• Posted on May 10, 2017 12:49 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    4

    Last night, I posted a picture of my children enjoying ice cream sandwiches following dinner with a caption that said: "Years ago, I would spend nearly an hour in the grocery store's ice cream section. Opening and closing every glass door, pulling every carton out and quickly putting it back in. My mind raced as I carefully analyzed every black and white nutrition label. Too many calories in this one, too much sugar in that one. I would ultimately walk out with the lowest fat/cal/sugar ice cream-ish substance I could find. I would also leave in the throws of a massive panic attack. Because of my eating disorder, a task as simple as grocery shopping left me crippled by anxiety. When the ice cream made it to my freezer, it haunted me. I wanted throw it away. I wanted to eat it all and purge it. But all I really wanted was to stop the monster in my brain. I wanted ice cream to be just that - ice cream. I wanted freedom from my eating disorder. [Seven years later] Today, I quickly push my cart up and down each aisle, tossing in items on my list: avocados, black beans, chips, crackers, milk. I strolled down the freezer section and caught a glimpse of ice cream sandwiches. "That sounds good!" I thought and tossed them in. I kept my quick pace to the check out so I would make it home to unload the groceries before it was time to pick up the kids. I often hear from parents they limit sweets or do not keep them in the house at all. It is SO important that we offer our children a variety of foods and do not label food good or bad. Food is food - no moral value. All foods fit! When we deny our children certain foods, it creates a hierarchy of food and can possibly shame them from eating it in the future, associating the food with feelings of guilt. Above all else, it is so important for our children to see us enjoying a variety of foods. This evening, my kids and I enjoyed the delicious ice cream sandwiches. I never take a single moment of recovery for granted and the ability to share it with my children. I am so thankful for my recovery and the freedom that comes with - both in and out of the freezer aisle! "ūüíúūüíúūüć¶ The post was shared widely across social media¬†with many 'YES!' comments and women in recovery posting about their own journey with ice cream. ¬†However, I knew it was a matter of time before someone questioned my 'All Foods Fit' approach to food. ‚áí"I disagree in one respect. Junk food is junk. Chemical filled and not healthy. Once in a while a Twinkie or something junky is fine. But children should learn about healthy foods." ‚áí "Moderation is so key. As long as my dd eats a balanced meal that covers most of the food groups, I don't mind sharing my ice cream with her. She's such a fruit & veggie eater, she'd rather have fresh picked strawberries most days over processed sugars. The biggest thing I want her to take away from childhood & food, is that she try new things when they are offered (she nearly always has a different meal than me & hubby) and she get a little protein in. (Like I said, she's a fruit & veggies kid, but getting her to eat a little chicken or pork is tough some days.)" I began to respond, but soon decided my response warranted a longer reply than a simple social media comment. So... Thank¬†you all for your comments. I understand your thought around moderation and labeling food as 'junk' because that is certainly what society and many 'experts' tell us. "Don't eat junk. Childhood obesity is at an all time high! Limit processed sugars. Moderation is KEY!" I get the 'Moderation is key' a lot. And to that, I completely agree 100%. Is it healthy to eat ice cream and pizza all day long every day? No way. And on the other side of the coin, is it healthy to eat kale and apples all day long? Nope. So yes, moderation IS key. I cringe when I see people talk about 'chemical-filled' food. This has little to do with my eating disorder history and more to do with my daughter's cancer. Two years ago, when my daughter was in the hospital fighting neuroblastoma, I posted a picture of her with cupcakes sent by my sweet sorority sisters. I was shocked when I received an anonymous email warning me to keep ALL sugar away from my daughter. First of all, my daughter was 8-months and had just spent a week in the PICU, she wasn't even close to starting solid food yet. Secondly, sugar does not cause cancer. I realize I might be opening Pandora's box here, but my daughter was diagnosed at 7-months old. All she ever had in her body was breast milk. Cancer just happens sometimes. Sure, smoking causing cancer, but there is very little to connect sugar/processed foods to cancer. Trust me, I have tackled every doctor and nurse on our oncology floor and beyond, asking them what caused Marjorie's cancer. I asked them what I can feed my children to prevent it from coming back or to keep my son from developing cancer. Unfortunately, there is very little I can do. Cancer just happens sometimes. My dear friend/earth angel and beloved oncology nurse 'Two Knock', once told me, "McCall, I have had two kids on the unit before, both with the exact same cancer. One of the patients came from a family that was vegetarian and ate everything organic. The other child was of a lower socioeconomic level,¬†with two working parents. His diet consisted of a lot of fast food. Extremely different diets and home life - exact same cancer. You can't keep Marjorie or Manning from getting cancer based on what they eat." Again, is it good for us to eat processed foods and lots of sugar all day, no. MODERATION. Kale and cupcakes. Hell, kale and chemicals if that is what you label cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches. And to be completely honest, I do buy organic meats, dairy, etc. That is just my personal preference. You will also find non-organic bananas and oreos in my pantry too. At the end of the day, we can't deny our children and ourselves what our bodies want. You can't tell me that at the end of a hot summer day, an ice cream sandwich didn't sound amazing! I don't think I've met anyone who craved frozen kale after a hot day on the beach. Food is food. Sure, some foods pack more nutrient punch than others, but it is SO critical not to create a hierarchy. When we limit or deny our children (or ourselves) certain food or food groups, that is all we will crave. When we can truly listen to our bodies, it will tell us what we need. Our bodies might signal us to want leafy greens or they might crave a burger because¬†our iron is low. My children are small, but they understand that food is food. My son sometimes turns down cake for bananas and sometimes it is vice versa. The bottom line is we are born with an amazing hunger/fullness system that gets distorted with every diet or food denial. Often times we unknowingly pass that guilt on to our children. We love our children and want to see them healthy and happy, so we limit sweets or fast food. I can't tell you how many young people I meet who feel like they have to sneak McDonald's because they feel so ashamed about it. What if we drove through McDonald's with them? No, seriously. I recently gave a parent presentation with Oliver-Pyatt's amazing director of nutrition, Mary Dye. A mom challenged¬†the All Foods Fit theory, saying that if she allowed her daughter to eat whatever she wanted, her daughter would go through McDonald's every day. "Let her," I said. "She will kill herself with it," the mother responded. "No she won't. I promise," I said. "She will get tired of it. It will lose it's novelty. She won't eat it forever and it will not kill her." Mary then elaborated with a story that gave me chills: "I once had a patient who struggled with Binge Eating Disorder," Mary said. "Her father was a cardiologist and she grew up in a house that shamed and labeled food bad, especially fast food. My work with her was to normalize food and to eliminate the shame factor. In fact, as a therapeutic exercise, we drove to McDonald's. Fast food was something she would binge in secret and shame, alone in her car. I wanted to normalize the fast food experience for her. So we drove through, ordered, parked and mindfully enjoyed our meal. The more we deny, the more we want." I have told that story countless times. And what I would give to one day meet the brave patient who did the hard work of recovery, changing not only her life, but maybe her family's as well. I know the thought of keeping a variety of foods in the house or even you yourself driving through McDonald's is outlandish, but try it. You might even surprise yourself. I never thought I could have ice cream in my house. Today, I have ice cream, candy, cookies, bananas, kale, crackers, chips, cheese, apples...you name it. And guess what? I don't think about what I have in my pantry or freezer - unless, of course, I'm heading to the grocery store and need a list! My motivation to recover was to not only be a mom, but be a mom who led by example. I wanted to be a mom who could eat ice cream¬†and kale and everything in between. I am proud to say that I AM that mom today. There is also no doubt¬†I am screwing up motherhood in a thousand other ways, but I¬†make a conscious effort every day to do my best to live and lead by example. My hope and prayer is not to raise healthy kids, but kind kids who love and live life, kids who forget there are cookies in the house unless their bellies tell them they want one. I want my kids to listen to the amazing bodies God gave them. Moving their bodies when they have bursts of energy or when the sun is shining just right, eating when they are hungry, stopping when they are full and if they eat too much, well, then they know next time to stop.Food is not the focus of our lives - it is important, but our day does not revolve around it. Our daily focus is on loving and living - playing outside, building towers, chasing lizards and avoiding shoes flying through the air when Marjorie throws them in her daily tantrum! Raising healthy kids isn't as important to me as raising kids who love themselves. At the end of the day, if we love ourselves, like truly love ourselves, we will honor our body. We will nourish, move and rest it as it desires and needs. When we love our bodies, we take the time to take care of it in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. So ahead, eat the McDonald's, the kale shakes, the daffodil sprouts and yes, even the 'chemicals'. Because in the wise words of our Ole Miss SMASH Ambassador: "Life is too short to count calories...enjoy the cupcake!" For parents wanting more information on childhood nutrition, download my list of resources:¬†Body Awesome Parent Resources. (Highly recommend Ellyn Satter and Katja Rowell!)

    Eating Disorder, Family, Food
  • Posted on April 24, 2016 7:42 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    The buttered bagel sat on my car's console. I stared at it with tears streaming down my face. The tears had nothing to do with the bagel and everything to do with life. My baby girl was heading back to the hospital. I was once again reminded that cancer is part of our world and that I cannot protect my precious child. Our three months of normalcy were up. Scans were upon us. The protocol for Marjorie's specific cancer diagnosis is scans every three months. Our last one in January showed zero regression. It was devastating to me, but not the doctors. Her medical team expected the plateau of regression and were happy to not see growth. I just wanted the cancer gone. The days leading up to cancer scans are the worst. Both my husband and I walk around on eggshells, barely breathing. The "What Ifs" begin swirling and never end. I had a sinking feeling in my gut about this scan and it hasn't gone away. Last week was filled with anxiety and fear. So as I stared at the bagel, I became so damn thankful I had an eating disorder. I know what you're thinking: 1) Why are you thankful to have suffered with the deadliest mental illness? 2) Why are you thanking your eating disorder while distraught over your daughter's cancer? My eating disorder recovery has taught me more about coping with life than any other class or person could. I have every tool in my "Life Sucks" tool box than I could ask for. And the most amazing thing is that I know how to use those tools. As I balled my eyes out behind a dumpster at CVS, I chomped away at the bagel thanking God for my eating disorder. My eating disorder taught me the most fundamental lesson that we as adults (and mothers) tend to forget: We MUST take care of OURSELVES before we can take care or others. I knew in that moment of sheer despair that I needed to eat. The equation was simple: I just finished a challenging (and oh so fun) hot yoga class. I needed breakfast. Beyond that, I needed to eat to help balance the chaos in my brain. While many of us use food to cope, so many of us shove it aside to cope in a different way. Neither scenario is effective in coping with life. Through my eating disorder I have learned this beautiful balance: that even when my stomach is in knots and my heart is shattered, I know that I must eat. It isn't an option. If anything, I eat for my children. They need their mom and they need me to be my best self. My best self is not starving or stuffed. My best self is nourished, energetic and authentic. Food helps me get to that place (and so does therapy, yoga and writing). This past week has proven to be one of the most difficult. After crying and crying over scan anxiety, Marjorie did not have her scans. I spent hours on the phone dealing with medical and insurance issues. But at the end of the day, I cried, cuddled, laughed and honored every emotion that came. And above all else, I honored my body. In the midst of grief and anger, I fed my body, moved it and love it. At the end of the day and at the end of this life, we only have one body. So yes, I thank God I had an eating disorder. Maybe it was all part of the plan to help me cope with this really shitty cancer hand we've been dealt. Or maybe the eating disorder was just a crappy card dealt to me and I have chosen to respond in a really positive way. Whatever the purpose or reason, I know that I am thankful. I am thankful for my own willingness to recovery and my continued willingness to never stop learning about myself and how to cope with life. Because without my eating disorder, I would not be the woman...and more importantly the mom I am today.

    About, Authentic, Body Image
  • Posted on February 12, 2016 4:50 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    February 9, 2011 Up and down. Up and down. One step at a time, then two. I raced up and down the stairs unpacking my bags into my new hotel home. It was my first night on partial. My first night away from the Carolina House. I felt so free. After two months in a residential treatment center, I was finally alone. Or so I thought. Up and down. Up and down. My mind raced with numbers. How many calories was I burning with each flight? What was I going to eat for dinner? What if I didn't eat dinner? The eating disorder 'what ifs' were incessant and the possibilities were endless when it came to restriction, purging, exercise or whatever else my Ed mind called for. No, I thought. No. I don't want you ED. I want recovery. I was so proud I finally made it to partial where I only spend my day in treatment and had the night to myself. But I wasn't alone, my eating disorder was perched on my shoulder. The car was finally unloaded and I looked around, feeling terrified, excited and overwhelmed. A short while later I stood over stove and smiled at the eggplant Parmesan I was cooking. I was so proud of myself. This was recovery and I was doing it! One hour later the toilet flushed. I emerged from the tiny hotel bathroom with watery, red eyes. I methodically leaned over the sink beginning my post-purge ritual: wash face, brush teeth, wash face again. The warm washcloth covered my face and I slowly pulled it down to see the girl staring back at me. I hated her. After all of my time in treatment, I still couldn't get my shit together. I was still a failure. I was destined to forever live with this monster in my head. I wanted to die.    February 12, 2016 I sank into the plush white couch at Oliver Pyatt Treatment Center. I was there on a professional visit, but made it very clear I preferred being with patients over professionals. I had spent the previous two days talking and hanging out with the patients. Today I was invited to eat lunch with one of the residential groups.  I listened to the brave women in the the pre-meal group as they each reported on their hunger levels and how they were feeling about the meal - bagel sandwiches. "I'm a five hunger level. And I am working to dispel the myths about bagels I grew up hearing from my mom." "I'm not hungry at all." "I'm a 4.5. The meal and its components sounds good. I am going to be open minded to try and enjoy this meal." I  resonated with each woman's feelings and fear. I knew those feelings all too well about a bagel. When I was in my eating disorder, a bagel was the equivalent of eating arsenic. The massive carb was scary and off limits, which is why I eat bagels all the time now to prove my ED wrong. As it turns out, bagels are delicious! We left the group room and headed to the dining table. I sat down and smiled as I saw the delicious bagel sandwich loaded with sprouts, avocado, cheese, meat and...mayo. I hate mayo. Five years ago I would've freaked out. Like keeled over. Mayonnaise could not so much as touch my plate, much less my lips. However, I could not opt out of mayo in treatment. I had to face my mayo demons head on. In doing so, I realized that mayo actually will not not kill me. I'm still not a huge fan of it, but it doesn't stop me from eating. If a restaurant gets my order wrong, I no longer panic and send it back. I just eat it and move on with my day. I picked up the bagel sandwich and started enjoying lunch, but more than anything I was enjoying the company around me. The women laughed and we shared stories and jabs at the funny Recovery Coach. I witnessed some struggle at the table. Bagels are such a difficult food. It was a really hard lunch for the women and I completely understood. I was once in their shoes and sat in the same ED bagel fear. As the women processed their post-meal feelings, I listened in complete awe. My eyes welled with tears as I watched the women support, validate and compliment each other. I said nothing. I did not need too, these women were amazing. There was one woman in particular who's process talk knocked the wind out of me. Correction: She knocked the wind out of me. She spoke so calmly and softly, her voice could hardly be detected. She held years of pain in her eyes, but spoke with such courage. I listened in complete awe of her as she recounted the difficult lunch. She acknowledged her victories and cried tears of pain. The women quickly gathered to her side, showing their support and solidarity. The older woman's tears then turned to tears of gratitude as she thanked the young women beside her for caring and supporting her through the meal. Her tears dried up as quickly as they came. She bowed her head, signifying she was done speaking. My tears still lingering on. While I could see and feel her hurt, I could see something I am not sure she sees yet - courage. She was hands down one of the most incredibly courageous women I have ever encountered. Admitting yourself to treatment is courageous, painfully and hugely courageous. But doing this work after decades of struggle, putting herself out there and acknowledging her victories, no matter how small they might have seemed, was huge. Accepting the support and showing gratitude for it was even bigger. My prayer is for her to continue this brave work so that one day she can look in the mirror and see the same amazing person I saw today. As I sit in the airport and quietly process my last few days, I am overcome with joy, gratitude and sadness. I watch as people around me order food, laugh with friends and race to flights. I wonder if they know the incredible people I have just met. I wonder if they know what life is like inside the walls of a treatment center. You will never find a group of people who are more vulnerable, strong, witty, funny, creative and fan-freaking-tastic than you will behind the doors of a treatment center. These men and women are incredible. I have no idea why God chose me to do this work, but it is an absolute privilege and honor for me to sit amongst such extraordinary people. I don't visit treatment centers to change patients' lives or tell them life is going to be rainbows when they leave. Far from it. Part of me goes for my own selfish reasons. I was called to share my story. Not to heal anyone else, but to heal myself. To tell my story on repeat to that young girl inside me. The young girl who was so loved, but could not receive the love. The young girl who was alone in her closet hurting and crying. The young girl who had thoughts that this world would be better without her. That young girl who thought she was weird and different and was not worth taking up space on this planet. That is why I share my story. I do it for her. I tell her story that she kept silenced for too long.  As it turns out, so many people I connect with know that young girl because they are trying to heal their younger self as well. We all are. I always hated when my therapist, Mary, would talk about the young girl inside of me. I would tell Mary, "Can we please just put that young girl in the trunk and shut it? I'm tired of talking about her." No such luck. And now I am so thankful Mary didn't let me trunk slam her. She is and will always be a part of me. Today, I nurture her, I feed her, I love her. And above all else, I love myself. I would give anything to create a pill to give to those struggling with an eating disorder so they could skip to the part of recovery I am in now. But as it turns out, I am not a chemist or a magician. They have to do the work. I always make very clear that is what recovery is - work. It is choosing recovery every single day - as painful as it is. Every bite, every meal, every minute you have to sit with those feelings that hurt. You must feel them. You must grieve the past in order to move forward. You must learn to fall and stand back up. You must learn that falling doesn't mean failure. And above all else, you must give yourself some grace and be gentle with yourself. As the last woman shared her post-meal feelings, I asked if I could share something. With tears in my eyes, I told the women how thankful I was they asked me to lunch today. I explained what a privilege it is for me to join them. I thanked them for an amazing day and for refilling my spirit with such hope and love. I reminded them that while my life and recovery may seem easy today, it is only because I did the really hard work for years to get to where I am. I worked every day and got stronger with every choice and was easy on myself when I slipped. I am not recovered today because my eating disorder wasn't that bad or because I am a unicorn. I am where I am today because I worked for it, because I choose recovery. I can eat (and enjoy) mayo laden bagel sandwiches because I have worked really, really hard to dispel those myths. This life of recovery, my life today is so rich. It is so sweet. I will never have enough words or adjectives to describe to someone what life is like today. I will also never take for granted what this life is and where I have been. I carry my story and my struggle with such pride because I have overcome. I have survived and continue to survive every day. And so can you.  To each and every OPC woman I met and those who I had special time with... Thank you. Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for sharing and trusting your story with me. I carry you with me always. My prayer for you all is the same - that one day you feel this freedom, that you are gentle on your spirit on those hard days. I pray that you know your life and worth are not tied to your body, weight or eating disorder. I pray you one day see the incredibly courageous woman looking back at you in the mirror. I pray you see the woman I see. I pray you see your strength and worth. I pray you find your passion and follow it. I pray you stumble so that you can come to know falling doesn't mean failure. I pray you know your worth and that you are worth recovery and this treatment. I pray you see what so many of us see. And above all else, I pray that you believe in yourself always...because I do and I always will. With lots of love and recovery light, McCall      

    Carolina House, Eating Disorder, Faith
  • Posted on January 13, 2016 3:38 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Yesterday, in between work emails and changing diapers, I received a text message that stopped me dead in my tracks: "I'm being admitted Thursday at 10:30...relieved but scared." An admission date and time was finally bestowed upon a sweet young woman I've been helping. Reading her text brought back those same emotions I felt on when I admitted to the Carolina House over five years ago. Fear, relief, sadness, excitement. So many emotions, too many to sort through. You just want to get there and get started. I remember my admission day like it was yesterday. Thanks to Delta's stellar service, I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta. The delay did not put me into Raleigh until after 5pm, which was too late to start the admission process. The domino effect was devastating, I was put up in a hotel (where I would later stay on partial) and spent the night alone. My two bags weighed more than me and I had to lug them around the hotel and up a flight of stairs. Dinner seemed pointless. Why make an effort? I'm going to eating disorder treatment tomorrow, I should at least live up to the part. I decided to try my luck at popcorn. I burned through two bags, before giving up and just nibbling around the black pieces. I got into my pajamas and tried FaceTiming with Jordan. Immediately, we both started to cry so we hung up and decided to spend our night talking on the phone. Hours later, my anxiety still hadn't received the memo that it was time for bed. I laid awake all night, staring at the glow of the TV: Jay Leno, Friends reruns, CNN and even infomercials. There was no need to set an alarm. I was already up when the sun rose that morning. The dusty white mini-van pulled into the hotel's driveway. The cold winter air took my breath away as I stepped out of the hotel lobby. I heaved my luggage out the door and thought, "This is it. I'm finally doing this. Here goes nothing." I had my 'first day of treatment' outfit on. Yes, I methodically planned my first day outfit. I was still of the disordered mindset that I had to appear pulled together. I even held a confident and engaging conversation with the van driver on our way to the Carolina House as if she and I were long time friends. On the outside, I appeared as if nothing was wrong. Of course, I wasn't going to treatment for what was on the outside. It was my inside that was dying. Eventually, the mini-van pulled down a small two lane road and then turned right onto a long gravel driveway. There it was, the Carolina House, a beautiful yellow farmhouse sitting peacefully in the woods. My anxiety turned on and my heart began to race, as I was led to the office for admission paperwork and too many HIPPA forms to count. "Oh shit, this is real," I thought to myself. "Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. What have I done." My panic turned into fear as they guided me to the kitchen for lunchtime. It was buzzing with women preparing lunches and staff checking off exchanges and approving portions. I actually thought that I could 'opt out' of lunch. Yes, this would be my mind set for the first week or so: "Oh, thank you, but I'll pass on this meal...Thanks, but I don't 'do' group therapy...Thanks so much for this opportunity, but I'm going home now." No such luck. I was not able to opt-out of lunch that day. I picked apart my safe, dry turkey sandwich with one slice of cheese. I wanted to run. And I actually tried to. A few hours after lunch, I was informed there was a group outing that afternoon. Once again, I tried to opt-out, telling the staff I should really stay back alone and unpack. Apparently, I thought I had checked into the Holiday Inn. Most fear dessert day when they go to treatment, I feared art therapy. And as fate would have it that was exactly what I had to do on my first day of treatment. It was an art therapy outing to the Scrap Exchange, a place in downtown Durham that offers a variety of crap, I mean scrap for you to use for art projects. We loaded into  the fifteen passenger van and all I could think of is that scene from Girl Interrupted, where they all go out for ice cream into town. I suddenly realized I was living out my fear: I was the crazy girl in the van from the looney bin. We are those crazy people going to town, I thought. What have I gotten myself into and how can I get myself out. What the staff didn't know at the time, is that I still had my cell phone. I was clutching on to it for dear life in the deep pockets of my bright red pea coat. I snuck my phone out and text Jordan this was a mistake and not to worry because I was going to fix it. I always had a plan. Enter: Southwest app. Fantastic! There is a flight out tonight. I can catch a cab to the airport from this scrap place. Peace out. Mistake fixed. Problem solved. We piled out of the van and walked into the Scrap Exchange. My anxiety was rapidly rising in my chest. I turned to the RPA and told her I needed a minute alone and asked her if I could step outside. I walked ran outside, hoping for just a minute alone, but the RPA was hot on my tail. I spun around when we got outside and said, "Can I puh-lease just have a minute by myself?" No such luck. I then put on my Corporate America working woman face and said, "Thank you so very much for this opportunity. The Carolina House and their staff have been fantastic, but there has been a mistake. You see, I'm not that bad. I really don't need this level of care like the women inside. I need to go now." The kind RPA, Mary, saw past my front and began to speak in her calm, soft voice. She questioned why I came, if I didn't need this help? I told her I came for my husband. And she said that recovery would be worth this journey and hardship. I softened a little and somewhere deep down I believed her. I knew I needed this help and I knew I deserved recovery. I released the death grip on my phone in my pocket and walked back inside to dreaded art therapy. The fear that ran through my veins that first day is still palpable today. I felt like such a failure that day. Twenty-nine years old, no job and admitting myself to treatment for an eating disorder that didn't seem 'bad' enough to be in treatment for in the first place. What I didn't know five years ago that I know today, is how extraordinarily brave I was to walk through the doors of the Carolina House. While yesterday's text message brought me back to that first day, baby squeals and dinner duties brought me back to my present life. Cooking dinner once seemed like a foreign concept, having food in the house was frightening. The life I have created for myself today is something I never believed was possible for me. I thought I was destined to hate my body and always be at war with food. Little did I know that person I thought was a failure, was so brave in taking that massive leap of faith that has led her to the extraordinary reality I live in today. So to my precious friend who will walk through the Carolina House doors tomorrow, I say this: Do not walk with fear because you are not alone. Trust the extraordinary team around you. Do not be afraid to be sad, anxious or angry. You are safe. Let yourself feel. Let out your burdens and hand them over. Open your heart to the help and gift of recovery. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And most of all, be kind to yourself. The path to recovery is long and bumpy, but the ride is glorious and filled with beautiful color. I am so incredibly proud of you. Sending you lots of hope and love, McCall And don't forget to vote for Loving Imperfection as the Best Health Blog of 2015. It takes ONE SECOND and does not post to your Facebook, I promise! My blog is in first, but needs your vote every day! First place gets $1,000, which will all go to Southern Smash. Help us raise money and continue our efforts to spread positive body image and eating disorder education! Thank you for your continued love and support - I send it all right back to you <3

    About, Body Image, Carolina House
  • Posted on December 6, 2015 3:24 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    12.07.2010 "...happy birthday dear McCall. Happy birthday to you." As the birthday song ended, I leaned over and blew out the candles teetering atop the chocolate¬†cake. I smiled and made a wish just like a good girl should. But on this particular birthday five years ago, my wish was drastically different than previous years. I wished¬†to disappear. I was dying inside and just days away from entering treatment. But instead of running, I continued¬†to expend my limited¬†energy to make everyone believe I was okay. I couldn't bear to hurt my family. I come from good Cajun genes, which means any birthday (or Flag Day) calls for a reason to eat, drink and celebrate. My family was and is still a very close family, but the one thing we lacked was communication. Remember birthdays when you were younger? You would countdown and wake up giddy. That giddiness vanished for me¬†during¬†my early adolescent years. Each year I became less and less excited about my birthday. I did not remind friends and family or ask for specific presents or even birthday meals. I took whatever meal my mom suggested or whatever restaurant my friends wanted. I said thank you and waited for the day to pass. I never wanted anyone to go out of their way for me because I did not feel worthy. But on the other hand, I also did not want to set expectations that people would remember and do something nice only to be let down.¬†My friends and family were really fighting a losing battle when it came to me and my birthday. So there I was 29-years old and unable to tell my family not just how I felt, but that I had no desire to celebrate. In one week I would be entering treatment. I had just quit my job and I honestly thought my life was over. I wanted it to be over. I wanted to crawl under the covers until it was time to be admitted to the Carolina House. The last thing I wanted or felt like I deserved was to be celebrated on my birthday. But instead, I showered and got dressed like a good girl. I ate lobster, drank wine and yes, even ate cake. Chocolate doberge to be exact. For years, I said this was my favorite cake, but actually, it is not. Recovery not only uncovers who you are as a person, but your likes and dislikes as well. Turns out, I'm not as much of a sweet tooth as I once thought I was. I prefer a good bag of Zapp's chips over a slice of cake any day. In years past, it has been difficult to reflect back on this time of year. The memories, the pain and the painted on smiles. This year, however, brings up a completely different feeling... peace. After years (and a lot of therapy and tears), I have made peace with that woman who was so sick, but silenced with a fake smile. There is no animosity towards my family's lack of communication and emotional empathy. In fact, I feel a large sense of pride in my family. One of the most important and applicable lessons Mary, my therapist, ever told me in regards to processing the past was that I was doing the best I could back then. We were ALL doing the best we could. Yes, my family sucked at communicating. And yes, I have felt (and processed) quite a bit of anger in grieving my past and the 'what could have beens' in my life.¬†But it all circles back to this: I was doing the best I could. They were doing the best they could. We often¬†reflect on our past and criticize decisions and mistakes we've made. Sometimes we even hold grudges at others for the negative roles they played in our lives. While honoring and processing through our anger and grief is an important part of one's journey to health and peace, we must also forgive ourselves and others. Reframing the past and knowing that we were all doing the best we could, helps bring peace and healing¬†to our lives. I genuinely believe and know that my family didn't know any better and I certainly did not have the words to tell them. We were all doing the best we could with the limited tools we had. But here's where my massive pride comes in: my family has not been afraid to step up to the plate and acknowledge the scars of the past. We all did (and are doing) the really tough work, individually and together,¬†to¬†strengthen not just our communication skills, but our family bond as well. So tomorrow on my birthday, I am not afraid to say, "Yep. It's my birthday. I want to go out (sans children) and celebrate." Technically, my hubby is taking me out tonight so I get to celebrate two days. And why not?! I deserve it! We all get one day a year and we all deserve to celebrate it - even me. This year, the last thing I wish for is to disappear. I am so grateful to my family and friends who celebrated me all those years even when I wished otherwise. My birthday wish five years ago did not come true and thank goodness it did not. What a fantastic life I would be missing out on. Today,¬†I am fully present in my messy, imperfect life and I can't imagine not being here. I guess there's nothing left to say, except happy birthday to me! Cheers! (Special thank you to the extraordinarily talented¬†Jeannie Frey Rhodes for the amazing photos of my babies - all my babies.)  

    Authentic, Carolina House, Eating Disorder