Open Feeding

Open feeding is a concept where food is accessible by multiple people at a time. Examples include restaurant buffets, family-style meals, and potluck type situations.

It is a place where people feed. It’s a place where people can eat anything that is available. The social norms of these places and or situations are; You can eat anything without judgment. No one will think it’s weird if you take seconds, fill your plate to the brim and eat every last bite, and or shove chip after chip into your mouth. If you are eating at someone’s home, you often eat more because you feel guilty or you want to make someone else feel better if you eat their cooking.

Several years ago I stopped going to buffets as a personal choice in my ED recovery. I remember eating at them as a child, and later with my dad when we would have visited after not seeing him for a while. It is a place that has options, and you can go through and eat as much as you want, and indulge in all of the options, with as many plates as you want. It’s a food addicts heaven.

Family meals, and potluck type situations have been really hitting me hard in the anxiety department for the past several years. These environments give permission for the ED to come out in safe non-judgmental, overeating accepted areas. It comes out like a fucking monster. It almost becomes its own being that has been awoken after a long slumber. Hello world, let me judge the fuck out of how much you’ve eaten, and what they have eaten. I look around at other people, I take inventory around me. I look at people’s plates, I look at their bodies, I calculate and create excuses. I did it before I became vegan and I do it now, only excuses look different than they did before.

My brain becomes a mess, and I fight myself and judge myself. It’s a battle in my brain, fighting to keep control when in reality I don’t feel like I have any at all. My anxiety is high, my teeth are clenching, and I surrender to alleviate the pressure that I’ve manifested myself.
What probably has pulled me in (other than the obvious food) have been social anxiety (even in my own family), feeling awkward, self-hatred, not knowing what to say to people, the fact that people have made special food for me… And I’m sure there are more, but these are the only ones I can think of at the moment.

What hasn’t helped: putting my silverware on my plate as a signal that I’m done. Shaming myself over and over again, mindful eating, judging myself or someone else for their food choices (it’s none of my damn business anyway), eating more, or drinking more alcoholic beverages.

What has helped: Self-parenting. Consistently I’ve come back to this concept of self-parenting. It essentially is self-soothing, telling yourself you are safe, you have had enough, you are okay, you do not need to eat anymore. Putting my napkin and my silverware on my plate and saying out loud no more.

What I will try to remember for next time (if we can ever meet in person again): Excuse myself to the bathroom or go outside for a few minutes, get up to get a glass of water, and ask lots of questions about the people around me. Those are what I have so far anyway.

Either way, it is important to be gentle with yourself. You are human, you are wonderful and you have got this.

Gas-lit stories I have told myself

I’ve written in the past about the stories I’ve told myself, and also now recently gaslighting. 

I wanted to write a little bit more about the actual stories I’ve told myself that I’ve been working to un-do. 

I’m bad: Which truly umbrellas all of the things below. Not only does it umbrella them, but it also gives leverage for my brain to believe all of these other negative things. You are bad, so people do not want to hang out with you because they don’t like you, because you are not whatever enough. For example if you want to hang out with a friend, and they say that they cannot. It’s not because they don’t want to, but probably because they are busy, or may have their own anxieties that have nothing to do with you. What I’m about to say is totally real, and I sometimes fall into this thinking still, but more often than not, I do not give it fuel but… I seriously thought, and have thought that people have not wanted to hang out with me because I was ugaly, gross, and fat. I’ve spent too much time in my own anxiety, over analyzing what I say, how I should have said it differently, and investing in things to “be better” (makeup, dieting, etc) for other people. None of this makes a difference to other people, you want to want it for yourself, or do these things if you want to to be a healthier version of yourself. 

I have believed I’m not good enough: I think this is the most present thread that runs through my brain unconsciously and consciously. More unconsciously than consciously now. You know that phrase old behaviors die hard? Yah, when I’m feeling like at my worst, it’s generally because nothing really brings me joy and I think what is the point. 

A few examples: 

Recently I’ve been making an effort into applying for jobs. I’ve been really trying to work through some of the I’m not good enough for more advanced jobs because of whatever non-existent reason other than my own anxiety. Up until recently I’ve done a lot of avoidance of applying for new jobs because I have this ingrained belief that I’m not good enough. The fears (and stories I tell myself) that run through my brain are: I’m a terrible writer (for cover letters), there are always better candidates, I’m not good at selling myself. 

For the last few summers I have been going to a friends house to help her with her garden. She is someone I’m building trust with, and I feel so blessed to have met her. She is a new friend who is accepting, and kind. Last summer I texted her and said, I feel like I’ve been super lazy because I haven’t been doing much with the garden. She texted me back and said… You are not lazy and other positive things that helped me self validate back things that were positive. I had these ideas, that she thought I wasn’t doing enough with the garden, and that had turned into something bigger than it needed to be. It turned into anxiety, more avoidance, and paranoia. What helped was addressing the issue at hand, which was my feeling of being not good enough. I can’t remember what I said, but maybe something like I feel like I’m not doing enough, like I’m lazy, (and not the huge emotional drama that goes with it), and because she is great, she responded how she did. With compassion, understanding and consistency. 

I have believed people do not like me because of:  I just wrote about this about being bad. But seriously, it has been ingrained in my brain before, especially in finding partners. I am too fat, I’m too ugly. I have felt like because I was too fat and ugly, that I wasn’t deserving of someone who treated me better. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. I do not believe that now, just so yah all know. But it’s true, it’s sad, and awful that I let myself feel that way.  I want to emphasize that I would victimize myself so much when I was in my 20’s about people not liking me, that this was my biggest paranoia and also a gaslit thing I did to myself. I would actively make up stories about things people were gossiping about me, just to validate my own paranoia roll. I mean seriously! It doesn’t fucking matter what people think about you. 

I have believed I’m ugly: I have fueled this belief with so many things; being fat, acne, picking, comparing and contrasting myself to others. These are my own personal validations I’ve had in the past. Also, it was validated based on what people have said to me (to my face or behind my back) in the past. This is something that is an issue that we have across our world about what beauty is defined by and what people say is more beautiful than someone else. I’ve been learning not to compare myself to others in terms of my own beauty, and it is fucking hard. It’s also something I consistently work at. 

I have believed I’m fat (truth and): Not funny, but literal truth. I am fat. I’m not 280lbs anymore or close to it, but I’m fat and have fat. AND it shouldn’t limit me from life. It has built up this stigmatization that because I’m fat, means that I can’t do things. I shouldn’t wear certain clothes, I shouldn’t go certain places and I’m lazy. It often means that I am less than and I’ve believed that for most of my life. It means so many things it is not. Truth is… I’m fat, and I kind of just laugh about it now.

Funny side story: Last spring I had lugged all of my painting stuff to a park nearby from my apt. I was carrying a backpack full of things and some canvases. It was obvious I was struggling, and had to put things down to rearrange my stuff. A man kept watching me (not in a creepy way), he just noticed I was struggling. He yelled across the street if I needed help, I assured him I didn’t. I was only a block from home. He asked if I was pregnant (not sure why that was important, other than assumptions he was making and also to show his further concern about my predicament). I just responded with this laugher in my voice, no, just fat. I wasn’t offended or upset, mostly just thought it was funny. He was of course embarrassed, but his assumptions at this time didnt affect me or my life. 

As you can see above, a lot of these are intertwined, and have similar messages. I do have a lot of body dysmorphia, and I’ve come a long way in my thinking. It’s not as severe as it use to be, and It’s not really a surprise that these thoughts don’t change overnight, but with practice, it gets better and they get quieter while your new ones take the lead.

Gaslighting and Trauma

Medical news today defines gaslighting as “a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.”

As a survivor of a gaslit child, I really wanted to write about this because of the effects it has on your everyday life. It is also a cycle of society we see and accept, and most people do not even know it’s happening. It’s a tactic that people use to gain control. Oftentimes, people who gaslight others, are ones who have been gas lit themselves. I didn’t even realize how large of an issue this was until our most recent election. If you say something out loud enough that isn’t true, because you want that to be people’s reality, more and more people will push it as the truth, and eventually it will be so ingrained in people’s brains as the truth, that it will just be their reality. Also, if you think something is true (that isn’t true), you are gaslighting yourself, and that my friends is the cycle of cyclical gaslighting.

As a child, and growing up in my early 20’s I didn’t even think that my childhood was that bad, and to be honest I can’t remember most of it. I made excuses for myself, and him. I often would say, well I didn’t get beat or sexually assaulted. This was the reel that I built in my brain for years, and all that did was just shove it down even more. I shoved it to a place where I was 280lbs. I shoved it with sex and relationships with men who were less than what I was deserving of. I shoved it into debt that, well let’s be real, my dad paid off when he died. I do not want to dis-value other peoples experiences, or trauma. There are people in this world who have seen, heard, and been a victim to so many horrific things. I am just saying no matter what experience you have, if I hadn’t validated my own experience and addressed it as it is, I could not be here where I am today. 

When you are not accepting the truth about your past, it’s perpetuating the cyclical gaslighting and giving it power. It turns into you constantly lying to yourself, altering your reality in which later can create confusion about what actually happened. Even though giving it light is painful, you are helping yourself move forward and heal from what happened to you. 

For most of my life, I have been paranoid about humans, and their objectives with me. I have been confused in my own truths and realities, my inner self has been super chaotic and panicked. I have been known to create stories in my brain about what people are thinking and let them be true. I would be anxious, panicked, and would constantly worry (when I say worry, I really mean panic, and live in fear of my own anxieties) about what people thought about me. When in reality, it does not matter what people think about you. If you are doing a good job, or are doing what you need to do and validate yourself in that, then that’s all that is important. 

Until recently,  (age 35), 3 years after my dad’s death, years and years of therapy and practicing new behaviors I have been able to really learn how to trust myself. The biggest piece of this is re-parenting yourself, it’s validating your inner self. It builds trust, it builds confidence, it builds acceptance of yourself, and it builds a more positive inner monologue. 

For the last 6 or so years I have been working with the best team who literally, only wants the best for me. I’ve been so lucky to have had them be a part of this part of my journey. I do not think I could be where I’m at without them. Their consistency, and accepting nature is what has helped me come so far. I’ve been able to change the story I tell myself in my brain, in a safe and healthy work environment. 

Un-doing gas lighting is still happening in my world, but I’ve gotten so much better at seeing my current reality. It’s been a slow and consistent process. 

I do want to write about one example that really made an impact on my process, I had a severe ptsd reaction to it and ended up having to go home from work. I was on the phone with a Probation Officer, whom I was not prepared to talk to her or ask her questions. Towards the end of the conversation she said I was interrupting her and being quite hostile. I was confused by what had just happened, and anxious. My body was shaking, and I had things rolling through my brain. I left work. I was crying, I spent the afternoon completely traumatized. I hadn’t been triggered like that in a long time. 

I remembered interrupting her (which I totally owned up to) , and I do not remember being hostile. To me hostile means rude, calling names, intimidating and something larger. Like awful, and I was anything but awful to her on the phone.  It was her tone on the phone, and her calling me hostile that set me off. It was a trigger of being blamed by my dad for his reactions as a child, and obviously it had a reaction on me. It made me question my tone, our conversation and what I had said to her. Just because someone says something to you about yourself, doesn’t mean it is true. It’s what you validate in yourself that is important, because I was not hostile on the phone with her. I’m not a hostile person, seriously, I do not have it in me. 

This example, though, was a turning point in my healing and a lot of grief came out. It helped me learn to validate my own experiences and my current real-ity.

Recent Lessons Part 1

 by rachael

Pattern revealed: 

I will never forget the moment that I was on the phone with my therapist a month ago or so. It had been a busy day, and I had scheduled the appointment with an agenda. It was dark, it was cold outside, I had just gotten out of a chiropractor appt and dialed her up in my car on the phone (because that’s how we see our therapists these days). At some point I became silent and became really still. All I could say was fuck. I realized what I needed to do, and didn’t think that I could get out of this dilemma without hard work, once again. Our personal work is never done.  

The pattern is: Whenever I try to implement new routines in my life, I do them well, really well at first. I think a lot of ego gets in the way. I am a people pleaser, I’m doing good and I get positive praise. It is a vicious cycle. After a while I go into a full on mental health crisis. I feel like I have to fight myself to continue. It feels like anxiety, and rage. It comes across as procrastination, and falling into old habits. I neglect what I, Rachael, really wants to do. It feels powerful than myself, bigger even, and I envision it with it’s bags packed, running away giggling and keeping myself in complacency, or it goes extreme and it becomes a monster that is fed with my bad habits. It’s resistance, strong willed, bull (I’m a taurus, if you believe in that sort of thing) resistance. You might think I’m kidding, but while I was on the phone with my therapist, it just sort of clicked. It helped to view it as something separate from myself. It is a part of me, it’s luggage I didn’t even know I had. Separating myself from the luggage when I’m calm, helps me open it up with less emotional charge so that when it does come up I can start to unpack it slowly. With knowledge comes power, and the ability to see and feel the other part less and less. 

This anxiety with transitions and new situations that are hard (seem hard) is not a new feeling to me. I have been successful before. It was when I started to address my eating disorder (and now that I’m writing this, grad school). That was fucking hard work. I know where it stems from, and I know why it keeps coming up. That is a whole other topic and I probably could write a book on trauma and the impact on the brain, especially as a child. It feels really hard to live a normal life (what is normal anyway) when the past comes up in ways that are unexpected and uninvited. 

First step in addressing this is acceptance. I know it’s not going away and at some point I invited it along for the ride. When I had this level of commitment with my ED Journey I did something that felt a little silly. I literally laid in my bed and introduced myself to the part of myself that was the ED part and said: “Rachael, meet Rachael (ED Rachael). I know you are not going away, it is time to step down and let Rachael take the lead”. **Disclaimer, I didn’t say this so eloquently at the time, but it is a constant reminder now, helping my true self take the lead. 

Second, I processed it for a while, okay a long while (To be fully honest I did a lot of checking out). Some could say I got swept up into the month of December with Christmas and watched a lot of Christmas Movies. Fourth, I started to set some goals. Actually I had been setting goals all along, but it is really important to remember that you do not hold a lot of weight to follow through. High expectations for yourself is important, yes, and also there needs to be a level of self dignity, patience and less beating yourself up in the process when you are creating new patterns (whole other post). Lastly, practice practice practice and more practice.I will be honest with you, I do not know what will come next or what it will look like,but it is important to be honest with yourself. If you are not honest with yourself, you eventually gaslight yourself into something you are not, and live that message. 

One last thing that I wanted to include was a message from my therapist, that I haven’t had the chance to put into practice yet is: Any feeling, acknowledge its existence, welcome it, thank it for coming, and also thank you for wanting to keep you safe. 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day.

Remember who you are….

I’ve been partnering a lot with an organization called “Girls Who Can”, they are a social media network that connects women with online resources in the hope of empowering, inspiring, healing, and guiding today’s women. I was instructed to write a 200 word post about self care and what it means to me.

Often times when I prepare for writing I create a mind map to hash out all of the details and get my mind focus As I was prepping for this post a fun comparison came into my mind about what self care means to me.I kept toying with this idea about “remembering who you are” and thought, in’t this a Disney thing? Obviously I think in Disney comparisons.
Anyway I remembered from The Lion King, Simba was bullied into leaving Pride Rock by Scar and he leaves and grows up in the jungle with his new friends. He then gets a vision from his father who re centers him chanting “remember who you are” With the help from Nala and the new found strength from his visit from his dad. He goes home to ride rock to make things right. 

Self care is about digging down, and re-connecting with who you are. Rather, who I am. It’s providing space for your human self to be itself. That looks like a lot of different things at different parts of my life, depending on what my soul, body or mind needs. Some days it’s a bath; bubbles, epsom salts, and hot water. Some days it is meditation through bread making. Often times it’s me laying in bed under my covers still and quiet.
I do want to emphasize that self care may look different for everyone, all though people can do a lot of similar things to reach your goal of taking care of yourself. Self care also can also be things that we do not always want to do. It could be that we are tired but we know that if we cook a healthy meal, we are taking are of ourselves. So we do that, regardless of what else is going on. It could also be us taking a walk at the end of the day. We do the things or should I say make the time for things we don’t want to do, not to torture ourselves, but we know that if we do it, we will feel better about ourselves on the other end.

The opposite of Scarcity is Abundance.

I had this appiphony recently about scarcity. Recently we got snowed in here and it brought on this chaos for people. When the media sounds the alarm for winter storm warning the community reacts, the shelves go bare and people freak out. (I am sure there is a word for this, but I don’t know what it is) Anyway, this thing happens where people start to panic and think the accopolyps is coming. When we loose some control, or we think we’re going to loose some sort of control in our lives, it creates a panic. Our body and mind responds and we are left with anxiety and fear. Anxiety is something that our body feels, and fear… Fear is made up in our brain in reaction to things that are happening around us. 

When snow happens, especially here, people are fearful they won’t be able to leave their house or even have power. Because of this, people react, they buy things. People will spend hours at the grocery stores in line to get their needs met. They buy shovels, generators, flashlights, batteries, food… Etc.

There is this scarcity factor that kicks in, and people surround themselves with abundance. 

I have been seeing someone lately, and all though I don’t see it as a forever thing we really do enjoy each others company right now. Something happened recently that triggered this response I wasn’t really prepared for. He had stopped engaging with me for a while and shifted this routine we had started. I started to get anxious and fearful. My body turned into a wreck. I was shaking, binge eating and not being present. I was being irrational, not thinking clearly, and really relied on instant gratification. At some point I just expressed to him that I thought he was just being nice, and letting me off easy. When I said this to him, he reported back that he wouldn’t do that because we agreed to communicate when we were done, at least where we were at along the way. 

After sitting with this for a while I took a trip down memory lane. I have felt scarcity in multiple relationships, and situations. When things are in chaos and or feel out of control, I have over compesated with abundance of lots of things; Food, people (wether they are positive or not), belongings, other buying and drinking…. All impulsive behavior used in excess in order to compensate for what I was not getting. I was coping with substances, and using that to cover up and hide the things that come with scarcity. 

And that is where I am at. I don’t have any sound alive about how to overcome this at this time. 

Thank you

Thank you to the men along the way that have helped me feel safe and secure. To the ones who never wavered, tested their boundaries and have held space for me to be myself and grow.

After loosing my dad this year and re-connecting with family (my half sisters and brother); I’ve come to realize I am not alone in my own fucked up-ness because of him. More recently, I’ve been more present for what I’ve missed out on. I’ve been watching this TV show with my roommate about a family that lost their dad in high-school, just before graduation. It is called “This is Us”— All the feels. Anyway, the dad in that show comes across as amazing. Needless to say, I cried a lot watching it and was pretty shocked by my own loss and what I never had.

I had been writing this post in a Starbucks on paper, while writing I observed a man and a younger gal talking to each other for a bit. After she had left, he had explained that she was like his daughter to him. He talked about his own daughter and had said how he bragged about her. It sunk in that my own dad would have never bragged about me. I let him know in the moment that “She was very lucky to have him brag about her”.

After having this conversation with him, it brought up all of the men in my life who were actually positive role models for me growing up. At the time because of my own PTSD with older men, I was terrified of them. Now I look back in admiration, appreciation and gratefulness. Slow and steady, I’ve been able to overcome my PTSD through multiple years in therapy.

The men I’m thinking about are my grandpa, Mike, John, and more recently Scott.

I have pictures of myself when I was much younger, like 3 years old, laying on my grandpas chest. He was the only man in my life at the time that never wavered, and he loved me unconditionally. I never doubted him. He was consistent and kind.

John and Mike were church leaders. They were kind, compassionate and amazing men. They listened with open hearts, they were consistent, and strong. They sat through all of my growth, my struggles and grief. They had amazing boundaries and I felt as safe as any other teenage girl would have felt with PTSD in the moment. As I look back on that time, I recognize their support and the impact they had on me when I was younger. It was impressionable and important in my personal growth and journey.

I am not going to write about Scott, but I did tell him to his face my gratefulness for his presence in my life.

I do raise my glass to these men, and many more who have impacted my life in positive ways. Ones who have allowed me to feel safe, who have not wavered outside of their boundaries and who have been instrumental to my growth in my self and overcoming my PTSD with men. You are truly amazing humans on this planet.

I cannot thank you enough.

Out again

I didn’t get married.
I should have known better with someone so unsure in their own mind about things.

This past summer has gone by so quickly and it is fall now. The leaves have dropped, and I’m drinking coffee out of a fancy cup again at Starbucks.

I moved in with my friend and her kids.

It’s heartbreaking and lovely at the same time.

I want so badly to have my own family, and yet I seek comfort in being around others with theirs.

The bonus part of all of this: My options are endless. I could go anywhere, and be anyone I want. That’s a pretty empowering feeling.

The hunt is on.

Totally irrational, yet totally normal thinking.

A friend at work recently lost a noticeable amount of weight. Good for her I said, well… what I really said what book did you read to kick your self into gear. She said, what this… this is how I haven’t been taking care of myself.

Totally irrational Rachael brain says “I wish that I could loose weight by not taking care of myself”… well not eating…. because history says that me not taking care of myself means over eating and watching hours of TV. To defy this, means a whole other world that doesn’t even live in my wheel house.

ED is ALIVE this week. Hmm.

My power candle.

I don’t even know where I got this idea, but it’s super cheesy so bear with me. I have a power candle for when I work out. I was at Michaels spending money like a good consumer, well for my wedding. I was buying craft supplies. Anyway I came across this candle and I bought it. I also found this notebook that tracked work outs. Both were on sale, and the moment I got home I put on my work out clothes and decided to light this candle and let it be my power candle. I imagined only positive things coming out of it, and turned all of my negative self talking into positive thoughts. I kept repeating over and over.. I’ve got this, keep going, only one more time, I’ve got this. And I felt amazing.

I also made a new painting that said “I’ve got this”. And I can’t help but smile when I look at it. I’ve worked out a few times last week, like 2-3 times, and so far twice this week. It’s not a lot, but it’s a hell of a lot more thanI had been doing before!