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.

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!

Overcoming the Bully

Okay, first of all.. this is not something that has been happening over night. It’s years and years of therapy and changing the way I think about things.

Easier said than done and I’m not 100% healed, but I’m so much better than I was 3 years ago, even months ago, or moments ago.

Remember those I AM paintings I did? Well they started to work.

Side bar: In graduate school I took a tutor class which helped me with my papers and also gave me credit at the same time. But I learned something there that has stuck with me through out the years and has changed my thinking patterns in a way I could never have expected. You wouldn’t know this about me but I’m afraid of writing. I’m laughing as I say that because I have this blog with over 60 posts. But writing at the time was one of the most vulnerable places for me to be, and I was terrified of posting my papers etc. Anyway this writing tutor taught some psychology with her class and she taught about neuro transmitters and pathways. If we live one way, it’s hard for our minds to do something new unless we practice something new consistently. As we move forward in that practice, it creates new neuro pathways and those new ways of doing or thinking becomes easier.

Those paintings I started painting, have been really powerful and pivotal in this mind changing game. When I repeat I am enough, enough times… I’ve started to believe it. I even wrote it on a sticky note at my desk.

My next post will be about my most recent achievement with this and how I’ve been able to overcome the bully as I’ve been consistently working out!

After all this time.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

I’ve talked about these voices (I mean self critic, I’m not hearing voices). Let’s just be clear, it’s my inner voice that I’m talking about. But this self critic who has been holding me back, the one I’ve deemed my dad’s voice, is really myself. And I know that, but I’ve trained myself into being the biggest and worst bully of them all. All of those people who harassed me and made me believe I wasn’t good enough, has really trained me to be my biggest bully. I am my biggest bully. WTF.