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Tuesday, 18 November 2014
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"What Lights You Up?" (By: Maria Grasso)

In many mysterious—and often chilling—ways, this question creeps its way into my mind over and over again.  For the past few years, I’ve encountered it—or been asked it—at various defining moments in my life.  Interestingly enough, the answer is always the same, I just don’t always come to it the same way.

What we constantly put in front of our eyes and minds creates us.  We are a product of our environment.  I am not giving you an excuse to blame your self-worth on your circumstances.  In fact, I am doing quite the opposite. I am freeing you from the constraints of things you think you cannot escape. Take responsibility for your self-worth, because guess who is in charge of your environment? You, of course.

I vividly remember being at the crux of my ED and ferociously assigning songs and quotes to my roller coaster of late teen emotions and experiences.  By focusing on these words, negative ones mostly, I lived those moments over and over again.  Ultimately, I wrapped myself up in the most hideous packaging and left myself on the doorstep of the world--no shiny, gold ribbon, guys.    

The truth is, you control most of the words that go past your eyes and into your ears.   It wasn’t until the most recent time I was asked the question “What lights you up?” did I understand its role in my recovery.  See, during my days in the dark, I couldn’t find the answer…and that deeply frustrated my bright and shiny, passionate heart.  I was a girl on fire, wasn’t I? Uh, I wasn’t even convincing myself at that point.  I began seeking out what lit other people up, reading quotes of inspiration, motivation, purpose, passion—heck, anything with a glimmer of positivity!  What lit me up? Why couldn’t I figure it out?

The right words remind us of who we are and give us the positive reinforcement we need to create the environment for that person to emerge, or re-emerge.  I couldn’t access my light because I didn’t cultivate an environment for it to materialize.  I poured negativity into my eyes and ears everyday, darkening my world.  I realized I needed to make a change.  I began to practice positivity each day from then on, obnoxiously sharing quotes, thoughts, and ideas that drew out passion and fire from within myself.  My friends and family can tell you about the onslaught of words they get from me still to this day.  See, what lights me up is sharing capability with the world, building confidence in other people for whatever the world has in store for them.  I can only access that light when I put positivity in front of my eyes and ears. 

Recovery requires that you take back control of the words you encounter.  Recovery finds itself when you can finally answer the question most critical to your purpose, what lights you up?

About the Author

Maria Grasso has a passion for people and commitment to education.  In her youth, she served as a Youth Ambassador for a United Nations Association development program in both South Africa and Namibia where she assisted in school development and built water sanitation facilities and homes for rural families. After graduation, Maria moved to Houston, Texas to work in urban education and nonprofit administration at an innovative Houston high school for economically disadvantaged students, while completing her Master’s of Business Administration. Currently, she serves as Executive Director of a youth success program that exposes high school and college students to the proven systems and techniques, that when properly practiced, give students a 7-year head start on their career and life. Maria is an advocate for using your body for strength—and loves motivating friends and family to reach their goals and laugh along the way!

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Posted on 11/18/2014 9:30 AM by Maria Grasso
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Tuesday, 11 November 2014
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"Not So Black and White" (By: Lauren Kelley)

Recovery is different for everyone. I could parrot a dozen metaphors on willpower being a muscle that requires constant strengthening or a garden needing year round maintenance in an attempt to paint a picture of my experience with recovery, but I don't think anything can really express my perception better than my own words.

An eating disorder is exactly what it sounds like, a psychological disorder affecting not only eating habits but a relationship with food in general.  An obsessive, destructive lifestyle and state of mind many people will never truly understand without having had first-hand experience.

I don't know where my dysfunctional relationship with food and my distorted self-image rooted from exactly. Trust me, I've spent years trying to pin point when, where and who to blame. However, after spending over two years in weekly therapy focusing on recovering from the insanity of the self-destruction I'd associated my identity with, I've reached a point of accepting the combination of traumas and stigmas of my past and letting go of it all. Don't mistake that as me claiming I'm recovered, I don't believe it works that way. Recovery, for me, is based on daily choices. I recognize my disorder and I try my best each day to make the best choice for my health at that moment but I refuse to obsess over attaining "perfection". In my disorder I chased after perfection, the idea of perfection in of itself is part of the disorder. In my recovery I'm learning "perfection" is no longer and never was a realistic option but rather my goal needs to be "progress".

The first year in my recovery was one of the most difficult and exhausting periods of my life. Where I once devoted myself to calorie counting, restricting, binging, purging, and all the terribly heinous rituals that come with disordered eating I had to transition that obsessive compulsion towards tracking the emotions that I was desperately trying to avoid. It had become a survival instinct to numb an emotion or block a thought by switching my focus on food, exercise, or how to destroy all the things about my body I didn't like. My therapist insisted if I truly wanted to move forward that I would have to face real life as it came day by day. Some days where I had no stress and experienced no emotional instability I was able to eat a healthy serving of a healthy food and not drive myself crazy over it. Other days though, I was beginning to recognize triggers and having to literally sit on my hands or immediately call my therapist to voice my craving to either binge or obsessively over exercise and feel myself starve. Looking back I can laugh at memories of me coming into the kitchen and having a standoff with a jar of peanut butter or walking into the break room at work and immediately freezing up at the sight of a box of saltine crackers as if the box was going to attack me. In those moments I was having to pause my impulse to act and slow my thoughts down enough to translate emotions.

Gradually I began to get in the habit of forcing myself into social settings where I had to eat in an acceptable manner. I was skilled at mimicking movements so it appeared like I was eating "normal" in the past where I found myself stuck in front of someone expecting me to eat. But this time I was no longer trying to trick anyone, I was desperately trying to practice healthy habits. One of the hardest impulses to fight in my recovery even to this day is continuing to finish a meal I've started once I get upset. I use to refuse to finish eating if I got into an argument, got embarrassed or felt disappointed. Sometimes it feels like I'm trying to chew and swallow a cinder block but I have to mentally push myself to get past it, feel the feeling but not to allow it to control me.

Just like someone who has never had an eating disorder can never comprehend the desire to be so thin that I don't even have muscle or full functioning organs but instead just skin on bones or to disappear entirely, a person who has never walked in those shoes also will never understand how incredibly beautiful it is to simply eat something. No dramatic emotions before, obsessive thoughts during or devastation after.   

I've been in recovery for a little over three years and it has become easier to work with. The way I see it, I will always have an eating disorder. I've known self-destructive behaviors almost my entire life and rather than shut the door on my past I choose to own it and keep moving forward. I still slip up on occasion, like I said - I'm not "recovered" and my relationship with food and my body is not "perfect" but I've put far too much work into getting better to live that lifestyle ever again.  I believe in recovery, it's not possible for me to quit believing.

About the Author

A Texas native inspired by life experience, the unusually ordinary oddness of people and their ways, and dabbling in spontaneity. Lauren uses mixed mediums to create ominously playful artwork and a positive perception on the darker side of life in her writings as creative outlets in her recovery.

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Posted on 11/11/2014 9:30 AM by Lauren Kelley
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