Be Like A Dog

Be Like A Dog

Why you want to be more like a dog and how to do it.
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Unconditional love, loyal, playful, present, if you were to ask someone to mention a few words that come to mind when thinking of a dog, those words are not far-fetched. Why is it not as common for people to have all of those traits? What is keeping us from it, and how can we be more like a dog?

Have you ever noticed that when you accidentally step on a dogs paw, they don't equate the pain with any type of self pity or frustration? Maybe they squeal, but the next thing you know, they are wagging their tail, happy to see you. Dogs are where they are, and they don't let things from the past or future cloud their thoughts to the point of anxiety or anger.

We humans were given the gift to recall the past and dream of a brighter future, but unfortunately our ability to think about the past and future often becomes detrimental to many. Concerns and fears can easily strip the memories into worries and dreams into nightmares, taking us away from being present, playful, loyal, and that unconditional love.

What if we could have the best of both worlds? What if we could be like a dog, but still dream and focus to bring our desires to fruition? Well, you can! With what I like to call the three P's, presence, positivity, and persistence, we can catch our thoughts taking us in undesired directions, bring ourselves back in the moment, and then consciously take our thoughts to a better place.

By following the three P's, and consistently being present and conscious of our thoughts, we can re wire our brain, allowing us to naturally be more present and aligned with our natural state of well being. It takes about 30 days to rewire the brain, which can vary depending on how much energy you put into making the change, so persistence is key!

Would you positively practice presence and persistence if you knew it would make you more like a dog? I would! You can't wait for outside circumstances to magically make you have unconditional love, loyalty, be more playful and present. You have to create it yourself. “Effort, concentration, and mindfulness are the internal ways in which the mind restores itself from being out of balance and lost in confusion to a condition of ease, clarity, and wisdom NO external action needs to happen.” ―Sylvia Boorstein

Cover Image Credit: Brooke Lyn Landon

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We Need To Change How We Talk About Eating Disorders

It's time to have a conversation about eating disorders in all their forms.
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WARNING: The following article contains somewhat detailed descriptions of the ways in which eating disorders of all sorts can manifest. Please only read this if it’s safe for you.

We need to change the way we talk about eating disorders.

I open this piece with such a straightforward statement because straightforwardness is what we have historically been lacking. The “eating disorder,” that amorphous mass that only some people bother to categorize into specific diseases, lurks around mirrors, girls’ bathrooms, fashion magazines. It has formed a morbidly attractive sort of stigma that, perhaps ironically, has become bigger than the issue itself. Are eating disorders a biological or a psychological issue? Is the media responsible? Which aspects? And what are the symptoms of these disorders, anyway? Most people carry a vague notion of ribs that look sharp enough to piece skin, of hollowed-out faces bleached with jaundice, of puking in the restroom stalls between high school classes.

There are a lot of problems with this.

For one thing, we have all our definitions wrong. The spectrum of eating disorders extends far beyond the binary of binging and starving that most people imagine. Excessive exercise, “purging” food through laxatives or self-induced vomiting, and many other self-destructive mechanisms are often employed when one is struggling with an eating disorder. Not all of them fit into clean definitions; each case is unique, and needs to be treated as such.

With that in mind, another crucial issue is the fact that not all eating disorders stem from body image issues. Food may be withheld as a method of self-harm entirely irrelevant to discomfort with one’s body. Beyond even that, an eating disorder is often enough entirely physicalized. Sometimes the appetite just isn’t there, whether or not one recognizes their need and want to eat. Sometimes food chronically doesn’t go down right. These types of disorders are neither more or less important than those based on body image--but they are different, and need to be treated as such.

I’ll be candid for a moment. I have always been severely underweight. Since middle school, people would spread rumors that I had “anorexia,” that vague, stigma-shadowed beast that no one really understood. I was offended--and that’s another problem, because a disorder of any sort is never a flaw in one’s character, but that facet of mental health discussion merits an article--or several articles--of its own.

I denied these rumors, because I didn’t understand at the time that I was experiencing an eating disorder--but not one which emerged out of by desire to be thin, by any means. I hated being thin. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I also hated my “female” anatomy, and my body, desperately trying to tell me how broken and wrong it was, made a lifestyle out of rejecting food. As it turned out, there was a reason that I tended to eat so little and grow nauseous so easily. It was out of discomfort with my body: just not with my weight.

I never had the words to describe this. I knew I had weight problems; I knew I had trouble eating. But I didn’t intentionally starve myself. I didn’t make myself throw up. The last thing in the world that I wanted was to look like the obscenely thin models decorating endless magazine covers. So I couldn’t ask for help: whenever my parents, noticing my poor eating habits, tried to interrogate me about them, they didn’t know which questions to ask. We all knew something was wrong, but we also knew that the something wasn’t wrong, so we ignored it, let it fester and grow into something more and more dangerous as my incorrectly maturing body continued to fight vehemently against its own sustenance. Only now, allowing myself to fully recognize the vast number of health problems that fall under the eating disorder umbrella, am I able to seek out the help that I’ve needed all along.

That’s my story. Other people have very different ones. Some people fit the WebMD definitions of anorexia nervosa to a T. Many people do vomit in the bathrooms. Many girls are destroyed by those infamous magazine models. Many of our cultural assumptions about eating disorders aren’t incorrect--they’re just incomplete. Body image problems and eating disorders aren’t synonymous: they’re two separate beasts that manifest and interact in boundless ways, like a three-dimensional Venn diagram of inexplicably taboo disease.

This is by no means a complete discussion of our many, many problems with the treatment of eating disorders. Rather, it’s a prompt: I want to start a conversation. I want people to recognize their illnesses. I want us to seek comfort from those like and unlike us. I don’t want any other confused trans kids to spend nearly twenty years thinking they’re perfectly healthy when they aren’t. In a word, I want change--it’s long overdue.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Comorbidity Is Real, People: Alcohol And Anorexia

It's like putting together gasoline and a flame, not the best idea
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I'm sure as we all know, attending college on its own is a pain in the you know what...but attending college with an Eating Disorder? Don’t even get me started. I struggled with Anorexia and Bulimia ever since sophomore year of high school and went through treatment my senior year. I thought my journey through treatment would be the hardest thing I'd ever go through, but boy was I wrong.

I spent my summer before college living the life I always wished I could live during the darkest days of Anorexia. Just months out of the program, I went out, drank, partied, and allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. Bottom line, Alcohol equaled eating without thinking. During the day, although making great progress in my recovery, disordered thoughts surrounded me when it came to each meal. At night, when I was out with my friends and alcohol was in the mix, there was no limit to what I could eat. During this time, I had no idea I had a problem; I was just doing what everyone else around me was doing, sipping and having fun. Because of my experience with alcohol in the summer, I thought I was an expert when it came time to drinking in college. This is when it all went spiralling downhill.

Think about the stress that comes with beginning college and multiply that by infinity. That's what I felt. I had to figure out how to adjust to a completely new life while also adjusting to the still lingering Eating Disorder. My first night out at school, I blacked out. I thought this would be a one time thing thanks to my excitement around beginning a new chapter. Once again, I was utterly wrong. Drunk nights turned into days, and days turned into weeks. Any opportunity I had, I would drink. In the back of my mind I knew that my consumption was because I could finally eat without guilt, but I convinced myself it was because I was in college and that's what everyone did. Not only did alcohol help curb my anxiety around food, it gave me the confidence I never had. I was able to love myself, reduce my social anxiety, and on top of that, EAT? Sign me up.

Each morning after a blackout, I would promise myself and those around me that I would try to never black out again. I would monitor my consumption and make sure that I wasn't falling asleep in a bin of food before bed. I lied. The hardest part about this was that although the vodka may have kicked anxiety's butt while I was shoving food in my mouth the night before, it was one hundred times worse the next morning when I realized what I had consumed before. Knowing the damage the Eating Disorder and I had done, I wouldn't allow myself to eat all day until it was time to drink again the next night. I couldn't afford to eat anything when I was sober because I wasn't sure what would be consumed when drunk.

The vicious cycle continued for months, starving all day, drinking and eating all night, waking up in a random person's room covered in regret the next morning only to remember nothing. Not only were my friends getting tired of playing mom and waking up to texts asking what happened the night before, but I was getting tired of feeling like I was hit by a bus of guilt. My grades suffered, my relationships suffered, and my body suffered. The number one issue that came with this was the fact that I had no idea I had a problem. I had no time to realize there was an issue because the second I was sober again, I would drink. Any opportunity I had to fill my void and to allow my mind to be free, I would use alcohol to do it. A food truck at school? Let's drink for it. A talent show with food at it? Let's drink for it. A night in on a Wednesday? Lets drink for it.

Before I knew it, I looked in the mirror and saw someone I didn't recognize. My face was swollen, my body was stretched out, my eyes were sunken, and who knows what was going on inside. My body had suffered enough while struggling with Anorexia; alcohol could have only made it worse. Oh and did I mention that purging didn't stop either? When I wasn't able to become drunk enough to forget what I ate, my good friend Bulimia would ease my mind. No one knew that I was thinking this. Yes, people saw my actions while drunk. But only I was aware of the deeper issue.

I had learned the hard way. I entered college without being fully recovered. I used alcohol as a new form of control because I no longer could control my eating. I was still starving and the only thing that would cure my starvation was alcohol. It took an entire year for me to take a step back and look at my reflection and realize what I had done. I barely remembered my first year of college. How could I let a year go and end it to only remember the hangovers? I remembered what I went through to get from my lowest weight to where I was before entering college - the effort I put into recovery. I needed to find that strong person again and fight two times harder. It took time, a lot of time. I can’t say exactly what helped me stop relying on alcohol to eat each meal, but I believe in balance. Everything happens for a reason and I know now, that I am sober, that what I struggled with was a test of God that I failed before I passed. Each person likes to have control in a different way, and I used alcohol to feel control when the Eating Disorder could no longer do so. I know now that I don't need to drink to feel comfortable with myself, I know now that I can still drink without having to black out and be able to eat, and I know now that although recovery is hard, it is worth it. I’ll never get back my freshman year of college but I know that getting better allowed me to live the next few years to the best of my ability.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.lucidatreatment.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SelectiveEatingDisorderYouAreWhatYouDontEat-e1410399822561.jpg

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