Learning to Stay Grounded While Living with DID

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If you know someone who is living with a mental illness, such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), you may hear the word “grounding” used in regards to managing the condition. What does this mean, and how does it impact those living with DID?

Addressing Dissociation

In order to understand grounding and what it means to be grounded, it’s first important to grasp the concept of dissociation. When an individual DID is feeling dissociated, it means that he or she may feel “out of body.” Dissociation is a mechanism that the mind uses to escape perceived danger in a particular environment.

I often assimilate dissociation with being in a dream-like state. My mind is entirely elsewhere, seeking safety from a threat that may not actually pose any harm, but simply arise due to past trauma. A certain sound may trigger me, for example, and signal to my brain that it’s time to seek safety in the form of dissociation.

In short, dissociation is a coping mechanism, and while it doesn’t necessarily cause harm, there can be negative consequences. When I am dissociated, for instance, I feel out of my body and mind simultaneously. This means that if I am engaged in a conversation, I may not remember it later on because I was mentally absent while it was occurring.

Memory lapses are not uncommon in people living with DID, and dissociation in general can quickly become a way of life if it is not addressed through means, such as grounding.

Becoming Grounded with DID

Being grounded is the opposite of being dissociated. In short, it means that you are living in the present, and your mind is entirely aware of its surroundings. You haven’t been triggered, and your brain is not searching for a way to escape perceived danger.

For those living with DID, becoming grounded is much easier than it sounds. When you have a trauma history and are used to feeling threatened, dissociation is more familiar than feeling grounded. That being said, being grounded is essential to the healing process. It is in this state that those with DID are able to converse with their different personalities, and more importantly, interact with others in everyday life.

Grounding Techniques for DID

To get grounded, I use a few different techniques. Deep breathing is one of my favorites because it’s easy to do virtually anywhere at any time, and it quickly provides results. If I have the opportunity to go the extra mile, I try to squeeze in a meditation session instead.

Another method I use to get grounded is to look around the room and pick three objects of the same color. I repeat the process until my mind regains an understanding of its surroundings, and the fact that there is no actual danger in the environment.

Sometimes, my mind has become dissociated to the point that I need the help of a prescribed medication to calm down. It’s in these moments that I try to focus less on the stigma behind the medication and more on the fact that it is providing me with the help I need to become present.

Dissociation looks different for everyone, as does being grounded. It’s important to explore different ways to get grounded and find what works best for you.

Coping With My Eating Disorder During Pregnancy

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Eating disorders during pregnancy are serious. When I found I was pregnant with my son over 10 years ago, I was still firmly in the grip of my eating disorder. I had what is known as eating disorder not otherise specified (EDNOS), also refered to as other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). As my doctor explained it, this is a name used to describe people who did not categorically check all the boxes of anoerxia nervosa or bulimia, but still had a high-risk eating disorder. 

In my case, I'd starve myself for short periods, do my best to eat normally for short periods, and then binge and purge for short periods. These periods typically lasted anywhere from a day to four days. 

Pregnancy With An Eating Disorder: A Wake Up Call

I hadn't planned to get pregnant when I did, but at that point, had been trying to eek my way into recovery for a few months. Seeing those two lines on the pregnancy test shoved me into it. I mention this timeline so it's clear that I was ready to seriously try to get better when I became pregnant. This is in contrast to women who find out they are pregnant and have not thought seriously about their recovery. I cannot speak to this experience, though I know it must be extremely stressful and even disassociating. 

Here's what I mean by that: even as someone who was willing and ready to get better for the sake of myself and my child, my disease still had me in its grip and it was still a main focus of my life. Logically, I understood I was pregnant but emotionally, my child may as well have been on Mars. I didn't feel that instant connection that many women talk about feeling. To be honest, I didn't get that feeling until months after my child was born. I was shell-shocked by the whole experience--shock being the operative word. 

So did I stop being bulimic and starving myself as soon as I found out I was pregnant? I am lucky to be able to say yes, but again, I'd made headway toward that end before becoming pregnant. I'd gone weeks without purging and had been trying to consistently listen to my body's cues for hunger. 

I am not going to say it was easy, though. There were many times I had to talk myself down off a ledge and keep myself away from the bathroom after eating a big meal. There were lots of times I had to remind myself not to fight my growing belly and to welcome it. 

As I already mentioned, connecting with my child and the experience of being pregnant was difficult during this first pregnancy. My subsequent pregnancies would give me the space I needed from my disease to really feel that connection. However, if it weren't for that first, unexpected pregnancy during my eating disorder, I am not sure I would have had the motivation to get better.  

Next week, I'll be talking about the strategies I used to get through my pregnancy with an eating disorder. In the meantime, I invite you to share your experiences.

Do you have experience with eating disorders during pregnancy? Share in the comments. 

How to Speak Up When Your Therapist Is Wrong

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Therapy has been my number one tool in my recovery, but every now and again, my therapist is wrong about something, and it freaks me out. I've had several therapists over the years, and in the past, when a therapist misunderstood something I said or made an assumption that was incorrect, I had no idea how to respond. I felt ignored, wrong, and bad, and I had no idea how to say any of this to them. But it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to speak up when you're being misunderstood. And I want to help.

It's Okay If Your Therapist Is Wrong

First, I want to reassure you that it's okay if your therapist is wrong. At first, I took this as a sign that my therapists didn't "get me," or that I had failed therapy somehow, but recently I've started to see it in a new light. Therapy is many things, but I usually treat it as a safe space to vent and get some reassurance from a professional that I'm going to be okay. These are good things, but therapy is also something else: a chance to learn and practice new ways of relating to others. 

The truth is, sometimes people are going to misunderstand you. They're going to make assumptions, they're going to be wrong. And a lot of the time, it won't have anything to do with you. We're all only human, and we're going to make mistakes. When this happens in therapy, it's actually an opportunity to practice how you can react when people misunderstand you outside of therapy.

What To Do When Your Therapist Is Wrong

The first step toward speaking up when your therapist is wrong comes well before there's a misunderstanding. You have to start by letting your therapist know that you sometimes have trouble correcting people or speaking up for yourself. I've found that it's easier to do this when there isn't any active conflict going on. If they know this is an issue for you, therapists can help you understand why it's so difficult for you, and they can be on the lookout for any potential misunderstandings that might upset you.

Still, even if you do talk to your therapist before there's an issue, it might still be very hard to speak up when there's a real misunderstanding. So here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  1. If you have to, preface your disagreement with an apology. One of my therapy goals is to be able to disagree with others without feeling like I'm being a problem, which means eventually I want to be able to cut out this apology. But for now, it helps me get the ball rolling. The other day when I corrected my therapist, I started by saying "I'm sorry if this is stupid or makes you upset, but..." I hope in the future I can speak my mind and be myself without apologizing, but right now, it's a necessary evil if I want to be truly honest.
  2. Explain how you're feeling. One of the reasons I struggle so much to correct people when they misunderstand me is because I don't always want to clarify how I'm feeling because I'm ashamed of it. I'm often upset by things that I worry other people think is stupid, I frequently misinterpret people's responses in a way that paints them in a pretty negative light, and I'm not always eager to point this out in case it makes the other person upset with me. But in therapy especially, it's important to work through these feelings of shame. My shame is at the root of my troubles when it comes to correcting or disagreeing with people, and until I work through those feelings, it won't get any easier.
  3. Thank your therapist for listening to your disagreement. Whenever you haven't actually done anything wrong, like when you're simply disagreeing with your therapist, try to replace apologies with gratitude. If you can't cut out the apology entirely, try adding a thank you as well. Thank your therapist for listening to you and making this a safe space for disagreement.
  4. Afterwards, talk about how the interaction went. After you've successfully talked through the actual disagreement, ask your therapist if you can also talk through how the interaction went. Talk about how you felt, get their feedback on how effectively you communicated, and maybe get some advice on how you can be calmer or more communicative in a real world situation.

Have you had trouble disagreeing with your therapist? Have you had any successes? Share your experiences with our community in the comments.

How to Make Opposite Action Work for You

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When you are feeling down, it can be easy to act in a way that represents how you feel. Unfortunately, doing this only prolongs the negative emotion. However, a technique that I find to be very interesting and valuable is called "opposite action." This post will teach you about the benefits of opposite action for mood disorders and how to practice it.

What Is Opposite Action?

Opposite action has three parts that come into play: feelings, thoughts, and actions. This skill helps you identify your feelings, acknowledge your thoughts, and choose healthy actions. Here is one personal example. When I was about to go on a date with a boy I really liked in high school, he canceled at the last minute. This made me feel really sad. Instead of brushing it off, I ruminated on it and thought I did something wrong. I spent the rest of the weekend crying. 

To many people, my behavior might have sounded typical for a teenage girl. However, it was still not healthy. When this happens now, I try to use opposite action by telling myself that even though being stood up hurts, it is not the end of the world. It was not my fault. Thus, I am better at accomplishing daily tasks, knowing that my sadness will dissipate.

Of course, I am not perfect at this skill; nobody is perfect at it. Emotions are complex, and they are valid. Opposite action simply helps you respond to emotions in a healthy way.

5 Steps to Practice Opposite Action

If you have tried to take opposite actions and have found it difficult, you are not alone. Here are some ideas that can help you make this strategy effective.

  1. Acknowledge your emotion. By taking a moment to acknowledge a painful emotion before you react to it, you will avoid making a regretful decision. For instance, when your coworker refuses to work on a team project, you might feel so frustrated that you want to yell at the person. If you acknowledge your frustration first, you can tame the emotion and come up with a new solution in an appropriate manner.
  2. Give yourself a pep talk. When a friend is nervous about something, you would give that person a brief speech for encouragement (commonly known as a pep talk). This can work to boost your self-esteem as well. You can do this in your head simply by thinking of a few positive affirmations. If you are comfortable with it, you can also give yourself a pep talk in the mirror before you start your day.
  3. Do an enjoyable activity. While enjoyable activities can seem like distractions from negative emotions, tasks, or circumstances, they can actually be very beneficial. Think of enjoyable activities as stretching between sets during a workout. They prevent you from getting burned out too quickly or making the wrong actions. After a few minutes of doing enjoyable activities, it will be easier for you to continue a task in a safe and proper manner.
  4. Visualize yourself making progress. Some tasks can seem difficult or boring. Letting them sit there for a while will not change that; it will only add to your stress. By pushing yourself just a little bit to get started, you will be one step closer to an accomplishment. Every moment that passes is a moment closer to crossing something off your to-do list.
  5. Treat yourself for accomplishing difficult tasks. Taking opposite action definitely requires effort. Everyone deserves to be rewarded for a job well done. You can reward yourself by going to a movie or trying a new restaurant. If you are able to achieve opposite action for a certain period of time, treat yourself to something more luxurious such as a vacation.

Have you achieved opposite action? If not, I challenge you to try it next time you are feeling down about something. Feel free to share your insights in the comments.

Coping with Self-Harm: Nature Helped Me Heal

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When I was at my lowest, nothing seemed to help control the chaos that reigned my head. My self-harm was getting out of control, to the point that I was counting down the minutes to my next episode.

It usually helps when you have a strong support system. Someone you could talk to. Someone who’d understand. But I had nobody, and my family had just broken apart. 

There were times when I kept my self-harm urges under control for their sake. I didn’t want them to discover my scars. I wanted to spare them the worry. But now that I had no one to protect, my harmful behavior seemed to spin out of control.

Finding Self-Harm Distractions in Outdoor Activities

I spiraled deep into the maze of self-harm and depression, sitting inside my four walls, feeling sorry for myself. I felt imprisoned, as if the walls of my bedroom were closing in on me. So I decided to go out for a breath of fresh air. 

To my surprise, it didn’t just stop there. I started walking. And I didn’t stop until a few hours later.

I walked at least six miles every day, sometimes with tears in my eyes, until I faced physical exhaustion. It was difficult to walk with a heavy heart at first. But with time, my body got stronger. 

Walking didn’t just invigorate my body; it energized my mind, too. With each step, I was getting rid of my toxic self-harm thoughts. I walked and walked until my legs got tired. Until my mind was calm, and I could think of nothing at all.

The Positive Effect of Nature on Self-Harm

One day, I walked far enough to reach a river just outside my town. By that river, there was an abandoned bench, waiting there for me. As if someone left it there on purpose. 

I sat on it, taking a little break from walking. As the first signs of tiredness started to leave my body, I felt something I haven’t in a long while: peace. 

In front of me, a ray of sunlight sprinkled across the water, shining so bright that I had to squint. I listened as the waves splashed against the shore, playfully disrupting the ducks that were just floating on the surface, uncaring of anything else in the world.

I looked and listened, and for the first time, I thought I finally found myself. In my head, there was nothing but admiration for the beautiful surroundings. At that moment, I was part of it. I deserved to shine, too.

It was at that moment that I decided that self-harm had to stop. 
 

How Anxiety Pushed Me to Find Community in a Pandemic

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Is it sweaty palms and perspiration on your brow no matter the weather? What about a pit in your stomach that craves to be filled? How about that tightness in your chest from a rapid heartbeat or labored breathing? My anxiety takes shape in many physical forms. What does your anxiety look like?

Anxiety Consumes as Pandemic Looms

I have struggled with getting my anxiety under control for years. Like a fighter jet locked onto their target, my anxiety shoots straight for the heart. Breathing becomes shallow and fast while my mind races from lack of oxygen and fear. This is closely followed by sweaty palms. A subtle pain in my stomach ends the battle.

We are six months into a pandemic that has caused us to isolate and distance ourselves from those who keep us connected and grounded. When I feel anxious, my first response was always to take myself out of my current environment and get outside. I mixed and mingled with my community to lighten the burden of worry and racing thoughts.

Lockdown With Anxiety

This lockdown has taken away my, and maybe some of your, usual ways of connecting with the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc.) community. We can no longer mingle at a bar, drink coffee at a bookstore, share stories in a group at our local pride center, or connect for events like concerts or sports. Our LGBTQIA+ community was ground down and molded into something new and virtual quicker than my psyche could keep up at times.

Between isolation and lack of community, I have felt anxiety creep in more often. With many outlets for releasing this unwanted pressure closed or inaccessible, I felt hopeless at times.The added pressure I place upon myself for feeling more anxious was not helpful either. During this lockdown period, have you been your own worst critics sometimes? 

LGBTQIA+ Community Connections For The Win

This carried on until I gave myself a proverbial break. I allowed myself to feel the weight of the world as it transformed. I no longer ran from the different ways of life, I embraced it. I allowed myself to feel the emotions surrounding this unprecedented time in history. This gave my anxiety less fuel to feed off.

I also began getting creative in the way I searched for my community. I made more phone calls and text message efforts to friends and acquaintances in my LGBTQIA+ community. I searched out online Zoom meetings relating to LGBTQIA+ interests. Small steps of reaching out ignited in me the passion for connection again.

What does your anxiety look like? What creative ways have you found to connect with your community? Leave your thoughts and comments in the box below. One individual's skill mastery could be another first day on the job with it. 

Next week, I will be demonstrating a short meditation technique called a body scan. Come back next Monday to learn how to use this valuable meditation when anxiety rears its ugly head. 

Being a Realist with Bipolar

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I'm a realist, and I have bipolar disorder. I find this is a troublesome combination. I think this is because people often see realism as negativity, especially when you have bipolar. Realism isn't negativity, however. It's okay to be realistic with bipolar.

What Is Realism in Bipolar?

Realism is a simple thing. Realism is simply about being realistic about what is going on around you. It's about saying when something is awful. It's about saying when something is amazing. It's about being honest about how you feel at a given moment.

When you're a realist with bipolar disorder, you may be forced to admit that there are many more awful things than there are amazing ones. You may also be forced to admit that your future doesn't necessarily look as bright as someone else who doesn't have bipolar disorder. Finally, you may be able to accurately predict some negative things that you also may be forced to admit to. All of this can come across to a person as negative, but if it's a realistic view of your life and your feelings, then it's realism about bipolar -- not negativism.

The Problem with Being a Realist with Bipolar Disorder

The problem with being a realist with bipolar disorder is that others feel like you're "being negative" when really, all you're being is realistic. When you're depressed, things are awful. Depression is awful. Saying this out loud isn't unreasonably negative, it's honest. Others, however, don't necessarily perceive it that way.

Inevitably, realists will run into Positive Pattys who insist on looking at everything through rose-colored glasses. These Positive Pattys are completely unrealistic and almost delusional about their own lives, let alone yours. And so it goes that Positive Pattys give you lectures about "looking on the bright side." They tell you that you're being negative. They tell you that if you would just look at things differently, everything would be fine. Positive Patty may even deny mental illness because she (or he) feels that just "being positive" fixes everything.

I'm a Realist with Bipolar Disorder; I Don't Like Patty

To put it succinctly, Patty and I do not mix.

To put it another way, I would say that I don't have a lot of patience for delusional people that have no understanding of what a real, serious mental illness is. Honestly, Patty's view of the world annoys me from 20 feet away. When she gets up in my face about my own life, I kind of want to strangle her.

However, I don't strangle people. Instead, I would say this: If being a Positive Patty works for you, then go for it. I'm not about taking away things that work for people.

That said, I strongly suspect Positive Pattys will wake up one day and discover that life isn't what they've been espousing and they'll be very upset about it, and they'll find it doesn't work. But that's Patty's issue, not mine.

If You're a Realist with Bipolar and Run into a Positive Patty

If you run into a Positive Patty, that person might make you feel like there's something wrong with you, like there's something wrong with what you think and how you see the world. Self-reflection is healthy, but don't let someone who chooses to be semi-delusional change what is right for you. Being realistic is okay. Acknowledging your pain and suffering is okay. Acknowledging just how hard it is to live with bipolar disorder is okay. As long as you've tempered that with thoughts about what you know is great, it's okay. Walk away from Positive Patty and just know that being a Realistic Rick is perfectly acceptable if it works for you.

Work Stress Can Lead to Suicide; It Doesn't Have To

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Trigger warning: This posts involves frank discussion of work stress and suicide, suicidal feelings, and ideations.

We live in a culture that prioritizes productivity and output above connection, rest, and self-care -- all essential components to maintaining mental health. As such, our sense of self-worth is often intimately tied up with our professional and financial lives. When you live with bipolar disorder, and all of the workplace challenges that come with it, that sense of worthiness can plummet into a lurch of suicidal feelings and ideation. I know, because work stress has taken me to those depths.

Financial and Work Stress Can Lead to Suicidal Feelings

Like many fresh graduates, I struggled to make ends meet when I finished college. The first full-time job I was able to get was inside sales for an office supply company that barely paid over the minimum wage. Since I couldn't afford to live on my own, I had to temporarily move in with family members who lived two hours away from my workplace, which meant I spent a total of four hours a day in my car getting to and from work.

That I had over $40,000 in student loans to pay off and was trying to plan my wedding at the time only added to my stress. I felt almost unbearable work stress and like a complete failure for not getting a better job, for having to move back home when I'd previously been very independent, for depending on financial support from my family and partner so I didn't fall into insolvency. The stress and shame sent me into a dangerous depressive episode. I began having suicidal and self-harming ideations and came very close to checking myself into inpatient care at the state psychiatric hospital.

I was able to pull through with the support of those around me, but finding stable (and profitable) work continued to be a struggle for the next several years. Rejection letter after rejection letter (and that's if I was lucky -- most of the time I was met with silence) made the job hunt so demoralizing that I could barely muster up the motivation to do it, even though I knew I had to.

It was only after I received my bipolar diagnosis in 2019 and began proper treatment that I was finally able to begin building a stable career path. I'm still not quite where I hope to be in the near future, but I'm making good progress and feeling more confident than I have in a long time. I know that I am lucky -- there are many who are not so fortunate.

The Normalization of Work Stress and Burnout Is Dangerous

According to the American Psychological Association, Americans cite work stress and financial worries as the most common personal stressors in their daily lives.1 Contrary to popular belief, career and money woes are not always the result of "bad choices" or a lack of initiative: the cost of living has risen exponentially within the last two decades, whereas wages have remained relatively stagnant.2

Even with a good education and solid work experience, it can be difficult to find work that pays the bills and is emotionally and mentally fulfilling. Combine this with the way that stress, burnout, and exhaustion are normalized and even praised as signs of a "hard worker" in our society, it's no wonder that suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death among Americans3 -- and a global pandemic, social and political unrest, and environmental destruction spurred by a rapidly changing climate do nothing to help matters.

Your Life Is Worth More than Your Resume

It's hard not to compare yourself to others who seem to be where you "should" be in terms of career progression and financial stability, and the shame of feeling like you're doing something "wrong" is very real and very painful. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing your life has no meaning or hope because of career and monetary setbacks. But your worth as a human being is not defined by your job title, credit score, or bank account.

There are real systemic hurdles in place that can make ascension up the career ladder very difficult -- a bipolar diagnosis among them -- and I know all too well the feelings of despair and self-loathing that come with thinking you'll never be able to pull yourself out of poverty and unfulfilling work. But I'm also here to tell you not to give up on yourself. You have something of value to offer the world just by being here. We need you. Hang on.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

Sources

  1. American Psychological Association, "Stress in America: Stress and Current Events." Stress in AmericaTM Survey, 2019.
  2. Investopedia, "How Does the Cost of Living Compare to 20 Years Ago?" August 2019.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Preventing Suicide." April 2020.

How to Practice Gratitude When Your World is Falling Apart

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Trigger warning: this post involves frank discussion of a way to deal with very dark times, including contemplation of suicide.

When life feels extremely heavy it can be a struggle to keep moving in the right direction, let alone practice gratitude. Simply getting out of bed in the morning feels like an overwhelming task. But reminding yourself of one thing as you navigate each of life's ups and downs can be profoundly impactful. Even during the darkest moments, when life doesn't feel worth living, there is always something for which to be grateful.

Gratitude is something most of us take for granted until we can no longer find it in our lives. Over the years I've discovered that life is like an ocean wave. At times we feel like we can be, do, and have anything. This is when we're able to lift ourselves up and express gratitude for the joy in our lives.

However, sometimes as quickly as the wave peaks, it crashes down with a vengeance. For me, this is when gratitude is the most important. Finding anything I can to be grateful for becomes critical to inching my way closer to the peak of the next wave. For someone considering suicide, gratitude can be a way to step outside of their current situation and find some hope.

Practicing Gratitude Consistently

So, rather than only focusing on the good in my life when things are at an all-time high, I choose to practice gratitude during the lowest times, too. It isn't always easy, but it's certainly possible. If I'm feeling especially sad I'll stop what I'm doing and take a few moments to practice being grateful.

I think about how grateful I am that I can breathe fresh air and walk on my own two feet. I feel grateful for the sturdy floor under my feet and my eyes that can see that floor. I might find gratitude in a quick moment of silence or a smile I receive on the street.

Practicing gratitude consistently helps those harder waves feel more bearable. Try setting a timer for 30 seconds today and think of every little (and big) thing for which you're grateful. Make this a daily ritual and see how it changes your overall outlook. I hope you're like me and realize you can practice gratitude whenever you want.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

Nature Is My First Line of Defense in ED Recovery

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In November of 2019, I moved to Arizona where the mountains and desert landscape are right outside my window. Before that, I lived in Florida about 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico's turquoise ocean and sugar-white sand. I always feel the most alive and at peace when I am outside, so it stands to reason, nature is my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery.

The sensation of my feet rooted in the earth, a breeze prickling the hairs on my skin, fresh inhales of oxygen in my chest, and the sun's warmth across my forehead—all of these visceral, sensory experiences awaken me to the care of my own body. When I crave healing, I immerse myself in nature.      

How Connecting with Nature Helps My Eating Disorder Recovery

When that eating disorder voice in my head tries to disarm me with fear and insecurity, nature is my first line of defense. Instead of allowing those harmful thought or behavior patterns to overwhelm me, I just slide on my sunglasses, lace my sneakers, and grab my water thermos to head outside. I need to connect with a slice of the world that is separate from my eating disorder. I need to press my hand against the fibrous texture of tree bark. I need to hear the rustle of wind as it grazes past my ear. I need to crane my neck upward and marvel at the infinite blue sky. I need to run on a coarse, desert trail or to hike in the sloping, weathered mountains. 

These environments soothe, ground, center, and nourish me—the eating disorder is less persuasive when the balm of nature comes to my defense. The more time I spend outside, the more parallels I notice between the earth and the human body. Just like nature requires sunlight and water to help it thrive, a body also depends on sustenance. The body I inhabit needs gentle exercise and healthy food to preserve, fuel, energize, and keep it alive. If I want it to be strong like the current of an ocean or to grow like the arms of a cactus, then I must care for this body—not starve and abuse it. That lesson is why nature remains my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery.                       

Time in Nature as an Eating Disorder Recovery Coping Mechanism  

A regular connection point with nature is one of my favorite coping mechanisms for eating disorder recovery. I feel detached from myself if I do not carve out 30 minutes to spend outside each day. Whether I walk around my neighborhood in the morning, read a novel on my patio in the afternoon, run the canal path near my apartment in the evening, or sprawl on the grass and watch the stars with my husband at night, these practices are essential to my continued healing. Nature is my first line of defense in eating disorder recovery, and I am thankful it exists on the other side of my front door.