Tag Archives: NEDA

Eating Disorder Recovery: Yoga On A Budget

You made it! Part 4/4!

Today we’re covering yoga on a budget, and whatever else I forgot in earlier posts.

You may ask: “Kelly, why is yoga as important as life and food and clothing?” Well, since in recovery you have to heal your mind and your body, what better way to do it than by practising something that is good for both your mind and your body?

For me, most of my life was spent performing: looking in a mirror, figuring out what my body looked like while moving. Who cared what I was doing to my body (ahem, pointe shoes), so long as it looked pretty? That, coupled with the obsessive cardio I did as a part of my eating disorder, meant that I had a pretty messed up relationship with my body. Yoga taught me to pay attention to what my body felt like, instead of what it looked like. It’s also the only time in my life when my head shuts off (sometimes) which is something that I think can benefit anyone, especially those with an eating disorder.

Alas, yoga be expensive. (Especially in France, I’m told). Here are some tips I’ve used to maximize the yoga on a minimal budget.

  1. Lululemon. Most (all?) Lululemon stores offer FREE YOGA CLASSES! I go every Sunday. They get a different teacher from a different area studio to teach for a couple of weeks at a time. I’ve met some of my favorite yoga teachers there.

    Lululemon Yoga Outside

  2. Passport to Prana. A Passport to Prana is a $30 card that gets you a free yoga class at each of many studios in major cities in Canada and the United States. I think there are 40+ studios in Toronto alone, which works out to less than $1/class.
  3. Energy Exchange. Several studios offer an energy exchange program, where you can pay for yoga classes with your time. You can clean studios, work the front desk, help with computer stuff, etc. In Toronto I know Kula, Moksha Danforth, Yoga Sanctuary (take home a communal mat to clean in exchange for a free class), and Sundara Yoga all have Energy Exchange programs. I’m sure there are more.
  4. Park Yoga. Different teachers and studios will offer park yoga classes in the summer months. Usually these are by donation for charity. There’s nothing like lying in savasana looking at the sky.
  5. Karma Classes. Most studios offer karma classes, where you can take classes from new teachers, again by donation.
  6. Share The Love Yoga. Share The Love Yoga is a website that has organized all the free/karma/inexpensive classes in Montreal, New York, and Toronto into a weekly schedule. You can find a class at pretty much any day/time.

There are lots of yoga DVDs and YouTube videos, etc. but use them with caution. It’s really easy to get injured if your form isn’t correct, and it’s important to at least start learning yoga with a teacher.

Okay. On to the “Damn. I should have mentioned that.” section.

  1. Groups. If you can’t afford private therapy (even with all these amazing tips), try to find group therapy. You can usually find inexpensive or free groups in major cities. In Toronto, check out Sheena’s Place, in Burlington, Danielle’s Place, in London (Ontario), Hope’s Garden. Feel free to add others in the comments.
  2. Jobs With Perks. When you are well enough to work, try to find a job that gives you a discount on necessities. Clothing stores do that, but you usually have to wear their clothes, and end up spending your entire paycheque in the store. If you can handle the food industry, do. I love my health food discount.
  3. Campus Services. If you’re in school, check out what eating disorder/mental health services are available. Some schools will even subsidize your off-campus therapy.
  4. Eating Disorder Charities. Beat down the doors of NEDA, NEDIC, or anyone else who might be able to help.

I hope you found something you can use in these posts. Please feel free to keep sharing your tips and tricks (the healthy kind) in the comments. Thanks, as always, for reading.

4 Comments

Filed under Tips and Tricks (The Healthy Kind)

Eating Disorder Recovery On A Budget

Settle in, folks. This one is going to be a series.

There is a major problem with how people with eating disorders are treated. I recently read a story about a girl in the United States who died from her eating disorder while her mom was away learning to be a truck driver. It was the only job she could find that would give her necessary insurance to get her daughter treatment. It’s not an uncommon story.

In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you have insurance. There are too few resources here and, as a result, anyone without a whole lot of private funding gets put on waiting lists for 6 months – 2 years. It can take a lot less time than that to die of an eating disorder. And even if you get approved to be sent to an American treatment centre, your insurance can back out after on a technicality and leave you stuck with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Having found myself fired from my job because I “no longer met the requirements” for my job (ie. your bones are creepy, so you can’t work here any more), I had zero money and a big problem to tackle. I was too sick to work, and was on long waiting lists for treatment. I had to figure out a lot of things really quickly. This is what worked/didn’t work for me. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but I invite you to take the parts you like and throw the rest away.

  1. Decide how badly you want recovery. You’re going to have to do many things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to get really honest with people you don’t want knowing anything about yourself. You’re going to have to humble yourself time and time again. If shame is a big trigger for you (I know it is for me), get used to it. 
  2. Find any and all (legal) sources of money. Get on unemployment. See if you qualify for disability. This is the tricky one: come clean with family members about what you’re going through, and find out if they’re able/willing to help you cover costs.
  3. Try to find a therapist who operates on a sliding scale. They charge according to financial need. (If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line. I know a couple of good ones and can point you in their direction.) If you already have a therapist, you’re going to have to decide how important it is for you to stay with him/her, or if you can look for someone who charges less.
  4. Get ready to make sacrifices. Food, housing, and therapy. Those are the things you need. The rest is optional. Seriously. Get ready to dig into the back of your cupboard to use the ends of all the shampoo bottles, etc. you have stashed away. I started this in May and made it til Christmas before I had to start using Vaseline instead of moisturizer. (Do not recommend. Break-out city.)
  5. Google. It will be your best friend. Search out drugstore, grocery store, etc flyers so you know what weeks you can buy the necessities on sale. Find free festivals, movie screenings, etc. in your city so you have at least some “entertainment” options. Enter contests. You can win some fun stuff.
  6. Sell off anything you don’t need and won’t miss. Save the cash. You’ll need it.
  7. Learn to knit. It’s a great way to pass all the time you’ll have not working, not going on expensive outings, not shopping, and not engaging in eating disordered behaviors. Also, it’s an inexpensive way to do Christmas/Birthdays/etc. I learned to knit in October, and had 5 scarves ready for gifts by Christmas.
  8. Give of yourself. You may not have money, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Help people out without expecting anything in return, and karma can surprise you. Not only will you feel better for having contributed something, but I have done “good deeds” that led to jobs 10 years later, and have volunteered for things that have turned into paying jobs. Don’t do more than you are able, but know that you don’t always have to be paid “now”. Karma’s got your back.

These are the basics to start you off. Upcoming in the series: Food, Clothes, and Yoga on a budget. Anything I’ve missed?

11 Comments

Filed under Tips and Tricks (The Healthy Kind)

One Week.

It’s been one week.

It’s been a long fucking week.

It’s been the first week of its kind in 16 years.

This week, for the first time since I was 11, I was completely sober: no major food symptoms, no self harm, no drugs, no anything.

It’s been hell.

I didn’t really believe that the things I did to distract myself from life really made that much of a difference. I was wrong. Until recently, I didn’t know all of what I was avoiding feeling. At least, I think I know all of it now . . . I hope I know all of it now. Now that I have nothing to distract myself, it’s all hitting me head on. It’s like I’m being forced to look directly into the sun after a lifetime of living in the dark. There’s no relief. Even things that I didn’t know I was upset about suddenly hurt a lot. Things that seem, comparatively, so small and insignificant, that I didn’t really care about at the time, that I’ve spoken about without emotion in years since, now feel like they’re destroying my soul.

So why do I keep doing it? Believe me, I ask myself that same question every day. It’s relatively simple. A two part answer. Part one:

There is nowhere left for me to run. I can’t have any semblance of a life if I keep avoiding the work. As much as I try to do the work, my body tries to stop me. It twitches, my hand clamps itself over my mouth, my head jerks violently to the right as if trying to escape my body, my voice won’t work. My brain tries to stop me, too. It tells me I’m not worth it, that I deserve the pain, that I’m better off dead.

So why do I keep doing it?

That shred of hope. Even if it’s not hope that it’s possible for things to get better, it’s hope that it might be possible for things to get a little bit less unbearable. Even if it fails, I can’t imagine things feeling any worse.

The shred comes from seeing people who’ve done it. People who have come through similar things, worse things, different hells, and survived. Some of them have even thrived. It’s inspiring to see. And maybe it might be possible.

That’s all I’ve got. It has to be enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear

Easy To Be Hard

Yup. Sticking with the musical theatre titles. Somebody got paid to write them, so they gotta be good, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big pinner on Pinterest these days. I’ve never been a “plan your wedding” kind of girl, but I like a good picture quote, and the odd DIY project. A week ago, I found a quote from an actress I enjoy that made me pause and think. Allow me to share it, along with some space for you to pause and think.

“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love.”

~Zooey Deschanel

(pause and think here)

I always prided myself on not being emotional. Emotions were bad, inconvenient, wrong, so I shut down and stopped having them. Well, I stopped expressing them, at least. I learned that I could safely express them when singing, dancing, or acting, but only when I was playing a character. If they weren’t my emotions, there wouldn’t be any backlash.

Pushing them down obviously served me well. When emotions started getting bigger than “My boyfriend and I just broke up after 6 months,” and “OMG I can’t believe I didn’t get 100% that test,” I had to find some way to deal with them. Enter starving, puking, exercising myself into the ground, etc. When your mind is occupied with the rituals and routines, you can’t think of anything else. You don’t have to feel what you should be feeling.

I remember fighting with one of my acting teachers in a private lesson. She told me that I had no emotional experience. I argued that I had a lot of emotional experience, just not expressing it. She saw no difference.

Nowadays, I’m realizing just how right she was. Sitting in therapy, having no answer besides “I don’t know” to how I’m feeling, I realize how emotionally shut down I’ve become. I completely disconnect from everything, especially the things I should be most upset by. WGT and I have been struggling to figure out how to get me connected. She points out everything I do physically when I disconnect: fidgeting, covering my face (particularly my mouth), the way I hold my mouth, the tone of voice I get . . . the list goes on and on.

Learning to feel is hard work. My brain is so accustomed to finding ways around intense things that I don’t have a clue how to move through them. It’s a whole lot of retraining my brain. It hurts, it’s scary, and I don’t like it at all. I think it’s something that I have to do, though. I can’t even begin to live in this world if I can’t be affected by anything in it.

In The Sound of Music, the Mother Abbess asks Maria, “What is it you can’t face?” (although some people think she asks a different question altogether . . . people with very dirty minds) I think the answer to that question is the key to everything. It’s a question we should be asking ourselves all the time. When you look in the mirror, is it your body you can’t come to terms with, or the person living inside? The only way to beat your demons is to face them. You run, they chase you. You’ll be running forever. Aren’t you tired yet?

1 Comment

Filed under Fighting Fear

My Cage Has Many Rooms

(10 points to the theatre geek who can tell me where this post’s title comes from)

Again, I’m kind of sucking at posting. So much to say, but it’s stuck in a web of shame and fear.

Last summer, while working my last shift at the store that (unofficially) fired me for my eating disorder, a girl came in with a charm on her bag that I loved. It was a tiny birdcage, door open, with the bird on the outside. It was such a powerful metaphor of everything I wanted, and birds have always had a special meaning in my life (hence why one is tattooed on my skin). I got my own, and put it on a necklace. 

Nowadays, I feel like I’m back in the cage, door closed, chained to the perch. Not the same cage that my eating disorder had me imprisoned in, but maybe the cage that contributed to my eating disorder in the first place. It’s the cage that makes me clap a hand over my mouth when I’m upset, turning me into a solo “Speak No Evil”. It’s the cage that tells me that nothing I could possibly say would result in anything but ridicule, judgement, and hurt.

I learned at a really early age to keep my mouth shut. The quieter I became, the safer I became, the “better” I became. That behavior became so ingrained that I couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I became really good at keeping secrets, at hiding who I was, at hiding what was destroying me. Nobody would understand, people would judge me, people would leave me, people would hate me as much as I hated myself.

In recent months, I’ve learned to let people in – a little. I can let out hints, jokes, paraphrased versions of my stories. It isn’t much, but it’s terrifying. Now that I’m charged with the task of changing my patterns of the past, I find that I don’t want to take the risk. I can let people see anything of the “illusion” of me, but if I have to let them see anything real, I will kick and shove as hard as I can to get them away.

I think I need to learn to say “Not ‘no’, just ‘not now’.” I need more baby steps before I take a flying leap. Until that time, I’m pulling my cage door shut and locking it from the inside. I know it’s not right, I know it’s not helpful, but it’s the best I have to offer.

I know I’m not the only one to ever feel this way, so if you have any suggestions beyond the popular refrain of “just do it”, I’m all ears. Still holding on – to the bars of my cage.

5 Comments

Filed under Fighting Fear

How Do You Measure A Year?

Yes, I know. Another musical theatre reference. But I’m low on creative energy right now to come up with a cute title, so there you go.

Just going to jump right in. A year ago today, I went to a group for the first time in Toronto. I had been stalking the website for the centre that hosted the group since about 2005, and had finally decided it was time to go. Someone I knew peripherally had recently committed suicide as a way out of her eating disorder, and it scared me. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I had been, so this group would be my last ditch effort to, well, ditch the eating disorder for good.

That day, I was still on my last extended contract as a performer (I still had a few auditions and “one-off” performing commitments to fulfill, but this was the last big one), so I sang and danced and acted my way through the afternoon, then hurried home. I didn’t have time to wash off my stage makeup (and reapply the necessary replacement layer), but I pulled my show hair into a ponytail, dropped off my show shoes, etc. and hopped back on the subway.

I made my VERY necessary Starbucks stop to get my non-fat, sugar-free coffee misto, and made my way to group. I was humiliated by the fact that the barista had written “NF” in the milk section, because I felt like such a glutton having calories in my cup, visible to all the girls who I was SURE would be judging me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go, obsessively early as I was, so I sat on the stairs and watched. When it seemed appropriate, I made my way into the group room and curled up, terrified, in a chair, coat still on, trying desperately to remember to keep the label on my cup facing away from anyone else.

The woman who would become WGT breezed into the room, and I was immediately overwhelmed. Strong women terrify me, and she was one. When it was my turn, I said my name and why I was there, then spent the rest of the group trying to disappear. Luckily, there were some wise, inspirational people in the room who were more verbal than I was. I heard people say things that I thought were some of the most shameful things that only was evil enough to think, and it was ok. I felt so much less alone. I went back, and have seldom missed a week since.

One year later, however bleak things look right now, I’m astonished at how far I’ve come. Things got a lot worse before they got better, and I ended up jobless, career-less, completely absorbed in the rituals and routines of my eating disorder, seldom able to leave my house due to the amount of time my eating disorder demanded of me. Everything hurt, my body stopped being able to digest even the smallest number of calories, I felt like I had nothing and nobody, and had absolutely nothing to contribute to the world.

Nowadays, I’m seldom home. I have a job that I enjoy, a second job that I love, and a couple of occasional jobs that are pretty fun. I go to yoga and ballet class, and don’t (usually) feel like I’m going to die afterwards. I have a plan to go back to school, finances permitting, and I hope the resulting career will be one that makes a difference and I can be proud of. Digestion is still an issue, but I have some (natural) pills I can take that make it better. I have friends and family that I love very much. While some of my symptoms still crop up, they don’t control my life anymore, and I’m strong enough to work to try and get rid of them.

It hasn’t been an easy year. It’s probably been one of the hardest of my life. I’ve been thrown curve balls that I know would have destroyed me in the past. But I keep going. What I’ve written here is just a pencil sketch of everything that has changed this year, and I’m hopeful that the next one will bring even bigger, better changes. If you can find the smallest glimmer of hope, the smallest push to change, the smallest voice saying “try one more time”, hold onto it. Sometimes that’s all you’ll get. The rest is up to you.

3 Comments

Filed under Fighting Fear, History Lessons

Trying Times

It’s been a long little while, or so it feels after the blog blitz that was NEDA Awareness week. There has been so much going on in my world, most of which makes me want to hide from the rest of the world. I feel like I don’t have the right to make my voice heard if I don’t have anything positive to say, so it’s easier to just drop off the face of the planet.

Lately, I’ve been having some pretty deep conversations about what constitutes “trying”, and when trying becomes “failing”. Big question. I’m going to preface this by saying that I believe that it is NEVER a choice to develop an eating disorder, but we CAN choose to fight it. A lot of times, it sure looks like we’re losing the fight. Even when we go months without a symptom, one slip-up can feel like failure. It’s so easy to give up the fight when we feel like we’ve failed, but I’ll share with you something that WGT once told me:

“It’s not the symptoms we have in recovery that measure our progress. It’s how we get out of them that is the real measure”

The answer has to be to stand up and try again. And again. And again. The failure only really comes when we stop trying altogether. It’s hard. And it’s often so complicated. In order to be able to succeed in one area of recovery, so often we have to make sacrifices in other areas. Or so it feels. What happens when success happens across the board? It’s fucking scary. Most of us don’t have coping skills that aren’t self-destructive. You feel like an infant abandoned naked in the woods.

The only way out of the woods is through. Keep moving forward. Maybe you can’t stand up, so you crawl. Maybe you just curl up and try to survive for a while where you are. Or maybe you ask someone else to help drag you along. The woods only gets darker when you go backwards.

Logically, you know I’m right. Logically, I know I’m right. There is, unfortunately, nothing logical about eating disorders. Just hold on.

5 Comments

Filed under Fighting Fear