Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lunch Buddy! Amiga de Almorzar

Update from last post: Thanks to my padres, I now know that the upside-down acorn-shaped tree is a Linden Tree! The leaves on the tree are shaped very much like the tree itself, so Linden trees are officially at the top of my list of favorite types of trees. The list consists of one type of tree so far.

In this post, I  am going to cover the topic of cafeteria anxiety and the importance of lunch buddies.

Cafeterias are chaotic; there are multiple lines, way too many people for the amount of space available, and a lot of mysterious rules that vary from cafeteria to cafeteria.

I don't remember ever enjoying lunch time from grade school onward due to the aforementioned chaos, and my high school cafeteria was no exception. I always brought my lunch to school, and I think that became more of a fear-based practice in high school rather than the simplicity-based practice it had been in the past. I like to keep things simple, and abhor overcomplicating things. Abhor is definitely not too strong of a word. If you want to see my blood boil, take a simple task, find a complicated way to do it, then make me do it the complicated way.
That was usually why I brought my own lunch to school- no lines, no rush, no need to always check your lunch account for funds. Simplicity.
But somewhere along the way, the thought of actually having to stand in a line in front of people, pick out what I wanted, pay more than what I thought it was worth, and eat things that probably weren't healthy anyway became an intense fear rather than a minor inconvenience.
Some of this fear started to break when I went to Bolivia because we ate out probably once a week while I was there. Sometimes more often, other times less often. I was not very accustomed to eating in public prior to that, and I had felt very anxious and exposed whenever I would. I went through probably a 7-year period where I thought everyone around me was looking at what I was eating (paranoia) and calculating the calories to make sure I was "being good" (performance-based acceptance).
While in Bolivia, that noose loosened slightly, and I was able to enjoy mealtimes. I was usually with semi-new friends, and much of their culture is based around lunch time. Inside voice: Ahhhhhhh!!!!!! This is a nightmare!!!! What are you doing to me, God?!?!?!?!  Outside behavior: Calmly eating the meal with everyone else, trying to stay engaged in the conversation.
Side note: when I had gone to therapy, one of the topics of contention was a food journal. In one column of the page, I was asked to write what I ate. In the other column, I was asked to write what I was feeling while I ate it. So for example, this morning I could have written "Steel-cut oats with almond milk" in the first column and "thankful/happy" in the second column. If I were writing the entry for myself from 15 years ago, I'd put "cereal with milk" in the first column, and "fat, bloated, ugly, slow, stupid" in the second column.  I never wrote in the food journal. I never even bought the special kind of notebook I was asked to buy for it. I was convinced if I went to K-Mart and bought that particular kind of notebook, EVERYONE would know. Oh my goodness, that girl has anorexia. I can tell by her notebook. I couldn't tell by the way she lost weight and hates a bunch of foods and likes to exercise all the time. The notebook gave it away. Oh my.
I didn't really think the rebellion against the food journal was a big deal until it came up again in my Navy interview. They had read my doctor's notes, and saw that as a red flag, which it rightfully was. "Were you asked to keep a food journal?"
"And did you fill out the food journal?"
"Why was that?"
"I didn't feel it was helpful to my recovery."
*Franticly scribbling notes. *

I can only imagine that the interviewer's notes said something along the line of "insubordination" or "does not listen well."

If I could go back, I'd most definitely write in the journal (only I'd probably get a cooler kind of notebook.) And I'd gladly share it with my therapist and whoever else wanted to see it. Healthier-brained me gets it now. Sick-brained me was panicked. Sorry for giving in to paranoia, everyone.

That was a long side note. I think my whole point was that because I didn't deal with the baby-step of writing down my feelings and discussing them when I was given the opportunity to do so in a safe/controlled environment, I went off running when I barely knew how to walk. And God had me deal with it then too.

However, because God is awesome, it didn't just end there. Yay, Allie can eat out without having an internal panic attack! My work here is done.
Instead, He was like, good start, but there is still a long way to go. I was still celebrating the eating out part, having a Titanic moment: I'm the king of the world!!! I can do this! Life is good!

Moving forward to 2012, I got a temp job where I am now permanently employed. Guess what my workplace has?  Seriously, guess.
A cafeteria.


Who knew a first-world "convenience" could be such a source of mental torment. Chaos. Lines. Noise. People everywhere. Weird rules.

Then...the lunch buddy.  Haha, I am making this sound so dramatic partially for humor, but mostly because it was dramatic. There were highs and lows, fear and trembling, all because of a cafeteria.

My lunch buddy is actually one of my very close friends outside of work, and we happen to work in the same building too, so it is a win-win situation.

What is a lunch buddy? My definition: A lunch buddy is God's provision. Someone to keep you focused on the external, rather than letting you get lost in the internal. Someone to make you laugh, to make eating just eating. To make lunch enjoyable- a highlight of the day.

Do I still get nervous if my lunch buddy is busy and I have to eat alone in the cafeteria? Sometimes. Is there still room for improvement and more healing? For sure. It takes time, and God always provides.

Buen provecho! Bon appetit! Enjoy your meal!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Not totally gone

Trees have a lot more roots than I can see- and probably more roots than you can see, too.  In fact, I typically can't see any of the roots.  I just see the trunk, branches, and leaves (i.e. a "tree").  There are certain trees I like more than others. I am not very good with their names though.  For example, there are these trees in my neighborhood that I LOVE.  I didn't know I loved them until spring came and they started to get leaves and take on a new shape- the tree is in the shape of a lantern-like acorn when it fills out with leaves!  What on earth kind of a description is that?  That is the best way I know to describe it.  And it is lovely.  But I don't know it's name.  Sorry, tree.

Even though the trees were there all winter, I just drove and walked by them each day without a second glance.  The next thing I knew, they were the prettiest things I had ever seen.

On a similar note, there are trees that are repulsive in the spring.  They let off a foul odor when they bloom, and it causes me to gag.  Some of these types of trees were planted on the south side of the freshman dorms where I went to college.  Unfortunately, this type of tree is not limited just to Oregon.  There are also some of these trees outside my current place of employment.  Who allowed this to happen?!?!

I like how God uses trees throughout the Bible to symbolize just about everything.  I get trees.  I can climb them and touch them and hang upside down in their branches. I can eat their fruit and play in their leaves.  I can lie down in their shade.  I can run into low-hanging branches when I am not paying attention. I get trees.  Even when God is mysterious, or He feels distant, I can still understand trees.  And I can understand God better when I look at trees.

So what?  Well, there's a lot of directions I could go here.  The way I will go is in the way of spiritually smelly trees, and how, spiritually, they need to be chopped down.  I've touched on the topic of self-hatred in a previous post, and how I let it sabotage God's and man's attempts to help me in the past.  I thought it was gone. Like way gone.  Goner than gone. Adios. Chau. Hasta nunca.  But it turns out, the root is still there, somewhere in me, lying dormant.  Grr.

I don't really know how to handle it or what to do with it- how to get rid of it.  I'd like to chop it to smithereens and burn it.  But if I go in there, inside my soul, chopping and ripping and burning things, I will likely destroy myself.  And that is exactly what self-hatred wants.  It's a foul, nasty, tormenting spirit that does not belong in me.  It's at the root of pretty much every destructive decision I've made, and pretty much everything I've written about in this blog.  The only way I know of to get rid of it is to keep allowing the Holy Spirit to go in my soul in the careful way that only He can, and divide the good from the bad, the clean from the unclean, the life from the death.

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, which is awesome, because finding good counsel is hard enough.  Finding wonderful counsel?  Now you're probably going to be searching for a while.  That is, unless you look to Jesus.  So that is where I am going, and He is who I am trusting.  I don't have much more to say on the subject at this point. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reflections and Redos

February feels like a lifetime ago. 
I have a list of monthly goals on my cubicle wall at work.  My goals for May were to breathe clean ocean air and have a stellar birthday.  Check.  I did not intend to take a break from writing during the past months (it was not on my goal list). 
I had a lot of time to reflect on life while I was on the coast, and God gave me a freshly grateful heart for where He has taken me and where He has ultimately planted me since I first walked on the Oregon coast in 2002.
I've been back in North Dakota for two entire months now, and it is amazing how quickly that gratefulness wears off and the doubts come in again; doubts over the complexity of life, the constant striving, and the weight of the world.  I feel light when I am outside, stepping on the sand, getting sprayed with ocean mist, watching the clouds move with the wind.


I start to feel a death when I am inside too much.  I get weighed down, separated from God's creation and the breath of the Holy Spirit.  Immune to the power of Jesus.

I went for a bike ride tonight, and it refreshed me.  Being out in the open, I felt my heart soften again.  I heard the still small voice of the Lord give direction on how to reconcile a personal situation.  I felt some of the weight lift off my shoulders.  It's a good feeling!

The sun was intensely bright, the breeze was soft and cool, and the evening was lazy and restful.  No pressure, no schedule, no rush.  I drank it in deeply.

Here's to Sunday evenings, and vacationing only minutes from home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Running errands typically wears me out. Running a 5K is more appealing and refreshing to me than running to K-mart, Walmart, Costco, etc. However, I would rather have the things I need than go through life without shopping.

To combat my body's opposition to errand-running, I have developed a no-fail strategy for getting through those necessary trips to "The Store." My plan goes a little something like this: eat a meal or a large snack (or a small meal) before going shopping. That way, when I get home, I'm not in the foulest of foul moods, feeling weak and tired. You'd think I had just gone days without sleep, and lived on bread and water by the way I look after shopping. Those dark circles under my eyes? Symptom of allergies to fluorescent lighting and too many shelves. The really low heart rate? Symptom of mentally shutting out the lame music and my cart's squeaky wheel.

On Saturday, I had the great idea of eating a pre-shopping adventure protein bar. This bar had 30 grams of protein in it. Yes, 30 grams in one bar. I figured that should do the trick. Although most people would preserve this kind of bar for a post-workout snack, or post-marathon snack, it seemed logical to me that instead of cooking a whole meal, I would just eat 60% of my daily protein in the form of one bar.

On a side note, the bar only cost $0.01, which I hadn't known prior to purchasing it. I thought the cashier had made a mistake, but he assured me, with 2 thumbs up, that I was good. (Thanks, bro!) He explained that the store was phasing out certain items, and that's why it was so cheap. After driving away, I wondered why I didn't buy 20 bars for $0.20. That would have been 600 grams of protein for only $0.20! I love you, Holiday station!

It turns out, that bar was worth every penny, because it sat like a brick in my stomach- like a brick of solid protein. I got a slight headache as well. I felt much better after eating ham, spaghetti, and snap peas for supper after the shopping trip was done. My body knows how to digest real food. The moral of the story? Real food is the best food. The next time I want 30g of protein, I just need to actually cook something- or eat the leftover ham, spaghetti, and snap peas that are already in the fridge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I've wanted to write about paranoia and it's manifestations/effects on my mind throughout recovery process for a couple weeks. ¡Vamanos, entonces! (Let's go then!)

When I was going to NDSU, I had a really cool female professor whose area of expertise was eating disorders. I took Abnormal Psychology one semester, and she taught one day on something that shifted a paradigm in me. I think the topic that week was Borderline Personality Disorder (at any rate, it was completely separate-at least in the world of modern psychology- from eating disorders.) She was telling a story about one of her former patients, and what happened during one of their sessions. She and her patient were walking through the campus (of a separate university) together, and they passed by someone. The young woman immediately thought that the person hated her. My professor asked her why she came to that conclusion, and she said she heard it in her head. Then my professor told her that she didn't have to listen to those thoughts. She didn't have to listen.

What a concept- she didn't have to listen to every thought that came into her head.

There I was, sitting in the auditorium, realizing I didn't have to listen to the thoughts in my head either. It was the first time I remember hearing anyone explain that "my" thoughts don't have to control me. That had most likely been explained to me before, but I didn't hear it or remember it.  This concept has since been explained to me multiple times, and I have consumed it, digested it, and absorbed it.  And it's been turned into muscle; it's made me strong.

I don't know if my professor knows the Lord or not, but she was teaching a hugely important Biblical truth. "We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers, erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.
I am to take every thought captive, and submit it to Christ.

What does all this have to do with eating disorders? The voice/voices that consumed my thought life had convinced me that others thought I was fat, ugly, that other people knew that I had to go to a shrink, so they knew I wasn't right in the head. They convinced me other people randomly knew how much I weighed, and then I was even more ashamed of my size.

The reality is that those thoughts were all paranoid lies, and I shouldn't have been listening to them. The reality is that I did listen to them for about 10 years, and I let them control me. The reality is that I don't listen to them anymore, and they have been cast away from me.

I would say prayer and a supportive prayer covering from friends and family is a huge key in being able to go from mentally-ill thought patterns to healthy, Christ-centered thought patterns. There is a huge difference between wanting to have a clear mind, and actually having one. The Lord is all-powerful, so He can overcome anything, but it has been my experience that He intervenes and allows His word to come through people, through circumstances, through years and years of life, rather than one moment of thundering power and deliverance. That's just my experince, though, so I'm not making a doctrine of it or anything :).

The bottom line is, thoughts need to be captured, checked, examined, and either cast away, or allowed to remain. I didn't come to class that day thinking that the Holy Spirit would plant something new in me, but He did. I didn't expect to remember a short story from that class 8 years later, but I did. The seed that was planted has been watered- it grew and grew, and I'm trusting the Father's steady hand to continue the pruning process.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's confession time: I work for an insurance company.  My bio explains how I feel about my job- I never thought I would ever work in this type of environment, BUT I am starting to like it.  I was angry at God for roughly 2 years after jumping into this line of work, because I was prideful.  I still am kind of prideful if I am being honest.  I was angry because I thought was too good for a desk job.  I thought sitting in front of a computer all day was beneath me.  I was wrong though, because it sits in front of me.

Bills are a never-ending part of life, so having a job is a necessity.  Are you with me so far?  Bills aren't cool, but certain jobs are cool.  If certain jobs are cool, then other jobs fall into the not-cool category by default.  The jobs that fell into my cool category were/are band teacher, pediatrician, stay at home mom, artist, missionary, wilderness therapist, and musician.  I think they explain themselves.

Uncool jobs: anything that involves a cubicle and a computer.

 Having officially obtained work in the uncool category by the age of 26, I labeled myself a failure.  Did it matter to me that the Lord had been setting up this job for me long before I was old enough to complain? Nah.  Did it change my mind to know that the King of Kings cared enough to place me where I needed to be instead of where I wanted to be?  Hardly.

 I've probably done enough complaining in the past 3 years to warrant about 19,574 slaps on the face.  (or maybe more. ) It's really pathetic to think of all the air I wasted with my opinions and my judgments about how unfair and boring my life was.

 The curious part about the whole thing, about sitting in front of a computer, feeling like my life has no significance day after day, is that I've probably matured more in the past 3 years than the previous 27 years of my life.  I've devoted all my time and energy to learning how to enter insurance applications into the system we use, processing the applications, looking behind the scenes to see how things work, teaching others how to process insurance applications, and doing all the boring things in between.  If I were to write my autobiography at this point, there would be a lot of chapters spent on insurance topics, and no one would buy my book.

The people who know me really well know that even though I wrote the previous paragraph about how mature I am now, I still am mostly a goofball, and about 50% of my daily verbalizations are giggles.  Real mature there, Bucko.

 Having said all of that, the people I work with probably have no clue the amount of transformation that has occurred in my mind while I have been sitting around, talking about insurance for the past 3 years.  "Hey, did you know I was afraid to take this job because I thought I would get fat if I sat on my butt all day?"  "Did you know that processing applications is therapeutic? My Physician prescribed it, and I thought He was nuts.  It turns out He was right!"

Where am I going with all of this info?  It's eating disorder awareness week/month/week-plus-a-few-days at some point in February, depending on which website you look at.  The people around me who have been with me on the last leg of this journey weren't even aware that I had an eating disorder, or that I was struggling with it while sitting next to them. 

But Jesus was aware, and He has my back.  No matter what month it is, what week, or what week plus a few days it is, Jesus Christ is aware of every issue in the hearts and minds of each one of us.  His love is everlasting, and that's the kind of insurance that money just can't buy.  I've got better coverage than I could have imagined- a free heart transplant, a transformed mind, a full-time Counselor, and eternal care. 

Resting well,