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At The Beginning(s)

“There are two mistakes one can make along the journey… Not going all the way, and not starting at all.” -Buddha 

We must always start from exactly where we are; we have no choice to be anywhere else in that moment. So, having written two blog posts already, I suppose “starting at the very beginning,” has escaped me, but let me introduce myself.

My name is Sophia. I am an intern at HartsSpace, Mental Health and Nutrition, in Olympia, Wa. I will be your blogger, today. Here is a bit of my story:

When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. My parents dragged me to therapists and nutritionists, and I duly ignored them, until I fell to the point at which I was hospitalized. After the 6 weeks of a inpatient program, and about another month of intensive outpatient treatment, I returned home, to school, and to an outpatient treatment team. A few months after returning home, my nutritionist (the only person in my life who I really trusted at the time) suggested that I take a yoga class. I showed up to a “teen yoga class” and I hated it. It was full of pre-pubescent stick-figure bodied girls who weren’t taking it seriously. Luckily, I gave it another shot; an “adult” class. This time, it changed my life. Though, for the most part, I went to class for the only approved physical exercise I could get, something shifted in me. I began to see my body, my self, as capable, worthwhile, fun, strong, even beautiful! This was the doorway into a whole new way of being in my body, and in the world. My recovery has been far from straight and narrow, and I’ve definitely slipped further away from the kind of healthy life I know I want to live. But, I have managed to maintain a stable recovery due, at first, to my yoga practice, meditation later, mindful eating, taichi, dance, singing, writing, and now a hundred other things at this point. Yoga was my first, and continues to be my central stone in my healthy foundation. There are moments when I feel like I’ve got this down, settled, under control, and there are times when it feels like I’ll never stop hurting, never stop fighting. Relapses have come and gone, and every time I have to fight, it feels just as hard, but every time I fight, I’m stronger for it. And while I may not ever be completely “over” this, life is about doing the work, so I’ll keep working, getting better, learning and never quitting.

About 8 months ago, my sister told me that she has also been struggling with an eating disorder. She sought help from her University’s health center, and was seeing a therapist and nutritionist regularly for several months, before she reached a minimally “normal” weight, though the scale did not take into account the ratio of fat, water, and muscle, and she was not truly healthy. Several weeks later, my parents and I visited her for a holiday, and towards the end of our visit, held a conversation with her over the course of about three hours, in which we stated our concerns for her, as well as our hopes and visions for her recovery. Though she resisted fairly strongly during the conversation, she conceded to gaining weight. She resumed seeing her nutritionist, increased her meal-plan, and after a few more weeks, started seeing a new therapist.

One of the most touching aspects of seeing her in her recovery can be epitomized by the sense I got during one of our conversations. In discussing a school assignment, and her concern about the class, she said something along the lines of, “but of course, it will end up okay, because things always work themselves out.” I thought, “She’s never talked like that- with so much ease of trust!” I didn’t say anything to point it out, but I’ve noticed more and more in her, a process of replacing the controlling, and fear-based mentality, with trust, and ease, and I hear her say how her had-been-all-pervasive anxiety is lessening.

Her key, right now, is curiosity: an openness in wondering, “what does it fee like if I don’t worry so much,” or “what happens if I eat this, or that?” It’s an absolutely gorgeous thing to see.

On the other end of the physical spectrum, my mother, who has always been overweight, started in the last several months to change her eating and movement habits. In her process, which has also been non-linear, she has radically changed her relationship to food, cooking, movement, and her body as a whole. She now engages with her meals with more intentionality, and indeed, just as much (if not more) enjoyment. She admits, there have been things that have been challenging (changing her cooking oil, and then using less of it, or going to restaurants or parties), but for the most part, she’s reaped more important benefits than the sacrifices she’s made. Throughout this process of practicing eating and moving differently, she says that she is MUCH more comfortable in her body (she doesn’t hurt anymore!), she experiences less anxiety about walking longer distances, and she is more confident and assertive in her workplace: things, she says, she didn’t even think would change, just by changing her diet!

So there you have it; a few new beginnings. And, oh! Here’s another one! Every moment, is a new opportunity to begin, over and over. And, of course, we never start from scratch, always from exactly where we are!