Merry Christmas to Me!

I’m gonna get super real in this one. Are you ready?

Ever since puberty hit and my boobs just kept growing I’ve felt as though they didn’t belong to me. The image of myself in my mind didn’t match with what I saw in the mirror. For roughly 10 years, I’ve wanted a reduction. In fact, when I was in high school, I wrote my parents a letter that I left on their bed asking for surgery, too ashamed to even ask them face-to-face. (This followed my initial diagnosis of my autoimmune disease, so my parents rightly decided that surgery wasn’t the best option for me then.) I’ve always strived to be honest on my blog, plus it’s often where I do my processing. It felt important to write this post. So here goes:

My insurance company has approved my breast reduction surgery, and my surgeon is fitting me in next week. I’m about to have smaller boobs!

A lot of thought, time and energy went into this decision, but so did many years of feeling detached from a part of myself. For most of my life I’ve gotten the comments “I had no idea your boobs were so big!” and “I would kill for your rack!” and “If it’s any consolation, you hide them really well,” from roommates and friends and even some medical professionals. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hide my boobs! I want to be proud of them, to wear clothes that make me feel sexy and confident and like me. And now I’m finally getting that chance.

No more needing to bind my breasts to access certain styles or comfort. Besides, binding my breasts has been SO uncomfortable and never gives me what I really want. I have multiple Pinterest boards full of clothes/styles I never thought I’d be able to wear because of my breasts. It feels incredible knowing that I’m actually going to have the chance to find a style that is truly authentic and fits who I am and how I want to express myself. Not only that, but this surgery will alleviate chronic pain I’ve dealt with my entire life, and hopefully improve my posture. But the biggest, most important part of all this is that I am getting the chance to feel like a part of my body that I’ve felt shame for my entire life actually belongs to me.

This feels scary to write here largely because it still feels too good to be true. I still have to take a COVID test and hope that my surgeon doesn’t get called into an emergency before my scheduled procedure. Plus, because of insurance, I can only make this work if I do it before the end of the year. So in a way, I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. But on the other end of that spectrum, I need to keep reminding myself of the positives in order to speak into the fear that I’m also feeling. My therapist had me make a list of reminders to post around my house to look at before surgery (while I’m still super anxious) and post-op (when pain or limited mobility might make things tough), and the list is already a full page long (and still growing!). I’m getting the chance to change so many things that I’ve been unhappy with for most of my life, and I am so grateful.

Yeah, I’m terrified of having this surgery. And it’s a little scary writing about it here. But, as a dear friend reminded me, all of this is bringing me more in alignment with my authentic self and that can only bring positives. I’m choosing to do a scary and difficult thing in service of who I truly am. My outside will finally match my inside.

My job is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing myself. This (paraphrased) quote from Untamed has been helping me a lot through this process. Especially because I tend to care too much about what others think, so much so that I can derail my own life to make others feel more comfortable. But I’ve spent the last 10 years praying that this day would come. I’ve researched, talked to my doctors and surgeon, processed with my therapist, and even had conversations with my boobs in the mirror. It felt as though the universe handed me this gift just in time for Christmas. I know I’ve made the right decision.

I’m ready to feel more confident in my body, more aligned with my femininity, and be more expressive with the androgyny I’ve been waiting to fully explore. Let this post serve as my reminder, for when the fear tries to creep in or recovery gets tough, that I’m ready for this. I’ve always been ready.

What The Legend of Korra Taught Me About PTSD

CW: eating disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder
This post discusses season 4 of The Legend of Korra; spoiler alert to those who care!

Quarantine has introduced me to both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, and I couldn’t believe I had gone so many years without seeing either of these hit shows!

Korra on her recovery journey in The Legend of Korra

While I’m completely obsessed with both shows (after taking many Buzzfeed and personality quizzes, it turns out I’m a Firebender!) and their complex characters (Katara, Asami, Zuko, Jinora, Uncle Iroh!!!! The list goes on and on…), what stood out to me was how Korra dealt with a significant trauma at the end of season 3 and into season 4 of The Legend of Korra. I’ve never seen a more realistic portrayal of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder on screen before, and I found myself relating to Korra more than I ever expected to. What I appreciated about this series is that season 4 doesn’t offer us a new villain for Korra to battle right off the bat. Instead, she battles with herself.

In the post I shared about my specific eating disorder, I mentioned a long period of nightly nausea spells as a child that morphed into a full-blown phobia of getting sick. In that post I wrote that my eating disorder is defined as an “aversion to eating due to a traumatic experience.” Trauma (as my therapist defines it) is a real or perceived threat of serious harm or death, with perception being the key word. While some may have dealt with chronic nausea and grown up without any fears around it, my experience was different. Real or not, as a child I continued to think “This is scary and keeps happening, and no one is explaining it to me.” What my current therapist has helped me understand is that due to the constant spells of nausea in my childhood that left me more and more terrified each night I spent on the bathroom floor, I now experience CPTSD, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. (The difference between CPTSD and PTSD is that complex post-traumatic stress disorder results from repeated trauma over months or years, rather than from a single traumatic event.) I can feel intense, physical anxiety when it comes to certain food, smells, bodily sensations, and even some bathrooms.

At the end of season 3, Korra is tortured, suffocated, and poisoned by villain Zaheer and though she survives, the experience leaves her traumatized, physically and mentally. When season 4 begins, we see flashbacks of Korra’s early recovery period, with symptoms of PTSD leaving her unable to stand, eat, or sleep. When Korra goes to see Katara, a healing waterbender, for help in her recovery process, Katara says she can help guide her healing process, but whether she gets better or not is up to Korra. She proceeds to show Korra how involved her mind is in her recovery, eventually helping her to walk again.

During a particularly frustrating healing session, Katara tells Korra “the mind can be a powerful ally or your greatest enemy,” and assures her that she’s safe even though her body thinks she’s still in danger. I perked up when I heard this, as my therapist often tells me that my anxiety is responding to a false alarm in the body, trying to protect me from a threat that doesn’t actually exist.

Korra sees a hallucination of herself in the Avatar State in The Legend of Korra

This is something Korra continues to struggle with, particularly as she experiences flashbacks and hallucinations from her trauma. It’s difficult to think you’re safe when your body feels as though it’s reliving your traumatic experience over and over again. (I’ve been told I need to read the book The Body Keeps the Score, and I look forward to reflecting on this post once I’ve done so.)

Eventually, haunted by her trauma and feeling isolated and misunderstood, Korra disconnects from her loved ones and leaves to travel the world alone. Though everywhere she goes, she is followed by an eerie hallucination of herself bound in chains. This was a beautiful (albeit spooky) representation of how it feels to be bound to your trauma, particularly during the scene in which Korra’s projected Avatar-State-self uses the chains to start “dragging her down with her” into sinking mud during an intense hallucination.

Korra quite literally battles her own mind, despite standing up to her hallucinated self and stating “You’re just in my mind. You’re not real.” Even though anxiety does lie in our minds, it can manifest itself very physically, and for someone struggling with PTSD, it’s difficult to recognize anxiety for what it is.

It doesn’t matter that Korra recognizes that her hallucinations are only in her mind, her physical symptoms are very real. As someone who has grown up struggling with symptoms of fear and anxiety, constantly being told the symptoms were all in my head—that none of what I was experiencing and feeling was real—I could empathize strongly with Korra. It took me a long time to learn that while my anxiety came from my mind, I was still experiencing physical symptoms. I still struggle with validating my own feelings and experiences, but now I know how to soothe both my anxious mind and anxious body.

After Korra does a lot of work in her recovery, she still feels haunted by her trauma. She continues to relive the torture she endured, unable to find peace and live her life as she did before the events of season 3. She decides to face her fears and confront Zaheer (now in prison), hoping that if she sees him chained up she won’t see him as a threat in her mind anymore.

In a scene I initially opposed (why would Korra return to the man who did this to her?!), Korra faces Zaheer and confronts her fears, which turned the scene into one of my favorite of the entire show. It turns out that Zaheer is able to meditate into the Spirit World—something Korra has been unable to do due to her trauma—and offers to help guide her back there himself, to show her she has “all the power in the world and the freedom to use it.”

As she begins meditating with Zaheer, Korra is confronted yet again with a flashback of him torturing her. She begins to panic, her body feeling as though she’s in danger, but Zaheer encourages her to let the scene play out. She doesn’t think she can do it, saying she has no control, yet Zaheer continues to stay with her, telling her not to fear what might have been, but rather to accept what happened to her. Soon, she falls with him into the Spirit World.

Korra and Raava reconnect in The Legend of Korra

When Korra realizes that she’s made it through the most difficult part of her anxiety and landed safely in the Spirit World, she is reconnected with Raava, the spirit of light and peace who lives within the Avatar. After being poisoned by Zaheer, Korra feared her connection with Raava had been severed, but Raava immediately reminds her, “I have always been inside of you.”

When I took Eat Breathe Thrive’s “Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery” course, I was reconnected to my own Raava. As I learned various skills to restore my connection between my mind and body, I learned that I had the ability to control my anxiety within me all along. With ujjayi breathing that activates my vagus nerve (the one responsible for the “rest and digest” part of my nervous system), and honoring the needs of my body through interoception, I could lower the effects of the CPTSD, if only by a little bit.

I’ve also learned, like Korra, that sitting in my discomfort and letting my fear and anxiety play out won’t kill me (even when it may feel like it will). My therapist taught me that our minds search for patterns, and when I was constantly trying to numb away the anxiety or distract myself from it entirely, I was actually making it worse. I was reinforcing that the anxiety was dangerous by not addressing it, building up the fear in my head more and more. When Zaheer tells Korra not to run from her fear, to sit in the discomfort of her PTSD and accept what happened to her, she finally experiences relief. She relinquishes control, does the uncomfy thing, and it starts a new neural pathway in her brain—a new pattern—that shows her that she is safe.

As my therapist reminds me, my anxiety will always be there, there’s no stopping it entirely. But I can make it more manageable, so it won’t interrupt my life so significantly. Korra reflects on this concept, as well, as she leaves Zaheer’s prison. She acknowledges that she won’t forget the awful experience of being tortured and poisoned, but she is able to accept what happened, and that’s what will make her stronger.

While I have done a lot of work around my fears and anxiety, I’m not at the acceptance stage yet. Honestly, until I saw The Legend of Korra (and talked to my therapist) I didn’t know acceptance was a stage I could reach in my CPTSD. There’s a lot of frustration around the trauma I endured over and over growing up. But I have learned how to manage the anxiety to be able to live my life, and I continue to build on these skills with every passing day, week, month, and year. What’s more, I’m finally at the stage where I can process the trauma itself because I am able to manage my triggers and anxiety. I’m proud of my strength, and how far I’ve come in the last few years.

I’m so grateful to have seen myself in Korra, and I hope that we continue seeing PTSD and anxiety represented realistically on screen.

New Moon, New Mindset

I’m still not sure if I’m one of those people who believes in astrology or the spirituality of lunar cycles, but I decided to use today’s new moon as an opportunity for change.

I need to reset. A depressive episode a couple of weeks ago left me in some bad habits, and shame has lingered enough to wreak some havoc on my thoughts and behaviors. I want to set some new intentions. I thought it was pretty exciting that I had these thoughts on the same day of a new moon…for those who don’t know, new moons symbolize new beginnings.

I figured I could use the blog as a means of accountability, to hopefully manifest new intentions and habits. So, here we go…

Intentions
~Self-love
~Communication
~Mindfulness
~Inner strength
~Gratitude

Affirmations
~I love you
~I am not my feelings
~My breath is my anchor, my anchor is my breath
~I am capable

Goals/Habits
~Regular sleep schedule; get up/go to bed earlier
~Daily walks
~Regular yoga practice; same time every other day
~Daily meditation practice

I’m ready for this change, I’m welcoming it. We’ve got a President-elect who gives me hope, and I have professional and personal opportunities on the horizon. Let’s go, New Moon. I’m ready.

unnamed 1.77

wandering aimless for years
i never thought i’d find a home
in any one place
wondering, hoping
will i ever settle, find peace?
then this year i learned
I am my home
beneath my skin
wherever my heart beats
is where i hang my hat
i’ve made it comfortable in here
my resting place
i am my home base
my breath is the key
that opens my front door
so long as i inhale, exhale
i can enter here
a space furnished by trust and love
mind and body knit together
but when depression rings the doorbell
i feel its pull and long to leave
the home i’ve made out of body
of flesh, blood, bone
fraying edges of body and mind
this cunning mood tricks and deceives
and if i’m not careful
he will carry me out out out
lying through his devil smile that says
there is no home after all
you’ll have to keep wandering
lost, alone, forever
soon i forget my breath’s ability
to anchor me in what i’ve created
here within myself
and i wander through the ether a while
until depression looms no more
and my inhale, exhale returns me
to my heart, my hearth, my home
within

Shame, That Cunning Bastard

Earlier today, after frustration over a search for socks snowballed into anger and I sent clothes flying all over our bedroom, my partner came to check on me. I was balled up on the floor, sandwiched between the bed and the wall, and my head was tucked below my knees. Anger, not being something I’m particularly used to yet, had left me feeling humiliated. As my kind and compassionate partner sat next to me rubbing my back, I didn’t want to admit to allowing socks (or lack thereof) to cause such a tidal wave of ferocity in me.

In the past, I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have remained silent and let my emotions consume me, driving away the person I desperately wanted to stay by my side. But see, I had made a promise. A promise to my partner not to shut him out. Not to make him think that my anger or moodiness is directed at him, or the result of anything he did or didn’t do. A promise to communicate.

I’m learning that I default to shutting people out, or shutting down entirely, when I feel intense emotions because of the unawareness my family and I had around my high sensitivity and my emotional needs as a highly sensitive person growing up. So, now that I know that my nervous system feels things much more deeply than the average person, I have to work hard at communicating when I’m feeling big things.

I’m not saying that I’m great at communicating now that I’ve learned all of this and have made this promise to my partner. In fact, I’m generally pretty bad at it. Sometimes, it’s so hard to say what it is I’m thinking or experiencing that it feels like I’m prying my mouth open with a crowbar and reaching down my throat to physically pull the words out. Often I’m speaking so softly that my partner has to ask me to repeat myself.

Today, though, I recognized that I have made some progress. This past week was particularly stressful, and I recalled the moments where I managed to use my words. At first, I wanted to celebrate this. I remembered how often I had kept my mouth shut in my relationships with my parents, friends, and partners in the past, and knew that any step in communicating was a step in the right direction. But quickly, shame piped in (that relentless bastard) and reminded me how far I still have to go. Shame said “How dare you celebrate this skill that you’re only less than mediocre at? You have way too far to go before you can pat yourself on the back.”

At first, I believed it. Shame is cunning, and uses small truths to create big lies. While it’s true that I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what healthy communication looks like in my relationship, it is false that I have to wait until I’ve mastered the skill to acknowledge and celebrate my progress.

And, just because I’m not negating or discounting my success thus far, that doesn’t mean I can let up on the gas pedal. The fact is, I do have a long way to go before my communication is easy and open in those moments of moodiness or anger. But the more I practice it, the easier it will get, and I can celebrate the wins along the way.

Judgment-Free Zone

I’ve noticed that when things get particularly difficult in my life, I want to hide them away. I don’t want to write about them on the blog, and I don’t even want to write them in my journal. I censor myself in case some future me looks back at the entries and… Well that’s the thing. I don’t know how to finish that sentence. What am I so afraid of?

I think the answer is judgment. Subconsciously, I recognize that I am my own worst critic, so I try to deny my future self the ability to judge my past choices or actions. But what good is that doing me?

By keeping my pain inside, I’m denying the opportunity to heal. I’m also denying myself the chance to grow through authenticity. Who knows, someone else may relate to my experience and offer support or guidance. And by writing down my struggles, perhaps it will get me out of my own head and shift my perspective.

So, here goes:

Quarantine is really getting to me. Being stuck at home since March without even the ability to go to the grocery store or run a quick errand is weighing so heavily on me. The other day all I wanted to do was give myself a manicure, but I don’t even have the luxury of running to CVS to browse the nail polish colors. I’m bored most of the time, and am losing interest in the things that usually keep me busy or distracted.

On top of all that, my unemployment benefits have run out and the leave/furlough option I was using with my employer has ended, so I’m staring down the face of termination and unemployment. Uncertainty surrounds me, and loneliness is ever present. I’m scared.

If anyone can relate (or even if you can’t) and has activities or ideas that might help the boredom and restlessness, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


For those in similar situations, I’d love to create community with you. The comments of this post (or any post on my site) are a safe space for you to share your experience, and please know that I hold space for you to be yourself, even if you’d prefer to do it anonymously. This is a judgment-free zone that is shrouded in love.

If it ever feels like too much for you to handle on your own, I encourage you to reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “HELP” to 741-741. Lately I’ve been reaching out to them often, and it allows me to catch my breath and recall the tools I have within me to stay grounded and take these uncertain and scary times one day, one hour, one minute at a time. There is no shame in texting the Crisis Line, and you remain completely anonymous if you choose to reach out.

Authenticity over Approval

I’ve been experiencing a personal awakening lately. Some of which you read about in my Grey’s Anatomy post, and some you’ll read in future posts about emotions and activism. For now, however, I want to talk about authenticity.

I spent most of my life trying to be anyone but myself. In school, when I was bullied for the clothes I wore or the people I sat with at lunch, I spent years trying to fit into a more acceptable mold. I spent money I didn’t have on clothes that I thought would make me look cooler or more like “everyone else.” I spent time with people who didn’t share my values so that, if they accepted me, I could use them as a metric of my success or popularity. I posted content on social media that I told myself was authentic, but was really just a way to gain more likes, followers, or friends. I valued authenticity and independence above all else, but was too scared to actually live in accordance with those values. I was scared that if people saw the real me, they’d reject me.

After all those years of shoving myself into someone else’s ideal of what I “should” look, think, or act like, I still don’t have the things I craved since I was young. I could never find happiness in the clothes I bought, or friends in the amount of views I got on an Instagram story I had so carefully curated. Yet, I’ve discovered happiness and beautiful relationships despite those things…so I had to ask myself: Why do I waste precious time in my life trying to be someone else?! I will never fit into any mainstream ideal of what a woman should be, and I’m sick and tired of making myself smaller for anyone else’s benefit or comfort.

Being immunocompromised in this pandemic has forced me to spend a lot of uninterrupted time with myself. I’ve been blowing through journals, usually filling one within 3-4 weeks, which basically represents the amount of self-reflection and growth I’ve experienced in the last six months. The more I’ve gotten to know myself in quarantine, the more I’ve realized I want to become the person I want to be rather than the person I thought I should be.

After all of the self-reflection and journals I’ve gone through, I’ve decided to challenge myself to run towards the things that scare me. If I don’t, I will never truly know what I am capable of. Authenticity scares me. Showing people who I really am—including the parts of myself I want to hide away in deep, dark caves—absolutely terrifies me. But I’m done seeking approval from others, because their approval doesn’t matter. I matter. I choose me.

Embodied Intimacy

In a homework assignment for a class I took recently, I had to practice abhyanga, or self-message, as a form of embodied intimacy.

You’ve probably heard of intimacy in the context of sex or romance, but intimacy isn’t just another word for sex. If we’re using the latin roots to provide our definition—intimus: innermost; intimare: to make known/familiar—we can understand intimacy to mean “making the innermost aspect of oneself known or familiar.” This can happen in a romantic relationship, yes, but also in friendships or familial relationships as you connect and share with one another.

But rarely do we show ourselves this same level of intimacy. One of the core principles of this course’s curriculum (designed to help those struggling with mental health challenges and eating disorder recovery) is Embodied Intimacy, which is the capacity to appreciate and use the body as a gateway to intimacy.

When I first heard this I was very confused. I could grasp the idea of emotional intimacy, since being an HSP makes me naturally predisposed to self-reflection and personal growth, but my understanding stopped there. As someone with an eating disorder and plenty of body image issues, my mind is historically disconnected from my body. The notion that I could use my body as a vehicle for connecting with myself seemed absurd.

When I was assigned this abhyanga exercise, I was honestly a little embarrassed. I mean, c’mon, I was supposed to undress in a room alone and use oil to massage myself for a significant amount of time?! The instructors of the class mentioned that when they assign this exercise they’re lucky if even a few people actually do it. There’s no denying that being intimate with ourselves is hard! I was proof of that.

I waited until the last possible moment to do the abhyanga, approaching it as something to check off my to-do list. At first, I even turned the TV on in the background. Bob’s Burgers was the perfect way to continue my trend of distracting and avoiding discomfort. I was instructed to use oil and pay special attention to my feet, so, after thoroughly washing my stinky feet, and feeling thoroughly ridiculous, I began.

I started on my left foot, keeping my ears on Bob’s Burgers and my eyes on my massage. When I moved up to my left leg, I noticed that I was using deep pressure, more than I thought I could handle, and my leg felt a lot stronger than I thought it was. I was so used to criticizing my muscles for being weaker than most, I hadn’t even noticed how strong they actually were. Suddenly, I realized there might be something to this exercise, and I turned off the TV.

By the time I reached my right foot, I was having an epiphany. The sole of my foot was calloused and tough, and I couldn’t remember ever intentionally giving my feet any love before doing this exercise. I found myself steeped in gratitude…my feet and legs are so much more capable than I ever give them credit for. They carry me, and have carried me, to so many places without faltering, and usually without my noticing. They have been through so much—from strolling on the beach, to dancing at concerts, to walking into dream jobs—and I never thank them for any of it.

I finally understood: this massage was a gift, my gift to my body.

My love language has always been giving gifts, so why don’t I ever give my body the gifts it so deserves? Despite all of the pain and illness I have faced, my body has continued to keep me alive and protect me. My sensitive nervous system provides my mind with this amazing intuition and empathy…my own superpowers. My hands have allowed me to do the things I am passionate about, like hold a camera or learn a language. My stretch marks are proof of the challenges I have overcome. My eyes help me to read and create and observe the beauty around me. My body is so incredible, always has been and always will be, and it deserves more gifts than I can ever give it. My body is my home.

My two biggest takeaways from my abhyanga practice that I want to make sure I never forget are 1) my body is far more strong and capable than I ever realized, and 2) my body deserves so much more gratitude than it currently receives. I am dedicating, right now, to the internet and to myself that I will spend more time thanking and loving my body. I will spend more time embracing embodied intimacy.

Gratitude is a powerful thing. Love is a powerful thing. It’s time I accept and respect that I am powerful, too.

ARFID, Defined

CW: discussion of eating disorders

I had an appointment with a new dietician recently, and when I mentioned my eating disorder, she immediately assumed it was anorexia. When I began explaining that no, it wasn’t anorexia, she cut me off and asked “Bulimia?” Trying to contain my exasperation I said, “No, I have ARFID.” Her response was, “What’s ARFID?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this by a medical professional, or even a mental health professional. My eating disorder is far less common than the ones you grow up hearing about, and rarer still because I am an adult. I figured I would take this opportunity to explain what ARFID is, and how it has manifested in my own life.

ARFID stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. The first, important factor that separates ARFID from more common eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, is that it does not show evidence of body image issues as the cause of the lack of eating. While I do suffer from body image distortions (I do live in western society, after all), I do not restrict food in order to reach an “ideal” body type. Instead, ARFID is associated with a lack of interest in food or a low appetite, avoidance based on sensory sensitivity to certain foods, or fear of food/eating due to a traumatic experience (like choking or vomiting).

Personally, I grew up a picky eater, like many children who develop ARFID. (In fact, the average age ARFID patients seek treatment is 12 years old, according to research done by the American Psychological Association.) In addition to the picky eating, I also began having nightly spells of nausea at an early age, which we think was caused by my chronic illness (though it could have been undiagnosed anxiety). I would fall asleep night after night on the bathroom floor, convinced I was going to be sick. I never was. But my brain convinced me that nausea was something to fear. Soon I got nervous about certain foods, sure that they would cause me to vomit, so I avoided them altogether.

This childhood avoidance of certain fear foods started small—I was still receiving appropriate nutrition—but adulthood became a breeding ground for uncertainty and anxiety. Far from the meals I trusted, the meals my mother made, I grew more and more fearful of food. Though I had not experienced food poisoning since well before the chronic nausea set in, I was certain that if I wasn’t careful enough I would wind up sick.

During my second year in California, I was working on a show when my Production Stage Manager (PSM) got food poisoning right before the show. As a result, I was required to step in last minute to help backstage, and also heard excruciating details of the PSM’s sickness. That night I had my very first panic attack. It was also the night that I decided to stop eating entirely.

As you have probably guessed by now, I fall under the “aversion to eating due to a traumatic experience” category. Trauma is defined as any experience that overwhelms your ability to cope. Years of chronic nausea had left me unable to cope, and the experience with my PSM only traumatized me further. A few months later, malnourished and underweight, I was strongly encouraged to seek treatment by my therapist, and was admitted to the University of California San Diego’s highly sought after Eating Disorder Center for Treatment and Research.

ARFID can be an isolating diagnosis when it seems like no one understands your specific experiences. During my first week at UCSD I was a pretty heinous patient. In group therapy (a daily occurence) I spouted on and on about how I didn’t belong there, and no one understood me. I quickly realized I had much more in common with my fellow patients than I first thought. I made lifelong friends, and even though most of them could never fully understand my specific disorder, they knew what it was like to be consumed by the darkness of an eating disorder. I wouldn’t have made it through UCSD without them.

I got incredibly lucky that this international leader in in eating disorder treatment and research was a seven minute drive from my house, and that I had the financial support to afford a partial hospitalization program. (I still firmly believe that the universe brought me to San Diego so that I could have access to such an incredible treatment program.) I spent five months in treatment, learning skills and tools to help me increase my exposure to fear foods, while my treatment team helped me get my weight back up. Before this year’s hospitalization, it was the most difficult experience of my life.

UCSD’s program saved my life. More specifically, it handed me my life back. I started this blog, I learned how to talk back to my fear, and I was given the freedom to work, play, or travel without being limited by accessible food or absence of energy due to weight loss and malnutrition. At UCSD I learned the importance of community, and felt the first real call to become a therapist myself.

ARFID is less common, yes—only 14% of patients seeking treatment have ARFID—but I hope there continues to be education about this disorder. It can feel even more isolating and disorienting for someone struggling with ARFID when their own doctor or outpatient therapist isn’t familiar with the disorder.

If you have any questions that I may be capable to answer, feel free to leave a comment below! I will answer to the best of my abilities, or refer you to someone who can.

For any of my readers who are struggling with ARFID: you are not alone. I know how scary food can feel. Your experiences and your feelings are valid. If you have been diagnosed (or even if you think you may have ARFID), feel free to send me a message on the contact page or drop a comment down below. Your disorder does not define you. You are also stronger and more capable than you may ever believe.

I’m Not an Orthopedic Surgeon…but I’m Still Pretty Awesome

How many of you have watched Grey’s Anatomy? It’s okay, you can be honest. It’s on it’s 17th season for a reason.

Well, I’ve been re-watching the series for probably the 23rd time (and have gotten my partner into it, which is probably my greatest accomplishment ever), and one of the characters has actually rubbed off on me. Her name is Callie Torres.

To those of you who watch Grey’s, you know that Dr. Calliope Torres is a badass; she’s an orthopedic surgeon who never apologizes for her talent or her heart. In my opinion, Shonda Rhimes created a killer character in Callie. She doesn’t necessarily fit society’s strict standards of beauty…I mean, when she’s first introduced on the show, she’s like this punky, emo-looking chick. She’s also a woman of color who isn’t pencil-thin, yet she’s desirable.

But all of this aside, what is so remarkable about Callie is that she knows she’s a badass. Other than her occasional romantic insecurities (I dare you to name someone in your life who doesn’t have any insecurities), she is a confident motherf*ckin’ woman. She’s not too cocky, nor is she flawless, but she knows (and says repeatedly) that she is awesome. And I really believe she is why I am starting to believe the same thing about myself.

It’s true y’all. Last night I heard myself saying the words “I am awesome” out loud. Not only did I say it, but I actually meant it.

I’ve been doing a lot of work in my professional life lately, trying to beef up my resume and cover letter so that I can land a job in the field I really want to be in. This week I accepted an amazing volunteer position with an international nonprofit dedicated to helping those with eating disorders. I applied for the only volunteer position listed on their website that I felt qualified for—a copywriter—despite my fear that I wouldn’t be good enough. To make my anxiety even worse, I decided to attach a link to this very blog…and I’m so glad I did.

The organization has brought me on not only to write for their blog, but to basically run it. They want me to keep their blog fresh and up-to-date, stating that they thought my own blog was “brilliant” and they think I’ll be an asset to their team. They’re interested in my voice and trust me to take the initiative to keep the blog current and interesting. I’ve already sent them my first piece for their site.

Ever since I spoke with the Volunteer Coordinator about this position, a switch has flipped inside of me. The other night, when my partner and I were watching Grey’s (again, so proud that he watches with me), I commented on Callie’s overt confidence. I said that of all the characters on Grey’s, particularly the arrogant/cocky/self-assured ones (basically all of them, they are surgeons for crying out loud), Callie’s confidence was my favorite. Never self-important, beautifully and humanly flawed, yet powerful. Even joyful.

So, last night, when I was thinking about the resumes and cover letters I had sent out this week, I thought, “They’d be lucky to have me.” And then, channeling my inner-Dr. Torres, “I am awesome.”

Sara Ramirez as Dr. Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy

While I’ve wished that I had developed this confidence years ago—I’m about to turn 26, for god’s sake, and I sure as shit have watched Callie convince her boss that she can re-build someone’s bones from scratch way too many times—I think I needed to go through the last 6 months (and the last ~26 years) for it to sink in.

I feel as though I’ve conquered my fears through my recovery, and I’ve clarified and strengthened my values. I have stood up for my beliefs and for my friends; I have made mistakes and learned from them; I have fallen down and gotten back up. I’m not perfect (never have been, never will be) and I will continue to make mistakes and falter in my confidence every now and then. But damn…I am a total badass. And I’m ready to let the world know it.


It seems fitting that this is my 200th post on this blog. Thank you so much, dear readers, for your continued readership, love, and support.