• Posted on March 8, 2017 4:27 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Today is International Women's Day. And I feel fat. Gasp. How could  McCall Manning Dempsey, a positive body image speaker, feel fat? Oh the horror! Well, folks. We all have our days. But here is the difference. I know that fat isn't a feeling and that when I start thinking and having anxiety about my body, I know it is really about something SO much more (i.e. stressful move, work, tiny humans and cramps). As women, we are programmed by society to go to war with our bodies. Our bodies are seen as the solution to happiness and world peace. If we can whittle down to the perfect size, then we will find ultimate happiness. When I realized it was International Women's Day, I thought 'Hell yeah'. I thought about my personal she-ros: Ellen, Brene, Glennon, my mom, sister and countless friends. I thought about my daughter and nieces. I thought about my friends who are stay-at-home moms. I thought about my camp tribe, my therapist tribe, my high school tribe and my college tribe. I thought about the countless women who have shaped my life into what it is today. So many extraordinary women in my life. How blessed am I?! But no matter how awesome they are - each and every one of them knows what it means to feel fat - aka feel less than. It really isn't about feeling fat. I mean, seriously, how amazing is my body? How amazing is YOUR body? For me, it is about feeling less than. Because as a woman I am split into a million little pieces and jobs: the mom, the maid, the working mom, the carpool lady, the speaker, the writer, the wife, the dog groomer, the accountant..the woman, the myth, the legend. Being a woman is hard y'all. So damn right we get a day. I know everyone reading this can relate to being divided into a million pieces and feeling like you are so split you can't do one thing right because you are doing it all half ass. Well, today is about embracing our half ass(ness). Today is about holding up our countless jobs and responsibilities and shouting, "I am good enough. I am woman. Hear. ME. ROAR. Damn it." Today is about giving the middle finger to society's standards and saying, "I am awesome just as I am. My body is miraculous. My mind is exploding with intelligence and I AM WORTHY." I refuse to go to war on my body any more. I did that for years and guess what, I was a size perfect and I was MISERABLE. I was dying. I'll never forget feeling inferior when I was in my teens and twenties by men who would comment on my body as if it were some inanimate object, like a toaster. I was too ashamed to speak up. I wanted so badly to talk back to the sexist comments, screaming that my was not some new shiny convertible car they could comment on. Sadly, I didn't have a voice so instead I focused all of my energy on changing my body instead of changing the world like I was born to do. Well, not anymore. Today, my voice is strong. It may shake from time to time, but it shakes with passion. It shakes because I am using it. A voice can't shake if it is silent. I speak up and stand up for women today because I was once that silent girl, muted by society's standards. I'll spend the rest of my life speaking out for that girl. I will never stop screaming back at the gremlins in my own head who continue to tell me I'm not good enough. Because I am. I am not perfect, but I am worthy. Worthy of love, of belonging and worthy to have a voice and take up space on this planet. If you are at war with your body, if you are confused about women's day, then let me set the record straight. You do not have to be a civil rights leader or international activist to mark your place in history. You are marking your place right where you are by being who you are. You are cementing your place by standing up for others and yourself, wherever you are. Talk back to those gremlins, look in the mirror and say I am worthy. Because that is what International Women's Day is all about. Always remember you are WORTHY, valuable and loved just as you are. I no longer waste time feeling fat or unworthy because I'm too busy changing the world to change my body. Oh Happy day ladies!  

    Advocacy, Authentic, Body Image
  • Posted on February 22, 2017 8:02 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    My current state of mind is similar to that of six years ago when I leaping from treatment back out into the 'real' world... Journal entry (2.23.2016) "I am feeling lots of things. I am worried about work. I am kind of angry. I want to cry. I want to fall apart. I want to scream. I want to feel competent. I want to feel my age. I want to breathe. I want to feel like I haven't been forgotten. I don't want to be lost and behind. I want to stop this voice in my head. I feel scattered."  Okay, so maybe I'm not feeling everything I did six years ago today, but certainly can relate to the anxious, scattered and breathing part. Life is changing. Again. Sigh. Unlike my anxiety six years ago, today's anxiety comes with a big slice of confidence and joy. How is it possible for one person to feel so much joy and anxiety at once? I'm not sure. But it is where I am and I'm rocking it. Recently, I shared the news about my family's upcoming move. It is beyond bittersweet. But with this move come chaos. And I mean capital C-H-A-O-S. Our house will hit the market next week. Showings will begin and so will the inevitable scenario of putting the dirty laundry in the dryer, gathering the scattered toys in a box and putting them in the car as you drive around with shoeless kids in their jammies, as well as a dog and and rescue cat who thinks she is a dog. Since returning home from our amazing vacation, sleep has been hard to come by. Jordan and I wake at all points in the night. We talk and toss around, while we remove our son's foot from our face (ah the joys of sleeping with a five year old). We are taking a huge leap of faith with this move. It is scary. It is unknown. But it is necessary so we rise up and march on. As I am rising up and marching on, I am also inundated with the growth of my beloved Southern Smash. Walking upstairs to my office every day, makes me the richest person on earth. Certainly not monetary rich, but rich in the greater since - the one that makes your soul burst with joy. I pinch myself on the daily. I am doing the exact work God put me on this earth to do. And because of that, I know that no matter what curve ball life throws again (and again) my family and I will be okay. I will be okay. Because look at how far I've come. When I think back to six years ago, I am in awe of how brave I was - probably because I, at the time, had no idea of my courage and inner strength. I felt so many emotions and marched on. I knew recovery was out there and I wanted it. Bad. I knew I just had to keep marching falling forward to get there. Today, I feel so many emotions as I march on. This leap of faith (like all leaps) is scary. But I rely on my perseverance was born six years ago. I rely on the solid relationship and friendship I have with my soul mate and best friend. We have gone through much worse. Jordan and I can literally conquer anything together. In the past few weeks, I have talked with more people struggling than I can count, guiding each of them (and their families) to professional help. This evening I spoke with a young group of women gravely concerned for their best friend. They listened so intently and laughed as I cut a joke here and there. But what they didn't know is the tears that fell silently down my cheeks. I was once their friend praying for someone to tell me I needed help - that I deserved help and treatment. That my life mattered to them. I cried because I feel so damn blessed to be a listening ear and sounding board. I cried because I am so alive. I cried because I am so scared of what is to come. I cried because I love life and my family so damn much it hurts. I cried for the young woman six years ago who had no idea the extraordinary path God was laying before her. I cried because I was brave enough to walk that path. I cried because I get to pay it forward and help others every day. Life is terrifying and also filled with such joy. When I started Southern Smash, never did I imagine it would grow to this extent. Never did I see myself in an office where I spend hours on end and still never finish the job. My job will never be done because it isn't a job! Jordan asks me every morning, "What do you have to do today?" My response, "My job doesn't come with a to do list." My work is led by my calling, my fire and passion. We all have a fire. A calling. I found mine. Don't be afraid to chase yours. It is that fire that stops you in your tracks. A fire that hurts because you feel it so deep. A fire that can never be extinguished, no matter what leaps you take or where you move. Walk your path. Open your heart to others. Take leaps of faith. Life would be pretty boring if we all sat in the comfort zone. [Insanely gorgeous photo cred to the extraordinary Ileana of Attimi Photography]

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Pay It Forward
  • Posted on December 6, 2016 3:45 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    Tomorrow, December 7, is my birthday. However, I will not be with my family and friends. Rather, I will be surrounded with love, pain, joy, sadness, hope and courage. I will spend my birthday with the brave men and women at Castlewood Treatment Center in St. Louis, Missouri. I truly cannot think of anywhere else I would rather be. Growing up, I often heard my family and friends say, "Oh, McCall, stop being so sensitive". I tried my best to not 'be sensitive' and to 'toughen up', but no matter how hard I tried, I still hurt. I was (and am) a sensitive being. Nothing was ever going to change that. And I hurt alone and in silence for many, many years. I now consider my sensitivity my greatest gift. It is something I hold sacred. I honor my sensitive heart, taking care of it and loving it as it beats through every human emotion. Recovery has taught me to follow my heart, allowing it to feel, give and receive. Because of my soft heart, I am able to sit with others. I can literally feel their pain, hurt and loneliness. And above all else, I can let them know they are not alone. To be perfectly honest, my heart has been really heavy lately. Personal changes are happening, but moreover, I have carried so much hurt in my heart as of late. After returning home from Thanksgiving, I saw the devastating news that a fellow Wolfson Hospital cancer warrior lost her battle. I never met Kate, but she was just doors down from Marjorie during the summer of 2015. Her death hit me hard. I followed her story and there was no doubt she was a light to everyone who met her. Last Tuesday, Kate's mother, Lisa, posted a beautiful picture.  Tears poured down my face as I saw the picture of Lisa cuddling her baby in the final hours of her life here on earth. I don't know the pain of losing a child, but I have cradled my own child while covering her in desperate prayers for healing. I could feel the pain, love and unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter through my computer screen. My heart carried her hurt. Days later I received an email from a young woman questioning if life and the fight for recovery were worth it. We've connected on the phone many times since her initial email. I do my best to remind her that there IS still light and hope and that the fight is TOTALLY worth every battle scar...but I also know how painful those dark moments are. I know how exhausting the fight is and that giving up often seems like a better option. I told her I would sit with her in the pain. I carried her hurt. On a daily basis, I hear from aching parents, lonely teens and adults drowning in shame. I sit with them, hurt with them and pray for them each night. I am very aware I can't save anyone, we all have to save ourselves. But that doesn't mean we have to walk the journey alone. This life is filled with so much sadness and pain AND there is also SO much good. 'Life is freaking brutiful' as my friend (who hasn't met me yet), Glennon Doyle Melton would say. Sometimes the sadness is filled with happiness and vice versa. It took me a long time to absorb that concept - joy during times of sorrow. Nothing confirmed the joy and sorrow theory like Marjorie's NICU and cancer battle. Watching my child fight for her life, not once, but twice, made realize that life is hard AND that there can be so much joy during these times, as well. The friends, family, doctors, nurses, prayer warriors and fellow cancer families that God put in our lives during these dark times, were our joy, our inspiration and our hope. They made us laugh and sat with us as we cried. They carried our hurt, while we watched with aching hearts as our precious baby fought for her life. In my short six years of recovery (and life), I have been blessed with so many people who have carried my hurt. So for me, carrying other's hurt and sitting with others in the darkness is such a gift. It is an honor for me to crawl back into the dark with those struggling and say, "There's nothing I can say that will fix this, but I'll hang with you here as long as you need me." Sure, sadness is not fun. Many reading this will probably wonder why don't I guard my heart better. That's just not who I am. God made us to feel, to love, to hurt and, most of all, to LIVE. Embracing sadness and sitting in pain is me living out God's purpose. There's no doubt my passion stems from years of my own pain and hopelessness. Nothing brings me more contentment than helping others through their dark times - sitting with them and connecting them with professional help. And I do guard my heart in many ways. If I allowed myself to follow every pediatric cancer or eating disorder story, I would basically live in fetal position in my closet. I am selective and I practice A LOT of self care. I shut down, I write, I absorb the joy that radiates from my two tiny humans and I call my therapist (obvi). My life since recovery has been learning to walk the beautifully imperfect balance of self care and helping others. So while I carry a lot of hurt in my heart, I also carry so much joy, love and light. My birthday wish is to sit with you, wherever you are. I spent so many birthdays feeling alone and hopeless, I don't want you to do the same. I hear you. I honor your pain. I sit in it with you. Thank you for giving me the best birthday gift and allowing me to share in your darkness. And to sweet Kate, may your light and love live on through each of us. You were truly your own light during many dark days. We will always "remember to smile" for you.

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Live Life
  • Posted on July 20, 2016 10:19 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    ...they sat down, ordered a beer and started reminiscing on the good ole days. This was last weekend for me, at the wedding of one of my dearest and oldest camp friends. Camp Green Cove has connected me with the most extraordinary people on earth. We come from different walks of life and wear different labels. But we are blind to labels, we only see the exquisite person underneath. We have so many labels that define us, whether self or society inflicted. My time at Green Cove stripped away all labels. There was no fat/thin, black/white, Jewish/Christian, gay/straight. We were all kids, loving life and loving each other no matter how different we were because we really didn't even know we were considered different. I was probably 17 before I realized my best friend was Jewish. After that, the two of us would stay up for hours talking about Catholicism, Judaism and the meaning of life in general. This past weekend was a beautiful reminder of what life can be like when we forget the labels and just be. After the fantastic welcome party in downtown Asheville, a group of us walked to another bar. Some straight, some gay and some transgender. We sat at a table, met partners and shared life stories. The next day was much of the same: laughter, rosé, new and old friends. Alden and Olivia's ceremony was the most beautiful and unique wedding I have ever witnessed. The heavens literally opened up, rain poured down, but the mood was not dampened. The entire wedding danced the night away and toasted to the beautiful couple. What really left a mark on me was the post wedding day activity: tubing down the French Broad. Everyone met in the parking lot with excitement (and post wedding headaches). We laughed at previous night shenanigans, lathered up with sunscreen and rented our tubes. As we plopped oh so elegantly into the river, there was one topic I never heard: fat talk. There was not a single mention about body parts. No "I'm so fat" or "OMG my muffin top". Nothing. It was body silent - just laughter and belly laughs at everyone's float mount. The Green Cove tribe tied our tubes together for our slow float down the river. In the two hour float, not a single minute was passed in silence or talking about bodies. I was blown away, but not shocked. I would not be here today without Camp Green Cove. It was my sanctuary every summer. It was the one place where I could really be me: witty, empathetic, goofy, sensitive and kind. No one ever picked apart my body at camp and there were no body competitions. Diet talk and fat talk simply did not exist when you entered the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I dismounted my float (actually, I ended up floating in the tiny cooler float because my float hit a rock...shocking, I know), I smiled. Well, I smiled because I just spent the last hour in the world's smallest float, but mostly I smiled because I was back with my tribe. My people. My place in the world where it doesn't matter if my belly rolls when I sit or if I say something silly. A place where I get to meet the most incredible people and reunite with my favorites. We are all who we are. Some of us have more bruises and scars in the journey of self-discovery. Some of us have endured ridicule and bullying for our sexual orientation. Some of us have destroyed our bodies only to build them back up again. At the end of the day, when we reunite, we are still the kids who climbed the mountains without fat talk, laughed without labels and loved without boundaries. May all of us aspire to be Green Cove girls - to love one another in a world filled with so much dark. May our light and love shine outward. May we never judge based on labels. May we always be kind to one another. And above all else, may we always be kind to ourselves. It doesn't matter what label you wear at the bar or in life...as long as you wear it with pride and love. Because at the end of the day, we all know this one simple truth... LOVE (always, always) WINS.                       Cheers!  

    Authentic, Body Image, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on June 26, 2016 1:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Weekends in treatment were slow...and I mean sloooooow. It was so frustrating to have so much downtime in our schedule. We should be 'working' and 'doing', marking things off our imaginary Recovery To Do list. Having an empty day meant I was being unproductive and lazy. As it turns out, down time at the Carolina House was very much on purpose. It forced us to practice stillness and cultivate the ability to be alone. Learning to be still and alone is one of recovery's greatest gifts. Stillness is a skill and a practice. For many of us, eating disorder or not, being alone is a huge challenge and trigger. In the quiet of stillness, we are often faced with feelings and thoughts we'd rather override with our to do lists. Think about it. When was the last time you were still? Like really still? With nothing to do or maybe with lots to do, but choosing to take time for yourself and just be. Meet SAVASANA, the most difficult yoga pose. By definition savasana means lying on your back, eyes closed with arms and legs spread at the corners of your mat. My mom is probably getting anxiety just reading that definition: Lying. Still. Even when I am in savasana, my mind wanders to every corner of my brain: What should I feed the kids for lunch? What are we doing tonight? Maybe we can watch a movie. Oh wait, Orange is the New Black is on. Yes, we should watch that. Maybe we can go on a date tomorrow. Jordan is off tomorrow. We should take the kids to the pool. Did I get sunscreen? What if the sunscreen I have is on the toxic lotion list? Does sunscreen really cause cancer? Why did Marjorie get cancer? Is it in the water? Did I give the dogs water this morning? Did I give Lola her medicine? I need to make an appointment for Lilly. Is she due for heart worm? I think all the pets are due. What if they get heart worm? The struggle is REAL y'all.  Like most moms, I am stretched thin, like really, really, really thin. And every so often, I snap. I need time for myself, time to reset and renew. I get to the point where an hour here or there of savasana, I mean yoga is no longer enough. I need a solid refresh session. My refresh sessions usually involve time upstairs in my office, earphones in to drown out the tiny humans on the first floor. It goes without saying, I love my kids and family. I am blessed...yadda...yadda...yadda. AND I am also human. I need time for myself away from my mom/wife/cook/vet/everything else role. This week, as I realized my battery was dangerously low, I laughed at life's irony: years ago I hated everything to do with stillness and solitude. Today, I crave it. I need it. It is an essential part of my mental wellbeing. And it is one that is SO hard to come by, especially as a working mom. Being a mom, a dad, a student, a career person...or any person in between is hard. Life is hard. Life is also very, very busy. Busyness has become the poster child for being good enough. If we fill our lives and calendars with to-do items then we are good enough. We are worthy. You are worthy whether you are the busiest person in the world or if you are laying on your couch watching Housewives. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios. The hard part is learning to say, "I need time for me. I need to just be." The gift of stillness is yet another reason why I am so thankful for my time in treatment and journey to recovery. It is beyond hard to shut the brain down. It is even harder to know that we need time to shut it down. We just keep going and going and going. So here is the Sunday challenge: take time for you. Take time to just be. Find gratitude in the quiet and practice stillness. Give yourself the precious gift of being still. It is a rare gift that we all deserve. These photos were taken on a Sunday during my time in treatment. The weather was turning warmer and I was beginning to find peace within myself. I was healing deep wounds and learning that I was a worthy and wonderful being, deserving of life and every gift recovery had to offer.    

    Authentic, Carolina House, Eating Disorder