Be Your Best Self

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WOW, hello!! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been absent from this little space of the internet for a couple months now. It’s been a whirlwind since coming back to school, starting a new job, getting a new treatment team, and just simply trying to settle back into a new semester. I definitely hit the ground running, but I also finally fell flat on my face.

It’s been a BUSY semester. On my busiest day of the week, I leave my dorm at 7am for Dwell fam breakfast (shoutout to the highlight of my week!), and don’t return to my dorm until 8 o’clock that night after work (well, I return to my room once during the day to change into long pants for my forensic science lab, but spending three minutes in my room doesn’t really count). So easy to say, it. has. been. crazy.

At first I was thriving. Seriously. I loved having a planner that looked like an [organized] hot mess and had writing on every line. I liked staying busy. BUT I’m 10000% an introvert. I have to have alone time quite often, or I’m not my best functioning self. So the joys of feeling productive + busy 24/7 quickly faded, and I was left feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, and just not in love with life anymore.

Finally, after a week of sobbing almost everyday, I realized that I wasn’t being my best self and that I needed to fix that. Being my best self means that I’m being the best version of myself possible. I have to be actively pursuing myself so that my glass can be filled up enough so that I can continue to pour into others.

So. How have I chosen to actively pursue myself? There are a few things that I have intentionally decided to do in order to be my best self. These are things I have simply decided to do for me. I’m not saying that they’re gospel or that it’s what you need to do to be your best self. Find what you need to do and chase after it. 

Quit the job.

If you know me, you know that I have been working a ton as a nanny this semester. Unfortunately, the job was leaving me feeling more drained than filled, and I realized that it has been weeks since I last actually hung out with my friends or boyfriend. As a college student, my job shouldn’t be taking over my life, so my support system thankfully encouraged me to turn in my two week notice.

Delete your Snapchat.

Or Instagram. Or Twitter. Or all of the above. For me, I found that Snapchat was such a negative resource. Most of my Snapchats between friends and me consisted of us complaining about things, which just isn’t cool. So I decided to peace out of that extra source of negativity, because nobody got time for that. Yeah, I miss out on funny stories and seeing what my friends are doing, but if I really wanna know what’s going on in their lives, I need to reach out to them personally instead of waiting for them to update their Snapchat story.

Wear that yellow.

Honestly, I don’t have much to add to this. We all know that I’m obsessed with the color yellow. But my day gets at least 10x happier when I’m wearing something yellow, so I’m trying to be much more intentional about wearing my yellow items of clothing because sometimes my mood just needs a lil bit of extra sunshine.

Buy those pastel highlighters.

If it makes you happy, go for it. I found pastel highlighters in a random Buzzfeed article last week and they just came in the mail today and I am SO stoked about them. Pursue you, gf, even when it means sometimes spending money on silly little things that make you happy.

Create all the things.

Literally my biggest piece of advice. CREATE. I am the most free and at peace when I’m doing something creative, whether it be blogging or painting or crocheting or whatever. You don’t have to be good at it. It can be a complete mess. But just do it. I’m sure there’s some scientific fact somewhere that says creating makes you be a better person. And I’d back that fact up 100000%.

Basically, PURSUE YOU. It’s only been a few days since I’ve decided to intentionally start pursuing myself again, and it’s already the best. I already feel more like me and I’m definitely falling back in love with life again. This life thing is hard, y’all, so be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time and space. Learn how to be your best self, because not only will everyone around you thank you for it, you’ll really thank yourself for it.

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Recovery Q+A

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Hey friends! I know that eating disorder recovery can be confusing to people that have never experienced it. BUT luckily someone suggested I do a recovery Q+A, so here we are!!! I’m answering most of the questions that I received, but if you don’t see yours on here or you think of me, feel free to leave a comment or message me through my contact page. Love y’all wowowow!!


Q. When you were in your disorder, was your view of your body distorted? Like, did you see yourself as fat when in reality you were actually skinny? And is that part of an eating disorder or a separate thing that a non-eating disordered individual can experience?

A. YES, my view of my body was extremely distorted. Looking back at pictures now, I can see how sickly I looked, but in the moment, all I saw was fat. I saw fat on parts of my body that didn’t even exist. Body dysmorphia is a common part of eating disorders that most (but not all) individuals suffer from. However, there is a disorder called Body Dysmorphia Disorder. While many eating disorder individuals claim to have BDD, it is not possible (according to the DSM-5!) for the two disorders to co-occur. BDD is essentially the same thing that many eating disorder sufferers experience, but just a separate diagnosis specifically for those without eating disorders. So yes, it is possible for non-eating disordered individuals to experience distorted body image. While I can’t say that every person who has bad body image has BDD, it is definitely a possibility.

 

Q. What are some tips for dealing with a changing body in recovery? Specifically when you are “weight restored” but your body is still changing.

A. Girl, I still struggle with this! Weight restoring is hard, and then it’s still hard when you body continues to change and fluctuate. However, that is SO NORMAL. Weight fluctuates all the time. It happens to everyone, not just eating disorder individuals. So for me, I’m just learning to trust my body. Our bodies are SO smart, and they know what they’re doing. So when my body changes or fluctuates, I just remind myself that it is normal and I choose to trust my body, even when my eating disorder is screaming no. I also fact check with my dietitian a lot! I tell her what I’m experiencing and she always tells me that it’s normal and we discuss how I feel about it. I suggest reaching out to your treatment team because they can validate how you feel but also give you the facts!!

 

Q. How do you balance the demands of college while maintaining stable recovery?

A. At this point in my recovery, it feels normal to me to balance the two, but when I started my freshman year, it was so overwhelming. BUT FLEXIBILITY IS KEY. College is demanding and your schedule gets crazy hectic, but you have to make room for snacks and meals. For me, sometimes this means eating in class or at work. You can’t use your busy schedule as an excuse to not eat. You have to be proactive and make a plan for the times that you’re busy! When signing up for classes, I always make sure to have a break in between classes to have lunch. Figure out what works for you, and stick with that! Reach out to your friends and let them know what’s going on so that they can keep you accountable. If you’re struggling, make sure to always go to the dining hall with friends. Work with your school to get some accommodations if needed. It’s challenging, but as long as you stick to what you know you need to do, it’ll become second nature!

 

Q. What are some things that are helpful and supportive to say to a person recovering from an eating disorder as opposed to the well-meaning yet destructive comments?

A. Thank you so much for asking this question. I know it’s really easy to say, “Wow, you look so healthy!” or something of that nature, but to someone in recovery, their eating disorder can twist that to mean “Wow, you look so FAT!” It’s best to stray away from commenting on the person’s appearance. Tell them that you’re proud of them. Acknowledge that recovery is so so hard, and validate how they feel. Offer to help them in any way that you can, whether that be meal support or accountability or distraction. Acknowledge that you don’t understand what recovering from an eating disorder is like, but always be willing to listen to them. Remind them that they’re worthy and capable and that you believe in them. Most of all, just be there for them!!

 

Q. How do you start a relationship with God, and how does that affect/play into your recovery?

A. You start a relationship with God like you do any other relationship. You spend time with him. I started doing this by starting a prayer journal, which is just a normal journal, but you address your journal entries to God as a prayer. For me, that was an easy way to begin my prayer life because I was doing something that I’d normally do, but I was making it a spiritual practice. And reading your Bible is so important! I recommend starting with the Gospels so you can learn about who Jesus is and what he did for you. Feel free to comment or message me for more book suggestions! Get plugged in with a good Christian community, whether that be a youth group or Bible study or whatever. Most importantly, just push through and put in the effort to get to know God, even if you can’t feel him! The more you learn about him, the more you’ll be able to feel his presence.

My faith plays a big part of my recovery. I feel like the two go hand and hand. For me personally, I don’t think I’d be in recovery if it weren’t for Jesus. Knowing Jesus gives me a purpose and a reason to not live a miserable life of self-destructive behaviors. The more I know Jesus, the more I want to live for him and in line with what his Word says. Jesus is the most important thing to me, and if I want to live for him, I can’t live for my eating disorder.

 

Q. For you, what is the most rewarding part of recovery?

A. The freedom that I experience. Recovery is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am the happiest that I have been in years. Being able to eat and laugh and live life without ruining friendships or isolating or feeling guilty or as if I’m drowning all the time is the best feeling. I’d never give up on this journey because recovery offers me so much more freedom than my eating disorder ever did.

 

Q. Do you believe in full recovery? And if so, how do you know when you’re fully recovered?

A. I do. I don’t/won’t believe that we’re made to live in our eating disorders for the rest of our lives. We’re made to live in full freedom, and I believe that that is possible after a lot of hard work. I think full recovery comes when you don’t hear your eating disorder’s voice all the time anymore. I think when the voices do come (which they will from time to time because #dietculture), recovered is being able to immediately combat the eating disorder voice as lies without thinking and without urges to act on behaviors. It takes a while to get to fully recovered. It’s a gradual process, but one day you’ll realize that you haven’t had thoughts or urges in so long and that you eat whatever you want without a second thought. I don’t know how long it takes. But I do know that I’m over a year into this journey, and I’m still not recovered. But I’m getting there. And I fully believe that it will happen one day, and I don’t think that that day is too far off.

 

Q. As a Christian, do you believe that you can be fully 100% healed from a mental illness through the Holy Spirit?

A. I think so. I had a pretty instantaneous moment of healing from self-harm, so I do know that the Holy Spirit can heal mental illness or self-destructive behaviors. As I mentioned in the above question, I believe that full recovery is possible. God doesn’t always heal through prayer and the laying of hands; sometimes God heals through doctors and therapists and other treatment providers. I wouldn’t be in recovery if it weren’t for going to Carolina House, but I believe that God worked through that treatment and is still working through my continual outpatient treatment. It’s a hard question to answer, and I’d love to talk one-on-one if you’re interested! But short answer, I believe that 100% healing//full recovery is possible. Healing can obviously come to those who are not Christians (SO many people from other religions are fully recovered), but I do believe that the Holy Spirit can bring that same healing, whether instantaneous or by working through worldly treatment. In this blog post, I talk about my instantaneous healing from self-harm and how I feel like God is still a big part of my eating disorder recovery, even though I did not experience the same instant healing through prayer.

 

Q. What is your favorite DBT skill?

A. Opposite action. As much as I hate it sometimes, it’s the most useful skill in my opinion! When my eating disorder says no to pizza or ice cream or whatever, I force myself to say yes and eat it anyway BECAUSE SCREW MY EATING DISORDER. I think recovery is basically summed up as opposite action because you never feel 100% ready, but you choose to recover anyway.

 

Q. What is your favorite self-care activity?

A. I’m a huge introvert, so I love having alone time. Whether that’s reading or painting my nails or watching Netflix (or all three!), I love having a night to myself to decompress and let my emotions level out without overflowing.


This was so fun, y’all! Thanks for sending in such great questions. 🙂 Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or opinions to any of my answers! And feel free to contact me if you have anymore questions. Thanks for being so awesome!!!

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Why You Should Watch “Feed”

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Okay, y’all. I know that To The Bone is getting a lot of mainstream coverage right now, but in my humble [eating disorder survivor] opinion, let’s forget about that movie and focus on the one that should be getting all of the attention: Feed.

Feed  is a film written by Troian Bellisario, an actress most known for her role as Spencer in Pretty Little Liars. The movie is based off of Troian’s own experience with an eating disorder during her high school and college years. In an interview, Troian discusses how the movie is not the exact events of her life (she didn’t have a twin brother who died), but is more to help audiences understand what it “sounds like and feels like” to live with anorexia.

Y’all, I’ve seen a lot of eating disorder movies during my time (holla at all the old school Lifetime movies (so triggering omg I do not recommend)), but I am confident in saying that I think that this is the best movie about eating disorders that I have ever seen. It addresses the reality of living with the disorder without romanticizing behaviors and it accurately shows what the process of reaching recovery is like.

** Warning: spoiler alerts ahead!! **

In the movie, Troian plays Olivia, the 18-year-old twin to Matthew. Olivia and Matthew are inseparable. They do everything together, they have the same friends, and their dreams are connected. Olivia is extremely smart and has a lot of pressure on her to get accepted into Yale and keep up her valedictory status. Her eating disorder had already begun on a smaller scale, but became more rampant when Matthew suddenly passes away in a car accident.

Now this is where the movie gets confusing/realistic/the best thing ever. After her brother dies, she continues to have visions of him being with her and talking to her. At first I was confused by this because “ghost Matthew” gets increasingly meaner and meaner to Olivia throughout the movie. At first, Matthew is there and it’s simple “I miss you” conversations, but it quickly escalates to him yelling at her when she tries to open up to people and coercing her to jump off her balcony. He was also then with her constantly while she was inpatient, telling her that it was her fault that they were stuck there and that he wanted to leave. I was honestly weirded out by this, but then it hit me. GHOST MATTHEW IS ACTUALLY OLIVIA’S EATING DISORDER.

Okay, now you’re probably even more confused, but bear with me. Matthew was a safe person for Olivia. They studied together and helped carry one another’s burdens. They never did anything alone. So after Matthew was gone, she needed something to fill that void. To help carry her burdens and be her friend and her best coping skill. So boom. Eating disorder. An eating disorder often takes the figure of being something safe and comfortable. A voice that can seem so trustworthy and safe that ends up being so extremely toxic. It often cloaks itself in a disguise as something else, which I think Feed showed really well by portraying Olivia’s eating disorder as her deceased brother. She wanted to trust him and do everything he said for so long, but finally during one of her counseling sessions while she was inpatient, everything snapped.

During her session, Olivia is trying to make a revelation to her therapist, but her brother (eating disorder) is screaming at her to lie and say that she’s fine and that she’ll gain weight and that she’ll do whatever her treatment team wants. He tells her that she will be nothing without him and that he hates her, which sounds a lot like Ed tbh. Finally ghost Matthew tells her that he will take her away with him, but through her sobs she says, “You’re not. You’re not. You’re not because you’re not my brother.” YES, GIRLFRIEND, YES. And then her “brother” walks out of the room with his head down like shoot she found me out she knows I’m Ed not Matthew. HECK YEA. She had lived her entire life with her twin brother by her side, but now he’s gone and she had to find something to feel like he was still there. So losing her eating disorder is so extremely painful for her because it feels like she’s losing her brother too. She finally made the connection that it wasn’t really her brother’s voice, but that it was her eating disorder disguising it self as something trustworthy.

This is the reality for a lot of eating disorders. Granted, most eating disorder sufferers do not have a deceased twin brother, but the story is still the same. The eating disorder takes the form as something comfortable and trustworthy, which makes it even more painful to let go of it. And you can’t even recognize it as a problem yourself because you trust it so much. It’s such a big sticky web of misplaced trust! And I think that Feed did a really good job of accurately portraying it in an artistic way. No other movie (that I’ve seen) has touched on this idea in that way, so I think that its unique approach is what makes it so incredibly accurate, even if slightly confusing at first (because hey, Olivia was confused about it all too! We were kinda living in her brain with her).

One other thing that I loved about Feed was that it didn’t focus on behaviors or numbers or weight loss or her body or anything like that. Yes, it shows Olivia restricting meals and going on runs, but that is not the main focus of the movie by any means. The focus of the movie is on her relationship with ghost Matthew, aka her eating disorder. I like this focus because it focuses on the part of the eating disorder that everyone can relate to – the voice inside your head. Everyone has different struggles with behaviors and weights and whatnot, but we all struggle with the eating disorder voice. So I think it was really cool to just kinda throw away all the “symptom” stuff and focus on the actual root of the disorder.

I’m not a therapist or an expert, but as a recovery individual who has gone through treatment and the lows of an eating disorder and also the windy path of recovery, I highly recommend and endorse this movie. With all things, practice safe watching and self-care. It is an eating disorder movie, so there will be triggering parts to those who also suffer with an eating disorder. But I think it is done in a tasteful way that is as least triggering as possible with absolutely no romanticizing of the disorder or behaviors. Know yourself, and take care of yourself. If you know that you will be triggered by the movie, please do not watch it. If you are unsure, watch it with a safe person and have a plan in place to turn the movie off if it becomes overwhelming. Recommend this movie to your loved ones to help them understand eating disorders better. Get this movie out there. If there is any eating disorder movie that needs to be getting mainstream coverage, it’s this one.

In an article that Troian wrote for the NEDA website about the movie, she says, “Feed is meant to be a dark ride, and just the beginning of what I think is a very important conversation—a conversation that will hopefully lead to more people getting the help they deserve. Don’t get me wrong, I think it can be immensely powerful to shine a light into the dark, but maybe it can be just as powerful to walk into it and let your eyes adjust. That, to me, is how we find our own way out.” (PS, read the entire article. It is SO good.)

Feed is available to watch on Amazon or iTunes.

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A Conversation With My “Little Sister”

Unknown.jpgLast week, I went into my dietitian appointment telling her all the lies that I was believing and speaking over myself. Lies from the enemy and lies from Ed, but lies that were growing in my mind and sprouting through my thoughts. She looked at me and said, “If you had a little sister and she came to you and said these things about herself, what would you say to her? I know you and I know that you would not let her speak such harsh things about herself.” She then challenged me to make one of my goals for the week (we set weekly goals; super helpful!) to notice who is talking and who is listening. That meaning, to notice my thoughts, and pretend as if my internal self is a younger sister who is telling these things to me. And if they are lies, to combat them with the truths that I would tell to a real little sister if I had one. Combatting lies for myself is hard, but I’d do anything for another little girl. So we’re going to practice this for a bit. Writing out my lies as if my little sister (or a younger me) were telling me them, and combatting them with truths. Here. Goes. Nothing.


I’m sitting cross-legged on the edge of my bed, scrolling through Instagram. My little sister had posted a selfie just a few minutes before, and when I see it, all I can think about is how beautiful she is. Her long, dirty blonde hair; her light blueish-gray eyes; her gorgeous smile. I go to comment on her photo, but when I do, I get a notification that the picture has been deleted.

Huh, I think to myself. I post pictures and then delete them a lot because I’m self-conscious a lot, but I’ve never seen sister do that. 

I keep scrolling through my feed, and then eventually put my phone aside when the comparison becomes too much. I get up and go to stand in front of the mirror.

Fat. Fat, fat, fat. So. Much. Fat. I pull at my stomach, poke at my thighs, and stare at my stretch marks. This recovery thing is great and all, but this recovery body is just a little too much over the top. 

“LUNCH TIIIIIIIIIIIIIME,” I hear my sister scream as she comes running down the hall. “Sarah Beth! I’m hungry! And Mom said that you had to come eat lunch with me, so come on!”

“Okay, okay, give me a second,” I say as I pull my shirt back down and put an oversized sweatshirt on.

“What were you doing in front of your mirror anyway? It look weird.”

“Oh nothing, just teenage girl stuff. I’ll race you to the kitchen!” I exclaim, trying to change the subject. She’s too young to understand. She’s nine, and she loves her body, just like she should. I don’t want to put any thoughts into her head.

Once we get to the kitchen, I begin to prepare my lunch. I check the nutrition labels on everything, trying to decide what I want to eat. Or I guess, what Ed wants to eat. Sarah Beth doesn’t check nutrition labels, but Ed sure as heck does.

I look over, and I see sister checking the nutrition label on the microwave pizza that she’s making.

“Sister, do you know what all that means?” I ask, surprised and confused.

She nods. “Yup! I’ve seen you do it before, so I asked my teacher in health class at school what all of it meant. She said that you’re probably reading the calories, and she said that too many calories make you fat. So she said the lower number of calories in a meal, the better!”

Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe her teacher told her that. Why would a teacher tell a nine year old that she’s going to get fat?! I had no idea that she was even watching me. I don’t normally check nutrition labels anymore, but I guess on my hard days she’s seen me do it.

I finally find words to say. “Sister, are you scared of getting fat? You know that calories don’t matter.”

“Well,” she says as she looks at her feet, “I wish I was skinnier. I have friends who are skinnier than me, and they seem to be more popular than I am. Like, I had posted a picture on Instagram earlier, but I deleted it because my cheeks looked too chubby.”

My cheeks flash red and I can feel myself beginning to get hot. How did this happen? How is this happening to my little sister?

She continues, “And my teacher said that watching your calories is important and a good way to lose weight. So I don’t know, it’s not a big deal. She told me everyone does it. You do it too, I’ve seen you.”

I look at her, my eyes big, trying to search her face. I set down the bag of chips I’m holding and go stand next to my sister. “Sister, I love you. Calories don’t matter. Remember how I went to nutrition camp last summer? When I was there I learned that a calorie is a unit of energy. That’s pretty cool, right? That means that the more calories you eat, the more fun stuff you can do! If you don’t eat enough calories, you’ll be tired. But when you eat enough, you have the energy to ride your bike and go to the pool and play in the backyard. And that’s what you want to do, right? Spending your summer outdoors is a lot more fun than spending it inside asleep on the couch because you don’t have enough energy in your body.”

“Wait, really?” She asked in disbelief. “Then why did my teacher act as if they’re little monsters who grow fat in our bodies?”

“Some people think calories are like that, but it’s not true. Those people have it wrong, unfortunately. But you know what you can do? If you hear someone say that calories are bad, you can tell them what I just told you. You can be their teacher! It’s really sad to live a life being afraid of calories, so it’s our jobs to help people live the same happy lives that we are.”

“That’s a good idea! I want to do that. I can’t wait to tell my friends when we go to the pool this afternoon!” She skips off with her pizza, going to eat it in the living room while she watches TV.

Crap, I forgot that I had to take sister and her friends to the pool. I haven’t gone swimming in a long time. I don’t want people to look at me. Okay, okay, no big deal. I can just wear a t-shirt over my bathing suit. And I won’t get in. I’ll bring a book with me and sit in a chair under the shade.

After I finish eating, I go upstairs to get ready. We have to meet sister’s friends at the pool in thirty minutes, and she is already getting ready in her own room. As I’m going through my bathing suits deciding which one to wear, I hear my sister crying in her room.

I walk down the hall and knock on the door. I find her in the same position that I was in just a few hours earlier – standing in front of the mirror and staring at her body.

“What’s wrong, sister?” I ask, trying to cover my concern.

“I can’t go to the pool. I just can’t,” she says through her sobs. “I know what you said about calories downstairs, but look at my belly. It is so big and round. And then my thighs become huge when I sit down. See, look, ” she directs as she sits down on her bed and points at her thighs. “They’re as big as Africa! I can’t go to the pool like this. I’m embarrassed.”

Tears well up in my eyes. Jesus, please not this. Not her. She’s beautiful! How do I make her see herself the way I see her?

I look at my sister. She’s sitting on her bed, her long hair pulled up into a messy bun. She put waterproof mascara on to go to the pool. She’s staring at her thighs with tears rolling down her face.

I walk over and sit down on her bed. “Look at me. You are beautiful. I know you don’t see it, but please try to listen to me. Your eyes sparkle when you talk. Your smile could light up any room. In fact, your smile is brighter than the sun. Seeing you smile makes me smile. You are kind, you are genuine, you are funny. You love others so well. You look for the outcasts and you befriend them. You don’t want to leave anyone out. Those things make you internally beautiful, sister. You have so much beauty inside of you that it leaks right out of you into the world.”

“But,” she looks up at me, “what about the rest of me? You said my insides were pretty, but I don’t care about that. My insides won’t make me popular. And yeah, you talked about my eyes and smile, but what about the rest? I want to be pretty.”

“Oh, sister. You are so beautiful and strong and powerful. Your thighs? They give you the ability to run and jump. You know how you can jump rope really well? That’s because your thighs are so strong! Your thighs are beautiful, but they are so much more than that. They allow you to do all the things that you love to do. And your belly! Sister, I love your belly. It is not too big; it is the perfect size. See?” I say as I pull up my shirt, “Your belly looks just like mine! I love having a belly that looks like yours. Because I love you!”

She giggles a little bit as she pokes my stomach and then pokes hers. “Are you sure? I just don’t feel pretty. My friends are prettier than me. Their bellies are flat and they have curly hair and they’re taller than me.”

“Their beauty is their own, but you have a beauty that is completely unique to you. You don’t have to be pretty like them because you’re already pretty like you. Comparing yourself to your friends isn’t worth it. You’re never going to be the same as them because you’re not the same. And that’s okay! Being unique is pretty cool if you ask me. Because guess what. Out of the seven billion people in the world, there is not another person that is just like you! That means that God thought you were so special and so cool that he only made on of you. Just be you, sister. You are worthy, you are loved, you are perfect just the way you are.”

“I don’t know…” she whispers as she looks back down at her hands. “Do you believe that about yourself?”

I look down quickly, but then look at her in the eyes. “I’m trying to. I’m not there yet, but I believe it more than I did a year ago. How about we make a deal?”

She nods.

“How about we change into our bathing suits, go to the pool, and then get ice cream after? We’ll do it together. We’re not in this thing alone. Sometimes it’s scary and sometimes we’ll be self-conscious, but we can remind each other of some truths.”

“I like that idea!” She exclaims. “But how will I know what truths to say?”

I stand up and walk over to sister’s desk. I open the drawer and pull out a piece of construction paper and a box of markers.

“Here,” I say as I hand her the materials. “Let’s make a list of all the nice things we want to be reminded of when we feel bad.”

We made a list:

  • You are beautiful just the way you are.
  • You are smart and capable of everything you put your mind to.
  • You are funny, and I will always laugh at your jokes.
  • You are unique. 
  • God made you just the way you are because he wanted someone just like you.
  • You are so strong and brave.
  • Your thighs give you the ability to run and your stomach allows you to have deep belly laughs.
  • You are kind and compassionate.
  • You are the perfect size. 
  • You are you and I think that is pretty great.
  • The size of your body does not define you, and just because someone’s body is different than yours does not make it any better or worse.
  • I love you, I love you, I love you.

We smiled at each other.

“I love you, sister,” I say.

“I love you too,” she says as she leans over to give me a hug.

I stand up to walk back to my room to get ready for the pool. This is going to be hard, but I need to teach her how to love herself. I need to be a good example and speak truth into her, so that means I have to speak truth into myself. If I won’t let her say these things about herself, I shouldn’t say them about myself. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable, but if I’m not going to do it for me, I have to do it for her. 

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I Never Meant to Tell This Kind of Story.

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I never meant to tell this kind of story.

 

I never meant to tell the kind of story

that is secretly

(yet visible for everyone to see)

etched on to porcelain wrists.

 

I never meant to tell the kind of story

that curls around collarbones

and hides behind ribs

that try to fill up the emptiness inside,

but yet only stick out like swords

waiting to hurt anyone who

comes too close.

 

I never meant to tell the kind of story

that is confessed to an empty toilet bowl,

applauded with the cool

(disgusting)

backsplash of water.

 

I never meant to tell the kind of story

that flinches,

winces,

trembles

at a mere hand on the shoulder,

because at one point

there were hands that were

not so kind.

 

But this is the story that I’m telling,

and I don’t know how I got here.

I don’t want to tell this story.

 

But I must tell this story.

 

I must tell this story

because I cannot stay prisoner,

I cannot stay captive

to the darkness that has held me under

for so long.

 

The story is screaming to be told,

and I don’t want to tell the story,

but I must tell the story.

 

I tell the story so that I have a voice.

So that I have freedom.

So that I can find peace.

So that I can close my eyes

and forget his face.

So that I can eat lunch

without the guilt gnawing inside,

or without the urge to discard of my food

after I have already consumed it.

And so that my scars

will just be scars,

not lines of embarrassment

and reminders.

 

I tell the story the story so that

I

can

live.

 

I need to live.

I need to breathe.

I need to be set free from this story

that I have been writing on my body

for over half a decade.

 

This story will no longer be told

through my body,

but through my words.

I will speak them,

I will type them,

I will write them,

I will scream them,

I will get them out.

 

I will

get

these

words

out.

 

I will live.

I will breathe.

I will be set free.

 

I will tell this story.

 

I never meant to tell this kind of story.

But this kind of story is meant to be told.

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Dear Ed,

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Today, May 5, 2017, is my one year in recovery. One year ago I walked through the doors of Carolina House and was admitted to their residential program. You can read a blog post about that here (and you can find all my blog posts tagged treatment here too if you’re interested). Reaching the one year mark is weird and hard, but oh so joyful. So today, to celebrate my one year of starting to kick Ed (my eating disorder) to the curb, I’m writing him a letter. If you have never experienced an eating disorder, it may seem weird to you that I personify my eating disorder and call him Ed.  Just roll with it, friends. When there’s something in your head screaming at you, you want to be able to somehow separate it from who you are. So my eating disorder is Ed. And here’s what I have to say to him.


Dear Ed,

I remember when we met. I was 13, and my friend introduced me to the wonderful “comfort” that you bring. First I let you into my life because I wanted to lose weight. Not that I needed to, but I thought it would prove me worthy enough to be friends with the girls at school. Simple enough, right? No. You already had your foot in the door, so you soon began to demand your way. You quickly became my best coping skill, because even though you were slowly beginning to suck the life out of me, you numbed the pain of depression and took the place of self-harm when I had to cope in a “socially acceptable” way, aka not eating. Because dieting is normal and okay for a 13 year old, right? Wrong.

It’s been a long haul with you, Ed. Five years. You saw me throughout half of middle school and all of high school. When I think of my high school years, I don’t remember hanging out with friends during class or on the weekends. Instead, I remember skipping every off campus lunch so that I could sit in the hallway alone – I mean, sit in the hallway with you – and not eat. I remember not going to a single school dance (well, I went to my senior prom for 15 minutes – that counts, right?) because I had isolated myself so much that I had no friends to hang out with. I remember sitting in class, not paying attention to the lesson at all, but instead tallying up calories in my planner and planning my “meals” for the week.

To you, those things might sounds fun. Those are the things that you thrive off of. But to me, those are horrible memories. You took everything from me. Everything. Every good memory that I have since the age of 13 is tainted by you. My first cruise? Tainted. My first prom? Tainted. Every birthday? Tainted. Every event in my life that should have been completely happy and free? Tainted. You took everything from me, and even still, you wanted to take my life. And I’m over it.

I’m over it because I still have the 13 year old girl inside of me who still thinks she’s fat. Who cries when she looks in the mirror. Who wants to crawl out of her body when she feels food settle in her stomach. I’m over it because 13 year old me should have been a happy seventh grader, but instead she was taught to hate herself. That 13 year old girl grew up to be the same 19 year old girl that I am today. And this 19 year old still feels the 13 year old inside of me. And the 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 year olds. I feel all the brokenness. All the jagged pieces that don’t know where to fit. Some days I handle it really well. Some days I can kick you in the balls and go on with my day in freedom. But some days I’m crippled. Because 13 year old me is crippled. Or maybe it’s 17 year old me that’s crippled. But regardless, you broke me for so many years and I’m still trying to fix that.

I want to be able to love myself. Shocking, I know. You told for some long that it’s not possible. But I’m learning that it is possible. It’s more possible to live a successful life of loving myself than it is to live a successful life with you, because guess what. No one can live a successful life but also be tangled up in their eating disorder. But living a life of freedom and happiness while pursuing self-love is so completely possible, so that is what I’m after! I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year. I’ve eaten fear foods and made them my b**** (curse word sorry BUT SO TRUE). I’ve exercised because it makes my body feel good, but I’ve also stopped myself from exercising when I realized I was obsessing over the calories being burned. I’ve bought clothes to fit my new, beautiful recovery body. I’ve let myself cry and be mad at you/my body/my treatment team/food/the world. I’ve screamed. But that’s all part of this thing called living. It’s a new phenomenon to me, because you didn’t let me experience real life. But let me tell you, this life thing is pretty cool.

I know, I know, it hurts to die a slow and painful death. I know because that’s what you were doing to me. While I was malnourished and dying, you were thriving. The closer I got to death the more alive you became. But guess what. My recovery kills you. And it’s a long process. Some days I’m suffocating you, but other days I seem to have you on life support. The life support days are becoming few and far between, thank goodness. Each day I’m able to suffocate you a little more, and this is the control that I need – the control that you claimed to give me, but never did. Even though I claimed to love you for five years of my life, I know that I don’t love you. You love you. I hate you. I want you dead and gone. I want to live, so that means you have to die.

I don’t like you. I know that sometimes I say I’m going to rekindle our relationship, but we never get past the first date. Because it. ain’t. worth. it. You have this thing about making me seem like I’m the bad person, but let me just tell you, YOU are the bad one. You’re the murderer, the thief, the stalker, the crazy ex boyfriend who just won’t let go. And I am done.

I wrote you a letter very similar to this while I was still in treatment. In it I told you, “I’m fighting you now. I won’t stay victim anymore. I won’t give in to your every demand. I’m fighting for life and health, not thinness. So you have to move out of my mind, my values, my meals, my life. I’m changing my life to a life without you.” And WOW past SB was killing it. A life without you is the best life that I’ve ever lived.

I’m glad that I started kicking you out of my life a year ago. I’m glad that the only thing left of you is the occasional overnight bag. I’m excited for when you’re completely gone, but I know that recovery is a process and that healing is not linear. But just let me tell you, just because you have an overnight bag packed and ready to go does not mean that you still have power and ownership over me. YOU ARE GONE, SIR. You are powerless over me because now I have power over you.

So, just to remind you, you suck. It’s not me, it’s 1000% you. Five years with you was not fun, but this past year without you has been amazing. So don’t bother coming back. You’re still not welcome here and never will be again. I still hate you, and you’re still a scum-bag. You’re a bully, you’re controlling, and you deserve to die. I don’t need your fake love anymore.

Goodbye, Ed.

Sincerely,

Sarah Beth

PS. Did I mention that I hate you?

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To the Girl Who Feels Stuck

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To the girl who feels stuck,

You’re me right now. But I also know that a lot of other people feel stuck. So as much as this letter is to myself, it’s to all the other girls (and guys) out there who feel just as what the heck as I do.

You feel really stuck right now.

Like really stuck.

You thought you were doing great, you thought you were going 100 mph at everything, and you thought everything was under the control.

But then maybe you realized that things aren’t as hunky dory as you originally thought.

And that’s okay!!

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to realize that you’re still human. That you’re still a human in recovery.

(PS, stop cringing at the “in recovery” part. It’s fact. That’s not going away anytime soon. Yes, “recovered” will come, but you’re not there. It’s okay that you’re not recovered yet. That takes time. Years, even. You’ve only been out of treatment for nine months. You’re not supposed to have it all together yet.)

Anyway.

I know that it hurts. It actually hurts a lot to be smacked in the face with reality.

You thought you were going 100 mph, and maybe you were, but you just missed a few turns along the way. Or maybe you were going 75 mph, so just a little slower than you thought. Or maybe even you were going 120 mph, so fast that you were being reckless and missed a few stop signs. Regardless, you’re not where you thought.

And just because you’re not at your destination yet doesn’t mean that where you’re at isn’t beautiful and good too.

Appreciate where you’re at right now. It’s not the end point, and it may not even be the middle point, but it’s still a good point. It’s still worthy of being at.

You might not be as far as you thought you are, but that doesn’t change how far you’ve already come.

Girlfriend, you’ve come so dang far. You’ve conquered so many hard things that you never thought were possible.

So guess what?

You can keep conquering things.

You’re going to keep kicking things in the booty because that’s just who you are as a warrior.

I know that you feel stuck.

You thought you were at point D, but maybe you’re only at point C.

But hey, you’ve already passed points A and B.

And being at point C is pretty dang awesome.

Being at point C does not make you stuck.

It just means you’re at a different place than you originally thought.

And let me let you in on a little secret.

You’re not as stuck as you think you are.

You have some things to work through and some lingering thoughts to tackle.

But you’ve grown a lot of strength and endurance this past year, so you’re going to tackle and defeat these thoughts a lot quicker than you would have a year ago.

You’ve grown so much, girl.

You’re moving mountains.

You’re not stuck.

Hear me again.

You are not stuck.

You’re moving and you’re beating things and you’re conquering and winning.

And you’re still doing that, even at point C.

Don’t be discouraged.

You’re doing so good.

Keep it up. Don’t give in.

Don’t give in to the voice in your head that’s telling you that it’s not worth it anymore.

If something is telling you to quit just because you’re not as far as you thought, that is a voice that is not worth listening to.

You are worthy of continuing.

You are worthy of continuing because you are worthy of winning in the end.

You are worthy of the victory.

You might feel stuck, but you are not stuck.

Where you’re at is still worthy of being at, and your final destination is still worthy of fighting for.

You’re rocking it, girlfriend.

You’re inspiring as heck.

You’re me and you inspire me.

Present me is being inspired by past me because past me was a total kick butt rockstar and I know that present me is still that same girl.

Keep doing what you’re doing because it’s totally working.

Keep on keeping on.

You’re doing it, girlfriend.

You are doing it.

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