When I think back on the past few weeks, I am amazed by how I am challenged myself, intentionally put myself outside of my comfort zone, survived and thrived. I had the honor of being the guest speaker at the 2nd Annual National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk in Birmingham on Oct. 15, 2016. The day couldn’t have been more perfect in Avondale Park, but for someone with an extreme fear of public speaking, Oct. 15 has had a hold on me for months. I knew that that date meant I would be on stage speaking to people who needed to hear my story, but all I wanted to do was stay home. I was outside in an open-air auditorium. The benefit was no bright lights, but I didn’t have a podium where I could set my notes. The benefit was being able to wear yoga pants and a walk t-shirt instead of heels and professional wear, but this past year’s health struggles have caused me to gain more weight than I’m comfortable with. People closest to me know what happened back in April, and why I am bigger now, but my eating disorder just won’t let me forget that I don’t look like I used to. I was super uncomfortable, but I did it.
I have not watched the video of my speech, nor will I, but I figure hey, I made it up there and I gave a bomb speech. Maybe next time I will watch the video. One step at a time. In the words of Rachel Barbanel-Fried, Psy.D., I am taking small, specific and manageable steps to attain a larger goal. Instead of INSTANTLY expecting to be an expert public speaker, let’s see where I am this time next year after accepting a few more speaking engagements.
While I have stopped looking at any photos of myself over the past year, and really stopped posting many of them, here goes:
Here I am during one of the scariest moments of my life, KILLING IT. It didn’t matter in that moment that I was bigger than what I was used to, or if someone in the audience had known me when I was skinnier. I was vulnerable and sharing the darkest time in my life, all for charity! All for eating disorder prevention, education and improved access to quality care. It was only after when I saw pictures that I started to feel shitty. It’s hard, as a blogger who promotes herself and her business, to NOT look at photos. It’s hard in a society that is so Instagram and right-this-minute focused to not see images of yourself. And it’s especially hard to hate everything about the way that you look when you want to celebrate that you did something great, and that you are proud of yourself.
So, through tears, I’m having to say FUCK IT ALL and share these photos anyways. Because I am proud of where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going. I may never speak publicly about what happened to me healthwise in April, but I hope you all remember that if someone is bigger than society would like them to be, they may have an illness or another reason or THEY MAY BE PERFECT JUST LIKE THAT. That may be the way they were always meant to be, and they may be happy.
So, I make it through Saturday’s walk, then I’m off to Jacksonville, NC for a work film shoot. I was excited to be going to such a beautiful part of the country. I feel like a part of my heart is always with the ocean on the East Coast. My manager and I worked hard for two days, then got up at 6am to see the sunrise by the water. I was emotionally and physically drained, but much like any time I see a sunrise, I felt alive and grateful to be there. I recognized the hard work I have put into life and giving back lately, and I gave myself credit for really pushing myself. I felt at peace with myself and my body.
Then I got on the plane from Atlanta to Birmingham, and I didn’t fit in the seat. I’ve never not fit in an airplane seat before. I posted on Facebook about how I was feeling, just as I lost cell service. When I turned on my phone after landing, I was stunned to see the outpouring of support from family and friends, from men and women who had experienced the same thing with airplane seats.
68 comments about how I was beautiful and inspiring. 68 comments about how plane seats had been shrinking for years and no one is comfortable on planes. 68 reactions full of love, support and kindness. No matter what you are feeling during this contentious election cycle, the world is good, y’all. I witnessed that yesterday, and felt the goodness and spirit of everyone who interacted with my pain in that post.
Recovery is NOT LINEAR. While I “graduated” from my third time in treatment in 2007, this has been one of my hardest years yet. Some years will be good, some will bad, but I am committed to my physical, mental and spiritual health and will continue to see my therapist every other week until the end of time. That is my commitment to myself and that is how I honor the journey I’ve been on. All of this to say, even if you face scary situations, you will survive and thrive because you are supported and loved and you deserve to make a commitment to yourself and your recovery. You deserve everything the world has to offer, and don’t ever doubt that your size impacts that at all. I doubt myself every day and hate my body every day, but there are high points in life. Recognize those and it will give you more momentum to get through the bad times.
A big thank you to everyone who donated to the Birmingham NEDA Walk, and to Castlewood at the Highlands for including me on the committee and asking me to speak. It was terrifying. 🙂 We raised more than $9,000 for NEDA! If you would like to donate to the National Eating Disorders Association, click here.
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Tags: Avondale Park, birmingham, body boop, body image, castlewood birmingham, castlewood treatment center, eating disorder recovery, eating disorder treatment, eating disorders, NEDA, NEDA Walk, nicole rohr, nicole rohr stephani, nicole stephani, recovery, treatment center birmingham