Happy Birthday Pretty Blog!

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Today marks the first birthday of this little blog! I can’t believe an entire year has gone by since I wrote my very first post, ironically titled Yay! My First Post! I have learned so much about myself, met so many creative and inspiring people, gained so many wonderful opportunities, and done things I never imagined would ever be possible…all because I started writing this little blog!

I want to thank you ALL for continuing to read my rambles, for inspiring me, and for always, always, always supporting me. I always say that to overcome an eating disorder, or any other struggle in life, you need to find your voice…your own voice free of negativities and self-doubt…even if your voice is small and stuffed way down deep in your pinky toes. Grab on to that voice; feed it, nurture it, and love it, and your voice will grow.

I love that voice.

ang

Worthy to Shine

Saturday was an amazing and scary day all at the same time.

I woke up early, read over my story, grabbed my old journals, and headed out the door. Each mile I got closer to my destination I could feel my heart beating a little harder. By the time I arrived I felt like my heart was pounding all the way in my throat.

On Saturday I told my recovery story at a girl’s church retreat called Worthy to Shine.

I’ve told my story several times before…at the hospital where I was treated…but never to this large of a group, this diverse of a group, and never with a microphone.

When I arrived I was greeted with smiles and a mind-blowing amount of encouragement from the leaders of the retreat. Their support and all their prayers immensely outweighed my fears so I knew I was going to be okay.

I was speaking on the second day of the retreat. The girls and the leaders had already been through an evening of activities on Friday, and one leader, Carrody, was in awe of the honesty and willingness that the girls had already shown. She immediately brought me over to a cross where the girls had pinned up their insecurities…let them go to God.

Carrody told me that when the girls shared their insecurities and struggles as a group…every one of them admitted that they struggled with body image.

Every. Single. Girl.

My eyes welled up when she told me this. This completely scares me…the fact that body image has such a big impact on young girls.

The retreat started up again and I stood in the back anxiously awaiting my turn to speak. Listening to the beautiful worship music and hearing another leader’s remarks of the morning had my tears flowing before I even set foot on the stage. I was finally introduced and I made my way up to the stage, thankful that I had snagged a napkin to carry with my journals to wipe away the tears.

I stood there as I started my story, fumbled with my papers, my napkin, my tears, my runny nose, and what to do with my hands. Finally I just sat down on the edge of the stage…I was going to do this right. I was going to be me and I was going to be honest.

Like I said earlier, I’ve told my story many times before and because I am so used to it, I rarely ever cry. I get immune, almost, to my story…like it’s just that…a story. But Saturday it felt true again. I continued talking, stuttering over my words, as usual, sniffling, sitting on the edge of the stage until I finished. I felt so relieved when I was done, but I felt honored to have been able to share my story and grateful that they all were willing to listen. I sat there staring at the girls all applauding when I looked out and saw one woman standing up. Then two.

I know that each of these girls struggle with body image. I’d guess that almost every girl in the world struggles with body image at some time in her life. I truly hope that each girl listening got a little bit of hope that they don’t have to worry about that anymore. That they should love themselves for who they are.

I felt so darn loved. And I know I am.

And so are you! And you are beautiful, too! I think so, and I know God thinks so!

ang

Starving Secrets Disappointment

Overcoming an eating disorder is a hard thing to do.

I am beyond blessed to have been given the right opportunity to recover and to have so much support on my side. I want to see the day where everyone suffering is given the same amount of support…the same opportunity to be whole again.

As I have been crafting away on my living room floor I have had the television on as noise in the background. Every now and then I’d look up and see what was making all the noise, and then I’d continue to my work. Last week I had noticed a preview for a new television show called Starving Secrets on Lifetime, a sort of documentary featuring Tracey Gold helping people who suffer from eating disorders get treatment. Of course I was more than interested in seeing what this show was all about, so I set my DVR to tape the first episode. I watched it in full last night and was pretty much…

…disappointed.

Before I express my disappointment, I do want to clarify that I totally respect Tracey Gold’s mission on the show and the participants efforts and willingness to share their stories. Tracey, having previously suffered herself from an eating disorder, comes across as truly caring and wanting help for these girls…which is essentially how I would like to come across here on my blog and once I am a nurse. And the girls…it was more than sad to see how much they were suffering and had suffered, but inspiring to see that they wanted a change and were willing to put in the work. I commend anyone who is also willing to put themselves out there, tell their story even though it can feel embarrassing for shameful (although it shouldn’t be), and hopefully help someone else in the process. They are true stories that the other side of an eating disorder…being well again…is completely worth it.

I started watching the show a few days ago, and after only a fourth of the way in I turned it off feeling disappointed. At that time I wasn’t quite sure why I felt this way, but I didn’t have the desire to finish. After some time I realized that I wasn’t a fan of how the show came across. Instead of truly sharing these girls’ stories and educating the viewer on eating disorders, the show was set up to be shocking. There were several images flashed on the screen of emaciated girls, ribs protruding in someone’s back, a girl hunched over a toilet seat, ect. These images were only there for a shock effect. The viewer does not need to see these images to understand that an eating disorder is dangerous.

The images were unsettling.

I decided to finish the episode last night before I went to bed, only to further my disappointment. One of the very few scenes of one of the girls actually in treatment showed her stepping on the scale, and then with very daunting music her weight was displayed on the television screen.

Again, I respect the girls involved in the show for willingness to share their stories. I really, really do. I’m not disappointed that she was weighed in treatment. That is obviously something the the doctors and people involved in her care needed to know. But, when it can be said that one in four girls suffer from some kind of disordered eating, and millions of people watched this television show, and a number is one of the most triggering parts of an eating disorder, I think there is a great problem.

They showed a number.

I do think that there should be educational television shows that people would want to watch regarding eating disorders. It is too often looked at as embarrassing or shameful when it is a true disease, just like any other disease. It should be taught, it should be talked about, and treatment should be supported…in a healthy and un-triggering way for everyone.

ang

Scale Stories

I had a major realization yesterday. It was one that surprised me, then grounded me.

Let’s rewind about six years. I owned my own scale, my gym had two available scales, one in the locker room and one by the weight machines, and the mall where I worked had one of those crazy scales that you put a quarter in to see your weight and your horoscope or something else ridiculous like that.

I visited these above scales, whichever was most convenient, several times a day. Maybe that crazy scale at the mall was on to something, because each time I stepped on the darn thing I found out how my day was going to go. (i.e. A lower number meant good day, higher number meant bad.)

To make a long, sad (but triumphant, yes!) story short let’s fast forward to a few months later…late May, 2006. I’m trying to sound nonchalant by saying “late” May when actually I know the exact date, May 22nd. I know the exact pair of jeans I was wearing, exactly what I did that morning, what I ate, and exactly what I did the rest of that day. I arrived with my mom at the Research Medical Center’s eating disorder unit, and the very first thing we did was an assessment with the nurse which involved me changing into a hospital gown to be “officially” weighed. The funny thing is (not funny…ironic maybe?) I could have told the nurse myself my “official” weight pretty close to the tenth of a pound. Once I was changed, the nurse (I can remember exactly what he looked like and the color scrubs he was wearing) asked me to step on the scale backwards.

Backwards. Hmm.

This became routine every morning in treatment before breakfast. Change into that beautiful gown and step on the scale backwards. At first the sound of the nurse adjusting the scale was daunting. I strained my ears to decipher where…what number…the nurse might be stopping on. However, the more days that passed by and the healthier I became, the less and less daunting it became. It more or less just because a routine thing to do…just another part of the day…and before I knew it, I really wasn’t thinking about what the number was.

When I left treatment, I knew that getting rid of my scale was going to be an important part of staying healthy. I had my mom dispose of it before I got home. However, I knew there’d be other places that would tempt my curiosity…the gym, the mall, and the doctor’s office. But I successfully avoided all of them.

When I’d go to the doctor for an annual physical, check-up, or because I was sick, as soon as the nurse would ask me to come back and step on the scale I would politely decline. Only one time did the nurse ask me why, and I explained and that was the end of that.

I’m not sure the exact length of time that I went without weighing myself or actually knowing the number. It was a long time, though…over a year at least.

One day at another doctor appointment the nurse asked me to step back to the scale. I took a deep breath and I did what she asked. I made the decision to step on the scale for the first time in a long time because I felt ready to handle whatever number it threw my way. The number wouldn’t affect me anymore.

Since then I’ve wondered about what my number was, I’ve stepped on the scale occasionally, but I never let it change my mood or how I viewed myself.

Now let’s fast forward back to this week. Tuesday evening, as I was waiting for my husband to get home from basketball practice I decided to have a late snack. I whipped out a bag of tortilla chips and the rest of my homemade salsa and started munching away. After a few minutes I thought to myself Angela, you shouldn’t eat this late, you have a doctors appointment tomorrow and you’re going to be weighed. Soon I rolled up the bag and put the food away. Yesterday morning my alarm went off early to get in the day’s workout, but I really didn’t want to get out of bed. Quickly I told myself Angela, you need to workout this morning, you have a doctors appointment this afternoon. Once I was in town I called my sister to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch. When I called I asked her if she’d rather just get some coffee instead because I was telling myself Ang, you don’t want to eat too much right before your doctors appointment.

Then it hit me.

I was letting the darned old scale control my actions. I was allowing a number, a number that wasn’t even real yet, scare me.

Silly me.

I went ahead and met my sister for lunch and I ate whatever I felt like at that moment…which happened to be chips and salsa (go figure!) and mozzarella sticks. Then I went to the doctor with a smile on my face, and I stepped on that scale with a smile in my mind because I knew that I was conquering that negative voice inside my head.

The number that lit up on the scale only confirmed the fact that I know I am stronger and healthier than I ever have been in my whole life…and each day keeps getting better and better.

ang

Talk About It

I’ve never in my whole life been the kind of person who openly talked my feelings or thoughts…all my feelings…with anyone. I haven’t had trouble sharing all my happy feelings and cheerful thoughts. That was never the problem. However, when I’ve felt anger, disappointment, guilt…when I’ve had thoughts about negative body image or feelings of “not good enough,” I just haven’t had it in me to share.

Well, until now.

Okay, so maybe I don’t actually speak about it all the much. I’ve done many eating disorder recovery speeches at my former treatment facility, but other than that my words have mostly been on paper or in my head…or now on this blog.

I use writing as a form of sharing my feelings. It’s not quite the same as talking, but it works just the same for me. I’ve never actually considered myself a writer, an actual writer…I just figured I was someone who likes to write short notes to people or little blog posts, sometimes just for fun or sometimes meaningful. Does that make me a writer, or just someone who writes? (This sounds much similar to the question of whether or not I could call myself a runner.) Then, while I was reading my book club book The Girls From Ames, I came across a line on how Kelly defines the word “writer”…

“…the word “writer” can be defined broadly. It’s about expressing emotion. It’s about helping people think. It’s about using words to understand herself. It’s about helping other people find their own words.”

So…I guess I am a writer.

I’ve said before that I feel like it’s part of my life’s mission to do whatever I can to help prevent future eating disorders. It is a problem that is too un-talked about and too widespread. I try to talk as openly and honestly about my experiences, although I haven’t shared the entire story on this blog yet. Many of the emotions and situations I went through can be stored in the “embarrassing” category. But that’s okay. When I have the opportunity to share these things I know that it may help that person who is feeling the same way but is too embarrassed or scared to share. And it not only can be helpful to others, but it helps me stay grounded in where I am today. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, but how important my experiences are.

It helps me to understand that God has a plan far greater than I’d ever imagined for myself.

So I challenge you to talk, or write, about it…whatever “it” is for you. Because more than likely there is someone else in the world feeling the same way, but she or he thinks they are alone.

We aren’t alone in our struggles or our strengths, and the greatest thing about people and community is that they are the best support systems.

Oh, and by the way, you are looking gorgeous today (even if you’re still in your pajamas that consists of a baggy t-shirt and shorts…like me! :) )

ang

From Sidewalk Chalk to Anatomy Textbooks

With my nursing interview being this week, I had been pondering a question that I knew I’d be asked for a long time.

Why do you want to be a nurse?

It seems like a simple question, but for me it’s not quite so easy. When I think back as far as I can remember, I knew I had a passion for art. From filling up coloring books when I was little to covering the driveway with sidewalk chalk in my adolescence to taking all the art classes possible in high school, and then to graduating with a degree in graphic design in college, I spent all the time I possibly could devoting myself to art.

Art gave me a way to express myself and my feelings. Sometimes art was an escape from reality…other times art was a way I could show the world something I was proud of.

I took the least amount of science classes possible. I took the bare minimum that was required to graduate in both high school and in college. I did well in my science classes, but I despised every second of it. Learning about cells and chemicals wasn’t going to do anything to improve my sketching technique.

Then on May 22, 2006, my life changed forever.  It was the day I was admitted for treatment for my eating disorder.

After being in recovery, I continued on to finish my degree in graphic design two years later. I tried to pursue a career in art, but unfortunately the job market wasn’t ready for me. For two more years I worked other non-art jobs and felt like a failure. Why did I try so hard to do well in school and make good grades and go after my passion? Why didn’t someone just tell me it’d be too hard to get my dream job? What actually was my dream job? And most importantly…did I even want to be a graphic designer and create designs for a company I wasn’t passionate about?

Then two things happened. First I started angheartsdesign. It is my own design company where I can design for the things that I love: weddings, brides, babies, friends, family.angheartsdesignI enjoyed being able to design beautiful things for beautiful people, but I still didn’t feel quite complete. I had been giving eating disorder recovery speeches for a few years now, but there was this growing passion inside of me to do something more.

Trust me, you learn a lot about yourself when you go through eating disorder treatment. I learned to things about myself (that now I think are pretty obvious). I am a perfectionist and I am a caregiver. Now I realize that both of these traits aided me in my eating disorder. I wanted to be the best at everything and I wanted everyone I knew to be happy…what’s wrong with that?! Well, it’s nearly impossible, and it can be extremely detrimental to put all your energies into.

But I’m never going to stop being a perfectionist. It’s my nature. It’s me. I do want to be the best I can be at everything I do. (Key words: best I can be!)

And I’m never going to stop being a caregiver. I want people to be happy. And now, more than ever, I want people to love themselves…to cherish their lives and their bodies. I don’t want self-doubt, eating disorders, and negative body image to hurt anyone else!

So, that is what drives me to do something more. I am channeling my inner perfectionist and caregiver on this mission to become a nurse. I know that I will be able to reach out even more to people as a nurse, and I know that I will love it. Being back in school and taking all these science classes that I originally avoided, I have already found out that I love learning about the human body and what it is capable of. I still love art, and I still love creating designs for angheartsdesign, and I do still hope that someday I can combine these passions of mine somehow.

When it’s all said and done and I actually am a nurse, I don’t know if I will be working directly with eating disorder patients. That is where I picture myself, but if there is one thing that I have learned through all this, it is that God works in curious ways. Who knows, maybe He wants me to work in women’s health, or pediatrics, or who knows where. All I know right now is that I need to trust in Him, and He will lead me on the right path. He hasn’t lead me astray yet.

ang

Pink Elephants

I’ve always known that there was some truth to the power of positive thinking…but I guess I never really knew just how much.

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I strongly recall one group therapy session that I took part in that had a big impact in my recovery (and my overall thinking). I, along with several other girls, had different stations to go to and complete an activity. All of the activities were based around body image, a topic almost all women could gain some improvement in.

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I remember this one particular station like it was yesterday. It had kind of a silly activity. Our directions read, “Close your eyes. Imagine a pink elephant for thirty seconds.”

I can picture myself perfectly…sitting in that chair staring at the clock. {Okay, here goes} I closed my eyes and thought and thought and thought about pretty pink elephants (not scary pink elephants like in Dumbo…as I was googling pink elephants, all those scary elephant pictures came up…don’t think about that kind!).

After thirty seconds was up, we were directed to open our eyes. Then we were told, “Now stop thinking about pink elephants.

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Uuuummmm…what? Stop thinking about pink elephants? How can I stop thinking about them now that they are engraved in my brain?! Now that you have told me to stop thinking about them, I’m thinking about them even more! Now I’m imagining pink elephants with cute, fluffy tutus on and red lipstick and big yellow, polka-dotted hairbows! Now I’m imagining them talking to me…no, singing to me Somewhere Over the Rainbow…

…way up high, there’s a land…

Okay, get it together Angela! } The point to this story? When you think about something for so long (uh, 30 seconds?) it is too hard to just un-think it.

And how does this relate to body image?

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If you keep telling yourself that you think you need to lose weight, or that you look fat, or that you wish you were skinnier, (guilty, guilty, and guitly), then you will not be able to un-think those thoughts overnight.

Learning to accept and love yourself unconditionally is truly a journey.

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Like I admitted before, I have been guilty of all those negative thoughts before. But I can honestly tell you, since I have started blogging I’ve truly been filling myself up with other bloggers positive words, and I’ve been putting every affirming word I can into my own posts. I’ve only been blogging for two months now, but I feel like I am noticeably happier. Not that I wasn’t happy before, but I was guilty of having icky “fat” days or just feeling “down” for no reason (and I’m not perfect, I still have those types of days, they are just not as frequent!)

On television recently, as I was skipping through channels, I heard something called the “thinking diet” (or something along those negatively-diet-y lines). Someone stated that this new “diet” works by just thinking that you are full so you will ultimately eat less.

Stop! DON’T DO IT!

I know it is easy…to get pulled into. It seems so easy…let’s just think ourselves skinnier. NO! We need to change this dialogue with ourselves { I know I’ve said this before, and now I am preaching, but I just feel so strongly about this! } We do NOT need to change the way we look, we need to work on living balanced lives, and we simply need to change that way we feel about ourselves.

Try this with me. Close your eyes, and for thirty seconds think to yourself:

I am beautiful inside and out. I am amazing. I am stunning. I am perfectly imperfect just the way I am. I love myself. I love my body. I adore everything I am capable of. I am deserving. I am happy.

Did it work? Practice makes perfect, so do this everyday!

My friends told me that they have noticed since I’ve been blogging that I am beaming. Glowing, even.

So, now I look at learning to love myself as an adventure!

ang

I Am

I am a wife. I am loving. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a dog-lover. I am protective. I am loved.I am a student. I will be a nurse. I am caring. I am brunette. I am brown-eyed. I am a salsa-addict.I am an athlete. I am a runner. I am a half marathoner. I will be a full marathoner. I am determined. I am a SoleMate. I am a blogger. I am strong. I am an artist. I am a designer. I am creative.
I am a friend. I am dedicated. I am a recovery speaker. I am a perfectionist.But I am NOT a number.

…and neither are you!

ang

My Pinky Toes…The Story Behind the Name

I received an e-mail last night from a reader asking why I named my blog My Pinky Toes, and I figured that it is time that I explain.  No, I didn’t name it that because my pinky toes are beginning to turn into calluses from running, although it seems like a valid reason right now.

My Pinky Toes grew from my recovery from an eating disorder. Let me begin with a little bit of personal history…

I went into inpatient treatment for bulimia on May 22, 2006.  That was one of the hardest days of my entire life.  After ten days inpatient I switched to the outpatient program for seven more days.  I was lucky because I wanted to recover…I wanted to be free from the disorder, the thoughts, the guilt, the obsession…

After leaving treatment, I did everything that I knew how to do to stay recovered.  I followed the same meal plans, I kept seeing a therapist, I journaled…and I was amazed at how happy I became.  The more I felt recovered and free from the eating disorder the more I flourished.  I had my set backs…I still had “fat days,” I still felt guilty somedays if I thought I was eating “bad” foods, and I relapsed one time.  The greatest thing that came out of that relapse was that I realized I never wanted to go back to the disorder again.  It wasn’t worth it.

Soon after, my aunt started a Bible study for the women in our family.  To be honest, I really can’t recall exactly what we studied during that time, but I remember the message was that everything happens for a reason, and God has a plan.  He sets up obstacles in your life to make you stronger.

Aunt Heather, Aunt Terrie, and Cousin Kelsie...some of the beautiful women who were in our Bible study

Even though I was beyond happy to be free from my eating disorder, I was beginning to feel like I wished it hadn’t happened.  I really have been blessed with a beautiful and perfect life and family, why did this have to happen to me…it messed up my perfect life. After going to this Bible study with my family, I realized that I had an eating disorder for a reason, and now it was my mission to use my experience to inspire and help other people.  After this realization, I knew that I needed to become an eating disorder recovery speaker.

I contacted the hospital where I was treated because I knew they had recovery speakers every Saturday for family day with the patients.  They told me that they would love to have me, but they required that I be recovered for one year.  So, after a years time since my treatment, I contacted the hospital again and set up the date to give my first recovery speech.

I was super nervous to give my first speech.  I am NOT good at speaking in front of people, and I knew that I would be super emotional.  I’m pretty sure I started crying as soon as I started talking.  I spoke about my eating disorder and how I got to my lowest low…and then I spoke about how I recovered.  One of the biggest “aha” moments to my recovery was when I realized that Ed’s voice (my eating disorder’s voice) was not the same as my own voice.  As strange as it may sound, having an eating disorder is somewhat like having another entity…a MEAN entity…try to invade your mind.  I realized that I didn’t think I was fat.  I didn’t think I needed to lose weight.  I didn’t want to feel ashamed of myself.  Ed did.

I feel like I was beyond lucky to have this realization, and that I was so lucky to still have the ability to find and hear my voice.  I feel like for so many other eating disorder victims, Ed’s voice becomes so much louder and they cannot find their voice.

In my speeches, I try my best to remind people that your voice is in there!  Even if it is too hard to find, even if it is small, and even if it is shoved way, way down into the tips of your pinky toes, your voice is still there! I tell them to feed that small part of you that is in your pinky toes…feed it with nourishment, feed it with affirmations, feed it with love…and your voice will grow and continue to grow until your voice becomes louder than Ed’s voice.

Yes, My Pinky Toes stemmed from my recovery story, but now I can relate it to so many other situations.  Anytime I am having a hard time understanding a situation, and look to my pinky toes to find the answer.  When I’m running a race and feel like I am losing steam, I dig deep into my pinky toes for energy.  If you don’t know where to find something…just look to your pinky toes.  When I feel Ed’s voice try to creep back, I remember my pinky toes and I know that I am beautiful.

My Pinky Toes gave me my voice.

ang