unfamiliar bed in a cold hospital room,

staring at the ceiling in disbelief.

 

i never imagined myself alive at age twenty,

but there i was, lying in a hospital bed, 

alive, hopeless, but alive.

 

through this brokenness i was brought to people

who believed i had the strength to piece myself whole again. 

and i spent so much of the time pushing them away

because i was afraid to fail at living, 

the same way i had failed at dying.

 

but these people never gave up on me 

even when i had long given up on myself,

and soon i started to accept the help i 

had convinced my self i was so unworthy of.

 

this year was brutal.

 

even now there are times that feel impossible 

but in those moments, i remind myself that

even breathing is an act of courage.

 

there are still days where i curse my sorrow

but i am learning that this pain is what has 

taught me compassion in the truest form.

 

i have spent months unlearning the lies 

that years of abuse left me believing true

and planting a garden of self love instead.

 

i had spent so long living in darkness 

that i believed i was beyond repair,

but i am learning that there is no such thing.

 

i have a place in this world and

i am piecing myself whole again.

 

i am growing, 

i am learning, 

i am rebuilding.

i am alive.

 

and this is only the beginning.”

 

A year and a half ago, the thought of living without self harm was a joke to me. I never thought I could live without harming myself in some form. I am 21 years old now, I started self harming at age 13 and in those 7 years I was never clean for longer than 8 months. As I stand here right now, I am so proud to say that it’s been over a year since I last cut myself. And if anyone reading this is struggling, I want to let you know that it is ok to reach out and ask for help and it is so possible to find yourself on the other side of all of this pain. If you are hopeless right now, I am lending you some of the hope I have because, I have enough hope for both of us. You are not weak just because you are hurting and you do not have to go through this alone.

Looking back on everything I wish so badly that someone had believed me when I tried to reach out when I was stuck in that abusive relationship. I was left to deal with the pain alone until I finally found a treatment team who believed me. The most powerful thing anyone has ever said to me is ‘I believe you’. So to anyone struggling through an abusive relationship or to anyone who is struggling in finding people who believe you no matter what struggles you are facing. I just want to say, that I do. I believe you. Your pain is real and your pain is valid, and I believe that you can get through this. Keep reaching out because you will find help just as I did. You are worth it, you are worth recovery and you are so worth loving. Hang in there and keep fighting, you’re going to make it through. 

Life After ED

By Ashton Powers

Eating disorder (ED) recovery can often feel like a never-ending tunnel – a dark road with seemingly no visible light ahead. Recovery is not a clear-cut path, but instead, shaped like one big question mark. There is no guidebook that tells you how long it will take or what your life will look like after recovery. When I was going through recovery for my eating disorder, I constantly wondered what life would be like beyond this tunnel and questioned if a better life even existed. I worried that my entire life was going to be spent in the dark under ED’s rule. Could I possibly adapt to a new “ED-free” life?

Between doctor’s appointments or seeing my therapist, I was waiting. Waiting on a little glimpse of light and life beyond this disorder; waiting for someone to flip the switch so I could finally feel freedom from my eating disorder; and waiting on my mind and body to behave like everyone else’s. At times, it felt as if I couldn’t hold out.  Through all of the waiting, many days, it seemed easier to resort back to destructive, comfortable habits instead of pushing through the pain.

Time went on and my body and mind finally began to mirror each other. I slowly became more comfortable eating different foods and my safe foods list doubled.  ED showed up less and less in my daily thoughts as I was determined to stop the isolation from the people I loved.  With the worst of recovery behind me, I renewed my mind little by little and I began my transition into freedom.  My eating disorder still lived in the back of my mind, trying to pull me back into the dark, but the light was clearly in front of me and I was determined to make it to the end.

One thing I had to learn very quickly about life without ED was that there are a lot of triggers in our society. Hearing a group of women talking about their new weight loss trick or seeing a friend eat a large meal then express how they wish they wouldn’t have eaten always caused ED to pop up in my mind. I would see women that were noticeably smaller than I was and I would have to stop myself from involuntarily comparing and tearing myself down like I used to do before I began recovery. Sadly, these triggers had the capability of sending me into an inward panic of worry and paranoia about my own body and food intake, but I learned to push through them.

We are designed to adapt to situations and environments and that is exactly what recovery is: adapting.I had to adapt to the natural triggers of our culture and society.  I could not stop everyone from talking about diets and weight loss or keep people from eating large amounts of unhealthy food around me – I had to adapt to it. And adapting takes time.

“Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.” – John Laroche (Adaptation)

I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it is something that I cannot emphasize enough. There is no quick fix for an eating disorder; an eating disorder cannot just disappear. Total recovery is possible, but unfortunately, more often than not, there will always be a part of your eating disorder that follows you the rest of your life. If I am ever in a stressful situation or season of my life, ED still finds a way to sneak back into my thoughts. However, I have had enough practice to know how to combat the lies of my eating disorder and not sink back into my old self-destructive ways.  When I say I am recovered from an eating disorder, I mean I am thankfully able to manage the deeply rooted behaviors and thoughts formed by ED.

At this point in my life, I feel so much freedom from my eating disorder. Yes, there are times where ED manages to control a few of my thoughts and maybe several of my decisions. However, overall, I am no longer a slave to my eating disorder. My identity and self-worth is not determined by how many calories I have eaten. I live my life in the light, where my eating disorder no longer has a complete grip on me.

Ashton Powers // http://life-remodeled.org

Ashton Powers // http://life-remodeled.org