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Shame, Vulnerability and Courage

Sunday, July 06, 2014

"If we are going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy because empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive" (Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, 2012 TedTalk).

Isn't it funny how much of our journey's are related to shame in one way or another. If you haven't taken the time to watch either of Brene Brown's TedTalk's on Vulnerability (The Power of Vulnerability) or Shame (Listening to Shame), I strongly encourage you to. It touches a piece of the soul that I haven't experienced before. Links are at the bottom of the page.

I keep mulling over what shame needs to fester... secrecy, silence and judgment. It's been the overarching recipe that has defined my experience up until recently. I've held my story in secrecy, silence and abhorrent judgment. It's been painful. It's been destructive. It's destroyed my self worth.

Recently, I've found this neutral ground on my journey. Though I have recently been at my heaviest, I've also been at the most peace. This is strange. I'm used to obsessing over food, be it calories or portion size, nutrition or what not. Over the last two weeks in particular, I've been eating when I am hungry. Eating what I want within reason, not counting calories or portion sizes, just stopping when I'm done. Paying attention.

There has been SO much less shame about my choices. As if what I as choosing for myself wasn't good enough. IT IS GOOD ENOUGH. I'm choosing it, and that's the end of the story. That is very different for me. I've had my moments for certain, specifically centering around loneliness, but I've been using guided meditations to help calm me. I've never been successful at meditating on my own, but the guided meditations are right up my alley.

So, I'm trying to douse myself in empathy. It's an active task, not something I can be passive about. I don't have any real time to exercise between grad school and work, but when the lawn has to be mowed and the weeds need to be pulled, guess what? That counts. I never used to let it count. But it does. It counts big time.

I've never experienced anything harder than being kind to myself. I've been so rigid and hard on myself... for all my life... that breathing deep and acknowledging that I don't have to do it all or be it all has been life changing. I try to remind myself of this regularly now, and am thankful I have professional support to encourage me through.

Courage, according to Brown, means "To tell the story of who you are with your whole heart". Let's all choose to be courageous and tell our stories.

Tell me. What's yours?

The Power of Vulnerability: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brow

Listening to Shame:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4EVERADONEGIRL 7/8/2014 1:00PM

    "I've never experienced anything harder than being kind to myself."

I think that, right there in a nutshell, is what so many of us go through...and yet we continue to strive to find the balance between being kind and pushing. So glad you are finding your way!!!!

And I absolutely HEART Brene Brown!!! I'm reading her Gifts of Imperfection book and she is brilliant!

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KRISKECK 7/7/2014 9:35PM

    So happy to hear this from you, Paula. Just makes me feel happy.

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MSILVER94 7/7/2014 2:37PM

    I think the worse we can do to ourselves is holding in to shame and guilt! Good for you!

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MOONFAIRY 7/7/2014 9:36AM

    I'm still working on being kinder to myself. I am my own worst critic.

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SHEILA1505 7/7/2014 3:38AM

    Big hugs xxx

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PJH2028 7/6/2014 10:30PM

    Your courage and your truth touch me deeply.
Love ing ly

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JLAMING263 7/6/2014 5:07PM

    emoticon emoticon

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A Month In Review

Saturday, July 05, 2014

So, I didn't do anything special in June related to diet and exercise. The only variables were the following: I went on vacation, I bought a lawnmower, I went back on my medication. That's it.

It's been interesting, especially the last couple of weeks. I have been noticeably less hungry, but when I am hungry, I notice it. Coupled with that, there are all those EMOTIONS that lay dormant until I have space in my life to feel them, and I remember why I eat to numb. I haven't been, but I remember why I have in the past.

From my last recorded weight in June, I've lost 6.4 pounds. I'm happy with that because it came without trauma and excessive thought.

I find myself at a real precipice with everything related to my eating disorder currently. I am more aware of my patterns and behaviors than ever before. I know my go-to's to cope. I know my tendencies towards all-or-nothingness when it comes to diet and exercise. I know that I am capable of pushing myself to the brink of insanity with working out only to crash and burn because I realize I can't keep up the pace (nor do I want to).

I struggle because I see several of my friends hitting their diet and exercise hard right now. I know the compulsion... I want to be that person... but the rational, kinder part of me who is now more aware is reminding me that it isn't sustainable. And if it isn't sustainable, it isn't worth it because I'll be more miserable as I backslide. It's really difficult in that respect.

I told my therapist that I was starting to think about losing weight again. I also told her that talking about it is ultimately my kiss of death. I acknowledged that I know enough now that I can admit I don't have much time or energy outside of work and grad school, and so to add in wanting to lose weight may be setting myself up. I told her that I know the majority of my weight loss would have to come from different food choices, simply because my time is so limited, and that I thought my goal should be about 5 pounds per month because even that would mean (in theory) 60 pounds in a year. I talked about a couple of changes I wanted to make.

She then threw down the gauntlet. She challenged me to just se how this month goes, since I am feeling less hungry and I'm adjusting to medication. She encouraged me to not make any other changes than what I had already done, and just see how things play out. Just notice.

My reaction? "That doesn't feel like it's enough".

Well, isn't that the truth? Nothing ever feels like it is enough, so this time it has to be enough. I have to just notice this month, adjust as I may, and re-evaluate next month. 5 pounds may not be "enough" when science says I can lose 8 pounds per month safety, but what can I say? It was hard enough to get down to my lowest weight the last time, and last time I wasn't "done". This time? This time I am making peace that where I was might be the end game after all. If it is difficult to get there, it will be difficult to stay there. I am hoping this time I am setting myself up for longer term success since I am taking care of all aspects of my health.

You know the best part about all of this is that there is no one size fits all solution. What works for others may not work for me and vice versa. And that's ok. Part of the journey is figuring out what works for yourself... not according to others... just you.

I am feeling more calm and blessed after writing this blog. Thanks for checking in.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4EVERADONEGIRL 7/8/2014 12:57PM

    Awesome!!! Sounds like you are making progress!

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SHEILA1505 7/7/2014 3:35AM

    Big hugs xxx

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JEREMY723 7/6/2014 3:30PM

    Thanks for checking in to you too:) Have a great week, and a great month.

Maybe just see how it goes and throw in a little bit "extra"?

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MT-MOONCHASER 7/5/2014 8:11PM

    I think y our last two paragraphs are GREAT!!! There is a huge realization in them and, if you are similar to me, you need to post those words where you can read them every day!

Good going, your work on yourself is starting to pay off.

One last thought -- You can't out exercise a poor diet.

Have a great summer!


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WALLINMW 7/5/2014 1:42PM


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Less Hungry: A Story of Strange

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I've gained 30 pounds since I started grad school 2 years ago. Yep, there. I said it.

From my lowest? Let's just say I am back up at my highest. And then some.

The gloom and rainy tapping on the window should really indicate my mood, after all my trip to Europe was cancelled last week after the professor at my school quit. And while that would be enough, I had already purchased my non-refundable airfare. For $2000. True story.

Instead? Instead I am in a very weird place. Between my eating disorder and my struggle with depression and anxiety, I made the decision to get back on and increase my medication (with my doctor's blessing).

It was almost an instant shift... from oppressive to acceptable. And then it got stranger. A couple days in, I noticed that I just wasn't as hungry. I thought it was weird. I'm not intentionally eating well, or counting calories, or exercising. In fact, historically in times of crisis in my life, I am eating out of control.

This time?

Not this time.

It took me a couple days to recognize it, about a day to be curious about it, and an "aha" moment in which I remembered that this medication was supposed to help with the eating disorder symptoms, as it often made people feel less hungry when taking it.

No way. No way no way. I had been on this forever. All I did was change the dose.

But it's the only variable that I changed and so I can't ignore what are very obviously different behaviors.

Eating normally. Normal amounts. Normal food. Feeling a sense of fullness. Not finishing a meal because it's sitting in front of me. It's strange, but it's a blessing and a look inside people's lives who probably don't obsess about and/or over food. Food is just food I guess. You eat when you are hungry, you stop when you are full. I guess that is how it is supposed to work.

Since it's been nearly 2 weeks now, and the results have stayed consistant, I'm going with it. I'm thankful that even if it is short-lived that I can see what it's supposed to be like. Even when I was at my healthiest, I was counting every calorie I ate and compensating accordingly. Perhaps that wasn't so healthy after all.

This journey I am on to unravel my eating disorder really has moments of greatness. I am going to count this among them.

pic: www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MT-MOONCHASER 6/28/2014 9:44PM

    You've probably already checked out these options that I am going to suggest.

Can you use the ticket and make up your own itinerary? Are there others in the same position that you are in? Maybe you could have strength in numbers for the negotiations and/or the travel plans. Also, would there be another professor that could step in?

Have you checked with the airline about rebooking to a different place at a different time? Would the airline give you a travel credit for part of the fare that you could use to visit friends?

Lastly, could the ticket be transferred to someone else who might be willing to pay you a fair price for it and yet be a bargain for them?

I'm not really conversant with the current rules and I'm sure they vary with each airline, but there must be some way to recoup at least some of your money.

It's good news that you have discovered a nice side effect to your medication. I hope you have continued success with it.


Comment edited on: 6/28/2014 9:45:04 PM

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_COSMOPAULATAN_ 6/28/2014 6:55PM

    The school is not doing anything. Yes, it is a shame.

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JEREMY723 6/28/2014 6:47PM

    Is the school doing anything to compensate for the airfare? Is the trip just totally cancelled? Such a shame.

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Toronto 2014 - A Picture Blog

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I finally have a free moment to blog. It's been a busy two weeks, with a trip to Toronto to visit RAVENSONG37 and CARMINACG and then a work trip to Madison, Wisconsin, among other things.

It had been over two years since I was in Canada visiting my peeps, the trip was overdue. It was mellow and relaxing, just what I needed.

Becky and I were able to spend some quality time together; she's such a gracious hostess. Moreover, I was able to walk the Gutsy Walk with her in support of her fight against Chron's disease. This girl is brave emoticon

Ava came to meet us for Indian and a night of wine, which turned into an afternoon of one-on-one shopping the following day. It was so awesome she made the effort to come out and see me! emoticon

On top of the awesome friendships, there were all kinds of messages from the universe. I was listening. I also found a book called The Power of Less. I'm excited to blog about the questions the author asks as a way to pare down my life; the perfect find.

Back to reality after the conference tomorrow (aka, bloody mary's with chips and salsa for breakfast will be a thing of the past). One more day of enjoying the perfect weather in Madison.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRAINYBLONDE5 6/20/2014 2:49PM

    emoticon emoticon

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KATYMACK 6/19/2014 10:26PM

    So glad you had a great time. Sometimes, stepping away from our own reality makes all the difference in the world.

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CHICAT63 6/17/2014 4:20PM

    Great blog, next time you up in Canada in hopes of visiting !!!!

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4EVERADONEGIRL 6/16/2014 6:09PM

    Awesome! Glad you had a great time and listened to the Universe!

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STARPESCADO 6/14/2014 5:37PM

    Great blog - glad that you had fun!

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JEREMY723 6/14/2014 2:19PM

    Sounds like you had a great time! Have a great rest of the weekend:)

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TRENTDREAMER 6/14/2014 12:10PM

    "Back to reality after the conference tomorrow (aka, bloody mary's with chips and salsa for breakfast will be a thing of the past). "
*WHAT!!!!!!!??????// As a single guy I totally object.....I kind of have to.....you know....because I'm a single guy (That's as good of a breakfast as we stereotypically eat). OK I'm done.

Glad that you had a good time in Toronto with your friends. Glad that you had a fairly chill time.

Continued success to you on your journey

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WILDHUSKY 6/14/2014 12:09PM

    Toronto has so much to see. When I lived there, it was like I found something new every week!
Good for you for making the trip happen.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

It's not a secret that I have been in therapy for an eating disorder for the past year and a half. Last week I hit my first real wall, the kind that makes you want to quit. I spent the week angry, for no reason I could connect with, and everything has been a little messy in my life.

Today, I went again even though I didn't want to. It was one of those days where nerves were raw and everything was getting under my skin, so adding therapy on top of it was like pouring salt in the wound. Well, it was and it wasn't.

We talked about the fact I didn't want to be there. I told her I was pretty much done with everything and everyone and that I just wanted answers so I could start to work on things because I was really tired of this self-discovery process. I talked about the fact that I still had no idea what had set me off in session last week (she told me I needed to focus on staying in the moment because what I had been doing wasn't working) but that whatever it was had carried over throughout my week. I told her that the only thing I could identify, even though it wasn't the whole story and didn't land exactly right, was that I planned because I could never count on anyone or anything in the present moment and if I planned, I could control the outcome.

So, that started the process of unraveling the truth. She offered up the following: Planning my life has been my safety net. I always worked meticulously to ensure that every little detail was worked out so I could know what was coming, but the problem is that it isn't working for me and that it is part of the problem. It stirs up emotions, and strong ones at that, because my pattern is to plan and if I don't plan, then what the hell else am I supposed to do? Planning has been my survival resource.

Ok. So that landed. I have started paying attention to my body's reaction to things, and this certainly resonated. So it leaves the question, what the hell else do I do?

I'm exhausted.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Wow Paula. I have to say I had observed the same pattern in you since we became friends over the last 3 years! Control is safe. Control is easy. Control is numb. You are an amazing, gorgeous, successful woman. Time to bask in the glory of all that and let you shine girl.

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4EVERADONEGIRL 6/4/2014 6:49PM

    You breathe...you keep going...you keep pushing forward.

Take care!!!

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CAROKNITS 6/4/2014 8:18AM

    I am a planner, too, with a husband who is NOT a planner ... and 24 years later, I am still a planner and he is, well, not the bane of my existence ... but I have certainly refined my ability to develop multiple contingency plans! Although I am not in control, I know God is, and therein lies my safety.

Hugs to you! Wish we lived closer.

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PJH2028 6/3/2014 10:12PM

    I understand. We should could talk....
Transitioning to more unknowns here too. Maybe i stopped. Struggling but an still fish out of water. Xxxxxx

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HAPPYMAMA20121 6/3/2014 9:28PM

    just live by the moment. I was a planner to until i meet my husband and he taught me to live in the moment and life is to exhusting if you just plan it out. I listen to him and he was right. I just let everything go and now i am a happy wife and mother of two wonderful kids. emoticon

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