Jodie Dana

@jodi_ey | contributor
I had lost the ability to learn before I had dyslexia. I was a failure before I had bulimia. I was full of shame. I now find pride and courage as I exchange silence for dialogue.
Jodie Dana
Jodie Dana @jodi_ey
contributor

How Travel Has Influenced My Eating Disorder Recovery

As we approach the first summer in five years that my feet may not stray from the pathways that have become my mundane, I question what it is to travel with an eating disorder. For this writing, I approach travel as the voluntary act of temporarily being within, outside of and between any given space or place. I travel from a degree of privilege, of freewill and of leisure. Wherever I travel, my eating disorder is there with me. This is a realization full of irony, as for years I looked to travel as an escape from bulimia, the troubles that led me to it and the troubles it led me to. It is no mystery that an eating disorder is one ecosystem you can’t run away from by hopping on a plane, but that was a sobering reality I had to learn. Yet, travel has still always been a break from life, an escape to Neverland and an open invitation to all you didn’t know you needed and for which your soul has always yearned. For years, the promise of adventure is what got me through a lot of the times I wasn’t traveling, when I was in the pits on an undiagnosed eating disorder, in the torment of accepting a diagnosis and in the relentlessness that is illness and recovery. The promise of the bubble of travel has been, at times, the flavor or life I needed to continue to hold on to my will to live. The life I can see in the eyes of others and feel in myself on holiday, exchange and seasonal work, is what I fight for whenever the mental health struggles take me to the states of mind where there seems to only be defeat and darkness. It is for this reason, that I have appeared to from the outside perspective put vacations as a priority before my health. I have taken months away from the much-stressed structured life and routine that some health care professions swear by as one of the fundamental to eating disorder recovery for living out of a bag, long days and sharing bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens with strangers. I have left behind my primary health care providers for months of self-management and the odd page of a self-help book. In the lands of the gap-years, this is not a particularly hard time for the backpacker, but for the person with an eating disorder, being around other people, other foods and other schedules can be difficult. I have been on 17-hour trains needing to be sick, on seven-hour flights and 11-hour bus rides. I have eaten four different meals at three different food joints in an airport in less than hour while waiting for a flight. I have gone days eating only oatmeal as it was the only food I felt safe eating. Watched my weight drop, seen my weight build, changed outfits four times a day and avoided being seen in as little as a bikini for nearly an entire summer. Getting dressed up for a special event has brought me to floods of tears. I have stood, twisted and pinched at my body before breakfast and the rest of the day thereafter. But these are all things that I would engage with whether I was traveling or not. Then there are times I ate a whole meal on a plane including cake without any complications. I have achieved some of my greatest accomplishments so far in recovery during times of travel. Most recently, I learned the importance of the role my surroundings have during meal and snack times in whether I am able to cope in this situation. Sometimes, I nearly almost enjoy eating if I choose carefully where I eat! Traveling, despite my eating disorder, has been paramount in changing my belief that I was the illness to being someone who happened to have an illness. Traveling introduced me to new people, cultures and support systems. From travel, those who I have met and become friends with during this process of freedom, I am learning the art of acceptance, the joy of change and the values that really create a home. With travel I am learning to negotiate my recovery, my life, through a life I want for myself. Without travel, for myself, I do not see recovery from my mental illness, as I do not see the development of skills such as being proactive with my own health, monitoring my own health and learning to uphold my health through many situations life will throw at me. I have become more resilient, more capable and more determined as an individual and especially as someone dealing with ill health and recovery. Travel has allowed me to explore myself as much as the world as something distinctive from bulimia and has encouraged me to both be who I am, but to also keep on fighting for who I can be.

Jodie Dana
Jodie Dana @jodi_ey
contributor

To the Parental Figure Who Doesn't Understand My Eating Disorder

Dear Parental Figure, Together, we could write entire libraries or host whole film festivals on a lack of understandings of one another. At least that is how it feels when your understanding does not include who I see myself to be. I was a child, and maybe you will always class me as your child, and to a degree I always will be. I love you. You might question this at times and for that, I am sorry. I do try to speak your language of love even though you may not speak mine. I am growing, as we all are, now some say that I am grown. Parental figure, I have an illness and it is called an eating disorder. No matter how society let you or made you deal with your problems, no amount of “just getting on with it” will ever see me “get over it.” This particular multifaceted problem is an illness, a disease, a disorder that has embedded itself in my thoughts, feelings and actions. There is no sustainable way to “just carry on” without the resources and support needed that won’t have me destroy everything that I am. Whether you like it or not, no one is as strong as you expect me, my siblings or yourself to be. I know you care and I know you have problems showing it; that at many times your silence and forever disappearing presence is your way of caring. I know this and I accept this for I am done trying to change this, to change you. I know you care. I know you love but I must reason with myself to “know” this, I have rarely felt it and that is not on you, me or us. It is. That is all it needs to be. We do not need to understand each other as nice as that may be, and we don’t need to blame each other for this either. Can’t you accept it? Must you deny me my experiences through your quest ofstraight-forward, black-and-white, all-or-nothing answers. I can be ill and look — to you — “fine.” I do need time to work through this even if “this” is non-existent to you. I need your acceptance if you do not fully understand whatyou are accepting. Accept me even if you cannot label me, even if I do not fit into who you wanted me to be. Must you keep your shoulder cold to me, must you probe me, must you try and dismiss me because you cannot understand me? The illness that I have is as real as the bottom of the ocean, even if you have not ever found yourself walking it. I am fighting a strength that you see as much as you do gravity. What I have, and therefore who I am because of what I deal with, is real even if you cannot know me. Can you please stop invalidating me as a default for not being able to validate me, and instead try believing in me? You may have broken my heart, but that doesn’t mean that you’renot still in it. I love you lots and wish that despite our differences, we will allow each other what is needed in order to grow. Yours with all hope that these words may one day find you, Your Child

Jodie Dana
Jodie Dana @jodi_ey
contributor

21 Things Working at a Summer Camp Taught Me About Mental Health

Summer camp: a space of shared experiences with focus on both the notion of tradition and the empowerment of a generation. Camp is so much more than s’mores and bug spray. I outline the 21 lessons I learned about my mental health from working at an American summer camp. 1. Friends are fundamental. Friends are to well-being what the sun is to the sunflower. A friendship of shared acceptance and support for each other’s true and healthy selves can alone be the source of some of your best times, as well as the strength and the energy for some of your hardest times. True friends help and celebrate the growth of one another. 2. Family is both prescribed and fluid. Family — you can choose your own! The saying you can’t choose your family is true to an extent, as it is the case for many as young children. As I’ve grown, seeing, and in some senses, becoming, a part of the family others find in summer camp, I have learned there is choice in who you call home. 3. It’s “normal” for something new or different to feel scary. The experience of fear or anxiety does not define who you are or who you will become. The feelings are valid, temporary and sometimes unjust. Hear them, sooth them and plunge into the crispy-cold lake water because of and in spite of them. 4. You don’t have to be the best at something or even good at something to take part and enjoy the activity. Whether it be water sports, land sports or being with friends, s ometimes the purest feelings of joy can be found in simply being who and where you are. 5. Maximize the quality of your breaks. In camp, as in life outside of camp, your own time, a time for rest and recuperation, can easily pass you as you run between limitless tasks, activities and responsibilities. Therefore, when you have some “me-time,” use it mindfully and maximize the potential benefit time can have on your well-being based on your specific needs at that time. If you need to nap, nap. If making a start on your laundry puts you at ease, do that and do so with friends or alone, do what you need how you need to. 6. Take ownership over your work-life balance. A break, rest or downtime will not always come and find you, so create it. This is your right and responsibility to yourself, friends, family and community. 7. Everyone is affected by their health. Yes, including those you look up to, those you see every day and those you don’t. 8. Seeking access to opportunities is not shameful. Everyone has needs, obstacles and challenges — and they are all different. Adjusting and seeking, increasing and upholding accessibility is beautiful, meaningful and critical. 9. Needs change. Seeing others experience the roller coaster of emotions and circumstances from day to day, week in and week out — it’s a fact of life. Needs change in all directions at all different speeds and that is OK. 10. Outsourcing medical support is not a sign of failure, it is a means to meeting a need, it is necessary for health. I didn’t see one person the whole summer who didn’t at some point look to another for help, advice or support — whether this be emotional, practical, medical or otherwise. 11. Crying in public is not uncommon and can be perfectly healthy to do so. There are more tears at camp than there are pine trees, both are glorious and strong. 12. Taking prescribed medication or other over-the-counter medications to promote your health is a cause for celebration, not shame. Watch a seven-year-old take eye drops and tell me this is not a cause for celebration. 13. You really are not the only one. Ever. 14. Who and what you surround yourself with daily is vital to your mental health. Think sincere smiles, encouragement and love. 15. You cannot do everything. This is not a challenge. It’s a fact. Free yourself from unattainable standards. 16. Seeking and accepting help can be incredibly empowering. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 17. You can make your own traditions . You don’t have to live from anyone else’s calendar — celebrate what you want, remember, recognize and relive what works for you. 18. Appreciation goes a long way. A scrap piece of paper with the right word can be all it takes to lift someone’s spirits. A pat on the back works, too. 19. Finding and using your own voice and having this heard is invaluable to health. If you speak, there is always someone listening. 20. Personal growth is a good thing. I don’t know a single person who has left camp with less than they came with, and I know they would all do it again in a heartbeat if they could. 21. You matter. You always have and you always will.

Jodie Dana
Jodie Dana @jodi_ey
contributor

Why My Friends Are My Reason for Eating Disorder Recovery

In almost every self-help book I have come across, the very first psychologists I interacted with and the odd blog, they all talked of finding your “why.” Your “why” is your reason, purpose and driving force during this journey that is managing and recovering from an eating disorder . I’m sure many people have their reason for many things and rarely is this really questioned. Though, every guide to recovery seems to be telling me I needed to be my reason why. No one else. Me. Me and recovery or any other reason and illness. As an individual experiencing nearly her 10th year of living with an eating disorder , this sounded impossible. As someone with a bully for an internal narrator, how was I ever to achieve this? For as long as I have known, bulimia nervosa had me believing, without any shred of doubt, that I was a shameful and monstrous human being. How then am I meant to find the drive within me to go forth and commit to recovery as a commitment to my life? Bulimia has seen me to death’s door more than once, hidden any goodness of mine away from my eyes and starved me of energy. How then am I to will recovery into motion? Luckily, I actually didn’t have to find my “why” within myself. I had a world full of people in whom I believed instead. My “why” was and still is my friends, in part for how they have raised me to be my own reason to live on. In the purest form, they had hope when I had long since lost the meaning of the word. My reason to give myself a chance, to believe in myself, was almost solely based on these words my friends said: “Jodie,” they began in some of my most difficult times. “We care about you and we worry for you. We understand that you want to help us and if that is really the case then show us, get support, look after yourself and help us with that.” You don’t always have to be your own reason, so long as it the “why” is most sincere and truly met with unconditional love, support and a desire and ability to create a supportive environment.

Jodie Dana
Jodie Dana @jodi_ey
contributor

Not Celebrating Christmas Because You're in Eating Disorder Recovery

Home is, for now, a building somewhere in the United Kingdom with my two parents and two brothers. Like many across the U.K., Christmas is a holiday we have observed for as long as I can remember. This year — years into my eating disorder recovery — I am choosing not to partake in such festivities. Christmas, like many holidays and festivals, is heavily characterized by the food we buy, prepare, cook and share over the days leading up to and including the December 25. If your family is anything like mine, this is probably the same food (leftovers) you will be consuming for the days following this oh-so-exciting day. I apologize for the sarcasm. But how do you really tell those who raised you, and you were raised with, that you don’t want to spend that one day a year we are all expected to be together around a table, with them, around a table? Recovery for me is, at this time, a full-time juggling act simultaneously combined with some long jumps and a three-legged race. Recovery is also a determination of mine. It has taken years for me to reach this stage of mental preparedness and readiness to recover. Regarding Christmas, it is a question of whether I temporarily untie that rope engaging me in this three-legged race so I can keep on juggling, upholding my health and needs. The truth is: food is difficult me right now and unlike many full-time jobs, I don’t get benefits such as public holidays off. The festive season is laced with guilt, shame and constant exposure to something I am yet to overcome. It’s not a matter of not sitting around the table; it’s having you laugh as you stock up the kitchen cupboards, play board games whilst waiting for the potatoes to roast and the pressure of this being a time of ease and joy. I do not wish to have to put my needs aside so that I can entertain someone else’s idea of relaxation and celebration. Mom, Dad, if you’re seeing this, I kindly ask that you don’t serve me disappointment or shame when I turn down the Christmas offerings.

Community Voices

Bulimia is shit #BulimiaNervosa

I just hate it, I really really hate it, but I know that I hate being overweight even more. I just hate everything today. I am so so upset, I want to control when and what I eat. I am just done

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Erin
Erin @erin_c416
contributor

I'm Done Apologizing for My Learning Disability

I have struggled with a learning disability and slow processing speed since elementary school. Slow processing speed is exactly what it sounds like — the brain takes in and responds to stimuli and other information much slower than “normal.” I vividly remember always taking longer than everyone else to do basic things like complete a short worksheet, do my part of an in-class group work assignment, and take a test. Although I may work at a “slower” pace than my peers, the pace I work at allows me to access my work and complete it to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. The education system tends to view someone who is “slow” as a burden and an “inconvenience” to the class. This view has been strictly enforced throughout my educational career, mainly by my peers and teachers constantly telling me to hurry up or something to make me feel guilty and apologize for being slow. I used to apologize over a million times a day for it, but not anymore. I’m done apologizing for the “inconvenience” of slow processing and I’m not sorry. To my teachers, I’m not sorry for trying my best to learn just like my peers. I’m not sorry for “slowing down” and “holding back” the class. I’m not sorry for “taking too long” to give you an answer. I’m not sorry that you can’t be patient with bright, capable students like me. To my peers, I’m not sorry for “not being good or fast enough.” I’m not sorry for taking a class that “isn’t for people like me.” I’m not sorry for refusing to conform to your outrageous mold that I clearly don’t fit into nor want to. I’m also not sorry for “ruining your grade.” To my workplace, I’m not sorry for my “inability” to do “simple math.” I’m not sorry that I’m not answering your question right away. I’m not sorry for attending a college that I’m “clearly not capable of attending.” Yes, I’m also not sorry for not caring one bit. I am who I am and I refuse to apologize for being me and for a condition I have no control over. My advice to anyone who is struggling with the pressure and expectation of apologizing for slow processing speed is to embrace the strengths it gives you as well as the difference it makes. For me, slow processing speed gives me the ability to savor a moment, make rich connections to ideas and have a solidified understanding of the theories of the world. Slow processing has also given me confidence as a learner since it constantly keeps me within the learning style that works for me. There is also a major difference in my overall performance when my processing speed is accommodated versus when I’m under the timer. The difference is whether I succeed or fail, and I choose to succeed just like everyone else. I also learned that the haters will eventually slow down and understand, even if they seem reluctant. I’m #NotSorry for the “inconvenience,” and you will never change my mind.

Community Voices

It’s OK not the be OK

<p>It’s OK not the be OK</p>
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Community Voices

I relapsed and I hate myself. #Anxiety #Depression

I am in the final weeks of my semester and applying to grad school. I am stressed and #anxious all the time. I was really trying to get through it without #Selfinjury behaviors. But today I failed. I am recovering from an #EatingDisorders and have used purging to cope with anxiety for a long time :/ Anyway, I was already stressed amd then ate pizza at a school meeting. I felt too full and gross...so I went to the bathroom and purged. Now I am scared that I’ve opened the valve and I’ll fall back into all my SI behaviors. How can I cope? Any advice? I am desperate.

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Community Voices

A note to ease the pain

I wrote a note today, in hopes that it will give some understanding to people in my life if why I just want to end my suffering. I hope that when that time comes, someone is able to find it and share it with others. I hope that somehow through my suffering, more people are able to actually get the help they need. This world is such a sad place in so many ways... #Depression #ChronicPain #ChronicIllness #MentalHealth #Suicide #HealthCare

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